10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether it is a fact, as reported, that Australian wire-netting manufacturers are selling their netting abroad more cheaply than they are selling it in Australia, although they receive the advantage of a bounty?
– Some time ago this question was raised, I think, by the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse). Speaking from memory, in replying to him, I stated that in one or two cases wire netting manufactured in Australia was sold in New Zealand at rates, 1 or 2 per cent. at the most, lower than current pricesin Australia. I shall have further inquiries made into the matter in response to my honorable friend’s question.
Duty on Butter - Employment of Migrants.
– As the Australian dairying industry is carried on only by the sweated labour of the wives and families of the men engaged in it, will the Minister for Trade and Customs refer the position of the industry for the consideration of the Tariff Board, with a view to a report as to whether a further duty on butter is not desirable?
– The first part of the honorable member’s question is probably controversial; my reply to the second part of it is that I shall consider the matter. If he will have an application made by representatives of the industry itself, what he proposes, I think, can be favourably considered.
– Following on the question put by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green), I desire to ask the Minister for Trade and Customs if it is not a fact that those engaged in the dairying industry are taking advantage of boy immigrants and State boys and girls, by enslaving them to produce the butter of this country?
– I have no knowledge of the matter to which the honorable member refers. Perhaps his question is one which would be better addressed to the Minister in charge of Markets and Migration.
– I have another question to put to the Minister for Trade and Customs. Will the honorable member be good enough to furnish to this House a report showing how many boy immigrants and female immigrants under the age of sixteen years have been brought to this country under the assisted immigration scheme, the wages they are working for, and the persons for whom they are working. There are people in this country who are enslaving these immigrants.
– Order! The honorable member may only ask a question.
– I shall confine myself to doing so. I ask the Minister to supply the information for which I have asked.
– The question is one for the notice-paper, and if the honorable member will address it to the Minister in charge of Markets and Migration I have no doubt he will obtain the information he seeks.
– As it has occurred to me that the question asked by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Lambert) might create a wrong impression overseas, I ask the Prime Minister whether it is not a fact that boy and girl immigrants brought to Australia are employed under an agreement, and are under Government inspection?
– The position is as the honorable member has stated it. I may add that boys are brought to Australia only under a scheme that has received the approval of the State Governments, who see that these boys are not unfairly or harshly treated in any way after their arrival in this country.
Broadcasting Companies - Statements by Mr. Fisk.
– In view of the fact that one broadcasting company is in course of dissolution, and new companies are being formed, I ask the Postmaster-General whether he and his department will keep a close eye on these matters to make sure that the people of this country, and particularly listeners-in, shall not be left in the hands of some monopoly, especially in this State?
– Very careful consideration will be given to these matters before any transfer of an “A” station licence for broadcasting is permitted.
– Has the Prime Minister had his attention drawn to the fact that a gentleman named Fisk speaks on behalf of Australia in negotiating with the British Government concerning wireless telegraphy. Has this gentleman authority to do so?
– I have not seen the statement that Mr. Fisk is purporting to act on behalf of the Government.
– He speaks on behalf of Australia.
– That is not so. Negotiations concerning the rates and general policy of the beam station are in the hands of the directors of Amalgamated Wireless Limited, among whom the Government has its own representative.
– As I understand that the Prime Minister has been approached by those interested in broadcasting in New South Wales and, I presume, in other States as well, will he inform the House as to the likelihood of an alteration of wave lengths, or what action he proposes to take in conjunction with the Postmaster-General ?
– Representations have been made to me respecting various matters connected with broadcasting, such as wave lengths and copyrights. I was seen in Sydney, on Monday of this week, regarding the matter, and I said that I would discuss it with the PostmasterGeneral, to ascertain the exact position, and to decide what action should be taken .
Duty on Softwood Shooks.
– Has a decision yet been arrived at regarding the suggested alteration of the duty on softwood shooks required for making fruit cases?
– No decision has been arrived at concerning shooks for fruitgrowers’ requirements. The whole of the timber duties are in the melting pot, and are the subject of inquiry by the Tariff Board.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Classification : Taxation Department
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Public Service Board of Commissioners has furnished the following replies: -
Scale for Widows and Widowed Mothers
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What amount of money has been granted to the various States and the Northern Territory under the Precious Metals Prospecting Act, since the commencement of the act?
– -The act allocates the sum of £15,000 to the Northern Territory. Several applications are under consideration, but no payments have yet been made by way of advance to individuals or companies. The balance of £25,000, appropriated by the act, has been allocated as follows : -
The sum of £1,000 has been paid to the State of Tasmania. No application for payment of a specified sum has yet been made by any other State.
Miss Florrie Hodges
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
If a life-size painting in oils of Miss Florrie Hodges, the heroine of the terrible Victorian bush fires on Black Sunday, 14th February, 1020, is secured, will he arrange for such picture to be hung in the gallery at Parliament House, Canberra, or some other suitable place?
– The matter will receive consideration.
The following paper was presented: -
– In reply to a question asked the other day by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), I said that Sir John Monash had agreed to act as royal commissioner to inquire into certain matters connected with the Phosphate Commission. The acceptance of the position by Sir John Monash was conditional on the consent of the Victorian Government being obtained, and I was under the impression that that Government had given its consent ; but I regret that I was in error. The Victorian Government, having considered the matter, has now intimated to me its regret that it will not be able to consent to Sir John Monash being appointed. Accordingly, the Government has asked Sir Arthur Robinson to act as a royal commissioner, and he has agreed to do so.
In committee (Consideration resumed from 9th June, vide page 2850) :
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 terms 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.”.
– I assume that on this clause it will be competent for honorable members to deal generally with the position in which we find ourselves at present. By an arrangement, the two parties are agreed, not only that amendments to the Constitution are desirable, but also on the form that they shall take. To the optimist, it would appear that we are on the threshold of the Golden Age; but, no doubt, as we venture to cross it, we shall still hear the roar of the lion and the timid bleat of the lamb. The electors of this country are to be congratulated on the fact that both parties have treated this national matter in a national spirit, and we should be proud, indeed, to be members of such a Parliament as this. At the outset of war, party divisions disappeared; but in time of peace it is very rarely that parties agree on a question so controversial as this, which in its genesis is so intimately related to the industrial question. The right honorable the Prime Minister introduced the proposals for the amendment of the Constitution at this stage presumably because he thought it was necessary, in order that this Parliament might have sufficient power over industrial matters to bring about that peace and stability in industry, which he and his followers are pledged to secure. I extend to the Leader of the Opposition my felicitations on the agreement which he has made. He has shown himself a worthy citizen of the Commonwealth by placing the interests of the state before those of party. He has made, in some respects, a good bargain, if such a term can be applied to this arrangement, because it must be apparent that the amendment of the bill which is to be made at his instigation is one of substance. It will give to this Commonwealth power over corporate bodies that control, I suppose, at least 80 per cent. of the capital of Australia, and, incidentally, other powers related thereto. If the amended proposal to be submitted to the people is approved by them, this Parliament will be very much better able to deal with the great problems of the age which arise out of disputes between organized labour and organized or massed capital. In some respects, however, the agreement leaves much to be desired. If I had to make choice of one of the amendments that I had the honour to submit to this House first in 1910 and several times subsequently, I should choose first that relating to trade and commerce. The impotence of this Parliament to deal with any trade and commerce effectively has been the fount and origin of very many of our troubles. It has been the rampart against which we have dashed ourselves again and again, and it imposes its limitations upon every other section of the Constitution. The AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) gave yesterday a list of the subject-matters that would be covered by a grant of power over trade and commerce without limitation. I assume that in exposing to the timorous public the tremendous possibilities of an abuse of such power, he was seeking to establish a case against the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition. In my opinion, he did not make out a good case. Without power over trade and commerce, we shall find ourselves at every turn up against pillars of doubt. We shall be pushed to the very brink of abysses of uncertainty. When the people tell us to do a thing, we should be in a position to do it without delay ; but I say emphatically that if this Parliament is given power over corporations, andnot over the trade and commerce in which corporations engage, it will be, at best, master of only half the field. The statement has been made - and the Prime Minister set an example by imposing a limitation upon the industrial powers of this Parliament! - that power over trade and commerce should not be sought for this Parliament, because trade and commerce is all pervading, extending like an inundation over the whole land. My answer is that the grant of power and the use of power are two different things. These appeals to the fears of the people are not worthy of their attention. Of all the powers conferred by the Constitution upon this Parliament, how many of them arc not capable of abuse? For instance, this Parliament has complete jurisdiction over marriage and divorce. If it had not that power and were seeking it, one can imagine the torrent of appeals, warnings, threats, and denunciations that would pour down upon our devoted heads from every quarter. The people would be told that the granting of such power to the Commonwealth Parliament would imperil the sanctity of marriage, that both polygamy and polyandry would be quite possible, and that divorce would be made so easy that no man with any spirit of adventure would contemplate life without some degree of pleasurable hope. But for 25 years this Parliament has had power to legislate in regard to marriage and divorce and has never exercised it. When I, as Attorney-General in a Labour Government, brought before my nevertobesufficientlyrespected colleagues a bill suggesting a reform of the marriage laws - as I conceived it - I was requested to rake it away and think more about it. I did so. Years later I brought the bill before another Cabinet of a very different complexion, and again my reforming zeal was damped. To this day the Commonwealth Parliament has never attempted to legislate in regard to marriage and divorce. So far from abusing its power, it has not even used it. Every one of the powers possessed by this Commonwealth is susceptible of abuse, and not one of them has been abused. I. welcome the agreement which has been reached between the party leaders. It does vastly increase the scope of these amendments, and to that extent will improve the proposition that is to be recommended to the people.
One can now recommend it with greater confidence to the people, although it will be necessary to make the frank statement that it does not go far enough. These proposals may be described as a legislative bolt from the blue. There is an insistent demand for power to deal with industrial disputes in some effective fashion, a demand that we shall have sufficient power to deal with industrial matters from every angle. The proposed amendments of the Constitution are introduced in order that we may be able to do this. But under these proposals that will not be possible. Nevertheless, the agreement is an advance on the original proposals. Although I regret that it does not embrace all power in relation to trade and commerce, it is complete in regard to corporations. The extension of the power of the Arbitration Court needs no comment; we all, I hope, are entirely in favour of that proposal. But the limitation on our use of the powers that we are seeking is, T consider, a very serious blot upon the proposals. In effect, we say that this and every future Parliament must hand over its power to some other authority. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) appears to think that, as this Parliament could create, it could dissolve any body it might constitute. I do not. quite know what he was driving at.
– I go further, and I say that whatever government may be iii power can appoint any authority it likes under these proposals.
– I admit that. If this Government appointed an authority of one complexion, and gave it certain limited powers, the honorable gentleman, if he became the leader of a future government, could, no doubt, cut short its life and substitute another authority, provided that the tenure of office of the authority created by this Government was not in some way safeguarded ; but no matter how grave the abuse of power by the created authority, he could not correct it except by appointing another such authority. The master of a shop oan say to an employee in relation to any work that he does, “ That is bad workmanship,” and can either delegate the task to another employee or perform it himself. The honorable gentleman, if he became Prime Minister, would not occupy a parallel position. He would have to say, “ Of authority I myself have none, nor am I considered worthy of it.” But I will dismiss the existing authority and appoint another. The Parliament can do nothing itself, no matter how urgently action be called for. That is a very unfortunate position for the Parliament to be in, and it is humiliating to be compelled to make such an admission to the people. As I said jit the outset, the present position is without parallel in our history; but it is a most hopeful augury, and I offer my congratulations to the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. The agreement will make the campaign much easier, and it will give the people the assurance that in these proposals there is less party colour than some partisans are endeavouring to make apparent. In short, the chances of the proposals being accepted by the people are very materially enhanced. On the other hand, it is to be regretted that, having gone so far, the leaders of the two parties did not go further. People may say what they like about the action that may be taken by future conventions. Here is a convention that is amply clothed with power. No convention could act contrary to the wishes of this Parliament. It is this Parliament which, in the last analysis, must pass judgment on proposals that are to be submitted to the people. Sooner or later we shall again have to consider this matter, and it would have been better to complete the work on this occasion. However, the Government has come to an agreement with the Opposition. “Wa must honour and respect that agreement, and do what we can to see that it is endorsed by the people. The agreement that has been arrived at is, for all practical purposes, that which was embraced by the 1913 and 1915 proposals. There is a slight alteration, in that one line has been transposed, although the words are identical. By this ingenious transposition, a change has been made without effecting any difference. I am pleased that an arrangement has been arrived at, and that the scope of the amendments has been increased; but I regret that the full trade and commerce power has not been included, and that it is not proposed to give Parliament full power to deal with industrial matters.
– I rise merely to correct an erroneous impression that exists concerning certain remarks which I made during my secondreading speech. Those remarks were quoted by the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) from an uncorrected proof. He was not in the House when I made them. During the course of my speech I said that there were approximately 1,000 judgments which affected, either directly or indirectly, the interpretation of the Constitution. I admit that that statement is technically incorrect, if it is applied to leading cases. I made a hasty approximation by examining the list of cases which are cited in Kerr’s Treatise on the Australian Constitution, which is the latest work of the kind published. I did not attempt to count the number, but the constitutional cases certainly run into many hundreds. I admit that many of them may deal only remotely with the constitutional power of this Parliament, but I again assert that the number is in the neighbourhood of 1,000. Of course, the High Court has imported a number of cases to assist it in interpreting our constitutional powers. American, English, and Canadian constitutional cases, and other judicial decisions, are cited throughout this work. I also inadvertently said that the amount of money which was involved ran into millions. As my time was limited, and I was anxious to complete my speech within the limit prescribed by the Standing Orders, I merely wished to convey the impression that the sum was very large. If it could be ascertained, I think it would be found that many thousands of pounds have been spent in litigation dealing with the interpretation of our Constitution. I have been advised that many unions have spent up to £10,000 and £15,000 in an endeavour to ascertain the extent of the industrial power under the Constitution. Speaking to the matter now before the Committee, I regret that the Government has not incorporated an extension .of the trade and commerce power in the bill before the House. It is anomalous and ridiculous that we should have legislative power over all the agents and instruments of commerce - such as bills of exchange, promissory notes, copyrights, patents, trade marks, and, to a degree, of banking, insurance navigation, and railways, and (various other matters that I cannot recall at the moment - but not the direct trade and commerce legislative power.
– We have power in respect of trade and commerce among the States and with other countries.
– 1 understand that; but the general impression, until the High Court ruled that our powers were much more limited than we thought, was that that provision gave us extensive powers. I wish to put a proposition to the honorable the Attorney-General, to whose eminence as a lawyer and as an interpreter of the Constitution we must all, to a large extent, defer. I should like him to inform us whether this Parliament will have the Dower. if the proposals in this referendum are carried, to legislate to fix prices in order to check profiteering and exploitation by the vested interests. That is a very important matter. If the Government had included all the proposals previously submitted to the people, there would scarcely have been a voice raised in opposition in the industrial movement. I am not able to criticize the agreement arrived at; but I recognize that it has many advantages to which reference has been made.
.- I wish to offer, briefly, a few observations on the situation in which the committee finds itself. I join with both the honorable members who have spoken in congratulating the leaders of the two parties in the House on the agreement which has been reached. It may not be that the Golden Age has arrived, but it is certainly unique, as the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes’) has said, for a Government and an Opposition party to agree on the subjectmatter, if not on the exact form, of what is obviously the principal measure of a controversial session. The electors cannot fail to be impressed bv the fact that a measure of agreement has been reached. X think it would probably carry an alluring prospect for the referendum if that were the only fact that faced us ; but those of us who have to go on the platform and take an attitude for or against these proposals will find that the situa- tion is complicated by other measures affecting the States, which are either in contemplation or are afloat. I regret that this bill will in principle and effect, in the minds of a large number of Statu authorities, complicate and collide with another measure which will shortly follow. The Government has been decided lv generous - I use that term in a descriptive way - to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) and his conferring colleagues. I listened with great interest to what the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Brace) said yesterday as to the inclusion of the word “ corporations “ in the amendment shortly to be placed before the committee. I cannot see that corporations, as they are to bc dealt with in this bill, have any distinct or direct relationship with the industrial power which the Government seeks to put ahead of all other powers, nor have combines or trusts, in any intimate or direct sense. Therefore, honorable members of the Opposition, having obtained the inclusion of the plenary power in relation to corporations, although they have not obtained all they asked for, have secured a substantial advantage as compared with what they had under the bill in its original form. The old referendum proposals, to which allusion has been made so’ frequently, were, broadly, four in number. They related to the industrial powers, and powers over trusts and combines, corporations, and trade and commerce; and to those has now been added, in a specific way, power over essential services, which will be dealt with in a separate bill intimately related to the bill now before us. Five things, therefore, could be covered bv the proposals of the Government. Four are now provided for in these two bills; and I cau well understand the people, who believe that the trade and commerce power is more farreaching than any, or perhaps all, of the others, saying, “ If you are going te take four of the powers dealt with in former referendums, why not take the whole five?” The Government may have reasons against that, and I can imagine some of them : but considerations such as this support the arguments of those who, like myself, suggested that all these questions should be deal! with together, rather than that some nf them, on the ground of urgency, shon’, be submitted to the people early and the rest left for consideration at the special constitutional session of this Parliament. Technically, I suppose, the amendment is not before the committee ; but it has been circulated for the information of honorable members. At the proper time, I shall ask information from the honorable the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) in reference to foreign corporations, which are dealt with in sub-paragraph c of paragraph a of the amendment; and I hope to be able to suggest an amendment which will alter slightly the effect of the Prime Minister’s introductory remarks of yesterday. The only other question I wish to open up is that dealt with in the proposed new paragraph xl of section 51 of the Constitution, which provides for the appointment of authorities. I do not know what is at the back of the minds of the right honorable the Prime Minister or the honorable the AttorneyGeneral, but I suggest that this phase of the subject ought to be more elaborately discussed. It was covered in a desultory way in the second-reading speeches, and I then put forward certain views, some of which have obviously been misunderstood. For example, if the honorable the Attorney-General is reported correctly in the press to-day, he imagined that I suggested that the wages board principle and machinery could not be used by the authorities provided for in the bill. That is exactly contrary to what I endeavoured to urge. When I was sneaking, the Prime Minister interjected, “ You do not: suggest they cannot be used,- and I said, “ Certainly not.” What T aru anxious to obtain from the lips of the Leader of the Government, or the honorable the Attorney-General, is an indication of how far it is the desire and intention of the Government, if the new power is granted, to import the principle, machinery, and practice of wages boards into the arbitral authority of the Commonwealth.
– That will come in the form of a bill.
– Yes; later; but if, when we go on the public platform we are not able to give an indication of the extent (o which the present Government - which, will be in power when the proposed bill is introduced - proposes to use the wages board system, we shall be at a disadvan tage. I personally wish to know the Government’s mind on that question, and I think it is a fair request that we should have more information on it. I wish to make it perfectly plain that I deeply regret the attitude of the Government - if this be its final attitude - in proposing to give power to authorities which cannot be discharged even by Parliament itself. An agent of this Parliament will be permitted to do things which this Parliament could not be allowed to do itself. It may be true that we who make such agencies can unmake them; that we who give these powers can withdraw them; that we who set up these instrumentalities can limit their power or cast them down; yet I believe that the people would sooner entrust a great draft of primary power to this Parliament, with the full knowledge that in practice it would be discharged by other instrumentalities than they would authorize Parliament to establish outside agencies which would override it.
– This bill will not give power to any outside authority to override Parliament.
– That is so; the phrase was, perhaps, unfortunate; but the proposal seeks to equip outside authorities, which will not be subject to the will of this Parliament, with power which should be given directly to it.
– Parliament cannot delegate a power which it does not possess.
