3rd Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took thechair at 5 p.m., and read prayers.
– On Friday last, Senator Pearce made an inquiry with regard to the correspondence which had taken place between the Parliament of Western Australia and Mr. Speaker and myself, and asked that it should be laid upon the table of each House. I thought that it might be well to delay action for a little while, but, since then, I have found that a similar request has been made in another place. Mr. Speaker and myself have decided to lay the correspondence upon the table this afternoon, and accordingly I now do so.
– I hope to be able tomorrow to give notice of a motion for the introduction of the Bill.
– I beg to ask. the Minister representing the Minister of External Affairs, without notice, if he is now in a position to furnish the Senate with supplementary information regarding the cost of quarantine establishments.
– I have ascertained that the expenditure on quarantine in. New South Wales, during 1906-7, was£3,924. That, I think, completes the information which has been sought by my honorable friend.
asked the Minister re presenting the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Palmerston, South Australia, in June last, on a man convicted of opium smuggling which was less than the sum which is offered as a reward by the Minister for the conviction of smugglers?
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow -
Senator BEST laid upon the table the following paper -
Customs Act 1901. Provisional Regulation - No. 55 (a) General and Private Warehouses for the Storage of Explosives - Statutory Rules1907, No. 105.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 18th October, vide page 4924): Clause 4 -
Part11. of the Principal Act is amended by inserting therein after section fifteen the following sections : -
” 15B. (1) If the Comptroller-General believes that an offence has been committed against this Part of this Act, he may by writing under his hand require any person whom he believes to be capable of giving any information in relation to the alleged offence to answer questions and to produce documents to him or to some person named by him.
– I shall do so.
– In view of the fact that some honorable senators see great objection to the Comptroller-General of Customs having full command of the proceedings under the provision, I think it is desirable to insert an amendment in the first paragraph. Therefore, I propose to move -
That after the word “ may,” line 6, the fol lowing words be inserted : - “ apply to a Judge in Chambers for leave to examine any person whom he believes to be capable of giving information.”
Afterwards I propose to move the omission of the words “ by writing under his hand require.”
– I ask my honorable friend to allow me an opportunity first to propose an amendment in the previous line of that paragraph.
– Very well.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia) [5.14]. - I move -
That the words “ on reasonable grounds “ be inserted after the word” believes,” line 4.
Whatever objection there may be to the amendment indicated by Senator Macfarlane, there cannot, I think, be any objection to this amendment. I am sure that none of us intends that in this matter the Comptroller-General should act in any arbitrary way. Of course, he will act largely upon the reports of his officers, and we should give him some indication that it is the intention of the Legislature that he should have reasonable grounds for any action he takes under the proposed new section. If i may use a well-known expression, he should not act merely upon his ipse dixit; but, just as we provide in the next proposed new section 15c that he may proceed on a complaint made in writing, so we think he should not proceed under 15b until some reasonable grounds have been presented to him for believing that an offence has been committed. I have no doubt that if on every occasion the personal mind of the ComptrollerGeneral could be brought to bear, he would require to be satisfied that he had reasonable grounds before he took action under the proposed section, but in the hurry and multiplicity ofhis business he may be unable to give his personal attention toa particular case. I think that the Comptroller-General should not take this action upon any arbitrary conclusion, formed, it may be, on information given to the newspapers, in order to raise an agitation, by some irresponsible person who will back out of the matter when called upon as a witness to verify on oath the statements published. In passing the second reading of the Bill we have agreed that its drastic provisions are necessary, but the Comptroller-General should have good reasons for enforcing them with a view to exploring the affairs of a company or individual to discover whether their operations are mischievous or not, sincewe are agreed that some combinations are not mischievous. My object in moving the amendment is to show that we think there should be reasonable grounds for action under the proposed new section, and to indicate to the ComptrollerGeneral that we think so.
– I cannot say that I am altogether out of sympathy with the views expressed by’ Senator Symon, but I point out to the honorable senator one difficulty which might probably arise under the amendment he has moved. Naturally the provisions of this Bill would be vigorously contested in many instances by wealthy corporations. Suppose the Comptroller-General, in the terms of “ this measure, sought for the information which he is enabled to obtain under it, and the person from whom he sought the information refused to give it. The alleged offender being called upon to say why he refused, would answer that it was because the information was not sought on reasonable grounds, and it would then be for the Court to say whether the grounds were reasonable or not. That might result in a complete defeat of the object of the Bill. If Senator Symon framed his amendment in such a way as to refer to reasonable grounds “ in the opinion of the Comptroller-General,” so as to give the Comptroller-General absolute discretion in the matter, it might not be so objectionable. Otherwise the amendment is open to the serious objection to which I have referred. I should take no exception to an amendment which would leave the reasonableness of the grounds to be judged solely by the Comptroller-General. I assume that my honorable and learned friend has no idea of going outside the Comptroller-General’s discretion in a matter of this kind. His object, as I gather from his remarks, is to impose upon the Comptroller-General the exercise of the provisions of the proposed new section as a solemn duty, .and one which should not be performed in a hasty or light-hearted manner. The honorable senator believes that the Comptroller-General should have presented to him reasonable grounds before he acts, but in view of the objection to which I have referred, I cannot see my way fo accept the amendment, except with some such qualification as I have mentioned.
– I think that Senator Symon could better attain the object he has in view by proposing to insert after the words “ComptrollerGeneral “ the words “has reason to believe.” I agree .with Senator Best that the amendment as moved might lead to endless litigation. If the amendment J have suggested were adopted, the ComptrollerGeneral before taking action under the proposed new section would require to have serious reasons for believing that an offence against the Act had been committed.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia) [5.23]. - It occurred to me that the amendment I have moved would appeal even to honorable senators who, on the second reading, were more strongly in sympathy with the Bill than I was myself. Senator Needham has suggested a very slight modification of the proposed section, but when he speaks of endless litigation, that may mean that we are to shut but every person from seeking justice or from appealing against an arbitrary decision of the Comptroller-General. If we intend this provision to be absolutely arbitrary, and that no free citizen who is subjected to its operation shall have redress of any description, or be entitled to have the case alleged - against him investigated in any way, I have, no more to say. As the proposed section stands it is absolutely arbitrary.
– Senator Clemons did not think it was strong enough.
– I am not responsible for what Senator Clemons may have said, much as I admire his ability and power. If the honorable ‘senator expressed himself as Senator Best has said, as to the particular object of the proposed new section, I am afraid that he was not as lucid as usual) or that the Vice-President of the Executive Council must have misunderstood him. Senator Clemons may have said, as I say now, that he was one of those who would be prepared to extend the arm of the law by every possible means to reach a mischievous and evil-doing trust. However, I am not prepared - and that is the difference between my view and this particular provision - to hand .over the traders and manufacturers of this country, whether corporations or individuals, to the arbitrary will of the Comptroller-General, for the purpose of making an exploration of their books and affairs, upon a mere arbitrary belief or suspicion. If the Committee desire that that should be done the provision will be embodied in the Bill, but I wish to point out what the proposed new section means as it stands. The belief of the
Comptroller-General is not necessarily a belief resting upon evidence, and is qualified by no condition.
– Surely the honorable senator does not think that the ComptrollerGeneral would take action under the proposed new section unless he was’ thoroughly satisfied that he had good reasons for doing so.
– What harm can it do if we say that the belief of the Comptroller-General shall rest upon reasonable grounds? My honorable friend’s contention, and I thoroughly sympathize with it, is that the ComptrollerGeneral would not be likely to take action unless he had reasonable and perhaps strong grounds for doing so. But in legislating we should not sign a blank promissory note even for theComptroller-General. We should not give him carte blanche even if we have the greatest possible confidence in him. If I may use the expression again, the Comptroller-General would probably very often be unable to bring his personal mind to bear upon the consideration of these matters. On the second reading of the Bill strong reference was made to the appearance of paragraphs in the newspapers inspired by irresponsible people who have an axe to grind, but who, when the time comes to substantiate their statements, back out of them. The ComptrollerGeneral may be susceptible to the same influences.
– He would know that.
– It is to be hoped he would ; but why should we not legislate as to the basis on which he is to proceed? To leave the proposed new section as it stands is to intrust an executive and not a judicial officer with an arbitrary power, which we hope he will not use arbitrarily, but which he can so use if he pleases. I have suggested a slight check upon the exercise of this power in an arbitrary manner. We are legislating as responsible persons, and we should embody in our legislation what we mean. Senator Best sympathizes with the object I had in view in moving my amendment, but he objects that it would give a person charged an opportunity to raise the question of whether the grounds on which the Comptroller-General acted were reasonable or not. Why should he not do so? To say that we are going to shut him out is to give away the whole show. If the intention is to shut the individual citizen out from all redress against what may be, though I hope it will not be, an exercise of arbitrary power of so drastic a cha racter, we can accomplish the object by agreeing to the proposed new section as it stands. But it is not justice or fair play, and it is in the interests of justice and fair play that I have moved my amendment. Now my honorable friend says that the fact that a person might refuse to answer the questions put to him, has nothing to do with the belief of the ComptrollerGeneral, or with his having “ reasonable grounds “ for his belief. If the ComptrollerGeneral satisfied himself, what would he have to fear, and why should we not require that he shall have “ reasonable grounds “ ? Why should we withhold this protection from the man who is to be subject to the admittedly severe and searching inquisitorial provisions of this measure? I do not object to anything inquisitorial after proceedings have been commenced.
– What power would determine whether the ComptrollerGeneral had “ reasonable grounds “ or not?
– The insertion of those words would be a guide to the Comptroller-General. If, as Senator Best says, the Judge would determine whether or not the grounds were reasonable, surely that is not too much to provide.
– Then the Judge would determine whether the ComptrollerGeneral had reasonable grounds or not?
– Suppose he did?
– Has not this amending Bill been introduced because the existing legislation is not sufficient in that respect ?
– What was pointed out by Senator Best was that under the existing Act the extremely rigorous powers of getting evidence, and of preventing a man taking refuge from answering in the belief that his answers might incriminate him, applied only to one particular set of provisions. This Bill is introduced to give enlarged powers in that respect. They are given by proposed new section 15c. Everybody is agreed about that. So far as I am concerned, I think that once proceedings are instituted against a man, it ought not merely to be possible to call him as a witness, but he ought to be compellable, although he is the defendant, to go into the witness box and answer any questions that are put to him, or to produce any document that has a bearing upon the complaint made against him under the principal Act. But the proposed new section under consideration relates to the stage beforeproceedings are commenced. It proposes to give a man no chance, when he is asked a question by the Comptroller-General, of saying, “ I ought not to be called upon to answer a question of that kind.” If he refuses to answer it, the sole judge as to the propriety of the question is to be the ComptrollerGeneral. The person who does not answer, whatever grounds he may have for his refusal, is to be liable to. a penalty of £50, and the Court before which information is laid must fine him on the mere statement that the question was putto him and that he did not answer.
– Would not the honorable senator’s amendment weaken the power of the Comptroller-General ?
– How could it? Suppose that theComptrollerGeneralput a question that we should all agree ought not to have been put. Would it not be fair to give the accused the power to go to the Court and say that the question was one that he ought not to be called upon to answer? The point is that the power proposed to be given is absolutely arbitrary. It leaves the matter entirely to the Comptroller-General.
– So it ought to do.
– I admit that when we have power we sometimes use it tyrannously, but it is not a nice thing to do-; and if any honorable senator can show that this clause is not absolutely arbitrary and without any redress to the person convicted under it, I shall be glad to hear that explanation.
– If the object of the honorable senator’s amendment is not to weaken the power of the ComptrollerGeneral, what is its object ?
– It is not to weaken the power, but that power ought to be exercised upon “ reasonable grounds.” The Comptroller-General should not merely say that he believes so and so, and that therefore he has instituted proceedings. If the clause is to be arbitrary there is an end of the matter, but I hope that honorable senators will not object to this amendment, which is right in the in terests of fair play and of giving the accused an assurance that under this measure steps will not be taken to initiate a prosecution against any man unless upon reasonable grounds.
– I wish to say at the outset that this provision as it stands is intended to be arbitrary and inquisitorial. It must be so if it is to be made effective. My honorable friend Senator Symon recognises at once that if the amendment proposed by him is inserted it will give the alleged offender the fullest opportunity of fighting the ComptrollerGeneral at the very outset, when it may be most vital that the information desired should be secured. It may even go so far as to enable a combine or trust, as the case may be, to obtain the necessary time to get its books set in order, or to keep individuals in the background. There is no use in my honorable friends opposite appearing to be aghast at these proposals. They are founded upon well recognised precedents.
– The “ reasonable grounds “ would be given secretly, and the combine would have no opportunity of knowing anything about them.
– But the combine would know of the existence of the Act of Parliament providing that the ComptrollerGeneral must only proceed upon “ reasonable grounds.” Therefore a loop-hole would at once be caused. The accused might say, “Oh. no; I am prepared to dispute this and fight it. I am prepared to expend money and hang this matter up for any length of time in order to secure my own ends.” I suggest that honorable senators are not justified in assuming that this provision, arbitrary though it may be, will be abused by a recognised responsible officer. It is to be placed in the hands of an officer who is accustomed to the exercise of such arbitrary powers. The same officer has power to say to any person making a Customs entry that he shall answer any question relating to that entry. The Comptroller-General can make those inquiries with or without reasonable grounds. There is an uncontrolled discretion placed in his hands. If the importer or person of whom the question is asked refuses or fails to answer, or to produce documents, he is liable to a fine of £100. I will point out to honorable senators two or three precedents which go to show that these same arbitrary and inquisitorial powers are absolutely essential in dealing with cases of this kind. I have already pointed out how in America Acts have been amended from time to time so that the Commissioner of the Bureau’ of Corporations has the right to ask any questions he likes, and to insist that his questions shall be answered on oath. There is no limit whatever to the range of the questions he can ask. What has the result been ? Information has been thereby secured, and forthe first time successful prosecutions have taken place against trusts and combines in America. I may refer, to instances within our own knowledge. The Income Tax Commissioner can ask any question he likes concerning any man’s affairs. No one suggests that he abuses his” powers. The factories legislation qf some of the States-at any rate it is so in Victoria - enables an officer who is certainly not of such high rank as the Comptroller-General to enter factories, inspect books, and make inquiries of any description whatever.
