4th Parliament · 3rd Session
The President took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Can the VicePresident of the Executive Council lay upon the table, before the close of this session, the return I asked for in connexion with the increases given to various members of the Public Service?
– I shall make inquiries, and see that the production of the return is expedited, and that it is forthcoming as rapidly as possible.
– Has the Minister of De fence yet received any report regarding the flogging of a cadet at the Sydney Grammar School?
– Yes. I have re ceived a certain report, and also a Hansard proof of the honorable senator’s speech, in which he quoted a letter from the father of the cadet. On comparing the statements therein made with the statements in the report I have received, I found some discrepancies, and,’ as the officers concerned had not had an opportunity of seeing the letter from the cadet’s father, I have referred the honorable senator’s statements to the Commandant of New South Wales, with a request that he should obtain reports thereon. He has been instructed to deal with the matter early, and as soon as a reply is received I shall bring it before the Senate, and, should it not be sitting, I shall see that a copy is sent to the honorable senator.
– Is the VicePresident of the Executive Council in a position to inform the Senate when the Auditor-General’s report for the last financial year will be presented?
– I replied the other day that the preparation of the report was being expedited as quickly as possible. I shall again make inquiries, and let the honorable senator know the result of them.
– Is the Minister of
Defence now in possession of a supplementary report from the Chief Electoral Officer regarding the matter of the statistics and the enrolment for New South Wales which I brought under his notice the other day?
– The question asked by the honorable senator related to the electoral figures and statistical returns for the State of New South Wales. I have now been furnished with the following memorandum: -
Memorandum, in reply to a question by Senator Millen, in relation to the State Statistician’s estimate of the electoral population of New South Wales.
The electoral canvass of New South Wales commenced in the first week of April, and did not conclude until the lastweek in July of this year. The State Statistician’s estmates are as follows : -
Estimated population on 31st
March, 1912 … … 1,709,618
Probable number of adults … 957,000
Estimated population on 30th
June, 1912 … … … 1,727,753
Probable number of adults … 968,000
The State Statistician finds it difficult to estimate the number of adults not eligible for enrolment, but from the data available thinks it may be approximately 26,000.
In all statistical estimates of electoral population a considerable margin must be allowed owing to the impracticability of determining with any degree of accuracy the number of adults whose places of living are at any given time in a particular State.
Chief Electoral Officer, 17th December, 1912.
I may mention that for the convenience of honorable senators who have been following up this question, I propose to get some copies of the memorandum typed and distributed amongst them.
– May I be permitted to say that the memorandum does not in any way deal with the question of the discrepancy between the electoral enrolment and the State Statistician’s figures. It merely repeats a statement made on a previous occasion as to what those figures were. In view of the possibility of our having to deal presently with a scheme for the redistribution of the State, will the Minister draw the attention of the Chief Electoral Officer to, the fact that that portion of my question is not dealt with in the recent memorandum ?
– I think it is dealt with in this way : that the figures now given are up to a later date than that which was covered by the previous statement.
– The figures are exactly the same.
– The former figures did not give an estimate up to the 30th June, 1912.
– If you will look up the former statement you will see that an estimate was made up to the 30th June, 1912. I obtained it from the State Statistician, and presented it to the Senate, and I suppose that the Chief Electoral Officer would get what I received.
– I shall bring the matter under the notice of the Chief Electoral Officer ; but my impression is that the figures in the present memorandum are brought up to a later date than were the figures in the previous statement, and also that they contain an expression of opinion by the State Statistician that the number of adults who would not be eligible for enrolment was not previously given. In that respect they have a bearing on what the honorable senator asked, but I will see that his question is again brought under the notice of the Chief Electoral Officer.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General,upon notice -
Whether his attention has been directed to a statement made by Miss Goldstein, as reported in the Age of 17th inst, to the following effect, viz. : “ That the telephone operators were overburdened, overworked, driven, and harassed to a terrible extent”; and, if so, will he cause an inquiry to be made as to the truth or otherwise of the statement?
– Yes, my attention has been called to the matter referred to, but I am informed by the PostmasterGeneral that the statement contained in that report is incorrect.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) proposed -
That Government business, Orders of the Day, Nos. 1 to 7, be postponed until half-past 2 p.m. this day.
– It is laid down very clearly in the Standing Orders that the call can be postponed. Standing order 28 1 reads -
When the Order of the. Day for calling over the Senate is read, unless the same be postponed or discharged, the names of the senators shall be called over by the Clerk alphabetically.
– Thank you, sir.
– On the last occasion the Order of the Day was postponed without being called at all.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee: (Consideration of the Governor-General’s Message and Amendments).
Clause 115 - (1.) Every fine imposed on a seaman, for any act of misconduct for which his agreement imposes a fine, shall be deducted and paid as follows : -
If the offender is discharged in Australia, and the offence, and the entry in the log-book required by this Act in respect thereof, are proved to the satisfaction, in case of a foreign-going ship, of the superintendent before whom the offender is discharged, and, in the case of an Australian-trade ship, or a limited coast-trade ship of 15 tons gross registered tonnage or upwards, of the superintendent at or nearest the port at which the crew are discharged, the master or owner shall deduct the fine from the wages of the offender, and pay it to the superintendent.
Governor-General’s Message. Omit 15, insert 50.
– This clause deals with the deduction from the seamen’s wages of fines for cases of misconduct, which his agreement imposes upon him. By an amendment made in clause 44, the masters of limited coast-trade ships of under 50 tons register are exempted from the necessity of entering into written agreements with their crews. Consequently, in the absence of such agreements, there can be no special stipulations for fines to be deducted from the seamen’s wages, and the penalties prescribed in clause 99 for breaches of discipline apply, of course, to all British and Australian ships, quite irrespective of any stipulations in the agreements. It will, therefore, be seen that this is a consequential amendment which should have been made when we adopted the other amendments in the clauses to which I have referred. The matter was overlooked then; hence the necessity for the Governor-General’s message.
– The effect of this amendment will be to exempt vessels under 50 tons instead of vessels under 15 tons?
– Yes. I move-
That the amendment be agreed to.
Motion agreed to.
Schedule III., page 109 -
Governor-General’ s Message. Omit the whole of the page.
– If honorable senators will turn to pages 109 and no of the Bill they will see two schedules dealing with the scale of provisions. The one which it is proposed to strike out is the sliding scale of provisions in the case of British ships not registered in Australia and British ships not engaged in the coasting trade. As a matter of fact, we have no power to prescribe any scale of provisions on British oversea ships which are not engaged in our coastal trade. In view of that, clause 117, which deals with the question of provisions, was amended so as to make it apply only to ships registered in Australia, or engaged in our coastal trade. When that amendment was made in the Bill, this particular schedule became inoperative, and should have been omitted. It is not advisable that we should retain in the Bill a scale which has no application, and which is inoperative, as it may lead to confusion in the minds of ship-masters. The scale which appears on page no of the Bill is the scale which will be operative, and which will apply to ships registered in Australia or engaged in the coastal trade. I therefore move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
– I think that the Government are making a mistake in proposing to strike out this schedule. Let me put the position of a British ship which is not registered in Australia, and which is not engaged in our coastal trade. Take, for example, the ship Dunsmore which knocked down the lighthouse at Port Adelaide the other day. The whole of the crew of that vessel have been discharged. The South Australian Government have put the bailiffs on the ship and have arrested her. A fresh crew will have to sign articles before she can leave Australia.
– Under the Merchant Shipping Act, but not under this Bill.
– Has the Merchant Shipping Act effect in Australia? In the case of the vessel which I have mentioned, the captain’s certificate has been taken from him, and the ship has to get a new master. What is the position of the crew who will sign articles on that vessel? When they sign, virtually there will be no scale of provisions relating to them. Of course, that is not a new thing, because up till 1907 British legislation did not provide a scale of provisions for the crew, and the men could be treated in any way that the master thought fit.
– But we are dealing with 1912.
– There are matters in British legislation which are not touched by this Bill. We have no power to go on board a British vessel and to examine her provisions with a view to seeing whether’ or not they are wholesome. Why, then, should we strike out this schedule? To me it seems to afford a double safeguard.
– Surely it will be necessary to alter clause 117 then?
– I do not think so. That clause refers to the schedule, and some scale of provisions ought to apply to British ships which are not registered in Australia, and which are not engaged in the coastal trade. The retention of this schedule will not interfere with the Imperial Act, because the men would get the same quantity of bread, beef, and peas under the one schedule as they would under the other. I shall oppose the proposal of the Government. Both branches of the Legislature have agreed to the Bill as it stands. It has had nine years’ consideration, and for the Government to come down at this hour with a Governor-General’s message recommending amendments in it, is to ask the Senate to stultify itself.
– I trust that Senator Guthrie will not offer opposition to this proposal. He has admitted that the Merchant Shipping Act does provide a scale of provisions. The scale contained in this Bill, except for two printer’s errors, is the scale which is provided in the Merchant Shipping Act. Senator Guthrie makes a mistake when he says that our officers have not power to board a British vessel and inspect the provisions carried for the crew. Clause 120 provides that that may be done.
– On the complaint of the crew.
– It may be done without the complaint of the crew, and it must be done on the complaint of the crew. If we retain the schedule, we shall not increase our power by one iota. Senator Guthrie will accomplish nothing by his opposition to my proposal. It is far better to strike out of the Bill provisions which will have no effect.
Motion agreed to.
Reported that the Committee had agreed to the amendments recommended by the Governor-General j report adopted.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
The measure is a very brief one, and one which I do not think will require much discussion. At any rate, I intend to set as good an example as I can. The Bill provides for an amendment of section 34 of Bills of Exchange Act 1909 by striking out of paragraph a of sub-section 1 the word “or,” with a view to inserting in lieu thereof the word “ and.” This will make the Act conform with the intention of Parliament at the time it was passed.
– What will be the effect of the provisions which the Government seek to bracket together?
– The amendment which is proposed in this Bill will bring paragraphs a and b of sub-section 1 of section 34 of the principal Act into relationship with each other. As a result, the holder of a Bill of Exchange who has come into possession of it without any knowledge that it has been dishonoured, or that there is anything irregular connected with it, will be protected.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clause 1 agreed tq.
Clause 2 -
Sub-section 1 of section 34 of the Bills of Exchange Act 1909 is amended by omitting the word “or” after paragraph a and inserting in its stead the word “ and.”
Senator SHANNON (South Australia) for only a small amendment of the principal Act, but it may be a very far-reaching one. I would like to hear the context of the two provisions which it is proposed to bracket together, in order that we may know exactly what we are doing.
– I am informed that in respect of the word “ or “ our legislation differs from the English legislation, and that by putting in the word “ and “ it will be brought into conformity with English legislation.
– It makes a man liable in respect of the two sub-sections.
– It makes him the holder under the two conditions.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This is a Bill to reduce the margin allowed under the Beer Excise Act of 1901 upon the contents of hogsheads, barrels, and half-hogsheads. The margin was allowed because brewers contended at that time that it was impossible to draw the full contents from the vessels that I have mentioned. They said that a sediment remained after a certain quantity of the liquid had been drawn from those vessels, and in order to meet them an allowance of 4 gallons was permitted upon hogsheads. Since that time very great improvements have been effected in connexion with brewing, and, according to information which has been supplied to me, it is now possible for hotelkeepers to draw almost the full contents of the vessels. Under the Act of 1901 it was provided that the dutiable contents of a hogshead should be 50 gallons, a margin of 4 gallons being allowed. On barrels containing 33 gallons a margin of 3 gallons, and on half-hogsheads containing 25 gallons a margin of 2 gallons was allowed. It is now proposed to make a reduction of 2 gallons on hogsheads, 2 gallons on barrels, and 1 gallon on halfhogsheads. Although it is contended that the whole of the contents can be drawn from these vessels, I believe that it is impossible in all cases to do that. A liberal allowance was made in 1901, because at that time,, according to those best able to express an opinion, it was a matter of impossibility to* get the whole of the contents from the vessels. Prior to Federation similar allowances were made by the different States.
– Do you say that is as liberal allowance?
– Yes, so far a* duty is concerned. These reductions in the margins will result in about £25,000 per annum of additional revenue being obtained. There is another slight alteration desired in the Act by this Amending BillHonorable senators are aware that at present half -pint bottles are imported into theCommonwealth. For instance, stout corner into the Commonwealth to-day in half -pint bottles, but whilst importations of bottles’ of that size containing liquids are permitted, the local manufacturers are not allowed under our Act to send out liquids in half-pint bottles. An alteration is therefore desired in that direction, in order to place local manufacturers on the same footing as importers. There is another slight alteration proposed in the Act, and that is-; in regard to the definition of “vessels.”’ These words are desired to be inserted : - “ vessels of prescribed sizes, but having a.-, capacity greater than that of hogsheads.”
