17th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr.Speaker (Hon. J. S.Rosevear) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and NationalService whether or not further efforts have been made to settle the dispute in the breadbaking industry in South Australia?
– This morning, I had a long conference on the telephone with Mr. Ryan, the secretary of the operative bakers’ organization. I gave to him certain advice which I believe that he will follow, in which event a satisfactory settlement of the dispute will probably be effected.
– There isa grave short age of housing in country districts, and the public is severely affected by restrictions on home building. Given an improvement of the war situation, can the Minister for War Organization of Industry say whether or not it would be possible to release larger quantities of materials and more man-power with a view to easing the very great hardship that is now imposed on many thousands of persons?
– The Government is well aware of the acute shortage of housing, not only in country districts, but also in every other centre in the Commonwealth, and is closely studying the availability of man-power and materials. Steps are being taken which will ensure the construction of housing to the degree made possible by the quantities of materials and labour released. Recently, a programme was prepared which the Government considered could be implemented during the next quarter, at the end of which the position will again be reviewed. If more man-power and building materials are then available, the programme will be enlarged. Everything possible is being done to ensure that, commensurate with the resources available, building construction shall be permitted by my department and proceeded with by the Department of Labour and National Service.
– The Launceston Trades Hall Council has written to me proposing that a number of vacant shop buildings in that city might be utilized to relieve the housing shortage. Will the Minister for War Organization of Industry instruct his officers in Tasmania to investigate the suitability of these premises for that purpose?
– My department, some time ago, investigated this matter in a general way. The conversion of shop premises into residences fit for human habitation presents certain difficulties. The department,however, recognizes that the housing shortage might be relieved in some ‘degree by the adoption of a proposal such as that which the Launceston Trades Hall Council has made. It is necessary that I should emphasize that that could be done only on a voluntary basis; it would not be right for any government department to compel the owner ofa shop to have it converted into a residence. Acertain amount of publicity has been given to the idea that if owners of vacant shops could alter them for residential purposes, an application to my department for permission to make the necessary alterations would be granted, subject to the condition that the amount proposed to bo expended was notunreasonable. I shall instruct the departmental officer in Launceston to make a further investigation, in order to ascertain whether or not there is scope for action along the lines proposed.
Mr.MULCAHY.-Is the Minister for Labour and National Service aware that a large number of women, many of whom are married and have families, received telegraphic direction to report at the National Service Office, Belmore, last Sunday, with a view to their employment in food factories? If the work of these factories is urgent, will the honorable gentleman confer with the Minister for the Army with a view to overcoming the man-power shortage by the release of Army personnel from military camps that are adjacent to Sydney, and thus relieve the hardship which not only those who are engaged in businesses, but also married women, suffer under the present practice?
– I was not aware that women had been called up or interviewed on Sunday.
– I have received telegraphic advice to that effect.
– Strong reasons would have to be advanced before I should agree to resort beinghad to Sunday work. I shall ask to be supplied with the reasons, and when these are received I shall reply to the honorable ‘ member. The Department of Labour and National Service is continually in consultation, and will continue to he, with the Minister for the Army, in regard to the labour position. If there are in camps adjacent to factories in Sydney men who could be released for work in those factories, I shall request that their release shall be considered by the Minister for the Army.
Ground Staff in the Middle EastEnlistments from Civilian Staff of the Navy.
– Has the Minister for Air yet given consideration to the transfer, posting, or grant of furlough to those members of ground staffs of the Royal Australian Air Force who have been in the Middle East, for three years or longer ?
– Yes. Thus far, however, it has not been possible to arrange for the regular return of these men. As soon as that is possible, the relief desired will be given. The Department of Air recognizes that these men have been overseas for a long period, and will do its utmost to have them returned to Australia, but regard must be had to the requirements of the Royal Air Force, with which they are serving and through which the arrangement must be made.
– Has the Minister for the Navy finally decided whether civilian clerks in his department shall be released to join the Royal Australian Air Force as members of air crews for which they are physically andmentally fitted or does the department intend to continue to refusetheir release?
– I have already supplied, a reply to the honorable member by letter and also answered a question in this House. I have nothing to add.
– Then the reply is in the negative.
Cokefor Foundries - Stoppages of Work
– As the extraordinary loss of coal due to strikes is vitally affecting the supply of coke for foundry purposes, and thereby interfering with the production of castings forthe manufacture of munitions, will the Prime Ministerstate what reserves of foundry coke are on hand, and how the Government’s munitions plants are likely to be affected by the shortage?
– It would not be in the public interest to state the quantities of stocks and reserves, either of coal or coke, in Australia.
– It would be hard to findthem.
Mr.CURTIN.- There are certain reserves. The tonnage stored in several localities is not nearly so large as it should be; but it would be a great mistake for the enemy to imagine that, because the coal-miners have been on strike, the capacity of the Government to continue the war has been brought to an end. I have said enough about the importance of coal production with regard to the war effort for my views to be clearly understood, and’ I see no good purpose in giving to the enemy any comfort from an excessive discussion of the facts.
SirFREDERICKSTEWART.- Has the Prime Minister been advised by Australian Iron and Steel Limited that owing to the exhaustion of the coal stocks it has been found necessary to close down the major portion of its works at Port Kembla, involving the dismissal of 2,000 or 3,000 men? If the right honorable gentleman has been so advised, what information has he to give to the House as to the Government’s proposals to replenish the coal stocks ?
Mr.CURTIN. - I have a statement before me showing the average weekly consumption of coal in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. The statement also sets out the stocks on hand on the 22nd January and on the 19th February in each State. I have no later figures before me. I shall not make these figures public, hut I shall show them to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and to the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). As to the fact that Australian Iron and Steel Limited proposes to close down itsworks, or must close them down, the figures before me in relation to the stocks of that company relate to the position on the 19th February, and such a reduction of stocks may have occurred since. I shall ascertain exactly what the position is; but I have no doubt whatever that, over the whole field of industry, the insecurity of production due to the decrease of stocks, and the uncertainty of those stocks being renewed, is a matter of grave anxiety to every industrial enterprise. The un certainty of their position may induce them to take the view that they must reduce their staffs. I think that is perfectly natural, and I have not hesitated to say to the representative bodies of labour in Australia that widespread unemployment will be unavoidable unless there is increased production of coal. To-day, for what are avoidable reasons, 17,000 tons of coal is being lost. That would have been the quantity of coal produced but for these stoppages for causes that, in my view, are utterly unjustified. So much has been said on this subject that there is not much more that Ican say. The facts appear to me to be these : The miners not only refuse to respect the wishes and policy of the Government, but they also refuse to respect and heed the advice of their own leaders. A mineis idle to-day because one locomotivedriver in the mine said that another locomotive driver was endeavouring yesterday to put something over him. Circumstances associated with stoppages of that kind cause me the gravest anxiety. They do not arise out of the normal disputes that unions have with employers over claims for improved conditions or for higher pay. Frankly, I do not know the basic cause which produces to this state of mind. I have only to say to the miners and to the mine-owners that together they are responsible to the nation for the production of coal. “Without coal this nation’s war effort must be impaired. I am not going to give the enemy comfort by saying that our war effort will be grievously weakened, but facts are facts, and I shall not evade them. I have confessed in this House - perhaps a sorry confession for a Prime Minister to make - that I have done my best to get coal, but I know that only the coalminprs, men accustomed to the mining of coal, can give to the country the coal it needs. How to get them to do this is the task which confronts me and my colleagues. When I say that I have done my best I do not offer any opinion as to the valuation which others ought to place upon what I have done. I know that I have done my best. There are lions in the path - what they are I have hinted at. I frankly say that I regard the production of coal as so integral a part of the war effort that a continued failure to produce coal would make me reflect very seriously on my personal capacity to be responsiblefor the conduct of Australia’s war effort. If the miners wanted some other man to be the head of the Government I would stand aside to permit more coal to be produced; but if the rank and file of the miners want to run this country, there must be a contest between them and the rank and file of the Australian people. I know that the miners believe that so long as there is a Labour government in office they will have advantages in their disputations which they would not have if an. antiLabour government were in office. I warn them not to place too much reliance on that belief, because this Government places the safety of the country on a much higher level than any other consideration.As for myself, I have, as I have said, done my best. I will continue to do it, but I shall not consider my position in this country as a factor of any importance in the resolution of this problem.
Mr.WHITE. - With a view to increasing the production of coal and making available man-power in the coal-mining industry, will the Prime Minister examine the scheme of optants which is in operation in Great Britain, whereby young men who are called up for the forces are given the optionof joining the forces or working in the coal mines? I believe that the scheme is operating with considerable success.
– Careful consideration will be given to the scheme referred to by the honorable member as is done in connexion with all schemes brought to the notice of the Government.
– Can the AttorneyGeneral say whether it is a fact that there is grave industrial unrest in certain war industries at Newcastle arising out of a stoppage of work for a few days in January last, and the right honorable gentleman’s order to the men concerned to resume work? The men obeyed that order, but the company by whom they were employed made them sign on afresh, with the result that men with over twenty years’ service, some of whom were within one month of obtaining holidays, have been denied their annual holidays, and have to work an extra twelve months before leave will be granted to them. If that is a fact, what action is proposed in order that the company may know that it cannot ride roughshod over orders issued by the Attorney-General, and by Conciliation Commissioner Morrison, who said that the men had to go back to work, but would retain their seniority and holiday rights ?
– Action has been taken to prosecute the company for a breach of the order.
Mr.James. - The company is still disobeying the order.
– The case is now pending in the court. Should it result in a judgment that thecompany had disobeyed the order, effect will be given to the order according to its terms.
– In any plan which the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture may have for increasing the acreage under wheat, will he consider giving preferential treatment to small wheat-farmers, and encourage them to increase their acreage, rather than allow increased production by growers already holding largely licensed areas?
– Yes. I believe that the small wheat-growers are entitled to preferential treatment, and for that reason alone the quota plan was introduced, whereby economic security could be given to the small growers. The policy of the Government is to increase the number of growers throughout Australia.
Releaseof Personnel - Foodstuffs - Burial of Soldiers - Use of Military Initials
– Will the Prime Minister investigate the statement by the Controller-General of Food-, Mr. Murphy, published in Monday’s issue of the Brisbane Courier-Mail, that dairyfarmers are not seeking man-power releases? Has the right honorable gentleman any information that he can give to the House as to the approximate number of releases asked for by dairyfarmers since priority was given to the release of 15,000 men from the Army for rural industries, and as to the nurn.1 ,e r of applications refused?
– I notice a disposition in this House to regard statements published in newspapers as representing something which the Government is called upon to answer; but surely public :id ministration cannot be thrust aside daily in order to deal with either misconstrued or inaccurate statements in newspapers. First I shall ask the Controller-General of Food whether he made any such statement.
– The right honorable gentleman knows that honorable members are expected to make inquiries regarding matters of this kind that are reported in the press.
– I realize that, but did Mr. Murphy make the statement attributed to him? If he did1 not, nothing further need be said. The substance of what the right honorable gentleman has put to me is that the number of releases sought on behalf of the dairying industry is far greater than the number granted. The implication, if the report be correct, is that Mr. Murphy has said that the number sought, to be released has been released. I shall ascertain the facts and let the right honorable member know them.
– Has the Minister for the Army read the report in this morning’s press that large supplies of foodstuffs have been returned from the front line areas because they are unfit for human consumption? This bears out the statement that I made in the House some time ago that vested interests were canning food that was unfit for human consumption.
– Order ! A question must not contain statements or arguments.
– I read the report referred to and immediately asked MajorGeneral Plant, General Officer Commanding New South “Wales Line of Communication Area, to investigate the report, and he has agreed to do so. From time to time, foodstuffs go bad in tropical areas, and in the interests of the health of the troops and of the civilian population it is much better to dump that food into the sea than to use it. Only an expert can determine whether such food is poisonous or harmless. I shall wait until I receive a report from Major-General Plant before I make any pronouncement on the matter.
– Is . the Minister for the Army yet able to give the House any reliable information concerning the substitution of the letters A.M.F. for the letters A.I.F. on the crosses over soldiers’ graves? Can the Minister explain what security reasons and what order of battle were responsible for the fact that, as stated in Smith’s Weekly, twenty or more graves in the Adelaide War Cemetery, of men with X numbers, bear the letters A.M.F. ? Will the Minister give the House the complete text of the order to which he referred in his original explanation, and will he say who signed the order and why graves in Brisbane and Adelaide were marked in accordance with the order?
– As the .honorable mem ber’s question is a long one I ask him to place it on the notice-paper. Pending the preparation of a reply, I can say definitely, that the instruction referred to was not issued by me as Minister for the Army, nor was it issued by the Government. I issued an instruction that the order be revoked, and the letters A.I.F. allowed to remain, on the crosses over soldiers’ graves.
– In view of the statement of the Minister for Agriculture in Victoria concerning the shortage of bran and pollard, will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture state what steps have been taken to ensure that farmers will get supplies of bran and pollard, and whether there has been an increase of milling capacity?
– There has been a considerable increase of the quantity of bran and pollard available to the dairying industry of Victoria, and only recently National Security Regulations were issued controlling sales. I am at a loss to understand the statement of the Minister for Agriculture in Victoria because the Commonwealth Government has delegated to the State Departments of Agriculture powers of control over bran and pollard. I can only assume that the Minister is not aware of the powers delegated to him.
Alleged Breach of Regulations at Bankstown.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral considered the disclosures made by me, on the motion for the adjournment of the House last night, with reference to the erection by one Fitzpatrick, of Bankstown, of a structure which looks suspiciously like an aeroplane hangar rather than a shed for housing motor lorries? Will he confer with the Minister for War Organization of Industry regarding the suggestion that there has been a breach of the National Security “Regulations, seeing that the Minister for War Organization of Industry has stated that he has no jurisdiction on certain aspects of the matter? Will he inquire also into the source of the materials used in the building, with a view to finding whether they were diverted from more urgent war jobs, and will he try to find out what labour was used on the undertaking ?
– I heard what the honorable member said last night, and also what the Minister for WarOrganization of Industry said in reply. If the Department of War Organization of Industry needs investigators they can be made available from the Commonwealth Security Branch. I shall confer with my colleague in regard to the matter.
– Last week the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) complained of the quality of the stationery supplied to honorable members. I have had inquiries made, and am informed that some months ago the Government Printer had no writing paper of good quality in stock, and that no other stocks were available anywhere in Australia. He was forced to use paper of inferior quality, a little of which is still in the departmental stock. . The position has now changed, and the Government Printer reports that he has supplies of extra-strong quality Australianmade writing paper, which is being made available to departments. No further supplies of the inferior quality will be issued.
– Yesterday, the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) asked whether additional complimentary copies of Hansard could be supplied to honorable members. I have had this matter investigated also, and am informed that financially the matter is one for the Treasurer’s consideration, as an increase of the Hansard printing vote would be involved. On the practical side are considerations of paper supply and labour. The Government Printer says that unless the increased circulation were considerable, the extra paper could probably be found, but an increase of circulation would mean extra labour, and the Printing Office is already seriously understaffed. Moreover, delay in publication and distribution would be inevitable. The circulation of Hansard is steadily increasing; during the last three years the first edition has risen by 2,00.0., and the second edition by 1,200. The present approximate figures are: first edition. 7,000.; second edition, 4,000. The increasing demand is being met, in some measure, by a more generous interpretation of the eligibility of organizations, and also by bringing into the official free list high schools and secondary schools which apply. Members’ private lists have been relieved by the transfer of many organizations and institutions to the official list. The number of copies of Hansard allowed to members of the ‘Commonwealth Parliament was fixed in 1903 at twelve each. It was increased in 1908’ to . 25, and four years later to 35. This matter was last raised in 1938, when the presiding officers approved of five extra copies being provided for each member at an estimated cost of £330. The then Treasurer was unable to provide the additional amount. The fact ought not to be overlooked that Hansard is available to subscribers at the nominal cost of 4s. per annum or 4d. a copy, post free. This charge is not greatly in excess of the postage and is much below the actual cost of production.
Owing to the many new legislative fields which the Commonwealth has entered’, there has been during the last six months an increasing demand for Hansard by organizations which are entitled to copies of that publication. That indicates a quickened interest in the proceedings of this Parliament. In view of the fact that the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) is usually most generous in the expenditure of money obtained from other people, [ shall consult with him on the matter, and see if it is possible to arrange for a more liberal distribution of Hansard.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether the Allied Works Council has prepared for certain people a beautifully illustrated account of its activities and, if so, will he say whether, in his opinion, there is any reason why honorable members should not be acquainted with what that important organization is doing?
– There is no reason why honorable members should not know of the activities of the Allied Works Council. Some time ago a complete account of its activities was prepared, and given a restricted circulation among members of the Advisory War Council and the War Cabinet. In addition, copies were sent to certain other persons who, it was thought, should be acquainted with what the Allied Works Council had done. Later, that account was edited and published in the form of a brochure, and I am astonished that honorable members have not had copies. I shall see that a copy is supplied to every honorable member.
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform the House whether the Government has come to a decision regarding country killing establishments? If so, when will information on this subject be available to honorable members, and if not, when can we expect a final decision ?
– This matter has been under consideration for several months, but a final decision has not yet been reached. Information is being obtained from various districts, and the Government has also conferred with the State
Governments with a view to establishing small killing units in various centres. I hope to be able to supply the honorable member at an early date with the information he seeks.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that large numbers of public servants, secretaries, publicity men and others of various degrees of usefulness, have free access to air travel, whilst others, including members of this Parliament, are compelled to use slower means of transport? Does not the right honorable gentleman think that the time has arrived for the concession of air travel to be extended to members of Parliament?
– I do not know of any public servants who have “ free access to air travel” except where the duties of their office make it necessary for them to travel by that means. My colleague, the Attorney-General, interjects that even Ministers cannot always travel by air, when they wish to do so.
– The right honorable gentleman has much to learn.
– I probably have a lot to learn, but what I do know is that the aircraft available for civil air travel are not equal to the services that the Department of Civil Aviation seeks to maintain and that, therefore, some persons anxious to travel by air cannot be provided for.
Airmen on Leave.
– I ask the Attorney-General, in his capacity as Acting Minister for Supply and Shipping, whether he will arrange for a special ration of petrol to those airmen on leave who, though domiciled in Australia, are, while on duty, required to operate beyond Australia?
– After the adjournment of the House yesterday, I consulted the Minister for Supply and Shipping about this matter. He has given directions that airmen stationed in Australia whose operational duties take them outside Australia shall receive the special issue of petrol suggested -by the honorable member.
– Has the Treasurer seen the report in the Sydney Daily Telegraph that a committee of the Congress of the United States of America is investigating the possibility of obviating the necessity for wage and salary earners to furnish a return of income at the end of the financial year? Will the Treasurer give consideration to the establishment of a committee to investigate a similar concession here?
– I have not seen the report. There have been so many investigations of taxation matters in the United States of America in the last couple of years that I have not been able r.o follow them all. The Income Tax on Current Income Committee examined all proposals of that character, and its general conclusion, I think, was that there were great administrative difficulties in the proposal the honorable gentleman mentions.
Appointment of Deputy Controller in Queensland.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether it is proposed to appoint a deputy food controller in Queensland? If so, what will be his duties? Will the Minister assure the House that the person appointed will possess practical experience of primary industry and food production ?
– A deputy food controller will be appointed in Queensland with the approval of the State Government. He will possess all the qualifications desirable for that high office.
Issue to Discharged Servicemen
– I ask the Minister for the Army whether he has yet discussed with the Minister for Trade and Customs my suggestion made some time ago that if the Army is unable to supply a discharged soldier with a suit he should be supplied with sufficient ration coupons to enable him to buy a suit? If he has .one so, what decision has been reached ?
– Probably within the next, two or three days I shall be able to furnish the honorable gentleman with the information he desires.
Use of Army Vehicles. Mr. BERNARD CORSER. - During the early stages of the war in the Pacific, very large numbers of motor vehicles were acquired by the Army. Now that Australia is concentrating less on defence against invasion than on production of food for the offensive, will the Minister for Munitions confer with the Minister for Defence and the Minister for the Army on the possibility of making available to primary producers, on a No. 1 preference, many of the very large number of used and unused army motor vehicles to enable them to market their products?
– That is a matter which comes under the purview of the Minister for Supply and Shipping, with whom I shall confer in order to ascertain what can be done in the direction requested by the honorable member.
– Yesterday the Minister for Information gave ,to the House some details of the proposed extension of the activities of his department. I ask the honorable gentleman whether he will give consideration as well to the extension of the activities of that department to cover Moscow and Chungking., where Australia has Ministers?
– I promise the honorable member that I shall give consideration to his suggestion.
Debate resumed from the 7th Mardi (vide page 3 054), 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 lien thereof thi’ following words: - (vide page 1027).
.- I approach the problem set out in this bill as a lifelong advocate of constitutional reform, and I must confess to bitter disappointment at the inadequacy of the bill, because it fails to reach the real heart of the problem. The Government has brought down a hybrid measure. Like all hybrids, especially the mule, which lias no pride of ancestry and no hope of posterity, this bill, I am afraid, will not be fruitful. The referendum is certain to fail, and in doing so might hold up really worth while constitutional reform for a quarter of a century. Years before 1 came into Parliament, I always urged that there would be no rapid progress and no uniform development of this continent, unless there was re-alinement of powers and redistribution of territory. We have only to look at Western Australia’s progress to 500,000 people in 50 years of responsible government. If it only gains an additional 500,000 in the next 50 years, Australia will have passed out of British hands.
If we look at other great land masses that are federally governed, we see the necessity for having complete federal control of communications and more numerous federal units. Communications spell civilization. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the United States of America, Canada, Brazil, Argentina and Germany have complete control of communications, such as electric power, aviation, railways, roads, navigation which covers water conservation, mails, and telephonic communication. It is obvious that if we are to compete with these countries Australia must secure similar federal powers.
With federal power over all these common agencies of development, the size of the States can be reduced. By enlarging the Senate, the numerical representation in the House of Representatives will be automatically increased. This will tend to give political stability in the Commonwealth, and also make available a much greater field for choosing leaders and administrators, and induce more men in the active period of their business or professional life to enter the Federal Parliament. The smaller area of a State will permit a greater concentration of local and regional developmental opportunities.
At the same time, it will ensure greater co-operation between the States themselves in projects which would then touch the progress of several States instead of merely one. To-day a unique chance is offered to the Commonwealth to secure temporary transfer of few powers by agreement with the States, and by wise use of these powers to get permanent transfer of other powers over a wide field. I fear this unique chance may be lost by clumsy approach and maladroit handling of the position by the Government. If it stakes all now on a referendum, these partial and inadequate powers, and the referendum is lost, all chance of constitutional reform may be deferred for a generation. If the referendum succeeds, we may also find that the Australian p’eople will think they have done a real job in constitutional reform and refuse to give any further powers by referendum for many years.
Therefore, I propose to look at the position realistically and objectively, and point out errors in the Government’s present approach to the subject and to offer constructive suggestions as to methods which will help us to secure the greatest results in constitutional changes at the end of the war. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) has already pointed out that at the end of the last war sweeping proposals were only lost by very small majorities, because a nation at war tends to think in national rather than local terms. I myself fathered five major amendments of the Constitution, of which only one was carried; but no other member of a government has been able to effect a single reform of the Constitution. Thus, our experience in this matter has been very difficult indeed.
