4th Parliament · 3rd Session
The President took the chair at2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Senator PEARCE laid upon the table the following paper : -
Uniform Railway Gauge ; Interim Report of Conference of Engineers-in-Chief, dated 7th December,1912.
– I also beg to lay upon the table, by command -
State Loans - Copy of Letter written by direction of the Minister for Defence, by his secretary, to the Commonwealth Statistician, and reply thereto by Mr. Knibbs.
– “ By command “ ?
– That is the ordinary procedure.
– That will prevent me from getting in an answer.
– I beg to move-
That the papers be read.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Papers read by the Clerk as follow : -
Commonwealth of Australia.
Department of Defence, 9th December,1912.
The Honorable the Minister intends replying in the Senate to-morrow to Senator Milieu’s speech of last week on the Loan Bill, and in connexion with this has directed me to askyou for particulars and amount of loans to State Labour Governments during the last three years as compared with loans to other State Governments during the same period.
I am preparing the notes for the Minister’s reply, and would be grateful if you could supply me with this information.
Secretary to Minister.
The Commonwealth Statistician, Melbourne.
Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics.
In reply to your letter of the9th instant, I am sending you the information required by the Minister for Defence in the accompanying table. The figures have been taken from the last three annual statements made by the respective State Treasurers, referring to loans floated in the financial years1909-10,1910-11, and1911-12. In that period there have been three State Labour Governments in power in Australia : those of Messrs. McGowen (New South Wales, October, 1910, to present time) ; Verran (South Australia, April,1910, to February,1912); and Scaddan (Western Australia, November,1911, to present time). The loans in the remaining States have been contracted entirely by Liberal Governments.
C. Duffy, Esq., Secretary to the Minister of Defence, Melbourne, Victoria.
– I understood, yesterday, the Minister of Defence to state that he had forwarded to the Statistician an extract from my speech, which he said was a declaration that the Labour Governments of Australia had borrowed more than all the other Governments put together, and, as the result of that communication to the Statistician, he presented the figures which have just been read. I have read through the proof which I received from Hansard, and which is just as it was received, and no such statement appears therein.
– You admitted it when you were charged with it yesterday.
– I did nothing of the kind.
– You did.
– I disputed the statement then, and said that I did not accept it as correct. I have since looked at the proof, and I reply that I made no such statement according to the official proof which I have here, and which I have not touched. What I did say was this -
The facts are, as far as Labour Governments are concerned, there has been more money lent to them by the people of Australia than to all the other Governments put together.
– According to the proof supplied to me by Hansard, the statement I made to the Senate on that matter is as follows: -
Senator Millen did not supply the missing figures which he said were necessary to complete the statement relating to the moneys which have been borrowed by the Labour Government.
– The Chairman would not permit him to do so.
– I propose to read the letter which the Government Statistician sent to me when he forwarded the figures which I have communicated to the Senate.
– Have you your letter to the Government Statistician?
– I did not write to the Government Statistician, but I referred Senator Millen’s statement to my secretary, and asked him to write to the Government Statistician, and request him to supply figures as to loan moneys during the last three years. Here is the letter received by my secretary -
I said nothing further than that.
– I did not deal with loan moneys, as you yourself admitted.
– I wish to ask the Minister of Defence if the increments and promotions provided for in the Estimates of the current year will be made before Christmas?
– That will depend upon the Estimates passing. I hope that, as soon as they are passed, it will be done.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
Is it the intention of the Government to open up New Guinea (Papua) by a system of light railways to assist miners and settlers?
– The matter is now receiving consideration.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are : -
The Public Service Commissioner has furnished the following information in reply to the remaining questions : -
5 and 6. Average salaries - Sorters - 1901, £133;1909, £161;1912, £163. Letter Carriers -1901, £89;1909, £109;1912, £111.
asked the Vice-
President of the Executive Council, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are : -
– What about the third question?
In view of the arrangement, announced by cable in the press, between Canada and the United Kingdom -
Whether the Government have come to any definite conclusion as to the representation of Australia by a responsible Minister or otherwise on the Imperial Committee of Defence?
If so, will the Government state the conclusion arrived at?
If not, is there any other method under consideration or in contemplation for securing consultation, continuous or at intervals, between responsible Ministers in the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth in regard to Imperial Foreign Policy and Empire Defence ; and, if so, will the Government indicate what such other method is?
Are the Government in correspondence or communication with the British Government on the subject of such representation on Canadian or other lines?
– I have been supplied with the following answers to the questions : -
asked the Minister of De fence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Vice-Presi dent of the Executive Council, upon notice -
Seeing that the Conference of Engineering Experts has been unable to agree on the best railway gauge for Australia, and has now adjourned for further information, will the Government refrain from determining the gauge for the East to West Transcontinental Line until it has been ascertained which is the best gauge to adopt ?
– The answer to the question is : -
The question of the gauge for the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway has already been determined by the Commonwealth Parliament, section five of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway Act1911 providing as follows: - “The gauge of the railway shall be four feet eight and a half inches.”
– That is not an answer to the question.
– It is a fact, though.
Debate resumed from 6th December (vide page 6550), on motion by Senator McGregor -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– I should like to express my pleasure at the action of Mr. President and the
Vice-President of the Executive Council in allowing the whole of these constitutional measures to be discussed on the motion now submitted. It seems to me that these matters are so interwoven, and so dovetailed one into the other, that it would be almost impossible to discuss them separately and efficiently with a due regard to our Standing Orders. There is another reason why I appreciate the opportunity to discuss these measures all together. The Government have made it abundantly clear that they propose to put them to the country as a whole; and as the Government have taken up this attitude, I submit that we can better discuss them in that way also. I would like to remind honorable senators of a statement made by the Prime Minister recently, which affords justification for what I am saying, to the effect that the Government are putting forward these six measures as representing one question, and are asking the country not to vote for one and reject the others - not to exercise their independent discretion - but to vote”Yes” for the whole of them. At a recent interview granted to a press representative in Sydney about the middle of October, the Prime Minister expressed himself in these words -
Whether the proposals are presented on election clay in 6 questions or 60 it will make little difference in the actual result. It will be little use voting “ Yes “ to one and “ No “ to another.
That is to say, the Prime Minister indicated, in respect to these Bills, which were not then presented, that the Government regarded the whole of them as necessary to give effect to his policy. Under these circumstances, I claim that those who are opposed to some of these proposals are entitled to reverse the position taken up by the Prime Minister, and, instead of saying that it will be of little use to vote for one proposal without voting for the others, to declare that there will be little use in rejecting one while voting for the others. I accept the position put forward by the Prime Minister, who says that the Government want the whole of the proposals or none; andI propose to regard these proposals as six different clauses in the one Bill, the whole of them being taken as indicative of what the Government require.
– That is contrary to the declaration of your party last year, when they declared that if the proposals were separated, they might vote for some, but not for others.
– The honorable senator speaks about the declarations of our party. I have no hesitation in saying that there are modifications of the Constitution with which every one agrees, and that if the Government had endeavoured to secure only such amendments as were necessary for the proper working of the Constitution, instead of two conflicting parties going to the country, there would have been a unanimous recommendation of the proposed alterations. But what I have to do now is to take these proposals as they are - proposals which, taken collectively, represent an attempt to make a very wide and radical alteration of the Constitution. It is admitted by the Attorney-General - the chief author of and sponsor for these proposals - that the Government are asking for tremendous powers, and, seeing that such wide and radical alterations of the Constitution are proposed, it is only fitting that we should consider trie nature of the Constitution under which we are now working. I would remind honorable senators that there are many kinds of federation, alike perhaps in principle, but varying to the extent to which they decentralize power or leave it in the hands of local authorities. But, in regard to the Constitution that prevails in Australia, the people decided that they would adopt as a broad dividing line .the principle that the only powers they would surrender to the national authorities would be those in regard to matters which were national in their scope and purpose. This decision was the result, not of the views of the constituencies formed on the spur of the moment, but of conclusions founded on experience. The people were reluctant then, as they are to-day, to hand over to the Central Government any of those functions which might be considered as properly belonging to the State Governments, and it is pertinent for us to now inquire whether the Government’s proposals do or do not contemplate handing over to the central authority any powers beyond those which can be properly exercised by it. I admit that if these proposals were limited to the transfer to the Federal authority of purely Federal powers there could be no reasonable objection to them. But we are entitled to ask whether they also seek to throw into the hands of the National Parliament the power to deal with merely local concerns. The answer to this question is supplied by one of the contentions which have been frequently advanced. That contention is that, although tremendous powers are being asked for, they will not be used to the fullest extent. I am entitled to ask what are these excess powers. They clearly cannot be Federal powers if they are not to be used, and the very fact that it is admitted that powers are being sought that will -not be used, seems to me to afford clear proof that control is being sought in regard to matters which should remain in the hands of the State Governments. It is admitted that more powers are being sought than will be. used.
– At present.
– It is admitted that more powers are being asked for than it is intended to use, and when it is declared that a large measure of the power sought is not to be exercised, I am entitled to ask over what matters the excess powers will operate. It is clear, I think, that these powers must relate to local matters which should be left to the local Legislatures.
– What is the use of having power if it is not to be exercised ?
– It is admitted that some of these powers are not to be exercised, and this indicates one df two things. Either we are being asked to grant powers over Federal matters which the central authority is going to neglect, or we are being asked to grant powers in respect to local concerns which the Federal authority is incompetent to use.
– That is very cheap logic.
– I think it is a complete answer to those who claim that the Government are seeking Federal powers only for Federal purposes. The position taken up by the Government is very much like that of a cash boy in a large establishment who has been trusted with a certain amount of cash which has been thought sufficient for carrying on the business. As the business grows he naturally requires a larger amount, but instead of asking for a larger allowance of cash he asks the proprietor to give him full control of his cheque-book and banking account, at the same time giving his assurance that the whole of the resources placed at his disposal will not be used. We are entitled to give no more power than is necessary to carry on national undertakings and concerns.
Honorable senators opposite have protested against the statements which have been * made by members of this party charging them with seeking through these Bills to bring about Unification. I cannot understand these denials, which have been made so frequently and heatedly as to suggest that those who have made the charges have been guilty of unfairness. How can it be said that there is any unfairness in charging honorable senators with a desire to bring about Unification when the records are full of declarations by them in favour of Unification ? I do not propose to quote these declarations, but I could fill pages of Hansard with them - some of (hem being straightout declarations in favour of Unification, and others declarations in favour of abolishing the State Parliaments.
– Give us one or two cases.
– Senator Gardiner said in this Chamber, “ I am a ‘ straightout Unificationist.”
– Cannot the honorable senator give us one or two declarations that have been made by honorable senators who are present ?
– I am not in a position to do so at the moment, but if the honorable senator is anxious to know what are the opinions of his colleagues, I shall’ have no difficulty, after I have concluded my speech, in handing him page after page of extracts containing declarations of the kind I have indicated. All I can say at present is that the records are full of straightout, definite, frank, and honest declarations by members of the Labour party in favour of Unification.
– Would the declarations have been made by 5 per cent, of the Labour party?
– They represent a very much larger percentage than that, and, moreover, some honorable senators have set to work to give effect to their declarations. The records of this House show that honorable senators opposite are in favour of federalizing a number of matters which are now under the control of the States. One honorable senator went so far as to bring in a Bill dealing with the subject. He was honest, frank, and courageous enough to show the faith that was in him by bringing in a Bill in favour of Unification in Australia.
– That is only one case.
– I am endeavouring to obtain some of the records for the information of honorable senators. I* did not suppose for a moment that I should be challenged by honorable senators opposite, seeing that the public records are full of declarations such as I have indicated.” Honorable senators are not even bound by their platform - that is my trouble. The records are there, and, moreover, we have had motions placed on the business- paper- in favour of the federalization of education and the nationalization of lands andi rivers, and Senator McGregor, only a few days ago, expressed his belief in the desirability of federalizing our rivers and railways. I may be told that this does not mean Unification. But I may point out that in proportion as you transfer to the central authority power after power, yom are marching on towards Unification. I know that it is a difficult matter to lay down exactly what is a Federal form of government, but honorable senators who> take up the position that as long as you leave the States in the full enjoyment of their sovereignty you have Federation, may be reminded that if you go on withdrawing their powers from them you will leave the States nothing in respect to which their sovereignty can be exercised. I made reference to a motion which was placed on the business-paper in favour of the federalization of the Department of Education. It is curious that when these proposals were before the country on an earlier’ occasion, the statement was made by Mr. Holman that if they were carried the next proposal would be to federalize the Department of Education, and then, the Departments of Lands and Mines, until, taking these powers one by one, there would be so little left for the State Parliaments to do in respect of which they could exercise their sovereignty that there would necessarily arise a public demand for their complete abolition. I should like to refer to the attitude taken up by the Prime Minister with regard to this proposal to federalize the Department of Education. I am not going to give my interpretation of the views he ex-pressed, but I shall give the interpretation of a member of the Labour party, Mr. Walker, who is the Labour Minister of Education in Western Australia. Mr. Walker, speaking in regard to Mr. Fisher’sview, said this -
The Commonwealth seems to be taking everything. Under the old system of each State controlling its own affairs, there was a sense of emulation, which tends to disappear when everything is under central control. I do not think the Federal Government could improve uponthe present efficiency of our education system,, but the uniformity of aims from Federal control would be an undoubted gain.
I quote that for this .reason : that if I had affirmed that Mr. Fisher’s criticism of this proposal had been favorable to it, my statement would have been disputed by members of the Labour party, and so I put forward this interpretation, not by a political opponent, but by a member of the Labour party. Passing on from that, I should like to point out that the arguments used in support of this proposition are arguments which, if they mean anything, are in favour of Unification. What is the most frequently heard statement that we are called upon to listen to? It is that the reason for these proposals arises from the’ fact that the Federal Parliament is hampered. What does that mean? It simply means that there is a desire on the part of those who make that statement to leave this Parliament absolutely free from control. You can have no Federation unless your Federal Parliament is hampered. It has frequently occurred to me that the principles of the Federal Constitution are not yet absolutely appreciated in Australia. Members of Parliament and citizens alike have been so used to the existence of Parliaments that make their own laws, and are a law unto themselves, that they do not appreciate the fact that the Federal Parliament is working under a Constitution. You can have no system which is not Unification in .principle and working, unless there is a written Constitution, and so long as there is a written Constitution, this or any other Parliament must be bound by the restrictions imposed by that Constitution. To say that this Parliament is hampered implies that honorable senators wish it not to be hampered; and if you are going to remove all restraint from this Parliament - if you are going to take away all those things which hamper it to-day and leave it free to legislate how, when, and where it likes, then I say you will, have Unification.
– There is no Federation left.
– No. You will have centralized the whole power in this one National Government. By Unification I mean a system which will make the Federal Parliament supreme ki Australia, supreme over State Legislatures, supreme over the Constitution, supreme over the High Court. Let us take the utterances which have been given expression to regarding the High Court itself. I need not go very far in search of justification for the statement - which I have made. The Vice-President of the Executive Council, speaking on the Arbitration Bill in 1911, expressed these views -
This Parliament is in as good a position to express an opinion with respect to the correct interpretation of the Constitution as is any Court in Australia. … I hope the day will come when the Parliament of the Commonwealth will have a greater say in the interpretation of the Constitution than it appears to have had up to the present tine.
– Would the honorable senator abolish the High Court?
– I would not. There are a great many purposes for which the High Court is useful and necessary besides the interpretation of the Constitution; but the Parliament of the country is the place in which the Constitution should be interpreted.
What I want to point out is this : That the Constitution represents a legal document in which is set out the domain in which the Federal Parliament may operate, and the domain in which the State Parliaments may operate. That represents a binding agreement between them. If you are going to allow one party to that contract to interpret that legal instrument, what is going to happen? You might as well tear the document up. What would be said of two private individuals entering into a contract, and one claiming the right to interpret the contract? In that case the document would not be worth the paper on which it was written. If this Parliament is to have, as the Vice-President of the Executive Council says it ought to, the full power to interpret the Constitution, it means that you might as well tear that Constitution up, because it would leave this Parliament absolutely free to pass any law it liked, to roam throughout the legislative field, without any hand in restraint The purpose of the High Court was to act, to use a familiar expression, as a constitutional boundary rider, lt was to prevent trespass on the part of those in power in the Federal area into that area which had been reserved for the States. Those people who now complain about restraint are anxious to shift from the High Court any power that the Court has in that direction.
I cannot pass from the High Court without expressing a very great deal of - I shall not say surprise - but regret that one in the position of a Minister should have allowed himself to refer to the High Court in the terms in which the Vice-President of the Executive Council referred to it in introducing this Bill. The Minister is present, and can say ,if I am wrongly construing his words. They amounted to an accusation of partisanship against those who are called upon to interpret the Constitution. After admitting the high qualifications and the ability of the Judges, the Vice-President of the Executive Council went on to say -
Yet when they come to interpret the Constitution as between the States and the Commonwealth, we find that some of them have been so long associated with the States, and have so little faith in the Commonwealth - whether they consider it is not safe without a Legislative Council or not I do not know - that they keep as much power from the Commonwealth as they can, and allow the States to retain as much power as possible.
There is only one way to construe that, and that is that those gentlemen, in their interpretation of ‘ the Constitution were striving against their own judgment to give 3 decision in favour of the States.
Senator McGREGOR.~Not against their own judgment, because that was the only judgment which their past associations gave them.
– The Minister says that they have so little faith in the Commonwealth that they keep as much power from the Commonwealth as they can, and allow the States to retain as much power as possible. That does not indicate the attitude of a Judge at all. It indicates the attitude of a partisan striving to obtain an advantage for those interests which he is seeking to bolster up.
– He questioned their judgment, not their motive.
– When we are told that some members of the High Court Bench have kept as much power from the Commonwealth as they can, those words do not square with the contention that they have honestly interpreted the Constitution according to their judgment.
– That is what I said - that they interpret it according to their judgment.
– But the Minister went on to say that they had done all they possibly could - to narrow the powers of the Commonwealth and widen the powers of the States. If that is not evidence of State Rights mania I do not know what is.
If you accuse any one of being the victim of State Rights mania I think you go so far as to say that that man is not qualified to exercise judicial functions, but is a partisan. Senator Fraser interjected -
The rights of the Commonwealth are written in the Constitution.
– Yes, but I even want a fair interpretation of the written Constitution.
If that is not an affirmation that hitherto these interpretations have not been fair, I am unable to understand what ordinary English language means. Let me try to point out my views of the position that this High Court ought to and does occupy. It has been said that the High Court has cut down the powers of the Federal- Parliament. I absolutely deny that. The Court is not there for the purpose of cutting down or enlarging the powers, but is there for the purpose of declaring what those powers .are as set out in the Constitution. No one can say what the powers of this Federation are until we know from the only authoritative source which is entitled to speak on this matter, and that ia the High Court. That brings me back to the statement I made, that those who are supporting these proposals are seeking power which will enable the Federal Parliament to pass any law it likes, irrespective of whether it enters into the States domain or confines itself to its own Federal arena. It is not at all surprising, when we recognise the desire of the Labour party to legislate in every direction, that they have hostile feelings towards the High Court. It is quite a characteristic of all law-breakers, or those who wish to be law-breakers, to view with apprehension and dislike those whose duty it is to administer the law. The law under which we are operating to-day is the Constitution.
– More sacred to some minds than Holy Writ.
– It is not a question of being sacred ; it is a law which the people made. Whether it is good or bad we are not called upon to discuss, but the High Court is called upon to administer it.
– Would you not give the people a chance to alter that law ?
– The people have had their chance, and have given their answer.
– Would you not give them another chance?
– Are you going togive them a chance every year? There is another argument frequently advanced in support of these Bills, which I admit is plausible, but which is absolutely unsound, and that is that by these proposals we are going to increase the self-governing powers of the people. I should like my honorable friends to mention one single way in which you can increase the selfgoverning powers of the people of Australia. I should like to remind them of the position before we adopted Federation. We had then a number of State Parliaments and State Governments, every one of which could legislate on any subject it liked. Any law which was passed was good law. When we federated, in what way did we add to those powers? There was no possibility of doing so. The powers were complete beforehand. It is admitted that prior to Federation each State Parliament was all-powerful in the matter of law-making. Every power necessary for , theself-government of the people was possessed by the State Governments.
– The AttorneyGeneral said that many of the powers left to the States could not be effectively exercised.
– Here is a statement by the Attorney-General complete in itself: that “the State Parliaments could make what laws they pleased.”
– We all agree with that.
– But Senator Russell is now attempting to show that the statement means something else. It has never been disputed, at all events outside this Chamber, that until we accomplished Federation the State Governments were equipped with power to pass any law they liked. Federation did not add to those powers at all. It merely transferred some of them. What it did was to hand over to a central authority certain powers which the States up to that time had exercised individually. As Federation did not add to those self-governing powers, no more will these measures of the Government add to them. You may say, if you please, that it is desirable that certain powers should be exercised by the central authority, but you cannot possibly add to the self-governing powers of the people of Australia by transferring to the central authority powers which the people already possess.