I understand that in some States to-day the practice is growing up of putting beer in cylinders. As a matter of fact,, brewers of beer are not permitted todo that under the Act, and in order to convenience them - and it will bea great convenience to brewers of” beer if these words are inserted - it is proposed to make provision for allowing them to put beer into cylinders.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales> [11. 8]. - I do not desire to detain the Senate in regard to these amendments, except to point out that the effect, so far as revenue is concerned, will be to take £25,000 out of some persons’ pockets and put it into the Treasury. That may be justifiableor it may not, but it is well to make it quiteclear that, as a result of this Bill, another £25,000 of taxation is to be levied. I am not able to say, except from the information given by the Minister, whether the Customs Department has discovered that there is some leakage of revenue which ought to be stopped. If there is such a leakage, there is no doubt as to what ought to be done ; but I merely want to emphasize the fact that the effect of this Bill is to put £25,000 of the people’s money into the
Treasury. This proposal, of course, is going to complicate the duties of Ministers if the legislation which they propose be carried, when they are called upon to fix the price of beer, the brewers of which will presumably pay this additional duty.
– It cannot affect the price of beer, because it will only amount to 1 -9th penny per gallon.
– The difficulty of the Government will be as to how they are going to apportion all these allowances in this nice way in the purely machinery legislation which they have in mind.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
Section 5 of the Beer Excise Act 1901 is amended -
by adding to the definition of the word “ vessels “ the words “ vessels of prescribed sizes, but having a capacity greater than that of hogshead.”
– I should like to ask the Minister why it is provided that a cylinder should hold more than a hogshead. If a cylinder is a convenient vessel for holding beer, a cylinder containing a1/2-hogshead might be just as useful and convenient as a larger one. I suppose there is an explanation, and I should like to know what it is.
– It is with the view of meeting the wishes of those engaged in this industry that this amendment has been inserted.
– Was this amendment suggested by the brewers themselves?
– Yes. Under those circumstances I do not know that any objection can be raised to meeting their wishes.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 3 and 4 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment ; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Since the passing of the Act, two or three years ago, many difficulties have been encountered in connexion with its administration, and many hardships have been endured by persons who were intended by Parliament to be benefited by this class of legislation. This Bill is a short measure for the purpose of removing some of the defects in the original Act and making it more beneficial to poor old people, and also to a certain class of invalids. One amendment is intended to remove the friction and difficulty that now arises in connexion with cases where contributions of an intermittent character are made by children for the support of their parents. It is proposed to omit from the computations of income received by old people amounts that may be contributed now and again by members of their families. Considerable difficulty has also been experienced in connexion with people who have been residing in our midst for many years, but who have not been naturalized. Many of these persons have been with us for forty or fifty years, and have proved good citizens. The original Act provides that any persons otherwise qualified to receive the old-age pension shall have been naturalized for a period of three years. I do not know why many of our citizens have neglected to take out naturalization papers. No doubt, in many cases, when they came to the States originally, high fees were demanded when naturalization papers were taken out, and possibly this may have had a deterrent effect. The neglect in other cases may have been due to ignorance of the fact that, in their own interests and in the interests of the country, it would be better for the persons concerned to take out naturalization papers. It was not until the Old-age Pensions Act came into operation that many of these persons became aware of the disabilities under which their neglect had placed them.
– Many old people are naturalized, but cannot prove it.
– The Bill provides that in the case of persons otherwise entitled to the pension, if naturalization papers are taken out, they shall immediately become eligible for the pension. I am sure that every honorable senator will give this proposal his hearty support. Another difficulty it is desired to overcome is that in connexion with the payment of invalid pensions to blind persons. The original Act requires that a certificate shall be given that claimants for invalid pensions are totally incapacitated, and it is frequently impossible to obtain such a certificate from a medical man in cases of blindness. Since the Act came into force the Treasurer has taken it upon himself, not altogether to break the law, but to evade it to the extent of treating blind persons as invalids, and paying pensions in deserving cases. All that is now proposed is to legalize what the Treasurer has been doing in the past in the full assurance that no member of either House would be inhuman enough to object to his action. Another amendment is intended to remove a serious difficulty that has arisen in connexion with the old-age pension question. I am sure that every honorable senator and every member of another place have received applications and complaints from poor old people who, by their thrift, have managed to secure homes of their own, and who under the provisions of the Act have found themselves placed at a disadvantage in connexion with pension claims. Where the value of the little home belonging to these old people exceeds £100 a deduction is made from the amount of the pension in respect to every £10 up to the value of £310, when the disappearing point is reached. It is of no benefit to an old couple who may occupy a home of their own sanctified by sacred memories if they can draw a pension of only two or three shillings per week. It is now proposed to do away with the deductions in cases where old men and women have acquired homes of their own. If an old couple are living together in their own home, and they are entitled to draw £1 per week by way of pension, they will be able 10 live in comfort for the rest of their days. I am sure that the amendments will commend themselves to honorable senators, and that the Bill will receive hearty support.
– I am very pleased that this Bill has been introduced. With regard to the claims of naturalized aliens, I, in common with most honorable senators and members of another place, have had many cases of hardship brought under notice. I know of a case in which a man who had been in Queensland for nearly fifty years found himself blocked in his application for a pension. He was an American of British parentage, and had been in the Government service. He had reared a family, and had proved himself an excellent citizen, but because he did not think it was necessary to become naturalized he could not claim the old-age pension. He had been in the Railway Department as a porter for many years, and had voted at elections, and had always looked upon himself as a Britisher. I will give the Bill my hearty support.
– I cordially welcome this BilL I can remember the time when I moved an amendment of exactly the same character as one of those now incorporated in the Bill; but it was then treated with contempt and derision, and booted out of doors as a proposal which no selfrespecting Senate could possibly adopt. I am pleased that at last it is about tobe embodied in the law. I wish to bring under notice what I regard as a case of extreme hardship in respect to which it has been impossible to obtain assistance from the Old-age Pensions Department. The man to whose case I anr about to refer was seriously injured at Rockhampton about six years ago, and became totally incapacitated. From the position of breadwinner of the family he suddenly fell to that of a dependent. At the time of the accident he was married, and had five children, four of whom were unable to do anything, whilst the other was earning a little more than enough to support himself. The man received compensation to the amount of £500. Of this £100 was placed in the bank as a fund to assist in bringing up the children; another £100 was invested in a small business, and the remaining £300 has long since been spent. The man and his wife had a house which still belongs to them, and which yields a rental of 10s. per week. The income from’ the business is just sufficient to pay the rent of the house and shop occupied by the man and his wife. The annual turnover is about £300. And even taking the profits at 10 per cent. ,. the income would be only .£30. Because there is £100 in the bank, the old-age pensions department has refused to give any assistance to the man. I put it to honorable senators whether that is a fair business proposition, apart from any humanitarian principle. Here is a man who has suddenly dropped from the position of provider for his family to that of a dependant on them. Here is his wife, who, instead of being the spender of his income, has now to earn a living not only for herself and her family, but also for her husband. Here is a man sitting in a corner absolutely incapable of doing anything for himself. Not only that, but he has to be constantly attended to by a member of his family. His wife is, in a large measure, put in such a position that she can do very little towards the support of herself and family, because her husband demands her constant attention. If this couple had spent the whole of the £500. and divested themselves of their little house, had not gone into business, and had not shown any of the instincts of thrift, the man would have undoubtedly obtained an invalid pension. These people are being punished for making a little attempt at self-help. The Deputy Commissioner admitted to me that this was an extremely hard case, but that, under the Act, he was powerless. There is no reason why this man should, -under the Act as it stands now, be refused an invalid pension. I suppose that the Government want the couple to spend the ^£100, but the children have to be brought =up. If that money is spent, the children will be in a very much worse position than they are in now, and some of them might become charges on the State. I ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council to provide in the Bill, if no provision already exists in the Act, for cases of that character.
Senator E. J. RUSSELL (Victoria5; [11.35]. - I do not desire at this stage of the session to take up much time, but I wish to ascertain if the position of the blind cannot be made clear. I have had “brought under my notice a case which I believe is typical of many cases - the cases of men who are not totally blind, but so blind that it is impossible for them to use their eyesight for any ordinary occupation. The case which was brought under my notice is that of a man who had been under an operation as the result of an accident. It is true that, in the ordinary sense of the term, he was not totally blind, as it is just possible for him to observe a dark object -in front of him. Certain persons were of opinion that he was quite capable of working at basket-making, in an asylum, but he found that it had a very bad effect upon his eyesight. He valued the privilege of being able to observe a dark object more than an invalid pension. I do not think it was reasonable to ask him to go to work. He ought to be entitled to a full pension ; but, instead of that, he was allowed about 4s. a week, and ordered to go to work in an asylum to make up the balance of 16s. J am informed that there was a conflict of testimony. The doctors who operated on the man declared him to be unfit for employment, but the Commonwealth doctors declared that he was sufficiently well and strong to follow some employment, with the result that he was refused an invalid pension. In a case where there is a conflict of medical testimony, the Deputy Commissioners have been granted a discretionary power, and very wisely so, I think. I wish to be quite sure that the discretionary power does not apply merely to a man who is totally blind. It ought to be sufficiently wide to enable the Commissioner to deal with cases of the kind I have mentioned. I should like to understand the position in that regard.
– I am pleased at the cordial support which has been given to this Bill. Senator Stewart has referred to an invalidity case in Queensland. I believe that the elasticity embodied in the Bill will enable the Commissioner to exercise a discretion in cases of that kind, and the same remark, I am informed, will apply with respect to those who are practically blind, though they may be able to see a little. I would point out to Senator Russell that although we are treating the blind in a generous manner, every encouragement is given to them to earn a little to supplement the pension. It is a fact that any blind persons, if they could earn up to ros. a week in an institution, would still be entitled to a pension of 10s.
– That is not so. Where they work in an institution, they are entitled to only 4s. a week.
– I now understand that deductions have been made, but this Bill will remove the difficulty so far as the discretion of the Commissioner is concerned, and the Treasurer has alreadymade a statement regarding those who can. see objects, and guide themselves about.
– The wages which are allowed in blind asylums, I understand, are 16s. a week. The Commonwealth has been in the habit of granting a pension of 4s. a week. Will you give me an assurance that, in addition to the 16s., the blind people will be entitled to draw a pension of 10s.
– I cannot give an assurance, but, under this measure, the Commissioner will have a discretionary power to deal with the special case referred to.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time..
In Committee :
Clauses1 to 4 agreed to.
Clause, 5 -
Section twenty-two of the principal Act is amended -
by omitting paragraph (c) therefrom and inserting in its stead the following come permanently incapacitated or blind;” and paragraph : - ” (c) he has, whilst in Australia, be-
by adding thereto the following subsection : - “(2.) For the purposes of an invalid pension, a person who is afflicted with a congenital defect and who is rendered permanently incapacitated or blind thereby shall be regarded as having become permanently incapacitated or blind whilst in Australia if he was brought into Australia before attaining the age of three years.”
– I wish to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council whether this clause will cover the case I referred to.
– I believe that the clause will give the Commissioner power to deal with cases of that description, but whether it will deal with all cases unless permanent incapacity or blindness exists, I cannot say. The degree of blindness, and also permanent incapacity, will have to be tested by medical officers. But, apart from that, I believe that the clause will be elastic enough to deal with a case of that kind.If not, the parties can go and live in their own house when they will be absolutely under the Act.
– This is very cheap advice on the part of the Minister.
– I am not giving it as advice, but only as an alternative.
– I thought that I had made the position of these people perfectly clear. They are trying to do the best they can for themselves. If they left the shop, and went into their own house, they would have no income at all.
– Do I understand that they have leased their house?
– They have leased their house for 10s. a week. The man was paralyzed nearly six years ago. He got £500 compensation, £100 of which was put into a bank to provide for certain children. At the time of the accident, there were five children but only one was able to do anything. The wife, with four chil dren and the husband, have had to be maintained since the accident by the wife’s efforts. If they leave the shop, and go into their own house, they will lose the rent of 10s. a week, and will have absolutely nothing to live on.
– Do not they pay rent for the shop?
– Yes. They are making just enough out of it to pay the rent. The turnover in this small business is about£300 a year. Taking the gross profit at 10 per cent. that represents only £30 a year, or a little more than 10s. per week, which is just about sufficient to pay the rent of the house and the shop. If they were to go into their own house they would receive an invalid pension of 10s. per week upon which they would have to live. As I have already pointed out the father is a helpless and hopeless invalid, who requires a great deal of attention, and upon whom a little money has to be expended every week. Out of the invalid pension of 10s. per week he would have to be supported, as would also his wife, who cannot leave him to earn anything outside, and two or three young children. How could the thing be done? Would it not be far more humanitarian to grant this man the invalid pension of 10s. per week, and to allow him to live as he is living? He is entitled to the pension, or this measure is a farce. He cannot earn anything for himself. His wife has to support him, in addition to maintaining herself and two or three young children whom under ordinary circumstances he would be maintaining. It seems to me that this sort of legislation is, to use. a common phrase, “ over the limit.” I know of cases in which persons are getting old-age pensions who no more deserve them than I do, and who, if their affairs were investigated - as they ought to be - would not get them.
– Then the honorable member should give that information to the Department.
– I am not going to do the work of Government officials.
– The honorable senator is not a detective.
