10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– In the Brisbane daily newspapers of the 4th February, there appeared a statement by the Premier of Queensland to the effect that the policy of constructing the Kyogle to South Brisbane railway by day labour had been agreed to by the Prime Minister and the Governments of the States concerned. The paragraph reads -
A complete agreement has been reached by the Commonwealth, Queensland, and New South Wales Governments respecting the construction policy of the Kyogle to Brisbane standard gauge railway, the basis of the new agreement being day labour.
I desire to know whether that statement is substantially correct, and, if not, can the Prime Minister give the House information as to the basis of the agreement arrived at, and whether his promise that preference to returned soldiers for employmentin the construction of the line is to be observed ?
– The statement quoted is certainly not correct. There has been no agreement between the Commonwealth and the Governments of New South Wales and Queensland to construct the line with day labour. As I told the House last week, all the questions which have arisen in connexion with the work are being discussed by the Railway Council. The Government is now awaiting a report from the council.
Scarcity of Water
– Is the Prime Min ister aware that Broken Hill, with a population of 28,000 persons, is threatened with a complete stoppage of almost all the mines in the district owing to the lack of water? In view of the national importance of the continued production of silver, lead, and zinc, will the right honorable gentleman sympathetically consider co-operation with the New South Wales Government in subsidizing the carriage of water to Broken Hill, in order that unemployment may be obviated and the output of metals continued ?
– The subject is obviously one for the considerationof the New South Wales Government, and, if that Government makes any representation about it to the Commonwealth Government, we shall certainly be prepared to consider it.
Treatment with Serum.
– I have received a letter from the Shire Council of Kyneton, the gist of which is that a medical officer having a case of infantile paralysis to attend in Kyneton applied for serum to the Commonwealth Serum Laboratory, the State Public Health Department, Dr. Sinclair, of the Melbourne City Council, and the Eliza and Walter Hall Institute, but was unable to obtain it from any of these bodies. . Is a matter of this kind within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth authorities ? If so, and should there be differential treatment between country and city patients, will the Minister see that preference is given to country patients?
– The treatment of infantile paralysis with serum is in the purely experimental stage, and no serum has yet been made available by the Commonwealth Government. A certain quantity of blood from patients suffering from the disease - poliomyelitis - has been collected in Victoria by the Melbourne committee, and prepared at the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. The Federal Government has no authority whatever over the distribution of the serum.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government has considered the advisability of assisting some of the metropolitan municipal authorities to keep in order main roads traversing their territories. In view of the fact that more than half of the owners of motor oars in this State reside in Melbourne, and that more than half the population of the State is in the city, does not the right honorable gentleman think that the authorities of some of the city “municipalities through which main roads run are entitled to assistance in keeping them in order?
– The matter to which the honorable member refers has received full consideration, but the Government cannot take the view which he holds. The policy which it submitted to the various State Governments does not contemplate the giving of assistance to the municipal authorities of great cities through which main roads run.
Iron and Steel Products
– I understand that the Stockowners’ Defence Association wrote to the Prime Minister on the 4th February urging that the Tariff Board should be instructed to extend by three months the period for taking evidence in connexion with the duties to be imposed on the products of iron and steel, and related industries. As the questions involved are intricate and technical, I ask whether the Government will accede to the request in order that those opposed to the imposition of high duties may have a reasonable opportunity to submit their views to the Board ?
– The representations which have been submitted to the Government will receive consideration.
Sale of Ships : Absence of Manager
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government has negotiated the sale, or is negotiating the sale, of the Commonwealth Line of Steamships . Is the right honorable, gentleman aware of the existence of a syndicate in Great Britain which is negotiating, or proposing to openup negotiations, in this regard?
– The Government is not negotiating with any one at present for the disposal of the Commonwealth Line of Steamships; but last year it indicated that its policy was to dispose of the ships belonging to the line if a purchaser at a reasonable price could be found who would subscribe to the conditions laid down. The Government has not altered its attitude since then.
– In view of the fact that the head office of the Commonwealth Government Line of Steamships is situated in Australia, what is the reason of the continued stay in Great Britain of the manager of the line. Mr. Larkin, whose stay abroad has already extended over six months?
– I suggest that the question is more suitable for the noticepaper. I wish to meet the convenience of honorable members by giving them what information I can, but so many questions are now being asked without notice, that I am afraid I must ask honorable members to put questions that are not urgent upon the notice-paper. I can tell the honorable member, however, that Mr. Larkin went to London last year in connexion with the sale of some of the surplus tonnage which the board had found it impossible to dispose of. That was the particular business that took him to London, and a number of sales have been effected through his presence there.
– Has the Government arrived at any decision regarding the payment to returning officers for extra work they were called upon to perform during the last Federal elections?
– Similar questions have already been asked by several honorable members. The matter is being inquired into by the Home and Territories Department. Shortly after the election the Chief Electoral Officer sent a circular to divisional officers asking them to supply certain information, to gauge the additional work returning officers had been called upon to perform.
– Has not the Public Service Board said something on the matter ?
– Yes. Those reports have not yet been received, but when they have been, the Government will consider what action it will take regarding the matter. When the question was asked, the matter was referred to the Public Service Board, quite apart from the Home and Territories Department, and the board furnished the reply which I gave to the House about a week ago. When the Home and Territories Department receives the information asked for, it will submit the matter to the Government for its decision.
Parliamentary Library Stationery
– Will the Prime Minister arrange to have the Australian coat of arms printed on the stationery of the parliamentary Library, to bring it into conformity with that used by other Commonwealth departments?
– I shall look into the matter.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether the Government will have included upon the agenda-paper for the next Imperial Conference for consideration the question of an inter-Empire reciprocity for old-age and invalid pensions?
– The matter will receive consideration.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
What will be the cost to Commonwealth employees transferred to. Canberra of -
– The whole of the matters referred to in these questions are at present being closely investigated, and necessary data is being collected by the Home and Territories Department, and the Federal Capital Commission, to enable proposals to be formulated thereon for the consideration of the Government. Such proposals will be considered by the Government, and a public announcement made thereon in ample time to enable public servants who are required to transfer to Canberra to make necessary arrangements therefor.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he lay upon the table of the Library the files in connexion with the negotiations of the Commonwealth Government, or the Government’s agents, namely, Amalgamated Wireless Company, with the British Government for the reception and transmission of wireless messages ?
– There is much of a confidential character in negotiations of this nature, and it is consequently undesirable that the files be laid upon the table for general perusal. I shall be pleased to afford the honorable member an opportunity of seeing them at my office.
Payment to Public Servants, Members of Boards., Commissions, etc.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he will make available a list of officers of the Commonwealth Public Service, members of boards, commissions, &c, who are receiving salaries of, or exceeding £900 per annum - showing the names, offices, and amounts of salary received?
– The information is being obtained, and the honorable member will be further advised at an early date.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Markets and Migration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
2 to C. As the compilation of information to enable a reply to he given to these inquiries will necessitate a considerable amount of clerical work, not only in Australia, but in London, I should be glad if the honorable member would move for the supply of the desired particulars in the form of a return.
Social Position of Employees
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Markets and Migration, upon notice -
What number of (a) Italians, (b) Maltese, and (c) Greeks, entered the Commonwealth in 1924-5?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for
Works and Railways, upon notice-
Will the Government increase the amount of advance to the occupants of war service homes to enable them to increase their housing accommodation to provide for the needs of growing families ?
– The statutory advance under the War Service Homes Act is at present £800, and it has been found that this sum is sufficient to provide a suitable home with adequate accommodation for an ordinary family. If, after an applicant has received the full advance of £800, he desires to make additions to the home to increase the accommodation or otherwise, the necessary expenditure must be found by the applicant. Where an applicant has not received the full advance he may be granted extra advances, not exceeding in the whole £800, to provide additional accommodation essential for increases in his family.
Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
In view of the assumption that the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited can trade profitably on the basis of its present selling price of 14s. per 8 gallons of bulk petrol, will the Minister explain why the Refinery Company has, from its inception until 26th September, 1925, sold its petrol in bulk at prices ranging from 15s. 8d. to 17s. per 8 gallons notwithstanding that (in accordance with clause 13 of the Oil Agreement Act 1920) its cost of crude oil has not varied since the first shipment arrived in March, 1924, and also in view of the fact that no Customs duty is paid on its petrol, whereas other importers have to pay duty amounting to8d. per unit of 8 gallons?
– I have not the information asked for. The company is a commercial corporation carrying on business in competition with other undertakings, and it is not expedient that Ministers should be the medium for obtaining from the company, for publication, information about details of its business.
– On the 27th January the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) asked the Minister for Trade and Customs whether he had observed that a shipment of oats was about to be landed from Canada, and, if so, whether he would take steps to ensure that Australia should be safeguarded from the introduction of foot and mouth disease by having the Canadian oats fumigated and the bags in which they are contained destroyed. The Minister for Trade and Customs replied that the honorable member’s communication should have been addressed to me, and that he would bring the question under my notice. I am now able to inform the honorable member that inquiries have been made, but that no information can be obtained that any shipment of oats from Canada is about to be landed, or as to any definite proposal to import oats into Australia . from Canada. It has been ascertained that a few months ago, when a shortage of oats was anticipated in Australia, some preliminary inquiries were made in Melbourne from Canada as to whether it would be profitable to import oats into Australia, but it is understood that the prospects were unfavorable, and that the matter has since been dropped. In the event of any such importation taking place, effective action will be taken to prevent the introduction of foot and mouth disease by such means.
Randwick Experimental Section
– On the 5th February the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) asked the following questions: -
What has been the total cost of the experimental section to date for
I am now in a position to furnish, the following replies: -
Figures under (a), (c), and (d) represent cost to 31st December, 1925, the latest date to which costs have been compiled.
– On the 22nd January the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked me the following questions : -
– On the 28th of January, in response to a request by the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Parsons), I promised to inquire into the Adelaide-Mannum telephone service. I find that interference to this service was due to theunsuitability of the construction methods adopted by the Adelaide Electric Supply Company for their high tension line. The company has made alterations which have eliminated the disturbances, and speech on the department’s circuit is now satisfactory.
– On the 21st January, the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) asked the following question : -
What is the total value of Government departmental orders placed overseas for each year since 1917, (a) exclusive of the cruisers, (b) inclusive of the cruisers?
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
Practically all the orders placed overseas were for lighthouse material, which is not at present made in Australia.
– On the 29th January, the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) asked the following questions : -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
– On the 5th February, the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) asked the. following questions with reference to his statement re supply of petrol kerb pumps on the 3rd instant: -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
– On the 4th February, the honorable Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) asked the following questions : -
I now desire to inform the honorable member that the answers to his questions are as follow: -
The following papers were presented : -
Iron and Steel Products Bounty Act - Statement setting out particulars relating to approval given for the use of imported materials in the manufacture of products upon which bounty may be paid.
League of Nations, Sixth Assembly, September, 1925 - Report of the Australian Delegation.
War Service Homes Act - Land acquired at Randwick, New -South Wales.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Whether honorable members agree or disagree with the provisions of this measure, all -will concede that it deals with a matter of the very greatest importance to Australia. Indeed, having regard to the present position of our country in re-‘ lation to world politics, and the great issues that are at stake, there is probably no more urgent problem for which we have to find a solution than the development of the great and almost uninhabited territory to the north of the continent. The country now known as the Northern Territory, but which I hope will be known in future as North Australia, comprises an area of 523,620 square miles, equal to nearly one-fifth of the continent. In all its vast expanse the total white population, in 1925, was only 3,406. Those figures alone should be sufficient to rouse this Parliament to action. Such a great area, almost unconnected with the more populous parts of the continent, would be a focus of danger in the event of Australia being required to defend itself. The empty north is of immense strategic importance, and self-preservation demands that we devise means for introducing population into that vacant area. Such a policy, also, is vital to the maintenance of the great and basic principle of a White Australia. Increasingly as- the years go by we are forced to recognize that the great nations of the world, with teeming populations and pressing needs of economic expansion, are looking more and more to Australia, and inquiring to what extent we who hold this great Territory are using it. Only as we discharge our responsibility as trustees of a vast and rich continent shall we be justified in the opinion of the world in retaining it for our own people, and developing it in accordance with the political and ,economic ideals we have set up. It is interesting to take a brief glance at the history of the Northern Territory. The first white settlement there was at Port . Dundas, on Melville Island, in 1824, and was then the result- of apprehension that the north of Australia was in danger of annexation by one of the great nations of the earth. That was the first step towards insuring the retention of the whole continent for the Australian people ; to-day the great obligation rests upon us to consolidate our claim to that area, for, . unquestionably, in its present empty and undeveloped state, it is the Achilles’ heel of the continent. The Port Dundas settlement was under the control of the New South Wales Government from 1827 until 1863, when it was transferred to the control of South Australia, and for the first time that portion of Australia became known as the Northern Territory. It was transferred from the State of South Australia to the Commonwealth in 1911, because it was realized that, in its then state, it was a menace to the defence of the Commonwealth, and the maintenance of the White Australia policy, both of which are primarily the concern of the National Government.
At this point I think it advisable to say something to remove the impression in the minds of some people that since the Commonwealth assumed control the Northern Territory has retrogressed. The facts prove the contrary. From 1891 to 1911’ the white population of the Northern Territory decreased by 1,500, or approximately 31 per cent. In 1911 it was 3,271, and when the war broke out in 1914 it had increased to 3,648. In 1914, Vestey’s works at Darwin were opened. By 1919, the .population had increased to 5,062. Subsequently Vestey’s works were closed, and in 1922 the population had receded to 3,291. The decline now appears to have been arrested, but the position nevertheless is far from satisfactory, especially when we remember that the area of the Territory comprises over 500,000 square miles. It is only fair to state, however, that for several years during the period of the Common-wealth control Australia was engaged in the greatest war in history, and for some years after the war was suffering in consequence. Another wrong impression which I should like to remove is that the Northern Territory has been starved financially in recent years. Its debt in 1911, when the Commonwealth took over the Territory, was £3,931,086. The accumulated deficit to the 30th June, 1925, was £3,130,451, the expenditure on new works, buildings, etc., in 1925 was £413,912, and construction and capital expenditure on railways £616,157, making a total of £4,160,520. The total public debt of the Territory at the 30th June, 1925, was £8,091,606. For the present financial year it is estimated that the debt will be increased by £270,731; expenditure on new works, £59,000; and construction of railway to Daly Waters, £345,000, making a total of £674,731, and bringing the estimated public debt at the 30th June of this year up to £8,766,337.
– Have we any asset against the debt?
