8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Statements at the Australian manufacturers’Conference.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs been directed to a report appearing in last night’s issue of the Herald of statements made at the Australian Manufacturers’ Conference held at Launceston? According to the report, Mr. Martyn, a Victorian manufacturer, moved, and Mr. McKay, of the Sunshine Harvester Works, seconded, a motion as to the necessity for a federation of all Australian employers of labour, anda Mr. Kennedy, of Tasmania, who supported the motion, suggested that the members of the federation should act, and not speak. He urged the adoption of the German system under which, he said, 70,000 volunteers had been enlisted to break down strikes. The German Government, he mentioned, had subsidized this movement. Can the Minister inform the House what class of goods is manufactured by Mr. Kennedy, and whether the Government think it right that manufacturers, even before the Tariff is passed, should propose to take all the advantages of the duties for which it provides, and, at the same time, bring into existence an organization of strikebreakers to operate throughout the Commonwealth?
– I have not seen the paragraph to which the honorable member refers, and would therefore ask him to give notice of his question.
– Having regard to our approaching departure for Canberra, does the Minister for Works and Railways think that the additions to the northern wing of this building which are now being made are justifiable?
– The proposed additions were submitted to the House, and the necessary funds were appropriated for the purpose. The alteration is not an extensive one, but is essential to the convenient housing of the staff, as well as to the convenience of honorable members themselves.
– Members have done without it for twenty years.
– That is so, but the additions will provide a great and very necessary convenience.
Anglo- Japanese Agreements : Copies for Members - Imperial Conference Agenda Paper.
– Will the Prime Minister take steps to have the terms of the existing Anglo- Japanese treaty published as a parliamentary paper?
-I thought that had been done.
– Not yet.
– Then I shall see that it is done.
-I have here a copy of the Anglo-Japanese alliance and the Anglo-Japanese agreements of 1902, 1905, 1911, as well as the Anglo-Japanese declaration of 1920. I move -
That the paper be printed.
The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) some days ago referred to statements made in the press that certain papers had been printed in Canada, and reference was also made to them last night by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan). I have given instructions that these be collected, and if they are available during the day I shall forthwith lay them on the table. I understand that all have been collected with one exception, for which search has been made. I have no doubt it will be found, and as soon as they are all ready I will lay them on the table.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether any agenda of the work to be done at the Imperial Conference has been prepared?
– There is an agenda.
Mr.BOWDEN.- If it is not a secret document, will the Prime Minister make it available to members of the House?
– Yes. I shall read the agenda, and then lay it on the table. It has been obtained from the cables, and handed to me from my office. I cannot say whether there is any later cable, and I give the information as I have it myself. It is as follows:- subjects to be discussed at the meetingofprimeministerstobe heldinlondoninjune, 1921.
That is the agenda as submitted by Britain. As I have already said, I Lave suggested that, in addition, the Conference should discuss the question of communication, including wireless, between the various parts of the Empire. I lay the agenda on the table.
Ordered to be printed.
The following paper was also laid on the table: -
Public Service Act - Promotion of F. Saleeba, Attorney-General’s Department.
– I desire to ask the Assistant Minister for Defence whether, as reported, the Minister for Defence is about to establish a Court of Appeal to consider complaints regarding injustices suffered by high officers while on active service? If so, will the honorable gentleman see that the Court will be such as will also hear complaints of the rank and file, and so constituted as to give rankers a fighting chance of redress of grievances, consideration for losses, and indignities suffered by them?
– I regret that I do not feel that I can give the honorable member a considered reply at this stage. I therefore ask him to put his question on the notice-paper.
Service at St. Paul’s Cathedral: Invitation to Members. - Payment for the Holiday to Workers.
– I desire to inform honorable members who have not received a notification that an. invitation has been extended by the lay canon in charge of St. Paul’s Cathedral, Melbourne, to members of the House to attend Evensong at 4.45 p.m. on Anzac Day. As an answer is required before 12 noon this day, honorable members who propose to attend will be good enough, I hope, to notify the Serjeant-at-Arms at once, so that the necessary accommodation may be provided. Notices have been sent as far as possible to honorable members individually, but I understand that some of them have not hitherto heard of the matter.
– The Prime Minister, in -his endeavour to make the celebration of Anzac Day worthy of the , occasion, has asked employers to give their employees a holiday., Will the right honorable gentleman also tell the employers that the giving of this holiday will not be a loyal act unless the employees are paid for the day?
– When I asked the employers to give their employees a holiday on Anzac Day, I do not think any one misunderstood me. I am sure that the employers who are inclined to give the holiday will read into the letter of my appeal the spirit which is behind it. I shall certainly consider it no holiday if employers , are merely going to say to their employees, “ If you like to stay away from work you need not come, and we will see about it at the weekend.” That is not what I meant at all. There may be exceptions, but I think it is very surprising the way the public have responded tomy appeal. The Government have done all they can by setting an example. I am not going to bully the people outside; it is bad enough to have to bully people inside.
Shipments of B Grade Flour and Wheat - Complaints from South Africa - Stale Tinned Foods.
– As I understand that this may be the last day on which the
Prime Minister will be in the House prior to his departure for London, I ask him whether he will make a statement dealing with the question of the export to’ South Africa of certain B grade wheat and flour which I brought under his notice some days ago ? I understand that the South African Government have not ordered this wheat and flour to be destroyed, but will not accept any of it since i* is unfit for human consumption. By the export of such commodities a great injury is being done the fair name of Australia. To use a vulgarism, Australia’s name “stinks in. the nostrils of the people” of South Africa, and a very grave situation is arising. Will the Prime Minister make a statement on the subject ?
– The honorable memo ber brought this matter under my notice about a fortnight ago, and it was again brought to my attention yesterday by the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins). It is alleged, and I believe it to be true, that a very large quantity of wheat and flour, which turned out to be unfit for bread making, was sold to South Africa. I am informed that* it was so bad that the Kaffirs would not eat it. Portion of it was sent to Britain, where it was condemned as unfit for human food, and was sold for the making of paste for the use of bill stickers arid others. The amount represented by the whole of the shipment I have not been able to ascertain precisely, but, speaking very generally, it is somewhere between £300,000 and £500,000. I feel very strongly about the matter, and think that every Australian ought to do so. This wheat was sold in some cases with a certificate issued by a State Government. In. other cases it was not. I am informed that some of the flour and wheat covered by such certificates was not only unfit for human consumption, but absolutely stank.
The Government of South Africa has taken up this matter. The Government of the Commonwealth must also take it up. It would be most improper for me to attempt to lay the blame on the shoulders of individuals or of particular Governments unless and until the evidence is clear. A mere ex parte statement is not sufficient on which to act. It is abundantly clear, however, that hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of, B grade wheat and flour was sent out of this country to South Africa, which is one of our best markets, and proved to be absolutely unfit for human consumption. I submit - and I speak as a tyro in this matter - that there is an implied warranty with flour, if not with wheat, that it is sold for making bread or biscuits for human consumption. I think that any Court would hold that such an implied warranty existed, unless there was clear evidence that it was the practice of the trade to sell under other conditions. That being so, and the matter having been brought officially before me, I make no apology for this comparatively long statement. I want only to say that I think it is the duty of this Government to see that not only the reputation and honour of Australia, but its material interests are safeguarded by putting the matter right. If it involves the payment of compensation, then the compensation must be made, and the Commonwealth ought to see, as far as it has power, that it is made by the people who are primarily responsible.
– In view of statements published in the medical and mercantile press, I desire to ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether, having regard to the export of foods improperly packed and unfit for consumption, and in order to keep from reproach the name of Australia, and also to prevent serious illness by export of old tinned foods, he will bring before the Cabinet the necessity of having every tin of food that is exported stamped by impression on the cover with the date of tinning ?
– The Government is fully’ alive to the necessity of preserving Australia’s reputation in regard to foodstuffs which are exported. At the present time action is being taken by my Department to revise the whole of the regulations dealing with this matter, and to extend them in a number of directions. The suggestion contained in the honorable member’s question will be taken intoconsideration in connexion therewith.
– In view of the serious reports from British importers regarding jams and other products obtained by them from Australia, will the Prime Minister, when in England, take an opportunity to inform the British public that if they furnish him with definite cases he will prosecute the Australian exporter ?
– I am obliged to the honorable member for asking the question. My statement on this matter is misunderstood if the House and the country think that it is only wheat and flour that are sent out in a way that reflects discredit on this country. I have had collected by my office a number of cases - not hypothetical, but actual cases - of products, manufactured and primary, in which we ought to excel, and, as a matter of fact, do excel, having given ground for serious complaint. There have been some most glaring cases of goods being exported not true to description or sample, and thus calculated to bring the name of Australia into disrepute and to kill our trade. That is not in South Africa, but mainly, I think, in the East. One case was quite distinct from articles of food, having reference to a case of bolts and nuts. I do not know the calibre, but it was a matter of sending out, say, bolts and nuts. Naturally, there was some surprise and some dissatisfaction amongst the people who received the articles, but they had no redress. Some of the States have taken steps to insure that exports are true to the sample, and if the States do not see to this business we must exercise those powers which are given us over exports. We must say that unless exports are true to sample, and not in any way calculated to prejudice the name of Australia, they shall not leave the country.
– Does the Prime Minister not think that it would be advisable to increase the inspectorial staff, so far as the products mentioned are concerned, and pay them such salaries as would make it impossible for private employers to come along and buy them out of the service, as in the past?
– I do not know that that has been done.
– I think I can answer the question to the extent of saying that action has been taken recently by the Government, with a view to making the meat inspectors permanent employees.
Under the old arrangement they were temporary employees, and when they ceased to be inspectors they went back to the work of slaughtering. As these men had to look for jobs after leaving the Public Service, it was hardly likely they could carry out their duties adequately. We are taking steps to tighten up the whole of the arrangement with regard to the inspection of meat, both canned and fresh. We are appointing a number of veterinarians to give full value to the certificate the world requires, and, as I say, making the meat inspectors permanent officers. This is only one part of what we are attempting to do in this connexion.
– In view of the serious general statements which we have heard this morning, would it not be better, under the circumstances, to mention the names of the firms who are alleged to have exported goods not true to sample, so that all the firms engaged in the export trade may not be blamed for the action of a few robbers.
– That matter has been considered, and we may find ourselves forced to take that course; but the best plan is to first get our standard right.
– If the disquieting statements we have heard are true they are calculated to bring great discredit on Australia. Does the Prime Minister not think the position serious enough to justify the appointment of some kind of Committee of Inquiry in order to sheet the charges home to the culprits who are responsible?
– I certainly do. There are at present two men in Australia, one a South African and the other an Australian who has been in South Africa. They are engaged in the wheat and flour trade ; and I have asked them to put their case before me in writing. I must have facts; and one of these men has given a written statement, and the other, whom I met yesterday, I have asked to also furnish one. As soon as I get some evidence to go on I certainly think there should be an inquiry, whether those concerned be the Government or individuals - whether . it be theWheat Board or not. Apart from the moral aspect, we simply cannot afford to allow the position to continue. It would pay us better to give South Africa £300,000 or £400,000, than to allow the position to remain as at present. Otherwise South Africa will never buy another pennyworth of flour or wheat from us, for it will be impossible to sell it. I was informed yesterday that a man went to South Africa from South Australia with the object of selling wheat, but he was unable to do so ; and we cannot blame the South Af rican people. We must set this matter right.
– The Prime Minister says that a man has gone from South Australia to South Africa in connexion with the wheat business. Are we to infer from that that South Australia is particularly to blame?
– I call the attention of the honorable member to the fact that there is developing an irregular debate. It is not in order to ask a question arising out of the answer given to a previous question.
– As the good name of Australia is at stake, owing to reported sales of inferior wheat and flour to South Africa, I think the Prime Minister should obtain a statement from the Australian Wheat Board clearly setting forth the position. So far as the Australian Wheat Board is concerned–
– Order ! The honorable member is going quite beyond the asking of a question. He is not entitled to make a statement without the leave of the House. If the honorable member desires I shall ask the leave of the House for him.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he will obtain from the manager of the Australian Wheat Board a statement setting forth the exact position?
– I certainly will. I do not think the Australian Wheat Board has anything to do with this sale, and I am not sure that the State Wheat Board is concerned in it either. However, I will ask the Manager of the Australian Wheat Board to make a statement so that any doubts may be set at rest.
– In view of the fact that some years have now elapsed since the appointment of the War Service Homes Commission, will the Assistant
Minister for Repatriation inform the House when the Commission is likely to, start building homes for soldiers in the inland cities of Victoria?
– The programme is beingcarried out all over Australia without respect to localities, and according to the requirements of the applicants.
– There is a statement in the press this morning to the effect that a deputation of honorable members waited on the Prime Minister yesterday’ in order to place obstacles in the way of moving the Seat of Government to Canberra. Seeing that no names are given in the press, can the Prime Minister inform the House whether the honorable members who waited on him were afraid or ashamed to have their names published?
