8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– On the 14th October I asked the Prime Minister the following question : -
What action the Government intend to take to compensate ex-Gunner Yates for the undeserved slur cast on his character and military record by the misleading answer given in this House by the Acting Minister for Defence, and to reimburse him any expenses that he may have been put to in connexion with the recent inquiry?
To that the right honorable gentleman replied that he would take the matter into consideration after conferring with the Minister for Defence and the Assistant Minister for Defence. Last week I asked the Assistant Minister for Defence a question on the subject, and he replied that there had been passed for payment to exGunner Yates a certain amount for outofpocket expenses. I ask the honorable gentleman now whether he considers that that amountis sufficient compensation for the slur that was cast on the character of ex-Gunner Yates, it being alleged that he had not even seen the fighting line, and for the suffering that his family was put to in connexion with the matter. Will the Government consider these things with a view to granting some compensation to ex-Gunner Yates?
– The matter was brought before the Prime Minister and before me by the Leader of the Opposition, and a certainsum was allowed to ex-Gunner Yates for out-of-pocket expenses.
– Only£17, I understand.
– That is all that ex-Gunner Yates asked for, and I do not consider that the Government is under any obligation to pay him anything more. If it had not been for me, I do not think there could have been an inquiry into his conduct, and the present suggestion seems to me like flogging a willing horse. Immediately I saw that a mistake had been made,I promised a full inquiry.
– Surely you are not sorry that you did that?
– No, but therecord and bona fides of ex-Gunner Yates were absolutely established by that inquiry, which I voluntarily (promised, and therefore he hasbeen put right with the community. He has also been given his out-of-pocket expenses. I do not think there is any obligation on the Government to give him anything more.
Compensation for Land
– Yesterday I asked the Minister for Works and Railways a series of questions. Arising out of theanswers given to them-
– It is not in order to ask questions based on answers given to questions previously asked. That is a well-established rule.
-Then may I explain that an agreement was entered into to the effect that lands acquired by the States in connexion with theMurray Waters scheme should be taken as at their value on 4th July, 1921. That agreement was arrived at by the Premiers’ Conference, and has been ‘broken. Yesterday the Minister told, me that the questions I asked had been answered before, but one of them certainly has not been, answered, and I should like the Minister to throw some light on the subject with which it deals, because a good deal of feeling is being created. I wish to know what were the circumstances that led to the cancellation of the agreement?
– An opportunity to discuss the matter will be afforded to the honorablemember when we deal with a Bill which will be before the House presently for the ratification of an agreement to amend the original Murray Waters agreement. What happened at the Premiers’ (Conference was that certain resolutions were passed, which were to form the basis of an agreement, but they were subsequently revised, and the provision to which the honorable member has referred was not embodied in the agreement. However, I shall explain the matter fully when dealing with the Bill.
Mr.RILEY. - Is the Government likely to make any announcement about the High Commissionership before the House rises?
– So far as I am aware at the moment, no announcement is likely to be made, nothing fresh having occurred concerning . the matter
– Can the Treasurer give any indication of the amount which will be allocated in the shape of an interim increased payment to Commonwealth servants, of what Tribunal, if any, will decide the matter, and concerning when it is likely to come into operation ?
– Obviously , the Government have had no opportunity to consider these very important matters. All I can say at the moment is that the Government will try to deal fairly with thepublic servants.
– Can the Treasurer give the House any information regarding the forthcoming meeting of the Imperial Conference ? Honorable- members understand that within a day or two there will be an adjournment for some months. Prior to our meeting again the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) may have departed from’ these shores to attend the Imperial Conference. It has been the custom, before our delegates have left Australia to attend Imperial Conferences, to give the Parliament an opportunity to discuss the subjects intended to be brought forward on our behalf. Will such an opportunity be afforded on the present occasion, prior to the departure of the Prime Minister?
– In the first place, I doubt if the honorable member’s statement of alleged facts are facts at all. It has not been the custom, so far as I am aware, to indicate to Parliament the subjects to be brought before the Imperial Conference.
– That is a matter of fact, which may be demonstrated. There will, however, be plenty of time to secure a declaration on this subject from the Prime Minister himself, before he is likely to be leaving Australia for such a purpose as the honorable member indicates. ‘
– In view of the promise made by the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook), as well as by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), that the House would be given an opportunity to discuss, a certain motion, notice of which I have already given, regarding the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath), I desire to know now whether an arrangement can be made for me to bring my motion forward this week? I do not think the discussion would occupy much time.
– The honorable member must see the difficulty of giving him a definite and precise answer. There are numbers of motions upon the business paper which must be disposed of. There is also a Bill in regard to which we are now in the second -reading stage; and there is a motion to print the papers relating to the basic wage. If the honorable member can bring to my attention a reasonable opportunity between now and Friday to enable the House to deal with his motion, I shall be glad to give it to him.
The following papers were presented : -
War Service Homes Act - Land acquired under, at-
Armidale, New South Wales.
Leichhardt, New South Wales.
Mascot, New South Wales.
Commonwealth Protective Policy and Soldier Settlement.
– I have received an intimation from the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) that he desires to move the adjournment of the House to call attention to a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The infringement of the protective policy of the Commonwealth pertaining to the returned soldiers and sailors and the manufacturers of Australia.”
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
.- This matter is of such striking importance that I consider it my duty to bring the particulars before honorable members. The Commonwealth has a protective policy. I purpose to endeavour to show how that policy is undermined. The citizens of Australia, have endowed the Treasury with a large sum of money in order to -settle returned soldiers upon the land ; and it is on behalf of the citizens, and also in the interests of the soldiers themselves and of the manufacturers of Australia, that I have introduced my motion. Following a meeting of manufacturers,, a letter was sent to the Lands Department of Victoria. The communication which I shall quote is an answer to the manufacturers’ request for permission to scan periodically the list of names of successful soldier applicants. Before reading the epistle I desire to remind honorable members that the subject is not wholly a Federal one. Citizens of the Commonwealth find the whole of the money for soldier settlement on the land, but the policy itself is linked up between the States and the Federation. It is “ up to “ the Government to demand that the manufacturers of Australia shall have a fair show. The latter, in making their request to the State Department, sought no favoritism, but merely desired that they should be told the names pf soldier applicants whose claims had been successful. The reply was as’ follows : -
The matter was considered by my Committee at its last meeting. In view of the fact that the Department has appointed men to advise each soldier in regard to the selection of machinery, stock, &c, and of the difficulties involved in allowing access by representatives of business firms to the departmental records, I regret to say it is not considered practicable to grant your request.
Prior to Federation a motion was agreed to by the Victorian Parliament to the effect “ That substantial preference should be given in all the Victorian Government Departments to Australian-ma’de goods.” Although that was agreed to by the State Parliament at a time when I was a member, owing to the splendid business capacity of the Germans, the number of . Krupp’s goods sold was larger than that of any other make. It was proved conclusively before a Select Committee that the price paid for Krupp machinery was in excess of that at which English machinery of equal value had been tendered. I hope that the Federal Government will avoid the mistakes that have been made by the State. We are told in a report that the Department ha3 appointed men to advise each soldier, and I think it would be well for the Minister to make inquiries, and to inform the House as to what machinery has been supplied to soldier settlers, and what proportion of that machinery is of Australian manufacture. My information seems to indicate that the representatives of American manufacturers of farming and agricultural machinery have better means of getting in touch with soldier settlers, and of ascertaining their requirements, than have the agents of local manufacturers. The Federal Government appealed to Australian manufacturers to employ as many returned soldiers as possible. Our agricultural and farming machinery . makers are employing large numbers of returned soldiers, and I am convinced that the average returned soldier settled on the land would prefer an Australian to a foreign made machine. It i3 only fair to the people who find the money for our soldier settlement scheme that local industry should be given special consideration. Abraham Lincoln pointed out that if Americans purchased a locomotive in another country, when that locomotive wore out they had neither the engine nor the money, but that if they purchased a locallymanufactured locomotive then, when it had worn out. the money would still be spinning round their own country. That is still true. By purchasing Australian instead of imported machinery our returned soldiers will keep their money circulating in the country, and will avoid adverse rates of exchange. The whole of the taxation of Australia is borne by something like 900,000 householders, and it is up to the Commonwealth to see, in the interests of the taxpayers who find the money, that the State Government, which deals with soldier settlement in Victoria, expends that money, as far as possible; amongst our own people. I should be loth to say that a question of commission is involved, but if the statements iue.de to me are true, then, as surely a.-t day follows night, it is either because of that or some other occult reason that the representatives of American manufacturers can always obtain the information they want as to soldiers going on the land. I should be very sorry to say that any State or Federal officer was guilty of treachery to his country by giving special information in return for a commission received, but if proof is forthcoming of any such treachery, then the officer concerned should be treated, not as an Australian, but as an alien who has no right to be here. The honour of the Victorian State and Commonwealth Governments is at stake in this matter, and I hope that the watchword that will ring out throughout Australia will be, “ Australia for the Australians, and Australian tools for Aus- tralian hands.”
I recognise that ‘it is difficult to adequately protect some Australian industries, and that the members of the Country party hold strong views in regard to import duties on farming machinery, but we ought certainly to manufacture all our own requirements. We should be a selfcontained community. I have the fullestbelief in the initiative and mechanical genius of the Australian worker. I know a Flinders-lane clothing manufacturer who has had experience in Austria, Switzerland, and Australia, and he assures me that he has never had more intelligent workers ;n his factories than he has obtained here.
In the name of the manufacturers and of the agricultural implement makers of Australia, who are employing a lot of returned soldiers, I demand that they shall have a square deal. They should always be able to obtain information as to returned soldiers who are settled on the land. I recently saw a number of returned soldiers, who are settled along the Murray, and the average “Aussie,” who was man enough to risk his life for his country and his race, would rather have an Australian-made machine, when he goes on the land, than one that comes through the Customs House. The Telbart tractor was successful against all competitors in a recent reliability trial held at Werribee, and Australian-made agricultural machinery is equal tq that of any other country. My sou, who is farming in Western Australia, obtained agricultural implements through the State Government, and found them all that could be desired. He tells me that local manufacturers, who have to compete with imports, not only from abroad, but from all the other States, are turning out first-class machinery, and that their operations are tending to keep down prices. In the name of the- citizens who provide the Government with the money to carry out its scheme for the benefit of those for whom we cannot do- too much, I ask for fair play for local manufacturers. The Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) holds the purse strings, and is therefore entitled to tell the State Government that, if they do not observe our requirements in connexion with the returned soldiers’ settlement scheme, we shall have to make other arrangements. Ab the member for Melbourne, I regret to say that, in regard to soldier settlement, the Victorian State Government has been the slowest and slackest of a’l the State Administrations.
– I do not agree with the honorable member.
– The soldier settlement that I saw on the Victorian side of the Murray recently does not compare with what has been done by South Australia.
– The Victorian State Government has done excellent work.
– No doubt it has, but it has not been as expeditious in itf operations as the other States have been. An ex-member of the present State Government has recently said that, as the result of delay on its part, soldiers have had to pay much more for their land than they would otherwise have done. I can give instances of delays.
– No doubt the honorable member can; but taken by and large the Victorian Government has done well.
– The work done by the Victorian Government in this regard will not compare favorably with that of South Australia. With more complete knowledge, the Minister would not talk in the incorrect way he is now doing. A promise from the honorable gentleman to go into the matter would be satisfactory.
. -The honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) was good enough to intimate to me yesterday thathe intended to move the adjournment of the House to-day in order to direct public attention to the administration of the Soldiers’ Settlement Board in Victoria, withspecial reference to the utilization of Australian machinery. That intimation afforded me ah opportunity to consult with the Board. I must say I expected definite and specific charges against the Board, of having, either by neglect or by direction, given advantage to foreign machinery over Australian. The honorable member for Melbourne, however, has not advanced one tittle of evidence to support his statements.
– How is it that Americans are selling all the machinery?
-The honorable member has not indicated one implement, or one class of machinery, or shown any direction in which the Board has been guilty of dereliction of duty. The Government entirely agree with the honorable member in his desire to see Australian machinery used on the soldiers’ farms, seeing that Australian soldiercitizens are employed in manufacturing it. I regret to say that the honorable member on this occasion has not a good case to present.
– The manufacturers of Australia give an absolute contradiction to that statement.
– Let me draw the attention of honorable members to a resolution passed by the Board on the 20th September, 1920, instructing the district officers, wherever possible, to see that Australian-made goods are purchased.
– Are they carrying out that instruction?
– They are, as far as possible. The practice of the Department is to allot a certain amount to each soldier for the purchase ofstock, implements, tools, and so forth for the farm; no specific direction is given to any soldier as to what machinery he must use.
– No, but he is advised.
– There are seven district officers in Victoria, who largely control the supplies to soldiers on the land, and those officers are associated with Local Committees, which, mainly, now consist of shire councillors.
– I shall be perfectly content if the Minister will ask for a list of the machinery and tools supplied, and the names of the makers.
– I shall be glad to do that; but I think it incumbent on the honorable member, when he indicts a Department, to furnish some specific proofs.
– I have told the Minister what the manufacturers say.
– I listened attentively to the honorable member, expecting to hear some definite charges. I have been closely associated in this work with the Victorian Government, and, in particular, with the Board of Control, and without hesitation I say that the most advanced programme of land settlement has been adopted and carried cutin this State.
– God forgive you, that is all!
– The facts and figures in support of my statement are unchallengeable. Up to date, 8,500 soldiers have been provided for on the land in Victoria and no other State can show such a record.
– What are the conditions?
– The conditions are such that many of themen will be able to pay off a very substantial portion of their indebtedness as the result of the coming harvest. In point of supervision and the assistance rendered, the State of Victoria has reason to be proud of the programme that has been carried out.
– Do you know the work that has been done in South Australia or Western Australia?
-I am not seeking to discredit the work done in any of the other States.
– But you say thatVictoria shows thebest record. You do not know what you are talking about.
– The honorable member had his opportunity to present his case, but he made only general statements, whereas I have facts and figures - knowledge the result of years of close association with the Board. There are also the records of. the Department to bear out what I say. It is unfair to make general charges of the kind against the Board.From my ownpersonal knowledge, the members of the Board and their officers have given years of devoted and loyal service, working day and night, and, at times, even on Sundays.
-You are satisfied, but the manufacturers are not.
-I am satisfied that the Board has carried on its work faithfully and well, and that no other Board in the Commonwealth can show the same results.
– Would you say that no American ploughs have been supplied?
– I would not; but I feel it my duty under the circumstances to defend the Board against general charges.
-See what is said by the manufacturers who employ returned soldiers.
– If the honorable member is speakingfor the manufacturers, I am sorry his brief is not more definite. I have quoted the instruction issued by the Board to its officers; and I remind honorable members thatthere are certain classes of machinery that are not manufactured in Australia. The reaper and binder, for instance, is not manufactured locally.
– Are you sure that the officers are following out the instruction given?
– I believe they are. I had hoped the honorable member for Melbourne might say something definite, or make some charge into which I could inquire, but I do not propose to investigate a general statement such as has been made as to the use of American machinery.
– Do you know what percentage of imported machinery is being used?
– I cannot say.
– You are the man who ought to be able to tell us.
– I cannot be expected to give all the information, covering six States of the Commonwealth, in view of the short notice I received of the intention of the honorable member for Melbourne to move the adjournment.
– Have the soldiers any choice of machinery?
– They have a free choice; the Board does not direct them in the matter, and all manufacturers, within the Commonwealth and outside, have equal opportunity. The Australian manufacturers, of course, have an advantage, inasmuch as their implements enjoy protection, and are here ready for inspection and sale. Whenever an estate is purchased and subdivided, a list of the successful applicants for land is published in the press, so that any interested manufacturers are able to get all the information necessary. The general charges made are without foundation; in every way the Board has carried out its duties to the satisfaction of the Australian soldiers and the public, and also of the Government, who find the money.
.- From my long experience of parliamentary life, I know that a Minister can always declare that he is opposing generalities. My point is that the manufacturers are not getting a fair deal, and to those manufacturers Irefer the Minister. It is all very well to say that the reaper and binder is not manufactured here.
– Has the Minister promised to make inquiry?
– He has not. Whether I have made out a case to the satisfaction of the Minister or not, I ask him to consult the manufacturers, from McKay all the way down to the smallest maker of implements, to see if they are content. The charge I make is that the Australian manufacturers cannot get the information which is available to the representatives of American firms.
– I deny that.
– When the representatives of Australian manufacturers call upon the soldiers, they are told that their orders have been, placed; and we are told these orders are for American machinery. Is that charge definite enough ?
-Can the honorable member tell me that he knows of an implement of American make which is getting preference?
– I am informed that various farming implements required by these soldiers are supplied by American agents, before the representatives of Australian manufacturers have a chance of interviewing the men. All I ask on behalf of the Australian manufacturers is that a list of the soldiers who are about to take up land shall be displayed in the Lands Office, where it can be seen by every one.
– On the subdivision of every estate, a list of successful applicants is published the following day.
– A parallel case to this is the fact that Krupp’s machinery ruled the day in the Victorian Railways, despite the existence of a resolution, carried in the Victorian Legislative Assembly, in favour of the locallymanufactured article.
– The Commonwealth and the Victorian Governments are both favorable to giving the Australian manufacturers the first chance.
-I believe that, absolutely; but the principle is not carried out. A good Government may have splendid intentions; but if its officials will not carry them out, trouble arises.
– We cannot compel the soldiers to take machinery they do not want ; but, at any rate, I promise to look into the matter.
Question resolved in the negative.
Mr.FENTON (for Mr. Makin) asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Whether he will have prepared a report concerning the postal, telephonic, telegraphic, money order, and bank facilities for Glanville, Birkenhead, Brompton, and Queenstown, in the Hindmarsh Division of South Australia?
What office convenience is afforded in these districts respectively?
What is the distance from the respective districts where the above-mentioned conveniences are afforded to the nearest postoffice?
– Inquiries are being made, and replies will be furnished as early as possible.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Postponement of Contracts
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Does he anticipate having the proposed contract with the New South Wales Government to build some ships at Walsh Island finalized before the House rises for the recess?
– As already stated in this House, it is not proposed, to proceed with the ‘building of additional ships until such time as the unions engaged in the industry have signed the amended shipbuilding agreement.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– Until a basic wage has been adopted, and the nature and extent of it declared, it would be. impossible to answer questions such as these.
Debate resumed from 23rd November (vide page 6857), on motion by Mr. Hughes -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr. Tudor had moved -
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 some quarters surprise has been expressed that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) should introduce a Bill of this kind. I am not at all surprised at his doing so.
– In fact, it is what you’ expected.
– It is just what I expected. The Prime Minister has become so accustomed during the past four or five years to wearing the robes of a dictator, that it was not to be expected for one moment he would be prepared to throw them’ off without making a fight.