– We have a very greatasset in the Northern Territory itself. Since the Commonwealth became responsible for the Territory it has redeemed loans raised by the State of South Australia to the amount of £2,738,667. These figures indicate that there has been a very heavy expenditure of public money in the Northern Territory, notwithstanding that there has been no marked increase in population, and consequently no substantial development. Therefore, we must endeavour to ascertain why there has been no tangible result from this expenditure of money and effort. One reason, I think, is the frequent change of Ministers controlling the Territory. The Minister responsible for its admintration is necessarily more conversant than are his Cabinet colleagues with its developmental problems. Therefore frequent ministerial changes necessarily mean dislocation, to some extent at all events, of ministerial policy. Since 1911, when the Commonwealth became responsible for the Territory, we have had Ministers controlling the Territory who were really inspired with an earnest desire to grapple with this great problem. They brought forward schemes that they believed to be sound. When a new Minister came into office, his predecessors’ schemes, sound or unsound, were thrust aside; the new Minister had another “ great idea,” and for a time he put it into operation. We have never had, for any considerable length of. time, a continuous policy for the development of the Territory. In saying that I am not criticizing any one, for this problem is far too complicated for any person to say definitely that he “ knows “ and “ understands,” and that the ideas of others are certainly wrong. It is almost impossible to develop a great territory like this successfully, with the Seat of Government as far removed from it as it now is. During changes in ministries the only machinery we now have for carrying out a. continuous policy is a department that was not designed to administer and develop a great uninhabited territory. That ia probably the first reason why our success to date has fallen so far short of our hopes. It is nearly impossible, at this long distance from the Territory, for the Minister to see with a clear vision what ought to be done. Recommendations are received from officers who live in the Territory, but unless some one on the spot, with local knowledge, is entrusted with the duty of carrying out a policy he believes in, nothing really great will ever be accomplished. Another hindrance has been the system of land tenure. When the Commonwealth acquired the Territory from South Australia in 1911, it undertook that all the leases granted by the South Australian Government would be continued. The Commonwealth introduced a land ordinance, which differed from the land ordinance under which the Territory was held by South Australia, so that there were two different forms of leases. Under the South Australian leases there was no power to resume any part of the land except for definite and limited purposes, so that it was almost impossible to apply a new land policy. Something has been done to improve the system, and there is a possibility of eliminating this obstacle to development. The number of leases held under South Australian law is 210, comprising an area of 96,640 square miles, and the number of Commonwealth leases is 229, covering an area. of 76,695 square miles, making a total of 439 leases, comprising 173,335 square miles. A Crown Lands Ordinance for the- Territory was passed during the last Parliament. It provided for the transfer, under certain conditions, of the existing Commonwealth and South Australian leases, and gave power to the Government to resume portion of the Territory at stated periods. The result up to date has been that sixteen leases under the South Australian act, covering 5,780 square miles, and 58 leases under the old Crown Lands Ordinance, covering 22,627 square miles, have been brought under the new ordinance. It is hoped that in the future many more leases will be similarly transferred, and that what was unquestionably a serious handicap to the development of the Territory will thus be removed. This change will greatly facilitate the subdivision of the Territory into smaller areas. Misrepresentation has also done a tremendous amount of harm. No one would suggest that the coastal belt is suitable for anything but tropical agriculture, but in the hinterland, particularly on the Barkly Tableland, there is an entirely different climate. As far as I can judge from the evidence available, some of the mostvaluable pastoral country in Australia is to be found there. Yet we hear it referred to as “ an arid waste,” and “ the dead heart of Australia.” I regret that I have not visited the Territory, but I have not the least doubt, from information supplied to me, that there is no justification whatever for speaking of it in that way. If honorable members will ‘ examine a rainfall map, they will find that the hinterland of the Territory compares favorably with that of Western Australia. One fact in its favour is that sub-artesian water is unquestionably obtainable. An artesian belt has been proved to exist in the southern part of the Territory, and it probably extends farther north, but, be that as it may, there is sub-artesian water almost everywhere. Every statement that can be made against the Territory has been made, and the real facts have not received proper publicity. The Territory has land that can be put to profitable use - large areas where there is no insuperable water difficulty. The problem is one of transport, which is, in truth, the problem of Australia to-day. Some persons wonder why enterprising men do not put sheep on the Barkly Tableland. Of what use is it to place sheep on land that must be fenced, until some better means is found for combating the dingo, with netting that costs £40 a ton?
– The dingoes are not bad there.
– My information is that it would be reckless to place sheep on unfenced land in that part of the Territory, and thus provide the dingoes with the means to live and propagate. Fencing is essential to success. It is obvious that the problem of developing the Northern Territory is the same as that of developing every other territory. Settlement must be promoted. The pastoralist - and the big pastoralist at that - must be first. Every thinking man subscribes to the policy of gradually subdviding holdings into smaller areas; but it is necessary, in applying that doctrine, to consider the means of transport available. It would be foolish to subdivide land and place men on it- in conditions prohibitive of success. Our business is not merely to settle men in this country to do the pioneering work. If we did only that, we should inflict intolerable cruelty upon those pioneers. The problem that has to be faced is, in the first place, one for pastoralists, and big pastoralists at that. As the pastoralists, aided by transport facilities, push out, suitable land for sheep will be, discovered, and men will settle on it and depasture sheep there. Some day we may even reach the stage when wo Shall be able, with some degree of confidence, to take up agricultural pursuits there. It would be madness, however, for any one to think that this Territory, apart from a few areas round the coast, can be developed now by agriculture. We shall not be in a position to determine its agricultural possibilities for years to come. There are, of course, great mining possibilities there, but the development of these resources is also dependent upon transport. It is of little use for men to win valuable minerals from the earth if the cost of transporting them to market is so high that a payable price is not obtainable for them. I have not time to deal in detail with the mineral possibilities of the Territory. I merely suggest that they are very great. Mineralbearing country is to be encountered from north of the Macdonnell Ranges right through to the northern part of the Territory. But the Territory has not yet been geologically surveyed, sothat it is not possible for anybody to tell exactly what its potentialities are. Apart from all considerations of the obligation that rests upon us to do something in the Territory to cope with the defence problem that it presents, and apart from the questions associated with the maintenance of our White Australia, we should reap a great economic advantage if we really attempted to develop that part of the continent.
– Especially for Adelaide.
– May I suggest that, for once, we bear in mind that we are not discussing the interests of any one State, but the development of federal territory. I trust that we shall try to look at this matter from the national point of view. It cannot be denied that the development of the Territory would be of immense economic value to the whole of Australia. In recent times our beef industry has been through a period of serious depression. Quite a number of people in Australia think that when we have produced sufficient beef to supply our own requirements, we shall have gone as far as we can. That is a hopelessly wrong view of the situation. It does not take a very long vision to see that within a fewshort years - perhaps inside of five years - there will be a world shortage of beef. Seeing that we have such vast areas in the Northern Territory that are suitable for cattle, it seems to me that there is no reason for discouragement. If we provide transport facilities for this country, we shall probably find that it will lead to enormous increase in our beef production, for which we shall find a ready market overseas. There are also people in Australia who think that we can be content to go on producing wool from our small holdings, just as we are doing, and that it is not necessary for us to look any farther afield. I can see, however, that there is a distinct limit to the development of our present resources. We shall be able to produce, from them, up to a certain point, but then we shall cease to progress. We may subdivide our larger holdings, and settle a certain number of people on them, but, unless we find new sheep country in our out-back areas, we cannot hope to maintain our present satisfactory position as wool producers. When one analyses the. position, it becomes quite apparent that there is a great future, still, for any country that can produce first-class wool. There is no commodity, I think, which would find a more ready market. The world will consume all the wool that we can produce. In these circumstances, it is of importance economically that we should do our best to encourage people to go out into this country to develop its great resources.
– And it can only be done by providing means of transport.
– I agree with the honorable member. The problem that has to be solved is transport. If we demonstrated to the world that we had some really substantial scheme for developing this country - a scheme that was not dependent upon any government or party, but was national in its outlook - 1 am certain that we should be greatly helped in carrying it out by the investment of private capital. The object of this bill is to establish a policy to be formulated and persevered with. It takes into account two aspects of the work - administrative and developmental. To undertake the developmental work, the Government propose that a commission of three thoroughly experienced and competent persons shall be appointed who will live in the Territory, and initiate and direct a comprehensive scheme. That is the basic idea underlying the measure from the developmental aspect. We wish these three commissioners to have a comparatively free . hand, not for a year or two, but for a period of years. For the success of the scheme everything will, of course, depend upon getting the right men as commissioners. They will be responsible for the initiation of developmental ideas, and therefore the men first chosen to grapple with this problem must be the best we can get. The bill provides for the appointment of three commissioners, and the period of their appointment is a term not exceeding five years. The remuneration is not specified, but is to beat such a rate as the
Governor-General may determine. That leaves the field open for the offer of such remuneration as may be necessary to secure the services of men considered able to grapple with the problem, and to do something towards its eventual . solution. It is proposed that when the North Australia Commission is appointed it shall ^mediately set about drawing up a scheme of development to cover a period of years. That should be its first task.
– Is the commission to be given a clean sheet?
– Yes. It is to draw up a scheme to cover an extended period, but concurrently with its general scheme it must submit its programme for the first year. The details of the measure are better reserved for consideration in committee ; but I may briefly outline how it is anticipated that the measure will work. The commission will draw up a scheme to cover an extended period, and that scheme will be submitted to the Minister and the Government for consideration concurrently with the commission’s first year’s programme. The Government will express its views on the scheme and may approve of it as submitted, or suggest amendments. After this has been done the amount required to cover the first year’s programme will appear in the ordinary estimates submitted to Parliament. Parliament will thus be given an opportunity to know what is being done. Although the task to be undertaken by the commission is very much bigger than that with which the Murray River Commission is charged, the procedure followed will be much the same. An extended scheme of development will first be submitted, and yearly appropriations will be made for the yearly programme. I wish to make it clear that whilst the control of works and the carrying out of the scheme will be in the hands of the commission, complete control of its operations is not taken out of the hands of this Parliament, because Parliament will be asked once a year to vote the appropriation proposed for the: year’s programme. AH expenditure by the Commonwealth, whether from revenue1 of loan, will appear in the ordinary way on the estimates of expenditure for each year. Borrowing by the commission itself - obviously in the early days, with the guarantee of the Commonwealth - cannot take place until a bill giving authority for it has been passed by both Houses of this Parliament. Honorable members will therefore see that the Commonwealth finances are safeguarded, and that control of the operations of the commission is not taken completely out of the hands of Parliament. Parliament will have the general scheme explained to it, and also the year’s’ programme, but the details of the programme will not be submitted for its consideration every year in the way in which detailed estimates of expenditure by the Commonwealth are ordinarily submitted. The Government will be responsible for the scheme submitted, but Parliament will have an opportunity to express its opinion on it, and thus it can exert a check upon the work of the commission. There will, however, be no interference by Parliament with details, since the expenditure required for the carrying out of each year’s programme will be submitted to Parliament, not in detail, but in one amount.
– Will the finances of the Territory be kept separate?
– The intention is that the finances of North Australia and Central Australia shall be kept separate; they will be no longer part of the ordinary finances of the Commonwealth. When those territories become, as it is hoped they may, States of the Commonwealth, their finances will be their own concern. This is in accord with the evolution of the present States.
Another matter to which I should refer is railway construction, and expenditures exceeding the sum of £25,000. As honorable members are aware, under the Public Works Committee Act, all expenditure exceeding £25,000 has to be referred to the committee for its consideration. It is not proposed to follow that course in the case of works undertaken by the proposed commission. The reason is that if a developmental scheme covering a five years’ period is approved, it is necessary that it should be carried out continuously. Under existing conditions, works proposed by the commission involving the expenditure of over £25.000 would have to be referred to the Public Works Committee. The committee would examine the proposals referred to it, and would then report to this House. A different procedure is contemplated under the bill. To put it shortly, it is proposed that the North Australia Commission shall, to a great extent, assume the duties of the Public Works Com- mittee. It is not proposed at this stage that the commission shall create great departments of its own to carry out its works, but that it shall operate, for example, through the Works and Railways Department for the construction of works. The procedure would be that the commission would send forward a scheme part of which might contemplate expenditure upon railway construction. The proposal for railway construction would be sent to the Minister for Works and Railways in the same way that works proposed by the Commonwealth are now referred to his department. It would be referred to the Works and Railways Department for the preparation of plans and estimates, but whilst under existing circumstances such plans and estimates are referred to the Public Works Committee, they would, under the bill, be referred to the commission. With all the facts and figures so supplied before it, the commission would decide whether it should proceed with the work as a part of its general scheme. There is, however, in the bill power given to the Minister to refer any particular work to the Public Works Committee. To explain this I may take a parallel case as an example of the proposed procedure. Public works in the mandated territory are not subject to the Public Works Committee’s investigation. It has been decided to construct a wharf at Rabaul, and the Minister for Home and Territories has himself referred that work to the Public Works Committee, because he desires to have further information and details supplied with regard to it. It will be open in the same way for the Minister for Home and Territories to refer a work proposed by the North Australia Commission to the Public Works Committee. But I want to make it clear that, under the bill as drafted, it is not contemplated that works undertaken by the commission shall be referred to that committee. Great difficulties are experienced as a result of the parliamentary system under which the Northern Territory is at present governed. Estimates are submitted to Parliament, and until they are approved, expenditure is covered by Supply Bills, and as these are always based on the previous year’s expenditure there can be no expansion of expenditure on particular items until the Estimates have been passed. We may have a progressive programme involving a large advance in expenditure in a particular year. This difficulty will be overcome by the amount contemplated as necessary for the year’s programme being submitted to Parliament. In this way until the next Estimates are approved an opportunity will be afforded for continuous operation, and so the delays inseparable from the present system will be avoided.
One part of the bill deals with the powers of the proposed commission. It will have control of railway construction, construction and maintenance of roads, the erection of telegraph and telephone lines, water boring and conservation, ports and harbours, and ‘ ‘ such other matters in relation to the development of the Territory as are specified in any regulation made under the bill.” The last provision makes it possible where it is found in regard to the scheme of the commission that its powers are insufficient to extend them so that necessary works can be carried out. All these are questions that can be better dealt with at the committee stage of the bill. With regard to administration, it is contemplated that the position under the bill will be considerably altered from that at present existing. We have at the present time an administrator in Darwin responsible for all that takes place in the Northern. Territory. Under the bill it is proposed to divide the Territory into two parts, one north of the 20th parallel of latitude, and the other south of it. The northern part is to be called North Australia and the southern part Central Australia. North Australia will have a Government representative, who for the present will be resident at Darwin. In Central Australia there will be a Government representative at Alice Springs. It is contemplated that with railway communication to the Macdonnell Ranges, Alice Springs will be brought much more closely into touch with the Seat of Government ‘than is Darwin. Under existing conditions everything relating to the southern part of the Northern Territory must go through Darwin, and very often three months elapse before ‘ communication is established . with Melbourne.
– What is the basis of partition ?
– The northern area will contain 287,220 square miles, and the southern area 236,400 miles. 5
– Are the plans of the areas available?
– Yes. It is proposed, so as to overcome one of the serious difficulties of the Territory, that the Government’s representative in the southern area shall be a medical practitioner. In this way, we shall be able to carry out economically the work of medical treatment in that area. It is proposed to appoint an advisory council to assist both the Government representatives. This council will consist of four members, two of whom will be nominated, and two elected. The election will take place under the Commonwealth franchise, aud within the area concerned. It has been suggested that, instead of appointing a small advisory council for each area, it would be better to give self-government to these territories. But no stalwart adherent of democracy would contend that an area of some 500,0.00 square miles, having a population of only a few thousands, should have self-government at this stage of its development. Still, the appointment of an advisory council will be a step, towards the self-government of the Territory. I think that, generally, the provisions of the bill will commend themselves to the House. The advisory council is to be appointed for a period of three years.
– Are its members to be paid?
– No provision has yet been made for their payment.