– That may be true, and I am afraid that endless litigation will arise from challenges of the jurisdiction of these authorities it is proposed to set. up. This Parliament already has, under section 51 of the Constitution, powers over a number of matters equally great with those it is proposed to seek now. If it is capable and worthy of being entrusted, with them, it could surely be entrusted with full industrial power. What will happen in practice if this primary and exclusive power is given to Parliament will be the same as what happens within the State orbit of activities. I suppose that in not one cas<> in a thousand does a State Parliament, interfere in industrial matters or itself prescribe conditions and rates of wages ; it employs some arbitration authority, or a wages board to do that. But the State Parliaments have the power to intervene if they like, and not merely to alter the law, or the personnel of any of its authorities, as it is proposed that this Parliament shall have. If the proposal of the Government is submitted to the people in its present form, I believe that a great deal of objection will be offered to it.
.- At the outset of my remarks, I wish to say that if the amendments forecast by the Prime Minister are agreed to, the measure will be greatly improved, for they contemplate equipping Parliament with far greater power than was originally proposed; but the measure is still open to fatal objection, and I agree with the concluding remarks of the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) that the proposal to delegate power from this Parliament to outside authorities is fundamentally wrong. That is the rock upon which the proposals will smash. The Australian working class will not sacrifice their rights like that. They will want to know exactly what and who these authorities are to be, and what subject-matter will be delegated to them. Our industrial organizations have won improved conditions only after a bitter struggle against almost overwhelming odds, and they cannot be expected quietly to forego the fruits of their victories. They are prepared to give full power to this Parliament, so that it may exercise primary authority over industrial matters, but they are not prepared to give it to this Parliament to delegate to unknown authorities. The Prime Minister has stated that industrial authority should no longer be the plaything of ‘Parliament; but the fact is that industrial matters touch, our whole social life at almost every point, and cannot be placed beyond the reach of party politics. It would be just as reasonable to say that the housing problem, or the conduct of the ordinary functions, of government, can be placed outside the sphere of party politics as that industrial matters can be. For the reason that there is such a divergence of view as to how our industrial problem can be solved, it cannot be divorced from ordinary political life.
Honorable members opposite look at it from ohe angle, and contend that it can be solved in a certain way, and honorable members on this side of the chamber look at it from another, and contend that it can only be solved in some other way. Consequently it will always be a subject of paramount importance in party politics. The workers have not yet reached the summit of their ambition; they have still greater heights to climb. In consequence, they will not permit their power to bc restricted. They are prepared to trust the representatives of the people in this Parliament, but not any outside authority. If the industrial problem were placed outside the scope of party politics, no political party would be able to give effect to its programme. If the proposal of the Government is adopted, I can see that the political life of Australia will become affected in all kinds of undesirable ways. Personalities and not the party platforms will become the battle-ground of politics, and that, in my opinion, would be pernicious and dangerous. Persons holding judicial offices should not be subject to the influence of party politics; but, if the Government sets up its proposed authorities, that must inevitably become common. I can see these outside authorities taking charge of all matters affecting workmen’s compensation. They, and not the Parliament, will be the controlling influence. The Parliaments of several of the States have passed Workmen’s Compensation Acts, which recognize the rights of the workers, and provide that if a man is maimed and left helpless for life, his wife and children, deprived of his full earning capacity, shall be entitled to compensation from the industry in which their breadwinner was employed. I want the Prime Minister or the Attorney-General to say what is to be done with the power to pass legislation of that kind. As I read the Government’s proposals, if they are agreed to, that power will be automatically transferred from the State Parliaments to the Commonwealth Parliament.
– The honorable member is quite wrong.
– I am asking the AttorneyGeneral for some explanation of the matter. If it can be shown that the danger I have indicated need not be feared, I shall have no hesitation in saying that the workers will accept the proposals; but they must be assured that the advantages they have already gained will not be filched from them by the authorities proposed to be set up by the Government. Questions affecting the living conditions of the people cannot be other than political. Polities is the science of government, and all forms of government are primarly dependent upon the economic factor. Everything vital to the community is wrapped up in the production and distribution of wealth. Hours and conditions of labour are inseparable factors of production. This being so, how is it possible to avoid making the settlement of these questions a practical issue in polities? These are the questions which are agitating the minds of industrialists in Australia to-day, and they should be replied to. It would be far hotter if the Government introduced a measure proposing to give this Parliament direct power to itself legislate on all these matters. If that were done, a government would submit its industrial programme “directly to the people. There would be full discussion of it on the public platforms, and, if the Government were returned, measures to give effect to its programme would be introduced and discussed in Parliament, the full light of publicity would be thrown upon them, and the people won Id know eaxctly where they stood. Once these powers arc delegated to the proposed authorities, can they be withdrawn from them? Honorable members must bear in mind that what is proposed are amendments of the Constitution, and these, if made, can only be altered by another referendum. After these powers have been delegated to the authorities, will it be possible for this Parliament to say, “ We will take them back again “ ? I believe that, if the proposed amendments of the Constitution are agreed to, all the industrial powers of the States will be automatically transferred to the Commonwealth, though I admit that this Parliament could, if it chose, again surrender them to ‘ the States. What would happen if the Parliament failed to set up an authority or to refer any matter to an authority? What would then become of the pressing problems of hours of labour, wages, factory conditions, early closing, workmen’s compensation, and unemployment insurance ‘i Can an authority created be forced to act? Will it be able to go slow on its job and side-step any of these pressing problems for years? These are all questions that call for a reply. I consider that the amendments suggested represent a vast improvement on the original proposals of the Government, and for this small mercy we should, no doubt, be thankful. The Prime Minister and the Attorney-General would be well advised to do the proper thing. Why should they be afraid? The Prime Minister is not generally regarded as a man who is afraid to accept responsibility. Why should he be afraid to exercise the power which he proposes to give to some authority? I am not afraid that I may be given too much power. What I am afraid of is that I may not be given sufficient power. We have heard talk about the Prime Minister being a great man, and, whilst I shall not go into that, I say that he probably would be a greater mau if he proposed to do the right thing in the amendment of the Constitution, and saw to it that it is made wide enough to permit this Parliament to do anything that may be necessary for the well-being of the people.
f 3. 40]. - I propose to move the first of the amendments which have been circulated, and which . I indicated last night when mentioning the arrangement come to by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) and myself. But before I move the amendment, there are one or two things which I desire to say.
– If the right honorable member will permit me for a moment, I should like to draw the attention of the Chairman to the procedure which, apparently, is being followed. I am anxious to hear the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General, but I should like to point out that the discussion of the clause has ranged in ,a general way over the whole bill. The amendment should first have been moved, and we could then have dealt with different parts of the bill as we came to them. lt might be that I shall find myself, along with other honorable members, in the position of desiring to reply to some statements made in a general “way, but once an amendment is moved we shall be precluded under the Standing Orders from doing so. In the circumstances, I suggest to the Prime Minister that he might now reply to general observations and delay the moving of the amendment until later. I did not expect that there would be much further discussion of the bill, but as, apparently, honorable members desire to discuss it further, perhaps the best course to follow would be to allow all who wish to speak in a genera] way to do so, and the amendments, if then submitted, might be dealt ‘with very rapidly.
– I quite agree with what the Leader of the Opposition has said. When he raised this point, I was about to say that I did not propose to make a speech to controvert what has been said, or to speak from other points of view. We are all aware that there are differences of opinion as to the action which should be taken, and that an agreement has been come to with regard to the basis upon which we should submit proposals for the amendment of the Constitution. I think it is quite wrong, therefore, that at this stage we should enter upon a general discussion, and that the views which individual members of the House may hold should be put forward when we have no intention of proceeding to take them into account in the amendments to be moved, or the action to be taken in further dealing with the bill. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that it is quite wrong that we should now have a discussion embracing all differing views, when it is obvious that our differences of opinion have been reconciled, as shown by the vote on the second reading of the bill. Practically every member of the House voted in favour of the second reading on the perfectly clear understanding that an arrangement had been arrived at, which 1 had communicated to the House, and which the Leader of the Opposition, following me, indicated that he had accepted. Various points have been raised, and we have been asked what it would mean if we proposed to take full powers. One honorable member has stated his view that if we took full powers this would become an industrial parliament dealing with every kind of industrial question. Another honorable member has made it perfectly clear that, in his opinion, we should take full powers ; but he says that we would never exercise those powers and that they would be exercised through authorities, as the Government proposes. We have been given examples of powers taken that have not been used. I put it to the committee that if I am now to argue the matter upon the reasons on which were based tho Government’s original proposal, and the Leader of the Opposition is to argue from the point of view of his original amendment, on which we have now agreed to a compromise, honorable members will be placed in a false position. I appeal to them to agree that that is not the course we should adopt, in view of the fact that on the second reading of the bill practically the whole House expressed its endorsement of the arrangement come to. It was on that understanding that the second reading was passed, and the second-reading debate was to seme extent curtailed because of the arrangement come to. In the circumstances, it would, I submit, be most improper to re-open the secondreading debate and discuss the differences of opinion upon which an arrangement has been come to with the general concurrence of honorable members on both sides.
– I know nothing of any arrangement between the parties, and I missed the explanation of the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce).
– As the honorable member voted against the second reading of tho bill, he certainly has a right to speak at this stage.
– Unfortunately, owing to the decision of Mr. Speaker, that when the amendment to the motion for the second reading had been disposed of we could not discuss the original motion, we were debarred from discussing one of the most important questions ever submitted to this Parliament. I view with grave apprehension the proposed alteration of a specific provision of the Constitution, on which there has been not one word of debate. It is proposed to amend section 51 of the Constitution.
– The amendment has not yet been submitted.
– I do not intend to discuss it now. The Government should have arranged for a debate upon that subject on the second reading of the hill, so that the people of Australia might know the full effect of the proposed alteration to the Constitution. I have no grave objection to the amendment, but the matter is of such importance that we cannot possibly have too much discussion on it. I do hope that the remarks of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), and the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) will be published widely throughout Australia. I pointed out when discussing the second reading of the bill that the natural corollary to granting this power was to have full power in relation to trade and commerce. It follows that when thi3 bill is passed another bill will be introduced to alter the provisions of the Constitution in relation to industry and commerce. The bill is still cited as the Constitution Alteration Industry and Commerce Bill. The Government has apparently taken half its courage in its hands, hardly desiring to go so far as some honorable members opposite would like. The Opposition is asking for full’ control of trade and commerce. We want the public to realize that if this power in relation to industry is given, there will be a further demand for control over trade and commerce. The Government lias introduced its financial proposals. I contend that we are opening the door wide for unification. I am not a unificationist, but a believer in federation, which I desire to see develop on sound lines. The right honorable member for North. Sydney pointed out that there were 39 articles under section 5.1 of the Constitution, that we had not touched this or that article, and that we have never abused our powers under the marriage and divorce laws. We have ample opportunity under the Constitution, as it stands, to do good to the community, and although little has been done in this direction, this Parliament has endeavoured, time after time, to get absolute power in relation to trade and commerce.
– Why should we not have that power?
– The States federated under strict, conditions, and, there fore, the Constitution should not be altered without the consent of the people.
– We are asking for their consent.
– We should try to live up to the agreement that we entered into with the people of the various States, and not encourage this Parliament to clothe itself with the powers left to the States. Ample time should be given to the people to mature their views on the Government’s proposals. It is not a matter of party consideration, and it should not be a matter of party compromise. It appals me to think that we are now departing from the principles that we fought for at the time of federation. Honorable members opposite have fought continually for full control of trade and commerce and industrial matters, in an endeavour to bring about unification and at the same time to abolish the Senate.
– Does the honorable member say that the Constitution should not be amended?
– It should be amended with the full knowledge and consent of the people. I defy honorable members to say that Ave have any right to discontinue the per capita payments without the consent of the people. Although we have been, able to grasp certain powers, there is a continual demand for still further powers. I have no objection to the clause itself and its suggested amendment. I urged, when the bill was brought forward, that there should be a clause in it to enable the Government to deal with those who act in restraint of trade. Labour organizations can act tyrannically; but the wealthy corporations who act in restraint of trade can do a thousandfold more harm. I am willing to give the Government full powers to deal with trade unions providing that at the same time we have power to deal with those who, by force of capital and organization, are able to exploit and rob the people. I congratulate the Government on its proposal to appoint industrial authorities under the bill, and if the bill is to be passed let it he effective.
– Does not the honorable member think that we should have power to disband those authorities?
– The honorable member’s interjection reminds me of the tariff issue, when outside pressure was brought to bear on members of this Parliament for the purpose of giving concessions to certain sections of the community. These things should not be done for the purpose of vote-catching. An honorable member representing a Labour constituency may have a desire to give special consideration to the worker, and an honorable member in another constituency may ask for special consideration in respect to something that will act in restraint of trade. Surely this sort of thing could be removed by the appointment of competent authorities. When dealing with the Judiciary Bill, I shall strongly contend that the proper persons to act on thai court would be men not so much of legal experience as of practical experience. I am glad that amendments are to be inserted in the bill to give power to deal both with trade unions and monopolies, including combinations of manufacturers, importers, or of any other section of the community. We must have control over trade unions. If they are to have specific powers, there should be some specific control of them as well. There should be in this country the right for every man to work, whether he belongs to a trade union or any other association. No one should be able to say to a person applyi ng for work, “ You must contribute to the funds of an association before commencing work.” I wish to emphasize my grave objection to the Government’s proposals. I contend that it has no mandate to amend the Constitution. The referendum will cost £70,000, £80,000, or £100,000. Instead of putting these proposals to the people, why not bring the Arbitration Act up to date? There is the difficulty, of course, as pointed out by the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), that the court as at present constituted cannot take action until a dispute has been created. That difficulty could be overcome by a small amendment of the Constitution later. In Western Australia, vessels are being held up, and the interstate trade has ceased. There is in existence a State Arbitration Act and a Commonwealth Arbitration Act. At the instance of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), a special tribunal was appointed for the coal miners of this country; yet we find that a few men belonging to the Engine-drivers Association can hold up industries, and ap parently there is no power to stop them. I believe that we have the power to take action under the Constitution, but not under the Arbitration Act. That legislation should have been amended years ago to enable the court to deal with persons who defy the laws of this country.
.- I still feel that the powers to be conferred under this clause upon the Federal Parliament will prove ample to enable it to deal more particularly with the industrial situation in its various ramifications. It may be, of course, that there is lurking in this measure the seed of interesting and learned word-splitting- if I may so express it - in the High Court. It may be that there is in the bill something which impinges upon the free exercise of the Parliament’s power. I myself do not believe it exists, but if it is there the Attorney-General will have to answer for it later. I rose principally because of the statement made by the Prime Minister a few moments ago regarding the agreement between himself and the Leader of the Opposition. The Leader of the Government made, last night, a frank and accurate statement of the negotiations between himself and my leader; but I do not understand the arrangement that was arrived at to mean as much as he suggests. It may be freely admitted now that in any circumstances the Labour party would have accepted the original proposals contained in the bill if they were the best that could be obtained ; but, believing that even greater powers should be sought from the people, my leader tabled further proposals for the amendment of the Constitution. Adopting what I consider the correct attitude, he said that a constitutional all- Australian question was not a matter for party division, and he offered to consult with the Leader of the Government with a view to improving and, especially, amplifying the proposals to be submitted to the people. I congratulate both leaders upon the fact that their conversations have resulted in an amplification of the original proposals. But the Prime Minister seemed to suggest this afternoon that this arrangement imposes upon members of this committee silence, that everything has been said that need be said in regard to the bill, and that nothing should be done that might disturb the agreement. My view is that the need for discussion has not been changed in the slightest degree. It is not yet too late for the right honorable gentleman to yield to arguments that may be adduced in favour of seeking from the people powers even wider than those upon which the leaders are agreed. At all events, I owe it to myself to place on record my view that the arrangement or agreement is no more than an understanding between two leaders that the proposed amplifications are an improvement of the questions originally contained in the bill, and are worthy of support here and in the country if nothing better can be obtained. In the meantime, there should be no limitation of the discussion of these questions here or elsewhere. This chamber is the proper place for the free, frank, and full discussion of this bill more than any ordinary measure, because its proposals are of fundamental importance and nonpartisan. I decline to be one of those who would import into them any party flavour. Party considerations will arise later in this arena, which we are endeavouring to clear by an amendment of the Constitution; but they do not arise now. Our present business is clear the ring. I believe that the proposals to be submitted to the people will, if assented to, give this Parliament sufficient authority over industry. I regret that the questions have been framed in such a cumbrous way as to involve the intervention of an outside authority: but the limitation of this Parliament’s powers is, I think, more formal than real.
– My earlier remarks seem to have created some misapprehension. This bill consists of two clauses; the first deals only with its title, and the second contains the whole substance of the measure. . In those circumstances, the second-reading debate and the discussion of clause 2 must cover the same field. After the second-reading debate had proceeded for some time, and the views of honorable members on both sides of the. House had been disclosed, I consulted with the Leader of the Opposition, and we agreed upon amendments of the bill which would commend it to all parties. I have no wish to limit the right of speech of any honorable member.
I merely point out that, haying discussed the substance of the bill on the second reading, and the Leaders of the Government and of the Opposition having reached an agreement which, to some extent, reconciled the views of their respective parties, there were many practical obstacles to the re-opening of the general discussion in committee.
– Honorable members have an individual responsibility to the people to express their views of the agreement.
– Certainly ; and I have no desire to interfere in any way with the discharge of that responsibility.
– But the right honorable gentleman is suggesting that we would be wasting time.
– No. I have merely drawn attention to practical objections to a repetition of the earlier debate after an agreement acceptable to both parties has been reached.
.- The Nationalist party, the Country party, and the Labour party, have entered into a pact-
– The first instalment of the elective Ministry.
– I was about to say that this pact is a considerable advance towards the millennium which the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) so often advocates. There being no official opposition, so far as these proposals are concerned, the responsibility of presenting to the country the case against them devolves upon the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) and myself. Thus an unexpected burden is imposed upon us for having expressed conscientious objections to this measure. However, we shall call our party together at the earliest convenient date to consider our plan of campaign, and I hope that in preparing our case we shall have the legal assistance of the Attorney-General. I congratulate the Labour party upon having, after years of persistent agitation, worn away the fundamental opposition of the Liberal and Nationalist forces to unification and centralized control of industry. I was amused to note the ease with which members of the Country party - old Liberals and new Nationalists - took a fence at which they had baulked so stubbornly on four previous occasions. All power of resistance based on principle seems to have disappeared in these days of political expediency.
– Presumably, the honorable member is speaking of his own party.
– I am speaking of honorable members whose voices have never ceased to proclaim the infamy of the Navigation Act and the Industrial Arbitration Act, the latter being, in their opinion, 50 per cent, responsible for the ruin of this country. “Within the last few days, they have swallowed the Arbitration Act lock, stock, and barrel, and we shall shortly see our old friend, the rural workers’ log, re-appearing out in the country districts, sponsored by the Government and its Country party supporters. The Attorney-General answered my opposition to the bill by remarking that certain rural industries are subject to Federal authority. I was aware of that, and resisted it long before the honorable gentleman entered politics; and I remind him that the Labour party has not persisted in extending the powers of the Federal Arbitration Court into rural industries. It has remained for this Government to introduce proposals that will extend the influence of that court throughout the length and breadth of the land. Is there one rural industry that will not come within its ambit?
– Is there one that is not within it now?
Mi-. RODGERS.- Though the Labour party was not prepared to interfere with the rural industries in the past, it can do so in future, with the sanction and support of the present Government. I remind Ministers that they have started a gigantic conflict between the Commonwealth and the States in regard to their respective rights and powers. The principal proposals in the Government’s programme can be carried out only with the good-will and administrative machinery of the States. What roads are owned by the Commonwealth upon which £20,000,000 can be spent? That sum can be expended only with the assistance of the States. The Commonwealth’s housing scheme depends for its success upon the goodwill and co-operation of the States. Similarly with its immigration scheme, its wire netting scheme, and every financial proposal that it has put forward. I remind the Government that the Labour party did not take any part in the framing of the Australian Constitution. At the time it was not in existence as a party. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) was quite within his rights when he pointed out that the policy of the Government had always been what the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) now claims it to be.
