10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Payment for Work Done in Australia.
– Has the Prime Minister yet received any. reply to his cable relating to payment for work done in Australia on ex-enemy ships?
– Yes, and it is now under consideration by the AttorneyGeneral’s Department.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to the report that the British Economic Committee, in order to assist in getting British preference for Australian and other Empire fresh fruits, has recommended that retailers in Great Britain be compelled to mark commodities as “Foreign” or “Empire”? Will the right honorable gentleman, during his visit to England, endeavour to see that similar legislation is made applicable to other Empire commodities as well as fruits?
– I have seen a copy of the report to which the honorable member refers. The Merchandise Marks Act, passed by the British Parliament within the last two or three months, gives effect to a great extent to the recommendation of the committee. When I am in Great Britain, the marketing of Dominion products and the facilitating of their sale will have my attention.
Per Capita Payments to States.
– In explanation of a question I propose to put to the Prime Minister, I quote from the Sun Pictorial of Saturday last the following paragraph, headed, “Action Deferred, Mr. Bruce Agrees. He will Hear States.”: -
Stawell, Friday. - The Treasurer (Sir
Alexander Peacock) said he had received a telegram to-day from the Under-Treasurer saying the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) had consented to receive requests from interested States on the per capita grant question until June 24. He would not takeany further action until then.
Is that statement correct? If so, has a similar notification been sent to the Premiers or Treasurers of the other States? Does it mean that the decision of the matter by this House will be deferred pending communications from the State Premiers or Treasurers?
– I received a telegram from the Premier ofNew South Wales couched in terms that indicated that he was speaking on behalf of all the State Premiers. It asked if the Government would delay further action with regard to the States Grants Bill until the States had had an opportunity of making representations regarding the measure. To that telegram I replied that the Commonwealth Government was prepared to receive representations either from individual States or from the States as a whole, and that, therefore, no further steps would be taken with regard to the bill until the 22nd June. I have now received a second telegram from the Premier of Mew South Wales, asking that the matter should be delayed to a later date. The Commonwealth Government will be only too pleased to meet the States in any way if they desire to make representations to us, and whatever may be regarded as a fair and reasonable time will be given for the making of such representations. So far as the Commonwealth is concerned, there is no immediate urgency for the legisla tion that the Government has introduced. The bill was brought down at the earliest possible moment, to suit the convenience, not so much of the Commonwealth, as of the States, so that the States might have the longest possible notice of it, and be enabled to make their financial arrangements for the coming year on the proposed new basis. I am in correspondence with the Premier of Mew South Wales on this question at the present moment. I have not communicated with the Treasurer of Victoria. Sir Alexander Peacock’s statement was obviously based upon information supplied to him by the Premier of Mew South Wales, who, no doubt, communicated with the Premiers of all the other States.
Darwin Wharfage Accommodation
– . Some months ago a report was received from Sir George Buchanan on the development of the Morthern Territory. I understand that a further report, dealing with wharfage accommodation at Darwin, was expected. Will the Prime Minister say whether that report has yet been received?
– The communication to which the honorable member refers is not really a report on the development of the Northern Territory, but one containing certain ideas which occurred to Sir George Buchanan during his visit to the Territory, which he has communicated to the Government. The matters dealt with were not those which he was invited here to investigate and report upon. Sir George Buchanan was asked to investigate the port and harbour facilities of Australia, and we have received a cablegram which makes it clear that his report on that subject has been dispatched from Great Britain, and should be received within the next two or three weeks. The reason for the delay in connexion with it is that Sir George Buchanan became very ill after he left Australia, and was laid up for some considerable time.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That the House, at. its rising, adjourn until to-morrow at . ‘! o’clock p.m.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Markets and Migration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the failure of State legislation to effectively suppress the use of revolvers by the criminal classes, he will consider the advisability of placing severe restrictions upon the importation of revolvers and revolver ammunition into the Commonwealth?
– The question raised by the honorable member is one for the consideration of the State authorities, whose powers include any action considered necessary for the suppression of crime.
Public Service : Housing - Gas Supply - Valuation of Melbourne Homes - Allowances
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In connexion with the proposed transfer of officers to Canberra, will he please state whether -
In view of the fact that . the price to be charged for a house at Canberra is much in excess of that charged for a similar house in Melbourne, any allowance is to be made in that regard?
He will promise that a gas supply will be installed before the time of transfer?
The homes of officers in Melbourne willbe purchased without any condition that a house at Canberra must be bought with the money placed to the credit of the officer in the Commonwealth Bank: and also, what will be the method of valuation ?
In the event of an officer being dissatisfied with the valuation of his house, he will be required to make his own arrangements?
An allowance is to be made to all officers, irrespective of salary, to meet the highercost of living and necessary extra expenses which will be incurred: ifso, what allowance is to be made?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
– On the 3rd June, the honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) asked the following questions : -
I am now in a position to furnish the following replies : -
The following papers were presented -
Commonwealth Bank Act - Regulations amended - Statutory rules 1926, No. 71.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Ordinance of 1926 - No. 4 - Industrial Board.
Debate resumed from 11th June (vide page 2998), on motion by Mr. Bruce -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- Last Friday, before the House adjourned, I drew the attention of honorable members to the danger of passing the bill, because, if it were passed and endorsed by the”people, the Commonwealth Government would, in case of a strike, have power to call out the military forces to quell it. All my life I have done my utmost to prevent the military forces of the Commonwealth from ever coining into conflict with the civil populace, and I implore honorable members to do everything in their power to reject the bill. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) last Friday said he was not satisfied that the Commonwealth should be given the drastic powers proposed under the bill; but. as ; » result of the conversation across thechamber which took place between him and the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), his opposition became half-hearted. The Attorney-General gave the assurance that, even if the bill were passed and endorsed by the people at a referendum, it would be subject to the interpretation of the High Court before it could be put into operation. The High Court would have to determine whether this law conflicted in any way with other portions of the Constitution. This report was contained in a Sydney newspaper of Saturday last: -
The Federal Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), said to-day that there appeared to be a misunderstanding in some quarters as to the nature of the constitutional amendments which had been accepted by the House of Representatives. The supposition that the proposals would deprive the States of their present powers was without foundation.
If that is so, then we certainly are wasting our time in discussing these proposals. I take strong exception to putting amendments of the Constitution piecemeal before the electors. Not one quarter of them understand constitutional questions. No matter what proposals are put to the people by referendum, a large number of them will always oppose them, even if, in so doing, they act against their own interests. I commend to the Government the example set, in 1910, by the Labour Government, in bringing about virtual constitutional alterations. The platform on which it was returned to office by a large majority vote, contained such planks as the discontinuance of the per capita payments, the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank, and the payment of defence requirements out of revenue, instead of out of loan, as before. Those questions were easily understood by the people; but how many of thom understand what essential services “ are? Under this bill, if there were a stoppage of essential services, say, in the coal and shipping industries, the Government would have power to take control of thom, as the British Government did in England during tho war. Honorable members on this side of the House, who have had a long experience of disputes between employers and employees, know that they are not capable of hasty settlement.. The eagerness of the Government to do an injury to the trade unionists has led it to act indiscreetly. The Constitution provides that in the event of serious disturbances, the Government of a State may ask the Federal Government to make the services of the Military Forces available. What other power is necessary? The constitutional provision is hedged about with precautions, and is not likely to be used rashly. I have heard some honorable members who support this bill s&v that if the miners will not work, the Commonwealth Government should bc able to send other men into the mine.. Knowing the spirit and determination of the race to which I belong, I say, God help any government that, attempts anything of that kind. Old as I am, T would join in resisting the attempts *oi any men to usurp the place of o there who were endeavouring to got decent conditions of living for themselves and their families. The Commonwealth Government won the last election, not because of any statesmanlike programme submitted to the people, but because of misleading cries. Drunk with power it now brings forward this insulting proposal. There is no need for the extreme measures for which it provides. The Australian people would be the last to resort to the destruction of property or the taking of human life. Unfortunately, some men in politics get an exaggerated idea of their own importance, and that breeds a desire in them to dominate others. If that spirit is allowed to prevail it will bring about Australia’s downfall as it brought about the down.fall of the Roman Empire. I am confident that the electors will not support this proposal. In my electorate during the week-end business men of standing asked me the meaning of the Government constitutional amendments, and told me that they could not be bothered with machinery of the character proposed. They admitted that industrial unrest cannot be prevented by mere repression; we must probe to the root causes, and then find a remedy. Men who are coerced into the acceptance of unfair conditions will never be contented. Give the people liberal laws, and they will be perfectly law abiding. I can find not the slightest justification for this bill. The States have the necessary authority to deal with disturbances, and unless we are to have complete unification the Commonwealth should not trespass on their domain. So long as the States have sovereign rights this Parliament must recognize them. I know that in voting against this measure I shall be giving effect to the wishes of the people of East Sydney. No doubt if the opportunity arose, Ministers would be glad to demonstrate what great men they are : they would call out the soldiers with their gatling guns, and so frighten women and children. There is sufficient power at present to enable the law to be upheld. When trouble occurs in England the authorities endeavour to remove the cause in a legitimate way. That has not always been the case. As a lad I remember troops being sent to Nottingham to quell disturbances. Both my father and grandfather came into conflict with the military because on Kennington Common th ey advocated adult suffrage, but such interference did not prevent the people from obtaining the franchise. The Government would act wisely if it. refrained from submitting” this proposal to thf people. It is doomed to be defeated. Where, is the necessity for the hasty passage of this legislation? We ought to be able to give it calm and deliberate consideration, but we are prevented from doing so. because it has been decided that the bill must reach a. another place by a certain date. Such tactics will not meet with the approval of decent citizens. Some honorable members have unworthy thoughts concerning the action that should be taken against the workers to bring about industrial peace. Wo should pass laws which would be a model to other parts of the world. A cablegram appeared in the press to-day stating that the Imperial Parliament had decided that it was not necessary for a new appointee to the Cabinet to stand for election. That has been the law in Australia for a number of years. Im mediately other nations realize the beneficent effect of laws that we pass they copy them. We should, therefore, he careful of the legislation that wo place upon the statute-book. This bill will not be an inducement to immigrants to come to. Australia. In effect, we say that there are so many people in Australia who will not obey the law that it is necessary to give the Government the power to employ military forces. Is that not a satire on our progress? Thu will not tend to make us a model dominion. When millions of men refused to take up duty in Great Britain as a protest against a reduction in their wages no blood was shed. If a similar protest is made in Australia after this bill becomes law, the Government will rush out the military forces. I cannot understand its attitude. On the platform I shall use much stronger language than I am permitted to use in this House in opposition to the proposal. Do not honorable members see the danger of it, and the tacit admission that those whom they represent are not likely to behave as good citizens should behave? Frequently an election is swayed by issues that are two or three years old, and this may be a factor in deciding the next election. Representatives of country electorates should strenuously oppose the bill. There is no possibility of any disturbance occurring in any of our cities, because in every large gathering of men there are those who exercise a restraining influence upon the hot-headed. All citizens in every well ordered community have a wholesome respect for con stituted civil authority. They regard the policeman as their friend; but they deeply resent any attempt to overawe them. Several years ago, when the military forces were called out during a coalmining dispute in New South Wales, their presence created more trouble than the original disturbance. The electors, at the first opportunity, removed the Government responsible from power. The function of the military forces is not to deal with law abiding trade unionists, who are following the recognized procedure to ensure a settlement of an industrial dispute, but to protect the country from aggression by foreign enemies. Nothing can justify the employment of the military forces in an industrial disturbance, because the civil authority should he supreme. I have nothing to say against military forces as such, but I hope the day is not far distant when they will not be necessary. All forms of government should be on humanitarian lines. There should he as little interference as possible with the liberty of the people. I hope that the Government will not force this obnoxious measure upon the people, because there is always the possibility that an autocratic leader of a government might one day aspire to be another Mussolini. Such a state of affairs should be impossible in Australia. I again enter my protest against the measure. There is no necessity for it, and the Government should not employ its majority in this House to force it through.
.- The bill proposes to amend the Constitution by seeking to add to paragraph v. of section 51 the following paragraph - (v.) a Protecting the interests of the public in case of actual or probable interruption of any essential service.
When there is an interruption of services due to an emergency which the States may be unable or unwilling to control, I agree that the Commonwealth should have power to intervene, but my acquiescence in the principle does not carry me so far as to say that I am prepared to invest, not the High Court, but the Executive for the time being, with the right to determine what is a “ probable “ interruption.
– That would depend on the form of legislation which this House passes. It may leave very little indeed to be determined by the Executive.
– It may; but the Commonwealth should be slow to use such an emergency power. It should be exercised only as a reserve power of the Commonwealth, and not as a power that might be used to drive the States over what they might regard as a precipice.
– Hear, hear !
– I am as solicitous for the welfare of the Commonwealth as any member of the Cabinet is; but I can imagine circumstances under which this power might be gravely abused. I urn not one to lightly place in thehands of the Executive for the time being such an extreme power, which might be indefinitely interpreted.I dislike the word “probable.”
– If that word is not inserted it will be possible to legislate only after the event; in other words, the legislation will apply only after an emergency, and when most of the damage has been done.
– I listened very carefully to the speech delivered by the honorable gentleman on this bill, and on the other referendum proposal. I followed as closely as possible the various arguments which he put forward, and I felt then that I was not in agreement with his view. Fundamentally it is not, the province of the Commonwealth to interpose when it thinks there is a “probable” interruption, or that there will be a ‘‘probable” interruption of essential services. Action would be justified when the interruption had actually occurred. The maintenance of certain services is essential to the national well-being. To enable them to function I am prepared, in cases of emergency, to clothe the Commonwealth with power to intervene. But it is dangerous to invest the Executive with power to determine what constitutes , a probable interruption.
Mr.Latham. - The Executive could not determine that finally. The High Court would haveto say whether the facts amounted to an actual or probable interruption. The position is much the same under the present Arbitration Act; the High Court has to determine whether, on the facts, there is an actual industrial disturbance. Th ere is that necessary limitation.