Mr. Ryan. But did he not give us the pledge that he would do so?
– He gave a pledge to the House and the country that we were to see the end of an Act which has become anathema to the people; but he is so saturated with the lust of power that the Act gave him that, while making a pretence of surrendering that power, he is determined to re-enact some of the very worst features of the Act. This Bill is a fraud on the face of it. While it contains a promise on the face of it that it is a Bill for an Act to repeal the War Precautions Act, it actually proposes to keep alive the very worst* features of that pernicious measure which we have had in operation for the last four or five years. We read in the newspapers with interest that the Ministerial party was not .surprised when this Bill was introduced yesterday, that, in fact, they had been ‘discussing the matter upstairs. If that statement is correct, it suggests that the bulk of the Ministerial supporters are behind the Government, and desire to give effect to the Bill - a very regrettable thing. But I am prepared to give them the benefit of any doubt I may have, until after the division bells have rung, when it will be seen whether the Prime Minister has succeeded in dragooning his supporters to accept the Bill. It is hard to believe that support could be found for a measure which makes for the wiping out of trial by jury and the curtailment of freedom of speech. No other meaning can be read into the Bill but that it is intended to destroy those two things. Its outstanding features are the provisions which strike a blow at that freedom of speech which is the boasted birthright of every man in this country, and trial by jury. Should the Bill be passed we can say good-bye to freedom of speech. There will be no further freedom of speech, and there will be no further trial by jury in this country.
– A vital blow will be struck at freedom of speech. The honorable member does not understand the measure.
– You said that it would be the end of trial by jury in this country.
– A decided blow will be struck at the institution oftrial by jury and at the principle of free speech. The Bill says -
For the purposes of the last preceding subsection, persons shall be deemed to have met, or to be assembled, for an unlawful purpose if they, or any of them, while assembled - do anything to make known their grievances. If they do that, they shall be deemed to have met for an unlawful purpose.
– That is, within the precincts of Parliament House.
– Within a certain area. If persons are in certain streets, or within a certain distance of the building in which the laws of the country are made - and these may be the worst laws in the world - the Bill will apply to them. For instance, if those who were promised definitely by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) at the last election the advantages of a basic wage feel aggrieved that effect is not to be given to that promise, and assemble at certain , places, they will be deemed, under this Bill, to have met for an unlawful purpose, and may come within its penalties. Therefore, I say that it is good-bye to freedom of speech.
– Your own freedom of speech might be interfered with if large numbers of persons were allowed to congregate near Parliament House.
-What is provided against is a very different thing from the invasion of this chamber, or the holding of meetings on the steps in front of this building.
– People may assemble, and say what they like, everywhere else in the Commonwealth.
– The Bill says -
Any officer of police, or officer thereto authorized in writing by the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, or the Attorney-General, may arrest without warrant any person who appears to him to have been guilty of an offence against the provisions of this section.
And again -
Any person who criticises any law of the Commonwealth is to be deemed guilty of an offence. There is practically no limitation to that provision. It does not matter how bad a law may be, or what its nature, those who dare to criticise what the Government of the day do not wish them to criticise may be deemed guilty of an offence. The Bill also makes it punishable -
To excite disaffection against the Government or Constitution of the Commonwealth.
– The honorable member will not be in order in reading the provisions of the Bill seriatim and debating them on the second reading.
– That is the last quotation I intend to make in support of my contention that liberty of speech will be non-existent to a great extent if the Bill becomes law.
– The provisions you have quoted are qualified considerably onthe next page.
– Yesterday I heard the honorable member for Dampier make a very strong speech against the measure.
– That is so.
– My comments upon it will have to be very strong if they are to equal his. He concluded his speech by saying that he intended to vote against the measure, and, indeed, there was no other course open to him. But the newspapers tell us that the subservient section of Ministerial supporters that meets upstairs fell at the knees of the Prime Minister, and agreed to do everything that he asked it to do.
– The Bill was never discussed upstairs.
– I can see in my mind’s eye the Prime Minister appealing to the passions and prejudices of his followers, and insisting on the need for legislation to suppress sedition, holding up certain individuals who should be brought under these provisions. He would only have to do that to get the honorable member for “Wakefield to agree to anything that he might propose. The Prime Minister, being reluctant to throw off the robe of dictator, which he has i worn for -the last four or five years, was able to make the honorable member and others agree to his proposal without much difficulty, because he knows exactly how to appeal to certain persons for what he wants. I did not expect that this Bill would put an end to the War Precautions legislation, and, as I expected nothing better, I am not disappointed. I knew that the Prime Minister would find it difficult . to relinquish the unlimited power that he possesses, and that for the past four years he has used against the liberties and interests of the country.
– Why difficult?
– Because he loves power. The Prime Minister and those who follow him could hardly be expected to extend the privilege of trial by jury to the people of .this country, judged by their latest act. On the bare report of a newspaper, with nothing else to guide them, they expelled an honorable member from this House, and there was no. indication that they desired to give him fair play. I was not here on the occasion, being absent in another State with the Public Works Committee ; but, from all .accounts, there was not the semblance of fair play.
– The honorable member is now reflecting on an action of the House.
– I am referring to it as an indication that we are not to expect anything in the nature of trial by jury from this Government. If the Bill becomes law, those who propose to meet to-morrow night to express their grievance against the Government respecting the non-acceptance of the basic wage might be dealt with and punished for daring to criticise the Government’s action. I cannot understand the members of any party agreeing to some of the provisions of this Bill. It proposes to make a person coming to these shores go through the farce of taking the oath of allegiance. I can understand that the Prime Minister had certain persons in view when he got his party to agree to that upstairs, and I know how he appealed to their prejudices. An Act of Parliament cannot make a man loyal. A person coming to- these shores might take the oath of allegiance, and it would prove nothing of value. On the other hand, to force persons to take the oath is the very course which would lead to disloyalty. When every man is liable to be bailed up and have his loyalty questioned, ‘ he is made to believe that he is regarded with suspicion. Such conduct will not make one a more” loyal or more dutiful citizen. The proposals of the Government, as indicated inthis Bill, would be laughable were they not so ‘ serious. They are absurdly foolish, and the measure can only have been introduced because there are certain individuals in the minds of ‘ the Government against whom they propose to use these powers. The Government are not even original in this absurd legislation. The powers which they propose to secure with respect to sedition are borrowed from the Sedition Bill introduced into the New South Wales Parliament in 1916 by the ex-Premier (Mr. Holman). So much did it aggravate the people that that measure was one of the chief’ causes of Mr. Holman’s relegation to political obscurity. The only satisfaction to be gained from the introduction of this Bill is that a similar fate may very reasonably befall this Government. Besides drawing upon the New South Wales Act, resort has also been had to the old Queensland code of fifty years ago.
– It is the present code in Queensland.
– There is one great principle recognised in the Queensland code which is conveniently absent from this Bill. I refer to the right and privilege of trial by jury. The Government have borrowed the worst features of other criminal codes, and have cast aside all the better features. It is to a large extent immaterial what a Government may seek to import into the criminal laws of a country so long as they retain and safeguard the great right of every citizen to open trial by a jury of his fellow-countrymen.
There is a clause in the Bill which seeks to make it seditious to excite disaffection against the Government or Constitution of the United Kingdom, or against a Government of the King’6 Dominions. Was ever such a proposition sought to be foisted upon a free’ people? We are to be required not only to swear allegiance to His Majesty the King, but to His Majesty the Australian Czar. We must refrain from criticising either the .Lloyd George Government of the United Kingdom, or the Hughes Government of Australia. We must be very careful, if we do not wish to excite disaffection, not to dare to criticise this Government or any of its laws, in operation or proposed. Having studied the history of the Lloyd George Government and of the Government cif the Commonwealth, it would be hard to avoid laying oneself open to a charge of sedition. One may not even offer reasonable , criticism, it would seem. I can quite appreciate how this proposed law will make it a very serious matter for any one to refer, for example, to the Ready incident, the recollection of which still carries a very bad odour. It will be recalled that steps were taken by the Government to increase their majority by spiriting away certain persons - as in the Ready and Watson cases. However, no longer are we to be permitted to refer to those incidents. All our boasted rights and privileges with respect to the criticism of governmental administration are to go by the board.
The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) referred yesterday to the meddling practices of the Prime Minister. There are’ clauses in this Bill relating to companies: and, having them in mind, I quite agree with the honorable member for Dampier that it is about time the Prime Minister ceased from his meddling with Australian industries, which are being thwarted at every turn. T do not say, of course, that they should ba allowed to continue unrestricted in every respect; but the Prime Minister has shown that he has not the qualifications - much less the right - to interfere with business activities in Australia. If he wished to do anything in the direction of suppressing sedition, the Prime Minister could go straight ahead and bring in a specific Bill to amend the Crimes Act in that respect. If he desired to deal with companies along the lines proposed within this measure, his proper course should be to introduce a Bill to amend the Companies Act. And, with respect to the proposed restrictions upon immigration, the Prime Minister would be acting properly if he introduced a Bill to amend the Immigration Restriction Act. The desire of the Prime Minister is not to help industry. His past actions have tended in the opposite direction. His proved desires have been to thwart industry. His chief purpose now is to continue to wear the robes which, unhappily for Australia, he has donned for so long. The Government- say it is their great desire to introduce suitable immigrants to Australia. The worst way in which they could possibly go about that purpose is to publish broadcast the provisions of this measure. If a stranger were to land on our shores, and were to read of these proposed safeguards against sedition, he would say, “ This is’ the best country in the world to shun.” The worst advertisement which could possibly be given Australia is to have it made known abroad that our people are such that these safeguards against sedition are necessary. The honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) referred yesterday to people who were trying to disrupt the Empire. He remarked that he was pleased that these clauses had been introduced to deal with sedition and the like. He spoke of quite a large number of people who, during the war, were seeking to overthrow the Government of this country and of the Empire. His language would give one the impression that there were really very many people in Australia who were anxious to bring about revolution and chaos. According to his allegations, if all those who should have been imprisoned had been cast either into the internment camps or our gaols, they would have been far too small to hold such a throng.
– I was anxious, when speaking upon this measure, that some honorable member would invite me to give particulars.
– I interjected, asking the honorable member to furnish names. Why did he not do so?
– The honorable member did not do so.
– I suppose these people include that “ army “ out at Hawthorn.
– Yes, those people who put the honorable member’s eye in a sling.
– They were among those whom I had in mind.
– That was a very good “ frame-up.” I suppose it got the honorable member a few votes. However, I did interject during his speech, yesterday, and I asked him to name some of the persons to whom he was alluding.
– No; I was wishing that some honorable member would do so.
– Then, his opportunity having been missed on that occasion, I, personally, would be willing to extend to the honorable member a chance to make a statement forthwith - so long as he undertook to give names. If the honorable member was aware, during the period of the war. of the actual names of persons who were guilty of sedition and the like, he had a clear duty to perform. He should not have waited until the present moment, and sought the interjection of some honorable member to give him his opportunity to furnish the particulars. The fact is that the honorable member for Kooyong finds it more convenient to keep on vaguely saying these things for purely political motives. Let him get down to “ brass tacks.” He desires the impression to go forth that this country is eaten up with disloyalty and sedition, and that we have in our midstmany who are out to overthrow the Empire, so that it is absolutely necessary to perpetuate this pernicious measure. Unlike the Prime Minister, I was born in Australia,, and when I say that I have its best interests at heart, a greater degree of credence can be given to that statement than to any such assurance by the right honorable gentleman. In the best interests of Australia I hope we shall quickly get back to pre-war conditions. I hope that we shall have a speedy return to normal times, and that our industries will be allowed to go on peacefully without meddlesome interference on the part of the ‘Government. I trust that we shall have restored that harmony and goodwill amongst the people of the Commonwealth, and, indeed, the Empire, that will enable us to work out our destiny just as we were doing before the Prime Minister came along with his War Precautions Act. The people were then largely at peace among themselves, and were endeavouring to work out their own destiny in their own way. Our industries were free from the Prime Minister’s interference and meddling, and we have a right to expect that such interference will be no longer continued. The War Precautions Act has become anathema to the people, who feel that they have been fooled by the title to this Bill. They were definitely promised that before the House adjourned for the Christmas vacation the pernicious War Precautions Act would be removed from the statutebook. It is by no means new to find the Prime Minister breaking his pledges to the people, but they, and we, as their representatives, are entitled to enter our protest. The fact that the Prime Minister has broken many promises is not a sufficient reason why he should continue to do so. We were definitely told that the War Precautions Act would be repealed before the House rose, but, true to his traditions, the Prime Minister has broken that pledge.
– It seems to be a profitable procedure.
– Of course it is. The Prime Minister is to receive a nice little cheque to-night.
– And if this Bill is passed we shall not be able to ask who subscribed to the fund.
-I should like to see the list of subscribers, and to ascertain how many contributions of5s. each were made to the fund.
– And how many privates amongst our returned soldiers are contributing to the fund ?
– Quite so. I could mention one or two names that are sure to be on the list.
– Will the honorable member say how he proposes to connect these remarks with the Bill ?
– This Bill was introduced for a purpose.
– And that purpose is to keep Australia clean.
– I did not know it was proposed to get rid of the honorable member.
– That is rather rough.
– I withdraw it, but the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Robert Cook) should not have interjected as he did. The Prime Minister, under the “War Precautions Act, has been interfering with various business enterprises. As theresult of his interference in the interests of the Colonial Combing, Spinning and WeavingCom- pany that corporation was able to make something like £300,000 out of a contract that it entered into. It was given special facilities that were denied others. It was granted privileges which other firms in Australia could not secure.
– Does the honorable member suggest that that company is contributing to the fund to which he refers ?
-I should like to know whether its name appears on the list of subscribers who are. presenting the Prime Minister with a cheque for £25,000. It would have paid the persons concerned to give a few shillings to the fund, or, as the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) suggests, to contribute the full amount. The presentation, on behalf of the public, of a cheque to the Prime Minister is, I suppose, another illustration of the stage management to which the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) recently referred. The Prime Minister is supposed to know nothing about the creation of this fund, but I venture to say that some very good friends of his manage to work these little things for him. That may be a wrong conception of the right honorable gentleman’s patriotism. It is, perhaps, too great a reflection on his patriotism to make such a suggestion, but I, at all events, have my doubts, because, unless there is something of the kind at the back of the War Precautions Act, I see no reason why the right honorable gentleman should seek to perpetuate it. The people are heartily sick of it. They do not want it, and the only conclusion I can come to is that its principal features are being perpetuatedin order to suit certain people. Let us get back to pre-war precaution days. The people should be allowed to carry on in peace and harmony, and to work out their own destiny without any interference of this kind.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Richard Foster) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to ratify an agreement for the variation of the agreement entered into between the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth and the Premiers of the States of New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia respecting the River Murray and Lake Victoria and other waters, and to amend the River Murray Waters Act 1915.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
SUGAR PURCHASE BILL (No. 2). Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
.- Knowing the general desire throughout Australia for the repeal of the War Precautions Act, I looked forward with pleasure to the introduction of a measure by which that Act was to be removed from the statute-book. But it was a shock to me when I had placed in my hand the Bill now before us. I cannot agree with a line or even a word in it.
– Except clause 2 which provides that “ The War Precautions Act 1914-18 is hereby repealed.”
– With that exception there is nothing in the Bill which.I can indorse. Even the title of the Bill should be altered, and when we go into Committee I intend to move accordingly. Instead of being a Bill to repeal the War Precautions Act it is designed really to perpetuate the worst features of that measure. While the war was in progress, the Parliament, believing that it was necessary that the Government should have certain powers, passed the War Precautions Act. under which they were given almost unlimited authority. And to-day - two years after the war is over - when every one is looking forward to the repeal of that Act, we have the Government coming forward with a Bill which, although entitled the “War Precautions Act Repeal Bill,” actually continues the very worst features of that measure. We find that it dealswith such matters as claims and functions as towharfs, agreements with and guarantees to banking corporations, companies, firms, and businesses, “ oath to be taken by persons entering the Commonwealth,” unlawful assemblies, amendments of the Crimes Act, the punishment of sedition - with definitions of sedition which suit the Government - investments by municipalities and other bodies in Commonwealth loans, the right of banks to advance money to employees for investment in Commonwealth loans, the investment of trust funds in Commonwealth loans, acts which the Government say are prejudicial to the raising of such loans, a council of finance, agents of oversea companies and firms-
– It is, in short, a legislative garbage tip.
– Exactly. It deals with practically everything except the one vital thing which it was expected to deal with, and that is the repeal of the War Precautions Act.
I shall not delay the division, since I know that the second reading of the Bill will be carried; but in Committee I shall vote against every clause with the exception of clause 2. I cannot say that the Bill is a fraud or a farce, since when I used such an expression in respect to another measure I was instantly called to order; but I will say most emphatically that I am absolutely opposed to the Bill. It is merelyanother bit of political acting on the part of the Prime Minister, and is introduced, I dare say, in furtherance of his desire to retain the wide powers that he has enjoyed during the last few years. I shall vote against the second reading.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted (Mr. Tudor’s amendment) - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 17
Question so resolved in the negative.
Question - That the Bill be now read a second time - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 17
Original question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
This Act may be cited as the War Precau tions Act Repeal Act 1920.
.- The title, to my mind, does not correctly describe the contents of the Bill, and, to remedy that defect, I move -
That after the word “ Precautions “ the word “ Aggravation “ be inserted.
– I cannot accept that amendment.
– Why? It is a true description.
– An amendment of that kind is not in accordance with the usages of Parliament.
– If the usages of Parliament will not permit me to tell the truth, it is better for me to sit down.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 2 agreed to.
Coal. (1.) In this section unless the contrary intention appears - “ the War Precautions (Coal) Regulations “ means the regulations comprised in Statutory Rules 1917, No. 195, as amended by Statutory Rules 1917, Nos. 240 and 252; by Statutory Rules 1919, Nos. 103, 119, 141, 147, 182, 183, and 224; and by Statutory Rules 1920, Nos. 171, 174, and 216, and includes the regulations comprised in Statutory Rules 1916, Nos. 289, 298, 301, 303, and 328, and in Statutory Rules 1917, Nos. 12 and 94, so far as those regulations relate to coal and to any matters consequential upon any action taken in respect to coal…..
Amendments (by Mr. Groom) agreed to.
That the word “ and,” where first occurring, line 9, be left out. and that after the figures “216,” line 10, the word and figures “and 224” be inserted.
