House of Representatives
28 March 1930

12th Parliament · 1st Session

Mr. Speaker (Hon. Norman Makin) took the chair at 11 a.m., and offered prayers.

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– I ask the Prime Minister whether the newspaper report is correct that the Government proposes to summon a conference of representatives of the coal-mining industry in Sydney to-morrow? If so, what is the object of the conference! Does the Government propose to pay a subsidy on the coal produced and if so, to whom is it to be paid, and upon what conditions)

Minister for External Affairs · YARRA, VICTORIA · ALP

– I have asked the representatives of the mine owners and the miners to meet me in conference at the Commonwealth Sank, Sydney, to-morrow morning in order to endeavour to reaoh a settlement of the prolonged dispute. I have no cut and dried proposal to submit to the delegates. So far as the offer of a subsidy is concerned, the positionhas not altered since I replied to a question on this subject earlier this week.


– In the event of the Government deciding to pay a subsidy on coal produced on the northern fields of New SouthWales, will the Government give similar assistance to the coal-mining industry in Queensland and other States?


-I am merely calling the parties together in the hope of arranging a settlement, and at this stage a discussion of details is inadvisable.

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Mr.CORSER.- Having regard to the great amount of unemployment caused by the increased importation of foreign timbers, will the Acting-Minister for Trade and Customs consider the advisability of placing an embargo on the importation of other than log timbers?


-The future of she limber industry is receiving the consideration of the Government, and it would be unwise to indicate what further measure of protection, if any, will be proposed.

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– I ask the Prime Minister whether, in order to re-assure the smaller vine-growers, he will state what provision the Government is making to prevent the wine-makers from paying reduced prices for grapes for wine to he sold on the Australian market, and so making the growers the real victims of the increased excise duty on fortifying spirit ?


– This morning a deputation from the Viticultural Council conveyed to me the resolutions carried at the recent conference of that body. The first, resolution approves of the Government proposal to pay the increased excise duty into a special fund to he used for the stabilization of the industry. A second resolution, while expressing certain apprehensions regarding the additional imposts, assured the Government of the hearty co-operation of the Council in its efforts to stabilize the industry. The deputation discussed the point raised by the honorable member; I am unable to say what steps, if any, will be or can be taken, but the Viticultural Council and the Government are impressed with the need for ensuring that the growers receive from every wine-maker fair prices for their grapes.

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Effect on Primary Industries - Bronze Sheets.


– I have received from Western Australia the following telegram : -

Large and representative meeting of wheat and wool growers held at Beverley to-day, having considered the Prime Minister’s broadcast message, support any pressure by you for the modification of tariffs affecting the wheat and wool industries so as to encourage production and stimulate the marketing of these commodities, Australia being more dependent on their export results than those of the sheltered interests.

Can the Prime Minister promise any modification of the high costs caused by tariff increases, or suggest any method by which the cost of production may be reduced ?


– I cannot promise any modification of the protectionist policy of the Government, but I assure the honorable member that the Government is keeping a close watch on the manufacturers to see that the increased duties are not passed on to the primary producers. I hope and believe that the extension of Australian industries will result in a reduction rather than an increase of the imposts on primary production.


– Has the ActingMinister for Trade and Customs read a statement in the Canberra Times that British producers of bronze sheets have refused supplies to manufacturers in Australia, and that when the latter sought to buy on the Continent, British influence prevented them from getting the raw material for their industries?

Assistant Minister assisting the Minister for Customs · CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND · ALP

– I have seen the paragraph and inquiries are being made regarding it.

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Parliament House Roof - Case of Police Sergeant Shepherd

through Mr. C. Riley

asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -

  1. What was the estimated cost of roofing Parliament House, Canberra, and what is the total cost to date?
  2. What were the names of the successful tenderers ?
  3. Was the roofing successful and did it keep out the rain ?
  4. Was any sum of money deducted from the amount owing to the contractor or contractors; if so, what was the sum and what are the names of the contractors concerned?
  5. Were they asked to complete andperfect the work.
  6. What was the estimate and what was the actual cost of putting 80 tons of gravel on a certain portion of the roof?
  7. Was the purpose of placing this huge weight of gravel to hide the defects of the roof or was it to stop rain going through?
  8. Has it stopped rain percolating through the gravelled roof?
  9. Who were the contractors who put the gravel on?
  10. Has any money been withheld to secure the roof being made rainproof?

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -

  1. No separate estimate of the cost of the roofing of Parliament House was prepared, and its cost was included in that for the building. The estimated cost of covering the concrete roof with bituminous material was as follows: - .

    1. Covering the roof with R.O.K. or malthoid, £4,549 2s. 6d.
    2. Similar treatment of covered ways, £22111s.
    3. Val de Travers or Neuchatel asphalt, as an alternative, £5,35719s.

The total expenditure to date in connexion with the covering of the roof, repairs, and improvements is £6,865 19s. 3d. This does not include the cost of the covered ways, which work was carried out in conjunction with the main building, separate cost not being available.

  1. This information was supplied to the honorable member in answer to a similar question on the 22nd February, 1929.
  2. At first, no; after repairs, yes, with the exception of three places, the defects of which have been remedied by the contractors without cost to the Government, under the terms of their guarantee. In a flat roof having such a large area, difficulties of this kind are to be expected and maintenance work must be undertaken periodically.
  3. This information was supplied to the honorable member in answer toa similar question on 11th March, 1929.
  4. This information was supplied to the honorable member in answer to a similar question on 12th September, 1928.
  5. The estimated cost was £462. The actual cost was £448 7s. 4d.
  6. This information was supplied to the honorable member in answer to a similar question on 22nd February, 1929.
  7. See answer to 3.
  8. Messrs. Noyes Brothers (Sydney) Limited, whose guarantee still covers the work. Gravel was supplied by the Federal Capital Commission.
  9. An amount of £50 was withheld. In addition, the commission holds a written guarantee from the contractor for the period of five years.
through Mr. 0. Riley

asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -

Has his attention been drawn to the report of a civil action in which a citizen of Canberra was successful in proving wrongful arrest by Sergeant Shepherd, of the Commonwealth police; it so, does he propose to take any action in the matter?


– My attention has been drawn to the matter. So far as the civil action is concerned, it is a matter between the parties, with which I have no concern. So far as the facts involved concern police administration, the matter is being looked into.

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asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -

  1. Is there any officer in his department or any other department who examines (a) the annual reports and balance-sheets and/or (b) the accounts of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited?
  2. Have the directors who represent the Commonwealth’s large interest in the company reported at any time to the Government, and, if so, are such reports available?
  3. Has his department or any other Commonwealth department copies of the annual reports and balance-sheets of the company; ii so, for what years, are they filed, and are they available for inspection ?
Minister for Works and Railways · WILMOT, TASMANIA · ALP

– Inquiries are being made and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as soon as possible.

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through Mr. C. Riley

asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -

  1. What are the names of the members of the River Murray Commission?
  2. Are there any salaries or allowances paid to them?
  3. If so, what amounts have been paid to each commissioner to date?

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -

  1. Commonwealth: Senator the Hon. John Barnes (President), Mr. T. Hill, O.B.E., M.V.I.E., A.M.I.E. Aust. (Deputy Commissioner). New South Wales: Mr. H. H. Dare. M.E., M. Inst. C.E., M.I.E. Aust. Victoria: Mr. R. H. Horsfield, M. Inst. C.E., M.I.E. Aust. South Australia: Mr. J. H.O. Eaton, M. Inst. C.E., M.I.E. Aust.
  2. Payment of salary and expenses is made to each commissioner by the contracting government which he represents. I am not in a position to state what salary is paid by the Governments of New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia to the officers representing them respectively on the River Murray Commission, nor can I furnish information as to whether any allowances are paid to these officers in respect of any duties arising out of such representation. The Commonwealth Government has paid no allowances to its representatives on the commission.
  3. See answer to No. 2.

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Promotion of Officers


asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -

  1. In reference to paragraph 4 (a) of his answer of the 19th inst. to the question by the honorable member for Corangamite on the promotion of officers in the Royal Australian Navy, what are the ranks of the twelve officers referred to as on loan, and has each of them met the requirements referred to in paragraph 2 of his reply?
  2. As to the fifteen officers who have passed fur promotion us set out in paragraph 2, and who have not been promoted, is it desirable that their promotion should be accelerated rather than have officers on loan?
  3. Is it a practice in the Royal Navy to give accelerated promotion occasionally; if so, why is such accelerated promotion not given under the circumstances to Australian officers?
through Mr. Blakeley

– The information is being obtained, and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as soon as possible.

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asked the Treasurer, upon notice -

  1. Whether mine-owners may export gold bullion, the product of the mine, and secure full advantage of the exchange position, or is the export of such bullion controlled by recent legislation relating to the export of gold?
  2. If the export of gold bullion is controlled, what price is paid the producer per fine ounce of gold?

– Arrangements have been made under which the gold producers will deliver their gold to the Commonwealth Bank, and will receive the benefit of any premium obtainable on the gold. It is desirable that all the gold produced should be delivered to the Commonwealth Bank in order that the best use may be made of it. Recent legislation gives power to control export of gold, but it has not been necessary to exercise that power, as mutually satisfactory arrangements have been made in regard to the existing stocks of gold and the new production of gold.

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asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -

In view of the growing importance of the whaling industry to the people of Australia, and the danger of reckless slaughter of whales by foreign companies in Australian waters, will he make the necessary inquiries with a view to safeguarding the Austin Man interests in this industry?


– The Commonwealth Government for some time past has been giving careful attention to the question of the international regulation of whaling, and has been in consultation with the British Government on the subject. A committee of experts, called together by the Economic Committee of the League of Nations, is meeting at Geneva on 3rd April next to consider: - (a) Whether the problem of the regulation of whaling can be solved by an international convention; and (b) by what sort of convention. The British Government propose to submit to the committee a draft convention with which the Commonwealth Government is in accord. The Commonwealth Government has prepared a memorandum of the Australian aspect of the matter for the guidance of the British member of the committee.

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asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -

  1. Whether arrangements have yet been completed for the payment to returning oflicers of a certain amount as compensation for the additional work entailed by the conduct of the recent general elections.
  2. If so, how much?
  3. If no amount has been paid or arranged, what does he propose to do in this matter ?

– The matter was referred to the Public Service Board, which advised that no additional payment to these officers was warranted. In determination No. 28 of 1928, the Public Service Arbitrator stated “ Divisional Returning Officers, being officers not under supervision, do not receive any pay for overtime. It has always been understood that before, and for some time after, a Commonwealth election a certain amount of overtime work is inevitable, and that circumstances has been a factor in the fixation of salaries”. The matter was further considered by the Government, which decided that it could not approve of any increase in the remuneration of the officers concerned.

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asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -

  1. Is it a fact that Mr. A. L. Turner, of Sydney, is travelling to Europe on the SS. Runic in charge of a consignment of fauna, included in which are 100 marsupials?
  2. If so, has Mr. Turner or any one else obtained a permit for this export?
  3. As it is stated that the marsupials are for the Liverpool Zoological Gardens, have any inquiries been made as to whether such a large consignment is required at that one institution ?

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -

  1. It is understood that Mr. Turner is on his way to England, butI am not aware of his having 100 marsupials.
  2. Mr. Turner got permission to takefive kangaroos, bred in captivity; and it is usual to allow up to ten, bred in captivity, to be taken by any one breeder per annum.
  3. Inquiries will be made.

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Prime Minister · Yarra · ALP

by leave. - The Government has appointed the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) its delegate to the forthcoming International Labour Conference at Geneva. The choice has fallen on him because the Government has been impressed with the wide knowledge of international affairs that he has displayed and the close touch he has kept with the work of the League of Nations, and particularly with the work of this important branch of its operations.

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In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :

Motion (by Mr. Forde) agreed to -

That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to provide for the payment of bounties on the production of seed cotton, lint and cotton yarn and for other purposes.

Resolution reported.

Motion (by Mr. Forde) agreed to -

That the Standing Orders be suspended to enable the remaining stages to be passed without delay.