– That is a question. I cannot very well answer. People come to me in my room - it is almost like a confessional - and tell me all sortsof things. Of course, I never say a word.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. Yesterday the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford) did something which I thought was hardly fair. He courteously told: me; during the afternoon that he intended to speak on a certain matter with which my name was connected. I appreciated that courtesy, and said that I would be present when he spoke. Later he informed me that he did not intend to speak on the subject during the sitting. While I was speaking in the grievance debate, and was perhaps rather heated because of the interest I had in the subject with which I was dealing,I received from the honorable member a note saying that he had again altered his intention, and would follow me. I considered his action unfair, and I used the word “ trick,” which should not be used in relation to friends. I value the friendship of my old associate too much to have it disturbed by a harsh word spoken in a moment of excitement. As the honorable member has read a letter from me, I shall take the earliest opportunity of reading my lawyer’s reply to it. Then, I think, my old friend will agree that we are level.
– I, too, wish to make a personal explanation, which is the first I have made in this House. The Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) is entirely to blame for the little contretemps which occurred yesterday. He desired that the grievance debate should cease at a certain time, so that the debate on the Imperial Conference might be resumed. For that reason I decided not to speak, and so informed the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney). However, there were so many speakers on the Opposition side, as there generally are, that the Treasurer subsequently informed me that the debate would be allowed to continue until the dinner hour. As I was anxious to deal with a certain matter, I decided to speak, and advised the honorable member for Melbourne accordingly. When I first told him that I did not intend to speak during that debate, I was not aware that he proposed to address the House. My conscience is absolutely clear.
– I rise to join in this kissing chorus that is being indulged in by other honorable members.
– I wish to make a personal explanation in regard to something that happened last night. While I was speaking I was subjected to a volley of interjections, which you know, sir, are entirely disorderly, and from which you would have protected me had you been in the chair.
– Order! That is a reflection on the Deputy Speaker.
– I have no desire to reflect upon the Deputy Speaker, who, I feel sure, was so interested in my speech that he was unable to hear the interjections. Amongst them was one from the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks), to which I replied, but not in my usual courteous manner. I understand that the honorable member feels aggrieved by. what I said.. It was not my intention to injure his feelings, but if the honorable member has the courage to come into the corridor I will explain to him the incident in a manner that will heal any breach that has been created.
– I am obliged to the honorable member for Bourke for having made this explanation.
– I do not wish the proceedings of the House to degenerate into what people outside might reasonably regard as a farce. And I remind honorable members that a personal explanation must have some reference to a matter in regard to which an honorable member may have been misunderstood or misrepresented. If that is the purpose of the honorable member for Wentworth, he will be in order in speaking, but he will not be in orderin continuing an irregular debate in pursuance of a matter that has been raised by way of personal explanation.
– I desire, by way of personal explanation, to refer to something that was said in the House last night. While the honorable member was speaking in regard to Naval defence, I interjected that Australia should do her share. The honorable member for Bourke took up the word “share” and gave it such an inflection as to imply that I speak with what is commonly called “ side.” I leave honorable members to draw their own conclusions as to whether I do talk in that way. But, in fairness to the honorable member for Bourke, I wish to say that he came to me and offered an apology which I accepted, and my reply was that if the honorable member would come outside on the bowling green, I would deal with him in the manner which he deserved.
Presentation to the Prime Minister.
– I have received from the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) an intimation that he proposes to move the adjournment of the House in order to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely - “ The action of the right honorable the Prime Minister in accepting an honorarium other than a prescribed parliamentary allowance for services rendered in his official capacity, and the fact of members of the Government having declined to supply information relating thereto to honorable members.”
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
– I rise to a point of order. I .submit that the subject which the honorable member for Batman desires to discuss is not a definite matter of urgent public importance, and that there is nothing in the Standing Orders which in any way derogates from your discretion as to the acceptance of a motion of this kind. I know that it has been said sometimes by Mr. Speaker that the fact of five honorable members rising in their places to signify acquiescence in a. motion determines the point of urgency and public importance. But the mere rising of five members cannot take from you, sir, the discretionary power that is reposed in you by all the rules of Parliament. Therefore, in view of all the circumstances and having regard to the fact that a period has been put to another important debate, I ask whether you should permit a discussion on a motion of this kind. The House has already put a period to that other debate, which is of much more importance than the subject which has been brought forward by the honorable member for Batman, and here is a motion intruded to interfere with the other debate and to prevent the House from carrying out the arrangement which has been definitely made. Apart from that, I call attention to standing order 38, which governs this procedure -
No motion for the adjournment of the Houseshall be made except by a Minister of the Crown, unless a member, after petitions have been presented and notices of questions and motions given, and before the business of the day is called on, rising in his place, shall propose to move the adjournment for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance (which he shall then state and hand in in writing to the Speaker), and unless five members shall thereupon rise in their places, as -indicating approval of the proposed discussion. The member proposing the motion for adjournment shall not be allowed to address the House on such motion until the Speaker shall have ascertained that five members approve of the proposed motion.
It is clear that the rising of five members indicates merely that they approve of the proposed discussion. _ They do not determine whether or not the discussion shall take place. That discretion is inherent in the Chair. The five members simply indicate that so. far as they are concerned they are agreeable that the discussion should proceed. Their action does not remove by one iota the discretion which resides in the Presiding Officer. That that is so is made perfectly clear by the following passage in May, page 241: -
A matter submitted to the House in pursuance of this standing order which fails to obtain the requisite support cannot during the same session be again brought forward in the same manner; nor can more than one such motion for adjournment be made during the same sitting of the House. Though the responsibility of bringing forward a matter, as a matter of urgency, rests with the member who desires to exercise the right given by the standing order, still there must be some colour of urgency in the proposal; and the Speaker has declined to submit a motion for adjournment to the House because, in his opinion, the subject to be brought forward was not a “ definite matter of urgent public importance.”
I submit that with that clear statement of the practice of the House of Commons, together with our own standing order which limits the right of members to ‘a mere expression of approval of the motion proposed, but in no way disturbs the ‘ discretion of the Chair, you, sir, should say whether or not, in your opinion, this matter is a . definite one of’ urgent importance which cannot await discussion at the proper time. I ask for this ruling particularly in view of the fact that it is sought to intrude this motion into another debate, and that that course of action must take away from the time allowed to honorable members for the discussion of the more important subject. I submit that your ruling should be guided by the consideration of what is , clearly in the interests of members of this House, and, above ail, that it should incline towards greater freedom of debate, and not to restriction.
– Is this a “ stone- wall “ to burke discussion on the matter?
– I would like to appeal to the honorable member’s sense of fair play, to withdraw the motion.
– If the Treasurer had any appreciation of fair play he would allow the motion to be discussed.
– We are sending the Prime Minister as our delegate to the Imperial Conference, and is it quite fair that, on the eve of his departure-
– I rise to a point of order. This is a “ stone wall.”
– Order !
– I neither want to “ stone- wall “ nor to do anything else that will restrict fair debate.
– Well, will the Treasurer keep to his point of order?
– I will.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! If honorable members will not obey the Chair, I shall have to take the step of naming the next offender in that direction.
– I have stated my point of order, and will only add that nothing is further from my thoughts than to waste the time of the House. I have taken this present course of action feeling that, surrounded as honorable members are by the circumstances attaching to the other discussion, this kind of procedure should not be permitted by the Presiding Officer.
– On the 5th November last year you, Mr. Speaker, when a similar point was raised - also by the Treasurerruled very distinctly and emphatically that the procedure was in order. With respect to the argument raised by the right honorable gentleman concerningthe fact of a definite time limit having been fixed for the taking of a certain vote, any agreement which has been entered into will be honoured by honorable members on this side.
– But there was no agreement. We were “gagged.”
Mr.Tudor. - Is that so? I was absent atthe time, and have apparently been misinformed of the exact circumstances.
– The very fact that Mr. Speaker ruled, on the occasion indicated by ‘the honorable member, that the matter then arising was a question of urgency–
– I appreciate the point sought to be made by the interjection, but upon the question of urgency I maintain that it is a thousand times better, and in the best interests of the Prime Minister himself, that the honorable member for Batman . (Mr. Brennan) should have introduced his motion while the right honorable gentleman is in attendance, rather than that he should have waited until after the Prime Minister’s departure. If the honorable member for Batman, or any other honorable member on this side, were to wait until the Prime Minister had left for the Imperial Conference, his action would be strongly denounced, and he would be accused of having deliberately delayed until the Prime Minister’s back was turned.
-But why did not the honorable member introduce the matter before?
– This House resumed its sittings only about a fortnight ago. In order to introduce the discussion of a matter of urgent public importance an honorable member must await his opportunity. During the past week there has certainly been no chance to move the adjournment of the House upon the subject under review; and there was no opportunity before the adjournment of the House last year, because the Prime Minister returned from the presentation ceremonial in Sydney on the very day of the adjournment. At that time doubts were expressed in the press concerning whether thegratuity to the Prime Minister did not involve an invasion of constitutional limitations. I do not propose to curtail the time which may be devoted to the discussion either of this point of order or of the urgent motion, or of the other business whichhas been interrupted. But I maintain that the ruling which you gave on the 5th November, 1920, Mr. Speaker, applies equally now, and that the honorable member for Batman, therefore, has every right to proceed.
– In reply to the Treasurer’s (Sir Joseph Cook) point of order, and answering, first, that portion of his argument in support thereof which had to do with the effect of the discussion of this motion for adjournment upon the decision of another question, I have to say that such decision will not in any way be delayed by any proceedings which may take place in the interval, since the House has fixed a time for the vote to be taken. If the House chooses to consider other business meanwhile, and to allow the business which has been interrupted to be temporarily set aside, such a course is entirely in the discretion of the House. And when the time arrives which has been fixed for the termination of the debate,the Speaker is bound to interrupt the discussion then proceeding, and put the vote to the House.
– It does limit the discussion, though, Mr. Speaker.
– That is probably so, but it is a matter for the House itself. And at the time which has been fixed, namely, at a quarter to four this afternoon, the business at that moment before the House must be interrupted by the Speaker, in order to give effect to the decision of the House in regard to the taking of the vote. Withrespect to the right of the Speaker to exercise ‘his discretion concerning Whether a motion of this kind should be discussed, I would point out that rulings have been given on this very point on more than one occasion by different Speakers which have determined our practice. As an example, Hansard, in its record of the debate of 20th August, 1915 (page 6008), states that the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford) raised a point of order concerning whether a motion which had been introduced was one of urgent public importance. The .Speaker - the Honorable Charles McDonald - thereupon stated -
The Standing Orders .provide that if a certain number of honorable members rise in their places to support the honorable member who desires to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a subject of urgent public importance, that of itself constitutes _ a sufficient ground of urgency. I ‘have no discretion in the matter.
That decision is in accordance with other rulings which have .been given. It accords also with rulings given in the House of Commons by Denison, Brand, and other’ Speakers. I draw the attention of honorable members to the fact that this view appears to be supported by the standing order ^requiring forty members of the House of Commons to rise in their places to support the motion for the special ‘ adjournment pf the House in order to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance. I am bound to admit that there are conflicting decisions; but rulings have been given in the House of Commons that the fact of forty members of the House rising to support a motion of the kind determined alike its public importance and the question of its urgency. In our Standing Orders the number is five. Honorable members of this Chamber, when rising in support of such a motion, therefore, take the responsibility of declaring that, in their opinion, the subject-matter of the motion is both urgent and important. Under our established practice here it rests entirely with the House to decide whether a motion is of sufficient importance to be discussed. If the House is not of that opinion, members have in their own hands the means to prevent the debate proceeding. It is not, however, a part of the duties of the Speaker to decide the matter.
.- I will proceed now to address myself to the subject-matter of the motion as read by you, sir, without reference to the unrehearsed preliminaries. This incident which I- am now seeking to have considered by the House arose last year at the close of our sittings. And, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) has rightly pointed out, it was only on the very day when this House adjourned that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) returned from Sydney .after receiving the gratuity, the propriety of which I am asking the Prime Minister himself, and honorable members generally, to express and record their opinions upon. Yesterday I addressed a question to the Prime Minister on this same subject. I do not know whether the right honorable gentleman misunderstood the purpose and reasons for which the question was asked, but he would have done himself and the House a greater measure of justice and would have extended’ to me a larger meed of courtesy - though no more than a due measure - if he had given a candid reply to a. question having to do with a very delicate and’, .1 submit, a very important matter , of public interest. It is important historically, and is .also of present- immediate importance.
The origin and genesis of this whole matter is referred to in the Sydney Morning Herald of Thursday, 25th November, 1920, under the heading “People’s Tribute to Prime Minister”; and we are therein informed: -
The public tribute last night in King’s Hall to the Prime Minister (Mr. W. M. Hughes) in recognition of his signal services to his country during the war and at the Peace Conference table was strikingly expressed, not only in a generous sense pecuniarily, but also in the crowded audience.