I come now to the suggestion that other territories might be added to the areas now under the control of the commission. The ‘ Commonwealth Goverment has already discussed this subject with the Governments of Queensland and Western Australia; but, since it was discussed with Mr. Theodore, several changes have taken place in the Government of Queensland. No definite proposals have been put forward. In fairness to the States, the Commonwealth should first put forward its proposals. The States would then consider the scheme, and, if it were thought desirable they could hand over some of their territory to the commission. It is not suggested that any State should at present relinquish its sovereignty over any portion of its territory. That may hap pen later, and lead eventually, to the formation of a new State. The Northern Territory, as it is known, or North Australia as we hope that it will be known, is bounded on the east -by Queensland, and on the west by Western Australia. Honorable members, if they glance at the map and see the position of the Gulf of Carpentaria and the north- western coast of Western Australia in relation to the Northern Territory, will understand why this scheme should ultimately include some portion of the territories of Western Australia and Queensland, to obtain the best economic basis for development. The bill, however, leaves the matter to be dealt with by agreement between the Commonwealth and the States. It will be for them to determine the conditions under ,which portions of the State territory should be placed under the control of the commission. Of course, any arrangement would need the approval of this Parliament. This is the only way by which the natural development of certain portions of Western Australia and Queensland can be hastened. But if we begin, before the scheme is put clearly before the States, to dictate to them regarding the areas to bts handed over to the commission, they will naturally refuse to have anything to do with it. We must develop this project on right lines, and when it reaches a certain stage, ho doubt a suitable arrangement will be made between the Common-, wealth Government and the Governments of Queensland and Western Australia. This Parliament has no greater question to consider than the development of the Northern Territory. It is not a party matter, although there may be a division of opinion among us regarding the best course to follow to accomplish what we believe is essential in the interests of the Northern Territory. I am certain that, if we approach this subject with a real desire to find some solution of this difficulty, which up to the present has been insoluble, we shall, achieve our object. We can now lay the foundation of a great progressive developmental policy for the northern areas of Australia, which, if given effect, will redound to our credit and bring untold wealth and advantages to posterity.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Charlton) adjourned.
Bill received from the Senate and (on motion by Mr. Marr) read a first time.
Bill returned from the. Senate without amendment.
Debate resumed from 28th January (vide page 475), on motion by Mr. Latham -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The bill proposes to amend the Crimes Act in various ways. The two important amendments are contained in proposed new sections 30 a and 30 j. These are new proposals, and were not contained in the legislation which amended the Immigration Act last session. The AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham), when dealing with these new sections, quoted extensively from communist literature. As I listened to him it occurred tome that Ministers had for years permitted communists to advocate violence and revolution, and the overthrow of constitutional government, and yet no action had been taken against them. It is remarkable that no mention was made of the communist organization when we were considering similar legislation during last Parliament, and it is only now that the Government finds that the communists are a menace to the welfare of Australia. It may be urged by the Attorney- General that the Government’s inaction has been due to inability to deal with communists under existing legislation. He stressed the point that the Government was determined to suppress organizations which have for their object the overthrow by violence of constitutional government. To clear up this matter I shall endeavour to show that the Government now has sufficient power under the Crimes Act to deal with communist’s. Section 24a reads-
Surely the communist organization can be dealt with under that section. Yet the Go vernment has had cognizance of its activities for a number of years, and has taken no action. The section continues -
According to the Attorney-General those are the things which the communists have been endeavouring to do; yet, notwithstanding that the Government has been in power for a number of years, these unlawful activities have been allowed to continue -
– The honorable member for Fawkner will forget it by next election.
– I shall not, but I shall have something to say on the subject . later.
– The speech delivered by the Attorney-General showed that the only political party attacked by the communists was the Labour party. He quoted not one word of theirs condemning the Nationalist organizations or members. The honorable ‘ gentleman even admitted that the attacks of the communists were directed against members of the Labour party. That is quite true, and the simple explanation is that we on this side of the House are opposed to the communist methods, lock, stock, and barrel.
– But receive the communists’ votes.
– The communists did more than any other organization to induce hundreds of thousands of people to vote for the ministerial candidates. Even in Melbourne the utterances of communist speakers were designed to help the Ministry.
– They were paid by the Nationalists.
– That is the natural inference.
– The Leader of the Opposition does not believe that.
– I do not say that they were paid by the Nationalists.
Mr. Maxwell. Then do not insinuate that they were.
– That is the inference to be drawn from their statements, which throughout the .campaign were hostile to the Labour party. In Melbourne the statement was made during the election campaign that if Labour was returned to power the British seamen’s strike Would continue, but that if the Nationalists succeeded, it would terminate. The deliberate purpose of that statement was to defeat Labour at the polls. The Attorney-General admitted that the communists made no attacks upon the Nationalist party.
– He did not say that.
– He did not quote one statement in which the Nationalists were attacked. This bill reveals a great change in the policy of the Government. The provisions of the Immigration Act relating to industrialists provided that a person could be charged before a board at the sweet will of the Minister, and upon him would be thrown the onus of proving that he was not guilty. If he failed to satisfy the board of his innocence, he could be deported at the behest of the Minister. I am very glad to know that at last Ministers have listened to sweet reason. Apparently, they realize now that the legislation of last year was a mistake, notwithstanding that the electors were gulled into believing that the Government had adopted the proper procedure. The conditions that were to be applied to trade unionists are not to be applied to members of unlawful associations. Trade unionists defend the interests of themselves and their fellows in a legal and constitutional way ; the communists seek . to bring about revolution by violence, and they are to be tried by a jury or a magistrate - a right which the amending Immigration Act of last year denied to the industrialists. I congratulate the Attorney-General upon the more sane proposal that he has brought forward. I do not know whether he is responsible for the change in the ministerial outlook.
– The High Court was responsible.
– That may be so, but this bill concedes the right to trial by jury or by a magistrate, for which honorable members on this side of the House asked in preference to trial by a partisan board. So we have something to be thankful for. The Attorney-General was careful to point out that the bill deals only with matters that are constitutionally within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth. Again, there is a departure from the policy that was indicated to the people during the election campaign. They were led to believe that the Federal Government would take the law into its own hands and introduce a new criminal code, which would duplicate to some extent the existing State codes. The AttorneyGeneral has made it clear that that is constitutionally impossible.
– No such suggestion was made by any responsible person.
– The statement was quite commonly made; but the AttorneyGeneral has told the House, as members of the Opposition did last session, that Commonwealth criminal legislation must not exceed the powers conferred upon the Federal Parliament by the Constitution. Proposed new section 30a provides -
The following are hereby declared to be unlawful associations, namely : -
Any branch or committee of an unlawful association, and any institution or school conducted by or under the authority or apparent authority of an unlawful association, shall, for all the purposes of this act, be deemed to be an unlawful association.
Men who are members of organizations which advocate the doing of any of the things specified in the proposed new section should be made to suffer, the pains and penalities provided. There is no room in Australia for an organization which advocates the overthrow of constitutional government by violence and bloodshed. In this country we have the privilege of adult suffrage, which enables our men and women to decide who shall represent them, and what laws the Parliament shall make. What better system of government could the advocates of violence substitute for our present constitutional system ? The time has arrived when these unlawful associations should be put in their proper place.
– Who will name the unlawful associations ?
– They have yet to be found, but honorable members on this side of the House will not support organizations which do any of the things set forth in proposed new section 30a.
– We never did support them.
– That is so, and I am reiterating our attitude. We are not opposed to the provisions’ relating to unlawful associations, and we shall not resist their enactment. But does the Government ever take into consideration the need for legislating in regard to other organizations? I recollect hearing during the election campaign of the fascists, and a Commonwealth public servant - Hatcherby name - declared that the fascist movement was established in three States of the Commonwealth. Labour candidates commented adversely upon the advent of this organization into Australia and the Prime Minister declared that he had no knowledge of itl and would not permit any public department to be used for the carrying on of fascist activities. Yet Captain Hatcher expressed surprise at the right honorable gentleman’s statement that he did not know of the existence of a branch of the fascists in Australia. In a press interview, Captain Hatcher, who is called the commandatore of the Victorian branch of the fascisti movement in Australia, is reported to have said -
The organization stands for the principles that Mr. Bruce has placed foremost in his election policy - the upholding of constitutional authority and the maintenance of law and order. It has one and the same enemy - communism. The Fascisti has no other enemy. Seven months ago, I was asked by the representative of the British Fascisti, which is 700,000 strong, to get it started here, and we now have organizations in Melbourne, Sydney, and Hobart. There is nothing secret about it. While the Government now says that it disowns the Fascisti, I know that ‘it knows all about us, because all our literature has ‘been sent from England to the Government here, with covering memoranda.
This is a definite statement from the organizer of the movement in Australia, denying the Prime Minister’s assertion that he had no knowledge of it, because, as he pointed out, the literature came from England through the Commonwealth Government.
– I think the statement was that the literature had been sent “ to” not “ through “ the Commonwealth Government.
– The honorable the Attorney-General is correct. I have here a pamphlet which has just been handed to me, and which, I think, should have publicity, because it has an important bearing on what I am saying. It reads -
Australian and Victorian G.H.Q. - 482 Pt. Nepean-road, North Brighton, Victoria.
All communication to Secretary, Walter F. Dowling, 43 Clifton-road, Hawthorn. Phone: Haw. 4288.
To the Workers of Australasia!
Communism is not British, it is directed by a pack of aliens in Central Europe.
They want the dissolution of the British Empire.
Did we win the war., or did they?
If you have saved up enough to buy your own house, the communists call you a capitalist and take it away from you.
Communists claim that all children belong to the State, and take them away from their parents. Mothers! How would you like your children to be taken from you?’
Communistswould do away with religion. How would you like that for your children?
Communism has been put into practice in Russia, and that great country is ruined. Even the Germans who tried to trade there are having to give it up.
Workmen in (Russia get less than half what they got before the war, and then food costs them three times as much.
The miners in the Russian coal-fields can only do one-third of the work they did before the war, for they are too weak to do more.
Workers going on strike are shot in Russia, where there is conscription of labour, and a mancannot choose where he will work.
There were no unemployed in Russia before the war. Now they have a million and a half, and the number is increasing daily.
Communists want to destroy the middle classes. Wliat will happen to skilled workmen if there are no well-to-do to cater for?
Communism means slavery for the worker, who will be a slave to an alien of another race.
They want to bring communism into Australia to enslave you.
The Fascists are out to stop this. Join them. For further particulars, apply to: -
God save the King !
This, I remind honorable members, is signed by an area officer, and its object was to discredit the Labour party during the election. The pamphlet was sent’ all over Australia, and no doubt did our party a great deal of harm, notwithstanding that we know nothing of the fascisti movement, and do not stand for communism. On the contrary we believe in attaining our objective by the evolutionary process - by educating the people to our point of view. I quote now from a letter so that an inquiry may be made. It states -
Your very interesting letter to hand regard ing the progress of Fascismo in Australia. It is pleasing to learn that yonr Federal Government has been assisting in initial organization work.
The supreme council notes that the movement has been launched in six States of the Commonwealth.
At the present time, Australia appears to be urgently in need of resourceful fascist groups in all centres, with a resourceful inner council in command.
Weak and vacillating governments make Fascismo a political and social necessity. Such were responsible for its coming into being in Italy, and also in England.
I wish honorable members to mark this passage -
Had the McDonald Government remained in office here, we would have been required to forcibly drive it from office.
That should be inquired into.
– The letter states further -
Our present Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir Austin Chamberlain, said, were Labour returned with a working majority-
– What is the date of that letter? .
– It is dated 17th September, 1925.
– Mr. Winston Churchill was Chancellor of the Exchequer then.
– Was that letter published ?
– It appeared in the Labour Daily.
– I do not think it did. I got it from Voice of Labour, and I want to know something about the matter. I take no responsibility for its authenticity. It states further -
Our present Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Austen Chamberlain, said, “ Were Labour returned with a working majority, it would be necessary, in the interests of the nation, to suspend constitutional government, and forcibly prevent it from assuming office.”
If the statements contained in this letter are correct, this body should be included in the list of unlawful associations mentioned in the bill. It goes on to say -
Fortunately, the last elections made the position safe in England; but in Australia the position is different. Labour is in. power in four States, and our experience has been such that almost any means would be justified in preventing it from ruling federally.
If necessary, steps should be taken to precipitate open hostilities with the militant unions. Open rioting would give us an opportunity to smash the unions and cripple Labour politically. In this we have the definite assurance that the present Federal Government would co-operate, and will secretly instruct its officers to work in conjunction with our forces.
You need have no fear, therefore. Use your force to prevent Labour from assuming office should a Labour victory at the polls eventuate.
This is the footnote to the letter which was inserted by the editor of The Voice of Labour -
This letter requires no explanation. It exposes the fact that there is, and was, a cunning Brucc-Fascisti plot to hand Australia over to the “ Black Shirts.” If the genuineness of that damning document is questioned, the
Voice will publish it in facsimile, signature and all.
– An inquiry should be made by the Government, and this movement should be nipped in its infancy.
– I thought we did nip that matter some time ago.
– This letter has been published since then.
– But the statements contained in it are the same as those that appeared in the Labour Daily.
– It discloses definitely that the fascisti movement is in existence in Australia. It arose in Italy, spread to Great Britain, and is now in this country. The person over whose signature the document was circulated is a British officer, who has obtained the position of inspector of seamen in Australia. The Public Service should be rid of men of this class. The fascisti movement is no better than communism, because the letter just quoted states definitely that if those’ identified with it could hot get their’ own way at the ballot-box, they would take steps to overthrow the government should it happen to be a Labour Government. This is altogether too serious a challenge to be allowed to pass unnoticed. I think I have made it clear that honorable members on this side of the House are not opposed to those provisions of the bill that deal with unlawful associations that seek to overthrow government by violence. They should be amenable to our law, and, if they outrage it, they should suffer all its penalties.
– I thought we had made our position clear before the election.
– We did.
– If before the election the Leader of the Opposition had said what he is saying now, his party might have been in a stronger position to-day.
– i made our position clear in every speech i delivered.
– Evidently the people discounted the honorable member’s statements.
– Labour candidates were grossly misrepresented during the election campaign. There was a conspiracy on the part of the press to prevent the true position of the Labour party from being placed before the people. i turn now to proposed new section 30j which i regard as the most important in the bill. Its provisions are similar to those that were incorporated in the amending Immigration Bill last session; but the objectionable features with regard to the constitution of a board have been eliminated, and the Government proposes now to substitute the right of trial by a magistrate or jury. The section deals with industrial disturbances, and provides -
If at any time the Governor-General is of opinion that there exists in Australia a serious industrial disturbance prejudicing or threatening trade or commerce with other countries or among the States, he may make a proclamation to that effect, which proclamation shall he and remain in operation for the purposes of this section until it is revoked.
Any person who, during the operation of such proclamation takes part in or continues, or incites to, urges, aids, or encourages the taking part in, or continuance of, a lock-out or strike - shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable, on conviction, to imprisonment for any period not exceeding one year, and in addition (if he was not born in Australia) to deportation by order of the Attorney-General as provided in this act.
This legislation strikes a blow at the trade union movement in Australia, because up to the present such offences have not been made criminal offences.
– They are under the Arbitration Act.
– The Arbitration Act provides for imprisonment only for a second offence.
– This bill applies not to unions, but only to persons.
