17th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J.S.Rosevear) took the chair at 3 p.m.,. and read prayers.
Mr.CURTIN (Fremantle - Prime Minister and Minister for Defence). - With sincere regret I inform honorable members of the death at Burnie on Sunday, the 5th March, of the Honorable Sir George Bell, K.C.M.G., D.S.O., V.D., a former Speaker of this House.
The late Sir George Bell held the confidence of the electors of Darwin, Tasmania, for a very long period, having been first elected to the House of Representatives for that division at the general election in 1919. He was defeated at the general election in 1922, but was again elected for the same division at the general elections from 1925 to 1937 inclusive, during which period he held the offices of Chairman of Committees from the 17th February, 1932, to the 7th August, 1934, and Speaker of the House of Representatives from the 23rd October, 1934, to the 19th November, 1940. He was a member of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the operations of theApple and Pear Marketing Board in 1941. The order of Knight Commander of Saint Michael and Saint George was conferred on him in 1941. At the expiration of the Sixteenth Parliament in September, 1943, he did not seek reelection.
Whilst Sir George Bell was a man of great courage and determination, we also knew him to possess a kindly and gentle nature. His outlook was wide andembracing, and his service to hiscountry unselfish and devoted. His occupancy of the office of Speaker of this House for a period of six years was marked by a wide knowledge and just interpretation of the Standing Orders, a strict sense of impartiality, and a poise and dignity which enhanced the prestige of Parliament.
I have said that Sir George Bell was a man of courage. This was exemplified, not only in his political life, but also in the gallant service which he rendered to his country as a soldier. He served with distinction in the South African War, holding the rank of captain, being mentioned in despatches and receiving the award of the Distinguished Service Order; also throughout the Great War from 1914 to 1919 in Gallipoli, Egypt and Sinai, as well as with the Camel Corps in Palestine. He was awarded the Cross of Saint Michael and Saint George for distinguished services in the field in June, 1917, including participation in the capture of Jerusalem. His promotion to the rank of lieutenantcolonel was gained, together with a mention in despatches, in June, 1917. After the conclusion of the war, Colonel Bell continued his active interest in the Army, being appointed onthe 1st July, 1920, to the command of the 3rd Light HorseRegiment, which command he relinquished in June, 1927. I pay tribute to his sterling character, as well as to his outstanding work as a soldier and a legislator. The knowledge of the high esteem and regard inwhich he was held by his fellow men will, I trust, in some measure comfort his proudly sorrowing family.
Those of us who sat in this House under the Speakership of Sir George Bell will remember him, not only with affection, but also with infinite respect. He brought to that office the quality of gentleness, yet at the same time exerted a species of intangible discipline which not only contributed to the dignity of the Parliament but, indeed, was also a reflection of his own demeanour towards it. As a citizen, he rendered loyal and devoted service to his country. As a soldier he fought with great gallantry and exhibited exceptional gifts of leadership. I pay tribute to a man who deserved well of the people whom he sought to serve.
As a mark of appreciation of his distinguished services to the Commonwealth, the deceased gentleman was accorded a State funeral.
I move -
That this House records its sincere regret at the death of the Honorable Sir George John Bell, K.C.M.G., D.S.O., V.D., a former member of the House of Representatives for the Division of Darwin and Speaker of the House, places on record its appreciation of his meritorious public service, and tenders its deep sympathy to his widow and the members of his family in their bereavement.
– The Opposition supports, with very great regret, the motion submitted by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin). The right honorable gentleman has spoken of our late friend, George Bell, in such just terms that I hesitate to add very much to what he has said, because to add something might be to subtract something. Most of us in this House to-day, and all of us who were in the previous Parliament, knew George Bell very well indeed. To know him was to have a sincere and a profound affection for him. He seemed to me to have all the great, simple qualities of a good man. He was not a complicated man, but saw things clearly and, I believe, saw them whole. What he believed in, he spoke for with unhesitating honesty. He liked good things : He liked to hear good speeches, and to read the best that had been written in the history of politics and, indeed, in the history of our race. Throughout it all, he had a simple directness and courage which, I believe, everybody must admire to the full - great physical courage, great moral courage, and a sort of rugged honesty which, one can well understand, commended him for so long to the people whom he represented. As Speaker of this House for a period of six years, Sir George Bell could clearly count on implicit obedience from all sides, not merely because he was Speaker, but also I venture to believe, because he was George Bell. He was a man who did not rush to conclusions, but gave his judgments with calmness and conspicuous fairness. Even though he might overrule or call one to order, one was convinced that he was discharging his duty in the most attractive and sincere way. He was a great success in the chair and, I consider, in all his public undertakings. There have been few men, if there have been any, in politics in modern times, who have exhibited a clearer patriotism in every thought, and in every act. He set a great example; and our regret on this occasion is that we must speak about that example as something derived from the past, and that George Bell himself is no longer with us.
– Members of the Australian Country party reverently and sympathetically, associate themselves with the motion. For my own part I feel that I have lost an intimate and dear friend. Sir George Bell was one of the first men I knew, apart from my Queensland friends, when I first came to Canberra, and I grew to like him immensely. In fact, to know him was to esteem him. He was a candid, forthright, trustworthy and honorable gentleman. He was loyalty personified, as far as the party that I was privileged to lead was concerned. His counsel was always wise, and his decisions always firm. His name must be added to the list of distinguished Australians who have served their country on the battlefields against our enemies and in the legislative halls of the nation. Australia is the poorer by his passing. We are consoled, however, by the fact that he has left a memory and an example that we can cherish and always honour.
– It is a melancholy circumstance that during’ the life of the present ‘ Parliament, which is only now in its second period of the opening session, the deaths have occurred of two former members for Darwin - Mr. Whitsitt and Sir George Bell. I knew them both very well indeed. Throughout the years of my childhood, Mr. Whitsitt was one of my nearest neighbours, and I think it true to say that even then, while he was still young and active, he was something more to all of us than merely a familiar neighbour and friend. He was already something of a legend, because of his great gift of friendship and his all-embracing charity. Sir George Bell I knew much later, but for 25 years he was a very dear friend of myself and my husband. I know that I speak for every one in the district I represent, and particularly those who live in Burnie, when I say that they were very proud of the man who came out from among them, and who at this very hour is being taken to his grave. I know so well the road along which they are passing. I have traversed it so often in years that have gone, sometimes on a happy excursion, sometimes about” my ordinary business, and sometimes on melancholy pilgrimages such as that to-day. The mourners will turn off to the right just outside the town and go down to the little cemetery. ] wish that I were with them to-day to join in that last gesture, by all his friends and neighbours, of respect and admiration for a truly great man. He had many qualities of greatness. He had great courage, as has already been said, and great loyalty. He was a very true and admirable husband and father. He was a great servant of the Australian people, but I think that there was one quality above all others that marked him out, that of personal rectitude. I never knew a man who carried with him so much of the suggestion of wearing a shining armour of stainless integrity. It was inescapable and most remarkable, and the more remarkable because there was nothing flamboyant or even spectacular in his character. Throughout the quarter of a century for which he was before the public, never once did the breath of suspicion or scandal touch his name. The men of his district took the words of Sir George Bell as the standard of truth-telling. In this House, although at times many may have questioned his judgment, no one for a moment suspected his motives. I regret his passing more deeply than I can say. To his widow I have no words to express my sympathy. Those of us who have tasted the bitter waters that she must now quaff can only stand aside in silence, but I hope that, in future, all that has passed in this place to-day may serve to stir some happy memory for her, and to comfort her with the knowledge’ that in this Parliament, where he laboured so long, he was deeply and greatly revered.
.- I associate myself with the remarks of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and other speakers. Sir George Bell had a likable personality and was a man of outstanding character. Full of human understanding, he always respected the views of his opponents, as he. expected his opponents to respect his opinions, which I am sure they did. He had decided views on most subjects, but he was honorable in all of his dealings. He was a great Australian. As the Prime Minister has remarked, he served his country, both as a soldier and a citizen. He achieved great distinction in the South African War, and also in the first world war. As one of the representatives of the island State of Tasmania in this Parliament, he won honour for himself and brought credit to the nation. There was not an atom of bitterness in his makeup, and those who were privileged to come into contact with him were all the better for having done so. I join with honorable members in expressing my kindly thoughts and deepest sympathy to his widow and the other members of the family in the irreparable loss that they have sustained.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable members standing in their places.
– As a mark of respect to the memory of the late Sir George Bell, I move -
That the sitting of the House be suspended to 5 p.m.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from3.18 to 5 p.m.
– Has the Minister for Information read a criticism of the censorship by Sir Keith Murdoch, who, in an article published in the Melbourne Herald, stated -
To-day, it is possible to give overseas only a distorted picture of conditions and opinion in Australia.
Can the Minister say whether that statement is correct?
– I have not read the statement. I have not much time these days to read the drivellings of Sir Keith Murdoch and others of his tribe. The statement is not correct - far from it. I shall have a look at what Sir Keith Murdoch has written, and if I consider that something more should be said about this anti-Australian newspaper magnate, I shall say it.
– According to press reports the Prime Minister indicated that censorship matters would be discussed at to-day’s meeting of the Advisory War Council, and that subsequently he would make a statement to the House. Is the right honorable gentleman in a position to make a statement on the subject?
– I have had a further consultation with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), and later this weekI hope to be able to comply with the honorable member’s request.
Article in “ Salt “.
– Has the Prime Minister read an article published in Salt on the 28th February last headed “ Constitution Reform “ ? The article makes out a very strong case for the Government’s proposals for the reform of the Constitution. It is anonymous, but was allegedly written by a law expert. Can the Prime Minister say, without necessarily disclosing the identity of the law expert, whether he is a member of the Government? Will an opportunity be provided to a lawyer equally expert, but holding different views, to have published in the same journal an article opposing the Government’s proposals ?
– I have not seen the article, but I have some knowledge of the attitude of the editor of Salt to public questions. As the honorable member probably knows, there has been a great improvement in the newspaper Salt, a publication which circulates amongst the troops.
– Good old Massey Stanley !
– Yes, the publication is now under the control of a man who is probably well known to many honorable members. He is a first-class journalist, and has a completely impartial mind. I have no doubt whatever that an article presenting the opposite view on the referendum proposals has either been arranged for, or will be arranged for. During the past year, it has been the practice of the editor of Salt to ensure that the readersof that journal have an opportunity of informing themselves on national questions, and of discussing them. To that end he has ensured that representative views are placed before them. I refuse at this stage to believe that the editor will forsake the impartiality which up to now has marked his management of the journal.
– Has the Minister representing the Postmaster-General read a statement in the Daily Express of the 6th March alleging delay in the transmission of letters overseas? Will he bring the matter under the notice of the Postmaster-General with a view to getting a statement from him on the subject?
– I shall do as the honorable member requests.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether anything has Deen done to end the chaos in the baking industry in South Australia arising out of the cancellation of awards?
– The judge of the Arbitration Court has already asked the commissioner, Mr. Rowlands, to hear the opinions of both sides to the dispute with a view to ascertaining whether the industry desires to make another application to the Court for an award.
Airmen on Leave.
– Will the Minister for Air arrange for a special issue of petrol to those airmen on leave who, though domiciled in Australia, are, while on duty, frequently required to fly over enemy territory? At present, a special issue is allowed to servicemen who are on leave after returning to Australia from overseas.
– This matter has not previously been brought to my notice, hut I shall have inquiries made into the honorable member’s proposal.
– The Minister’s department refused an application last week.
– Seeing that the proposal involves a special issue of petrol, the matter is probably one for consideration ‘by the Minister for Supply and Shipping.
Use of Machinery - Federal Aid
– In view of the serious deterioration of roads under the control of local government bodies: because of the lack of labour and roadmaking plant, will the Minister for the Interior arrange for the release of roadmaking plant commandeered by the authorities, seeing that much of this plant, has been lying idle for months past? 1 especially ask that speed petrol graders be made available to local governing bodies, so that they may perform essential work. If this is not possible, will the Minister arrange for the release of new machinery, so that roads may be kept in repair for the carriage of produce for which the Government has asked?
– I shall bring the honorable member’s request under the notice of the Minister for the Interior. ] cannot accept the suggestion that the machinery is lying idle. That is hardly likely when so much work is going on. I shall inquire regarding the possibility of releasing new machinery, but I understand that machinery of the kind asked for is in short supply.
– At a recent meeting between representatives of the local shire council and. the Country Roads Board at Warragul it was stated that the federal aid roads grant was likely to be withdrawn in the near future. As that statement has caused considerable concern to shire councils and municipalities in the Flinders district, because of the fact that they rely largely on such grants for the maintenance of roads which carry heavy military traffic, can the Treasurer say whether the withdrawal of the grant, or any reduction of it, is contemplated ?
– At a recent meeting of Premiers the Commonwealth Government suggested that those States which were enjoying handsome surpluses might consider refraining from drawing money from, the Commonwealth Government when they could provide it from their own funds. Among the grants referred to was the federal aid roads grant. The suggestion of the Commonwealth wa: considered by the State governments, but only the New South Wales Government agreed to forgo the grant for the duration of the war. The Commonwealth Government does not propose to withdraw or withhold, except with the consent of the States, grants now being made to them under the legislation passed by this Parliament.
– Owing to the fact that coastal boats have been acquired by the naval authorities for minesweeping and other naval purposes, excessive weight has been thrown on to many country roads because the goods that were formerly transported by sea now have to be taken to the railhead by road. I ask that the Prime Minister give consideration to providing monetary assistance and roadmaking machinery to the various shires concerned in order that they might be able to maintain the roads and prevent their complete destruction.
– Such machinery and equipment as the Allied Works Council has acquired which can be made available to the municipalities to maintain or improve roads shall be made available. With respect to financial provision, the allocations made to the States under the Federal Aid Roads Agreement have not been used to anything like the degree intended in the last two or three years. It may be that some of those roads are not considered highways and that they are roads to military places. The Commonwealth has been asked to maintain many such roads and has, in fact, had to build a number of them. I shall have that aspect looked into, but I am quite sure that the States have plenty of money with which to reimburse the municipalities.
– I have received many requests from constituents for copies of Hansard. Having regard to the increased public interest in the affairs of this Parliament arising out of the social legislation now. before it, I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether you can permit an increase of the number of complimentary copies available to honorable members for distribution.
– At the moment I am unable to say who would be responsible for financing such a scheme, but I shall have inquiries made, and let the honorable member know.
Reclassification of Position
– In connexion with the recent reclassification of a position in the Commonwealth Railways, namely, that of traffic officer, head office, Melbourne, from class 2 to class 1, with consequent increase in salary, I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior: (1) what was the necessity for making the reclassification; (2) has the promotion of the officer concerned been conceived in the knowledge of anticipated High Court proceedings respecting the office of secretary, Commonwealth Railways, and the possible outcome of such proceedings; (3) have the duties of the position altered due to the exigencies of war, thus requiring extra remuneration; (4) is the Appeal Board,. a3 at present constituted, ‘ capable of hearing appeals in regard to this case, bearing in mind the possible personal interests of the heads of branches deputed to act on the board?
– I shall bring the honorable member’s questions to the notice of the Minister for the Interior.
– Has the Prime Minister noticed reports of complaints of inordinate delays in connexion with the release of essential agricultural machinery, resulting in the loss of important foodstuffs? I understand that the delay is caused by reference having to be made to Washington under the lend-lease arrangements before such machinery can be released. Will the Prime Minister say whether it is possible in any way to short-circuit the procedure in order to avoid the delays that now occur?
– I have some knowledge of the delays that have occurred, and the Government has taken every step to lessen them, but I have to inform the honorable gentleman that the procedure cannot be short-circuited.
– There will be a big loss ofproduction.
– The Government is proceeding in the only way possible, and either we get the machinery, or we do not get it. high COURT WRIT.
– Has the Attorney-General observed the paragraph in the press to-day in connexion with the issue of a High Court writ by Mrs. Duncan in respect of a subject concerning which correspondence has passed between the right honorable gentleman and myself, and will he say whether he thinks that the money of the taxpayers should be expended in defending a case which clearly could not have arisen had the Government retained control of its policy ?
