12th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. NormanMakin) took the chair at 2.30 p.m. and offered prayers.
Civil Aerodrome at Western Junction.
Mr. LACEY, as chairman, brought up the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, together with minutes of evidence, relating to the proposed development of the civil aerodrome at Western Junction, Tasmania.
Ordered to be printed.
– In view of the confusion which exists in the minds of many motorists regarding the recent changes in the Roads Agreement and the Government’s proposal to increase the tax on petrol for the benefit of the States, will the Prime Minister make a further statement on the subject!
– The position in regard to the existing roads agreement is quite clear, but apparently doubt exists in the minds of some people regarding the request by the States for the imposition of an additional tax on petrol. At the Premiers’ Conference in 1929 the States requested that an additional tax of 4d. per gallon be imposed. The representatives of the Commonwealth Government, while agreeing that a case might be made out for a smaller additional tax, were not prepared to ask Parliament to increase the existing impost by 4d. per gallon. Eventually the representatives of the States unanimously requested that the Commonwealth should impose an extra tax of 2$d. per gallon, and agreed that each State would reduce its existing taxes on motor vehicles to such an extent as would relieve motorists of taxation equivalent to the amount of the further payment to be made by the Commonwealth to that State from the proceeds of the petrol tax. Since the conference the Commonwealth Government has asked the State Governments if they are prepared to confirm that arrangement by a formal agreement.
– That applies only to the additional 2£d. per gallon.
– Yes. The sum of £2,000,000 will continue to be made available to the States under the Roads Agreement, subject only to the condition that the money must be used for road purposes, but before agreeing to impose a further tax of 2-Jd. per gallon, we have asked the States to enter into a formal undertaking in accordance with the resolution of the Premiers’ Conference.
– Will the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs consider the advisability of further increasing the duty on imported artificial silk?
– The representations of the honorable member for Wannon and of interested parties for and against an increase in the duty on artificial silk will receive full consideration when any further tariff schedule is being prepared.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to an interview with Mr. James McDougall, president of the Victorian Chamber of Manufacturers, published in the Argus of yesterday, wherein he says, in reference to unemployment -
The duty of a Government in these worrying times is surely to help rather than to hinder industry through strangling regulations, taxation, dual control, and other impediments.
Every assistance should be given so that industry will be able to adjust itself on a proper economic basis.
Can the Prime Minister suggest any method by which the Government might relieve the struggling manufacturers .of the disabilities of dual control in industrial awards, the strangling regulations, high taxation, and other impediments complained of, so that industry may adjust itself on a proper economic basis ?
– The impediment upon which most stress is laid by Mr. McDougall and the honorable member is dual control in industrial matters. I suggest that the adoption of the Government’s referendum proposals will do much to remove that disability.
– Has the Prime Minister yet been advised by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Fenton) that finality has been reached by the Naval Conference in London?
– I have received cablegrams to-day from the Minister for Trade and Customs, and also from other London sources. Although no agreement has been signed, the negotiations for a three-power pact are progressing very satisfactorily, and the prospects of a fivepower pact are more hopeful.
– Has the Prime Minister read a paragraph published in Saturday’s newspapers to the effect that, the Minister for Defence (Mr. A. Green) had stated in Western Australia that the present Government had resisted his efforts to secure a bonus for the gold-mining industry, he being only one in a Ministry of twelve, and had also refused to assist the industry by remitting taxation on mining machinery which cannot be manufactured in Australia? Are these statements true, and if so, what action does the Government propose to take?
– I have not read the paragraph quoted by the honorable member, but I judge from his version of it that the Minister for Defence must have been referring to the last Government.
Belief of Distress
– Having regard to the acute distress on the northern coalfields, will the Prime Minister consider the advisability of .making available to poor people during the approaching winter some of the Welsh coal that is now deteriorating iii stacks at Newcastle?
– The coal to which the honorable member refers has been stored at Newcastle for naval purposes. There is probably some merit in his suggestion, and I shall take it up with the Defence Department.
– I wish to know why imported films have been exempted from the surcharges imposed under the new tariff, and also from the rationing proposals of the Government?
– It is not customary for the head of a government or a minister to explain, or give reasons why certain articles have not been included in tariff schedules; that would involve a disclosure of the intentions of the government in a tariff matter. I am not suggesting that we intend to bring film importations under a new tariff on this occasion, but the honorable member must understand that the Government will not answer questions concerning tariff matters.
North and Central Australia
– Has the Government given consideration to the restoration of the system of trial by jury in North and Central Australia?
– The Government, has given consideration to that question, and has decided to re-introduce the system of trial by jury in both North and Central Australia.
Church Lands Lease Ordinance
-In view of the fact that the Government has decided to abolish the Federal Capital Commission, I wish to know why section 7 of the principle ordinance, which in this case is the Church Lands Leases Ordinance, bas been amended by omitting the word “ Minister “ and inserting in lieu thereof the word “ Commission “ ?
– That amendment is governed by the principle act abolishing the Federal Capital Commission, and, as is known to the honorable member, that act provides for the substitution of the Minister for the Commission, upon the abolition of the Commission.
– Has the Prime Minister noticed a statement in the press yesterday to the effect that a number of naval vessels and submarines are to be scrapped, and the services of a number of naval ratings dispensed with? If so, has he any statement to make to the Souse ?
– The question of the retrenchment of the Defence Department has reached the same stage as the question of retrenchment in every other department. Each Minister has been asked to go through the departmental estimates to ascertain where savings can be effected, and one of the departments where it is hoped to effect some saving is the Defence Department. The statements that have been published in the press up to date are premature, because the report of the department has not yet been received, and when it is received the Ministry will consider it.
– Will the ActingMinister for Trade and Customs have prepared and laid upon the table of the House a statement showing the value of imports in each case of all articles which have been subjected to a surcharge of duty, or placed on the prohibited list by proclamation, in order to bring about the rectification of the balance of trade; also a statement showing ‘ the value in each case of the Australian production of those articles? Could those statements be tabled before the general debate upon the surcharge items takes place in this House?
– I shall give consideration to the suggestion of the honorable member. I assure him that before the tariff is debated in the House the fullest information will be given to honorable members.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The furnishing of answers to the honorable member’s questions will entail a considerable amount of time and labour, as a search of the Public Service records in all of the States is necessary, The Public Service Board is in communication with its representatives in the various States, and it is not practicable to state definitely when the desired information will be available.
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
Will he give details of the value of orders for strongrooms for the Commonwealth Bank, placed with Messrs. Chubb’s Limited, during the past ten years, stating in each instance what proportion (if any) was Australian made ?
– The Commonwealth Bank has furnished the following information in reply to this question: -
We have to intimate that practically the whole of the safes and material used for strongroom construction by the bank are now, and for some time past have been manufactured in Australia.
The prices paid are a matter concerning the administration of the bank, and it is not considered advisable that they be published. All prices, however, are thoroughly investigated by competent bank officers, and/or the experts of the Commonwealth Departments of Works, before acceptance.
asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. No definite information as to the intention of the company is available. The only action that could be taken in the matter would be to impose a prohibitive duty.
asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What commodities were exported from Australia to France in the years 1928 and 1929, and what were the quantities and value of each of such commodities?
– The statistics are recorded in financial years. The following are the figures for the financial years 1927-28, 1928-29.
asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What is the title of the film now being shown in Melbourne that was rejected by the Censorship Board and subsequently released by the Film Censorship Appeal Board?
– The title of the film is “ Gold Diggers of Broadway “.
Prevention of Profiteering
asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether he was speaking on behalf of the Government when he gave his approval to a suggestion made by the Daily Guardian for the promotionof a national conference for the purpose of preventing profiteering under the new tariff proposals?
– The only referenceI can find to the matter in the paper mentioned is that I said that the proposals were constructive and encouraging to the Government. Practical suggestions from any source to prevent profiteering and to relieve the present economic difficulties are welcomedboth by the Government and by myself as Acting Minister for Customs.
asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow -
– Yesterday the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Archdale Parkhill) addressed to me the following question : -
I ask the Postmaster-General whether the arrangements can be continued whereby letters posted at Parliament House up till 9 o’clock may be delivered in Sydney next morning?
In reply to the honorable member, I would state that the discontinuance of the 11.15 p.m. train from Canberra to Sydney renders his suggestion impracticable. Mails closing at Parliament House at 6 p.m. and at the post office at 6.45 p.m. are delivered in Sydneythe next morning. Later postings for Sydney are despatched by motor to Yass Junction, where they are picked up by the Melbourne express and reach Sydney at 11 a.m. in time for inclusion in the afternoon deliveries.
– On the 2nd April, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) asked the following question : -
As entries for the award of merit for films and scenarios produced in Australia closed a couple of days ago, will the Minister for Trade and Customs say how many entries have been received ?
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
Four entries have been received for the film competition. For the scenario competition 423 entries have been received.
– On the 28th March, the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) asked the following questions. upon notice -
The answers to 1 and 2 were furnished on the 28th March. I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following additional information: -
Cigar and Cigarette Production
– On the 25th March the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) asked the following questions, upon notice -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
Figures for the financial year 1929-30 are not yet available, therefore those for the calendar year 1929 have been obtained, and are as follow: -
The honorable member asked also the following questions, upon notice -
I furnish the following information: -
Figures for the financial year 1929-30 are not yet available, therefore those for the calendar year 1929 have been obtained, and are as follow: -
– On the 3rd April the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch) asked the following questions, upon notice -
Iam now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
– On the 2nd April the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lewis) asked the following questions, upon notice -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until 11 a.m. to-morrow.
Motion (by Mr. Blakeley) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Nationality Act 1920-1925.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) proposed -
That orders of the day Nos. 1 and 2 be postponed until after order of the day No. 3. Government. Business.
– Honorable members who have not already spoken in the debate on the Constitution Alteration Power of Amendment Bill will be permitted to discuss the Constitution Alteration Industrial Powers Bill and the Constitution Alteration Trade and Commerce Bill when dealing with the first-mentioned measure ; but when the two last-mentioned bills are before the House it will be necessary for them to confine their remarks to those specific measures.
– I rise to a point of order. Does that mean that honorable members who may not speak on the Constitution Alteration Power of Amendment Bill or the Constitution Alteration Industrial Powers Bill will, if they address themselves to the Constitution Alteration Trade and Commerce Bill, be obliged to confine themselves to that measure ?
– The practice we have been following will be continued. Any honorable members who do not desire to speak on the Constitution Alteration Power of Amendment Bill or the Constitution Alteration Industrial Powers Bill, but only on the Constitution Alteration Trade and Commerce Bill, will be required to confine their remarks to that measure. If they desire to speak on the general subject they will have their opportunity in the debate on theConstitution Alteration Power of Amendment Bill. Honorable members who have already participated in the debate on the Constitution Alteration Power of Amendment Bill will, of course, have an opportunity to discuss the Constitution Alteration Trade and Commerce Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 4th April (vide page 900) on motion by Mr. Scullin -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This third proposal of the Government for the amendment of the Constitution is of profound importance, for it may affect the whole trade and commerce of the Commonwealth, and therefore nearly all the activities by which our citizens earn their living. It is unfortunate that a proposal of such importance, which was only introduced on Friday last, must be discussed by honorable members to-day. I propose to examine, first, the significance of the proposal; secondly, reasons which may lead to the conclusion that there should be an extension of the trade and commerce powers of the Commonwealth. I shall also make some constructive suggestions with respect to constitutional amendments generally to which I invite the attention of the Government.
The significance of this proposed amendment is that it involves the giving to the Federal Parliament of the full control of commerce and trading enterprises within the Commonwealth. Obviously, therefore, it is of immense importance. Up to the present time the Commonwealth has had power to control foreign commerce and commerce among the States, and, speaking generally, the States themselves have retained the residual trade and commerce powers. Section 51 of the Constitution provides that-
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 -
Trade and commerce with other countries and among the States;
The Constitution also confers upon this Parliament power to make laws with respect to customs and excise duties and bounties, which obviously have an intimate relation to trade and commerce; postal, telegraphic, telephonic, and other like services; lighthouses, &c. ; quarantine ; currency, coinage, and legal tender ; banking, within the limits of the section ; insurance, within the limits of the section; weights and measures; bills of exchange and promissory notes; bankruptcy and insolvency; and copyrights and patents. All these subjects, which affect trade and commerce, were included within the federal power because it was considered that they were matters readily capable of being dealt with in a uniform fashion throughout the Commonwealth, and that it was desirable that they should be so handled.
Section 98 of the Constitution gives power to this Parliament to make laws with respect to trade and commerce, including navigation and shipping, and railways the property of any State. That provision, honorable members will realize, is of very great importance in considering this proposed amendment. That section has been interpreted by the High Court to mean that the power of the Federal Parliament, whatever it may be, to legislate with respect to trade and commerce, extends to navigation and State railways. That power is a power to deal only with interstate and foreign trade and commerce, and, therefore, it has been held that the power of the Federal Parliament to deal with navigation and shipping and with State railways is limited in the same manner as the trade and commerce power. Accordingly, section 98 of the Constitution confers on this Parliament power to deal with interstate trade and commerce in connexion with navigation and State railways. Take navigation. This Parliament can legislate with respect to interstate navigation, but not with respect to navigation that is confined within the limits of a single State. The position with respect to railways is similar. This Parliament is able to legislate with respect to State railways, so far as interstatetransport is concerned; but not so far as intra-state transport is concerned. That is the present position.
Now, what change does the bill propose to make? It will be seen by a glance at the measure that the amendment proposed is an extension of the present Commonwealth legislative power, but that this extension is subject to a remarkable limitation. The proposed extension of power is contained in paragraph a of clause 2 of the bill. It is proposed that the words “with other countries and among the States “ shall be omitted from paragraph i of section 51 of the Constitution. That paragraph would then provide that the Federal Parliament shall have power to legislate with respect to “trade and commerce.” There is, however, in paragraphb of clause 2 of the bill a proviso relating to State railways, which imposes a limitation that I have ventured to describe as remarkable, and by that I mean that it is remarkable in the present age, and having regard to present-day conditions. I shall deal with the proviso separately in a few moments.
It is important to understand exactly what is being done, when it is proposed to give this Parliament full power with respect to trade and commerce. The content of the idea of trade and commerce is “well set out on page 515 of the work on the Constitution by Sir John Quick and Sir Robert Garran. There honorable members will find a note on trade and commerce, and I propose to read the following extracts from it to show how far the proposed amendment goes : -
Trade means the act or business of exchanging commodities by barter, or by buying and selling for money; commerce; traffic; barter. It comprehends every species of exchange or dealing, either in the produce of land, in manufactures, in bills, or in money, but it is chiefly used to denote the barter or purchase and sale of goods, wares, and merchandise, either by wholesale or retail. (Webster’s International Dictionary.) Commerce means the exchange or buying and selling of commodities; especially the exchange of merchandise on a large scale between different places or communities; extended trade or traffic. (Webster’s International Dictionary.) The courts of the United States have, in a series of decisions, defined commerce to be both intercourse and traffic, and the regulation of commerce to be the prescribing of the rules by which intercourse and traffic shall be governed. . . . Commerce includes all commercial traffic and intercourse. Sale is an ingredient of commerce. It means intercourse for the purpose of trade of all descriptions. It comprehends everything that is grown, produced, or manufactured. It extends to persons who conduct it as well as the means and instrumentalities used. It includes vessels, railways, and other conveyances used in the transport of merchantable goods, as well as the goods themselves. It embraces navigation and shipping; … It covers the right to improve navigable waters; and to remove nuisances and obstructions interfering with navigation. It embraces railways, highways, and navigable waters along and over which commerce flows. It includes the freights and fares charged for transport. It includes passengers. Sending a telegraph message is commerce.
Accordingly, it will be seen that a power to deal with trade and commerce as a whole is a very wide one indeed. The interpretation given to these words in the Constitution of the United States of America, where they also appear, can be seen by referring to the second edition of Willoughby on the Constitutional Law of the United States of America, published in 1929. This is the latest work on the American Constitution, and I refer honorable members to its second volume at page 730 and the following pages. It will there be seen that a trade and commerce power gives authority to deal with motor-buses, motor-cars, gas and oil pipe lines, correspondence schools and many other matters which at first glance would not appear to be comprehended within the subject. In our own courts the general lines of the description which I have been giving of trade and commerce have been followed, particularly in McArthur’s case. For the convenience of honorable members I may mention that the reference to that case is 28 C.L.R., pages 546 and 547. There it is pointed out that - “ Trade and commerce “ between different countries - we leave out for the present the word “ intercourse “ - has never been confined to the -mere act of transportation of merchandise over the frontier. That the words include that act is, of course, a truism. But that they go far ‘beyond it is a fact quite as undoubted. All the commercial arrangements of which transportation is the direct and necessary result form part of “trade and commerce.” The mutual communings, the negotiations, verbal and by correspondence, the bargain, the transport and the delivery are all, but not exclusively, parts of that class of relations between mankind which the world calls “ trade and commerce.”
That extract is from the judgment of Chief -Justice Knox, Mr. Justice Isaac Isaacs, and Mr. Justice Starke. It is followed by references to a long list of authorities, showing that all commercial dealings and all the accessory methods of commercial transactions are included within the subject of trade and commerce. In addition to the particular instances that I have given, I may mention, as a matter of perhaps particular interest and importance, that dealing in food and drugs - we legislate to ensure the purity of food and drugs and to regulate the conditions under which they may be sold - falls within the conception of trade and commerce. It is, therefore, plain that what Parliament is asked to do by this bill is to make a very profound and far-reaching change in the distribution of powers between the Commonwealth and the States, and one much more extensive, I suggest, than would have occurred to anybody listening to the speech of the Prime Minister who dealt in a very limited way with this subject that has an almost infinite number of aspects. If this amendment is adopted, the Commonwealth Parliament will have power to deal with the whole subject of transportation in Australia, with the limitations contained in the proviso mentioned in the bill. It will be possible for rh is Parliament to take over, for example, the registration of motor cars, the control of motor buses, trams, ferries, motor lorries and all forms of road traffic. Honorable members will note that at present I am specifying only the extent of the amendment. Trade and commerce includes all transport of goods and passengers.
I now come to the proviso, which is in the following terms : -
Provided th,at the alteration in this paragraph by Constitution Alteration (Trade and Commerce) 1030., shall not be construed to empower the Parliament to make laws with respect to the control or management of railways, the property of a State, or the rates or fares on such railways.
I am aware that on other occasions when a referendum to alter the trade and commerce sections of the Constitution has been submitted to the people, exceptions of one kind or another have sometimes been made in respect of State railways.
– Not in all cases.
– I do not say in all cases; I said on other occasions. There have been only three such referendums altogether, and on two occasions exceptions were made. At that time the omission was justified on the ground that it was desired to maintain what was thought to be the constitutional position by exempting State servants, and particularly State railway servants, from the jurisdiction of this Parliament. It was understood that on a true interpretation of the Constitution, State railway servants were not subject, for example, to the industrial laws of this Parliament. It had already been decided by the High Court that State railway servants were not subject to the industrial control of the Arbitration Court, and only in 1920 was that position altered by a decision in the engineers’ case. Therefore it appears to me that this proviso is, in view of the ideas of the present Government, somewhat of an anachronism. With that, however, I am not particularly concerned just now. It does not matter what was the reason for the original inclusion of such a proviso; what I desire to point out is the effect of the inclusion of the proviso in this bill. The effect of the proviso i3 to ensure that the amendment shall not be construed to emp*ower the Federal Parliament to make laws in respect to the management of State railways, or the fixing of fares and rates. It leaves existing powers as they are. It does not deprive this Parliament of the power it already has under section 98 of the Constitution. That section empowers the Commonwealth Parliament to control navigation, and, in certain circumstances, railways which are the property of the States. Thus Parliament will still have power to deal with interstate trade and commerce on State railways, but it will have no power, even after this amendment is carried, to deal with such trade and commerce within a State. It will have no power to interfere with management or control, or to fix rates and .fares in respect of intra-state railway traffic. The Commonwealth Parliament will, however, have power to deal with all road traffic whether interstate or intra-state. One of the most obvious developments of modern life is the competition between road and railway traffic, between the lorry and the railway. I think that ohe of the principles most generally recognized is that it is necessary, in order to deal satisfactorily with modern transport, to co-ordinate road, rail, and sea traffic. Under this amendment, if carried, the Commonwealth will have full power over, road traffic everywhere, over sea traffic everywhere, but over railway traffic only when it is interstate.
– “What a’bout tramways?
– The Commonwealth Government will have power to control tramways, and also to control ferries, such as the Sydney ferries, and the Williamstown ferry in Melbourne. It will have power to deal with trams, motor cars, motor buses, motor lorries, ferries, and all forms of road and air transport all over Australia, and also sea transport. The position then will be that the State will control railway traffic from, say, Sydney to Albury, or Sydney to Bathurst, but the Commonwealth will have power to control traffic by road between those places. Under the amendment the State will have power to control traffic to Newcastle by road, rail or sea, subject to any exercise of Commonwealth power which this Parliament may see fit to make. The Commonwealth will have power to control traffic between Newcastle and Sydney by road or sea, but not by railway. I submit that such a situation will be chaotic, and will lead to all sorts of confusion. One of the most urgent and persistent needs of modern communities is coordination of transport control. This bill proposes to remove any possibility of such co-ordination by making a redistribution of power in the manner I have outlined.
– There is no co-ordination of traffic control now.
– The honorable member knows that a Transport Bill is before the New South “Wales Parliament at the present time, and that similar legislative action is contemplated in Victoria. However, it is not now my concern whether co-ordination exists at present, or not, though we know, at any rate, that motor bus traffic has been placed, to some extent under the control of the Railway Commissioners in some of the States. There is some degree of co-ordination. The question, How should co-ordination be exercised, is very complex and disputable. But I doubt whether any honorable member will say that it is not desirable that there should be, in fact, co-ordination and the fullest opportunity for arriving at a common-sense and business-like system in relation to transport.
– I take it that the honorable gentleman is not suggesting that the Commonwealth Government should ask for power to control the State railway systems?
– At the moment, I am merely examining the significance of the power that is being sought. I doubt very much whether any honorable member on either side of this House would show enthusiam towards a proposal that the Commonwealth should undertake the control of the State railway systems, with their annual deficits. It might be a different matter if they were profitable concerns. But the point that I make is, that if this Parliament is not prepared to deal fully with rail traffic it ought not to seek, at the present time, the power to deal with road traffic.
I have shown how far-reaching is the power that is being sought, and have made the point that the adoption of these proposals, in their present form, will result in such a division of powers that, there will be endless possibilities of confusion arising; also that the alternative - the taking control of the railways of the States - is one that no honorable member is prepared to contemplate. That might suffice as a treatment of the whole matter so far as this particular proposal is concerned; but I do not propose to stop there.
I point out further, that in addition to the power to control transport - upon which, for obvious reasons, I have laid considerable emphasis - this Parliament would have the power to control, from Canberra, all businesses connected with buying and selling in Australia, every trade and commerce enterprise, food and drugs, and every method of earning a living with the exception of producing, as distinct from trading and commercial, enterprises. Manufacturing and primary production are outside the trade and commerce power. Trade and commerce enters into the operation of distribution and exchange, but not of production. Subject to that exception, and the further exception of professional occupations, all occupations in Australia would fall within the power, and any regulation could be made to deal with them. This power would also make it possible for the Commonwealth Parliament to legislate on the subject of contract in relation to trading and commercial transactions, but not with respect to other transactions.
That is all that I desire to say with respect to the significance of these proposals. I proceed now to answer the question, Why is it said to be necessary to have so far-reaching a change ? I refer to the speech of the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) upon this bill, and his speeches upon the other bills to amend the Constitution, which were introduced recently and to which the right honorable gentleman referred for additional reasons for the introduction of this measure.
May I first make a few comments upon section 92 of the Constitution? That section provides that trade, commerce, and intercourse between the States, whether by means of internal carriage or ocean navigation, shall be absolutely free. When he introduced the other proposals, the Prime Minister referred to the course of decisions of the High Court of Australia upon section 92 of the Constitution as one of the facts justifying an appeal for increased federal power. An examination of those decisions, however, shows that it is not necessary to have any amendment made to that section, nor to obtain increased federal power in that direction. It is true, as the Prime Minister said, that the High Court decided in the Forgitt Jones case that section 92 meant one thing, that in the case of Duncan and Theodore it overruled that decision, and that finally, in the case of Macarthur v. The State of Queensland, it set aside its decision in the case of Duncan and Theodore, and re-established the principle laid down in the Foggitt Jones case. But what we have to look at is the actual state of the law to-day. According to the decision in Macarthurs case, section 92 does not impose any limitation or restriction upon the powers of this Parliament; it is addressed only to the Parliaments of the States. It prevents those Parliaments from interfering with free trade between the States, but does not prevent this Parliament from legislating with respect to interstate trade. Indeed, it would bc possible for this Parliament, if it so desired, to set up barriers between the States, provided that the conditions in the Constitution relating to uniformity, and non-discrimination were satisfied.
– But it does not mention the States!
– I am stating what the High Court has decided, as the honorable and learned member well knows. I think he will agree that I have fairly stated the effect of the High Court decision. If interstate trade and commerce is, by virtue of section 92, to be free from both Federal and State law, no meaning can be attached to paragraph I of section 51, which expressly empowers this Parliament to legislate with respect to interstate trade and commerce.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) referred to certain difficulties in connexion with navigation. I agree entirely that those difficulties exist and that they ought to. be removed. I recognize, also, that an amendment of the Constitution is required to remove them. Honorable members who have been in this House within recent years have heard me speak on that subject, outlining difficulties that arise when, for example, an interstate vessel collides with an intra-state vessel. A determination as to which law ought then to be applied is a difficult and complex problem. There is no reason why such a position of affairs should continue to exist. Accordingly, I would willingly and unreservedly support an amendment designed to enable this Parliament to control the whole subject of navigation, both interstate and intra-state.
The Prime Minister next referred to the evil of profiteering, more particularly by individuals who enjoy the protection of the tariff. The suggestion is that this Parliament should be invested with power to fix prices. I have no enthusiasm for price-fixing, particularly on a Commonwealth scale. The States can fix prices if they choose, but in my opinion the best means of doing that is by competition. Price-fixing, so far- as I have experienced or observed it, generally fails to achieve its objective. In very grave emergency, as in war time, it is an essential measure, but at other times the prices fixed enable the producer of moderate efficiency and ability to earn a living, and often enable the truly efficient producer to make a fortune. In other words, price-fixing is a sure means of creating millionaires. However, I am not allowing my own views regarding the danger of price-fixing, except as an emergency measure, to prejudice me against the Government’s proposal. In 1926, the Government of which I was a member considered this matter, and introduced constitutional amendments which we considered would deal adequately with it. It included a proposal that this Parliament should have power to control trusts, combines and monopolies operating in restraint of trade. I am still prepared to ask the people to grant that power, which is all that is necessary to prevent the improper and unfair exploitation of the community. The only other specific matter mentioned by the Prime Minister was marketing. Only yesterday a bill was introduced to provide for the establishment of a Commonwealth wheat pool; if that measure is passed and the State Parliaments which are affected concur, a compulsory wheat pool will be set up. I do not propose to argue to-day the merits or demerits of compulsory pooling ; I merely remind the House that this Parliament has full power to control all exports, and that power has been exercised in respect of several industries. Full control of the disposal of Australian products in all markets, local and foreign, can be obtained by the co-operation of the Commonwealth and the States. In connexion with the marketing of wheat, for instance, if the bill introduced by the Government is passed, the necessary legislation enacted by the State Parliaments, and administrative agencies established, a compulsory wheat pool will . come into existence through the concurrence of the three parties interested - the Commonwealth Parliament, the wheat-growers, and the people of the States. I am not satisfied that marketing should not continue to be dealt with upon this co-operative basis, rather than by unified control.