– The persons referred to are members of unions, and, particularly, union officials. The AttorneyGeneral knows that, and he is merely quibbling. My memory goes back to the early days of arbitration in this country. I was one of those who were associated with Mr. B. R. Wise in framing the first Arbitration Act. Neither he nor any other public man since that date has contended that strikes and lockouts can be entirely prevented. They will occur occasionally in spite of all efforts to prevent them. Since the Arbitration Act was passed there have been fewer industrial disturbances than there were previously in this country, and I hope to be able to prove before I conclude my speech that Australia has fewer industrial disturbances than any other country. That- being so, what is the justification for legislation like that which we are now discussing? The Arbitration Act provides that if it be proved to the satisfaction of the court that a person has engaged in a strike or lockout, a fine may be imposed. Very little is said in that act about imprisonment, and a person can only be imprisoned if he repeats an offence after having been fined. It is not fair to charge men who have hitherto been subject to the Arbitration Act with a criminal offence. When an industrial trouble arises it is impossible to prevent interference with trade and commerce. No one wants to see industrial trouble; we all want to prevent it. I regret that during the recent shipping trouble the Prime Minister did not take the action he should have taken. I have already contrasted his attitude with that of Mr. Baldwin in the Old Country, and with that of Mr. Deakin and the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) in Australia. The right honorable member for North Sydney, when he was Prime Minister, prevented many industrial troubles in this country, and when any occurred he played his part as Prime Minister in effecting settlements. Similar action has not been taken by his successor in office.
– The Prime Minister encourages strikes.
– He encourages rather than discourages them. As a result of his action the shipping strike continued. Is this Parliament justified, because industrial troubles have occurred, in passing an act to provide that if an industrial trouble is serious - and they are all serious - if it interferes with transport, trade, or commerce, and if the Government has issued a proclamation, any one who advises the continuation of it may be imprisoned for twelve months or two years, and, if he was not born in Australia, may be deported ? The AttorneyGeneral has said that this bill applies to persons, not to unions; but it will operate against union officials, who are paid to look after the interests of the members of industrial organizations. When trouble occurs they very often, to their credit be it said, try to bring about a settlement as quickly as possible. When the trouble has developed, however, and interferes, as it must, with trade and commerce, those who have hitherto obeyed the Arbitration Act will be charged under the criminal code, and sentenced for being faithful to the interests of the men they represent.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the acts specified in the section should not be regarded as offences ?
– I suggest that union officials should not be brought under the provisions of this bill; they should be dealt with under the industrial laws of this country.
– That is not an answer to my question. The honorable member is evading the point.
– I am not evading the point, and I do not wish to be charged with doing so. It is quite impossible for any man who happens to be at the head of an organization when an industrial trouble occurs to say, “I will take no further part in it.’’ Some one must attend to the business, for otherwise the men would soon become a rabble. The leaders of an organization may be trying to bring about a settlement.
– In that case, they would not come under the provisions of the bill.
– All so-called strikes are not strikes ; many of them are lockouts. It cannot be expected that a trade union leader in a responsible position will tell his members, after a proclamation has been issued, that he cannot advise them what procedure to follow because his advice would be considered by the Attorney-General as being tantamount to inciting them to continue the strike.
– The opinion of the AttorneyGeneral has nothing to do with the application of the clause, so far as it creates an offence.
– Is not an offence created by such action as I described?
– If I were leader of an organization, and a proclamation had been issued because a strike was interfering with trade and commerce, and if I outlined a scheme to the men and advised them to remain as firm as possible, I should be contravening this clause, although I might be working very hard to secure a settlement.
– How would the honorable member be contravening this clause?
– By advising the members of my organization to resist until they had secured a fair deal. I have had experience of similar legislation in the past. I remember when the Wade Government of New South Wales passed the Coercion Act to deal with the trouble then existing in the coal trade. The leaders were branded as criminals and put into jail, and the Government was glad to make overtures to me to intervene. Immediately I got to work, 28 men were put into jail. Could I possibly have influenced the unionists by showing cowardice and telling them to accept this, that, or the other thing? I had to show them that I was earnest and trustworthy, and was endeavouring to settle the dispute on a basis satisfactory to the employers, the men, and the community. The only serious difficulty I had was during the last week, when one of the employers said that he would not re-employ any of the strikers. I said to him, “ So far as I am concerned, then, there will be no settlement. There must be no victimization if I am to settle this trouble in the interests of the community.” It took a week of argument before a judge, who accepted my view, to overcome this obstacle. When there is a cantankerous employer who will not act fairly, how can a representative of the workers be expected to keep clear of the provisions of this bill?
– This bill will not prevent strikes.
– They cannot be prevented. When the right honorable member for North Sydney brought in the Unlawful Associations Bill, members of the Opposition did not oppose it. The right honorable member was very careful to point out that he would not include industrialists in its provisions. In the course of the debate, I said, “ We are just as ready as honorable members opposite to put down the Industrial Workers of the World, but at the same time we must protect trade unionism.” The right honorable member replied, “I give this assurance to the committee, that this provision will not be put into operation against any existing trade organization registered under any law of the Commonwealth or the States.” My attitude to-day is unchanged. At the end of section 3 of that act, the following proviso appears : -
Provided that this last sub-section shall not apply in the case of any association registered under any arbitration law of the Commonwealth or any State, or any law relating to the trades unions in any State.
The Government has departed from that principle to-day. The right honorable member for North Sydney understands industrial affairs, and, although he sought to crush the Industrial Workers of the World - which at that time was destroying property - he provided that the legislation directed against that organization should not be used against industrial unions. There is no justification for departing from that principle to-day. That act was passed when we were at war, and we did many things in war time that we ought not to do in peace time. During the coal strike, the right honorable gentleman met representatives of the miners, and introduced legislation to prevent the holding up of the transport services. It stands to his credit, and to the credit of the miners, that, notwithstanding much that has appeared in the newspapers about strikes in the coal trade, there has not been a general hold-up of the coal trade in this country since that date. Coal has always been available, thus clearly indicating that if the men are treated well they will respond properly. Much of the trouble that has occurred has been unavoidable. Let us look for a moment at what trade unions have accomplished in improving the standard of living in Australia. Wonderful things have been done in that regard.
– That is so. Everybody admits it.
– It will be well at this stage to record what trade unionism has done in the interests of the people, and to review the conditions which existed before trade unionists were recognized. In March, 1884, . a Victorian royal commission on working class conditions reported that -
In July, 1S90, the Chief Inspector of Factories of Victoria reported that women machining shirts earned Ss. 6d. for a week of 56 hours; shirt finishers 10s. 6d. for a week of 72 hours; and women in the boot trade, “slipper felling,” 12s. 6d. for a week of 80 hours. Men in the boot trade ‘‘boot blocking” and boot finishing earned 30s. per week. Shirt makers were paid 2s. lOd. a dozen, and “had to provide their own machines and cotton.” It was reported that the working men and women in certain examined industries at that time had “ either to accept the starvation wages or appeal to charity.” In New South Wales Inspector Burkett said, “I have been in Newcastle nine years, and know firms that have never paid a penny in wages. As soon as a girl asks for wages she is dismissed.’’ He also stated that of 550 girls engaged in the dressmaking and millinery establishments in Newcastle, one-half got nothing, and 60 others less than 3s. a week. In a factory where girls made boxes for packing sweets, they received Id. for 250 boxes. In the pottery works girls under eighteen were wheeling barrows loaded with wet tiles, for wages running from 8s. to 12s. 6d. per week. I could relate a good deal more to the same effect, but I have said sufficient to indicate that great improvements have followed trade union activity.
– That is universally admitted.
– If trade unionists in the past have done such valuable work for the community, I submit that we should be very careful that we do not unjustly bring them within the provisions of the criminal code. As I have already remarked, it is most difficult to define a strike or a lockout. In this measure the Government has adopted the following definitions that appear in the Industrial Arbitration Act : -
For the purposes of this section - “ employee “ includes any person whose visual occupation is as an employee; employer “ includes any person whose usual occupation is as an employer; “ lockout includes the closing of a place or part of a place of employment, and the total or partial refusal of employers, acting in combination, to give work, if the refusal is unreasonable, or the total or partial suspension of work by an employer, with a view to compel his employees, or to aid another employer in compelling his employees, to accept any term or condition of employment.
It is significant that, although we have had many industrial disturbances since the Arbitration Act came into force, I cannot remember a single one that has been described as a lockout. But will honorable members contend for a moment that these have all been caused purely by the workmen? It is always possible to show reasonable cause for closing a works. Seeing that it is proposed to bring industrial offences within the provisions of the criminal code, I urge that we should be more careful in framing our. definitions. The definition of lockout, for instance, should have an addendum to this effect -
Provided that no employer shall be permitted to close his place of employment, or reduce wages, or interfere with working conditions, until such time as he has received an award of the court.
I venture to say that if that proviso were added to the definition, all our industrial disturbances would be termed lockouts instead of strikes. In order to emphasize my point, let me draw attention to the happening at the Maribyrnong munition works last week. Notwithstanding that the employees were working under an award of the Arbitration Court, the Government issued a statutory rule, which has the force of law, having the effect ofplacing these employees under the jurisdiction of the Public Service Arbitrator, Mr. Atlee Hunt, and fixing the wages that should be paid to them. It actually proposed that the wages of the men should be reduced by from 5s. to £1 1s. 6d. a week. Because the men stopped work in consequnce, a strike was said to have occurred. Can anybody think for a moment that the Government acted properly? Was it justified in reducing the wages of its employees? Are the workers to submit to every indignity without protest? The Government ought to set an example as an employer. The fact of the matter is, however, that what it did last week private employers often do; and so the workers are placed in a false position. I wish now to quote some figures to controvert statements that are all too frequently published about the number of industrial disturbances that occur in Australia. I am reluctant to do this, but these false reports are causing Australia an immense amount of harm overseas. The figures, which I have obtained from the Commonwealth Statistician, will show that Australia is in a very favorable position compared with other parts of the world. The table is as follows : -
It is evident that in 1917 and 1919, there were big industrial disputes in the Commonwealth. The figures for the last four years, however, are enlightening. They show that the amount of work lost per year per trade unionist averaged 1.3 days. That is a wonderful result, in my opinion; but statements which are frequently made outside would lead one to suppose that Australia is in the throes of industrial disturbances at least half the time.
Mr.Fenton. - That is slandering the Australian workmen.
– It is. These figures include all the workmen from Capo York to Cape Leeuwin. Many of the disturbances taken into account are of a minor character and interfere with very few people. [Extension oftime granted.] I wish toset against those figures the number of persons unable to work owing to sickness or accident. I am unable to obtain any very definite information of this character, but I refer honorable members to the first progress report of the Royal Commission on National Insurance. Prom page 9 of that report I take the following statement: -
The average period of sick pay per member in New South Wales during the year 1922 was ten days, having increased from seven days during the last ten years; in Victoria the average per member was twelve days per annum, the rate of the leading societies having increased by two days in the last fifteen years; in Queensland the average was eight days, whereas it was formerly six days; the average in South Australia was ten days; in Western Australia and Tasmania nine days, having in Tasmania increased from 5.7 days during the last 30 years. The average period of sickness per friendly society member in Australia during the year 1922 was, therefore, approximately ten days, equivalent to 3 per cent. of the total working days in that year. When this average is applied to the total number of wage and salary earners over fifteen years of age in Australia, the result is as follows : - 1,284,700 males lost in one year a total of 1,739,000 weeks’ work, with a consequent average loss of £5 17s. l0d. in wages by each male wage-earner, and a total loss in wages of approximately £7,569,000 in one year. Taking the total number of female wage and salary earners as 383,000, the total time lost as the ‘ result of sickness amounted to 399,000 weeks, and the average wage lost £2 4s., representing a total loss of £843,000 in wages by female wage-earners. The total loss in wages in one year by male and female wage and salary earners in Australia, on account of lost time resulting from sickness was, therefore, £8,412,000. During this period of lost time a number of wage and salary earners would be on sick leave with pay granted by their employers, and a total sick-pay benefit of £561,000 was paid by friendly societies during the year 1922. Twenty-eight per cent. of the unemployment recorded at the 1921 census was due to sickness or accident. This enormous loss in wages, and the heavy consequent loss in production estimated at four times the loss in wages, as the result of sickness and accident, which in many instances is preventable, reveal the necessity that a national scheme should be put into operation which will provide relief and reduce this heavy and increasing annual loss.
That statement shows clearly that whilst the number of men losing time as a consequence of industrial disturbance is diminishing, the number losing time through sickness and other causes is increasing.
– How does the honorable member account for the fact that loss of time due to sickness is increasing while the people are becoming healthier? The friendly societies are vastly concerned about that.
– I dare say they are, but the honorable member cannot expect me to give the reason for the fact to which he calls attention. I wish now to submit another table showing the number of unemployed members of trade unions which are in a position to furnish information -
According to the Commonwealth Statistician, the total membership of the unions which furnish information as to unemployment is approximately half the total membership of all unions. It is probable that the percentage of unemployment will be at least as high in those unions not reporting, and that the number of unemployed members of trade unionists will be twice the number given above. That will also be the average number of trade unionists unemployed each day. Further . it should be remembered that trade unionists comprise only about 50 per cent. of all employees, and that there will be some unemployment amongst these unorganized employees-
At thecensus of 1921 the total number of wage and salary earners who were unemployed from all causes was 159,188,or nearly four times the number recorded by the unions able to furnish returns. The total of wage andsalary earners unemployed will, therefore, be in the neighbourhood of four times the number recorded in the table above, and the statistician states that this number on the average will be out of work every day of the year. It will be seen that the average daily unemployed in Australia is about 34,000 unionists, yet there is so much capital made out of the fact that owing to strikes a unionist loses 1.3 days each year.
I wish now to deal with the results of industrial disputes in other countries. I wish these figures to appearon record in order that readers of Mansard may be able to compare our position industrially with thatof other countries. We are often told in this House that in Australiaunionists are constantly on strike, and are over militant. The following table supplied to me shows the number of working days lost in other countries as well as in Australia. I should preface it by saying that in quoting the American figures I can deal only with those relating to thecoal mines, as no otherfigures of this kind are available for the United States of America: -
– What is the ratio to population?
– I shall give the populations of the differentcountries referred to.
– Those figures do not get the honorable member anywhere.
– These figures are the working days lost each yearon account of industrial disputes inthe countries mentioned. As to the population of the countries mentioned in the table, Australiahas 5,750,000 inhabitants; South Africa, 7,000,000, of whom 1,500,000 are whites and 5,500,000blacks; England has a population of 35,500,000; the United States of America, 117,000,000; France, 39,000,000; Canada, 8,500,000; and New Zealand, 1,250,000. It will be seen from the figures I have quoted that England, with six times the population of Australia, loses much more than six times the number of working days lost here in the year.
– Not throughstrikes.
– From all industrial disputes. That is what I am referring to.
– That may be so, but we have to deal with the facts.
– Of course we have. Facts are stubborn things, and they are against the right honorable member. France, with seven times the population of Australia, loses much more than seven times the number ofdays lost here through strikes. In this respect Australia compares favorably with Canada. We cannot make the comparison fairly with the United States of America, as the figures given in the table I have quoted refer only to the coal mines. In the United States of America in 1921 - the latest figures to hand, with823,000 persons employed in thecoal -mines, 3,106,000 working days were lost. In Australia, in the same year, with 1,362,000 employed in all industries, the number of working days lost was only 956,000. These figures show that the position in Australia is far and away better than in America.
