17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and’ read prayers.
rebuildingofdarwin:petition- administratorirrigationofkatherineriverbasingoldminingat tennantcreek.
Mr.BL A IN. -I present a petition from certain citizens of Darwin and electors of the Northern Territory, praying that the plan known us the MclnneaMillerSymonds Plan for the now layout for the town of Darwin be adopted and undertaken forthwith.
Petition received and read.
Mr. BLAIN. - In view of the report in yesterday’s press thatan outstanding irrigation engineer fromWestern Australia has been appointed by Cabinet as Administrator of the Northern Territory, will the Minister for the Interior make use of the high technical qualifications of the now Administrator by instructing him to have a complete engineering survey made, under his supervision, of the Katherine Riverbasin,with a view to having an irrigation weir constructed there for the purpose of growing cotton, tobacco, ramie fibre, and soya beans?
Mr. JOHNSON.- The engineering qualifications of the new Administrator were one of the factors that influenced me in recommending his appointment to Cabinet. Whilst I am not now prepared to issue instructions regarding the matter referred to by the honorable member, I shall confer with him, in conjunction with the now Administrator, with a view to having an investigation of the proposal.
Mr. BLAIN. - During the war, most of the mining machinery at Tennant Creek was impressed, and the miners were ordered to leave the district and engage in other industries. However, the Eldorado Mine was not affected by that order, and operated throughout the war. Will the Minister for the Interior inform me whether a decisionhas been reached to erect one battery at Tennant Creek, or three batteries in the surrounding districts ? The miners favour the erection of three batteries, because they would obviate the necessity for long distance carting. Now that the value of this gold-field has been so well proved, does the Minister propose to provide a water supply for Tennant Creek?
Mr. JOHNSON.- After some research, the Department of the Interior was successful in securing the services of a highly qualified manager to take charge of the local battery at Tennant Creek. The manager has arrived at the town, and is now engaged in overhauling the battery.
Mr. Blair. - Will one battery or three batteries be erected?
Mr. JOHNSON. - When I was at Tennant Creek, two proposals wore submitted for my consideration. The first was that a central battery should be erected for the purpose of supplying power not only to the mines but also to the town, and, if necessary, for a water supply if that wore provided. The second proposal was that at least three batteries should be maintained in districts surrounding Tennant Creek. However, no definite decision will be made until interested parties at the town have been given an opportunity to state whether they favour a central battery or several batteries.
Mr. Blain. - The Minister is prepared to consult the people of Tennant Creek on that matter, but he will not consult the people of Darwin about a subject which vitally concerns them.
Mr. JOHNSON. - The honorable member asked a question relating to conditions at Tennant Creek, and I am answeringit. Regarding leases, the Department of the Interior during the war took the necessary precautions to preserve the rights of persons who had enlisted at Tennant Creek in order that someone else might not “ jump “ their leases during their absence. These leases will not be freed until the Department is certain that the owners have been demobilized and are able to submit their claim on an equality with any other interested parties.
Shift- Work Dispute
– Has the attention of the Minister for Labour and National Service been drawn to a manifesto issued by unions affected by the Bunnerong power-house dispute, declaring that should a stoppage occur the fault will not be that of the unions? Does the honorable gentleman concur in this view? Did Judge O’Mara, in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, refuse to hear the dispute because he had not received satisfactory assurances that the decision of the court would be obeyed ? As the Government is pledged to the maintenance of industrial law and order, what steps does it propose to take to ensure that decisions of the court will be obeyed, and that the ruleof law will be enforced?
– I have not seen any manifesto, but I have received telegraphic advice of the likelihood of another stoppage at the Bunnerong power-house.
– It is reported in the press this morning.
– On the 16th March, the Arbitration Court, met to considera reference as to whether Judge O’Mara would inquire as to the need for maintenance men, whoare day workers, to work on a seven-day, three-shift system. After discussion, the judge adjourned the case without going into the matter, hoping that a satisfactory arrangement would be made as the result of a conference. He asked the unions for an assurance that, in the event of his holding an inquiry, they would accept his decision. Conferences have been proceeding with the management of the Bunnerong power-house. According to the latest information, which I received yesterday these negotiations have broken down. In consequence of that failure, the representatives of the employees at the power-house held a meeting, and subsequently offered to the management what they described as a compromise, which met both of the requests that had been made by the judge. The general manager, Mr. Nolan, however, says that he does not want to make any compromise.
– But that compromise is contrary to the rule of law established by the judge.
– I should like the honorable gentleman to allow me to conclude what I have to say. J udge O’Mara, at the first inquiry which he adjourned, asked for two assurances - first, that the men would continue to work while he was conducting the inquiry; and secondly that if he heard the case, they would accept his decision. After the conference had failed, the men agreed to work for eleven weeks under the new shift system, of which they have not yet had any experience, so that the judge might make the investigation. They also promised to accept the judge’s decision. In view of that information, I have asked Judge O’Mara, who has always been helpful when I have sought advice from him, although he is under no obligation to comply with my requests, to continue the inquiry into the matter which I referred to him on the 16th March. I requested the judge to call the parties together again and make the investigation, so that work could be continued under the new shift system.
Enlistments and Casualties
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Defence furnish me with particulars of the total personnel taken into the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, and the Women’s Services, and also the total number of Australian casualties, during the recent war?
– The information will be supplied to the honorable member as soon as possible.
Deductions from Estates of Deceased.
– In respect of the death of prisoners of war, the practice of the Government has been to make deductions from allotments from the dates of decease, even though notification of death took place much later. I have been in communication with the Minister for Defence with regard to the matter, and many protests have been received from the relatives of these men. Will the Prime Minister collaborate with the Minister for Defence and other Service Ministers, in order to find out whether the harsh practice of making deductions from the estates of deceased members of the forces is being continued?
– I shall confer again with the Ministers concerned.
– Can the Attorney-General say whether his department has set up in each State of the Commonwealth, except Queensland, a branch of the Legal Service Bureau for the purpose of representing service men and women who are appellants before the Repatriation Entitlement and Assessment Appeal Tribunals? If so, will he take immediate steps to ensure that branches shall be established in Brisbane and elsewhere in Queensland so that service men and women there may receive the same assistance as is given in other States?
– The Legal Service Bureau was established by the Commonwealth in 1942 on my recommendation. It has branches in every State, including Queensland, and recently we established a branchin Northern Queensland. A great many service men and women make use of the facilities afforded by the bureau, and now there is statutory warrant for it in the Re-establishment and Employment Act. The question arose whether officers of the bureaushould assist appellants to conduct their eases before repatriation tribunals, and the issue had to be settled differently in different States. The practice has grown up in New South Wales of giving assistance in certain test cases. Thus, the case for the serviceman would be put by the bureau, although the case against the soldier would necessarily be put by the Repatriation Department. Honorable members will see that such a situation might sometimes be embarrassing, because one opinion on the case would be advanced by one government department, while an opposing opinion would be advanced by another department. An arrangement was made with the returned servicemen’s organization, that in some States the bureau would give advice on repatriation matters, and even conduct appeals in certain circumstances. I shall look into the matter in order to set; whether the honorable member’s objective can be attained, namely, that the bureau should assist service men and women in regard to repatriation matters, as well as in regard to the many other matters dealt with every clay by the bureau. In New South Wales alone, free legal service has already been given to 20,000 persons.
Manufacture of Dog Biscuits
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say whether it is a fact, as reported in the Daily Telegraph of the 30th March, that Mr. Vic. Peters, secretary of the Greyhound Breeders, Owners and Trainers Association, stated that, with others from the association, he made representations to the Minister, af ter which the Minister reversed the decision of the Australian Wheat Board that wheat should not be made available for the manufacture of dog biscuits, which decision was announced by the State superintendent of the board in circular M/46, dated the 11th February, 1946, which was issued to millers and others concerned? If this is a fact, will the Minister say why he overruled the board, the technical advisers of the Departments of Agriculture in the States and of the Commonwealth, as well as the Wheat Allocation Committee? Does the Minister make it a practice to override the decisions of what he has often stated to be “ producercontrolled boards “ ? Why did the Minister sell the farmers’ wheat, at a price of 4s.11d. a bushel, to the manufacturers of dog biscuits for the feeding ofracing greyhounds, when the exportprice was8s.8¾d. a bushel?
– The honorable member’s question is merely a repetition of the irresponsible statements made by him recently on a motion for the adjournment of the House. I shall reply in full in my own time, which will be as soon as possible.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs been drawn to a report in this week’s Smith’s Weekly that certain local publishers have obtained syndication rights, and have told booksellers and agents that they will be marketing, American sex and crime magazines of a type similar to those banned by Mr. La Guardia when Mayor of New York? If so, will the Minister inform the House whether the restrictions upon the importation of publications of this character, which were said to have been imposed during the war,’ have been lifted? Will he also take immediate steps to have the report investigated with a view to preventing the printing and circulation of degrading magazines and pictures which are likely to encourage crime and gangster methods in Australia ?
– I have not seen the report referred to by the honorable member. The restrictions on the importation of periodicals of the character described by the honorable member have not yet been lifted, and, so far as I know, there is no intention to lift them.
– Will the Minister have the allegations examined by his officers?
– Yes ; and should any action by me be found necessary that action will be taken.
Accommodation at Bradfield Park.
– Can the Minister for Air say how soon the unoccupied area at Brad field Park can be handed over for temporary occupation by some of the homeless people of Sydney? Can he say whether the delay in handing over this section of the. Air Force camp is due to the opposition of the residents of the salubrious adjacent suburb of Lindfield?
– The question of the use of the camp area at Bradifield Park has had consideration. It has been suggested that some of the Royal Australian Air Force personnel at present occupying houses at Point Piper and other places should be accommodated at Bradfield Park. There are several difficulties associated with such a transfer, the chief of which is that at the present head-quarters, and also at other places occupied by the Royal Australian. Air Force, there are telephone switchboards which would have to be shifted to Bradfield Park.The transfer would involve the laying of a cable under the Harbour in order to maintain communications. The buildings at Bradfield Park are not suitable for the work still to be done, and, moreover, transport would have to be provided both ways, involving a loss of two hours a day for each individual concerned.
– Some time ago I wrote to the Minister for Labour and National Service, pointing out that wagepegging regulations were being broken, and that those firms which were observing them were at a disadvantage. I also brought to his notice an advertisement which appeared in the Melbourne Age in which positions were offered at 100 per cent. above award rates. About three months ago the Minister replied that the matter would be brought before Cabinet. Can he now say whether Cabinet has considered it, and, if so, will he make a statement on the subject?
– I remember the letter to which the honorable member litis referred., and I saw the advertisement which hehas mentioned. Certain inquiries have been made, but I do not know of any particular incident of wages above the award rates having been offered. The advertisement certainly was tricky, and would lead intend ing applicants to believe that they would be employed at rates above those prescribed in awards. In some instances it appeared that wages of£7 or £8 a week above the minimum wage were being offered, but when the matter was investigated the people responsible for the advertisement said that that was not so - that the particular classes of workers for whom they were advertising - tailoresses, for example - were entitled under the award to the wages offered. In answer to the question whether action has been taken to prevent the wagepegging regulations from being defeated, a test case is now in progress in the High Court and we are waiting to see the result of it.
– Has the Prime Minister observed that, since the notable broadcast to the world last week by the Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward) on the Bretton Woods Agreement, Great Britain is taking steps to bring before the bank, on the 1st May, a proposal to amend the terms of the fund to permitany member nation so to deal with its currency as to enable it to rectify any adverse trade balance which might result in unemployment, and thus overcome doubts which prevented countries such as Australia from joiningin the agreement? Is the Prime Minister also aware that Mr. Henry Margenthau one of the original sponsors of the fund, has stated that the appointment of a wellknown Wall-street representative as head of the bank will defeat the intentions of the sponsors?Will the right honorable gentleman call for a report from Australia’s observer, Professor Melville, regarding these fresh developments?
– Professor Melville is about to leave on his return journey, if he has not already left. On his return to Australia he will present a full report to the Government on the various aspects of the Bretton Woods Agreement, including developments which occurred at the conference held recently. If he does not report on the matters mentioned by the honorable member, I shall ask for his comments on them.
– I ask the Minister for Information a question based on a cable message published in last night’s issue of the Melbourne Herald regarding the “ Meet Australia “ Exhibition, which opened in London on Tuesday. According to a list of attractions at the exhibition, Queensland is famous- for oranges, sugar, surf, pineapples, bananas and ferns in that order; Victoria is famous for penguins, sheep, fruit, gum trees, coal, koalas, wombats, commerce, Cyprus, dairying, gold, parrots and winter sports in that order, whilst sharks and cicadas are listed for South Australia. Buffalo fly, ticks and other such pests have not yet been located apparently. In view of the report that this exhibition was planned by the British Central Office of Administration in collaboration with the Australian News Bureau, and that the Queensland Agent-General, Mr. Pike, has protested to Australia House asking that the libel of Queensland’s wealth and productive capacity, to say nothing of the other -States, be corrected, will the Minister investigate Mr. Pike’s protest and institute immediate inquiries as to how the Australian News Bureau allowed such misleading information to be made public, especially in view of the damaging effects to Australia’s prestige and migration prospects?
– I do not accept the terms used by the honorable member as the basis for his question, but T shall have an investigation made of the report that an exhibition, which was opened in England for the purpose of interesting British people in Australia, was used in the way suggested. All exhibitions of this sort, and this is only one of a series,, have been very well received by the peoples of the countries in which they have been held. France and Belgium, as well as Great Britain, have been honoured by such exhibitions. I cannot understand the story about which the honorable gentleman has waxed so eloquent.
– I remind the Minister that Mr. Pike is Agent-General for Queensland.
– I am not very much worried about Agents-General. Having little to do, they very often create trouble for the Commonwealth just as do many State politicians. When considering the list of peculiarities to be shown in the future, I may perhaps see that some representatives of the Country party are included.
Country Charges - New Installations
– I have received a letter from the Young and District Chamber of Commerce protesting against the reported intention of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department to increase telephone rents and call charges in country towns. Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General give to the House an assurance that the story of these proposed increases of telephone rents and call charges is without foundation?
– I have discussed this matter with the Postmaster-General who does not know where the story origin a.ted, and has assured me that there is not. the slightest justification for it.
– In view of the fact that many thousands of people in all parts of the Commonwealth have appliedfor telephones, and similar applications are being made daily, can the Minister representing the Postmaster-General give any intimation as to when the services can be installed ?
– I shall bring the honorable member’s question to the notice of the Postmaster-General. However, I do not know whether he can add very much to what he has already said concerning the shortage of materials and equipment and other factors which are impeding the installation of new telephone”. He has this matter constantly under review, and the honorable gentleman ca.n rest assured that the Postal Department is doing its utmost to meet, all requirements of the general population in this matter. One factor which must, be borne in mind is that the du hlic is becoming more telephone-minded. Over 60,000 applications for the installation of telephones are now awaiting attention, and I am sure that four or five years ago the majority of those applicants would not have desired telephones.
Comments by Mr. Maloney.
– Has the Attorney-General seen the report in yesterday’s Sydney Sun of an attack made by the Moscow New Times on Mr. Maloney, the former Australian Minister to Russia ? Is the right honorable gentleman’s difficulty in selecting a successor to Mr. Maloney due to the fact that the new appointee must be one who is blind, deaf and dumb, especially dumb ?
– In view of the facetious nature of the second part of the honorable member’s question, all I need say is that the former Australian Minister to Russia has apparently made a speech to which exception has been taken. I. understand that his utterances were strictly “ off the record “, but that they duly appeared in the newspapers of the following day. Having exercised his right of criticism, I am sure that Mr. Maloney would be the last to complain ofan answer given to his remarks.
– I have received anurgent telegram from a returned soldiers’ association in Brisbane requesting that returned soldier employees of the Commonwealth Public Service and other employees in Brisbane whose services may be spared, be granted leaveto attend a public welcome to Lord Louis Mountbatten to be held in Brisbane on Tuesday, the 9th April. Is it possible for the Prime Minister to grant the request?
– I shall have the matter examined. It is notusual to grant such leave to public servants except on Anzac Day and other special occas ions.
– At Newmarket saleyards on Tuesday last an additional 7,098 lambs and 11,705 fat sheep were offered by comparison with the offerings on the previous Tuesday, fat lambs making the record price for the year of 54s.10d., and wethers selling to 45s.
Many sheep men are now anxious to market as soon as restrictions are removed. As the added supply that would be available on the removal of the restrictions would relieve the Melbourne meat shortage, and most likely ease values atthe market, does not the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture consider that the time to lift the acquisition or der has arrived?
– I can only tell the honorable member what I told the Premier of Victoria by telephone this morning. I have been assured that next Tuesday morning there will be a normal yarding of stock at Newmarket. I have given instructions that if there should be a normalyarding acquisition is to be lifted.
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture indicate whether as the result of the recent conference in Sydney the Government is prepared to meet the. demand of the tobaccogrowers for an average price of 3s. per lb. for tobacco?
– I regret that that conference did not end so satisfactorily as I should have liked. It is not merely a matter of my saying that I should like the tobacco-growers to be paid an average of 3s. per lb. for their product. That is a matter for the Prices Commissioner to determine. However, the matter is being reviewed, and I am hopeful that an arrangement satisfactory to both the growers and the buyers will be reached. We consider that with the introduction of local appraisements, the first of which will take place at Mareeba, conditions will be. more satisfactory to the growers. Perhaps thereby we shall be able to overcome the difficulty that has presented itself. I am doing everything I can to solve the problem.
– Can the Minister for the Army say when the military authorities are likely to take steps to permit rifle clubs to reorganize and recommence shooting, particularly in the country areas ?
– As the result of deputations that waited upon me and representations from the honorable member and a number of other honorable members representing different parts of Australia, the matter of rifle clubs has been considered by the Cabinet, and the principle of their re-establishmenthas been agreed to. The subject will bedealt with in a further Cabinet agendum that I hope to submit to Cabinet at an early date.Outstanding matters include the details of thenew organization and an estimate of the annual expenditure involved. The Government fully appreciates the patriotic spirit that has moved many thousands of men throughout Australia to join rifle clubs in the past. I assure the honorable gentleman that I have every sympathy with the representations that he has made.
– In the Canberra Times to-day, under the heading “Food Gift for Britain ”, thereis published a statement that certain butter, formerly intended for American troops, is now available for Great Britain. Last week I asked whether Australia had made a gift of food to Great Britain, and the answer was that -it never had. So. I now ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether this report represents a change of the Government’s policy? Is this butter to be sent to Great Britain as a gift or is it to be sold as usual?
– I have not seen the statement, but I shall examine it and reply to the honorable gentleman later.
– Will theMinister for Commerce and Agriculture arrange for a thorough test in respect of the cultivation of the soya bean in the Northern Territory along the lines of tests now being conducted in each of the States ?
– I am only too anxious to assist in the establishment of the soya bean in any part of the Commonwealth, including the Northern Territory; and I shall comply with the honorable member’s request.
– I ask the Prime-
Minister whether it is correct that a shipping company recently approached the OverseasShipping Representatives Association for admission to the shipping conference and that its application was refused? If so, will the Prime Minister state the name of the company and whether it is Australian-controlled? In view of the Government’s close liaison with the overseas shipping combine will he take steps to see that the company to which I refer is admitted immediately to the shipping conference.
– The matter raised by the honorable member was included in a general question with respect to shipping which he asked last week, and on the information available a fairly lengthy reply was given to his question. I have no knowledge of the specific matter he now raises.
– The right honorable gentleman said that this company’s application for admission to the shipping conference was refused.
– No representations on the matter had been made to me, but they had been made to the Minister for Supply and Shipping, and I gave particulars of them to the honorable member. I shall examine the matter further, and supply the information sought.
– About three weeks ago I addressed to the Minister for Repatriation question No. 6 on the notice-paper which reads as follows : -
As the Department of Post-war Reconstructionhas apparently been assigned the duty of dealing; with demobilization and training problems of ex-servicemen, has the Repatriation Commission any present responsibility beyond the payment of pensions and the treatment of sick and wounded ex-servicemen ?
Is the Minister yet able to answer that, question ?
– The honorable member’s question, and several others dealing with the same subject, have involved a good deal of research, but a reply will be furnished within the next few days.
– Having seen, in shop windows in Sydney, many tins of Australian beef and mutton for sale to the Australian public, I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether any of these foods are available for export to Great Britain, and whether Great Britain has refused to accept Australian tinned meats?
– During the war, quantities of tinned meats were released for sale to the Australian public.
– I had in mind surplus A rmy stores.
– A substantial quantity of surplus Army stores was offered to the British Ministry of Food, but the United Kingdom desired only certain packs. The result was that a substantial quantity of tinned meats was left on the hands of the Commonwealth Government, and was handed to the Comm onwealth Disposals Commission. The Government also offered a quantity of these packs to Unrra, which refused them. That they were packs of a better class, and the fact that they were slightly dearer than the usual variety, may have been one of the obstacles to Unrra purchasing them. The Government reexamined the whole position, and the Commonwealth Disposals Commission has offered the canned meat to the United Kingdom. Large quantities of tinned meat, which originally had been refused, have now found their way through various channels to Unrra or Great Britain.
– Can the Minister for the Army explain to me why heissuedan order that no enemy prisoner of war workingon a farm could be housed ina tent, although thousands of Australians live in tents when they are engaged in their normal occupations, and most armies also use tents to shelter the troops?
– I do not remember any such instruction being issued by me as Minister for the Army, but I shall have inquiries made and furnish an answer.
Debate resumed from the 3rd April (vide page 932), on motion by Dr.
That the bill be now read a second time.
Mr.BARNARD (Bass) [11.16].- The measures now under discussion are most important, because they aim to rectify certain anomalies that have become apparent in the Australian Constitution. Those anomalies have been brought into bold relief in recent years by certain decisions of the High Court, and by the fact that, during the war years, the marketing of primary products has been controlled by the Commonwealth Government under its defence powers. Following upon the refusal of the people of this country to confer upon the Commonwealth Parliament certain powers which were the subject of a referendum in 1944, and had been agreed upon by the State Premiers, but rejected by some State legislatures, the Government has decided on this occasion to submit throe simple questions to the electors. Nodoubt those who oppose the Government’s proposals will endeavour once again to cloud the real issues in legal verbiage. Proposed alterations of the Constitution are not easy matters to place before the people in plain terms. In view of the failure of the people to agree to certain comprehensive constitution alterations submitted to them in one question at the last referendum, the Government has decided now to submit each proposed amendment separately. This is a wise course, because it will enable the issues to be placed before the people in the simplest terms.
I listened with interest, as I usually do, to the speech by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) on this subject. The right honorable gentleman made several points, the first of which related to the date of the proposed referendum. My answer to his argument on that issue is that the date of the referendum is governed largely by the importance of the questions that arc to be put to the people. For instance, it is essential that whatever doubt may exist as to the validity of the Government’s social service legislation be cleared up as soon as possible. Secondly, an early referendum is desirable because of the abolition of war-time controls over marketing. Thirdly, there is the important aspect of expense. To hold a referendum separately from a general election would be to involve the country in an expenditure of from £100,000 to £120,000. That is an important factor which has to be considered when deciding the date on which the questions should be submitted to the people. Everybody knows that there is greater dislocation of business when a general election is held on one date and a referendum requiring the use of all the electoral machinery on another date. Additional expense is caused to those who are interested in placing their views before the people, and the whole community is disturbed by the necessity to exercise the franchise on two dates. These considerations refute the argument of the Leader of the Opposition that it is unwise to hold a referendum on the same date as a general election. A Constitution convention, he suggested, might provide means for dealing with such matters as organized marketing and employment. But such gatherings have not, in our experience, achieved unanimity of opinion, or enabled all political parties to approach the submission of the questions to the people on a non-party basis. The nearest approach to the accomplishment of that objective was made when the Premiers agreed to the submission of certain questions to the people; but even then the matter ultimately became a first-class party issue. Therefore, all things considered, the best course is to hold the referendum on the date fixed for the holding of the general elections.
The first of the measures that we have before us deals with social services. The objective is to place beyond doubt the legality of conferring certain social benefits on Australian citizens. Legal doubts exist as to the validity of legislation passed by this Parliament in that connexion. The Attorney-General has placed before the House, for the benefit of honorable members, the legal opinions that have been obtained. If honorable members study those opinions, they will learn that the legislation is of doubtful validity in some instances, and that not one of the eminent King’s Counsel whose opinions were sought is certain of the validity of any of it. It has been my privilege to examine social services in considerable detail. From the commencement of its investigations, the Social Security Committee experienced great difficulty in deciding the terms upon which it should make recommendations to the Parliament. On several occasions it endeavoured to have the matter clarified byobtaining legal opinion. In respect of hospital benefits, the position appeared to be clear. I quote from the seventh interim report of the committee -
The report of the Social Security Medical Survey Committee in this regard states -
The Government of the Commonwealth has no power to intervene in respect of hospital care within the States of Australia, except insofar as its activities are covered by the term”insurance” (Commonwealth Constitution Act 1901 (s. 51, xiv.) or with the consent of the States concerned (loc. cit. s. 51. xxxvii.). No benefit may be distributed to the undue or un equal advantage of a State as against other States (loc.cit. S99), et al.) “
The committee was concerned as to an extension of the provision of social services in respect of which it might make recommendations. The validity of the legislation subsequently passed, which purported to enable the Commonwealth to confer certain social benefits on the people, was successfully challenged in the High Court. In this connexion, I may mention unemployment and sickness benefits, widows pensions, and allowances to the wives of invalid pensioners. Doubt has been cast on the validity of all the legislation by the decision that was given in the Pharmaceutical Benefits case. Speaking on the Child Endowment Bill in this House on the 1st April. 1941, the late Mr. Blackburn said -
I think that the Common wealth Parliament definitely has nomore constitutional authority to pass a measure providing for child endowment or family allowances than it had constitutional authority to provide for maternity allowances.
That language is clear and unequivocal. That measure, of course, was passed in the war period and under the defence power of the Common wealth. Its validity was not challenged in the courts. The position to-day is entirely different. The social measures to which the Commonwealth has given legislative effect have been increased. Some of these have been successfully challenged in the High Court, and others may be. For that reason, the only course open to the Commonwealth, unless it were to make grants to the States for the purpose - whichI believe would be undesirable - is to seek the power to legislate, as is proposed by the bill that I am now considering. That method was suggested yesterday by the Leader of the Opposition, who said that the Commonwealth had the power to negotiate with the States to give effect to the desire of this Parliament in relation to social services. Hospital benefits could not be granted because the matter came under the health power of the Common wealth, the scope of which is not very wide, and the co-operation of the States had to be obtained. A long time elapsed before a degree of unanimity among the States could be reached. The act has now been in operation in five of the States since the 1st January. Five States only are now operating the measure, despite the fact that negotiations have proceeded over a period of from two to threeyears. It is not now fully operative in New South Wales, so it is utterly futile to rely upon agreement between the six States and the Commonwealth to give effect to improvements in the social and living conditions of the people. I have no desire to misrepresent the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) or to take any matter from its context. I have had a glance at Hansard, in which our sins of omission and commission are recorded, and I propose to read an extract from a speech which he made on the 23rd February, 1944. Speaking of proposed constitutional alterations, he traversed a great deal of ground. At page 457 the report is as follows -
The last power to whichI. desire to refer is the appropriation power. Section81sets up a consolidated fund for the Commonwealth out of which there maybe appropriated moneys “ for the purposesof the Commonwealth “. As the Attorney-General knows, therehas been a discussion for a. very long time as to whether the Commonwealth can appropriate money for purposes which are not otherwise within its legislative powers. The argument, by practice, has resolved in favour of the Commonwealth, because the Commonwealth has in the past appropriated moneys for matters not otherwise within the legislative power. For example, it is difficult to discover where the Commonwealth derives authority for the Maternity Allowances Act. unless it be under the appropriation power.
-I know that! Of course, it has never been challenged! What I am asking is : Where is the power to legislate for maternity allowances unless it is in the appropriation power, because it is not in any one of the other provisions of the Constitution ?
That section of the right honorable gentleman’s speech clearly indicates that in his considered view the Commonwealth Government has no power to legislate in respect ofmaternity allowances, as there is no provision in the Constitution under which legislation making provision for such an allowance can be enacted unless it be under the power of appropriation of moneys. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) made the point that the Maternity Allowance Act had never been challenged, but that does not dispose of the fact that, if it were challenged, the view expressed by constitutional lawyers is that the challenge would be successful.
It seems quite clear from the decision of the High Court regarding the validity of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act that the power of this Parliament to legislate regarding other social services is open to challenge. I have quoted the view of the late honorable member for Bourke, Mr. Blackburn, the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Warringah, supported by eminentauthorities from whom the Government has sought advice onthis matter, that the validity of the present social services legislation is doubtful. Although it has not yet been challenged, there is no guarantee that it will not be questioned in future. Child endowment could be challenged, and it is declared by these eminent authorities that, if it were, it would be held by the High Court to be invalid. We should endeavour to give effect to social legislation which conforms with the decisions of the International Labour Organization.I attended the conference which was held at Philadelphia in 1 944. The opinion isheld in some quarters that Australia is leading the way in the provision of social services. It may be in some directions, but in recent years it has lagged behind other countries, particularly in the matter of medical care. Among the recommendations of the International Labour Organization reached in 1944 were the following: -
Extension of social security measures to provide a basic income to all in need of such protection and comprehensive medical care;
Adequate protection for the life and health of workers in all occupations.
Provision for child welfare and maternity protection;
The provision of adequate nutrition, housing and facilities for recreation and culture;
The assurance of equality of educational and vocational opportunity.
Australia subscribed to that convention, and unless this Parliament has the power sought in the bill now before us, there will be no hope of giving effect to such legislation other than through the power of appropriation, or by the cumbersome method of obtaining agreement between the States. Australia should not lag behind such countries as the Latin- American states. CostaRica has made complete provision for the medical care of its people, and other Latin-American countries are leading the way in social ser vices of this kind. All of our people should be able to get the best medical care based on their needs rather than on the length of their purse. I support wholeheartedly this bill to empower the Commonwealth to make laws for the provision of maternity allowances, widows’ pensions, child endowment, unemployment sickness and hospital benefits, . medical and dental services, benefits to students and family allowances.
We are also considering a bill to alter the Constitution by empowering the Parliament to make laws providing for the organized marketing of primary products, unrestricted by section 92 of the Constitution. I listened to the Leader of the Opposition on this matter, and he left me in a maze. He very successfully clouded the issue, but the matter before us is a si mple one. It is necessary to continue in the days of peace what we have been able to do during war-time with regard to the orderly marketing of primary products. Whatever differences there may be between the proposals now to be sub mitted and those submitted in 1936 merely indicate that we have profited by the mistakes of the past. The Government is seeking to establish a system of orderly marketing for primary products. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) spoke of the varying costs of production of wheat and potatoes in different parts of Australia. It is true that it costs more to produce wheat or potatoes in some places than in others. We have always been faced with the problem created by those persons who try to grow wheat or potatoes on unsuitable land, who go “ broke “ in the process, and then appeal to the Government for assistance. I do not want ever to return to the days when Tasmanian potatoes were soldfor 30s. a ton. Such a situation is uneconomic, and harmful to the community. It is better that we should stabilize prices for primary produce, and although the present proposal does not provide for a stable price, the fact that it provides for the introduction of orderly marketing will tend to stabilize prices over the years. If the issue is presented clearly to the people I believe that they will, in their own interests, realize the importance of orderly marketing, and grant the power sought.
It is further proposed to alter the Constitution by empowering the Commonwealth Parliament to make laws in respect of' the conditions in industry. The people will be given the opportunity to accept or reject this proposal, just as they will be able to accept or reject any one of the three proposals that have been placed before them. They' will have perfect freedom of choice, as they should have in a democracy. It has been made clear that the new power, if granted, cannot be used in order to impose industrial conscription. Therefore, the issue cannot be clouded as it was during the last referendum campaign. The people have had experience of military conscription and man-power controls, and they did not wish to take the risk of being pushed around in peace-time. Now it has been made clear beyond all doubt that no form of industrial conscription can be introduced under thepower which is sought. It is proposed to hold the referendum on the day of the general elections, and this will enable the people to consider the referendum issues apart from the question as to -whether or not they wish to change the Government. I know that it may be said that a vote, for the referendum proposals will' be a vote for the Government, hut that will not necessarily be so. In 1914, the Fisher Government submitted to the people proposals for alterations of the Constitution, and those proposals were rejected, although the . Government was re-elected.- It may happen that, in this instance, the Government will be defeated, while .the powers sought, for the Commonwealth will be granted.
