3rd Parliament · 4th Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Case of H. j. Selby.
– I desire to draw the attention of the Minister representing the Postmaster-General to the following paragraph in to-day’s Argus, which was sent from Sydney on Wednesday, and is headed “ Postal Salaries. Officer overworked and underpaid. Judge’s severe strictures.”
Severe strictures as to the manner in’ which postal officials are treated in the matter of remuneration were made by Judge Rogers at the Parramatta Quarter Sessions to-day.
Henry Joseph Selby, formerly employed in the Windsor post-office, . pleaded guilty to the conversion of public money, and three charges of forging and altering postal notes.. . Evidence was called to show that Selby’s mental balance had been affected by hard work and worry.
Judge Rogers saidhewas sorry for Selby, but could not see his way to apply the provisions of the First Offenders Act in the case. He imposed a sentence of twelve months’ hard labour, and ordered that Selby shouldhaveall the medical attention necessary.
Application had been made by the Postal Department for the payment of£83 found on Selby. Judge Rogers said he must make the order, but he had no sympathy with a Department that could pay a servant] after twenty years’ service,£120 a year, a starvation pittance. He thought the Liberal Commonwealth Government would have allowed the£83 to be kept for the wife and children ofthe prisoner. He had heard other cases in which these wretched pittances were paid by the Postal Department. He had great contempt for that service. Why did people take such positions? Goodness only knew. Perhaps because they wanted to be married. Any private employer intrusting a servant with big sums, and paying such a salary, would expect to be robbed.
If the attention of the Minister has been drawn to the paragraph, will he be good enough to procure a statement of the facts in connexion with the case and give the information to the Senate?
– I had noticed the paragraph, and anticipating that the Senate might desire some information about it, I communicated with the PostmasterGeneral, and received the following memorandum from the Assistant Secretary to the Department -
From the papers in this case it will be seen that Selby admitted having stolen from Assistant Morton’s money order and postal note cash boxes the sum of£14 15s.11d., and that he admitted having appropriated a Savings Bank deposit of £80 and being short in his cash a sum of£88s.4½d. When taken over by the Commonwealth he was 27 years of age and receiving £80 per annum, but he has been in receipt of £126 per annum since the 1st December last, and consequently he has had an increase of more than 50 per cent. in his salary since he has been under the control of the Federal Government.
The Public Service Commissioner has pointed out that the amended grading of General Division providing that postal assistants, lettercarriers, and others, shall attain a maximum of £138, with two long service increments up to £150, came into operation on the 1st July, 1908, and that this represented a marked advance on the conditions hitherto obtaining, which new conditions were far better than those prevailing generally in the States prior to the transfer of the Department. He further stated that the new rates would, in five years’ time, involve an annual increased expenditure of£20,000.
Senator MILLEN laid upon the table the following paper: -
Defence - Correspondence relating to the proposed formation of an’ Imperial General Staff.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. When we were discussing the question of pairs on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate last night, Senator Chataway made a statement to the effect that, on a certain occasion when I, as Whip for the late Government, had been offered a pair by him for Senator Needham, I made a very discourteous remark. He said that I consigned him to some hot place. I wish to give that statement a most emphatic denial. I feel as sure as I stand here, that I never made use of any term that could be twisted or construed in such a manner. I certainly was displeased with the pair that Senator Chataway offered, but I feel quite satisfied that I did not make the rejoinder that he attributed to me. I have now to say, as Whip for the Opposition, that until Senator Chataway withdraws that remark I cannot do any business with him in my official position.
– The honorable senator is now going beyond the scope of a personal explanation.
– That is all I have to say.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What action, if any, is being taken, or has been taken, in regard to the alleged Confectionery Combine ?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
The papers in this matter are in the hands of the legal advisers of the Government, and the whole question is receiving attention in the light of the recent decision of the High Court on the Anti-Trust cases, with a view to advising the Department as to any action which can be taken.
– How long will the matter remain in the hands of the legal advisers to the Government ?
– It is in the same position as it was when the late Government left office.
– Arising out of the Minister’s answer, I wish to say that he will probably remember that a similar question arose with regard to the shipping combine. I desire to know whether the Government really intend to prosecute inquiries into these matters?
– The honorable senator is now going beyond a question arising out of the Minister’s reply.
– I wish to put the matter in such a way that the Minister will understand the question which I ask.
– The honorable senator is alluding to another combine.
– Do the Government really intend that some definite policy shall be pursued as to the formation of combines and their operations?
– That does not arise out of the Minister’s answer. It is really another question.
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
Bill received from House of Representatives and (on motion by Senator Millen) read a first time.
DEATH OF Mr. SPEAKER HOLDER.
The PRESIDENT announced the receipt of a message from the House of Representatives, transmitting to the Senate a resolution passed by the House with reference to the death of Sir Frederick Holder.
– May I ask a question with regard to the message? A resolution in precisely the same terms was passed by the Senate yesterday. Did the resolution make provision for transmitting a message to the House of Representatives ?
– There was no provision for transmitting the resolution passed by the Senate to the House of Representatives.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia) [2.48]. - In that case, may I suggest that the Vice-President of - the Executive Council should, with the concurrence of the Senate, now move that the resolution passed by the Senate yesterday be transmitted to the House of Representatives ?
– I very willingly fall in with the suggestion made by Senator Symon. Accordingly, I move -
That the resolution passed yesterday bv the Senate with reference to the death of Sir Frederick Holder be transmitted to the House of Representatives.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Sir Robert Best) proposed -
That the report be adopted.
– Although I have no desire to divide the Senate, I wish to take “advantage of this opportunity to put on record that a new principle is involved in this Bill, namely, that a person is to be considered guilty until he proves himself innocent. I, for one, protest against that principle being embodied in the Commonwealth statute-book. I have been brought up to believe in the soundness of the old proverb, “Let justice be done though the Heavens fall.” I consider that the principle which we have adopted is unjust, and I trust that it will not again be applied to our legislation.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia) [2.50]. - This is perhaps an advantageous time to briefly review the Bill as it has come to us from the Committee. We may not be prepared to give it our benediction, but it is possible to submit it to a little wholesome criticism, which may be useful in another place. Honorable senators who at present sit in Opposition are supporting this Bill because it is useless, and on the principle that it is one step nearer to nationalization. That is a’ new doctrine to be adopted by those who view these questions from another stand-point, and they might well be asked to pause before they agree to assist the Opposition to carry out the mischievous policy they have in contemplation.
– They cannot pause now. They have gone too far.
– I am not so sure of that. I am about to appeal to the Minister of Trade and Customs to pause even now, before he gets this kind of legislation into more of a mess than he has got it into already.
– The honorable senator is driving the Opposition into the arms of the Government.
– That seems to me to be their proper place. What I complain of is that the old Opposition are in the arms of the Government. I agree with Senator Walker that this kind of legislation in this form is very undesirable. Under the guise of putting a stop to combines, trusts, and monopolies, which we all regard as very objectionable, it will simply shackle private enterprise and harass trade. All legislation which interferes with commerce, and particularly if it is ineffective, is a distinct disturbance of trade. From that point of view we cannot give too much consideration to a measure of this description. I cannot believe that the Minister of Trade and Customs is at all proud of this Bill, although I noticed the statement in the Age of this morning that he is the only member of the Senate who believes that any good can come from it. If that be so, and we have unanimously agreed to pass a measure which the Minister alone believes possesses any possibilities for good, the fact is a great tribute to the honorable senator’s personal influence. I regret very much that the Government have introduced this Bill. I know that it is very difficult to separate the Free Trade from the Protection elements and the anti- Socialist from the Socialist tendencies that exist, in the Ministry. But I regret that the Free Trade and antiSocialist influences were not more potent to prevent the introduction of such a melancholy contribution to the series of Acts of this kind now on the statute-book. This Bill is trumpery in its extent, but it possesses possibilities of mischief, to which we should Have some regard. It practically re-affirms legislation we have already enacted, and it introduces - not a new principle, as Senator Walker said, because the principle to which the honorable senator referred is the trail of the serpent that goes through the whole of this legislation - but two entirely new provisions, which I think have been insufficiently considered. I say that with the utmost regard for the industry of the Minister of Trade and Customs. In proof of the statement, let me say that when it was suggested that the words “ which are the subject of competition “ should be eliminated as being useless or restrictive, the honorable senator said that the draftsman had not sufficiently considered the scope of the phrase, and that on further consultation he thought the words might be omitted. We must all make allowances, but I think we should not have references to the draftsman of a measure when criticism is directed to it in this Chamber. Before he introduces a Bill the Minister in charge of it should make himself conversant with every provision in it, and should be satisfied that it is wide enough, and is of such a character that he can confidently submit it to honorable senators for their acceptance. The three Acts which are re-affirmed in this measure should be borne in mind. There was the Act of 1906, which was condemned most strongly by those who then sat in Opposition. I remember that the chamber rang with condemnation of it and with prophecies that it would be an entire failure. Every word of that was justified, because in the. following year, 1907, the Government were charged with failing in their duty to give effect to the law. On this point no one was more trenchant or incisive than Senator Millen, now the Vice-President of the Executive Council. The excuse given at the time was that the Act was a dead letter, and that is the law which we are reaffirming in the measure now under consideration. It was a perfectly legitimate excuse, because the alternative was that the Government had been negligent or that the law had been treated by them as a sham - having got it on the statute-book and having used it as a flag to fly at the elections in 1906 they dropped it immediately the new Parliament assembled, and did nothing under it. My honorable friend, the Vice-President of the Executive Council, and others, pointed, I think, to the Coal Combine, against which it was suggested that proceedings should be taken, but against which proceedings were not taken. Then, in 1907, the Minister of Trade and Customs, to remedy that state of things, introduced a Bill, which was more drastic in its provisions and more permeated with injustice than any measure with which I am acquainted. Of course my honorable friend, who, as a member of the then Deakin Government, was Leader of the Senate, submitted that Bill for the purpose of remedying the defects of the principal Act, and of enabling the Government to take action. But so strong was the feeling against the injustice embodied in that amending Bill, that you, sir, felt impelled to adopt the unusual course of taking part in the debate upon it, and of joining in the severe criticism to which it was subjected. That Act has also been tried and found wanting. Instead of that experience inducing the Government to introduce more Bills which will prove equal failures, and which can only provide food for the contentions of the Opposition, it ought to have led them to consider whether the whole of this anti-trust scheme ought not to be thoroughly re-investigated, with a view to enacting some simple and just measure which would satisfactorily deal with admitted evils. I do not wish to mention the names of those who set that legislation at defiance. In saying that I have not in mind those who took their cases to the High Court. But, in passing, I do say, “ Thank goodness that we have a High Court to insure that justice shall be done to traders as well as to other people.” The manufacturers simply defied that Act, and now the Minister of Trade and Customs has submitted this Bill without having given it that full consideration which I implore him to bestow upon it, even at this late hour, with a view to preventingsuch a feeble, lame, and mischievous measure from being placed upon our statute-book. I join with Senator Walker in hoping that if the Senate does not remedy the defects of this Bill, a majority in another place will do. so. When he introduced the Bill of 1907, the Minister of Trade and Customs expected two results to flow from its enactment. He expected that it would put an end to objectionable operations of combines and trusts, and also to the prospect of the nationalization of industrial monopolies.
– And we supported him.
– Honorable members opposite took a different view of the measure.
– Our view now is the same as it was then.
– The Labour party took the view that the measure would simply prove a stepping-stone to the nationalization of monopolies. In my view, if we continue to trifle with this subject, we shall not darken the prospect of the nationalization of industrial monopolies. Instead, if we do not actually precipitate that result, we. shall, at any rate, strengthen the view that is held in some quarters in respect of that question. I believe that the Minister of Trade and Customs now belongs to an anti- Socialist
Government, and from that ‘point of view I appeal to him to give his attention to this matter before it is too late. The new principle in this Bill, to which I desire to invite special attention, is contained in the proposed new section 7A. That is a new provision which does not appear in any of the earlier measures relating to trusts and combines. It reads -
Any person who, in relation to trade or commerce with other countries or among the States, either as principal or agent, in respect of dealings in any goods or services which are the subject of competition, gives, offers, or promises to any other person any rebate, refund, discount, concession, or reward, for the reason, or upon the condition expressed or implied, that the latter person -
Penalty : Five hundred pounds.
I ask any honorable senator whether that language is not sufficiently comprehensive to embrace every trader in a street, and every individual shopkeeper who may grant a concession - small or great - to a customer on the understanding that his custom is to be continued ? My honorable friend, Senator Clemons, has rightly called my attention to the fact that I was wrong in saying that the provision would embrace every trader in a street. I should have said that its language is sufficiently comprehensive to include every trader in an adjoining State. Every individual trader in Victoria - I do not care whether he trades in goods or in services - who is led to offer a rebate, refund, discount, concession or reward to any person in another State on condition! that by so doing he is to improve his business, is liable to a penalty of £500. I ask every honorable senator to consider that. If the words of that provision are to be retained in this Bill, they ought to be placarded in every district in which a member of the Government will seek re-election at the next general elections ; and the attention of every trader, shopkeeper and commercial man should be called to them. I am quite certain that neither the Minister of Trade and Customs nor his colleagues desire any such drastic provision; but in their haste to patch up a series of enactments which have failed, they eagerly grasp at anything, and are prepared, with the sanction of Parliament, to place it upon the statute-book.
Paragraph c applies to cases where the rebate discount or concession is given on condition that the person does not deal, or has not dealt, with certain persons. I do not know that that would not cover the case of a man who gave to a former customer a concession to stop away from him. But the sea of litigation, which would be opened up by this provision is a matter which ought to be carefully considered before it is allowed to pass. Before the third reading of the Bill is taken, I ask the Minister to consult his colleagues, and the draftsman, as to. whether a provision to meet his object, but not quite so wide as these words imply, cannot be framed and adopted. I do not wish to discuss proposed new section 713, because the previous one sufficiently enables me to illustrate the principle I -have in view. I desire to say a few words in regard to the legislation which we are now reaffirming, and which, if this ridiculous measure gets on to the statute-book, will be called the Australian Industries Preservation Acts 1906-9. The Bill reaffirms - a thing we are apt to overlook - the abominable principle that the Comptroller-General of Customs, in fact, any executive officer in the employ of the Government, should be clothed with autocratic power, which might result in a heavy fine being inflicted, without the possibility of redress in a Court of justice. The Minister will remember that it was condemned when his Bill of 1907 was under consideration.
– We have a standing order which provides that no honorable senator shall use offensive words against a Statute unless for the purpose of moving for its repeal. The honorable senator is making an adverse criticism of a Statute. According to the title of this Bill it would appear that we have a right to review the Australian Industries Preservation Acts 1906-7, but we have a ‘ standing order which confines us to the subject-matter of a Bill when it is being dealt with. Strictly speaking, that, I think, would confine, the honorable and learned senator to the subject-matter of this Bill. Of course, he has the right to refer to the existing Statutes, but he cannot do so in very severe terms unless it is with the intention of moving for their repeal -
– Mr. President, I would not with intention violate a standing order or your view of it.
We are practically re-enacting the principal Act in order to give a code which is to be called the Australian Industries Preservation Acts 1906-9. I feel very strongly on that point, as did those who sit on 5’our left, and I think justly so. I described the principle - I was not referring to the details - by the expression I used. If we allow the Bill to go out of the Senate, we shall be giving our concurrence again to a principle to which we take the gravest exception, and one to which I. think the gravest objection ought always to be taken. Under the Act of 1907, if a trader comes before the Comptroller-General, who requires to have his books produced, and says, “ Mr. Comptroller, I must really ask you to excuse me,’ as I cannot produce my books without doing grave injury to my business,” the Comptroller has no power to go into his reasons for making that answer, but is simply required to inflict a penalty of £$o. The penalty then becomes recoverable in a summary way before a magistrate, and the only question which can be considered then is whether the defendant has produced his books or not. The trader may have “had the best reasons in the world for not producing the books. If it were possible for a trader to lay his reasons before a magistrate or a Judge, then the magistrate or the Judge might consider that there was a justifiable excuse for not producing the books, and decline to impose the penalty. But there is no appeal from the act of the Comptroller-General. Under the principal Act which we are now re-affirming that state of things exists. I want now to read a few words to show how this principle of autocratic decision on the part of an officer who is not judicial is creeping into legislation, not only in Australia, but even in England. If a man is placed in the position of a tribunal, and is guided by principles of justice and judicial fairness in considering matters that come before him, nobody will object. What I object to is that there should be a Government officer with autocratic authority of that kind in relation to matters which are so intimately concerned with the inner working of a trade as this particular investigation would be. I do not object to it in a Customs Act or a Taxation Act. But under this legislation the purpose is to investigate the inner secrets of a man’s trade or business in order to try- to furbish up a case against him. This principle is creeping in in England, where a Finance Bill has given rise to a great deal of discussion in connexion with a new system of taxation. I shall read the quotation in my hand with all the more satisfaction because I am, to a large extent, a believer in the British Budget. I prefer it, or, at any rate, a good part of it, to other proposals that have been suggested. In the Finance Bill there is a provision which, in relation to land investigation, enables a particular officer to make similar inquiries. The Lord Chief Justice of England, indirectly, but still significantly, called attention to the mischievous character of such a proceeding. He said -
Time was when the Judges stood between the Crown and the people. That was a duty which was not likely to be performed again in any part of the Empire, because His Most Gracious Majesty was the first to recognise the relations of the Crown to the people. The Judges might, however, be called upon in the future to protect the interests of the subject against the Executive.
If this final and autocratic power is given to an individual officer, it will shut out the Judges from exercising that high function of standing between the Executive and the people which is one of the greatest duties which can be associated with their office.
– Hear, hear. It is the greatest weakness in this Bill.
– It is the Government’s Bill.
– I do not want to go into that matter. That expression of the Lord Chief Justice of England is commented upon by the Times in words which show how wonderfully parallel that is to what is being done under this system of legislation: The article, which is headed “ Departmental Autocracy,” reads as follows : -
It is not surprising that the Lord Chief Justice has drawn attention, in guarded but emphatic terms, to the danger arising from the modern usage of granting to some branch of the Executive power to do, or forbear to do, important acts, and to interfere with private rights, without control by Courts of law. No one can be familiar with modern legislation without marking the growth of the habit of withdrawing the conduct of the Executive from judicial supervision.. Usually it is the Treasury, or the Board of Trade, or the Local Government Board in which is vested the power of doing as it pleases. But we note that other departments, Imperial and local, are, as is natural, desirous of obtaining similar privileges. To an earlier, but not very remote, generation such a practice would have seemed dangerous and indefensible. To Blackstone the dead letter, as he termed it, of statute law appeared futile to secure the actual enjoyment of the great primary rights, if the Constitution did not provide certain other auxiliary rights, of which the chief was that of every Englishman to apply to the Courts for redress of injuries; life, liberty, and property were not to be disposed of by Boards or Commissioners or Civil servants, but by Judges and juries, according to due form of law.
– The Government do not even give us a Board of Commissioners.
– No. I am not reflecting upon either the capacity or the fairness of the Comptroller-General. But he is powerless. It is a mere automatic function that he exercises. There is no appeal from his act, or opportunity for the Court which enforces the penalty to inquire into the reasons for the non-production of the books. The article continues -
Our Courts have done much of their best work by exercising a strict and even jealous supervision over the action and proceedings of the Executive. They have called officials to account, disregarded the orders of the superiors of the impugned officials, and refused, failing the most explicit terms in a statute, to allow the ordinary rights of citizens to be abridged by the prerogatives of public departments.
