18th Parliament · 1st Session
Taxation Department 1359
Application to Service Personnel
– Recently the basic wage was increased throughout Australia by 7s. a week. Is the Minister for the Army .aware that large numbers of service personnel who are working alongside civilians in canteens, ordnance stores and other establishments have not received the benefit of that increase? Is it the intention of the Government to increase the wages, of service personnel who are working alongside civilians to whom the increase of 7s. a week in the basic wage has been granted?
– It is a fact that service personnel are working alongside civilians in ordnance stores and other military establishments. It is also a fact that, in some instances, such civilians are in receipt of the 7s. a week increase in the basic wage whilst the service personnel engaged on the same duties have not received it. A committee is now investigating that matter, and I hope to be able to announce shortly that the pay and conditions of service personnel so engaged will be comparable with those enjoyed by civilians alongside whom they work.
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, when moving the second reading of a drought relief measure last December said that payment of relief would be made to cereal growers in respect of the 1945-46 crop, and that such relief would be granted as .a gift free of encumbrance, in view of that fact, I should like to know whether it is legal to withhold this payment from an eligible wheat-grower pending his signing of a lien to cover a debt owing to a department of the Victorian State Government?
– I believe that the statement I made when I introduced that measure still holds good, that money made available by way of drought relief cannot be collected for any other purpose whatsoever. If the honorable member will bring to my notice details of the specific case he has in mind, I shall endeavour to have the matter cleared up to the satisfaction of both himself and the person interested.
– Towards the end of last year, I asked the Prime Minister whether it would be possible to decentralize the Taxation Department by establishing offices outside the capital cities in order to provide facilities in large provincial centres for the lodgment of returns, the issue of assessments and the collection of taxes locally. The right honorable gentleman replied that my suggestion could not be implemented because of the shortage of skilled manpower and also accommodation. I should like to know whether conditions have changed since that time, and whether it is now possible to implement my suggestion.
– When the honorable gentleman raised this matter previously, it was the intention of the Commissioner of Taxation, as soon as conditions permitted, to endeavour to provide those facilities in the larger provincial cities, Launceston and Newcastle being mentioned in that respect. I understand that partial facilities of the kind have been provided in Newcastle for some time past. I am not able to indicate whether it will be possible immediately to implement fully the reform suggested by the honorable member, but I shall take up the matter again with the Commissioner of Taxation.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Munitions whether he is aware of the present acute shortage of 12-bore cartridges, and that this shortage is adversely affecting primary producers who require such ammunition for the destruction of pests, such, as rabbits, foxes and wild dogs. I am informed that these cartridges can be obtained on the black market at the ridiculous price of ls. each. What is the reason for this shortage? Can steps be taken to increase the supply?
– I was not aware that there is a shortage of 12-bore cartridges. I do not know whether that is a matter which concerns the Department of Munitions. If it does, I shall refer it to the
Minister for Munitions with a view to ascertaining whether anything can be done to relieve the shortage.
– I have received many complaints from country people about their inability to purchase .22 calibre long-rifle cartridges and 25/20 calibre high-power ammunition for American sporting rifles. I am informed that those cartridges are absolutely essential for the destruction of vermin and that it is useless to use .303 rifles and ammunition because soft-nosed ammunition must be used to avoid damage to the pelt of animals shot.
– Order ! What is the question?
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs interview the appropriate officials with a view to enabling the importers of those goods to receive more attention from the Division of Import Procurement than they have received in the last few months? I am informed that applications for licences to import those goods have been in the hands of the division for months and that no replies have been received. It is impossible therefore to get the cartridges so urgently required for the destruction of vermin.
-I shall be glad to convey to the Minister for Trade and Customs the honorable gentleman’s question. I hope that as the result the difficulty that he has drawn attention to will in due course be overcome.
– When is it expected that the Convair aircraft ordered by Trans-Australia Airlines will be in operation in Australia ? Will they operate between Perth and Melbourne? On what other routes will they be in operation ?
– The information at my disposal indicates that it is expected that the Convair aircraft will begin to arrive in Australia about September of this year. These aircraft are intended for inter-capital services, but as they are medium-range aircraft it may not be considered advisable to use them between Perth and Adelaide. That has still to be ascertained. If they are so used they will probably have to call at an intermediate station en route. These aircraft are being purchased to conduct a passenger service .between large cities. They are twin-engined aircraft designed to carry 40 passengers at a speed of at least 2”75 miles an hour.
– As the Prime Minister probably knows, lamp glasses play a very important part in the life of the farmers throughout Australia to-day. There is a notable shortage of these glasses and, as a consequence, many farmers, who have neither electric light nor gas, are driven to the use of candles or other primitive forms of illumination. I have been informed by the distributors of storekeepers’ supplies in New South Wales that they have applied to the Department of Trade and Customs for a permit to import a sufficient quantity of glasses to meet those requirements which, cannot be met by Australian, manufacturers, but that the Division of Import Procurement has limited their requests to about 7 per cent, of their requirements, which, of course, is utterly inadequate to meet the situation. Will the Prime Minister have the matter investigated with a view to permitting the importation of a sufficient number of lamp glasses to meet the needs of country people ?
– I was not aware of the facts outlined by .the honorable member. I shall have the matter investigated and ascertain whether the difficulty is associated with dollar exchange or import licences, and furnish the honorable member with a reply as soon as possible.
Air-mail Services to Japan.
– Does the Minister representing the Postmaster-General support the ruling of officials of the General Post Office, Sydney, that air-mail letters may not be sent to Australians in Japan who are “ private persons “, and that Australian newspaper correspondents oth.cially attached to the Public Relations
Office, General Head-quarters, Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers, are ruled as coming within this category? Is it not a fact that newspaper correspondents are the only Australians at present in Japan who come within the category of private persons? Is this a further Government punitive measure against the Australian press?
– I am not aware of any punitive measures taken by this Government against the Australian press. Therefore, the question of whether this is another one has no merit. I do not know anything of the circumstances stated by the honorable member, but I will ask the Postmaster-General to have an investigation made and at the earliest possible moment I will provide him with a reply.
Film aid Lecture on Dust PROBLEM
– Has the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction arranged for Professor David Jones, of the Cardiff University, to give a lecture and display a film in the Senate committee room next Tuesday evening? Does the film portray the abnormal dust conditions in the coal mines in Britain and show how by water infusion dust has been practically eliminated? If that is so, will the Minister extend an invitation to the sceptical Opposition, particularly the “ Coal-miner from Bondi “, in order that he may be able to see the abnormal conditions in which coalminers work and thereby be convinced that it is not altogether the calling that he claims it is?
– I am glad that the honorable member has asked that question, because it gives me an opportunity to invite members of the Opposition to the showing of a film in the Senate committee room at 7 p.m. next Tuesday. I had already advised the deputy leader of the Australian Country party that the film would be shown and I intended to convey the same information to the Leader of the Opposition in due course. I am sure that members of all parties would be interested in what Professor David Jones will say as well as in the film itself.
– I understand that negotiations have been proceeding between the State and Commonwealth land settlement boards on single-unit farms for ex-servicemen. There is much dissatisfaction amongst ex-servicemen and I understand that they hope to have the single-unit farm principle approved. Can the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction say what the position is?
– The legislation which lays down the conditions under which the States and the Commonwealth will co-operate in the land settlement of ex-servicemen, contains nothing: to prevent single-unit farm propositions. Some States have put forward propositions of that kind and they have been accepted by the Commonwealth. I understand that the exservicemen’s land settlement legislation of New South Wales contains a provision preventing the Minister from putting forward propositions for single-unit farms for soldier settlement in that State. I also understand that an amendment of that act is at present being considered by the Parliament of New South Wales. If that amendment is adopted, then single unit farms can be accepted for soldier settlement in New South Wales as they are accepted in every other State.
Victorian Metal Trades Dispute
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister regarding the critical situation in Victoria. It is based on four developments which have come to my notice since I raised this matter at question time in this House yesterday. The first of these developments is the decision by the Commonwealth council of the Amalgamated Engineering Union to authorize the Melbourne district committee of the union to “ take any steps necessary to achieve success “. The second is the statement of J. J. Brown, the Victorian secretary of the Australian Railways Union, that the unions were t.v> intensify their struggle. The third is the statement by the Premier of Victoria,
Mr. Cain, this morning, that he “ cannot see daylight”. The fourth is this statement by the Lord Mayor of Melbourne: “ The fight is on. Let us have a showdown.” In view of these very serious developments, which have occurred within the last 24 hours, I ask the Prime Minister whether he now proposes to invoke the disciplinary provisions of the Crimes Act in order to cope with the situation? If not, what action does the Government propose to take in order to restore order in Victoria?
– The matter raised by the honorable member - the very difficult and unjustified position which has arisen in Victoria in regard to the metal trades, affecting particularly the Amalgamated Engineering Union - has been the subject of consultation with the parties associated with the matter and of discussions between the AttorneyGeneral and myself. I have not seen the first two statements which the honorable member mentioned. However, I did hear the one purported to have been made by the Lord Mayor of Melbourne, which was read by the honorable member last night. It seemed to me that such talk was just useless. I am not in a position to say at the moment what further action is being taken in relation to this dispute, but I assure the honorable member that the Government is just as anxious to have the matter settled as is anybody else, if not more so.
– In consequence of the strike of railwaymen in Victoria, the Government of that State has made arrangements with the proprietors of bus services to provide transport along certain routes into and out of the city of Melbourne. The railway unions concerned are picketing those bus routes, for the purpose of preventing the will of the Government of Victoria from prevailing. I ask the Attorney-General to state whether or not such action on the part of these unions constitutes an offence against Commonwealth industrial law. If so, does the Commonwealth intend to take any action in respect of it?
A report published in to-day’s Canberra Times, under a Melbourne date line, reads -
Yallourn Trades and Labour Council has decided that if staff men attempt to perform maintenance work usually done by labourers, affiliated unions will withdraw their members, plunging the whole city into darkness.
I ask the Attorney-General to state whether or not a threat of that nature constitutes an offence against Commonwealth industrial law. If it does, will he or the Government take any action in connexion with the matter?
– Yesterday, the honorable member for Fawkner raised certain questions of law in connexion with the very serious industrial dispute in Melbourne particularly, and Victoria generally. When replying to him, I refrained from attempting offhand to give an expression of opinion as to the law. especially in States such as Victoria - with which I am not conversant. I direct the attention of the honorable member to the answer given by the Prime Minister to-day to the honorable member for Fawkner, dealing with the whole of the dispute in Victoria.. I have nothing to add to that.
– That is an answer, but not a reply to my question.
– It is a reply.
News Service of Australian Broadcasting Commission
– Has the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s independent news service yet started to function, and has it yet established a corps of correspondents in foreign countries?
– There is a question on the notice-paper dealing in part with the subject of the honorable member’s question. I think that the situation will best be met if I obtain a detailed statement from the Postmaster-General and supply it to the honorable member tomorrow.
– Was the Minister for
Immigration correctly reported in the Melbourne Age of the 15th February as having said that three Dutch ships, including Johan de Witt, did not intend to come to Australia? If so, how does the Minister reconcile that statement with the subsequent arrival in
Australia of Johan de Witt with refugees? Who chartered Johan de Witt? Did a Jewish relief organization have any hand in such charter?
– I did not say on the loth February, or on any other date, that Johan de Witt was not bringing refugees to Australia. What I did say was that the statement in the Sydney Daily Telegraph of some date in February that three ships, including Johan de Witt and Oranje, had been chartered by a Jewish relief organization was a fabrication. I said that the statement published by the Daily Telegraph that these three ships were to bring 3,000 refugees to Australia by the end of April was a concoction, and was faked in the office of that newspaper. The Daily Telegraph, in reply to my statement, made the rather weak explanation that it had obtained its information from somebody in Holland, and that when its informant arrived in Johan de Witt, it would investigate the matter further, and would then make another observation on the subject. The newspaper never made any further observation. Apparently, its informant either did not come on Johan de Witt, or if he did, he was not permitted to land. In that case, he could only have been the stormtrooper to whom reference was made earlier in the session. Johan de Witt was not chartered by any Jewish organization. The vessel belongs to a Dutch company, but an organization known as the Hebrew Immigration Aid Society of New York did take a number of berths in the ship, and helped to finance a number of people in order to enable them to make the passage to Australia. Most of the people who were corning here were not able to pay the extortionate fares demanded by the owners of this ship. To summarize the position, the truth is that the Oranje and the other ship were never chartered by any organization to bring people to Australia, and are not likely ever to bring anybody to Australia. At the time the allegations were made, they were either conveying Dutch troops to Batavia or were on their way from Batavia to Holland with people returning from the Netherlands East Indies to their own country. Johan de Witt is an ordinary trading vessel, and I never at any time said anything about the ship other than that it was bringing refugees to Australia, and that the space available on it was taken by the Hebrew Immigration Aid Society after officials of Australia House had inspected the accommodation. These officials said that it was unfit for British subjects to travel in, and would never be accepted by citizens of the United Kingdom.
– Last year, stocks of high-class leather sufficient for the manufacture of 50,000 pairs of shoes were discovered in a warehouse. Obviously, this leather was being stored until the ban on the export of leather from Australia had been lifted. At the time, the Prime Minister ordered that all stocks of leather held in Australia should be declared. I ask the right honorable gentleman whether this order has had any tangible results ?
– I have not the exact details of the complete results of the order, but I shall obtain the information for the honorable member.
– In the early part of the war, a charge of 19 per cent., sometimes termed an advance tax. and at other times a surcharge, was imposed on all leather, which seriously affected the cost of harness, boots, and all other leather goods. Will the Treasurer state whether the Government intends to continue to make this heavy impost?
– I shall have the matter examined, and shall endeavour to let the honorable member have an early answer.
– Will the Minister for Air inform me whether it is a fact that promotions in the Royal Australian Air Force during the last twelve months have been restricted to - (a) high-ranking officers closely associated with the Air Board, (b) general duties branch, these being automatic promotions, and (c) members of the Occupation Forces in Japan who have been promoted to acting rank? Will the Minister state whether it is a fact that no promotions have been given to the officers of the Interim Air Force? If so, will he explain the reasons for this situation?
– Although the high ranking officers have been promoted, the honorable member will find, that the number is no greater now than it was immediately preceding the outbreak of World War II., when the strength was at a much lower level. I ask the honorable member to place his other questions on the notice-paper so that I shall have an opportunity to examine them thoroughly. Meanwhile, I inform him that promotions generally have lot been made in the Interim Air Force, and I am of opinion it would be -foolish to do so, because the size of the permanent Royal Australian Air Force has not yet been determined. If men were promoted to higher ranks now, and later a smaller number was required, many of them would have to be demoted, and that would cause much more dissatisfaction.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, who represents in this chamber the Minister for Trade and Customs, to state whether or not it is intended to continue indefinitely the war-time practice of import procurement and licensing. If not, what is it proposed shall be done with the huge quantity of Manchester piece goods which is now being held ? Could not the rationing of such piece goods be discontinued if those now held were released for disposal ? If the Minister cannot answer my question immediately, will he undertake to make a statement upon the matter at an early date?
– I shall be glad to refer the question to the Minister for Trade and Customs, and to furnish an appropriate reply to the honorable member in due course.
– I lay on the table the following paper : -
Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act - Twentieth General Report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works.
FORMAL Motion for Adjournment.
– I have received from the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely -
The undermining of the Constitution by the wrongful use of the defence power through National Security Regulations, to obtain powers that have been rejected by the people when submitted to them by way of referenda as amendments to the Constitution.
.- I move-
That the House do now adjourn.
-Is the motion supported ?
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
– This Parliament has no greater duty than that of defending the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia. That Constitution is the people’s instrument of government. It is not the creation of the justices of the High Court of Australia, whose duty it is only to interpret it. Those justices have not the power to create a new Constitution. It is not within their province to either enlarge or diminish the powers which the people have given to the Parliament under the Constitution. So long as the Commonwealth Constitution is maintained, that power is vested solely in the people, because the people alone can alter the Constitution. They have the sole right of deciding whether the Parliament, under the Constitution, shall have greater or less power. But the Constitution to-day is in grave jeopardy, and it is for that reason that I have submitted this motion. A way has been found to by-pass the will of the people of Australia. A new system of government has been introduced, by means of a warping of the Constitution. It is a system under which the normal constitutional limitations on the Commonwealth have been brushed aside. That enables the government of this country to be conducted by means of regulations, instead of bv means of legislation. It even denies to the citizens their normal constitutional safeguard of the rule of law, in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution. The onus of establishing proof of innocence has been placed on the individual. That has resulted in the creation of a new set of laws and regulations, which are so arbitrary and complex that no citizen is safe. The regulations promulgated have been so numerous that even lawyers admit ignorance of some of them. All this has happened because the High Court of Australia has decided that the war-time emergency powers of the Commonwealth may extend into the post-war period. The defence powers have been twisted to cover every phase of our lives. Wages, prices - including the price of pies at the Royal Agricultural Show in Sydney - and the sale of homes - these and other matters, are still controlled by the Government under cover of the defence power of the Commonwealth. The Constitution provides that this Parliament shall have power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to the naval and military defence of the Commonwealth. That is as far as the power of the Commonwealth, extends - not an inch farther. Any regulation, or act, or Cabinet decision, that rests on the defence power must have a direct bearing on the naval or military defence of the Commonwealth. That is what the Constitution provides, and it cannot be altered even by the High Court. In World War I. the High Court, with Justice Gavin Duffy and Justice Bich dissenting, agreed that the defence power might be used during the war for the fixing of prices. The court said that the fixing of the price of a loaf of bread might contribute to victory. At the same time the High Court also said that it would intervene where it could be shown that any regulation under the War Precautions Act could not affect the result of the war. It held that the onus was on the Government to act constitutionally. But the present High Court has abandoned that attitude. The Constitution is still the same, but the decisions of the High Court are different. In 1916, Chief Justice Griffith and Justices Barton, Isaacs, Higgins and Power said that war-time powers could be used only if they helped towards victory; but Chief
Justice Latham and the present justices of the High Court say, in effect, that the fixing of the price of a loaf of bread after the war is over and victory has been won might still help towards victory. The war ended when the Japanese signed unconditional surrender terms and capitulated in Tokyo Bay on the 2nd September, 1945. From that moment Australia was not in danger. Whatever the lawyers might say by way of argument, the victory had been won, and this country was no longer at war. The Government, however, refuses to admit that fact. It takes refuge in a legal fiction, lt refuses to face the reality of victory, and in that attitude it is being upheld by the present High Court. The fact is that laws which were necessary for the military defence of the Commonwealth in February, 1902, can no longer be used after the enemy had been defeated. The onus is now clearly on the Government to prove that any power it uses is necessary for the defence of the Commonwealth. The High Court has attempted to baulk the Constitution by tying up defence with economic conditions in the post-war period. It was never intended that internal economic conditions during peace-time should be regarded as part and parcel of the defence of the Commonwealth. If they were so regarded, Australia would be under martial law perpetually and we should have a chronic economic dictatorship. That is where the present system will end unless the Parliament intervenes to uphold the Constitution.
