10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Assent to the following bills re ported : -
New Guinea Bill.
Northern Australia Bill.
Aliens Registration Act Suspension Bill.
Abolition of Per Capita Payments.
– With regard to the financial proposals submitted last week by the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), will the honorable gentleman say whether the amount of £450,000 - special grant to
Western Australia - includes the amount of £150,000 which it is proposed to give in compensation for the loss of the northwestern portion of that State
– I ask the Treasurer whether overtures have been made by the State Treasurers for a conference with him in connexion with the newfinancial proposals of the Government. If so, when is the conference to be hold ?
– No overtures have been made by the State Governments.
– On Friday last, when the Treasurer introduced the States Grants Bill, he secured the suspension of the Standing Orders so that the bill might be passed through all its stages without delay. I ask whether the Government has realized thata new Senate has been elected, and that on the 30th June, eighteen of the present senators will retire, and their places will be taken by new senators. I should like to know whether, in moving the suspension of the Standing Orders, it was the desire of the Government to rush the States Grants Bill through this chamber, and send it to another place prior to the 1st July, the date on which the new senators will take their
– The reason for the action of the Government in bringing forward these proposals last Friday, and adopting the procedure it did, was to enable the State Governments, at the earliest possible moment, to know the exact intentions of the Federal Government. I may say that that action is somewhat in contradistinction to the action taken in 1910, when the present per capita payments came into existence because, while the bill providing for them was to’ come into operation on 1st July, it was not brought down until the middle of July, and was not finally passed until the middle of September.
Dismissals of Employees
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether he will endeavour to place in other government departments, and preferably in the Defence Department, the men who will lose their employment upon the closing down of the Acetate of Lime Factory at the end of this month ?
– I shall make every effort to place the men in suitable positions. I shall not be able to employ all of them.
– I ask the Treasurer whether he can inform me when the Prime Minister will be again in attendance in this chamber?
– Has the AttorneyGeneral considered the judgment of Judge Cohen, of the New South Wales District Court, concerning the obligations of apprentices as trainees, brought under notice by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) and other honorable members?
– If the honorable member refers to the question whether a trainee under articles of apprenticeship is required to attend under certain conditions his period of training, I can inform him that application is to be made for special leave to appeal to the High Court in order that the legal position may be properly ascertained, and to determine whether any amendment of the law is necessary.
– In view of the great anxiety amongst cotton-growers, will the Treasurer announce to the House what is the decision of the Government concerning a Commonwealth cotton bounty ?
– The Prime Minister has already said that the Government’s decision in the matter will be announced at the earliest possible moment.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answersto the honorable member’s questions are us follow : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the drastic nature of the proposed amendments to the Surplus Revenue Act, the Treasurer will submit the proposals to the State Treasurers for their consideration before proceeding further with the bill ?
– Towards the end of last month a conference was held of Commonwealth and State Ministers to consider a proposal submitted by the Commonwealth for the separation of Commonwealth and State finances. The representatives of the States refused to consider the Government’s proposals or to put forward any constructive alternative proposals. Experience of conferences on the question indicates that no good purpose could bo served by adopting the action proposed.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. - Nos. 8 and9 of 1926 - Fourth Division Officers’ Association of the Trade and Customs Department and Federated Public Service Assistants’ Association of Australia.
New Guinea Act - Ordinance of 1926 - No. 1 3 - Expropriation.
Public Service Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1926, No. 64.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Ordinance of 1926 - No.6 -Rates.
Debate resumed from 4th June (vide page 2677), on motion by Mr. Bruce -
That thebill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr.Charlton had moved by way of amendment -
That all the words after the word “ That”be left out with a view to the insertion of the following words in lieu thereof : - “ the bill be withdrawn with a view to eliminating clause 2 and substituting therefor the following:
Section fifty-one of the Constitution is altered - (a)by omitting from paragraph (i) the words “ with other countries, and among the States.”
by omitting from paragraph (xxxv.) the words “ Conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State “ and inserting in their stead the words - “ Labour and employment, and unemployment, including -
the terms and conditions of labour and employment in any trade, industry, occupation, or calling;
the rights and obligations of employers and employes;
strikes and lock-outs;
the maintenance of industrial peace; and
the settlement of industrial disputes; and”
by adding at the end thereof the following paragraph: -
Trusts, corporations, combinations, monopolies andarrangements in relation to -
the production, manufacture, or supply of goods, or the supply of services; or
the ownership of the means of production, manufacture, or supply of goods, or supply of services.
– The proposal for an alteration of the Constitution, as submitted to this House by the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), and the amendment moved thereto by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), are both momentous and impelling - momentous because of their transcendent importance to Australia, and impelling because of the necessity for wider powers being given to the Commonwealth Parliament to enable the full advantages of nationhood to be enjoyed by this coun try. A review of the constitutional affairs of the Commonwealth will show how difficult it has been to secure any widening of the powers of the Commonwealth, and that even the establishment of federation itself was strenuously opposed by some of the States, because of the strong parochial views that were held. Right from the beginning of selfgovernment in Australia, there was a feeling among those who thought imperially that it was absurd to give the several colonies whose territories covered the continent, and all of which were under one Sovereign, powers almost similar to those of Great Britain, and to maintain their geographical divisions. Even as early as 1850, somewhere about the time when Victoria seceded from New South “Wales, an endeavour was made to constitute a federal or a general council representative of all the colonies to control matters of intercolonial interest. A clause to this effect was inserted in the bill introduced into the Imperial Parliament to grant the power of selfgovernment to Victoria, but, as there was no demand on the part of the States for the appointment of such a body, the clause was ultimately omitted. From that time onwards there was a constant striving on the part of people with progressive views and broad vision to form a body representative of the whole of the colonies, and to clothe it with certain powers. In 1857,Wentworth and his friends formed what was styled a general association of the Australian colonies. A petition was forwarded to Queen Victoria asking that provision be made to establish that body constitutionally. That proposal was not accepted. The inter-relations of colonies became strained because of the conflict respecting the collection of Customs duties. This was particularly the case with New South Wales and Victoria, because of the collection of duties on the commerce crossing the river Murray. In 1871, proposals were made for a Customs union of Australia, but other parts of the English-speaking world took some exception to them. I understand that in Canada it was a matter of grave moment. Ultimately, because of the pressure of imperial interests, the formation of a Customs union of Australia was abandoned.
From that time until ten years later, little or no progress was made regarding federation. In 1881, representatives of the various colonies met in Sydney to discuss matters that had been agitating the minds of public men, in particular the question of the influx of aliens and criminals into Australia. They desired to come to some common understanding to give them better control of these matters. At that conference Sir Henry Parkes proposed the establishment of a central authority to deal with intercolonial questions, but again the endeavour to secure unity between the colonies was defeated. The need for some unified action in connexion with colonial matters was again introduced at the convention of 1883. A proposal that the whole of Australia should be represented in a single assembly led to the passage of the Federal Council Bill by the Imperial Parliament in 1885. The council consisted of two representatives of each colony, with the exception of New South Wales. That State held aloof on the ground that the matters to be dealt with did not warrant the establishment of this new governmental machinery. South Australia did not join the council until 1888, and remained in it for only two years.Victoria, Tasmania, Queensland, and Western Australia accepted the responsibility of continuing the council, which had no authority to make laws, but had recommendatory powers in regard to the influx of aliens and criminals and certain other specified matters. When the colonial premiers went to England in 1887, to participate in the celebration of Queen Victoria’s jubilee, they conferred with the British authorities concerning the defence of Australia. There was, at that time, some feeling among colonial statesmen in favour of a unified system of defence. The Imperial Government sent an expert to Australia to report upon its land defences, and when his report was made available a further movement in favour of federation was inaugurated, largely through the efforts of Sir Henry Parkes, who was then Premier of New South Wales. The outcome of his writings and speeches on the subject was a conference in Melbourne in 1890 between the
Federal Council and delegates from New South Wales and New Zealand. In the following year all the Australian colonies were represented at a great convention in Sydney. Sir Henry Parkes had been the recognized leader of this movement towards federation, and when a change in New South Wales politics forced him to relinquish the premiership of that State the movement received another serious check but in the years 1895 and 1896 the Parliaments of the eastern States, with the exception of Queensland, passed acts authorizing the election of a new convention. During 1897 and 189:i this convention met in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, and in the lastnamed city the first outline of the Federal Constitution was approved. In 1898 the text of the Constitution was submitted to the people by referendum, but although there was a majority in favour of its adoption, the affirmative majority of 80,000 required by the State act was not obtained. However, this failure to bring about the union of the Australian people was only temporary, for in the following year the premiers met in Melbourne to consider certain amendments to the draft Constitution which had been proposed by New South Wales and Queensland. When the amended Constitution was referred to the people, the requisite majorities in favour of it were obtained in all the States with the exception of Western Australia. At a later period, when the Constitution was before the Imperial Parliament, and it was clear that federation was imminent, the people of Western Australia, by referendum, decided to link their destiny with that of the people in the eastern colonies; thus the union of Australia became complete. This brief history of federation affords us some idea of the thoughts and motives of the men who v.ere responsible for the establishment of the Commonwealth. It also teaches us some of the difficulties and delays that were associated with the federal movement. The Australian Constitution is the third in a chain of four written constitutions governing English-speaking races, namely, the constitutions of the United States of America, Canada, Australia, and South Africa. Our Constitution is based very largely upon that of the United States of America, and a study of the latter is helpful to an. understanding of the conditions upon which the Australian States federated. The United States of America has a constitution which restricts the powers of the national parliament, and gives sovereign powers to the States. Experience has shown that the sovereign powers should be exercised by the national assemblage. That constitution was designed for the thirteen revolting English colonies, whose interests were in a great degree in conflict. Later, owing to the spread of slavery and other developments in the life of the community, the constitution proved ineffective in guiding the people in their hour of difficulty, and civil war ensued. In Canada, seven provinces desired a form of federation. The Frenchspeaking Catholics of Lower Canada, the Englishspeaking Protestants of Upper Canada, and the inhabitants of the maritime provinces, wished to come together in a form of union; but profiting by the experience of the United States of America, they departed in important particulars from the form of constitution adopted there. By giving greater powers to their central government, they did much to save Canada from the internal troubles that later afflicted the United States of America. The framers of our Australian Constitution ought to have paid more regard to the experience of the United States of America and of Canada. It is, perhaps, not generally known that the Australian Constitution is almost a copy of the American Constitution, and that our High Court repeats slavishly the decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States of America. My authorities for that statement are two eminent lawyers - Dr. Kerr, of Adelaide, and Professor Harrison Moore. Dr. Kerr, in a treatise entitled The Law of the Australian Constitution, states -
Tlie writer wishes to emphasize that no student of Australian constitutional law can afford to ignore the decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States on the American Constitution, for without a knowledge of these decisions, an adequate understanding of the Commonwealth Constitution cannot be attained; and, furthermore, regard frequently has been, and will bc, taken of them by the High Court.
Professor Harrison Moore, in a work entitled The Political Systems of Australia, wrote -
The majority of the High Court has considered that federalism is the governing principle, and has sought as its guide chiefly the decisions of the United States.
The legal interpretations of our Australian Constitution are not in accordance with the obvious meaning of its words. It is very desirable that we should learn all we can, not only from our own experience, but also from the experience of the United States of America. The Australian Constitution is a shifting sand upon which no one can build with any degree of security. Legislation which we had reason’ to believe was drafted within the powers conferred upon us by the Constitution, has been declared by the High Court to be ultra vires. That, surely, should make us realize that our Constitution is hampering national progress. Legal landmarks have become very faint, and at times are almost indiscernible. We are in a state of uncertainty as to the powers we possess, and as a result, this Parliament is embarrassed in all its activities. Dr. Arthur Keith, in his work Imperial Unity and the Dominions, expresses an. opinion that is fortified by our experience as a Commonwealth Parliament. He says -
The time occupied in considering problems of ultra vires and the burden of reform must often be imperfectly borne from doubt as to the legal means of executing reforms aimed at.
In other words, we are fearful that we may trespass in a domain which does not belong to us. The time has come for us either to justify the belief that the States should retain their sovereign powers, or admit the necessity for the Commonwealth Parliament to be clothed with wider powers than it now possesses. But the preservation of the sovereignty of the States cannot be justified merely on sentimental grounds; proof must be forthcoming of the superiority of that over every other form of government. The time is long overdue for a revision of our Constitution. The view is repeatedly expressed that we must not trespass upon the sacred preserves of the various States; that State rights must be rigidly safeguarded. We must approach this particular matter free from local prepossessions, and with the broadest national view, recognizing that we are legislating for a continent, not for several States, and we must proceed along lines that will enable us to achieve the destiny which was intended for this great Commonwealth. Australia, we are informed, has been given the full rights of nationhood. Because of the part that she took in the recent war, she has earned the right to a seat in the Council of Nations, including representation in the Assembly of the League of Nations. When our representatives meet those of other nations at the conference table, they must be clothed with powers that will enable them to speak ou behalf of the whole of the people of this country. The League of Nations deals with problems with which we are vitally concerned. Those problems go far beyond the domestic affairs of individual States, yet a draft of any recommendation made by the League must be submitted to the several States of the Commonwealth for ratification or rejection. Some of the States may approve of it, others may be entirely opposed to it ; and we are thus unable to pronounce upon it as one people. As we enjoy a certain status in the Council of the Nations, would it not be better for the central governing body of Australia to be clothed with powers that will entitle it to speak on behalf of the whole of the people, than for the States to determine our policy? Professor Harrison Moore says -
The State power thus embraces those social matters which in all modern countries are arousing the deepest concern, as well as those matters of public economy which in a new country engross the greatest amount of public attention and constitute in ordinary times tlie politics of a dependency.