All that is being swept away. Then the writer comes to the particular instance which led to this legislation. He says -
All this is being changed with great rapidity and in a startling manner. The clause in the Finance Bill by which a Treasury official is made an autocrat is only one of many recent examples of the tendency to put some executive body in a position to be able to do what it likes.
I invite the Minister, with the greatest possible deference, and particularly because I know his familiarity with the subject, to give this matter further consideration before the Bill passes from the Senate.
– The Minister has had considerable experience in this class of legislation.
– I do not make this appeal with any desire to taunt my honorable friend in any way, but in the interests of the object to secure which we are all animated with one desire, namely, the suppression of these trusts and combines. I invite him to consider fairly whether it would not be better to give that consideration to the matter than, by having a series of ineffectual Acts, to play directly into the hands of our honorable friends on the Opposition side of the chamber, who rejoice in the failure of every one of these measures, and will make political capital out of it.
– The report from the Committee on the Bill now under consideration is another stage of the weary pilgrimage which our honorable friends on the Government benches will have to travel, carrying the cross of their own political principles, in their attempt to deal with the difficulties and the evils that confront modern industrial life. Judging from the groaning to which we are being treated, the pilgrimage is indeed a weary one. But honorable senators opposite must recollect that the problem with which we are dealing demands some treatment. The people of Australia have demanded, and will continue to demand, that this question shall ,be dealt with. As Senator Symon said, there are two remedies before the people ; in other words, two methods of treatment are put forward. One is that represented by this Bill, which Senator Symon says is useless and wrong. The other is that which is supported by the party to which I belong. The people of Australia are making their choice between these two prescriptions. Any honorable senator who rises today, and says that he will have neither of them, has to tell the people of Australia practically that he is willing, to leave them defenceless and without armour against the attacks of these predatory trusts.
– They are anarchists.
– Undoubtedly they are the true anarchists, who say : “ We will have no law on this subject.” It is the Socialist who believes in the regulation of industry bv the State; and inasmuch as my honorable friends opposite say that they will have none of that policy, they are approaching the region of anarchism. In so far as they are willing to travel in the direction of State legislation, in so far they are progressing in the direction of Socialism. Every step in this direction is a. step towards Socialism, although it may not be complete Socialism. The report now under consideration brings home to our minds the fact that a distinguishing feature of the policy of every anti-Socialist Government in Australia has been the remarkable quantity of legislation of a Socialist character that they have brought forward. Senator Symon was a member of an antiSocialist Government - the Reid-McLear Administration.
– That was a very good Government.
– No doubt it was; but the only measure to which the honorable senator, can point as having been initiated by them with the view of dealing with this problem was a measure for .-the State regulation of industry.
– It was a very good measure, too.
– It was a good measure. We assisted Senator Symon to pass it, just as we are assisting the VicePresident of the Executive Council to-day.
– The honorable senator and his friends did not assist me with the object of superseding it by another nostrum.
– We told the honorable senator frankly that, in our opinion, the best cure for this kind” of evil was the State ownership of steam-ships.
– If the honorable senator had told me that I should have seriously considered whether I ought to go on with the Bill.
– Senator Henderson at that very time had a motion on the business paper affirming the desirableness of the State ownership of steam-ships.
– I do not object to going so far in the direction of Socialism as was represented by the Sea Carriage of Goods Act.
– The measure now before us is of precisely the same character. It may be different in its method, but it represents an attempt by the State to tackle in some way the depredations of industrial trusts, where they are harmful to the people. The Sea Carriage of Goods Act was an attempt of the State to shackle private enterprise when it was acting dishonestly towards the public.
– The honorable senator will admit that the Sea Carriage of Goods Act has been effective.
– It has not.
– This Bill will not be effective.
– The Act to which Senator Symon refers has been effective in the Western Australian trade. It has been of considerable benefit.
– It has pleased everybody except Senator Guthrie.
– At any rate it is a singular feature of our legislation that the very Governments that come in, announcing that they are going to stop the tide of Socialism and sweep it back to the .ocean, bring forward measures which have a pronounced Socialist character. They remind me of Sir Thomas Bent with his anti-Socialist policy establishing Government brick works to keep down the price of bricks.
– But he did not make bricks.
– He was not allowed. As to this Bill, Senators Gray, Pulsford, and Walker, know that we have only dealt with three of these measures yet. In the United States Legislature they have had sixteen amending Bills.
– What good have they all done?
– Very little good. As fast as Congress passes an amending Bill, the trust lawyers set to work to find loop-holes, so that they may drive the proverbial coach and four through it. Hitherto they have always . found such a loop-hole. Then those who believe in this sort of legislation have to bring forward other measures to stop the gap. My honorable, friends opposite should not cry out yet. They will have plenty more of these Bills in the future. As soon as the Government commence to put their measure into operation, to prosecute a trust, Senator Walker and his friends will find that this Bill will be merely a mild dose to what they will have to swallow. In the United States, under a similar piece of legislation, what has happened? Let me tell my honorable friends. In one case the authorities actually took a business out of the hands of the owner and appointed a receiver. They virtually confiscated the man’s property, for the time being. Do my honorable friends the anti-Socialists, who denounce so strongly anything that savours of confiscation, like the prospect? Do they regard with equanimity the possibility that under this legislation they will yet be asked to sanction the confiscation of a man’s property, for the time being, whether he be an honest man or not? In one case the owner of the property had to go to the receiver for petty cash with which to carry on his house. Although that is drastic treatment, yet it has been found to be absolutely necessary. Drastic as it is, however, it has failed to cure the evil.
– This Bill will do mischief to other people who have not offended.
– It may do mischief, but to leave the evil alone would do infinitely more mischief. This measure mav inflict harm on a few, but to leave the trusts absolutely alone would undoubtedly inflict a vast injustice on a good many, and on the nation.
– Is it not leaving them alone to adopt an inefficient measure ?
– It is better to try to cure the evil in some way than to let it alone.
– Will not the honorable senator support the Bill with his vote ?
– Certainly. I would sooner have this Bill than nothing at all. I recognise that these trusts are here, and. that, unless we deal with them in some way, the great mass of the people will suffer. Though I do not approve of this method of procedure, and should prefer another policy, still, I am not going to allow the trusts to continue to rob the people right and left. If I did, I should not be acting as a worthy representative of my constituents. But I desire to direct attention to the straits to which my honorable friends opposite are forced. What does this class of legislation show? It shows that the Conservative element in this Parliament have had to abandon all their traditions in regard to law. As was pointed out by Senator Symon, who is one of the leading legal members of this Parliament, we are, by this legislation, introducing an entirely new principle into British law. The Government have been compelled to do so.
– They have not been compelled to introduce it, but they have done so. .
– Does the honorable senator mean to say that the Minister in charge of this Bill brought it in out of a pure spirit of wickedness?
– I answer that I have always opposed the principle to which the honorable senator refers, and do not think it necessary.
– Let me remind the Senate that not a single bit of pressure was brought to bear upon the Government from any quarter to induce them to introduce their last Bill on the subject. They’ brought it forward of their own volition.
– They brought it forward because experience showed that it was necessary
– Are we to believe that they brought forward this new principle out of wickedness, and with a desire to inflict injury on people who were supposed to have made the introduction of this class of legislation necessary? But honorable senators opposite, who are forced to support this Bill, have to do violence to their own feelings, and to their own traditions, in order to deal with the question at all.
– It is their sincerity that I doubt.
– I do not doubt the sincerity of their desire to deal with the trusts. But, in order to carry out their desire, they have to do violence to their own feelings. What is it that has caused my honorable friends opposite to abandon all their traditional respect for the position of the accused in British Courts of law?
– Protection; nothing else.
– No, not protection; simply this : that a new set of conditions has arisen in commercial and industrial life with which we cannot deal by means of the old weapons.
– Why should we not adopt new ones, then?
– Honorable senator’s opposite are being forced to adopt new weapons. They might just as well set out to meet a modern army, armed with old blunderbusses or mediaeval bows and arrows, as set out to deal with modern trusts armed with traditionally ancient legal weapons. They are forced to use modern means, just as an army is forced to use modern weapons on the battlefield. But, in doing so, they are compelled to do violence to their own opinions as to what is right and wrong in law. Senator Symon has referred to what has been the traditional method of dealing with an accused person under British law. But the trouble with the trusts is that there is no personal element to contend with. Who is the person in a trust? You cannot speak of a joint stock company as a person.
SenatorClemons. - Oh, yes; the interpretation clause makes a trust a person.
– You can hold one man responsible for the actions of the trust, but there is no personal element in the real sense. The day of the single employer controlling his business, and being personally responsible for it, has gone. Modern industrial conditions have changed. That is the reason why we have to bring in methods which would have been unjust and unfair if we were dealing with the old conditions when the personal element was predominant.
– Is not the personal element largely absent on the other side as well?
– The personal element is dying out of industry on both sides. The time when the employer worked side-by-side with his employes has gone for ever, or is rapidly going. In big industries to-day employers and employes might not know each other if they met in the street. A set of conditions has arisen which has rendered old legal weapons ineffective. That is the justification for the forging of this new weapon. It is imperative that combines shall be dealt with, and, if necessary, by the use of weapons which at one time it would have been thought wrong to use. I understand that they have all these weapons in the legal arsenal of the United States. They have everything we have in this connexion, and the operation of trusts and rebatesgoes on as merrily as ever there. I shall support the adoption of the report and the third reading of the Bill, because since apparently the time has not arrived when the people are prepared to own and manage these industries for themselves, the next best thing is to take steps in the interests of the people to regulate them, even though we should have to go beyond ordinary legal proceedings, and to do violence to what are called the traditions of British justice.
– The traditions referred to are largely a fiction, because there are many Acts of Parliament under which an accused man is called upon to prove his innocence.
– Not only is that so, but I remember that a poet has said -
Time makes ancient good uncouth.
What is good and right to-day may be wrong to-morrow, and we must alter our legislation to meet the change of conditions. That is the reason why we are adopting such drastic powers as are contained in this legislation, and in the circumstances I am prepared to support the measure.
– Possibly the Minister of Trade and Customs will remember sufficient of what I had to say when a Bill of this kind was last before the Senate to know that I am not in any way hostile to this measure. When we were considering the Bill of 1907 I said that I was prepared to do my utmost to strengthen the Minister’s hands. I do not agree with many of the criticisms offered on the present position, nor do I think it quite fair of honorable senators opposite to talk of the failures that have resulted from this legislation sofar. The failures have not been any greater than a reasonable man would expect if he took into consideration the great difficulties in the way. I do not regret that an effort is being made to overcome some of the difficulties which experience and practice have revealed. On the contrary, having put our hand to the plough in this matter, I think it is very desirable that we should go on. The three measures dealing with this subject will now be consolidated, and it is not at all necessary that, in order to give effect to them, we should vest judicial functions of the Commonwealth in the hands of a person who is merely a departmental officer. The provision to which I refer does not strengthen this legislation. I think rather that it offers a handle for adverse criticism. It will be convenient for people to denounce this legislation, because the Comptroller of Customs is given power on his own certificate to say that a penalty shall be enforced. That is abhorrent to our sense of justice. It is not paralleled exactly in the Customs Act, because no such power is given to a permanent official under that Act as that which is given under the legislation now under consideration.
– The honorable senator is under a misapprehension. The penalty can only be recovered by proceedings in a Court.
– I know that perfectly well ; but let me remind Senator Best of what the position is. A certificate in writing over the hand of the ‘AttorneyGeneral that a certain offence has been committed is sufficient evidence that the offence has been committed, and no evidence can be produced in any Court to combat it.
– That is not the position.
– If the ComptrollerGeneral gives a certificate in his writing that some person has refused, for instance to produce certain documents, the penalty provided for under the law will be enforced by the magistrate, who will be debarred at the time from hearing any reason why the documents were not produced. In other words, the penalty will automatically follow upon the ComptrollerGeneral’s certificate. Does Senator Best differ from that view of the law?
– I do not take that view at all.
– I may be told that in such a case as I have stated the Comptroller-General will go into the question as to whether the accused person should produce his books, or has given a sufficient reason for refusing to produce them, but that does not alter the position in any way. The Comptroller-General, having given a certificate that an offence has been committed, the next procedure is an application to the magistrate to enforce the fine, and on that application the magistrate will not hear any evidence whatever rebutting the Comptroller-General’s certificate.
– He will say that he has not to deal with evidence, and that it is his duty to impose the fine on the certificate, in writing, submitted to him by. the Comptroller-General.
– That is in the Act of 1907.
– That is my reading of this consolidated legislation. If my interpretation be correct, it discloses an objectionable state of things, which we can alter.
– The 1907 Act provides that the guilt of the defendant must be established by evidence.
– The certificate of the Comptroller-General, in writing, that the refusal has been established is the only evidence which the magistrates will take.
– It is taken to be proof, in the absence of evidence to the contrary.
– Evidence to whom? Not to the magistrate.
– Yes; the Act says “ in any prosecution.”
– We raised this question in dealing with the1907 Act.
– I know that it has been raised before. The Minister of Trade and Customs is aware that I strongly support this legislation. We should make every effort to suppress trusts. We should make our Act as stringent as we can, but its administration should be placed in the hands of those to whom we intrust the administration of our Acts generally, and should be subject to the scrutiny of our courts of justice. I do not desire that the Government should give a handle to the opponents of this measure. I do not wish that opponents of it should be able to say that the ordinary recognised principles of. fair play are not followed in the method adopted for the administration of this law. A permanent official may be a most upright man, but he is not a part of our judicial system, and ought not to be constituted a judge from whom there shall be no appeal. I am convinced that, although there might be good reasons why, in a particular case, books should not be produced, and reasons which would be regarded by a tribunal as sufficient, there will be no appeal under this legislation from the certificate of the Comptroller-Generalthat anoffence has been committed.
– That was my first opinion.
– I am glad to hear that, and I ask Senator St. Ledger to assistme in urging the Minister of Trade and Customs to reconsider the position. We can give the Comptroller-General every power of inquiry, but we should not vest him practically with the power to impose a fine of , £50. That is what is abhorrent to me in this legislation. I ask Senator Best not to proceed with the third reading of the Bill until he has taken counsel with others or has carefully reconsidered the matter himself. My quarrel is with a method of administration which, in my opinion, is unnecessary, as well as objectionable. If the Minister will say that this is the only way in which we can give effect to the drastic provisions of these measures, I may be induced to modify my view, but if they can be given effect to without vesting such extraordinary powers in any permanent official of a Department, that should be done, and this legislation be placed on all fours with other legislation we have passed.
-Is that the honorable senator’s only objection to the Bill?
– It is, and I never had any other objection to this legislation. That is the only criticism which I offered to the Bill of 1907, and I adopt the same attitude in considering this measure today.
– I agree, to a large extent, with the comment and criticism offered on a certain section of the Act of 1907. On the third reading of that Bill I said that the section referred to was taken from the French criminal law, and not from British law.
– It is no worse for that.
– I said that Parliament was giving a Government official the power to assume that a man was guilty, and that the man was then called upon to prove his innocence. But whilst saying that, and emphasizing my strong objection to that particular method of dealing with this question, I quite agree with the spirit and intention of the Acts upon our statute-book relating to the repression of combines and trusts. I do not know that there is any means of forcing the Minister who is in charge of this Bill to reconsider the section in the Act of 1907to which such strong objection was urged when it was submitted for our consideration. I can assure him that I would cordially support any attempt on his part to eliminate that provision. It is only fair, however, to say that when it was under review in this Chamber we were assured by him that it was not of such a drastic character as we contended it was, and that, after all, the Comptroller-General of Customs would have to take certain preliminary steps before he could enforce the plenary powers vested in him. However, I do not intend to delay the Bill by dealing with that question now. I merely wish to emphasize my point that it is clear that the object of the Opposition in all these matters is not to ask the Legislature to seek means by which itmay combat the evils of trusts and combines, but to adopt a summary method of giving effect to their pet principle of nationalization. They have made their position absolutely clear.
– It was always clear.
– Whilst it has always been made clear on the public platform, I am not quite sure that it has been made equally clear in Parliament. Had it been, the Labour party had the power to terminate the existence of the previous Deakin Administration at any moment that it chose.
– I would point out that the honorable senator is getting a long way from the question.
– That is my reply to what has been so strongly urged by the Opposition to the effect that nationalization is the only remedy for these admitted evils. I believe that the last state of nationalization would be worse than the first - that it would be worse than the evils from which we at present suffer. The Acts relating to trusts and combines which are already on our statute-book, will, I believe, if certain objectionable provisions are eliminated, be found fairly effective for the purposes for which they were designed.
– Does the honorable senator set his opinion on this matter against that of Senator Symon ?
– I do not think that any honorable senator should be asked to set his opinion against that of any other . member of this Chamber. But certainly every honorable senator is entitled to express his opinion for what it may be worth. If trusts or combines whose operations are being conducted to the detriment of the public, attempt to find consolation in the reflection that, with the aid of ingenious lawyers, they can escape the penal provisions of our Statutes, I reply, in the words of Gladstone, that “ the resources of Parliament are not yet exhausted.” They will be worse than foolish if they seek to continue conduct such as that which has given great offence in America and elsewhere. I desire to give the Government full freedom to save Australia from the evils which may arise from the misuse of the power of capital by trusts and combines. If our present legislation is not sufficient to effect our purpose, I repeat that the resources of Parliament are by no means exhausted. I would welcome an explanation by the Minister in regard to the objectionable provision which is contained in the Act of 1 907. In my opinion, the various amending Acts are an honest, straightforward attempt - however they may overstep the lines of wisdom in certain particulars - to combat a danger which we are bound to confront. I hope that the Government will not hesitate to put them into force. If the powers conferred by those Acts are not sufficient. I again repeat that the authority of Parliament is not yet exhausted, and that legislation can be carried still further.
– I am afraid that Senator St. Ledger is not quite as familiar with the work of the Senate as hemight be ; otherwise he would not have referred to any lack of effort on the part of the Opposition to give effect to the principles which they advocate on the public platform. I can assure him that the very matters to which he has alluded have been the subject of debate here time and again. Reference to Hansard will show that the Senate has affirmed the desirableness of nationalizing several great industries in Australia. It is an unprofitable task on the part of supporters of the Government to subject this Bill to criticism, unless they are prepared to act up to that criticism. If they believe that this legislation is of a baneful character, they have it in their power to end the existence of the Government. In doing so, I can assure them that they would receive every assistance from the Opposition.
– That would be jumping out of the frying pan into the fire.
– If the legislation proposed by the Government is of an objectionable character, Senator Fraser should be glad to put an end to it.
SenatorFraser. - I ought not to be glad to put an end to a good thing.