– The point to be determined is whether the power can be exercised by the Executive without recourse to the High Court.
– Not until legislative sanction is given by Parliament.
– Generally, the legislation which Parliament passes is introduced by an executive which has behind it the majority of the members constituting the Parliament. In the last analysis, action by Parliament is equivalent to action by the Executive. I am anxious to invest the Government with all necessary powers; but I am strongly of the opinion that those powers should not be used except in the gravest emergency, and only when the State is either unwilling or unable to handle the situation. Already a conflict has arisen between the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) and a previous Attorney-General, the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) regarding the extent of the power which will be granted to the Federal authorities if this measure is passed in its present form.
– I do not think so.
– I do. The AttorneyGeneral heard the opinion expressed by the right honorable member for North Sydney, during whose speech I interjected to ask if the Attorney-General concurred in his opinion. The right honorable member said that the powers sought by this measure were far greater than he or the Labour party had ever sought. The Attorney-General replied that while he thought that the right honorable member for North Sydney was mistaken, there would be something in his argument if the words were “ Against actual or probable interruption.” I remind the Attorney-General that the right honorable member for North Sydney was very definite in his opinion regarding the extent of the powers asked for. In all friendliness, I suggest to the Minister that to clear up that point would allay some of the doubts that have arisen in the minds of honorable members on this side.
– I thought that the right honorable member had accepted the opinion I gave.
– I do not think that the Minister expressed , an opinion. He asked me - and I listened carefully to what he said - not to pursue the matter further at that stage. As in its present form the clause is viewed with suspicion, it would be in the interests of the Government for the Attorney-General to make that point clear to the House.
– Having already spoken, unfortunately, I cannot do so.
– To set the public mind at rest, the Attorney-General should take some opportunity to make the position clear. Lack of information is the frequent cause of suspicion, which a straightforward explanation will quickly remove. I suggest to the AttorneyGeneral that the word “probable” be eliminated, or another word substituted. Until some change in that direction is made, I must reserve my decision regarding this bill. I regret that, while the bill is still before the House, the AttorneyGeneral should have spent the week end criticizing the opponents of these referendum proposals through the columns of a certain section of the press.
– The Trade and Commerce Bill has passed this House.
– In last Saturday’s Herald there is a lengthy report of an interview with the Attorney-General regarding these referendum proposals.
– Not regarding the bill now before the House.
– The Minister referred to a bill which has not yet been< passed by Parliament. Of course, if he thinks that he was right in doing so, he is entitled to his opinion. I remind the Attorney-General that in referring to the marriage of extremists on this side with extremists on the other side he was censuring thousands of electors of Kooyong who are opposed to these referendum proposals. I suggest that he discontinue his propaganda at this stage, and wait until the bill has passed both Houses. He should wait until the field is clear, and there is a proper understanding of the difficulties that exist. The Minister spoke of low-grade thinking, and added that these proposals were submited in 1919by the Nationalist party. The honorable gentleman’s remarks were a contribution to low-grade thought, because he did not explain that the proposals submitted in 1919 were necessary to take the place of the War Precautions Act, which was about to expire by effluxion of time, although the conditions which called it into being had not passed. Personally, I shall refrain from making any statement, or attending any meetings in support of any movement in connexion with these proposals while they are still before Parliament. That, I believe, is consistent with my parliamentary duties. I am anxious to assist the Government in connexion with this bill, because I believe that the Federal Government should be clothed with full and absolute power to protect the Commonwealth in a grave emergency after the States have shown that they are either unable or unwilling to do so. But I maintain that such power should be held in reserve, and used only when the States have absolutely failed to protect essential industries of the Commonwealth.
– I feel that I cannot conscientiously support this measure, and, as I shall probably oppose the referendum at a later stage, I regard it as my duty to express in this House my reasons for doing so. I rise solely for that purpose. I do not like the proposals for several reasons. While it is admittedly desirable that the Commonwealth should have full power in any case where a State Government is unable to meet an emergency that may arise, I maintain that that power should be exercised only when a State asks for the assistance of the Commonwealth, as provided for in the Constitution. Although there is much indefiniteness in certain matters regarding the allocation of powers between the Commonwealth and the States, there seems to be no vagueness regarding the duty of the States to preserve law and order within their own spheres. This is, and has been, up to the present time, one of the essential and characteristic duties of a State Government. If the Commonwealth stepped in and relieved the States of that responsibility, there would be a grave - intrusion into what has hitherto been regarded as their unquestioned domain. It has been said by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) that, under the guise of this very small and apparently simple clause, vast powers could be taken by the Commonwealth. That is perfectly plain, when one realizes the various directions in which this power might be applied as occasion arose. The Commonwealth authorities might, in time of emergency, take over practically the whole of the functions of a State Government, Already their tendency, by the exercise of financial and other powers, has been to whittle away more and more of the powers of the States. We are told that it is necessary for the Commonwealth to do what is now proposed, and two occurrences have been referred to in support of that contention - one in Western Australia and one in Great Britain. Coming as I do from a State where a good deal of trouble arose owing to the recent industrial unrest, it may be thought that I, at any rate, would advocate the intervention of the Commonwealth at such a time. But I do not. I believe that when disorder reaches a certain degree of intensity, the only way to overcome it is for the State, and not the Commonwealth authority, to intervene. I am now referring to a case in which it was alleged - I do not admit that it was so - that the State Government itself was in sympathy with the forces that were behind a movement for the dislocation of society; but I maintain that such a crisis should be met, not by the intervention of outside authorities with power such as that vested in the Commonwealth but by bringing the forces of disorder, whether assisted by the State Government or not, into close contact with public opinion. Even the Commonwealth Government, if it were to intervene in such a case, and had not the solid mass of public opinion behind it, would find itself in a very awkward position. I do not wish to approve of the action, or want of action, that characterised the early stages of the industrial disturbance in Western Australia. I do not intend to justify the Premier (Mr. Collier) and his Government in the slackness they exhibited in taking action to suppress the trouble. A large majority of the people of that State repudiated Mr. Collier’s attitude, and strongly objected to it; but, when that public opinion became sufficiently concrete, Mr. Collier was obliged to exercise the powers vested in him for the preservation of law and order in the community. And any other Premier would have to do that in similar circumstances. The State Government took action very effectively, and any government could do it at any time if it were not, for some reason or other, recalcitrant in its duties. When there is a Strong body of public opinion in favour of a certain course of action, a government is forced to take action in conformity with the wishes of the people.
– That may be too late at times.
– Intervention by an outside authority, while it may settle the immediate trouble, may cause more afterwards. It is far better for the public generally to be made to realize its duty to bring pressure to bear upon the State Government. If that Government is apathetic, and regards it as the duty of the Commonwealth to pull the chestnuts out of the fire, it will show indifference regarding matters of public importance ; and when the people find that the State Government is not doing right, they will discover means to bring pressure to bear upon it. They may be slow to act; but they have always moved in the end, and will continue to do so. No better example of this could be furnished than was afforded in the recent disturbance in Great Britain. It has been stated in this House that that great national crisis was settled by the Government itself intervening in. the way that it is now proposed that the Commonwealth should be given power to do. To a certain extent that is true, but not to anything like the same extent as has been suggested. The power and ability of the British Government to settle that trouble arose from the force and authority of concrete public opinion. That strike was broken, not by Government organization, but by the voluntary spirit of the people at large, who - determined that the services of the country should be maintained - organized and offered themselves in immense numbers to ensure that.
– They offered themselves to the Government.
– I realize that the Government assisted to a certain extent by opening recruiting offices, and helping with the transportation of the volunteers ; but, apart from that, private employers called for volunteers and obtained them. I have received by mail to-day a copy of the London Daily Telegraph that was published during the strike, and it contains some very interesting information respecting the volunteers that were organized. The following is an extract from it: -
Up to six o’clock on Tuesday night 12,450 volunteers had enrolled at the Foreign Office hut. The figures for the other enrolment stations in London were not available. In the northern division (Northumberland and Durham) the number of volunteers enrolled is 10,000; in the North Midlands (Warwickshire, Worcester, Herefordshire, Salop, and Staffordshire), 4,000; in the north-eastern area (Yorkshire) 10,000 to 12,000. In regard to the transport situation, trams were running on the services of two companies in the west and north of London. The tubes were generally improving their services, aud had enrolled 3,000 volunteers for driving the trains and other special duties. One tube in particular, the Central London, hoped to have a full service of trains running last evening, or the first thing this morning.
Another paragraph reads -
Twenty thousand volunteers have been registered at Liverpool Town Hall. Sheffield people are rallying to the Government’s call for volunteers, and altogether over 3,400 have enrolled to maintain essential services.
Other reports in this sheet indicate how definitely the public acted in its endeavour to carry on essential services. No doubt the Government had something to do with organizing the volunteers, but public opinion was strongly manifested otherwise. Had public opinion been against the Government it would have been greatly hindered in any remedial measures that it undertook. The Commonwealth Government would not be able to exercise the proposed powers effectively unless the people were sympathetic. Just as public opinion forced a State Government to do its duty, so it could hinder this Government from acting against the public interest. In my opinion, altogether too great a power would be reposed in the Commonwealth Government under this loosely-worded phrase.
– Who would judge as to whether a service was likely to be interrupted ?
– Obviously the authority in whom the power was vested.
– A grave responsibility would rest upon the Government.
– That is so, and a Government clothed with such enormous power might be tempted to use it hastily, though I do not suggest that this Government would do so. The interruption of an essential service is desirable at times, for it compels people to take a proper interest in public affairs. That occurred in the instance to which I have referred. Public apathy was dissipated, and the people generally asserted themselves to the advantage of the whole community.
– The honorable member speaks with sympathy and knowledge.
– I have never maintained here or elsewhere that every strike is wrong. At times direct action is necessary to ensure that justice should be donn to an injured party. Under the power now sought the Government would have to determine whether a service was likely to be interrupted, and if it were interrupted, how long the interruption could be allowed to continue before action should be taken. The Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) said that this would du pend upon the legislation which this Parliament passed after the proposed power was given to it; but the Government having a majority behind it, could take what power it pleased. It has also beer said that this power is necessary if the Government is to carry out the mandate it received from the people at the last election. I disagree with that view It appears to me that all the power necessary to meet such emergencies as arose prior to the last election is already reposed in Parliament. In the Crimes Act, and the power that would be given to it if the important measure that was passed last week is approved by the people, the Government would have all the authority necessary to deal with any crisis. In addition to that, if any State Government finds itself powerless to deal with an emergency and admits it, the Commonwealth Government can intervene under other powers that it possesses. At present, for the reasons J have stated, and in the light of the knowledge I have, I feel that I must vote against the second reading of the bill.
– One cannot help remarking on the inconsistency of honorable members opposite. Last week their slogan was “You must trust the Federal Parliament”. They said that this Parliament should be supreme. They were not willing that the State Parliaments should have exclusive sovereign power over any matters. Consequently they pleaded that the people should be asked to equip the Commonwealth Parliament with overriding power. They urged honorable members on this side of the chamber to vote for the amendment that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) moved, which, subject to the approval of the people, would have given this Parliament supreme power in practically every sphere of activity. But to-day they are arguing differently. Their slogan of last week is apparently forgotten. They are not now willing to trust the national Parliament. But they must either believe in trusting it to the full or in limiting its powers. They cannot have it both ways. In order that we may clarify the present position, let us carry our minds back for a few months prior to the last election. It will be _ within the recollection of honorable members that we were then in the throes of a maritime strike which had no reference to Australian conditions, and did not originate in this country. It was a strike by British seamen against British ship-owners, but it was engineered here by certain extremist officials connected with some of our own maritime unions. Certain action had to be taken at that time, and the Government was faced with a situation in which State authorities refused to give effect to Federal law. This created so serious a position that it was one of the primary reasons which induced the Government to bring about a dissolution of Parliament, and make an appeal to the country to clothe it with powers which it had found itself unable to exercise.
– That is absolutely untrue.
– If the honorable member believes what I have said to be untrue, he must have a very short memory. Whether he admits or denies it, the issue submitted to the electors was that the Commonwealth Government should be given sufficient power to ensure the maintenance of order and good government, and to adopt such measures as would, in its opinion, be the means of bringing about an era of industrial peace. It was recognized by the public at large that the one great essential was industrial peace, not because industrial turmoil is peculiar to this country alone, but because we Avere suffering a partial paralysis of trade, commerce, and industry, as the result of a serious industrial dispute with the consequences of which the Federal Go vernment found it3elf powerless to deal because of its limited authority. The measure now under consideration, the bill which we considered last week, and the Crimes Act, were all introduced in obedience to an absolute mandate given to the Government to take steps to clothe this. Parliament with the powers necessary to deal with industrial troubles and to preserve the peace, order and good government of the country. We have seen some State authorities refusing to act, and others unwilling or afraid to act, and we have had no power to effectively safeguard the country from the menace of civil war which intrial troubles, if carried- to extremes, must inevitably bring about. I candidly confess that I am not very enthusiastic about these measures, and have not a great deal of faith that they will achieve the desired results. I recollect that the matters with which they deal were considered by the various Federal conventions. There was a great conflict of opinion as to the wisdom of the Federation entering into the industrial sphere at all, and at the earlier conventions proposals to enable it to do so were negatived by considerable majorities. Ultimately, a proposal which did clothe the Federal authorities with power to deal with industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of a State was carried, but only by a very small majority. But conditions unforeseen by the delegates to the conventions have developed, and the Government is bringing forward these measures in accordance with its pledges to the electors, and in obedience to a distinct mandate to pass legislation that will enable it to intervene when the State authorities are unable or unwilling to deal with critical situations. Whether this legislation will have the desired effect, time alone will tell. I can see many pitfalls ahead, and latent elements of danger which might lead to even greater troubles than those with which these measures are designed to deal. We can only trust that, ultimately, the good sense of the people will prevail. Personally, I believe that the real remedy for industrial troubles, and their menace to the safety of the community, when carried to the extent of holding up essential services, is in the hands of the labour organizations.