Let me now deal with wage-pegging. The Constitution provides that the Parliament shall have power to legislate with respect to conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes. Accordingly, the Parliament passed the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, which enables wages to be fixed by the Arbitration Court. The present Government, making use of the defence power, brushes the Arbitration Court aside. While the war was in progress, the Government could say that, in its opinion, a certain regulation was necessary, for the defence of the Commonwealth, and the court could say that the Government’s view as to what was necessary for the defence of the Commonwealth had to ‘be accepted. But as soon as the war was won the situation changed. Obviously, wage-pegging regulations were in conflict with the Arbitration Act. Indeed, they nullified that legislation. T go further, and say that the Government could not, constitutionally legislate for wage-pegging, because wage-pegging is neither conciliation nor arbitration for the purpose of settling industrial disputes. That is one reason why the Government tried to alter the Constitution on two separate occasions. Mad the Constitution been altered, it might have been possible for the Government to legislate for wage-pegging; but the people refused to give that power to the Parliament. They rejected the referendum proposals, but the Government, still relying on the defence power, decided to continue wage-pegging. Instead of settling industrial disputes, wagepegging foments them. If a postman, for instance, gets an increase of 10s. per week, what bearing can that have on the defence of Australia?
The Government continues to use the defence power wrongfully. Recently it authorized Acting Chief Judge DrakeBrockman to decide whether any increase of wages was in the national interest. That is also a subterfuge. It is canvassing the verdict of the people. That is how the Constitution is being brought into contempt. If the Constitution is brought into contempt, then the law of the land is likewise brought into contempt, and that is the road to anarchy.
Then we have the scandal of pricefixing by a horde of bureaucrats. They act as though they were above the Government. They act as though they were above the law. They, too, rely on the war that has already been won for the power they exercise. “We have heard how the big merchants are intimidated. They are afraid that if they stand up for their rights they will have the prices inspectors and investigators standing’ over them. What about the small shopkeepers - the aged couple who keep the shop around the corner? The Prices Branch sets out deliberately to trap them into petty breaches. A mistake of one half-penny on a packet of bird- seed, and they become criminals guilty of black marketing. If they defend themselves they know what will happen to their little business. Is that the proper us of the defence power? The only reason for it is to keep a horde of bureaucrats in the jobs they occupy, but for the aged couple it means a reign of terror. The inspectors are only temporary employees. They are not permanent civil servants. What control is there over the activities of these people who are a law unto themselves?
Then we have the young couple who are forced to sell their home. The pegged price is no more than half the replacement cost at the present time. It is not equitable that they should be forced to sell at the pegged price. Under the Constitution, the Government has no power to compel them, so it falls back on the defence power. The Government has deliberately ignored the will of the people as expressed in the referendum. The decision of the people should have been binding, and would have been binding on any democratic government. If the Government tries to evade the direction of the people, how can we expect the people to respect the laws made the Parliament? The Constitution provides that it is the responsibility of the government to maintain the Constitution. It is the responsibility of the High Court to interpret it, not amend it or to add to it. If the Constitution is being jeopardized the responsibility is on the Executive. This Parliament can make it clear that it is determined that the Constitution will be maintained at all costs, which is the only way in which democracy can be safeguarded as the basis of the Australian way of life.
– The speech of the honorable member f or Reid (Mr. Lang) might have been made three months ago when the House considered the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Bill. At that time each House of the Parliament had an opportunity to review the operation of all the regulations which had been in force under the National Security Act. In accordance with the Prime Minister’s promise to the people v;e brought down to Parliament a bill to provide for the renewal of certain war-time regulations. I gave an undertaking that every regulation in the schedules to the bill could be considered by the House at length and separately from every other regulation. That was done. I am not going to weary the House with a review of the debate, which is recorded in Hansard on the 4th and 5 th of December last. The committee considered the schedules and went through the regulations, not en bloc, but separately. Each was the subject of a question separately put. Every honorable member had an opportunity to move for the omission of any regulations from the schedule.
– The Government gagged me.
– That is not correct.
– My amendment was gagged.
– That is not correct. Let the honorable member be careful. On only one regulation was there lengthy discussion-
– And I moved an amendment.
– That is correct, but all the regulations set out in Hansard No. 2S of the 4th December, 1946. were put separately, and not one amendment to any of them was moved by any honorable member, and that refers to the honorable member for Reid, also. Parliament was afforded an opportunity to agree to the continuance of the regulations, or a selected number of them, for a further twelve months. In my secondreading speech the purpose of each regulation was stated to the House. A very large number of National Security Regulations was omitted from the schedules to the bill because, in the opinion of the Government, there was no occasion for keeping them in force. The act is in force now, but will come to an end at the end of the present year. The honorable member for Reid refers in his motion to National Security Regulations, but I point out that the National Security Act has been repealed, and with it the regulations issued under it. There are now in force certain transitional regulations made under the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act.
The honorable member for Reid criticized the trend of the decisions of the High Court in its interpretation of the defence power of the Commonwealth. On this question the Chief Justice of the High Court made a pronouncement at the end of last year which is not merely good law, but good sense also. He said -
The power is not cut off as with a guillotine. The defence power includes not only a power to prepare for war and to prosecute war, but also a power to wind up after a war to restore conditions of peace - gradually if that is thought wise, and not necessarily immediately by the crude process of immediate abandonment of all Federal control. The fact that certain conditions have been created by the exercise of the defence power is itself a fact which is relevant to the validity of n continued or further exercise of that ‘ power.
The court had to deal with a legal question as to whether certain land sales control provisions and share control provisions were still within the defence power. The answer to each question was “ Yes “. The judges had to consider what was the scope of the defence power of the Commonwealth. They had regard to the fact that Australia has been engaged not in a war of the magnitude of previous wars, but in total war in which the economic life of the country has been deeply involved as well as the military effort of the country. And, giving that common sense interpretation to the facts, which are known to every Australian, the court held that there must be given to the Parliament of the Commonwealth some discretion in exercising the defence power during the post-war period. That is what has been done. The honorable member for Reid referred to a case which was decided during World War I. If I am not mistaken, that decision was given during the war itself, and could have had no relation to the struggle in which Australia and the Empire were engaged from 1939 to 1945, or to the use of tha defence power after hostilities are over.
If that is not enough to warrant the rejection of this motion, I point out that the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), when the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Bill was before the House, moved a specific motion to limit the duration of the measure not to twelve months as proposed in the bill as originally drafted but to three months only. The right honorable gentleman moved that amendment at the second-reading stage; but the honorable member for Reid, who could then have used arguments of the kind he has addressed to the House to-day, would have none of that proposal. On the 4th December last, at page 1022 of Hansard he is reported as saying -
The Opposition has declared itself to be in favour of the retention of controls but insists that the trial period shall be only three months. . .
That was the amendment moved by the right honorable member for Darling Downs ; that would mean that it would be impossible to legislate further.
– I rise to order, I ask whether the AttorneyGeneral is in order in quoting from Hansard reports of debates of the current session.
Mi-. SPEAKER. - The right honorable gentleman will not be in order in quoting verbatim from Hansard reports of the current session.
– At all events, the honorable member for Reid took the view that the regulations covered by the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Bill should be given a trial for twelve months in order to see how they would work. That was the substance of his remarks on the debate on that bill, and when a division was taken he voted against the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Australian Country party. On that occasion we saw him voting with the majority.
– The whole point of the Opposition’s amendment was not that the legislation should be terminated absolutely at the end of three months, but that the Parliament should have an opportunity to review it from time to time; and the honorable member for Reid, apparently, voted against that.
– He said, at an earlier stage, that there was only one thing in that bill that mattered, and he’ was opposed to it, namely, wage-pegging. Since that date those regulations have been modified. The honorable member has made some inaccurate statements. He says that the onus of proof is placed upon the person charged. It is quite true that in the early stages of the operation of the National Security Regulations it might be said the onus of proof was placed on the person charged. However, a committee, presided over by the honorable member for Eden Monaro (Mr. Fraser), was appointed to inquire into the operation of National Security Regulations, and it made certain recommendations on that point. Dealing with the practice of shifting the onus of proof on to the defendant as sometimes occurs when the whole of the knowledge of the facts is with the defendant, those recommendations asserted the general principle that the onus rested on the prosecution. Those recommendations were carried out. That is the position.
The honorable member’s criticism of the High Court is quite unjustified. The justices have taken a more modern view of the Commonwealth’s defence power, because the whole character of war has altered. To-day, war involves the whole of the economic life of the country; and many of these controls had to be continued during the immediate postwar period. In Canada, the same course of action had to be adopted, and I have just been informed that many of the controls introduced in that dominion during the war are to be continued until early in 194S.
– What is the position in the United States of America?
– War-time controls in that country have been substantially, if not completely, abandoned. But without discussing these controls in detail, the House had an opportunity to consider their continuation. It fully availed itself of that opportunity. Excepting the matter to whch the honorable member for Richmond has referred, there was not an amendment put forward which was not fully considered. The court, I submit, has declared the defence power of the Commonwealth in terms that fully cover all that has been done. The honorable member for Reid also said that in some way this is a means of evading the decision given by the people at two referendums. No statement could be moreinaccurate. The first referendum, which was a proposal to give to the Commonwealth fourteen specific powers, was limited to a period of the five post- hostility years; and that proposal, it can be fairly said, was rejected largely because those powers were- submitted to the people en bloc and not seriatim. Many of those powers would have been accepted had they been submitted separately. The second referendum to which reference was made was that held in conjunction with the lastgeneral elections when the people were asked to confer upon the Commonwealth Parliament three powers in perpetuity. They had nothing to do with the postwar transitional period for which alone the High Court decisions on the use of the defence power could be made, and have been made. I submit, therefore, that the honorable member for Reid is incorrect in the views he has expressed today. He was correct in the views he expressed in December last when he would not accept the amendment proposed by the right honorable member for Darling Downs to limit the operation of the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act to three months, with the possibility, later, of providing for a further extension. The position is, and the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) has it in hand, that the Government will carry out its intention of reviewing those controls so that practically all of them will be relaxed at the end of the year.
.- The House is indebted to !he honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) for giving to us the opportunity to discuss this very important matter. The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) has stated that the House was given an opportunity of registering an opinion upon the continuation of the National Security Regulations when the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Bill was bef ore us last year. The right honorable gentleman said that honorable members had uninhibited opportunity to express their views in this chamber. I interjected that when I, myself, moved an amendment to the measure, I was gagged ; and the Attorney-General admitted that fact by saying that, with the exception of that particular incident, everybody had a “ free go “. That view reminds me of the story of the individual, who, after asking an embarrassing question at a political meeting, and was thrown out, an invitation was then extended to any one else in the audience to ask a question. That is what happened so far as my amendment was concerned. The honorable member for Reid has placed his finger on certain very salient freedoms which we possess. They are guaranteed by the Constitution ; and I agree with the honorable member that the Constitution is not something which is the possession of the High Court. The court, undoubtedly, is the interpreter of the Constitution, and as lawabiding citizens, we must abide by its decisions. But, at the same time, the people of Australia, at two referendums, have made manifestly clear to the Government and the Parliament that they are not prepared to vest in the Commonwealth Parliament, and particularly in the present Government, the powers which it continues to exercise under the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act. Whether those powers are valid, as has been proclaimed by the High Court, is immaterial to the real issues and intentions of the people as expressed at the referendum. Just how are these regulations operating? The honorable member for Reid has mentioned several that touch his interests very closely, including wage-pegging. There are many others that concern honorable members who represent industries of various types in this country. I could show, for example - and I believe every other honorable member could do so, too - that the administration of real estate transactions is not effective. Every honorable member surely knows that in real estate transactions to-day sellers have the greatest difficulty in obtaining the approval of the delegate of the Treasurer to a fair valuation. Consequently the great majority of land transactions are carried through outside the law. Why do the people tolerate that position? The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) told the story in this House a little while ago of his efforts to purchase a. house in Melbourne. He said that he had gone to fourteen different people who had advertised homes for sale only to discover in every instance that the prices asked were in excess of those allowed by the regulations. Because he has not been prepared to buy on the black market he is still unable to purchase a. home.
– What great patriots they were!
– They are probably as great patriots as is my friend the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Russell). The point is that the sellers expected to dispose of their properties at a fictitious valuation. A house worth £1,500 is frequently valued by the delegate to the Treasurer at only £1,000, and nobody could be expected to sell such a property and thus make a free gift to the purchaser of £500 to be derived by a subsequent sale outside the regulations. The exercise of these powers under the price-fixing regulations is hindering and stifling the development of legitimate business in this country. I shall quote evidence given in court to show how the Government is abusing the powers granted to it under the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act. I refer to what is known as the Daveney case, which was heard before the courts in Sydney recently. I have no personal knowledge of the people associated with that company. I obtained the facts from the legalrepresentatives of the company after the case had been reported in the press. Miss Daveney Proprietary Limited is a company engaged in the manufacture of candy in Sydney. It has been in business since 1930 or for a longer period, and has sold its products mainly to various wholesalers. Prior to the war the company made very small profits amounting, as a rule, to only approximately £500 per annum. As the result of an expansion of business, however, and notwithstanding that the selling price of its products remained static since 1939, the company’s profits increased fairly considerably. After the Deputy Prices Commissioner had made an investigation of the company’s balancesheet he summoned the secretary of the company to a conference. For the information of honorable members I shall read the letter which the secretary then wrote to the Deputy Prices Commissioner. It tolls the story much more briefly than I could tell it. In a letter dated the18th September, 1945, the secretary, Mr. H. W. Miller, wrote to the Deputy Prices Commissioner. Sydney, as follows: -
We desire to refer to your contention that the profit margin for the year ended 31st July, 1944 exceeds that of the year ended 31st July, 1939 and to your requirement that our profit margin must accordingly be reduced even though our increased profit is due to our own efforts and economies and to a very substantially increased turnover resulting in our overhead expenses bearing a much lower ratio to our gross earnings than in 1939 and even though in our trading we have strictly complied with all Prices Regulations.
At your request the writer attended your office and discussed your requirement with Messrs. East, Butler and Rowlands, when Mr. East suggested that we should reduce our profit margin by voluntarily reducing our turnover by 20 per cent.
This is an iniquitous suggestion if we are to have an expansion of trade and employment in this country. Mr. East suggested-
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. McEwen) put -
That the honorable member for Richmond bo granted an extension of time.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker. - Mr. J. J. Clark.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I find it difficult to understand how any one with any sense of logic could argue the proposition that the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) has put before the House. He moved the adjournment in order to discuss -
The undermining of the Constitution by the wrongful use of the defence power through National Security Regulations, to obtain powers vim t have been rejected by the people when submitted to them by way of referenda as amendments to the Constitution.
He uses the term “ wrongful use of the defence power “. It may be that the honorable member himself thinks that the Government is wrongfully using the defence power, but that is a matter of opinion, and, in fact, the High Court itself and other eminent legal authorities throughout the Commonwealth have decided and expressed the opinion that the Commonwealth has not wrongly used the defence power during either the war period or the transition period after the war. I cannot recollect one occasion on which the High Court has not upheld the use of the defence power under the Constitution as it has been used by this Govern-“ ment. Therefore, in the opinion of those most capable of judging, the defence power has not been wrongly used. The honorable member’s motion goes on - to obtain powers that have been rejected by the people.
The honorable member apparently does not realize that the defence power is already in the Constitution and that if, in the exercise of that power, we did certain things that but for it we should not have been able to do, we were in no way obtaining powers that we were not entitled to use. It is not a matter of “ obtaining “ those powers. The Government has them in the defence power provision of the Constitution. There fore the matter of trying to obtain powers that have been rejected by the people does not arise.
– The defence power was passed by the people.
– Yes. The honorable member for Reid said that if the use of the defence power in certain directions, particularly that of wage-pegging, continued we should end in complete anarchy. If the Government had not used that power and had done as he said it ought to have done, we should certainly have ended in complete anarchy. The honorable member said that immediately the war had been won there was no further need for the Government to use the defence power, and, indeed, that the Government was wrongfully using it by continuing even one of the National Security Regulations made in the exercise of the defence power. I particularly noted the honorable gentleman’s words. He used the phrase “ as soon as the war was won “. Just imagine what would have been the condition of the country to-day if immediately the war had been won all controls - wage pegging, prices control, land sale controls and all the other controls that operated during the war for the purpose of winning the war - had been lifted, as the honorable gentleman said they should have been.
– Could the condition of the country have been any worse than it is to-day ?
– The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) suggests that things could not be worse. He has only to look at what happened in other countries through the lifting of controls.
– Tell us about Canada.
