4th Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Senator WALKER. - I desire to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council whether the Government have considered the propriety of introducing a Bill to provide for pensions to the High Court Judges.
Senator McGREGOR.- No.
Senator PEARCE laid upon the table the following paper : -
Defence Acts 1903-1904- - Revised Regulations (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1910, No. 94.
Senator SAYERS asked the Minister re presenting the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Can the Minister give the date when tenders will be called for the installation of wireless telegraphy at Thursday Island?
Are tenders yet accepted for any stations in connexion with wireless telegraphy in the Commonwealth?
Senator FINDLEY. - The answers to the questions are -
Tenders are being invited in this week’s issue of the Commonwealth Gazette.
Yes, at Sydney and Fremantle.
Senator ST. LEDGER asked the Minister representing the’ Attorney-General, upon notice -
Has his attention been called to the paragraph appearing in the Argus of 3rd November, which states, “ Mr. Holman, Attorney-General of New South Wales, has received notification from the Federal authorities that instructions -have been given for a” commission to issue appointing him to act for the Commonwealth in the case of indictable offences”?
Has such a commission been issued? If so, what is the reason and purpose of such an appointment ?
Is such a commission conferred on Mr. Holman personally or in bis capacity as AttorneyGeneral of New South Wales?
If in the latter capacity, is such a commission conferred on the Attorney-General of the respective States in virtue of his capacity as such ?
Senator McGREGOR.- The answers to the questions are -
Not yet; but the commission will issue shortly. Its reason and purpose is to prevent delay in the administration of justice.
As Attorney-General of New South Wales.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) pro posed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
– It seems to me that I should not allow this motion to pass without expressing, on behalf of the Senate, at all events of myself, congratulations to the Ministry upon having introduced a nonparty measure, and having received the cordial support of honorable senators on this side. I only desire to show . that we are not, as is too frequently suggested, actuated by party motives. Whenever the Ministry bring forward a Bill which we believe to be above party, as this measure is, they may depend upon having the hearty support of every honorable senator on this side. I congratulate the Minister of Defence upon his able introduction of this Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second lime.
Although the Bill bears the name of the Minister of Defence, it is really connected with one of the Departments represented here by myself, and the reason for it appearing in his name is that on Friday last I had to go away before the message from another place was dealt with. For years it has been argued, and also felt, that the legislative powers of this Parliament were greatly hampered by the limitations placed thereon by the Constitution. Even before it was adopted members of the party supporting the Government were earnest in their advocacy of less limited powers than were granted by the Convention. Although there are honorable senators on the opposite side, and people outside of Parliament, who are continually declaring that this proposal is an attempt on the part of the Labour party to bring about Unification, I give to that statement an emphatic denial.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Deny it as much as you may, that will be the effect of it.
– So far as the Government are concerned there is no intention of talcing any step in the direction of Unification. The obtaining of extended powers for the Parliament does not involve Unification. I have heard opponents of the present Government in both Houses of the Parliament contending in public that the Commonwealth is over-governed. I have heard them talk about fourteen Houses of Parliament, and a number, of other things of that kind. Such utterances have a greater tendency to bring about Unification than anything which appears in a Bill of this description.. I am amused at some sections of the press, which are continually reiterating the statement that Australia is over-governed, and talking about six Governors . and a GovernorGeneral, and fourteen Houses of Parliament. Yet, when it suits them, they attribute all steps towards Unification to. the party which is supporting the Government at present. The placing of themselves in a position of that kind shows how ridiculous they must appear to each other when they come to closely consider the question. As. regards this Bill, honorable senators on this side have always contended that where the central authority has the power to impose taxation in the way of Customsand . Excise duties, which so materially affect the industrial and commercial conditions of the country, it ought to have greater power in. connexion with the control of commercial and industrial matters.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Why not support Mr. Bamford’s Bill at once?
– It is not before the Senate.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. -Why do not the Government support it in the other House ?
– It is not before the Senate, and has not been made-
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - - A Government measure yet.
– It has not been made a caucus question.
– That accounts for it.
– It has not been made a caucus question, and consequently every member of the party supporting the Government has a free hand.
– -When it has been made a caucus question, then the members of that party have not a free hand ?
– That is very true, and that is what is troubling honorable senators opposite. They can hold as many conferences and form as many parties throughout Australia as they please - from the great National Defence League down to the People’s party, which is the newest bom - but they can do nothing with the whole of them, because there is no cohesion, no common ground of action. They have no sympathy with each other, and, consequently, they have no moral control over the actions of each other. Of course, they are aggrieved to find themselves in that position. Every third year . the Labour party have a Conference, in which every section is represented, and formulate a policy. Every candidate who goes before the people agrees with that policy. It is part of, I might say, his religion, and, consequently, there is no secrecy about it, He goes on to the public platform and advocates the policy. When the party sit in caucus to deliberate as to the carrying out of the policy there is no dissentient voice. There is no question of a small majority on one side and a substantial minority on the other, as the newspapers and some honorable senators opposite have often declared. There is no question of that description concerning those subjects which have been agreed to first by a public conference of the whole party and then deliberated on by the caucus. But upon any question which has not become a caucus one, every member of the
Labour party is quite as free - indeed, rauch freer - than is any honorable senator .upon the opposite side of the Chamber.
– They are not free when a decision is arrived at in caucus.
– Upon a question which has been previously decided at ari Inter-State Labour Conference there can be no division in caucus.
– Then why do honorable senators opposite hold a caucus?