– The honorable member does not deal with all the conditions obtaining.
– The honorable member has always some objection to urge, but I am dealing with the statement constantly made in this House as to the number of stoppages of work in Australia due to strikes.
– Only in certain indus- tries.
– The honorable member now tries to twist the argument again, but the same objection might be applied to other countries. One thing stands out plainly - Australia compares favorably with all these countries as regards industrial troubles. To show that the working man in Australia is not “ going slow,” I have taken the following figures from the Commonwealth Statistician’s quarterly summaries: -
These figures prove conclusively that the Australian worker is giving his employer a fair deal, having increased his output by 50 per cent. since 1916.
– They prove nothing, except rising prices.
– The honorable member will admit that when prices rise the worker should get a proportionate increase.
– If the workers are given an increased living wage in proportion to rising prices, then the figures ought to be relatively correct.
– They prove nothing.
– They clearly show that the industrialists of Australia do not “go slow” on the job. Our workers compare more than favorably with those of other parts of the world. It is generally admitted that Australians quickly adapt themselves to changing conditions. When experts are brought from overseas to establish large industries here, no time elapses before they give place to our own workmen. Men representing overseas companies have told me that Australian workmen are apt at grasping the intricacies of machinery. In spite of the figures that 1 have quoted, the statement is wrongfully made to the general public that the industrial troubles of Australia are injuring its trade.
– That is a libel.
– That is so; the statement will not bear investigation. The public should know the true position so far as our industrialists are concerned. . They are amenable to reason, and will readily respond to a fair deal. Under this measure they will not receive fair treatment. No one can justify the placing under the criminal code of a great body of workers who play their part in the development of this country. When the system of arbitration was accepted there was never a thought in the minds of the industrial workers that they would be placed under the criminal code. No country in the world denies to its workmen the right to settle their grievances by strike or lockout. We do not want strikes, and Ave try to avoid them. Still we cannot prevent them from happening occasionally. We know that even in our family life little troubles occur. Our industrial organizations are controlled chiefly by Australians, and among them are men who, in the Empire’s hour of need, did not hesitate to fight for it. The trade unionists of this country played ft prominent part in the late war. They displayed great courage then, and will do so again should any harmful attack be made upon their industrial conditions. When strikes occur, the Government’s first duty should be to call those concerned together in an endeavour to bring about a settlement. The Prime Minister should play his part in industrial troubles, and it is lamentable that he failed to do so during the recent shipping dispute. The industria- lists play a prominent part in the progress of this country, and, so far as possible, we should improve their conditions. I do not object to the proposal under the bill to deal with unlawful ‘ associations. Those persons who advocate the overthrow of government by violence and revolution deserve punishment: but the Australian workers are in a different category. They are prepared to abide by the Arbitration Act if it is administered properly. Can anybody claim that we have given these men satisfaction regarding industrial legislation ? How long have they had to wait to put their cases before the Arbitration Court? Some cases have been listed for 18 months and two years, and during that time conditions have altered considerably. The Arbitration Act should be amended to give the workers ready access to the Arbitration Court. This Parliament, before attempting to amend the Crimes Act, should have amended the arbitration laws of this country, and enabled our working men to place reliance on the law relating to industrial disputes. Having done that, penalties could be imposed for any infringement of the law. We should let the Australian workmen see that we are. prepared to give them a fair deal. But what has this Government done? It has hurriedly drafted a bill to bring the men under the criminal code, and to make them subject to the penalties provided in the Crimes Act. I disagree entirely with the Government’s action. It is not doing its duty. It has no mandate from the people to act in such a way. The reason for its failure to legislate on industrial matters is not far to seek. No member of the Cabinet has athorough knowledge of the industrial position. Had the right honorable gentleman for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) been a member of the Government last year, it would not have made the error it did. He would not have placed the working man in the position of being classed as a criminal; he would have given redress to his grievances, and made provision for him to get ready access to the Arbitration Court. Ministers, lacking industrial knowledge, do not understand the conditions of the workers. Before this bill is passed, this House should know exactly what the Government intends to do regarding industrial legislation. It is not sufficient to tell us that it will be brought down later; because in the meantime the men cannot obtain redress for their grievances. A dispute may arise, and if it interferes with trade, transport and commerce, a proclamation may be issued, and the men or the heads of their unions, dealt with under the Crimes Act. The Government would be well advised at this stage to delay the bill until we know its intention regarding industrial legislation. When the Arbitration Act was framed, whoever thought of jailing industrialists because of a dispute with an employer? Penalties were then made for any infringement of the act, but now the Government is seeking to bring loyal men under the penalties of the Crimes Act. I hope that its action may not lead to any great industrial upheaval in this country, but if it does, honorable members at least on this side of the House will have a clear conscience. No election is looming, so the matter can be viewed calmly. The welfare of this country is at stake, and we must not make a false step. When an industrial dispute arises, we are not justified in arresting men and dealing with them under the Crimes Act. W<3 do not know what will constitute an industrial dispute under the legislation to be enacted later. If the Government brought down a fair and reasonable industrial measure, it would receive the support of this side of the House, because we are prepared to do everything possible to maintain the industrial peace of this colin try. In order to test the feeling of the House, I move -
That all the” words after “That” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof - “ this House is of opinion that the bill should be withdrawn, with a view to re-drafting, so as to eliminate the obnoxious clauses referring to industrial disputes, as such clauses associated with the Crimes Act are an unwarranted affront to the great bodies of organized labour.”
.- In- seconding the amendment, I congratulate my leader upon the fine case he has made out against this bill. He has placed on record hitherto unpublished figures, obtained from the bureau of statistics, in relation to industrial disputes, and I hope that those honorable members who are so fond of “ crying stinking fish “ in relation to this country and its workmen will study that information in Hansard. The bill is divided into three parts, dealing with general crimes’, unlawful associations, and industrial offences. . Like the Immigration Act of last year, it merely camouflages an attack upon industrialists-. The last attempt to legislate for deportation prior to the dêbâcle of the noted lawyers of this House was the passing of a bill to restrict immigration. The Prime Minister, in moving the second reading of the measure, said very frankly that there was no intention to operate the clauses relating to immigration ; they . were being enacted merely because a time might come when such legislation, although necessary, could not be passed without prejudicing Australia’s friendly relations with other countries-. That law has- notbeen, and will not be, brought into operation by this Government. It merely camouflaged’ an attack upon trade unionists. It was hailed as the last word! in legislation for the restraint of revolutionaries. It discriminated between immigrants and Australian natives, audi between father and son-, branding one as a criminal, liable’ to- deportation, while the other, although’ committing thesame offence, might remain a free and respectable citizen. Similarly, this bill discriminates between fathers and sons who commit the same alleged! offence. I use the word! “ alleged “ because I will not admit that striking is an offence, and deprecate strongly- any attempt to make it a criminal1 act. Thosewho are responsible for the drafting of this bill are seeking to place the unionist who attempts’ to protect himself and his class in the dock side by side with forgers, robbers r and other criminals. Because of that glaring- injustice in the bill, the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition should be, accepted by the Government. The Attorney-General and the supporters of the Government have no right to attempt legislatively to link up criminals with good citizens. No legislation cam’ make a felon- of a mas for merely causing or taking part- in a strike. Attempts to do that have been made by many governments. Legislation- of this character is not altogether new. It has been preceded by the Wade Coercion Act in New South Wales’, the- notorious Irvine Coercion Act in Victoria, and the Queensland legislation of the stirring times mentioned1 by the- Leader of the Opposition, when men were carried in custody from place to- place to be charged with having taken part in a strike. One man was taken to eleven1 different towns before a jury sufficiently plastic or tied could be obtained to find him guilty. He was sentenced to imprisonment for seven years: Another man was taken 3,000-‘ miles to trial, and sent to prison for three years. I recommend to- the notice of honorable members; a booklet The Good Old Days, by the honorable- member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey). When the Leader of the Opposition was- referring to the conditions of 30’ years ago,, honorable members, on all sides of the chamber interjected that nobody defended such conditions. As a matter of fact, the party that was opposed to Labour did so. Throughout the history of the parliamentary system in England and Australia every attack upon trade unionism has been made by the anti-labour parties. I am wondering whether they axe now out of action or are continuing the old work in a more subtle way. I quote from The Good Old Days-
The conditions- of the working class m Australia during the eighties and nineties may be gauged by an. admission in a leading articleof the Melbourne Age, 10th April, 1912V-
Thirty years ago the workers’ lot was hard and cheerless. Sweating was then an evil that flourished in the land. Wageswere, low. Hours of labour were tedious. Equality of social place and opportunity was an unrealized ideal. We had an Europea in Australia then.
When the trade unionists formed the Labour party and attempted to alter those conditions one of the most bitter opponents of the fixation of wages and working conditions by arbitration was the Melbourne Age. Even judges lent themselves to the government of the day to make criminals of men for alleged offences in connexion with trade unionismand strikes. In 1881 Mr, Walsh, of Melbourne, then the Tory representative of East Melbourne in the Victorian Parliament, said - ‘
Outside of a few Trades Hall agitators- not one speaker would advocate the regulation: c-E wages by law..
Very few members of the. anti-labour party believed in the legal fixation of wages’. They advocated free competition, in the labour market, as honorable members’ opposite advocate it in the marts of commerce - provided it is- regulated by something like the- Paterson scheme. The newspapers 30 years ago did everything possible to* prevent . the fixation- of wages- and the escape of the- workers from the economic morass in which they found themselves. Men who attempted by organizing and strikes to better their conditions were characterized as criminals. They were regarded as of the same type as the agitator who preached revolution, and their efforts to uplift themselves were stigmatized by the press and the anti-Labour politicians as detrimental to the interests of the country. Yet despite that influential resistance, the workers of Australia have attained to heights still undreamed of in the older countries of the world. Only 90 years have elapsed since six Dorsetshire, labourers were deported for attempting to improve their conditions. The employer desired to reduce their wages from 6s. to 3s. a week, and for forming an organization to resist that reduction they were sent to Australia.
– The honorable member is going into ancient history. Will he tell the House what wages Adam got in the Garden of Eden.
– The honorable member’s interjection lays him open to a very effective retort, but out of regard for his youth and inexperience I refrain from administering the rebuke he so richly deserves. We all know what happened when a similar’ measure was passed by this Government in the last Parliament - for in nearly all respects this is the same Government. On that occasion legal authorities supporting the Government, and also you, Mr. Speaker, as a member of that Ministry, came to the conclusion that the legislation referred to was constitutional. The High Court held a totally different opinion. Chastened no doubt by previous experience, the legal lights on the Ministerial benches, are not so sure of the position to-day. They are satisfied about the soundness of their own judgment, but are somewhat doubtful about the legal knowledge of the judges constituting the High Court. So far as a layman can learn from the decision of the High. Court - I am not a member of the legal fraternity and therefore not capable of expressing a considered opinion - it would appear that the deportation provisions of the Immigration Act passed last year are unconstitutional. I believe that the provisions of this proposed legislation, if tested in the same way, will meet a similar fate, that is if the Government is not merely indulging in the interesting business of kite flying. If Ministers are in earnest and intend to include among the criminal classes certain persons who may be leading or participating in a strike, I am sure that the measure will be held to be unconstitutional. When this House was debating the amending Immigration Bill last session honorable members opposite quoted with approval legislation framedon similar linos in other countries. In particular the Canadian law dealing with deportation was cited. 1 propose now to show how that law affects trade unionists. Section 41 of the Canadian Immigration Act 1919 reads -
– That section applies only to aliens?
– Yes. The Canadian deportation law properly excludes British subjects. The Dominion Government held that persons who were accepted as citizens should be amenable to the laws and discipline of the country in which they reside, but that the provisions of the law should apply to any persons entering Canada under false pretences or by giving; a wrong name. Why should any British subject bona fide coming to Australia be denied full citizenship rights? Why should the country of his origin be responsible for him if he has been accepted as a citizen, of the Commonwealth? An Irishman, Welshman, or Scotchman, may come to Australia, settle down here, become married and rear a large family. In turn some of his children may marry and. in the course of ‘time, the immigrant may become the grandfather of children bom in Australia. Why should any such citizen, after being resident of this country for thirty or forty years, be liable to deportation ? We objected to this vicious provision in the measure passed ‘ last year, and we are opposed to it in this bill. The High Court has clearly laid it down that, in the circumstances I have detailed, deportation is unconstitutional. This bill attempts to discriminate between citizens of Australia born in other countries, and I am certain that it will not be tolerated by the people. The Government, last session, attempted to camouflage its attack on trade unionsim. The same attempt is being made in this measure, by bracketing offences due to industrial disturbances with membership of unlawful associations. Whether or not this is intentional I cannot say, but the fact remains that the bill places members on this side of the House in a .difficult position. Because of our objection to those provisions relating to trade unionists, we are compelled to vote against the measure, notwithstanding that we are in agreement with the Government concerning the need to punish fraud, thieving, stealing, and a number of other offences which are covered by the bill. Some time ago, the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) brought down three resolutions dealing with the marketing of Australian products. On that occasion, we came to the conclusion that they were purposely, linked together in order to embarrass the Opposition. Although we made it clear that we were prepared to vote for some but not the whole of the resolutions referred to, the Prime Minister refused to separate them. T do not anticipate that the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) will accept an amendment to this bill to separate the offences dealt with in it. I intend to vote against the second reading because, under it, one of my class, possibly myself, might be indicted for participation in an industrial disturbance.
Sitting suspended from 6.31 to 8 p.m.