They must get rid of the extremist elements that are continually stirring up strife. I know that those elements are believed by sane leaders of the Labour party to be as great a menace to their own movement as to any section of the community.- If these elements are got rid of, and saner counsels allowed to prevail, I think we shall find in the new spirit that will thus . be infused into tlie unions the real solution of the troubles with which we are confronted to-day. If those controlling labour organizations were to take a lesson from what is done in the United States of America by great labour organizations, they would find the solution of many of their difficulties, and we should have fewer industrial disturbances. The investment of union funds in large industries in which many unionists are employed is encouraged in America. Instead of being dissipated in strike levies and doles in the shape of strike pay, union funds are widely invested in the acquisition of shares in many industries in which unionists are engaged. As a result, the unionists annually receive their share of the profits of the industries in which they are employed, added to the wages they uninterruptedly receive during the year. If we could persuade leaders in the trade union movement in Australia to follow the example of American unions and acquire shares in large companies employing many of their people, the time would soon arrive when they might in a perfectly legitimate way secure a controlling voice in the direction of the affairs of the companies and corporations to which they look for employment.
– Then the honorable member admits that this bill is intended to apply only to working men?
– Not at all. I am speaking of a solution for industrial troubles that may stop the wheels of progress, and, by cutting off essential services, menace the lives of the community. Widespread industrial unrest lets’ loose the activities of the lawless element of the community, who see in such conditions their opportunity for mischief. Only recently we have seen in England how conditions of this kind may lead practically to civil war. ‘It is a great pity that hon orable members opposite do not try to approach the discussion of measures of this kind without attributing base, ulterior motives to their introduction, motives which I am sure have no existence whatever except in their own fertile imagination. I believe that the Government is imbued with a sincere desire to do its best to bring about industrial conditions of which we could all approve. I suppose it is not unnatural for an opposition composed of members who think they are direct representatives of Labour to view with suspicion proposals emanating from those to whom they are opposed, but I believe there is not the slightest ground for any suspicion of ulterior motives on the part of the Government in submitting these measures. What we need to do is to eliminate the feeling of class hatred, which will never get us anywhere. We can never bring about better conditions by setting one class against another, or encouraging & spirit of hatred between classes. What this and other countries need at the present time is mutual forbearance, co-operation, and increased production. With a better underunderstanding between employers and employees we should have increased production, and a better condition of things than prevails at the present time. I strongly commend to honorable members opposite the remarks made by the Right Honorable G. M. Barnes, a British Labour leader, who was a member of the War Cabinet in 1917. The Daily Mail newspaper made an arrangement to send six working men to investigate the reasons for the prosperity of workers in the United States of America, and, in referring to this, Mr. Barnes said -
The mission will enable workmen throughout Britain to learn the secret of greater production and higher wages. The British workman must cease to regard himself as a wage slave with a degrading view of life, and become a better citizen, abandoning the worn-out theories of class conflicts.
The elimination of class conflict and strikes can largely be brought about by the workmen themselves acquiring a controlling interest in the companies by which they are employed. Most of our industrial undertakings are being carried out, not by individual employers, but by corporations of various kinds, whose shares are usually quoted on the stock exchange, and open for anybody to acquire. If a tithe of the sum wasted in strikes and dissipated by unions in many ways were expended by the unionists in acquiring control of companies, we should not only bring about peace and prosperity to our people, but also avoid many of the troubles arising from disputed industrial conditions such as have largely clogged the wheels of industry for the past year. If honorable members opposite would give the Government credit for being sincere in its desire to promote the welfare of this country - nob necessarily by endorsing everything in the Government proposals, but by a constructive criticism of them, freed from the feeling of party rancour or suspicion - I feel sure that we should accomplish something that would truly bo in the interests of the whole community.
.- The honorable member for Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson) has endeavoured to show that this measure proposes to bring peace and prosperity to Australia by enabling the unionists and their employers to settle their differences by meeting round a table over a glass of wine. I wish that I could agree with him. The bill is certainly the most mischievous measure that has ever been submitted to this Parliament. The other day Ave on this side supported legislation dealing with certain amendments of the Constitution. I have ahvays been a unificationist. What I object to is the practice of constantly meddling Avith the Constitution. Of all the previous attempts to amend the Constitution, only one was successful, and that Avas supported by both political parties in this House. No one party has enough weight to carry a referendum embodying amendments to the Constitution.
– Thank the Lord for that!
– We must thank Him, or some one else. During the debate, the taunt of inconsistency has been hurled indiscriminately across the chamber. I should like to ask the honorable member for Lang Avhat Avas his attitude when a previous proposal to amend the Constitution was introduced by a Labour government? At’ that time, he had all that enmity and party feeling that he now advises honorable members on this side to discard.
– I have no enmity for honorable members opposite.
– I mean political enmity.
– I occupied the chair at that time.
– This is a short bill, but it will have an effective sting for the great mass of the people.
– Inw’hat does the honorable member detect the sting?
– In the motive underlying the bill. This legislation will apply to ‘ anything in the nature of a lockout or a strike if, in the Government’s opinion, it interferes with transportation. Are not the State authorities capable of dealing with the transport serviceswithin itsown boundaries?
– The honorable member is not preaching unification now.
– I admit that. What I object to is that we are not taking full poAver and eliminating State divisions. The Government should not attempt to interfere Avith State rights by introducing piecemeal proposals such as these.
– Honorable members supporting the Government blow hot and cold all the time. .
– That is so. At present, at the request of the States, the Commonwealth can assist in suppressing violence. This Government now proposes, without considering the States at all, to take full control when a dispute that interferes Avith transportation arises in any State. What is the history of the administration of such laws as these? This bill is certainly not intended to apply to the financial magnates that control vast corporations in Australia. A certain State Premier once defied the Commonwealth by taking goods out of the control of the Customs, but he was not put into jail or deported. This legislation is intended to instil fear in the hearts of the industrialists of this country. If the honorable member for Lang thinks that threat of imprisonment will prevent the workers from ventilating their grievances and claiming the rights that they are entitled to, he does not in the least understand the psychology of the true Australian. The bill purports not only to extend the powers of Parliament relating to arbitration and conciliation, but also to suppress violence, which action, in practice, would be the imprisonment of those industrialists who have the courage to state their convictions. This is certainly not an olive branch that we are holding out to the workers for the settlement of their industrial troubles. The proposals already passed by this house will meet with scant success at the hands of the people, if they are linked with the measure now before the chamber. The honorable member for Warringah (Sir Granville Ryrie), during his speech, instanced how the men from the bush came down and manned the mines in the electorate of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton). I have a vivid recollection of the trouble that occurred at that time. On one occasion, a National government of New South Wales commandeered the coal mines of that State, and as a result had to pay the coal-owners thousands and thousands of pounds to compensate them for the damage done to the mines. This legislation is intended to give the Commonwealth power to take action, in similar circumstances; but, instead of settling strikes, it will foment them. No industrial disputes have ever been settled by force on the part of either one side or the other. They are usually settled by reasonable men conferring together. The object of this legislation is simply to meddle with little disputes that may arise- in anyState. We know that all disputes, more or less, interfere with transportation and with trade and commerce. The bill, if carried by the Parliament and endorsed by the people, will give the Government power to interfere in disputes in order to ensure the continuance of essential services. Who is to be the interpreter of what is an essential service ? Only the government of the day? This power will be interpreted and administered according to the views of the party in power. My opinion is that industries and essential services have been too much embarrassed by litigation and restraint. Trade unionists, particularly, have expended tens of thousands of pounds in trying to get justice from the Arbitration Court, and because of the delays that have occurred they have been forced to adopt other means of getting their grievances redressed. Yet they are the people against whom this bill is directed. If the Government intended well by the other referendum proposal relating to the trade and commerce powers, in the Constitution it would have been well advised to refrain from bringing forward this bill. Although I believe that this Parliament should have much greater powers than it already possesses, I regard this bill as mischievous, and fraught with danger to the peace, order, and good government of the people of Australia.
– I do not agree with the views of the honorable member for Newcastle. He complained that the bill is vague. During the time I have been a member of this House bills that were much more vague have been passed into law. All statutes are administered, as time goes on, by governments of different political complexions. The honorable member and others seem to see the prison looming in the background of this legislation; but imprisonment is not mentioned in the bill. We are told also that this measure will imperil the other proposal relating to arbitration. It should not do so; the electors can vote for or against each proposal on its merits and without regard to any other issue. In any case, the proposal contained in the bill cannot be translated into law unless it first has the sanction of the majority of the electors. I agree with the Prime Minister that this amendment of the Constitution is vital. The powers now sought are such as every sovereign Parliament should possess, and the need for them has grown considerably in late years. There is no need to dwell upon the recent general strike in Great Britain; but it is within the knowledge of all honorable members and the community at large that within the last few years there has. been a distinct increase in the aggressiveness of strong bodies formed outside Parliament. These include some of the large trade unions, and there is a danger of their usurping the power which the Government should possess. In connexion with the police strike in Victoria a few years ago, Sir John Monash said that his services were at the disposal of his country against any of its enemies, whether they attacked from inside or from outside. That, I submit, is the right attitude for any loyal citizen to adopt. Do members of the Opposition suggest that the Commonwealth Parliament should have power to defend the country only against aggression from outside? With that principle in vogue no country would attack another from outside: and, further, an attack from inside is more difficult to resist. The AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) said that at present the Commonwealth has no power to intervene in a domestic dispute unaccompanied by violence, even if the State authority asked it to do so; therefore, if, by passive resistance, some of the smaller States were cut off from essential supplies, Commonwealth assistance could not now be invoked. Honorable members opposite seem to regard the trade unions as of more importance than the community at large; apparently trade union control is more desirable than control by Parliament, and the interests of a small minority are of much greater importance than those of the majority. From that view T entirely dissent. We have been warned that this bill may react unfavorably on the outside supporters of the Government. I am prepared to take that risk.
– What about the profiteers and exploiters who will not be affected by this legislation?
– This bill does not specifically mention profiteers or exploiters ; it makes no distinction as to the people to whom it applies, and it can operate against the profiteers as effectively as against anybody else. I believe that the Commonwealth Parliament should have this power, regardless of what profiteers or exploiters may say or think. The honorable member for Warringah (Sir Granville Ryrie) said rightly that in an emergency private individuals would probably be invited to assist the Government. That would be the most obvious course to adopt in a country which maintains a very small military force. Without desiring to be provocative, I remind honorable members that the military forces are just as liable to be called upon by the Government as are other citizens; the Government must in an emergency use such powers as it possesses to assert its authority, and probably large numbers of people would offer their help voluntarily, as happened in Great Britain recently. A call to the general public to come to the assistance of the Government would meet with a ready response, and the Australian capacity for initiative would quickly assert itself. We may reflect with a certain amount of satisfaction that when an emergency of this character has been successfully coped with, it is not likely to recur very soon; each time an effort to override the authority of the Government is thwarted, the possibility of future endeavours of the kind succeeding decreases. When the Northern Australian Bill was before the House, and I suggested that certain powers should be left to the commission, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) accused me of desiring to take away from Parliament the power that it now possesses. In the present instance, I am supporting a proposal to give this Parliament very wide powers which at present it lacks. What of the honorable member for East Sydney ? Quite inconsistently, he opposes the grant of additional powers, and declares that they would be used tyrannically. I believe that, whatever may be the fate of the trade and commerce power, that to which this bill relates will be granted to this Parliament; and if at any time it should be necessary to enforce it - which we all hope will not be the case - I hope the Government will not hesitate to do so.
– I do not think that the world holds a parliament elected on a more democratic franchise than is the Commonwealth Parliament. Australia being a democracy, it is surely the responsibility of a parliament elected by all sections of the community to govern. Any limitation upon its power to legislate for the people by whom it was created is Gilbertian. The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) declared himself a unificationist in regard to most matters; but as the party to which he belonged fears that the legislative authority which we are nowseeking for this Parliament might restrict the unlimited power of the unions to override the Government, he is a Staterighter in regard to this bill. He is agreeable to the Commonwealth Parliament having the power that this bill confers, only if it has complete power over everything ; he is not prepared to accept a half loaf. I take it that, if the Government is granted this power and the powers which it is seeking under the other bill, it intends to act fairly towards all sections of the community. Possessing free, democratic principles, it has been making an honest attempt to meet the varying needs of the community and ensure that all sections shall live peaceably together. Arbitration courts have been established to enable the workers to secure an adequate wage. Shops and factories legislation has been passed for the conservation of the health of the workers. Our shipping laws are in advance of those of any other country. We have a Compensation Act which makes provision for workmen who are injured in their employment. An elaborate superannuation scheme has been adopted, and inquiries are at present proceeding into the subject of national insurance. Having made such a determined effort to provide for every section of the community, the Government should have the power to prevent the interruption of any essential service. Lacking that power, it is unable to ensure the continuance of our coal and sugar supplies, and the shipment overseas of our primary products. This is the first power that should be given to any Government, and we cannot claim to be a democratic people if we are not prepared to grant it to the Parliament.
.- This is a very important measure. The actions of the Government indicate that it is trying to walk on two planks. At one time it balances itself on a tory plank, and at another’ time it endeavoui’3 to perform the same feat on what might be termed almost a Labour plank.
– That, at least, shows that it is broad-minded and progressive.
– Not necessarily. There is a reason for it acting thus. Nobody can deny that, because of the peculiar circumstances in which the last election was conducted, honorable members opposite secured a great deal of support from electors who ordinarily vote for Labour candidates.
– The people are becoming more intelligent.