– What is the most practical way of doing it?
– The method to which I am referring is practical and simple, although the co-operation of the States has to be obtained. But in almost any pooling scheme the co-operation of the States will be necessary, unless the Commonwealth is to set up organizations to take the place of the agricultural and other departments of the States. Therefore, from a practical point of view, the present method of co-operation is as effective as the course which the Government is proposing. I do not see how any pooling proposal can work economically in opposition to the wish of the government or parliament of any State concerned. There is a great deal in the contention that before any individual should be compelled to dispose of his produce the people of his own State, through the local parliament and government, should have an opportunity to be heard. For example, if apples were grown only in Tasmania, the assent of the people and Parliament of that State should be a condition precedent to the adoption of any apple-pooling scheme. It would., not be proper, prima facie, for this House, containing only five representatives of Tasmania, to take control of the produce of that State without consulting its Government and Parliament. In regard to marketing, it is possible with the existing powers that the Commonwealth possesses to do everything that is desired by cooperation with the States.
It is easy to raise theoretical difficulties as to the division between interstate and intra-state trade and commerce, and to mention circumstances in which the line of demarcation might be hard to define. But no difficulty in this regard has ever arisen, except in respect of navigation.
– What about the price-fixing laws?
– The decision of the High Court in the Macarthur case settled that point in favour of the Commonwealth. In regard to navigation, I have already said that the powers of this Parliament should be extended.
In summing up the attitude of the Opposition, I say that the form of the Government’s proposal and the proviso accompanying it, is likely to create grave trouble in the control of transport. A proposal which would give to the Commonwealth full power in respect of road traffic, and limited control over rail traffic, should be carefully considered before being adopted Road and rail traffic should be developed in coordination, but co-ordination will never be obtained if control is shared by two authorities. I cannot see the slightest need for the Commonwealth to seek power over trams, buses, ferries, and all trades and commercial enterprises, and if the power is granted, its exercise will only lead to litigation, trouble, uncertainty, and confusion. There is a tendency in this Parliament, the members of which naturally regard problems mainly from a federal point of view, to consider that because something ought to be done, therefore the Commonwealth should do it. I dissent strongly from that view. It is most important to observe the distinction between national and relatively local matters, and to leave the latter to the States.
However, I do not wish to end my address on a negative note. I am quite prepared to support definite amendments of the Constitution in respect of specified subjects which I shall enumerate in order that the attitude of the Opposition may be known. We are not adopting an attitude of negation and obstruction towards the problem of constitutional amendment. We believe that those amendments should be made which experience and wise judgment have shown to be necessary, but the success of all the proposals will probably be imperilled if we go to the people with requests so unnecessarily far-reaching as are those now before the House. I propose to set out six subjects which are almost noncontroversial; there may be some doubt about two of them, but even in respect to them I can promise the cordial support of the Opposition. They are -
– How does the honorable member reconcile that with his statement regarding the need for the coordination of transport?
– Aviation is a highly specialized form of traffic, and there is little risk of any confusion arising through its being controlled by an authority different from that which controls roads and railways.
I have set out six matters which are clear and definite and which I contend are practical proposals.
– Each of which is covered by our proposals.
– A great deal more is covered by them, and because of that it is probable that they will not be accepted by the people. The Opposition desires improvements in the Constitution, hut to ask for a general power to do anything we like, as under the first bill introduced, is not the way to deal with constitutional amendments from a practical point of view. The proposal tends to defeat itself. Therefore I have made six suggestions. At least four of them would be almost unanimously supported, and the other two largely supported. They would be almost certainly accepted, and there would be a real and useful extension of Commonwealth power. The Government’s proposals embrace everything. The first bill seeks unlimited legislative power for this Parliament, allowing a month’s delay. Are the people likely to grant that?
– We intend to ask them.
– The support of the Leader of the Opposition would be very helpful.
– Do honorable members supporting the Government really expect these proposals to succeed? “Would it not be worth while getting some practical, proposals rather than aiming at the moon, missing it, and getting nothing at all. The suggestions that I have made would be almost unanimously accepted and the Opposition is prepared to co-operate on those lines, but we are not prepared to assist in carrying amendments which are vague and general in their terms, all three of which ask for blank cheques. The effect of the third amendment would be far reaching, and would render the position between the Commonwealth and the States very uncertain. The States would be uncertain in their budgets and policy because under these powers at any time the Commonwealth might bring down a proposal which would radically alter the whole body of State legislation and policy “We are not prepared to deprive the people of Australia of the powers of -‘local government in a real sense. ‘ A real measure of power in the Governments and Parliaments of the States is necessary to the efficiency of government in n country as large as is this continent of Australia. “While we are unable to accept the proposals which have been made, for the reasons that I have given, we are fully prepared to co-operate in more practical proposals of the nature that I have indicated.
– I congratulate the Government on the introduction of this measure. “When speaking on the second reading of the Constitution Alteration Power of Amendment Bill, I showed the weakness of the proposals submitted, and suggested that our industrial powers should be supplemented so as to widen the powers of the Commonwealth in respect of trade and commerce and corporations and trusts. The measure now before us goes a long way towards securing that which for the last twenty years I have been advocating. There is nothing new in the bill except part of the verbiage of the proviso. So far back as 1911 we sought the powers now asked for, and the people have been gradually educated as to the need for granting them. On three occasions the amendment now proposed has been but narrowly defeated at a referendum. The following statement is taken from Federal Referendums, a brochure which” was issued at my direction, in connexion with the proposed amendment of the Constitution in 1913 : -
The amendment is vitally necessary. The Trade and Commerce power is the keystone of the powers of the Federal Parliament. The present limitation to interstate Trade and Commerce paralyzes the Parliament’s action in almost every direction. Without this amendment effective legislation with respect to trusts, combines, and monopolies will be - even if the others are carried - almost impossible.
The present division of the Trade and Commerce power between Federation and States is artificial, indefinite, illogical, and mischievous.
It is artificial, because it does not correspond with any actual distinction in the world of affairs. Trade is trade. Whether it crosses a State boundary or not makes no difference in its character. There ought not ‘be one law for trade between Albury and Sydney, and another for trade between Albury and Melbourne - or . Albury and Wodonga.
It is indefinite. No one can tell what it means owing to a tangle of judicial decisions.
It is illogical. No one knows where interstate commerce begins and where it ends, and under what circumstances it may be suspended on the journey.
As regards instruments of commerce - e.g., ships, vehicles, documents, &c, which are partly concerned with one kind of commerce; partly with another - how far are they under one jurisdiction; how far under the other?
As regards persons engaged in commerce - e.g., merchants, carriers, and employees concerned with both kinds of commerce - how far are they under one jurisdiction; how far under the other?
As to all these matters, in the United States of America, there is a bewildering and everincreasing tangle of judicial decisions; and every new volume of law reports brings up new problems and new attempts at solutions.
It is mischievous. The man who wants to obey the law doesn’t know which law to obey; the man who doesn’t want to obey the law is helped to dodge from one jurisdiction to another as it suits him.
There is no need to labour this question. This is a National Parliament, and commerce and industry are the two great matters that concern it. They are so related that it is impossible to deal with one without affecting the other. It is impossible, too, to exercise our industrial powers, unless we have control of trade and commerce. Commerce is part of industry; it is a stage of industry, frequently the last but most important stage, through which commodities pass on their way to the consumer. And we must protect the consumer as well as the producer. The relation of prices to wages and to profits is intimate, but it is impossible to regulate wages and industry unless we have complete control of trade and commerce in its every phase. Nothing in the commercial and industrial sphere should be outside the ambit of this Parliament’s authority, because upon it rests the solemn and grave responsibility of maintaining industrial peace, and promoting the well-being and prosperity of this country. Therefore, to deny us jurisdiction to deal with these things is to ask us to make bricks without straw.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) has given us his reason for objecting to this measure. It would be interesting to know exactly what kind of an amendment of the Constitution he desires. He admitted that no sensible man could deny that the limitations imposed upon this national Parliament by the Constitution are indefensible. They result from a slavish imitation of the American Constitution, which was drafted in a day when commerce was but a tiny trickle, localized within the narrow limit of sparsely settled districts dotted here and there with hamlets and villages; when to travel 100 miles was considered an adventurous journey; when trading was little more than the barter in a small community of frontiersmen and pioneers. This once tiny trickle has now become a mighty, rushing flood, running through this and every other land, sometimes overflowing its banks, and destroying landmarks, needing to be confined, controlled, and regulated, in its own interests as well as in the interests of the community. I listened to the address of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), hoping against hope to hear some helpful suggestion, because the position in which we find ourselves makes constructive criticism an imperative duty. But he talked at length and contributed nothing of value to the debate. His speech was full of petty details and arid comments. We do not need to be told of the uses to which the powers which are being asked for could be put. All power can be abused. He said that trade and commerce powers could be used to regulate motor vehicles - not only motor cars, but also motor lorries. No doubt they would permit us to control as well even bicycles and gocarts. But what has that to do with the question which confronts us, namely, Should this National Parliament be given full control over matters of vital national importance? Assuredly, if this proposed amendment of the Constitution were made, this Parliament could legislate for the registration of motor vehicles; but it is not intended” that the power asked for shall be used in that way. The bill has been introduced because there has been thrust upon this Parliament onerous duties which, owing to its present limited powers, it cannot possibly discharge, and if this Parliament cannot do what the people want, it cannot be done at all. Surely no one will deny that some authority should have power to extricate this country from the slough into which it has stumbled. It is necessary to supplement the proposed industrial power with full power over trade and commerce. The Leader of the Opposition objected that if this power were reposed in the Commonwealth Parliament we could regulate the standard and purity of drugs and foods. I do not know that that would be a. calamity. Even if it were, we must make some slight sacrifice in order to meet the unpredecented position in which we find ourselves. The honorable gentleman said that he would be prepared to go so far as to give this Parliament control over intra-state navigation; but there seems to be something about the proposal to grant full powers over trade and commerce which terrifies and appals him.
Lack of time forbids my discussion of every phase of this subject, for the circumstances call for action. All that the Leader of the Opposition said has been repeated ad nauseam during the last twenty years. Little by little the ideas of the people have advanced, and I believe that they are now about to hoist the flag on the topmost battlements of the citadel. The Constitution is about to be amended, and the Leader of the Opposition and his supporters are like so many Mrs. Partingtons, trying to sweep hack the Atlantic with their besoms. The present Chief Justice of Victoria (Sir William Irvine) who speaks with authority on this subject, said in regard to an earlier proposal to clothe this Parliament with full trade and commerce powers - lt is just as impossible in commerce to draw a line of demarcation as based on local geographical conditions as it would be to commit to the care of one physician a man’s body and to the care of another physician his limbs. Each is really part of one organic whole, and the result of the attempt has been, as I say, perfectly endless litigation and uncertainty.
That is a lucid explanation of the position. It is in the last degree unfortunate that while the Leader of the Opposition and his followers in 1926 besought us to amend the Constitution Jest worse things befell us, not one of them will now agree to its amendment. In 1926, they said that the Constitution should be amended without delay, but now not one of them supports any of the amendments proposed.
The people should be told the exact position. This is the only national parliament in the world - except the American Congress - which is without these powers. It is true, as the Leader of the Opposition has said, that if the proposed amendment of the Constitution were made, this Parliament could make laws to regulate the use of such things as motor vehicles and perambulators, and fix the standards of food and drugs. But there is not an avenue in the whole complex and extensive field of industry and commerce into which the Parliament of Great Britain cannot enter. The position in Germany and in New Zealand is the same. I have said that the position in the United States of America is different; but we cannot continue, with advantage, to follow the example of America in this respect.
I shall support this proposed amendment, for I believe that it is more important than either of the other proposals of the Government for the amendment of the Constitution. Without full trade and commerce powers this Parliament, in the exercise of the industrial power, would be like a bird with one wing; there would be a great deal of fluttering, but no flight. But, clothed with the powers here asked, for, this Parliament could deal effectively with any and every problem of industry or commerce that came before it. I do not deny that these powers might be abused, but so may any constitutional power. The Parliament has been equipped for the last 30 years with an imposing array of powers, but many of them have not yet been exercised. And none of them has been abused. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) appeared to see something remarkable and almost sinister in the proviso which the Government proposes to insert after paragraph I of section 51 of the Constitution which reads-
Provided that the alteration of this paragraph by Constitution Alteration (Trade and Commerce) 1930 shall not be construed to empower the Parliament to make laws with respect to the control or management of railways the property of a State, or the rates or fares on such railways.
I see nothing remarkable or even suggestive in the proposal. The only object in inserting it is to disarm the opposition that might otherwise arise from certain quarters. The inclusion of this proviso may cause the people to give their assent to the proposed amendment somewhat more readily than they would otherwise do. But the proviso does not limit power in the direction in which it is most necessary that it should be exercised. The Leader of the Opposition pointed out that we have had power for 30 years to make laws with respect to interstate railway freights and fares. Section 98 of the Constitution reads -
The power of the Parliament to make laws with respect to trade and commerce extends to navigation and shipping, and to railways the property of any State.
Section 101 reads -
There shall bc an interstate commission, with such powers of adjudication and administration as the Parliament deems necessary for the execution and maintenance, within the Commonwealth, of the provisions of this Constitution relating to trade and commerce, and of all laws made thereunder.
An interstate commission was created, and empowered to regulate interstate commerce, but it failed to justify its existence and was abolished. The proviso will leave the trade and commerce power in general very largely as the people thought was intended by the Constitution.
There is no reason why this amendment should not be accepted. It is long overdue. It is inconceivable that any convention summoned to draft a new constitution to-day would for a moment suggest that the National Parliament should be endowed with less than full power over trade and commerce. We have had an experience during 30 years of the effect of the limitation of power in this respect, which has had a most fateful and almost fatal influence upon this Parliament. Time and again -we have sought to extend our legislative arm to protect and encourage production, industry and other agencies in this country, and again and again the High Court has waved us back. We federated, not to encourage endless litigation, but. to create an instrumentality to secure a measure of protection that could not bo secured from State or municipal authorities. We are the servants of the people. The people who elect the State legislatures elect us. The people who enjoy the rights and privileges of State citizenship are also the Commonwealth citizens who elect this Parliament. There can be no conflict between State rights and the rights of the people when the people who compose the States are the people who send us here. We should say to the people: “You have asked us to do great things. Give us the power to do them, so that we may serve you not only faithfully, but effectively.” That is the spirit in which we shall ask the people to assent to this proposal.
It is futile to tell us of the dangers that may lurk in this power, or that the power may be abused. We have power to make laws in respect to marriage and divorce, but I shall not draw a picture of the awful things that might occur if a reckless and debauched legislature misused its power in regard to divorce. No attempt has ever been made to abuse the powers that we have. Why should it be thought we should abuse the powers we now seek? What the people should be told is the possible consequences of their refusing to give the Parliament this power to do what it considers to bc necessary for the welfare of the nation.
.- The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) has had more than a score of years’ experience of the working of the federal legislature, and is pre-eminently qualified to speak of the irksome limitations on the power of this Parliament. He has impressed us by speaking from the depths of his experience, and has shown clearly that the limitation of the trade and commerce power of this Parliament has been particularly galling. On a number of occasions thi3 legislature, by submitting to the people proposed laws for the amendment of the Constitution, has endeavoured to free itself of these limitations; but the people have placed their veto upon the proposals. The Leader of the Opposition ha? spoken in such a strain this afternoon that one can only assume that his objective is that, the veto of the people shall be repeated on the present occasion.
It would be interesting to refer to an essay by Maine, the. great legal essayist, on the subject of the referendum, in which he pointed out that one of the weaknesses of the referendum was that the people could be intimidated, and prevented from passing n reasonable judgment on proposed laws submitted to them, by the type of scare-mongering in which the Leader of the Opposition has indulged this afternoon. The honorable gentleman explained the wide scope of the trade and commerce power, principally for the purpose of endeavouring to frighten the people against vesting such a power in this Parliament, ; but his explanation of the very wide scope of this amendment commends it to me, and, I am sure, will commend it also to the favorable consideration of the people, who desire that this Parliament shall have real and undoubted powers with regard to trade and commerce. There is an advantage in giving full power in this matter to this Parliament, because there will then never be any doubt as to what is exactly the content of that power. If we take merely a portion of this power, there will be interminable difficulties and baffling doubts as to whether the inclusion of, certain clauses in bills introduced in this House in pursuance of the trade and commerce power is a valid exercise of the authority of this Parliament. The High Court has declared that it has no jurisdiction to give an advisory opinion. and, in these circumstances, there is a most obvious advantage in giving to this Parliament^ in respect of matters entrusted to it, complete power. During our experience of federation, there have been constant attacks upon the validity of the legislation of this Parliament. Doubts and difficulties are raised in this House as to whether particular clauses of bills respecting subjectmatters of federal legislation are intra vires. And, surely, this should show honorable members the manifest advantages of making the powers of this Parliament full and complete with respect to the matters that have been entrusted to it. The Leader of the Opposition would select six subject-matters of federal legislation which might come within the description of trade and commerce.
– They are not all trade and commerce matters; some are industrial, such as the subject of films.
– Let us say that they are trade and commerce and other matters. One notices that if power were given to the Federal Parliament with respect to those subjects, it would still lack authority to deal properly with profiteering.
– Any trust or combinecould be dealt with.
– Yes; but the Parliament would not have general power to pass effective legislation for the purpose of price-fixing. The honorable gentleman condemned price-fixing legislation, and preferred, as an alternative, competition. I agree with him; but, supposing the interests supplying goods do not compete, what is then the remedy to deal with the situation?
– Legislation against trusts and combines. That is my proposal.
– But particular associations may not be a trust or combine at all.
– If there is noncompetition, there is a combination.
– Not necessarily. The honorable member knows how extremely difficult it is to prosecute successfully an association charged with being a trust, monopoly, or combine acting in a manner that is injurious to the public interest. There are serious difficulties in the way of securing a conviction against such an association, and litigation against it would be long and tedious; it would be most difficult to obtain a prompt decision.
– That criticism applies to all legal processes.
– Particularly to the prosecution of an association charged with being a trust, monopoly, or combine. If there were no competition in the supply of particular commodities, the more effective remedy would be to introduce a system of price-fixing; but, if this Parliament is not vested with full trade and commerce power, there will be great difficulty in establishing a satisfactory price- fixing system.
– And a good job, too!
– That difficulty is the very reason why honorable members opposite are opposed to complete trade and commerce power being vested in this Parliament; it would give it absolute authority to deal with profiteering. Recently we had an instance of the dangers to which this country is subject owing to the absence of this complete power. A prohibition has been placed on the importation of certain goods, and it has been stated that there is an appreciable danger of exploitation of the consumers owing to the limitation of Commonwealth power to which I have referred. I submit that complete trade and commerce power is complementary to the power to impose a tariff or to limit or prohibit imports. It is necessary that there should reside in the executive government, which has authority under the statutes of this Parliament to issue proclamations for the limitation of imports, as a complement to that power, complete and ample authority over trade and commerce. In Macarthurs case, which was cited by the Leader of the Opposition, the High Court decided that the Profiteering Prevention Act passed by the Queensland Parliament was invalid insofar as it was in conflict with section 92 of the Constitution, which provides that trade and commerce and intercourse among the States shall be absolutely free. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) has pointed out, the restriction imposed by that section applies to the States only; it does not apply to the Commonwealth. But, if the
Commonwealth is not given complete power over trade and commerce, its power to set up a tribunal for the regulation of prices will be a very limited one, and legislation passed for this purpose would be the subject, of constant attack, on the ground that it would be dealing with intrastate and not interstate trade and commerce. Therefore, I submit that, although this Parliament might be given complete power over trusts, monopolies, and combines, for the protection of the consumers against exploitation, it would still be necessary for it to have full power to set up price-fixing machinery to prevent exploitation that could not be promptly and speedily checked under anti-trust or anti-combine legislation.
I now come to the . statement of the Leader of the Opposition that he would support the proposal to give power to the Commonwealth Parliament over the six matters mentioned by him. This statement incidentally furnishes a strong argument in favour of the proposal contained in the Power of Amendment Bill. If it is necessary for this Parliament to have the powers enumerated by the honorable gentleman, it is somewhat repugnant to our commonsense to say that it is necessary for us to go through the ritual of a referendum for the purpose of vesting in the ‘Commonwealth Parliament powers that it plainly should have.
– Is the honorable member serious in referring to the “ ritual of a referendum “ ?
– Yes; so far as the honorable gentleman’s proposals are concerned, it would be only an artificial device to ask the. people to vest in this Parliament power which everybody says it is obviously necessary that it should have. “We, on this side, and honorable gentlemen opposite, would go out to the people and tell them that it would be a good thing for Australia for the Commonwealth Parliament to have power to legislate on those matters. If, perchance, the people were to veto the proposed law, the verdict of the people, am sure, would be condemned by the honorable gentleman as something opposed to commonsense.
– But surely it is a matter for the people.
– .The honorable gentleman said that if this power were given to the Federal Parliament, legislation could be passed to deal with many matters such as the registration of motor cars, the prescription of time-tables for motor buses, ferries, &c. I doubt very much whether this Parliament would pass any bill having such an object. At the present time such speculation is not within the realm of practical politics.
– I explained very carefully that I was first examining the extent and effect of the proposal. I did not say what this Parliament was likely to do. Surely the honorable member does not contest what I said.
– If this Parliament will not do the things mentioned by the honorable gentleman, his attack on the bill loses its weight.
– Then why should these powers be asked for?
– Complete and ample power should ; be given to this Parliament, so that there may be no doubt or uncertainty as to its ability to pass laws on matters within this subject, having for their object the welfare of the people of Australia.
Dealing with the subject of coordination of different methods of transport, the Leader of the Opposition referred to a bill which had been introduced into the New South Wales Parliament. He said that it would be possible, if this amendment were carried, for the Federal Parliament to destroy the system of coordination which the New South Wales Parliament proposed to establish in that State. That statement clearly shows that he was using as an argument against vesting this increased power in the Commonwealth the possibility that the Commonwealth Parliament might abuse the power. The New South Wales transport bill makes no provision for including sea traffic along the coast of New South Wales in its scheme of co-ordination. It is not a complete system of co-ordination at all. The experience of the Commonwealth has shown that it is necessary that this Parliament should be vested with this power. As has been already pointed out, one cannot subdivide trade and commerce and industry into State compartments. Trade, commerce, and industry are Australianwide in their interest, and they do not recognize artificial boundaries.
The present State boundaries were not drawn with any regard to the requirements of trade and commerce. The States are not distinct areas with common commercial interests. It is an elementary proposition that any subjectmatter of common interest all over Australia should be the subject of legislation for the Parliament of Australia. Trade and commerce and industry are of Australianwide concern. They are of vital interest to the social, financial, and industrial welfare of the people, and power over them should reside in this legislature.
The Imperial Economic Conference is composed of representatives of the various dominions, including the Commonwealth of Australia. That conference discusses questions of trade and commerce affecting the Empire, and it is an anomaly that Australia’s representative at the conference should not be a member of a parliament which has not complete authority to deal with trade and commerce within the area it controls. The Canadian representative is a member of a legislature which possesses such power, as are also the representatives of the Union of South Africa, and of the Dominion of New Zealand. If for that reason only, we should take steps to provide this Parliament with full control over trade and commerce.
. - I have been struck by the fact that many speakers in this and the previous debate have made use of a metaphor employed by Sir William Irvine to the effect that it would be ridiculous for a patient to have one medical practitioner to deal with the trunk, and another to deal with the limbs. The fact is that, in modern medicine, if a sick person wishes to be made well, that is exactly the practice he follows. There are specialists in every branch of medicine, and the wise man employs a specialist to deal with his particular ailment. If he does not, he runs the danger of not being cured at all. That is what well might happen in regard to Australia if we insisted upon the central parliamentary practitioner attending to all our national ills. We would run the risk of doing the national patient injury rather than service. What we need is a truly federal system which allows of sympathetic and intelligent government to be applied to the everyday affairs of the people, and to deal with their local problems as and where they arise and not one government to deal with the whole.
The bringing forward of this third amendment is an indication that the Government despairs of the passage of the other amendments. The Government recognizes, from the reception which the other amendments have received throughout Australia, that they will not be agreed to, and that its frankly unification proposals have not the slightest chance of being accepted. Therefore, in an endeavour to secure by a flank movement what it cannot obtain by a frontal attack, it brings down this proposed amendment of the trade and commerce section of the Constitution. It has looked outside its own party to see what previous proposals have received support from various people. Accordingly it has taken up the 1913 referendum proposals, brought down by the right honorable men*ber for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes)-, and ‘submitted them to this Parliament practically in their old form, oblivious of the fact that in the intervening period there has been a revolution in methods of transport. This action is really responsible for the anachronism referred to by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham). The history of the 1911 and 1913 referendums is well known. The proposals submitted in the 1911- referendum asked for complete power over industry without any reservations whatsoever. Those proposals were rejected emphatically by the electors. Only one State favoured them, and they were turned down by huge majorities in the other States. Even those who supported the proposals recognized that the principal objection to them in the minds of the people was that they sought to give the Commonwealth Parliament power to control railways to the extent of fixing fares and freights. Consequently this provision was eliminated from the 1913 proposals. At that time motor transport had not been developed to anything like its present extent. If We agree to this proposal now we shall inaugurate a system which will seriously hinder any attempt to achieve co-ordination ‘in the control of transport. All over the world it has been found necessary to co-ordinate railway and road transport, and practically every civilized country has a ministry of transport which . deals with such problems. We are the last nation to face the position. Only fifteen or sixteen months ago action was taken to create a federal council of transport which would be representative of the Commonwealth and State Governments. This amendment will have the effect of preventing unified control of transport. If for no other reason than that, the amendment as it stands should be defeated.
In my opinion, the Government has not made out a case for the acceptance of these proposals. Control over trade and commerce is the widest power that could be given to any parliament. Quick and Garran, in their notes on section 51, paragraph 1, of the Constitution, point out that trade and commerce is a term covering practically the whole field of human activity. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) read certain definitions dealing with it, and the definition in” Webster’s dictionary is very comprehensive. Other definitions have been laid down by various courts showing how control of trade and commerce can be made to affect every hitman activity. So great will be the power placed in the hands of the Commonwealth Parliament if this amendment is carried, that the governmental activities of the States will be seriously. diminished. When this matter was being discussed in 1910, Mr. Deakin pointed out that if the amendment then under consideration was carried, it would lead to a diminution of State activities by at least four-fifths or nine-tenths. These proposals are brought down now, not as the result of experience of the working of the Federal Constitution as also were those of 1910. but to put into effect the unification policy of the Labour party - a policy which it had adopted even before federation. We cannot develop Australia in a satisfactory way unless we have a complete system of local selfgovernment to enable us to deal with the problems of far-distant parts of Australia, and particularly of its more sparsely populated areas, by governments functioning right on the spot. These pro- posals, if agreed to, would render possible such a strangulation of the powers of the State Governments, and such a degree of centralization in government, as it is hard to conceive. The Government says that it is anxious to eliminate duplication. What has it done in that direction ? It has brought down two highly controversial measures. The effect of the first, if agreed to, would be the scrapping of the existing Constitution. The second proposes an extensive alteration of the present industrial power and. the persistence of duplication in industrial control; and now we have a third that seeks to obtain, for the Commonwealth Parliament very much wider powers than it possesses to deal with trade and commerce. If the Government earnestly desires to eliminate duplication and overlapping, and effect economy in government, it should, as suggested by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) and other honorable members, concentrate on those matters on which, as is evident from the report of the Constitution Commission agreement would be practically unanimous. It would then remove the friction that now exists, in addition to effecting economy throughout the entire system. Its refusal to adopt that attitude indicates to me that it prefers a continuance of the present condition of irritation, so that the public will become so heartily sick of the present constitutional position that they will welcome any change.