– I am glad the honorable member mentioned Canada, because that country is comparable with Australia in that it has a federal constitution. What has happend in that dominion ? Canada did exactly what this Government did. It extended its national security regulations made under its defence power for a period after the war. That period will expire next May, but there is now a measure before the House of Commons of Canada to extend the operation of those regulations for another twelve months.
– The Minister does not mean that the regulations that Canada is continuing are necessarily the same or of the same type as our regulations?
– No, not exactly the same regulations; but Canada has accepted the same principle, namely, that it is necessary to continue for a certain period after a war has been won the very regulations that were necessary to assist in winning the war. We have proceeded on exactly the same lines as the Canadian Government in that respect. The Attorney-General has so completely demolished the arguments of the honorable member for Reid in connexion with the scope of the defence power that it is not necessary for me to add anything to what has already been said. I was particularly interested to note that, when the honorable member for Reid rose to submit this motion, he was supported by the members of the Australian Country party, I think almost en Hoc.
– I rise to order. That statement is not correct. The Minister has said that all Australian Country party members supported the honorable member for Reid.
– I said no such thing.
– It was quite incorrect.
– There is no point of order.
– The phrase I used was “ almost en bloc “.
– Almost en bloc they supported the honorable member for Reid when he submitted this motion. That, of course, is in great contradistinction to what happened when the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Bill was before this House at the end of last year. On that occasion, the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) submitted an amendment, the purpose of which was to ensure that the National Security Regulations which were to be continued under the bill for a further period of twelve months, would be subject to review at the end of every three months. The honorable member for Reid voted against the amendment. Not only did he do that, but also he voted for the bill. Now, apparently, he has completely changed his mind on this subject. I do not know what the reaction of members of the Australian Country party is to this motion. Of course, it has already been supported by one honorable member of the party, and the very fact that Australian Country party members generally rose to support it seems to me to imply that there is some kind of collusion between them and the honorable member for Reid. That brings to light a very interesting situation. Those who have studied the course of politics in the United States of America will be well aware that the counterpart of the Australian Country party in that country deliberately tried to destroy all the measures taken by the government to organize the rural resources of America for the purpose of winning the war. It seems to me that the purpose at the back of the minds of members of the Australian Country party is to destroy those regulations which prevent the inflation of prices because they want those whom they represent to obtain for their commodities prices greatly in excess of what ought to be charged to the people in present circumstances. In all probability, that is the reason why the members of the Australian Country party support the motion now before the House.
The honorable member for Reid spoke about the validity of the defence power. As the Attorney-General has explained, the defence power does not cease immediately a war has been won. I recall that the Leader of the Opposition, in making a speech on the first Constitution alteration measure placed before this House by the Labour Government, made it quite clear that, in his opinion, the defence power could be used foi1 the extension of the National Security Regulations for a considerable period after the war.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– I had not intended to take part in this debate, but I am doing so primarily to complete the interrupted narrative of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony). Before I do so, I point out to the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) that when honorable members rise to speak on a formal adjournment motion it does not necessarily follow that they favour the argument that will be put in support of the motion. What it does demonstrate is that they believe that the matter ought to be debated. That should be made perfectly clear.
As the Minister has reminded us, I have frequently indicated that the defence power did not expire at the end of the war and that many National Security Regulations will retain .legal force for a substantial period of time. I am happy to observe that every decision given by the High Court of Australia has confirmed that view. The honorable member for Richmond referred to a particular case, and it would be a great pity if the case were not fully on record. It is the case of Miss Daveney Proprietary Limited and the conflict between that company and the Prices Commissioner, which led to a prosecution and thereafter to an appeal to the High Court. As the honorable member for Richmond was telling us, the company was engaged in the manufacture of goods. Its prices had remained absolutely constant since before the war. There had been no increase of prices at all. Most honorable members will agree that the initial idea of prices control was to prevent inflation of prices under the impact of war. If prices remained constant that would be either a complete justification for prices control, if we had it, or proof that it was not needed, if we did not have it. Here was the perfect case. The business had expanded in the course of the war period. It had increased its turnover, and it had increased its employment. It was a growing business. Because of its increased turnover, its gross profit margin rose, even though its prices were maintained.
– Did its profits increase on a percentage basis or in total?
– On a percentage basis and in total, because the turnover was very much greater. The point is that the prices charged to the public remained constant. The facts in the case - it has since gone to the High Court and the facts are accepted for the purposes of the case - show that the representative of the Prices Commissioner approached the company and said, in effect, “ You must get your profits down, and the best way to do that is voluntarily to reduce your turnover by 20 per cent “. That was an extraordinary performance, to go to a company and say, “ You are an expanding company. You are doing something that we hope small companies and small businesses will do. You are growing, you are employing more people, and your turnover is up. Now we want you to reduce your turnover by 20 per cent, because that will have the effect of reducing your gross profit margin. If you reduce your gross profit margin your prices will he all right, but if you do not do so, your prices will have to come down below what they were when the war began.”
– Was the firm producing luxuries or essential goods?
– I do not think that matters a scrap. It was producing goods that it was permitted to produce and for which there was a public demand. I shall not enter into a moral discussion about whether there was something wrong in manufacturing and selling confectionery. That is not the point at all. The direction by the prices authorities was not applied to the company merely because of the nature of its business. This sort of thing has happened in scores of instances. The point was that the Prices Commissioner took the view that one of his jobs was to control profits, and that therefore he could say to a business whose price was constant, “ Bring your price down or reduce your turnover so that your profit will be reduced “. The case went to the High Court, and it was argued directly in the High Court that that direction was a misuse of the price-fixing power, that instead of being designed to fix prices it was really designed to deal with profits, and that dealing with profits was not the function of the Prices Commissioner. The hot contest in the High Court resulted in a win for the Prices Commissioner by three votes to three, one of the three on the Prices Commissioner’s side in the judgment being the Chief Justice so that the matter was determined in favour of the Prices Commissioner’s contention - a very closely divided court. The three points which I desire to make, and which the honorable member for Richmond would have made had he t he time, are these : - If a power is to be exercised in this way, the Government will penalize efficiency. It is the efficient business which reduces its costs; and if the Government adopts the attitude that because the business is efficient and reduces its costs, its prices must fall lower than the prices of the goods of its inefficient competitor, it will penalize efficiency. My second contention is that this policy hits not large, well-established concerns, but small businesses. A penalty is imposed upon a growing business. Do we not require growing businesses in Australia? Do we not want businesses which will employ more people in the future? Are we to adopt this principle of saying to one concern, “ reduce your turnover, employ fewer people and sell less, and you will be allowed to maintain your prices at their existing level “ ? My third comment is that this practice usurps the functions of the Commissioner of Taxation. If a firm is making substantial profits, let them be taxed. The War-time (Company) Tax Act has a graduated scale which is specifically designed to deal with this kind of case. But if we make of prices controllers taxation authorities, and they virtually levy a tax upon a successful business, we are not only confusing two entirely distinct functions, but also inflicting direct damage upon the individual citizen. I would not have risen to speak had it not been for the fact that the honorable member for Richmond had begun to address himself to the House on this extremely interesting case - not a unique case, I emphasize, but one which happens to have come into the light of day as the result of litigation - and I hope that what I have been able to say in the time available to me will serve to complete the very important story that the honorable member had commenced to tell.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker -Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the negative.
– I move -
That Mr. Speaker’s ruling - that the motion by the honorable member for Wentworth is out of order - be disagreed with.
The motion which the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) proposed to submit yesterday was designed to enable the House to discuss the need for a full public inquiry into the administration of the Division of Import Procurement relative to the matters associated with and arising out of the Goldberg case. Mr. Speaker, when announcing his decision not to submit the motion to the House, applied a ruling given by Mr. Speaker, Sir Elliot Johnson in 1920. I say at once that I fully appreciate that that earlier ruling constitutes a precedent. But whether that should be regarded by Mr. Speaker as binding upon him is a different matter. What I want to address myself to is, not some discussion of whether Mr. Speaker is reasonable in referring back to this matter, but the very important substantial question of parliamentary privilege which arises in relation to this matter.
L should like to begin by saying that I consider, and have considered for a long time, that we fall into a rather grievous error by regarding the rightness or wrongness of decisions of the Chair as a matter which ought to be dealt with upon a party vote. It happens that the honorable member who was over-ruled in his submission by Mr. Speaker Sir Elliot Johnson was the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan). He was the subject of an adverse ruling similar in substance to the ruling given yesterday against an honorable member on this side of the House. It is in the common interest of all honorable members to have their minds cleared of these things, to come to conclusions as to what the Standing Orders mean or what the practice of the Parliament should be, and then to apply that practice. Whoever is in office or out of office at the time, does not matter.
The practice on this subject of court proceedings is stated in, I suppose, its most concise form., in May’s Parliamentary Practice. I read from the tenth edition, at page 264 -
A matter, whilst under adjudication by a court of law, should not be brought before the House by a motion or otherwise.
Of course, that practice was established because it was considered that the Parliament ought not to engage in discussions which - putting it quite shortly - might amount to a contempt of court; a contempt of court in the technical sense, that is to say, observations upon court proceedings which might be calculated to interfere with the administration of justice. The Parliament itself had to apply tha t rule. No rule of that kind could be enforced against it; because, as we all know - and it has been established for centuries now - no matters spoken in this House can be made the subject of proceedings in any other place whatever. Accordingly, the Parliament put this self-denying ordinance upon itself, and adopted the practice that it would not deal with matters that were, under adjudication in the courts; in other words, that it would not permit a debate which, in the normal way, would be regarded, if it occurred outside, as a contempt of those court proceedings. That is what we mean when we say that a matter is sub judice. and therefore the House is not to discuss it.
The facts, so far as they are material, are these : Certain proceedings were taken against a man named Goldberg ; proceedings, I understand, under the Customs Act. Those proceedings terminated in a conviction and a fine. A stay of proceedings was granted for some period of days. That, of course, is one of the commonplaces in the courts. Whenever a man wants an opportunity of considering whether he will appeal, he will ask for a stay of proceedings. Whenever a defendant in a civil action wants to consider whether he will take his matter up on appeal, he asks for a stay of execution, so that he will not be required to pay out money, or to begin a period of imprisonment - if it be that kind of case - until the opportunity has been given for instituting an appeal. But the point is this: The case in question terminated when the conviction was recorded. There is no other proceeding before the courts. There is nothing which is a matter of adjudication at the present time. If Goldberg, through his legal advisers, institutes some form of appeal - I do not know what form - then, when that appeal has been duly instituted, there will be another matter before another court, and that other matter will then call for adjudication, and in relation to that matter so pending, this House would naturally, under this rule, not engage in a debate. But at the present time there is no matter for adjudication in the courts.
I do not want to weary the House; but I think that it might be a good thing to add to my own statement on that matter - which otherwise might appear to be purely dogmatic or arbitrary. This is a problem which has been frequently discussed in the courts in connexion with contempt of court; and, as I have said in brief, the question of this kind ‘ of contempt of court arises when remarks are made which are calculated to impair the administration of justice, and which refer to some pending matter. In a case with which the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), I know, is familiar - Dunn v. Bevan - reported in 1922, 1 Chancery Division at page 276 - proceedings arose for contempt out of some union litigation. There had been a “ set-to “ between various members of a trade union. A judgment had been given, and thereafter a somewhat spirited circular was issued to the members of the union by those who were dissatisfied with the judgment; a very spirited document, containing, it was said, a grossly inaccurate account of the proceedings, and some comment. The matter came before Mr. Justice Sargant. I need read only these words from his judgment at page 284, in order to explain at once what the principle is -
Now I am asked on that to treat the issue of the first circular by the plaintiffs as being a contempt of court. Although I am not asked to send the plaintiffs to prison, I am asked to punish them by granting an injunction against them and by making them pay the costs. In my judgment, I ought to do nothing of the kind. It seems to me that the law is pretty well settled in these cases now. I do not deal, of course, with the case of a report which amounts to scandalizing the court by making attacks upon the judge who presided at the trial - that is entirely out of the question here, and there is nothing in this circular to be complained of by the judge who tried the case. The only other sort of contempt which I think could effectively be established against the plaintiffs is that they were doing something which was interfering in some sort of way with the administration of justice. But as to this the principle is put thus in a well known work - Oswald on Contempt of Court, 2nd edition, page 02: “Proceedings are pending immediately the writ is issued, and as long as any proceedings can be taken. But when the cause is dead or ended, comments may be made; and the fact that a new trial has been moved for makes no difference “. And there are two cases referred to - Metzler v. Gounod (!) and Dallas v. Ledger (2) - which completely bear out that proposition.
That statement of the law is quite clear and authoritative. It means - and this is the point that I want to emphasize to honorable members - that any comment can at this moment be made on the Goldberg case and its implications, and all the matters which it gives rise to in connexion with the Division of Import Procurement, by any newspaper and any private citizen, but under this ruling of the Chair cannot be made in this House. That, I submit to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the House - because we all are equally concerned in this problem - is putting a limitation upon the authority of this Parliament, the supreme organ of discussion and criticism in any democratic community, of which this Parliament ought not to approve. Reference was made by you, sir, very properly, to the ruling that was given by Mr. Speaker Sir Elliot Johnson. I presume, sir, that I am not at liberty to criticize that ruling unduly, even at this interval of time. But I should like to say, with profound respect, that it is not a decision at which I would have arrived. The matter was raisedby the honorable member for Batman in 1920, during a discussion of a motion of censure of the then Government - the Hughes Government. In the course of the discussion reference was made by the honorable member for Batman to the Jerger case, which I expect many honorable members will recollect. Certain rather swift proceedings had been taken against that gentleman. An application was made for a writ, which was referred to, no doubt correctly, in the Hansard report, as a writ of capias. It may have been so. The matter came before a justice of the High Court, and he, being confronted by an answer that an order had been made by the Minister under the appropriate regulation, said that that answered the matter. His decision was in accord one with a well-established law. Consequently, the application for the writ was refused. It was refused, apparently on the morning of the very day on which this matter was being discussed. The honorable member for Batman took a very strong view of the case. He had some powerful remarks to make about it in the course of the discussion which took place on the 15th July, 1920. As reported in Hansard at page 2750, he said -
The judge was driven, bound as he was, to acceptthe statement of a responsible Minister of the Crown, if one can call him responsible, to give a decision there and then, and dismissed that application. It is not proposed to allow the matter to rest where it now is.
I think that the honorable member for Batman had had some association with him through his firm, but I may be wrong about that. Then Sir Joseph Cook intervened and there was a vigorous exchange of compliments between him and Mr. Parker Moloney. Sir Joseph Cook then rose to a point of order. The Hansard record reads -
On the honorable member’s own statement, just made, this case is still sub judice. “The matter is not to be allowed to rest there,” he guys, and I understand that notice of appeal has been given. If that is so, the matter is sub judice, and the honorable member is out of order in referring to it.
– I think that, if the facts tire as stated by the Minister, the case is certainly sit?) judice, but I have no actual knowledge whether it is so or not.
– I ought to know as much about the case as the Minister does.
– 1 understand that the honorable member had something to do with the case, and perhaps he can give the assurance to the House that it is not still sub judice. [f the case has not been finally dealt with, I think that it must be regarded as sub judice.
With great respect, I say that that was the greatest possible inexactitude. The case had been finally dealt with, as the law understands the word “ final “. A justice of the High Court had given final judgment. There might have been an appeal, but, if so, that would have been a new proceeding. With respect, I submit that there was considerable confusion regarding the matter. The Hansard record continues -
– I have said, and I take the responsibility for the statement, that the matter is not to be allowed to rest where it is. Apart from that statement, 1 decline to give any assurance to the House, or to you, Mr. Speaker, as to what will be done.
– In that case, and until 1 have some more definite assurance that the matter is not still sub judice, I must ask the honorable member not to discuss it further.
– I submit that there has not been any evidence brought before you as to the position of the matter beyond my deliberate statement that the case was disposed of this morning. In my speech I stated, as 1 was entitled to do, that we do not propose to allow the case to rest where it is. The course of action may be one which will put it again sub judice, and enable you to exercise your right, as Speaker, to prevent me from ventilating further this public scandal.
I submit with respect that that was a perfectly accurate statement of the position by the honorable member for Batman. If thereafter an appeal had been made, the matter would again have been sub judice. In order to determine what occurred in the court, one would need to know the matters involved in the appeal. They could not be known until the appeal was instituted. After some further discussion Mr. Groom, who afterwards was Sir Littleton Groom, interjected -
The intention to appeal was indicated in court this morning.
I have known that to happen many times. At the conclusion of a spectacular case it is usual for one of the parties to say that he will appeal. But I have yet to learn that such an announcement constitutes an appeal. A mere assertion that an appeal will be lodged would not be recognized as an appear by any court of which I have knowledge. Every one knows that an appeal is not instituted merely by someone saying “ I shall appeal An appeal is instituted by the taking of certain formal action. Then, there are further proceedings; and once they have commenced the case would be sub judice and could not be discussed in this House. After the interjection by Mr. Groom the Hansard record continues -
– Do I understand, sir, that in the face of the facts that I have told you, that the case was disposed of this morning, and that you have no other evidence regarding it, you .refuse to allow me to -discuss it further ?
– The honorable member will recollect that he distinctly said that the case was not finally concluded, that the matter was wot to be allowed to rest where it is. That was tantamount to saying that the case has not been finally dealt with by the court, and is still to be determined. A legal member of the Government has also just stated that the intention to appeal was indicated in court this morning. Under these circumstances, T. have no option but to rule that if the matter is still in abeyance and sub judice, which, as far as I can learn, it is, the honorable member cannot discuss it further.
– I was not referring -to the court when I said that the matter was not to rest where it is.
Mr. GROOM. The honorable member’s counsel indicated this morning his intention to appeal.