– Not at first; it was then conservative.
– It is a remarkable coincidence that there are five Labour Governments and only one Nationalist Government in power in the States at this time when this Government proposes to make fundamental changes in our Constitution along the lines that are favoured by the Opposition. Victoria has always been, and is now, opposed to the granting of those extended powers to the Commonwealth. This Government, therefore, is joining forces with the Opposition in this Parliament and with the five State Labour Governments, to bring about the proposed change. It is a most invidious position in which to be placed. I believe that this is the day of collective bargaining. There is no power in relation to the fixation of wages and conditions of employment which can be operated by the Commonwealth and not by the States, except that of the coordination of the decisions which are made by the various States. I favour the wages board principle. I admit that at present overlapping and conflict exist. These may be avoided in two ways. If the Commonwealth would completely evacuate the field of industrial control the States would be left in supreme and absolute control of the industrial position, and there would be no conflict.
– There would be cutthroat interstate competition.
– I am not opposed to competition between the States; on the contrary, I welcome it. Unlike the Leader of the Opposition, I am not in favour of unification. This Parliament has acknowledged the fact that the conditions in States like Western Australia and Tasmania are not comparable with those in Victoria, because in those States great industries are not established. What authority is the most jealous guardian of the welfare of the States? Is it the central Parliament, or the States themselves? I submit that it is not this Parliament.
– The Premier of Tasmania does not say that.
– The Premier of Tasmania comes cap in hand to the Commonwealth for financial assistance, because his State cannot keep up the pace which he sets. The history of compulsory arbitration in this country has, in the main, been a history of progressive advancement in the wages and conditions of our people. They are entitled to whatever they can get; but we have now reached the stage when the industries of Australia cannot stand any further increases unless a more economical and advanced system of production is evolved. If the Commonwealth Arbitration Court should decrease wages or alter the conditions of the workers-
– There would bc trouble.
– The present artificial system of recording increases in wages must cease if our industries are to be saved from ruin. The granting of absolute and supreme power to the Federal Court will not prevent the States from continuing their industrial tribunals. If any State tribunal will grant to the workers higher wages or shorter hours than they can obtain from the Federal Court, there will beno means of compelling them to accept the award of the Federal Court. Therefore, we shall continue to have conflicts between the two authorities. The States possess the best knowledge of the conditions that exist in the industries of this country. Over 500,000 unionists are to-day working under State awards, whereas only 300,000 unionists are working under Federal awards. In no State is there more contentment in industry and more genuine advancement than in Victoria, where the wages-board system has had excellent results. The Government is taking a grave step when, in collusion with the other parties in this chamber-
– That is not so.
– Then, in concert with the other parties, it proposes to take these powers from the States at a time when the only defenders of the rights of the States are the Nationalist Government in Victoria and the five Labour Governments in the other States. Had the attempt been made to fashion federation upon the principles espoused by the Labour party, we should not have had a federation. Every effort which that party has made to engraft its principles on the Constitution has failed. Although a majority of the people have at times been prepared to entrust it with the government of Australia, they have declined to give it an enlargement of its powers. In some of the States the local industrial tribunals are responding magnificently to the wishes of the Labour party, with the result that that party is now divided upon this question. I would not give to this Government any power that I would not be prepared to give to the Labour party, and that is the reason for my opposition to this proposal. The Leader of the Opposition made a very significant statement, which has had great weight in the councils of his party. He pointed out that the bill provides for the creation of authorities without limit as to power or form, and that under that power the supreme economic council of Labour might be created an authority, and as such could control the industrial life of Australia. So sweeping, so complete and absolute, are the powers for the creation of authorities, that any party in power for the time being will be able to create authorities for its own purpose. I sympathize with the honorable the AttorneyGeneral in the bewilderment he finds in the Federal arbitration system. He can get rid of all his difficulties definitely and for ever if he will vacate the entire industrial arena. I do not wish to include in this discussion the Government’s financial proposals. There may be some smug satisfaction felt by honorable members that the referendum is settled here, but it is not settled in the country; and I am afraid that honorable members, by the vote they have cast, have not correctly interpreted the feeling in the country. I repeat again that it is the irony of political fate that the movement that took no part in the promoting of federation now prevails in five of the States, and has an equal voice with the Government on this question. I have made my protest by vote and voice. If these proposals are carried, we shall be 60 per cent. along the road to unification, and Labour will have obtained by instalments one of its cherished hopes. The Labour party having obtained that, if it also obtains control of the purse, the electors will not think it worth while resisting the granting of the powers needed for complete unification.
.- The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) referred to the fact that the most important power that could be obtained for this Parliament was the power over trade and commerce. With that statement I entirely agree. This party has tried to obtain that power ; and it was only because the Government was opposed to granting it that we had to forgo our demand. If the Government does not, as a result of the constitutional session, submit that question to the people the Labour party, if ever it has the oi> portunity, will, without the slightest hesitation, do so. The amendment dealing with corporations relates also to a very necessary power. As the right honorable member for North Sydney said, possibly SO per cent, of the capital of this country is aggregated in companies, and the industrial and economic life of the people depends on that aggregation. It would be very wrong to ask for additional powers to deal with the industrial section of the community only, while leaving this Parliament without power to deal with the other section - the companies, which are identical with corporations - which would be able to do whatever it deemed advisable, and to employ its capital as it thought fit, without regard to the effect on the general body of workers.
– The proposal brings in all companies.
– Except those specifically exempted, such as charitable institutions. The bill with the amend-, ment is a great advance on the bill as presented. I should think that, with both parties in this House recommending its acceptance, the people will accept it. I can understand the honorable member for. Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), who appears to hold the view that we should have no additional powers-
– No additional industrial powers.
– The consensus of opinion of honorable members is that additional powers should be granted to this Parliament. If that is so, surely we ought to be able to present to the people a convincing case in support of the views we hold. I believe that it is good policy, if you cannot get the whole loaf, much as you would like to have it, to take what you can get. Had honorable members on this side the right to submit these proposals to the people, we should submit everything we placed before the House in the amendment to the motion for the second reading; but because we cannot obtain all we want, ought we to be so inconsistent as not to support proposals which go a certain distance along the road we wish to travel? That brings me to the question of industrial powers and the appointment of authorities. The right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony), and the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) stressed the view that power was being taken from this Parliament and given to authorities. If this power is granted, who will appoint the authorities? If authorities are appointed by this Parliament, this Parliament will also be able to dissolve them.
– The honorable member will get into another serbonian bog if he is not careful.
– If an authority was not giving satisfaction, this Parliament would be able to disband it. Any party that came into power would not bs prevented from giving effect to its policy by authorities appointed by a previous administration. It could appoint authorities to give effect to its policy.
– A power given in that way is a mortgaged power already hypothecated to some one else, namely, an authority.
– I would rather it was otherwise, but we have not been able to obtain that. The Government is opposed to giving the power entirely to the Parliament. Our amendment, which provided for that, was defeated. The honorable the Attorney-General was at pains last night to make it clear that the Parliament could appoint any authority to deal with certain things. It could, for instance, appoint an authority to deal with arbitration matters, and, in addition to having an arbitration court, it could appoint wages boards and conciliatory committees to deal with industrial troubles before they reached the stage of disputes. All those things the people are crying out for. If the power is granted, all that we can hope to do is to minimize industrial disputes, for disputes will arise in spite of the best legislation that can be enacted. It, should not be assumed that because the Parliament will have this power, it will do silly things. The Parliament has wide powers now, but it does not abuse them; and it should be assumed that the Parliament will act in the best interests of the people as a whole, for that, I believe, is the guiding principle of every honorable member. Although this power will not permit the Parliament to legislate to fix hours of labour, it will permit it to legislate to have hours of labour fixed by authorities. The honorable member for Wannon said that the adoption of the proposal would cause conflict between the Federal and State Governments. But is there not conflict to-day? There is a Federal Arbitration Court which makes awards that come into conflict with State awards and State laws. The High Court has decided that where Commonwealth and State laws conflict, the Commonwealth law prevails. Although many industrialists are opposed to the adoption of the proposal, if they realized their true position they would agree to an amendment of the Constitution in the direction suggested. Although they may be domiciled in Queensland or New South Wales, and may be working under a State law, there is nothing to prevent the employers from registering in the Arbitration Court, and citing their employees as respondents. If the court made an award, the workers would have to abide by it, whatever the State law might be.
– Does not the honorable member know that there is a way of avoiding that?
– There is no way of avoiding it at the moment.
– The Constitution could be amended to make the States supreme.
– Ever since we have had arbitration the procedure has been for the workers, as industrial organizations, to register and cite the employers, but the employers, as industrial organizations, have the same right.
– Suppose they exercised it, what effect would that have on the 44-hour dispute? What effect would it have on the man who refuses to work 48 hours a week?
– If an employee gives proper notice of his intention to cease work, he cannot be compelled to work. That must be recognized in all our legislation. Let us suppose that a State law has fixed 44 hours as the working week, and that the employer has taken the matter to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. An award may be given which will override the State determination.
– The trouble is that the awards are only enforceable against one party.
– That is the weakness of arbitration.
– It is the weakness of all wage-fixing systems.
– Not where an agreement is arrived at, and registered.
– The fact is that you can no more compel a man to work than you can compel an employer to provide work for him.
– I cannot recall a single instance of a strike against the terms of a wages board award.
– In my opinion, the amendment that has been forecast will distinctly improve the bill. It will en-able this Parliament to be clothed with considerably larger powers over industrial matters, and leave it free to appoint whatever tribunals it deems necessary. That, I think, cannot be challenged.
.- I have been unable to participate in this debate earlier, for I have been too puzzled by the attitude of the Ministerial party. The Labour party has endeavoured many times to secure enlarged powers for the Commonwealth Parliament; but honorable members opposite have been bitterly hostile on every occasion, and have argued that the States should be left to manage their own affairs. Consequently, when the Government announced its intention” to introduce these proposals, I did not think it was sincere. I did not think honorable members who support it could forsake their previously expressed convictions. The introduction of the bill waa a surprise to me. Some honorable members who represent Victorian divisions, notably the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), advocate the substitution of the wages board system for the Arbitration Court system; but they are bitterly opposed to the introduction of wages boards in country districts. Many a bitter fight have I had with the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) on that score. He always resisted the appointment of wages boards in the country.
– What I said was that the experimental stage should be passed before the system was extended to the country.
– When miners were getting 10s. a week and less in some country districts, the right honorable member would not grant a wages board for the industry. Some mining shows which were carrying on beyond the bounds of Bendigo, were paying starvation wages.
– To worn-out gold miners.
– No; to men who were physically, mentally, and intellectually superior to the honorable member for Wakefield. Unfortunately, most of them are now in their graves. Even Sir Alexander Peacock, who considers himself to be the father of the wages board system, was hostile to its extension to ‘the mining districts.
– He would not have one in his own electorate.
– In these circumsta.nces, it can hardly be wondered that I am suspicious as to whether these newfound converts to the wages boards system would even now agree to the appointment of wages boards in country districts. There are still many anomalies in the wages and conditions of work in country districts, and there are shires to which wages board determinations do not apply. I wonder whether these honorable members would really approve of the extension of wages board determinations to every country district.
– Speaking for myself, yes.
– I am very glad that the honorable member is converted.
Mr.Rodgers. - I have never been otherwise.
– The conversion of the honorable member is late, but welcome. I am glad that, at least, some members of the National party disapprove of sweating conditions in country districts, as against good wages in the cities. Unsatisfactory conditions of work in the country have been the strongest factor in causing centralization in Australia.
– People who were living in the country were really driven from their homes there.
– As a representative of the working classes, I wish to say quite definitely that the wealthy classes in this community are even to-day protected by our Legislative Councils. The Legislative Council of Victoria is opposed to any interference with monopolies, trusts, or combines, and to the application of beneficial legislation to country districts. On that account I am surprised that the Government has introduced these proposals. The only hope that the working classes in four of our States have of getting decent conditions is by an enlargement of the powers of the Federal Commonwealth Parliament. The Legislative Councils in Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania, and, to some extent, in New South Wales, will always resist the passage of legislation designed to improve the lot of the working man.
– The first arbitration court in Australia was established in New South Wales in pre-federation days.
– Even. Legislative Councils have at times been forced, by public opinion, to do the decent thing.
Mr.Rodgers. - At least, the wages paid in country districts are clear money. That is not so in the city.
– I suppose the honorable member has the shearing industry in his mind; but, generally speaking, wages and conditions of work in the country are so poor that people are continually migrating to the city.
Mr.Rodgers. - Wages will not go round in the city, but they will in the country.
– If it were not for greedy landlords, and the desire of big companies to make large profits, wages would go round in the city also. Every day some new invention or the application of electrical or other power to industry is reducing human labour in production. But what is the use of it all if the conditions of life are not improved by it? I deny the statement of the honorable member for Wannon that there is a pact between the Labour party and the National party on this matter. God forbid! I would not make a pact with the National party. I do not trust it. I fear that the Government has some ulterior motive in introducing this bill. Perhaps honorable members opposite think, as the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) said, that it will lead to the abolition of the Arbitration Court. I should like to know what fancy tale the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) told the National party caucus to get it to agree to the introduction of this bill. He must also have told the Country party a fine story. Nevertheless, the position, as stated by the honorable member for Wannon, is that if these proposals are approved by the people, this Parliament will assume complete control of all rural industries. In 1913, when I was fighting a severe election campaign, a few of the sons of wealthy farmers - not men who had earned their farms, but who had ‘ succeeded to them - attended every meeting that I held in a country centre and yelled at me : “ The rural workers’ log.”
– And it settled the honorable member.
– -No, it did not, for I won that election, and I have won all that I have contested since then. I was able to convince the fair-minded electors in my division that the rural workers’ log would not ruin primary production, as was alleged. There can be no doubt that the adoption of these proposals will bring all rural industry within the control of the Commonwealth Parliament.
– That is so.
– And why should it not be so? This Parliament is elected on a broad, democratic franchise. The honorable member for Wannon stands for the control of rural interests by legislative councils which are elected on a restricted property franchise. A person has to possess real estate to the value of about £1,000 to be eligible to vote for legislative councillors in Victoria. It is not sufficient for him to have that sum of money in the bank; he must have unencumbered real estate of that value.
– That is ridiculous rubbish.
– It is all very well for the honorable member for Wannon to say that, but he knows very well that it is true. In these circumstances, it is npt difficult for me to understand his opposition to this bill. But I wish to assure him that he is quite wrong in stating that there is a pact in regard to it between the Nationalist and Labour parties. The Government agreed to all that the Labour party desired. We wished for corporations to be included in the proposed power over trusts and combines, and the Government fell in with our wish. If I had had my way, there would have been no consultation between the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) and the Leader of the Government. Six months ago honorable members opposite would have put us in jail or deported us without trial. So far as I am concerned, conferences with them are taboo.
– But the honorable member voted with us last night.
– That has nothing whatever to do with the question. I still think that underlying these proposals is some ulterior motive. But the AttorneyGeneral is an astute gentleman. Hidden in the Government’s proposals is something we do not quite understand. I do not think that Sir Owen Cox is leader of the Nationalist party, but I believe that he is the man who controls the funds of the Constitutional’ union, and I can quite imagine that the Prime Minister put some arguments to him which have not been disclosed to the public. The Government expects under these proposals to be able to do certain things which have not been fully disclosed. I have some justification for believing that. I remind honorable members that the Government did not put those proposals before the people at the last election. It then relied on its Peace Officers Act and its Deportation Act. It believed that it had full power to deport anybody who did not hold exactly the same opinions as it held itself. Later events proved that it had not that power, and, unexpectedly, it has come along with certain proposals to increase the powers of the Federal Government.
With one exception the powers asked for should meet with the approval of the people. I shall deal with that exception later on, and may, possibly, move an amendment embodying my views upon constitutional amendment. These proposals have given me one of the greatest surprises of my political life. 1 have watched the trend of political events in this country for the last 25 years, and now when I find men who stood behind the Legislative Councils of Australia, and were bitterly hostile to any increase of the powers of the Federal Parliament, coming forward with proposals to increase its powers, I am somewhat suspicious.
– Several honorable members have referred to the trade and commerce power as if it were essentially bound up with the subject-matter directly before the committee. I have not heard a single honorable member on either side say what ought to be done in connexion with industrial matters which cannot be done under the proposals of, the Government. It is all very well to talk in general terms about the importance and far-reaching character of the trade and commerce power. That is a commonplace. But honorable members have not shown where any alteration of the trade and commerce power is necessary to secure that degree of control of industrial matters by this Parliament which there is a general concurrence of opinion it should have. It is true that the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) referred to the trade and commerce power from a different point of view. He referred to a rule laid down by the High Court, that the trade and commerce power limited the powers conferred by the other paragraphs of section 51 of the Constitution. In so doing he was doubtless thinking of certain early decisions of the High Court. He referred particularly to Burger’s case, commonly known as the Harvester case or the New Protection case, and the Huddart Parker v. Moorehead case under the Anti-Trust Act, in which certain of the High Court judges referred to the same principle. In this case it is true that the three original members of the High Court bench said, in effect, “ The Commonwealth Parliament is given power to legislate upon interstate and foreign tirade and commerce. It is also given power to legislate upon the 38 other subjects referred in section 51 of the Constitution; but the grant of the commerce power in terms limiting it to interstate and foreign trade and commerce means that there is no power to deal with domestic trade and commerce, that is to say, trade and commerce within a State.” The three original members of the High Court accordingly construed all other powers under section 51 of tho Constitution in the light of this implied limitation, arising from the terms of the first paragraph of the section. It was held, for example, in Barger’s case, that the taxation power could be applied so long only as the Commonwealth Parliament did not, by its taxation measures, attempt, indirectly, to control the domestic trade and commerce of a State. In the same way, the corporation power was limited in subsequent orders df the court on similar considerations. The same argument was used to support the conclusion that- the Parliament is able to legislate with respect” to certain corporations, but not in relation to internal trade and commerce. In the same way other implied restraints upon the action of the Parliament were developed in the earlier judgments of the High Court. One of the most important of these -was the rule that State agencies, or, as they are generally called, “ State instrumentalities,” were practically exempt from action by this Parliament. All these matters were reconsidered a few years ago, and, in what is known as the Engineers’ case, those doctrines were set aside. It was in that case laid down that the powers under section 51 of the Constitution were to be construed according to the plain meaning of their terms, and not in the light of any supposed restrictions in the nature of an implied prohibition.
– In what year was the Engineers’ case dealt with f
– In 1920. I have the report of the. case here, given in the Commonwealth Law Reports, 1920, Volume XXVIII. page 129.
– That was after the last referendum 1
– Yes. For the purpose of indicating the change that has taken place in the opinion of the High Court on this subject, I shall read just six lines from the decision in that case, to enable honorable members to judge for themselves the alteration in the interpretation of the section. My quotation is taken from the judgment of their Honours the Chief Justice, Sir Adrian Knox, and Justices Isaacs, Rich, and Starke. Mr. Justice Higgins gave a concurring, but. separate judgment. Their Honours said -
It is undoubted that those who maintain the authority of the Commonwealth Parliament to pass a certain law should be able to point to some enumerated power containing the requisite authority. But we also hold that where the affirmative terms of the cited power would justify an enactment, it rests upon those who rely upon some limitation or restriction upon the power to indicate it in the Constitution.
That is to say, that the limitation or restriction must be pointed out in the Constitution. The doctrine of implied prohibition has disappeared since the decision of the High Court in this case. Accordingly, a limitation derived from the terms of paragraph I. of section 51 of the Constitution is no longer an effective principle in constitutional interpretation.
– The paragraph must have its real limitations on interstate and foreign commerce, though not an implied limitation upon powers given in other paragraphs of the section.