– God forbid !
– I do not believe that the Government will be defeated. I believe that it will be returned, and that the people will also endorse the proposals of the Government for the alteration of the Constitution.
Mr. HOLT (Fawkner) j 1.1.4.S].- Every bill that comes before this House containing proposals for the alteration of ‘he Constitution should command our thoughtful attention. We should ask ourselves whether this is a genuine attempt to alter for the benefit of the people as a whole, a. Constitution framed at the beginning of this century. Applying that test to the present proposals, we must ask ourselves whether this represents a genuine attempt at constitutional reform. Are the proposals presented seriously by the Government? Are they taken seriously by Government supporters in their own party discussions? It is clear to us who remember previous1 referendum debates in this House that wi! cannot put the present proposal? in that category. Tt is clear from the apathy and indifference of honorable members opposite that they do not take seriously the bills now before us. I concur with the Leader of the Opposition (‘Mr. Menzies) that this is really an election stunt. It is a “smart. Alec “ election mauoeuvre, an attempt by the Government with ffive years of office, including three years of war administration, to lay a smoke screen around the issues of the coming election. It is an attempt to hide the ineptitude and extravagance of the Government, and the barrenness of its .plans for the reestablishment of ex-servicemen and the restoration, of peace-time production.
A glance back at recent constitutional developments will show what an utterly bogus performance the Government is putting up in regard to these proposals. We remember the referendum proposals of 1944, and their reception by thepeople. -At that time they were not confused with a general election, and the Government spared no effort or expense to place .the issues fully before the people. Listening to the specious argument of the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) that, by taking the referendum concurrently with an. election, certain expenditure would be avoided, I thought of the referendum of 1944. The Govern^ ment did not then bother much about’ the expenditure involved. On the contrary,, it embarked on an extensive propaganda campaign at the public expense. Honorable members will recall the snide attempt of the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) to introduce furtively into his Estimates £50,000 of the Government’s expenditure in connexion with referendum ^propaganda under the’ dubious heading “Post-war Education”. On that occasion a clear issue was put to the people on matters which the Government professed to believe were vital for postwar reconstruction in this country. The proposals then submitted to the people were decisi vely rejected ; 1,963,000 votes were cast in favour of the proposals whilst the electors opposed to the proposals totalled 2,305,000. There were substantial majorities against the proposals in four of the States, and in the two States which did accept the proposals the “ Yes “ majority was small. That referendum was taken apart from any election campaign, so there was no clouding of the issue. Does the Government really want these constitutional alterations? It cannot be oblivious to the fact that since the beginning of federation only three changes in the Constitution have taken place, and that two of them were of a minor nature. The third’ was of a technical character associated with Commonwealth and State finances, and had the support of all parties in this Parliament and of all State Premiers. Consequently, the result, in that instance can be taken as an exception to the general proposition that in normal circumstances the people of Australia have never shown any enthusiasm to support the referendum alterations which have been submitted to them. The action of the Government in submitting these proposals to the people so soon after the rejection of those to which I have referred, and in associating them with an election campaign, shows that it does not view them seriously. Therefore, we. come back to the conclusion that this is merely an election manoeuvre. In August, 1945, just after the conclusion of the war, there was a conference of Premiers. The Commonwealth Government discussed with the Premiers of the States a number of the matters which it thought would require constitutional attention in the post-war period. Included in them were proposals submitted to the people at the last referendum, such as prices- control, the standardization of railway gauges, the continuation of tenancy legislation and regulations,, and of controls over building. No indication was then given of any need for any of the three powers which are to be submitted to the people this year, although ar that stage the Government was aware that its social legislation was likely to be challenged. It knew, too, that there would be problems in relation to industrial matters and the marketing of primary produce. We can rest assured that had the Government then believed that there was urgent need to amend the Constitution in order to obtain the additional powers sought, in these proposals it would not have failed to do something in the matter. The next development was the decision in what is known as the Pharmaceutical Benefits case, which was given in November. 1945. Here, quite clearly, we have the strongest justification for some constitutional alteration; if the validity or’ legislation which had the support of all sections of the Parliament, and of all Parliaments in Australia, was challenged, as the decision in the Pharmaceutical Benefits case indicated, there was a strong case for not merely an amendment of the Constitution, but for its urgent amendment. Any government which continued to make invalid payments longer than it was entitled to make them would be guilty of the virtual misappropriation of public funds. And so I say that if the Government had wanted that matter dealt with urgently, the way to get it dealt with was to call the State Premiers together and toll them that an emergency existed and that something had to be done about it. The Commonwealth could have asked the States to refer to the Commonwealth powers to deal with the matters which are now set out in this bill. It would be ridiculous to say that there would have been difficulty in getting the State Premiers to transfer those powers. No issue easier to solve could be imagined. Let us consider the predicament in which any State government would have been had it decided not to transfer those powers to the Commonwealth. Let us imagine that four of the six States agreed to transfer to the Commonwealth power to continue the payment of social benefits, and that the Commonwealth continued the payments in those four States. Can any one visualize as a practical political possibility the Government of either of the other two States remaining in office when its citizens realized that they alone of the citizens of the Commonwealth were denied those social services? Such a Disposition does not call for discussion. If the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) had genuinely wanted to cover that emergency, he could have done ?o. Let us examine the bona fides of the Government. All parties are agreed as to” the need for giving validity to the Commonwealth social .legislation now on the statute-book. The Liberal party has indicated that in its platform. Consequently, the Attorney-General could have looked for support from all political parties for such a proposal. Bui, rather than deal with that, issue speedily, he delays it for nearly twelve months by deciding to subject the proposal to the hazards inevitably associated with the submission of Constitution amendment proposals together with election issues. Therein lies the test of the good faith of the Government in this matter. Eather than do something a: the time when the need for it was made clear - a time when there was no likelihood of opposition - the Government decided to adopt an entirely different course. And so I am forced to the conclusion that the introduction of these proposals in the way decided on by the Government is merely a clever election plan. I can imagine the discussions in Cabinet, and the chuckles at the supposed discomfiture which this move would cause to members of the Opposition. Here was an opportunity to divert our attention at election time from the host of issues which we could raise in tracing the Government’s record over the last few years and to place us on the defensive as far as constitutional proposals were concerned. That may be all very well, but is it a genuine attempt to cope with the emergency which has been created by the Pharmaceutical Benefits case? I -ay emphatically that it is not. Having selected the first “ leg “ of the treble, as it were, caucus then had to look about for a couple of other likely “ candidates “. We are not blind to the fact that each of these three bills is carefully directed to an important voting section of the Commonwealth. The unpopular items were taken along to the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, unci the support of the Premiers was gained for such measures as could be shown to be necessary. Put the popular candidates, the “ likely fancies “, were held back - the delay does not disturb the Government- to be trotted out and put through their paces before caucus. Caucus had a look at them and considered how to handle them in order to secure the most, favorable election result for the Government. I gather that there was some discussion in cauas to whether the three candidates ought to be entered in one race in the hope that, even if they all failed to pass the o-f together, at least one of them mi’ finish in front, or whether they should be entered in separate races in the hope Mint at least one race would be won. To switch metaphor?, the caucus had to decide whether the public should be presented with one big lolly,’ in the hope that there would be enough sweet ingredients ro smother the bitter taste, or whether a ort of thimble and pea trick should be played, inviting the public to select the thimble under which the pea was hidden. Caucus, in ifr. wisdom, decided to take *tb” different issues separately. It considered that to be the safest course.
Let us have a brief look at the three proposals. I say “ brief “ advisedly. The Attorney-General is not unaccustomed to giving us full and elaborate statements on matters in which he is interested. If we needed further evidence of the fact that this is not a serious attempt at constitutional reform, we had it, demonstrated in the perfunctory way in which these three measures ?ere presented to the House by the Attorney-General. Constitutional amendments have never before received such short shrift from a Minister introducing them. Clearly, the right honorable gentleman was not anxious to convince the House of the necessity, for the Government’s proposals. He knew that he would have a larger audience to convince later, and so his second-reading speeches were very brief. I need not spend much time in discussing the social services proposal, because I have already indicated my. view of the proper way for the Government to meet the emergency which has arisen. Why should the Minister tie up this proposal with two other controversial proposals to be dealt with in the bitter and highly charged atmosphere of a general election campaign? However desirable it is for the Commonwealth to have the powers sought - and we agree on that point - the manner in which those powers are exercised by virions governments will, from time to time, call forth criticism from Opposition parties. The Minister should have adopted the very much easier, simpler, and safer course of securing a delegation of the necessary powers from the. State parliament;.
The second bill deals with organized marketing of primary products. The Leader of the Opposition analysed “his measure carefully yesterday, and pointed out the important, differences which .exist, first, between this proposal and that which was submitted by’ the Attorney-General in 1944, and, secondly, between this proposal and that which was submitted by the Lyons’ Government in 1937. A very important difference between this proposal and the one submitted in 1944 is that the Attorney.General in 1944 had some regard for the views of the Premiers. He retained a restriction as far as the Commonwealth was concerned in respect of section 92 of the Constitution. I do not know whether his change of attitude now is due to a determination on his part to ignore the views of. the Premiers, or whether it represents a later and more careful view of what is desired. If the second explanation be correct, it raises once more our criticism of the earlier proposal, namely, that it was a slapdash affair, the weakness of which would easily be detected ‘by the public. It is not necessary for me to deal with the merits of the three proposals in the same detail as the Leader of the Opposition. However, the proposals create in my mind a case in support of the argument for an elective convention to deal with constitutional issues. I believe that th,public as a whole, and probably many members of this Parliament, need a great deal of additional information and education on the problem of organizedmarketing. I admit- frankly that I need further enlightenment. I recall the fears expressed in this House after the James v. the Commonwealth decision in 1936. We. were told that chaos would occur in primary industries as the result of the decision. But no constitutional amendment was made, because the appeal to the people in 1937 failed. Up to the outbreak of war, primary industries carried on without serious detriment, despite the Commonwealth’s’ alleged lack of constitutional power. Although, during the period of the war, the defence power was used’ in order to bolster up some of the Government’s marketing schemes, I have yet to be convinced that any further power is necessary on this point. As was pointed out when the referendum proposals were discussed in this House in 1936, -there are other ways in which this Parliament can deal with the problem of price stabilization. One way is to impose an excise duty in respect of a primary inda? try which is to be organized. The other is by paying’ bounties to the producers of particular commodities. Both of these methods have been adopted at different times by the Parliament. Then the Attorney-General of the day, the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) pointed out that the States, by fixing prices under their own powers, could help to meet the problem. In so far as these methods were available then, they are available in even greater measure to-day. If, as indicated by the Prime Minister yesterday, the States transfer to the Commonwealth their power to control prices, the Commonwealth would be in a -much stronger position than before the war. I believe that the term organized marketing “ requires some analysis. It is not a precise term as we all know. The Oxford English Dictionary ‘uses it in a variety of ways. Its compilers use it with reference to the price of labour and in association with a number of items which one would not normally expect to come within the sort of power we envisage here. Therefore, the term itself requires a good deal of’ explanation and elucidation before the public will be convinced that orderly marketing as we have understood it up to the present means only what the Attorney-General has indicated it to mean during this debate. There i.s a very strong feeling on the part of the public generally that these organized marketing schemes, as they have taken form in commodity control by boards throughout Australia, have been unsatisfactory to the great body of producers and to the consumers alike. There is a widespread impression, perhaps inaccurate in respect of some commodities, but undoubtedly accurate in respect of many others, that commodity control has in some instances brought about a. reduction of production. In every instance of which I have been able to get information it has had the effect of increasing sharply the price of a commodity to the consumer. Having regard to the vote in country districts on the marketing proposals submitted to the people in 1937 there is good ground for believing that many producers and people generally are not satisfied with organized marketing as we know it under the commodity board system. I have listed some of the commodities already controlled by boards. The list, which is by no means exhaustive, indicates how widespread these’ controls are becoming. The commodities that come most readily to my mind comprise potatoes, flax, barley, wheat, field peas, tea, sugar, butter, pigs, meat, fish, eggs, onions, chicory, peanuts, cotton, and even canary seed, and last, bur by no means least, apples and pears. During the period of operation of the Apple and Pear Marketing Board, when more apples should have been available to the Australian public, the people were deprived for long periods of fresh apples, and when the board did make them available it marketed them at higher prices tha had ever been known before. One of the very strong criticisms . of the commodity board .system, as against the somewhat more clumsy exercise of the bounty and excise system, is that, under the former the prices determined arise out of discussions at meetings of the boards to which no representatives of consumers have been appointed. There is no confirmation of their decisions by a body such as this Parliament. Under the bounty and excise system the Parliament decides, after considering the advice of its experts, what rates of bounty or excise shall be applied. In the case of determinations made .by commodity boards, there is no democratic decision as to what the consumer should be called upon to pay. I do not anticipate a favorable reception by the public of the organized marketing proposals. The public, I believe, will demand more evidence of the value of schemes such as these before it will support a constitutional reform to enable them to be perpetuated.
Possibly the most interesting of the proposals to be submitted to the people is tha.t dealing with the extension of the industrial, power. I should like to draw the attention of the House to the opening sentence in the second-reading speech of the Attorney-General on the Constitution Alteration (Industrial Employment) Bill, because I believe that that speech was typical of the misleading propaganda which is being broadcast to the people in order to induce them to support the bill. The l ight honorable gentleman said - ! he object of this bill is to alter the Constitution so that this Parliament will be able, like the legislature of every State in Australia, to regulate either directly or indirectly, the terms and conditions of employment in industry.
The significant reference is the phrase, “ like the legislature of every State in Australia”. .The implication is that nothing can be harmful in the Commonwealth Parliament taking over a power which any State parliament is able to exercise. The right honorable gentleman knows, as do other honorable members, that there is a very big difference indeed between the exercise by a State Parliament of its industrial powers in such a way as to create conditions out of line with those obtaining in the rest. of Australia, and the exercise by the Commonwealth of power to make general industrial changes affecting the whole of the Commonwealth. -The decisions of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration have a widespread effect throughout the Commonwealth. State instrumentalities must keep in line with them, because the moment one State parliament creates within the sphere of its jurisdiction industrial conditions which are more onerous on the employer or more favorable to the employee it sets up a chain of economic events which soon brings about corresponding remedies in other directions. The only State I can recall that did attempt by legislative enactment to create conditions which were out of line with those obtaining throughout the rest of Australia wa3 Queensland, and members representing that. State well know what effect that action had upon the development of secondary industries in Queensland. If, for example, the Parliament of New South “Wales, by legislative act, established very much higher wages for employees within New South “Wales and gave them a 40-hour week at a time when Victoria maintained a lower wage structure and a longer working week, obviously there would be a flow of industries to Victoria from New South “Wales, and industrial development , in the latter State would languish. So it is utterly misleading to justify the proposed grant of power to the Commonwealth on the score that the State legislature already possess it. Then we must, ask ourselves why this power is sought. I return to my original charge that this is all a part of an election scheme. We know that we have the best and most comprehensive system of industrial arbitration in the world. We have been told that by the knowledgeable representatives of other countries, and we know it’ from our own study of what takes place in other parts of the world. Yet the AttorneyGeneral is setting out to weaken the authority of the Arbitration Court, for that would be the inevitable consequence of action by the Parliament along the lines he has suggested. The right honorable gentleman himself has paid tribute to the working of our arbitration system, particularly during the war years. He said something I believe to be true when he said -
Despite the unprecedented strain which the waging of total war placed upon industry, industrial relations have been incomparably better in World War II.’ than they were in World War I.
– Is the honorable member For or against the proposals?
– My general attitude ought to be clear to the honorable gentleman. The Attorney-General himself has confirmed the value of our arbitration system. T have no doubt that had we had in office during the latter part of the war a government prepared to support with its full authority the decisions of the Arbitration Court, we should have had a very much better record than that which was actually the case. So we ask ourselves why this Government now sets about weakening the authority of the tribunals that have been able to deal with our industrial problems in the past, and have accumulated a wealth of knowledge of the problems of industry. Why does the Attorney-General seek to give a part of that responsibility, and perhaps the most important part of it, to this Parliament?
– He was forced to.
– As my honorable friend says, he was forced to. I believe that is the case. We know that the pressure of the Communist elements supporting. Labour have been directly responsible for the Government’s adoption of these proposals.
– Now tell us about “the three bears “.
– I am telling you about the three thimbles, and this is the third. Just look where the “comrades” have stood on this matter. Take first of all the. arbitration system itself. We know that a very strong campaign, underground in some respects but quite overt in others, has been conducted by the Communists against our arbitration system. They are out to destroy the arbitration system of the Commonwealth. They set forth as an alternative, under an attractive name, their system of collective bargaining. It has been much better described as collective bludgeoning. The idea of it is that the employers and employees in a particular section of industry get together and decide amongst themselves, in a sort of round table atmosphere, which always seems to make the strongest appeal to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway), the wages and conditions in that industry.
– It is like the way in which the motion, picture industry fixes charges.
– That remark shows how little the honorable gentleman knows about the motion picture industry. If we had the same competition available to the community generally as we have in the motion picture industry, we should be served much better than we are. The real point is that those who argue in favour of collective bargaining overlook perhaps the most important matter of all in arbitration matters, that is the interest of the public as a whole. Where does the interest of the public lie if a group of employers and employees can get together and raise the wages of the employees on the one hand and the cost of the goods produced by them on the other? That must be unloaded in additional charges on the public. The important consideration always to have in mind in arbitration matters is that three elements are involved, the employer and employees, who have their problems, and the public, whose interest is a vital matter. The Communist system of collective bargaining ignores public interest. Public interest does not lie only in higher prices for goods. It goes deeper than the interest of the consumer. It goes to the interest of the citizen in ensuring that our industries as a whole shall .survive in competition with those of other countries and shall be maintained on a sound economic basis. So whatever temptation the Government may have to listen to the sirens’ song of the Communists on the question of collective bargaining, it would never do anything, if it had proper regard for the welfare of the country, that would weaken the arbitration system. This proposed alteration of the Constitution would undoubtedly have that effect. I recognize the need to eliminate much of the technicality which impeded the work of the arbitration court in pre-war years. I shall be dealing with that aspect soon. But the system itself would be undoubtedly weakened if this Parliament attempted to take power to fix hours and wages in industry. The remarks of the Attorney-General on that point were clearly pointed to the people who have been pressing this Government to pass legislation for this purpose. I do not believe that the Attorney-General expects the people of Australia to give him the power, because I do not think he would have committed himself to a fixation of standard hours and a basic wage by this Parliament had he done so. The problem of hours in industry is most complex and involved. We cannot, generalize upon it.. A certain standard of hours may be reasonable in one industry but not in another. That is clearly the sort of question which an expert and trained body should examine on the necessary evidence and best advice available to it. Parliament would be helpless and hopeless in attempting to deal with that problem. The determination of the basic wage also is quite clearly beyond the capacity of Parliament. I remind honorable members that, for very good reasons which have been accepted by the courts, there is no standard basic wage throughout the Commonwealth at present. The. basic wage differs in the capital cities. The latest figures supplied to me only to-day by the Commonwealth Statistician are as follows - Sydney £4 19s., Melbourne £4 18s., Brisbane £4 13s., Adelaide £4 14s., Perth £4 14s., and Hobart £4 15s.’ When we hear the Attorney-General speaking of Parliament fixing the basic wage does he mean that we are to go into such nice computations as to whether the wage should be 4s. or 5s. more in Hobart, than in Sydney, or whether it should be a few shillings more in Perth than in another capital?. Are we to have members of various parties in this chamber arguing for a few shillings extra for workers in this, or that, capital? * Extension of time granted.~* I merely mention that to show how utterly impracticable it would be for this Parliament to attempt by legislation to fix the basic wage.
Finally, I revert to the argument in favour of an elective convention. I have already mentioned the history of referendum campaigns in this country, from which it would appear that the people of Australia will require a long process of. education, ..’. … will need to be satisfied that any proposals submitted to them represent general agreement on the part of intelligent and experienced public leaders before they will consent to any substantial, alteration of the Constitution. I remind honorable members that the last careful and detailed examination of the Constitution was made by a royal commission in 1929. That was seventeen years ago, prior to the depression and our experience during the recent world wai’. I do not suggest that a royal commission of inquiry is a satisfactory alternative to an elective convention. Just as the people, after the last elective convention, -were prepared to adopt the proposals worked out so carefully at that convention, I believe that, having regard to the long interval that has since elapsed, they would support the recommendations of an elective convention on this occasion. On the other hand, if governments are going to “ dish up “, almost year after year, proposals for alterations of the Constitution, the public will tend automatically to defeat them. Under those conditions we are developing a “No” complex in respect of referendum issues. The methods adopted by the Attorney-General in respect of the 1944 proposals and on this occasion, when he submits proposals to be voted on in conjunction with a general election, encourage the “ No “ complex rather than break down public resistance to constitutional change. Honorable members on this side of the chamber are not hostile to constitutional changes. Our party platform recommends, first, an elective convention; and, secondly, that the emergency dealt with in the first bill should be met by a reference of power by the States. I merely say in conclusion that the methods adopted by the Government, rather than strengthening, are undermining and white-anting prospects of constitutional reform.
.- I support the three measures. I do so, because I realize that these proposals are of vital importance to the nation; and I believe that if honorable members opposite would abandon their political vendetta against the Government and work in the interests of the nation, they, too, would realize the importance of giving ro the Commonwealth the powers sought under these measures. One thing we should have learned from the war is that it is absolutely necessary that power be granted to the Commonwealth to deal with all matters that are purely national in character. For years, members of all parties in this Parliament have been advocating the granting of more powers to the Commonwealth; but, invariably, when a Labour government advances such proposals, the Liberal party and the Australian Country party find excuses for opposing them. They always draw red herrings across the trail. They described t he man-power proposals submitted at the last referendum as industrial conscription and industrial regimentation. I have no hesitation in saying that only for that misrepresentation the other powers sought at that referendum would have been granted to the Commonwealth. The Government looks forward to the granting of the powers sought under these measures. No one will deny that an alteration of the Constitution along these lines is long overdue. Although the f ramers of the Constitution could not visualize the changes that would take place in the economic life of the country, they realized, nevertheless, that as the country progressed it would be necessary to alter the Constitution to meet new conditions. For that reason the Constitution provides for referendums in order to enable the people themselves to make whatever alterations they think fit. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), and the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) and other honorable members opposite have emphasized the necessity to grant powers of this kind to the Commonwealth. In 1938, the honorable member for Indi stated that the present system was not only deplorably unsatisfactory, but also positively dangerous to our national security. Members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party have realized that truth for years, but despite their promises to provide for the orderly marketing of primary products, they have not done anything. When the Labour party assumed office in 1941, it utilized its defence power under the Constitution to demonstrate to the farmers what could be done to stabilize our primary industries. The Attorney-General in his second-reading speech, produced the following statistics to show how primary producers hadbenefited financially under the Labour Government:-
Those substantial increases were made possible only because the Labour Government provided for the orderly marketing of primary products, despite the loss of oversea markets as the result of war. Therefore, is it any wonder that primary producers fear that their incomes will diminish if the Commonwealth can no longer control the marketing of their produce? To-day, farmers are better off economically than ever before, and I have no fear of what will happen when the Government’s referendum proposals are submitted, to the man on the land, lit is inconceivable that they , will oppose them. If they do, primary producers will return to the situation that existed prior to 1939 when they were almost bankrupt. In those days, they were at the mercy of financial interests which fleeced them to the greatest possible degree. To the farmers, I address this question : Are they prepared ‘ to return tq the situation which existed prior to the outbreak of the war in 1939, or will they ensure their economic future by’ voting for the Government’s referendum proposals, thus retaining the existing marketing organization, which has given to them economic stability?
In 1935, the right, honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) declared that the barriers which prevented the granting of full assistance to the wheat industry had to be swept aside. He said that, without legal certainty, the Commonwealth could not introduce organized marketing schemes. No truer word was ever spoken, and his remarks concerning the wheat-growers were equally applicable to all primary producers. By voting for the Government’s referendum proposals, the man on the land will have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Certain interests are always opposed to the granting of full powers to the Commonwealth Govern.ment. because they realize that so long as State governments possess certain powers, they can secure the veto of any proposal that is inimical to their own selfish ends. They have a majority in the Legislative Councils of all States, with the exception, .of course, of Queensland,- which abolished its Legislative Council. Only recently, the Legislative Council of Tas mania refused to grant to the Common-, wealth Parliament the necessary power to control prices for the next three years.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
-What was the reason for the attitude of the Tasmanian Legislative Council? Because financial interests realize that their profits’ would be curtailed as long as price control remained. They are not concerned about the welfare of the people. They are concerned only with profits. Moving around my electorate, I find that the main concern of the man on the land, including the wheatgrower and the sheep-farmer, is the question, “ What will be our fate when the powers exercised by the Commonwealth to-day come to an end?” They are very much concerned about the stability of the industries in which they are engaged, not only this year or next year, but for many years ahead. That is why the Parliament and the country is being asked to confer upon the Commonwealth powers 1:6 stabilize the primary industries of Australia for a period of years.
I come now to social services. For the first time in the history of this country, the people of all States are enjoying a high standard of social services. The introduction of these benefits was long overdue. It is true that prior to the inauguration of the Commonwealth’s social security programme, some States did provide certain social services, but there was no uniformity throughout the Commonwealth. Why should a resident of Victoria enjoy better social services than a person living in South Australia? The provision of social services is a national undertaking, and it is inconceivable that any one would oppose any portion of the social service legislation that has been passed by the Commonwealth Parliament. However, if the Government’s referendum proposals . be rejected, it is probable that many benefits now being enjoyed by the people will be withdrawn, with the result that Australian citizens will find themselves in very much the same position rs they were before the war. Now and for all time, whatever .doubt may exist in regard to the power of the Commonwealth Parliament to legislate for social services must be removed. No doubt members of the Liberal party of Australia and the Australian Country party will oppose the Government’s industrial proposals. I have . always been amazed to hear members of the Liberal party telling the people of this country what little confidence they have in themselves as legislators. In effect they say to the people, “Do not give us power to do certain things. We have not been elected for that purpose. You must elect a special body to do what we ourselves are incapable of doing, or give to the State governments the powers that you wish to invest in us “. The former proposal is ridiculous. The same position arose in regard to finance. The Opposition does not want the Common.wealth Parliament to control the finances of this nation. It wants a body of men who are not responsible to the people to have that authority. Is there any just reason why conditions in industry such as hours of labour and the basic wage should not be uniform throughout Australia and be determined bv the Commonwealth Parliament? I have noticed frequently that when there is some industrial trouble in this country, honorable members opposite always endeavour to drag the Commonwealth Government into it. But what is the use of dragging the Commonwealth Government in when it has not power to mediate? That is one reason why the Government believes that increased power for the National Parliament is necessary. Do honorable members opposite consider that they are less competent to judge such matters than any body of men that might be appointed ? Surely it is time that humanitarian considerations were given some weight. In reply to the claim that the. State governments should be permitted to deal with many matters of a national character, I cannot do better than cite an argument advanced by the Melbourne Herald some years ago in a leading article, which pointed out that there was very little logic in the contention that powers which are regarded as safe in the hands of one government must be regarded as dangerous in the hands of- another. All governments are representative of the people and, as the Leader of the Opposition oncesaid, “ Government in a democracy ismerely the expression of the popular will, and its purpose is the happiness and welfare of the people “. That is the belief of the Labour party, ‘ and is the reason for the Government’s decision to seek wider powers for the Commonwealth Parliament.
I have listened carefully to every speaker from the Opposition side, and I- am somewhat baffled to know just where they stand. They remind me of “ chooks “ in a. fowl yard scratching for a bit’ of food. Obviously the Opposition does not know just where it stands on these proposals. The Australian Constitution was framed in 1900 when men wore “ swallow-tail “ suits and “ snake-charmer “ trousers, and travelled by horse and buggy. To-day we are wearing sac suits and riding in motor ears and aeroplanes, but- we have a “ snake-charmer “ Constitution. It has not inarched with the times, and requires substantia] amendment. The National Parliament must be clothed with additional powers in order that it may safe- . guard effectively the welfare of the na tion.
– I was interested in the remarks of the honorable member for Hume “ (Mr. Fuller). He made almost exactly the same speech in 1944, and the people gave him his answer. His statement that the Opposition opposes every referendum proposal of the Labour party, calls to my mind the 1937 marketing referendum. At that time I travelled through country districts of Queensland for six weeks, organizing in support of the prop’osals, which the Queensland Labour party had decided to support. The then. Premier, Mr. Forgan Smith, .spoke in the Brisbane Town Hall in support of an affirmative vote, but his audience practically howled him down. That was the end of the campaign. Labour members df the Queensland Parliament who had agreed to assist in the campaign, and for whom I was organizing, pulled out without even the courtesy of saying why. Democracy as we know it gives to the people the right to choose the government they will have, to determine the laws under which they shall live, and to amend the charter which dennes the limits within which the Parliament shall legislate. However imperfect that system of government may be, I still prefer it to any other that has been tried elsewhere. Accordingly, in principle, I do not object to proposals for the alteration of the Constitution being submitted to the people for their decision, so long as the Parliament has first agreed as to their nature. It is unfortunate when they bear the imprint of party politics. In 1944, the people were asked to vote for or against seventeen proposals as a whole. The Opposition sought to amend the legislation then introduced, so as to provide for their submission under three sections - those on which there was agreement between parties; those that were open to argument; and those that . were contentious - but the Government declined to accept that amendment, with the result that the people rejected all the proposals. On the present occasion, proposals for the rehabilitation of ex-servicemen, the care of aborigines, and others which at that time were regarded as urgent, have been discarded. The intention evidently is to provide matter that may help the Government to win the next general elections.
I come now to the second proposal, for the organized marketing of primary products. I am directly interested in this, because of the decision to submit the matter to the electors as a separate question. I do not regret having supported the principle underlying this proposal in 1937. I believe that I can claim to have been a direct participant in the administration of organized marketing. This system operates in Queensland under the
Primary Products Pools. Act and the’ Cooperative Associations Act. Before a commodity board can be established under the Primary Products Pools Act, 60 per cent, of the growers must have declared themselves in favour of it. The voluntary principle is observed under the Cooperative Associations Act, unless the’ growers commit themselves by way of contracts. 1 can recall some of ‘the conditions that existed in connexion with marketing under the operation of the law of supply and demand. I have never known that system to cause an industry to expand or lo achieve stability. The conditions were more chaotic in the days of our fathers, when the growers had to accept whatever price was . offered for their product. The day has long since passed when primary producers were expected to. approach buyers and say, “ What are you prepared to give me for my product? “ After all, the product belongs to- the man who grows it, and he has an unchallengable right, to state the price at which he will sell it, just as the. manufacturer or the retailer has the right lo say at what price he will sell his goods. The ‘old conditions prompted our fathers, and even some of us, to organize in order to achieve stability in primary industry.” I have been engaged in the cause of organization over since I left school. I have had ups and downs, as has everybody else who has worked in that cause. The Queensland legislation covering grower control organizations is about as good as can be found anywhere. T believe that the Government of that State is now prepared to remove whatever anomalies have been revealed. Alterations have been made from time to time to meet changing conditions. A commodity board is established in the most democratic way - by the votes of the people who are directly .interested. I am a supporter of grower-control hoards, and a in not -averse to government representation on them so long as it is in the minority. I say that, because T believe that when a grower’s crop is being sold hia views should be given the greatest weight. I am aware of the deficiencies of grower-control boards. A commodity board, when elected, is expected to combine the knowledge and experience of a business man, a banker, a grower, and an adviser to growers. Every elected representative does not possess all of those qualifications. As he is handling money belonging to ether growers, he cannot disburse it at random, but must do his utmost to ensure the success of the organization. If one commodity board, were to fail, it would be a reflection on the entire system. I am pleased that not ohe commodity board in Queensland has failed, and that all of them have done a. good job of work. Of the original seventeen, fifteen are still operating. When, a crop is acquired, the responsibility for itssale rests with the board, which must endeavour to obtain a price that will bepayable to the growers. If a crop will not return a price that is satisfactory to the producers, obviously its production -must be uneconomic, and the industrymust go out of existence unless it receives some assistance. Further, the board must sell the crop at a price at which it can be purchased. If the attempt were made to obtain too high a price, sales would immediately decline. By supplying a crop direct to the consumer from the grower, eliminating unnecessary intermediaries, a lower price prevails than would otherwise be the case. The commodity board is responsible for putting a crop on the market, and must, pay due regard to its quality. In some instances, boards have been slightly careless, but complaints from the public have soon remedied the fault. The small industry of peanutgrowing, with which I ‘have been closely associated, has been built up on the quality of the product, and at present it is worth about £750,000 a year to the growers.