– I am pleased to learn that Senator Fraser does not adopt the view that is entertained by Ministerial supporters who condemned this legislation this afternoon. Senator Clemons has found fault with the Bill upon the ground that it reposes too much power in the ComptrollerGeneral of Customs. He holds that it is a new principle in legislation to vest such plenary powers in an officer, or in a Department. That may be so. But if by adopting that course the Government can reach transgressors better than they can through the ordinary agencies, I think they are wise to follow it. I cannot say whether this Bill will be successful or not. But I do know that past legislation in the same direction has been practically inoperative. No good has resulted from it. The evils which existed prior to its enactment still exist, only in a more aggravated form. That being so, how can it be logically urged that the provisions of this measure are too drastic? I quite recognise the utter impossibility of remedying the admitted evils in connexion with trusts and combines, even by the adoption of the most drastic provision proposedby the Government. Iftheywish to get at the root of the trouble, they will have to do more than attempt to regulate the payment of rebates. I doubt whether there is as much good contained in this measure as is to be found in American legislation of a similar character. The Sherman and Elkins Acts are more drastic than are our own, and yet the former has failed, because the very best lawyers in America are engaged by the trusts to devise methods by which to circumvent the law. Upon the last occasion that this question was being discussed here, I read the opinion expressed by exPresident Roosevelt to the effect that the best legal talent in America was in the pay of the trusts. That is a strong statement to come from a gentleman who then occupied the high and responsible position of President of the United States. Even in cases in which the Government of that country have succeeded in obtaining judgments against the trusts, they have been unable to enforce them. That being so, I see no hope of our legislation proving more successful. There are some, I know, who believe in quite a different method of dealing with the trusts. However, I shall not discuss that aspect of the matter at the present juncture; but I ask Senator Symon, who is totally opposed to this legislation, what he proposes to put in its place?
– He advised us to adopt a certain course of procedure.
– - He is willing to leave things severely alone. Of course, I recognise that Senators Symon and Gray belong to the Free Trade school of thought. The laissez-faire method has been demonstrated to be an utter failure. In that case, what else can the Government do but proceed on these lines? In the last Parliament, they decried the Socialistic proposals of the Labour party. Then they appealed to the country as anti-Socialists, and almost the first measure which the so-called anti-Socialistic Government submits for our consideration in this session is a measure to deal with trusts and with legislation which was previously decried as being of a Socialistic character. I recognise that the intention of this legislation is well meaning, but experience, not only here, but in ihe United States, has proved that it is extremely foolish. I also recognise that for the political education of honorable senators opposite the enactment of such legislation is really necessary. We perceive that, until we make it as clear as a pikestaff that the legislation is of no use, we have no hope of carrying our proposals. I am merely assisting the passage of this Bill in order to pave the way for the introduction of the only remedv which willgo to the root of this evil. The existence of the evil in connexion with the making of harvesters has engaged the attention of the public for a considerable time, but what headway have we made in the way of securing its removal?
– Who can forget the efforts which my honorable friends did make, and how theyI prophesied and rushed the Bill through the Parliament?
– We certainly rushed through Parliament a Bill which, under the Standing Orders, I cannot discuss at this time, but which we expected would have been carried to a logical conclusion. Practically, the . law has been dropped, and it is through no fault of the Labour party that the position remains exactly the same as it was last year. We know that the enormous cost of the harvesters to the farmer is due to nothing else but the operation of a trust. We have good reason to believe that if the industry were carried on by the State Governments, the machines could be made for about one-half of the sum which the farmer has to pay.
– The farmer does not want Socialism.
– I believe that if he understood that a harvester could be made for £40, he would become a Socialist very early.
– Order ! I ask the honorable senator how he proposes to connect the price of the machines with the Bill?
– Harvester machines are manufactured by a trust in Australia, and I submit that my remarks are in order.
– The price of harvesters is regulated by the Excise Tariff (Agricultural Machinery) Act, and not by the Australian Industries Preservation Act. The honorable senator mav allude to the existence of a trust, but he cannot go into the question of the charges which are made to the farmers for the machines.
– I had no intention to go much into that question. I was merely giving some information to Senator Gray, in reply to an interjection. The Opposition will assist the Government in every possible way in order to prove the utter futility of their legislation. We believe that it must end in failure, and that eventually honorable senators on the other side will have to adopt the remedies advocated by our party more than once.
-“ More than once” is good.
– It is necessary to ram an idea into the heads of some persons more than once. If I succeeded in planting the idea after six attempts, I should not begrudge the time, but some heads are rather thick. Sydney Smith once said that it was as hard to get an idea into some heads as it was to get a joke into Scotch heads. I shall never weary in my efforts to advocate our remedies for the evil which exists, and which has called forth this legislation. I hope that in time some heads will be receptive enough to accept the ideas ‘which we have expressed here so often.
Senator Colonel NEILD (New South Wales) [4.18]. - I am not one of those who are intensely anxious to assist in placing this measure on the statute-book, and display that anxiety by talking it to death. I think that sometimes it is possible, even for a legislative Chamber, to follow the excellent practice which is often followed by learned Judges on the bench, and that is, to concur in the judgment which has been delivered by one of their number. I simply rose, to express my concurrence in the speech delivered by Senator Clemons. I am anxious to have an opportunity by vote of supporting his wise and clearly expressed observations in reference to the measure. I sincerely hope that the Minister of Trade and Customs will give a reasonable and generous consideration to the arguments which that honorable senator and other honorable senators have submitted, and afford to the Chamber an opportunity o’f reconsidering the portions of the Bill to which they referred.
– I want to emphasize, if possible, the point taken by Senator Symon, and to urge the Government, even at this late stage, to consider the advisability of removing one great blot from the law, and that is the prohibition of an appeal from the ComptrollerGeneral of Customs. When the Bill of 1907 was under consideration, on the 24th October I moved the following amendment in paragraph 1 of clause 4 -
In lines 16 and 17 to leave out “ by writing under his hand required “ with a view to insert !’ apply ex -parte to a Judge of the High Court in chambers for leave to examine “ in lieu thereof.
That amendment, if adopted, would have met the very point which has been raised here to-day, and which I think is well worthy of the Minister’s consideration. I submit that we ought to grant the right of appeal from an autocratic administration of the law by a Government officer. That is the one great objection to the law as it stands, and here is a simple way to get out of the difficulty, and one which I commend’ to the Minister.
– On this Bill, as well as previous measures, we have had a long discussion. Senator Symon has been warning the Government about playing into the hands of honorable senators on this side, who, whilst they are prepared to support this legislation, tell Ministers candidly that they do not believe that it will be effective, and that the only method by which industries can be permanently controlled is by the people taking them over and dealing with them. We have never attempted to disguise our opinions on the subject.
– Has anybody here done so?
– Sometimes. This year, honorable senators on the other side are voting for legislation which, when they sat in opposition, they, denounced for three or four days. This Bill is only brought in to strengthen the legislation which they then strenuously opposed, but which I am very pleased to see they appear to be prepared to vote for. All we claim is that a measure of this sort has an educational effect. Certain processes have to be gone through before the people can be brought to realize that this way of dealing with trusts and combines is ineffective. The educational process must be maintained. In 1906 we passed a measure for the protection of Australian industries. We warned the Government that it would not be of any use, but they replied : “ If you will give us your assistance, we will pass the Bill, and guarantee that it will be effective in doing certain things.” With that assurance, we passed the Bill, but it was altogether ineffective. Not one case has vet been dealt with under the law.
– The guarantee was not of much good then.
– No. lt has merely been a measure for the education of the people as to the proper way of dealing with trusts. Our plan has been to show the people that the proposals of the Government were failures, in the hope that they might see their way to approve of that which we believe to be the only effective method.
– Is the honorable senator afraid to use the word “ nationalization “ ?
– No. I have used the word, not only on the floor of the Senate, but on the platform throughout the State I represent. I have never been afraid or ashamed to advocate nationalization, whilst honorable senators opposite have often endeavoured to cover up their tracks, especially when they have been submitting amendments and using arguments against any interference with what they termed the right of private enterprise. In 1907 we were asked to strengthen the Act of I006 which had been found to be ineffective. The Government stated that the ComptrollerGeneral had taken action in connexion with one or two cases, but it was found, before they had proceeded very far, that the legislation was absolutely useless. We were then assured that if we would pass the Bill of 1907, which would give that officer more power, everything would be all right, and the Government would be able to deal with trusts. What is the position in 190Q? The Government have come down with another Bill. They practically say: “We have two Acts which have been found to be ineffective. In fact, we had a case before the High Court, and it ruled certain provisions to be ultra vires; we now appeal to you for increased powers, because we realize that we must have those powers before we can take effective action.”
– They are trying to cure an ulcer with bits of stickingplaster.
– Yes, they might as well put a poultice on a wooden leg. It is well to demonstrate to the people that this legislation is ineffective, in order to induce them to adopt another method of dealing with trusts. We are giving the Government all the support that they ask for. We should be willing to make the measure still stronger if they desired it. It is said that the Bill will not be effective. We do not believe that it will be. But we think that when legislation of this kind shows itself to be ineffective the public will begin to realize that there is only one method of dealing with such institutions as trusts, and that is the method advocated by the Labour party. We believe that this legislation will have an educational effect. But honorable senators opposite say that while they are prepared to support legislation, which they have declared to be bad ever since they have been in public life, they still believe that it will be useless. We are glad, at any rate, to observe that honorable senators are at length ready to support legislation of this kind on any pretext.
– They are coming round.
– Yes, but the public are coming to realize that there is really only one remedy. Yesterday I quoted the case of the sugar-growers of Queensland, who asked for the establishment of a Commonwealth sugar refinery, so as to relieve them from the exactions of a trust operaing their industry. Arguments have been brought forward to-day, based upon the failure of the legislation of 1907.
– The amend-, ment that has been suggested ought to be. made in the Bill.
– The amendment to which the honorable senators referred would lessen the power of the ComptrollerGeneral. Senator Macfarlane rightly says, that the Government propose to give the Comptroller power to step in and take the books of any firm regarding which he is endeavouring to commence a prosecution.. Senator Macfarlane urges that it is not fair that the books should be taken without application being made to a Judge in chambers. But the reply is that to make such an application would be to play into the hands of the very people against whom the Comptroller was taking action.
– It would be to show our hands, to begin with.
– The application would be ex parte.
– That is so, but the fact of the application being made would be published, and the person whose books were sought to be obtained would have every opportunity of doing away with them. Naturally he would take steps to prevent the success of a prosecution against him. There is no such thing as honour or honesty in connexion with these matters. Anything would be done that would keep the guilty firm out of the clutches of the law for the time being.
– There would be a sort of domiciliary visit; a Russianising of our legal procedure.
– The honorable senator who interjects was opposed to the new principle of procedure when it was first introduced, and probably he is opposed to it now. But if we are to prevent the depredations of trusts we cannot play into their hands. When in 1907 Senator Macfarlane moved his amendment, Senator Best replied to him in a passage which I will quote. He said, as reported in Hansard, Vol. 40, page 5095 :-
Let me remind my honorable friend of the rudimentary practice in these matters. An ex parte application is what is proposed. That means that before a Judge entertains any application of the kind he has to be furnished with evidence on affidavit. That affidavit must set forth the character of the offence and the name of the informer.
Senator Mulcahy. That is quite right.
– We do not want informers.
– Honorable senators opposite would sooner have crime.
– They appear to prefer crime. In connexion with most serious cases of fraud under the Customs -Act proceedings are taken, I do not say invariably, but for the most part as the result of information that has been secretly received.
Later, Senator Best said -
It will be seen at once that the whole object of the Bill would be defeated if the amendment were agreed to. Next, I come to the point as to delay. It is proposed that there shall be an application to a Judge of the High Court. A Judge may not be within a thousand miles of the place when the proceedings are taken.
– There are five of them.
– Suppose the offence is committed in Queensland, and the High Court is sitting in Western Australia?
– The application might be made to a Supreme Court Judge.
– It is enough for me to deal with the amendment as I find it. In these cases promptitude is required.
After further discussion a division took place, as recorded on page 5106. The ayes numbered seven; the noes fourteen. The minority consisted of Senators Chataway, Gould, Mulcahy, Sayers, Stewart, St. Ledger, and Macfarlane. The noes were Senators de Largie, Dobson, Guthrie, Henderson, Keating, Lynch, McColl McGregor, Needham, E. j. Russell, Story, Trenwith, Turley, and Findley. So that at that time nothing was done to interfere with the Comptroller by playing into the hands of the people who are behind the trusts and combines. I sincerely trust that the Ministry are not now going to back down, because there has been a change in the personnel of their supporters. I have recently been looking over a book which sets forth the trust problem very plainly. It is called Vital American Problems, by H. E. Montgomery. It is a recent work, pub- lished in 1908. The writer sets out the position in regard to trusts very clearly, when he says on page 17 -
It is useless to make our laws more drastic and to try in that way to break up the great combinations now existing and to prevent the formation of others. Business life cannot be forced back to the conditions prevailing half a century ago. No body of men can legislate us back to the partnership days, or to the individualistic method of doing business any more than they can legislate us back to the stage coach. The world of industry always marches forward. The combination idea has come to stay, law or no law. The situation must be faced as it exists in the United States at the present time. Economic conditions must be recognised and industrial movements taken into account, while the underlying principles of commercial life must not be forgotten. Since many combinations have advanced the prices of the articles they produce - or control to so high a figure as to wrong the people, and since stockwatering and selfish ruinous financing have become the common attributes of corporate management, and since legal secrecy protects the illegal, fraudulent, and unholy dealings of the corporation with the public, it is imperative that this new force, which stands merely for the latest stage of industrial growth, should be controlled by law.
The writer quotes the former Corporation Commissioner, Mr. Garfield, as saying -
Under the present industrial conditions, secrecy and dishonesty in promotion, over capitalization, unfair and predatory competition, secrecy of corporate administration, and misleading or dishonest financial statements, are generally recognised as the principal evils.
The Labour party are opposed to that sort of thing. They are opposed to fraud, dishonesty, and lying in business methods. At the same time they do not? believe that this legislation will be completely effective. Thousands of years ago a Divine law was given to man, “Thou shalt not steal.” But that Divine law has not prevented people from stealing. We have to pass other laws to supplement the Divine law, and the man who steals has to be punished when he is caught.
– If he does not become a. millionaire.
– We know that the people behind these trusts, by means of their enormous financial resources, will be able to purchase the services of the bestbrains in the country. President Roosevelt himself has stated that the highest legal talent in the United States is at the disposal of the trusts. That is the reason why they have been able to carry on in such a way that they have not been checked to any great extent. But those who serve the trusts will be just as well prepared to take a salary from the State to do their work honestly, as to take it from the controllers of a combine. Consequently the Labour party are supporting the Government legislation of this character, not because they believe that it will be effective, but because they consider that it is necessary to go through this phase in the education of the people. When the proper times comes, and the people declare for nationalizing monopolies, I have not the slightest doubt that we shall have honorable senators opposite, if they are here then, voting for a nationalization policy just as they are now voting for the measure before us.
-39]- - I confess that this Bill is something of a Chinese puzzle to me. I have been striving with all my might to get to the bottom of it, and to understand it thoroughly. But I am afraid that I have not really succeeded yet. The Minister, in introducing it, said that the intention was to give effect to the present law. If the law of the Commonwealth already in existence fails, it is a perfectly fair thing that a Bill should be introduced to enable effect to be given to it. Either that should be done or the law itself should be repealed.
– We are repealing part of the existing law bv means of this Bill.
– We are repealing certain sections declared to be ultra vires.
– This Bill merely says, “You shall not throw a sprat to catch a salmon to the detriment of your competitors.”
– I am glad to have the honorable senator’s interpretation of the Bill. I shall lae glad to know if the Minister indorses it. If it is the object of this Bill to give effect to Acts already on the statute-book, it is worthy of support. I put a question to the Minister of Trade and Customs, which I have not yet heard answered.
– The honorable senator did not wait for an answer. He left the chamber when I was replying.
– I have listened to the Minister on several occasions, and have not heard a reply to my question. I agree that we should do all that we can to prevent the operations of unrighteous combines intended to rob the public, but I do not wish to see a Bill passed which will have the effect of hampering fair trade. I am not sure that, if a manufacturer of certain goods in Melbourne desired to appoint a sole agent for those goods in Sydney, it would not be against this law for him to do so.
– It would not. I hope that is a clear answer. That would not be affected by this Bill.
– I have had the opinion of two legal senators that that is exactly what this Bill would prevent. When legal doctors differ in this way, how is a poor layman to decide? I wish to be quite clear as to the effect of this legislation. Our honorable friends opposite regard it as an educational instrument by which the public may be brought to acknowledge that the only thing to do is to nationalize all our industries.
– We do not say that, and the honorable senator knows it.
– To nationalize monopolies.
– Then I want to know what a monopoly is. I do not believe very much in State monopolies, and, if this Bill will increase their number, that is, in my opinion, an argument for voting against it.
– I thought the honorable senator was in the fusion.
– I am in a little confusion now, and I wish to get out of it. There is a great commercial undertaking, which at one time was a monopoly in each of the States, and which for the last eight or nine years has been a Commonwealth monopoly. I suppose that my honorable friends opposite are of opinion that it is a brilliant success, that every employe engaged in it is perfectly satisfied, and that it is a model institution in every possible way. If it is a brilliant example of a State monopoly, I say, God help us if we are to have any more State monopolies of the kind.
– Would it be better if it were in the hands of private enterprise?
– If we put it in the hands of three expert Commissioners, we should get a ten times better service than we get now.
– Would the honorable senator hand it over to private persons?
– I do not wish to do that; but 1 should like to have the assurance of Senator Pearce that at the present time he believes it to be a great success.
– It is better than any similar service carried on by private enterprise anywhere in the world.
– It is not as good as it was under the control of the State Governments. I do not believe that there is any service more demoralized, or in which there’ has been greater blundering, and if it is a fair sample of what we are to have when all monopolies are nationalized by the Commonwealth it affords, in my opinion, a good warning to us to have nothing whatever to do with such proposals.
– Does the honorable senator contend that in South Australia the Post Office is worse managed to-day than it was eight or nine years ago?
– I say that eight or nine years ago the Post Office in South Australia was very well managed, was paying its way and making a profit, and it is not doing that to-day.
– There has been a vast extension of privileges.
– I remind Senator Vardon that he is now getting far away from the Pill. We are not now dealing with the question of Post Office management. We have no Bill before us at present proposing the nationalization of monopolies.
– I do not wish to transgress in any way ; but we have been told that this Bill is a step towards the nationalization of monopolies, and it did seem to me that our experience in connexion with the Post and Telegraph Department supplies a brilliant object-lesson. Honorable senators opposite agree that the object of the Bill is to prevent unfair” competition by trusts and combines, and they think it will hasten the time when the public will fall into the arms of those who are in favour of the nationalization of monopolies. I believe that when that time arrives the people will be engulfed in terrible confusion, but I am satisfied that I shall not live to see it. I rose particularly to put the question which I have put to the Minister of Trade and Customs, and I am glad to have his statement that the Bill will not have the effect which I am afraid it will, because I wish to support the Government as far as I possibly can.
– I rise to support the Government in connexion with this Bill, because I believe it is necessary. It may not be all that is required, but it is the best we can get. Nationalization at thepresent time is impossible, and, as robbery and such-like is being practised by trusts and combines, I, for one, air. prepared to stand by the Government and assist them every time to prevent it.
Senator Sir ROBERT BEST (VictoriaMinister of Trade and Customs) [4.50]. - I am a little embarrassed by the character of the criticism the Bill has received. On one hand we are told that it is a feeble and useless measure, and on the other we have almost violent protests against the drastic nature of its provisions. I am disposed to take hope from this contrast of criticism, and to think that there must be substantial good in the measure, when equally honest opinions regarding it are expressed from either side. Honorable senators must realize that during this and previous discussions on this subject the chamber has rung with condemnation of trusts, monopolies, and combines. In introducing the measure I mentioned some of the predatory attempts and arbitrary conduct of trusts, and showed the extent to which they will go in order to achieve their own selfish ends. I quoted from the majority and minority reports of a Royal Commission that considered the question, and I showed that, although the members of that Commission were not prepared to accede to the drastic proposals we have made here, they did not attempt to disguise the evils of rings, conferences, and trusts, which must be combated. The evil accomplished by these industrial monopolies is universally acknowledged.