It has been suggested that, by the Constitution as it now stands, we are prevented from attaining our proper destiny as a nation. That is absurd in the light of the experience of the United States of America, whose Constitution confines the operations of the national parliament more strictly than our Constitution limits the activities of this Parliament. That country has become one of the great productive and economic forces in the world. It has conducted wars successfully, and extended its population and its wealth to an extent that 100 years ago was not thought possible. Throughout its history the control of interstate trade and commerce has been in the hands of the federal parliament, while the control of intra-state trade and commerce, which concerns the every-day life of the people, has been in the hands of the local parliaments.
It has been suggested that the Canadian Parliament enjoys a much fuller power than that which we possess. Though there is in the Canadian Constitution the power to regulate trade and commerce generally, that power can be exercised only subject to certain provincial reservations that, are set out in the British North America Act, which brought the dominion into being and established the provinces. Those regulations distinctly preserve to the provincial governments the control of that trade and commerce which is carried on within the provinces. [Quorum formed.-] It is idle .to suggest that these proposals to amend the Constitution are the result of our experience of the working of the Constitution. They are the outcome of the fixed policy of the Labour party to obtain in the National Parliament complete control of all activities within Australia. What will be the result if these powers are granted to the Commonwealth Parliament? The late ifr. Alfred Deakin, who was one of the founders of federation, speaking on a proposal to alter the Constitution in connexion with the trade and commerce power in 1912, said -
If we add “ labour and employment “ and “ trade and commerce “ to this Government, these two items in themselves will cover something between four-fifths and nine-tenths of the whole range of powers at present available tn the States. That is what is now being proposed. The trade and commerce over which the Federal Parliament has control is that with other countries and among the States. To-day the States have their definite sphere of trade and commerce within themselves, but to-morrow that goes, too, if these amendments are carried.
He quoted the opinion of Sir Edward Mitchel], K.C., as follows: -
My deliberate opinion is that the amendments now proposed would give to the Federal Parliament powers of so wide and sweeping a character that in the absence of any protections similar to those afforded by the Canadian Constitution, the result would be a kind of mongrel constitution between the two systems, which would be found impracticable in working, and would naturally result in unification as the lesser of two evils.
From whichever angle the mutter is approached it is seen that the object of the Government is to initiate a system of unification. If that cannot be secured by means of the direct method, it is proposed to adopt other measures. Sir Edward Mitchell also said -
Under the Federal Constitution - if amended as proposed - no such restrictions would exist, so that upon every one of the vast number of subjects coming under the term “ trade and commerce” (for example, I might mention the control of the whole of the liquor traffic) the powers of the Federal Parliament would be supreme, and every law of every State passed on the same subject-matter would have to give way to it.
Mr. Deakin pointed out that the carriage of these referendum proposals would imply the adoption of the unitary system, and if they were accepted, the federal character of the government of Australia would be definitely gone. The late Mr. Deakin also quoted the opinion of Mr. Beeby, now Judge Beeby, who at that time was a prominent member of the State Labour party, and who admitted that the proposals then being discussed, which are on all fours with the present proposal, went; more than half way towards unification.
It is evident that if we are. to develop as we should, if we are to have what I hope to see in my lifetime, a population of 20,000,000 or more, scattered throughout this continent, we shall find it very difficult to control the whole of the trade and commerce activities from one centre. Any attempt to do so would result in the clogging up of the National Parliament. It is absurd .to attempt to secure the complete power sought when it is admitted on all sides that there is neither an immediate probability of using nor a desire to use that power at the present time. Honorable members who sit behind the Government, as well as members of the Government itself, have stated that the sole desire is to use the powers gradually, one by one. That may be their desire; but what will be the effect on the States? The States will feel that the powers which they exercise are merely nominal and tern- .porary. All their actions will be taken in an atmosphere of uncertainty. They will not be able to carry out a comprehensive and long-sighted policy. There will be a continuous decline in the character of the State representatives, a lack of energy in their developmental projects, and a withering up of local self-government.
I believe in the future of Australia, and on that account I consider that we should be ill advised if we gave to the Commonwealth Parliament the unlimited powers in trade and commerce that are now being sought. There are certain directions, however, in which it is undoubtedly evident that changes are necessary. The right course to follow would be one of evolution; we should take these powers singly, not all at once. It would be advantageous if the Commonwealth Parliament had wider powers in relation to navigation, and to deal with trusts and combines. In 1926, the BrucePage Government placed before the people a proposal to give the Commonwealth Parliament power to deal with trusts and combines, in the following terms : -
By omitting from paragraph (xx) the words “foreign corporations, and trading or financial corporations formed within the limits of the Commonwealth,” and inserting in their stead the words “ corporations, including -
the creation, regulation, control and dissolution of corporations;
the regulation, control and dissolution of corporations formed under the law of a State; and
the regulation and control of foreign corporations; but not including municipal or governmental corporations, or any corporation formed solely for religious, charitable, scientific or artistic purposes, or any corporation not formed for the acquisition of gain by the corporation or its members.
That amendment, together with the power that the tariff places in the hands of the Commonweal th Government, should be sufficient to prevent exploitation or profiteering. It has been suggested that in the absence of competition there will be profiteering. That could occur only if there were combination. Such could be dealt with under the amendment that was previously submitted. If the Government brought down a proposal on those lines it would have the unanimous support of all parties, both in this House and in the country, and there would be a reasonable prospect of it being carried.
Then there is the question of marketing. It is evident from the position in which all nations are placed that there must be a national endeavour to market goods in the best possible manner. In Germany andFrance there are cartels or organizations, which control the manufacture and sale of various products. We who are so dependent upon primary production have not the constitutional power to set up such a nation-wide organization. To overcome this position, I now give notice that when the bill reaches the committee stage I shall move -
That clause 2 be amended by omittingparagraph a and by omitting all the words in paragraphb after “ proviso “ and substituting therefor the following words: - “ Provided that the Parliament shall have power to make laws with respect to the marketing of Australian products in the Commonwealth and in other places.”
That will permit of the proper organization of Australian production on a nationwide basis, and will enable us to proceed with projects such as that which was brought down yesterday in relation to wheat, without the necessity for employing the circuitous methods that are now necessary. I trust that the Government will accept that amendment because of its value to the producers of Australia .
I enter a definite protest against the wholesale fashion in which it is proposed by the bill to destroy the States. On that particular point I should like to quote a statement of the late President of the United States of America, Mr. Woodrow Wilson, four or five years before he occupied the presidential chair. He was regarded as one of the greatest historical students and one of the keenest historical critics in the whole of the United States of America. In the light of the 120 years’ experience of the working of the American Constitution, he made the following statement with regard to division of powers, in the North American Review for May, 1908 -
If the jealousies of the colonies and of the little States which sprang out of them had not obliged the makers of the Constitution to leave the greater part of legal regulation in the hands of the States, it would have been wise - it would even have been necessary - to invent such a division of powers as was actually agreed upon. It is not, at bottom, a question of sovereignty or of any other political abstraction; it is a question of vitality. Uniform regulation of the economic conditions of a vast territory and a various people like the United States of America would be mischievous, if not impossible. The statesmanship which really attempts it is premature and unwise.
I emphasize that point in connexion with the proposal now before the House. The statesmanship which is trying in Australia to obliterate all the divisions, which
Woodrow Wilson declared after 100 years experience to be necessary in America, is premature and unwise. After only 30 years’ experience of the Federal Constitution we are not yet in a position to determine how powers should be finally divided between the federal and local authorities. With the development of the Commonwealth, a continual increase in the number of States will be inevitable, and the lines of division of power will gradually evolve. The Constitution Commission declared that it was impossible to say where powers should be vested until we had determined the lines of future subdivision of Australia. So far, nothing has been done to decide what allotment of State boundaries would best serve community of interests and accelerate development. Therefore, it is premature for this Parliament to propose to take power over trade and. commerce, and then redistribute it amongst subordinate authorities.
– The Government of which the honorable member was Treasurer did nothing for six years.
– The Bruce-Page Government appointed a Constitution Commission, which stressed the fact that a revision of State boundaries, powers, and duties was the fundamental basis of constitutional change. To that report the Labour representatives on the commission subscribed, but the present Government, instead of being influenced by such an authoritative document, proposes to jettison all the experience gained during the last 30 years, to discard the wisdom accumulated in the commission’s report, and to ask the people to vest all power in this Parliament, and trust blindly that it will be exercised wisely. The Government has not put forward any definite scheme for the distribution of powers although, as Woodrow Wilson stated, the lines of division have been an influential, factor in the success of the American Constitution. I shall oppose the bill in its present form, and trust that the Government will give favorable consideration to the amendment I have suggested.
Debate (on motion by Mr. West) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 8th April (vide page 952), on motion by Mr. Scullin -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The honorable and learned member for Parkes (Mr. McTiernan), began his speech last night with the assertion that this bill does not propose to jettison existing machinery. No doubt he spoke as a lawyer. I speak as one of that class to which the Treasurer referred last night - not lawyers, but plain, sensible men - and I say that the bill does propose to jettison the existing constitutional machinery, so much so that when the proposal was first reported in the press, I believed that it was merely a figment of the imagination of some enterprising journalist or, at most, was a bit of kiteflying fiction invented to gauge the effect on the public mind of a revolutionary proposal, and, perhaps, prepare the way for the acceptance by the people of something more moderate. I certainly did not believe that a responsible Government would seriously submit such a proposal to Parliament. I have learned that the truth is stranger than what I believed to be fiction. If the bill is passed and the powers to which it relates are conferred by the people it will not merely amend the Constitution; the definite boundary between Commonwealth and State jurisdiction will cease to exist, because the dividing fence can be pulled up and re-erected in a different place.
– Until the fence is pulled up the boundary remains.
– Yes, but, this Parliament will be able to pull up the fence at any time and set it down in the other fellow’s paddock. The States will not know for twelve months ahead where they stand. The desire which has been so frequently expressed on both sides of the House for a more flexible constitution will be very fully gratified by this Parliament having power to bend the Constitution into any shape it desires. In fact the Constitution will simply become clay in the hands of the Commonwealth potter. It will have no ‘fixed proportions or colour, but will be subject to chameleon-like changes to adapt itself to its political environment. One honorable member supported his argument in favour of the amendment of the Constitution by saying that whilst George Stevenson’s “ Rocket “ served its purpose for a time, it had been superseded by finer engines capable of doing better work. I remind the honorable’ member that the modern railway engine has at least definite specifications and is sufficiently concrete to destroy any.body who stands in its way at a crossing, whereas the new Constitution will have no definite specification; it may be anything.
Most people believe that Australia is too big to be governed by one central Parliament. Some hold fast to the view that the present system, a Commonwealth Parliament with limited jurisdiction and sovereign States in charge of all but transferred powers, is the best form of government. Others hold that there should be more and smaller States, governed by bodies having authority over purely local affairs, and that the Federal Parliament should deal with all national matters. Whether we retain the States with sovereign powers or have a greater number of States with lesser power, it is essential that each authority shall know exactly the scope of its responsibilities. That would be impossible if this bill were assented to by the people. The scope of the federal jurisdiction would be whatever we liked to make it, and the scope of the jurisdiction of the States would be just what we cared to leave to them. From the residual trunk another limb might be lopped whenever this Parliament chose to use the axe. We have listened to a good deal of loose talk about the interference of the High Court, and a listener might have imagined that the need to amend the Constitution has been forced upon us by some unreasonable and unwarrantable action taken by that tribunal to overrule the will of the Federal Parliament. Honorable members are quite well aware that our legislative power is limited by the Constitution, and that the High Court merely interprets the language of that instrument
The Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) advanced a new argument in support of the Government’s major proposal, and the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) said that if he had continued for half an hour longer he would have almost converted the members of the Opposition. The best that can be said of the Treasurer’s speech was that he made the most of a very poor case. He stated that no government would dare to use unwisely the power to amend the Constitution, and that before any major alteration was made by this Parliament the people would be consulted at a general election. Do honorable members imagine that such self-imposed restrictions, to be observed or discarded at the discretion of this Parliament, would give to the States the same security as definite constitutional limitations? In any case, if the endorsement of the people were sought at a general election, they would not vote on that issue only; it would be one of many issues and might be confused with the others, so that the verdict of the people would not be at all clear. Again, the people would not vote, as citizens .of separate States, as they do at present. The people of Australia as a whole would express their “ yea “ or “ nay,” and we have to remember that 70 per cent, of the people reside in New South Wales and Victoria. New South Wales has about 40 per cent, of the total population of Australia, and Victoria about 30 per cent., and 4S of the 75 members in this Parliament represent those two States. In other words, New South Wales and Victoria have 64 per cent, of the representation in this chamber, and a government which submitted to the people at a general election a proposed alteration of the Constitution might obtain a substantial majority in those two States, and be in a minority in the other four States, and yet claim to have received a mandate from the people regarding a proposal which four of the States opposed. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McNeill) stated that the provision requiring an amendment of the Constitution to be sanctioned by four of the six States was irksome, and that an affirmative vote in three States should be sufficient. I remind the honorable ‘ member that, if the present bill be approved by the people, a government might claim a mandate from the people because its supporters were successful in the two most populous States. The Treasurer endeavoured at length to justify the abolition of the second chamber in the Queensland Parliament; but he did not attempt to reply to the conundrum submitted by the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), who pointed out that a government having a majority in a parliament which had unlimited power. to amend the Constitution might decide to abolish the Senate, and that a subsequent government,- exercising the same powers, might not merely re-establish the second chamber, but also” amend the Constitution to provide that that chamber should beelected on a restricted franchise; and that the method of election should be alterable only with the consent of the chamber so elected. It may- be said by honorable members that that is extremely unlikely to happen. That may be so, but still it is possible to happen. Honorable members supporting the Government have said a great deal about the restricted franchise on which State Legislative Councils are elected. They do not approve of it, yet, in bringing down the first referendum proposal, they would create an obstacle that would make it possible to bring about a similar state of affairs in connexion with the Federal Parliament. Once a chamber were established on a franchise of that kind, it would be impossible to remove it. Just imagine the architects of our Constitution doing anything like that.’ They left nothing to chance. They believed that the representatives of another chamber should be elected on a popular vote.
If this first question were carried it would certainly destroy the existing safeguards under the Constitution. For sheer audacity, this major proposal eclipses anything that has’ yet been attempted, or is likely to be attempted, in connexion with an amendment of the Constitution. It is quite evident that the sponsors of this measure realize how audacious it is, because they have got ready a second and third barrel in case the first miss-fires. In military strategy, audacity sometimes succeeds where caution would fail. We have read in the press of robberies in which expert cracksmen have succeeded because of their extraordinary audacity, whereas they would have had no hope of success had they been cautious. Perhaps the Government thinks that the very audacity of this proposal may help to paralyse the opposition to it, but the members of the Government would need to be super-optimists to believe that the people of Australia would grant the powers sought under the first proposal. That the member-s of the Government are not all super-optimists is evident from the fact that number 3 question has nowbeen brought down. The other day, the genial member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) was confident that the first proposal would be carried, but he betrayed his real feeling and native caution by urging the Government to introduce another proposal dealing with trade and commerce. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) was doubtful about the first proposal, and made similar representations to the Government. Since then the Government has accepted the advice of those honorable members. We can therefore dismiss this major question as being unworthy of serious consideration, and turn our attention to the proposal dealing with industrial matters. If we compare that proposal with the one put to the people by the Bruce-Page Government in 192(5 - a proposal which I supported - we find that there are important differences between them. The first thing that arrests the attention of the ordinary man is that this Parliament, under the present proposal, would have the power to fix wages, hours, and conditions of employment. Oau any one conceive of any tribunal more ill-fitted for such a task than this Parliament ? Just imagine this National Parliament being entrusted with the task of deciding whether there should be 40, 44, or 48 working hours per week !
– Or 30 hours per week.
– Or 30 hours per week, as the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr. Blakeley) has interjected. If this Parliament were entrusted with the power to fix wages, hours and conditions of employment, I can well imagine that at election time the promise of the former campaign director of the Labour party, in connexion with the coal industry, and that of the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Gibbons) in connexion with the price of wheat, would pale into insignificance compared with the promises that would be made by honorable members supporting the Government, in the hope of gaining votes on the hustings. As a practical machine, the Arbitration Court is much less satisfactory than a wages board, but Parliament would, in that respect, be infinitely worse than the Arbitration Court. Honorable members supporting the Government may disclaim that it is the intention of the Government and their party to do these things themselves. They may say that it is intended to set up some authority for that purpose. If that is so, why not make the position plain in the bill? The BrucePage Government, when submitting its proposals to the people, inserted them in the bill. It asked the people for power to set up authorities to do certain things, and I suggest that if, in these proposals, the word “ authorities “ were inserted, it would be clear to all concerned that this Parliament would not take upon itself the responsibility of fixing the wages, hours, and conditions of employment. The object of the late Government in submitting its referendum proposals to the people was to find a method of simplifying industrial regulation by getting rid of duplication and overlapping. That is not the object of the present proposals. Honorable members supporting the Government, so far as I can gather from their speeches, favour the continuation of both Commonwealth and State arbitration systems.
– Where is that statement to be found? ^
– The Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) himself made it plain, only the other day, that the Government has no intention of substituting the federal system for the State systems. The late Government would have used suitable and satisfactory existing State machinery as part, of the federal plan.
– How could the Commonwealth do that?
– I am saying that in 1 996 we sought an amendment of the Constitution to give us complete industrial power, and we proposed to use that power by making suitable and satisfactory State machinery part of the federal plan. It was not intended to have the two systems functioning side by side as rival systems.
– In that case, the ideal of the late Government is our ideal.
– When I asked the Treasurer what were the Government’s intentions in regard to duplication, his reply satisfied me that both Federal and State systems were to be continued, with the result that we shall have more duplication than we have had before. At present, duplication is restricted to industries involved in interstate disputes. The restrictions under the Constitution, which we all deplore, more or less, at least set some limit on duplication. We have, today, duplication in some industries, but not in those which are not involved in interstate disputes; but if the Government’s proposal were carried, there could be duplication in every industry in Australia. Unless the Government is prepared to make the federal system supersede the State systems, there must inevitably be more overlapping of awards and functions than there is to-day. The framers of the Constitution certainly never intended that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court should become a rival of State wages boards. All they intended, so far as I can gather, was that there should be set up a Commonwealth court which could act as an umpire in regard to interstate disputes arising out of determinations of State boards.
– There were few State boards in operation at the time the Constitution was framed.
– There were wages boards in Victoria at that time. I wish now to review briefly the efforts of the Bruce-Page Government, to bring about an improvement in our industrial affairs. In 1926, we appealed to the people for sufficient power to enable us to make the federal arbitration system a simple and workable machine, but they turned the proposal down with a bigger thud than on three earlier occasions. They turned it down so substantially that it was apparent to us that public opinion was hardening in favour of State wages board? as against an extension of Commonwealth powers. The Government accepted the position, and did what most governments would have done under similar circumstances. If we have a machine which is not working satisfactorily, and the designer refuses to remodel it, before scrapping it altogether we generally try to patch it up ourselves. That is what we did in 1928 when the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), then Attorney-General, brought down a comprehensive measure to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, and one of the most important amendments in that measure was the provision for a secret ballot. That provision was given careful thought, and was brought down on lines designed to give protection, not only to the worker, but also to the union. Not long after that legislation was passed, we had an opportunity of trying out the efficacy of that amendment. The result showed that under our constitutional limitations we were really incapable of amending the Arbitration Act in such a way as to make it work smoothly. That legislation might have worked smoothly had the trade unions been prepared to help the Government. The first opportunity of trying the secret ballot was provided when the timber strike took place. It will be remembered that the ballot papers were burnt in Sydney, together with an effigy of a judge who had made a certain award. By that action on the part of the workers the Federal Arbitration Court was brought into more contempt ‘than before. The next step taken by the Bruce-Page Government was at a Premiers Conference held in Canberra. The then Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) asked the Premiers if they would be prepared to delegate to the Commonwealth the powers which it had sought from the people and which they had refused to grant. The premiers said “No” ! I believe that if they were asked the same question to-day they would again say no, despite the changes that have taken place since then in the personnel of the various governments. Neither the people nor the premiers would give the Commonwealth power to reconstruct the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and the amendments made to the act in 1928, which represented a monumental effort by the Attorney-General of the day, Mr. Latham, proved so unsatisfactory that the only logical alternative for the BrucePage Government, seeing that they could riot mend the system, was to end it. We endeavoured to scrap it. But the same people who would not let us mend it, refused to allow us to end it. The position became somewhat Gilbertian. In 1926 the Bruce-Page Government proposed to rid Australia of duplication in industrial control, and went to the people: with that object in view; in 1930 the present Government is proposing to go to the people with certain proposals, not with the object of eliminating duplication, but, so far as I can see, with a prospect of increasing it.
– That is nonsense.
– I invite the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) to direct my attention to any statement made on behalf of the Government to the effect that it is proposed to substitute Commonwealth power for State power. No such statement has been made. The intention of the Government is apparently to allow the two authorities to work side by side.
– Would the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lewis) be prepared to abolish State tribunals?
– That is definite evidence that one Government supporter at any rate prefers a continuance of the present duplication.
I should be prepared to support the se.cond proposal if the Government would, in the first place, incorporate in the bill a provision requiring that the power must be exercised not by Parliament, but by authorities set up by Parliament in the manner proposed by the Bruce-Page Government; and in the second place, give an assurance that the authorities set up would be, speaking in broad terms, similar in their composition to the State Wages Boards of Victoria. I should also require an assurance from the Government that the power would be exercised in such a way that it would result in the abolition of duplication in Commonwealth and State industrial activities. If these assurances are forthcoming I shall support the second proposal.
My reason for suggesting that a system similar to the Victorian Wages Board system should be adopted, is that that would ensure that industrial matters would be dealt with by those who understood them. Under the Victorian wages board system representatives of the employers and employees in specific industries are brought into close contact. The representatives of the employers sit on one side of the table and the representatives of the employees on the other side of it, and there is an impartial chairman who has a casting vote only. In the event of a deadlock occurring the chairman ends it by exercising his casting vote. Under such a system the decisions are made by men who understand the technical and practical difficulties of the industry concerned. The employers get to know the grievances of the employees, and the employees are more readily able to grasp the difficulties of the employers. That system is fundamentally different from the Commonwealth Arbitration Court system.
– I have worked under the wages board system, and under the Arbitration Court, and I prefer the Arbitration Court.
– If the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lewis) and myself were partners, and for some reasonwe became dissatisfied with the terms of the partnership, we should be much more likely to settle our differences if we had a free and frank discussion of them than if we went to law about them, for the result of litigation would almost certainly be that we should no longer be partners, because of the bitterness that would be provoked by recourse to law. That is exactly what happens under the Commonwealth Arbitration Court system.
– The honorable member is entirely wrong, for the parties are brought together in a conciliation committee before they go to the court.
– In many cases the parties who meet in the conciliation committee are afraid to give away anything because it might prejudice their case later in the court.
– That also is wrong, for in the conciliation committee everything is done without prejudice.
– That might be so theoretically, but it is not so practically.
The parties who meet in the conciliation committee do not show their full hand.
– They meet without the presence of the conciliation commissioner.
– Nothing that has been said by interjection has disproved my contention that a system similar to the Victorian wages board system is infinitely to be preferred to the Arbitration Court system, for it enables the two parties chiefly concerned to discuss the matter without the presence of an authoritative third party such as there is in the proceedings before the Arbitration Court. The legal atmosphere of the Arbitration Court does not lend itself to the amicable settlement of industrial disputes: Unless the Government is prepared to amend the bill along the lines I have suggested, I shall vote against it, and recommend those who will follow my advice to do likewise. It would be accepting the less of two evils.
The third bill, which has been brought down within the last few days, deals with trade and commerce powers. It has been fully debated this afternoon by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), the leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page), and other speakers. I did hope, when the Prime Minister gave notice of his intention to introduce this bill, that he would bring down a measure which I should be able to support, for I realize the difficulties underwhich this Parliament is labouring and the advantage it would be if it could enact a uniform company law and deal effectively with monopolies. As a former Minister for Marketing, I also realize the tremendous difficulties at present in the way of the organized marketing of Australia’s products within and beyond the Commonwealth. I should be prepared to support a proposal sufficiently wide to do these things, but not so wide as the proposal before us. It is quite another matter to support the transfer of complete power over trade and commerce to the Commonwealth, with the single exception of power relating to State railways. The Leader of the Opposition has indicated this afternoon the ridiculous position that will be brought about if the people approve of the proposal in the third bill. This Parliament is to be congratulated upon having among its members a gentleman of the legal attainments of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), for he has been able, because of his knowledge of constitutional law, to show honorable members on both sides of the House the tremendous scope of the proposals in the third bill.
– What about the speech of the honorable member for Parkes (Mi’. McTiernan) ?
– I do not wish to say one word derogatory to that honorable gentleman. I know that he is a distinguished lawyer. But it will be admitted that the Leader of the Opposition occupies a very high position in Australia as a constitutional lawyer. He dealt at some length this afternoon with transport matters. The last Government, in its concluding year of office, formed the Federal Transport Council, which is composed of the Commonwealth Minister for Transport, and the Minister for Transport of each State. The council held its first meeting in Canberra last June or thereabouts with the object of securing greater co-ordination in dealing with transportation problems. At the Conference of Premiers, which took place a month earlier, the Premiers made it plain that they believed it to be necessary, in order to bring about coordination of transport, that so far as practicable, one Minister in each State Cabinet should control all transport matters, such as tramway, highway, motor, and railway problems. It was felt that if the control were divided between two or more Ministers, it would be very difficult to bring about a proper measure of co-ordination. Yet this Government is proposing to do a very much worse thing. If the people approved of this amendment of the Constitution the Federal Parliament could deal with all road transport problems, whereas the States would retain control of the railways, although it is absolutely essential, particularly at this juncture, that there should be the nearest possible co-ordination of the two. The States would be left with only a decimal fraction of the trade and commerce powers which they now exercise. It has been shown by the Leader of the Opposition and the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) that the proposals of the Constitution Alteration Trade and Commerce Bill are so extraordinary in their scope that if they were accepted by the people the States would lose probably nine-tenths of the power which they now exercise and the Commonwealth would be loaded with all the minutiae of intra-state trade - a quite unnecessary thin.
I shall support, the amendment foreshadowed by the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) in connexion, with marketing powers, for I believe that it is desirable that this power should be exercised by the Commonwealth.
Another proposal made by the Leader of the Country party would, if carried into effect, gradually but surely secure for the Commonwealth a greater degree of control over trade and commerce. The right honorable gentleman pointed out that several unanimous recommendations were made by the Constitution Commission, one of the most important of which related to a further subdivision of the States. The commission recommended a method by which this could be accomplished by consent of the people concerned without the State Parliaments coming into the matter. If a State were subdivided it would certainly be a step in the direction of giving the Commonwealth more power over trade and commerce. The United States of America is made up of a large number of small States. We have been informed during this debate that the power of the Congress of the United States of America with respect to trade and commerce, is not much, if any, wider than that of this Parliament. But the difficulties that we are encountering in Australia are not met with in the United States of America to any great extent, because the large number of small States in the union results in there being comparatively little intra-state trade and commerce. There is a relatively insignificant volume of trade over which the provincial legislatures have authority, and the Congress has authority over the interstate trade which is infinitely more important than the intra-state trade. If we could secure, by means of an amendment of the Constitution, a method of more readily subdividing large and unwieldly States, it would, in time, prove to be a means of giving to the Commonwealth Parliament a greater degree of control over trade and commerce than it now exercises, because the powers over interstate trade would be put into operation to a larger extent than they are today. If the Government would bring down a further proposal providing for federal control of the matters unanimously recommended by the Constitution Commission as suitable for Commonwealth legislation it would have a good chance of being carried. I refer to such subjects as the alteration of the method of obtaining subdivision of the States, aviation, navigation, wireless, standards of purity of food and drugs, the registration of doctors and nurses, the legitimation of children, and the retiring ages of judges. I suggest that the question of conferring on this Parliament power to deal with the matters recommended by that commission should be’ submitted to the people. I regret that in their present form I cannot support any of the three bills brought down by the Government.