Following the raising of a point of order by Mr. T. J. Ryan, a former member for West Sydney, the record continues -
The question I raise is, “What is covered by the term sub judice V The only point in this case, so far as it has been discussed before the High Court of Australia, and so far as it is involved in any appeal, is, have the Government, now that it is contended the war is over, power to deport the reverend gentleman who has been mentioned? The honorable member for Batman was not discussing that point. He was not discussing the Government’s power, but their abuse of power, assuming that that power exists. He is, therefore, discussing the case on the assumption that the decision of the High Court as it now stands is correct.
Again, I offer the view that that was unanswerably correct. If we adopt the attitude that, because in the course of a debate some court proceedings are mentioned, we must at once terminate the debate, we shall do ourselves a serious disservice ll Tl this Parliament. A matter of this kind must be subjected to a careful analysis. Is there a Goldberg case? The answer is “ Yes We then ask, “ Is it finished “? And again the answer is “ Yes. It has been terminated by the imposition of a fine. No appeal has yet been instituted, and therefore it is a completed transaction.” I repeat my point that, for this Parliament to preclude itself from discussing these matters, while leaving them open to discussion by every other citizen in the Commonwealth, is To adopt an absurd attitude. In the second place, we must ask ourselves two questions, as Mr. Ryan did on the occasion referred to : First, is, some proceeding on foot, and if so, the second question arises, what are the issues involved? It is only in relation to those matters that any question of contempt or the discussion of a matter that is sub judice can arise. The motion made by the honorable member for Wentworth called for an inquiry into the administration of the Division of Import Procurement in relation to matters which had been made the subject of evidence in proceedings which, had terminated in a conviction. I ask honorable members to consider this matter. Let us be crystal clear On it. Suppose, for some reason or other, this accused person decided that he would go to the High Court. All the time the application for leave or special leave is pending this Parliament, under the ruling given, cannot discuss the Division of Import Procurement in relation to any matter touched upon in the. course of the hearing. Then the case goes to the High Court, and after an interval of some months it is determined. Then let us assume that the defendant, having had his conviction confirmed, and having evolved questions of law, goes to the Privy Council. It may take two years before a decision is obtained from the Privy Council. I am not exaggerating. People who want to go to the Privy Council for a special judgment are very fortunate if their petition comes on within nine months, and very fortunate, also, if their case is disposed of within twelve months after that. Are we to be told that for the whole of that time the Goldberg case could be regarded as subjudice, and could not be discussed in anT of its ancillary aspects in this Parliament? This is a very serious matter. Here is an example in which an honorable member opposite raised arguments extraordinarily similar to those I have raised to-day, and quite palpably took the same view of the extent of this ruling. I therefore very much hope that we shall have unfettered choice of which way we shall go. I do not want to labour the point. I could go on reiterating it and, indued, it would bear reiteration. My submission is that Mr. Speaker yesterday founded his ruling on a decision of a former Speaker, and that that decision was, in fact, a wrong decision. No presiding officer in this House can hold himself bound by all the decisions given in the past. That would be completely impracticable because, human nature being what it is, it is always possible to find a dozen decisions each way. Such matters are not always decided by a regular, consistent stream of authority. Moreover, every speaker ought to feel himself at liberty to give what he believes to be a correct interpretation of the Standing Orders, and of the practice of the Parliament, and he should not necessarily regard himself as bound by previous decisions. In the case referred to, when a chance argument arose, and nobody having an opportunity to consider the matter or to consult authorities, a particular ruling was given in a direction contrary to that which I have suggested would have been proper. I have not raised this matter in a partisan spirit. I am not at this moment concerned with the discussion that was to be initiated. I am concerned that the House should decide whether it should impose very sharp limits on its own power to discuss, because that is the inevitable result of the two rulings to which I have referred.
– The House is indebted to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) for presenting this matter in the way he has done. I submit, however, that the ruling of Mr. Speaker is correct. The case of Dunn v. Devin involved a somewhat analogous principle, but one which is quite distinct from that now before the House. It was charged in that case that after judgment had been given in the Chancery Division, in England, one of the parties to the case who had issued a circular was guilty of contempt of court, and an application for an injunction, and costs by way of punishment, was then made to the Chancery Division and was refused. The essence of the judgment of the Chancery Division in the case cited was given in one sentence by Mr. Justice Sargant when he said -
Here, it seems to me clear that when I have given my judgment in the action the proceeding arc dead and ended.
There was nothing to prevent comment on them, and there was no criminal contempt on the part of the person who issued the circular. That is not the same question which the House has now to decide. Criminal contempt may be committed while a case is actually pending, by a litigant or a newspaper commenting on the proceedings in a way calculated to interfere with the course of justice. Originally, it was regarded as a common law misdemeanour, and in later times persons guilty of criminal contempt have been punished by imprisonment or fine by the courts dealing with the matter. In connexion with the doctrine of criminal contempt, where comment becomes punishable, it has been laid down by the court that even before the proceedings have commenced there may be comment prejudicial to the administration of justice. As judges of former times used to express it, it is possible to poison the wells of justice before they begin to flow. Suppose a murder has been committed, and it looks as if some person will be charged, hi certain circumstances, comment on the matter may be regarded as contempt of court.
– The same rule does not apply after the proceedings are terminated.
– I agree. If in this case, if some press comment had been made, and an application were made to attach by way of punishment a person for criticism or comment, I think the decision in the case of Dunn v. Bevin would probably be applied. However, that is not the question before the House. “What is said in the Parliament is absolutely privileged by the law. What is said in the courts of justice is absolutely privileged by the law. We have those two great instruments of government, the legislative power exerted by one, and the judicial power exerted by another. As the year.* have gone by, the Parliament, having an absolute privilege and not being bound to apply the rules of contempt of court, or even the laws of defamation, both of which are applicable to comment outside the Parliament, has taken the view which I believe has been carried out in cases like the J Jerger case. That is to say the Parliament does not ask, “ Is there a proceeding pending at this moment ? “ but, rather, “In all the circumstances, should a debate on a particular matter be permitted at this particular moment?” The Leader of the Opposition has still to overcome the ruling of Mr. Speaker Sir Elliot Johnson, upon which Mr. Speaker relied yesterday. But I shall cite a similar case. It is recorded in the parliamentary debates of the British House of Commons, volume 64. 4th series, page 867. It is a ruling given by Mr. Speaker Gully, fi famous speaker. In that case a member sought to discuss allegations of bribery before any legal proceedings had been brought before a tribunal, but before the time within which a petition could be lodged had expired. A point of order was raised and Speaker Gully said this -
Such allegations may be true or they may not. but it appears to me to be quite irregular to discuss that question in this House. Supposing an election petition had been lodged, very clearly it would be out of order to ask this House to discuss or pass judgment upon a matter which is under consideration in an election- court. The same reasoning must apply if the 21 days, which is the period within which a petition may be presented, have not lapsed. I think it would be quite out of order for the honorable gentleman to enter into ii discussion as to whether corruption took place at an election when the 21 days have not expired within which a petition may be lodged.
So careful was the Speaker of the House of Commons to preserve proper relations between the Parliament and the courts, that although there were no proceedings initiated and no election petition had been presented, he held it improper, in the circumstances of the case, to discuss in the House under the protection of absolute privilege - nothing said in the House being capable of the remedy which is applied to everything said outside - matters relating to that election which might come before the court for determination. That case and the ruling of Mr. Speaker Sir Elliot Johnson show how those two Speakers looked at the situation when the matter was brought up for debate.
Let us examine the situation which arose yesterday. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) proposed to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The need for a full public inquiry into the administration of the Division of Import Procurement relative to the matters associated with and arising out of the Goldberg case “. “ Matters associated with and arising out of the Goldberg case “ - that was the substance and core of the criticism to be levelled against the Government, and the subject of the proposed inquiry, not what the Leader of the Opposition mentioned, namely, one question that might be asked dealing with the action. The very basis of the motion was “ matters associated with and arising out of the Goldberg case “. Had that case been disposed of, and had it appeared to Mr. Speaker that it was dead and ended, ho might very well have given a different ruling. But what has taken place in these proceedings ? First, a stay of proceedings was granted ; and, according to what Mr. Speaker told us yesterday, counsel for the defence indicated the possibility of obtaining fresh evidence from the United States of America to contradict evidence given in the prosecution. No appeal has been lodged in the case ; but it is competent for an appeal to be made from a court of petty sessions to courts of higher juris- diction in which the whole of the case may be re-opened. One may appeal on a point of law, either direct to the High Court in a matter of this kind, or to the Supreme Court. The proceedings which have taken place in the Goldberg case are very well described in the words of Mr. Speaker Sir Elliot Johnson when he said that the proceedings “ are in abeyance “. Then, it is a matter for the discretion of Mr. Speaker to determine whether discussion at this moment on all matters should be permitted. Let us suppose that a discussion is initiated and the whole matter is canvassed under protection of privilege, and that within the limit of the period for appeal, 21 days, an appeal be lodged. Could anything be more calculated to interfere with the ordinary course of justice? I can hardly imagine anything more calculated to do so.
The House is not precluded from discussing the administration of the division. When the case comes to an end, and it is certain that it is finished, the circumstances will be altered. Mr. Speaker, in exercising his discretion, is not interpreting a standing order, or contempt law. He simply lays down parliamentary practice for keeping matters in this House under such control as will not interfere, as a discussion at this moment would interfere, with the orderly proceeding of the courts of justice. That is the issue; and we should not concern ourselves with the niceties of the law of criminal contempt. No punishment, or remedy, is open with respect to statements made in the Parliament, whether they are false or defamatory, or not. It is because of that peculiarity of the Parliament, both in the Mother of Parliaments and in this country, because of the absolute privilege attaching to everything said in the Parliament, that there has grown up this rule - this self-imposed rule, as the Leader of the Opposition described it - imposed by Speakers. The ruling of Mr. Speaker Gully shows how careful the House of Commons was to prevent discussion in the House which might interfere with the fair trial of matters that might go to the court. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that some limit might have to he fixed. If a decision is given by a superior court, and that decision is final and conclusive, but it is said there is an intention to make an appeal to the Privy Council, I believe that Mr. Speaker would have no hesitation in permitting a debate in that matter. That is natural. “We -cannot follow any rigid rule.
– Where do we draw the line?
– Common sense indicates how we should draw the line, just as common sense indicated what should be done in respect of the Jerger case and also in the ruling by Mr. Speaker Gully. We must face up to the position as it arises, without laying down any rigid rules. I believe that that was the attitude adopted by Mr. Speaker yesterday, and I submit that his ruling should be upheld.
– If some newspaper, to-day or to-morrow, wrote an article demanding an inquiry into the administration of the Division of Import Procurement, and quoting passages accurately from the evidence in the case, does the right honorable gentleman agree that that newspaper would not be in contempt of court?
– I do not wish to answer that question, because it is not the question we have to discuss. I have indicated my opinion in the general view I have expressed, and the question just asked by the Leader of the Opposition is purely a debating question. It does not add one thing to what he has said, or detract from anything I have said. This is the question we have to decide: Irrespective of the law of the courts, enforceable by the courts, what is the proper parliamentary practice to adopt? Mr. Speaker has followed the ruling of two distinguished Speakers which seems to me to cover this case in principle; and no case has been made out for overruling it.
.- -Of all questions which can arise in this House, none is more important than this : What is the issue that we can discuss in this place? After all, the freedom of the elected representatives of the people to raise issues for debate is the foundation upon which all legislative action is taken. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has performed a service to the Parliament by raising for debate this issue which is so tremendously important in determining the measure of freedom which honorable members are to enjoy in the future examination of matters of public administration. The speech of the right honorable gentleman and the reply by the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) turned very substantially on the point upon which Mr. Speaker appeared to found his decision, namely, the question of whether a discussion of the proposed motion of the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) would prejudice the possible future fair trial of Goldberg. I listened attentively to the speeches of both my predecessors in -this debate. The Attorney-General completely failed to answer the point made by the Leader of the Opposition that the court proceedings had terminated in a decision of the court and that there had been no formal indication of an intention to reconstitute the court proceedings. The AttorneyGeneral appeared to answer that statement by referring to a ruling given by the Speaker of the House of Commons on a matter dealing with an election result. Upon examination, however, it is found that no similarity exists between the ruling of the Speaker of the House of Commons and the ruling of Mr. Speaker yesterday. In the incident in the House of Commons an attempt was made to provoke a debate upon an election result, notwithstanding the existence of a statute providing a period during which a petition could be lodged. There is no similarity between these two matters. The final decision of a court in New South Wales had been taken before the honorable member for Wentworth submitted his motion. I direct my remarks to the House not to supplement what has been said by the Leader of the Opposition but to draw the attention of honorable members to what T regard as an entirely different aspect of the matter, and one of far greater importance. The functions of this Parliament are twofold. They are, first, to legislate, to make laws and, secondly, to maintain a scrutiny of the administration of those laws. Due to the increasing mechanization of parliamentary procedure, the importance of the first f unction, the actual making of laws has, in this chamber at all events, diminished ; but, because of the increasing number of laws, and of regulations that have the force of law, the responsibility of the Parliament to maintain a scrutiny of the administration of laws has greatly increased in recent years. This is the only place in which injustices of administration can be arrested. Who will contend that in the wide-flung structure of Commonwealth administration there i3 no possibility of mistake or injustice? Surely the necessity for the widest opportunities for honorable members to raise public discussions on matters alleged to involve wrongful administration of public departments must be recognized. That is all the honorable member for Wentworth proposed to do yesterday. He did not propose to raise for discussion in this House the question of the guilt or innocence of Goldberg; his motion said nothing about that at all. On the contrary it was specifically directed to what I have described as one of the highest responsibilities, not only of this Parliament, but of every single member of it, to whose notice such injustices may be brought. The honorable member proposed to raise for discussion the need for a full public inquiry into the administration of the Division of Import Procurement relative to matters associated with and arising out of the Goldberg case. lt is clear that, whether Goldberg was guilty or innocent, there was an incident which called for examination, and it might well have transpired - indeed upon appeal it may still transpire - that Goldberg may be found innocent of an offence and that the Division of Import Procurement might not be guiltless of misdemeanour, error of judgment or injustice. I submit that that was the aspect upon which Mr. Speaker should have made his decision. The propriety of permitting in this place a discussion upon the necessity for a full inquiry into the administration of the Division of Import Procurement relative to this incident should have been admitted. This is not the only occasion on which honorable members have alleged that wrongful acts which call for examination have been committed by departments. Is the fact that the department is involved in some court proceedings, or may be called upon to give evidence relative to a charge laid upon some citizen, to remove it completely from the scrutiny of this House, or of any body appointed as a result of a discussion in this House? That is really what will emerge from the upholding of Mr. Speaker’s decision. The honorable member for Wentworth referred in the Parliament yesterday to alleged bribery and the dismissal of men from the Prices Branch. If there be bribery, there should follow police court proceedings. The Minister representing the Minister administering prices control did not say, “ This is not a matter that should be inquired into “. On the contrary, he said, “ This is a matter upon which I will cause investigations to be made. I will come into the House and give to the House an account of the administration of the Prices Branch “. I submit that if Mr. Speaker is consistent he will forbid the Minister to give such an account because court, proceedings may be initiated or there may be a possibility of such proceedings being initiated. All that is involved in the Goldberg case to-day is not a current court proceeding, but merely the possibility of a court proceeding, and if the possibility of renewed court proceedings is sufficient to debar debate in this House, surely the possibility of an initial court proceeding should be an equal bar to debate. I cannot think of any ruling that a Speaker could give that would constitute a more deadly thrust at the functions and the rights of honorable members than the ruling given by Mr. Speaker on the motion proposed by the honorable member for Wentworth. I have no hope, of course, knowing how things go here, that the ruling will not be upheld, but I am bound to protest against it. If it is to stand as the pattern for all future decisions, the freedom of this Parliament to examine the administration of public departments will be tremendously circumscribed and our usefulness much further reduced. The debate sought would not be on the guilt or innocence of Goldberg. It has nothing to do with that. That has been decided in the proper place, in the court. If in a debate on the administration of the Division of Import Procurement observations were made or appeared to be about to be made which, in the opinion of Mr. Speaker, would prejudice Goldberg, he could then do what he does daily in this place and restrain the honorable member responsible by saying, “ That is not a matter that may be discussed”, without in any way circumscribing .a general discussion on the Division of Import Procurement. “We are permitted to debate the office of the Governor-General or the activities of the judiciary, but Mr. Speaker would promptly prevent an honorable member from developing a debate on a discussion of the Governor-General himself or members of the judiciary. Mr. Speaker exercises the right, which he has all the time, to control the remarks of an honorable member when it becomes evident that if pursued the course of justice would be impaired or improper reflections would be made upon the King, the Governor-General or the judiciary. It will not redound to the credit of the Government to refuse to support the motion of objection to the ruling. If the ruling should be upheld, it will become the practice. There could be only one interpretation of the Government’s action in supporting the ruling, namely, that it desires to employ the opportunities afforded by the Standing Orders to curtail a debate upon the administration of a public department. As the war produced the need for new and hitherto unthought of public departments and necessarily hasty and briefly considered legislation by regulation, it necessarily produced a more acute need for constant scrutiny by this Parliament of all the activities of the departments and the effects of regulations which were promulgated in large numbers. On behalf of the Australian Country party 1 voice a strong protest against the upholding of a ruling that can be construed only as designed to prevent debate on a matter that has nothing to do with the guilt or innocence of a citizen, but concerns the administration of a public department.
.- I support the ruling given by Mr. Speaker because I regard it as correct. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) kept the debate strictly on the line that it ought to follow by endeavouring to discover practice or precedents to establish the incorrectness or correctness of the ruling, but the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) fell from that standard by endeavouring to show that the Government, through the instrumentality of Mr. Speaker, is trying to stifle criticism of a public department. The terms of the motion on which Mr. Speaker’s ruling was given controvert the honorable member’s contention. They show that the proposed debate would have concerned not a criticism of a public department but solely the operations of that department that had contact with Goldberg who was associated with recent court proceedings. In no circumstance could its terms be widened to embrace an inquiry into the administration of the Division of Import Procurement in any of its ramifications except those in which Goldberg is implicated. The ruling of Mr. Speaker cannot be construed as an attempt by the Government to limit the opportunities of honorable members to inquire into the activities of a department.