– The trade and commerce power undoubtedly relates only to foreign and interstate trade and commerce; but, if one takes some other subject, such as, for example, bills of exchange, there is no ground for saying that this Parliament can legislate as to bills of exchange, provided that it does not deal with bills of exchange drawn end payable within a single State. We have full power over bills of exchange, foreign and inland. The Parliament is equipped with full power to deal with bills of exchange, without any limitation derived from the terms of the trade and commerce power.
– That was never in doubt under the old doctrine.
– The point was never raised in connexion with bills of exchange; but logically the old doctrine of limitation applied as much to them as to any of the other subjects affected by section 51, because bills of exchange are as intimately associated with trade and commerce as are trading and financial corporations. The old doctrine no longer exists. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) said that when the people of Australia returned a party to this Parliament to carry out something which they desired should be done, the Parliament should have full power to carry that policy into effect. That is simply an argument in f avour of pure unification, an absolutely unitary system of government for Australia. That is entirely different from the contention of the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers). To that honorable member “ unification “ is a terrible word. The honorable member has not defined unification in any way. With all respect to the honorable member, it appears to me that he views with horror any proposal to extend the powers of the Federal Parliament. The powers proposed by this bill will not tend towards unification. If they are agreed to, the relation between the Commonwealth and the States will remain exactly as it is, in all essentials. There is no step made towards unification, so long as we preserve the essential features of the Federal Constitution. There will remain the constitution of the Senate, and the Parliament as a whole will be able to legislate only upon enumerated subjects, whilst the States have all the rest of the legislative powers. When, iu addition, we consider the basis of representation in this chamber, according to which certain States enjoy what is considered a fair - though an arbitrary - minimum representation, it is clear that we shall retain the essential elements of a federation. None of these things will be affected by the proposal now under consideration.
– Except that the States have now a definite and sole power, and if the proposed amendments are carried, the Commonwealth will have a coordinate and a supreme power.
– In thatregard the honorable member is labouring under a misunderstanding of the nature of the amendments. I propose later to deal with the point he has raised. Various points were raised and questions put as to the significance alike of these amendments and of the legislation which might hereafter be introduced by the Government if the amendments are adopted. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) asked a question about pricefixing, and challenged the Government to make a statement on that subject. Let me say that, under this legislation, full power is being asked for to legislate with respect to trusts and combinations in restraint of trade, their creation, regulation, control, and dissolution. Excessive prices which are not the result of genuine market conditions are generally the consequence of combination. It is difficult to suggest a ease in which a price might fairly be objected to which is the result merely of natural market circumstances and conditions, which must be accepted by every one; and wherever prices are raised as the result of combinations or trusts there will be power to control the operations of those responsible. There will be, not a general price-fixing power, as such, but power to deal with combinations or trusts in so far as they attempt to exploit the public, and that, after all, is the real matter requiring attention.
The right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) referred to what he had previously said about wages boards, and I am sorry if I misapprehended his remarks. He asked how far it was possible to give an indication of the intentions o£ the Government if these amendments were passed. It is difficult to do that, and I am not sure that the request is altogether fair. Any proposals would naturally be carefully considered, and be the result of many inquiries and consultations. At the same time, it is possible to indicate what this Parliament could do under these powers, and to suggest the lines upon which the Government might ask this Parliament to legislate. It must be understood that the nature of any new scheme would be determined by Parliament itself. For the information of the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), let me say that the constitutional amendments, if passed, will not deprive the States of any of their powers. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) asked whether the effect of these amendments would be to deprive the States of various powers, and he particularly mentioned workers’ compensation. He was thinking particularly of legislation. The honorable mem ber for Wannon was thinking more particularly of wages boards.
– While the amendments may not deprive the States of power to legislate, yet they will deprive them of the power to put their legislation into effect if it conflicts with Federal legislation.
– The relation between the Commonwealth Parliament and the State Parliaments - between the Commonwealth agencies, whether authorities, courts, or wages boards, and the authorities or agencies of the States - will remain exactly as it is to-day. The States will continue to hold their present powers and the State authorities, whether the industrial commissioner in New South Wales, the wages boards in Victoria, or the industrial court in South Australia, can all continue to function. Their constitutional relation to the Commonwealth will be as at present, namely, that a Federal rule, whether award or regulation, will be supreme and will prevail over any inconsistent State law, award, or determination.
– Whether it relates to hours or wages?
– Whatever industrial matter it relates to. That position exists to-day under the Constitution. Federal legislation is supreme, but its exercise is a matter for this Parliament. That will be determined, not by a constitutional amendment, but by the use which this Parliament makes of its powers. The amendment is carefully drawn and proposes to give this Parliament the power to define the powers which the Commonwealth industrial authorities are to exercise.
– Is power given in the bill to terminate the appointment of such authorities if necessary ?
– This legislation does not provide that certain State authorities shall cease to exist.
– What will be the position if State authorities make conflicting awards ?
– That problem has to be faced. It cannot be solved under the Constitution as it now stands, but there will be an opportunity of solving it if the powers asked for are granted to the Government as concurrent powers with the powers of the States.
– Does this bill give power to interfere with the industrial commissioner of New South Wales?
– This Parliament would have power not to legislate in relation to State authorities, but to set up an authority of some description. At present we have the Federal Arbitration Court, and its decisions, whether awards, regulations, or determinations, would prevail over the decisions of State authorities or of any State Parliament, as has been shown in the 44-hours case. This Parliament is supreme within its sphere. It has, under the Public Service Arbitration Act, actually set up an arbitrator able to repeal, in effect, laws in relation to all classes of Commonwealth employees. Of course, Parliament has power to alter the arbitrator’s awards, or to repeal the laws under which he acts. If the amendments are adopted, the State authorities can, and will, continue to function, but under a co-ordinated system. The difficulty is to obtain coordination, and this can be brought about only if the powers asked for are granted to the Government. It will be asked in what way ? I can only indicate a reasonable method of approaching this problem.
– In operation, instead of setting up a competitive authority, we set up a. substitute authority by arrangement with the States?
– If we wait until the States arrive at separate agreements, in identical terms, with the Commonwealth for handling industrial problems, none of lis will ever see the beginning of a solution. We have to face this problem, and act as well as we can. May I suggest a hypothetical scheme. Under the extended powers, it will be possible to establish a Federal industrial authority, which, I assume, would be non-political. Parliament would have to determine the nature of that body. It might be a court or a commission. Its members could act together, sitting as a full commission or full court, as the circumstances required. They could also act separately, and Parliament might consider it desirable to provide enough members to sit in the several States. Conciliation commissioners or boards could also be associated with the Federal industrial authority. Wages boards could be established to operate over any specific industry, area, or even establishment. Those things would be within the power of Parliament to decide. The principal authority, by laying down a general rule only to be de parted from in specified cases, might also be entrusted with power to determine such fundamental matters as standard hours and the basic wage. Few people believe that there should be an absolute rule as to standard hours applying in all industries throughout Australia. A general rule might quite well apply in normal industries, and this principal authority would have power to make a general rule or regulation, subject to such exceptions as it thought proper. Then I suggest - and to some extent I am now placing my own views before the Chamber - that that authority should have power to determine what matters were to be dealt with upon an Australia-wide basis, and what matters were to be referred to a local authority. In this way, instead of setting up many Commonwealth local authorities, the services of an existing local authority could be utilized. We should then have in reserve the power of regulation in connexion with basic matters. A degree of co-ordination is absolutely necessary if we are to avoid continual industrial irritation and unrest. The principal authority would be able to refer matters for hearing to State local tribunals. I use “ local tribunals “ as a general phrase, but I include in it wages boards, courts, commissions, and such bodies. Upon such a reference, a local tribunal would exercise Federal powers, and there would be then no possibility of conflict. The determination of a wages board, for example, could itself be made a Federal rule, regulation, or award, and in that way there could be a sufficient degree of control exercised to bring about the co-ordination which is so imperatively required.
– This Parliament would vest a State authority with power to act in a dispute?
– Yes; that would be done. I do not suggest that there should be any attempt to set ur in industrial matters a subordination or superordination of tribunals as in the case of courts of law. In the interests of industry, there should not be a general right of appeal from one body to another; but it may be desirable to obtain a degree of co-ordination in certain matters by allowing, in respect of them, an appeal, possibly by leave, to a higher authority; that is to say, provision may be made for an appeal in special cases where there appears to be an inconsistency with one of the general regulations in regard to, say, standard hours, or the basic wage.
– Could that appeal be by either party?
– That would be a matter to be determined by this Parliament. It would also be possible for the principal Federal authority to direct that certain matters should be dealt with entirely by State authorities. One great advantage in the exercise of these extended powers will be the power to make regulations. They need not necessarily be made by the superior authority; sometimes they might be made by the body dealing with a particular industry. Those regulations would act as a common rule, and such difficulties as the serving of notices upon employers, and the employment of nonunionists at less than award rates, would disappear, because all would be bound by the regulation.
-What about preference to unionists?
Mr.LATHAM. - That would be controlled by this Parliament when defining the powers of the authority. The existing difficulties of procedure, which are a costly burden upon industry, would be almost entirely removed. It would be possible to set an authority in action by sending notices to representative parties, or even by advertisement in the Commonwealth Gazette. Under the wages board system, the button can be pressed more simply than under the Commonwealth system of arbitration. Furthermore, any of these authorities could act without waiting for a dispute to arise. It would be unnecessary to go through the present procedure of creating a dispute and defining its terms.
– What would be the procedure for having a plaint dealt with by an authority?
– I remind honorable members that I am not moving the second reading of a bill to give effect to the powers that we are asking the people to grant; I am merely outlining certain ideas which later could be embodied in legislative proposals. The authority could be rawed by a sufficiently representative organization, or Parliament might provide that certain matters should be reconsidered by the authority at stated intervals.
– The objective is to simplify the procedure of getting a plaint heard.
– Will the Attorney-General say whether this hypothetical scheme he is outlining so attractively will be consistent with the provisions of the Judiciary Bill now before the House?
– I am glad that the right honorable gentleman has asked that question. The personnel of the authorities will be determined by Parliament, which might, and probably would, think it proper to give a fixed tenure to the members of the principal industrial authority. The reasons why that should be done are fairly obvious. The tenure need not necessarily be for life. The tenure of wages boards, and of every person holding office in connexion with any authority, could be fixed by Parliament, subject to this qualification, that so long as the constitutional provisions relating to the judiciary remain unchanged any authority that is to have punitive power must have life tenure.
– That limitation will not apply to conciliation committees or wages boards.
– No; they do not exercise anything in the nature of judicial power as it is ordinarily understood, and it would be unnecessary to make life appointments to those bodies, or indeed to any authorities at all, unless Parliament thinks it desirable that one of them should have power to impose penalties. I have endeavoured to indicate the degree of freedom with which Parliament can exercise these additional powers if the people grant them.
– Do I understand that an authority can function before a dispute actually occurs - that it can anticipate a dispute?
– Yes, as wages boards do. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) addressed to the Government a series of interrogatories based upon the view that this bill aims at taking powers from the States. I have shown that that is not so. The powers asked for are concurrent, not exclusive, powers. The State Parliaments will forfeit no rights of legislation, and wages boards and otter State agencies will continue to function as at present; tbat is to say, their acts and awards will continue to be subject to the terms of any award or determination made under the authority of this, the supreme, Parliament.
– Could such an authority interfere with the 44-hour week, which is the law in New South Wales and Queensland ?
– Only to the same extent as the authority of this Parliament overrides the authority of the State Parliament at present. That is one inevitable accompaniment of the supremacy of the Commonwealth Parliament. Of course, those honorable members who desire the legislation of this Parliament to be subject to the legislation of the six State Parliaments will object to the High Court’s decision in respect to the 44-hours week. That decision is the most explicit declaration to date of the supremacy of this Parliament and the agencies it sets up. I assure the honorable member for Dalley that he is under a complete misapprehension, and that if these amendments of the Constitution are sanctioned no powers will thereby be taken from the State Parliaments or their agencies.
– If the Federal Parliament is vested with those powers and exercises some of them, will it have power to legislate in regard to workers’ compensation ? If so, the concurrent power of the States will be worthless.
– This Parliament would have no authority to legislate in regard to workers’ compensation, but that is, according to a decision of the High Court, “ an industrial matter or thing “, and provision may be made, and is made, in awards of the Arbitration Court, for compensation to workers or their dependants. Such provision overrides any inconsistent State provision. In a number of awards the Commonwealth Arbitration Court has held that the State law does not adequately meet the requirements of a particular industry, and accordingly has included certain provisions for workers’ compensation.
– Have those provisions ever been tested?
– Yes, and they have been held to be within the authority of the Federal Arbitration Court, but the decision was not so clear and conclusive as one would like it to be. The existing practice will not be affected by the proposed constitutional changes.
– Will the workers compensation law of any State be affected?
– That will be within the discretion of the authority. As an instance of what happens to-day, I remind honorable members that the Navigation Act provides certain benefits for seamen. The Commonwealth Arbitration Court, by awards, extends those benefits. It is quite impossible to maintain the supremacy of the Commonwealth Parliament and its agencies, and at the same time hope to pick up little advantages from State laws that are inconsistent with those of the Commonwealth. Such a condition of affairs is repugnant to any intelligent system of government. It is only proper to say, however, that workers’ compensation conditions have been included in awards of the Arbitration Court only when the benefits conferred by State laws were considered by the court unsatisfactory or incomplete.
– If the Navigation Act provided for the payment of, say, £500 as compensation for the loss of life, could one of these industrial authorities override that provision?
– It would be able to award more but not less, because the Navigation Act is a federal law. The laws of this Parliament are not subject, however, to those of State Parliaments. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) said that under these powers the Labour party could appoint its supreme economic council as an authority, with the object of giving effect . to its policy, and he referred to the dire results that would flow from the “ packing “ of the tribunal. That can be done with the Commonwealth Arbitration Court under our existing power. Such considerations will always exist, and reflections of that nature indicate what a small degree of faith the honorable member has in future Parliaments. It happens that the terms of appointment of the gentlemen who are at p resent acting as President and Deputy residents of the Arbitration Court expire very shortly. It has always been within the power of this Parliament to amend the Arbitration Act, and to terminate the office of these gentlemen as arbitration officers. Any party which has been in office could have made whatever appointments, lay or legal, it thought proper. Accordingly the danger that is apprehended by the honorable member is merely incidental to the existence of the Parliament, and has not the slightest connexion with this particular legislation.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral clear up the point that has been raised by the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), that although this Parliament could not directly legislate in the matter, it could delegate powers that it did not possess?
– Undoubtedly it could. That is the position to-day. It appears to me that some honorable members have not sufficiently appreciated the fact that ever since the Arbitration Court has been in existence ithas been able to lay down industrial laws, though such laws bound only the parties to the proceedings. It has been able to provide in its awards that employers and employees shall do certain things, or be subject to a penalty. If the terms of an award were incorporated in an act of this Parliament, that act would be invalid and ineffectual. Accordingly, the position which is viewed with such misgiving by some honorable members has existed ever since the establishment of the Arbitration Court, and in the future there will be no difference in that respect.
– The only industrial power which this Parliament now possesses is the power to delegate to an authority.
– This Parliament can do anything that it pleases in relation to regulating the industrial conditions of employees of the Commonwealth. Apart from that, the only power which it possesses now, or has ever possessed, to legislate in relation to industrial matters, is that which enables it to set up machinery for arbitration and conciliation for the prevention and settlement of interstate disputes. We have never had the power to legislate on industrial conditions generally. There is a specific power which enables this Parliament to legislate as to navigation and shipping, and that has rendered it possible to enact a Seamen’s Compensation Act.
– It is perfectly plain, according to section 51 paragraph xxxv., that we have the power to make laws with respect to conciliation and arbitration.
– Exactly; but we are not able to make laws with respect to industrial disputes or industrial matters directly.
Mr.Fenton. - We could not pass an act providing for a 44-hour working week.
– We could not pass an act making that provision, nor could we pass one fixing a basic wage. We shall not be able to legislate in that direction, even if these amendments are agreed to. As has been explained, that is an element of the policy of the Government which it regards as of fundamental importance.
– I rise to draw attention to an article which appears in this evening’s Herald. It is headed -
Mr. Charlton’s Agreement Repudiated. and reads
An uproarhas been caused in the Labour party by the agreement reached by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) and the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) on the referendum proposals.
At a caucus meeting to-day members of the Parliamentary Labourparty made it clear to Mr. Charlton that his pact did not bind the Labour party to support the measure.
Later it says -
There was some plain talk at the Labour Caucus meeting. Several members pointed out that Mr. Charlton had no authority from the party as a whole to negotiate with Mr. Bruce, and that he made the offer on his own initiative. That being so, they said, the members of the party were not bound by his agreement. Five members of the party have made it clear that they will take the platform against the referendum. Others, including members in every State, a.re opposed to the bill, but aro awaiting decisions by the responsible Labour bodies.
There is not a scintilla of truth in any of those statements.
Opposition Members. - Hear, hear!
– Whoever wrote the article drew upon his imagination. I think that my denial will be accepted when I say that not one word in regard to the referendum proposals was uttered at the party meeting which was held by the Opposition to-day. That matter was finally dealt with last night. I give the lie direct to the newspaper statements that I have read.
– I very much regret the publication of these statements, and I accept without reserve the denial of the honorable gentleman. Such newspaper propaganda must have a very unfortunate effect upon the important issue that faces the country to-day.
– It is a part of their game.
– I move-
That after the word “ altered,” line 2, the following words be inserted: - ” (a) by omitting from paragraph (xx.) the words ‘ Foreign corporations, and trading or financial corporations formed within the limits of the Commonwealth,’ and inserting in their stead the words ‘ corporations, including -
the creation, regulation, control and dissolution of corporations;
the regulation, control and dissolution of corporations formed under the law of a State; and
the regulation and control of foreign corporations; but not including municipal or governmental corporations, or any corporation formed solely for religious, charitable, scientific or artistic purposes, or any corporation not formed for the acquisition of gain by the corporation or its members ; “
This is the amendment that I fore shadowed last evening. The wording of paragraph xx of section 51 of the Constitution, which it is now proposed to amend, is “ Foreign corporations and trading or financial corporations formed within the limits of the Commonwealth.” To the layman those words would convey the impression that the Commonwealth has the power to deal with corporations generally. There can he little doubt that that was the intention of the framers of the Constitution. The High Court, however, has decided otherwise. This is a power which the Government considers should be held by the Commonwealth. We intended to have it brought forward for consideration at the constitutional session which it is proposed to hold next year, limiting the proposals on the present occasion to those dealing with the industrial powers of the Commonwealth. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) appeared to be under the impression that it was proposed to hold a conference or convention to deal with these constitutional questions, and he pointed out that any amendments of the Constitution could emanate only from this Parliament. I desire to clear up any such misunderstanding that may exist. It has always been the intention of the Government that Parliament should decide whether an amendment of the Constitution was necessary. The summoning of a conference or convention has never been contemplated. When these proposals were originally brought down, the Government did not consider that it was essential to take the power to deal with corporations, or to round off its general powers dealing with industrial matters. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), however, is so strongly of the opinion that this power is germane and necessary to the industrial powers we are seeking that the Government has agreed to include it in its proposals. The Attorney-General will explain the legal side of the matter. I trust that the amendment will be accepted by the committee.
– This amendment proposes to repeal the existing power contained in paragraph xx. of section 51 of the Constitution - “ Foreign corporations, and trading or financial corporations formed within the limits of the Commonwealth.” As the Prime Minister has said, that paragraph was believed to confer a full power to make a company law for the whole of Australia. It was, however, confined to trading or financial corporations. There never was any idea of bringing in such corporations as hospitals, clubs, and benevolent and charitable institutions. The character of the power was discussed and determined in the case of Huddart Parker ‘and Company Proprietary Limited against Morehead, which is reported in Volume VIII., page 330, of the Commonwealth Law Reports. The five justices of the High Court unanimously decided that this was a power to legislate, first, with respect to foreign corporations. A foreign corporation, obviously, is a corporation formed outside Australia, and, therefore it was plain that it was not a power to legislate concerning the foundation of such corporations. They had to be taken as they existed. There was accordingly no power to legislate for the formation or creation of those corporations, nor could there be any power to legislate for tho dissolution of them, because they derived their existence from a foreign law.