.- This clause sets out the powers which may be exercised under the Coal Regulations It is very necessary that coal should be controlled by the Commonwealth authorities, but I am disappointed with the manner in which these particular regulations are administered. In the past the administration has been directed in certain channels, and, probably, against one particular class of the community; but there has also been laxity in the administration affecting the whole community. The clause in this Bill which continues the War Precautions (Coal) Regulations gives the fullest possible power to the Commonwealth Government to deal with any matter which may arise in connexion with the coal-mining industry. Under these regulations this Parliament derives its power to pass legislation recently enacted affecting the coal-mining industry. But my contentionis that we are not endeavouring to make the power we possess effective. Certain negotiations are proceeding at the present time to bring about a settlement of a dispute which has arisen in connexion with coalmining, and I hope they will prove satisfactory; but I cannot permit an opportunity like this to pass without entering my protest against the neglect of the Commonwealth Government to take action under the Industrial Peace Act to force the Victorian State Government to observe an award given by a Tribunal appointed under the provisions of that Act. It is idle for us to have this power if we do not use it for the purpose of giving effect to an award made by a Tribunal appointed in consonance with the power we exercised by virtue of the Coal Regulations. Who are to police the awards made by these Tribunals ? The employees, the employers, or the Commonwealth Government ? There can be only one answer. Under the Industrial Peace Act the Commonwealth Government is charged with the duty of policing awards made by Tribunals appointed in pursuance of provisions of the Act. Yet to-day we have the spectacle of a State Government setting an example to private employers by refusing to observe an award made by a Tribunal and attempting to justify its action on the ground that it was not a party to the dispute. The Industrial Peace Act makes it quite clear that the Commonwealth Parliament has assumed complete power over the coal trade throughout the Common- wealth, and, in that Act, an “ industrial dispute” is defined as follows: -
An industrial dispute extending beyond the limits of any one State, and includes -
There was an impending probable dispute. It became necessary to appoint a Tribunal. The Tribunal gave an award. To-day a State Government is defying that award. The proper course of that Government was to observe the award, and pay the men the wage allotted to them, and then appeal to the High Court if it was not satisfied with the decision of the Tribunal; but it has assumed the attitude that the Tribunal had no right to control its workmen, and has raised the point that it was not represented at the inquiry. As a matter of fact it was. The State Premier at first objected, but, after the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) had been consulted, and had expressed the opinion that the question was one that ought to be submitted to the Tribunal, the State Government was represented by two persons. It then took no, exception whatever to the proceedings until an award was made, whereupon it refused to obey it. The Act provides that any person who does not wish to become a party to the dispute may appear before the High Court and show cause why his name should be struck out of the list of parties cited; but the State Government did not adopt that procedure, and instead of the Commonwealth Government saying, “ We propose to police this Act and see that you carryit into effect, just as we would compel any private employer to do so,” no action has been taken against the State Government. Certainly negotiations were opened up. but I contend that it is our duty as a Parliament to assert our authority. Of course, if we have no authority in the matter the sooner the public know it the better; but if we have the power, why should we allow a State Government to flout it? A penalty of £500 may be imposed for a breach of an award, but no attempt has been made to recover any penalty from the State Go vernment, which refuses to recognise the authority of the Commonwealth, and chooses to defy us.
– Can the Federal Government impose a penalty on a State Government ?
– The duty of the Federal Government is to police its own Acts, and it is for the Courts to decidewhether the State Government is right in this matter. On the merits of the case I venture to say it is wrong. Certainly its actions are not in the best interest of the people of the State itself or of the Commonwealth as a whole, because if a settlement is not arrived at within a week steps may be taken which may be harmful not only to Victoria, but also to other portions of Australia. This matter is so serious that I cannot allow this House to go into recess without raising my voice in protest. The State Government has taken up a wrong attitude. Some honorable members have asked why the Morwell miners should be classed as coal miners, but as a matter of fact under the award of the Tribunal they are classed as’ ordinary labourers, and are to receive the lowest wage paid under the award, namely, 16s. 6d. per shift. The lowest wage paid under the award to a coal miner is£1 per shift.
– Evidently the position of the Morwell men has been grossly misrepresented.
– Just so. Every one knows that in any industry there are all classes of men engaged, and that if a plaint is filed the log covers all classes of employees. When a Tribunal gives its award it fixes the wages to be paid to all classes of men engaged in the industry. In the case of the Miners Federation it fixed the wages not only for the miner, but also for the wheeler, the clipper-on, the screen man, and every other person employed about a coal mine. This Tribunal fixed the wages to be paid to the Morwell men at the lowest possible rate awarded, namely, 16s. 6d. per day.
– The honorable member’s colleagues in the State House have their remedy for the action of the Victorian Government.
– The Lawson Government will be out of office to-night if it is not kept in power by the Labour party.
– A Government which sets the example set by the Lawson Government does not deserve to remain on the Treasury bench for five minutes. If it felt aggrieved by the award of this Tribunal it had the right of appeal. First of all, it could have appealed against being made a party to the dispute, but it did not do so, and Mr. Lawson admits that he made a mistake in that regard. However, if it felt dissatisfied with the award the only course open to it was to appeal to the High Court upon the constitutionality of the Industrial Peace Act. It could not appeal on the merits of the award. But the State Premier simply proposes to ignore the award of the Tribunal, with the result that a very bad feeling has been created in the community. Some honorable members have said, “Why cannot these Morwell men allow a State Tribunal to deal with their case?” But these men are members of the Miners- Federation, which has decided that it will not bring about any industrial upheaval in the Commonwealth on condition that the whole of its members are protected by a Tribunal appointed under the Industrial Peace Act. Do honorable members imagine that a federation would not protect a section of its members because they happen to be small in numbers, and allow it to be debarred from the advantages given by the award of this Tribunal; or that it would forsake its friends, and not stand by them, especially knowing that a Government was breaking the award? If the men had broken this award they would have been dealt with, but no action is apparently to be taken against a .State Government for breaking it. I do not know whether this is because a National Government has control of affairs in Victoria, but that is a fact which should not weigh at all in connexion with this matter. A State Government has as much right to be dealt with for a breach of an award .as has a private employer who refuses to observe an award. The point I wish to make is that the Commonwealth Government ought to police the awards of its own Tribunal - no one will contend that it is the duty of the workmen to police them - but it chooses to depend on negotiations. I hope these negotiations will be successful ; but from what I heard on Saturday last, unless some change has occurred in the meantime, the position is not too hopeful. If the State Government adheres to its decision that it has the right to go to a Police Court for remedy, trouble will occur. If a certain point is raised before any Police Court in Victoria, the decision will assuredly go against the men. The State Government ought to be compelled to comply with the provisions of Commonwealth legislation, and go before the High Court. Then if it should get a decision favorable to it, well and good; but no Government should be permitted to flout the law of the land, or refuse to obey an award of a Tribunal appointed under that law. It is useless for the State Government to argue that if it complies with this award it will be obliged to pay the same rate of wage to every other person throughout the State engaged in similar work. We know that when an application is made for an award in connexion with a certain industry the award given affects that industry only. Any other person who seeks to increase his wages to the amount fixed by that award is obliged to cite a case for the Court, and the Court will deal with his application on its .merits. In view of the fact that we have a declaration *that the basic wage is about £5 16s. -a week, will any one say that an award of 16s. 6d. per day is too much ? Although the men at Morwell may be working in an open cut, their work is arduous, they have a lot of material to shift, and they lose a lot of time through wet weather. No one can argue that the wage of 16s. 6d. per day for six days a week, even without lost time, is more than sufficient to maintain a family at the present time. Yet when an award is given fixing 16s. 6d. as the standard wage for certain employees of a State Government, that Government absolutely repudiates it, and the Commonwealth Government does nothing to enforce Commonwealth legislation. The Prime Minister said to me the other day that he did not know what could be done in the matter, and asked me to suggest what I thought could be done. My only suggestion is that the Commonwealth Government is charged with the duty of policing these awards.
– What were the men at Morwell paid previously?
-I understand that they were paid 13s.. 6d. per day, and I have it on the best of authority that when their wages were increased by1s. 6d. per day, the Government at the same time increased the price of coal by about 2s. per ton. Of that 2s. per . ton, 9d. covered the increase given to the men, leaving the Government the advantage of an extra 1s. 3d. per ton, which I believe would fully cover the increase to 16s. 6d. per day under the recent award. But the real question is, what is a fair and reasonable wage for the men employed in the industry? The tribunal having found that these men are entitled to16s. 6d. per day, it is the duty of the Victorian Government to pay that wage, and of the Commonwealth Government, if it refuses to do so, to take what action may be necessary to compel it to obey the award. Unless this is done, what will be the value of our industrial legislation? If a State Government is permitted to disregard an award, a bad example will be set to private employers and also to employees, who, when they do not get decisions of which they approve, may say,” The Victorian Government has disregarded an award, why should we not do the same?” If a settlement is not come to in Sydney to-day - though I hope that it will be - the Commonwealth Government should cite the Victorian Government before the High Court with a view to compelling it to observe the award.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 4 and 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 (Companies, firms, and businesses.)
– Honorable members have taken exception to the provisions of this clause on grounds which seem to me reasonable. The intention was to enact them only for temporary purposes. I propose, therefore, to omit sub-sections 1 to 17. which contain the provisions of the existing regulations, and to retain sub-sections 18 and 19, and later to insert a new clause providing for the continuance of the War Precautions (Companies, Firms, and Businesses) Regulations now existing for a period of twelve months only. That will givean opportunity to Parliament to adequately consider and deal with the whole question.
– And if new regulations are required will you make them?
– Yes, so far as authorized by this Bill.
– There will be power to repeal?
– Do I understand that all these provisions dealing with companies, firms, and businesses apply only to foreign concerns?
– To concerns in which there are interests of other than naturalborn British subjects. I intend to ask for their temporary enactment for a period of twelve months. A number of matters now in the hands of the Treasurer cannot be settled immediately. My colleague will, I am sure, act generously in all those cases.
– I have been asked to inquire if the clause will apply to the formation of companies in which all the interests are locally held?
– Not where they are held by natural-born British subjects. When I move the proposed new clause, I shall provide only for the continuance of the existing regulations dealing with companies, firms, and businesses in which there are interests which are not so held. Sub-sections 17 and 18, restricting alien interests in companies, are being retained in the Bill.
– Natural-born and naturalized subjects will have complete freedom?
– To the extent provided in the regulations.
– But you are going to maintain some of the restrictions now in force.
– Yes, those set out in the Bill, but only for a period off twelve months. In the meantime the whole position is to be reviewed by the Treasurer, and, if there is any provision which it is thought should be made a permanent enactment it will be embodied in separate company legislation.
– I understand that the honorable member intends to strike out the sub-clauses he has referred to, and. to provide that our legislation shall operate for twelve months only in regard to the subjects with which they deal.
– That is, the regulations dealingwith companies, firms, and businesses. I move -
That sub-clauses (1) to (17) be omitted.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 7 -
Amendments (by Mr. Groom) put -
That, in line 1, the word “person” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “British subject”; and that the word “ an,” line 2, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ a pre scribed.”
The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 11
Majority . . . . 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendments agreed to.
Question - That the clause, as amended, be agreed to - put. The Cbmmittee divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 8 -
– I hope this clause will be considerably modified. Shall I be in order in moving to the effect that this particular area be more clearly defined? Could we have its boundaries marked by red flags by day, and. with red lights at night?
– Why red?
– There should be something to indicate danger. I understand that there is to be an important meeting of Commonwealth public servants in the Exhibition Building to-morrow night. Possibly, twenty of those attending the meeting may see fit to come here for the purpose of presenting the resolutions of the gathering to the Leader of the Government. It would be very proper and desirable that they should know at what precise spot they should cease from discussing the subject-matter of the meeting while on their way to this building. Will the Minister (Mr. Groom) inform me whether he will accept an amendment in the direction of the erection of red flags about the area by day and of the installation of red lights by night?
– You may fly your red flags now without first securing an amendment.
– I am not so sure of that. If this measure is agreed to, can the red flag be flown as hitherto? This is a serious inquiry.
– I thought the honorable member would know that this deals only with unlawful assemblies. It has nothing to do with the red flag regulation. That goes when this Bill is passed.
.- I move -
That all the words after the word “ unlawful,” line 5, be left out.
It is preposterous that this or any other Government should seek to prevent the public from making known their grievances or discussing public affairs generally, whether within or outside the prescribed area. We desire to live in as free and democratic a country as possible; and although, unfortunately, a great number of our rights and privileges have been taken from us, and our liberties restricted by the War Precautions Act and its regulations, if this clause is agreed to, then, despite the fact that the War Precautions Act is being apparently repealed, there will still be a very serious disability placed upon the discussion of public affairs.
– I cannot accept the amendment.
.- The Minister^ interjection is a somewhat cavalier method of seeking to dispose of a very important amendment.
– This whole business was discussed during the second-reading debate.
– The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Lavelle) is moderate in his desires. He has not expressed a wish to delete the whole of the clause, the reason being, perhaps, that he is aware that he would not get sufficient support in that direction. Personally, I do not know what good purpose the clause can serve. It does not seek to prevent what is unlawful. It seeks really to” make unlawful that which is recognised as lawful throughout the world - the right of every citizen to make known his grievances. It is not wise for us to attempt by legislation to prevent citizens from ventilating their grievances. This clause, however, will really prevent any persons making known their grievances at a public meeting within a certain distance of Federal Parliament House.
– It will even prevent them from discussing matters of public interest.
– The honorable member assists me by his interject’ on. After all, the Parliament House of the Commonwealth is a place where grievances are remedied. It is here that the deliberative assembly of Australia sits, and this is the place al which grievances should be made known. Why do we propose to silence people when they come within a quarter of a mile of this holy of holies? Why do we say that we will not allow them to discuss public matters within a quarter of a mile of these buildings ? The Government are trying to make this a kind of sanctum sanctorum, and for that reason I hope that the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) will bring his influence to bear upon the Minister in charge of the Bill (Mr. Groom), and induce him to accept the amendment. It would certainly make the clause more acceptable to the general public and remove a good deal of that criticism which has been so effectively directedagainst it by honorable members of the Labour party. I hope that we shall not be driven to insist upon a division, but that the Minister will reconsider his decision, and accept, after all, what is a reasonable amendment.
– This clause was fully discussed and explained during the second-reading debate. The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Lavelle) now seeks, by his amendment, to remove the very essence of it. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) has, unintentionally, misrepresented the effect of the provision. It is not designed to prevent the public discussion and formulation of grievances, nor will it prevent assemblies of the people to discuss public grievances, exoept within the immediate neighbourhood of Parliament House buildings. It provides that it shall not be lawful for any meeting of persons exceeding twenty in number to take place within the area defined, but, subject to that exception, all public grievances may be discussed in any part of the Commonwealth. There is absolutely no limitation to the free expression of public opinon.
– This will absolutelyprohibit deputations coming to Parliament House.
– I think it would be a good thing if no deputations assembled at Parliament House. They should be received in the Public Departments presided over by the Ministers whom they desire to see.
– The Government are not making any provision to prevent such assemblies at Canberra.
– This, I hope, will form a precedent.
Underthe Victorian Unlawful Assemblies and Processions Act of 1890 the State Parliament, which was then meeting in this building, took steps to prohibit meetings near Parliament House. Section 3 of that Act provides -
It shall not be lawful for any number of persons exceeding fifty to meet in the open air within that part of the city of Melbourne and its suburbs included within a line commencing at the junction of Exhibition-street and Flindersstreet, running along Flinders-street and Wellington-parade to Lansdowne-street, thence by Lansdowne-street to Victoria-parade, thence by Victoria-parade to its junction with Ex hibition-street, thence by Exhibition-street to the point of starting, including the said streets, for any unlawful purpose or for the purpose or on the pretext of making known their grievances or of discussing public affairs, or of considering of or preparing or presenting any petition, memorial, complaint, remonstrance, declaration, or other address to Her Majesty or to the Governor or both Houses or either House of the Imperial Parliament or the Parliament of Victoria …. on any day on which the two Houses or either House of Parliament shall meetand sit or shall be summoned or adjourned or prorogued to meet and lit.
It will be noticed that the prescribed area is much wider than that set out by us.
The principle embodied in the clause is well defined, and is certainly a reasonable one. Any person who desires to make known his grievances can do so in a reasonable way, but it certainly is unwise to encourage tumultuous assemblies in the neighbourhood of Parliament House. With gifted orators addressing large crowds from Parliament House steps, the minds of the people might become inflamed. The object of this clause is to prevent any attempt to overawe the Parliament in its deliberations.
.- Although we have been meeting here for nearly twenty years, it has not been thought necessary before to enact a provision of this kind for the protection of the Parliament. It is evident, therefore, that the Government must have done something to shake public confidence in them, and that they fear that the people may gather in the neighbourhood of Parliament House to give expression to their views concerning them. This is really an insult to the citizens of Melbourne. It suggests that they are so violent that it is not safe to allow them to hold a public meeting for the discussion of a public grievance within a reasonable distance of Parliament House. I do not wish to insult the people of this city. They conduct themselves quite as well a9 do the people of any other city, and I have a very high opinion of them. Gatherings of the kind forbidden by this clause serve a useful purpose in enabling the Parliament to ascertain what is public opinion. I ha.ve no fear of such demonstrations. Quite recently a big meeting was held outside the House, but I walked out calmly, without any lack of confidence in the people assembled there. It was a pleasure to meet and see them.We have had occasionally some little excitement outside the House, but no harm has been done. There has not even been a good punching match in connexion with any of them. I object to any attempt to stifle the free expression of public opinion. We could have no greater safety-valve than is afforded by the unrestricted discussion of public grievances. Honorable members must have read of the mass meetings which take place from time to time in Trafalgar-square, which is almost in the heart of London. The British Parliament has never attempted to interfere with such meetings, and Trafalgarsquare is not much further from the Houses of Parliament than this building is from Elizabeth-street. Sometimes meetings of from 60,000 to 100,000 strapping lusty fellows are held in Trafalgar-square, and if such crowds were disposed to damage property, the police would be powerless to prevent them from doing so. When Lord Sherbrooke, as a member of the Gladstone Ministry, many years ago, brought in obnoxious taxation proposals, an enormous procession of men, women, and children marched from the East End of London to the front of Parliament House. I saw the procession. It was 100,000 strong, and a deputation from it actually went into Westminster Hall.
– There was a pretty rough meeting in Trafalgar-square a little while ago.
– Whether public meetings are rough or not, they are certainly a safety valve - they afford Britishers of pluck an opportunity to gather together and ventilate their grievances.
– We all agree with you as to that.
– But this Bill is an attempt to deprive the people of the right of public meeting.
– The honorable member cannot have read the clause.