.- The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) indicated that he had awakened from a sleep, and had been greatly surprised by the announcement that the Government intended to take a referendum of the people on bills for the alteration of the Constitution. The tranquility and inactivity that prevailed in Canberra when the honorable member was a member of the late Government no doubt put him to sleep, and undoubtedly he has been suddenly awakened by hearing that the present Administration seriously intends to ask the people to confer on the National Parliament powers for which they are urgently appealing, as shown by the result of the recent election. The honorable member mentioned that Australia comprises a tremendous area of country. That goes without saying, and I remind him that most of its wealth is produced from onethird of that area. The people living in the parts of Australia from which its wealth is produced are crying out loudly for organization and regulation which can be brought about only by their acceptance of the Government’s proposals. It would appear, from sugges tions made by honorable members opposite, that the people cannot be trusted to confer, by way of referendum, the powers now sought. Honorable members opposite are suspicious that the Government is not sincere in its desire to secure for this Parliament the power asked for in the amendment bill. Let me indicate definitely that the Government does not challenge the intelligence of the people; it intends to trust them. Probably the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) has not gauged the wishes of the people with respect to this matter more accurately than his party did prior to the last election. The Government submits the bill now under consideration in all seriousness, believing that it is necessary to have the increased power sought over trade and commerce if this country is to be properly governed. The insinuation that the Labour party is not sincere in this matter is unworthy of serious consideration.
What is the basis of the objection taken to the first bill? It is that the Commonwealth Parliament cannot be entrusted with the enactment of legislation that will enable the people directly to influence the affairs of the nation. The State Parliaments, at the present time, enjoy the power that this Government now seeks; but the States are governed by institutions that prevent the express wish of the majority of the people from being given practical effect. One of the reasons why I support the present bill is that I am prepared to place full responsibility in the hands of a majority of the electors. I repeat that the Government and its supporters sincerely desire that their proposals shall he carried, so that the National Parliament will have power similar to that possessed by other national parliaments in the British Empire. Are not the people of Australia as able to govern themselves as those of South Africa, New Zealand and Great Britain? Despite what is being said by the Opposition, I claim that the Government has rightly gauged the opinion of the people, and that they will confer on the Parliament the powers sought. Statutory authority to legislate to meet the extraordinary position that has developed in Australia is safer in the hands of a national parliament than in those of a State parliament which is not responsible to the whole of the people for its existence. The inactivity of the Commonwealth Parliament in the past, and its readiness to submit to the domination of the States, has earned for it the Condemnation of the electors, who gave their answer in unmistakable terms so far as the late Government was concerned. One action that has met with the condemnation of the people is this Parliament’s submission to State domination as indicated by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) this afternoon. When the States refused to grant the powers asked for by the Bruce-Page Government, it tamely submitted to their domination. That is one reason why the people at the last election treated that Government in the way they did. There must be some final authority to deal with the extraordinary position that has developed in connexion with governmental affairs in this country. I venture to say that the economic conditions to-day are more acute, and, in fact, more desperate, than they were at any period during the late war.
I now come to the consideration of the proposal to confer on this Parliament power to legislate with respect to industrial matters. It is most significant that political entities outside this legislature that consistently support the Country, party have definitely stated that they desire the abolition of tribunals appointed to regulate the conditions under which employees in primary industries should work. The graziers, in their council, have just carried a resolution to that effect, and the farmers and settlers’ organizations in New South Wales and Queensland have succeeded. in preventing those employed in many primary industries from obtaining adjustment of their conditions by properly constituted tribunals. Therefore it must be conceded that at least one political entity desires the abolition of compulsory conciliation and arbitration. That is one more reason why this Parliament should, have a dominating influence over the industrial legislation of this country. The Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) inferred that I had done nothing for the wheatgrowers. I point out that the position of the Country party in this Parliament will not bear close investigation. Consider the condition to which primary industries have been brought because, on the one hand, there has not been given to this Parliament sufficient power to legislate adequately with regard to them, and, on the other hand, of the absence of a desire by previous federal’ governments to exercise an influence in regard to the collection and distribution of their output. The position of the wheat-grower in New South Wales to-day is not only a difficult but - also a desperate one.
Mr.- Archdale Parkhill. - What about the 6s. 6d. a bushel?
Mi-. GIBBONS.- It would be far better to give the farmers 6s. 6d. for their wheat than to allow the profiteers, who in politics support the honorable member, to exploit them as they have done in the past, without hindrance by the Government of which he was a supporter.
– Who are the profiteers by whom the honorable member says support was given to the late Government?
– Those who manipulate the collection and the distribution of the wheat which is grown by the farmers of this country. In 1929, as a result of press influence and the action of private buyers, a psychology was developed among the wheat-growers in the direction of convincing them that their produce was worth only 3s. 7d. a bushel. A large quantity of wheat was grown in that year, but, because the financial position was becoming acute, the farmers were compelled to dispose of their crop at that figure. The press broadcast the statement that the granaries of the United States of America were filled, and that that wa9 the best price which the farmers could expect to obtain in the world’s markets; yet, although there was no increased production in any other part of the world, within fourteen days from the time that the private speculator had obtained control of the wheat that was grown in this country, the price rose to 5s. 8d. a bushel f.o.b. Sydney. The economic inconsistencies that prevail to-day are the result of the extraordinary fluctuations that occur in the prices of primary commodities. While the manipulation to which I have referred . was taking place, the Country party remained inactive, and di l not lift a finger to help the primary producers of this country. There is need for the development of an organization that will prevent occurrences that make the position of the primary producer so difficult. Recently this House had placed before it a proposal to collect and distribute the wheat crop under one organization.
– The honorable member will not be in order in anticipating the debate that is to take place on another measure that appears on the business-paper.
– This proposed amendment, if agreed to, will permit of the enactment of legislation designed to bring about the establishment of organizations that will control the internal and external collection and distribution of primary products. Action along those lines is imperative if we are to cope with the existing position. A South African newspaper of a recent date contains a paragraph which indicates that other countries realize the necessity for taking action of this character. It reads -
John Kemp, Minister for Agriculture in the South African Parliament, recently called a conference of wool-producers, and made this most significant statement: - “Wool is our one staple agricultural product in the Union. Not only the prosperity of the largest section of our farming community, but the bulk of the trade in our country generally is dependent on the prices of wool. While no sane man will claim that it is necessary for wool prices to return to the level of 20d. and above, similarly no one with any knowledge of circumstances and possible consequences will dare to argue that it is no concern of the Government whether wool prices are below an economic level or not. While everybody is agreed that producers as well as others who are engaged in the industry must of necessity adjust themselves to a basis of lower values, there is not the slightest doubt that it is the clear duty of any government in South Africa to sec to it that those prices do not fall to such low levels that the bottom is knocked out of the industry. No body will dare to face the panic which will result therefrom.”
The point I wish to emphasize is that, unfortunately, the price that is being received for the wool and the wheat of this country does not cover the cost of production. If timely action had been taken prices would not now be so low. The Government realizes the imperative necessity of endeavouring to correct the position, and to that end has introduced this measure. During the last two months
I have made it a practice to spend two days during each week-end in a tour of the wheat-growing districts of my electorate, and I can assure honorable members that the wheat-growers do not know whether they will be able to continue their operations. I have no wish to be unduly pessimistic or to cause a scare, but that is the position as I have found it. I have complete confidence in the productive capacity of the lands of this country and the men who are working them. At the present time no State organization can meet the position properly. The scheme that was established by Mr. Thorby, Minister for Agriculture in New South Wales, has failed. He did not receive the co-operation of private institutions that .was necessary to ensure its success, and the finances of the State are so had that the private banking institutions say they have no credit to make available to the wheat-farmer. The solvency of country storekeepers and distributors who are supplying the commodities necessary to enable the wheat-farmer to carry on his operations is challenged, and in many cases they have been compelled to notify the farmers that they cannot longer support them. That is an exceedingly serious situation, particularly as the solvency of the nation, and its future existence, are so closely linked up with the maintenance and development of the wheat and woolgrowing industries of this country. By what means is it possible to convey a sense of security to these men? Confidence and credit must be re-established, and that can be achieved more readily if the Australian Parliament is in a position to exercise an influence over international trade and commerce by providing means for the collection and distribution of primary products. Confidence is very badly needed just now among local trading institutions, and the passing of this measure would go a long way towards establishing it.
May I, for a moment, . deal with another aspect of this subject, so as to emphasize the necessity for passing the first referendum proposal? Even though the State financial institutions have failed to meet the requirements of the farming section of the community, it might be possible for the Commonwealth to establish the necessary credit. In fact, it has been definitely indicated that such action is possible; but there must be developed an organization that will enable that credit to be distributed among those who need it. It would appear that, at the present time, there is no such organization, and no constitutional authority to establish it. Only six weeks remain in which grain can be planted in many districts throughout the Commonwealth. The fact that industry generally has become partially stagnant because of the lack of the necessary credit surely warrants this proposal being placed before the people and agreed to by them, so that a similar position may not arise in the future.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to S p.m.
.- When we remember that were the powers for which the Government is asking in the first bill already resident in this Parliament, there would be no need to approach the people for the other powers for which the Government is asking, we have reason to congratulate ourselves that the Constitution can be amended only by direct and specific applications, to the people. In reply to an interjection, the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) said that the Government would not operate the genera] power of amendment, if granted, until the people had given it a mandate at a general election. Nobody knows better than does the honorable gentleman that it is impossible for a mandate to be given to any party or Government on one specific matter at a general election. Elections are not won or lost on one item of policy. A girl does not accept a suitor because he is bald; she accepts him in spite of his baldness. A party is returned to power, not because of one particular plank in its platform, but because its general policy meets with the approval of the people. To illustrate his contention, the Treasurer said that the Queensland Legislative Council had been abolished without reference to the people, and that any State can alter its Constitution without prior consultation of the constituents. That is quite true, but the alterations which Parliaments can make are restricted ; for instance, no State Parliament may alter its Constitution in such a way as to make it conflict with the
Federal Constitution. The Queensland Labour Government abolished the Legislative Council without a mandate from the people. The Treasurer said that at the ensuing election the Labour party, which he led at that time, was returned with an overwhelming majority, and he contended that that was an endorsement by the people of the abolition of the second chamber. A few years previously the people had, by an overwhelming majority, declared that the upper house should be retained. Notwithstanding that, the Labour party took advantage of its strength in the Parliament to act in direct opposition to the declared will of the people. A Commonwealth Government could not justifiably claim that because its general election policy included certain proposals for the alteration of the Constitution, its return to power gave it a mandate to effect those alterations.
The Attorney-General (Mr. Brennan) said that the Constitution should be revised, especially in regard to industrial affairs, because for 30 years the present system of industrial jurisdiction had proved cumbrous, expensive and unsatisfactory to the contracting parties. I contend that the Constitution does not require altering except in respect of a few minor matters. * To the first proposal of the Government to give this Parliament power to amend the Constitution at its own sweet will, I am absolutely opposed. The acceptance of that principle would make the Constitution a mere football of party politics and, as the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) said this afternoon, no State would know twelve months ahead where it stood or what its constitutional powers would be.
In regard to the second bill, the people have been asked on numerous occasions to grant to this Parliament control of industrial matters. In 1926 the party to which I belonged submitted certain proposals to a referendum of the people. We believed that if the powers we sought were granted, we would be able to terminate a condition of affairs which prevented this Parliament from functioning industrially and politically as it should. I realize now that we were in error in asking that the Constitution should be altered in that way. The conditions which we sought to remedy were of our own creation, and the responsibility rested on us to retrace our steps and get back to the firm foundation which the framers of the Constitution laid. They set out clearly and definitely the powers which this Parliament should exercise’ and those which should be retained by the States. Had we at no time transgressed our constitutional limitations and endeavoured to take unto ourselves powers which did not rightly belong to us, industry throughout the Commonwealth would have enjoyed more contentment and prosperity.
The proposals of the Bruce-Page Government in 1929 did not involve an amendment of the Constitution ; they were merely legislative. No additional power was sought for this Parliament; what the Government proposed could have been done under the existing Constitution, and I regret that it was impossible to divorce that issue from a general election, and its accompanying confusion. The Attorney-General has stated that as a result of the last election the present Government has a mandate from the people to seek an increase of the powers of this Parliament. I do not admit that. Government supporters have no right to claim that they have a definite mandate from the people to take unto this Parliament increased industrial powers. The Bruce-Page Government frankly announced to the people its intentions. It had previously attempted by legislation to restore industries to the niches to which they rightly belonged. The Constitution gives this Parliament complete control over the maritime industry, and the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), when he was leading the Nationalist party in 1922, said that the Federal Arbitration Court should control the maritime and coal industries. I cannot understand by what stretch of imagination the right honorable member could contend that the coal industry should be under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Court. Coal-mining is not an interstate industry. Although coal is mined in most States, the conditions in each State vary, and there is no more reason for linking the coal-miners in Victoria with those in New South Wales than there is for linking the timberworkers of Western Australia with those of Queensland and Victoria. Ministerial members reply, by interjection, that the timber-workers of the various States were linked; that is true, but those in Western Australia applied to be removed from the jurisdiction of the Federal Court and to be allowed to return to the jurisdiction of the State tribunal. There is no definite association between the- coal-miners in Victoria and those in New South Wales.
– The honorable member does not understand what he is talking about.
– The conditions in the brown coal mines in Victoria are dissimilar from those in the coal-mines of New South Wales. The mere fact that the coal-miners in two or more States are on strike simultaneously is not a valid reason for giving them access to the Federal Court. The miners in each State can approach the State tribunals to have their wrongs redressed. The most urgent need in connexion with industrial matters is simplicity, and nothing could be simpler than the proposals made by the Bruce-Page Government last year to avoid the duplication and overlapping of Federal and State jurisdictions. By those proposals I stand to-day. I am. absolutely opposed to the bills submitted by the present Government to obtain for this Parliament increased powers in respect of industrial matters and complete control of trade and commerce. The less governments have to do with trade and commerce the better for them and for the individual. Industries should be allowed to manage their own affairs. For good or ill the principle of government ownership of public utilities has been accepted by the people, and we are not likely to abandon it. Nevertheless, many of the ills from which we suffer to-day are the direct result of government ownership. It is significant that the Government in seeking complete powers in respect of trade and commerce specifically excluded the State railway systems. The obvious reason is that these systems are not paying their way, and the Commonwealth Government has no desire to take over the huge and increasing deficits which those systems have accumulated. The more the Government interferes with trade, commerce, and industry the more will it pile up trouble for itself and the community. After ‘ ensuring to every person in the community a fair deal, governments are wise to allow the people to work out their own salvation.
My position in regard to these bills is quite definite. I am opposed to conferring upon this Parliament power to alter the Constitution. I am equally against the proposal of the Government to give this Parliament increased power in regard to industrial matters, and, if possible, even more strongly opposed to the Commonwealth assuming full control of trade and commerce.
.- I have, during this debate, listened to many speeches from the Opposition side, but none of them contained any real sound argument against the bill.
– That is very disappointing
– It should be disappointing to the Leader of the Opposition. On other occasions I have heard honorable members opposite advance substantial arguments against some of the measures introduced by the Government; but, on this occasion, the Leader of the Opposition and his supporters have failed miserably in their attempt to belittle and deride the proposals of the Government. The honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley) set a good example by saying only a few words on this bill.
– They were to the point.
– That may be so in the opinion of the Leader of the Opposition. At this late stage in the debate I will not go as fully into the question of the alteration of the Constitution as I had intended. Federation has been in existence for just on 30 years, and it must be apparent to everybody that, during that time, the industrial and social conditions of this country have so changed that it is now absolutely necessary that the Federal Parliament should have greater constitutional powers.
– We have always advocated that.
– For that reason I do not think that honorable members opposite are sincere in their opposition to this bill.
– Order ! The honorable member must withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it; but let me say that honorable members opposite will have difficulty in impressing upon the people that they are really sincere in opposing this measure.. We established federation about 30 years ago, and it is time that some alteration was made in our Constitution. Many thousands of the present electors of Australia had no voice in parliamentary affairs when federation was first introduced. They had no say as to who should be elected to the first Constitution Convention. Since then a new generation, with new ideals, has grown up in Australia, and the people are now crying out for greater constitutional powers for the National Parliament.
– Most of the new generation are our supporters.
M’r. PRICE.- Judging by the last election, the new generation is composed mainly of our supporters. The Labour party recognizes the need for constitutional alteration, and this Government is now submitting to the people proposals to amend the Constitution. There are too many parliaments in Australia to-day. Each State, with the exception of Queensland, has two houses of Parliament. Queensland! had sufficient foresight to recognize that the Legislative Council was becoming more and more an obsolete chamber.
– That State seems to be getting on very well without it.
Mr. PRICE. I agree with the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart). Even the Queensland Nationalist Government has taken no action to re-constitute that chamber. All the other States have two houses of parliament, a House of Assembly and a Legislative Council. In the State of New South Wales the Legislative Council is a nominee chamber, and the other State Councils are elected on a restricted property qualification franchise. In these days we find that Legislative Councils are a block to progress, and are unnecessary in an enlightened community. The maintenance of those institutions is a costly business. The people of Australia are to-day considerably over-governed. It has been stated repeatedly in this House that the railways do not pay; yet hundreds of ex-members of Parliament and ex-Ministers are holders of railway passes. In New South Wales there are 93 members of the Upper Chamber, which is a nominee house, and each one has a gold pass.
– Lang did that.
– The membership of that House was increased by a Nationalist Government.
– That is not so.
– The parliamentary records of New South Wales will bear out my contention.
– I challenge the honorable member to produce such records.
– Order ! I warn the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) not to persist in interjecting. It is quite impossible to continue the debate when there are constant interjections, and unless they cease I shall be compelled to take action to preserve the dignity of the chamber.
– This country is put to considerable expense because of the practice that prevails in Australia of handing out gold passes to Ministers and exmembers and others. It would be interesting to learn the number holding passes to-day.
– There are 700 of them.
– This country cannot afford that expenditure, and it is time that we cried a halt. Members of Parliament representing constituencies should have railway passes; but I am opposed to giving free railway travelling facilities to all ex-ministers and ex-members of Parliament.
– Every Commonwealth pass is paid for.
– The people are paying for the passes.
– Has that subject anything to do with the bill?
– I am pointing out one way in which economy can be effected in connexion with parliamentary .institutions. The Parliament of South Australia decided some years ago to cut out all unnecessary railway passes. A Labour Government has just been elected in South Australia and it proposes to reduce the number of members of Parliament from 46 to 35. This is a step in the right direction. The Government is submitting three proposals to the people. ‘No. 2 proposal relates to a constitutional amendment in respect of industrial matters. The word “ mandate “ has been repeatedly -used in this debate, and if ever a political party had a mandate from the people the Labour party at the last election received a mandate to obtain for the Commonwealth Parliament greater powers in respect of industrial affairs.
– What would be done by the Government if greater powers were granted.
– -It,would carry out the policy enunciated at the last elections.
– There was not even a remote indication in the Labour party’s policy of its intention in respect of industrial powers.
– It was the Labour party’s policy that brought about the downfall of the Bruce-Page Government, of which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) was a member. At this late stage in the debate it’ would not be fair for me to traverse the whole industrial field. The case has been well put by the Prime Minister and other speakers. No. 3 proposal relates to trade and commerce. The Opposition failed to produce one sound argument against the Government’s proposal. The honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley) said that trade and commerce should be left absolutely to private individuals. I cannot agree with him. It is essential that this National Parliament should have greater powers in many directions. For instance, why should we have to appeal to the various States of the Commonwealth before we can give effect to legislation providing for an allAustralian wheat marketing pool? It is a ridiculous state of affairs. This is supposed to be a national Parliament, and yet we have to obtain the consent of the States before we can carry out a national work. The Commonwealth should have absolute control of trade and commerce. This Government is appealing to the farmers to increase the acreage under wheat. We must increase the production of our exportable commodities so as to rectify the trade balance and place this country in a sound financial position. I am firmly convinced that, as a result of the Government’s appeal to the farmers they will respond and we may reasonably expect to reap a bountiful harvest next season. Australia grows some of the finest products in the world. “When I was in London, as Agent-General for South Australia, I realized the absolute necessity for the Commonwealth Parliament to have greater powers over trade and commerce. Australia wants markets for her wheat, wool, wine, dried fruits, &c. We must look at this matter from an all-Australian viewpoint, and find markets for our exportable products. The sooner these powers are given to the Commonwealth the sooner will Australia progress and become a prosperous nation. I hope that these proposals will receive fair treatment in the other place and that when the people are consulted they will approve of the suggested alterations, thus enabling this Parliament to do what it believes to be best in the interests of Australia.
.- In dealing with these proposed alterations of the Constitution I suggest that, although honorable members may view them from the constitutional angle and the judgments of the High Court, the people of Australia will be concerned with the possible legislation that may be introduced by the Government if the proposals are carried. We, too, must give some thought to that aspect of the proposals. We may safely leave the constitutional aspect to such notable authorities as Sir Edward Mitchell, Sir Robert Garran, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) as expressing the opinions of the Opposition, and the Attorney-General (Mr. Brennan) as expressing the opinions of the Government supporters.
The first amendment proposed is entirely revolutionary in character. It cuts straight across the basic principles upon which the States agreed to federate, and means, to my mind, the annihilation of the federal system and the substitution for it of a unified system of control from Canberra. I am a firm believer in the federal system. Section 128 of the Constitution provides such a reasonable method of altering the Constitution that the proposal in this bill is entirely unjustified. Quite inapt comparisons have been made between Australia and such countries as New Zealand, South Africa and Great Britain. Australia cannot be compared with those countries in relation to either her geographical or economic conditions. We have a huge continent governed partly by State Parliaments with sovereign rights and partly by a Commonwealth Parliament with certain specified powers. The countries I have mentioned are governed by national parliaments with sovereign powers. This point is dealt with in the general recommendations of the Royal Commission on the Constitution, from which I quote the following paragraph from page 240: -
Many definitions of federalism, or of a federal system, have been framed by writers on political science or constitutional law, but in recommending that the federal form of government be retained in Australia, we are referring to a system which possesses features common to the Constitutions of Australia, Canada, and the United States of America. Between the Constitutions of these three countries there are important differences, but all three have in common certain elements or institutions which may be described as fundamental. In all of them there is one central government having authority over the whole area, and there are a number of governments having authority over areas less than tha whole. The powers of these governments and their relations to each other arc limited and defined by a written document the terms of which cannot be altered by the Parliament either of the whole or of any lesser area. It cannot be interpreted except by a court, and it is for this court to determine whether any act of any of the legislatures has the force of law, or is a nullity because it transgresses the limits defined by the Constitution. Another feature which these three systems have in common is that the powers exercisable by the Provinci.il or State Parliaments are not merely administrative, but arc of sufficient importance to the people governed to attract political interest and to give to the decisions of the legislatures or executives of the States or Provinces an important influence on the wellbeing of the community.
It has been suggested that we should trust the people. The framers of the Constitution were prepared to do that, and the present Opposition in this Parliament is prepared to do it. An attempt has been made to justify the introduction of the revolutionary proposal contained in this bill by asserting that the existing provisions for altering the Constitution are undemocratic. I disagree with that contention.
A great deal more could be done by the co-operation of the Commonwealth and State Governments to overcome the difficulties which at present face us. We have many examples of what can he done by that method. The ratification of the financial agreement between the Commonwealth and the States is a monument to co-operation. I am proud that I was a supporter of the Government responsible for the introduction of that agreement. There was opposition to that proposal when first made, some of which came from prominent members of this Parliament; but when it had been shown conclusively that the agreement would be beneficial to all parties, there was not a great deal of difficulty in securing the ratification of it. The formation of the Federal Loan. Council as a statutory body was an outcome of that agreement. The council is doing a great deal by controlling public borrowing to counteract our financial troubles, and it will, I believe be able to do a great deal more to enable us to pass safely the crisis which confronts us. The Federal Aid Roads Agreement is another illustration of what can be done by co-operative methods. This agreement has had important results, particularly to country people, and to honorable members who represent country constituencies and have to do a great deal of travelling by motor car on country roads. No alteration of the Constitution was needed to make that agreement. The proposal appealed to the people generally and they approved it. The Commonwealth Housing Scheme is further evidence that a great deal can he done by co-operative methods. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is a Commonwealth institution which is working with a great deal of success in co-operation with the States. It has given effect to a great extent to the slogan “ Grow more Wheat,” fathered by the Prime Minister, and transmitted through the air to farmers in our most remote agricultural areas. The council has been able to show us that the application of science to industry may have important results not only in manufacture, but also in primary produce tion. In passing, may I say that the primary producers are apparently the only section of the community to which the Prime Minister could appeal for help to get us out of the unfortunate position in which we find ourselves.
– Tell us something about co-operation and the wheat pool.
– I shall have another opportunity to deal with that subject, but a good deal more could be done in a co-operative way to assist the pooling scheme of marketing. It has been suggested that the method by which the wheat pool may be brought into being is tardy, and that it is unfortunate that there is any need to include in the Wheat Marketing Bill the preamble which will oblige the Commonwealth to consult the States. In my opinion it is a good thing that the preamble is there, and a little delay will ensure that the whole subject will receive the most searching inquiry, and that the varying conditions of all the States will be taken into consideration. A wheat pool formed under such conditions is more likely to be beneficial to the producers than a pool formed under any other conditions.
It has been suggested that if the constitutional changes proposed by the Government are effected we shall be in a better position to conduct economic and industrial experiments. This point is dealt with in the minority report of the Royal Commission on the Constitution signed by Messrs. Ashworth, Duffy and MacNamara. I quote the. following words from their recommendations: -
There is the enormous practical advantage that, where legislation imposes a charge upon industry this charge will be uniform throughout the Continent.
I hold a. different view. It appears to me that if industrial and socialistic experiments are to be carried out it is far better that they should be confined to a limited area than that they should be made on a nation-wide basis. The varying conditions pf the States in regard to area, production, manfacturing possibilities, taxation and so on, make it impracticable to secure complete uniformity. It will be remembered that an attempt was made by Mr. Lang, when he was Premier of New South Wales, to get the Commonwealth and States to experiment with a system of child endowment ; but he was unable to get the then Prime Minister and the State Premiers to agree to his proposals. However, he submitted the scheme to the New South Wales Parliament, and as he had a majority behind him, it was put into operation. It was a most unfortunate arrangement for New South Wales, for it caused a great deal of unemployment. It was, as a matter of fact, one of the things which caused the defeat of Mr. Lang’s Government at the succeeding election. If the experiment was hurtful to New South “Wales, it would have been almost a tragedy had it been applied to the whole Commonwealth. Therefore, if experiments of this kind are to be carried out, they had best be undertaken in the State sphere. In New South “Wales, the Lang Government adopted an improper method of raising revenue; it placed a direct charge on industry, while professional men in receipt of big salaries went scot free. That system was unscientific in its application, and considerably more revenue was raised than was required. The repercussion that was caused, as shown by th<5 unemployment that occurred throughout New South “Wales, contributed to the defeat of that Government at the following election.