– The honorable member’s question relates to an action that is pending in the courts, and I am sure that he does not wish to prejudice the result of that action by asking a question relating to it in this House.
– Some time ago 1 approached the Attorney-General with regard to the victimization of certain tenants in residentials in Sydney, and asked him if he would be good enough to confer with the Minister in charge of prices control on the subject. Can the Attorney-General now say whether anything has been done in this matter, because the unfortunate tenants are being subjected to extreme pressure to vacate the premises occupied by them, and will he do all that he can to expedite a decision so that their distress may be relieved ?
– I have brought this matter to the notice of the Minister for Trade and Customs, who administers the regulations controlling it. He is seised of its importance. I hope to be able to give the honorable member an answer later in the week.
“Current Affairs Bulletin’” - Statement on Social Benefits. sir FREREDICK STEWART.-
Will the Prime Minister take steps to correct any wrong impression which may arise from the distribution of Current Affairs Bulletin, volume 4, No. 13, which is distributed to the troops with the military publication Salt 1 On page 14 of the issue referred to there is a list of Commonwealth social benefits which have been in operation since the 1st July, 1943. The list includes certain social benefits which have been operating in this country for 30 or 40 years. The statement that they have been in operation since the 1st July, 1943, suggests that they came into operation on that date, and has certain political implications.
– I am afraid that the honorable member is unduly sensitive politically; but I shall look into the matter which he has mentioned. I assure him that in respect of the social legislation which was in operation before the present Government came into power -and there is a good deal of it - steps will be taken to ensure that he and the party to which he belongs ave given the credit that is due to them. All of us need to be given credit for what we have done, otherwise our achievements might be completely forgotten. .
– In view of the. very full explanation given in this House recently of the serious financial plight of the wheat-growers, will the Treasurer make an early announcement in respect, of payments on Nos. 5, 6 and 1 wheat pools and say whether arrangements can be made with the Commonwealth Bank to expedite these overdue payments?
– I shall confer with the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture as to what payments can be made and consult the Commonwealth Bank Board about the finance which it can make available for that purpose. A complete statement will be made as soon us possible.
Leave for Bush Firb Rehabilitation Work - Releases - Right to Wear Flying Badges
– Is the Minister for the Army aware that soldiers who were granted leave to help in the rehabilita- tion of homes and farms burnt out in the recent bushfires have had their military pay stopped for the period of such leave? In view of the special circumstances, particularly the losses which have already been suffered, will the Minister arrange for their military pay to be continued during the period of such leave?
– The invariable practice is that when men are released to work on farms such release is without pay, but the case submitted by the honorable gentleman will be sympathetically considered.
– Has the Minister for the Army given further consideration to the application of Mr. Flannagan the proprietor df the Granville ice-works, for the release of his son to assist in keeping the works going? In view of the urgency- of this matter, the possibility of the works closing down, and the consequent effect on other industries, can the Minister indicate when a decision will be given ?
– I hope to be able to give a definite decision in the matter within 24 hours.
– Australian Army officers complain that they are not permitted to wear Royal Flying Corps or Australian Flying Corps pilot and observer badges of the last war, whereas officers in the British Army are allowed to do so. This may appear to be a minor matter, but it is of importance to those concerned. I ask the Minister for the Army to reconsider the position: Permission was given for the wearing of the badges and then cancelled, given again and cancelled again
– Consideration will be given to the honorable gentleman’s representation. I understand that the order was made before I became Minister for the Army.
– In view of the fact that men and women engaged on war work are being inconvenienced by the poor transport facilities in the Sandringham, Black Rock and Beaumaris areas of Melbourne to such a degree that a public meeting has been called to direct attention to the position, will the’ Minister for Transport make an inquiry with a view to improving the transport services in that district?
– Administration of the State transport facilities is still under the control of the State authorities, bur the matter raised by the honorable member will be taken up by the Commonwealth Transport Department with a view to ascertaining whether some improvement can be effected.
– Will the Minister also examine the position at Brighton, and when he is dealing with this matter, will he confer with the Minister for Information, who is well acquainted with the facts?
– I am constantly conferring with the Minister for Information, much to his and my own ‘benefit. I shall extend my inquiry to cover transport facilities at Brighton.
– I have been told that local governing bodies have been asked by the Department of Post-war Reconstruction to submit lists of works to be put in hand after the war and that on submitting their lists they have been informed that they will have to provide the necessary funds. I ask the Treasurer whether it is proposed that all works of a local character shall be financed by the local bodies’ or that the Commonwealth Parliament shall provide the funds needed to carry out essential works which will create general employment.
– The National Works Council, acting through the CoordinatorGeneral of Works, Sir Harry Brown, in consultation with the State authorities, through the State Coordinators, has asked various governmental and semi-governmental bodies to submit programmes of works of an urgent and important character that can be undertaken according to the material and labour available immediately the war ends. It is desirable that there should be a plan prepared for at least the first two years of the post-war period. A circular was sent to the various local governing bodies asking them to indicate works which they regard as urgent and to suggest how such works may he financed. The bodies are asked how much money they themselves would be prepared to devote to the works. Some may have no money, but others may, owing to the non-expenditure of rates collected, have quite an amount. Those bodies are asked to say, “Here is a programme of urgent and important works. “We may be able to contribute a part of the money, or all of it may have to be found from some source other than our revenue “. That is all they have been asked to do. I cannot say whether the Commonwealth Parliament will provide the finance. That will be for Parliament itself to decide later. After the programme has been decided and submitted to the National Works Council, the Loan Council will have supervision over the amount of money made available to the States and through them to the local governing bodies.
– In view of the anxiety expressed by chambers of commerce and the community generally in Queensland regarding the small quantity of general merchandise which is being made available to Queensland, compared with other States, will the Minister for Supply and” Shipping have this anomaly investigated and at the same time review the grave position regarding the release of farm requirements including tyres, machinery and parts?
– The honorable gentleman’s question covers more than my department. For instance, the Munitions Department handles certain machinery. My department handles some lines of general merchandise and the Department of War Organization of Industry other lines. If the honorable member will get the chambers of commerce to supply me with detailed information, I shall route the matters into the departments concerned in order that they shall receive immediate attention.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Holloway read a first time.
Bill returned from the Senate with an amendment.
Motion (by Dr. Evatt) proposed -
That the Senate’s amendment be taken into consideration in committee of the whole House forthwith.
– Before the House accepts this motion, I think that we should have some indication as to whether this is a sizeable amendment or not.
– This amendment is purely consequential upon an amendment agreed to in committee of this House at a later point in the bill.
– May I ask whether the amendment has any relation to the question which I raised late in the committee stage about the broad question of compensation. The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) will recall that I mentioned a suggested clause ; and he said he would have a look at it, and if he thought such a provision appropriate in some form or another, it could be dealt with in the Senate. Is it possible for him to give us some statement on that matter ?
Question resolved in .the affirmative.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendment).
Clause 34 - (1.) Subject to this Act, a Local Industrial Authority may -
Senate’s amendment -
Leave out “ and any industrial dispute or matter referred to the Local Industrial Authority by a Production Committee “.
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
At a later point of the bill the committee of this House took away from the jurisdiction of a production committee the right to refer direct to the local industrial authority an industrial dispute arising at a particular mine. That amendmentwas moved by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison). This amendment is purely consequential upon what the committee has already done.
I take this opportunity to answer the question asked a few minutes ago by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). I gave consideration to his suggestion of a general clause providing for compensation, and reached the conclusion that the present provisions in relation to compensation were sufficiently comprehensive to cover every reasonable possibility.
– Should a case crop up which is found to be not provided for, I take it that the Attorney-General will take into consideration my suggested amendment?
– Yes ; but my view, and the view of my advisers, was that the present provisions were sufficient. However, should a situation arise which shows that not to be so, we would be prepared to give effect to the view expressed by the right honorable gentleman.
– Should an owner suffer loss by reason of this legislation, the Government would see that he was justly compensated?
– No. As the result of the introduction of a system of control, the owner of a mine may sustain loss or damage. We amended loss or damage to include loss of profits, and we think that the wording now covers every possible head of loss or damage which may ensue as the result of the system of control. When thebill was previously before the committee, the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) made a point in relation to loss due to negligence of the commissioner. We have again looked at that matter. If it could be shown that, through a negligent sys tem, loss was sustained by an owner, that would be covered.
– Clause 23 includes the words “ by reason of the control exercised in pursuance of any order “.
– The wording is not precisely the same, but it is intended to cover loss through negligence and in our opinion it does. On the question of compensation, the bill has a just provision, first, that if through control the owner suffers loss, he is compensated, but equally if as the result of the system of control and for that reason alone additional profits ensue, those profits are taken into charge.
.- When the bill was previously before this committee, clause 22 referred to excess profits arising “ by reason of anything done “ in pursuance of the order made under section 21. I emphasize the word “ done “ in that clause. Clause 23 employed the same words, but it was amended so that different words are now used. This clause now refers to excess profits “by reason of the control exercised “, and the point I make is that if it comes to a question of construction the court will assume that because different words are used, they are not intended to cover the same thing. Therefore, I submit that we should put the bill in order by having the same words in clause 22 as now appear in clause 23.
– If there is any difference in the meaning, the wider meaning will be given to clause 22because it is the wider phrase; and therefore the compensation payable to the owner of a mine will be broadened. However, in our view, there is no difference.
.- I regret that further consideration was not given to the Senate’s amendment before the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) indicated his willingness to accept it. The primary object of this measure is to try to streamline the method of arbitration by enabling disputes to be brought as quickly as possible before a tribunal. A production committee, upon which the management has representation, may have considered a dispute and may have arrived at a deadlock. Under this amendment, it will be entitled to settle a dispute, but if it cannot arrive at a decision it will not have the right to submit the matter to a local industrial authority. Thus the disputewill ultimately reach the central authority. Under the bill, too much of what was previously dealt with by the local authority will go to the central authority for decision. The Senate would appear not to have given due consideration to the delays that occur, and to the irritation that is thereby caused. The men become impatient of failure to determine their claims within a reasonable time, and hold up production.
– The honorable gentleman is under a misapprehension. A production committee will be equally representative of the owners and the employees.
– As the bill left this House clause 34 provided that a local industrial authority may settle disputes as to any local matters likely to affect the amicable relations of employers in the coal-mining industry and their employees who are members of the federation, other than those employees who are excepted by the commissioner by order, and any industrial dispute or matter referred to the local industrial authority by a production committee. Clearly, that meant that a local production committee might remit to a local industrial authority a dispute upon which it had arrived at a deadlock. The local industrial authority would then have before him the case for both sides, and should be able to determine the matter quickly. But under the Senate’s amendment, delay will occur. The representatives of both the owners and the miners’ federation will have to be consulted, and the pros and cons of the dispute fully weighed. One side might wish to add to the original claim. Frequently, when a dispute in respect of payment has involved another organization, that has happened. The men on the job are in a better position to decide a matter than would be the paid officials of the parties’ organizations, who would have to be advised verbally, and would probably have to make an inspection. I suggest that the matter be reconsidered. I was not aware of the intention to amend the clause until the amendment was placed before us.
– The objective which the honorable gentleman desires to achieve is obtainable under the bill.
– These words are really redundant.
– Yes. The jurisdiction of a production committee is stated in clause 39, not in clause 34. Under paragraph a, its function is advisory in relation to production; and under paragraph c it is conciliatory. The latter is the more important jurisdiction. It is not desired that disputes shall go beyond production committees to other authorities; the aim is to have them settled immediately, either by conciliation or by agreement between the owners and the employees at the mine.
– What will happen if a deadlock has been reached?
– Except by agreement a production committee could not refer a dispute to another authority, a deadlock would have been reached. The jurisdiction of the local industrial authority will be wide enough to enable it to pick up any dispute that is considered likely to lead to industrial unrest, and to deal with it; otherwise, every dispute arising at the pit-top, or in relation to a particular pit, with which a production committee was unable to deal, would automatically go to a local industrial authority. Thus, cases would be multiplied before the local industrial authority. That is what we wish to avoid.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Dr. Evatt) proposed -
That the report be adopted.
.- It will be remembered that last week I drew attention to the existence of numerous regulations, and to the fact that, under section 18 of the National Security Act, these regulations will have superior force to the degree to which they may be inconsistent with this bill when enacted. It is important that we should know before the bill finally becomes law which of the regulations now in existence are to be continued. It seems to me that otherwise considerable confusion may arise.
– At the third-reading stage on Friday morning, during the absence of the honorable member, I made a short statement which I believe supplies an answer to the question that he now asks.
– Have the regulations yet been promulgated?
– No ; they will be promulgated within 48 hours of the bill becoming law.
– Which of the regulations will be retained?
– My statement at the concluding stage of the bill was carefully considered by my advisers as well as by myself; whilst dealing broadly with the question it also supplies an answer to the point raised by the honorable member.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Motion (by Mr. Curtin) agreed to -
That the following new standing order be adopted by the House: - “ 322a. A Committee of Privileges, to consist of seven members, shall be appointed at the commencement of each Parliament, or as soon thereafter as is practicable, to inquire into and report upon complaints of breach of privilege which may be referred to it by the House.”
Motion (by Mr. Curtin) - by leave - agreed to -
That Mr. Clark, Dr. Evatt, Mr. Forde, Mr. Harrison, Mr. Hutchinson, Mr. McEwen and Mr. Pollard be members of the Committee of Privileges; five to form a quorum.
Members op Parliament - Censorship of Mail Matter.
Motion (by Mr. Curtin) - by leave - agreed to -
That the matter of privilege, brought before this House on the 25th February by the honorable member for Barker, regarding the opening by censors of letters addressed to members of this House, be referred to the Committee of Privileges for inquiry and report.
Sitting suspended from 5.52 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from the 23rd Feb ruary (vide page 480), on motion by Dr. Evatt -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr. Menzies had moved by way of amendment -
That all words after “That” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “ (1) 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 have (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 pro- ducts 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;
7 ) 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 14 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 “.
– As the hill before the House is, for all practical purposes, identical with that approved by the Convention which met in November, 1942, on the invitation of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) to consider and advise the Government as to what additional powers, if any, the Parliament needed to deal “with postwar problems, it is proper that I should follow the example of the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) and make some reference to the circumstances that led up to its introduction. In October, 1942, the right honorable the Attorney-General introduced a bill to amend the Constitution. This bill sought to clothe the Parliament with full power to make laws on all matters which in the declared opinion of .the Parliament would tend to achieve economic security: and to give effect to the post-war reconstruction policy of the Government; to the guarantees of the Atlantic Charter; and without limiting its general powers, to legislate on a very wide range of enumerated matters, including employment, the production and manufacture of goods, the supply of goods and services and the establishment and development of industries; and provided that the Parliament should have full power over all these matters, notwithstanding anything elsewhere in the Constitution of the Commonwealth or in the Constitution of any State. For reasons which seemed good to it, but to which I need not refer now, the Government allowed the debate on the bill to lapse, and a few weeks later the Prime Minister invited the Premiers and the Opposition leaders of the six States te a convention to meet the representatives of the Government and of the Opposition - here I quote the Prime Minister’s own words : -
The Convention had before it a bill circulated by the Attorney-General and embodying the amendments which the Government deemed necessary to give effect to its post-war reconstruction policy. This bill differed substantially from the measure which he had introduced in this House. There was, as might have been expected, diversity of opinion both as to the need for constitutional amendments and the extent to which these should go. Broadly speaking, the representatives of the Opposition in this Parliament took the view that a referendum in time of war would inevitably distract the attention of the people from vitally important war work, and ought to be postponed until after the cessation of hostilities. The then Leader of the Opposition, the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) moved to that effect, which was supported by all the representatives of the Federal Opposition, and by at least one of the representatives from each of the States.