– Do you not add to powers if you make them more effective ?
– Making them “ more effective “ is a matter of opinion. My point is that you do not add to the people’s powers of self-government, because if this Union were broken up tomorrow the people would enjoy every power of self-government which they have to-day.
– I should like to know one power which the people now possess which they could not have exercised through their State Governments before Federation?
– There are a good many.
– I am asking for a single one. We are not going to add to the self-governing powers of the people by this proposal. What we are asked to do is to transfer from one governmental agency, the State Parliaments, certain powers exercised by them, and to place those powers in the hands of another governmental agency, the Federal: Parliament. Whether that is advisable or not is a point with which I will deal later, but I wish now to make it abundantly clear that to talk of enlarging the selfgoverning powers of the people by these measures is not only untrue and unsound, but an absolute contradiction of the facts themselves.
– The rights of the people of Australia in the State Parliaments are restrained by the Legislative Councils. But this Parliament is elected on a universal franchise.
– I will come directly to the question of the Legislative Councils - one of those bogies behind which honorable senators opposite are fond of taking refuge. In my judgment, if you want to get absolute self-government you must make your governing areas as small as you can. The most complete form of self-government would be attained by the abolition of all government, leaving each individual to govern himself. To the extent that you place in the hands of the central Government powers which can be better exercised within a smaller area, to that extent you depart from what I regard as the true essence of self-government.
– The honorable senator is a parish-pump nationalist.
– Expressions of that sort may seem very big, and very bold, and very striking, when they come from one like Senator Long, but I am quite content to leave the point to the test of the teachings of history, and to ask whether or not our race has shown by its attachment to the rights of self-government, for which I am pleading to-day - whether you can find anything to the contrary anywhere in the history of the British race at any time - any intention to depart from that kind of self-government which I have indicated, merely for the purpose of adding to the dignity and authority of a central body.
I come now to a question raised by an interjection, that we should trust the people. It seems a very good phrase until we look into it. “ Why not trust the people of Australia ?” What are the Government proposing to do by this proposal? They are proposing to’ take the power which the people of Australia exercise through one of their governmental agencies, and to use the same power, given by the same people, by means of another governmental agency.
– Nothing of the kind. The people are not represented in the State Legislative Councils.
– What I want to make clear is that the power is in the hands of the people anyhow, whether they exercise it through the State Parliaments or through the Federal Parliament.
– Half of the people have not any effective voice in the Upper Houses of Australia.
– Am I to take it, then, that if the State Parliaments were constructed upon a basis sufficiently democratic to satisfy Senator Findley, he would say that these proposals were unnecessary ?
– That is an aside. The honorable senator has been arguing that the people have self-governing powers through their State Governments.
– It is clear that my question has swept the Minister “ aside.” What I want to nail him to is this - Are these alterations proposed in the. Federal Constitution because the State Parliaments, as at present constituted, are not elected in conformity with his ideas of selfgovernment? Is that the reason?
– I am asking the honorable senator to qualify his previous statement.
– I am dealing with what is proposed here now, and I repeat that taking away from the people powers which they have exercised through their State agencies, in order that they may be able to exercise them through the Federal agency, does not in any way enlarge those powers.
– The powers cannot be exercised properly by the State Parliaments because of the Legislative Councils.
– I quite recognise the skill with which, when one raises one question, honorable senators opposite seek to meet it by asking another. I shall repeat my proposition - that you are not going to enlarge the power which the people enjoy by these proposals. You will not confer upon the Federal Parliament one atom of power which the people do not already possess.
– But we shall enlarge the power of the people.
– I take my honorable friend to mean that the people of Tasmania will have the right to determine that certain things shall be done affecting the people of New South Wales, whilst in return the people of New South Wales will have a right to determine what shall be done in regard to the concerns of the people of Tasmania. If that as his idea of enlarging the powers of the people, he ia welcome to his opinion.
– The powers are not exercised, and cannot be exercised under present conditions.
– Some of them may not be exercised.
– They cannot be, because the power of action of the StateGovernments is too limited to deal with matters for which these amendments of the Constitution have been proposed.
– There is nothing inthat contention for this reason : New South Wales, or any other State, beforeFederation could have passed any law it liked, and given effect to it. That power- has not been destroyed. It is still in existence. If any power which has been transferred to the Federation had not been transferred, it would still have remained’ with New South Wales.
– How could New South Wales deal with trusts operating all’ over Australia?
– New South Walesretains to-day every power which she enjoyed before Federation except suchpowers as have been transferred. No new powers were created by Federation. Powerswere merely transferred so that they mightbe exercised over a wider area.
– The powers were limited because the area in which they were exercised was too limited.
– The argument that the powers were inoperative because thearea was too limited may easily be shown to be unsound. It is idle for the Government to say that the powers of any StateGovernment cannot be exercised, because- they are exercised over too limited an area, for the reason that if any one of those States was surrounded by hostile countries it would still be able to make its laws effective within its own boundaries, no matter how limited they were.
– Could a State Parliament enforce the policy of new Protection?
– I may answer that by putting another question to Senator Givens. It is frequently said that the Government are only asking for powers which the State Governments possess to-day. One of the most frequently used arguments by our Labour friends is, “ Why should not the National Parliament exercise the same powers as the State Parliaments do?” When they put that question again, I ask them to remember that it is idle to claim that the Federal Parliament should exercise the same powers as do the State Parliaments, unless they make the admission that the State Parliaments already enjoy those powers.
– Why should not the Federal Parliament enjoy them as well?
– The answer to that is that the people of Australia do not require two Parliaments to exercise the same power. I am very glad that that interjection has been made. Those who make that claim are Unificationists ; and my honorable friend will not deny it for his own part, because he has made the declaration frequently, and openly. Others of his party have, however, denied it.
– I want one legislative body to deal with matters affecting Australia, but the honorable senator wants to leave some of them in the hands of six bodies.
– My objection to these proposals is not to any necessary enlargement of Federal powers. I have already made that clear. My objection is to the exercise of certain powers by an unwieldy body instead of by bodies which can exercise them with greater advantage to the people. It has been said by Senator Findley that the State Parliaments do not represent the people, and are not exercising the powers intrusted to them.
– I did not say anything of the kind. I said that we were taking power from the people with one hand and giving it to them with the other ; and I also said that the people could not exercise certain powers at present because of the existence of the Legislative Councils.
– My statement was sufficiently accurate. The position is this : It is argued that because the State Parliaments do not choose to exercise certain powers which are intrusted to them, therefore the Federal Parliament ought to step in and do so. I want to know whether this Parliament has any warrant for curing the sins of omission and commission of the State Parliaments. Surely it is no concern of this Parliament whether the State Parliaments exercise their powers or not. Certainly this Parliament has no right to set itself up as a judge of the State Parliaments. We may leave them to their “own concerns. They are responsible to their own electors, and have a right to do as they please within their own sphere of action. If we are to take upon ourselves the right to legislate upon every subject upon which a State Parliament has not legislated, we shall legislate on every subject as to which a majority can be found in this Parliament to disagree with any action taken or neglected to be taken by a State Parliament. And if, having altered our Constitution because the State Parliaments are not doing what this Federal Parliament would do, are we at a later date to be asked to reverse the process and alter the Constitution again because the Federal Parliament fails to do what our Labour friends desire, and what the State Parliaments may at some future time be expected to do? Much is being made about the action of the Legislative Councils. I want to ask for some proof of the statements that have been made. Let me take the actions of one Legislative Council of which I have some knowledge. We have had a Labour Government in office in New South Wales. The platform of that Government contains planks many of which are repeated iri the platform of the Federal Labour party. The Government went into office with a declaration that it was determined to do many things from the Labour stand-point. What law proposed by that Government has the Legislative Council blocked ?
– Does the honorable senator want to know one? There is the Coal Miners’ Eight Hours Bill, which was thrown out only the other day. and for which Mr. Edden has been working for the last twenty years.
– The answer is this. If Mr. McGowen thinks that he has a majority of the people behind him in his opposition to the Legislative Council, let him do what Sir George Reid did in 1895, when the Legislative Council threw out his Land Tax Bill. Let him appeal to the people again.
– Is that the process which the people are to go through in regard to every piece of legislation they require ?
SenatorMILLEN. - Certainly not; but the Legislative Council does not throw out every piece of legislation which the people require. I am not concerned as to whether the Legislative Councils are right or wrong in what they are doing, but I venture to say that in New South Wales, with a Labour Government in office, the means of overcoming every objection raised by the Legislative Council rests in the hands of the Government. That power has been exercised previously by other Governments with what results we all know. The fact is that the McGowen Ministry have had to accept amendments, for instance, in their Gas Bill, and did so only because they were afraid that the people were not behind them in the measure.
– The Miners Bill, to which I have referred, was passed through the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales without a division six or eight times.
– If that were a measure which the people of New South Wales desired, as they desired the Land Tax Bill, introduced by Sir George Reid, there was an easy way of ascertaining the fact. Once it has been ascertained that the people of New South Wales desired the passing of a certain measure, the Legislative Council of that State have never refused to pass it.
– And each time, I suppose, the ceremony is to be repeated.
– I am not defending the Legislative Councils, but I say that there is no instance in New South Wales in which a Government, with the people behind them, were everprevented by the Legislative Council from passing any law which it was desired to pass Let’ me turn now to another State. Honorable senators are aware that only a little while ago a Labour Government was in power in South Australia. It was said that a measure which the people wanted was passed by the House of Assembly, but was blocked by the Legislative Council. The Verran Government said, “ We represent the people. What right has the Legislative Council to block the passing of this law?” The mat ter was decided on an appeal to the people, who turned down the Verran Government, and said that the Legislative Council of the State was right.
– No; they did not. The majority voted the other way.
– The fact remains that the Verran Government made what was probably one of the most attractive appeals to the electors - that is to say, an appeal founded on a quarrel with the Upper House, and yet the people decided to send the Verran Government into Opposition, and returned a Liberal Government with, I think, a greater majority than any Government has had in South Australia for years past. In all these circumstances, and considering all these proposals, as well as the declarations in favour of Unification and a greater centralization of power in the hands of the Government of the Commonwealth, I say there is clearly indicated a determined andset policy on the part of our honorable friends opposite to march towards the goal of Unification. That these proposals will not complete the march, I am willing to admit, but I say that they go so far in that direction, and will so paralyze the State Parliaments, and so interfere with and harass them, that in sheer desperation, if these powers are to be exercised by the Federal Parliament, the people will turn round and say, “ Having done so much, it is useless for us to continue our professedly Federal system, and we had better set up a system of Unification at once, and have done with the matter.”
– That would be a disaster, would it not?
– The honorable senator has not taken my point. I wish to make it clear that these proposals are distinctly in the direction of Unification. I know that Senator Gardiner is a professed Unificationist.
– Since when?
– Since the honorable senator made this declaration in the Senate -
I am a straight-out Unificationist. I do not believe in seven Parliaments in Australia. I believe in one National Parliament to rule the whole of the destinies of Australia.
Since then I take it that the honorable senator has been a straight-out Unificationist. I have had many occasions to differ from my honorable friend, and probably will have many more ; but I want to say that when Senator Gardiner takes the hit in his mouth, and speaks in that way, if it were only out of obstinacy he will stand by any declaration he has made. I do not expect the honorable senator to depart from that declaration at any time during the coming campaign. If he does, I shall feel it my not unpleasant duty to put him right.
I wish now to deal with these Bills a little more in detail. I refer, first of all, to the Constitution Alteration (Trade and Commerce) Bill. The VicePresident of the Executive Council, in submitting the Bill, said it was impossible to distinguish between Intra-State, Inter-State, and foreign trade. He asked how it could be possible to say, in the case of a shipment of goods arriving from abroad, when it ceases to be foreign commerce with which the Commonwealth Parliament can deal, when it ceases to become Inter-State commerce with which we can deal, and when it becomes absorbed in the local trade of the State into which the goods are imported. The honorable senator’s argument seemed to command some approval. I reply by saying that if it is not possible to distinguish between Intra-State trade and Inter- State trade in ordinary circumstances, how is it possible to make the distinction in the case of such trade when passing over the railways. Yet we have a Bill before us which proposes that this very distinction shall be observed in connexion with commerce on the railways. If it is impossible in connexion with the ordinary volume of trade of the country to distinguish between that over which, under the commerce power of the Commonwealth, this Parliament has jurisdiction, and that over which the State Parliaments have control, it is equally impossible to make any such distinction in the case of commerce passing over the railways.
– There is a great difference between the State ownership of the railways and the ownership of private corporations.
– That has nothing whatever to do with the matter. If there is a quantity of goods on a railway truck, and a similar quantity on a bullock waggon alongside, according to the contention of the Vice-President of the Executive Council it is possible, in the case of the goods on the railway truck, to distinguish between those which, under the commerce power, come under the jurisdiction of this Parliament and those which might be con trolled by the State Parliament, but it is impossible, in the case of the goods on the bullock waggon, to make that distinction.
– I said nothing of the kind, nor does the Bill provide for that. We propose to take control of the railways only to the extent necessary to enable us to deal with railway disputes.
– What I am referring to deals not with the management of the railways, but with the trade and commerce power of the Commonwealth, which the Government seek to extend. Under section 51 of the Constitution, this Parliament is given power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to -
Trade and commerce, among the States and with foreign countries.
The Government propose to strike out the words “among the States and with foreign countries,” except so far as they apply to trade and commerce on the State railways.
– Yes, that is what it means.
– Then I say that the Government propose to distinguish between Inter-State and Intra-State commerce in respect to goods carried on the railways, while at the same time they claim that it is impossible to make such a distinction in the case of goods carried in ordinary vehicles or kept in the ordinary warehouse.
– The position in the two cases is vastly different.
– Will Senator Rae point out how it is possible to make a distinction in this regard between, for instance, a quantity of wool on the way to port in a ‘ bullock waggon, and a similar quantity of wool carried on a railway? The question is one which has nothing to do with the ownership of the railway or the bullock waggon.. My contention is that if it is impossible with regard to the general commerce of the country to distinguish between what is foreign and Inter-State, and what is Intra-State, then it is equally impossible to make the distinction in connexion with commerce on the railways; and yet, under one of these Bills, the distinction is to be made in the case of commerce on the railways. If it can be made in that case, it could be made as readily with regard to goods in warehouses and shops.
– Would the honorable senator support a proposal to make the Bill apply to commerce on the railways?
– No. 1 am opposed to it altogether. I think that what the Go- vernment propose in connexion with commerce on the railways is quite right, but is illogical.
– The honorable senator said five minutes ago that the Bill goes too far, and now he says that it does not go far enough.
– I have never said that it does not go far enough. My contention that it goes too far should have been obvious even to Senator Russell. I say that honorable senators who claim that, with respect to a load of wool carried io the ordinary vehicles of the country, it is impossible to distinguish whether it should be under Federal or State control, while if it is carried on a railway truck the distinction may be made, are entitled to any satisfaction they can obtain from that contention ; but it will not appeal to the logical sense of the people.
– In one case the wool would be booked through to its destination, and in the other case it would not.
– What is the destination of wool booked from Bourke to Sydney ?
– It is not a question of destination. The object is to avoid interference with State railways any more than is necessary.
– If the Commonwealth Government can so analyze commerce on the railways as to be able to say when it is foreign, when Intra-State, and when merely local commerce, they can in the same way analyze commerce that flows in other channels. I shall not weary the Senate with authorities that have been quoted with great freedom elsewhere, but I cannot pass from this Bill without placing in contrast to the opinion of the Vice-President of the Executive Council that of a gentleman who, until Senator McGregor had spoken, was accepted as a constitutional authority, not merely in his own country, but throughout the world. The Vice-President of the Executive Council has said that it is essential that we should have this additional control with regard to commerce. I put against that statement this opinion. Referring to the commerce power the statement is made -
It is not intended to say that these words comprehend that commerce which is completely internal, which is carried on between man and man in a State, or between different parts of the same State, and which does not extend to or affect other States. Such a power would be inconvenient, and is certainly unnecessary.
That is the opinion of Chief Justice Marshall, and I set it against the statement of the Vice-President of the Executive Council that this power is essential and necessary. While, perhaps, we do not live in a time when we are oppressed by authority. I venture to say that the opinion of Chief Justice Marshall on such a matter is entitled to as much respect as is that of the Vice-President of the Executive Council.
– Oh, but he died long ago.
– I am aware of that, and I have only one regret, which is that he did not live long enough to have the benefit of the opinion of my honorable friend. If he had, I have no doubt that his reputation would have been unsullied by the blot which must rest upon it, in view of the conflict between his opinion and that of the Vice-President of the Executive Council. We have a definite statement from a man whose .sagacity has never been doubted, that the power now asked for by the Government is quite unnecessary, and is certainly not essential.
The next Bill to which I wish to refer is that dealing with industrial matters. I remind the Senate that the purpose of the proposed amendment is said to be to increase the opportunities for securing industrial peace. It is put forward by those who profess to desire, by means of arbitration, to bring about more complete harmony and peace in industrial affairs than we have hitherto enjoyed. These professions would have much more weight with me if they were supported by the action of those who make them. But we cannot disguise from ourselves the fact that where any struggle has taken place in any part of Australia in connexion with industrial affairs there has been some recognised member of the Labour party on the spot to confer upon it his benediction. That leads one to take with a considerable measure of suspicion the statement that this large power is sought in the interest of industrial peace. I need only remind honorable senators of the two biggest strikes we have had of late years. In the prosecution of Mr. Peter Bowling evidence was given that the motion to make the coal strike in New South Wales general throughout the States was moved by the Attorney-General, Mr. Hughes.
– He had to do that to bring the strike under Federal control; that is the evil.
– That was the whole desire on his part in doing that.
– That is just what I expected would come. So what is wanted is not a resort to arbitration, not a desire to get the benefit of arbitration, because that could be obtained without making a strike general-
– How can it be done under the present law ?
– What is to prevent a strike, or an industrial matter, in New South Wales, from being dealt with by the local authorities?
– Under the present Federal law ?
– The inter jection was that the only way in which the men could get to the Arbitration Court was by spreading the dispute from one State to another. I say that what was wanted in that case was not arbitration, but the Federal Arbitration Court.
– They could not spread the dispute.
– To put the thing in a few words, it was not the Federal authority which the men wanted, but Mr. Justice Higgins.
– What about a reflection on the Judge now?
– To say that my remark is a reflection on the Judge is idle.
– Surely there is a reflection implied?
– I have not said a word against Mr. Justice Higgins. I am speaking of the forces which impelled the men, and they show that the men desired to get before Mr. Justice Higgins.
– No; that is a little thin.
– I am unable to understand the line of reasoning which would suggest that in my remark I have made the slightest reflection on Mr. Justice Higgins. Let me put the matter in another way. What was desired was not to get the benefits of arbitration, but to get before a Judge whose decisions had hitherto inspired the men with the belief that they would get in that Court a larger measure of what they wanted than they would get elsewhere
– To get a fair deal.
– To get what they regarded as a fair deal.
– They were not registered under the State Act, anyway, and could not go before the State Court at that time.
– The fact that the men were not registered under the State Act was not the fault of the Act; they could have been registered if they had liked. It all goes to prove that what was wanted was not arbitration, not a judicial tribunal to deal with the matter, because that was available, but to go before a tribunal presided over by a particular individual. That, 1 venture to say, has been the cause of more industrial unrest throughout Australia than has any other single cause to which honorable senators can point.
– That is damning him with faint praise, anyway.
– I am not saying whether Mr. Justice Higgins is right or wrong, because that is immaterial. What I say is that the men have been trying, and that efforts have been made, to spread the sparks of conflagration from one State to another, not to get arbitration, which was at their own door, but to get before a Judge from whom they anticipated something more than they would get from a Judge in any other Court.
– Owing to the insufficiency of the State laws, due to Conservative Legislative Councils.
– It does not matter what the cause is. The fact is that there exist in the States now local tribunals for dealing with an industrial matter, and whenever it has been possible there has been an effort made to spread a strike from one State to another, not to get arbitration, which could have been obtained without spreading the strike-
– It could not.
– In many instances it could - let it rest at that.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - In every instance it could.
– What guarantee is there that if we centralize industrial matters in the Federal Court we have done anything to increase the possibilities of industrial peace? There is no evidence that if men are not prepared to obey a State law - an award given by a State Board or an Arbitration Court - they will be any more likely to accept a similar award when given by a Federal Court.
– They have done.
– Is it out of greater respect that they want to come to the Federal authority, or because the award has been more in accordance with their demand ?
– To get reasonable justice.