– I proposed these amendments two years ago, and the honorable senator would not accept them.
– Will the honorable senator indicate some of the monopolies to which he has referred?
– I prefer to be allowed to follow my own line of argument. I have said that this chamber has rung with the complaints of the operations of monopolies and trusts, and a similar view of them is universally held outside the members of trusts themselves. In the circumstances, I ask whether we are calmly to listen to these complaints and make no effort to remedy -the evils complained of? I have been amazed to find it suggested that our measures proposing this kind of legislation have been of an ill-considered character. As a matter of fact, when the parent Act of 1906 was introduced, it was complained that we were going much too far, and, as a consequence, we were not able to get any more drastic legislation passed at that time. We then investigated some of the complaints made of trusts, and it was found that the Act of 1906 was ineffective in several particulars. I then told honorable senators frankly the difficulties we had to face, and that our experience in attempting to administer the parent Act showed the necessity for certain amendments of the law. These were proposed in the amending Bill of 1907, and every line and word of that measure received the closest scrutiny. It occupied the attention of honorable senators for some three weeks, although it contained not more than twelve or thirteen clauses. It is, therefore, a matter of surprise to me to find at this juncture that some of the leading features of that Bill are now condemned, as though they were not already law. I frankly said that it may be necessary, from time to time and year by year, to seek amendments of this legislation as experience and necessity demand. The position is that either we have to control these trusts, or they will control us. If we do not control them, they will control the trade and commerce of the Commonwealth, and may even go so far as to control, to some extent, our legislation. Under these circumstances, what could we do? In Australia, the trusts are in their infancy, and there is therefore a possibility of the Legislature exercising a certain degree of control over them. Consequently we have had recourse to the legislation of America - not the most drastic form of that legislation - because we have not yet reached the acute stage which calls for the enactment of such legislation. The evil is one with which we can deal from time to time, and it is quite possible that we may yet have to go to the full extent to which American legislation has gone. Opponents of the Bill have asked : “ What is the use of enacting laws upon this subject, seeing that even more drastic” legislation has proved ineffective in America?” The fact is that although American legislation has not accomplished all that it aims at, it has exercised a deterrent effect upon the trusts, and a certain degree of control over them. In Australia, fortunately, trusts have not yet developed to the extent that they have developed in America. But the duty is cast upon us of controlling these trusts, as far as possible, whilst they are in their infancy stage. Our object can be better achieved now than it could be when they had reached gigantic dimensions* Surely it cannot be urged that capital punishment is a failure merely because murder is still committed, or that imprisonment is a failure because thieving continues. Both of these punishments act as deterrents to crime, and we simply desire that this legislation shall exercise a deterrent influence. We are encouraged to believe that it will do so by reason of the fact that we are not yet called upon to fight the powerful combinations which exist elsewhere. But in this matter we must not be discouraged. We must determine to control the trusts. If honorable senators tell me that we are not justified in making the attempt, my reply is that they have no . alternative but to accept the view of the Labour party, and to support its extreme proposal to nationalize monopolies. I ask honorable senators upon this side of the chamber whether they are prepared to accept that position? Will they say that Parliament has no power to control the trusts? I repeat that the Government should be encouraged in every effort which it may make in that direction. Personally, I should not be ashamed to introduce from year to year as necessity demanded - or to support any other Minister who adopted the same course - such amendments in our anti-trust legislation as experience proves to be necessary. There is one matter with which I desire to specially deal. I refer to the section embodied in the Act of 1907, which provides that the Comptroller-General of Customs shall have power to ask questions upon a complaint being made to him in writing that an offence has been committed. I endeavoured to show on a former occasion that in conferring this power upon that officer, we were simply following on the lines of the Customs Act itself.
– The Minister of Trade and Customs is talking to his own supporters - not to the Opposition.
– The object of the principal Act is to repress monopolies, and amongst other things, it provides that any person who enters into a contract, or continues a member of a combination with the object of restraining trade, “shall be liable to a certain penalty. In practice, however, ‘ it was found quite impossible to ascertain whether a contract - which was the very basis of the offence - did exist. Those connected with the contract would not under any circumstances permit a word to escape them which would enable the Government to say whether or not a contract existed, or whether there was merely a verbal arrangement. Consequently, we could not successfully prosecute any individual. The officers who were appointed to investigate the evils of which complaint had been made, declared that they could not succeed unless they were vested with the powers which are contained in the Customs Act itself. Thereupon we introduced the Bill of .1907 for the purpose of enabling the ComptrollerGeneral to secure the necessary preliminary information upon which to base a prosecution. It has been contended- by Senator Clemons, who has always been a. strong supporter of this legislation, that the mere certificate of the Comptroller-General that certain individuals have refused to answer questions, and to produce certain documents, may not of necessity lead to the imposition of a fine. Upon further consideration, I think he will perceive that his statement is scarcely correct. If a man refuses to answer certain questions, or to produce certain books - the questions all being relevant to the complaint at issue - proceedings may be taken in a Court for the imposition of a fine, and it is then competent for the judicial authority to determine whether or not those questions are relevant to such complaint. If they are, the ComptrollerGeneral has power to ask them; but if they are not, the defendant cannot be fined. Consequently, it will be seen that a fine cannot be inflicted upon the mere ipse dixit of the Comptroller-General, but only upon the determination of the Court. Further, if the proceedings be taken before a magistrate, his decision is subject to appeal. May I remind honorable senators that the very sections in which these powers are embodied have already been the subject of very careful consideration by the High Court, which has affirmed their validity, whilst taking exception to that of other sections of the principal Act. I think I have shown that it is absolutely necessary that the Comptroller- General should be vested with these large powers. It is plain, too, that what has been alleged to be a novel procedure under the Act of 1907, is not at all novel. It is the determination of this Parliament, arrived at after protracted debate. Senator Macfarlane has suggested that questions of the character to which I have referred, should be asked, not by the Comptroller-General, but by the High Court. But I would point out to him that if a prosecution is to be successful, it is essential that we should have power to in- stitute proceedings promptly. If we are required to give notice extending over weeksand weeks, we may be perfectly sure that a successful prosecution cannot result. If the Justices of the High Court had to be consulted in this matter - seeing that they are scattered throughout the Commonwealth - the very object of the Act would be defeated. Its purpose is to enable the ComptrollerGeneral to ask an alleged trust or combine: “On a particular date did a trust exist?” “Did it grant rebates?” “ Was a certain contract in force on that date?” The parties interested have to reply to those questions upon oath. By that means we secure information upon which a successful prosecution may be founded.
– Could we not use the State Courts of Justice so as to insure expedition ?
– It is not necessary to do so. If any hardship had1 been inflicted under the legislation which is already on our statute-book, it would be time enough to complain of it, but so far the questions which have been put to persons have been subject to careful preparation in the Attorney-General’s Department, and have been settled by counsel before being submitted to them. I do not think it is reasonable for honorable senators to suggest that this power is likely to be abused, inasmuch as they will be put by an officer who is responsible to the Minister, who, in turn, is responsible to Parliament. There is no danger that any injustice will be perpetrated. The Bill represents an honest effort on the part of the Government to remedy the defects - of the principal Act. Senator Symon has declared that we are indulging in patchwork legislation, and that the measure has not received full consideration at the hands of the Government. May I remind him that that legislation is founded on the only and the best legislation in the world relating to this subject, that it has received the full consideration of the Government, and that the request for an amendment of the existing law hasbeen made as the result of recent experience by highly qualified officers in the Attorney-General’s Department. The honorable senator attacked this Bill in an altogether unreasonable way. Did he make one suggestion regarding its improvement, or regarding the way in which trusts might be more effectively controlled? Is it not better to rely on past legislation, and on the experience of other communities than to do nothing? If the Government had suggested the adoption of some novel mode of procedure, I could have understood his attitude. But we have not done so. We are relying upon American precedent, and are backed up by our own experience. The onus was thrown upon the honorable senator at least to suggest a substitute for this measure, without indulging in a sweeping denunciation. This is well thought and considered legislation, and Parliament has said so. I do not pretend for a moment that it will be completely effective. To the best of my recollection I have never suggested that it would be. From time to time I have said that it might be necessary year after vear, as our experience suggested, to apply for legislative aid to accomplish the ends in view. If we make a substantial advance in our control of trusts, surely that is something accomplished. In all the circumstances we are justified in attempting to cope with a recognised evil in the most effective manner possible. And the wisdom pf Parliament is demanded, not destructively, but constructively, in order to achieve the ends in view. Senator Vardon asked me one or two questions, particularly whether, if a manufacturer in a State constitutes a person in another State his agent for the purpose of the s”ale# of certain goods, terms can be granted to the agent by the principal. .
– On condition that he does not deal with any other man for the same class of goods - that he deals with him exclusively.
– My reply was that the Bill does not interfere between principal and agent at all. It does interfere in regard to Inter-State trade and commerce, and dealings in goods and services which are practically the subject of competition.
– Whether they are subject to competition or not now ?
– Undoubtedly. Practically all goods and services are the subject of competition. The mere fact that for the moment there is only one boat running on a line does not mean that there is no competition in regard to those particular goods. That is a mere accidental circumstance.
– If there is a monopoly there is no competition.
– There is a monopoly so far as the coasting trade is concerned. It has been said that there are about 188,000 tons of shipping within the conference or ring, and 10,000 tons outside it. So that there is a certain amount of competition. The competition may be very small so far as one party is concerned, but real competition will arise the moment that a fresh boat is put on, even for a temporary purpose. The Bill is not intended to deal with an arrangement between principal and agent.
– Outside State monopolies, what monopolies are there in Australia at the present time?
– I do not think it is necessary to go into that matter. We all know that the Navigation Commission reported that as regards the coasting trade there is a monopoly.
– The insurance companies constitute a monopoly.
– That is quite beside the question. It has been alleged here that we have a gas monopoly, a confectionery monopoly, a brick monopoly, and a shipping and coal monopoly.
– And a cable monopoly.
– If there is no monopoly the Bill will not apply, but if, on the contrary, there is a monopoly, the Bill is designed to control it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 22nd July (vide page 1503), on motion by Senator Millen -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– The diagram exhibited by Senator Guthrie must illustrate to every honorable senator the peculiar conditions under which the seamen are employed. In the Senate, Senator Guthrie has been a consistent defender of the seamen’s interests. The amount of the compensation it is proposed tq give to a seaman must, I take it. depend in’ a very great measure upon the state of the shipping industry. The diagram discloses that the death rate in that industry largely exceeds the death rate i” every other industry. That fact should satisfy every honorable senator that it is an industry that deserves every consideration at our hands. There is another aspect of the situation which appeals to my mind. I take it that there is no senator but realizes that in the defence of Australia our seamen must play a very large and important part. That we have a serious condition of affairs to face must be evident to every thoughtful man. In to-day’s telegrams we have a brief account of a speech made by Mr. A. J. Balfour. It reads as follows - -
I do not believe that the country realizes the danger of the situation - how narrow is the margin of the battle strength upon which we are relying; or, if you remember our responsibilities in the Mediterranean and the North Sea, and the need of defending, besides our shores, all the colonies, and all the routes to the colonies and foreign markets, how the preposterously meagre building programme of the past three years has imperilled the greatest and most vital interests of the Empire.
I will not go so far as to say that, in my opinion, his statement was absolutely correct, ‘ because we all realize that political considerations often colour the speeches of a party leader. It should be borne in mind, hovever, that within the last few days we have had important statements made by Mr. Asquith, the. Prime Minister of England, and by Mr. A. J. Balfour, the Leader of the Opposition, each being closely in touch with the masses of the people, and appreciating the grave responsibility attaching to their utterances. I take it that we. in Australia, may conclude from the statements of those responsible statesmen that we are not beyond any attack that might be made upon us directly or indirectly. I realize the peculiar and delicate position in which the Old Country is at the present time, and how it indirectly affects Australia. For over a century we have been guided and defended by the Mother Land. It must be patent to all that the spirit of self-help must be aroused. Not only by a system of discipline and sacrifice must we put the country in an efficient state of defence from the military stand-point, but the position of our seamen must be very seriously considered. When we look at the situation squarely and fairly what do we find? We find that Germany is doing all she can, not only to build up a navy but also to increase as far as possible every means by which she can strengthen her army, and also enlarge the sphere of her naval service. That must be evident to every one, and it is only in accordance with the views which were expressed by Frederick the Great, and which, to a very large extent, have been successfully carried out bv Germany toward other countries with which she has been associated. Again, within the last few days “ we have had rumours - which have been authentically confirmed - of great uneasiness being felt, not only in India, but also, I am sorry to add, in Afghanistan. We have statements made by officers that) the Amir of Afghanistan has thrown off the disguise. Most people knew that for years past he had been trying to increase his army
– I hope “that the honorable senator intends to connect these statements with the question of the payment of compensation to seamen.
– I think I shall. I wish to convey to the Senate a sense of the importance of naval development in the defence of Australia. While we hear ai good deal said from a military point of view, very little indeed is said as to the importance of seamen in Australian defence. I take it that the present condition of affairs in Europe is the most serious that we have had for many years. If the Old Country is embroiled in war, the” effect must be fell in all her Possessions.
– I do not desire to interrupt the honorable senator unduly, but I remind him that this Bill deals with compensation for seamen. He is not, therefore, entitled to discuss the naval and military defence policy of the country. If the honorable senator can show me how he connects his remarks with the subjectmatter of the Bill, he will be in order.
– I am trying to show that one of the main factors in the defence of Australia will be a proper system of naval defence, and we cannot have such a system without developing our marine. We need to impress upon those who are willing to participate in the Naval Service that they are just as important for the defence of Australia as are the military men. That is a matter which is worthy of the most careful consideration. We should, therefore, generously, though in a spirit of equity, assist our seamen and those who live on the water to realize that they are highly important factors from a defence point of view. We ought to make it our endeavour to increase the number of men who are willing to give ‘their service on the water until we bring into being a force that will be of great value not only to Australia, but also, I believe, to the Old Country as well. I do not wish to give other reasons for the Bill at the present stage, in face of the fact that the’ President considers that my argument has gone somewhat abroad. But I do hope, having in view the enormous coast line of Australia, that we shall do everything within our power to make popular the service in which our sailors participate.
Senator Colonel NEILD (New South Wales) [5 32]. - I am not in the position that many honorable senators occupy, who have addressed themselves to the motion for the second reading of this Bill ; inasmuch as with the greatest good-will in the world, I cannot congratulate the Government on the measure which they have introduced. I admit that in some respects the Bill proposes improvements on the existing state of affairs. But I__cannot understand how, with the amount of knowledge that exists on the subject of State insurance in respect of industrial accidents, a Ministry which is in many respects progressive, should have introduced so singularly inept a measure. My honorable friend, the Vice-President of the Executive Council, looks towards me sorrowfully, but I am telling the Senate precisely what I think, and I am prepared to substantiate my statements in due course. One of the most unfortunate features of the Bill is that it bristles throughout with opportunities for litigation. Nothing can be done without litigation. The carrying of this Bill into effect will afford a means of occupation for the members of the legal fraternity that will be little short of phenomenal. I deplore that the Government have dealt with only one small aspect of a great question. I listened during last week to the painful challenges and contradictions between honorable senators, who, by their positiveness, showed that they had not approached the (subject with knowledge. They had enthusiasm, certainly. There was a great deal of enthusiasm in last week’s debate. But I (regret that there was so (little knowledge. .In his speech in introducing the measure, the VicePresident of the Executive Council, did not evince as complete a knowledge of the subject as I think he would have had little trouble in doing had he exercised a slight amount of research and made a few inquiries.
– He ought to have read the honorable senator’s report.
– He certainly ought to have read! some portions of it ; and if some other honorable senators had, read portions of my report, which is now about twelve years old, they would not have occupied the time of the Senate with heated and unfounded assertions. I take it that when a debate of this kind has proceeded for some time, no one takes much further interest in it. We make ample provision for the press in the Senate, but I direct attention to the fact that at this moment there is not . a single recording angel for any part- of the press of Australia in the chamber. That fact in itself is a pretty plain indication that public interest has not been aroused in regard to this matter. Otherwise a very different state of affairs would be the case.
– There may be a row on somewhere else.
– If there be any occurrence that by exaggeration can be described as “a scene,” of course abundant efforts are made to record it. I regret that the measure touches only one phase of the question affecting persons employed in industrial operations. Whydid not the Government, when they were about it, introduce a comprehensive Bill instead of following the unhappy example of my own State, where, years ago, a twopennyhalfpenny little measure was brought in, dealing with some aspects relating to work in mines. Here, following that example, apparently, the Commonwealth Government have brought in a measure dealing with seamen only. Seamen, of course, are entitled to the’ fullest protection that the law can afford to them. I hope that they will get more protection than this Bill would give to them. Because, if the’ measure becomes law, I venture to say that we shall have this chamber ringing with demands for amendments within two or three years.
– Why not suggest amendments of the Bill in Committee?
– Because the amendments which I should propose, and which the Bill certainly requires, would positively necessitate a new measure altogether. I could not introduce them into the present one.
– I hope we shall get some of them made.
– Possibly we may.
– When will the honorable senator have his amendments ready ?
-NEILD. - I am not going to worry much about this Bill, because I’ think it is past praying for. I shall make a brief statement of my views, and then I shall give what help I can towards perfecting the measure. I do not know that I shall rack my brain to try to patch up a Bill that I think is very far from being what the Commonwealth requires.
– Would it not do the seamen some good?
– I have said that I shall support the Bill, so far as it will do good. The whole measure is built upon a wrong basis. In view of the statements which have been made, and which have led to a “great deal of needless warmth, that proposals for insuring the workers have emanated from the Labour party, and that the merit of their advocacy belongs solely to my honorable friends who sit in Opposition, I am justified, ‘I think, in pointing out that the date of every one of the Bills passed in the States was at least a year after the publication of the report- for which I was> responsible.
– Possibly the Bills were the result of the report.
– I think it. is just as likely that these efforts were the result of my report, as that the New South Wales old-age pensions legislation was undoubtedly the outcome of that document.
– Is it true that a van -load of copies of the report were sold for 2s. i id. in Sydney?
– They were never sold, except at the Government Printing Office. The honorable senator is simply trying to get off an unmannerly joke.
– The statement was published in one of the newspapers.
– As far as I know, copies of the report were on sale only at the Government Printing Office, and the Government Printer does not offer books for sale outside. If the honorable senator who interjects had rendered half as much service to the people as he now hampers the service of the people, by needless and silly interjections, his record would be more to his credit. There is no possible excuse for alleging that honorable senators on this side do not understand the subject, and, in order that there shall be no possible doubt about my attitude on these matters, I propose to read one or two brief paragraphs, showing that the attitude of my honorable friends opposite to-day simply confirms propositions which I laid down twelve or thirteen years ago.
– The complaint is not that honorable senators opposite do not understand these proposals, but that they do not carry them into effect.