– I regard what occurred as a temporary lapse, from which those clear-thinking men and women will speedily recover. This matter has been reasoned out in the ‘caucus of the Government parties. In that caucus honorable members opposite have said, “ Unless something in the nature of a sop is given to these folk who voted for us at the last election, we have not the slightest hope of retaining their support; and without that support, in the vernacular, ‘ our cake is dough.’” The Crimes Act was neither more nor less than a sop to the tory party, I admit that it has not been put into operation. Although I have not examined the Arbitration Bill in detail, I believe that it will be acceptable to some Labour men in this country. The tory press. honorable members on the Government side of the House, even honorable members of the Opposition, and the two or three different political sections in the country, consider that the first of these referendum proposals are but a repetition of those which the Labour party submitted a few years ago. There is no denying the fact that they contain a greater proportion of Labour’s programme than any other set of proposals which has emanated from the Government party. Now this proposal is offered as a sop to the tories, but I do not think that they will accept it. Without wishing to depreciate the mental calibre of members of the Ministry, I believe that these are the Prime Minister’s ideas, and that they have been impressed upon his followers.
– Is the honorable member opposed to the bill ?
– I am. If it becomes law the Government will seek to establish an organization similar to one that has been established in Great Britain. In my opinion, the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) has obtained his inspiration from what has transpired in Great Britain within the last year or two. A little while ago the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann), said that Mr. Collier, the Labour Premier of Western Australia, was forced to take action to deal with an industrial disturbance on the wharfs at Fremantle, because public opinion could not be resisted. He also said that the staunch nature of the public opinion behind the Imperial Government had led to a cessation of hostilities in that country recently. Even those who most bitterly oppose Mr. Collier and his Government admit that his ability transcends that of any other member of the Legislative Assembly of Western Australia. I repeat that the Prime Minister received his inspiration in regard to this particular proposal from what has happened in
Great Britain. The body to which I intend to refer has been very prominent during that industrial trouble. It is known as the Committee of Organization of Supplies. It was formed with great cunning, and includes some of the most noted admirals who took part in the recent war. On it are Lord Jellicoe, Viscount Falkland, the Earl of Northumberland, and, last but by no means least, Sir Robert Rodd, ex-Ambassador for Great Britain to Italy. Its title would not lead one to associate it with the Fascist movement, and I do not contend that it is identified with that movement; but I say unhesitatingly that it was formed and operated for the purpose of organizing strike breakers. Sir Robert Rodd could, no doubt, give the committee very valuable information in regard to the Fascist movement in Italy, and his advice should prove acceptable to it.
– Does the honorable member not think that there is a legitimate way in which to break a strike ?
– There may, and there may be not. A proof of the fact that there was an association between this organization and the Imperial Government is that the Home Secretary, Sir William Joynson Hicks, received a deputation from it, and gave a favorable reply to its representations. Subsequently he was severely criticized by Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, the Leader of the Labour party in Great Britain.
– That would not “cut” much ice.
– Well, it did. If the honorable member for Herbert ever “ cuts “ as much ice in Australian politics as Mr. Ramsay MacDonald has in British politics, he is due to become famous. Mr. MacDonald criticized the Minister’s attitude, and demanded to know if his statement represented the policy of the Government. I believe that this bill has been inspired by what has happened in Great Britain, where, the organizations were in a position to supply 500,000 voluntary workers, who were really employed as strike-breakers.
– Was not that in the interests of Great Britain?
-It may or may not have been. Speaking from this distance, and, therefore, without an intimate knowledge of all the circumstances, I agree with the view of the principal leaders of
Labour in Great Britain, that it was wrong to declare a general strike at that time.
– It is always wrong to do that.
– It was foolish, in the present industrial state of Great Britain, even to talk about a general strike. We can achieve our purpose without resorting to that weapon, but honorable members should bear in mind that there was much at stake from the point of view of trade unionists in Great Britain when the general strike was declared.
– And there was a lot of Russian money behind it, too.
– The honorable member for Angas is a chattering jackass. If only he were capable of making a reasonably sane interjection, I should be glad to hear and to reply to him.
– I must ask the honorable member for Angas not to interject, and the honorable member for Maribyrnong to withdraw that statement.
– Very well, Mr. Speaker, I withdraw it. Though the right honorable the Prime Minister might say that, in framing this legislation, his Government was not influenced by any outside body, I am satisfied that it meets with the hearty approval of the tory section of the community; but as, apparently, that section is against the other constitutional measure, it is possible that, both will be opposed during the referendum campaign. I disagree with the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. DuncanHughes) that this proposed amendment of the Constitution is acceptable to the people. Perhaps it will find some support from theultra-tories who are opposed to the trade union movement, but the great majority of the 800,000 trade unionists will oppose it. Does the honorable member for Boothby seriously suggest that they are an insignificant section of the people ?
– It does not follow that the whole of them will oppose this measure.
– Assuming that they are unanimous in their views on this subject, their number can be multiplied by three, as representing the average family, so there will be 2,400,000 electors against the proposals. It is as well to remind the honorable member that the trade union movement is stronger in Australia than in any other country in the world.
– I am not questioning that, but I still say that only a small minority of the people will oppose these proposals.
– As a rule, a man does not become a member of a trade union until he has served his apprenticeship in one of the craft unions. When I came, as a raw youth, from the country and sought membership of my trade union, I had to submit my indentures for the approval of the union executive before my application received their endorsement.
– But many trade unionists will vote for this bill.
– I doubt it. They will not regard this referendum in the same light as a political contest in which they have to make a choice between opposing candidates. They will endeavour to ascertain how it will affect trade union interests, and when they realize that under it employers may become associated with an organization that may be used for strike-breaking, they will oppose it. We have only to remember what has occurred in Italy under Mussolini’s dictatorship. The trade union movement there has been virtually destroyed. Even the newspapers hardly dare criticise either Mussolini or his party. The object of the organization in Britain is, as I have shown, to have a body of men and women in a state of preparedness to take the place of trade unionists who go on strike.
– And is not that necessary if essential services are to be maintained ?
– The honorable member for Fawkner is a member of the barristers’ union.
– Yes, and I have no objection to the employment of an understudy for every, unionist. If we refuse work, we have no right to object to others doing it.
– All the understudies in the honorable member’s profession would be members of the close union to which he himself belongs. There are understudies in every trade union available to do all legitimate work. I am speaking of an organization for the employment of persons outside the trade union movement. All the wealthy men of Great Britain are behind the movement there. The recruits come from Oxford and Cambridge, and we may be sure that not many representatives of the horny-handed sons of toil are to be found in those historic seats of learning.
– What would the honorable members do in the event of a forcible interruption of essential services?
– What does, the honorable member for Fawkner mean by a “forcible” interruption?
– Just what I say.
– The honorable member must have at the back of his mind an organization to keep the trains running in the event of an industrial disturbance.
– Are they not regarded as providing essential services? What would the honorable member do?
– I would judge every case on its merits. The honorable member for Fawkner should again examine the Constitution. I believe that, conservative as it is, the Government has the power to do what is sought to be done under this bill.
– It has had this power for 25 years.
– It is so much humbug to pretend that the Commonwealth has not this power. Let honorable members study the Constitution.
– If there is this power already, why oppose this bill?
– Like the honorable member for Fawkner, I believe in dealing with every measure that comes before us on its merits. But how can a man say now what attitude he will adopt towards a strike, lock-out, or disturbance which might occur twenty years hence? To . ask him to decide now is to ask too much. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) said that many strikes have been justified.
– But supposing a strike is not justified ?
– The honorable member for Fawkner can always raise a supposititious case. He was wrong just now when speaking of understudies in the legal profession. They are all members of unions.
– Then if they all went on strike, they could not hand their briefs to some one else.
– Honorable members opposite have spoken of the magnificent work done by trade unions, and of their beneficial influence in the community. If they are sincere in their commendation, how can they believe that trade unionists to-day will bring disaster to the community? Should they not rather take the view that, when trade unionists take part in a strike, it is to redress some wrong. Although a young man at the time, I well remember the maritime strike. The authorities were afraid to call out the volunteers in Melbourne, knowing that many of them were members of trade unions; but they brought men from the country, and placed them under the control of Colonel Tom Price, who gave the historic order - “ Fire low and lay ‘em out.”
– The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) at that time took an active part in politics. I believe that he then had greater sympathy with the workers than he has now. Whatever the merits of the maritime strike, it led to the formation of the Labour party of Australia. It was urged that, instead of endeavouring to achieve their ends by striking, the workers should elect their own representatives to Parliament, and take political action. Since that time, in every Parliament of Australia, there has been a sprinkling of Labour members. In each of the States as well as in the Federal sphere, Labour Governments have been in office. The temporary wave of feeling which influenced the electors at the last election will pass, and again the Labour party will come into its own in this Parliament. As in the Old Country, there is, in Australia, a section of the community which is doing its utmost to divorce the industrial from the political Labour movement. When the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Mr. Baldwin, some time ago, addressed a conference of 2,000 persons in a conservative part of England, he had a mixed reception, because of his action in arranging for the payment of a subsidy of £15,000,000 from the public exchequer to ward off trouble in the coal-mining industry. From one part of the building came the cry - “ Why not act like Mussolini?” Mr. Baldwin’s reply stands to his credit. He answered, “No; the British people will never tolerate a dictator.”
– Whether an individual or an organization?
– There is much greater danger of harm coming from an individual dictator than from an organization. I believe that in the multitude of counsellors there is safety; I am prepared at all times to trust the people. Sometimes they make mistakes; but in time they rectify them. After Mr. Baldwin had left the conference another person who had taken a prominent part in the proceedings asked to be allowed to introduce into the House of Commons a private bill to prevent the trade unionists of Great Britain from contributing to the political funds of the Labour party. That spirit is to be found in Australia. I believe that both industrialists and employers should have the right to contribute to the funds of any political party. Where would honorable members opposite be were it not for the contributions made to their fund by bodies of employers 1 Without such funds, they would not be able to engage in their expensive propaganda. Honorable members prate about the desirability of a ballot of members. The unions frequently resort to that means to obtain the opinion of their members. Matters of importance are discussed at board meetings, and sometimes at general meetings, after which, in some instances, they are submitted to a ballot of members. Action is taken in accordance with the vote. A ballot is taken regarding the amount which the union will contribute to the election fund of the Labour party. I admit that in such cases I always vote “ Yes “. I shall mention one incident to show that force is not always used to obtain justice. About four years ago there was dissatisfaction among the employees in the job printing offices in Melbourne. Failing to obtain satisfaction, the whole of the men, one Friday evening, gave their employers a week’s notice. The master printers then realized the seriousness of the position, with the result that a round-table conference was held, and matters adjusted. No strike took place.
– That is a very shrewd union.
– I admit that. Some honorable members who have no intimate knowledge of the workings of trade unions blame the organizers for all the trouble that occurs. The right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) will remember the late Mr. John Hancock, who, although at one time classed as an agitator, was one of the soundest democrats Victoria has ever known.
– A good fellow.
– For seven years I was closely associated with Mr. Hancock on the board of management of the Typographical Society. He had been associated with the printing industry from boyhood, and was a well-read man who exercised a good influence in the community. So far as Mr. Hancock was concerned, there was no attempt to apply the rule, “ One man, one job “ ; he remained secretary of the Typographical Society until his death. With Mr. Trenwith and Mr. Murphy he conducted the maritime strike in Victoria.
– Faith, Hope and Charity ! Mr. Hancock was Charity.
– Those -who came to understand the real John Hancock no longer branded him as an agitator.
– He realized that all things are possible in a democracy.
– Yes ; he said that. But in those days the voice of democracy had scarcely been heard. I have seen him display magnificent courage in taking charge of a big meeting of turbulent spirits and leading them to reason. He used his talents for the advantage of all; his efforts frequently resulted in peace where otherwise there would have been strikes. Like him, most of the union organizers and secretaries and executive officers desire to attain their objective by peaceable means. But, when they are goaded on, I do not blame them for taking direct action. If honorable members were closely associated with the great body of trade unionists, they would realize that, for the most part, they are fine men and women. I say nothing against the farmer lads who enlisted during the great war. They did their duty. But I am safe in saying that the trade unionists of Australia formed the backbone of the Australian Imperial Force. If the Government attempts to use the iron-heel of oppression it is bound to fail in its purpose. It may have a two-to-one majority in the House, but it will be unable to crush the spirit of the men in the ranks of Labour. They will never humbly submit to any form of tyranny. Trade unionists fear that behind this measure is a desire to organize bodies of strike breakers.
– Then the honorable member opposes the bill not because of what it contains, but because of what he considers is behind it.
– An apparently good rup of tea may contain poison. I am merely drawing my conclusions from past experience. I know what has been done in other countries, and I believe that the inspiration for this measure has been derived from action taken recently in Great Britain.
– Does- the honorable member think that it is intended to treat unionists wrongly ?
– Whether the treatment they may receive is right or wrong depends entirely on the point of view. Some years ago employees in the printing industry in Melbourne were supposed to be very brutal in their industrial methods; but, as a matter of fact, they are a most peaceable body of men. They had their own methods of achieving their objective, and they did so without bloodshed. No working time was lost, and, so far as I remember, there was no financial sacrifice. The words “ probable interruption of any essential service” leave ground for suspicion that the Government cr some other body intends to take action before any trouble arises. The Government, maybe, are standing sponsors for some organization that will take action, as was done in Great Britain, to defeat the workers in their claim for better industrial conditions. The Prime Minister refrained from supplying answers to the various questions submitted by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers).
– My view is, that when there is a “ probable “ interruption of any essential service, the matter comes within the ambit of the jurisdiction of the State; but if it affects more than one State it becomes a Federal matter.
– A probable dispute should be dealt with by the Prime Minister. If he anticipated industrial trouble he should act in the same way as the Prime Minister of Great Britain did, and prevent it.
– If the industrial powers are granted the settlement of the matter will be in the hands of the authorities who may intervene.
– It seems to me that there is a distinct difference between the power sought under the present bill and that asked for under the previous measure. The Government and its supporters are endeavouring to walk on Tory and Labour planks at the same time.
– Is not the honorable member doing the same?
– I think not. I invite the Attorney-General to consider whether, if Australia is threatened by some of the troubles predicted, the Constitution does not already provide sufficient power to enable Commonwealth legislation to be enforced. It seems to me that the bill is superfluous.