– The position is not that men want to come to the Federal authority because it is the Federal authority, but because they will get more there from the Judge than they would get elsewhere. Let us assume that the employers and the men are equally concerned in getting before a particular Judge because they believe that from that Judge they will get a greater fairness in any award which he gives. Then I want to ask, Are honorable senators going to alter the Constitution from the mere accident, that we have presiding in the Federal Court a particular individual, who cannot live for ever? If it is an argument for an alteration of the Constitution, and for centralizing everything, that we have a Judge of a certain temperament to-day in the Federal Court, are my honorable friends going to alter the Constitution next year when a Judge of that temperament presides over a State tribunal, while a Judge of an entirely different temperament is presiding in the Federal Court?
– There is no one suggesting that.
– That is not a fair way to put it.
– Nothing I do will, I know, satisfy honorable senators opposite; but I submit that, at any rate, my statement is logical.
– It was admitted just now that both men and employers were seeking to go to the Federal Court, because they believed that they could obtain there a more satisfactory judgment.
– Hear, hear ! Owing to the fact that he can deal with varying conditions, applied to the whole of the States.
– Suppose that the position is reversed, and that in the course of time the Judges who give the most satisfactory judgments are the Judges in the State tribunals, and that those who give the least satisfactory judgments are those in the Federal tribunal. Are my honorable friends going to alter the Constitution then?
– There will be no necessity for doing that, because they can go then to whichever tribunal they like.
– Are men to have the option of going to theFederal authority , or to the State authorities?
– We have it now in many instances.
– I do not think it is necessary to continue the argument any further. The thing is altogether too childish.
– That position exists in many industries.
– No one has disputed that where industrial matters are in their nature Federal there should and must be someFederal authority to deal with them. But that is quite different from saying that every industrial matter, even from the remotest part of Australia, shall be concentrated under the jurisdiction and control of one Federal Arbitration Court.
– There are many registered under the State Acts now.
– It has been admitted by interjection that this desire to get into the Federal Court - whether it sprang from the men or the employers - was not because it was the Federal Court but because there was a greater belief and faith in the judgment of that tribunal.
– Yes, because its determinations were correct.
– No, because, as was admitted gust now,its judgments were fairer.
– May it not be the desire to get common justice?
– Well, without indorsing the remark, if the men are going there to-day because they believe that the decisions of the Federal Court represent common justice, are we to alter the Constitution back again to-morrow when they find what they call common justice is given in the State tribunals, and uncommon justice in the Federal Court?
– You are not trying to put that on to me ?
– I am.
– My interjection did not lead that way at all.
– The motive power which is attracting men to the Federal Court is the presence there of the Judge who presides over it.
– No; the same thing occurred before Judge Higgins went there. It occurred when the Court was presided over by Mr. Justice O’Connor and Mr. Justice Isaacs.
– Senator Guthrie knows perfectly well that one of the pronounced movements which are visible to every one of late years has been a general desire on the part of the industrial population of Australia to have their cases, as far as they can, heard in the Federal Court.
– Because they think it is the best- Court.
– And that occurred before Mr. Justice Higgins went on to the Bench.
– No, it did not occur in that way.
– Would it be right to say that the employers are trying to get away from the Federal Court?
– No, because just now it was interjected that the employers as well as the men want to go there. I am not finding fault with the attitude of the men or the employers, but pointing out that there ‘are not enough Mr. Justice Higginses in this country to go round if all these matters are to be centralized in the Federal Court. And that is recognised by the statement that it is not intended to centralize, but to continue the existing State tribunals, or to create Federal tribunals - - Wages Boards or otherwise: - to be scattered through Australia. I venture to say that that will not satisfy the demand today. The demand to-day is not for a Wages Board constituted under Federal law, but for the opportunity to have the case stated before Mr. Justice Higgins.
– No, before the Federal Court.
– I tried to analyze that contention, and I am not going over the same ground again. If the desire is to get to the Federal Court, riot because it is the Federal Court, but because the decisions of the presiding Judge have given greater satisfaction-
– Suppose that Mr. Justice Higgins died to-morrow?
– That is just ‘the point I wanted to raise.
– Order. Interjections have been coming from the right of the chamber, which have necessitated Sena.tor Millen repeating himself over and over again. If these interruptions are continued, I shall have either to ask honorable senators to stop making interjections which have that effect, or to ask Senator Millen not to repeat himself.
Senator Barker. - After that we will stop interjecting.
– What 1 was trying to point out was that the attraction of the Federal Court is not that it is a Federal institution, but a belief in the judgments given there. It is impossible for every case to be taken before that Judge, no matter how strenuously he may work, and the proof of that is the admission made by the Attorney-General that the business of the Court is tremendously congested, and that he is giving earnest consideration to that congestion. What is going to happen if we take over the control of industrial affairs? Clearly, subordinate tribunals will have to be created. Whether we continue the existing State tribunals, or create fresh ones, will make no difference. It will mean that the majority of the disputes will be dealt with by a local tribunal in the locality where they occur. That will not satisfy the demand. A demand of that character is already met. It will make no difference to a body of men, such, for instance, as the butchers in Sydney who the other day struck against the award of their local Board - it will make no difference to them to tell them that the Board was constituted under a Federal authority. That is not what they want. What they are trying to do is to get before a particular Judge. That being impossible, I say that honorable senators on the other side are going to amend the Constitution in name by conceding something, while in practice they will be leaving to the local tribunals the very work which they perform to-day, and that is to decide in the majority of cases as to the merits of local disputes.
– We cannot say that that statement is incorrect, because if we do we shall be making you repeat yourself.
– It is not necessary for the honorable senator to state whether it is correct or not, because the proof of it is the admission on the other side that they do not intend to do anything so stupid as to centralize. I submit that in order to satisfy the demand which has arisen, a right of appeal will have to be granted to the Federal Court. If that is so, the majority of cases, I venture to predict, will result in an appeal. It is impossible for Mr. Justice Higgins to hear the number of appeals which will come forward if the proposed alteration is adopted. If the whole of our industrial affairs are thrown into the Federal jurisdiction, it will not be very long before honorable senators will find that the great charm and attraction which the Federal authority has to-day will be entirely dissipated. Men will find then that arbitration under the Federal authority is only exactly the same thing in the majority of cases as arbitration under the State authority to-day.
– Does it not indicate a desire on the part of the workers to get away from other Courts and other Judges ?
– I admit that it is a desire to get away from other Judges before Mr. Justice Higgins.
– Because they think that they will get all they want.
– Both sides?
– I shall take it as referring to both sides.
– I asked a question.
– I am trying to meet the statement made all round. I say, and it is not disputed, that the effort to get before .Mr. Justice Higgins arises from a belief in his judgments. That is putting the matter as mildly as I can. All the industrial unions share this belief, and desire to come before Mr. Justice Higgins, but they simply cannot get there. I ask honorable senators whether Mr. Justice Higgins would be competent to deal with all these cases?
– Yes; or some other Judge.
– They already have another Judge, and they do not like him.
– They have not Judges, they have laymen.
– They have Mr. Justice Heydon in New South Wales, and the> have quarrelled with him.
– What about the position in. Victoria?
– That has nothing to do with the case. So far as New South Wales is concerned, they have another Judge, and they are not satisfied, and they will never be satisfied unless they have an opportunity to come before Mr. Justice Higgins.
– They do not like Judge Heydon because of what he has said.
– Senator McDougal says that Mr. Justice Heydon has said something which is unpopular. The fact that he has said something which does not commend itself to the great majority of unionists, and which has met with a good deal of criticism, supports my contention that what is in the minds of the men is not a desire to get to a Court of Federal authority so much as a desire to have their case brought before a Judge whom they like and in whom they have confidence. As I have pointed out, they already have another Judge in New South Wales, but the moment he did something that did not suit them they wanted to get away from him.
– That is not all the case.
– I am stating the case as I know it; and what I say is that the men do not care twopence whether the tribunal is State or Federal in character, so long as they get Mr. Justice Higgins. The difficulty which confronts us in connexion with any effort to centralize these matters is that to-day, with not one-half of Australia brought under the operation of Wages Boards or Arbitration Courts, we already have 400 Wages Boards and two Arbitration Courts in existence. Let us assume what will happen if we vest this central and final authority in Mr. Justice Higgins. Unless the right of appeal is given from the Wages Boards, or any other tribunals which may be set up in their place, the creation of such local tribunals will not be satisfactory. Moreover, the appeals from such tribunals will be much more numerous than could be dealt with by Mr. Justice Higgins. It will be necessary to have other Judges, and unless we appoint Judges whose decisions will appeal to the men as those of Mr. Justice Higgins have done, they will not be satisfied with the change now proposed.
– The last word has not yet been said in regard to the settlement of industrial disputes.
– No. My honorable friend’s last word is that he will not give up the power to strike. Unfortunately, the last word in connexion with industrial disputes is “ force.”
– I think it is a misfortune. The claim has been made that no awards made by the Federal Arbitration Court have been broken, and on this account it is said that the Federal authoritywould be better able than any State tribunal to preserve industrial peace. In the first place this statement is not correct, and in the second place the explanation, if needed, might be found in the fact that the awards of the .Federal Court have given satisfaction to the men in a much larger percentage of cases than has been the experience in connexion with the State tribunals. In the case of the Waterside Workers a breach of the agreement which was registered in the Federal Arbitration Court was only healed when a State tribunal was set up to deal with it.
– Was the agreement registered in the Federal Arbitration Court?
– Yes. The history of that case is very interesting. The agreement was signed on the 6th October, and was filed on 23rd October with the Industrial Registrar. The wharf labourers, who were operating under that agreement, struck work on 19th October, or, roughly speaking, about a fortnight after the agreement was signed.
– Before it was operative.
– No, not before it was operative, because it was operative the moment it was signed on 6th October. That award differentiated between the rates to be paid to wharf labourers engaged in connexion with deep-sea shipping and those engaged in the coastal trade, and the moment this differentiation was “ made known the wharf labourers engaged in the coastal trade struck against it, claiming that they were entitled to the same pay as were the men engaged in the deep-sea trade.
– There is a great deal of force in that.
– That may be perfectly true. But my point is that the men will as readily strike under a Federal award as under a State award. After Mr. Justice Higgins had called a compulsory conference, and that had failed, a State tribunal was appealed to. Mr. Justice Scholes was called upon to set in motion the New South Wales Arbitration Act of 1908 - Mr. Wade’s Act - and the result was that a Board was appointed, and adjusted the difficulty, and settled the strike which had occurred in violation of the Federal agreement.
– That was a special Board.
– Yes. The Industrial Disputes Act of 1908 provided for constituting such a Board. My point is that the industrial agreement which was registered in the Federal Arbitration Court was broken, and it was necessary to invoke the assistance of a State tribunal.
– I think the strike took place before the award was filed.
– The honorable senator will find that the men were duly informed by Mr. Hughes that the agreement had been signed, and was binding on them, but they took no notice of it, and went out on strike..
Passing on from that, I now come to the most attractive platform dish my honorable friends will serve up in the course of the next few months. I refer to the subject of trusts and combines. At every election I can remember of late years, there has been a good deal of the beating of the big drum in connexion with this subject, and a great deal has been done in the direction of arousing the passions and prejudices of the people; but, in spite of this fact, no efforts whatever have been made by the Labour Governments that have been in power to deal with the evils which are alleged to exist.
– They have no power.
– I will show what powers they have, and I will put this position : I claim that before more power is asked for, those who are seeking it should show that they have made bond fide efforts to exercise the powers they already possess. I have been looking through the daily papers with a view to obtaining some evidence of the combines and trusts which are said to be all round, above, and below us, and permeating the whole social structure. Within the last fortnight I have come across these two contradictory statements made by members of the Labour party. One gentleman affirmed that wheat had risen owing to the operations of a ring, whilst another gentleman said that a ring had robbed the farmers by keeping the prices down.
– That is absolutely correct.
– Does the Minister say that both statements are correct? I will leave my honorable friends to reconcile them.
– Who made the statements ?
- Mr. Riley and Mr. Roberts, both of whom, I believe, are members of the House of Representatives.
– There was only an honorable understanding - there was no trust.
– Between Mr. Riley and Mr. Roberts?
– No; so far as the Wheat Ring was concerned.
– I will leave my honorable friend to settle that question. Now let us take another statement. Repeated statements have been made with regard to the alleged existence of a Meat Ring at Homebush. It has been alleged that the buyers go there, and sometimes even toss a coin to decide who shall bid for the stock in a particular pen, the idea being to eliminate competition. But it is curious that at the very time that this statement was being made prices were much higher than the average. Prices for stock have been abnormally high - so high that quite recently a claim was put forward that the Government should interfere to stop the exportation of meat until reasonable prices had been reached. Now let us see what are the usual operations of a ring. A ring does not seek to innate the value of the articles it wants to buy. If there was any evidence of the existence of a ring it would be found in depressed prices at the stock market at Homebush, and high prices in the retail shops. But here we have the fact that the prices of stock at Homebush have been far above what may be regarded as the average.
– To what does the honorable senator attribute that?
– I am not discussing that question. It is affirmed that there is a ring of buyers of stock, who have made an arrangement with the idea of eliminating competition, and I am asking how it is that the prices, instead of being depressed, are higher than usual.
– They might be higher if there were no ring.
– They might be lower if the honorable senator were there to arrange one of these honorable understandings we have heard about. If it were alleged that a ring of buyers had been formed at Homebush to innate prices for the benefit of the graziers, the facts would support that contention; but we are told that the ring has been formed for the purpose of eliminating competition and depressing prices. I contend that the facts entirely disprove that contention. Other statements of a similar character have also been made, and they have had no more foundation. Now, seeing that honorable senators opposite have had so much to say with regard to these combines, I want to ask them what they have done during the years they have been in office to combat them?
– What becomes of the honorable senator’s argument at Werriwa that the law is competent to deal with them?
– I am not aware that I dealt with the matter at Werriwa, but I am quite prepared to deal with it now. Let us see where the law has been alleged to be incompetent. The recent judgment of the High Court in regard to the Coal Vend proved, not the incompetency of the law, but the incompetency of the Crown to prove its case.
– The case was proved up to the hilt before Mr. Justice Isaacs.
– Before the case reached Mr. Justice Isaacs, it was proved up to the hilt in the mind of the Minister. But in a law-abiding country we can only accept the final decision of the High Court. Whatever may have been thought outside, the High Court found that the Crown had not proved its case.
– The High Court did not say anything of the kind. The facts were as stated, but the High Court read into the Act something that was not in it.
– Let us see what the Court said. Chief Justice Griffith said -
We are therefore bound to decide the case upon the evidence, and upon that evidence we are of opinion that the Crown has failed to prove any intent on the part of the appellants to cause detriment to the public.
– A miserable quibble on the part of the Judge.
– If Senator Rae regards it as a quibble on the part of the Judge, that is not my concern. All I want to say is that I have absolutely proved my statement that the Court held that the Crown had failed to prove its case.
– That is incorrect. The Crown proved up to the hilt that there was restraint of trade, but the Court said it had to prove unreasonable restraint of trade, and to the detriment of the public.
– There is the decision of the Court as plainly as it can possibly be put.
– There was no intent on the part of the Combine. It was mere accident that they fleeced the public.
– Here is the curious position. Honorable members are asking that before a case is proved judgment shall be passed, and somebody punished. The point on which the Crown failed was that they did not prove intent, and that was the whole point. Then I am entitled to ask, why did they not proceed under their own act of 1910, which would have relieved them of the necessity of proving that intent? Honorable senators seem to say now that they had not the power to deal with these matters.
– The action was commenced before the Act of 1910 came into force.
– But they could have started de novo under their own Act if they had liked.
– Do you think it is possible to prove intent?
– It is not necessary to prove it under the Act of 1910. The Government passed that Act for the express purpose of avoiding the obligation which the Court said the Crown had failed to fulfil. The case was conducted under the Act of 1906, under which it was necessary for the Crown to prove intent. When this Government came into office, it brought in another Bill to relieve the Crown of that responsibility. The mere making of a charge was sufficient to establish a prima facie case, and the onus was thrown on the defendant of disproving the charge. Here are the statements made by the Ministers in introducing that Bill. Mr. Hughes said -
I am not one of those who believe in the efficacy of this kind of legislation. I have said, over and over again, that whilst I am perfectly content to give anti-trust legislation a trial, I do not believe that it can be effective. Those who approve of such legislation and the country generally are entitled, however, to demand for it a fair trial, and so far they have not had it. The legislation, as it now exists, does not give the people an opportunity to deal with combines owing to the fact that it is necessary to prove intent to restrain trade and detriment to the public, both of which are extremely difficult, if not impossible, of proof.
It was under that Act that the Government launched this prosecution against the Coal Vend and Shipping Combine, an Act which Mr. Hughes declared was ineffective for the purpose, and under which he said it would be impossible to prove a case.
– We did not launch it ; you did.
– That confirms my statement that, during the two and a half years the Government have been in office, they have not done anything in this matter. Before the late Government left office the whole of the preliminaries in con nexion with the case had been completed, but the late Government, seeing that an election was impending, refrained from taking action. When the new Government came in, they had the opportunity to review the case, and either go on with it or start de novo. In view of the declaration of Mr. Hughes that the Act was impotent for the purpose, and nothing could be done under it, it was simply a fraud on the people to proceed with the prosecution at all under that Act. Mr. Hughes went on to say -
In the great majority of cases it is impossible to secure a conviction under the principal Act as it stands. In asking the House to amend the law in this respect by making it unnecessary to prove intent to restrain trade, but to gather the intent from the act, we are only following the precedent adopted in the United States Statutes, as well as in the Courts, and under the English common law decisions.
When that Bill reached this Chamber the Minister of Defence, who, I think, had charge of it, expressed himself in these words -
It is the opinion of the Crown law officers that the provisions of this Bill are necessary in order to enable us successfully to deal with combinations where they are illegitimately restraining trade and doing injury to the public. Therefore, the Government trust that this Bill will pass, and that prosecutions instituted under it will be conducted with the object of carrying out what was intended under the principal Act - not to break up combinations, not to try to turn the hands of the economic clock backwards, but simply to enable the Government to institute prosecutions and sheet home convictions when combinations are doing wrong.
The Government knew, and affirmed, that the 1906 Act was deficient and ineffective. They knew that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to obtain a conviction under it. They brought in the Bill of 1910 to remedy that weakness, and to relieve the Crown of the obligation of proving intent. That measure stands on the statute-book to-day, and they have never put it into operation. I am entitled to ask, seeing that this prosecution against the Coal Vend failed on that very point which their own Act made good, why they did not put their own Act into operation? May I ask: Were they afraid of the result of a successful prosecution ? Were they afraid, having stopped that loophole in the law, to show the people that there was ample power to deal with those trusts? Was that the reason, or was it for some personal reason? Were they seeking to be kind to a trust that they intended to prosecute? What was the reason, when there was in existence a law which they themselves had made good? Why was it that they passed by that law and conducted a prosecution under an Act under which they themselves said it would be impossible to successfully prosecute?
– You say that they have not done anything. Are you not aware that many cases have been investigated with a view to prosecution?
– The AttorneyGeneral recently gave an answer to a question elsewhere as to what they had done. He pointed out that no investigations under the Anti-Trust Act could be launched unless the Comptroller-General of Customs was convinced that a case had been made out for inquiry. Is it not rather curious that, with all these wild statements going about regarding the existence of combines, the Comptroller-General is unable to find sufficient evidence to justify him in undertaking even a preliminary examination?
– That refers to the individuals concerned, not the trusts. They can make inquiries outside.
– Why have they not done so?
– They have done so.
– The AttorneyGeneral’s statement is that they have not done so.
– He said that they had not made inquiries with regard to individuals concerned because the power under the Act was weak.
– The AttorneyGeneral’s statement was that action could not be taken until the Comptroller-General was convinced that a prima facie case had been made out, that while many complaints had been made by individuals, no evidence had been obtained which would justify them in putting the Act into operation. I simply want to remind honorable senators opposite that there is a case made out which requires answering. Mr. Hughes himself affirmed that those who believed in anti-trust legislation should have the opportunity of having that class of legislation fairly tested. It will not have been given a fair trial until the Act which they themselves have placed on the statutebook has been put into operation. Quite apart from the Bill itself there is surely something in the nature of hypocrisy associated with it. What is the position we are confronted with? I have already given a quotation from the speeches of two gentlemen showing that they have abso lutely no faith in legislation to control trusts and combines. Mr. Hughes said -
I have never disguised my belief in the utter futility of anti-Trust legislation.
I have learned since yesterday that whenever one quotes from the records as to what a Labour member says, one has always to remember that that only binds the Labour member at the particular time he was speaking. When that legislation was first introduced into Parliament, Mr. Watson said -
The honorable member (Mr. Joseph Cook) asked me if I believed in regulation. As far as I am concerned - and I think I can speak for the Labour party - I do not believe that regulation will cure the evil. We believe that nothing short of collective control, in some shape or other, will effectively dispose of the evils that result from monopolies, trusts, and combines.