– Had not the Commonwealth power to compel registration?
– It would be possible to compel registration ; but not to deal with the creation or dissolution of such a corporation. The second part of the paragraph deals with “trading or financial corporations formed within the limits of the Commonwealth.” That was interpreted by the High Court in a similar way. It was decided that, whatever might have been intended, the words meant that if a corporation had been formed, the Commonwealth could legislate for it, but that it had to be formed before the Commonwealth could deal, with it. The result of that interpretation was that the Commonwealth could not say, for instance, that no corporation should be formed unless it had a memorandum and articles of association, and so many shares subscribed, and so much capital paid up. That is to say, the ordinary provisions of corporation law contained in the Companies Acts of the various State3, were beyond the power of enactment of this Parliament. All the judges agreed on that. So far, the decision was of a negative kind; but the court then went on to discuss what the power meant affirmatively. Negatively, the judges were unanimous; but affirmatively, four different readings were given by the five judges. Accordingly, no one can say with authority what the existing power affirmatively means; and no one with a sense of responsibility would venture to: introduce legislation into this Parliament so long as section 51 (xx.) remains in its present form, because it would be impossible to give even a modified guarantee that the legislation would be held to be effective. Two learned judges said that under this power it was possible to prohibit corporations from taking part in any form of trade or commerce, but that it was not open to Parliament to control the operations of corporations which lawfully engaged in such trade or commerce. His Honour Mi1. Justice O’Connor said that the power conferred by the words extended only to the recognition throughout the Commonwealth of corporations foreign or formed within a particular State. That is to say, it was a very limited power. His Honour Mr. Justice Isaacs said that the power enabled the Commonwealth Parliament to control the conduct of corporations in relation to outside persons, but not to control the powers and capacities of corporations in themselves. His Honour Mr. Justice Higgins said it enabled Parliament to control the powers and capacities of corporations, and the conditions on which they might be permitted to carry on business, but that it did not include power to regulate the contracts into which they might enter with . outside persons. By comparing those four views of the meaning of the words, we can see that it is impossible to arrive at a common element. Accordingly, the existing power is .me under which it is impossible to legislate with any degree of safety or security. The proposal i3 framed on the basis of previous proposals submitted to the people, and has been designed to include everything that can fairly be said to be part of corporation law. There is, first of all, a general power to legislate with respect to corporations, including “the creation, regulation, control, and dissolution of corporations.” Then there is “ the regulation, control, and dissolution of corporations formed under the law of a State.” There is no need to legislate as to the creation of a corporation which is already formed under a State law. Finally, there is power for “ the regulation and control of foreign corporations.” The creation and dissolution of a corporation which derives its life from the law of another country, are matters obviously beyond the control of this Parliament. An exception has been made of certain corporations. In’ the form in which the amendment was previously placed before the House, the exception applied only to corporations formed within the limits of a State. There does not appear to be any reason for limiting the exception in that manner. The corporations excluded arc, first, “ municipal or governmental corporations.” There is no desire and no justification for this Parliament seeking to control municipal bodies. Then there are various bodies which are made into corporations by State law for governmental purposes. An example which occurs to my mind is the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission of Victoria.
– Would the State Shipping Department and the State railways of Western Australia be in the same category ?
– Yes, if corporations established under a Western Australian statute. The idea is that this Parliament should not interfere with a corporation which has been specifically created for governmental purposes by a State Government. This exception has been made in every amendment hitherto proposed.
-hughes. - Would a tramway trust be an exception?
– Yes, if it existed under a special statute. A harbour trust would be excluded also. The phraseology is that which has been used in the past
Avith the object of excluding such corporations. If any honorable member can suggest words that will make it clear that it is not intended to include such bodies as harbour trusts, I shall be willing to consider his views.
– Will the honorable the Attorney-General define the word “ artistic “?
– No. Corporations “ formed solely for religious, charitable, scientific, or artistic purposes “ arc excluded, together with corporations “not formed for the acquisition of gain by the corporation or its members.” Many social clubs, for example, are incorporated, and there is no need to bring them under the control of this Parliament.
.- I wish to find out the position of associations of primary producers, such as the Australian Dried Fruits Association or the various wheat pools, under the powers sought in this clause. Does not the word “control” give power to fix prices?
– If, for instance, a corporation were charging for a commodity a price which the court declares to be exploitation, would the Government be able to take action detrimental to the interests of the primary producers 1
– Should it not do so if they do wrong?
– I do not object to action being taken against them if they do wrong; but it is a question as to what is meant by doing wrong. Suppose that under an award of a tribunal or a court created under this power a 44-hour week is prescribed in the wheat-growing industry, and the growers, in order to meet the new conditions, form a pool and raise the price of their wheat to, say, 6s. a bushel.
– They would not come under the law in relation to corporations, but under that in relation to trusts and combines.
– That is the answer.
– At the risk of displaying a woeful lack of legal knowledge and of appearing ridiculous, may I ask the Attorney-General the difference between a corporation and a trust and combine? If under, say, the butter stabilization scheme, the price of butter were raised to make dairy farming a profitable occupation, would the producers responsible for raising it be liable to action under this law, on the ground that they had acted detrimentally to the public?
– It would have to be proved that their action was detrimental to the public.
– It would depend entirely upon the nature of the bill that Parliament passed.
– That may be; but I am cautious. I want to know, before any authority is set up, what powers it might be clothed with under the provimons of this bill.
– Whatever power there is over corporations will be held by Parliament, and not delegated to some other authority.
– There will be no power under these provisions to control prices; but if a monopoly, detrimental to the public, were set up, it could be dealt with.
– Parliament would exercise the power over it.
– I wish to be clear as to the exact position, because the power set up will react on the unfortunate producer. Ultimately, the effect of it gets back to him..
– Ultimately, it gets back to tlie consumer.
– -I am afraid that the right honorable member and I will never agree on that point; and, with all due deference to his long experience, 1 maintain that my view is correct. I hope the Attorney-General will make quite clear to the great mass of primary producers throughout the country the position of their various organizations in relation to this proposal.
– To begin at the beginning, a corporation is simply an artificial legal person, a juristic person. As Blackstone says, all legal persons are either natural or artificial. Artificial persons are corporations. Corporations ai’c either corporations aggregate, as the companies of to-day, or corporations sole, as a bishop. Corporations aggregate, that is, generally speaking, . companies, may be trusts or combinations, and, if they are, they may be dealt with under the power to legislate in relation to trusts and combines. Of course, there may be combinations of individuals as well as of corporations. The power to deal with corporations is distinct altogether from the power to deal with trusts and combinations. These most frequently, under modern conditions, are formed by companies, that is, by corporations. Under this amendment, the Commonwealth Parliament will have power to legislate, as the States have legislated, for the regulation and control of companies. But the amendment does not give power to legislate to restrain corporations from charging excessive prices. Such legislation would not be legislation in relation to corporations, but legislation for the prevention of overcharging, which is a different subjectmatter.
– It will really be legislation in relation to trade and commerce.
– -That is so. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) has asked me to define the position of a butter pool, a wheat pool, or a dried fruits association, under this proposal. So far as such pools were operated by companies, they would fall under whatever company law might be passed. The butter stabilization scheme is not operated as a corporation, but by means of voluntary co-operation. I cannot speak with any precise or recent information in regard to the Australian Dried Fruits Association, but I understand that it controls not only the sale of fruit in Australia, but also the dispatch of fruit overseas. I do not desire any person with definite knowledge on the matter to make any damaging admissions on the subject, but I believe that its members are bound by agreement as to the proportion of fruit they will sell here and overseas.
– The association is compelled by law to do that in some of the States, but not in others.
– Our anti-trust act makes any agreement in restraint of foreign or interstate trade an offence, the penalty for which is £500 per day on every person who is a party to it ; but the enforcement of the law has been attempted only in the Coal Vend case. Perhaps it is not right for me to stand here and say so, but it is practically a dead letter.
– And not the only one.
– If there can be degrees in mortality, the Anti-Trust Act is the deadest of all our dead laws. Under the power in relation to trusts and combines now asked for, it would be possible for this Parliament to legislate on trusts and combines in a friendly manner or otherwise; but, undoubtedly, any combination for the purpose of restraining trade would be subject to legislative control.
Sitting suspended from 6.27 to S p.m.
.- Dealing with the amendment relating to corporations and the respective powers included in sub-paragraphs a, 6 .and c of the amendment, honorable members will notice that under sub-paragraph a it is proposed, with respect to corporations in Australia, that the Parliament shall have power to de.al with -
The creation, regulation, control, and dissolution of corporations.
Under paragraph 6 the power to deal with the creation of corporations is left out and the sub-paragraph is confined to power to deal with -
The regulation, control, and dissolution of corporations formed under the law of a State.
Under sub-paragraph c there is included the power to deal only with -
The regulation and control of foreign corporations.
I listened carefully to the remarks of the Prime Minister in announcing last night the terms of the agreement arrived at between himself and the Leader of the Opposition. The explanation which the right honorable gentleman gave for the difference between the powers proposed with respect to corporations formed within the Commonwealth and foreign corporations, I think, left a matter a little in doubt. He said we cannot deal with the origin or dissolution of foreign corporations because their head-quarters are elsewhere. They have originated without our law aud we cannot dissolve them. Looking through the records of company registration and company law in this State, I find a reference which I think is worthy of the attention of the Attorney-General. In 1SS-4 there was decided in a Victorian court a case known as the Oriental Banking Company’s case. The company was not registered under the Victorian act, the Colonial act then in force, or the British act of 1862-64, but under royal charter. In Great Britain, where its head-quarters were, it had had an order made against it for dissolution by one of the British courts. At that time a creditor lodged an appeal against the further continuance of the business of the company in Australia. Mr. Justice Molesworth, assisted by some of the most eminent legal counsel of the day, most of whom subsequently sat on the Supreme Court Bench of this State, decided, after elaborate argument, that this company, although a foreign company in Victoria in every sense of the word, could be wound up and liquidated, and the judgment of a creditor satisfied, although the head-quarters of the company were not in this State. I commend to the AttorneyGeneral the proceedings in that case, if he has not lately had an opportunity of reading them. The case will be found reported in the Victorian Law Reports, vol. X., page 154. If the statement of law in relation to the matter then decided and never subsequently upset, but supported by courts in England, be correct, we should in the Commonwealth Parliament have the same power as the Victorian Parliament, and as every other Australian Parliament has according to the decision I have quoted. If this be so, sub-paragraph c of the amendment should be amended. Unless the Attorney-General has good reason to submit to the committee in opposition to this, we should amend sub-paragraph c my omitting the word “ and “ and inserting after the word “ control “ the words “ and dissolution.” Subparagraph c would then read -
The regulation, control, and dissolution of foreign corporations.
I suggest this amendment because, if v»e are to extend the power to deal with corporations, I do not think the arm of the Commonwealth could be shorter than the arm of a State. If the decision to which I have referred honorable members is correct, we should have the power, not merely to control and regulate, but also to dissolve a foreign corporation, when, in the opinion of the courts of this country, under the new law to be passed, the operations of such a corporation are injurious to commercial or financial conditions in Australia.
– How could we dissolve corporations if they are foreign corporations ?
– I have been endeavouring to explain that. If the honorable member will take the trouble to read the case which I have cited, he will find that after elaborate and learned argument by eminent counsel, that the Victorian courts had ample power to wind up a company that had merely a branch or agencies in the State, the court decided that it had that power, and from that time the colony, and subsequently the State, of Victoria has had the power to dissolve a foreign corporation, where justification is shown.
– The right honorable gentleman means the power to realize the Australian assets of the corporation ?
– That is so. The Victorian court could not reach the assets of a corporation in other countries.
– There is clearly not the power to dissolve the corporation qua corporation.
– The court could put an end to its operations for all practical purposes in Australia. That is a power we may require. If, for example, a British, French, or American company engaged in business in this country, offended against some acknowledged law, the court in Victoria, according to the decision I have quoted, has power to determine the operations of the company in this State. If that be so, the Commonwealth should possess an equal power.
– Would that be dissolution?
– I am not a lawyer, but so far as I can understand the matter, that would be dissolution for all practical purposes, and in the sense in which the word is used in sub-paragraphs a andb of the amendment.
– The amendment repeats the proposals of 1910, 1913, and 1915.
– That is so; but I venture to submit that the case to which I have referred was probably overlooked by the lawyers who framed the 1913 proposals.
– Does the honorable member think that the judgment he has quoted will stand now?
– It has never been challenged.
– Under it the court could deal with the assets of a foreign company in Australia.
– Yes. That is the point.
– Did creditors of the company in Australia participate in the assets of the company after its dissolution ?
– Yes, after that judgment was given.
– What is there to prevent a foreign company acting here through agents ?
– That is a technical matter upon which I could not speak with authority. A careful reading of the case to which I have referred convinces me that we should not in any way limit our power to dissolve foreign corporations.
– It is only by the exercise of unlimited power that we can deal with them.
– As unlimited as it is possible for the Constitution to give us.
– Paragraph xx of section 51 of the Constitution reads -
Foreign corporations, and trading or financial corporations, formed within the limits of the Commonwealth.
The right honorable member will see that, in regard to foreign corporations, the power of the Commonwealth is without limitation, and includes the power to do anything to such a corporation that is physically possible. But it is not physically possible to dissolve a corporation registered in some other country.
– There I join issue with the right honorable gentleman, not because of any legal knowledge I possess, but because of the decision of the court which I have quoted, and which, I say, remains unchallenged. It shows that, in at least one State which is a unit of the Commonwealth, there is power to interrupt and destroy the operations of a foreign company within the limits of the State.
– That is control, not dissolution of a corporation qua corporation.
– I do not know whether it means complete dissolution; but I say that we should take full power to do what a court in this State is permitted to do with respect to corporations. There are certain companies whose operations are fairly known, and by the legislation now proposed we should, if we can, obtain the power to dissolve such corporations. If they operatein a manner offensive to the law of this country, we should have the power to dissolve them for all practical purposes.
– I think the phraseology adopted is due to the fact that in the Huddart Parker case, Mr. Justice Isaacs said, amongst other things, “We can usher them into the world and put them out, and we are going to deal with their conduct.” We have the power under the Constitution to do anything to corporations that is physically possible.
– My right honorable friend does not realize that it is proposed to delete certain words from section 51.
– I say that, as the Constitution now stands, we can do anything physically possible to corporations.
– I do not know what is the technical legal interpretation of the word “ dissolution,” but I assume it to mean the winding up of a company.
– That is not so.
– In the judgment I have quoted the words “ wind up “ are used as if they were the equivalent of dissolution. If honorable members of the legal profession dispute that, the matter is one for argument; but I think that at this time we should be very careful to secure the amplest powers we can enjoy. If, for example, it be held that, in accordance with the judgment quoted, a State has the power to wind up - which to my mind is the power to dissolve - a company, we should take the same power for the Commonwealth.
Mr.Fenton. - It would mean the power to distribute the assets of a. company.
– Yes. the distribution of the company’s assets within the Commonwealth in satisfaction of a judgment, because of an offence against the laws of this country. If the Attorney-General disputes my argument, I shall not move any amendment ; but I think the honorable gentleman should explain the difference between the effect of the judgment I have quoted and the effect of the amendment as at present framed.
– A corporation is an artificial legal person. An ordinary company is a corporation which consists of a number of natural persons who are the shareholders of the company. The company is formed by the agreement of the shareholders, and by the registration of the company. Upon registration the company exists as a legal person. Until registration there is no incorporation. For example, a firm is not a person. A firm consists merely of “A” and “ B.” As an unincorporated society it has no legal existence. It is not a legal personality. Again, an ordinary football club, unincorporated, does not exist in law; it is simply a collection of separate legal persons. The formation or creation of a corporation, therefore, is the creation of an artificial legal personality, in addition to, separate from, and distinguishable from the natural legal persons who compose it. A company remains the one and the same legal person although its shareholders may change from day to day. The dissolution of a corporation is the reverse process. It is the extinction of the legal personality which formerly existed. The business of a company may be wound up without the artificial legal personality being brought to an end. This is recognized in law. I refer by way of example to the English Companies Act, which, speaking generally, is the model for Australian company legislation at the present day. There is in the British act a special section dealing with the dissolution of a company. The winding up of a company is the bringing of its business to an end. It does not terminate the legal personality of the company. That this is so appears clear from the words of section 172 of the British Companies Act of 1908, which reads -
When the affairs of the company have been completely wound up, the court shall make an order that the company be dissolved from the date of the order, and the company shall be dissolved accordingly.
I think that section shows the connexion of the legal ideas that I am endeavouring to put before the House. Before there can be a dissolution there must be a complete winding up. When that has happened the court makes an order for tho dissolution of the company, and, unless the order is made, the company is not dissolved. If the order is made, the company is dissolved as from the date of the order of dissolution, not as from the date of the complete winding up.
– And the order must be made by the court within the jurisdiction of which the company exists?
– Yes. The various State legislatures of Australia have power to wind up the business of any company operating in their territory, and the decision in the Oriental Bani: case- is perfectly sound law so far as I am aware. In the twelfth edition of Palmer, the leading authority on company law, it is stated that foreign or colonial companies having assets or liabilities in England may be wound up under English law. The first point that I am seeking to make is that there is a distinction in nature between the operation of winding up the business of a company and the dissolution of its legal personality. That leads to this point: Every corporation derives its personality from the law of the country in which it was formed. For example, any company recently formed in Victoria derives its legal personality by its registration under the Victorian Companies Act of 1915. Suppose such a company were carrying on business in Brazil, I have no doubt that the Brazilian law would make provision for the payment of its local creditors out of its local assets, and accordingly the business of the company in Brazil could be wound up. But an order of the court of Brazil, or a declaration of the parliament of that country, dissolving the company, would have no effect in Australia; the company would still remain on the Victorian register. It would still be in legal existence in every sense. Consider the case of an American company formed in, and deriving its existence from the laws, let us say, of the State of New Jersey. So long as it retains its existence under the laws of that State it continues to exist, and is a corporation. Other countries might wind up its business within their own territories, or might prohibit it from carrying on business there, but they would be powerless to dissolve the company. It might be carrying on business in New South Wales and Victoria; but, if Victoria purported to dissolve it, would it be dissolved in New South Wales or in New Jersey? Obviously not.
– Supposing under proper powers the Commonwealth decided to wind up such a company?
– The procedure of winding up a comp:my amounts to the transfer of the control of its affairs from its directors to liquidators appointed in a certain way, who act in accordance with sections of the Companies Act and the relevant rules. Liquidation brings about a change in the management of a company but does not alter its legal existence at all. A company in liquidation can still sue or be sued under its own name; it can still be a plaintiff or defendant. The liquidator is not the person who sues or is sued, although he would have control of the action. There is thus an essential distinction between winding up the business of a company and its dissolution. The right honorable member for Balaclava inquired whether the position would be the same if a Commonwealth law were applied to a foreign company. My answer is that it would. If, say, an American company is operating in many countries, it obviously cannot be dissolved in each one of them, and a purported dissolution in one country would have no effect in the others, unless the dissolution took place by reason of the law under which the company existed as an incorporated entity. I asl, the right honorable member not to press his amendment, because if it were inserted in the bill, we should be attempting something legally impossible.
– Shall we have power under this bill to wind up foreign companies ?
– The control of a company includes power to direct how its affairs shall be managed ; and, if it is unable to pay its debts, to direct that its management shall be handed over to liquidators, who realize the assets for the benefit of the local creditors. I can see no reason to doubt the existence of that degree of control under the amendment.