– Three amendments of the Constitution have been effected.
– Two of them were merely formal amendments, the first dealing with the election of members to the Senate, and the second, merely removing a word in order to give the Commonwealth power to take over the States’ debts at a certain period. The third and only substantial and major amendment, was that carried by referendum in 1928.
There arc two methods of securing constitutional reform: First, the co-operative method, exemplified by the Loan Council and agreements by governments and parliaments ; and secondly, the direct method by referendum without reference to the States. “We cannot use these two methods simultaneously; but I purpose to show the unique opportunity we now have of using the first method to prepare the stage for the second at the end of the war. These two methods cannot be hybridized. They are incompatible, and like incompatible chemicals will not go into the same bottle without blowing off the cork.
Co-operative methods cannot be rammed down the throats of the States by means of a referendum. My medical experience shows it is easier to get a patient to swallow medicine with good-will than to force it between his clenched teeth into his mouth. In the latter case, we do not know- how much of the dose has been wasted and ‘what the result will be, just as we shall not know what results we shall get if we have .hostile State administrations to carry out for five years any cooperative constitutional reforms we have brought about by referendum against the wish of State governments.
As I said earlier, we must get rid of the idea that we can adopt these two courses simultaneously. We can follow them separately. If the Government does not proceed in an orderly manner, the operation on the Constitution will not be successful. Before this Parliament passes a bill to authorize the holding of a referendum, honorable members must decide as to what reforms are necessary. Then, they must make up their minds whether they intend to proceed along the co-operative path, and Ite satisfied with certain agreed powers that will be referred to the Commonwealth by the State Parliaments. If that course be adopted, they must reach a compromise with the States, because the latter may not be willing to grant to the Commonwealth all the powers it may seek. The quid pro quo will be the speed and ease with which we shall be able to get results; and the certainty that those results will be achieved will depend on the measure of agreement in all the State Parliaments.
Having dealt with the case for compromising with the States, I come to the second course. If we intend to appeal by direct referendum to the people, we should ask them for the powers that we really need without any compromise. Every political party and most citizens agree that some reform of the Constitution is necessary. The difficulty has been to get all the parties to agree on the reforms that are necessary - -the lowest common denominator that everybody will be prepared to accept. Evidence of the necessity for constitutional reform is to be found .in the number of referenda that have been submitted to the Commonwealth Parliament during the last 43 years. No fewer than 54 proposals for constitutional reform have been considered by the Commonwealth Parliament, and eighteen of them were submitted to the people. Some were defeated outright; some found acceptance in three States but were rejected by the other three States; and others had majorities in four States, but were defeated by the majority of the people in all States. Only one major alteration of the Constitution, namely, the Financial Agreement involving the permanent establishment of the Loan Council, has been carried. The reason for that success was that the Prime Minister of the day, Mr. Bruce, and. I proposed four years earlier that the States should voluntarily agree to the formation of the Loan Council. That body gave such general satisfaction that the Commonwealth, when submitting to the people a proposal for the alteration of the Constitution to make the Loan Council .a permanent body, had the support of the States. We were able to make a unanimous recommendation to the people, and the referendum was carried by an overwhelming majority. The Commonwealth now has a wonderful opportunity to recreate the practical goodwill and unanimity that existed in 1928,
Let us establish at the present time conditions that will ensure a permanent reform of the Constitution. The situation was never more favorable for this procedure than it, is now. Apart from our experience of previous referenda to guide us, we have the report of the Royal Commission on the Com- monwealth Constitution. Of its recommendations for the granting of increased powers to the Commonwealth, ten were unanimous whilst others had only one dissentient. In addition to that, the Federal Convention of 1942 was another example of a co-operative approach to this problem. I congratulate the Government upon having summoned that gathering, which represented all shades of political thought in this country. I pause for a moment to recall what took place there.” The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) had introduced in this Parliament a bill which meant unification naked and undisguised. When that measure met with a hostile reception, he submitted to a convention a slightly altered bill which I described at the time as “unification with a fig-leaf “. After the representatives of the States had expressed their opposition to it, the Attorney-General threw the measure under the table and accepted a proposal by the Premier of Tasmania, Mr. Cosgrove. That was an example of the co-operative approach which I advocate. A bill authorizing the transfer of powers to the Commonwealth for a limited period was then submitted to the Parliaments of the States. To show the progress that has been made in the relations between the Commonwealth and the States, I should like to dwell on the measure of agreement achieved rather than on the disagreement that was the theme of the Attorney-General’s second-reading speech. The agreement between them is remarkable. My parliamentary experience extends over 25 year? and for much of that period I have held high administrative office, but I have never seen such rapid progress made in achieving agreement between the Commonwealth and the States as was made nt that Convention.
Despite the summer weather, the delegates assembled in Canberra in an atmosphere so chilly that one could almost cut it’ with a knife. When the AttorneyGeneral withdrew the original bill and was prepared to listen, to suggestions, the atmosphere began to thaw. After discussion had taken place, a committee was appointed to consider the whole position, and eventually the State Premiers and the Leaders of the Opposition announced their willingness to recommend to their Parliaments acceptance of the resolutions of the Convention. On returning to their homes, they encountered in some quarters a hostile press and a State parliamentary atmosphere which had not been thawed by the influences that affected the Convention. Despite those disadvantages, the States agreed to refer to the Commonwealth eleven of the fourteen powers. As only limited propaganda had been employed in the States to secure the acceptance of the “ Powers Bill “, this measure of agreement was extraordinary. Therefore, honorable members should not overlook the effect of that Convention.
In addition to that, there exists in Australia at the present time a war atmosphere and Commonwealth control of all activities has grown to be almost a. natural procedure. For several years, men and women have known no system of control other than Commonwealth administration. The unifying effects of war and the danger of invasion had an extraordinary psychological effect on the people. Therefore it is very important that at this time we should re-establish unanimity between the Commonwealth and State Governments to ensure that we shall be able to present to the people a unanimous front. When I recall the numerous referenda campaigns that I have fought, I must admit that the people never understood the pros and cons of the case. I used to think that it was a dreadful waste of money to print the arguments for and against the proposals to alter the Constitution, because, regardless of how clearly the case was presented, only a small fraction of the people read it. What led to the success of the referendum in 192S was that the Commonwealth was able to show the people that its proposals for Constitutional reform had the sUpport of the State Governments and had been proved in practice. That is what we must have at the present time. The Government itself has recognized the necessity for creating such an atmosphere, because I take it that that was the real reason why the Attorney-General at the Convention at once withdrew his unification proposals in favour of these co-operative ones which had nothing whatever to do with unification. Tin; most important thing for us to do is to make certain that at the earliest possible moment we make a start to get the co-operative system working. Later on, we can turn to the direct method for dealing with other’ questions. Force is given to the idea of trying out the cooperative method still further, by an examination of the bill, the powers proposed to be referred, and those which the various States were prepared to grant. When I look at what has been done by the various State Parliaments in this connexion, I find that there has been substantial agreement in regard to all those powers which I call co-operative, such as employment, andunemployment, health, production and repatriation - things that the Governments must do together. In fact, certain States which apparently will not go the whole hog as regards the rest of the powers, were prepared, so far as repatriation was concerned, to go one better. They were not satisfied with repatriating men from this war, but were prepared to agree to co-operate in repatriating them from all wars. That is the spirit in which the various State Parliaments approached their task. The powers which were rejected by the States out of hand were not co-operative at all, but. were single ones which can only be operated satisfactorily by the Central Government. If two or more governments attempted to work them, chaos and confusion would be produced. That is true of such subjects as uniform company law, and the control of trusts, combines and monopolies. Powers over them must be absolutely in the hands of one government or the other. Every one surely will agree that to give the Commonwealth temporary control of them, for a period of five years, with the chance of their being taken back by the States at the end of that time, would produce a condition of possible chaos compared with which the chaos we have known in the past would be insignificant. Therefore, realizing that the co-operative powers have been granted, and only the single and absolute powers have been withheld, we should be wise to look again at these proposals to see what we ought to do about the double approach. There are two methods of approach to constitutional reform - the co-operative approach exemplified by the methods that brought the Loan Council into being, and the straight-out referendum by direct appeal to the people for certain powers that should be operated solely by one government. Each of these is suitable to different aspects of constitutional policy. The referendum is essential if we want Commonwealth-wide laws to deal with trusts and combines, and companies. The other powers should be obtained by agreement, and if possible by reference hy the States. If the Commonwealth, during the next five years, can after agreement with the States make a success of a few things handed over, it may,like the faithful servant in the parable, be made ruler over many things. The opposite approach to the problem, now being attempted by the Government, may lose everything that we have gained as the result of these two years of arrangement and negotiation. The Government’s attitude suggests to my mind a man who has persuaded eleven out of fourteen chickens into a coop, and sits about 2-0 yards away, holding a string, ready to pull the door shut on the last three. While waiting for them he loses the other eleven again. The Attorney-General has said that, even if the referendum fails, New South Wales and Queensland are committed to referring the powers, and has laughed to scorn clause 3 of the State act which qualifies that acceptance, as was mentioned by the Leader of the Australian Country party last night. But even supposing that that qualification meant nothing, what would our position be if the electors of Australia, by a majority of four States to two, or by equal voting of three States against three, but a majority of total votes, turned down his proposals? It would be unthinkable that, they should be enforced in New South Wales and Queensland. Whatever the State Parliaments had done, I do not think that the people would tolerate the Commonwealth attempting to coerce them. They would regard it as an objectionable example of Commonwealth dictation, and would resent any future attempt to obtain powers by such methods.
The bill agreed to at the Convention was a compromise. I objected to certain proposals in it, and to one in par- ticular, which excluded primary production from Commonwealth control of production and distribution. If that had been insisted on, my objection would have been sufficiently strong to impel me to fight against the bill when it was put to the people. Primary production o£ wool, wheat, butter, meat, fruit, and, in fact, all the great primary materials, really needs Commonwealth control, because all of these are common to all or a number of the States. They need Commonwealth control much more than do industries, many of which are located in and are peculiar to one or two cities, or one or two States. It is, therefore, much more important that they should be handled by the Commonwealth in cooperation with the States. If we were getting 100 per cent. co-operation from the States in every other regard, we could have overlooked the few omissions in the bill that seemed to me fatal to comprehensive post-war reconstruction plans. But they could not be overlooked if the agreements arrived at in the Convention, which were essentially in the nature of a compromise, were now to be rammed down the throats of the State Governments and the electors generally by means of a direct appeal by referendum. If the States agreed, in view of the fact that we are engaged in war, to hand over these major powers, I should be prepared ro accept them, especially if they were to be handed over for five years. Seeing that all the powers relating to employment and unemployment, health and a number of other subjects will have to be carried out in co-operation with the States, what will be our position if a State government or State governments fight us on them at the referendum, and the referendum is carried? When we call on the States to help us to operate those powers, two or three of the valuable five years will be wasted in intergovernmental bickering, and the result will be a complete fiasco. Then we shall find that the further powers we desire will not be given to us by the people at all.
– The right honorable member voted for these proposals at the Convention.
– I put on record my opposition to this proposal to exclude primary products from Commonwealth control, and pointed out how essential it was that the difficulty should be straightened out. I have nothing to apologize for in respect of my attitude towards constitutional reform. My record is clear. I told the Scullin Government that if it would include a proposal to give the Commonwealth control of marketing, I was prepared to support its constitutional proposals, and I told it that I would agree to nothing that would not give everybody a fair all-round deal. I am not afraid of the people as a whole being vested with full powers, but they must be given a fair all-round deal without discrimination. I am. surprised at the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) being prepared to vote for a measure which will defeat the best interests of the nation, and I can only assume that he has been pushed by Cabinet into thatposition.
I come now to a comparison of the individual points of the bill. The first power sought by this measure is -
What is the attitude of the States towards that power? Not only have they agreed to its exercise by the Commonwealth, but also they have agreed to its extension to include any war. I am not very much concerned about this matter because I agree with the contention of the right honorable Leader of the Opposition (Mr- Menzies) that all those powers are already in the hands of the Commonwealth.
– The right honorable member need not trv that old trick.
– I have watched this matter closely ever since the last war, particularly since the first conference between the States and the Commonwealth in 1916, and to my knowledge the first time that the lack of power on the part; of the Commonwealth to deal with these matters has ever been raised was when it was brought up by the AttorneyGeneral. The conference agreed that the Commonwealth should deal with vocational training, the building of homes, the training of university students, &c, and, as a matter of general policy, it was agreed that the States should handle the matter of land settlement as they had much Crown land available; but the question of any necessity for conferring upon the Commonwealth specific power in regard to repatriation was not raised at that time. I have been in Canada, in Great Britain, New Zealand and many other countries where repatriation measures have been undertaken, and I venture to say that with all the defects of our Constitution, our repatriation legislation and administration are just as good as it is in any other country, and in most respects it is better.Five State Governments have already agreed to the exercise of this power by the Commonwealth in respect, not only of this war, but also any other war, so why take the matter to the country and risk losing everything? The Government seems to me to be holding the soldiers to ransom and surely they are entitled to better treatment than that. I believe that Tasmania also will be prepared to join with the other States in leaving this matter to the Commonwealth, so that without any difficulty the Commonwealth will be able toexercise this power in the very terms which it desires. Why not settle the matter at a round table discussion? Why insist upon going from platform to platform all over this country, and hurling long-distance bombs by radio? That is not the way to get constitutional reform. The proper way to deal with this matter is by agreement with the States.
– That has been tried.
– But not sufficiently. Why should we be deterred merely because we have had a rebuff ? We received a rebuff in the 1920’s when an approach was first made to the States, but we persisted and finally carried the referendum and secured agreement with the States.
I come now to the second power -
In this regard we find that three States did not amend, and that the other States agreed to hand over power for the employment of unemployed persons upon public, national and local government works, and for the relief of unemployed persons by grants and loans of money or goods, and by un employment insurance and occupational training. Apparently, the AttorneyGeneral’s only objection is that the forced introduction of soldiers into private industry has not been included; but surely if huge public works programmes involving the expenditure of £200,000,000 are to be undertaken in the immediate post-war years, the scope of these activities will be adequate to give work to all the people whom private industry will be unable to absorb. It seems to me that this function must be exercised through State and local government instrumentalities and not by a central Commonwealth bureau. In my opinion, what has been offered by the States is well worth accepting.
The third point upon which there is substantial agreement is -
During the regime of the LyonsGovernment, the then Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) went to Great Britain to fight a case on behalf of the Commonwealth before the Privy Council. The decision went against the Commonwealth and a referendum was held, but was defeated in every State. The States now agree to hand over their powers insofar as organized marketing is concerned, but, of course, we must do more than that: I think that it will be necessary to alter section 92 of the Constitution. That is a matter upon which we should go to the country, at the right time, and I am sure that the result would be favorable, provided that we created the right atmosphere now.
Mr.Fadden. - It would be carried with the support of the Labour party.
– The support of all sections of the community would be necessary. The various amendments which were introduced when I was in office were acceptable to the people generally. In 1926, the whole of the Labour party voted solidly with us, and in 1936. I think that the only members who voted against us were the present Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) and his four or five colleagues who at that time happened to be at odds with the Australian Labour party. Virtually, the powers now sought by the Commonwealth in regard to marketing are being handed to it freely by the States. South Australia favours organized marketing of commodities ofwhich there is normally a surplus exported from the Commonwealth. That covers most of the commodities that really matter. Western Australia favours powers for the organized marketing of wheat, wool, meat and butter, and, “ with the consent of the Parliament of Western Australia, expressed by a resolution of both Houses and so long as such consent is not revoked by a like resolution, any other commodity or commodities “. That seems to be a reasonable condition.
In regard to production, the bill provides for -
the production and distribution of goods, but so that -
Three States have agreed to that. South Australia desires the encouragement of production, the establishment of new industries, and the continuance by the Commonwealth of the industries being carried on by the Commonwealth at the time of the cessation of hostilities, provided that no law shall discriminate between States or parts of States. That would mean that any industry which was being carried on by the Commonwealth at the conclusion of the war might be carried on for a further five years. However, the AttorneyGeneral has said in effect, “ I must have a limitless charter “. Perhaps he has in mind the inclusion of some industries which may not yet have been conceived. Western Australia desired an alteration of this provision, to state “ the rationing of goods of which the Parliament of the Commonwealth declares there is a shortage of supplies and the encouragement of production and of the establishment of new industries, but so that no law made under this paragraph shall discriminate between States or parts of States “. I am completely opposed to the exclusion of primary production in the way intended in the bill. I believe that the proposals of both the Common wealth and of the States are not workable, and that the only way to deal with the question is to eliminate the qualifying words.
The next matter is -
This has been accepted by three States; the other two States are willing to give control to the Commonwealth Bank over the rate of overseas exchange and rates of interest. This is a tremendous advance, and should be accepted rather than made the subject of a referendum.
In respect of -
The proposal in relation to -
The States have wholly agreed to the proposal that the Commonwealth shall have power in respect of -
What really matters is that national works should be undertaken in this way.
The next matter -
Four of the States have left that proposal unaltered, whilst the fifth has made the addition, “ but so that no law made under this paragraph shall come into force until approved by the Governor in Council”. That really has the same meaning as the paragraph in the bill, because the whole idea of the health proposal is that control of health shall be exercised co-operatively by the Federal and State authorities.
The proposal in relation to - ( xii i ) Family allowances. has been agreed to by all the States.
The final matter is - .
Four of the States have agreed to the Commonwealth having power under this head, whilst the fifth has asked that the matter shall be handled in co-operation with the States.
I have drawn attention to substantial points of agreement. The Government proposes that these shall be discarded because the remaining differences have not been resolved. 1 should like to have legal opinion as to whether or not the matters that have been referred by the States are to stand or should become part and parcel of an all-embracing measure in accordance with the wishes of the Government, [ Extension of time granted.] Only three matters have been unresolved, namely -
Even in respect of these, a substantial measure of agreement has been obtained for a period of five years, in relation to a uniform company tax with three of the States, in connexion with trusts and combines with four of the States, and in regard to profiteering and prices, in part, with all five States. All are subjects with respect to which the power of the Commonwealth should not be limited to a period of five years, but should exist for all time. What would be the position if the people consented to the Commonwealth having power to control company law for a period of five years? Up to the present time, companies have operated under State law. The acceptance of this proposal would involve control of them by the Commonwealth for five years, then reversion to control under State law. Absolute chaos would be the result. Surely trusts, combines and monopolies must be regulated permanently, and ‘not for a period of only three, four or five years! All of these matters would be very much better dealt with by means of a separate referendum, especially in the light of the fact that already they have caused other referenda to be lost. On five occasions, the case for Commonwealth power to control trusts, combines and monopolies has been put to the Australian people, and on every occasion it has been rejected. The Attorney-General has made definite gains, upon which I compliment him., in respect of other matters of a co-operative nature. He will jeopardize that favorable position if he insists upon bracketing those subjects with these in a referendum proposal Only a slight extension of what has been conceded would make Commonwealth and State co-operation complete. I remember the fight that was waged in 1926. in regard to a uniform company law to be controlled by the Commonwealth. The inclusion of that subject influenced the result of the referendum in regard to all the other proposals. Up and down the country, the extreme elements in the Labour party and the reactionaries in the opposite camp combined to defeat the referendum, and they succeeded. There was scarcely any discussion concerning the industrial and commercial powers which the Commonwealth sought to have conferred on it, but all sorts of bogies were raised in connexion with Commonwealth control of company law. I beg the AttorneyGeneral to approach the States afresh for a further round-table conference. They might then grant further concessions, which would make the position more in accordance with his desires. The work will have to be done by the States, whilst the money will have to be found by the Commonwealth. In the light of my long political experience, I should be astonished if even the hesitancy of the Legislative Council of Tasmania were not- completely overcome by the prospect, of obtaining financial aid from the Commonwealth.
– Does not the right honorable gentleman believe that the States may again change their minds?
– They might readily change, their minds if the matter were again referred to them. At the outset, the atmosphere of the last Convention was extremely chilly, but gradually those who participated in it became converted more or less to the view of the Commonwealth. That was one of the most wonderful demonstrations of political strategy and persuasion that I have ever witnessed. If, during the five years following the cessation of hostilities, complete co-operation with the States could be secured’ with regard to seven or eight important matters, a valuable contribution would be made to the ultimate solution of the problem of constitutional alterations generally. Unless this Parliament secures the goodwill of the Stales, it will be unable to obtain their whole-hearted, support in matters of administration. Australia should act boldly in providing social, economic and legislative machinery similar to that of other countries. We should now get all that we can from the States by agreement, and, as a result of friendly co-operation with them, we- may be successful in creating a .much wider field of activity than at present for the Commonwealth Parliament. In the meantime an opportunity will be afforded to make certain as to what complete powers the Commonwealth needs. In 1929, a royal commission unanimously recommended that the following matters should be dealt with by this Parliament: Navigation and shipping, air navigation and aircraft, wireless transmission and broadcasting, films, health co-operation, drugs and standards of food, adoption and legitimation of children, registration of doctors and nurses, and probate. But to that list we should add electric power, railways, industrial powers, and control over commerce and trade, company law, price fixing, and trusts and combines. If the War ended to-morrow it would be necessary for the Commonwealth Parliament to be able to exercise power with regard to coal production. How is coal production to be increased? To maintain a population of 20,000,000 Australia would need to generate three times as much electric energy as at present, and that would necessitate the mining annually of 40,000,000 to 50,000,000 tons of’ coal. Surely the solution of this great problem should not be dependent upon the vagaries of coal-miners in the respective States. The right of this Parliament to control trade and commerce and to fix prices should be beyond dispute by reason of the imperative necessity for keeping arious price levels stable after the war. Our moderation now, and our readiness to meet the States, will be counted unto us as righteousness when we come to a major appeal to the people after the war.
.- I support the bill. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) said that we should continue along the path on which we set out at the Canberra conference in November, 1942, and that, although we had had rebuffs, we should not be down-hearted. He said that sue) conferences should be continued until the Parliaments of the States could be convinced of the necesity for granting to this Parliament the powers sought by it. Are we to understand by that argument that we must continue to reecive rebuffs during the war period,, and ewen when peace is restored? I for one claim that this Parliament should not hesitate longer about asking the people to decide whether it shall have the powers now asked for to enable it to deal in the post-war period with the difficult problems which it was unable to solve during the depression after the last war, because the people were notgiven’ an opportunity to grant thosepowers. I should like to know what thoughts are . passing through the mind of the right honorable member for Yarra. (Mr. Scullin), when he listens, to the various speakers- on the- Opposition sidle of the chamber telling us that this Parliament already has power to deal with employment- and. unemployment, combines and monopolies’, and the banking system of Australia. He knows the position in which he was placed some years ago, when, he was Prime Minister,, because this Parliament lacked thevery powers now sought. The right honorable member for Cowper remarked that be did not believe that the people of Australia were keenly interested in the affairs of this country, and that only a small percentage of them would’ listen to the speeches and broadcasts that would be made, and read the literature that would be supplied to them in abundance, during a referendum campaign. “Whilst the people of Australia may have been lackadaisical in years gone by, they areno w taking a keener interest than previously in national- affairs! At the last, general elections the Labour party stated clearly that, if it were returned to power, the people would be given an opportunity at an early date to decide by their vote at the ballot-box whether extended powers should be granted to this Parliament. It is unnecessary for me to remind honor-: able members that the electors intimated in no uncertain manner where their confidence lay. That being, so,. I take it that the electors expect this Parliament to give them an opportunity to record a vote for or against the proposals for the grant of additional powers to the Commonwealth Parliament. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) said that much water bad passed under the bridge since the holding of the Canberra Convention in November, 1942.