– But they have to be proposed before they can be carried into effect, and if Senator Story will look at the records of this Chamber before he entered it, he will find that I have made substantial efforts in the direction of seeming compliance with these proposals. The honorable senator is aware that a private member of the Senate has no power to introduce legislation which involves the expenditure of public moneys, since all such measures require to be accompanied by messages from the Crown, which a private member of the Senate could not obtain. He is, therefore, confined to advocacy of such measures. In part m. of my re port of 1898, page 446, paragraph 759, this will be found -
It is only reasonable, therefore, that the particular industry occasioning the accident which is the primary cause of the destitution to be relieved should be called upon to provide the necessary succour rather than that the whole community should be chargeable.
That is compelling a business to carry its own risk; the very argument that we had here almost ad nauseam last week” -
The student is inevitably driven to the conclusion that it is the duty of each trade, each division of labour, to bear the burthen of the ills that originate therein, and that this can only be satisfactorily accomplished in and by the authority and compulsion of the State.
I suppose that some honorable senators will tell me that that is rank Socialism. If it is, all the tetter for Socialism. This is what this measure lacks. The State intervention proposed is not satisfactory, because it is incomplete.
– Incomplete in what respect ?
– The State ought to take the insurance.
– That is exactly it. I have gone into the matter so fully in my report that I do not wish to weary honorable senators or myself, let alone the Hansard staff, with a further reiteration of that which I have already stated so frequently. I have pointed out in my report that, in my view, the Dutch method of State insurance is the most complete and satisfactory. Briefly stated, it is that the employer pays the whole cost, and the State takes the whole risk. There is an end to it, and there are no lawsuits.
– Does the State pay every claim without inquiry?
– No; but it is not necessary to have lawsuits between the worker who is injured and the State. Matters in dispute are adjusted.
– As under this Bill.
– Not by so elaborate a legal process. Under this Bill there is responsibility as well as expanse thrown upon the employer. The best European systems relieve the employer. Once he has paid his money, it does not matter what happens, he has no more trouble. There is no conflict between employer and employed, and no lawsuit such as my honorable friend is providing for between employer and employed, embittering, perhaps, not only the relation with his employer of the individual who has suffered injury, but the relations with the employer throughout his establishment, or throughout the whole trade. I do not like the German system, which, as I shall show, is altogether too costly, and is unsatisfactory on that account. I am referring to the Dutch, and some of the best Continental systems, when I say that where you have this state of affairs you have the best protection for the worker and the employer. Each class of risk is investigated by Government authorities, and the rate of premium is fixed upon the trade in accordance with the risk. The greater the risk - through insufficient protection of machinery, and so forth - the’ higher the premium, exactly as in the case of, say, fire insurance. Each establishment is charged a premium half-yearly, according to “ the professional risk,” as the phrase goes. Then the proprietor pays his money, and there is an end to his responsibility. If an accident occurs, the Government bureau or Department steps in and settles the claim.
– There is an end, in the same way, to the responsibility of the employer now if he likes to insure.
– My honorable friend refers, of course, to the taking out of a covering policy with an insurance company ; but as a past insurance manager of many years’ experience, I can give the honorable senator my most positive assurance that it is practically impossible to insure against the entire risk that may fall upon an employer. He can protect himself to a large extent, but how? By insuring at rates that leave a profit to the people who carry on the business of insurance, instead of insuring with the State that does not ask for a profit. Senator Millen is aware that if Government tramways and railways and. the Postal Department were all conducted at rates that would provide a profit on their management, it would only be a few miles of railway, and a few services here and there, that could be conducted satisfactorily to the people who invested their money in the business, because the volume of business is not sufficient in the majority of cases to make it a remunerative investment. I am aware that, because a cold makes it laborious for me to speak, I am not as am.nected and as satisfactory as I should wish. I have said that I object to the German system, which has been frequently referred to here. I , do so on the ground that it throws the whole responsibility and the cost upon the employer, and his remedy is that each , group of workers must insure with the societies that represent each particular trade group.
– The honorable senator places himself in opposition to’ Bismarck?
– If Senator St. Ledger were in opposition to Bismarck he would get an uncommonly short shrift sometimes. Bismarck never had the opportunity of listening to my honorable friend’s eloquence, and there is no telling what would have been the course of European history if he had had that great advantage. The consequence of the system of insuring with the societies representing each trade group in Germany is that the .cost of management of the societies is phenomenal. For instance, the cost of management of the society that conducts the insurance of chimney sweepers in Germany is something unheard of. Of course, the greater the membership the lower the cost, and in the case of some societies it is something like 2s. 6d. per cent. It is a part of the principle for which I am contending that all our workwomen - and I suppose that this Bill will apply to stewardesses - as well as workmen, ought to be insured. As far back as 1894, fifteen years ago, in the Grand Duchy of Finland, an outoftheway spot in the civilized world, which, I suppose, some people would not regard as civilized, a system of State insurance in respect of industrial workers was adopted by the Legislature. Here is a statement which, r think, it would be as well for me to read, because it would then appear in the pages of Hansard for easy reference. The VicePresident of the Executive Council mentioned a number of countries that have dealt with the matter of insurance of seamen. It would take too long to attempt to dissect the various laws of Europe dealing with this matter, but this brief statement, giving the condition of affairs in Europe at the date of my report, in 1898, may be of use -
Austria - Compulsory State insurance law.
Belgium - Compulsory State insurance recommended by Commission.
Denmark - Compulsory State insurance law.
France - Compulsory State insurance proposals and Bills adopted by Chamber of Deputies but rejected by Senate.
At the end of my report will be found a copy of the French law of accident insurance, which was passed after the bulk of the report had been written - .
Germany - Compulsory State insurance laws.
Greece- Compulsory State charges on contracts. Mining properties and private accident insurance fund.
Italy - Voluntary insurance methods and compulsory insurance Bills.
Netherlands - Compulsory State insurance Bill.
Norway - Compulsory State insurance law.
Russia - State and private mines contribute moiety to the accident fund under Imperial decree.
That decree goes back almost to the time of the Crimean war -
Sweden - Compulsory State insurance promised.
Switzerland - Compulsory State insurance proposals and Bills, also compulsory schemes of cantonnal governments.
Several of the Bills to which reference is made in this statement have become law in the countries named, such as Sweden. In my view, the French Bill was not so good as was the Dutch, inasmuch as it provided for a less satisfactory form of insurance, and a less satisfactory method of adjusting differences. I wish that the Government, instead of introducing this measure, which deals only with one class of employes, had seen fit to deal with the larger question by extending the benefits of State insurance to a great many more of the workers of Australia.
– The honorable senator thinks that there is no constitutional doubt as to how far we can go?
– I know that that matter has been discussed. It was debated in this Chamber, at least, seven and a half years ago, on a motion which I submitted in reference to the introduction of a system of State insurance. That motion was discussed by Senators Sir John
Downer, Harney, and other members of the legal profession. But, before proceeding further; may I be allowed to remark upon the difference which exists between Senator Dobson and Senator Turley in reference to what happened in the first instance in Germany. Both were partially right, and both were partially wrong. The true position is clearly set out in paragraph 426 of my report, which will be found on page 323. If reads -
Prince Bismarck’s first Accident Insurance proposal provided for the subscriptions or premiums to be paid, two-thirds by the employers and one-third by the employed; and in cases where a man’s earnings did not exceed 750 marks (^37 10s.) per annum, the State was to bear the workman’s responsibility. His second Bill proposed that the workman should be at no cost, but that the entire charge should be borne, three-fourths by the employer and one-fourth by the Empire. When, however, the measure left the hands of the Legislature its conditions had been so greatly altered that the obligation to insure their work-people was placed upon the employers, and upon them was thrown the entire cost - neither the State nor the insured contributing any part of the amount necessary for either insurance provision or working expenses.
– That was my contention.
– I believe that it was. But I think that Senator Turley had in his mind the earlier Bills, and the first and second Bills were somewhat confused. I thought I would just point out the position in order to clear up a disputation. The Vice-President of the Executive Council has just referred to the possibility of employers insuring in respect of their work people, as they would have to do under this Bill. Let me invite his attention to paragraph 828, page 468, of my report, which reads -
Under Employers’ Liability” Laws, employers are compulsorily constituted the insurers of their employes, to the extent, at least, of being liable to make good injuries which it was in their power to avert - proof of which is frequently the origin of ruinously expensive legal proceedings - yet, while this responsibility is placed upon them, and while they may seek to escape ruin by effecting contracts with Insurance Companies, not only have they to sustain a higher burthen of cost than State Insurance’ involves, but are left open to speculative law suits, and a condition of uncertainty and harassment from which escape is impossible. But while the burthen is laid upon employers, the measure of protection for workers is seriously reduced, indeed jeopardised, by reason of the legal proceedings the notoriously unsatisfactory Liability Laws’ encourage ; litigation, costly alike to the parties concerned and to the country ; injurious to the good relations which should exist between em- ployer and employed ; damaging to the industrial progress of the community; litigation, in fact, which practically destroys the beneficent ideal of Employers’ Liability Laws.
– That paragraph refers only to employers’ liability laws.
– Yes, and the Vice-President of the Executive Council stated that the employer could protect himself by availing himself of such laws.
– Who wrote that report?
– I did. A large portion of that report consists of State documents which have been translated into English for the first time, and the translation of which, at a small sum per hour, cost a couple of hundred pounds. I make that statement with a view to showing that the report is based on the experience of the whole civilized world in the matter of State insurance in respect of industrial questions. Every proposal that has been submitted in this connexion to any Parliament of Europe is chronicled in that report.
– Up to the date of its issue.
– Precisely ; and as nearly the whole of Europe, at the time the report was written, had adopted a system of State insurance in respect of industrial accidents, there is not a great deal to add to it even to-day. It is true that some of the Bills mentioned in it havefructified into Acts, but that is about all that has occurred.
– Since the honorable senator wrote that report, Great Britain has had experience of Workmen’s Compensation Acts which were not in force at the time he made his inquiries into this subject.
– That may be so. But with very great respect for my native land, I venture to say that Great Britain can scarcely be regarded as an exemplar in this connexion, because it has been notoriously slow in the matter of caring for its own workpeople. I make the admission with regret. It is shown in the pages ofmy report that, even under the old licentious royalty, in France in 1604, more provision was made by royal decree for the protection of miners than exists in half the British Empire to-day. Then no man was allowed to work a mine without having on the premises a doctor; and at least one priest to “ shrive the dying, bless the dead,” as Scott wrote in reference to another matter. In the German societies, too, one can go as fat back as 15 12 for systems of protection and advantage to the workers in mines such as do not exist in half the British Empire to-day. As I pointed out just now, the laws of Russia not more than six years after the conclusion of the Crimean War made provision for the workers in mines which was marvellous in its efficacy. Those laws were remarkable chiefly because of what they did for the workers at a very small cost. Seeing that the whole of Europe, with the exception of Turkey and Bulgaria - and at the time I wrote this report, Spain - had moved in the direction of State insurance by imposing some form of compulsion on employers, it will be admitted that, though England has moved a little bit - reminding one of a mouse nibbling at the rind of a cheese, instead of getting at the cheese inside the rind - we cannot regard it as an exemplar in connexion with improvements which are necessary in the interests of the workers in many parts of the British Dominions, and particularly in that part of those Dominions with the legislation for which we are charged. I regret that, owing to my troublesome cough, I have not been able to make the address that I should have liked to make it ; but I do hope I have shown that the whole course of European legislation is in the direction of insurance by and with the State, thus doing away with the possibility of conflict between employer and employe in connexion with industrial accidents. Whilst I must necessarily support this measure - because I cannot oppose any proposal which constitutes a move in the direction of gaining something better than we have - I very much regret that I am not in a position to do more than offer my honorable friend, the Vice-President of the Executive Council, my regards in respect of his excellent intentions. I should have liked to have been able to go further, and to give my full blessing to the measure. But I can only hope that there will yet be an opportunity to offer either him or his successor wider congratulations than I can offer to-day - congratulations, notonly to the large-minded Ministry which introduces the measure, but also to the employers and employe’s who will undoubtedly benefit very much more materially by accident insurance by and with the State, the compulsion being upon the employers, than they can possibly do from a mixed system or proposal such as we have before us today, a system which, if it does provide a slight advantage for the injured worker, provides very much more satisfactorily for the legal practitioner.
– I do not propose to detain the Senate long, and can plead, as my justification for rising, the very great interest I take in the Bill and the belief I expressed in my opening speech, that it is but the stepping-stone to further legislation of a like class. I desire to deal with a few points which have been brought out during the debate. Senator Neild approached the consideration of the subject, as we all know, as a student of very many years’ standing. I welcome from my honorable friend, as well as from anybody else, criticism which aims at making the measure better than it is. I shall welcome from my honorable friend and any one else, and receive with an open mind, any suggestions which will tend to cause the Bill to more completely achieve the object in view. At the same time, I feel that it would be extremely undesirable to adopt, at present, some of the suggestions which Senator Neild made. In the first place, he said that it would be better, instead of nibbling at this cheese of ours, to at once introduce a complete system of State insurance in respect of industrial accidents. He will recognise that, whether we deem’ that desirable or not, we are not in a position to do so, inasmuch as we are under constitutional limitations. Seeing that, so far as seamen are concerned, there is no doubt about our legislative powers, is it not wise to exercise them to a full and an unchallengeable extent, and, later, if it is thought desirable, to attempt to stretch our hand in another direction? I submit that it would be indiscreet to jeopardise the just and too-long-delayed claims of seamen merely because it is thought just or correct that other members of the community should receive similar compensation. Another point taken by my honorable friend was that the Bill bristles with possibilities of litigation. I remind him, as I did by interjection, that since he made his exhaustive inquiry and compiled his very valuable and comprehensive report much has happened. His report is now ten or twelve years old.
– Since then, Great Britain, slow though she may have been, has been aroused. She has passed no less than three Acts and appointed a Commission consisting of six gentlemen who carried out an inquiry which, I venture to say, was as exhaustive as that of my honorable friend. The Commission presented a report, as a result of which Great Britain made a complete change of front with regard to previous legislation. Up to that time she had contented herself with Workmen’s Liability Acts, and these were the only Acts in force when my honorable friend inquired into the subject. It was in 1906, and not until that year, that England conferred upon the seamen the benefit designed by this measure. My honorable friend, who is referring to his report, will see that the English Employers’ Liability Acts prevailed until 1897 ; that Great Britain then introduced and adopted the first Workmen’s Compensation Act, amended it in 1900, and did not extend it to seamen until 1906.
– The English Workmen’s Compensation Act is a very advanced Act.
– It is, as a result of the Commission which sat immediately previous to 1906.
– And that included seamen.
– Yes. The Commission inquired very closely into the operation of the Workmen’s Compensation Actas applying to other trades than that of seamen. On this matter of litigation I would remind honorable senators that in introducing the Bill I gave a summary of the questions which the Commission presented to itself, and the answers at which it arrived. For the benefit of Senator Neild, let me repeat one of the questions -
Have these Acts in their operation been unduly productive of litigation ; if so, to what causes can this result be attributed, and how far can the evil be mitigated? - .
To that question the Commission returned this answer -
On the whole, we come to the conclusion that the amount of actual litigation produced by the Workmen’s Compensation Acts of 1897 and I ()00 has been very small when compared with the great number of cases settled by agreement without recourse whatever to legal aid or toproceedings in Court.
– Did I understand the honorable senator to say that the Workmen’s Compensation Act of the United Kingdom was passed after the date of my report?
– It was passed irc 1897.
– That was before the date of my report, and it is explained there.
– I understood that my honorable friend’s report was twelve years old. But he will see that if it immediately preceded the passing of the Act in 1897, he could have had no knowledge of the working of the Act at the time he reported.
– It was passed before I wrote my repo.t. If the honorable senator looks, he can see that I recount the operations of the Act.
– My honorable friend’s report is,’ as he stated, at least ten years old, and the British Act is eleven years old.
– I made a mistake when I said my report was twelve years old j it is eleven years old.
– My honorable friend will see that, in any case, my main argument still stands good - that at the time he made the report there was but a limited opportunity, so far as time was concerned, of judging the operations of the first British Workmen’s Compensation Act. Since then, there has been a Commission, and it has reported in the terms I quoted, indicating that, so far as such Acts are concerned, the amount of litigation is extremely small. My honorable friend’s indictment, read out from his- own report, was against the Employers’ Liability Act, but the principle underlying the one is totally different from the principle underlying the other. In the one case, the claim arises on the occurrence of an accident : the cause of the accident is immaterial. The claim is presentable equally against a careful employer as against a negligent one. so long as the accident was not caused by the serious and wilful conduct of the workman. Another point which my honorable friend put forward was that by having State insurance we would do away with the possibility of litigation. I asked, by interjection, whether he would have the State Insurance Department pay merely on the presentation of a demand?
– Of course I would not.
– I was perfectly certain that my honorable friend would not and I do not want anything I say to be construed as an . objection to that form of State insurance ; I entertain none. But I point out to my honorable friend that human nature, being what it is, there would be a greater tendency to present and urge claims against a State Insurance Department than against a private employer or private insurance company. I pass from that matter to deal with other objections raised during the debate. Senator Turley, for instance, said that salvage crews were not on the ship’s articles, and, therefore, would not be covered by the Bill. I made a note of his objection and have endeavoured to ascertain what is the general practice with regard to such crews. I have not vet been able to obtain information which I can regard as showing a general conclusive practice, but I am desirous of including all men whom we can constitutionally bring within the limits of the Bill.
– Mav I remind the honorable senator that salvage rescuers are compensated on an entirely different principle from that in the Workmen’s Compensation Act?
– My honorable friend is quite correct, and my inquiries so far disclose that difficulty. I am anxious to bring within the four corners of the Bill every seafaring man who can be constitutionally included. Another point raised by Senator Turley was that the crews of fishing vessels that go out on a joint venture are exempt from the operation of the Bill. It is quite clear to me that he had in his mind a class of men who ship as joint partners in the proceeds, but who are not quite the class contemplated by the Bill. As it was drafted, it’ contemplated a number of seamen joining together as joint partners in a venture, and going out in all respects, as far as their share of the profits was concerned, as joint proprietors. My honorable friend instanced a class of fishermen who go to work under different conditions. That is quite true. But I ask him whether he will admit that the Bill is an equitable one, so far as it covers the class of cases contemplated by the draftsman, and that is a number of seamen who go out as partners in fishing ventures, in their own boats or otherwise, and not one of whom can be called a proprietor. It appears to me that, so far as the class of cases contemplated by the Bill is concerned, it is equitable. But there may be cases, such as those that my honorable friend cited, which probably were not in the mind of the draftsman. I repeat here that I am anxious to make the Bill sufficiently wide to cover every one who can constitutionally and equitably be brought within its provisions, and I invite my honorable friend either to confer with me or to make a suggestion to enable us to see whether it is possible to give the clause a wider scope.
– Why are pilots excluded from the definition?
– I am obliged to my honorable friend for asking the question. I am not certain that a pilot, who goes out and takes charge of a vessel, is in the position of an employe.
– In the British Act he comes under the definition.
– Before the Bill passes through Committee, I shall ascertain how far we can also bring that class within its operation. Another matter, which has been brought up relates to the contracting out clause. I admit at once the deficiency which has been pointed out by Senator Pearce. I admit that, under a scheme which might be approved by the ComptrollerGeneral, a working man, on presenting his claim, might find that the funds of the scheme were not sufficient. He might then be without redress for the balance against his employer. Senator Pearce has given notice of an amendment, and I am quite willing to assist him in regard to that or to some other amendment which will carry out the object in view. But I must at once close issue with Senator Turley in his objection to contracting out altogether. I do so for this reason. Since the matter was mentioned I have had the opportunity of looking up the last annual report of the Registrar of Friendly Societies in Great Britain, and I find that the schemes which have been approved there confer upon the workmen very much greater benefits than they are getting under the Act of Parliament. In the report to which I refer, there is a paragraph which states that the maximum amount that would have been payable on account of incapacity for injury under the Act amounted to , £79,940,. whereas the actual payments amounted to £133,000 - an increase in favour of the schemes, as compared with the Act. of nearly 67 per cent.