And, taking this report for the time being as fairly accurate - although I have no intention nor the time to read it at length - it is recorded that a cheque was presented to Mr. Hughes from admirers both in Australia and in London for a sum amounting to over £25,000. It is further stated that Alderman William Brooks, M.L.C., presided, and that those on the platform included : -
Sir Alfred Meeks, Mr. W. A. Holman, Sir Thomas Hughes, M.L.C., Mr. J. C. Watson, Mr. G. F. Earp, M.L.C., Mr. David Storey, M.L.C., Sir Arthur Rickard. Senator Duncan, BrigadierGeneral Herring, Senator Pratten, Mr. R. B. Orchard, Mr. E. H. Farrar, M.L.C., Senator
– They are distinguished persons. They include people having interests in the business world, and they embrace those - I am led to believe - who may safely and not unjustly be presumed to have had something more than an academic interest in legislation passed through this House publicly, as well as in certain secret regulations passed from time to time by this Government. But I am bound to say that there does not seem to be, among these names, a representative of the proletariat. I do not see that the men who fought the war were adequately represented, although it is true that many distinguished persons who took a hand in the direction of the war were well in evidence. On that occasion the following telegram was received from the Federal Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) : -
Your colleagues regret their absence from meeting to-night. Send you warmest congratulations on this public recognition of unique services rendered to Empire, Allies and Commonwealth.
It is not for me to suggest that this telegram affords any reason for the impatience displayed by the right honorable the Treasurer in regard to this debate. It is sometimes said of modest men that their right hand does not know what their left hand does, but it is clear, in regard to this Government, that their left hand is well apprised of what the right hand does, and approves of it. Nothing more touching than the confidence of the Treasurer in the Prime Minister has been known since the recorded submission of Mr. Spenlaw to the indescribable Mr. Jorkins.
The telegram in which the Treasurer expressly puts on record his opinion that this testimonial was a public recognition of unique services rendered to the Commonwealth leads me to point to the terms of the Constitution relevant to the matter. Section 45 of the Constitution Act says -
If a senator or member of the House of Representatives -
becomes subject to any of the disabilities mentioned in the last preceding section; or
takes the benefit, whether by assignment, composition, or otherwise, or any law relating to bankrupt or insolvent debtors; or
directly or indirectly takes or agrees to take any fee or honorarium for services rendered to the Commonwealth, or for services rendered in the Parliament to any person or State ; his place shall thereupon become vacant.
As I said a moment ago, this matter is of great historical interest. It was in the debates of the 1891 Convention that the first part of paragraph iii. was adopted, and probably the Prime Minister, if he deigns to make any reply, may seek to point out that Mr. Carruthers, who raised the question, seemed to direct his mind more particularly to the fact that, while other general contractors with the Commonwealth were disqualified from occupying seats in Parliament, there was one exception in the case of counsel who were still to be permitted to accept briefs from the Commonwealth and to argue for an honorarium the public questions insupport, it may be hoped, of the public interest. Mr. Carruthers addressed himself particularly to that aspect of the case against the privileges of learned counsel; Sir Edmund Barton took a contrary view, and a very interesting discussion followed. However, the first part of paragraph iii, namely, “ directly or indirectly takes or agrees to take any fee or honorarium for services rendered to the Commonwealth “ was adopted by that Convention. The. latter part of the paragraph, namely, “ or for services- rendered in the Parliament to any person or State,” was inserted at the 1898 Convention on an amendment moved by Sir George Reid, and completed the paragraph as it stands to-day. It may be said that in regard to the first part of the paragraph, which I suggest relates particularly to the matter now under discussion, that the persons who first moved in the direction of inserting it in the Constitution did not have within their purview the particular class of case I am now considering, but the Prime Minister will, no doubt, be familiar with that well-known rule of construction that where the language of the Statute is clearand unambiguous, those whose business it is to interpret it will not have regard to the expressions of opinion of those who originally moved to have the provision inserted, nor their objective nor the language employed in moving it. . The resultant terms being clear, must be given, as my right honorable friend will surely agree, the ordinary plain meaning of plain English.
I do not accept the responsibility at present of expressing a legal opinion on the matter, but I do maintain that as such a delicate matter affecting the purity of our public life and the honour of our public men has been raised, and I think properly raised, the correct attitude of the persons concerned is a rapid readiness to clear the air as far as can be done. In matters of this kind we should apply the standard applied to, and by, judicial tribunals, namely, that they must not only be free from bias, but also be free from the suspicion of bias. I suggest therefore that both the letter and the spirit of the Constitution enjoin the greatest care and freedom from equivocation in a matter of this kind, because if the Prime Minister will take the trouble to run his eye over the list of the great men his predecessors in bur public life, he will find the names of many who have been tenderly sensitive in regard to anything touching the purity of public affairs, especially where it seemed even remotely to reflect upon themselves. In order to show the attitude of at least one representative public man in the past in similar circumstances, and without regard to the purely technical legal aspect of the case, which, after all, is the least important, I shall read for the benefit of honorable members a very interesting letter reprinted in the Age on Wednesday, 1st December, 1920, and written by Sir Henry Parkes many years ago to a committee of gentlemen who proposed to make him just such a testimonial as was made in this case to the Prime Minister. The introductory note sets out that in 1881 Sir Henry Parkes, who was then Premier of New South Wales, was about to visit England, and some leading citizens of Sydney proposed to present him with a testimonial in the form of a gift of money. On public grounds Sir Henry Parkes declined the gift, and in the appended letter to the secretary of the testimonial committee he explained his reasons for so doing : -
My Dear Sir, - When you and Mr. Moore waited upon me in the early part of last week to ascertain whether it would be agreeable to my feelings that some steps should be taken to publicly mark my departure from the colony, I stated in reply that I had no wish to subject my friends to the trouble of any public movement on my behalf, and .when it was further urged that in all probability steps of the kind would be taken irrespective of my wishes in the matter, I added in substance that in view of any such course, I could express no opinion, but leave the event to shape itself.
Having endeavoured to express my feelings to this effect, it is with much reluctance that I am now constrained to interfere with the movement which has been set on foot in my favour. But it never occurred to me in the first instance that any such movement would assume the form of a pecuniary testimonial.
After carefully considering the proposal of my friends, as now presented to the public, I feel it incumbent upon me to state that I must respectfully decline to accept the intended honor. Occupying the high place of first Minister in the Government of the country, it is clearly my duty, as far as lies in my power, to preserve my public position from personal entanglements which at the present or some future time might be made the ground of reproach or suspicion. Calumny is on all occasions sufficiently busy in misrepresenting the actions of men intrusted with power, and where the choice is within my own hands I must choose to hold myself entirely free to act, if necessary, against the interests of individuals who may be my political friends. It is a matter of principle, which appears the plainer the more it is examined. I could not reconcile the acceptance of a gift of money from the public with any sense of propriety and obligation as the occupant of a high political office.
I beg you to accept yourself, and to convey to the other members of the Committee, my grateful acknowledgments of the generous intentions entertained on my behalf. Be assured that nothing more is needed to satisfy me that my public conduct has been too indulgently recognised.
All I ask, in conclusion, is that I may be permitted to leave you for a short time without any recommendation to strangers except such as may be fairly drawn from my services to my adopted country. (Sgd.) HENRY PARKES.
Prime Minister to say that he pays his way, whereas Sir Henry Parkes went insolvent for over £100,000. .
– I take no part while discussing a matter in the proceedings of those who would disparage the dead,, and especially the distinguished dead.
– The disparagement in the honorable member’s case is of the’ distinguished living.
– I am only sorry that so able and distinguished a gentleman as the Prime Minister should have in the honorable member for Illawarra so cheap and persistent claquer.
I do not intend to entrench unduly . upon the time at our disposal. Honorable members opposite, including the Prime Minister himself, may think what they will of my action. They will probably think ill of it, and if they do it will not be the first time they have “clone so. But I can take the flattering unction to myself that there has never been an occasion when I have spoken in this Parliament - except when, perhaps, I have been indulging in a little airy persiflage by way of obvious jest - that I have not spoken from a more or less compelling sense of public duty. I do that to-day. I tell the Prime Minister that I speak in no spirit of unfriendliness to him.. This subject, which engaged the thought of the great framers of our Constitution, _ is worth reconsideration to-day. And, seeing that the matter is one which may reflect, although even remotely, upon the good name of the Commonwealth through its chief spokesman, it is worthy, I think, of a courteous statement by the Prime Minister. Honorable members of this House have bitter and unscrupulous enemies outside. There are individuals and newspapers more than ready to asperse us, and to attribute base motives. I candidly admit that I reluctantly acknowledge the Prime Minister’s position. He knows that I am opposed to him, and. would cheerfully remove him with the legitimate weapons of party warfare; but this is not one of them.
The terms of the Constitution are clear. We have made out a prima facie case that the money received by the Prime Minister was for services rendered in his official capacity to the Commonwealth of Australia. I acquit him of personal corruption, but nothing more subversive of the public interest than that groups of moneyed men should get together and reward any honorable member for his conduct of the business of the House or for anything of a public nature that he has done outside the House. The reasons were well stated by Sir Henry Parkes.
It has been suggested by the Treasurer that I have acted in an un- sportsman-like way. What would have been said if I had waited until the right honorable gentleman had left these shores, and then, behind his back, had submitted this motion ? Every one knows that in . the short time that has elapsed since we resumed there has been no opportunity for the consideration of a motion of his kind. There has been no such opportunity because of the matters obtruded on this House by the Government itself - matters which we say should not have been brought forward - and in the discussion of which, I would say, if it were parliamentary, to do so, that time has been wasted. I have nothing further to add, nor have I any apology to offer for having introduced this question. I regard it as urgent and as one that merits a complete and courteous answer. If the Prime Minister and the country are satisfied, then nobody need be so sensitive in the future.
– I shall- detain the House for a very few minutes. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) has occupied a great deal of his time in explaining that in all he has done1 he has acted from a high sense of public duty. I leave that statement where it stands. I leave it to the people of Australia to draw their own conclusions from his speech and his attitude towards me and the party which I have the honour to lead as to whether or not he was in this case actuated, as he declares, by a sense of public duty.
I shall deal with the question from the constitutional stand-point. The honorable member says that I have done something which, under section 45, paragraph (iii) of the Constitution, involves vacating my seat. I . could understand very well such a contention coming from a layman, since the mazes of the law are such that the average citizen finds himself continually in difficulties when trying to thread his way through them. But the honorable gentleman is a member of my own profession, his speech shows signs of most careful preparation, and it is evident that he has refreshed his memory by reference to the Constitution. He said that probably I should endeavour, by reading from the Convention Debates, to show what were the intentions of the framers of the Constitution in regard to section 45. Anticipating such an intention on my part, he said that, where the language was clear, the Court would ignore the intentions of the framers, and look only to the plain wording of the section. That is quite true. It is one of the fundamental principles of the interpretation of law. Let us, then, look, at the section and see what it says. That having been done, I shall then quote from the Convention Debates in order to show what were the intentions of the framers of it. Section 45 provides that if a senator or member of the House of Representatives -
The honorable member says the intention of the section is so clearly expressed as to leave no room for doubt as to what it means. He contends that it applies to the presentation of a testimonial by citizens of the 1 Commonwealth to a member of Parliament, and that the act of receiving a testimonial is in itself sufficient to subject a’ member to the penalties of paragraph iii of section 45. The honorable member’s interpretation of the section is so entirely wrong that it will not bear examination for a moment.
The paragraph forbids two things - (1) the taking of a “fee or honorarium for services rendered to the Commonwealth”; and (2), the taking of a fee or honorarium “ for services rendered in the Parliament to any person or State.” The first part of the paragraph, dealing with the taking of a “ fee or honorarium for services rendered to the Commonwealth,” refers not to the receipt of fees for work done for any citizen or any number of citizens of Australia, but to fees received from the Commonwealth for work done for the Commonwealth as a constitutional entity. It refers in particular to payment received for Crown briefs, or to payment by the Commonwealth for work done for the Commonwealth. The honorable member has so twisted the word “ Commonwealth “ as to make it appear that the. word used in the section is synonymous with the people of Australia, or any section of them. It is abundantly clear that this is not the intention, either obvious or implied, of the section. The “Commonwealth” means the Commonwealth Government or the Commonwealth as a constitutional entity. That and nothing more.