The Vice-President of the Executive Council said -
We, as a party, have long recognised that when any business or industry becomes a monopoly, the only effective remedy is to nationalize it. At the same time, seeing that it is not within the power of this so-called Socialist party to carry into effect its policy, we are prepared to support the Government in their endeavour to control in some manner what might become dangerous monopolies in the Commonwealth by means of this Bill.
– A sensible man when he said that.
– If he was sensible when he declared that you could not control trusts and combines by regulation, and the only remedy was nationalization I ask, is it not a fraud on the people to ask for an amendment of the Constitution to give power to legislate in regard to trusts and combines when it is admitted that the legislation that they pass will be futile?
– Has that legislation been successful in America?
– Whether it has been successful or not does not appear to me to be very pertinent to this matter. If it is not possible to successfully legislate in respect of trusts, why do honorable senators ask for powers to deal with them by legislation?
– You have a chance to control children when they are young.
– There is nothing about controlling children in that statement of the Vice-President of the Executive Council. It was clear and distinct. Yet members of the Government party are going before the people of the country, and stating that they want power to deal with those trusts and combines.
– To deal with those trusts and combines which we cannot nationalize.
– The quotations which I have given are no proof that you cannot effectively deal with them by legislation.
– What power have we to deal with monopolies at present ? We cannot interfere with the Standard Oil Trust.
– We can stop their oil coming in. We can do that by means of the Tariff. Senator Pearce, speaking on the same point in1906, said -
I occupy a very peculiar position. I am not in the slightest degree enthusiastic about the Bill. I look upon it as a mere trifling with the disease - which is certainly present, and which will become accentuated as time goes on - and I feel sure that it will be ineffective. The criticism which has been directed against the Bill makes me think that possibly we are dealing with the subject in a way which may lead to some of the consequences which have been foreshadowed. It does seem to me that it contains provisions, which so far from curing the evils at which they are aimed, will give rise to greater evils by injuring legitimate trade within the Commonwealth.
– There is a good deal of sense in that.
– There is. Here we have this Minister saying that legislation of this kind will be ineffective, and yet he is going before the country and asking the people to pass legislation which two years ago he described in those terms. Other honorable senators opposite have also said that they have no faith in the proposal.
I come now to the Bill for nationalizing what are called monopolies. Here we have the real objective of the Labour party. They have declared that, although they are seeking power to regulate trusts and combines, they have no faith in that policy, and it is only reasonable to assume that if they come into power after the elections, they will seek to give effect to such of the powers granted to them as they do believe in.
– The honorable senator means such powers as the people believe in.
– That is a sententious remark. If the honorable senator wants the people to speak on this matter, let him propose that before any monopoly is nationalized the people shall be consulted. I would direct attention to the wording of this proposal. No definition is given as to what a monopoly is. Any thing which Parliament declares to be a monopoly is to be dealt with in the manner proposed.
– That is a definition.
– If so, we have to inquire how Parliament would be likely to interpret the “definition.” Let me direct attention to a few of the things that have been called monopolies. I have before me a list of those businesses which have been affirmed to be monopolies, which are acting injuriously to the public. They are oil, bricks, tobacco, confectionery, trucks, manures, dairy produce, shoe machinery, photographic material, flour, meats, jam, dried fruits, timber, proprietary articles, galvanized iron, bread, fish, fuel, leather, sugar and coal freight.
– That is taken from Mr. Glynn, one of the honorable senator’s own men.
– It is taken from Mr. Attorney-General Hughes, one of the Government’s own men.
– When did Mr. Hughes say that bread was a monopoly ?
– He made that statement in the House of Representatives when dealing with one of these Bills.
– There must be an honorable understanding between some of the bakers, because the price of bread does not vary much.
– Let us suppose these are all monopolies. These, then, are the things which the Federal Parliament is going to nationalize. Is that the position?
– It may or it may not be.
– When you go before the people and say that you want power to nationalize monopolies, it is a fair thing to hold up that list before them, in order that they may know how you interpret the term.
– That list does not define what a monopoly is.
– Exactly ; there is the difficulty.
– Mr. Glynn said that they were monopolies.
– I am directing attention to the fact that there is no definition of monopoly in the Bill ; and I am entitled to say, seeing that the matter is left to this Parliament to determine, that we must look to a list of this kind to see what kind of business honorable senators opposite are prepared to call monopolies.
– Is the honorable senator prepared to accept Mr. Glynn’s definition of a monopoly?
– He has never ventured to give one. There is no man, as far as I know, who has ventured to define what a monopoly is.
– Then why ask us to do so?
– I am not asking anything of the kind ; I am simply pointing out that there is no definition in this Bill, and that the Government are not even leaving it to a tribunal to determine at what point a business becomes a monopoly which is injurious to the public. They are simply leaving it to Parliament ; and I am entitled to point out what interpretation honorable senators opposite are likely to place upon the word. It is for that reason that I have quoted the list.
– The honorable senator knows the answer - a monopoly will be anything out of which they expect to make a profit.
– It means more than that. The factor which might influence a Parliament constituted as this is might frequently be the condition of those employed in an industry. We are absolutely asked to give any Parliament power by majority to determine what industry or business shall be brought under the operation of this Bill. Such a question might be determined by a Parliament elected upon an entirely different question ; and it might declare to be a monopoly injurious to the public some business which like the sugar business, has actually been determined to be more beneficial when handled by private management than it would be under the management of a Government.
– In actual practice, the matter would always be restricted by financial considerations.
– Under this Bill there is no guarantee whatever with regard to financial considerations. A member of another place declared the other day that the Labour party would not be concerned about the methods by which it brought this thing about.
– Who made that statement?
– Mr. Anstey.
– It is a misquotation, and you know it.
– I certainly object to the statement that I have misquoted Mr. Anstey and know it. I ask that Senator Russell shall be called upon to withdraw that remark. If he does not, I shall have to describe his observation by a very short word.
– Do so; I can use another one.
– It would not have been out of order for Senator Russell to say that Senator Millen’s statement was incorrect; but to say that his statement was knowingly a misquotation is out of order.
– I have no desire to run contrary to the ruling of the Chair, and will withdraw the remark, simply saying that the honorable senator’s statement was incorrect.
– I need only add that I was quoting from a newspaper of today’s issue. Whether the statement was correct or not, I do not know.
– The honorable senator should verify his statements before making them here.
– I do not think I am guilty of any offence when I take a statement which appears in a public journal, and upon which a leading article has been based. I am entitled to assume that it is correct until it is contradicted.
– There has been no time for contradiction.
– And I have had no opportunity to chase Mr. Anstey to find out whether the statement attributed to. him was correct or not. I should like to present to the Senate another quotation from a speech from Senator Pearce on this very matter, because it seems to me to be a very pertinent criticism, which may well be considered to-day, in “view of the very wild” statements which are being made about the existence and power of monopolies alleged to be operating in Australia. Senator Pearce made use of these words in 1906, speaking, 1 think, on the Anti-Trust Bill. The Hansard reference is page 2801. He said -
Most of the criticism in connexion with monopolies has been grounded on a knowledge of similar legislation in the United States. There is one thing which we should always remember in dealing with a question in connexion with which an analogous condition of things is assumed to exist in the United States, and that is that in Australia we have the one great protecting power against monopolies, and it is the only effective power so far discovered, and that it is absent from the United States. In the United States there is a condition existing which vitally affects trade and commerce, and which does not exist in Australia. This difference of conditions is emphasized when we remember that almost all the cases which have been tried in the United States have hinged largely on. a condition existing there which does not find a parallel in Australia. That is to say, that in the United States the railways are privately owned, and in many cases by the Trusts, whilst in Australia they are owned by the people, and Trusts have no control over them.
Senator Trenwith interjected “ That is an important factor, but it is not the only one.” Senator Pearce went on -
It is a very important factor. The laws of the United States have been directed to a condition of affairs which has grown up primarily and largely owing to the fact that in that country the very highways of commerce are in the hands of private individuals, and are liable to Trust management.
Further on the honorable senator said -
I may say that 75 per cent, of the cases that have come before the United States Courts have been cases in which combines have exercised their powers through that control of the railways and generally of the means of transportation.
Senator Trenwith again interjected that there had been other factors, to which Senator Pearce replied - lt has been the main factor contributing to the evils which have been brought before the notice of the Courts.
If Senator Pearce will admit now, as he did then, that 75 per cent, of the cases in America hinged on transportation, which has been the main factor contributing to the evils which have been brought before the Courts, we shall be glad to know it.
– Hear., hear !
– Does he also agree with the statement that the control of the railways is the only effective method discovered ?
– Yes, in America.
– If Senator Pearce still agrees with that statement, and as this only effective means is under Government control in Australia to-day, does he also agree that there is no need to resort to other means of controlling monopolies ?
– I do not agree with that.
– I Come now to another matter which is going to play a part in the effort made to present these proposals in the most effective form to the public; and that is the proposal that prices, are to be fixed if these powers are given to the Commonwealth Government.
– Prices are being fixed now.
– Honorable senators who have paid attention to the debate which took place in a Chamber not very remote from ours will recollect that one of the speakers tried to trace out the efforts which would be involved in an attempt to fix the price of bread. It was alleged that it would be necessary not only to fix the price of the bread itself, but also to fix the prices of the flour, the wheat, the agricultural machinery which was used to till the ground for cultivating the wheat, the freights charged on the railways for conveying the wheat to the miller, and everything else in connexion with the production of the bread. I want to go a step further, and assume that this power has been granted, and that the price of everything influencing the price of bread has been fixed. I will assume that the consumer is satisfied with the price of bread, that the farmer and the miller are satisfied, and that every one else connected with the industry is satisfied. Let us assume that on the morning after everybody is thus satisfied a cable is published showing that wheat which stood at 3s. 6d. the day before has dropped or risen 6d. What becomes of everybody’s satisfaction then?
– The associated millers of Australia to-day fix the prices of flour and wheat.
– And every morning there is somebody who is in a position to move. But what is going to happen when the Government fixes the price?
– Could not the Government do something?
– The honorable senator may turn to the Sugar Commission’s report to see what the Government could do. Let us suppose that the price fixed here for wheat is 3s. 6d. per bushel, and a cable is received saying that the value of wheat in the Old Country has risen to 4s. per bushel. Is it proposed under this Bill to compel the holder of wheat in Australia to sell at 3s. 6d. per bushel ?
– The Government would put on an export duty then.
– We have the power to put on an export duty to-day, but we are not so silly as to do so.
– The Government would like to do so, but they dare not.
– I wish to be allowed to continue my argument. I ask what would happen if a cable were received notifying a rise of 6d. per bushel in wheat?
Are we to compel farmers to sell their wheat at the price we have fixed? If we do, we shall simply be robbing them. The Government propose that there should be a law enabling them to fix the price at a certain figure, and, having fixed it, I want to know what they propose to do should a cable be received notifying that wheat is worth more than the price they have fixed . When the local price is fixed at 3s. 6d. per bushel, and by sending the wheat abroad the farmer can get 4s., are the people of Australia to be left without any? If the farmer is to be compelled, in those circumstances, to sell here at 3s. 6d. per bushel, we shall be robbing him of the difference between the price fixed by our law and the price which he could obtain by exporting his wheat.
– He could not get 4s. per bushel on the day the cable arrived. He would first have to get his wheat to the Old Country.
– Senator Guthrie ought to know that if I have the necessary documents, the bank will do the rest for me. Even if a farmer cannot at once avail himself of the rise of 6d. per bushel in the Old Country by exporting his wheat, there are buyers here who will be prepared to buy the ‘article from him at an advance upon the local price.
– They would not give a speculative price like that.
– It would not be a speculative price. Honorable senators must be aware that if information of a rise of prices in London is received, there is a natural tendency to export the article which has advanced in price. I now take the case of the price going down instead of up. What would occur then ? If the price fixed here were 3s. 6d. per bushel and wheat could be got from abroad for less, do honorable senators suppose that the millers would prefer to buy the local article at the higher price? They would bring their wheat from abroad, unless they were prevented from doing so by a prohibitive duty. These are difficulties which have to be faced.
– They are absolutelychildish; that is all I have to say about them.
– I am quite willing to leave the determination of the matter to the good sense of the people. Whatever else may be said of these proposals I venture to say that if they are presented to the people with the serious assurance that it will be possible to fix prices in the circumstances I have indicated they will be laughed out of court. The difficulties which Senator de Largie regards as childish have occurred to other people than myself. They have occurred to the members of the Sugar Commission, as will be seen from a reference to their report. They have recommended the fixing of the price of sugar, but have been met with the difficulties that I have suggested. What proposal do they submit to overcome those difficulties? They do not call them childish, because they are not so. Before submitting their solution, I wish to say that there is a way of overcoming the difficulties, if every time the community is prepared to shoulder the financial loss. The members of the Sugar Commission, having recommended the advisability of determining the price between the refiners, growers of the cane, millers, and consumers, say -
If it were found upon such reasonable distribution that one or more branches of the industry were not securing an adequate .return on capital outlayed then the import duty would have to be raised.
That is another way of saying that, having fixed the price so nicely, some one may consider that he is not getting enough, and then the only thing to do is for the community to come to the rescue, put its hands into its pockets and make up the difference.
– Are not the prices of industrial machines fixed now ?
– There is no difficulty in fixing the price of one factor of production ; but it cannot be fixed for every factor in production. The only means of compassing the difficulty is to take from one to give to another unless the community stands behind the business and is prepared to make good the difference. The Sugar Commission, dealing with the possibility of a surplus of sugar, say in their report -
Should it occur, however, a difficult situation would arise, in view of the facts that exportation must involve a loss, that sugar is not a commodity which can be stored for indefinite periods, and that, being one of the necessities of life, no great increase in the local demand would be stimulated by lowering the price on the local market. The situation would not, however, be wholly novel, and it might be dealt with as under existing conditions.
What are those conditions? There has not been a surplus of sugar for exportation ; but at one time, not many years ago, when there was a possibility of a surplus for export, those concerned in the industry sent a circular round various parts of Australia seeking, and obtaining, the assurance on the part of the grower that he would export 10 per cent.- of his crop for sale abroad, in order that, by limiting the quantity available for the local market, the local prices might be kept up.
– Who did that?
– Those concerned in the sugar industry. The Sugar Commis-sion said that the situation might be dealt with as under existing conditions, and they proceed to refer to the evidence given by one of the witnesses who appeared before them. One of the Commissioners asked this question of a Mr. Young, the proprietor of a sugar plantation -
Would ii not be rather exasperating for the consumer within a tariff wall of £& a ton to know that he was paying 4d. a lb. for his sugar, while sugar he was taxed to produce was selling in Timbuctoo for 2d. a lb. ?
The answer given was -
It would no more upset his equanimity than it does in America.
That shows the course which would have to be adopted in dealing with the price of an article of export. If the local price is to be kept high, the surplus must be exported at a low price. We should find the people of Australia taxed in order to send their commodities abroad for sale at a lower price than that at which they could obtain them here.
– There were riots in Germany recently, with the object of pulling down prices.
– If my honorable friends opposite set to work to keep up prices it is possible that they will bring about a condition of affairs which may lead to rioting here. I have spoken longer than I intended, but perhaps honorable senators will pardon me if I make a passing reference to the Constitution Alteration (Railway Disputes) Bill. It seeks to endow this Parliament with power to deal by conciliation and by arbitration with disputes in relation to the employment of the railway servants of a State. Whatever may have been said to the effect that these proposals do not interfere with the powers of the State Parliaments it must be admitted that there can be no such argument as to this Bill. Here we have a proposal to deal, not with an industrial dispute extending from one .State to another, but with industrial disputes in connexion with the railways of a particular State. In New South Wales there is a small section of line from Murwillumbah to
Grafton. It is not connected with the other railways of the State or with the railways of any other State. Its’ control is a matter of State concern only, but if a strike should take place on that railway the power is now claimed for the Federal authority to step in and determine it.
– A strike could not take place on that railway alone, because it is a part of the State system’ of railways.
– I am told that a strike could not take place on that line alone, but let me remind Senator Rae that not long ago a dispute occurred at a particular railway station in New South Wales in connexion with the employment of casual labourers engaged during the wool or wheat season. These casual labourers struck, and under the Bill submitted by the Government the Commonwealth .authorities would in such a case accept the responsibility of dealing with the dispute. It is, perhaps, a matter for the consideration of lawyers, but I should like to know whether under the Bill railways will be held to include tramways?
– What does the honorable senator call a tramway?
– The honorable senator’s interjection shows that he has some doubt on the point.
– In South Australia we speak of the Silverton railway, but the line from Silverton on to Broken Hill is spoken of in New South Wales as the Silverton tramway.
– The point I raised is worthy of consideration. My own impression is that the word railways as used in the Bill will include tramways. It is a legal question on which perhaps even legal members of the Senate will differ in opinion. In the absence of a definite exclusion of tramways from the Bill, I think I am entitled to assume as I do that tramways will be included.
– Is it not a fact that in New South Wales a 4-ft. 8£-in. line is called a railway, and a line of any lesser guage is called a tramway.
– A line is not called a tramway, ‘ because the guage is not 4 ft. 8
– The Broken Hill line is called the Silverton tramway, because it is not built on a 4-ft. %%-xi. gauge.
– If I remember rightly, the line to which the honorable senator refers was built by private enterprise, and the real reason why it was called a tramway was that it was considered that it would be much easier to get the Bill authorizing its construction through Parliament if it was called a tramway than if it was called a railway.
– Some of the tramways in New South Wales have a gauge of 4 ft. in.
– There is a tramway from Sutherland to Cronulla. the cars on which are built upon the partially worn undergear of railway carriages. If the Bill includes tramways, we must recognise that it involves a very important invasion of the powers of the State Parliaments. If we are going to assume the right to determine the rates of wages and conditions of employment on the trains and trams, we shall also be asserting the right to fix freights and fares as being so closely related to wages and conditions. Bearing in mind the connexion between our railway systems and our financial systems, and their important bearing upon the developmental work of the different States, it follows that in giving the Commonwealth Government power to interfere in the way proposed, we shall give them the power to interfere with what, after all is said and done, is the most vital work which the State Parliaments could put their hands to, and that is the development of their respective territories, while we shall leave to them only the responsibility of financing their affairs.
I should like to say that a very inaccurate use is made by honorable senators opposite of the position of affairs in America. We hear a great deal about it, probably because America is so far away, and is the country to which we always refer for an example of anything big. It is said with regard to America that its people are impotent. The Vice-President of the Executive Council himself said that the working classes there are quite unable to work out their own destiny because of the restrictions in their Federal Constitution. These statements are made very easily and frequently. But what proof is there that the people of America desire to alter their Constitution? If they had made an effort to alter the Constitution and had failed, one would say that there was some justification for the statements.
– They have been making efforts for some years.
– I want to know where the efforts are made.
– They have tried to make the Senate an elective Chamber.
– I want to knowwhere the efforts on the part of the American people are made.
– There is one instance.
– The American’ people have never tried-
– I say that they have, and I have evidence here to prove my statement.
– If they .want an alteration of their Constitution there is only one way to proceed, lt is not by getting members of leagues or clubs tomeet and pass resolutions, however useful, as propaganda work. The real question is, What efforts have the American people made to amend the Constitution in the way which it provides? If I saw that efforts had been made, if I found that in Congress after Congress men who were pledged to amend the Constitution were unable to get any amendment put through, I could turn round and say, “ Clearly the American people have sought to amend their Constitution, but they are so bound by the Constitution itself that they are unable to give effect to their wish.” I intend to submit a very simple test as to whether they are so dissatisfied with their Constitution as is affirmed by many speakers on the other side. We have had recently the benefit of a Presidential election. I want to direct attention to the fact that, although there were three candidates in the field, there were only two principles enunciated ; one was for the maintenance of the integrity of the rights of the States, while the other was for the tearing up of the Constitution. Let me take some extracts from the platforms of the respective parties. Mr. Roosevelt, who has talked there the same as Mr. Hughes is talking here, and whose fate is probably an indication of that which will overtake the party with which Mr. Hughes is associated, put forward a platform which advocated these reforms -
Easier and more expeditious method of amending the Constitution.
Initiative referendum and recall in the respective States.
Effective national jurisdiction over problems which extend beyond the reach of individual States.
Popular review of judicial decisions on laws securing social justice.
The strengthening of the Sherman Act by specific prohibitions.
These are to a very large extent on allfours with the proposals which honorable senators opposite are seeking to introduce into our Constitution. Let us see what was put forward by Mr. Roosevelt’s opponents. First, I shall take President Taft, because an effort is being made to show that Dr. Wilson won on a minority vote. I desire to show that in this particular he and Mr. Taft stood on the same platform. President Taft said -
There is a disposition to look too much to the Federal Government for everything. I am liberal in construction of the Constitution with reference to Federal power, but I am firmly convinced that the only safe course for us to pursue is to hold fast to the limitations of the Constitution, and to guard as sacred the powers of the States.