– How much was contributed by the men ?
– I was not able to ascertain what the men had paid under these schemes, because no information is given on that point. But I have here the details of seven other schemes, and from the similarity of one scheme to others I conclude that they are alike in their operation. I find that under four of these schemes no contribution from the workmen is required. In two of the schemes the contributions of the workmen amount to one penny per week as a maximum, and one penny per quarter as a minimum. Under one scheme the contribution of the workmen is one penny per week. Another point to be remembered is that under the Bill, without any contracting out scheme, every workman runs the risk of the insolvency of his employer. That is a serious matter. But if you have a contracting out scheme, and you. throw upon the employer the necessity of obtaining a certificate from a Government official, and also throw upon the Government official, as I propose to do under this Bill, the obligation of seeing that the scheme is financially sound,you takeaway all the elements of uncertainty and of the risk of insolvency. I ask honorable senators not to let the objections which naturally arise to weigh with them against the kind of contracting out that is permitted under this Bill. The term “ contracting out “ is an objectionable one, and I regret that it has been used here. The term is wrong. What is permitted is not contracting out, but the substitution of a superior for an inferior scheme. I ask my honorable friends to approach the clause to which I refer as I propose to do myself, with an open mind, and to see whether we cannot, to that extent, provide for the workmen an actuarial’ scheme under which there will be an absolute guarantee that when a claim is presented and sustained the money due will be paid.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and considered in Committee pro forma.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
Senator Colonel NEILD (New South’ Wales) [7.45]. - With reference to Order of the Day No. 1, standing in my name -
To move - In reference to the representation of the Government in the Senate; mayI make a brief personal explanation? I find that the matter has got into rather a peculiar position. The standing orderprovides for giving a general notice, particulars to be afterwards supplied. Somehow, this notice of mine - I suppose I am responsible - has got on to the business-paper as an Order of the Day. I have not furnished particulars, and cannot do so under the standing order. What I propose to do, therefore, is to allow the Order of the Day to be removed from the notice-paper, and later I will give notice of a motion in regular form. I move -
That the Order of the Day be discharged.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
My reason for proceeding with this Bill in the present session is on account of a provision of the Constitution. It will be remembered that I moved the second reading of a similar Bill just prior to the last Federal election. But the measure failed to obtain the requisite majority of the Senate provided for, and it was useless for me to bring it forward again until we were once more approaching a general election ; because the only way in which an alteration of the Constitution can take effect is by means of a special referendum-. I knew that even if I succeeded in getting the Bill through, there was no hope of obtaining a special referendum, except in conjunction with a general election. That is the reason why I did not bring the Bill forward last session. Section 128 of the Constitution provides that-
This Constitution shall not be altered except in the following manner : - The proposed law for the alteration thereof must be passed by an absolute majority of each House of the Parliament, and not less than two nor more than six months after its passage through both Houses the proposed law shall be submitted in each State to the electors qualified to vote for the election of members of the House of Representatives.
That section makes it obligatory for a referendum of the people to be taken in reference to such an alteration of the Constitution as is proposed by this measure. Some legal opinions of a very formidable character have been given; to the effect that the Commonwealth cannot nationalize trusts under the Constitution as it stands, unless the nationalization of a particular monopoly is necessarily incidental to the carrying out of some powers under the Constitution. I quite recognise that those monopolies, which I, at any rate, desire that Parliament should have power to nationalize, are not incidental to carrying out any of the special powers of the Federal Constitution. It is, for that reason, necessary that we should seek to obtain power ,to enable us to nationalize monopolies. The State Parliaments have such power at present. Any of our State Parliaments could take over any industry at present existing. But one has only to think of the nature of some of the industries which are the subject of monopoly to see that it would be very inconvenient for a particular State to take one of them over. That method, at best, would be very ineffective, and would, in many cases, result in failure, because of the Inter-State character of the operations of the trusts.
– Is that an admission that a State industry would require to be a monopoly or it could not live?
– No; I am referring to the State Parliaments, which already have power to take over monopolies. But, I repeat, for reasons which I will give later, that if a State Parliament were to take over certain industries, a success would not be achieved because of the necessarily limited operations of an individual State. It occurs to me that there is an inconsistency in the attitude of those who oppose this measure. All that the Bill does is to ask that the people of Australia shall give the Federal Legislature power to do what a State Legislature already has power, in an imperfect manner, to do. There are many industries - many monopolies even - which could not be very well carried on by the Federal Legislature. In fact, I recognise that some monopolies could be carried on better by a State Government. I also recognise that, even within the boundaries of a State, there are some, monopolies that could be better carried on by a municipality than by the State itself. But I cannot see why we should refuse to the people, power to give to the Federal authority permission to do what a State authority can already do.
– Are we refusing that power now?
– I think we are, if we refuse a request for an alteration of the Constitution.
– Where does the request come from?
– It comes now to the honorable senator ; and if he refuses to vote for this Bill, he will be refusing to allow the people to have the same power of expressing their will, through the Federal
Parliament, as they now have of expressing their will through a State Legislature, or even through a municipality.
– Would not that argument apply to almost any ridiculous proposed alteration of the Constitution?
– But I am not proposing a ridiculous alteration of the Constitution.
– If the Federation were to be given all the powers which the States now have, it would mean unification.
– I have already admitted that there are some industries that can be better controlled by a State authority than by the Federation, just as “there are other industries that could be better controlled by a municipality than by a State. Logically speaking, however, the whole of these three governing authorities should have power to nationalize an industry that had become a monopoly. A State has the power; a municipality, in other cases, might be intrusted with the power; and the Federal authority should have it.
– The honorable senator’s proposal would enable us to take over all these monopolies, even though in his opinion they could be better conducted bv a State Government.
– That is so, but the decision as to which monopolies should be taken over would rest with the Parliament, which is responsible to the people. In my judgment, at the present time in some of the States the Governments have taken in hand enterprises which it would have been better to have left to the municipalities.
– But the honorable senator proposes to assume the over-riding power.
– Just as the State Governments do now over municipalities. If this amendment of the Constitution were carried, it would be possible for some industries to be taken over by the Federal Parliament which, in my opinion, would bc tetter left in the hands of a State Parliament, but we are justified in assuming that the judgment of the Parliament of the Commonwealth would be at least as sound as the judgment of the Parliament of a State.
– The position which the honorable senator seeks to set up would place the Governments of the States in relation to the Federal Government in the same position as that in which a municipality now is to a State Government.
– That is so. The State Parliament would still have power to exercise these functions, just as a municipality has power to exercise functions which might be exercised by the State Parliament, but if the Federal authority exercised this function there would be no scope left in the industry concerned for either the State or a municipal authority.
– Apart from that, the jurisdiction would be concurrent.
– Yes, but in the case of many industries it would necessarily be exclusive in the Federal authority.
– If a State Parliament nationalized a particular monopoly, could we come afterwards and take it over ?
– Under my proposal we could, but whether we would do so or not is quite another question. Some monopolies are rather National than State monopolies. The Inter-State shipping monopoly is an instance in point. Assuming that we agreed that it is desirable that the InterState shipping industry should be nationalized, which would be the better legislative authority to carry it on - the Federal authority, having the whole of the coastal trade of Australia under its control, or a State authority, having only a limited portion of1 that trade under its control? If we presume that nationalization is desirable in that industry, the power to operate it should be the Federal, and not a State, power. That can be seen if we take the case of the State ownership of shipping within the boundaries of a State. We can see at once that it would be more desirable that it should cover the whole of the shipping within the boundaries of the State than that it should represent merely the ownership of shipping restricted to a part of the coast-line of the State. We have recognised this principle already in the Constitution. The Federal Conventions selected matters of an Inter-State character, and said that upon those the Federal authority should exercise the power of control.
– The honorable senator might complete that and add that, whilst they took to the Federation those things which were. Inter-State, they left to the States those which are purely domestic.
– That is so. Under my proposal we should take to ourselves, as the Federal authority, the full power, but I cannot conceive that any Parliament of the Commonwealth would exercise the power unless it could be proved that it would be advantageous to do so; just as at present many matters are left to municipalities which might, if it were thought desirable, be managed by a State Government. There are some industries which are of a quasi Inter-State character. The InterState .shipping industry is unquestionably of an Inter-State character, but the coal industry is typical of others in which, although the production of the industry is practically confined to one State, its use is essential to all the States, and the trade in connexion with it is essentially of an Inter-State character. New South Wales must be looked upon primarily as the coalproducing State of Australia, but coal is as essential to Western Australia as to New South Wales. The coal of New South Wales is practically an Australian product, and is an article of commerce that is traded in throughout Australia, and is as essential to one State as to another. A monopoly in coal would injure one State just as much as another. A State monopoly of coal, therefore, in New South Wales, while it might be confined to that State, so far as its ownership was concerned, would affect every other State in the Commonwealth. The tobacco monopoly is, to a lesser extent, one of the same character, because tobacco is, of course, not necessary to production.
– As a non-smoker, the honorable senator does not regard tobacco as a necessity ?
– The honorable senator put that question to me before, when I was a non-smoker, but since then I have fallen from grace. I cannot now speak as a non-smoker, but I am able to look at the tobacco monopoly from both sides of the fence. I regard tobacco as a necessity, but I admit that it is not as vital to commerce and production as is coal. At the present time iron is produced only in New South Wales, but if we had a Protectionist Government that decided that the production of iron should be protected, as almost every other industry in the Commonwealth is protected, a monopoly of iron production in New South Wales would seriously affect every manufacturing industry in the Commonwealth. Sugar is a product which is in the same category as tobacco. Speaking of existing monopolies, I would say that coal and iron come next in importance to the shipping industry, so far as Inter-State production and exchange are concerned. The sugar and tobacco monopolies are in a lesser degree of an Inter-State character, and in a lesser degree proper subjects for national control. I hope that the subsequent discussion will be governed by regard for the fact that under this Bill we do not, and cannot, nationalize a single industry. Looking back to speeches of the past, I am afraid that I set a somewhat bad example myself in speaking as if such a Bill would itself be the means of nationalizing industries. I recognise now that it would not. Our discussion and decision upon this measure should be guided by the question : Is it desirable, not that any specific industryshould be nationalized, but that, under the Federal Constitution, we should have the power to nationalize any industry if Parliament thinks fit? When I use the word “we,” I refer to the people of Australia. The question is, should they have the power to exercise their undoubted right through the Federal Legislature to nationalize industries in the Federal Parliament, in tha State Parliament, or in a municipal council, as they think fit? They already have the power in two of the bodies mentioned : should the power be extended to the third ? The reason for the introduction of this Bill, and the reason why the party with which I am associated press it forward, is that we are face to face with the trust problem in Australia, as people are in ever advanced country throughout the worl’d. Every year makes this problem only more important and serious, and renders the consequences of the operations of trusts more dire and disastrous. Trusts are only in their _ infancy in Australia, but they’ are growing at a very rapid rate. Only last month we had’ notice of a coal and shipping trust. In the Age, of the 23rd June last, we were informed that -
The New South Wales Coastal Steam-ship Companies and the whole of the Sydney coal merchants have affiliated.
That is to say, that the shipping of coal to Sydney and its consumption there is now in the hands of a combined shipping and coal trust. .
– The reference is to bunker coal, not to the Sydney consumption of coal.
– Unless the statement which appeared in the press was inaccurate, the reference was .to the Sydney consumption of coal. The paragraph to Which I have referred gave the names of firms in Sydney that distribute coal, and they included every firm of standing in the city. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company is a combine which has become a complete monopoly. I know that some honorable senators will say that there are one or two little refineries outside the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, but their total production does not represent 5 per cent, of the whole production of Australia.
– If it were 10 or 15 per cent., would it affect the honorable senator’s argument?
– I do not think it would, because the Colonial Sugar Refining Company could make it nothing per cent, to-morrow if they wished. Protected as they are by the Tariff of £6 per ton against competition, they are absolute masters of the situation in Australia. This is shown by the results of their operations. From 1903 to 1909, inclusive, this monopoly made ^1,670, 666 in profit. It paid in dividends ,£1,610,659, and it had a reserve fund in 1.907 of £429,016.
– That reserve fund was not built up in that year.
– No, it represented the accumulations of a number of years. Deducting from the capital of the monopoly the watered stock, it had paid, from 3903 to 1909, 14 per cent, interest on its capital. Will any honorable senator tell me that any business in Australia subject to competition could, for a period of seven years, pay 14 per cent, on its capital ? Do honorable senators consider that a legitimate profit to extract from the pockets of the people? We have to remember that, while sugar is an article of general consumption, it is also a staple article of use in many of our principal manufactories. In this case, one monopoly is able to take toll from other industries which are themselves subject to fierce internal and external competition. We have industries subject to fierce competition depending for their supplies on an industry which is outside competition, and which is able to make the enormous profit of 14 per cent, upon its capital.
– I suppose the honorable senator knows that some of that profit is made in Fiji, where labour is cheap ?
– I do not think that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company would be able to make a profit of £1.000,000 if its operations were confined to Fiji. Our trusts are yet in their infancy. Their powers, compared with those of the trusts of America, are as the powers of a newly-born infant compared with those of a grown man. But all the conditions which have made the trusts powerful in America - with the exception of one - exist in Australia. In Australia the land arteries of commerce - the railways - are owned by the States. If it were not for that exception, the conditions here would be precisely those which exist in America. Will anybody who has calmly and judicially read the. industrial history of America during the past twenty years say that the conditions which obtain there represent a. desirable future for Australia? Are they satisfied with the conditions of enterprise, of industry and commerce which exist in America? If they are not, they must admit that the rapid growth of trusts in Australia during the past few years is a clear indication that we are travelling along the same lines. Only within the past few clays we have witnessed one striking development in connexion with a trust. Honorable senators have, no doubt, read the cablegram which was published in the press to the effect that a bank, which is practically the creation of the Standard Oil Company, has taken over the collection of the revenues of the island of Costa Rica. In that we have evidence of a trust becoming, to all intents and purposes, a Government.
– It cannot be a worse Government than that which formerly obtained there.
– Senator Pearce would not be willing to take shares in it.
– The Standard Oil Trust does not ‘usually engage in “ wildcat “ schemes. We know that it has played a very formidable part in Government in America. I have been informed by an American journalist that he has himself seen a certain sum set aside by new companies, to secure the support of members of the State Legislatures of America to a certain franchise.
– That sort of thing is not incidental to trusts only. Private companies and individuals, for their own ends, might do the same thing.
– Still, it is not a very desirable state of affairs. The journalist in question assured me that there was no secrecy about the matter. It was openly stated in various prospectuses that a certain sum was to be set apart to secure the support of certain legislators. This afternoon we were discussing another method of dealing with these trusts. That method has been tried in America for a number of years, and not only do the trusts continue to flourish, but more and more of them are being formed. I know that some persons hold that, by legislation, we can prevent a trust from becoming harmful. There are some who even believe that legislation should be carried to the extent of breaking up these huge monopolies - of dividing them into competing fragments. Now, I believe that the formation of trusts is quite a natural economic growth.
– The honorable senator means collective co-operation?
– Yes. Their formation is brought about by the necessity which exists for employing vast masses of capital in production to-day. The introduction of machinery, and the numerous uses to which it is being put, renders it impossible for the small capitalist to compete with his larger rival, and the larger the amount of capital invested in any enterprise the cheaper becomes the cost of production. Consequently, the area of competition is ever narrowing, and, as it becomes narrower, the number of small capitalists becomes less and less.
– The honorable senator would not have it otherwise?
– No, but, even if I would, I could not put back the clock.
– The honorable senator desires to see the small man disappear ?
– I should like to go back to the time of which Thorold Rogers speaks in Eight Centuries of Work and Wages. He points out that there was a time in mediaeval England when things were very much better than they are today. But I cannot go back to that time even if I would. No political action can take us back to it. We must go forward. It is evident, therefore, that, in the future, industry will be carried on, not by competing individuals, but by gigantic enterprises. We cannot break up those enterprises, and it would be a step backward if we did so. Then, is it wise to allow them to continue to be operated by a few individuals? Is it wise to permit the control of a gigantic industry such as the shipping industry to be in the hands of a few?
– Can the honorable senator cite any instance in Australia in which that industry has done any mischief which would not be done under a monopoly?
– I can. At the same time, I admit that the shipping monopoly has conferred certain distinct benefits on Australia. I represent a State which depends for its communication with the eastern States upon shipping, and since the shipping monopoly was established, the people of Western Australia have enjoyed a better service than they did under the old system.
– And they have also had cheaper freights and fares.
– So far as freights are concerned, the honorable senator’s statement is not correct. But the shipping service is certainly better than it was previously, and it is infinitely better organized. Before the advent of the shipping ring, I have seen three vessels start from Western Australia on the same day, not one of which had a full load.
– And each vessel offering to take a passenger for 5s. less than the others.
– After the departure of those vessels there would probably not be another for a fortnight, except the ordinary mail steamer. Now, however, the inhabitants of Western Australia have a regular weekly service with the eastern States. The shipping ring has organized the service, dispensed with cut-throat competition, and abolished all the waste which took place under the old competitive system. I would not revert to that system if I could. But it is dangerous to allow a few individuals to control the whole of the sea commerce of Australia - just as dangerous as it would be to permit a few individuals to control its land-borne commerce.
– The power to do good.
– The honorable senator must know that just as we would not accuse each other of being Satanic, we cannot accuse each other of being angels. We are a combination of the divine and the animal. I repeat that trusts have rendered a distinct service to humanity. But, whilst that is so, there are certain evils connected with them which we cannot afford to ignore, and there is no reason why we should continue to suffer from those evils if we can adopt a system under which” we can eliminate them, and, at the same time, gain all the benefits which accrue from the formation of trusts.
– How can we better that condition of affairs?
– By the Commonwealth itself owning all the shipping. My honorable friend will probably say that that is merely another form of monopoly. I admit that it is. But, by adopting it, we shall get all the benefits which flow from a monopoly without any of its resultant evils.
There will be no exploitation of the people, no unjust rebates, and none of that tyranny of commerce which flows from private ownership.
– Does not experience In Australia prove that there have been grave weaknesses in connexion with State “enterprise?
– Certainly ; in connexion with our railways, the States have made many blunders, because those railways have been worked by human beings, who will naturally blunder. In the same way, if the Commonwealth were to control our shipping, blunders would be committed. But my point is that every one of those blunders could be rectified by the people, whereas, when a trust is composed of private individuals, the people - though they may feel the evil - cannot apply the remedy. In some other countries the postoffices and railways are privately owned, but in Australia they are owned by the State. Is there any honorable senator, is there any considerable section of people in Australia, who would venture to hand over to private enterprise the railways, or any branch of the Post Office? There is not one who is prepared to take that course. Yet there was a time when some of our railways were owned by private enterprise. I am pleased to say that almost from the inception we have had State railways, and an increasing number of them. The Post Office has, I believe, always been a Government monopoly.