The second part of the paragraph refers to the taking of any fee or honorarium “for services rendered i’i the Parliament,” which means the Parliament of the Commonwealth. The plain and obvious intention of the section is to prevent a member of this Parliament from taking a fee from the Government for work done in the Parliament or outside in his capacity as a member of Parliament. I would not even like to say that the paragraph goes so far as to prevent the Attorney-General taking a fee. It probably does; yet honorable members know that it is a very common practice in some of the States for the AttorneyGeneral to take fees. The honorable member for Batman knows very well that I have never taken a fee or honorarium in that capacity. These, then, are the obvious intentions of section 45. These are the acts at which the provision was aimed. The intention of the section is not confined, as is the case in some States, to Ministers only, but extends to all members of Parliament. It has reference to a state of things which existed at the time of the framing of the Constitution, and in some State Parliaments exists now, where a man, who was a servant of the Crown, might yet receive an honorarium for doing work for the State of which he was already the servant. Wo doubt such a fee might influence a man’s vote. Mr. Carruthers - Sir Joseph Carruthers as he now is - when moving the insertion of the section at the Adelaide sittings of the Convention in 1907, said, as reported at page 1034 of the Convention Debates -
This will practically bring the Commonwealth law into line with the law that holds good in Victoria. I understand that there not only is a contractor debarred, but no person can accept a fee or honorarium. As I pointed out the other night, I see no reason why lawyers or professional men should be in a better position than other members of the community. There is just as much likelihood for abuse to creep in if you allow them to accept fees or honorariums as there is in the payment of contractors. I only desire that in a matter of this kind, if we legislate against contractors, newspaper proprietors, merchants, and ordinary tradespeople, we should also legislate against any member of a privileged profession from doing that which is admitted to be wrong in others. I will say nothing about corruption; but if there be a principle in the matter, and it is a good principle in one case, it is equally good in the other.
Sir George Reid, speaking in the Federal Convention, held in Melbourne in 1898, moved an amendment to insert in the section “ or for work done or services rendered in Parliament for or on behalf of any other person.” He said -
I do not suppose it happens in the colonies - at any rate, I know of no such case -but it has been stated that members of Parliament, even in the colonies, have accepted payment for putting Bills through the Houses. As I have said, I have never known of a case of the sort, but it is quite possible such things have happened. We do not wish such a condition of affairs to arise. If we disqualify a man for performing service for the Commonwealth for payment, it is equally important that he should be disqualified for accepting fees for work done in the legislative body. Under the latter circumstance, the member works under false pretences. He appears to work in the public interest, when really he is accepting payment for putting measures through the Legislature.
The intention of the section then is perfectly clear on the face of it; and it sets out what the framers of the Constitution as expressed in their speeches obviously desired.
I invite the honorable member (Mr. Brennan), who professes to take the liveliest interest in upholding the honour of this Parliament, to take the case to the only place where it can be definitely determined.I am amazed that he has so long delayed doing what he now asserts he does from a keen sense of public duty - I am amazed that he has so long allowed the honour of his country, and of the first Legislature of his country, to rest under this imputation. I invite him to ask the High Court of Australia to say whether I, whom he describes as the custodian of the honour of Parliament, and as the principal offender, have been guilty of violating the Constitution and the honour of this Parliament, which I have sworn to uphold. I invite the honorable member and all those who say that’ under section 45, or any other section of the Constitution, I have done that which is improper by receiving this testimonial, to take the matter to the High Court. The honorable member says that he takes this action from a keen sense of public duty.
I have been longer in politics than he has. Does he say that an honorarium must necessarily take the form of money? Suppose that, instead of a cheque, I had received jewels, or something that could be converted into money, would that have been less corrupt than the receipt of money, or would it be said that section 45 would not equally apply to the one case as to the other? It happened to me in New South Wales in, I think, 1899, to receive from my constituents a testimonial of £150 for services rendered to them during the great plague. The watch I am wearing I had given to me at the same time. I invite honorable members, and I invite the honorable member for Batman, in spite of all that has come and gone, and of what has been said to-day, to come to my house, where they may see dozens of testimonials, pieces of plate and other articles of value, that I have received from trade unions, and from my former constituents. Does he say I may take testimonials, money, or things that can be converted into money or articles of intrinsic value from trade unions or from my former supporters in the Labour party with impunity, but that my seat must be declared vacant if I take them from any one else? Is it the amount that the honorable member cavils at, or is it the thing itself? Does he say that it takes £25,000 to bribe me, while others may be bribed with £50? Unless I do the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) a wrong, I fancy that once in his career the trades unions enabled’ him to take a trip - provided the money for it. Does any one who knows the honorable member say for a moment that it was an improper action on his part to receive the money?
– But I did not get it.
– The time of the Prime Minister has expired.
– Then I ask for leave to continue my speech.
– The honorable member for Batman has sought to show that other men, relatively in the same position as myself, and offered by their fellow citizens some expression of their goodwill and approval, have spurned a gift -
I thrice presented him a kingly crown,
Which he did thrice refuse.
The honorable member says that the late Sir Henry Parkes was offered money and refused it. For the best part of my life I was a citizen of New South Wales, and I know that Sir Henry Parkes took the money - he refused it, but he took it.
I do not apologize for receiving this testimonial. It is true that I have been singled out in this honorable House, composed of men of eminent virtue “whose records are written in letters of shining gold. Who am I, an insignificant pigmy, that the people of the country should select me as the recipient of this munificent mark of their appreciation? I wish I could congratulate every one of my honorable friends in this House on having received a testimonial ; if they had, I should never have said, “ You ought not to have taken it.” No man has endeavoured to serve his country more faithfully than I. Whether I have succeeded is a matter of opinion; but we must remember that it is only five years or less ago that the honorable member for Batman would have been the first to say that I had served my country well. He and I have differed, and on a point that has really nothing to do with the. principles that underlie the Labour movement or politics. He knows there is a gap between him and me that neither time nor even Providence can span; he knows, too, that this difference arises out of our breeding and our race. But does he condemn me for this : not that I have done wrong, but that I differ from his opinions? I have done what I think to be right. I have never questioned for a moment that the honorable member is sincere. I have opposed him, and he- me ; but I have never told him that he is not sincere, because I believe that he is; and he should give me credit for being, at least, as sincere as himself. I took testimonials when I was Leader of the honorable gentleman - when I was unanimously chosen as the Leader of the Labour party. I say that all honorable members who were in the Labour party’s room on that eventful day when we parted company know that, had I chosen, even after all that had happened, I could have remained Leader. But I shall leave that on one side.
Does the honorable member for Batman say that the people of this country, or any of them, have no right to express their appreciation in terms of money if they like, of a man who, in their opinion, has served hi3 country well? I am a poor man. I have given, not like some men the fag-end of my life, but my whole life, to my country. I say deliberately that I could have made far more money outside of Parliament than in it. Some people in this country, and the soldiers amongst them, were desirous of expressing their appreciation of my services, and they did so. I stand here now and make no apology whatever for having taken the money my fellow-citizens gave me. I am now, as I always was, a man who will take his own line, though a thousand may say to me, “ Do this,” or “ Do that.” No body of men better than honorable members on the other side know that that was my way from the beginning ; that it is now, and will be my way to the end.
.- With a certain amount of diffidence I follow the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) on this question, but I wish to recall some incidents to honorable members opposite. I submit that there is no difference between a presentation in money and a presentation in kind. I was the first recipient of a presentation in this Parliament. The chain I wear - not the watch, that is elsewhere - was given to me for services I had rendered to the -Labour party up to that time. The then Leader of the Labour party, Mr. Christopher Watson, had a valuable presentation made to him, and so had the ex-High Commissioner, Mr. Fisher, these being in kind, not in money. I now come to an event which is retained in my memory because of my association with it. I wish to contrast the action in Opposition of the party which now sits on the Government side with the action of the party now in Opposition. The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. James Page) and the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) will remember that a former member for Coolgardie, when severing his connexion with a newspaper there, received a presentation of £400. On that occasion there was no murmur from the then Opposition; no one made any accusation of impropriety against the honorable member. My association with that event is that I bought - I emphasize the word “bought” - a number of Melbourne newspapers, which contained an account of the presentation, and sent them to constituents iu my electorate. It was “ bread cast upon the waters “ that never returned; and the result fixed the event in my mind. There have been so many instances of the kind, not only here but elsewhere, that I wonder the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) should have brought the present case before the House. Something was said yesterday by an honorable member about “ playing the game.” I certainly do not think the action taken this morning is “ playing the game,” for, to my mind, it is not compatible with the dignity of the honorable- member for Batman, or with the dignity of the House, that a matter of the kind should be discussed. I rose merely to relate my own experience in this connexion. Of course the value of the present I received was very insignificant in comparison with that which is under discussion to-day. I thank the Prime Minister and the honorable member for Tarra for their instrumentality in getting that little tribute for me. I was certainly taxed about it a good deal, and to make matters worse, I was robbed when standing on the back of the tram on my way home at night. Several people asked me what brand of liquor I had been drinking, but that my misfortune was not accounted for in that way was proved by the fact that on the following day Sir George Turner was treated in the same manner, when proceeding to open a bowling green at St. Kilda. Presentations of the sort under discussion are ‘quite common occurrences, and it seems to me that thehead and front of the Prime Minister’s offending was the largeness of the amount he received. I can only add that if I were offered £25,000, or even any smaller amount, as recognition of my public service, I would accept it gratefully.
.- No honorable member who takes an impartial view of this matter will think that the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) was actuated by anything other than the highest sense of duty in bringing this matter before the louse. Anybody who listened to. the moderate .language he ^employed when moving the motion can come to no other conclusion; even the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) must hold that opinion. It would have been quite unnecessary for the honorable member to take the course he has taken if replies had been vouchsafed in a courteous manner to questions asked yesterday of both the Prime Minister and the Treasurer. The Prime Minister simply answered “No.”
– The honorable member for Batman asked me if I intended to take the matter to the High Court, and what else could I answer? .
– The Prime Minister must have misunderstood the question, because that is not what the honorable member for Batman asked him. In any case, he could have given yesterday the same answer as he gave this morning, but he replied with a curt and abrupt “ No,” and the Treasurer’s answer was exceptionable for the same reason. The matter of the presentation to the Prime Minister has been much discussed amongst the public and in the press. There is no honorable member who would wilfully make any suggestion of corruption unless there was the strongest evidence of it, and the honorable member for Batman merely asked for information, because, as he put.it, a prima facie case was made out by the telegram sent by ,the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) to the Prime Minister in Sydney at the time the presentation was made. In that telegram, the Treasurer offered the congratulations of his- colleagues to the Prime Minister on the handsome gift of £25,000 which he was receiving for, amongst other things, services rendered to the Commonwealth.
– The money was not paid by the Commonwealth.
– I am not suggesting that it was. I do not wish to enter into i the strictly legal aspect of this matter, because, whether or not it comes within the strict wording of the Constitution in such a way as to disqualify the Prime Minister from holding a seat in this House, no one will deny that it is of_great interest to the people to know the source from which presentations come to honorable members, particularly those who hold responsible positions, while they are in charge of public affairs. The Prime Minister will admit that.
– Of course I do.
– It is important to find out who were the contributors, but we have received not a word of enlightenment on that subject.
– I assure the House that I do not know the name of one person who contributed to the fund.
– I am not suggesting that the Prime Minister should say one word more than he has said. That is entirely a matter for his judgment. But it is of great interest to the public to know who the donors were, because the impression has got abroad that the presentation came from very wealthy sources. As the honorable member for Batman said, amongst those present on the occasion of the presentation were the representatives of very big businesses.
– Has anybody ever suggested that the money was obtained from the Commonwealth Treasury?
– Nobody has ever suggested that.
– Well, can there be any doubt as to the legality of the presentation ?
– Nobody would be so foolish as to suggest that the money came from the Commonwealth Treasury, but there is an impression abroad that the money came from those who have large financial interests, and had big business transactions, possibly with the Commonwealth, during the period of war. After all, most people think that gratitude is a lively sense of favours to come, and that, whether or not a presentation comes within the embargo imposed by the Constitution, it is not desirable that responsible Ministers, while stillin charge of the affairs of the country, should accept large gifts from persons who may subsequently have business dealings with the Government. I do not suggest that the Prime Minister would be influenced by the presentation; I would be sorry, indeed, to suggest that he would do anything corrupt, but I do suggest that there is a possibility that he might have a kindly feeling - he could not help it - towards those who were good enough to make the presentation.
– The Prime Minister said that he did not know the name of one donor. Therefore, it is unfair of the honorable member to say that he might have a kindly feeling towards the donors.
– Surely the Prime Minister knows the names of some donors.
– I do not know one.
– Then may I suggest that it would be desirable to advise those who organized the presentation that they should make public the names of the donors.
I wish to say a word upon the constitutional aspect of the matter. That cannot be determined in this House. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) has addressed to the House a very clear and logical argument, and any one who reads paragraph iii. of section 45 of the Constitution must come to the conclusion that, no matter from What sources a fee or honorarium for services rendered to the Commonwealth comes - and by the Commonwealth the people of Australia are meant–
– The honorable member knows that that is not so.
– I do not. On the contrary, I am saying that the honorable member for Batman has addressed to the House what appears to me a very clear and logical argument on the matter.
– Do you mean that the Commonwealth and the people of Australia mean the same?
– I do not say that .
– If that were so, no member could take a brief from anybody.