That eminent authority amply endorses the view that our new status as a nation demands such an amendment of our Constitution as will confer sovereign power on the national parliament. It would also be to the everlasting good of our people for this Parliament to be clothed with truly national authority; for it would remove the conflict and confusion between Federal and State authorities. The position that the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) was placed in some years ago when he was sent to London to represent the Government, illustrates personal impotence just as the position of this Parliament .does national impotence. The right honorable member, for whose ability and work I have a great respect, was under the impression that he was sent to Great Britain as a Commonwealth plenipotentiary, but when he got there he found himself hampered and restricted by almost daily instructions from Melbourne, and he observed that, instead of being clothed with the authority of a plenipotentiary, he was given only the power of a messenger boy. That remark may be adapted to this Parliament. It has not the power to deal in a truly national way with the matters over which it is supposed to have jurisdiction, nor can it take the place that it ought to take in the councils of the nation. In spite of this the Government is not proposing to ask the people to repose adequate power in it. For the reason that the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) aims at giving it, at least, a greater instalment of power I am favorable to it. If the people would give it sovereign, power that would tend to break down State antagonisms, and to create a spirit of trust and toleration which is absent at present. Our State jealousies make it very difficult to secure harmonious interstate relationships, and the lack of coordination in our industrial and commercial enterprises is hindering our progress. It is unfortunate, in my opinion, that the Government has so hastily introduced its new financial proposals, for that must tend to increase the feeling of apprehension as to what would happen if extended powers were granted to the Commonwealth.
– The Leader of the Opposition suggested that we should deal with all these things in one constitutional amendment.
– I agree that we should not handle them piecemeal. We should consider them in a broad statesmanlike way. I am sorry that the Government did not leave the whole matter for the consideration of the proposed constitutional session at Canberra. The idea of holding a constitutional session is not new. It has been suggested for the six years that I have been a member of this Parliament. The Government will find it difficult, I think, to justify the submission of these questions at this stage, for it is quite likely that, when adequate consideration is given to a general amendment of the Constitution other questions will also need to be submitted. But honorable members of the Opposition must meet things as they find them. Legislation having been introduced, it is for us to try to improve in as much as we can.
– We succeed sometimes.
– It is most gratifying to the Labour movement that the Government has acknowledged the necessity for extending the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth, for by so doing it has paid a compliment to the farsightedness of the Labour party. We are proved by this very act to be at least fifteen or twenty years ahead in statesmanship of the occupants of the treasury bench. The people will realize that the truly progressive movement in the Commonwealth is that represented by the Opposition in this Parliament. The policy presented in the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition suggests constitutional reforms suited to a young, virile, and progressive nation. The amendment does not cover the whole of the powers with which I think this Parliament should be clothed, but it does propose a substantial advance upon the Government’s proposals, and it has my hearty endorsement. The proposals of t he Opposition prove that, contrary to the declarations made from a thousand platforms in the Commonwealth, the Labour party of to-day is not the Labour party of 1910, 1913 and 1914; it is really the same party and with the same policy. Although some of those who were concerned with the inauguration of the proposals for constitutional amendment and were responsible for the convincing arguments prepared in support of those proposals in 1913 and 1915 may desire to recede from their previous position and compromise on these questions, those who have all along stood true to the interests of organized labour still put forward the same policy, and prove their constancy and consistency. That should commend the party to the country, because there is nothing which the people of Australia appreciate more than consistency in an individual or in a political party. We on this side have proved our progressive spirit in the proposals we have made to secure greater powers for this national parliament. The fact that this is in part acknowledged by those of the opposite political faith should convince the people that the party on this side is a party which should be entrusted with the settlement of these matters. The Government’s proposals do not go as far as 1 should like to see them go in connexion with the question of trade and commerce. It is a reflection upon the sanity of our form of government that, after 25 years’ experience of the present Constitution, we have not yet been able to show how essential it is that this Parliament should have complete powers over trade and commerce and over corporations. I was interested to hear the right honorable member for North Syd- ney (Mr. Hughes) admit in this connexion that we have not the power even to make a uniform company law for Australia. This recalls to my mind an utterance of the present Chief Justice of Victoria (Sir William Irvine),who was at one time a very distinguished member of this House.
– He was nothing to boast about.
– I am not now dealing with his political defects. In connexion with the matter under consideration I have to applaud him for what I regard as a very sensible utterance. He said that it is just as impossible in commerce to draw a line of demarcation based on geographical conditions as it would be to commit a man’s body to the care of one physician and his limbs to the care of another. It seems to me that that statement fitly describes the position of Australia committed to the care of the Commonwealth and State Parliaments. The Commonwealth Parliament requires power to deal completely with questions of trade and commerce and corporations. We have only to read reports of the Interstate Commission to learn the injury done to the best interests of the people because we have not a uniform company law for Australia. Companies registered in Victoria may have branches and agencies in the other States, and we have no uniform law under which to control the operations of those companies in the different States. Such( a law is necessary to enable us to protect; the people from the impositions of the; great commercial institutions and, agencies and financial organizations. I, have been interested and impressed by references made by honorable members from ‘ time to time, and only quite recently, . to the regard we should have, as a people, for efficiency. We have been told that in the industrial life of the Commonwealth we should aim at the greatest measure of efficiency if we are to justify our position and continue as a nation. But if we provide by law for the greatest measure of efficiency in industry, those concerned in industry have a right to expect that we shall prove our efficiency in the forms of government we adopt. We should live up to ‘the standards we are prepared to prescribe for the various forms of industry associated with our national life. We may agree that ai engineering firm that would attempt to compete with uptodate competitors by the use of oldfashioned and out-of-date equipment would be hopelessly lost in the industrial race. But if we require industries to be carried on with up-to-date efficiency, we have a right to bring our forms of government up to date. If we do not weave the new fabric of Australian government in the light of the experience of the past, we shall fail to recognize our duty. Unless we learn more from the experience of the past than is disclosed in the proposals of the Government, I am afraid, that our experience will have been lost upon us. I should like to have had time to refer in greater detail to the statement of the Treasurer in this debate that the Government intends to determine the question of hours of labour on scientific lines, and will endeavour to ascertain what is the point of fatigue. I say that that is a soulless consideration to apply to the conditions of industry. I agree with the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) in a statement he made in the course of an address at St. Paul’s Chapter House, Melbourne, some months ago. He contended that in fixing working conditions the workers should be regarded as something more than mere machines. It should be realized that they possess souls, and their comfort and gr. Makin. feelings should be consulted as well as the mere question of profit making. He said : “ Instead of men being used for making money, let us use money to make men.” That is a very desirable motto to guide us in considering the relationship which should obtain between employer and employee. We believe that the Constitution can be so amended as to enable us to put an end to traditional hatreds, and substitute for a thousand suspicions and antagonisms a common passion for collective achievement.
– When introducing the Constitution Legislative Powers Bill on the 18th October, 1910, the then Attorney-General and Acting Prime Minister - the Right Hon. W. M. Hughes - endeavoured to impress upon Parliament and the people the fundamental importance of the measure to be considered. He said -
The subject-matter and scope of the proposed amendments alike demand the attention of honorable members and of the citizens generally. It is very proper and very necessary that we clearly understand where we arc, and that the citizens should realize both the nature and scope, and importance of the task in which we are engaged, and in which we will, I hope, shortly ask them to perform their part.
It is just as important to-day that we should realize exactly what Ave are doing, and that the people should have the position placed clearly before them. Mr. Deakin, who was then the Leader of the Opposition, followed the Acting Prime Minister, and described Mr. Hughes’s speech as “ quite inadequate to the subject we have in hand,” hastening to add that his own speech certainly, and probably every other speech delivered, would be open to somewhat the same imputation. Personally, I appreciate very much the certainty that any words of mine during this debate must indeed be inadequate to a subject which is of the greatest importance to the people of the Commonwealth. While I support the measure, and trust that a majority of honorable members will also vote in favour of it, and that the constitutional amendments will have the support of the people, I admit that the legislation under consideration has given me more food for serious thought than any of the other acts placed on the statute-books since T have been a member of the House. During his second-reading speech, in 1910, Mr. Hughes said -
We ask for power to deal with industrial matters - all industrial matters. This does not mean exclusion of State legislation. It only means that we think it proper and necessary that the national Parliament shall have the power to ensure to every one a fair and reasonable wage, give to all the benefits of the new protection, and maintain industrial peace. . . Where the States do these things, and while they are able and willing to do them, there is no need for us to interfere; but where they fail, either through indifference, open disinclination, or inability to provide for these tilings, or any of them, we want the power to step in.
What is the position to-day in the Commonwealth, and how has it altered since October, 1910? The necessity for the proposed amendments is certainly just as great as it was then; not because the States have failed to take action, but, on the contrary, because too much action has been taken, resulting in confusion and overlapping. The maintenance of industrial peace is the most .important problem facing the governments and people of most of the countries of the world to-day. To a young country, particularly a country like our own, of great dimensions and vast natural resources, it is a matter of vital importance that our industries should prosper and develop and that we should have industrial peace. How, otherwise, can we increase the country’s capacity to absorb a greater population? And how can we develop our heritage without a greater population? To maintain, for instance, one of our national ideals - a high standard of living resulting in a happy and contented people - there is nothing more essential than a determined effort, without delay, to bring about better relations between all sections of the community. I am satisfied that the legislation under consideration has been introduced only after the fullest consideration, and with appreciation of its far-reaching effects, if carried-, and the amendments subsequently agreed to by the electors of the Commonwealth. Any effort made to solve our industrial problems should be entirely free from the petty influences of party politics if we are to indicate to the people, when we urge them to agree to amendments of the Constitution, that we recognize the great responsiblity resting upon our shoulders as members of the Commonwealth Parliament. The Constitution is our supreme instrument of government. Fortunately, it cannot be easily amended. The people have the right to demand from us definite proof of the necessity for its amendment. The obligation rests upon us to give this proof. The onus is not upon them to indicate why they choose to oppose us. We have given “ arbitration and conciliation,” or the peaceful settlement of industrial disputes within the law, a more extensive trial than has any other country. In this connexion we have advanced further in 25 years than other countries during centuries. But what is the position to-day 1 We all admit that something is wrong. The Commonwealth and the States have their elaborate systems for dealing with industrial disputes and conditions of employment. Unfortunately, these systems overlap, and result in confusion and uncertainty. Men doing the same work in different States are receiving different rates of pay, and, in some instances, working different hours. We cannot hope for the wheels of industry to run smoothly under these conditions, which are to a great extent due to the limitation of the Commonwealth’s industrial powers under the Constitution to making laws as to arbitration and conciliation only. There are those who say that .arbitration has proved a failure, and that we should do away with our courts of conciliation and arbitration. Their views must not he swept lightly aside. With them I do not for one moment agree, but I do maintain that we are working on wrong lines. There are, admittedly, great difficulties which can, however, be overcome. While we still believe that international problems and disagreements can be overcome by an international court, surely we need not give up hope of solving national industrial problems by conciliation and arbitration. Then, again, there are those who believe we should go back to the position existing when the Constitution was drawn up, when there was quite a definite line between Federal and State spheres. But the position since then has entirely changed. The great majority of the people of Australia believe in a policy of protection, and it is well to consider how we are hampered in ‘our efforts to protect our industries by the conflicting industrial conditions existing in the various
States. When by means of a Tariff Board inquiry into the conditions of some great industry, an effort is made to provide adequate protection on a national basis, almost at once, possibly, the conditions under which this particular industry is conducted are varied in one particular State, nullifying to a great extent all the work the Tariff Board may have done, and also the considered decision of Parliament as to the protection necessary for the maintenance and progress of the industry. The first proposal in the bill is the deletion from paragraph 35 of section 51 of the Constitution of the words, “ extending beyond the limits of any one State.” This will give the Commonwealth authority over intra-state as well as interstate disputes, and will do away with the tendency to extend a dispute in order to bring it under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. During the debate, there has not been any objection raised to this provision. Under it we shall retain all the power that we have at present. It is intended to endeavour to secure for Parliament, not the power to settle all questions relating to industrial employment, but the power to create authorities to determine them. I should strongly oppose any move towards giving Parliament the power to decide industrial questions, such as hours of employment, basic wage, &c. The political arena is entirely the wrong setting for the discussion and settlement of such problems. The Prime Minister, however, gave one definite assurance when he said to those who fear that the rights of Parliament may be infringed, “ The final authority will be the Commonwealth Parliament, which will override every other authority.” Exception has been taken to the enormous power it is proposed to give to the established authority. Personally, I feel that the people should more seriously consider the tremendous power these amendments will place in the hands of Parliament, as in the final analysis it is the Parliament, as the Prime Minister has stated, that will be the final authority. The second proposal in the bill is to invest State authorities with any powers which Parliament vests in any authority established by the Commonwealth. It is not intended to do anything under this legislation toward increasing centralization. It tends more toward decentralization, and simplifies the methods of dealing with industrial problems. The Commonwealth Arbitration Court would deal with the great problems of industry - basic wage and hours for industry. It would, as it were, constitute the final tribunal in the land for industrial matters. The Court would when constituted, act as co-ordinating authority for the whole industrial system, and would deal with questions of fundamental importance. The Commonwealth would have power to appoint commissioners to deal in the various States with individual industries. Round-table conferences could be called. There is no power at present to embody this in the arbitration system. It may be necessary to establish courts in some of the States, with their own judges, to bring about decentralization. This proposal is really intended to bring in a better system by coordination. We must get rid of overlapping and duplication of awards. It is not intended to wipe out immediately machinery established in the States for dealing with industrial questions. The bill gives concurrent, but not exclusive, power, and until this is exercised by the Commonwealth the State tribunals will continue to function. There is some room, for doubt whether there will result any appreciable simplification or saving of time. The third proposal in the bill is to give power to legislate for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth in relation to trusts and combinations in restraint of trade; trade unions and associations of employees or of employers for industrial purposes, including the formation, dissolution, regulation, and control thereof. The Commonwealth Parliament should have power to deal, . if the necessity ever arises, with combinations which exploit the community. No exception can, of course, be taken to organization and co-operation in our great industries, because the result is, generally, better service to the people. Trade unionism has grown into one of the great forces of our national life. Provision is made in the bill to safeguard the rights of members of trade unions, and to guarantee that the affairs of their organizations shall be conducted properly. There is no desire to hamper the unions in attaining their legitimate objectives.