M:r. Scullin - Yes, there was a flood.
– That is so,, and the flood swept many members of the1 Opposition from their places in thisHouse. It has been claimed by those opposed to the taking of a referendum that this is not an opportune time to> ask the people to make such a momentous decision:.. What of the decision that hashad to. be- made by thousands of men in1 Australia since the beginning of the waa1? Men have had to decide that, their duty lay in- joining the Australian Imperial Force in order to fight, perhaps at the cost of their fives, in defence of Australia. Was- not that a greater decision than- that which the people will be asked to make in connexion with these proposals? My mind goes back to what happened’ in my own city of Adelaide at the end of the last war, when the men returned from overseas: I saw the city streets bedecked with flags, and every vantage point crowded with spectators cagerly applauding. The men- were led1 by bands playing martial music. They were promised by governments that they having done so much for their country,, would be treated as heroes, and that the country would look after them and theirs for the rest of their lives. Unfortunately, Australia soon forgot the deeds of those men.. I remember another march that, took place a few years later. There was. no martial music, the streets were not. bedecked with bunting, and there were no cheers. This time it was the march of the unemployed in whose ranks were many of the men who had taken part in that earlier march. During that, period I saw with my own eyes children who were suffering, from malnutrition standing in queues .at the State schools on cold wintry days waiting for a plate of soup. They were ill-clad in second-hand clothing which had been collected by charitable organizations. To-day, those children are men and women, and some of them have laid clown their lives in defence of Aus* tralia. The others, who are serving with the fighting forces, are keenly concerned that we do not neglect them after this war as we neglected our soldiers after the last war. I, too, am vitally concerned over this matter, and I know that most honorable members of this House feel the same,
– Those on the other side are not worrying.
– I cannot believe that they are indifferent. Sometimes I wonder whether their attitude is not dictated wholly by political considerations, whether they do not hope to pluck some advantage from, the turmoil .that will follow the cessation of hostilities if the Commonwealth Parliament be not given adequate power. They hope, .perhaps, to be able to blame the Labour party for such a state of affairs.
– The statement of the Prime Minister on the coal situation to-day is not likely to encourage the people to trust his Government with increased power.
– Many of the coalminers saw their wives and children starving during the depression, although they themselves had fought for Australia in the last war. The present difficulties are, in some measure, an aftermath of their experiences at that time. Perhaps, if their country had treated them a little better then, we should not now be faced with the present problem. I shall do my part, so long as I am a member of the House, to see that we do better after this war than we did after the last. When peace is .restored, Australia will be’ faced with the colossal task of finding places in civil life for approximately 1,500,000 persons. “Unless the Commonwealth be given power to legislate in respect of employment and unemployment and power to control trusts, combines and monopolies, we shall see repeated in this country the conditions which existed after the last war, for without that power we shall not be able to rehabilitate Australian servicemen after this war. I recall that during the depression a big combine, which operated, and is still operating, in South Australia, was in the habit of completing contracts in the shortest time possible, whereupon it would dismiss from 1,500 to 2,000 of its 2,500 employees; thereby throwing them on the labour market. The Government of the State did nothing to improve their lot, and the Commonwealth Parliament did not possess the power to alter that tragic state of affairs. After the present war, when this Parliament will have ‘the responsibility for placing servicemen in civil occupations, excess profits must not be allowed to dominate business activities. This .Parliament must have the right to say to employers, “ Even if your profits will be less, you must keep these men employed “. Surely the National Parliament should have the power to control trusts, combines and monopolies. I am reminded of the time when the Commonwealth owned its own line of steamers. Many honorable members know the great service that that line rendered to the primary producers of this country. When other shipping countries were charging £10, £12 or even £15 a ton. to carry Australian primary produce to other countries, the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers charged only £6 a ton.
– For what produce ?
– Wheat and wool.
– Not wool.
– Even if the vessels did not carry any wool, and were able to assist only those producers who exported wheat, will the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) say that the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers did not help the primary producers of this country when ii charged them much less than they would have had to pay other shipping companies for the same service? That line of steamers was forced out of the Australian trade by the action of combines and monopolies.
– The Commonwealth Government has not been paid in full for the vessels.
– The combine which forced those vessels out of business consisted of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, the Royal M!ail .Steamer Packet Company, the Cunard Steamship Company Limited, Furness, Withy and Company Limited, the Ellerman group, Alfred Holt and Company, T. and J. Harrison, the Eastern and Australian Company, and a Japanese company. It controlled about 7,000,000 tons of shipping, and has been described as “ the richest, the ablest, and the most rapacious organization in the world”. By subtle means that combine was able to squeeze the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers to such a degree that eventually the ships were sold.
– They were given away.
– A Nationalist government was responsible for disposing of those vessels. Its Ministers included the present right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) find the present right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page). When the final decision to give away the vessels was arrived at, the Prime Minister was the present High Commissioner for Australia in London, Mr. S. M. Bruce. The Construction costs of the ships of that lini3 was £7,527,504. and if we allow the liberal estimate of one-third of that amount for depreciation, their value at the time of their disposal was £5,018,336. Mr. Bruce sold them to the “ shipping conference” for £1,900,000, to be paid by instalments. At the time The Story of the Commonwealth Fleet was published, the Commonwealth Governmen bad received only £5S0,000 for those vessels. Yet, in the light of those facts, we are told by honorable member? opposite that additional powers are not needed by the Commonwealth Parliament. What happened in connexion with the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers was only one instance of the working of combines and monopolies in this country to the detriment of the nation.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the Australian Government could control that shipping combine ?
– Yes ; and if the powers sought in this bill be granted, the Commonwealth will have that power.
– Can the- Government control overseas combines?
– I am speaking of their operations within the Commonwealth. There was a time when the Commonwealth Government owned the Commonwealth Woollen Mills at Geelong. The right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) knows what happened to those mills. I pay a tribute to him for the great part that he played in trying to preserve that concern for the people of Australia. It is a great pity that more men of his calibre were not in this Parliament in those days. The
Commonwealth Woollen Mills were officially opened in 1916, and they continued to serve the country during the war of 1914-18. They supplied the whole of the clothing for our defence forces during that war, and, in addition, most, of the naval and postal uniforms. The late Senator Reid once said -
I du not think that any civilian in the Commonwealth is clothed in better ‘ material than is being turned out to-day at the Geelong factory. Upon this matter I claim to speak with some authority because 1 have been in the woollen business myself. Similar classes of material arc being sold wholesale in Flinders Lane by private firms at 17a. fid. to 20s. per yard, yet that very cloth is being produced in the Commonwealth Woollen Mills for 6s. 6d., 7s. (id., and 8s. Cd. per yard.
So that honorable members shall not be able to say that the Geelong Woollen Mills were not a paying proposition, 1 produce figures which were taken out just before the mills were sold. For the year ended the 30th June, 1917, the outputs and profits of the woollen mill* and the clothing factory were -
Regardless of actual profits, it must be remembered that the mills supplied the whole of the materials for the uniforms of the fighting forces in the last war, and, in addition, gave employment to many hundreds of Australian men and women. The Hughes Administration decided to sell the mills. It called for tenders on the 22nd July, 1922, but went out of office, and it was left for the BrucePage Administration to complete the transaction, which it did in its usual “ businesslike manner “. Wildridge and Sinclair, an engineering firm which made a- valuation of the property of the mills for the Government, valued the land at £2,500, the plant, machinery and fittings at £191,609, and the buildings at £73,050- a total of £267,159; but it did not attempt to estimate the value of the business. If we take the net profits of the mills for the two preceding years, £103,311, as representing rhis value or the goodwill of the business, and add that to the value of the property, we get £370,470, as the value of the mills as a going concern. These figures are extremely conservative, and probably the true valuation of the mills was not less than £400,000. On the 24th April, 1923, Mr. Bruce sold this splendid national industry to James Dyer, of Flinders-lane, Julius Solomon, of Geelong. Senator Guthrie, of Parliament House, and other prominent business men and wool-growers, for the sum of £.155,000, paid by instalments. The then Government considered that it was a satisfactory sale ! Well, this Government does not desire that such transactions shall be repeated, and, in order that they may not be, it asks that this Parliament be given power to deal with combines and monopolies so that, if necessary, we shall be able to force our opinions on those who are indifferent to the welfare of the people.
This bill also provides that the people shall be asked to empower this Commonwealth Parliament to legislate in respect of uniformity of railway gauges. I am sorry that it does not provide for the Commonwealth to take over the whole of the Australian railways systems, but at least, if the people agree, for a period of five years after the termination of hostilities, the Commonwealth should be able to decide to what gauge new railways shall be built. When we came back from New Guinea, I was, I admit, anxious to get to my home in Adelaide. We travelled from Cairns to Townsville, where we had to change trains, and from Townsville to Brisbane-, wherewe had to change trains again. We at last got to Albury where we again changed trains. Eventually we reached. Adelaide. Then I travelled north to Darwin again on different railway gauges. If a man could live long enough, without suffering senile decay, he would be able to travel all over Australia on our railways.
I have no fear that this bill will not be carried by Parliament, and I am equally confident that the proposed powers will be agreed to by the people who gave the Australian Labour party a mandate to carry on the Government of this country. When the people returned Labour to power at the general elections they believed that within the three years which would elapse before the next general elections hostilities would end and it would be the responsibility of the Labour party to deal with post-war reconstruction, and the restoration to civil life of those who in the last four or five years have been devoting their whole time to military matters. The people know that this Government is determined that the unemployment and poverty that existed after the last war shall not be repeated in Australia. We promised the people that in return for their mandate we should at an early date give them an opportunity to grant additional powers to the Commonwealth Parliament, and I am confident that, just as they gave us that mandate, so will they soon give us a further mandate by agreeing to the whole of these proposals for alteration of the Constitution.
Before I speak of the bill generally,I shall answer a point advanced by the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) who spoke of the success of certain government enterprises during the last war. We admit that during war quick action has to be taken, and many an industry has to be started which could not succeed competitively in days of peace. The honorable member cited an undertaking associated with our prosperous woollen industry, which it was not difficult to make pay. However, I warn him not to pin his faith to socialistic enterprises merely on cases of that kind. Many of us are socialistic at heart, but we must be practical. In recent years, to a limited degree, government control in industry has been established side by side with private enterprise. However, let me tell the honorable member of the experience of Queensland Labour governments in Statecontrolled enterprises. The State cattle stations in Queensland were acquired on the 8th June, 1916, and when they were disposed of in 1929 they showed an accumulated! loss of £1,669,804, unpaid interest amounting to £324,498. The Government went into that business on a large scale. In order to provide sufficient meat for the hungry, it set up its own butcher shops in November, 1915. When those shops were shut down in 1929 they showed a loss of £2S,01’4, unpaid interest amounting to £3,396. Other enterprises included the State Produce Agency, which showed a loss of £18,686 from the 8th April, 1918, to the 1st” July, 1929, and the State cannery, which, from the 8th January, 1920, to the 31st July, 1929, showed a loss of £112,696, unpaid interest amounting to £26,970. The only State enterprise which showed a profit was the State hotel at Babinda, its profit being £62,217 from the 29th May, 1917, to the 14th July, 1.930. Bearing in mind. those facts, I ask honorable members to visualize what would happen if this Government nationalized the coal mines. To-day we nro able to obtain at least a handful of coal, but how much would we obtain if the Government took over the mines?
– That is not a fair statement.
– During the period I have mentioned, the State coal mine at Bowen made a profit, but five other mines under State control showed losses as follows :- Baralaba, £57,579 ; Styx No. 2, £71,492; Styx No. 3, £30,643; Mr Mulligan, £177,693 ; and Warra, £38,019. In those days the Government also established an arsenic mine which ceased operations in December, 1925, after showing a loss of £61,300, whilst the Chillagoe Smelters showed a loss of £1,196,347, unpaid interest amounting to £385,960. Surely, honorable members can visualize the state of affairs that would be. created if these experiences were repeated throughout the Commonwealth, as the result of this Government establishing its own enterprises.
– But a Labour government is still in office in Queensland.
– Yes, but it has not re-established any of these enterprises. Apparently, it has learned from the experience of its predecessors. Unfortunately, however, some honorable members in this House are not prepared to learn from experience. The total loss on all State enterprises in Queensland to date is £3,715,103, unpaid interest amounting to £994,378. Perhaps it might be given as a slight excuse for government enterprises generally that, as the result of war conditions, people are inclined to become a little reckless and to approve of such ventures. I have not the slightest doubt that, as was the case after the last war, enterprises set up by governments during this war will again be disposed of after hostilities cease, and in the transition period from war to peace certain assets will have to be sacrificed. I suggest that that is the answer to the contention of the honorable member for Adelaide.
The bill is of very great importance. We cannot afford to treat it lightly whether we intend to accept it or rejecit. The framers of the Constitution could not foresee the advances which science would effect in a changing world. Wireless was still in its infancy at the inception of federation. The first flight by a heavier-than-air machine took place two years after the Constitution was drawn up. It was impossible to know whether those inventions would prove to he a boon or a bane. Our own experience has taught that they ca& be both. Aviation, for example, can be a great humanitarian boon, but it has also proved to be a terrible weapon of war. Likewise, wireless can be a boon, but it can also be a menace if it is used to disseminate propaganda of the kind circulated by our enemies. Nevertheless,’ the framers of the Constitution were not blind to the fact that changes would occur. They played a pioneering role. They were the political giants of their day. They laid a foundation on which we could build a splendid superstructure. They provided in the Constitution that the redistribution of shared and absolute powers as between the States and the Commonwealth could be made by way of referendum, but they purposely made it difficult for changes to be made. They realized that the same people would vote at Federal as at State elections, and they provided that any proposed constitutional reform must be approved by a majority of voters in a majority of States. Sir John Quick and Sir Robert Garran, both of whom played a part in the actual writing of the Constitution, state in their standard work on the Constitution -
No amendment of the Constitution oan he made without the concurrence of that double majority - a majority within a majority. These are safeguards necessary not only for the protection of the federal system, but in order to secure maturity of thought in the consideration and settlement of proposals leading to organic changes. These safeguards have been provided, not in order to prevent or indefinitely resist change in any direction, but In order to prevent change being made in haste or by stealth, to encourage public discussion and to delay change until there is strong evidence that it is desirable, irresistible, and inevitable. 1 pause to emphasize that the Government can achieve the objective it has in mind by more legitimate and worthy methods. It is almost immoral for a government to thrust a referendum upon the people while we are at war. In the existing circumstances, the mind of the Government should be concentrated upon the more important matters. Probably, the heady wine of its success at the last elections has made it reckless. It would he well advised to postpone this measure, and to give more mature consideration to this problem. Quick and Garran continued -
A Constitution is a charter of government; it is a deed of trust, containing covenants between the sovereign community and its individual units.
This quotation is worth repeating, because it is so pertinent to this debate -
Where a community is founded on a political compact it is only fair and reasonable that that compact should be protected, not only against the designs of those who wish to disturb it by introducing revolutionary projects, but also against the risk of thoughtless tinkering and theoretical experiments. The Constitution of the Commonwealth has provided a safety-valve in the shape of a section denning the method by which its amplification and modification may be effected, but its use is shielded with precautions, the wisdom and propriety of which claim favourable consideration from every reflecting mind.
– That means that there should never be any change.
– That statement, when applied to Sir John Quick and Sir Robert Garran, is the height of audacity. The Minister for Information described them as the greatest authorities on the Constitution.
– I did not say they were the -greatest authorities on the Constitution. I said that their annotation is the standard work.
– Their work is the classic, and they are the greatest authorities on the Constitution. I believe in constitutional reform. The Constitution should not ‘ remain static, but there is a proper way and a proper time to make alterations. I ask: Is this the time for favorable consideration from every reflecting mind when so many Australians are abroad on active service; when industry has been upset by the transfer from a peacetime to a war-time basis; and ‘when our general outlook is distorted by political and industrial currents, and national and international occurrences from day to day? I say definitely that it is not. After mature reflection, few people will agree that a referendum should be taken at this stage. In Great Britain, no. election for the House of Commons has been held since 1935. Although honorable members may consider that nine years is a long period to deny electors an opportunity to express their political views, we know that the Mother of Parliaments has functioned efficiently. In Australia the Commonwealth election was held a few months ago, and State elections will follow this year. Now, a referendum will be superimposed on them. The attitude of the Government is, “ What is another appeal to the people among so many?” I have not heard of a proposal to hold a referendum in the United States of America, where there are 48 States.
– Amendments of the American Constitution are made by the State Parliaments.
– But there is no proposal to amend the Federal Constitution.
– The United States of America has a reasonably modern constitution, but Australia has a medieval constitution.
– Is it so medieval ? Our Constitution was largely drawn from that of the United States of America.
– -If the honorable member will, read the history of the Constitution, he will see how medieval it is.
Mr.WHITE.- Sir John Seeley, a British constitutional authority, declared that the United States of America, Canada, South Africa and Australia, though their Constitutions were different, had, on all fundamental issues, the same form of government. But the Governments of Canada and South Africa have not indicated their intention to submit to the people a referendum for the alteration of their Constitutions in order to overcome difficulties. Why is there in Australia this haste to hold a referendum ?
Mr.Calwell. - To enable the Government to prepare for the post-war period.
– I shall show that the Commonwealth already possesses all the powers it requires for the post-war period, and that the post-war world largely exists in the imagination of the Government.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Hughes) did not think so.
– He agreed with certain of the powers that the Government is seeking. So doI..I believe in constitutional reform ; but there is a right time for it. The powers of the Government under the National Security Act will continue for a period of six months after peace has been restored to the world. When the War Precautions Act was repealed in 1920 - two years after the last war - all the essential parts of it were carried on by separate enactments to meet the situation. All this talk about the necessity for a referendum to confer upon the Commonwealth increased powers to enable it to cope adequately with the post-war period is “ eye-wash “. The Government has compromised itself by holding a Convention, and considers that it must do something. There is no need to hold a referendum, because the Government will possess the necessary power to grapple with postwar problems. I direct the attention of honorable members to Taylor’s Government by Natural Selection, which was written in the throes of the last war. The Minister for Information may be familiar with this work. One of the introductory paragraphs is pertinent to this debate -
When a nation finds itself confronted by some great and imminent danger, it is compelled, if it is wise, to cease trifling with political whims and constitutional fancies, and to restrict itself to the requirements essential for salvation. In periculo Veritas - the cry of distress is the cry of truth, and the demand for an administration of the best available men which is ringing through the country to-day represents the most fundamental principle of national health and the indispensable condition of sound political evolution.
That applies to-day. The Government has to contend with crucial problems. Australia is still at war, although the threat of invasion has receded from our shores. After the war Australia will be expected to supply food to starving Europe, and this problem will give many headaches to Ministers. Concentration upon the solution of that problem, instead of holding a referendum at this period, is advisable.
– It is because the Government requires adequate power to tackle those problems that it has decided to hold the referendum.
– The Government already possesses adequate powers. No. obstacle bars its approach to vital problems to-day. Is it through class consciousness that its difficulties have increased? It is to-day troubled by the Frankenstein which it created and which will destroy it. The Minister knows the industry’ to which I refer. The members of the miners’ federation refuse to be disciplined by their own officials.
– To-day the Prime Minister again threatened to commit political suicide.
– We heard him say dolefully that he was at his wit’s end to deal with the trouble. What is the use of the Government asking for additional powers? Although it has power to control that industrial situation, all it does is to make statements and churn out new codes. What is required is honest, forthright action.
I shall now deal specifically with some of the issues that have been raised. The Prime Minister endeavoured to show that if the Government did not secure these powers by referendum the granting of preference to returned soldiers would not be possible. I do not think I am misrepresenting the right honorable gentleman when I say that that was the purport of his statement. I challenge the Prime Minister to introduce a bill to-day to grant preference to returned soldiers. The Opposition will support such a move.
– Will it be applied to private employers?
– Yes. What about it? What does the Prime Minister mean by such a statement? I have challenged him. The State of Victoria has applied such a law to private enterprise.
– But Victoria has the power to do so.
– Under its defence power, the Commonwealth may do so. r invite the Minister to read the report of the Royal Commission on the Commonwealth Constitution, page 120.
– Why did not the United Australia party Government exrend the preference provision to private ii tel prise?
– As the honorable member for Wannon is a comparative newcomer to this chamber, he may not know that a United Australia party government passed the repatriation legislation.. He will not deny that the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act has worked fairly effectively.
– Did that preference provision extend to private employers?
– No. That power has never been sought in the federal sphere, ff it is desired, this is the time to get it, and we are prepared to support a bill for that purpose. The Government has been in office for two and a half years. It opposed preference to returned soldiers even in its own employment. I was overseas at the time, but I understand that it was only forced into the bill in the Senate and that, so far as the Government was concerned, unionism seemed to be put before patriotism. We have all the powers necessary under the Defence Power in section 51 (vi). The report on page 120 says -
The power of the Parliament under section al (vi) is not confined to war-like operations but extends to every measure of defence which circumstances may require, including preparation for war in time of peace, any -inch action in time of war as may conduce to the successful prosecution of the war and the defeat of the enemy, and the termination nf hostilities by the imposition of terms of peace and the enforcement of those terms.
That is the defence power as defined by the High Court. The royal commission added -
The scope of the defence power is wider in time of war than in time of peace.
The Government has wider powers now. Why does it not do something with them instead of saying that it is fettered and hamstrung? It is not fettered by anything that we on this side do, but only by the industrial organizations outside, which call the tune to which Ministers dance.
The Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) stated that the Commonwealth had not complete power over civil aviation. That is true, and I was one of those responsible for putting the subject before the people at the last referendum. The proposed alteration obtained a majority in the total vote, but not in a majority of the States. Only Victoria and Queensland gave it a majority, and it failed in the four other States, but the Government immediately called the State Governments into consultation and the necessary powers were given to it. All sorts of possibilities were suggested by him, such as that one State might withdraw from the agreement, or impose a separate tax on aircraft. But all those things are unlikely. People are becoming more air-minded, and we have already the power to deal with international aviation under the International Convention to which Australia was a signatory. It included power to classify aircraft as airworthy or otherwise. Under this we made regulations for the control of civil aviation. A civil pilot named Goya Henry, who was fined under a Commonwealth regulation for low flying, challenged the verdict of the Court. The High Court decided that the Commonwealth did not possess control over internal aviation. The Government then attempted by referendum to put the matter right, but failed, there being a majority of votes, but not a majority of States, Victoria and Queensland only having majorities. But the States, after a conference, came into line and gave the Commonwealth the power, so that the difficulty no longer exists. It will be better if the power is given ultimately to the Commonwealth, and there is no doubt that we shall get it, but there is no need to link it with a lot of other nebulous powers such as the Government now proposes to put before the people. The position is that for all practical purposes of international aviation we have the necessary power under the Convention and we have it also over internal aviation through the States having given it to us after co-operation and consultation. We can do much more by that method than has been done so far. It would serve a much more useful purpose if the Minister for Air, instead of rehashing all that he told us, had informed us what the Government’s policy in regard to civil aviation was to be. The Government has been sitting for some months upon a report made by an interdepartmental committee. I have asked questions about it, but have obtained little information. The Minister made a statement in a speech which indicated that some sort of socialized service might operate internationally, but if we only knew where we were on the subject it would be a great help in planning the post-war world. It is useless to say that we have no powers.