Resolution adopted.

Ordered -

That Mr. Forde and Mr. Theodore do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.

Bill brought in by Mr. Forde, and read a first time.

Second Reading

ActingMinister for Trade and Customs · Capricornia · ALP

.- I move-

That the bill be now read a second time.

This bill repeals, as recommended by the Tariff Board, the existing Cotton Bounty Act of 1926 which in the ordinary course would expire on the 15 th August, 1931. It provides for the present bounty of1½d. per lb. on seed cotton and onethird of a penny per count per lb. on cotton yarn to be continued to the end of the 1932 season. The rates of bounty will then diminish each year after 1932 to the end of the 1936 season. In that year all cotton bounties will cease, and both branches of the industry, will, with adequate tariff protection, be able to stand on their own feet. That is also the object of this Government in regard to other industries which are now enjoying bounties. The spinners have agreed to sign a legal agreement to the effect that they will pay a price of 5d. per lb. for seed cotton for the period of the new scheme, up to and including the 1936 season. At a conference that I arranged in Canberra some weeks ago the representatives of the cotton-growers, the Queensland Cotton Pool Board, the spinning interests and the Commonwealth and State Governments agreed that this scheme would be acceptable to all concerned. Both the spinners and the growers’ representatives were well satisfied with it.

In deciding to introduce this bill, the Governmentwas influenced by two main factors. In the first place, Australia is passing through a period of depression, and has an unfavorable trade balance, and we must rectify that trade balance by reducing our imports and increasing our local manufactures and exports. Australia is importing approximately £11,000,000 worth of cotton goods per annum, and probably another £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 worth of cotton is imported as part of the fabric of other commodities. So there is plenty of scope for the building up of Australian industries to enable us to manufacture our own cotton goods instead of importing them from other countries. A close inspection of the various items of the cotton importation indicates that there should be comparatively little difficulty in having at least £7,000,000 worth of that £11,000,000 worth of imported cotton goods efficiently and economically manufactured in Australia within a few years, so long as a sufficient measure of bounty is given for a limited period, that is, up to 1936. Then the industry should be able to carry on with tariff protection.

The result of that would be greatly increased employment in Australia. A large number of Queensland workers who are employed in the sugar fields for several months of the year would, in the earlier part of the year, be able to find employment in the cotton fields, picking cotton. At the present time approximately 3,500 cotton pickers obtain seasonal employment in the industry. It is estimated that, with the development that will take place because of the price of seed cotton being stabilized, there will within five years be from 25,000 to 30,000 men obtaining seasonal employment in this industry. Our difficulty in Australia to-day is that our imports are more than our exports by £40,000,000 per annum, and while that difficulty will be accentuated by the continued purchase of foreign articles not essential to Australian industry, it will be diminished by increased Australian production, and that is what is aimed at by this bill. How are we to get through this period of re-organization and re-adjustment? We cannot do it by standing still. It is of no use talking pessimistically of the future and saying that this is not the time to start industries. It is only by the Commonwealth and State Governments, and those who are in a position to invest capital in industry, doing their utmost to establish new industries that Australia will be helped to carry through this lean period.

Mr Prowse:

– The point is whether the capitalists will help.


– The honorable member probably would prefer to continue the cry of pessimism, but the Government believes that healthy optimism is much more likely to help this country through its difficulties. By the judicious purchase of locally-made goods and the judicious expenditure of money in enlarging factories, and improving our grazing properties and farms at such a time as this, Australia and the large army of unemployed will be assisted materially. The responsibility for doing this rests not only upon the Commonwealth Government, but upon the State Governments and the people of Australia generally, because no government can make a country prosperous by legislation. Steps have already been taken by the

Government to stem the flow of imports into Australia. It has already been considerably reduced, and is likely to be still further reduced. We must strive to absorb our unemployed, and to open avenues in which the sons of our farmers may be profitably engaged in production, and the cotton indvstry offers a field for expansion probably unequalled by any other new industry in Australia to-day.

Mr Stewart:

– Is there any limit to the total amountof bounty proposed to be paid?


– The total bounty over the five-year periodw ill not cost as much as the bounty over the period for which the last Government legislated. By increasing the protection weshall eventually render the bounty unnecessary, and at the end of 1936 no bounty will be paid at all and tariff protection will take its place.

Mr Gullett:

– Duties will be substituted?


– Yes.

Mr Archdale Parkhill:

– At the end of 1936?


– Yes, if then necessary; but a measure of protection is now being given that will enable the manufacturers of cotton goods to say to the growers, “ We are prepared to give you, for a period of five years, a stabilized price, arrived at by taking the average price over the preceding five years.” In view of the protection that has already been given by the Government, they have said that they are in a position to pay a stabilized price, which would have been impossible without that protection.

Mr M Cameron:

– They will pay it; but at whose expense?


– They have not increased their prices to the consumers as a result of that protection, because it opens up to them a bigger market, and they have thus been able to enlarge their turnover and lower their overhead costs. As their turnover becomes greater, their prices will become cheaper.

We have in Australia a problem that is not confined to any one State. In New South Wales there are approximately 5,000 surplus coal-miners, and there is also a surplus of coal-miners and construction workers in Queensland. With the restriction of borrowing, and the consequent shutting down of public works, what is to be done with those persons? They will have to. be absorbed somewhere in industry. The responsibility rests on all our governments as well as on the people of Australia to cooperate in the absorption in useful production of those who are unemployed. I believe that the cotton industry offers opportunities for the employment of at least some of our surplus coal-miners and construction workers in that fine belt of country known as the Northern Burnett and the Callide Valley in Queensland, where, under healthy conditions, they may make a good living and enjoy a reasonable degree of comfort. The stabilization of the cotton industry that will result from the passage of this bill will be a step in that direction. The ideal method of absorbing some of our surplus miners and construction workers would be to increase production in certain industries, not only for local requirements, but also, if possible, for export, as well as by restricting imports to the utmost extent. The giving of practical assistance to the cotton industry in its initial stages will go a long way towards solving our unemployed problem.

Canada has already made wonderful progress in the cotton manufacturing industry. She does not grow any cotton, but she uses annually in her factories 180,000 bales of cotton lint. On a pro rata basis Australia should be using annually 130,000 bales of cotton lint; tut instead of doing so, she is lagging far behind. This country has a decided advantage over Canada in that it possesses the climate and soil to grow its own requirements of seed cotton and cotton lint, while Canada has to purchase its requirements from other countries. The manufacturers in Australia signed up this year for only 10,000 bales of cotton lint, compared with the 180,000 bales that will be utilized by the manufacturers of Canada. If we allow the industry to struggle on, as many secondary industries did under the last Government, no real progress will be made. The responsibility rests upon the people of Australia to help this new industry by demanding Australianmade goods. If they did that they would create more employment for Australian people. i

Mr Archdale Park hill:

– The responsibility is on the manufacturer to make decent goods.

Mr.FORDE. - The honorable member casts a reflection on the Australian manufacturer, and, therefore, on the Australian worker.

Mr Archdale Parkhill:

– I cast no reflection, but merely state a fact.


– It is prejudice and not a fact. Every day since I have been in charge of the Department of Trade and Customs, I have seen samples of Australian-made goods that have compared more than favorably with the products of any other country. For far too long has the cry been going up that we cannot manufacture decent goods in Australia.

Mr Archdale Parkhill:

– The position is not that we cannot but that we do not.


– I disagree with the honorable gentleman. We can, and do, turn out goods of a quality that compares more than favorably with that of the manufactures of any other country. What we need is a truer feeling of patriotism, and that measure of preference for the Australian product to which it is entitled. Within the last four years there has been substantial development in the manufacture of cotton towels and tweed. It was formerly said that because of that protection there would be no development in the manufacture of that commodity, and that the result would be ruinously high prices. Yet numerous factories are now producing towels and cotton tweeds, and the importation of tweeds dropped from £166.722 worth in 1926-27, to £38,736 worth, in 1928-29. The protection that has already been given by this Government to the manufacturers of cotton yarn, towels, and tweeds has been responsible for a considerable falling off in the imoprts of those commodities?

Mr Crouch:

– Is it proposed to give a bounty to the manufacturers of cotton yarn, and to impose a duty on that commodity?


– There is to be a duty and a diminishing bounty. The bounty will expire in 1936, from which date the industry will have to stand on its own feet.

Mr Crouch:

– But the duty will remain.


– Yes. As the bounty is taken off the duty will be increased, if necessary, with the object of keeping out the imported article and of enabling Australian manufacturers to take full advantage of the Australian market.

Mr Crouch:

– What will be the effect on the spinners?


– They will be able to buy Australian-grown cotton, and to sell their yarns in larger quantities to Australian knitters and weavers. At the present time two spinners are also knitters and weavers.

Mr Crouch:

– The yarn manufacturers are exploiting the spinners.


– As a matter of fact, the yarn manufacturers and the spinners are one and the same people. Naturally, there will always be bartering in regard to price. Some knitters and weavers want 100 per cent. protection for what they turn out, but wish to be allowed to buy their yarns in China, Japan, or any other country. We cannot allow that. If they wish to have their product protected they must be prepared to buy their raw material on the Australian market. The Government realizes that the potentialities of the cotton industry in Australia are equally great on the secondary and the primary side. The importance of the industry is fully realized by the Tariff Board. The board made a most exhaustive investigation of the whole industry, and in its report on the 6th March last, made the following statement : -

It is of the utmost importance to the Commonwealth that she produce as much of her cotton requirements as is practicable, for the following reasons: -

The cotton growing industry provides an avenue for direct employment on a large scale, both in the growing of the cotton and in the subsequent treatment of cotton and cotton seed. A considerable amount of employment is also provided by the industries in which cotton and seed are used.

The industry affords a means for the utilization of large areas of land, and thus assists in the matter of land settlement, and to some extent, directly and indirectly, in the migration policy of the Commonwealth.

The production of cotton in Australia means the retention, within the Commonwealth, of a very large sum of money, which otherwise would be required to be sent overseas for the purchase of cotton and cotton seed.

The availability of adequate supplies of cotton and cotton seed grown in Australia would place Australian manufacturers of products in which those commodities enter, in a secure position in the event of any emergency arising having the effect of cutting off supplies from overseas.

Inaddition to making the foregoing observations, the board stressed the importance of the cotton-growing industry from the standpoint of national defence -

As has previously been pointed out, cotton is a most important, in fact an indispensable commodity in time of such national emergency: seeing that it not only plays a vital part in the manufacture of munitions, but is also essential in many phases of defence equipment. Having in mind the place which cotton holds in the domestic, industrial, economic and national life of the country, the Tariff Board has no hesitation in expressing the view that the development and successful establishment of the cotton-growing industry in Australia is not only desirable but vitally essential to the welfare of the Commonwealth.

That was the conclusion at which the board arrived after it had spent a considerable time in investigating the industry and had taken evidence from everyone interested in it. It further said that, notwithstanding the assistance which at present is afforded to it, the industry had not progressed to the extent anticipated, due largely to the fact that the secondary side of the industry was not getting the measure of protection to which it was entitled. The board gave the following figures showing the imports of cotton yarn : -

That yarn should have been manufactured in Australia from Australian-grown cotton. I hope that the passing of this measure will lead to the necessary quantity of seed cotton being grown to enable us to manufacture our own yarns for sale to our own weavers and knitters, and that they will be able to find a market for their product.

The first real fillip was given to the cotton industry in 1920, when the Queensland Labour Government of which the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) was Premier, guaranteed a price of 5½d. a lb. for top grade seed cotton for a period of three years.

Mr Gullett:

– What happened at the expiration of three years?

Mr,FORDE.- When the Commonwealth Government took over control of the industry the price dropped and there was not the same stability; consequently the production fell off. It was agreed that it was the duty ofthe Commonwealth to treat this as a national industry, because it had two branches - the growing and the manufacturing sides. It was recognized that a bounty should take the place of the State-guaranteed price. It was regarded as the function of the Commonwealth and not the States to pay bounties. There were only 166 acres under cotton in 1920, whereas the area under cultivation had increased to 35,000 acres up to the time when the Queensland Government handed over the industry to the care of the Commonwealth.