– I am not a detective, and I am not going to be made one. If the Government officials cannot find out these things that is their business, and not mine. I think” every honorable senator will recognise that this case is a deserving one. It is just one of the cases for which this Bill was originally intended to provide. Yet, apparently “nothing can be done, merely because this -man and woman between them possess a house and a little shop which return them a few shillings per week. Because they wave made some attempt to provide for “themselves in the great calamity which has befallen them they are to be denied the -advantages conferred by this Bill.
– Will not the Bill touch “their case?
– That is what I wish to ascertain from the Vice-President of the Executive Council. The question seems to hinge upon the amount of property which they possess. Some years ago I pointed out the hardship to which a number of men and women were subjected in connexion with the provision relating to the value of a house which an old couple might occupy. I say that an even greater hardship is inflicted in this case. I know of many old-age pensioners who do earn something to enable them to eke out the pensions which they receive. They are at liberty to earn 10s. per week, in addition to their pensions. But this man cannot earn a single farthing. Instead, his condition demands the constant attention of his wife. If ever there was a case in which an invalid pension was warranted, even if the law does not actually provide for it, this is one.
Senator RAE (New South Wales) fi 1. 51]. - Similar cases to that brought forward by Senator Stewart have come under my own notice, and only yesterday I received a letter from a resident of a Sydney suburb stating that a man and his wife were recipients of old-age pensions, and that at the time they first received them they had a little money deposited in the savings bank: - an amount of ^119. On that account a deduction was made from their joint pension, of £fi 10s. per year. Since then, owing to rent charges and other things, they have been unable to get along on their pensions alone-, and have consequently drawn on their savings to the extent of one third. Yet they are still charged with the deduction that was made originally.
– They will require to put in a revised claim.
– Of course that matter can probably be adjusted. But had these persons found it possible to devote that money to the purchase of a home, this Bill would have met their case. They would have suffered no disability if they possessed property to the value of much more than they possessed in cash. To be consistent, the same deduction should be made in regard to the possession of money as is made in regard to the possession of a home. It seems very hard that a home of a certain value may be held without any deduction being made, and that the possession of a similar amount in cash will disqualify a person from receiving a pension. All these anomalies go to show that, when persons are qualified by age and residence, the pension should be paid to them irrespective of all other considerations. The fact that we are making slow and painful progress towards that end is a matter upon which we” have reason to congratulate ourselves. We know that it would severely strain our financial resources to gc the whole way at once, and we must welcome this Bill as an instalment in the right direction. If no great alterations would be involved in it, I think that the Government might well consent to its amendment with a view to providing that, if a person may earn up to 1 os. per week without forfeiting his right to a pension, he shall have a right to derive ^income by way of interest on savings bank investments to the same extent. Why should not these old people be permitted to regard the small interest which they receive from savings bank investments as money earned ?
– That would make the pension more restricted than it is at present.
– If the interest returned to old-age pensioners on their savings bank deposits were regarded as earnings, it is clear that it would require a large nest-egg to return them 10s. per week. I fail to see why income from such nest-eggs should not be regarded as earnings.
– I do not like to take any action which is calculated to> endanger the passing of this necessary amending Bill. But” I agree with Senator Rae that those persons who may have a little money deposited in our savings banks, the interest upon which is not nearly sufficient to provide them with the necessaries of life, are at the present time labouring under a genuine grievance. I know of a few cases in which old people have savings bank deposits ranging from £100 to ^200 and over, and under existing legislation, as a deduction of £r is made for every £10 in excess of .£50 which they may possess, a very serious inroad is made upon their pension - so serious that it is scarcely worth while collecting. I think that the Government might well take into consideration the natural justice of insisting upon less than a 10 per cent, deduction in respect of income which pensioners receive from their little hoards. The Act provides that a deduction of £1 shall be made from the pension for every £10 cash in excess of £50 which an oldage pensioner may possess. The presumption, therefore, is that a pensioner can get ro per cent, in the money market - a most unjustifiable conclusion. He cannot get anything like that rate of interest unless he takes very great risks indeed. The only course open to a person who has saved a small sum of money is to invest it in the savings bank. The interest which he will receive from that source will not be sufficient to supply him with the necessaries of life. Take, for example, the maximum sum of £260 which a man must possess before he sacrifices his right to a pension. The interest which that amount, if deposited in the savings bank, would return to him is about £8 per annum. In the eye of the law, that £8 is supposed to be sufficient to support him in reasonable Com-c fort all the year round. That is an absurdity. Although this is an excellent measure, and one which has been eagerly looked forward to by old persons who have hitherto not enjoyed the advantages which they should enjoy, I think that the Government should take into consideration the deductions to which I have referred. When it is said that an old-age pensioner should get a return of 10 per cent, on his scanty hoard, it must be assumed that he will take a risk and invest his money on slender security. Old people are not in the habit of ‘doing that. They are anxious to so invest their money that they can depend upon getting it back, and they will not indulge in gambling, and on the only safe and sound form of investment, that is a Savings Bank deposit, there is a return of £8 or £g a year only. If the amount which an old-age pensioner has is less than £260, he is supposed to receive 10 per cent, on the investment of his money. There are very few people who get that rate of interest.
– Five per cent, would be a fair thing.
– Yes. An old-age pensioner will not look for high rates of in terest, and run the risk of losing his scanty hoard. I do not want to do anything that would endanger the passing of the Bill, because it contains three or four vital amendments of the existing law, which are badly needed, and which will give relief to a great many people. But I ask the Government to take into consideration the desirableness of relieving those old-age pensioners who are at present suffering positive hardships.
– One can hardly listen to such a statement as that ma’de by Senator Stewart without feeling that one’s sympathies are being appealed to ; but the honorable senator will recognise that it is very difficult in an Act of Parliament to provide for such special cases as he has brought under notice. The only way in which you could make provision for such cases would be by striking out all restrictions as to property.
– I intend to move an amendment.
– Such a proposition, of course, opens up a very big financial question. It is a principle with which I am entirely in accord. If there is to be an old-age pension payable as a result of citizenship, it should be given without qualification, but whilst one may entertain that as the ideal, one has to recognise that it might create a disturbance of the finances, and it is a question whether the Senate, at any rate at this period of the session, would be justified in making an amendment that would have such a serious consequence as that. I would suggest to Senator Stewart that he might draft an amendment which he thinks will meet such a case as he has referred to.
– I am trying to do it.
– When the honorable member has succeeded in doing it, he will come face to face with the real difficulty. No sooner will the honorable senator have drafted an amendment to meet the case than the Minister will be able to point out how easy it will be for persons of a fraudulent disposition to evade the law. The statement has been made that some people are to-day drawing the old-age pension who are not entitled to it. Whether the number is large or not I am unable to say.
– An old-age pensioner died the other day who was worth £1,000.
– That is so. Statements to this effect are made by responsible representatives of the people, and the obligation is on the Minister to direct the attention of those administering the Act to those statements. Similar statements are made almost everywhere you go, and I think the time has arrived when the Department might undertake some systematic check or examination in regard to this matter - not by any means to harass those who are entitled to the benefits of the Act, but to prevent fraud being perpetrated on the community. If Senator Stewart drafts an amendment which will meet the case he cited, I think it will be easy enough to show that people who do not obtain the benefit of the Act as it now stands would be able to avoid its restrictions, and get that which the law says they should not get ; in other words, they would be guilty of a fraud on the general community.
– I have been trying to frame an amendment which would meet the case, but I find it rather difficult to do so. I quite appreciate what Senator Millen has said, but it ought not to be altogether impossible to provide for such a case as I have indicated. Paragraph (/) of section 22 of the principal Act reads -
No person shall receive an invalid pension unless his income or property does not exceed the limits prescribed in the case of applicants for old-age pensions.
I move -
That after paragraph (a) the following new paragraph be inserted : - “ (aa) by adding to paragraph (/) ‘ provided always that in the case of a permanently incapacitated person whose wife and family are unprovided for, this provision shall not apply.’ “
– Would that apply irrespective of whether the wife and family have anything?
– I suppose it would have to be provided that the wife and family had to assist in providing for themselves. It is extremely difficult for me on the spur of the moment to draft an amendment, but I think that an amendment to meet the case could be framed by the Parliamentary Draftsman.
– Of course, an amendment of this kind appeals to every heart, but honorable senators must remember that it is of a drastic character, and will involve considerably increased outlay upon pensions. The amendments now embodied in the Bill will go a long way towards meeting cases of extreme hardship, and we cannot deal with every claim without practically making the provisions in relation to pensions of universal application. All we can do is to, as far as possible, overcome the difficulties which have been brought under the notice of those intrusted with the administration of the law. I cannot, acting on behalf of the Government, take the responsibility of accepting the amendment. The Bill has been very seriously considered in the light of the experience gained in the administration of the Act, and we cannot reasonably go any further at present. The case brought under notice by Senator Stewart is not an isolated one, but there are many more of a similar character. No doubt it is very unfortunate for the man and his wife in the case mentioned by Senator Stewart, but the Act is being administered in as liberal a spirit as car reasonably be expected.
– Does not the Mir,ister think that paragraphs d and e of the original section would protect the Government against an excessive number ot claims?
– I cannot say whether or not there would be an excessive number of claims ; but no doubt every person who had a possible chance would become an applicant forthwith. The only way to meet cases such as that brought forward by .Senator Stewart is to make the Act universal in its application.
– Nothing of the kind.
– Other cases not unlike that mentioned will crop up from time to time, and I feel that I cannot accept an amendment which might involve considerably increased expenditure.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales? [t.2.20]. - I was apparently not taking any great risk when I suggested that- Senator Stewart would find himself face to face with a real difficulty when he commenced to draft his amendment. I have every sympathy with, and desire to help, the unfortunates in the case mentioned; but I would point out that if we strike out the property qualification in the case of the applicant whose wife and family are unprovided for it will be open for a millionaire to apply for a pension. I would also point out with reference to an incapacitated person whose “ wife and family “ are unprovided for that the two would have to be taken in conjunction, and not in the alternative. An incapacitated person might have a wife unprovided’ for or a family unprovided for, and thus the word “or” should be substituted for “ and.” If we are going to do away with the property qualification the provisions of the law should be made to apply all round, and not merely to a particular class of unfortunates in the position indicated by Senator Stewart.
Amendment, by leave, amended to read as follows -
Provided always that, in the case of a permanently incapacitated person who is otherwise unprovided for, or whose wife or family are unprovided for, this provision shall not apply, and.
. - I am quite in accord with the amendment, and I shall give it my hearty support. It is exceedingly difficult for honorable senators to draft amendments in legal phraseology on the spur, of1 the moment during the course of discussion in Committee, and seeing that we have Government officials sitting here behind Ministers, I think their services might reasonably be placed at the disposal of honorable senators, with a view to having amendments drafted in proper and effective form. We know that many cases of hardship have occurred under the Act, and every amendment in the direction now proposed should receive the support of honorable senators. I do not think that the proposed change would involve any considerable additional outlay in respect of [pensions. Senator Stewart deserve; i credit for what he has done, and we ought, to assist him to put his amendment through in a workmanlike form.
– I am afraid that Senator Stewart has hardly improved the amendment by the alteration he made. I wish to show him that the words he has introduced will defeat the purpose he has in view. The amendment is now contradictory in its terms. The desire of my honorable friend is to enable a pension to be paid to a permanently incapacitated individual who owns some property, but in this clause he is proposing to put in a prohibition against such a person obtaining a pension. The amendment reads -
Provided always that in the case of a permanently incapacitated person who is otherwise unprovided for -
The honorable senator wishes to provide for the case of a person who has some other provision. It is absolutely impossible to do two things at once in a clause, and, this is, to make the clause so wide that it will enable the richest man in the community to come in, and at the same time, refrain from shutting out an individual such as Senator Stewart has in his mind. What I suggest is that however desirable these cases may be it is impossible here to reconstruct the Bill. There must be other clauses which will have to be disturbed if this clause is disturbed. The principle of this Bill is a limitation. These pensions are to be payable to only those whose property is below a certain amount. If that principle is to be disturbed the .best course will be to take a test vote on the question as to whether invalid pensions shall be paid irrespective of the possession of any property. It seems to be almost impossible to draft an amendment which will meet the case without opening the door in the widest possible fashion.
– - I am very much obliged to Senator Millen for showing me the defects in my amendment, but he knows, as well as I do, that every Act has to be construed according to the dictates of, not only law, but common sense. Honorable senators will observe that the gist of my amendment is the words “unprovided for.” What do they mean in the case of a person who is not only unable to earn anything, but cannot perform the slightest movement without the assistance of another person?
– That would not come within the definition.
– It would, indeed. Before a person of that character could be said to be provided for, not only would personal comforts and necessities have to be supplied, but he would have to be provided with an attendant, and the cost of his support, and the wages of an attendant would require an income of at least £4 or £5 a week on the most moderate estimate. In administering the measure the officials of the Government would have to decide what the words “otherwise unprovided for” mean. If a man had nothing, and could earn nothing, surely there would be no difficulty ! In any case, I have decided to let the amendment go to a vote as it stands. I feel quite satisfied that if it is carried there will be no great difficulty in administrating it. It may not cover everything. Indeed, I can hardly conceive of any number of words which could convey everything. If that were the case there would be no work for our Courts. For us to hope to do something which the legal talent of, not only Australia, but other countries has failed to do’ would, I think, be exceedingly stupid.