The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) stated that growers everywhere are asking honorable members for a continuation of the present system of control for the orderly marketing of primary products. I asked him what he meant by “ orderly marketing “ and. he replied, “ The present system of control “. I do not know whether he meant the present system of governmental control that has operated during the war period, or whether hefavours grower-controlled boards. I am definitely opposed to the former kind of boards. Such success as was achieved! during the war years by controlled marketing, as it is termed, was brought about because of the foundational work done by the commodity boards prior to the war, and by the co-operative organizations concerned. I say that the wheat scheme has been a failure, but it could not have achieved even as much success as it has, were it not for the fact that the organizations concerned had provided necessary storage for wheat before the war.
– Does ‘ the honorable member consider that the scheme should be controlled by the merchants?
– I am not interested in them. I would get rid of them, lock,- stock and barrel, because their only purpose is to make profits. The producer, the manufacturer and the retailer are essential to any industry, but if any section associated with it is engaged solely in profiteering, the result is merely to increase unnecessarily the price which the consumers are. called upon to pay.
The peanut industry came under the control of the Commonwealth authorities, but there would have been no such industry had not the growers’ marketing board been established in the first instance, and in the second, instance imposed levies on the growers up to 12 per cent, of the net income for the purpose of providing necessary storage. One of the functions of such a board is to prevent a glutted market by storing the surplus; therefore it is essential to provide storage facilities. The result of that action is to stabilize the price of the product, and the quantity held in storage can be used to compensate for any shortage in the supply which may, bp due to drought conditions. Had no storage been provided for peanuts there would have been no peanut industry, because the conditions prevailing prior to board control were such that the merchants held the nuts and sold them at a price about ten times as great as that received by the growers. The accommodation required for the storage of wheat was not provided by the Government but the growers paid for it.
– No, the Government paid for it.
– In. Queensland every penny of the cost of storage was met by the growers. Honorable members opposite contend that the Commonwealth wheat scheme has been a success, but for the- nineteen years up to 1939 the average price to the growers under Queensland Wheat Board conditions was 4s. od. a bushel.
– Queensland cannot grow enough wheat to feed its own people.
– It never will if no farmer is to be permitted to produce more than 3.000 bushels. Wheatgrowers in Western Australia were paid not, to grow wheat, whereas in Queensland no grower could produce more than 3,000 bushels, and the price paid was less than that received when the Queensland Wheat Board was in operation. Yet an average of seventeen truck loads of wheat was brought into Queensland daily from the southern States. Although, on the statement of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully), wheat imported, did not cost less than as. 7d. a bushel, the growers were not paid more than the fixed, price of 3s. a bushel for any surplus. Honorable members opposite talk of the success of the Government’s controlled marketing scheme, and say that the prices received by the producers now are better than they were previously, but consider the prices received by dairymen before the war. I shall exclude the high prices ruling during the World War I., but the average price for butter in the twenty years prior to the war was 16.39d. per lb. That period included the depression years. Eoi- the period from 1939 to 1944 inclusive the average price was 14.85d. per lb. What we require is growercontrolled boards, and- not governmentcontrolled boards such as the Australian Wheat Board, which remains in office only at the pleasure of the Minister. With the permission of the House I shall incorporate in Ilansard the yearly average prices paid by the South Burnett Dairy Company for the twenty years between the two world wars and also for the six years of war just concluded.
– Is the House agreeable?
– Objection having been raised, the honorable member will have to read the figures.
– They are as follows : -
Those figures dispose of the contention that government-controlled boards are preferable to grower-controlled boards.
The Apple and Pear Board operated in Queensland up to 1942, and it paid to the growers only 5s. 3d. a bushel for their fruit, although the average price which had been received generally was from 27s. 6d. to 30s. a case. We, know that the fruit pool has made a profit of at least 3s. 5d. a case in that year, but what has happened to it? When I have asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture what he intends to do about the matter, he has replied that an appeal to the courts is pending. That was a few years ago, and there seems to be a deliberate attempt on the part of the Government to allow the issue to rest, so that the growers shall not get the full price to which they are entitled for their commodity. If that is how governmentcontrolled boards will operate, we should throw them overboard.
– What would happen to the fruit if there were no Apple and Pear Board ?
– If we allowed for the quantity of fruit wasted and compared the average price realized with the price obtained for a similar quantity of fruit before the war, we should find that the growers are worse off to-day under the present government-controlled board. I have before me a statement about the board having to face another heavy loss. That is a further instance of the unsatisfactory result of government-controlled boards. Whilst I admit that if an industry is not economically successful, governments may consider it advisable to sustain them by granting necessary assistance, either by a subsidy or in some other way. I still maintain that a growercontrolled board should be established. The Government representative on the board will always look after the interests of the Government. I have found it a pleasure to work with the Government representative in Queensland on the Peanut Board since 1924. He has been of assistance to the Board in every way, yet he has not failed to safeguard the interests of the Government. Certainly in that case the Government had no financial interest in the matter beyond guaranteeing certain advances by the Commonwealth Bank. The whole of the amount of £120,000 expended upon a plant for storage and treatment was found by the growers.
– In other words, the Queensland Government has been a good friend to the Queensland peanutgrowers.
– I have already said as much publicly. Farmers will not readily accept government control of their products. The honorable member for Adelaide said that he had received many requests from farmers that the present system of government control be continued, I have never received such a request, but I have had many requests that the system be abolished.
– When it suits them they want government control; when it does not they want to get rid of it.
– The farmers want stability. They want marketing to be placed upon an orderly and permanent basis, but they want to have an interest in the selling of their own products, just as would the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) if he were the proprietor’ of a business. When the Commonwealth Government assumed control of the marketing of peanuts, the manager of the Peanut Board and I went down to Melbourne to arrange details. Commonwealth officers had recommended that the entire crop be used for making oil. We asked for information about prices, seeing that there would be a difference of about £.1.80,000 if the entire crop were used for making oil. As a matter of fact, I doubt whether the officials knew whether peanuts grew on trees or under the ground. I’ asked them what were the existing stocks of oil in Australia and what were the stocks of vegetable seeds from which oil might be made. I learned that they had made no inquiries to obtain this information. I told them that, they would not get peanuts for making into oil unless the Government could give an assurance that the oil was needed. A conference of the big users of vegetable oils, such as Lever Brothers, was called, and we found that all of them, as good businessmen, had twelve months’ stock on hand, and no one wanted peanut oil. By our action in this regard, we saved the Government £180,000. .If that is an example of government control, I say, “wipe” it. Generally, government officials know so little about commodities that it is much better to leave such matters to those who have practical knowledge.
– The honorable member would leave it to the middle men, and they would get the lot;
– If the Minister wishes to know my record* regarding orderly marketing schemes, I refer him to Mr. Bulcock, Director-General of Agriculture, and to Mr. Forgan Smith, the ex-Premier of Queeusland. I have always tried to keep organized marketing separate from party politics. I am prepared to work with any government, believing it has the right to govern once it has been elected by the people. I worked for the marketing referendum in 1937, when many members of the Labour party were opposed to it.
– I voted for it, and worked for it, too.
– The Leader of Opposition (Mr. Menzies) raised the question of the meaning of the term “ primary produce “, and said that it ought to be clarified. I agree with him. I know what I mean by primary produce, but the judges of the High Court might not agree with me. It is probable that they have had little or no experience of primary products, and in arriving at a definition, they might be guided by their law books or by the arguments of lawyers. Why not clarify the position now? I should like every product grown on the land to come within the definition, and also butter and cheese. Every one will concede that- coal and iron ore are primary products, but is the Government trying, in this measure, to sneak control over those industries?
– What a suspicious mind the honorable member has.
– The Government has taught me- to be suspicious. I should like the Minister to clear up this point, and also to give an assurance that the marketing of primary produce will not be handed over to government-controlled boards. The growers should have the right to market their products under a system such as that which operated in Queensland. “ I cannot imagine the Government’s proposals in regard to orderly marketing being very popular, although I hope that they will be. There are deficiencies that prevent the formation of marketing boards on a Commonwealth basis ; therefore it is necessary that the Commonwealth should have the extra power for the marketing of crops which are produced in two or more States. Where ‘a crop is produced in only one State, little difficulty arises, because the matter can be controlled by State laws, although there was some friction even in regard to control of the peanut industry, which is peculiar to Queensland. If marketing is to be wholly controlled by Government boards I do not want it, and .neither do the growers. As” a matter of fact, the wheat-growers of
Queensland are up in arms against Commonwealth control now. They want to get back to the Queensland system of control which was in operation for nineteen years. Any honorable member who doubts me on this point may come to Queensland and debate the subject with the growers. I admit that the geographical position of Queensland has conferred advantages on the wheat-growers of that State, but I maintain that any general marketing organization, if it is to be successful, should guard the advantages which Queensland may now enjoy. The organization should seek to raise the standards in the other States to that of Queensland.
In his second-reading speech, the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt), speaking of the Government’s proposals in regard to industrial matters, said -
These wider national powers have been exercised with marked success. This has been shown by the great- expansion of industrial production that has taken place.
Obviously, there has been an expansion of war industries, but where is the expansion of Australia’s peace-time industries ? What expansion has ‘ taken place in Queensland and Western Australia, on the outer rim? There has been none. Labour governments prefer to foster the horse-racing industry rather than those industries which are vita! to a country, and while that attitude is persisted in, national industries will not be encouraged. If industrial turmoil, strife, and disregard of Government orders are to be regarded as the measure of success, then the Government’s policy has been successful. That policy has also led to the centralization of industry, whereas we know that, if Australia is ever to become a great nation, industry must be decentralized. I recall the interjection of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) concerning England. After all, England is only a spot on the map compared with the areas of Australian States, other than Tasmania and Victoria, but much has been achieved in the United Kingdom in the way of industrial expansion and decentralization. The Premier of Queensland, Mr. Hanlon, approached Lord Nuffield and other manufacturers with a request that they should establish industries in Queensland, but the manufacturers raised the issue of high transport costs. [Extension of lime granted.’] Mr. Hanlon suggested that the Commonwealth might come to the rescue by instituting a Commonwealth transport costs pool. As Australia is a federation, all the States should be treated alike> and the southern States should not be averse to assisting in the establishment of industries in other States. The Premier of Queensland put the matter neatly when, referring to the attitude of Commonwealth governments to Queensland, he said,- “ When Canberra looks north, the sun gets in its eyes “. That is the attitude of the Central Government towards Queensland. The centralization of industry is not to the benefit of Australia. ‘ I indicate clearly that I oppose any alienating of the arbitration system. To suggest that hours of labour and wages should become the playthings of politics is ridiculous, especially in view of the lack of. knowledge in this House of problems associated with terms and conditions of employment. In such circumstances, the Labour party at election times might say to the people, “ If you vote for us we will add another 10s. a week to your wages “, and the Opposition, because of its better knowledge and business ability, would be able to offer a lot more. The situation -would become farcical, and there would be no impartial decisions. I heard the honorable, member for Humeask, “ Why should not this Parliament fix uniform wages ? “ Uniform wage rates do not apply to-:day even within States; there are three wage parities in Queensland alone. How could this Parliament decide wage parities for the whole of Australia? Maranoa is one of the largest Commonwealth electorates, and, therefore, 1 could, with justification, ask for a 10s. loading’ on the basic wage in that area over and above the rate in smaller and less remote electorates. The system proposed by the Government would be ridiculous. I stand four-square for the. existing conciliation and arbitration system. If this Parliament adopts the Government’s proposals by passing these bills, I shall be content to leave the decision in the hands of the people at the referendum in the true democratic -way.
– I listened with interest to the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann), because I was very anxious to learn his attitude towards the Government’s proposals. However, his utterances were so confused that I do not know whether he favours them or opposes them. He said he believed that the Commonwealth Par:liament should have power in regard to social services, but proceeded to give a good many reasons why the Commonwealth Parliament should do nothing about the matter. Apparently he is ako an ardent supporter of orderly marketing, but he seems to be concerned about the marketing of Queensland peanuts more than about any other of Australia’s primary products. In regard to the third measure, relating to terms and conditions of employment in industry, he became so confused that he forgot to say whether he was for or against the Government’s proposal. However, he did say that he was a great believer in the- principle of conciliation and arbitration and in the existing arbitration system. If he believes in the arbitration system as a federal instrumentality, he should also believe in granting to the Commonwealth Government power to implement a proper system of conciliation and arbitration. If the honorable member had made any study of the arbitration system under Commonwealth legislation, he would realize that it leaves much to be desired. In order that nobody will be confused about my attitude towards these bills, I say unequivocally that I strongly support all of them. They are necessary. Furthermore, I do not support them for any narrow parochial reasons such as that which motivates the honorable member for Maranoa, who is so closely interested in the .peanut industry. I look upon the matter from an Australian standpoint.
In many ways the Commonwealth Constitution is hopelessly out of date, and we must do something to modernize it. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) started the ball rolling from the Opposition side of the .House by “having a few shillings each way on each of the three measures. He. is rather uncertain as to whether his employers outside Parliament will tell him to support the pro- posals or oppose them, and so he is leaving nothing to chance. He did say that the referendum should not be held in conjunction with the general elections because the real issues at the elections might be clouded. I agree with him to a degree in that regard, because, whilst I recognize the necessity for- granting increased powers to the Commonwealth under the Constitution, I recognize also that, when this Government goes to the country at election time, it does not want any clouding of issues. The Government can point with pride to a legislative programme second to none in the history of the Commonwealth. It was elected to do a job, and it can be proud of the job that it has done. It carried out its duties in regard to the prosecution of the war very successfully. Since then it has been, successful in its plans for demobilizing the armed services and rehabilitating ex-servicemen. It has replaced the Commonwealth Bank in its proper position in the financial world and restored to Parliament control over the finances of the Commonwealth. It has enacted social service legislation which is of great benefit ‘to the people. Such legislation was needed for many years, but preceding non-Labour governments were not prepared to enact it. The Government has a record of work completed second to none. Therefore, it does not require to cloud any issues at the elections. That is why I would prefer the referendum to be held at another time. I am afraid ‘that the Opposition will endeavour to cloud the real issues. The Government’s proposals are clearly and simply stated. The social services proposition is set out in the bill now before the House, and it distinctly states what social services shall be covered by the power proposed to be granted. It has been generally recognized for some time that the duty of the National’ Parliament is to provide social services for the benefit of the people. The State Parliaments should not, be left free to hand out what they consider to be. right, or as little as they think the people are prepared to accept. Under -State social services legislation, different sets of conditions obtain in each State. It depends on the luck of the individual, when he is stricken with, illness or loses his job, as to the measure of assistance he will receive under the laws of hisState. Because of this lop-sided system of social services, I believe that the people have come to recognize that the provision of such benefits is the duty of the Commonwealth Parliament. This Government has acknowledged that duty and has legislated accordingly. Under our outmoded Constitution, we have experienced trouble with the High Court, which interprets the Constitution. The decision of the High Court in the Pharmaceutical Benefits case, and the opinions of leading King’s Counsel in regard to other items of our social services legislation, make it essential that the people should pronounce, at a referendum, that the Commonwealth Parliament shall havethe powers which the Government seeks. The Commonwealth Parliament has implemented child endowment, widows’ pensions, maternity allowances, sickness and unemployment benefits, and other benefits. It is necessary to ensure that the High Court shall not be able to take these benefits from the people. The only one way to do that is to secure the approval of the people for the necessary alterations of the Constitution. The suggestion has been made that the powers should be obtained from the State Parliaments, but we have had experience of such dealings with the States in recent years. Six Premiers agreed that certain alterations to the Commonwealth Constitution were required and promised that they would ask their respective Parliaments to refer to the Commonwealth the powers that are necessary for the successful functioning of the Commonwealth Government.What happened? Some of the Premiers succeeded in getting the legislation passed, but we still find it necessary to hold a referendum to obtain the powers that we need. Furthermore, two of the Premiers who wholeheartedly supported the transfer of powers to the Commonwealth changed their minds and completely somersaulted, opposing the transfer when a referendum was held. It is well-nigh impossible to achieve the desired result by a reference from the State Parliaments. Therefore, we must have recourse to theonly other method of securing the powers, namely, by holding a referendum. I would like honorable members opposite to come out into the open and state their honest views in regard to these bills. I challenged the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) to state whether he supported the proposals or opposed them, but I could not obtain a definite reply. The honorable gentleman talked at random about the basic wage, collective bargaining, communism, and the like, but he definitely refused to state whether he supported or opposed any of the three proposals.
– He is waiting for instructions.
– Yes. He is waiting until he receives orders from Collins House.When those orders arrive, he will know whether he supports or opposes the proposals. Until then he will merely beat the air and talk about unessential things which do not apply directly to the questions before the House. He said that the proposal concerning control of wages and conditions in industry was a subterfuge to kill the arbitration system. He said that the Government had received instructions from the Communist party to alter the Constitution in order to doaway with arbitration and introduce a system of collective bargaining. To my mind, there could not be a sillier interpretation of this bill. The bill proposes to grant to the Commonwealth Parliament, in addition to the powers of conciliation and arbitration which it already possesses, control over wages and conditions of employment. Yet the honorable member states that this is a means of destroying the arbitration system. He has been talking about arbitration for many years, and he should know by now that any organization of workers to-day can decide in favour of collective bargaining in preference to arbitration. Organizations are not compelled to register under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. They may please themselves; if they do not like arbitration they can resort to collective bargaining. Certain unions have done that and risked deregistration. So the honorable member’s statement is really too silly to be placed before a deliberative assembly. Nothing could be farther from the mark.
I do not desire to deal-at length with control of marketing. Like the honorable member for Maranoa, I support the proposal, because I believe it is necessary that this Parliament should have a measure of control over marketing. The honorable member for Maranoa said, “ We must have grower control. The pools in Queensland controlled by the growers have been successful.” I have no experience as a grower, but I have fis a consumer, and it is the consumer who eventually pays the price. Grower controls are satisfactory in good times when the growers receive reasonable prices for their commodities, but, when they are unable to get what they consider to be a fair price, they no longer say, “ We do not want anything from the Government”, but, cap in hand, they come to the Government, and say, “ Notwithstanding that we want grower control and all the profits in good times, we demand a. ‘hand-out’ in these bad times so that we shall have a good profit now as well. Although our crops have failed, our income must be maintained, and we demand a subsidy from the Government.” It is a case of “ Good old Government ! “ in those circumstances. But, if the Government has to pay up good money to primary producers in bad seasons, it must have a measure of control of the marketing of their products. I do not want the Government to confiscate their produce or to take . all the control of marketing from them.
– That is one go’od point.
– Yes. What I demand is that if the Government is to pay subsidies on primary products, the producers must accept a measure of control of the marketing of those products. I believe that that is a perfectly fair and reasonable proposition. If the producers are not prepared to accept it they ought not to ask for subsidies to offset losses.
– There is always a government member on marketing boards.
– Yes. Without a measure of government control, orderly marketing is impossible. It is not just a matter of high prices for commodities this week and losses next week. Country party members particularly advocate the stabilization of the prices of primary products so that the producers shall receive an adequate return npt only in one year, but in every year. I, too, believe in stabilization of the prices of primary products, but if that stabilization is uneconomic the cost comes back to the Government and eventually, of course, to the consumer, who has no say whatever in the control of marketing. It is essential, therefore, that the people should be represented on the marketing boards through government nominees.
I return to the proposal that the Commonwealth Parliament shall be empowered to make laws with respect to terms and conditions of employment in industry. That is a necessary power to be vested in this Parliament. I direct the attention of honorable members to the proviso that that power shall not be exercised so as to authorize any form of industrial conscription. That is an essential safeguard, not when the Labour party is in office, but in the event of anti-Labour forming ia, government in the far distant future.
– In 50 years’ time.
– It may be longer than that, but there will always be the risk of the anti-Labour parties being returned to power, and that is why the workers need that protection. In Australia to-day the Commonwealth Parliament has certain powers under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, and many organizations- of workers and employers take advantage of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration in order to have their differences settled. However, the Commonwealth powers in that respect are limited. For instance, under the Constitution, before the court can take cognizance of an industrial dispute, it is necessary that the dispute shall extend beyond’ one State. Ten thousand or 15,000 men might be locked out or on strike in Victoria, but because men in similar occupations in other States stay at work, the dispute exists in only one State, and in normal times the court cannot intervene, and those affected have to depend on the State system of arbitration for settlement of the dispute. In every State a different system of arbitration operates. Wages . and conditions in Queensland under the State arbitration system differ, from those of New South Wales, which, in turn, differ from the Victorian.. So it goes on. Confusion reigns. The honorable member for Maranoa has told us that three different basic wages operate in Queensland. That is necessary because of the varying conditions existing in different parts of the State. However, the basic wage in Queensland is fixed on a basis entirely different from that oh which’ the basic wage in New South Wales is fixed and the latter basis, in turn, is different from that on which the basic wage in Victoria is fixed. All the State systems are different from that adopted by the Commonwealth court. So, in regard to that one condition of employment, the basic wage, confusion exists as between the States themselves and as between the Commonwealth and the States. It is time that we ended that confusion by adopting the common-sense course of setting up a nation-wide arbitration system under which all people will receive similar treatment, regardless of State boundaries. But under existing conditions that is utterly impossible. In New South Wales and Queensland, the people are better off as regards the State basic wage than are people of Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania, but, as I have pointed out in this House before, honorable members opposite ought to think of themselves not as representatives of States attending a parliament in a foreign country but as representatives of Australian electorates in a national parliament. As such they should have an Australian outlook and recognize that the’ people in the north are entitled to the same treatment as is given to the people in the south. If they’ can get that idea into their heads they will realize that the system of conciliation and arbitration, which, they have been lauding to the skies in recent year3, is incomplete, that its joints creak, that it requires many alterations and. that the court itself must have additional powers before it can operate as it should. If they will realize that and live up to the statements that they have made at various times in. support of the Commonwealth Court of Concilia- tion and Arbitration, they will support the proposal to give to the court the powers that it ought to have. Yet we have heard honorable gentlemen opposite say that if the Commonwealth Parliament does get this power, a lot of people ignorant of industrial conditions will get together and fix a maximum working week and a standard basic wage for Australia. That ridiculous statement is a reflection on their ability to represent the people of Australia. They have gone before the electorate and asked to be elected to this Parliament as members of a great political party. They have said, “ If you elect us we will govern you in the best possible way. We will give you everything that is fair and reasonable “. Yet when they are asked in this Parliament to face the position and say whether it is necessary that this Parliament should have additional powers, they run away from the question and say, “ We are net able to say. We have not the knowledge or ability to decide whether this Parliament should have additional powers. We are sent here only to retard progress “ - that is what it amounts to - “ and, if you ask us whether the Constitution should be ‘ altered we have not the brains to give ari opinion “. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) said, “ We cannot submit these questions to the people. That is not the correct procedure. This Parliament is not capable of deciding the matter. We should have a convention “. His office boy, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), said the same thing, “ We will have to ha.ve an elected convention “. What else but an elected convention is this Parliament? We were elected to this Parliament .to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth. That applies equally to honorable gentlemen opposite. Yet, when the problem whether the Parliament should be given greater powers in order to accomplish that purpose is put to them, the Leader of the Opposition and his supporters say, “We are not capable of deciding. We have not the ability to recommend to the people what is necessary for the good government of this country., We will pass our responsibility on to some one else. Have an elected convention. It will decide whether the.
Constitution needs amending or otherwise “
– -If the honorable gentleman’s imagination ran in other ways he would be another Edison.
– The honorable member for Barker, as a supporter of the Leader of the Opposition, must accept his full share of the responsibility. He has admitted that be is too stupid to give a decision on whether or not the Constitution should be altered. He agrees that the question should be passed to some other body, which is to be elected by the people in the same manner as that in which he was elected. If he is not prepared to stand up to his responsibilities as a member of Parliament, he should go back to his constituents and say honestly to them, “ Certain proposals were put before us, the wisdom of which I was not game or intelligent enough to, decide. I ask you. therefore bo elect a different body of men to go into the matter and make up my mind for me. Then you can send me back to the House if you like. But I will not take the responsibility of saying whether it is necessary or not to alter the Constitution “. This Parliament, I repeat, -is the elected convention of the people. A member of this Parliament who is not prepared to say whether these proposals should be put to the people or not should not remain here, but should go back to his constituents and admit, as honorable members have admitted inferentially, that he has failed them by not having been prepared to give a decision on problems that have been placed before him in Parliament. I shall not try to pass the responsibility to someone else. That may be all right for the man in the street, but honorable members have a job to do and must face their responsibilities.
– The honorable member recognizes that the referendum passes the responsibility from this Parliament to the people?
– The honorable member for Barker knows perfectly well the methods by which the Constitution may be altered - he has told the House about them on many occasions. The Government is, adopting the only possible course, and I take the responsibility of support ing its proposals. When they are submitted to the people, I shall recommend that these powers be conferred upon the Commonwealth Parliament, because they are necessary to the good government of the country. Members of the Australian Country party support the principle of orderly marketing because they consider that it will give the small section of the community which they represent some little advantage compared with the conditions to which they have been accustomed in the past. The Constitution Alteration (Industrial Employment) Bill relates to wages and conditions of employment, and is most important to the little section represented ,by the Australian Country party. Unless honorable members opposite support the referendum proposals, primary producers will sooner or later encounter grave industrial troubles.
– Is that a promise or a. threat?
– It will be a natural development. The employees of primary producers endured bad conditions for many years, but now the workers have organized, and are greatly improving their conditions. They will continue to organize until primary producers give to their employees the same rates of wages and conditions as those which apply in other industries. If the primary industries do not improve their standards of employment, we must find new people to engage in them. The primary producer must realize that’ fact. He cannot forever employ men under bad conditions j. and expect high prices for his commodities. He must pay to his employees a fair rate of remuneration and grant them proper conditions. Certainly, we have improved the position, but, as usual, the Government provided a subsidy to meet the additional cost, and I suppose that the primary producer will continue to apply for additional subsidies and the Government will accede to their, requests. That assistance will enable the primary producers to pay quarterly or half-yearly their interest charges to the private financial institutions. We must recognize that the Arbitration Court must be clothed with adequate powers. Honorable members opposite have extolled the advantages of the arbitration system over the years, but have howled and squealed whenever a strike has occurred. They have declared that the workers were not” pulling their weight”, and should approach the arbitration court for a settlement of their differences. That argument is valid, provided we have an arbitration count which can settle their differences, and not one which has been hamstrung as the Commonwealth Arbitration Court has been throughout its existence. If we give to the court the powers which it should possess, peace in industry will be more enduring than it has been for years. The worker does not like strikes. He does not like to starve because he has no wages. But he demands and is entitled to get adequate recompense for his services, and proper conditions of employment. Under our outmoded system of arbitration, we cannot get those things. Consequently, we must ask the people to grant additional powers to this Parliament. I should like the referendum proposals to go a good deal farther than they do. For example, I should like to make certain that the Commonwealth Parliament possessed all the powers that it might require at any time.
– Will not the present proposals give to this Parliament those powers?
Mr.BRYSON.-The present proposals, if adopted by the people, will give to this Parliament some, but not all, of the powers which it may require. These proposals will definitely improve the position, and the Commonwealth Arbitration Court will possess considerably more power than it hasnow. It will certainly give to the Parliament, if the Parliament is willing to accept its full responsibility, the right to declare what the maximum working week in industry shall be. As a member of this Parliament, I am quite prepared to take my share of the responsibility in making that declaration. If any honorable member is not prepared to record a vote in determining the maximum working week for employees in industry, he is not fit to represent the people. The same comment applies to the standard basic wage. This Parliament is capable of determining the minimum standard of living for the worker, and any honorable member who is not prepared to accept that responsibility is not fit to be here. We are a civilized community. We profess to believe that the whole of the people should receive just treatment, and that human beings should be allowed to live in reasonable comfort. Honorable members opposite have talked a great deal in recent timesabout the “ four freedoms “ declared in the Atlantic Charter. One of them is freedom from want. Although honorable members opposite mouth platitudes about freedom from want, they do not agree that this Parliament should determine the minimum standard of living. If they are in favour of the principle of freedom from want, they should also be in favour of this Parliament declaring that no person in this country shall be expected to live below a certain minimium standard.
– Has not that minimum standard been determined by arbitration courts and wages boards in all States?
– In spite of arbitration courts and wages boards, has not the honorable member been obliged to put his hand in his pocket at various times for a few shillings so that some unfortunate person would not starve? Victoria has never made reasonable provision to protect its citizens from want. In fact, none of the States has done so. On this occasion, the Commonwealth Parliament has an opportunity to take a big step forward by removing from the people of Australia fear of want, but as soon as honorable members opposite are faced with that, they say, “ No, we cannot do that. We shall have an elected convention in the dim and distant future to tackle the problem”. The truth is that they are afraid that the basic wage will be increased, that the conditions of the basic wage-earners will be improved, and that some of the. profits of the big industrial bosses will be taken from them. Honorable members opposite do not desire to remove the fear of want. Their only fear is that some of the big profits will be taken from the people who have already derived more profit than they require. They represent that section and speak on their behalf. It is because some of the profits may be diverted to the workers, who earn them, that the Opposition now says, “No, this referendum should not be held “. Consequently, honorable members opposite are trying to convince the people that they should oppose the referendum. I hope that the referendum will be held, that the people will refuse to be gulled by the Opposition as they were on a previous occasion, and that these necessary powers will be transferred to the Commonwealth, so that the workers of Australia may look forward to a better and brighter future.
.- Definitely, the Commonwealth Constitution requires alteration from time to time, and the necessary machinery is provided to enable alterations to be made. Honorable members should read the classic work on the Constitution by Sir John Quick, a former Attorney-General of the Commonwealth, and Sir Robert Garran, for many’ years SolicitorGeneral. These eminent authorities make this observation -
A Constitution is a charter of government; it is a deed of trust, containing covenants between the sovereign community and its individual units.
The Constitution is not something which is lightly. to be set aside. Referring to the safeguard that the Constitution shall be altered only with the consent of a majority of the people in a majority of the States, the authors wrote -
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.
We should ask ourselves, as the representatives of the people in this Parliament, whether the Government’s proposals for altering the Constitution are desirable, irresistible and inevitable. In 1944, this Government submitted to the people a referendum containing fourteen points. Three or four of them could have been and would have been approved by the people if they had been detached from the Government’s socialistic policy, and I am surprised that they have - not been included in the present referendum proposals. The care of aborigines by the Commonwealth, in order to- ensure that they all receive a fair deal, was one of those points. The control of aviation was another. Obviously, the progress of aviation could not have been foreseen by those who drafted the Constitution years ago. In 1937, the Lyons Government endeavoured to obtain control of aviation, but the referendum, was defeated. Had the present Government submitted those subjects- seriatim instead of in globo, they would have been accepted by the people^ But the people, very wisely, recognized that those proposals were a part of the Government’s socialistic programme, and decisively defeated them. The Government did not get a majority of the electors, or a majority of the States in favour of its proposals. Now, the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) has introduced not one bill containing fourteen points, but three bills containing several points. That is suggestive of the threecard trick about which some of us have heard on racecourses. These proposals are not honest, and are not put forward in a sincere endeavour to alter the Constitution so that it will function more smoothly. It is neither inevitable nor necessary that these powers be given to the Commonwealth. The Government is seeking to confuse the .issue before the election, at which it desires to offer to the people a 40-hour working week, or some other inducement for support - the carrot in front of the democracy.
The Constitution Alteration (Social Services) Bill relates to the provision of maternity allowances, widows’ pensions, child endowment, unemployment, sickness and hospital benefits, medical and dental services, benefits for students, and family allowances.’ Who would deny that the constitutional validity of child endowment should be placed beyond all doubt?. The United Australia party Government introduced child endowment in 1941, and believed that it would endure. We considered that if its validity were ever challenged, the States would grant to the Commonwealth power to enable it to continue the payments. The Government cannot deny that. The same remark applies to any of the other social services that have been mentioned. Regarding medical and dental services, it would be interesting if the Government held a plebiscite of doctors and dentists in order to determine whether they desired their professions to be nationalized.