– He cannot inspect books under the Factories Act, can he?
– He can in South Australia.
– I therefore urge that honorable senators are not justified in assuming that this power will be abused. But I say frankly that if the amendment is carried it must seriously cut down the value of the clause, and most seriously limit the advantage we hope to secure by the measure. I have frankly avowed that the provision is intended to be arbitrary and inquisitorial, but only because the circumstances of the case demand that it should be. In saying so, I echo the views of a great majority of the honorable senators who have addressed themselves to the subject. I therefore urge honorable senators opposite not to persist in their proposal to weaken the provision in the way in which it would be weakened bv the amendment.
– If the amendment is carried, will it not mean the intervention of the Court between the ComptrollerGeneral and the evidence which he desires to secure?
– - Not necessarily so. but clearly so if the offender thinks proper to test the matter.
– Not before the powers are used. How is the Court going to interfere?
– Certain information would come to the Comptroller-General, who would have to make up his mind whether he had reasonable grounds to believe that an offence against the Act had been committed. The alleged offender would be asked certain questions. He would, perhaps, in the cases that I have suggested, refuse to answer them on the ground that he did not consider that the Comptroller-General had reasonable grounds for putting them. The ComptrollerGeneral would then sue him for not answering, and it would be for the Court to say whether the Comptroller-General had reasonable grounds or “not. If there is to be any value in this provision, it must be arbitrary, and must enable the ComptrollerGeneral to secure information, possibly at a most critical juncture, and at a time when there is no publicity and no suspicion that an inquiry is being conducted. If the Comptroller-General is enabled to act promptly, there can be secured in a summary way evidence which, if delayed, could be rendered of little value, or watered down, or lost altogether. The amendment would necessarily have the effect of seriously weakening the value of the provision, and,, in view of the opinion expressed by the large majority of honorable senators, I hope that Senator Symon will see his way to withdraw it.
– The Vice-President of the Executie Council seems to forget that we may not always have such a capable ComptrollerGeneral as we have at present. ‘ We have known cases of civil servants being actuated by rather extraordinary motives. I cannot understand the honorable senator’s objection to the amendment. He made a slight mistake in stating that the penalty was- £100. It is ^50.
– I said it was ^100 under the Customs Act. It is only £50 under this Bill.
– The present Comptroller-General may be infallible, but I have known civil servants who were, by no means infallible. I should be very sorry to trust- merely to their belief, without a stipulation that they had reasonable grounds for it. I am of opinion that the present Comptroller-General would not think of acting without reasonable grounds, but he cannot hold his position always. A subsequent Comptroller-General might have strong political proclivities. The first consideration is fair play to the whole community. I decline to believe that any
Comptroller-General is superior to most men who try to act on reasonable grounds.
– I desire to suggest to Senator Symon and Senator Needham the addition, after the words “ reasonable grounds,” of the words ‘ ‘ which he shall set forth in substance.” Senator Symon’s amendment differs only in wording from that suggested by Senator Needham, although it, perhaps, puts the matter more clearly. The VicePresident of . the’ Executive Council may consider my suggestion too great an extension of the reasonable check suggested by this side of the Chamber on the powers proposed to be vested in the ComptrollerGeneral.
– The honorable senator’s suggestion goes much further than does Senator Symon’s amendment.
– I am throwing it out as a suggestion for Senator Symon to consider. -My reasons have already been indicated by Senator Walker. It must be remembered that the great powers which the Government seek to obtain are really to be conferred on a subordinate official of a subordinate Minister. Subordinate Government officials are human, and therefore liable to be very much impressed by the manner and power of the Minister administering the Department. The Government, in seeking to confer such great powers, must be most careful not to allow” this subordinate official to run riot, and also to guard against the powers being abused in the event of the official being influenced bv a strong Minister, or being weak in himself. The whole trading community of Australia is confronted with the fact that a subordinate official - the ComptrollerGeneral - may be under the influence of a very strong Minister and compelled by him to act. We should therefore protect that official against any such pressure. I hope that my suggestion will be acceptable to Senator Symon. I do not wish to press it if bv so doing I shall be obstructing him in his attempts to improve the Bill.
– I confess that on the second reading I expressed myself as being somewhat sceptical whether the Bill would accomplish the objects aimed at. But I should be much more .sceptical if the Government accepted any amendment of the Bill. I admire “ the great concern of Senator St. Ledger to protect the public of Australia against an inferior officer in the person of the ComptrollerGeneral. The honorable senator fears that a strong Minister might be enabled to wreak the fulness of his despotism upon the commercial classes of Australia. But if Senator Symon’s amendment, or that suggested by Senator St. Ledger, were accepted, and a very weak Minister had to administer the Act, it would be absolutely a dead letter. The proper thing for us to do is to so frame the measure that it will as far as possible achieve the objects which we have in view, even if it is arbitrary. No man likes that word, which has rather an unhallowed sound. But it must be remembered that the measure is not designed to deal with fair things. Its aim is to deal with .unfair things. That is its purpose if there is any virtue in at all. No man who acts fairly will- be affected bv it.
– There is nothing more unfair or bad than crime, and yet the criminal is given an opportunity of defending himself. *
– The people aimed at by this measure will have an opportunity ‘of defending themselves.
– Not under this provision.
– The very* fact that this provision is put into force will show that they have already done wrong.
– The honorable senator is assuming that.
– We assume and believe it. Otherwise we should not be in the position in which we find ourselves to-day.
– They have no chance under this clause of defending themselves against the exploration of all their business affairs.
– They have no right to defend themselves against it if there is a suspicion that they are a combination or trust, and doing wrong. In such a case we ought, in the best interests of Australia, to have some machinery whereby we can satisfy ourselves whether our suspicions are well founded or unfounded. What wrong can be inflicted upon any one by that course?
– The depositions are shown to a criminal beforehand.
– So they would be to these people if it were found that they had been engaged in criminal operations.
– Who is to be the judge?
– The ComptrollerGeneral ought to be the judge. The Act itself ought to be sufficient. We have evidence before us of the existence of these trusts, and the necessity of dealing with them. The present law has proved absolutely useless.
– The honorable senator argued some time ago that trusts and combines were not necessarily an evil.
– I am not arguing now that the Bill will effect the purpose for which it was introduced. If there is a possibility of reaching this kind of thing by legislation, it must be by the exercise of arbitrary power.
– Some honorable senators opposite, particularly Senator St. Ledger, appear to be unduly alarmed. Senator St. Ledger has a hazy idea that in giving this power to the Comptroller-General we are doing something terrible, from which awful consequences are bound to ensue. We are only amending the original Act because it has been found to be ineffective. The object of this provision is to render the Act less ineffective. What would happen under the provision as it is? It has been complained by those who are best informed that in the past there have been almost insurmountable difficulties in obtaining the necessary information to secure a conviction. This provision empowers the Comptroller-General, if he has reason to suspect that any wrong act has been done, to institute certain inquiries, and if his suspicions are confirmed he obtains the evidence and brings the wrong-doer before a Court. There the Comptroller-General produces his evidence, and the wrong-doer, if he is found guilty, is punished. Do honorable senators on the other side who profess to be so much alarmed object to that?
– Suppose that the person accused turns out to be innocent, and has been put to a great deal of expense and trouble for nothing, where is his remedy?
– Ifa person has been put to a great deal of expense, those who have prosecuted him will be responsible to that extent. That is the law of the country, as I feel sure the honorable senator knows, and will be a very great controlling influence upon the ComptrollerGeneral, or the Attorney-General, or any other person concerned. Suppose that in his view the Comptroller-Gene ral has a well-grounded suspicion as to the conduct of any person. He makes certain inquiries, and if the information he seeks is refused, that is an offence, and the offender is brought before a Court and punished. If accused persons are not proved to be wrong-doers no harm can befall them. But if the provision is amended as has been suggested, then when the Comptroller-General takes the alleged wrong-doer to Court for refusing to furnish certain information, the latter will be able to urge before the Court that, in his opinion, the grounds on which the information was sought, or the questions which were put to him were not reasonable, or that the whole inquiry was unreasonable. That will lead to litigation, which no doubt will be welcomed by the lawyers, and it may result in a Judge conscientiously saying that there were not reasonable grounds for demanding the information,” when a guilty party may escape. If we leave the provision as it is it will be much stronger, and there will be a greater possibility of the ComptrollerGeneral getting any information which he needs, and also a. better chance of punishing any persons who have been doing wrong. Honorable senators ought to study the provisions of the original Act, and ascertain the direction in which wrong has been done ; and if they do they will not imagine that every honest trader, importer, or manufacturer is likely to be harassed. I call the attention of Senator Walker to the fact that under the Customs Act the ComptrollerGeneral is vested with powers as great as those which it is proposed to vest in him under this Bill, and the penalty foran offence is much greater under that Act than it is under this Bill. Up to the present time the Comptroller-General has acted fairly, as every one knows, and has revealed no man’s business.
– We may not always have the same man in the office.
– That is true, but we hope that in the future the public Departments will be administered by officers equally as conscientious and capable as the present officers. What interest can it be to the present or other ComptrollerGeneral to harass a person who he does not think is doing any wrong?
– To court popularity with certain people.
– Political exigency.
– It has been suggested that the Comptroller- General may be influenced by the party instincts of the Minister of Trade and Customs, who is responsible to Parliament. If Senator St. Ledger would only think for a moment of the position in which he is endeavoring to place parliamentary government, ‘ he would realize that he hai; not been doing justice to the people, to the Government, or to public officers.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia) [6.8]. - According to the speech of Senator McGregor, we are to trust the Comptroller-General implicitly, but we cannot -trust the Judge. He deprecates the possibility of a Judge being asked to say whether or not the grounds are reasonable, but he pins his faith to the absolute infallibility of the Comptroller-General.
– I deprecate the’ delay as well as the reference to the Judge.
– What delay would there be? My honorable friend said that the occasion when the Judge would be appealed to would be when an information was laid against a man for refusing to answer a question, and seeking the imposition of a penalty. The exploration will have been, made, the questions asked, and probably every one answered except some one to which the man takes exception. We should endeavour to be clear as to what we are legislating about.. It has been said over and over again, as Senator McGregor said just now, that in this Bill the Government are asking for exactly the same power as is granted in the Customs Act. I ask my honorable friend, or Senator Best, to mention any section of that Act which bears the faintest resemblance to this provision. There is not one.
– The honorable senator knows the Taxation Act of South Australia.
– Neither that Act nor the Taxation Act of any other civilized country contains such a provision as this one. When an owner has sent in his return, and initiated his proceeding, he is liable to have all sorts of questions asked. But I know of no provision in any Act which renders free citizens liable to have their books and affairs explored on the mere arbitrary belief of an executive officer that he may be able to obtain some information which may lead to subsequent proceedings against some one. The two references in the margin of this provision are totally, misleading. We are told to compare the provision with sections 38 and 234 of Act No. 6 of 1901, that is the Customs Act. I have just looked at the provisions. Section 38 reads -
Any person making any entry shall, if required by the Collector, answer questions relating to the goods referred to in the entry.
That is the initiation of a Customs proceeding.
– No, that is preliminary, to a prosecution.
– My honorable friend had better abstain from interrupting me, as he will have the opportunity of explaining his views. The making of the entry is the initiation of the process for getting goods through the Customs. When a man makes an entry, and goes to the Customs, he is liable to answer any questions in respect to it then or afterwards. We know that all “ over Australia there have been Customs prosecutions. There was one in which I was concerned the other day, and if that provision had been availed of thoroughly, as it ought to have been, probably that prosecution would not have taken place. But that is the initiation of a Customs proceeding, and there is no objection to that. How is that parallel to the case of giving to subordinate officers a roving commission to go among merchants who have taken no initial step of any kind, such as the making of an entry or anything like that, on which to found a proceeding?
– Is it not exaggerating a little to say that it is a roving commission ?
– What else can it be called? I arn not questioning the conduct of the Comptroller-General. My belief is that he would feel bound to have some reasonable grounds of suspicion. But we are legislators, and not gamblers in legislation. We are not here for the purpose of gambling in the reputation or good faith of any officer to whom we intrust powers. Even the Judges are subjected to all sorts of CheCk. If a Judgeorders a man to answer a question which is improper, that man has his redress by going to a court of appeal. Judges are fallible. A Judge trying a criminal or civil case may have a bias. He may be influenced by a particular set of evidence,, and his view of the evidence, which is admitted or tendered, may be coloured”. If in a moment when his view is coloured, he gives a decision which is wrong, it is open to appeal. But here we are asked to say that in a proceeding of this kind against persons who are merely to be suspected, to use the language of Senator Henderson, they shall not have an opportunity of asking some person with the responsibility of the judicial office to say whether or not it is fair.
– They will get the opportunity when they come to prove their claim.
– That is not the point. Section 234 of the Customs Act has absolutely nothing to do with the provision before the Committee. Why it should be included in the margin of the Bill God only knows. The section says -
No person shall -
evade payment of any duty which is payable ; and in that connexion -
refuse or fail to answer questions or to produce documents.
– I do not agree with my honorable friend. If he will read the section carefully, I think he will find that it does not bear that construction.