– Take care that you do not meet his fate.
– I am going to show that the same’ view was expressed in different words by Dr. Wilson, whose fate I am quite willing to share.
– Was he elected on an adult franchise?
– More votes were cast for Dr. Wilson than for Mr. Roosevelt.
– Was he elected on an adult franchise?
– Mr. Roosevelt stood for tearing up the Constitution, while Mr. Taft stood for maintaining the rights of the States. Let us now see what Dr. Wilson advocated. This paragraph is taken from the manifesto of the Democratic party issued at the Presidential election in 1914 -
We declare that all powers ‘not specifically granted to the Federal Government belong to, and of right must be exercised by, the States in their sovereign capacity, and we assert that the most effective results in government are attained by the complete exercise by the States of these reserved sovereign powers. We are unalterably opposed to any usurpation by the Federal Government of the rights of the States.
Dr. Wilson, with that declaration in favour of the maintenance of the powers of the State Governments, was elected at the head of the poll .; Mr. Roosevelt, who stood for tearing up the Constitution, came next ; and President Taft, last. But I am entitled to assume that for the purpose of determining the views of the Americans on this question
– Whose views were npt determined in that election.
– I am entitled to say that, iri this matter, Dr. Wilson and President Taft stood on the same platform. They were both advocates and champions of the maintenance of local government. They stood with that as a prominent plank in their platform. The one man who stood there, as this Government does to-day, seeking to lay iconoclastic hands on the Constitution, to give greater powers, it was contended, to Congress, polled only one vote to every three or four votes polled by the others. If any lesson is to be drawn from that, it is that the Americans, after having tried their Constitution for over a century - a practical and shrewd people, who are quite able to meet any difficulties as they arise - with immense wealth of experience behind them, when they had the opportunity of making their wishes known, declared, not for the man who desired to tear up the Constitution, but unquestionably for the man who wanted to maintain it as it stood.
– Considering that they put one at the top of the poll, and the other of similar views at the bottom, it does not look as if the question was a live issue.
– If it is to be taken as a matter between Mr. Roosevelt and Dr. Wilson, the latter polled over two to one as against the former. If my honorable friend wants to say that Dr. Wilson was not elected by a majority vote, I am entitled to ask who was the vote splitter.
– I would not argue that, because, in a contest, there are many factors.
– It is a fair argument. When we are told that the American people are impotent and desire changes, I am entitled to ask why do they not give some evidence of that desire? Why are they not putting forward some effort to secure a change? Here they have put a man into the Presidential seat, and put into the House of Representatives and the Senate a majority, which stands behind Dr. Wilson for the maintenance of State rights.
– And so corrupt that they cannot get a law put through it.
– You are always talking of corruption.
– These interjections about corruption in the American Congress are made freely. If there is any guarantee of the purity of our public institutions, it is not afforded by centralizing them in one Parliament, but by keeping them under local bodies under the control of the electors.
– It does not seem to pan out that way in America.
– America, a large country with a central Government, is undoubtedly, in my judgment, not under that control under which it ought to be, namely, the control of the people. But we are not going to cure that by centralizing more and more; we shall be more likely to succeed by decentralizing, with the object of keeping the Government as near to the people as we possibly can.
I must apologize for having occupied the time of the Senate for so long. It seems to me that when all our legal arguments are done, we have to come down to the supreme test. Will the effect of these proposals be to take from the control of the people, matters of local concern, and vest the power to deal with them in one central authority? My honorable friends may use the term “ Federation “ or “ Unification “ as they like. The whole issue is one of Centralization versus Decentralization. When the advocates of these proposals come forward and attempt to further centralize things, they are flying in the face of the whole experience of our race. They can go back as far as they like - to the time, if they wish, when English history commenced to assume a settled form - and they will find that from then up to the present time the one factor which has distinguished our race from every other nation has been a strong and passionate attachment to the principle of local government. It first found public expression when our forefathers met under the village greenwood tree. It found itself expressed in more serious circumstances when, for exactly the same reason, but working in a different way, Boston Harbor became black with the tea which had been thrown overboard from the ships. It was the same spirit which moved one Colony after another in this group to break away from the others, not that there was any want of faith or loyalty in them, but because they had a strong conception that only by means of local government could their local interests receive proper attention. It is the same factor which has made Great Britain’s scheme a success in colonizing where other nations have failed, and it was the same spirit which rose passionate and strong as ever, and, on the 26th April, 191 1, caused the people of Australia to turn down these proposals, and declare that, as their forefathers had done, they would insist upon the right to determine their local affairs according to local circumstances and in accordance with their local judgment.
– Whether one agrees with the opinions of Senator Millen or not, still one can congratulate him upon the able manner in which he has delivered his views’ to the Senate to-day. I think that my colleagues on this side join with me in extending that compliment. I listened to his speech, and, whilst I compliment him upon the very able way in which it was delivered, I cannot see anything new which he has put forward, nor do I think that I am able to put forward anything, new in rebuttal. The tenor of his remarkshas been, first, that this Parliament is not. to be endowed with the powers it seeks because the Labour party is the predominant, party in the Commonwealth to-day ;. secondly, that workmen should not approach the Commonwealth Arbitration Court because there is a certain gentleman presiding, over that Court ; and, thirdly, that, because Dr. Wilson won the Presidency of the United States, that was tantamount to a verdict of the people as against the Federal Constitution in America and the Constitution of the Commonwealth. These were, I think, the three leading features of my honorable friend’s speech. He said, and speakers in another branch of this Legislature have said, that because on the 26th April, 191 1, somewhat similar proposals were submitted to the people of Australia and rejected, we should not now resubmit them. My honorable friend, in answer to an- interjection by me, asked : Are you going to submit them every twelve months ? Personally, I would submit them every six months if it were necessary. Senator Millen knows perfectly well that in this National Parliament there are men who submitted themselves to the electors once, twice, thrice, and were rejected. Was it because they were rejected that they failed to re-submit themselves? No, they persevered. If those men had lost heart, and had not re-submitted themselves, we would not have had this afternoon a brilliant speech by Senator Millen ; he would not have been in public life.
– If he had been elected the first time he stood he would have been on this side. _
– Perhaps we might have had Senator Millen adorning this side of the House. Those who argue that, because the people of Australia rejected the proposals submitted to them on a former occasion, they should not be given another opportunity to vote on them are arguing on false premises. The proposals submitted on the last occasion were put forward in a form entirely different from that now proposed to be adopted.
– Are they different i
– The proposals differ only very slightly from those previously submitted, but the method of submission is entirely different.
– That is immaterial.
– To my mind it is material. One of the big factors that operated to defeat the proposals put forward on the last occasion was that all the eggs were placed in one basket. When the basket fell all the eggs were broken. Now we are submitting the same proposals, but we are giving the people of Australia six’ chances, and are affording them an opportunity to discriminate between the proposals they will vote for and these they will oppose.
– They may break some of the eggs and preserve the others.
– I hope they will preserve all the eggs, because all are good. We must remember that the Constitution was created by the people, and that they are entitled to revise it. If this Parliament passes the six proposals, the final decision will rest with the people. By interjection I asked Senator Millen whether he was afraid to give the people an opportunity of voting on these proposals, and he replied that he thought it was not necessary to do so. I think it is necessary, because, unless the powers now sought are given to the National Parliament, it will become an absolutely useless institution.
– What is the use of the referendum?
– What is the use of having an election? Even though he may not believe in elections, the honorable senator will have to submit himself to the electors next year, and he ought to be willing to give to the people the right to decide what powers shall be exercised by the representatives whom they return to the National Parliament. Members of the Op- position in another place have said, inside and outside the House, that some of the powers sought should be granted to the National Parliament, and have declared themselves to be in favour of such powers being conferred. But, because a Labour Government is in power, they will not vote in favour of granting such powers, nor will they advise the people to do so. The powers now sought are not intended to enrich this party or the Opposition, but are intended to endow and enrich the National Parliament.
– And kill the States.
– No. Senator Millen, with all his eloquence, could not prove that if the Federal Parliament had its powers extended as proposed, the State Parliaments would be robbed of any of their powers. My point is that the powers are not being sought for the benefit of any party, but for the National Parliament.
– Only one party is asking for them.
– There can be only one party in control of the Government, and these measures can be submitted to the people only through the Government and the Parliament. In the first place, we ought to ask ourselves whether the powers proposed to be given’ are necessary. If we think they are, it will be only fair to pass these measures, and place them before the people, at the same time putting forward our views so that the people may have a thorough grasp of the situation. I contend that the public platform is the place for detailed statements. The first Bill we have to deal with relates to trade and commerce. lt is proposed to omit from the provision in the Constitution dealing with trade and commerce the words, “ with other countries, and among the States.” If this change be made, the Commonwealth Government will be able to exercise control over trade and commerce throughout Australia. I cannot see any difference between trade in one place and that in another. Trade and commerce in South Australia are the same as in Western Australia, and so on throughout the Commonwealth. Whilst under the Constitution we have control over trade and commerce among the States, we have no power over trade and commerce within the States, and” unless our powers are enlarged, we shall be helpless. Senator Millen contended that the States can exercise all the control necessary over trade and commerce within their own boundaries, but the States have not exercised their powers. I could point to many instances in which the States have been neglectful, and in which the Federal Government have found themselves powerless to act. For example, we have no power to follow up noxious drugs which may be introduced here.
– We can prevent the introduction of such goods.
– But we cannot follow them through the States once they are introduced. We do what we can to prevent their introduction, but once they are brought in, we are powerless.
– If we cannot prevent them from coining in, how can we expect to follow them up?
– We can follow them up in a different way. When the goods come in, they must be labelled according to law, and we want that label to follow the goods throughout the States.
– Goods may be brought in under a certain label, and their real character may be disguised. Afterwards the labels may be changed, and the goods distributed throughout the States. In this way, poisons are being distributed broadcast.
– Why do not the authorities stop them from coming in ?
– We endeavour to do so, but the goods are introduced under the wrong labels. As regards the Railway Disputes Bill, great objection has been lodged against it; but I fail to see why the Commonwealth Parliament ought not to have control over railway men, as well as any other body of workers, so far as disputes are concerned.
– Let the States deal with their own employes. Surely they are qualified f
– The States are certainly qualified to deal with their own employes ; but it has to be recognised that the railway employes ot Australia are federated lo-day, and in the event of an industrial dispute arising amongst one section there is the danger of that dispute spreading throughout Australia. This Bill seeks to give the Commonwealth power to deal with a dispute of that nature. I fail to see why railway men should be left out of parliamentary control.
– They are under parliamentary control.
– But they are not under Commonwealth control. I see no difference between the human composition of a railway, man, and a postal man, or a Customs man.
– A postal man is under the Commonwealth. If the States asked for leave to deal with him would you give them the power?
– I do not see why the railway men should be prevented from coming under the control of the Commonwealth in connexion with disputes. It is not proposed to interfere with the internal management of the State railways. The States will have full control of the railways as far as management and working are concerned.
– Railways managers say, according to a report in this morning’s paper, that the sooner we have Unification the better.
– I am not speaking of Unification. I am contending that the railway servant ought to have the privilege which this Bill seeks to confer upon him, and which will not in any way interfere with the internal management of the State railways. There is no doubt that we have trusts and combines. It has been proved time and again that the cost of living has increased as a result of the operation of these trusts, and surely this Parliament ought to have power to control them. It is all very well for Senator Millen to say that in America a certain class of legislation has been in existence, and that we in Australia have passed certain legislation which, we do not use. But I want to point out that that legislation was simply a matter of regulation, and has been proved in America to be absolutely futile. We want power to determine what a trust and a combine is. The people of Australia were asked on the 26th April, 1911, to give Parliament this power. They did not do so on that occasion, but since then I think they have become sadder but wiser people. As regards industrial matters, I think Senator Millen rather strained the point respecting Mr. Justice Higgins. He said that there was a desire on the part of employes to go to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court because Mr. Justice Higgins was President of that Court. The honorable senator was not fair to Mr. Justice Higgins. He practically imputed that Mr. Justice Higgins would only give a verdict in favour of the employes as against the employer. I contend that if there has ever been a President of that Court who was absolutely just, it is
Mr. Justice Higgins; and 1 would ask Senator Millen to be careful when he imputes partiality to that honorable and learned Judge.
– The only thing is that I did not make the statement.
An Honorable Senator. - By inference.
– Neither by inference nor in any other way.
– The burden of Senator Millen’s song was that the workers of Australia are anxious to get to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court because Mr. Justice Higgins is President of it; and if any other inference can be drawn by the honorable senator from his remarks than that which I have drawn, he is a much cleverer man than I take him to be. Is it because Mr. Justice Higgins is President of the Court that the workers of Australia are desirous of going to that Court? I say “No,” because the workers know perfectly well that Mr. Justice Higgins cannot last for ever. He must pay the debt of nature at some time or other, and it is absolutely foolish to say that that is the motive which actuates the employes in seeking justice in that Court. The real reason why they seek to go to that Court is because, under the Act, imperfect though it may be, they have a better chance of getting justice than they have before the State tribunals. Senator Millen laid great stress on the coal strike in New South Wales. Let me remind the honorable senator that that coal strike is a justification for seeking the powers that are proposed to be conferred by this Bill. Senator Millen and his party are advocates of industrial peace.
– We do not try to fan industrial war.
– No; but honorable senators opposite say that we on this side are in favour of industrial war. Both statements do not fit in. We, as a Labour party, are not in favour of industrial war, because we have advocated arbitration, and, as the result of that advocacy, we have the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. But whilst honorable senators opposite advocate industrial peace, they see an objection to this measure in such a crisis as occurred in connexion with the coal strike in New South Wales, and advocate that under such conditions as those this National Parliament should stand idly by. Let us review the position. That coal strike was certainly, as an industrial dispute, confined to the State of New South
Wales, so far as the employers and employes were concerned, but will Senator Millen, or any of his party, tell me that the effect of that dispute was not felt beyond the boundaries of that State? Was there not a danger of the trade and commerce of Australia being paralyzed through that strike? Whilst the National Parliament -was ready and willing to intervene, the constitutional powers which it possesses would not allow of its intervening. The State tribunal could do no good. The National Parliament was willing to offer its assistance through its industrial tribunal, but that assistance could not be availed of owing to the Constitution. Again, we had the Brisbane tramway strike, as a result of which there was a danger of the whole of the tramway services of Australia being held up. I know something of that strike. Whilst the State tribunal failed, the National tribunal could not be availed of, and I ask the advocates of industrial peace, when they are on the platform during the next referenda campaign, to place those facts before the people fairly and fearlessly.
– Our leader put them before you to-day, and you cannot reply to them.
– But Senator Millen did not put forward the facts which I am now mentioning. I want him to put the other side of the case. Then we come to the next Bill, dealing with corporations. That involves the question of new Protection. The desire, I think, in Australia to-day is to see that the workman gets proper remuneration for his labour, and whether by means of the various tribunals, such as Wages Boards, State Arbitration Courts, or the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, the tendency has been to increase wages. What I want to know is this : Of what use will it be to a workman who gets an increase of 4s. a week in his wages, if the cost of living, as regulated by these corporations, increases to such an extent that he has to pay 6s. per week more for the necessities of life? Who gets the extra 2s. ? The workman does not ; the corporations do. It is the corporations that regulate the prices of every commodity in life.
– Rubbish !
– The best way to reply to such an interjection is to ask the honorable senator to stand up and disprove my statement. This policy involves new Protection. We as a Parliament have given
Protection to the people of Australia. But Protection ought not to stop at the sea-board. I do not want the Government of this country to protect the manufacturer only. It should also protect the worker and the consumer. I want to see the worker in a protected industry get a living wage, which will enable him to live as a human being should. I also want to have it provided that the consumer shall only be charged a reasonable price for the commodities which he buys. The last Bill on the list is one for the nationalization of monopolies. There are monopolies in existence with which we need to contend. When the people were asked on the last occasion to give the Federal Parliament this power, they refused to do so. Since then the monopolies operating in this country have taken advantage of that vote of confidence by increasing the cost of living very rapidly. When the matter is submitted to the people again, I have no doubt as to how they will vote.
– I suppose that a monopoly was responsible for a rise in the price of potatoes?
– Monopolies put up the price of several things. There is a Beef Combine.
– In imagination.
– The Meat Combine in Western Australia exists in actual fact, not in imagination. I could, if I chose, occupy time by quoting from articles which have been published in the Age in connexion with the Meat Trust. The Age is not a Labour organ, and I can, therefore, refer honorable senators to it without suspicion that I am alluding to one of the advocates of our party. The Western Australian Government have fought the Meat Ring.
– Is meat any cheaper now ?
– Is the Western Australian Government still operating?
– I heard the other day that they had stopped.
– The honorable senator should inquire again. The Federal Parliament is not the final arbiter in this matter. I know that these Bills will pass. It will then be for the people to say “ Yes “ or “ No “ with regard to them. When they are being advocated from the public platform, I should like to see the question lifted above the level of party politics.
– What is the good of saying that, when the Labour party made the question a test one? They did at the Hobart Labour Conference.
– They did nothing of the sort. They simply said that the present Government should re-submit to the people the same proposals as were submitted in1911, and should not depart in the slightest degree from the powers then sought.
– Is that a plank in the Labour platform ?
– It is a plank of this Government.
– Why is the Caucus trying to turn people out who do not believe in this policy?
– I know of no Labour Caucus that has turned anybody out because he does not believe in our referenda policy.
– How many Labour men will oppose it?
– I am not in a position to say. They can do so if they choose. I contend that it is not really a party proposal.
– I say that there is not a free man in the Labour party; not one who dare oppose the policy.
– There is not a man in the honorable senator’s party who dares support it.
– I think that that is a fair reply. But even if every Labour man in Australia were pledged to these proposals, it would not mean that it was a party question. Nor would it mean that the Government are necessarily going to be endowed with these powers. We are asking the people to endow the National Parliament with further authority. That is the sum and substance of the position ; and all the subtlety and wit of honorable senators opposite, no matter how they may try to twist the utterances of their opponents, will get away from that position. When these Bills are submitted to the people I have no doubt that their vote will reverse the position in1911, and will endow Parliament, not our party, with the power that is sought.
– I have listened very carefully to the speeches that have been made in this debate, and wish at the outset to offer my congratulations to the Leader of the Opposition for the admirable speech which he made this afternoon. Personally, I should be quite prepared to allow Senator Millen’s statement of our case to be laid before the people side by side with any defence of the Government proposals which might <be made from the Ministerial benches. The electors might then be very well left to decide between the two points of view.
– Then it would be a cake-walk for the referenda proposals.
– I think not. If I possessed all the eloquence of the best of parliamentary speakers and a far greater measure of ability than I can claim, I do not believe that anything I could say would alter a vote in the Senate. Our arguments will not affect the carrying or rejection of the Government policy. Everything will depend upon the vote of the people.
– The whole of the speeches are to be printed and circulated, and the honorable senator’s arguments would have their due effect.
– If Senator Needham was put up to reply to Senator Millen I am only sorry that he did not make a better job of it. The present referenda proposals are submitted in a somewhat different form from those brought forward on the last occasion. But they are for identically the same purpose. The Labour party have the same object in view. It would be futile for any Ministerial supporter to try to show that the effect will be different from putting the questions separately, than if they were put in a bunch. The form of their submission does not make the slightest difference. I am aware that it has been alleged that the last referenda issues were clouded by the Opposition, and the VicePresident of the Executive Council has urged that the people desire to reverse their former decision. But I do not believe that. Indeed, I venture to enter upon the realms of prophecy. I have taken a considerable interest in politics in Australia, and I venture to tell the Government that these proposals will be rejected by an even larger majority next year. We were told by the Prime Minister that if the last proposals were not adopted, other measures would be brought forward which would cause the opponents of the Government to fall down with fright. Well the people have not fallen down with fright, and I have no hesitation in predicting that the negative majority will be bigger next time than it was last.
– The people instead of falling down with fright will rise up in anger.
– I am satisfied at all events that the proposals will be rejected.
– The honorable senator is a false prophet. I do not remember whether it was Balaam or the ass who prophesied on a well-known occasion.
– The honorable member is very apt in quoting from Scripture. If Solomon were living to-day he would add the Australian Labour party to his list of the never-satisfied. They are never satisfied, and are always asking for something more. They are asking now that this Parliament should have the right to deal, not with. Federal matters, but with matters which should properly be left to the State Parliaments. If the powers asked for are given to this Parliament, there will inevitably be a conflict between the Commonwealth and the State Parliaments, and this Parliament will probably prevail. I am at a loss to understand how any one can contend that these proposals are not in the direction of Unification.
– If the honorable senator says so, that settles it.