I pointed out in my speech on that motion that while I was very strongly of opinion that the Constitution needed radical amendment, I was opposed te taking a referendum in war-time. I reminded the convention that I had on no fewer than four occasions - in 1911, 1913, 1915 and 1919- piloted bills for the amendment of the Constitution through the House, and had submitted three of them to the people; and I said that, although none had been approved, in both 1913 and 1919 the proposed laws had been rejected by the narrowest of majorities - less than one-half of 1 per cent.; in round figures, by less than 9,000 votes in a 2,000,000 poll- which showed that there was a very strong body of public opinion in favour of amendment of the Constitution on the lines then submitted to the people. All these proposed amendments included full powers over trade and commerce, corporations, trusts, combines and monopolies and industrial matters.
I went on to say that my attitude to referendums in war-time was not new; that, when in 1915, as Attorney-General in a Labour government, I had. piloted bil’ls amending the Constitution through the Parliament, I had invited the Premiers of the -States to a conference and- sought their advice and aid . to avoid referring the proposed laws to the people, and that the Premiers, after discussing the matter at length, had agreed to refer the powers sought in these bills to the Commonwealth Parliament under section 51 (xxxvii) of the Constitution. Although they had not honoured their agreement, I still thought this was the best course to be pursued, and I commended it to the Government.
Subsequently, as honorable members know, Mr. Cosgrove, Premier of Tasmania, moved a motion to that effect, and the. Prime Minister, being satisfied that a majority of the members of the convention were opposed to taking a referendum, agreed to accept it, subject to certain conditions, and the convention unanimously approved.
Speaking to the question at this stage, I said that I was glad that the Prime Minister had adopted the principles set out in Mr. Cosgrove’s amendment, and I added that full power over trade and commerce, corporations and industrial matters was essential if the Commonwealth were to deal effectively with postwar problems. It might be that further powers were necessary ; if so, the Government ought to state plainly what it wanted.
After discussion, Mr. Dunstan, Premier of Victoria, moved that -
The convention i8 of opinion that adequate powers to make laws in relation to post-war reconstruction should be conferred on the Com monwealth; that it is undesirable that permanent alteration of the Constitution should be effected at this critical stage of the country’s history; that for this reason legislative power in relation to suitable additional matters in relation to post-war reconstruction should be referred to the Parliament of the Commonwealth by the Parliaments of the States under section 51, placitum xxxvii. Such reference to be for a period of not less than five or more than seven years from the cessation of hostilities and should not be revoked during that period. At the end of the period or at an earlier date a referendum should be held to secure the approval of the electors to the alteration of the Constitution on a permanent basis.
Mr. Dunstan’s motion was carried unanimously. I invite the attention of the House and the country to the terms of this resolution, and to the fact that it was carried unanimously. The full weight of this most representative convention was behind it. All parties in all States and in the Commonwealth supported the grant of additional powers.
A committee was appointed to draft a bill referring the necessary powers to the Commonwealth, and this bill, after approval by the convention, was to be submitted to the various State legislatures. The committee, which was composed of the Premiers of the six States, the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) and myself, met forthwith, and after discussion extending over some days, unanimously agreed to a hill for submission to the State Parliaments providing for a reference of powers under section 51. On the 2nd December, it reported to the convention that the Premiers had agreed that each of them would do his utmost to secure the passage of the ‘bill into law as early as possible. The committee recommended the convention to approve the bill - that is, the bill now before the House. It is necessary to remind the House and the country that this is not the Attorney-General’s bill; it is a bill drafted by a committee of the convention, and unanimously approved by the convention, on which each State was represented by its Premier and the Leader of its parliamentary Opposition, besides toeing representative of the Government and Opposition parties of this Parliament. A motion to that effect was made by the Attorney-General and seconded by myself. The Convention, having discussed the bill, approved its submission to the State Parliaments.
What happened subsequently is common knowledge. Two States - New South Wales and Queensland - made the grant without qualification of any kind. One, Victoria, granted the powers subject to the other States doing so. Two, South Australia and Western Australia, made the grant with modifications more Or less substantial. The Legislative Council of Tasmania, alone among all the legislative bodies in the Commonwealth, refused to make any grant of additional powers to the Commonwealth Parliament. Because of this the powers, which in December, 1942, the Premier and Leader of the Opposition of every State, and the representatives of the Government and the Opposition in this Parliament, agreed that the Commonwealth ought to possess in order to deal effectively with post-war problems, have not been granted. The rejection of the grant of these powers by the Legislative Council of Tasmania does not make them less necessary now.
It is true, of course, that they cannot be conferred upon the Parliament without the approval of the people at a referendum, but leaving this point on one side for the moment, let me say that I believe that additional powers are essential if the Parliament is to deal adequately with post-war problems. It has been contended that additional powers are not necessary because, under its defence, external affairs, appropriation and other powers, the Commonwealth has ample authority to deal with all the problems that will arise on the cessation of hostilities. If I am asked if that be so, I say frankly that I do not know; and I add that no one else knows. There is no doubt that while the war lasts this legislature has for all practical purposes ample powers to do all that is necessary, but there is doubt whether the existing powers of the Commonwealth will be sufficient to meet the needs of the nation when the war ends. In time of war the defence power must, in the very nature of things, be adequate to enable the Commonwealth to take whatever measures are necessary to ensure the safety of the country, but when the war ends the power that, now covers the heavens may shrink until it becomes no bigger than a man’s hand.
The right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) expressed the opinion very forcibly that after the cessation of hostilities the powers of the Commonwealth jurisdiction would be adequate to deal with the problems arising out of the war; that what had been done under the defence power in time of war could be undone under the same power in time of peace. He may be right; but neither he nor any other man can be positive on that point. The right honorable member told us about the legislative ambit of the Commonwealth under its powers for external affairs, appropriation, borrowing, and taxation. No doubt, as he says, these are great powers; but no one is able to tell us to what degree they can be used to deal with post-war problems, upon the nature of which we can only speculate, but which in their magnitude and complexity, and, above all, in their urgency, are likely to dwarf anything with which we have had to grapple hitherto. We ought to have full power to deal with them effectively, and that power ought to be expressed in the Constitution. I put the matter this way: This is a war for democracy ; that is to say, for government of the people, by the people, for the people. There ought to be vested in the people full power to protect their interests and promote their welfare. They ought not to be fobbed off by saying that, whilst certain measures are desirable in order that their welfare may be assured, the legislative competency of this Parliament to deal with them is dependent upon a decision of the High Court. Surely the people of this country have the right to know what their powers are. There ought not to be anything that is necessary to be done in their interests that cannot be done. Just as there is nothing that the Commonwealth cannot do to ensure the safety of the country in time of war, so, in time of peace, there should be no limits to the power of the Commonwealth to deal with the problems created by the war.
I say now, as I said at the convention, that I am opposed to the taking of a referendum in time of war, but I wish to make my position quite clear. Although that has always been my view I have, nevertheless, been in favour of widening the powers of this Parliament so that it shall have ample jurisdiction in respect of all national matters. No one will question my attitude on that point. I said* just now that, in 1915, in order to avoid the taking of a referendum I had sought a grant of powers from the States. That is why at the convention I advocated recourse to that expedient at the present time. However, a grant of powers has not been made, and the position remains much as it was before the convention, excepting that, as I have reminded the House, the Premier of every State as well as every State Leader of the Opposition and representatives of both parties in this House, decided definitely, and without unambiguity, that the ambit of the Commonwealth jurisdiction ought to be widened, at least by the granting of the additional powers set out in the bill. Whatever may be my opinion as to the holding of a referendum in time of war - and I have already made myself clear on that point - the Leader of the Opposition tells us that there is to be a referendum. There can be no doubt about it; the state of parties in this House makes a referendum inevitable. And, therefore, I ask what attitude ought the members of this House to take in regard to the position which has been created? During the debate in the convention the Attorney-General deprecated a party political approach to this matter. The right honorable member for Kooyong has told us that he also has said the same thing at different times. It has been the invariable practice of men when in office to seek the cooperation of all parties, and to urge members to approach national questions from a non-party standpoint, notwithstanding that when they were in Opposition they had said something quite different. I have had a chastening experience in this connexion. It fell to my lot, as a Minister in a Labour government in 1911, and in 1913, to introduce into the Parliament measures providing for an alteration of the Constitution to give to the Commonwealth Parliament wide powers over trade and commerce, industrial matters, and trusts, combines and monopolies. On each of those occasions, members of the then Opposition opposed those measures, although when in office they had made it abundantly clear that they believed that additional powers ought to be granted to the Commonwealth. Later, the wheel having again turned, it fell to my lot, as Attorney-General in a non-Labour government, to introduce similar proposals. I found then that those members of the Parliament who on the first two occasions had covered the proposals with eulogies, on the later occasion smothered them with execrations. The Leader of the Opposition is opposed to the holding of a referendum in time of war when, he says, the people are completely preoccupied with war matters, making it impossible for them to approach these subjects on their merits, or to give to them that calm, dispassionate judgment that their importance deserves. It is for that reason thai I have always been opposed to the taking of a referendum in time of war. But as there is to be a referendum, we have to decide what we are going to do about it. Are we to follow the bad example of previous Parliaments, and confuse the electors by indulging in partisan catch-cries, or are we to give to them wise counsel, so that they may consider the proposals or their merits? I have said plainly that i am opposed to a referendum in time, of war; 1 have also said just as plainly that I believe that these powers should be vested in the Commonwealth. The Attorney-General will remember thai when speaking at the convention I expressed regret that wider powers had not been sought; but at the convention there was a spirit of give-and-take, with the result that the measure which emanated from it was a compromise. The Leader of the Opposition has suggested that the compromise was arrived al largely because the States were at a disadvantage when the committee was preparing the draft bill, in that whilst the Commonwealth had at its beck and call a retinue of experts, the Premiers of the States were thrown back on their own resources. That was hot so. I recall vividly the debates that took place when the drafting committee was in session. At times some of its members infuriated me; the Premiers of certain States were most obstinate, and would not see the point in my argument. Naturally, I regarded them as a stubborn, and ill-bred generation. I remind the House that the measure which emerged from the drafting committee differed substantially, not only from the bill introduced in this House, but also from the measure which the Attorney-General first submitted to the convention. The draft bill was a compromise, because, above all things, the representatives of the several governments at the convention desired that the Commonwealth Parliament should be clothed with additional powers. The representatives of the Commonwealth agreed with the representatives of the States because they hoped and believed that agreement would ensure the grant of wider powers, and that they were justified in making some concessions. The Leader of the Opposition endeavoured to create the impression that not only did the representatives of the States at the convention lack the advice of experts, but also that the Opposition section of the convention merely approved reference of the draft bill to the States, without approving the grant of the proposed powers. There is no truth whatever in that contention, as is made perfectly clear by a study of the speeches delivered at the convention by me and by the then Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden). Speaking on the motion for the adoption of the draft committee’s recommendation, I said -
I second the motion and commend the draft bill to the favorable consideration of the convention. As Dr. Evatt has told yon, the committee appointed by the convention is unanimous in recommending its adoption. That men holding such widely divergent views on highly controversial questions should have been able to Teach agreement will, I am very sure have great weight with the convention and will, I hope and believe, satisfy delegates that the powers proposed to be conferred on the Commonwealth by the States trader section 51 (xxxvii) are at once adequate to a post-war reconstruction policy, and yet so clearly defined as to remove those doubts expressed during the discussion on the AttorneyGeneral’s bills, that under cover of a postwar reconstruction policy the principles of the federal pact could he utterly destroyed.
Naturally unanimity could not have been secured without a spirit of give and take. On many points I myself wished that wider powers on certain important matters should be conferred on the Commonwealth. On the other hand, some members of the Committee, viewing the question from the angle of the States, were reluctant to grant to the Com- monwealth power over matters which they felt could be dealt with effectively by the States. The draft bill provides for the maximum cooperation of the States and the Commonwealth and confers powers which I firmly believe will enable the Commonwealth to deal effectively with the vastly complex problems with which we shall be confronted after the war, and I strongly recommend the adoption of the committee’s draft bill by the convention.
My right honorable colleague, the then Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden), after the convention had arrived at agreement and decided to approve the recommendation of the drafting committee, said -
On behalf of the Opposition in the Commonwealth Parliament, I desire to thank 3’ou, Mr. Curtin, for the sentiments and the thanks that you have expressed. I also am pleased to have been associated with such » historic gathering. I think the bill that vi’ 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.
– Hear, hear!
– I still agree with that as I shall explain.
– He went on-
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. AJ1 thi? 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.
The right honorable member for Kooyong paid a poor compliment to the right honorable member for Darling Downs and me when he said, in the face of that, that we are not in favour of granting all these powers and that all that the convention did was to approve their reference to the States. The right honorable gentleman has made some reference to the constitution of the convention. It is true that it was not a convention especially elected for the purpose; but I remind the right honorable gentleman, the Parliament and the country that it was the most representative constitution convention since the historic convention which drafted the Constitution itself; that the Leader of every State Government and State Opposition and representatives of the Commonwealth Government and Opposition were members, and that all approved this grant of powers in the measure now before the House. I deeply regret that the attitude of one State, in particular, is responsible for its rejection. It is true that the convention was composed wholly of politicians. That, I am sure, will not be regarded here as evidence of intellectual inferiority or incapacity to deal with public affairs. I invite my right honorable friend, if he still has any doubt of the competency of the convention, to have a look at the photograph of the personnel of the convention which drafted the Constitution. He will find that the great majority were members of State Parliaments. If a convention were elected for this special purpose would any man contend that many, if not all, of those who sat in the 1942 convention would not find places in the elective convention ?
We are to ask ourselves now whether these powers, or any of them, are necessary. My own opinion has been stated in a very definite way. It is said that our existing powers are ample. The right honorable member for Kooyong said that under our defence powers, appropriation powers, external affairs powers, borrowing powers, and under section 96 we were able to do everything that was necessary for the repatriation and rehabilitation of the military forces and of the civilian workers in our war plants. I do not deny that those powers are very wide - the right honorable gentleman, indeed, gave us good reason to believe that they cover a most extensive field - but I certainly do not and will not rest content with those powers if I am asked whether [ think that they are adequate to deal with, not only the problems arising out of the demobilization of our fighting forces and a switchover from war to peace of our war workers, but also those other problems that must inevitably arise, upon the very nature of which we can only speculate. We are signatories to the Atlantic Charter. That commits us in many ways. I shall not trespass on the time of the House now to set out what [ conceive to be the range and implications of those obligations, but content myself with observing that if I am asked what problems will confront Parliament and what powers we shall need to deal with them, I shall say, “ I do not know “. I only know that they must be as wide as the circumstances require. I do not know what the terms of the peace treaty will be. I do not know to what extent our sovereign powers may be impaired through our acceptance of the Atlantic Charter, or as the result of the peace treaty. But I do know that we are already committed to enterprises, tq reforms if you like to call them so - pensions, family allowances, housing and what not - that saddle us with liabilities which only a prosperous and progressive Australia can discharge. We must have power to deal with all the problems that will arise when the war ends, and that power must be expressed in the Constitution. It is not enough to say that under the existing powers we can do so and so, or may be able to do so and so. We must know quite definitely what- we can do. I shall tell you some of the things which we cannot do. After all, the great problems that confront the world existed before the war and will continue after it has ceased, and perhaps beyond the period for which the powers are sought. The great problems that confront the modern world are problems of development and growth of improved methods of production and communication, the application of science and mechanical invention to industrial methods which have effected changes in every phase of our national, social and economic lives. Two great forces are now struggling for mastery on the world stage - organized labour and organized capital - and we have no power to deal with either of them. I remind the House and the country that under our peace-time powers this Parliament would have no power to do anything at all in relation to that reign of lawlessness which has existed on the coal-fields for months and which to-day has reached an acute stage. We could do nothing. All our powers with regard to industrial matters are covered by section 51 (xxxv) of the Constitution, and are confined to the establishment of arbitration and conciliation tribunals for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State. [Extension of time granted.’] Every honorable member on this side of the House was returned upon a policy of preference to returned soldiers. When the right honorable member for Kooyong was speaking, the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) asked him whether this Parliament had power to grant preference to returned soldiers, and the right honorable gentleman replied that we had abundant powers in that respect. If the right honorable gentleman means that we have abundant powers to grant preference of employment to returned soldiers in employment in the Commonwealth Public Service, I agree that we have that power; but the Commonwealth does not possess power to grant preference to soldiers in industry generally. Yet that was the policy upon which this party went to the country. I have stood in favour of this policy since 1915, when, as Prime Minister and Attorney-General of a Labour government, I granted preference to soldiers over preference to unionists, but owing to our lack of power this preference has been confined to employment in the Public Service. And, as I have said, there are very many other things which the Commonwealth cannot do. We cannot make an industrial law to deal with great corporations, aggregations of capital, operating through trusts, combines and monopolies. The right honorable member for Kooyong said that these terms were unknown to the law. I do not know whether they are known to the law or not, but they certainly exist. The Cabinet which governs England is unknown to the Constitution, but it exists ; and these trusts and combines exist. Some are beneficent, but others are malignant, and, like cancer, they must be cut out. None should be beyond the control of this Parliament. We certainly cannot ensure the industrial future of this country unless we have power to deal with industrial matters, corporations and combines. It has been contended that the powers sought in the bill may be abused. No doubt they may. But that is no reason why the people should not grant them. All powers may be abused. Under our existing powers, as the AttorneyGeneral pointed out, we could have wrought havoc with the existing order. We could have made it impossible for private enterprise to function. Our tax- ing power in itself would have sufficed to reduce private enterprise to extremities. It has, indeed, in many cases, already done so. Under our taxing power we could bring about a catastrophic collapse of land values by increasing the rate of tax on land values to a level which would absorb the whole economic rent. The single taxers held this to be a great and necessary reform, but it might well have disastrous effects upon those engaged in primary industries, react most seriously upon financial institutions, and imperil the foundation of our national economy. We could do all this and much more, I say, under our present powers, but we have made no attempt to do it.