– I shall oppose the clause with all the power I possess. I have sufficient confidence in my fellow-Australians to believe that they will not abuse the liberties that have ever been the right of the British people, and such legislation as this can only tend to promote discontent and disorder. It was Mr. Gladstone, or some other far-seeing man, who once de clared that liberal laws meant a lawabiding community, and that is as true to-day as when the words were uttered. However, I feel that I am beaten; those who could assist me will not do so. Doubtless they feel they owe a duty to the Government behind which they sit, and have no thought or desire to afford the community at large proper opportunities for ventilating any injustice they may suffer. There should always be the right to approach the King or the Government, and this Bill, particularly this clause, is a step in the wrong direction. I feel sure the people of Australia desire to do only what is right, and the country cannot prosper if there are parliamentary representatives who, by the legislation they support, indicate that they regard their fellow-citizens as little better than rogues and vagabonds. I know that in the attitude I now take I am representing the opinions of the vast majority of the electors of the great constituency of East Sydney.
– The Minister (Mr. Groom) has quoted theVictorian Statute which he said was passed in 1890.
– The Victorian Parliament passed another in 1915.
– I am speaking of the 1890 Act with knowledge of events in Victoria at that time, and of some of the men who were then in power. We all remember the great maritime strike, in the course of which the famous military order was given to “fire low, and lay them out” when the people were in public meeting assembled. It seems as though some of the spirit of that order prevails to-day.
– The Government are getting ready to issue it again.
– Quite likely. We do not know what is ahead of us ; but I shall never forget the stirring times of 1890. Compared with the speeches then made within the precincts of the House, or in the immediate neighbourhood, those delivered to-day are orderliness itself. In those days it was recognised by men of advanced thought, both here and elsewhere, that one of the greatest safety valves was liberty of speech in public meeting, and there was no talk of limiting the area in which that liberty could be enjoyed.
– Liberty of speech is now dangerous only within the prohibited area!
– That, of course, is a foolish idea. If the various State Governments were to prohibit gatherings in the Domain, Sydney, on the Yarra-bank, Melbourne, in the Gardens at Adelaide, or on the Esplanade at Perth, they would do more to promote the disruption of the communitythan any other course I know of. To-morrow night a great meeting of public servants is to be held in the Exhibition Building, and it will be almost possible for the. voices of the speakers to be heard in the Legislative Assembly chamber itself. Some of the greatest meetings - great from an agitator’s point of view - have been held in that building, and no objection was ever raised to them. A meeting to protest against this or some other iniquitous measure could be held there, and no authority would seek to prevent it.
– A meeting could be held in the Princess’ Theatre, over the way, without interference, but no meeting could be held outside that building.
– I do not know how the law will operate in that connexion. There aresharp lines of demarcation between constituencies such as my own and Melbourne, and I suppose that if a meeting were held on the far side of the sharp line drawn in Spring-street to mark off the prohibited area, there would be no attempt to impose any prohibition. The clause, honorable members will observe, speaks of open-air meetings only, so that if the authorities of St. Peter’s Church, which is just over Parliament House fence, were to consent, meetings of any kind might be held in the Parish Hall.
– Would you like church halls to be included in tbe prohibited area?
– No; I merely emphasize the fact that the clause applies only to open-air meetings, and I am pointing out that this means that any may be held within a building.
– That is orderly, is it not?
– At any rate it shows the peculiarity of the measure we are asked to pass. A revolutionary gathering must not be held in the open air within the prohibited area, but, as I read tbe Bill, one of that nature may be held within a building in the area. Legislation such as this can only create discontent, and tend to turn the most peaceable of men into violent agitators. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Blundell), from his association with unions in days gone by, knows that during the great maritime strike, some of the quietest of men became absolutely the most revolutionary, simply because of the curtailment of the liberty of speech, and the removal of rights and privileges that have been for many a year enjoyed by Britishers.
– The right to hold public meetings in the open air near Parliament House has not been enjoyed for “ many a year.”
– What about the State Parliament House?
– My remark applies to that House also.
– Since when have they been prohibited?
– Since 1903.
– How is it, then, that some of the greatest meetings have been held in the Exhibition Building, which is under the same roof as tbe State Parliament House?
– This clause deals with open-air meetings.
– Then I should be as innocent as a babe if I gave utterance to the most revolutionary language within four walls, but amenable to the law if I used the same language outside?
– Moral - keep inside the building!
– Within the proposed prohibited area there are more churches than, I suppose, can be found in any similar area in Melbourne. This provision is ridiculous on the face of. it. While it robs the people of the right to speak in the open air in public assembly, it makes a person immune if he speaks within the four walls of a hall within the prohibited area.
– It has been the law in Victoria for thirty years.
– Is this law to be set in force by the Commonwealth Parliament because certain folk happened to come into this Chamber with printed sheets which they flung among honorable members, and because some voices were raised in the gallery? I can foresee the end of this measure. Common-sense and liberty-loving people will return men to those benches opposite with sufficient supporters behind them to repeal all this obnoxious legislation. When Sir William Irvine passed his Coercion Bill, I told the people that a Parliament would soon be elected which would take the extreme pleasure of expunging the obnoxious provisions of that measure from the statute-book, and even men who were the colleagues of Sir William Irvine at the time he passed the measure were to be found amongst those who subsequently voted for its repeal. It is absurd to make out that there is danger in a peaceable community from the holding of public meetings. The Government are sowing seeds that may produce a crop which will not be to their liking. These repressive, and, to me, repulsive measures, instead of having the result desired, will have the very opposite effect. The prohibition of the right to speak in the open air is contrary to the very spirit which moved the Chartists and other great reformers in days gone by.
– Is it not better that Parliament should not be interrupted in its labours?
– Has the honorable member ever felt any danger in sitting here ?
– Quite recently during the sittings of this Parliament there was a violation of our privileges.
– The honorable member for Maribyrnong is a changed man.
– The honorable member is quite mistaken. I still have the feelings of abhorrence to which I gave expression in 1890, when I was a private citizen and a member of the executive of a union, though my language, perhaps, might not be so extravagant or violent in condemnation of these things. I know that when many citizens, not members of unions, found that public speech was prohibited in a certain area, they joined issue with those who had introduced that legislation, and, so far as I know, have ever since voted for the Labour party. When we adopt repressive measures which deny the people public and civil rights, we are only increasing the number of agitators, and the numbers of those who will join in asking for a restoration of the privileges of which they are now deprived. I deplore the fact that we are called on to pass this measure, because I know the crop which will ensue from the seeds we are sowing.
– It is old seed.
– In this year of 1920 we ought to be improving on what was done in 1890. I am always prepared to indorse what is old if it is good, but I am equally ready to denounce what is old if it is bad. By this legislation we are not reviving anything good. Instead of increasing the privileges of the people we are decreasing them.
.- In considering this measure we have to ask ourselves, What is the genesis of this clause? It is only during this session that it has been found necessary to have legislation of this kind. A Minister has interjected that it is old legislation, but I would be tbe last to be guided by legislation passed in a conservative and almost stagnant - politically - State like Victoria.
– This legislation has also been applied by the Imperial Parliament.
– I would like the Government to adopt some of the laws enacted by the Imperial Parliament, but I would be very sorry if they were to adopt some other legislation passed by that Parliament. Apparently the reason for this clause, which was nut before us a few months ago in the shape of a Bill, is the fact that the Government have been guilty of something which renders this legislation necessary. In my opinion there are two causes for the introduction of this restrictive provision. First of all, the ‘returned soldiers, finding that the Government had not carried out their promise to give them a cash gratuity, gathered in front of this building in their hundreds, and expressed their righteous indignation at the manner in which they had been fooled. If they were good enough to go away and fight for us in their hundreds, they were good enough to. gather outside this. House in their hundreds to demand justice.
– During the war we had crowds here - long before there were any returned soldiers.
– Yes, and probably because the Government had broken more promises.
– I think we ought to have a quorum to hear this oration. [Quorum formed.]
– Men who were good euough to go in their thousands to fight to defend us are not good enough to be allowed to gather in their hundreds before this building to express their righteous indignation, because the Government’s promise to pay the war gratuity in cash was not kept.
– We should have a quorum. [Quorum formed.]
– On a second occasion, there was a gathering outside this building to protest against the injustice and unfairness of tbe Government’s action in deporting a citizen without trial.
– There is not a quorum present. [Quorum formed.]
– It seems to me that the clause must be regarded as anticipatory; that the Government intend in the future, as in the past, to commit acts that may inflame the populace.
– There should be a quorum. [Quorum formed.]
– Apparently, the Government intend to introduce legislation which will impel and compel the justice- loving, “ dinkum” British people of this community to come before this building, and demonstrate against them. But we should preserve our privileges, and one of these privileges is the right of gathering in the open air to express our views on any subject. This right has been referred to as the safety valve of public opinion. I hope that honorable members will not be so narrow in their vision as to support the clause, but will allow the British subjects in a British community to continue to gather as they may think wise in the endeavour to secure the redress of their grievances.
.- This provision seems hardly worth discussing. I do not anticipate large assemblages in the vicinity of Parliament House likely to inconvenience members in their deliberations, unless the conditions are such that those who gather will pay little heed to the proposed restrictions, and in that case members will still have to run the risks against which they think they are safeguarding themselves. Therefore, for all practical purposes, the clause is useless. Another objection to it is that very few persons will know what is the area within which assembling is prohibited. Those responsible for a meeting within the prohibited area will be aware of what they are doing, but the great mass of the people who will attend that meeting will be led there simply by curiosity to discover what is in progress, and though innocent of any offence, may be brought before the Police Court, and punished. It is the most natural thing in the world for a person who sees a crowd to join it to ascertain what is going on.
– Does not every Parliament protect itself by forbidding assemblieswithin its precincts?
– I am not acquainted with the legislation of the world in this respect.
– The Imperial Parliament protects itself in this way. It is a good model to follow.
-I do. not know that it is. The newspapers this morning report an occurrence in the House of Commons such as has not happened here.
– The honorable member is now referring to a matter of personal conduct, not to a matter of procedure.
-The conduct to which I am referring was very unseemly, a member being taken by the back of the neck and hauled over a (bench to prevent his asking a question. Other things of thekind have happened from time to time in the House ofCommons.
– We should have a quorum. [Quorum formed.]
– The amendment of the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Lavelle) somewhat improves the provision; but, asI have said, if public feeling is excited, and public anger aroused to such an extent that people will gather in large numbers in tbe vicinity of this building to ventilate their grievances, or for any other purpose, the clause will not prevent them from doing so. During the war the War Precautions Regulations were framed for the purpose, butthey did not prevent these assemblages. It may be that whoever are responsible for this piece of legislation wish to be able to deal withtheir political opponents should they address such assemblies. On the last occasion when a crowd assembled outside this building, those on the Ministerial benches invited us on this side to go out and address it. That was said by way of putting us in our “proper position.” We did not accept that invitation, but the day may come when we may accept a similar one.. Should I deem it necessary to address persons assembled within the prohibited area, the factthat I should be liable to certain penalties for doing so would not prevent me from addressing them.
– What about the little resolution that would follow in this House?
– That is likely to come at any day, or any minute, so far as I am concerned. The honorable member knows full well that in my case such a consideration will not act as a deterrent. He is probably fairly familiar with the temper of the Barrier constituency.
– Still, it might be wet weather outside.
– And that would not matter. This Bill, however, is so much waste paper. It is a sort of political placard notifying the public that tbe Government are taking action to prohibit certain things which they, in their hearts, know full well they cannot prohibit; that is, if and whenever the people make up their minds in a contrary direction. The Government may have their Bill. It makes no difference either to me or to any one else. It is a dead letter before it is passed.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out stand as printed - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . … 17
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the clause be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . . 17
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 9 agreed to.
Clause 10 -
After section 24 of the Crimes Act 1914-1915 the following sections are inserted : - 24a. (1.) Subject to sub-section (2.) of this section an intention to effect any of the following purposes, that is to say -
to bring the Sovereign into hatred or contempt ;
to excite disaffection against the “Sovereign, or the Government, or the Constitution of the United Kingdom, or against either House of the Parliament of the United Kingdom;
to excite disaffection against the Government or Constitution of any of the King’s Dominions.;
to excite disaffection against the Government or Constitution of the Commonwealth, or against either’ House of the Parliament of the Commonwealth ;
to excite disaffection against the connexion of the King’s Dominions under the Crown;
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 promote feelings of ill-will and hos tility between different classes of His Majesty’s subjects so as to endanger the peace, order, or good government of the Commonwealth, is a seditious intention.
It shall belawful for any person -
to point out in good faith errors or defects in the Government or 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; 24d. Any person who writes, prints, utters or publishes any seditious words shall be guilty of an indictable offence. 24e. (1.) An offence under either of the last two preceding sections shall be punishable either on indictment or summarily, but shall not be prosecuted summarily without the consent of the Attorney-General.
. - I direct the attention off the Minister (Mr. Groom) to a rather curious difference between the drafting of a portion of this clause and his statement of the common law on the subject, as taken from text books, which he read to the House last night. Under this clause it is declared to be a “ seditious intention “ -
I said last night that this clause had apparently been drawn with the deliberate purpose of exposing to the danger of a charge of sedition any person who indulged in strong criticism of the Government in power at that particular time. There is this curious verbal difference between the clause and the text books, that whereas Stephen’s Digest of the Criminal Law, and the Encyclopedia of the Laws of England - which first publishes an article on the subject, and afterwards quotes Mr. Justice Stephen - state that it is seditious to “ excite disaffection against the Sovereign, or the Government, ‘ and ‘ the Constitution of the United Kingdom,” the words used in this clause are “ to excite disaffection against the Sovereign, or the Government, ‘ or ‘ Constitution of the United Kingdom “ ; that is declared to be a seditious intention.
– That is an important difference.
– It is a distinct and important difference. I ask the Minister whether that alteration has been deliberately made. The honorable gentleman last night put to the House the view that in this provision he was merely re-stating what the Queensland Criminal Code contains, and what is already the common law on the subject.
– I said that, generally speaking, it was based upon the Queensland Criminal Code, but I indicated one or two distinctions.
– The honorable gentleman did not call attention to this distinction.
– That is so; I did not.
– I ask the Minister if he is going to insist upon the passing of this clause generally, to at least make the alteration which I have indicated, in order that it may be in conformity with the common law on the subject. If that be done it will be made clear, at all events, that it is not intended by this clause so to strengthen the hands of the Government as to make it an act of sedition to strongly criticise the Government of the day. There is a very material difference between attempting to overthrow the Constitution and attacking the Government for the time being in power.
– As a matter of fact, the phrasing is exactly the same as that contained in section 44 of tbe Queensland Criminal Code, in which appear the words “ against the Sovereign or the Government or Constitution of the United Kingdom.”
– I take it that in this instance the Minister is not concerned with the draftsmanship of the Queensland Criminal Code. Queensland legislation is a model which the Governments in most respects might well follow. I invite the Government, however, not to be too obsequious in following the lead even of the Queensland Government, although on general lines they set us a wise example. I leave that point, and ask the Minister to consider it.
The next most objectionable part of this clause is in paragraph e, wherein it is declared that to excite disaffection against the connexion of the King’s Dominions under the Crown is a “ seditious intention.” I realize that the whole-hearted, if somewhat hysterical, Imperialists in this Chamber are not likely to be impressed by my contention that that paragraph should not remain in the clause. I mentioned last night the case of Ireland; but thetime may come when, quite apart from Ireland altogether - when, with reference to India, South Africa, or any other part of the
Empire - the law-abiding and loyal citizens of the Commonwealth may conceive it to be their public or private duty to declare in favour of the complete independence of anypart of the Empire. No limits should be imposed by this Bill upon their right to do so. It does not involve their standing for any policy of bloodshed, but it does involve the right of free citizens of the Commonwealth to declare that the claim of any part of the Empire for independence is justly founded and should be granted.
– The right to do that in good faith is preserved in subclause 2.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– When I pointed out that paragraph e of sub-clause 1 was fair matter for adverse comment it was suggested to me by a friendly interjection that my objection was met by subclause 2, which graciously concedes some measure of freedom of speech, notwithstanding the apparently harsh provisions of sub-clause 1. I shallnot debate this provision at length, beyond pointing out that sub-clause 2 does not meet in any way my objection to paragraph e of subclause 1. I have pointed out that it might well become the duty of any member of this Parliament, or any member ofthe public, to support the claim of an integral part of the Empire in the assertion of its independence, specifically mentioning the case of India, where there is a vigorous and well-informed Home Rule movement, quite as vigorous and, in my view, probably, as well-founded as that associated with the Republican movement in Ireland. I have also pointed out that in South Africa there is a very active and wellfounded movement designed to secure the independence of that portion of the Empire which originally formed the Boer Republics that were, in my view, and in the view of a very large and militant section of the South African people, wrongly deprived of their independence. While sub-clause 2 permits the suggestion in good faith of the Sovereign being mistaken in any of his counsels, or of arguments being directed in good faith towards pointing out defects in the Government or Constitution of the United Kingdom or of the Commonwealth as by law established, and while the Government graciously permit us, always in good faith, to excite His Majesty’s subjects to attempt to procure by lawful means the alteration of any lawful matter in the Commonwealth as by law established, orfinaly, still in good faith, to point out with a view to their removal any matters which are producing, or have a tendency to produce, feelings of ill-will and hostility between different classes of His Majesty’s subjects, there is nothing directed to the particular point which I have last raised. I am not alleging any grievances of an Imperial character other than the one I have already indicated having special reference to Ireland, but I urge that in connexion with the government of all these various integral parts of the Empire there might well come a time when it would be not only a right, but also a duty, of a citizen of this country, to express his sympathy with those who desire complete independence, provided, of course - and this is only a proviso - that complete independence is desired by a majority of the persons in the country concerned. In other words, what I am arguing for now is really well expressed in that new-born phrase so much used in connexion with the war, namely, the right of self-determination. These are the only matters about which special comment may be made in connexion with this clause. I venture to say that the law upon this subject wa6 sufficiently clearly stated and well understood, at all events, as far as it could be understood in the Statutes in exist.ence. and more particularly in the common law, without bringing it forward in a special measure, exciting, as it necessarily and naturally does, controversy and those feelings of ill-will which, on the face of it, it was designed to prevent. I hope the Minister will at least consent to an amendment. I cannot support this provision while it contains the specially objectionable features to which, before the adjournment and since, I have ventured to call attention.
– The honorable member for Batman (Mr, Brennan) has raised the objection that the phraseology used in the Bill differs from the wording employed in Stephen’s Digest, which embodies the British law upon this subject. The British Act says “ Government and Constitution.” . We have adopted the wording of the Queensland law upon the subject as codified by the late Chief Justice of the High Court (Sir Samuel Griffith).
– What is the meaning of “ government “ as used 111 that connexion ‘I
– It means the organized body administering the affairs of the country. The honorable member for Batman has raised another point in which he is correct, and I propose to accept his suggestion to amend paragraph b of subclause 2 by inserting the words “ or of any of the King’s Dominions “ after the words ‘ ‘ Constitution of the United Kingdom.” This will make it lawful for any person to point out in good faith errors or defects in the government or constitution of the United Kingdom or of any of the King’s Dominions as by law established. The amendment will bring the paragraph into conformity with subclause 1.