– Then Senator McGregor need not look any further. The effect of these proposals, if agreed to, would be to bring about a condition of affairs in which wo should experience all the disadvantages of Unification, without any of its advantages, and the second state of this Federal Parliament1 would be much worse than the first. I point out, also, that if adopted, the effect of these proposals would be to very greatly increase the work of this Parliament. We should require about two years in which to do the work which would need” to be carried out in one. Even under existing conditions we are within a few days of the close of a session of six months, and there are still a great many measures to be passed. I do not wish to deal with the whole of these Bills, or to speak at length with respect to any of them.
– The honorable senator believes in some of the proposals.
– No, I do not believe in any of them. I do not think that the powers asked for are necessary.
– Surely the honorable senator would control monopolies?
– What is a monopoly? Before the appointment and report of the Sugar Commission we were led to believe that the sugar industry was in the hands and under the control of one of -the greatest monopolies in the Commonwealth. If there was one great curse in Australia, we” are invited to believe that it was the company controlling the sugar industry. The present occupants of the Treasury bench appointed a Royal Commission to inquire into the sugar industry, and fortified the Commission by passing such legislation as has never been enacted anywhere else on the face of the globe. The Sugar Commission have made their inquiry, and have submitted a report in which they absolutely set aside the suggestion that the industry is controlled by a monopoly.
– Did the Commission act upon the legislation referred to?
– The legislation I refer to was contained in one of the first measures passed after I had the honour of a seat in the Senate.
– Was it acted upon ?
– I do not know how far it was acted upon. Will Senator Russell deny that the legislation to which I refer was passed, for the express purpose of fortifying the Sugar Commission by enabling them to obtain evidence which they could not otherwise obtain?
– I asked the honorable senator to say how far the Sugar Commission availed themselves of that legislation?
– I do not know. Senator Millen. - It is evident that they obtained sufficient information to enable them to present a report.
– I am reminded by what has taken place of the story of the man who was charged with stealing some ducks. When he was asked, “ What do you know about these ducks?” he said, “Bust the ducks, I wish I had never seen them.” I think that, represents the position of the Government in view of the report that has been presented by the Sugar Commission. Senator Needham referred to the Meat Trust, but I fail to see that there is a Meat Trust exercising a monopoly in Australia.
– Does the honorable senator wish to see it?
– I am unable to see it. I know something about the meat industry. I have had the honour to hold an auctioneer’s licence for the last thirty years.
– Is the honorable senator aware that an American representative of the Trust, when interviewed in Melbourne, said that they had started operations in Queensland?
– That may be so, but I do not know what operations they have started.
– It was said that they started a meat works.
– I presume that Senator Gardiner wishes to infer that, having started a meat works in Queensland, the Trust will, from that little beginning, proceed to monopolize the whole of the meat business in Australia. I know the system under which Australian cattle are sold. I know that in Adelaide they are offered al the same time in the open” market by ten or twelve different agents to 120 or 130 different butchers. The stock are put up at public auction, and I have never known of any collusion amongst the buyers. Where does the meat monopoly come in? I believe that it cannot be truly said that any meat ring has started operations in Australia.
– We have had a meat ring in operation in Western Australia for the last twelve or fifteen years.
– I am able to inform the honorable senator that when there has been a scarcity of stock in Western Australia, and a surplus in South Australia, stock have been sent from South Australia to Western Australia to supply the demand. This is one of the questions which is settled by the law of supply and demand.
– Supply and demand have nothing to do with it in Western Australia.
– I think they have.
– Then the honorable senator does not know anything at all about the subject.
– Possibly Senator de Largie knows all about the cattle business as well as about everything else.
– I know all about the Western Australian meat tr.ade.
– I know something about it also, and I know that when there has been a surplus of stock in South Australia they have sometimes been shipped to Western Australia. When it is- profitable to do so stock are shipped from one State to the other. That has been and will continue to be the practice adopted throughout the Commonwealth. I might as well be told that there is a monopoly in connexion with the business of breeding lambs for export.
– -That is not a monopoly in South Australia, because there the State has stepped in.
– In what way? By buying lambs? How many has the State bought for export?
– I shall get the figures, and quote them for the honorable senator.
– The honorable senator will find that the State has purchased none. The lambs are purchased by private persons, and are shipped through the State. We may be told that there is a monopoly amongst the wheatgrowers, and it may be said that this is another subject about which I know nothing. Senator Millen put a very strong case when he referred to the fixing of the price for wheat in Australia without reference to the price obtainable in Europe. Senator Guthrie met the honorable senator by suggesting that Australian wheat could not be put upon the European market in twenty-four hours. That showed that the honorable senator did not know what he was speaking about, because Australian wheat is often sold in the European markets within twenty-four hours.
– By people who have not yet bought it.
– That is so, and I say “ good luck “ to the man who can hit the European market at its highest point, and buy wheat afterwards to fulfil his contracts. I do not know whether Senator Gardiner has such a man in his mind, but there are not many men in Australia who could carry on a business of that kind for a very long time.
– The biggest insolvency in New South Wales just now is that of a wheat speculator.
– I was going to refer to that. A company was started a few years ago for the purpose of selling options, with the result that the head of the firm has gone out, by his own hand, and the firm has recently been declared insolvent. If there is a man in Australia who can strike the European market for wheat at a high point, why should he not do so? If he sells in that way before he buys, who derives the benefit? If he can sell in the European market at a high price he is able to give the wheat-growers of Australia a high price for the wheat which he buys from them to fill his contracts. I assure the Government that, if they have the slightest idea of going into the wheat business, they must become speculators. The whole of the wheat grown in Australia cannot be eaten here. A portion has to be shipped to the European markets, and when a man ships there - whether he buys the wheat before he sells it, or vice versa - he becomes a speculator. The Government cannot get away from that fact. That is exactly the relation of the wheat market in Australia to the world’s markets. The only thing which affects the price of bread here is the price of wheat in the world’s markets. The price of wheat in Australia is not ruled by the local market, but by the markets of the world, plus the freight. By no other system that I :know of can this market be regulated. I know that it has been said that there have been wheat rings and combines here. For the last eight or nine years I have had something to do with the wheat business of South Australia in connexion with the Farmers Cooperative Union. We have never been under any agreement, or in any ring. So far as that union is concerned, the people of Australia have got the price which their wheat realized in the European markets. I really do not see how a wheat ring can exist in the face of a big shipping firm like that doing business legitimately for the people of Australia. I think that that argument falls to the ground.
– Have you decided that there are no trusts in Australia?
– In Australia there is any number of trusts. I am not arguing for a moment that there are no trusts. I do not know how far the intention of this Government runs in the direction of regulating the price of wheat, but I will offer them a little advice. Senator McGregor has stated here that when I have spoken on a subject all has been said. If he will try to make an arrangement whereby he can regulate the season the price will regulate itself. That is my experience of Australia; I am not speaking of any other part of the world. We all know that the prices of a great number of commodities in Australia are guided by the fluctuations of the season. We need to refer to only one or two items. Take a household commodity which is still at a very high price - that much abused article of diet, the ordinary potato.
– Have you anything to say against the weather since we came into office?
– No. The point I am pressing is that the Labour party cannot control the weather, but if they could do something in that direction they could do a great deal more to regulate prices than they possibly could by legislation or other means.
– They blamed us for a drought in winter.
– If the Labour party were responsible for the weather, I do not think that they would occupy the opposite benches very long in view of the weather which we are now experiencing. Since they cannot influence either the weather or the season, they have no power to regulate the price of a commodity. By what process, for instance, are the Government going to regulate the price between Australia and the Old Country? As regards the loaf, what control have they over the European markets? How do they propose to regulate the price of potatoes, which went up to £26 a ton, then down to j£io, and in a few weeks will be down to £5 or £6? How will they regulate the price of other commodities, such as fruits? They know quite well that a crop of fruit which is plentiful one season is as a rule very cheap, and that next season the crop of that fruit is very scarce and the price is very dear. My remark applies particularly to the apricot crop, though it applies nearly as much to the apple crop. It is not possible by any legislation to keep prices on anything like an even basis.
– It is possible to prevent combines from regulating prices and putting articles beyond the reach of the people.
– Some time ago I asked the honorable senator to define what a combine was. I do not admit there are the combines which are spoken of.
– What about the Associated Millers, to begin with? Do they not fix the price monthly?
– Anybody who is engaged in the wheat business does not fix the price monthly or weekly, but daily. Why ? Because the matter is controlled by the markets of the world. It is only from a knowledge of the state of those markets that a man can decide what price he will give for wheat from day to day.
– You know that many a time the prices are fixed annually.
– What price i3 fixed annually?
– The price of flour.
– Never. I do not believe that the honorable senator can cite one instance where the price of flour has been fixed, not for a year, but for a month at a time.
– I can give several instances where the price was fixed annually.
– By the biggest buyer in Victoria, too.
– I gave two instances just now. I mentioned a case where a firm in New South Wales endeavoured to supply wheat on the option principle for twelve months ahead - I refer to the firm of W. H. Short and Company. Perhaps the honorable senator may be able to give me instances of a speculator in flour who has attempted to do the same thing. He may have cornered the market, or he may not.
– Do not the bakers fix the price of bread ?
– I do not know how often the bakers fix the price of bread. An increase or a decrease of is. a ton on flour does not materially affect the price of bread.
– Competition does not fix the price of bread ; the bakers meet together and fix the price.
– The prices for wheat and flour fluctuate from day to day, and until the bakers see that the prices are on a fairly steady and even basis they do not attempt to fix the price of bread. I thank God that these proposals have not to be decided by this Parliament at the present time, but have to be referred to the people. I believe that when the people have looked carefully into them they will not grant to this Parliament greater powers than it now possesses..
Sitting suspended from 6.27 to 8 p.m.
.. - .What I have to say with regard to these proposals will at least have the merit of exceeding brevity. I think that any long speeches at this stage would be a mere waste of time.. Thesequestions have been before- the country, and have been threshed out by honorable members in another House for some weeks past, and they have been discussed in both principle and detail by the leading newspapers to such an extent that those who have been sufficiently interested . to make themselves acquainted with the issues to be placed before the people know just as much as if the Senate were to prolong the debate for another few weeks. I would much have preferred to listen to one speech from the leader of each side and then go to a vote, because I venture to say that nothing that may be said in this debate would have the effect of changing one vote in this Chamber. So far as influencing the vote of the people outside is concerned, we know very well that, from this time until the vote is taken, the newspapers on each side-unfortunately, they will mostly be on the one side, because the other side does not happen to have many newspapers to support its view - will fully place the various questions before the people from their respective points of view. We have had such a plethora of argument from the most experienced constitutional authorities in Australia that nothing remains to be said. I only wish to make one or two points. Honorable members on the other side have charged us with having made this question a party issue at the Inter-State Labour Conference. But whether that be so or not, no such flagrant party statement has been made by the advocates of these proposals as that made by a member of the Opposition in another place, who is looked upon as the leading constitutional authority of his party. When we find a gentleman occupying his position making the statement that, even though the powers now sought may be necessary, it would be too dangerous to give them to the party in power, it seems to me that party fighting cannot go any further. This is nothing less than the utterance of a Czar. In effect, that honorable member said, “ I believe a certain law would be a good thing for the people of Australia, and that certain powers should be granted to’ the Federal Legislature. But those powers should be granted only if I have the right to exercise them.” No such outrageous party utterance can be charged against honorable members on this side. I give the honorable member referred to the credit of having frankly stated what a number of others on the same side content themselves with thinking. One might mention quite a number of members -of the Opposition party who, in recent times, have stated that some of the powers proposed to be granted are necessary, but who have asserted during the last few weeks that it would not be safe to confer those powers under existing conditions. This is carrying party warfare a little too far, and makes one wonder whether there is not some truth in the articles which have been published in a certain newspaper in Melbourne recently, in which it has been asserted that party government has been tried and has failed. If party interests lead to a man saying, “ This law will be a good law if I have to administer it, but it will be a bad law if the other fellow has to administer it,” the electors will very soon demand that party government shall be done away with. I claim for our party the merit of facing a big task at a time when it cannot be said that we have any great chance of victory. When, only two years ago, we asked the country to ratify these proposals, we were defeated by an enormous majority. But this fact does not deter us from again bringing forward principles in which we thoroughly believe. We cannot be charged with running away from our principles.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - I do not suppose that any other party would have remained ira power after such a rebuff-
– The honorable senator knows that every party is made up of certain constituents, and that it has been decided by the various conferences connected with the party to which I belong that these proposals shall again be put forward.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - That is where the honorable senator and his colleagues draw their inspiration from.
– The inspiration is drawn by the delegates to the conference from .the people; and there is no doubt that the majority of those who occupy leading positions in the Labour movemeats believe that the principles we are advocating are sound, and that the people made a mistake at the last referenda. This being so, they are right in insisting that the proposals shall again be submitted. They believe in these proposals, and whatever may be said as to the audacity of asking the people to reverse their enormous adverse vote, it cannot be said that we are recreant to our principles. I believe that we have taken on a Herculean task, .but J am sanguine enough to believe that, owing to the experience through which the people have passed since the last referenda, some, if not all, of these proposals will be accepted. If these proposals are not accepted, and if the majority of those connected with the Labour movement still believe that they have sound national principles underlying them, they will submit them again and again, until the people are able to see that it will be to their own interest to confer increased powers upon the National Parliament. We believe that trie people of Australia are in danger of being unfairly treated by a few individuals who have attained unusual wealth and influence, and that the Federal Parliament should be endowed with increased powers, in order to combat the detrimental influences which threaten to become operative. I do not pretend to be able to bring forward anything new, and I do not intend to deal with the proposals in detail. All I wish to say is that when the fight is being carried out before the public, I hope, for the sake of the purity of our public life, facts, and only facts, will be brought forward by both sides. I do not suggest that only one side is in the habit of drawing the long bow when big questions of this kind are before the people; but I know that when I was advocating the adoption of the proposals submitted at the last referenda, I was brought face to face with statements made on the other side, which, if they had not been so absurd, would have been criminally inaccurate. They were almost too absurd to be misleading, because one could hardly conceive that any sensible elector would be deceived by them. It is a pity that great national issues such as those about to be submitted to the people cannot be discussed on a plane far higher than that of party politics. It seems a pity that both sides will not stick absolutely to the facts, and that individuals should condescend to make such misleading statements as were made on the occasion of the last referenda. I am not going to detain the Senate any longer, because we will have plenty of time to place the position from either point of view on an occasion when our words will have greater effect than by continuing this discussion at an inordinate length, as was the case in another part of the Parliament. I should like, however, to refer to an extract which appeared in one of the daily papers in Melbourne last week, taken from an American or London newspaper, giving the aggregate wealth controlled in America by a certain number of persons. The figures are astounding, and are sufficient to make the people in Australia believe that if ever such a state of things were to arise here they will be in great danger of being exploited by those few persons. It may be that we have not reached that stage in Australia, but it is because this party believes that we are even now approaching that stage that we desire to have these increased powers for the Federal Parliament. If the other side would leave party out of the question they ought to be quite prepared to give the Federal Parliament these powers, and say, “ Trust the majority of the people. Trust the electors to send to Parliament at each election men whose views they agree with.” If they are not prepared to trust the majority of the people, they must deny the virtue of majority rule. It is said by our opponents that these extended powers are going to be exercised by the Labour party, but who knows what the result of the next election will be ? It does not matter who wins at the next election, the shadow of which is now hanging over this House; it is the Parliament that will have the powers, and will be in a position to exercise them when they think it necessary in the interests of the people. It is not any particular party that will have an exclusive right to exercise them, although that fact was lost sight of when the question was debated in another place. The debate has not proceeded far here, but running right through the speech of the Leader of the Opposition was this note : This party has done something which makes it not a fit party to be trusted with these powers. That is beside the question.
– I did not touch that point at all.
– The honorable senator did not say so in so many words, but that seemed to be the underlying conviction in his mind. The question is : Is our National Parliament to have these increased national powers?
– You were pleading just now for nothing but facts being placed before the electors. Do not start by misrepresenting what I said.
– I do not wish to misrepresent the honorable senator, but I could not listen to his speech without being convinced that that was in his mind.
– That was not. because I am quite convinced that your party will not be where it now is after the next election.
– That is a very good reason why the honorable senator should vote in favour of giving these increased powers to Parliament. It cannot be too clearly kept in the minds of honorable senators that it is not any party that is asking for these powers, but it is Parliament itself. If the Opposition get into power, as they say they are going to at the next election, they will have the handling of these powers, and if they do “not think it necessary to bring down legislation in accordance with these increased powers, they need not do so. The real issue which ought to be placed before the people has been clouded by almost all the speeches that have been made in opposition to these proposals. The issue is not as to which party can be trusted to exercise these powers, but shall Parliament have them? That is the great issue which we cannot escape, try how we will, and that must be left to the people themselves to decide. Those who do not deny majority rule will be content to leave that issue to the people. I believe that the people, in the light of their experience during the last, two years, will view with more favour the proposal to grant these increased powers, and that, at least some, if not all, will be accepted by them. I believe that on the last occasion many people did not look closely into these proposals, and, as a result, voted against them, while others voted against them: probably through misrepresentation. I believe it is necessary that these powers should be vested in the National Parliament, and I hope that the good sense of the people of Australia will carry the proposals.
– We have six Bills before us - a very fair number to deal with at once - and I am very pleased to have a few words to say upon them. There is, I admit, little to be said after the speech of the Leader of the Opposition. I should have preferred to hear more speeches from the Government side before being called upon to speak, but as certain arrangements have been made, I am prepared to step into the breach now. We ought to hark back a little, and reflect what the people of the Commonwealth would have s’aid before the initiation of Federation if we had asked for the powers that are now asked for in these Bills. I can remember the great fight that we had when Federation was carried, and I believe that if those powers had been asked for then, we should not have had a Federal Parliament sitting to-day. Why are we asked to give these increased powers to the Commonwealth Parliament? Simply because members of the Government side have reached a cul de sac. They say they can go no further, unless they get extended powers. The people of the country have not asked for those powers. A little over twelve months ago, when they were asked to vote upon this question, they distinctly said, by the largest majority ever recorded in Australia, that they would refuse ‘to grant such powers. Who has asked for them? The gentlemen occupying the Treasury benches. I do not believe in giving these powers to any Federal Parliament, for I am- assured - and have thorough belief in the assurance - that the State Parliaments have full powers to meet all that is being asked for. The State Parliaments have full power to deal with any of these matters that arise within any of their own States. A great many people, rightly or wrongly, believe that the object aimed at in asking for these powers is Unification. Several members of Parliament in both Houses on the Government side have pledged themselves to Unification. The Government, however, are not prepared to propose it openly, although they want to get it by side issues. There are gentlemen connected with the Labour party who hold exactly the same opinion as members on this side with regard to these proposals. What does Mr. McGowen, the Leader of the Labour party in New South Wales say -
These amendments are fraught with grave possibilities, and, if carried, will result in endless confusion and conflict between the States and Federal Parliament.
That is the opinion of a gentleman who not long ago was held in great esteem by the Labour party in New South Wales.
– He is still.
– I have heard others say that he is not, and that they can do without him now. I do not know whether they can or not, but he holds the highest position in his State, and surely his opinions are worth listening to. He further says -
I object to these Federal Referenda, because I do not believe that the industrial powers can be administered properly by the Federal Government.
Is not that a valuable admission to come from a gentleman occupying Mr. McGowen’s position? If he believes that, it is allowable for honorable senators on this side to believe it also, though it is equally allowable for honorable senators opposite to disbelieve it. Mr. McGowen likewise said -
Granting the powers asked for will mean that all industrial laws now operating in the States will pass to the Federal Administration. What is demanded is too sweeping.
I am of the same opinion. The States themselves are quite competent to deal with these matters when difficulties arise. If the day should come when it is discovered that the States are not competent to deal with them, it will be ample time to give to this Parliament extended powers. Senator Millen referred to a case that has been before the Courts in which the Government failed. But he showed that if the Government had proceeded under another Act of Parliament they would probably have been successful. They preferred to proceed under an Act six years old. If there is any blame to be attached to any one for what occurred, it lies at the door of the Government, because they did not proceed under the1910 Act. Passing from that point, I may refer to what has been said by Mr. Justice Higgins. Hesaid, dealing with a proposition in regard to the exercise by the Federal Parliament of extended powers -
If the argument for the Crown is right, the results are certainly extraordinarily big with confusion. If it is right, the Federal Parliament is in a position to frame a new system of libel laws applicable to newspapers owned by corporations, while the State law of libel would, have to remain applicable to newspapers owned by individuals. If it is right, the Federal Parliament is competent to enact licensing Acts, creating a new scheme of administration and of offences applicable only to hotels belonging to corporations.
If it is right, the Federal Parliament can enact that no officer of a corporation shall be an Atheist or a Baptist, or that all must be teetotallers. If it is right, the Federal Parliament can repeal the Statute of Frauds for contracts of a corporation, or may make some new Statute of Limitations applicable only to corporations.
In that passage Mr. Justice Higgins showed the confusion that will result by placing these powers in the hands of the Commonwealth. Laws will be passed by the State and Federal Parliaments which will come into conflict.