– Supposing that the general amendment is accepted, and we pass laws relating to the control and regulation of foreign corporations without inserting the amendment that I am suggesting, would this Legislature be empowered to so define control as to lead to the effective winding-up of companies that we do not wish to operate further in this country ?
– Yes ; in my view, undoubtedly. But it must be understood that by winding-up I mean the realization and distribution of the assets of the company in this country, which is distinct, not only from a general winding-up of the assets of th© company everywhere, but also from its dissolution.
.- I accept the explanation given by the AttorneyGeneral. I was particularly anxious that Parliament at this stage, when seeking these additional powers, should not lose the opportunity of doing something that it should have the power to do. I am concerned not about the explanation of the word ‘ ‘ dissolution “ in the legal sense, but with the practical effect on our legislation.
– The Attorney-General’s explanation was no reply to the honorable member’s case.
– It is not often that I have the temerity to differ from the honorable member for Dalley, but I do so in this case. I take leave to do my own thinking, imperfect as it is, and all I am concerned about is that if certain nefarious operations are being carried out in this country, we shall be able under the additional powers to be granted, to terminate such operations. If I am assured that the winding-up of a company, which is the vital thing, apart from the dissolution of its legal entity, is possible, I shall not press the amendment that I have outlined.
Amendment agreed to.
.- I move -
That the words “Establishing authorities with such powers as the Parliament confers on them with respect to”,, paragraph xl, subclause b, be left out.
If those words were omitted, the Constitution, as amended, would read -
The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to the regulation and determination of terms and conditions of industrial employment, and of rights and duties of employers and employees with respect to industrial matters and things.
We would thus brush aside the authorities which this bill seeks to create, and give to the Parliament the fullest power to legislate with regard to the regulation and determination of the terms and conditions of industrial employment and of the rights and duties of employers and employees with respect to industrial matters and things. There is a distinct cleavage between those who believe that the power of the Parliament should be handed over to, and discharged by, agents, and those who wish to see the Parliament itself fully clothed with plenary power to deal with all industrial matters. I listened this afternoon with great interest to the Attorney-General’s admirable and clear exposition of the law, but I romain a “ doubting Thomas,” . unconvinced that the policy of the Government in hypothecating its powers to instrumentalities or agencies is wise. I believe that the people will vote more surely for the vesting of such powers directly in the Parliament than for placing them in the hands of individuals constituting commissions, courts, or boards. In actual practice, I believe that Parliament, if granted this power, would exercise it in most cases through instrumentalities, but I do not think -that it should be inevitably obliged to do so. The industrial conditions of modern times cannot be separated from politics. Whatever way we wish to appoint agencies that will attend to the details of this matter, we cannot escape having to give attention on the hustings or in this chamber to the conditions, hours, and reward of labour which form the economic basis of society. I am not afraid of the time of Parliament being consumed in the consideration of these matters. Parliament has enough wisdom to decide how much time it should devote to such subjects, and it should not be legroped, hamstrung, or impeded in its desire to serve the people by direct action if it thinks that they can be best served in that way. I urge this amendment upon the Government, not in order to frustrate its intention to obtain for Parliament this additional power, but in order that the grant, if the people consent to it, shall be properly expressed in the Constitution. I do not believe that the Constitution, .as the basic law of the Commonwealth, should be placarded with the policies of political parties. We can, if we choose, use it as a hoarding upon which to paste the intentions, desires, and aspirations - pious or otherwise - of ascendent and victorious parties, but it should be regarded as a non-party document. Parliament, when asking the people for a grant of further powers, should state what powers it wishes to enjoy, and we should not, by the incorporation of any words in the Constitution, bind this or any subsequent legislature to the use of those powers only through the instrumentality of authorities subsequently to be created.
– If this amendment is agreed to the Government may withdraw the bill.
– I do not think that is likely, or that if it does happen the honorable member will be moved to tears.
– Is the honorable member for Swan, too, afraid ?
– He is one of the most courageous men in Parliament, as he showed last night when he and the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) held the bridge against overwhelming odds.
– Only two members voted against the Referendum Bill of 1919.
– The honorable member for Wannon complained that honorable members on this side have changed their views in regard to constitutional amendments. May I remind him that in 1919 he supported a measure which was much more extensive and comprehensive than this bill.
– It was designed to give extra power to the Commonwealth for a short period until war conditions passed.
– The war was over in 1919 when a Nationalist Government, led by the right honorable member for North Sydney, re-submitted the referendum proposals of 1913 with certain amendments. Those proposals were nearly carried with the support of the honorable member for Wannon. Probably he has forgotten that.
– I think the honorable member for Swan also assented to the proposals, and recommended them to the people in his State. This bill contains a milder dose of medicine. The industrial problem has been intensified since 1919, yet those two honorable members now baulk at a hurdle they took cheerfully seven years ago. I recommend the amendment to the committee, and if it is agreed to, I shall be prepared to move the addition of certain words to make the meaning of the paragraph more clear.
.- It is rather curious that the AttorneyGeneral should be prepared to allow this amendment to go to a vote without paying to the committee the compliment of a further reply to the criticism directed against those words in the bill which the right honorable member for Balaclava desires to eliminate. I have already expressed the view that the industrial power to be conferred by these proposed amendments of the Constitution will be complete and sufficient, but that the words now proposed to be omitted humiliate this Parliament by purporting to declare that the additional power must be exercised in an indirect instead of a direct manner. All sides acknowledge that any Parliament would probably find it convenient to delegate to authorities the exercise of this power. We have found that procedure convenient for the exercise of such industrial powers as this Parliament already possesses. But the ways of the law, like those of “ the heathen Chinee,” are peculiar, and it may be that in the words proposed to be omitted lurk very serious technical difficulties. I do not think that is so ; but when we provide for the establishment of authorities “ with such powers as the Parliament confers on them,” learned legal gentlemen may successfully argue that this Parliament cannot confer powers which it does not possess - that it cannot draw from the well of power if the well is dry. I do not believe that such a contention could succeed. The Attorney-General said that the provision in the bill confers upon this Parliament complete authority to rove all over the industrial domain. I accept his assurance that there is nothing latent in this verbiage, which after honorable members have been persuaded to accept it, may be found to place some limitation on the powers of this Parliament. If, as appears to me, and as the Attorney-General has declared, the powers which the bill will confer will be absolute and complete, why has the Government placed at the commencement of the paragraph the humiliating words regarding the establishment of authorities? Are they mere sur plusage? Are they intended to allay the anxiety of some interests which the Government finds it necessary to placate? I regard them as innocuous, but humiliating, and I invite the Attorney-General to explain why they are included.
– One of the principal distinctions between this proposal for the amendment of the Constitution and previous similar proposals passed by Parliament and submitted to the people, is that in this bill Parliament does not ask that it shall be given power to legislate on industrial matters. That fact has been kept in the very forefront of the debate. No convincing reason has been, offered for the adoption of any other form of words, except that it is humiliating to provide that the new power shall be exercised other than directly by Parliament’ itself .
– I do not argue that Parliament shall directly exercise these “powers, but that it shall have discretion to decide that the power shall be exercised as circumstances require.
– Every honorable member who has addressed himself to this aspect of the bill has declared that the only way in which Parliament would exercise power in industrial matters would be by means of non-political authorities.
– Mainly by such authorities.
– A’ very large majority of honorable members have admitted that in whatever form of words the industrial power is granted to this Parliament, it will be exercised by the appointment of agencies. If that is so, the only objection to the phraseology of the paragraph is that Parliament will put an indignity upon itself if it declares, in effect, that it is not fit to be entrusted with a choice of the means by which its power shall be exercised. What is wrong with that? If it be the judgment of Parliament itself that the best method of exercising the power is through a nonpolitical agency, how can that be said to be dishonouring Parliament? The discharge of any function is best carried out by an organ suited to that particular function. There are certain functions which are essentially political, parliamentary functions, and there are others which are not parliamentary functions. I call the attention of honorable members to the existing provisions in the Constitution. For example, it provides that the judicial power of the Commonwealth shall be vested in a Federal supreme court, to be called the High Court, and certain other courts. Why was that done? That provision binds this Parliament. The reason for its insertion in the Constitution was that it was considered that judicial functions were best exercised by a body other than the Parliament. In a unitary system, such as that which obtains in the United Kingdom to-day, Parliament itself, if it thought proper, could try and determine cases directly. When our Constitution was prepared and submitted to the people it was considered that there was an essential and well recognized distinction between the judicial and the political spheres. Consequently the performance of judicial functions was, by the Constitution and not by the Parliament, placed in the hands of a body other than the Parliament. Section 101 of the Constitution provides for the creation of an interstate commission, which “ shall have such powers of adjudication and administration as the Parliament deems necessary for the execution and maintenance within the Commonwealth of the provisions of this Constitution relating to trade and commerce, and to all laws made thereunder.” I ask the committee to observe the similarity between the provision and the proposal now before us. A further section provides that certain rates shall not be deemed to be unlawful unless, in the opinion of the interstate commission, they are excessive. Thus in the administration of the law and in relation to transactions in trade and commerce the Constitution already provides that certain things shall not be done by this Parliament, but that, on the contrary, they shall be dealt with by non-political bodies. That is my answer to the first point, that it is derogatory to Parliament to provide that certain powers shall be exercised by a non-political body.
– None of the powers in section 51 are limited; Parliament is free.
– The existing power in relation to conciliation and arbitration is limited by paragraph xxxv. As I have already explained, all that Parliament can do under the existing power is to provide machinery for other authorities to exercise the power. Parliament is nol able to dictate to those authorities, or to guide their decisions.
– Does the honorable gentleman say that the powers in section 5) are limited by agency provisions?
– The powers in paragraph xxxv. of section 51 are limited by agency provisions. All that we can do under the existing conciliation and arbitration power is to provide machinery for conciliation and arbitration.
– Could not the Parliament be the Arbitration Court if it chose ?
– I think not. There has to be legislation to provide means for conciliation and arbitration. I have never yet heard it suggested that Parliament itself could sit as an arbitration court under that provision. If it could, the decision of Parliament would amount to direct legislation on the subject of an industrial dispute.
– I am not suggesting that Parliament should; I am merely asking whether it could.
– It could not. Parliament may merely legislate to provide means for conciliation and arbitration.
– The section does not say so.
– If Parliament were to say that it itself should be the body to conciliate an,d arbitrate, and that were effective, Parliament itself would determine the dispute, and so would evade the provision in the Constitution which lays it down not that Parliament shall have the power to determine disputes, but that Parliament may provide for conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of disputes.
– Parliament has the power to make laws.
– Parliament has the power to make laws; but those laws, I confidently submit, would be invalid if they adopted the form that Parliament might, by purporting to act as an arbitration tribunal, determine interstate disputes, and lay down rates of wages, hours, and conditions of labour, and thereby, in substance, legislate on these matters.
– My amendment seeks to leave Parliament as free as it is now to make laws.
– Under the existing power Parliament cannot itself deal with industrial matters. That principle is perfectly well established by decisions of the High Court. I am merely expounding the position when I s,ay that Parliament could not evade that provision by calling itself an arbitration or a conciliation body. I have sought to deal with the suggestion that an indignity is placed upon the Parliament by a Constitution which provides that certain functions shall be discharged by bodies other than the Parliament. I shall now proceed to the next point. I thought that the merits of the case had already boon fully discussed. More time hass been devoted to that aspect of the matter than to any other which has arisen. Questions of dignity being out of the way, it may be asked, “What is the object of giving Parliament the power to itself regulate industrial conditions rather than to establish non-political authorities for that purpose? I have not heard of any precise subject to deal with which it is considered desirable that such a power should exist, with the exception of the suggestion of the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman). That honorable member said that, as a general rule, the proper way to deal with industrial matters which required an examination of facts and a precise knowledge of the details of industry, was to operate through authorities; but, he said, there ought to be a reserved power to enable Parliament to act in case of emergency. That is a point which must be met. What emergency is suggested? I put it to honorable members that that point is met by the bill which follows this measure on the notice-paper, by which powers are sought to enable the Parliament to legislate with respect to the protection of the interests of the public in the case of an actual or probable interruption of essential services. If my honorable friends opposite wish to encourage the interruption of essential services they are at liberty to do so. That, however, is not the attitude of the Government.
– Supposing the authority which was set up laid it down that the standard working week should be 60 hours, and as a consequence an industrial upheaval was provoked, would this Parliament be able to pass legislation, fixing the standard working week at 48 hours ?
– That is one of the points which, I am sure, is agitating the minds of honorable members.
– Parliament would be able, by legislation suitably framed, to deprive such a regulation or award of effect. It would be able to deprive the authority of power retrospectively, and to prevent such a regula-tion from having any effect. The Government throughout has made no> concealment of its belief that the power to fix a standard of hours or a basic wage should not be exercised by this Parliament. We consider that, having regard to the duties and functions with which this Parliament is charged, it would be a mistake to impose upon it the right and the correlative duty of looking after the industrial affairs of Australia generally. It is easy to make political capital out of those matters, and that is one of the reasons why it is considered desirable that, as far as possible, they should be excluded from politics. The question then arises, are these matters really political? Let us consider the work which the Arbitration Court has done in the last twenty years. Decisions of various kinds have been given. Some have been approved, others disapproved. Whatever their faults may have been, would those decisions have been any better if they had been made by this Parliament, or it’ they had been subject to review by this Parliament ? By whatever body this subject is handled, we cannot attain perfection. I urge that these subjects are best dealt with on economic and industrial, and not on political grounds. If we have kept our eyes open, we must be cognizant of what has happened in Australia recently. A few years ago a Labour government in New South Wales passed legislation making provision for a 44-hour working week. A succeeding government repealed that legislation, and the hours reverted to 48 until there was again a change of government, and the 44-hour working week was re-enacted. The method of dealing with these questions, on no plan at all except politics, is not in the true interests of Australia, or of employers or employees. The most satisfactory way is to find competent persons to handle them non-politically. The amendment of the right honorable member is intended to enable Parliament to legislate directly on the “ terms and conditions of industrial employment and of rights and duties of employers and employees with respect to industrial matters and things “ ; in fact, to take full powers to legislate directly in every industrial matter.
– This Parliament is better fitted for that purpose than a number of jurists.
– That is a statement with which I do not agree; and, in saying that, I am not suggesting that jurists, as such, ave industrial experts. They are not, and we all know they are not. The important consideration is to have men who are competent, impartial, capable, and, in particular, accustomed to weigh evidence. They must also be men of great common sense, and of as much experience of the world as possible. It is very difficult to obtain all those qualities in a few men; but jurists, in the atmosphere in which they work, are at least more’ fitted to determine questions of such industrial and economic importance as, say, the standard hours of work, than is this Parliament. In this Parliament such a question would be determined upon political grounds. In the interests of all parties in Australian industry, and of Australian industry as a whole, it is inadvisable that these matters should become the subject of political bidding and bargaining, which would be almost inevitable if the powers were conferred noon this Parliament in the form proposed in the amendment. We know quite well what would, in fact, happen. .Soma honorable members, perfectly sincerely, no doubt, would face the electors and advocate a 44-hour week, and others would advocate 43, 42, 41, or 40 hours a week. There would be no sense in that. Questions of wages, hours, or working conditions are difficult to deal with. I mention the matter of hours particularly, because that is most prominent in the minds of honorable members at this moment. The proposals of the Government are expressly and deliberately designed to provide other than political means for dealing with industrial questions, and on that ground the Government is unable to accept the amendment.
.- The time has arrived when I should define the attitude of this party to the amendment. It is well known that negotiations have taken place between the two parties, and prior to the Opposition agreeing last night to accept the bill on condition that power to control corporations was included in it, I moved an amendment to the motion for the second reading of the bill to give full power to this Parliament to legislate in industrial matters. It was defeated on a division, and some honorable members who are now supporting a similar amendment voted against it.
– But other matters were included in the amendment.
– The only thing in the amendment, in addition to the provisions now in the bill, related to power over trade and commerce. After my amendment had been rejected, this party agreed, in order to improve the bill, to accept an amendment dealing with corporations. But we had made it quite clear during the debate on the motion for the second reading that we considered that this Parliament should have full power to legislate on industrial matters. After we had been defeated, we stood bv the agreement we had made ; but now, as honorable members on the Government side are moving amendments which are in direct conflict with the agreement entered into, honorable members on this side are free to vote as they please, and they will vote for this amendment. We cannot stand by a Government, which refuses to accept, from Its own side, an amendment, which is on similar lines to the amendment moved from this side. It is urged by the honorable the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) that this Parliament should not have power to legislate directly to control industrial matters. This Parliament has power under the Constitution to provide for conciliation and arbitration, and if this amendment is carried the position will be practically unaltered. What genuine objection can there be to the Parliament giving effect to its industrial policy, whatever Government may be in power ? If this Government has a policy for creating tribunals, there is no necessity to put anything more in the Constitution to give effect to that policy. Then why should we have this division of opinion ? I find that quite a number of honorable members on the other side object to what they regard as an infringement of the rights of the Parliament. I do not wish to assist in curtailing the rights of the Parliament. If any body should be supreme, it is the representative parliament of the people, and I have been fighting for that ideal all through the piece. I can see no reason why this amendment should not be accepted. The referring of industrial questions to authorities does not take them entirely out of the hands of this Parliament, because Parliament, which creates the authorities and clothes them with certain powers, can also take their powers from them and create other authorities in their place. The honorable the Attorney-General outlined this afternoon, and last night, a scheme for appointing conciliatory tribunals and wages boards in the States. Such a scheme will be welcomed by the people, because it will provide them with the means of having their disputes investigated in a reasonable time. All success to the Attorney-General in framing legislation of that kind ! But it is not necessary to make special provision in the Constitution for delegating powers to authorities. Honorable members on this side regard themselves as free to vote for the amendment, and if a division is taken we shall support it, and, in supporting it, will not consider that we have broken faith with the Government. Both the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) and the Attorney-General have admitted that the creation of authorities does not take control entirely away from Parliament. If an authority appointed by this Parliament does anything wrong, this Parliament can deal with that authority. It can, as the AttorneyGeneral explained, prevent the gazettal of anything ridiculous. Then why not remove the words referred to and give the Parliament the same control that it has at present ? Under our conciliation and arbitration power, we have created an Arbitration Court which has been handling industrial matters for years. It has not given complete satisfaction, because it has been hampered, and the workers have not been able to obtain expedition. Seeing that we can reach our goal without the inclusion of the words referred to in the amendment, why not leave them out? We ought not to whittle away the powers of the Parliament in any way.
– The amendment of the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) has planed us in a very awkward position. The honorable the Leader of the Opposition has stated his case very fairly, and I do not think there is any answer to it. The Government cannot expect him deliberately to ignore this amendment; that would be to expect too much. The honorable gentleman has given hostages to fortune already by his action, and is condemned by many of his followers outside; and if he voted against the amendment, they would utterly destroy him. For him there is no option, nor is there an option for me. This will be the fifth occasion on which constitutional amendments have been discussed here, and if the amendment is put to the vote, I must support it. When a division was taken yesterday on the amendment of the honorable the Leader of the Opposition, I did not vote for it because, as honorable members know, an understanding had been reached at meetings of the parties. In those circumstances, I was justified in voting against the amendment, because I knew that it was a condition precedent to the staging of the real issue. The amendment of the right honorable member for Balaclava has re-opened the whole subject and brought us again to the barrier that we faced before the agreement was made between the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister, and if he presses it to a vote, he will place the Government and honorable members on both sides of the chamber in a very awkward position ; but I say quite frankly that if he does so, I shall vote for it. I have maintained the same attitude on this matter all through. I regret that some of the arguments put forward by the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) a few minutes ago weakened his position. In reply to an interjection from the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Ley) he said that in the event of one of these authorities deciding, for example, on the adoption of the principle of child endowment, and an industrial dispute arising directly out of it, Parliament could disallow the regulation.