– I understand the distinction which the right honorable member has drawn between the Commonwealth as a. constitutional entity and the people of Australia, but he has placed upon section 45 a construction different from that given to it by the honorable member for Batman. I invite the consideration of the Prime Minister as Attorney-General to the meaning of the words “services rendered in the Parliament to any person or State.” The section does not refer to a fee or honorarium received from any person or State.If any person in Parliament renders a service to some person or State, it matters not from what source the fee or honorarium comes; it need not come from the person or State receiving such service to bring it within the ban of paragraph iii. of section 45.
– Suppose the honorable member were differently situated, and a widow decided to leave him £50,000 because he had done well for his country?
– Why does the Prime Minister suggest a widow ?
– Because I assume that if she ‘ were not a widow the honorable member would have nothing to do with her.
– I do not wish to be drawn off my argument. It is quite clear that if a fee or honorarium is received from any source for services rendered in Parliament to any person or State, the seat of the recipient is rendered vacant. The Prime Minister said that the honorable member for Batman might test the matter by taking it to the High Court. The honorable member has taken the first step necessary to test the matter by giving the Prime Minister an opportunity of making a frank statement as to the transaction. But as a matter of fact, the statement made by the right honorable gentleman does not disclose anything other than that he has received a presentation for services rendered in his public capacity, but there is no disclosure as to the sources from which the money came. If the right honorable gentleman does not wish to give that information that is his affair, but the public can form their own opinion. As I read the Constitution, this matter cannot be tested by the High Court unless it has been referred to the Court by resolution of this House.
– I think the honorable member is wrong.
– I refer the Prime Minister to section 47 of the Constitution, which reads -
Until the Parliament otherwise provides, any question respecting the qualification of a senator or of a member of the ‘ House of Representatives, or respecting a vacancy in either House of the Parliament, and any question of a disputed election to either House, shall be determined by the House in which the question arises.
Parliament has otherwise provided in the Electoral Act, section 203 of which reads -
Any question respecting the qualification of a senator or of a member of the House of Representatives, or respecting a vacancy in either House of the Parliament, may be referred by resolution to the Court of Disputed Returns, by the House in which the question arises, and the Court of Disputed Returns shall thereupon have jurisdiction to hear and determine the question.
Under section 47 of the Constitution the power of decision rests, in the first place, with the House in which the question arose, but legislation has been placed on the statute-book which enables the House to refer the matter to the Court of Disputed Returns, which is the High Court: Would the Prime Minister be agreeable to have such, a ‘reference made upon this matter, the constitutional aspect of which, he will admit, is not quite clear? The Constitution of the Commonwealth is different from the Constitutions of the different States. In the Federal instrument, we have a specific prohibition against certain things, and, in my opinion, it is desirable that a question should be referred to the High Court without prejudging the actual matter under discussion. _
Debate interrupted under standing order 119.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
Debate resumed from 21st April (vide page 7663), on motion by Mr. Hughes -
That the paper - League of Nations - Mandate for German Possessions in the Pacific Ocean situated south of the Equator, other than German Samoa and Nauru - be printed.
Upon which Mr. Ryan had moved -
That after the word “printed” the following words be added: - “but, in the opinion of this House, the representative of Australia at the forthcoming Imperial Conference shall not be empowered to commit Australia to any agreement or understanding except on the condition that the same shall be subject to the approval and ratification of the people of Australia.”
.- The debate on this most important matter has been pursuing a somewhat haphazard and interrupted course. I regret that very much, not so much on my own account, but because of the very great importance of the issues that will be discussed at the Imperial Conference, and more particularly as they may affect Australia. I do not know, in all my experience or reading, of a position fraught with greater possibilities, either for good or for evil to Australia, than that which will confront the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) upon his taking part in the Conference in London. In the circumstances, therefore, as much time as was possible should have been devoted to this discussion, so that the Prime
Minister might have been armed with a general expression of opinion from all sides of the House, which would have been of undoubted use to him. Interesting speeches have been made in the course of the debate. Some have been helpful, while others have been of somewhat doubtful value. I confess to a feeling of surprise - I might almost say of amazement - at certain of the observations uttered. I listened to the forceful speech of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey), but I regret that that gentleman, in discussing the relationships of the various parts of the Empire, and particularly the relationship of the Mother Country with Australia, indicated that he saw very little in it to admire. His ideas with regard to the conditions under which Great Britain has exercised an interest in Australian affairs were very deplorable. According to him all the interest taken by England in Australia was due to the most ignoble motives. I am certain that his anticipations concerning possible developments in connexion with the “proposed renewal of the Anglo-Japanese Treaty are very far fetched. The honorable member, for Bourke waxed eloquent in his protest against the probability - as he put it - of Australian soldiers having to fight shoulder to shoulder with the Japanese against a people of our own kith and kin. I am unable to see that probability at all; I do not think it was Worth while discussing. The Imperial authorities have very carefully safeguarded the Empire against -any such possibility.” It is unthinkable, so far as Australia herself is concerned, and I can conceive of no Imperial Government attempting to coerce us into taking part in a conflict which we would abhor.
Another honorable member gave utterance to a most regrettable statement when he insinuated that there were English statesmen ready to betray our White Australia policy. I do not think there is even the faintest suggestion of such a possibility to be found in the sayings or doings of English statesmen from the first day when the policy of White Australia was enunciated here.
– I think there are many of them who are careless of its maintenance.
– I do not think even that remark is justified, because the honorable member will look in vain through the records of the actions and utterances of British statesmen for any hint of an objection to the policy which Australia; has adopted.
– A number of Australians, while on the other side of the world, have conducted a very serious propaganda in Great Britain.
– No doubt an alarmist propaganda has been at work in Australia, too. It has’ not been enitrely friendly to the Commonwealth in its origin, but has sought to work up some trouble between ourselves and the Motherland. However, there is no indication of any weakening on the part of British statesmen in connexion with the policy of a White Australia. And it has not been an altogether agreeable policy .;n some respects. It has meant a certain amount qf difficulty in connexion with the relationships of other portions of the” Empire. Yet, in spite of that British statesmen have been uniformly loyal to the great Australian conception. I enter my protest, therefore, against any suggestion to the contra’ry. It has not been justified up to the present ; and the Prime Minister, when, he meets Imperial statesmen in London, will find that they are prepared, as they have ever been, to maintain to the utmost of their powers the policy on which Australia has set her heart as vital to our existence.
There is another phase of the White Australia question to which I desire to refer. That is the suggestion that this policy has been challenged by Japan. I do not wish to pose as an apologist for Japan in this connexion. j.apan is a country which might, in certain circumstances, develop a line of action somewhat hostile to Australia; but, up to the present, we have no right to harbor any thought of the kind so far as that country is concerned. J apan has been thoroughly loyal to her alliance with Great Britain; and, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) remarked, the White Australia policy has remained intact from its inception, so far as concerns any effort to disrupt it by Japan. There is no indication that J apan has registered any serious objection to this policy. Nor could Japan consistently do so, seeing that it is a matter of life and death to that country to keep herself free from the swarming -hordes of China which, if allowed to enter without hindrance, would overwhelm the Japanese. Japan cannot keep Chinese coolies out of Japan and then with consistency turn round and demand free access for her people into Australia. But’ it may be suggested that we have only to look to recent history in the United States of America to realize the possibilities of trouble for ourselves. I sympathize with the people of California in the difficulty in which they are placed’ with respect to their Japanese fellow-residents; and I realize that, in their interests, something must be done to put an end to a state of affairs which provides for them a second colour problem on top of the one which they have been enduring for so many years. But the Japanese difficulty in the United States of America is almost entirely the making of the people of that country themselves. Under an arrangement agreed upon when Mr. Taft was President, Japanese have been freely admitted. They entered in fair numbers, ;and, on the Pacific coast particularly, they were actually welcomed.
– That is, as labourers.
– Quite so; Americans who are settled along the Pacific Coast are largely .engaged in fruit and vegetable growing for canning and curing for the markets - of the world. They needed labour, and the immigration of Japanese solved that problem for them to a large extent. So they welcomed the Japanese, gave them employment as freely as they came into the country, and were able to pay them good wages. But the Japanese, being progressive, and thrifty, did not all remain content to- be wageearners. ‘ They saved, and they looked around to do something better for themselves. Land was difficult to obtain, and the best of it had been taken up long previously, but there were certain possibilities in connexion with areas that the Americans had left severely alone, regarding them as worthless tracts which appeared to be utterly unfit for agricultural purposes. For these lands the Japanese made offers, and I have no doubt that the Americans who sold the apparently worthless land to them chuckled as they did so, thinking that they were taking the Japanese down. But the purchasers happened to know what they were doing, and in a very short time they turned these areas into highly profitable fruit and vegetable farms, with the result that at the present moment they are competing formidably with the’ native Americans. It is just at this moment that the Americans have realized the danger of Japanese immigration. These immigrants were all right when they came into the country as coolies, but the position altered considerably when it was realized that the former coolies were now amassing wealth and securing a considerable amount of the trade which the Americans had previously monopolized for themselves. . Japan is taking up an attitude in regard to these immigrants for which no country could blame her. She is merely asking that those who were not only admitted to the United States, but also welcomed there, shall not be treated differently from other immigrants entering the United States under the same conditions. Any nation with a regard for its honour could do nothing less for that portion of its people which find themselves threatened with the imposition of serious disabilities after having been tolerated and encouraged for a considerable time, and I have no doubt that some way out of the difficulty will be found’. To my mind, Japan is not to blame for the course she is taking in this connexion. (As long as we are prepared to look the situation fairly and squarely in the face, we need have no difficulty with Japan. I do not think there is the slightest inclination on her part . to send her people into Australia in any considerable numbers, because she has better methods of utilizing her surplus population near at hand. In fact, it will be bad policy for her, as well as for any other country,- to dissipate her people over a widely scattered portion of the earth. As Japan is over-populated, she must have expansion. A prolific and progressive country is entitled to that so long as there are any waste spaces of the earth available. The large areas of land in Manchuria and Siberia which can be made available for her surplus papulation will suit Japanese expansion far better than Australia. Japan is somewhat late in seeking room for expansion and the areas available for her are undoubtedly limited; but she has done nothing more than copy the methods adopted, not only by Great Britain, but also by all other countries, when the necessities of a super-abundant popula-. tion compelled them to take action. If Japan is given reasonable scope . in the parts of Eastern Asia to which I have referred, there need be no fear whatever about her bothering us with claims that portion of our territory should be allotted to her, or that her people should be allowed to enter Australia in any considerable numbers, to the detriment of our own settled policy and ideals.
– The honorable member makes reference to “ considerable numbers.” Would he permit some Japanese to enter Australia?
– No. We need not open the door in the slightest degree. There must be no truckling with our policy in that regard, and, therefore, at the London Conference we must have a clear and definite declaration that there is only one course open to Australia consistent with its safety, and that is that our shores shall be maintained inviolate against any of those races whose ideals and methods of progress are alien to our own.
– Does the honorable member also include the mandatory territories t_
– -That is a question I would like to discuss; but time will not permit mo to do so. However, if we assume responsibilities in connexion with those mandated countries they must have some relation to our general policy. Therefore, it would be unwise to have any relaxation of the White Australia principle, or at least of the native population principle in favour of Japan or any other country not included in the mandatory powers we have acquired over these islands.
There is one thing I will say now that probably runs counter to the ideas of honorable members and many people outside. We are somewhat ‘ proud of the newly-obtained ideal of “ Australia as a Nation.” I am not sure that we as yet realize all the responsibilities connected with that expression, and there is one responsibility in particular which has not been mentioned in the House, but which should not be lost sight of: that is that the very fact that Australia has claimed, and has obtained, nationhood in the brotherhood of the Empire has to a large extent prevented the. United States from accepting the Covenant of the League of Nations.
– I do not know how far the honorable member intends to take the word “ claimed.” If he means that we wrested this from Great Britain I repudiate his statement at once.
– No. I was referring to our being a nation within the brotherhood of the British Empire. I cannot conceive of Australia desiring to be a nation under any other condition. But what I maintain is that our new nationhood has militated very seriously up to the present against the possibility of the United States of America coming into the League of Nations. “Great Britain has under that scheme of nationhood for the younger offshoots of the Empire obtained, so the people of the United States say, an undue preponderance of votes on the Council of the League of Nations.
– There was an easy answer to that over there, and that was that America practically controls nearly all the votes on the American continent.
– But she has not that close and friendly association with the nations of South America that our Mother Country has with the rest of the Empire. At any rate, it is an undoubted fact that the strength of the British Empire in the Council of the League of Nations is one of the reasons, if, indeed, it is not the principal reason, for the United States remaining outside the League at the present time when we are all anxious that that country should become a member of it.
– The honorable member will not get any responsible American statesman to make that statement.
– I am interpreting what I take to be the general consensus of American opinion as expressed in some of the best magazines, and by some of the most representative publicists of that country. Statesmen as’ we know, with the exception, perhaps, of our own Prime Minister, are given to thinking a great deal and saying very little; but I feel sure that those who have expressed the objection I have mentioned to the present constitution of the League of Nations on behalf of America are saying what is felt very strongly throughout the’ whole of that great country. If the difficulty could be overcome in some way or other, say, by allowing the Empire in all larger matters to be represented on the Council of the League of Nations by no more than a number of votes corresponding to the representation of the United States of America, something very useful would be achieved, and the road would be made smooth for the introduction of America into the League.