– Then why oppose it so strenuously ?
– I am merely having a preliminary “canter” prior to the Government’s proposals being debated on the public platform. I hope then to have something to say on this subject, not only in my own constituency, but also in others. The Labour party was able to give a good account of itself at the last general election, and it can be relied upon to make its influence felt at the referendum. Since this measure emanates from a certain political section, I ask whether it is intended that the powers sought shall be applied to employers and employees alike. I hope that the Prime Minister will take action along the lines adopted by a Minister of Mines in Victoria at one time, when there was an industrial trouble in the mines at Bendigo. The State Minister visited the mines, saw the owners, and told them that if they did not comply with the covenants of their leases, these would be forfeited. The result was that the dispute was settled as if by magic. Is the Prime Minister prepared to adopt that attitude towards the coal-mine owners?
– I have my doubts on the subject.
– How would the honorable member deal with the coal strike?
– Thousands of miners are out of work ; but they are not on strike. Tory Governments have repeatedly “put the boot in,” so far as the workers are concerned, but rarely have they brought employers to book. The coercion act introduced in New South Wales by Sir Gregory Wade, and a similar measure carried in the Victorian Statv Parliament, indicate the class of legislation to be expected from the opponents of Labour. When there is a lockout in a big industry, the hands of men like the Prime Minister are palsied ; but let there be an opportunity to suppress or oppress the workers, and it is availed of at the slightest provocation. The linking of this bill with the referendum proposals will mean its defeat. The Prime Minister has a very mixed following, both in the Parliament and out of it. Although he whipped up his supporters successfully at the last election, unless he has sufficient money for an elaborate propaganda in connexion with the forthcoming referendum, he will be unable to carry the day. I hope that, whatever our differences of opinion may be, we shall conduct the campaign fairly and squarely. I should like to hear a long discussion in the House as to the merits of the proposal, and I should also advocate a considerable interval prior to the voting to enable the people properly to consider the issues. Unless the electors are given a proper opportunity to think these matters out.they will undoubtedly vote “No” to both questions. Nearly three million voters have to be considered, and considerable propaganda will be necessary to inform them properly about the full effect of an affirmative vote. The Labour party submitted its first referendum proposals in 1911, and they were defeated, but when the questions were re-submitted in 1913 the value of the platform propaganda that had been done in 191 1 was proved beyond doubt, for considerably over 100,000 people changed their opinion in the two years. If these questions are submitted to the people in a few weeks’ time the babel of voices that must follow, seeing that the Government is not uanimous on them, and that the Labour party is strongly opposed to one of them, will cause endless confusion, which will undoubtedly mean the defeat of both of them. It is not often that I quote the Age newspaper with approval, but I thoroughly endorse the following sentiments in the leading article in its issue to-day : -
Almost daily the electors are _ being furnished with confirmation of their stead, rygrowing fears that the destinies of the nation were at last election committed to a handful of amateurs. Bills are being produced pellmell, each bearing upon it unmistakable signs of the Parliamentary tyro. And just because the Federal Ministry seems to be modelling its strategy on the proverbial bull at a gate, the thoughtful elector is being driven to remember certain things he was magnanimously prepared to forget. The Government’s attempt at deportation was a legal failure; it was also a humiliation to Nationalism, and to every party supporter. The Crimes Act, if it were put to the test, would probably fare not one whit better.
Why should we be in such a hurry ? Seventy-five members of this House will remain in Australia after the Prime Minister leaves for England. If the matter could be reasonably and deliberately considered in a constitutional session at Canberra, it would undoubtedly be more satisfying. I shall oppose the bill.
.- The insertion of only seventeen words in the Constitution is proposed in this bill, but they are words of supreme importance. In. my opinion, it is imperative that Parliament should have the power that is being sought. It is incredible that, save for the war years, it has been denied it hitherto. While the views expressed by honorable members on both sides of the House with regard to the desirableness of equipping Parliament with these additional powers may be suspect of party bias, I venture to say that, were an outside observer informed that if a situation arose here that led to the suspension of transport by road, rail, or sea, or the cutting off of supplies of food, water, light, heat, or power, on which the safety and health, if not the very lives, of our people depend, this Parliament would have no power to meet it, and could take no steps either to prevent such a tragedy or to restore the interrupted services, but could only implore the various State Governments to act in their own territory, he would say that this was a national Parliament in name only. He would see that it would be quite possible, in such a crisis, for a State
Government to refrain from taking action, or to act without regard to, and not in conformity with, the action of another State, and so render the intended remedy of little avail. A national Parliament with such limited power as this Parliament has under its Constitution is, in fact, not a national Parliament. This bill is complementary to the one that was under consideration here last week. The debate on that occasion centred in the question whether this Parliament should establish authorities to do certain things, or should seek power to act on its own initiative. Honorable members opposed to this measure who participated in that debate used every argument possible to show the advisableness of clothing this Parliament with the most sweeping powers. They assured us that it could be trusted to exercise its authority wisely.
– Irrespective of the party for the time being in power.
– That is so. Yet to-day they are vigorously opposing this bill, which is designed to equip Parliament with adequate power. The Constitution alteration bill already passed, dealt with normal and everyday conditions; but this one deals with abnormal and extraordinary conditions. A most convincing case was stated last week by the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) and the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) for setting up an independent and nonpolitical body, capable of weighing evidence and forming sound judgments, to deal with the ordinary normal conditions; but honorable members opposite stoutly argued that anything and everything should be left to the determination of this Parliament. By what perversion of reasoning can they now turn right round and say that this Parliament is not to be trusted? In effect, they say that Parliament can be trusted to make awards governing wages, working hours, and industrial conditions generally; but cannot be trusted to deal fairly with an interruption of essential services, which may bring the whole nation to its knees. Honorable members who are opposing the submission of this second question to the people lay themselves open to the charge that, while joining with the Government in an effort to secure a better system of industrial arbitration to enable the workers to have their claims for higher wages and other improved conditions settled in a constitutional way, they will do nothing to hinder direct action. They would lead us to believe that in their opinion the Government should stand by and do nothing, while a section of the people interrupt such essential services as transport, food, water, heat, light, and power in order to secure their own ends. Those who supported the previous bill and are opposing this apparently wish to play with a coin which has inscribed on one side of it “ improved arbitration,” and on the other “ the right of direct action.” The only argument - if argument it could be called - that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) used against this bill was that it would lead to terrible disorders in. the body politic. He painted a dreadful wordpicture of what would happen if an armed force were used in Australia to quell an industrial disturbance. Such happenings are absolutely unthinkable in Australia. It appears to me that the only circumstance in which the employment of an armed force would be likely in this country would be to protect those who could not be coerced into hindering the operation of essential services. It has been said by several speakers that it is useless to go to England for examples of what should be done in this country, for we are too democratic to submit to what British people stand. Then let us go to a country which is said to be governed by the workers for the workers, and see what happens there. I refer to Russia. I have in my hand a book entitled The New Russia. It was written by a Labour member of the House of Commons, Mr. Haden Guest. Honorable members may remember that not long ago Mr. Guest investigated the dried fruit production, and revealed the indescribably filthy conditions under which fruit was produced in eastern countries compared with the conditions that prevail in Australia. In his book, Mr. Guest discusses the laws of the Soviet Union, and sets out the various crimes and penalties in their criminal calendar. Wilful murder, he says, is punishable by imprisonment for from three to eight years; but- these are his words - for any action tending’ to prevent or check any normal function of the Government, and any attempt to use Government institutions to the detriment of Government activities in industry, trade, and transport; sabotage of means of transport, aqueducts, public works of any kinds, the death penalty is provided. Whether such interruption is actual or intended, the same punishment is meted out. That is government by the workers for the workers. The interruption of essential services is, in their view, far more heinous than wilful murder. I believe in trade unionism and collective bargaining. I believe that collective bargaining by the worker is just as necessary as organized marketing by the farmer. I have the greatest possible respect for industrious trade unionists who are endeavouring to bring up families, perhaps on the basic wage, or very little more; and I am convinced that the vast majority of them will vote for the first question that is to be submitted to them, for the reason that it will ensure an improved constitutional method of adjusting their grievances; and for the second, for the reason that they are opposed to direct action.
.- No one has taken a greater interest than I in the establishment of the referendum, initiative, and recall. I welcome the referendum or initiative in any form. I regret that this Parliament will not so far trust the people as to endeavour to secure the embodiment of the principle in the Constitution. If it did so, it would comply with the wishes of the people. Recognition of the principle is advancing rapidly in English-speaking countries. I believe that notice of the introduction of a bill to provide for the referendum and initiative has been given in the New South Wales Parliament. A measure for the purpose was passed by the Legislative Assembly of Tasmania, but was rejected by the Legislative Council. It is provided for in the Constitution of the Irish Free State. We have not adopted the principle here. It is only by the kind condescension of the Parliament that the people of Australia are permitted to say “ Yea “ or “ Nay “ to any legislative proposal. I maintain that they should have the right to do so at any time. I commend to honorable members a leading article appearing in to-day’s issue of the Age, a newspaper that has been a tower of strength in the agitation for the adoption of the referendum, initiative, and recall. Ithas done more than any other newspaper in Australia to promote this reform. The article- to which I refer very severely condemns the measures for the amendment of the Constitution proposed by the Government, and the haste with which they are being rushed through. There is no reason why, when the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) goes to England, this Parliament should not deal with many measures of great importance which the country needs. I have confidence that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten), assisted by the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham), could carry on the Government business in this House in the absence of the Prime Minister. The country did not go to rack and ruin when the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) went to England, and in his absence the government was carried on by the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt). It seems to me a slur on Ministers to suggest that they are not fitted to carry on Government business in the absence of 1. out of 112 members of this Parliament. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) has justly said that this is a simple measure consisting practically of one short sentence. But honorable members are aware that the whole intention of an act of Parliament may be defeated by the inclusion or omission of the little word “not.” I have recently addressed many meetings on the subject of the referendum, initiative, and recall, and these have not all been gatherings of Labour supporters. Some have been gatherings of Nationalists and members of the Country party, and they have admitted the force of the arguments I have used in support of the adoption of the referendum and initiative.
– I ask the honorable member not to discuss the general principle of the referendum.
– I addressed a gathering of the Toe H, which honorable members are aware is not a political party, and those to whom I spoke agreed with the views I put before them. Why do not honorable members opposite indicate that they are tired of this piece-meal legislation? In my experience, I have come across only one measure similar to that now under consideration; I refer to a bill introduced by Sir William Irvine into the Victorian Parliament, which was more drastic and severe in the penalties for which it provided than any coercion act of which I have knowledge. It was intended to deal with a strike of railway men in this State.
– That was an interference with an essential service.
– The reason given for the introduction of the bill was the necessity for the suppression of the railway strike. That terrible bill was passed, but when its injustice was discovered, although at the time the Victorian Legislative Council did not contain a single member of the Labour party, the act was repealed unanimously by both Houses of the State Parliament. I have so many doubts about the measure under consideration that I shall do my best to oppose it. The Age of to-day says -
This Government is developing a craze for establishing (bodies over which Parliament and. by sequence, the Australian citizens are to have no control.
If we were sufficiently advanced to adopt the referendum and initiative, the- people would be able to control any Parliament it created. On the public platform, we all recognize that the people possess sovereign power, and there is no member of this House who will not claim that it is an honour to be elected as a servant of the people.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to8 p.m.
– The outstanding feature of the bill before us is the uncertainty and lack of knowledge pertaining to it. The people of Australia have already rejected three bills for the alteration of the Constitution along the lines at present proposed, and I am afraid that they will not have time to thoroughly grasp what is now intended. The rush, we are told, is necessary so that Australia may be represented at the Imperial Conference in England at an early date; but the people must wonder what is behind it all. Is there a nigger hidden behind the wood-pile? If so, why is he there? The old adage, Beware of the Greeks when they carry gifts, seems to be applicable. The bill is a very short one, and clause 2, which is the principal provision, reads as follows : -
Section 51 of the Constitution is altered by inserting after paragraph (v) the following paragraph : -
a. Protecting the interests of the public in case of actual or probable interruption of any essential service.”
The difference between this bill and the measure which the then Premier of Victoria Mr., now Sir William, Irvine rushed through the State Parliament in order to suppress a railway strike is that it is to be referred to the people. But the people will not be able to understand it in the limited time allowed to them. The more I study referendums the more I see how necessary it is to simplify the questions submitted to the electors. On one occasion no less than 47 questions were settled at one referendum in the State of Ohio in the United States of America, and seventeen of them related to agricultural matters. The task of the electors of Ohio was simple, because in the forefront of the platform of the Farming party of the United States of America are the referendum, initiative, and recall. Forty-five questions at one referendum . might be regarded by some as too difficult a task for the electors of Australia, but I doubt it. Australia was the first continent to give every man and woman an equal right to vote at elections for Parliament. Australians have had the longest experience in the world of adult suffrage, and I find that the more experience the electors gain the simpler become the issues placed before them. This bill seems simple enough, but it is extremely difficult to understand. I quite agree with the following statement which appeared in the Age this morning: -
The Government offers practically only one answer - the bills must be “ bullocked “ through. Members may not comprehend them, but they must pass them.
Every Australian democrat owes more to that journal than to any other in Australia because of its advocacy of the referendum, the initiative, and recall. The statement I have quoted from it must give honorable members representing Victorian constituencies cause to think. I well remember Mr. James Howlin Graves, when he was member for Delatite in the Victorian Legislative Assembly, saying, “ Mr. Speaker, old man as I am, I would face any constituency in Victoria with the support of that newspaper at my back.” In those days the Age was the maker of Victorian Parliaments, and it has not yet lost all its power. The only party it has not been able to break up_ is the great Labour party, but by its advocacy of views contrary to ours it has blocked our efforts many times. When it speaks to its readers in this cool and logical language I would not give a snap of the fingers for the passing of this referendum.
– I think that the honorable gentleman over-estimates its importance.