Mr Gullett:

– Why did Queensland do that? It was because it could not afford to make the payments required.

Mr Francis:

– The Labour party of Queensland deserted the industry at that stage,

Mr.FORDE. - It is a great pity that the honorable member for Moreton introduces party politics.

Mr Francis:

– The Minister’s speech is a sorry exhibition of party politics.

Mr.FORDE. - The honorable member would have us believe that the Queensland Government deserted the industry, but he is quite wrong in that suggestion. He knows that the Queensland growers, backed up by the Queensland Government, asked the Federal Government to pay a bounty instead of the guaranteed price. What was wrong with that proposal? Did the State Government ever desert the industry while it was under State control ? Certainly not. We know that State Governments have not financial resources so great as those of the Commonwealth. It is not a function of a State to pay what is tantamount to a bounty; that is a responsibility of the Commonwealth. Later, the policy adopted was to grant protection to the industry instead of assisting it by means of a bounty. That is what the present Federal Government is doing, and what the late Government failed to do.

In 1922 the Queensland Government asked the Commonwealth Government to assist the industry, and the Tariff Board recommended in that year a continuance of the system of guaranteed prices for a further period of four years. The Commonwealth advised the Premiers of all the States, except Tasmania, of its approval of a guarantee on the following basis: - In the 1923-24 season, up to 5d. per lb., irrespective of length of staple; in 1924-25, up to 5d. per lb., and in 1925-26, up to 4½d. per lb., subject to future consideration as to length of staple. During these three years the Commonwealth shared the losses equally with the States, and they were as follow : -

In 1925-1926 the Queensland . Government paid £18,771 more than its half share of the loss, as it guaranteed an additional½d. per lb. over and above the price mutually agreed upon by the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments. The Queensland Government promised this additional½d. on condition that the Federal Government also contributed an extra½d.; but the Federal Government refused, notwithstanding that the Queensland Government paid the½d.

Mr Bernard Corser:

– That was at election time.


– Does the honorable member say that Mr. Moore’s offer of a guaranteed price of 5d. for the present season was for election purposes? Why not leave party politics out of this debate?

Mr Gullett:

– Why did the Acting Minister introduce party politics?


– Honorable members of the Opposition attribute party motives, yet they do not like to be reminded of Mr. Moore’s promise. The honorable member for Moreton is the most sorry man in the House because some assistance has been given to this industry by thepresent Government.

Mr Francis:

– That remark is deliberately dishonest and offensive, and I ask that it be withdrawn.


– I ask the honorable member for Moreton first to withdraw the words that he has used.

Mr Francis:

– I am aware that the terms 1 used are unparliamentary, and therefore I withdraw them; but I ask again that the Minister be required to withdraw his offensive and dishonest remarks.


– The honorable member is not in order in attributing dishonesty to the Minister, and I ask him to definitely withdraw his implication of dishonesty.

Mr Francis:

– Out of deference to the Chair, I do so, but the Minister knows what I still think.


– I now ask the Minister to withdraw the remark which gave offence to the honorable member for Moreton.


– 1 do so out of deference to the Chair; but the honorable member for Moreton knows what I think. Of course, the growing of cotton is confined almost solely to Queensland, although it can be produced in other States. There are great possibilities of its growth in Western Australia and in the Northern Territory. A certain quantity has been produced in New South Wales, but the manufacturing processes are confined almost solely to New South Wales and Victoria. I sincerely hope that before long Queensland will be spinning its cotton yarns and weaving its cotton goods.

In 1925 the Queensland Government asked the Commonwealth Government to take over the whole of the work of assisting the industry. The State Government was not anxious to desert the growers, but. it realized that the industry was one of national importance. When a request was made for a bounty of 2d. per lb., the matter was investigated by the Tariff Board shortly after 11th January, 1926, and1 the board recommended the payment of 2d. per lb. for six years, the rate to diminish by id. per lb. annually to Id. in the.- tenth year, after which the bounty would cease. The board also recommended that a bounty be provided on cotton yarn manufactured in Australia, provided that at least 50 per cent, of Australian cotton was used. I strongly urged at the time that the board’s recommendation for the payment of 2d. per lb. in bounty should be adopted, but the Government would not agree to that; it decided to pay l£d. per lb. At that time the industry was in its initial stages. A great deal of developmental work was proceeding, and many farmers who used land for grazing and agricultural purposes cleared additional areas for the purpose of growing cotton. They had to fence properties and buy farming implements, and the extra id. per lb. recommended by the board at that time would have given a great stimulus to the industry. Had that recommendation been adopted, the industry would have been a much more important one than it is to-day. The Cotton Bounty Act, 1926, passed by the late Government, provided for five years, n? from 16th August, 1926, (a) a bounty of lid. per lb. on high-grade seed cotton, or about 99 per cent, of the average cro.p. and id. per lb. on low-grade seed cotton, the balance of the crop; and (&) a bounty of one-third penny per lb. per count on cotton yarn, provided the yarn manufacturers used at least 50 per cent, of lint made from Australian seed cotton. This act appropriated £120,000 per annum for seed cotton, and £60,000 per annum for cotton yarn, making a total of £900,000 for the five years. Since 1926-27, £169,508 has been paid in bounty on seed cotton, and £115,846 on cotton yarn. All that money went to ‘New South Wales and Victorian manufacturers. Unfortunately, the late Government failed to give the necessary tariff protection to the cotton yarn manufacturers, and to the growers of seed cotton in some respects. There was no great expansion in the production of either seed cotton or. cotton yarn. The policy was restricted to one side of the industry, instead of being comprehensive. The yarn manufacturers found that they had to, compete with the importations from cheap labour countries. They were not able to continue the purchase of the whole of their lint from Queensland, because they could not sell their yarns in competition with other countries. In one year they bought 4,600 bales, and they used only 1,200. The present Government has given consideration to the protection and development of the secondary side of the industry as well as to the cotton growing. The production figures for seed cotton from 1920 are as follow: -

The industry has not extended as it should have done, because the growers were forced to sell on the Liverpool market instead of being able to secure a local market. I am pleased to be able to say that the policy enunciated by the present Government in regard to the industry has met with the general approval of cotton growers and manufacturers. On the 22ud November, 1929, within a month of the present Government taking office, a tariff schedule was tabled in this House, which gave those engaged in the Australian cotton industry all the protection that they had requested. The following cotton items were included in the schedule : -

Piece goods.

Piece goods (knitted).



Costumes, dresses or robes.

Knitted apparel.




Waddings and cotton wool.

Cotton yarn.

Haw cotton (including linters).

Edible oils.

The adequate protection of these goods was necessary to enable the Australian cotton industry to be developed. That was the first step taken by the Government to give effect to its election promise that it would effectively protect the primary and secondary branches of this industry. It has already been proved beyond doubt that this protection will cause a steady increase in the manufacture of cotton products in Australia. A demand for Australian seed cotton and cotton yarn must lead to the development of the industry and the increasing of employment.

Mr Crouch:

– Did not the yarn manufacturers undertake that they would not raise their prices to the spinners?


– The manufacturers said that there would be no increase in price, and I have yet to learn that there has been an increase.

Mr Crouch:

– The prices have been advanced.


– I examined Bond’s price-list lately, and found no variations in it.

Mr Crouch:

– Other companies have increased their prices.


– The yarn-knitters and weavers are getting effective protection, and I do not think that they should go to Japan and England for the yarn they require. In order to overcome the trouble that was being experienced in regard to the supply of yarn, I convened a conference in Sydney of representatives of the Australian spinners, knitters, and weavers, and an amicable agreement was reached for the supply of yarn. Certain concessions were made to the knitters which were regarded as satisfactory. It was generally agreed that it was a fair thing to give preference to Australian-manufactured yarn in the future, and I hope that there will be no more complaints in that regard.

Some weeks ago I convened a conference of representatives of the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments, and the cotton spinners and growers, at Canberra, to consider the cotton policy of the Government. The whole subject was exhaustively discussed, and eventually an agreement was reached which was acceptable to all concerned. That agreement was in the terms of the policy that I am now enunciating. This bill provides for the repeal of the present Cotton Bounty Act; as recommended by the Tariff Board, and for substituting for the existing rates of bounty the following rates: -

If these proposals are accepted the present cotton bounty will continue for slightly more than one year longer than is already provided. In other words the existing bounty will be paid until the 30th September, 1932, instead of, as provided in the present act, until the 15th August, 1931.

Mr Gullett:

– Will the Minister definitely commit the Government not to urge for any further extension of bounty to the cotton-growers?


– This policy was accepted by the Canberra conference to which I have referred as fair and reasonable. It is felt that it will result in greater development in the cotton industry than any other scheme that has been proposed.

Mr Gullett:

– Will the Minister give us his personal assurance that he will never again ask for an extension of the bounty?


– I ask honorable members to allow the Acting Minister for Customs to make his speech without interruption.


– I believe that the policy of the Government will permit the industry to stand upon its own feet with reasonable tariff protection when the bounty expires in 1936. Every one realizes that bounties cannot go on for ever. The growers will have time under this proposal to prepare for the future. They have been given to understand definitely that after 1980 they will have to do without a bounty. They will now be afforded an opportunity under satisfactory conditions of improving their methods of cultivation, increasing their output, and reducing their production, harvesting, ginning and marketing costs.

In America ginning costs only5/8d. per lb. of lint, while in Australia it costs 11/8d. per lb. The Queensland Cotton Board has now taken over the British Australian Cotton Association’s plant and will in future manage the ginneries. This should result in a substantial decrease in ginning costs. The British Australian Cotton Association foolishly overcapitalized the industry by investing £500,000 in it. The association had seven ginneries but only worked two of them. This policy meant that ginning cost a great deal more than it should have done. It is expected that under the management of the Queensland Cotton Board ginning costs will , be reduced and the ginneries modernized.

Picking costs 0.6d. per lb. of seed cotton in America, while the cost in Queensland is1¾d. per lb. I made very careful inquiries into this aspect of the subject.

Cotton has been picked by coloured labour for generations in America, and it is still picked almost exclusively by that class of labour. I find that Australia is the only country in the world in which cotton is grown and picked exclusively by white labour.

Mr Gullett:

– Would not the Australian picking cost be nearer 2d. per lb.?


– It might be 2d. on the second or third picking, but the average would be about1¾d. per lb and sometimes it is as low as1½d. per lb. The advantage of adopting a comprehensive policy for the assistance of this industry over a number of years is that the yarn manufacturers can plan ahead to improve their factory methods, and reduce their production, overhead, and selling expenses, and thereby secure a thorough grip of the Australian trade. It is expected that by 1936 the industry will bo thoroughly stabilized and will not need the artificial prop of a bounty.

Of the £900,000 provided for the payment of bounties by the Cotton Bounty Act, of 1926, only about £290,000 has been spent to date. The balance of that appropriation, namely £610,000, which would be cancelled by the passing of the present bill, may be regarded as a setoff against the estimated total expenditure under the bill of £800,000. In other words, the bill proposes to increase the appropriation for cotton bounties by only £190,000 for the extra five years it is proposed to continue the bounties. At the expiration of that time the bounty vanishes altogether. The previous Government provided for an expenditure of £900,000 over a five-year period, but it made no provision to assist the industry at the expiration of that period. A sudden drop from a bounty of1½d. per lb. to nothing would have had a paralyzing effect. The policy of this Government is to provide the bounty for a six-year period and then substitute a customs tariff for it. The conference which I convened at Canberra realized that the time must come when the bounty would be discontinued, and it felt that this scheme would give the industry a fair chance of thoroughly establishing itself in Australia.