– I did not expect the honorable senator toagree with me. I am trying to convince him, but I admit that it is a very hopeless task. I challenge the honorable senator to find in the Customs Act any section which bears the remotest resemblance to this proposed new section 15b, under which the ComptrollerGeneral can proceed to interrogate, to apply the rack and thumbscrew, and so on to anybody he pleases.
– -Are not the matters dealt with in the several paragraphs of section 234 of theCustoms Act separate offences ?
– Of course they are. What an accused person under the Customs Act has to answer must have reference to his Customs entry.
– It is founded on the entry.
– Of course it is. Under the Customs Act, if a merchant has not made an entry, or had dealings with the Customs, the Customs officials cannot go into his office and make inquiries as to his books and his business in the way proposed in the proposed new section 15b. If the ComptrollerGeneral believed that an offence against the Australian Industries Preservation Act had been committed by Senator Best, he could call the honorable senator before him, and ask him all sorts of questions.
– If he had reasonable grounds for suspecting him:
– That is my point. That is really my amendment, and I cannot, for the life of me, understand what objection there can be to it. An honorable senator has said that it would be all right when proceedings were taken, but proceedings might not be taken.
– Then the suspected person would not be hurt.
-Not hurt ! How would Senator Best like to have the whole of his books produced before a Comptroller-General? This proposed section makes provision for a penal proceeding to expose, without any charge or accusation, any man’s books or affairs to an investigation by Customs officers, and there is no redress, though there may be no prosecution.
– How is the man hurt?
– How would my honorable friend like to have the whole of his books and household affairs investigated on the strength of some suspicion that he was guilty of an offence?
– How would I be hurt ?
– My honorable friend must have some very curious notions of individual liberty. Surely his house is his castle.
– That sounds good.
– It is good. I have no objection to a man’s premises being explored, his books overhauled, and his secrets unearthed, so long as it is provided that if he feels himself injured an opportunity will be afforded him to obtain redress. I will tell the honorable senator another way in which a man may be injured under the proposed new section. A question might be put to him with regard to some arrangement which he would not think it desirable to disclose. It might be such a question as any one of us would consider unfair. But if he declined to answer it he could be brought before a magistrate on information and the magistrate would be bound to inflict the penalty provided for, on the Comptroller-General or the person appointed by him saying that he had asked the question and an answer to it was refused. Under the proposed new section, a man proceeded against in the way provided for has no defence. He must answer any question put to him, however just his reticence might be and produce any documents, however sacredly he might regard them.
– Has he no recourse against the Comptroller-General?
– No, he is given no redress. I am prepared to give every reasonable facility for these inquiries, but surely there should be some limit to what is proposed. I cannot understand why in 35B we should not insert the condition “on reasonable ground,” when under :1.5c the Comptroller-General can only proceed on a complaint in writing.
– That ought to satisfy the honorable senator.
– It does satisfy me, and I ask the Government to agree to insert a similar condition in 15B.
– That would be a verydifferent amendment.
– Surely it is perfectly fair to say that the ComptrollerGeneral should not proceed under 15B except “on reasonable grounds.” I hope that a further amendment of the proposed new section will be made later on to provide that before .1 man shall be liable to a penalty of £50 for refusing to answer a question he shall have an opportunity of explaining to the Court the reasons fpr his refusal.
– Who would be the judge of the “ reasonable grounds “ ?
– In the first instance the Comptroller-General, and then the Court before whom the penalty is sought to be enforced. Under the proposed new section as it stands, if a, man refuses to answer a question all that the Government official has to do is to lay an information against him, and the moment it is stated that he refused to answer the question the penalty is imposed, however excellent the reasons for his refusal. I. feel strongly that this is a matter o’f giving justice and fair play, and no man should be liable to a penalty without being heard in his defence. The only way to give a man who might be proceeded against under the proposed new section an opportunity of being heard is, in the first place, to provide that the Comptroller-General shall have reasonable grounds on which to institute proceedings, and in the next place to permit a man if ho thinks he has good grounds’ for refusing to answer a question to state them to the Court that is asked to impose a penalty, and let the Court decide. I rose merely to point out that it is desirable that some opportunity should be given to a man liable to a penalty not exceeding £50 to show that it ought not to be imposed upon him, as a result in the first place of arbitrary action on the part of the Comptroller-General, and in the second place because the Court could not inquire into the reasons he had for refusing to answer the question.
– Since I spoke on the second reading of this Bill, I have come to the conclusion that we should be justified in giving to the ComptrollerGeneral more drastic powers than I then, thought desirable. There is an amendment before the Committee to which I should have thought there would be very little opposition. The Vice-President of the Executive Council, however, sees some objection to the introduction of the words “ on reasonable grounds.” I cannot help thinking that the further amendment, suggested by Senator Macfarlane, would go too far. I should like to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council whether he does not think that before exercising these drastic powers, the ComptrollerGeneral should not merely have good ground for the belief on which he proceeds, expressed in writing, as provided for in the proposed new section 15c, but that the statement on which he proceeds should be made on oath. I can quite understand that a combine or trust carried on skilfully and intelligently might wipe out a few competitors, and yet might not infringe the law against -restraint of trade, and that a rival, jealous of the combine’s success, .might take advantage of the proposed new section 15B, and, going to the Comptroller-General with, a plausible story, induce him to take action which would embarrass the combine by calling upon them to show their books and disclose their position. I can quite see that to insist upon the matter being brought before a Court might defeat the object of the Act, but I hope the Vice-President of the Executive Council will admit that the ComptrollerGeneral should not proceed to exercise these drastic powers except upon a statutory declaration. I ask the honorable senator to say whether an amendment in that direction would meet with his approval.
– I should have liked, if time had permitted, to have replied categorically to the remarks made by Senator Symon, but Senator Dobson has asked me a direct question. The honorable senator thinks that before the Comptroller-General acts .under the proposed new section, he should have before him the statutory declaration of some- individual. I wish to say that the experience is that those persons who are capable of giving information-
– The persons capable of giving information, by reason of their connexion, directly or indirectly, with the persons alleged to be offending, are the verypersons who would be obliged to kee”p their names completely out of the business. As the result of my own experience I am able to say that, had it not been for the valuable information obtained from persons whom my honorable friends opposite may call “informers” if they please, with all the odium that may attach to that description, ostensibly honest traders in our midst would have gone unpunished. I can speak with considerable experience in this matter, as in twelve months I inflicted fines, under the Customs Act, amounting to something like £10,000. It was only by virtue of the drastic provisions of the Customs Act, which are reproduced in this Bill, that we were able to deal with the class of people to whom I have referred. When first approached, these person’s professed to be appalled at the suggestion that they had done any wrong, but when their books were seized, as they were in innumerable instances, they told a very different tale. I remember the case of one m’an in particular, whom I fined ,£4,000. To all appearances, he was one of the most respectable traders in the community. When a Customs officer was sent down to’ him, and it was suggested that his books might be produced, he was apparently horrified. He resented the suggestion in the most indignant terms*. The officer had instructions to seize the books j he did seize them, and that man was on his knees within twentyfour hours. Honorable senators must not despise the difficulties that are experienced in connexion with these matters. I repeat that we are in this Bill merely re-enacting some of the most useful provisions of the Customs Act, and if the .Committee decide to shackle the hands of the ComptrollerGeneral, they will seriously impair the value of this measure.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
Senator Major O’LOGHLIN (South Australia) [7.45]- - It appears to me that this amendment will have the effect of introducing into the Bill a principle which the Senate has already rejected. A proposal was made by Senator Stewart, for which he advanced some very forcible reasons, that the putting of the questions should not be intrusted to the ComptrollerGeneral but to a Judge. So that a proposal already rejected is now .reintroduced in an insidious form. It brings in a Judge for the purpose of saying whether the Comptroller-General has a reasonable object in putting the questions. It is admitted that the powers given under this Bill are very arbitrary. Those who support the measure think that it is necessary to give arbitrary powers. The original Bill was arbitrary, but it was found to be ineffective. We propose to make our legislation effective by giving greater powers.
– How do we know that the original Act is not effective?
– The Bill before us is evidence that the Act is not effective for the purposes for which it was passed. The Vice-President of the Executive Council has pointed out- that similar powers are given even to subordinate officers under other Acts of Parliament. Under our Factories Act in South Australia, which is founded almost word for word on the Victorian Act - and I have some knowledge of it because I was Chairman of several Wages Boards - the inspector is given power to enter factories and examine books and wages sheets.
– Surely he has not a general power to make such examinations?
– He has power to make examinations in any matters that come within his jurisdiction.
– But the power under this -Bill applies to everything.
– It applies to offences against the Act.
– It applies to matters coming under the purview of the Act which this Bill amends, just as under the Factories Act the powers relate to supposed infringements of that legislation. The position is exactly the same. The inspector under the Factories Act is, however, an officer inferior in status to the Comptroller-General of Customs to whom the powers under this measure are proposed to be given. We do not want any more failures in applying the Australian Industries Preservation Act. We have had bother enough in enforcing it up to thepresent, and if attempts are made to weaken this Bill by insidious amendments of this sort, we shall have the same trouble over again. The examinations, proposed to be made are merely preliminary, to enable the Comptroller-General to satisfy himself as to whether there are grounds for a prosecution. No injury will be done to any one if the persons who are examined can show that they are not infringing the Act. If they are committing an offence, they must endure the penalties provided.I trust that the amendment will not be carried, because I feel quite sure that the effect of it would be to weaken the administration of the Act, or perhaps to render it ineffective altogether.
– My principal objection to giving the proposed powers to the ComptrollerGeneral is that we are intrusting them to a man who is not in an independent position. He only holds his office at the will of the Government of the day. He may be dismissed by the Government at any moment.
– The Government of the day cannot dismiss him.
– It can suspend him.
– Can the Government dismiss him ?
SenatorBest. - For misconduct.
– The argument has often been advanced that when workmen give evidence before a Court with regard to wages, they do so with the fear of dismissal continually hanging over their heads. I think that it has been very clearly proved how difficult it is to say with any degree of certainty that a man has been dismissed for that reason. An employer can give any one of a dozen different reasons for dismissing a man. Similarly a Government, if it wanted to get rid of one of its officers, could give any reason except the. true one. We are proposing to place very farreaching powers in the hands of the ComptrollerGeneral. I want those powers to be exercised by a man who is in an independent position, and who cannot be influenced in any way by the Government which happens to be in power. Suppose we had a Government in power - which is not at all improbable - which was favorable to combines, just as we have a Government in power to-day which, presumably, so far as we know, is opposed to combines. What would the result be? Some one would make a complaint with regard to a combine, and the Government would set the law in motion. But it would wink the other eye, and the Comptroller-General would declare that there was no case, or that no combine existed, or that no offence against the law had been committed.
– The chances are that he would be in. sympathy with the policy of the Government.
– Certainly ; he would do what his employers wanted him to do.
– It would be impossible to carry on unless the officers of the Government were in sympathy with its policy.
– That is so. Let honorable senators imagine what might happen if a Government not adverse to combines were in power, and this officer held the responsible position which the Bill proposes to give him. He would be entirely at themercy of the Government. He might know that if he brought in a true bill, so to speak, against the combine he would incur the hostility of his employers for the time being and would thereby endanger either his situation or his prospects of promotion. That is an aspect of the question which ought to have some weight with honorable senators, who, I believe, are in earnest in professing their desire to make the law effective. They ought to assist in making it effective by legislating in such a fashion that even the preliminary inquiries would be made by a man thoroughly independent of the Government .
– Does not the honorable senator think that more powerful influences would be exercised upon independent persons than upon a Government officer ?
– Ido not think for a single moment that such would be the case. What power would Parliament have over a Judge? There is only one way of dealing with a Judge that I know of, and that is by passing a motion impeaching him in both Houses of Parliament. I want the officer who is to exercise these powers to be as independent as a Judge would be, and not to hold his position at the will of the Government.
– But that has nothing to do with the present amendment.
– My criticisms affect the clause. Of course, if the honorable senator takes the objection that we have passed the word “ ComptrollerGeneral “ in the clause, I am probably out of court, but I understand that notice has been given of an amendment which .provides for something in the direction1 I have indicated.
– The amendment, which I withdrew temporarily at Senator Symon’s request, will provide that the Comptroller-General must apply to a Judge in Chambers for leave to examine.
– I would support the amendment foreshadowed by Senator Macfarlane, which is on the same lines as that moved by Senator Symon. My principal reason for supporting the latter is that the Comptroller-General should prove to some one that he has reasonable grounds for believing that ah offence against the law has been committed before he is empowered to do what this provision would allow him to do. He is to be empowered to call before him any person whom he believes to be capable of giving any information in relation to the alleged offence, and require such person, to answer questions and produce documents to him or to some other person named by him. He could, at his own option, compel any one he pleased to appear before him and answer any questions which he thought proper to put.
– Under a bond of seen My.
– It does not matter whether it is under a bond of. secrecy or otherwise. He could compel the production of any document which he might think necessary for his purpose, and do that at any moment he pleased. In ordinary circumstances, if a person is required to give evidence or produce documents, he receives a sworn summons from a duly constituted Court, appears before the Court under the authority of the Court, gives his evidence, and produces his documents, and everything is done in a fair, open, and above-board fashion. One argument which seems to appeal strongly to some honorable senators is that all this is to be done under the shadow of secrecy. Has it ever struck them that in this proposed legislation we are following the example of countries where the most horrible tryannies prevail? A provision so drastic and far-reaching in its effects suggests the practices of Russia.
– Russia imprisons in secrecy - a very different thing.
– If this legislation is passed, we shall be rapidly on the down-grade. It will be only a question of time when people who are willing to take these steps to get information will have re- “ course to imprisonment if they believe themselves to be baulked. The two things are the same in principle, although not in degree. The reasons advanced here tonight are those which have been advanced by every tyrant since the world began. “We must have these powers,” says, the tyrant, “ or we cannot deal with our rebellious subjects. We must Have Coercion Acts.” There is underlying this question a fundamental principle, from which, if we once depart, there is no saying where we shall land ourselves. I wish to give the Government every power in reason, and T am particularly anxious that these preliminary inquiries should be made before an independent person, over whom the Government cannot have any control. If an official is a creature of the Government, he will do what he thinks the Government desire.