– We have them on a string.
– The people of the States are reasonable. The same people vote for members of the State Houses as for the Commonwealth Parliament.
– Many of them do not have votes for the State Upper Houses.
– Not all the State Upper Houses are opposed to the extension of the powers of the Commonwealth. I believe that the Commonwealth Government should also take a bigger hand in education than it has done so far. The States have starved education, and have pursued varying methods. The Commonwealth can help in many ways. I am sure that the States would be ready to meet us in consultation to ascertain how far the Commonwealth could assist them. In that regard I draw the attention of the House to the proposals put forward by Mr. Justice McTiernan, a former member of this Parliament and others, for a Federal Bureau of Education. Much good could be done if the Commonwealth helped the States to establish an endow ment system to provide, among other things, for travelling scholarships on a nation-wide scale. A scheme of that sort is feasible, and can be worked out without waiting for the end of the war. There is no reason to hold a referendum during the war. We know that the Government believes in unification. ‘ Will any honorable member opposite deny it?
– The honorable member is quite wrong.
– Then the Minister for Home Security does not believe in it. There are others, both inside and outside the Labour party, who do believe in it, but the majority report of the royal commission gives very pertinent reasons why it would not be for the betterment of the community. The members representing Western Australia, including the Prime Minister, could not support such a policy. A section of the Labour party believes in socialization, and a section believes in unification. In its general recommendations in favour of a federal system, the royal commission on page 241 of its report made the following observations : -
A central authority is necessary for the discharge of those functions on which Australia should speak and act as a whole, e.g., defence and relations with other countries, and is desirable for the exercise of powers of legislation and administration with respect to matters, e.g., weights and measures and coinage, in which uniformity is convenient. But in our opinion the existence of selfgoverning units within the area of the Commonwealth is also necessary. The advantage of an independent right of self-government may not be so obvious to the residents of those States which are in close touch with the central authority. But it is of fundamental importance to States which are situated at a distance from the seat of government, and which by reason of the sparseness of their populations have a relatively small representation in the Commonwealth Parliament. Where there are adequate powers of self-government, there -is scope for public spirit, local patriotism, and local knowledge, which would be lost if all legislative and administration functions in Australia were observed in the central government.
There we should approach very near to bureaucratic control; much of such control is essential in war-time, but it can be overdone, and, as some honorable members will agree, is being overdone. We get that bureaucratic control if we forget the sovereign rights of the States and put too much power in the hands of the central authority. The report continues -
Again, the existence of the self-governing States does, we believe, provide the best means of supervising development and the best safeguard against a disastrous experiment. The importance of confining economic and industrial experiments to limited areas was emphasized by several witnesses. It is obviously greater in Australia than in the United States, where the Constitution contains prohibitions which restrain both Congress and State legislatures from legislating in certain directions.
If there had been further co-operation between the States and the Commonwealth, it is possible that the impression of the Constitution as an almost inflexible instrument would not have been formed. This conclusion appears to be supported by the history of the last constitutional amendment . . .
I say, therefore, that if the Government believes that it can attain some of the objectives which it has in mind by securing wider powers, it is doomed to disappointment. The referendum will not be carried. The hill, of course, will be passed by Parliament, but a referendum can be carried only if all political parties are in agreement. That has been the history of constitutional reform in this country. Therefore, it seems a great pity that the Government should proceed with this matter, because the course it is following can lead only to expense and inconvenience at a critical’ time. If unification be the Government’s objective, it will fall out with Western Australia, and if the objective be socialization of industry, as was indicated by the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) recently, in a statement relating to the use of government munitions factories after the war, and by the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron), who has stressed the alleged benefits of government employment in the aircraft industry, the only result will be great harm to Australia.
– It is impossible to socialize industry according to the Constitution as it now stands.
– The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) claimed that socialization of industry would be a great boon to Australia, and from remarks such as his one gets an inkling of what is in the Government’s mind. In regard to the exercise by the
Commonwealth of these powers for a five-year period, here is the opinion of a constitutional authority, Mr. F. Villeneuve Smith, K.C : -
During that (five-year)’ period, statutes or regulations made under them, may be enacted, fully executed and exhausted, by which the fundamental basis of society may be radically changed. Nevertheless, when the referred powers have expired by this time limit, nothing can be restored which has been completed within the designated period. For the short and decisive answer to all demands for a return to the status quo ante will be that there is nothing to restore. All has been done, it will be said, and changed and transferred by virtue of powers legally effective for the purpose and within the time in which those powers had full vitality. What has been fully accomplished will be found to be past recapture. In other words, the time limit will only catch continuing measures which overflow the period. A complete policy of nationalization or socialization of industry executed within the time limit would remain unaffected by its expiry.
It is clear, therefore, that if the Government is only seeking these powers for a five-year period, there is no need whatever for such action. It has wide authority to deal with repatriation under existing legislation, and any action that will he of benefit to Australia can be taken to-day under the National Security Act. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) has proved conclusively that the Convention did not agree in toto to the proposals contained in this measure. There are other matters with which I believe a convention could deal. For instance, there is the general relationship of the Commonwealth to the States. It is argued by some people that the membership of State Parliaments is greater than it need be, and that the representation should be altered to provide for, say, two State members for each Commonwealth electorate. It is claimed also that the Commonwealth Parliament is too small, and with that view I am inclined to agree. There are many matters apart from the fourteen points enunciated by the Government, which could well be discussed in a calmer atmosphere when the war is over. These matters should be considered by a properly elected convention, and that is the purport of the amendment which has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition. The Government is not being hampered now through lack of power, and this is not the right time to hold a referendum. I believe that if the Government is patient with the States, it will get the formula that it desires. As the Leader of the Australian Country party has pointed out, only one approach has been made to the States so far, and complete agreement was missed by only a small margin. The obvious thing for the Government to do is to confer again with the States. It is very seldom that complete agreement is reached in any party room after the first discussion of a matter, and this is a question of such paramount importance that it should be fully discussed with the States again. I repeat that the Government is not hampered in its administration through lack of power, except by pitfalls of its own digging, and this is not an opportune time to hold a referendum upon matters which, say, two years after the cessation of hostilities, could be discussed dispassionately in a calmer atmosphere. I, therefore, support the amendment.
.-First, I should like to clear up some references which the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) made to the policy of the Labour party. The honorable member said several times that the policy of the Labour party was unification. That is not so: The Labour party’s policy is, first, a sovereign Parliament of the Commonwealth, and, secondly, delegated authority to States or provinces, call them what you wish. The honorable member summed up his remarks by saying that we should go oh as we are, because we had ample power under the National Security Act to meet all war-time problems, and that two years after the cessation of hostilities, we should call a Constitution Convention to deal with these important matters in a calm and reasonable atmosphere. That all sounds very well. It is quite true that the Government has power to deal with many intricate problems that arise in time of war, but the point that is entirely forgotten is that on the day hostilities cease, plans must be ready for immediate implementation if our rehabilitation programme is to be of any use at all. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) spoke of winding up for war and unwinding for peace; but the unwinding will not be so easy. Unless this Parliament has greater power to deal with unemployment, and particularly marketing, when the war ends there will be mass unemployment, because there will be no chance to re-absorb in industry those who have been taken from it. The six States will deal with the matter, each in accordance with its own ideas, and there will not be a co-ordinated plan.
The honorable member for Balaclava went on to urge that the matter should be referred back to the States. Those members of the Legislative Council of Tasmania who secured the rejection in that chamber of the bill to refer certain powers to the Commonwealth for a period of five years, based their objection to the proposal on the ground that the Constitution Convention had not real authority to reach agreement on the subject. That was the entire argument of one honorable member. He said that the people themselves should decide what powers the Commonwealth Parliament should have. A further conference with the representatives of the States would not overcome the objections. Had that been possible, the Commonwealth would have adopted such a course. Last night, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) stated that every avenue had been explored, and that the Government had gone to great pains to induce the States to reach agreement. The right honorable gentleman also described the personnel of the Constitution Convention at Canberra. The Convention was thoroughly representative of both the Government and the Opposition in each of the States, as well as in the Commonwealth. It narrowed to fourteen the powers to be referred to the Commonwealth, and carried the resolution unanimously. The representatives of the States agreed to use their utmost endeavours to secure the passage of uniform legislation through their parliaments providing for the reference of the stipulated powers to the Commonwealth for a period of five years. Subsequently, the States failed to fulfil the agreement which had been reached at the Convention. The Legislative Council of Tasmania rejected the bill on three occasions. As there is no possibility of obtaining agreement with the States, the people must be asked to consent to an alteration of the Constitution in the terms of the bill that we now have before us.
The honorable member for Balaclava made a very strong point of the disadvantage of submitting the matter to the people at the present time, and advanced all sorts of reasons for its postponement. Let us consider what that grand old man of Australia, the Right Honorable Sir Isaac Isaacs, said on the subject so recently as the 14th March, 1939. I quote the following from page 26 of the report of his address to the Australian Natives Association : -
The shifting frontiers not only of territory, but also of science, of trade, even of international faith, and common morality will not allow us any longer to remain inert.
We have been caught by the crisis, by a development of the crisis plainly foreshadowed two years ago, and we have been caught constitutionally un,prepared. Wherever the moral responsibility rests for that, wc have to be primarily grateful to a private member, Mr. Scullin, for bringing the matter of Constitutional revision into the sphere of active examination. And we must warmly thank Mr. Lyons, the Prime Minister, for so readily supporting the movement.
The point that I particularly stress is that the right honorable gentleman, who has taken a keen interest in the Commonwealth Parliament since its inception, holds the view that we have been inert for too long and that there are tremendous issues which should be faced immediately. I am sure that if the right honorable gentleman were reviewing the position to-day, he would still agree that the Commonwealth ought to be granted the additional powers which the people are to be asked to grant.
– What the honorable member has read was said by Sir Isaac Isaacs before the outbreak of the war.
– The statement was made in March, 1939, a few months before the outbreak of the war. I shall place on record other expressions of this grand old man. He went on to say -
On three occasions, almost two years ago in addresses to the A.N.A. 1 made pressing appeals for amendments of our National Constitution. The central theme of my argument was that the changed and changing conditions of the world since the establishment of the Commonwealth in 1900 created a peremptory necessity for such amendments, so as to provide for a better organization, and for the simplification of our national defence, trade, industry and general wellbeing.
I laid stress on the absurdity and the costly folly in present-day circumstances of attempting without amendment to build up an Australian nation as a firm, cohesive, progressive, and .powerful organism, capable of .protecting the liberty and assuring the welfare of the human beings that compose it. I again assert that it is impossible so long as we persist in maintaining an obsolete artificial separation into legal compartments of what modern business and industry, and common necessities of modern daily life have linked together, of what the operations of trade, commerce, and communication have so transformed as to be inseparable, and have interwoven into the problems of national security.
I should like to recall a few lines of my address at Prahran on the 19th May, 1937. as they apply with perhaps added force today. On that occasion, I said : “ Since our Federal mechanism was constructed, it is not only a changed Empire we envisage, but it is for all practical purposes a new world we have to live in. to deal with, and to compete against. It is still moving on with such amazing acceleration that some nations, less trained than ourselves to democratic institutions, have for power of swift decision and unity of purpose even become dictatorships.
That is the opinion of a man who has a wealth of political and judicial experience. In far finer language than I could employ, he has emphasized the necessity to alter the Constitution,
In considering the history of the Australian Federation, one derives considerable instruction from a study of what has been written by Dr. Frederick Watson, in his work, Constitutional Reform as the Basis for the Permanent Economic Restoration of Australia. In it, he has said -
The opinions of the advocates of constitutional changes were crystallized at the conference in .February, 1890, when a resolution, moved by Sir Henry Parkes, was carried unanimously in favour “ of the union of these colonies under one legislative and executive Government on principles just to the several colonies “. In moving the resolution, Parkes stated: “What we really want is a complete form of government - a Legisture with full tower to make laws for the whole country, and an Executive with full power to administer those laws and conduct the affairs of the country … a complete legislative and executive government, suited to perform the grandest and the highest functions of a nation.” In supporting the resolution, Sir Samuel Griffith stated: “ There can be no difference of opinion as to the end we all have in view - that end must be a complete Federal Government of Australia.” Parkes, at the same time, foresaw the necessity for evolution when he stated : “ lt may perhaps be ‘ a wise thing that some condition of gradation should be stipulated for in completing the machinery of this Federal Government or in consummating its full powers.”
It is interesting to note what Dr. Watson has written on the experience of 30 years of federation. On page 21 of his book, he states -
The Commonwealth of Australia commenced on the 1st January, 1901, with nine Cabinet Ministers, two civil servants, Sir Robert Garran and Mr. Atlee Hunt, and a messenger. There was no Parliament, no Treasury, no departments. The first four months, until the first Parliament was opened on the 29th April, are a romance in the life of a nation, and from these small beginnings there has developed the huge machinery for -the government of Australia. Sir Robert Garran, in his evidence before the royal commission in September, 1927, aptly summarized the history of the Commonwealth to date as follows: “ This quarter of a century has been very largely a period of beginnings and getting things in order; and in considering any defects in the working of the Constitution which may have shown themselves. That point has to be borne in mind “.
Under the existing constitutions the Commonwealth and the “six States have each their own sphere of jurisdiction,, each is independent of the other, and within its own sphere is subject to no control by the other. In certain fields, however, there is a concurrent jurisdiction, e.g.. taxation, and herein there has been unnecessary and expensive duplication of machinery and overlapping.
So much for the background and the opinions of eminent men regarding constitutional reform. Referenda have been held at which the people have been asked to grant increased powers to this Parliament, but most of the requests have been rejected. Time alone will show whether the forecast of the honorable member for Balaclava is correct that if the people are again appealed to they will once more reject the proposals. In my opinion they will be willing to grant the powers sought under this bill. If an adverse vote be recorded, the reason will be that the representatives of the anti-Labour groups in this Parliament have clouded the issue, and confused the minds of the people regarding the important points involved. I believe that members supporting the Government have sufficient ability to advance effective argument to convince the people that, unless the proposed constitutional reform be granted for a period of five years after the termination of hostilities, wholesale unemployment may be experienced, and the absence of power to fix the prices of primary products may result in chaos. Those who desire a reservoir of unemployed that would enable them to keep wages down and hold the workers in subjection, will find it useless to say that no money is available for safeguarding the welfare of the people. Many of those serving in the present war had experience of the last depression. Iri the post-war years, those who return from this war, and also those who have been producing munitions on the home front, working overtime to assist in keeping Australia safe and preserving the democratic system, will not accept the old story that no money can be found for essential works. They will insist that goods and services must be provided for the people who do the work of the nation, and that money must not be the controlling factor, as it was during the depression years.
As a result of inquiries conducted during the last three years by the Social Security Committee, six reports have been presented to the Parliament, and in one of them the committee dealt with wartime unemployment. It made certain recommendations for financial provision for disemployed persons during the time they were unemployed, and it also considered the matter of unemployment as a post-war responsibility of the Commonwealth. After an exhaustive inquiry it presented its third interim report, a portion of which I propose to read, because it deals with a matter which calls for consideration in connexion with the present bill. On page 5 of its report, the committee stated -
While better organization of the labour market and a more enlightened employment policy may reduce the volume of prolonged unemployment in the post-war period, shortterm unemployment will probably remain much the same. That is to say, we assume that seasonal, casual and frictional unemployment will not differ appreciably in volume, and consequently will need to be relieved in some fashion, but that government policy will be directed to ensuring that technological and cyclical unemployment is minimized, and that when it does occur, or when special war unemployment appears, measures will be taken by means of re-training schemes and employment on government works, to remove the men from the relief field.
The first step, and one upon which we lay stress because without it any solution of the unemployment problem is impossible, is the setting up of an efficient system of employment exchanges, which must become the recognized agencies for filling every vacancy. Employment exchanges under Commonwealth supervision are without doubt the most important and the most urgent reform required in the Australian system for the organization of labour.
Such a policy has had a great measure of success in Great Britain. In Australia, State labour exchanges have performed useful service, but their scope has been limited, and they have been used primarily as a means of relieving unemployment and of engaging unskilled labour. The existing machinery must now evolve into delicate and skilled agencies for the placing of Australian labour to the best advantage.
The committee went on to refer to what has been clone through the DirectorGeneral of Man Power. We recognize that the Department of Labour and National Service, working through the Director-General of Man Power, has been handicapped because of the hurried way in which the organization was brought into being. The department has been faced with a tremendous problem in the transfer of so many thousands of men and women from peace-time occupations to war industries. In the process some hardship has been inflicted, and there have been heartburnings. That was inevitable, and I do not say that the job was always done in the best way, but it was a job that had to be done-. Our committee recommended -
The committee called before it all those persons who are at present engaged in the employment of the people, and in the direction of labour for the war effort. We asked them to say how it would be best, in their opinion, to arrange for the transfer of that labour back to peacetime occupations after the war. Without exception they told us that, unless there was some measure of federal control so that public works could be planned immediately and put into operation after the war in the order of their importance, and unless labour exchanges were established in order to direct the people to the work waiting to be done, there would necessarily be wholesale unemployment and economic chaos. I have given much consideration to the problem of re-employing those persons who will be thrown out of employment with the cessation of hostilities. I do not believe that this problem can be satisfactorily solved unless the Commonwealth is clothed with increased powers. I am also convinced that the Commonwealth Parliament should be given power over the marketing of primary produce after the war. Unless this be done, we cannot hope to continue the payment of minimum fixed prices, and without this there must be disorganization and unemployment in the primary industries. As the Premiers of all the States agreed that the powers set. forth in this bill should be granted to the Commonwealth Parliament, the Government has every right to ask the people to agree to the transfer of those powers.
Sitting suspended from5.57 to 8 p.m.
.- The bill now before the House which seeks to alter the Constitutionby vesting in the Commonwealth Parliament additional powers until the expiration of five years from the time that Australia ceases to be engaged in hostilities in the present war, is one of the most important measures which have come before this House during recent years. I have listened carefully to the speeches which have been made and I have not heard one honorable member oppose the granting of additional powers to the Commonwealth Parliament. It is true that some speakers, notably the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), have said that for all practical purposes the Commonwealth Parliament has these powers and that there is no necessity to give to it additional powers, either ‘by means of a referendum or by reference by the States. On the other hand, the grave danger of refusing to the Commonwealth Parliament the powers recommended by the Convention has been stressed, seeing that the States themselves have offered to refer a large proportion of these powers by means of the acts already passed by their respective Parliaments. I do not think that it is possible for a layman to know whether or not the requisite powers are already embodied in the Constitution, but I do say that for the lay members of this House there is only one question, namely, whether the powers are necessary for the good government of Australia in the interests of the people as a whole during the difficult transition period which will follow the war. In my opinion, not only are the powers necessary, but also it is essential that the great bulk of” them should be given to the Commonwealth Parliament in the near future. Another test which must be applied to Commonwealth powers is that to which Sir John Quick referred when he said -
The test of a federal power is this: Will its exercise yield laws of general application suitable to every point of the Commonwealth and capable of application throughout the States t
I submit that the powers which are asked for will stand up to that test. The present Constitution of the Commonwealth is the result of compromise. If we go back in thought to the days when the present Constitution was being framed by the representatives of the six Australian colonies, each with its own sovereign legislature, we shall realize the degree of compromise that must have taken place to enable a constitution to be framed which was acceptable not only to the Premiers of the several colonies, but also to the people when submitted to them by means of a referendum. I believe that if the Constitution had been drawn up by members of the two conventions without the inhibitions imposed by the colonial legislatures of that time; that is to say, if the representatives had had a free hand in drawing the Constitution and were not subjected to restrictions because of the views of their respective Parliaments, the Constitution which would have emerged from their deliberations would have been vastly different from that which is now operating. Honorable members will recall that at the beginning of the agitation for the federation of the Australian colonies, Sir Henry Parkes wrote to the then Premier of Victoria, Sir Graham Berry, stating that he believed that the Australian Constitution should be drafted on the lines of that of Canada. However, the Constitution which was finally accepted was based more on that of the United States of America. There is nothing sacrosanct about the existing Constitution. There is no reason why it should not be altered ; in the interests of the Commonwealth and of good government it should be. The plain fact is, however, that our Constitution is most difficult to change. Many times during this debate it has been pointed out that of the eighteen proposals submitted by means of a referendum to the people since federation, only three have been agreed to by the electors, and two of them were of minor importance. The Government has submitted this bill for two purposes ; first, to facilitate the transfer of the nation from war to peace, and, secondly, to provide full employment for the people. No person who has the interests of his country at heart would object to effect being given to these. The bill before us is not the measure which was originally introduced by the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), nor is it the bill which he introduced to the Convention held at Canberra, from the 24th November to the 2nd December, 1942. The bill in the hands of honorable members is the product of the drafting committee of that Convention, which consisted of the six State Premiers, the Commonwealth Attorney-General, and the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes). That drafting committee was appointed to prepare what it. regarded as adequate powers for the Commonwealth. As I understand it, the committee drew up a list of the minimum powers which it considered necessary that the Commonwealth should have in order to implement an effective post-war policy in the five years immediately following the cessation of hostilities. In presenting a draft bill to the Convention, on behalf of the drafting committee, the Attorney-General said, “ Our recommendations to the Convention are unanimous “. After discussion, the State Premiers agreed to submit the recommendations of the Convention to their respective legislatures, and to do everything possible to have the bill passed. The- result was that New South Wales and Queensland passed the bill; Victoria passed it subject to its operation being contingent on similar legislation being passed by all the States; Western Australia and South Australia amended it, and Tasmania rejected it. As the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) has pointed out, a great deal of what was contained in the draft bill has been agreed to by the States. Speaking of the present bill, the AttorneyGeneral said that the four legislatures which had refused to pass the bill in the agreed form had given no sign of a change of mind or heart in the fourteen months that had elapsed since the Convention. I should like the AttorneyGeneral to tell us what efforts he has made to. open up negotiations with the States which have not passed the bill in the form in which it went to their legislatures from the Convention. What has he done to bring about a change of mind and heart on the part of the legislatures which have not agreed to the bill?
– What efforts have the State Premiers made?
– It is not for the State Premiers to say what they will do; it is for the Commonwealth Government to attempt to do what is best in the interests of Australia, and not sit down like a hen on a nest of china eggs. No chickens will be obtained in that way. It is for the Commonwealth to go to the States and try to bring about a change of attitude in the interests of the people of Australia.
– It is useless to approach the Legislative Councils of some States.
– Has the Government considered the advisability of convening another meeting of State Premiers? If not, it should explore the possibilities of doing so. Before the Government submits a number of questions to the people by means of a. referendum, it should first explore the possibilities of getting substantially what it seeks by further discussions with the State Premiers, and, secondly, it should consider whether the present references by five States give such a measure of the powers required that they should be accepted rather than risk losing the whole of them.