I invite the people to note that the powers sought in this bill and many more, of course, have been possessed by the British Parliament for centuries. Our sister dominion, New Zealand, has these powers, as have Canada and South Africa. But no one would suggest that they have been used for any improper purpose. Furthermore, these powers have been possessed for at least three-quarters of a century by every State Parliament in Australia, and so far from abusing these powers they have not even attempted to use many of them. People talk about the amendments of the Constitution to widen the ambit of the Federal Parliament as though the people of the Commonwealth and those of the States were separate national entities. But the electors of the States are the electors of the Commonwealth, and all they are asked to do is to vest these powers in the instrumentality best fitted to safeguard their interests. There is another point which needs emphasis. All power springs from the people. By giving the Commonwealth -jurisdiction over the subjectmatters in this bill, the people will surrender nothing and gain much. They are not asked to grant new powers, but to distribute those already granted so that they may be used to promote their own interests - to empower the Commonwealth to deal with questions which, because they are national in character, cannot be dealt with effectively by the State Parliaments.
That is why all the State Premiers agreed to surrender their powers over them to the Commonwealth. There are some things the States can do better than the Commonwealth, just as there are others that municipal and shire councils can do better than the States; and there arc some things that are better done by co-operation between the States and Commonwealth. This bill provides for such co-operation. It is contended that these powers are not necessary, that they are sought to give effect to the Government’s socialization policy, that even if they are necessary we should oppose them. Frankly, in the face of recent happenings, I cannot understand this attitude. Have those who adopt it forgotten that the grant of every one of these powers was not only approved by the Constitutional Convention on which the Premiers and Opposition Leaders of all the States sat, but also by the representatives of both parties in this House? It is true, of course, that these powers were to be referred to the Commonwealth under section 51 (xxxvii), but representatives of both parties in this and all State Parliaments agreed that it was necessary that the Commonwealth Parliament should have these powers. They surely would not have done this if they had thought that the Parliament would have used these powers for an improper purpose, although they must have known that it could put them to any use it thought fit. I repeat, the representatives of the Government and Opposition parties of this Parliament agreed that these powers should be vested in the Commonwealth, and, of course, the Government could have put its party programme into effect under this reference of powers by the State in exactly the same way, and to the same degree as it would be able to do if the people approved the grant of powers at the referendum. The point is that whether the powers in this bill are vested in the Commonwealth under section 51 (xxxvii), or by the people at a referendum, the uses to which they could be put are not affected. The National Parliament has no power to deal with great national matters; the people are to be asked to give it that power. Their interests will not be endangered by granting this power. The supreme merit of our system of government is that the people retain, control of Parliament in their own hands. If a government ventures to do anything to which .the people take strong exception it is swept out of office; and the power of the people cannot only make itself felt at general elections, but continues day by day. No human institution is so sensitive to public opinion as Parliament, which reflects from day to clay as well as at elections the opinions and desires tff the people. This is the best guarantee the people can have that these powers if granted will not be put to improper uses.
I confess that this talk about the possible abuse of powers has always sounded to me very hollow. I hope the people of Australia will treat it with the contempt it deserves. It is at best a smoke-screen put down to conceal the real motives of those who oppose the grant of additional powers.
In and out of office I have supported every attempt to clothe this National Parliament with national powers. I have never been a unificationist; but I have supported every attempt to bring about such a distribution of powers as would clothe this Parliament with adequate authority to legislate on all truly national matters. That is my attitude to-day. I shall oppose the taking of a referendum ; but if a referendum is to be taken, I shall advocate the acceptance bv the people of the amendments in this bill.
– The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) has made a speech to-night which in broad principle is consistent with his advocacy on this subject during the last 30 years. Out of the wealth of his experience be has given us the testimony of one who can bear witness. In peace and in Avar he has had very great responsibility, and he believes, as he has said to-night, that the powers of the Commonwealth are not adequate to enable it to grapple with the problems that war will bequeath to this nation. It was for that reason that the Government some time ago brought down proposals to extend the powers of this Parliament. We had given consideration to the history of the efforts that had been made in that connexion. The right honorable gentleman has just said that some of us could take our minds back to 19.11. Indeed, I could feel to-night, during some parts of the speech of the right honor able gentleman, that I was back in 1911; and the other night, while listening to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), I felt almost certain that I was back in .1911. These powers, as the right honorable gentleman has said, have been sought by every party, at different times and probably in different political circumstances. It is true that when the last war ended the powers of the Parliament were those that were broadly written in the Constitution, and substantially those that are written in it now. Anticipating that there would be need for the enlargement of those powers, the then Prime Minister, the right honorable member for North Sydney as he now is, invited the Premiers of the States to consult with him in order to secure a reference of power. Then, as now, he was anxious to avoid a referendum in war-time. The Premiers acquiesced, and promised to submit to their Parliaments the proposition that the powers sought should be referred. That acquiescence to seek such reference of powers embodied, at least in my .mind, the implication that in their view and in their judgment that was a necessary political step in order that the Parliament of the Commonwealth should be clothed with adequate powers to deal competently with the problems of the then post-war era. But the Premiers did not persist very far; they considered- that the matter could be allowed to “slide”; and it has to be borne in mind that when the war ended, although Australia did splendidly in its treatment of the men who had returned from the fighting front, none the less there were vexed .problems which this National Parliament could not itself resolve. ‘There has always been the problem of industry, to deal with which this Parliament has the most limited powers, except in time of war ; and’ even then it can stretch its defence power only so far as the High Court can be persuaded to agree that it is relevant. I am extremely doubtful as to whether or not the denying of holidays to men for whom holidays have been proclaimed in awards, is a lawful exercise of the defence power. The High Court has within the last year given two judgments which raise doubts as to whether or not this Parliament or this Government has the power to deny holidays in such circumstances, even in war-time. The Leader of the Opposition said definitely in his speech that under the repatriation power this Parliament is completely competent to give full preference in employment to returned soldiers.
– Under the defence power.
– Yes, under the defence power. I have only to direct attention to this fact: that at every election from 1919 onwards, the party which the right honorable gentleman leads proclaimed preference to returned soldiers as a cardinal plank in its platform. That party won. the majority of. those elections, and has almost constantly, for the 25 years between the two wars, administered the affairs of the Commonwealth; yet private employers throughout Australia have not been under any federal obligation, when adding to their staffs, to give preference to returned soldiers.
– Then I regret to say that my predecessors were wrong.
– One predecessor of the right honorable gentleman has said to-night that it was not done because he did not consider that the Commonwealth had the power to do it.
– I do consider that it has the power.
– I have asked for various legal views, and: I have been told that the exercise of such a power would be doubtful, that it would raise the question that we were seeking to exercise the defence power for industrial purposes, and that in any event any action under some defence power to compel, say, a large firm to give preference in employment to returned soldiers in peace-time could quite easily lead to an appeal to the High Court as to whether or not this Parliament had the power so to order.
– The appeal would fail.
– One thing at least is clear: that this Commonwealth Parliament, with its responsibility for the organization of its forces for w#.r, surely must have all the ancillary power to ensure that their demobilization into the pursuits of peace may at least be conditioned by such circumstances as this Parliament deems right and proper.
– The Government could grant preference to returned soldiers to-day.
– Oh, no, it could not.
– It could, under the defence power.
– The honorable gentleman has been a Minister of State. He constantly requests that I shall do those things which he himself never attempted to do.
– I have always given such preference.
– The honorable gentleman is asking me to forget the fundamental principles of this bill.
– I am asking a question, which the right honorable gentleman will not answer.
– This bill proposes to seek power, not for the period, of the war, but for the period which commences after the cessation of hostilities.
– We all know that. I ask that action be taken now, but the Government will not take it.
– The powers sought, if granted, will continue for a period of five years after the war. Therefore, the question as to what are the war powers of the Commonwealth is really irrelevant to the consideration of the merits or demerits of- the bill.
– ‘Why? That is only on the assumption that the war powers will end when the war terminates. The right honorable gentleman will not get any lawyer on his side to support that view.
– If the House will permit me, I shall examine the “ omnibus “ amendment which the Leader of the Opposition has submitted. We shall then see what are at least some of the varied aspects of his mind towards this very problem; for I am quite sure that he has the most complicated outlook upon it. The right honorable gentleman has submitted that the House should not pass the second reading of the bill. He has invited it to leave out all the words after the word “ That “, and to make what is merely a declaration, in the following terms : -
That is not a power to be expressed in the Constitution, but is a political placard. The right honorable gentleman does not say whether or not the Commonwealth has the necessary powers to do all of these things in peacetime, but merely says that that is what ought to be done. It sounds like the United Australia party policy during an’ election campaign. Then, in the very next paragraph the right’ honorable gentleman says-
That the existing powers of the Commonwealth are not shown to bo inadequate for such purposes.
– That sounds like a judgment of the High Court.
– That is the very great danger which this country will incur if it does not have adequate powers which will enable the Parliament to legislate upon these matters.
– Paragraph 3 says that it is proper that any doubt on these points should be resolved in favour of the Commonwealth.
– The right honorable gentleman indulged in many asides during his speech, in order to cast ridicule and a certain degree of mirth
On the draftsmanship; yet he stated two negatives in paragraph. 2 when he submitted, “ That the existing powers of the Commonwealth are not shown to be inadequate for .such purposes “. Would not the right and sensible thing have been to say that the powers of the Commonwealth are adequate ?
– But that would be different. I assumed the possession by the right honorable gentleman of a knowledge of the English language.
– If the right honorable gentleman were able to show that all the requirements in paragraph 1 could be met by this Parliament because its powers were adequate to meet them, he would be stating a positive. But his whole attitude to this matter, like the attitude of his distinguished predecessor in 1911, is negative, is one of frustration, of the conservation of existing and vested interests, of a mere revolving of the wheel so that it. may never stop. This Parliament, having the responsibility, lacks the resources with which to discharge it. Having put the negative
So that we do not quite know where wc are, by saying “the Government has not shown that the Commonwealth has not the power, and I am not game to say that it has the right honorable gentleman puts the proposition -
That, it is, however, proper that any doubt on these points should .be resolved by appropriate constitutional amendment.
– The right honorable gentleman does not agree with that, of course.
– I do; and I propose to take the necessary steps to effect the requisite constitutional amendment. The difference between the right honorable gentleman and the Government is that the Government says, “ There are doubts on these points, and it is better that they should be resolved by the requisite constitutional amendment”.
– So do .we, oddly enough.
– Strangely enough, the right honorable gentleman proposes to withdraw the bill which is designed to effect that very purpose.
– I want the right honorable gentleman to read paragraph 6 of my amendment. I do not want to bustle the right honorable gentleman; he will come to it in due course.
– The right honorable gentleman is unlike most other persons, who confine themselves to one preface; he has put five prefaces to paragraph 6, and I have to read each of them before I can reach it. The essence of this matter, I consider, can be reduced to a clear statement; it is this: The Government, having read of what has happened in more than 40 years of federation, having familiarized its mind with the successive judgments that have been given in the various cases for and against that have been put to the people by different governments - one case having been, advocated by the Leader of the Opposition himself when he was Attorney-General in the Lyons Government - came to the conclusion that the war would leave for this or any future Government so grievous a situation that at least the legislative authority of the Parliament should be adequate to enable the Government to act decisively. The Government decided that employment, trade and commerce, action in relation to trusts and combines, control over prices, measures dealing with inflation, and the necessity to ensure that industry and production shall be maintained, are considerations which involve Commonwealth powers, and, that it is essential that some action shall be taken in order to ensure that the Parliament shall be competent to deal with them. It considers that the history of this matter is one of opposition, of a disposition to say “ No “, of a refusal to give to this Parliament the powers which successive governments have regarded as necessary. It therefore considered that the practical approach to the question was to invite the representatives of the State Parliaments, to assemble at Canberra. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has said, the Premiers and Leaders of the Opposition in each of the State Parliaments were invited, making twelve representatives of the Parliaments of the States, and ensuring that there would be six representatives of each predominant political party in each of the States. We added to that number twelve members of the Commonwealth Parliament - eight from the House of Representatives and four from the Senate. The Government, having the earnest desire to get a reasonable and practicable settlement of the problem, ensured equality of representation for the political parties in this House and in tb Senate. Of the eight members of the House of Representatives four were chosen from the Government side and four from the Opposition side, and of the four representatives of the Senate, two were from the Government side and two from the Opposition side. That was the most representative Convention that has been assembled in Australia to deal with constitutional problems. It consisted not only of the political leaders of each State and of the Commonwealth, but of the Leaders of the Opposition in each State and of the Leader of the Opposition in the Commonwealth Parliament. It consisted of representatives of both sides in this Parliament, and ensured a perfect balance of political representation as between the anti-Labour and the Labour parties. It met and deliberated and it appointed a drafting committee. I need not recite the conclusions of the Convention except to say that the bill now before us emerged from this completely representative political assembly of the Australian ‘ Parliaments. It is true that the Convention was not elected directly, but every representative owed his place to the fact that he had been, not only elected by an electorate, but had been chosen by his political party to hold a representative office. It was in every sense of the word an experienced electoral college. It included not only men of political experience, but also representatives who had had considerable administrative experience. Varying views were expressed, but ultimately the drafting committee presented a unanimous report to the Convention, and the Convention accepted the bill. It was to he a bill which the Parliaments of the States were to pass, but al] of those Parliaments have not carried through the requisite part allotted to them. Why is this bill now before this House? Because the passage of this measure by this Parliament is necessary in order that the only authority left in Australia can be invoked to give legislative effect to the agreement at which the Convention arrived. A referendum is proposed to be taken because it is the only machinery left to give effect to the decision which, whatever be the circumstances of the calling together of the Convention, was nl; least reached by the most competently balanced authority that the Australian nation possesses at this juncture to arrive at such a decision.
– What of a popularly elected convention?