– An absurd proposition.
– This bill will confer on the Government power to nationalize those professions, and this proposal should be separated from the outright social services. It is only in a place like Canberra, where we know the record of the Government, that we can see through these devices. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Bryson) stated proudly that the Government’s record ‘ was second to none. I agree that, for incompetence and class consciousness, its record is second to none. The bills reek of it. The Government also seeks power over the organized marketing of primary products. In 1937 the Lyons Government sought to obtain authority which would allow the Commonwealth and the States to organize marketing schemes, but the people rejected the proposal. The present Government made another unsuccessful attempt in 1944. Now, it seeks full powers - more than the Lyons Government asked for - and in the meantime, we have learned the lengths to which the Government will go in an endeavour to bind the people with those controls. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) gave one instance and the honorable member for Maranoa another. In fact, every commodity is controlled by some authority.
– That is not true.
– Well, I shall amend my statement. I do not think that cucumbers are controlled, but almost everything else is controlled. We have officials with high-sounding titles such as “Deputy Controller of Potatoes in Victoria and the “ like. Almost every sale- ‘able article is controlled, by shoals of bureaucrats. Honorable members opposite do not deny it. They have signed a pledge that they will support a policy designed to control the means of production, distribution, and exchange. As a matter of fact, these three measures actually hide the real intention of the members of the Labour party, who are trying to- “ put something over “. They desire to control everything. But the people are sick of con trols. Some of the war-time controls were, necessary and successful, but the Government is seeking the power to control everything.
The third bill is the principal one. The two measures to which 1 have already referred are the bait that covers the hook. The third bill seeks power over -
Terms and conditions of employment in industry, but not so, as to authorize any form of industrial conscription.
What honorable members opposite are aiming at is compulsory unionism. If they can secure the power they seek over employment in industry they will enforce unionism on the people. They talk piously about freedom, but they never advocate freedom to work or freedom of association. They are not agreeable to allow people freedom .to work when a strike occurs. Undoubtedly if these proposed amendments be agreed to, compulsory unionism will become the law in this country. The history of industrial arbitration in Australia is creditable. Power to make laws with respect to “ conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State” is provided in the Constitution, and there was a time when Australia led the world in industrial arbitration. Some members of the Labour party who are not now with us in this Parliament used to boast that Australia was in the vanguard in this connexion; now, however, it is in the guard’s van. The system of industrial ‘ arbitration in vogue in Australia was highly regarded, throughout the world at one period, but since this Government has been in office and has revealed that it lacks the intestinal fortitude to enforce the findings of the court, our status in regard to industrial arbitration has deteriorated. In fact, industrial arbitration in this country has become a broken reed. Mr. S. M. Bruce, a great Australian, who has been long enough ‘ away from the political arena in this country to be regarded as a nonparty man, has said that one of Australia’s principal troubles in industry is that the decisions of the Arbitration Court are not being enforced.
– He also said that he was in favour of the nationalization of transport.
– He did not quite say that. He said that some essential services could be taken over ; and our Government railways are examples. The trouble with this Government is that it lacks the courage to prosecute industrial troublemakers, such as those on the waterfront and in the coal mines. These people are profiteers in disaster. They are industrial middlemen who hold the country to ransom, and the Government will not stand up against them. It will not enforce the decisions of the Arbitration Court. It says, in effect, “ We will come across. Don’t shoot. We will do what you want us to do.” The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), and the honorable member for , Bourke (Mr! Bryson) in this House, and the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) in caucus no doubt, have made their attitude clear. They desire this Parliament to be clothed with the power to legislate for a 4.0-hour week, and probably, later, for a 30-hour week.
– Such legislation could be passed by State parliaments under their existing power.
– Last night the Minister’s colleague, the honorable member for Robertson (Mir. Williams) said that the Labour party wanted these powers to legislate for the shorter working week. I admire him for his straightforwardness in the matter. He said, definitely, that the Government would legislate for a 40-hour week if it had the power to do so. I have no quarrel over high wages, but the Arbitration Court is the proper authority to say what wages and conditions should apply in industry. Wages should be as high as industry can afford to pay, but the rates should not be determined by demagogues here or in caucus. Such individuals should not have the power to alter the whole basis of our national economy. That is what would happen if this new industrial power were vested in the Parliament.
I can well imagine the caucus scene when these alterations were suggested to the Constitution. No, doubt the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), who has learned that the slogans of the Domain do not “ go down “ in this Parliament, said to his colleagues, “ Well, the coal-miners and the 1 Commos ‘,’suoh as Wells and others, are coming to demand a 40-hour week, and the Australasian Council of Trade Unions has voted in favour of it. What are we going to do about it ? “ The Minister for Transport then said, “Well, last week in the Domain a chap who stood with me called for a 35-hour week. You must do something about it “. The Minister for’ Works and Housing (Mr. Lazzarini) then probably said, “ Well, let’s agree on a 40-hour week “. The Attorney-General, no doubt, then said, Well, we shall have to alter the Constitution to do it by legislation “.
– The , Minister for Labour and National Service in .the Menzies Government introduced a 6s. war loading for the workers under the National Security Regulations without reference to the Arbitration Court;
– That may be so. My point is that the Arbitration Court was established to enable employers and employees to submit their cases, through expert advocates, if necessary, to a learned judge. In such an atmosphere a reasonable decision can be reached which will bear some relation to economic conditions. Statistical information and other relevant factors can be .considered. The Arbitration Court has operated in that way, and it has fixed a basic wage which varies according to the varying circumstances of different States. Does any honorable gentleman opposite suggest that a uniform basic wage for the whole of Australia would be equitable?
– I know that a diet which includes only potatoes and onions as vegetables is not adequate.
– Here we have a young economist who has recently entered this Parliament putting forward his opinions. Gould he, or any one of us for that matter, decide what should be the basic wage in Queensland, for example ? No member of this Parliament is competent to determine the basic .wage for all parts of Australia. Yet we are being calmly asked to accept this dangerous industrial bill in the same way as we are being asked to accept a harmless Constitution alteration measure. This whole procedure is reminiscent of the declining days of the Roman Empire, when free bread, free circuses and free services generally were offered to the people. We could go back farther to the days when Aristotle said that “ the insolence of demagogues was the .ruin of democracy “. During our 46 years of federation we have had in operate an excellent system of judicial arbitrament in relation to industrial affairs, but this Government is now yielding to the clamour of the demagogues inside and outside of this Parliament that the Arbitration Court should be set aside. This would be a seriously retrograde step which would take us back to the days of scrambling for whatever could be got. If the Constitution were amended in the manner now suggested we should have political parties competing at election, time with promises of shorter working hours, higher wages and the like when, in fact, (he urgent need of this country is not shorter hours and higher wages but honest work to increase production. Mr. Attlee, the Prime Minister of Great Britain-
– A good man !
– I happen to know him. He is a. good man. He said that what is wanted to-day is more, not less, work. Honorable gentlemen opposite are trying to deprive this country of the economic safety valve which it at present possesses in the Arbitration Court. The proposal is being put forward cunningly. The Arbitration Court is not to be abolished; it is simply to be put into the discard and become an empty tenement. When an issue arises which the Government would not desire to determine, it would be able to say in effect, “ Let us refer this matter to- the Arbitration Court. It need not reach a decision for a year or even two years They could then do that, instead of referring it to, say, Mr. Barry, Mr. Alderman, or Mr. Sugerman. That would be an easy way out of any difficulties that arose. That is the manner in which the Government is proposing to by-pass the Arbitration Court.. I do not think that any honorable gentleman opposite will deny that that is the intention of this bill. It is being suggested in a subtle quiet way that this particular proposed amendment of the Constitution would bc something for the good of the workers. The honorable member for Bourke has told us that all the workers on the water front desire is the right to live. I remind the honorable gentleman that not all the workers are on the waterfront. In fact it seems to me sometimes that the workers are less represented there than in almost any other place. Nor are all the workers to be found on the coalfields.
We are possibly the most fortunate people in the world. Providence has placed us, geographically, away from the danger points in the world, and has endowed us with magnificent resources. Instead of agitating for a 40-hour week our people should be gladly working three shifts a day in order to produce food, building materials, and other commodities which are in such great demand. Instead of advocating such a programme, the Government and its supporters are calling upon the National Parliament to agree to submit to the people a proposed alteration of the Constitution which, we all know, is designed to secure a reduction of working hours in a general “go slow “.
These bills should never have been introduced. That is not my opinion only. Honorable gentlemen opposite could go almost anywhere beyond the precincts of this House and discover that even the workers are not interested in this subject. But this Government and the Labour party does not represent the workers; it is a trade union body. I believe that the workers throughout Australia would be glad to do their utmost, under proper leadership, to help the starving people of Europe and, particularly, the people of Great Britain who to-day are receiving rationed finance from the United States of America, -and rationed gratitude from Russia. We should be exerting all our energy to produce more food. The great food-producing capacity of the Commonwealth should be employed to the fullest possible extent in these days. Let mo bring to the notice of honorable members the opinion of Mr. Burton, lecturer in economics at the University of Melbourne. This gentleman, who will be known to the honorable member for Fremantle, delivered a lecture this week to a branch of the United Nations Association in Melbourne. Speaking on the 40-hour week, he said -
So long as we had a shortage of supplies in Australia, we had to admit some .doubt whether the time was ripe for a. 40-hour standard, and we had to consider what the effect of such a reduction would be in a world where starvation was rampant and where the prospects of shortening the working week to the same extent must be remote.
That is the opinion of a man who can be placed in the academic category and could not be termed conservative. After all, are we to be guided by a Government that is actuated more by its political beliefs and the opinions of militant trade unions than by the opinion of the mass of the people? I warn it in all seriousness that what it is doing is dangerous. I refer again to Quick and Garran -
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 defining 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. *
If honorable members opposite, as citizens of Australia, want this country to progress, surely they will not attempt to curtail in any way our productive capacity or our political or industrial development! What they are contemplating is definitely retrogressive. I believe that, in cairn moments, if they could escape from some of the influences that have forced this issue upon them, they would admit the truth of that statement.
I believe that I can say definitely that no law for an alteration of the Constitution has been passed unless the two principal political parties have been in agreement in regard to it. That condition existed in respect of the Financial Agreement that was accepted by the people in 1927. Two years ago, when referendum proposals were brought forward in this House, I warned the Government that they could not be passed into law except by reasoning and if, in the language of Sir John Quick and Sir Robert Garran, who had a hand in writing the Constitution, they were desirable, irresistible and inevitable; to which I add that the support of the main political parties is essential. Therefore, this proposed law will not be accepted by the people even though the Government submits it in conjunction with a general election. Honorable members opposite take credit to themselves on that account ; they claim that the expenditure which would be involved in having a separate vote will thereby be saved. That is not the real reason. The Minister for Information admitted that £50,000, good money of the taxpayers, was expended by the Government on propaganda when the last referendum was taken. When the Auditor-General criticized that expenditure, the honorable gentleman informed, us that it was for post-war education.
– That is correct. I am- sorry. that it did not have the effect that it should have had.
– The Auditor-General reported that the expenditure was unwarranted.
– He did not.
– He was critical of it.
– He said that there should have been parliamentary authority for it.
– The Auditor-General said that the expenditure did not appear in the estimates ; therefore, it should not have been incurred. Yet the Government now claims to be acting virtuously by holding the referendum at the time of a general election and thus saving the expense of a separate vote. The idea is a little more subtle than appears on the surface. We, being old in political experience, view it in the correct light, but the public will not have that advantage. The intention is to ‘ promise a 40-hour week, because of pressure by Communists and the Australasian Council of Trade Unions. I should have no quarrel with a particular industry being awarded even a £ 0-hour week by the Arbitration Court, because that tribunal is the only body that is competent to make a determination in respect of such a matter. The Minister for Information cannot say what number of hours should be worked or what the rate of pay should be in any industry.
– The number of hours ought not to be more than 40.
– What magic is there in the figure “40”? Would not 39 be better? The Government is attempting to alter the Constitution by means of three bills. The proposals relating to Social services and organized marketing do not matter, but the proposal relating to employment is fundamental to Australia’s progress, and. if it be translated into law. we shall retrogress and have more mid more trouble on the waterfront and’ elsewhere. The Government has run away from its obligation to prosecute trouble-makers and strike-promoters, who have the audacity -to tell it week after week what it must do. If the Government regards, advice from this side, of the House as being worth anything, I shall tell it what it should do and what we shall do when we are returned to power. It should prosecute Thornton, Wells, and other trouble-makers. They should be dealt with as the law demands, and as other people are dealt with if they transgress against the law. There would then be more peace in industry, and an absence of the shibboleths and catch-cries which honorable members Opposite use in order to raise a few cheers and gain- a few votes. The third proposal is definitely an appeal for complete political control of industry, so that compulsory unionism can be introduced and the hours of labour shortened by this Parliament. Such action would wreck any industry; because, however well-intentioned honorable members may be, they are not competent to pass judgment in such matters and Parliament would become an industrial bargain counter. The proposal is dangerous, and should be rejected. It cannot’ be rejected in this House, because the Government is numerically strong enough to pass it, but it definitely will be rejected by the people. Every honorable member who sits on this side of the House should pledge himself to oppose it as strongly as he can, with a view to ensuring its rejection.
.- The Australian Constitution can be altered in three ways - first, by reference of power by. the States ; secondly, as the Constitution itself provides, by means of a referendum - an extremely difficult process; and thirdly, by judicial interpretation. In the history of the Commonwealth, the Constitution has been altered probably more by judicial interpretation than in any other way. Judicial interpretation was responsible for a’ revolutionary decision in connexion with uniform taxation, enormously increasing the power of the Commonwealth in a way which, I am sure, the fathers of the Constitution did not anticipate. It has been stated from the Opposition benches that there is something sinister in. the alteration of the Constitution by way of a referendum. The proposed law’ must be passed by a majority of the members of each House of the Parliament and a majority of the people in a majority of the States. That is an exceedingly difficult process, as past experience has proved, but at least it is an entirely open process. I cannot say that I have the slightest respect for the suggestion of the Opposition that a constitution convention should be held to draw up’ recommendations in respect of proposed alterations Opposition members have argued that if a non-party convention were held the people would support the proposals which it recommended. That is contradicted by history. Past conventions were very slow to draw up a Commonwealth Constitution that was acceptable to the people of the States. Western Australia entered the federation only after a heavy migration of people from the eastern States, whom the “ Groper “ families called “ Tothersiders “, had provided a majority with an “other side” outlook which forced the Government of the State to take that course. Ever since then, a strong federal tradition has existed on the gold-fields of Western Australia. That was shown at the last referendum when, by a majority of two to one, the people on the gold-fields voted in the affirmative. There is not a tittle of evidence to prove that acceptance of proposed alterations can be obtained by having them drafted by a convention. How would such a convention be selected? Would the delegates be nominated by the States? If so, the State government were to nominate delegates of its own political colour, then the objection which honorable members opposite have to the drafting of these proposals in a political way would still remain. If it be suggested that the delegates ‘should he elected by the people of each State I should like to know what constitutional power exists to compel people to vote. I very much doubt whether the Constitution contains such a power. If the States passed legislation enabling each State to elect delegates, then there would be no prospect of the people electing non-political delegates. In order to cast an intelligent vote, they would have to know whether the person offering himself was a federalist or a States-righter. Thus, the candidates would have to be identified with politics. Therefore, the assertion that a convention would overcome the difficulties associated with an alteration of the Constitution will not bear analysis. We have the example of the 1942 convention that was attended by every State Premier and Leader of the Opposition, as well as by representative members of the Government and the Opposition in this Parliament. Members of the present Opposition agreed to certain powers being referred by the States to the Commonwealth for a period of five years. Only the right honorable member “for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) had the courage to adopt outside- the convention the attitude that he had adopted inside. The Dunstans, Playfords and Menzies agreed in the convention that certain references of power were necessary, but argued outside against such a course being adopted. Consequently, we could not obtain by means of a convention in which the Opposition parties were represented, an honest statement to the people of what constitutional amendment was necessary. They speak in one way at an assembly, but when the influences which dominate their parties apply pressure to them outside they speak in an entirely different way. We have not yet had a clear statement from Opposition members as to whether they intend to support or oppose the present proposals. The Leader of the Opposition became almost petulant about the referendum being held on the same day as the polling in the general elections. The Liberal party and the Australian Country party have’ many planks in their platforms. Proposals and principles which are not incorporated in specific programmes are merely plati- tudes. Among the proposals of the Liberal party is the very striking industrial proposal that there shall- be profit-sharing. The members of that party know thai they have not the least constitutional power to implement profit-sharing. The Australian Country party adopts the principle of the organized marketing of primary commodities. Its members know that the power of this Parliament to legislate in that connexion is at least doubtful. If the referendum be held on election day, and honorable members opposite make their usual promises about industrial reforms and marketing proposals, at the same time opposing the alteration of the Constitution, they will display .openly the hypocrisy they have always shown. Hence this petulant outburst about proposals, to some of which they pretend to agree, being put to the people on election day. We have also had the “ distant fields are greenest “ argument brought forward by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott), -who mentioned the great example of the federal constitution of the United States of America. I point out that the present proposals are before Parliament because of the difficulties inherent in federal constitutions, the difficulty of delimiting the powers of the federal authority on the one hand, and those of the States on the other. These problems have been, encountered iii the United States of America. All these cliches about the rights of democracy, the increasing size of the civil service, and the benefits of decentralization, can be read iii such journals as Life, Time and the Saturday Evening Post, copies of which are available in the Library in this building. The difficulties of federalism are not peculiar to Australia; they are inherent in any federal constitution. It is a gross distortion of the truth to say that they arise out of our own Constitution as such, or out of the attitude of the Labour party.
Insofar as there emanated any criticism from honorable members of the Opposition, they first objected to the matter, and then to the manner, of the Government’s proposals. They assumed a complete incapacity on the part of the judiciary to interpret words of common, meaning. They asked, “What is the meaning of ‘ benefit to students ‘ ? What is the meaning of ‘ primary produce ‘ ? What is the meaning of ‘ industrial conscription’ ? “. It cannot be said that the High Court judiciary has in the past exhibited an inability to give a wide meaning to terms which are political rather than legal. I do not know how it would be possible to write a constitution without having in it many terms the meaning of which would be political rather than legal. For instance, the defence power refers to “ the naval and military defence of the Commonwealth That is a political, not a legal expression. -Members of the judiciary have themselves differed widely as to the meaning of that very expression. For instance, Chief Justice Griffith, in the case of Farey v. Burvet, said that it gave the Commonwealth Parliament all the powers which the Parliament of the United Kingdom might exercise in time of war. On the other hand, Chief Justice Latham says that it does not give to the Commonwealth power to control lighting in a defence factory. No words that one could write into a constitution could exactly define what is meant by the naval and -military defence of the Commonwealth, yet this was certainly not a controversial issue at the conventions which drew up the Constitution. It is not possible, in framing a constitution, to obviate the difficulties of judicial interpretation in regard to matters such as this, as honorable members opposite who are lawyers know very well. An examination of various judgments in recent court cases shows clearly the ability of the judiciary to interpret the meaning of words which may seem to have a political implication.
The first proposal in the legislation now before us is that which concerns social services. The necessity to put these matters before the people arose out of a judgment of the High Court in’ the Pharmaceutical Benefits case, and I read the following excerpt from the judgment of Chief Justice Latham, because it illustrates the difficulties which have to be faced : -
I illustrate the position as I understand it by taking public health legislation as an example. Under section 51 ix. the Commonwealth Parliament has power to make laws with respect to quarantine. Quarantine legislation may he regarded in most, if not all, of its aspects as a particular form of public health legislation. In relation to quarantine the Commonwealth Parliament has full powers if legislation. It can not only provide that money shall be spent upon quarantine, but it can devise and put into operation a whole, compulsory system of quarantine under which duties can be imposed upon persons and penaltics inflicted for breach of the law. But in relation to other aspects of public health the Commonwealth (once again leaving out of account the territories) has no such power of legislation. The Commonwealth can, in my view, authorize the expenditure of public money on enquiries, investigations, research and advocacy in relation to matters affecting public health. But the Parliament could not ass a law requiring citizens of the States to keep their premises clean or to submit to vaccination or immunization. The pow’er to appropriate and expend money, .however wide that power may be, does not enable the Commonwealth to extend its legislative powers beyond those marked out and defined by the Constitution, although (in my opinion) those powers include a general appropriation power.
For the reasons stated I reach the conclusion that the court should not accept the only argument which has been used in support of the validity of the Act, namely that the Act is an exercise* of the power of the Commonwealth Parliament to make laws for the appropriation of public money.
His Honour Mr. Justice Dixon, in his judgment, said -
It was said that section 81 of the Constitution, in referring to appropriation for the purposes of the Commonwealth, empowers the Parliament to expend money for any purpose that is for the benefit of the people of the Commonwealth, or for the advancement of their interest and that, for the rest, section 51 xxxix., warranted an amplification or extension of the area of legislation once the description of benefit or advancement had been determined on. This is not the view which in the past I have entertained of the power of appropriation given by section SI of the requirement ex.pressed by section 83 that the appropriation must be “ by law “. lo one, 1 think, suggests, and I certainly do not, that any narrow interpretation or application should be gaven to these provisions. Even upon the footing that the power of expenditure is limited to matters to which the federal legislative power may be addressed, it necessarily includes whatever is incidenta.1 to the existence of the Commonwealth as a state and to the exercise of the functions of a national government. These are things which,, whether in reference to the external or internal concerns of government, should be interpreted widely and applied according to no narrow conception of the functions of the central government of a country in the world of to-day. There is no reason why such matters should be taken to fall outside the province of federal appropriation though ascertained and ‘defined by reference to the legislative power of the Commonwealth. But the claim is made that, under sections 81 and 83, the Parliament has* power to authorize the expenditure of money without any limitation of purpose. The claim means that, though the Commonwealth is a government- of defined and enumerated powers, the power to spend money is independent of the limitations which affect the other powers of the Commonwealth and is not to be restricted by reference to the purposes for which, otherwise, the Commonwealth is conceived to have been established. There has not been wanting support for this view among those who have written about the Constitution, though, I think the more general opinion has been against it.
Everybody will agree that health is a proper matter for this Parliament to legislate . upon. At least, all will agreethat this Parliament should have concurrent power with the States on health matters other than quarantine. Honorable members opposite have raised the subject of decentralization. If they regard the relationship between the Commonwealth and the States as’ a relationship of decentralization they do not know the meaning of the term. It is not decentralization. The relation between the Government of Great Britain and local governing bodies is one of decentralization, because the central government possesses full power, but delegates some of it to local bodies, for the control of education, &c, all the time remaining itself the last court of appeal. Between the Commonwealth and the ‘States there is a situation of separate and colliding sovereignties. A great many of the cases which have been heard in the High Court arise out of this collision of sovereignties.
Honorable members opposite have particularly opposed the third proposal contained in these bills, namely, that the. Commonwealth should have power to legislate in respect of terms and conditions of employment. They have suggested that there is something sinister in it. The New Zealand Parliament has power to legislate regarding terms and conditions of employment, and, in fact, has legislated to introduce a 40-hour working week. That does not mean that New Zealand has abrogated the institution of industrial arbitration. It only means that the Parliament of New Zealand has established a basis from which arbitration begins. The Labour party in Australia stands for arbitration. So does the Liberal party, but it has been standing still for forty years. Members of the Liberal party say that there should be no departure from the principles laid down over 40 years ago. If they hold that Parliament has no right to legislate in regard to economic matters, they deny the whole history of human progress over the last 100 years. Mankind has progressed in this field only insofar as it has set aside the bestial and un-Christian doctrine of laissez-faire, and insofar as legislation has been enacted to raise standards of living.
The Leader of the Opposition has varied his attitude from time to time.’ When he is in the House, and is not facing an audience of lawyers, he sometimes makes assertions that he would not make before a critical audience. Let me quote an excerpt from an address which he delivered to the Australian Institute of Political Science, a critical audience, on terms and conditions of labour. The address, which is published in Studies on the Austraiian Constitution edited by Professor Portus, included these passages : - . . While I am, in general, no slave to the idea that there should be a uniformity of industrial prescription in the various States, it seems clear that there will, from time to time, be cases in which some uniform treatment of a problem, common to two or more “States or to some employers or industries in two or more States, will be essential if justice is to be done. This result could not be achieved unless there exists some, right in the Commonwealth, in respect of some industries or some classes of employers, or some types of dispute, to exercise a power either of settling disputes, or of making some adjustment from time to time of industrial conditions.
Then he became more explicit, and stated his own creed in these terms - . . The third course, and, in spite of past heresies, I am to-day driven to it, is to amend section 51 by giving to the Commonwealth Parliament, power to legislate generally in respect of all industrial matters. The immediate objection to this proposal is that it appears to involve a tremendous centralizing of power on a matter which, more than most matters, frequently requires local and particular treatment”. The answer to that objection is, paradoxical though it may seem, that you never will be able to get a local treatment of a local dispute until you give all. power to the Commonwealth. As I have endeavoured to prove, the present sub-section xxxv. has almost compelled the aggregation of disputes. It is not to be assumed that a Commonwealth Parliament will be less conscious of the needs of the community than a State Parliament: and it is, I think, fair to assume tha.t a Commonwealth Parliament, armed for the first time with a general power over industrial matters, would proceed to exercise it along sensible lines and in the light of prior experience. Let me picture briefly what could be done by such a Commonwealth Parliament. It could completely remodel our industrial machinery; it could eliminate the notion that the way to wage fixation or hours- fixation is through the pro- cesses of dislocation and dispute; it could provide for local tribunals to deal with local matters; it., could make the round-table conference, iii industries of individual factories or in departments pf individual factories, a real and effective thing; it could, by the machinery it set up, encourage the idea that wages and conditions are matters which ought to be sensibly discussed, and, if possible, agreed upon at periodical meetings between employers and employees; it could, by the total abolition of the existing overlapping, put every employer in a position to know exactly what his industrial obligations were, since those obligations would proceed from one ultimate source; it could, in . short, ‘bring about what can never be produced under our present divided system - the two great essentials of industrial regulation, simplicity and flexibility.
Then the- right honorable gentleman, anticipating bis own attitude, went on to say -
Such, in brief, arc my own views, substantially altered from wh’at they were a few years ago, upon this all-important question.
Since then he has altered his views again. It is rather regrettable. He continued -
They will, however, not find acceptance, until we have come to learn that constitutional changes arc to be considered on their merits, and in the light of some real working philosophy, and not in the flickering and frequently distorting light of party controversy.
The right honorable gentleman advocated the granting, to the Commonwealth Parliament of powers more sweeping than the Government seeks under the third of the proposals for the forthcoming referendum. Anticipating his later attitude, he said that the damaging thing about a constitutional referendum was that people interpreted questions put before them in “ the flickering and frequently distorting light of party controversy”.
The other matters raised by honorable members opposite concern terminology mainly. They asked., “ What is the meaning of ‘ benefits to students’? “ and “ What is the meaning of ‘primary products’?” [.”hose are two of the gems ‘ that we have heard from them. I have no doubt that the judiciary is not mentally decrepit. I only regret that certain judges at present are physically incapable of travelling from one State to another’ without breaking down, so that the Constitution, which envisaged that the High
Court should move from State to State, is being set aside in that regard. If a judge is incapable of so travelling he might consider it- advisable to resign. However, there is nothing in the history of the Australian judiciary which shows that it is unable to interpret words, and a sensible interpretation of “ primary products “ can be found. If the proposals referred to wheat, wool, and meat, certain honorable members opposite would be asking to-day, “ What is the meaning of wool? Does it mean’ woollen jumpers? What is the meaning of meat? Does it mean canned meat?’7 Their arguments would be on the same level as they have been this afternoon, I believe that the Minister for .Works and Housing (Mr. Lazzarini) on one occasion described a certain member of this House as “ sitting on the fence with both ears to the ground “. I cannot imagine such a physical situation, but it seems to be a very fine description, of the attitude of the Opposition in this, matter. No honorable member opposite has said definitely that the Opposition advocates a vote against all or any of the Government’s proposals at the referendum. The position has been left indefinite. The Opposition is afraid of the matter and has not been courageous enough to state its attitude clearly. One honorable member opposite said that all the actions that we envisage under theproposed powers can be carried ‘out by the States, and he had the effrontery to assert that price fixing was one such action. Section 92 of the Constitution binds the States as- it binds the Commonwealth, and, in the case of McArthur v. the Stale of Queensland, it was specifically ruled by the High Court that prices cannot be fixed by States for goods which move from State to State. The assertionof the honorable member to the contrary was a distortion of a judicial interpretation of the Constitution. When thisGo ve rumen t goes to the people at the general elections, it will have no guarantee that it will be returned to office. It proposes to submit these questions to the people at the referendum not knowing which political party will bereturned tq office, and therefore, be in a position to administer the powers now being sought for the Commonwealth..
Parliament. I notice, a lack of confidence on the part of honorable members opposite when they assume that the proposed powers will not be administered by them. That probability has coloured their statements, and they have refrained from defining their attitude. If they are confident of winning the elections, they must expect to have these proposed powers in their own hands! Experience has shown that the Commonwealth must have these powers. The first power asked for concerns many things which have been done during the war. The benefits to students, to which certain honorable members opposite take exception, are undoubtedly welcomed by the people of the Commonwealth. These benefits have transformed our universities. Before the war, the University of Western Australia, for instance, had on its rolls 60 young men from basic wage earning families. An examination in 1943 showed that over 200 men from basic-wage-earning families were then attending the university. That university is free, and does not exhibit the class division which is apparent to me, as an outsider, in certain other universities.
– Is the University in Western Australia as full of “ Commos “ as those in Melbourne and Sydney?
– I am not aware of Mie political convictions of Western Australian students, but, as president of the University Labour Club, I had the utmost difficulty in persuading six students to join the club. Therefore, I imagine that not many students hold more radical views than those of the Labour party. The point I make is that benefits to students have been used as a means of social transformation. The interjection by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) was very revealing. He seems to believe that if students from basic wage families are admitted to universities, they will become “ Commos “. I imagine, therefore, that lie is afraid that, if education is brought to the working classes, there will be, a movement against some of the privileges enjoyed by honorable members opposite. T am certainly opposed to universities being reserved for wealthy “ duffers “, and I say that the Government’s proposals will enable us to . perpetuate a system of benefits to students which has democratized the universities. I regret that certain honorable membersopposite consider themselves to be threatened by such a process.
Honorable gentlemen have taken exception to the proposed powers concern- * ing health, “because the Government may abuse them “. Any power may be abused. Under the defence power, the Government, could call up everybody on the ground that it wasnecessary to have everybody in thearmed forces, and. it could say that road-making was a part of the defence exercises to be undertaken. Following this reductio ad absurdum line pf reasoning, if any power referred to the Parliament will be abused, the logical conclusion is that Parliament should have no power at all, and having nopower, should disappear. This Parliament has exercised its powers over many years as wisely as any State parliament.
Mr. Blain interjecting,
– Order !
Mr. Blain interjecting,
– Order! The honorable member has been in the chamber only a few minutes, but has continually interjected, regardless of the fact that the -honorable member who is speaking has shown that he does not intend to reply to his remarks. His action thus resolves itself into deliberate interruption. If he interjects again, I shall name hint.
– What the Government asks for, in the main, is a ratification by the people of powers which the Government has already exercised. Honorable members opposite have paid tributes to the relative industrial peace which existed during World War II. in contrast to the marked industrial unrest during World War I. One phenomenon of labour relations during the war just ended .was the persistent, intervention of the Commonwealth Government to smooth over labour crises ; that is a fair testimony to the wisdom and restraint with which the administration exercised its power over labour. There is not the slightest doubt that, this power would be exercised just as wisely, if it were specifically conferred on the Parliament at a referendum, as it was exercised under the defence power.
We have not had a completely honest statement from members of the Opposition as to where they stand in this matter.
– That seems to worry the honorable member.