– The bill before the House is, by general admission, of the greatest importance. It deals with matters that are in themselves most important, and the circumstances under which it is introduced add to its significance. Tin assertion of the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), that the bill was authorized by the mandate of the people, was not challenged by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton). Had it been so challenged, the objection could not have been sustained. Whatever one may think of the bill itself, nothing is clearer than that the mandate of the people, both in its scope and its emphasis, covers the purpose of this bill, and, indeed, goes far beyond it. The question that the people were asked to answer was : Are you in favour of giving this Government power to deal with industrial disturbances in such a way - uo matter what that way may be - as will, if anything can, ensure industrial peace? The reply was a most emphatic “ Yes.” Whether the question put to the electors permitted of a direct answer, was stated fairly, or comprehended by the people, is another matter. But I venture to remind my honorable friends opposite- that I have never known an occasion when the Opposition has admitted that the question on which it was defeated had been put fairly to the! people. Probably I have submitted more questions to the people of Australia than any one else in this country. These, appeared to me simplicity, personified; yet, by my adversaries, they, were declared to be robed in a mantle of mystery, and not to be understood by ordinary men. But lest, peradventure, they should be, my opponents always did what they could to prevent the people from understanding them. Whatever one may think of this bill, tHe Attorney-General is quite justified in saying that it- has been authorized by the mandate of the people. Let us look at it. For practical purposes it is divided, like all Gaul, into three parts. One of those parts deals with a class of crime that has not yet been regarded as coming within the scope of political and economic propaganda. The first part deals with crimes which, by general consent, are admitted to be such. Of the other two, one deals with unlawful associations, and the other with a certain class of strikes. Before discussing these, I desire to express my regret that the Government has not yet seen its way to present for our consideration those remedial measures that it has promised to introduce, so that, while we are considering the most suitable punishment for persons who offend, whether by being members of unlawful associations or by fomenting strikes, we .could know what steps are to be taken to remove the causes of these afflictions, their prevalence, and their intensity. The Government, of course, controls its own business, and probably Ministers felt that the people were looking for a sign. The people returned this Government primarily to do what it declared ought to be . done - to preserve industrial peace, and to punish those who disturbed it. I assume that the Government feels that it must take one step at a time, and that this is the step to be taken first. The Leader of the Opposition took no exception to the provisions concerning unlawful associations, and he emphasized the fact that the party which he has the honour to lead does not believe in achieving its objective by violence, or by the overthrow of constitutional government. He made it quite clear that he had no desire to pose as the protagonist . of unlawful associations. Indeed, if he had spoken the whole truth, he would have said that, he had less cause to champion them than any one else, for whether intentionally or otherwise they have done him a very ill turn. On the provisions of the bill dealing with unlawful associations, all sections of the House are of one mind, and the members of these associations find themselves without a friend - at least, without one who dare open his mouth here. Certainly, I do not feel called upon to break a lance on their behalf, so their defence - if any there be - must be left unspoken. The part of the bill which deals with unlawful associations is not new; in substance, it repeats the provisions of the Unlawful Associations Act of 191 6, which I introduced. It deals with unlawful associations without naming them, and aims particularly at the com munists; my act dealt with the Industrial “Workers of the World. The reason for this distinction may be pointed out. Until the communists in Russia secured control of the government of that country, the insurgent movement of the world, anarchistic and communistic, was without form and void. There were many voices, but they were discordant. The movement did not lack support, but there was no co-ordination of effort. The policy of the Industrial Workers of the World, which is an American organization, was attuned to the environment in which it found itself, just as the Soviet Government is attuned to the environment in which it found itself. In America talk of revolution is’ like the babbling of a child ; revolutionary socialism has little: chance of success. Their .opportunity was in Russia, where the circumstances were, and still are, very different from those existing in America or other western countries. But although the members of the Industrial Workers of the World denied the opportunity of revolution, have fallen back upon the general strike, their objective is exactly the same as that of the communists. Indeed, Lenin recognized this, and said that they were comrades working for a common purpose. I had to deal with the Industrial Workers of the World as they were then. That body was very active in this country, and the government was being hindered by it. The act proved reasonably effective. How many persons were deported or otherwise dealt with under it I do not know, but the curious may ascertain by asking some of those ingenious questions that are the vogue at the beginning of our sittings. I have had a very long and intimate experience of the Industrial Workers of the World and their workings. Almost every organization of which I have been a member has contained some members of that organization. I know them very well. I have nothing to say against them as individuals, but they are most undesirable as members of a union and citizens of this country. They and the communists ha,vc thrown down a challenge to society, so that there can be no talk of peace with them. They do- not acknowledge governments, and recognize one thing only, and that is force, whether they call themselves members of the Industrial Workers of the World, communists,revolutionary socialists, or byany othername. Their object is to pulldown governments and destroy society. They have challenged us to a duelàl’outrance, and either they or we must go down. Whether the AttorneyGeneral willfinditeasiertodealwith thesepeopleundertheprovisionsofthe billwhichdefines,butdoesnotname,one unlawfulassociation,asdidthe1915act, I do not know; but the object of the Government is one of which the people of this country will approve. The Attorney-General said that there were only a few communists in Australia, but, that although their number was negligible their influence was eonsiderable.I do not agree that their number is very small. It has become usual to say that the communists are few in number,but that they exert , a. most powerful and even a dominating influence over the unions and political parties with which they are connected, and so, over the fortunes of the nation. That they exercise great influence cannot be denied; but I do not admit that in numbersthey are insignificant. Mr. Lang, the Premier of New South Wales, a little while ago gave the community the benefit of his opinion on this subject. He said there were only a few hundreds of communists in New South Wales. If one means by communists only those who admit membership of the official Communist party perhaps Mr. Lang is right. . Probably a good many whoare thought to be communists would, if asked whether they were so, deny it. Mr. Walsh has said that he is not a communist, and so has Mr. Johannsen. But if a communist is a person who relies upon force, believes in tie class war, the use of the general strike, and the go-slow policy on the job with the object of disrupting and eventually overturning society; if he is a person who stands for force as against the rule of law, and is responsible for the insurgent movement of the minority against the majority in our unions ; if he is one who believes that the government of the country shouldbevested in the proletariat, whatever that may mean, and that no one else has any rights at all, then I say that communists are much more numerous in this community than some people would have us believe. Mr, Donald Grant, a member of the Industrial Workers of the World, who offeredhimself as aLabour candidate for theSenate in NewSouth Wales ait the last election, polled some thousands of votes inthe pre-selection ballot - so many, in fact, thathe defeated SenatorGardiner in firstpreferences, and all these voters were staunchunionists. It would be wrong to fee mealy-mouthed over this matter. After being selectedtorun as aSenate candidate, he appealed to the electors, I say deliberately that no man who voted for Donald Grant believed thathe was in the Labour movement withany other motive than to “white ant” it. His main purpose is now,asit was,to destroy society and set up the principles ofthe Industrial Workers of the World. Manyopportunities were offered during the election of expressing an opinionof Mr. Donald Grants and a great deal was said about him. After hearing it, 28,000 electors in New South Wales voted for him in preference to Senator Gardiner. I repeat this : although the Labour party directed its supporters to vote first for Senator Gardiner, 28,000 people preferred Donald Grant. That is no small number. I, therefore, cannot agree with the AttorneyGeneral that the numberof communists in Australia is few. If further evidence is required, we may look atthe Queensland Labour conference which is just beginning, where a battle royal is being fought. The trouble is that thecommunists are not few. I do not believe for a moment that they are in the majority, but their numbers are considerable, and their influence great. With that I leave the provisions dealing with unlawful associations and come to those which are much more important. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) took exception to the clauses dealing with strikes. I would point out, in the first place, that they do not deal with all strikes, but only those affecting transport. They make such strikes an off ence punishableby fine, imprisonment, and deportation. We must ask ourselves whetherthe bill will improve the prospect of maintaining continuity in industrial undertakings. Will it help us appreciably to maintain industrial peace? ‘The Leader of the Opposition said that theofficers of trade unions have to be loyal and true to the men whose servants they are, and that if a union becomes involved in a strike they must stand byit. I admit that I fear that some overlook the fact that everything that Labour has to-day, indeed, everything of value that the people of this country possess, has been won by organized effort. Nothing has been gained except by straggle. Every step in the march of progress has been impeded by the efforts of those opposed to Labour. When, therefore, it is said, in effect, that men shall not engage in a strike lest they become liable under the bill, one has to consider what, as a fact, a strike is. It is a dispute between two parties whose interests conflict. It seems to be assumed by some that a Minister or a judge can say with certainty what is right or what is wrong in an industrial dispute. I do not admit that that is necessarily so. The interests of the two parties are diametrically opposed. , One desires to get as much as possible, and the other to pay as little as possible. Which is in the wrong? Is either wrong? Every effort by the worker to increase his wages, or to reduce his hours of labour, which amounts to the. same thing, is naturally regarded with disfavour by the man who purchases the labourer’s work., But that does not make a. strike wrong. But in almost every dispute apoint is reached when the interests of the. general community must be regarded asparamount. The position that used to be taken by Governments generally, as laid down by Spencer years ago, was that they should keep the ring and let the parties fight it out. Long ago, however, Australia turned her back on that doctrine. She took the stand that the Government should see justice done to both parties with as little disturbance as possible to the community. Rules to govern the position were set down in the Commonwealth Arbitration and Conciliation Act. It is provided in that measure that all disputes of this nature are justiciable and referable to the Arbitration Court, and that when the court decides a matter the parties must accept its decision. But. we saw quite clearly in the last strike) out of which this measure has arisen, that in a really serious strike the court is powerless. That is an inherent defect in arbitration which nothing can cure. It cannot work miracles. What the House and the country must thoroughly grasp in this matter is that there is no remedy for this disease, if by a remedy is meant some thing which will make these stoppages in industry impossible. That will never occur whilst human nature remains as it is. The members ofunlawfnl associations say that there is no cure for this defect, and they are right. But that is not to say that we should sit down and do nothing. There is no cure for death, but humanity does not rush with- open arms to meet it. It is possible combat or remove the. causes of disease, and that is all that society can do in regard to strikes. Certain conditions aggravate industrial unrest, and make industrial war inevitable. We must avoid these. I shall not say thait the provision in this bill for dealing with industrial disturbances is one that I altogether approve. I should have preferred to have the matter dealt with in another way. I admit that no practical distinction is to be drawn between a law relating to rioting or disturbance, in which the King’s peace is endangered, and a law such as that now under consideration. In South Wales recently there was; a. strike of miners. A mine was picketted. A deputy tried to get into it to keep the pumps going, and, when the men endeavoured to stop him, they were charged with rioting. The case was heard before magistrates, and some of the miners were fined, whilst others were imprisoned’. There is no real distinction betweena riot for the purpose of preventing the transport of goods or passengers anda strike. It is a development of the strike. It is not for the act of striking that it is attempted to punish the strikers, but for the deliberate flouting of the law and the. interference with the public on their lawful occasions. We cannot allow force to usurp the functions of law. What the law does not forbid, men are free to do. . Therefore, whilst I should prefer to see the matter dealt with in some other way, I do not say that the Government is not justified in dealing with it in the manner proposed by the bill. I think, however, that, in practice, the Government will find that unless applied very rarely and with great discretion, this provision will prove a twoedged sword. I remember when the Wade Coercion Act, to which the. Leader of the Opposition referred, was applied in
New SouthWales in 1909. As one of the leaders of that strike, I cannot say that the application of that measure had any appreciable effect, except that it incensed those in the union movement, and was, perhaps, more than anything else responsible for the overwhelming victory of Labour in the Commonwealth in 1910.There is only one other thing I wish to say about the measure, and that has reference to the provision dealing with deportation. In the last Parliament, a measure differing from this, but also providing for deportation, was passed. I stated my views upon the measure quite clearly. We have to deal here with one of the most difficult questions which confront the modern world. Industrial unrest and strikes are worldwide phenomena. They are common to every country and occur under every form of government. T. am bound to say that the case being stated fairly, the bill in this matter provides an inadequate means of dealing with it. The Leader of the Opposition told us this afternoon that there are more strikes in other countries than there are in Australia. I do not know whether that is true, but I can quite believe it to be so. I join with the honorable gentleman in expressing my regret that party recriminations have been responsible for helping to create the reputation which Australia has abroad of being a land of droughts and strikes. In my opinion, Australian workmen compare most favorably with the workmen of any other country. I do not think that per thousand of those employed, Australian unionists lose as many days through strikes as do the unionists of other countries. I do not believe that deportation is a remedy suited to Our purpose. Strikes occur all over the world, and we cannot regard the sending of strikers away from Australia, and the receiving of strikers from other countries as a method likely to prevent strikes. If deportation is considered a deterrent, to apply the measure partially is obviously absurd. It is foolish to apply this provision to persons not born in Australia, and to permit Australianborn unionists to do as they please. If there is anything which would be a greater deterrent than deportation7 it should be applied alike to the native- born and topersons born outside Aus tralia. I do not believe in deportation for offences of this sort. I applied it in certain circumstances during the war to persons, members of the Industrial Workers of the World, aliens, and other undesirables. I make no apology whatever for having done so. So far as I know, its application then was followed by nothing but good to this country, though some of those who were deported came back to Australia, and one or two of them had to be deported a second time. But there are spots on the sun. and, taken by and large, the legislation to which I now refer was most successful. But deportation was never used as a weapon against the parties to an industrial dispute. This is the National Parliament of Australia. We have been given a mandate to deal with industrial turmoil, to use our utmost endeavours to insure industrial peace. But when all is said and done, we have to make the humiliating confession that we have not the power to deal effectively with this great question. We cannot make an industrial law; we cannot make a law relating to corporations, or trusts, or combines; we cannot deal with the matter directly, or get to close grips with it, These industrial disputes arise out of the conflicting interests between organized labour and organized capital. We have no power whatever to deal with organized labour directly. . We cannot make a law relating to labour and industry. We cannot make a law dealing with corporations as they ought to be dealt with. We have no power over organized labour, nor organized capital. We cannot make a law securing uniform hours of labour throughout this country, and at this juncture nothing is. more necessary than just such a law. In New South Wales there is a law prescribing a 44 hours’ working week, but its operation is confined to the territory of that State. In Victoria and in the other States the working week is one of 48 hours. This difference will create endless difficulties, and will be most prolific of those very disputes that we are trying to prevent. We should be able to pass an industrial law to secure uniformity of labour conditions and to clothe the Arbitration Court with power to make a, common rule. We havenosuchpower ByThisbillwe shall be able to deal only with some kinds of transport, and not With all kinds. We cannot deal,for in- stancewithastrikeonStaterailways. One of the reasons why the benches on the ministerial side in this chamber are so well filled is that there was recently a railway strike in Queensland. Yet we are powerless to deal with such strikes. It may be, of course, that in connexion with the handling of His Majesty’s mails the Commonwealth would have some standing in such a case; but it has no power to deal with the property of the States. The people of this country are sick and tired of the kind of thing that happened just before the last federal election. A couple of men, who are now fighting each other, were then responsible for the holding up of the shipping for weeks . That involved the British shipping combine in a loss of millions of pounds, and inflicted upon some of our industries injuries so serious that possibly they may never recover. It was a direct challenge to constitutional authority. We had the spectacle of English seamen, who were not citizens of this country, proceeding to lengths to which I have never seen Australians go in my long connexionwith unionism in this country . Thepeople sentus here todo something. And as things are, we can do nothing effective. We are now at the beginning of a new parliament. The Government, returned by an over- whelming majority, has amandate, if any government ever had, to go to the root of this matter. But we can only play with it unless we amend the Constitution, and give this national Government the power to deal with these things, which every other Government has. We talk about dealing with industrial questions, and I donot care what measures the Government introduces, its power is so limited that its choice of methods is not very wide. When industrial unrest arises out of a dispute between organized labour and organized capital, whether corporation, combine, or trust, we have no power to deal with either party. A parliament soconstituted is national only in name.I nope that theGovernment will at the earliest moment, after having examined this question, permit this House to consider the amendment of the Constitution. On three or four occasions the country has had an opportunity of giving this Parliament power to amend the Constitution, and although the people have not accepted the advice given to them, yet on each consecutive occasion they came a little nearer acceptance. I venture to say that the people, if given another opportunity, would grant the request, because they would have absolute confidence that the great power granted to the Nationalist party would be used for purposes that were salutary and effective. I shall support the measure, and I hope later to put forward some amendments for the Ministry’s consideration.
– I have been asked whether I propose to reply to the speech of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), but I really think that it might be adequately dealt with by recalling some of the academic discussions of our youth, one familiar subject of debate being whether environment rather than heredity influenced character. I have concluded, after listening to the right honorable gentleman, that undoubtedly environment is the more potent factor in developing political character. He referred to some things which he did and said in 1909. . I could not help thinking what a delightful picture it would be if the Hughes of 1909 could be -reincarnated to answer the Hughes of 1926 on the floor of this House. I feel perfectly certain that the contest would be of such a character as to require the intervention of the police to protect the latter Hughes. The motion now before the
House is that the bill be now read a second time, to which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) has moved the amendment that all the words after “ That “ be eliminated, and the following words inserted : - this House is of opinion that the bill should be withdrawn with a view to re-drafting so as to eliminate theobnoxious clauses referring to industrial disputes as such clauses associated with the Crimes Act are an unwarranted affront to the great bodies of organized labour.