– I would not criticize a popularly elected convention, but such a convention would take a great deal more time in reaching a decision than the Convention which sat and it would include among its representatives men who knew little of the subject under consideration, but in a democracy that is not a disqualification of their right to decide matters of this kind. At least it is clear that, had the powers been referred by the States, and if each State had done what Queensland and New South Wales have done, the present bill would not have been before us, and the powers now sought would have been vested in this Parliament for five years from the termination of hostilities. Would it have been said that the Constitution should have had grafted on to it the safeguards which the Leader of the Opposition now desires to incorporate in his amendment and imposed conditions concerning the powers soug*ht? I submit that the totalitarian powers in the Commonwealth are the State Parliaments. They have sovereign authority. They have taxing power.
– Subject to the taxation powers of the Commonwealth, they have complete power. They accepted uniform taxation.
– The States have accepted the plan of uniform taxation.
– I deny that they are totalitarian with regard to taxation.
– Does the Opposition object to uniform taxation in time of war ? When this war is over, the problem will be not merely to undo what is done. lt will not be quite so simple as that. Many new industries have been established, and many men will have lost the capacity to return to their previous avocations. There will be much dislocation and there will have to be much improvisation in the transfer from war to peace as was found necessary in the transfer from peace to war. It is not merely a case of unwinding, for we cannot put back the clock. We have to accept the momentum that the war has generated and look forward rather than backward. We cannot go back to what were regarded as normal conditions. Before tie war there were 200,000 unemployed. Surely it is not the desire to go back to that state of affairs. I do not know what the problems of peace will be like. It is too difficult to foresee them, but the Leader of the Opposition seems to imagine that they can ‘be solved within the existing Commonwealth powers. He is not certain, and in order to afford adequate power to the Government and sufficient protection to the people, he says - and this is paragraph 6 which he has asked me to read -
The bill should be withdrawn and redrafted so us to declare or provide, over a period of five years from the termination of actual hostilities … and so on. A mere declaration by the Commonwealth Parliament that it possessed this authority would not proride the authority. “Mr. Menzies. - It would if it were embodied in the Constitution.
– Then we must have a. Referendum.
– Of course. The declaration, or an amendment, would have to be written into the Constitution.
– The right honorable gentleman and his followers have argued that there should not be a referendum in time of war, and the reason advanced is that the States would not refer the requisite powers to us, and that is the end of it; therefore, we should wait until the war is over.
– The right honorable gentleman will recall that I began my remarks by saying that there should not be a referendum, but that as any bill to amend the Constitution would involve a referendum, I would discuss the bill ; and 9n per cent, of my speech, of course, had to do with a. referendum. I am still waiting to hear which side the Prime Minister is on.
– I am waiting to hear the Prime Minister.
– The Leader of the Opposition said that he was opposed to a referendum in time of war. That was stated at the Convention. We sought to have the requisite steps taken to ensure that there would ‘be no necessity for it in time of war. We do not ask for a referendum in time of war because we like it, but we think that there is no other way to obtain the powers which have been agreed to as necessary. The Leader of the Opposition, in his own amendment, makes it clear that the doubts which he expresses in the second paragraph of the amendment are doubts which, on appearance, should be resolved on the side of having a referendum in order to embody in the Constitution certain powers. If we examine the matter carefully we discover that all parties in this Parliament are. satisfied that an amendment of the Constitution is necessary, and that it cannot be effected except by a. referendum of the people. The position is not only that we ought to try to .avoid a referendum in war-time, but also that the circumstances give us no alternative but to proceed with it. So the choice becomes one as to whether or not we should have a referendum on the bill as introduced or on the substance of paragraph 6 of the amendment submitted by the Leader of the Opposition.
– That is the practical problem.
– That is the practical problem which it remains for us to solve. This bill has undergone the scrutiny of all parties and has been “vetted” by the States. The Leaders of the Governments and the Leaders of the Oppositions in the various States have said substantially that they think that certain powers should be given to the Commonwealth Parliament for the purposes of post-war reconstruction. They deliberated for three or four days with representatives of the Commonwealth, and finally reached a reasonable compromise for a period which is the period in which it is thought that postwar reconstruction will have to be grappled with by this Parliament. I therefore find with the Leader of the Opposition that there is no escape from an approach to the people for additional powers to be given to this Parliament. The right honorable gentleman accepts that as proper, but he considers that the powers which should be sought should be different from those which the Convention said should be sought. I submit that in this matter the Convention is the more competent adviser.
Mr. FADDEN (Darling . DownsLeader of the Australian Country party)
Curtin) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Hughes) laid great stress and, indeed, the Prime Minister finished his speech on the assertion that the bill now before the House is the same in all particulars as that agreed to at the Convention held in November, 1942. With all due respect I point out that that bill is different in a very important particular from the measure nowbefore us. The bill which was the outcome of the Convention had an important safeguard which is absent from the bill now under consideration. It provided in clause 3 -
Th is act shall not be repealed or amended except in the manner provided in this section.
The inference, of course, was that it could be repealed or amended. Then the clause proceeded to provide how the bill could be amended. It stated -
A bill for repealing or amending this act shall not be presented to the Governor for His Majesty’s assent until the bill has been approved by the electors in accordance with this section.
On a day to be appointed by the GovevnorinCouncil but not sooner than three months after the passage of the bill through both Houses of the Legislature, the bill shall be submitted to the electors qualified to vote for the election of members of the Legislative Assembly.
When the bill is submitted to the electors, the vote shall be taken in such manner as the legislature provides.
That safeguarding provision is absent from the bill now before us. The other measure was to be a probationary bill. There was to be a distinct period in which the States were prepared to give certain powers to the Commonwealth, and, provided they were not misused, the powers would continue during a period of five years from the termination of hostilities.
– The States could not revoke the grant without taking a referendum.
– Within the State, yes. Obviously, that provision constituted a safeguard which is absent from the present bill. Following is an extract from the report when that particular clause was under consideration by the Convention : -
– This follows, almost verbatim, the provisions in the acts of the Parliaments of New South Wales and Queensland, which are designed to prevent the repeal or amendment of a law without the consent of the electors of the State. It has the approval of all the draftsmen.
– May I suggest that it is practically an invitation to the States to either repeal or amend?
– It is a curious form of invitation which says that the thing cannot be done at all without a referendum having been taken.
I draw attention to the fact that it was that bill, in which that safeguard was included, which I supported at the Convention.
– It was not a safeguard. It was designed to prevent the States from revoking the grant.
– It was designed also toprevent the Commonwealth from abusing the powers referred to it. Much has been said about my association with the Convention. It has been said that I committed the Opposition and myself by what I said, and by the vote I cast, but I draw the attention of honorable members to the fact that, at the Convention, I moved this amendment to the Government’s proposal -
That, while this Convention recognizes the need to confer increased powers upon the Commonwealth, it is of opinion that the war preoccupation of many hundreds of thousands of Australians (including those in the fighting services and prisoners of war), who have a vital interest in improved post-war conditions and a right to an informed vote, renders it impracticable to secure a deliberate judgment on the complex problem of such a fundamental change in the whole system of government in Australia as is proposed. Accordingly, it expresses the view that-
the war powers of the Commonweal th being very extensive, advantage should be taken of the opportunity during the war of securing practical experience in co-operative Commonwealth and State action in relation to social and economic questions; so that in due course specific constitutional changes may be made with the greatest possible knowledge;
the consideration of what changes should be made in the Commonwealth Constitution to meet new circumstances should, at an appropriate date, be referred to an elective convention representative of the people.
After discussion, the Premier of Tasmania, Mr. Cosgrove, moved a further amendment. I quote the following from the official record of proceedings -
I now formally move the following amendment of which I gave notice last evening: -
That all words after “That” be deleted with a view to inserting the following words: - “ this Convention is of opinion that -
adequate powers to make laws in relation to post-war reconstruction should be conferred on the Parliament of the Commonwealth;
it is undesirable that permanent alterations of the Constitution should be effected at this critical stage in Australia’s history ;
for this reason, legislative power with respect to suitable additional matters in relation to post-war reconstruction should be referred to the Parliament of the Commonwealth by the Parliaments of the States under section 51 (xxxvii) of the Constitution ;
such reference should be for a period of seven years from the cessation of hostilities and should not be revoked during that period;
at the end of such period of seven years, or at an earlier date, a referendum should be held to secure the approval of the electors to the alterations of the Constitution on a permanent basis.”.
That amendment was carried unanimously.
– The right honorable member for Darling Downs withdrew his amendment.
– Yes, and I supported the amendment movedby Mr. Cosgrove. The Government representatives at the Convention supported Mr.Cosgrove’s amendment also, which opposed the holding of a referendum in war-time for the reasons stated in the amendment.
– Since then the right honorable member for Darling Downs has failed to carry out his obligation.
– No, but a lot of water has run under the bridge since then. Since November, 1942, the people of Australia have learned something of the way in which the Commonwealth Government exercises its powers. They have had experience of bureaucracy and centralized control of a kind very detrimental to certain of the States, at any rate. It was a good thing that the safeguard to which I have referred was included in the bills submitted to the States, and passed by some of the State Parliaments. Before the Convention was able to reach a decision the Prime Minister made this statement -
Iput these three questions to the Convention this morning, involving -
1 ) the extent of the additional powers to be granted;
the method bywhich they are to be granted; and
the period of the grant.
With this in mind the drafting committee met, and eventually prepared the bill of which the Convention approved. Under the bill now before the House, the Commonwealth seeks the same powers which the States were prepared to refer to it in 1942, but I again emphasize the fact that the safeguard which enabled the States to repeal or annul the powers referred to the Commonwealth is absent from the present measure. That, in itself, is a definite alteration to the bill which left the Convention - the bill which I supported in 1942. I am one of those who believe that the Commonwealth Government should have increased powers, but the extent of those powers, and the means by which they should be obtained, have not been sufficiently considered. I opposed in 1942, and I still oppose, the holding of a referendum in war-time, and in this I have the support of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes). He stated, however, that apparently no other course was now open to the Commonwealth but to hold a referendum. I submit, with all due respect, however, that the Commonwealth Government . has not persevered sufficiently with the States with a view to obtaining the necessary powers without throwing the people into confusion by the holding of a referendum. Any one who has heard the speeches delivered on this bill must have been struck by the difference of opinion among those who have spoken. Five speeches have been delivered, four of them by eminent constitutional lawyers, including King’s Counsel, and the others by the Leader of the Government which is seeking the additional powers. There is a difference of opinion as to whether the additional powers are necessary, the extent to which powers, if any, are necessary, and how they should be obtained. When trained constitutional lawyers cannot agree upon a common formula, how is it to be expected that the people can cast an informed and intelligent vote on such an issue? The State Premiers, in their wisdom, decided that certain specific powers should be referred to the Commonwealth, but they included certain safeguards, those in clauses 3 and 4 of the bill that left the Convention.
The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) said that the members of this House should take a broad, national view pf the subject. It is easy for an honorable member, who represents a constituency in the great industrial city of Sydney, to take what he describes as a broad, national view. The three speakers who have preceded me, the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt), the honorable member for Warringah and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Hughes)-
– Are all on our side on this issue.
– Yes, and for the same political reason that the AttorneyGeneral himself is on that side. They represent the concentrated population of Australia’s financial and industrial magnet, the city of Sydney, which has drawn the life-blood out of the countryside. The centralization of power in the hands of the Commonwealth Government is not in the best interests of Australia’s rural areas. There is a vast difference between the centralization of legislative authority and the centralization of administrative authority. We have had experience, of the latter in recent months.
The State Parliaments were asked to consider bills providing for the reference of powers to the Commonwealth, and to pass them. In Queensland and New South Wales the bills were passed without amendment, but with the safeguarding provision to which I have already referred. Victoria passed the bill subject to the condition that all the other States passed bills substantially the same. Consequently, the need for further discussion with Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria no longer existed. The Legislative Council in Tasmania rejected the bill altogether, and it is ironic that the measure thus rejected should be the one designed to give effect to what is known as the Cosgrove plan. The Tasmanian Legislature turned down the plan of its own Premier. The number of electors in Tasmania represents only 3 per cent, of the total number of electors in the Commonwealth. Surely, some constitutional method can . be evolved to satisfy Tasmania, and to bring it into a general federal scheme. The Parliaments of ‘South Australia and Western Australia have gone a long way towards agreeing to the transfer of the powers sought by the Commonwealth. Indeed, they increased the first power sought, that providing for the reinstate-‘ ment and advancement of members of the fighting services. I take it that that power is one of the most important in the bill. The Attorney-General has always made a point of it. Thus, when we examine the matter, we find that Tasmania, .alone of all the States, has declined to listen to reason, or to meet the wishes of the ‘Commonwealth in regard to the transfer of powers. Both South Australia and Western Australia have agreed to transfer powers with respect to national, public and local government works, so that there is not much difference between their attitude and that of the other States with respect to the granting of power over employment and unemployment. As to the organized marketing of commodities, South Australia is prepared to grant the power in cases in which there is normally a surplus exported from the Commonwealth, whilst Western Australia is willing to grant that power with respect to the staple primary products of wheat, wool, meat and butter and has provided for the granting of further powers. Power in respect of uniform company laws has not been conceded by either of those States, but if the intention be to secure a uniform company law there should not be any great difficulty in reaching agreement, as modern company statutes follow well-established lines. Only South Australia is unwilling to concede power to the Commonwealth to control trusts, combines and monopolies. Western Australia has granted a power of a fairly comprehensive character in regard to the matter. The Parliament of South Australia would limit the power to control prices to three years after the cessation of hostilities; whilst the Parliament of Western Australia is willing to concede the power over profiteering, which to a considerable degree must necessarily affect price control. As to the production and distribution of goods, &c, South Australia would limit the power to the encouragement of production and the establishment of new industries, but that State does not concede any power in relation to primary industries. Western Australia is willing to grant only portion of the power relating to distribution, namely, the rationing of goods in short supply. Both of those States would limit the financial control to control through or by the Commonwealth Bank of the rate of overseas exchange. South Australia would include also the control over rates of interest by the Commonwealth Bank. The remaining six powers would substantially be transferred by both States without major alterations, -subject to the proviso that the transfer to the Commonwealth shall not be permanent. “With the exception of Tasmania, common ground has been reached by agreement with regard to the transfer of many of the powers sought by the Commonwealth. Every mainland State has agreed to transfer the powers regarding reinstatement of the fighting services, air transport, uniformity of railway gauges, national works, national health, family allowances, and aborigines. That is to say, the States, with the exception of Tasmania, are willing to transfer seven of the fourteen points. Having regard to the fact that the differences are of a minor character, I urge that the Commonwealth persevere with the States in regard to the matters still in dispute, if only for the purpose of reducing to the minimum the number of matters to be submitted to the electors. I believe that the less the electors are confused the more likely they are to grant the really necessary powers. On the other hand, should the people be asked to grant to the Commonwealth the fourteen powers sought by it, I believe that not one of them will be granted. One has only to consider the varying views that have been expressed in this chamber by eminent constitutional lawyers to realize how confusing these issues must be to the public.
– Did the right honorable gentleman agree to the bill which emanated from the Convention?
– Yes. The States were agreeable to refer certain powers to the Commonwealth so long as the safeguards I have mentioned were provided. There is a great difference between giving powers to the Commonwealth for five years and handing them over for five years with the right of any State to annul its decision. If there were no other difference between the bill now before us and the draft bill which emerged from the Convention I should not be inconsistent in opposing this measure. “Whatever may be the legal principles involved, it is obvious that practical difficulties would make impossible a retransfer of many of the powers to the States after the specified period had elapsed. Take, for instance, the subject of a uniform company law. After such a law had operated throughout the Commonwealth for five years, is it likely that the States would then seek- to administer their own laws on the subject? If they did so, there would be confusion. The same may be said in respect of uniform laws to control trusts and combines, and some other matters. My point is that I have always opposed, and always will oppose, the holding of a referendum during wartime, particularly when I believe that greater perseverance with the States would make it unnecessary. The States should refer to the ‘Commonwealth certain powers which the Commonwealth ought to have. If they will not refer those powers to the Commonwealth, their number should be reduced to a minimum, and such matters should be submitted to the people for their decision. There is no need to submit fourteen points to the electors.