– I think the right honorable gentleman misunderstood me. I said that it was possible to deprive the authority of power to deal with that subject and to render ineffective its determination, but that would be an extreme thing to do.
– I venture to say that, upon the face of this clause, the Government could do nothing of the sort. It is true that it could destroy the thing it created, but whether it could destroy it at the moment is another matter. And even if it were destroyed, its work would remain. That the Parliament could not touch. I ask the Attorney-General to consider this point. He said that to fill positions that would be created under these powers, we would need men of exceptional capacity, capable of weighing evidence; of wide knowledge in industrial affairs; of judicial temperament; of wide vision. Such men are not plentiful, and a high salary and fixed tenure of office would be essential to attract them. If any one of these authorities made a determination against which the public rebelled, a situation would be created which this Parliament would be powerless to resolve. We should have a certain measure of power under this bill, although the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) was in some doubt as to what it was, but it would be exhausted by the appointment of these authorities. If we were to give authority “ A “ power over a certain part of the whole field of our authority, we should not ourselves be able to exercise that which was still latent. To do that we should have cither to appoint authority “ B “ or extend the power of authority “A.” There is no power whatever that we could seize in a moment of need ; and power that cannot be seized in a crisis is not power at all. As a matter of hard fact, we should be able to do absolutely nothing to resolve an industrial situation. The coalminers are out of work at present, not because there is a dispute in the coalmining industry, but because the enginedrivers have taken umbrage at the decision of an authority. That authority having spoken, the whole country is deprived of coal, and in a few weeks, or perhaps less, half of the Australian workers will be out of employment and our foreign trade paralyzed, because ships will be unable to get bunker coal. But there is no power to undo the wrong this authority has done - if wrong it is; though whether it is right or wrong makes no difference. A situation has been created which this Parliament cannot resolve. Shall we, with our eyes open, set up another such authority and leave ourselves powerless to deal with an emergency ? Again and again dislocations have occurred in the coalmining industry, and several times the authority of the Parliament has been invoked. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) knows very well that I only prevented a big coalmining strike in war time by appointing a special tribunal for the industry. There was no limitation to the authority of this Parliament at that time, for we were then drawing from the exhaustless well of defence power. The Attorney-General would have us believe that, according to the construction of this clause, we are masters of our own destiny; that we can dismiss an authority the acts of which are objectionable to the people, and that, therefore, the interests of the people are safeguarded ; but, in my opinion, it is not so. Upon a fair construction of the clause, the authority is intended- to be independent of the Parliament. But if, as the Attorney-General contends, the Parliament is to direct, and the authority to obey or go, the only argument agains.t giving the Parliament power to act, if it thinks fit, disappears. If I can say to a man to whom I give authority, “ If you do not do as I tell you I will sack you,” I am the authority; but, if I cannot sack my man I am not master of my own household, for I have created an authority that is superior to myself. If we- agree to this proposal, we shall create an authority which is superior to this legislature. In the face of the Government’s oft-declared refusal to accept the proposal of the Leader of the Opposition, it appears to be too late to go back over our tracks, but I say emphatically that it is distinctly unfortunate that the right honorable member for Balaclava should have introduced this amendment, for it will put many honorable members in a difficult position; but I repeat that, if it is moved, I shall vote for it. Before resuming my seat, may I point out to the Leader of the Opposition that the authority sought to be given to this Parliament under the provisions of this clause is not as wide as it appears to be on the surface. The proposed new paragraph reads -
Establishing authorities with such powers as Parliament confers on them -
I point out that, whatever it confers, it confers not on itself, but on some other authority - with respect to the regulation and determination of terms and conditions of industrial employment, and of rights and duties of employers and employees with respect to industrial matters and things:
That looks as though a good deal of authority would be reposed somewhere; but what is an industrial matter? Is employment in an office, or the relation between a banker and a bank clerk an industrial matter?
– The High Court has decided that it is.
– There are many occupations that are not necessarily covered by this phrase; but, whether it covers the whole ground or not, when once the power is given, this Parliament is left in a most abject and humiliating position, and is totally unable to deal with any emergency that may arise. That is extremely unfortunate. The clause purports to do two things. It extends the power of the Arbitration Court to all disputes - intrastate as well as interstate - and gives Parliament power to create tribunals to deal with other matters. Some of these tribunals will be wages boards, the functions of which we know; and some will be State arbitration courts, the functions of which we also know. But something else is contemplated, for child endowment was mentioned by the Prime Minister. I do not know why he mentioned it. In my opinion, one of the greatest troubles of the Lang Government in New South “Wales will arise, not out of the 44-hour week act, but out of the appointment of an industrial commissioner, who has been given sole power to determine all the conditions of industry in that great State. The collective wisdom of that Parliament may, perhaps, lack something of perfection at times; but it was an act of madness to place the whole industrial authority of the State in the hands of one man. Yet we propose to repeat that mistake.
.- I do not sympathize with the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), nor with any other honorable member who may be placed in a difficult position by the introduction of the amendment of the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt). I, and other honorable members on this side of the chamber, have had no hesitation in asserting times without number that this Parliament should be supreme in industrial matters, and that it should not create an authority greater than itself.
– Then I take it that the honorable member would allow Parliament to administer the criminal law.
– Nothing of the sort;
Ave enact criminal legislation, but constitute courts to interpret it. The collective wisdom of honorable members in this chamber determines what shall constitute the criminal calendar, and what penalties shall be provided for specific crimes. It might permit a judicial authority to try offences against the law, but Parliament should itself decide the principles of the law.
– The judges of the High Court have declared that the Arbitration Court is a legislative and not a judicial tribunal.
– That is so. Members of this Parliament should be able to go to the people and say that if they are again returned they will endeavour to place on the statute-book laws to give effect to a certain political platform. The policy of the Labour party has always been that the detailed determination of a dispute shall be left to a judicial authority, but it does not agree that any authority outside Parliament shall be allowed to determine the industrial conditions of the people. Our view is that the Parliament should lay down the general principles upon which the courts should proceed. I impress upon the Government and its supporters that if they desire the proposed amendments of the Constitution to be carried they must dynamite out of the track of the ship of the Commonwealth this rock, which, if not removed, will send it to destruction. I speak as one knowing the opinions of the trade unions in this matter. They will not permit this power to be given to an authority outside Parliament. They stand for constitutional government and not for government by irresponsible bodies outside Parliament. If the Government is desirous of carrying its proposals it will give way in this matter. If it does not, we must question the motive for its refusal, and must ask ourselves whether its purpose is not really to defeat the aspirations of Labour aud of the trade unions.
– We have all listened with a great deal of interest to the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) in submitting his amendment, and to the discussion which has since ensued. No unbiased man could listen to the arguments brought forward without realizing that the Government has assumed a very grave responsibility in wording the amendment in the way it has done. We should ask ourselves what is the alternative if the proposed amendments of the Constitution are not carried in the form submitted by the Government. If we delegate these powers to a court, we shall be imposing a very heavy responsibility upon it. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) was right when he said, last night, that any Government that interferes inadvisably or indiscriminately with a court in the carrying out of its duty is likely to receive very short shrift when it goes before the people. That is a sort of thing the community will not permit. If we do not submit the proposed amendments in the terms proposed by the Government, what is the alternative? It is that we shall be making this power something which party politicians can place before the electors, and the party making the highest promises will secure the greatest number of votes. During the second-reading speech of the right honorable member for Balaclava, an interjector said that this proposal was not in the Prime Minister’s policy speech. If I remember aright, the right honorable member for Balaclava said that he was not prepared to say that, because there was more than one policy speech. During the election campaign I had the pleasure of listening to not fewer than twelve speeches made by the Prime Minister, and again and again he contended that the question of hours of labour should not be left to party politicians to catch votes with, and that it should be dealt with by an independent tribunal. He suggested that possibly judges of the Commonwealth and State courts might be brought together to advise as to the course which should be adopted. The Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), when speaking, has reminded us of what happened in New South Wales at the last three general elections. A Labour Government came into power in 1920, and legislated for a working week of 44 hours. The Fuller Government, in 1922, repealed that legislation. It may be said that the .Labour Government in 1920 had a mandate to do what it did, but it is equally certain that the Fuller Govern- ment in 1922 had a mandate to undo what had been done by the previous Labour Government. Again, in 1925, the Fuller Government was replaced by a Labour Government, and the policy was again reversed. What can be expected from government on such insane lines ? To make this question one which party politicians may use as a bait to catch votes is noi only undesirable, it is immoral. If we are to have continuity of policy we must take the risk of giving this power to a tribunal. I trust that the right honorable member for Balaclava will withdraw his amendment. If it is carried, I trust that the Government will throw the bill under the table, and place the responsibility for its action on the members who vote against it, whether they sit on this or the other side of the Chamber.
Mr. SCULLIN (Yarra) [9.40 j. -The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) has used the argument that questions of hours of labour and wages should not be made playthings of party politics in this country.
– I said they should not be made baits with which party politicians might fish for votes.
– I have no desire to misrepresent the honorable member. What strikes me is that there is a big dispute about something that matters very little in practice. The only thing I can see involved is what the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) emphasized, and that is the dignity of Parliament. In practice, this Parliament, will control the industrial life of this country whether the amendment is carried or not. I submit to the Government that the best way to destroy any chance of carrying the proposed amendments of the Constitution is to raise a doubt in the minds of the electors that Parliament cannot be trusted. I am of the opinion emphasized by the honorable member for Batman, that there is nothing in the words about delegating its authority which takes authority away from Parliament. If it were proposed to insert in the Constitution an instruction as to the class of authority to be appointed, and the powers to be delegated to it, that would place an outside tribunal over the head of this Parliament, which could not be tolerated for a moment. The bill simply says that Parliament shall have power to establish authorities with such powers as it shall confer upon them. That means that Parliament can appoint any number of authorities, dissolve them when it pleases, re-create them, confer any powers it likes upon them, or withhold any powers from them. The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Ley) asked the Attorney-General if an authority fixed 60 hours as a working week, could Parliament subsequently enact a 4<S-hour week? The Attorney-General said that Parliament could not do so. The suggestion then was that Parliament would be entirely helpless in the hands of some rank Tory authority prepared to go back to a working week of 60 hours. But, if that be so, tho converse is also true; and if an authority fixed 44 hours as a working week, the Parliament could not make it. 48 hours.
– Yet the honorable member says that the Parliament will be master of the situation under the amendment.
– I am coming to that. Whether the authority fixes a working week” of 60 hours or 44 hours, this Parliament will have a remedy if it does not agree with what the authority has done.
Mi-. Lister. - Could it revoke a decision already given by the authority?
– it could dissolve the authority whose decision would no longer operate.
– The dissolution of the authority would not revoke its decision.
– If that be so, Parliament could dissolve the authority and create a new one, whose decision would override- that of the previous authority. In these circumstances, of what use is it to say that Parliament could do nothing?
– It could not itself exorcise the power.
– That is so. The right honorable member for North. Sydney (Mr. Hughes) referred to the trouble that has occurred in the coa] industry, because of the Hibble award. Let us say. for the sake of argument, that Hibble is wrong, and that his award for enginedrivers has thrown 30,000 miners out of work. If this Parliament had the full powers that are now asked for, and they were delegated to some one else, would the insertion of this amendment in the bill make any difference in the position ?
– I think so, because Parliament would be free to act as it thought fit.
– Parliament would be forced into the position of having to declare that authority non-existent, or to withdraw from it the power that it possessed. Anything this Parliament does it can undo. Even if those in authority were appointed for life, their removal from office could be compensated for, if it was not justified by their illconduct in office. I ask the right honorable member for North Sydney, if he were now in charge of the Government, would he legislate by act of parliament, fixing the rates of wages for enginedrivers ?
– Certainly not.
– The right honorable gentleman has answered his own argument. He would, in all probability, if he were dissatisfied with the Hibble tribunal, set up another tribunal to rehear the case, and that can be done under the Government’s proposal. Although that is so, I urge honorable members to vote for the amendment, because, otherwise, we shall impose an indignity upon Parliament and weaken the chance of carrying the referendum, and I assure the Government that I want it to be carried. Parliament, in any case, will have the last word, and if these powers are granted, will appoint agencies to give effect to them. Why impose upon Parliament the indignity of going to the country and saying that we do not trust ourselves to do- our own work ?
– We do not say that.
– That is the effect of the Government’s proposals. The Attorney-General referred to the section of the Constitution relating to the High Court, and asked were we not,- in that case, delegating our powers ? I contend that that is an entirely different matter. The High Court defines the jurisdiction of both Commonwealth and States. That is certainly not an analogous case. I suggest that the interstate commission is a stronger case. That commission is wrongly provided for under the Constitution. It is a limitation of the powers of this Parliament - regarding trade and commerce - that should not exist. If this Parliament had the powers that it should possess over trade and commerce, there would be no necessity for any intervening authority. Of our own volition we rob ourselves of almost legislative power. We have practically unlimited powers in taxation; yet by our own act, under our . own taxation laws, we have appointed a commissioner to administer them. He is not even subject to the control of the Treasurer or the Minister in charge, except in respect of land taxation. We extend to him, under act of parliament, powers that are really legislative. If honorable members will examine the regulations and the interpretations placed on them, they will see that they are almost as far-reaching as the act itself.
– It is mostly interpretation.
– It is more than interpretation. The Commissioner has power to use his discretion as to whether two-thirds of the profits of a company shall be distributed. That is surely more than interpretation. No one would say that Parliament ought to exercise the power that we hand over to the Commissioner of Taxation, but that is no excuse for going to the country and asking for authority to hand over the powers of Parliament to other authorities. If additional powers are granted, Parliament can exercise them and appoint whatever authority it thinks fit, but another government coming into office could set that authority aside and appoint another in its place. We safeguard nothing by declaring to the people outside that we want almost unlimited powers to deal with industrial matters, and at the same time embodying in the Constitution a provision that compels Parliament to hand over those powers to other authorities. The fact that Parliament itself will not exercise these powers is no reason why we should tell the people that we are afraid to trust Parliament with them. If we cannot trust Parliament, we cannot trust anybody.
– There seems to be a general consensus of opinion that whether the powers are taken as suggested by the Government or whether full powers are taken, Parliament itself would not exercise them. The right honorable gentleman who moved the amendment said that definitely. To some extent he is basing his case upon the dignity of this Parliament.
– Not at all.
– He inferred that Parliament had many powers that have never been exercised by it, and the future would be safeguarded if we took these additional powers even though they were not exercised by Parliament itself. I venture to suggest that that view is wrong. The whole object of these proposals is to improve the industrial situation. Every thinking man in this country, irrespective of party politics, must deplore the fact that conditions of labour, wages, and hours of work, are discussed in an atmosphere of party politics. Politicians are just as human as any one else. Nothing affects the people of this country more than their industrial conditions, because almost all of them are workers. Of recent years, the promise of better industrial conditions has, to a great extent, been the determining factor in our elections. It is most desirable that this position should be remedied. J, do not suggest for one moment that these powers, if granted, will prevent any government from taking any steps that it thinks fit. An incoming government can cancel powers given to authorities, create new authorities, and, if it is unscrupulous, can appoint authorities to act in accordance with its desires. I am not suggesting that the proposals, if carried, will lessen the powers of this Parliament: or of the Government. We are asking for these powers so that we may take whatever action we think fit: If a wise and sound government appointed authorities who acted in the general interests of the people, even though the people did not” agree with every decision of those authorities, it would be very difficult for any party to go to the country and say, “ Return, us to power and we will destroy these authorities and appoint others in their place that will give you the things you want.” For the reasons I have indicated, tho Government decided to submit these nroposals to the people in the form in which they are printed. Some honorable members have argued that if full powers were taken by this Parliament to legislate directly in regard, to industrial matters, they would not necessarily be exercised. In support of that contention, other powers possessed by the Parliament which still remain dormant have been quoted. The industrial question, however, is in a position different from any other, as recent experiences in this country have shown. The New South Wales Parliament did not hesitate to legislate directly in regard to working hours, and the Commonwealth Parliament is not so different from others that, given full authority, it might not follow the precedent of the State legislature if it considered such a course politically expedient. It would be lamentable if such a thing were possible. Therefore, the bill proposes that this Parliament shall be given power to create authorities to deal with industrial questions; and the AttorneyGeneral this afternoon, whilst not saying definitely that the ideas he expressed would in their entirety be embodied in legislation to be submitted to this Parliament, outlined the type of authority that the Government has i:i mind. If, in pursuance of a grant of the necessary power by the people, the task of dealing with industrial conditions were delegated to an authority created by this Parliament, a great fundamental matter like standard hours, or the basic wage, would bo determined by that authority after an exhaustive investigation, and the bearing of evidence in public. It would be very difficult for Parliament to destroy an authority which, after full inquiry, had laid down basic conditions, am] to substitute by statute other conditions not based upon a complete investigation of the economic and industrial factors. The provision in regard to the creation of authorities is an integral part of the Government’s proposal for the alteration of the Constitution, and in no circumstances could the Government accept, the amendment proposed by the right honorable member for Balaclava. Having regard to the fact that last night the Leader of the Opposition and I indicated to the House a basis of agreement upon which we were prepared to recommend these proposals to the people, it is very undesirable that the prospect thus presented, of effecting a great and necessary reform of the Constitution, should be jeopardized by an amendment to which the Government cannot possibly agree.
.- I should be sorry to have it thought that I, as a member of the rank and file of the Labour party in this House, had agreed to anything further than that, having failed to secure as great an ampli fication of these questions as honorable members on this side consider desirable, I was prepared to support in this House and in the country the proposals- of the Government as amended after consultation with the Leader of the Opposition. Even at the risk of compelling the right honorable member for Balaclava to withdraw his amendment, I must support it. If he does withdraw it, it will be the first occasion within my knowledge when an honorable member has withdrawn an amendment because he thought it would receive too much support. In reply to my complaint about the proposal to delegate the powers of this Parliament to an authority to be created, the AttorneyGeneral, in a somewhat attenuated argument, said, in effect, that the same condition obtained in connexion with the conciliation and arbitration power. There i? no analogy between the two. This Parliament has power under the Constitution to legislate with respect to conciliation and arbitration. It is a direct power, and having searched through the 39 articles, of section 51 and the other powers vested by the Constitution in this Parliament, I can find no parallel to the form in which paragraph xl. is presented. I have already said that I do not think it substantially affects the power of Parliament, but I was interested in an interjection by the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Ley), which was superficially harmless, but intrinsically poisonous. He seemed to draw satisfaction from the fact that apparently this Parliament could not legislate directly for a standard week of 44 hours or any other number of hours. If it is true that these powers are designed to cover, by means of agencies, the whole industrial field, on what principle of democracy does the AttorneyGeneral claim for this Parliament or the Government the whole sum of human wisdom as to the form that legislation should take? On what principle does he assume a right to bind future Parliaments? It is perfectly competent for bini to say that the Government, in its wisdom, considers that this or that power is sufficient for the Federal Parliament to exercise; but when he says that this Parliament should be competent to legislate over the whole industrial field and then prescribes the method that all future Parliaments shall adopt in exercising that authority, he arrogates to this Parliament powers which no Parliament should presume to exercise ; that is, to bind future parliaments. Suppose that a party placed before the electors as a basic issue a 44 or 40-hour working week, and on that policy were returned to power with an overwhelming majority. finder those circumstances, does not the honorable member for Barton think that this Parliament should have power under this amendment of the Constitution to legislate directly to give effect to thewill of the peonle? We have listened to a good deal of cheap talk about making working hours and wages the currency of party bargaining in the constituencies. I, personally, do not believe that questions of hours or wages should be settled on the floor of this chamber; but I stand by the fundamental principle that this Parliament must reflect the will of the people. On the other hand, if the honorable member for Barton fakes consolation from the fact that wages and hours cannot be fixed by this Parliament directly, but only through authority, I warn him, and the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) - for there should be no false pretences in this matter - that if at any time the Labour party is returned to power with a mandate in regard to industrial conditions - hours, wages, or anything else which, in its wisdom, it has chosen to put before the people for their consideration - no tribunal created by Parliament will be allowed to stand in its way. It will respect contracts, and it will respect the judiciary, as it is bound to do; but, exercising the industrial power to the full, it will either get rid of the intervening authority or so divest it of its powers that it will be left as bare as a dead tree on a sand hill, if such authority should defy the will of the people, which is reflected in Parliament.