Turning to the second bill, that relating to industrial powers, I am well aware of the fact that the late Government sought increased industrial powers in 1926, and, although it received support* from all sides of the House, its proposals were rejected. I am opposed to the second bill, because the power sought under it goes very much further than that asked for in 1926. The late Government desired, in the first place, to produce a proper atmosphere for the consideration of the relations of employers and employees. I realize that the necessity to cause an artificial dispute in order that the parties might go before the Court, did not engender the right feeling between the two sides in industry. It was recognized, too, that the common rule was desirable, and the late Government endeavored, as far as possible, to get rid of the dual control, which, probably more than anything else, has hampered industry, helping to maintain the high cost of production. The proposals of the late Government, however, were not « farreaching as those now under consideration. The late Ministry desired that power to legislate with respect to industrial matters should be delegated to the States wherever practicable, but, under the bill before us, power is sought to legislate in the National Parliament with respect to industry generally, which would mean that this Parliament would be asked to pass laws to deal, for instance, with the basic wage and the hours of employment throughout Australia. I suggest that this Parliament is not competent to do that, not having the necessary information at its command. Therefore, I am opposed to the second bill.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) has been twitted this afternoon by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) with, being overcritical; but I claim that my leader would not be worthy of the trust reposed in him if he did not clearly point out the kind of legislation that the people might reasonably expect if the powers now asked for were granted. The Government has said that, if it had enjoyed the extended powers now asked for, it would have been able to solve the problem in the coal industry. But everybody knows full well that the possession of such powers would not have enabled the Government to do anything of the sort.
– Could it not have purchased the mines?
– I invite the honorable member to think for a moment of the tremendous cost that such action would have involved, and the difficulty that would have been experienced in view of the present condition of the finances. T think that every honorable member realizes that the solution of the coal problem is not a political one, although efforts have been put forward to make it one. “When Mr. Bruce, in conjunction with Mr. Bavin, suggested how the trouble could be overcome, it would have been in the interests of all concerned had their recommendation been adopted. Benefit would have accrued, not only to the immediate parties to the dispute, but also to all industries that required cheaper coal, the consumers generally and the miners themselves. But the trouble has gone from bad to worse. There was the famous promise made by the Treasurer in my own electorate; I understand that the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) remarked that the story was so old that it had “grown whiskers.” It seems to me rather a barbed-wire entanglement for the Government. I have constituents in Muswellbrook who were contributing 12 per cent, of their wages to assist the unfortunate employees on the northern coal-fields. They were throwing up ‘their hats with glee in expectation of the cessation of the dispute when the present Government was returned, but they are still paying out money to-day to assist the miners. The coal problem is an economic one and can be solved only on economic lines. For various reasons the demand for coal has declined, and the prices that formerly ruled cannot now be obtained. Had the conditions proposed by . Messrs. Bruce and Bavin been accepted, the miners would have been in a comfortable position to-day; they would have been “in clover “, compared with the thousands of Australians who now have no work to which to go, and whose position has been aggravated by the prolongation of the trouble on the coal-fields. A reasonable settlement of the difficulty would have been reached but for the interference of so-called leaders of Labour. To meet the difficulty that arose in the coal industry in Great Britain, I understand that reasonable contributions were made Ivy other unionists to supply funds for the re-establishment of the idle coal workers in other industries. We all know how difficult is the position of the various Governments in Australia owing to their inability to obtain loans. We realize that Mr. Bavin has a very hard job.
– To get back.
– He will probably bo returned at the next election. He has shown that he is game to face the situation. He has told the people of New South Wales, that, if they will give him their confidence, he will stand up to all the abuse of Lang and Co. He will share the sacrifices with his party, and carry the next election in New South Wales to a successful issue. I give the honorable member for Hunter credit for full sincerity in his advocacy of the miners’ claims; but it’ is most difficult to help the unemployed in New South Wales, because the problem has been- rendered more difficult of solution owing to the non-acceptance of the reasonable suggestion that was made to the miners. There are other workers in New South Wales whose interests must be considered. Mr. Bavin has had a definite promise from the steel works. There was a guarantee that, if they could obtain coal at a reasonable price, a considerably larger number of men would have been employed in that industry. The present conditions demand that public men face the facts. After all, the people are not gullible; they are looking for sane action by the legislature rather than sweeping alterations of the Constitution. In my opinion, the proposed alteration will not assist towards the settlement of the coal trouble or similar difficulties in New South Wales.
I shall refer only briefly to the third bill, which relates to the trade and commerce power. I am not a believer in price fixing. I would not open the door to the further nationalization of industries. Therefore, I am entirely opposed to this measure and I have not the least doubt that when it is submitted to the people, it will meet the fate that I believe it richly deserves.
.- The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Gardner) remarked that, if politicians had not interfered in the coal trouble, it might have been settled long ago.
– I referred to “ socalled leaders “.
– The employers have their leaders, and so must the employees, and the best leader that the employers had in the coal dispute was the Premier of New South Wales. He fought their battle and he - is fighting it to-day. In considering the all-important alterations the Constitution that are now proposed, I recall the statement of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) who, in referring to what was in the minds of the framers of the Constitution, related only half the story, though he told it well. It is true that at least one of the small States, so far as population is concerned - I refer to “Western Australia - did demur for a while to entering the federation. But it is remarkable that the biggest State of the group - New South Wales - took two votes of the people before deciding to be a party to the federal compact. Now, after 30 years’ experience of the union, we are reminded of what was intended by those who framed this instrument of government. I well remember that one inducement held out to the people of New South Wales, in asking them to vote for federation, was a promise that it would mean a diminution of the powers of the States within a short period.
– They were promised that the Seat of Government would be at Can berra.
– That was a detail. I remind honorable members that the sponsors of federation told the people that if they federated they would come into a true unity. Their cry was “ One people, one flag, one destiny
Let us examine the progress that has been made in this country during the last 30 years. We have, it is true, made a considerable amount of progress; but it has been made notwithstanding some obnoxious provisions that the Constitution itself contains. I believe that every honorable member will admit that of all the federations in the world ours is the most unequal so far as the population in the different centres is concerned. The Constitution as we have it was, however, the best instrument of government that could be secured at the time. Then no communication by land existed between the east and the west portions of the continent. The position is totally different to-day. We now have the transcontinental railway, which links the east with the west, and also the advantages of wireless and aeroplane services. In reality, therefore, although the continent is large the people are linked together much more closely than they were at the inauguration of federation.
Let me give a few illustrations to show the need that exists for greater unity. It took us years to get the States concerned to enter into an agreement to undertake the Murray River Waters scheme, because of the jealousy that was aroused by the thought that one State might get a few more gallons of water than another. Again, when cattle in Queensland became infested with ticks the federal authorities were powerless to interfere because the matter was one for the States affected. Consequently, New South Wales was obliged to erect a fence along the whole of its Queensland border, and to-day a New South Wales officer is stationed at every crossing along that border to prevent any cattle entering New” South Wales from Queensland. These two examples will show what can happen under the federal system that we have at the present time.
At the commencement of federation we were told that the Senate would be purely a State rights house, and would confine itself to watching the interests of the States. Experience has taught us, however, that it is as keenly partisan as the House of Representatives. Although inequality of population has in many ways proved a handicap to the smaller States, it cannot be said that the States which are more thickly populated have not been more than generous to them in their trials.
Much has been said regarding the sections of the Constitution that relate to the British power. It is true that the consent of the home authorities had to be obtained; but that provision was placed in the Constitution 30 years ago. Judging by questions that have been asked in this House with respect to the person who has been recommended by the Government for the office of GovernorGeneral, it would seem that in the opinion of some honorable members no Australian is good enough to be given honor in his own country, and that it would be a crime if the Government recommended the appointment of an Australian as Governor-General.
– Nonsense !
– With all due respect to the gentlemen who occupy the positions, I ask is it necessary for us to have seven vice-regal representatives and their establishments in order to prove our loyalty to the throne? The evidence of our loyalty has on more than one occasion been written in blood. We do not require the pomp and tinsel that surround the office of governor, and the sooner the people realize the cost that is involved the sooner will our progress be accelerated.
Mention has been made of industrial legislation. One of the greatest brakes upon our progress has been overlapping, not only in industrial legislation, but also in every other class of sovereign-right legislation. It is not possible to make progress while the working week in one State is 48 hours and in another State 44 hours for those who have to compete in the same market. No matter what may be said about high courts, low courts, or any other courts, so long as we have so much dual control and legalism in our industrial courts so long’ shall we have industrial trouble in this country. The principal cause of industrial troubles has been the overlapping of Federal and State arbitration awards in many industries. Those troubles will continue while both employers and employees are able to choose the court which is most likely to be favorable to their particular view.
Comparisons have been drawn between the powers that this Government is now seeking and those that were sought by the last Government. The only objection that I have to these proposals is that they do not go far enough.
– Not even the first proposal ?
– Not one of them. I would re-divide the country into sensible areas that would give a greater degree of equality than that which now exists.
Reference has been made to the power which would be possessed by a parliament that had the right to amend the Constitution whenever it thought fit to do so. On this point I remind honorable members that the Parliament of South Africa has such power, and that it controls a territory equal in area to that of Australia. The Parliament of Great Britain has had this power from time immemorial, and it rules not only 40,000,000 people at home, but also a vast Empire. Although there is a Labour Government in Great Britain at the present time, it has not shown any inclination to run riot and abuse the power that it possesses. Then there is Canada. In the beginning the Federal Parliament in Canada assumed the whole of the power, and from time to time handed back to the provinces whatever powers it thought they ought to have; and immediately every province except Quebec abolished its Upper House and automatically became equivalent to a county council. We have in this chamber Australians who are unequivocally opposed to the appointment of any brilliant Australian to a blue- ribbon office; but in Canada every provincial Governor is Canadian born.
Ours is the only federal system that does not confer full power on the Federal Parliament. Whenever during the last 30 years we have attempted to do anything of a national character we have been overruled by the High Court. When we endeavoured to have a union mark affixed to Australian-made goods, the High Court ruled that we had not the power to do so. Taxation is increasing year by year, and is imposing a double burden upon the people. Before many years have passed the people will demand a lightening of that burden, by the removal of overlapping. I am convinced that if a well-considered scheme of unification were submitted to the people at the present time it would receive the overwhelming support of business men and trade unionists alike.
– Abolish the State Parliaments.
– Instead of doing that, the powers of the States are being strengthened, and this Parliament is mainly engaged in gathering taxes, a large proportion of which is handed over to the States to be spent by them as they choose. It is unsound finance to allow one authority to spend money which it has not had the responsibility of raising. I could continue to enumerate the evils arising from the present constitutional limitations, but I propose to conclude with a few more words regarding the coalmining industry. Although the miners have been blamed for the stand they have taken in defence of their rights, the fact is clear that, for the first time in the history of federal arbitration, and in defiance of an award, the owners closed down their mines while they were still making profits, and thus threw 12,000 men out of work.
– No award was in operation.
– When the lockout occurred the- Hibble award was still in existence, and the act provides that the conditions of an existing award shall continue until a new award is made. Even the royal commission appointed by Mr. Bavin blamed the owners for closing down the mines. Perhaps if this Commonwealth Parliament had more power it could have dealt with the evil of stock inflation. One of the biggest curses of production in Australia is the overloading of share capital by the issue of bonus shares and stock watering. Nobody objects to invested capital earning a fair reward, but subscribed capital which was earning in some instances from 10 to 80 per cent., has been watered down by the issue of three and four bonus shares for every original share. Whatever steps may be necessary now for putting the coal industry on an economic basis, no business man would justify the closing down of the mines when the owners were making a profit of 2s.1½d. per ton. That profit is proved by the owners’ figures, notwithstanding that they relate to a selected group of mines, including some that are worked out.
– The owners were prepared to cut the profit in half, but the miners would not agree.
– The few hours which the honorable member spent in the mine atRothbury have not taught him very much.
– A little learning is a dangerous thing.
– It is better than none at all.
– I have spent all my life in this industry.
– Talking about it.
– I have worked in it; I have been buried under tons of coal. For the benefit of honorable members who are making speeches by interjection, I quote from the Daily Telegraph of the 4th April -
The action of the proprietors in closing the mines as they did was in complete conflict with the statutory principles of compulsory arbitration, and in complete disregard of the interests of the community.
This statement appears in a section of the Coal Commission’s report which previously has not been made public. One copy has been received by the Federal Government, but so far has not been read, Ministers being too busy.
That is the verdict of the commission appointed by Mr. Bavin, whom honorable members opposite regard as their champion. The newspaper report continued - “ If the Hibble awards were valid and existing on 2nd March, 1929, and the owners appeared to act on them in giving fourteen days’ notice,” the report adds, “ there could be no excuse for disobeying them. Evidence showed that some, at least, of the proprietors were able to comply with them.”
– The Daily Telegraph went on to say - “It might well be asked,” the report continues, “ why none of the tribunals was approached for new terms and conditions. “We recommend that the custom which has grown up in proceedings before coal tribunals of requiring a resumption of work on existing conditions before inquiring into the merits of a dispute should be made statutory “, the Commissioners, Mr. Justice Davidson, Dr. Ward, and Mr. Gepp, state. “ Apparently the industry has been overcapitalized on a considerable scale, and there is reason for alarm at the waste and all-round inefficiency that exists.”
Funds set aside for depreciation, repairs and renewals have often been in excess of requirements, and have frequently been devoted to the distribution of capital to shareholders.
In spite of that pronouncement, honorable members opposite continue to traduce the miners because they are standing up for their rights and the principles of arbitration.
I hope that when these bills are submitted to the people they will realize that conditions to-day are different from those of 30 years ago, that they will repose their trust in this Parliament, and enable it to lift the load that now rests upon the shoulders of the community by introducing a unified system which will realize the slogan that was first expressed at the inception of federation - “ One people, one flag, one destiny.”
– The three Constitution amendment bills now before the House demonstrate clearly that the Government is not setting a course of moderation.Under the pretence of amending the Constitution, it is seeking to induce the people to endorse a system of unification. I am prepared to admit that, because of State rivalries, the federal pact was necessarily a compromise, and that the Constitution, framed in those circumstances, is not to be regarded as a final and immutable instrument of government.
The Constitution under given conditions is an alterable instrument; but I submit that no one ever dreamed of anything so fantastic by way of constitutional amendment as the proposals that are projected in this tangled trinity of bills before this House. I can quite conceive that constitutional amendment is needed; but the members of the Government must be super-optimists if they imagine that they will be able to thrust the proposed amendments upon the people of Australia. The Government, in submitting these proposals, is attempting to perpetrate a patent and palpable fraud on the democracy of Australia. The outstanding feature of the first proposed amendment is its political-mindedness. It involves questions of legality which are sure to be challenged if the people .of Australia, in a moment of mental aberration, should consent to give to the Commonwealth Parliament these extraordinary powers that are being asked for. I have read many legal opinions upon the wisdom and unwisdom of the course that the Government is taking, but it is mostly political legal opinion. I should like to know whether any non-political lawyer has given his endorsement to such sweeping proposals as these projected by the Government. Unification, like the trail of the serpent, is over them all. I challenge the statement of the members of the Government that Australia wants unification. Unification would be quite a feasible proposition if Australia suffered no geographical handicap. It is a thoroughly practical proposition for small self-centred countries like the United Kingdom, Belgium, and Holland; but how can any sane person say that that system should apply in a. country with the geographical features characteristic of Australia? Furthermore, is Australia ready for unification? Is it likely to benefit by unification ? Any one who has given this subject complete and unbiased study must answer in the negative. What does the Government propose to do about settling those questions for itself before it proceeds to fix, as it undoubtedly desires to fix, this principle of unification upon Australia - a principle that is entirely at variance with and in opposition to the spirit which brought about this federation ? Without resolving or attempting to resolve the questions that I have asked, unification is to be forced by an outrageous piece of political legerdemain upon the people, of this country.
It has been suggested that there are insuperable difficulties in the way of amending the Australian Constitution. There are difficulties in the way of amending the Constitution - there should be difficulties in the way of amending any constitution - but they are not insuperable. They are difficulties that have been overcome, and they can be overcome again without recourse to the revolutionary ideas in the minds of the members of the Government. In support of my contention, I would cite the financial agreement, which was secured as the result of a referendum conducted under the existing Constitution. That referendum was carried because it involved a legitimate need for constitutional reform, and as a result the questions at issue were embodied in an agreement drawn up between this Commonwealth and the component States. That agreement was subsequently given statutory effect by validating legislation passed by this Parliament and the several State Parliaments. Under the terms of that legislation the agreement is irrevocable except with the express consent of the parties thereto. It cannot be rescinded without the consent of the contracting parties.
– It cannot be varied without their consent.
– That is explicitly stated in the terms of the agreement written into the statutory laws of this country.
– What is the position in the case of mutual consent?
– The contracting parties can alter the agreement as they like.
– One of the terms in the’ agreement is that it cannot be altered without the consent of the contracting parties. Let me .indicate one of the evils that are inherent in the first constitutional amendment, [f this proposal were carried, it would place in the hands of the Federal Government the power to violate and dishonour that agreement, without in any way consulting the States which are signatories to that instrument. That is a concrete instance of what might happen if such sweeping powers were given to this or any other Government.
– It is proposed to give power not to the Government but to this Parliament.
– No more convincing case could be cited to support my argument that such sweeping powers should not be given to any government.
The second amendment relating to industrial powers, involves questions that are perhaps not of such importance as those involved in the first proposal, but they are of sufficient importance to merit more than passing attention. When seeking election, I pledged myself definitely to the policy enunciated by the then Prime Minister and I see not the slightest reason foi- deviating by one hair’s breadth from the obligations that I entered into with my constituents. I stand definitely by the proposals of the Bruce-Page Government to vacate the field of industrial arbitration. I still think that that is a sound policy for this central Government to adopt. The statement of the then Prime Minister that the future policy of his Government, if it were returned to power, would be the withdrawal of the Commonwealth from the industrial sphere, was shortly followed by the report of the Royal Commission on the Constitution. In the majority report of the Royal Commission on the Constitution the following opinions arc expressed in relation to industrial powers : -
We do not recommend that the Commonwealth Parliament bo empowered to legislate with respect to industrial matters generally. In our opinion, the reasons which may be urged against the abolition of the federal and the establishment of a unitary system of government in Australia may be urged against the transfer of this power to the Commonwealth. In our opinion, industrial legislation should be regarded as a function of the States. In many matters industrial legislation is experimental, and each State should decide for itself whether it is prepared to test the value of proposed legislation of this character and to accept the responsibility for its consequences. Wc also think that industrial legislation peculiarly requires local supervision, and should be in the hands of the authority which is responsible for the maintenance of law and for the good order of the community. We think, further, that the general power to legislate with respect to industrial matters should be in the hands of the legislature which has the general power to deal with health, trade and commerce, mines, lands, public works, and the development of a State. We do not think that it would be for the good of Australia that the Commonwealth Parliament should be occupied with industrial questions or that federal elections should turn on industrial issues.
In our opinion paragraph (xxxv) of section 51 of the Constitution, which relates to conciliation and arbitration, should be deleted. We think that the Parliament which deals with industrial arbitration and conciliation should be the Parliament which has control of industrial matters generally. For the reasons given above we think that this control should be in the hands of the Parliament of each State.
We think that the history of the decisions on, this paragraph shows (1) that the arbitration power, however exercised, should not be dissociated from the power to legislate on industrial matters; and (2) that there would be great difficulty in framing -a definition of dispute which would ensure that only real disputes, in the sense in which that term was used in the earlier judgments of the High Court, were brought before the Commonweallth Court.
We are of the opinion that the arbitration power should not be exercisable by two authorities, and that it should be in the hands of the States and not of the Commonwealth.
Why have those specific recommendations been so flagrantly ignored by the Government? Are the opinions expressed in the report not worthy of consideration ? Any government with a proper sense of its responsibilities would have given effect to the recommendations of the commission.
– Mr. Bruce fought an election upon this issue with serious results to himself and his party, and Mr. Bowden, who signed the report, lost his seat.
– My advocacy of this policy is partly responsible for my presence in this House. Controversialists who support compulsory arbitration, conveniently forget that the great majority of industrial disputes in Australia are settled by direct negotiation. According to the 1928 Year-Booh, 75 per cent, of the 435 industrial disputes which occurred in Australia in the preceding year were settled without reference to State or Commonwealth industrial authorities. More than 200,000 working people were involved in the disputes, and 150,000 of them were able to settle their differences by conferences or by the intervention of a third party not connected with either Commonwealth or State judicial systems. In those circumstances I submit that the Commonwealth Government should recognize that its attempt to control industry has been a complete failure. It can be stated on good grounds that 90 per cent, of the industrial trouble that occurs in Australia can be traced directly or indirectly to our arbitration system.
– Would the honorable member abolish arbitration altogether?
– I dare to say that I would. Australia is the only country in the world which relies on such a rotten system. The ideal of a complete retreat may not bo achievable at present, but surely it would be possible for us to avoid the dual control and overlapping which occurs through the Commonwealth and State Governments each exercising a measure of control in the industrial sphere. Either the Commonwealth or the States should have complete control, and for the reasons given in the report of the royal commission which I have quoted, State control is to be preferred. The existing duality and overlapping should not be perpetuated. But whether the power is vested in the Commonwealth or the States, it should be exercised by an authority outside of Parliament. If the industrial powers proposal of the Government is approved by the people, I do not hesitate to say that the confusion which exists in industry at present will become worse confounded.
I shall not discuss at any length the trade and commerce proposals of the Commonwealth, but will content myself by saying that I give general support to the criticism of them uttered by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) this afternoon. It was shown beyond question that the adoption of this proposal would lead to serious embarrassments.
If the people realize that these three proposals represent a veiled attempt by the Government to force upon them a system of unification which it believes will aid and abet its political plans and ideals, they will decisively reject them. It seems to me that the Government is trying to force upon an unwilling constituency, by this means, something that it knows very well it could not secure by open statecraft. I believe that the people will turn against this palpable fraud on democracy.
.- Judging by the praise that has been accorded by the last two speakers on the
Opposition side to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) for his speech on the Power of Amendment Bill, I think that it may be taken that he was expressing the views of his party, as well as his own opinions, probably after consultation with his party outside this House. I regretted to hear that speech more than any that I have heard him deliver. I have always regarded him as a good Australian; but in that address he showed himself to be a Little Australian, because he took up the case on behalf of the State Bights party. I thought that if any speech had sounded the knell of Nationalism it was that one. It is a tragedy that a party calling itself Nationalist should resolve itself into a State Bights party. If. the Leader of the Opposition had been a pall-bearer at the funeral of Nationalism, he could not have made a more disastrous utterance. I remember a conversation that I once had with the late Mr. E. E. O’Connor, who was a member of t he Federal Convention, and afterwards became a Minister and a Justice of the High Court.’ He took a prominent part in public affairs during the early years of federation, and I asked him if he had found that the parties to the federal compact had developed along the lines anticipated. He replied, “No, not at all”. He explained that, having regard to the statements made at the convention, right up to the time of the consummation of federation, he had expected that the development of parties in the Commonwealth Parliament would have proceeded along the lines of State rights, but, instead of that, they had been divided in accordance with opinions held on the tariff issue. I find now that the Opposition, at the last election, and in its attitude to this bill, has become what the Opposition was, and now is, in the United States of America - a State Bights party. It still calls itself Nationalist, but I find that it has taken up an antiAustralian attitude, and is adopting the role of protector of State rights. The Leader of the Opposition, owing to his being a member of the legal profession, is, I take it, accustomed to using accurate words. He said that the first proposal of the Government would lead to the abolition of the Constitution. It would do nothing of the sort. In the second place, he said that it would mean unification. Nothing of the sort, although both those changes might spring from it. Although they pose as advocates of State rights, I venture to say that he and other members of the Opposition who have spoken on the constitutional issue have not read the views expressed by the representatives of the smaller States at the Federal Convention held in Melbourne in 1898. On the question of the amendment of the Constitution with respect to the power conferred under what is now section 128, Mr. Deakin is reported, at page 731 of the official report of the debates, to have said -
If we lay to heart the experience of America., we shall find that men of all parties unite in agreeing that a cardinal defect of the American Constitution is the difficulty of having any amendment submitted to the electors of the republic . . . We should not be blind to the fact that the greatest federal constitution in the world has been confronted with serious difficulties and discords because its amendment can only be accomplished by a single iron-bound method.
I propose to quote the statements made by three members of the convention who represented South Australia, one of the lesser States in population. At page 732,I notice that an amendment was proposed by Mr. Isaacs, now his Honour Mr. Justice Isaacs, with regard to section 128 - the very amendment section we are now discussing. Mr. Symon, afterwards Sir Josiah Symon, had been speaking, and Mr. Isaacs asked -
Does the honorable and learned member contend that in the case of a proposed amendment of the Constitution the two Houses should sit together and pass the law by a three-fifths majority?
– I think so.
This is virtually an acceptance of the present bill. In discussing the same section, Mr. Glynn said -
What will be the result if we do not make more elastic provision for the amendment of the Constitution? We are creating a judiciary which will become legislators. Undoubtedly, in America, the judiciary have been legislators to a very large extent. I would like legal members of the Convention to read an article in the Law Times of the 13th February, 1897, by a lawyer, on the effect of the undue expansion by the judiciary, contrary to the lines of the American Constitution. The article is by Mr. Seymour D. Thompson. He points out that, owing to the great difficulty of amendment, practically the elasticity of the
Constitution is determined by the character of the judicial bench - that with a man like Marshall, of extraordinary forensic power as well as great liberality of thought, you have an expansion, which is necessitated by the changed conditions of the people, which could not have been anticipated 50 or60 years before.
Mr. Kingston, another representative of South Australia, remarked -
The view I take of the matter is this: These two Houses ought to be maintained in their respective positions as exponents, as regards the Senate, of the will of the peoples of the States ; and,as regards the House of Representatives, of the will of the people of the nation.
That is precisely what the present Government proposes under the first bill. Mr. Isaacs thensaid -
I agree that the Constitution ought to be stable, but I deny that we should sacrifice the national energy to its stability. While it is a very great thing that the Constitution should not be rudely touched or hastily altered, we must admit, if we are fair to our consciences and to ourselves, that, after all, the Constitution is being made for the people, not the people for the Constitution, and we ought not to hesitate, when we are asked to provide a means of outlet for angry feeling orto insure that the political development of the Commonwealth shall keep pace with the social and commercial development of the people. We should not be afraid, as a learned writer has said, to tear a parchment more or less in the interests of the people.
The honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Morgan) spoke of the provision inserted at the end of section 128 as one put there to protect the territorial rights of the small States; but, apparently, he has not read the history of that provision. The Constitution Bill, without that provision, was agreed to by South Australia by 35,000 votes to 17,000, and by Tasmania by 11,000 votes to 2,000. It was also accepted by Victoria and New South Wales. Queensland and Western Australia did not take a referendum upon it, but the other four States passed and accepted section 128 as it stood without the provision to which I have referred. Subsequently, Mr.Reid, as an excuse for again appealing to the people of New South Wales, who had not accepted the bill by the requisite majority of 20,000, had that provision inserted at a Premiers’ conference. So that was the proposal of the Premier of a large State, and it was inserted because Mr.Reid was afraid of the new States movement then developing in the Riverina and on the north coast district of New South Wales. He had that provision inserted to protect large States. [Quorum formed.]
An organization, like a plant or a human being, must grow or die; growth is necessary to life. As Australia is now situated, we cannot have a continuance of arrested political development, and, therefore, I think that the Leader of the Opposition, in. his reference to the rights of the small States, in developing the policy of State rights, has done the Nationalist party a great deal of harm.
I desire to refer, also, to the speech of the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), who appears to have only one desire. He asked why- the Government had not brought forward an amending bill that would have a definite purpose, including a proposal for power to create new States. That is the only major objection that he raised to the Government’s proposals.. He is always greatly in favour of new States when be cannot do anything to bring them into being. He secured return to this Parliament because of his advocacy of new States, and ever since he has been in Parliament he has forgotten the movement until now, when he has no power to give effect to his belief. Why did he not make provision for the transfer of such a power to this Parliament at the referendum of the people in 1926, when he was a Minister? He now objects to this bill because it does not make provision for obtaining the views of the people with respect to the creation of new States.