– I do not think so. The Age has been very loyal on two questions - protection and the referendum - for which I shall always be grateful to it. Honorable members well recall that period in Roman history when Caius Gracchus, the tribune of the people, proposed a subdivision of the land, and the Patricians, a party which corresponds with the Nationalists of to-day, put up one of their number to outbid him in their advocacy of the plank which Caius Gracchus and his brother, his predecessor in the tribuneship, had placed before the people. Similarly the Nationalists and Country party combined have taken from the platform of their opponents, the Labour party, four-fifths of the questions which Labour Governments of the past submitted to the electors of the Commonwealth. I cannot see my way to refuse to vote for that fourfifths of our plank. I should vote for it even if the devil himself stood in the way. It is to me a matter for regret that the referendum is likely to fail, for the reason I have already stated. Is it not an argument in favour of the postponement of the whole question until the proposed constitutional session of this Parliament can deal with the whole matter of amending the Constitution ? It needs amending. The people should not have to wait for the permission of this Parliament to vote on any referendum. I should be quite willing to grant the power for which the Attorney-General is asking provided the people had the right to demand its withdrawal if subsequently they found they were suffering under it. Why should not the people have the right to alter the Constitution at any time? Section 181 of the Constitution of that most glorious country called the School House of Europe provides, “ This Constitution can be altered and amended at any time “ ; but the citizens of Australia may change the Constitution of their country only with the permission of Parliament. Honorable members of the Opposition would give the people full power to amend the laws at any time, and, in their hearts, many honorable members supporting the Government would be willing to do so, but they will not say so publicly. I have no doubt that if they were asked on the hustings, “ Are you willing to allow the citizens who create Parliament once in three years the right to make or alter the laws at any time?” their replies would be very guarded indeed, particularly if there were many votes likely to be affected by the answers. Mr. Duncan Gillies, who was a very astute man, once said, “ Any one can fairly well explain away a speech, but it is very hard indeed to explain away a vote.” We are to spend £100,000 on this referendum. Why should we take so many bites at a cherry? Why not say to the people, “ You are the creators of Parliament. We who are elected are merely the creators of a Ministry. We are willing to give you the sole controlling power. Will you accept it? Why cannot we put a number of questions to the people I have already shown that 45 questions were settled at one referendum in Ohio. Why do not we delay this matter until the people of Australia are seized of the full import of the issue submitted to them? How different might the legislation of this country be if, on the eve of an election, the Leader of the Government, having a very difficult question to solve, could say, “ We will leave this question to be settled by the electors on polling day.” I had hoped before this to see carried into law the one plank on which I started my political life, because then I should have had no fear for the future of Australia. The people could settle such n question as the basic wage. They could say whether it would be sufficient for a married man, and enough to enable a single man to mate, and go through life as nature and God intended he should. The people could settle the question of widows’ pensions. They coud declare that every woman should have enough to properly clothe and feed her children.
Provision could be made by which any widow could go to the proper authorities, and say, “ I have so many children, and as my income is only so much I cannot feed them properly.” No honorable member will deny that children to grow healthy must have proper food, shelter and clothing. Why should not a simple question like that be submitted to the people?
– I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the particular amendment of the Constitution which is before the Chair.
– It would require an alteration of the Constitution to permit of such a question being put before the people. I cannot understand why we should at this stage waste £100,000 or more on a referendum, in view of the assurance of the Prime Minister that at the first session of Parliament held at Canberra we shall consider the whole question of the amendment of the Constitution. I sincerely hope that during my lifetime the principle of adult suffrage will be embodied in the Constitution, and thus placed beyond the whim of party politics. It is within the power of the Commonwealth Government, if it so desires, and providing that it has a majority in both Houses, to take from every man or woman in Australia the right to vote. Of course, such a step would not be wise, and I do not suppose that the judicial minds would agree to it. But still it is possible. If the principle of adult suffrage were embodied in the Constitution, imagine the confidence that would be inspired in the people. There could be no alteration, except by their own vote. There are hundreds of questions that could be included in the bill for submission to the people, but I should be content, for the present, to include ten or fifteen. The bill contains only eighteen words, and, therefore, greatly limits the discussion. It can, surely, be likened to a political bran pie - by turning over the bran one gets a surprise packet. The members of the Government are amateurs in politics, but not in creating trouble. The Deportation Act was a legal failure. Does any one think for a moment that if the Crimes Act had .been put to the vote of the people, it would have been adopted ?
General Smuts, the former Prime Minister of South Africa, a man equally as strong as our present Prime Minister, when acting as the mouth-piece of the “ gold and diamond kings “ of that dominion, twice proclaimed martial law. As a result, one unfortunate strike became almost an insurrection. Two statutes were afterwards passed to indemnify the proclaiming of martial law. Dr. Colin Steyn, a member of the South African Parliament, stated on the public platform that under martial law legalized murder had been perpetrated. Acting with others in combination with the Labour party, he was instrumental in consigning General Smuts to the limbo of political oblivion. During that strike thirteen men were deported by General Smuts.
-I would remind the honorable member that we are now dealing with essential services.
– It was a very bad service to deport those men, although it rebounded to the benefit of five of them, who afterwards became members of the South African Parliament, and, as such, part of an essential service for the benefit of the community. The Age, in its leading article, inferred that even the Commonwealth Government would, to a certain extent, be subservient to any authorities that it created, and that there would be no objection to their appointment if the people could terminate their services at will. But, under the proposed amendment of the Constitution, there will be no power to remove these authorities if they are acting contrary to the best interests of Australia.
– Parliament will be able to remove them.
– The Parliament of the day may do so, but my experience is that, once judges are appointed, it is difficult to remove them from office.
– Where there is a will there is a way.
– Of course, a judge of the High Court may be removed from, office, consequent on misconduct and a resolution passed by both Houses of Parliament. But that would be difficult to bring about, and no such case has yet occurred in the history of Australia. I cannot wish the bill the good luck that I extend to three-fourths of the other bill. A spirit of distrust has gone abroad. The leading article in the Age has done much to disturb the voters of Victoria, and they cannot be mollified by any publication in support of the Government’s proposals. Distrust in this case can be likened to the loss of credit to a financial institution. Both will bring destruction in their train. I prophesy that the bill will fail to get the support of a majority of the States or of the total votes.
.- I noticed with interest, before the dinner adjournment, that the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) was standing by, apparently very eager to close this debate. I am a little at a loss to know whether his desire to close it proceeded from a sense of the weight of the arguments that he himself had on hand to crush his political opponents, or whether he felt that the weight of political argument against the bill was crushing it. It would seem, however, that he has either cultivated the virtue of patience, which, the poet tells us, is seldom found in man, or else has concluded that it is better to let the debate run its course and take all the risks. Some members of this party in opposition to the bill have been charged with inconsistency. The charge would be serious if it were not for the fact that those who make it have failed to comply with the well-known principle in equity, that they are required to come into court with clean hands. That observation applies, if not especially, at least directly, to the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), about whom, as the debate proceeds, I shall have a few kindly, well-meant, and corrective observations to make. Under the heading of consistency, I hope that I am not to be associated with the historic royal house that neither learnt nor forgot anything. I have forgotten a great deal in industrial matters, probably a great deal more than the honorable member for Gippsland ever knew, but I hope still to learn a little. I propose to oppose the bill. Generally speaking, in regard to the amendment of the Constitution, I accept as sound, though I am sure that the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) will be surprised to hear it, the dicta laid down by him. On another occasion I recollect him saying of the bill then before the House that it proposed to refer to the people certain amendments of the Constitution “ which, being as it is the fundamental instrument of government under which Australians live, should not be lightly changed.” Again, I remember him saying -
We should be prepared to profit by experience, and to seek to provide for the needs of the present and anticipate, as far ns possible, the requirements of the future. The Constitution is different in character and importance from the rules of a union or articles of an association or company, to which one honorable member referred. Any alteration of the Constitution may have a most profound effect upon the well-being of the people. We should not, therefore, speak or think lightly either of this instrument as it now stands or of the labours of ils founders.
I accept that statement as being sound, and even statesmanlike. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) said this afternoon that he could not understand why for so long the Commonwealth Parliament had neglected to take power to control such essential services as light, air, foodstuffs, transport, water supply, &c.
– I said, not that I could not understand, but that an outside observer probably would not understand.
– I glean from that interjection that the honorable member does understand it, but that he considers that none but a particularly brilliant person would do so. Apparently, this difficulty has presented itself to his mind only since the printing of this bill; it had not previously occurred to him in all the 25 years of the history of the Commonwealth Constitution. I do not know just why the Commonwealth has not taken these additional powers in regard to essential services, unless it is that the people have not experienced any need for their exercise. That strikes me as one possible explanation of their abstinence in this matter. When the honorable member declared that in regard to these services and the safety of the internal life of the Commonwealth we depended upon the goodwill of each individual State, his conclusions were fairly right, but his premises were entirely unsound. The Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), in his speech on this subject quoted paragraph vi. of section 51 of the Constitution, by which this Parliament is given power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth “ with respect to the naval and military defence of the Commonwealth and of the several States, and the control of the forces to execute and maintain the laws of the Commonwealth.” The first part of that power may be taken to refer to defence against external aggression, but the latter part clearly does nothing of the kind, because it vests in this Parliament power to legislate to execute and maintain the laws of the Commonwealth. We have exercised that authority in many ways, perhaps most noticeably and recently by passing an amending Crimes Act to which the Labour party offered very stern opposition. But it follows from that general power under the defence paragraph that this Parliament has authority to police all legislation which the Constitution gives it power to enact. Take, for instance, our industrial powers. While the distinguished gentlemen who occupy the Ministerial bench were sleeping on the job, the Labour party was advocating the extension of the Commonwealth’s industrial powers. We addressed argument to them for about fifteen years before it percolated into their brains, and then, like a man who, starting suddenly from sleep, puts on his trousers back to front, and does not know whether he is going forwards or backwards, they suddenly became alive to the need for an amendment of the Constitution in regard to industrial powers. I point out to the Government that in proportion as this Parliament has extended its industrial power, it has extended also its authority to execute and maintain any laws made in the exercise of that power. If honorable members opposite were to submit to a referendum of the people the question of amplifying this Parliament’s powers in regard to trade and commerce, and other matters .which the Labour party has sought to bring within our legislative competency, they would, with the grant of that extension, incidentally, and to the same extent, augment the Federal policing power to execute and maintain the laws of the Commonwealth. Instead, they, as usual, put the cart before the horse. They now ask for police powers to execute and maintain laws which this Parliament has not the constitutional power to enact. The power to police, execute and maintain laws should be concurrent with the power to make them; so long as this Parliament has the legislative power, it has the policing authority it requires. The’ moment we take policing powers in excess of our legislative powers, we trespass in the domain of the States, and give to them cause for grievance - and I speak not as a States righter, or as one who would defend merely local interests on parochial grounds. In addition to our own power to execute and maintain the laws of the Commonwealth, the States may invoke the aid of the Commonwealth in domestic violence. The Commonwealth has power to use its defence forces to the limit for the protection of the Commonwealth and the States from external violence, but, in regard to domestic violence - some disturbance which, by its very terms, must be confined within the boundaries of a State and in other respects is purely local in character - the proper authority to exercise control is the local authority.
– And it has not failed yet.
– In the 25 years of Federal history the local authority has never failed to exercise that control. The Labour party has a policy for radically remoulding the Commonwealth Constitution upon a unitary system. We believe that there should be one sovereign national Parliament, but that local government is best conducted by local bodies. If there is one function which more than another has been satisfactorily carried on by the local authority during the history of the Commonwealth, it is the policing power exercised by the States. Although we have a system which, being unitary in its character, would, if put into effect, vest in the Commonwealth in the first place an almost absolute power, yet it follows from what I have said that the first duty and desire of the Commonwealth would be to have that power exercised through the provincial authorities to be created in pursuance of its policy. But so long as we have a Federal system we respect it, and so long are we bound to maintain what the Prime Minister in his speech on the Peace Officers Bill called the “fundamental relationships of the Commonwealth and the States.” When the Labour party first sought an amendment of the Constitution it had had at least 10 years of experience of its working, and the pressure of that experience drove us to ask the people to sanction an extension of the powers of this Parliament. We profited by experience, and as broad Australians, regarding the Constitution, not as a sacrosanct instrument, but as a written document evolved by the wisdom of the statesmen of the time - and I give them full credit for the work they did, although I think to a large extent it was done on a wrong principle - we took the view that its enumerated powers should be subject to amendment from time to time to meet the needs arising out of the growth of the Commonwealth. As I have stated that principle from a hundred platforms and on the floor of this House many times, I can consistently apply it to-day in my opposition to this measure. The Government’s proposal to amend the Constitution, as provided for in this bill, does not respond to any test of requirements to which we submitted other proposed amendments. It is designed, apparently, to enable this Parliament to set up a War Precautions Act in time of peace. We had more than enough of the War Precautions Act in time of war. Moreover, we find that whenever this Government has set out to extend its police powers and to interfere in a sphere of law administration which has been satisfactorily occupied for 25 years by the State Governments, it has always done so for party purposes and in a bitter partisan spirit. We are aware of the antagonism that was aroused when the Commonwealth police were first appointed by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), as Prime Minister, and the antipathy which they created in every department of our social life. If we are honest judges of history, we must admit that they were a failure in every respect, except in that they stirred up rancour and ill will among the people. This Government passed the Peace Officers Act and the Crimes Act. Subsequent to the first and prior to the second, the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) delivered a policy speech, and the Governor-General delivered a speech at the opening of this Parliament. In neither of those was a word breathed of the necessity for an amendment of the Constitution along the lines now proposed.
– Nor along any lines.
