17th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker(Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. P.C. Spender, M.P
– Have you, Mr. Speaker, received any information concerning the appointment of new leaders or deputy leaders of parties, or the formation of new parties, in this House?
– Up to date, I have not.
– I should like you, Mr. Speaker, to inform me whether an honorable member may change his seat in this chamber without informing you of his intention to do so? I seek this information because the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), who has been one of the principal members of the Opposition, now appears tobe one of its spare parts. What excuse did the honorable member give to you for his decision to change his seat and is his action further evidence of the mutiny in the ranks of the Opposition?
– Seats in the House are usually allotted at the first sitting of a new Parliament. If a reelected member is still on the same side of the chamber as he was before the election, he is entitled to resume the seat that he formerly occupied. In the event of a change in the Ministry it is the accepted practice that the retiring Minister shall take the place of his successor. Provided the honorable member for Warringah does not take the seat of some other honorable member he is perfectly entitled to change his seat because there is plenty of room on that side of the chamber.
– Last week, in the course of a question, I referred to the serious effect upon the beef-producing industry that has been caused by the inability of pastoralists to obtain horseshoes in connexion with their droving operations. The Minister for Munitions promised to inquire into the matter. I. have received a telegram which points out that further inquiries reveal that horse-shoes are not being made in Queensland at the present time. In view of the importance of maintaining the production of beef, will the Minister for Munitions assure me that he will take the matter up personally with the Queensland authorities, and do everything that lies within his power to make supplies of horse-shoes available as early as may be practicable ?
– I shall comply with the request of the honorable member. I hope that I shall be able to provide him with reassuring information this evening.
Record of Mr. A.C. Willis - Balmain Coal Mine
– Will the Prime Minister obtain and furnish to the House information as to the record of Mr. A.C. Willis, Chairman of the Central Coal Authority, in connexion with industrial stoppages and absenteeism during his control of the Balmain coal’ mine, Sydney, on behalf of the Australian Coal and Shale Employees Federation? Did the miners employed by the federation when it was the proprietor of the Balmain coal mine place a darg of 5’ tons a day on the pit? Did the federation, immediately upon assuming control of this colliery, dismiss two firemen who were employed on the pit top? Had the previous proprietors asked for a reduction of the number of- firemen? “Was this request refused by the unions concerned?
– The answer is in the negative.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior whether or not an agreement has been entered into between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of New South Wales for the construction of a line of railway from Yass to Canberra? If so, when was it made? Has the route been surveyed? What is the estimate of cost in respect of each Government? Approximately, what number of miles would be saved between Albury and Canberra by travelling via Yass?Have plans been prepared for the construction of this line as a post-war reconstruction undertaking?
– I understand that certain negotiations ‘ in connexion with the building of a railway from Yass to Canberra took place between the Governments of New South Wales and the Commonwealth in the early days of the construction of the Federal Capital. I am not acquainted with all the facts, hut I shall obtain them from the Minister for the Interior and supply them to the honorable member.
Tax on CURRENT Income - Collection.
– Will the Treasurer table the opinions he has obtained from counsel relative to the alleged income tax lag? As the implementation of payas.youearn taxation will result in some instances in the imposition of an income tax greater than 20s. in the £1, has the honorable gentleman obtained legal opinion as to whether or not such a levy would be ultra vires the Income Tax Act, inasmuch as it would be a tax upon capital as well as upon income’
– I have not had counsel’s opinion in relation to the alleged income tax lag. The House will have an opportunity to discuss the whole subject should the Government decide that legislation covering it shall he introduced. I understand that while the right honorable gentleman was Treasurer, some taxpayers paid more than 20s. in the £1.
– Is it a fact that the Taxation Department is asking for the payment of income tax for 1941-42 on or before the 31st March, 1944? If so, is the Treasurer aware that taxpayers who pay this tax through deductions from pay. will thus have to find an additional amount equivalent to several months’ taxes on top of the normal tax instalments in order to meet their assessments by that date? Will the Treasurer reconsider the decision taken?.
– The issue of taxation assessments and the collection of tax are matters for the Commissioner of Taxation under the statute under which he works. It is true that I make representations to him ‘from time to time about certain matters and suggest- that he should give consideration to some particular aspects; but the final decision as to what steps shall be taken to collect tax owing rests with the Commissioner. I understand that the Commissioner has agreed that persons in charge of group collections may extend the instalment period up to the 31st March in many cases in which the assessment requires the payment of the tax before that date. The Commissioner has allowed muchlonger extensions of time to pay in other cases.
– In view of the vital change of circumstances that has occurred’ since the Advisory War Council was instituted, and of the uncertainty that seems to exist in the minds of members of the Opposition as to whether they are in or out, will the Prime Minister consider the termination of these secret conclaves between members- of’ the
Opposition and members of the Government?
– I have considered the position of the Advisory War Council in view of the fact that last Friday I received the resignations of two of its members- the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Hughes). I am taking steps to have the vacancies filled. The consideration that I have given to the matter has reaffirmed my view as to the very great value of the council ,to both the Government and the country. I pay tribute to the invaluable work which, in my judgment, it has done. That opinion is based on the result of my experience both as Leader of the Opposition and as head of the Government. I consider that members of the Opposition, in addition to the Leader of the Opposition, should have some intimate familiarity with the state of the defences of this country and the nature of the problems with which the war makes it necessary for the Government and the Parliament to deal. A large number of matters incidental to the defence of the country in time of war it would be utterly impracticable, for security reasons, to discuss in Parliament, yet representative members of the Opposition should have knowledge of them. It is much better to attain that object by the means that have been adopted during the last three years.
– What does the right honorable gentleman mean by representative members of the Opposition?
– I mean that the regulation which prescribes that His Excellency the Governor-General may appoint persons to an Australian Advisory War Council meets the situation as I view it. I very greatly hope that during the present year and until the termination of the war this country will have a coun-cil consisting of members of the Government and other representative members of the Parliament, at which the problems associated with the war may be fully examined and the most confidential reports of the Chiefs of Staff may be considered ‘by other than members of the Government, in order that the Government may have the advantage of the view of non-ministerial members of the Par liament. I doubt whether any other device would serve a3 well as the Advisory War Council has done.
– What about a national government?
– I think my answer covers that suggestion.
– I ask the Prime Minister to inform the House who now constitute the Australian Advisory War Council - who was “ scratched “ and who will face the barrier?
– On the opening day of this Parliament I announced the personnel of the- Australian Advisory War Council. It includes the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt), the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde), the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Makin), the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) and myself. Other members were: - The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Hughes), the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), and the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen). The present position is that the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition have resigned, and I am taking steps to have the vacancies filled. The Advisory War Council will meet tomorrow morning.
– Will the Prime Minister arrange with the Minister responsible to place on the table of the House the result of the inquiry into the price of wine grapes for this year, together with a statement showing what requests were made to the Minister by the representatives of the growers, and why those requests were refused?
– I shall look into the matter, .and see whether .1 can do as the honorable member suggests.
Food Rations in New Guinea - Burial of Soldiers - Use of Military Initials.
– Has the Minister for the Army read the paragraph in to-day’s issue of the Canberra Times, under the heading “ Soldiers’ Rations in New Guinea Unsuitable in which there is published a statement by Dr. Rae Duncan, of Melbourne, that many Staff Corps officers are ignorant of the vital importance of food for troops, whilst others are apathetic? Can the Minister say whether there is any justification for Dr. Duncan’s complaint that the rations of Australian soldiers in New Guinea are unsuitable, and that the Americans, who pay particular attention to diet, are suffering comparatively few deaths from tropical disease ?
– I read the paragraph referred to, and immediately made inquiries at Army Head-quarters regarding the accuracy of the statement, and I have been advised as follows: -
Dr. Duncan has not been in New Guinea since April, 1943. Eis statements are entirely at variance with those of medical and dietetic authorities. A qualified officer who has recently returned reports that rations and catering in the area are excellent. American medical authorities deny the statement made by Dr. Duncan in regard to the comparison between Australian and American death statistics from tropical diseases.
I expect to have a complete report on the matter in a day or two, and I shall be pleased to make it available to honorable members.
– Is it a fact, as reported in Monday’s issue of the Sydney Morning Herald, that the Minister for the Army stated that the necessity for deleting references to units on the graves of Australian soldiers in New Guinea no longer existed, and that the lettering on the crosses would be altered ? Last week, I asked the Minister who was responsible for issuing the order that the letters A.I.F. were to be removed from crosses. I now repeat the question, and ask for an assurance that the letters will be replaced.
– by leave- Since the honorable member asked his question last week I have made inquiries into the matter, and am now able to make a statement upon it. On the 10th February, the honorable member for Richmond (Mr, Anthony) referred to a letter which he had received from a returned soldier complaining that an order had been issued by me as Minister for the Army, that the letters A.I.F. were to be removed from the crosses over the graves of members of the Australian Imperial Force buried in New Guinea, and that the letters A.M.F. should be substituted for them. At the time, I advised him that I had issued no such order, but that I would ascertain whether such an order had been issued, and the reason for its issue. Up to the time of the attack on the Huon Peninsula, temporary headstones over soldiers’ graves in the forward operational areas bore an inscription which included the soldier’s number and complete regimental particulars. The Army authorities in the forward operational areas represented that the temporary marking of graves in such a manner compromised the order of battle, especially in those areas which might be overrun by the enemy, and that it was desirable that while operations were in progress, the information to be included on the temporary headstones over soldiers’ graves should be restricted so as to afford as little information as possible to the enemy. For this reason, the Army authorities responsible for the conduct of operation* in those areas quite appropriately issued an order, without reference to me, directing that the practice of inscribing unit names or designations on temporary headstones erected over the graves of deceased members of the Australian Imperial Force should cease for the time being, and that the inscriptions on such headstones would, in future, be limited to the following particulars: - Number, rank, initials, name, religion, the letters A.M.F. and the date of death.
I am informed that, when this Army instruction was first implemented, it caused dissatisfaction among the troops in New Guinea, not only because the headstones were inscribed with the letters A.M.F., but also on account of the omission of the name of the unit. Notwithstanding these objections, the Army authorities concerned with the conduct of operations were satisfied that, for the time being, the restricted inscriptions should be continued, but, in view of developments which have since taken place in the New Guinea area, directions have now been issued which will permit the reinstitution of the system which applied to the marking of graves prior to the attack on the Huon Peninsula, and all headstones that -were subject to the restricted markings will be suitably marked as opportunity offers.
It is unfortunate that, in certain uninformed quarters, opportunity was taken of this operational order to associate it quite wrongly and quite unfairly with the controversial Australian Imperial Force and Militia question, evidently in the mistaken belief that the letters A.M.F. denoted “Australian Militia Forces “, and not “ Australian Military Forces”, which include all sections of the Military Forces, whether Permanent Military Forces, designated P.M.F., Australian Imperial Forces, designated A.I.F., or Citizen Military Forces, including the Militia Forces, designated C.M.F. I can therefore assure honorable members that -there was nothing in any way sinister in the action taken by the Army authorities to use the letters A.M.F. on temporary headstones placed over soldiers’ graves. The officers who issued this direction were themselves members of the Australian Imperial Forces, and in using the letters A.M.F. they .believed that it suitably included all sections of the Australian Army and, at the same time, met the operational requirements which they alone were in the .position to determine and to decide.
– Can the Minister for Munitions inform me whether, as was recently reported in the Tasmanian press, it is intended to freeze all wooden tool handles, and that a permit for purchase may be obtained only upon the production of proof that the applicant is entirely without the article in question? In view of the fact that a potato-digger or wood-cutter would be liable, if such a regulation were enforced, to be deprived of his tools of trade for several days at a time while the application was in transit, will the Minister undertake to hold up the issue of the regulation until he has received further representations from a deputation on the subject?
– The control of wooden tool handles will not effect any disturbance of the relationship between con sumers and retailers. The primary object of the control is to ensure that adequate supplies of certain types are manufactured and equitably distributed amongst the States. The terms of the order should, therefore, be read as applying to manufacturers and distributors, and not to retailers from whom consumers are free to purchase as formerly. Retailers’ stocks are not frozen, and, therefore, the situation envisaged by the honorable member should not arise.
– Has the Treasurer seen the newspaper report that Carlton and United Breweries Limited has purchased a chain of hotels and wine saloons for £500,000? Will the Treasurer inquire whether special approval was given for this transaction? Is it not anomalous that a brewery monopoly should be allowed to increase its stranglehold on the community while individuals are prevented from investing in real estate unless they possess a certain number of war bonds? Will the Treasurer give consideration to amending the regulations so that if the purchaser has not sufficient war bonds the vendor shall be able to make up the quota?
– I have not seen the report. I shall have inquiries made in regard to .it and give the honorable gentleman a fuller statement as to what is reported to have taken place. I. have examined the matter of vendors and purchasers and the lodging of bonds on a number of occasions and so far I have not found any reason to depart from the instructions. I. am prepared to examine individual cases in which there may be hardship.
– Speaking at the annual meeting of Richardson and Wrench Limited in Sydney yesterday, the chairman, Mr. E. Telford Simpson, said that the condition placed on real estate transactions compelling a purchaser to lodge bonds to a stated proportion of the purchase money appeared to be of doubtful legal validity. Has the attention of the Treasurer been directed to that statement? If not, will the honorable gentleman examine the remarks of Mr. Telford Simpson, as reported in to-day’s issue of the Sydney Morning Herald, and make a statement to the House at an early date?
– Whilst I have not seen the statement referred to, I have no doubt about the ] legal authority of the Commonwealth. Treasurer to refuse, without imposing any conditions at all, an application of a person to purchase real estate. Consequently, no one is attempting to compel people to invest money in war loan bonds. It has been stated that an application for approval to purchase real estate will be favorably considered if the person agrees to purchase Commonwealth bonds, but the application may be refused summarily.
– Will the Minister for the Army give favorable consideration to applications for .22-gauge rifles by persons who need them for the destruction of pests on their properties?
– I shall be pleased to give sympathetic consideration to their representations and reply to the honorable member’s question probably within the next couple of days.
– Has the Acting Minister for Supply and Shipping noticed a statement in the press to the effect that a factory recently constructed in Victoria for the production of power alcohol from wheat will not be operated for some time because of the alleged need of wheat for other purposes? If this is true, will the Minister take up with the Government the matter of lifting the restrictions on wheat-growing in order that farmers may grow an increased amount of wheat, as they are willing to do, so that this factory shall be operated?
– I shall have inquiries made about the first point. I do not know whether it is accurate, but, if it is, I shall consider the second question.
– As the result of his discussion with the head of the British Food Mission, Mr. Bankes Amery, can the Prime Minister say what are the prospects of increasing supplies of food, particularly butter and meat, to Great Britain”?
– He should not give any information to a member who discloses statistics given to him in confidence.
– I shall make a personal explanation later. I am addressing thisquestion to the Prime Minister.
– The consultation I had with Mr. Bankes . Amery last week has led to certain steps which I have’ directed to be taken. They have not yet been completed. I hope to cause a statement to be made very early.
– I desire to make a personal explanation.
– Has the honorable member been misrepresented?
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, by interjection, suggested that information he supplied to me was improperly’ disclosed.
– Is that so?
– Last week, in a question upon notice, I asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture for certain particulars relating to the shipment from this country to Great Britain of a variety of foodstuffs, covering the four years ended, I think, the 30th June, 1943. I received a letter signed by the Minister to which was attached a statement of those particulars. There was a footnote that the figures were confidential and not for publication. I took the letter to the Minister and said that I was not prepared to accept those figures as being not for publication, as the latest of them related to nine months ago. He explained that the matter had come to him from his department and that he had signed it. He wished to supply me with all the information available. I then indicated that I should use the figures. I did so in the House that night. You will remember, Mr. Speaker, that I asked leave to have them incorporated in Hansard. The Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) said that before he would give leave he wanted more information as to the figures. I explained at some length what the figures were and what purpose they had. In those circumstances, I submit that there has been no breach of any confidence. I am certain the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) would not wish that the public should not be made aware of the figures relating to the provision, of foodstuffs to Great Britain, particularly as the most recent of those figures was nine months old.
– Did the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture withdraw his endorsement on the letter and the statement that the information was confidential and not for publication?
– He said that he wished to make available all the information-
– I rise to a personal explanation. What the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) stated in regard to the supply of certain information is perfectly true. I obtained the details from the Department of Commerce and Agriculture and had them conveyed to him privately by correspondence. The letter contained an official injunction that the figures were not for- publication. A departmental record shows that this information has been kept secret since the outbreak of war. Then, as the honorable member stated, he mentioned to* me in this chamber that the figures were of no value to him as they were nine months old, and he also referred to the confidential aspect. I remarked that the reply to his question had been prepared by officials of my department and that I would again interview them and convey any later information to him. There the matter ended.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture indicate whether the Government intends to prescribe minimum prices either for fat livestock or for carcass meat in order to obviate a repetition of the recent disastrous fall of live-stock values which adversely affected thousands of producers ?
– Since the meat acquisition plan began to operate, the Department of Commerce and Agriculture has arranged for the acceptance of” meat on owner’s account at a weight and grade price on the hook. The department is using every endeavour to extend the operation of that scheme with a view to making it comply with the desires of the honorable member and to prevent the exploitation of the producers in the manner in which they are exploited in times of glut. But the department refuses to consider the acceptance of a scheme such as that advanced by certain growers’ organizations for the payment of a price for stock on the hoof. We shall accept the meat only on a weight and grade basis on the hook.
– Will the Minister for Defence give favorable consideration to the removal of air raid shelters in- the streets of Brisbane, as they have become a menace to traffic and affect the good conduct of the city.
– If the honorable gentleman will place the question on the notice-paper I am sure that he will get a- more satisfactory answer. The dismantling of the shelters would give rise to labour problems which must be taken into account.
– Will the Treasurer inform me whether there is any truth in the statement that many hundreds, possibly thousands, of people throughout Australia, who are liable to pay premiums under the compulsory war damage insurance scheme failed to do so? If so, what action does the Treasurer propose to take against those persons for flouting the regulation?
– Inquiries will be made to ascertain whether the allegations are correct. I shall furnish a reply to him at a later date.
– I have received from the Brighton Municipal Council a complaint regarding the shortage of ‘building, materials. Whilst the council is aware that building materials must be in short supply at the present time, it points out that a substantial deterioration of dwelling houses is occurring and that the policy of the department in refusing to release materials is unnecessarily stringent. Can the Minister for War Organization of Industry offer any hope for the alleviation of the position or does the Government propose to persist with the present policy?
– Most of the materials which are required for the repair of houses, such as timber, roofing iron, spouting and down-pipes, are controlled by the Ministry of Munitions. I am sure that the Minister for Munitions will inquire into the matters raised by the honorable member and advise him of the result.
– Will the Minister for the Navy inform me of the progress he is making in the study of the French language with a distinct Quebec accent ?
Question not answered.
– Will the Minister for War Organization of Industry tell me which department is responsible for allocating priorities for the release of man-power for industry? Is the honorable gentleman aware that many suppliers of food- containers have no priority whatever for man-power releases?
– It is not the function of any one department to allocate priorities for the release of man-power.
– The Minister is dead right! Every one seems to have a hand in it.
– If any one department had authority in this regard there would be a virtual dictatorship. We have to face the fact that the amount of manpower available is limited. Priorities are dealt with by Cabinet bodies. For example, War Cabinet makes decisions as to priorities in relation to claims for man-power from the services, and the Production Executive allocates manpower to different production departments in accordance with views which it formulates in regard to essential production and urgency. All these matters are carefully investigated before final decisions are made. After the decisions have been made effect is given to them through the Department of Labour and National Service.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
It may be stated with certainty that coal occupies a basic position in the economic and industrial development of the nation even in times of peace. When the nation is engaged in the throes of a war in which its very existence is threatened, then adequate supplies of mineral fuels constitute the foundation of the maintenance of all essential services - such as shipping, railways, tramways, gas and electricity undertakings - as well as the manufacture of all kinds of products including food, clothing, munitions and all imaginable types of service equipment. Without some element of certainty in the uninterrupted continuance of these services the entire machinery of defence can be rapidly brought to a standstill. If these facts are borne in mind when considering the great distances intervening between the important industrial centres of Australia, they emphasize the geographical misfortune that substantially all the available deposits of best quality Australian Mack coal lie within certain defined areas in” the State of New South Wales. Approximately 82 per cent, of the total requirements of this country must be supplied from the coal mines in that State, and difficulties of transport over relatively long distances by sea and land have added to the problem of maintaining adequate reserve stocks. The coal mined from the Greta seams on the Maitland coal-field is so much superior in its calorific value and gas content, and so much lower in impurities, that its production to maximum capacity is imperative to meet the tremendously increased demands of those services and industries for whose purposes it is essential. Other coals, such as those won from the Borehole and Victoria tunnel seams at Newcastle, from the Bulli seam on the south coast of New South Wales, and from the Lithgow seams on the western coal-fields of that State, are all excellent fuels notwithstanding their differing characteristics which somewhat limit their uses.
I cannot, therefore, over-emphasize the importance to Australia of continued maximum production at all New South Wales mines if this country is to provide anything approaching its maximum potential to the successful prosecution of the present war. It will be remembered that for the year 1942 production throughout Australia amounted to almost 15,000,000 tons, which constituted an all-time record, and I make no attempt to disguise or evade the fact that the basic cause of the present precarious reserve stock position can be traced to the all too frequent interruptions to production at the New South Wales mines.
In respect of other coal-producing States the Government is grateful for and appreciative of the contribution made by all engaged in the industry in those States. In Tasmania and in Queensland production for 1943 exceeded that of any previous year. In the former State there have been no losses whatever from industrial disputes, whilst in Queensland such losses are almost negligible. In Western Australia production last year was lower than in 194*2, but the Commonwealth Coal Commission advises me that such decrease was due to perfectly understandable reasons. I am reminded that these men are the only miners in Australia who work a twelve-day fortnight, that their average age, due to enlistments, is higher than elsewhere in the Commonwealth, and that in some measure the reduced production results from steps taken by the commission to direct men temporarily to unproductive work for the purpose of improving ventilation, haulage roads, and other facilities, which will eventually lead to increased production. In Victoria, also, production was lower than in 1942, not because of industrial stoppages, but almost solely because of inherent difficulties in the mines themselves. Unfortunately seams are badly broken and faulted, and the productive capacity per man employed is necessarily reduced, when compared with other mines.