– Can the honorable senator show the great advantages of Stateowned railways as against privately -owned railways in, say, Great Britain?
– Yes. In Australia to-day we have many railways which are not yielding, and which are not expected to yield, a profit on the cost of construction, but which are run simply and solely for the development of the country, and the benefit of those who have to use them. Every State possesses railways of that description. If these lines were handed over to a private company to-morrow, and it desired to make a profit, it would have to increase the freights and fares immensely. That class of State railways can be counted by the dozen. In Western Australia the honorable senator will find a privatelyowned railway joined on to a Government railway. Let him ask the people of Geraldton, who use the State railway running to the Murchison gold-fields, and the Midland Company’s line, running to Guildford, but practically to Perth, from which line they receive the better treatment ? Why is it that the people of Geraldton have formed a railway league? It is to induce the State to take over the Midland Company’s railway. According to Senator Gray’s argument, they should have formed a league to get that company to take over the State railway to the Murchison gold-fields.
– Oh no; I asked what advantages our system has over the other system ?
– Put that question to the people of New South Wales who reside at Broken Hill.
– The astute business men at Geraldton have a Government line running eastward and a private enterprise line running southward. There has never yet been a resident who has publicly asked that the Government should hand over the State railway to the private company ; but there is a railway league which includes all the business men, and a great many of the other inhabitants, and which is continually agitating to induce the Government to buy out the privately-owned line.
– I could instance a privatelyowned line in England where, having regard to the population, the fares are cheaper than the fares anywhere in Australia.
– My honorable friend should compare like with like. He mentions a country which has a population of 50,000,000, and which could be put inside Victoria, and he asks us to compare the rates and fares on railway lines in a densely populated country with the rates and fares on Australian railways, which run, some of them, for hours through country on which there is not a single settler.
– I am thinking of a line which was constructed for no other purpose than to develop the country.
– The freights and fares on the metropolitan railways in Australia are higher than the freights and fares on railways in thickly populated districts in England. There is a large number of country railways which feed the capital, but which earn little or nothing, and, in order that the railway system as a whole shall defray its cost, the fares and freights in the metropolitan districts may be a little higher than the fares and freights in England. But take any of the American railways running through similar country, and see how the freights and fares compare.
– Had not Western Australia to take over the railway from Albany in order to convenience the producers and settlers ?
– It had. Not only did a private company own the railway running to Albany, but it also owned the land adjoining the railway. Surely if ever there was a case when private enterprise ought to have succeeded it should have done there. What was the history of that line? The company had a long trial, extending over twenty-five years; but, after the lapse of that time, the country from Beverley to Albany became absolutely stagnant.
– When the company built the railway they expected that there would be an ordinary increase of population.
– Why was there no increase of population?
– For the same reason as in other districts.
– The company charged such outrageous freights that the few settlers who went down to Katanning and other places could not make a living. But what happened after the Government took over the railway? As soon as they had brought down the fares to the level of the fares on other State railways, the country began to prosper, and the progress has not yet stopped. To-day it is one of the richest districts in Western Australia, and compared with other agricultural districts it is the most thickly populated one. Today the line is paying,’ although the freights charged are very much below those which were charged by the private company.
– Have not the settlers been able to obtain land at one-half of the rate which the company used to charge ?
– Yes; they have got longer terms and better treatment gellerally
– I suppose that they are milking the State cow?
– No; not only the railway, but the settlement, is paying. That district is the back-bone of the State.
– When the State took over the railway and reduced the rates, was it a paying or non-paying line?
– It was a non-paying ‘ (hie.
– Is it not a fact that in the United States many of the private telegraph companies are managed much more economically than are State telegraphs ?
– To that question I shall give an answer from a journal to which I know the honorable senator pays great respect, and that is the Melbourne Argus. On the 13th March, 1906, it dealt with the telephone service of the Commonwealth, and, comparing it with that of the United States, it pointed out that our rates were lower.
– There is not a general rate through America ?
– No. The Argus said -
In the United States of America competition lias greatly increased the cost of telephoning.
The obverse of that is that in Australia. State monopoly has decreased the cost of telephoning, and it is a fact that to-day the State telephones of Australia are cheaper than those of Great Britain or America.
– Is it not the logical outcome of the honorable senator’s argument that, if competition increases prices, monopoly ought to reduce them?
– Yes; that is my argument, and I have pointed out that prices are reduced under a State monopoly.
– The honorable senator is now putting in a qualification.
– I have pointed out that a private monopoly reduces the cost but does not reduce the price. A member of the Tobacco Trust said to me, “ My dear friend, you are trying to make out that we made our profits by increasing our prices. We did not need to do that. You were quite right when you said that we increased our profits, but you were wrong when you said that we increased our prices. We increased our profits by combination, because in that way we reduced our cost of production.” A monopoly reduces the cost of production, but if it is a private one it keeps the saving thus effected.
– Not always.
– I have not met the philanthropists to whom my honorable friend alludes.
– Does not the Argus go on to allege what I stated?
– The Argus continues - %
And in America the telephone is not, owing to the rates, anything like as popular as might be expected in view of the density of population.
I need not labour that point. Honorable senator? know as well as I do that the privately-owned telegraphs arid telephones of America are infinitely dearer than the State-owned ones of Australia.
– The honorable senatorsays that our telephone system does not pav.
– No. A State-owned industry is not run for the purpose of making a profit. The vital difference between a State monopoly and a private monopoly is that the latter is run for the purpose of earning a profit, while the former is run in- the interest of the people.
– If a State service is run at a loss and at a reduced charge, the taxpayers have to make up any deficiency, and, therefore, it is not fair to argue that the service is cheaper because the rate in the first instance is lower.’
– It is cheaper to the user.
– No; he has to make up the loss in taxes.
– My honorable friend knows that, if he excludes the returns for the drought years, the result has been that our State railways have paid working expenses and the interest on the cost of construction, as they are still doing. The freights on our State railways are lower than the freights on similarly situated lines in America, and at the same time are no charge upon the taxpayers. This evening Senator Vardon referred in somewhat critical terms to the Commonwealth management of the Post Office. He was comparing Commonwealth management, not with private enterprise management, but with State management.
– I take the Post Office on its merits to- da v.
– The honorable senator said that, so far as South Australia was concerned, the Post Office was better managed under the State than it has been under the Commonwealth, but I remind him that even then it was still a State monopoly, and that fact does not prove that it would be better managed by private enterprise.
– I was not speaking of private enterprise, but merely showing what a beautiful illustration we had of a Commonwealth monopoly.
– I do not admit what the honorable senator has said. I remind him that, prior to Federation, if he wanted to send a telegram from South Australia to New South Wales, it would have cost him 3s. for sixteen words, whereas, under Commonwealth management, he can send that number of words for is.
– Yes, but the Department loses money on it.
– The loss is not made in the Telegraph Branch at all. If the honorable senator will refer to the accounts, he will see that since the reduction of rates the telegraph business has increased so enormously that it is the best paying branch of the postal service.
– I doubt if any one can tell me which branch pays or loses.
– At any rate, that is how. I read the figures in the return. The honorable senator can see that, with the same staff we can carry out a bigger service at a less proportionate cost than we could a smaller service. That there has been an enormous increase in telegraph business the figures show. I have not the figures with me, but on a previous occasion I showed that, since the reduction of rates, our telegraph business has increased enormously, and there ha? not been a corresponding increase in the staff. That must mean that we are making more money out of the service than we did formerly.
– I have heard that the staff is overworked.
– I have heard that, too.
– There has been some disappointment.
– I am not concerned now in pitting Commonwealth management against State management, although I think that I could make out a very good case in favour of the former. I am pitting State management against private management, and if the question of wages and conditions is raised, I am prepared to pit the treatment of State employes against the treatment of private employes. I do not say that the treatment of our employes is all that it should be, but I hold that it is a great advance upon the treatment which is meted out by private employers.
– I am not at all sure about that.
– I am prepared to compare the treatment meted out to the employes on the State railways of Australia with that meted out to the employes of private railways in America.
– Several of the telephone and telegraph lines in America are, I have read, worked more cheaply than are the State lines.
– It may be so, but the general result, as far as the public are concerned, is largely in favour of the Australian system. Senator de Largie and I have a friend who has recently been on a tour through the United States. Writing to Senator de Largie a little while ago, he said that he was considerably surprised when he went to send a telegram to find that it cost him exactly double what a similar message would have cost in Western Australia.
– Mv point is that, generally speaking, private enterprise works more cheaply than State enterprise.
– I am not in a position to contradict the honorable senator, though I have read statements to the contrary. But I will point to an instance in the State in which we are now assembling - Victoria. A few years ago, the State Government decided to encourage the local manufacture of railway engines. They accordingly gave to the Phoenix Foundry. Ballarat - a private enterprise - an order for several locomotives at a price very much in advance of that for which engines could be imported. But Victoria was a Protectionist State, and it was in accordance with the Protectionist policy that even a higher price should be paid for local manufactures than that for which engines could he imported. The Phoenix Foundry continued to make engines for the Victorian Railways for a considerable time, with the result that it cost the State of Victoria ^300,000 more than the price for which they could have purchased the same engines from importers. But later on. the State Government commenced to manufacture engines in the Newport Workshops, which are under State control. At the Newport Workshops higher wages were paid than were paid by the private company at Ballarat. Furthermore, the Newport Workshops employed fewer boys. It was notorious that whenever the Phoenix Foundry obtained a Government contract, a whole host of apprentices were taken on. When these boys had completed their indentures, they were turned away ; and when a new contract was obtained, a fresh lot of boys were engaged. That sort of thing was not done at the Newport Workshops. When the question was raised in the State Parliament as to whether the Government should give the Phoenix Foundry another order for locomotives, the Premier, Sir Thomas Bent, declined to accede to that request on the ground that the Government were able to manufacture at Newport cheaper than they could buy from the Phoenix Foundry, or import. There was a* discussion in Parliament, and the result was that a Commission was appointed to inquire into the manufacture of locomotives at the Newport Workshops. What was the result? There was an overhauling of the books, an exhaustive examination by accountants, and the report of the Commission was to the effect that locomotives were manufactured at Newport very much cheaper than they could either be purchased from the Phoenix Foundry, or imported.
– That must have been because the Government who employed the Phoenix Foundry were not men of business.
– No; the reason was that the State Workshops were doing the work cheaper and better than private enterprise.
– The Government were allowing the Phoenix Foundry to make too much profit.
– As soon as the State Government ceased giving the Phoenix Foundry further orders, the firm went into liquidation.
– Were the members of the Commission Socialists?
– No; only one member was a Labour man, and the remainder of the Commissioners were anti-Socialists.
– I very much doubt the whole statement.
– The honorable senator would doubt his own existence if it conflicted with his preconceived opinions !
– The report of the Commission can easily be obtained.
– I could give hosts of instances of the same character. In South Australia, we have a Produce Export Department, which has resulted in very great good to the growers of produce, and has secured to them a greater percentage of profit. Furthermore, the produce is placed upon the London market in very much better style than was formerly the case.
– How long has that Department been in operation?
– It was started fifteen years ago.
– How much money has been lost on it?
– I have not the slightestdoubt that the Government lost money in the beginning. But to-day the State is losing nothing upon the Department. On the other hand, it is receiving a tremendous indirect benefit, whilst the producers are receiving tremendous advantages. To-day, the honorable senator, anti-Socialist as he is, would not dare to go to South Australia and advocate the handing over of that State Export Department to private enterprise.
– Would I not?
– No, the honorable senator would not. I know one producer who lives in the district where my father resided. He said to me some time ago, “I am as strong an anti-Socialist as ever I was, but I do believe in that Export Department.” If the honorable senator went to the district of Alma, and announced that he was in favour of handing over the State Export Department to Sandford and Company, he would lose one supporter at any rate. But, apart from these instances, I come back to the point that in regard to shipping, coal, iron, and, in a lesser degree, to the sugar and tobacco monopolies which are in existence to-day, and are exercising their harmful power, this Parliament should have authority to legislate. This Bill is intended to give the Federal Parliament that constitutional power. If the Bill be passed, it cannot become law until the Constitution is altered; and the Constitution cannot be altered without a majority of the people in a majority of the States. Thus an opportunity is presented for honorable senators to give the people a chance of expressing their opinion. If honorable senators are prepared to test the opinion of the people, they can do it by means of a referendum. If they believe that the majority of the people are opposed to the Federal Parliament having this power, they need not fear the result, which will be that the Bill will become mere waste paper. If the majority of the people in Australia are against this power being conferred on the Federal Parliament, nothing can happen.
Debate (on motion by SenatorMillen) adjourned.
Debate resumed from June 24 (vide page 339), on motion by Senator Needham -
That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into and report on the arrangement entered into with the State of Victoria for carrying out Commonwealth printing, the payment of wages and hours of labour in respect thereto, the adjustment of cost of the printing as be- tween State and Commonwealth, and the conditions prevailing generally in respect to such printing.
That the Committee consist of Senators
Chataway, Dobson, Findley, Givens, Colonel Neild, Vardon, and the mover.
Senator Sir . ROBERT BEST (VictoriaMinister of Trade. and Customs) [8.51]. - I find myself in some difficulty, about dealing fully with this subject. Owing to circumstances which are within the knowledge of the Senate, my honorable friend, Senator Needham, was unable to give his reasons for submitting the motion. He moved it without making a speech, with the object of permitting Government business to be dealt with. Consequently, no evidence has been placed ‘before me to show that an unsatisfactory arrangement with regard to our printing is in operation. I think I shall have no difficulty in proving to the Senate that the matter is on a fair basis. It may be known to some honorable senators that early in the history of Federation the then Treasurer, Sir George Turner, found it necessary to make an arrangement as to Commonwealth printing. The difficulty which he had to face was this : Melbourne was but temporarily the Seat of Government, and Sir George Turner therefore did not think that he would be justified in incurring great expense on the establishment of a Commonwealth Printing Office. It was recognised that if we were to purchase a plant we should incur considerable expenditure in removing it to the Seat of Government when the Federal Capital was selected. We had close at hand a fully equipped State Government Printing Office, in full working order. There was there good machinery, and a capable staff. The question was, therefore, what arrangement could be entered into to have Commonwealth printing done. Sir George Turner recognised that if we established a printing office of our own it would have to be equipped with machinery of a very expensive character, equal to the maximum amount of work required for Commonwealth purposes. That meant that machinery to the extent of at least twenty- five per cent, would be lying idle for a considerable portion of the year. We should also have to keep a surplus staff available for meeting any rush of work incidental to parliamentary printing. Under these circumstances, an arrangement was entered into with the State Government Printing Office for doing printing for the Commonwealth in relation to the Federal Parliament, while the various Government printing offices of the States were to do work connected with those several States. In regard to printing for the Commonwealth Parliament, the State staff was utilized, and additional temporary hands were employed for the purpose of coping with the extra work. The result is that there is now a blended staff. The temporary employes are employes both of the State and the Commonwealth, the State Government Printer. Mr. Kemp, having charge of the whole staff. The system adopted is that all the work is registered. Every man who does any work has to sign a docket, which is initialled or signed by the overseer, and is duly registered. So that if a man does two hours’ Commonwealth work and six hours’ State work dockets are duly prepared and signed for the two hours’ work done for the Commonwealth and the six hours’ work done for the State. From these dockets the paysheet is made up, and it shows exactly the value of the work done for the Commonwealth and for the State. The men’s wages are known, and the cost of the work per hour is easily ascertained. As regards the machinery, the State had, and has, a valuable plant, and from time to time the Commonwealth Government has made purchases of linotype machines, type, and other plant which have reached a value of something like £40,000. The whole of this Commonwealth plant is available for both State and Commonwealth work, which is charged for in the way I have already explained. I believe that, as a matter of fact, the Commonwealth work is about as large in volume as that performed for the State. We have in the performance of Commonwealth work the use of State machinery and plant, which exceeds in value that owned by the Commonwealth. Another important consideration is that we are under no charge for rent. The State of Victoria has very generously, T think, finding that additional accommodation was necessary, provided us with a building for a portion of our machinery at a cost qf ,£6,000, and we pay no rental for that building.
– It would not be in order for the honorable senator to speak again, except in reply to the debate.
– I have stated the facts as I have been informed of them, and it will be admitted, I think, that the Commonwealth authorities have no room to complain of the existing arrangement. We might adjourn the debate, and in the meantime, should any reDly be forthcoming to the statements which I have made, I shall be glad to hear them.
– I hope that the debate upon this question will not be adjourned. In my view, the motion should be at once disposed of by being withdrawn. Honorable senators must be aware that we cannot indorse a proposal of this kind without reflecting very seriously upon the Victorian Government, which has granted us verygreat facilities in the matter of printing - facilities which are of a satisfactory character. I am quite sure that, if the employes in the Government Printing Office have any legitimate cause for dissatisfaction, the State Government will be quite ready to investigate it. I trust, therefore, that the motion will either be immediately withdrawn or rejected.
Motion (by Senator Vardon) proposed -
That the debate be now adjourned.
Question put. The Senate divided. Ayes … … … 12
– Some honorable senators may think that I was unduly anxious to press this motion to a division. But I would point out that it has now occupied a place upon the business paper for two sessions. Several honorable senators have addressed themselves to it, and there is a good deal of information relating to it before the Chamber. In my judgment, the Minister of Trade and Customs, in replying to the remarks which I made in submitting the motion, merely attempted to side-track the issue. He relied upon the fact that some complaints had emanated from the workmen employed by the Commonwealth in that portion of the Government Printing Office which we are using. But that is not the crux of the position at all. Anybody who chooses to read my motion will note that it is of a very general character. It asks for the appointment of a Select Committee, whose investigations would not be limited to one particular channel, but would cover a very wide area, including the general work of printing and a revision of the arrangement which was entered into by the Commonwealth with the State of Victoria.The Minister of Trade and Customs must know that for the past four or five years all the men employed by the Commonwealth in the Government Printing Office have complained of their hours of work, the wages paid to them, of the non-recognition of overtime and of the fact that they have to work very long hours when this Parliament is in session. When either branch of the Legislature sits all night, they have to work until the sitting terminates, and a ti the week-end they have to “ cut out the time.” That has been one of their chief grievances, and it has been the subject of representations to successive Treasurers. But it was only when Mr. Watson occupied the position of Treasurer that they succeeded in obtaining some little redress. The practice of “cutting out overtime”’ is a very bad one. If an employe works overtime he does so, not for the good of his health, but to convenience his employer.. Consequently, it is not right, after theemployer has been served, that the employesshould be told to stand aside at the end of the week, without receiving any remuneration for the extra effort and energy which has been expended by him. The Minister of Trade and Custom’s has said that these men are very well treated by the Commonwealth. I admit that, in comparison with some private employes, they may be well treated. But there are outside employes engaged in similar work who are much better treated. On a former occasion I quoted from facts and figures, which are on record in Hansard, in proof of that statement. The employes in private newspaper offices work shorter hours, receive higher wages, and enjoy a greater sense of permanency than do the Commonwealth employes in the Government Printing Office.
– Do not these men receive the Union rate of wages?
– I am replying to the statement of the Minister of Trade and Customs. It may surprise that gentleman to learn that these employes do not share in the gratuity of £500 which he mentioned. Only one or two officers who are on the classified list share in that gratuity. The ordinary humble employe, whose energy and zeal have contributed to a satisfactory system of printing, is not rewarded. I do not wish the Minister’s statement to mislead honorable senators when they are about to vote upon this motion. That gentleman also declared that an accurate account is kept of the work that is done by the Government Printing Office for the Commonwealth. He made that bald statement, but did not submit any proof of it to the Senate.