– It certainly does worry me, because any party opposing a referendum proposal will probably cause it to be lost, and it is important for the people of Australia, not for the politicians, that these powers should be written into the Constitution. Therefore, the Opposition’s attitude does worry me, and I frankly admit it. No honorable member opposite has stated honestly whether the proposed powers ought to be granted or not, but there has been a great deal of party political sniping which has been entirely destructive. The proposals should be supported by all who desire to implement a positive programme of economic reform. Every political party in Australia has a programme of economic reform, but only the Labour party is seeking power to implement its programme. That shows clearly the insincerity of the Country party’s demands for orderly marketing and the Liberal party’s proposals for profit sharing. I repeat that principles. which are not incorporated in specific programmes are merely platitudes, and honorable members opposite convict themselves of propounding platitudes when they make economic proposals but oppose the granting of constitutional powers to enable the Commonwealth Parliament to implement them.
– One usually looks to a new member of this Parliament to express himself in sincere terms, because one assumes, that he has not had time to be drawn into the maze of political argument and evasion. Therefore, I looked to the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) for a sincere expression of his views, but I have never heard a speech containing so much sophistry in all my life in this House or elsewhere. I say this with a great deal of regret. I regard with admiration young men who come to this Parliament, because they usually bring something fresh in the way of a thorough and honest approach to the problems with which we deal. When a member adopts the sort of Jekyll and Hyde attitude taken up by the honor able member, who, as a lecturer outside Parliament, deals with facts and figures, whilst in this House he indulges in sophistry and evasion, he drags himself down to a very low level. Let us examine the first observation which he made before he indulged in efforts at academic oratory. He said that members of the Opposition know that the success of the proposed referendum requires a majority of both Houses of Parliament, and a majority of the people in a majority pf the States. That is quite true. I agree with him, and I could see no harm arising from the referendum if the issue were as clear as that. But the honorable member knows that the issue is not so clear as be would have us believe. He knows that the referendum will be submitted to the people at the time of the general elections. This has been decided upon by the Government deliberately to confuse the issue between party polities and the alteration of the Constitution. The honorable member is not so naive as to be unaware of that very important fact. Speaking of the judgment in the Pharmaceutical Benefits case he also said that the powers sought should be granted by the people in order to validate action taken by this Government and other governments relative to social services. He said that the judgment showed clearly that the Commonwealth had no power to pay maternity allowances, widows’ pensions, or child endowment. The honorable gentleman knows that none of these social services are likely to be challenged, and that, if they were challenged and invalidated, the States would refer the powers to the Commonwealth Parliament rather than see the services inoperative. If the honorable gentleman is honest and sincere in this regard - and I throw the term “ honesty “ back to him - he must ask himself why the Government> instead of merely seeking to validate its social service legislation, has introduced other highly controversial issues.
The honorable gentleman spoke about “ terms and conditions of employment “ and said, with great pride and force, “ This Government stands for arbitration “. Stands for arbitration ! After we have seen the demands that have been made upon it by the Australasian Council of Trade Unions for alteration of the
Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act and alteration of the court, we know, of course, that the Government does stand for arbitration, but an arbitration court that is manoeuvred and jerked about by the invisible strings manipulated by the trade unions of this country. That is the sort of arbitration that the Government stands for. But I believe the honorable gentleman reached the pinnacle of sophistry when he made extensive quotations from an address by the Leader of the Opposition oh terms and conditions of employment. He did the right honorable gentleman less than justice. He prates about honest criticism, but he knows that had he wished to do justice to my leader, he would at least have mentioned the qualifications that the right honorable gentleman introduced into his address relative to the perpetuation of the weaknesses of the arbitration system. But he deliberately omitted the portions which did not suit his argument. In any case, what, force is there in his charge that the Leader of the Opposition has changed his views? That charge can bo levelled, against all honorable members whose opinions alter according to the trend of events. I have the record of the speeches made in 1936 when a referendum bill relative to marketing was submitted by the Lyons Government. It was similar to one of the proposals now before the House. I choose one example of many in order to give honorable members some idea of where members of the present Government stood relative to this proposed power when the Government of which I was a member brought it before the House. This is what the present Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward), then a private member in Opposition, said -
I wish now to express the hope that the Labour party will oppose this bill in the House, and will advise the workers in the cities and in the country to turn down the proposed alteration of the Constitution. It is not a proposal for orderly marketing, as has been claimed, but is one to validate a scheme to permit a section of the community to corner foodstuffs; to force up prices so that the workers shall have to pay more for foodstuffs than those foodstuffs will be sold for overseas. It is also a proposal for” the continuation of an arrangement whereby the best of our foodstuffs is sent abroad, while that part which is not good enough for the. oversea market is placed on the Australian market for home consumption, and the Australian consumer is forced to pay more for second-rate goods than the oversea buyer pays for first-grade.
I put it to the House that if those conditions and those arguments were good when that measure was before the House, they are equally good to-day; therefore the charge of insincerity and inconsistency levelled against us by the honorable member for Fremantle can be levelled equally against his own Ministers. Let us have a look at the division list, because it is interesting to see how the House divided on that measure. I take only the Ministers. The Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) was against it. The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) was against it. The Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lazzarini) was against it. You too, Mr. Speaker, were against it. The Minister for Transport was against it. The Minister for the Navy (Mr. Makin) was against it. All those Ministers voted against the very measure that they now place before this House. Again, I say to the honorable member for Fremantle that his argument is pure sophistry. He knows full well that the arguments he advanced in that regard have no weight in this debate.
I pass from that to say something about general matters. This debate has taken a strange turn, from the straight and narow path on which the AttorneyGeneral started it. Every speaker on the Government side, without exception, has made it perfectly clear that the Government is using exactly the same technique as it used in 1944, by mixing the bitter with the sweet and saying to the people, “If you want this prize that we offer you, you have to take a very severe dose of medicine with it”. I give the House an example. The bill relating to social services starts off -
A bill for an act to alter the Constitution by empowering the Parliament to make laws for the provision of maternity allowances, widows’ pensions and child endowment-
I have said something in answer to the honorable member for Fremantle a.bout that. I think those powers are not likely to be challenged; but if the Government wished to make, certain of the validity of its actions in legislating for those services, it could have sought that power, and we would have given it all the support we could, because we believe those benefits are fit and proper to be controlled by this Parliament. But that is not what the Government has in mind. It said, “Here is a jolly good excuse for us to offer the people something; they will fear that they will lose the benefits they now enjoy, ;and we will trade on that fear and try to get some powers that we know we would -not get in ordinary circumstances. Therefore, we will also ask for power to make laws for ‘the provision of unemployment, sickness and hospital benefits, medical and dental services, benefits to students and f amily allowances “. I believe that the Government is making a straight-out attempt to nationalize the dental and medical services of this country. It is true that the Attorney-General very adroitly slid over a question asked from this side. He did not make it clear in so many words that he intended to nationalize those two services, but other honorable gentlemen opposite have stated frankly what the intention of the Government is in relation to medical and dental services. The right honorable gentleman required some ice to skate on when he left this forum to put the case to “the people outside. If he is charged with intending to nationalize medical and dental services, he will be able to say, “ I never said that. I said that this would give us power to take over all things incidental to the provision of those services, but I did not say that we would nationalize them “. He needed that ice to slide on, but other honorable gentlemen opposite, unfortunately for him, have pinned the Government down completely, because they have said, in no uncertain terms, that the intention is- to nationalize both dental and medical services. If that is the intention underlying this measure -and the Attorney-General will agree that it will give him the power - I look upon it as a. political” confidence trick played upon the people. The right honorable gentleman evaded a declaration of his intention, but some of his supporters are not so politically astute and have plainly said what they intend to do.
I must say that I cannot understand why the Government has decided to con- fuse the referendum with the general elections. It may be to create what we call a “ Yes “ atmosphere amongst the people. They know that the alteration proposals will not be opposed by the people if it is stressed that they will validate the social services that they enjoy at the moment. I make it clear to the people that I believe that the power contained in this bill, if passed by this Parliament and agreed to by the people, will certainly give the Government power to nationalize the medical and dental services, and I think that the people should have no misunderstanding in that regard. I pause for a moment to say that the right honorable gentleman must remember the reaction of .the people to the threat of socialization at the last referendum. He has to be perfectly certain that on this occasion he states his. case clearly so that there shall be no ambiguity whatever in regard to it, and so that the people shall be given the full facts as to the Government’s intentions with regard to the powers it is seeking. Otherwise the Government will not get those powers. Unless the right honorable gentleman is ready to say “ This is what we are prepared to do “, he is going to permit a welter of argument attributing to him motives that may be he has and may be he has not. Therefore it is essential that the arguments shall be clearly stated and defined. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) and the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Williams) contributed a. good deal to this debate, because they said just what, they would do and what the Government would do if granted these powers. The honorable member for Adelaide said that if free medical and dental services were given to the people, we should have a healthier people. He took medical and dental practitioners to task because of the excessive charges imposed by them.
– Does the honorable gentleman doubt that charges are excessive?
– Not at all, but the people are not going to escape excessive charges ‘ by the nationalization of medicine and. dentistry. Medical services have been nationalized in New Zealand. It ought to be interesting to honorable members to know how that scheme is progressing. If the Government intends to nationalize medical and dental services, it is of vital importance to us to know the position not only in New Zealand but also in European countries that have adopted the principle. The Christian Science Monitor of the 29th December, 1945, published a cabled article from New Zealand in which the medical superintendent of the Hokianga Public Hospital, Dr. G. M. Smith, is reported to have made what is described as “ The most powerful attack on the system of taxfinanced, free medical care “. He wrote -
New Zealand’s system of tax-financed free medical carehas resulted in the debasing of medical practice in this country, vast increases in physicians’ earnings, and a decline in their value to the community.
Dr. Smith declared in a brochure published towards the end of last year -
First results of the plan have been that of every 100 patients who consult a physician to-day, only 25 per cent. are able to benefit from his advice. City physiciansnow send twice as many patients to the hospitals as they did before hospitalization became free and doctors’ consulting fees wereguaranteed. The nation is becoming addicted to the habit of swallowing valueless nostrums from bottles, and since the great growth of hospitalization there is no efficient control of hospitals, which are publicly financed in this country, and there is no audit of their results.
– No doubt thedoctor is a member of the British Medical Association.
– I shall cite another authority. The New Zealand Observer on the 30th October, 1945, published an article entitled the “ Golden Age of New Zealand Medicine “. It stated, inter alia -
In the year ended the 31st March. 1045, £1,287,023 was paid out to doctors from the social security fund.
There were then 865 doctors in practice, some only practising part time.
A simple calculation discloses that apart from other sources of income, fees from social security alone averaged about £1,500 a year. In actual fact the average was much higher.
Many doctors received large additional sums, quite apart from the extra 3s. which many added to their accounts, over and above the fee of 7s.6d. paid from the social security fund.
Whereas medical incomes of £4,000 or £5,000 a year in the past were fairly excep tional and usually earned only by specialists, such incomes are to-day commonplace. What is more, they are earned by general practitioners.
I should like the honorable member for Adelaide, who severely criticized the medical profession, to comment on that assertion. The article continued -
These figures are on record in departmental papers and have been debated in the Dominion Parliament. Each year when the estimates conic up there is critical comment upon the subject of medical incomes.
Lastyear, says the paper, Mr. W. A. Bodkin asked in Parliament if it was true that some doctors were getting more than £10.000 a year from the social security fund, and he mentioned the case of a refugee doctor who was alleged to be drawing £5,000 per quarter from the fund.
It was later announced in Parliament, in reply to a question, that there were no doctors earning £10,000 a year and over from the fund, but it was admitted that three wore drawing more than £8,000 annually.
– Many doctors in Australia are earning similar incomes.
– They are specialists. General practitioners in New Zealand are earning the incomes referred to in the article. Members of the medical profession throughout Australia are expressing concern as to the manner in which the nationalization of medicine will affect the general health of the people. The honorable member for Adelaide said that Australians would be a healthier race. Let us examine the opinion of the general secretary of the Federal Council of the British Medical Association in evidence before the Social Security Committee -
Results of a salaried system would be -
The young practitioner will have to carry out his work always with an eye to winning the esteem of his seniors and promotion would depend not on merit but on seniority.
The doctor will become a civil servant, and will have to work not only for the Government but for the public. To give an efficient service in these circumstances will be impossible. In many of the critical situations that arise in medical practice, the practitioner’s judgment will be influenced by the fear of criticism, and cramped by his having two masters - his senior officers and the public. A patient’s life in many cases depends on the doctor’s judgment, and to have it endangered by such judgment being biased by outside influences would be tragic.
As a civil servant, the practitioner would be prevented’ from ventilating his grievances except through well-trodden channels. The opportunity for starting campaigns for improvement would be considerably denied him as a public servant.
Not every graduate in medicine will be absorbed into the service.
Lay interference in both the organization and carrying out of medical practice is certain to occur as is also pressure from outside interests and political agencies, particularly in regard to appointments and promotions.
The sense of individual responsibility and freedom of action essential to medical practice would be interfered with by regulations and rules of procedure.
Honorable members opposite cannot deny those strictures. It is perfectly clear that if the medical profession is nationalized, and practitioners are paid a salary on a panel system, all incentive for them to engage in research work will disappear.
– That does not say much for their initiative.
– It is human nature. If medical practitioners find that they do not need to enter into competition in order to improve themselves, but can become civil servants, operating in a panel system, their initiative will be destroyed. I shall now examine the situation in European countries where socialized medical services have been introduced. The Christian Science Monitor on the 9th February last stated -
Experience with socializedmedicine in Europe shows that it has led to inferior service and to economic and political problems.
In every country there has been a constant increase in the sickness rate after the introduction of health insurance. In Germany it trebled from 1885 to 1930. In England the number of claims increased by almost 50 per cent. in a six-year period from 1921 to 1927.
Ernest Bevin has characterized the. medical service given the industrial classes as a “tragedy of incompetence”.
Sir Kingsley Wood, Health Minister, said the national health insurance system had made the English “a nation of medicine drinkers”.
Is not that a most serious indictment? Those two prominent British statesmen bitterly criticized the effect of socialized medical services upon the health of the British people. Some honorable members opposite declared that even if the people endorse the referendum proposals, the Commonwealth Government will not have power to nationalize medical and dental services. I warn them that they are dealing with something more combustible than they realize. If they attempt to use these powers to nationalize the medical and dental professions, they will do a grave disservice to the community and vitally affect the health of Australians, which, at the moment, is something of which we all should be proud. I direct attention to the fact that the granting of this power to the Commonwealth will enable this Government to take another step towards its goal of socialization.
The Constitution Alteration (Industrial Powers) Bill provides -
Section fifty-one of the Constitution is altered by inserting after paragraph (xxxiv. ) the following paragraph: - “ (xxxivA.) Terms and conditions of employ ment in industry, but not so as to authorize any form of industrial conscription:”.
Broadly, that provision means that the Commonwealth Parliament will have the right to determine wages and conditions of employment. The power is not hedged with qualifications, nor may the courts override a decision made under it. This will remove from all court procedure the even balance of justice as between employer and employee, and will import the determination of industrial terms and conditions into the highly charged party political atmosphere in this Parliament. Industry will become a political football, and its future will be marked by political bargaining and intrigue. Last night, the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Williams) revealed the Government’s intentions if the people endorse its referendum proposals. He said, “ The Government will, immediately after the election, enact legislation providing for a 40- hour week and an increase of wages in all States by at least 30s. a week “. The honorable member made that statement after he had read a long list of award rates applicable to males and females in various States. His disclosure was the echo of a drive which the Australasian Council of Trade Unions recently launched for a. 40-hour working week. Already 47 unions have demanded that the Commonwealth Government intervene in the printer’s claim for a 40-hour week, and theyare seeking to influence, by whatever means they may possess, the Arbitration Court. If the court rejects their claim, the Commonwealth Government, which is always susceptible to any pressure that they care to exercise, can reply “ Never mind boys, you may not be able to influence the Arbitration Court, but if we are granted these additional powers, you will get a 40-hour working week, and an increase of the basic wage by 30s. a week “. Can honorable members doubt my statement that industry in this forum of. highly charged party political atmosphere will become a political football? When legislation to make grants to States is being considered, all the various State jealousies and interests are paraded in this chamber. When honorable members feel the pressure of the unions to whom they look for their political endorsement, it will become still more pointed, and industry will be ruined. The real wages of the worker will be reduced in purchasing power, and the hours of leisure which the unions are seeking to gain, will react like a boomerang upon Australian industry. The greatest danger lies in the threat to the Arbitration Court. These powers, if granted, will permit the Government to interfere with the court. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) stated to-day that after having sought the advice of a judge of the Arbitration Court, he had suggested to His Honour certain things, and he added, “Not that I can influence the judge, but I merely made the suggestion because I obtain his advice from day to day “. That was a naive way of expressing it. After the appointments which may be made in the near future to the Arbitration Court, those ministerial suggestions will carry much more weight than they do to-day. Another great danger which I see is this: The Parliament is required constantly to amend parent acts, and an act relating to the terms and conditions of employment will not prove an exception. It will be amended from time to time, and if the Arbitration Court still exists, there will be a continual state of unrest within it. The Court will be harassed by alterations of conditions which are likely to be made on the whimsy of the great unions, which will demand some additional consideration from the Government. Every time a union secretary waggles his chin at honorable members opposite, amending legislation will be introduced for the purpose of giving to the organization the concessions that it desires. This proposal amounts almost to complete dictatorship by the trade unions over the whole field of Australian industry. The public was well aware of that danger in 1944, but the danger is very much greater to-day. The country is in a state of continuous industrial unrest, due to the tactics of the avowed disruptionists who openly state ‘that one of their objects is a complete industrial tie-up. We know that some big Communist-controlled unions have made a tripartite agreement under which they have undertaken to do everything they can to secure the terms and conditions they desire. How much farther is this industrial dictatorship to go? It is interesting to recall the power which the Communist-controlled coalminers organization has over the Government of this country. We. have only to look back a short while to the time when, by the exertion of pressure, that organization was able to secure the withdrawal of summonses and the remission of fines in respect of its members. The control which the coal-miners have already exercised over the Government gives us an indication of what will happen if the Constitution be altered as is now proposed. Under the new conditions it will not even be necessary for the coal-miners to strike; they will be able to apply political pressure. We all remember how powerless the Government was in connexion with the dispute at Port Kembla about Christmas time.
This union-dictatorship is rendering the Government quite impotent; even in respect of the administration of the Reestablishment and Employment Act. Under that measure it wa3 intended that certain concessions should be given to ex-servicemen in regard to vocational training, but the unions have said, in effect, “ We are greater than the Government, and we will close our books against these trainees unless they have served an apprenticeship. We will not allow them to enter industry other than through our channels.”.
– That is not true.
– It is true. I have directed attention to specific cases which affect a refrigeration engineer and a young man who desired to work in the electrical engineering trade. I could mention other specific instances of that kind. Honorable members know that if an employer engages any non-union labour there is an immediate reaction in his establishment. At present employers are not “ game “ to employ any one who is not a unionist. The unions, in fact, have a stranglehold not only upon industry, but also upon this Government. Although compulsory unionism is virtually in force in this country, the Government is introducing the bill to secure additional power over industry in order, surreptitiously,, to weaken still further our industrial fabric.
I have discussed two of the three bills before the House. I do not desire, at this stage, to say anything about the bill which is designed to deal with the organized marketing of primary products, except to say that the statement of the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) that we already have a scheme for the orderly marketing of “primary products is typical of the loose way in which honorable members opposite use language. The schemes in operation at present are not schemes for ‘ orderly marketing, but schemes for the Government purchase of primary products. The Government is in reality simply purchasing primary products at a fixed price, and selling them in the assured market which is available to it because of conditions which have arisen through the war. The honorable member said that what was good enough for war-time should be good enOUgh for peace-time. That is, in effect, a complete acceptance, on a permanent basis, of the dictatorship which has been practised during the war years by means of the National Security regulations. The Government schemes at present in operation for handling primary products cannot by any manipulation of language be regarded as schemes for the orderly marketing of primary products. Such a description of them is an entire misnomer. We cannot assume that the extraordinary prices obtained during the war for some primary products which Iia ve been controlled will continue far into the peace period. Conditions must change. In my opinion no scheme for the orderly marketing of primary products will benefit the producer so much as would a well-devised scheme of cooperative marketing in which both primary producer and consumer representatives would be associated.
These three bills are cleverly drafted. The bill in relation to social services is intended to authorize the Government to nationalize medical and dental services; the bill in relation to the orderly marketing of primary products is not worth anything to the primary producers;, and the bill in relation to industrial employment is designed chiefly to destroy our system of conciliation and arbitration by superimposing upon it a system of industrial control by Parliament.
.- I have listened to this debate with a great deal of interest. The three bills before the House deal specifically with social services, the orderly marketing of primary production and the terms and conditionsof employment in industry. The criticism levelled at the measures by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) was remarkable for its sophistry, whereas the speech of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), to which the House listened with interest, was constructive. I pay tribute to the honorable member for Fremantle. Whenever he participates in a debate he lifts it to a higher level. He has an analytical mind1 and makes his points crystal clear. Rather than attempt’ to traduce him, as. the Deputy Leader of the Opposition! has done, I compliment him. Despitethe criticism of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition I believe that the honorable member for Fremantle will go much further in the public life of this country than his critic has done. He does not descend to the murky depths of the sewer like the honorable member for Wentworth, whose statements about the honorable member for Fremantle caused me to get hot under the collar. When theDeputy Leader of the Opposition is indulging his liking for throwing “ dirt “’ a man has to roll up his trousers to prevent the cuffs from becoming soiled.
The remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition concerning trade unionism were very wide of the truth. The honorable gentleman spoke about the “ Communist controlled coal-miners “ and about dictatorship. He said- that the miners were dictating to the Government. I utterly deny that statement. I have had a good deal to do, over a considerable period, with negotiations, between the Government and the coatminers. I know that on occasions, w hen, the Government has felt that it was necessary to make a stand against the coalminers, it has not hesitated to do so. When it has considered that matters should be referred to arbitration it has insisted that they be so referred.
The Deputy Leader of the’ Opposition attempted to take the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) to task for his statement that controls over primary products which were good for wartime should also be good for peacetime. , I agree with the honorable member for Adelaide in that regard. If we are to redeem the promises that have been made to our service men and to ensure to them a - life under conditions which will be reasonable and good, we must make sure that .primary products can continue to be marketed under conditions which will do justice to both producers and consumers.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) devoted a good deal of his time to a criticism of the Government for having submitted the Constitution alteration proposals of 1944 in one question. He contended that there should have been fourteen separate questions and added that because people were hostile to some of the questions they had to vote against all of them. On this occasion the Government is proposing to submit the questions separately. But even that does not meet with the approval of the Leader of the Opposition. I must say that I have found it impossible ‘to ascertain where the right honorable gentleman really stands in relation to these proposals. When he had concluded his speech I felt like asking him for a definite statement as to whether he favoured or opposed the three bills, or any of them. The only point that he made clear wai. that he wanted some kind of an Australia-wide elective convention to consider the Constitution. It should be remembered, however, that an Australiawide convention was held in 1942.
– It was not an elected -convention.
– It was composed of elected representatives in the -different State parliaments and the Commonwealth Parliament. ‘It cannot be con tended that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has not the right to attend a peace conference overseas because he has not been specifically elected by the people to do so. When that convention made an almost unanimous decision the State parliaments, except those of Queensland and New South Wales, refused to ratify it. The Dunstans, the Playfords, the Menzies and the Faddens, who had supported the . proposals in the convention, later advised the people to vote against them. We have not to- look far ‘ for the reason. Prior to attending the convention, they had not received instructions as to how they should act, but after they had returned to their States their masters - the Bailleau group and the like - instructed them not to advocate further the granting of additional powers to the Commonwealth. The Leader of the Opposition and the deputy leader have argued that these proposals ought not to be submitted to the people simultaneously with the holding of a general election. The Leader of the Opposition went so far as to say that such a course would be misinterpreted, and that people not disposed to vote against the Government would fear that a negative vote on the referendum would be so regarded. The parties that sit opposite submitted similar questions to the people as far back as 1926. I took part in the referendum campaign, not’ as a member of Parliament but as a supporter, of my predecessor, Mr. Charlton, who had agreed to support the proposals then submitted by the Bruce-Page Government. On that occasion, this Parliament, for the first time in its history, practically unanimously advocated an alteration of the Constitution. On the 4th September, 1926, the first question submitted to the people was this -
Do you approve of the proposed law for the alteration of the Constitution entitled “ Constitution Alteration (Industry and Commerce) “1 “ Commerce “ in that question is identical with “ orderly marketing “ in the second question that the Government purposes to submit to the people at the forthcoming referendum, . and “ industry “ . is identical with “ industrial matters”, with which the third question deals. The second question submitted was -
Do you approve of the proposed law for the alteration of the Constitution entitled “ Constitution Alteration (Essential Services) “1
In 1937, a question similar to the present orderly marketing proposal was submitted to the people, and was supported by the Leader of the Opposition. The right honorable gentleman said in this debate that social services are desired by all of us, but that they should take the form of a national insurance scheme. All that -1* can say in reply is that his party, led by the late Mr. Lyons, attempted to pass through this Parliament national insurance legislation which was defeated, not by the Labour party alone, but with the assistance of some supporters of the Government, including the late Sir Henry Gullett. A scheme of national insurance would be the means of reducing directly the purchasing power of the workers by the amount that they were obliged to contribute. The right honorable gentleman also said that organized marketing is a matter for the States, because they control production. Let us consider that submission in the light of section 92 of the Constitution, which was invoked in what is known as the James case. James, a producer in South Australia, challenged the right of the Commonwealth to direct him as to where he -should market his dried fruits. The case finally went to the Privy Council, before which tribunal the Leader of the Opposition appeared on behalf of the Commonwealth, although I believe* that previously he had supported the submission that had been put by James to the Supreme Court of Victoria. That is an illustration of the ability of members of the legal fraternity to espouse the cause of either side or both sides. Marketing is involved in industrial matters, because so many workers are engaged in the transport of primary products from one State to another. Section 92 of the Constitution stipulates that interstate trade shall bo free and untrammelled. On that ground James won his case, and the Commonwealth had to pay very dearly for the action it had taken against him. This man rendered a service to Australia, perhaps unconsciously. He demonstrated the futility of the Commonwealth attempting orderly marketing schemes under its limited powers, and the folly of industrial powers being vested only in the State. Because of the provisions of section 92 of the Constitution, there can be no interference with the transport of goods from one State to another. In 1931, the Premier of New South Wales tried to keep the basic wage in that State at £4 2s. 6d. a week when, in the other States, it had fallen to £3 5s. a week. The result was that manufacturers in the other States flooded New South Wales wilh goods, which were bought by the people of New South Wales, little realizing that by doing so they were helping to keep in employment people in the cheap wage States, while throwing out of work those in their own State. That experience proves conclusively that we cannot progress unless the Commonwealth is given power to control, industrial conditions. Great monopolies with factories in several States cannot be controlled unless the Commonwealth has this power. If industrial conditions are worse in one State than in another, firms will close down their factories in the better State and move over into the State where coolie conditions prevail. That is why honorable members opposite have received their orders from the big manufacturers to oppose the Government’s third referendum proposal.. The big commercial interests realize that they are better off under the present system of divided control of industrial conditions.
The Leader of the Opposition said that the Government’s proposals would cut across the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. Those who are familiar with- the court, as I am, and as is also the right honorable member for Cowper (‘Sir Earle Page), realize that it is, in many respects, powerless now. Eoi- instance, it could not deal with the great lock-out on the coal-fields in 1929-30 when, for sixteen months, the miners were locked out until they were forced to accept a reduction of wages by 12i per cent. The Commonwealth Arbitration Court could not intervene because the dispute did not extend beyond the borders of New South Wales. The Commonwealth court can be invoked only when a dispute assumes an interstate character. It will be impossible for the Government to redeem its promises to the servicemen unless the Commonwealth Parliament is clothed with the powers which are now sought. Party political considerations are the only reason why honorable members opposite oppose the granting of the powers. Out of pure cussedness they oppose the proposals, even though, in times gone by, they advanced identical proposals themselves. In an address which was broadcast on the 2nd October, 1942, the Leader of the Opposition, when speaking on the Constitution, said -
Short of unification there is much room for constitutional change by increasing the powers of the Central Government. My own mind has steadily developed in favour of increasing Commonwealth powers. I do believe that full nationhood requires great power at the centre for great responsibility cannot be discharged without it.
Thus, at that time, he advocated the granting of increased powers to the central government; now he has become a staunch advocate of State rights. What is the reason for the change? The honorable member for Wentworth said that when a union secretary waggled his chin members of the Parliamentary Labour party jumped to obey. It seems to me that when some of the old men of the Baillieu group, drowsing in their beards - and some of them are bluebeards - waggle their chins, honorable members opposite cannot jump quickly enough to obey. In 193S, the Leader of the Opposition said -
There is an instinct in the average man to feel that his primary loyalty is to his State. This produces all too frequently the question - Why should we hand over our powers to the Commonwealth? - as if the Commonwealth were a foreign power and not just as much hu instrument of the electors as the State itself.
However, the Government is not now seeking any new powers, in the sense that such powers have not previously been exercised. All of these powers have been consistently exercised by the States, and the people . are merely asked to decide whether they shall be left exclusively to the States, or whether they shall be shared with the Commonwealth. At the Constitution Convention held at Canberra in .1.942, the United Australia party, the Australian Country party and the Labour party, together with the State Premiers and Leaders of the Opposition, unanimously agreed upon the list of powers which were to be sought for the Commonwealth by way of referendum, and it was a much more imposing list than that which is submitted now. At that time, Mr. Fadden, speaking, on behalf of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Opposition, said - 1 think the bill we have just passed can be accepted as a monument of co-operation and as evidence of unselfishness and compromises on the part of every one here.
To-day, his co-operation has turned into antagonism, and his unselfishness into selfishness. The right honorable gentleman continued -
I hope that the willingness that has been shown on all sides to arrive at an agreement will culminate in the bill going through every House of Parliament in Australia and becoming law.
X hope our efforts here will not have been in vain and that a legislative document will be brought into being conferring adequate and indispensable powers upon the Commonwealth to bring about sensible and proper reconstruction in the interests of our nation.
Now, he is doing everything possible to prevent it. He has not yet spoken, but I expect that the whip will be cracked, and he will fall in behind the Leader of the Opposition.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– When the Premier of South Australia, Mr. Playford, presented the “Powers Bill” in the’ South Australian Parliament, he said -
A suggestion has been -made that the bill should be defeated out of hand. I hope honorable members will not adopt that course. I trust the House will pass the second reading. I think we shall discover when in Committee that the bill will be not only acceptable to Parliament but will also be of benefit to the people.
In spite of that statement, Mr. Playford strenuously opposed the referendum proposals when they came before the people. The Premier of Victoria at that time, Mr. Dunstan, also agreed to delegate the powers to the Commonwealth. When the necessary legislation was introduced in the Legislative Assembly, he said -
If we are to be able to deal with post-war reconstruction and if we are to avoid the blunders of the past we must transfer power to the Commonwealth …. I now earnestly commend the bill to the House in the knowledge that the work to he done during the post-war period will he immense and important and that it can be done only by national planning controlled by a single directing authority. That was a statesmanlike utterance, but when the time came for action, the Baillieu group, his party bosses, gave their orders, and he opposed the referendum. He” said that it was “all moonshine “ to suggest that there was urgent need for additional powers at that time. What a somersault ! What makes men commit such treachery? Is it cussedness or political spleen? At times I have, at great political risk to. myself, given credit to my political enemies for wise actions, and I cannot understand why men should act against their better judgment merely because of some party political affiliation. The question arises to-day as to why the leaders of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party who, in November 1942, favoured the granting of these powers to the Commonwealth Parliament, should now be resolutely opposed to them. The answer is simple. Discarding the many extraneous excuses, the chief reason is that the financial interests which control industry and commerce realize that, as long as the powers remain under the control of the States, they will be able to veto any proposals inimical to their selfish interests, because they can command a majority in the Legislative Councils of the States, except in Queensland, where the upper house has been abolished. What is the nature of these Legislative Councils. ? The upper house in New South Wales is the only senior .chamber iri the. State Legislatures elected on anything remotely resembling a popular franchise. In that State, members of the Legislative Council are elected by vote of the people’s representatives in the Legislative Assembly. In other States, eligibility for election to the upper houses is based on a property qualification, and legislative councillors are not responsible to the people as are the members of the Commonwealth Parliament. This Parliament is elected by popular franchise. I say definitely that the Legislative Councils of the States do not want to relinquish any powers to a Parliament in which both houses are elected on a democratic franchise.