– To discover the best method of circumventing the machinations of my honorable friends, and it is because we are successful that they exhibit so much annoyance. They are grieved that they cannot find a policy which every one of them can advocate. Before the Constitution actually came into being, the members of the Labour party believed that any central authority which had the powers of taxation to which I have referred, ought to exercise the most complete control over the commercial and industrial affairs of the Commonwealth. In this Bill we are merely seeking to give legislative effect to the promise which we have been making to the people for years past. I am very glad that the Government are supported by a solid party, whose members are prepared to do all that they can to fulfil their pledges to the electors. To this end it is necessary to make certain amendments in section 51 of the Constitution. Honorable senators will recognise that the first sub-section of that section relates to trade and commerce. But up to the present time, owing to the insertion of the words “ with foreign countries and among the States,” the Commonwealth Parliament has been prohibited from doing anything to prevent fraud and deception in connexion with trade and commerce.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. -For what do the State Parliaments exist ?
– They have a; great work to perform, if they are prepared to perform it. But when they fail to perform it, the National Parliament ought to be empowered to undertake it. The State Parliaments, owing to the existence of obstructive Legislative Councils, have failed to discharge a very important duty in connexion with trade and commerce, and, therefore, the National Parliament should undertake it.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - This Parliament is to act as an overlord of all the State Parliaments, because of its strong sense of justice and its capacity for administration.
– Does the honorable senator wish to make the people of Australia believe that the Commonwealth Parliament should not possess at least equal powers with the State Parliaments? Does he wish to degrade the Legislature of which he is a member? Does he desire to make its powers inferior to those of the State Parliaments?
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. -No.
– If the honorable senator wishes to put the Commonwealth Parliament upon the same footing as the State Parliaments in the matter of its trade and commerce powers, he will heartily support the Government in the amendment of the Constitution which they seek to effect. We have already passed a Commerce Act, but although we may bar inferior goods from being imported into Australia from other countries, although we may prevent fraud being practised upon the public in that connexion, the manufac’turers or merchants who are engaged in trade or commerce in any one State may poison, kill, and enslave the people of that State, and the Commonwealth is powerless to intervene. Is it not time that power was placed in the hands of this Parliament to deal, with dishonest individuals who are preying upon the public within a State in the matter of the food which they eat, the liquor which they drink, or the clothes which they wear? Is it not time that we were empowered to take action to protect Australian citizens? In such circumstances, it is degrading to find any person who is not prepared to extend to the Commonwealth equal powers with those possessed by the States. As I have no desire to labour this question, 1 will pass on to the next amendment of the Constitution which we propose, and which has reference to corporations. We require equal powers with the State Parliaments to deal with the formation of corporations or trusts in any State of Australia, so that we may exercise some control over the businesses which are being carried on in this country. Seeing that we have the power to confer advantages upon these businesses by means of the Tariff, and by means of legislation which we may enact, surely we ought to have authority to control, to some extent, corporations formed either in this or any other country which conduct business operations here. Consequently, we ask that the Commonwealth shall be clothed with equal power with the States in connexion with! corporations which are formed either inside or outside of Australia. The next amendment which we desire to effect in the Constitution has reference to the conditions of labour and employment. Provision is made in the Constitution for the enactment of legislation for conciliation and arbitration in connexion with the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State. But within the past ten years sufficient has occurred in the Commonwealth to show that die limitation which is there imposed is detrimental to the best interests of the people of Australia. We know that when difficulties have arisen in connexion with mining, or engineering, or shipping, or with any of our great industries, although the disputes may have been confined to a particular State, their very existence has affected the whole of Australia, and has threatened to bring disaster and ruin into many homes. Consequently, we claim equal power with the States in the matter of endeavouring to prevent and settle industrial disputes. To illustrate my meaning I need only refer to the strike which! recently took place at the Newcastle coal mines. We know that the men there were goaded and persecuted to such an extent that they had to strike. That strike was brought about by the great Coal Vend, and by the coal-owners, in order that they might get rid of all of their stored coal at an enormous price. The coal-owners and merchants made more profit while that strike continued, and while no coal was being taken out of the bowels of the earth, than they could have made had the miners been working all the time. They knew they would do so before the strike was brought about, and they did all that they could to prevent its settlement.
– Hustings bluff.
– I am stating absolute fact. I have not said anything about leg-irons or chain-gangs, and I do not intend to do so. They are things of the past, and as far as the industries of Australia are concerned, I hope that both the leg-irons and the chains will be placed in the museum, and exhibited there as am evidence to the rising generation of the barbarity which was practised by their forefathers. What did the Government of New South Wales do to settle the New- castle coal strike? They did nothing either of a humane or Christian character. They endeavoured to tyrannize over the men, and to deal leniently with the authors of the trouble. The Government desire to give the Commonwealth equal power with the States to legislate in respect of industrial troubles, no more and no less. Then, if the States are not prepared to discharge their duty to industries existing within their own borders, the Commonwealth will be able to step in and discharge it for them. I have not the least doubt that in such circumstances the Commonwealth will discharge it well. But the chief apprehension in the minds of some persons is that State railway servants will be included within the scope of this Bill. I have heard a lot of rubbish talked about the State railways being placed under the control of the Commonwealth, and I have also read a lot of trash in the daily newspapers on the same question. But I would like to ask every honorable senator, and every editor of a newspaper in Australia, how we can bring the railways of any State under the control of the Commonwealth? We can do nothing of the kind. We propose to do no more in connexion with State public servants than we propose to do in connexion with the servants of private employers. If all these questions are submitted to a Court of Arbitration, which will deal fairly between employer and employed, will it not be a blessing to the States ? Instead of protesting against our proposal, the States ought to be very thankful to the Commonwealth for providing them with a way out of many difficulties. When it is urged that by enacting legislation of this kind we are influencing the revenue and expenditure of any State, I ask if the same remark is not equally applicable to private employers? When the Commonwealth Court of. Conciliation and Arbitration deals with the wages and conditions of employment which obtain in any industry, is it not interfering with the revenue which is derived from that industry? Is it not, to some extent, compelling the private employer to act fairly and honestly towards his employes? If we had the same conditions in connexion with the railways or .with the industries of the States as the State Parliaments have at times permitted, we should have a right to control them.