– I am very much afraid that if we do not bustle a little with our work we shall not have a quorum shortly. It is not a question of merely the time which is occupied in discussing this amendment. The Bill, if amended as desired, would have to go back to the other House, and in some respects would probably require to be re-drafted. In my opinion it would be a great thing to apply the additional revenue of from £25,000 to ,£30,000 from the Excise duty on beer to such a humane and necessary provision as is here proposed should be made. But apart from that I do not know how any honorable senator can vote against the amendment on account of the mere fleabite which it would add to the cost. The only question which “troubles my mind is whether honorable members in another place will be willing to stay here to amend the measure in such a way as to fit in the amendment. If it is possible, we should try to meet the oases to which our attention has been drawn, because the amendments contained in the Bill will tend to relieve many persons who are not nearly so badly off as those whose case has been quoted by Senator Stewart. He has quoted only one case, but we must know that there is a good sprinkling of such cases throughout the Commonwealth. Why should we not try to meet the most dreadful and tragic cases before giving relief in other cases, which, though commendable, and urged by myself at other times, are not so extreme as those alluded to by Senator Stewart? If we wish to amend the Act, and cannot go the whole way, it is sensible to ask that we should deal with the most tragic and pathetic cases before we deal with other cases which, though worthy of relief, are less worthy than the ones I have referred to.
– While sympathizing with Senator Stewart, I realize that after the explanation of Senator Millen, it would be futile for the Committee to accept the amendment. It will be nonsensical to insert an amendment which is likely to be found ultra vires.
– Do you think it is?
– I have not had a legal training, but it has been clearly pointed out by Senator Millen that the amendment will have the effect of stultifying what Senator Stewart wishes to put in the Bill.
– I do not think so.
– I am prepared to take that version, but if the honorable senator can devise a provision whereby individual cases such as the one he mentioned can be relieved, it will have my approval. I realize that it is most difficult to make a Bill apply to individual cases of that kind. If the desire is to reach such cases, the only alternative is to do what Senator Barker suggested by interjection, and that is to make the Bill universal in its application.
– What would be the additional cost?
– That is for the Minister to say. I am not prepared at this juncture to vote for the provision of universal pensions. Although I sympathize with Senator Stewart’s desire to relieve individual cases, I think that his amendment would not reach the other cases. It will be better, I think, for him to withdraw the amendment, and have it properly drafted, or to go for universal pensions. I am sorry that in the circumstances I cannot support the amendment.
– I ask Senator Stewart, in view of the stage of the session, to withdraw the amendment.
– I cannot.
– In that case, I ask the Committee to reject the amendment. No doubt some honorable senators will be moved by a strong sentiment of sympathy towards the folk who are affected bv the Act. especially those whose case has. been cited by Senator Stewart. But the amendment he has submitted would not cover that case.
– Well, get it redrafted.
– It is not for me to re-draft it, but to oppose any kind of amendment in that direction which the honorable senator submits. If my reading of this amendment is correct, he will not be able to get for those whose case he has brought before the Committee any measure of relief.
– Why does not the Minister say that it is his duty to oppose any amendment of the Bill ?
– We do not say that every Bill which we bring forward is perfect. But we have given long and serious consideration to this measure, and I have no hesitation in saying that any amendment of it of the character suggested by Senator Stewart would not be in its best interests at the present juncture. His proposal relates to any person who is “ incapacitated,” and who is “otherwise unprovided for.” Did not the honorable senator say that the incapacitated man whom he has in his mind is in receipt of a small sum for the rent of a house?
– Consequently he is not “ otherwise unprovided for.” Who is to define what “ unprovided for “ really means? I venture to say that if we were to ask honorable senators to define the meaning of those words, we should get different expressions of opinion from them. Then I would ask, “ Is the wife of this unfortunate man ‘ otherwise unprovided for?’ “ I understood Senator Stewart to say that she keeps a shop.
– I thought he said that the shop was keeping the woman.
– I do not think she would remain in possession of it if she were making a loss upon it.
– I said that the house returns 10s. per week, and that the shop barely pays the rent which is charged for it. That means that the family live rent free, and that they have only 10s. a week upon which to live.
– I understand that. In my opinion, the honorable senator’s amendment would not meet the case. Even if the Committee were disposed to support his proposal, as Senator Millen has already pointed out, its adoption would involve the recasting of the whole Bill.
– Because the amendment affects a vital principle in the original Act. Section 23 of that Act reads -
The amount of an invalid pension shall in every case be determined annually by the Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner, having regard to any income or property possessed by the applicant, and the fact that his relatives contribute to his maintenance, 9nd the fact also of his having received compensation from any source in respect of any injury.
– If the’ Government approve of my amendment, they can easily get that section altered.
– I am pointing out the difficulty-
– There is no difficulty.
– The probability is that the honorable senator’s amendment would affect other provisions in the principal Act, in addition to which it would certainly not achieve the purpose which he has in view. Under the circumstances, I ask the Committee not to accept it.
– I think that such an important proposal as Senator Stewart has placed before the Committee ought to be in print, so that we might have an opportunity to judge of its merits.
– When did I have an opportunity to get it printed ?
– I admit that the time at the honorable senator’s disposal has not been as long as it might have been. But we must recollect that a very limited period of the session remains to us.
– Is not all eternity before us? We are paid for working all the year round.
– That may be. But I know that honorable senators are already preparing to leave for their homes. Those who wish to reach their families before Christmas have already made their preparations. Senator Stewart’s amendment, if adopted, would mean an enormous additional expenditure under this Bill. To expect the Government to agree to a proposal of such magnitude in the dying hours of the session is to expect too much. In my opinion, Senator Stewart would be well advised if he withdrew his amendment. He would then be in a position to bring it forward again when the next Parliament met, without prejudice.
– If the adoption of my proposal would add enormously to the expenditure under the Bill, that is all the more reason why the Committee should ac- kcept it. If there are thousands of paralyzed persons throughout the community living under similar conditions, we ought to come to their rescue.
Sitting suspended from 1.56 to 2 jo p.m.
Senate called by ihe Clerk.
The following senators were absent : - Senators Clemons, Henderson, and E. J. Russell.
– I have received from Senator Clemons the following letter, dated the 12th December, 1912 : -
I regret exceedingly that I shall be prevented from being in Melbourne next week, and I desire to express an apology, which I Lope you will accept, for my failure to obey the call of the Senate. 1 have also received the following letter from Senator Henderson, dated the 12th December, 191 2: -
As I am leaving for Western Australia today, I desire to express profound regret that such circumstance will prevent my obedience to the call of the Senate on the 18th inst.
– I regret very much to have to intimate that Senator E. J. Russell was present to-day, but just before the call of the Senate was taken suddenly ill and was thus prevented from answering the call. He desires to send an apology.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) proposed
That this Bill be now read a third time.
– I did not speak during the secondreading debate, and there are a couple of points which appear to me to have been overlooked, or not as fully dealt with as they should have been. One is that, under the pronunciamento of various legal gentlemen, including Sir John Quick, the licensing laws of Australia will distinctly come under the heading of trade and commerce, and if this alteration of the Constitution be made, the Commonwealth will have control of the licensing laws. I do not think that the Commonwealth, even if it went to the Privy Council, would succeed in getting permission to interfere in the petty domestic concerns of the various States. The Privy Council decided that, although Canada has a right to deal with trade and commerce, that right is made a Dominion right only so far as broad and general questions are concerned. The smaller matters are still to be dealt with by the various Provinces; but nobody can say that the licensing laws are a small matter. It is a matter of very great importance all over
Australia. The licensing laws differ according to the different conditions of the various States, and also according to the different opinions held by the people in the respective States. The licensing laws of some States are better than those of other States. For instance, the Queensland law, until the recent Licensing Act was passed, was certainly very inferior. When the Commonwealth takes over this most important question, it is not likely to take the very best licensing law in any Australian State and fix a standard on the basis of that law, and it is equally certain that it will not take the worst law and fix a standard on the basis of that. What it will do will be to strike an average in the same way as it did in connexion with the salaries of civil servants, and we shall have the best licensing laws lowered to that average law. We have in the Constitution a section which prohibits the Commonwealth from passing any law which will differentiate between or give preference to any State or any part of a State, and as this question has never been mentioned by the Government in their announcements as to the various matters which they will deal with in connexion with trade and commerce, I have every reason to believe that they have an eye on the licensing laws with a view to assimilating them all over Australia. The other’ point to which no reference has been made is that of the Government itself entering into trade. There is ample evidence to show that at the back of the minds of members of the Government and supporters of the Government there is the idea that the Government should enter into business on its own account - sell to the public, and with the capital of the public compete with people who are already engaged in those industries. Take the cloth-making industry, or the woollen industry as it is called : The statement has been made more than once that the Government do not sell a yard of its cloth or any of its output to the public, but must use its product for the services of the Commonwealth only. There is the Ipswich Woollen Factory, in Queensland, which has been doing excellent” work, but which is not likely to be able to compete with the Commonwealth Government with the huge capital of the public which it has to carry on business. The Prime Minister himself has given us a very good illustration of how the Government views the necessity of entering into the trading field. When interviewed in Sydney, according to a report which appears in the Age of the 8th October, 1912, Mr. Fisher said-
There is another thing we have been asked : why don’t we make our own rails for the transcontinental line? At present the Commonwealth’s hands are tied in this matter, because we could only manufacture for our own consumption. If we made one or two rails over we could not sell them, but would have to throw them away. We want to alter that sort of thing.
We can imagine that the anxiety to bring forward an argument in favour of the Commonwealth entering into general trading operations must be very strong indeed when the Prime Minister takes the trouble to give the illustration that if there were two rails over they would have to be thrown away because the Commonwealth could not sell them to be public.
– You do not understand the point that he was making.
– I can understand the meaning of the English language. But if it is one of those cases where the Government” desire to make qualifications in the way of “under the circumstances,” “ considering all things,” and “ if matters do not alter,” Mr. Fisher did not say so. I have quoted the whole of what he said on that point, and I believe the interpretation which I have given to his words is a perfectly fair one. I would remind honorable senators, also, that as far back as 1906 the present Speaker of the House of Representatives, speaking at Ravenswood, in Northern Queensland, was asked the question by a Mr. Anderson as to how the Government were going to raise money to take over industries, and Mr. McDonald said that they would start industries themselves and run the others off. If those two quotations are not sufficient to show that, at the back of the minds of members of the ‘ Government and of the Labour party, there is the intention to start trading and compete against those already engaged in trade and commerce, there is no meaning in the words of the English language. I have looked through the speeches made in 19 10, and the utterances of the AttorneyGeneral, and of others, during this year, and I can find no reference whatever to the intention of the Government to use the trade and commerce provisions as proposed to be altered for the purpose of enabling the Government to start business and compete with private enterprise. It is, as well that the people of Australia should clearly understand that hidden away in these trade and commerce pro posals is an intention on the part of the Government to take control of the liquor traffic, and possibly to nationalize it.
– What if they prohibit it?
– If the people desire to prohibit the liquor trade they will have a perfect right to do so. That may be the object behind the Government’s proposals. The people should understand that the Government have it in their minds to carry on business with the capital of the Commonwealth against small manufacturers generally throughout Australia.
.-! was unable to offer any remarks at the second-reading stage, and I desire to say a few words now. The proposals placed before the House and the country are so wide and far-reaching that if they were carried into effect they would be utterly destructive of the Federal Constitution. It is fitting that we should endeavour to look at the real and definite object behind these proposals. A great many statements have been made as to the benefits which would accrue to this country, and more especially to the working classes if these proposals were adopted. But the statements are merely honeyed phrases which have been used to cover the real objective - the objective which the Labour party have had in mind ever since they have been in existence, namely, to bring about nationalization of industries and Socialism. All their public measures and acts of administration have had these objects in view. I believe that if the Government had followed their own inclination they would have preferred to drop these measures for the present ; but their masters demanded that they should be brought forward. The Inter- State Political Labour Conference which recently sat at Hobart demanded that the referenda proposals should te re-submitted to the people in practically the same form in which they were presented eighteen months ago. At that Conference statements were made, even by some honorable senators, to the effect that the proposals only formed part of a general project designed to bring about Socialism in this country.
– That is bound to come, anyway.
– Perhaps so. Senator Givens made a very pointed reference to this matter, and other honorable senators referred to the same thing, and they were supported by the great majority of the members of the Conference in the view that even stronger measures were demanded. It was pointed out that one of these proposals would really cover all that was desired by Socialists, and those who wished to bring about the general nationalization of industries. Mr. J. C. Watson, who seemed to be a sort of bellwether, and whose principal function it was to see that the members of the Conference did not go too far, said -
The collective ownership of monopolies was provided for in the Federal objective, and to accomplish that would require all their energies. Then, again, the Federal objective asked for “ the extension of the industrial economic functions of the State and municipalities.” There was no limit to that sphere of activity. He did not see that there was anything to be gained “by an alteration being made, and no reason had been advanced in favour of any alteration.