The subject of unemployment must be given due consideration in .considering the Government’s proposals. At all times when ‘great reforms have been proposed by Labour governments, a great deal of criticism has emanated from Labour’s political opponents. I have in mirid thetime when the Fisher Labour Government, introduced the original Commonwealth Bank Bill in 1911. There was much severe criticism of that measure fromthe Opposition. It claimed that the poor man would suffer, because the Commonwealth Bank would levy toll upon his meagre savings. A member of the present Opposition who was then a . Labour party man, the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), has changed a great deal since then. But when speaking on the Commonwealth Bank Bill, he said -
Is it the little man who provides the powder and shot for these attacks- on Labour legislation? No, it is the man with plenty of money against whom the legislation is directed. I say emphatically that the honorable member has endeavoured to divert the attention of the people from the true object, purpose and function of the bank and he has done so in order to make people believe that those who will suffer most from the operations of the institution are not the other banks, but the poor unfortunate people.
Opposition members are opposed to the granting of the powers sought by this Government, contending that they are too vague. That is what they said about the referendum proposals in 1944. It is interesting to note that, in November, 1938, the present Leader of the Opposition, announcing that the Commonwealth Parliament would be given an opportunity to discuss constitutional reforms, said it was astonishing that unemployment should be a State matter; the Government of which he was a member was convinced that the people must move towards greater national powers. It is astonishing to read the different views now being enunciated by the right honorable gentleman and his colleagues. When they were in office, they wanted great national powers and more centralization of control. Now they say they do not want them. T.he greatest post-war problem in Australia will be that of providing employment. The Leader of the Opposition, who was astonished that it should be a Stateresponsibility in- November, 1938, now wants it to remain a State matter. There- were many arguments between the Commonwealth and the States when’ the State governments were asked to feed the unemployed during the depression. I endeavoured on many occasions to persuade the anti-Labour Commonwealth Government then in power to make grants to the States for the relief of unemployment. The most that any government did at that time was to give discarded military clothing to State instrumentalities and municipal councils for distribution to the needy. Unemployment can be dealt with adequately only by the Commonwealth Government. In 1933, the then Prime Minister contended that unemployment was a problem for industry to solve. He said that, if the unemployed could not be absorbed in industry, they could not be found employment. In 1934, in his policy speech, he said that in the national interest the Commonwealth should take a large share of the responsibility for overcoming unemployment. However, in 193S, he changed his tune again and said that the matter was “ directly and immediately one for ‘the State governments “. During the depression, anti-Labour governments promised the people whom I represent, who have been treated as political footballs more often than any other section of the community, to deal with the vexed question of rehabilitating the coal-mining industry by encouraging the production of oil from coal. That promise was never honoured. The late Mr. Dunningham, a member of the United Australia party Ministry in New South Wales in 1937, after a ministerial conference held in conjunction with a Loan Council meeting, blamed the Commonwealth Government for not doing anything to relieve the unemployment situation and condemned the Commonwealth for making available only £200,000 for the relief of unemployment. The Commonwealth passed the responsibility to the States, hut the States said they could do nothing because the Commonwealth would not help. What was the result? In Victoria, from the 1st July, 1929, to. April, 1941, £34,0.00,000 was expended for unemployment relief purposes. In Sydney, during the year ended the 30th June,. 1938, 4,900 eviction “warrants were issued against the. unemployed. In New South Wales, at the 27th January, 1940, the grand total of food recipients and relief workers and their dependants was approximately 150,000. Are we going to revert to those days of fear and suffering? Many men who fought in the war which has just ended believe that an economic depression will follow in its train. I recall that, when Mr.. Churchill visited the. battlefields of Normandy recently, he was asked by a soldier, “ When we have done this job are we coming back to the dole ? “ Mr. Churchill immediately . replied, “ No, you are not “. Unless the powers sought by the Government are granted by the people at the referendum, I fail to see how the vexed problem of unemployment can be solved. The State Governments will not be able to handle it. In the Hunter electorate, approximately 300 men are out of employment to-day. These include a fair sprinkling of ex-servicemen. If the Opposition thinks that there will be peace and contentment when good Australians, whose fathers suffered unemployment, poverty, and humiliation during the economic depression, find that they too are unable to secure employment after fighting for their country, it will have a rude awakening. Something could happen in this country similar to what has happened in other countries. I do not wish to forecast anything like that, but, with reverence, I pray to God that we shall never have another depression. Let us band together, untrammelled by party differences, and try to do something that will avert a repetition of the tragic days of the early thirties. Does the Opposition seek excuses to oppose the referendum proposals? No honorable member opposite, from the Leader of the Opposition down, has yet said explicitly that he is opposed to them, but if the Opposition is against them, let it say so straight out now. Why wait until the Baillieu group has issued its instructions ?
– If the honorable member appeals nicely to us we may do so.
—I listened intently to the Leader of the Opposition, but I still do not know where he stands. Nor has the Deputy Leader exposed his attitude. Those who oppose the granting of these powers to the Commonwealth Parliament want to- return to> the old order of things - “ Business as usual ! “,” Get rich quick ! “, “ To the devil with the poor!”, and “To the devil with all the promises made by all political parties that they would ensure the rehabilitation of ex-members of the forces and guard them against unemployment ! “ This Government is fighting to avoid unemployment among the people, but we also desire to ensure that, if men and women cannot be given work, they shall be provided with the necessaries of life. No one can deny them that right. Why should good Australians who have been unlucky in the search for work be forced to subsist, if they are single, on a dole of 6s. 8d., or, if they are married, 14s. 2d. a week, as was the case in New SouthWales in the last depression, with the further proviso that if the income of the family amount to £2 10s. a week the dole was withheld. All the social services, with the exception of invalid and old-age pensions, that have existed during the regime of this Government are in jeopardy of being invalidated by a High Court interpretation of the Constitution. Therefore, we should ensure by the means proposed in these bills that those who, as it were, placed their bodies between us and the enemy when our shores were threatened shall not return to civil life to exist on a miserable pittance, as was the fate of many men afterWorldWar I., because there were not enough jobs for all.[Extension of time granted.] It is in the hands of the people to ensure that the degrading conditions that existed during the depression’ shall not reappear, but unless they give the Commonwealth Parliament the powers sought, the chaotic conditions that existed after WorldWar I. will again prevail. The Leader of the Opposition and his supporters have emphatically declared their opposition to this Parliament having complete power over all employment and trade. The Melbourne Herald, in a leading article, said -
Should the Opposition’s objections crystallize as an unswerving hostility to the referendum the result would be most unhappy for Australia. If the referendum proposals are rejected the result might be disastrous with the collapse ofall comprehensive post-war planning in a muddle of divergent and conflicting State and Federal powers.
-When did the Melbourne Herald say that?
– During the last referendum campaign. The danger of monopolies to Australia’s economy has been realized for many years, but the State governments have been unable to deal with them because they are interstate organizations. If one State increases the basic wage and shortens the working week they move their operations to a State where labour is cheaper and then, because of the restrictions imposed on the Commonwealth by section 92 of the. Constitution, they are able to flood their goods into the State with a higher standard of living. Every one knows that the primary producers enjoy guaranteed prices for their produce. Since planning began they have secured about £40,000,000 a year more than before the war,and, in addition, it is estimated that they have reduced their overdrafts by £60,000,000. They have never had a better time.
In consideringproblems of national power we should shut our minds and eyes completely to all party politics, but referendums are too frequently regarded as party matters. The Leader of the Opposition and his confreres are doing their very best to deal with these proposals on party lines. One of the points made by the Leader of the Opposition and emphasized by his deputy is the fact that the referendum is to be held on election day. I donot know what their fear is, because the only referendum that was ever held other thanon election day was that held in 1944, when the people were asked to cede fourteen additional powers to this Parliament. It was agreed at the Constitution Convention of 1942 that the referendum be not held on election day in order that the issues should not be confused. But the issues will not be confused on this occasion. As a matter of fact, some Opposition supporters were critical of the expenditure of £100,000 on a referendum on other than election day because they contended that if it were held on election day, a considerable saving could be effected. Now they are critical because the Government has chosen election day as referendum day. So where do they stand ?
Although I was only a “ kiddie “ at the time I remember very clearly the events that led to federation. As honorable members are well aware, the district in which I was horn and reared is true-blue Labour, and the children were brought up on Labour principles. So when the federation campaign was in progress, we young Labourites and federalists used to go round with bags of flour and a few eggs for possible use against the anti-federalists. One night at Old Lambton, my birthplace, I was told, to “ lay off “ because “ a good fellow “ was speaking. “ He is not one of us, but he is putting up a good case “, I was warned. I sat and listened to what he had to say. The speaker was to become the first honorable member for Hunter and the first Prime Minister. He told his audience about what would follow federation. Every one thought that the creation of a federal parliament would cement Australia. He said, “ If you people do agree to the formation of a federal parliament, it will mean abolition of not only State governors,- but ultimately State parliaments”. Every one at the meeting cheered. All believed that federation would bring an end to the State parliaments. But we have yet to see that promise honoured. On the contrary I know that members of State parliaments and of all parties - yes, of all parties - as we know from experience, will take every opportunity to sabotage any attempt by the Commonwealth Parliament to obtain greater powers. “Why? Simply because they realize that the more powers are taken away from them the lower will be their standing in the eye3 of the public, and that eventually the public will rise in a body and say, “ Away with these useless appendages ! Let them be abolished ! “ Why not, then, be frank and go direct to the people with the question, “ Are you in favour of the abolition of State parliaments? Answer *Yes’ or ‘No’”. I believe that the answer would be a solid “ Yes “, and that would be the redemption of the promise made by that great statesman, Barton, that federation would ultimately mean one parliament for Australia.
Sir EARLE PAGE (Cowper) [8.261.- As an ardent constitutional reformer I welcome any proposal to amend the Con stitution, because there is still a triumph of hope over experience that one may one day withness another affirmative vote of the people on a referendum proposal. The levity with which the Government approaches the amendment of the Australian Constitution would be incredible if it were not actually happening. This federal compact was drawn in a careful and deliberate way by the Federal Convention after several years of. solid research and debate in which the constitutions of every analogous country were brought under review. Attempts to secure amendment of the Constitution were also made with due deliberation and thought, with discussions outside this Parliament with State representatives, and attempts to get the mass of people on side. This was so undoubtedly with regard to those proposals brought down by Governments with which I was connected. Industrial amendments brought forward by Mr. Bruce and myself in 1926 were debated for several weeks and, ultimately, practically unanimous agreement was obtained in the House, all. but two members of the Labour party, Nationalist and Country parties voting for- the third reading. The Financial Agreement amendment to the ‘ Constitution brought down by the Bruce-Page Government in 1928 was the result of a series of conferences, over many years, with State governments, and practical experience in the voluntary Loan council of the manner in which the suggested constitutional amendments would work. In addition, the State parliaments, as well as the Commonwealth Parliament, all carried the Financial Agreement - thus further educating the public in what was being done. The constitutional amendments brought down by the Scullin Government also were discussed at length, and the relevant amendments moved were fully discussed and considered even though they were not accepted by the Government.. Honorable members who were present on that occasion will recall the exhaustive discussions which took place. They were conducted amicably and deliberately, and when the final division was taken the third reading was carried by 63 votes to 2. The Labour party as a whole and the Nationalist and Country parties voted for the bill. The only dissentients were one recalcitrant member from the Country party and one from the Nationalist party. The Government hoped that that proposal would be accepted by the people; but, unfortunately, extreme reactionaries on both sides combined to defeat the referendum.
The great argument in favour of an -elective convention to consider any comprehensive alteration of the Constitution in the light of modern progress is that the election of its members, discussions on the Convention, and the consequent inevitable debate of its findings by the Commonwealth Parliament would educate the people as to what was being attempted and the real purpose of the proposals. To some degree, public discussion which took place at a convention could have only an educative effect, because this Parliament would have the last word on the proposed amendments. However, a convention would clarify the whole position, and a non-partisan opinion would be. expressed regarding .not only specific alteration’s but also a comprehensive alteration of the whole Constitution. Therefore, I regret that during the last four years, the Government has not adopted that procedure when considering constitutional reform. Instead, the Government has followed, a hasty and happygolucky method of attacking this problem, which, requires the utmost preparation and consideration. The proposals with which we are dealing at present are the fourth of a series which this Government has formulated in as many years. Each set of proposals has been different from the others. That the general principles which should guide us in altering the Constitution have not been fully considered is obvious from the fact that as soon as the first proposals in 1942, were criticized they were abandoned, and completely different proposals were substituted. Some of the original proposals, which I regarded as being fundamentally wise, were not finally submitted to the people. There are two ways of securing results in any attempt to alter the Constitution. The first is by means of co-operative approach through conferences with the States, and the reference of State powers to the Commonwealth as the Constitution provides. That is a good way, and must be utilized more than it has been to date. When I deal with the marketing proposals I shall suggest a method which may yield real results.
The second method is the referendum. If we are to hold a referendum we should ensure that the proposals are specific and deal with principles which do not conflict with one another or confuse the public. That should be irrespective of any opinions that may be expressed outside this Parliament, because they are Commonwealth proposals and should be considered in the national interest’. The conclusion which one is forced to reach from this rapid change in the presentation of proposals is this: All the proposals of the Government have been brought forward not to alter general principles so much as to be catchcries for votes at elections. That is not the proper way in which we should approach the problem. I hope that the federation will always endure, and that many more federal units will be created than at present. I hope, also, that the federal compact will always be recognized by a system of checks and balances adjusted with meticulous care to . make certain that the policy adopted shall be in the interests ‘of the whole of the Commonwealth, whilst the carrying out of the policy must at all times be in the hands of the authorities on the spot. In that way, we shall achieve the results most beneficial to the people. When I examined the- first proposals of the Government, four years ago, I described them as “ unification naked and unashamed “. They were criticized so strongly that another bill was substituted. I described that as “ unification with a fig leaf “, because unification was disguised, although the apparel was not nearly so extensive as the French bathing costume. Then the States made a new approach. They suggested a co-operative attack on the problem by the reference to the Commonwealth of certain State powers. I always regret that when the Government was able to secure from five States and the Legislative Assembly of the sixth State agreement on no fewer than ten of the fourteen points under consideration at the time, the offer .was not accepted. But the Commonwealth Government attempted to “ put over “ the public by referendum the paints on which the States had disagreed by linking them in a Chinese copy of the compromise reached with the States. When that bill was before this House, additional points, including the “ Four Freedoms “ were inserted and the people rejected them summarily. One of their reasons for so doing was the means which the Government adopted to pass the bill. The House sat all night; members were refused the right to be heard; and the Government by the arbitrary use of its majority, prevented the consideration of any amendments that might have improved the measure and enhanced its chances of success. The Government’s tactics on that occasion seemed to me, as an old politician, absolutely stupid. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) atempted to submit an amendment, but the Government would not listen to him. The whole procedure was silly. ‘Bearing in mind those events, we must examine the present proposals very carefully. When I studied them, I soon realized that they were hastily drafted, without proper consideration. “ A horse and cart could be driven through the drafting.” Because of this looseness, the proposed powers if granted, will be a source of endless litigation and little satisfaction to any interests. The Government should listen to the reasonable and constructive amendments which we shall submit in an effort to ensure the permanent satisfaction of the people and the progress of Australia.
The first’ two proposals have been thrown in as election bait to make certain that the third proposal dealing with industry and employment shall be carried. This appeal for additional power to enable the Commonwealth to control industry is made at a most unfortunate time, because the Government has reached the lowest depth of- ineptitude and cowardice by .running away from its responsibilities. That is proved by its handling of the relief ships for the Netherlands East Indies, and the Bunnerong dispute. At present, ho one in his right senses would consider granting to the Commonwealth additional powers over employment. So far as I am aware, no one has ever suggested that the regulation pf waterside workers and seamen should be anything but a Commonwealth responsibility. They are essentially interstate activities. Though they are entirely under Commonwealth control, the Waterside Workers Federation is the most undisciplined of all unions. When the Bruce-Page Administration proposed to transfer arbitration matters to the States, the bill expressly excluded waterside workers and seamen. If the Commonwealth Government cannot discipline those unions, how can it discipline other powerful unions? Two of the three amendments are only bait to ensure that the people will swallow the poison of industrial control, just as in exterminating white ants, one mixes treacle with arsenic. Despite this fact, the introduction of any proposal to alter the Constitution provides honorable members with an opportunity to propose an alteration with which all parties can agree. The people will probably accept such a proposal if the nature of the discussion discloses that no nigger is hidden in the wood-pile. What worries me is the rather startling omission of price control from the Government’s proposals. The Government has often declared that price control is the only way of guarding against inflation.
I shall deal first with the least contentious bill, namely, the Constitution Alteration (Organized Marketing of Primary Products) Bill. The history of the organization of primary producers and marketing of their products dates back many years in Australia. Steady progress has been made. First, we had voluntary co-operation, which proved so successful that statutory co-operation was introduced by the Parliaments of the Commonwealth and the States. Finally, in war-time, marked progress has been made in that co-operation as the result of regulations issued under the Government’s defence power. The Commonwealth Constitution makes full co-operation with the State Governments imperative, because the States deal with production and the Commonwealth possesses exclusive power over marketing foi- export. In my view, a proper alteration of the Constitution .would be a provision for the organized marketing of. primary products under the authority of the Australian Agricultural Council, in the same way as finance is controlled by the Loan Council. The Agricultural Council is constituted, by representatives of Commonwealth and State Governments. Delegation of power to this body would make certain that the problems of primary production would be considered from every aspect, in a comprehensive way. The appropriate -constitutional amendment, therefore, would be similar to that which dealt with the Financial Agreement and the Loan Council. The amendment should provide for organized marketing of primary products, properly defined - and this is most important - to be dealt with under a section in which the Commonwealth may make agreements with the States with respect to the production and marketing of primary produce throughout the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth Parliament would then be able to make laws for validating any such agreement previously made, and make laws also for the carrying out by the parties thereto of any agreement subsequently made, or the varying or rescinding by the parties thereto of any agreement that might be made. The powers conferred by this amendment should not be construed as being limited in any way by the provisions of section 92. Such provision would make the Australian Agricultural Council the final arbiter in determining agricultural policy as a whole.’ I have discussed this subject with eminent federalists in other parts of the world, and their views coincide with mine. I discussed it in particular- with Mr. Henry Wallace, who was for many years Secretary for Agriculture in the United » States of America, and his view was very similar to my own. This solution, however, which is the only way that I can see by which the problem can be effectively dealt with in a federation, must be rendered easier’ by the definition of “ primary products “. At what stage in the manufacture of a primary product would a definition cease to apply? Milk is made into butter, cheese, casein; and various forms of dried and condensed milk and milk products. They all must be included to enable the industry to be handled as a whole. Wheat is made into flour, breakfast foods, bread, &c. Where would a definition of “ primary products “ in respect of wheat end? .Sugar cane and sugar beet are made into raw, refined, loaf, and icing sugar and various forms of confectionery. Where would the definition in respect of sugar end ? If the definition is not made clear with regard to these products, producers are being sold a gold brick in this amendment.
The history of the previous attitude of the Labour party on this matter leaves it open to suspicion. In respect of the wheat industry for example, the Labour party fought continuously in this Parliament against the establishment of a home-consumption price, and especially against the flour tax. I fought against the Commonwealth-wide organization of all governments and associations. In 1937 it fought against the referendum for the elimination of section 92 in relation to primary producer ‘ organization. It sabotaged my wheat stabilization scheme for- several years, although it recently revived it. Who knows when the Labour party will be opposed to it again? Therefore, although the Australian Country party is anxious to support, and will support, an amendment which will secure the possibility of a compulsory wheat scheme and stabilization plans in the marketing of primary, products, as it has always done, it must receive a complete assurance when doing so that it is really getting what producers and the party desire.
I must confess that I am glad to see honorable gentlemen opposite returning to what I consider the right fold in regard to section 92 and primary production. In 1937 they thought I was a heretic. To-day they have, returned to the fold, and I am glad that their view has changed. It is another illustration of the undoubted fact that the minds of men change from time to time. What we want, however, is a constitutional provision that will be so clear in its terms that it cannot be misunderstood or misinterpreted by the courts. Only by securing . such a statement can the primary producers feel any sense of security. Such a sense of security is an urgent need. If by discussion - and I trust that this subject will be fully discussed - we can reach an agreement as to the terms in which the proposed amendment will be submitted to the people, we will have a very good prospect of securing ‘their endorsement of it. Then the primary producers will have secured something tangible. I repeat that we need assurances that will be reliable. If we discuss the subject thoroughly I believe that we shall be able to return to the state of mind that existed in 1926, and that will be of value to all primary producers.
I now come to the subject of social services. I am not dealing with these measures in the order in which they were introduced. I prefer to take them in what I regard as being the proper order. In the list of seven powers which the Government desires to secure, four I believe could secure unanimous passage through Parliament and acceptance by the people of Australia. But they would need to be put up by themselves as a separate question and quite independent of other questions, though if the power relating to industry be placed before the people at the same time, their reaction against that may even doom the other proposals, too. The four to which I now refer relate to maternity allowances, widows’ pensions, child endowment and family allowances. But I fear that if these subjects are linked with the other three items now specified in the bills the result may be disastrous. It might be like infecting a healthy man with a virus. I hope that the Government will see the wisdom of not taking any such risk. It would surely be better to make certain of some additional powers than to get none by asking for too much. I am confident that the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) will deal- with this point when he addresses the House. I anticipate that an amendment will be moved at the committee stage in regard to this particular matter. The three items in the proposed social services amendment which make a most insecure foundation for the carrying out of a comprehensive policy of public health are the provisions dealing with the unemployment, sickness and hospital benefits, medical and dental service, and benefits to students.
In my opinion, taxation make’s a very poor foundation’ upon which to provide benefactions of this description to the people. We must remember that at one stage even a Labour government found itself compelled to reduce the rate of old-age pension from £1 to 17s. 6d. a week in order to make ends meet. Unemployment and sickness benefits should be provided by means of a national insurance fund, which, however, should be rendered independent of any temporary budget difficulties that might arise. Such difficulties Gould occur under the regime of either Labour or non-Labour governments as I know very well from my experience in connexion with national insurance as a member of the Bruce-Page Government. Up to the present the results of negotiations carried out by the Commonwealth Government, as contrasted with the results shown by State negotiations, indicate that federal action is the worst way to get an agreement and satisfactory results with doctors and hospitals and in regard to health generally. In the partial attempt by this Government to give medical and dental services and hospital benefits, it has obviously started at the wrong end. The Attorney-General is not quite clear whether the proposed amendment would give the Commonwealth Government control over medical and dental registration, though eminent barristers express the opinion that it would do so. This problem cannot be dealt with by the indirect means suggested by the Commonwealth in this amendment. That is like starting to build a house from the roof down. If the Commonwealth Government wishes to apply a comprehensive policy in respect of the programme of public health, let it bring down an amendment which would give full power to make such laws as are thought proper with respect to the subject. The Chief Justice, Sir John Latham, well put this constitutional position in his decision in the Pharmaceutical Benefits case in December last. He said -
The act is far more than an appropriation act; it is just the kind of statute which might well be passed by a Parliament which had full power to make such laws as it thought proper with respect to public health, doctors, chemists, hospitals, drugs, medicines, and medical and surgical appliances.
The Commonwealth Parliament has no such power. The result of a contrary view would be that, by the simple device of providing for the expenditure of a sum of money with respect to a particular- subject-matter, the Common wealth could introduce a scheme which in practice would completely regulate and control that subject-matter. The Commonwealth Parliament would thus have almost unlimited legislative power. The careful delimitation of Commonwealth powers made by the Constitution prevents the adoption of such an opinion.
The. position of! the Government is not clear - on this matter, so 1 asked the Attorney-General during his speech whether this amendment would override State legislation. He said it would not, but most lawyers say it would. Even if we believed in the value of the amendment, how could we advocate something’ in which there is such an element of legal doubt before we start? The right procedure surely is to separate maternity allowances, widows’ pensions, child endowment, and family allowances into one amendment and put it to the people, leaving hospital benefits, medical and dental services and benefits to students to Commonwealth and State cooperative action, which should be easy to get. If the Government does not do this, it will .find that this amendment will be defeated.
The Government should deal with this subject of health in a direct and not an indirect manner. If it persists in its present indirect approach, the consequence, even if the people endorse the proposal, will be endless litigation and conflict, and tb-at m’ust inevitably result in poor service to the general community. There axe Some things that we cannot afford to trifle with, and one of them is human life. In some spheres of activity there are wide margins in which we may work, and the giving away of a little here and there does not matter much, but when it comes to human life, we have no margins. If a man, woman or child dies, there is nothing more to be done; there is no second chance. It is, therefore, essential that we should deal in the most efficient way possible with this subject, and I trust that the Parliament will realize the significance of a direct approach to it. If the Government will bring down something of that kind, we shall deal with it in the fullest and frankest way. The Government’s way is the most stupid way in which the matter could be dealt with. I have just passed through flooded districts in which sickness has been increased by reason of immersion and the subsequent poor housing of the people. Those districts are hopelessly short of hospital beds. Yet the Government’s contribution to the problem of ensuring that the people will be better cared for is, not to provide more beds, but to make a payment to the institution of 6s. a day in respect of any patient who goes into a general ward, provided no charge is made on the patient. The right course is to build hospitals, and provide hospital beds. Between the only two hospitals on the middle north COaSt of New South Wales that are worthwhile, according to modern standards, namely, those at Grafton and Maitland, the institutions at Coffs Harbour, Bellingen, Kempsey, and Taree are in an indescribably bad and overcrowded condition. Steps are being taken to improve the hospital at Port Macquarie; but there is no public hospital accommodation at all at the important centres of Macksville, “Wauchope, “Wingham, Bulahdelah,, and Stroud. Men and women, after bad accidents, have to be transported 60 or 70 miles for treatment, because surgical hospital appliances are not available at these points. Honorable members opposite laugh at my description of the conditions. It is time the conscience of this country was aroused. The matter should be dealt with in all seriousness, because it is one of the most important with which we could deal. An expenditure of at least £20,000,000 is needed to place the hospitals of this country in an efficient, modern state. At Taree, I learned that the hospital had been “built 60 years ago, before the days of asepsis and just about the time when antisepsis was started. In the infectious diseases ward there were cases of diphtheria, scarlet fever, typhoid, whooping cough, measles, meningitis, and erisypelas Under the one roof with ordinary medical cases, separated by only one wall. There are two windows and a door in that wall. Apparently, the idea is that the germs are too big to use that means of gaining access to other parts of the building. The average attendance at the hospital is 100 patients. If the payment by the Commonwealth of 6s. a day for each patient were capitalized at 5 to 5-£ per cent, it would provide a capital fund of £200,000. For £150,000, the modern hospital which Taree has been promised for ten or fifteen years could be built, and it would have a real value. The Government is paying 6s. a day for the treatment of people in beds that do not exist. What is the use -of that? I have read in this House a report by the Social Security Committee, which pointed out that there is a shortage of 10,000 hospital beds for tuberculosis cases. I have shown that because ex-servicemen have been forced to return to their homes from tubercular hospitals, the infection of their children has been about four times as great as it would have been had they been treated in hospital. It is well known that the shortage of beds for mental patients totals 6,000.
– That is the heritage which the right honorable gentleman and his party left to us.
– If the Government has £3,000,000 a year to spare, for God’s sake let it devote the money to something that will be worth while! What is the good of saying to the people, “ Here is a free bed “, when there is no bed? When my wife was ill with pneumonia in Melbourne last year, she -could not get a bed in a hospital. Despite all the influence that I was able to bring to bear on the medical and nursing profession, the best that I could manage was a nurse for half a day. What chance has any one who has not the advantages that I possess in that connexion? The problem should be attacked right from the base. When the late Mr. Lyons was Prime Minister and I was Minister for Health, I brought into being the National Health and Medical Research Council, consisting of representatives of the .Commonwealth and States, as well as the medical profession, which has made valuable reports and recommendations oh nutrition.
The right method to adopt is that outlined by the Chief Justice of the High
Court, Sir John Latham, in his decision on the Pharmaceutical Benefits case last December. The people should be asked to vote on a proposed alteration of the Constitution to enable the Commonwealth to legislate in respect of the maternity allowance, family allowances, child endowment, and widows’ pensions. The other matters should be dealt with by co-operation with the States or, if that is npt accepted, by a special referendum on public health.
The third question which the Government proposes to submit to the people relates to employment and unemployment. On that subject, I associate myself with what has been said by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). I have always said that this matter is one not for this Parliament but for a competent body to which the. Parliament had delegated the necessary power. What sort of a result would we achieve if we had this Parliament to act as a jury to make ad hoc decisions on all sorts of intricate subjects, for which we are not properly equipped by our training, knowledge, or the time that we can devote to them? Investigations concerning wages, hours of labour, and industrial conditions generally, ought to be made by a properly constituted tribunal. I believe it to be a good thing to give a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. The system under which wage fixation has been dealt with has been hopelessly wrong. The aim should be not to estimate the number of hours that suits the trade union secretary or the agitator, but to determine what conditions will ensure that all men and women will be maintained in the best of health, so that they will take a pleasure in their work and will feel that they are being paid not merely for the tasks that they perform but also for the help that they give to all their fellow men.
.- I have been awaiting speeches by responsible members of the Opposition who formerly occupied Cabinet rank in order to have the pleasure of listening to a useful contribution to the debate. Like my friend the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), I appreciate the need for support from every phase of political thought in Australia in order to make the referendum succeed. The history of referendums in Australia is not a happy story. We understand why great difficulty as experienced in inducing -the ‘ people to transfer powers from the States to the Commonwealth when we look back oh the history of the establishment of federation. I have figures which give a picture of the population of the nation at that time. New South Wales had a population of 1,333,000; Victoria, 1,100,000; Queensland, 500,000; South Australia, 333,000;- Western Australia, 179,000; and Tasmania, 172,000. The total for . Australia was approximately 3,700,000. The export trade of the nation was valued at £41,000,000, of which £15,000,000 was represented by gold bullion, leaving a merchandise trade of approximately £26,000,000. So, even if we grant that the founders of the Constitution were men of great foresight, we still must assume that they could not foresee the development of the nation to the stage it has reached at the present time, with a population approximately three times as great and a trade which has risen to £146,000,000, consisting principally ofprimary produce. The most important and difficult of our trading operations is in relation to foodstuffs. I have heard it said. that it will be very difficult, should the proposed alterations be made to the Constitution, to arrive at the exact meaning of some of the terminology indicating the powers that will be available for use by the Commonwealth Parliament. It has been said that the term “ primary products “ covers a wide field. Let us admit that. But that does not connote that although this Parliament, in the event of the Constitution being altered, will have the power to deal with all phases of primary production, it will spend its time upon details which do not present a problem in relation to overseas markets. It can hardly be visualized that the Parliament will spend much time in dealing with the Victorian beet sugar industry. That presents a local problem which can be solved locally. Nor can it be visualized that the Parliament will spend a lot of time in dealing with the export of peanuts, peanut butter, or any of the products of peanuts. Such problems can’ be solved locally, and, consequently, do not require to have devoted to them the time, energy, or organization of the Commonwealth. We can confine “ primary products “ to approximately five commodities - wheat, wool, meat, sugar and butter. ‘ There is nothing arguable about whether those items are primary products in the true sense of the term, or have been carried to the stage of production at which it is necessary to determine whether they are primary or secondary. Therefore, in my opinion, honorable members opposite are quibbling over the -terms used by the draftsman because they lack the courage to oppose them straight out. ‘They would support the proposals if a government to their liking were in power to administer them. In the meantime, they damn them with faint praise, thus inviting their supporters in the electorates to vote against the proposals because they will be administered by a Labour government. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), in a speech last year, gave cynical utterance to this idea, when he said that the support or non-support by a political party of any proposal for the alteration of the Constitution boiled down in the- end to a consideration of who was to administer the new powers. In short, he admitted that he would support the proposals .if he were leading a government that would exercise the powers, but he would not like the Labour party to exercise them. He is not alone in that attitude. Honorable (members on this side of the House, when in Opposition, followed the same line of reasoning. Therefore, I appreciate the need to obtain agreement among all parties if we are to induce the people to give to the Commonwealth Parliament the powers which we believe it should have, powers which the Parliament should be able to exercise no matter what party is governing. In regard to these proposals, the Government is giving the people an opportunity to decide (a) whether Parliament is to enjoy, the powers in question; and (6) who will administer those powers. That is a most important consideration, but honor- able members opposite advanced the old worn-out argument that the Government proposes to hold a referendum on the same day as a general election in an attempt to gull the people into believing that a vote against the referendum proposals will be a vote against the Government; in other words, that they cannot vote for the Government without supporting the proposals. The Leader of the Opposition, who has the capacity to make a statesmanlike approach to this matter and help to obtain the needed powers for the Commonwealth, characteristically prefers to play the part of a political dilettante, to treat the proposals as something to be talked about but not to be considered with the earnestness which they certainly deserve.