The bill, though general in character, is from our view-point mainly industrial, and we have taken the responsibility - and I as a member of the rank and file of the Labour party share that responsibility - of deciding for ourselves what are the vital features and characteristics of the measure. The fact that the Government to-day has followed its own evil example of overlaying certain vital measures with numerous details of little importance, does not disguise from us the real purpose and intention of the bill. It is a bill to take the place of a certain ill-fated measure known technically as the amended Immigration Act, but more familiarly as the Deportation Act ; an act which we were told was not unconstitutional but merely abortive; an act which was not illegal but merely immoral; an act which was not opposed to the. Nationalist policy,but merely inconsistent with natural justice; an act which we were told when it was introduced, and afterwards, was to save the country, but which merely played the minor part of saving the Government ; an act technically right but fundamentally wrong. That act was erected into a structure to protect the Government from the bleak political winds which four months ago were blowing on its political nakedness, and having served its purpose more or less it came tumbling down about the Government’s ears, leaving the Prime Minister and his supporters seated amidst the dust and debris thanking God that it had served their personal purpose so well, but wondering vaguely what had hit. them. I acquit the Government absolutely of any intention to give serious effect to this measure. I have not the slightest doubt that when ithas been passed, as passed it will be by the dutiful supporters panged behind the Government, the Prime Minister will retire to his golf and other pleasant pastimes, including the collection of dividends from that large importing company that is keeping so many Australians out of work, and in which he, as he tells us so ingeniously, has nothing but a financial interest. The bill will then be forgotten. But though the bill is, as we think, make-believe, never- theless we must take it seriously. As members of the Commonwealth Parliament it is incumbent upon us to prevent objectionable legislation from being passed by this National Parliament. May I modestly remind the Government that the Labour party has a mandate as well as they. It is true that we have no mandate from those persons who have a large measure of warm fellow feeling for the Government because i t has remitted to them in times past sums of public money inthe shape of t axation, in return for which they in t heir gratitude have contributed hand- s omelv and generously to the party funds.
We have no mandate from those who, as members of this legislature, have used their position of public trusteeship to buy into the public utilities of this country for their own profit. We have no mandate from that large bodyof youths and maidens who, at the last election, voted for the first time, and who were influenced, as they would be when going to a picture show, toy the glaring placards which were displayed upon the hoardings of this country, and which were designed to poison their minds. We have no mandate from the middlemen, the financiers, the bank directors who bought our national bank, or the bank directorswhosold our national bank, or from any of their friends. We have nomandate from either the idle rich or the terrorised poor.
– There is no one left to give the Labour party a mandate.
– We have no mandate at the moment from thenarrow majority of the people. But let metell the honorable member who heard me detail the list of his friends, and who interjected wrongfully, that therefore there was nobody left to give us a mandate,that we have a mandate from that mighty mass of people who are keeping the essential services of this country going. We have a mandate from those who supply the food, the raiment, and the transport for this country. We have a mandate from the workers in mill, factory, store and office, from men who work withbrain and hand, and from the tillers of the soil. We have a mandate even from the farming community, notwithstanding the partial measure of influence which still remains with that body, which like a fungus growth, true to itselfbut very unfair to its supporters, attaches itself to the Nationalist party in the name of the Country party. We have a mandate from members of the farming community, and from those who are discharging the vital services of the nation. But for the moment we do not appear to represent the majority of the people. What is the mandate that we have? The Prime Min ister, speaking from the almost illimitable wealth of his inexperience, has told us that we should submit to the verdict of the people, meaning, apparently, that in some mysterious way a wronghad been made right, and thatblack had been made white, and that the elements of social justice were to be established, decided, and measured merely by a counting of heads at the last elections. Nothing of the kind. Such a view is very natural in those who lead from the rear, and who, with their ears to the ground, are constantly seeking from the breath of passion, prejudice, selfishness, and avarice direction as to the way they should go. That is why the right honorable gentleman seems to imagine that the last election had some effect in changing vital principles. It had no such effect. These things may not be changed by a mere counting of heads. We on this side of the House are bound to accept the verdict of the people, and
We do so with good grace, because we know that men learn in the sad school of experience and travail. The claims of the majority must be served; that is the basis of democracy, for which we stand, and we realize that those who march in the vanguard of democracy have to pay the penalty of greatness, and. drag the reactionaries after them. But that we should abate one iota of our commission from what I regard as by far the better part of the electorate isunthinkable and absurd. The Labour party has always been the teacher and torch bearer in politics,’ and whether, as in days gone by, it spoke for hundreds, or as to-day it speaks for millions, it decides for itself what are vital principles, and seeks not to follow the crowd, but to educate the crowd to follow it. That is precisely what is occurring every day. Coming now a little closer to the bill-
Ministerial Members. - Hear, hear!
– I come with praiseworthy celerity, too. God forbid that I should follow the Attorney-General in his long marches through the arid stretches of tedious irrelevancy. He repeated a speech delivered by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) in this House not four months ago. He was not quite word perfect, and, as a matter of fact, the honorable member for Fawkner is, on the whole, the better histrionic artist. Though a Scotchman he did at least amuse us, whereas the AttorneyGeneral, I say with sorrow, mainly bored us. We understand now why the Government was so long in producing the fruits of the mandate. It is perfectly evident that the Attorney-General, closeted in some quiet retreat, has been reciting the speech of the honorable member for Fawkner before a looking glass while the master held the text and the Prime Minister the bottle. The bill now before the House is not an immigration measure. The last bill designed to deal with many of the same matters proposed to amend the Immigration Act. This bill is to amend the Crimes Act. The change is very significant, for it indicates that the Government has in part learned its lesson. It had attempted to set up a code of criminal law under a statute foreign to that purpose. The Labour party declared in and out of this House that that was an improper course, and the High Court upheld our contention in that and in other respects. The object of the Government in introducing it in that way is clear. It sought to create ah artificial criminal class in the community deprived of those rights and prerogatives which are due under British law to even the worst of criminals. In the High Court judgment Chief Justice Knox pointed out that the acts referred to in the statute as constituting the offence for which deportation was the penalty were not known to the criminal law as offences or wrongs. The AttorneyGeneral has learned part of his lesson. At least he has learned not to. offend against the foundational principles of British law. Let him not think that I am flattering him. I shall show later that although this measure does not violate foundational principles, it does attempt to erect laws upon them for the purpose of overriding other principles. The Prime Minister, chastened, also has learned his lesson, and with characteristic unctuousness, has made a vicarious atonement, with the consequence that you, Mr. Speaker, have been elevated to your present high office, and the position of Chief Law Adviser to the Crown, thus rendered vacant, has been filled by the appointment of the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham). The attack upon trade unionism in the amending Immigration Act was oblique, treacherous, and underhand. The attack in this measure is, perforce, and we may assume, reluctantly, more or less in the open. That is the difference between the two measures. The Attorney-General devoted much time to the High Court’s decision in the recent deportation proceedings, ex parte Walsh and ex parte Johnson. He dissected the decision thoroughly from the lawyer’s point of view. May I touch it ever so lightly and with due humility, from the lawyer’s, as well as from the people’s, point of view, because the two are inseparably interwoven? The Government proposed in the Immigration Act for industrial, or, worse still, for political reasons, to exile persons who, having come to Australia originally as British subjects or subjects of some other country, had long since been assimilated into the community; and this without trial and without even making a definite charge against them. In this House and from a hundred platforms, the Labour party opposed that proposal as outrageous, and the High Court decided for the law and order of the Labour party against the lawlessness and disorder of the Government. “ The question,” said Mr. Justice Knox, “ is whether the two persons under arrest are lawfully detained.” He added : “ No lawful cause is shown for the detention of either of them.” The Government attempted to use the Immigration Act for the purpose of undermining the age-long requirements of justice for safeguarding the administration of the criminal law. The Labour party, in this Parliament and elsewhere, opposed the attempt, and declared it to be fundamentally wrong and dangerous. The High Court upheld the Labour party, and condemned the Government. Some sections of the press have twitted the Labour party with its constant appeals to Magna Oharta. I do not see why respectable conservative morning journals should, at this late hour, .begin to cavil at Magna Charta. It is, at least, timehonoured; but, at all events, their criticism should be directed, not at the Labour party, but at the High Court. Mr. Justice Isaacs, in a scathing and illuminating judgment, did not disdain to refer to Magna Charta. I shall quote his words ‘ and, incidentally, I suggest that Ministers should read his judgment with towels round their heads, so that they may understand wherein the decision of the court, in spite of the nonchalance of the Prime Minister, does matter. “ No free man,” said Mr. Justice Isaacs, quoting Magna Charta, “shall be taken or imprisoned or exiled but by the law of the land. Primarily, every free man has an inherent individual right to his life, liberty, property, and citizenship.” And, after pointing out that the safety of the State is the highest law, he said: “The law of the land is the only mode by which the State can so declare its will.” Then he drew this deduction, or corollary - “ There is always an initial presumption in favour of liberty, so that whoever claims to imprison or deport another must justify his claim by reference to the law.” The learned judge went on to show how the Government had failed to justify its claim by reference to the law. Mr. Justice Isaacs’ pronouncement may be compared interestingly with that of the Attorney-General, who, speaking of the Peace Officers Bill in this House and to his constituents at Kew, said, “ The Labour party says that we should try a man according to law. This is law.” He did not tell his auditors that it was bad law, or would probably be declared so, although, as I shall show later, he should have done so. Instead, he misled them on that vital aspect of the matter. Again, the Labour party said that the Immigration Act of 1925 was crude, foolish, and subversive of the timehonoured principles of British liberty. The High Court did not say exactly that, because it is not its function to be unduly rhetorical; but if honorable members will take the trouble to read the very interesting judgment of the court they will find that the learned judges went as near as they safely could to exceeding their prerogative in their endeavour to convey to the people their view that the act was crude, foolish, and subversive of the time honoured principles of British liberty. Mr. Justice Higgins pointed out what we all know, namely, that the High Court may not make laws. Its function is to interpret the laws of the Commonwealth. It decides what the people, through the Constitution in the first place, and through their legislation afterwards, have done.. It is not the business of the High Court to say what the people should do. Mr. Justice Higgins, artfully keeping within the limits of his judicial functions, and after cleverly pouring ridicule upon the deportation proceedings, pointed out that no crudity, no folly, no subversion of the time-honoured principles of British liberty, entitled him to say that the act was without the powers of the Constitution, hinting if not declaring, that l.hat was the. character of the legislation. A little later he said -
For a Minister to interfere with the liberty of the subject by sending him away from his home over the seas, without crime on his part, is clearly not within the limits of tlie power.
Mr. Justice Higgins quoted Hallam and Lord Dunedin on the same lines. At every stage of the debate on that measure the Labour party protested against this discrimination between British subjects. It protested against the Minister being constituted a judge in a case which he had already prejudged and declared himself satisfied. If one reads the decision of the High Court one will find that every word of criticism directed by the Labour party against that act and its consequences was justified either in the essential part of the decision or by some portion of the dicta of the learned judges. The decision was unanimous that the men had been wronged and outraged, and it clearly indicated, if I may paraphrase a quotation so often applied to the Constitution of the Commonwealth, that the act was a monument of legislative incapacity. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) from his place the other day said, in so many words, that we had’ to consider whether the High Court was going to ‘ legislate for the country, or whether Parliament was to be entrusted with this great responsibility. The honorable member, it is evident, has not mastered even the elements of the balance between the judiciary and parliament in the scheme of our Constitution. Apparently, the honorable member is ignorant of the principles upon which the Constitution is based, otherwise he would know that it is the business of- the High Court, not to legislate, but to interpret the law. God forbid that the honorable member for Richmond, and those who sit with him, should ever be entrusted with that responsibility., He also said that there should be a cleaning-up in the law department, so that we should not . have a repetition of this fiasco. Why blame the law department? We do not know what advice was given to the Government by the permanent officers of the Crown, the Solicitor-General or others. We have no means of knowing. We do not know whether the Government sought the advice of those legal gentlemen, or of any one else. In any case, the AttorneyGeneral is supposed to be qualified in his own person to advise his colleagues in these matters. Therefore, the responsibility rests with the representative of the people in this House, who acts as Attorney-General of ‘ the Commonwealth, and not with any permanent legal official who is not in a position to defend his opinions on the floor of this House. Doubtless it will be suggested that I am defending the two persons who were charged and imprisoned, and who were to be deported, but who, I gather from the right honorable member for Worth Sydney (Mr. Hughes), are still in Australia. I am not defending them. Any names would suit me just as well. The Government, I may add, made full use of the opportunity to persuade the people of Australia that, in defending a principle, we were defending certain individuals. Of course, we had to take that risk, whether we. won or lost. We are bound to take it by standing for the principle at all costs, whether that principle were wrapped round the names of Walsh, Johnson, Shelley, or worst of all, Garden, the man the Government dared not deport for no better reason that that he comes from Scotland, and it was believed that Scotland would not take him back. It was the principle and not the individual about which .we were concerned. May I remind the Government, and the Prime Minister especially, that it is the proud boast of British law that it considers neither time or expense in proceedings designed to establish the innocence of any one of Britain’s subjects. Neither does it consider time or expense in the prosecution of guilt, if guilt there oe. The meanest creature in the land may claim equally with the richest and greatest certain well-established fundamental rights in the eyes of the law. For these reasons I claim, with a great measure of pride, a moral victory for the Labour party, a victory the coping stone of which was fixed by the decision of the High Court. It is true that that decision was not unanimousin every part, but it was unanimous, I rewind the Attorney-General, in its fundamental social aspects, which are more tous than the mere technicalities of the law. To the Prime Minister this is as nothing. He whistles to keep his courage up. Of course, from his point of view, the decision of the High Court may be as nothing. My only answer is that as in more delicate matters so in this, where there is no compunction you may be certain that you have reached the graveyard of virtue. The Prime Minister, no doubt,, concludes that the end justifies the means. To that I reply that the end is not yet.What I would like to know is, did, the right honorable gentleman and his Government act recklessly, stupidly, or vindictively? I am prepared to admit the possibility of a large measure of recklessness; I am satisfied,, also-, of the existence of a sufficient measure of stupidity, but I think vindictiveness was the predominant consideration with the Government when dealing with the former act. It was. apparent that the Government did not bother much about the advice of the Crown Solicitor or of leading members of the bar. Ministers did not even have an opinion from the gentleman who is now the AttorneyGeneral. Obviously, they said, “ It’s Walsh and Johnson.. Let, us try it on the dog, because, after all, are they not dogs? Are they members of. any of the fashionable clubs? Do they contribute to the Nationalist party funds? No.They are disturbers of the peace. Whether or not we have the power we ought try, it, because no one can say whether or not an act is constitutional until ithas, been decided by the High Court.” Accordingly the Government directed the legislation referred to, against two inconspicuous persons, who were arrested’ without’ warrant, imprisoned without a trial, and were faced with deportation for no crime. The Attorney-General has said that the act has not been declared unconstitutional by the High. Court. I have admitted that. Will the Attorney-General deny that it has been declared to have no application to persons who have been admitted to Australian citizenship or to persons who were domiciled in this country before the inauguration of federation ? The act was not declared unconstitutional because it is a wise principle of interpretation never to declare an act to beunconstitutional if it is possible to give it a meaning that will bring it within the ambit of the constitutional power. I think this fairly states the position. The High Court decided, not that the act was unconstitutional, but that it could not have been intended to apply to men like Walsh and Johnson, who were members of the Australian community, and, therefore, were not immigrants. One of them had come to Australia before the inauguration of the Commonwealth. So by a useful action, and because it helps to uphold the power of the Parliament, the High Court concluded, not that the act was unconstitutional, but that it did not apply to certain people. But are Ministers entitled to congratulate themselves upon this decision? The question is: “Did they intend to apply the act to Walsh and Johnson, and that tremendous section of the people in a like position? Did the Attorney-General, when he misled the. House on this matter, know that it was intended to apply it to men like Walsh and Johnson ?” What a first class sensation would have been created if the honorable gentleman had risen in his place and said that it was extremely unlikely that the legislation would be found to have any application either to men who were here before federation or to men who had been assimilated as members of the Australian: community. The honorable gentleman’s reputation as a lawyer would have been enhanced if he had done that.. He preferred to help the Government, for the policy of the Government, was to rush the bill through, put it into operation, deport these mem, and win the election. What might happen afterwards mattered very little to them.