Some earlier rulings have been cited and the debate has centred on whether they are on all fours with the ruling to which an objection has been moved. I support the ruling because it appears to me that precedent and practice support it. In addition to those already cited, a ruling was given in this Parliament in 1914 by Mr. Speaker MacDonald when Sir William Irvine endeavoured to anticipate arbitration proceedings in the Arbitration Court. Mr. Speaker MacDonald ruled that it was not proper to anticipate proceedings pending. That I think is the crux of the matter before us. I propose to develop that theme later. The honorable member for Indi claimed that the Attorney-General had not established similarity between Mr. Speaker’s ruling on this matter and the ruling given in the House of Commons that because the allotted time in which certain electoral proceedings could be taken had not expired debate on a matter that could be affected by those proceedings would be out of order. The provision under which those proceedings could have been taken was inserted to provide for contingencies. It might lie unused for years. In the case with which the proposed motion of the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) was concerned a stay of proceedings was granted. Therefore it is much more likely to result in legal proceedings than is the provision in the British electoral legislation.
Two simple issues have to be faced by honorable members in deciding how to vote on this motion. Would a debate in this chamber, in any circumstances, prejudice Goldberg? It is fairly obvious that, in the course of debate on a variety of issues, even those honorable members who attempt to confine themselves to fair comment frequently go beyond what might be termed a reasonable criticism of persons either inside or outside of the Parliament. It is easy to see that, accidentally or otherwise, some honorable member might prejudice a fair trial in this case, should an appeal be lodged by Goldberg. There is a possibility that an honorable member from either side of the House might depart from a fair standard of criticism in seeking to further some party advantage. In fact, such a departure might be made deliberately. We should not take any action at this stage which would interfere with the course of justice. There should be no issue on this matter between the Opposition and the Government. Honorable members opposite claim that they seek to sustain the highest standards of administration and conduct of government departments, but that issue does not arise in this instance. Of course, there would be a very real cleavage between the Government and the Opposition if honorable members opposite claimed that this matter ought to be debated in order to serve party interests irrespective of the rights of persons involved in the case. Even if there were no precedents for Mr. Speaker’s ruling, and even if no appeal is ultimately lodged we should not at this stage take any action which might affect in any way the interests of the parties to the case.
Having dealt with that aspect of the motion, I now refer to the second aspect, which I consider to be of equal impor- tance. It is the question whether, if the motion be rejected now, discussion of the matter will be irrevocably stifled for all time. If the motion be defeated now. will we be able, on a future occasion, to examine the activities of the Division of Import Procurement and of Goldberg or anybody else associated with the case? Before dealing with this question in detail, I refer to the fact that, during the court proceedings up to the stage at which a conviction was recorded, the barrister who appeared for Goldberg was able to say that the trend of the case bad been conditioned by certain statements made in this House which had been, as he said, of a purely party political nature. Those statements were not made during a full-dress debate. The court proceedings may have been affected in some degree by discussions of a. limited character which took place in this House as claimed by the solicitor. The decision of the court was made about a week ago. A stay of proceedings was granted for a period of 21 days. Within that time the person who has been convicted may exercise the right of appeal. Therefore, if he does not appeal, the subject which honorable members opposite wish to debate may be raised freely after the expiration of fourteen days from to-day. The rights of this House will be well protected. By upholding Mr. Speaker’s ruling, we on this side of the chamber are taking a stand which every honorable member must have taken on some occasion. We are preventing the forms of this House and the absolute privilege which attaches to proceedings of the Parliament from being exploited deliberately, or used accidentally, to damage the interests of a citizen or prejudice the course of justice. I consider, therefore, that the ruling of Mr. Speaker ought to be upheld on all counts. I am astonished that the Leader of the Opposition should have moved an objection to the ruling. Whatever happens, the rights of this House will be fully protected and the matter will be open for full discussion within a reasonable time.
Motion (by Mr. Dedman) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mb. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)
Majority ….. . 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That Mr. Speaker’s ruling - that the motion by the honorable member for Wentworth is nut of order - be disagreed with.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . . . 16
Question so resolved in the negative.
Sitting suspended from 5.50 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from the 16th April (vide page 1342), on motion by Dr. Evatt -
That the bill be now read a second time.
,- The history of industrial arbitration, as we know it, goes back to the last century. Mr. Higgins, later Mr. Justice Higgins, as a member of a convention in 1898, moved that, for the peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth, cognizance should be taken of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State. That was a time shortly after the initiation of the Labour party, which had come into existence as the result of the shearers and maritime strike of the early ‘nineties. That provision was later inserted in the Constitution Act, which became the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia. In those early ‘nineties, it was not safe for any man to confess himself a trade unionist. As a matter of fact, to be a trade unionist in those early days was to mark oneself down as taboo, and to run the serious risk of being deprived of one’s livelihood.
– Times have changed since then.
– Certainly, times have since changed. I recall those circumstances to members of the Opposition because, if they have regard to them, they may very -well be not so critical as they are of the members of trade unions. Prior to that period, wages boards had been initiated, first in the State pf Victoria and later in the State of Tasmania. I believe that it was Sir Alexander Peacock who had the honour of introducing wages boards in Victoria, [n my opinion, wages boards provided, at the time of their introduction, a very useful instrument for assessing minimum wages. That does not imply that there has never been an industrial arbitration act in the State of Victoria, although I believe that the State of New South “Wales had the honour of introducing such a measure in 1901. By 1912, all the States had some 3ort of tribunal - wages boards or arbitration courts- for fixing wages. Certainly, Western Australia had an arbitration court, and Victoria had wages boards.
The feature of the bill that we are now considering, the introduction of which was made by the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) - very capably, I consider - deals in particular with, conciliation commissioners. That may very well be said to be its main feature. It is proposed to appoint fifteen conciliation commissioners, but I do not know whether all of them will be appointed immediately the act comes into operation. Already we have a number of conciliation commissioners, and some of them are doing particularly good work. I agree with the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Williams) that the essential qualifications of a conciliation commissioner are character and capacity. . That remark applies equally to judges, but because judges have had a legal training, and are gentlemen by act of Parliament, they are assumed to have the qualifications necessary for their high office. Apparently no academic test will be applied in the selection of conciliation commissioners, hut s”o long as they are men of character and capacity I shall be satisfied. During this debate it has been suggested that untrained men may be appointed as conciliation commissioners. I should regret that, but there is nothing in the bill to say that men with legal training shall not be appointed.
This measure emphasizes the conciliatory aspect of the settlement of differences. The principal act which this bill seeks to amend is known as the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Conciliation comes first. As a Victorian, I speak feelingly when I say that, if the appointment of conciliation commissioners will have the effect of preventing these infernal strikes, such as those which are afflicting Victoria at the present time, this legislation will be well justified. I agree with Mr. Justice Higgins and Mr. Justice Isaacs that right cannot run with might in industry. Both those distinguished gentlemen have said that strikes and lockouts are incompatible with conciliation and arbitration.
In discussing this bill, I am bound to refer to communism because as Communists are making a frontal attack on the Arbitration Court, I assume that they are opposed to the measure. I am opposed to Communists and communism, and the Labour party is of the same opinion. Indeed, it has taken definite action against Communists not only in Victoria but also in the federal sphere. Sooner or later there must be a showdown with the Communists. There is a very common view, which is so strongly held that it does not greatly matter whether it is entirely true or not, that they are nondemocratic. Well, the Labour party of which I am a member is very democratic. There is, moreover, the fact that Communists are considered by many people to be irreligious, and I say withoutfear of successful contradiction that no one can wage a political war against Christianity. It is bad politics to wage war against Christianity. I am discussing the matter from the political point of view. I would not presume to speak of it from the ecclesiastical or theological point of vie-»T.
– I think the honorable member is getting somewhat away from the bill.
– I shall endeavour to remain as close to it as I can. I remember that in 1929 the Labour party fought an election for the preservation of conciliation and arbitration. It was completely successful, and the Labour party came into office, at least, if not into power - ‘because we had the Senate arrayed against us. Therefore, I think that we can claim to have done more than our friends opposite to. vindicate conciliation
It is true that, under the new scheme, the Arbitration Court will remain. 1 am glad of it, but I ‘ think that the conciliation commissioners ure the first choice, Some questions will arise in committee, no doubt, but I will support the bill. It was said by the -Minister who introduced this measure that legalisms have to be avoided. I do not know whether he used that word. I was sorry to hear the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) say that Air. Justice Higgins had done more than anyone else to create the Serbonian bog of technicalities associated with arbitration. Legalism is one of the things of which Mr. Justice Higgins complained. I say that they are largely the work of lay advocates. It has been said that lay advocates are long-winded, but we do not know how many of them will become conciliation commissioners. I hope, at all events, that their, characters and their capacity will be examined very closely, and I certainly hope that there will not be any Communists among them. The law’s delays of which some Ministers have complained, are, in my opinion, non-existent. I do not believe that there is inordinate delay, either in bringing cases before the court, or in having them heard. Sometimes we hear it said that conciliation commissioners have the special Godgiven gift of being able to speak in plain English. It is’ very difficult to speak in plain English. I have not found many people who possess the supreme gift of being able to crystallize their meaning in a few words, and certainly lawyers will not be excluded from appointment.
The Attorney-General gave a most interesting speech when introducing the measure. He covered the ground fully from an historical point of view. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) also made an excellent contribution to the debate; but he appeared to assume that the Leader of the Opposition was citing general cases of the appointment of conciliation commissioners and was defending the theory that many might be men of inferior capacity. I can only hope that the conciliation commissioners appointed under this measure will prove to be successful. As I have already pointed out, the present conciliation commissioners have proved successes. I have expressed the hope that none of these appointees will be Communists. If they are, I shall denounce them. . I am confident that the choices made by the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General will be more than justified. I emphasize that the appointees must be trained men, and have at least some experience in the sphere of industrial conciliation and arbitration. Otherwise they must, inevitably, prove failures. However, the Ministry can be depended upon to make wise choices; and, in that case, I see no reason why the appointees should not prove successful in their duties. I think that much nonsense has been uttered against them. I shall support the bill in that pious hope. I have had some experience of conciliation and arbitration. My mind goes back to the time when the Constitution was adopted. Indeed, that was the first issue upon which T exercised a vote. I supported the adoption of the Constitution, but, after my long experience as a member of this Parliament I doubt whether I should vote now for the retention of the Constitution in its present form. ‘ I hope that this legislation will prove successful, but I am not rapturous about it.
.- The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), in his concluding remarks, correctly described the measure. He damned it with faint praise. He said that he supported the bill in the pious hope that it would achieve its objective, but added that he could not go into raptures about its chances of success. Probably that is the most that any honorable member opposite could say about the measure even in his most enthusiastic moment, but honorable members on this side of the House cannot support it even to that degree. The honorable member for Batman -also said, “ If we can get rid of these infernal strikes by the simple means of appointing conciliation commissioners we shall have- done well Does any one believe for a single moment that that is likely, that strikes which are dis- locating industry and holding the Government up to contempt can be solved by the simple process of appointing conciliation commissioners? The objective of the strikes we have experienced in recent years is not to improve industrial conditions, or to uplift the worker ; these strikes are expressly fomented in order to enable the Communist organization to gain control of this country. ‘ There can be no cure for that disease in such a simple method as has been prescribed by the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) in the bill now before us. When I consider the glowing terms in which this bill was introduced by the Attorney-General, I am reminded of the right honorable gentleman’s return from world conferences, how he came back to this chamber and told us of his heroicefforts at San Francisco, Paris and other places in endeavouring to devise a world charter, and of the principles which were written into it. Apparently the only, thing lacking in the charter was teeth. This bill has not even got gums. The reason why the United Nations organization has proved unworkable is because it has no armed force to support its decisions. Likewise, the bill now before us, which is supposed to bring about industrial peace in this country, contains no 1 provisions for enforcing the decisions of the court or of the conciliation commissioners, other than a few simple spineless provisions, one of which enables a fine of £100 to be imposed upon an organization, another a fine of £10 upon an individual member of an organization and one or two which cover the deregistration of an organization and the like. The hill contains nothing of consequence, nothing to which anybody who wishes to defy the law will give one moment’s heed.
– Would the honorable member introduce the bullet and the bayonet ?
– No, but all laws should include sanctions to ensure their enforcement in the interests of the majority of the people of this country. It is necessary to devise methods by which the. Government can sustain the authority vested in it by the people at the elections. .The Minister for Labour and National’ Service asks whether I would use armed force. Was it necessary for’ the Government of the United1 States of America to use armed force to end the coal strike and to discipline John L. Lewis, the leader- of the strikers, a few months ago? That strike petered out very quickly because the government imposed a fine of 3,500,000’ dollars upon the organization and a fine of 10,000 dollars upon Mr. Lewis himself. Within five or six days of the imposition of those fines, Lewis, who had called out the workers for a long strike was glad to capitulate. That is one method by which illegal strikes may be prevented. This Government, however, is not courageous enough to prescribe penalties of that kind.
According to statements- published from time to time the Federated Iron Workers Union, led by Mr. Thornton, was in a very healthy financial position until recently when most of its funds were dissipated in meeting strike payments during long strikes designed solely to hold up industry. Who is to exercise authority in this country? This bill is allegedly designed to bring about industrial re-organization, to get the wheels of industry moving. When the Coal Industry Bill was before us some time ago, we were told by the AttorneyGeneral and the Minister for Labour and National Service that if the measure were enacted coal production would be rapidly stimulated. Have we obtained one additional ton of coal as the result of that legislation? If so, it is not manifested at Bunnerong, Adelaide and Melbourne, where additional supplies of coal are so essential to keep industry in operation. Have we achieved peace on the waterfront as the result of the establishment of the Stevedoring Industry Commission and the appointment of industrial commissions to operate Under that body? Recently, on the waterfront, we have had one of the longest and most dastardly strikes in our history, at a time when we and the Mother Country could least afford to have ships held up in our ports. The
Government places a great deal of faith in the proposed appointment of fifteen conciliation commissioners. Each of these gentlemen is to receive a salary of £1,500 a yea]- and have security of tenure of office until he reaches the age of 65 years. It is proposed that the commissioners -shall not be removed from office except for some act of misconduct, and dien only by order of the GovernorGeneral and a vote of both Houses of Parliament. It is important then that they should be very carefully selected.
– They are to be commissars.
– I cannot imagine that commissars under the Soviet system would be given wider powers to deal with specific industries than is proposed to be rested in the conciliation commissioners whose decisions will extend throughout the ramifications of all industries. The only restraints to be placed on their power are that they may not fix standard hours - of work, the basic wage, or the principles upon which it is computed, periods of annual leave and the remuneration of adult women. Apart- from those limitations they are to be clothed with extraordinarily wide powers which they may exercise without challenge or appeal. No provision has been made by which their decisions may.be tested in a superior court; they must be accepted by the parties involved whether or not those concerned regard them to be just. As has been pointed out by other honorable members^ the character, qualifications and quality of these fifteen conciliation commissioners therefore become a matter of the gravest import. A great deal of suspicion might be dispelled if it were felt that these men would be persons of integrity, experience and high qualifications. How are they to be selected? In the past those occupying judicial or semijudicial positions have usually been men of known impartiality, selected from the legal profession. It has always been, recognized that training in the legal profession, in the practice of the courts and in the administration of justice, is of great advantage in an applicant for posts such as this. Years of forensic experience and an intimate knowledge of the character of the law render members of the legal profession eminently suitable for such appointments. If we could feelthat the appointees would be men of character, a great many of the misgivings of those who have studied this bill would unquestionably be allayed, but everything depends on the character of the men who are to carry the job through.
– Every one agrees with that.
– The appointment of one Communist amongst the fifteen conciliation commissioners will undermine the work of the remaining fourteen for this .reason. Each of the fifteen will be given over-riding authority in the particular industry to which ne is assigned. There will be no appeal from his decisions. He will be able to award almost any marginal rates he likes in the industry to which - he is assigned. The only prohibition upon him is that he shall not award lower than the basic wage; but he may go as far above it as he likes, whether the industry can afford it or not. If one of those fifteen is a Communist or has Communist ideas and is irresponsible as to what, he ought to award, every one of the others will be met with competing claims.
– The Labour movement would never venture to appoint a Communist.
– It is freely rumoured that the names of one or two well-known Communists are on the list. Time will tell. It is hard at this juncture to say,- so we can withhold criticism until we know. The danger is that any one of the fifteen will be able to undo the work of the other fourteen.
Many things have to be considered in connexion with this bill. No adequate penalties are provided to ensure the carrying out of an award. The bill contains nothing that will enable the Thorntons, the potential Thorntons, the Healys, and others with nothing but contempt for the law to be dealt with. It is necessary to include some provision such as has been exercised by the President of the United States of America. The bill, of course, debars any legally trained person, any solicitor or barrister, from assisting any of the parties in presenting their cases before the conciliation court. I cannot understand why. It is said that legal men take, up , -time,, but if one wants to have a case presented, even in a lower court before a magistrate, or to clear up a taxation matter, or to deal with’ a writ of ejectment, or anything like that, one customarily employs a lawyer, usually a solicitor, but this bill prohibits such a person from appearing in a conciliation court. No paid advocate may be employed. Many small concerns do not have permanent Hired secretaries or the like to present their cases, and they will be debarred from a fair presentation of that which they wish to put before the conciliation commissioner.
– That is the system in the “Western Australia Arbitration Court, and there is more industrial peace in Western Australia than over here.
– Industrial peace rests not so much upon the system as upon those with whom it is dealing. In New South Wales and, now, Victoria, we are dealing with men who flout the law, men of a type of which Western Australia fortunately has no surplus.
– I was referring to the exclusion of lawyers from the court.