I , heard another ex-Prime Minister (Sir Earle Page) speak to-night, and he adopted the same attitude as the Leader of the Opposition. He said that the powers were desirable, but they should be more exactly defined; that the Government’s method of approach was wrong in that it should seek the powers, not by referendum, but hy agreement with the States. He said that a conference of State representatives should be called to discuss the matter, and - if they were satisfied that it was in the interests of Australia generally that the Commonwealth Parliament should have the powers,- the States could- refer them to the Commonwealth. He said that, from his experience of State leaders, he believed that’ they were reasonable men who would place no difficulty in the way of the Commonwealth Parliament getting the powers which were needed. Bearing that in mind, it is interesting to recall a speech which was delivered by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) in this- House on the 29th November, 1940, when, introducing a bill providing for the stabilization of the wheat industry. He said -
The problems of the wheat exporting countries had been steadily growing more difficult because the principal importing countries in Europe ever since they were struck by the depression, redoubled their efforts to secure self-sufficiency. . . . The Australian Governments had been trying for twenty years bc fora the present war to secure a plan of stabilization which would dovetail in with the international position
The Government, because it could not get agreement among State Premiers, or even among State representatives on the Agricultural Council, proceeded to act under National Security Regulations.
Could anything be more arbitrary? The right honorable gentleman does not now hold a portfolio, and perhaps he is not too hopeful that he will ever hold one again.
– Surely the honorable member does not believe that the Labour party will be in power forever.
– Perhaps a more radical government will be in power twenty, years hence.
– The “ Commos “ must have the honorable member scared.
– They have me scared, and they have scared the honorable member too, as well as a lot of other people. The difference is that we are facing the situation, whereas the others, ostrich-like, are hiding their heads in the sand. What the right honorable member for Cowper said to-night was the very opposite of what he said in 1940, but such a volte face is typical of the honorable members opposite when they discuss proposals for granting additional powers to the Commonwealth. I have spoken of wheat because it is pf particular importance to the electorate I represent. The founders of federation did not visualize what an important part wheat was destined to play in the economy of Australia. In 1900, Australia produced about 30,000,000 bushels of wheat - hardly enough to supply the needs of its own people. On the 23rd January, 1918, the then Minister for Agriculture for New South Wales, Mr. Ashford, said -
I cannot, on the facts before me, advocate continued encouragement to. wheat growing, although I would welcome any proof that it. is possible to do so without sacrificing the best interests of the settlers and the country.
In the absence of such proof I advocate a reduction of the wheat area to the minimum at which the crop will meet the domestic requirements of this State and Queensland.
Thus even eighteen years after the establishment of the Commonwealth, wheat was considered of such little importance that the Minister for Agriculture for New South Wales said that he would not advocate the growing of more wheat than was needed for consumption by the people of New South Wales and Queensland. He did- not visualize the growth of an export trade in wheat.
– Restrictions on the production of wheat were imposed only recently.
– Yes, and during the war there was conscription for military service,’ and conscription of labour, but surely the honorable member does not believe that during the next ten years the people will put up with the things which it was necessary to do in time of war when the nation had to defend itself. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir EarlePage), speaking in November, 1940, said’ that there would have to be some restriction of wheat production in that year. I do not think that the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) would, in 1940, have suggested that there should be no control over the production of items which were then in excess supply. ‘ Turning from the production of primary commodities and the control of marketing, I come to the subject of mechanization on farms. This gives a lead to the third question that will be submitted at the referendum, seeking control over the relationship between employer and employee in order to bring harmony into industry throughout the Commonwealth. To illustrate the great changes which have occurred in methods of primary production, I refer to an article published in the Science Digest of March, 1946, which deals aptly with the subject of labour on farms and the problems that have arisen from increasing mechanization. These problems demand something that was not thought of in the past - a code that will link the farm worker and the farmer with the worker and the employer in secondary industry. The author of the article, Mr. Albert Parry, discussing what would happen to rural workers who had served in munition factories during the war, stated - “War workers don’t go back to their farms “, areal estate man said to me in Tulsa, Oklahoma. “ They’ve saved more of their war-time earnings than we gave them credit for. We thought they were spending all their wages in taverns, but apparently they weren’t. - “ So now they are sitting tight and pretty, waiting for the factories to reconvert or the strikes to be settled. They don’t want to go back to their Ozarks and Smokies. Nothing much to go back to in those mountains, you know. They like city life better, and why shouldn’t they? But even when they came from good farms they don’t care to go back “. “ They aren’t needed there anyway ‘’, interposed a friend of his, “ I watched a cornpicker do its stuff the other day. Why, that machine does the work of six or eight men! “
In Louisiana they had statistics to prove this point to me. Harry D. Wilson, state commissioner of agriculture, issued figures recently, showing that because of the continued trend of mechanization, farms in Louisiana get smaller in number and bigger in acreage,’ needing fewer hands to operate them.
From 150,007 in 1940, Louisiana’s farms decreased to 130,699 in 1945, a loss of 12.9 per cent., while their acreage in the same fiveyear period rose from 9,998,108 to 10,310,806.
I have before me a country newspaper with a picture of a girl operating a, hay baler. The mechanization chief of the Department of Agriculture in New South Wales, Mr. Leonard Jull, said of this machine, “I have seldom seen anything more efficient or better designed to save labour than the one-man hay baler “. There is a world-wide problem in relation to changing farm economy, it is not confined to Australia. Because’ of this development, leaders of American thought are calling international conferences to handle the new problems on an international scale. This Parliament must have power to send representatives to such conferences as plenipotentiaries, with the assurance that, if agreement is reached, it will give effect to their recommendations. The sending of advisers to make reports without prospect of positive action to follow would be mere political “ ballyhoo “. Members of the Opposition have a duty and obligation to help to secure that power for this Parliament without quibbling about the terminology of the questions to be submitted to the people at the referendum. They have to carry on under a Labour administration just as the Labour movement had to carry on under anti-Labour governments. Though we may disagree about political theories, none of us is likely to commit “ hara kiri “ just because anotherpolitical party is in power. We must overcome political enmities in order to help make the nation prosperous in the new world. We must discourage any movement back towards the dark ages, and unite to move along the road of progress which leads to what we, as Christians, consider to be our destiny. The rational organization of primary industry is indissolubly linked with the establishment of fair terms and conditions of employment and a high standard of living for everybody. These things can be achieved only if the Commonwealth Parliament has power to legislate for them. In the bad old days, strikes were settled by calling out the Militia or the police. Such action will not be effective in the future. The community expects its representatives in Parliament to do the’ job for which they were elected. The President of the Liberal party of Australia, Mr. Ritchie. who is one of our greatest industrialists, has said that the 40-hour working week should be introduced in Australia, first, because Australians deserve a standard df living based on £he 40-hour week, and, secondly, because industry can afford it. A similar statement was made by the president of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures. Nobody has quibbled at the right of Australians to enjoy benefits arising from scientific advances in industry and the victory achieved by our armed forces over the enemies of democracy. Nevertheless, when the Government asked that effect bc given to the unanimous desire of the people, members of the Opposition quibbled at the ways and means proposed for introducing the reform. The Opposition claims that this Parliament should not, set itself up as a commission to formulate industrial codes. The fixation of standard hours of labour is not a matter for an Arbitration Court judge. It fs a matter for a solid reform which is desired by all sections of the community. I hope that there is in the offing some modern Cromwell who will find a way. of inducing members of Parliament to agree on such matters of national importance, regarding which the people can reach agreement more quickly than political parties have been accustomed to do in the past. The people will be asked to sanction the permanent granting to this Parliament of power to administer social services. The existence of such power having been regarded as a fait accompli, this has not raised so much criticism as have the Government’s other proposals. Apparently the Opposition has concluded that it is not good politics to damn the proposal with the same fervour and animus as it has directed towards the others. The people and the State parliaments, having had a sample of Commonwealth adminis tration in this sphere, will be satisfied to make the power permanent. The other two powers are equally important. They represent cardinal points in a progressive economic policy, which must be implemented if the people are to benefit from scientific and social progress. I appeal to members of the Opposition to allow their patriotism and sense of justice and morality to guide their actions in this matter, and not to make it merely a political football, because otherwise, in the next few years, revolutionary movements now starting in other parts of the world may block the road of democratic progress.
.- Thomas Jefferson said that “ eternal vigilance ‘ is the price of liberty “, and, from certain things I have heard in this chamber, I am sure that we must not relax our vigilance if we are to retain our liberty. That is why Government supporters have not been able to discover just where we stand. It is because of the necessity to retain those liberties that we want to know exactly what these proposals mean before we commit ourselves to any view. Every speech made on the1 Government side is reminiscent of the speeches made on the ‘ referendum proposals of 1944. We have had the same story . from the same people on the same subject. Honorable member opposite ignore the verdict given on that referendum by the people. I remember very well that we urged the Government not to lump all its proposals in one referendum’ question requiring a single “ Yes “ or “ No “, but to separate them so that the people should have the opportunity of voting according to their inclinations on each proposal. The Government treated us with lofty disdain. “ We have the numbers, so what do we caro for you ! “ was its attitude. We advised it that it would lose the referendum as the result. It submitted certain sugar-coated proposals in the hope that they would appeal to the cupidity of the electors so much that they would automatically vote for the others that contained the dynamite.
– The Opposition supported the proposals at one time, but not at the vital time.
– It was because of our vigilance that we discovered the dynamite, and we were obliged to tell the people exactly what they might let themselves in for. On this occasion, the Government has heeded our advice and separated the proposals so that the people shall be able to vote “ Yes “ or “ No “, according to their inclinations, on the three of them. That is an advance. But in other respects old’ tactics are again being employed. Honorable members on the Government side seem to think it is strength to attack everything said by honorable members on this side and to impute false motives to us. Indeeed, the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) went so far as to characterize the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) as humbug. I do not think this House has heard a more masterly analysis of the’ case than that made in the right honorable gentleman’s speech. This “ humbug “ that the honorable member for Watson alleged is what the people want to know. They are not con- .cerned with the simple phrases that are placed in bills of this kind. They want to know what lies behind them, and, because of his forensic ability, the right honorable gentleman is able to interpret these phrases. He sought to show what, does lie behind them. Yet what he said was described as “ humbug “ by an honorablemember, who, by reason of his legal training, should know better than to talk about a colleague an that manner, especially when he knows that what the right honorable gentleman said was true. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) who, fortunately,, is in the chair, and cannot interject, said that these bills were couched in perfectly simple language that was easily understood. After all that the Leader of the Opposition had to say the honorable member thinks that the bills are perfectly simple! It is the fear of what lies behind these seemingly simple phrases that loses every proposal submitted to referendum. When the people are in doubt, they vote for safety and they consider that safety lies in a “ No “’ vote. That is notorious, not just a statement by me, because we know what has happened in other referendums.
It is equally notorious that what was hidden in the proposals referred to the people in 1944 lost that referendum. Before we left this House to campaign we were treated, not exactly with contempt, but good-humouredly, as naughty boys who were trying to upset the Government’s proposals, but what was the atmosphere when those proposals had been overwhelmingly defeated, not by nonLabour States, but. by Labour States? The referendum was defeated in Queensland, New South Wales and Tasmania, States which have been under Labour governments for many years. The nonLabour State of South Australia voted in favour of .the proposals and the then non-Labour State of Victoria almost did. The “ No “ advocates did not have much up their sleeve, but the proposals were defeated.
– The Labour State of Western Australia voted affirmatively.
– Yes, the only one of the Labour States that did. Yet Labour supporters have the effrontery to accuse us of having caused the Government to lose the referendum. It was not cur fault that the referendum was lost. It was lost because of the foolish manner in which it was submitted. That is acknowledged now by the AttorneyGeneral in presenting these proposals in an altogether different manner. Honorable gentlemen opposite are curious about our attitude. From the very outset we have heard from the Government ranks, “ Where do you stand ? Are you going to vote for or against it?” They demand to know our attitude. They already know their attitude, because they have had the privilege of discussing these matters in the caucus, where they determined their course of action; but, until these bills were presented by the Attorney-General, we did not know their context or what they purported to do. It would have been interesting to listen to the caucus discussions to learn what degree of unanimity prevailed among Government supporters at the beginning. They are unanimous now because it is obligatory on them to be so. They want to see us make up our minds, no doubt because they regard as a curiosity any one with a mind to make up, since their minds are made up for them, a fact that there is no escaping.
AH I have said is preliminary to the few remarks that I intend to make on the bills themselves. I have already told honorable gentlemen that I cannot spend much time on the bills because what I should have to say would be, with but a few differences, merely a repetition of what I had to say in 1944. I believe that the Attorney-General has ‘not gone quite far enough on this occasion and that had he divided the proposals relating to social services into two parts he would have had a much better chance of having the lot carried. The proposals cover social services already in operation and others in prospect. Doubt has been cast on the validity of certain social services by a decision of the High Court. That, in turn, creates doubt in the minds of the people. If the Government sought to validate the social services that it is now operating, it would receive the support, of almost 100 per cent, of the electors. If it submitted proposals covering the proposed social services separately it might also have the chance of having them carried. At any rate, it would not run the risk of having the lot thrown out. I believe that therein lies the weakness- of the first measure. The Government is asking for trouble. The people showed at the last referendum that such things as social benefits and control over airlines would not induce them to vote for all the proposed transfers of power. The majority voted “ No “ and took the chance of losing those social benefits, but, as a matter of fact, they have not lost any of them. Now they are to be told the same old story, “ You won’t get anything unless you give us the lot “.
– Will the honorable member indicate the division that he thinks ought to be made?
– I think that hospital benefits and medical and dental services should be submitted in a separate referendum. Let the people vote on the social services that they “are now enjoying as one question and on the others separately. Do not oblige them to turn down maternity allowances and all the other existing social services if they feel that they must turn down the new proposals because they do not believe in them. Apart from that, there is nothing wrong with the first measure.-
I come now to the measure dealing with. the orderly marketing of primary products. If the war-time description of orderly marketing is continued indefinitely, the farmers will be “ orderly marketed “ off their farms, for the simple reason that their properties are in such a state because of depreciation that they will have nothing to produce with. I was rather astonished to hear the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) echo the Minister for . Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) by saying that the farmers are better off under the Labour Government than they were under non-Labour governments. That is absurd, and I am surprised that a Minister of the Crown of the standing of the Attorney-General should make such a claim. There is no doubt that the increased income of the farmers has resulted from the inflationary expenditure necessitated by the war and their inability to maintain their properties in the condition that they would like. Undoubtedly the farming community has more money in its pocket to-day, but the claim that that is because of the administration of the Labour Government would not appeal even to a child. Statements of that kind are another reason why the Government’s referendum proposals are not accepted.
– How is it that every body of. primary producers in Australia is asking for orderly marketing?
-So are we asking for it. Stabilization of prices and orderly marketing are in our policy. I ask the honorable gentleman not to try to confuse the issues, or I shall tell him more of what we believe in. ‘ I repeat that the assertion that all this money is floating about only because of the Labour Administration would not deceive even children.
– No one says that.
– Honorable members opposite say that times out of number. The money is the result of war expenditure and nothing else. It would be as reasonable for me to say that the iniquitous black market that is rending this country is the result of Labour administration. I would not accuse the Labour
Government of that. Each has occurred in spite of the Government. Nothing the Government could have done could have prevented these developments. War expenditure does not demand ‘balancesheets. People accumulate money that is not of the value it had when the war started. What is a million here or there? In fact, I heard the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) say with scorn, “ It is not £30,000,000 that we have lost through the Dutch ships being held up; it is only £5,000,000 “. If he had said fivepencewe could understand it, but £5,000,000! A million is regarded as a mere bagatelle.
I return now to the last referendum which involved a marketing proposal. I recall distinctly challenging it under section 92. I had the privilege to read one statement of Mr. Justice Evatt, in which he upheld the argument which I was propounding, and another statement by the Attorney-General which “ knocked me cold “. The present proposal will not alter section 92, but will cover “ primary products”. They must be defined. The proposed new power will be exercised only by the Commonwealth. Section 92 provides that trade and commerce between the States shall be absolutely free. That means that no State may discriminate against another State, and the Commonwealth may not discriminate between States or parts of States. If the present proposal is agreed to, what will it mean? Will it mean that if a State attempts to legislate to protect an industry within its boundaries, it must approach the Commonwealth for permission to do so? I cite a case by way of example. Some time after the last marketing referendum, Victoria passed a law controlling the manufacture of margarine in that State in theinterests of butter production. Victoria had no power to prevent New South Wales from flooding it with margarine. Therefore, all that Victoria succeeded in doing was to penalize the manufacturers of margarine in Victoria, whilst fattening the New South Wales manufacturers. Will that position still remain, or must Victoria approach the Commonwealth Government and say “ Will you support us under section 92 in prohibiting the export of margarine from New South Wales?”
– Under this proposal, only the Commonwealth will be exempt from section 92.
– Only in respect of primary products, and margarine is not a primary product.
– That is a different point.
– I want to knowwhere the States stand, and what powers will be exercised. I believe that the States will not be in a different position from now.
– This is not a general marketing power. It relates only to. the marketing of primary products.
– What is the value of this proposal ?
– The value is to enable the Commonwealth to organize the marketing of a primary product whether it is in one State or more States. That will be done through the Commonwealth Parliament, and, in that event, the Commonwealth will not be bound by section 92 in respect of those products. .
-But the States will continue to be bound by section 92?
– If the States want the benefit of the revocation of section 92, they must submit a request to the Commonwealth ?
– Yes, because section 92 is intended, amongst other things, to prevent one State from hitting at another.
– Under this proposal, the Commonwealth will be able to hit all the States. I had hoped that the Commonwealth sought this power so that it could exercise it only in time of crisis. So long as the war-ravaged countries of the world require food, the Commonwealth should not need to “ but in “. Does the Commonwealth’s proposal for orderly marketing mean control of production on the farm - the power which the Commonwealth exercised during the war? I want to know that before I declare myself. Does it mean that a man may not purchase a farm in a certain area with the object of growing potatoes or maize, . because a Commonwealth authority may inform him. that there is enough potatoes or maize and that he must not produce any more of them? Prospective purchasers must have that information before they buy properties.
Is one of these a concomitant of the other? I should like the AttorneyGeneral to explain the point, because it means a great deal to the farmer when he has to make up his mind on these matters.
I am opposed to the third proposal of the Government. Is tha.t clear?
– The honorable member was not very hostile to the first two proposals.
– I do not understand the third proposal, and I do not believe that any one else understands it. If this bill increased the powers of the Arbitration Court, I could understand it. I do not kno.w whetherthe honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Williams) inadvertently let the catout of the bag, but he said, “For many months, this Government has been pestered by certain unions to introduce legislation for a 40-hour week, but the Commonwealth Parliament has not the constitutional power to act. The unions threatened that if the 40-hour week were not introduced,they would call at strike.” The Government was put in a tough spot, as any other government wouldbe but it succumbedto the threats. Does the Government seek this additional power for the specific purpose of determining the working week for industry, and fixing wages? I am one of those peculiar individuals - peculiar, to honor- able members opposite - who never believed that the minimum basic wage was enough. It has never been reasonable, and is certainlynotreasonable to-day. If means could bedevised to increase the basic wage without simultaneously increasing prices, therewould be some advantage in talking about, in- creasing wages by 30s.aweek. But it will not benefit the worker now to increase hiswagesiftheprices of essential goods showacorresponding rise. That iscom- mon sense,and every worker recognizes it. I amnotarguing the merits of the case, butamonly showing that the , Go- vernment appearstobe abandoning the Arbitration Court, which consists of experts in taking andsif ting evidence, and making decisions. The Government is taking, out of the hands of those experts the determination of wagesandworking conditions,and unless itproposestocreate another tribunalconsisting of expert economists, those conditions must be de termined by a political party. That proposition is top absurd for words.
– Did not a political party decide that a bounty should be paid on dairy produce?
– After the Government first took the money from the people.
– All take and no give!
– The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) helps every one to make a speech but never speaks himself.
– The honorable member convinced himself before he commenced his speech.
– I require more information before I make up my mind. I shouldlike the Attorney-General to inform me whether any decision of the Arbitration Court, under this power, can be annulled by the Commonwealth Parliament?
– I put it another way, namely, the Parliament itself can fix standard hours in industry if it thinks fit.
Mr.BOWDEN.- What about the basic wage ?
– It could fix any standard of hours it thinks fit - 40, 44 or 48 a week. It could also fix the basic wage if it thought fit, or lay down the principle on which the basic wage shall be determined.
– Then what purpose can the Arbitration Court serve?
Dr.Evatt. - The arbitration system will remain.
-Does this proposed power give to the Commonwealth Parliament the right to override a decision of the Arbitration Court? I should like an answer to that question. Until we know the answer, we cannot vote intelligently on the proposal.
– It does give that power.
– Then the Arbitration Court will become afarce.
– It will become a farce if every decision which it makes can be, overridden by thisParliament.
– A State parliament can override decisions, of the StateArbitration Court.
– The States have established their tribunals for the purpose of fixing wages and working conditions.
– So have we.
-What will be the value of the Arbitration Court if this Parliament can override its decisions?
– You just do not do it.
– You do not do it but you can do it.
– The States can do it.
– I have said briefly what I intended to say. I submitted certain proposals and have asked for information. Until I get satisfactory answers to my questions, I shall not make up my mind as to how I shall vote.
We believe in grower control of organized marketing; we believe in a Government representative being on the boards, but the producer who grows and owns the commodity and who incurs all the losses and expense in growing it, should have theright to say how it shall be disposed of.
– We also say that.
– Very well then! We do not support the principle of complete governmental control, and would never agree to it. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) claimed that numbers of farmers approach him and demand to know whether the Commonwealth will maintain the present organized system of marketing. The farmers in Adelaide may be doing so, but every farmer whom I meet asks me how soon we can get rid of the present system.
– A few farmers in Gippsland also advocate its retention.
– Other farmers in Gippsland ask how quickly we can get rid of the controls. We favour organized marketing with grower-control.
– That is the policy of the Labour party.
– The Labour party has not given effect to that policy to date. What about the Meat Board? Has that got grower control? We want a control similar to that adopted in New Zealand.
– Of course the Meat Board will have grower control with a definite majority of growers.
– It is not the same as the New Zealand scheme.
– There will be grower control. The majority of the members of the board will be growers. The party which the honorable member supports introduced that legislation.
– It does not matter who introduced it.
– It was a bad bill.
– This is a different proposition. It is all very well airily to wave a hand and say that everything is all right. It did not prove to be all right from the Minister’s standpoint after the last referendum. I hope for more sanity in this referendum. I hope also that the issues that I have raised will be clarified in such a way that the public will know how to vote.
.- In common with other members on this side of the House, for the last few days I have been endeavouring to ascertain the attitude of the combined parties in Opposition to the Government’s referendum proposals. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) following the attitude of other speakers on his side had “ a few shillings each way “, to use a racing term, on the proposition. At the commencement of the debate, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) objected to holding the referendum on election day. Then he. suggested that a convention should be summoned to consider constitutional reform, and later he stated that he believed that one or two of the proposed powers should be referred by the States to the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) very capably answered the contentions that the referendum should not be held on election day and that a convention should be summoned to consider constitutional reform. So far as I am concerned, the method of’ amending the Constitution by the reference of powers from the States to the Commonwealth can be written off completely. After looking at some of the tory gentlemen who are members of the upper bouses in certain State legislatures I am quite certain that they are beyond the age of reason. Progressive movements by this Parliament are not likely to receive any endorsement from some of the individuals who occupy the benches in the Legislative Councils of Tasmania, South
Australia, Western Australia and Victoria. Consequently, I congratulate this Government upon having had the courage to approach the problem of constitutional reform in a direct manner. I consider that the people should be invited to endorse the proposals now before this Parliament. To rely on action by the. upper houses of the State parliaments as a means of clothing the Commonwealth Parliament with additional power would be, in my opinion, pure folly.
Constitutional reform is absolutely necessary. I am firmly convinced that the Commonwealth Parliament should be clothed with full legislative power. Only in this way can it give effect to the mandates which it receives from the people. Under the existing system a great deal of the legislative work of the Parliament is rendered abortive by the decisions of the High Court, which rest, generally, upon technicalities and legal points, and not upon the merits of the measures which it considers. I do not criticize the justices of the High Court personally or politically, because their judgments have affected the legislation introduced by the governments of every political complexion. The fact is that the decisions of the High Court, which have so frequently lacked consistency, have disgusted large sections of the Australian people, who believe that the governments which they have elected from time to time should have the power to govern the country in an efficient manner. In consequence of the limitation of the power of the Commonwealth Parliament, a great deal of duplication ‘ and overlapping is evident in governmental action. This tends to bring the legislatures into disrepute, and that is a bad thing for the country. Australia is at a great disadvantage in comparison with Great Britain, South Africa and New Zealand in particular, the parliaments of which have sovereign powers and can legislate properly for the purpose of giving effect to the policies of the governments which the people elect. Australia has achieved independent national status, and has a great record of achievement, and it is intolerable that its National Parliament should be limited in its legislative authority. The High Court has been responsible for many inconsistent judgments concerning the validity of our legislation. Its interpretation of the Constitution, for example, has ‘become almost a personal matter, for changes in the personnel of the High Court Bench have led to remarkable changes in the interpretation of the Constitution. Many judgments have been on majority decisions. I regard the present state of affairs as entirely undemocratic. It is wrong that the High Court should be able to veto legislation passed by the elected representatives of the people.
An examination of the reports of the many debates which have occurred in this House on the subject of constitutional reform is most enlightening. I direct the attention of honorable members first to a passage from a speech delivered by the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) on this subject in the budget debate on the 18th November, 1938. The right honorable gentleman indicated clearly the far-reaching effects of the inconsistencies of judgments of the High Court, particularly in the interpretation of section 92, and gave instances of the court overruling its own earlier decisions. He did not question the integrity of the justices, but he showed that legislatively we live in a world without any firm foundation. The right honorable gentleman said -
To illustrate how section 02 of the Constitution operates in respect of the marketing and handling of goods between State and State, .1 cite the Foggit Jones case which was heard before the High Court in 1916. Foggit Jones and Company Limited, a company incorporated in Queensland, instituted an action against the State of New South Wales to prevent it from impeding their right to purchase livestock in New South Wales and take them to Queensland. The High Court held, by a majority of four to one, the fifth justice being doubtful, that the legislation of New South Wales’ which sought to prevent the sale of stock in New South Wales to other States was invalid. In September, 1916, a few months later, in the Duncan case, almost exactly the same class of legislation passed by the Parliament of Queensland was tested in the High Court, which ruled by a majority of Ave to two that the legislation was valid. Then in 1920, the High Court in the McArthur case held by a majority of five to two that the decision in the Duncan case was wrong and that the decision in the Foggit Jones case was right. Then the Privy Council in 1036 put the “kibosh” on the lot. It decided that neither the Commonwealth Government nor a State government had the power to do what either had -been doing. In 1920 it was held that the Commonwealth could, but that the States could not, make, certain legislation, whereas sixteen years afterwards ‘the Privy ‘Council declared that it could udt be done either by the Commonwealth or by ‘the States, acting together or. apart, -and as the result our legislation on marketing to a large degree went by the board. Even when we have the court’s kindly permission to legislate on behalf of the people of this country, we are later overruled in Our -legislation at times by a decision of a High Court of half a dozen justices or by the Privy Council . . .
Later in his speech he said -
The decisions of the court are reached, not on the merits of the question, hut on the capacity of Parliament to pass legislation. Mr. Justice Rich, -in -the James case in 1929, said: “After many years of exploration into the dark recesses of this subject, I am content to take the decided cases as sailing directions upon which I m(ay set my course, however unexpected may be” the destination to which it brings mc”.
He sat his course from the sailing directions contained in the decided cases, but seven years later the Privy Council said that the course was entirely wrong, that he should have gone south instead of north.
I desire now to refer :t,o a few notable examples of inconsistency in the approach to constitutional proposals ‘by members of this Parliament. My quotations will also indicate tb at urgent need exists for an overhaul of the Constitution, and for that reason I ‘consider that the introduction of these bills is a step in the right direction. Proposals for the alteration of the Constitution have received endorsement at different times from the leaders and members of all parties in this Parliament. I direct attention to a speech delivered by ‘the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) in this House on the 22nd November, 1938 (Hansard, vol. 158, page 1817). The right honorable gentleman, who at that time was AttorneyGeneral, was dealing with the industrial powers of the Commonwealth. He said -
It seems ‘curious, looking back on the matter at this stage, that the Constitution should have conferred upon this Parliament power to control the problems df customs and excise, power to control the whole fiscal policy of the continent, and made it an exclusive power, and yet, at the same time, should have ‘refrained from granting ‘to this Parliament power, the ancillary power, as I would have thought, to deal with the wages that should be paid and the conditions that should be observed in the great industries ‘which were bound to be established and fostered under ‘the fiscal policy of Une country. The’ only industrial power given to this Parliament is :power ‘to deal, through the agency of arbitration and conciliation, with industrial disputes of an interstate ‘kind. U 11 less some dispute can ‘be created, and unlessthat, dispute -can be ‘made’ Of an interstate character:, there is no Commonwealth ..jurisdiction and no Commonwealth instrumentality to deal with it. The result has been that for very many years in the history of Australia, ‘men in organized labour, who have nodesire to become involved in disputes, havebeen compelled to make them in order to invoke the .jurisdiction of a federal court. That anoma’ly is one which will continue to exist until more effective treatment of it is made possible by giving complete industrial power to the Commonwealth of Australia.
Yet ‘that right honorable gentleman is leading the ‘van in the attack on these bills. I shall refer now to some remarks made -in the -House on the 23rd February, 1944, by the honorable member for “Warringah (Mr. Spender) whose speech on these measures I await with deep interest. The honorable member, in debating the measure that was then before Parliament for .’the alteration of the Constitution, 3aid, as reported in Hansard, -vol. 177r page 469 -
Except in respect of the delegation of legislative powers to those to whom the administration of ‘this country is entrusted, and subject to .]) reservation of the right of free speech, there is no power which T shall refuse to giveto this Parliament.
As the honorable member was so strongly of the opinion that additional power should be vested in the Commonwealth Parliament it will be interesting to hear his speech in this debate. The Leader of the Opposition, in his initial speech as a member of this Parliament, was at great pains to assure the people that he believed that the Commonwealth Parliament should be clothed with wider powers. He considered additional power to be so necessary that he said he would set his political course with that end in view. Itwill be- appreciated from. -what I have said that the opinion is .generally held that constitutional reform is essential to the true development of this country. ‘ it one time or another many honorable members opposite have supported proposals for extensions of power of the nature now proposed by this Government. I. have been agreeably surprised at some of the -remarks df honorable members opposite in this debate, though I must confess that it is exceedingly difficult to. tell exactly how they propose to vote. The honorable member lor Wentworth (“Mr. Harrison) provided us with a striking example of the inconsistency and disunity that exist amongst members of the Opposition on the subject of constitutional reform. The Leader of the Opposition in his speech went to .’great pains to explain to members that the 1937 referendum .proposal on marketing was entirely different from the present proposal. The honorable member for Wentworth and Deputy Leader -of the Opposition states that the proposals are more or less identical. I do not wish to “split straws” and I am prepared to accept the proposition of the honorable member for Wentworth in regard to the present marketing proposal. There is, therefore, no excuse for every member of the Opposition not getting behind the Government and supporting the proposal in regard to organized marketing when it is submitted to the people. I mention this in passing merely in order to illustrate the disunity that exists among honorable members opposite, and the false approach which some of them are making to these proposals.