The Coal Commission has been active in its endeavours to improve and increase the productive capacity of mines in all States, and many surveys and inspections have been made to that end. In Western Australia a new mine has been developed in accordance with plans prepared by the commission’s production manager and that mine is now in production. In addition, an open-cut mining venture has been encouraged and assisted and that mine also is in production. In Tasmania every effort is being made to enlarge and develop a mine with good prospects in the southern portion of that State and actively to assist other mines at which reasonable prospects of increased output are reported. In Queensland the capacity of the mines in the southern portion of that State is limited by both mining and man-power difficulties. In the central portion, however, and particularly in the Blair Athol area, production can and will be increased as rapidly as plant and material can be obtained, but the limiting factor in that area is the capacity of the railway system to haul the coal over the considerable distances involved from the point of production to the various points of consumption. In Victoria the prospect of securing any rapid and considerable increase of black-coal production is unfortunately not promising. Two small mines in the Korumburra area ceased production some little time ago because of a combination of industrial and financial difficulties, and the Commonwealth and State Governments are now assisting with finance towards their re-opening and development under the supervision of competent experts. In South Australia the Government of that State has taken preliminary steps towards the development of the Leigh Creek coal-field, and the Coal Commission arranged for tests of this coal to be made in various types of plants in Victoria, whilst the services of its chief combustion engineer are available to assist in determining the uses to which coal from that field can be put, and thus relieve to some extent the necessity of having to transport to South Australia the total quantity of New South Wales coal which is now required to meet the needs of consumers in that State.
I have briefly indicated the position in those States, in order to show that the Commonwealth has materially assisted in an endeavour to secure an increased output, and is appreciative of the ready cooperation of the various State authorities, just as I know that those authorities have welcomed the advice and assistance of the Commonwealth and its officers. Coal shipments to the States of Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia are far below the target figure. This has been caused, not by any shortage of shipping or insufficiency of loading facilities, but solely by lack of coal. Consequently, once again a serious position has developed, particularly in Victoria, by reason of the diminution of coal reserves. The gravity of the position has been accentuated by the fire that occurred at Yallourn, which made it necessary to send an additional 4,000 tons a week from Newcastle to keep the Victorian State Electricity Commission functioning. As I have said, ample shipping is available to carry the additional quantity. Therefore, whether or not it will be possible to meet the requirements of the current week will depend entirely on the supply of coal. The whole of the south coast mines have been out on strike. Although their production is not shipped interstate as cargo, the supply of bunker coal from Kembla has been cut off, resulting in a still further burden being placed on the Maitland pits. In connexion with interstate shipments from Newcastle, approximately 70,000 tons of shipping was allotted and vessels were waiting for cargoes at Newcastle, yet up to to-day only 12,100 tons had been loaded. The result is, that already one vessel has had to be diverted to the carriage of steel, and it appears that two or three more will have to be held over the week-end to await their cargoes out of next week’s production. There is thus a continual back lag of vessels carrying over into the following week. Apart from the delay to the vessels themselves, there is the consequential back lag in the delivery of coal to various utilities in other States.
I return to the position in New South Wales, where the question is not so much one of increasing the productive capacity of existing mines as of ensuring that production shall increase to within reasonable limits of present capacity. It is estimated that the mines in New South Wales have a productive capacity of at least 13,500.000 tons, after allowing for all reasonable losses of production arising from all causes.
I do not intend to refer at length to the causes which make this bill necessary. I ask the House to regard the measure as an earnest of the desire of the Government to do all things possible to secure a greater output of coal. I content myself with saying that the reports of the various royal commissions or other tribunals which have investigated the industry in New South Wales have, in many inrstances, ventilated the existence of serious abuses which from time to time have been corrected by legislation; indeed, many estimable and overdue reforms have been introduced in the past owing to the occurrence of strikes. In some instances, employers have been unduly tardy in refusing to yield without strong pressure to the force of modern ideas regarding such matters as the safety, health and general well-being of workers and their families. On the other hand, continuous pressure to introduce innovations may have so threatened employers with financial extinction that they have felt compelled to fight for their very existence. Consequently, over the years there has developed a tendency for each side continually to manoeuvre for a fresh strategical position. In times of peace, industrial troubles on the coal-fields have perhaps been tolerated within reason as somewhat of a prelude to the development of improved standards and conditions, and so to an improvement of industrial and social relations; but in times of war they cannot be permitted to the length of interfering with the conduct of that war, threatening the industrial and domestic life of the community, and bringing inconvenience and hardship to the whole of our people. In time of peace, action by the employers to stand the workers up in order to resist reforms may, from the stand-point of certain sections of the community, be quite reasonable. Similarly, that the employees should have stood the employers up and insisted upon certain reforms ‘ may also have been quite legitimate from the stand-point of certain sections of the community. But with the nation struggling for its existence, and coal being the denominator and the measure of its capacity to resist the enemy, the interests of neither the employers nor the employees must be other than subordinated to the true interests of the nation.
With the existing legislative machinery, there can be no reasonable excuse for the great majority of the stoppages which have occurred on the coal-fields of New South Wales. The State Government of New South
Wales lias provided by legislation a comprehensive code of rules and regulations governing all matters relating to the safety and health of employees in and about the collieries, whilst various tribunals have been appointed to enable industrial disputes to be determined quickly in the areas in which they arise. Despite repeated promises by organizations of employers and employees that maximum output would be maintained, incessant and disastrous interruptions to production continue. Whatever may be the real reason for past occurrences, one thing is obvious, and that is that in a democracy no group of workers, -just as no group of employers, can be permitted to arrogate to themselves the right to dictate to -the Parliament, and so to the Government, as to the means of conducting the defence of the Commonwealth, and of carrying on to their maximum capacity all those services and industries that are incidental to that purpose. Were it otherwise, there would be an abdication of the functions of government. For that reason, the Government decided to bring down this bill so that the Parliament should exercise its prerogative of expressing the will of the people and directing the measures which shall be taken to ensure that coal shall be produced and distributed for all purposes essential to the conduct of the war.
I proceed now to discuss briefly the purposes of the bill itself. Honorable members will be aware that for some time past the Commonwealth Coal Commission has been invested with powers as to the production, distribution, and consumption of coal under the National Security ‘(Coal Control) Regulations^ The bill provides for the appointment of a single commissioner, with power to the Governor-General to appoint two persons as advisers to the commissioner. In many respects, the bill imposes in the commissioner powers, functions, and obligations similar to those already existing and imposed on the commission under the National SecurityRegulations to which I have referred. The bill, however, contains many important additional powers and functions, and to these I shall more particularly confine my remarks. The commissioner will have power to appoint in any State or part of a State a coal production council to inquire into and advise the commissioner on any matter relating to production. Power is given to the commaissioner to require an owner to acquire, modify, or replace plant or machinery, and to make advances to coal-owners for the purpose of assisting in the operation and development of their mines.
The more important provisions of the bill are to be found, however, in Part IV., relating to the control of coal mines. The commissioner will have power to take over the operational control of any mine, and to do all things necessary to maintain or increase production at that mine. The owner will be entitled to compensation if he suffers loss or damage by reason of such control. On the other hand, it seems only just that, providing the control of the commissioner is shown to have resulted in additional profits, such additional profits - which, on the hypothesis I have mentioned, will not have been earned by the owner - should not go into his pocket. It is proposed that this excess profit, if any, shall be applied for the advancement of the coal industry as a whole, including social welfare schemes.
– What will happen if an owner has not been making a profit ?
-Should he suffer loss as the result of any action of the coal control, he will receive compensation.
In order to give full effect to this proposal, a bill will be brought down by the Acting Minister for Supply and Shipping to carry into effect the scheme outlined in clause 23 of the bill. If the operational control of a mine is assumed, then the manager and all persons employed in administrative and similar capacities, and all persons otherwise employed at the mine, will become officers and employees of the commissioner on terms and conditions on which they were employed immediately prior to the assumption of control. An employee of any controlled mine who wilfully disobeys any lawful direction, or fails without leave or reasonable excuse ti-, attend and perform his duties, will, subject to the order of the commissioner, incur loss of pay in accordance with- a scale contained in the schedule to the act, and any amounts of lost pay will he controlled by the commissioner, and used for the same purposes as excess profits already referred to.
Another important phase of the bill is contained in that relating to industrial matters in Part V. The Government has given close consideration to the questions involved, and has arrived at the conclusion that industrial matters must be regarded as being completely allied to the problem of securing increased production. Therefore, all industrial problems will in the future be centred in the commissioner, and dealt with and determined by industrial authorities appointed by the Minister. There will be a central industrial authority and various local industrial authorities who will take the place of the present central coal authority and existing local reference boards. Broadly speaking, the central industrial authority will deal with all matters which affect the industry generally, whilst local industrial authorities will deal with all problems and disputes arising within the limits of the locality to which they are appointed.
The commissioner will also have power to appoint industrial officers to investigate and report to local industrial authorities on any dispute or matter which arises. At any coal mine, the commissioner may also appoint a production committee, consisting of an equal number of representatives of the management and the employees, as he thinks fit, and in addition he may appoint some person to represent him on any such production committee. These production committees will have power to deal with industrial disputes which arise at a mine. They are to endeavour to maintain harmonious relations, but in addition will have power to advise the management or the commissioner with respect to means by which production at their particular mine may be increased.
The other sections of the bill dealing with industrial matters are mainly a repetition of powers already imposed on these various authorities by the existing regulations. The bill also gives the commissioner power to acquire land for the purpose of opening or re-opening a mine, and where the commissioner directs or authorizes a person to re-open a mine, that person is not liable to any action by reason of complying with such direction.
Questions involving the safety and health of employees remain within the ambit of the administration of the Mines Departments of the various States, and in accordance with the laws governing those matters in such States, but if any question arises as a result of which there may be interruption of production on either safety or health grounds, the commissioner is empowered to refer the question to an inspector of coal mines of the State for report to the commissioner. On receipt of such report the commissioner shall take such action as is indicated by the terms of that report.
As I have said, the remaining sections of the bill are largely a repetition of the existing regulations under which the Commonwealth Coal Commission has functioned, and the only other provision to which I need expressly refer is that which authorizes the commissioner to direct that a person shall no longer he employed in the coal-mining industry, and to prohibit the employment of that person by any one engaged in the industry. The Government appreciates the fact that the obliga tions imposed upon the commissioner will be heavy and onerous, and that the powers conferred on him by the bill are extraordinarily wide, but, as I said earlier, the Government regards all these things as being necessary in order to ensure that all practicable means of increasing production shall be adopted without delay and pressed forward vigorously, private and vested interests - whether of employer or of organizations of employees - being subordinated to the overriding needs of increased production.
– “Passing the buck.”
– This bill is the very antithesis of “ passing the buck “. Industry in this country, and particularly the coal-mining industry, has in the past been operated by owners who have hired employees. That is the story of most industries. It is the story of coal-mining in most countries. We blind ourselves to the facts if we exclude the existence of a legacy from the distressful past which is a factor in the present situation. We are not able to satisfy our sense of justice in regard to what has happened in the past; we must take thecoal industry as it stands, and adjust it to the existing needs of the nation, which must get more coal than it is getting in order that we may he able to fight the common enemy. So far from insisting in the future that the employer shall do this or the employee shall do that, the Commonwealth itself will control the mines. It will become responsible for all the operations of all the persons who have hitherto been engaged in the mines. The employees, instead of working for the boss or for private enterprise, will be working for the nation. The employer, instead of having a profit interest in his coal mine, will operate it as agent for the nation, and he will receive a fair and just value for the coal that is produced from the mine. That, I repeat, is the antithesis of “ passing the buck “. Instead of leaving the industry as the subject of constant dispute between the owner and the employees, the nation, through its agent, will step in and control the operations of the coal mines, not because we wish to destroy private enterprise, not because we wish to support one side against another in an industrial dispute, but because the existence of unrest denies to the nation necessary munitions of war. The overriding necessity at the moment is to get more coal, because coal is as vital as food, as vital as guns, as vital as ships. It is incongruous to contend that the nation should not control the production of coal when it already controls the production of guns and of ships, and enters directly into the administration of many industries which are responsible for the production of war materials.We tried to avoid this responsibility.We hoped against hope that the employers and the employees between them would accept a common trusteeship for the country. It is not for me to say now who has been at fault. It is incumbent upon me to say that, regardless of who has been at fault, the nation itself will now take what action is necessary to cut this Gordian knot, and will itself become responsible for the production of the coal which it needs.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second -time.
The main purpose of this bill is to give legislative effect to the Government’s decision to abandon the principle of linking the rate of invalid and old-age pension with the cost-of-living figures, namely, the weighted average retail price index number for all items of household expenditure - “ C “ series - for the six capital cities. By reason of a fall in the price index number for the quarter ended the 30th September, 1943, the provisions of the act with respect to the automatic adjustment of pension rates operated to reduce the maximum rate of invalid and old-age pensions as from the 25th November, 1943. The Government, however, decided that the merits of this reduction should be fully investigated, and a sub-committee of Cabinet was appointed for the purpose. After a thorough examination of the whole of the contributing factors the conclusion was reached that, as a result of conditions arising out of the war, the operation of various regulations under the National Security Act and the effect of economic adjustments made by or under those regulations, anomalies had been created in relation to the rates of pension. For example, in Tasmania, the cost-of-living figures actually rose in the September quarter, and in many other places in Australia there was also a rise, or the trend downward was so small as to be actually negligible. It was, therefore, decided that the immediate restoration of the maximum rate of pension to the rate in force prior to the 25th November, 1943, was justified, and a regulation under the National Security Act was made on the 31st December, 1943, to give effect to the Government’s decision, with retrospective effect.
The action of the Government in using a regulation under the National Security Act to prevent the reduction was subject to some criticism, and I desire to put before honorable members the Government’s views as to the issues involved.
The National Security Act authorizes the making of regulations for securing the public safety and defence of the Commonwealth and the more effectual prosecution of the war. The act, in effect, gives to the Government of the Commonwealth for the duration of the war and six months thereafter the power to legislate by regulation with respect to the prosecution of the war.
The question as to whether a particular regulation under the National Security Act is within the defence power is to be determined by principles which have been laid down by the High Court in this war and in the 1914-19 war. Ever since Farey v. Burvett, which was decided in the last war, the court has applied the principle that a regulation which tends to aid in helping the war effort is a valid regulation relating to defence.
Now the regulation which was made by Statutory Rules 1943, No. 315, wa3 designed to prevent invalid and old-age pensioners from suffering hardship because of circumstances inseparable from the conditions of war and attributable in great measure to the establishment of war-time controls, war-time restrictions and war-time limitations. At first sight it might be considered that the reduction of the pension rates in accordance with the fall of the index number would leave them no worse off financially than they were before. But this is not so in some parts of Australia at least. To give general effect to the reduction therefore involved special hardships in many cases, and this was likely to react unfavorably not only on the pensioners but on the community as a whole. This war is being fought to guarantee to every one decent conditions, and the bare sufficiency which the pensioners receive should certainly be maintained during the war as a matter of national policy.
The reduction in the cost-of-living figures was due partly to the steps taken by the Government in April, 1943, to peg prices, and in some cases to reduce prices. This step was taken twelve months after the same Government had pegged wages. The two steps in combination would, tend to put the war-time economy of this country on a firm and stable basis. If, in the meantime, the pensions had been the subject of diminu- tion, an undue burden would have been placed on one section of the people.
The High Court has held that the National Security (Contracts Adjustment) Regulations were valid insofar as they provided for the adjustment of contracts which had become inequitable or unduly onerous by reason of circumstances attributable to the war. It clearly follows from this decision that a regulation designed to prevent such circumstances from causing the Invalid and Old-age Pensions- Act to operate in an inequitable or unduly onerous manner would be valid as being reasonably incidental to- defence.
Precedents for extending or increasing the benefits provided by an act are to be found in the National Security (Additional Benefits and Allowances to Seamen) Regulations and the National Security (War Pensions and Repatriation Benefits) Regulations. Indeed, regulation 5 of the former provides for the grant of benefits in certain cases of missing seamen whose disappearance may never be definitely proved to be attributable to circumstances arising out of the war. The validity of these regulations has not been challenged, and I have little doubt that if it were challenged the challenge would fail.
From what I have said, I think it will be abundantly clear to honorable members that ample legal power existed, authorizing the making of a national security regulation to prevent a reduction of the rate of pensions. As to the question whether it was necessary to make the regulation, the Government considered that immediate action was required to prevent hardship and felt certain that Parliament would appreciate and endorse what was done. Pen, si oners, as a class, have a mere subsistence and would suffer by the loss of ls. where the loss of pounds would not distress others. If, therefore, relief were to be given to them it had to be given quickly, and the Government felt that the delay necessary to obtain specific parliamentary approval was unjustified.
The existence of the legal power to make the regulation cannot, as I have shown, be doubted. The urgency of the need to prevent the reduction of pensions also cannot be doubted. Granted, theretore, the legal power and the urgency of the need to exercise it, what possible objection can there be to the exercise of the power? It must be remembered that the power to make the regulation is derived from an act of Parliament, and it seems to me that the Parliament should not, to adopt a lawyer’s phrase, derogate from its grant. That is to say, Parliament having given power in terms wide enough to authorize the making of a regulation such as the one under consideration, should recognize that the power was exercised not only lawfully, but, in an- emergency, wisely.
As to the merits of the matter, I point out that any automatic system of pension adjustment is necessarily arbitrary. When a scale of index numbers is taken and applied to pensions there must be arbitrary turning points. In this case a reduction of 1 per cent, in the index led, on application of the automatic scale, to a fall of nearly 2 per cent, in the pension rate. Beyond that, the scale previously adopted by Parliament made one index, the average of the six capital cities of Australia, apply to pension rates throughout Australia. The reason for that was that it was desired that the amount of old-age and invalid pension should everywhere be the same throughout Australia. The implications of this were evidently not generally realized when the scale was adopted in 1942, because it was evident in November, 1943, that it was anomalous that an automatic adjustment system should operate to produce a reduction in pension rate in a place, e.g., Hobart, for which the index had actually risen. Again it was contended that the fall in the index in some places had been so slight that there would have been no pension reduction in those places if they had been on a scale of adjustment on their own index instead of on the average of the six capitals.
As a result of a further examination of the position, and having regard to the fact that considerable administrative work and many complications arise from the present system, the Government has decided to ask the Parliament to repeal the sections of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act which provide for the adjustment of the maximum rate of pen sion in accordance with the variations of the price index number. In order, however, that pensioners may not be adversely affected by that action, the bill provides for the standard rate of pension to be advanced from £65 per annum, 25a. a week, to the present actual rate of £70 4s. per annum, 27s. a week. Provision is also made for the adjustment of the maximum weekly rate of pension payable to inmates of benevolent asylums from the existing standard rate of 8s. 6d. a week to the present actual rate of 9s. 6d. a week.
In consonance with the Government’s decision to remove the cost-of-living provisions from the act, the bill provides for the omission of the term “federal basic wage “ in relation to the permissible income for blind pensioners and the substitution therefor of a fixed sum of £260 per annum, £5 a week, which a blind pensioner may earn without affecting his eligibility for full pension. In making this alteration it was considered desirable to select a figure which would be high enough to avoid frequent or an early adjustment.
– Do you propose to extend pensions to the inmates of mental hospitals?
– -This bill does not make that provision. Under the existing provisions of the law, where a pensioner is convicted of an offence punishable by imprisonment for not less than twelve months, or is twice in any twelve months convicted of an offence punishable by imprisonment for not less than one month, cancellation of pension is mandatory. If the convicted person is an invalid pensioner, any allowance payable to his wife and child must also terminate with the cancellation of his pension, thus causing hardship to innocent persons. Moreover, should the ex-pensioner die whilst in prison no funeral benefit would be payable. The principal act also provides that an applicant for pension must be a deserving person and, in relation to an old-age pension, of good character. Further, a pension is deemed to be forfeited for any period during which a pensioner is in prison.
From time to time it has been pointed out that in particular cases refusal to re-grant a pension upon a person’s discharge from prison causes extreme hardship, and tends to aggravate the conditions that have contributed to the offence, because the person concerned is deprived of the necessary means of sustenance at the very time when he is in greatest need of assistance in order to re-establish himself in civil life. The Government considers that the present provision operates too harshly and that the question of renewing the pension should not be removed from the discretionary authority of the officers, but, on the contrary, should be entrusted to their common sense and administrative judgment. The bill, therefore, provides that if a pensioner is imprisoned his pension instead of being absolutely forfeited may be suspended or any instalment thereof forfeited. If such a pensioner has a wife or child dependent upon him, authority is provided for the payment to the wife or child or to an approved person on their behalf of an amount not exceeding the amount which would have been payable to the pensioner if his pension had not been suspended, or an amount not exceeding the forfeited instalments. As I have said, the whole matter, instead of being dealt with on the basis of a statutory rule, is remitted to the discretionary authority of the proper officer. I commend this measure to honorable members for their acceptance.
Debate (on motion by Sir Frederick Stewart) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 11th February (vide page 153), on motion by Dr. Evatt -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Motion (by Mr. Curtin) - by leave -
Agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) concluding his speech without limitation of time.
– I am grateful to the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) for the consideration that he has shown me, because I fear that it will not be possible for me to deal with this matter very briefly. Every bill to amend the Constitution deserves the earnest attention of everybody in this country. This bill contains fourteen proposals for the amendment of the Constitution, and I am sure that honorable members will regard me as merely discharging my duty as Leader of the Opposition if I submit the measure to close examination. I desire to do that. I believe that it is undesirable in time of war to hold a referendum on proposed changes of the Constitution. The Government is familiar with the views of myself and others regarding this matter. Those views may perhaps be summed up by saying that at the time when hundreds of thousands of people are completely preoccupied by war matters, and many of them by fighting, it is not possible to get that calm and dispassionate judgment which constitutional changes deserve. However, the Government has introduced the bill, which authorizes the taking of a referendum. Therefore, I assume that a referendum will occur. Consequently, it becomes necessary for us, as members of this House, to consider these proposals on their merits - not solely their academic merits, but their merits in the circumstances of the country as they now exist and as they are likely to exist for some time to come.
The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), in moving the second reading of the bill, said, in language which I have employed at one time or another, that amendments to the Constitution should not be approached on a party footing, and that these are questions which are above and beyond party. Well, we all say that when they are our own proposals. When we are in office, we invariably beg all others to consider the matter on a nonparty basis. I have recollections, reinforced by a considerable perusal of Hansard in the last few weeks, of amendments put forward by honorable members on this side of the House when we were in office. Those proposals incurred grave criticism from the Labour party, though they were designed to increase the powers of the National Parliament. Just as honorable members opposite have sometimes not hesitated to say, that whilst they would like certain powers, they would not like an antiLabour government to possess them, so must every honorable member on this side of the chamber now take into consideration the nature of the Government, any time limit, and the proposals themselves. Normally, of course, amendments to. the Constitution should not be discussed or decided on a party basis, and that is particularly true when we are making permanent changes in the Constitution. The Constitution is designed to accommodate contending political policies, and the needs of contending or successive governments. But, at the present time, that may be regarded as a counsel of perfection, because the amendments that are now before this House are to operate for a limited period and for special purposes. Honorable members should bear in mind that these proposals are for a limited period of five years after the conclusion of hostilities in this war. We would be indeed curiously superhuman if we failed to take into account the probability that for a considerable portion of that time, at any rate, the government of this country will be highly coloured by the views of the Labour party. Whilst I know that there is good precedent for the view that the Government will be out of office in twelve months, I think I may say, without giving anything away, that the chances are against that happening. With the Government possessing such a commanding majority as it has in this House and with a large majority, in the homely phrase, “ coming up in the lift “ and due to arrive in July in the Senate, the chances are that practical working politics will for some period be highly coloured and influenced by the views of the Labour party.