– The honorable member may find himself stultified by the High Court’s interpretation of this proposed new paragraph.
– If that should happen, sweep out the High Court!
-I do not intend to suggest that the abolition of the High Court is within the realm of practical politics, but it may at some time come within the realm of practical politics.
If it ever does, we shall have to submit its fate to the mandate of the highest power in this country - the electors themselves. Let us keep our minds firmly fixed upon principle and be not afraid of where we may be taken, even though the adoption of a new system of government in place of the existing one is involved. Again, I do notpretend to set limits to the power of my learend brothers of the legal profession to raise issues for argument. Possibly the form in which this bill is to be submitted to the people will eventually lead to argument in the High Court as to the validity of the entire measure. For instance, another delicate point which I suggest may come up for argument is that, whilst this Parliament has the power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to a great many matters, this bill does not make a law for the peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth, but delegates that power to some other authority. I do not put these forward as practical objections in which I believe; I merely indicate that there are no limits to the avenues of argument that may be opened up. At all events, I trust that myright honorable friend will not withdraw his amendment on account of the extent of the support which it is receiving. I am not threatening that we propose to do the things that I have suggested can be done ; I ammerely showing what a free Parliament can and ought to do. Something in the nature of a preamble has been attached to this clause to soothe the feelings of honorable members opposite and their friends in the country. It is not having that effect. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) is not soothed, and the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) is in a state of mild eruption, which may spread to the body politic of the Nationalist and Country parties before this matter has proceeded very much further. I honestly wish to see these proposals carried, and I intend to advocate them for want of better. The people do not wish to think that they are granting a power the effects of which are even conceivably ambiguous. They naturally desire that anv amplification of the powers of the Constitution shall be carried out in a completelyunderstandable and direct way. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) has said that he was placed in a difficulty. I have seen him extricate himself from much greater difficulties, and I have no doubt he will bo equally successful on this occasion. We, on this side, are not in any difficulty. I emphasize the fact that we are not parties to any bargain which limits our freedom of action. We will honorably respect the undertaking which has beeD given by our leader to support these amplified proposals.
– Did not the two leaders arrive al an agreement with the consent of their parties, and should not that agreement be carried out here?
– I am explaining precisely what that agreement was, if agreement it is to be called. It had its genesis in an honest desire by both sides to see how far they were mutual upon these proposals. The leaders met in an endeavour to arrive at mutuality. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) explained the full measure of power for which his party was asking. The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) replied that he could not go to that length ; but after discussion a compromise was arrived at, and my leader said that this party would support the amended proposals as being a substantial instalment of Labour policy for which it had been fighting for twelve years. In any case, we should probably have supported the original proposals ; but our support will be themore enthusiastic support, seeing that we have succeeded in persuading the Prime Minister to grantus further concessions.
– My understanding was that the matter, having been discussed on the second reading, the measure would go through. I am not suggesting anything against the Leader of the Opposition ; he was not the mover of the amendment.
– I am not responsible for what has happened.
– I exonerate the Leader of the Opposition from any blame.
– Did the right honorable gentleman understand that this party had bound itself neither to propose nor to discuss any further amendment?
– That is the position.
– That is the first I have heard of any such agreement. I feel bound to say that the statement which the right honorable gentleman made last night on that aspect of the matter appeared to me to be meticulously accurate and candid. The Leader of the Opposition would not think of going back upon any arrangement which he had made, nor should I.
– The Leader of the Opposition indicated that he felt himself at liberty to support the amendment of the right honorable member for Balaclava, because it was moved from this side of the chamber.
– That is now the position. No amendment has been moved from this side. Honorable members opposite are responsible for the lengthy continuation of the debate. I admit that I, in a mild way and in modest competition with the finished artists who face me, have endeavoured to fan the flame of original thought. There I leave the matter.
.- In perfect good faith, I tell the Prime Minister that I have no desire to embarrass him or tha Government in connexion with this amendment. I am opposed to the bill, lock, stock, and barrel. I am rather surprised that at so early a stage in this attempt to mix political oil and water the pact has received such a severe blow, and I am the more surprised at that blow having been delivered by one who is so experienced in politics as the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt). I thought that the vote which he gave last night confirmed the arrangement Avhich had been made between the two parties.
– It did.
– I regarded that vote as the definite sealing of the arrangement which had been made between the Government and the Opposition. The right honorable member for Balaclava, . in a desire to take advantage of an interjection which was made by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), said that both the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) and I had previously approved of the proposals that Ave are now resisting. Either he spoke with an imperfect knowledge of what happened on a previous occasion, or it was a chance shot.
He incorrectly stated tlie’ position. Subsequent to the placing of proposals similar to these before the people, the Australian Constitution underwent a very great change. The war broke out, and all the powers which were desired by the Commonwealth Parliament were voluntarily surrendered to it. The governments of all the States met in conference in 1915, and solemnly agreed to hand over to this Parliament all the powers requisite to govern this country under war conditions. The great legal authorities in Australia then arrived at a better understanding of the Constitution, and proved that it was not necessary to have the surrender of those powers. The right honorable member for North Sydney, acting upon their suggestion that powers could be taken under the defence of the realm provisions of the Constitution, introduced the War Precautions Act, which gave him complete and absolute power to do what he liked within the borders of Australia.
– And he did what he liked.
– He did it very effectively, and made some of his opponents squirm. In 1919 the right honorable gentleman told the House that, as tho Peace Treaty had been ratified, and the War Precautions Act would lapse in three months, an extension of that act was necessary. He submitted proposals, which met with the approval of all honorable members except the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), and the former member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson), and the War Precautions Act was extended for a. limited period of three years, on the understanding that the right honorable gentleman would call a convention which would discuss the provisions of the Constitution and submit proposals for alterations. That convention was to be held within twelve months, or the powers conferred were to be surrendered. In those exceptional circumstances, honorable members accepted the statement of the right honorable gentleman that he was providing for the aftermath of war, and that the powers of the Commonwealth under the Constitution were insufficient to enable the Government to carry out its duties and control the business affairs of the Commonwealth. It was not a question of altering the constitutional powers, and it is unfair to mention that incident as derogatory to the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) and me.
– The honorable the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), in dealing with this. contentious question, said it was not proposed to take power to enable the Parliament to legislate on questions of hours and wages, because that was not a function of this Parliament. He asked, “ Are these matters really political questions?” If the conditions of labour, including rates of wages, number of hours, and all the other things which deeply affect the lives of the majority of the people of this country are not political questions, then I do not know what are. I recognize the force of the Prime Minister’s contention that it is undesirable that these vexed questions should be a regular part of the debates in this chamber ; but the point is that we cannot at one and the same time be masters of our own destiny and entirely remove this question from the arena of party politics. We may appoint a tribunal which, after investigating the conditions of employment in the great pastoral industry, may give a farreaching decision which may involve most of the primary producers in ruin. In those circumstances would I, and other honorable members who are the direct representatives of the primary producers, be debarred from discussing the question because we are held to have agreed at this stage that it is outside the arena of party politics ? That would place us in an impossible position, and what applies to us as representatives of the primary producers, applies also to those honorable members who represent the industrialists. It is Claimed that this Parliament can appoint tribunals and clothe them with powers, and that if they do not function as we consider they should, we can wipe them out. But that, I submit, is a very drastic thing to do. I am not looking at this amendment from a party point of view; I am not considering who is moving it, or who is opposing it. I recognize that we ought to have some means of controlling a tribunal that we create apart from the drastic one of causing a political, sensation by abolishing it. Even after we have dissolved such a tribunal, and appointed another, there is no guarantee that the second one will not repeat the decisions of the first one. I suggest that the Government should postpone the consideration of this matter, and try to devise a means of taking the question out of the arena of party politics, to the extent that we should not be always debating it, and yet give us more control over tribunals than is provided in this clause. If the Government stands hard and fast, T shall vote for the amendment.
– I have hitherto refrained from speaking on this bill, because I thought the Government was anxious that we should face the country unitedly. We were quite satisfied with the Government’s statement that it was desirous of giving greater powers to this Parliament. When we ask for greater powers for this Parliament, we are merely asking the people to confer powers that should be in the Constitution. The most contentious subject to-night has been that of delegating powers to authorities. The right honorable the Prime Minister said that this was a non-party question. If that is so, the Government ought not to be above accepting suggestions from honorable members, especially when they are in the form of a friendly amendment moved Dy a Government supporter. Why cannot the Government accept the amendment? When this Parliament created an arbitration court, it gave it certain powers and did not interfere with its work. The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Ley) went to the heart of the matter when he asked what would happen if an authority decided on a 60-hour week and the workers of the country, by revolting, brought trade to a stand-still. Under the Government’s proposal this Parliament would be powerless to interfere, except by passing legislation to get rid of the tribunal. If an authority is unreasonable, or makes mistakes that cause industrial upheavals, the people will look to this Parliament to put matters right. Tt is absurd to suggest that the Parliament can pass an act to put itself out of court. If we delegate our power to an authority over which we have no control except by abolishing it, we shall make ourselves the laughing stock of the country. I commend the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) for trying to avoid that danger. At the present time there are the Arbitration Court and the coal tribunal created by this Parliament, but there has been no political interference with their work. Why is it assumed that we shall depart from what has hitherto been our attitude ? We have the power to appoint an arbitration court in each State. This Parliament should have power to deal with any industrial trouble that might arise. As a matter of fact, it has indirect power over industrial matters at present through its Customs and excise department. It may fix a duty that will make or mar an industry, and so increase or decrease the employment available to the people. In that circumstance I can see no reason why it should not have direct power over industrial matters. The Prime Minister said that that would not be advisable, for at election time one political party would outbid the other. But is not that the very essence of politics? The party that submits the most attractive policy to the country is returned to power. In my opinion, the. reason that move interest is taken in .State elections than in “Federal elections is that the State Parliaments have power over industry. The people are much more interested in that than they are in immigration, trade and Customs, defence, and other matters under Commonwealth control. If this Parliament had authority in the industrial field, it would be to the advantage of the Commonwealth. The Government would be well advised to agree to the deletion of the objectionable words. If it intimated to the people quite clearly that the intention was to delegate authority to arbitration courts or wages boards, which would be appointed for a specified period, a good deal of suspicion would be allayed. I believe that the Federal Parliament should be given greater power, but the method by which the Government is seeking it is too cumbersome. We should be much more likely to win the approval of the people by proposing to set up such authorities as arbitration courts and wages boards, on which the workers would be directly represented, than by proposing indefinite authorities over which Parliament would have no proper control.. The working people will undoubtedly object to Parliament passing the direct control of industry over to outside authorities, but they would willingly trust Parliament itself. Five of the States have Labour
Governments at present, and in two of them a 44-hour working week and othergood conditions have been granted by Parliament. The workers in these States are naturally jealous of their position, and they are not likely to do anything that will jeopardize it. It will be difficult to carry these proposals without the support of the people of New South Wales and Queensland. The Government of New South Wales has appointed certain authorities to control industry. Mr. A. B. Piddington, K.C., is the chief industrial commissioner, and a number of other commissioners have been appointed to assist him. The people did not make an outcry when their appointment was announced.
– Oh. yes, they did, because they were all union secretaries.
– Mr. Piddington is not a union secretary, and neither is Mr. Rutledge. I am sorry the Government will not accept the amendment of the right honorable member for Balaclava. I do not think he moved it in a hostile spirit. Its acceptance would allay suspicion, and help to secure widespread approval of the proposals. If the bill is carried in its present form, it will be very difficult to get an affirmative vote at the referendum.
.- I was glad to hear the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) say that he had no intention of accepting the amendment of the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt). The provision relating to the delegation of powers is, in my opinion, the redeeming feature of the bill, and honorable members of the Opposition were quite satisfied with it until this amendment was introduced. Evidently they did not regard it as a fundamental objection. Almost all honorable members who have addressed themselves to this subject have admitted that even if primary power to deal with industrial matters were granted to this Parliament, it could not exercise it directly. It is generally recognized that such matters as fixing the maximum hours of work and the basic wage are not suitable for parliamentary determination.
– I disagree with that.
– I have listened carefully to the interesting and informa tive speeches that have been delivered on the matter, and I have gathered that although there are one or two dissentients, there is a consensus of opinion that it would not be wise for Parliament to fix the maximum hours of work or the basic wage, or deal with other related matters. The New South Wales Parliament recently passed an act which provided for a 44-hour week. Immediately there was a move within the Labour party to secure a 44-hour week throughout Australia. If this Parliament were invested with power to deal directly with these matters what would be the result at the next election ? The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) told us that the Labour party would faithfully obey any mandate from the people. If this Parliament is vested with full power to deal with hours of work, the Labour party of Australia, immediately it gets into power, will have an undoubted mandate to pass legislation providing for a 44-hour working week for the whole of Australia. There is consensus of opinion that such a question does not lend itself to parliamentary determination; and such a law, if passed, would be the result of political pressure, and might have no economical justification whatever. It seems to me that a great amount of legislation has been placed on the statutebook as the result of political pressure rather than of economic necessity. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), in his thoughtful and temperate speech, practically said that the only point involved was the dignity of Parliament, and that if we go to the people with the bill in its present form it will be tantamount to saying to them that we do not trust ourselves or the Parliament. This, he says, is undignified, and humiliating to Parliament. It seems to me that if we recognize that Parliament is not the proper place for for the fixing of hours, since that involves considerable economic research, and we go to the people and say that we want to be indirectly clothed with this power, because we think that the interests of the people will thus be better served, far from humiliating Parliament, we shall be consulting its dignity. There is nothing in the argument of the humiliation of Parliament, and I am exceedingly glad that the Prime Minister has decided to stand to his guns and refuses to accept the amendment.
.- When I hear the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) speak, I always regret the peculiar twist to his mentality, which makes him speak as his interests are served. He is, unfortunately, unaware that the Parliament of South Africa has settled the question of a working week of 44 hours. On the 1st “December, 1924, following the splendid advice given many years ago to a delegation from South Africa by Alfred Deakin, that Parliament promulgated an act granting a working week of 44 hours to every skilled worker in connexion with the building trade. Bricklayers, plasterers, stonemasons, and carpenters thus work 44 hours a week.Further, that Government did not favour overtime, because alternate periods of stress and slackness did not make for the welfare of the community. It realized that continuity of employment was the best foundation on which to build up the nation’s prosperity. Within three months of the promulgation of the act, a council appointed by law, consisting of large employers and contractors, met representatives of the various skilled trades, and that conference endorsed the Government’s decision, and increased the wage in certain districts. If I understood the argument on both sides, an incoming government can destroy existing authorities and appoint others in their stead. Years ago, when the Enabling Federal Act was passed by the State Parliaments, the then Government wished to insert in it the words, “ The salary of the Governor-General may be £10,000.” The late Mr. Graham, and others, including myself, took exception to that, and as a consequence these words were substituted, “ The salary of the Governor-General shall not be more than £10,000.” But for that amendment the Governor-General’s salary to-day would be at least £20,000. That was the result of plain language. We have heard to-night from both sides of the committee that whatever authorities are appointed, other authorities can control, or even destroy them. I should be better pleased if after the words “ establishing authorities,” these simple words were inserted in the clause, “ such authorities may be cancelled, recalled, or eliminated, by a majority vote of the members of the House of Representatives.” Another instance in which the absence of plain language was keenly regretted was when the national Government, in which Sir William Lyne was Minister for Trade and Customs, introduced the tariff into this House. At that time there was an honorable understanding made with Mr.H.V. McKay, who, I regret to say has just died. The tariff, consequently, was not couched in plain language, and when the duty was fixed Mr. McKay obtained the assistance of members of the legal profession, and drove a coach-and-four through the act. Never will I forget the anger evinced by Sir William Lyne when he found he had been deceived by Mr. McKay. I regret that the Prime Minister, who is a man of common-sense and suavity, has not seen fit to postpone this proposal iv. order that wiser counsels might have prevailed and a division of parties been avoided. For the first time in the history of this Parliament, all parties are agreed upon a policy for the welfare of the country, and will unitedly recommend it to the people. I shall support the amendment movedby the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), and I congratulate him upon being again in his proper place on the floor of the House, where his talents can be exercised for the benefit of Australia and to uphold the prestige of Parliament.
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the question (Mr. Watt’s amendment) - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 17
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
.- I move-
That after the word “ combinations “ in paragraph xlii, the words “ (whether composed of individuals or corporations or both)” be inserted.
The object of the amendment is to make it perfectly clear that the power to legislate in regard to trusts and combines includes combinations of individuals and corporations.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That in paragraph xlii the words “ dissolution, regulation and control “ be omitted, and the words “ regulation, control, and dissolution *’ be inserted.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Preamble and Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments, and report,by leave, adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce),by leave, proposed -
That the bill he now read a third time.
Mr.RODGERS (Wannon) [11.24].- An unusual position has arisen which neither the Government nor the Opposition could have foreseen when they arranged to combine in recommending these proposals to the people. There is no official opposition to them, but there is statutory provision that the case for and against any referendum proposal shall be presented to the people. Has the Government any intention of doing that other than by the means provided in the Referendum (Constitution Alteration) Act, No. 2 of 1912, which says- 6a. ( 1 ) If within eight weeks after the passage of the proposed law through both Houses there is forwarded to the Chief Electoral Officer -
The majority of the members who have voted against this proposal cannot reasonably be said to have the same opportunity to present their case concerning the proposed alteration to the Constitution as will the Government, whose ease will be prepared by the Crown Solicitor and other officers of the Crown Law Department. Unless there be some negative votes in another place, it would appear that this onerous duty will devolve wholly upon the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) and myself. We have not contemplated such a task ; but we shall not shirk it. The point also arises, who would constitute the majority in the event of the honorable member for Swan and I not agreeing. A similar constitutional position has never previously arisen in the history of the Commonwealth. In view of the pact between the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government has any suggestion to make for giving expression to the opinions of that great body of people who are opposed to this measure? When, in 1919, certain proposals were submitted to the people, the then Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) did not deem it expedient to present the case for and against. But those were exceptional times, and special legislation was brought in to meet the situation. I understand that a movement is on foot to prepare the case for those who intend to resist the granting of these powers. I suggest to the Prime Minister that it is hardly fair that two laymen in this chamber should have to bear such a responsibility.
– I appreciate the circumstances in which the honorable gentleman finds himself, and recognize that the position must present considerable difficulties to him. I do not think that the honorable member need hold so pessimistic a view regarding the difficulty of determining the majority among those who oppose this measure. In any case, it is possible that, in another place, he may obtain some supporters, and then his difficulties will disappear. The Government is prepared to consider what can be done to assist the honorable gentleman and his colleague in presenting their case to the people. I point out to him, however, that there is on the notice-paper a bill, which has already passed another place, dealing with the question that he has raised. In connexion with that bill he will have an opportunity to express himself regarding the position he has raised.
Mr.Rodgers. - The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) and I, having made our protest in connexion with the second reading, would not now make a further protest but for the fact that it is not clear, under the Constitution, whether a division should not be taken at the third-reading stage.
– Mr. Speaker must be satisfied that, on the motion for the third reading, the statutory majority of the House is in favour of the motion. In any case, he will require to satisfy himself that an absolute majority of the House is in favour of this motion, and therefore it would he advisable to appoint tellers.
Question - That the bill be now read a third time - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 44
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
House adjourned at 11.40 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 June 1926, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1926/19260610_reps_10_113/>.