– Does the honorable senator apply the same line of reasoning to the present Comptroller-General of Customs in regard to proceedings conducted by him now ?
– If the* ComptrollerGeneral thinks the Government want a prosecution, a prosecution it will be.
– What control have the Government over the ComptrollerGeneral ?
– They have over . him. so far as his position is concerned, practically a control of life or death. They may not be able to dismiss him instanter, but I suppose that they have the power to suspend him, just as they have the power, through the Public Service Commissioner, to suspend any other public ‘ servant. No one can claim that an official who stands in that relation to the Government of the day is independent. Honorable senators, in their desire to do something to curb these rapacious trusts, seem to be prepared to abandon all their ieas of justice and fair play..
– What does the honorable senator propose instead of this provision ?
– I intend to support the amendment of which Senator Macfarlane has given notice, to provide that application shall be made bv the ComptrollerGeneral to a Judge in Chambers.
– An amendment intended to defeat the object of the measure.
– .Whether it is intended to do so or not, it will do so.
– That may be the honorable senator’s opinion.
– Would it be an ex parte application?
– I suppose that if the Comptroller-General applied to a Judge in Chambers for leave to summon a person and compel him to produce documents, he would require to give some reasons for obtaining that authority. The whole bone of contention between the two sides of the Chamber is that the Government on the one hand wish plenary power to be placed in the hands of a man who is under their thumb, while those of us who take the opposite view desire the power to be placed in the hands of a man who is completely independent of all Governments.
– And who knows nothing about the subject.
– Does the honorable senator say that our Judges know nothing ?
– They do not know as much about this matter as does the ComptrollerGeneral.
– It would be necessary for the Comptroller-General to show the Judge why he wanted a certain person brought before him to answer certain questions, and -why he wished certain documents to be produced. Surely in asking that that should be done, we are not suggesting anything outrageous.
– It is only making it more expensive.
– No one is more sorry than I am that it costs so much to get justice, but under existing conditions, no matter how trivial the affair is, it usually costs a great deal. The obtaining of justice, however, is of more consequence than the cost. If this provision is passed as printed the person who refuses to answer questions will not have the opportunity of showing before a Judge that those questions were improper. The Judge will simply ask whether it is true that the person refused to answer the questions put to him by the Comptroller-General. If the ComptrollerGeneral and his witnesses swear that he did so refuse, he will be punished.
– And does not answer the questions then.
– This legislation is the modern substitute for the rack and the thumb-screw. The man would again be hauled before the Comptroller-General, the questions would again be put to him, and if he refused the second time to answer them he would be fined a second time. Senator Macfarlane’s amendment ought to commend itself to honorable senators opposite if thev are really anxious that this proposed law shall be effective. It is no argument to say that the amendment will defeat the object of the Bill.
– Does the honorable senator want to do so ?
– I do not Want to defeat the object of the Bill. Why should I ? Its object, with which I am in complete sympathy, is to pare the claws of monopoly. Every honorable senator who knows me knows that I am in complete sympathy with that object: but my reason for opposing this provision is that I do not believe that it will have that effect, or, if it does, it will only be because the Government of the day so desire. If the Government for the time being’ are of an opposite opinion the law will not be worth the paper it is printed upon, because no action will be taken, as the ComptrollerGeneral will be, not an independent person, but a pawn in the game, to be moved according to the will of the Government. Every honorable senator ought to see the desirableness of having some one who is in a completely independent position to decide.
– Where are we to get him ?
– We have- the Judges of the High Court, who are as independent as it is possible to make any human being. It appears to me that nothing I can suggest will meet the wishes of Senator Needham. He apparently is bound to the chariot wheels of the Government, and does not see any virtue in a proposition made by any one else. He evidently has not taken the trouble to reflect, but will be very glad to get rid of the whole affair by accepting what the Government propose.
– That is scarcely consistent with the fact that I have foreshadowed an amendment.
– I did not hear the honorable senator, unfortunately.
– The .honorable senator speaks with the same want of knowledge on many subjects.
– I am exceedingly grateful to the honorable senator for that very useful reminder, but I do not know that I am alone in that respect.
– The honorable senator is on the wrong track this time.
– I may be. I am not omniscient. Apparently the honorable senator claims that quality, . because he interjects on ‘this subject with a cocksureness which seems to proclaim that he imagines that he knows all about it. I do. not profess to know all about the subject, but 1 think that we shall do wrong if we tear up by the roots all the traditions of the past so far as the administration of justice is concerned, simply because we cannot find an easy method of dealing with these trusts.
– If the honorable senator continues to slavishly follow traditions, he will get hopelessly lost.
– This is one of the worst examples of legislating in a kind of panic.
– It is really panic legislation. I am sure that there is no one either here or outside . who entertains less respect for a bad tradition than I do.
– What tradition are we asked to tear up by the roots?
– We are asked to tear up by the roots the tradition that if a man is called upon to produce his most private documents, and disclose his most private affairs, that should only be done on warrant, and before a duly constituted Court of justice. If the’ principle of this provision were sought to be applied to some honorable senators there would be a perfect babel of protest against it, and rightly so. ‘ I would protest, too. I would be in the breach attempting to defend them just as heartily as I am in the breach tonight. But apparently they have come to the conclusion that it is the other fellow’s case, and not theirs, and that therefore trusts should be placed at once outside the pale of the law. Need I remind honorable senators that certain other combines, of which we have all heard, were dealt with by the then powers in exactly the same fashion. When it was sought to form trade unions at one period in our history exactly the same laws iri. principle, if not in verbiage, were promulgated against them.
– Yes, and they were made the subject of conspiracy laws.
– Yes, and I believe that there are here to-night some honorable senators who, with regard to trusts, would, be prepared to re-enact the conspiracy, laws.
They are so blinded by their prejudices that they are prepared to put out of sight every principle of fair play and justice, just asthe men of old spoke of trade unionists as “ these wicked tradesmen.”
– What would the honorable senator say of a Bill to enable all the books and affairs of a trade union to be explored at the behest of an officer ?
– The present Trade Union Act compels a trade .union to produce its balance-sheet.
– It compels a trade union to file its balance-sheet just as it compels a company to do.
– Every company which registers and places itself under the protection of the law ought to be compelled to publish a balance-sheet every year.
– I should like the honorable senator to get a copy of the balancesheet of the Tobacco Trust if he can, or tell me where it can be obtained.
– If there is no power to compel companies to publish their balance-sheets it ought to be given. I know that there are a number of companies which do not, publish balance-sheets. These are not limited liability companies, but companies which chose to trade in another way. If the law requires to be amended in that particular I, for one, shall be delighted to support such an amendment. But what is sauce -for the goose ought to be sauce for the gander. The Government are only trying to revive a kind of .legislation which has been discredited for the greater part of a century.
– If this is shown to be the only way of remedying a serious evil, will the honorable senator be prepared to adopt it?
– If that can be shown, yes; but I do not think it can be shown. At any rate, I have not heard anything from the Government which proves to me that this is the only way to adopt. Can they state that they have tried any method of dealing with these combines? Have they used the powers which the principal. Act has placed at their disposal ?
– This Bill is merely an excuse.
– I am really of that opinion. The Government want to say, “ Oh, well, we have done something. We have exhausted all the resources of civilization,” to quote a dead statesman who on various occasions felt himself bound to press coercive legislation of a very searching character. I think that the Government will be well advised if they indicate that they are willing to agree to the amendment foreshadowed by Senator Macfarlane. If they do, my opposition to the’ provision will be withdrawn. I should then feel myself justified in supporting it, but as it stands, it runs so counter to every idea I have of justice that I cannot do so.
– I think that we, as well as the Government, have more than reasonable grounds for believing that there are several trusts in existence. But the Law Officers of the Crown have advised the Government that in their opinion there is not sufficient power under the Act to deal effectively with those trusts. I take it that the object of this Bill is to grant the powers which they believe to be absolutely necessary if the trusts are to be suppressed. At first sight, I thought that the provision was a little drastic, but Senator Stewart has convinced me that it has been drafted in the best possible form. He wants the powers taken in this provision to be placed in the hands- of an independent person because, in his opinion, the ComptrollerGeneral of Customs is subject to direction from the Government of the day. He has suggested that there might be in office a Government who would be in sympathy with the trusts, and that as a consequence the Comptroller-General would take no action to suppress them. If the Government of the day were in sympathy with the trusts, surely it follows that the people would also be in sympathy with them.
– Not necessarily.
– If the people and the Government were in sympathy with the trusts, surely the majority would have a right to rule if this is a democratic community. Knowing that the great democracy are against trusts and that adult suffrage prevails, surely it is reasonable, to assume that the electors would be very vigorous in dealing with them through the Comptroller-General, who would be subject only to direction from a Government practically elected on a democratic franchise. It seems to me that the Opposition are desirous of clouding the issue. They do not seem to be anxious for the Committee to know what is contained in the provision, or in the amendment. To-day I asked Senator Symon whether the object of his amendment was to weaken the power of the ComptrollerGeneral, and he said distinctly “No.” But later on, in reply to Senator Lynch, he admitted that in the event of any person refusing to give the information required to that officer it would be necessary for that person to be brought into a Court, which would mean that the Court would have to intervene in order to enable the evidence ‘ to be procured. In the past the Government have not been able to take action owing to the difficulty of procuring evidence. If the amendment is carried and the Comptroller-General appeals to the Court it will mean two trials instead, of one. Knowing how the trusts are controlled and run, how could the Comptroller-General prove to the satisfaction of a; Judge that he had reasonable ground for proceeding against a man? The real object of this provision is not to put a man in prison because he is a criminal, but to try to secure the only things which can be accepted as evidence on questions of fact - the documents in the control of the trusts - or to compel persons who know of the existence of trusts to answer certain questions. Senator St. Ledger seemed to be very anxious to hide the real meaning of the amendment. If that was npt his object, then I am reluctantly compelled to believe that he, though he is a lawyer, can hardly read straight. Senator Needham has foreshadowed an amendment. Senator Symon moved to insert the words “on reasonable grounds” after the word “ believes,” and the effect of that amendment would be to interpose the Court between the Comptroller-General and the evidence he desired to procure. Senator Needham suggested that the proposed new section should be amended to read “ If the Comptroller-General has reason to believe,” ‘ and if amended in that way the section would still leave the decision.in the matter’ to the Comptroller-General, and not to the Court. Senator St. Ledger, in his anxiety to see Senator Symon’s innocentlooking amendment passed, has said that it is identical with Senator Needham’s suggestion. That only goes to show that the object of. those who are supporting Senator Symon’s amendment is to defeat the intention of the Bill. I accept the assurance of the Government that they have been unable, under the existing law, to procure sufficient evidence of the existence of a trust, and I fail to see that there would be any less difficulty in proving to a Judge that the Comptroller-General had reasonable groundsfor proceeding in the way defined in the proposed new section 15b. The amendment has been drafted by an astute lawyer and politician, and its object is not only to destroy the effect of the proposed new section, but of the whole Bill, since without this provision the Bill would not be worth the paper upon which it is printed. Some reference has been made to the terrible tyranny of impounding documents and books on suspicion, but that is not so serious a matter as the, arrest or the hanging of a man on suspicion.
– Does the honorable senator mean to say that a man is hanged without a trial by jury?
– Innocent men have been hanged in every State in the Commonwealth.
– Have they had a fair trial - that is the question?
– My point is that in this case we are dealing with documents, and it is a much more serious matter to deal with human beings on suspicion. It has been said that if the ComptrollerGeneral were to enter Senator Best’s office to make inquiries under the proposed new section, that would at once be recognised as a very arbitrary proceeding. But I suggest that if Senator Best’s office contained documents which would prove the existence of a trust it would be a very desirable office for the Comptroller-General to get into. We are told also that in the Commonwealth every man’s home is his castle. But what about the number of people who have no “castle” as the result of the drastic steps taken by trusts to the detriment of the general public ?
– Where is the evidence of that here?
– The honorable senator should read some of the latest works published in America.
– I am not referring to America.
– The object of this Bill is to prevent the Commonwealth becoming like America in this respect.
– What about England, Germany, and other countries in which combines have been in existence for thirty years? They have no such laws as this.
– If the honorable senator suggests that our laws should be such as would permit the growth in this young country of the evil conditions witnessed in the old world, I am afraid I shall be unable to accept his opinion as to the legislation which we should enact for dealing with trusts. In speaking before on the Bill I expressed my objection to the passing of such very drastic provisions if that could be avoided. But the question really is : Is it possible to suppress trusts without such legislation?
– The honorable senator wishes to suppress trusts, whilst Senators McGregor and Henderson are in favour of trusts.
– That is incorrect; the honorable senator should qualify that statement.
– I thought that Senator Gray was aware of the fact that we are dealing with a Bill which is intended to suppress trusts whose operations are detrimental to Australian industries. We have been assured that it is not possible to deal with such trusts under the existing law, and that the means proposed in this Bill are the only means by which they can be dealt with. I think that the proposed new section could not be modified without impairing its utility. I am not confident that even with these drastic provisions this legislation will be successful. But I am willing to give the Government every reasonable power for which they ask to suppress injurious trusts. If this legislation should fail, it will then be time to talk ofother remedies. I support this measure, believing that it will injureno man, and that it will be a means of public education, as showing either that injurious trusts can be suppressed by legislation, or that they cannot, in which case it willbe for the people of Australia to determine whether they will own the trusts or allow the trusts to own them.