– How would the right honorable gentleman get over the difficulty due to the obstinacy of the Legislative Council of Tasmania?
– I think that a formula could be evolved to meet that situation. There is very little difference between the Commonwealth and the States in regard to the major matters concerning which a transfer of powers to the Commonwealth is generally regarded as indispensable and urgent. The other matters could be referred to the people at the right time. The best course to follow is to have an elective convention to survey the whole field and recommend alterations of the Constitution, so that the electors may be well informed of what is intended. Party political considerations should be avoided, so that necessary amendments of the Constitution would have a reasonable chance of being agreed to. If, however, these fourteen points are submitted to the electors, and the electors are told that they must be either accepted- or rejected as a whole, I have no doubt whatever of the outcome. By submitting fourteen points to the electors, the Government would probably destroy any further chance of an alteration of the Constitution for another quarter of a century. At the appropriate time J. shall provide an opportunity for action to be taken to decide whether a further conference with the States shall be held in order to remove remaining points of disagreement, and to reduce to a minimum the number of questions to be submitted to the people. I repeat that I. am opposed to a referendum in wartime, and also that there is no necessity for a referendum in view of what the States are prepared to concede. I urge a further approach to the States, and the holding of an elective convention at an appropriate time with a view to submitting to the people proposals for a permanent alteration of the Constitution in regard to certain matters.
– We have listened tonight to addresses by honorable gentlemen who are probably well qualified to deal with the technical aspects of the subject under discussion. I wish to refer to a few points of considerable importance to which I think more attention should be given. It is admitted by honorable members on both sides of the House that the transfer of additional powers to the Commonwealth is a matter of considerable importance. I do not regard myself qualified to deal with the legal aspects of the proposed alterations - other honorable members are more competent to deal with them - but I am afraid that the issue may be clouded so that a wise decision may not be made. I support the bill because it aims at so altering the Constitution’ as to enable the task associated with post-war reconstruction to be tackled’ effectively. The alterations sought are for a period of five years after the war in respect of fourteen subject-matters. We on this side believe that a transfer of powers to the Commonwealth is essential in order to enable the Commonwealth Parliament to legislate in regard to the social security of the people by providing them with employment. I shall confine my remarks chiefly to the subjects of air transport and the unification of ‘ the railway gauges. The prospects are that there will be a considerable increase of civil air transport in the immediate post-war period. A large number of Royal Australian Air Force personnel will desire to continue in aviation, and it is safe to say that civil aviation will play a great part, not only in providing speedy transport for passengers and valuable goods, but also as an avenue of employment. It is incongruous that under the existing Constitution the Commonwealth cannot deal with civil aviation except wi’th the consent of the States.
– The States have given the Commonwealth all the power it requires in that respect.
– One State could withdraw the power and thus wreck the whole scheme. I shall deal with that aspect later.
It is too obvious to require stressing that the proper method to control civil aviation is to arrive at the best plan on an Australia-wide basis, and hand the administration to the Commonwealth Government. Otherwise we may have conflicting sets of conditions and regulations governing commercial aviation. If there is one thing that is calculated to strangle the expansion of Australia’s internal air-lines, it is six State codes all placing different obligations and responsibilities on aircraft, the crews who fly them, the passengers who travel in them, and in respect of the goods carried. The High Court, in the case of Rex v. Burgess, held that the Commonwealth Government has no general control over the subject-matter of civil aviation within the ‘Commonwealth of Australia. That decision was plainly stated, and permits of only the one interpretation, that Commonwealth rights are subordinate to State laws. I do not think that any man who claims to be a representative of the Australian people in this Parliament would agree to the rights of the Commonwealth in this respect being subordinate to State laws, but that is what the present position amounts to. The legal position is that the New South Wales Government, if it so desires, can force aircraft to be registered under its State Transport Co-ordination Act of 1931. Just before the Goya Henry case, the Australian National Airways declined to pay to the New South Wales Government a tax on its aircraft operating in New South Wales. Subsequently, the company agreed to pay a nominal tax of 5s. per annum. The point is that that State Government could transform this nominal tax into a very substantial tax that could conceivably have a serious effect on an air-line by greatly increasing fares and operating costs. I ask honorable members to consider that. A State is imposing a tax of 5s. per annum. It could increase the tax to £5 or more if it liked to do so and thus do a great deal which would be detrimental to civil aviation in Australia. Am alteration of the Constitution to give the full powers to the Commonwealth Parliament would prevent the likelihood of that. The Western Australian transport authorities levy a tax of per cent, on all gross passenger and freight earnings by aircraft, plus a Id. duty stamp on all tickets issued in that State. New .South Wales and Western Australia impose a registration fee on aircraft, in addition to a tax on seating accommodation. This indicates that at least two States have taken steps to preserve their sovereign powers over civil air transport. In the Burgess case, to which 1 have already referred it was held that section 4 of the Air Navigation Act is invalid so far as it purports to authorize control of civil aviation by the Commonwealth Government within the Commonwealth, but is valid so far as it authorizes the Executive of the Commonwealth Government to carry out within Australia the regulations of the International Air Convention.
– We have all the powers under the Convention internationally and the States have given us all the powers internally, although the powers required ought to be embodied in the Constitution ultimately.
– It is essential that the Commonwealth should have complete power, so that it shall not have to rely upon a State or States continuing to give it powers. It is conceivable that under the existing arrangements a difference could arise between the Commonwealth and a State and a State as a consequence withdrawing its bestowal of powers on the Commonwealth. We ask that that disability be removed. I think the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), who is interested in the proper development of civil aviation, will agree.
– The full power is needed ultimately, but not now.
– Even the States saw the need for uniform Commonwealth control because at a conference held in April, 1937, representatives of all State Legislatures agreed to pass a law providing for the application within their respective borders of the Commonwealth Air Navigation regulations. The existing Air Navigation Regulations derive their power not from the Commonwealth Government, but from these State acts. Any prosecution for a breach of the regulations must be made through the State in which the alleged offence occurred. Honorable members will see the difficulties which may arise. If we decide to prosecute any one we must get the consent of the State concerned in the prosecution. Considerable time might elapse. In fact, the State might disagree and refuse to go on with the prosecution.
– No State has ever done so.
– Any State can repeal its existing act, and, obviously if that were done, control of civil aviation within the Commonwealth would cease to be general. Any one State government could upset a Commonwealth plan for uniform aviation control in Australia by giving permission under its own State laws for three or four companies to operate an air route which the Commonwealth Government had decided was a payable proposition for only one company. -Honorable members see the confusion which would occur in such circumstances. That is a condition that we should not allow to exist. Only powers such as we seek will enable us to end it. The Inter-Departmental Committee on Civil Aviation has recommended that, at the earliest possible date, the Commonwealth Government should take steps to secure power in perpetuity to control civil air transport generally.
– When shall we see that report ?
– When it has been dealt with. It must be carefully examined. It is a very fine report. The States could pass laws that would leave the Commonwealth Government without power to control civil aviation. Large sums have been spent by the Commonwealth Government so that aircraft may operate within States. This expenditure could be rendered useless by State legislation. States have the power to pass legislation prohibiting any company conducting interstate air services from operating. A State legislature not favorable to air transport could place heavy taxes on passenger tickets and charge heavy licence-fees for the right to fly over State territory. The beam system in air navigation cannot terminate at State boundaries; and the millions of pounds spent by the Commonwealth Government to improve air navigation would be wasted if States decided to pass legislation interfering with Commonwealth Government control.
– They would not be so foolish.
– The honorable member is optimistic. I shall not dwell on the regrettable differences in the railway gauges which are due directly to the action of State governments of the past, and the absence of a central governing authority possessing an Australian outlook. The point I wish to make, however, is that, unless this bill be agreed to, the mistakes made in constructing railroads of differing gauges may be repeated. Under the existing Constitution the Commonwealth cannot, in peace-time construct a railway in any State, no matter how urgent the need, without first obtaining the sanction of the State concerned. The bill seeks to give to the Commonwealth Government power to make laws determining the standard gauge for new railways and to formulate plans to achieve the widest possible measure of gauge standardization in the future. During the present war, increased powers have been given to the Commonwealth Government because of the new and unprecedented problems which have arisen. The problems of peace for at least five years after combat ends will be as great as those of war.
Let us look at the deplorable effects of railway muddling. Lack of uniformity of our railway gauges increases the time of transit of passengers and goods, increases operating costs, diverts traffic to other forms of transport, considerably increases the aggregate rolling-stock owing to separate trains being required on each side of the border, makes standardization of equipment infinitely more difficult of achievement, and leads to economic waste through primary produce being hauled longer distances than would’ be necessary if it were free to move ta the nearest port in the same wagons.
I have dealt with that problem on a number of occasions and pointed out how goods can be carried hundreds of miles from Sydney to Broken Hill more cheaply than similar goods can be carried from Adelaide to Broken Hill. It is true that there are breaks of gauge between Adelaide and Broken Hill.
– Is the Minister suggesting that the bill should provide for the Commonwealth to take over the State railways?
– Not at all. What we say is that no State should be entitled to build other than the standard gauge. For instance, the Government of South Australia wants to develop its coal deposits at Leigh Creek. It may decide to build a railway on a gauge of 3 ft. 6 in. or even 2 ft.
– What does the Minister suggest?
– That the Commonwealth Parliament have power to prescribe that new railway construction shall be on a standard or specified gauge.
– What would the Minister do with the present railway to Leigh Creek?
– It’ could be extended on the existing gauge. I am dealing with future construction. Unless the Commonwealth has the power to direct the gauge of the railways to be constructed, we can have a repetition of what has occurred in Victoria where the main lines are of the 5 ft. 3 in. gauge and there are 2 feet gauge railways between Wangaratta and Whitfield, between Pern Tree Gully and Gembrook, and between Colac and Beech Forest. We have all those incongruous things which should not be repeated. We need this power to prevent repetition.
In this chamber a fortnight ago I gave a detailed account of the muddle caused by different railway gauges in Australia. Specially do I commend item No. 10 of the powers to ,be sought under this hill, which seeks to give to this Parliament power to make laws with respect to the uniformity of railway gauges. No more useful or necessary work in the post-war period could be carried out than the standardization of Australia’s railway gauges, a new plan for which is being drawn up by Sir Harold Clapp. The necessity for standardizing our railways has never been seriously challenged. This task has not been performed because of the divided control by State Parliaments. The Commonwealth Government stands ready to undertake this national work as soon as possible after the war, provided the people provide it with reasonable powers to enable it to go ahead.
The old bogy that we cannot afford the money has disappeared. We have done our part in a world war at an immense cost. What we have done in war for national preservation we can do in peace for our lasting national benefit. Military strategists have been staggered at the time and labour wasted because of breaks of gauge. They expected to find such things on the railways of primitive nations, but they did not expect to find differing gauges within the boundaries of one country. Our safety demands that the Commonwealth Government should be given power by the people’s approval of an alteration of the Constitution to begin the work of standardization as soon as the necessary labour and materials are available. The State Parliaments have had their chance, and the result is a gauge muddle that has made railway experts from overseas rub their eyes in amazement. No other national work in the post-war period could offer to many of our demobilized men as wide a field of employment as would be offered by standardization of the railway gauges’. It would range from highly qualified technical experts down to the humblest, but essential, forms of unskilled workers. All the materials used, such as steel rails and fastenings, would be of Australian manufacture, and the railway sleepers would be hewn in Australian forests. The actual changeover to the standard 4 ft. Si in. gauge as well as the alteration to rolling stock would represent practically all labour. The powers asked for should be voted to the Commonwealth Parliament by the people, not only in order that our gauges may be standardized, as soon as possible, but also to make certain that in the future State Governments shall not worsen the position by building new railways on other than the standard gauge.
The scare-cries of “ bureaucracy “ and “ regimentation “ are being raised in certain anti-Labour quarters. Most of the regulations passed by this Government which form the subject of criticism were passed under the National Security Act introduced by a government led by the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). These regulations are specifically for use in war-time and the ordinary means of law-making will be reverted to when the war ends. When the drums of war cease to beat, Australia will be confronted with the biggest job in its . history. It must find jobs for all. If the people do not give the powers asked for, the Commonwealth Government will have insufficient powers over such vital matters as employment and unemployment; organized marketing; companies; trusts, combines and monopolies; profiteering and prices; production and distribution of goods; control of overseas exchange and overseas investment; transport; national health, and family allowances. Most of these matters are linked with the problem of providing social security.
Another depression in the post-war period would shake our social system to its foundations, and possibly overturn it. Millions of unemployed workers who were insufficiently nourished, housed and fed would not in 1945 or 1946 listen again to the doctrines of a Niemeyer.
They would laugh at a plea that there was no money to provide work after they have seen countless millions of ‘ pounds expended at short notice on war. When we banish depression we banish the soil on which fascism and revolution thrives. It is idle,, however, to suppose that we can sweep away unemployment without controlling other social forces which often make for unemployment. Some concerted plan that takes in all States and all industries is required. This is a job for the Commonwealth Government. ‘The Nazis found a way to diminish unemployment. They overcame unemployment for an object - to smash trade unions and use the subject workers to build a military machine that would conquer the world. All the labour power they had was needed for their military machine, so none was wasted through unemployment. We must absorb our workers in peaceful pursuits embodying the principles of the Atlantic Charter. In war, the Commonwealth Government will not tolerate the spectacle of able-bodied men without jobs. It has made swift use of its powers to put men and women into work which helps the war effort. The Government will not tolerate in war-time wealthy combines withholding supplies of. which the nation is in need. The dire needs of war have awakened the national conscience. In peace, also, the Government will not tolerate an army of idle_men. Every citizen who is willing to work is entitled to a job in peace as well as in war. But, the unemployment problem has its roots in other factors. The Commonwealth Government must have power to examine and, if need be, legislate on the fourteen matters set out in the bill, for all these things have a direct bearing on the problem of unemployment and national welfare.
If each State were consulted and asked to draw up a scheme to reabsorb the members of our fighting forces in industry, the result would be six separate and conflicting plans. If this bill be passed the increased powers which it seeks to give to the Commonwealth Parliament by means of a referendum will, if granted, automatically cease to operate at the expiration of five years after the war provided, of course, that no further alteration of the Constitution occurs. No one can say that the Commonwealth Government has proceeded with its plans hastily. It convened a special Constitution Convention which deliberated at Canberra from the 24th November to the 2nd December, 1942. Representatives of the Government and the Opposition parties in each State Parliament and this Parliament were given equal powers at the Convention which formed the opinion that the Commonwealth Government’s powers were inadequate. That Convention decided that power to legislate on fourteen matters should be transferred by reference to the Commonwealth Parliament by the State Parliaments as prescribed by the Constitution. Every State Premier who attended the conference undertook to exert his best efforts to induce his particular State legislature to pass the bill, unanimously, agreed upon at the conference, as being necessary to achieve proper post-war reconstruction.
The dissension and obstruction that arose in respect of the bill in State political spheres is itself eloquent testimony to the need for a central governing authority such as the Commonwealth Parliament on these vital fourteen matters. If the six State Governments had passed the bill agreed to by their representatives at the Canberra Convention, a referendum would not have become necessary. Only two State Parliaments, those of New South Wales and Queensland, have carried out the agreement made by their respective Premiers at the Convention and for various reasons other State Parliaments have not passed the measure in the form accepted at the Convention. The refusal of State legislatures to ratify the agreement reached by representatives at Canberra leaves the Commonwealth Government with the alternative of endeavouring to perform the immense job of post-war reconstruction with inadequate powers or else taking steps in the interests of Australia to secure those powers by means of a referendum.