– That is a slander onthe States, and a reflection on every member of the State Parliaments.
– I never have the least hesitation in saying what I think about individual citizens, or about the representatives of States, if I think that they deserve any sort of censure. I am sure that honorable senators opposite very often blame me because they think I am too outspoken in connexion with matters of this kind. But I do not intend to put any curb on my tongue. I shall not refrain from saying what I think is true because my remarks may be offensive to some legislators in some States, or even to honorable senators opposite. I believe the statements I have made are true. We have only to turn to the history of the Victorian railway strike to see that the difficulties that then occurred would have been prevented if the Commonwealth had had power to step in. To say so much is not to utter any slander against the States. It is merely a criticism upon some supposed statesmen which they richly deserve. I contend that the Commonwealth has as much right to deal with the employes of the States as with the employes of an individual. Commonwealth servants, as well as State servants, should be under the jurisdiction of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court. We have no right to interfere “with private employment if we have not the right to interfere to exactly the same extent with the relationships between the workers and the State Governments. Consequently, we consider that we have a right to ask for this extension of power, and I am certain that we shall get it. There is also another amendment of the Constitution which we propose. We have been engaged in passing anti-trust legislation, Australian industries protection legislation, and legislation under other denominations, for the purpose of solving the difficulties that have arisen in connexion with trade and commerce. If honorable senators like to look up Hansard, they will find that honorable senators on this side of the Chamber have been continually stating that legislation of that kind was useless ; that there was nothing in it ; that it would have no good effect; and that the only way to secure the purpose in view was by amending the Constitution, and giving fuller powers to the Commonwealth. We are now asking for those powers in connexion with trusts and monopolies. We are endeavouring to have inserted in the Constitution a new paragraph amending section 51. It will be paragraph 40, and will give this Parliament greater control over trusts and monopolies than we have had in the past. When we have secured that power, we shall not have cases hung up for years in connexion with the Shipping Combine, the Coal Vend, and other trusts of that description which are in existence. We shall be able to take action straight away, and do something effective. We have been
Simply playing with the question up to the present time. If the amendment of the Constitution which we propose is carried - if the people sanction it, as I have not the least doubt that they will - we shall be able to rid Australia of abuses such as have made the United States of America the laughing stock of the rest of the world. I have now described the legislation that we are proposing in connexion with the amendment of the Constitution. I have not the least doubt that this Bill will be passed by the Senate, nor have I any doubt that when it is put before the people, they, knowing how they have been treated by trusts and combines, how they have been squeezed by corporations, how they have been scorched by labour difficulties, how the public have been brought down almost to their knees by those connected with huge commercial institutions, will by a very large majority in every State give the Commonwealth the power that is sought.
– I desire to intimate to the Senate through you, Mr. President, that it is not the intention of the Opposition to discuss this Bill or the next one on the businesspaper. In making that announcement I take the opportunity of stating briefly the reasons which have induced the Opposition to arrive at that decision.
– Have the Opposition had a caucus meeting ?
– The decision has not been arrived at lightly, but after a serious and exhaustive consideration of the whole position as it presents itself to the minds of those who sit upon your left. The reason why the Opposition have decided to take this course is briefly as follows : We recognise - we are bound to recognise - the absolute futility of any efforts that we may put forward, not indeed to defeat, but even to amend, the measures that are now presented to us.
– Hear, hear.
– We also recognise, however, that the hopelessness of our efforts would not in itself justify, us in maintaining silence. We recognise that there is a responsibility and a duty thrown upon an Opposition, and that responsibility was never greater and that duty never so serious as is the case to-day. But for the proper discharge of the duties of an Opposition it is essential that there should be certain given conditions - those conditions which invariably mark the proceedings of a deliberative Chamber. We have come to the conclusion - rightly or wrongly - and T desire to say this without offence to anybody - that this Chamber to-day has ceased to present the features which entitle it to be regarded as a deliberative assembly.
– The honorable senator cannot say that without offence.
– I am saying it without the intention to be offensive.
– The statement is a reflection on the Senate.
– The honorable senator may think so. I would ask, as the Opposition is taking a new departure, to be allowed to make my statement without interruption. I was saying that in the mind of the Opposition the Senate has ceased to possess those features which entitle it to be regarded as a deliberative assembly. Consequently, to our mind, there is no use in continuing deliberations in it. The causes which have brought that about-
– I rise to order.I do not wish to interrupt the honorable senator further than to ask you, sir, whether it is competent for any honorable senator to state what Senator Millen has just said, that this Senate has ceased to present the character of a deliberative assembly?
– That is his opinion only.
– I wish to ask for your ruling - the question ought not to be settled lightly - whether it is to be permitted -to go out to the world uncorrected that this Senate is no longer a deliberative assembly? “ It appears to me that it is a deliberate insult to the Senate to make that statement.
– May I point out that I was merely explaining what was in the mind of the Opposition?
– Is the honorable senator speaking to the point of order?
– Yes. I was merely stating as a justification for the action taken by the Opposition to-day, that a change has taken place in the procedure within this chamber. I have said that I did not wish in any sense to be offensive to any one, nor did I cast any reflection upon the Senate. I was drawing attention to a change in our methods ; and, that being so, I suggest that the terms which I employed were hot in any sense disorderly.
– I wish to say that I think that no remark that I have ever heard made in this chamber was so insulting to the Senate itself as that which has been made by Senator Millen.
– All true.