I listened with a great deal of interest to the remarks of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), but it appeared to me that his speech was a combination of law and gospel; that he spoke first as a lawyer and secondly as an evangelist. Referring to the Federal Constitution, he said that undoubtedly it was an indissoluble federation. The reason which he gave for opposing the first proposed amendment, was that the federation was a contract between the parties to it, and that a contract that did not contain a clause providing for its! amendment could be dissolved only with the. consent of all the parties to it. I point out, how- ever, that a contract which embodies an agreement as to ways in which it can be amended, cannot be said to be abrogated if its terms are caused to be operated. Many deeds of partnership contain clauses that enable amendments to be made in specified ways. That is all that we arc now proposing to do.
The honorable member for Fawkner opposed the second proposal for reasons which differ from those of other members of the Australian party to which he belongs. He quoted Lord Shaftsbury, Charles Kingsley, and Carlyle on the horrors of the Manchester system in the middle of the 19th century. He forgot, however, to mention that all of those men found that the only way in which the existing conditions could be improved was by legislation. When I asked him “ Do you not think that an arbitration act can be inspired by Christian motives?” he had to reply that it could. The only way in which we can remove the conditions which he says exist is by importing Christianity into our legislation. For the honorable member to oppose an amendment of the Constitution on the ground that he” does not believe in legislation is, I believe, an abnegation of his position.
In my opinion there is no need for this bill although, of course, I support it as an assertion of our rights, because as a sovereign, independent autonomous community, we already have the powers that it seeks to confer. I have read lately a book entitled Australia and the British Commonwealth, in which are published the Macrossan lectures of the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham). That honorable gentleman admits that the position is as I have stated. We have only to turn to statements that have been made by responsible leaders in the dominions to see that we are undoubtedly an independent autonomous and absolutely sovereign State. I quote the following opinion expressed by Sir Robert Borden, of Canada, at the 1921 Imperial Conference: -
Wo meet here at the conference on terms of equality under the presidency of the First Minister of the United Kingdom. Ministers from six nations sit around the council board, all of them responsible to their respective Parliaments and to the people of the countries they represent. Each nation has its voice upon questions of common concern and highest importance, as the deliberations proceed. Each preserves unimpaired its perfect autonomy, its self-government, and the responsibility to their own electorate.
At the 1926 conference General Hertzog, the present Prime Minister of South Africa, said -
Of the old Empire nothing remained but the free alliance of seven nations forming their own League of -Nations. The measure of their liberty was equal to that of England herself.
The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) speaking in this House on the 22nd March, 1929, said -
We have on many occasions declared Australia to bc a nation. We are members of the League of Nations. We stand on terms of perfect equality with Great Britain.
That was recognized by Lloyd George, who, when Prime Minister of Great Britain, said -
In recognition of their services and achievements in the war, the British Dominions hoye now been accepted fully into the comity of nations by the whole world. They have achieved full national status, and they now stand beside the United Kingdom as equal partners in the dignities and responsibilities of the British Commonwealth.
If that is so; if we are autonomous, sovereign and independent nations, there was no need for the declaration made by the Balfour report or - as I prefer to call it - treaty at the 1926 conference. It was not a question of creating new rights, but of declaring what our position then was. The declaration was as follows : -
Status of Great Britain and the Dominions: They are autonomous communities within the British Empire, equal in status, in no way subordinate one to another in any aspect of their domestic or external affairs, though united by a common allegiance to the Crown, and freely associated as members of the British Commonwealth of nations. . . . Every selfgoverning member of the Empire is now the master of its destiny. In fact, if not always in form, it is subject to no compulsion whatever.
If we are a free, an autonomous, and a sovereign people, we have a status that we did not have in 1901. In that year we had to approach the British Parliament for power. By an act of the Imperial Legislature we were given a Constitution. If at that time we had been free, independent and autonomous, we would not have had to ask for that power. We now have a sovereignty that did not then exist. In 1901 the sovereignty of Australia existed in the United Kingdom. According to the declarations of the Imperial
Conference and the admissions of every publicist in the British Dominions, it now no longer exists in the United Kingdom. Therefore, that authority must have gone somewhere, and now all the powers that existed there in 1901 have come to this Commonwealth Parliament, and there is no need to alter our Constitution. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. McTiernan) referredlast night to the fact that in 1925 the High Court decided in the case The Union Steamship Company v. The Commonwealth that in certain directions the Navigation Act was ultra vires. Some honorable members probably were not aware of that decision. It was only because it affected a very small portion of the Navigation Act that the most serious public attention was not drawn to this incursion on our rights. If a very important section of the act had been involved, it would have come home to the people. The High Court decided that that section of the act which required certain registrations to be made did not apply to the Union Steamship Company because to the extent that that act was repugnant to the Merchant Shipping Act of 1S65 it was ultra vires. The reason that the High Court decided in that way was that the Attorney-General of the day had not the courage to impress upon it the independence of our position and our sovereignty in relation to our own matters. In its judgment the court said that our Constitution Act of 1901 was passed subsequent to the Merchant Shipping Act and the Colonial Laws Validity Act. When the case was being argued T urged the Attorney-General to plead the new Australian status as to the independence and sovereignty of its legislation, but he did not do so. I thereupon wrote an article to the Melbourne press and sent a copy of it to each of the High Court judges. Without being able to say that the dictum was inspired by my article, I notice that the next case which involved constitutional considerations - The Commonwealth v. Bardsley, decided in 1927 - the following statement was made by Mr. Justice Isaacs : -
We know, and all the world knows, and we cannot, in interpreting modern Constitution!! of the Empire, ignore the tremendous advance in status of the Dominions within the Empire, even before 1900. That is only ‘another mode of expressing the advance of local responsible government. Constitutions, made not for a single occasion but for the continued life and progress of the community may, and indeed must, bc affected in their general meaning and effect by what Lord Watson, in Cooper v. Stuart, calls “The silent operations of constitutional principles.” “ Responsible government, said Lord Haldane, on an occasion referred to in Amalgamated Society of Engineers v. Adelaide Steamship Company Limited, “ is the greatest institution which exists in the Empire, and . . . pertains to every constitution established within the Empire.” And it was for this Constitution that Lord Haldane was specially directing his work. It is part of the fabric on which the written words of the Constitution are superimposed. Its influence upon the actual working of the letter of local constitutions has been the acceptance of a doctrine amounting almost to a principle in itself that the great selfgoverning Dominions are not any longer in tutelage, but arc constituent units of the British Commonwealth of Nations. The doctrine cannot be ignored in constituting a recent written instrument of constitutional powers.
I hope that if the present AttorneyGeneral appears in any case in which Australia’s rights are interfered with he will direct the attention of the High Court to the authorities and precedents I have mentioned, and assert that Australia does not go to the United Kingdom as a suppliant, but as an ally and an equal. It has its own rights, and the United Kingdom cannot give it any more. Therefore, the attendance of the Englishman, Professor Harrison Moore, at a recent conference in England to discuss what additional powers could be given to the Commonwealth under the Colonial Laws Validity Act was supererogatory. One authority cannot give powers to another equal authority, and Australia’s mere request for such powers was an indication of an inferiority complex. The Balfour report and the statements by every publicist in Great Britain show beyond doubt that Australia is equal with Great Britain, independent and autonomous.
– But all our legislation must receive the assent of the King.
– That is not so. The Royal assent cannot be refused. The King of England has no authority in Australia except to appoint a representative in accordance with our Constitution. And .when that .representative is here he exercises in full the authority of the Crown. He is a representative not a delegate.
– But surely the King has the power to veto our legislation.
– I refer the honorable member to the report of the InterImperial Relations Committee, presided over by Lord Balfour, in 1926 -
In our opinion it is an essential consequence of the equality of status existing among the members of the British Commonwealth of Nations that the Governor-General of a Dominion is the representative of the King, holding in all essential respects the same position in relation to the administration of public affairs in the dominions as is held by His Majesty the King in Great Britain, and that ha is not the representative or agent of His Majesty’s Government in Great Britain or of any department of that Government.
One of the resolutions of the Imperial Conference in 1926 was -
It would not be in accordance with constitutional practice for advice to be tendered by His Majesty’s Government in Great Britain in any matter appertaining to the affairs of a Dominion against the views of the Government, of that Dominion.
As Australia has that power, why was Sir Harrison Moore sent to ask in behalf of Australia for additional powers from its equal? The mere request was an acknowledgment of the right of the United Kingdom to give those powers, but that right does not exist.
– Did not Sir Harrison Moore attend a conference to define the constitutional position rather than to seek new powers for the dominions?
– I understand that the British Parliament is to be asked to amend the Colonial Laws Validity Act in order to give to the Commonwealth Parliament full legislative power. I have corresponded with Sir Robert Borden, once Prime Minister of Canada, on this subject. The Dominion does not ask from the United Kingdom any amendment of its Constitution, because such a request would be an acknowledgment of an authority in the United Kingdom that does not exist. Australia should declare its independence. By that I do not mean that it should sever its alliance with Great Britain. Speaking to an old Arab in Bagdad regarding the independence of Iraq I said, “In a few years Great Britain will give to Iraq its independence.” He replied, “Independence can never be given; it must be taken.” That is true. The American States declared their independence, and then had to fight for it. Australia should declare its independence by an act of the Commonwealth Parliament. If that were done Great Britain would acknowledge it, and there would be no need or desire to fight. Our constitutional rights, which are everywhere acknowledged, should be pleaded before the High Court. That was not done in the Union Steamship Company’s case in 1925, when the court declared Australia’s inferiority to its coequal. If such a case arises again I ask the present Attorney-General to plead Australia’s independence. In my evidence before the Constitution Committee I suggested a formal declaration of independence.
Mr.White. - Is the honorable member in order in claiming that Australia is independent?
– I have followed the honorable member for Corangamite very closely. Everything he has said so far has been pertinent to the question before the Chair, and quite in order.
– The honorable member for Balaclava had better return to the kindergarten.
– This is very popular with disloyalists.
– Order ! I require the honorable member to withdraw that statement.
– It was made in reference to the interjection of the AttorneyGeneral.
– It does not matter to whom the remark applied; it must be withdrawn.
– I withdraw it.
– I should like to have a treaty recognizing Australia’s independence incorporated in a statute, because a treaty has only a political effect unless ratified by an act of Parliament. The declaration which I suggested before the Royal Commission on the Constitution read -
The Commonwealth of Australia hereby declares its full inherent and absolute power and authority, executive, judicial and legislative, over its people, and States and territory, and its complete sovereignity freedom and independence in all matters internal and external.
– I think that that position is now generally admitted, and by agreement it is proposed to amend the Colonial Laws Validity Act to further define what has been agreed to as correct.
– It is proposed that the act shall be amended by whom?
– By the British Parliament which passed it. It is a statute of the Imperial Parliament, to which Australia has subscribed for a large number of years, and the High Court decision in the Union Steamship Company case was based upon it.
– Would the honorable member contend that Esthonia, Czechoslovakia or Lithuania, States which Australia helped to create after the war, would have any right to pass a statute conferring on us additional powers? Yet we ask an equal authority to give us such powers.
– The honorable member must admit that there is in existence a Colonial Laws Validity Act which this Commonwealth has recognized.
– It was recognized as now operative in Australia because the timidity of the lawyers who appeared in the case before the High Court would not permit them to put the position properly. I want to show how the difficulty can be overcome.
– How could the High Court say that the Colonial Laws Validity Act did not apply to Australia?
– Because since then we have acquired a higher status by our own fighting action and our inherent authority. In 1901 we were not independent.
– The Balfour Report did not repeal the Colonial Laws Validity Act.
– Nor do I propose to repeal it. I would make a declaration that in 1901 there was no legislative recognition by the British Parliament of the British Commonwealth of Nations, but that that legislative recognition has since been given.
– But that recognition is not based on any legal sanction.
– I will show what the legal sanction is. The Irish treaty was ratified by an act of the British Parliament and by an act of the Commonwealth
Parliament. That treaty contains the words - “ The community of nations known as the British Commonwealth of Nations.” As we are members of the British Commonwealth that is a legally expressed recognition of our nationhood. The Attorney-General says that the Balfour Report is a political and not a legal document, bur. I suppose he has seen the Treaty of Peace Act, by which the Imperial Parliament and the Commonwealth Parliament ratified the Versailles Treaty. Article 1 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, an annex to that treaty, provides that any fully selfgoverning state may become a member of the League of Nations, and that the signatories to the Peace Treaty, of which Australia was one, are self-governing nations. The test of sovereignty is our power or right to make treaties with other nations and to appoint ambassadors to those nations. Australia already has the power to make treaties and to appoint ambassadors. Hitherto, it has not exercised the right to appoint ambassadors, although the Union of South Africa, the Dominion of Canada and the Irish Free State have done so. To a certain extent, Australia has made treaties with Japan.
– Is there any power of veto over Australian legislation?
– I do not think that any authority in the United Kingdom would venture to veto Australian legislation. To do so would be to disregard our constitutional position. In the first place I would further enact the declaration of independence contained in the Balfour Report. To do that would not take us away from alliance with England. I want Australia to keep her alliance with England, Canada and South Africa as an equal, not as a subordinate. If we enacted a treaty such as I support and were obliged to argue the matter before the High Court, and the High Court would not accept it, I would see that the Judiciary Act was repealed, and get a bench of justices sufficiently imbued with a sense of our Australian rights. I would make the High Court see that we are a nation and that our own laws are observed by our own court. The independence of Australia would, If my suggestion were carried out, become part of our constitutional law which the court would have to observe, and when the Attorney-General had to put the case for the Commonwealth before the High Court, the justices must accept it or go. I sincerely trust that the Government’s second bill will be carried not only by this Parliament, but also by the people generally. That is vitally necessary to ensure industrial peace throughout Australia. It is generally admitted, even by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) that there should be only one authority in industrial matters. The Bruce-Page Government tried to place that authority in the hands of the States, but the people protested strongly, and the result was that the reins of government were placed in the hands of the Labour party. The people themselves decided that the control of arbitration should not be placed in the hands of the States. This Government has therefore no option but to seek increased industrial powers for the Commonwealth. We should govern ourselves. I do not like to feel, when I go to London, that my English cousins are looking upon me as. a man they govern.
– That is duc to the honorable member’s inferiority complex.
– It does not exist much in me. We, as Australians, should be able to feel that wo are as independent and free as the people of other nations. For that reason I have placed these views before the House, and
I think that they are worthy of consideration.
.- The importance of the subject under debate impels me to place on record one or two opinions that I hold. I believe that the Constitution should be amended. A great deal has been said about the ‘ framers of the Constitution, but after all, they were largely influenced by the State outlook. It can be fairly said that they tried to obtain all the advantages of unity of the States, at the same time retaining as much as possible the powers and liberties of individual State action. To safeguard State rights, they placed in the Constitution certain limitations in regard to Commonwealth powers, and made provision for the establishment of the Senate as a controlling house. It was, in essence, to be a State house. That that chamber has degenerated to a mere echo’ of this chamber is something we are only too keenly aware of and very much regret. The Senate as it is to-day should be reformed or abolished. If No. 1 proposal were carried by this Parliament and the people it would mean the abandonment of the present system of taking a referendum in respect of all constitutional changes. It could be said that the people themselves had abandoned this principle. Nevertheless I cannot myself see my way clear to abandon the Constitution in the manner proposed by the Government, particularly in view of the fact that this House has. as I stated a few days ago, largely become the plaything, or is in the grip, of the party political machine. Had this Parliament complete constitutional powers there would be violent oscillations of national policy. It has been suggested by the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) that no government would make a far-reaching and vital change such as the abolition of the Senate, without consulting the people either by way of election or referendum. But I am not so optimistic as is the Treasurer, because it is rarely that elections are fought on one particular issue.
– The last election was fought on one issue.
– That statement has already been combated. If the last elections were confined to one issue, why did the Labor party, when .it took office, promptly abolish compulsory military training in this country? It claimed the right to take that action by virtue of the fact that it was giving effect to a plank of its party platform. 1 am not complaining of the abolition of compulsory military training, because I endorse the Government’s action, but I suggest that it establishes the point that I am making that, under this proposal, a political party going before the electors with numerous planks in its platform could, if returned to power, give effect, for party purposes, to certain more or less obscure schemes that were not even mentioned during the election campaign. That to my mind is the strongest objection to the first proposal of the Government. Another objection is that raised by the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) re garding the uncertainty under which ‘the States would function. That point cannot be ignored. Had the Commonwealth full constitutional powers the States would live in an atmosphere of uncertainty.
– The States are now living, in that atmosphere.
– Not to the same extent, because a referendum must be taken before any radical change in the Constitution can be made, and the States at least would have some warning, and be able to take part in the referendum campaign. Had the Commonwealth Parliament full constitutional power the State Parliaments would be helpless against any attempt to abolish them altogether.
– The people of the States are represented in this chamber.
– We are returned by the same electors, which undoubtedly is a safeguard. I agree as to the necessity of the Government securing additional constitutional powers in certain directions, but I have always contended that the proper method to adopt is to take a referendum, though not as is proposed in the Constitution Alteration Power of Amendment Bill. I have always strongly advocated the creation of new States, as the present States, comprising as they do vast tracts of country, are too large for any government to effectively administer. To provide for the subdivision of the present States would, of course, involve far-reaching constitutional changes. Eoi- instance, the river Murray should be regarded as a line of attraction rather than a line of division such as it is to-day, and, settlements such as Coomealla, Merbein and Wentworth should all bc controlled by one authority instead as at present from Melbourne and Sydney. In that locality there is a community of interests which is hopelessly divided, and if that portion of the Commonwealth is to be properly developed there must be a re-adjustment of boundaries. A new State could be established in the north-west corner of Victoria by taking a portion of that State as well as portions of New South Wales, arid the irrigated districts of South Australia. Such a change will eventually be made, but of course it is practically impossible to effect it under the existing constitutional powers of the Commonwealth.
At this late hour I think it hardly necessary for me to repeat many of the arguments which have already been adduced in support of the Constitution Amendment Industrial Powers Bill, but I have always contended that as the Commonwealth has power to impose the Customs taxation throughout the Commonwealth, it should also have authority to establish uniform industrial conditions throughout Australia.
In 1926, when the late Government submitted to the people a proposal similar to that embodied in the Constitution Amendment Industrial Powers Bill, I urged the Government to also include increased trade and commerce powers. There is a demand, from one end of Australia to the other, for some means by which the primary producers of Australia can successfully and effectively market their produce. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) has on the notice-paper the following motion :
That in the opinion of this House it is desirable that action ‘be taken to make possible an Australian Primary Producers’ Organization with complete sectional control of the internal and external marketing of each primary product, such control to be exercised exclusively by the organized producers of such commodity, which would enable the producers of an)’ such commodity to speak with one voice and authority in regard to any arrangement which may be deemed toy them to be necessary to conserve their interests by entering into agreements with other Overseas Primary Producers’ Marketing Organizations, and by such means secure an equitable return for any such commodity in the markets of the world.
I presume that the honorable member also means an equitable return within Australia as well as within the markets of the world. The only way in which that can be done is by amending the Constitution in the manner proposed in Constitution Amendment Trade and Commerce Bill. In dealing with that measure this afternoon, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) said in effect, that the proposal embodied in the Wheat Pool Bill is the correct way in which to achieve what is desired, as the Government has, he contends, acting in conjunction with the States, the neces- sary power to market primary products in Australia upon an Australian basis. I was rather surprised to hear such an opinion expressed by an honorable member who usually analyses’ the measures which come before the House in a most critical manner, but who usually makes a speech for or against a proposal according to his brief. The honorable member said that the primary producers of Australia have, under the present Constitution, the necessary machinery to create an Australian wheat organization, such as a compulsory wheat pool. Under the Government’s present proposal the concurrence of three or more States is necessary before a compulsory pool can be established, but the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) knows that a Legislative Council in one State could flout not only the wishes of the lower House in that State, but also of the Commonwealth Parliament, as well as the wheat-growers of Australia, and, indeed, the wishes of the majority of the electors in this country. If the Governments of South Australia, Victoria, and New South Wales agreed to co-operate with the Commonwealth in guaranteeing a fixed price, and the Government of those States introduced the necessary legislation, the Legislative Council of Victoria could upset the whole scheme. Surely the Leader of the Opposition can see how a House, elected on a restricted franchise, can defeat the wishes not only of a majority of members in the lower house of its Parliament, but also those of other State Parliaments and of the Commonwealth Parliament.
It is to be regretted that party determinations have an important bearing on the success, or otherwise, of referendum proposals. Under the present system a party meets, and decides on the amendment of the Constitution. The matter is discussed in the party room - as with the 1926 and the present proposals - and a certain course -is decided upon. The Ministry then brings down the proposals as a government measure. It is true that usually a plea is made for the consideration of them in a non-party spirit, but the fact remains that immediately they are brought into this forum the debate has a party emphasis given to it. I appreciate the manner in which the Government has met the wishes of myself and some other honorable members in regard to the submission of the trade and commerce proposal. I shall strongly support it, and do everything that I can to secure an affirmative vote for it in. my constituency. But far-reaching proposals of this kind come before us in the wrong way. It would be far better for them to be formulated in a constitutional session of the Parliament.
– We were promised a constitutional session by the previous Government.
– That is true. As an enthusiastic supporter of the previous Government in its early days, I, with others, urged the necessity for certain constitutional changes. We were promised that, a constitutional convention would be held, and considered that we were on the road to great achievements. As- time went on, the prospect of the holding of a constitutional convention diminished, and subsequently we were solemnly promised that a constitutional session of the Parliament would be held. In order to emphasize its importance it wa3 to be the first session of the Parliament in Canberra. That promise also failed of fulfilment. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) smiles significantly. He knows that we were afterwards promised a bone with still less meat on it. We were told that a constitution commission would be appointed to report upon the whole subject. That commission was appointed, and it submitted an excellent report, but in the meantime the Government was defeated. Now these proposals are submitted as a party measure in the old-fashioned way.
– Oh, no.
– At any rate they have been received in a party spirit. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) has indicated his intention to vote against all three proposals, and that means that his followers in this House, and the large body of outside public opinion which the party represents, will also vote against them.
– He sounded the death-knell of the proposals.
– I fear that that is so. Lt certainly is so in regard to the power of amendment proposal, and if that is defeated it may cause the defeat of the industrial powers and trade and commerce proposals.
– If the power of amendment proposal had not been introduced he would have found reasons for opposing the other two proposals.
– That emphasizes my’ point that this is the wrong way to introduce constitution alteration measures. In spite of the fact that there is a strong feeling in this House against inviting persons outside of this Parliament to join in official discussions of proposals of thi3 kind, I am inclined to think that it would help to secure an affirmative vote if a constitutional session of the Parliament were held which could be attended by representatives of the State Parliaments in certain proportions. At such a convention various propositions could be debated in a non-party spirit, and the best means devised of recasting the Constitution to meet the need of the day. We might not get a unanimous decision, but we should get a stronger body of public opinion behind any proposals agreed to by a majority vote, and the proposals would be received by the public with less suspicion than proposals introduced in the manner that these have been put before us.
I cannot do other than oppose the power of amendment proposal, and in doing so I feel that I am expressing the opinion of the majority of my constituents, but I shall support the other two proposals.
– It gives me a great deal of pleasure to support the three proposals of the Government. I believe that they will also be supported by the majority of the people of Australia, for the reason that they have more confidence in this Government than in any government that has preceded it in the history of .the Commonwealth. The people realize that this Government is earnest and sincere.
– I think the honorable member would be more accurate if he said that the people had less confidence in the last Government than in this one.
– The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) had an intimate association with the last Government at a certain period, and should be able to form an opinion on that phase of the subject. Previous constitution alteration referendums have been defeated principally because the people have not had great confidence in the governments responsible for them. Generally speaking, the proposed alterations have been formulated late in the life of the Parliament, and have been used as a means to distract the attention of the people from other matters. But a change has occurred in public opinion in regard to the Constitution in recent years, due to a large extent to the altered financial circumstances of the nation consequent upon its participation in the war, and the growing expenditure of the State Parliaments.
It was always thought that federation would mean a lessening of governmental expenditure; but we find that the reverse has been the case. It would almost appear that some State Governments have vied with one another to see which could be the most extravagant. The result is that we are now experiencing the greatest financial crisis in our history. Should we weather the storm, it will be due largely to the strong and courageous action of the Commonwealth Government to keep Australia’s credit good. Throughout Australia there is great dissatisfaction with the growing cost of government, and for that reason I disagree with honorable gentlemen opposite who say that the first proposal of the Government will be defeated. I believe that, in Now South “Wales at least, it will be carried by an overwhelming majority. There is considerable dissatisfaction with the various State Governments. For four or five years there has been no continuity of policy with government in Victoria. A handful .of men has turned successive governments out of office; there has been election after election. Little or no effective legislation has been passed by the Victorian Parliament during that period. The result is that people to-day are repeating the statements which were heard on every hand when the federation was formed - that we are one people, with one destiny, and should be ruled by one Parliament. We should bear in mind that a large proportion of the electors of to-day had no say in the forming of the federation; those who were responsible for the federa- tion have, for the most part, passed away. We are dealing to-day with an almost entirely different body of electors. In governmental methods we should advance with the times. Honorable members opposite have referred to the sacredness of the agreement made with the States when federation was consummated. States are geographical areas and, like corporations, have “ neither bodies to be kicked nor souls to be damned.” Our paramount consideration should be the welfare of the people. Should we find that the Constitution does not give that measure of protection and that efficiency of administration which our times demand, we should seek the authority of the electors to change it.
Some honorable members do not seem to realize the tremendous burden of taxation carried by the settlers in the outback districts of the Commonwealth. Surely no one will contend that the people are better off with a Commonwealth and six State Parliaments, five of these having Upper Chambers, a Governor-General, . and six State Governors and their retinues, than they would be if controlled by one central Parliament. In the course of a very interesting speech, the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) pointed out the great disadvantages of having our railways controlled by six State legislatures as well as our Commonwealth railway administration. He referred to the overlapping that takes place. Those of us who have had experience in industrial affairs know the multiplicity of conditions and the overlapping of awards that exist, as well as the consequent delays and expense in getting to the courts. While State Parliaments continue, those difficulties will remain. The great wrong inflicted upon the people by the Constitution is that it superimposes on the parliamentary system another body - politically irresponsible - known as the High Court. The position would be bad enough if the decision of the High Court were effective only if the judges were unanimous. But the court sometimes makes confusion worse confounded because, of a lack of unanimity on the part of its members regarding the legality or otherwise of the legislation passed by this Parliament.
Mr.E. Riley. - There are political considerations as well.
– I do not know that political considerations have obtruded into the decisions of the High Court. The point at issue is that, although a minority of the court may agree that what the legislature has done is constitutional, the court is so constituted that one man may hold the balance of power. Should he say that certain legislation is ultra vires of the Constitution, Parliament is hamstrung, and the welfare of the people disregarded.
– I take it that the honorable member is merely illustrating his point, and not blaming the members of the High Court for that state of affairs.
– I am not blaming the members of the High Court; I am pointing out that the Constitution is wrong in that it superimposes another body on the legislature. We have been led to believe that in a British community Parliament should be the supreme authority in legislative matters. Many people, both in and out of Parliament, refer continuously to the advantages of following the American Constitution, upon which our system has been largely moulded; but very few know that that Constitution was framed years after the Declaration of Independence. Only six of the original signatories to the Declaration of Independence were present at the convention at which the Constitution was framed. The convention met in secret; it was not open to the public. The franchise in those days in America was not such as we in Australia enjoy at the present time. Those who now write the history of the American Constitution tell us that the High Court there was established under the Constitution in order to prevent the free expression of the will of the people through the legislature. We should keep that fact in mind in considering our own Constitution, and remember that it does not conform with that of the Mother of Parliaments - that of Great. Britain.