– The honorable member must not overlook the attitude of Victoria.
– Victoria will come in if all the other States do so. In reading the debates which took place at the Convention,, one is struck by the fact that the Premiers of Tasmania and Western Australia were opposed to the holding of a referendum in war-time. I mention those two Premiers because they are the heads of Labour governments. The Premier of Western Australia said, “ In the opinion of the people of Western Australia, the present time is inopportune for the taking of a referendum”. During the Convention the Premier of Victoria pointed out that in the 43 years of federation, eighteen proposals had been submitted to the electors and that fifteen of them had been defeated. On the law of averages there is little chance of these referendum proposals being agreed to by the people. It is well to point out that the success of the Government at the last general elections does not necessarily mean that its referendum proposals will be carried by the people. The history of referenda in Australia is to the opposite effect, namely, that governments which have been returned with large majorities have had their referendum proposals rejected by the electors. The reason is that when the electors are in doubt they say “ No “. Many of the people of Australia are in doubt about these referendum proposals. It is entirely wrong that a referendum Should be won or lost because of a particular political party being in power at the time the proposals are submitted to the people. Any powers that are granted by the people are granted to the Parliament, not in perpetuity to the government of the day. Unfortunately, the people do not make that distinction. Concerning this, the AttorneyGeneral said -
This is nowhere more evident than in the field of industrial relations. Attempt after attempt lias been made to give additional powers to the Commonwealth Parliament in this important field. So far every attempt has failed.
The right honora’ble gentleman made it clear that the failures which had occurred were brought about by all political parties. It seems tragic that the people of Australia should be denied the right to have the best Constitution possible operating in their interests merely because each political party in this Parliament has done its best to defeat the referendum proposals submitted by its political opponents.
– That is not true of 1he Labour party.
– It is true of the La’bour party. That party set out to defeat a plank of its own platform when it opposed the granting of power to the Commonwealth in respect of air transport.
– Only a section of the Labour party opposed it.
– I did not know that the Labour party had sections ; I thought that its solidarity was unquestioned. I am astonished that the Minister finds sections in the party to which he belongs. Referendum proposals will not be judged by the people on the arguments submitted by their political leaders, or by any evidence of unity within the Parliament, or by unanimity on the part of State politicians who support it. The referendum proposals will be lost, not carried, because of that phantom army in our midst - that army of snoopers, telephone tappers, peeping Toms, and others who are operating the censorship and also that band of people who have been collected by the Government, men with university degrees, who can plan and formulate a theory covering everything from the cradle to the grave. They know everything about everything except human nature. I read in the press recently that a learned and distinguished professor, speaking at the Summer School of the Australian. Institute of Political Science in Canberra, said that it would he necessary to keep the soldiers in the Army for six months, and in some cases for years, after the cessation of hostilities. The distinguished professor, I am sure, has never served in an army, or he would know that it will be impossible to keep men in the Army when this long war ends. The soldiers- will have something to say about that. They will take themselves out of the Army.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to say something about the bill.
– Some Ministers, especially the Attorney-General, by their remarks in the last few months have done a great deal to prejudice the chances of the referendum being passed. At the recent Summer School of the Australian Institute of Political Science held at Canberra, he was reported to have said that -
The taking away of the right of the individual to choose his own vocation and employer was only one of the freedoms which the Australian people must forgo in the interests of the State. “What will the people think when they compare that statement with the views of such conservative gentlemen as the law lords of Great Britain. In the case of Nokes v. Doncaster Amalgamated Collieries (1940) Appeal Cases, at page 1020, the Lord Chancellor, Viscount Simon, said -
It will be readily conceded that the result contended for by the respondents in this case would be at complete variance with the fundamental principle of our common law - the principle, namely, that a free citizen, in the exercise of his freedom is entitled to choose the employer whom he promises to serve, so that the right to his services cannot be transferred from one employer to another without his assent.
Lord Atkins said -
I had fancied that ingrained in the personal status of a citizen under our laws was the right to choose for himself whom he would serve, and that this right of choice constituted the main difference between a servant and a serf.
Those examples of what the AttorneyGeneral said, and what the law lords said, show the vast difference between the spirit of fascism and that of liberalism, which we espouse. The fear of fascism in the hearts of the people will imperil the success of the referendum.
– The Attorney-General was only talking about war-time conditions.
– The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) gives information which is uncalled for, unasked, and wholly inaccurate! The AttorneyGeneral was speaking about the post-war period. He said -
The taking away in future-
That is the future - of the right of the individual to choose his own vocation and employer was only one of the freedoms which the Australian people must forgo in the interests of the State.
If the Attorney-General was not dealing with the period after the war, the Minister for Information and I do not speak the same language. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) went to great length to show that the powers asked for are already largely in the Constitution. If that be so, there is no harm in putting them in again to make doubly sure.
– He said that.
– For that reason every effort ought to ‘be made to ensure that, the writing of these powers into the Constitution shall not be imperilled by submitting them in a block referendum of fourteen points to the people of Australia. As for the proposed new powers, the power of the Commonwealth Parliament to legislate in respect of repatriation has never been questioned by the High Court or any other competent authority. I, therefore, regard the first proposed new ‘ power as merely the sugar which the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) puts around some of the bitter pills he prescribes for his patients. It is nice but unnecessary. The next power asked for is power over employment and unemployment, which the AttorneyGeneral has declared is the widest power sought. It is more than ever necessary that the Parliament of the Commonwealth should have full power over employment and unemployment in Australia ; the Commonwealth, having taken over the taxing power in respect of incomes from the States, largely controls the purse-strings. Unemployment is the most serious problem which industrialized nations have to tackle. It was not an important matter when the world consisted of self-sufficient rural communities which could obtain their food requirements from village holdings, but to-day it is a terrible problem, as is well known by those who saw it in the depression. I had a fairly intimate knowledge of what it meant because I was a member of a committee in New South Wales which had to expend £600,000 on relief of the unemployed. I know, therefore, that no risks can be taken and that the Commonwealth Government, as th’e controller of the public purse, must have the power sought. I direct the attention of honorable members to the following statement made by the Canadian Royal Commission on Dominion and Provincial Relations about unemployment -
The Commission did, however, find one onerous function of government which cannot, under modern conditions be equitably or efficiently performed on a regional or provincial basis. This function is the maintenance of those unemployed who are employable and of their dependants.
This bill goes farther than that because it asks that the Commonwealth be given power over employment. I believe the best way in which to prevent and relieve unemployment is not to have any at all. If we want to keep a man free from illness we must keep him well. If we want to keep the people free from unemployment we must keep them employed. That is the way in which to avoid the scars and sores brought about in the depression years.
– Then there would be no cheap labour.
– What a cheap remark ! Who is not willing to pay good wages? Maintain the prices at a proper level and good wages will be paid. Instead of making cheap gibes, honorable members opposite should lift this debate on to the high national plane and eschew party politics in the hope that thereby the people will be led to grant the powers sought. The next power relates to organized marketing of commodities. I believe that in the conditions that we shall have after this war there must be considerable organization of the marketing of commodities and that the law of the jungle in that regard must end. The next power relates to the control of companies. Section 51 of the Constitution provides that -
The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to … . Foreign corporations, and trading or financial corporations formed within the limits of the Commonwealth.
I understand that many years ago the High Court delivered a judgment to the effect that this power did not apply to companies already operating in Australia. Apparently, because of this, the power has never been exercised or attempted to be exercised by the Commonwealth. To me as a layman, it seems plain that, if the framers of the Constitution deemed it necessary that the Commonwealth should legislate only in respect of foreign corporations, they would have left out all the words after “foreign corporations “. I believe that they had every intention that there should be uniform company law in the Commonwealth. The next power asked for is that over combines, trusts and monopolies. There is no ground for argument on the point that combines, trusts and monopolies, once established, spread all over the the Commonwealth, and, therefore, they ought to be controlled by the central government. The next power asked for is in respect of profiteering and prices, but not including prices or rates charged by State or semi-governmental or local governing bodies for goods or services. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that it is difficult to. define “profiteering”, and suggest to the AttorneyGeneral that it would be better to drop that word, .and to control profits through prices, because I believe that, if the power of price fixing be left in the hands of the Commonwealth Government, it will be able to prevent profiteering. It is quite possible that an efficiently conducted company would make a good profit on a fixed price basis whereas an inefficient one would fail. If an efficient company or person were prevented from making fair profits under good management there would be a premium on inefficiency. It is difficult to understand why the qualification “ but not including prices or rates charged by State or semigovernmental or local governing bodies for goods or services “ has been inserted unless it is because the State Premiers were mo3t anxious to have it. Probably that is the reason, because there have been several instances in this war of State Governments profiteering at the expense of not only the nation, but also individuals. A noteworthy incident is the fact that the Government of New South Wales, apparently without taking any heed of the prices fixed by the Prices Commissioner and without consulting him, has raised the royalties on timber by as much as 400 per cent. The seventh matter sought to be referred is in respect of “the poducdon and distribution of goods “. Some people contend that under this power the Government will be able to socialize industry generally. On the other hand, a conservative government may not exercise this power at all. We shall simply have to trust Parliament with powers of this kind. The Parliaments of Great Britain, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa possess much greater powers than are possessed by this Parliament, and should any government misuse any of the powers granted to it by the people it would soon be turned out of office.
The next matter sought to be referred is “ the control of overseas exchange and overseas investment; and the regulation of the raising of money in accordance with such plans as are approved by a majority of members of the Australian Loan Council “. I agree that the Commonwealth must possess control in that sphere, and that it should exercise that control with the concurrence of of the members of the Australian Loan Council. I do not think that there can be any grounds for argument with respect to the Commonwealth’s right to .control air transport. The Commonwealth also should have power to standardize railway gauges. It is imperative that Australia, as soon as possible, should standardize its railway gauges; and, when a .convention is held for the purpose of redrafting the Constitution, not .for a period of five years, but for a much longer period, I shall support the contention of the right honorable member for Cowper that the Commonwealth should take over control of all transport. I .do not think there can be any reason for argument with respect to the claim of the Commonwealth to .control national works, family allowances, national health in co-operation with the States, or the control of aborigines.
The ‘proposed amendments are to be sought for a period of five years. The Government would have a much greater hope of carrying a referendum on these subjects if it made provision in the bill that during that period a national convention, elected on a popular basis, be held for the purpose- of considering the Constitution as a whole with reference to division of powers between the States and the Commonwealth.
– Such a provision could not be included in a bill; but the Government has given an assurance to the House that that will be done.
– Provision was made in the earlier hill to give to the States the right to withdraw any power under certain conditions. Therefore, I submit that as this bill proposes only a temporary alteration to the Constitution for a period of five years, it is quite possible to include a provision that the Commonwealth shall call a constitutional convention to consider proposed alterations of the Constitution for submission to this. Parliament.
– The Government canvassed that possibility, ‘but the SolicitorGeneral expressed the view that it was impossible to do it.
– Perhaps the Government could obtain the views of other authorities on that aspect. I stress the very grave danger of these proposals being rejected at the referendum. For that reason I again suggest that the Government accept the powers which have been referred to the Commonwealth by the States, and exercise those powers to the fullest degree on the reference from New South “Wales and Queensland, and to a lesser degree on the reference from Western Australia and South Australia. Then, if the other States found that the States which had referred powers to the Commonwealth were benefiting by the exercise by the Commonwealth of those powers, I have not the slightest doubt that they would also refer those powers to the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) urged the Government to provide guarantees in respect of the right of freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Should the honorable member move an amendment in that direction, I shall support it. I also submit that if some assurance were given to the people that the membership of this House would be greatly increased they would see in that .larger membership one of the most effective safeguards that could possibly be provided against the misuse of any power which they might give to the Commonwealth. The French constitutional authority De Tocqueville once said that the British Parliament possessed every possible power except that of being able to make a man into a woman and a woman into a man. The British Parliament has never misused its powers, because its numerical membership reflects a reliable cross-section of popular opinion. It is impossible to say that of this Parliament with its membership of 75. By increasing the membership of this House we should ensure stability. At the recent constitutional convention the Premier of Victoria referred to the motto on the floor of the entrance hall of the Victorian Parliament which reads, “ In a multitude of counsellors there is safety “. If this Parliament had more counsellors a much greater safeguard would be provided against ill-considered action, and with this safeguard the people could confidently trust this Parliament with powers of the kind set out in the measure.
.- This measure is courageous, clear and constructive. After listening to the speech just delivered by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) honorable members opposite now appear to feel that everything is all right. At the beginning of his speech he breathed fire and brimstone, but he finished by saying, in effect, that he supported the Government’s proposals.
– I did not say that.
– One would’ be quite justified in drawing that inference from the honorable member’s speech as a whole. The success or failure of the referendum will he decided not so much by party .politics, as by the conservative mind. If we can break down the impression existing among some people that the Constitution is sacred and holy, we shall have no difficulty in winning the support of the nation for these proposals, and for this Government’s policy in relation to post-war reconstruction. However, the conservative approach to proposals of this kind tends to retard the wheels of progress. That attitude must be combated. One would gather from the remarks made by some honorable members that the fathers of federation were a happy family, that they sat round the conference table and peacefully plotted a Constitution to last for all time. That impression is not in accordance with the facts. The Constitution really represents the best that its framers could make of a bad deal, because they were at variance as the result of the conflicts then existing between the States. To substantiate this view, I shall quote from newspapers published at that period. An author writing on the federation in 1898, and referring particularly to the old-age pensions power in the Constitution, said -
If the aged are to ;be paid just because they are old, then the streets of this country will run red with blood. Civil war between the north and the south is inevitable.
I think that at that time the known population of the Northern Territory numbered about 17 aborigines. A radical newspaper of the same year stated -
Should the people agree to the proposed Constitution they will bitterly regret it. It is a class measure.
The Sydney Mail in an issue in 1897 reported -
The discussion was notable for the instinctive way in which the delegates went to the heart of the problem. Sir John Forrest in his rough and ready practical way said that so far as Federation was concerned it was all a matter of L. S. D.
Another newspaper, the Town and Country Journal, published the following statement by a correspondent who signed himself “ Pastoralist “ : -
This federation plan is only being brought into being in order to force us to dip our cattle once a year.
And the final absurdity written at that time appears in the following paragraph published in a Queensland journal entitled, “ Birth of a New World “-
The enormous black spots on the face of the sun are causing great interest among scientists. The entire spot area covers the enormous space of from 125,000 miles to 150.000 miles in width “. (It is curious’ that this area corresponds roughly with the area of the proposed new Australian state.)
No doubt those statements will strike honorable members as exaggerations, but they express points of view held by not a few people concerning the drafting of the Constitution. Should any honorable member think that they are exaggerations, I remind them of the Little Lord Fauntleroys in the Tasmanian Upper House - eighteen of them - who pushed back the wheels of progress by their ridiculous rejection of the proposals agreed upon at the recent Constitutional Convention. They exemplify the conservative mind. They typify the Spartans of the old order, and their political Therm opylae is “ They shall not pass “. I have no doubt that these proposals will pass. I have said sufficient to etch the background of the conservative mind in its approach to matters of this kind. Thanks to the clear exposition of this measure by the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), I believe that many of the fears previously entertained with respect to the transfer of powers to the Commonwealth have been disposed of, and to-day an increasing number of people, including the soldiers in New Guinea, see no complications in the Government’s proposals. The soldier who is fighting in New Guinea is not concerned so much with the Commonwealth’s defence power as he is with the .promises which this Government has made to rehabilitate him on his return. I submit that the Commonwealth should have unlimited powers in order to enable it to deal effectively with post-war problems. I emphasize the importance of these proposals from the point of view of the members of our fighting services. The Government must state clearly what it proposes to do in order to rehabilitate them. Before it can do so, however, it must be given the powers it requires for that purpose. It is all very well to say that when the war is over a general levelling out will take place, but that will not satisfy the soldier. The honorable member for New England referred to the difficulty that will confront us in demobilizing members of the fighting services. He said that even if the majority of them were retained in the services for some time difficulty would be experienced in keeping them in camps. I agree with that view. There must he a reasonable extension of the Commonwealth powers to enable it to rehabilitate our soldiers as soon as possible in civilian life.
The second matter proposed to be referred is “ employment and unemployment “. They are significant words. The Commonwealth must be given power over employment and unemployment. I again congratulate the Attorney-General upon having set out the Government’s proposals so explicitly.
Another power that the Commonwealth seeks is described in the bill as “ National Health, in co-operation with the States or any of them “. In my study of national health as a member of the Social Security Committee, I have found that the health power of the Commonwealth is limited to a little black box and a quarantine flag. Co-operation with the States will mean that the Commonwealth Government will be able to play Santa Claus to the States by grants in aid in relation to health. It appears that this paragraph of the bill is related to the proposition of whether Santa Claus will sleep with his whiskers over or under the sheet.
Other powers sought, such as profiteering and prices, the production and distribution of goods and the control of overseas exchange and overseas investment, have already been dealt with exhaustively by previous speakers. Therefore, I shall deal in detail with air transport, because this will be one of our greatest problems after the war. Australia will experience an unparalleled era of prosperity, in which the skyways will be our highways. So far, the skyways have not been exploited to any degree by “ big business “ and it should be competent for us to see that nothing of this nature happens. We owe it to the men who pioneered air travel in Australia to retain complete and proper control of it after the war, and- not to give away our treasures for the sake of making good fellows of ourselves or through being too sleepy and disinterested to care about what is going on under our very nose. The history of the pioneering of air transport is a very proud one for Australia, and I shall read to the House some of the explorations undertaken and victories won by Australians. The following are some of the pioneer flights by Australian airmen : -
For a country with a population of 7,000,000 people, with limited facilities at their disposal and limited opportunities for learning to fly in those days, the pioneering of air transport by Australians is one of the greatest epics of history. The control of air transport will be a .’juicy piece of meat to be cut up after the war, and apparently Australia has not made any effort to lay down a policy. Before the war Australian companies provided the air mail services. Their English or overseas background was only thinly veiled. When considering this matter, we must divorce from our minds any thoughts of the war and think only in terms of business. The Commonwealth Government should take control of the airways of this coUntry in order to prevent exploitation. The granting of air bases to other nations, and the problem of air transport generally, will have to be considered. Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, C. P. T. Ulm, and, to a limited degree, Captain P. G. Taylor, suffered in those exploratory days in their attempts to conquer the air. Sir Charles Kingsford Smith lost hi3 life on his last flight because he knew that he could never afford to relax his efforts. He did not have the necessary finance to enable him to form a company to compete with overseas interests. He was really fighting and flying for his life. The same applied to Ulm. Australia apparently did not want Captain Taylor, and he secured a high position in England. Now, this country is not able to utilize his services for survey work, such as he performed in his flight across the Indian Ocean. Incidentally, the government of the day did not pay him for that job until twelve months after its completion.
The Commonwealth also seeks power to care for the people of the aboriginal race. The provision in the bill is very fair. We must realize our obligations to the aboriginal race, particularly in view of the fact that after the war Australia may have other dark-skinned peoples under its mandate or control, and unless the aborigines are properly cared for this country would be subjected to the criticism levelled at Hitler and his followers when they oppress the minority populations under their domination. This position does not reflect the general will of the Australian people, but in isolated outback areas things have been happening to the natives which hardly bear the light of day. Recently a man from the Northern Territory came to see me at Canberra. As a soldier in the last, war, he was awarded the Military Medal, and was subsequently an officer of the Aborigines Department of South Australia. He told me that he called at. a mining camp where he found that two native women were starving and several men were suffering from septic sores and general debility. The aborigines should receive 5s. a week and/or food for their dependants. He reported their condition to the miner, opened the storehouse and found that it was amply stocked with food. When the natives were taken to hospital at Alice Springs, the Administrator rapped the officer over the knuckles for interfering and later he was dismissed from the service. One comment at Alice Springs was that: “It was pretty hard luck for Old Bill up there at the Granites because he was just preparing to sell his mine for £60,000 and the officer had to come along and stick his nose in to see what was happening to the blacks”. Although that may sound exaggerated, it is a true case. It may not have a general application, but it shows that the supervision is bad and that the Commonwealth Government should be responsible for the care of the aborigines.
The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) stated that he would submit an amendment for the purpose of having incorporated in the Constitution a guarantee of the freedom of the press. That proposal must be intended to be humorous. In my opinion, the newspaper proprietors would not be so desperately foolish as to submit themselves to a five-year trial with the risk that at the expiration of that period, the provision would lapse. The simple proposition is that the freedom of the press has a strange connotation in these days. It is not “ f reedom of the press “, but simply “ freedom of the newspaper proprietors “. The journalists have produced a code of ethics to ensure that they shall be allowed to do their job impartially and without having to fall for some of the tricks of editors and proprietors. This code of ethics, which will be of interest to honorable members, is as follows: -
In the knowledge that the press is the most powerful factor in moulding public opinion, and i3 therefore democracy’s strongest force for social progress, members of the New South Wales District of the Australian Journalists Association pledge themselves to stand by their fellow members in observing and enforcing the following code: -
1 ) To report and interpret the news with scrupulous honesty.
Not to suppress essential fact, and not to distort the truth by omission or wrongful emphasis.
To respect all confidences in all circumstances.
To observe at all times the fraternity of their profession, and never to take unfair advantage of a fellow member of the Australian Journalists Association.
Never to accept any form of bribe, nor to permit personal interest to influence their sense of justice.
To use only honest methods to obtain news, pictures and documents.
To reveal their identity as members of the press before using any personal interview or picture for publication.
Always to maintain, through their conduct, full public confidence in the integrity and dignity of their calling.
– When will that code come into operation?
– That code has been adopted by districts other than that of New South Wales throughout Australia. It seems rather pathetic that after a century of journalism, the working journalists of Australia are compelled to present a dossier of this nature to their “ bosses “. It is a compliment to the journalists themselves and a tribute to their courage that they have done so. There now exists in New South Wales an Ethics Committee which is a statutory body. If we are to deal with the press, the Code of Ethics which I have read could be included with advantage in the Constitution, instead of a nebulous section relating to the “ freedom of speech “, which is nebulous freedom bought by the “ bosses “ in the distant past. If honorable members will analyse the matter they will realize that in the words of Stead, a former editor of the Times of London, “ The whole technique of the press is to make dividends “. My contention is that dangers arise from this proprietary interest in the freedom of the press. The agitation for the inclusion of this guarantee in the Constitution does not emanate from the journalists who are quitesatisfied that the law will see that the press’ is not made the tool of any party or anycause. It is to the interests of the proprietors to see that this guarantee is inserted as a pious aspiration, and something that they have bought. The fact that a proprietor has such a guarantee is a useful asset to go with the goodwill of the newspaper. What it means is “ freedom to put your own political viewpoint and exclude from the paper the opposing opinion”. I mention these things in detail because another danger arises from the untrammelled freedom of the proprietors. We have noticed in this Parliament a strange tendency on the part of the press to deride parliamentary institutions. In season and out of season attempts have been made to belittle the activities of men who are attempting in the legislature to serve their country. The whole thing has a fascist slant that is highly dangerous. It began some years ago and reached its peak when a ministerial statement handed to an editor was altered. That editor was later hauled before his fellow journalists to answer for his action. He escaped with a caution; and I think paid a fine. The freedom of the press is a subject that should be excluded from this bill, which is trying to bring the dream of reconstruction to reality. We are concerned more with the welfare of the worker who has set everything aside in his desire to step up war production.We are concerned more that a mother shall have reasonable quarters in which to live and that her children shall not be exploited. We can safely leave the freedom of the press to the day when it may be necessary to ensure it, or until it has a case to present.