SenatorDE LARGIE (Western Australia) [8.38]. - On the second reading of the Bill some startling statements were made by members of the Opposition to the effect that they intended to assist the Government in passing this Bill.
– They meant to pass it out.
– I do not know whether they intended topass it out, but so far as I can judge, their efforts are not directed to making it a Bill which will achieve the object for which it has been introduced. Those who support the Bill will have some reason for disappointment if the efforts made by honorable senators in Opposition to amend it are not dropped.
– What would the honorable senator suggest?
– -We-f.ave the assurance “of the Government that the legislation we have passed to deal with trusts has failed, and there should be no better judges than the present Government of the legislation necessary to effect their purpose. Certain honorable senators have declared that we must either control the trusts or let them control us. They recognise that we must legislate to control trusts, or else adopt the policy of the Labour Party.
– What is the policy of the Labour Party ?
– I did not. think that at this stage Senator Gray required any enlightenment as to the policy of the Labour Party in connexion with the nationalization of .monopolies. We have prophesied often enough that this kind of legislation will fail, but we are prepared to make it as effective as any Government can desire, in order that it may be given a fair trial. We have now a measure submitted which the Government consider necessary to enable them to detect crime.
– Does the honorable senator think in the same way.
– I certainly do. I was surprised to hear Senator Stewart declare against breaking away from old and hoary legal precedents, instead of adopting his usual attitude and saying that we are here to follow no precedent, but to adopt such methods as common-sense may suggest. There is no better man to have with one when he is right, but when he is wrong Senator Stewart is about the most difficult man in this Chamber to get on to the right track. When the honorable senator is wrong, there is no putting him right, and when he is right no man can put him wrong. On this occasion the honorable senator is so wrong that the whole of the efforts of his party would not budge him from the position he has taken up. Honorable senators on both sides have admitted that the legislation ‘we have already passed to deal with trusts has failed, and why, therefore, should we not strengthen the hands of the Government so that its success may be secured? Are we to seek further failure by refusing to give the Government the powers Which they consider necessary to secure the modicum of success which is the most that can be hoped for from legislation of this kind ? I am prepared to give the ‘Government all the powers for which they ask under this Bill, in order that this method of dealing with trusts may be thoroughly tested. If it should prove to be ineffective the Government will then have themselves to blame, and will not be in a position to say that they had forced upon them a measure which they did not desire to pass. Some remarks have been made in reference to die Coal Vend, and in this connexion I think that Senator Gray has misapplied the arguments of Senator Henderson when he suggests that that honorable senator is in favour of monopolies.
– I said that the honorable senator was in favour of trusts and combines.
– It is nonsense to suggest that Senator Henderson is in favour of trusts and combines because he does not roundly condemn every combination of capitalists, and is in favour of the adoption of common-sense methods by such combinations to secure fair profits of capital and decent wages for workmen.
– They are combines.
– They are, certainly, but to say that there is no danger from trusts because Ave recognise the commonsense methods which some combines follow is a queer argument. Senator Gray is sufficiently acquainted with one of the most powerful combines in Australia. I refer to what is known as the Coal Vend. If there is an industry that requires regulation by means of a. combination of capitalists, it is that conducted by the coal companies of Newcastle. For years they were competing against each other in a very unfair and underhand way. There were honorable men connected with the industry who sold their coal in accordance with a reasonable arrangement. But there were other unscrupulous members of the association of capitalists who broke away from it, and committed what in my opinion was little short of a crime. If things of that kind are done, I hold that the Comptroller-General is in a better position than a. Judge can possibly be to take action. I have seen a whole district in New South Wales . brought into a condition of semi-starvation - affecting storekeepers, miners, and even capitalists - through the insane methods referred to. That sort of thing was brought about byunscrupulous people of the class we are seeking to deal with.
– -The. honorable senator calls them unscrupulous though he only suspects them.
– Every one who knew the facts admitted that they were underselling and adopting dishonest tactics in trade. If we know that such, practices can be put an end to by giving power to the ComptrollerGeneral, why in the name of all that is reasonable should we not- give it ?
– We want to be fair to ach party.
– I think that what is proposed is fair. Surely it is justice that we should seek, and to accomplish that end we must not necessarily follow precedents. Why should we follow the old played-out methods of detecting crime? There is nothing in the method itself. It is the result that is important.
– Surely the honorable senator does not believe in informers ?
– I am even prepared to listen to an informer if to do so will have the effect of putting an end to the state of affairs that I have described. I am ready to give the Government every power to make this measure as strong as they desire to have it.
– I am sure that the Government has not brought forward this measure merely to occupy time. There is no recreation attached to submitting such a Bill, nor in embodying in it provisions of a drastic character. Clearly the Government think that there is need for these provisions. If the Minister was of opinion that less drastic proposals would serve the purpose, he would adopt them. But nothing stands out so prominently in the history of anti-trust legislation in America as its failure to cope with the evil, without the exercise of drastic powers.
– America is not the whole world.
– But it is the country to. which we look for examples in regard to this class of legislation.
– Probably there is no member of ‘the Senate who is more influenced by the lessons of experience than is Senator Gray. He frequently points to examples in history, and with every justification. The reason why we look to the great Republic of America in reference to legislation of this description is because there trusts and monopolies have played the greatest havoc upon society.
America is the land where first the evils arising from trusts were experienced and where the first abortive efforts were made to cope with them. Many of the provisions in our Constitution are. derived from the United States instrument of government. It is just as sensible to seek guidance from the United States in this respect as it was wise to turn to that country for examples in framing our Constitution. But I am not altogether enamoured of the provision under discussion. I think that it might be improved a little, though I am not going to vote for an amendment in the direction suggested by Senator Symon, which would have the effect of vitiating the whole Bill.
– It would -be an improvement.
– I think it was the . great Locke who said that the most prolific cause of disagreement amongst the members of the human race is the neglect to define terms. There is a vast difference between Senator Symon’s definition of “improvement” as applied to this Bill and my own. It has been said that no precedent for so drastic a provision is to be found in any. British Statute. But Senator Best, another legal authority, has pointed out that equally drastic powers are contained in the Customs Act. Now I submit that the sort of crime with which this Bill deals is even of greater gravity than the sort of crime for which the Customs Act imposes penalties.
– The power in the Customs Act is much more restricted than this. Here we are giving a wider and more arbitrary power for a very much - smaller purpose.
– Not at all.
– We can read the language of the Bill as well as can the Minister, and in addition to his assurance we know that the powers sought for in this measure are almost identical with the powers conferred by the Customs Act. I wish on that point to ask honorable senators _ .a question. Who is more to blame - the trader who seeks to defraud- the Customs, and consequently the community, of revenue, or the agent or operator of a monopoly, the ravages of which are felt to an infinitely greater extent? For my own part, if I were asked who was the greater culprit of the two and who perpetrated the graver crime, I should say, “The controller of a trust, because his operations affect a greater number of persons than does the act of a man who seeks to defraud the Customs.” I have said that the provision as it stands does not suit my taste. I will explain what I mean.””” The administration of this Bill will be placed in the hands of the Comptroller-General, and he in turn will have to delegate his authority to other officers, lt is only in relation to the asking of questions and the securing of documents that I think the proposed ‘ new section is faulty. The Comptroller-General of Customs is located in Melbourne. He is sufficiently engrossed - and will, I believe, continue to be engrossed - in carrying out the important duties already thrust upon him, to prevent his_ attending very closely to the administration of the measure himself. In reference to the transactions of ^trusts in Queensland, Western Australia, or the distant parts of New South Wales, his powers will have to be delegated to persons of lesser responsibility, holding inferior positions. When it comes to arming deputies in distant parts of Australia with the power to ask questions and secure documents, I feel that we shall be going rather too far if we do not in some measure curb their actions. It should be quite sufficient to arm a deputy with power to ask questions directly relevant to the prosecution proposed to be initiated and to procure documents to the same effect.
– How would he know that they were directly relevant until he had examined the documents?
– He would not know the purport of the replies or documents until he received them. If I thought that it was safe to give a deputy these wide powers I should not seek to move an amendment. But the authority can be delegated, and, consequently, we., shall have thrust upon an inferior official such enormous powers-
– No. The ComptrollerGeneral is the responsible man. But it is quite impossible for him to investigate the books personally.
– I should be quite prepared to place in the ComptrollerGeneral’s hands the power to ask any questions he chooses, because he holds a high and responsible position. The necessity for him to be most careful about how he acts will constitute a sufficient restraint upon his conduct. But it will be quite a different thing to delegate to a distant offi cer in a much inferior position, to whom a bribe might possibly be held out, the power to procure certain information under this measure. »
– That would not be done.
– I am glad to receive that assurance. It is provided that “ The Comptroller-General may by writing under his hand, require any person whom he believes to be capable of giving information in relation to the alleged offence . . . “ That is not said of his deputy, and, consequently, the Comptroller-General alone has the power to decide whether the information has relation to the particular offence alleged.
– When we reach that provision, I hope that the honorable senator will allow me to explain it to him.
– I have given some thought to this matter, and I submit, for the consideration of the Vice-President of the Executive Council, ‘that to restrict the deputy or representative of the ComptrollerGeneral in some distant part of the Commonwealth to asking questions strictly relevant to a prosecution, and demanding the production of documents of the same character, will not render this provision nugatory.
– Most alarmingly so.
– If so, I am not prepared to make that sacrifice. I am only endeavouring to point out the , possible future danger of an inferior official, armed with authority to ask questions and procure documents, being actuated by some ulterior motive beyond the obtaining of evidence necessary for a prosecution. To prevent that is the particular direction in which I should like to see the Bill amended.’ But if there is no danger of it happening, I am not prepared to sacrifice the measure. Is not Senator Stewart, who characterized this proposal as outrageous, old enough to recognise that the vast and intricate maze of legal procedure has been made so by the ingenuity .of the individuals who trangress the law? It is a patchwork. Every amendment, every provision by which it is sought to trap the criminal, is placed there after a criminal has shown his proficiency in transgressing the law. Consequently, in asking for these extra powers, we are only seeking to deal with a special development of trusts and combines, and we do so because without those powers they could still reign as untrammelled as though this legislation had never been printed.
– - By-and-by we shall be taking power to ask every business man when he goes out in the morning whether he is going to be honest during the day.
– An honest man will never have anything to fear from this measure.
– If it comes to that, no honest man need fear the criminal law.
– Those honorable senators who are opposing the measure assign extraordinary grounds for their action. They pre-suppose that our public officials will get information, and then unfold it to the world.
– Then why are they opposing this provision? The inference - or worse - which they wish us to draw from this proposal is that the ComptrollerGeneral, a public official, who must have a high regard for his own personal honour and for his position, will disclose information 1o the positive detriment of people engaged in trade and industry. I am not prepared to believe that. I have a higher opinion of our public officials. It is infinitely preferable, if trusts and combines come here to carry on the depredations of which we know that they alone are capable, that some of the chief operators in connexion with them should be harassed once or twice, or perhaps oftener, every year, than that thousands of people should suffer by their presence in our midst. As for traditions, I do not care a snap of the fingers for the musty traditions of the past, if it is necessary for us on occasions such as the present to insure that a man who is believed to be guilty shall be placed in the dock, made to answer charges, and prove, if he can, his innocence to the world. I care nothing for the past, so far as it has been said that a man should always be regarded as innocent until he is proved otherwise.
– The honorable senator does not believe in that?
– The Imperial Statute Book has a.t present many Acts on it that hold members ‘of society to be positively guilty. and make them pay through the nos;e for it. although they are innocent. I pointed to an instance of that when speaking on the second reading.
– Does the honorable senator believe in that ?
– I do not. but I point out to those who look to Britain as the source of everything which is fair and laudable that there, exists in that country an example of the very principle which they are declaiming against. I am going to accept the measure, although I have taken upon myself to point out what I consider to be a defect in it. I am glad to have the assurance of the Vice-President of the Executive Council that the difficulty can be overcome without rendering that particular provision and the measure itself worthless.
– I may be pardoned for again taking part in this debate, but I do so because of several statements that have been made since Senator Symon moved his amendment. When he did so, I, in my innocence as a young parliamentarian, thought that he was actuated by friendly motives towards the Bill. But, after noticing the persistence with which he has kept his amendment to the front, and hearing the echoes of approval that have reverberated through the Chamber from honorable senators who occupy seats in close proximity to him, and share his political views, I have come to . the conclusion, slowly and deliberately, that it is a repetition in Committee of an attempt which failed on the second reading to kill the principle of the measure. I, actuated by the innocence to which I have just referred, suggested to Senator Symon that we might be able to meet him by inserting certain words in the first line of the proposed new section, and he thought that he might be able to meet me, but as the debate has progressed the opposition to that idea has grown stronger. Senator St. Ledger has, in his usual lucid manner, explained to the Committee that the words which I suggested had the same meaning as those proposed to be inserted by Senator Symon. My intention was, if possible, to make this provision more drastic so far as the ComptrollerGeneral is concerned. We cannot make it too drastic in order to bring to justice those people who, we think, are bleeding the community. Experience has taught us that trusts and combines, or monopolies that act in restraint of trade, have a wonderful faculty of covering up their tracks. Bv their wonderful ingenuity and machinations, they have been able to defy up to the present almost all the laws that have been enacted in any part of the world where an attempt has been made to grapple with the pernicious system of which thev are a part. We are not going to allow any morbid or mock sentiment to actuate us in dealing with legislation in this matter. The time has arrived when we must put that on one side in relation to such people as these, and deal with them in the manner in which it has been proved times out of number that they have dealt with the community. Senator Gray has been very persistent in his interjections this afternoon as to the attitude taken up by some honorable senators in reference to a certain combine, but they, when they spoke on that particular occasion, qualified their remarks by saying that trusts and combines were in themselves not unjust or oppressive, and that they referred only to the methods used by those bodies in order to restrain trade, and to put out of competition other people, so that they could command the whole market. Senator Stewart has joined in the condemnation of this provision, and, thereby, in the condemnation of the whole Bill, because without this provision the Bill would be rendered useless. He has said that I am chained to the chariot wheels of the Government. If he was sincere in making that statement, I wish to inform him that I am not, nor do I intend to be, chained to the chariot wheels of any Government. I intend to apply whatever common-sense or reason I’ possess to the consideration of any measure that comes before the Senate. I do not think that I shall now move the amendment which I foreshadowed, because I see that there is a desire on the part of the straight-out opposition in this Chamber to nullify the Bill. I am quite prepared to take up the gauntlet which” they have thrown down, and I shall accept the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill. At the same time, I repeat the statement which I made on the second reading, that I do not think that even this measure will be a panacea for the evil. I believe that we shall have to follow the example of the United States of America, and continue to amend our Act until we are at last able to grapple with injurious trusts and combines. Senator Lynch does not like the idea of delegating the powers of the ComptrollerGeneral to a deputy in a distant State, “because he thinks that that deputy might call for documents or papers not relevant to the subject. Senator Lynch must therefore assume that the Comptroller-General will do the very same thing because, no matter to whom he may delegate his powers he, so far as the Bill is concerned, will certainly be the responsible officer. If he delegates to a particular person in any part of Australia the duty of asking certain questions and calling for certain papers, surely that person will recognise the fact that he for the moment is acting for the ComptrollerGeneral in carrying out the provisions of the law. I believe that it will be wise on the part of the Committee to accept the provision in its entirety. I am forced to that conclusion by the very hostile demonstration which has been made against it. Senator Walker. - Does the honorable senator believe that we are sympathetic with the trusts and combines ?