It is clear that honorable senators opposite hold the view that if they can carry these proposals they will later on be in a position to still further extend their operations and ultimately reach their objective. I think there is very little chance of the proposals being carried. It has been stated that since the last referenda a very large number of electors have been added to those previously on the roll, but I venture to say that by far the greater proportion of the registrations have been made in respect of electors who will vote against the Government proposals. It is not easy to overcome a majority of 250,000, particularly when we remember that it will be necessary to secure a majority in four States and a majority of the total votes in favour of the Government programme. The fate of the last referenda proposals, and the manner in which administration and legislation have been carried on by the Labour Government since then, will, I believe, have the effect, not of increasing, but of decreasing, the vote in favour of the policy about to be re-submitted. In the face of the definite verdict given by the people eighteen months ago, the re-submission of the referenda proposals must be regarded as an insult to the great majority of the electors who voted against them on the last occasion, and I feel sure that the challenge to the country will be taken up with such spirit that the proposals will be rejected by a large majority. It has been said that at the previous referenda the people did not understand the proposals, but in saying this honorable senators opposite pay themselves a very poor compliment, and pay the people a still poorer compliment. Any want of understanding must have been due to the incorrect way in which the case was put ‘before them by those who were advocating the proposal. As a matter of fact, the people understood the proposals only too well. That is the reason they turned them down. On the next occasion they will understand them still better, because they will be enlightened, not only by the platform and other utterances of members on both sides, but by printed documents, which will, presumably, fairly represent the case from the respective stand-points.
– The people will have a better understanding of the sponsors of the proposals.
– Yes, they will have a better understanding of the party submitting the proposals, and the more they see of them the less they will be inclined to trust them. The proposal embraced in the Bill now before us is very far-reaching. It will take away from the States an enormous number of the powers now exercised by them. Honorable senators opposite have asked what powers will be taken away from the States. In one sense no powers will be taken from the States, but under the proposed amendments of the Constitution a power above that of the States will be created, and the authority now exercised by the States will have no effect whatever. The Commonwealth will usurp the control of the whole of our local and domestic matters. Everything will be embraced under the amendment proposed in the Bill now before us. We all know what are the Federal powers at the present time, but we can scarcely realize what they will be if these proposals are carried. Every business, trade, profession, and occupation will be brought under the control of the Federal Parliament. My honorable friends opposite pretend that this is right; but I hold that such an idea is absolutely inconsistent with Federation, and was entirely absent from the minds of the people when the Constitution was adopted. These proposals will enable Federal laws to supersede State laws in almost all local and domestic matters. The Commonwealth control will extend to -
Sale of goods, wares, and merchandise, wholesale and retail, and forms of making contracts thereunder; bills of sale, commercial instruments, and securities; laws to prohibit adulteration; adulteration of wine, beer, spirits, seed, manure, &c. ; pure food laws ; goods affected by vegetation diseases; sales by bakers, millers, butchers, grocers, and drapers; sales by auctioneers, pedlars, and hawkers; sales of poisons and explosives; sales by chemists and druggists ; registration and sale of newspapers ; sales of coal and firewood ; supervision and sale of milk and dairy products; fruit cases, bags, and sacks; marine stores and old metals; gold buyers and sellers ; Sundays and holidays ; registration of firms ; freights and rates on railways and tramways; freights and charges in connexion with carriers and all means of traffic and transport; local option and licensing law regulating the sale of intoxicants and other goods; municipal or private markets.
We hold that there is no necessity for these changes, and that there has been no public demand to justify the contemplated encroachment on the internal trade and commerce of the States. We are told that it is not likely that the powers now asked for will be exercised, but the only way to prevent them from being exercised is to withhold them altogether. All the powers will be utilized to the fullest limit - otherwise there would be no point in asking for them. These proposals represent a far-reaching movement towards Commonwealth centralization, and ultimately the Unification of Australia. They have been very strongly opposed by Mr. Beeby, the late Minister for Lands in New South Wales. That gentleman occupied a very high position in the State, was in receipt of a large salary, and had the reversion of the Premiership in his hands. But he has thrown all this away, and has entered into a hard political light, not for his own personal advantage, but simply because he believes that these proposals would work evil for Australia. He holds that they would entirely change the character of our Constitution, and he takes the view that if we are going to destroy the Constitution we should set our present charter on one side and substitute an entirely new one. It will lead largely to confiscation. It will mean the squeezing out of other industries which are being carried on to-day. Leaders of the party opposite have declared that it is not their intention to buy anybody out of their business, but to start competing businesses. That is exactly the way in which the trusts in America have worked. If they could not get their rivals to come under their sway, their policy was to undercut, squeeze out all who opposed them, and take absolute possession of the market. That is what was openly proposed in the manifesto submitted in the State of Victoria at the last elec- tion. The people were asked to support the Labour party because it intended to start a Commonwealth Bank which would squeeze out the other banks in time. These are deliberate attempts at robbery. It was pointed out in Queensland, by a public man only a short time ago, that the intention was simply the spoiling of those engaged in industries. Senator Rae, who is more candid than his colleagues, and who admits that he is a whole-hogger Socialist, let the cat out of the bag a good many times last night, and gave us some wholesome truths which will be useful in the coming campaign.
– I do not mind that.
– I believe that the carrying of these proposals will bring into the Commonwealth complexity and uncertainty with regard to the conduct of business. They will increase litigation. They will create a very fine harvest for the lawyers. They will tend to bring about centralized government, and that always means costly government. The nearer we get to a piece of work, the more local is its control, the more likely is that control to be efficient. From that point of view these proposals would bring about more, costly government than we have ever had! in Australia before. I believe that the proposals will press heavily on our primary producers. They will mean the penalization of people on the land in every way. Their occupation is quite different, to that of others, and under some of these, proposals they can be interfered with very much to their detriment. Instead of bringing about industrial peace, the proposals will involve an absolute destruction . of healthy industrial conditions. People will not know where they are. Some will believe that they are working under State law, and will find a Federal officer coming in and saying, “ You must work under our law.” Business will be thoroughly disorganized. Indeed, that is what is designed. These proposals are intended todisgust the people, who, it is hoped, will fly to Socialism and nationalization as a relief from the evils which they wi.U have to bear. The policy will bring about a destruction of the Wages Board system, which has done so much for the workers.
– I thought I was in order in pointing out what the results will be.
– There is another Bill dealing with industrial matters.
– Then I will leave that aspect of the case for the present. Of course, inducements are offered as to why the ‘policy of the party opposite should be accepted. The trap is baited in an alluring way. It is asserted that the intention is to control trusts. The AttorneyGeneral said a few nights ago -
Unless the Federal Parliament was able to regulate and control prices the mere ability to regulate wages was of very little value. Therefore, the Commonwealth Parliament would have to regulate prices and profits. That was the beginning and end of the whole thing. There was nothing else in it. Bring down prices, profits and rent and everything else would come down with them.
That is the birdlime which is intended to catch votes. It is worthy of the colleague of my honorable friends opposite who is at the head of the Home Affairs Department. But if profits and prices are to be brought down, how are wages to be kept up? The hours of labour are to be reduced, the individual output of labour is to be brought to a minimum, and yet wages are to be increased. The truth is that, under this system, wages must be decreased, whilst profits will be brought to a minimum. Where are wages to come from unless they come from profits and prices? If you cut down profits and weaken capital, how is industry to be carried on? But I believe that the people will be warned in time about these projects. They now have an opportunity of considering the policy in fulldetail, and I am satisfied that they will reject the measures. I believe that before the referenda are taken the people will have made up their minds, and that there will be a majority against the Bills.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia) [3. 5]. - I wish to take advantage of this opportunity of saying that I find that the draft Constitution Bill of 1901 provided for the retention by the States of all the residuary powers. Speaking from memory last night, I was under the impression that the draft Constitution was less favorable than it was. I wish to acknowledge the courtesy of Senator Rae. I am indebted to him for enabling me to verify the fact which I have mentioned.
Question - That the Bill be now read a third time - put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) pro posed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
.- I wish to add a few words with regard to this measure. Although it professes to deal with industrial disputes extending between the States as far as they apply to railways, it practically means taking away the control of the railways from the States. The States of Australia have spent£150,000,000 on their railways. They are responsible for the payment of interest on that money to the investors from whom they borrowed it. They are responsible to the people of the country who use the railways, and who wish to see them conducted in a proper way. They are responsible to the primary producers to see that their goods are carried safely and at the lowest possible cost. It seems to me to be a most extraordinary proposal that some outside body, which has no direct interest in the railways, is not responsible for a single penny of what they cost, and is not responsible to the producers for the rates charged on produce, shall be given financial control over them. I remember that some years ago the railways of this country were not paying as they are to-day. Victoria was losing£365,000 a year, or£1,000 per day, on her railways. She had to take strong and drastic measures of reorganization and administration to overcome the deficit.
– Victoria closed up a lot of boom railways.
– There are no boom railways in this country.
– There are some which are still closed up.
– You may find boom railways in another State, but not in Victoria.
– What of the Outer Circle line?
– You cannot say that railways are boom lines when they are paying cost of maintenance, management, and interest, whilst giving reasonable facilities to the people. Victoria had a very great struggle to overcome the loss on her lines. The deficit was not conquered except by very hard work and by close economies in many ways. Ever since the party opposite has come into power, its idea has been to bring the State railways under Federal control. Efforts in that direction have been made in the Federal Parliament. An endeavour to bring the railway employes tinder the Conciliation and Arbitration Act in 1904 induced Mr. Deakin to make a firm stand, and he went out of office rather than submit. The public will ask what they are going to gain from the policy proposed. Are fares to be lowered ? Are travelling facilities to be greater? Are freights to be reduced ? When the public look round at the extravagant way in which Federal affairs are being managed, they will realize that they will have a worse time if they consent to transfer this power to the Federal Parliament, and will turn down the proposals. It is not for the good of the employes or the benefit of the public, but is simply a piece of popularity-bunting.
Question put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) pro posed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
– Before a vote is taken on this motion, I think it would be just as well to put a few facts before the people of Australia, in order that they may understand that trusts and combines are really the creation of the Labour party. That is so if the encouragement of public men, Ministers, and others in the party, means anything at all. They have urged repeatedly that people should form themselves into combinations for the purpose of controlling and regulating trade and prices, and for the benefit of labour, by increasing wages. When certain industries are mentioned as the subject of monopolies, which should be dealt with under this Bill, it is just as well that the people of Australia should understand who it was that urged the formation of these combines, and how it was that they came about. The Attorney-General in introducing the referenda proposals in 1910 in another place complained bitterly that competiton was dead. Honorable senators will recall the fact that some years ago the great complaint was that competition was bringing down the wages of working men, that capital could not earn a decent reward, or labour decent wages; yet, in1910, we found the present Attorney-General complaining that competition was dead or dying in more than half the industrial and commercial field. The honorable gentleman gave a list of industries and businesses which were assumed to be monopolies. It was stated that the list was a list of businesses declared to. be monopolies by the honorable member for Angas, Mr. Glynn. It is worth while noting that, in 1908, before Mr. Glynn became Attorney-General of any Federal Government, a departmental paper was prepared setting out a number of articles the manufacture of which was believed to be a monopoly. That paper included bricks, flour and bran millers, colonial oil, tobacco, Photograph Combine, B.S.A. cycle parts, vacuum oil, trucks, shoes, infants’ foods, butter, freights, and jams. These matters were inquired into by the Government of the day, and a number of these articles will be found to be included in the list of monopolies which is alleged to have been Mr. Glynn’s list. The following report upon these manufactures was submitted -
After full inquiry, the Crown Law officers were of opinion that the evidence obtained did not disclose any contravention of the Act.
Amongst the matters inquired into and declared by the Crown Law officers not to be in contravention of the law are some that were included in the list which was read and submitted as an argument for the amendment of the Constitution, in order that those dealing with them might be prosecuted.
– The law is defective.
– The law was altered in 1910. The present Government have never attempted to enforce that law, and, until they do so, they have no right to go to the country and say that the law is defective. If they do, they must admit that the law they brought in and carried by their votes is a defective law. If they know that it is defective, why have they not tried to remedy it?
– They have never shown their bona fides in the matter by prosecuting people who have come under the law.
– The AttorneyGeneral, in 1906, speaking on the shipping question, said -
The shipping monopoly, I repeat, is not a destructive monopoly at all. On the contrary, it is a very good monopoly, and one which is to the benefit of the people of Australia.
The honorable gentleman went on to refer to the Standard Oil and Tobacco Trust, and said -
It is a good thing there should be uniformity in many cases. What does the Standard Oil Monopoly say? It says that its existence is a good thing, because it regulates rates without levying excessive charges. The evidence given before the Tobacco Committee was to the same effect, namely, that it did not increase the price of tobacco, and that the only benefit conferred was to be found in the lesser number of persons who are employed by the combine in the manufacture and distribution of the article.