– We had nine years of United Australia party governments.
– That is so ; and the country will have another nine years of them. Do not doubt that ! But the consideration which I have mentioned is one which is quite proper to bear in mind when the Government asks for amendments to the Constitution for a limited period of time. Indeed, I am perfectly certain that that consideration will not be exactly absent from the minds of my friends opposite when they go on the hustings to advocate an affirmative vote. After all, the Government has publicly associated its political programmes with its quest for additional constitutional powers, and I see no reason why that which has been joined together by the Government should be put asunder by members of the Opposition. Why should we divorce these two things ? Sol say that this problem is not one to be discussed academically. We are not in an academic debating society. We are here in the National Parliament to determine whether these powers should be written into the Constitution; whether these powers that are to be written into the Constitution should go to the people; and how we shall stand in relation to our advocacy of them. That does not mean that because we are opposed to this Government it should be deprived of the powers which any government would need to have. That, of course, would be utter folly on the part of the Opposition. But it does mean that an alert Opposition is in duty bound to scrutinize these requested powers with great care in order to satisfy itself that they are needed and that, if obtained, they will be properly exercised. The Opposition is bound also to take such steps as it can take to see that the powers sought are not in excess of the real requirements for the period in question. It is odd - but perhaps it is not politically odd - that the Government has so far preserved a high degree of silence, if that is a permissible expression, on the problem of why these new powers are needed and of what would be done under them. We know, in a general way, what the Government’s political programme is, but the Government has not said to us, “ At this point, or that point, our powers stop short of enabling us to do this thing or that thing which should be done “. It is not enough for the Government to wave a rhetorical hand and say, “ We cannot deal with this problem or thatroblem unless we have more power “. f it does so, the people may well ask: “Why cannot you do so? What do you want to do in relation to employment? Will you tell us what you want to do and how far the things you desire to do are beyond the existing constitutional powers? If such questions were answered we should, at least, have a clear-cut issue upon which we could reach a balanced decision.”
I wish to make one other point before turning to th«» bill. Every honorable member who has ever held office in the Commonwealth Government must have realized how true it is that under a federation the central power is always seeking to increase its authority. I believe it was James Bryce who once referred to “ the tremendous centripetal force in a federation “.
– That could be said of all powers.
– That is true. Power always seeks to add to itself. Under a federation the central power is always seeking to add to itself. That is perhaps not a bad thing. But the view is so commonly held that the central power is always wiser and more efficient than the local government that I must point out that it is not sound doctrine. Why is the central government wiser or more efficient than the local government? As a matter of fact a writer in New South Wales has recently pointed out that one of the curses of Australia, administratively speaking, is that we have no adequate tradition of local government, local administration, or regional administration’. It is unfortunate that we have the growing tradition that as the central power is located in Canberra all questions must be referred to Canberra. “ Centralized power with decentralized administration “ focuses epigrammatically a very striking view, but, we have no great tradition in Australia yet of decentralized administration. On the contrary, we have almost invariably tended to accompany more centralized power with a more centralized administration. The other night I was reading - and I always find it a stimulating exercise - some of the discussions that occurred in the great days of constitutional debate in the United States of America between Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson. Thomas Jefferson, after all, was a great liberal thinker. He preferred the liberty of the subject to the power of government, just as Hamilton seemed to prefer the power of government to the liberty of the subject. Although I do not necessarily adopt as having full modern application the following passage in which Jefferson stated his views, I think it has great wisdom in relation to a large and scattered country like our own - . . the way to have good and safe government is not to trust it all to one, but to divide it among the many, distributing to every one exactly the functions he is competent to fulfil . . . What has destroyed liberty and the rights of men in every government which has ever existed under the sun? The generalizing and concentrating all cares and powers into one body, no matter whether of the autocrats of Russia or France, or of the aristocrats of a Venetian senate. And 1 do believe that if the Almighty has not decreed that man shall never be free (and it is a blasphemy to believe it), the secret will be found to be in the making himself the depository of the powers respecting himself, so far as he is competent to them, and delegating only what is beyond his competence by a synthetical process, to higher and higher orders of functionaries, so as to trust fewer and fewer powers in proportion as the trustees become more and more oligarchical.
The passage is couched in the phraseology of 125 years ago, but if honorable members will direct their minds to the notions in it they will see that the claim that the central government has, in itself, some virtue denied to local government can be put aside by five minutes of quiet reasoning.
The next point I wish to make is that in practically all the statements made by or on behalf of the Government in respect of this most important bill, it is suggested or stated that the Commonwealth Government will be inadequately equipped to deal with immediate post-war problems in the transition period unless its powers be much enlarged. I am not quarrelling with the putting forward of that claim, but I shall proceed to examine it in order to see just how far it is true. I shall therefore turn, first, to the existing powers of the Commonwealth. When any government asks for more power to deal with certain problems it is right that we should ask, “ What power does the Government now possess ? “ There is a very widespread failure to appreciate the nature of the powers already possessed by the Commonwealth, and I esteem it to be my duty to put before the House and, through the House, to the people, for their consideration, the nature of the powers already possessed by the Commonwealth Parliament and Government to deal with the immediate post-war problems. I shall take these more in their order of constitutional expression than in their order of importance. Section 51 of the Constitution clothes the Commonwealth, in the first place, with power to make laws with respect to trade and commerce with other countries, and among the States. We have talked a great deal about the trade and commerce power as something not possessed by the Commonwealth, and have apparently forgotten that the Commonwealth has power to deal with trade and commerce “with other countries and among the States “. It is that power which has authorized this Parliament to legislate with respect to such matters as overseas exchange and overseas investments. These fall within the ambit of overseas trade and commerce. It is under this power, also, that this Parliament, for many years before this war, attempted to deal with orderly marketing of primary products. In that period before the war, the difficulty that arose was not a difficulty which existed because of the inherent quality of the power of the Commonwealth; it existed because of section 92 of the Constitution. That section says that trade, commerce and intercourse among the States shall be absolutely free. Because of that guaranteed freedom of interstate trade, the Commonwealth and the States may make agreements on marketing, as they have done repeatedly ; they may give them statutory form- in their respective Parliaments, as they have done repeatedly; the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) is a veteran of such discussions. Then, section 92 would, so to speak, pop up and say : “ That is very well ; but you cannot touch the interstate transaction except in a very limited fashion, so your scheme has a crack in it and will ultimately break up and disappear”. I recall that matter, not only because I want to point out that, subject to section 92, the interstate trade and commerce power is a very great one, but also because, oddly enough, I am not able to find in this bill any proposal for the amendment of section 92.
– The right honorable gentleman means that it is not there?
– It is not there. .
– That is correct.
– In other words, section 92 is to remain unamended.
– But not necessarily the same construction will be placed upon it.
– AH the powers will be subject to the existing constitutional restrictions, including those contained in section 92.
– The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), in an interjection that is not to be disregarded, points out that an altered form of certain matters in the Constitution may lead to an altered interpretation of section 92. I should not expect it, and I venture to think that the Attorney-General, too, would not. Consequently, section 92 stands.
– That is right.
– The next power which the Commonwealth has is the power of taxation. I wonder whether or not it is yet” fully realized that it is under this taxation power, not under the war powers, that the Commonwealth has been able recently to institute uniform income tax!
– The State Premiers understand it.
– Under the uniform income tax law the State is, in substance - the form does not matter - removed from the income tax field, and the Commonwealth completely occupies it. We know quite well that the Commonwealth now collects all income tax, and makes a grant to the States under a power to which I shall refer a little later, as some recompense to them for the loss of their income tax revenue. That power to impose uniform and, therefore, in practice, exclusive income tax, belongs to the Commonwealth under its taxation power ; and its taxation power is not a war power, but a permanent power. What has been done in relation to income tax can quite plainly be done in relation to land tax and entertainments tax. There is no direct form of taxation which, in view of the decision of the High Court, cannot be made exclusive to the Commonwealth under this constitutional power.
– How could the same principle be applied to land tax?
– The Commonwealth need only make the land tax so high that no State would dare to impose one subsequently, consequently, it would be exclusive to the Commonwealth. I hope that my friend the Attorney-General will keep that to himself, not tell the Treasurer; I do not want to incite anybody in this matter.
The next power is the power to impose indirect taxes, such as customs and excise. The taxing powers have always been exclusive to the Commonwealth under section 90 of the Constitution. If we combine the direct and the indirect taxing power, we find that all means of revenue other than loan - with which I shall deal in a moment - are within the grasp of the Commonwealth, and that through them the Commonwealth can, in fact, exclude the States entirely. I mention this power because, after all, a tremendous lot of what will have to be done by governments in the face of post-war emergency will call for monetary resources and power; and it can hardly be said that a government is destitute when, in fact,” it controls - or, if it so wishes, can control - every form of revenue derived by pecuniary imposts of any kind within the limits of the Commonwealth of Australia.
From that I turn to the other source of revenue - borrowing. “What about the borrowing power? The Commonwealth has always had a borrowing power; and ever since the Financial Agreement, and the amendment written into the Constitution in order to facilitate or validate that agreement, the Commonwealth, acting in its place in the Loan Council and utilizing the Loan Council machinery, has, in substance, been placed in control of the loan revenues of Australia. It is quite true that, in theory, the Commonwealth can be outvoted on the Loan Council. It is equally true that, in practice, it never has been. Therefore, whether the source of money be taxation or loan, the Commonwealth occupies in this country an undisputed position in relation to it.
The next in this category of powers dealing with finance is to be found in section 96 of the Constitution. It is under that section that the Commonwealth Parliament can provide grants to States. Its relevant words are these -
The Parliament- that is, the Parliament of the Commonwealth - may grant financial assistance to any State on such terms and conditions as the Parliament thinks fit.
In the years 1918, 1919 and 1920, the years immediately after hostilities on the last occasion, the significance of section 96 was not fully understood. Somebody thought, if he thought at all, that it was a section which enabled some special compensation to be given to a State; in other words, that it could justify a body such as the Commonwealth Grants Commission, and the making of special grants to South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. But a few years later it was discovered, and the matter was decided in the High Court, that section 96 went far beyond that; because, in 1926, the Federal Aid Roads Act was challenged by three States in the High Court. If I may be permitted a. personal recollection, I recall that I was counsel for the challengers, that I had lumbago very badly, and six hostile judges in front of me equally badly, and that I failed completely.
It was argued in that case that, although section 96 stated that Parliament could grant money to a State on such terms and conditions as it thought fit,- it could not attach to the grant any conditions which amounted in substance to the exercise of legislative authority which it did not otherwise possess. In other words, we argued that the Commonwealth could not grant money to the States, and attach conditions setting out where the roads were to be built, by whom they were to be built, and what kind of roads they should be, because the Commonwealth had no power to mate legislation regarding the building of roads. However, the High Court dismissed that argument. It held that section 96 meant just what it said, namely, that the Commonwealth could grant money to the States as it thought fit, and that it could attach any conditions it liked to the grant.
– Any relevant conditions.
– Yes, relevant to the granting of the money. In other words,, the Commonwealth Government can say to the States, “We are granting you this money, and it is for a certain purpose, and we now set down in a schedule all the rules which you must observe “ Let us take another example : Suppose the Commonwealth wanted to embark upon a Commonwealth-wide housing scheme despite the fact that it had no legislative power to make laws in respect of housing. The Commonwealth, as the sole provider of funds, could say to a State, “ We will give you £5,000,000, and the conditions upon which you are to receive this money are these “. The terms and conditions, as prepared by the Commonwealth housing authority, would then be stated.
– As the Commonwealth did in 1928.
– That is so. The point I am making is that, in respect of the group of powers which I have been discussing, the Commonwealth has complete financial authority, and there is ample machinery to enable the Commonwealth to impose its will upon the States.
I now come to the defence power of the Commonwealth, and I am saved the necessity of saying much on this subject, because the Attorney-General himself referred to it, and analysed its chief features in his last speech. The defence power of the Commonwealth is not one of those powers the limits of which can be defined with certainty. Indeed, I sometimes wonder whether there are any powers under the Constitution the limits of which can be defined with certainty because, in the last resort, all the powers in the Constitution mean what the High Court of Australia ultimately says they mean.
– And from time to time.
– Yes, and from time to time. However, the defence power of the Commonwealth in respect of certain natters is, I believe, beyond controversy, and one of those matters is the power of repatriation. I confess that when T looked at this bill I was astonished to see in the forefront of it a reference to repatriation. Why should it be included? This is the first time that it has ever been suggested to me that the Commonwealth did not possess this power. I can understand its obvious electioneering value as something to put in the shop window, but never before has it been suggested that the Commonwealth did not possess the power stated in paragraph (i) of proposed new section 51a. I can recall only one case in the period between the two wars in which the exercise by the Commonwealth of its repatriation power was ever challenged. I refer to the case of the AttorneyGeneral for the Commonwealth v. Balding, 27 C.L.E., 398. The question arose as to the priority to be enjoyed by repatriation authorities in respect of debts. I quote from the judgment of the former Chief Justice, Sir Adrian Knox, Mr. Justice Isaacs, Mr. Justice Gavan Duffy and Mr. Justice Rich. There was a separate and concurring judgment by Mr. Justice Higgins. The court unanimously and briefly gave its judgment in these terms -
In our opinion, the Commonwealth Parliament had power under section 51 (vi) of the Constitution (the defence power) to enact this provision. It is a provision for the reestablishment in civil life of persons who have served in the defence forces of the Commonwealth when they are discharged from such service. That is a matter so intimately connected with the defence of the Commonwealth as manifestly to be included within the scope of the power.
– Would that apply ,to munitions workers?
– Why not? They are brought into existence as munitions workers in order to serve the interests of the country in the exercise of its defence power, just as soldiers, sailors and airmen are brought into existence in their respective capacities in order to serve the interests of the country. Am I to be told that, although the Commonwealth may repatriate a soldier - that is, put him out of military life and into a civil job - it is not, under the defence power, at liberty to take a worker out of a munitions factory and put him into another job? Such reasoning would not hold water for five minutes in a court of law. My view is that whatever the defence power enables you to do in time of war it enables you to undo in time of peace. If the defence power authorizes the Commonwealth, in the course of fighting a war-, to mobilize the entire nation, it equally authorizes the Commonwealth to demobilize the nation during the period of transition from war to peace. It is an error to suppose that great constitutional powers work only in one .direction. It was Sir Isaac Isaacs who stated on one occasion that “the Constitution is not to be mocked “. What an absurd thing it would be if far-reaching powers enabled the Commonwealth Government to take the country from this point to that, but then made it necessary for the Government to leave the country there with all the resultant confusion.
– Does the defence power give the Commonwealth Government authority to enforce preference to returned soldiers?
– Yes, that authority falls abundantly within the defence power. The Attorney-General, in the book which he prepared in connexion with the Constitution Convention, stated that, although the defence power would enable the Commonwealth to unwind the war effort, it would not enable the Commonwealth to wind up the peace effort. I dislike these sayings, which attempt to over-simplify problems. The fact is that you do not unwind the war effort and then set about winding up the peace effort. It is the unwinding of the war effort which constitutes the winding up of the peace effort. They are identical processes. I shall be most astonished to be told by the court, by any authority, a year, two years, or three years after this war that everything that is done under the defence power just drops as soon as the war finishes. It would be a monstrous power. It would not be a defence power in those circumstances, but a destruction power.
The next powers that I want to refer to are those relating to banking and currency. The Commonwealth, under its currency and banking powers, which it both possesses and employs, not only deals with the mechanics of the note issue, but also exercises effective control ‘over central banking, the creation of credit, and a great number of those elements which bear upon the stabilization of finance. All these things it does under its existing powers. It has its insurance power and, under its insurance power, schemes of health and unemployment insurance can be instituted, so long as they are purely insurance^ that is, so long as they posess the contributory character.
– If they are not to possess the insurance character - and I know that my honorable friend does not want them to - no doubt the Commonwealth will have to look elsewhere for the power. For myself, I will be no party to giving it the power, because I believe that all these social schemes ought to be based on the insurance principle. Then there is the power to deal with invalid and old-age pensions. That power has already been very fully exercised by this Parliament.
Next, there is a power about which I speak with diffidence in the presence of the Attorney-General, because he has, I think, some claim to be the author of its extension, and that is the external affairs power. This, though technical, is of profound importance and interest. The external affairs power was conferred on the Commonwealth just in those terms, “ external affairs “, and, for a long time, it was thought to be a power which gave authority to the Commonwealth to make laws on things which were, in the true sense, external to Australia, foreign obligations, foreign representation and that kind of thing, until it was finally put to the High Court, which approved the submissionthat external affairs went far beyond such limits, and that in fact if Australia made a treaty which was within its competence, the Commonwealth Parliament could give effect to that treaty, notwithstanding that no other power dealing with the matter was to be found in section 51. Let me give an illustration. Suppose Australia became a party to a treaty with New Zealand - I mean a real treaty with New Zealand - and that in that treaty the Commonwealth and New Zealand agreed that, for their mutual advancement in this part of the world, it was of first importance that there should be a standard 40-hour working week in both countries. It would never have occurred to me that the making of that treaty would give the Commonwealth Parliament power to declare a 40-hour week, but so far as I understand it the High Court has held that it does.
– A good decision.
– The justices of the High Court would be delighted to have the honorable gentleman’s approval, with his technical knowledge of these matters. The moment I say that, honorable members will see- how far-reaching the external affairs power can become, and what a tremendous instrument it is in the bands of the Commonwealth. It i3 no use quoting your second best when you can quote your best. That is a very old rule. Therefore, I will refer briefly to what was said in the High Court of Australia in the case Rex v. Burgess. It arose over the airman Goya Henry. My honorable friend the member for Balaclava (Mr. White) will remember what the case was. Under the Air Convention the Commonwealth Parliament had sought to make laws for the national control of the air. Mr. Justice Evatt, as he then was, and Mr. Justice McTiernan, in a careful and considered joint judgment said, 55 C.L.R. 6S0-
But it is a consequence of the closer connexion between the nations of the world (which has been partly brought about by the modern revolutions in communication) and of the recognition by the nations of a common interest in many matters affecting the social welfare of their peoples and of the necessity of co-operation among them in dealing with such matters, that it is no longer possible to assert that there is any subject-matter which must necessarily be excluded from the list of possible subjects of international negotiation, international dispute or international agreement. Bv way of illustration, let us .note that Part XIII. of the Treaty of Versailles declares that universal peace can be established only if it is based upon social justice and that labour unrest caused by unsatisfactory conditions of labour imperils the peace of the world. In face of these declarations and the setting up (under the treaty) of the International Labour Organization it must now be recognized that the maintenance or improvement of conditions of labour can (as it does) form a proper subject of international agreement, for differences in labour standards may increase the friction between nations which arises even when trade competition takes place under conditions of reasonable equality.
Honorable members will follow the reasoning of that. It is very powerful reasoning and it is very pertinent to this problem. Later, on page 687, Their Honours dealt with the question as to whether external affairs power was confined to treaties and conventions of a formal kind, and they said this: -
It would seem clear, therefore, that the legislative power of the Commonwealth over “ external affairs “ certainly includes the power to execute within the Commonwealth treaties and conventions entered into with foreign powers. The legislative power in section 51 is granted “ subject to this Constitution “ so that such treaties and conventions could not be used to enable the Parliament to set at nought constitutional guarantees elsewhere contained, such, for instance, as sections G, 28, 41, 80, 92, 99, 100, 116, or 117. But it is not to bc assumed that the legislative power over “ external affairs “ is limited to the execution of treaties or conventions; and, to pursue the illustration previously referred to, the Parliament may well be deemed competent to legislate for the carrying out of “ recommendations “ as well as the “draft international conventions” resolved upon by the International Labour Organization or of other international recommendations or requests upon other subject-matters of concern to Australia as a member of the family of nations. The power is a great and important one.
The power they quoted very rightly is a great and important one.
– Would that apply to the control of, say, acreage production of primary products pursuant to an international agreement?
– On that reasoning, yes.
– I said that in my secondreading speech. That is my view.
Mi-. MENZIES. - The AttorneyGeneral, then sitting as a justice of the High Court, made the view of himself and of his brother, Mr. Justice McTiernan, abundantly clear. I have read and reread that case and I still believe that it was the prevailing view in that case. It is true Mr. Justice Dixon had an entirely different view, but the one I have quoted was the prevailing view, and it means that the external affairs power is something infinitely more far-reaching than 99-J people out of 100 thought, at any rate, in 1901. It was a splendid example of the way in which great constitutional changes sometimes occur without any change in the language of the Constitution at all. I do not want to elaborate that point, because I am sure that honorable members will see how far-reaching an authority that is. One has only to think of the Atlantic Charter and the lend-lease agreements, with all their economic implications, to see how far a power of that kind can run.
The next power is “ the acquisition of property on just terms from any State or person for any purpose in respect of which the Parliament has power to make laws “. That power to acquire property is far-reaching. I refer to it because several honorable members on this side of the House have been a little concerned to know whether the repatriation power would extend to the resumption of estates, the acquisition of Crown lands and the establishment of soldiers on such lands. Quite plainly it does, because of the repatriation power belonging to the Commonwealth under the defence power. So the power to acquire property on just terms “ from any State or person “ - it includes Crown lands - is quite effective so long as it is being acquired for a valid Commonwealth purpose. In this instance the valid Commonwealth purpose is the repatriation of returned soldiers. It is true - I meet this point occasionally - that after the last war soldier settlement was conducted by State governments and State Parliaments.
– That was by agreement.
– The reason for that is twofold. In the first place, it was done by agreement very largely as a matter of convenience, as the States had the Lands’ Departments and Departments of Agriculture and all the local machinery for dealing with such matters. In the second place, as the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) will be disposed to agree, it had not at that time been quite fully appreciated that section 96, containing the power to make grants to the States, was so far-reaching as it turned out to be.
– But the Commonwealth power was not disputed at that time.
– I do not think that it has ever been disputed. Then there is a power in these terms : “ The acquisition, with the consent of a State of any railways of the State on terms arranged between the Commonwealth and the
State “. The Commonwealth has always had a power in those terms to acquire the railways of the States. If the Commonwealth were to exercise that power, it could standardize the railway gauges. There would be no difficulty about that, because the railways would belong to the Commonwealth, which could do as it chose about the standardization of railway gauges. I point that out, because one of the powers that are now being sought appears to relate to the uniformity of railway gauges, and it has puzzled me not a little, having regard to the terms now to be found in the Constitution.’
– Suppose the Government of Victoria refused to enter into an agreement with the Commonwealth- Government for the transfer of its railways?
– Then the Commonwealth could not assume control of them.