– Nor along any lines. But the difference between the lines which arc followed by this bill and those of the bill to which I have lent some little support, is that the latter contains provisions which have been noised abroad for fifteen years, and are established in the judgment of the people, mainly as a result of the arguments and experience of the Labour party. I think I am entitled to ask: when did the inspiration come to the Government to seek an amendment of the Constitution to meet this alleged requirement? We may be assisted to a conclusion if we read the speech, which the right honourable the Prime Minister delivered when he introduced the Peace Officers Bill, as reported in Hansard, Vol. III., page 1875. He then said -
When federation was consummated, the intention, as laid down in the Constitution, was that the Commonwealth and thu States should function side by side, co-operating with each other, and co-ordinating their respective powers for the government of Australia. In pursuance of that intention, jurisdiction was given by the Commonwealth to State courts, the enforcement of many of the laws of the Commonwealth was left in the hands of the States, and the Commonwealth operated through State judges and State magistrates, and left it to State officers and .State police to execute judgments and decisions: and enforce penalties made under Commonwealth laws, and generally to carry out other obligations imposed by those laws. Hitherto that has been the fundamental principle underlying tho relations of the Commonwealth and the States; but, during recent months, that principle has not been recognized by some of the State governments.
He then proceeded to give as instances of the non-recognition of that principle some trouble that had arisen in Western Australia, and correspondence that had passed between him and the Premier of New South Wales in regard to the enforcement of the provisions of the Deportation Act. The following was his excuse for invading the domain of the States and taking out of their hands the power which he himself had previously said they should exercise: -
Last night I sent the Premier of New South Whiles the following telegram: -
Following the issue of the proclamation by the Governor-General, that there exists in Australia a serious industrial disturb ance prejudicing or threatening the peace, order, or good government of the Commonwealth, a board has been appointed under sub-section 2 of section 8aa of the Immigration Act 1901-25. Tho board consists of Algernon Stratford Canning, Frederick James Kindon, and Norman de Home Rowland. In pursuance of the common obligations which are cast upon the governments of the Commonwealth and the States to maintain the peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth and States, and the enforcement o! their laws, I shall be glad of an assurance by wire at your earliest convenience that your Government is prepared to lend the Commonwealth such assistance in the enforcement of this act as may be necessary.
This may be a painful memory to the right honorable gentleman, but it is, perhaps, not inapplicable to the present circumstances. Had I been the Premier to whom that telegram was dispatched, J should have regarded it as an act of superlative impertinence on the part of the Prime Minister, and I am pleased to think that I am supported in that opinion by the attitude which Mr. Lang adopted. For the head of any Australian Government, Commonwealth or State, to dictate to another sovereign Government the means by which order within its own borders shall be maintained can, I think, be described only in the terms in which I have described it. I mention this matter because it is one of the few excuses that the Government put forward in the past to justify its entry into a State domain, and its use of its police force to deal with local matters. It was upon “that incident and the Fremantle occurrence that the Prime Minister based his claim that the States had failed to fully exercise their police powers. I shall quote the opening words of the reply of the Premier of New South Wales, which was quoted by the Prime Minister at much greater length, as reported in Hansard, at page 1878. They were as follow : -
I am prepared to see that the laws of the Commonwealth and of the State are observed, but I am not prepared to identify this State or the Labour party with any Nationalist attempt to deport its political and industrial opponents.
That stands as a declaration of not only his rights as a Premier, but also his sound statesmanship. With one other exception that was the only significant incident to which the Prime Minister could point in history in support of his proposal to appoint Commonwealth police; and that action of the Government was afterwards adjudged to have been utterly lawless. The High Court of Australia gave the right honorable gentleman his answer in regard to New South Wales. I was pleased to see that, whilst the Prime Minister was hysterically interfering in matters that much more intimately concerned the State of Western Australia, the Premier of that State maintained law and order, and at the same time a dignified silence. By this hill it is proposed to amend the Constitution to enable the Commonwealth Parliament to make laws protecting the interests of the public in case of actual or probable interruption of any essential services. Has the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) considered the dreadful possibility of the Commonwealth, under a Labour Government, taking over the railways, the shipping services, water supply, light, air, and even butter? Did the honorable member listen with equanimity when, the other night, the right honorable member for North Sydney pictured the possible extent of this power over the essential services, whatever they may be, and did he realize - as i did, without a tremor of anxiety - that it was possible for all those baneful results to follow which he and many other honorable members opposite have in the past so vigorously opposed? Can they not for a moment visualize this power, not as a strike-breaking machine, but as a labour agency for socializing a great many of the essential services of Australia ?
– Hear, hear !
– The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) is a clear thinker. He sees the natural and probable extensive consequences of this bill. If I could be quite certain that this proposal would have that effect, I should give it a greater measure of welcome. Honorable members opposite support the bill because they picture the Government in a seamen’s strike taking charge of the shipping, in spite of the sweated seamen, running the ships between Tasmania and the mainland, and, if necessary, overseas, and calling to their assistance, not only the regular military forces, but also a special army raised by the honorable member for Warringah (Sir Granville Ryrie). They picture every other essential service which is threatened by an agitation on the part of the workers of this country being taken out of the hands of the workers, and placed in the hands of officers appointed under the Peace Officers Act, with the extended powers that are proposed to be given by this bill. It is designed, so we are told, to protect the interests of the community, but since it does not do anything with certainty, or, if it does anything with certainty, it is an unnecessary service for which there has been no ascertained need during the history of federation, it is not attractive to me. What is meant by protecting the interests of the public as a whole in the event of an actual or probable interruption of any essential services? If the policy of the Government is given effect, and if the nation takes over essential services such as water supply, light or air services, I can see the High Court deciding that this law does not empower us to take over such services; that it only clothes us with brief authority to protect them, it may be, not only from the workers, but also from more or less distinguished marauders on the other side. I think it was the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins), who asked the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann), this afternoon, who will be the judge of what constitutes an essential service, and who will determine whether there has been an actual or probable interruption of an essential service ? The honorable member for Perth said that, of course, His Majesty’s Governor in Council will decide that matter. The Executive Council will decide it, no doubt, as it decided certain matters in connexion with the Peace Officers Act, and other legislation to suit the political exigencies of the case. But having done that, the position of the Government will be similar to that which it occupied when the deportation law came before the High Court. That tribunal will be asked to decide whether in fact there was an actual or probable interruption of any essential service, and it might well be held on the question of fact or of mixed fact and law under this provision, that there was no actual or probable interruption of any essential - service. The Commonwealth will then have to foot the bill of costs as in the Walsh-Johnson deportation fiasco.
– Who will bring this question before the High Court?
– Any injured party or.un injured organization. Therefore, [ say that from the point of view of uncertainty, it would be difficult to conceive language that would leave the powers of the Commonwealth more nebulous than this proposed amendment does. My friend the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) chuckled pleasantly a moment ago when I made reference, indirectly, to the interests of the lawyers in this matter. But I see, in the words of this proposed new section, if it ever becomes embedded in the Constitution, a most fruitful field for litigation in which, I am sure, the brethren to which the AttorneyGeneral belongs, will participate on a most generous scale.
– “From the honorable member’s point of view, that ought to be an added argument in favour of the measure.
– But that should not appeal to the people as a whole, and I am sure it will not appeal to the honorable member himself. Being more of a statesman than a lawyer, I do not advocate the bill on those grounds. But let me at once resolve any doubt that might exist in the minds of honorable members as to my attitude to this bill. I think it has a very unpleasant flavour of militarism about it. The other day the honorable member for Warringah (Sir Granville Ryrie) gave us some most unfortunate illustrations as to its probable effect. The honorable member made a most unjustifiable attack upon myself which he only withdrew under strong pressure from you, Mr. Speaker - a pressure which I did not assist in exerting. As I said, he gave some unfortunate instances of how this power might be used. Curiously enough, although, as all amendments of the Constitution should be, this measure is submitted to us as an entirely non-party proposal, all the honorable member’s illustrations had an extraordinarily strong party flavour about them. They all suggested that some disciplinary force, either of laymen or trained militarists, might be exerted against industrialists engaged in a strike, or some sort of industrial agitation which interfered in some way with the comfort of honorable members opposite and their friends. Then, the honorable member quoted the position in England. The Prime Minister also referred to the situation in the Mother
Country, and spoke of the general strike there. I may tell honorable members that I do not believe in the efficacy ot the principle of a general strike. I have, never been able to understand why men who are in work, and drawing their wages, should voluntarily surrender the means by which they may be able to come to the assistance of their fellow workmen, who’ are in the real crucible of industrial trouble. Therefore, I condemn a general strike, but not for the same reason as honorable members opposite may condemn it. I do not condemn it for the general inconvenience that flows from it, because general inconvenience might well be a natural consequence of active redressal of grave wrongs, and the people generally should be prepared to suffer in order that right may be done to any particular class in the community. On the grounds of expediency, however, I feel that, as a general rule, there is very little to be said in favour of what is known as a general strike, and I would have been much more pleased if all- the resources of trade unionism in Great Britain had been employed to sustain the .coal miners of the Mother Country, who are suffering a grievous wrong at the hands of usurpers in England. I would have been better pleased if all the forces of trade unionism had been used to support them in their fight, rather than that they should have been dissipated in a general strike. We heard nothing about essential services when the .coal miners of Great Britain - those men who during the ages have probably been more scandalously sweated and ill-used than any other class in the community - came out from the bowels of the earth and declared that they would not go down again at reduced wages, or work longer hours. We heard nothing then about the need for an emergency measure for the purpose of dragooning the coal owners and royalty mongers into doing their part for the nation’s service. lt ought to have been obvious to most men that an oligarchy in a country, and especially an insular country like Britain, that usurps the land and controls the people on it, and particularly the little oligarchy of profiteers who govern the output of coal, the life-blood of the nation, are as truly slavedrivers in their own country as was Simon Legree when he wielded the lash on the cotton-fields of the United States of America. And yet, as I have remarked, we have heard not a word about them. The general strike is a poor weapon in such circumstances. At one time it was women and children who were driven down into the mines and enslaved. Even infants of six and seven years of age were tied to their toil, away from the sunlight and healthy influences of nature.
– My father was put on to a slack heap as a boy.
– They are the people who concur in this class of legislation, and, but for organized labour, would apply the whip and lash of these so-called essential services and emergency powers. They know it. The right honorable the Prime Minister did not say a word about the coal-mining profiteers. He knows that there has never been a greater crime committed against society than that these men should be permitted to draw their hundreds of thousands out of the blood and tissue of their fellow men in Britain. If the right honorable gentleman was at heart a Britisher as he is superficially, he would rise in indignation, and tell this House and the country the real facts of the case concerning the general strike in Great Britain, what it meant, and what purpose it proposed to serve. If such a condition does not arise here, it will be because Australians, profiting by the experience and the histories of other countries, have set their faces against the degradation of their fellow men, and by their organization have resolved that this kind of thing shall never occur upon Australian soil. But if it did occur, and these gentlemen were in power, if ships were held up at the wharfs because the seamen were sweated below a wage that enabled them to live; if Australian shearers were sweated - fortunately they cannot be because of the organization that supports them - and had to accept a wage that did not enable them to live, or if they were called upon to work under conditions debasing to their common manhood ; if, indeed, any Australian service were hung up as the result of an industrial dispute, at whom would these powers be directed? Judging by the experience of the past, by the policy of this Government and the speeches of honorable members opposite, it would be directed in every instance against the working class; it would bo used as an inspiration to revile the people who do the work which keeps them i:i the places they enjoy.
– Are the shearers sweated to-day?
– No. They are getting a man’s wage; but no thanks are duc to the honorable member or his class. The credit is due to the workers’ own organization, to their history of blood and tears, when men had to slink from shed to shed black-listed by their employers. They have emancipated themselves from the degradation of the past, and have arrived at a condition in which they can square their shoulders like men, and take a man’s part in determining the conditions under which they shall work and the wages they shall receive for their’ services. In the last resort no constitutional powers or legislative authority which the Government might obtain will enable it to coerce the working man to sell his services for less than a living wage. If it becomes necessary in order to obtain justice for the workers for essential services to stop, I say let them stop. The nation as a whole would then know what the minority had been suffering. That would bring home to the people the sufferings which should be borne by the nation as a whole and not by one class only. It will not then be necessary to apply measures of coercion. I stand to-day where I stood in connexion with the other proposal. I stand for amplified powers for the Australian Parliament along the lines laid down by the Labour party - a unitary system that delegates power to local governing authorities. I do not stand for the use of the Constitution to serve the purpose of any political party. I do not stand - and in this respect I am at one with the Attorney-General - for sudden and spasmodic amendments of the Constitution to serve the policy of any particular government. I do not stand for any tinkering with the Federal Constitution unless such alteration has been shown by experience to be necessary. I shall support any proposal necessary to enable Australia to proceed to her natural destiny with greater freedom, and potency. I am opposed to these proposals because they have a. distinctly party flavour and because they are uncertain in their meaning, their incidence, and their probable operation. Up to the present they have not been found necessary. I am opposed to the hill,and shall, therefore, vote against it on the second reading and at every other stage.
– I cannot resist the temptation to offer a few observations on this occasion. First, I desire to congratulate the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) on his eloquent peroration. When the honorable member is speaking on a subject that is near to his heart, he is always splendidly eloquent. But to-night, in discussing the bill itself, he was uncomfortable and unhappy because his heart was not in what he said. And he is not alone in that respect. For the most part he was only “ beating the bush.” When the honorable member really became eloquent it was concerning something that happened long before he was horn, politically. Thank God, those days have passed. The workers were rescued from the wretched conditions to which he referred before nine-tenths of the Labour members in the Parliaments were born, politically.
– They are not rescued yet.
– They were lifted out of those conditions, and the enduring foundations of reform were laid before there was an organized Labour party in Australia. Then the Labour party of 30 years ago came into being - a party comprised of men following sound economic principles. Few men in Australia understood economics as did the men who comprised the Labour party at that time. They now rest from their labours, and others whose ideals are foreign to the best interests of the Labour party have succeeded them. During recent years we have had abounding evidence of that fact.
– The honorable member has found a congenial subject.