– I should be very sorry to think that even Senator McColl would consider the remark as true, for the simple reason that there has been no attempt made by the Government to curtail discussion in the slightest degree. I might add that the fullest possible opportunities have been given to the other side to discuss everything which has been brought before the Senate. The freedom allowed has even gone to the point of licence. In the face of these facts, and in face of the fair way in which the Government have treated the Opposition, for Senator Millen to come here and say that the Senate has ceased to be a deliberative Chamber was a deliberate insult to the Senate, which he should be called upon to withdraw.
– I do not think that I have heard a more offensive statement made in any deliberative body than has been made this morning by Senator Millen. The fact is that the Government have afforded to the other side all the opportunities for discussion that they could desire. Honorable senators on this side have consistently restrained themselves, and refrained from participating in debate, in order that ample opportunities might be afforded to the other side, and the Bills brought before the Senate passed as rapidly as possible. In the face of that fact, to say that the Senate has ceased to be a deliberative assembly is an insult. The statement ought to be withdrawn. I am satisfied that there is no intention on the part of any supporter of the Government that the Senate should lose one atom of the deliberative character which it has always possessed; but simply because the Opposition no longer have the power to prevent the passage of legislation which the country desires, or to prevent the passing of that legislation with all the alacrity which the country looks for, the honorable senator has cast a deliberate reflection upon the Chamber.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - A good deal of the debate that has taken place on the point of order has turned upon the question whether Senator Millen’s remark was justified or not. But I take it that the question simply is whether the honorable senator was in order in making use of the statement that he employed concerning the deliberative character of the Senate. Senator Millen has seen fit to state that the Senate has ceased to be a deliberative assembly. He was proceeding to give reasons for the opinion entertained by him and by other members of the Opposition. I take it that that is not a statement which can be ruled to be out of order. This is a place in which honorable senators, within reasonable limits, are entitled to express their opinions fully and freely. They are even entitled to express opinions which may be dissented from most strongly by honorable senators opposite, if they see fit to do so. I do not propose to follow up the arguments adduced as to whether Senator Millen’s statement was correct or not. But I do submit that there was nothing disorderly in his observation. There should be full opportunities for the expression of opinion in this Chamber, because there are equal opportunities for those who differ from the opinion to submit their own point of view. If we are to say that no honorable senator is to be permitted to express an opinion such as Senator Millen has expressed this morning, we shall certainly render the Senate a most impotent body for debating matters concerned with the interests of the community at large.
- Senator Rae has raised the point that Senator Millen was out of order in stating that, in the opinion of the Opposition, this Chamber has ceased to be a deliberative body.! Most of the arguments advanced in support of the point of order have been intended to show that there has been no curtailment of debate. I did not hear Senator Millen touch’ upon that. I do not think that he complained that there has been any attempt to curtail debate in the Senate or in Committee. I think the honorable senator was quite in order in making the statement that, in his opinion, and in the opinion of those who sit with him, the Chamber has ceased to be deliberative, not because he can find any fault with the liberty allowed for debate, but because, as he has stated, the Opposition realize that it is almost useless to oppose measures introduced by the Government. The .honorable senator gave expression merely to an opinion on behalf of himself and those who sit with him, and I think he was in. order.
– I said that I desired to make my statement without being in any way offensive. Even though honorable senators opposite might choose other words than those which I use to express my thoughts, I think they can accept my assurance that in speaking now I have no wish to be offensive to any one.
– We did not take the honorable senator’s remarks as personally offensive.
– Just so; but I do not desire to be offensive, even in a party sense. I am called upon to discharge quite a novel duty, and one which I candidly admit oppresses me not lightly. The position that confronts the Opposition to-day is one which throws a very heavy responsibility upon me. To continue my original remarks, I wish to say that the Opposition has arrived at a conclusion as to the futility of their efforts because there has come a change over the method of procedure in this Chamber which largely destroys the value of debate. Here, again, I am not making the slightest accusation against my honorable friends opposite, because this change has been brought about as the result of their party methods. Of that there can be no doubt at all.
– They are of great advantage to any party.
– In making that statement I am not making any charge against the Government, or the party supporting them. Their methods were known to the electors when they appealed to them. The country was aware of the existence of the Caucus, and approved of it by returning to power a party working upon that system. It must be understood that I am merely relating facts, and in no way finding fault with those who are using the methods to which I- refer. The existence of the Caucus and the party methods adopted by the Government and their followers in this and, I suppose, in the other branch of the Legislature, are responsible for the introduction of a different system of procedure.
– Really, what the honorable senator means is that his grievance is against the .electors, and not against the party on this side.
– No, I wish merely to lay the facts before the Senate. The facts are that the country has returned to power a party which has adopted as part of its party machinery that method of procedure which we know as the Caucus. I think -it must be manifest to every one that the result of that is that the fate of Government measures is predestined before they are presented to this Chamber. We have had an indication of that from the Vice-President of the Executive Council, when, in connexion with a very important measure, we were informed that the Government were not prepared to consider or accept any amendments, even before they knew the character of the amendments that might be submitted. That was an indication to honorable senators on this side that a decision had been arrived at with regard to the measure, and that nothing which the Opposition in a minority could do would have the slightest effect, since the members of the party opposite had previously made up their minds to carry the measure in the form in which it was introduced to the Senate.
– Yet they fought it right through.