Thinking men and women, I know, realize that something must be done to remedy the existing state of our industrial affairs. They are equally determined not to sanction any alteration of our Constitution without it being given the fullest consideration. Early in the history of the Commonwealth it was found that some amendments to the Constitution were really necessary. The framers of the Constitution themselves recognized that some changes would be necessary, and for this purpose they provided machinery, of which it is now desired we should avail ourselves, namely, a referendum of the people. Honorable members have appealed to the Government to “hasten slowly “ in this matter, and to postpone the further consideration of the proposed amendments to the Constitution until a session is held next year, presumably at Canberra, for the consideration of the whole question of constitutional amendments. The Prime Minister has clearly indicated that the Government desires to place before the people these amendments, apart from the general amendments that will emanate next year from the special constitutional session of Parliament, which could be submitted by referendum in conjunction with the next general election. In regard to the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), I believe that the powers for which the Government is asking will give to this Parliament all the authority that members of the Opposition desire it to have, and I do not think that the people will consent to a greater transfer of authority than that which is proposed in the bill.
– I approach this bill with trepidation and after much anxious thought. It is regrettable that the Government should be attempting to rush through this House important and far-reaching proposals which strike at the very fundamentals of the Constitution ; and I agree with my Leader that these amendments should be deferred until a constitutional session can be held and all the defects and shortcomings of the Constitution discussed in a thorough way. An extension of the Commonwealth’s industrial power is ancillary to an increase of the trade and commerce power. The opinions I am about to ex press may be disapproved by some honorable members opposite who have expressed reverence for the Constitution; but, in my opinion, their professed reverence is mere hyperbole and humbug when it is used to buttress something which has proved ineffective and unworkable. I make bold to say that the Federal Constitution, in its present form, has proved a failure, .and has led to endless litigation and economic-, chaos, and has stunted the development of Australia. In fact, it is a menace to the national security and economic wellbeing of Australia. We have already heard and realized that its absurd limitations upon the legislative powers of this Parliament would have seriously crippled our operations during the war, had not common sense and national danger triumphed over the abracadabras of legal cabalists; and the High Court, by legal fictions, interpreted the defence power as vesting in the Commonwealth virtually plenary power, a power which, upon signing of the Peace Treaty, was automatically withdrawn. Our Federal Constitution is alien to our inherited institutions, in that there is nothing closely akin to it in the British Dominions. It was conceived in an atmosphere of prejudice, suspicion, and distrust, and represents at best a compromise between the conflicting and intriguing interests represented at the convention where it was drafted. This may sound like sacrilege to some of the older members; nevertheless, as a young1 Australian, I pay tribute to the men who evolved the Constitution in very difficult circumstances; but the very conditions of its birth were responsible for its imperfections, for its mother was Necessity, and its father Self-preservation. Those who ushered it into the world recognized its imperfections by vesting the people with the power to alter it ; and I have no more veneration for a piece of. paper containing the rules of government than I have for the rules of a union or the articles of a company which are changed to meet changing conditions. The Constitution was forced upon the quarrelling State premiers, whose main concern was the preservation of their political authority rather than the efficiency of the machinery of government. As I have said, our Constitution is alien to our inherited institutions. We were compelled to accept as a compromise a political system which is the very antithesis of the British political system, for the British political system is based on the complete legislative sovereignty of the people through Parliament, to which everything, and every one, including the judiciary, are subordinate. The result of this attempt to engraft on to our body politic an un-British system of government, has been endless confusion and litigation. How can one reverence a Constitution whose imperfections are so obvious? The British Constitution is entitled to reverence because of the absolute legislative sovereignty of the people in Parliament; but even this reverence has been interrupted when attempts were made to engraft on the British Constitution foreign political doctrines, such as the “ divine right of kings.” Because of such attempts one king lost his head, and another his crown. But the limitations imposed on the legislative sovereignty of this Parliament are calculated to create contempt of the Constitution. Some honorable members have spoken of State rights, as though the State were something apart from, and above, the popular will. The basis of our Constitution is that it represents the “ agreement of a people to unite in indissoluble union,” and is not so much a union of States. It is from this stand-point that the amendment of the Constitution should be approached. We should examine the whole position of the Commonwealth with regard to legislative power, and should request of the people a comprehensive increase in our powers, and not approach the problem, as the Government is doing, in a piecemeal and partisan fashion. “State rights” and the desire of some to preserve parochial prejudices that have hampered Australian development in the past, should not be allowed to defeat the growing demand of public opinion that this Parliament be vested with plenary legislative authority. -The question of industrial power is by no means the most urgent constitutional problem which confronts us. The whole subject of the legislative sovereignty of this Parliament requires consideration, for, under the Federal system established in. Australia, we have created a judicial hierarchy which is greater than Parliament, and greater than the popular will. Legislative powers which this Parliament thought it had under the Constitution are denied to it by the High Court. Through the prerogative of interpretation of the extent and limit of the constitutional power being vested in the High Court, endless litigation and confusion have arisen. In the last 25 years about 1,000 judgments, directly or indirectly affecting the interpretation of the legislative power of this Parliament, have been delivered by the High Court of Australia, and huge sums of money have been spent by litigants over the matter. That fact alone is, in my opinion, a crushing indictment of the Constitution. In no other country outside America, and certainly in no other country in the British Empire, is such a state of affairs to the same extent in existence. I know of no country in which the judicial authority is so great as is that of the High Court in regard 1o the interpretation of the Constitution. None in Australia - neither the people nor Parliament, nor even some of those who framed it - know what the Constitution means, so far as our legislative powers are concerned. The only persons who know are the High Court judges, and even they cannot agree, as I propose to show. When the High Court limits by interpretation our legislative power under the Constitution, we are as legislatively helpless as the island savages, whose lives and destinies axe decided for them by the incantations of their tribal medicine men. In effect, we, like Frankenstein, have created a monster which we cannot control - a judicial monster over which we exercise no legislative authority; but which may destroy our own legislative usefulness by its powers of constitutional interpretation. Similarly, this High Court exercises a tutelary authority over State courts and legislatures by its powers of constitutional interpretation, so far as I am aware. No such conditions exist in any other part of the British Empire, and very often - may I say, without disrespect - the reasoning of the justices, like the peace of God, passeth all understanding. Where other British peoples have created courts, they have vested those courts with powers of interpretation of legislation, but without power to interpret the Constitution by impugning the constitutional validity of legislation. “We have assumed, with the childlike faith of the ancient tribes, that the wisdom of the ages is contained in gremio judicis - “ in the bosom of the judge.” We have attributed to the court the qualities of profound wisdom and absolute infallibility - attributes of the Almighty himself. We have given the judges of the High Court the grandiloquent title of “Guardians of the Constitution,” although the real guardianship of the Constitution should be vested in the people. The very basis of democracy is contained in the Latin maxim, Vox populi vox Dei - “ The voice of the people is the voice of God “ ; and- it is by this principle that we should^ be governed. And yet, paradoxically,- the High Court itself has disclaimed the infallibility with which wu in our misguided faith have endowed it, by determining that it is not bound by its judgments. That is to say, it may reverse its judgments at its own discretion, regardless of the political or national consequences of its action , and because of this fallibility, we have no permanence in the interpretation of our Constitution, and confusion and litigation have resulted, and will continue to result, until we endow this Parliament with absolute legislative sovereignty to give unimpeded expression to the popular will. We must remember that judges are but men, governed by strong personal prejudices and opinions. That view is confirmed by our constitutional history. The first High Court laid down certain principles of constitutional interpretation which its successor, the present High Court, has tossed almost contemptuously aside. The first High Court, composed of Justices Griffith, O’Connor, and Barton, imported the legal fiction of “ Necessary implication “ or “implied prohibition “ from one of the judgments of the great American Chief Justice Marshall, and by assuming that the Constitution meant more or less than the written words actually said, nullified the power of this Parliament to legislate to control companies, trusts, and combines, industrial disputes on State railways, and the like. In effect, it overrode the Constitution, as understood by laymen, and by many of those who framed it. The present High Court, however, has adopted a progressive interpretation, and has reversed or modified practically all the more important early decisions of the first High Court, and has conferred on this Parliament powers which the first High Court denied to it. In regard to the settlement of industrial disputes on State railways, the High Court has conferred a power on this Parliament which the people a few years ago refused to give us. It is monstrous to think that we are governed, like a primitive community, by a number of judicial supermen, to whom we have to defer on legislative questions.
– That would not matter so much if they always spoke with one voice.
– I shall deal with that aspect of the matter presently. Recently these learned gentlemen were gravely engaged in determining, after protracted litigation, whether a sausage was meat or something else. It would seem that if one wants to know what our constitutional limits are one only needs to consult the reports of the first High Court’s judgments, and, where Justices Higgins and Isaacs dissented from the majority, it is safe to assume 4 hat the present High Court will uphold ‘..heir legal interpretation, and thus reverse the early judgments. On this reasoning, the power to pass comprehensive company law, which was denied to us by the first High Court, might be granted by the present High Court. As England was governed in a particularly pernicious manner under the Stuarts with their doctrine of the divine right of kings - the royal prerogative - so we are governed in Australia by a judicial prerogative, under which lawyers have become wealthy and litigants impoverished. The honorable members on the Government bench who have attacked the litigious character of the Federal Arbitration Court have overlooked the fact that much of the litigation has, arisen through appeals on constitutional grounds from the Arbitration Court to the High Court. Therefore the Arbitration Court cannot be blamed for the trouble ; the framers of the Constitution were responsible. There are probably more constitutional cases on the meaning of the words “Conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State “, than on any other question. Every one of those words has come under the judicial microscope, and every one of them has been challenged at different times. Even under the Government’s present proposals such litigation is likely to continue, for every word in the additional placita set out in the bill will be examined and weighed by the High Court, and will come under the judicial microscope, just as the present placitum xxxv. of section 51 has been so examined. Let us examine the imperfections of the present Constitution. We have powers conferred upon us which we have never yet exercised, such as the power to make laws in relation to marriage and divorce, and we thought we had plenary power over trade and commerce, until the High Court said we had not that power. The result is that the absurd and anomalous position exists that we have power to legislate concerning the agents and instruments of commerce, such as railways and navigation, bills of exchange, promissory notes, copyrights, patents, trade marks, insurance, banking, weights and measures, but because of this High Court judgment, the exercise of these subsidiary powers, as they may be termed, is rendered largely ineffective. Yet on the other hand we exercise powers which are not directly vested in us under the Constitution. We propose to embark upon a national housing scheme, and we are assisting in main-road construction. I do not suggest that we ought not to do those things, but I point out that the Constitution did not provide for such action by the Commonwealth. As the High Court is notbound by its judgments, there is no certainty as to our future constitutional powers, for, when changes are made in the judiciary, the court may again alter our legislative powers by reversing previous judgments. Such a state of affairs is calculated to bring the judiciary into contempt, and the possible stultification of this Parliament by, the limitation of its constitutional powers must inevitably lead to every Government sounding lawyers as to their opinions on the Constitution before appointing them to the High Court bench. That has been done in the past, and it may prove a very necessary and desirable thing to do, because we are, in a legislative sense, completely at their mercy, and it is neces sary that we should have as liberal an interpretation of the Constitution as possible. If we place men there with strong State prejudices, who are conservative in their theory of political development, the powers recently conferred upon us may be withdrawn once more by resort to the fictional theory of necessary implication or implied prohibition, which was so freely used 20 years ago. The situation is chaotic, Gilbertian, and the time has come for this Parliament to grapple with it. The country should not be rushed with proposals of this character, which may be defeated by the manner in which they are introduced. I mention these facts to show that the whole Constitution requires overhauling. The simplest wayto cut the Gordian knot of this tangled legal skein is to vest complete legislative power in this Parliament. For these reasons, I urge the Government to postpone the consideration of these proposals, so that a convention may be held to enable us to do the work of constitutional alteration in a thorough way. We can never satisfactorily discuss constitutional alteration in the atmosphere of this Parliament, where the proposals are introduced by the Government as a party measure, and are calculated to provoke not unjustifiable public suspicion. The fear that the people would be confused by the submission to them of a number of questions is groundless, for we have a more educated public opinion now than when the constitutional proposals were previously submitted. A new generation, to whom State prejudices and jealousies are matters of history only, exists.
– The people adopted the whole Constitution.
-As they adopted the Constitution in one bill, there is no reason why comprehensive proposals should not be submitted to them now. As I have said, a new generation has arisen to whom State prejudices and jealousies are matters of history only.
– Is the honorable member in favour of submitting the whole of these questions to the people in the one proposal ?
– I would submit one comprehensive proposal for the amendment of the Constitution. The Constitution is admittedly defective, even in regard to the manner in which the powers are grouped. Its whole structure invites criticism. I consider that we should submit to the people a series of amendments relating to monopolies, trade and commerce, new States, and industrial power. That would not involve Australia in any additional expense. Even if it did, I submit that the people should be allowed to express their opinion on these matters. The adoption of a different attitude by the Government is an indication that it does not trust the people, and, incidentally, is not prepared to trust this Parliament. I do not expect it to accept my suggestion; but it should at least accept the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), which is couched in simple and unambiguous language, and, therefore, the less likely to be impugned in constitutional interpretation by the High Court. Plenary power should be vested in this Parliament to act in accordance with the popular will. Let us examine the Government’s proposal. Each word in it will come under the judicial microscope for interpretation, in the same way that the existing words which set out the Commonwealth’s industrial power have been examined. The limitations in this bill on the legislative authority of the Parliament in industrial matters are purely artificial, and may be overcome by the Parliament by indirect methods. Therefore, no useful purpose will be served by the submission of this proposal to the people in its present form. The amendment of the Leader of the Opposition would confer plenary power upon the Parliament. The intention underlying the Government’s proposal is to prevent the exercise of that power. We on this side have clearly shown that that intention can be defeated. There is no justification for putting this artificial obstacle in the way of the expression of the people’s wishes. It would be absurd to create authorities with plenary legislative powers which would enable them to override all State laws upon industrial matters, and yet leave this Parliament without such powers. As I view the matter, it would be possible, under the proposals of the Government, to create bodies that, by making awards or taking other action, would override any industrial legislation passed by a State Parliament, such as factory laws, laws relating to early closing, mining laws, and every other industrial law.