Honorable senators who were members of the last Parliament will remember that a very interesting discussion arose in this Chamber when Senator Millen, who was then Leader of the Opposition, dealt with the action taken by the shipping companies and the Coal Vend. The honorable senator moved the adjournment of the Senate in an endeavour to induce the Government of the day to take some action for the protection of the public. After careful inquiries, action was taken to the extent that one of the Departments prepared the necessary papers, and in 1909 everything was practically ready for the launching of prosecutions. In 1910 the present Government came into office. Although they had proposed to alter the anti-trust law by leaving out the words “ in restraint of trade and to the detriment of the public,” they deliberately started a prosecution under a law which they knew to be defective. Why did they not wait until they had amended the law and prosecute the offenders under an Act which did not contain the words referred to? As honorable senators know, the subsequent finding of the High Court was based upon the inclusion of the words “ in restraint of trade and to the detriment of the public,” in the Act under which the prosecutions were brought.
– This is a specimen of the honorable senator’s party in repeating things that have been exploded long ago.
– During the debate on the action of the Coal Vend, Senator Henderson, who is an authority on the coal-mining business, made certain remarks which will be found in the Hansard report of the debate which took place on the 25th September, 1907. Referring to the Coal Vend in New South Wales, the honorable senator said -
For years I have advocated the formation of just such a combination of the coal trade as exists in that State to-day. The coal combine of New South Wales has done up to the present moment a laudable work. It has already very materially increased the output of New South Wales. It has materially increased the selling price which I candidly believe it was entitled to do, but also the wages paid to the men who are producing the coal.
– Senator Henderson did not say that of the Coal Vend, but of the Colliery Proprietors’ Combination.
– If the honorable senator was talking of the combination of the colliery proprietors while the Senate was discussing the Vend, he was talking about something which had nothing to do with the question before the Senate. Senator Guthrie, at the same time, said -
I can largely agree with what has just fallen from Senator Henderson.
The honorable senator then went on to deal with shipping, and I need not refer to that. On the same occasion Senator Lynch said -
In season and out of season it was pointed cut that in the maritime carrying trade it was owing to suicidal competition that the steamship companies were unable to pay a decent living wage. We urged them to combine, and they were very tardy in taking our advice.
Since then the shipping companies have been included amongst the monopolies which, we are told by honorable senators opposite, need to be dealt with. Apparently, in answer to some interjection by Senator Findley, Sena- tor McGregor, on the same occasion, said -
Senator Findley ought to keep his mind easy and should not object to combines. When, however, a combine becomes a monopoly then is the time for the honorable senator to act, and I am sure he will always find me ready to co-operate with him.
Senator Findley interjectedxx
What is the object of a combine if it is not for the purpose of getting a monopoly.
Senator McGregor went on to say
I asked the honorable senator whether there would be any chance of nationalizing the coal industry if it were in the hands of small coal mine-owners or master miners. He knows well that there would be no chance.
I think it is just as well that the small men should realize that, at any rate, the VicePresident of the Executive Council is anxious that industries should not be run by small men, but by combines, in order that the Government may have an excuse for their nationalization. Senator Turley said -
I understand that Senator Millen, like myself, does not object to combines, but he does object to combines who say, “ We fix the price of the commodity that we produce at ros. a ton, but we will not supply it to every person who comes along,” . . From the commonsense point of view, especially as pointed out by Senator Henderson, combination is necessary, because for years, on account of the low price of coal, the miners were practically starving, and could get only two and three days’ work per week.
I now turn to an interesting remark made by the Vice-President of the Executive Council on the 24th January, 1908, when he was speaking on the Tariff item “ Tobacco.” He said -
I have no desire to scotch the monopoly which Senator Pearce is so exceedingly anxious to scotch. I want it to continue to expand until it has a complete monopoly of the manufacture of tobacco in Australia. When it has obtained that power I am satisfied that should it wield it to the injury of the consumers the latter are possessed of sufficient intelligence to join the Labour party, or any other party which may be anxious to nationalize the industry.
The tobacco industry is mentioned as one of the trusts or combines which have to be dealt with under the proposed alteration of the Constitution. I ask honorable senators to say whether the Tobacco Trust, or whatever it is called has, since the Tariff was passed, put up the price of tobacco, exploited the consumer, or reduced the quality of the article? No. Honorable senators know that, although there was some very slight alteration made in the price of tobacco when the Tariff was introduced, there has been no alteration in the prices since it was passed.
– You do not smoke much then.
– Some people say that I smoke like a chimney. Again we find that on the second reading of, this particular measure, Senator McGregor, having expressed the hope that the tobacco business would expand until the Combine had complete control of the manufacture of tobacco in Australia, said -
But the big monopolies were all making in the direction of exploiting the public.
Senator Millen interjectedxx
What about the Tobacco Trust? and Senator McGregor answered -
He would not discriminate. He referred to tobacco, sugar, confectionery, and every other industry where there was a monopoly, an honorable understanding, or something else.
It would be very interesting to know the “something else” which is going to be used to justify the Government in asking Parliament to say that a particular business is the subject of a monopoly. I notice, too, that Senator McGregor has picked out confectionery. Why it was picked out, T do not understand. In Queensland, there is a large confectionery business which practically supplies the greater part of the confectionery consumed in that State. There is certainly a huge confectionery business in Victoria, but it is mainly a Victorian business. How, when they find two businesses running in opposition to each other, one in Queensland, and the other in Victoria, my honorable friends opposite can turn round and say that the confectionery business is a monopoly passes the understanding of an ordinary simple-minded person like myself.
– There is also a big confectionery business in Sydney.
– Take the Beef Trust of America, which includes several firms.
– We have heard all about the Beef Trust. When I was in Queensland the other day, I was told that it is an American firm - probably a portion of what is known as the Beef Trust - which has erected the splendid uptodate works on the Brisbane River at a cost of £500,000, and business men, other people round about, and leading politicians up there honestly admitted that it is one of the finest things which Have ever happened for Queensland.
– Who are the leading politicians up there?
– Those who are on our side would naturally be the leading politicians there. While we hear much talk about the high price of meat, let me draw the attention of honorable senators to a recent pamphlet published by the Commonwealth Statistician, in which he gives certain figures from which we can draw this deduction, that during the last three or four years - that is “the period covered by his figures - the price of meat has risen less than the price of any other article which is consumed by the public. The rents of houses, unhappily raised by the land tax, have gone up more than anything else.
– Not the land tax, the landlords.
– The land tax did not raise rents by 50 per cent.
– One has to look all over the world to find a case where a nationalized industry is successful. I admit that our railways compare reasonably with the railways in other countries. If our Post Office is better than the Post Offices of highly civilized countries elsewhere, I am very sorry for those countries. But these are not industries in the true sense of the word. Let us go back a few years to the time when Brazil took the coffee industry under its wing, proceeded to buy all the coffee, and announced its intention to regulate the price, and always to keep up the price, so that the Brazilian coffee planters could make a fairly good living. The result was that in the course of a few years the price of coffee fell in the world’s market. The Brazilian Government accumulated coffee to try to carry out its promise to the planters, and before it was all over it had to throw the coffee on the market, and sell it for what it would fetch, and compel the planters to cut out half the plantations in Brazil. That is a historical fact. It is of no use for my honorable friends to try to dispute it, because it happened.
– Would the honorable senator class the Brazilian Government with the Australian Government?
– I should class the Australian Government with the Brazilian Government if it started to interfere with the fixing of prices. No doubt when honorable senators opposite were in Europe recently, they travelled through France and Italy. Did they find that the tobacco made in France and Italy was very much superior to the tobacco made here, or was tobacco cheaper there than it is here? It is neither cheaper in price, nor better in quality, while the matches are perfectly shocking; they will, strike anywhere except on the box. The revenue from tobacco is a very large one, and helps to lighten the taxes on the people in other directions. The experience of France is that the profit it makes out of the tobacco industry in one form or another is not as great per head of the population as is the revenue we raise here by the import and Excise duties on tobacco. Once the Government takes possession of the tobacco business, the next stage of proceeding will be to do as has been done in other countries, and that is, to license persons to sell tobacco, and the moment that is done there will be started what has been a fruitful source of political patronage in France and Italy for many years. If these combines are really injurious, and to the detriment of the public, there is a law under which they may be attacked, and until that law is proved defective, I hold that there is no necessity to throw the Constitution into the melting pot. The Government are in the position of Dobree’s girl. When she wants to do a thing she does it, and when she does not want to do a thing she says that her mother will not let her. When my honorable friends opposite want to enforce a law they do it, and when they do not wish to enforce the law they say that the Constitution will not let them.
– I must congratulate Senator Chataway upon the very vigorous address which he has made on behalf of the friends of his party - the trusts and combines.
– You cannot rub it out.
– There is no desire to rub it out. His references to the Coal Vend, and his quotation of favorable statements made by certain members of the Labour party, are very well so far as they go. From both parties there can be no objection to a combination between employers and employes to produce an article under such conditions as will insure fair wages and reasonable hours to the workers in the industry, and a fair return on the capital invested therein. To that extent the Coal Vend had done no injury to the community. But when it entered into a combination with- the Shipping Combine to exploit the community, then whatever good it gave to the public by working their industry as I have described, was exploded, because it used its power simply to exploit the people. We have another great and growing monopoly - the sugar industry.
– Then why do you not prosecute under the Act of 1910?
– If the honorable senator wishes an answer to his conundrum, I will say that one of the reasons why I would not be in favour of prosecuting the Sugar Combine was the very sound advice given by himself, when the Anti-Trust Bill was going through- the Senate, and that was that it would be declared unconstitutional. I think he will remember making some statements to that effect. I took the trouble to hunt them up. Not only that, but after the decision had been given in the High Court in reference to the Coal Combine, he and other honorable senators asked during the Werriwa election, “ Why are you asking for further power, when the High Court has proved that you have sufficient power?” Had we laid aside the old Act in order to prosecute under a fresh Act, these men, who know so much, would have said that we were not using the Act which they had passed. I want the Senate to remember, and the statement cannot be repeated too often, although it was uttered in the other House, that none of the Acts of the Labour Government has yet been declared unconstitutional.
– You are not game to try them.
– The honorable senator’s side had a try in regard to the land tax and many other things. All the ability which wealth could buy has been used to try to poke a hole in the Acts which we have passed, and every attempt has failed.
– You have not tested them yeti
– Time after time our opponents have appealed to the High Court against Labour legislation, and the appeal has failed.
– Is that why you support the High Court?
– While the High Court exists the honorable senator will not hear a harsh word from me about it. But reared under the English Constitution - under a Constitution which gives the people and the Parliament the right to legislate for themselves - I do not believe in a Court which can set aside the will of the people as expressed in their Parliament.
– Say that to the VicePresident of the Executive Council.
– It does not matter whom. I say it to, because it is true. When Senator Millen was speaking on this very Bill he gave a quotation to show that I had joined with the Unificationists. The fact that I personally hold an opinion on Unification-
– Order. Senator Millen has not yet spoken on this Bill. He spoke on the second reading of the Constitution’ Alteration (Trade and Commerce) Bill, when it was understood by the Senate that the series of six Bills would be discussed. If honorable senators wish to discuss the Bill before the Chair, they must confine themselves to the question of taking power to deal with trusts.
– Can I not refer to what was said in the earlier part of the debate ?
– So long as it refers to this particular question.
– I have no desire to get away from your ruling, but it will necessitate my speaking on three or four occasions when I would otherwise have finished in a few minutes. Senator Millen on one occasion referred to me as a Unificationist. I do not know what that had to do with the question he was discussing, but the fact that I hold views regarding Unification has no more bearing on my party than the fact that Senator Millen, Senator Gould, and Mr. Oakes are the selected senatorial candidates in New South Wales for the Liberal party, simply because they are Free Traders, and they have been selected in order to balance the Protectionist element in Victoria.
– Is that why you, as a Free Trader, were sent here last time?
– I threw my Free Trade opinions overboard, and signed the new Protectionist platform. My reason for being a Unificationist on that occasion was this: I want a Parliament that will have power to pass legislation, and when that legislation is passed, there should be no power superior to the High Court of Parliament to interfere and make that legislation, as so much of it has already been made, mere waste paper. There is no party in this Commonwealth that is prepared to give effect to the desire that I have for a Parliament to be constituted on British lines, a Parliament that has supreme power. I do not complain of that. I simply support the party that comes nearest my ideals, and is asking for greater powers, as we are now, to deal with trusts and combines. We do not want to wait until the power of those trusts and combines is so great that it will be impossible for Parliament to deal with them. We have the admission of Senator Chataway that already a meat company from America has started operations in Queensland, and is establishing magnificent works there. That means that a great trust is sinking its roots down into the soil of Queensland. How far does its operations extend? Already, in the State which I represent, people are paying more for their meat because of the existence of that trust. In response to an inquiry, the gentleman who represents that company in Queensland, and who came from America to organize it, said that, although there was no combine, they were working in friendly relations with other companies existing in America.
– Has the effect of the alleged trust been to put up prices at Homebush?