– Exactly ; and but for one other reason, to which I shall refer later, they would fight these Bills through in the same way. The influence of the Caucus is reflected in the attitude of Ministers in introducing Bills, and in the attitude of honorable senators supporting them. But if one wished to be convinced of the change which has come over our methods of procedure this session, as compared with previous sessions, he has only to compare the way in which, in past sessions, similar measures have been dealt with. I cannot recall to mind a single instance in previous sessions of Bills having been passed through Parliament with such an absence of amendments coming from the Opposition side as has been the case with Bills introduced by the present Government. No one would expect that there would be any weakening on the Government side as to the principles of their measures. On them we might have expected what we have seen, and that is an absolutely solid vote. But surely it was only reasonable to assume that in matters of minor detail there would have been, as in past sessions, and in connexion with Bills introduced by previous Governments, some suggestions offered which would be deemed worthy of acceptance, even from the ranks of the oppo’nents of the Government. The fact that no such suggestions have been received or accepted, and that we were warned beforehand that they would be resisted, has con- firmed the Opposition in the belief that the terms of Government measures are decreed and approved before they are introduced in this Chamber. These facts alone would not have justified the Opposition in taking the course they now propose to take. But there is one great outstanding fact which differentiates this and the next Bill on the business-paper from other Government measures. That is that these two Bills will have to go before the high court of appeal - the electors. We recognise, first of all, the futility of our efforts here; that, so far as an expression of opinion upon these measures is concerned, the work has been well discharged by those who think with us in the other branch of the Legislature; and that, in a few weeks’ time, we shall have thrown upon us the responsibility of discussing face to face with the electors the proposals now submitted to us. In these circumstances, the Opposition have arrived at the conclusion that no good purpose would be served, and we are under no obligation to continue here and now a discussion which, for the reasons I have stated, could be of no use, and especially an view of the fact that we shall have an opportunity for a fuller, and, we hope, a more effective discussion of these matters with the electors when these Bills are submitted to them.
Question put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 9
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from Committee without amendment.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) proposed -
That the report be adopted.
Question put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill is very similar in character to that which we have so expeditiously advanced to the third-reading stage. I hope that, as the last Bill went through this stage rapidly, this one will go through much more rapidly, because I think that every citizen of the Commonwealth has become aware that the public are suffering under the influence of monopolies of some description or other. The object of. this amendment of the Constitution is to enable this Parliament to declare when an industry has become a monopoly, and to take over the industry and work it in the interests of the whole of the people. I do not intend to occupy much time in submitting the measure. The question of monopolies has been discussed in the Senate time after time. We have had Royal Commissions on various monopolies with a view to protect the public against their influence, and sometimes their’ employes against their tyranny. I hope that the day will soon arrive in Australia when the infant in the cradle and the invalid in the hospital will be relieved from the influence of the sugar monopoly, the existence of which every one in Australia recognises. The shipping monopoly also affects every citizen of the Commonwealth. The coal monopoly and other monopolies of that kind have had such an effect in reducing the value of the wages of the people of this community that they have all come to the conclusion that the sooner some action is taken either to curb these monopolies or to take them over and work them in the interests of the public the better. Therefore I have much pleasure in submitting this motion.
Question put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from Committee without amendemnt.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) proposed -
That the report be adopted.
Question put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That the Senate disapproves of Census Regulations1910, No. 2, section 2, sub-sections i., ii., iii., iv., and v.
I quite recognise that there will be a difference of opinion as to the form and extent of the questions which should be put to the people in our census papers. I have no doubt that these considerations have greatly exercised the minds of Ministers, and especially the mind of the Minister of Home Affairs, whose Department has charge of this matter. I hope it will also be conceded that on a question of this kind every honorable senator has a right to express his opinion. The idea underlying our Census and Statistics Act is that we shall secure complete information of the general social and economic conditions of the people of Australia. If that desideratum be attained the Statute will have been complied with. But if it seems likely to be exceeded as the result of putting unreasonable questions to householders, it is the duty of every honorable senator to express his view upon the matter, in an endeavour to secure the adoption of a census-paper which will be creditable to the Commonwealth. I wish now to direct attention to section 12 of the Census and Statistics Act of 1905, which sets out the particulars to be specified in the schedule which is to be submitted to householders. Those particulars include - the name, seat, condition as to, and duration of, marriage, relation to head of the household, profession or occupation, sickness or infirmity, religion, education, and birth-place and (where the person was born abroad), length of residence in Australia, and nationality of every person abiding in the dwelling during the night of the Census day.
Paragraph b of that section declares that particulars shall also be given of - the material of the dwelling, and the number of rooms contained therein, and paragraph c sets out that information shall be supplied upon ‘ ‘ any other prescribed matter.” That is to say, information shall be furnished upon such matters as may be prescribed by regulation. I wish also to point out that there is another section in the Act under which it is not obligatory for a householder to give information as to his religion.
– It is an impertinence to ask any man his religion.
– I quite agree with the honorable senator.
– Paragraphs a, b, and c, of section 12 of the Act, I take it, follow the lines laid down by the Census Bureau of the United States. But there is a rule of law which affirms that the general powers conferred under an Act must be exercised along the lines suggested by its provisions. In other words, the Government are not free to roam at large over section 12 of the Census and Statistics Act. For that reason I have moved the disallowance of certain questions, because I do not think they come under the authority which is conferred upon the Government by section 12 or any other section of the Act. I come now to the merits of the questions which it is proposed to put to householders apart from the right of the Government to address such questions to them. Every householder will be supplied with a schedule which will contain certain queries. The first of these questions relates to the amount of wages which he is earning per day, or per week, or per month, at ‘the time the census is taken. I think it will be at once admitted that that question is somewhat inquisitorial. I do not think it is a right thing, under the guise of a census-paper, to ask any man what wages he is earning.
– Suppose that he is a dentist, and is not earning either wages or salary?
– A great deal of confusion will at once arise in the mind of the householder. A manual worker may have been in work only a few days at the time the census is taken. On the other hand, he may be out of work just at that period. Thus all sorts of difficulties will arise.
– The provision is that the particulars must relate to the time when the census is taken.
– A man may have had only a day’s work at that time. If he has been idle for four or five days, a difficulty will at once arise. If we wish to gain definite information in regard to the social and economic conditions of the people of Australia - and that is what the census-papers are intended to supply - we can consult two almost unfailing barometers. Those two sources of information are the income tax returns and the savings banks returns. If the figures in connexion with those indicators of the popular welfare reveal a continuously increasing amount, the inevitable inference is that there is a healthy increase in the wealth of the people. The statistics of the income tax returns and the savings banks returns are sufficient to give us accurate information of that description.