To show how the Queensland Cotton Board regards this proposal, I will read to honorable members a telegram which I received on 18th March from Mr. D. C. Pryce, the chairman of the Queensland Cotton Board. It is as follows: - I have pleasure in advising that the follow ing resolution was passed at a meeting of the Queensland Cotton Board held to-day : “ That this board places on record its high appreciation of the comprehensive cotton industry policy adopted by the Federal Government as announced by the Hon. F. M. Forde, M.H.R., Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, which policy the board believes will result in building up both the primary and secondary cotton industries, thereby increasing the national wealth and assisting in the relieving of depression. On behalf of the Queensland cotton-growers the board conveys its personal thanks to Mr. Forde for the consistent endeavours which he has made for many years on behalf of the industry as well as for the highly commendable action which he has now induced the Federal Government to take; the resolutions to be conveyed . to Mr. Forde by telegraph and that he be asked to express to the Prime Minister the appreciation of the cotton-growers of Queensland.”

I am sure that the contents of that telegram will be displeasing to the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis).

The Queensland Government recently agreed to guarantee the Commonwealth Bank against a loan of £155,500 to the Queensland Cotton Board. Of that amount £137,500 is for the purchase of the ginneries and cotton-seed oil mills of the British-Australian Cotton Association, and the remaining £18,000 of it is for the modernizing of the plant.

I wish to make it clear that the manufacturers agreement with the Cotton Board for the payment of the stabilized price of 5d. per lb. average for seed cotton to September, 1936, does not begin to operate until the 1931 season commences. For the 1930 season, which is just beginning, the Queensland Government originally guaranteed a price of 5d. per lb. average on a limit of 10,000 bales of cotton, but it was subject to a maximum expenditure of £30,000. It also approved of a first payment to the growers of 3½d. per lb. I consider that these arrangements are inadequate. As the 1930 crop is expected to produce 12,000 bales, a guarantee of 5d. per lb. might require more than £30,000. The promise of the Queensland Government was made on the eve of an election. Subsequently I made representations to the Queensland Minister for Agriculture with the object of obtaining a first advance to the growers of 4½d. per lb. The Queensland Government has now agreed to increase its first advance for the 1930 season to 4¼d. per lb. With regard to the next six seasons, namely 1931 to 1936 inclusive, I have submitted a proposition to the Commonwealth Bank for a first advance of 4½d. per lb. on topgrade seed cotton for the full period. That proposal is now under the consideration of the bank. In view of the fact that the cotton spinners have agreed to complete proper legal documents’ to give effeet to their agreement to pay the growers 5d. per lb. for seed cotton for the whole period, I do not anticipate that there will be any great difficulty in inducing the Commonwealth Bank to make a first advance of 4½d. per lb.

Mr Gullett:

– Has the Minister seen the Governor of the bank ?


– Yes, and a case was also submitted to him in writing. I believe that, as a result of those representations the first advance to the growers will be not 3½d. per lb., but probably 4½d. That will give the industry a greater fillip than anything else that has ever been done for it.

Mr Archdale Parkhill:

– What will be the effect of all this on the toiling masses in the industrial areas?


– I shall tell the honorable member. Because of the inadequate protection given to the cotton spinners by the last Government, Bond and Company were unable to carry on their usual staff. They had put off 200 employees, and had given notice of dismissal to others. When increased protection was given the dismissed workers were re-employed, and the notices of dismissal were withdrawn. The same thing happened in regard to other cotton spinners. If the importers were able to flood the country with yarn made by black labour, Bond and Company and the other cotton spinners would be in a very bad way now.

With regard to new factories which may be established after the passing of the bill, it is provided that no manufacturer shall be eligible for bounties unless he has first submitted to the Minister for Trade and Customs for approval full details as to the nature of the proposed business, class of product to be manufactured, and the market available. This provision is necessary, because sometimes enterprises are launched without sufficient consideration as to whether they can be made economically reproductive. People are liable to plunge into businesses in the hope of being carried along by the government bounty. As recommended by the Tariff Board, the yarn bounty will be payable in proportion to the amount of Australian cotton used in the yarn. This provision is inserted to protect manufacturers’ requirements in cases where there is insufficient suitable Australian cotton available. In order to relieve business depression an increase in the number of cotton factories, and of other institutions providing remunerative employment” for a considerable number of workers in this branch, would be very desirable. The tariff and bounty policies of the Government will tend to do this. In order to leave no stone unturned in the endeavour to achieve success, the Government will do everything possible to ensure an increased production of cotton in the districts which have proved suitable for the crop, and will encourage the investment of capital in cotton and spinning mills. It is necessary, however, if those mills are to obtain supplies, that we should grow sufficient cotton here in Australia. It would be a great pity if the Queensland Government were not to make sufficient cotton-growing land available, or sufficiently encourage prospective growers to settle on it. I have interviewed the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, and asked him whether he could make arrangements to lend the Agricultural Bank of Queensland, on the security of an approved debenture to be issued by that institution, the sum of £250,000, if required for the financial year beginning the 1st July, 1930. This money would be advanced to enable farmers to clear their land, and get it ready for production. The proposition is now under consideration by the Commonwealth Bank, .and I have every reason to believe that a favorable reply’ will be received.

Unless an active interest is taken in this industry by all parties Concerned, much of what the Government is doing may go for nothing. In token of good faith, and the sincerity of our desire to co-operate with the State Government, we have suggested to the Queensland Government the desirability of co-ordinating activities in relation to the cotton industry by means of the establishment of a cotton development advisory committee, representative of both Governments, and other interests. It is suggested that the committee should comprise a nominee of the Minister for Trade and Customs as chairman,’ the Chairman of the Queensland Land Board, the Manager of the Queensland Cotton Board, the Manager of the Agricultural Bank of Queensland, the cotton specialist of the Queensland Department of Agriculture, and the presidents of the Chambers of Commerce of Rockhampton, Gladstone and Brisbane. This committee will not cost the Commonwealth anything. We have wiped out the expensive boards and commissions which, under the last Government, were costing the country enormous sums every year. Members of this committee will act without remuneration, viewing their task as a privilege of public service. .It will be able to watch the interests of the cotton industry from all points. If the Queensland Government is not doing its part in placing settlers on the land under proper conditions, direct representation can be made to the proper authorities through the representative of the Government on the committee itself. If the Commonwealth Government does not make tariff assistance available, or if it is thought advisable that a ginnery should be established, such matters can be brought up and discussed. The Government an>ticipates ‘ that its comprehensive cotton industry policy will have a far-reaching effect, the extent of which it is difficult adequately to gauge. The fundamentals necessary to success, both on the primary and secondary sides of the industry, are now clear, but caution must not be lost sight of in vigorous optimism. It is estimated that by 1936 the production of cotton in Australia may be 50,000 bales of cotton lint, all ginned in Australian ginneries, and later woven into cloth and knitted into piece goods and towels in cotton mill’s located, not only in the southern States, but in Queensland as well.

There is also the probability of an additional cotton seed oil mill being established, and by the year 1936, if the Government’s objective is attained, the value of the industry to Australia should be at least £4,000,000. I trust that the Queensland Government, the Advisory Committee, the Queensland Cotton Board, the growers, the manufacturers, and all others concerned, will co-operate wholeheartedly in making the most of the splendid opportunity now presented. In view of the existing financial stringency, which is not attributable to the present Government, but is rather a legacy from other governments, it has been no easy matter to secure a continuance of the bounty system until 1936, as well as to obtain the other generous concessions for which the scheme provides. I hope, therefore, that all interested persons and bodies will enthusiastically co-operate with the Federal Ministry, and help the Government to realize its objective, namely inincreased production, the relief of unemployment, and the rehabilitation of Australia’s finances.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Gullett) adjourned.

page 688


Second Reading

Debate resumed from 26th March (vide page 551), on motion by Mr. Scullin -

That the bill be now read a second time.


.- I approach this question with some diffidence, because constitutional matters are not much in my line; but from the point of view of the ordinary individual, I can Bee no harm, and a good deal of good, in the first proposal which the Government is asking us to consider. I wish to pay a tribute to those persons who worked so hard and ably to bring about the formation of the Australian Commonwealth. But while I am conscious of the good work they did, I realize that, with the passage of time, alterations and amendments to the Constitution have become necessary. I do not think that there will ever come a time when the destinies of this country cannot safely be left in the hands of the duly elected representatives of the people. The people can trust this Parliament to do the right thing so far as the Constitution is concerned. It was suggested by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), and by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), that these proposals, if accepted, would result in unification; in fact, the Leader of the Opposition went so far as to say that their adoption would involve the smashing of the Constitution. If the Constitution is so fragile a thing that to amend will smash it, let it be smashed, for it does not serve the needs of the community to-day. When at election time a party frankly informs the people of its intentions, its return to office is an endorsement of its policy, and evidence that the people trust it to do the right thing.

The first of the two bills now under discussion provides that this Parliament shall, at all times, have the right to alter the Constitution as it thinks fit. That does not mean that the Government of the day, with a majority in one chamber, can make any capricious amendment of the Constitution; no alteration can be made except with the concurrence of an absolute majority of members in both Houses. As this Parliament is composed to-day, it would be exceedingly difficult to effect any alteration except by a compromise between the parties. As has been shown by the debates on previous referendum proposals, all parties are agreed that to make the Constitution a workable instrument, far-reaching amendments are necessary. Each referendum has entailed heavy expenditure, and the smoke screens created by opposing parties have prevented the people from seeing the issue clearly, and giving a considered judgment on it. I believe the people will be prepared at all times to trust the Parliament to do what is right and proper. Before any drastic alteration of the Constitution affecting the rights of the States was attempted, conferences would be held between representatives of this Parliament and the States in order that the views of the latter might be thoroughly understood.

I do not propose to express an opinion regarding unification. Much can he said both for and against it. There may be some truth in the contention that a unified system of government would cost much less than the existing seven Parliaments, but before unification can operate satisfactorily, Australia must bc subdivided into smaller States, cantons, or, as one honorable member has suggested, glorified shire councils, to which will be delegated certain powers of local government. Such bodies will be able to legislate more intelligently in respect of local affairs than any of the existing Parliaments can possibly do. The suggestion has been. made that the Commonwealth Parliament is too far removed from the more remote portions of Australia to be able to legislate successfully for the whole continent. That argument does not carry much weight. Some people are almost as distant from their own State Parliaments as from this Parliament. The northern end of my electorate is nearly 2,000 miles from Brisbane, and it is governed by a State Parliament which does not understand its local problems and opinion. Community of interest is ignored entirely by the present system of government. I have not the slightest fear that if this Parliament were given the authority to alter the Constitution as circumstances required, it would nui amok. I was amongst those who voted against the Federal Enabling _ Bill, ‘ because of the limitations in the Constitution. The majorities that must be secured before the Constitution can be amended are so preposterous that it is almost impossible to effect an alteration, and the phraseology used in submitting proposed alterations to the people in the past was so involved that many of the- electors found it impossible to understand what they were expected to vote on. Moreover, the conflict between the negative and affirmative advocates increased the confusion in the minds of the people. But on most occasions all parties unanimously declared that an alteration of the Constitution was necessary to the good government of the Commonwealth. That is all that is likely to happen in any future Parliament, even if it is given the extended power that is sought. The people should have the right at all times to declare, through their elected representatives, that the Constitution shall be amended in certain particulars. Because the Constitution deprived them of that power, I voted against the Enabling Bill.

I am still of the opinion that the people should be able to alter the Constitution more easily. Past generations should noi govern the present generation. The Constitution should not be a cast-iron instrument enabling the people of a generation ago to hobble future generations and dictate the system of government they shall have. The Power of Amendment Bill provides - 129. Notwithstanding anything in the last preceding section, the Parliament shall have full power to alter the Constitution in the following manner: -

The proposed law for the alteration thereof must, after the lapse of one month from its origination in a House of the Parliament, be passed by an absolute majority of each House of the Parliament, and be assented to by the GovernorGeneral.

Power will remain outside this Parliament which can always be invoked to prevent the Commonwealth Parliament from running amok and smashing the Constitution. But I have no fear that any future Parliament will attempt any thing dangerous. It will be composed of men who, whatever their party allegiance, are actuated by a desire to do what they consider best in the interests of the nation.

Mr Mackay:

– According to political programmes.