.- Any proposed amendment of the Constitution deserves the thorough and earnest consideration of every honorable member, and, indeed, of the people at large. Numerous referenda have been held in Australia since federation, and their path is strewn with wreckage. One cannot, therefore, optimistically forecast too good a chance for the one which the Government now contemplates taking. ‘ It will be noticed that there are fourteen points in the bill, which in that regard reminds me of another great document which suffered extinction in its own country. I refer to the fourteen points evolved by the late President “Wilson, of the United States of America. I am reminded also of the words of the late M. Georges Clemenceau when confronted with them : “ Fourteen ? The good Lord was satisfied with ten “. It needs little more than a casual glance at the bill to reach the conclusion that to leave out four of the points would make it more acceptable, because it would remove some powers which are not necessary and others that are mere political propaganda. Every member of all parties .believes in giving to this Parliament some additional powers. The question resolves itself into exactly what powers are needed and how they shall be given. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) last week stated that the Parliaments of Great Britain and New Zealand had full powers, and drew an analogy between the positions of those two countries and Australia. I cannot quite see eye to eye with the honorable member in that regard. Conditions in Great Britain and New Zealand are unlike those in Australia. That is particularly true of Great Britain, where there are in the minds of the British public such firm and fixed ideas regarding conditions associated with local government that, if ever the powers of the muncipalities were assailed, the people would speak with no uncertain voice, and most of the powers held by the municipalities would remain in their hands. Australia is a large country, one of the greatest in the world so far as future potential wealth is concerned. When considering its development we must take into consideration the virtues of decentralization, and a much better distribution of powers throughout the country than has ‘been practised during the last twenty years.
I wish to take honorable members back to the origin of the Constitution which it is now proposed to alter. It did not grow up overnight. For many years there had been political pressure in the different State Parliaments for some form of central government, and eventually an elected convention produced a draft constitution. At that convention two points of view were common amongst its members, and also amongst others who were State righters and those who were federalists. The first question in dispute was : How shall we arrange the powers between the States and the Commonwealth? Even more important was the second question: How shall we distribute the powers between them? In those days the problem of the division of powers between authorities in a large continent millions of square miles in area, with thousands of miles of coastline, was prominently before the people, and they were fearful, as thousands are to-day, of too much centralization in Canberra militating against its successful control and development. As we know, the Constitution which was evolved had those two points of view expressed in it. Certain powers, which in those days were regarded as fairly wide, were given to the Commonwealth, and certain other powers were reserved for the States.
I believe that those two points of view are equally important to-day. I am quite prepared, as most honorable members are, to give greatly increased powers to the Commonwealth Government, but I also want to have before my mind’s eye - and I think this is true of the great bulk of the Australian public, particularly the country people - some picture of how those powers are to be used and distributed throughout the land. That is of vital importance for the progress and development of Australia. I am convinced that its future development must be more on a regional basis than formerly. The history of the last twenty years has shown a tendency, not towards that end, but towards more and more centralization of administration in the capital cities. The results of that policy over the years are manifest to-day. Whether a person comes from the city or the country, he must admit that the decentralization of Australia on a regional basis is one of the great problems facing us in the years ahead. There is another reason why that should be so. We are to-day experiencing a world war. I do not think that there is an honorable member who does not realize how great was our folly in developing a policy of centralization over the last twenty years. I have a vivid memory, during a trip to Newcastle, of standing on the esplanade where one night a little J apanese submarine popped out of the water and trained its guns calmly and coolly on the big Newcastle steelworks. One could not fail to realize that one well-directed shell on one of the three coke ovens at Newcastle would have dealt a tremendous blow at the whole of the munitions effort of Australia, and possibly three well-directed shells would have smashed all those coke ovens and brought the huge iron and steel industry of Australia to a complete standstill.
I am afraid that many people look ahead with more confidence than I do to a more tranquil period after the war. I am not very optimistic unless control is exercised throughout the world, because we are realizing to-day the truth of the maxim of pre-war years, that war does not solve problems but creates them, and brings others in its train. Every one with a knowledge of what is happening in the different countries of the world, as they are being freed from the yoke of the Nazis, believes that a most difficult period lies ahead. If the control which we believe must be exercised after the close of this war is exercised, we know that sooner or later those who at first are prepared to exercise it become tired, and it is not too much to imagine that within ten years we may see creeping in again something of the old pacificism and isolationism which undoubtedly contributed to the present war. To the north of us there are over 1,000,000,000 coloured human beings, reproducing their kind at the rate of millions a year. I cannot see, looking into the distant future, that we can ever take things easily in this country. I should not be surprised if, after the close of the war, Australia had 50 years in which to get ready for another war. If it should come, the chances are that it will occur in the Pacific zone. Therefore, the future development of this country, the powers which this Parliament possesses, and the way in which it will exercise them are questions of great importance which this Parliament and people must consider. Before I am prepared to assist to grant greatly extended powers to this Parliament, I require time for a good deal more consideration, and I must have something more definite than is contained in the bill. I must know how these powers are to be exercised. In other words, I want to see a departure from the policy of centralized power which we have adopted for years past, and a programme of development which will be of benefit to the Australian people.
– That is what the tories of 40 years ago said.
– The Minister surely does not advocate increased centralization of power?
– We want less centralization, not more.
– I agree, but we must consider how additional powers are to be used or distributed. No doubt those questions were asked 40 years ago, and they should be asked to-day. The condition of world affairs is a strong reason why we say that this is not the time to hold a referendum. We believe that an elected convention is the right way to deal with all these problems, the more so because an immense volume of public education will be involved. If that method be followed, we have a guarantee that the recommendations of such a convention when put before the people have some hope of success. Studying the position in the less populous States, and even those in the other ones, I can see very little hope of the proposed amendments being carried. If the Government is in earnest in requiring these powers, why risk a referendum now, when it can be said with certainty that, with slight modifications, all the powers which the Government wants in the early post-war years can be obtained by arrangement between the State Parliaments and this Parliament ?
– We have already conferred, and the honorable member knows the result.
– I have studied all the amendments suggested by the State Parliaments. They differ only in degree, and only the Tasmanian Parliament rejected the bill. In that State the Upper House defeated it by one vote. When faced with gigantic problems in the postwar period, as we are sure to be, do honorable members think that the States cannot come to an agreement with the Commonwealth as to the powers to be transferred? Seeing that the States are sure to hand over certain powers the Government is gambling with the whole issue. In any case, I am opposed to the holding of a referendum in war-time. Only one referendum has ever been carried in Australia. It concerned public finance, and therefore touched people’s pockets.
I shall deal now with the wisdom or otherwise of holding a referendum in time ,of war. I am convinced that one reason for the Government’s action in introducing this measure is the fact that to-day people the preoccupied with war clangers and war strain, and that, usually in such circumstances, it is not difficult to secure the acceptance of a revolutionary principle. These tactics are as old as diplomacy itself, but I doubt very much whether the Government will succeed in this instance. A second point is that scattered throughout the length and breadth of the Commonwealth and overseas there are probably more than 1,000,000 voters who at present are completely severed from their normal life, their friends, their families and their homes. In conditions such as these, it is not difficult to create a crowd psychology, and although there are several examples ‘ in history of crowd psychology resulting in the highest forms of patriotism and the noblest expressions of human endeavour, in a great number of cases the tendency is for it to result in a lowering of the capacity of the individual to examine a problem thoroughly and realistically. Therefore, at the present time, with thousands and thousands of people, particularly young men and women, out of their normal environment, there is a great opportunity for propaganda. In fact. I believe that propaganda has started already. I have no doubt that before the “ show “ is over there will be a plethora of propaganda throughout the military camps, Allied Works Council establishments, and women’s auxiliary services, and I fear that it will be mostly the Government propaganda, because honorable members opposite will see to it that their views’ are given prominence. I believe implicitly that the first power sought in this measure, namely, power to deal with the reinstatement and advancement of members of the fighting services of the Commonwealth in the post-war years, and “the advancement of dependants of those members who have died, is nothing leas than unadulterated propaganda. I shall be most interested to hear any honorable member opposite who has had legal training indicate to the House under which section of the Constitution the
Commonwealth is deprived of power over repatriation. After all, a state of war is not exactly new to this country. This is the third war which we have experienced as a nation. First tl Le re was the Boer War - small it is true, but still a war - from which our men returned, and then there was the first world war from which hundreds of thousands of our men returned. Oan any honorable member opposite say that after the Boer War, or after the war of 1914-18, the Commonwealth lacked power to repatriate men of tie fighting services? Of course we have the power. We can help soldiers to start in business ; we can give them vocational training, and we can conduct land settlement schemes, whether under the aegis of the Commonwealth or of the States, in any part of Australia or of the territories of the Commonwealth. This paragraph if adopted will not increase the Commonwealth’s repatriation powers at all. It is merely a sugar-coating for certain other political powers which the Government seeks for its own miserable party ends. It is mere camouflage for Nos. ii and via of the “ f ourteen points “, and is designed, of course, to bring popularity to the Government. The Opposition is quite content about that, but we are going to be in it too, and we have framed our amendments accordingly. The only difference between honorable members opposite and honorable members on this side of the chamber is that we are being quite frank. The High Court has shown that under the Defence Act and the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act the Commonwealth already has all the power that it requires to deal with repatriation. It is obvious, therefore, that the insertion of this clause is designed to facilitate the passage of the bill and the carrying of the referendum. In considering a measure such as this, one cannot overlook the possibility of the political party which has sponsored it being in power in the immediate post-war years, and we should ask ourselves whether we believe that members of that party are travelling along the right road, or whether they are travelling along a road which can lead only to severe damage and loss to the people of this country. Of course, if one could deal with the bill non-politically, and look honestly into the future, that aspect of the matter would be farthest from one’s thoughts; but these powers are not to be permanent powers ; they are to be granted for five years, during two of which at least, according to the view of leading constitutional lawyers, the Government already has ample authority to deal with any war problems that may arise. I listened to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt), the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), and the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), all of whom have some standing in the legal world, and I think that it has been made quite plain that, irrespective of the period of six months after the termination of the war for which the National Security Act will remain in force, we can say that for eightteen months or two years at least these additional constitutional powers will not be necessary.
– Mere assumption.
– That may be, but it is assumption arising out of the legal training and experience of a learned ex-judge, and a learned King’s Counsel in this House, and I am sure that these opinions are shared almost unanimously by the legal profession outside.
The second power which the Commonwealth seeks to assume, namely, power to deal with employment and unemployment, would, if granted, amount almost to tearing up the Constitution of this country. Under this power, it would be possible to interfere with every employer of labour, so that by carrying this measure we should be asking the people to place in the hands of this Government, whose views upon socialization of industry are quite clear, complete control of all individual employers and business concerns throughout the Commonwealth. Unemployment or employment, of course, must be the result of certain efforts in certain directions. Unemployment may be the result of the policy applied to private enterprise^ a defective banking policy, ineffective fiscal control, or lack of energy and foresight on the part of the people. These are the things which cause unemployment, and although power over employment and unemployment is talked about grandiloquently by honorable members opposite as something which will result in the provision of work for all, that is far from the truth, and the Government knows it.
Uniform company law is also proposed for five years, but what will happen at the end of that period? Unless these powers be again specifically conferred upon the Commonwealth at the end of that time, the States will take control again. I should like to hear something about that from the Attorney-General. I am not very impressed with that aspect of the measure at all.
The fifth matter to be referred is power ever trusts, combines, and monopolies. I do not dispute for a moment that we should have some power in respect of monopolies, trusts, or any organizations or individuals acting in restraint of trade, because, far from upholding the system of private enterprise, the misuse of power by these organizations tends to crush private enterprise and to force out of business the thousands of small undertakings upon which our system depends. The power to control the production and distribution of goods is, in my opinion, as wide as the power to control employment and unemployment, and is not requisite in order that the Commonwealth may deal with any problem that may arise after the war, but is merely part and parcel of the real policy which is continuously being pursued by the Labour Government in the direction of the socialization of industry.
The Commonwealth already has the power to control overseas exchange and investment, and has never lacked the means to control banking. If some powers over local investment are required for a period, I am not opposed to that. In the post-war years, loans aggregating hundreds of millions of pounds, which are to-day being subscribed by tens of thousands of the people of this country, will have to be converted. That will he an enormous task for any government. I have no objection, either, to the Commonwealth having certain powers in relation to prices, because I believe that for some time after the war such powers will have to be exercised. I can visualize a tremendous demand for all building materials and foodstuffs in the early post-war years, and unless a degree of control be maintained in order to achieve something like equilibrium, prices will be likely to skyrocket. But it should be the aim of any government, at opportune periods, gradually to lif t measures of control and, while reserving power in certain directions, enable the Australian once again to become the individualist that he really is.
There is no objection to the Commonwealth having power in relation to air transport, uniformity of railway gauges, national works, national health and the aboriginal race.
Therefore, possibly with slight alterations, some of the powers sought to be obtained are likely to appeal to the great majority of honorable members; and if a degree of unanimity could be obtained it would go a long way towards ensuring the success of the referendum in the country. But in view of the propaganda that has accompanied the presentation of this bill, the aim to secure powers which we believe would be exercised not for the settlement of any post-war problem but for party political ends, the pronouncements by the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) and the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron) that factories built by the Government may be used in the aftermath of war in competition with private enterprise, and the fact that, within the short period of fourteen years, socialization of industry cost one State £4,500,000, one cannot be expected to agree with the best of grace to the proposals of the Government. The removal from the bill of its humbugging and party political features would make for a much wider acceptance of it. Some of the powers which we know the Commonwealth should have could be obtained by agreement with the States. The Prime Minister has said that that is the way in which he wanted to proceed. It is not. A bill was drafted before the Convention was convened. The idea of a convention originated in themind of my ex-leader, the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr.Fadden). The extraordinary spectacle was witnessed of members of the Convention being called to Canberra to consider a bill that was somewhat indecently interred by the Attorney-
General (Dr. Evatt), another bill being substituted for it. After consultations lasting several days, a committee was appointed and was instructed to prepare in camera a list of powers that might be referred by the States to the Commonwealth. When these fourteen heads of power were placed before the Convention, the time devoted to their consideration was only four hours and ten minutes.
– Because the members of the Convention were unanimous in support of them.
– Oh, no! A matter of such magnitude cannot be dealt with in so hurried a fashion. It was no wonder that, when the Premiers and their Parliaments had given serious consideration to the implications of the agreement, they came to the conclusion that the arrangement was not a suitable one. I am convinced that, in the light of the problems that will arise in the future, a greater degree of consultation would result in the necessary powers being obtained by the Commonwealth. The real problem of framing a constitution embodying all the known requirements of the age could safely be left to a convention in 1946 or 1947 or whenever the war ends. Such a convention might be able to achieve the ambition of all of us, which is a really fine and advanced constitution for Australia.
.- This bill seeks to implement the decisions of the Constitution Convention held in Canberra in 1942. It provides the only practicable means by which this Parliament may approach the matter. The Government endeavoured to achieve co-operation with the States in respect of a reference of power to the Commonwealth. A convention was held, which the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) has described as being, in effect, an advisory committee of the whole nation. That Convention was representative of not only the Governments but also the Opposition parties in the Commonwealth Parliament and in the Parliaments of all the States. After discussions lasting several days the Convention, on the motion of the Premier of Tasmania, Mr. Cosgrove, unanimously adopted the following resolution : -
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 he 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.
A ‘ committee, consisting of representatives of the Commonwealth and the Premiers of the States, was appointed, deliberated for some time, and finally drew up a bill incorporating the fourteen additional powers which it was considered the States should refer to the Commonwealth for a period of five years. The recommendations of that committee were unanimously adopted by the Convention. An opportunity was given to the Parliaments of the States to enact the decision of the Convention. Some of them did so, but others did not. This bill is the result. While the representatives of the States were in Canberra, their stature increased, but after they had left, it shrunk. The salubrious atmosphere of this city may have been responsible, or they may have been free from the parochial influences and the influences of vested interests which operate in their States, and succumbed to those influences when they returned. This is indicative of the line-up of the forces of progress, in opposition to the forces of reaction, not only in Australia but also throughout the world. The much-vaunted Atlantic Charter was proclaimed in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean by the leaders of two great Allied nations, Mr. Churchill and President Roosevelt. Doubt is creeping into the minds of a large section of the community as to whether or not the four freedoms embodied in that charter will ever be put into operation. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Hughes) has said that Aus tralia was a signatory to the charter. I have attended all the sittings of this House since it was proclaimed by the leaders of Great Britain and the United States of America, yet I have no knowledge of a motion having been proposed to that effect. Why was such a motion not submitted to’ this Parliament? At the time, honorable members who now sit in Opposition were in power under the leadership of the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies), and no move was made to have Australia sign the charter; all that happened was that the fact of its having been proclaimed was recorded. Contrast that with the attitude of the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), who is sponsoring this bill. It is to his credit that he took practical steps in this House to try to implement the provisions of the Atlantic Charter in the first bill that he brought down dealing with a reference of power to the Commonwealth. This afforded proof to members of the fighting services, munitions workers, and others who were making great sacrifices, that we really meant what we had said when we proclaimed our war aims. That bill was short-lived, and we have yet to give full effect to the terms of the Atlantic Charter. Not until we have a much more co-operative spirit among all sections of the community will the four freedoms be implemented. A large section of the community is unsettled by the influences that are at work. They view with apprehension the activities of the reactionary forces which have been operating throughout the war, and which operated before the war. It is well known that under the war plans of the previous Government control was surrendered to the representatives of big business, and costly annexes were established. The controllers of those annexes are hopeful that the present Government will not have the power to conduct what are now great war industries in the post-war period, but that these will fall into their laps for a song” as many big undertakings did after the last war.
Mr.Calwell,. - Just a mere £100,000,000.
– A much larger sum is involved. In one industry in my electorate the Government has expended £S,000,000 on a plant for trie construction of aeroplane engines. Overseas interests are trying to close down establishments of that kind. Influences are- at work to close down the particular industry to which I have referred, thus putting 3,000 persons out of employment and transferring costly machinery to a private undertaking in Melbourne. The Minister for Aircraft Production will support me in what I have said. These things are happening under our very noses to-day, not only in Australia but also in all of the countries of our Allies. That is why, even in Great Britain, the people are unsettled, as the results of recent by-elections have shown. No matter how grateful the people may be to Mr. Churchill - and we all owe a debt of gratitude to him for leading us through the present crisis - there should be practical recognition of the sacrifices of the workers and the members of the fighting services. There is need for a guarantee that the Beveridge plan and similar measures designed to provide social security will be put into operation during the post-war period. According to a cablegram from London published in the press to-day -
The Tight of private enterprise to inflict “ the penalties of unemployment, and want “ in its own. interest has been decisively challenged, Mr. Herbert Morrison believes. Mr. Morrison, Labour Home Secretary and Minister for Home Security, said this in a speech in which he forecast the working out of a form of partnership between the State and large-scale industry. “The right of mass dismissal may still be exercised on a few occasions after the war, but I am sure these occasions will be few. Public conscience will back organized workers in refusal to recognize such a right. The whole of the emphasis we are now placing on full employment means a denial of this right to throw hundreds of thousands of unwanted mcn on the scrapheap. The conscience of society will not accept unemployment as a part of the natural order of things. Still less will it accept unemployment in the hands of competitive business.”
Similar influences- are at work in the United States of America as is shown by the following statement in yesterday’s press : -
Powerful industrial and commercial forces are pressing for an immediate start on reconversion to peace production by United States industry. Now that a number of war contracts are being cut back, they claim it is time to change over at least, some war plants to production for the vast American home market. The home market is waiting with millions of dollars of workers’ savings which could not be spent during the last two years. The War Department opposes any such move until the invasion of Europe begins. Truman’s Senate War Investigation Committee says serious unemployment may result unless the War Department alters its stand. The Truman Committee is a “ Watchdog “ on war expenditures. Senator Truman, its chairman, said when interviewed to-day : “ Prom now on we may expect increasing cancellations in war contracts, and within a few months these may exceed in volume new contracts “. Th<> Truman report is also critical of the Baruch plan to turn over all government-owned plants to private industry at “ 5 and 10 cent prices “. Truman says the majority of the plants should be held in view of possible governmentowned operation. Unions protest that the Baruch plan will hand over peace-time production to vested interests on a very, profitable basis. The unions want a planned economy which will ensure jobs first, leaving profits as a secondary concern. They see in the Baruch plan a threat of big unemployment, and a blow to the growing power .of the unions. Another fight is developing between the big interests and the small business man who fears lie will be squeezed out in a postwar era of big monopolies. Despite these undercurrents of antagonism, the Rooseveltendorsed Baruch .plan is being put into operation, and big interests are going ahead with their own post-war .plans. They aim to get all industry out of the hands of the Government. The National Association of Home Builders, a strong conservative group, are out to kill all government housing plans.
We must be concerned about these trends because they have world-wide repercussions. The last great depression was man-made, and probably had its origin in Wall-street. This Parliament should have power to avert such a catastrophe. The present Government should not be placed in the position in which the Scullin Government found itself when it needed a mere £18,000,000 to provide employment. The people wish to be assured that there will not be another sell-out as there was after the last war. It was said that that war was being fought to make the world fit for heroes to live in, but it proved to be a world of broken promises and the people were given a dole. The Commonwealth Bank was handed over to the control of vested interests and the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers was sacrificed to an overseas company. Even to-day, the transaction has not been completed, because there is still about £500,000 owing to the Commonwealth. Had those steamers remained the property of the
Government they could have rendered great service to the nation in the present crisis. The Commonwealth Woollen Mills were sacrificed after the last war by an anti-Labour government. As was pointed out by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Hughes), economic crises are the very causes of -wars, and the Government needs power to take steps to avert them in -the post-war period. The Government should have power to deal expeditiously with any crisis that may arise. Why should it not have authority to avert such .contingencies in peace as in war? The issue will no doubt be clouded by allegations as to the possible use or abuse of the powers sought under the bill, but as the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) has pointed out, that is beside the issue. The whole matter is in the hands of the people. The party that was successful at the general elections will receive a mandate from the people to implement its policy, .and, after all, the people will merely .ask that the powers sought shall be exercised as they may desire from time to time.
The Commonwealth Parliament is a more democratic institution than the Parliaments of the -States, whose upper chambers in most instances are elected on a property franchise. Those Houses do not reflect the will of the people as a whole, but in the Commonwealth sphere the members of each branch of the legislature are elected at frequent intervals on the basis of adult suffrage. Every three years £he members of the House of Representatives are .chosen’ by the people, and half of the members of the Senate are required to appeal to their masters. No doubt, even on the Government side, honorable members may differ as to the extent of the powers -that should be sought from the people. There may be extremists and others may be too modest, but I favour a middle course. I am sure that the countries “which form the British Commonwealth of Nations will work out their problems in tie British way by displaying a spirit of compromise. I am sure that that will be done in Great Britain as well as in other parts of the Empire. I believe that there will be a form of co-operation in industry, in farming, and even in Parliament itself. I hope that in the course of time parties in Parliament will co-operate in a different spirit from that which prevails to-day. I am convinced that the time will come when even Parliament will have to be reformed with regard to the method of representation. Under the present system it is impossible for any member to represent the whole of his constituents, because constituencies include people with widely divergent views. There are capitalists and communists,’ workers and “ bosses theists and atheists. The time will come when representatives will be elected to Parliament on a vocational basis. Each member will represent the section that follows the calling which he has pursued in his own career, and he will have a complete knowledge of that industry or profession. Such a system would perhaps usher in a truly co-operative Commonwealth.