– I am forced to believe that certain senators who are opposing the provision are desirous of giving the trusts and combines, even although there is absolute proof of their pernicious methods, time to cover up their tracks more effectually than they are now doing.
– We are actuated by a sense of fair play.
– This question of fair play, this old bogy of considering a man innocent until he is proved guilty, has been exploded long ago. Even the very Vagrancy Acts of the States exploded that idea long since. I have not heard, at any rate it is not recorded that honorable senators who are so strenuously opposing this provision have ever raised their voices in protest against those Taws.
– A question cannot be put to a vagrant outside a Court.
– Before a vagrant is brought into a Court he. is under arrest.
– But he cannot be asked a question.
– The vagrant is brought before the Court not as a free man, but as a prisoner, and no officer dare arrest any individual unless he has reason to believe that that individual has contravened a particular law.
– To extort information from him.
– My honorable friend is in advance of the subject. The brand of crime is placed upon the man’s brow as soon as he is arrested.
– Is that right?
– Under many conditions it is right. The very fabric of society depends upon that, just as an officer is empowered to’ arrest a certain person because he considers that his presence at large is dangerous to the community, so I contend that experience has shown that so far as these combinations are concerned it is equally necessary to adopt the same drastic methods to protect the community which they have been bleeding so long and so persistently.
– The supporters of the Government, in order to give reasons for the very drastic provisions in this Bill, have pointed out the similarity of certain provisions in the Customs Act, and are now seeking to draw a parallel from the Vagrancy Acts. Now that the precedent of the Customs Act is found to be scarcely sufficient to warrant the demand of the Government, it is urged as a justification for this measure that we should consider trusts or combines on the same level as vagrants. When Senator Best was pressed for a parallel he pointed out that the enactment of this provision was justified by precedent - the construction and methods of proof under the Customs Act. I ask him to say if it is not absolutely correct that the foundation of every Customs prosecution, both in Great Britain and in Australia, lies in the declaration which an importer deliberately makes when he is passing his entry.
– Certainly not.
-Perhaps this is another illustration of the old saying that lawyers cannot agree?
– Not at all. This is only one section of prosecutions.
– I think that, as an abstract proposition in law, the honorable senator will be forced to say that before he can initiate a prosecution under any section of the Customs Act, he will have to produce in a Court the entry made by the importer with the accompanying declaration.
– I do not say so.
– Then, I think that the honorable senator could not succeed in a prosecution, and I am. not speaking without personal experience of Customs prosecutions. Generally speaking, prosecutions for defrauding the revenue are based on some statement which the importer or other person has made. The Department have the entry which they allege against him is false, and also the declaration, and they certainly cannot be blamed for making those documents the basis of a prosecution, and calling upon the person in a Court to show whether the entry or declaration is correct. In this case, apart from anything which a trader may do, the Comptroller-General may institute any kind of inquiry. I think that, on the whole, it is substantially true that the Government are asking for stronger powers to be placed in the hands of the ComptrollerGeneral than have been intrusted to the High Court. No High Court Judge has a jurisdiction, even under the Judiciary Act, such as we are asked to vest in that officer. Senator Stewart has pointed out that this provision violates our traditions. This method was tried in England years ago against the newspapers, when their suppression was sought by the power of what was called general search warrants, so that Senator Stewart was quite right in referring to past history. I am reminded, too, of very many protests which emanated from some honorable senators on the other side when what they call coercive legislation was applied in two or three of the States under certain circumstances. If my memory serves me rightly, more than one country has complained, and is now complaining, very bitterly against the strong powers which are toeing sought by the Government against persons who may be carrying on their trades in the respective States. I think that Senator Best will have a task if he attempts to distinguish between the prosecution of a vagrant and the prosecution of a person under the Customs Act. The reason given for the introduction of this Bill is that the principal Act, although it contains very drastic powers, has been found to be not sufficient. In my speech on the second reading of the Bill, I pointed out that, notwithstanding the fact that the Government were seeking these extraordinary powers, we had no evidence that such powers were asked for in the United States, where this alleged evil was said to be very active and strong. The North American Review for August, 1907, contains an article in which Mr. George’ Griswold Hill comments on the policy of President Roosevelt in regard to trusts, and refers to the legislation which has been initiated in Congress in order to deal with them. After reading the article carefully through, I cannot find that there is any suggestion by any party in the Congress or by the President of the United States that such legislation as this was asked for. Senator Trenwith smiles, and I am reminded that some years ago, when he thought that trades unions and similar combinations were being unduly threatened by the Government, his voice was heard, like that of a lion, roaring all over Australia. The honorable senator painted Victoria red in declaring the rights of the people as against a tyrannous Government. Who was stronger than Senator Trenwith then? I hope the honorable senator will not reel under the compliment. As a student of Australian history, I remember reading these things. My memory of them is still good, and I hope I have profited by them. I am at a loss to understand the honorable senator’s change of position. What has he to say now with regard to this intrusive power of interference with human liberty?
– The honorable senator’s liberties are not at stake now.
– Is not that always the attitude of the real tyrant? It is often alleged that those who complain most of the tyrannous exercise of power become themselves the greatest tyrants when they need no longer fear the exercise of that power. I am glad to recall these fine memories of Senator Trenwith, and astonished that he should attempt to justify these drastic proposals and to find precedents for them in prosecutions under the Customs and Bankruptcy laws. The Government who are supported by the honorable senator have had the administration of a stringent law which they have not enforced, and they have given no reason why the powers intrusted to them under its provision should be exceeded. It is all very well to say that trusts and combines are the enemies of civilization. That may be perfectly true of some of them, but even a man guilty of murder, and against whom there is the strongest direct evidence, has the right to be put on his trial and to refuse to answer a single question. I have addressed these remarks chiefly to Senator Trenwith, because it was from certain of his very fine speeches in the past that I derived some of my ideas of fair play and the liberty of the people. And I wish the honorable senator now to state the reason why at one time in the past he was a martyr and a hero for what he considered British rights and liberties, and is now so much opposed to what he previously held to be right.
– The honorable senator does not wish to waste time. He desires to get the Bill through.
- Senator Turley has come to the honorable senator’s assistance, and I might recall some of that honorable senator’s speeches also in defence of British liberty when he thought that the interests of unionists and others were being unduly assailed in the State from which he comes. I remember how eloquently the honorable senator held forth in contending that no Britisher should be arrested on the mere fiat even of an officer of the Crown. As the honorable senator has intervened, I ask him to draw the distinction between the position he occupied then and the position he takes up now. I have not forgot-‘ ten those episodes, and I am sure Senator Turley remembers exactly what I am referring to. He will remember how strongly he protested against some laws under which in his own State men might be arrested and imprisoned for a time without a trial. By both these honorable senators this class of legislation was in times past regarded as coercion ; and what is it now ? What does Senator Symon’s amendment amount to? The honorable senator merely asks that the Comptroller-General shall show reasonable grounds for his action. How is it that honorable senators who in their past political history were eloquent in favour of British liberty and in denouncing coercion, who claimed British liberty as the bulwark of the Constitution, and asserted that our future development demanded that the traditions of British liberty should not be assailed, to-night find themselves on the same side with those who are proposing to interfere with British liberty? I shall not further delay the Committee, and I hope that we shall hear some reasons for what appears to me to be an extraordinary change of opinion on the part of honorable senators opposite.
– While listening to honorable senators opposite, I have been trying to think what extraordinary condition of affairs can have arisen in Australia to justify the introduction of this extreme legislation. What has happened to the commercial community of the Commonwealth ? It is said that there are combines and trusts in Australia. Within the last two years I heard two leading members of the Labour Party in the Senate venture to assert that they hoped the day would soon come when there would be more combines and trusts, and that when there were combines of unionists associated with combines of manufacturers, a condition of affairs would be brought about which would advance the position of unionists. I replied at the time that the public would be crushed between them. However, the honorable senators who at that time commended combines and trusts now speak of them as if they were opposed to them. I said then, as I venture to say now, that combines and trusts are not necessarily evil. It depends entirely upon their operations whether they are good or evil. Our honorable friends opposite will not contend that a combination of working men is evil in itself. They have, to a great extent, lived on the formation of unionists into combines and trusts. I have never complained of men joining unions, or doing the best they could to assist themselves when they have acted upon lines df equity and justice. So far from combines and trusts being evil in themselves, if history proves anything, it proves that they have often been the means of ameliorating the conditions of the workers. Senator Turley spoke truly when he said that perhaps the greatest combine in the world exists in the United Kingdom. As we all know, the railway systems of the United Kingdom are in the hands of private owners. They have been conducted by trusts and combines, to my knowledge, for over forty years. The managers of the traffic and passenger departments of each system used to meet monthly to regulate freights and fare’s, and the general conditions under which the various systems were administered. I never heard of any tyrannical use of the powers enjoyed by the controllers of these railway systems, except at a particular time when some objection was made to the institution, of differential rates on the carriage of goods- in certain districts. That led to the appointment of a Railway Commission, which was given the power to insist that no special rates should be imposed against any section of the community, and since that time, so far as I know, the public of the United Kingdom have been satisfied with the way in which the railways have been carried on.
– Is- the honorable senator discussing the whole Bill or the proposed new section 15b?
– I am discussing the Bill and the proposed new section, which is the crux of the Bill.
– The honorable senator should discuss the amendment.
– I am, at all events, replying to a discussion which has not been strictly confined to the amendment, or to the proposed new section. No one will gainsay the statement that trusts and combines in America have used their powers lo the detriment of the public at large, but that is no reason why we in Australia should be called upon to adopt panic legislation, and enact the drastic provisions by which the American people are trying to prevent the misuse of the power of combines in that country. I venture to say that, so far as the public and the commercial community of Australia are aware, there have been no overt acta on the part of any combine or trust in this country that can be said to call for the enactment of such a provision as we are now discussing. We have had charges made against combines and trusts, and a very serious charge made against one alleged combine was inquired into by a Royal Commission. I venture to say that the evidence brought before the Commission showed that those charges were without any foundation. I believe that the combine in question is carrying on its business in an honest and legitimate manner, in the interests of its employes and of the public at large. If the combine which has been most virulently attacked has proved before ai Royal Commission, that the charges made against it could not be supported, what can we say of other trusts of which we know nothing ? I might have been prevailed upon to support this proposed new section if the Government had really shown that they were prepared to put into operation against any combine which they considered was acting to the detriment of the public all the powers which they already possess. Had they done so, we should have had evidence to show where the weakness of the present law lay, and how we as legislators could best assist the Government to improve it. I venture to assertthat we on this side of the Senate are quite as earnest in our desire to support the Government in a fair and equitable mariner, in tackling any combine or trust believed to be injurious to the welfare of the people, as are honorable senators opposite. But no such evidence has been placed before us by the Minister. Some of us regard with very great regret the fact that last year certain proceedings were taken by the Minister of Trade and Customs which, I venture to say, were of the most arbitrary and discreditable character, against a firm of importers, at the instigation of a rival manufacturer. The Minister took upon himself to presecute that firm with an amount of virulence that he. must now regret. He must be sorry that he did not give the’ persons attacked the means of defending themselves by furnishing him with information as to the statements communicated to the Department by the informer. I mention that case to show that Ministers ;ire liable to be actuated by prejudice and bias. I do not for a- moment doubt that the Minister who instigated the prosecution is an absolutely honest gentleman, and that he took the action that he did believing it to be in the interests of the community. But he could not escape from his partybias. It has been stated over and over again that the present Comptroller-General of Customs is a gentleman who would honestly carry out the Act. We on this side of the Chamber coincide in that view. There is no one who would doubt that the Comptroller-General would desire to carryout the Act with absolute justice and equity. But I venture to submit that the Comptroller-General would be bound to interpret the Act in accordance with the wishes of his Minister, who would be a party man. I think, Mr. Chairman, that I am entitled to a quorum. [Quorum formed.] We are at one with regard to this clause except as to a very small detail. But that detail means much. If the amendment were carried, I venture to sa.y that it would not hinder the carrying out of the principles which are embodied in the clause. It might cause a small amount of delay, but that would be all. Its effect would be that instead of a gentleman who is the servant of the Government having placed in his hands the sole right to control the commercial industries of Australia, that power would be placed in the hands of a. Judge in Chambers.