– If that fact is recognized by the people, these proposals are bound to be defeated.
– The Government is inviting defeat by submitting the proposal in its present form.
– Would not that be true also if Parliament took complete powers, and then delegated them to authorities which it had appointed?
– If this Parliament took complete power, it would have to take full responsibilityfor its legislation and for any delegation of power to subordinate authorities.
– In the event of its delegating power, the same argument would apply.
– If we were able to delegate powers of legislation to any other body, we should certainly have power also to destroy that body if we thought fit. But is it not humiliating to think that, under the proposal of the Government, this Parliament will not be able to exercise powers that may be exercised by an instrument of its own creation ! The only apparent reason for the Government’s adherence to the proposal in its present form is that it wishes to deceive its wealthy supporters, who are afraid of direct and plenary legislative power being exercised by a Labour government.
– That is an unfair suggestion to make. The position was explained exactly.
– It is no more unfair than the implications to be drawn from the speech which the honorable gentleman delivered the other night, in which he made serious allegations against various State Labour governments. The Government’s proposal is but a fictional limitation on the Parliament’s legislative powers. Some great national emergency may arise, rendering it necessary for Parliament to have the residuary power of direct legislation. If the Constitution were amended in the manner suggested by the Government, Parliament would not be able to exercise direct legislative power; either that power would have to be delegated to authorities that already exist, or other authorities would have to be created to exercise it. Such a state of affairs would not be tolerated in any other British community.
– Does the honorable member suggest that Parliament should do this work itself? There must be, in any case, a delegation of power.
– I have said, and shall repeat the statement, that Parliament should have the residuary power of direct legislation, to be used at its discretion in case of national emergency. No honorable member is anxious to make Parliament a court for the determination of all industrial matters. That has never been suggested; it is merely a figment of the imagination of honorable members opposite. The Labour party has been in power, yet it has not attempted to legislate directly upon industrial matters. Nevertheless, we, in this Parliament, symbolize the people of Australia, and whatever the people want in the way of legislation should be given to them unimpeded by any artificially created constitutional limitations.
– The Government proposes to give the people the opportunity to express their opinion.
– If the proposal were submitted in the form suggested by the Leader of the Opposition the people would have an opportunity to consider it in a non-party spirit; but the form in which the Government proposes to submit it will merely create prejudice and suspicion. I now propose to explain to the workers whom I represent the position as I see it. I do not think that any tribunal which the Government creates will make anyserious alterations in the industrial conditions that at present exist in New South Wales, Queensland, and Western Australia.
– It will meet trouble if it does.
– That is so. If it were to do so, it would be a direct challenge to the workers of this country, and it would be taken up by them. A tribunal would hardly dare to incur the public odium and disgrace of having brought about industrial chaos. On the other hand, a continuance of this industrial power in the hands of the States likely would not mean that the 44-hour working week, and other conditions which the workers have secured through direct legislation, would be taken from them if there were a change in the State Government. My view that no court or authority created by this Government would take away any existing industrial conditions is based upon the belief that courts and judges are human. Unless the Government appoints class-biased judges, after having sounded them upon their judicial views - a course which is not unknown in our constitutional history
– This Government will not do that.
– I am pleased to have that assurance. I shall not express an opinion until I see who are appointed. The Government might succeed with its proposals, if, before submitting them to the people, it made its judicial appointments to the reconstituted Arbitration Court. That might allay a good deal of suspicion regarding its intentions; for the workers would be able to determine whether the reconstituted court was entitled to that confidence or not. The arguments in favour of reducing the number of working hours to 44 per week have even already won recognition in certain instances in the Federal Arbitration Court.
– More than half the workers in Australia are now working 44 hours a week.
– That is so. I am inclined to the view that no tribunal would dare to take away that hardly-won right from the workers of Australia. The economic arguments are so overwhelmingly in favour of such a limitation of working hours that courts would be very reluctant to bring about widespread industrial trouble by a reversion to a longer working week. At the same time, I have no doubt that the Government has been urged by the employing interests to standardize the 48-hour working week, and that it will be pushed by those interested in that direction; but if it is not blind to the interests of Australia generally, and to its own political future, it will hesitate before appointing a tribunal which will arouse the anger of the workers and provoke retaliation. The question of the reconstitution of the Arbitration Court, with judges on life tenure, has nothing to do with the referendum proposal that is now being discussed. It is embodied in a separate legislative measure which the Government has introduced, and which will undoubtedly be passed regardless of the fate of the referendum proposals. As the High Court in interpreting the Constitution has held that the judicial power can only be exercised by judges appointed for life, and that, therefore, the appointment of judges to the Arbitration Court bench for a specific term is ultra vires, and does not confer judicial power on that court, the Government, it seems, proposes to appoint Arbitration judges with life tenure, so that the Arbitration Court may enforce its own awards and judgments. This is the position which confronts the Government, and would confront a Labour Government if it were in office, until the Constitution is amended in regard to the tenure of judges, and to such a constitutional amendment the present Government is hardly likely to agree. Might I also say to those who have sent me here to represent them that, in my opinion, it would appear that almost all the Government seeks to do under the proposed constitutional amendments can be done under the present Constitution in the light of the decisions of the High Court. Let us consider the chaos and confusion which surrounds the interpretation by the High Court of placitum xxxv. of section 51 of the Constitution, which reads -
Conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes xtending beyond the limits of any one State.
Every word of that paragraph has been defined and redefined by the High Court.
– The Court has been a great friend to the lawyers.
– That is so. In what is known as Whybrow’s case, the first High Court affirmed by a majority verdict that, with certain qualifications, the Commonwealth Arbitration Court had no jurisdiction under this placitum to make an award inconsistent with a State law, and that, it could not declare a common rule, that is, make an award of general application to every one engaged in the industry. Both of these decisions have been reversed to a greater or lesser extent by the present High Court. Tn the case of Cowburn v. Clyde Engineering Company - the recent 44- hours case, which led to the hours strike in New South Wales - the High Court has, in effect, held that Commonwealth awards are Commonwealth laws within the meaning of section 109 of the Constitution, and that, therefore, the 44 hours act of New South Wales is invalid in so far as it conflicts with the provisions of Federal awards. In what is known as the Biograph Operators’ case, reported in 35 O.L.H., page 528, as Burwood Cinema Limited v. Australian Theatrical and Amusement Employees’’ Association, Justices Isaacs, Powers, Bich, and Starke have held, Chief Justice Knox and Mr. Justice Gavan Duffy dissenting, that the Arbitration Court has power which goes a long way towards the declaration of a common rule. It would seem that the only irksome problem still existent in this regard is that every employer must be cited as a respondent by the applicant union, otherwise he is not bound by the award. The passage of the referendum, if followed by legislation, may minimize the question of citation. A recent award judgment of the Deputy President of the Arbitration Court, Mr. Webb, has provided that an award shall apply to unionists and non-unionists. In passing, may I also observe that some honorable members seem to be under the impression that the adoption of this amendment to the Constitution will make for uniformity in wages and industrial conditions in all the States. But that is wrong, for there is no constitutional provision, as in the case of commerce and taxation, postulating uniformity in the treatment of States by federal industrial legislation. Federal awards may, therefore, prescribe different rates of wages and conditions of employment in different States and localities. In the Railway Servants’ case the doctrine of the immunity of State instrumentalities from Commonwealth jurisdiction and arbitration awards was affirmed by the first High Court, only to be reversed in the Engineers’ case by the present High Court. The position now is that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court has power to hear and determine disputes affecting State railways and other State instrumentalities, a power which was refused when it was sought by a referendum to the people some years ago. But the High Court has expressly left open the question whether the operations of a State Government in the exercise of the prerogative of the Crown are subject to the Federal arbitral power; by this I mean departments of government directly under the control of State Governments. It has also been held that there may be an industrial dispute extending beyond the limits of any one State, although there is no interstate competition and no absolute similarity between the operations and conditions of the industry in the different States. The High Court has power to issue a prohibition to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court or to require any court to abstain from the exercise of any federal jurisdiction which it does not possess. The importance of these decisions is seen when we compare the present arbitral powers of the Commonwealth with those proposed in this referendum bill. The effect of all these High Court decisions, as I understand them, is almost to give the Commonwealth Arbitration Court plenary power to determine the conditions and wages of any industry whatsoever, provided that the matter is brought under its cognizance by the creation of an artificial dispute; in fact, it seems that the Commonwealth arbitral power enables any dispute to be removed from the cognizance of a State tribunal. Let us examine this in the following circumstances : - Now that the 44-hour week operates in New South Wales and Queensland, it requires very little knowledge of the constitutional position, in the light of the judgments I have quoted, to realize that the employers will undoubtedly create artificial disputes with their employees extending” beyond the limits of one State, and file plaints in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. There is no more power to prevent them from doing so than there is to prevent the employees from doing it. It would appear that immediately this is done the matter is removed from the cognizance of a State court. Certainly, immediately the Federal Court makes an award, the State awards and laws in conflict with it are invalidated to the extent of the conflict. It would seem that the Federal Arbitration Court could almost make a common rule, as I have already stated. By these means the employers will undoubtedly attempt to nullify the effect of
State statutes and awards, and I am informed that they have already been advised to do so. As reconstituted by the amending Arbitration Bill, the court could enforce- its award by penalties for breaches, and could discipline and control all parties within its jurisdiction and control, whether unionists or employers. The unions which believe that they can secure the cancellation of their Federal awards without difficulty, or allow them to lapse without opposition, are misled, The court may refuse to vary an award by the exclusion of New South Wales and Queensland, but under section 28 of the Arbitration Act no award lapses unless cancelled by the court. No one can foretell what the court will do, but it is possible that it will refuse to release unions from Federal awards unless the respondent employers agree, and even then the court may exercise its own discretion. Ultimately, by a protracted and litigious process, the employers may, and no doubt will, force the transfer of industrial jurisdiction and arbitral power from State courts to the Commonwealth courts, for there is nothing, so fanas I can see, in the High Court decisions which I have quoted to prevent them from doing so. Therefore the indirect power to do all that which the Government seeks already exists. The Government is seeking the direct power. The ultimate result will be the same; namely, the supremacy of the Federal Court in the exercise of industrial power. I state these facts so that those who have elected me as their parliamentary representative may foresee the pitfalls and perils of the .position. I support the amendment moved by my leader, for the reason that it is precise in statement and cogent in reasoning; it asks for plenary power; it is free from ambiguity; it is based on natural justice and equity, and it is consistent with ‘the previous referendum proposals submitted by the Labour party for the endorsement of the people; and is in conformity with our political policy and platform. As I have indicated, I am by no means enamoured of the Government’s proposals. I understand and sympathize with those who see in them a furtive desire to thwart the people’s declared will in the 44 hours question in New South Wales and Queensland. I can also understand and sympathize with the suspicion with which this Grecian gift is regarded by the workers.
I realize that the money power behind the Government has compelled them to introduce these proposals for a specific object; and I emphatically protest against this piecemeal and partisan method of securing additional constitutional power. I maintain that control over monopolies and trade and commerce which will give Parliament power to check profiteering and exploitation is of much greater importance to our economic well-being and national development, and that increased industrial power is merely ancillary and subordinate to it. . 1 emphasize that, failing an agreement to submit all the questions previously submitted, with the addition of one regarding new states, the whole question of constitutional alteration should be postponed until a convention is held. I .condemn the Government for withdrawing the per capita payments simultaneously with the introduction of these proposals, as ill-advised and calculated to defeat them. Much of the irrelevant argument adduced by Government followers in support of. these proposals has consisted of attacks on the workers, and has savoured of the iconoclast and. the misanthrope, who are anxious to destroy and can see no virtue outside their class, but attribute the whole blame and responsibility for the ills of the body politic to the workers. Not one honorable member opposite has stressed the importance of checking the exploitation and profiteering of the moneyed interests, which are, as yet, beyond the power of this Parliament, and which will not be affected by the Government’s proposals. Not one of them has pointed to the fact that production costs have been increased owing to the inefficient methods of distribution and the presence of the parasitical and non-productive middleman, and to inefficiency in methods of production, and more particularly distribution, which applies with equal force to the primary producer and the manufacturer. In my opinion, we require plenary trade and commerce power, and a national economic commission - a supreme economic council for that matter - to investigate the economic ills from which our Commonwealth is suffering. The powers sought, by the Government would appear to be deliberately directed against industrial organizations. The inclusion of trusts and combines was an after thought, and a tactical move to minimize the force of our criticism and to palliate possible public criticism. Yet these proposals are intended to make the most profound and fundamental change in our Constitution that could be introduced into this Parliament. If they are approved the States will certainly be placed in a condition of economic vassalage, and the way to unification will be paved. The effect on the mass of the people of the exercise of the industrial power is something supereminent in the minds of everybody. It is absurd to talk of these matters flippantly as if proposals for constitutional amendment might be rushed to the people without proper consideration. The questions of vital interest to every man, woman, and child in the community, the questions which make for happiness or sorrow, want or plenty, are rent, interest, and profit, to the acquisition or earning of which, as the case may be, the attention and effort of the whole community is directed. The Government proposes to vest plenary power to determine industrial conditions, hours, and wages in a Commonwealth arbitral tribunal, but refuses to seek legislative power to deal with profits by asking for an extension of the trade and commerce power. In these circumstances, the Government has itself to blame for having aroused the suspicion, anger, and distrust of large sections of the wage-earners of Australia. The necessity for constitutional alterations being so widely and generally recognized, these proposals should have been introduced in a different manner. In yesterday’s newspaper, we find the secretary of the Merchant Service stressing the need for an amendment of the navigation law. No organization has suffered so much or has spent so much money in litigation regarding the extent and meaning of trade and commerce powers. Some time ago, we had a decision of the High Court pointing to the fact that the validity of our Navigation Act has been largely affected by the operation of the Colonial Laws Validity Act. The whole question of the amendment of the Constitution, with all its intricacies and complexities, is one which should be postponed so that this Parliament may be able to meet as a convention to discuss the subject. One of the chief objections to the measure now before the House is that it has been introduced as a party measure upon which the fate of the Government depends, and by which Government supporters are bound regardless of personal considerations. If this Parliament were formed into a convention, every member of it could approach each proposal for an amendment of the Constitution from the stand-point of the national welfare of Australia, and without the political difficulties which at present confront us. The fact that this measure is introduced as a Government measure, even though h be innocent - which is open to doubt - justifies the suspicion that there is something sinister in the action of the Government in introducing it. The circumstances in which the measure has been introduced lays the Government open to the suspicion which lurks in the hearts of the wage-earners of Australia that the intention is to take away from them benefits which they have obtained after long struggles. If such a feeling regarding the proposals of the Government is permitted to continue, to proceed with them will be practically inviting defeat, and may delay necessary amendments of the Constitution, possibly, for another ten years. There is no great urgency for this measure. Last year, the Government was confronted with the position that is before us to-day; but when the Federal elections were held, it presented no proposals of this character, though some reference was made to the necessity for a convention to consider the Constitution. I hope that the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), which is so clear, and so consistent with proposals previously put before the people of Australia, will be adopted; otherwise, the fate 6f the referenda is very much in doubt, in my opinion.