– According to the wishes of the people as expressed through their elected representatives. On the hustings the honorable member explains to the electors his political faith, and if they endorse his candidature, they endorse his policy. Then the honorable member expounds in the House, to the best of his ability, the principles upon which he has been elected, and endeavours to get support for their enactment. The majority of the House will at all times determine what shall be done, and so long as the issues are honestly explained to the people by the parties seeking their support, no harm can be done. The Labour party has always been frank and straightforward; its methods and views are not changed unless by resolution at the periodical conventions. Its platform is in print, and can be seen by the people al any time.

Mr Archdale Parkhill:

– The planks of that platform will be enacted by a Labour Government when it has the opportunity ?


– Certainly a Labour government will endeavour to give effect to the policy of its party so far as the Constitution and circumstances permit. At least, the people know where we stand. If we make up our minds to abolish the Senate, after the people have given us their endorsement at the elections, we shall do it. I make no secret of the fact that I believe that the Senate should be abolished. I have expressed that opinion definitely on the public platform, and the Labour platform provides for it.

Mr Archdale Parkhill:

– That is what I want to know.


– The honorable member can get a copy of the platform at any time, and he is welcome to read it to the people.

Mr Gregory:

– When does the party propose to break away from the Old Country?


– I shall be very grateful to the honorable member if he will leave the Old Country out of this argument. I may tell him, however, that I have never suggested “cutting the painter,” although he has advocated that Western Australia should cut adrift from the Commonwealth. With all its faults the Constitution is capable of being made an instrument for governing Australia in such a way that it will become a true Commonwealth. No honorable member will say that the Constitution is sufficiently flexible to enable effect to be given to the principles in which he and his party believe. Therefore, a good purpose will be served if the bill to vest complete powers in this Parliament is adopted by the people, as I believe it will be. We have received an early intimation of the attitude of the Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) has stated that he cannot support either of the referendum bills. I doubt whether any question proposed to be submitted to the people would be supported by honorable members opposite, unless they were allowed to frame it.

Mr Brennan:

– I doubt if they would support it even then.


– Possibly the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) and others would still object to any alteration., The will of the people is paramount, and. I am prepared to give to them an earlyopportunity to say “ yea “ or “nay” to the first question. I believe they will record an affirmative vote, and if they do they will have no cause to regret it, no matter what government may be in office in the future. After all, if Labour in office enacts a constitutional alteration that does not meet with the approval of honorable members opposite, it can be repealed when the parties now in Opposition are given by the people the requisite majority.

Mr Mackay:

– That may mean a change of the Constitution every three years.


– Nothing so foolish is likely to happen. The Labour party is not likely to run amok and do silly things, making it necessary for a succeeding government to undo what we have done. Notwithstanding that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) has declared on behalf of his party that he will oppose these bills, I hope that honorable members opposite will be true to the opinions they have expressed in the past, and vote for thisbill. If they do not, their speeches will be quoted on the public platforms during the referendum campaign, and will cause a veritable nightmare to them. Even the late Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) proposed that absolute power should be given to this Parliament to do certain things. It should have that power, but not to do everything. Nobody in this House is stupid enough to say that this Parliament should take charge of every detail of government. Matters of local concern must be left to local bodies. This Parliament will delegate its powers of local government to subsidiary authorities, leaving itself free to deal with national problems.

Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m. [Quorum formed.]


– Earlier in my speech the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill), by interjection, sought to ascertain whether I was in favour of the abolition of the Senate. So that what I then said may not be misconstrued, I now say that no useful purpose could be served under the conditions that at present exist in Australia by the abolition of the Senate, and that in any case the people would have to decide that question. I do not believe that even honorable members who sit opposite hold the view that if Australia were to be subdivided into a larger number of small provinces or States, every province should have six representatives in the chamber called the Senate. I remind the honorable member that an absolute majority of the Senate would be required to abolish it, and that would be somewhat difficult to obtain.

The second question that the Government proposes to place before the people relates to industrial powers. Within a couple of months of a meeting of the first Commonwealth Parliament in 1901 the late Mr. Justice Higgins, who was a member of that Parliament, speaking in it, made the following statement, which is to be found in Hansard, volume 1, page 1191 : -

That, in the opinion of this House, it is expedient for the Parliament of the Commonwealth to acquire (if the State Parliaments see fit to grant it under section 51, sub-section 37 of the Constitution Act) full power to make laws for Australia as to wages and hours and conditions of labour.

It will thus be seen that this idea is not a new one, but that as far back as June, 1901, the late Mr. Justice Higgins recognized the necessity of the Commonwealth having full powers to deal with industrial matters. Other persons who have played a prominent part in the political life of the Commonwealth within more recent years are credited with having made statements of a similar character, some of them even more pungent than that of the late Mr. Justice Higgins. Speaking on the subject in this House, theRight Hon. S. M. Bruce, as Prime Minister, made the following statement - Hansard, volume 113, page 2164 : -

The new powers which the Government proposes to take arc contained in the proposed new paragraph xl. of section 51. If that paragraph is added the section will read -

The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to - (xl.) Establishing authorities with such powers as the Parliament confers on them with respect to the regulation and determination of terms and conditions of industrial employment and of rights and duties of employers and employees with respect to industrial matters and things.

That will give power to the Commonwealth Parliament, not to determine all questions relating to industrial employment, but to create the authorities to determine them.

Mr Coleman:

– Will the power be confined to industrial disputes, or will it be exercised generally?


– It will, subject to the explanation I have just given, be an absolute power, as wide as any one can desire.

That right honorable gentleman not only believed that there was need for an alteration of the Constitution, but considered that it should be of such a character as to confer on the Commonwealth Parliament the widest possible powers.

Mr Nairn:

– Not to cover unemployment.


– To cover practically everything. Speaking on the Essential Services Bill - Hansard, volume 113, page 2170 - Mr. Bruce said -

The bill provides for the insertion in section 51 of the Constitution of a new paragraph va to read, “Protecting the interests of the public in case of actual or probable interruption of any essential service.” This amendment is long overdue, because neither the Commonwealth Parliament nor the Government has constitutional power to take any action when the whole economic life of the country is threatened by any cause whatsoever, or to do anything to ensure to the peoplefoodstuffs, services, or anything else that may be essential to the industrial, and even the physical existence, of the community. Remembering what has happened at times in other countries, and realizing that the Commonwealth Government has not the power to save the people should their very lives be threatened, we must admit the necessity for an amendment of the Constitution.

He there showed that the Commonwealth has no power to deal with a matter that might be of vital importance to it. That has been abundantly demonstrated within the last fourteen months in connexion with the coal-mining industry. The present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), dealing with this matter - Hansard, volume 113, page 2914 - made the following statement: -

If the amendments are adopted, the State authorities can, and will, continue to function, but under a co-ordinated system. The difficulty is to obtain co-ordination, and this can be brought about only if the powersasked for are granted to the Government. It will be asked in what way? I can only indicate a reasonable method of approaching this problem.

Mr Rodgers:

– In operation, instead of setting up a competitive authority, we set up a substitute authority by arrangement with the States?


– If we wait until the States arrive at separate agreements in identical terms, with the Commonwealth for handling industrial problems, none of us will ever see the beginning of a solution. We have to face this problem, and act as well as we can.

Every honorable member respects the constitutional knowledge that is possessed by that honorable gentleman. He says that if we were to wait until the States had come to an agreement no alteration would ever be made; yet the Government of which he was Attorney-General introduced legislation designed to give the States control over these matters, and said that the States could handle all except two or three of them. Those who now sit on this side of the House then argued that no such power existed in the States; and the Leader of the Opposition himself said that none of us would live to see the beginning of a solution of the problem if we depended on the States. That is incontestable. It is not certain that even six different governments holding identical political opinions would have one mind with respect to the regulation of industrial matters. What hope, then, is there of obtaining unanimity from governments that have different political outlooks, each striving to reach a different goal? There has never been other than a determined effort on the part of honorable members of this House to bring about the alterations desired in the Constitution, but we have not been able to induce the people to give their consent. With the exception of one or two die-hards who have not wished any change to be made, every member of the Commonwealth Parliament has been in favour of an alteration of the Constitution in the direction of conferring upon it wider industrial powers. It has been generally recognized by those who from time to time have been elected to the Commonwealth Parliament that more extensive powers should be held by the Comm on weal th to enable it to ensure the good government of this country.

The other day the Leader of the Opposition said that the Arbitration Court was established for the prevention of disputes. That may be so; but it has never functioned in that direction, and could not have done so even if that had been its desire. No person will deny that the trouble in the coal industry has had the most serious consequences; yet thisGovernment, and that which preceded it, has been powerless to settle it. When the Arbitration Court endeavoured, quite apart from the Government, to bring about a settlement, its action was held by the High Court of Australia to be ultra vires of the Constitution. A dispute can be prevented only when there is the power to deal with it. It has been suggested that the dispute in the coalmining industry is not an interstate dispute. Legally that is so; but there can be no doubting the feeling in regard to it that exists in the different States. In the beginning, if it had been realized that the only thing necessary to bring the matter before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court was to have an actual dispute in the different States, the trouble would have extended within two months. The Commonwealth Arbitration Court has been hamstrung by the very Constitution that the Leader of the Opposition and his followers say to-day should remain as it is.Rather than that these questions should be answered in the affirmative, he would continue to have the court remain hobbled and hamstrung.

Quite a lot has been said by one or two honorable members who sit opposite regarding the possibilities of the Arbitration Court. When I first took my seat in this House, I heard the statement made that the Australian Workers Union was not a national organization, and that it did not believe in the Federal Arbitration Court. I attended the convention at which the Queensland branch of the Australian Workers Union was given the authority to obtain a separate award from the Queensland Court. The debate which preceded that decision lasted for nearly three days. In the first instance the case of the pastoral employees in Australia was taken before the Federal Court. It was believed that the award which was made covered the whole of the pastoralists in the Commonwealth ; but it was subsequently found that, as the court could not make a common rule, only80 employers in Queensland were covered by its decision. That caused intense feeling among the workers in different parts of Queensland. Those shearers and shed hands whose employers were not covered by the award wanted the conditions that were stipulated in the case of the pastoralists who were named in the plaint. Eventually, after months of effort by a large number of men who were employed to go round the various stations, a sufficient number of men were enrolled to have a case cited before the court, and the union was able to bring station hands in Western Australia within federal jurisdiction. The only reason for the withdrawal of the Australian Workers Union from the Federal Court was that that court had no power to make a common rule. The Australian Workers Union has no superior among the unions of Australia or any other body from an Australian viewpoint. We wished to work through the Australian court, but were not able to do so, and we were, therefore, compelled to approach a tribunal from which we could obtain a common rule. If a common rule were made applicable to all Commonwealth awards many industries that to-day are working under State awards would come under the Federal Court, and probably obtain better conditions.

Honorable members opposite, and the press which represents them, say that if these larger powers are given to the Commonwealth Parliament, the result will be such as the people will be sorry for all time. I recall that, in my younger days, the late Sir George Reid, who was then playing a rôle like that which has been taken by the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), toured Queensland with a large placard stressing the alleged danger in which Australia would be placed if the Labour party should obtain control of the Commonwealth Parliament. This placard bore the words “ The Socialist Tiger.” It was argued that the most frightful things would happen to the women and children in the event of the Labour party being returned to power. That is on all fours with what is happening to-day. But I suggest that the Labour party will not always be the Government; it may be displaced by some party whose ideas are an advance upon its own. The Nationalists will not again occupy the Government benches for a very long time. Even should they be returned to power at a comparatively early date, if they at tempted anything which threatened the welfare of the workers, as they did last year, they would not last very long.

That party received its quietuswhen it proceeded to break down the only protection that the workers had from conditions approaching slavery. The act passed by the Queensland Government led by Mr. Moore has been applauded by members of the Country party in every Parliament in Australia. That measure suspends the rural workers’ award. It was declared that it would give employment to hundreds of thousands of men, and it was stated that within a fortnight of the abolition of the award 500 men had received employment in a certain district picking fruit. Theonly fruit grown in that district was prickly pear! The present Queensland Government has passed an act which deprives a large number of workers of the benefits of arbitration; I refer to the Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Act of 1929, section 6 of which states, among other things, that the act shall not apply to the following classes of workers -

Persons employed in work such as is usually carried on in farming operations on dairy farms, fruit farms, or agricultural farms, or tocasual workers such as noxious-weed destroyers, scrub cutters, ringbarkers, suckerers, or to jackeroos, hook and storekeepers on stations.