– Figures can prove anything!
– Can the honorable senator make 2 and 2 produce 5 ?
– I mean that figures can be made to prove all sorts of theories.
– Figures can lie when manipulated by a liar. A man like Gladstone could take the public accounts, study them for a few hours, and tell the whole community how their debtor and creditor accounts stood; but other Chancellors of the Exchequer have not possessed the same faculty of making figures reveal their true meaning. That lesser degree of capacity was due to defective intelligence. It is well known that by means of mathematics you can prove almost anything from a given premise. It appears to me that the form of question 1 is in itself almost sufficient to induce people to give false information ; and, even when the information was obtained, no sound conclusions could be deduced from it. The next question is -
The total amount so earned during the year ending the 31st day of December preceding the census.
I think we ought to be ashamed of trying to force people to expose their position in that manner. An investigation into such a subject ought always to be conducted very gingerly and courteously.
– Many wage-earners would be glad to be able to prove the smallness of their year’s earnings in contradiction of the lies that are often told on the other side.
– I have had to give some consideration to economic questions, but I have never been able to draw a hard-and-fast inference from information affecting the earnings of people in any one year. A far more satisfactory source for information of this kind is to be found in the statistics collected by Wages Boards, which accurately inform themselves as to the earnings of the persons whom their awards affect. I have been trying to investigate this matter of the earnings of thepeople for my own satisfaction, but have not been able to derive any conclusion from individual or collective statements. I do not think that satisfactory results will be gained by means of the census-paper. It is not by extending observations over an immense area that you are able to obtain the most accurate results. In the majority of cases, the best results are obtained by narrowing the area under observation. I may here interpolate a word of apology for the action that I am taking in this matter. It is but due to the official connected with this branch of work that I should say that it is only with diffidence that I have ventured to tilt at him, or at the Government, whom he is advising. We all have perfect confidence in the official in question. I beg to express a great deal of personal admiration for his skill and his untiring energy in the collection of statistical information and the presentation of it. I have no doubt that he is responsible to a large extent for the form of the questions. If I differ from him, as I do, I am impelled to this action on the ground that I doubt the utility and necessity of the questions. But. I do so both with diffidence and respect, remembering that the final responsibility rests with this Parliament, and that, highly as we may regard the official, we have our own duty to discharge. The third question is -
The average number of hours worked per week or per day during the year ending on 31st December preceding the census.
I do not think that there is a man in this Chamber who could give a satisfactory answer to that question. It would not do in my own case to set down the number of hours that I spend in the Senate, because I am often at work long hours in the
Library, or at home, when the Senate is not sitting. In saying so, of course, I lay myself open to the retort that it is the misfortune of the’ country that I do so employ my time. But I do not mind giving my opponents that opportunity. I do not think that the question is a reasonable one to put to any man, whether his occupation be manual or professional. I suggest to the Government the necessity of putting to the public questions which an ordinary individual can readily answer. Question 4 reads -
The amount of money held in gold, in notes, in silver, and in copper at the moment of midnight preceding census day.
I presume that the object of that question is to ascertain the amount of currency in circulation on the day mentioned. But 1 do not think that the answer would be of any value. Many persons might have absolutely no coin in their possession, but that would not indicate that they were without means. Many people carry very little coin about with them, because they find it more convenient to transact their business by means of cheques. Consequently, the figures obtained by way of answer to thequestion would afford no reliable information as to the financial position of the community. Suppose that 100,000 people in Australia say that they have no coin in their possession on the day mentioned. What is the inference to be drawn ? Doubtless, some would say, “ Here are 100,000 people who are absolutely without means.” But such an inference would be absolutely misleading. The last question is -
Whether the person is a total abstainer from alcoholic beverages.
I do not wish to say anything disrespectful of total abstainers. They represent a powerful organization formed to spread the practice of total abstinence. Though 1 am not a total abstainer myself, I appreciate and wish God-speed to their work.
– The whole thing is ridiculous and absurd. If the honorable senator will look at question 5 he will see that infants are to be asked if they are total abstainers.
– I hope they are, and that mine will ever be. They may not be as strong as “myself. I am able to take a little and leave it alone whenever it. suits me to do so. Are we to infer that a hard-working man who takes a glass of beer is in some way inferior to one who prefers a glass of water?
– The papers do not say so.
– Certainly not, but that is the inference which will probably be drawn by total abstainers. In their opinion a total abstainer is a better citizen than a man who is not a total abstainer.
– Many take that view.
– And it is a very wrong view.
– It is a very wrong view, and it is absolutely uncharitable to a large class of men and women. I hope that in this case the Government have not yielded to what I might call the improper pressure of members of these worthy organizations in submitting this question in the census-paper. Total abstinence organizations have other means at their disposal of determining more accurately than they can hope to do in this way whether the drink evil, if there is such an evil, is spreading in Australia. I may be hypersensitive, but I should regard it as a personal insult if a Government official were to come round with a paper and ask me whether I am a total abstainer.
– The same question will be asked of every member of the honorable senator’s family.
– That is so. If in ordinary circumstances a Government official came to me and said, “ I wish to know, sir, whether you are a total abstainer?” I should reply, “What business is it of yours?” And I should probably wind up by asking him to come and have a drink and find out. One of the strongest alcoholic beverages that I have come across was a temperance drink.
– How is a man to know whether a beverage is alcoholic or not?
– Many temperance drinks are known to contain more alcohol than the ordinary light beers and wines which temperate people drink. 1 think the Senate will not be ungrateful for the opportunity afforded to discuss these questions. I assume that the Government have good reasons for proposing to submit them in the census-paper, and I trust that the Minister will fully explain what they are.