– That is to say, it wilT bring it into conformity with what you. have added to the Queensland law.
– That is so. It harmonizes with that portion of the section which is not in the Queensland law, but which, I .think, is a .proper provision to make.
– Does the honorable member propose to substitute “ and “ for “ or “ in the phrase “ government or constitution of any of the King’s Dominions “ ?
– I am pleased to see that provision is made for the punishment of any person who may bring the Sovereign into hatred or contempt because in Australia we have a section of people who, by the absurd methods they adopt to show their loyalty, certainly do bring the Sovereign into hatred and contempt. In fact, we have had exhibitions of it in this House. If this provision had been in operation in the past, many honorable members would have been liable to a conviction, because of their use of the National Anthem which, whether we like it or not, is associated with the presence of our Sovereign . There are individuals who believe that the best way in which they can display their loyalty is by conducting themselves in an unseemly manner which, to my mind, brings the Sovereign into contempt. His’ Majesty may have an opportunity of visiting Australia,, but if the Australian newspapers print about him the absurd articles which they published about His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales on his recent visit, I hope this provision will be brought into operation against them. Many honorable members think that the way in which they can show their great regard for the Empire is by getting hold of the Union Jack and marching down the street singing “ God save the King.” It is absurd to see a full-grown man, who is supposed to have sense, rushing down the steps of Parliament House, waving & Union Jack, and singing “ God save the King” in a voice so nasty that it only aggravates his offence. He may not intend to bring ridicule upon the King, but he certainly does so. I hope that those( who are administering this measure if it becomes law, will not look upon this particular provision with spectacles coloured by their own political convictions. I know why the paragraph finds its place in the Bill. It is there so that, for instance, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) may catch me on some unfortunate occasion saying or doing something he thinks will bring the Sovereign into ridicule.
– The honorable member for Swan would not think it a disgrace to carry the Union Jack.
– This provision has been placed in the Bill in order to pander to the small-mindedness of a certain section of the community, but I hope that it will be administered in the light that it means what it says, so that if any member gets up in this House, and sings “ God save the King “ when it is quite unnecessary to do so, action will be taken against him for bringing the Sovereign into contempt. The punishment inflicted might prevent some fools from following in his footsteps. Some newspapers think it their duty to pander to the maudlin sentiment of a few people in the community. I remember a newspaper printing a paragraph to the effect that a young lady had seen the Prince of Wales in his pyjamas on the balcony of his hotel. The article was not published to give information of any value, but simply to pander to the wishes of a contemptible section of the community. I hope that the Government will inflict punishment on news: papers that print articles for such a purpose, and impress -on them the fact that such paragraphs only bring the Sovereign into contempt.
I also object to paragraph g of subclause 1, which provides that an intention to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different classes of His Majesty’s subjects so as to endanger the peace, order, or good government of the Commonwealth is a seditious intention. There are many persons who avail themselves of the opportunity to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different classes of His Majesty’s subjects, and any attempt to prevent them from so doing will be an interference with their political liberty. I have a right to express my political opinions, although they may cause ill-feeling and hostility between different classes of His Majesty’s subjects by hurting the feelings of another section of the community opposed to my views. The Government is taking too much power, and I would remind Ministers that, although they have a majority now, the time is not far distant when the Labour party will be in power, and if I am in Parliament then, I shall not follow the Labour Government if it does net use this provision to put some honorable members in their proper places. There is hardly a member sitting behind the present Government, who does not, on every possible occasion, use language calculated to promote ill-will and hostility, between the various sections of the community.
– The provision to which the honorable member objects is not nearly so wide as that in the law of some of the States; Queensland, for instance. We have narrowed it by inserting the words, “ so as to endanger the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth.”
– The present Ministry could not give good government to the Commonwealth ; and am I to be prevented from saying so? Some honorable members opposite, in their innocence, believe that they are keeping this Ministry in power in the interests of good government, but the sinners of the party know that it is not so. Because Ministers have the big battalions behind them, they say to us, “You shall not give utterance to opinions which may endanger the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth,” and the only government that . they would allow to be considered good is that which proceeds from their own administration of public affairs. I may be told that my contention can be maintained, only by a stretching of the imagination; but there are politicians spiteful enough to do anything to damage their political opponents, and this provision could be used by Ministers to prevent criticism of their administration. I feel that it is not intended to put down sedition, but that its object is to enable the Government to “ down “ its political opponents. If British politicians had in the past taken notice of the feelings of their political opponents, and had thus arrived at a true understanding of matters, much of the trouble that is occurring in Great Britain to-day would have been prevented. Enactments like that proposed compel people to adopt undesirable methods for gaining their ends. The provision looks innocent, but I would not trust the Prime Minister, (Mr. Hughes) not to use it to “ down “ a political opponent, and there are other members opposite who also would be capable of using it for that purpose. It has been inserted in the Bill to prevent members from availing themselves of opportunities to place before the people their ideas of right government. If they do so, Ministers can say, “You are endangering the good government of the Commonwealth,” and punish them. I know that this Government has a weak lot of followers, who would support any of its proposals.
– You have no right to say that.
– I have never known the honorable member to vote against the Government. He is a good supporter of it.
– Because it is always right.
– The interjection proves my contention. The honorable member thinks that only those on his side desire the good government of the Commonwealth, and that any one wishing to displace the present Administration should be dealt with. He is one of those whose kindly hearts would prompt them to make a gift, but who would never recognise another’s right. This community is composed largely of individuals like him: people with large hearts, but with very narrow views respecting the political rights of their opponents.
– Thank God, I may please myself as to how I vote!
– My objection is that the honorable member is helping a Government to place on the statute-book a provision under which I might be locked up for opposing it. My liberty may be nothing to him, but it is a great deal to me, and, while he would be sorry to see me in durance vile, or suffering any personal discomfort, he would still support any action that his Government might take in regard to me.
– I do not think that you would do much wrong.
– The honorable member believes that I am capable of much political wrong. If he agreed with me politically, he would not be on the opposite side of the House. Is it the desire of Ministers to prevent all criticism of the Government .
– Certainly not, and the provision does not do anything of the kind.
– Under it one could not attend a trade union meeting, and there advocate the bettering of political conditions.
– Of course, one could. The honorable member misreads the provision.
– No doubt, in the present temper of the community Ministers, bad as they are, would not put this provision into force.
– They would do so if they dared.-
– If they felt that their power was slipping from them, Lord knows what they would not do !
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable member for Eden-Monaro would back them up however vile their actions might be, politically speaking.
– I look at the dreadful alternative.
– The honorable member would say that the alternative was not good government. The Government are taking powers to deal with those who, the honorable member would say, do not believe in good government. Political parties on all occasions will fight their opponents strongly and bitterly and exercise every possible power to “ down “ them, but to charge a man who differs from you politically with being seditious is playing the game very low down. Many unfair punishments have been inflicted upon sections of the community by the putting into force of laws which were supposed to be obsolete. Some day I can imagine a far-seeing gentleman like the Prime Minister or the Treasurer going through these laws and discovering something which will “down” their political opponents for the time being. Although the only offence of their opponents would be a desire to remove them from the Government bench, they could charge them under this measure with sedition.
– What would happen if the Treasurer advocated republicanism again, as he used to do?
– Not only the Treasurer, but many supporters of the Government on the other side of the chamber, have talked republicanism. I believe that the limited monarchy of Great Britain is preferable to the presidential system of the United States of America, or even that of France, but still I am a republican at heart, because I believe that a republican form of government such as I could mould would be better than our monarchical system. For saying that I might be charged with sedition, but I submit that it is not seditious.
– What would happen if this Bill were made retrospective?
– Many of the supporters of the Government would be locked up,’ or worse* The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs), for instance, would not be quite so comfortable as he is now.
– Is the honorable member suggesting that the Bill should be made retrospective?
– No; much as I might desire to see every honorable member opposite removed, I should not like to see any of them hanged, drawn, and quartered. Will any honorable member who reads the clause carefully tell me the need for including it in the Bill? What is the good of it? What is it intended for? It seems to me that it is intended as a drag-net to enable the Government to deal with their political opponents for no other offence than that of desiring to supplant them on the Treasury bench.
– I am not satisfied with the Minister’s explanation of the wording of the Queensland law, which he has adopted in preference to- the wording of’ the British law. I therefore move -
That in paragraph (b) of sub-section 1 of proposed new section 24a, the word “ or,” between the words “ Government,” and “ Constitution,” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ and “.
The same phrasing occurs in other parts of the proposed new section, but the question can be tested at this point, where it first appears. There is a great deal of difference between discussing the shortcomings of the Government and attempting tb upset the Government and Constitution of the country. Under the English Act, the offence is the doing of something subversive of the Government and Constitution of the realm. It is very doubtful whether, under the form of wording adopted in this Bill, it would not be an offence to criticise severely the Government- of the day or the members of the Government. If that is so, it is altogether too great a restriction to place upon the rights of a democratic people. If the English form of wording were adopted, it would bring under the penalties of this measure every person who tried to upset Government as Government, because Government is part of the Constitution. Now that the newer phrase has been- adopted in the Bill, the Committee is entitled to some much more weighty reason than has yet been given for the departure from the English model.
– The provisions of paragraph, b of sub-section 2 tone it down tremendously.
– It does not relieve a person of the offence of causing disaffection to the personnel of the Government, as distinguished from the Government as part of the Constitution. That is what I object to. People should have the fullest and freest right to go even further than the facts warrant in criticism of the- Government, if speech, in this country is to be free.
– There is nothing in the Bill to prevent that.
– There is. The whole of these offences are described as offences against the “ Government or
Constitution.” Attention has been drawn to paragraph b of the exemptions. This provides that it shall be lawful for any person to point out in good faith ‘ errors or defects in the Government or 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.” That does not cover my point at all. The absurdity of the proposal is shown by the fact that, while a man is to be free to criticise fully the administration of justice, he must not criticise the administrations of works and railways. The exemptions will not protect a man in ‘criticising the personnel of the Government. They will not permit _him to criticise the Prime Minister’s administration of his Department. There is not a word in them which will enable him to criticise the administration of the Wheat Board, or of metals, or of any -other bi? undertakings of the Government except- . ing the administration of justice, and also excepting legislation. He will be allowed to criticise legislation, but not administration. Sub-section 1 provides that a man shall not criticise the Government as Government. That is altogether too narrow. No part of the clause will give ham the right to criticise the administration of a Minister, apart from the administration of government. He is not given the right to criticise the Government -upon any other heads than those set out in sub-section 2: In its present form: the clause gives altogether too wide .a power to the Government. The people should not be deprived of the fullest right of criticism of the Government in all its phases.
– The very best answer to the criticism of the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector -Lamond) is that this provision has been the law in Queensland for many years, :and there has not been a single prosecution under it on the lines which he indicates. ‘If he had been a Queenslander, or taken any part in elections in Queensland, he would know that there is a latitude of criticism in that State the extent of which I do not suppose is exceeded in any part of the King’s Dominions. It is apparent, therefore, that the section in the Queenland Act does not apply in the way which the honorable member suggests. The honorable member has, perhaps, been misled by the way in which the word “government” is used. Nowadays we are constantly using the word “government” in the sense of the persons or individuals who do particular things. The clause allows the freest possible criticism of the administration of every Minister .and adviser of the King, because paragraph a of subsection 2 provides that it shall be lawful for any person “ to endeavour in good faith to show that the Sovereign has been mistaken in any of his counsels.” There is the principle of responsible government. Every Minister is responsible for the advice he gives to the Crown, and every person in the community has the right to offer the fullest criticism of a Minister or Government for any advice tendered by him or them to the Crown in relation to the administration of public affairs. There is, therefore, not the slightest ground for the objection taken by the honorable member. The meaning of the proposed new .section is clear. It appears to me that the interpretation of tlie word “ Government “ as used in the clause .is “ the .Executive.” This country is governed by an Executive, it is legislated for by a Parliament, ,and its laws are administered by the Justices of the High Court. These organs are all provided for in the Constitution. Their functions are assigned to them under the Constitution’, and in the administration . of law generally the Executive must be sustained in its. position. What is aimed at here is to put a stop to all movements of a seditious character which have for their purpose the undermining of constituted authority in its administration of the laws of the land. This has nothing to do with the individual acts of Ministers. I would .be properly liable to be criticised if I, as a Minister, were guilty of maladministration. But, at a time when feeling is running high, and when men are trying to play upon that feeling in order to weaken the administration of the law, surely there should be authority such as is provided in this clause. In the law of the United Kingdom there are the words, “ Government and Constitution.” In the Queensland code, however, the phrase is “ Government or Constitution.” There is no attempt, in this piece of legislation, to take away from any persons in the community that right of criticism which should exist if we are to have healthy administration. The difficulty will be, with the phraseology of this measure, to secure convictions for sedition; there is a heavy onus thrown upon the Crown to prove any charge of such an offence. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) argued that under paragraph g anybody who criticised the Government might be proceeded against on the ground of a seditious intention. Paragraph g does not deal with that phase of the matter at all. It has to do with those seditious movements which are launched with a view to set class against class, and undermine the peace, order, or good government of the community. I quote from Stephen’s Digest of the Criminal Law the following words, which are the declared common law of the United Kingdom: -
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.
As regards that passage, Halsbury states -
The above statement of the law upon the subject of sedition is taken almost verbatim from Stephen’s Digest of Criminal Law, 6th edition, pp. 70, 71, which is partly taken from the Criminal Libel Act 1819. The corresponding passage in the 1st edition of that work, pp. 55, 56, which is in substantially the same terms, was approved and adopted by Cave, J., inR. v. Burns (1886), and by the King’s Bench Division in Ireland, inR. v. McHugh.
The offence contemplated by paragraph g is, therefore, embodied in the common law of the United Kingdom. It is embodied also in the Queensland code. We are a Federation, and, as such, the Federal Government have somewhat more restricted powers than the States. Consequently, we have legislated only within the ambit of our authority. We have, therefore, added these words, “so as to endanger the peace order, or good government of the Commonwealth.”
– What is the reason for embodying those additional words?
– To meet the possibility of such a contingency arising in relation to the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth.
– Is it not because that is the only power you have under the Constitution?
– That is the only power we have; and can the honorable member blame the Government for embodying here that solepower?
– But why is that reason not admitted ?
– Because we are legislating within the ambit of our authority.
– You are trying to embody these words on some other ground.
– No ; I have said we are inserting them because of the limitation of our authority.
– Otherwise, you would leave them out?
– If I had my way, I would leave them out. I would remind the honorable member that in Queensland he made no attempt to alter the law, but left it as it was.
– Did the Minister expect me in four years to remedy all the evils which had been perpetrated in fifty-six years ?
– No, I did not; and, if I had expected it, I would have been disappointed. We have power to legislate within a certain ambit, and we are justified in asking Parliament to endow the Executive with tbe powers comprised within the ambit of our authority.
– What is the reason for the Government attempting to make these tyrannical laws?
– The reason for the introduction of this legislation is that every country which has national powers, and seeks to safeguard its interests as a whole, provides itself with the necessary laws to meet anyconditions that may arise or are likely to arise to adversely affect the welfare of that country. It is an instinct which every nation should exercise.
– Hear, hear! Class instinct every time !
– It is not class. It is for the purpose of preventing class distinctions. I ask the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond), in the circumstances as I have explained them, not. to press his amendment.
.- I hope that the honorable member for Illawarra will insist upon his amendment. It is most necessary. It is refreshing to hear the Minister (Mr. Groom) citing Queensland as an authority and a guide for this legislature. We have recently passed several laws which are based upon the legislation of the United Kingdom; and the ground on which we have been asked to agree to them has been that of the urgent need for uniformity. Honorable members on this side made many efforts to secure amendments ; but the Ministers in charge of measures always replied that the amendments could not be accepted, because it was necessary to legislate in complete uniformity with the British law. Now, however, the Minister (Mr. Groom) departs from that standpoint in support of the contention that any one who criticises the Government may render himself liable to be charged with seditious intent. He quotes, also, the Queensland authority. The Encyclopædia of the Laws of England, page 448, describing seditious words, states -
It is sedition to do any act or to publish any words tending to bring into hatred or contempt 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.
Will the Minister compare those words with the phraseology of this measure -
To excite disaffectionagainst the Sovereign or the Government or Constitution of the United Kingdom or against either House of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.
The different wording is employed deliberately. The Minister may argue that the change is made in pursuance of copying the Queensland law; but, if there is anything objectionable in the Queensland law, the Government would not ask the House to copy it. Do honorable members say for one moment that, upon some big public question, because one may severely criticise the Government, one should rightly be liable for arrest upon an accusation of sedition ?
– That could not be done trader this provision.
– Then, why alter the language of the English law?
– I pointed out that evidently the Queensland Government made the alteration because they thought that seeking to undermine the Executive was in itself quite sufficient to constitute an offence.
– But there is a big difference here. The interpretation is not as broad.
– Because, if it were so worded, it would be necessary to prove an offence against the Government and the Constitution.
– That is exactly what we want, and is what the honorable member for Illawarra seeks by his amendment. In view of the admission of the Minister that the interpretation is narrower than the British law, and that the British law is deemed sufficient for all purposes, one is bound to ask, “ Why should we go beyond it?” If the British law, as I have quoted it, is good enough for the Imperial Government; if it is sufficient for the law of the United Kingdom to employ the word “ and” instead of “ or,” surely it is good enough for us. Every honorable member desires to do what is right along the lines of safety; but, while they may agree to give power to punish those who are guilty of sedition, they do not want to grant the Government power to proceed against any person on anyground of alleged sedition.
– But, under this provision, a person may criticise as freely as he likes.
– I think the circumstances would depend, to a very large extent, upon the state of public feeling.
– Go into the Sydney Domain, and listen to the speeches there.
– The safety valve, in regard to the future of Australia, is best provided in allowing the people freedom as wide as possible. It is a mistake to seriously curtail the liberties of the people. We must do what is fair and reasonable. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) has said that this provision is designed chiefly to enable the Government to deal with. Domain orators. Those who speak in the Domain, so far as I know, do no harm. They are entitled to give vent to their feelings, and even under the law as it stands to-day, if they are guilty of seditious utterances, they can be prosecuted.
– But they are not.
– Have we any guarantee that they will be dealt with under this provision?
– What about the men who were released by the State Government of New South Wales? What are they doing to-day?
– We have nothing to do with any action taken by the Government of New South Wales or any other State.
– If this clause be passed as it stands, it will be impossible to criticise .the action of the New South Wales Government in releasing those men.
– Not at all.