.- This bill submits proposals for the alteration of the Constitution to enable the Commonwealth Parliament to deal with industries and commercial matters. I congratulate the Government upon its introduction, because it indicates a genuine desire to deal with the very dif ficult question involved, in a well thoughtout way. So far as I can see from the bill, the proposed alterations of the Constitution, if given effect, should bring about a state pf affairs preferable f.p conditions as they exist at present. I do not think that it was anticipated, when the Constitution was framed 25 years ago by some of the ablest mcn in Australia at the time, that it would be suitable for all time. The time has arrived when some alteration of it should be brought about. I do not agree with the honorable members for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), and others, who have suggested that the consideration of the measure should be delayed. I think it would have been well if it had been brought forward long ago. When I realize the millions of money that are lost every year to Australia as the result of our industrial troubles, I am surprised to hear objections to this measure, on the ground that a referendum will cost the people anything from £80,000 to £100,000. What is such an amount compared with the millions we are losing every year in production in this country? I trust that the Government will go straight on with the bill. I agree with the statement of the Prime Minister that this is a non-party measure, and I shall deal with it on non-party lines. We have had some very interesting and instructive speeches from the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), and other speakers. I have read many of the speeches delivered years ago when the Constitution was framed, and many since delivered by public men. Whilst many of the opinions to which expression has been given may be all very well in theory, they do not work out in practice. Although many speeches on this subject have been made by most capable men, what they proposed has not worked out as they intended. The honorable member for Wimmera very ably stated his experience of the way in which wheatgrowers have suffered under existing Commonwealth legislation. It might not be out of place, if I gave my experience of the way in which orchardists have been affected by Commonwealth legislation at present in existence. I make bold to say that there is no primary industry that has been injuriously affected to the same extent as that of the orchardists, as a result of the decisions of the Arbitration Court. I may give the results of one or two of the decisions of the court to show how they affect men on the land. The saw- milling industry in this country is carried on by a number of small saw-mills which, for the most part, cut only case timber for the orchardists. Workers in the saw-milling industry put before the Arbitration Court claims for higher wages, shorter hours, payment for time lost going and returning to their work, and higher overtime charges. The court granted all that was asked. The actual effect upon the man on the land of the improvement of the conditions of the workers in the saw-milling industry was to add 5d. to the cost of every apple case required by the orchardists. The seamen also claimed higher wages, shorter hours, and higher overtime rates. Rightly or wrongly, the Arbitration Court granted the claims, but the effect of the improvement in the wages and conditions of the seamen was to increase the freight on apples by just 100 per cent. Taking into account the average production of apples per acre, the effect was to put an additional charge of £14 per acre on the man on the land. He was never asked whether such an imposition was fair or just. He was not taken into consideration at all. Since the decision of the Arbitration Court he has had to pay this additional £14 an acre, and it is impossible for him to pass on this additional cost of production to any one else. These facts show how unfair the decisions of the Arbitration Court are. The court penalizes primary industries without considering the effect of its decisions upon them. The primary producers suffer all the time. Honorable members are aware of my attitude towards the Arbitration Court, because I have explained it in this House on many occasions. I have, so far, seen no reason to change my mind on the subject. My views of the matter are held by a great many people. I join with the honorable member for Swan (Mr, Gregory) when he says that the time has arrived for the repeal of many of our existing laws, and the Conciliation and Arbitration Act is one which should be repealed. The Government’s proposal to deal with industrial disputes is certainly preferable to the present system of arbitration. The Arbitration Court has been a ghastly failure, notwithstanding what the AttorneyGenera] (Mr. Latham)* has said to the contrary.
– What would the honorable member substitute for it?
– The wages board system. The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), when introducing the bill, stated that some people would do away with the Arbitration Court. I would inform him that there are thousands of people, myself included, who think that the court is unnecessary, mainly because its decisions have brought about numerous strikes. According to the Commonwealth Statistician’s figures, in 1919, the loss in wages in New South Wales alone, due to strikes, was £5,816,273. In that year, 460 strikes occurred in Australia., involving 713 industries; in 1920, 554 strikes occurred, involving 2,104 industries; in 192 lj 624 strikes occurred, involving 880 industries; in 1922, 445 strikes occurred, involving 447 industries; and in 1923, 274 strikes occurred, involving 885 industries. On the average, there were one and a half strikes a day over a period of five years. In view of those disastrous figures, how can the Arbitration Court justify its existence? The late Chief Justice stated from the bench, when dealing with an appeal to the High Court, that the Arbitration Court had been the means of creating strikes, instead of settling them. We cannot brush lightly aside the opinion of such an eminent authority. The fixing of wages and conditions of labour by arbitration has caused a great deal of industrial unrest. It is dangerous in principle, because it not only takes from the worker the incentive to do his best, but also largely eliminates competition, without which no nation can possibly progress. If this country is to develop on sound lines, we must adopt for all industries the piecework system, under which every man is paid for what he does. Under the present system the work to be performed for a certain wage is not fixed. I admit that that would be a difficult thing to do; but still we should have some assurance that the employer will obtain an equivalent for what he pays in wages. Mr. Justice Powers, the President of the Arbitration Court, has strongly recommended the adoption of the piece-work system in Australia, and his opinion, like that of the late Chief Justice, cannot be brushed lightly aside. In 1914 the court granted the request of the employees in the hat factories in Australia to be placed under the piece-work system, and, .as a result, they are working only five days a week, and their wages have increased by 25 per cent., and, in some cases, by 50 per cent. The life of any man who attempted to reintroduce the day-labour principle into the shearing industry would not be worth a moment’s purchase. What guarantee is there that under the bill we shall obtain a better system of arbitration? Certainly the court may have greater powers. At present the Arbitration Act provides penalties ranging from £10 to £1,000 for infringements of the law relating to strikes and lockouts. But, to my knowledge, none of them have yet been imposed. Even if fines have been imposed, they certainly have not been collected. The Attorney-General has said that the Arbitration Court has no power to enforce the penalties under the act. If that is so, why were any penalties provided in it? Surely they were not put there for a joke.
– The Attorney-General implied that the penalties under the act could be enforced, but not by” the Arbitration Court,
– What was the use of providing penalties in the act if the court could not enforce them? Is there any guarantee under this bill that the new court will be able to enforce penalties and also the collection of the fines imposed by it? I am a firm believer in the wages board principle, because it not only permits of a better understanding between employee and employer, but also avoids unnecessary delays. Under the present system I have known employers in Tasmania to be summoned to appear on a certain day before the Arbitration Court in Melbourne, and, when they have appeared, the court has informed them that their case will be heard in two or three weeks’ time. A timely-dispatched telegram would have saved those men the expense of journeying to and from Victoria on a needless errand. The Arbitration Court has been responsible for innumerable delays in hearing cases, and that is one of the reasons that has caused people to oppose the present arbitration system. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) has suggested the holding of a conference between the two parliamentary parties. This is an excellent suggestion, because in conference we may be able to determine upon an arrangement satisfactory to both employer and em ployee. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), during his speech, quoted a passage of Scripture; and, I think, probably, that another such quotation, “ Come, let us reason together,” would not be out of place. That invitation is applicable to the Leaders of the Government and the Opposition, and to employers and employees alike. Under a wages board system, masters and men can come together, and, having a more intimate knowledge of their industry than is possessed by any Arbitration Court, can more easily settle their disputes. The cost to which the country has been put by the arbitration system is enormous, and much of it would be saved by the substitution of wages boards. An increase of the Commonwealth Parliament’s power in regard to trade and commerce would be preferable to a continuation of the present unsatisfactory state of affairs. I feel, therefore, that I must vote for this bill, but I think the Government would be well advised to employ independent lecturers to explain the proposals to the people. When politicians take the platform in advocacy of any proposal they receive the attention of only their own supporters. Very few people attend the meetings of rival candidates; the majority hear only one side, and consequently the public mind is never fully educated in regard to big issues upon which the electors are asked to adjudicate. The judgment of the people would be greatly facilitated if they were afforded the advantage of hearing the proposals expounded by men who were free of any suspicion of party bias.
Mr.NELSON (Northern Territory) [6.5]. - The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) seems to think that an inflation of prices must necessarily follow the award of a basic wage in just proportion to the cost of living. I find, however, that, in 1919, when the basic wage in Queensland was 86s. l0d. per week, 32s. would purchase the same goods as were purchasable for £1 in 1911 ; but in Tasmania, where the basic wage was only 74s. 2d., a person had to expend 35s. 8d. to purchase the equivalent of £1 worth of goods in 1911. Those figures provide a contrast between high wages in conjunction with a comparatively low cost of living and a high cost of living in conjunction with low wages.
The honorable member contended that the worker receives too much; he overlooked the parasitical middleman, who is doing all the damage. The advocates of compulsory arbitration never claimed that it was an ideal system, or that it could be made a permanent part of the social scheme. I do not claim that the policy of industrial conciliation and arbitration has done all that was expected of it. It has achieved a great deal, but it must be improved considerably before it can be regarded as a perfect means of settling industrial disputes. “Wo must remember that the earlier advocates of arbitration visualized the time when there would be no private employers, and all the workers would be employees of the State. That ideal has not yet been realized. In the meantime, labour asks that a tribunal be set up which will award fair terms between employers and employees. Of course, the Arbitration Court cannot award a wage commensurate with the cost of living. In 1911, Mr. Piddington, who was Chairman of the Interstate Commission, after a thorough investigation of the cost of living, awarded a basic wage of £5 12s. 6d. per week, but the Government of which the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) was Leader refused to accept the recomendation.
– The matter was resubmitted to Mr. Piddington, and he acknowledged that, although he had recommended a certain basic wage, Australia had not sufficient resources to pay it.
– Mr. Piddingtons finding was based on the actual cost of living, and whether Australian industry could or could not afford to pay such a wage does not alter the fact that it was a fair payment in the conditions then existing. And all the workers have ever claimed is a fair wage based upon the cost of living. The Australian community has decided that it can be best served by a law which substitutes for the barbarous system of strikes and lock-outs a tribunal which will give an unbiased judgment in disputes between organized labour and organized capital. If that be the desire of the Government, I do not think the amendments contained in this bill will help to realize it. In order that the court may be able to command respect for its judg ments, it must have statutory power to grant in all awards preference to unionists. Of course, this proposal will not meet with the approval of ministerial supporters, but it is consistent with the arbitration law which this Parliament has enacted. We are frequently told that if undue preference is given to unionists men will be forced into unions and will have to swallow the political creed of the organizations to which they belong. The present constitution of this House is a testimony to the contrary, because it is well known that the Government is in office only because its supporters received the votes of many thousands of industrialists. It is impossible for any union secretary or organizer to dictate the manner in which the members of his organization shall vote, because the secret ballot gives every man the right to vote according to his own convictions. It is reasonable, however, to compel all men’ to contribute to the cost of obtaining the unproved working conditions which they enjoy. In unions, as in parliaments, the majority rules. There is such a thing- as an intelligent minority, but it is just that the few shall be bound by what is decreed by the many. When this Parliament imposes taxation, hundreds of thousands of people may dissent, but they are not justified in seeking to evade payment. The minority in an industrial organization occupies a similar position. That non-unionists should be able to get all the benefits of an award won by unionists is contrary to the spirit of the Arbitration Act. Before the working man can take advantage of the act he must organize in accordance with its provisions. A union must have 100 members before it can approach the registrar of the court for registration under the act. To obtain an award costs a lot of money, but the parasites who contribute nothing enjoy the privileges of the award.