We are very proud also of our Australian Navy. We have heard a great deal of talk as to the necessity for maintaining it, and in some quarters it has been urged that it should ‘be considerably enlarged. It was brought into existence because of the German menace. That menace has now disappeared, yet still we insist upon the maintenance of an Australian Navy. Why ? Let us be quite frank. Because of the possibility of danger coming to us from Japan. If there is danger in that direction, does any honorable member in the House imagine that the mere handful we could put on the seas in the shape of an Australian Navy would be of the slightest use? Would it not be absolute murder for the Government to send Australian seamen on our few ships to compete with the might of J apan ? Under any circumstances whatever, could we hope to create a Navy that would be anything more than a mouthful to Japan, if the worst came to the worst?
– What about submarines around the coast?
– That is another matter; but when we come to talk about the development of the Navy in the ordinary sense of the word, I say, without hesitation, that we could spend the money to far greater advantage than by putting £6,000,000 to £10,000,000 into a capital ship which, assuming we are in danger from Japan, would add practically nothing to our security. Seeing that the existing Australian Navy is now practically so much scrap iron, that it is already obsolete, and that there is no danger to be apprehended from any quarter, I think that, for the time being, we might very well call a respite from the building and equipment of any war ships, and put the money to purposes that will give better results in connexion with the maintenance of our White Australia, and the development of the Commonwealth as a nation within the Empire.
These observations apply also to the army. The gilt-edged military gentlemen who have put forward bloated estimates in connexion with the establishment and development of an army should tell us for what purpose such an army is required. The most we can do in that direction is to waste money in a futile fashion.
– But would the honorable member stop the development of armaments here on the strength of a treaty with a nation which kept on piling up its own armaments?
– We might very well follow the example of the Mother Country and, for the time being, call a halt in connexion with our armaments. No danger threatens Australia at the present time.
– We are following the Mother Country now.
– We have here some 300,000 trained men who would give a very good account of themselves if we came to blows on land, while, so far as blows on sea are concerned, I do not think there is the slightest danger before us.
– Does not the honorable member know that the Imperial Government has increased its Army since the Armistice?
– It was compelled, under certain circumstances of a temporary character, to maintain an Army in excess of that of the pre-war period. But the Mother Country has, to a very large extent, scrapped her Navy. She is building no more war-ships and, in view of the unsettled state of expert opinion as to what constitutes the most effective methods of war at sea–
– But did not the honorable member see in the press the other day a statement to the effect that the British Government had got a vote of £4,500,000 on account of a new programme of four modern battleships?
– I did. I do not say that she is not looking carefully at the position, and making some preparation, but £4,500,000 would not build a single battleship.
-Quite so, but it provides for a beginning, and the vote of £4,500,000 secures parliamentary approval of the scheme to build four modern battleships.
– May I suggest to the Treasurer the lines upon which Australia can proceed in order to make our resistance to trouble the more effective when trouble is likely to come upon us? The money that is being spent just now on naval and military developments, to a large extent, is being entirely misapplied. Take, for instance, the fact mentioned in this House, that we have not a Naval Base that will accommodate one of the larger ships of war. We have had reports from experts regarding the absolute necessity of having, at least, one Naval Base to meet the requirements of the Imperial Navy. Fremantle has been pointed to as being the important Naval Base, but, for many years, the Government have simply frittered away money there in doing practically nothing. Our very first step in naval development should have been to create at least one Naval Base for the refitting and repairing of such Imperial ships of war as might have to operate in this part of the world.
Then, again, there is the creation of a uniform gauge of railway. There is nothing more urgent in connexion with the defence of Australia. Some of the money being wasted on our present warlike preparations could, with advantage,, be used in a development of . that kind. Lastly, and by no means least of all, we need, as has also been said in this House, to fill up our waste spaces as fast as we can with people of our own kith and kin. A great deal of time has been wasted in that direction. The present opportunity is a good one to secure population, and this or any other Government worthy of the name, should devote almost every ounce of ‘its energy and every penny we have to spare to the settlement of these large » areas which are crying out for population, without which our control of Australia must always remain open to challenge.
The Prime Minister is going home on a very delicate and difficult task. I should like to suggest to him a course that he ought to adopt; but I am afraid I shall be suggesting something which is rather impracticable. The right honorable gentleman’s policy is always to take a strenuous and leading part in the councils of the Empire. I would suggest that the policy of Australia at the present time is. not to take a strenuous and leading part, except in so far as is necessary to safeguard our interests, but rather to keep somewhat in the background until the international situation clears up. At present, it is both difficult and uncertain. Our safest course, I think, would undoubtedly be to stand by until the situation is relieved as between these two countries - the United States of America and Japan - where we see trouble brewing just. now. There is nothing to be gained by haste, and the only fear I have regarding the Prime Minister’s errand to London is that, with ‘his usual temperamental peculiarities, he may say, and do, more than is entirely safe in the circumstances. I would suggest, therefore, that, if possible, he should adopt a policy of caution and reticence as the one best suited to the circumstances of Australia at this juncture.
I come now to what is to me a most important, though to some of my listeners a somewhat intrusive ‘subject. In the invitation given by the Prime Minister of
Great Britain to the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, it was stated that, in addition to the matters specifically mentioned as to be dealt with at the Imperial Conference, there were many other subjects which might call for consultation and decision. There is -one matter of predominant importance just now to the. Empire; there is one great trouble right at its heart. I refer to the Irish difficulty, and do so with a certain amount of hesitation, because I know how readily in Australia one is liable to be misunderstood and misrepresented in discussing Irish affairs. But there can be no doubt whatever of the seriousness of the Irish problem to the whole Empire. It is no longer a matter as between England and Ireland. It affects vitally our relations with the United States of America. In the main, this country is friendly to the Empire. But the trouble in Ireland is carried over into the United States of America, where several million Irish votes play no small part in determining the attitude towards Great Britain. Observers have expressed the opinion that, until the Irish question is satisfactorily settled, the friendship of
Great Britain and the United States’ of America cannot be as close as it could and should be. I have before me the Contemporary Review for March, in which there appears an instructive article entitled, “ A Plea for Conciliation,” by an English publicist. The writer says that, when travelling recently through the United States of America, he found that there was only one opinion regarding the Irish question, and that was, “ Get it settled for Heaven’s sake, and then we can come together in the permanent bonds of friendship.” We, in Australia, in common with the rest of the Empire, are waiting anxiously and eagerly for such a coming together of the two great branches of the Anglo-Saxon race. It behoves us, therefore, to do anything and everything within our power to bring about that happy state of affairs.
I have thought anxiously and long over this particular trouble. I do not want to-day to discuss either the rights or the wrongs of. the Irish question. I desire merely to suggest what appears to me to be a method of solving the problem, and I put it to the Prime Minister as something which I hope will be worthy of bringing before the Conference. A little while ago I addressed a letter on the subject to the editor of the London Times. . I do not know whether it is in print. Sufficient time has barely elapsed to allow of its publication, but in that letter I embodied my suggestion, and as I put it in as condensed a form as possible, and as well as I could, I shall take the liberty of reading it in the hope that the view therein expressed will commend itself to the Prime Minister, to members of the House, and also to the press and public of Australia. In the hope that it may help to resolve a long-standing and difficult problem, I now read the letter - 17th January, 1921.
The “Irish” Problem.
To the Editor of the “Times.”
Although the awful state of affairs in Ireland is of the gravest concern to the whole Empire, it might hastily be said that any one daring to offer a suggestion towards a solution of the problem from the remote antipodes was hardly in a position to make an effective contribution to it. But the distant observer has usually the advantage of obtaining the more comprehensive view and the truer perspective. He will not perceive the smaller details, and yet, by reason of this, be all the better able to realize the situation. There is such a thingas being unable to see the forest for trees, and this to the writer’s mind is precisely the position of those who are right in the thick of the
Irish tangle. The two countries immediately concerned - England and Ireland - have striven for many years to arrange their difficulties. Every effort has failed, the patience and forbearance of both parties are utterly at an end, and a position has been reached which menaces, not only the peace, but the very existence of the Empire. Surely, when face to face with such a state of affairs, the British people throughout the world have a right to some say about it. More than that, I’ feel strongly, as one with a considerable political experience who has given some study to this question, that the Empire should not only be consulted regarding it, but that in this way the solution of the hitherto insoluble Irish problem can be reached. If ever England and Ireland were in the frame of mind to arrive at a mutually satisfactory understanding, they are certainly not so to-day. Then why not call a family conference, which, while thus emphasizing and maintaining the relationship of its members, would be specially competent to establish peace in the common interest between the two antagonistic brothers.
Reduced to definite shape, my proposal is that an Empire Commission should be appointed to go into the whole Irish question with a view to its settlement on a just and sound basis. The Commission should be composed of equal numbers of representatives chosen by the Parliaments of the selfgoverning Dominions of Canada, Africa, New Zealand, and Australia. The three senior members of the family - England, Scotland, and Ireland - would also, of course, be represented on the Commission. The importance of the undertaking should insure a careful selection of the most suitable men. They would conduct their investigations with the great, and, indeed, unique advantageof the good-will and confidence of the two parties immediately concerned, and their findings and recommendationswould have a weight and value farbeyond any of the efforts yet made to bring to those Isles of Britain - which we of the outer circle of the Empire still call “Home” - the peace and the unity which should be associated with that sacred word.
I am, Sir,
– I desire to address myself to the amendment moved by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan). The amendment raises a question that must involve a division in the House, if the honorable member calls for one; and so it is essential, as it seems to me, that I should set out the views of the Government in regard to the position put forward by the honorable and learned gentleman. In the course of his speech, the honorable gentleman stated that Australia ought to be committed to the
Anglo- Japanese Treaty; nor ought I to he given any authority to express the approval or disapproval of Australia in regard to it., unless and until it has been submitted to the people. As I understand the honorable member - and I have tried to do so, although it was my misfortune not to hear him - he meant a submission direct to the people by way of referendum, taken either at an election, or at some other time. But the amendment of the honorable member is not limited to the Treaty, but extends to all matters of foreign policy - to naval and military defence and, in short, to all matters that may be discussed by the Imperial Cabinet, whether involving expenditure, or of interest to the people of Australia. I leave on one side, for the moment, all matters excepting the Anglo- Japanese Treaty, ‘ because, as I understood, the honorable gentleman chiefly directed his remarks to the Treaty. But before dealing with the honorable member’s amendment I wish to congratulate the House, and honorable members who have spoken, on the tone of the debate. There may be one or two exceptions - I have not heard them - but in the main honorable members have done their country infinite service by refraining from reflecting on foreign nations in a way calculated to make the task of those who are to represent the British Empire still more difficult than it is. I think that the reputation of Australia, and of this, its national Legislature, is enhanced by this debate. It has shown that we are capable of dealing with great questions in a great way. These encomiums, which I pass without reservation on my fellowmembers, are not to be interpreted as meaning that I am necessarily in agreement with all that has been said. but of approval of the manner in which they have expressed their opinions. But there has been disclosed, during the debate, amazing misconceptions of the relations that actually exist between this Dominion and Great Britain. And statements have been made with which I entirely disagree - statements disparaging the Empire. The reflections made upon the Empire last night by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) were most unfortunate and unjust. He implied that the Empire’s guiding principle is selfaggrandizement - that the Empire, and particu larly Great Britain, is actuated by the most sordid motives. I do not contend for one moment that our race is guiltless of those errors which others have committed. We are not, any more than other men, flawless, but at this time, when the Empire is surrounded by enemies, secret and open, it comes with very bad grace from an honorable member of this Commonwealth Parliament, which speaks for Australia, which is and desires to continue as an integral part of, the British’ Empire, that almost every nation on earth should be lauded and the Empire held up to ridicule and contempt. I for one will always couch a lance for the Empire in which I believe. It is most unfortunate, in my opinion, that the British Commonwealth is known to foreign nations as an Empire. It is the most democratic form of government the world has ever known. I ask my fellow-members to point cut in the history of any nation throughout the ages its parallel. Where is there, or has there ever been such a community of free nations enjoying to the full such rights of self-government? Where has Democracy such triumphs as amongst those nations which compose the family of the British people? I will not tamely submit to listen to diatribes about “ Imperialism,” as if this Empire of ours, which I prefer to call the British Commonwealth, were an Empire such as Germany, Russia, or Ancient Rome. The word “ Empire” does not fit our circumstances. ‘ We are a federation of free peoples, and history may be ransacked in vain to find a parallel to the constitution under which we live, the liberties we all enjoy, and the ideals that animate us.