– I agree with the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Lamond) 1>hat such criticism might render one liable to a prosecution for sedition. The amendment is reasonable, and I do not .know why the Minister should object to it. It seems to me that the Government in power for the time being, no matter from what party it was recruited, could use this clause to the detriment of the great body of the people of Australia. Such a power should not be given to any Government. We need only to have laws providing for the proper control of the community and the affairs of the country. We shall go altogether too far if we enact that any criticism of the Government of the day shall be regarded as sedition and punishable as such. I want this Bill to be as fair as possible, and if we put the Minister in the position of the British authorities by substituting the word “ and “ for the word “ or “ I think he should be satisfied. This Parliament, during the past few years, has shown a tendency to pass legislation that is far too restrictive, and is actually hurtful to the people. Some day we shall find this out to our sorrow. To put it in a nutshell, under this provision a man may be prosecuted on a charge of sedition for saying something of which the Government does not approve. That is unreasonable. In the interests of the whole community,’ I urge the Minister to accept the amendment. If lie refuses to do so, I hope that the honorable member for Illawarra will press it to a division.
.- The Government, to my mind, have been extraordinarily moderate in the drafting of this clause. They propose only to gaol people who criticise them. They have not proposed, as they might have done, to include any member of the Nationalist party, so that, whoever criticises them, shall be open to a charge of sedition. ‘ They might have gone the whole hog while they were about it. These half-hearted measures lead to the disruption of the ranks, as illustrated by the action of the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond) in submitting his amendment to substitute the little word “ and “ for the word “ or “. I do not think that such an amendment, if carried, would make any material difference in the operation of the drag-net. The Government tell us that they are out to safeguard the Constitution, the Empire, and the class administration that we have in existence at the present time. They are out to safeguard all the paraphernalia of government as it exists today. They are out to “ scotch “ all criticism that may be levelled against them. They are out, in fact, to do what they did during the whole period of the war. This nice piece of legislation would have been very handy from the point of view of the Government when the Senate scandals were before the public. It would also have put a stop to all criticism of the attempt to interfere with the ballot when the conscription referendum was taking place. We can well imagine how such a power as this will be exercised by a Government which, under cover of War Precautions Regulations framed for that specific purpose, attempted to get the desired result from the ballot-box by intimidating sections of the voters, and so preventing them from exercising the franchise. With legislation of this character to back them up, the Government might then have prosecuted any citizen who pointed out how they were subverting the Constitution which they were supposed to protect. Such utterances would have been classed as “ seditious “ and “ disloyal “ by the dictators of that day, who were themselves subverting the Constitution. The Government are exemplifying in their own person the truth of the old adage -as to the lust for power, since they are constantly endeavouring to grasp more and yet more power.
– There is a silver lining to this cloud. Consider how handy the power will be when the honorable member’s party is in office.
– The honorable member and his fellow-workers who refuse to take the allowance provided by law may be held to be guilty of sedition under this provision.
– That is a new theory.
– But it is not more ridiculous than that advanced by the honorable gentleman, since there is in the Bill a provision which will enable the Government to charge with sedition persons who attempt to render inoperative any law of the Commonwealth. The Minister (Mr. Groom) has said that this measure is designed to prevent the spread of class hatred.
– I have not said that.
– The honorable member made a statement to that effect in reply to the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton). The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) has pointed to the public meetings which are held in the Domain, as well as on the Yarra-bank, and in the Botanical Gardens in Adelaide, and -other public parks, as being of the class likely to be suppressed under the provisions of this clause. He would gaol those speakers who criticise our social system, and the particular form of government that is in existence here. If the honorable member and those who think with him had their way, we would have repeated here from time to time the incident which took place in this House only a few days ago when, at the dictation of the Argus and other Victorian daily newspapers, an honorable member was expelled for statements alleged to have been made by him at Richmond.
– Order!’ That matter has already been dealt with, and is outside the scope of this amendment.
– I have had sufficient experience to teach me that when you, sir, rule that a statement is out of order, it is out of order. I am endeavouring to point out that, with the passing of this provision, when the Government of the day say that a man commits sedition, he does commit sedition. The decision of the Government in that regard will be just as solid as your ruling. The unfortunate individual will be haled before a magistrate or a Judge, and will be denied the right of trial by jury, if the Attorney-General so directs.
– We must alter that provision.
– We have as much hope of amending it as we have of stemming Niagara. It is not so long since I was accused of making seditious utterances, or of attempting to cause disaffection under a similar provision. The authorities had power either , to prosecute me summarily or to indict me; but. I was- not allowed trial by jury. 1 was haled before a magistrate.
– Why did not the Government take your seat?
– Because they knew they could- not win it. As a matter of fact, that prosecution secured me a majority of 600 votes ;- but I may say in passing that I am not in favour of obtaining majorities by the same process. It was the Acting AttorneyGeneral at that time who determined that I should be tried before a magistrate instead of being indicted to appear before a Judge and jury. The evidence was collected by the military - the secret service people. I had no chance of ascertaining how it was accumulated, and the position will be the same with regard to any individual prosecuted under this clause. It will be put into operation against those whom the Government ‘ cannot intimidate or bribe into submission.
Under this clause, any attempt “ to bring the Sovereign into contempt ‘ ‘ is also declared to be a “ seditious intention . “ The Government might have so extended that provision as to include the whole Royal Family. Had they done so, we should not have been able to say a word against the Kaiser. It is hard to say whether people who were credited with having been loyal during the war may not now be regarded as disloyal. Established order is being upset in Greece, and Constantine, the Allies’ enemy, is now on his way back to that country. We find that we made a huge mistake in regard to his attitude towards Great Britain, and that, far from being our enemy, he was distinctly pro-British. In fact, presently it will be discovered that the Kaiser did all he could to stop the war; and the individual who dares to say a word against a person so closely related to our Sovereign Lord the King will be in danger of losing his liberty, because of being disloyal or seditious. Of course, in Great Britain, the Monarch only holds his job by a British Act of Parliament. Republican advocates can take their seats in the House of Commons, and Arthur Lynch can organize a society for the purpose of establishing a Republic in Great Britain ; but here any person who is sufficiently disaffected or short-sighted to attempt to advocate that Australia, South Africa, India, Ireland, or, in short, any Dominion of the Empire should be a Republic, would, under this clause, be haled before a magistrate and punished for attempting to excite disaffection against the Government or Constitution of any of the King’s Dominions. I do not know how any one can establish a Republic “ constitutionally “ ; but with Republics or Monarchies it is a case of tweedledum and tweedledee, so far as I can see, under the existing social order, and therefore I do not propose to get particularly excited about the disaffection wrapped up in the advocacy of a Republic. A middle-class Republic would be of no more use to me than a constitutional Monarchy is. What I want to see is the idea which is being increasingly promulgated by the intelligent working classes of the world, and that is a complete change in the social order upon which all Governments are established and all Constitutions rest. What the Commonwealth Government are so much concerned about is displayed in the Minister’s reply to the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton). What they are afraid of is what they term the exciting of class hatred between the working classes of this community and their exploiters. Their troubles about Republicanism or the Royal Family, or the United Kingdom or the Houses of Parliament! Their concern is only to maintain the present profit-making system intact ; and any orator, writer, or agitator, as they term him, concerned in pointing out to the people how they are being robbed in the workshops and factories of this country they regard as a seditious or disloyal individual. This drag-net piece of legislation has been brought forward for the purpose of maintaining the present system of capitalistic production.
– The honorable member is quite outside the amendment.
– When I rose to speak, I pointed out that I saw no use in either the amendment or the clause.
– It is only the amendment which is now under discussion.
– I am endeavouring to show that the amendment does not get us any further. Amended or unamended, this paragraph makes no material difference to the intention in the minds of those who are responsible for this measure.
– The honorable member will be quite in order in discussing that aspect of the matter when the clause is before the Committee.
– Technically, from a legal point of view, there may be a difference between “and” and “or,” but when the provision is put in operation its purpose will . be to secure convictions against persons who menace the position of the Government of the day, and it will be immaterial whether “ and “ or “ or “ is used. I am quite sure that the Government, when they set out to rope in any individual they may deem objectionable, will not be stopped by any little technicality of that kind.
.- For the last two hours we have had “much ado about nothing.” The Bill is efficient enough to gaol all honorable members on this side of the House and those people outside who are supporting us. The task of interpreting the law will be inthe hands of the Government. Who is to be the judge of whether disaffection against the Government or Constitution of any of the King’s Dominions is excited: - the Cabinet, the AttorneyGeneral, or some newspapers outside who support the Government? The exciting of disaffection against the Sovereign, the Government, the Constitution of the United Kingdom, or any of the laws passed by the House of Commons, or the House of Lords, will be sufficient to warrant the indictment of any person at the hands of the Government, or of the AttorneyGeneral, as the case may be; but the clause goes further, and prohibits any person from exciting disaffection against the Government of India. No one will be allowed to take objection to the Fijian laws, which permit of indentured slavery, and make provision for the herding of mixed sexes of unfortunate Indian coolies. If any one in Australia “ excites disaffection “ against these laws of Fiji he will immediately be indictable.
– I point out to the honorable member that the only question before the Chair is the amendment.
– There is sufficient power in this clause to prevent any person from speaking against the Government of Fiji, India, Newfoundland, or any other part of the British Dominions; yet we find the Committee engaged in discussing whether” and “ should be substituted for “or.” What does it matter whether “ and “ is used instead of “ or “ ? The powers given are great enough whether “and” or “or” is used. Personally, I shall vote against the clause, and against the Bill itself, no matter if twenty “ ands “ are substituted for a like number of “ors.” I have not the slightest doubt that the Government will use the powers given if they think that their position as a Government is in danger.
.- I want to say a word in favour of the amendment which was forecasted bv the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), who pointed out the reason for adopting it, and which was subsequently moved by the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond). It is proposed to substitute “and” for “or” in order to make the burden of proof on the person laying the charge a heavier one by calling upon him to show that disaffection has been excited, not only against the Government, but also against the Constitution. I thought that the Minister (Mr. Groom) might have argued that “ Government “ and “Constitution” were alternative or synonymous tenths mutually explanatory of one another, but he lias not taken up that attitude. I certainly think that the amendment moved would be an improvement to the paragraph. It might be only a slight improvement, but we cannot expect to get anything but slight improvements in a measure of this sort. The Minister regards this as a very meritorious provision, deserving of support, because it has been taken from the Queensland law. It is quite a new experience to me to hear the Government claiming that anything that comes from Queensland is deserving of support.
– I think I also mentioned that it carried the weight attaching to the view of the late Chief Justice, Sir Samuel Griffith, seeing that it was taken from his code.
– There was also a reference to the Labour Government of Queensland not having altered the law, and to me, as the late Premier and AttorneyGeneral of the State, not having taken steps to have it altered. Now, the Labour Government of Queensland, while I was Premier of the State, was not able to remedy all the evils that had been committed by Governments during the previous fifty-six years.
– It added a good many to them.
– The honorable member may say that. Certainly we did not put this law into operation, and I do not think that if the Labour party came into power in the Commonwealth at would cperate the law now proposed to be enacted. Labour Governments do not require adventitious aids of this sort; they should be able to live on their record. It is because of its record that a Labour Government still retains power in Queensland. Although the Minister and his colleagues, in December last, went up and down Australia saying that Labour had made the cost of living higher in Queensland than in any other State of Australia, a report just made by a Royal Commission to the Governor-General of the Commonwealth shows that in that State the worker is 10s. a week better off than in any other.
.- I listened carefully to the explanation of the Minister regarding the objection of tho honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Lamond), and it did not quite satisfy me as to the advisability of adopting the Queensland verbiage instead of that of the English law. I am at a loss to understand why “ government “ should be disconnected from “ constitution “ in this regard. I understood the Minister to say that the two terms are practically synonymous, and that, therefore, no action could be taken for an offence against one which did not include an offence against the other. But the word “ or “ is disjunctive; it distinctly dissociates government from constitution, and, to my mind, its employment makes it possible for action to be taken against criticism of the Government, whether in reference to the Constitution or not.
– The honorable member had better look out for himself, because of his publication.
– I was about to say that there had been occasions when I might have been subjected to annoyance under a strict interpretation of a provision of this kind. I was imprudent enough to publish a pamphlet criticising somewhat severely the Parliamentary head of the Government, and I am not sure that that very enterprising gentleman might not take it into his head, if he had the opportunity, to try the strength of the proposed enactment against me. At any rate, I should prefer a greater degree of safety, and I think that undoubtedly I should be safer under a provision fashioned on the British model than under this fashioned on the Queensland model. We cannot go far wrong if we accept English precedents in a matter of this kind, and, for that reason, I shall support the amendment.
– I am glad to notice that the argument which I opened on this subject, in respect of which the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler), has not been good enough to notice me-
– I am sorry.
– Has proved, so far, fruitful as to promote a good deal of discussion. I do not desire that the Minister (Mr. Groom) shall either, intentionally or otherwise, mislead the Committee as to the real point now to be decided. When the Minister first spoke on the subject, he quoted against members on this side Stephen’s Digest, and the common law of England, to show that the present Bill is merely a reproduction thereof; but I had already noticed, and later called his attention to, a very significant point of difference between the texts on which he relied, and the wording of the Bill. It is perfectly clear that the deliberate substitution of “ or “ for “ and “ has either a significant meaning or no meaning at all. If it has a significant meaning, the Minister should admit it, and that meaning must be that he intends, by the substitution, to give a wider meaning to the term “ sedition “ than is accepted by British jurists as sufficient for the Government of the United Kingdom. It is perfectly obvious that the intention of the Minister now is, if there is any reason for the substitution, to place some measure of restraint on persons and newspapers desirous of criticising the Govern ment, and, that if the clause becomes law in its present form, it is beyond doubt that many members on both sides of the Chamber, should they repeat outside what they have already said here, could be punished, and equally evident that the publishers of many of our newspapers could be successfully indicted under the criminal law.
– That would not hurt much.
– I am not here as a defender of newspaper publishers, nor as the defender of members opposite, but even the most insistent loyalists should desire to stop short of hampering free criticism of the Government of the day. The Minister has suggested that “ government,” in this connexion, has some wider meaning than ordinarily understood ; that it means, in the wider sense, the Executive. But I venture to say that if, after the passing of this Bill, I repeated on the public platform what I have already said about this Government, and some phases of its public conduct, I would be indictable. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) has put the whole position in a nutshell, and has read from the authority that the Minister relied upon. Let me remind honorable members that this is not Statute law, but is really the result of not only years, but of centuries of British experience which, crystallized in the common law, has been the subject of consideration, litigation, and prosecution. There is nothing which the British people more jealously guard than the right of its citizens to criticise the Government of the day. I have been wrongly and wickedly accused in this House of showing ill-feeling towards Britain which I have never expressed, and never felt, though I have not been slow to speak frankly of the Government of that country or this. On the contrary, in the House and elsewhere I have frequently had occasion to quote British text books and show how far this Commonwealth Government has departed from the best traditions of Britain. I invite this Parliament now to resist the insidious introduction of a simple word of two letters which means the breaking down ‘of a principle which is very dear to the British as well as the Australian people. When itbecomes an offence to freely, or even ferociously, criticise the Government of the day, it will be a very black day for the Commonwealth. It is not a small matter but a grave one, and it is significant, because of the manner in which it is being pressed by the Government. For what reason does the Minister for Works and Railways (“Mr. Groom) appeal to us to accept his proposition ? Is it on the ground that it is adopted from the Queensland Criminal Code, and because the late Chief Justice of that State, eminent lawyer though he may have been, was responsible for it, and of him I do not propose to offer any unfriendly criticism now he is gone. Because he departed from British practice, and embodied the result of that departure in the Queensland Criminal Code, is that any reason why we, as members of the Commonwealth Parliament of Australia in the twentieth century, should follow the unwise example that the Government propose to follow, and disregard the settled and established precedent in British jurisprudence ? I trust the Minister will be sufficiently impressed by the arguments coming from his own side, if he is not influenced by those initiated and supported on this side of the chamber, and will see his way to accept the amendment without giving away anything that is dear to those over-confident loyalists, and, in so doing, adopt the principle that has stood the test of centuries in the country he is always so prone to follow.
Question - That the word “ or,” proposed to be omitted, stand as printed (Mr. Hector Lamond’s amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment (by Mr. Groom) agreed to-
That - the following words be inserted after the words “ United Kingdom,” in paragraph” b)< of sub-section 2 of proposed new section 24a : - “ or any of the King’s Dominions.”
.- I invite the attention of the Minister to a safeguard provided in the Queensland law as drafted by the late Sir Samuel Griffith in the hope that the Minister will accept an amendment on those lines in this measure. In the Queensland Criminal Code it is provided that a person cannot be convicted of any of tbe offences defined in the sections dealing with sedition on the uncorroborated testimony of one witness. I move -
That after proposed new section 24d, the following words be inserted : - “ A person cannot be convicted of any of the offences defined in this or the preceding section upon the uncorroborated testimony of one witness.”
– I see no reason why I should not accept the amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
.- Proposed new section 24e provides in sub-section 1 that-
An offence under either of the last two preceding sections shall be punishable either on indictment or summarily, but shall not be prosecuted summarily without the consent of the Attorney-General.
I move -
That the following words be added: - “ nor shall any person be deprived of the right of trial by jury unless he so desires.”
I hope this amendment will be acceptable to the Government. Every honorable member knows that trial by jury is an established practice amongst British people. It is not right that it should be departed from, particularly in such a matter as sedition, and especially when the question of intention is taken notice of, as it is in this Bill. The question of whether a man charged with any of these offences shall be tried before a jury oi not is, according to the Bill, to be left entirely in the hands of the AttorneyGeneral of the day. It is only fair that a man who is liable to be imprisoned -for three years for what the Government of the day allege to be sedition should have the right to appeal to twelve of his countrymen, as well as to the magistrate who happens to be sitting on the Bench. If the sense of common justice among honorable members, and the esteem which they profess to have for British methods, will not cause them to vote for this amendment, no amount of talk on my part can move them to do so. I appeal to them - seeing that what one man may call sedition another may not, and that the question of intention can be considered by the Court - to recognise that such a case should be decided, not by one Judge, trained though he may be, but by twelve of the fellow-countrymen of the accused person. I could say much stronger things. I could go back over the last four or five years, but I shall not do so- I wish to be moderate, and will content myself with the expression of the hope that the Government will accept my amendment.
– Under the law as enforced in the States, sedition is regarded as a very serious offence, and persons convicted of it are liable to severe penalties. In Queensland the penalty is three years’ imprisonment. We provide the same penalty in this Bill. In proposed new section 24e we propose an alternative method, by which the accused may be prosecuted summarily. That is in cases where the sedition may not be regarded as of a very serious character, or where it may not be desired to impose an exemplary punishment. It is stipulated, however, that no summary prosecution can take place without the consent of the” AttorneyGeneral.