– That will be the chief effect. They will not only put up the price, but they will regulate the number of animals that Will be sold at each sale. When there was a strike amongst the slaughtermen in Sydney a little while ago, there was a less number of stock offered at Homebush for sale. It is certain that these trusts will take care that if any profit is to be made out of the live stock, they will make it, and they will also make a profit out of the meat. Looking at the Sugar Company, and the operations of the Beef Trust already in this country, will any sane man deny that it is reasonable for the Australian Parliament to ask for powers to deal with these trusts and combines ? An axiom of the Fusion party, which was evolved from the great Liberal party, was that there should be no taxation without representation. What about the party that took £50,000 from the Sugar Trust to help to defeat the referenda proposals ort the last occasion?
– Where is that party?
– On the other side - the representatives are there.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable senator stated that the Sugar Trust spent £50,000 to secure representation here, and that we form that representation.
- Senator St. Ledger asks- whether Senator Gardiner is in order in saying that a trust had contributed £50,000 to try to defeat certain proposals that were put before the country.
– And that we were the representatives of that trust.
– I did not understand Senator Gardiner to say that honorable senators were representing that trust. I ask Senator Gardiner did he say that honorable senators were representing thai trust ?
– I did not. 1 am sorry I did not.
– As the honorable senator did not use the words objected to by Senator St. Ledger, he certainly is not out of order.
– I draw your attention, sir, to the fact that he said that he was sorry he did not say so,’ and that is tantamount to affirming it.
– Exception is taken to the statement by Senator Gardiner that he regretted that he did not make that statement. I think Senator Gardiner should withdraw the statement.
– I withdraw it. I am anxious that this debate should be carried on without any ill-feeling. The statement I made was that the Sugar Company had paid £50,000 into the coffers of the party to help to defeat the referenda at the last election. Senator Sayers then asked where was the party, and I replied that honorable senators opposite were the representatives of it. I am sorry I said that. The representative of the Sugar Company, when giving evidence before the Royal Commission, was afforded an opportunity to deny the .statement that was made on many platforms in the country, and not only did he not deny it, but any .one who reads his evidence must have the impression that either that or a larger amount was given.
– You blackmailed your people for money.
– That is an absolute falsehood.
– I draw your attention, sir, to the remark made by Senator Rae, “ That is an absolute falsehood.” I ask for its withdrawal.
– Interjections are disorderly, and cause these reflections upon honorable senators. At the same time, no honorable senator is entitled to say that a statement is an absolute falsehood, and, as the remark has been taken exception to, I call upon Senator Rae to withdraw it.
– Senator Millen said that we blackmailed our people for money, which is an infinitely more infamous statement than that I made.
– If Senator Rae had taken exception to the statement, I should have asked Senator Millen to withdraw it.
– I did take exception to it.
– The honorable senator took no exception to it. He merely made the statement that it was an absolute falsehood. If Senator Rae had asked me to deal with the matter, I should have done so at once. I wish to ask honorable senators to refrain from interjecting while Senator Gardiner or any other senator is speaking.
– I draw your attention, sir, to the fact that you called upon Senator Rae to withdraw his remark, and he has not yet done so.
– I ask Senator Rae to withdraw that remark, and if Senator Rae takes exception to the statement made by Senator Millen, Senator Millen will also be asked to withdraw it.
– I withdraw it, but I think I have a right to ask that the statement made by Senator Millen should be withdrawn.
– I ask Senator Millen to withdraw the statement that he made.
– Most readily I withdraw it.
– I am perfectly satisfied, from the evidence which we have had, that the wealthy Sugar Company paid a huge sum of money to assist to defeat the referenda proposals on the last occasion, and how did they i reimburse themselves?
By an immediate increase in the price of sugar. Here we have a company so strong and so well entrenched behind the legislation of the various States that they can contribute a huge sum of money for the purpose of defeating the will of the people, and then reimburse themselves from the pockets of the people who consume their sugar. Just as sugar is being scraped from the bread of the children by this sugar com:pany, so will the American Combine take beef off the plates of the people, and supporting these combines are those RiDvan.Winkles of the other party, who have been asleep for twenty years, and innocently say that there is no such thing as the growth of trusts in Australia. Senator Shannon came into this House with a business reputation, and when I interjected a remark about a trust selling wheat which it had not yet bought, he was quite innocent of any transaction of that kind having ever taken place, and said that if any one attempted to do that he would very soon find himself in the Insolvency Court. When senators come here with a business reputation, and say they know so little of the business operations of these trusts, either their reputation for veracity or their reputation as business men will be lost. We have seen how powerful is this rich company in connexion with the doings of the Royal Commission that was appointed to inquire into its operations. The chairman of the company refused to appear before the Commission and give evidence, and for two months in New South Wales we had the spectacle of that rich company hanging up justice. For two months the magistrate sat daily to inquire into the paltry question as to whether this gentleman was liable to prosecution or not, and the counsel of the company conducted a campaign for that period before a decision could be arrived at in the first Court. When a decision was given the company went to the higher Court, and the question is still undecided. That is why honorable senators opposite want to have these trusts and combines dealt with by the respective States. Under State law it will take twelve months to deal with a trust in New South Wales ; then they will go possibly to Queensland, and it will take another twelve months to deal with them there. After that they will possibly go to Victoria, and another twelve months will be occupied in dealing with them, and so the time will go on until they exhaust the different States, and then the matters on which they were brought before the Court will have ceased to trouble the public mind.
– In all those matters we have full powers.
– The question has been tested time after time, and the High Court has decided that those powers, which all parties imagined this Parliament had, do not exist. The legislation which was passed with the consent of all members of this Chamber has been declared by the High Court to be unconstitutional. Now we are asking for powers that will place beyond dispute the question as to whether it is constitutional or not. When honorable senators opposite declare that there are no trusts or combines in Australia, one is alarmed at their innocence. One is alarmed at the innocence of the representatives of a great party who are not aware of what is happening, not only in Australia, but throughout the civilized world. Honorable senators opposite say these trusts cannot fix prices, and neither can the Government do so. It is only necessary to look at the commercial columns of the newspapers to ascertain that the prices for flour, bran and pollard are fixed.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Who fixes the prices ?
– The associated millers.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Is not the price of wheat fixed outside of Australia altogether?
– I am speaking of flour, bran, and pollard in this State. My honorable friends will say that prices are fixed by the laws of supply and demand ; but I would point out that mills of a certain power work for a certain number of days, turn out a certain amount of flour, and then cease work. This is happening to-day, but honorable senators opposite seem to be happily unconscious of anything of the kind. We know that there are com.bines, the representatives of which meet from time to time to fix the prices of articles with which they deal.
– Give us the proofs.
– I would advise the honorable senator to look at the columns of the daily press.
– The mere quotations do not fix the prices.
– It is openly stated that the prices are fixed by the associated millers. My complaint is that we have not sufficient power to deal with these trusts at present. We are not going to fix the prices for the farmers’ produce, but we are going -to regulate the operations of these trusts. No one acquainted with the wheat trade will for a moment suggest that there will be any surplus this year over the amount required for the world’s consumption; but I would ask honorable senators why it is that the price of wheat is to-day is. less than it, was some little time ago?
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Why is it cheaper in Europe?
– My point is that the trusts and- combines have reduced the prices in order to suit their own purposes. Tb-day the farmers are sellers of wheat, and the trusts are purchasers; and therefore their aim is to bring prices down as low as possible. In two or three months’ time, when all the wheat is in the hands of a few men, the public will be called on to pay exorbitant prices for their food supplies. This is happening every year.
– For how many years has the honorable senator known wheat to be higher in price at harvest time than at any other period?
– This is the farmer’s selling time, and prices have never been high.
– I say that prices have been higher at harvest time.
– Sometimes the farmers hold their wheat and burn their fingers.
– If too many of them hold, the chances are they will get lower prices. The whole question is summed up in the fact that we are fully enttled to ask the people to give, not to the Labour party, but to the Australian Parliament, the control of trusts and combines and syndicates whose operations are threatening our very existence.
– It is very satisfactory to find that the onslaught made ‘by Senator Chataway has raised such a commotion in the opposite camp. Senator Gardiner has performed the cuttlefish act of darkening the water all around him in order to enable him to make a rapid retreat from a dangerous situation. It has been clearly shown that the Labour party have been the strongest supporters of trusts and combines in this country, and it is impossible for them to get away from that position. Whether or not Senator Gardiner is a- Unificationist, I do not know. He is one thing to-day, and another thing to-morrow.
– I take exception to that. I think I can claim to have stuck to my opinions.
– I am speaking from what I heard Senator Gardiner say.
– If the statement is offensive, I would ask the honorable senator to withdraw it.
– If the statement is offensive, and hits too hard and true, I will withdraw it. We have heard a number of statements made with regard to the existence of trusts and combines in the Commonwealth, but none of these trusts or combines have been mentioned. A series of wild statements have been made about trusts taking the bread out of the mouths of the children, and the meat out of the mouths f>i the working men; but nothing has been said to which we can fasten down honorable senators. We are told that meat has been made dearer by the operations of the Meat Trust. But does not Senator Gardiner know very well that during this year we have lost 15,000,000 sheep and thousands of cattle owing to droughts ? Is not that a fair explanation of the dearness of meat ? I know butchers who, during the last twelve months, have made scarcely any profit. I know of one in Bendigo who incurred a loss of ^300 in the year in his efforts to sell his meat at a reasonable price. Prices of stock have gone up because we have not been able to grow sufficient to supply the demand.
– On one property we lost 40,000 lambs.
– We have heard a great deal about the Sugar Trust. The Government appointed a Commission, which brought in a report eminently satisfactory to itself, if not to any one else. It struck a staggering blow at the proposed referendum - only one degree less staggering than the blow that has been struck at the Government policy by Mr. Beeby.
– Who is ‘Beeby ?
– He is a gentleman who is, perhaps, better known, and occupies a more prominent position, than the honorable senator. What did the Sugar Commission say? It expressed itself as absolutely opposed to the * proposal to nationalize the sugar industry. It stated that the industry could not be carried on as advantageously by the Government as by private enterprise, and that the people would have to pay more for their sugar.
I am no friend of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company; I do not know any one connected with it; but I dislike hearing serious charges made by honorable senators merely to cover up their own mistakes. The matter we are called upon to discuss is that of giving control to the Commonwealth’ over trusts, combines, and monopolies tir* relation to the production, manufacture, or supply of goods or the supply of services. We are asked to grant wide and sweeping, powers to enable the Commonwealth todeal with trusts that may exist, but of whose existence we have had no proof, and before we are asked for greater powers we should feel assured that the powers already possessed by the Government has been used to the fullest possible extent. We know very well that the Government are afraid to use the- powers they now have, because they are satisfied they would be successful, and would then have no case whatever on which to go tothe country in connexion with these proposals. Sir John Quick, who is, of all members of Parliament, perhaps best qualified to speak on this subject, and is recognised as a great constitutionalist, has shown the difference between the American laws, and our own, and has proved conclusively that our laws are stronger than those - irc force in the United States of America. And yet, under the American laws, a great number of cases have been decided against the biggest trusts which have been prosecuted for illegal practices. Every one knows that trusts flourish in America that could not flourish here. It has been stated that our farmers are compelled to accept low prices for their produce, owing to the operation of trusts in our midst. That is not true r but in America the trusts and the railway companies are the same, and if the farmer will not sell his wheat locally at the price* offered, the railway cars will not carry his freight. Here, however, if the farmer does not care to sell locally, he can send his produce to England or the Continent, and can obtain financial assistance from the banks, who will make advances on his shipping notes. The argument which has been brought forward by honorable senators is childish and foolish.
– The South Australian Commission showed that the farmers had been robbed of 2d. per bushel. If youwere a farmer you would know better.
– I am as much a farmer as the honorable senator, who has recently become a large land-owner.
– I have put my hardearned cash into land. I know what I am talking about. You are not speaking as a friend of the farmers.
– I have represented farmers for twenty-seven years, and have enjoyed their confidence all the time. Before we ask the people to give us these larger powers we should utilize to the fullest extent the powers we already have. I believe the people will take this view, and “turn down” the proposals about to be submitted to them.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [4.12].- It has been pointed out that the Government have not, except in one case, made any attempt to deal with trusts and combines under the powers they already possess. From the remarks made from time to timeone would imagine that in the Coal Vend case the High Court decided that the law did not give the Government sufficient power to deal with trusts, and that the proceedings taken were unconstitutional. The High Court, however, accepted the law as constitutional, and, on the facts of the case, decided against the prosecution. They held that the Grown had not proved their case. The Chief Justice said -
We are therefore bound to decide the case on 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.
That amounted to a clear and unmistakable acceptance of the constitutionality of the law under which the proceedings were taken, but the Chief Justice pointed out that the Crown had failed to prove their case.
– The Court held that the Crown had failed to prove detriment.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD. - Yes. When honorable senators talk about our not having sufficient power to deal with trusts and combines, they are raising false issues and making false representations to the people. Senator Rae raised the question of detriment. In order to be successful in proceeding against combines, it was necessary, not only to prove the existence of the combines, but that they were operating to the detriment of the public.