– I hope that Western Australia will enjoy in the next three years even more industrial peace than it has had in the last three years. It is peculiar that it should rest with the Labour Government to restrict the powers of the Arbitration Court. The Arbitration Court, as at present constituted, will be limited to dealing with the basic wage, the 40-hour week, annual leave and employment of women in industry. It is strange that a Labour government should impose those restrictions, because, if my memory serves me correctly, some years ago, when it was suggested in Queensland that certain activities of the Arbitration Court should be restricted, the cry went up from the Labour party there that it was ring-barking the court. This is ringbarking the court.
– All this is the court.
– Yes, but it is a new department of the court. Conciliation commissioners, untrained men, are to have practically all the duties previously carried out by trained legal men. With few exceptions, conciliation commissioners are not trained in the law. Some legally trained men have been appointed. Mr. Commissioner Mooney has been mentioned as one of them, but has his appointment brought about a settlement of disputes in which he has adjudicated?
– Many of them.
– Has he been able to settle the dispute in Victoria? I am glad that the honorable member for Bass says “ many of them “.
– The great majority.-
– You cannot conciliate unless both parties have the will to cause a settlement. When you are dealing with the Communist party, whose objective is not settlement but to keep the dispute alive, 50 conciliation commissioners, regardless of what concessions are granted, will not bring about the peace in industry that the Government is striving for.
– How is a judge better placed than a conciliation commissioner when there is no will to reach a settlement?
– The honorable member has apparently not been paying attention to my remarks. This bill has. no teeth. The Arbitration Court as it stands has not sufficient teeth. The Government has not the determination to ^ enforce the law even if the penalties subscribed were sufficient to ensure respect for it.
– The honorable member said that many conciliation commissioners had failed to settle disputes, but how many judges have equally failed ?
– We are dealing with men who will not be placated. The Attorney-General’s speeches remind me sorrily of the policy of conciliating Hitler. In 1938 and early 1939, it was the popular thing to say that he had only to be conceded to and treated reasonably and all would be well with the world, but nothing that he was given appeased him. Likewise nothing that the Government can give to the Thorntons, the Healys and the rest will bring about industrial peace except the ‘ exercise of the power and authority of the Government. Indeed, the only way that we can make them understand is by the use of force*
– Force ! I thought so.
– Yes- force in the implementation of the law and in the infliction of adequate penalties on those who promote these illegal strikes. The time is coming when we shall ha»-e to decide who are the rulers of Australia. T have never seen a more humiliating spectacle than I witnessed in this House last night after the broadcast of proceedings had been discontinued. The Prime Minister and the Attorney-General sat on the opposite side of the House and listened to the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) and the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), representing Victorian metropolitan constituencies, and other honorable members” from Victoria, ask the Government to take action to settle the present industrial dispute in that State. Those honorable members suggested methods whereby the Government could effect a settlement. But the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General, who represent constituted authority, walked out of the chamber without uttering one word in reply. Why did they do so? Because they had no answer to make! The people of Australia want to know who. is in authority. For example, who decided the foreign policy of Australia in relation to Indonesia? Was it the Minister for External Affairs?
-Order ! The honorable member is roving all over the world. He must address himself to the bill.
– I am dealing with the bill.
– The Chair thinks otherwise.
– I accept your ruling, Mr. Speaker, except-
– We do not want to hear a dissertation on foreign affairs when we are considering a measure dealing with industrial conciliation and arbitration.
– I am endeavouring to show that as a result of the industrial disorder in Australia, which this bill is supposed to cure, our foreign policy and our domestic policy have been influenced. Despite every pretence of the Government to the contrary, it is obvious that the real authority of government has’ been taken out of the hands of the Chifley Ministry. Because of industrial disorder to-day, people in Melbourne, and in fact throughout Victoria, do not know from day to day whether their homes will be plunged into darkness, whether they will be able to transport foodstuffs and stock to the markets, or whether they will be able to ride to work Or will have to walk. These issues are decided by those whom this bill is intended to control.
The) bill will even determine whether or not preference in employment shall be granted to ex-servicemen. I mention that in case you, Mr. Speaker, may think that I am straying too far afield in referring to the subject of preference in employment.
– Order ! The honorable member will be straying too far if he talks about that subject.
– The subject is dealt with in the bill. I direct attention to clause S, which provides for the insertion in the principal act of a new section 43p in the following terms : -
The organizations specified in any such order or award, of course, will be exclusively industrial organizations. This means that the Re-establishment and Employment Act will be overridden. The bill contains no provision for the granting of preference to ex-servicemen. This is in conformity with the Government’s policy. For example, nothing was done, in relation to the recent application for 4,500 additional workers on the Sydney wharfs, to enforce preference to exservicemen as it is provided for in the legislation which was enacted only a few months ago. The question of deciding how the Arbitration Court shall function comes within the terms of the bill. Who will decide how the court shall function? Fifteen commissioners ! These men will not necessarily have legal training. If they were required under the bill to have legal training, there would be uniformity of methods of dealing with industrial disputes, just as there would be uniformity of practice in any group of experienced professional men. But the conciliation commissioners will doubtless be drawn from many different walks of life, and they will ‘ be able to conduct their courts as they think fit. The bill expressly provides that they shall collect evidence as they like and disregard evidence as they like, that they may be completely informal if they wish, and that they may conduct their affairs in private. Each conciliation commissioner will conduct his court according to his own ideas. There will be no uniformity of practice. That is a weakness in the bill.
– If that were so, it would be a weakness.
– I shall be very happy if the Minister, in his reply, can state that it- is not so. However, I have examined the bill very carefully, with other honorable members who have a knowledge of industrial, matters, and I cannot find in it any provision for overall direction of the work .of the commissioners by the Arbitration Court. The proposed new section 43c states the nature of the proceedings. It is as follows : -
In determining an industrial dispute under this Act, a Conciliation Commissioner shall provide, so far as possible, and so far as the Conciliation Commissioner thinks proper, for uniformity throughout ‘ an industry carried on by employers in relation to hours of work, holidays and general conditions in that industry.
This provides that an individual commissioner will be required to try to bring about uniformity in the industry with which he is dealing. I can find nothing in the bill to provide for uniformity of procedure by the fifteen commissioners themselves.’ If there is such a provision, I hope that the Minister will point it out to me.
– The honorable member has already said that the Arbitration Court will fix standard hours of work.
– The judges of the Arbitration Court will be confined to the determination of five things which are set out in the bill.
– Fundamental things !
– Yes. Five fundamental things, and perhaps some other less important matters. According to the bill, the fifteen commissioners will be complete authorities in themselves. Proposed new section 42 states - [a) the procedure of the Court or Conciliation Commissioner shall, subject to this Ac.t and the regulations, be within the discretion of the Court or Commissioner.
In other words each commissioner will be an authority unto himself. The. proposed new section further states -
That appears to be a very happy thought by the Government, in view of the fact that it will probably appoint men who have no experience of the rules of evidence. Therefore, the Government will absolve them from having to be . bound by the formal laws of evidence. Paragraph c of proposed new section 42 reads -
The Court or Conciliation Commissioner shall act according to equity, good conscience and the substantial merits of the case, without regard to technicalities and legal forms.
Those provisions would be very satisfactory, if the conciliation commissioners were men whose impartiality could be relied upon.
– The honorable member’s case falls to the ground if the right men are not appointed conciliation commissioners.
Batman (Mr. Brennan) and the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Williams) expressed, namely, that the essential requirement in connexion with these appointments is that the commissioners shall be men of good character and integrity.
Within certain limits, the conciliation commissioners will be empowered to do as they please in making awards for industries into which they are inquiring, and no appeal will be allowed from their determinations. This Parliament itself will not be able to deal with a conciliation commissioner. He cannot be removed from office unless he commits a serious offence, not necessarily associated with his determinations or. administration. He has as exclusive an authority as any commissar under another type of regime. Most of the objections to this bill may best .be discussed in committee, and if the Government sincerely desires to give to Australia workable arbitration laws, it should not follow the practice that it has adopted on certain other bills, and disregard every amendment which the Opposition submits. After all, many interests are represented in, our industrial life, and honorable members on this side of the chamber are anxious that the arbitration system shall succeed. If it breaks down, anarchy will replace it. Therefore, every honorable member who has the interest of Australia -at heart will endeavour to make the arbitration system function efficiently.
– That is the only sound statement -which the honorable member has made.
– It will be refreshing when the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) makes a sound statement.
– When the Minister understands other sound statements, it will also be refreshing.
– I hope that my unsound friend, the Minister for Repatriation, will regard this statement as sound : Amendments, which the Opposition submits should be considered on their merits, and not in the light of a decision obtained by a’ party vote outside this chamber.’
– Any proposed amendments will be considered on their merits.
– I ‘happened to be addressing my remarks to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway), because I realize that the Minister for Repatriation has not much authority to make a reply.
– That is what the honorable member thinks.
– The Australian Country party considers that some provision should be made for holding a compulsory secret ballot when strikes are imminent. We believe, and this opinion , is widely held, that a large number of industrial disturbances which occur in. Australia are not brought about by themajority of the workers in the industry concerned. The employees are forced by a militant minority to go on strike, whether they desire to or not. Most of the big strikes which have occurred in Australia during the last two years have not been the result of disputes between employers and employees. The biggest of them have been against the Government itself. Members of the Waterside Workers Federation went on strike, not against the shipowners, but against the Stevedoring Industry Commission, which is an agent of the Commonwealth Government. The strike at the Bunnerong power house was not against a private employer but against the Sydney County Council. The big strike in Victoria today, and the proposed stoppage at Yallourn, are strikes not against private enterprise but against a Labour government. Indeed, the -majority .of strikes at the present time are against a government which is- supposed to represent the . workers. Obviously, the cause of these industrial disputes is too .deep for conciliation. If conciliation could cure them, the Government concerned could end the stoppages by bargaining with the unions representing1 the employees in government-owned utilities. That doe3 not. require the intervention of conciliation commissioners. The Minister for Labour and National Service has authority to deal with these matters. However, the cause of these stoppages is deeper than that. Wc are confronted with a challenge, to which the honorable member for Batman in his concluding remarks referred. That, challenge must be faced sooner or later, -and the opinion of the majority of the people is that the sooner it is faced the better it will be for Australia.
.- I support the bill, because I believe that it is a contribution towards making a better arbitration system, and towards bringing things more in consonance with the times. The speeches of members of the Opposition have not caused me to change my view. Listening to the debate yesterday and to-day, I endeavoured to find any valid arguments which the Opposition could bring against the bill which, perhaps, would condition my views on it in one way or another, because this is a serious matter and a subject to be fully debated, as I hope it will be. The dreariness of the speeches of honorable members opposite has merely strengthened my former beliefs. The “ gospel according to St. Anthony “ is the gospel we have heard so often in this House, namely, that all the strikes and all the disunity that may or may not be observable in Australia can be laid at the door of the workers. That is a gospel of despair. The honorable member regretted that if the unions were treated as the unions, of the United States of America were treated, they would not be able to pay the heavy fines that would be inflicted upon them. He licked has lips at the thought of the sums of money which could be seized from the workers in that way, and he spoke very glibly about arbitration and conciliation. Obviously, he did not know the meaning of those two words as they apply in Australia. That ignorance is not astonishing, because an historical analysis of the political beliefs of the Opposition reveals that honorable members opposite have never believed in arbitration and conciliation. When the federal conventions were discussing the subject of arbitration, the first recorded complaint that we have from members of the Liberal party - and their views have not changed with the years - was “ this is an interference with private enterprise “. Although, in the interval, members of the Liberal party may have streamlined their conversation, they still hold the same opinion. Consequently, they adopt a very partial view of arbitration.
The lights having failed temporarily, sitting suspended from 9.20 to 945 p.m.
– When the slight interruption occurred, I was endeavouring to throw some light into’ very dark places. Apparently, .1 did not know my own strength. I was referring at the time to the inept endeavours of the Opposition to consider constructively the bill before the House. During a very long speech by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), I made this note on my pad -
Balaclava: I wonder why so little should take so long to be told to so few.
During the course of the honorable member’s speech, I was reminded of a decontamination area - the speaker was on his own, and all his friends had fled. 1 admired the doggedness and ruggedness of the members of the Australian’ Country party, because they remained in their seats, although not by any means “ in serried row “. Always it is the duty of all the members who sit on this side of the House to suffer fools, if not gladly, at least in silence.
This, to me, is a simple proposition. 1 view the measure as one that is intended to improve the1 arbitration system of this country. Many a time and oft have we heard the phrase that this country is existing, or that an attempt is being made to carry on the government of it, under a “horse and buggy” Constitution. 1 believe that the arbitration “ coach “ is in the same stable; that there are cobwebs on its wheels, and that it is a relic. of the old days. As the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) reminded us, arbitration legislation first saw the light of day in 1904. It has been amended on fifteen different, occasions. On this occasion, the attempt is being made to streamline it, in order to meet, the increased industrial needs of this country and the wider concepts of conciliation and arbitration in the truest sense. Honorable members opposite arc not interested in that. We have attempted to re-educate, in some degree, the honorable member for Balaclava. In the early days, he would have talked of “ shooting them down “, but last night he merely urged that Cranwell, Brown and a few other persons should be heavily fined. We may find that we can bring him even a little closer to reality in the course” of the years that lie ahead; but it will be slow and tortuous job, as will be the reform of the arbitration system, because of the brakes that have been put on it by the parties that sit opposite.
The present bill is an attempt to extend into the Arbitration Court system some semblance of what is happening outside. lt represents an effort to break down long-winded delays, and to reach the seat of potential industrial trouble before it occurs. On that point, the Opposition is at variance with the measure. Honorable members opposite do not want industrial disturbances to be overcome quickly; they prefer long and tortuous negotiations designed to that end.
– The Government does not seem to be doing much to overcome them.
– This bill is a clear indication of what the Government is attempting to do. It is a sincere effort, which has great merit. The Arbitration Court will have attached to it fifteen conciliation commissioners. The complaint of the Opposition is, “ Where are we to get fifteen Australians to do the job which Australia .desires shall be done?” [ suppose that honorable members opposite would prefer to import them, as Governors-General were -imported in the past. They have no faith in their own country, and cannot conceive of the existence of fifteen men in Australia, outside the Liberal party, who can fill the position of conciliation commissioner. I admit that it may be difficult to secure these men. But look at the goal at which we are aiming. When these commissioners have been found, - they will act in such a way that the arbitration system of this country will be distinguished by greater acceleration than it now exhibits. These men will be asked only to have some awareness of the conditions which exist to-day in certain industries. They are to be vested with very great powers. But the court will have still greater powers. The major task in relation to the law will still be discharged by the court; but what the Americans would call “ trouble shooters “ are to be appointed to get to the seat of an industrial conflagration before it assumes the dimensions of a bush fire. There may, of course, be difficulties in the way of gathering the personnel together. Merely to brush aside the proposition, without even attempting to examine it, would be absurd indeed. The AttorneyGeneral has pointed out that we are building on our own experience in this matter. The arbitration system has worked reasonably well in the past, but it has been by no means perfect. While it has been working, defects have been revealed. The opportunity will now be afforded to locate the defects, and to discover some formula for their cure. The principle of having conciliation commissioners has been evolved, and it promises to prove reasonably modern. There is another aspect. The unions, because of their constant approaches to the court, have expended large sums ; therefore, the greatly accelerated activities of the conciliation commissioners will be all to the good. The commissioners will be empowered to call the parties together quickly, to break down long-winded delays in bringing forward hearings, and to move in- among the difficulties that occur in an industry and thus reach the trouble before it becomes too widespread and out of control.
I was particularly impressed by the speech of the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Williams) from this side of the House. He combines with hislegal knowledge a very fine human understanding of the problems of conciliationand arbitration. I looked for a report of his speech in the newspapers this morning, but could not find one. I have come to the conclusion that a “ free “ press actually means one that is free from any report of a speech by a supporter of the Government. The contribution to the debate by the honorable member for Robertson was a valuable one. I am pleased to know that it was well broadcast, but am sorry that it was not also reported fully in the press. The fulminations of members of the Opposition .receive much more publicity than they merit on the basis of honest value. Our experience has been that reasonable speeches on this all-important subject by honorable members on this side of the House are not fully reported.
I want to make one more observation before I sit down. It is, that “the arbitration system of- Australia is in need of overhaul. There is no doubt that the Attorney-General has been applying his legal mind to the task of finding a formula, probing and analysing in this direction and that. The formula which he has presented to this House is a reasonable and sensible one, because the aim of it is to provide something that will destroy the time-wasting inefficiency of pure legalism. The right honorable gentleman said in his second-reading speech that this is a time for informality rather than formality. The fustian of the law courts is to be sacrificed, in order to obtain accelerated decisions in industrial’ disputes. That is a very fine thing; and its reasonableness cannot be gainsaid. I do not think that we need press the issue, because there is no doubt that -the proposition is constructive, farreaching and new. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) complained “that there is to be no right of appeal from, ai decision by a conciliation commissioner. That, in his opinion, justifies the existing system. He apprehends that all sorts of dangers are inherent in the proposition because it is new; but he gave us no logical reason why it should not be tried, and he has not sustained hy any of his statements the fear that he expressed that there is danger in this innovation.
The final point which has been disturbing honorable ‘ members opposite is that of the possible appointment of Communists. I believe that that matter can safely be left to the Government. The position will be carefully watched. If honorable members opposite are sincere in fearing that disruption may be caused by the Communist element, they should be honest enough to believe that the Government also is sincere in that regard.
– We have already had experience in that respect.
– I doubt that, when I look at the honorable member and read the speeches he makes in this House. This is a, simple bill which by the appointment of conciliation commissioners will extend the activities of the Arbitration Court right into the heart of industry, and alleviate the suffering arising out of a long war. The Arbitration
Court has stood aloof from human needs but this legislation .by instituting a system of conciliation commissioners will remedy that defect. It will add red blood to the life of Australian industry. Once again conciliation is to come into its own in the settlement of industrial troubles. Conciliation is to be our first defence in depth against industrial disruption. The bill before us is a forward move and its enactment will give vigour and vitality . to the Arbitration Court. If properly administered this simple bill, which is great in its ideals, will accomplish much.