– Is that in accordance with English procedure?
– No. I am speaking from memory, but my impression is that sedition is an indictable offence in the United Kingdom. It is clearly so in Queensland. Trial by indictment means trial before a jury. To some extent summary prosecution is an advantage to the accused, because he may be taken before a magistrate, and the penalty provided in summary proceedings is imprisonment for a period not exceeding twelve months, or a fine not exceeding £100, or both. It is therefore possible in a summary prosecution- to impose a smaller penalty than in a prosecution by indictment.
– And the man will be branded with a conviction for sedition.
– Whatever offence a man is found guilty of, he must pay the penalty. No man is branded as guilty until the Court has given its judgment.
– It might be creditable to be convicted under some of the present laws.
– That depends upon the point of view.. The general point of view of all British Dominions is that sedition is an offence that ought to be punishable. Cases of a grave character ought to be, or will be, sent to a jury.
– What is the difference between a grave case and an ordinary case of sedition ?
– The honorable member knows the difference which exists between a grave assault and a common assault. In awarding punishment for an offence, judges always weigh the character and quality of that offence. Having established the fact that there has been a breach of the law, they weigh the circumstances surrounding that breach, in order that they may make the punishment fit the crime. I ask the Committee to retain the clause in its present form.
.- T gather from the remarks of the Minister, for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) that sedition is a very grave crime. From my reading of the legal text books, I have obtained the same impression, especially as for a number of years I have been sedulously - endeavouring to avoid committing it. If sedition is everything that it is said to he, surely it is sufficiently grave to warrant its being treated in the same way as other serious offences are treated. I -can imagine what would have happened if honorable members upon this side of the Chamber had argued that the crime of sedition should be a matter for summary jurisdiction by a police court. We should have been told that the offence was a very grave one - too grave to allow it to be dealt with in the summary jurisdiction of such a tribunal. Honorable members opposite would have asked, “ Why should we place sedition upon a lower plane, from the stand-point of jurisprudence, than is larceny ? “ We should have been assured that sedition constitutes an attack upon the very foundations of our civilization, and that therefore we should not permit it to be dealt with summarily. But, because the amendment comes from the Opposition side of the Chamber, I fear that it is not going to receive very much support. I suggest that, as sedition has always been regarded as a very serious offence by jurists of older lands than our own - an offence which has been punishable even by death - it is only fair that it should be placed at least upon the same footing as larceny or embezzlement, or other offences which require to be initiated by indictment, and which give the accused person the right of trial by jury. Why should this matter be left to the discretion of the Attorney-General, seeing that the offence is, to a large extent, political in character? The Attorney-General is specially unfitted to deal with it. The Minister has stated that in certain instances the right of trial by jury may be conceded to the accused. But we are not concerned with the intentions of the Ministry, or with the possible effect of this clause in particular cases. We are concerned only with the broad principle as to whether, upon a charge of sedition, an accused person should have the right to be tried by a jury. The clause in its present form will give to the AttorneyGeneral, if the prosecutor desires it, the right to determine whether or not the accused person shall be so tried. I hope that the Minister will gracefully agree to the amendment, just as he did to the amendment submitted by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan). By so acting, he will be doing a still greater measure of justice to the Government and to himself. He certainly ought not to allow the Government to be open to the suspicion that they are animated by political motives in connexion with this sub-clause.
.- The Bill which is now before us is one which, to an extent, will repeal the War Precautions Act, and thus enable us to get back to normal conditions. I have no objection to urge against the provisions of the Bill which relate to the treatment of persons who are disloyal to the Empire of which we form a part. Whatever powers were given to the Executive during the war period - powers the exercise of which resulted in accused persons being punished without even the formality of a trial - were abundantly justified by the conditions which then existed. But in time of peace, there can be no justification for denying any citizen who is charged with the serious crime of sedition the right to be tried by a jury, which is the recognised right of every British subject. I have not one word to say against the AttorneyGeneral personally, but I am not prepared to clothe him with the power to say to the police that an accused person shall be tried summarily. If the honorable gentleman were armed with any such power, it would necessarily follow that he would also possess the power to say that an accused person should be tried summarily, and the right of a trial by jury denied him. We are not legislating solely for the Administration of to-day. We do not know what Government or what Attorney-General may be administering the law upon some occasion in the future when it may be invoked. Are we prepared, then, to give any one individual - even though he be the AttorneyGeneral of the Commonwealth - power to send a person for summary trial before a magistrate? If the individual charged were to prefer to plead guilty and be summarily dealt with, well and good. In South Australia there is provision whereby, even though an offender has in all circumstances the right of trial by jury, he may plead guilty and elect to bc dealt with forthwith by a magistrate. We should be the last people on earth to do anything in the direction of restricting the right of trial by jury. The Government are not now copying the Queensland law, or the law of any State, or of the United Kingdom. They are going out of their way to re-enact legislation which, necessary though it may have been in time of war, nevertheless caused more ill-feeling and turmoil than any other piece of legislation in the history of the Commonwealth. Why, then, in all the circumstances, should we perpetuate such a law in times of peace? Let us demonstrate that this- Parliament is really prepared to return, to normal conditions; and let us re-affirm that when any person is alleged to have broken a law of the land, he shall retain the right of trial by jury which would bc his in any other part of the British Empire.
As for the provision whereby the AttorneyGeneral may send a person for trial before a magistrate, I can only speak in respect of magistrates in my own State. There are some in South Australia before whom I would be very sorry to send any man for trial upon any alleged offence whatever. Certain among them have reached a stage where they ought to be retired, because they are no longer fit to carry out their responsible duties. I strongly appeal to the Government to accept the amendment, or to wipe out the whole sub-clause.
.- While discussion has centred around the question whether a person should be sent for summary trial before a magistrate or be permitted to be tried before a jury, it appears to me that it is the AttorneyGeneral who will really try all such cases in the first instance. Every matter .mustbe submitted to the Attorney-General before a decision is reached concerning whether or not an alleged offender shall bc prosecuted summarily or be tried before a jury. The Attorney-General examines the circumstances and makes up his mind. Thus he pre-judges the case.
– I have already pointed out that in this subclause the Government are really giving something in the nature of a concession. However, if honorable members feel that there should be preserved in every case the right of trial by jury, I am prepared to move an amendment which, I think, will meet with the general desire. I ask the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb), therefore, if he will withdraw his amendment to enable me to move in the direction which I have indicated.
.- Providing that the amendment to be moved by the Minister will have a similar effect to that which my amendment seeks, I have no objection to asking leave to withdraw it.
Amendment, by leave, withdraw.
– I move -
That the following sub-section be inserted after sub-section (1) of proposed new section 24e: - (1a.) If any person who is prosecuted summarily in respect of an offence against either of the last two preceding sections elects, immediately after pleading, to be tried upon indictment, the Court or magistrate shall not proceed to summarily convict that person, but may commit him for trial.
If the amendment is accepted in that form, it will preserve this further right - that there may be, with the consent of the Attorney-General, a prosecution before an inferior Court. But if the individual concerned says, when charged, “ I do not want to be tried by this Court; I want to go before a jury,” the matter will be left to him to decide, and he will have the right of going before a jury.
– I should like to know from the Minister for Works and Railways whether, now that his amendment has been agreed to, the AttorneyGeneral will still have the right to insist that a man charged with sedition shall not be tried summarily, but shall go before a jury ?
– Unless the AttorneyGeneral consents to such a person being tried in an inferior Court, he must be tried in a superior Court before a jury.
– I have interpreted the clause differently from honorable members on the other side, and from the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Blundell). I interpreted it to mean that the Attorney-General was to have the power to say that a man charged with sedition should not be tried summarily. Under some of the State laws, a man charged with a certain offence is not given the right to say that he must be tried by a jury. In some cases magistrates have the. power to deal summarily with persons charged with offences.
– As regards sedition under State laws a man must be tried before a jury.
– I am satisfied if, under the clause as amended, the AttorneyGeneral retains the right to say that any one charged with sedition shall not be summarily tried, but shall go to a jury.
– That right is preserved under the clause as amended.
– I have no objection to the amendment; but I think that it is not necessary.
Amendment agreed to.
.- I have heard no justification for the introduction of this Bill. It is odious and obnoxious. I shall take this opportunity to briefly place on record my strong objection to the present Government of the Commonwealth having a special law passed for the purpose of safeguarding themselves against public criticism.
There are old laws at present on the statute-books of the States that at this time are a disgrace to any country, and should long ago have been wiped out. Most State Governments have sufficient public decency to allow them to lie dormant. These laws are available to the Commonwealth, and yet on top of them the Government require Parliament to pass a special law re-enacting obnoxious legislation, and putting the thumb-screw and the rack into it. There are new and novel features included in this Bill, which should be protested against. Many of the most important provisions of the Bill are to be operative on the ipse dixit of one man - the Attorney-General. The probabilities are that in some time of special trial and strong feeling that one man may be the present Prime Minister, who has shown his gross partiality in administering legislation of this kind. That such a power should be handed over to a dictator and petty tyrant such as the Prime Minister is a gross reflection on this Parliament.
– I rise to a point of order. I ask whether the honorable member’s remarks are relevant to the clause before the Committee, and whether the language he has used should be applied to the Prime Minister in this chamber.
– So far the honorable member for Cook has referred to powers proposed to be vested in the AttorneyGeneral, but his personal remarks concerning the Prime Minister should be withdrawn.
– If it is necessary under the rules of the House that I should withdraw them, I do so.
– Even if they are true.
– Their truth or otherwise has nothing to do with the matter when an honorable member is ordered to withdraw statements made in Parliament. We all know that.
I propose to place on record in Hansard, where the people will have an opportunity of reading them, some of the provisions of the legislation which we are in this Bill being asked to enact. The people generally do not have an opportunity to see the provisions of the Bills which are considered bv Parliament. They are passed into law, and the people generally do not know the details of measures Parliament has dealt with. It is necessary that there should be some widespread publication of this obnoxious legislation. If there is one thing which, more than another, will damn this Government and those who are supporting this legislation, it will be that the public should know that this Parliament is being asked to re-enact ‘this tyrannical legislation on the top of existing laws which give the Government power, practically, to drag any public man bv the scruff of the neck into the Courts of this country who dares to criticise them for the most obnoxious and odious administration.
This Parliament, on top. of existing legislation, is now engaged in legislating to make it an offence for any person -
Just fancy - neither House of the Parliament of the Commonwealth is to he criticised by the people outside; and the Prime Minister, if he be also the AttorneyGeneral, is to be the judge of the extent to which criticism may be directed against the Parliament. .
– That is quite a misrepresentation of the whole clause. Whether it is intentional or not, I do not know.
– Then, why is the provision I have quoted included in the Bill? It is no use to introducelegal quibbles. What is to excite disaffection? Look at the sub-clause d? Is it not sedition under this Bill ot criticise the Parliament, and hold it up to public ridicule and contempt, to say that it is an institution that is not doing its duty ?
– Criticism may be constructive.
– The honorable member is badly put to it in order to find an excuse for this measure. It does not matter whether it is constructive or destructive. It is for the Attorney-General to decide.
– The honorable member said that he was going to put the clause into Hansard. Let him read the whole of it.
– The clause to which I am referring further provides that it is to be an offence for any person -
When the Prime Minister was coming across this continent upon his last return from England, and was referring to some of the disaffection existing, he said, “ Some people talk about not relying upon the law in this country, but resorting to force. Well, I shall resort to force. Make no mistake. I am not speaking about the law. I shall resort to force.” To think that a Government with a leader of this kind, who struts about this country at his own sweet will, creating disaffection and sowing seeds of disorder, regardless of all laws, should have the impudence to introduce ameasure of this kind !
– The honorable member will be able to swear an information against him under this measure.
– Were not informations sworn against certain honorable members opposite during the course of the war? Was not an information for making false statements laid against the Argus, and also against Mr. Archdall Parker, Secretary of the Liberal Association of New South Wales ?
– And suppressed.
– Yes; because there was a partisan administration of the law. The Government themselves are following a policy which will probably lead to disaffection in this country during the coming year, and they are bringing into operation this special legislation in order that the Prime Minister may continue the kind of administration that he carried on during tho war.
It is provided further by this clause that it is a seditious intention -
Has not the Prime Minister been doing his utmost during the last two or three years to stir up sectarianism and hostility as between class and class? He, of course, will be far removed from the penalties of this measure. The Government will administer it, and will say against whom the law will be put into operation. It will not be put into force against the Government or their friends, but it will be applied to any one who differs from them, or threatens to remove them from office by telling the people the truth concerning their actions. We shall have this partisan administration of the Courts of Justice.
– Does the honorable member say that only the AttorneyGeneral can institute proceedings?
– Yes; they can bo instituted only with the consent of the Attorney-General .
– In what clause does that provision occur ?
– In proposed new section 24e.
– That is not so.
– Under sub-section 2 of proposed new section 24a it is provided that it shall be lawful for any personto endeavour in good faith to show certain things. After setting out to suppress public criticism on public affairs, there is a pretence at making some qualification of this despotism. But who is to be the judge of good faith ? Then, again, in proposed new sub-section 24b, it is declared that - a seditious enterprise is an enterprise undertaken in order to carry out a seditious intention. and any one of the above acts constitutes sedition. It is further provided that -
Any person who -
Proposed new section 24e declares that-
An offence under either of the last two preceding sections shall be punishable either on indictment or summarily, but shall not be prosecuted summarily without the consent of thu Attorney-General.
Here, then, we have a list of offences created by the Government. There may be some matters affecting the Government to which I wish to call public attention, but the probabilities are that if I attempt to do so the Government, under this Bill, will be able to prevent their public discussion. If a public man attempted the risk of such a public discussion at a public meeting the minions of the law, the long arm of the Commonwealth, the mighty power of the Commonwealth administration, would be following him up and down the country just as some of us were followed during the late war.
It would be impossible to tell the people what occurred in the Ready case - to say how the Government got at a member out of the Senate when it was held up for want of a majority in that House, and its very existence was threatened. It would be held to be inciting disaffection against the Government to speak of the tactics resorted to by them in order to get a member out of the Senate, and to secure the return of another holding different political opinions.
– Order ! That matter has nothing to do with the clause under consideration.
– I submit, sir, that it has. Clause 10 declares it to be an offence to incite disaffection against the Government or either House of the Parliament. All these matters of administration are thus brought within its repressive scope.
There must be no criticism of the sale of our primary products during the war that might be calculated to bring the Government and the Parliament into hatred or contempt. The primary producers may be robbed of hundreds of millions of pounds in connexion with the sale of their wool and wheat, but there can be no criticism of such a matter. Probably, no criticism of the balance-sheet will be allowed, since a punishment of three years’ imprisonment is provided for in the case of any person who “ writes, prints, utters or publishes any seditious words.”
In order that the Government may review what is printed and published in newspapers and pamphlets it will be necessary to have censorship regulations. Such regulations will be required to enable them to police these publications under this Act. And so we shall have the censorship once more. What occurred under the censorship regulations during the war? At a farmers’ conference held at Ouyen, for instance, the Government were criticised, and it was shown that some of the money of the farmers passing through the Wheat Pool was going in a wrong direction. A report of that meeting was sent to the Melbourne Age, but the censor censored the whole report, and directed that the public of Australia should not know the facts as they were given at that farmers’ conference by the representative of the farmers on the Wheat Board. Are we to allow that system to be re-enacted under this obnoxious Bill?
Under the censorship system in New South Wales the military were marched down to Macdonnell House where I was in charge of the Labour campaign, and a demand was made that every circular intended for issue to the branch Labour organizations throughout the State, giving them instructions in connexion with the political campaign, should first of all pass through the hands of the Government Censor. I was prosecuted on several occasions. There was one occasion, however, when I was not prosecuted, although I defied the Censor to his face. 1 told’ him that in no circumstances would those circulars be made available to the Government who were conducting a campaign against us. Could anything measure the infamy of such an administration ?
The honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) reminds me that the military were also marched into this building to seize and suppress reprints of my speeches containing inconvenient criticism of the Government.
– I rise to a point of order. Have these remarks anything whatever to do with the clause?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The clause is a far-reaching one, allowing wide latitude, and I think the honorable member for Cook (Mr. J. H. Catts) is within his rights.
– I can well understand the restiveness of the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond), having regard to his past professions. “When the miners of Illawarra learn of the legislation that be is assisting in passing to-night, we know what will be their attitude.
– He will get a bigger majority than ever.
– Will he? Are we going to prevent the public discussion of such transactions as the purchase of £3,000,000 worth of shipping without the approval of Parliament, or the letting of contracts to American shipbuilders, which resulted in our being supplied with vessels that were so unseaworthy that they had to be sold at great loss to the people of this country? Are we to permit suppression of discussion on such matters as the effort to sell vessels to the Government at great loss to the community, but to the great profit of a particular firm? Are we to permit the suppression of all reference to the administration of Cockatoo Dock, which presents such a great scandal at the present time? At that dock, men are being given money, £100 at a time, which they feel themselves they are not earning, and are permitted to walk away with ? Are all such matters not to be criticised? Are we to have more censorship, and further interference with the newspapers?
– There is no provision in the Bill for censorship.
– There is provision for an oversight of printed and published matter.
– I draw the honorable member’s attention to the fact that we have already dealt with that matter in clause 9, and have now before us clause 10.
-Then I direct your attention, Mr. Fleming, to that subclause of clause 10 which makes it an offence for any person to print or publish any seditious words relating to such matters as those to which I have referred. The Government ‘have power’ to make regulations to police this measure, and under those regulations the Government may, if it so desire, and no doubt will, introduce a new censorship over all matter which they consider to be seditious. In other words, control will be exercised over printed matter critical of the Government.
– The honorable member is quite mistaken.
– I do not accept the honorable gentleman’s interpretation.
– It is my duty to correct you When you make a grossly wrong statement.
– And it is my duty not to permit my opposition to this scandalous Bill to be side-tracked by a special pleader for the Government. The honorable gentleman is not here to interpret the provisions of any measure for me; it is my duty to submit my own case.
I can give another illustration, from my own experience, of the maladministration of the Government during the war. I had a letter from a soldier at the Front, who was a resident of my electorate, telling me that he had been transferred to the Sixth Division, and he forwarded me a Christmas card bearing the colours of that division. On that authority I stated at a public meeting that a sixth division had been formed, and the Government prosecuted me for telling a falsehood. I had that letter and card in Court to support my statement, but under the rules of evidence I was not permitted to produce them; and a military officer stepped into ‘the box, and swore that a sixth division had never been formed. On that officer’s evidence a conviction was recorded against me. Are we to have a repetition of prosecutions of that kind, by means of which the Government may really fix up a conviction, for that is what it really amounts to?
– Why did you not lay an information against the officer for perjury?