If the powers to be sought are not granted by the people, Australia will not be able to give effect .to its war aims in the same way as the other nations which are allied to us. Great Britain has full self-governing powers, as also have New Zealand and South Africa. Our constitutional harriers should be removed. The Opposition, as it represents interests that dominate its attitude, will endeavour no doubt to confuse the issue, a3 it has always done in the past. When honorable members opposite say that the tame is not opportune for such an appeal to the people, or that the appeal will not be made in the right way, they talk with their tongues in -their cheeks. I saw a cartoon in a newspaper published prior to the advent of federation. The newspaper was named Punch and the whole 32 pages of it were devoted to a campaign against an ex-Premier of NewSouth Wales, Sir George Reid, after whom the electorate which I have the honour to represent was named, and who was described as “ the Father of Federation “. Every page was paid for by vested interests, all of which were centred in Melbourne. That fact may have some bearing on the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). One of the cartoons published in that journal is applicable to the present position and also to the attitude adopted by- the Leader of the Opposition and other honorable members opposite. It depicts a young woman who is styled “ Miss Australia “. She stands at crossroads, with a staff in her hand and a swag at her feet. The road sign points in a dozen different directions, and each bears the inscription “ To Federation “. The title of the cartoon is “ Union, fusion, or confusion “, and “ Miss Australia “ remarks, “ I have travelled a long, weary, dusty road and now - where am I V This bill represents a new signpost pointing towards full nationhood for Australia. There can be no danger in handing these powers over to the Commonwealth for the duration of the war, and for five years afterwards. During that probationary period there will be an opportunity to achieve effective’ co-operation between the States and the Commonwealth, and for the necessary adjustments to be made in the State and Commonwealth Public Services. I cannot understand the point of view of those honorable members opposite, including the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), who say that, although they are in favour of granting greater powers to the Commonwealth, they are opposed to the holding of a referendum during war-time. During the probationary period, the people will have an opportunity to see the system in operation, and will be able to make up their minds whether or not the grant of powers should be renewed. It stands to reason that the Commonwealth Government will not abuse its powers; if it did, the people would not renew them.
The first power provided for in the bill is that in relation to repatriation. It has been claimed by some honorable members that the Commonwealth already has the necessary authority under its defence powers to deal with repatriation. I point out, however, that there is some doubt as to whether its power in this respect is permanent. Moreover, some aspects of repatriation and rehabilitation are peculiar to this war. Hostels for the accommodation for shell-shocked patients were not established after the last war because there was some doubt whether the Commonwealth had power to do so. It is agreed, that it will be necessary to establish such institutions for the treatment of soldiers after the present war, and the power of the Commonwealth to take this action should be placed beyond doubt. The Commonwealth should also be empowered to establish and maintain industries for the training of ex-servicemen whose careers were interfered with by their war service, and even for the training of their children. After the last war, the High Court expressed an opinion that the Commonwealth Government was not empowered to retain control of the Cockatoo Island Dockyard for civilian purposes in which technicians might be trained to assist in the defence of the country. All doubts on points of that kind should be resolved now, so that there would be no obstacle in the way of the Commonwealth Government retaining control of some of the existing war industries for the benefit of returned soldiers, if this were considered necessary.
The second power relates to employment and unemployment. The aims of this Government are social security for all sections of the community. We know that the workers are unsettled, and that their morale is affected, because they fear they may be let down after the war. Only to-day reference was made in this House to the possibility of one industry closing down and throwing 3,000 workers out of employment. A director of one large concern stated recently that the day the war ended his firm would put off 5,000 workers. That is a sorry prospect for those people, and such action can be prevented only by arming the Commonwealth Government with sufficient power to intervene. It is all very well for the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) to talk of private industry taking up the slack, but we know that private industry cannot survive unless there is a pool of unemployed from which cheap labour may be drawn. Even apart from the workers, many of the managers in private industry have not the slightest idea what would happen if the war ended to-morrow. They do not know whether there would be any market for the goods they are producing. One business executive has suggested that silent orders should be issued for the turning over of war industries to other forms of production as soon as the war terminates. He said that, when the war ended he would be listening all day on the telephone taking cancellations of orders from the Department of Munitions. The. economic dislocation that would necessarily arise out of such a state of affairs can be prevented only by giving the Commonwealth Parliament increased powers.
The Commonwealth should also be empowered to take what steps are necessary to improve conditions for the workers, including the institution of a general system of superannuation. Such a system has been introduced in New Zealand, and under it employees of private industry, as well as public servants, are entitled to benefit. When they retire, they are entitled to draw an allowance which will not be a charity such as that upon which our own pioneers, who draw the old-age pension, have to depend. They receive their pension as a right, not as a charity. The Commonwealth does not, at present, possess the power necessary to introduce such a scheme. It cannot even do what was proposed in the British charter drawn up by representatives of private enterprise in Great Britain, who admitted, that after the war, private industry would have to take a greater interest in the welfare of the workers, that it would have to provide better housing, and such amenities as canteens in factories. It might also be necessary, they declared, to make provision for admitting the workers to partnership in industry.
The third power provided in the bill is in regard to organized marketing of commodities, and this is designed to ensure economic security for the primary producer. We are appealing to the primary producers of the country for a greater war effort. Would it not be well if, at the same time, we could tell them that social justice will be guaranteed to them? They have no such guarantee at the present time. Under present conditions there are periodical gluts of various foodstuffs, resulting in a lowering of prices to those who produce’ them. By giving to the Commonwealth power over these matters a fair return could be guaranteed to the primary producers. The fundamental powers which should be vested in the Commonwealth are, first, power to guarantee social security and justice to the members of the fighting services, .who by their sacrifice have done so much for us - that is our first duty; secondly, power to guarantee social security to the workers in industry, who have aptly been described as the army in overalls; and, thirdly, power to guarantee social security to the primary producers, who have been described as the backbone of the nation. The remaining powers sought in this hill are necessary if social justice is to b.e guaranteed to the community generally. Who would deny that the Commonwealth should have power to control trusts, combines and monopolies? Some of these organizations are world-wide in their ramifications. The States cannot deal with them, and even the Commonwealth may find difficulty in attempting to do so. During recent months there have been startling revelations of the activities of some monopolies which operate in the United States of America. For instance, the Standard Oil Trust has entered into agreements by which people of their own country will be at a disadvantage in the post-war period. That organization has entered into agreements with the Mitsui Corporation of Japan and a powerful German organization. Under the present Constitution, the Commonwealth has no power to deal with such combines, many of which are already spreading their tentacles to this country. Representatives of “ big business “ in the United States of America are already in Australia making preparations to extend their operations in the post-war period. Additional powers must oe vested in the Commonwealth to curb some of their activities. Just as it is reasonable that profiteering should be controlled in the interests of the community in war-time, so it is reasonable that it should he controlled when peace returns’. We do not want to get back to the days of the jungle, or to have repeated what took place after the last war. Even the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) concedes that the power to deal with profiteers should be vested in the Commonwealth. Power over the production and distribution of goods would not necessarily mean that all industry would he completely under government control. Already we have examples of satisfactory arrangements between governments and private enterprise, such as the arrangement which has been entered into with Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, and the Waddington Body Company Limited. These arrangements have proved satisfactory not only to the Government and the community generally, hut also to the shareholders in such companies. There is no reason why such establishments should not produce commodities required by the public at reasonable prices after the war has ended. No limit should be placed on the power of the Commonwealth to control overseas exchange and investments. This most important power should rest with the Commonwealth. There are in Australia organizations which hope to get the benefit of cheap labour in other countries. For instance, a representative of one large Australian concern intended to set up an industry in Malaya so that the company could have the benefit of cheap labour, thereby enabling it to gain an advantage over its competitors. He was unable to carry out his intention there, and so he went on to India, but before his purpose could be achieved war with Japan broke out and his plans fell through. Many big industries are evading their responsibility to Australia by resorting to all sorts of devices to evade taxation and to gain unfair advantages. One means by which they seek to evade responsibility is by invoicing goods to branches in other countries at low prices, or at a loss. That loss is deducted1 from their incomes, with the result that the Commonwealth Treasury suffers. In the countries where they are able to utilize cheap labour they make enormous profits. Is it not only fair that the Commonwealth Government should be able to follow such organizations and obtain for the people of this country a share of their profits, in the gaining of which they seek to destroy Australian industrial conditions ? There should be no need for argument as to the right of the Commonwealth to control matters relating to air transport. Unless the Commonwealth be granted power over civil aviation, we shall he in a worse position than we axe in now because of the numerous breaks of railway gauge in this country. A uniform railway gauge throughout the Commonwealth is vital to the defence of this country. I am informed on good authority that when United States troops first came to Australia their commander questioned whether they should remain here, because of the difficulties associated with our different railway gauges. Should another war. come before our railway gauges have been standardized, it will then be too late to rectify the position. Powers over uniformity of railway gauges and air transport must be handed over to the Commonwealth in the interests of national safety. Similarly, power to undertake national works in co-operation with the States should be vested in the Commonwealth. The Allied Works Council, the National Service Department, and other bodies have rendered great service to the country during the war, and I do not see that they should be entirely discontinued when the war ends. It should be possible to use those organizations in the post-war period to deal with large-scale developmental schemes and for the prevention of unemployment. Even the Bank of New South Wales has said that in another depression the Commonwealth Government would need to have powers to undertake national developmental schemes in order to. reduce unemployment. ‘ Matters relating to town planning and decentralization ought not to be left entirely to the States. The State Parliaments and the local governing bodies should be left to administer them, but the overall plan of national works, such as the abolition of slums and the creation of model’ cities, should be the duty of the Commonwealth.
National health is something that we have overlooked to our cost. One of the reasons why Hitler’s armies were able to overrun western Europe and push deeply into Russia was Germany’s vigorous youth, who were trained under national fitness schemes. Whilst we ought not to emulate Hitler’s examples, we must ensure the fitness and cultural development of coming generations if we are to hold this country. Likewise, it is vital that the Commonwealth should have the controlling power in respect of family allowances, because population is what we most need - our very existence is at stake because of our meagre popu- lation- and the only way in which to stimulate population, apart from immigration, is by the encouragement of marriage by means of loans, grants and so on. [Extension of time granted.’] It is significant 1 that the proposed new power last on the list is that relating to the people of the aboriginal race. It is an example of the inherent selfishness of man that the descendants of the people from whom our ancestors took this country should occupy last place in our thoughts when we are giving consideration to the transfer of powers to the Commonwealth. The aborigines comprise the one section of the community to which, above all, we should guarantee social justice.
The same catch-cries of “ reds “ and “ bureaucrats “ will be heard during the campaign, but I am sure that the people, aware of the reactionary forces at work in the community, will show in no uncertain terms that they want the four freedoms of the Atlantic Charter to be no empty slogan but a force in their lives. One is a guarantee that the peoples of the United Nations shall be free to choose their own forms of government. Australians will have an opportunity at the referendum to ensure that their chosen form of government shall continue’ and that the sacrifices of the fighting forces and the workers in industry in this war shall not have been in vain.
.-This bill is the result of the failure of the States to ratify the unanimous decision of the Constitution Convention. In the course of this debate honorable gentlemen opposite have said that they are opposed not to the transfer of powers to the Commonwealth, but to a referendum in wartime. In negotiating with the States, the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) has spent a great deal of time, but it has not been wasted, because he has at last demonstrated that the States will not surrender power to the Commonwealth. The State Parliaments believe that they will be ultimately swamped out of existence if they do so, because the people will demand their abolition in accordance with the promises made in 1898, and again in 1900, when the people were consulted finally as to the establishment of this Commonwealth. An illustrious predecessor of mine, the first member for Hunter, Sir Edmund Barton, coined during the campaign for the establishment of the Commonwealth the phrase, “If the people of Australia agree to the formation of a federal parliament, a Commonwealth parliament, a national parliament, it will ultimately mean the abolition of State Governors, and ultimately State Parliaments “. But, instead of that, in some State Parliaments there has been an increase of membership, and the objective of the people in establishing the Commonwealth has yet to be achieved. The Government ought to have the courage to go to the people with a straight-out question: “Do you agree to the abolition of State Parliaments ? “ because the people do not understand complex questions such as : “ Are you in favour of adding ‘ section X, subsection Y ‘ to the Commonwealth powers ? “ They vote “ No “ because they are bewildered. Unification is a plank of the Labour party’s platform, and the time is rotten ripe for the people to be asked whether it should not be brought about. The Attorney-General, like the rest of us, knows, however, that if that question were pitt to the people a fight would develop between State and Federal politicians, and that we should .be heavily outnumbered, because there are about five State constituencies to every Federal constituency. The State politicians would fight with every means in their power for fear that they would be out of a job. Hence, we always have the opposition of the States to increasing the powers of the Commonwealth. “We shall have to fight the States even on this issue, .because, although the Premiers and Leaders of the Opposition in the State Parliaments unanimously agreed at the Constitution Convention to the transfer to the Commonwealth of the powers set out in. this bill, they were unable to obtain ratification of their decisions from all the State Parliaments. I have made no secret of the fact that I am a unificationist, but I agree that the abolition of State Parliaments would involve increasing the membership of this Parliament. I heartily agree with the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) that the membership of this Parliament ought to be increased. Perhaps therein lies hope of appeasement of State politicians. We may be able to enlist their aid in a campaign for increased powers for the National Parliament by telling them that they will have an opportunity to become members. That opposition in the States has already been demonstrated, and no doubt it will ally itself with the section led by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), which has indicated that it will oppose the proposals contained in the bill. Thus the real issues will be clouded, and, consequently, it i3 extremely doubtful whether the referendum will be carried. Apparently, this Parliament will go to the country divided against itself on this matter. I am pleased that some honorable members opposite, notably the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender); and, the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott), have spoken in support of the Government’s proposals. However, honorable members opposite who are opposed to these proposals will ally themselves with members of State Parliaments, who, no doubt, will set themselves up as the jealous guardians of State rights.
The matters proposed to be referred are clearly set out in the bill ; and the Commonwealth has undoubted claims to possess power in respect of each of them. After the last war the government of the day was not able to honour the promises it had made to the soldiers because it did not possess sufficient power to do so. The then Leader of the Opposition, Mr. “ Mat.” Charlton, who was my predecessor in this House, and sat here for eighteen years, supported the proposals submitted in 1925, although that Government was politically akin to honorable members who now f orm the Opposition in this House. I think that the government party of that day called itself the Liberal or National party. In any case, some members of the Labour Opposition supported its proposals that the Commonwealth should be given power in respect of industrial matters, trade and commerce and finance. It is obvious that the Commonwealth must have power over industrial matters in order to be able to deal effectively with industrial develop- ment in this country. Perhaps, the greatest service rendered to the nation in that respect, although I think he rendered it unconsciously, was Mr. Lang. He endeavoured to maintain the basic wage in New South Wales at £4 2s. 6d. a week when the Wage had fallen in other States to as low as £3 5s. a week. One result of that position was that New South Wales was flooded with goods manufactured in the low-wage .States, where antiLabour governments were able to maintain lower-wage levels through their power to appoint sympathizers to the State Arbitration Courts and other wagefixing tribunals. Mr. Lang tried to stop the flood of manufactured goods from other States into New South Wales. He employed an army of men to see that shopkeepers displayed placards indicating the State in which the goods they offered for sale had been manufactured. He did this in the belief that in order to defeat competition from low-wage States the people of New South Wales would refuse to buy commodities which were not manufactured in their State. However, that was futile, because the housewife will always buy the cheaper article regardless of the State in which it is manufactured. It is sufficient for them to know that an article is made in Australia. The experience of New South Wales on that occasion indicates the necessity to fix wage-levels on an Australia-wide basis.
To-day we hear much about industrial trouble on the coal-fields. I pay tribute to the coal-miners of Western Australia on the fact that their industry has had fewer strikes than has been the case in the other States. However, the miners in Western Australia have enjoyed a seven-hour day since the termination of the last war. Despite all the strikes which have occurred on the coalfields’ in New South ‘Wales the miners in that State have not been able to win any reform equivalent to a seven-hour day. Any differentiation between the standard hours in an industry in different States is wrong, because such differences are reflected in the cost of production and lead to unfair competition. I have no doubt that if the calorific value of Western Australian coal was equal to that of New South Wales, coal imports from
Western Australia would ruin the indus-‘ try in New South Wales. This demonstrates why industrial matters should be controlled by the Commonwealth Parliament.
When the Constitution was drawn up, Australia was in its infancy as a nation. To-day, however, we have grown to man’s estate, and, therefore, we require, not swaddling clothes, but clothes in keeping with our new status. I again emphasize that the Government’s prospect of carrying its proposals at a referendum will be jeopardized if this Parliament does not go to the country united on this matter. Honorable members opposite have on various occasions recognized the Commonwealth’s need of increased powers in respect of the matters set out in the bill. However, in the past, referenda on this matter have been held in conjunction with general elections, with the result that candidates, who were fighting for their political existence, devoted their greatest efforts to electioneering, and failed to explain the referendum proposals at all. For that reason, I congratulate the AttorneyGeneral on his action in submitting these proposals at a time when there will be no danger of their being confused with election issues. The referendum proposals will be thoroughly explained ; and what will be explained more thoroughly than anything else will be the fact that the Attorney-General did endeavour to persuade the States to transfer these powers to the Commonwealth, and that the States, whilst agreeing at the convention to do so, refused to ratify the agreement.
If the Commonwealth possessed these powers, it could compete in many directions with private enterprise. For example, the Commonwealth Government was obliged to dispose of its woollen mills because the Constitution precluded it from entering into competition with private enterprise. The Commonwealth shipbuilding yards met a similar fate. The Commonwealth artificial limb factory still functions for the benefit of returned soldiers, but many anomalies arise in that quarter. Miners who are seriously injured in the course of their employment, ask me whether they can obtain an artificial limb from the Com monwealth factory. I am obliged to obtain from the Minister for Health in. New South Wales a certificate declaring that the State has no objection’ to the Commonwealth factory manufacturing the limb. That is a tragic state of affairs. A difficult position would arise if the Commonwealth Government purchased the coal mines. Six months after the cessation of hostilities, the Constitution would preclude the Commonwealth Government from selling coal in competition with the privately owned mines.
That the Commonwealth should possess the powers sought is absolutely necessary. After the war Australia will experience a period of reconstruction. To avoid delay and confusion in re-employing persons discharged from munitions establishments and demobilized from the Army, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Chifley) must plan quickly. But it will be futile for him to make plans unless the Commonwealth possesses constitutional authority to give effect to them. The development of fisheries and the erection of fishing villages on various parts of the coast is another matter of an interstate character. The Commonwealth must also interest itself in water conservation and irrigation. In the electorate that I represent, the Hunter River is frequently in flood and the Government of New South Wales is apparently not prepared to tackle the problem of preventing floods. If the Commonwealth possessed authority to engage in schemes of water conservation and irrigation, much valuable work could be done in the Hunter River valley. The Commonwealth must also combat soil erosion. In various parts of the world including Australia, there has been great destruction of land through erosion. This is of two kinds, first, erosion in pastoral areas caused by wind, and secondly, erosion on precipitous slopes, caused mainly by water. History abounds with instances of the enormous losses attributable to those two agencies. Syria, Greece and North Africa are outstanding examples. The erosion of the soil in China has persisted to such a degree that that country now has less arable land to support its population of 400,000,000 persons than the United States of America has to support a population of 130,000,000 persons. Although 85 per cent, of all Chinese labour was in pre-war years devoted to the growing of food, the arable land available is retained only by heartbreaking exertion, terracing and constant heavy manuring. Australia, in permitting the widespread destruction of its forests, must beware of encountering a similar experience. The United States of America in recent years has lost 1,000,000 acres of arable land, and it has been reported that unless protective measures are taken within the next twenty years, that country within the next century will be unable to support its present population. In January, 1939, over 300,000 tons of red dust fell on the State of Victoria after having been blown from the plains in the interior of the continent because the grass covering and protecting shrubs had been killed off by drought, flood and over-stocking. It cannot be too strongly stressed that the production of the soil has been a natural process for millions of years, and once the surface soil is lost, another million years will be required for its replacement. Intimately associated with this problem are afforestation, the conservation of water and flood prevention. This indicates what is likely to happen. Honorable members do not have to go far from this building to find evidence of soil erosion. If the Commonwealth had power to tackle this problem at the source, much of the danger would be averted. About six years ago heavy floods occurred on the river Murray in South Australia, and caused widespread damage to valuable farm-land. South Australia was unable to prevent those floods because the source of the trouble was in New South Wales. Had the Commonwealth :he necessary power to combat soil erosion, it could attack the problem at the source. When we should be planting trees, we are destroying our forests. We are doing nothing to conserve our timber rights. We are simply living for ourselves, unconcerned in any way for the generations to come. I am sick and tired of talking . about our coal deposits being destroyed by the present holders of the mines under lease from the Government. The get-rich-quick methods of the present generation, ignoring the interests of the generations to follow, are wasting the nation’s coal. The wonderful deposits in that part of New South Wales from which I come, in the form of the Greta seams, will in the next 30 years be altogether lost. Only 35 per cent, of the coal available is being won for the use of our essential industries. This represents a tragic waste, as I have already proved in this chamber by quotations from evidence given before royal commissions. If the Commonwealth Government had power to take over the coal mines, it would prevent them being exploited in a manner which in time to come will force Australia to import coal.
The war years have led to a remarkable development in this country. Anybody who, before the war began, had predicted that in a few years we should be producing aeroplanes, aeroplane engines, every modern machine and war equipment of almost every kind, would have been regarded as light headed. What has been done is a remarkable achievement. We have demonstrated to the world that the Australian tradesman and artisan is just as good and efficient as any other. We have spent approximately £100,000,000 in war factories, government controlled and semigovernment controlled. What is to become of them? Is the Government to hand them over to private enterprise because it has not the power to compete with it in manufacturing? Is all that money to be absolutely wasted? Will a non-Labour government be able to hand all those buildings and machines over to its friends as a free gift, as was done with the Commonwealth Shipping Line, the Australian Woollen Mills, and other government-controlled enterprises? That tragic waste is sure to take place unless the people of Australia give the extra powers which the Government is asking for. Originally, I opposed the building of annexes to private factories. When the present Leader of the Opposition proposed it, I moved an amendment, which the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) seconded. I wanted the Government to acquire its own land, and own the buildings and machinery, because if the annexes were attached to private factories, they would after the war become the property of private enterprise instead of the Government.