– I do not think that the honorable senator has made out a very good case against the adoption of these questions. He has, however, suggested additional reasons why they should be included in the census-paper. I refer especially to his remarks on the value of these questions from the economic point of view. Any one who heard what he had to say on that subject, so far from regarding his objections as valid objections to the putting of these questions, must regard them as arguments why they should be included.
– Why not ask the same information from everybody?
– I cannot say everything in one sentence. Senator St. Ledger is, as we all know, an honest and industrious student of political economy, and 1 am astonished that when the Government supply a means to ascertain valuable economic information he should be the first to object to it. It is said that we are proposing to disclose the private affairs of people to those who have no right to know anything about them. Honorable senators will see from the sample card which has been circulated that because of that objection we treat these questions differently from others.
– The Government recognise the objection?
– No, they recognise that it is not desirable that the census collector should .see the answers to these questions. It will be seen that they may be covered over by a gummed slip before the paper is handed back to the collector. That portion of the information supplied will be known only to the person who fills in the answers to the questions and the census enumerators, who will have no time to look into the names, and will merely record the information as it is read out.
– Does the honorable senator think that device will be effective? I could show him that it is possible to open as many of these slips as one pleases without any one being aware that they had been opened.
– No one will believe that the men collecting this information, who, I understand, will be the police, will go to the trouble of steaming the gummed slips in order to find out what wages a man is receiving.
– That would not be necessary.
– In collecting the census the collector may fill up the answers to these questions.
– In such a case the citizen could have no objection to the collector knowing these particulars.
– The average man would not care if he did.
– I quite indorse that statement. The average man does not care a fig who knows what wages he is getting.
– Suppose a man objects to saying whether he is a total abstainer or not, and does not answer the question, what penalty would he be liable to?
– He would be liable to the penalty provided for in the Act.I think I have disposed of the objection that these questions are inquisitorial, because means are taken to guard against any disclosure of the information supplied.
– My objection is to their being asked at all.
– I am going to show why they should be asked. The honorable senator gave his whole case away by admitting that we need statistical information as to the economic conditions of the people. He said that we can get more accurate information from other sources, and he mentioned as two unfailing and infallible sources the income tax returns and the Savings Bank returns.
– I should not have said “infallible.” That was too strong.
– The honorable senator withdraws the word “ infallible,” but he also said that these sources were unfailing. Are they unfailing sources of accurate information as to the economic conditions of the people ? Of course, we know they are not. I take the figures for two States as an example. In Victoria, with a population in 1908 of 1,250,000 in round figures, the number of Savings Bank depositors was over 511,000, and represented 407 per thousand of the population. In Queensland, with a population of 552,345, the number of Savings Bank depositors was only 100,324, or 182 per thousand. What is the inference to be drawn from these figures? If they are an unfailing source of accurate information as to the economic conditions, the people of Queensland are not as thrifty as are the people of Victoria, or wealth is not as well distributed in Queensland as in Victoria. Either the people of Queensland have not sufficient money to put into the Savings Bank, or they do not have recourse to that form of saving.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Many people put their money into the ordinary banks.
– Of course they do. That is only one distributing factor which shows that these returns are not an unfailing source of information as to the economic conditions of the people. We have to consider also the enterprise of the people. It is quite possible that the figures I have quoted are explained by the fact that the people of Queensland are more enterprising than are the people of Victoria, and instead of putting their money into Savings Banks, invest it in capitalistic institutions.-
– In mining scrip.
– In mining scrip, in bank shares, in business or other more venturesome forms of investment. Now, I find that the amount on deposit per head in the Savings Banks in Victoria was, for the year mentioned, £26 5s., and in Queensland it was£491s.1d. What are we to infer from those figures?
– That the proportion of men to women in Queensland is greater than in Victoria.
– We might infer a number of things. The economic student, looking at these figures alone, would say that though the number of people possessing wealth in Queensland is less than the number in Victoria, those who do possess wealth in Queensland have nearly twice as much as those who possess wealth in Victoria. Honorable senators know how ridiculous it would be to draw any such inferences. Now I come to the income tax returns. Here, again, we find that the income tax returns cover a still smaller area than do the Savings Bank returns. In Victoria, there are 500,000 depositors in the Savings Banks, but only about 35,000 payers of income tax. Are you going to analyze the conditions of life of these persons, and say, “ That is a true index as to the economic conditions of the 1,250,000 persons in the State “ ?
– All comparisons are relative.
– How ridiculous it would be for any economic student to form any conclusion as to the economic conditions of the people from these facts ! I shall now state the reasons why these questions have been put in the census-paper. The first two questions read - (i.) The amount of salary or wages being earned per day, or per week, or per month, at the time of the census, (ii.) The total amount so earned during the year ending the 31st day of December preceding the census.
Why have the Government included these questions? We say it is of the highest interest, not only to members of Parliament, who deal with economic questions, but to the people of Australia, that we should have accurate information as to the economic conditions of the great mass of people. We can get that information in relation to a restricted class - those who own the wealth and property of the country - from their land tax and income tax returns. But, as regards the great mass of the people, we have no statistical means of ascertaining how the wealth is distributed, and on’ the varying wages or incomes on which persons have to live. When a man comes to me and says, “ The earnings of a labourer in Melbourne are 7s. or 8s. a day,” my reply is, “ He may get that sum when he is earning; but what I want to know is how much he earns during the year.” From my experience as a wage-earner, I know that an average labourer in the building trade gets about nine months’ work per year if he is fortunate, and very often he gets less. In putting these questions, we are endeavouring to find out, not merely what a man got on a certain day, but what he earned on an average per week, per month, and per year. By tabulating this information, ive shall be able to establish, not merely the average wage for the workers of Australia, but in a particular avocation the average wage earned.