If unionists are to be forced to respect awards, they must be given the power to compel obedience by all men employed in the industry. Some persons argue that preference to unionists is too stern a provision, but it is nevertheless essential to the success of arbitration, which is so strongly advocated by this Government. Members of the Government have not always been so strong in their advocacy of arbitration, and I am inclined to think that arbitration, as it exists to-day, is more to the advantage of the exploiting nhan the working classes. Another argument of those opposed to unionism and arbitration is that the court has created “ a single man’s paradise.” It is true that the single man is at an advantage by comparison with the married man, because the basis on which wages are computed by the court is the amount required to provide the necessaries of life for a married man, his wife, and three children. The. opponents of arbitration drag into the limelight the benefits that accrue to the single man ; but what of the married man with a family in excess of three? I, at least, admit that the single man is benefited by comparison with the married man ; but if it is conceded that the Arbitration Court has created a single man’s paradise, by the same process of reasoning it has created a married man’s hell. I admit that the system is unfair. Let us examine all the facts, for I do not believe in arriving at a conclusion after glancing at only one side of the question. The court awards a wage which, in its opinion, will purchase for a man, his wife, and three children the bare necessaries of life, omitting many of the essentials of life. I shall place those items on record again, because they show that the basis of the court’s awards is anything but extravagant. The basis set down for the guidance of the judges of the court and the royal commission that investigated the cost of living, was as follows: -
The man who said that medical and dental expenses amounted to 9d. a week had never reared a family, and it is obvious that he did not buy the Melbourne newspapers when he assessed the weekly expenses for “ newspaper, stationery, and stamps “ at ls. Can any one say that the basis is extravagant? On the contrary, any one who analyses it will see that it does not provide enough to keep body and soul together. It is based on the bare necessaries required by a family of three, and it condemns to privation families larger than that. It does not take into consideration the frequent periods of unemployment which reduce the basic rate to a starvation rate. But that is not its worst aspect. Every honorable member must admit that the average married worker’s family exceeds three in number. It is safe to say that 65 per cent, of the workers’ families exceed that number ; but the court is not allowed to take that fact into consideration. What a pitiable picture those facts present, when compared with the argument about the single man’s paradise ! The married man, with a family of five, six, or seven children, constitutes the backbone of this nation; but the court awards him only 50 per cent, of the bare cost of the necessaries of life. What a great system it is ! What a system to be proud of ! It means that such a man Is condemned to poverty from the moment the court makes an award. The court condemns him to half rations. The system is inhuman and unjust. I have heard it said that the arbitration system is ruining industry. It is certainly ruining the morals of our national life. Because a man follows the dictates of nature and propagates his species above the prescribed number provided for by the court, he is penalized. Any system that ignores the right of children to exist condemns the nation to race-suicide. We are, in fact, legislating for race-suicide. These extra children, under our system, are regarded as not worth having - at least, we make no provision for them. These things do not concern the opponents of arbitration ; they simply say that, because the court has awarded wages on the basis I have quoted, its existence is not compatible with the best interests of production. It is a poor prospect if the court is not allowed to provide sufficient for the worker to keep himself and his family. It would appear that the opponents of the system wish to drag the single man down to the deplorable level of the married man. Let me examine the basic rate fixed by the court, while leaving the single man out of consideration. A man, his wife, and three children can scratch along in a three-roomed house, which is sometimes obtainable for 10s. a week.
– Not in these parts.
– That makes the case all the worse. If a man with a family of three cannot obtain a house for 10s., what is the position of the man with a family of six or seven? He is penalized in rent to the extent offrom 50 to 100 per cent. above what the court has allowed, and his costs in every other department of existence are correspondingly increased. There are many ways in which this evil can be overcome, and I shall state my views for what they are worth.
Sitting suspended from 6.28 to 8 p.m. [Quorum formed.]
-I was endeavouring to show that the Government is condoning a policy of racial suicide. That is the only logical conclusion one can. draw from the fact that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court fixes its basic rate of wage upon the requirements of a man, his wife, and three children. It naturally follows that every additional child reduces the effective wage of the worker. The Commonwealth Statistician’s figures for 1919 show that the families in which the children are grown up number 90,617. The marriages in which there are no children number 69,174. Those in which there is one child number 72,288, and those in which there are two children 77,752. The balance of husbands and children is 220,400. They are not considered by our courts. It if contended by our opponents that the existing system creates a single man’s paradise. I retort that it creates a hell for the majority of married people. There are partial remedies which we may apply. “When the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) was Prime Minister in 1919, he delivered at Bendigo a policy speech in which he made the following statement : -
If we are to have industrial peace we must be prepared to pay the price, and that price is justice to the worker. Nothing less will serve. We have long ago adopted in Australia the principles of compulsory arbitration for the settlement of industrial disputes and of the minimum wage. The cause of much of the industrial unrest, which is like fuel to the fires of bolshevism and direct action, arises with the real wage of the worker - that is to say, the things he can buy with the money he receives.
The whole crux of the matter is, what can the worker purchase with his wage? A basic rate has been fixed which excludes many of the necessaries of life, and makes no allowance for a family of more than three children. High wages do not provide a solution of the problem that confronts the workers. I have bad twenty years experience in industrial matters, and I am convinced that the worker’s economic position becomes worse as his wages rise. He is continually forced to apply for extra remuneration to meet his requirements. No sooner does he get it than prices are inflated. There are means for overcoming the difficulty. So long as we ignore the causes that make for industrial unrest so long shall we continue to experience it. I do not suggest that the court should base its award upon the requirements of a family of six or seven children. ] admit that there are industries which would not be able to bear that additional cost. Let the present basis remain, hut exempt from all direct taxation every person whose family is greater than three in number. It may be argued that that would not afford very great relief, because theworker whose family exceeds three seldom has any taxable income. It would, however, be an indication that the Government was anxious to stem the tide of racial suicide which the present policy induces. The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) has promised to bring down a housing scheme. Let him produce one that will assist married men who have big families. Having fixed the maximum rental for each house, let that rental decrease as the family increases beyond three. A child endowment scheme also is an essential measure of reform. These and similar measures would remove the incentive to control child-birth. The court could then adjust wages on the present basis without inflicting any hardship upon the married man with more than three children. The court should he constituted on the basis of justice and equity. All legal technicalities should be removed, and professional advocates should be excluded from all proceedings. ‘We are well aware that these legal gentlemen introduce technical problems that very often are not related to the issue before the court. The expenses of the parties are inflated, and frequently the judicial mind is clouded with irrelevancies. If representatives of the industry and of organized labour appeared before the court, only facts would be elicited, the cost of the proceedings would be reduced, and the atmosphere would be clarified. I have had twenty years’ experience of arbitration courts and other tribunals for the settlement of industrial disputes, and I frankly confess that we have had too much arbitration and too little conciliation. Oases that have lasted for two or three months could, with a little conciliation, have been settled in as many hours. The Government should appoint conciliation boards where they can be of service round the coast of Australia. My electorate is 3,000 miles from Melbourne. If a trumpery dispute occurs, advocates and witnesses are forced to travel 3,000 miles to attend the court. The system is economically unsound. If conciliation boards were appointed, a great deal of unnecessary expense would be saved. Difficulty is often experienced in getting the judge to appreciate the conditions that exist in an industry. He has placed before him a confusing mass of evidence, and the result is a confused award. If the parties conferred, quite a lot of the misunderstanding that now exists would be avoided, because on both sides- there would be practical men who understood the industry and were capable of giving an intelligent interpretation. Such a policy would have more lasting good £ian can be achieved by the existing method, under which parties to disputes are dragged over 3,000 miles to have, their case heard by a man who does not understand the conditions in the industry.
– And who only gives a compromise judgment at that.
– That is so. After judgment has been delivered in cases in which I have appeared I have sometimes compared notes with the representatives of the employers, and we have been disgusted” at the unmistakable misunderstanding which the judgment has revealed. I am sorry that it has been suggested that only legal practitioners will be eligible for appointment to the bench of the newly-constituted court, for there are men of wide general experience who are not lawyers, who would make excellent members of it. One gentleman I have in mind is the present Registrar of the Commonwealth Court, Mr. Stewart. He has travelled over the whole of Australia, and is conversant with the details of practically all our principal industries. On some occasions I have gone to court with a representative of the employers, and Mr. S’tewart has invited us into his chambers to discuss the matters at issue. In consequence of his suggestions, we have been able, sometimes in an hour or two, to- settle a case that would not have been satisfactorily settled by the court in six months. A man like Mr. Stewart would be eminently suitable for a position on the bench of this re-constituted court.
– Mr. Stewart does an immense amount of good of that kind of which nobody hears.
Mr. NELSON. The appointment of such men would instil public confidence in the court. I remarked earlier in my speech that I favoured the principle of preference to unionists. Unless it is conceded, it is unreasonable to expect full compliance with the court awards. The average unionist resents outsiders who do not bear any of the expense of obtaining court awards being allowed to accept the advantages that follow them. But I am also in favour of trade-union membership being open to every bona fide worker. I know of men who have been denied membership in the union covering their calling. That, in my opinion, is quite unfair. I am opposed to this bill because it is one-sided. We shall not make much progress by passing a measure of this kind, for it really evades the principal causes of the trouble it is designed to correct. At any rate, it does not go to the root of it. The principal cause of our industrial unrest is neither the employee nor the employer, but the parasitic middleman. Quite recently the official organ of the Country party, the Morning Post, exposed the methods by which these Flinders-lane sharks meet competition. A certain woollen mill was supplying its material direct to the tailors, who were thus able- to offer a suit to the working men at a reasonable price. On learning of what was going on, representatives of Flinderslane intimated to the proprietors of the mill that if they did not cease supplying the tailors, none of the mill’s products would be taken by the wholesale houses.
– The Morning Post is not the official organ of the Country party.
– If my statement is incorrrect, I withdraw it.
– The official organ of the Victorian Country party is The Countryman.
– The Morning Pest is generally understood to be its official organ. I do not think the Treasurer will deny that it represents the primary producers. The mill, the tailors, and the retail purchasers were all perfectly satisfied with the conditions, but Flinderslane refused to allow them to continue. The consequence was that the whole of the mill’s product was handled in Flinders-lane, and the retail prices were inflated by 300 per cent. The middleman is principally responsible for the increase in the cost of living, but very little attention has been paid to him in this debate. High wages are no solution to our economic troubles. In my opinion, the proposed court should have power to fix the price of commodities, so that the wages it grants will really have their intended purchasing power. As things are, the price of commodities is advanced so soon as a new award is made, and the last position of the worker, economically speaking, is worse than the first. So long as this system is maintained, no permanent reconciliation will be possible between employers and employees. Sympathetic treatment of honestly organized trusts and combines would also help the community. By the application of scientific methods and mass production, trusts and combines working tinder fair conditions make possible higher wages for the worker and cheaper commodities for the consumer. That should be encouraged. I am firmly of the opinion, however, that unscrupulous trading corporations which work against the interests of the general public, and are mainly concerned with making huge profits, should be disbanded, for they are a fruitful cause of industrial strife and do a great deal to nullify the advantages that Arbitration Court awards are designed to give. I hope that the Government will go to the Toot of this trouble. It is useless for us to deal with the effect, and neglect the cause. Only by remedying the cause shall we be able to build up our Commonwealth industries.
.- The honorable member for the Northern Territory who has just resumed his seat has rightly said that we need to get to the root of the causes which lead to industrial trouble. A better understanding and more friendly feeling between employer and employee are necessary. If these are encouraged and promoted, there will he no occasion for arbitration courts. While we have on one hand combinations and trusts fleecing the community, and on the other employees spurred on by agitators to create as much discontent as possible, we cannot expect harmony in industry. I am pleased to note from the debate that the majority of honorable members is in favour of some amendment of the Constitution. There is some difference of opinion as to the time when the proposed amendments should be submitted to the people and the exact wording of the questions to be submitted. I disagree with the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) when he says that the reference of these questions to the people should be postponed until after the conclusion of a constitutional session of this Parliament at Canberra. That would mean a delay of probably two years, and even then the important questions dealt with in the bill now before the House would be submitted to the people at the same time with other proposed amendments of the Constitution which are not, in my opinion, nearly so important. Clause 2 of the bill provides that-
Section fifty-one of the Constitution is altered -
by omitting from paragraph (xxxv.) the words “ extending beyond the limits of any one State “ ; and
by inserting after paragraph (xxxix.) the following paragraphs:- - “ (xl.) Establishing authorities with such powers as the Parliament confers on them with respect to the regulation and determination of tonus and conditions of industrial employment and of rights and duties of employers and employees with respect to industrial matters and things; (xli.) Investing State authorities with any powers which the Parliament, by virtue of paragraph (xxxv.) or paragraph (xl. ) of this section, has vested or has power to vest in any authority established by the Commonwealth : (xlii.) Trusts and combinations in restraint of trade, trade unions, and associations of employers or of employees for industrial purposes, including the formation, dissolution, regulation and control thereof.”
The amendments of the Constitution here proposed would give this Parliament a fairly extensive power over industrial matters, and ample powers over trusts and combines. They would give this Parliament an opportunity to legislate against those conditions which are responsible for the dissatisfaction, loss, and, I may add, misery that is experienced at the present time. I am very pleased that the Government has included in its measure a proposal for an amendment of the Constitution which would give this Parliament power to deal with trusts and combines, because that proves that it has an open mind and is out to do what is best in the interests of the community as a whole, and not merely of a section. With regard to the cost of a referendum on these questions, I am again in opposition to the right honorable member for Balaclava. The right honorable gentleman complained that the referendum would cost somewhere about £80,000, and apparently he considers that expenditure too great for the settlement of these questions. In face of the lamentable experience of the people of this country in connexion with the action of the enginedrivers and the coal strike, which during the past month must have cost the country £500,000, and the dispute concerning the hours of a working week in New South Wales, which has probably cost a similar amount in the same time, it must be admitted that if, as a result of the proposed referendum, it may be possible to abolish such a condition of affairs, the cost of the referendum need not be taken into consideration. The welfare of this or any other country depends on good feeling between its people and their trust in one another. The progress of any country must largely depend upon, the friendly combination of capital and labour. When one considers the overlapping decisions of State and Federal courts and the cost of filing plaints and of industrial litigation generally, it is evident that the course we have followed in the past has been rather to litigate apart than to reason together. This Parliament, and not the courts, must be blamed in the matter. I trust that the Government’s proposals will be discussed in a non-party spirit, and that the deliberations of the House will result in minimizing, if not altogether abolishing, many of the evils in the industrial world from which we are at present suffering. With regard to the delegation of the powers of the Parliament to authorities, I find myself in opposition to the views expressed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) and the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory). They have said that this Parliament should retain the increased powers to be asked for. Do they intend that Parliament should administer those powers? Do they intend that it should take into consideration the whole of the details of industries carried on in Australia? If it attempted to do so it would have very little time for anything else. I have no fear that the Parliament will deprive itself of any of the powers it should hold. Honorable members will agree that under existing conditions the administration of the whole of our laws is delegated to judges. The administration of the Public Service is delegated, and rightly so, to a Public Service Board. So in connexion with the proposals of the Government in this bill, tribunals will he established by this Parliament to administer the increased powers that are being asked for. Listening to debates in this House, I have often been struck, as a primary producer, by the fact that altogether too much consideration is given to the employees and manufacturers, while those engaged in the primary industries of Australia, who imperatively need consideration, are almost wholly neglected. I speak as a man associated with the land, and having a full knowledge of t. he subject on which I speak. The Parliaments of Australia must, in the future, give very much more consideration than has been given in the past to the lot of the man on the land. This is imperative in view of the lamentable and continuous drift of people from the country districts to the cities. Probably one of the most important planks of the platform of all parties in this House is the White Australia policy. We, with a population of 6,000,000, have some 14,000 miles of practically undefended coastline. It is, therefore, from a defence stand-point alone absolutely imperative that we should drop party considerations and tackle this national question in a broad and comprehensive way. We should encourage many more people to come to this country and assist us to develop it, otherwise the League of Nations may take our position into consideration and instruct us to go on with our business of the development of this country. The people who flock into the cities of the Commonwealth enjoy the advantages conferred by laws placed on our statutebook by past governments, many of which are artificial ; and if similarly artificial provisions were applied to primary production in the Commonwealth the immediate result would be that the prices of farm products would rise to famine rates.