– But the Commonwealth might desire to standardize the railway gauges.
– If the Commonwealth Government proposed to acquire the railways of a State independent of the consent of the State, what the Prime Minister states would be all right. I would not quarrel about that. If the Commonwealth desires to take over the railway systems of Australia, I have not the slighest objection.
– The Constitution does not permit that. Does the Leader of the Opposition mean that he would favour an alteration of the Constitution to grant to the Commonwealth that power?
– Apparently I misunderstood the Prime Minister. It is clear from what I read that the acquisition of the railways of a State is conditioned by the consent of the State.
– Does the right honorable gentleman contend that the Commonwealth could standardize railway gauges at the present time without an amendment of the Constitution?
– What I said was that if the Commonwealth were to exercise its power to acquire the railways of a State, it could do what it liked with the railways.
– The Commonwealth will not he able to standardize railway gauges unless it assumes control of the railways.
– I hope that that is a formal admission. It will solve one of my problems.
– The right honorable gentleman said that.
– The Prime Minister declared that coal could be mined without the Commonwealth Government taking control of the mines.
– There is no occasion for us to be at cross purposes on this issue. The existing power enables the Commonwealth to acquire the railways of a State with the consent of the State. If the State refuses its consent, the Commonwealth cannot acquire the railways. Therefore, if the Commonwealth Government desires to standardize railway gauges, I agree that i t will need some kind of power. The Commonwealth Government could achieve its objective either by taking over the railways with the consent of the States, or by offering to meet the cost of standardizing the gauges, and dealing with the States under section 96. I shall come to that point in a moment. What I was concerned with was to draw attention to the power, with all its limitations, which now exists in relation to State railways.
The last power to which I desire to refer is the appropriation power. Section 81 sets up a consolidated fund for the Commonwealth out of which there may be appropriated moneys “ for the purposes of the Commonwealth “. As the Attorney-General knows, there has been a discussion for a very long time as to whether the Commonwealth can appropriate money for purposes which are not otherwise within its legislative powers. The argument, by practice, has resolved in favour of the Commonwealth, because the Commonwealth has in the past appropriated moneys for matters not otherwise within the legislative power. For example, it is difficult to discover where the Commonwealth derives authority for the Maternity Allowances Act, unless it be under the appropriation power.
– It has never been challenged.
– I know that! Of course, it has never been challenged! What I am asking is : Where is the power to legislate for maternity allowances unless it is in the appropriation power, because it is not in any one of the other provisions of the Constitution? We have created in this country certain government-controlled or ultimately government-controlled corporations, such as Commonwealth Oil Refineries and Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. These have been great experiments in partial governmental control, but they have been done under the appropriation power. When the Royal Commission on the Commonwealth Constitution sat sixteen years ago, it heard a lot of evidence of the most learned kind from authorities on the question of whether the Commonwealth could appropriate moneys for purposes for which it had never been given specific legislative authority. If honorable members are interested to see an excellent summary of the various views on that matter, they will find it in the report of the royal commission in & chapter beginning on page 137. It is of interest to note that Sir Robert Garran, who gave evidence before the royal commission on that subject and who could speak with the most far-reaching experience of the Constitution not only in theory but also in practice, adhered strongly to the view that the appropriation power was unlimited and that the Commonwealth could appropriate funds for any purposes that it thought fit, and not just for some purposes in respect of which it could make a law. He also indicated in the course of his evidence that that view had been acted upon consistently by the Commonwealth. It has been acted upon consistently in the United States of America, I think, but I have not said anything about that aspect because there is a slight difference in the language of the two Constitutions on that matter and I do not consider that any great argument can be built up on the American practice.
I pause here at the end of this fair and objective statement on existing powers to say this. It is a misuse of language to say that a government and a parliament possessing such far-reaching authorities as those which I have been describing, and in a position to impose its will upon State governments through its financial power, is in any real sense bereft of power to deal with the immediate post-war problems. This does not mean that some further power may not be desirable. I have been discussing, so far, whether the Commonwealth is. so powerless to deal with the post-war period, as we have been given to understand it is. The answer to that question, in my view, must be “ No “.
Before turning to a consideration of the provisions which the Government desires to have written into the Constitution, I shall say a few words about an argument which has great currency in Australia and which, it is alleged, will have a close bearing on the fate of the referendum. The argument is that the last depression in Australia was somehow caused, or permitted,- or was inadequately dealt with, because of divided constitutional powers in this country. If the people are told that our Constitution had anything to do with the last depression, and if they believe it, they will be misled, for the Constitution had nothing to do with it. Is it to be forgotten, either inside or outside this House, that the depression came to the world with equal severity in unitary countries, such as Great Britain and New Zealand ; in federal countries with a very strong central power, such as Canada ; and. in federal countries with somewhat more divided authority, such as the United States of America and Australia? The depression came to countries of all forms of government, and when we talk about it and consider what we must do to avoid another depression, do not let us forget that Australia began to emerge from the last depression probably earlier than any other country in the world. That fact is well recognized outside of Australia, and I believe it is recognized in this country by all except a very few people.
This bill sets out fourteen powers - presumably, to be regarded as new powers - which, it is said, should he written into the Constitution by way of additions to existing authority which this Government must have in order to deal with post-war problems. I point out to the House that, except for unavoidable verbal alterations, this bill is similar to the Commonwealth Powers Bill which issued from the Canberra Convention of November and December, 1942. That bill, as honorable members will recollect, was prepared for submission to State Parliaments by State Premiers, and was to be recommended to the Parliaments by them. As we know, two State Parliaments passed the bill without amendment; two others passed it with amendments; one passed it with a reservation as to action by other State Parliaments, and one - the Parliament of the smallest State in the federation - rejected it, though the rejection was by only one House of the Parliament. That bill was drafted by expert advisers, who, I say with great respect, sided with the Commonwealth. The State Premiers did not have expert advisers - _ -
– Oh, yes they did.
– Not on the drafting committee. The Premiers had their experts to whom they could ‘rush during a dinner adjournment, or whom they could meet in the corridors.
– They had their adviser; in Canberra, just as we had ours.
– I am afraid the Attorney-General is underestimating the strength of his own experts on this committee. The right honorable gentleman was himself the chairman of the committee, and he had the Commonwealth Solicitor-General, Sir George Knowles, as the secretary of it. I sympathize with the lay Premiers because of the position in which they found themselves on that occasion. In this job of draftsmanship they were confronted by a most powerful phalanx of experts representing the Commonwealth. It is a mistake,, also, to believe that this bill was, in any sense, fully discussed by the convention, as a convention. The report of the discussion of these fourteen powers - and they were discussed in toto - occupies only twelve pages of the published book. With great respect to all concerned, I say that it would be impossible adequately to discuss fourteen powers of the kind set out in this bill, and to arrive at definite conclusions, within the compass of twelve pages of Hansard.
– The drafting committee occupied several days in its discussions, and the report of those discussions is not included in the book.
– I have said all I want to say about the defective nature of this committee, having in mind the need for a balanced result. Every provision in this bill deserves the most anxious consideration. I have made these remarks about the convention because I believe that every citizen owes a duty to himself and to his country to consider these matters without prejudice, and without feeling that he is estopped from discussing them. There should be the most careful scrutiny of this measure, also, because, although a five-year period is stipulated, there can be no doubt that if the amendments be adopted the next constitutional amendment to be submitted to this Parliament will be designed to remove t)he time limit.
It is a very great misfortune that these fourteen powers have been included within the compass of one bill. By including them in one bill the Government has said to the people, “If there is one of these fourteen powers which you don’t like, and you reject it, you reject the lot”. The Government may have had its reasons for adopting this course, and I can speculate about them.
– The reason is that the powers are all a part of the one agreement.
– We have long passed the point of any agreement. The Attorney-‘General appears to be hagridden with the idea that there is an agreement with the Premiers. On their own showing it must be assumed that the agreement has been torn up. There can be no earthly point in the AttorneyGeneral insisting, in this Parliament or anywhere else, that an agreement exists. If the Government desires to concentrate the opposition to constitutional change in this country it can hardly do it more effectively than by wrapping up all the proposals in one parcel and saying, “You take the lot, or you leave the lot “. However, that is its risk, and I imagine will turn out fo be its funeral.
I have said all I want to say about repatriation powers. No one in this Parliament, or in any State Parliament, will quarrel about the Commonwealth having power in the terms of paragraph (i) to which I have referred; but neither will any one seriously dispute that the Commonwealth already has that power. For that reason, I say that this clause is window-dressing and is designed to attract the votes of hundreds of thousands of people who may be led to believe that a “ No “ vote will mean that the Commonwealth will have no power to deal with repatriation. That is most misleading, because I say deliberately, and I shall repeat it whenever the occasion may so require, that the power contained in paragraph (i) is a power which this Government has, and which any Government would have. It is a power which, in fact, as everybody will recall, was freely and beneficently exercised for a score of years between the two wars by governments and the repatriation departments.
The next new power is that which relates to “ employment and unemployment “. That phrase, in my opinion, is highly ambiguous and unscientific, for the reason that employment and unemployment are results, not causes, and are not subjectmatters of legislation in the true sense, any more than an external symptom would be a subject-matter of medical treatment. What an absurdity it would be to say to a doctor, “You may treat this patient for some skin infection, but you are not to go behind that and find out what it is inside the patient which is causing the skin infection”. The terms “ employment and unemployment “ have been chosen, no doubt, because of themselves; they are undefinable; they are without definition; they are without limit. But they have been chosen, and very adroitly, because the draftsman knew that nobody could possibly construe these powers except by saying, “ The Parliament is to have the power to deal with all the causes of employment and unemployment”. The result of the exercise by the Commonwealth of the power over trade and commerce, over banking, over insurance, over what you will, may be to produce employment or unemployment. What I emphasize in the first instance is, that this is a statement in terms of results, not in terms of causes. Therefore, what power is it that is being given to the Commonwealth by this phrase? The AttorneyGeneral and the Prime Minister smile.
They consider that this does not matter very much. The Attorney-General made no attempt at the convention to set any limits to this power. He knows that he cannot set any limits to it. “Dr. Evatt. - It is the widest power in the bill.
– Of course it is; the most far-reaching power in the bill.
– It is the power for this Parliament to provide employment and 10 prevent unemployment. It is so simple 1:1 at everybody understands it.
– The right honorable gentleman knows that that is mere rhetoric; it does not define a subjectmatter of legislation.
– The object is to enable this Parliament to secure employment for the people, which the Commonwealth cannot do to-day.
– The attempts to define this power are very illuminating. I adopt the statement of the right honorable gentleman, namely, that it is the most far-reaching power in the bill. That is what I am concerned to establish - that this will enable the Parliament to deal with every economic factor which, by a chain of causation, may result in employment or unemployment. I wait for that statement to be challenged. Having done so, I proceed to say that, if the Commonwealth receives at the hands of the Australian people this power in these terms, then there will be no aspect of the economic life of Australia which will stand outside the control of the Commonwealth. That will not be denied. It is all very well to attach a label, to say: “ The man down the street knows about employment and unemployment”. Of course he does. The man down the street is thinking, as he has the right to do, about unemployment as it affects him. But we in this place have to consider unemployment as a source of legislative power. We have a real responsibility in this matter, and when we write words into the Constitution we ought, at all events, to have some vague idea as to what we are doing with the Constitution. That power, at one blow, will effect unification by concentrating power in the central government of Australia.
– The right honorable gentleman fills me with new hope.
– Oddly enough, I did not think that the prospect would distress my friend from Batman; not at all. He is a unificationist. If he were seeking to amend the Constitution, he would simply say, “ Cut out all these limitations in section 51, and give the Commonwealth all the power “.
– Did not the right honorable gentleman say that he supported the African system?
– Yes ; I am very keen on the African system. When a convention is held in this country to discuss permanent changes in the Constitution, I shall elaborate my opinions with not the slightest hesitation. But I am now discussing a bill that is designed to give powers for five years, and to whom? I leave it to my friends opposite to say. The power, of course, is put forward in the belief that employment and unemployment can be created by governments. Indeed, honorable members opposite believe that all that a government has to do is to turn the handle of the monetary machine, or something of the kind, and employment will result.
– That is a false statement.
– What they are leaving out of account is that employment and social security in Australia “will in reality depend primarily upon a revival of enterprise and of business. There cannot he real security and employment on a basis merely of government works ; we must look forward to a revival of business and enterprise at the earliest possible moment. In that respect, unlike the chattering Minister for Information, I happen to believe, as I know he does not, that the driving force will be the man of business, and not the learned clerk in the reconstruction department.
The next power, which is, after all, a small one compared with (ii) is “ organized marketing of commodities “. There is a very strong case, as we on this side of Parliament, thought, and as those on the other side did not think a few years ago, for the organized marketing of primary commodities of which there is an exportable surplus. For many years, that has been an acute and difficult problem, but the power sought by the Government relates to commodities generally. No doubt that will be spoken of loudly in the country electorates, and whispered down in the metropolitan electorates, except, of course, in >a selected few. The power relates to all commodities and, oddly enough, it will still he subject to section 92 of the Constitution. This very power, which was impaired by one thing only, section 92, in the period between the two wars, is still to be impaired by that same section because, apparently, that section is an awkward thing to deal with when considering amendments to the Constitution.
The next power is “companies, but so that any such law shall be uniform throughout the Commonwealth”. There i3 very great merit in the proposal for a uniform companies act. It has been supported for many years by a good many people in Australia. A uniform companies act, if it followed the usual model, would deal with such matters as the formation of companies, the prospectuses they issued, the constitution of companies, and the winding up of companies - all those matters which are ordinarily covered in the companies acts of the States. “We shall be told that this power is designed to facilitate the passing of such an acf by the Commonwealth, but that statement is absurd on the face of it. Is it seriously proposed to pass a uniform companies act for five years only ? Why, that would create chaos in the business world. It would be absurd to pass a Commonwealth act setting up a registry, and providing for the appointment of officers to deal with applications for registration, and then allow the whole thing to lapse in five years’ time. It is against reason to suppose that this power was designed just to produce a uniform companies act, and so we had better go back to the power itself, and when we do we see that the subject matter of the power i.s simply “ companies “. In other words, the Commonwealth may pass any law it chooses in relation to companies, to their activities, their boards of directors, their profits, the wages they pay, in fact, anything you like.
– And in relation to their undisclosed profits.
– Yes, their undisclosed profits.
– That is what the Leader of the Opposition is afraid of.
– The honorable member need not fear that he will ever have any undisclosed profits to be affected.
– Anything which I have was got by honest work.
– Anything which the Minister for Information has is in the shop window, and a not very imposing display it makes. I could go on speaking of the kind of laws which could be passed under this power until I made the mouth of the Attorney-General water, but if it is right for the Commonwealth to have such powers in relation to companies, why should it not have similar power in relation to partnerships? Why should the Commonwealth pass laws controlling the activities of companies, while leaving competing interests under the control of the ‘States? I am forced to the conclusion that this power was put in as a sop to those who want a’ uniform companies act, and that it was done in the expectation that those persons would not realize that the whole thing would come to an end in five years’ time.
I mention the next proposal with some diffidence in the presence of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Hughes;, because it relates to “ trusts, combines and monopolies”, against which the right honorable member couched a lance when this Parliament first came into existence. I wish that the Attorney-General would find himself able at some time to tell us what the expression used in the bill means.
– Does not the right honorable member know?
– I do not know, and, with great respect, I venture to say that the Attorney-General does not know, either.
– I do know, and so does the right honorable member.
– Then the AttorneyGeneral had better put it in the bill. I suppose a monopoly is an undertaking which has sole rights to manufacture or produce or deal in certain commodities. This is one of the expressions that sound magnificent from a political platform, when the candidate is able to say, “ You give us the power and we will smash the combines “. But what are the combines? The candidate will say, “You give us the authority and we will clean up the trusts”. When I was listening to the “ brains trust “ the other day - I suppose they will come under this power now - I heard one of its more distinguished members use a new and horrible word, “ trustification “. Of course, we know what the- American anti-trust laws are, and they are an indication of what the American legislature regarded as trusts. We know that there may be certain combinations in restraint of trade which ought to be dealt with. There is a Commonwealth act in regard to these matters, but I have not heard that this Government has invoked it.
– The right honorable member knows that the act has been declared by the High Court to be inapplicable to domestic trade.
– I shall leave it to the Attorney-General to tell us in his reply what trusts, combines, and monopolies are. If he wants power to deal with combinations in restraint of trade I shall help him all I can.
– That is a matter for Parliament to determine.
– Perhaps the AttorneyGeneral will open up on this subject at some convenient time. The next power is in relation to “ profiteering and prices”. For some period after the war prices must, unquestionably, remain subject to control. To remove control suddenly would be to produce hopeless confusion. I am not concerned to advocate the removal of all control as soon as fighting ceases. I believe that many departmental activities will continue for some time after the war. I believe that we must convert the nation from a war to a peace footing with infinite care, and with as much skill as possible. The prices power allied with the profiteering power is very important. Prices, yes; but profiteering, as I said before, is one of those topics which is just as biff or as little as Parliament cares to make it. To the man in the street, profiteering means the extorting of an unreasonable profit, but if the Commonwealth chooses to make a law of general application that no profit shall exceed 2 per cent., will the High Court declare such a law to be invalid? The Court will say, “ We do not know what constitutes an undue profit. It is for Parliament to determine that, and Parliament has power to restrict profits to any figure it likes “.
– The right honorable gentleman does not object to power in respect of prices, but he objects to power in respect of profiteering because it is meaningless ?
– I object to power over profiteering because it is meaningless. I said that prices must continue to be controlled for some period after the war. Whether control over prices requires extra power or not depends on what I said about the extent of the wartime powers that the Government possesses.
If we turn to (vii) we come to the power which, together with employment and unemployment, really confers upon the Commonwealth full authority to deal with everything, because it is power to deal with “the production and distribution of goods “. There are two provisos that-
The ‘second proviso does not matter very much for this purpose, but the first seems to me to be entirely unnecessary. I do not know why, once the Commonwealth has power to make a law, its exercise of that power should be conditioned by the consent of the Government for the time being of a State. I think that is an undue limit on any reasonable Commonwealth power. But the power itself is to deal with the production and distribution of goods. If the people grant to the Commonwealth power to deal with employment and unemployment and production and distribution of goods, all limitations of substance will have been removed from the Commonwealth’s legislative authority. ,In fact, it would hardly need any of the other powers to be found in the bill. Those two are completely farreaching, they are completely without limit.
– And are very necessary.
– The honorable member thinks so, but he need not keep reminding me that that is his belief. The power to deal with production and distribution of goods is as extensive, I venture to think, as the complete grant of trade and commerce power to the Commonwealth. Of course - and this is the milk in the coco-nut - it would enable the Commonwealth to nationalize industries.
– The same old bogy.
– It is the policy of the Labour party to control production, distribution and exchange.
– The honorable gentleman is right- production and distribution in this, and exchange in another. The point about this proposal is that if we can get power for five years to make laws in respect of production and distribution of goods, with no. interstate limitations or restrictions of that kind, we shall be able to carry out, not a bogy, but the declared policy of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) and his colleagues, this wonderful Jekyll-and-Hyde Government. Honorable members know that the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin), with characteristic frankness and candour, says to the people, “We must have these powers because I want to be able to carry on civil production in these munitions factories when the war is over “. He tells us that. He is quite honest about it. “ That is what I want to do “, he says. “ I want to be able to go into competition with other people in manufacturing goods of that kind when, the war is over.”
– The Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) has always said that.
– Yes, I am sure that the Minister for War Organization of Industry concurs in that view. At the moment I direct attention to the fact that this is the power under which that is to be done; what happens? A strange silence falls over those who have been advocating socialization, and the more irresponsible members of the Cabinet say, “ Bogy ! bogy ! bogy ! “. They can keep on saying “ Bogy ! “ but the simple fact is - and the honorable member for Melbourne will not deny it - that this power is designed, amongst other things, to enable the Government to carry on business in these war-time factories when the war is over.
– In order to prepare against the next war.
– I accept the honorable gentleman’s answer. In order to prepare against the next war, munition factories are to be used to manufacture farm implements in competition with the established farm implement manufacturers.
The next power on the list is “ the control of overseas exchange and overseas investment “, but overseas exchange and overseas investment, as I should have thought anybody would agree, are already within the Commonwealth’s power. I have never understood that to be challenged. “ The regulation of the raising of money “ - meaning by that borrowings by the Government and, to some extent, under the gentleman’s agreement, semi-governmental ‘bodies - is already controlled by the Loan Council. So this power must refer to the control of private borrowing. All right. There will need to be some control over investment when the war is over. I am not quarrelling with that. But it is well that it should be understood that this power, which is so pleasantly wrapped up in power to control governmental activities, is not designed to deal with that at all.
Then there is “ air transport “. I need not occupy any time over that. Air transport should be taken over by the Commonwealth on a permanent footing. It may very well be that the addition of the words “ regulation of “ may be desirable for various reasons, but that is a minor matter. The fact is that air transport is, as many of us have long agreed, a matter over which the Commonwealth should have control.
– The addition of those words would make a difference.
– Undoubtedly. The tenth power is “ uniformity of railway gauges “, and, as I was beginning to say a little earlier, that power is extremely puzzling to me. If the Commonwealth Government proposes to take over the State railways, it obviously does not need a special power to alter gauges. If it does not propose to take over State railways, I do not suppose that, with any decency, it could ask for or require gauge conversion, unless it paid the cost. I could hardly imagine, for example, that the Commonwealth Government, having investigated uniform railway gauges, could say to my State of Victoria, “ You must convert your tracks to the 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge at your own expense “, because that would involve the State of Victoria in the expenditure of, say, £10,000,000. That would be, I should think, an under-estimate, and there would be no corresponding advantage to Victoria.
– It would involve a complete rebuilding of the Queensland railways system.
– The honorable member would agree, and I am sure every Minister would agree, that you could not possibly say to a State, “ You must convert your track to a certain gauge and pay the cost”.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– If the Commonwealth Government proposes to take over the State railway systems, it will not need any special power to authorize it to make the gauges uniform. But if the Commonwealth Government does not propose to take over the State railways, then, in my view, it could not demand a conversion of the gauges unless it paid the cost. The point, then, is that under section 96 the Commonwealth already has power to do that. It could say to any State under section 96, “ We shall advance you the money for converting the railway gauges in your State if you will undertake to do the work in accordance with the report and scheme that we have prepared “. So that the power, as a special head of power in this bill, is a little puzzling to me.
The next power is one to carry out national works, with this addendum - but so that. before any such work is undertaken in a State, the consent of the Governor in Council of that State shall be obtained and so that any such work so undertaken shall bc carried out in co-operation with the State.