Those classes of employees were covered by the award made in Queensland prior to the advent of the Moore Government, but they are now practically told that if they wish to improve their conditions they must go on strike. That is the method adopted by all governments formed by the party opposite. Although it has had more aliases than any criminal, it has always stood for the same principles; its ambition has always been to get as much as it can at as low a cost as possible. Under the original Queensland act is was possible, in certain circumstances, to make provision for domestic employees. This measure states -

The term “ a person engaged in domestic service” shall, without limiting in any wise the ordinary meaning of theterm, alsomean and include an employee engaged in domestic duties in any hospital whose daily average of occupied beds does not exceed nine; also an employee engaged in domestic duties in any boarding or lodging house which provides accommodation for less than seven paying boarders or lodgers; and also a cook on a station who cooks for less than four employees including overseers and jackeroos

Owing, however, to a case stated to the late Mr. Justice McCawley by Mr. Riordan, the present secretary of the Australian Workers Union in Queensland, those employees were brought again within the ambit of the act. Because of the conditions surrounding them in their daily life, that judge determined that at least some degree of protection should be afforded them.

The Moore Government also prescribed the maximum sum that could be collected by way of union fees, and enacted that any sober and clean living person should be admitted to membership of an industrial union. The Queensland court, for the purpose of protecting Australian workers, decided in favour of what is called super-preference, meaning for instance, that those employees who had completed contracts on the sugar fields to the satisfaction of their employers during any year should have first preference in employment, if they desired it, in the following season. This particular form of preference was granted “only because, of the activities of the Australian Workers Union and for a specific purpose. The desire of the Opposition in this Parliament when in power is to do exactly what has been done by the present Governments of Queensland and New South Wales, and what would be done to a greater extent than it is to-day if there were not a Labour Government in office in this Parliament. When a ministry interferes in the domestic arrangements of an organized body of workers, and denies thousands of persons the right of the protection of the Arbitration Court, it goes a long way towards breaking down a system in which it professes to believe. Every honorable member opposite has pledged himself to the principle of arbitration and conciliation.

Mr Brennan:

– They may find that their words are as a two-edged sword.


– Yes ; a little of their own medicine might not be a bad thing for them. A statement was made in this House the other day about the overlapping of awards. That is a parrot cry commonly heard from honorable members opposite. In Queensland there is no overlapping of awards. Where federal awards operate the State Court has always taken good care not to make an award in conflict with it; the federal award has always taken precedence.

The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) has ‘ told us of his experiences of what he was pleased to term the “ strike “ on the northern coalfields of New South Wales. I point out that the strikers there are the employers, who are failing to observe an award. There is much difference between a strike and a lockout. It has been claimed since the inception of arbitration in Ibis country that the only offender who; can be dealt with is the employer; but, in practice, the employer generally manages to evade the penalties imposed for breaches of awards. No employers’ organization has been prosecuted for a breach of an award. In one case recently a summons was issued against’ an employer. I am not discussing whether or not it should have been taken out, but once it had been issued it should not have been withdrawn. The honorable member for Balaclava wanted to know why the present Government had not carried out its promises to the electors. I point out that this Government will in time, as opportunity offers, carry out its promises. One would imagine that this was the only Government that had ever failed to do that. When Mr. Bruce was Prime Minister he made a definite promise to the people on a most important matter. On the -5th October, 1925, at the Dandenong Town Hall, he said -

The Government proposes to introduce legislation for a national scheme of social insurance, covering the questions of old age and invalidity, which have already been reported upon, and, as soon as the further report on unemployment is received, will legislate on such lines as will enable the worker to be insured against this most deadly cause of his anxiety and his unrest.

That Government did nothing in that matter. It found that the proposal would involve a heavy expenditure. When the report upon it was received, the late Prime Minister said that his Government would take action at once to bring about the abolition, of this cause of industrial unrest. That is one of the many promises made by Mr. Bruce, but not honored.

Mr Mackay:

– The late Government made five separate attempts to carry out that policy.


– All it did was to have an inquiry made, and it pigeonholed the report received. The only means of bringing about a satisfactory position in the industrial arena is to grant the widest possible powers to the Commonwealth.

Mr Gregory:

– It would be good for the employees, but bad for the country.


– It would be of benefit to the people as a whole, except a few Jeremiahs, such as the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory).

Among the members of the Royal Commission on the Constitution were Mr. Ashworth, representing the employers, and Messrs. Duffy and MacNamara, representing the employees. I understand that Mr. Ashworth has taken an active part in industrial affairs for many years in the interests of employers. It could hardly be said that these three gentlemen were in agreement on political matters. No doubt Mr. Ashworth realized that it was most desirable that the Commonwealth should be granted full industrial powers. I notice that, on page 243 of its report, the commission stated -

Next our attention is arrested by observing that there are several of the major sides of national life now partly or wholly vested in the States, as to which the interests of all Australia are uniform and indissolubly interconnected, and the control and regulation of which should certainly be the function of the national Parliament only. Apart- from the profound question of the effect of a uniform system in moulding a consistent national outlook referred . to hereinafter, there is the enormous practical advantage that where legislation imposes a charge upon industry, this charge will be uniform throughout the continent. We refer particularly to the body of laws regulating the relations of employer and employee; and as it is difficult and hampering to industry to separate interstate from intrastate trade and commerce, to the whole body of laws relating to trade and commerce, including .company laws, Laws as to banking, standards of commodities, carriage’’ of goods, &c.

The arbitrary line drawn across trade and commerce making interstate matters, subject to the control of one Parliament and intra-state the subject of .control by another Parliament must produce uncertainty as to the limits of one power or the other. A considerable amount of legal decision surrounds this question, and is fully discussed in section xiv. of this report; but notwithstanding all this it is difficult to say where interstate trade begins and ends. When a subject matter is divided in this manner and produces uncertainty and difficulty of interpretation the only logical tiling to do is to place the whole undivided power in the hands of one authority ; and since the control of interstate trade cannot be carried out by State or local authorities, there is only one place where the power can be satisfactorily placed, and that is in the hands of the central Parliament.

Trains and boats travelling from one State to another are engaged in the transport of goods for intra-state as well as interstate trade. The futility of the attempts by the courts to separate trade and commerce into two areas was set out in a speech by Mr. W.. H. Irvine (now Sir William Irvine, Chief Justice of Victoria) in the House of Representatives in 1910. The following extract from that speech refers to the American cases on the trade and commerce power (evidence, p. 1105) :- “ These would sometimes make even a lawyer’s head reel with confusion in the endeavour to follow the intricacies to which the Courts are reduced’ in trying to divide what is really and substantially an indivisible whole - to divide the commerce of the community into parts, and to say that one part shall be under the government of one Parliament, and another part under another Parliament. Commerce is really an organic whole, and an organic whole of continually increasing complexity”.

Not only is trade and commerce one and indivisible; there are several powers which are so closely interwoven that any attempt to separate them by giving the control of some to the Commonwealth and others to the States can result only in confusion and economic loss. Customs duties, trading conditions and conditions of employment are all so interdependent - reacting so powerfully each upon the other - that they should be placed under the same governmental control.. Since the Commonwealth necessarily controls the customs, we believe that full trade and commerce, company law, shipping, navigation, and industrial powers should be vested together in the central government.

Special reference must be made to industrial powers. The extent of the existing power ha3 been the subject of much legal argument and progressive interpretation. Both the Arbitration Court and High Court decisions have changed with the changing personnel of those bodies. If the power is removed from the Commonwealth and vested in the States, an intolerable condition of unfair competition between manufacturers in different States owing to varying rates of pay and conditions of employment will be created. One of the benefits of a central .government is that it can remove danger of this character. That the danger is real is demonstrated by a resolution of the Premiers’ Conference of 1909 as follows : -

“That to meet the case where it is proved that interstate competition exists in industrial matters which is unfair, and the State tribunals have failed to grant relief, the Parliament of the States should agree to vest the Commonwealth with the power to adjust the grievance complained of “.

When the various parts of Australia became separate colonies, communication was difficult and intercourse between them was very limited. The position is now different, communication being rapid and intercourse considerable, making the problems of commerce and industry of nation-wide importance. The establishment of new States would make this aspect more pronounced, and the Constitution should be so modelled as to be ready for this change.

Evidence before the Commission indicated the desirability of uniform laws and standards upon many subjects such as company law, standards of foods, and drugs, &c. Efforts have been made to secure the passing of uniform acts by all the State Parliaments. Results have not been satisfactory. Even when successful, the delay and waste of effort involved in securing passage through eleven Houses of Parliament could be avoided by endowing the central Parliament with the necessary power. Administration could in many cases be left to local bodies.

The present division of powers has led to a considerable amount of litigation in order to ascertain exactly what the words in the Constitution mean. The economic waste entailed by taking constitutional questions to the Courts is a heavy burden on the people. What is required is a Constitution simple as it is possible to make it so that the people can readily understand it without the necessity for High Court interpretation. The present position is such that the Commonwealth Constitution is broad or narrow according to the way it is construed by the High Court, and the Constitution depends upon the trend of thought of the individuals who for the time being form that body. The personnel of the Court has been changed recently, and it is possible that some decisions now standing and accepted as the law of the Constitution may be upset in the future. Such uncertainty should be ended and the remedy appears to be to entrust the Commonwealth Parliament with the necessary powers, rather than to trust to the accident of the occupancy of a High Court Bench lacking in the responsibility of a Parliamentary Legislature. We believe that the authority of the Commonwealth Parliament as a law-making body has been impaired by the paramount and incalculable power of the High Court in its capacity as arbiter of the powers, and that the responsibility of Parliament and of the Cabinet have been lessened accordingly. Moreover, we believe that the adjudication of political issues by the Court is tending to lessen the Court’s prestige decreasing popular respect for it as an instrument of justice. These evils spring from the uncertainty of and the absence of definite principle in the distribution of powers.

Messrs. Ashworth, Duffy and McNamara made the fullest possible inquiry into these problems, and came to the conclusion that the Commonwealth court should have full and plenary power if it were to function satisfactorily in the best interests of Australia.

It has been said in this chamber that the Australian “Workers Union is not an Australian organization. If that is so, then the Pastoralists Association is not fin Australian organization, for the Queensland branch of it decided not to place itself under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, but to remain under the jurisdiction of the Queensland court. The secretary of the Queensland branch, Mr. A. E. Coldham, said that it would be better to pay an extra 5s. per 100 for shearing sheep, and have easy access to the State court, than to pay 5s. less for shearing and have to submit to the confusion, haggling, and cost of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court.

North Sydney

– This measure, and the Constitution Alteration Industrial Powers Bill, deal with the most important subjects that can engage the attention of the legislature. This is a national Parliament, and the scope of its authority should be sufficiently wide to enable it to deal with all national matters. But, when we examine the powers of this Parliament, as enumerated in the Constitution and determined by various decisions of the High Court, we find that in many matters that are vital to the welfare of the country it has no powers at all, and in many instances where it has power the power is indefinite and vague. Every government for the past twenty years has advocated the making of radical amendments to the Constitution. It was early recognized that the Constitution did not give Parliament the power the people intended to give it, nor even the power which was considered to be definitely conveyed to it in the Constitution.