– That is not the amendment before the Chair at all.
– That is the amendment that has been foreshadowed. It means that we, as a party, object to the industrial and commercial life of Australia, so far as concerns trusts, being placed under the control of a servant of the Government. We believe, rightly or wrongly, that the time might come when the Minister of the day might exercise some influence over that officer. It is not More than four or five years since, in one of the States of Australia, it was proved up to the hilt that a Government . officer holding a position equal to that of the Comptroller-General of Customs could not be trusted with im portant powers, and that he was, in fact, merely a servant of his Minister.
– To what incident does the honorable senator refer?
– I decline to mention it, except that it occurred in connexion with the land business in New South Wales.
– Is the honorable senator speaking of Mr. Carruthers ?
– I am not speaking of Mr. Carruthers, who is quite as honest as Senator de Largie is. I decline to listen without a protest to the name of a gentleman who has been Premier of his State for five years, and who had the greatest vote secured by any man in any constituency in New South Wales for the last fifteen years, being mentioned in connexion with such an affair without a tittle of evidence.
– Why does not the honorable senator state distinctly what he refers to?
– The honorable senator refers ‘to something and declines to say what it was.
– I considered that the illustration would come home to any one who knew anything about the political history of New South Wales.
– I do not think that any one in the Chamber know§ what the honorable senator is .referring to.
– If the honorable senator did not know he had no right to mention a name in such a way as to bring a shadow of doubt upon the integrity of one of our leading statesmen.
– The honorable senator had no right to insinuate without mentioning particulars.
– I did not insinuate anything. I mentioned a fact. It seems peculiar that the Ministry should’ wish to retain this provision in its entirety when by adding a few words the effect of it would be the same, except that there would be a feeling of security throughout the commercial community that the powers contained in the measure would not be put into operation except under the authority of a Judge in whom every one would have entire confidence. I should support the provision if the amendment were made. I shall do my best to defeat it if the amendment is not carried.
– One of the reasons why the Government are offering tm1** “strong opposition to this perfectly harmless, although useful, amendment - harmless in that it will not damage the B ill, useful in that it will retain one of the points in our judicial procedure to which we_ have always adhered strongly in the past - seems to be that they have some ground for opposing it other than the ostensible one which the Minister has given us. The Government appear to fear that if “the ComptrollerGeneral has to satisfy a Judge that he has “ reasonable grounds “ for his action, that officer will not be able to prove that he has reasonable grounds, and so they will not be able to set the law in motion. The object of the amendment is to require that in any proceedings under this Bill we shall follow the good old fashion of requiring a statutory declaration to be made, or a case to be shown to a Judge in Chambers, before a man can be haled up and compelled to answer questions about his private business. If I thought that the amendment would prevent the effective working of the measure, I should vote against it. It is all very well to inveigh against trusts and combines, or, as Senator Needham did, talk about the “old-fashioned idea” that a man is innocent until he is proved guilty. But if the measure, with the ‘amendment in it, will carry out the intentions of the Government and Parliament, the amendment ought to be inserted, and honorable senators opposite have “no right to charge us with trying to wreck the Bill by a subterfuge. Rather, an attempt is being made by a subterfuge to exclude from it the small modicum of protection which we propose to give to the people who are liable to be suspected and charged by the Comptroller-General. It is extraordinary that we should be asked to amend the principal Act when we have only the word of the Minister that efforts have been made to carry it out. The Government may have made efforts, but I can say from my own personal knowledge of what goes on in Queensland, and from documentary evidence which has appeared in the papers, that there is sufficient evidence to justify the Government in tackling one combine on the admissions of its own agents”, and on the strength of its own documents. I refer to the Shipping Combine. If the Government cannot get the necessary evidence in connexion with the Tobacco Combine and various other bodies, at any rate the evidence in connexion with the Shipping Combine in Queensland was there absolutely for everybody to see. By some means or other the Government have had their eyes blinded. They have failed to observe what has been going on, or to take action. Then, because, largely from this side of the chamber, they havebeen pressed to take action against trusts and combines, they say, “ The Act is defective, and we want a method which approximates very closely to the Russian system of domiciliary visits, to find out evidence against- people in order that we may prosecute them.” In dealing with the suggestion that statutory declarations should be required, the Vice-President of the Executive Council , stated that spies were frequently a very useful and necessary body of people in the carrying out of Government measures. But even the hangman’s name can be kept secret, and if a spy has to make a statutory declaration, the Government need not give away the spy any more than they give” away the hangman. “Unless the spy himself likes to tei) everybody that he has made a statutory declaration, or gets a member of Parliament to ask that it be laid upon the table, secrecy will be observed just as much as if he crawls in at the back door, whispers his information to the Minister, and crawls out again. But in the event of a spy giving information which is absolutely unfair, dishonest, and liable to cause serious damage to an individual or firm, the Ministry will, if he is required to make a statutory declaration, have in their hands a weapon with which to punish him - his false oath. I see no reason why the Minister should not adopt, in some form or other, Senator Dobson’s suggestion that the man who first stirs up the ComptrollerGeneral - and we cannot expect that official to act entirely on his own initiative - should be expected to make a statutory declaration so that he may be punished if he tells lies to the injury of individuals or corporations. I said that this proposal was on all fours with the Russian system of domiciliary visits. I have just been reading an interesting book - Red Russia - by Foster . Frazer, which I strongly recommend honorable senators opposite to get. They will read there how, if a Minister believes that he is doing the right thing for the benefit of distracted. Russia, his officials will enter people’s houses in the middle of the night, yank them out, and send them away without trial.
– Every despot and tyrant says that he believes that what he is doing is for the good of the people.
– Exactly. Probably those people think that they are doing the best they can for Russia. In the same way the ComptrollerGeneral or the Government, believing that an organization is a trust or combine, may do serious damage and injury by taking the action which this measure will enable them to take.’ Similar things occurred during the last French Revolution. The only difference was that, instead of destroying the business or exposing the trade affairs of a man to the public and to his rivals, they cut his head off. In the one case he suffers a lingering death, while in the other his end is sudden. If, in those days, a man had an opponent in trade, all that he had to do was to write a note - very frequently those notes Were anonymous - to the Central Committee, who denounced the latter as an aristocrat. That was quite enough. He was yanked out, put in the French, equivalent of Black Maria, and his head placed under -the guillotine.
– Does not the honorable senator wish to cut off the heads of the trusts ?
– I will not do it without a trial. But that is what the Government and a great many honorable senators on the other side propose to do. So long as it does not apply to their unions, and other combines of that nature, they are quite prepared to cut the heads off trusts and combines without trial.
– There is nothing in the Bill to provide for punishing them without trial.
– If that is so, the honorable senator ought to be willing to insert the words “ on reasonable grounds.” But he will not do so, because he wishes the measure left in such a shape that the Comptroller-General can, without reasonable grounds, take action to haul a man before him and question him as to his books and business. We are told that the Comptroller-General is a gentleman in whom we can put the greatest faith. I hope that we shall always have ComptrollersGeneral of whom that can be said. But nobody believes that the present Comptroller-General, or those who will follow him in years to come, can be ubiquitous. If there is a combine among the pearl shellers at Thursday Island for the restraint of trade, the ComptrollerGeneral cannot personally find out what is going on. If there is a combine in Western Australia, he cannot attend to the matter there, and therefore preliminary ‘ inquiries will have to be made, and a large amount of evidence collected, by subordinate officials all over Australia. I am not going to run down our civil servants. It is easy enough to assume that we shall always have excellent officials in whom we can put trust; but only the other day enormous frauds on the Customs Department, which had extended over many years, were discovered in Adelaide. Nobody believes that those frauds could possibly have taken place if the officials concerned had exercised all the prudence, judgment, wisdom, and care which we should expect to be exercised by a man who is given the power to haul up men and question them about their business.
– Some of the officers were parties to that affair.
– Two were dismissed for it.
– It was not proved that they were parties to it.
– We may assume that they were dismissed- because they were innocent. The Comptroller-General will have at times to delegate certain of his powers to, and collect his information through, officials in other parts of Australia. If the Comptroller-General has been informed, and has reason to believe, or thinks that he has reason to believe, that a combine exists somewhere north of Townsville which should be attacked under this legislation, he will not go up there. Will he then drag the people concerned down to Melbourne, so as to be able to discuss the matter in his office? Even assuming that a matter of that kind will be left for the officials there to attend to, many cases will have to come before the Comptroller-General in Melbourne, and, if I can read the signs of the times, he is already an overworked man, and has plenty on his hands, without undertaking investigations, which must sometimes last for days and days, into the affairs of such gigantic combinations as the Tobacco Trust, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and other bodies that are all alleged to be combines or monopolies. The result would be that he would require a large staff in
Melbourne to conduct the investigations. Do honorable senators think that inquiries of that kind into people’s business methods can be carried on with a large staff of officials without any of the information leaking out? We heard from the other side recently that there was a breath of suspicion that information had’ leaked out before the new Tariff was tabled. If that could happen in regard to a matter of which only two or three individuals could have knowledge, what about an inquiry of this kind, in which a large number of officials would be concerned? The greatest objection which I see to the ‘measure as it now stands is that it will lay every business man who can possibly be proved to have any connexion with anybody else in business matters open to being bled by blackmailers, who .may call upon the ComptrollerGeneral to expose a combine, to examine its books, and investigate its business. Every blackmailer will go to’ a business man and say, “ That is what I will do unless I am paid to hold my tongue.” That is what mouchards or spies bring about in any country. T ask honorable senators sitting on the other side if thev are going now - after we have pretty well got away from the policy of spies, blackmailers, mouchards, and so forth - to take up a reactionary attitude and vote for refusing to put in the provision the words’ “ on, reasonable grounds?” If thev insist upon leaving out the words I shall feel m-sell justified at any time in ‘deliberately charging them with a reactionary attitude in connexion with treating people reasonably and fairly and preventing them from being blackmailed by unscrupulous .persons through threats of dragging their business before the Comptroller-General.
– I did not intend to speak again on the subject, but some remarks were made by Senator Needham to which I desire to give a flat contradiction. He has insinuated that senators on this side are sympathetic with trusts and combines which are acting illegally. That I think was a most extraordinary remark for the honorable senator to make, and I repudiate the insinuation. . I cannot understand why the Government, whom I credit with being composed of honorable men, can object to the insertion of the words “ on reasonable grounds.” I can only suppose that they are proceeding on an old Scottish practice which is known as “ Jeddart justice,” and which meant hanging a man first and trying him afterwards. We are asked to enact this provision -
If the Comptroller-General believes that an offence has been committed against this Part of this Act he may by writing under his hand require any person whom he believes to be capable of giving any information in relation 10 the alleged offence to answer questions and to produce documents to him or to some person named by him.
There are always men who, for reasons best known to themselves, are capable of giving or suggesting information to the Department; and yet the ComptrollerGeneral, who is not infallible, may employ any person to collect information about business men. . I hope that even at the last moment the Government will see their way to accept this very modest amendment. I believe that the public at large will be surprised if it is not accepted. Although we may -not be able to carry it, still we have the satisfaction of knowing that we represent the opinions df the great majority of honest men in the community. I have always protested against any violation of the principle, that so long as a man is not proved to be guilty he must be considered innocent. We are now asked to adopt what Senator Chataway has called a Russian method, or what .1 call a Star Chamber policy. What is a man’s liberty worth if any Dick, Tom, or Harry can go to the Comptroller-General with a statement, and that officer can send one of his subordinates straight away to ransack the books of persons in business? Many a person who may be perfectly innocent may have his reputation injured by the fact of it becoming known that an information has been laid against him. Senator Lynch made an excellent point when he drew attention to the fact that the ComptrollerGeneral can employ persons all over Australia, whom he may know by repute to be respectable and capable to represent him in prosecuting business men. So that the power may be exercised, not merely by the ComptrollerGeneral, but by any person outside Melbourne whom he may name. I protest against the Comptroller-General, who is mostly in Melbourne, being empowered to take action against persons resident in New South Wales or elsewhere He has not the requisite knowledge, and the persons whom he may employ may not possess that knowledge. Let the Government do what is right by accepting the amendment.
– Ever since the Bill has been brought in, we have been asked to believe that honorable senators on the other side are willing to give the Government further powers, in order that they may be able to deal with trusts and combines which are doing an injury to the public. I am prepared to judge honorable senators, not by their words, but by their actions. I do not care about their standing up, because it is popular, and saying, “ We are prepared to approve of any provisions which will enable the Government to curb the iniquitous powers which trusts and combines employ.” But I am prepared to judge them by the fact that they are doing whatever they can to practically render ineffective the powers which the Government are seeking to obtain in this Bill.
– Nothing of the kind.
– That is practically the position.I congratulate honorable senators opposite upon standing up for trusts and the combines.
– Only when they do right.
– This legislation will not interfere with them if they do right, any more than a law against larceny interferes with a man who does not steal.
– This provision is expressly directed to people who are presumed to be innocent.
– No; to people who are suspected of an offence.
– Without any ground.
– No. Just now Senator Gray said that the Opposition feel quite satisfied that the ComptrollerGeneral will carry out this legislation with absolute fairness and equity.
– The present one.
– And he is not a Methuselah; he will not live always.
– No ; but are we to believe that there will not be other officers who will be prepared to act fairly and honestly with persons with whom they have dealings ?
– In other States, have we not had illustrations of men who have not acted altogether fairly?
– I do not know. The honorable senator rises and tells us of the villains there are in New South Wales, but he forgets to mention their names, and, therefore, we are not able to understand the references. When he is asked if he is referring to a particular person, whose name is mentioned, he gets into a white heat, and says that it is disgraceful on the part of honorable senators even to breathe the name of a man in New South Wales, when they are asking for information. The honorable senator said that he has heard members of the Labour Party express the belief that when both employers and employés are organized, the latter will have a better chance of getting fair consideration than they have had.