.- 1 shall not speak long on this bill because my background has not qualified me to be an authority on industrial matters and disputes. However, as I represent a metropolitan electorate of 80,000 voters, the majority of whom are workers and many of them trade unionists, I realize its importance, because those whom I represent have been seriously inconvenienced by the industrial unrest which has been so evident of late and forms the background to this bill. I am concerned as to how this legislation will benefit the great mass of the people. As I study it, I see little cause for optimism,’ because far from providing a solution of the problems with, which it is supposed to deal, it is a partisan attempt to deal with a matter of major importance. This measure is not an attempt to solve the problems of industry; it merely sets out to placate a militant minority which is making great demands on the community. It has been designed by trade unionists, and is supported by the most militant trade unions and is acceptable, to the Communists. In drafting this measure the interests of the people generally have been absolutely ignored. The first requirement of legislation designed to control industry is that it shall protect those engaged in industry. The Government should remember that every worker should have the right to work. It should not be possible for > any trades hall fuhrer to throw men out of work whenever he chooses to do so, thereby causing hardship to them and their families and the community generally, as is now happening in Melbourne. We had a right to expect that this bill would. recognize that principle and would contain provisions to protect men from the” brow-beating tactics of militant union leaders. It is the duty of all persons engaged in industry, both employers and employees, to provide, at reasonable prices, the goods and services required by the community. That duty has been lost sight of by many workers and employers, particularly by union organizers. Those who require goods and services have n right to expect that the Government will guarantee continuity of production of every day requirements. As there is a ‘shortage of labour in almost every industry, no person in Australia need accept employment which is distasteful to him. If, however, men choose to accept employment in such public utilities us tramways, railways, and other transport services, they should provide the services which they undertake to perform and for which they are paid.
The merits of this bill can be judged by certain standards; will it guarantee continuity of work and a continuous supply of essential goods and services? Let us consider for a moment the state of affairs in Melbourne since the last federal elections. There was, first, a shortage of gas, and then a complete lack of gas. There was also limited electric power, .and later there were no trams or trains. The trouble then spread to the waterfront. The things that happened were in accordance with Communist technique; they were deliberately designed to cause disruption. Some of the disputes were temporarily settled, and those who had been most - affected by them again settled down to their normal way of life. Persons engaged in legitimate businesses recommenced their operations, but recently trouble occurred again, and the people were without trains and gas. Yesterday, the people of Victoria were threatened by Mr. Scott, of the Enginedrivers and Firemen’s Union, that if they did not capitulate to the demands of a militant union the State would be plunged into darkness. Already industry in Victoria has been paralysed, and now there is the arrogant command, “ Give us what we want, or industry will be completely disorganized “.
I am not greatly interested in the technical aspects of the bill,, but I do want to know whether it will guarantee continuity of services to the people, including the provision of transport for men wishing to engage in their everyday occupations ; whether it will provide a guarantee that hospitals shall not be closed, as happened in Melbourne last year; and how long the women of Australia will be worse off than the women of Germany through having no means of transport and being forced to pay exorbitant prices for essential goods. Any measure which sets out to control industrial affairs should have regard to the needs of the people generally. In my opinion, the bill before us will prove a dismal failure because it does not recognize the root causes of industrial unrest. Present-day disputes are seldom the outcome of strife between employers and employees, because both parties realize that their interests are identical. The industrial unrest of to-day is simply .a contest between the man who wants to work and the radical uncompromising trade union official whose actions have been ‘ .supported by the Government.
I should like to examine one aspect of the bill more closely. ‘On the face of it, this bill certainly ‘seems to be an innocuous document, merely substituting commissioners for certain functions of the Arbitration Court. This impression of an innocuous bill was fostered by the Minister who introduced it with his vague and pious references te its nature. He said that it represented an attempt to “ streamline “ arbitration, an expression taken up by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen). What is meant by that expression? I went to the trouble of looking it up, and I found that to “streamline “ means to elongate, to draw out, to prolong an object with the aim of lessening its resistance to wind! If that was what the Minister meant why did he not tell us in words of one syllable? We have been told that the Government’s proposal represents an attempt to break down the difficulties inherent in the present system of arbitration; that it is proposed to encourage the parties to a dispute to gather round a table and talk the matter cut. How absurd, and how very far from the true significance of the bill!
Who will the commissioners be who are to be appointed’ under this scheme? There seems to be some difference of opinion on the point. We were told by the Minister - not the “streamliner”, but the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) - what qualifications would be sought in the appointees. The contribution of this Minister, by the way, to national service has been to paralyze industry to a degree never before experienced. He was very eloquent when speaking of the qualities that would be required’ in conciliation commissioners. They were, he said, to be upright, virtuous, fair-minded, experienced, and so on. He was most indignant that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) should have suggested that they might be partisan in their outlook, and not so fair-minded as had been suggested. Later on, however, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), who speaks without guile, told us exactly the kind of men> that would be appointed. He said, “ Certainly, they will be partisan; certainly they will be acceptable to the militant trade unions “. He’ gave us clearly to understand that they would be chosen from the ranks of militant trade unionists. What chance of success is there if the men appointed are drawn from one side only, and are hopelessly partisan? Like other innocent-looking measures that have been recently before the House, this bill is deliberately socialist in its purpose. Anything can be read into the powers to be conferred on the commissioners. The bill aims to place full control of industry in the hands of these fifteen men, who might well be called commissars, and they will be able to legislate directly as to the conditions of employment in industry. They will be able to say who may be employed, and there is nothing to prevent them from saying in what industry a man shall be employed. I believe that an attempt is being made to get into this legislation powers that were deliberately domed the Government at the last referendum. If that is not so, let the powers of the commissioners be limited in the hill itself. There is nothing in it to limit them now.
I draw particular attention to the provision which gives conciliation commissioners powers over terms of employment. I am in .favour of preference to unionists in big industries, but we must realize that a great part of the industry of this country is carried on in very small businesses. In country towns and in the suburbs the carpenter’s shop and the blacksmith’s shop are usually family businesses. There is the owner, and working for him there is usually his son or a casual employee who works at peak periods. There is nothing in this bill to prevent a conciliation commissioner from insisting that the owner of such a business shall not employ his own son if his son is not a unionist. There is nothing to prevent a conciliation commissioner from saying to a farmer, “ You may not employ your own sons on your farm. We will send you the men whom you are to employ, and they will be unionists ‘’. If that is not the intention of the Government why are not the powers of the conciliation commissioners clearly stated in the bill?
This Government calls itself a Labour government. Whenever a new measure is introduced in Parliament we have to suffer from spokesmen of the Government a great many pious platitudes about the working man - usually from those whs are not themselves working men, and never were. What is the record of this Government in its relation to the working man? What has it done to improve the lot of the working man or his wife? Since the last general elections the lot of. the working man has gone - down and down, and he has become more and more uncomfortable. The’ workers have been called out on strike again and again by most undemocratic methods. Who suffers most from strikes? Is it. the employer? No. After all, it is not a vital matter to most employers if no work is done for a week or several weeks or even for some months, but it is a very serious matter for the workers. Who is it who suffers most when transport is held up? Some people can go to work in motor ears, but others are unable to go at all when public transport systems are held up. They are the workers who are not paid when they cannot get to work, and these are the people whom Ministers so glibly assure us they are anxious to protect. When gas and coal supplies fail because of industrial stoppages, those who live in big houses are ‘abb to employ alternative, methods of cooking, out the wives of the workers suffer great hardships as a result of the Government’s failure to prevent industrial unrest.
I have previously referred to the state of affairs in Melbourne at the present time, and I dwell on it again, because the position is very serious, indeed. In Melbourne, at the present time, there is present almost every ingredient required for the beginning of a great disaster. We have in Melbourne to-day, and, indeed, in other capital cities, a militant minority, not very strong numerically but quite determined, highly trained and successful, and encouraged by the Government to commit any breach of the law it likes. The avowed aim of that minority is the over-throw of law and order throughout Australia. We have also in this country to-day very feeble governments in this Parliament and, unhappily, in Victoria. Having paralyzed the State of Victoria, and thrown thousands out of work, and having brought the industry of that State to a standstill, the leaders of this militant minority now threaten that they will plunge Melbourne into darkness. The disorders which would follow such action can easily be imagined. It is not surprising that in these circumstances the people of Victoria are worried. Last night, the fact was brought to the attention of the Prime Minister that the Lord Mayor of Melbourne, Councillor Connelly, had uttered grave words of warning. Whether the Government takes note of those words, or not, the fact remains that that warning has been voiced by a. responsible citizen and cannot be taken lightly. Councillor Connelly said that a show-down is imminent so far as industrial .trouble in Melbourne is concerned, and that pressure has been put upon him to. allow public demonstrations against this sort of thing. It was obvious that when this matter was brought to the notice of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) the right honorable gentleman realized the seriousness of the position. He showed some alarm. But, I fail to understand why he should have shown surprise; .because all of us know that force can only lead to force. The Government has a clear choice. Either the law must be obeyed and peace restored, or the Government can continue to permit disobedience of the law.
Such disobedience will worsen present-day conditions; where only one militant faction exists at present, another militant faction .will arise to oppose it. Thus, we have all the conditions for a first-class tragedy which may result even in bloodshed. The Government would have been better advised to introduce a measure calculated to reduce the present unrest rather than to introduce at this most inopportune time a piece of legislation which is purely partisan a-nd socialistic.
– I have listened to some very remarkable speeches in this debate. Some honorable members opposite who have spoken either do not know very much about the subject, or are simply seizing this- opportunity to make capital out of industrial trouble. I was pleased to note that the Leader of the- Opposition (Mr. Menzies) did not indulge in arguments of that kind, but attempted, from his point of view, to discuss seriously the proposals embodied in ‘the measure before the House. Some honorable members opposite have spoken about interference with the Arbitration Court and about what has occurred in the past. It would do them a world of good to go back a little into the history of the working-class movement and of our industrial legislation. They would then understand to some degree, at least, the reason for the existence to-day of what they term industrial turmoil. As a unionist I have had much to do with the working of the arbitration system for many years. Only a few months ago I. stepped down from an active position in an organization whose duty it was to deal with troubles arising out of industrial conditions which led employees to believe that they could not, obtain justice except by going on strike. Personally, I have always been a strong supporter of arbitration. I have not just, talked in Parliament about arbitration, and about getting better results by arbitration than by going on strike. I have endeavoured to persuade industrial organizations to adopt that principle. I. have pointed out to them that the worker and his family are the greatest sufferers as the result of strikes. Do honorable members seriously contend that men who suffer most by strikes would go on strike if other means were available to them to obtain redress of their grievances? By so doing they would simply be killing the goose that lays the golden egg. Yet arguments of that kind are put forward by honorable members opposite. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that the blame for industrial trouble cannot be placed solely upon the employees, but that, very often, the fault lies with employers. Honorable members opposite should seriously ask themselves whether our existing arbitration system is not really in need of improvement. I recall that nineteen years ago when strikes occurred on the waterfront, the policy they now advocate of forcing men to work was put into operation.
On previous occasions I have dealt with the results of the application of such a policy when industrial unrest occurred in 1928 and 1931. At that time attempts were made to force men to work. I was rather amused, and not a little disgusted, with the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) when he declared that our arbitration law had no teeth, and that that was the reason why it could not work. Honorable members opposite should cast their minds back to the time when, as we read in the daily press, the present Leader of the Opposition, when he was Prime Minister, exhibited wonderful bravery in visiting the coal-fields to appeal to the miners to go back to work. All of us remember that occasion. The strike at that time was like the strikes which occur to-day. The men were striking because they believed that, under the existing arbitrationlaw, they could not obtain a fair deal. I agreed at the time that the right honorable gentleman showed hot a little pluck in visiting the coal-fields to address the miners during that strike. But when the miners did not go back to work, did the government of the day, which was supported by honorable members opposite, and which had a majority in both chambers, attempt, as the honorable member for Richmond says, to put the teeth into the arbitration law? No; that Government simply allowed , the trouble to drift. I give credit to the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) for saying at the beginning of his remarks that he did not know very much about the workers; but when he added that what is being done is just an attempt to throw a sop to the extremists or the Communists he shows his ignorance of the need for the amendment of the Arbitration Act. At meetings of industrial workers which I have attended over the years, motions designed to throw overboard the Arbitration Court and to turn back to the old weapon, the strike have frequently been proposed because the workers have lost faith in the arbitration system. They remembered only too well the delays that took place when they submitted their claims to the court. I do not condemn the Arbitration Court judges nor do I belittle them. I agree that most of them have been overworked, but at the same time I realize that many of them have little or no knowledge of industrial conditions. Honorable members opposite have expressed a fear that this Government may appoint conciliation commissioners from among the working class section of the community. They have criticized the honorable member for Hunter because he hassaid frankly that he hopes the conciliation commissioners will be appointed from the ranks of trade unionists. That was the personal opinion of the honorable member for Hunter and not the opinion of the Government. Honorable members opposite must surely remember that when they were in office they appointed to the Arbitration Court men who knew nothing at all of industry and the conditions under which the workers of this country labour. They ask in what way will this measure cure the industrial ills from which we suffer to-day. If the workers in industry are not given some hope that their claims will be heard expeditiously by men who understand conditions of employment in all industrial undertakings industrial unrest will continue in this country.
The honorablemember for Richmond complained that the bill had no teeth in it. I remind the honorable member that if we put a weapon into the hands of one section of the community we may put an equally dangerous weapon into the hands of others. The honorable member does not want conciliation commissioners to be peacemakers, to approach their task breathing goodwill and understanding; he would arm them with a waddy and give them authority to say to the workers, “If you refuse to do what I say you will get this over your head “. In the United States of America recently I heard an address delivered by a very excellent speaker. Advising his audience on the need for action and not words, the speaker said, “ Word’s are all right; it is all right to talk to people; but it is work that really counts “. I agree that it is work we need. In 1928 the waterside workers of South Australia held a mass meeting to consider the ineffectiveness of the Arbitration Act. At that time men employed on the waterfront were working under an award that had been in operation for many years which provided that they should attend the pick-up places from. 8 to 10 a.m., and if they did not get a job they could then go home, but had to come back again at 1 p.m. and stay until 3 p.m. If they did not then secure a job they could go home and come back next morning. They Were not paid attendance money. They regarded these conditions as grossly unfair. Under an arrangement they had . to attend the pick-up place from S a.m. to 10 a.m. and if no work was then offering they were not required to attend again until next morning. They could go home and do a little work, in the garden or odd jobs around their homes. The Arbitration Court, however, decided that the men should report at the pick-up places twice a day. This meant that they had to be in attendance from -8 till 10 a.m., rush home for lunch and be back again by 1 p.m., and remain at call until 3 p.m. Addressing a large audience one Sunday afternoon about this trouble, I said to the assembled people, “You may believe things are going nicely, but I warn you that one of the biggest industrial troubles we have ever experienced is in the offing. On next Tuesday morning the waterside workers will be told that_ they must re-present themselves at the pick-up places at 1 p.m. if they are not -engaged during the morning pick-up. They are not prepared to do so.” The men duly went- on strike, refusing to obey the direction of the court. Had there been in office at that time conciliation commissioners familiar with the conditions of employ ment on the waterfront, men who knew what was acceptable to employers and employees alike, that strike would never have occurred. There was no need for the men to report again for duty at 1 p.m., yet they were required, to do so by a judge of the Arbitration Court, one of the great legal minds about which honorable members opposite have spoken so eulogistically to-day, who knew nothing of the conditions on the waterfront. I could’ cite instance after instance of similar directions given by men unfamiliar with the conditions of certain industries.
One matter that amazed me to-night was the reference to the railway employees’. Railway transport has been held up not by the ordinary railway worker but by certain tradesmen. If there is one section .of the workers that the arbitration system has condemned to the worst possible conditions it is the ordinary railway men throughout Australia. I hit straight from the shoulder because I know their conditions. Whereas during the war workers in many other industries obtained extra margins, the ordinary railway men were forced to put up with the poorest standard that men could be expected to exist on. That is another thing that has led to the present position. I concede’ that some of the extreme elements in the Labour movement have made proposals that have led to cessation of work. I also agree that many men who have ceased work would rather have stayed on the job. The Communists have been able to entice men to act in a manner that may be described as detrimental to the best interests of the country only because through the years the Commonwealth Parliament has never hitherto been prepared to amend the Arbitration Act in such a way as to enable the workers to get a fair deal and have confidence in the arbitration system. For that the Opposition parties must accept most of the blame. I know that when we enact a law for the benefit of the country the people ought to carry it out, but we have ample evidence that it is not only the worker who rebels against a law that he thinks is bad.
One honorable member opposite told us about the inability of another member to buy a house because the owner would not sell at the price fixed by the law of the land. Another said that if he sold a house at the pegged price he would be giving about £500 to the buyer. This is not the time to debate whether the pegging of property values is right or wrong. The only matter at issue is that men with property to sell consider that ‘ the law is not fair and are prepared to evade it even to the extent of going on to the black market. Honorable members opposite do not claim that people with properties to sell should sell on the black market, but they do say that the law causes them to. It is amazing to hear them, in the one breath, condemn a law because it does not allow men with property to receive what they think they are justly entitled to and, in the next, condemn this measure with such phrases as, “You want to put teeth into it”. They should equally say to the would-be seller of property, “If you will not sell at the price allowed by the law we will put teeth into the law and take the property from you “, but they do not say that, although they do not hesitate to say that if the worker is not prepared to work in accordance with determinations, not of this Parliament, but of the Arbitration Court, he should be subjected to the direst penalties. The Commonwealth Parliament passed the law under which the Arbitration Court was constituted, but it does not make the awards that give rise to discontent amongst the workers.