What is the evil which this measure, and every other measure which has been introduced to amend the Constitution, was intended to remedy? The great problems which confront the world to-day have their roots in modern methods of production, and may be grouped under the heading “ industrial problems.’’ In one or other of their myriad aspects , i,I. affect not only capital and labour, but every path of our social, economic and national life. The industrial problem is the dominant factor in the modern world. If this is not a national matter, then none is. But this national Parliament has no power to deal with it. Our position in other directions is not less unsatisfactory. We are a national Parliament only in name. We have power to deal with certain national matters which I do not belittle. We have power, for example, to make uniform customs laws. We can make laws in relation to weights and . measures and divorce. Some of these powers are national, and all are important, but by comparison with the dominating power to deal with the problems covered by the term “ industrial unrest,” they must rank as subordinate. In this wide and ever-widening sphere, which is full of complexities and difficulties, this Parliament is powerless. It cannot make an industrial law. It cannot intervene in a great nation-wide upheaval. It has shown itself pathetically incapable to deal with the greatest industrial upheaval Ave have seen in Australia. Though it brought us to the brink of civil war this Parliament was powerless to deal with the situation.

These measures, and those of a similar nature which preceded them, are intended to remedy an evil which is worldwide, and, like Aaron’s rod, is swallowing every other, forcing itself on the attention of all sorts and conditions of mcn.

On five previous occasions, major amendments to the Constitution have been passed by this Parliament, and on four occasions they have been submitted to the people. In 1909 a Liberal government advocated amendment, and in 1911 and again in 1913 Labour governments submitted amendments to the people. Nationalist governments have been not less active in their efforts, which culminated in the submission of proposed laws to the people in 1919. And, as is well known, in 1926 the last Government, composed of Nationalist and Country parties, sought to extend the powers of the Commonwealth.

Every party, and every combination of parties has, therefore, at one time or another, declared that the Commonwealth Parliament should be clothed with greater power, and that its existing power is inadequate to enable it to function in the best interests of the people. We are on common ground when we say that the Constitution needs amendment.

It is not necessary to point out that the framers of the Constitution contemplated the possibility of its amendment ; otherwise they would not have provided a means to amend it. It was mentioned the other day in this chamber that cbe world has completely changed since this Parliament was established. We are to-day living in another world. Even if the Constitution had been perfect originally - and no one would venture to say that any instrument devised by man could be regarded as perfect - it must, in the nature of things, fall somewhat short of perfection in these days when we are confronted with an entirely new set of circumstances.

In considering these proposals we should speak of not State rights or Commonwealth rights, but the rights of the people. The people’s welfare should be our one great concern. The test that we should apply to the Constitution is, “ Are the people’s rights being safeguarded by it as it stands”? No one would venture to say that they are. I have stated that the people have been asked on four separate occasions to consent to the amendment of the Constitution. Because they have not agreed to the proposals submitted to them hitherto the statement has been sedulously disseminated in certain quarters that they are entirely hostile to amending the Constitution. That is’ quite untrue. In 1911 when the people were first asked to amend the Constitution the proposal was novel and they were uneducated. It was rejected by a large majority because the people were uneducated. But in 1913, and again ;n 1919, the same proposals caine within 1 per cent., and one of them within one half of 1 per cent, of being carried. Much water has run under the bridges since the 1919 referendum. The great issues at the last election and the events leading up to the appeal to the electors provided the most effective propaganda for the amendment of the Constitution. The people realize now as never before what amendment means to them. During the election campaign they saw with alarm, and with anger too, that they were’ in danger of losing all they had gained through industrial legislation in a quarter of a century or more. And they realized, although they might not have been able to explain clearly just why this was so, that this evil threatened them because the Constitution did not clothe the Commonwealth Parliament with adequate powers. All parties in this House have at one time or another committed themselves to the reform of the Constitution, but the people have now shown that they also recognize the need of reform, and that they are prepared to approve proposals for effecting it.

I do not suggest that honorable members should accept any amendments submitted by the Government merely because they recognize that the Constitution ought to be amended ; but I do say that we ought to discuss the proposed amendments of the Constitution in a non-party spirit. So much is expected of us. If these amendments, or either of them, do not appeal to us, we should set out our objections, but we should do something more : We should suggest other proposals which, in our opinion, would more effectively remedy the troubles from which we are suffering and be more likely, perhaps, to commend themselves to the people. But the Government is in this matter entitled to our loyal co-operation. It is admitted by all that the Constitution must be amended if this Parliament is to be worthy of the name of national legislature. I was bitterly disappointed at the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) on this question. His speech was that of a partisan - barren of any constructive criticism. He was against the proposals because the Government had brought them in. Unhappily, there is nothing novel in that attitude. It has been my lot, as honorable members know, to introduce four of the proposed amendments of the Constitution into this Parliament, and I have heard from this side of the chamber the most amazing confessions of inconsis- tency from those whose voices had been raised trumpet- tongued in favour of the constitutional amendment. They were still in favour of amending the Constitution, but they were against the amendments because the Government had introduced them. We should consider these proposals on their merits. Every section on this side of the House has, at one time or another, committed itself in the most definite way to the principle of constitutional amendment. I have here a brochure issued by the Nationalist Association of New South Wales, setting forth reasons why the people should support the referendum proposals passed by this Parliament, and submitted to the people in 1926 by the late Government. It is well that the people of Australia should know that the Nationalist party is committed definitely by its platform, by the utterances of its leaders, and by its actions to the principle of constitutional amendment. Its members, by their utterances, by their acts, by their platform, have estopped themselves from opposing amendments of the Constitution to give the Commonwealth wider industrial powers. I admit they are in a difficult position. I take it that the right honorable gentleman who represented the constituency of Flinders in the last election spoke for the Nationalist party on this issue. He said that industrial peace was the one thing which this country must have, and that industrial peace could not be obtained except by such constitutional reforms as he asked the people to grant in 1926. At the election of 1928 he again declared for constitutional reform as the only way by which industrial peace could be secured. In 1929 he changed his policy. We all know what happened. Parliament went to the country, and the people delivered their verdict - a verdict which was unmistakable. None has ventured to question it, though many have cavilled at it. But ‘ it is nevertheless true that the Nationalist party is definitely committed to amendment of the Constitution. The National party, which, at the last elections, went to the country on a policy involving the base .surrender of” our industrial powers to the States, had, a year or two earlier, definitely committed itself to an exactly- opposite policy- Mr. Bruce, reported on page 2161 of Hansard, for May 20, said -

How can we hope to have industrial peace and contentment while such varying conditions obtain throughout the community? To-day there are seven different industrial systems in operation. Bach of the six States has its Arbitration Court or Wages Boards, and above them all is the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, which, however, is unable to coordinate or harmonize the conflicting State awards. Questions vital to the workers are being determined upon different principles in different States. The basic wage is fixed by various tribunals upon differing statistical ‘bases. Dissatisfaction and irritation arc bound to be created by such anomalies . . Only a person or company cited before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court is bound by its award. In one plaint there were 4,000 respondents, and I have heard recently of a pending case in which there will be 1 1,000 respondents.

This state of affairs, the late Prime Minister said, could not continue, and we all agreed with him. The present Leader of the Opposition, speaking on the 21st June, 1926, said-

We cannot abolish this established system of arbitration. . . . No Government would last a week in the House or in the country if it proposed such a thing. . . .

Surely that is prophecy! The honorable gentleman continued -

The effect of abolishing the federal system would be to create a great industrial confusion and loss to industry. . . . Under the referendum proposals the Federal Government would exercise the supreme power, but much of that power would be delegated to the State authorities.

Speaking on the 9th June he said -

We are seeking these powers particularly because we want to deal with industrial troubles before they become disputes. We want to have the round-table method of discussing them and settling them. But under our present constitutional powers we cannot do it. . . . We can do nothing in the direction of round-table conferences.

Then we have Senator Pearce who, on March 5, speaking before the Nationalist Association, said -

Suppose . . . you do decide against these proposals. That does not alter the fact that the Commonwealth Parliament has a certain definite responsibility in regard to federal industrial disputes. The responsibility is there in the Constitution and we must accept it. It is a limited and restricted power. . . ‘. so limited and restricted that it causes overlapping, confusion and difficulty, We want an extension of that power in order that those difficulties may be removed.

One could, if it were necessary, quote from these gentlemen’s speeches atgreat length, but there is no doubt whatever that ‘ in 1926 they went to the country advocating an amendment of the Constitution. They declared over and over again that this Parliament could not discharge its high, honorable and important duties unless such an amendment were effected. They repeated this in 1928 and up to May, 1929. Then something happened. Afterwards we had an election. The issue was the industrial question ; no one can deny that. The people were strongly roused, and after a campaign without parallel, 1 think, in the history of this country, the people delivered their verdict. Mr. Bruce’s policy was rejected. The people in the most unmistakable way declared against the surrender of industrial powers to the States and in favour of Commonwealth control. They were told both by the Labour party and by others, including myself, that there must be an amendment of the. .Constitution ; that this was essential to industrial peace ; .that the Commonwealth must be supreme in industrial matters. So much everybody in the country understood. The people have not merely authorized this Parliament to draft proposals to amend the Constitution : they have ordered Parliament to do it.

Let us look at the proposals of the Government,’ taking the industrial powers first. The Leader of the Opposition deplored the expenditure of public money essential to an appeal to the electors by way of referendum. In my opinion this expenditure is amply justified. It is imperative we should have that industrial peace which the members of the last Government declared of such importance. We must have industrial peace, peace based not on monstrous injustice to a class, but on justice to all, for so only can peace be permanent. An amendment of the Constitution is necessary, and the expenditure of £100,000 is an investment which, if the people endorse the Government’s proposal, will be most profitable to the country, for it will enable this Parliament to do very much to ensure that progress we desire, which cannot be secured without industrial peace. It is difficult to reconcile the present attitude of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) with his past actions. In 1920 he advocated the expenditure of £100,000 on a referendum, and when the present Prime Minister pointed out that this could have been avoided had the referendum been taken in conjunction with the holding of the previous election, the honorable member justified it because of the urgent need for the alteration, which made it imperative for the Parliament to act immediately. Besides, he said, at a special referendum the people could give their judgment without confusion by unconnected issues. If the expenditure was justified then it is justified now; if the need for Parliament to act was urgent then, it is doubly so to-day.

Referring to the industrial powers amendment, the honorable member said that the Government has no’ industrial policy and has not disclosed how it will use the increased powers if they are granted by the people. It is not for me to couch a lance in behalf of the Government, but I am bound to say that this jibe sounds well in the mouth of the Leader of the Opposition - a gentleman who, in 1.92S, and until May, 1929, advocated industrial peace by widening the powers of the Commonwealth in industrial matters, and in 1929, after his leader had spoken, declared that industrial peace could be obtained only by handing over to the States complete industrial power. What sort of industrial policy is that? Surely a policy must rest on definite principles. It is either good or bad that there should be one controlling authority able, if necessary, to delegate powers to the States where State control is desirable. But there must be a coordinatingauthority. Even Mr. Bruce said so. The Leader of the Opposition says that the Government has no industrial policy ! What kind of policy would commend itself to him - one of handing industrial powers over to the States or one of widening the industrial powers of the Commonwealth? At different times he has advocated both those policies. He was the adviser of the last Government on industrial affairs, and it cannot be said that his advice led his party on to fortune, for as the result of it the Nationalists were shipwrecked at the last election. Whether the blame attaches to him or to his leader

I cannot say, but there is no doubt that the industrial policy of the Bruce-Page Ministry is responsible for the state of parties in this House to-day. The policy of the Leader of the Opposition, expressed in a phrase, is “ penalties for the workers.” His one idea of industrial peace is “ coercion “ in some form or another. That policy does not commend itself to me, but it did not prevent me from supporting the amendments of the Constitution introduced by the BrucePage Government in 1926. Many of them did not meet with my approval, but I have supported every proposal for the amendment of the Constitution, regardless of the Government from which it emanated. This Parliament should be clothed with full industrial powers and, apparently, the only reason why the honorable gentleman does not now support that which he said over and over again was necessary, is that it is proposed by a Labour Government, He professes to be alarmed by the phrase, “ the maintenance of industrial peace.” He sees in this a possibility that a complete programme of socialization and nationalization may bc enacted. The honorable member speaks as though those words were novel. If he were familiar with the history of the movement for constitutional reform he would know that in every proposal submitted for an amendment of the Constitution during the last, twenty years, excepting the last one, that phrase appeared. It is important to emphasize this, because in 1919 the Nationalist Government submitted proposals to this House, and subsequently to the country which contained that phrase, although that, Government, included such reckless revolutionaries as Lord Forrest, Sir Joseph Cook and Senator Sir George Pearce. But apart from that, what is wrong with seeking power to “ maintain industrial peace”? I thought that was our aim. What will be the value of wider powers which do not include power to maintain industrial pearc? If al? other powers be refused to this Parliament by the people, power to maintain industrial peace will carry us a long way. It is true that the power may be abused, but so may any power. We have the power of taxation and it is quite easy, by the abuse of it, to ruin the country. Indeed, some people say that we have already gone too far along that road. The answer to such objections is, as governments have found to their cost, that they must answer to their masters, the people, for what they do. That is the main reason why parliaments do not abuse their powers. “Whilst it is perfectly true that, if given this power, the Government could do a great deal, we have to remember that the last Government sought power to protect the interests of the public “ in case of actual or probable interruption of any essential service.” What could the Government not do under such a power? I know of nothing. Some objections to that proposal were voiced in this House, but it was supported by the majority of honorable members and submitted to the people, who rejected it.