– It is a subject that has been near to my heart for many years. The longer I am a member of this House the more my sympathy goes out to honorable members opposite. That is because they need it. At one time we became cross with one another, and they had no kind word to say concerning me. But I have adopted different tactics in recent years; and now, because I know that they are better than those outside
Parliament who control the party, I am wonderfully sympathetic towards honorable members opposite. If they were left to themselves, it would be better for the workers of this country.
– Everything may work out all right in time.
– I believe that. Honorable members opposite are by no means past redemption ; but some people outside Parliament connected with the Labour party are. A few months ago an appeal was made to the people. I felt it to he a great privilege to take part in the campaign. I worked day and night in the interests of the Labour party. On numerous occasions since then sound Labour men of the old school have said to me, “ Thank God your people saved us, because our people could not !” They meant it. The Government really received a mandate from the people to save the Labour party. This bill is to protect the interests of the people of this country. It is long overdue because neither the Commonwealth Parliament nor the Government has the constitutional power to take action when the economic life of the country is threatened from any cause whatever. I appeal to the judgment and conscience of honorable members opposite, and I ask them whether they do not think that the national Parliament should have that power? Do they contend that in the event of a repetition of some of the happenings of recent years the Commonwealth should be powerless to act? Reference has been made to that unparalleled crisis in the Old Country, from which many of us came, and which 1 hope we all love and revere. No statesman has ever shown a greater earnestness or desire to relieve a difficult situation than did Mr. Baldwin, the Prime Minister of England, in connexion with the coal crisis. No finer work was ever done than that performed by the royal commission which was appointed to investigate this very difficult and delicate question.
– Why were its recommendations not carried out?
– Its recommendations were made by men representing all sections of the community. As an experiment in daring and an expression of Christian conscience, they were in advance of anything that had ever been done in any part of the world. Mr. Baldwin gave his assurance that he would do all in his power to carry out those recommendations. Honorable members know that in England bolshevik influences were at work.
Mr.FOSTER. - It is not nonsense. Does the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) know that when the last English Labour conference met in Scarborough, Mr. Ramsay MaeDonald cast everything else aside, and rushed to Scarborough, travelling, I think, by air. The reason for his visit is known to every intelligent working man in Australia. Foreign influences, aided by foreign capital, have been operating in the United Kingdom, to the untold grief of working men and women. When the reckless forces, for which the solid rank and file of Labour were not responsible, were courageously and methodically tackled, why did not Mr. MacDonald, Mr. Thomas, and other colleagues of his sympathetically cooperate with the Government in its endeavour to put an end to the mischief that had been engineered by foreign rebels desirous of disrupting the Empire? Now let us return to the position as we find it in Australia. I speak from the depths of my heart when I say that I desire to see this country saved from economic ruin. I look for the assistance of the Labour party, because I believe that there is an important place for it in the legislative halls. The Commonwealth Ministry, in discharging the obligation placed upon it by reason of the recent mandate from the electors, has no intention to attempt to shake the solid foundations on which the Labour party stands. Each of the proposals is to he submitted to the people in the best interests of all parties. It is useless for honorable members opposite to hark back to the old days, to which they generally refer when they have no other argument to bring forward. Let us look at matters as they are. Every Government proposal that is to be considered this session is intended to consolidate, not to destroy.
– Like the Crimes Bill, for instance?
– And the Deportation Bill ?
– The failure of the Deportation Bill on appeal to the High Court was fortunate, because it has resulted in a better provision for ensuring sane government and national prosperity. We are now trying to substitute for the rotten foundation upon which we have been legislating, the sound principles of political economy that are as enduring as the everlasting hills. The tariff has not, in reality, given the workers increased wages, but has had a reverse effect. It operates in a vicious circle. Strikes and industrial unrest have held up the key industries of the country, making it impossible for Australia to attain that measure of prosperity that would otherwise have been realized.
– What does the honorable member intend to do about it?
– I certainly should not consult the honorable member. He would take everything, and leave nothing for others.
– Is that a Christian spirit ?
– What I say is true, and it hurts me to have to say it. The Navigation Act gives the Australian seaman practically a monopoly-
– Of hard work.
– The honorable member will never be penalized on that account, because he will take care that some one else does the hard work. He will take the hard wages, and there will be no dividends for anybody else. The principle adopted in the Navigation Act made Australian shipping the special preserve of Australian seamen. That would not have been so bad if it had not been abused ; but the least informed persons in the community know that this act has placed heavy burdens upon the primary producers. . Millions of money have been, and are still being, lost by shipping “hold-ups,” and the blame is to be placed at the doors of the rebel element of Labour in Australia that is not restrained by the good element that ought to hold it in check. There is no sanity in the way in which the people are treated, by the wild elements of Labour that have captured the key industries.
– Who are the wild elements?
– The honorable member moves among them, and he knows them better than I do.
– The honorable member does not talk in that manner when he is in Wallaroo.
– But I do. The honorable member was among his followers the last time I met him there, and I spoke somewhat more heatedly than I would have done if he had not been present. As the session proceeds, we have increasing evidence that the Government will complete the “ clean-up “ that was promised at the last election. I call the attention of honorable members to a speech made on the 10th June by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann), in which he described the industrial conditions of America, as stated in. the book The Secret of High Wages, written by Messrs. Austin and Lloyd, two brilliant English engineers, who, entirely at their own expense, went to the United States of America and investigated the labour conditions there. That book contains an object-lesson for Australia. The industrial conditions there are based on sound economic principles, and the workers earn good wages. As their wages increase, the cost of living decreases. I hope that a second and third edition of the book will he published, and that it will be widely circulated in the Commonwealth. If our workers would read it, they would totally alter their attitude towards our industries. The Government, to be true to itself and to the people who elected it, must see that this bill is placed on the statute-book; otherwise it will deserve the reprobation of the people.
– I have but a small contribution to make to the debate. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) accused the honorable member for Batman’ (Mr. Brennan) of beating the bush, whereas he actually examined the bill so closely that there is no need for me to do so. It was the honorable member for Wakefield who was beating the bush. He paid a compliment to the pioneers of the Labour movement of 30 years ago, and said that they were mcn of sound economic views. When those pioneers were laying the foundation of the Labour party, organizing the industrial workers of Australia, and beginning to lift them out of their deplorable conditions, they were strongly opposed, as the honorable member for Batman so eloquently said, by honorable members who are now supporting this Government, and who then supported a government that was responsible for calling out the military and the issuing of such notorious orders as that of “ Fire low, and laythem out.”
– That is not true.
– The facts are recorded in history.
– The foundations of the Labour party’ were laid by the Liberal party.
– I pay a tribute to the early Liberal party for the legislative foundations it laid in Australia, but its mantle fell upon the shoulders of the Labour party. The honorable member for Fawkner and his colleagues have deserted the principles of the old Liberal movement. .
-We have not.
– The Attorney-Gene ral (Mr. Latham), in speaking to the second reading of this bill, made some remarkable admissions. He said that the only laws that could be executed and maintained by the Commonwealth were those based on the powers of the Commonwealth; and that the Commonwealth power which could be used to maintain our laws was contained in section 51 and section 52 of the Constitution. He said that there was no power to deal with stoppages of essential services, because there was no power in the Constitution to pass la.ws with respect to them excepting in connexion with foreign and interstate’ trade and commerce.If that is so, the remedy, as honorable members of the Labour party have been arguing, is to widen the trade and commerce powers of the Commonwealth. We have been dealing for some weeks now with the question of enlarged constitutional powers, and, with one or two exceptions, we have stated quite definitely that, irrespective of what Government may be in office, we will assist in extending the legitimate powers of this Parliament. We have not raised the party question; but it has been raised by this Government. This is, obviously, a party question. It is obviously an echo of the elections - something to save the face of the Prime Minister for his failure to carry out the elaborate promises he then made. He said, with a wave of the hand, “ If you return us to power, we will deal with these industrial problems.” Honorable members of the
Labour party supported the previous bil], for, in their opinion, it will add to the permanent constitutional power of this Parliament. It has been alleged that, to be consistent, we should also support this bill. Our reply is that we are prepared to support any bill that will add to the permanent power of the Commonwealth; but we are not prepared to make a political placard of the Constitution.. We challenge the Government to bring down a bill with the object of amending the Constitution to give this Parliament, every possible power that can be taken; but it is proposing to take not permanent power, but only temporary power for use in a time of emergency. The Constitution has not been amended for 25 years, and it may be another quarter of a century before an attempt will be made to amend it. In that case we should not be wasting our time asking for temporary power to use in a time of emergency; rather should we be seeking an addition to our permanent power. The Government has stated that it is not prepared to ask the people to clothe Parliament with the full power over trade and commerce which it should have, and yet it expects us to support a proposal for a grant of emergency power. That is, obviously, political placarding. Honorable members on this side of the chamber are consistent in opposing this bill, as any one may see who cares to examine our printed platform. We stand for unlimited legislative power for this Parliament to deal with all things pertaining to the development and progress of Australia in time of peace; and for unlimited power for it to use the military for the defence of Australia, subject to only one condition. We hold that no government should have power to enforce military conscription for oversea war service, and that that prohibition should be definitely fixed in our Constitution, and not left to the whim of a transient government. We are consistent in our desire to limit the power of the Parliament to use the forces of militarism. It is obvious that in this case the Government is seeking power to use military forces, and all the forces at its command, not only to maintain the laws of the Commonwealth - which, of course, it is bound to do under its Constitution - but, also, to maintain the laws of the’ States. The States al-
Mr. Scullin. ready have their own local power in the police force, and the right under the Constitution to call upon the Commonwealth for the use of its military forces if they need it. The trouble is that the Prime Minister and the (joGovernment wish to force their military into the States, and to interfere witu their domestic legislation. A pretence has been made that circumstances have arisen which justify this. The challenge to state the definite circumstances brought forth only two suggestions. The charge was flung about in this House last year, and also about the country during the election campaign, that the Labour Government of New South Wales would not give effect to Commonwealth laws. That allegation, notwithstanding that it has been repeated over and over again, is false at its very foundation. There is not one enactment of this Commonwealth of a legitimate, constitutional character which the New South Wales Government has refused to obey. It is true that it refused to have anything to do with certain unlawful proceedings that were attempted. What was the refusal upon which was based the Peace Officers Bill? The justification for that bill given in the House by the Prime Minister was that a request made by him to the Lang Government to appoint a State judge to the tribunal in question had been refused. The Commonwealth Government would not ask one of its own High Court judges to do the dirty work of deporting men who had lived in this country for 30 and 40 years.
– The honorable member is hardly correct. I did not suggest that the Peace Officers Bill was introduced because the New South Wales Government refused to. appoint one of its judges to the tribunal.
– The right honorable gentleman, in debates in this House, and also in speeches on the hustings, used that as an argument for the appointment of peace officers.
– If the honorable member will read my speeches again, he will see that it was not so.
– I heard the Prime Minister’s speeches in this House, and read newspaper reports of dozens that he. delivered during the campaign, and he stressed the point that, owing to the refusal of the Lang Government to lend their judges to the despicable work of a political character, the introduction of the Peace Officers Bill was necessary.
Mr.BRUCE. - In fairness to myself, I think the honorable member will allow me to say that I have not, on amy occasion, either in this House or when campaigning in the country, suggested that the reason for the introduction of that bill was that the Lang Government would not allow one of their judges to act on the tribunal.
– Nothing else could be drawn, by inference, from the charges that were made against the Lang Government here and outside. This bill does not deal with the permanent power of this Parliament; but simply with special circumstances - something probable, visionary, imaginary. Legitimate laws that are passed by this Parliament can be maintained by all the forces of the nation. The laws of a State oan be maintained by the force at the command of the State; and the States may request assistance from the Commonwealth. If this Parliament desires to enforce more laws than it has the power to make to-day, it should seek permanent power to pass those laws. That is a legitimate position for those of us who believe that it should have unlimited powers to take up. The objection that I and other honorable members on this side of the House have to this bill is that it does nothing to increase or extend the permanent powers of this Parliament. Its endorsement by us would simply be an endorsement of the deportation proceedings and the whole fiasco that surrounded them. It would be giving approval to the amendment of the Crimes Act, which I think is a disgrace to the statute-book of the Commonwealth.
– The honorable member must not speak disrespectfully of a statute passed by this Parliament.
– Then I shall say that I hope the day is not far distant when a government with a better and broader outlook than the present Government will remove that law from the statute-book of Australia. The permanent powers asked for in the previous bill will enable this Parliament to do good and useful work for Australia. Whether or not it will be done by this Parliament I cannot say, but it will be done in parliaments to come. Therefore, I stand by that bill, and the powers for which it asks. But if we gave the bill before us our support it would mean our endorsement of the Crimes Act and of the recent deportation proceedings. That I am not prepared to do. I do not think any honorable member of the Labour party ought to be asked to do so. Further than that, this is a provocative measure. It weakens the chances of carrying any real genuine extension of the powers of the Commonwealth. Briefly, I believe that the Commonwealth Parliament should have extended powers of a permanent character, and I am prepared to lend my aid to that end, but I must ask honorable members to vote against a hill that will weaken the chances of carrying a measure which will be of real value to the people of this country if the powers for which it seeks are properly exercised.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Gregory) adjourned.
States Grants Bill : Statement by Sir Alexander Peacock.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
I should like to correct some information that I gave to-day to the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey) about a statement made by Sir Alexander Peacock, Treasurer of the State of Victoria, regarding the postponement of the debate on the second reading of the bill to provide for the abolition of the per capita payments to the States. I told the honorable member that probably Mr. Lang, the Premier of New South Wales, to whom I had telegraphed in reply to a communication he had sent to me, had conveyed the information to Sir Alexander Peacock. I have since ascertained that the bill and certain other documents were sent to the Treasurer of the State of Victoria. They would reach him on Friday, and his statement, made on the following day, was moat likely based on the information he had thus received, and not upon any telegram dispatched to Mr. Lang and subsequently communicated to him.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.4 p.m
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 June 1926, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1926/19260614_reps_10_113/>.