Some people are opposed to the Government’s proposals, because they are under the erroneous impression that the signing of peace will be synonymous to Australia’s return to the conditions prevailing in 1939. The idea that when peace is signed we can simply turn back the hands of the clock to 1939 ignores the fact that there is a second world war in progress. It ignores all the vast social and economic changes this war has brought in its train. Let us look at a few of these drastic changes. “Women have been absorbed into industry in great numbers and many are receiving larger incomes than ever before in their lives. It seems certain that many women will want to continue to work in industries which, prior to 1939, were closed to them. The Commonwealth Parliament was the chief instrument in organizing Australia for war. Logically, it must organize the nation for peace. The Government which has planned and directed the change-over of our social and economic life from peace to war will be expected by the Australian people to smooth out the difficulties of converting the nation back from war to peace. To do this immense job, the Commonwealth Parliament must have powers in peace, for at least five years after the conflict, not less than those it exercised in war. I doubt seriously whether it will be possible during the transition from war to peace to guarantee full employment to members of the armed forces being demobilized unless there is an Australianwide plan to train and place them in jobs for which they are suitable, to expand some industries and curtail others, to prevent the indiscriminate exercise by the employer of the power to hire and “ fire “. Some people may ask themselves what the Commonwealth Government could accomplish that the State governments could not also accomplish. The facts are that on certain matters, the States have laws which conflict with each other. They have produced no legislation, uniform or otherwise, which could contribute substantially to a solution of post-war reconstruction problems. The Commonwealth Government . is the only instrument that can possibly produce a uniform plan respecting the fourteen matters set out in the bill.
The Commonwealth Parliament which legislates for the whole of Australia is the only political instrument which can formulate a post-war plan applicable to the whole of Australia and administer it with an even hand. Uniform laws for Australia on matters such as national public works, ‘ housing, marketing, prices control and unemployment are essential to any scientific post-war plan. The cry of “ State rights “ is a misnomer conjured up to appeal to ingrained conservative prejudices. The Commonwealth Parliament does not seek to deprive the States of any of their law-making powers. All that the bill aims at is that the Commonwealth law will override the State laws should they overlap on any of the fourteen matters outlined in the bill. National planning for the nation is the key principle of this bill. Six State instruments in their own watertight compartments inevitably will produce dissension irrespective of the intentions of the State legislators no matter how sincere they are. To those scaremongers who say that the transfer of the powers asked for to the Commonwealth Parliament would be almost tantamount to a revolution, I point out that the Commonwealth Government has already acquired considerably increased powers in wartime. The exercise of those increased powers has produced a war effort which is the admiration of our Allies. I submit that the best form of government for Australia in the post-war period is a form in which all major national problems would be dealt with by this National Parliament while problems of lesser importance are left to the State legislatures.
It is inevitable that the old bogy of socialization will be raised in an effort to stampede the people into voting against granting the Commonwealth Parliament the legislative powers for which it asks in order to grapple with unemployment. Granting additional powers to the Commonwealth Parliament strengthens immensely the democratic qualities of government in Australia. Electorates in some States, notably Victoria, are gerrymandered. In at least five States there is an Upper House notelected by popular adult franchise. Some of these State legislatures have increased the period in which the Parliament shall function, whereas this Commonwealth
Parliament cannot do so without a referendum. Enlarging the powers of this Parliament enlarges the capacity of the Australian people for selfgovernment.
Above all, these problems must be grappled with by the Commonwealth Government on the basis that Australia is one indivisible nation. They should not be tackled piecemeal as if Australia were six separate territories each requiring its own particular code of social justice and its own special measure of work for its citizens. The results of State muddling in the past, the perils of the present, and the vital problems awaiting solution in the immediate post-war period combine to make it imperative that the Commonwealth Parliament shall be competent to carry out the will of the people by means of a constitution from which the shortcomings and obsolete features that have become manifest during the past 43 years will have been removed. The proposals embodied in the bill will commend themselves to every democrat in this country. I am certain that so long as those who oppose the Government’s proposals do not succeed in confusing the issues at the referendum, our people will give to this Parliament powers which will enable Australia to achieve greatness among the nations.
– I support the bill. Australia is indeed fortunate that in it3 constitutional travail it has the assistance of so renowned a jurist as the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt). His speech was temperate, wise and compelling. The problem of the constitutional development of this country is of such paramount importance, that the AttorneyGeneral deserves the strongest support of all members of this Parliament for these proposals. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) made a speech which lasted for more than two hours. He spoke forcefully, as he- invariably does, but he spoke to us as if we were members of the High Court Bench. He gave me the impression that he was making his speech from a well-prepared brief. He. was technical and deliberative; but his arguments did not sound one broad national note. He offered a pertinacious and provoking opposition to the wise changes proposed under the measure. He would have us believe that if the people of Australia granted to their National Parliament the powers which this Government now asks them to grant to it, we would use those powers to shake the very foundations of our society. Indeed, he implied that this Government has already laid plans for that purpose. That the right honorable gentleman is opposed to the bill is a happy circumstance which augurs well for the success of the referendum, because the electors of Australia have come to accept our statement that he speaks on behalf of the exclusive and privileged . few, and fights their battles consistently. That this referendum is to be opposed for party political reasons is obvious. I am prepared to accept that challenge, because if the matter were to be fought on the political issues of the last election, the referendum would certainly be carried. The friends of the monopolists and myrmidons of the capitalists are now receiving wide publicity in the press. These include many gentlemen who, last August, were buried under an avalanche of public opinion; they are again coming to light and are receiving great publicity indeed from certain organs that are favorable to vested interests. The Curtin Government, which has a substantial majority in this House will soon have an outstanding majority in the Senate. Those who are opposed to it fear that the extra powers that are sought would, if granted, be used to implement the policy of the Labour party and to soften-up the positions of the capitalists in preparation for further attacks upon them. In any event, they fear some change of the system under which so many owe so much to so few. It is important that we should keep in mind that the Government is asking for further power to curb monopolies, trusts and combines, to prevent these legal entities, which have neither a body to be kicked nor a soul to be damned, from filling their greedy maws from the tables of Australian families. The .States cannot deal effectively with monopolies, but the Commonwealth could do so. The Curtin Government will have real power from the commencement of July. It will bo the first occasion on which the Labour party has had real power since the late Andrew Fisher adorned the Prime Minister’s chair and the Government which he led established the Commonwealth Bank. Therefore, vested interests are apprehensive; they seek to frustrate, to baffle, to balk, and to confuse the Government, and to defeat it if possible. For this purpose they will resurrect and take out on to the hustings most of the issues which were decided at the elections that were held last August. I have no doubt that they will fight that contest over again, and that the result will be the same. The Government has the sacred duty of protecting the many against exploitation by the few. It asks the people to assist themselves by assisting it to gain further powers. I trust that the electors will view the matter in a broad national way, and that they will take the trouble to understand why the Constitution should be altered. I hope that they will realize that the greatest power which they possess - the power to change the Government every three years if they so desire - can never be taken from them.
– That will be bad luck for the honorable gentleman.
– If I were to sail in the same boat as the honorable member who has interjected, I should no doubt compass my political destruction. The power to change the Government is the greatest protection which the people could have. They are to be asked to grant to themselves additional powers as a nation, in order that the Parliament may legislate collectively, decisively and quickly. They should remember that “ a house divided against itself cannot stand “. They are to be asked to agree that the very powers that they now exercise as citizens of a State shall still be exercised by them as citizens of the Commonwealth. That the Constitution should be altered in order to keep pace with the rapid progress which the world has made during the last few years, is a natural circumstance. The founders of the Constitution foresaw the probability of its having to be altered, and for that reason included in it directions as to the manner of its alteration. They did not desire that it should be lightly changed, or that powerful States, with large majorities, should be able to have it altered in opposition to the wishes of the smaller States in order to suit their- own ends ; but they did provide a safe and democratic way by which it might be altered.
Let us consider for a moment the constitutions of other countries. The Canadian Constitution, like ours, is an act of the British Parliament, but it does not provide for its alteration, yet no -difficulty has ever been experienced in having it amended, because the British Parliament has always been prepared to amend its own enactment when it has been shown that the amendment was desired by the Dominion of Canada. Doubtless, that desire has been expressed in appropriate resolutions of the Canadian Parliament. The Constitution of South Africa does not contain any impediment to the sub- stantial alteration of it. The Constitution of the United States of America makes provision for its amendment, and, as honorable members know, it has been amended on very many occasions in order to keep pace with national progress. The Constitution of New Zealand is a statutory enactment, and the articles of that statute can be changed by the Parliament that it has created, exactly as any other law can be made or changed. The Constitution of Great Britain, consisting as it does partly of statutes and partly of judicial decisions, can be changed by any act of the Parliament of Great Britain. Are we then in Australia to be in the position of never being able to alter our Constitution? Are .we to continue for ever without making any progress? Are we to remain static throughout the years? I exhort honorable members to support the bill in order that the Constitution may be altered so as to keep pace with the times. The Government is to be commended for its action in introducing the bill. Having pledged itself - more than that, having dedicated itself to care for those who have fought to keep this country free from terror and devastation, and knowing the will ‘ of all our
Allies as to the future of their fighting forces- it has carefully examined the position and has come to the conclusion that it requires extra powers in order to carry out its undertakings, and it has taken every reasonable step to obtain an alteration of the Constitution. It has given deep and earnest consideration to the matter of governing Australia after the most formidable conflict with foreign enemies in which this country has ever been engaged has been brought to a triumphant close. Constitutions change with the times, aud it is reasonable that they should. There is an old Latin quotation which says that times change and we change with them. The times have changed considerably since the Australian federation was inaugurated. Much that is commonplace in our lives to-day was little dreamt of 44 years ago. “With the march of time, Australia has become a strong and resolute nation, and 70,000 of its brave sons lie dead on foreign battlefields, having died that democracy might live. The life of the federation has stretched from the days of the coaches of Cobb and Company to the aircraft of Australian National Airways Limited, from the days of the muzzle-loader to those of the Owen gun. Throughout all our vicissitudes, our Constitution has worn well, but it is well worn. Again I say that times change, and we change with them. No word is more in the minds of the people to-day than is that of “progress”. Progress has been described somewhere as “ .the stride of God “. It has been said that all that is human must retrogress if it does not advance. In many respects, the world has advanced 50 years in the last four years. The mind of man has been streamlined and speeded up. Progress is everywhere. Our present advancement was never imagined before the war. Even the Spitfire has been surpassed for speed. We have called forth all the power we possess as a nation, and have summoned to our aid “all of our resources. Whether the representatives of the people here assembled like it or not, we are about to stride forward politically and socially. I venture to forecast that should these alterations which the Government requires be not granted by the people, then the destiny of Australia will be guided by decisions of the High Court, in which event we might well find that large and important national questions, affecting the lives and happiness of millions of people in Australia, will depend upon the state of the digestion ‘of the members of the High Court. It is altogether fit and proper that the future welfare and destiny of our country should be entirely in the hands of parliamentary representatives, who have been elected by the people of, this country. When speaking of the future of Australia, one inevitably has in mind constant employment for the masses at good and safe standards. Pew will disagree with me that one of the most important powers for which the Commonwealth is now asking is power in regard to national works. I am not a great deal concerned with the actual wording - “ Post-war reconstruction “. Those words have for me no magical significance. They might have better application to countries across the seas, which have felt the cruel scourge of war, and in which countless houses, roads, railways, bridges, churches, halls, dams and the like have been destroyed and will have to be rebuilt after the war. In Australia, principally owing to the blessing of Providence and the strength of our Allies, nothing has been destroyed or laid waste. What we need, socially, politically and physically is construction, not reconstruction. May I illustrate briefly what I have in mind? In the northern part of my electorate there flows a river which is known as the Hunter. That river is cradled in a beautiful valley which is known as the Hunter Valley. The land of which it consists is as fertile as may be found anywhere in the world. For more than 40 years the people of Singleton have urged upon the Government of New South Wales the necessity to provide for water conservation on the Hunter River. Successive State Parliaments have welcomed the proposal. They favoured water conservation and closer settlement, and any means by which those fertile lands might be irrigated, and as a consequence multiply their production tenfold. It seems that the State Governments have admitted the need for water conservation and closer settlement, better production and flood mitigation, but they have always pleaded that they cannot afford to pay for the work. Nobody would ever tali of reconstructing that dam except in his imagination, but when the increased powers sought by this bill are granted. I am sure that the Commonwealth authorities, in co-operation with New South Wales, will construct it. The new power relating to national works should be implemented immediately it is granted, because water conservation schemes take years to complete. This great and important work would be an admirable task for the Allied Works Council. And why not? I shall vote for the bill, but I cannot help regretting that it imposes a limitation of five years from the termination of hostilities upon the use of the extra powers However, in all the circumstances we may suppose that the Attorney-General has seen the wisdom of Solon’s remark that no more good must be attempted than the nation can bear.
Debate (on motion by Sir Earle. Page) adjourned.
Queensland Basic Wage : Price Stabilization - Building Restrictions - Petrol Rationing : Airmen on Leave - Peanut Industry - Censorship.
Motion (by Dr. Evatt) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– The honorable member for Moreton (Mi-. Francis) recently asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs among other things whether it is a fact that, although the Queensland State Arbitration Court has refused to reduce wages by ls. in accordance with the recent cost of living decline, the Commonwealth Government has reduced its subsidy to manufacturers as though the wage had been reduced, and, by compelling them to charge pegged prices, is making them carry the whole effect of- this loss of subsidy. In reply, I would inform the honorable member that the purpose of the Government’s price stabilization plan was to stabilize prices and the cost of living at about the level for March quarter, 1943. A ceiling was imposed on prices as at the 13th April, 1943, and stabilization was to be achieved by the aid of Government subsidies. It was found impossible to adjust all increased costs in the first quarter of the plan. Taking Brisbane as the case in point, the Commonwealth Statistician’s “ C “ series index of the cost of living at the 31st March, 1943, stood- at 1063 and the basic wage was 95s. per week. The objective was stability of these two levels. The index for June quarter showed a rise to 1083, which warranted a rise of 2s. in the basic wage, and this increase was approved by the Queensland tribunal. In August, 1943, the assistance given by the Commonwealth Government amounting to several millions of pounds for the whole Commonwealth, was provided by subsidy on tea and potatoes, and reduction of sales tax on clothing from 12£ per cent, to 7-J per cent. As a result of these and other subsidies the cost-of-living index for Brisbane fell during the September quarter to 1074, and on the basis applied at the end of March and again in June should have resulted in a fall of ls. in the basic wage. The Queensland tribunal, however, refused to reduce the basic wage in accordance with the fall. in the cost of living as measured by the index during the quarter. I would add that the index shows a further fall to 106S at the end of December, being only five points above the position at 31st March last year, but the Queensland basic wage, although increased in June, 1943, in accordance with the variation during that quarter, has not been reduced in accordance with the reductions shown in either the September or December quarters. In making payment of the special refund arising out of the increased cost of living for the June, 1943, quarter, this Government can only have regard to the relative positions as measured by the Statistician’s index figures of the cost of living and it cannot be swayed by the refusal of the Queensland tribunal to vary the basic wage downwards in accordance with the fall in the cost of living as measured by the index. Accordingly, the refund for the quarter November, 1943, to January, 1944, is based on the basic wage that would have been referable to the reduced cost of living as measured by the September index, had the tribunal given effect to the reduction.
.- I draw attention to a serious breach of the National Security Regulations with regard to building operations. I cannot imagine a more flagrant breach of the regulations. I have already directed the attention of the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) to the matter, and I understand that his department is investigating it, but I fail to see why a speedy decision has not been reached, because the facts are clear. Last year, I understand, application was made to the Minister, and also to the Municipality of Bankstown, by a man named Fitzpatrick, a contractor in that district, for permission to erect certain buildings. Prior to the war, he was a small, backyard contractor, but he seems to have achieved affluence since the outbreak of war. In a recent court case he claimed that his plant was worth £70,000. He made application for additions to a galvanized iron shed, in which lie housed his motor lorries. Approval was given for the erection of additions estimated to cost £100. The matter was brought to my notice by certain local bodies. Although the approval given by the Municipality of Bankstown related only to ff few additions to a galvanized iron shed, we find that that structure has disappeared and in its place is a building of considerable proportions. This is located in a large yard which has been concreted in recent months. The dimensions of the structure are estimated, from photographs placed before me, at a length of 140 ft. or 150 ft., a width of 60 ft. and a height of from 30 ft. to 40 ft. The building is of steel girder construction and has a concrete floor, the sides and roof being of corrugated fibro sheets. In the roof are 24 glass windows. According to estimates supplied to me, this building would cost between £3,000 and £4,000.