I hope that members opposite will adhere to their prof essed intention to discuss the proposals of the Government in a non-party spirit, both in and out of this chamber. I refer particularly to members of the Country party, who have frequently announced that they came into this House to support measures and not men. One hopes that they will not be carried away by their party zeal on this occasion, but will show a non-party spirit. They will surely welcome the opportunity to vote for the Power of Amendment Bill. In season and out of season some of them have advocated the establishment of new States. For six years the Country party was in political power, and for a time its leader was the Acting Prime Minister; but it did nothing to achieve the object for which it was ostensibly brought into being.
– That Government appointed a commission to investigate and report upon the subject.
– It should have been prepared to go ahead, but it appointed more boards and commissions than all the Governments that had preceded it since the inception of federation. The first bill will give the members of the Country party an opportunity to secure that sub-division of the present States which, for a long time, they have said that they ardently desire. Under the present Constitution new States could not be formed. If the late Government had the necessary power to do that and did not do it, the Country party stands self-condemned. It must admit that it did not try to bring about the formation of new States. It is, in my opinion, impossible to do so under the present Constitution.
The Leader of the Opposition remarked that the Government’s proposals, if adopted, would not result in cheaper administration; but I cannot agree with him. According to his argument, presumably, the formation of twelve sovereign States would not bring about any increase in the cost of government. It is remarkable that the high priest of the new States movement, the Leader of the Country party, struck probably the greatest blow ever given to the sovereign rights of the States by forcing his financial agreement upon them against their wishes. That drew attention in the most pointed way to the futility of a continuation of the present system. When members of the Country party talk of the necessity to safeguard the rights of the States, I ask them whether the Leader of the Country party showed consideration for the States when, on their objecting to accept his financial proposals, he held the pistol at their heads, and, owing to their weak financial position, forced them to capitulate. It is remarkable that he, more than anybody else, has by his action in regard to this matter drawn the attention of the people to the fact that the States, largely because of hisaction and the operations of the Loan Council, have lost much of their former independence as sovereign States.
– That caused all their unemployment.
– That is so; the cost of the administration of government in the States does not fall very much whether they have large or small amounts of loan money to spend. Some of the States are to-day in a position of being almost vassal States ; three of them have had to approach the Commonwealth for financial assistance. Tasmania affords an example of the fallacy of the argument that small sovereign States are desirable. Some honorable members in this House represent electorates that are larger than that State. Yet Tasmania maintains all. the paraphernalia of the larger sovereign States. If any State has grounds for complaint, it is New South Wales, which has contributed 43 per cent. ofthe cost of federation since its inception. I base my figures on the statistical records of the Commonwealth. Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania are in a subordinate position, vassal States dependent upon financial assistance from the Commonwealth. They have lost that independence of spirit which is the attribute of a sovereign State. Apparently their principal task to-day will be to act as spoilers of proposals, such as those which emanate from the Commonwealth Government. It is regrettable that it is necessary under the Constitution to have not only a majority of the electors, but also a majority of the States. Much is said about the inviolable rights of the States. What becomes of these rights in the case in which four States are in favour of a proposal and two are against it? The rights of that minority do not prevent any alteration of the Constitution in conformity with what may be desired by the majority. It is generally conceded that where there is majority rule the minority must be pre pared to sink their opinion, and abide by the wishes of the majority. I hope- that the people of Australia will realize that, while they are residents of the States, they are also participants in the function of government as carried on by the Commonwealth. The same set of taxpayers has to pay the taxation costs of both the State and Federal Governments.
As an example of the fallacy of claiming that the Constitution should not be altered because of the agreement entered into with the States, I instance the case of a Tasmanian, with interests in the State, coming to reside in New South Wales. Although he votes as a resident of New New South Wales, his vote here will influence his interest in Tasmania. It should always be kept in mind that it is the electors and taxpayers of a country who count, and not the geographical boundaries which surround the sovereign States of the Commonwealth.
I come to the second proposal. It is well to keep in mind the tremendous amount of money spent by the workers of Australia in order to safeguard their hard-won rights in regard to hours of labour, rates of pay, and conditions of employment. There are honorable members opposite who scoff at the activity of trade unions. Those anions are composed of men with mutual interests banded together to protect those interests. I remind honorable members that professional men, such as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Latham) and the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) are similarly banded together to protect their interests.
– And they are believers in direct action.
– They certainly are.
– They also have a basic wage.
– If a man is unable to show the equivalent of a union ticket, he is not allowed to practice in the legal or medical profession. Members of those professions are as enthusiastic as any trade unionist in enforcing the regulations of their organizations. The overlapping of State instrumentalities and those of the Commonwealth has resulted in considerable expense and delay. It has certainly caused a great deal of heartburning to the trade union movement, whose members feel that their efforts have been nullified by the legalism with which they have been entangled in connexion with arbitration matters. The Government proposes that the Commonwealth shall be supreme in this field. I feel confident that if that is effected it will bring about an era of industrial peace, previously unparalleled in Australia.
The third provision relates to trade and commerce. Those who have been in close contact with the Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney) know what a tremendous amount of work has been involved in the attempt by the Government to inaugurate an Australian wheat pool this year. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) has pointed out that it is possible for one Legislative Council - which may be a nominee body such as that in New South Wales - to reject such a proposal, which would frustrate the desire of the overwhelming majority of the wheat-growers to take advantage of the co-operation and guarantee given by the Commonwealth Government. That is a serious condition of affairs. The growers could also be thwarted in their desire to have the pool by a vote of the members of the Legislative Council of Victoria, a body elected on a restricted franchise basis, whose decision may be actuated, not by high ideals for the safeguarding of Australia’s position, but by a desire to give effect to the wishes of wheat speculators, whose interests run counter to the interests of the wheat-growers. Our great wool industry is hampered in the desire of the rank and file of wool-growers to have the Commonwealth Government take speedy action on its behalf. Hundreds of letters have been received by honorable members from the wool-growers of Australia. In many cases these men have asked for another Bawra, or a modified form of that scheme. Others, and they are not only small growers, have asked straight-out for government control. One man came to see me recently. He lives in my electorate and produces 1,800 bales of wool annually. He said “ I should welcome government control to-day of the sale of wool throughout Australia “. Another grower, who pro duces 400 bales of wool annually, indicated that he sent his wool to Sydney and was at the mercy of the buyer and broker, who fixed the prices. He said “ If I were to put my property in the hands of an agent and allow him to fix the price at which it should be sold, .how long do you think it would be in the market?” The wool industry of Australia is in a state of chaos, and the market has collapsed. The press does not truly represent the position. Only selected prices are quoted, figures that may have been received from half a dozen or a dozen bales out of a clip of 300 to 400 bales. A great many people outside the industry do not realize the facts. That affords another reason why I think the majority of the electors of Australia, and particularly those in the country districts, will vote wholeheartedly for the first proposal. They should also vote in favour of the second and third proposals in case the first should not be carried.
Any one who knows anything about the wool industry knows that the product is being sold to-day at less than the cost of production. Some say that the wool-growers must reduce the cost of production. It is estimated that 80 per cent, of the wool produced in Australia is marketed by farmers with flocks of under 1,200. In the great majority of cases these small graziers employ very little labour, so it is idle to suggest that anything they can do will further reduce the cost of production. They have been in occupation of their properties for many years and they did not pay high prices for their land. Their only hope now is to secure increased returns for their wool ; but it is generally acknowledged that they are not receiving a fair deal at the hands of international woolbuyers. Recently I accompanied the Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney), to the Wool Exchange in Sydney, to give him an idea of the procedure adopted at wool sales in Australia. Unfortunately the wool-growers are unable to prevent what- is being done, and the Government equally is not able to protect them as we would like to do. It cannot prevent this international ring of wool-buyers from “ lot splitting?’
Although the brokers do not approve of it, they, too, cannot check the practice. If any broker attempted to do that he would find his sales boycotted, and wool-growers who had forwarded clips to him for sale would be seriously affected. It may be possible to secure an Australian-wide ‘organization to protect wool-growers; but I’ have no doubt that steps taken to establish a wool pool on the lines of Bawra would meet with strong opposition from those who to-day illegitimately exploit the wool-grower. It would be necessary to get the consent of the State Governments and the approval of the majority of wool-growers throughout the Commonwealth. The more decent of the wool-buyers themselves admit that the existing state of affairs is far from satisfactory. One of these men said to me not long ago, “We pose here as decent citizens, but really our proper 2)lace is in Long Bay gaol.” He went on to explain that the wool-buyers came together from day to day to decide what should be the highest price paid for different classes of wool to be offered at the next sales. These buyers, I may add, receive from their principals overseas the limits to which they may bid. The man with the lowest limit for any particular class of wool offering becomes the highest bidder on the day of the sale, so all this talk about animated bidding at the Wool Exchange is ridiculous. One buyer’s limit may be 18d. per lb., another’s 17£d., and another’s 16$d. Under the arrangement which I have mentioned, the man whose limit is 16£d., becomes the highest bidder when the lot is submitted Bidding starts at about 14d. per lb., and after considerable animation and waving of arms, to give the general public the impression that these international buyers are bidding one against the other, they all drop out at 16¼d., and the man whose limit, is 16-^d. becomes the buyer. The late Mr. Stirton, a highly respected woolgrower of the north-west of New South Wales, who had a long and honorable association with the industry in Australia, estimated some years ago that our wool-growers were losing at least £19,000,000 or £20,000,000 a year from the operations of this outrageous ring of international wool market riggers. The attention of the Bruce-Page Government was directed to this scandalous condition of affairs, but it did nothing, and, unless these referendum proposals are carried, it will be difficult for this Government to take effective action.
If the people approve of these proposed amendments of the Constitution, the Government will be able to take speedy action to prevent a continuance of this organized robbery of our woolgrowers. Then, instead of extra profit going into the pockets of manufacturers on the other side of the world, it will go into its right place - the pockets of Australian wool-growers. It has been argued that the increasing demand for artificial silk has destroyed the stability of the wool market. A comparison of prices and the observations of men who have been on the other side of the world prove that the collapse of the wool market is due largely to the unorganized condition of the industry. Its responsible leaders have not realized the obligation that rests upon them. Recently a deputation, representative of wool-buyers and brokers waited upon the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) in Melbourne, and assured him that everything was all right in connexion with the industry; yet these same men, later on in the same interview when they were questioned by the Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney), who has an intimate knowledge of the industry, had to admit that the wool position was serious, because wool was being sold in Australia below what they themselves estimated was the cost of production.
We are hoping that these constitutional amendments will be carried, so that the hands of the Government will be strengthened and that effective action may be taken to protect our wool-growers from the depredations of these international interests that are exploiting our people. If they can secure wool at a low price to-day - and each day they cable to their principals what they pay - it is quite obvious that no increased price will be given to-morrow. And so day after day the wool-growers continue to lose. I challenge any broker, buyer, or grower to say that the statements I have made are false in any particular. Any man who has been in close contact with the wool industry realizes the truth of what I have said. There are honorable members here who objected to the embargo on the export of merino stud sheep, but we learn from to-day’s press that the graziers of New South Wales have carried a unanimous resolution in support of the Government’s action in imposing that embargo. It is evident that honorable members on the other side of the chamber who claim to represent the graziers do not always keep in step with them.
We are told that in another place the Government’s proposals to amend the Constitution may be blocked, and that in consequence delay may ensue. I hope that honorable gentlemen in another place will not make a delay of several months necessary before these questions can be submitted to the people as provided for under the provisions of the Constitution when proposals have been rejected by the Senate. I remind them of what has happened in South Australia in the last few days. The man who has stood in the way of the wheat pool is now being “ scraped off the wheel.” Conversations with men in all walks of life in Australia have led me to believe that senators who stand in the road of the Government’s proposals may find themselves in the position of certain American gentlemen who went on a shooting expedition. The tale is as follows : - An American said to a darkie that he and his friend proposed to go out shooting tigers. The darkie replied, “ That is a very dangerous sport, boss.” The American said, “It will not be dangerous to us, because wo are going to gather up all you darkies and put you in front, where you will face the tiger first.” The darkie asked, “Are you going to be behind us?” and when he was told that that would be the case he said, “ Boss ; some of you white trash is fixing to be trampled on.” If the honorable gentlemen in another place hold up the very reasonable proposals of the Government they are “fixing to be trampled on “ when the people get an opportunity to pass a verdict upon them at the next election. I trust that they will move with the times, and help to remove the shackles upon this Parliament, so that it may be able to give the people sane, speedy, and clean legislation to cope with our national problems as they arise.
.Although it is now after midnight, I still feel it necessary to express my views on the Government’s proposals before a vote is taken. Of the three proposals, the first provides that this Parliament shall have power to amend the Constitution at will. That, in my opinion, is a power which is distinctly opposed to the spirit of section 128 of the Constitution. In defence of the proposal, the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) has said that no government would be foolish enough to submit to Parliament any proposal to take powers from the States without first getting the approval of the people at a general election, and I do not doubt the genuineness of the Treasurer in making that declaration on behalf of the present Government. But he cannot speak for future governments, and I find nothing in the bill indicating that the powers that might be sought to be taken from the States must first be submitted to the people at a general election. It is quite obvious from the Treasurer’s statement that during the life of this Parliament the Commonwealth cannot be aided in respect to the legislation it is claimed is necessary. If any proposal to enlarge the powers of the Commonwealth has first to be submitted at a general election, it appears to me that it would be more in accord with the Constitution, and more desirable from every point of view, that a definite proposal for the amendment of the Constitution should be submitted to the people by way of a referendum.
I make no apology for giving, from my stand-point, the views of the smaller States, and for expressing their fear of the Government’s proposals. I do not want the position of Tasmania to be made worse. I look forward to the day when the State will no longer need the aid of the Commonwealth mentioned by the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham), who described, in a rather offensive way, I think, the smaller States as being vassal States standing in the way of an amendment of the Constitution for the benefit of the majority of the people. The Constitution gives to the smaller States certain rights. They are entitled to express their approval of any proposal submitted to them at a referendum. There is a genuine fear in the minds of the people in some of the smaller States that if the Commonwealth Parliament has power to amend the Constitution at will, the States with the greater representation in this Parliament, will be in a position to dictate to the smaller States, and to deprive them of powers given to them under the Constitution to which they assented when they agreed to enter the federation. That is a very real danger to the smaller States, but all States, large and small, would be in the uncomfortable position of not knowing from one year to another what powers would be taken from them and what they would be allowed to retain. Any proposal to amend the Constitution should state clearly and definitely the extent of the powers sought, and the use to which they are to be applied. The Prime Minister failed to tell the House what the Government would do if the power to amend the Constitution were conferred upon this Parliament. He did not explain the need for such a drastic alteration of the basis of the Constitution. The people will never agree to any amendment of the Constitution unless they are first frankly informed what use will be made of the powers taken from the States. I am definitely opposed to the first bill, and I am surprised that it has been submitted. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) rightly described it as audacious. The Australian people federated upon definite terms, which could be varied only in the manner set forth in the Constitution, and they never anticipated that such a revolutionary proposal as that now before us would be submitted by any responsible government. The- Constitution embodies the conditions of the federal compact, and the means by which alone the powers reserved to the States can be transferred to the Commonwealth, and there is not the slightest chance that this bill to give the Commonwealth power to amend the Constitution as it thinks fit, -will be approved by the people. Indeed, the Government does not expect that it will, or it would not have submitted the second and third bills. If the people were to confer upon this Parliament the right to amend the Constitution the Government could take whatever powers it wanted in relation to industrial matters and trade and commerce without a specific reference to the people.
In the second bill, the Government is asking that complete powers in relation to industrial matters be vested in this Parliament. For what purpose? We have not been told. But during the debate the trouble in the coal-mining industry has been mentioned as one of the principal justifications for this proposal. The Commonwealth has not power under the existing Constitution to adopt some of the measures that have been suggested for the settlement of the coal dispute, and that fact has been advanced as an excuse for the Goverment’s non-fulfillment of some of its election promises. Even if the Commonwealth Parliament had complete industrial powers it could not have settled the trouble on the coal-fields. It might have nationalized the mines and re-opened them, but what good would the Government have done by producing coal that it could not sell profitably? The problem is economic, and nationalization would only intensify the trouble and create more unemployment in the coal industry and every other industry that is dependent on cheap coal supplies. If the Government had power to nationalize the coal-mines, it would also be able to take over other industrial activities, and that would cause serious concern to the. States. For instance, hydro-electric power is likely to be in the near future the lifeblood of industry in Tasmania, which may become the greatest industrial State in the Commonwealth. Unless it can develop its industries it has no prospect of attracting population from elsewhere or retaining its native-born population, or successfully competing with the other States. If the Commonwealth Parliament had power to amend the Constitution at will, it might, in the event of industrial trouble occurring in Tasmania, nationalize the hydro-electric scheme and deprive the industries of the State of their very life blood. Not only would the State be deprived of an enterprise which it has developed at great cost over many years, but many industries that are dependent on it would be ruined for no other reason than that the majority of members in this Parliament representing other States, were willing for party purposes to vote for nationalization of the undertaking, regardless of the consequences to Tasmania. I am not prepared to vote for any bill to give to a temporary majority in this Parliament such farreaching powers. This legislature needs not more power, but more discretion in the exercise of the powers it has. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. McTiernan) and other honorable members have said that the Commonwealth Parliament is legislating in a straitjacket.. My view is that our industries are shackled by excessive legislation; they should be freed and honest men should be given an opportunity to work out their own destinies without legislative hindrance. A Parliament is foolish that tries to legislate in advance of the demands of the people. It is unwise for the Commonwealth Parliament to reach out for more powers. If we exercise wisely the powers we already have, the” people will make no complaint. They have not indicated that they desire this Parliament to exercise greater authority, and until there is a popular demand for it, no drastic amendment of the Constitution will be possible. To every request for additional powers the people will say “ No, you are exercising too much, power already to hinder rather than help industry.” The. effect of our crippling legislation on the financial and economic position of Australia was foreseen by many students of political and industrial affairs. The last Government recognized the trend of events, warned the people, and put forward certain proposals that would have been helpful, but the warning was not heeded. The people voted against the Bruce-Page Government and placed the Labour party in power. They had not then felt the effect of the financial depression. Not until there is suffering in this country will they realize that this Parliament cannot help them out of their trouble. They must help themselves by their own efforts. All that this Parliament can do is to see they have an opportunity of working out their own destiny.
– Does the honorable member contend that Tasmania should break away from the federation ?
– I believe in federation, but not in unification. Tasmania and the other States are well able to manage their own affairs. The State members have a better knowledge of local conditions than honorable members of this House. Why should representatives of Queensland and Western Australia, by exercising a vote in this Parliament, be able to dictate to Tasmania concerning the management of its industries? It is sometimes difficult for the State members to know what to do in the interests of their own States how much more difficult would it be for a member of this Commonwealth Parliament to record a vote in respect of the conditions operating 1,000 miles from the seat of government? That position would be absurd. It is idle for honorable members supporting the Government to talk of the Constitutions of Great Britain, Belgium and Holland, and even of the United States of America, and to try to compare them with our Constitution. No other parliament attempts to legislate for a continent. Imagine what would happen if a central parliament in Europe attempted to legislate on every question affecting the activities of the people of that continent. There is no great difference between the areas of Australia and Europe.
– There is a big difference between the populations.
– What has population to do with this question ? We have to take into account the vast area for which we have to legislate, and the varying conditions, climatic and otherwise, throughout Australia. Only those who have a complete knowledge of local conditions can legislate and administer the affairs of a State properly.
I am opposed also to the third proposal of the Government because, if carried, its effect would be f ar-reaching It is all very well for honorable members to say that the Commonwealth Parliament, if given complete trade and commerce powers, would not regulate the trade of the butcher, baker, and candlestick maker, or of any or every industry. The people will surely want to know what portion of the trade and commerce powers the Commonwealth intends to exercise; because it might take control of progressive and financial industries, such as the hydro-electric scheme of Tasmania, and a similar power scheme in Victoria and leave to the States the control of the railways, which are losing proposition*.
Complete trade and commerce powers should not be given to the Commonwealth Parliament. I agree that it is necessary to amend the Constitution in certain directions, as indicated by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham). There are certain matters which are national in character, and in respect of which the Commonwealth .should have complete constitutional power. We should know what powers this Government proposes to exercise. I certainly would not agree to give ‘ to the Commonwealth a blank cheque, or as one honorable member has described it, an option over all the powers that are vested in, the States to-day. If these proposals were given effect, the States would be placed in an impossible position ; the State Parliaments would live in an atmosphere of uncertainty from day to day and from year to year. It would be worse than unification straight out. I stand to the principle of federation under which an agreement was entered into among t.h<3 States and the method of amending the Constitution was laid down. There is not the slightest doubt that when the referendum is taken not one State will support the first proposal.
It is probable that very many people will support the second proposal, believing that it may have the effect of improving the industrial conditions of Australia. My opinion is to the contrary. If the second proposal is carried the third proposal should also be carried, because they are intertwined. Some honorable members supporting the Government have gone so far as to threaten the other chamber with reprisals if it does not see eye to eye with the Government in this matter. That is no way to approach this question. We should mind our own business “ and ii 1loW the other chamber freedom of action. In any case these proposals will be placed before the people, and I sincerly trust that they will reject them.
– I desire to compliment the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch) on his excellent speech this evening. I. am convinced that he has sounded a tocsin of Australian patriotism that will echo through out Australia and be remembered in the years of the future. I am proud to have heard him and to call him my friend. I am proud that he belongs to the Labour party. The silken threads that hold Australia to the British federation of free and friendly nations will be made stronger by justice between equal Commonwealths. As one who has for over 50 years endeavoured to obtain for my beloved Australia the initiative, referendum and recall, I welcome these three measures before the House. I welcome the first measure even though the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) has said that it is a proposal to confer unlimited powers on the party in control. I take it that he will not deny that by giving effect to that proposal we shall place the Commonwealth Parliament on the high plane now occupied by the British Parliament. We shall be on the same high plane as South Africa, where in the minds of the people a great Australian who was once Prime Minister of Australia is held in high honour - I allude to the late Mr. Alfred Deakin. Mr. Deakin impressed upon a deputation representative of South African people that they should have a federal parliament that would have a dominating influence in the north, south, east and west, and no greater meed of praise could be paid to the late Mr. Alfred Deakin than to mention the splendid work which he did for the South African people. The Commonwealth of Australia and our sister dominion of Canada are on the same high plane.
What valid objection can there be to the Government’s constitutional proposals, which give the Government the power to lay the foundation for a real referendum initiative and recall. The Labour party is the only party that has the initiative, referendum and recall as a plank in its platform. The Nationalist party was once sufficiently advanced in its ideas to believe in the principle, and its president was associated with me as vice-president in the referendum league which was formed in Melbourne. Although Senator Plain believed in the principle, it has unfortunately never been a plank of the Nationalist party’s platform. As this system is being adopted all over the world it seems absurd that the Opposition is opposing the Constitutional Alteration Power Amendment Bill, because the party with which they are associated has been in office in the Federal Parliament much longer than the Labour party. It is 41 years this month since I introduced a bill embodying this principle into the Legislative Assembly of Victoria, and that was, I believe, the first time such a measure had been introduced into any Australian parliament. On that occasion, however, we did not secure very much advantage. What is the position to-day? The initiative, referendum, and. recall is item No. 10 on the Federal Labour party’s platform, item No. 1, sub-division /. in the general platform, and item No. 12 of the State Parliamentary Labour party in Victoria, except in questions appertaining to religion. On the 25th March, 1920, the House of Representatives passed, unanimously, a motion favouring the initiative, referendum and recall, and on the 17th August, 1923, a division was also taken on the same subject. It may interest honorable members to know what became of those who opposed the motion, and those who supported it. Of the 33 who voted against it, and who consisted of Nationalists and Country party members, only fourteen are now members of thi3 chamber. Of the nineteen who have disappeared from our midst, some have passed through the shadows. Of the 27 who supported the motion, 21 are still members of this House, and six have gone through the deep shadows of the west; but their seats are now held by members of the Labour party. As to the nineteen who disappeared from the Nationalist ranks, fourteen of their seats aro now held by members of the Labour party, and only five by Nationalists. I fearlessly phophesy that those who vote against these proposals will eventually lose their scats, and those who support them will retain theirs. I regret that the initiative, referendum, and recall is not embodied in a fourth constitutional amending measure; but although it may be said that a multiplicity of questions might cause confusion, I remind honorable senators that in the State of Ohio, in the United States of America, the population of which is little more than that of Australia, no less than 45 questions, seventeen of which related to farmers and farmers’ interests, were submitted to the people, and a majority adopted. Surely Australian citizens are capable of doing what the people of Ohio did. In the Constitution of Ireland, which is the latest instrument of the kind, the initiative and referendum is embodied. When a member of the Tasmanian Parliament, the present PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Lyons), had the pleasure and privilege of carrying a motion providing for the initiative, referendum and recall in the lower house in that State ; but that abomination of all parliaments - the upper house - prevented, it from becoming effective. For 25 years the Age newspaper has supported the initiative, referendum and recall, and has published many striking articles in support of the principle. A. map published in the Age shows that if the North American continent were divided by a central perpendicular line, it would be found that every State on the western side has adopted the initiative, referendum and recall in one form or another, and that, of those on the eastern side, all but five States have done so. The Sydney Bulletin, a progressive weekly newspaper, has always been a keen advocate of this principle, as also has the Australian Natives Association, the strongest friendly society in Victoria. Gladstone and his great opponent, Lord Salisbury, both favoured the referendum, and the late Lord Balfour of Burleigh submitted to the House of Lords a bill embodying the referendum. Sweden and California have also accepted the principle. In 1923 there were in the United States of America no fewer than 457 cities in which the initiative, referendum and recall were in operation, which has been the means of preventing graft. Those who supported the motion I previously submitted included the honorable ex-member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton), the present Minister for Markets and Transport (Mr. Parker Maloney), the Attorney-General (Mr. Brennan), the Minister for Health and Repatriation (Mr. Anstey), Sir Littleton Groom, and Mr. Mahony. Four of the seats held by those honorable gentlemen are now held by members of this Ministry. I therefore expect that if these proposals are carried - and I believe they will be - this Government will give the people the power that they should have. In 40 years only two amendments have been made to the Constitution of the United States of America. In Switzerland in the same time, 21 votes of the people have been taken, and sixteen alterations made to the Constitution. This shows the mutability of the Swiss legislative system compared with that of the United States of America.
Finance is one of the great problems which face this country at present. I believe that merchants, contractors, builders and the people generally would be delighted if the Commonwealth Rank could be converted into a real people’s bank which could provide money to assist the country in its time of stress. We have never had more unemployment in our midst than we have to-day. During the war the Commonwealth Bank stabilized the interest rate by fixing it at 6 per cent. A letter dated the 22nd May, 1 922, made available to me by my beloved friend, Mr. G. M. Prendergast, a member of the Victorian State Parliament, shows what excellent work the Commonwealth Bank has done for Australia. The letter, which bears the signature of Sir Denison Miller, reads as follows : -
In reply to your letter of the 9th instant, I have pleasure in enclosing you a statement of the progressive growth of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, showing the actual profits received up to the 30th December, 1921. totalling £3,792,726. (An item for buildings brings this total to £4,379,660.)