– What proof does the honorable senator want? Does he wish me to call witnesses to the Bar?
– No; but if a Select Committee is appointed, I promise the Senate that I shall bring witnesses to prove that the Minister’s statement is not altogether accurate. I dare say that he is acting upon information which has been supplied to him.
– It is simply a question of the Minister’s statement against my statement. Let him agree to the appointment of a Select Committee, and I shall prove to him by witnesses from his own Department that men may be employed for two days a week on Commonwealth work, and four days on State work, and the majority of the time be booked up to the Commonwealth.
– Now that the honorable senator has made that statement, I shall have inquiries made into it.
– I hope that the Minister will, and I suggest that the best inquiries could be madeby a Select Committee, whose report, I venture to say, would surprise many honorable senators. Senator Pulsford said that to pass such a motion as this, and appoint a Select Committee, would be a reflection upon the State Government. I have no desire to reflect upon any one. I simply want an exhaustive inquiry to be made regarding the arrangement which is in operation.
– It is a most offensive motion.
– The honorable senator is entitled to his opinion.
– I am quite certain about it.
– Order !
– I do not think it is in order, sir, for the honorable senator to say that a motion submitted to the Senate is an offensive one, and I ask that he be called upon to withdraw the expression.
– I called the attention of Senator Pulsford to the fact that it was not a correct expression to use. Perhaps he will not persist in making use of it.
- Mr. President, I ask for the withdrawal of the expression.
– Will Senator Pulsford withdraw the word “offensive”?
– If Senator Needham is anxious for the withdrawal of the word, I have no objection to withdraw it.
– It is not my intention to-night to unnecessarily labour this matter. I want to indicate one or two directions in which the Select Committee might institute a searching inquiry. It should ascertain the cost of printing Hansard, and several other publications which honorable senators are in receipt of daily or weekly. It should find out the exact position in connexion with the whole of the printing done in the office. It should inquire whether accurate separate accounts are kept for all branches of Federal and State printing. It might also investigate the question of the stock, and discover whether any loss is entailed by keeping an unnecessary quantity of stock in the office. I believe that evidence could be obtained to prove that the Commonwealth has spent an unnecessary amount of money on the purchase of stock and that various accessories, such as tvpes, which are lying in all parts of the building, no one knowing where they are to be found. Some time ago I moved for a return as to the cost of all the plant in the Commonwealth branch of the printing office. I found from the return that the Commonwealth has there a plant valued at £41,788 7s.10d. Again, reference has been made to the Government Printer. He may be a very able man, and, perhaps, well fitted for the position he holds; but it might be wise to inquire whether he keeps in close touch with his staff. I have no concern with his State staff; but I do not think that he has an intimate personal knowledge of the working of the Commonwealth staff of which he is in charge. I am under the impression that it would be far better and cheaper if he had a closer personal supervision over the work than he now has. That is another direction in which the. Select Committee might make an investigation. During the last four or five years eight or nine honorable senators have asked questions about the cost of the machinery, how it is used, when the men are “employed, and whether they can be employed continuously during the recess. Surely there was something underlying those inquiries. Surely honorable senators did not come here to make the inquiries just for the fun of the thing. They must have known that something was wrong. I am not satisfied that everything is right. I am not asking for a costly inquiry, or for a Royal Commission. I guarantee that if my motion is agreed to two or three days will afford ample time for the Select Committee to present a report proving that the printing arrangement between the Commonwealth and the State is not satisfactory, and that the purchase of the machinery by the Commonwealth is not a payable investment. I believe that quite recently a certain amount of plant was purchased for the printing of stamps. That transaction might also be inquired into, because I understand that the Commonwealth paid too’ much money for a plant, which is practically obsolete. I make that statement advisedly. It will be found, I think, that the cost of printing stamps is greater in Melbourne than it was at Adelaide. When the Commonwealth decided to purchase a plant, it ought to have bought every portion of the plant, and not merely the obsolete portion. That is an item of news which, perhaps, some honorable senators did not hear before. I believe that hereagain the report of the Select Committee would open the eyes of many persons. I have some figures in relation to the price, but I do not propose to use them at the present moment, because
I cannot vouch for their accuracy. I will, however, make this general statement, that too much money was paid for a plant which is obsolete. The Government ought to have secured an up-to-date printing plant. In view of the anxiety which has been shown here for years to probe the question of Commonwealth printing to the bottom, to find out how our employes are treated, whether they are paid for overtime, why they should be called upon to work extraordinarily long hours, and cut out at the end of the week, whether they could be placed on a permanent footing, the cost of printing, including the printing of stamps ; and, lastly, but by no means least, whether the time has arrived when we should establish aprinting office of our own. I do hope that honorable senators will accede to my request. Hitnerto the argument has been used that as we are likely to have a Federal Capital in the near future we should not incur the cost of fitting up a building for a printing office, and incur also the subsequent cost of removing the plant to the Federal Capital. It is well-known that when the Parliament does go to the Federal Capital, we shall have to remove the equipment of several offices, and the additional cost of removing a printing plant would not be very much. By the establishment of a printing office we would effect a great saving. On a former occasion Senator Best said that it was impossible to keep the men employed during recess. At the present time the work of the Patent Office is in arrears, and with a little improvement in the management I believe that the men could be continuously employed throughout the year. I hope that the motion will be carried.
Question - That the original motion be agreed to- put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 1
Question so resolved in the negative.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from i st July vide page 679):
Clause 3 -
Section twenty-seven of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904 is hereby repealed, and (he following section is substituted in lieu thereof : - “ 27. - On .the hearing or determination of any industrial dispute an organization may be represented by a member or officer of any organization, and any party not being an organization may be represented by an employe of that party; but no party shall be represented either directly or indirectly by counsel, solicitor, or agent except with the consent of all the parties and by leave of the President.”
– When the Bill was last before the Committee, I indicated that it was my intention to move an amendment, the object of which was to. prevent solicitors or counsel from appearing in cases affecting industrial disputes before the Arbitration Court. I propose, therefore, to move -
That the words “or agent,” lines ri and 12, be left out.
If the amendment be agreed to, a consequential alteration will require to be made, by excising the comma after the word counsel .and inserting the word “or’’ between “counsel” and “solicitor.” The sentence will then read - but no party shall be represented either directly or indirectly by counsel or solicitor except with the consent of all the parties and by leave of the President.
It will be remembered that when we were dealing with the original Act, section 27 was a bone of contention which caused considerable debate. Many of us felt that admission of counsel or solicitors to the Federal Arbitration Court would lead to endless litigation and heavy costs. We have already had sufficient evidence that our anticipations have been fulfilled. The Broken Hill dispute may be cited as an instance. Counsel appeared in Court, and those who listened to the proceedings could have no doubt that the case would not have been protracted to such a degree had practical men been dealing with it, instead of men who were looking for nothing but points of law and legal quibbles. Possibly, the whole dispute would have been settled within a very much narrower compass, and at one-tenth of the expense had no counsel taken part in the proceedings. But as it was, the lawyers had their say at considerable length, and’ took a very large picking. The same has occurred in connexion with the timber industry. The lawyers again have had their way, and have raised all kinds of technical arguments, causing expense where none was. needed. The whole procedure has been very unsatisfactory to both sides, I should think ;. at least, I’ know that it has been very unsatisfactory to the employes in the timber industry. To-day, apparently, the dispute is as far from being settled as it was at the beginning. In the Jumbunna case, the . same kind of thing occurred.. The Arbitration ‘Court is the wrong place for lawyers. No men are so capable of- dealing with industrial disputes as those who are actually engaged in the business concerned. The employer knows his own business, and can argue his own case. The employe knows his busines’s, and can lay his case before the Court. When both sides, being practical men, have stated their case, the judicial mind of the President of the Court is brought to bear with excellent results. I wish to omit the word “ agent “ from the clause, because, if it remains I believe its meaning can be extended so as to embrace something entirely different from Senator Needham ‘s intention. As a rule, the large organizations have one of their own members appointed as general secretary or president. Usually the general secretary has control of the official business. He is a trained man, thoroughly acquainted with the industry with which his union is concerned.
– What difference is there between what the honorable senator proposes, and the practice existing in connexion with the Wages Boards in New South Wales?
– I- do not Know that there is any material difference. The general secretary of a workers’ organization has been held to be the agent of the organization, and, as such, has been excluded from the counsel of the Court.
– The honorable senator proposes to allow the secretary of an or,ganization to appear?
– I do, and for that reason I wish to have the word “ agent “ left out. I desire that the secretary of an organization should be allowed to appear if those by whom he is employed desire that he should ‘represent them, because he is almost invariably a man who has grown up from boyhood in the industry in which he is employed, and has a perfect knowledge of its varied requirements. He is chosen be- cause of his superior knowledge of the industry. In order to test the question, I, first of all, move -
That after the word “counsel,” line n, the word “or” be inserted.
– - I admire the extreme frankness with which Senator Henderson has put forward his plea, that an unfair advantage should be given to those on whose behalf he speaks.
– Not at all.
– I do not say that the honorable senator submitted his amendment with that object, but I shall endeavour to show that, if it were adopted, it would confer a distinct and unfair advantage on one of the parties appearing before this tribunal. The. honorable senator, in reply to an interjection of mine, said that his specific reason for leaving out the word ‘ agent ‘ ‘ was to enable the secretary of an organization to appear before the Court. As the law now stands, I have no objection to that, but if we shut out legal assistance a distinct advantage would be given to organizations of employes. Senator Henderson has said that no lawyer is required to come between the employer and employe, because they both understand their business. This would apply to the secretary of a workman’s organization, because, in ninety-nine cases out of one hundred, he would-have been through the mill, and would know what he was talking about. He would be especially qualified to represent the interests of his fellows before the Arbitration Court. But could that be said of a secretary of an Employers’ Union, who, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, would be an office man, selected for his capacity as an office man and a secretary ? He would not be competent to go before any tribunal and speak on the practical side of matters on which the Court would be required to adjudicate. If Senator Henderson is not prepared to listen to my opinion on this matter, I invite his respectful hearing for the opinion of Mr. Justice Higgins, who, on more than one occasion, has, from the Bench, expressed the view that had legal assistance been obtained both time and money would have been saved. That is not an opinion which is likely to be ignored by laymen in this Chamber. I go further, and say that we have it on record that the sawmillers’ case, recently broke down because it was im properly presented. Senator Henderson’s argument is that we should keep lawyers away from the Court, in order to save time and money; but I put in the box one who usually occupies a higher position in Court, Mr.- Justice Higgins, and I quote the sawmillers’ case, which must be within the minds of honorable senators, and say that it broke down for lack of the assistance which Senator Henderson would refuse the Court. I remind honorable senators again that the members of this ‘ ‘ iniquitous ‘ ‘ institution, the legal profession, are able to enter the Court, as the law now stands, only through the very narrowest portals. They are admitted only by consent of the parties, or by leave of the President.
– That is the trouble.
– I thank my honorable friend for the interjection. The trouble is that the President, who at present has the right to say when legal assistance will be advantageous, is to be deprived of that right. Under the existing lawthere are three parties in the Court - two parties to the conflict and the Judge. The two parties can agree to obtain legal assistance, or leave can be given by the President. If the amendment were carried the two parties might agree to keep lawyers out of the case, and the President of the Court would be powerless to admit them. The proposal is to take away the right which the President of the Court at present has to authorize the employment of counsel, if he thinks fit.
– To take away the discretion of the President in the matter.
– That is a very happy phrase. The proposal would take away the President’s discretion.
– It would take the lawyers out of the Court instead of leaving them in.
– In view of the great faith which honorable senators opposite have in the present Judge of the Arbitration Court, I am rather surprised that they should be disposed to quarrel with a law which leaves this discretionary power in the hands of so able a Judge. Mr. Justice Higgins has distinctly, affirmed that legal assistance in the Court would be advantageous, and would save time and money ; Senator Henderson holds a contrary opinion ; and it is for the Committee how to ‘decide whom they will accept for their guide, counsellor, ,and friend. I have said that I have no objection to the substitution of the secretary of an organization for an agent if the original amendment is defeated, but if the original amendment is carried Senator Henderson’s amendment must confer a distinct advantage upon one side to the disadvantage of the other.
– I have no objection to the amendment proposed by Senator Henderson. The object I had in introducing this Bill was to enable the secretary of a union or of an employers’ organization to appear in the Court to the exclusion of lawyers. If the word “ agent “ were retained it is possible that the object I had in view would be defeated. The Vice-President of the Executive Council has said that the saw millers’ case broke down because it was not properly placed before the Court. With all due respect to the honorable senator and to the high authority he has quoted may I say that the saw millers’ case broke down because there were too many lawyers in the Court.
– It was points of law that broke it down.
– It was points of law and not any question of fact connected with the timber industry. I know the gentleman who arranged the case for the Court, and I know that each of them possessed technical knowledge of the saw-milling industry.
– Were not lawyers employed in the case ?
– I say that there were too many lawyers on the job. Had there not been so many the case would have been settled long ago, and it would not have cost the Saw-millers’ Union a tithe of what it has cost them. The case was put faithfully and well before the Court by persons engaged in and having a knowledge of the industry, and it was only when the legal gentlemen got to work, and raised points of law as to whether or not the dispute existed beyond the limit of a State, that trouble arose.
– It was inevitable that that point should be raised.
– I do not say that it was not. Senator Millen has put into the witness box against us a gentleman whom we all respect. No man has a greater respect than I have for Mr. Justice Higgins in his personal and judicial capacity, but we are not legislating for to-day when Mr. Justice Higgins is President of the Commonwealth Conciliation and
Arbitration Court, but for the future. He will not always be President of the Court. There would be no injustice in permitting the. appearance of the secretary of a union and, at the same time, the exclusion of lawyers. My experience of cases before Arbitration Courts has been that whilst the workers have always been represented by a worker, who, as Senator Millen has said, is fully seized of all the conditions of the industry, we have had, on the other hand, a gentleman representing the employers as fully seized of the employers position, and as able as the workers’ representative to put his case before the Court. As in nine cases out of ten points of law do not need to be decided, I say, with all respect to the legal fraternity, that it is common justice to ask that they should be argued by laymen on each side. It would save time and money to organizations, and both to employers and employes. For that reason I intend to accept Senator Henderson’s amendment. I hope that it will be carried, and that the clause as amended will also be agreed to so that the expense that is ordinarily involved in the appearance of lawyers before the Court, will be saved to both sides.
– In the light of an experience extending over the full period that has elapsed since the passing of the Western Australian Arbitration Act, I feel that the amendment of Senator Henderson should be carried. For quite a considerable time the practice in that State was for the secretary of the workers and the secretary of the employers to any dispute to conduct the cases of the respective parties before the Arbitration Court. Thus that tribunal practically resolved itself into a meeting in which industrial conditions were adjusted in a proper and business-like fashion. But after a time there appeared in the Court solicitors who had not been admitted to the Bar in Western Australia, but who had been registered in Victoria. The name of Mr. Clarke occurs to me in this connexion. At once all sorts of difficulties were experienced, not only in regard to the opening and conduct of cases, but in regard to the decisions of the Court. Questions of law were raised, and the difficulties which litigants desired to overcome were increased by the appearance of these legal gentlemen. Of course, I realize that a similar state of things can scarcely occur in the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court, for the reason that a solicitor of any
State is entitled to practise before that tribunal in any part of Australia. I suggest that the Government might very well agree to the amendment of Senator Henderson.
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council has expressed surprise, that honorable senators on this side of the chamber do not accept the opinion of Mr. Justice Higgins upon this matter, because of the great faith which they repose in him. But as a question of right is involved, we are justified in bringing this proposal forward, so that equal facilities may be given to all parties who may have to appear before the Conciliation and Arbitration Court.
– The honorable senator does not want equal facilities to be given to all parties.
– That is merely the opinion of the Vice-President of the Executive Council. I was surprised that he should have complimented Senator Henderson upon the manner in which he had pleaded for an unfair advantage to be given, to the workers’ organizations. Of course, I do not know whether he was in earnest in making that statement. But. I venture to say that there is no member of this Senate who is less likely to plead for an unfair advantage than is Senator Hen’derson.
– The honorable senator is endeavouring to twist my words. I did not accuse Senator Henderson of unfairness.
– Undoubtedly the Vice-President of the Executive Council did. He complimented Senator Henderson upon the manner in which the latter had put forward his plea for the granting of an unfair advantage to his own side.
– And then I went on to say that I did not accuse Senator Henderson of desiring to be unfair. He may honestly advocate a certain line of action, the result of the adoption of which would be unfair.
- Senator Henderson has had too much experience of industrial bodies to attempt anything . of an unfair character. We know perfectly well that for a long time he has occupied positions in connexion with the mining industry. He is an old coal miner, who has worked in different parts of Australia, who has been elevated by his mates to responsible posi tions, and who has frequently had to meet employers in conference for the purpose of settling difficulties connected with the industry. The Vice-President of the Executive Council apparently thinks it unfair to permit a person in such a position to represent their case before the Court. He affirms that the workers would thus obtain an unfair advantage over the Employers’ Association.
– Over the employers’ office secretary.
– There is no need for the employers’ office secretary to be sent into Court. The Employers’ Association can send into Court any officer or member whom it chooses to plead its case. On many occasions it has been part of my duty to meet the members of employers’ associations ‘in conference, and I must say that the remark of Senator Millen is a libel ‘upon the secretaries of those associations. In such conferences the secretary usually sits at the Chairman’s elbow, and when the matters which are in dispute have been talked over by the employers, trie Chairman invariably consults him, because he realizes that the secretary has a better grip of things generally than has any member of the organization. That is the reason why Senator H«enderson declared that in all probability the representative who would be selected from the employers side would be the secretary of the Employers’ Association. Now let us see what are the duties of the Court in this connexion. Section 25 of the principal Act says -
In the hearing and determination of every industrial dispute the Court shall act according to equity, good conscience, and the substantial merits of the case without regard to technicalities or legal forms and shall not be bound by any rules of evidence, but may inform its mind on any matter in such manner as it thinks just.
That section offers the strongest reasons why the legal fraternity should be .excluded from the Arbitration Court. They are always raising points, of law. . I repeat that the Vice-President of the Executive Council is very much mistaken if he imagines that the secretary of an Employers’ Association, is not competent to appear before that tribunal, and to represent the em,ployers side of any industrial dispute in the best possible light. That being so, the amendment of Senator Henderson seems a very fair one, inasmuch as it will have the effect of putting both parties to any such dispute upon a footing of perfect equality.
Personal Explanation. Motion (by Senator Millen) proposed-
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– In the early part’ of the sitting I listened to a personal explanation by Senator de Largie, and; amongst other things, he took exception to an expression which I used- last night in the course of the debate on the motion for adjournment. From the Hansard proof, I appear to have remarked that Senator de Largie then said, something to me to the effect that I could go to another place which was even warmer than this chamber. When 1 used those words I was certainly under . the impression that he did tell me to go to blazes or Timbuctoo, or somewhere else, certainly warmer than this chamber. But since he admits that he was angry . at the time - and possibly I may have felt a little heated when the discussion took place between us privately on the floor’ of the chamber - if he assures me that the words were not used by him, then I shall have very great pleasure in withdrawing my statement.
Question resolved in affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.27 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 29 July 1909, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1909/19090729_senate_3_50/>.