– Does the honorable member not realize that if this proposal is carried the whole of the rural industries of Australia will come within the ambit of the Federal Arbitration Court?
– I disagree with the honorable member. The man on the land in Australia has to put up with droughts, the rabbit pest, bacl roads, and many other disadvantages. I have here a statement illustrating the position of the farmer as compared with the city dweller. It was supplied by a practical farmer who is prepared to give his name to the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), and to substantiate every word of his statement. The statement contrasts the lot of a farmer with that of his son employed in a secondary industry in a city. The farmer, who has a wife and two. children, holds 150 acres which, at £15 per acre, represents an outlay of £2,250. Thirty milking cows, at £8 each, represent an outlay of £240 ; eight dry cows, valued at £4 each, represent an outlay of £32. The farmer has, in addition, four pigs valued at £18. These figures give a total of £2,540. The farmer’s total income for the past twelve months was - From cream, £360 ; pigs, £50; and calves, £20; or a total of £430, less interest at 6 per cent., £152, making a net income of £278. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) smiles, but if he were in the same position as this farmer he would see nothing to smile about.
– I am wondering what all this has to do with the bill.
– It has much to do with industrial conditions in the country as compared with those of the city. This farmer’s son, working in a factory in the city is receiving £6 a week. He works eight hours a day, enjoys the workingman’s usual holidays, does not work on Saturday afternoons, and receives special pay for overtime. His tools of trade do not cost him one penny. He has an annual income of £312, which is £34 more than his father receives. This is not an isolated case. The taxation department could supply thousands of instances in which the farmer compares less favorably.
– How does the honorable member propose to remedy that position ?
– It can be remedied if we abandon the party spirit in discussing this measure. It may be said that in quoting this case, I have made no deductions or allowances for the necessaries of life, and that the father ha3 the benefit of products of the farm, such as eggs, fruit, bacon, milk, and so on. That is true, but I have not taken into consideration taxes, depreciation on plant, and other things that more than counterbalance the benefits from the farm. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) made an excellent contribution to the debate. He is a farmer, and he knows the position of the primary producer. He said that it was a deplorable state of affairs that we could not export butter or dried fruits without giving the producers the assistance of a bounty.
– A bounty at this end and, in some cases, a preference at the other end.
– -The honorable member, in referring to high wages as the cause for bounties, did not mention the root cause. There are many reasons, the chief of them being the indirect incidence of the high, tariff, not only on agricultural implements, but also on all the requirements of the producer. I am interested in 1,400 acres of land, and I am engaged in woolgrowing, wheat-growing, and dairying. I recently purchased considerable machinery, and the direct effect of the tariff on the cost of it was infinitesimal compared with the multiplicity of other expenses incurred indirectly through the tariff. The Government has liberally assisted the secondary industries, through the Customs tariff, and justly so. But a great many manufacturers, by failing to use initiative and brains to assist in placing their industries on a sound basis, have incurred costly overhead expenses, brought about duplication in many ways, caused considerable waste, and made no attempt to treat scientifically the raw materials for by-products. The industries have languished, and the manufacturers concerned have appealed to Parliament for an increase in the tariff. This has brought about a continual increase in prices. Parliament has been more than just to the industrial workers of Australia, and they consequently enjoy the best conditions in the world ; but, in some instances, they have not given a fair deal to employers. There have been rumours, founded, I believe, on facts, of deliberate slowing down in certain industries because of the activities of extremists. I know that such action is deprecated by honorable members opposite, but, nevertheless, in some cases, the cost of the product of the factory has been considerably increased, because of the worker’s inefficiency. This is reflected in the high cost of living. The worker appeals to the Arbitration Court, and the judge cannot do other than decide the issue on the increased cost of living; he cannot consider the position of the industry. This is fundamentally unsound. As the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) said, when the dried-fruits industry was asking this Government for assistance, the Arbitration Court granted the workers engaged in the industry an increased wage because of the increased cost of living. When the employer and the employee work on those lines, is it any wonder that the cost of living increases ? The position is becoming so acute that I wonder how the worker exists on his wage. The wages of to-day are not worth as much as the wages of 25 years ago. If we attempt to attach this condition of affairs to the direct incidence of the tariff on agricultural implements, or to the employer and employee engaged in industry, we make a grave mistake, because the representatives of the people in the Parliaments of Australia are the worst offenders. I am trying to keep party politics out of this debate, and to view the bill in a broad-minded and national spirit. If Australia is to progress, we must bring employer and employee more closely together so that they may co-operate in the best interests of Australia. If the present artificial conditions are maintained, our manufacturers will not only be unable to export £1 worth of goods, but will also be unable to hold the local market without the continual assistance of the tariff. It is amazing that, of the total exports of last year, over 96 per cent, were primary products, and under 4 per cent, secondary products. That is a grave reflection on our secondary industries, in view of the assistance that they are now receiving. I favour a thorough examination of this subject by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research when it is appointed, so that material assistance may be given to the great industries of Australia. The tariff and the Arbitration Court have been instruments of justice to the manufacturer and employee; but I am afraid they have not always been used as such. Probably the most successful industry in Victoria, if not in Australia, is McKay’s Harvester Works. Its slogan has always been “Australia for Australians; promotion by merit and ability; payment by results; and piece-work where possible.” That is a sound and logical policy, and the more quickly those connected with the industries of Australia - both employers and employees - recognize . it the better. There have been fewer strikes in those works, taking their size and the number of men employed in them, than in any other industry in Australia. I contend that that industry, regardless of what may be said to the contrary, has proved a blessing to the farming community of Australia. The following extract is taken from an article that appeared in the Age, of 8th May, 1926, respecting a book entitled, The
Secret of High Wages, written by Messrs. Austen and Lloyd about their experiences in America: -
Among the fundamental principles of industrial management which they discovered to ‘be operative in America with most salutary results were the following: -
The success of an enterprise is, in a large measure, dependent upon a strict adherence to the policy of promotion of staff by merit and ability only.
It is more advantageous to increase total profits by reducing prices to the consumer, at the same time maintaining or improving quality, with a consequent increase in the volume of sales, than by attempting to maintain or raise prices.
Rapidity of turnover makes for comparatively small requirements of both funded and working capital, i.e., the capital required for shop space (including equipment) and the finance of work in progress.
The productive capacity per capita of labour can be increased without limit depending upon the progress made in time and trouble-saving appliances.
It isbetter that labour should he rewarded by wages bearing some relation to output rather than by a fixed wage, the amount of the wages earned by any one man being in no way limited. Contrary to the general belief in Europe, high wages do not necessarily mean a high level of prices. It is to the advantage of the community that the policy of industrial management should bo directed towards raising wages and reducing prices.
A free exchange of ideas between competing firms should be advocated.
Elimination of waste is an essential factor in the attainment of national prosperity.
It is important that every possible attention be paid to the welfare of employees.
Research and experimental work are of prime importance to progress.
The primary industries must be placed upon the same footing as the secondary industries. I am prepared to give to the latter all the support they need, and to assist the worker to become his own master and to advance his interests in every way possible; but I ask those who represent the workers in this House to extend to the primary producer and the man outback the same consideration and facilities as they are so ready to give to those engaged in the secondary industries. The production of the secondary industries during the past eight years has been estimated at £758,121,000, and of agriculture at £618,121,000, showing a balance of £140,000,000 in favour of the former. I contend, however, that those figures do not reveal the true position. Those who have experience of balancesheets are acquainted with two items invariably found therein, viz., “ book debts,” and “ cash in hand.” I class the secondary industries as, to some extent, the book debts in the national balancesheet; many of them are very sound, but some are doubtful, and require a searching overhaul before this Parliament grants to them further tariff assistance. The primary industries are the cash in hand. They are tangible assets, they stabilize our credit, and enable us to pay our huge interest bill. Irrespective of our party allegiance, we should consider means of developing the primary industries. As a Victorian, I am proud of Melbourne, and I assume that New South Wales people are proud of Sydney. Nevertheless, we cannot ignore the danger of a huge aggregation of population in the cities and a comparatively empty countryside, if some foreign power should attempt to dispute our possession of this continent, and the Mother Country were not strong enough to defend us. I am confident that there are honorable members on the Opposition side who are anxious to do what is for the benefit of all interests. All honorable members are agreed that an amendment of the Constitution is imperative. Most of us regard the amendments proposed by the Government as acceptable. Certainly there will be as much opposition to an extension of the trade and commerce power as there will be to an extension of the industrial power. It behoves us to make a reasonable compromise between the extremes advocated by different interests, and I trust that during this week the spirit of conciliation will operate amongst the party leaders so thatwe may be able to send these proposals to the people with the endorsement of a united Parliament.
.- I congratulate the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook) upon the sentiment contained in his concluding remarks, which I thoroughly endorse. In my long parliamentary experience I have never known a previous occasion on which the Leader of the Opposition has offered to confer with the Leader of the Government with a view to evolvinga measure that would be satisfactory to both parties. In the words of the honorable member forFremantle (Mr. Watson), I say to honorable members, “Let us get together” to see if we cannot do something for the benefit of Australia. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook) commented upon the drift of population to the cities. If that drift were prevented, and our population concentrated upon the cultivation of the soil, how should we dispose of our primary products? Australia might grow more wheat, and meat, and wool, but we already export a large surplus of each. In fact, we have a surplus of primary products for which Ave have a difficulty in finding markets overseas. In contradistinction to that, none of the secondary industries supplies the whole of the requirements of our own people. We do not make all our own clothes. Do Ave not make a mistake in exporting greasy wool, which could be scoured and converted into manufactures in Australia? The wool that we export in a raw state we often buy back in the form of made-up goods, and Ave lose the by-products. Australia can produce tweeds as good as any man or woman could wish to wear. Our boot factories do not provide all the footwear required by the Australian community. We send hides to the other end of theworld, and our women buy “swell “ boots and shoes from America atvery high prices. I understand that in Melbourne, Sydney, and other capital cities are tradesmen so unjust, so ready toswindle, that they sell Australian boots under foreign names. Are they ashamed to offer goods branded “Made in Australia,” or do they find it more profitable to exploit an unpatriotic preference for foreign goods? If such peoplewere imprisoned for a month, they would not offend in thatway a second time. It has been estimated that a man with a reaper and binder does as much work in a day as 100 men did 100 years ago. I have been told that in Somersetshire, in the olden days, only a very good labourer could cut and bind half an acre of wheat in a day; the average day’s workwas a quarter-acre. In those days the reapers were careful of their wheat. Itwas more valuable than it is to-day. I have read that one man working for eight hours with a modern machine can do as muchas 100 men could do 100 or 150 years ago. In those days of primitive methods more men were needed in the country to produce food for the townspeople. We produce sufficient food for the needs of the popu- lation of Australia, and until we increase that population, and thus provide a larger local market,we have sufficient primary industries: but we have not come near the limit of the secondary industries. It has been stated by an engineering architect from America that when war is banished and peace is assured in the world, most of the people will live in large health cities, and that it may not be necessary for more than one man in 100 to engage in the production of food. In the olden days, when the machinery and methods of production were crude, and artificial manureswere unknown, it required as many as 30 or 40 per cent. of the population to provide food for themselves and the remainder. I do not regard the large cities as so great, an evil as some writers have proclaimed them to be; butwhen I travel over the railways,which have been built at the public expense, and see so much cultivable land used for grazing, I often think that the holdings are in too few hands. I should like to pay my meed of praise to the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) for the speech he has just made. I reiterate his praise of the one man in the Commonwealthwho deserves praise - Mr. Stewart, the Registrar of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court. That gentleman has settled many differences between employers and employees, and I never look at his work but I am reminded of the law in Denmark. This is the first time in my memory that the Leader of the Opposition, on such an important measure, has extended the olive branch to the Government. When the second in command of the Government spoke, the olive branch was accepted, and I believe that pourparlers are taking place at the present moment. I hope that the result will be a state of civilization similar to that in Denmark. Mr. Gronlund, in his Cooperative Commonwealth, refers briefly to the law of Denmark ; and I arranged with a citizen of Melbourne to give evidence on the subject before a committee of which Mr. Justice Higgins, then Mr. Higgins. was chairman. Briefly, as I understand it, the procedure in Denmark is this: If Brown says that Maloney owes him £20, and Maloney repudiates the debt, he cannot, in the first place go to law and involve himself and me in heavy legal expenses. He can only cite me before a magistrate or “ pacificator “, who is sworn to “make peace between citizen and citizen “. I hope that when the oath is being administered to the judges who will be appointed under this act, they will be required to swear to “make peace between citizen and citizen.” Each of the parties tells his version of the affair to the pacificator, who, if he believes my version, will say, “ Mr. Brown, I advise you to accept Dr. Maloney’s offer.” If Brown is a fighter, and decides to go to the court, the pacificator appoints a day for hearing the case. Brown and Maloney may then bring all the evidence they have before the court, but neither may have a lawyer. The pacificator may again give a decision in favor of Maloney ; but Brown, still in a fighting mood, may carry the case to a second court, where eachparty has the right to employ a lawyer. Neither side, however, can introduce fresh evidence, but is restricted to arguing on the written decision of the pacificator in the lower court. The consequence is that very few civil matters of the kind I have indicated reach the second court. I shall support the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition, which reads -
That all words after “That “ be omitted with a view to the insertion of the following words in place thereof: - “thebill be withdrawn with a view to eliminating clause 2 and substituting therefor the following:_
Section fifty-one of the Constitution is altered -
by omitting from paragraph (i.) the words ‘ with other countries, and among the States ‘ ;
by omitting from paragraph (xxxv.) the words ‘ Conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State and inserting in their stead the words -
Labour, and employment, and unemployment, including -
the terms and conditions of labour and employment in any trade, industry, occupation, or calling ;
the rights and obligations of employers and employees ;
strikes and lock-outs;
the maintenance of indus trial peace; and
the settlement of industrial disputes ‘ ; and
by adding at the end thereof the following paragraph: - (xl.) Trusts, corporations, com binations, monopolies and arrangements in relation to -
the production, manufacture, or supply of goods, or the supply of services; or
the ownership of the means of production, manufacture or supply of goods, or supply of services.’ “
Wide as that may appear, it does nor meet all my views. I cannot understand why we should take several bites at a cherry, instead of settling the matter once and for all by putting the referendum, initiative, and recall in the Constitution. That would enable many things which would benefit the community to be done before the next election. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook) said that he was opposed to trusts and combines. I am with him, heart and soul. If effect were given to the proposed amendment of the Constitution, the Government could take over the control of combines. Any one who has been through the works and studied the operations of a combine must agree that the elimination of competition enables an article to be produced more cheaply. If that can be done by a combine, that is all the more reason why the Government should take control. Honorable members will recall that the tobacco manufacturers of Great Britain put up a strenuous fight against the great and wealthy tobacco combine, but, although they spent upwards of £3,000,000 in the struggle, they lost in the end. Today, the American combine controls the tobacco market in Great Britain and Ireland, just as it does in Australia. There were two large joint-stock companies in the tobacco business in Australia and for a time they advertised that they would fight the combine. To make themselves stronger, they combined into one company, but one morning they found that control had been taken out of their hands. Only in one country, with government aid, has that combine been beaten. No combinations of employers can fight combines unless they have the backing of the
Government. Japan is the only country that has succeeded in controlling the tobacco combine.