– The Federal laws must prevail.
– Honorable senators opposite want to take away from the States the right to make theselaws.
– There will be no conflict then.
– There will be a conflict, because there are State laws already in operation with which the new Federal laws will conflict. When Federation was accomplished, certain powers were intrusted to the Federal Parliament. Other powers were left to the State Parliaments. Each authority was supreme within its own ambit. It is now urged that the State Parliaments have not exercised the powers left to them. Butno proof has been given. I am assured, on very good authority, that the State Governments are able to exercise the powers effectively under State laws. The Federal Parliament has not been in all cases too successful with respect to those Departments which have been transferred to its control. It is true that in regard to defence we have done pretty well. Before Federation, each. State had a small pettifogging Army and Navy. The people of Australia desired that defence should be under the direction of the central Government. We have now established an Army and a Navy, and: I hope that in a short time we shall derive very good results from them. But we certainly have not been so successful in other directions. In the Post and Telegraph Department matters have not been proceeding too well. Day after day, and month after month, the officers of that Department have expressed their dissatisfaction with Commonwealth rule.
– The condition of things is a good deal better than it was in the State days.
– That is questionable. Certainly, the Post Office is not a happy family at present. Officers have told me that they are in a worse condition now than they were under State control.
– In Queensland?
– Yes. When they complain, very little attention is paid to their grievances. They are simply referred to the Arbitration Court. If we are to assume further powers, we should first prove to the people of Australia that we have exercised well and wisely the powers we already have. Some men in the Service state that their earnings were comparatively higher before Federation than they are to-day. They make out a very good case. They say that the extra cost of living, since we passed the last Tariff, means that they are worse off than they were before. Their increases of salary have not been commensurate with the rise in the price of commodities. We hear frequent cries about the condition of the working men. Surely the postal officials are working men, even though they do not work with pick and shovel. Yet we ignore their complaints, and say that if they do not like their treatment they can go to the Arbitration Court. Surely we should put our own house in order before we attempt to interfere with the functions of the States. References are continually made to the state of affairs existing in America. America is, of course, a country of great things. We are told, “ Look at what is occurring in America under the rule of the trusts ; do not let them occur in Australia.” I am not frightened of anything of the kind occurring in this country. Australia has been settled practically entirely by British people. In America, I suppose, for every one springing from the British-speaking race ten have sprung from other nationalities. Tens of thousands of immigrants to that country are unable to speak English. Politically they are controlled by “ bosses.” Their votes are manipulated in blocks. They do not understand the politics of the country. Our people, however, are wide awake. If they saw that anything was occurring here such as has sprung up in America, they would scotch it very quickly. Another factor in American politics to account for the great combines which have sprung up in the country is the enormous Tariff wall. I believe in Protection, but not in prohibition ; and that is practically what they have in the United States of America. Trusts and combines flourish under very high Protection. Even in this country, when the Tariff was last amended, a certain section secured Protection to the extent of nearly 50 per cent. They immediately formed a combine, and about halfadozen men, whose names I could mention if I chose, made great fortunes. They shut out all competition. It is by such means that combines are created ; and it is only in countries like America, or where the Tariff is very high, that combines can exist. I do not believe that they will ever flourish to any extent in this country.
– There are a few combines in Free Trade England.
– I should like the honorable senator to mention them. I have heard something about a combine in the sewing cotton industry, which, I believe, was started by four or five Paisley weavers. There is no system of protec tion in the Old Country, and any person is at liberty to start any industry there. I do not see how, under the circumstances, there can be said to be combines in England. People have the same opportunities also in Australia to carry on any industries which they think they will be able to operate successfully. I may at this stage be permitted to refer to the attitude adopted by the Labour party to the Coal Vend. At the time I entered the Senate some important speeches dealing with this matter were made by Mr. Watson, a former Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, the present member for Newcastle, and other leading members of the Labour party. They claimed that the Coal Vend, instead of being a detrimental combination, operated for the benefit of the miners of Newcastle. The various coal mine owners were cutting each other’s throats in competing for the coal trade. The wages of the miners were reduced to the lowest possible rate until an agreement was come to by the mineowners to sell coal only at a certain price. An arrangement was made at the same time to increase the wages of the miners. The combination of the mine-owners was therefore at once beneficial to themselves and to the miners; but we hear now that the Coal Vend is not a beneficent combine. This indicates a considerable change in the views of members of the Labour party. Why should the miners of Newcastle be asked to work for 5s. or 6s. a day merely because the mine-owners were competing against each other? Where it can be shown that by combination those engaged in a particular industry can avoid competition amongst themselves, and benefit thousands of employes, without doing any material injury to the public, how can any one contend that such combinations are injurious to the interests of the Commonwealth ? I have before me a short statement made by Senator Henderson on the subject of the Coal Vend. He said -
It has materially increased the selling price of coal, and also the wages of the men who produce it. The coal combine has done much good service up to the present time.
– I say the same thing now.
– And I agree with the statement which the honorable senator made. Speaking in1906, Mr. Watson said -
We should take care that nothing is done to prevent such legitimate combination amongst the coal mine-owners as may enable them to get a fair profit on the capital they have invested, and Insure fair wages to their employes.
I agree with that statement also.
– That is quite right. Up to that time the public were receiving what the miners were receiving.
– Before the establishment of the Coal Vend there was cutthroat competition between the mineowners, whilst the men had to accept starvation wages, and the consumers of coal were very little benefited. Mr. Watson further said -
The Newcastle miners have gone out on strike to get a general agreement with the coal mine proprietors, and endeavour to Bring them into :i combination so as to put the business on a fair basis.
We have recently heard a great deal of the injury which the Coal Vend has done. We have heard this from members of the Labour party, particularly in another place. I have quoted from statements made by gentlemen who have occupied high positions in the Federal Labour party to show that they considered the Coal Vend was beneficial to the country as a whole. I have quoted Mr. Watson as saying that the men went out on strike to compel the coal miners to combine. We are told by the Government that they are not able at the present time to deal with combinations. I have no doubt that Senator Guthrie with me remembers the time when the steam-ship companies carrying on services on the Australian coast were engaged in a cut-throat competition with each other. They paid no dividend from year to year, and it was possible to pet a passage from Brisbane to Sydney for
– I maintain thar they have formed a combine pure and simple. They came to the conclusion that it was useless for them to be fighting each other in the interests of the public.
– I say that there is no combination between the shipping companies and the seamen. We had to go to the Court to fight them.
– There is an honorable understanding to share the swag that they take from the public.
– I am aware that the seamen went to the Court. What 1 say is that the shipping companies came to the conclusion that it was of no use for them to continue their competition with each other. They came to an agreement, and subsequently made arrangements to better the condition of their crews. They have done so, and fares have gone up in consequence. When the matter was before the Conciliation and Arbitration Court the representative of the shipping .companies said to Mr. Justice Higgins, “ If Your Honour says that we must pay ,£80,000 or £ 00,000 a year more to our employes, we are only common carriers, and the public will have to pay.’”’ That is the whole thing in a nutshell. The seamen are behind the shipping companies in this matter, because they know that if they are to be paid better wages the shipping companies must make higher profits, and these must be obtained from, the public.
– For every extra shilling which they pay in wages they charge the public as.
– I shall not argue that matter, because I have not seen the shipping companies’ books, and am unable to say whether that is so or not.
– If the seamen worked for nothing, would the freights be lower ?
– Yes, they were lower when the wages were lower.
– No, they were higher.
– Senator Guthrie is willing that the freights shall be increased by 2s. per ton so long as those whom he represents get half of it.
– Senator Guthrie agreed with me as to what took place years ago, and I ask him to say whether if the cut-throat competition between the shipping companies were continued he believes that the seamen would have secured increased wages?
– Yes, they would. If you set one company against another you can expect to get higher wages. When all the companies are in combination against you you cannot expect higher wages.
– It is of no use for Senator Guthrie to try ‘to gull me or the public. No man who knows what was the condition of affairs in connexion with the shipping industry thirty or forty years ago will deny my statement that the companies were then in competition with each other, that they sweated their employes, and that it was possible, as I have said, to secure a passage from Brisbane to Sydney for 53. Since then the shipping companies have combined, the seamen have been able to get better terms, and the public have had to pay all the time.
– The honorable senator thinks that the public should not have to pay anything.
– No, I believe that the public should pay their fair share. But I say that every extra shilling added to the wages that have to be paid in an industry results in an increase in the price of the products of that industry which the public must buy. If I go into u grocer’s shop in which there are several men employed, and tell the proprietor that he must pay them from 1.0s. to £1 per week extra, he will get the money out of the general public.
– The same applies to rent.
– That is so. If a man has to pay £,600 to build a house which he could have built for .£500 some time ago, he asks a higher rent for it than he would have asked if he could have built it ait the lower price. This is all in accordance with the natural law, which applies all round, and which no legislation which this Parliament can pass will ever alter. We are invited to believe that under one of these proposals submitted it will be possible, in the near future, for the Government of the Commonwealth to regulate prices. That is the most ridiculous nonsense that was ever uttered. How will it be possible for the Government to tell every town and country storekeeper in a continent like Australia what prices he shall charge for the goods he sells?
– We do it now in connexion with the Post Office, and in connexion with the railways.
– If Senator Guthrie had read history, he would know that in ancient times Governments have sought to exercise this power. They have said, for instance, that the 4-lb. loaf of bread should be sold for a certain price. All these experiments were tried hundreds of years ago, and they broke down. It is evident that the present Federal Government have learned nothing from the experience of the past. They are now proposing a trial of experiments which will not, in my opinion, be in the best interests of the Commonwealth. I do not say, with a previous speaker, that the Labour Government should not be given the power to fix prices, but I say that no Government should be given such powers as are asked for in these measures. It will be time enough to ask for these powers for the Commonwealth Parliament when it is shown that the State Parliaments have not such powers, if they choose to exercise them. I wish now to make some reference to the Bill which deals with railways, the property of a State. In my opinion, that is one of the worst of the measures which have recently been submitted. The people of the States have built their railways, and the different State Governments have had to find the money for their construction. They have had to regulate the freights charged upon them to meet, to some extent, the expense of running them in the interests of the people. Yet in this proposal the Commonwealth Government say to the States, “ We will take over the control of your railway servants.”
– They do not say anything of the kind.
– Practically it amounts to that.
– No ; it subjects them to the same law as everybody else.
– Practically it means that the Governments of the States cannot manage their own affairs.
– Your party proposed to take over the whole of the railways,.
– I am not dealing with the party.
– The party did not do so. It is only Senator Guthrie who says that- it did.
– Senator Guthrie may make a statement, but I am not bound to accept it. I hold that to take over the permanent railway servants of the States, and not to allow the people of the States through their Parliaments to decide whether in a dispute the men are right or wrong, is to take away power from the States. I consider that the Federal Parliament has no more right to interfere with the servants of a State Government than a. State Government has to interfere with the servants of the Federal Parliament. What right have we to arrogate to ourselves that power ?
– We have given to our own servants the right of appeal to the Arbitration Court.
– My honorable friends did give that right, but the public servants did not want it.
– It is one thing to do what you like with your own servants, but another thing to deal with servants of other people.
– The Federal Government are trying to deprive the States of the control they have over their servants. The Commonwealth will not have to pay the wages of these men, but through the Government it is seeking for power to prescribe the conditions under which they shall work. Is this proposal really feasible? Surely the people of a State like Queensland or New South Wales or Victoria are competent to judge of what is good for their own State, and also what is good for its employes, without the Federal Parliament, representing the six States, intervening.
– Yes, but is it good for the Commonwealth?
– I challenge the right of the Commonwealth to attempt to interfere with the local government of the States.
– It is not interfering with the local government, but with an industry.
– The members of the State Parliaments are elected on the same franchise as are the honorable senator and myself.
– A majority of the other States might want to coerce a State. That is wrong. Have the people of the States asked the Commonwealth Government to take this course? I want to know who has asked the Commonwealth Parliament to do this thing. The public servants of the Commonwealth kicked up a row, and wrote to nearly every member of the Senate when we forced them to go to the Arbitration Court, instead of the Government dealing in an open and manly way with them, as they ought to have done, hearing their grievances, and, if desirable, redressing them. Our public servants objected to this Parliament driving them into the Arbitration Court; and now honorable senators opposite want to take power to drive the State employes to the sameCourt.
– The State servants tried to go.
– My honorable friends opposite want to give them the right to go there.
– If they want to go.
– I think that we should mind our own business, and allow the States to mind their business.
– Suppose that the railway service of a State was disorganized through a dispute, would it not affect the whole of the Commonwealth?
– It might, and the Commonwealth Government might be the means of starting the dispute. We have known such things to be done before.
– We know very well that there was a strike in progress, and that honorable senators believing in that strike subscribed money.
– Do you call that a strike ?
– The Prime Minister subscribed towards the strike fund.
– He did not cause the strike.
– He helped the strikers. There are various ways and means of proceeding. A man does not always do a thing openly. I think that if I subscribe to a movement I indicate that I sympathize with it. When men find that they have the sympathy of the gentleman at the head of the Commonwealth Government, they think that the best thing they can do is to continue the strike.
– Suppose that a man subscribes to the Mount Lyell Disaster Fund, could it be said that he caused the disaster at Mount Lyell ? That is all that your argument amounts to.
– No. Because I saw the honorable senator’s name down for a subscription of £1 is to the strike fund, that does not show that he believed in the strike.
– That is more than any man can charge you with doing.
– Yes, as regards a strike; but I believe that as to anything else I am a little more liberal than is the honorable senator. I do not believe, and I never have believed, in strikes.
– Hear, hear ! Nobody else does.
– It seems that some persons do.
– We want to give the right of appeal to the Arbitration Court.
– The reason why the Government seek power to deal with the railways of the States is because they say that a dispute may extend to one or two States ; but I want to know what right we have to interfere with a State in this way ? Assuming that we have such a right, how is it proposed to compel the railway servants to accept an Arbitration award? We know very well that after Mr. Justice Higgins gave his award in a certain case the men refused to accept it. Suppose (hat the railway men should refuse to accept an award of that Judge, we shall be exactly where we started from.
– The Broken Hill Proprietary Company did the same thing.
– Very likely. I am not excusing that company for what it did, but showing the difficulties which will have to be contended with if this power is obtained from the people, and how it will break down. If Mr. Justice Higgins, or any other Judge, were to give an award affecting 20,000 or 30,000 railway employes in two or three States, and it was unsatisfactory to them, what power should we have to compel them to accept the award? None.
– What power have we to stop a man from thieving?
– - We can put a thief, on conviction, in gaol, but we could not imprison 20,000 or 30,000 men, simply because we have not the gaols available. The exercise of the desired power would simply lead to revolution, as it has done in other countries, because we could not enforce a decision against 20,000 or 30,000 men. That is a moral impossibility.
– Would you put a man in gaol because he would not accept a wages award?
– I do not wish the honorable senator to put that statement into my mouth. I said, in answer to an interjection, that we have not gaols to accommodate 20,000 or 30,000 men. I do not, like Senator Ready, put a man on the same footing as a thief because he goes on strike, because the former thinks that he has no right to be compelled to work unless he gets his own terms. The law recognises that every man has the right to go about without working, if he can afford to do so, until he gets his own terms. But if a man thieves, he has broken a law of the country, and he is, on conviction, sent to gaol. But there is no law to the effect that Senator Ready, or any one else, must work. If he has means to keep himself, he is at liberty to walk about until he gets the remuneration to which he ‘ thinks he is entitled for his work
– There is a law to fine a man if he breaks an industrial agreement.
– It is all very well for the honorable senator to make that statement ; but we have heard, not once or twice, but dozens of times, that an industrial agreement has been broken, and no community is able to punish the men who do that thing.
– There has been no breach of the Federal law.
– Yes ; and this afternoon Senator Millen proved that up to the hilt to the satisfaction of any man who is willing to listen to reason.
– How many strikes have there been under our Act?
– In Queensland we have at present seventy-four W ages Boards. Surely they are as competent to deal with these matters as are any Wages Boards created by the Commonwealth?
– Look at the wreckage of the Clerks’ Wages Board in Victoria.
– The honorable senator can always see something wrong.
– Is it open to every worker to go to a Wages Board in Queensland?
– No. The Act does not apply to the Waterside Workers Union.
– The Waterside Workers Union has been to the Arbitration Court, and does not want a Wages Board.
– The Act does not apply to the men engaged in the coasting trade of Queensland
– No, because the men have not asked for a Wages Board, but it is always open to them to do so.
– They have no power to ask for a Wages Board.
– The honorable senator knows that if the waterside workers wish to have a Wages Board they can get one appointed to-morrow.
– That shows that they do not believe in the Wages Board system, but would rather go to the Arbitration Court.
– The strongest organizations of the waterside workers are in Sydney and Melbourne. In Queensland the organization is small, and that is why the men have not asked for the appointment of a Wages Board. Any body of men who want a Wages Board have only to make an application, and a Board, comprising representatives of the employes and employers, with an impartial chairman, will be established. What fairer tribunal is it possible to have?
– In Tasmania the men applied for Wages Boards, but Parliament refused to establish them.
– We know that, but Tasmania is a little behind the times. They will come along in time, and since we have given them ,£500,000, I hope that they will make more, rapid strides than they have hitherto done. In New Zealand a Royal Commission was appointed to report 011 the cost of living and wages. It consisted of the following gentlemen -
Mr. Edward Tregear, I.S.O., ex-Secretary of Labour, Wellington.
Mr. Andrew Fairbairn, merchant, Christchurch.
Mr. Edwain Hall, Auckland Agricultural and Pastoral Association, Auckland.
Mr. James Hight, M.A., Litt.D., F.R.E.S., Professor of History and Economics, Canterbury College, Christchurch.
Mr. George William Leadley, farmer, Ashburton.
Mr. William George Macdonald, solicitor, Westport.
Mr. Hon. Robertson, M.P., Levin.
Mr. William Andrew Veitch, M.P., Wanganui.
After holding an exhaustive inquiry, what did the Commission say was the cause of a great deal of the unrest in the Dominion? To show that it is not exactly what honorable senators opposite have tried, and will try, to make out, I shall read an extract from the report -
The Commission, after close inquiry, is of the opinion that highly-protected industries have increased the cost of living to 95 per cent, of the people, and that the duties, especially on the common necessaries of life, should be abolished. They recognise, however, that the encouragement given by the Government has induced many of these industries to operate in New Zealand, and that it would almost amount to confiscation if the protection afforded were suddenly abolished, but they believe it is in the best interests of the community as a whole that no further encouragement be given in the form of protective duties. It is their opinion that a system of bounties is more satisfactory in every way, which would give all the encouragement necessary to help any useful industry into active being.
We have often been told here that, we should look to New Zealand for an example in the shape of Wages Boards or an Arbitration Court or anything else of the kind that was good.
– That was long ago.
– No, because New Zealand still has these high duties.
– Are you arguing in favour of Free Trade now?
– No; I am arguing: that the higher the duties are raised the higher will be the cost of living and therates of wages. I was told on the floor of the Senate, in 1907 or 1908, that the higher we made the Tariff the cheaper would be the necessaries of life to the consumers.
– What about beef?’ Is there any duty on meat ?
– I shall deal withbeef directly.
– It is too dear to deal with it now.
– It is not dear in the honorable senator’s part of Queensland or in my part.
– It is.
– It is not too dearyet in my part of the State. This New Zealand Commission says that it does not wish to see any higher Protection. Weknow that we have men in our midst who would go for prohibition, but they must takethis into consideration - that the higher you make the duties the higher will be thewages of the men, and that upon every shilling of duty that you impose, the purchaser has to pay a profit. That is exemplified by a case which wasbrought under my notice the other day. A business man told me that when he imported ^8,000 worth of goods,, by the time he paid freight, commission,, and charges, as well as a 40 per cent, duty, they cost him ,£12,000 landed at his warehouse. He charges a profit on that. £12,000, and the people have to pay it. I believe in giving an industry a fair start, and then letting it go on its own.
– That is not one of the chief causes mentioned by the New Zealand Commission. There are four othersbefore the one you mentioned.
– I am giving this one, and it was given to me by a member of theother Chamber on the same side as the honorable senator - Mr. Mathews. You canhardly accept the report of every Commission that is issued, because those on theCommission are, to a certain extent, biased ; but there is one thing we have to acknowledge, and that is, the higher you make the cost of living the higher wages will have to he, and the greater will be the unrest in thecountry. If a man is being paid, say, 45s. a week, which is regarded as an ordinary living wage, he begins to agitate for more.. The more he gets the higher prices go, and!