Let me now turn to the amendment of the honorable member for West Sydney. The honorable member for Bourke, in supporting the amendment, said that the amendment did not bind us to a referendum. But the honorable member for West Sydney, who ought to know what it means, says that it does. He said that one of two things must happen: - either Great Britain could make this Treaty without consulting us, or we would be bound by the Treaty whether we liked it or not. From that he went on to paint a picture in which he represented the Anglo-Japanese alliance as a net in which we were enmeshed, and which would presently, in company with the Japanese, entangle us in a war against our cousins in America. It is the habit of the honorable member to be carried away by his own eloquence, which all honorable members admire, and no one more than I; but if the honorable gentleman had listened carefully to what I said in my opening remarks he would know that I had expressly declared that one of the chief difficulties in. the problem now confronting us lay in drafting a Treaty satisfactory to Britain, Japan, and ourselves which would not involve us or Britain in a struggle with the people of the United States of America. For I said that, as I saw it, the peace of the world for which all men prayed depended upon an understanding of some sort between America and what is known as the British Empire. So I put aside that horrific panorama of words conjured up by the honorable member and refer him to the plain facts of the case and to what I. said. And I lay it down as an axiom that we must not be embroiled in war with America. I said that it might be difficult to arrive at such an understanding as I indicated; some people might think it impossible, but we ought not to be deterred by mere difficulties. As to impossibility, no one ought to say that a thing essential to our welfare and the peace of the world was impossible until at least every avenue had been explored and every means exhausted to achieve it. That brings me to the point I particularly wish to emphasize. The honorable member has said to me, “ We will not give you the right to speak for Australia,” and it is obvious that I cannot speak for Australia if what is to be done is to have no effect unless, and until, it is submitted to al referendum, of the people. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) speaks quite lightly of a referendum. Perhaps, if he had had as much experience of referenda as I have had he would not so lightly turn from the beaten path of parliamentary government, especially on a matter of such vital importance as the Anglo-Japanese Treaty. The honorable member does riot understand the position. He seems to think, and certainly the honorable member for Bourke said, that if Great Britain renewed the Treaty and went to war with America, which is unthinkable, and the possibility of which exists only in the imagination of those two honorable gentlemen, Australia would be involved. Do honorable members really believe that? Let us look at the question fairly. I said last night, when the honorable member for Bourke was speaking, that we are not bound by any Treaty which we ourselves do not. ratify. I speak not at all of the practical consequence to us of any act of Britain, but of the effect of the Treaty itself. The practical consequences of Britain going to war with America, or any other nation, whether Japan was or was not our ally, would have to be faced by us. But one thing is certain, that whether we ratified the Treaty or not our position while we remained an integral part of the Empire would for all practical purposes be the same. The paper which is the subject of the motion we are discussing sets out the text of the various treaties existing between Britain and Japan. So far as I know this Parliament has not assented to any one of them, and, technically, is ho more bound by them than if they did not exist. Therefore, when the honorable member for West Sydney says that he would ask the people, “Are you in favour of that Treaty or not?” he is proposing to ask them to give a verdict upon an issue which is not before them. Let me speak plainly. I say, unhesitatingly, that if this Treaty -were renewed in its present form - it cannot be, and I will tell the House why - it would npt bind this country to go to war with America or Germany or any other country. Our liability in regard to wars in which Britain is involved arises not out of any treaties, but out of our .relation to Britain and to the Empire generally. When Britain goes to war, then, ipso facto, we are at war also. Whether we elect to send troops out of Australia is another matter. But that we should be at war with Britain’s enemy is certain. The best proof of that is what happened when. Britain went to war with Germany. We were never compelled to send troops to assist Britain. We did that of our own free will. But we were at war, not because of a treaty, but because the British Empire is to a foreign nation an indivisible entity. - I come now to another point.
During the progress of this debate some honorable members have spoken of the ever-widening powers of the Dominions, and have censured the Government and me, as their representative, for seeking those wider powers of self-government which I, as an Australian, not by birth, but by residence of nearly forty years, thought the people of the Commonwealth desired. Do they not .realize that at this moment there resides in the British Parliament power to make laws for this country? This morning, the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) and I quoted from the Constitution. What is that Constitution? It is a British Statute, and technically - the practicalities are not affected in any way - Britain can repeal that Act to-morrow, and, legally, as the honorable member for West Sydney knows perfectly well, it would be binding upon us. But is there one man, no matter how perfervid a worshipper of England as against Australia he might be, who would bow the knee to a British Statute which took away our rights of self-government, or of any British Statute, unless it were passed by the expressed wish of the people of this country? Does any one believe for a moment that Britain would pass such a Statute or do anything to impair in the slightest degree the right of this country to govern itself in its own way ? If all these facts are unassailable, and no one will deny that they are, what are we to think of honorable members suggesting that we should submit to a vote of the people of Australia a Treaty to which this country’s assent is not necessary, and will not be called for- a Treaty which can’ be made over our heads, no matter what form it takes? This Treaty is one between Britain and Japan. The Peace Treaty was in a different category, hecause the representative of Australia was invited to append his signature to it. But so far as the Anglo-Japanese Treaty is concerned it is a treaty between Britain and Japan. Does any one deny that, if Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa were not represented at the Imperial Conference, Britain must either renew the Treaty or allow it” to lapse? The position is very clear: the Treaty, if renewed, will be between Britain and Japan, but because the Treaty affects or may affect the whole Empire, the British G overnment has invited the Prime Ministers of the Dominions, who are members of the Imperial Cabinet, to come to London to discuss this and other matters, so that the views of the whole Empire may be heard and considered, and not merely that of Great Britain alone. I think I am entitled, in view of what has been said, to quote a few paragraphs from the cablegram I sent to the British Prime Minister, and to which his cablegram was a reply. When the question of the renewal of the Anglo-Japanese Treaty was mooted, the Government cabled to the Imperial Government that we hoped that this matter would -not be considered without ample opportunity being afforded for the wishes of Australia to be ascertained. Time went on, and as the period was short, it was decided by Great Britain, as a via media, to renew the Treaty for twelve months. After I had been advised that in all probability the Constitutional Conference could not be held this year, and as no arrangement had been made which would enable Australia to state her views upon the Anglo-Japanese Treaty, which affects her so vitally, I telegraphed, in October of last year, to the British Prime Minister, as follows : -
In my opinion, it is absolutely essential that the Dominion Prime Ministers should meet in London next year. We ought not to, in fact, we dare not, allow ourselves to drift along. The necessity for a clear understanding or- policy, call it what you will, on certain matters vitally affecting the Empire is urgent and obvious. I know, of course, that the difficulties in the way of a common foreign policy are most formidable. Empire problems are many and complex; they clamour for settlement, and I feel quite sure that as time goes on a solution will be less easy.’ I most earnestly recommend that you call a meeting of Dominion Prime Ministers next year in London - say, ‘ about June. _ Delay for another year is most dangerous.”
It had been originally understood that the proposed Constitutional Conference was to be held this year. But the other Dominion Prime Ministers intimated that they could not attend, and it was postponed. It was then suggested by Mr. Lloyd George that a meeting of the Imperial Cabinet - that is, of Prime Ministers^ - should be held in Ottawa about the end of last year. That also was found to be impossible. The Anglo- J apanese Treaty affected us vitally. Other matters of foreign policy hardly less so, and there was the question of naval defence about which some decision - whether based on Lord Jellicoe’s report or not - could not be postponed.- As I pointed out when speaking originally upon this motion, the Anglo-Japanese Treaty affected us very much more than it did any other of the Dominions ; and I thought Australia’s views should be heard. The Prime Minister of Great Britain (Mr. Lloyd George) agreed that they should; and he agreed, too, that it was essential that we should endeavour to come to some common understanding in regard to matters of foreign policy, including defence. In the ordinary course, these matters would have been discussed along with the consideration of constitutional changes, if any. As I have already said, I am opposed to constitutional changes. The question of the renewal of the Treaty, however, is, as I see it, a matter upon which our voice ought to be heard, and without delay; and we have been invited to express our opinions. But, if we . did not express our view, if we sent no one to the Conference, or if we expressed our opinion only here, the British Government would have to take its own course, and either renew ‘or refuse to renew the Treaty. If it refused to renew it, in any shape or form, is there any honorable member who would be prepared to take responsibility for seeking to compel or induce the British Government to do so ? I would not be. I fully realize the dangers of Charybdis, but I see also those of Scylla. The hope for the peace of the world lies in an alliance, or understanding of some sort, with the United States of America, and I would as soon think of jumping from the Tarpeian rock as of agreeing to anything that did not clearly set out our position in regard to the United States of America. This, then, is the position. It is essential that we should know where we stand on all these matters. It is essential that the Anglo-Japanese Treaty should be renewed, and should be renewed in a form that will not give offence to America. But I want to say that there is nothing to submit to the people of this country as regards the Japanese Treaty. Long before the Australian public could approve or disapprove, the Treaty will be renewed or else allowed to lapse. If our people do not approve, that will not alter matters by one- thousandth part of an inch. I say so
Mr. Hughes. for this reason : I am not the mouthpiece of Britain upon the subject, but I feel sure that I do speak for what the majority of Britons think. There is no possibility of Britain ever going to war with America. The British people will not have it; and there is an end to it. If honorable members knew how far Britain went out of her path in the course of the Peace Conference to avoid giving umbrage to America, and how much Britain sought to do that which was pleasing to America, they would realize that the last thing that any British Government would think of would be to become embroiled in a war with the only nation in the world which, with our own, can hope to maintain the world’s peace.
The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) has said that we must submit this matter to the people. On my return from Britain, if the Treaty as drawn up and agreed to is not satisfactory, this Parliament can say, “We will have none of it “ and we can renounce it. But the practical consequences will remain, and Australia will have to face them. Let me remind honorable members, that since 1902 the AngloJapanese Treaty has been in existence, and this Parliament has never made the slightest effort to express an opinion concerning it. There has not been the hint of a desire on the part of this country that Australia should not be a party to the Anglo-Japanese Treaty. And, if war were to be precipitated to-morrow - as war broke out on 4th August, 1914: - with Britain as a party, what would Australia do ? We are told by some honorable members that it is now the settled policy of their party that Australians shall not fight outside of Australia. Those honorable members are. most amusing. They say that there is a danger arising from the AngloJapanese Treaty, that Australians may be compelled to fight outside of Australia - to fight against America. Australia need not fight against anybody by virtue of the Anglo-Japanese Treaty, because. Australia need not approve it. But, under the Covenant of the League of Nations, which this Parliament has solemnly ratified, Australia will be compelled, if and when the League so decides, to send her quota of Naval and Military Forces against any nation in the world. These loud-mouthed gentlemen who eulogize the League - the Covenant of which they swallowed because they believed it emanated from some source other than Great Britain - now say that there is a danger in the renewal of the Anglo-Japanese Treaty, under which Australia has existed for more than eighteen years and has ignored it. The honorable member, for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) said we shall never fight side by side with Asiatics. Britain has never sought, and never will seek, to compel us to fight at all. She has never done so. What we have done has been done of our own free will. But the honorable member’s memory is most convenient. What are the facts relating to the war ? Our first Australian Division would never have left these shores had they not been under the protection of a Japanese Fleet. They were kept in Australia until that Fleet could arrive in our waters in sufficient strength to escort our Forces in safety. And not only that: The . Emden would not have been sunk but for the Japanese Fleet. I recall that in those days some honorable members suggested in. this House that we should hire Russians to fight for us, because it .would be cheaper and safer ! As a matter of fact, during the war we fought side by side with Asiatics - those of us who did fight; we fought side by side with Indians, and with Japanese, and against a white race, and a Christian race at that; people whom my friend the honorable member for Bourke was lauding last night, namely, the Germans.
– I rise to a point of order. The Prime Minister has deliberately misrepresented me ; and I ask for the withdrawal of his objectionable statements.
– Order ! The honorable member has not stated a point of order. If he desires to make a personal explanation, he will have an opportunity to do so.
– The honorable member for Bourke said we would never fight by the side df Asiatics, that Australia could not be compelled to fight with Japan, even against “Asiatics. Is not the honorable member known to be, together with the honorable member for Barrier (Mr.’ Considine), one whose ideal leaders in the world to-day are Lenin and Trotsky? And by what means do these men whom my friends almost deify maintain and uphold the dictatorship of the so-called Russian proletariat? By Chinese, by Chinese troops, bandits, cutthroats. And yet in the face of these facts the honorable member says he will not fight by the side of Asiatics. The honorable member has a good word for every country but his own.
Our interest lies in the security and maintenance of the world’s peace. I shall go from here to endeavour to carry out what I believe to be the wish of every Australian, namely, to assist in the preservation of the world’s peace. An alliance, an. understanding with America, is essential. But we cannot afford to quarrel with the Japanese, and I believe a renewal of the Anglo- Japanese Treaty is in the best interests of this Commonwealth. We have our own ideals, and we must stand by them.