– Is that price according to Allied Works Council standards ?
– I welcome that question. I have drawn attention to this matter, not merely because it appears to show a breach of the approval given by the department, but also because there seems to be something sinister with regard to it. The building is large enough to accommodate aeroplanes, and that fact is significant when one knows that close to the building is the Bankstown aerodrome, where the Allied Works Council has in recent months been carrying out work in connexion with aeroplane hangars.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the building will be used to shelter Zeros?
– It is large enough for aeroplanes, but far too large for motor lorries. In addition, a double garage has been built on the premises, fronting a new concrete road. This is constructed of texture bricks, and has a tiled roof and steel roller shutters. The plans were submitted to the Bankstown council and the work was estimated to. coat £27. I understand that roller shutters consist of materials that are frozen, but they alone would have cost more than £27. I do not know whether the council has approved the erection of this building, but I understand that the estimated cost is from £250 to £300. Another building on the same premises has been reconstructed. It was removed from another part of the district and rebuilt on a site adjoining the large building to which I have already referred. Even the local aldermen seemed to be unaware of any approval having been given for the work. It would be interesting to know whether only a few individuals are concerned in this matter or whether people who should have protected the interests of the ratepayers and the community are also implicated. A concrete road was recently constructed past the premises. The old bitumen road was to have been straightened out slightly, but a completely new concrete road has been built past the premises.
A wide sweep has been taken under a railway bridge, thus creating a dangerous curve at that point. Practically the sole person benefiting from the construction of the road is the owner of the abovementioned premises, because he now has a concrete entrance from one side and a concrete drive at the other end of his premises. This road cost several thousands of pounds. In view of the fact that the materials used in connexion with road construction are in short supply, I should like to know how this matter can have escaped the notice of the Minister. Even the sand and metal required for the road were supplied by the contractor, Mr. Fitzpatrick. Will the Minister state what action has been taken to see that the regulations are observed?
– What authority built the road?
– The Bankstown Municipal Council. Everybody in the district seems to know about this matter except the local authorities and the police, who either know nothing of the affair or are ignoring it.
– ‘What about the Department of War Organization of Industry?
– The matter has been brought to the notice of the Minister, whose department merely approves in the first instance of building alterations. I hope that the Minister will consider whether the regulations are effectively policed. I have heard that this workis not within the province of the local governing authorities. If not, I should like to know who is responsible. The Minister’s staff expects co-operation from the local authorities. I cannot understand how the work ever passed the authorities. Everybody knows that the plans and specifications of a building must be approved before construction, and that the building must be passed by the inspector afterwards. This matter calls for investigation, not only by the Minister for War Organization of Industry, but also by the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) . It is time that an authority was set up to inquire into the expenditure of money by the Allied Works Council. I am particularly concerned, because some constituents of mine had their properties appropriated by the authorities, and were paid only one-third to onequarter of their value. When that sort of thing happens, we should be particularly careful to see that no one profits unduly out of the undertaking. I suggest that an authority such as a Public Accounts Committee should be appointed to inquire into expenditure. It is of little use to obtain a report from the AuditorGeneral after the money has been expended. That savours too much of locking the stable door after the horse has been stolen. A highly competent officer used to be attached to the War Expenditure Committee to investigate cases of this kind, but his services have, for some reason, been withdrawn. Over twelve months ago I brought to the notice of the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) examples of wasteful expenditure in connexion with the construction of the graving dock in Sydney. It is tha duty of Parliament to see that such matters are inquired into, and that all expenditure is carefully scrutinized.
– I desire to call the attention of the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) to the gross injustice at present suffered by airmen who, though domiciled in Australia, are normally engaged on operations which take them outside Australian territory. The matter has reference to the allowance of four gallons of petrol which is granted, without question, to all members of the services who go on leave in Australia after their return from overseas, and I ask that a similar allowance be given in similar circumstances to the airmen to whom I have referred. Some members of the services who become entitled to this allowance may not have seen any actual combat at all, whereas airmen stationed at Darwin are called upon to risk their lives flying long distances over the water. They should at least be placed upon the same footing as servicemen who return to Australia from Port Moresby.
– Hear, hear ! We shall fix that up to-morrow.
Sir FREDERICK STEWART.Some little while ago one of my con- stituents, who had already lost one son in operations over Germany, applied for this special petrol allowance on behalf of his other son who was home on leave. It took the department five weeks to answer an urgent telegram on the subject, and then the application was refused. Long before the reply was received, the young man was back on duty. Imagine the feelings of that father when he read that representatives of trade unions travelled backwards and forwards to Canberra in pc-trol-driven motor cars.
– The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) referred to the issue of a building permit to a person in Bankstown, and inquired whether the permit gave authority for all the work done. The honorable member brought this matter to my notice some time ago, and it is now under investigation by my department. Many of the points which he raised do not come under my jurisdiction at all. For example, the construction of a concrete road by a municipality does not come under the jurisdiction, of any federal department, and I do not think that it would be wise for the Commonwealth Government to interfere in such a matter. Investigations of this kind take some time. One must make certain first of all that the work does in fact come under the. building regulations.
– Surely if the Minister lias approved the work, that is sufficientproof that it comes under the regulations ?
– -The honorable member mentioned the concreting of a yard. That does not come under the building regulations. It is necessary to inquire whether or not there has been a breach of the regulations.
– It should not take three months to find that out.
– It is not easy to get all the information.
– But these facts are patent.
– The honorable member says so, but my investigator says that they are not.
– Then he must be blind.
– Whether or not the buildings erected are a breach of the permit originally issued may be patent, but it is necessary to find who is responsible. We have to learn who erected the building, whose land it stands on, and all this information must be collected after the building has been completed. My department cannot maintain an army of inspectors, and we must rely upon the local government inspectors to keep us advised of breaches of the regulations that occur in their municipalities. If breaches occur without action being taken it is probably because we have not been advised by the local authority. Once a building has been completed, much investigation is necessary before the offence can be sheeted home to a particular person.
– It ought to be easy to ascertain who applied for the permit.
– What about the source of the materials used? Is that not the concern of the Department of War Organization of Industry?
– No, it is not. We are concerned only with whether the expenditure on a building is in excess of the amount fixed in the permit. I shall receive a final report on this matter within a week or so. If it is manifest that a breach of the regulations has been committed I shall consult with the Attorney-General as to what should be done.
– I desire to bring to the notice of the Government the present situation of the peanut industry, and I speak as the chairman of the board associated with this industry. It is a tragedy that a commodity so valuable should be in danger of being lost, and the fact that this danger exists is not the fault of the board or of the growers. The board consulted with the authorities to find out what quantity of peanuts the growers were expected to produce, and the quota was fixed at 13,000 tons. We advised the growers to this effect, but they were reluctant to plant the crop without receiving an assurance that labour would be available. On the 29th November last the Director of Service Foodstuffs told us that we could depend upon obtaining labour even if it was necessary to make soldiers available. We were content with i hat assurance, because last year we had obtained the services of 200 servicemen of eighteen and nineteen years of age, as well as of a number of aborigines. We consulted regularly with the chairman of the District War Agricultural Committee, who regularly advised the manpower authority in Brisbane regarding the requirements of the industry. The crop is a good one, and harvesting operations must commence at once. The growers have done their part, but so little co-operation has there been between the department in Melbourne, which gave us the assurance with regard to labour, and irs office in Brisbane, that the Brisbane office was not even advised of what our requirements were. No action was taken by the head office or by the State office, and the only help we received was from the State department in control of aborigines. Some months ago the appropriate authorities . were advised of the approximate date when the labour would be required. A minimum of 600 men is required, but, so far, only 80 aborigines and nineteen soldiers aged eighteen or nineteen years have been supplied, despite the assurances given on which basis plantings were made. The crop is worth about £500,000. Already the September planting has been lost, and the October planting is in process of being lost. It is probable that five-sixths of the crop will be lost to the country. Three departments, namely, Man-power, Commerce and Agriculture and the Army are involved. On four successive days last week I sent telegrams from Kingaroy to the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde). After the receipt of two of them, the Minister replied that the matter was being investigated and he would let me know with what result. 1 1 took him to the end of the week to say that his department was not responsible, and that I should consult the Director of Man Power. Surely, he could have told me that in the first instance. I had also sent telegrams to the Man-power Directorate in Brisbane, but they were not even acknowledged, notwithstanding that I am the member for the district and chairman of the Peanut Board, and also that labour for the work was definitely promised.
– Who gave the assurance?
– The Director of Service Foodstuffs in Melbourne on the 29th November last.
– Who was the man-power officer who did not answer the honorable member’s telegram?
– I sent the telegram to the Man-power Department, Brisbane. The only way in which I could get any notice taken was by. giving publicity to the facts in Brisbane newspapers last week.
– Did that have any result?
– This morning nineteen young soldiers landed in Kingaroy, and 28 more have been promised.
– Will that be enough?
– Six hundred men arc required to harvest the crop. Peanuts will not keep on the bushes for more than a week. I did not wish to bring this matter forward in the Parliament, but the peanuts have been grown at the request of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, and growers have cooperated with the department to the full. They have informed the department of the action they proposed to take, and yet they are in danger of losing five-sixths of the crop. One difficulty associated with soldier labour for this work is that soldiers have to volunteer for it. They are not keen to do so. One soldier told me that soldiers had had a raw deal when working in the sugar industry and did nol: want a repetition of it. I do not know whether that is correct or not. I understand that a colonel has been engaged to recruit men for this work.
– Are the soldiers paid at award rates?
– All arrangements have been made for the proper accommodation and treatment of the men. The districts have been zoned, and local committees have been formed. Tents have been promised from the Army authorities and the Allied Works Council, and cooking utensils and other requirements are available. A major who called on Saturday said that he would communicate with the Army authorities in Melbourne on the following day stating that he was satisfied that the growers had done everything possible for the men. It is possible to earn £2 a day at this work; £1 a day can be earned easily. The growers are prepared to do almost anything to save the crop. Committees have been appointed to protect the interests of all concerned, so that one grower shall not outbid another, and that no worker shall be fleeced. I am concerned about this industry and want to save the crop for the country. I hesitated to bring this matter forward tonight, but I did not wish another 24 hours to elapse without something being done.
– The honorable member did well to bring it forward. As soon as the House adjourns I shall see what can be done in the matter.
– Earlier today the honorable member for Hume (Mr.Fuller) directed my attention to a Melbourne Herald editorial reflecting on the censorship. I have a further reply which, with the approval of honorable members, I shall incorporate in Hansard. The article contains the stupid allegation that censorship of overseas messages was unduly strict and resulted in the presentation of an inaccurate picture of conditions and opinion in Australia. I have now read the article, which is a tissue of misstatements, obviously inspired by Sir Keith Murdoch, whose distorted pictures of Australian conditions and our Australian outlook, unfit him to express an unbiased view on any matters of national importance. I might add that there is general agreement in Australia that this frustrated knight is not, in his present state of mind, capable of forming a balanced judgment in regard to censorship or any other matter. It costs this country £66,000 a year to subsidize press cablegram messages sent from Australia to America.. That expenditure was agreed to in the belief that the true story of Australia’s heroic effort would be sent round the world, with consequent advantage to this country. Some benefit has resulted from this expenditure. A number of visiting overseas correspondents have sent out fine stories about us. But, unfortunately, there are a few writers in Australia, including the selfrighteous Sir Keith Murdoch, who would, if not watched, do incalculable harm to this country. References in Japanese broadcasts to Murdoch’s articles prove that his efforts in this direction have been noted and approved. It is unfortunate that considerations of national security prevent disclosure to this House of some of the bad and damaging stories which have been lodged in Australia for despatch at the subsidized rate to America. In due time, when such disclosure can safely be made, censorship will be proved to be right. The one object of publicity censorship is to protect Australia’s war effort against all forms of subversive activity. That job is being done fearlessly, impartially and satisfactorily.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Lands Acquisition Act and National Security (Supplementary) Regulations - Orders - Land acquired for Commonwealthpurposes -
National Security Act -
National Security (Agricultural Aids) Regulations - Orders -
Bran and pollard (Restriction of sales ) .
National Security (Egg Industry) Regulations - Order - Egg Industry (No.9).
National Security (Food Control) Regulations - Order - (No.6).
National Security (General) Regulations -
Control of cleaning agents (No. 2).
Taking possesion of land, &c. (49).
Use of Land (6).
Orders by State Premiers -
New South Wales (No. 44).
Victoria (No. 55).
National Security (Supplementary) Regulations - Orders by State Premier - Queensland (2 - dated 1st December, 1943, and 10th February, 1944).
Women’s Employment Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1944, No. 42.
House adjourned at 11.21 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– Inquiries arebeing made and a reply will be furnished to the right honorable member as early as practicable.
n. - On the 3rd March the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Breen) read a letter from F. V. McGuinness, acting editor of the Daily Mirror, protesting against the manner in which two stories of street brawls were censored in Sydney. In reply to the honorable member, I suggest that he should ask the Chief Censor to let him see and compare the Daily Mirror story before and after treatment. He may then agree that the Censor acted in the best interests of this country. In the course of his letter, Mr. McGuinness alleged that wholesale stabbings have become almost daily occurrences in Sydney, and that they are being perpetrated by negro soldiers. Actually, negroes have been concerned in eleven incidents of the kind in the past five months. I do not agree with the honorable member’s assertion that similarity of phraseology in two morning papers’ accounts of the same incident indicated censorship interference. The only similarity apparent to me was that both reports gave the same facts, namely, that two servicemen were cut with knives during a brawl in Pitt-street in the presence of a crowd of nearly 1,000 persons. 1939-43 Star: Eligibility.
asked the Minister for
Defence, upon notice -
e. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Is it a fact that officers belonging to an organization within the meaning of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act receive a higher allowance than those who do not belong to such an organization?
– The- answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1’.. After discussions with representatives of Public Service organisazations, the Public Service Board lodged claims with the Public Service Ar.bitrai.tor for variation’ of the previously existing scales of travelling allowance embodied, in the awards applicable to the different organizations’. The organizations were not in entire agreement with the board’s proposals but lodged no formal1 objection with the, arbitrator who accordingly granted the claims 2 and 3-
n asked the Minister for Information, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Information. It is expected that an assistant librarian, one or two additional typists and n messenger will be required. 5. (a) Sixteen. (6) £35,000 (A.) a year. No additional expenditure has yet been approved in relation to the New York office.
Prisoners of War.
e. - On the 2nd March the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) asked the following question, without notice : -
How many Australian prisoners of war are now held in (a) Italy and (?>) Germany? How many have been repatriated by (a) Italy and (b) Germany? What steps have been taken to try to secure a similar arrangement for the exchange of prisoners of war with Japan to that which obtains with other Axis powers ?
Of 2,014 Australian prisoners of war held by Italy 94 were repatriated prior to armistice. Thereafter, prisoners of war in Italy were transferred to Germany, excluding those who escaped to Switzerland. Of 4,895 Australian prisoners of war held by Germany, 540 were repatriated in October, 1943. Japan has this far declined to agree to proposals made by Allied governments that sick and wounded prisoners of war on both sides be exchanged.
t asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
War Damage Insurance.
y. - On the 23rdFebruary, the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Guy) asked the following question, without notice: -
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?
It is impossible to estimate the actual number of those who have failed to comply with the compulsory provisions of the National Security (War Damage to Property) Regulations, but active steps are still being taken to trace defaulters and enforce payment.Up to the end of 1943, 16,408 cases of apparent default by owners of movable property have been investigated, resulting in the recovery of contributions totalling £103,203. A further sum of £5,090 was recovered in January of this year.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 March 1944, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1944/19440307_reps_17_177/>.