Once more, I confess to finding that very puzzling as it stands, because if the Commonwealth can carry out a public work only with the consent of the Government of the State concerned, why can it not do that at the present time under section 96 of the Constitution? I believe that the Commonwealth ought to have power to carry out national works. We may need, indeed we probably shall need, some great national works, particularly in the immediate post-war years. Therefore, what surprises me is that instead of asking for the power, if it be needed to carry out national works in the discretion of the Commonwealth, the Government should seek a power which is unduly confined by its reference to the consent of some State administration. If we are to have power to deal with national works, it ought to be an unqualified power.
What I have just said is also true of the power sought regarding “national health, in co-operation with the States or any of them”. If national health iB a fit subject for national treatment, it ought to be within the power of the Commonwealth without this qualification that is attached to it relating to the States. Each of those two powers, of course, is in a sense related to the power of appropriation. I desire to say one more word about the power of appropriation, because I find £hat in at least one or two places some misapprehension exists regarding what I said earlier in in my speech. I have not said that it is clear that the Commonwealth’s power of appropriation is unlimited.
– I thought that the Leader of the Opposition said that Sir Robert Garran made that statement.
– I did. Sir Robert Garran expressed that view when giving evidence before the royal commission.
– The Leader of the Opposition merely stated that the Commonwealth had acted often upon the assumption that that power existed, but he knows quite well that the courts have left the matter open.
– That is the only reason why I referred to it. This matter last came before the courts in the “ clothing factory “ case.
– In 1935.
– The view was expressed by two judges that the ‘appropriation power was limited to the existing heads of legislative or executive authority, but the majority of the court left the matter expressly open. Consequently, it cannot be said that this matter lias been decided one way or the other. In the report of the royal commission, honorable members will find an admirable summary of the two contending views. My own opinion, for what it is worth, and I do not put it forward dogmatically, has always been in favour of the view that the appropriation power is not unlimited; but the practice of the Commonwealth has been quite consistent, so far as it has been disclosed in action, in regarding the power of appropriation as going beyond the heads of legislative power. That is the only point which I desire to make.
– If the position be allowed to remain as at present, the power may later be destroyed by a court decision.
– If that were the one power upon which we had to rely, I would say unhesitatingly to the AttorneyGeneral, “ Let us resolve all doubts “, because there are doubts in relation to that power. But I have plainly indicated to the House that some matters here seem to be reasonably free of doubt. Others are plainly subject to doubt. The limits of the defence power are always hazy, because at a certain point of time it is difficult indeed to say where the power will actually stop. I have said that. But if honorable members will consider the cumulative effect of all the powers, they will find that a great body of power exists in the Commonwealth - much greater than some of the protagonists admit.
– And changing its amplitude as the result of varying decisions which the High Court makes.
– I cannot accept that.
– Not in those words.
– Neither in those words nor in substance. In point of fact, the High Court’s decisions on the defence power have been extraordinarily consistent.
– I should not think so.
– In the last war, the Commonwealth’s defence power was consistently upheld.
– More so than it has been during this war.
– In this waa-, the High Court has certainly found in two or three cases that certain regulations were not related to the war. With great submission I should have thought that the court was plainly right. In other words, the High Court has not abdicated its responsibility in this matter. The court has said, “ We must be satisfied that what is done in the name of the defence power has some specific relationship to the problem of winning the war and marshalling the nation “.
– Is not the Parliament the proper body to determine what is necessary to prosecute the war?
– The answer to that is “ Certainly not “. Every honorable member knows that a comfortable majority in Parliament may decide–
– There was not a comfortable majority in the last Parliament.
– I did not say that the honorable member was comfortable. He became uncomfortable shortly after the last election.
We cannot dispose of constitutional limitations by saying that the Parliament has to be trusted. If that were the answer, we could tear up the Constitution and forget about it. I say this to the Prime Minister, who perhaps has not had to wade through these cases so much as I have, that the High Court has time after time declared that these are matters in which the wisdom and judgment of Parliament and the Executive it controls, are of paramount importance. Therefore, when in doubt, the court has always upheld the validity of laws made under the defence power, and has said quite consistently that only when, in its opinion, a regulation goes beyond that point will it declare such a regulation invalid. The court has done so in a rew relatively trifling cases. We can say broadly that the defence power has proved itself the most flexible and most extensible power ever written into this or any other Constitution.
I suggest to the Attorney-General that the power relating to “ family allowances “ is a little vague. If it is intended to provide for a validation of child endowment or something of that kind, perhaps it ought to be somewhat more specific. Most people will support the power relating to “ the people of aboriginal race “, though they will have some doubt as to whether it is in its nature a fiveyears power and not a permanent power. I say no more about it, because whether the proposal be for five years or permanently there can be no doubt that the welfare of the aboriginal races deserves far more attention in the future than we have ever given to it in the past.
Before I leave those topics, may I revert momentarily to the problem of health. I have said that health is a matter which lends itself to national treatment. When I say that, I do hope that everybody will be willing to attach this proviso, that its administration shall not become over-centralized and remote from the people. As I said earlier, the problem of over-centralized administration in- Australia - there is a great deal of it and a bad tradition of it - is intimately associated with the problem of distribution of powers. There is more than an ounce of truth in Pope’s old tag -
For forms of government let fools contest,
What e’er is best administered is best.
If the health of the people is a national matter, as it undoubtedly is, the power should be unqualified.
From what I have said it will appear to a great number of honorable members that tie powers sought in this bill, whilst they contain matters of merit, aire in excess of the requirements of the period to which the bill relates. In addition to that, one should say that permanent alterations, and this bill does not seek to make permanent alteration, ought to be made in a proper atmosphere and after due deliberation. It would be a great pity, in fact it would be in some ways a tragedy, if a discussion in this House and in the country of temporary alterations were allowed to obscure and perhaps indefinitely to postpone a permanent revision of the Constitution. Therefore, we on this side of the House believe that as soon as possible after the war and after the people are able to devote their attention to this important and permanent problem, a popular convention ought to be summoned to make a thorough review of the whole 01 the structure and working of tinConstitution.
I am indebted to honorable members for their patience in listening to me. This is not a matter to be dealt with very shortly. The examination that I have made indicates that in my view, at least, certain of the powers, namely, repatriation, the control of overseas exchange, overseas investment and public borrowing, the standardization of railway gauges, and probably national works, to say nothing of one or two minor aspects, are already possessed by the Commonwealth. Other powers, such as those relating to rationing and the control of prices and investments - what we call the general set-up of war-time economic controls - are probably, and as I think certainly, possessed by the Commonwealth in the immediate post-war years under the defence power. But if there be any real doubt about those matters,, the Opposition will support amendments designed reasonably to remove those doubts. Some of the other powers cannot be justified as powers for a limited and emergency purpose. Regarding the second and seventh proposed powers, there can be little doubt that their effect is immeasurably far more reaching than anybody contemplating the needs of the post-war years would desire.
It is proper that I should draw attention to a statement that is being put forward by certain persons as authoritative on these matters, to the effect that the people of Queensland, for example, should not worry about this referendum, and might just as well vote affirmatively, because, forsooth, the Queensland Parliament has already referred the powers to the Commonwealth. That is a most disingenuous argument. It is true that the Queensland Parliament has referred powers for a number of years in the terms of this bill, and that the Commonwealth Parliament could exercise those powers in relation to Queensland if it chooses to make Commonwealth laws winch will operate in only one State. It is true, also, that the measure passed by the Queensland Parliament referring the powers to the Commonwealth may be repealed by the Queensland Parliament during the currency of the period, provided that the repeal be approved by the electors in accordance with the appropriate section. As I understand it, that means by referendum. The point must be recognized, however, that when the citizens of Queensland vote on a referendum to change the Commonwealth Constitution, their vote determines not merely the powers to be exercised in Queensland but also those to be exercised in other parts of Australia. I do not believe, nor do I consider that any other honorable member will believe, that the Commonwealth would exercise referred powers if the exercise were confined to two or three States. The Queensland Parliament has passed the Commonwealth Powers Bill without reservation and so has the Parliament of New South “Wales. The Parliament of Victoria has passed a bill with an addendum almost Machiavellian in quality.
– Almost Dunstonian
– I do not wish to buy into that fight. Therefore, I prefer to put it on some fellow who is dead. The fact is that the Victorian measure will not become operative unless uniform legislation be passed in all the other States. The Parliaments of South Australia and Western Australia have passed the bill with amendments, the result, no doubt, of a great deal of careful thought. The Parliament of Tasmania rejected the bill by reason of the vote in the Legislative Council. I gather from all this that if the Commonwealth Parliament desired additional repatriation power, or doubts were entertained as to whether it had adequate power, the Parliament of Victoria would unquestionably pass a bill referring such additional power as had ‘been proved to be necessary. I do not believe that in such circumstances either House of the Tasmanian Parliament would refuse to fall into line. It is of no use to say to the people of Queensland and New South Wales, “It is all right; the argument is over “. The argument is not over. The argument we now face is not whether other State Parliaments will refer power, but whether the Commonwealth Constitution should be changed. That will depend upon an affirmative vote at a referendum by the majority of the people, in a majority of the States. The people of Queensland, therefore, have as lively an interest in this problem as have the people of Victoria or Western Australia.
I shall make one other comment on these amendments. One of the features of the administration of this country - an inevitable feature probably - has been the amazing growth of official and administrative control. I shall not be so foolish as to pretend that this was completely avoidable in a time of war. It would be impossible for a Parliament to do all the tasks that need to be done in a time of war; therefore Parliaments delegate power on a grand scale. But the truth is that so far has delegation gone in Australia, and so richly armed have the executive, and particularly executive officials, become, that for the private citizens to-day life does not consist so much in submitting to the rule of law as in submitting to the rule of officials. Sometimes this is excellent, because we are fortunate in Australia in having many able officials with a well-developed sense of responsibility.
– Hear, hear !
– Every one who has had experience as a Minister in. this war will gladly make this admission. I am not among those who slander the pu’blic servants of this country. I am too much in their debt to engage in cheap abuse of them. But the fact remains that in one hundred and one different ways, the public finds itself enmeshed in officialdom. Officials have a power, the working out of which can never be adequately canvassed in this House, and the details of which must remain unknown to most honorable members.
– If such power had not been granted and exercised chaos could easily have occurred in this country.
– Up to a point.
– The Government led by the right honorable member appointed most of the officials.
– I am glad of that admission. I have not noticed that many of the officials we appointed have been dismissed by this Government.
– No, very few.
– Retrospectively, the Government has appropriated most of them to its own party from a period antedating its accession to office. Of course there must be additional officials during a time of war. But the Government, in my opinion, need not have been- so fertile. Of course, steps had to be taken to deal appropriately with private citizens in order to preserve the economic structure of this country. I do not need to be told that in the whole economic structure of a country in time of war there must be check and balance or, if you like, irritation and counterirritation, in order to produce stability. [ do not pretend that immediately the war ends this control must end. The controls must be reduced slowly with the restoration of peace conditions. The Parliament had to be armed with greater powers which, in their nature, were needed in war-time. But if the Parliament is to be clothed with greater powers for use in peace-time, I believe that we have the right to demand that those powers shall be exercised by the Parliament and not by the executive, and that special steps shall be taken to see that they are so exercised. Consequently honorable members on this side of the House, consider that if additional post-war powers are to be granted they should be exercised primarily by the Parliament. If, in the administration of legislation passed under such additional powers, rules need to be made, they should be brought to the notice of the Parliament before they become operative, and not afterwards. That, I consider, is of very great importance if the authority of the Parliament is to be preserved during the extremely difficult days upon which we shall enter in the post-war period.
We do not desire to see the problem of constitutional reform exhausted by what is, after all, a temporary solution. That is why we press upon the Government the proposal that within two years after the end of the war, it should take steps to convene a popular convention in Australia to which it should say, “Now let us see what we can produce in the nature of a fundamental revision of the Constitution “. It may be that some revision will be made which will alter the whole balance of power, by reversing the residual powers or by adopting the model of South Africa. Fundamental changes in the Constitution will never be passed in Australia if they proceed from any party. We may as well have our eyes open to that fact. Some changes have a chance of being made in Australia if they proceed from a popular convention, which has had abundant time and opportunity to consider problems that have to be faced and to form reasonable conclusions in respect of them.
– By “popular”, does the right honorable member mean elective ?
– Yes. I move- and I say to the Attorney-General that these are not drafting amendments, but are subject-matters put forward in general terms -
That all the words after “ that “ be left out with a view to insert the following in lieu thereof: -
The reinstatement and advancement of those who have been members of the fighting services of the Commonwealth in any war and the advancement of the dependants of those members who have died or been disabled as the consequence of such war, the reinstatement and rehabilitation of those other persons, who by reason of war conditions have been displaced from their normal peace-time occupations, the reconstruction of primary and secondary industry are the first obligations of government in the immediate period after the war;
That the existing powers of the Commonwealth are not shown to be inadequate for such purposes;
That it is, however, proper that any doubt on these points should be resolved by appropriate constitutional amendment;
That no amendment should be approved which would authorize the socialization of industry, the undue centralization of administration, or the maintenance of such laws as unnecessarily interfere with the liberty of citizens to choose their own means of living and to exercise their rights as free people;
Further, that the House is concerned at the extent of the surrender of legislative powers to administrative officials; (!. That, to afford adequate power to the Government and sufficient protection to the citizen, the bill should be withdrawn and redrafted so as to declare or provide, over a period of five years from the termination of actual hostilities, that the Commonwealth Parliament has, or should ha,ve (as the case may be) power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to the fullest repatriation powers; the use of grants, loans, insurance, training and public works for the provision of employment and the prevention or correction of unemployment; the organized marketing of primary products of which there is normally an export surplus; and, notwithstanding anything contained in section 92, the prevention of unreasonable restraint of trade; the prevention of inflation; the use of economic regulations only to the extent necessary to deal with the problem of transition from war to peace; air transport; national health; family endowment; and the people of the aboriginal race; but should not have power to enable the Executive to engage in any civil production, industry, or commercial process, not authorized by its now existing powers;
That provision should be made that during such period the exercise of such additional powers, when it possesses a legislative nature, should be by Parliament or if performed by virtue of some delegation by Parliament should be in terms “which when Parliament is sitting have been first laid before and not disapproved by Parliament, and when Parliament is not sitting have been circulated to members at least fourteen days before becoming operative;
That provision should be made for the setting up, within a period of two years after the termination of actual hostilities, of an elective popular convention for the review of the structure and working of the Constitution.
.- The matter with which the House is now dealing is probably the most important which it has yet been called upon to consider. It touches the authority of this Parliament to legislate in respect of matters additional to those that are specified in the Constitution. Honorable members are asked to signify their approval, in general terms, of a bill which is to be submitted, in turn, to the people for their approval, to enhance the ability of any government that may be in power to deal with the problems that will be inherent in postwar reconstruction. The first approach to the matter must be divorced from politics, and designed to determine whether or not the powers that are sought are really necessary or are such as should be given to this Parliament in order to remove any doubt that might exist. If they are necessary, then I affirm the need for the passage of this legislation. I decline to consider the fact that there is in power at present a Government with whose political principles I frequently find myself at variance. To me, that is quite beside the point. We claim to be a sovereign nation, yet the cold fact is that this’ Parliament is not clothed with the powers of a nation. There is no Dominion under the Crown, the power of which is so limited as is that of the Commonwealth of Australia. Indeed, the Parliament of the sister Dominion of New Zealand has plenary power, and can do anything that can be done by the Parliament of Great Britain. I have never understood the reasoning that powers suitable for exercise by the Dominion of New Zealand ought not to be conferred on Australia merely or solely because it has a federal Constitution. This is the sovereign Parliament of a great people, yet its powers are clearly far too limited to enable it to deal even with the problems of post-war reconstruction. Except in respect of the delegation of legislative powers to those to whom the administration of this country is entrusted, and subject to preservation of the right to criticize in free speech, there is no power which I shall refuse to give to this Parliament. ,
I have had some experience in connexion with the problems of Parliaments. I am conscious . of the fact that the Parliaments of Canada and South Africa have greater powers than we possess. I make no apology for advocating the right of this Parliament to the possession of plenary powers. Our Constitution has been in existence for 44 years. Its framers recognized that it was not to be a fixed instrument, but was to be moulded according to the development of mankind and the growing needs of this country. Yet, because the national problems have not been stated dispassionately, the people have been reluctant to grant additional powers.
It is said that if these powers were granted they would be exercised by a Labour Government. If that is to be a’ continuing argument, there will never be an occasion on which additional powers will be supported by both sides of the House, even though in other circumstances all would concede them to be proper. This matter imposes the test of whether or not one is a democrat. I believe in the people. The real principle of democracy is : Do you, or do you not, believe in the people? If you do, and if the people decide that the Parliament shall be clothed with additional authority, what right have you to advance the argument that it is improper to grant powers to a Parliament which might abuse them, especially as the people have the right every three years to pronounce as to whether or not they approve the manner in which the powers have been exercised? I regret that in this matter I am at variance with some of my ex-colleagues on this side of the House; nevertheless, I must express these views, because I hold them firmly.
We have had the benefit of two very good speeches, one by the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) and one by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). These have contributed greatly to an understanding of the position. Both right honorable gentlemen have evinced an appreciation of the different issues involved. We must first ascertain, if we can, the precise nature of the case that has been made out on behalf of the Opposition. I consider that the amendment for the withdrawal of the bill is designed to prevent a substantial portion of it from being carried. I cannot, and will not, commit myself to that course. Believing^ as I do, in the principles of the bill, I consider that the committee is the appropriate place in which to mould it.
I realize what difficulties will confront those who seek support for these additional powers. The history of the development of this legislation will not aid its passage. The Attorney-General and the Government made a great mistake in the terms, that were adopted when the measure was first brought before the Parliament in 1942. Obviously, the language was political, and was not appropriate to be incorporated in the fundamental document of the nation. I concede, however, that certain provisions, upon any interpretation, would have given complete power to the Parliament; but the atmosphere was political, and militated against the acceptance which the general proposition should receive from the people. As to the present measure, I urge the Attorney General to include two further powers.. The first is tr> prevent the delegation of powers by the executive to individuals who, whilst not being responsible to the people of this country, might exercise them legislatively. In the United States of America, the different phases of government - legislative, executive and judicial - are kept substantially separate. A limitation should be imposed to make it certain that those to whom powers may be delegated at least shall not exer-eiss them legislatively without the Parliament first approving of the exact terms of the exercise of such powers. There should also be preserved the freedom to criticize by means of speech, writing and broadcasting. The inclusion of those two subjects would, in my opinion, secure, or at least aid in, the passage of the referendum. My second proposition was included in the first draft of the legislation prepared by the Attorney-General. For too long have we claimed to be a nation and yet been afraid to act as a nation. Certain specific safeguards have been written into the Constitution of the United States of America. We require something similar in ours. I regard them as fundamental.
As we have developed, it has become essential to delegate many governmental functions to administrators. I should be stupid were I to say other than that any government in modern times cannot hope to discharge its duties without resorting to the delegation of authority. But it is important that the distinction between legislation and administration should be kept in mind. It is not always easy; yet in most instances a line can be drawn, and certainly the side of the line on which any matter falls can be stated. So, too, I concede that in time of war there must be a substantial smothering of the great principle of liberty of speech. However, what I fear, and what is feared by many persons who would otherwise support in general the proposals of the Government, is that, at the termination c£ the war, there will be a desire to stifle criticism. Preservation of liberty of speech is a fundamental matter that should be written into the Constitution. I cannot believe that the Labour party, which has so often expressed -its enthusiasm for this principle, would withhold its support from it now ; and having regard to the AttorneyGeneral’s many utterances, and to the fact that liberty of speech was included in. the original draft of the bill, I cannot conceive of his declining to support it. Amendments Nos. 1 to 8 in the American Constitution contain express provisions for the preservation of rights in relation to the liberty of the subject. Article I. provides -
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Article IV. provides -
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, ‘and no warrant shall issue, but upon probable cause supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to bc searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Article V. deals with an important matter to which attention must be drawn, because so often in these days, under our present regulations, a man may be compelled to give information incriminating himself. On some occasions that may be justifiable, but as a general principle it is not. Indeed, men who had already been charged with offences have been called upon to answer questions under the National Security Act, and although their answers may incriminate them they are compelled to answer. They have been told that failure to answer will render them liable to a penalty under regulations made under that act, for refusing to supply information. Article V. provides - . . ; nor shall he be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.
I regard these . matters, particularly freedom of speech and expression, as most important. If they are included, people who otherwise might mistrust the Government will consent to the proposed alterations.
– How would the honorable gentleman deal with such matters as blasphemy, pruriency, and sedition?
– Those matters are now, and will continue to be, dealt with under the common law. The common law does not give any one the right to say anything; it merely gives the right, within the limits imposed by the law, such as, for example, the laws relating to seditious utterances and criminal libel and the general law of defamation, to say what you like, when you like, about whom you like, high or low. The law imposing those limits was brought here by the first colonists when they came to Australia. Subject to those limitations, there is absolute right to criticize. 3 believe firmly in that. I believe that if this objection were met it would do much to ensure the acceptance of the Government’s proposals.
I come now to the question of the delegation of powers by the Parliament, and I propose to read one paragraph from volume 3 of Willoughby’s Constitution of the United States of America in order to show that those who framed the Constitution of America endeavoured, when framing the Constitution, to keep separate the powers of the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. We have in substance the same separation of powers in the Commonwealth Constitution, but the High Court, in the Kronheimers case., ruled that this restriction did not apply under our Constitution, and that the Parliament had authority to delegate those very powers which had been vested in it. I am very jealous of the powers of Parliament, and I believe that, subject to certain qualifications, this general observation from Willoughby’s work should be applicable here -
One of the settled maxims in constitutional law is that the power conferred upon the legislature to make laws cannot be delegated by that department to any other body or authority. Where the sovereign power of thu State has located the authority, there it must remain, and by that constitutional agency alone the laws must be made until the Constitution itself is changed. The power to whose judgment, wisdom and patriotism this high prerogative has been entrusted, cannot relieve itself of the responsibility by choosing other agencies upon which the power shall bc devolved, nor can it substitute the judgment, wisdom and patriotism of any other body for those to which alone the people have seen fit. to confide this sovereign trust.
I believe that what has been read into the Constitution of the United States of America regarding the separation of the powers of the legislature, the Executive and the judiciary, but which has not been read into the Commonwealth Constitution, should and can be clarified now. The legislative powers given to
Parliament should not be delegated - powers of administration, yes; but powers of legislation, no - unless Parliament first approves not only of the delegation of the powers, but also of the precise terms of its exercise. No individual outside this Parliament should be given power ro legislate in matters touching the lives and property of the people unless the Parliament first agrees.
– Then half the regulations which have been issued by the Government ought to be declared invalid.