The further benefits to the Commonwealth Government and the people of Australia can hardlybe set out in figures; but the saving to the Commonwealth Government through the flotation of war and peace loans in Australia through the bank’s lower charges than it has been the practice in the past for governments to pay for the flotation of loans on the London market, runs into some millions of pounds, in addition to which, further large savings are made to the Commonwealth Government in the lower management expenses and charges by the bank of paying interest coupons, &c.
The further general savings in the management by the Commonwealth Bank of the wheat and wool pools, sugar purchases, and the Commonwealth steamers account, also run into very large figures, and the fact that the Commonwealth Bank has steadily charged only 6 per cent. per annum for interest on overdrawn business accounts, has kept the overdraft rates steady throughout Australia during and since thewar.
Napoleon, who had no superiors and few peers as an organizer, inaugurated the Bank ofFrance. He said that there should be written in the bank’s board room, in letters of gold, these words - “ What is the object of the Bank of
France? To keep the discount rate at 4 per cent.” That bank has operated successfully for very many years andFrance owes to it her ability to overcome the financial troubles that have afflicted her.
On the subject of good government,I desire to make two quotations. The first is a statement by Tamerlane, perhaps the greatest organizer the world has ever seen. He said to thosewho were to follow him -
If you do what my testament directs and make equity and justice the rule of your actions, the kingdoms will remain a long time in your hands; but if discord creeps in among you, ill fortune will attend your undertakings; your enemies will breed war and seditions, which it will be difficult to put a stop to; and irreparable mischief will arise both in religion and government.
For astuteness in foreshadowing events, that statement has had few equals. I wish also to make a quotation from one of the great Presidents of the United States of America, Mr. Coolidge, who said that the next war would be an awful cataclysm that would involve, not only the young men, but every business, manufacturing concern, and potential wealth producer in the land. His statement, which has been endorsed by President Hoover, is as follows : -
I want the people of America to be able to work less for the government and more for themselves. Iwant them to have the rewards of their own industry. That is the chief meaning of freedom. Untilwe can re-establish a condition under which the earnings of the people can be kept by the people, we are bound to suffer avery distinct curtailment of our liberty. These results are not fanciful, they are not imaginary ; they are grimly actual and real, reaching into every household in the land, they take from each home annually an average ofover $300. And taxes must be paid. They are not a voluntary contribution to be met out of surplus earnings. They are a stern necessity. They come first. It is only out of what is left after they are paid that the necessities of food, clothing and shelter can be provided, the comforts of home secured, or the yearnings of the soul for a broader and more abundant life gratified. When the government effects a new economy it grants everybody a life pension with which to raise the standard of existence. It increases the value of everybody’s property and raises the scale of everybody’s wages. One of the greatest favours that can be bestowed upon the American people is economy in government.
How can we secure economic government when we have six Governments fighting one Government? When we were about to federate, it was stated from every platform in the country that we should have, not six Agents-General, but one; not seven Parliaments, but one ; and not seven Chief .Justices, but one. It is all humbug and nonsense that we should have permitted the present state of affairs to continue for so long- Years ago, Sir Alexander Peacock had a list printed of incomes in Victoria which exceeded a certain figure. He did not publish the names of the taxpayers, .but used numbers to indicate them. The list covered the years 1913, 1914, and 1915, and showed that profits were made which, in some cases, exceeded 500,000 per cent. I tried to get this Parliament to authorize the publication of a similar list, but was unsuccessful. If these proposals are agreed to, I hope that something will be done in that direction. The Government of the United States of America publishes a list of incomes which exceed a certain figure. I am told that wives consult this return to see whether their husbands give them a true statement of the salaries they receive, and that flappers sometimes make inquiries to ascertain the financial position of gentlemen paying attention to them. Be that as it may, some of the meanest of men who enjoy large incomes but pose as men of small means, are exposed to ridicule.
The government of every country will have to assume control of all machinery. At Illinois, in the United States of America, there is one machine of greater man power than was obtained from all the slaves in the States at the time of their emancipation. One man can control that machine which exerts 5,000,000 man power. A machine can now reap 30 acres of wheat in a day, clean it, bag it, sew the bags, and place them in stacks on the ground. One hundred years ago that work would have taken 100 men to perform. More than 50 years ago I had some experience in handling a sickle. It was regarded as a good day’s work for a man to reap a quarter of an acre even with a sharp sickle. The threshing of the wheat with a flail was also a big job in those days. ‘[Quorum formed.’]
A proposal was made by a Swiss government to bestride the great continents of Europe and America by sending an -agent to establish in the United States of America a branch of the International Bureau which has been so beneficial and has been adopted by no less than 50 countries. To this bureau must be given the credit of having introduced the 2-“?d. stamp in use before the war, the parcels post, and the Red Cross ambulance. The Swiss coat of arms is a white cross on a red ground. The colours were changed and thus as a compliment to Switzerland we have the sign of the Red Cross on a white ground. If I had been a member of the Swiss Parliament, I would have voted for the proposal. The sole expense would have been £400, the salary of one officer. There would have been no expense on account of offices, because accommodation for the bureau would have been found at the Swiss Consulate in Washington. But the Swiss people had not been consulted. A petition for a referendum was immediately drawn up, the scheme was rejected, and the officer was withdrawn from America. I ask honorable members what the citizens of Australia would do if they had the power to deal with the salaries of £4,000 or £5,000 a year paid to some men by the Commonwealth Government. I am rather disappointed that the referendum, initiative and recall is not to be placed before the people on this occasion. If given the opportunity, the people would accept .it, because they have never yet refused to take to themselves power.
I regard Canberra as a financial ulcer. The honorable member for Cook (Mr. C. Riley), as a member of the Public Accounts Committee, exposed the fraud by which 600 tons of cement disappeared from the foundations of a building which was to cost £1,000,000. But was any one dismissed, or even censured? No. The roof of this building still leaks. I have drawn attention to the matter on several occasions. The authorities said that a large sum of money had been withheld from the contractors pending completion of the job. When Parliament went into recess 80 tons of gravel were placed on the roof, presumably to make it watertight, although no architect of repute would attempt to stop a roof from leaking by using gravel. But no one was censured for that blunder. The work cost £2,500, yet only £800 was deducted from the contractor. If given the opportunity the people would soon see that such mistakes were not repeated. I should like to see these twelve questions submitted to the people -
Honorable members may say that that would be too great a list of questions to submit to the people, at one time, but I do not think so.
I ask leave to incorporate in Hansard a record of the progress of the referendum, initiative and recall in America during the years 1897 to 1913. I quote from the Annals of theAmerican Academy of Political and Social Science. volume 43, 1912. [Leave granted.] It is as follows : -
Not onlyhas the movement for direct legislation captured a number of States and prepared the way for sweeping victories in others at the coming fall election, but it has also made converts of a number of distinguished public men, notably William Jennings Bryan, Woodrow Wilson, and Theodore Roosevelt, to say nothing of the goodly array of governors. United States senators and members of the National House of Representatives. In these later days, even the so-called conservatives or reactionary statesmen with political ambitions seek to avoid expressing an adverse opinion on this popular tenet of the progressive faith.
I now come to the government of that splendid little nation, Switzerland, termed “ the school-house of Europe,” whose people speak German, French, Italian, and Romansch or Ladin. That country’s frontiers were surrounded by the combatants during that terrible holocaust that began in 1914, but they remained inviolate. Had any nation dared to invade them every German, Frenchman and Italian would have resisted the invasion. Switzerland is the best community of Europe because its laws are the most just. The honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) referred to the vast spaces of Australia. This causes no trouble in a federalparliament compared with that caused by a multiplicity of languages. In the Swiss Parliament, a man may speak in beautiful French, and the Germans and Italians have the right and the advantage of asking for a translation of the speech, and vice versa with the German and the Italian speakers. If that Parliament carried on debates as we do, they would be unending. Australia has this advantage, that the whole of its people speak, write, and think in the same language. I shall read the following articles from the Swiss Federal Constitution, as theywill interest honorable members - 118. The Federal Constitution may at any time be amended, wholly or partially. 119. Total revision is secured through the forms required for passing federal laws. 12.1. . . . When several different subjects are proposed by popular initiative for revision or for adoption in the Constitution, each one of these must be demanded by a separate initiative petition.
The initiative petition ma)’ be offered either in the form of a general request or in the form of a completed bill.
When the petition is offered in the form of a general request, aud the Federal Chambers are in agreement with the same, it is their duty to ‘enact a bill in accordance with the sense of the petitioners and to lay the same before the people and the cantons for acceptance or rejection. If the Federal Assembly is not in agreement with the petition, the question of partial revision must be subjected to a vote of the people, and in case a majority of Swiss citizens taking part in the election vote yes. the amendment must be elaborated by the Federal Assembly in the sense of the popular vote.
If the request is presented in the form of a completed bill and the Federal Assembly is in agreement therewith, the project must be submitted to the people and the cantons for acceptance or rejection. In case the Federal Assembly is not in agreement, it may prepare its own bill or move the rejection of the amendment, and may submit its own project, or motion to reject, to the vote of the people and cantons at the same time with the initiative petition. 123. The amended Federal Constitution, or the revised portion of it, shall be in force when it has been adopted by the majority of Swiss citizens who take part in the vote thereon and by a majority of the States.
The Swiss enjoy an advantage, which, I am sorry, does not apply to Australia. Under their Federal Constitution no man, woman or child is ever buried as a pauper. If a person is outside his canton he may obtain medical assistance and be buried decently at the cost of the Federal Government. That is what we want in our beloved Australia. I sincerely hope that this referendum will be carried. It will stimulate me still more to do my little bit to get the initiative, referendum and reform carried. I have fought for that for 50 years. For 41 years I have not allowed the subject to die either in the State or the Federal Parliament. If the Good God gives me longer life, I hope to see it embodied in our Constitution. It will make the Australian Constitution the peer of any that the world has ever seen.
– The < honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham) concluded his speech on these bills with some highly provocative remarks about criticism which had been offered as to the manner in which the Government had introduced its embargo upon the export of stud sheep. I accept the challenge which the honorable member, by implication, threw out. The way in which the matter was handled was an illustration of the bad administration which has characterized the federation from the beginning. The embargo was introduced in a moment of panic haste, and there was criticism on this side of the precipitancy with which it was brought in. It would be interesting to know exactly what precipitated the action of the Government. The way in which the embargo was introduced illustrates the danger into which the federal authorities who were created primarily to carry on the external affairs of Australia, and to protect its foreign commerce, fall when they neglect the functions for which they were appointed, and indulge in various forms of catch penny legislation. What happened then also indicates what would happen if the proposed referendum were carried. The embargo on stud sheep was introduced at a moment which enabled a very large consignment of sheep to be exported to the Soviet of Russia, and when it would cause, for that year, the maximum of inconvenience to clients in a sister dominion who had purchased a much smaller number of sheep. Any authority in Australia genuinely desiring to prevent the increase of wool-growing sheep in other parts of the world must have realized that the most effective step would have been to co-operate with the sister dominion which has made such tremendous strides in the last few years in the wool-growing industry. Whether the moment chosen to introduce the embargo was due to some sinister cause, to preoccupation with the grievances ventilated by certain graziers that some honorable members opposite had met, or to some special affection for the Russian Soviet, I do not at present pretend to know. The results were the same, and are typical of the bad administration that has characterized action by the federal authorities ever since the inception of federation.
– The embargo has been approved by the graziers in conference.
– The principle has been, approved, but some of the graziers’ associations have qualified their approval by stating that provision should have been made to allow the completion of some of the existing bona fide contracts within the Empire. A comparatively small number of sheep would have been sent to South Africa. If the Government had permitted the export of that consignment it would have been easier for the Commonwealth to co-operate with South Africa in any scheme that might be formulated to support the wool market. Wool production is not purely an Australian industry and it is not endangered so exclusively as is generally believed by the artificial silk industry. Another danger lies in the increase in sheep numbers in nearly every country where agriculture is pursued, so any useful action to support’ the industry must be taken in co-operation with other countries that produce wool in any quantity. I have no particular sensitiveness concerning State rights, because I realize that the members of the Federal and State Parliaments are elected by the same people. But I am concerned with the distribution of legislative functions, and I believe that when members of Parliament are in close touch with their electors and are under the eyes of their constituents in a State Parliament they ave in a better position to discharge their legislative duties than are members of a central parliament in Canberra.
The proposed amendments, although differing in form, may be regarded as three alternative means of effecting unification. It is generally agreed that if the first proposal is adopted it will destroy the basis of the Federal Constitution. All honorable members who have contributed to the debate have admitted in effect that, if it is carried, it will be tantamount to placing dynamite in the foundations upon which the federation rests. The edifice might stand tottering for some time but the States Parliaments would be certain to fall when they were so emasculated that the . confidence of investors in their stocks must be destroyed. The second and third of the proposed amendments deal specifically with industrial matters and trade and commerce. If endorsed by the people, they will vest this
Parliament with such wide functions that if they are exercised to any extent, they, will absolutely undermine the federal system. Not having any special regard for State rights, I judge such issues as these amendments will involve by the results of actual federal administration in outlying portions of the Commonwealth. To start with I have in mind particularly the position of a section of Commonwealth Administration which functions not far from where I live - the Central Australian Railway. For many years that line was under the control of the South Australian Government, and . I must admit that it was not well managed. Some years ago it was taken over by the Commonwealth and the change was from bad management to shocking management, due principally to the centralized control being so far removed.
– Is the management of the east-west railway worse than the management of the Centra] Australian railway?
– The railway line mentioned by the honorable member is in a unique position for an Australian railway, in that it was built out of revenue, and therefore is not expected to provide interest on capital cost. As to its management, I do not think it can compare with the management of the narrow gauge line from Kalgoorlie to Perth and certainly the service is not comparable to that between Melbourne and Adelaide.
Another matter to which I direct attention is. the varying degrees of assistance given to certain primary industries. The Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) when introducing the Cotton Industries Bounty Bill, in reply to an interjection that the present Treasurer, when Premier of Queensland, had abandoned the cotton industry by discontinuing the guaranteed price, said that State Governments had not the financial resources of the Commonwealth, and that a guaranteed price was tantamount to a bounty, which was the responsibility of the Commonwealth. The wheat-growing industry is the mainstay of at least two of the smaller States, and yet when it is proposed to guarantee a comparatively low price for wheat for one season only, the States concerned are requested to share one-half of any loss that may result.
The cotton industry appears to be well placed for lobbying, as are also the maize and sugar industries. Their treatment is an example of what industries in outlying States may expect under unification. Under existing conditions the States have a safeguard in the Senate, but if the first of the Government’s proposals is carried, the Parliament might amend the Constitution and abolish the Senate, or it might so alter the basis of the States representation in that chamber that the protection al present afforded to the smaller States through the federal distribution of representation would disappear. In North Australia there are no entangling legalisms to prevent the Government from giving full effect to its policy of development. Yet under Commonwealth control the Territory has been, if possible, more stagnant than under State rule. One of the most serious pests with which the primary producers in the north of Australia have to contend is the buffalo fly. It was introduced into the Northern Territory about 50 years ago, and at first spread slowly. Year after year while he was administrator of the territory, Dr, Gilruth, who is a highly qualified veterinary surgeon, recommended that the Commonwealth should undertake a thorough scientific investigation of the buffalo fly in order to prevent its further spread. However, nothing was done while the pest was spreading over the whole of Northern Australia. In time it reached “Western Australia, but as that State is a comparatively small and uninfluential State, the Commonwealth continued indifferent. Eventually buffalo fly reached Queensland, and within six months of its being reported in that State the Commonwealth Government appointed two scientists to conduct an investigation. That is an illustration of how the- interests of the outlying undeveloped portions of the Commonwealth have been neglected by the central government. Until inequalities of that nature are corrected conscientious representatives pf the small States cannot be expected to support dragnet, proposals such as those submitted by the Government.
– What did the South Australian Government do in regard to the buffalo pest during the many years of State control of the Northern Territory?
– For many years after the pest first appeared in the Northern Territory it spread very slowly. In any case the State Government had not in those days the means for conducting a thorough scientific investigation of it.
I turn now to defence, which was one of the principal functions for which the federal authority was brought into existence. In the old days, when the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch) held views different from those he expresses to-day, and the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) was not concentrating his attention upon getting support from all parties in his constituency at the next election, the Labour party helped to build up a very fine system of defence, which was as adequate as our limited population permitted to the maintenance of the highly provocative immigration policy of Australia. But lately, when catch-penny policies have been occupying the minds of parties seeking the support of the electors, the Government, which allows stud sheep to be exported to a dangerous competitor like Soviet Russia, but refuses to extend any consideration to the sister dominion of South Africa, has casually wrecked the system of land defence, probably to placate some disloyal and subversive clique outside this Parliament. Having destroyed the principal part of the defence system, the Commonwealth Government now brings forward proposals to extend the powers of this Parliament.
I agreee with the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell), that we need more discretion in the exercise of the powers we have, rather than an extension of them. Nearly all of the most serious economic troubles in Australia to-day has been caused by excessive costs, to which the actions of this Parliament have contributed. Through meddling inefficiency, the Commonwealth has introduced industrial laws which duplicate what were good, workable industrial systems in the different States.
During the last five years, possibly ten years, more than half the trade unions have been working under State awards, and the industries they represented have been practically free of industrial troubles. Although industrial unrest is not the only cause of high ‘costs, it is an important contributing factor. The meddling and muddling of this Parliament, at the instance of various parties, has only produced industrial confusion. One important function, which is essentially a Commonwealth concern, is the control of foreign trade by means of the tariff. It was one of the principal reasons, probably second only to defence, for federation. Prohibitive as the tariff has been in many respects, it has always in the past shown some regard for the possible reactions in other parts of the world; but lately tariff duties have been imposed with a reckless disregard of consequences that was not to be expected of any responsible government.
– I rise to a point of order. Is the honorable member in -order in discussing the tariff?
– I was about to ask the honorable member to connect his remarks with the bill. I cannot allow him to debate the tariff in anticipation of business appearing on the notice-paper.
– I shall offer no further criticism of- the tariff policy of the present Government other than to say that it has practically obliterated imperial preference.
– Order ! The British preferential tariff cannot be regarded as having any direct or indirect bearing on bills relating to the amendment of the Constitution.
– It is relevant to the bills relating to industrial matters and trade and commerce to say that the recent actions of the Government have caused much misgiving in the minds of the people. Nearly all parties in power in this Parliament have shown a tendency to grasp more power; or to be more interested in the things over which they had not power than in the things over which they had power. Although I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) and the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) that the Federal Parliament is not able to carry out its national functions properly without additional powers, as a conscientious representative of an outlying electorate I feel that I have no option but to oppose a dragnet proposition that goes to extreme lengths, both by the vote I record in this House and by my advice to the electors to oppose them if they are eventually submitted to a referendum of the people.
.- Not wishing to cast a silent vote I desire to express very briefly my views on the bills now before honorable members. I gladly associate myself with the Government in the proposal to remit to the people of Australia certain questions for their decision, and I do not share the fears of the Opposition that in the event of the people deciding in the affirmative all sorts of weird and extreme action will be taken. I have too much confidence in the National Parliament of Australia to place any credence in such a suggestion. To predict that all sorts of absurd actions will be taken by the National Parliament of Australia is indicative of a conservative mind. Those who declare that a constitution is t sacred, unalterable document which should not be touched, are the greatest stumbling blocks to the progress of « nation one could have. This Parliament has power to do all sorts of ridiculous things, but does not do them. It is quite competent for it to take by taxation 80 per cent, or 90 per cent, of the income of any person in Australia. It has, but it does not exercise, that power. This Parliament does not exercise many of its plenary powers simply for the sake of wielding them, because it recognizes that, if it did so, the day of reckoning would surely follow. The party, parliament, or individual that abuses power is cast into political oblivion. That was amply demonstrated on the 12th October last. Parliament is supposed to be a true reflex of the will and desires of the people, and, although it does not do everything it has the power to do, it certainly does what it is elected to do. At general elections the various parties submit programmes to the electors, and the electors decide which programme is most acceptable to them, and in that way the party with the programme most acceptable to the people is returned to Parliament with a majority. In turn the party in power gives effect to the programme it placed before the electors. ‘ It is, therefore, manifestly absurd to say that simply because a Parliament is clothed with plenary powers it will abuse them. What is there about the Commonwealth Parliament that rnakes it dangerous to entrust it with the powers exercised by every State Parliament ?
The leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) and others opposite are very much afraid that if the people agree to the Government’s proposals this Parliament will extend its life. While I admit that it would be very desirable for the present Parliament to remain in existence for many years to come, I do not say that it will extend its life. The State Parliaments to-day have the power to extend their lives, but do they do it? Of course not. They realize that the party that proposed such an extension would be cast into political oblivion. The safeguard is that, every three years, there is a referendum by means of a general election, and with that safeguard in existence there is no fear that any parliament will abuse the power it already possesses. The Parliaments of Great Britain, South Africa, and New Zealand, have plenary powers. The Parliament of South Africa has power to amend its own Constitution and to remit certain powers to the provinces. A democratic country, such as Australia claims to be, ought to be governed by the people and not by decisions of the High Court, which may be changed from time to time simply because there happens to be a change in the personnel of the judiciary. It is quite possible now for different . interpretations to be placed on various sections of the Constitution, upsetting the practice of many years’ standing, and causing great inconvenience and expense, and even injustice. The framers of the Constitution contemplated the possibility of its amendment. The late Honorable Alfred Deakin referred to it as a framework. A house erected 30 years ago needs alteration and renovation to-day. There was a lot ‘ of renovation on the’ 12th October last, but there is still necessary a good deal of alteration to the Constitution. Doubtless, in the early days of federation the Constitution was deemed to be reasonable and workable, but I am bold enough to say that after 30 years’ experience it has proved itself to be unworkable in many
Mr. Guy. directions. Just as the child’s view of its own functions extends and broadens as it goes through the stages of adolescence, so also does the nation’s outlook broaden and become more embracing as it passes through the various stages of economic and social growth. The powers of the Commonwealth are specified in the Constitution, but once you start to particularize you necessarily limit. I suggest that the powers of the various States or provinces should be specified, and that the. National Parliament should be national in character and not only in name; that it should be untrammelled, and that it should have a supreme power somewhat similar to the power exercised by the central government in Canada.
Our Constitution is full of all sorts of judicial pot-holes which were not anticipated 30 years ago. Because of State jealousies, the framers of the Constitution had to resort to compromise, and it was in the spirit of compromise that the Australian Constitution was founded. As a result some of the provisions of the Constitution were ill defined, and that in turn has led to various decisions of the High Court-. It is quite evident that the framers of the Constitution did not anticipate that any difficulty would arise in respect of any proposed amendment of it. We find in practice that when one of the main political parties opposes a proposed alteration of the Constitution all sorts of side issues are introduced to confuse the electors, and when the elector is confused he plays safe by adopting the slogan, “ When in doubt, vote no.” It is most regrettable that the position exists, but I respectfully suggest that no one is better qualified to judge when and how the Constitution should be amended than are the elected representatives of the people themselves.
The position to-day, so far as the Constitution is concerned, is hopeless. This is the National Parliament of Aus tralia, but it is absolutely hampered and hamstrung. All sorts of difficulties and anomalies have arisen, and the National Parliament is powerless to remove them. Let me give one illustration. ‘ The Commonwealth has expended £1,000,000 on the Cockatoo Island Dockyard, and simply because the High Court has decided that no other than government work can be carried out at that dockyard, it must lie idle for the greater part of the year. How much longer is Australia going to tolerate this stupidity? The National Parliament of Australia should be clothed with supreme powers, with the right to delegate to the various States powers which can best be used locally. The carrying of this bill and the referendum will not amend the Constitution. It will simply give power to the elected representatives of the people to amend the Constitution at any time. It is absurd to say that if these powers are conferred upon the Government, it will mean the abolition of State Parliaments and the centralization of all control under Commonwealth regime at Canberra. Nothing of the sort is” intended. The carrying of these proposals will certainly invest unlimited powers in the National Parliament, and that Parliament, in turn, will decide which powers can be best administered by the Commonwealth and which by the States, and such powers will be allotted accordingly. In other words, Parliament will give effect to the expressed wish of the people as determined at the preceding general election.
The history of the industrial legislation of Australia .is disastrous and pitiable. Contrast the actual results with the picture drawn when the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill was before this Parliament many years ago. The late Hon. Alfred Deakin, when introducing the bill into this Parliament, said that arbitration would encourage a new era, that industrial disputes would disappear, and that industrial harmony would prevail. The bill became the law of the country. The Arbitration Act is to-day riddled with High Court decisions which have reduced its usefulness to almost nothing. It is absolutely imperative that this Parliament should be clothed with plenary industrial powers, and the Arbitration Court should be allowed to deal with industrial disputes as they arise and to take action to prevent them from arising.
– That is conciliation.
– That is so. Before the Arbitration Court can take action now a dispute must extend beyond the borders of one State. Generally an industrial dispute originates within the borders of one State, at that time, and the Common wealth Arbitration CoUrt is powerless to act. Surely common-sense tells us that it is better to nip the trouble in the bud and deal with it in the early stages than to wait until it has become a strike or a lockout before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court can take cognizance of it. As firemen would deal with a fire, so the Arbitration Court should deal with industrial disputes. The fireman goes direct to the building that is burning; he does not wait until two or three adjoining, houses catch alight. He extinguishes the fire at once. So also should the Commonwealth Arbitration Court take early action to prevent industrial ‘disputes from spreading. The High Court has laid it down that there must be dislocation of industry in more than one State before the Arbitration Court can take cognizance of any dispute. That decision has encouraged the extension of disputes to more than one State to enable the employees of certain industries to approach the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. The mere submission by the union of a log and conditions of employment does not constitute a dispute. According to the decision of the High Court, a dispute or lockout must extend to another State before it comes within the ambit of the Arbitration Court. This is a ridiculous position. I do not believe in the centralization of the arbitration system. The Arbitration Court should have sufficient power to appoint local tribunals in the various States to enable it to deal with troubles as they arise. The people of Australia only a few months ago gave, in no unmistakable terms, a decision in favour of Commonwealth arbitration. It is our duty to make the Commonwealth Arbitration system as simple and effective as possible. As the present Commonwealth Arbitration Court is costly, cumbersome and slow, power should be given to the Government to appoint local industrial tribunals with the necessary authority to deal with disputes whenever and wherever they arise. I believe in an industrial code in which conciliation is an outstanding feature, and under which industrial officers acting under the jurisdiction of the court should be permitted to intervene whenever a dispute is pending. The matter in dispute could then be referred to a conciliation committee with a view to its immediate settlement. If an immediate settlement could not he effected, the dispute could be referred into the Arbitration Court for decision, and the award of the court should then be accepted by both parties. Approximately one-third of the industrial awards and agreements now in operation were brought about as a result of conferences between the parties without approach to the court, which proves conclusively that conciliation plays a more active part in our industrial life than is generally supposed. We should endeavour to legislate so that every worker shall receive a fair wage for the work he performs, and that the conditions under which he operates shall, in every sense, be fair andreasonable. The British parliament is not hampered as is this parliament, and as Australia is now a nation its national parliament should be clothed with powers similar to those of the parliaments to which I have already referred. This matter is entirely in. the hands of the people, who will, I feel sure, support the proposals which the Government is submitting for their approval.
Question - That the bill be now read a second time - put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Norman Makin.)
Majority . . . . 21
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma.
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) agreed to -
That Standing Order No. 70 (eleven o’clock rule) be suspended for this sitting.
Question - Consideration resumed from 14th March (vide page 187), put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Norman Makin.)
Majority . . . . 26
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill reada second time and committed pro forma.
Debate resumed(vide page 1028).
Question - That the bill be now read a second time - put. The House divided. (Mr.Speaker-Hon.NormanMakin.)
Majority . .28
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and committed pro forma.
House adjourned at 2.15 a.m. (Thursday).
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 April 1930, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1930/19300409_reps_12_123/>.