When, the matters discussed at the Imperial Conference that affect Australia are decided, and before one penny of expenditure shall have been incurred or pledged, everything will be brought to this Parliament. And, if this Parliament in its wisdom rejects the Anglo-Japanese Treaty, then let it do so. But I must be free to speak what I believe to be the opinion of the people of Australia on the matter. That I shall do. The Treaty will be in force. After that, honorable members, if they wish to speak on behalf of Australia, and to withdraw themselves and Australia from the Treaty, can do so. It will make no difference. The practicalities of the situation, must be faced.
The Government cannot accept the amendment of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan). The Government give an assurance that all matters involving the expenditure of public moneys, and affecting the interests of this country, such as the questions of naval and military defence, and any schemes for the adjustment of foreign policy, together with the terms of the AngloJapanese alliance - if it should be renewed - will be brought before this Parliament. I am not going to the Conference saying that I do not know what are the opinions of this Parliament, for I do know. This Parliament has told me; the country has told me. I know, and I propose to try to enshrine those opinions and beliefs in the Treaty.
– Mr. Speaker–
– Order ! The time allotted to the debate has expired.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be so added (Mr. Ryan’s amendment) - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 18
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 21
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I respectfully draw your attention, sir, to the fact that, in speaking to the motion which has just been disposed of, I tried to discuss the arguments of my opponents, and not to impugn their motives. I appeal to you and honorable members generally to say whether that has not always been my policy. I have not the slightest doubt that from time to time I shall be lied about unconsciously, but I strongly object to being lied about deliberately in your presence. I distinctly object to the utterly uncalled-for statement made about me by the Prime Minister. No utterance of mine has ever justified what he said about me, and he knows, when he makes a reflection of that sort on me, that it is not true.
– Order! The honorable member knows that he must not use that phrase.
– Then what must I say?
– The honorable member must express himself differently.
– Without my expressing it, you will understand quite well what I mean. The Prime Minister, without any utterance or action on my part to call down such abuseon my head, referred to me as one who was antiImperial and pro-German. I strongly object to that statement. My attitude on these mattersis known. It is the attitude that for a hundred years has been taken up by Englishmen whose love of their country is unquestionable. It is the attitude takenup by Sir Phillip Gibbs and others. When I speak of England, I speak for the mass of the people who belong to England, and not for the particular class that happens to be dominant in its politics. If, after the lapse of time since the war ended, the Prime Minister feels that it is in conformity with his honour and sense of decency to still pursue assiduously such a policy of slander, I must leave him to it, but I draw your attention, and the attention of the House, to the fact that there is not, and never has been, anything in my public conduct to give any grounds whatever for such an utterance.
– I think I am entitled to ask what all this is about. What did I say? I heard every word the honorable member said last night, and if he did not impute motives to persons on this side and to certain people elsewhere, and did not attempt to hold up England to ridicule and contempt, then I do not know the meaning of words. I prefaced what I had to say by speaking in the highest possible terms of members of this House, but added that I did not agree with some of their statements. I did not agree with the statements of the honorable member, and I thought it my duty to express my opinion.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I asked the Prime Minister yesterday a question regarding the necessity for appointing additional Judges to the Arbitration Court to hear cases regarding the reduction of working hours. The right honorable gentleman, in reply, said that in some instances these cases had been hung up by the action of Mr. Justice Higgins, and pointed to the fact that Mr. Justice Powers had dealt with many cases. I have here, and want to put on record, a copy of the report of cases heard before Mr. Justice Powers, because I wish the Prime Minister, before he leaves, to know that there is trouble brewing if something is not done to rectify these things. The report I have here is that of the cases of the Federated Gas Employees Industrial Union versus the Metropolitan Gas Company and others, and also the Federated Gas Employees Industrial Union versus the Brisbane Gas Company and others. I will read sufficient to let the Prime Minister see that he is wrong. The report reads as follows : -
Mr. Crofts. The next is claim 20, hours and overtime. Your Honour has intimated that you intend to postpone the question of hours.
His Honour. - If yon want a reduction of the recognised hours I must postpone that.
Mr. Crofts. Before Your Honour definitely announced the postponement of the consideration of hours, I may say we are very anxious to have some specific statement from Your Honour as to what is likely to happen in regard to that question of hours. This organization has been endeavouring for years past to get its hours reduced. In 1918 we asked Mr. Justice Higgins for a rate of hours as to the ordinary work.
His Honour. - He did not promise you you would get it.
Mr. Crofts. No, certainly not; but we have been fighting for a reduction of hours.
His Honour. - I understand your position.
Mr. Crofts. Our men have had their hopes built up, and they have been waiting for this case. During the gas workers’ strike last year we came to a settlement with the companies. It was on the understanding that the matters not fixed up then should be dealt with by the Court; and one of the matters left with the Court was the question of hours.
Mr. Crofts. It may be that Your Honour has no power to do this. If so, Parliament or some one else should be impressed with the importance of this question. The men engaged in this industry have waited for the Court, and now find that Parliament has acted in such a way that this Court cannot deal with the matter. I am afraid that something will happen in this industry as it did in regard to the wages. Therefore, I should like, if possible, to get a definite statement as to when this union is likely to have the question of hours decided. I hope Your Honour will intimate that at an early date.
His Honour. - It will be done as soon as ever I possibly can arrange it.
Mr. Crofts. That maybe this year or next year; but have I to go back to the members of the organization and say, “ Your case for hours has been placedbefore the Court, and His Honour . Mr. Justice. Powers will deal with, it as early as he possibly can ? “ . If so, they will want to know whether the Act has been altered, and whether Mr. Justice Powers will have the right to go on with it.
His Honour. - You know, of course, I am not going to comment on Acts of Parliament; but you know, Mr. Crofts, Parliament has passed an Act which prevents my doing it, and until Parliament amends that Act I cannot do it. It has also been made public that I have made suggestions. I cannot do more:
Mr. Crofts. Boiled down, it means that this or any other organization cannot have the question of hours decided by this Court.
His Honour. - Not until Parliament sees fit to alter the law, and gives the Court power to deal with it. At present they have not a Court that can deal with it because there are not at present available a President and two deputies. All I can suggest to you at present is that the unions should try and induce Parliament if they think it is right, to try and amend the law. I cannot express an opinion as a Judge on what Parliament does. If the union consider it a breach of faith, Parliamentis the authority that must be approached.
I have quoted sufficient to show the Prime Minister that these cases are being held up to-day in consequence of the Act passed by us requiring that the question of hours shall be dealt with by three Judges. Mr. Justice Powers says that in these circumstances he cannot deal with such a matter. That is altogether different from thestatementmade by the Prime Minister as to the settlement of a number of cases. Mr. Justice Powers says that if Parliament will amend the law he will be able to deal with the question . The Prime Minister is about to leave Australia, and we do not want any industrial trouble to occur during his absence. That being so, the Government should make available the machinery necessary under the law for the settlement of questions of this character. Unless they do that we must expect trouble. I ask the Prime Minister, therefore, to attend to this matter before he leaves for England.
– The honorable member came to me only yesterday about an industrial trouble, and I settled it. Every day he has somefurther trouble to bring before me.
– It is my duty to assist the Prime Minister and every one else in preventing, as far as possible, the occurrence of industrial trouble . I am here for that purpose, amongst others, and I shall continue, to bring such matters before the. Prime Minister, whoever he may be.
– Who has provided more machinery for the settlement of these troubles than I have done?
– That is no answer to my complaint. The right honorable gentleman knows very well that as the result of a measure recently passed by us the question of the hours of employment can be dealt with only by three Justices. Many of us opposed that provision when the Bill was before the House, but he held strongly to it. If we expect industrial bodies to carry on under that law it is only reasonable that the Government should put in operation the machinery for which it provides, so that their disputes may be settled. I shall bring before the Prime Minister industrial troubles that I think he may help to settle, and whenever it is necessary to do so in the interests of the country I shall appeal to the head of the Government, no matter whom he may be.
.- I desire to enter an emphatic protest against the way in which the Government have dealt this afternoon with what is undoubtedly one of the most important questions that has ever come before this Parliament. An arrangement was entered into that the debate on. the motion relating to the Imperial Conference should close at 3.45 p.m. to-day. I rose on three or four occasions with the object of expressing my views in reference to our representation at the Conference, but was not afforded an opportunity to do so.
– Order! The honorable member is now reviving a debate that has already been closed.
– I do not intend to debate the question. I desire merely to complain of the way in which the Government have carried the matter through.
– That would be a reflection on a vote of the House. The honorable membermay not do that.
– May I not deal with the Prime Minister’s conduct this afternoon in regard to the motion?
.- I desire to support the request made by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) in regard to the Conciliation and Arbitration Court. This Parliament deliberately passed an Act giving employers and employees the right to settle their disputes in a Court of Conciliation and Arbitration instead of having to resort for that purpose to strikes and lock-outs. If the Government are not prepared to amend the Act, which provides that the question of the hours of labour in an industry shall be dealt with by not less than three Judges, they can get over the trouble by administrative act. All that it is necessary for them to do is to appoint the number of Judges required to constitute the requisite Court to deal with such questions.
– The difficulty is that there is a member of the Bench who says he is going to resign. The honorable member knows how long be has been making that statement; and yet he has not resigned.
– I know that there are difficulties such as that to which the Prime Ministerrefers; but even with Mr. Justice Higgins as President, and Mr. Justice
Powers as Acting President of the Court, only two Judges are available, whereas theParliament,despite the protests of the Labour party, insisted that three Judges should be necessary to determine the question of hours of employment. Our view is that if it is competent for one Judgeto determine questions of wages one should besufficient to deal with the hours of labour in an industry. I know of no surer way of creating industrial trouble than by having the men in a particular trade working forty-four hours a week side by sidewith another body of men who are compelled to work forty-eight hoursaweek.
Mr.Maxwell. - We want uniformity.
– As far as possible. The Government should make it possible for an appeal to the Court to be made. This afternoon Ireceived a request from the secretary of the TradesHall Council toarrange for an interview with the Prime Minister on this subject. The right honorable gentlemanon several occasions has pointed out that the Industrial Disputes Committee of the Trades Hall Council has done good work in preventing disputes.
– It certainly has.
– It has done good work in preventing and also settling disputes The Committee desires to wait as a deputation on the Prime Minister in regard to this very matter. It holds that the question of hours must be settled in the near future. I ask the Governmentto give the matter very serious consideration. We are all apt to make mistakes, and I think it would be wise for the Government and ‘the Parliament to say that a mistake was made in providing that the question of the hours of labour to be worked in any industry should be dealt with only by a Court of three Judges. Let us go back to the old order, of things, under which such a question couldbe dealt with by one Judge. Failing that, the Government should appoint the number of Judges necessary to enable the machinery of the Act in question to be put into operation.
– It is necessary that there should be an early settlement of this matter. I canhardly conceive of the Government permitting the present condition of affairs to continue. . Here we have a learned Judge paid to do the work of a Court, yet refusing to deal with business which is brought to that Court. I do not know what are the powers of theGovernment, but that the business of the country should be held up by a highly-paid official who refuses to deal with it and at the same time says he intends toresign but does not resign–
– That is not correct. Mr. Justice Higgins said he wouldcomplete all thecases, the hearing of which he had commenced.
– But he announced some months ago that he would take no new business, although the country is paying him to deal with the business of theCourt.The position is intolerable, and the Government should resolve it as early as possible.
– I support the request made by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton). I also have had communications in respect of the matter, and hope the Government will take an early opportunity to remedy the position that obtains. Idesire to protest against the attitude taken up by the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond). On almost every occasion that presents itself he attacks the President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court.
– That is not so.
– It appears to me to be so. We shall be very fortunate if we are able to secureas the new President of the Court as good a man as Mr. Justice Higgins.
– But he is not justified in hanging on to his job months after he has said that he intends to resign.
Mr.RY AN. - He is not hanging onto his job. I am satisfied that he is doing his duty, It is unfortunate that a learned Judge can be criticised in this House, although no specific motion on the subject is before us. I rose to protest against the action of the Prime Minister and his Government in not placing on the table of the House at a much earlier date the documents which he read this afternoon, because I ascertained for the first time this afternoon that the Prime Minister himself was the instigator of the invitation issued to Dominions representatives to attend the Imperial Conference in June.
– When I learned that the Constitution Conference could not be held, I said that we ought to attend a Conference to deal with the AngloJapanese alliance.
– I understood the Prime Minister to say - and I will take an early opportunity to read carefully the right honorable gentleman’s remarks this afternoonthat the Imperial authorities were prepared to allow this matter to go on for another twelve months.
– That is not so.
– The honorable member for West Sydney must not discuss that issue on this motion.
– Very well, Mr. Speaker, I shall confine my remarks to the desirableness -I am now speaking generally - of having all the documents placed in the hands of honorable members before they are called upon to discuss certain matters.
– It is impossible to place secret cables on the table.
– Well, the cable was finally read in this House. If what I have suggested had been done, it might have altered the whole aspect of the discussion: because, listening to the right honorable gentleman this afternoon I gathered that the invitation to the Conference emanated from himself.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.17 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 April 1921, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1921/19210422_reps_8_95/>.