I believe that whether or not the Commonwealth be given the powers that are now being ‘sought, the time is not fardistant when a national health scheme will ‘have to receive the consideration of this Parliament. It is not right to say that any form of salaried service which might be introduced with Government backing would not meet with the approval of the medical profession or the people as a whole. I shall .refute the honorable gentleman’s assertion that a salaried service would regiment the people, by quoting from a- book written by Sir Raphael Cilento, entitled Blue Print for the Health of a Nation. Sir Raphael Cilento is -a well-known medical man who, in Queensland, occupied the very important position of Director-General of Health. In this work, referring to a national health service, he -said -
The outline scheme adopted. as a basis for discussion by the National Health and Medical Research Council at its Twelfth Session, concluded that a service complete in essentialscould he provided to all Australia by some- 4.000 full-time salaried medical practitioners, -properly distributed. A total of 7,200 medical nien could provide a service better than that h t present; -available hi any country in theworld.
Later, he said -
It is not perhaps realised, however, how many of them are quite prepared to earn their living on a salaried basis. In Queensland ii> 1,037, in response to a strictly confidential questionnaire sent out to every registeredmedical practitioner, a record number - morethan 99 per cent, of the profession - completed and returned the reply form. Of these, 97 per cent, expressed their willingness to he associated with the Government in a part-time or full-time capacity, 69 per cent, of them agreeing to accept employment in a State .service unconditionally, and 28 per cent, qualifying their consent by stating (in accordance with the request contained in a circular sent out immediately by the Queensland branch of theBritish Medical Association), thai it was subject to terms and conditions being approved by the branch.
That gives an indication of not only the attitude of members of the medical’ profession, but also the personal opinion of this talented medical man, after yearsof research, as to the view of the medical profession generally on any form of national medical service in this country-
In Britain, a Labour government has just introduced into the House of Commons a National Health and Medical Services Bill, under which every person in Britain will be entitled to a free, comprehensive health service, including hospital and specialist services, drugs, &c. Under the scheme, doctors will receive salaries, varying according to their existing incomes, plus a yearly fee, and compensation in a number of minor ways. This shows clearly the tendency throughout the world to cater for the health needs of the people on a comprehensive scale, and so as to eliminate many of the anomalies and injustices which have existed under the “ free for all “ system of medical attention that exists in this and many other countries. I am dealing at some length with the observations of the honorable member for Wentworth, because he deliberately attempted to impress upon the people that the proposal of the Government would have the effect of regimenting every doctor, and that nobody except a salaried doctor would be able to practise. I can see no reason why a national medical service should not function on a salaried basis in competition with private practice, if necessary. Any faults that might exist would be due, not to the scheme itself, but to attempts to sabotage it, and to lack of co-operation by properly skilled personnel. The honorable member for Wentworth said that the Government of New Zealand had introduced a free medical service - similar to, and no doubt better than, that which has been introduced in Great Britain - and cited figures to show how it had been abused. I have taken the trouble to obtain a few particulars in regard to the .medical and social services that are in force in that dominion. I do not know where the honorable gentleman obtained the information on which he based his statements. One of the reasons for the existence of the state of affairs to which he referred, if it does exist, is that the scheme is being sabotaged by a ‘ number of members of the medical profession who should be co-operating with the government in order to make it a success in the interests of the people of that dominion. In an article entitled How Social Security Works in New Zealand,
Lesley Lipson, Professor of Political Science in the University of New Zealand, said -
The policy has been assured of sympathetic administration for enough years io take root in the country’s economy. Mental habits have been formed which now accept thi: system in essentials and regard it as normal. The social security book is fixed in every citizen’s stereotype of his relation to his Government.. In the recent election of 1943, the programme of the National party opposition (a somewhat conservative blending of farmers and business men) endorsed social security. They could do no other. For any future Ministry to abolish the scheme would be its political hara kiri.
That explains the position in New Zealand in regard to the scheme which the honorable member for Wentworth criticized to-<lay. A little later, the writer said -
The medical profession in New Zealand has long enjoyed ampler financial returns and higher social prestige than any other vocation. Organized individualistically on a competitive basis, it has eschewed clinics and group medicine. But what it does share in common with the Labour movement is an intense solidarity. With its powerful trade union the New Zealand branch of the British Medical Association, it secures an internal cohesiveness that is the enVy of others; and through its grip over the New Zealand University’s one medical school, it has kept the supply of doctors limited to the quantity it thought sufficient.
By absolute regulation and by methods which would make the maligned coal-miners in this country blush with shame, the British Medical Association in New Zealand has endeavoured to sabotage the excellent medical scheme established in that country. That is the view expressed by a talented man in New Zealand, and it gives the lie direct to the statement of the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) that’ the medical scheme in New Zealand had failed, and that the introduction of a similar scheme in Australia would not bc in the best interests of our people.
I come now to the Constitution Alteration (Social Services) Bill. As honorable members are aware, the Commonwealth’s power under the Constitution in respect of the provision of social services is very doubtful. Section 51 gives to the Commonwealth express power to provide only old-age and invalid pensions, and it also- gives power to the Commonwealth in relation to insurance other than State insurance. ‘
But the Commonwealth’s power in respect of any other kind of social service is very doubtful. From the legal opinions expressed in this House, honorable members will, no doubt, . recognize that the legality of existing social services may at any time be challenged. During wartime the Commonwealth enjoyed considerable scope in respect of these matters, but already its power to legislate for social services is being challenged. It is our duty to . place all our social services on a solid constitutional basis. In common with other nations, Australia realizes the importance of social security in the new world order. Other countries, such as New Zealand, Canada and Great Britain, realize that they must present to their people not only a policy of full employment, but also a comprehensive scheme of social services, such as is embodied in the measures now before us, which embraces all sections of the community. I ask for leave to continue my remarks to-morrow.
Leave granted; debate adjourned..
Rationing Commission - Income Tax Assessments - Tasmanian Shipping Services - Darwin : Town Planning. Motion (by Dr. Evatt) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
. I direct the attention of the House to the need to overhaul the administration of the Rationing Commission and, particularly, to the injury which is being inflicted upon people by the undue rigidity of that administration, which is of an extremely hide-bound character. Many quotas fixed in respect of hotels, cafes and guest houses years ago, are now hopelessly out of date, but it is impossible to induce the Rationing Commission to make any alterations. The commission’s blind refusal to enable the establishment of any new business requiring rationed foodstuffs is working hardship upon the public in a number of country towns. In particular, the commission’s refusal to allow very small supplies of foodstuffs for community gatherings, such as patriotic and charitable functions, is discouraging and unnecessarily annoying to women workers for many good causes in rural districts. I raise this matter because, the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs has made it plain to-day that the Government, although it would like to abolish sugar rationing, finds itself unable to do so because of its inescapable obligations to provide as much sugar as possible to other countries. What applies to sugar applies to many other rationed foodstuffs. If the rationing system were due to end very shortly wemight tolerate the defects in the administration of the commission, but since that is not so, some action should be taken in this matter. Continuance of rationing in order to enable maximum shipments of foodstuffs to Great Britain is excellent. If the maintenance of some inconvenient restrictions on the Australian people will enable more foodstuffs to be sent to the hardpressed people of Great Britain, then by all means we should continue them. In fact, if it were decided that the imposition of increased restrictions upon the Australian people would enable the transport of additional foodstuffs to Great Britain, that course also ought to be supported. I do not urge that there should be any increase in the total allocation of foodstuffs to the Australian people. What I am urging is that there should be a very necessary re-examination of the methods under which the Rationing Commission maintains existing quotas to various sections of the public. In the case of hotels, cafes and guest houses, the existing quotas were fixed years ago at a time when war conditions had completely suspended normal traffic, and had meant thu total cessation of holiday and tourist trade. At the time the quotas were fixed, guest houses, cafes and hotels in the tourist trade had no customers whatever. To-day those customers are returning to hotels, guest houses and cafes; but, because in the particular month in which the quotas were allotted years ago they had no customers, the commission, apparently, believes that they should still have no customers. It insists upon the maintenance of such quotas as a few pounds of sugar a month, perhaps a pound of tea a month, andother items such as butter in like proportion.
The position is similar with respect to the establishment of new businesses. During the last five or six years, there have been changes in the spread of population in various -districts. The commission refuses to recognize this fact, no matter how sound a case may be presented to it for the establishment of new food businesses in-order to meet legitimate requirements. The commission, in my experience, invariably turns down the application. But particularly annoying is the continued rigid refusal of the commission to provide even small quantities of rationed foodstuffs to women in country districts who are doing splendid work in organizing functions in aid of charitable and patriotic causes. To my knowledge, and I have no doubt to the knowledge of other honorable members, many of these women exhaust their own private rations and borrow whatever they- can in their endeavour to maintain supplies of foodstuffs for special functions in aid of hospitals and charitable institutions. Now that their resources are exhausted they have applied to the Rationing Commission for a quota, but they have been informed that ‘because they did not have a quota for a particular month two or three years before they cannot get one now. The reason that they did not get the quota before is that they continued using their own supplies as long as possible. The commission appears to be following the Procrustean practice of making the customer fit the bed rather than making the bed fit the customer. The result is extremely unsatisfactory, and is causing much hardship in country districts. In theory, it is beneficial to entrust such a task as rationing to an independent body not responsible to the people; but,in fact, the Rationing Commission has adopted the system of administration which is easiest for itself. I t refuses to provide forthe exceptional case, because if it provided for one it might be called upon to provide for others. Therefore, itprefers to make no alteration whatever to its hide-bound methods of administration. In that respect, it has failed in its duty, and I ask the Government to ensure that its administration be overhauled in the way I have suggested.
. I ask the Treasurer (Mr.Chifley) to investigate the way in which income tax assessments are being issued by his department, and to notethe sinister atmosphere surrounding the preparation of assessments. Since thebeginning of thisyeara number of assessments has been received for the year 1944-45 based on income earned up tothe 30th June, 1944, when the pay-as-you-earn system was instroduced. The strange thing which induced me touse the word “sinister” is that no provisional tax was included in the assessments. Honorable members will recall that an assessment ofprovisional tax was regarded as a necessary part of the new system. Seeing that the provisional tax has not been included in the assessment,a doubt arises in the taxpayer’s mind as to what is his real indebtedness, andinquiries on this point have elicited some rather strange replies. I have in my hand a letter from a firm of accountants in Sydney whichI propose to make available laterto the Treasurer. After mentioning that he had inquired from the department why no provisional tax was included in’ the assessment, the writer goes on -
I was informed that in those cases where an income tax return for the year ended 30th June, 1945, had been lodged with the department before the 1944-45 assessment was issued, no amount of provisional tax was to be included on the 1944-45 assessment.
This means, of course, that these assessments showas the tax due only themisnamed “ lag tax “ which, as you are aware, is onethird of the tax remaining after rebating 75 per cent. of the tax calculated. That is one twelfth of the calculated tax.
As can be readily seen this utterly defeats the very idea of the pay-as-you-go system, under which it was proposed that the taxpayer should pay the tax on his year’s income during that year of income, as these assessment notices will collect only the tax clue on incomederived during the year ended 30th June, 1944.
It can thus be seen that by carrying out this procedure the department is collecting less tax thanit is entitled to, therefore puttinginto practice the scheme to build up enormous secret reserves in the form of provisional tax , for the year ended 30th June, 1 945, which is due and should have been collected with the1944 tax, which obviously will be used solely for thepurposes of windowdressing at election time in the form of tax concessions.
This statement is made as the department is free to issue assessments for this uncollected provisional taxatthewhim of the Government.
The amount so involved can be quite easily seen from the following figures taken from one assessment notice received by me: -
According to the notice of assessment this £50 purports to be the taxpayer’s liability, but in arriving at his true liability, provisional tax £600 must be added, meaning that in the case of this taxpayer alone the Govern- ment has a secret reserve of £600, which it can call on at any time.
The Treasurer should give his immediate attention to this matter. This is anelection year, and we know that there will be large tax concessions. According to the letter from which I have quoted, one taxpayer’s assessment is £600 less than what it ought to be, and itis reasonable to suppose that there are thousands of similar cases. Whyhas this moneynot been called in? Is it so that the Government will have anenormous secret reserve out of which it can distribute largess in this election year?
Mr.Chifley. - The Commissioner of Taxation administers the law passed by this Parliament. He does not act under instructions from me.
– I am pleased to know that, because I desire the Treasurer to say whether the statements to which I have referred are correct, and to tell the House why the commissioner has abrogated the law of the country in regard to this matter. If he administers the laws passed by this Parliament, why does he not assess the provisional tax as well as the tax lag? Taxpayers may be called upon at any time to pay an extra amount of tax, and thus be placed in an embarrassing position. Will the Treasurer instruct the Commissioner of Taxation to carry out the law ? If secret reserves are being created there seems to be something sinister ab out the position. What is the reason for the extraordinary position that some taxpayers are not being assessed fully?
Mr.Chifley. - If the honorablemem- ber suggests that I shouldgive instruc tions to the commissioner, I point out that it would be wrong for me to do that.
– If he abrogates the law the people should know the reason.
– I return with some reluctance to the subject of the shortage of shipping for the Tasmanian services. I know that the allocation is in the hands of a board, and the remarks of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Eraser) concerning the theoretical value of the control of such matters by a board are pertinent at the present time. Anybody with political knowledge realizes that at any time, but particularly at a time like the present, Tasmania should have some priority of treatment in the allocation of shipping, because it is the only State which is solely dependent upon shipping for the transport of heavy cargo. Therefore, I contend that political supervision of the allocation of shipping is of considerable importance to that State. Even from a strictly business point of view, I do not see how the present position can be justified. Ships now arrive at Tasmanian ports at frequent intervals in ballast, although we are assured that it is necessary to use every inch of available space in every vessel afloat. At Burnie, the Cardross arrived on the 27th January, the Coolana on the 13th February, the Adelong on the 23rd February, the Dundula on the 26th February, the Corio on the 13th March, and theCoolana on the 20th March. I am aware that several of those vessels probably came from Sydney. They call at Melbourne with their cargo, and on the pretext of saving time proceed to Tasmania empty. In the meantime, there is Tasmanian cargo waiting at Melbourne; and the delay has caused great inconvenience to traders and consumers in Tasmania. The N air ana, which goes twice a week to Tasmanian ports, carrying both cargo and passengers, arrived at Burnie on the 12th March, and had a manifest showing a quantity of merchandise, the whole of which was left in Melbourne. On that trip not even fruit was carried. That occasioned great loss to traders on bothsides of Bass Strait.
At Devonport, the other principal port on the north-west coast of Tasmania, a vessel arrives from Newcastle at intervals of about a fortnight to load limestone. This carries steel goods and probably coal to Melbourne, but I. see no reason why it should not pick up Tasmanian cargo in Melbourne. The possible explanation is that Melbourne shippers deliver goods- to the wharf which is the picking-up place for the Nairana, but’ surely the ‘Shipping Control Board should have sufficient knowledge of the times of the arrival of vessels to direct the removal of cargo to the proper wharf, so that, it could be picked up without delay.
I draw attention also to the almost complete absence of direct shipping contact between the north-west coast of Tasmania and Sydney. A good deal of trade has been done between Sydney and Tasmania, particularly in hardware, tiles, and other goods, but they cannot be transported from Sydney to Melbourne by rail under present’ conditions. Traders in Tasmania, have been held up for goods which have been on order for months. Houses are without roofs because the tiles which have been on order for long periods are waiting in Sydney for transport, although ships cover part of that journey absolutely empty. As the provision of housing is of vital importance, it is necessary for the Government to intervene and provide a ship occasionally to bring goods direct from Sydney to parts of Tasmania where the people are in urgent need of them. I cannot speak strongly enough on this point. If statements are to be issued on behalf of the Shipping Control Board that the difficulty is labour on the wharfs, it .is necessary to read a letter I received recently from the wife of a wharf labourer, in which she says -
My husband is a returned soldier, and of course is only one among hundreds on the wharf who gets the same treatment. I think it is high time the Government got an idea that it is not the worker on the wharfs is at fault, but the head men and unionists. For instance, since Christmas - my husband has missed just eight weeks in broken time out of work, some of it three weeks together, and has got up and gone in every morning at fi o’clock and sat at the pick-up bin till 1 1 and 12 o’clock day after day, and then been sent home with no work, and this while there has been plenty of work to be done.
I have not often spoken in these terms, but it is time that I directed attention to the fact that men anxious to work are refused work, and that goods are banking up on the wharfs while people in distant places are urgently in need of the goods, which could be shipped if the labour of a few more workers were availed of to load the ships and get them turned round quickly.
– I desire to call attention to the condition of affairs at Darwin, which I have just visited. I am sure if the Australian public were aware of what is going on there, it would be appalled. It has become the Siberia of Australia. The people there have become slaves of the Government. The town has become an almost complete Government possession, except that part which is under the control of Vesteys Limited or other big interests, which are powerful enough to use the -mysterious influences which always seem to work more effectively with the kind of government with which we are now blessed.
A fine plan was provided by Mr. Mcinnes, formerly Brisbane town planner and now Planning Commissioner of Tasmania, Mr. Miller, the Surveyor-General, and . a. brilliant young man named Lieutenant Symonds, for remodelling the town some time ago, but this has been thrown overboard in the interest of the new commissar and officer class. That plan was drawn after, not before the bombing of Darwin. It is necessary to emphasize that, for the idea seems to have developed that it was drawn before the bombing and that that is why it was rejected. Both Mcinnes and Miller, are licensed surveyors and townplanners of 30 years-‘ standing. The whole residential and business section for the mere proletariat has been swept from the cool and healthy peninsula which nature has provided. The peninsula is to be” used for the residences of naval and military officers, which will be -surrounded by vast cool open spaces, which will provide them with playgrounds and isolation, on the pretext that one day those spaces will be needed for defence purposes. This excuse is mere humbug. Any officer who contemplated putting important defence works on that peninsula, where they would be a bull’s-eye for raiders, should be ordered to be shot by a drumhead court-martial. However, it has been decided that the old residents, the mere democrats, are to be thrown into the mosquito-ridden backblocks away from the breezes and the views and the health-giving heights. The commissars and the officer classes must not have their atmosphere tainted. As for the rebuilding of Darwin, there are men who are willing to carry timber in on their backs to repair the ruin, but that task must be reserved for the black marketeers, the grafters, and the other vultures who seem to hover over everything which this Government undertakes. Every obstruction is put in the way of individual private efforts, not only in the Northern Territory, but also in the south. I am not suggesting that the Government is concerned in graft. But I do say that its works appear to have a curious attraction for persons who have the reputation of doing so. It is a poor look-out for the re-establishment of those in need of it.
In this northern Siberia, liberty is no more pronounced than it was in the days of Bligh. We cannot even express ourselves by means of a referendum. I have listened to the debate on the referendum proposals. Government supporters have glibly let fall from their lips words describing the grand Utopia that will come to Australia if the referendum should be passed, but I say - and I will expatiate on it tomorrow when I speak on the subject - that this Government has had the great- est chance to prove bow its controls work, because it has been in sole control of the Northern Territory for four years. But what a mess it has made. My constituents have been driven into the very :gravel. They are in a state of uproar and the Minister of the Interior (Mr. Johnston) knows it. So does the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Makin). This Government’s control of the Northern Territory has put the people into the gravel. The Minister for the Interior was afraid to meet the people at Alice Springs. I will not repeat what they said about him; but I have contacted them and I am surprised that the Minister, who is a bushman, did not make it his business, to meet them. If he goes there again, he will find it necessary. to contact the people as I have contacted them. I am pleased to know that the Minister in charge of the Territory at long last is a bushman who can speak my language and the language of the people of the Northern Territory and the outback of Western Australia. ‘But why did he npt speak their language to them and allow them to speak it back to him. It is time he went back there with me taking with him the Minister for the Navy, and the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lazzarini) but keeping the officials away. He ought hot to let them nurse him as they did when he went north some months ago. He should sit down on the kerb with the residents, talk with them and learn their story at first-hand. He should not allow himself to be shepherded by officials. I expect great things from him. He has shown, his good intentions by the appointments that he has recently made. He has appointed technical men to do a job that requires technical men. The place reeks with technical difficulties. However, I have allowed myself to be diverted from the subject of the fantastic plan that has been accepted for Darwin. Honorable members interested in the Northern Territory ought to realize how fantastic it is, but I am afraid that such honorable members are few and far between, because the territory is isolated and its small population has no effective vote. The Northern Territory has not even a legislative council. Under this plan the Minister for the Navy has taken all the choice land. What the Navy is going to do with it goodness only knows. Probably the scheme was devised by a. junior naval officer. At any rate, the Navy does not know what to do with it. There are sinister influences at work whereby this choice land, including the very foreshore that is the birthright of the people, has been taken from them. Ministers are basically at fault, because they do not understand the position. The officers and commissars have, been able to show them a pretty picture, but it is not town planning. We have the
McInnes-Miller- Symonds plan, which does preserve the town of Darwin as we know it. The business site is there. If I were given the job, I could put the business people and the residents of Darwin into position within a few days. The Government is uprooting the business site from the place where it belongs. If honorable members opposite regard this matter as a joke I can only say that they have no love for people; it is no joke to those who are most affected. If the Government and its supporters really love people they would listen to the plea of the people of the Northern Territory, and of Darwin in particular, and adopt the plan of McInnes, Miller and Symonds. I could give a dissertation on townplanning, but as the hour is late I shall not do so now. I have with me copies of my telegrams to the Minister for the Navy and the Minister for Works and Housing, and also the foolish replies that I have received from the Minister for the Interior. There is no sense in the implies that have been sent to me. They show complete ignorance of the subject of town-planning. I am ashamed that Ministers who pose as democrats should have so little love for men and women that they should uproot Darwin in the way that is proposed. Let us suppose that a town-planner went to Hobart and attempted to change the personality of that city. Honorable members may know that almost in the heart of Hobart there are two little bays in which ketches are harboured. Some time ago a “go-getter “ wanted to despoil Hobart by converting those bays into motor parking stations or garages. Fortunately, sanity prevailed, with the result that the little ketches are still to be seen in the bay. Hobart would not be Hobart without them. Indeed, one can almost see the sailors of the past walking up from the vessels in the bay. Had the people who plan to uproot Darwin been given a free hand in Hobart they would have destroyed that city’s charm. What would the people of Kalgoorlie do if Kalgoorlie were to be treated as it is proposed to treat Darwin ? Would they regard it as a joke? I ask the Government to take notice of the town-planners who know their job, and decide on the plan of McInnes, Miller and Symonds.
– I do not know whether to regard some of the remarks of the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) as in. the nature of a backhanded compliment, but most of his criticism relates togovernments which were in office before the present Government came into power. The honorable member said that within the last three or four years all of his constituents have been driven out of the Northern Territory. They were driven out because governments which he supported took no steps whatever to provide for the defence of Darwin, and, consequently, when war with Japan broke out and Darwin was bombed, there was no alternative but to send them away from the place.
– I am speaking of the plan.
– If the honorable member desires to cover up some of the errors of the past administrations which controlled Darwin he will not do so by scoring at my expense. He says that he is speaking of the plan. I remind him that the Government invited Mr.. McInnes, the well-known Queensland town-planner to plan a rehabilitated Darwin and to provide for the residents as many amenities as could be provided in a tropical town. Later, as the result of negotiations-
– Who started them?
– I shall not be put off my track. Perhaps I am replying too effectively to the honorable member. I was about to say that later, as the result of conferences . between-
– Who started them?
– If the honorable member for the Northern Territory is not quiet, I shall stop him.
– As the result of conferences, a slight alteration of the plan was made, but I repeat that that was done only after the mostcareful consideration and weighing all arguments for and against anyalteration.
– The Minister let some fantastic architects “ pull his leg “.
– The honorable member isnot willingto listen to my answer tothecharges thathe has made. He says that he has notbeen asleep since he returned to Australia, but it would appear that he must have been a “Kip Van Winkle “ before he left. During my tour of the Northern Territory I met deputations at every place I visited, including Alice Springs, but I was not prepared to fall into the trap set for me. I was not disposed to attend a- meeting and discuss matters of high policy with people who had prepared resolutions condemning the Government and myself, as Minister. I have been in the back country too long to be caught in a trap of that kind. Instead of criticizing the Government, the honorable member ought to be co-operating with it in overcoming the difficulties associated with the rehabilitation of Darwin. I admit that the people there are suffering a great many disabilities, but I inform the honorable member that the Government is operating . under a most Conservative ordinance, which the honorable member has made no attempt, so far as I know, to have amended in the interests of the people. He talks of large areas being held by Vesteys Limited, but what did he or the governments which he supported do to check the aggregation of big estates? It may interest the honorable member to know that I have had an ordinance prepared for submission . to Cabinet which, will prevent monopolies of that kind in the future being built up in the Northern Territory. That is an effective reply to his allegations. This morning, the honorable member for the Northern Territory presented a petition to this House. I inform him that I also received a petition from Darwin! At a meeting held on the 25th March last, and attended by over 200 persons, the following resolution was carried : -
That we write to the Prime Minister dissociating ourselves from Mr. Blain’s petition regarding plans for Darwin and urge that the Government go ahead with the plan that they have endorsed and get on with the work
Therefore, the representations which the honorable member made, and which were reported to have been the expressed opinion of the majority of the people in the Northern Territory, are directly contradicted by that resolution.
Mr. ARCHIE CAMERON (Barker) challenged two statements that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) has just made. The first was that the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) was a supporter of the previous Government, of which I also was a supporter. It is news to me that the honorable member for the Northern Territory has ever supported any government in this House. He does not have a vote except on matters directly relating te- the Northern Territory, and therefore he has never been regarded by any political party as one of its supporters.
– That puts him in the same category as the honorable member for Barker.
– So long as it does not put me in the same category as the honorable member who has interjected I shall be happy. The second point is the Minister’s statement that an alteration of the Constitution was necessary before certain things could be done in the Northern Territory. I inform the Minister, and he can verify this statement by reference to the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt), that the Parliament of the Commonwealth exercises complete constitutional powers in respect of the Northern Territory. There is nothing that this Parliament wants to do in the Northern Territory that it cannot do. In respect of the Northern Territory it can fix hours of labour, grant social service benefits, pay child endowment and grant benefits to university students.
– Why did not antiLabour governments take advantage of those powers in pre-war years?
– I have not been Minister for the Interior, although I have been a member of governments. There are certain things that the Government has done in the Northern Territory to which I object.- One of them was the acquisition last year of lands in Darwin. During the last referendum campaign, I used the argument, whenever I spoke in South Australia, that in the Northern Territory the Commonwealth exercised unlimited constitutional powers, and yet that was the worst governed ‘area in the Commonwealth. I leave the matter there.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department of Health - M. E. Griffiths. E. P. Stone.
Customs Act - Regulations - StatutoryRules 1 946., No. 53
National Security Act- National Security (Rationing) Regulations - Orders - Nos. 119-122.
House adjourned at 11.35 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
y asked the Minister for External Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Argentina : Statement by
Mr. E. J. Ward, M.P.
n asked the Minister for
Transport, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The information sought by the honorable member is being obtained.
Australian Women’s Land Army: Representation in London Victory March.
Mr.Chifley. - On the 26th March the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) asked the following question -
In view of the yeoman service rendered to Australia during the war by the Australian Women’s Land Army, in work which was laborious and demanded great physical endurance, will the Prime Minister give earnest consideration to the representation of that body in the London victory march?
I now inform the honorable member that the Government approval was for a force 250 strong to be sent from Australia to participate in the Victory Celebrations in London, representative of the three services and including the nursing services and women’s services, composed on a basis of representation proportional to the relative war strengths of the three Services, and selected as far as possible from personnel with distinguished service. The total proportionate allocation for the Australian women’s services is nineteen, and, whilst the valuable service rendered by the Women’s Land Army and other organizations that assisted in the war effort is fully appreciated, it is regretted that the Government cannot see its way clear to vary the decision already reached by including in the contingent other than members of thearmed forces.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y. - On the 27th March, the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) asked the following questions, upon notice -
Commonwealth exported from Australia and those operating to-day? !). Will lie also have prepared similar tables for like products from the Argentine Republic, New Zealand, and the Union of South Africa, for the same dates?
Answersto questions Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and7 have already been supplied to the honorable member.
Replies to the remaining questions are as follows : -
English Brides of ex- Servicemen.
– Yesterday, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) asked a. question regarding press references to the possibility of English brides of Australian exservicemen being brought to Australia on board British naval vessels.
I am now in a position to advise the honorable member that a cable has been received from the Resident Minister in London to the effect that he has been able to arrange accommodation for 130 servicemen’s dependants on the carrier Indefatigable, due to sail about the 24th April.
Broadcasting : Short-wave Service.
Mr.White asked the Prime Minister, upon no tice -
In view of the recommendation of the Australian Broadcasting Commission that shortwave broadcasting should again becomethe responsibility of the commission, will restoration of the service to the commission and its removal from the Department of Information be considered by the Government in the near future?
y. - The Government has no intention of transferring the control of short-wave broadcasting from the Department of Information to the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice - 1.What is the percentage proportion of amounts held in (a) gold coin and (b) English sterling to Australian notes in circulation?
– The statutory reserve against the Australian note circulation was abolished by the Commonwealth Bank Act 1945. Substantial amounts of gold and English sterling are, however, held by the Commonwealth Bank in its capacity as a central bank and the question of separate publication of the relative amounts of gold and sterling is now being considered.
Commonwealth Disposals Commission: Sales.
n. - On the 3rd April, in reply to a question by the right honorable member for Darling Downs(Mr. Fadden) respecting surpluses as declared by the Department of the Army as at the 1st September, 1945, I indicated that the matter wouldbe investigated.
I now confirm the interim advice that, in the light of the magnitude of the task of the Commonwealth Disposals Commission - the anticipated turnover for the current year is £40,000,000 - and the impossibility of tracing sales of individual arisings, I cannot giveall the information asked for by the honorable member.
I stress the fact that these items are declared surplus bythe Army “ as and where they are “ and are located in Army depots not only throughout the Australian mainland, but also in Hew Guinea, Bougainville, and other northern areas. However, the following information supplied by the Minister for Supply and Shipping, will give most of the details : -
M ot or Tyres. - New surplus motor tyres are marketed back through the tyremanufacturing companies at prices determined by the Prices Commissioner. Where the sizes are still controlled, the tyres are issued ona permit basis, and the needs of country users are safeguarded by their priority.Noncontrolled tyres are distributed on an equit- able basisas between metropolitan and countryareas. Second-hand tyres are distributed through the retreading houses mid again at pices determined by the Prices Commissioner. Attention here is also given to country requirements.
Civilian Suits. - These were sold through the clothing trade at prices and margins fixed by the Prices Commissioner. The country trade received a substantial allocation through thewa rehouses. The retail trade co-operated with the Supply Department in giving preference to the needs of ex-servicemen.
Harness and Saddlery. - Surplus stocks are sold through the saddlery trade at prices determined by the Prices Commissioner. Only those stocks which the trade rejects are sold byauction. The majority of the harness and saddlery has been retailed through country stores, and whereauctionshave been held, side publicity has been given.
Horseshoes.-These are sold through the hardware trade at prices determined by the Prices Commissioner. The wholesale houses have mainly sold the horseshoesto the coun- try stores. Only rejected horseshoes have been sold by auction.
GauntletGloves. - There is practically no market in Australia and endeavours are being made to market them overseas.
Women’s Shoes. - These were sold to Unrra for relief purposes overseas.
CivilianHats. -These were sold through the tradeon similar arrangements to the civilian suits.
TorchBat teries. - In the main, these had deteriorated, by age to the extent of being of no value and were destroyed. Batteries in good condition would be marketed back through the original manufacturers.
I would stress that where goods are sold through trade channels, the Commonwealth Disposals Commission consults trade channels appointed after consultation with Associated Chambers of Manufactures and Commerce. In allcases, the prices and margins are determinedin consultation with the Prices Com- missioner.
– Earlier to-day the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) asked whether consideration could be given to a request telegraphed to him by the Diggers Association of Queensland that returned soldier employees in the Commonwealth Public Service, Brisbane, and other employees who could be granted leave to attend a welcome to Lord Louis Mountbatten in Brisbane on Tuesday, the 9th April.
Iam sympathetic with the desire of the ex-servicemen of Brisbane to see Lord Louis Mountbatten. However, no procession or other pageantry has been arranged in association with the Brisbane programme so that the granting of timeoff would probably not enable government employees to see Lord Mountbatten during normal working hours. The Brisbane programme includes attendance by Lord Mountbatten at a dinner by the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, the 9th April, followed by a smoke concert for ex-servicemen at 8.30 p.m. This will enable many exservicemen to participate directly in the welcome to Lord Mountbatten and permit others at least to see him as he proceeds to and from these appointments.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 April 1946, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1946/19460404_reps_17_186/>.