On the subject of law-making it is laughable to hear Opposition members saying that the laws of this country are made by the Labour caucus and not by the Commonwealth Parliament. For only three years of the sixteen and a half years that I spent as a member of the House of Assembly of South Australia I was a supporter of a government. For the rest of the time I was in opposition to the anti-Labour Government. Not once did that Government come to us and say, “ Help us to draw up a bill “. If the honorable members who put over that kind of stuff had been returned to power at the last general elections, they would be doing exactly what they did when they were in power before and the antiLabour Government in South Australia still does. They would consider what was best for the country and carry it through the Parliament with the support of their followers, regardless of the views of the Opposition. I tell honorable .gentlemen who seek to cast a slur on this bill by saying, “ This is just being done by the caucus and not by the Parliament “ that the contents of the bill are what we told the people at the general elections we would give them if we were returned to power with a majority in both Houses. We promised to amend the Arbitration Act in order to bring about better conditions for the workers. Honorable gentlemen opposite profess to believe in arbitration. What does this bill provide for but arbitration? What is a conciliation commissioner but an arbitrator that will give a decision on the facts as he finds them? I was astonished to hear one honorable member opposite say that he knew that on the “ list “ of men to be appointed as conciliation commissioners was the name of one Communist or a man sympathetic to the Communists. He knows more than I do. I do not know of any list. I do not know of one man likely to be appointed. My experience of the Labour movement is that with the Minister for Labour and National Service and the Attorney-General administering this measure we need have no fear of the men who will be appointed.
The honorable member for Henty, who admitted that he knew nothing about industrial matters, referred to the Minister for Labour and National Service as a “ streamliner “. I have known the Minister for many years, and I know that no other member of this Parliament ha? a better understanding of industrial matters or possesses the confidence of the workers in greater measure. Honorable members opposite who describe the honorable gentleman as a .” streamliner “ who is trying to polish up a measure that the Attorney-General has brought down, obviously do not know much about the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act- and its deficiencies. Apparently they do not want order to be brought out of industrial chaos and do not want the workers to have an opportunity to submit their claims to adjudicators who understand their troubles and can deal with their applications expeditiously. One honorable member opposite to-night referred to what happened in the United
States of America recently, when a trade union was fined 3,500,000 dollars and Mr. John L. Lewis was fined 10,000 dollars because of a strike in the coalraining industry. I admit that that did happen. But that fact does not justify opposition’ to this bill. What happened in America when a motor company ceased production for fifteen months? We did not hear of a 1,000,000 dollar fine being imposed on that company, or of any of the allegedly efficacious methods of dealing with industrial trouble which are advocated by honorable members opposite. The stoppage was allowed to continue although the same president was in office and the same legal power existed to fine the company as had been used to fine Mr. John L. Lewis. Anybody who examines the recent industrial history of the United States of America will find that, although there have . been numerous industrial troubles, fines were imposed only in the ase which I have mentioned.
This bill can be dealt with more satisfactorily in the committee stage than during the present debate. In the second.reading debate, we are entitled to speak on all phases of industrial arbitration, but I do not believe that any good can be gained by bringing to light a lot of irrelevant matter as honorable members opposite have done. Although I have always been a strong supporter of conciliation and arbitration, I have long been aware of the deficiencies of industrial law. One serious deficiency has been the delay in securing decisions. For instance, I do not know whether final decisions have yet been given in cases that came before the Arbitration Court over .twelve months ago. Because of such delays, the Prime Minister, had to use his influence to per.suade the workers to allow the claim for a 40-hour week to go before the court. Early last year, men came to me and asked, “ Do you. think we will get a decision by May?” They meant May, 1946, not May, 1947. I replied “ No “. As the months passed and there was no sign of a decision by the court, the men told me that they were becoming weary of the waste of time. I recollect an occasion about ten months ago when a motion was submitted to the Trades and Labour Council in the district where I live calling for direct action to secure a 40-hour week. We who believed in arbitration had a struggle to prevent the supporters of the motion from taking direct action. They wanted the immediate granting of a 40-hour week and a £1 a. week increase of the basic wage. They urged direct action, because they considered that the procedure of the Arbitration Court was too slow. They did not know when the court would be able to give them a decision. Yet honorable members opposite ask what good will be achieved by this bill. They say, “We have the Arbitration Court. Why can we not continue with the present system?” I know the workers well. I understand their wishes, and I know that they do not want to go on strike. Direct action is repugnant to them. Nevertheless, continual delays in the operation of the arbitration law are forcing them to seek more expeditious methods of solving industrial troubles. Those who oppose this bill and say that the proposed conciliation commissioners are not needed are doing a disservice to the country, perhaps unwittingly.
I hope that, in the committee stage, we all shall do our best to make the bill a satisfactory measure. It is not completely to my liking in its present form. I consider that it ought to be amended in one or two places, and I hope that the Minis- ter will consider these matters at the . appropriate time. I notice that the bill provides that a Commonwealth public servant appointed as a conciliation commissioner will retain his rights under any superannuation or retiring scheme. There is no such provision for State public servants. This omission can be rectified. Some of the commissioners may be State public servants, and it would be only just to ensure the preservation of their rights as well as those of Commonwealth public servants. I hope that in committee every honorable member will concentrate on trying to strengthen the bill and that nobody will approach it merely with the intention of decrying this attempt to improve our arbitration law. Honorable members opposite do an injury to the workers of Australia and to industry generally when they proclaim that unions can obtain concessions by adopting Communistic methods.
– This bill proves that to be so.
– Either the honorable member ignores history or he has no intention of trying to improve conditions for the future. What did he do to remedy faults in the arbitration law when he was a Minister? The Government of which he was a member had a majority in both Houses of the Parliament, but it did nothing to satisfy the constant appeals made by all sections of industry for improvements of the arbitration system.
– We banned the Communist party.
– I know that the Government which the honorable member supported banned the Communist party. I do not desire to be disrespectful to him because he cannot help it, hut he is the kind of man who would ban anything that did not accord with the preconceived ideas of society. I do not regard the honorable member as a man who is prepared to discuss this bill on its merits.
– We cannot find any merit in the bill.
– I. am aware of that. The honorable member is not able to discover any merit in the hill because’ the measure will deprive that select band of highly qualified legal practitioners, who have been appointed judges, of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, of their right to dictate how the worker shall work.
– The honorable member should not attack the judiciary.
– I am not. The honorable member for Indi will not deny that a judge of the Arbitration Court is empowered to fix hours of work and rates of pay.
– Even if this bill becomes law, a judge of- the Arbitration Court will still be able to determine hours of work and rates of remuneration.
– I agree; but I remind the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McBride) that a judge’ of the Arbitration Court, in addition to possessing those powers, has control over one hundred and one other matters relating to industry. If the Opposition desires a man with high legal attainments to fix hours of labour and rates of pay, the workers require their conditions to be determined by a person who has had a practical knowledge of their industry. In my opinion, a dual system of that kind will enable us to make progress in the field of arbitration.
The Opposition complained that no right of appeal will be allowed agains! the decision of a conciliation commissioner. I also have some doubt regarding that provision, although my reasons are different from- those expressed by honorable members opposite. My fears are noi that a conciliation commissioner will give to the employees the moon, but that, he will make a determination which will cause dissatisfaction among them.
– We also think that.
– Any fears which the honorable member for Gippsland might entertain are not for the employees. Generally speaking, the policy of the Opposition is to consider the interests of the employers, and, consequently, we on this side of the chamber must watch very carefully the interests of the employees. Obviously, the Opposition fears that this provision will prevent an appeal against what may be considered to be an unjustifiably generous award; but I fear that it will prevent the men from appealing against an unjust decision. However, I did not hear the explanation of the Attorney-General when he’ moved the second reading of the bill. Perhaps he advanced excellent reasons for this provision. In committee, we shall carefully consider this clause, and no doubt the Attorney-General will supply the reasons for . it. Definitely, the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, as it is constituted at the present time, is not a satisfactory medium for dealing with industrial problems. I go even further than that, and say that I believe that the delays which have been caused by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act are responsible for the situation which members of the Opposition attribute to the Communists. They forget that for a number of years they had an opportunity to amend the act, and make it an efficient instrument for settling industrial disputes. On .a previous occasion, the Leader of the Opposition declared that Mr. Brown, who is one of the prominent leaders of the strike in Victoria to-day, had said to the men, “ If you had adopted constitutional means, you would not have got the same benefits as you received through acting on my advice “. Such statements as that build up the status of’ the Communist leaders. That is most unfortunate. This bill will instill in the worker a confidence in and respect for our industrial laws.
.- Unlike the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), I believe that the average Australian citizen is abundantly equipped to discuss this subject at the present time, because, during the last few years, we have continually experienced industrial unrest. Strikes and their causes have received considerable publicity in this Parliament and in the press. Whilst I realize that some persons possibly have a greater knowledge of the subject than have others, every one, even the children, and people who a few years ago did not take any interest in politics, are to-day evincing an interest because they know that the widespread industrial unrest is causing chaos throughout the country and is exposing them to great discomfort and even danger. I was amazed at the inconsistency of the statements of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson). Early in his speech, he stated that he supported arbitration in the industries with which he had been associated. At a later stage, he began to con- demn arbitration, and complained that it had not given to the worker what ha really required. His attitude reminded me of the last two lines of a verse, which is not often sung, in “ The Mountains of Mourne “.
When we get all we want we’re as quiet as oa n bc,
Where the Mountains of Mourne sweep down, to the sea.
The honorable member did not envisage a situation in which employers and employees would meet with the single object of ending the present chaotic condition of affairs. Indeed, he told only one-half of the story, and, as I stated, his speech was full of inconsistencies. Most unjustifiably, he found fault with members of the Opposition because they told the other half of the story. The honorable member said that he was amused to hear the statement that the waterside workers had dictated a certain policy. All I can say is that he is the only person who is fun used about it. . Ministers expressed amazement and regret, and admitted that they were powerless, but they did not say that they were amused. Evidently, the honorable member for Hindmarsh is amused because he has not been in this House for a considerable period, and is not aware of what has occurred. He showed that when he said that waterside workers had been compelled to wait to be picked up. Obviously, he did not realize that a few weeks ago the Parliament passed the Stevedoring Industry Bill with the object of improving that situation.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh found fault with the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) for having admitted that he did not have much knowledge of this subject. If the honorable member had been consistent he would have said, as the honorable member for Henty did,- “ I am going to speak on this subject with the little knowledge that I have of it “. That, at least, would have been consistent. I agree most wholeheartedly with his remark that it is work that counts. I have never been against the worker; but I am opposed to the man who will not work, and my opposition is even greater to the man who incites others not to work. Only work will give us greater production, and that is what we need. Many of my constituents are hampered in their work by the industrial chaos that has been ..brought about in this country. That one admission by the honorable member probably justified his speech ; .because it has been well said that even one glimmer of light will do some good. The honorable member tried to convince the House that the caucus had not already decided the fate of this measure, and that discussion of it in this House is justified. We know that the mind of the Government is already made up, a-nd that it is only a fallacy to believe that anything that we may say will have any bearing on the ultimate result. What amazed me most was that the honorable member, whom I have regarded very highly, tried go justify en”, wrong by citing another. Ever since I have been a member of this House I have objected to the practice of harking hack to the past. Neglect by one government does not justify further neglect hy another. Progressive action is needed. The people of Victoria realize that fully. The argument of the honorable member, who has been amused by things of which others are fearful, did not carry much weight with rae. There is no doubt that, up to a point, the trade unions have rendered great service to Australia and to the world. It was a great day for Australia when the Arbitration Court was established. All law-abiding people obey its decisions. Only by obedience to the law can we hold together the civilization that we enjoy. We arc- fi freedom-loving community; but the freedom of the individual must be circumscribed. When it becomes a danger or causes, discomfort or hindrance, to others, it must be curtailed. Although ‘ the majority of honorable members opposite have spoken on different occasions in favour of the Arbitration Court, not one of them has said that its findings should be obeyed. That is the weak point? of their argument. A man who is sentenced to serve a term of imprisonment must go to goal or if fined, must pay. The Government is largely responsible for the present industrial unrest because it has caused the workers to receive what I describe as counterfeit wages. I believe that heavy direct and indirect taxes have caused the wages of the workers to have quite a different value from what they had in the past. Heavy taxes and wage-pegging have caused industrial unrest in the community, yet the Government has stubbornly refused to take remedial action during the last eighteen months. It now proposes that income tax shall be reduced from the beginning of the next financial year. Communist leaders have taken advantage of the weakness of the Government and by means of agitation have caused industrial chaos. They have’ issued threats against the people and the Government, and the Government has retreated all along the line. Its failure to take positive action or to say anything in condemnation of strikes has naturally encouraged the Communists to believe that they will continue to be unmolested in the future as they have been in the past, with the result that the position to-day is much more serious than many members of the community realize. Because the Government could not ignore the Arbitration Court, and raise wages on its own . account,- it decided to devise a scheme which would enable the workers to obtain what they desire. It believes that the passage of this legislation will enable it to solve the problem with which it is confronted, because the conciliation commissioners will be empowered to raise the rates of wages in any industry. Tha! will probably not meet the wishes of the community generally. The decisions of the conciliation commissioners must always have the tendency to force wages up. Naturally, they will not award an amount that is lower than the basic wage, and nobody will wish them to do so. But if a conciliation commissioner is unwilling to do what he is told to do, by making an award granting, higher wages than those that would be granted by the Arbitration Court, how will it be possible to enforce his decision? Unless he is willing to give those who appear before him all that they claim, there will continue to be industrial chaos. The system will be absolutely one-sided, because the commissioner will have to give to the unions all that they want. There will be increasing demands until the position becomes unwieldy.
Much has been said about the class of men likely to be appointed as conciliation commissioners. Men taken from certain industries, may have a knowledge of one particular industry, but may be too restricted in their general outlook. What is wanted is not only a knowledge of the requirements of a particular industry, but also an understanding of the needs of the whole community. In my opinion, men of high educational qualifi”cations and with a wide knowledge -of world affairs should be appointed. It is said that some men have already, been selected for appointment as conciliation commissioners, but I do not know whether that is so. As I stand for the continuance of the existing arbitration, system, I cannot support the bill. If the present judges of the Arbitration Court are overworked, let us appoint more judges. We should retain the present system, and, if necessary, appoint more judges; but above all we should take steps to ensure that the laws passed by this Parliament are enforced.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Lazzarini) adjourned.
The following papers were presented : -
Australian Imperial Force Canteens Funds Act - Annual Report by the Trustees for year 1945-46.
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act -
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, Nos. 42, 43.
House adjourned at 11.18 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. It is not customary in answer to questions to state opinions on matters of law. For the information of the honorable member, however,I may say that I see no reason why the Commonwealth Public Service Regulations should not be dealt with by either House of the Parliamentin accordance with section 48 of the Acts Interpretation Acts 1901-1941.
e asked the Minister for External Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honor able member’s questions are as follows : - l.(a) In 1939 Port Moresby was the head-quarters of the separate Public Service of the Territory of Papua which comprised about 160 officers, of whom approximately 100 were stationed in Port Moresby or had their head-quarters thereat. (b) The Provisional Administration of Papua-NewGuinea, which comprises the former separate services of the Territory of Papua and the Mandated Territory of New Guinea was established in October. 1945, with the head -quarters of the combined services in Port Moresby. The number of officers stationed in Port Moresby on the 28th February, 1947, was 353.
n asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice - !. Has he ascertained that the AuditorGeneral is, in fact, making an investigation into the improper use of Army oars for private purposes, and -into the unnecessary and extravagant use of such cars for official purposes?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Russia: Cultural Exchanges with Britain and America.
s asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon .notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. The United Kingdom and United States Governments have made arrangements with the Soviet Government for the publication in Moscow of periodicals which present their -outlook on world events. In return the Soviet Government is permitted to publish similar periodicals in London and Washington The British -Ministry of Information publishes a weekly paper, the British Ally, which often includes articles on various aspects of Australian life. ‘I mid 4. Yes. The British Broadcasting Corporation has regular broadcasts in the Russian language. More recently, the United States have instituted regular broadcasts designed solely for Russian listeners.
Re-establishment: Preference in Employment.
s asked the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are a»follows : -
Armed Forces : War Medals.
y. - On the 18th March,, the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) asked a question regarding war medals.
The answer to the ‘honorable member’squestion is as follows: -
In January, 1946, the United Kingdom Government inquired whether the Commonwealth Government desired that the campaign stars and war- medals required for members of theAustralian forces should be manufactured in. Australia or in London. In April, 1946, the-
United Kingdom Government was advised that the Commonwealth Government desired that Australian requirements of campaign stars should he manufactured locally. No reference was made, however, to .the question of .the manufacture of the Defence Medal or the War Medal, for the reason “that neither of these medals had at the time been designed, whereas the manufacture of. campaign stars bad already commenced in England. Following on a recommendation by the Defence Committee, which was approved by the Minister for Defence, the Department, of the Army, in November, 1940, placed a contract demand with the Department of Supply and Shipping for- the manufacture of the Australian requirements qf campaign stars for. the three services, merchant navy and members of civilian organizations. The question of the allocation of contracts for the manufacture of campaign stars is at present the subject of consultation between the Minister for Supply and Shipping and myself and in the circumstances it is not practicable at present to forecast when the stars will be available for distribution. It is proposed that Australian requirements in connexion’ with the Defence Medal and the War Medal 1 »39-4’5 shall . in due course also be manufactured in Australia. A design for the Defence Medal has been approved^ and it would appear likely that the Commonwealth Government will be consulted by the United Kingdom Government in the near future regarding, the question of manufacturing the Australian requirements iri ‘this country. As far. as is known a design for the War Medal 1039-45 has not’ yet been decided upon by the United Kingdom authorities.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 April 1947, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1947/19470417_reps_18_191/>.