– I said that that statement was made by members of the Labour Party here.
– Then the honorable senator said “ Yes; but the public are those who are going to suffer,” and he wants to protect the public. This measure is brought in with that object.
– What about the Labour Combines ?
– The Labour Combines have not yet had the power to hurt the public in any way. The only power which they have ever exercised has been in refusing to work if the terms offered did not suit them. I think that every man has the right to exercise that power. If he does not think that the terms are satisfactory, there is no reason why he should accept the position offered.
– Then the honorable senator is against the Arbitration Court?
– No. I am only pointing out that the labour organizations have never yet had it in their power - and if they had, I do not suppose that they would ever exercise it - to do anythingto the detriment of the public, because they comprise a very large proportion of the community. Senator Chataway has said that the Opposition have asked the Government why they have not used the powers which have been placed in their hands by the principal Act. He has stated that they have been stirred up by the Opposition to do something in this connexion. If that is the case, the Opposition ought to be satisfied. The question which the Opposition put to the Government has been answered. The Government have explained that they instituted inquiries in a number of cases where trusts were believed to exist, but that they could not get any direct evidence because they could only go to those whose interest or object was to frustrate their efforts if possible. The Government say, “ As we have no power to demand information, or to see books and documents, we ask Parliament to strengthen our hands.” Immediately that request is made, honorable senators on the other side say, “ Oh yes, we think that everything should be done to interfere with those persons who are dangerous to the public weal.” But what are their actions? They do not think that the Comptroller-General should be given the power to get the documents unless he is able to go before a Court and obtain, practically, an order to enable him to do so. There is no reason why he should be required to take that step. Honorable senators also say thatthey do not want the information to become public. If the Comptroller-General is required to go before a Court, the information will become public property. It is because the Government do not wish to take any action which will be detrimental to the interests of any firm or combine into whose operations they wish to make inquiries that they prefer to make those inquiries through the Comptroller-General or his officers, without making everything public to the world.
– Was not that the argument in favour of the Star Chamber?
– I do not know that it is of any use to trouble about the honorable senator, because he makes such dreadful statements that one can hardly deal with them.
– I will make some more.
– Just now, the honorable senator rose and questioned Senator Trenwith and myself about some statements which we have made about unionists at one time or other, and said we had spoken against the powers, which- Governments had taken to deal with unionists. I have always been of the opinion that for a Government to pick up a man in the street and lock him up for seven days or weeks - as was done in Queensland at one time - was an interference with the liberty of the subject; in fact, with the liberty of everybody in the district where that law was proclaimed. I have always said that if the Government thought it necessary to interfere with trusts - and I did not think that it could be done effectively by legislation - I was prepared to’ clothe them with whatever power they might require. Where has Senator St. Ledger -been? He has been with those who have fought against coercion, and he has been the instrument of the coercionists. The honorable senator is here to-day practically as the instrument of those who passed the strongest coercive legislation that was ever carried in Australia.
– I cannot be responsible for the twists and changes to which . the honorable senator is able to accommodate himself. I was always opposed to the powers which were asked for by a certain Government in Queensland, but having been opposed to them, I did not turn round in the course of a year or two, and become the instrument of the people ,who were responsible for .putting such villainous legislation on the statute-book. However, I do not say these things. of Senator St. Ledger. It was the chairman of a meeting who, introducing the honorable senator, to his audience, said, “ What can I say for this gentleman except that he has fought under every possible political banner in Queensland?” I wish honorable senators to understand exactly the position which the honorable senator occupied.
– That proves the honorable senator’s versatility.
– Yes; the honorable senator is a lightning change artist. He is unable to- understand and appreciate the action of Senator Trenwith, myself,and other honorable senators on this, side who have always been opposed to coercive legislation as applied to people who have been fighting for the improvement of the conditions of the workers.
– The honorable senator is supporting coercive measures in this Bill.
– I am- not doing anything of the sort. If this were a Bill under which the Comptroller-General could send a wire to Brisbane or Sydney, saying, “Arrest so-and-so. You need not bring him up for trial for a fortnight or three weeks,” I should not be found supporting it. Senator Symon has moved the insertion of the words “on reasonable grounds “ after the word “ believes.” The Comptroller-General might have every reason to believe that certain things were going on that were contrary to ‘the law.
– On what grounds ?
– The proposed new section provides that -
If the Comptroller-General believes that an offence has been committed against this Part of this Act he may by writing under his hand require any person whom he believes to be capable of giving any information in relation to the alleged offence to answer questions and to produce documents to him or to some person named by him.
Should the proposed new section be allowed to remain as it stands the person from whom information is sought must give it and must supply documents or records that are asked for. If the amendment were agreed to, he would at once say, “You have no reasonable grounds for .asking me to give this information, or to produce any -documents and records,” and the Comptroller-General would then require to get an order from a Court to compel the person to give the information.
– How else could the Comptroller-General get the information? He would have to make the whole thing public.
– Nothing of the kind.
– Senator Turley is strictly correct, if the Comptroller-General wereasking for a penalty.
– Not unless the person resists.
– Before the ComptrollerGeneral could get the order, every particle of evidence that might go to prove the existence of the trust could be destroyed and the Government would be. absolutely helpless. That is the reason I have congratulated honorable senators opposite upon their efforts in favour of trusts and combines. If they are sincere in their professed intention to assist the Government to deal with trusts and combines, I ask whythev. should put these obstacles in the way”? They have complained that the Government have not made use of the legislation we have passed. We are assured ‘that the Government have made inquiries, and that their efforts have been frustrated in every possible way bv interested persons, and when they say that they are obliged to ask for the increased powers which would be given under this Bill, honorable senators object, although there is no question of the affairs of any combine or trust being made public.
– Their business is stopped, all their books are taken posses- sion of, and there is no publicity ! The statement is absurd.
– There need be no publicity of the affairs of a trust under the proposed new section. It is not a question of taking their books and documents away, and preventing them carrying on business. It is a question of putting some one into their place of business to see how things are carried on. We heard just the same objection from honorable senators opposite in connexion with the administration of the Customs Act. We know the howl that went up, especially from honorable senators opposite, and the interests they represent, when about five years ago the Customs authorities put a man who had been guilty of defrauding the country of thousands of pounds into the Police Court, although that man was as justly placed in that position as the meanest thief that might be picked up in the street. Honorable senators opposite are practically standing behind this sort of villainy.
– Is the honorable senator in order in making the statement that members of the Senate are standing behind villainy?
– I withdraw the statement, and I will say that honorable senators are seeking to alter the proposed new section so that the people from whom the Government desire to obtain information shall be in a position to avoid giving any information at all.. That is the position which would be brought about by the amendment, and if it were agreed to the Government would be just as helpless as they are now in dealing with trusts and combines.
– I should not have interfered at this stage if it were not for the fact that Senator Turley has made a charge with regard to my political conduct before I had the honour to represent Queensland in the Senate. I am very glad to find that the criticism I directed against honorable senators opposite who have talked so much of the palladium of British liberty has had some effect. There were no persons in whose mouths the condemnation of tyrannous Governments was stronger.
– Perhaps the honorable senator will apply himself to the charge made ‘against him?
– I am about to do so. I am glad that I have roused Senator Turley to make a personal charge against me.
– It was the honorable senator’s chairman, Mr. Duffy, and not I, who made the charge.
– No, Senator Turley has deliberately made the charge. I was waiting for some time for this opportunity, in order that it might not be said that I had sought it for myself. In the hope that he might weaken the effect of the arguments I have addressed to the Committee on the important provision before us, Senator Turley has said that at a public meeting in Queensland, when I was seeking election to represent the State in the Senate, I was accused by the chairman of the meeting of having served under every political banner in Queensland in trying to seek an entry into Parliament.
– And still the honorable senator is not satisfied.
– Still I am not satisfied. I dare say that Senator Turley, to use a common expression, thought I would notbe “game” to answer the charge, and, probably, no member of the Senate is now more sorry that the statement has been made than is Senator Turley himself, since it has given me an opportunity to explain the matter. It is perfectly true that such a remark was made,’ but Senator Turley omitted to add that as soon as the remark was made, inthe presence of a big public meeting, I at once characterized it by. an expression which you, sir, would not allow me to use on the floor of this chamber.
– The honorable senator can use the expression here, since it did not apply to any member of the Senate.
– I am rather particular about the observance of the forms of the Senate, but my Queensland colleagues,no doubt, will remember the dramatic occasion.
– Let the honorable senator tell us what he said.
– Very well, I shall do so, and I am glad that Senator Turley has given me the opportunity. When the statement was made, I said at once that it was a lie. It certainly was a lie, and nobody knew that better than the gentleman who made it. If Senator Turley will look up the political history of Queensland he will also admit that it was a lie. I am glad I have had this opportunity to refer to the matter, because the statement has been whispered about in Iago-like fashion.
– But I know that it was not a lie. That’s the trouble.
– If Senator Turley does not know that it was a lie, I can only say that he should refresh his memory as to political events in Queensland.
Senator Sayers. - Why do you not stop Senator Turley interjecting ? Why do you not stop him?
– I ask Senator St. Ledger to resume his seat. I wish to know whether Senator Sayers addressed his remarks to me?
Senator Sayers.- I say that if honorable senators in the opposite corner . are going to carry on in the way they are doing, we should also be allowed to interject. I was not speaking to you, sir, but to the honorable senators who were interjecting.
– I direct the attention of the honorable senator to the fact that I am responsible for keeping order in the Committee, and it was not in order for the honorable senator to speak as he did to the Chairman.
– If you will allow me, sir-
– I am responsible for keeping order in the Committee. I shall do my duty in that respect, and I think it is extremely disorderly for such remarks to be shouted at the Chairman as they were by the honorable senator.
– Was it in order for Senator Turley to give the lie direct to Senator St. Ledger?
– If Senator Turley said that any statement made by Senator St. Ledger was a lie, he was out of order.
- Senator Turley said that the statement which Senator St. Ledger characterized as a lie, was not a lie.
– Do I understand from Senator St. Ledger that he believes that Senator Turley charged him with having said what was a lie?
– Not in direct words, but in effect he did.
– If Senator Turley accused Senator St. Ledger of having told a lie, I ask him to withdraw the statement.
– The allegation is not correct. The position is this. Senator St. Ledger stated what took place at a public meeting in Queensland. He said that he made the statement from the public platform that a certain statement made by the Mayor of Bundaberg was a lie. I interjected that I knew that it was not a lie. I referred to the statement made at a public meeting in Queensland, not to a statement made by Senator St. Ledger here.
– But Senator St. Ledger made his statement here.
– My remark related to what took place at a public meeting in Queensland.
– After that explanation, I cannot take the view that Senator Turley stated that what Senator St. Ledger said was a lie, and, therefore, I cannot rule that the honorable senator was out of order.
– On the point of order-
– I have given a ruling on the point of order. Does the honorable senator wish to dispute my ruling?
– I was not aware, sir, that you had given a ruling.
– My ruling, after Senator Turley’s explanation - that he did not charge Senator St. Ledger with having told a lie - was that the interjection was not disorderly. If Senator Mulcahy disputes my ruling, there is a proper course for him to take.
– Senator Turley has managed to keep himself free from the imputation of being disorderly. I must compliment him upon the dexterity and ingenuity which he has displayed in making an insinuation which no man ought to make unless he is prepared to prove it. I am now on my defence against an accusation that has been made against me, and I am going to explain the whole incident.
– I must ask the honorable senator to discuss the amendment before the Chair. A statement has been made, and the honorable senator has made an explanation concerning it. The original statement was made while I was not in the Chair, but the honorable senator has offered his explanation, and the incident should be closed.
– Senator St. Ledger is making his explanation now.
– If the honorable senator wishes to complete a personal explanation, he can do so, but I must ask him to deal with the question before us.
– On a point of order, sir, I wish to observe that a charge of a most gross character has been made against a member of the Senate. Surely he is entitled to reply to it?
– What is the point of order?
– That, a charge having been made against a senator, he is entitled to repel it.
– I am not aware of any charge having been made.
– A charge was made against Senator St. Ledger of being a politician who had served under every political banner in Queensland. Surely it is a matter of fair play that he should be entitled to repel that charge. I therefore ask you, as a matter of order, not to rule that the honorable senator’s explanation is to be cut short.
– I wish to give the honorable senator every latitude in making apersonal explanation, although there is a question before the Chair which must be discussed. I ask’ him to make his explanation as short as he can.
– The statement made by Senator Turley was not relevant to anything in this Bill. Surely I am entitled to make an explanation when I am attacked.
– The honorable senator is entitled to defend himself.
– The honorable senator can make an explanation, though the matter has nothing to do with the question.
– May I point out that Senator Turley was not interrupted for an instant while he was making the charge against me. The reply which I made at the time was published. I pointed out that, on the first occasion when I ventured to come before the public of Queensland, the first words which I put into any public address were to the effect that I stood pledged to no party. I was perfectly independent. I stood alone. Senator Turley was very well aware of that when he made his charge against me. Further than that, when I was again charged by thesame gentleman with similar political conduct, I pointed out that I had never pledged myself to any political party at any time, and that I held myself independent. My colleague, Senator Sayers, reminds me that a colleague of Senator Turley made a similar charge against me in public, and that, when I repudiated it, he accepted my denial, and said that I had been misunderstood. I may also remark that the person who made that dastardly statement against me under such discreditable circumstances received his political death at the next election - largely, I believe, in consequence of that diabolical attack. I have now, I think, completed what I desired to say.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be inserted - put. The Committee divided.
Majority …… 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
Senate adjourned at 11.1 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 23 October 1907, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1907/19071023_senate_3_40/>.