– What about France?
– Two years ago France had difficulty in meeting her financial obligations. The tobacco combine offered her £80,000,000 in gold in return for her tobacco monopoly, but to her eternal honour she scorned the offer, and to-day every Frenchman in France can have the tobacco that suits his palate. It is a strange thing that a man’s palate becomes accustomed to a certain flavour of tobacco, and when he finds one that suits him he will not change it. In a little French store in Vila, in the New Hebrides, I purchased tobacco of the same flavour, and packed in the same coloured box, as that which, as a student, I smoked in Paris 46 years ago. During that period how many tobaccos have appeared on the market in Australia, remained for a while, and then disappeared ? One of the highest officials in the Customs Department had assured me that the number exceeds 200. So soon as a brand commands a ready sale the quality deteriorates. Yet I am perfectly certain that Mr. William Cameron will never allow his product to become inferior. Wishing to raise a loan to enable her to meet her debts, the Government of Japan looked round for a good asset on which toborrow. Relying upon the astuteness of its advisers, it endeavoured to enter into an arrangement with the American tobacco combine to purchase its monopoly. The combine turned aside the suggestion. Some months later a second offer was made. The representatives of the combine in Japan said “We do not care to sell. You know that competition is the life of trade.” Japan thereupon realized that she would have to engage in the trade. A duty of 20 per cent, was placed upon tobacco which entered that country. The combine laughed. The duty was raised to 50 per cent., and still the combine laughed. In the following year it went up to 100 per cent. ; and in the year in which Senator Findley and I visited Japan it had risen to 250 per cent. A line of cigars that could be shipped at Hamburg for £10 a thousand, free of duty, cost landed in Japan an additional £25, plus landing charges and freight. The cost to the Japanese Government amounted to only £10, plus landing charges and freight. The combine ap proached the Japanese Government to enter into arrangements to buy them out. The Government said, “No. We made you two fair offers but you refused them and told us that competition was the life of trade. We wish you to remain in Japan and compete with us.” The combine was in a hopeless position, and ultimately the Japanese Government purchased its buildings, land, and machinery for a mere song. I was given to understand, in my conversation with the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs in Japan, that the Japanese Government took to itself the power to seize any tobacco in the stores of the combine upon payment of the amount that it cost the combine to land it, and a fair sum for compensation, thus making sure that they would not be given bad tobacco. The Japanese Government is to-day supplying Japanese tobacco at a very cheap rate. Its quality is excellent, and it is almost as fine as a human hair. Some honorable members may say that there are very few, if any, trusts and combines in Australia. I assure those who hold that belief that combines are almost innumerable. I have here a splendid book which, has been written by Mr H. L. Wilkinson, M.C.E., Melbourne University, and a member of the Institute of Civil Engineers, London, entitled Trust Movement in Australia.
– It is one of the most informative books that has ever been written in Australia.
– Undoubtedly it is. In his preface, Mr. Wilkinson says: -
As, however, the University of Melbourne awarded the Harbison-Higinbotham scholarship to this as a treatise on economics, one is encouraged to believe that its publication is justified.
To be awarded the HarbisonHiginbotham scholarship is one of the greatest honours that any scholar in Australia can have conferred upon him. My only regret is that this splendid book has not brought to its author a very great profit. In fact, I believe it has barely paid for its publication. It is a work that will become a classic, and will form the basis for other books which will educate the people of Australia to crush combines and trusts. Mr. Wilkinson deals with the Australian sugar monopoly, the tobacco trust, the interstate shipping combine, the Newcastle coal vend, combinations of manufacturing companies, combinations to fix the price of flour and bread, combinations to fix prices in timber and brick supplies, and printing. Mention of the word “ brick “ reminds me of the time when Thomas Bent, as Premier of Victoria, introduced a bill giving the Government power to manufacture its own bricks, and thus brought about a reduction in the price that was being charged. I agree with everything that has been said against combines. Bread has been called the staff of life. From 2,800 to 3,000 lb. of wheat will make 2,000 lb. of white flour. That flour will absorb a sufficient quantity of water to enable 2,600 lb. of bread to be made. Scientists have said that whole wheatmeal bread is healthier than white bread. Three thousand pounds of wheat will make 3,000 lb. of whole wheatmeal flour, which in turn will make 3,900 lb. of whole wheatmeal bread. Although the weight of bread is 1,300 lb. greater in the case of whole wheatmeal flour than in the case of white flour, the price of the whole wheatmeal loaf in Melbourne to-day is the same as that of the white loaf, and, in some instances, an additional halfpenny is charged. Surely some measure of control is necessary ! Let the grower of the wheat get a fair value for his product, and fix a price for the miller who grists it. If any miller refused to supply flour to a baker who required it, the punishment should be imprisonment.
– Without the option of a fine ?
– Let him be fined, also. A baker should not be allowed to charge more than a certain price for his bread. The great Napoleon framed a magnificent code of laws that will keep alive his name centuries after his victories in battle have been forgotten. He foresaw the danger of trusts, combines, syndicates, and other swindling corporations. He provided that, if any man or body of men met together for the purpose of unduly inflating the price of goods, the punishment should be a fine of 20,000 francs and three months’ imprisonment. If the increase pertained to food, such as flour, bread, wine, &c., the punishment was to be a fine of 40,000 francs and six months’ imprisonment. I have tried repeatedly to have provision made in our laws for the imposition of both a fine and imprisonment; but I have not suc ceeded in persuading the governing powers to see the matter in the light in which I view it. The following revenues were received from national monopolies in 1912 - the last year for which I have figures : - France, tobacco £20,200,000, matches £2,500,000; Italy, tobacco £12,300,000, salt £3,300,000; Austria, tobacco, £13,000,000; Russia, spirits, £78,000,000; Japan, tobacco, £6,000,000; Spain, tobacco, £7,500,000. I am sorry that, although Russia abolished the vodka, it has been re-introduced; but I have sufficient faith in the Russian Government to believe that it will never permit the abuses that occurred under the regime of the czars. Our people have had some experience of the working of the referendum principle, but not enough. I am glad to say that the principle of the initiative, referendum, and recall has now penetrated into practically every country in the world. The United States of America has a population of 117,000,000 English-speaking people. If a line were drawn direct north and south through its centre, all the people living on the western side of it would be under the principle in some form or other, and all except those in four states on the eastern side would also be under it. Some time ago the Age newspaper published a map to show how widely the principle had been adopted. I wish it could be republished. The Americans are not, electorally speaking, superior to Australians. Woman suffrage had been granted in only one State in America when it was granted to the whole of the Australian women. To the credit of the late Sir Thomas Bent, I wish to say that he established it in Victoria. The people in the United States of America make general use of the referendum. In Oregon 32 questions were decided in one day by means of it, and in another State 43 questions weresubmitted to the people on one occasion and 30 were decided in the affirmative. The questions referred to such matters as an increase in the salary of judges, the adoption of an amendment to the prohibition law to make it more effective, road construction, and State university representation. The principle of the referendum, the initiative, and the recall has been introduced in New South Wales and Tasmania. A former president of the Nationalist Federation was at one time a member of the Referendum Initiative and Recall League in Melbourne. I understand that the principle was contained in the first suggested platform of the National party, but it was not agreed to, and so was not published. At the Presidential election in the United States of America bethe last one, Mr. Christensen - whom I had the pleasure of introducing to the Treasurer, Dr. Earle Page - carried the flag of the Farmers and Workers’ parties, and polled well over 3,000,000 votes. He and I endeavoured to convert the Treasurer to the principle of the referendum, initiative and recall, but we did not succeed, .although we were able to tell him that it was the foremost plank in the platform of the Farmers’ party in America. The people in one American State voted by referendum on a proposal to spend £20,000,000 in roads. That surely will appeal to members of the Country party, for they know as well as I do that good roads are essential to the welfare of the farmers. Honorable members need have no’ fear that the adoption of the principle will prejudice party representation in this Parliament, for in Switzerland, where it is operative, the Parliament is composed as follows: - Radical party, 58; Catholic, 44; Social Democratic, 43; Agrarian, 34; Liberal Democratic, 10; other, 9. In Denmark, where it also operates, the state of parties in the Landsting, after the election in 1924, was: - Liberal. 31; Socialist, 25; Conservative, 12; and Radical, 8; and in the Folketing- Liberal, 45; Radical, 20; Socialist, 55; Conservative, 28; Slesvig (or German), 1. I stand for government by the whole people. The people should have the power. It was wonderful to me that Switzerland, where the people have supreme power, was able to keep her territory inviolate all through the great war, notwithstanding that her people comprise many Germans, French, and Italians, whose countrymen were in arms on her very borders. If Switzerland could maintain her sovereignty under such conditions, surely we need not fear to make our people supreme. I said in this House on one occasion that God never created anything His equal or His superior. Why, then, should the electors, who are the creators of parliament,
Dr. Maloney. once in every three years, make an institution more powerful than themselves. I hold that the people should be supreme, not only once in every three years, but every day of every year. One /wise old politician, the late Mr. Duncan Gillies, whose voice rang in this chamber many a time, said that, whilst a member of Parliament might explain away a speech or make a good attempt to do so, he would find it very hard indeed to explain away a vote. I regard as noble the proposal that the worthy Leader of the party on this side should confer with the Leader on the other Bide to see whether some agreement between the parties on the questions to be submitted to the people cannot be reached, so as to avoid the trouble of differences in the views stated from public platforms commending the proposals to the people. We recognize that honorable members opposite cannot expect to be able alone to carry their referendum proposals. The history of referenda in the United States of America shows that some questions had to be submitted a second, a third, and even a fourth time before they were carried. We on this side cannot alone carry the amendments of the Constitution we desire. But if it is shown that for once all parties in this House are- agreed upon a great question, I am satisfied that, although the referendum may cost a good deal, the money will not be lost. I am of an economical turn of mind, but I should personally like to put a great many more questions to the people. I should like to know why certain ex-policemen, who are reputed to be very well off, should be allowed to rob a man and retain the money they have stolen. Some one had the cheek to send me a warning, but I shall refer to their action every time I get the chance to do so. I have appealed to the Treasurer to ask the Commonwealth Bank to retain the stolen notes. What would be a crime if committed by a civilian is doubly wicked when committed by a policeman. I do not for a moment say that all policemen are bad. I knowmany good men among the police. I know that many a human being has owed a night’s lodging to policemen who could spare but very little from their low wage-?. But I am indignant when I consider the treatment of these three scoundrels who were found guilty of conspiracy, and remember that as the result of their action, and particularly of that of O’sullivan, honest men previously in the employment of the Railway Department have been dismissed and thrown into the streets.
– The honorable member is straying from the question.
– I am afraid sc. There is the question of children’s pensions, which should be submitted to the people. The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson), to his credit, referred to a housing scheme, the adoption of which might lead to the prevention of a great deal of disease. The object of preventive medicine is to eliminate disease. Had it not been for the restrictions imposed upon humanity, principally by religious leaders, -we should to-day have. wiped out some of the most awful diseases that decimate humanity. I honour and revere the the name of the great Napoleon, if only for what he did for the woman and the child. Wherever the armies of France conquered and the Code Napoleon holds sway, no father can disinherit his wife aud children. Fathers may do so in England, and, to a certain extent, here. Happily, in Australia, no father can altogether disinherit his wife and children. I have studied a few remnants of Napoleon’s writings that have been preserved, and have read how the Code Napoleon came to be made. Napoleon has put it on record that he had the greatest difficulty in the world in preventing men of the legal profession from making the code difficult to understand. No child asks to come into the world; no child can come into the world unless its parents meet. Every child is a unit of the State, and every unit of the State has natural rights, which neither the parents nor the State should deprive it of. Every child has a primary right to proper food, shelter, and clothing, in order that it may grow up to be a healthy adult, which is the greatest asset any nation can possess. When I consider the -miserable pittance which is often paid in the way of children’s pensions, I could wish that those responsible for it had to keep their own children on such a meagre allowance. I welcome the passing of the olive branch between political parties in this House. I shall welcome the occasion far more if it is found that for once in the life of this. Parliament political parties are agreed as to the constitutional amendments to be submitted to the people, and a bill is submitted to this House which honorable members on all sides can support.
Debate (on motion by Mr. G. Francis) adjourned.
House adjourned at 10.8 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 June 1926, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1926/19260608_reps_10_113/>.