I once more warn the people that the powers now asked for are necessary for the development of the industries which I have enumerated, and will be particularly helpful in developing a particular industry which all parties have promised to establish, without yet redeeming their promises. You, Mr. Speaker, know to which I refer. With Australia forced to ration its oil fuel in a manner which the people have accepted without a murmur, the necessity for establishing the industry of extracting oil from coal becomes more and more apparent. The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) returned from a trip abroad with a very good report of the possibilities of the industry in this country.
– And I made some recommendations, too.
– He did, and his party went before the people in 1934 with the pro-motion of the industry as part of its policy. The Labour party had the same plank in its platform, and had it been in power it would have tried to develop the undertaking, because a slump in the demand for coal is inevitable. When that day comes, very little sympathy will be expressed for the coalminers. Long before then we should make Australia self-contained and self-reliant in regard to fuels which are essential to the successful conduct of our modern industries including our transport industries.
I do not believe that sufficient surveys have been made to ascertain if flow oil can be discovered in Australia. The production of shale oil can be developed to a far greater degree than has been attempted so far. None of these things can be done properly unless the powers asked for in the bill are given to the Government. As I said earlier, the bill is not altogether what I should have liked. I believe that the people should have been asked straight out in the simplest way possible to give the Commonwealth full powers. They should not be puzzled by submitting to them amendments of certain sections of the Constitution which not more than ten out of every hundred understand.
In the campaign, too, the people are unnecessarily confused by speakers sent out by parties who are opposed to the amendments. Without members of this Parliament going out divided, sufficient opposition will be offered, by the members of State Parliaments.
– Did not the honorable member fight the referendum on increased powers in respect of civil aviation and marketing which we submitted some years ago?
– Had the honorable member been present earlier, he would have heard me say that it all depends on who submits proposed powers. In 1925, Mr. Bruce, as Prime Minister, submitted to the people the very powers that we are asking for now. The then Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Charlton, supported him in defiance of the New South Wales State Labour party. There was a split then, just as there is in this Parliament now. These things are unfortunate. We in this Parliament should be united to meet the opposition which will be offered by members of State Parliaments, who,- more than anything else, will seek to safeguard their own jobs. They will not care one iota about the future of Australia or of the men who have gone away prepared to sacrifice everything in the war. I do not want those men to return and find authority between the Commonwealth and States divided as it is to-day with the same things happening that happened after the last war. The men who return from this war will not be prepared to sit down and take what their fathers took after the last war. There would be a revolution. It is true that we on this side of the chamber are making promises, as would honorable members opposite if they were in occupation of the treasury bench, but our promises will be fulfilled if the people of Australia grant to the Commonwealth the powers which it now seeks. I am pleading with the people of this country, and with the Opposition, for a united front. The Labour party will not always be in power. Honorable members opposite will take their turn some time. That is democracy. Therefore, why oppose these proposals just because they are being submitted by a Labour government? I admit that we have opposed similar proposals in the past, but that was sheer political cussedness. The Leader of the Opposition agreed at the Convention to support the conferring of these powers upon the Commonwealth, but now he argues that a referendum should not be held in time of war. The right honorable member for North Sydney said that whilst he supported the proposals in general, he also was opposed to a referendum being taken in time of war; yet governments which the right honorable member led held two referenda during the last war. I shall be leaving Canberra to-morrow to attend to other business, but probably this debate will continue for some time. I urge honorable members opposite to alter the attitude which they have adopted towards this measure before it is too late, so that we may go to the people with a unanimous recommendation that the referendum be carried. “We have an opportunity now to fulfil the wish of my illustrious predecessor who said, “ We are one people with one flag and one destiny; let us have one Parliament”.
.- I support the bill in its entirety, but I propose to steer clear of its legal implication’s. I have listened with keen interest to thelegal giants or “ big shots “ on the other side of the chamber, and I am convinced that they have become engulfed, baffled, and fogged in their own legal arguments. In fact, they all differ in their legal viewpoints. I claim that the powers proposed in the bill are of vital importance. They are a safety valve and a true safeguard against a repetition of what happened after the last war. These powers will bridge the gap. We were told that the last war was a war to make the world safe for democracy; that Australia was to be a land fit for heroes to live in; but instead our heroes found it to be a land of unemployment, poverty and the dole. Anti-Labour governments were in office when they returned, and continued to administer the affairs of this country for many years. If the Commonwealth Government had the power to keep the promises which were made during the last war, that power was not exercised. This time, let us make sure not only that we shall have the powers, but also that we shall have Labour governments in office which will exercise those powers in order that our fighting men, war workers, and primary producers shall not be let down again. The issue should be placed beyond doubt by granting to the Commonwealth Parliament the additional powers provided for in this bill. To-day we are fighting for a new order. Not only have we to win this war, but also we have to win the peace, because, unless Ave do that, our gallant soldiers shall have fought in vain. Let this war be a war to end all wars. Want and poverty must never again prevail. Large estates adjacent to our country towns must be acquired and subdivided and the land made available to our gallant soldiers when they return. The errors of the last war must not be repeated. On that occasion, many of our returned heroes were placed on the land only to become slaves without the slightest hope of ever succeeding .in their venture. Land was purchased at inflated prices and the unfortunate settlors in many cases carried the debt to their graves. Others were placed on virgin land which took years of slavery to clear, and finally the unfortunate heroes of the war of 1914-18 found themselves walking off their holdings with their wives and children, broken in heart and in pocket. Many of them finished up as charges upon the State. We must not make a mean plan for the future development of this country; mean plans have no magic to stir any man’s blood, or awaken his enthusiasm. The cost of major works should be financed by the Commonwealth. A nation without vision must perish, but the heart and mind of a vigorous people will respond to the prospect of a successful career and endeavour to make full use of its heritage. We can hold this Commonwealth only by its effective occupation. I believe that we shall not only win the war but, with the destiny of this country in the hands of Labour, we shall also win the peace. The railway gauges of Australia should be standardized. This is a national work, which should be undertaken at the earliest possible moment.
I believe that the powers which the Government is now seeking would, if granted, enable it to develop this fair land. We need to exercise vision in order to determine where opportunity lies for its development. We have great unexplored resources. New fields beckon ahead. A new vista is opened before us. Water conservation schemes large and small, developmental roads, east, west, north and south, must be constructed. Let us develop our great mineral resources in steel, aluminium, tin and copper, our pastoral and agricultural wealth, and our manufacturing industries, converting our wool, cotton and flax into the materials that we require. Population must be encouraged to come here. I urge this Parliament to pass the bill, and thus enable social justice and security to be given to the people, who do not want a recurrence of what happened after the last war, whenhundreds of thousands of men, the life-blood of the nation, were unable to earn a mere existence. The responsibility for that rests upon our opponents, who now sit on the Opposition benches. They failed in times of peace to provide for the people of this country. They also failed dismally in time of war, up to the stage when the Labour Government assumed office and the yellow peril of Japan had almost invaded our shores. I appeal to the Parliament to give to the Government the powers that it seeks, which will enable it to dispose for all time of the poverty and misery which have stalked this land for years.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Dedman) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- On the 3rd March, on the motion for the adjournment of the House, a number of honorable members referred to the amount of compensation that had been offered by the Government to the owners of land that had been acquired by the Commonwealth at North Essendon, Victoria. The matter was brought to the notice of the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings), who has furnished the following advice.
All acquisitions of land carried out by the Department of the Interior are in accordance with the provisions of the Lands Acquisition Act 1906-1936. Section 28 of that act reads - (1.) In determining the compensation under this Act, regard shall be had (subject to this Act) to the following matters: -
Section 29 of the act provides that the value of any land acquired by compulsory process shall be assessed “ according to the value of the land on the first day of January last preceding the date of acquisition” and that the “value of the land shall be assessed without reference to any increase in value arising from the proposal to carry out the public purpose “.
Section 36 provides that a disputed claim for compensation may be determined -
Section 37, paragraph (b) provides that the “ court shall have no power to direct a reference to arbitration unless by consent of the parties.”.
When a block has been acquired, the land automatically vests in the Commonwealth, and the estate or interest of the person entitled to the land is converted into a claim for compensation.
The procedure adopted by the Department of the Interior is as follows: -
In the Essendon cases, to which reference has been made by honorable members, the Commonwealth, in addition to using to the fullest degree the evidence and assistance furnished by the federal Taxation Office, employed three valuation property firms operating in the locality, viz., H. and E. W. Crapp, H. P. Knight and Company, and A. E. Gibson and Company. These firms have carried out a considerable volume of work for a number of years in this district, and have a complete knowledge of the public demand and the values obtaining. The offers made to the owners were based on the valuations received from the Taxation Office and the three firms of valuers mentioned. The valuations received in regard to the Essendon blocks are voluminous, and show the extreme care exercised by the valuers. The following extracts, however, are of interest in view of the statements of honorable members : -
It will thus be seen that the Department of the Interior does not make its own valuations.
In dealing with claims for compensation, the Minister for the Interior is bound by the provisions of the Lands Acquisition Act, which provides that the value of any land acquired by compulsory process shall be assessed according to the value of the land on the first day of January last preceding the date of acquisition. The Essendon blocks were acquired in May, 1943; the Minister must, therefore, consider their value as assessed on the 1st January, 1943. In order to arrive at the value on the 1st January, 1943, for the purpose of determining the amount to be offered to the owners, the Minister must be guided by competent land valuers, consisting of experienced valuers of the Taxation Department and sworn private valuers. He cannot adopt the alternative of accepting the claimant’s own valuation. ‘The act further provides that the claimant, if dissatisfied with the offer of the Minister, may take the matter to court. The court is in the same position as the Minister, in that it can be informed as to the value of the laud only by the evidence produced by some competent land valuing authorities. The Commonwealth would produce its valuations and presumably the claimant would produce his, and the court would have to decide as between them.
The right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) stated that there should be one valuation for land, and that should be the Commonwealth valuation. He suggested that the owner of a block compulsorily acquired would be more satisfied to have the valuation for acquisition purposes made by the mau who had valued it for taxation purposes. As previously pointed out, the Department of the Interior invariably obtains a valuation from the taxation valuers, but it also goes further and obtains valuations from private sworn valuers in the locality where the property .is situated. This action, rather than being detrimental to the owner, is usually to his advantage. Much of the discussion in the House was on the prices paid by the owners many years ago and the rates paid in the interim. These are matters which cannot be taken into consideration in assessing the value of the land as on the 1st January, 1943.
The Minister for the Interior and his department have been accused of niggardliness in dealing with the Essendon cases, but it should be remembered that the Minister and his officers are bound by the provisions of the Lands Acquisition Act and may not adopt any procedure not in conformity with the act. If honorable members can suggest any means other than those followed at present by which the Minister can inform his mind as to the value of any land acquired, any such suggestion would be welcomed. One honorable member has stated that if the land were offered for sale to-day in the open market it would probably realize more than was paid for it at the peak of the boom period. The remarks quoted from the valuation reports submitted by reputable firms operating in the district do not confirm his opinion and those firms are in a position to speak with authority on the matter. Reference was also made to the inability of these land-owners to avail themselves of the provision of the act, whereby they may appeal to a court, because of the expenditure involved. The experience of the Department of the interior in connexion with appeals to the court has been that, if the case goes against the Commonwealth, costs are awarded against the Government.
The whole matter resolves itself into a question whether the Minister for the Interior, in exercising his functions under the Lands Acquisition Act is acting fairly to the owners of the land acquired and to the taxpayers generally of the Commonwealth. The responsibility of the Commonwealth authorities ‘concerned is to see that a fair price, and a fair price only, is paid for the land, and that the Government is not accused of squandering the taxpayer’s money by acquiring land at excessive prices. Private valuers have nothing to gain by submitting what was termed during the debate “ridiculously low valuations “.
If the Government used only the valuations submitted by the taxation valuers, or set up an independent government valuation board, it would have the greatest difficulty in substantiating its case in a court action in which the claimant produced valuations by private sworn valuers. The latter .have the advantage of operating in the district, many of them for a considerable number of years. They know the history of local development and have records of sales effected. They are in a most favorable position to assess the market value of any particular block of land in the district, and must carry considerable weight with any court. By using both private and government valuers, the Department of the Interior is in a position to make a fair offer to the claimant and also to support such offers if an appeal against them is made to a court. It is considered that the procedure adopted by the Government in arriving at offers to be made to claimants is the only practical, feasible and fair method that can be followed.
– Chaotic conditions have arisen in country districts owing to the way in which control is exercised at present with regard to motor vehicle tyres. The result is that hardship is experienced by people on the land, and loss of stock has occurred owing to difficulties in marketing. I do not propose to attack the Department of Supply and Shipping or the Rubber Control Division, but I do criticize them because of the drift that has occurred. I recently made representations to the Rubber Control Division regarding many cases. Here is one reply to an urgent request -
I have for acknowledgment your letter dated the 4th February requesting information regarding the supply of tyres for……….
You are advised that this application will conic up for consideration during the month of February, together with all other outstanding applications, and immediately a decision has been reached, the applicant will be advised of the result without any delay.
That letter was dated the 11th February, but why did not the department state that I would be advised regarding the matter? Apparently an attempt is made to avoid giving information to members of this Parliament. I feel sure that when the Deputy Controller of Rubber in Queensland, or the Controller of Rubber himself, personally realize the position that has arisen, they will alter their present method of dealing with requests by honorable members. When I present a case, I want to know the result and I want the department to take my representations into consideration. If not, I shall use my rights in this House to ventilate such grievances. The letter continues -
Should you receive any further inquiries regarding outstanding applications lodged prior to 10th February, it will be quite in order to advise the applicants just what action has been taken to assist them.
The action I shall take is to submit an appeal to the Rubber Control Division and I shall expect to have a reply as to the result. No further letter was received by me, but the letter which I originally forwarded has been returned to me. On the 21st February, the woman concerned received, not a typewritten communication, but a printed circular. We have been told by the Minister acting for the Minister for Supply and Shipping that tyres are being made available, but the Rubber Control Division issued the following printed reply : -
Your application for the release of tyres and/or tubes has been carefully examined but, due to the extreme shortage of supplies brought about by the demands of war, it is regretted that it is not possible to make your requirements available.
Even the signature was printed ! I shall quote only a few of the other letters that I have received. On the 14th February I received the following communication from the Deputy-Controller of Rubber in Queensland : -
I have for acknowledgment your letter dated 7th February, which makes further reference to an application for tyres lodged by . . . This department under the present control of rubber order has only been in operation six months (2nd August, 1043), and it was quite possible that Mr. . . . had lodged an application prior to this date. If this is the case, his application was automatically cancelled when the new control came into operation. It is suggested that the best action for him to take would be for him to have an application form A/B completed and have it forwarded to this department through the correct channels, and on receipt of same every consideration will be given to his request.
Then, and only then, will consideration be given to the request. Although the department, with stenographers and typists at its command, could have written directly to my constituent, the letter was sent back to me at Canberra for me to write to Queensland. Members of this House have the right to make representations to departments in the interests of their constituents, and I do not propose to lose that right because the Rubber Control Division of the Department of Supply and Shipping tries to sidestep it. I asked my constituent to write to the Rubber Control Division, and I have received the following reply from him, dated the 18th February: -
I received your letter of the 7th instant for which I thank you. I have written to the Deputy Controller of Rubber and explained the position to him. They do not seem to understand that my farm consists of two paddocks approximately 8 miles apart, and that I must have my car to travel between the two paddocks. I need some means of carrying tools for fencing and equipment for spraying the cattle. In any case, I am not going to make further application for tyres. I am simply going to cease business. I have now completed four forms and I do not intend to (ill in any more.
In reply to his application he also received a printed circular from the department dated the 25th February telling him that his application had been carefully examined, but that, “ due to the extreme shortage of supplies brought about by the demands of war, it is regretted that it is not possible to make the requirements available “. I received a letter from the department asking me, when making application on behalf of constituents, to quote the registered number of the vehicle concerned. This, it was stated, would enable the department to check particulars more quickly. As a matter of fact, if I knew the registered number of the vehicle I always quoted it, but I cannot understand why my time should be occupied in searching for those particulars. The office of the Rubber Control Division has a staff which could undertake the work. Like other departments it could write for particulars or secure a list of the names of registered car owners. Here is another reply which I received, dated the 17th February, 1944 -
I desire to acknowledge receipt of your letter dated the 10th February, which makes reference to the application for tyres lodged by … , Kingaroy Line.
You are advised that all outstanding applications are at present under consideration, and immediately a decision is arrived at, the applicants concerned will be advised.
The key to the filing system in this department, is the registered number of the vehicle, so it would be appreciated if, when making further representations, you would quote the particular registered number.
In the next case the applicant sent in the number of the petrol licence, and all other relative particulars. The letter of 15th January last reads -
I am writing to ask you if you can help me to get some tyres and tubes released. I made application on the 5th November for three tyres and tubes, 16 by 6.00. Have filled in all necessary forms and had every O.K. by police officer.
For three years I have carted pigs and calves for about twenty farmers in this dis trict, several of them have their own trucks on blocks knowing that I would cart for them. I now have my truck hung up having only one good tyre on it. I have run as long as I could and blew the three out just recently. The only other carrier in this district is hung up on account of sickness, and farmers were unable to get their calves and pigs into the stations last trucking day. Our Government is asking to co-operate with each other re carting. I have done this for years, and now I am unable to get tyres to carry on. I assure you the position is serious. I have tried to encourage farmers to increase their pigs, but what a fool it makes of mc now that we have trouble getting them to the stations.
As secretary of local sub-committee, District War Agricultural Council, I have done all I can to try and get farmers to try and reach our production goal, but surely our Government must see that, by holding back tyres and tubes from essential trucks, they are hindering our food front.
Here is one more letter which I have received and which I. presented to the Rubber Control Division with the same result -
I am writing to you hoping that you will help us to obtain tyres for our truck. We are dairying and rearing pigs. We are 10 miles from town, no railway nearer than Gympie and we depend solely on our truck to take our cream out to the road for the cream carter (which is half a mile run four times a week). We have never used our truck for pleasure of any kind - just only to take the pigs into the sales. We are going in for pigs extensively, we hear that they want more bacon and so we set off to produce more. But we have this big setback. Our tyres are worn out and they say they are too far gone to be retreaded. Wo have about 50 pigs.
In answer to her application, she received from the department a printed rejection. I received another letter from a man who has been seeking to get tyres on behalf of his brother-in-law which I presented to the Rubber Control Division. He writes -
Could you do anything in helping him to get new tyres. As his four tyres are worn to that extent that ho is not able to go on to the. road with his little truck to deliver his pigs and calves to market. Mr. . . . has made an application some nine mouths ago and no results. Mr. . . . will have to sell his property if he cannot get relief for transport his produce to market.
This man’s application was rejected. He received a printed reply. Here is still another letter -
I am writing you to see if you can give us some assistance in obtaining tyre and tube for car. I will state case as clearly as I can. We applied on 2nd December But to-day received word from Deputy Rubber Control that our application had been refused, on account of acute shortage. Our priority is No. 4, and the car is used solely for business purposes, such as delivering our cream to railway, a distance of more than a mile. This is going to be very hard on us without tyres, as we have to take cream to railway before daylight to catch the train about 4 o’clock and be back to milk. The car is our only means of transport, and we are not near any cream run where it could be picked up by cream van. It is going to mean going out of dairying if we cannot get a tyre.
This application was also rejected, the reply being on a printed form. I have another letter which states that the District War Agricultural Committee had made an appeal on behalf of an applicant. The letter states -
Our district is No. 4 Division of Kilkevan Shire, and many farmers in this district are situated 15 to 25 miles from a railway or town and need tyres to transport pigs, calves and produce to market. On many occasions we have investigated and recommended cases which we considered essential, but have so far had very little success.
I hope that the Minister will recognize that it is necessary to release motor tyres to essential users, and no work could be more essential than that done by the persons whose letters I have quoted. I do not propose to allow this matter to be treated lightly. There is no reason why this new department should not treat members submitting applications with the same courtesy as do other departments. Perhaps the Minister can release tyres and tubes from some of the motor vehicles that have been stored unused ever since the first threat of invasion. Essential users among primary producers should enjoy No. 1 priority. I urge that those working on the food front should be supplied with tyres from defence stocks.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
National Security Act - National Security (General) Regulations - Order - Navigation (Control of public traffic) (No. 2).
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1944, Nos. 43, 44, 45.
House adjourned at 11.40 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated : -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the difficulty experienced by primary producers in obtaining essential farm machinery, equipment, and petrol, to carry on production, will he (a) have investigated and report to the House on the alleged waste of petrol and tyres through the non-essential use of service vehicles; and (&) order a stocktaking of tractors and other farm machinery impressed by the Allied Works Council and, at present, not economically employed, and of barbed wire, piping and other materials, now unobtainable by farmers, which have been stored for a considerable time at service establishments?
– Inquiries are being made arid a reply iwiill be furnished to the honorable member as early as practicable.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aircraft Production, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable memiber’s questions are as follows : - 1. (a) £1,764,880 and (b) £6,342,947. Figures as at the 31st December, 1943. 2. (a) £7,033. (b) It is not desirable for security reasons to announce the number of engines produced.
n asked the Minister fox
Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1, 2 . and 3. The question of phosphate rock supplied for Australia is continuously under review and pressure in every direction is maintained to obtain a satisfactory volume of supply. The possibility of the exploitation of Nauru deposits has received due consideration and the honorable member may rest assured thatall possible steps will be taken no soon as practicable to bring; Nauru back into’ production for the Australian market.
n. - On the 24th February, the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) asked me a question, without notice, regarding the availability of supplies of piping for water reticulation in the municipality of Preston.
I have had extensive inquiries made regarding this matter and the position is as follows: - All work of this nature is undertaken by the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works. Municipalities make application direct to the board, which decides on the order of priority. The improved water service for Preston has been programmed for some time and will require 140 tons of 3/16-inch steel plate. The board has allotted first priority to the installation of a new main from Mitcham to Waverley, for which considerable quantities of steel plate will be required. Owing to the heavy demands for steel plate for small craft construction, and other projects under absolute priority for operational requirements, it is unlikely that this material can be made available for some time. Cast iron piping can bo made available for Board of Works projects generally, but we understand that the board does not desire to incur the additional expenditure involved. Advice has. been received from the board to the effect that the pipes in Preston area have recently been cleaned and the pressure improved.
It would appear that the question of priority is one which the Preston municipality will have to take up direct with the Board of Works. My department is making every effort to make suppliesavailable for all essential civilian requirements, but the demands for operational services must receive first consideration.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice - 1. (a) In view of the disparity as between States in the matter of loans granted by the Mortgage Bank Department of the Commonwealth Bank shown by figures supplied to the effect that, approximately, only 13 per cent, of applicants from Victoria received nans while in New South Wales approximately 47 per cent, of applicants received loans, will he investigate this position with a view to ascertaining whether the valuations in Victoria are being determined on a too conservative basis? (o) If there is any other explanation, will he supply it?
– This information is being obtained and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
y. - On the 7th March the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) asked the following questions, upon notice : -
The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Australian Army : Releases.
e. - On the 7th March the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) asked a question regarding the desired release from military service of Gunner E. J. Flanagan, to assist his father at the Granville and WentworthvilleIce Works. I have ascertained that the matter has been referred to the man-power authorities for consideration and as soon as possible the decision will be conveyed to the honorable member.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 March 1944, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1944/19440308_reps_17_177/>.