I do not see where there is to be an end of it. If a business man. has to pay more for his goods, he will pass that on. If he has to pay increased wages to his employes, he will pass that on, and the consumer has to bear the burden all the time. We have been told that the Canadian system- of government is better than ours, but I do not think it is. In Canada, senators are appointed for life, and that I regard as a blemish on the Canadian system of government. In South Africa, you must possess £500 worth of property before you can even become a candidate, and if you are elected you hold your seat for ten years. I regard the period of office as too long, and I do not see why a man must have ^500 worth of property before he can become a candidate- Here we are more democratic. Any man can become a candidate for the Federal Parliament, whether he has £50° -or only 5d.
– We may be far more democratic, but we have far less power.
– I say we have not. What power have the people of Canada -over their senators once those senators are appointed ? No power whatever. Those senators can be as autocratic as they like, and can defy the people of Canada. Here, every three years, half the senators and all the members of the House of Representatives have to go up for re-election, and if the people think we are not doing our duty they can reject us>. In the United States of America there is a different system again. The senators are elected by what we should regard here as the State Parliaments. I do not believe in that. I believe that we have the freest and best system, and if we use wisely and well the powers that the people have granted to us, we shall be doing very good work’ indeed. We should let matters remain as they are until the people of Australia are satisfied either that the States have not the necessary powers, or are not using «them wisely and well, and then they will themselves cry out for this remedy. The original intention was that the Senate should look after the interests of the States, and see that the Federal Government in the House of Representatives did not encroach on the powers of the States; but have we done our duty in that respect? I say we have not. If these extraordinary powers are granted to us, what action will be taken by the States? Is the State of New South’ Wales, with nearly 2,000,000 of people, going to be satisfied with six representatives in the Senate, when Tasmania, with under 200,000, has the same number of representatives? No. They would be foolish if they were. Will the State of Victoria, with 1,500,000 of people be satisfied to have the same representation in this Chamber as the smallest State? Then, again, Queensland is growing, and will that State, in a few years, be satisfied with such a condition of things ? No. If we take these powers, we shall compel those States, for their own protection, to demand larger representation. It seems absurd that we should want to encroach on the powers of the States. Great Britain might as well seek to get the same powers in respect of Canada, and say, “You have no right to self-government.” You can get to Canada from Great Britain in less time than you can get from the Capital site, or Melbourne, to parts of Australia, and yet we want to control the whole of Australia. Why was it that New . South Wales did not continue to govern the whole of Australia? Because people found that, being so remotely situated, they could not get justice from the people of New South Wales. They cried out for Parliaments of their own, and now, instead of Australia being one huge State, as it was then, we have six Governments. Yet it is sought now to take away the power of selfgovernment from people who are living thousands of miles away from the Federal Capital. If that be done, you will have the people crying out for local government, and saying that they want home rule. We see that all the world over. Do not the people in north, south, and central Queensland know their requirements better than people residing in this part, although the people down here have a preponderance of representation because they have a larger population? Is it fair to take away from the States of Western Australia, ‘ South Australia, and Tasmania the right to govern themselves? I say it is not. We know there is an agitation going on- in Ireland for Home Rule, although the journey from England to Ireland occupies a few hours only, and there are members of this Parliament who strongly advocate the granting of Home Rule to Ireland.
– Are you a Home Ruler?
– Yes; I am a home ruler for Queensland. I have extracts to show that a number of members of the Government party were great advocates of
Home Rule, but here we want to take home rule away from our people. The people of Australia are not foolish, and they will retain the power which they have to govern themselves locally when a vote is taken on these proposals. I arn sorry that the vote is to be taken at a time when political feeling will be running high, but I am sure that the people of Australia will do as they did on the last occasion, and will say, “We will retain our powers of self-government. If we find we are not able to rule ourselves, we will ask you to do so, but till then we request you to mind your own business, and we will mind ours.”
.- Ope would imagine from the remarks of Senator Sayers that Parliament was asking for something to which it had no right. In pre-Federation days I was a member of the Federal Council that endeavoured to democratize the people in the direction of securing Federation, and I remember clearly that those who took part in the debates at that time put it forward that Federation would give to the people of the whole of the States those powers which they could not effectively wield at that time, and which would be instrumental in benefiting the whole community. Furthermore, those who were the strongest advocates of the Constitution clearly indicated in their speeches from the platform that the State Parliaments would cease; that there would no longer be need tor them; and that the powers that could not be advantageously exercised by the Commonwealth Parliament would ‘be intrusted to a few small local governing bodies. 1 remember addressing a meeting at Kilmore upon the Commonwealth Bill. My stand-point then was that it was not sufficiently democratic. I strongly objected to the powers conferred upon the High Court, and to the imperfect means of altering the Constitution. But I was told from several quarters that I did not know what I was talking about ; that the powers that I said ought to be contained in the Bill were in it already ; and that the Federal Parliament would have absolute control over trade ana commerce within States, outside States, and with foreign countries. I was assured that I was making the biggest mistake of my life when I alleged that there were restrictions upon the Federal control of trade and commerce. But time has shown that my interpretation was correct. By the proposed amendments of the Constitution now under consideration, the Government desire to confer increased powers upon the Federal Parliament. The Opposition oppose them- because they fear that the Labour party will be returned to power at the next election. If our opponents believe that we shall be no longer upon the Treasury benches, what reason have they for fearing that the people will grant these increased powers? Personally, I have no doubt as to what the verdict of the people will be. At the last referenda our opponents throughout the Commonwealth appealed to passion, prejudice, and ignorance. The people will not be so easily gulled on the next occasion. But if the Opposition are assured, not only that the Government will be defeated, but that the people will reject our policy, what reason have they for objecting so strenuously to these proposals?
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - We are not going to destroy the rights of the States if we can help it.
– The attitude of the Opposition is exactly the same as was the attitude of the State Righters at the inception of the American Constitution. They feared that the Central Government were taking from the States powers which the States could exercise better for themselves. I would remind honorable senators that ir? the early days of Federation in Australia there was very little doubt that some of the powers for which we are now ask:ng could, under the Constitution, be exercised by the Federal Parliament. Legislation was actually enacted at the instance of previous Governments which the High Court overruled. It was assumed a few years ago that the Federal Parliament could1 place upon the statute-book any law relating to trade and commerce. It was not until the High Court commenced to interpret the Constitution that we discovered how very limited our powers were. What is the main argument of our opponents now ? It is that if these powers are granted to the Commonwealth they will be misused - that the party now in power is not to be trusted with such authority. A more degraded attitude I cannot ‘imagine. It is astonishing to me that our opponents should suppose that we would be guilty of misusing powers conferred upon this Parliament for the purpose of carrying out the wishes of the people, to whom we are responsible. Is it conceivable that, upon national questions, we should be so false to our trust? But the same sort of misrepresentation as was used to defeat the last referenda proposals must be expected to be used in regard to these. I remember spending a month in Gippsland addressing meetings in advocacy of the proposals submitted to, the people in 1911. The electors were then told by persons paid by Liberal organizations that the effect of conferring those powers upon the Federal Parliament would be that not a: single parcel could be removed from a railway station platform unless it had a union label upon it.
– - Did not the honorable senator- contradict the statement?
– When a lie is once started, it is difficult to. overtake it. It was actually said up, and down the country that not a sack of potatoes, 01 a hencoop, with a few. fowls in it, or a carcass of pork-, could be removed from a railway station unless it bore a union label. It was impossible to follow all the statements, made as to what the effect of the proposed amendments of the Constitution would be.
– If was said that children would, lose their names, would all be numbered, and put into Socialistic institutions.
– The statement was made that if the powers asked for were granted to, the Federal Parliament, old-age pensions would be done away with. Women in this city receiving a little for the care of children were told that they would no longer, receive any money from the Government, because the Labour party would exercise- these powers to establish nationalnurseries.
– Did the honorable senator tell the people that the Liberal party introduced’ old-age pensions?
– The Liberal party never did anything in that- direction except under pressure. It was the pressure of public opinion which compelled their recognition of the’ right of old people to receive pensions. When, with other members of the party with, which. I am associated I advocated the payment- of old-age pensions, more than twenty years ago, no, member, of the Liberal- party then advocated1 them. They did not at any time entertain- the idea of the establishment of a> minimum wage- or Wages Boards to. regulate the wages paid in. factories.. It was. the- pressure of. public opinion,, inside and -outside of; Parliament, that forced the Liberals who were in power at the time to recognise- the necessity for passing such, legislation. ©wing’ to misrepresentation these proposals were defeated when submitted to the electors on the last occasion. I would ask honorable senators to say from whom we propose to take these powers? Are not the electors of the States also electors of the Commonwealth, and will they not be able to exercise these powers in a broader and more comprehensive way through their representatives in the Parliament of the Commonwealth than they can ever hope to do through those who represent them in the Parliaments ot the States ? We are asking only for what is reasonable and right. The whole of these proposals were submitted to the electors on a previous occasion, but in a different form. It is now proposed that they shall be submitted as separate proposals for constitutional amendment, and the electors will be able to vote upon each separately. I have no doubt that if they are explained to the people without misrepresentation or appeals to prejudice and parochial considerations, they will be prepared to concede these powers to their National Parliament, because they will realize that they can be better exercised by this Parliament than by the- State Parliaments. They will realize that by conferring upon this Parliament the power to regulate industrial affairs the people of the larger States;, in which the population is scattered, will be benefited as much as the people of smaller States in which the population is more concentrated’. I believe that these proposals will be opposed only by persons animated by the parochial spirit. As was the case in the early days of the American Constitution,, the greater minds engaged in. advocating. Federation, in. Australia invited thepeople to believe that gradually the State Parliaments would be restricted in their operations,, and. the control of affairs of the Commonwealth would to a-, greater extent be undertaken by the Federal Parliament.
– No one ever said that.
– I can assure thehonorable senator that members of the Federal Convention, made that statement. I heard such statements made from- hundreds of. platforms- in Victoria- by. advocates, of Federation. They declared’ that when- Federation . was consummated the State Parliaments would- gradually dwindle in’ importance. I. remembers that- at that time those who complained of what they consider^ to. be> defects; in1 the, proposed Constitution were- not called Unificationist^; but- something; much worse:. It know that”. when I spoke upon some of the restrictions imposed upon the National Parliament by the proposed Constitution, I was told that I should be in gaol for opposing the proposals then before the people. That kind df thing was said at a time when people had no knowledge of what would be the result of Federation. No one then believed that the Senate would become democratized as it has been, or that the Labour party would ever occupy the Treasury benches in the Commonwealth Parliament. Our experience has been such that it will be useless, when these proposals are next submitted to the people, to tell them that if these powers are granted to this Parliament the Labour party will seek to wreck the. Constitution.
Debate (on motion by Senator E. J. Russel) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Bill being passed through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Findley) read a first time.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– Before the Senate adjourns, I have a matter to bring under the notice of honorable senators. It affects the interests of certain employes in the Post and Telegraph Department. Under departmental regulations officers employed in the tropical portions of Australia have been granted a tropical allowance of 20 per cent, in the case of those whose salaries do not exceed £100, of 10 per cent, on salaries from £100 up to £200, and of 5 per cent, in the case of those receiving salaries of over £200. According to information supplied to me by persons whom I know, I find that at Herberton the scale of tropical allowances has been reduced. Officers who were enjoying the benefit of a tropical allowance of 20 per cent, on their salaries have had the allowance reduced to 15 per cent. Those who were getting an allowance of 10 per cent, have had their allowance reduced to 7^ per cent., whilst no reduction has been made in the tropical allowance given to officers in receipt of salaries of over .£200. I should like to know why this action has been taken. It is a hardship on the officers whose allowances have been reduced, and I feel sure that it was not the intention of this Parliament that such a reduction should be made. I have here a price-list showing the cost of living at Herberton as compared with the cost of living in places further south, or on the coast. I am informed that in the Herberton district, under an agreement between the Miners Union arid the mine-owners, miners are paid an extra wage of is. 8d. per day to cover the extra cost of living. By the reduction of the tropical allowances the Post and Telegraph authorities have taken a course which, if it were taken by private employers of labour in any part of Australia, would arouse the indignation of honorable senators opposite. I do not think that the course followed will be approved by the Senate. A salary of £100 a year in the North can only be regarded as a starvation wage. It must not be forgotten that officers of the Post and Telegraph Department cannot wear any old rags as men may do who have to work in a mining shaft. It would not do for a Government official to go about in that way. Yet we find that, in one case, this allowance of 20 per cent, is reduced to 15 per cent. The tropical allowance of an officer in receipt of a salary between £100 and ,£200 is reduced from 10 to 7 2f- per cent.; but in the case of an officer who is receiving a higher salary no alteration is made in the allowance.
– Has any reason been given for the reduction?
– I received a complaint which I gave to the ‘Minister last night, so that he might be able to-night to give some information, to the Senate. I did not wish to take him unawares. I desired to afford him an opportunity to be able .to satisfy the Senate and the people concerned that this thing, if done, is not done with the consent or the knowledge cf the Government. I only ask that these officers shall be treated fairly. I ask honorable senators if they think that a tropical allowance of 20 per cent, is too much to give to an officer who is receiving a salary of £100 in a part of the Commonwealth where everything is dear? I believe that if the Commissioner were to send a number of men there from Melbourne at that salary, three-fourths would throw up their billets in twenty-four hours. The present officials hold on. to their billets because they think that eventually they may get an increase of salary and be moved to a more temperate climate.
– Is this done under the Public Service Commissioner?
– I am not able to state who is responsible.
– Certainly ; it is all done under the Commissioner.
– In the communication I received from the officials at Herberton, they say -
We respectfully wish to say that if this injustice is not removed it will impose on us a very great hardship in the struggle for existence. It is not more than a few months back, at a conference between the mine-owners and the representatives of the A.W.A. that it was unanimously agreed, on account of the high price of living in this district, to grant the miners a rise of is. 8d. per day.
That is what the miners are now being paid. When a case is made out private employers voluntarily make a concession ; but that is not the case under the Commonwealth Government, who, of course, are responsible for the action of the Commissioner, though I am not suggesting that it was taken with their knowledge.
– It is not the Government, but the Commissioner, with whom the responsibility rests.
– Surely he is under the control of the Government in some way ?
– No ; an Act of Parliament controls him.
– Has he the power to reduce salaries?
– He has full power to fix salaries and allowances.
– I understand that he is under the control of the Minister of Home Affairs. I think that the Government are in a position to see that this wrong is rectified.
– They cannot do anything of the kind.
– If an injustice is clone, must the Government sit down and do nothing? Of what use will it be to ask the people of Australia to give the Government more power when they are not able to exercise the power which they have over their own servants? This is a case of which I know personally. Last year when I was in the district I received no com plaints, and the reduction must have been made since then. I wish to know why it has been done, and if an officer can be reduced in salary when there is no complaint against him, without the wish of the Government or the Parliament? It is time, when that is done, that the Government got the power to see that justice is done to the employes of the Commonwealth.
– It is four or five years, I think, since the Commonwealth servants on the north-eastern littoral Queensland first urged that they should be allowed a tropical allowance. The matter was threshed out at considerable length, both in correspondence and in interviews, and eventually certain scales were drawn up which were supposed to suit the conditions of the coast. At that time Herberton was included under No. 3 scale. Lower down in Queensland we got the No. 2 scale; while still lower down we got the No. 1 scale, if there is such a scale. It appears that the Public Service Commissioner has acted in an entirely arbitrary manner, and has certainly taken it into his head to alter the Herberton portion of the State from No. 3 to No. 2 scale. He has reduced the allowance in the case of the smaller-paid men, but left the allowance untouched in the case of men earning ,£200 and over. It is not likely that the Commissioner, being really an officer of Parliament, can be compelled, without considerable correspondence and friction, to obey the behest of any Minister. But we know that it is in the power of Ministers to use moral suasion with him, at any rate, to make inquiries as to why this alteration has recently been made ; and the probability is that once the matter is fully ventilated, the Commissioner will see his way. to restore the allowances to the officers in the Herberton, district. They especially require to receive again what they were originally receiving, because the allowance they were getting is really not worth as much to-day as it was when it was first granted. It is a truism that the cost of living has gone up everywhere, and the cost of living in the north grows higher in geographical progression the farther north we go. Just as when we put a duty of is. on goods, bv the time the goods reach the consumer they have been raised in price is. 6d., so the cost grows in carting and carrying goods from the south to the north. And especially it must be remembered that one of the principal and most expensive items up there are food supplies, because practically they have all to be brought up from tlie south. I hope that the ventilation of this matter will lead the Minister to make representations to the Commissioner, and to see whether what appears on its face to be an arrant injustice cannot be remedied.
– Senators Sayers and Chataway must be fully aware that the Public Service Commissioner is independent of Parliament, so far as these allowances are concerned. The Public Service Act empowers him to fix allowances for public servants in different parts of the Commonwealth. It is perfectly true that allowances amounting to very considerable sums are given to different employes, who are removed from civilization, and are working in semi-tropical and tropical parts. The Herberton case is not an isolated case. Alterations are made by Order in Council through the Commissioner, who acts on the recommendation of the inspector. Sometimes the allowances are increased, and sometimes they are reduced. But they are never increased or reduced without substantial reasons. I understand that up to July last the cost of conveying goods from Atherton to Herberton was a considerable item, because of the absence of a railway, that since July a railway has been constructed and opened, and that the facilities are greater, and the cost of conveying goods has been somewhat cheapened.
– My honorable friend is not aware that a railway has been running to Herberton for over two years. That explanation will not go.
– I was told that a railway was opened in July last. It is true that a reduction in the allowance has been made at Herberton. Reductions are made from time to time ; but they do not apply to the lower-grade branches of the Service only. They have a general application. Senator Sayers only partly stated his case when he referred to the men in receipt of £100 per annum.
– And £200.
– The honorable senator is aware, of course, that the allowance does not affect the salary. An employ 6 in receipt of £100 per annum at Herberton will receive ^115 now, instead of .£120 as formerly. An employe” in receipt of ^200 per annum will get .£222 10s. now, instead of .£230 as formerly. A man with a salary of ^300 will get ^327 10s. now, instead of ^335 as formerly, while an officer in receipt of ^400 will get ^432 10s. now, instead of ^440 as formerly.
– My informant told me that Scale No. 2 is exactly the same now as it was before.
– This information is, I am sure, absolutely correct, as may be seen on reference to the allowances, which are in cold print. In Queensland there is another district where the allowances have been raised from second class to third class.
– What district?
– I think it is the Bauhinia Downs.
– That is away out west.
Sneator FINDLEY. - I only cited that case to show that, while in some parts reductions have taken place, in other parts the allowances have been raised.
– There might be one official there.
– I do not know how many officials are there; but whether the number be one or two, the allowances have been raised. The allowances are affected from time to time. On reference to recent issues of the Gazette the honorable senator will find that considerable alterations have been made regarding the allowances to public officers in different parts of the Commonwealth.
– I should like to ask the Honorary Minister if he thinks this is a fair deal to the people who have gone there and taken the cost of living into consideration.
– I am not in a position to say ; but I am satisfied that the Public Service Commissioner takes into consideration the conditions in any particular district, not merely in Queensland, but throughout the whole of the Commonwealth, and he is moved by a desire to do justice to the employes of Queensland without doing an injustice to employe’s in other parts of the Commonwealth. It is a power; which he exercises under an Act passed by the Commonwealth, and he is only carrying out the duties allotted to him in respect of this matter.
– I desire to bring under the notice of the Minister of Defence a statement that was made by letter to me to-day concerning his Department. It is made in a letter which I received from the president of a body known as the Australian Freedom League, which exists for the purpose of trying to secure the abolition of the compulsory sections of the Commonwealth Defence Act. I have no sympathy whatever with that object, but that does not affect the right of people to organize for that purpose if they think fit. The letter states that the body have been holding meetings in furtherance of their object in and around Sydney, and that at a meeting held last Friday at Kogarah, one of the suburbs of Sydney, the Area Officer for the district was present, and his conduct was such as to threaten a breach of the peace.
– Does it give the name of the officer?
– No; but the writer’s name is appended, and the Minister is welcome to the letter. The - letter states that they would like to know if the officer interfered with their meeting with the approval of the Minister of Defence. It is quite certain that the officer did not, but I should like the Minister to make inquiry.
– I can only say that I should like to remind the writer of that letter that Area Officers are citizens. They do not give up their citizen rights. They are not our permanent employes, and one pf the stipulations of trie contract made with us is that they shall have the full rights of citizenship. They have the right to go to a public meeting, and take any part in it which the Jaw allows them to take. If they misbehave themselves, they can be proceeded against in the ordinary way. I do not know the circumstances, but if the honorable senator will give me the letter 1’ shall have inquiries made.
– I neglected to move a motion that should have preceded the one that we have been discussing. I would therefore ask leave to withdraw the motion now before the Chamber so that I may, prior to again moving it, move that the Senate at its rising adjourn till 10.30 to-morrow.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
Motion (bv Senator McGregor) agreed to-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till 10.30 a.m. to-morrow.
Senate adjourned at 10.20 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 11 December 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1912/19121211_senate_4_69/>.