The attitude of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) towards these bills will be a factor in determining the opinions of the people when they are consulted by referendum. The honorable member wishes to prejudice the minds of the jury; he asks the people to believe that behind these proposals is some sinister purpose, and that, because they emanate from a Labour Government,they are not to be considered in the same way as others which over and over again have been submitted to the country. The people are asked to believe that the Government proposes to use the power to maintain industrial peace in such a way as to bring about the socialization and nationalization of industry. Such an argument will not appeal to any unprejudicedperson. Mr. Lang, of the New SouthWales Parliament, cannot be said to be distinguished by his moderation. If anybody could be said to be in favour of nationalization or socialization, or, indeed, of any other extreme course, it is Mr. Lang. But what arc the facts? TheParliament of New South Wales now has and always has had all the power that can be vested in a sovereign State. Not only can it do what it thinks necessary to maintain industrial peace, but it can do almost everything and anything. Mr. Lang was in office with a sufficient majority to enable him to exercise those powers as he thought fit. Other Labour men have been Premiers of that State, but we have not heard of such gross abuses of power.

After all, the explanation is to be found in the people of New South Wales. . A government that tries any of these fancy tricks will not long survive. That is the best guarantee against an abuse of power that we could have.

The Government is asking for these powers for the purpose of maintaining and preserving industrial peace. It is admitted that it is impossible to do this at the present time, because the Government has not the necessary power. It ought to have that power. If it should prove to be a bad government, the people will deal with it when it goes before them. But it would be intolerable if it were compelled to continue in office until the expiration of the twelfth Parliament, with no power to do justice to the people. When in 1926 the Bruce-Page Government brought down proposals for an amendment of the Constitution, Mr. Bruce appealed to the House to rise above party considerations and to treat them in a non-party spirit. It is to the eternal credit of this House that it did so. The then Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) came to an agreement with the Leader of the Government, and the proposals except that relating to “ essential services “ went before the country with the joint approval of both parties. One or two honorable members opposed them, but the parties, as parties, were merged, and there was loyal co-operation between them. May I ask if the Prime Minister will make a similar appeal to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) for that co-operation without which this proposal will not get the favorable reception which it deserves? Such cooperation would do a great deal to rehabilitate the credit of the National party, and it is sadly in need of rehabilitation. If, on this occasion, it showed itself to be less of a partisan, and more a patriotic party, it would gain in public esteem.

My attitude towards this measure may be briefly stated : I am entirely in favour of it. But, I think that, standing alone, it does not go nearly far enough. I have spoken at some length regarding the necessity for clothing this Parliament with full power to mete out evenhanded justice to all, to maintain industrial peace, and to find a solution, if solution be humanly possible, for the industrial problems which take now one shape, and now another. But the industrial powers sought under this bill will not give this Parliament authority to do those things. Modern industry is a complex process. The effects of industrial operations do not end when the limits of what is usually termed the sphere of industry are passed. Trade and commerce, clearly, are parts of industrial operations. Commerce is as much a part of industry as is any operation of industry itself. It is impossibleto deal with the complex industrial problem unless one has full power over trade and commerce. Every amendment that has been submitted to the people, with the exception of that which was submitted on the last occasion in 1926, provided for the grant of full trade and commerce power. All words of limitation are dangerous; what is wanted is full power to deal with trade and commerce in all its phases. If we have not full power over trade and commerce we cannot deal effectively with industry. And we want, not only the power to deal with trade and commerce, but also the power to deal with corporations which dominate industry and commerce. Unless we have these powers we can deal with only one side of the industrial question. The industrial problem arises out of an endless struggle between organized labour and organized capital, not one between the individual man and the individual employer. It is a struggle between great masses of men organized for their own protection, and great masses of capital organized for purposes of production and trade. Since 90 per cent. of all enterprises, with the exception of primary enterprises, in this and every other country, are carried on by corporations, it is clearly impossible to deal effectively with industry unless we have control over trade and commerce and corporations. Let me give one illustration. This Parliament has plenary power to impose duties of customs and excise. In a country such as Australia, which has adopted a policy of protection, the primary purpose of the imposition of duties of customs is to encourage local industry. In the early stages of the encouragement of industries, it must inevitably happen that prices will rise. Oneof the reasons, perhaps, why encouragement is necessary is that conditions in oversea industries make it impossible for local manufacturers to compete with them on equal terms. We impose a tariff in order to give our local manufacturers a fair chance against their oversea competitors. But we are here, not merely to. encourage manufacturers, irrespective of the use to which they may put this tariff, but also to safeguard all interests - those of the consumer as well as those of the manufacturer and the trader. In this Parliament we are in the unhappy position that while we are able to impose a tariff toencourage an industry, we cannot deal in any way with the effect of that tariff. We want to be able to deal with it. The other day the Prime Minister was asked what he would do providing a manufacturer exploited the people. He said that if he found that such a practice was general, he would feel obliged to either repeal or lower the duty. That, of course, would be a tragic remedy, and would mean the punishment of all manufacturers because of the acts of a few. For that reason, among others, I strongly urge that power over trade and commerce, corporations and trusts, should be taken as well as power over industrial matters. It is impossible to deal effectively with industrial matters unless we have power over trade and commerce, corporations and trusts.

I turn now to. the consideration of the Power of Amendment Bill. In my opinion this measure is opposed to the definite purposes of the parties set out in the federal pact. . The essential feature of that pact is a distribution of powers between Commonwealth and State, which leaves each of the parties independent within its own sphere. That is the essential feature of federation. Some federations do not provide for a judiciary to interpret the Constitution and act as its guardian ; but in every federation each party is independent within the ambit of its own authority. This independence is the basis of the federal pact; and it appears to me that the proposed amendment is incompatible with such independence. It is undeniable that it was on. the distinct understanding that the parties were to be independent, each within its own sphere, that the States federated. It is undeniable that Western Australia, for example, which was not one of the original States, came in when the Constitution was confirmed, and when no one ventured for a moment to question the principal arrangements on which the federation was based. Every one knew that the Constitution could be amended, but every one believed that it would be amended only as provided in section 128. That section provides for the consent of the States as well as of the people; there must he at least four of the States, as well as a majority of the people voting at the referendum before any proposed amendment can become law. I venture to Bay that not one man ever contemplated that the Constitution could be altered by substituting an entirely alien principle, incompatible with the federal pact, in which the consent of the people, qua people, and of the States, qua States, is necessary before an amendment can bemade. The proposal of this bill is a breach of the spirit of the federal pact. In my opinion, too, there is good reason to believe that it is not a valid exercise of our power. It may - I do not say that it will - easily turn out that we cannot make such an amendment, and that, it is ultra vires of the Commonwealth Parliament.

But I leave on one side that aspect of the matter. It is clearly a violation of the spirit of the Constitution, and it comes to me as a very great surprise. I have always stood for an extension of the powers of the Commonwealth, and have gone as far as any man in both my advocacy of it and the persistence with which I have sought to secure wider powers. This bill seems to me to depart from the principle that we have hitherto considered to govern the federal pact. In my opinion, it is undesirable that we should depart from it.

I shall leave the questions of the validity of this proposal and its unfederal character to consider for a few moments, the consequences that would follow its submission to the people and the assent of the people if that is obtained. I am sincerely anxious that the Constitution shall be amended, and that this Parliament shall be rescued from the pitiable position in which it finds itself to-day.

I assure the Government - and I speak from considerable experience - that it is not so easy as might be imagined to get the people to agree to an amendment of the Constitution. In the first place it is necessary to obtain the approval of four States. In view of the fact that the concluding paragraph of section 128 of the Constitution lays it down in clear and unambiguous terms that equal representation in the Senate; proportionate representation in this chamber; and their territorial integrity can only be altered with the consent of a majority of the people in a State. Now these safeguards will be removed if this amendment is accepted, and it appears to be altogether unlikely that the States, the smaller ones particularly, will accept the proposal. To put it in another way, in order to give the Commonwealth the power the Government desires it to have, the States must agree to their own destruction. I do not object to the proposed amendment because it goes far, but because it goes in the wrong direction. I suggest to the Government with all earnestness that it should withdraw this bill and submit to the people a series of definite amendments which will give it all the power that it desires. If this proposal were agreed to, it would not achieve any definite end. It would unsettle everything and settle nothing. Whereas we now have stability we should . then have instability. The States would not know from one day to another where they stood. It would be impossible for the State Treasurers to prepare a satisfactory budget, or make any definite taxation proposals. States would be living under sufferance. lc would be far better for the Government to ask the people to repose in the Commonwealth Parliament all the reserve power, and authorize it to delegate to the States certain enumerated powers. That would he a straightforward proposal upon which the people could vote intelligently. Even if the proposals in these two bills are agreed to it will in itself leave things as they are. It is true that the Commonwealth would have full industrial power, but the States would retain all the other power that they at present possess. This is a time when economies should be effected in every possible direction; but there is no promise in this bill of a reduced expenditure on legislative machinery. We are grossly overgoverned, for we haveseven Parliaments which are carrying on in exactly the same manner as they did before federation. It is time that we changed this state of affairs. But this bill will not bring about a change. These proposals cannot possibly bring any finality into our governmental methods. If the Constitution were amended along the lines proposed one government might take powers from the States to-day and another government restore them to-morrow, Surely we must reach finality somewhere ! I would stand with any one in this country and advocate the abolition of the Legislative Councils, a reduction in the number of members of State Assemblies, the abolition of State Governors, and the abolition of State Agents-General. These are definite proposals which would give us some definiterelief. The people would understand amendments of this kind, and, in my opinion, would support them. I do not think they will understand clearly the purpose and effects of this bill.

But perhaps my greatest objection to this hill is that if it is agreed to by this Parliament and the question submitted to the people with the industrial powers question, it will gravely imperil the latter question being answered affirmatively. There is not one chance in50 of the people agreeing to the proposals in this bill, and it seriously impairs the possibility of the other proposal’ being accepted. And if the people refuse the additional industrial powers that are being sought it would be a tragedy. The people have been led to believe that this Government will give them relief from their industrial troubles, but unless the Government is granted additional power over industry it can do nothing. The people are calling for bread, and it is proposed to give them a stone. I urge the Government to withdraw this proposal, and. submit to the people proposals for giving this Parliament not only full power over industrial matters, but also full power over trade and commerce, corporations and trusts. We could then say to the people - “ If yon will give us these powers we can give you immediate and substantial relief.” I beg the Government to consider most seriously the points that I am submitting to it. I believe that it is almost inevitable that if these two proposals are submitted to the people both will be defeated, whereas if a proposal is submitted along the lines I have suggested there is every prospect that the people will accept it.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Coleman) adjourned.

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Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.

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The following papers were presented : -

Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. -

No. 4 of 1930. - Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.

No.5 of 1930. - Public Service Association of North Australia and Central Australia.

House adjournedat3.56p.m.

Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 March 1930, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.