– An information could not be laid, because the Government absolutely refused to initiate a prosecution. What proof had I of perjury, anyhow? There was the soldier’s letter aud card, .but these were not accepted as legal evidence against the perjured evidence of a military officer. We cannot get officers to swear one against the other ; and the only evidence I had, which I knew to be authentic, was refused.
The Government prosecuted me seven times, but it is significant that there never was a prosecution , initialed against me when I had my own shorthandwriters at my meetings. It was only when I was found to be without my private shorthand-writers, and there was,, therefore, no possibility of contradicting the military evidence, that it was sought to obtain a conviction against me. When I put an advertisement in the press calling for shorthand volunteers to come to my assistance, I was able to have two of them every night on my platform in order to insure that no injustice could be done; and the prosecutions immediately ceased. That is the kind of administration that we shall have under this Bill.
On the other hand, the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) could, during the war, make practically any statement he chose. He could libel and maliciously scandalize all and sundry with impugnity. He spoke of “ Germany’s mouth “ at people’s “ears,” “Germany’s hand” in their “ palm,” and “ German gold “ in their pockets ; and then he passed ‘ a regulation which prevented any prosecution of himself for libel. The Prime
Minister libelled men who sit on this side of the House, and, with a special law, protected himself against any action. Is that the kind of administration we are to have under this Bill?
I have mentioned the partisan administration of the Government in several cases. When the Leader of the Labour party, and the organizations of the party in the various States, called upon the Government to initiate prosecutions for gross and palpable breaches of its own law, the Government absolutely refused to proceed against any one on their side, though always ready to proceed against members of the Labour party.
I desire to put ou record the perversions of the law which this so-called enlightened Government are placing on the statute-book. Such measures as this are absolutely unnecessary - nave not the slightest justification. No evidence has been brought forward to show that the existing law is not sufficient.
The probability is that the Government appreciate that their own administration may drive the. masses of this country to disorder; and are, therefore, getting ready legislation to meet such a contingency. That, it appears tome, can be the only justification for a. measure of this kind.
The Government may think that at this moment of inflamed passions on one or two points they have a little public sympathy with them, but I feel confident that the Democracy pf this country, when it realizes the full iniquity of this Bill, will take an early opportunity to sweep the Government out of office.
The Government are. pretending that they are repealing the War Precautions Act; but, in my opinion, if there could be anything more obnoxious than that Act, it is the Bill before us. This is not a proposal to repeal an obnoxious measure in order to bring us back to pre-war conditions, but a measure which only shows how impossible it is to wrest from, the Government the extraordinary and tyrannical powers they were permitted to assume during the war. We know that we cannot influence the Government, no matter what case we put up against this class of legislation, and that they and those who so slavishly follow them, without rhyme or reason, will vote for it;but our hope is that when we go before the people and explain the character of the legislation which is being passed, they will give a mandate to some other party to wipe all these obnoxious measures from the statute-book.
Question - That the clause, as amended, be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 20
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 11 (Continuance of Crimes Act 1915).
Question - That the clause be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 20
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 12 (Investments by municipalities and other bodies in Commonwealth loans).
.- I hope that the Minister will see his way clear to withdraw the provisions relating to loans and the Council of Finance.
– We are withdrawing those relating to the Council of Finance.
– I am glad to hear that, and I should like the Treasurer to say that a limit will be put to the operation of the provisions dealing with loans. The Government proposes to enable any municipality, Road Board, Trust, or local governing body, notwithstanding any prohibition in its charter to the contrary, to put its funds into Commonwealth stock. These provisions certainly should not operate for more than two years.
– I do not mind a limitation; but we must have regard to our repatriation obligations.
– I am content to allow these provisions to operate for a time to enable the Government to carry out all its promises to the soldiers; but we are within the danger zone so far as borrowing is concerned, and it is time to consider economy in the administration of public affairs.
– I shall have a new clause drafted, limiting the operation of clauses 12, 13, and 14 to a period of two years.
– It seems to me that this clause opens the way to compulsory borrowing.
– It is only permissive.
-It places a pistol at the heads of the municipal bodies. The last two loans have been to a considerable extent compulsory. The municipal bodies of Australia have funds which they may invest, and if we empower them to invest these funds in Commonwealth stock, there is nothing to prevent the Treasurer from issuing a compulsory loan, and compelling them to put their money into it, whether they desire to do so or not. I am not prepared to assist further borrowing, and I think that the position which it is sought to create is an exceedingly dangerous one. A glance at the Argus list will show that at the present time Commonwealth loans return in interest from 6½ to7½ per cent., although money can be borrowed privately on mortgage at 6 per cent. Yesterday, as a trustee, I signed a mortgage on property in Melbourne for an advance of £2,500 for three years at 6 ner cent. The money was borrowed from a financial institution. After the transaction I asked how it was that when its funds could be invested in Commonwealth stock for a return of7½ per cent., they were willing to lend on mortgage at 6 per cent. The answer I received was that it was easier to finance on mortgage than on Commonwealth loans. For the first time in the history of a British community we find that the credit of a mortgage is considered a better security on the financial market than Government stock. I have said in this House before that we have reached the Plimsoll mark in the matter of borrowing and only the other day we received an intimation from the British Government that it was not advisable for Australia to go on the London market for short-dated loans. Surely that was an intimation that the Government should” keep off the grass.”
– That was not the reason.
– I have endeavoured to obtain the reason from financial experts, and they have informed me that no sane Government would endeavour to place long-dated loans on the money market at present, and, therefore, when we get an intimation not to place short-dated loans on the market, it is surely a direction to stop borrowing.
– Yet the same man is placing a period of fifteen years on his own loans.
Mr.Mcwilliams.-Who is ?
– The person who made that statement.
– The Treasurer is quite wrong, as the authority to which I referred is not in any way connected
– I am not speaking of the authority, but of the man who made a statement concerning short-dated loans.
– We know that the Government endeavoured to float a loan in America and failed.
– What Government?
– This Government.
– What Government does the honorable member mean ?
– We know that when the late Treasurer (Mr. Watt) was in England he obtained permission from the Chancellor of the Exchequer to float a loan in America, but the rate of interest was prohibitive. We also know that the Queensland Government has recently been negotiating for a loan in America, and i think the intimation they received was to the effect that they could not borrow at anything approaching a reasonable rate of interest.
– Quite so; but what has that got to do with this?
– The reason i am giving is this: It will not be at all unfavorable to us if the Government are compelled to stop borrowing for a time except for the renewal of loans as they fall due. We have gone on borrowing, and we are now in a state of indebtedness which is perfectly appalling. I do not feel disposed, in the slightest degree, to extend the facilities of the Government for increasing the indebtedness of the Commonwealth. What is the object of this clause?
– I hope the honorable member realizes what his statement means. It means the abolition of the Repatriation Department, unless we impose additional taxation to the extent of £20,000,000, and he had better face that fact.
– Do I understand from the Treasurer’s statement that there are to be no loans floated before this Parliament re-assembles, except forrepatriation purposes? The Treasurer has stated that my remarks mean a cessation of repatriation work, but there is not a member of this House who is desirous in the slightest degreeof interfering in any way with the pledge we gave to the soldiers in the matter of repatriation. If the Treasurer will now inform the House that there shall be no loans floated before Parliament re-assembles, except for repatriation purposes, I shall accept this clause without any objection. The Treasurer has said that my proposal would be tbe means of abolishing the Repatriation Department, unless taxation can be increased to the extent of £20,000,000. If the Treasurer will give the House an assurance that loans to be raised will be only for repatriation purposes, I shall be satisfied .
– He will give you any undertaking you require.
– I am prepared to accept a mere statement on the lines I have indicated. However undesirable it may be to go on the money market, our promise to the soldiers must be kept. If loans are to be raised for ordinary purposes, such as we have floated from time to time, I do not intend to assist the Government in the slightest degree by increasing their facilities to borrow. This practice of borrowing must sooner or later be stopped. There are tens of thousands of men in Australia whose financial position has, been saved by their bank manager informing them it was time they called a halt. The time has come for this House to tell the Government that they, too, must call a halt in borrowing for ordinary purposes, and unless the
Treasurer gives the assurance I have sought, I will divide the Committee.
.- I do not like this clause, and I question very much whether we have the power under the Constitution to make a law that will override a State Statute.
– We have power to make laws relating to the borrowing of money.
– Even if we have the power, I do not know that we should do it. The clause reads -
Notwithstanding anything contained in any law of the Commonwealth or a State, any Municipality, Harbor Trust, or Board, or Marine Board, or local governing body may -
That is the portion to which I take exception, because I do not think we have any right to pass a law that will interfere with State laws controlling local governing bodies. I am not a constitutional lawyer, but I do not think we have the power, and even if we have, we should not exercise it.
.- The honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) has to a large extent voiced the only feeling I have in regard to this proposal. If the word “ shall “ was where the word “may” is in the first part of the clause, I would oppose it. I regard it as an invasion of State rights, and of a very particular right, too, because each State may have certain laws and regulations for the development of its own territory, whereas this Act will override all those laws, and exonerate any of the bodies mentioned from the necessity of investing their money in State securities. On. the other hand, there is the fact that municipalities and Harbor Trusts and Boards within a State will certainly give some preference to their own State before they invest in Commonwealth securities. They may have surplus money to invest, and I hold that they could not invest it in any better cause than a Commonwealth loan, but the State may seriously want moneyalso, and this provision would be a way out for such municipality, Harbor Trust, or Board to set the State aside and invest its money in a Commonwealth loan, which it would not now be entitled to do under State legislation. I have not had time to consider the real aspects of the proposal from every stand-point, but I can see in the clause a possible intrusion of a serious nature upon State rights.
.- The question of giving municipalities and other local governing bodies the power of investment is not a very serious one. It is continually done when any particular Government loan or Government funds are made legal investments for trusts and public bodies. I do not think there is much in the argument about a compulsory loan, because we could not have compulsion of that nature without an Act of Parliament. If a compulsory Loan Bill were brought in, a clause of this sort might well come undera it. But the dangerous part of this provision is that which gives municipalities and other local governing bodies the power to raise money by way of loan, and to go to the banks and get an overdraft in order to invest in Commonwealth securities. It is most undesirable in many cases to give local bodies that power, and if it had not been for the assurance of the Minister that he proposes to limit its operation to the next two years, in order to make provision for the necessary moneys required for repatriation, I should certainly have voted against the clause. I recognise, however, that the Government must keep faith with the soldiers in carrying out their repatriation policy. If this proposal is. going to help them in any way in the matter, I am willing to go that far, and accept the Minister’s assurance that he proposes to bring in a new clause which will limit this power to the next two years. It would be a most dangerous innovation to give local governing bodies unlimited power to borrow and run bank overdrafts. To my mind, that would be a very unsatisfactory and dangerous thing to do.
– But for a similar power to this, the Empire could never have financed the late war. It is really the local bodies up and down the Empire that have been the backbone of the Empire’s defence all through the war. But for these provisions operating throughout the length and breadth of the Empire, at Home as well as here, the war would never have been financed. We owe a wonderful debt of gratitude, one that we can never repay, to the municipal and other local bodies of all kinds for the work they did during war-time. The war is not over yet. That is to say, we are still standing up facing the consequences of war, and if there is to be no more borrowing, this House can so enact; but let it be understood clearly at the same time what such a policy will mean. It will mean cutting off all the supplies which are necessary to repatriate the soldiers. That is all that this borrowing is for. It does not mean anything more.
– If it is only for repatriation, I am satisfied.
– It never has been for anything more that I know of.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 13 and 14 agreed to.
Clause 15 -
– I move -
That sub-clause (1) be left out.
I do this in accordance with my promise to the Committee.
– I am letting this provision go with very great reluctance. If honorable members had had my experience during the recent loan, they would not applaud the deletion of this sub-clause as vigorously as they are doing. There are men in this community who went about systematically during the raising of the recent loan trying to decry it in every way. They said, for instance, that the Government would never pay the money back; that they would repudiate the debt. There was not a day throughout the whole campaign that we had not to be following these lying and malicious statements from end to end of this continent.
– What was their object!
– How do I know what their object was?Sheer devilry, that is all I know.
– Were they Australians?
– They were people who lived in Australia; that is all I know about them-.
– Was he a member of Parliament?
– Not that I know of. There were all sorts of people 30 acting in all sorts of places. It was a revelation to me. Luckily they had little influence. However, I am prepared to let the provision go. I shall get at such persons in another way if they repeat their actions.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 16 (Council of Finance).
– I ask the Committee to negative this clause.
– I find I can do quite well, by Executive minute, what this clause proposes.
Clauses 17 to 19 agreed to.
The Governor-General may make regulations, not inconsistent with this Act, prescribing all things which are required or permitted to be prescribed or which are necessary or convenient to be prescribed foi giving effect to this Act and in .particular prescribing matters providing for and in relation to -
the closing to members of any of the Naval or Military ‘Forces of premises licensed for the sale of intoxicating liquors.
.- I hope what little pursuasive powers and eloquence I possess will induce the Government to delete this clause. The Commonwealth has quite enough responsibilities and quite enough difficulties to overcome for the next few years, without attempting to handle the liquor question. It is proposed by this clause to give the Defence Department power to deal with the licensing law.
– If you had been on the War Council in the early days of the war you would have seen the necessity for this clause.
– I am not finding fault with what was done during the war. But the war is now over. Everybody knows that during the war period money was very plentiful. People were then in a position to indulge in luxuries which they will be unable to purchase as soon as loan moneys become exhausted. The Government would be acting wisely if they decided to have nothing whatever to do with the liquor traffic.
– If the honorable member is going to continue his speech we shall lose our trains.
– That is unfortunate, but it cannot be avoided. The last Department which should be charged with the control of the liquor traffic is the Defence Department.
– This clause will affect only the closing of hotels in the neighbourhood of a military camp.
– There may be only one hotel within many miles of such a camp. I appeal to the Government to abstain from interfering with the liquor traffic, and to allow the States to control it. The Licensing Board which was recently appointed in New South Wales has just delicensed sixteen hotels in and around Sydney. In Marrickville and Dulwich Hill there is only one hotel, and there is a military camp in close proximity to it. We all know that the military authorities, if clothed with the power which will be conferred upon them by this clause, will exhibit no consideration whatever for the people who are resident in any district in which there may be a military camp. They take a pleasure in being autocratic and domineering.
– The honorable member has now blocked every other honorable member from catching his train.
– If honorable members think more of their trains than they do of the interests of the Commonwealth, it is most unfortunate.
– The honorable member is punishing the whole House.
.- il should like an explanation of the reasons which underlie paragraph d of this clause, which provides that _ the Governor-General may make regulations prohibiting or regulating the publication of books, pamphlets, or documents purporting to be records of the services of any Naval or Military Expeditionary Force raised in the Commonwealth. I cannot understand the reason for such a provision. The war is now over, and why should we not have the fullest information regarding the work of the different sections of our Military Forces abroad ?
– I have not been informed , but understand the paragraph in question is intended to be used for prohibiting or regulating the abuse of certain publications.
Clause agreed to.
– I move -
That the following new clause be inserted after clause 5: - “ 5a. Section 3 of the Commercial Activities Act 1919is amended by omitting the words thirtieth day of September, One thousand nine hundred and twenty,’ and inserting in their stead the words ‘ thirtieth day of June, One thousand nine hundred and twenty-three.’ “
This will enable us to carry out the agreement made in connexion with the purchase of sugar, which extends over a period of years.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
– I move -
That the following new clause be inserted : - “5b. (1.) In this section, unless the contrary intention appears, ‘the War Precautions (Companies, Firms and Businesses) Regulations’ means the regulations comprised in Statutory Rules 1916, No. 49, as amended by Statutory Rules 1917, Nos. 35, 289, and 328, by Statutory Rules 1919, No. 96, and by Statutory Rules 1920, No. 2. “ (2.) Subject to this section, the War Precautions (Companies, Firms and Businesses) Regulations shall continue in force until the thirty-first day of December, One thousand nine hundred and twenty-one. “ (3.) During the continuance of the War Precautions (Companies, Firms and Businesses) Regulations, the Governor-General may make regulations, not inconsistent with this section, prescribing all matters which are necessary or convenient to be prescribed for carrying out or giving effect to this section, and in particular for repealing, altering or adding to any of those regulations. “ (4.) Any person who contravenes, or fails to comply with, any provision of the War Precautions (Companies, Firms and Businesses) Regulations, or of any regulation made in pursuance of this section, shall be guilty of an offence against this section.
Penalty: One hundred pounds, or imprisonment for six months, or both. “(5.) An offence against this section shall not be prosecuted without the written consent of the Attorney-General or a person authorized in writing by the Attorney-General. “ (6.) For the purpose of the trial of a person for an offence against this section, the offence shall be deemed to have been committed either at the place, in which it actually was committed or at any place in which the person is. “ (7.) The expiration of any of the War Precautions (Companies, Firms and. Businesses) Regulations, or of any regulation made in pursuance of this section, shall not -
affect any right, privilege, obligation or liability acquired, accrued or incurred under any such regulation; or
affect any penalty, forfeiture, or punishment incurred in respect of any offence committed against any such regulation; or
affect any investigation, legal proceeding, or remedy in respect of any such right, privilege, obligation, liability, penalty, forfeiture or punishment, as aforesaid; and any such investigation, legal proceeding or remedy may be instituted, continued or enforced, and any such penalty, forfeiture or punishment may be imposed, as if the regulation had not expired.”
This clause will give effect to the promise which I made in respect of the regulations which exist to-day dealing with the registration of companies in which persons other than natural-born British subjects have interests. The registration of such companies and of foreign companies requires the Treasurer’s consent. The clause also deals with the transfer of the capital and registration of companies to persons residing in places situate outside the British Empire. We propose to continue the regulations referred to in this clause for a period of twelve months, taking power to repeal, vary, or modify them in the meantime if tbat course should be deemed to be necessary. Of course, any companies formed here by natural-born British subjectswill not be affected by them.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Groom) agreed to -
That the following new clause be inserted: - “ 14a. Sections 12, 13, and 14 of this Act shall continue in operation for a period of two years from the commencement of this Act, and no longer.”
Schedule and title agreed to.
Bill reported, with amendments.
StandingOrders suspended; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) put; -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
The House divided.
Majority . . . . 23
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Message received from the Senate intimating that it had agreed to the amendments of the House of Representatives.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
In connexion with thebusiness set down for to-morrow there is a number of proposals having to do with the reference of various projects to the Parliamentary Public Works Committee. There is also the Murray Rivers Agreement Bill, which must be dealt with. It should not occupy long.
-Will honorable members be given an opportunity to discuss the basic wage?
– If honorable members will help to clear this other business out of the way, they may have all the remaining time available to discuss the basic wage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.50 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 November 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1920/19201124_reps_8_94/>.