– I do not agree, but even if that were so I should not be intimidated. I agree that it might come to such a pass that Parliament would have to sit much more than it has in the past, and that would be unpopular with some people. It might also be necessary to increase the membership of Parliament so that Ministers would not need to be in continuous attendance. The increase of membership would have the advantage of ensuring that the people would be served in Cabinet by better representatives. That, however, is by the way. The recent history of this matter presently before this chamber is as follows: In 1942, a ‘Constitution Convention was held, attended by representatives of the three parties in the Commonwealth Parliament and by the leaders of the political parties in the State Parliaments, for the purpose of determining the minimum powers which ought to be given to the Commonwealth Parliament to enable it to deal with problems of post-war reconstruction. A bill relating to those powers had been drawn up, but it was shelved because of the criticism which it provoked, not so much because of the powers proposed, but because of the terms in which the bill was couched. Then, just before the convention met, the Attorney-General produced another bill which set forth in general terms those powers which were believed to be sufficient to enable the Commonwealth Parliament to function adequately. This bill was submitted to a drafting committee of the convention. It is desirable to emphasize that at the convention there were representatives of all the parties in this Parliament. The Opposition was represented by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), who had with him the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), and the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) was- also in attendance for a part of the time. There was a general discussion of the Government’s proposals before the drafting committee met. I think it is correct that when the convention reassembled the Leader of the Opposition was not present, but I quote the following from the remarks of the Leader of the Australian Country party: -
On behalf of the Opposition in the Commonwealth Parliament, I desire to thank you, Mr. Curtin, for the sentiments and the thanks that you have expressed. I also am pleased to have been associated “with such a historic gathering. I think the bill that we have just passed can be accepted as a monument of co-operation, and as evidence of unselfishness and compromise on the part of every one, particularly those who have represented the States here. We must appreciate that the States, who comprised the major portion of the drafting committee, have compromised to a great extent, as is shown by the terms of the bill. All this goes to show that when Australians are required to get together and do a big thing for their country, they are prepared to exert every possible effort to achieve the result which is best calculated to serve the interests of .the nation. Just as it is said that a bad compromise is better than a good lawsuit, so the compromise that has been agreed to by the States is far better, than a referendum. I hope that the willingness that has been shown on all 6)des to arrive at an agreement, and the unselfishness displayed by the ‘States, will culminate in the bill going through every House of Parliament in Australia and becoming law.
In fairness to the right honorable gentleman, I point out that he was not then discussing a referendum, but what the State leaders themselves had agreed to do.
– And what Commonwealth powers were necessary for the purpose.
– Yes, that is the only point I make. The leaders of the States themselves, whose powers we ask the people now to take from them and give to us, agreed that the proposals in this bill represented the minimum which would enable the Commonwealth Parliament to carry on effectively after the war.
– Four of the six State leaders who agreed to those proposals have since changed their minds.
– I am not concerned with that. Afterwards, all sorts of influences were at work, some of them obviously not concerned with the interests of the country. I cannot understand bow it is that, if six State Premiers, all of them experienced in the difficulties of administration, agreed in conference that certain powers should be transferred to the Commonwealth, there can be much comfort for anybody in the fact that certain things happened afterwards. I have never wavered in my opinion as to what the powers of this Parliament should be, and I do not propose to do so now. “When we realize that in New Zealand there is a Parliament which possesses complete powers, and when we realize that the State Parliaments themselves have power to do all the things which are regarded as so exceptional when it is suggested that this Parliament should have them, practically all the arguments advanced against these proposals fall to the ground, and the only question remaining is whether these are, in fact, national matters.
I listened to the case put forward by the Attorney-General, and also to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition. I appreciate the difficulties of the Leader of the Opposition, but as far as I could follow his argument he agreed that the National Parliament should have power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the country in respect of: - (1) Restraint of trade; (2) power to take over State railways; (3) prices; (4) some control over investment; (5) air transport - or, it may be, regulations governing air transport - he was indefinite in this only; (6) national works; (7) national health “if it is a fit subject “; (8) family endowment; (9) power to deal with people of the aboriginal race, if the term is not limited to five years; (10) uniform company law, if the period is not limited to five years. When we compare those powers with the proposals in the bill we find that the actual margin of difference is not wide. As I understood the arguments of the Leader of the Opposition against the bill they were, first, that the Commonwealth already has the powers under sections of the Constitution which he mentioned, quite apart from the “ defence “ power. Well, if it has, there can be no danger in stating them over again. The second argu ment seemed to be that, if the Commonwealth did not possess the powers specifically, it had them under the defence power of the Constitution. He then went on to say that, in his opinion, the bil ought to be withdrawn. I know what the result would be; the bill would be killed. In my opinion, there is no doubt that Parliament should approve of this bill in general terms.
Let us now turn to the details of the measure before the House. Clause 51(a) provides that the Commonwealth Parliament shall have power to legislate in respect of the reinstatement and advancement of those who have been in the fighting forces. This power, it is alleged, is already in this Parliament under the “ defence “ power. We are told that the defence power is a very extensive one. I do not need to be convinced of that. When the uniform income tax legislation was before Parliament I expressed certain opinions on the subject which were controverted by the Leader of the Opposition.
– The honorable member ought to read the judgment of the High Court on the matter.
– When the Leader of the Opposition spoke on the uniform income tax legislation he ridiculed the idea that the defence power was as extensive as now he contends it is. The right honorable gentleman certainly ridiculed the idea that uniform taxation could be supported under the defence power.
– I hope that the honorable member will read my speech.
– I did read it. I pay the right honorable gentleman the courtesy of reading his speeches. I read the speeches of all those who make worthwhile contributions to the debates. In war-time the defence power of the Commonwealth is very extensive, but the question is : How extensive will it be when the war ends? Will the High Court show the same liberality in interpreting the defence power of the Commonwealth in peace-time as it shows now? I agree that in general terms the defence power must remain constant, but no lawyer who appears before the High Court could come to any conclusion other than that the interpretation of the defence power by the High Court is a very weak reed for Parliament to lean on if it is to develop this country as it should he developed. Each Justice adopts the same rule in deciding issues involving the constitutionality of action taken by the Commonwealth in the use of its defence power. He says, in substance, “ Is there some connexion between this power and the prosecution of the war ?” Yet we have one saying, “ Yes, there is “, and another “No, there is not”. I am not prepared to see Parliament rest its legislation on so ‘ uncertain a basis. Whilst I believe in general terms that much that has been said by the Leader of the Opposition is true as a legal proposition, I also believe that the defence power in time of war spreads like a green bay-tree and in time of peace shrivels like a plant deprived of water and sunshine.
As for the argument advanced by the Leader of the Opposition that we already possess the other powers that are to be asked for, I simply say that if those powers confer in another way what we already have there can be no argument against them. I venture to say, however, that the Leader of the Opposition over-emphasized some of the powers which he said we already have. I take in particular the appropriation power contained in section 81 of the Constitution. I listened with great interest to what -the right honorable gentleman said and while he was speaking about section 81 I interjected that there had never been a decision on that section. His reply was, “ I am aware of that “. It was made quite clear, he went on to say, that at the Constitution Convention of some years ago that power was a general power to appropriate for any purposes the Commonwealth thought fit, but to-night, after dinner, there has been a retraction. The matter was dealt with in the case The Attorney-General (Viet.) v. the Commonwealth reported in 52 C.L.R. The Attorney-General was one of the justices. Chief Justice Gavan Duffy, Justice Evatt and Justice McTiernan simply passed over the matter of section 81 with a comment, but it was this important comment -
It becomes unnecessary to enter upon a consideration either of the particular argu- ment resting upon the Executive authority conferred upon the Governor-General by sections 01 and 08 of the Constitution, or of the grave question involved in the argument that section 81 of the Constitution itself enables the Commonwealth to appropriate moneys for any purpose deemed sufficient by the Commonwealth, quite irrespective of its relation to the legislative and Executive authority conferred upon Commonwealth organs by other sections of the Constitution.
Those three justices regarded it as a grave question upon which they were not galled upon to express any opinion. Mr. Justice Starke, after dealing with the position under the Constitution of the United States of America, went to the extent of saying this -
The power to appropriate moneys “ for the purposes of the Commonwealth “ does not, in my opinion, enable the Commonwealth to appropriate such moneys to any purposes it thinks fit but restricts that power to the subjects assigned to, or departments or matters placed under the control of the federal government by the Constitution. No constitutional warrant, therefore, for the extension of the operations of the clothing factory to general business purposes can be found in the appropriation power.
The High Court dealt with the matter then before it under the defence power. What I have said about the defence power applies equally to the power of appropriation, namely, that it would be most foolish for the Commonwealth Parliament to rely on any power in the Constitution if there were any doubt about it, and the defence power and the power of appropriation are, to say the least, subject to limitations. So I say to the people through this Parliament, that they ought to clothe this Parliament with unequivocal powers.
I am no new devotee of the theory that this Parliament has power to tax, even to the extent of excluding the States in substance from the same field. In contradistinction to the opinions expressed by the Leader of the Opposition during the debate on the uniform tax legislation, I advanced the theory that taxes could be imposed by this Parliament to the complete exclusion of the power of the States to tax. However, it does not follow that, because the Commonwealth Parliament can do that, it can therefore properly direct all other affairs of the country. That is a different matter. It is the power of administration and to legislate upon different heads of subject-matter that gives the authority to fashion the future of the nation. So, while I agree with some of what the Leader of the Opposition has said so far as drafting is concerned, I disagree, in particular, with his argument that most of the powers now sought are already vested in this Parliament. Limited only to the clause dealing with the reinstatement and advancement of former members of the fighting forces, I would not, for example, be prepared to rely on the “ defence “ power as covering the same subjectmatter. In 1921, three years after the end of the last war, it was held by the High Court that certain sections of the Repatriation Act were valid under the defence power, but I am not certain that the same answer -would have been given five, ten or twenty years after. It may well be that under the important word “ advancement “ there will be matters which cannot be held to be covered by the authority of the defence power, although’ I believe that the defence power should be so interpreted. Those matters, however, would be covered specifically by the power which is to be asked for under this heading. If, in point of fact, the proposed new section gives no more than we have now, there can be no objection to a confirmation of our powers so as to place the matter beyond all doubt.
I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that the words “ employment, and unemployment “ are of great significance, and have almost unlimited content. The question is whether they are so uncertain that no interpretation could be placed upon them. I do not agree that they should be construed to cover all the other powers which this bill provides for. At any rate, there is the view that, if the other powers mean anything, they mean something in addition to employment and unemployment, but, even if “ employment and unemployment “ cover the whole range, am I to baulk ? No ! That the Commonwealth Parliament shall have power to control employment and unemployment is the essence of the solution of the problems of the country. I stand for the rights of private business, but I do not agree that it should be allowed to go its own way regardless of the common weal. It is fundamental that the Commonwealth should control the problem of placing people in employment and ensuring that they shall not be unemployed if they are able and willing to work. It is no new argument of mine that this country should provide for that through the governmental action where necessary, because I said in my first speech in this House in 1937 that it was a fundamental obligation on this Parliament to exercise that power.
– The honorable member was an Independent then, too.
– I am independent in thought and action regardless of where I sit in this House. In general terms, I am satisfied with the section dealing with employment and unemployment.
Another paragraph provides that the Parliament shall have power to make laws with respect to -
Limitation of that ‘ power to five years would cause great difficulties. Companies will be in grave trouble if they do not know where they will be at the end of that period. Unless the AttorneyGeneral is able to make out a strong case in favour of that proposal in committee, I will vote against it.
Regarding “ trusts, combines and monopolies “, the Leader of the Opposition said that the words .mean nothing, but I strongly disagree. The words had clear significance 50 or 60 years ago. I believe that they are clear enough. The word “ trust “ in this connexion is not limited to the ordinary narrow sense of confidence reposed or “ trust “ in its legal content. It is a commercial term. I was not too clear, but I thought the word “ trust “ meant exactly what the dictionaries say it means. The 1936 edition of Webster’s Dictionary gives the following definition of “ trust “ : -
A permanent organization of any kind controlling the commercial policy of a number of establishments operated independently, especially when such an organization is strong enough to control the prices of a line of products in a wide range of markets, suppressing or disregarding competition. Synonym - monopoly.
Funk and Wagnall’s Standard Dictionary of the English Language dennes “ trust “ as -
The Oxford English Dictionary defines “trust” as-
A body of producers or traders in some class of business organized to reduce or defeat competition, lessen expense and control production and distribution for their common advantage; specifically such a combination of commercial or industrial companies with a central governing body or trustees which holds a majority of the whole of the stock of the combining firms, thus having a controlling rate in the conduct and operation of each.
The Oxford Dictionary gives an example of the use of the word in that sense in 18S7 by the Pall Mall Gazette. Undoubtedly, those words deal with a subject that should be within tie control of this Parliament. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Hughes) holds the strongest views regarding the control of monopolies. So do I. Whilst there may be room for argument as to how far these words extend, I believe that the control of monopolies, combines and commercial trusts, in the sense in which I understand these terms, should repose in this Parliament, [Extension of time granted.] Honorable members on this side of the House concede that prices should be controlled. If the people concede the power to control prices, they will concede a great deal, because many antecedant phases must be controlled in order that prices may ultimately be controlled. Whatever “ profiteering “ means - and some meaning must be given to it - this Parliament should have power to control it.
– It means unreasonable or extortionate prices.
– The power relating to the production and distribution of goods should not be treated as a subject for political controversy. Whilst I am opposed to the Government entering the field of private enterprise, that does not answer the question. It is not for me on this bill to say whether I am opposed to such governmental action or not. The question is whether this Parliament, if the people vest it with the necessary authority and if a Ministry receives a specific mandate, should have the necessary power to control the production and distribution of goods. I am opposed to what is generally known by the overall name of “ socialism “, but I am not opposed to this Parliament possessing power to do anything which the people of the country may ultimately authorize it to do.
The control of overseas exchange may well be covered by existing powers in the Constitution, but this Parliament should be empowered to control overseas investments, particularly in a time when there might be a flight of capital from Australia. I say nothing of the proposed power relating to air transport, because that has been conceded. The standardization of railway gauges can be dismissed with a few words, because we agree that the work must be undertaken. The problem is whether the work could be done under the powers proposed in this bill, or only as the result of the Commonwealth assuming control of State railways. I should say that the power, if given, should enable the Commonwealth to propose the work, and to direct a State to carry it out. Regarding national works, I agree with the comments of the Leader of the Opposition. The Commonwealth should possess that power without any restrictions. I direct the attention of the Attorney-General to the words - but so that, before any such work is undertaken in a State, the consent of the Governor in Council of that State shall be obtained, and so that any such work so undertaken shall be carried out in co-operation with the State.
They almost devitalize the power.
– Can the honorable member name any State that would object?
– I know from my presiding over meetings of the Loan Council that when the consent of the States must be obtained, a great deal of “ jockeying “ will occur. I do not believe that State Premiers should be allowed to resort to such tactics in connexion with national works. I never regarded the Loan Council as being the most efficient body to deal with the loan programmes of Australia.
– Let us get rid of them.
– That would not upset me. I do not believe in the States. The comments which I made about the power over national works apply equally to the powers over national health. The words “in co-operation with the States or any of them” denudes a most important power which should be vested in this Parliament without limitation. “ Family allowances “ could be read preferably, in my view, to “ family endowment”. Whether the power relating to people of the aboriginal race is for five years or permanently, I am in favour of it.
I have endeavoured to express my views unequivocally. I do not desire to support a motion for the withdrawal of the bill. Nevertheless I detect traces of hasty draftsmanship, and suggest that before the bill is considered in committee honorable members should be given an opportunity to discuss this matter with the Attorney-General. No advantage will be derived from submitting these questions to the people in the exact words to which the Premiers agreed, because many of those who supported the granting of the proposed powers to the Commonwealth will find some excuse for opposing the referendum. The Commonwealth should lay down a programme for national works and national health and the States, while they continue to function, should carry out that programme.
I urge honorable members to divorce this most important constitutional matter from party politics. It rests largely with us to decide whether this Parliament shall have power to deal effectively with the problems of the post-war period. The powers now possessed by this Parliament are inadequate for that purpose, and if the Commonwealth is compelled to rely upon them, they will bo challenged in the courts. For its post-war programme, the Commonwealth cannot rely upon its defence power or upon existing sections of the Constitution. Later I shall urge certain amendments to the bill, particularly on the lines I have indicated dealing with the delegation of legislative powers and the freedom of the individual. Subject to that, I support the bill.
.- In my young and academic days, I gave myself up to writing one-act plays. They were poisonously trite, and on one occasion, as a part of my medical training, I wrote a play on the subject of the “ Detruncaters versus the Disembowellers “. The respective gangs used to meet every Saturday evening and one gang would say, “ You are not a doctor “, to which the other gang would retort, “ We are doctors “. Having listened to three learned members of the legal profession on constitutional problems, I believe that I have heard a repetition of that old story : “ It is ; it is not “. As a plain citizen I am expected to understand the obscure interpretations of the legal profession. I have no desire to interfere with any other profession in the course of its deliberations, but I confess that I begin to understand why people are usually interned by the legal profession even if they are occasionally interred by the medical profession. For the layman to understand properly the problem of the Constitution, we must try to visualize conditions in Australia at the time of federation when’ our fathers created this awful monster. The firstreference is a letter of Governor Denison written on the 10th March, 1849, which slightly preceded responsible government in this country. This is what he thought of Australian people. It is just as well for us to know what other people thought of us-
– Is the honorable member speaking of Tasmanians?
– Governor Denison afterwards because Governor of New South Wales. I do not think that other States existed then. Certainly South Australia did not. The letter reads -
Without, therefore, wishing or presuming to give an opinion on the general question of the best form of legislative body, I may say that, und.er the peculiar circumstances of these colonies, I should most strenuously recommend the adoption of a second or upper chamber.
When we consider the elements of which society here is composed - when we see the low estimate that is -placed upon everything which can distinguish a man from his fellows, with the sole exception of wealth - when we see that even wealth docs not lead to distinction or open the road to any other ambition than that of excelling in habits of selfindulgence, it can hardly be subject of surprise that so few are found who rise above the general level or that those few owe more to the possession of a certain oratorical facility than to their powers of mind or the justness of the opinions which they advocate.
The broad plain of equality, as in America, receives the whole of the community; and though there are many who would gladly avail themselves of any opportunity of raising themselves above the general level, yet here, as in Amenca, any attempt to do so would be frustrated by the jealousy of the remainder of the community.
Your Lordship can hardly form an idea or the character of the population of these colonies.
It is usual to assume that colonies are offshoots from the parent stock, containing in themselves the germs of all the elements of which society in the Mother Country is composed.
This can only be said of any colony with many reservations, but it cannot be said of these colonies with any appearance of justice or truth.
There is an essentially democratic spirit which actuates the large mass of the community; and it is with the view to check the development of this spirit, of preventing its coming into operation, that I would suggest the formation of an upper house.
I Lave seen those words in Governor Denison’s own handwriting. In the early fifties trouble occurred on the gold-fields of Victoria, and in 1856 responsible government was granted in this country. One is inclined to think that there, was some justification for Governor Denison’s opinion of the Australian people when we experience the tragedy of the railway gauges in this country. Despite the deepseated enmity that has existed among various European nations for generations, those people managed to agree upon a uniform railway gauge. When Australians could not agree, the multiplicity of railway gauges resulted. Prom the 1880’s to 1900, our fathers endeavoured to create a federal constitution. But there were difficulties. Even the parent State of New South Wales was obliged on two occasions to hold referendums for the purpose of ascertaining the kind of constitution that would be acceptable to the people. Out of the many deliberations that were held before 1900, we got the 39 heads of power, the Senate and the House of Representatives. Perhaps I am in a different position from honorable members from certain other States. . I happened to be the leader of a State chamber and sponsored the Commonwealth Powers Bill on three occasions without success. I consider that I should transmit to this House some of the reason? that were given for the rejection of the bill. The people of Australia feel detached from Canberra. The greatest Australian political tragedy of the twentieth century was the creation of Canberra. It is quite all right to talk about what the people of America did to maintain democratic institutions, but we must move somewhere to a big centre of population, so that we shall be subject to criticism almost while our own breath is still hot. The people regard Canberra as entirely separate from themselves. The time has arrived when we should give some attention to this problem, and see whether we can get back to some of the conditions of the past. We must do everything in our power to develop our own political structure and preserve the amenities of democracy. We should refuse to be hampered by a Constitution which seems to have neither head nor legs. Australia consists of two kinds of States, those which, apparently, are wealthy and those which we know as “ claimant States “. Over the years the claimant States have developed a chronic grievance against the other States and persistently cry out that they dc not get justice. Instead of a centralized order in this country, we need a decentralized order. A proper approach to the problem of constitutional reform i3 urgent. Rightly or wrongly, the people of the claimant States consider that they do not get justice from Canberra, and we must do everything in our power to break down .that attitude of mind. We have never been really serious in our attempts to obtain wider powers for the Commonwealth Parliament. Without doubt, a tremendous revolution has occurred in the political structure of the world in the last four or five years. Space has been annihilated, and time has been sp contracted that we in Australia now find ourselves face to- face with the people of Asia. We need a political structure in keeping with these changed conditions.
The greatest single problem which faces Australia is, as I have said on other occasions in this chamber, our small population. Unless we find some way to increase our population, we shall deteriorate so seriously in the course of the next 25 years, as to render the nature of the Constitution under which we are governed a matter of no consequence. Signs of decay are already apparent in the country in consequence of our lack of population. The practical issue that faces us is the provision of employment for people. Everything else is subsidiary to that vital consideration. The legal practitioners of this Parliament who have, so far, addressed themselves to this measure have used so many “ buts “ and “ thats “ that the rest of us have been left in a quandary as to what they mean. The one positive thing .that stands out, however, is that we must devise means of providing work for our people. To that end we should not hesitate to accept, even for a five-year term, any added power that we can secure, hoping, of course, that ultimately such power will be incorporated permanently in our governmental structure. The possession of power by this Parliament does not mean that it will pass legislation simply for the purpose of passing it. All of us are aware that we must face the electors every three years. Consequently we shall all desire to pass only legislation which will serve the best interests of the whole community. If we pass useless measures the people of Australia will resent it and quickly call us to account.
I hold strong views on the need for wider powers for the Commonwealth Parliament. I consider that we should do everything we can to urge the people to grant even the limited powers sought in this bill, in the hope that by the judicious exercise of them, the people will come to realize the wisdom of granting them permanently. I do not see that much purpose is to be served by comparing the constitutional structures of New Zealand, South Africa and Canada with that of Australia. I agree with the views expressed by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), who declared himself to be a whole-hearted unificationist, but who, as a legal practitioner, no doubt has some reservations in his mind. I have recently written some articles on devolution as distinct from evolution.
– I did not understand the honorable member for Warringah to say that he was a whole-hearted unificationist.