– You might be able to do it for that particular year, but what about the other nine years in the interval?
– I admit that we cannot take a census every year; but for that particular year we can do as much as we may.
– That might be a particularly good, or a particularly bad, year.
– Yes. The honorable senator will admit, I am sure, that if he were to ask any one to state what he had earned during the last ten years, the person would have very great difficulty in supplying the information. He knows, of course, that there is a practical difficulty in the way. But I am sure he will admit that the information for one year will be of very great value. We can always turn to the harvester and mining returns to ascertain whether it was a normal or an abnormal year.
– And, once established, one decennary will compare with another.
– That is so. The third question which we put reads -
The average number of hours worked per week, or per day, during the year ending on 31st December preceding the census.
– How will you arrange about domestic servants, who live in the house ?
– They will state all the hours in which they keep awake.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - During half of which time they are not working.
– Generally speaking, they are able to indicate what their regular hours are. I think that in most cases there are fixed hours at which they are supposed to go to work and leave off. That information, in itself, will be very valuable for the purpose of economic deductions. This question will elicit very valuable information, which will enable us to make comparisons of great importance, and to form deductions, which will be very useful in the study of economic questions. In various ways the Bureau of Statistics in America collects a very large amount of statistical information on these lines. I have had occasion to study questions with the aid of their statistics. By means of that information they are able to take a certain article and give the labour value therein, and a number of other interesting facts which it is impossible for us to deduce from our statistics at present. I am sure that our general desire is to obtain statistics which will assist us in the solution of many problems which we have to work out. The fourth question which we put reads -
The amount of money held in gold, in notes, in silver, and in copper at the moment of midnight preceding Census day.
The information elicited by that question will be of very great value in matters affecting the currency.
– Suppose that you had six or eight servants, are you to put to each of them the same question?
– Yes ; each individual in the house will have to answer the question.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - A maid will have to tell the. employer then, I suppose.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Is it to be a separate return?
– It is to be the householder’s return.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould.; -He has to certify to the return.
– The second regulation says that the householder’s schedule shall include certain matters, which are set out, in relation to persons who are in the hou.se.
– That is so.
– Do you expect every boarder in a hotel to tell the landlord how much money he has?
– If he says he has none, the landlord will turn him out.
– There is, of course, an easy way out of that difficulty, which I am sure has already occurred to my honorable friends. They are inclined to be facetious; but the answer to the objection is that one of these forms can be left for each individual in a house to fill in.
– But there you will lessen the householder’s responsibility.
– The householder is, of course, responsible for his own return.
– For the personal card.
– The honorable senator must see that his objection can be easily met. However, the matter before the Senate is whether the questions shall be disallowed. Those who will carry out the Act are. I take it, competent to deal with the practical difficulties. Returning to the fourth question, I would point out that it is of great importance to know the amount of floating currency in the country. You can get from the banks their returns, but it is well known that they do not give a complete answer to the question as to what is the currency of the country.
– Do you think the people will give the information?
– I think so. What objection can there be to answering the question ? The honorable senator comes in at the close of my speech and puts in a question like that.
– It is a pertinent question.
– The honorable senator did not hear my explanation. I suppose he did not hear my explanation, either, as to how this information can be kept secret by being sealed up.
– He is dealing with the accuracy of the information.
– When the honorable senator comes in and fires off questions at me in that way, I despair of answering him.
– Those who are in the habit of secretly hoarding their money will refuse to answer the question.
– Of course, they will. In every statistical register, no matter what question is dealt with, you can always point to something and say that such-and-such a thing is not provided for. I think that the answers to this question will be sufficiently accurate to be of value to us in the study of economic questions. The last question which has to be answered reads -
Whether the person is a total abstainer from alcoholic beverages.
– That is a piece of impertinence.
– I do not think so. I consider that, whilst it is a matter of individual interest, it is also a question of social interest. It was never truer at any time than it is to-day that a man does not live to himself.
– Why not ask a man how many times he drank alcoholic liquor during the year ?
– A man’s social habits re-act on the community.
– You can ascertain what you want to know by obtaining the quantity consumed.
– This question has been inserted at the request of a large number of earnest and sincere persons, who are labouring to combat the liquor evil.
– A lot of busybodies.
– They are naturally anxious to know, and even many persons who do not agree with them are anxious to know, what proportion those who use alcoholic liquors bear to those who do not. Seeing that we shall not disclose individual information, I submit that it will be of interest and value in the study of social questions that it should be. given.
– It might be of value if you could get the degree, but you do not ask for that.
– What is the value. of the information unless each person puts down how much he took?
– I think it will be of value as showing the number of those who totally abstain from alcoholic liquors. We know that, of those who take them, an enormous majority - I suppose, 95 per cent, -do not drink to excess. I am very glad to state that the number of those who take alcoholic liquors to excess is wonderfully small, and, I am pleased to add, a decreasing minority.
– We all admit that alcoholic liquor is an evil when it is taken to excess, but even tea is poison.
– This question does not imply that the mere taking of alcoholic liquor is an evil. It is simply designed for the purpose of eliciting statistical information. . If we ascertain the number of total abstainers from alcoholic liquors at the present census, and ten years hence put the same question, the comparison will be exceedingly interesting.
– So it will be if you ask a man what he eats.
– I do not think that at all.
– You might as well ask whether a man drinks tea. Doctors will tell you that tea is slow poison.
– As a matter of fact, it is.
– I understand that the Vice-President of- the Executive Council desires the debate on this motion to be adjourned. 1 trust that when a vote is taken the Senate will approve of the questions which have been inserted in the censuspaper.
Debate (on. motion by Senator Millen) adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 12.45 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 4 November 1910, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1910/19101104_senate_4_59/>.