– The people thought that the Government’s view was right.
– On this particular aspect of the question the people knew as little as the honorable member, and I cannot say more than that. I am sorry to have to make a somewhat serious charge against my learned and legal friend, the honorable the AttorneyGeneral. Let me say at once that I donot presume to impugn his standing as a lawyer, or his title to the high standing in th? profession which he enjoys, but I do presume to criticize his law when he mixes it with his- politics, to the detriment of both. Speaking on the- 28th August on the Peace Officers Bill,, amd. in defence of the constitutionality of the Immigration. Bill, he said -
But it has- been said that the Go vera ment cannot, under legislation relating to immigration,, deport a person who has settled in Australia and made bis home here, even though that person was not Australian born.
I ask honorable members to note those words, because they have a direct application to the persona the Government desired to- deport. Th? honorable gentleman further said -
Upon that point Mr. Justice Isaacs was very clear and definite lie them quoted Mr. Justice Isaacs - and it was a very apposite and appropriate quotation - as follows ? -
Except in the1 case of a person Australianborn, who having abandoned this country as his home, is la-admitted, and so restored to his original status, an “ immigrant “’ - that fs, a person whose original home was’ elsewhere, and who: comes into this country for any purpose remains am “ immigrant “ as long as he- is in Australia.. As. to him,, while in Australia the rule hold’s. “ once an immigrant, always an immigrant,” and1 the parliamentary power is newer abandoned, and cannot, be abandoned’.
That, quotation is designed to show that the act would’ have application to such persons as Walsh or Johnson.. The honorable the Attorney-General then continued1 - <
In tlie judgment, in this; case four judges- of the High Court concurred. It will be seen, therefore,, that the High Court has already held that if at ‘person- who waa not horn’ in Australia enters. Australia as, an immigrant, the Australian Parliament can legislate for his deportation by reference to either Ms physical as marali qualities. I hope that, that statement meets the- objections which, have, been raised in this debate to the. validity of the amending Immigration Act.
Note what the- honorable gentleman-, said, “ lh> the judgment in. this’ cas? four judges of the High Court concurred.” Surely honorable members would suppose from tha* statement that four judges concurred; in.’ the view expressed by Mf. Justice Isaacs, but that was* noil so. The. four fudges’ concurred! in a decision on other grounds; and not only” that, but Mi*:
Justice Knox and a majority of the court dissented from the views expressed’ by Mr: Justice Isaacs. On page 533-, volume 32, of the Commonwealth Law Reports, in the case of King v. Macfarlane, Mr. Justice Knox is reported to have said -
The condition imposed by section &a is that if, during, a period of three years after his entry, he shall not remain free from certain disabilities, he shall be liable to be deported - that is. fo say, his entry is permitted) on probation.. If, during, that probationary period, he proves to be unfit for certain reasons which, in the opinion of Parliament, are sufficient, to become a member of the Australian community, his conditional permission to enter may be revoked, and its revocation enforced by the only really effective method - deportation. Tile argument against the validity of the section was really founded on the hardship that might result from its enforcement, but this is irrelevant,, when,, as here, the question is as to the extent of tire power conferred on Parliament.
Mr. Justice Starke said ;
But restriction must operate upon persons; and’ if it is to be effective; the Parliament must have authority to refuse; to> a. person who does not belong to tha people of- Australia,, permission to enter tlie Commonwealth, or “ to annex what conditions it pleases to the permission to enter,” and, further, to expel or deport from the Commonwealth, at pleasure; any such person, if the Parliament considers his presence in Australia “opposed to its peace, order* and good government,, or to its social or -material interests,” or to the welfare off its people.
Mr. Justice Starke went on to say that the “act hit the immigrant, not the member of the community. So far from the decision of Mr. Justice Isaacs being, the decision of the majority of the court on this- point, which- is- the only point- that concerns us ait the moment, there, were three justices against him - Mr.. Justice Knox, Mr., Justice Higgins,, who held that the act was of doubtful validity, amd Mr. Justice- Starke. -
– The honorable member’s quotations did’ not show that.
-Then language lias no- meaning;. Mr.. Justice Knox: has, said in the1 clearest terms- both in that and the recent decision, that,, once a> maru is admitted as> a member of a community, he may not- be deported as am immigrant. That view has been reaffirmed? by Mr. Justice Starke and Mr. Justice Higgins. The former Attorney-General! also had something to say on- the same subject.. On page 1889 of Hansard, during the debate on the second reading of the Peace Officers Bill, he said -
Fortunately, the power of the Commonwealth Parliament to pass this law is beyond’ question….. The Government has acted rightly throughout. . . . I maintain that the position of the Government, throughout has been legally and constitutionally correct.
Even the honorable the Attorney-General, who prided himself the other night on taking a somewhat balancing attitude in regard to constitutional law, and. who is perhaps right in being hesitant, said that from a constitutional point of view there was no objection to this legislation.
– That statement referred to the Peace Officers Bill, not the Immigration Bill.
– I accept the honorable gentleman’s assurance of that, although he was at the time discussing the other bill. I agree, anyhow, that he was maintaining his “ balancing attitude.” The Government does not appear to realize how gravely it has misused its position as trustee of the public, lt does not seem to realize, or care to realize, how sacred is the principle of the liberty of the subject, and how jealous British jurisprudence has always been of- those rights. It has already been emphasized that the principles established in Magna Charta have been affirmed and re-affirmed in a thousand judgments by eminent lawyers in Great Britain and the dominions. Acting, as I suggest, either stupidly or vindictively, and at all events sloppily, the Government allowed these men, without legal warrant, to be seized and unjustly detained. When I remember, first, the great, imperishable tradition of British law, which is worth maintaining, and when I remember, secondly, that members and supporters of the Government made profit out of their lawlessness by arresting and attempting to deport these men, I am driven to conclude that this is not a matter that ought to be dealt with by individual claims for compensation by the people injured. Those claims relate to” personal rights and wrongs, but they are nothing as compared with the rights and wrongs of the general public. A man must be assumed to contemplate the natural consequences of his own act, and must be understood to know the law. Even a layman is supposed to Know the law, and to act at his peril, so surely eminent lawyers should know the law and act at their peril. Therefore, I reluctantly draw the conclusion that not civil, but criminal, action should properly be taken against members of the Government, and that they should be placed in the dock on trial for criminal conspiracy. They should have appreciated the fact that they were doing wrong, they profited by their wrong, and they acted with criminal recklessness of a kind that would entitle a man to a- long sentence for, say, manslaughter, where there is no actual malice or desire to kill. Bearing all these facts in mind, members of the Government could properly be placed on trial for criminal conspiracy. The AttorneyGeneral’s position is, however, a little different. He had not the same responsibility, and therefore he will be gratified to learn that I do not suggest that he should be arrainged on such a charge. All I say about him is that he .entirely subordinated his position as a leading lawyer to the needs of the political situation. Instead of giving Parliament the benefit of a carefully considered opinion which it had the right to expect from a public nian who enjoys the distinction of being the King’s Counsellor and a leader at the Bar, and whose word on legal questions is entitled, for that reason, to respect, he utterly failed to discharge the high duties that, by circumstances, were imposed on him. The opinion he gave was political rather than legal, and, for the most part, entirely wrong and misleading. In fact, it looks as if it were, obviously wrong, and designed to be misleading. It is most regrettable, in my opinion, that a gentleman of his standing in the community should, upon the platform, and in this House, deliver an opinion on a vital question which involved the liberty of bis fellow citizens. Not one word of doubt was uttered by this gentle- man about the constitutionality of the Immigration Bill. He in no way suggested that it was very likely that the proceedings were so far wrong that they could not possibly be directed effectively against those whom they were intended to deal with. The Attorney-General was very careful to point out at whom the proceedings were being directed. He referred to the people -who were holding up our shipping services, to agitators and lawless persons who, not members . of trade unions, were standing in the way of the ordered services of the State. In a word, he made it perfectly clear to whom only this law could, in fact, reasonably apply. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) who, I regret, is absent for the moment, ranted and raved - his speech being in the ratio of fifty and fifty, humbug and hypocrisy - on matters which he did not understand. He also is a member of a learned and privileged profession. So far as the matters of his own craft are concerned, he hopelessly bungled his subject, and misled his constituents and the people. If he had been a tradesman, say a bricklayer or a carpenter, and had acted in such a way, he would have been sacked at a minute’s notice. Such are the great’ advantages that we enjoy from being members of a learned profession! I am sorry to have to speak in this way, for I have a great admiration for the members of my own profession, generally speaking. I believe a high standard is due from them to the general public in return for the privileges they enjoy as members of a close corporation, who are, in a certain sense, engaging a monopoly. I have very little to say at the moment on the details of the bill. I hope to deal with them as they arise in committee. I consider the measure to be an open attack upon trade unionism in this country. The bill is the result of the chastening and. gruelling that the Government has had at the hands of the High Court. On this occasion, at least, I think the Government has taken the trouble to keep within the clear limits of constitutional rectitude, but that is a small matter by comparison. In fact, the more constitutional this measure is the less we like it. Because the measure which had a similar object was practically unconstitutional, we made the Government look ridiculous by holding it up to public opprobrium. Because this measure is probably constitutional, we. oppose it more bitterly. It attacks vital principles in which we believe.
In pursuance of its provisions the Government may make a proclamation that any kind of minor industrial dispute, such as the recent shipping strike, is a serious industrial disturbance within, the provisions of the measure. It may do that just whenever it suits its purpose, and so make any twopenny-halfpenny dispute a serious strike, and at once put it on a political basis. The bill seeks to compel men to work under conditions and for a reward distasteful to them. Men should have the right to refuse to work for wages and under conditions which are disagreeable to them. The Government is also seeking to compel a man to become unfaithful ‘ to his fellowmen. It. is endeavouring to turn back the hands of the clock 100 years. For that reason the measure is bound to be futile. I have already said that it is not likely that the Government will attempt to make the measure operative ; but if it did it would cause the revolution which some honorable members are so fond of talking about. Men will’ still abstain, when they think fit, from working. They will still remain faithful to their fellowmen, and do the manly thing when they ought to do it. In spite of all that the Government can do, they will still stand for those standards and rewards of labour which, by the sacrifices of themselves and those who. have gone before them, have been built up in this and other countries, but in this country particularly. We treat the section of the measure which deals with unlawful associations very lightly. We think this is the mare’s nest of the Government. We think that the saga of the Attorney-General about some Russian celebrities, of whom I know not half as much as he does, is a good advertisement for the communist movement. It will give them a great fillip. They are the natural friends, allies, and helpers of the Government, so it is proper that they should be considered. We are opposed to bloodshed. We are opposed to reforms won by bloodshed. We believe in reforms won by majorities through constitutional effort. We believe in that, not only in connexion with local matters, but also in connexion with international matters. That is a principle for which I myself have suffered in the past.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Rodgers) adjourned.
Reciprocal Trade Agreement with Canada.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) proposed -
Thatthe House do now adjourn.
.-I desire to draw the attention of the Government to a cabled report from Canada that the trade treaty which was entered into between the Canadian and Commonwealth Governments, the amended agreement in connexion with which was ratified in this Chamber on the 2nd of September, 1925, seems to be in danger. It appears as though the special circumstances surrounding the matter in Canada are more political than otherwise. I regret very much to have to make this statement. The agreement was the subject of negotiations which extended over many years. I had the honour to act on behalf of the Commonwealth and with the Tariff Board in negotiating the somewhat difficult details of the treaty. Canada at that time was represented by Mr. Robb, who, I am delighted to notice, according to the reports, is standing four-square by the agreement. Mr. Robb came to Australia with a purpose and very definitely set about fulfilling it. It is questionable whether, at this stage, certain producing interests in Canada are not unduly obtruding themselves. Mr. Robb knew that the treaty was based on the give-and-take principle. The balance of trade between the two countries is overwhelmingly in favour of Canada. If the amended agreement that was ratified by the two Parliaments is to be disturbed, the whole of it may have to go back into the melting pot. This, I think, is the time when we should inform our great sister dominion that we cannot allow a trade treaty, that was made after so much deliberation, to become the plaything of party politics. I hope that the Government will take cognizance of the position, and that at the right time the Prime Minister will make the statement that he does not look upon this treaty as a scrap of paper, to be torn up at the most expedient moment, or to be held lightly by any or all of the three parties in Canadian politics. It is a solemn trade treaty, made in pursuance of the wide policy of Empire reciprocal trade preference. So much is involved in the matter that I feel that I ought to say at this juncture that many other countries were prepared to give Australia definite trade preferences during the period she occupied in negotiating this treaty, but the Government resolutely set itself to bring the treaty to a successful issue, because it wished for friendly reciprocal arrangements to be made within the Empire wherever possible. In pursuance of our policy of upholding Empire trade, we first made arrangements with the British Government. Then we made an agreement with New Zealand which, I am glad to say, is being faithfully honoured. Next came the Canadian agreement. We did not expect that, so soon after it was ratified, party politics would be allowed to interfere with its smooth and satisfactory working.
– I quite appreciate the reasons which have led the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) to raise this question. He was closely associated with the early negotiations when Mr. Robb, then Minister for Customs in Canada, visited Australia, and spent some time here in discussing the basis upon which a treaty might be entered into between the two countries. The honorable member will recognize that, as head of the Commonwealth Government, I cannot possibly express any view as to the action with regard to the treaty which may or may not be taken by the Canadian Parliament. We in Australia welcome the treaty, and we certainly entered into it for the reasons the honorable member has suggested, that we might do something to promote reciprocal trade within the Empire, and bind closer the links which join us together by mutual trading benefiting our respective countries. The treaty is based on those principles, but, of course, in it the rights of the parties to it are set out,- and it is for the governments of the day in those countries to take whatever action they may think wise, and such as they believe they are entitled to take under it. While I. appreciate what the honorable member has said, I cannot, as head of the Government, subscribe to the view he expressed as to the treaty being the plaything of party politics in Canada, nor can I express any view as to the action which our great sister Dominion should take in dealing with the treaty.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.2 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 February 1926, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1926/19260210_reps_10_112/>.