– That is what I gathered from his remarks though, as he is a lawyer, it is difficult to understand from what he says, exactly what he means. Coincidental with the effort to obtain additional constitutional powers for the Commonwealth by means of a referendum, we should endeavour to reconstruct this Parliament with the object of thoroughly equipping it to ensure peace, order and good government. I seriously say that there should be more than 75 members of this House, especially when we consider that the Parliament of the United Kingdom has more than 600 members, notwithstanding the restricted area of the country. This Parliament should be supreme and it should delegate authority to other outside bodies. We hear a great deal about the overlapping of governmental institutions in this country, and I agree that such a state of affairs is most unfortunate. We should be wise to devote our attention to the development of a governmental instrument comparable with that of Great Britain, which would have associated with it county councils and other subsidiary administrative bodies, all answerable .to the central government.
I shall not labour this issue, but I declare without hesitation that we should abandon Canberra as a part of a great scheme of constitutional reform. We ought to be meeting in a big city where we could feel the pulse of public opinion. I hear an honorable member asking what could be done with Canberra. As such a clamour is being made in these days foa- higher education, I suggest that Canberra should be converted into a university city. The Parliament could well be transferred to Sydney or Melbourne and remain there for the next 100 years or so. In Canberra we are forgotten by the general population. This city could be made available for the study of the arts and sciences, and accommodation could be found here for from 5,000 to 10,000 students. As we are the, only justification for Canberra, I say, God help Canberra.
– The honorable gentleman has become tired of this city very suddenly.
– The difference between some honorable gentlemen opposite and myself is that I have the courage to declare my feelings. We are dealing with the problem of constitutional reform from the wrong point of view. Let us leave controversy to the legal gentlemen and get to work on the practical issues. Mention has been made in this debate of the need for the standardization of our railway gauges and for a public health policy applicable to the whole Commonwealth. These are vital issues, but the most vital issue of all is the provision of employment for everybody. The interpretation of the Constitution is a matter for the High Court, but the Lord only knows how the High Court reaches its decisions! I have been very interested in some of the judgments of the court, though I do not give much attention to legal arguments. The High Court some years ago gave an interpretation of section 92 of the Constitution in what is known as the James case. The present Attorney-General was one of the dissenting judges. The Privy Council subsequently upset the High Court’s decision, but upheld Mr. Justice Evatt’s judgment.
That such a thing can happen shows the futility of dealing with these issues on purely legal grounds. Most people who have watched the evolution of Australian politics in the Commonwealth sphere during the last 44 years must surely realize the need for wider powers for the Commonwealth Parliament. Whether the approach by way of referendum is the right one I cannot say. If the State Parliaments would refer these additional powers to the Commonwealth an enormous amount of trouble would be saved and the people would have the opportunity to observe the results. They would probably later be prepared to vote such powers permanently to the Commonwealth. The Australian people are to be asked to pass en bloc fourteen headings of power, concerning which even the celebrated lawyers in this chamber disagree. How the people are to understand them, I do not know. They may say, in their blindness, “ We do not understand them, but we shall give them to you “. The time has arrived when this Parliament should have greater power, and the proposed approach is the only one that could reasonably be made at a time like the present. I hope that the Australian people will be induced to pass the fourteen headings of power which will ultimately make for the good government of this country.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Hughes) adjourned.
Domestic Staff at Unlet Hospitals - Supply of Ale and Stout on Medical Certificate - Australian Army: Burial of Soldiers; Use of Military Initials ; Uniforms - Civilian Suits for Discharged Soldiers - Quality of Textiles - Barbed Wire - Horseshoes - Payments to Italian Internees - Royal Australian Air Force: Enlistments.
Motion (by Dr. Evatt) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I direct the attention of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) to the very unsatisfactory condition that exists in the city of Unley, South Australia, in connexion with hospital accommodation, especially for maternity cases. I am in receipt of a letter from the Acting Town Clerk, Unley, enclosing a copy of a report by Dr. H. H. E. Russell, Medical Officer of Health, upon the position in respect of beds available for maternity cases in the hospitals within the district. The report is as follows: -
I wish to bring before the notice of the Unley local Board of Health the serious position confronting our maternity hospitals. Attached is a resume of available maternity beds in each of the years 1940-43 and to-day. I desire to strongly emphasize the fact that although the available beds in 1940 were 85 and to-day are apparently 79 on paper, actually to-day there are only 42 maternity beds available, 37 out of the 79 having been closed to maternity cases owing to the lack of staff, chiefly domestic. A matron who has had difficulty in obtaining domestic staff is afraid to book maternity cases to her full capacity owing to the uncertainty of domestic staff (number and quality) at any future date. As a maternity case usually remains in hospital 14 days it will be seen that 37 x 36 or 962 pregnant women are being denied hospital treatment at Unley although . the beds are licensed by the Unley Medical Board for maternity cases but are being used for other cases. The obvious conclusion is that if the hospitals taking maternity cases try to meet the position they can only do so by overcrowding with all its resultant dangers of epidemic, disease and death. In my opinion the position is dangerous and is becoming more so.
The Acting Town Clerk says in his letter -
Owing to the matrons of hospitals being unable to obtain suitable domestic staffs, they have had much of the domestic work to carry nut themselves, and so have not been able to take the number of cases which their hospitals ran accommodate.
One of the eleven maternity hospitals in the city of Unley which was taking an average of thirteen cases a fortnight, is now taking only five a fortnight, due solely to the shortage of domestic staff. The man-power authorities in South Australia must accept full responsibility for this undesirable and avoidable position. Expectant mothers should not be denied hospital accommodation because the authorities have fallen down on their job. During the debate on the AddressinReply, honorable members generally agreed that our population should be raised by means of either immigration or the stimulation of natural increase. The time is overdue for action to make more domestic help available for hospitals. I trust that the Minister will order the Director-General, Mr. Wurth, to institute a special investigation of the complaint and to take immediate steps to have the existing dangerous state of affairs corrected.
Mr. ARCHIE CAMERON (Barker) “9.53”. - A decision of the Department of Trade and Customs declares that no person can receive supplies of beer or *tout from a brewery even on a doctor’s order, although it might have been so purchased foi’ upwards of ten years. I have received from a correspondent a letter, with which is enclosed the following, from a brewery in South Australia -
It is with regret that wo advise that wc have received instructions from the Excise Department that we must not supply any more si le or stout on doctors’ certificates. This caine into operation only last week and we-are sorry your order did not come in earlier. We note that you an: returning the three empty crates. . . . We. are returning herewith your £2 10s. Sd. and trust same will reach you safely.
My correspondent writes as follows : -
Two weeks ago in the Titter appeared a letter from a T.U. sufferer complaining, because he had been refused n bottle of stout advised by his doctor from the local brewery. Tt seemed impossible to believe it is true. However, my own experience can testify to (he fact. Ten years ago I was advised that n«i a bottle of beer a day would do me more good than any medicine he could give mc. I have been getting it until this week. The enclosed letter speaks for itself. I can’t get it here, the two hotels refuse to sell a bottle to anyone. 1 -am as anxious as anyone to see the war finished. We all are. Withholding a bottle of beer to sick people won’t help a little bit. If I was well and had the money. 1. could stand behind a bar all day. Heaven help the people if this regulation business overnight continues.
That sentiment is echoed by thousands of persons in this country. I have interviewed the Minister for Trade and Customs, but have failed to secure satisfaction from him. The Government might well take the matter up. It may appear to be a small matter to Ministers in this delightful city of Canberra, but it is not small to the sick people of this country to have regulations of thi? description applied against them overnight. The Attorney-General will .be asked a lot of questions about it if he engages in a certain tour of this country in not less than two and not more than six months.
– Is even that to be linked with the referendum?
– There is no doubt that it will be. This is a matter which the people can understand. They cannot understand soma of the abstruse subjects that are discussed during campaigns of that description, and make no attempt to do so.
My friend, the honorable member for Richmond. (Mr. Anthony) has already raised another subject that I wish to discuss. It was my fortune, while in Sydney recently, accidentally to encounter three men of the ‘7th Division who were down from New Guinea on leave; they had landed in Sydney on that day, and immediately visited the Federal Members’ Rooms in order to interview a federal member. It transpired later that one of them was. from my electorate. They were positively furious at the stupid order issued in New Guinea that the letters “A.I.F.” should be removed from the crosses on the graves of the men who are buried up there. This afternoon, the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) read a statement on the subject. I have never listened to one that was more ridiculous. The honorable gentleman said that the letters “ A.I.F. “ had been removed and the letters “A.M.F.” had been substituted. The fact is that “ A.M.F. “ is the common term used throughout the Australian Army to designate the Militia Forces. On another occasion recently, the Minister for the Army declared that 86 per cent, of the total armed forces are now in the Australian Imperial Force. If that he the case, why this sudden desire to try to hide from the wily Jap information as to where the Australian Imperial Force has been? I am speaking of a matter about which I know something. The Minister referred to the “order of battle”. “Within the last twelve months, there have been public disclosures by authority of Australian and Japanese orders of battle in the press of this country, which are without parallel in the military history of the world. So, for Heaven’s sake, let not the Government of this country delude itself into the belief that the Japs do not know that the Australian Imperial Force has been in New Guinea. The Minister said this afternoon that it had now been agreed that a man’s regimental number should remain on the cross. That very number discloses whether he was a member of the Australian Imperial Force or the Militia; it. “gives the whole show away”. If it be a question of the divisional order of battle, there is not very much that is concealed from the Jap. I have no doubt that the Jap has a very good listening service. What is broadcast, or published in the press, is available to certain foreign persons, who are living in this country, and they have their own means of transmitting it to their friends outside Australia. It is ridiculous for the Minister to say that this thing had to be done - this thing which is resented by every man who has ever had an “ Australia “ on his shoulder. I have received letters of protest from my electorate. The question asked by the honorable member for Richmond was not answered. The Minister was very prompt in absolutely disclaiming any Government action or sympathy. I shall not pursue the matter farther now, because I shall seize, before long, an opportunity to make certain “ hasty and ill-considered “ remarks in regard to Army administration, which I have been treasuring for at least four or five months. On that occasion, I shall go more deeply into it. The words of one of the men whom I saw in Sydney were, “ The poor so-and-so’s would not have died, if they had known that the Government was going to do this to them after they were buried “. It is not sufficient or satisfactory for any Minister of State to come into this chamber and say. as the Minister for the Army said this afternoon, quite a lot of “ sweet nothings” which have told us little and which did not put anybody “ in the cart “, expecting us to he a nice lot of little boys and to say, “ Thank you, Mr. Minister; that is all settled”. So far as I am concerned the matter is not settled. I want to know on whose authority this was done, and I want a much better explanation of the reasons for it than we were given this afternoon. I have seen military cemetries in which the name, number, and unit of every man buried there were inscribed on the headstone. The very fact that the ‘letters A.I.F. were taken off the crosses in Nev Guinea, and the explanation that, had they been allowed to remain, information might have been disclosed to the Japanese, indicates that those responsible for this action expected the Japanese to come back over that country. Otherwise, there was no point in it. The Minister should examine this matter carefully. I am not prepared to let it stay where it is. There are some things very wrong with Army administration. I propose to have halt an hour discussing them at some time, and after that the Government can do what it likes. This action in. regard to the graves of soldiers in New Guinea if one of the stupidest, cruellest and rottenest things I have ever heard of. The Government must furnish a better explanation than the lame, sickly and anaemic one which the Minister offered to the House this afternoon.
.- Some time ago, I asked the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), in his capacity as Acting Minister for Supply, a question regarding a statement by members of the textiletrade. that although permission had been denied to Australian textile manufacturers to make cloth of better quality for the Australian trade, permission had been granted for the manufacture of 500,000 yards of high quality cloth foi export to New Zealand. The honorable gentleman, in reply to my question, said that he would inquire into the matter.
I>r. Evatt. - I should have supplied the honorable member with an answer, but I thought that the question had, in substance, been answered by the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman).
– I did not hear any official -reply, but the Prime Minister informed me outside the House that permission had been given for the manufacture of high-grade cloth for New Zealand. I feel that the House should be given an explanation of the discriminatory policy applied by the Government to the consumers of woollen cloth in Australia as against the consumers of woollen cloth in New Zealand. Apart from that, however, I wish to urge upon the Government the need to amend its policy in relation to the manufacture of textiles for civilian use. This policy is not only uneconomical and wasteful, but it is also having a damaging effect upon the reputation of Australian textiles. It is wasteful of man-power because the materials have small durability compared, with higher quality cloth. Moreover, we are losing valuable technical skill which was acquired over many years, and we are fast losing the reputation, painfully acquired over a period of twenty years, for the manufacture of cloth of good quality in Australia. Representations on the subject have been made to me by textile manufacturers, and also by the Australian Wool Board, and other responsible bodies. They point out, that twenty years before the present war, 95 per cent, of the woollen cloth used, in Australia was of British manufacture, only 5 per cent, being made in Australia. In the year before the outbreak of war those percentages had been reversed: 95 per cent, of the woollen cloth used here was of Australian manufacture, and only 5 per cent, was British. In the intervening period Australian manufacturers, by improving the quality of the cloth produced, had enormously increased the demand for Australian textiles. Now, in a period of twelve months, the Government has, by a stupid act of policy, done much to destroy the goodwill built up in the past. It has destroyed the trust of the public in the quality of Australian cloth, and is rapidly losing for Australia the technical skill acquired over that long period. Two reasons have been advanced in justification of the Government’s policy, but both of them break down upon examination. The first is that it results in a saving of labour. Il is said that less labour is required in the making of single-weft than in the making of double- weft cloth. The other reason is that the single-weft cloth is slightly cheaper to buy, and this appeals to the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), who has worked so hard to keep down the cost-of-living index figures, and to pi-event inflation. In his view, the making of cheap cloth helps in this direction. I do not know what amount of labour is saved in the actual manufacture of the single-weft cloth as against double-weft cloth, but I do know that it has been stated authoritatively by representatives of the trade that the standard, single-weft cloth has only about half the life of doubleweft cloth. It is said, moreover, that the standard cloth is wasteful of material, inasmuch as imported linings must be used, and the same amount of labour goes into the tailoring of bad quality cloth as of good, whilst the poor quality cloth lasts only half the time. This is borne out by the experience of honorable members themselves, who know that suits from cloth of good quality last longer than those made from poor cloth. Although it may be true, that the immediate cost to the consumer is less, standard cloth in the long nin must be more expensive and more wasteful of labour. Representatives of the Manufacturers Association, the Master Tailors Association, the Country Women’s Association, and wool-growers’ organizations, as well as individual retailers and members qf the public, have all approached the Australian Wool Board, pointing out the unsatisfactory effect of the Government’s policy, and requesting that it be revised. I do not raise this matter in order to make political points. I know that there is a difference of opinion regarding it among members of the Government. 1 believe that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) has been impressed by the representations mad*to him on the subject of various organizations.
– The Minister for Supply (Mr. Beasley) is anxious to restore this important industry - important also to the primary producers - to its previous condition as soon as practicable.
Air. HOLT.- If it is a fact, as I believe can be demonstrated, that the present policy is wasteful of both labour and money, then “ as soon as practicable” would seem to be immediately. The Government has already shown, that in consideration of certain benefits received from New Zealand, it can give authority now for the manufacture of “>00,000 yards of better quality cloth. If the goodwill of the trade is not to be completely destroyed and technical skill lost, if we are to be in a. position after the war to meet competition from overseas in the manufacture of textiles, if the label “ Made in Australia “ is not to become a reproach, if woollen goods are to hold their own against synthetic products, then it is the duty of the Government to amend its policy and permit the manufacture of Australian cloth of good quality.
.- On Friday last, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) asked me a question regarding the prohibition of the manufacture of barbed wire in Queensland. The Department of the Army recently made available considerable stocks of surplus barbed wire for disposal to primary producers. -Because of the availability of this wire, it was decided that the manufacture of barbed wire should temporarily cease, but in response to representations from manufacturers and primary producers, instructions were issued to resume deliveries of wire for the production of black barbed wire to enable purchasers to have an alternative source of supply.
On Friday last the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) asked me a question regarding supplies of horse-shoes to agricultural and pastoral districts in Queensland. Following a conference with horse-shoe manufacturers in Sydney last week, arrangements were made for an increase of the February allocation of steel for this purpose, and manufacturers agreed to collaborate to ensure a more i’ven distribution of supplies in New South Wales and Queensland. I understand also that man-power requirements of manufacturers are being investigated with a view to speeding up production.
In the past, delay has occurred because some manufacturers failed to order their steel requirements well in advance, but this has now been rectified. The importance of making adequate supplies available to agricultural and pastoral districts is appreciated, and already my department has been in communication with the Departments of Agriculture in New South Wales and Queensland, with a view to finding out in what districts the need is greatest, so that supplies may be made available as early as possible.
– I desire to refer to a matter which 1 raised earlier. That is in respect of the removal of the letters “ A.I.F.” from the graves of soldiers who have been killed in New Guinea. It is not a subject that I care very much to canvass at great length, but I have been approached by numerous members of th, Australian Imperial Force just back from New Guinea and I have also received a considerable number of letters from others, all evincing the utmost hostility to whoever was responsible for this being done. I am not, at all satisfied with the explanation given by the Minister for the Army; nor am I satisfied that he is absolved from responsibility for what has been done. The Minister appeared to have heard of this matter for the first time when I raised it in the House a fortnight ago, but I have been informed by pressmen and others that he was questioned about it two or three months_ ago and that it has been going on ever since, with little concern being shown by the Minister for the feelings of the Australian Imperial Force until the matter was raised by me. I want an explanation, too, of why this matter was censored from the press. I know thai an effort was made successfully to keep it completely out of the press and that members of the Australian Imperial Force back from New Guinea were prevented from ventilating their protests about what had been done. It was stated in the Minister’s reply that the letters “ A.I.F.” were removed in order that the enemy might be denied information thai the Australian Imperial Force was in the area. In the very same statement, the Minister went on to say the inscriptions on the headstones would be limited to the number, name and initials of the dead soldier. If the letters “ N.X.”, “ Q.X.”.
V.X.”, or whatever X it be, remain, it will signify “ A.I.F.” and whatever value .there might be in attempting to deceive the enemy about the presence of the Australian Imperial Force in the field will be destroyed. In my view the value of such an expedient is doubtful. The censoring of this matter calls for the attention of this House. For months, members of the Australian Imperial Force in New Guinea have been so hostile that they have gone around and scratched the letter “ M “ off tombstones with their penknives and replaced it with an “I”, thus converting “ A.M.F.” into “ A.I.F.” While that has been going on, the matter was cloaked in Australia so that nobody should know about it, until it was raised by me in this House. Only then was the censorship lifted. A war correspondent, told me that he sent to Australia a story of a grave he came across in the Owen Stanley Range in the early days of the New Guinea campaign which was marked with a simple cross inscribed with the words : “ An unknown member of the A.I.F.” When the story reached Australia, it was censored on the grounds that there was no such thing as an unknown member of the Australian Imperial Force; that every one had an identification disc. That shows th, ridiculous extent to which censorship can go. I and other honorable members on this side want to know why this matter was censored and for how long the Minister knew what was going on. If he knew two or three months ago, why did he let the matter drift until the Australian Imperial Force became so dissatisfied ? The matter cannot be dismissed so lightly as the Minister’s statement might indicate. 1, in common with the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) and other returned soldier members of this House in particular, want to know from the Minister a little more as to who was responsible and the reasons which prompted the course that was taken by the authorities.
. -I support the honorable member for fawkner (Mr. Holt) in what he said about the quality of cloth which is being manufactured in Australia and about the fact, that the Australian manufacturers of woollen cloth are being prevented from manufacturing a superior article. The type of cloth which is being produced in Australia has been causing great concern to the wool-growing interests for a long time. The honorable member for Fawkner put the case from the point of view of the manufacturer rather than the primary producers, but I will back up his remarks on behalf of the men growing the wool. Representations have been made to the Government from time to time by the Australian Wool Board on behalf of not only the producers, but also the Country Women’s Association and other bodies of citizens throughout Australia. What, worries the wool-growers is that the wool-growing industry, which is of such prime i importance to the economy of Australia, may suffer irreparable harm. Honorable members have only to go through the doors of this chamber into King’s Hall to see the display of woollen products and the amount paid by the Government of the United Kingdom for lest year’s wool clip, namely, about £73,000,000, in order to realize the importance of the industry. The wool cheque is, and has been, of enormous value to Australia in enabling it to import the capital goods necessary for the development of secondary industries. A tremendous amount of the prosperity of Australia is dependent upon the success of the wool industry. But the present policy of the Government regarding the manufacture of woollen cloth is seriously damaging this industry. As the honorable member for Fawkner pointed out, the Department of War Organization of Industry is, we understand; opposed to the lifting of the embargo on better cloth on two grounds, the first being that the better cloth is more expensive and would raise the costofliving. Of course, the answer, as the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) has pointed out, is that the better cloth lasts much longer.
– And the extra cost would be only a couple of shillings a yard.
– Yes; and for that small additional expense, wearers would get a cloth of twice the durability of the inferior quality. In addition, only half as much tailoring would be required because one suit made of the better quality cloth would last, as long as two suits made of cloth of inferior quality, whilst the quantity of imported linings would be halved. The second reason given by the department for its attitude is that more man-power would bc required for the manufacture of the better quality cloth. If suits made of better cloth last twice as long as those made of inferior cloth, it . is obvious that very much less cloth will be required in the long run, and although more man-power may be required immediately there will actually be a saving of man-power owing to the longer life of the superior cloth. If the man-power now employed in clothing factories were engaged in turning out cloth of higher grade, the demand on man-power should progressively decline, because this cloth would last longer.
– That would be the effect some, time hence, but all available man-power is urgently required on. other work at, the moment.
– In Great Britain, manufacturers are still making the better quality cloth. They are still turning out worsteds of the usual high British standard which is probably the best in the world. Much of this cloth has been exported to the United States of America.
– Are they still maintaining the production of double weft cloth in Great Britain ?
– Yes, on a limited number of patterns; and they are exporting those cloths. In this respect Great Britain is now doing exactly what it did during the war of .1914-18 when it protected its overseas trade by continuing to export high quality cloth to its old markets. Similarly, British manufacturers continued to advertise motor cars during the last war in order to retain their reputation on world markets. In this country we have a large number of refugees from the East, Near East, the Netherlands East Indies and Timor. Australian manufacturers can turn out tropical worsteds of as high a quality as any manufactured elsewhere. If we can supply better cloths to those people who are here for the duration of the war they will become effective ambassadors for Australian cloths when they return to those countries after the cessation of hostilities, and this will undoubtedly help to develop our clothing trade.
I also draw attention to the class of suit being issued to soldiers upon their discharge from the Army. These suits are of inferior quality, and are badly cut. I understand that the sum. of £4 4s. is allowed to cover the cost of the cloth and the making of the suit. The result is that men arc- provided with shabby suits. This policy is detrimental to the interests of the wool industry. It is hardly necessary to point out that that industry is more gravely threatened today by the manufacture of synthetic fibres than at any time in its history. Artificial fibres are admitted to this country duty free, whilst there is an embargo on the importation of woollen goods. If we wish to maintain the superiority of wool over artificial fibre? and cloths made of those fibres our woollen manufacturers must be allowed now to turn out cloths of the best quality. The honorable member for Fawkner pointed out that recently arrangements were made to send 500,000 yards of double weft cloth to New Zealand. If we can send cloth of this quality to New Zealand it should be possible for us to allow our own people to buy superior cloths. By doing so, we can combat the danger now threatening the wool industry through the development of synthetic fibres. That danger i.« very real. When I was in London ‘in 1938 I was informed by one of the largest multiple tailors in Great Britain that if the price of wool rose he would use staphfibre mixture and maintain the price of his multiple suits at from £4 4s. to £5 5s. Rather than increase the price of his multiple suits to the public, lie would use less wool. If we continue to confine our manufactures to cloths of inferior quality we shall do irreparable harm to the wool industry, if only for the reason that we shall not be ready to exploit the markets for the better quality cloth upon the cessation of hostilities. We should not continue to manufacture cloth of inferior quality when we can make that of the highest grade.
.- 1 support the representations which the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) and . the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) have made on behalf of Australian manufacturers of woollen goods. Those manufacturers have complained to mc that they are particularly concerned because they are com pelled tto make ccloths of inferior quality, whereas they are capable of producing woollen goods and woollen worsteds whose quality is second to none in the world. It is absurd for the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) and other Ministers to compel our manufacturers to confine their operations to the manufacture of single weft cloths of so inferior a grade that they will seriously damage our reputation for making good quality cloths. The cloth now used in the manufacture of soldiers’ clothing is of inferior quality. That is the manufacturers’ principal complaint. In addition, it is unfair to the soldier to ask him to accept poor cloth. I ask the Government to re-examine this matter, and to permit the wool industry to turn out the best cloth. Traders complain of the inadequacy of supplies, and purchasers complain of the quality of the clothing made available. Manufacturers regard the manufacture of cloths of inferior quality as being hopelessly uneconomic. I appreciate the fact that the man-power problem is serious. At the same time, if we do not give our manufacturers the opportunity to maintain the standard of skill of their operatives by permitting them to manufacture cloths of better quality our manufacturing standards generally will decline. The reputation of the wool industry is being seriously damaged. When hostilities cease we shall find that we have lost our best markets. Owing to the restrictions placed upon manufacturers, they find it almost impossible to plan ahead. If this policy is to be continued, the manufacturers will bc seriously prejudiced when overseas markets again become available to them. Australian woollen mills are capable of producing cloth of a standard equal to that of any in the world. Several mills have already lost a big percentage of their highly-skilled fancy loom operators, and in the post-war period when countries are struggling to regain lost markets, this deficiency will severely handicap our manufacturers. Great Britain is still manufacturing and exporting this kind of cloth. Our manufacturers, being denied the right to do so, are losing their markets.
Australia can produce tropical worsteds second to none, and, after the war, Allied countries adjacent to this conti nent will provide an excellent market. But if Australian woollen mills are permitted to manufacture only a poor class of materials and continue to lose their skilled operatives, this Eastern market will be destroyed. I regret that the Government has taken this action, and resisted my appeals to reconsider its policy. It has been mentioned that 500,000 yards of double weft cloth is being , sent to New Zealand. If we are able to manufacture such a large quantity of cloth for export, the Government should make some of that material available to Australian purchasers. By insisting on the manufacture of a poor kind of cloth, the Government will destroy an industry that has provided employment for many thousands of workers. Comparatively few industries have made such progress, increased their efficiency and appealed to the public in the manner that the woollen industry has. A considerable number of new mills have been started throughout the country, and many of them have doubled their capacity. The policy of the Government is foolish, and should be re-examined. Our mills should be permitted to produce the kind of cloth they are capable of making, before the goodwill that they have established is irretrievably ruined.
– The Returned Sailors. Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia of Toowoomba and other ‘ towns in Queensland has protested to me against the policy of the ‘Government, in paying awa i’d rates to Italian internees. Thu honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), on n previous occasion, asked the Government to reconsider this policy.
– They are not entitled to receive award rates.
– I support ‘the representations of the returned soldiers, who deeply resent this policy. They want to know what Australia is fighting for, when the Government grants all the “ plums “ to internees. Why should interned Italians be granted such preference over our fighting men ? Soldiers are not encouraged by the knowledge that, while their wives are receiving an allotment and they themselves are receiving a very low rate of pay, persons released from internment are placed in a substantially better position. The Italians were interned for security reasons, but they are receiving better treatment than are our soldiers. The returned soldiers demand that the practice shall cease.
– What rate of pay does the honorable member suggest?
– Certainly not more than the soldiers are being paid.
.-I support the protest of the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) and the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis). It is inequitable that enemy aliens, upon release from internment, should be paid award rates.Under the Geneva Convention, they are entitled to the same rates as those received by our soldiers. Approximately 20,000 Australians are in Japanese hands, and we have heard harrowing reports of the treatment that they are enduring.
– The persons to whom the honorable member for Maranoa referred are not prisoners of war.
– They are in the same category.
– They are not covered by the Geneva Convention. They are local residents who were interned. Some have been released and placed on work. What rates of pay should they receive?
– They are enemy aliens. They are not foreigners who became naturalized Australians.
– They include naturalized British subjects and natural-born British subjects.
– I hope that the AttorneyGeneral is not misconstruing what I am saying. I exclude those men. I refer to enemy aliens. They should not enjoy better rates of pay than our soldiers are receiving.
– The matter is now being specially investigated.
– Having been a prisoner of war, I consider that it would be disgraceful to give preference to an enemy alien within Australia.
– There is no suggestion of that.
– On a number of occasions I have directed attention in this chamber to the practice of the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Makin) or the permanent head of that department in forbidding members of the clerical staff to join the armed forces. Last week I cited the case of a clerk who went to considerable trouble to pass the medical examina tion for admission to the Royal Australian Air Force as a member of air crew. Last year his case was investigated four times, but still he has not been released. He does not desire to transfer from one clerical job to another. Hp wishes to become a pilot, observer, or air gunner. As a party to the Empire Air Training Scheme, Australia has an obligation to supply a quota of air crew, and hoardings throughout the country proclaim that regardless of whether a person is in a reserved occupation, he is eligible toenlist for air crew provided he is within the prescribed age limits. Because this man is doing clerical work in the department, the Minister for the Navy has declared in a statement in reply to my questions -
Some have already been released for this purpose, hut if the Navy is to he maintained it is of course impossible to release all the young permanent officers.
That statement comes very close to humbug. The Minister is standing in the way of a clerk who is eager to join the fighting forces. Undoubtedly he is a valuable and intelligent officer. If he were not, he would not be fitted for air crew. The Government should set a better example than that. How do Ministers expect civil employers or ordinary citizens to do the right thing when they themselves stand in this man’s path ? The Minister, clothed in his brief authority, has no right to stand in the man’s path and decide his destiny. If he passes the responsibility on to his departmental head that officer has no right to do so either. This man wants to perform the first and most honorable duty of a citizen, which is to fight for his country.
– The honorable member knows that dozens of men havebeen refused the right to enlist because they are deemed essential.
– The Minister may know hundreds such, but that does not affect this case. The Government is dealing with many people who want to leave the Army. Every honorable member receives applications of that kind, some from men in the Army who have not seen active service. When volunteers for service in a fighting unit come forward any Minister who stops them does them an injustice.
– Who would make the rifles and the ammunition for the fighting services if everybody enlisted!
– This man is in a different category. He is needed in the Air Force, which is now relying for recruits on boys of eighteen from the Air Training Corps, when it needs a leavening of the older men in their twenties. Therefore, let there he no more of this nonsense. When a man is willing to join a fighting force let every Governmentdepartment welcome his decision and wish him good luck. The Government should set an example and not condone this humbug, by holding a man up time after time, embittering him, and perhaps victimizing him.
Mr. HUTCHINSON (Deakin) [10.47 J. - I support the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) and the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) as regards the poor quality of Australian textiles. The Australian wool industry can. make or mar our prosperity, and a great deal of our economy in the poet-war years will depend on the price of wool and’ on the success or failure of the textile industry. It is undeniable that during war-time we are making woollen textiles of the poorest possible quality, although we have the best raw material right at our doors. Australia is the greatest wool-producing country on the face of the globe, but by producing this poor quality material we are sending up the price of clothing when it should be kept as low as possible. I frequently hear the complaint, particularly in regard to children’s clothing, that not only has the price risen since the war broke out, but the quality is so inferior as to cause great concern to the public. This state of affairs should not be allowed to continue. I do not see how the man-power question is very much involved. We know that our war effort does not quite compare with that made by Great Britain, yet Great Britain’s textile industry is turning out a cloth of the highest quality. Men in the textile trade in Flinders-lane, Melbourne, tell me that in trade journals coming from Great Britain there is evidence that the greatest possible care is being exercised in the manufacture and finish of the products of the textile trade. Great Britain’s object is undoubtedly to make its textiles supreme in the markets of the world in the post-war period. Unless we alter our present policy in regard to Australian textiles, there will be a great demand for British material in the immediate post-war years. I believe in trading with the Old Country, but 1 also wish to see our textile industry develop and expand, because its raw material is produced here. We should be able during the war period to produce an article that will command the respect of the Australian people, and keep down the price of clothing to them.
I support what the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) said in regard to soldiers’ uniforms. The quality of those supplied to Australian soldiers is undoubtedly greatly inferior to that of the cloth used for British soldiers’ uniforms, yet the raw material has to be sent from here to Great Britain and manufactured there. There is no question that the British uniforms are of infinitely superior quality to ours. I do not see how the Government can mend that state of affairs very much now, but we missed a great opportunity at the beginning of the war to put our soldiers into uniforms which would command respect and admiration wherever they went, and be a good advertisement for the Australian textile industry. The Government can, however, certainly do something about the textiles which the Australian public buy. It can make sure that they have a name which will stand the Australian textile industry in good stead after the war, and help our great wool industry.
– Several members of the Opposition have raised the question of standardized cloth. The honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) placed on the notice-paper last week questions to which I supplied answers. Many loose statements have been made in regard to the single-weft cloth. In the first place, it has been called an inferior cloth. According to Mr. Vickers, the Director of Woollen Textiles, this standard cloth is superior in quality to 80 per cent, of the cloth that was turned out in Australia in pre-war years. On his advice that the manufacture of double-weft cloth called for much more man-power than that of the single weft, the Government origin- ally introduced the regulation fox standardized cloth. It has been stated that the single-weft cloth is not of good wearing quality. There are means of testing the wearing qualities and the tensile strength of cloth. All the materials turned out by the mills in war-time are so tested. I have witnessed the process myself at a technical college in Geelong. It is a fact that in tensile strength and wearing quality the standard single-weft cloth turned out to-day is superior to many of the types of double-weft cloth manufactured in pre-war years. So it is simply not true to say that the single weft standard cloth is of an inferior quality. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis”) said that many manufacturers had complained to him that they were not permitted to manufacture superior cloth. The other day it was found that one of the biggest manufacturers in Australia was turning out a cloth which was very much inferior to the standard cloth.
– But that does not apply to every manufacturer ?
– The honorable member has advanced the argument that because of these regulations, the manufacturers are unable to make a cloth of superior quality. I am pointing out in reply that recently one of the biggest manufacturers was found to be making cloth which was transparently inferior to the standard cloth; in fact, it was completely transparent. This campaign is a “ blitz “ by vested interests.
– I quoted organizations such as the Australian “Wool Board, the Country Women’s Association, and a number of others. Does the Minister suggest that these are vested interests?
– I repeat that it is an organized blitz by vested interests to secure a relaxation of regulations which were brought into operation to ensure greater efficiency in the prosecution of the war. The decision to introduce these regulations - I am not saying this because I wish to “ pass the buck “ to any one else - was not mine as Minister for War Organization of Industry, but was the decision of the production executive, consisting of nine Ministers, after a complete and thorough investigation.
– Leaving standard cloth for a moment, will the Minister for
War Organization of Industry give us hi* opinion in regard to boys’ clothing and particularly men’s socks?
– These are not matters upon which I can express an opinion, because I have nothing to do with them. They are matters which are dealt with by the Minister for Supply and Shipping. I am dealing with the regulations relating to standard cloth which were introduced after advice had been received from all the best informed people in Australia, that the manufacture of standard cloth would mean a big saving of man-power, and the production of a type of cloth which would be superior in quality to much of the cloth turned out by Australian textile mills.
– And that it would give the textile manufacturers more labour also.
– That is so. It is quite true that the woollen textile manufacturers in Australia have done a good job. They have stepped up production considerably, so that we have been able to supply the necessary quantities of cloth for the manufacture of uniforms for the fighting services.
– Then the Minister agrees with that part of my speech at least !
Mr.- DEDMAN. - I say quite frankly that they have done an excellent job in stepping up production, but the fact of the matter is that to step up that production, they required increased labour in the textile factories. It was to assist in obtaining the necessary output of cloth required for uniforms for the fighting services that the standard cloth regulations were introduced. To-day the stage has been reached when we have supplied all the initial requirements for our fighting services, and there is not now such a demand for the products of woollen textile mills throughout Australia. What the manufacturers desire is to be able to hold on to their expanded labour forces which they have been able to build up for a specific purpose, in order to turn out whatever goods they think they can sell at the highest profit to themselves. Honorable members opposite are crying out continually for more labour for rural production and for other purposes. They do not seem to realize that there is only a limited supply of labour available. If at this stage in the war there is a little surplus labour in the textile industry, the question arises: Should we utilize that surplus in the manufacture of a better type of cloth or should we transfer it to some other industry where it is more urgently required ?
– Probably less labour would be required if the manufacture of a cloth of better quality were permitted.
– I have already said that the Director of Woollen Textiles of the Department of Supply and Shipping advised the Government that the introduction of these regulations would result in a substantial saving of labour.
– That was only one man’s opinion.
Mir. DEDMAN.- He is one of the biggest manufacturers in Australia.
– Vested interests!
– His personal interest at the present moment would be in securing a rescission of these regulations.
– But the Minister will admit that he represents vested interests.
– He is interested in industry; that is perfectly true, but I have already told the honorable member for New England (Mir. Abbott) that we did not look only to one man for advice when introducing these regulations.
– The Minister just said that he did.
– No. I said that one of the men who gave advice in this matter was the Director of Woollen Textiles of the Department of Supply and Shipping.
– Has that gentleman now changed his mind?
– If the honorable member says that he has changed his mind, I am not in a position to deny it. I do not know whether he has changed his mind or not, but if he has I should be rather inclined to doubt what he now says, because obviously it would ‘be in his own interests to change his mind.
Mx. Holt. - The Minister said that the gentleman concerned was working for a rescission of the regulations.
– No. I shall not permit honorable members to confuse me in regard to this matter. What I said was that the Director of Woollen Textiles of the Department of Supply and Shipping had advised the Government that substantial savings were to be made originally by the introduction of the standard cloth. If the Government had not received that advice these regulations would never have been introduced; but we also received the same advice from other experts in the clothing industry.
– Is there not a shortage of man-power in Great Britain?
– Many things that are being done in Great Britain are much more drastic than anything attempted here.
– But not in regard to woollen textiles.
Mir. DEDMAN.- That may be tru;, but just because we selected one method of organizing and mobilizing our manpower, and Great Britain selected another slightly different method, that is not to say that either is wrong. I repeat, that, there is an organized “blitz” against these regulations.
– On what does the Minister base that statement; certainly not on anything that has happened here to-night.
– One member of this Parliament told me two days ago that in one day he had received 80 circular letters from tailors in his electorate.
– I have not had one.
– Nor I.
– Several other honorable members have told me that they have received large numbers of these letters. If that is not evidence of an organized “ blitz aimed at bringing pressure upon the Government, I do not know what it could be called.
– It. is rather badly organized, if some of us have received no letters at all.
– Probably those who are behind the campaign knew that there was no need to forward any information to the honorable member for New England, because it is well known that the honorable member is prepared to take up even the poorest case as a means of attacking the Government.
– What nonsense !
– As I have said, one honorable member ha.> informed me that he has received 80 letters from tailors in his electorate. The honorable member for New England used the argument that if we allowed thi* better quality cloth to be produced, less labour would
Ou required in the tailoring industry because suits would last twice as long. Wherein is the logic of the tailoring trade in pressing for the rescission of this regulation, if the statement of the honor.able member be true; because the number of suits that can be made in Australia is limited by the coupon supply. Obviously, those tailors who arc asking for rescission would be making only one-half the number of suits they are now making, if it were rescinded. Obviously, the tailoring trade would not benefit by its rescission if it be true that the standardized cloth is of inferior quality. In fact, they would be disadvantageously affected, because the number of suits ordered would be only one half of the number ordered at the present time. The real reason for this “ blitz “ upon the Government is that the manu’facturers want to be able to make cloths to no particular standard, and to sell them at prices that will give them a very much greater profit than they can make with the standardized cloth. [Extension, of time granted.1 The same argument applies to the tailors who are making representations to honorable members on the subject. The rescission of the regulations would mean that they would be able to charge very much more than they charge at present; and the material, if it were of the same type and quantity as was the material used in pre-war years, would be inferior in quality compared with the standardized cloth. In the answer that I gave to the honorable member for Griffith I said that, as soon as the man-power position permitted, the Government would review the whole position again, in order to determine whether or not the necessary man-power could be provided to allow of the manufacture of cloth of a better type. The matter is even now7 under close investigation. If it be found that extra labour can be spared to permit of the production of a better cloth that will immediately be done.
– The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Sheehy) has referred to the serious shortage of hospital accommodation and staff at Unley, South Australia. I knew that the shortage was serious in all States, but not that the district mentioned by him was in such a bad position. The matter was closely examined iti all States, and we were in formed that we could carry on “with the existing accommodation but not with the staff that was available. The first reason for the shortage of nurses, doctors and domestic staffs is the number of these who were extracted or who voluntarily retired from, the different hospital services in order to join the defence services; these included more than “ 2,000 doctors, and thousands of nurses and female domestics. The position of South Australia was discussed at the recent Premiers Conference. It was then stated that the shortage of two or three years ago, numbering thousands, had been approximately halved. The general admission, in which I concur, is that the hospital services are still far short of requirements. I am greatly impressed by the strong case of the honorable member for Boothby, and to-morrow I shall ask the Deputy Director of Man Power in South Australia to have a special investigation made of the area mentioned. I do not doubt that the position is as serious as has been stated. In that event, I shall urge that special efforts be made to relieve the situation.
The general complaint in relation to the type of cloth to be manufactured has been answered by the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman). But there has also been raised the question of labour, and in this the honorable member for Balaclava has joined.
– The labour of prisoners of war.
– The matter was not one of the employment of prisoners of war. If it were, “ the boot would be on the other foot” because generally Australian labour is protesting against the small remuneration of prisoners of war and is beginning to consider that this labour is introducing unfair competition which may cause a breakdown of the conditions of Australian workers. The matter is governed by the Convention which the honorable member mentioned ; the pay and conditions are those that are stipulated in that document.
– I spoke of enemy aliens only.
– Only Italians are employed, and these are now being utilized in all activities’ in Australia - crafts and callings, as well as unskilled labour. Nearly all of them have been released from internment because of the general outcry against food and shelter being provided for them without receiving any service from them. The returned soldiers’ organization protested against the manner in which they were treated in internment camps without rendering any service in return. The Government decided that all of them should be engaged upon some useful work, and they have been absorbed in the industries from which they came, including the sugar industry in Queensland. They are receiving the ruling rate of wages for the particular work that they do.
– They are not entitled to be released and employed.
– Many ofthem are native born, and nearly all of them are naturalized British subjects whose average residence in Australia is from ten to twelve years.
– I was speaking of unnaturalized enemy aliens.
– Those whom security authorities regarded as safe for employment in other than a government munitions factory have been put to work and are receiving the ruling rates of pay. That is the only way in which to mitigate the fear of adverse competition. They were members of organizations prior to their internment, having been engineers, fitters and turners, and blacksmiths. They are now working alongside men who are members of the same organization. There could not be two different rates of pay; consequently, the Government has decided that, in order to obtain the best results for the war effort and the best service from craftsmen, the same rate shall be paid. The further suggestion has been made, I believe by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), that the Army authorities should provide a better suit of clothes for returned soldiers upon their discharge. That matter is governed by Army regulations and is no concern of mine, but I am sympatheticallydisposed towards it and shall place it before the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde), who, I believe, will view it favorably.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Air Force Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1044, No. 34.
Beef from the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of WorksFarm, Werribee, Victoria - Report of Committee of Inquiry into standards of Meat Inspection.
Commonwealth Shipping Act - Common, wealth Shipping Board - Cockatoo Island Dockyard - Balance-sheet and Liquidation Account, together with Auditor-General’s report thereon,for year ended 28th February, 1943.
Customs Act - Proclamation prohibiting the exportation (except under certain conditions) of goods - No. 591.
Defence Act and Naval Defence Act - RegulationsStatutory Rules 1944, No. 27.
Lands Acquisition Act and National Security (Supplementary) Regulations - Orders - Land acquired for Commonwealth purposes -
Alice Springs, Northern Territory.
St. Leonards, New South Wales.
National Security Act -
National Security (General) Regulations - Orders -
Control of -
Essential materials (No.6).
Handtools (No. 4).
Manufacture of shovels (No. 2).
Use of land (15)’.
Wooden tool-handles (Manufacture and sale).
National Security (Stevedoring Industry) Regulations - Orders - Nos. 37 -41 .
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1944. Nos. 25, 26, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 35.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Regulations - 1944 - No. 1 (Liquor Ordinance).
House adjourned at 11.15 p.m.
n asked the Acting Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Pood fob Great Britain.
t asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
What were the quantities exported from Australia to Great Britain for each of the years 1938, 1939, 1940, 1941, 1942 and 1943 of (a.) butter, (6) cheese, (c) eggs, (d) canned fruits, (e) dried fruits, and (/) meat?
– The desired information, as compiled by the Commonwealth Statistical Bureau according to financial years, has been furnished by letter to the honorable member in compliance with an intimation by the Statistician that such statistics were not for publication
S asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
Since the announcement of the Government’s undertaking to release 20,000 men from the forces to assist in primary production, how many members of the Army have been released in each State to the 1st February 1944.
– The total of men released in the various States, as at the 29th January, is -
The total of discharges, however, actually effected for the whole of Australia by the Army up to the 1 9th February, 1944, is 8,690, which is 690 more than the number agreed upon for the period of four months ended the 2Sth February, 1944.
r asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as soon as possible.
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice - in view of the fact that Werribee beef is still being sold in the open market, will he make a statement on the position of country sewerage authorities who have installed upiod.ite purification plants for the treatment of sewage while at Werribee raw sewage is deposited on the pasture?
– As the honorable member will be aware, an inquiry recently took place in respect of the marketing of Werribee beef. I am now giving this report my consideration and am prepared to discuss with the Victorian Government the general position in regard to sewerage areas in Victoria.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 February 1944, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1944/19440223_reps_17_177/>.