– If the Chief Justice could not see detriment in that case, he could not see a hole in a fence.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD. - I admit that one Judge thought fee might assume that there was detriment, but the majority of the Judges held that the case had not been proved. On the evidence the Court failed to find that there was , any detriment to the public. The Judges, in trying a case of this kind, take cognisance of the whole of the evidence, and bring to bear upon it trained minds. They are appointed because of their ability, integrity, and learning. It is nonsense to attempt to discredit a decision at which they may arrive under such circumstances. If honorable senators opposite believe that the Judges are not doing their work properly, there is a constitutional course to adopt. But otherwise their judgment should be accepted. In this instance there can be no reasonable doubt that the Judges arrived at a proper interpretation. I should like to say a word or two more about the Sugar Company. It has been called a combine, a trust, and a monopoly. Other epithets have been hurled against it. But we have only to refer to the report of the Sugar Commission to see what kind of a trust or combine the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is. The highest terms are used with respect to the company’s business attitude.
– The Commission has been called a packed one by the honorable senator’s colleagues
– If it is a packed Commission, all the more credit to it for being able to withstand the environment amidst which it was appointed. Probably the Commission knew more about the Company’s business than honorable senators opposite do. I advise them to go back to the Commission’s report and to read it. But we know that other ideas are simmering in the minds of Government supporters in regard to this question. They might reflect that there are other combines in this country than those to which they habitually refer. There is the Australian Workers Union, which extends from one State to another, and is purely a political combination, using its strength to bulldoze the people.
– It is not political, but mainly industrial.
– Whether the Australian Workers Union will come within the terms of this measure I do not know; but that it is a combine there can be no reasonable doubt. Senator Gardiner has alleged that large sums of money have been paid to the Liberal party by combines. I do not believe that the Liberal party were ever blessed with anything approaching the sum. that has been mentioned.
– Why, then, did not Mr. Knox deny the statement ?
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD. - Probably he looked upon the question put to him as a piece of gross impertinence. Returning again to statements that have been made concerning the High Court Bench, I would remind honorable senators that ‘the occupants of these high positions have shown in their judgments a marked desire to see that there shall be no overlapping between the legislation of the Commonwealth and the States. However desirable it may be to allow the Legislature, as in Great Britain, to pass laws without any restriction from the Judiciary, we have to bear in mind that, under a Federal system, there must be a body empowered to mark the dividing line between the legislation of State and Federal Legislatures. Suppose that the Federal Parliament were to legislate on a subject in the belief that it had ample power to do so, and that a State Parliament also believed that it had power to legislate on the same subject. The two laws might overlap, and there must be a Court or some other body to settle the difference. One of the specific duties intrusted to the High Court is the interpretation of the Constitution. Special provision is made in the Constitution itself that judgments of the High Court affecting its interpretation shall not be the subject of appeal to the Privy Council. The High Court has shown marked ability in the interpretation of the Constitution, and the Judges have manifested a particular care with respect to the definition of State and Federal powers. For this reason it is a great pity that any” attempt should be made to belittle the judgments of the Court.
– Or to belittle the Judges. J. hope Senator Millen is listening.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD. - The more respect we pay to our Judiciary the better chance we shall have of obtaining the services of men whom the whole country will respect, and who will exercise a wise and proper discretion in the interpretation of the law.
Senator SHANNON (South Australia) [4.21I. - My name has been mentioned in the course of the debate, and I feel called upon either to substantiate certain statements that I have made, or to be content to be set down as a man who does not speak the truth. Senator Lynch, in his second-reading speech, affirmed that the farmers of South Australia have been exploited to the extent of £166,000 by the wheat merchants. That was a rash assertion, which the honorable senator cannot substantiate in any way. As far as I know, it was absolutely devoid of foundation in fact. The wheat growers of South Australia have an organization of their own, consisting of between 5,000 and 6,000 members, and they do the whole of their business through their own agencies. It cannot therefore be fairly said that they have been exploited by “ highway robbers.” If they have been exploited at all, it must have been by their own directors. The Farmers’ Co-operative Union is the principal wheat agent in South Australia. Senator Gardiner said that I admitted that I did not know that men sometimes sell on top of the market. I said nothing of the kind. If a man can strike the top of the market, good luck to him. It is like a man going on to a race-course, and striking a good winner. He does not do it too often. Senator Gardiner has alleged that farmers often have to sell their wheat at harvest time, and that they are great losers thereby, because the price afterwards rises, and the extra profit is pocketed by the merchants. I can only say that the honorable senator spoke out of the fullness of his ignorance. In the year 1908 or 1909 - I forget which - throughout the winter there was very little wheat in Australia. When the farmers commenced to reap their crops, the market rose, and they got the accruing benefit. As a matter of fact, at the time when the harvest was being reaped, higher prices were being realized than at any other time during the year.
– What is the reaping time?
– The harvest in Australia is reaped in November, December, and January, as a rule. I have been associated with farming all my life, and I have no hesitation in saying that the farmer who sells at harvest time, taking one year with another, does better than the man who holds his wheat. A farmer is not compelled to sell right off the field. He can carry his wheat direct from the harvest to the stores of his agents, and he can take his cart note to a merchant or to a banker and draw upon it. The wheat is held for ten months free of storage. The merchant holds it at his own risk. The farmer incurs no risk at all. Yet men stand up here and say that the bread is taken from the mouths of the children of Australia. They ought to be ashamed to make such assertions; though they do not know what they are talking about, they have the audacity to say these things, and, as a business man, and in defence of my veracity, I have been called upon to substantiate the statements I made. We are asked to reply to what are merely bald assertions.
– What is the honorable senator’s statement but a bald assertion?
– I have given proof of my statement. How often should I repeat it to enable the honorable senator to understand it ? I object to these statements that are a compound of the concentrated quintessence of double-distilled trash. I have shown Senators Gardiner and Lynch that the farmers of Australia have the matter in their own hands. They are so satisfied with the position which they now hold, and with what they receive from the wheat agents and merchants of Australia, that it is a most difficult thing to induce men in any other State but South Australia to join a farmers’ union. That is not a bald assertion, it is a bald fact. I trust that this Bill will be rejected on the third reading.
– Unless it was for the purpose of taking advantage of this motion to make a lot of noise, I do not know why the Senate has been ‘treated to remarks from Senator Shannon which do not square with the facts. He has said that I have been audacious in statements I have made; that I have made bald assertions; and that remarks which I made in my second-reading speech on the Constitution Alteration (Trade and Commerce) Bill were doubledistilled trash. I shall ask the indulgence of the Senate to repeat what I said, and that is, that on the authority of the report of a Royal Commission in South Australia, the farmers of that State were robbed of 2d. per bushel on their wheat in the year 1907-8.
– The honorable senator now says that that is impossible. He has advised’ honorable senators on this side to read and learn. I based my statement on the finding of a Royal Commission in the State from which Senator Shannon comes, with which he should have more than a passing acquaintance, and a more intimate knowledge of what is happening there, than I or any honorable senator from another State can claim. A Royal Commission was appointed in South Australia, in 1908, to inquire into the question of the disposal of wheat in that State. The personnel of that Commission was as follows, and I will leave it to the Senate to judge as to its political complexion: - The chairman was Mr. E. H. Coombe. I do not think that he is a member of the Labour party. The Commissioners were Mr. Richard Butler, who is not a member of our party-
– He was a partner of Senator Shannon’s at that time
- Mr. A. McDonald, who is not a member of this party ; Mr. Laurence 0’Loughlin ; Mr. J. Newland, a member of the Labour party ; Mr. Crawford Vaughan, also a member of the Labour party ; and Mr. C. Goode, a farmer and a member of the Labour party. The Commission, consisting of seven members, four of whom were opposed to the Labour party in politics, went into the question of the marketing of wheat in the State, with this result, as recorded in their report made to Parliament in 1908. I quote from page 11 of the Parliamentary Papers of South Australia for 1908 -
The assessment of the loss occasioned to producers by the “honorable understanding” -
What an “ honorable understanding “ is, is well known throughout the Commonwealth. We know what it means only too well. We, who are striving to extract by our greatest efforts what we can from the soil, know the villainy and rascality which hides behind the “honorable understandings” of these parasites and robbers in the commercial life of Australia, who enter into conspiracies against the public welfare. We know what an honorable understanding means, and yet Senator Shannon gets up here to defend it, and to assure the Senate that there is nothing wrong. I say that there is everything wrong in the honorable understandings of men who rob those who go into the wilds of this country. I have been intimately associated with what men are doing in remote districts of Australia to develop the resources of the country. I know that, they deny themselves even the ordinary necessaries of life in order to make the lands productive, and to develop the waste lands of the interior. I know that in their efforts to dispose of their produce they are up against a ring of merchants who, by an “ honorable understanding,” as is shown in this report, were successful in robbing the farmers of South Australia of 2d. per bushel by paying them that amount less than they would have been able to obtain for their wheat if they had sold it under circumstances of ordinary competition.
– Is the Farmers Cooperative Union of South Australia mentioned in the report?
– I am concerned about the finding of the Royal Commission, which was not composed of a majority of members of the Labour party.
– This is another quibble.
– What is a quibble?
– Did the Commission find that the Farmers Co-operative Union of South Australia did anything wrong as the result of an honorable understanding?
– I have not said that they did. The honorable senator, who’ comes from South Australia, has discredited my statement that the farmers of his State were robbed of 2d. per bushel on their wheat. My authority for the statement is the report of this Royal Commission. Surely the honorable senator will accept the finding of a Royal Commission on which the members of his own party were in a majority?
– That is not correct.
– Then the honorable senator has no faith in the members of his own party, or in a Commission, one of the members of which was his own business partner. The Commission reported -
An assessment of the loss occasioned to producers by the “ honorable understanding “ in the season 1907-8 is more difficult, inasmuch as New South Wales prices have not been on an exportable basis, and Victorian quotations have also been affected by local considerations, though to a less extent. A reference to appendix L will show that Port Adelaide quotations have ranged from 3£d. to 7 1/2d. below Sydney, and from id. to 6d. below Melbourne.
Then comes the significant sentence, to which I direct the special attention of honorable senators -
After allowing for the special conditions which have applied to Sydney and Melbourne, your Commissioners are of opinion that had it not been for the agreement between the leading traders the price of wheat at Port Adelaide would have been at least 2d. per bushel higher.
The whole thing centres in that. Senator Shannon would have us believe that this report of a Commission consisting of a majority of members of his own party is not correct. I do not wish to emulate the honorable senator in the terms he used with respect to honorable senators on this side, but he must have extraordinary confidence in human credulity to ask us to believe that this report is not correct, notwithstanding the fact that it emanates from a Commission on which his party was in a majority, and which included a gentleman who was in business with himself.
– The majority of the members of the Commission were not members of our party.
– The report of the Commission proceeds -
A striking example of the disadvantageous position of the South Australian farmer as compared with the Victorian is to be seen in the prices of August 7, 1908. The price quoted for flour in Adelaide on that day was £g 10s., and in Melbourne sales were made to bakers at £9 5s. Pollard was the same price in both places, and bran £d. a bushel dearer in Adelaide than Melbourne. But, notwithstanding the lower prices received by Melbourne millers for flour and bran, they paid 4s. i£d. that day for wheat, while the price to millers on the same day at Port Adelaide was 3s. 9 1/2d
The difference in price stated amounts to 4d. per bushel. There is conclusive proof that, by the machinations of this ring of commercial robbers in South Australia, the farmers of that State were robbed of 2d. per bushel on their wheat. At the risk of wearying the Senate by repetition, I was obliged to accept the challenge given by Senator Shannon. I have shown that my previous statement was correct, and that in 1907-8 the farmers of South Australia received from the Wheat Ring 2d. per bushel less for their wheat than they would have been able to obtain under ordinary competition.
– These are the friends of the farmers.
– Of course. But we look for an alteration of that system. So far as I know, there is no law on the statutebook of a State to deal with monopolies. We intend to move in the direction of framing a law which will deal with these organizations, which will bring them up with a round turn, and teach them that if they are not inherently moral, commercially they must be. It is our intention to see that they give a fair deal to the man on the land, because, after all, if the man is not on the land, the merchant will not follow him. cities will not be built, and progress will not be made, at the same rate as obtains to-day ; in fact, the whole prosperity of this country is traceable to the prosperity of the country side in the first place. When development proceeds in a prosperous way in the country the commercial men prosper too. The first necessity is to insure that those who go out to make the dry areas productive shall get a fair deal, that they shall not be met in the disposal of their produce by the ring of robbers who have made their appearance in South Australia. If any honorable senators on the other side were wheat producers, they would regard these persons in the same severe way as I do. Just imagine the position of a farmer, or a fruit-grower, today. He has to send his produce to market. The law of competition regulates the price, barring, of course, the presence in the market of John Darling and his Ring. The law of competition in the market regulates the price of wheat, and out of that price the farmer has to pay for everything he uses; whereas most of the things that he uses he has to buy, not under the influence of competition, but under a system from which competition is entirely banished. We know that in the past the prices of harvesters and implements were fixed in a back room in some of the big cities. We know, as I showed by_: quotation in my -second -reading speech on the first Bill, that the makers of harvesters in Australia put their heads together with the makers of harvesters in America and Canada, and fixed the price at £18 above the figure which was asked prior to the combination. On the purchase of a single machine, owing to the combination entered into by the sellers, the farmer was- robbed of £18, whereas he has to send his wheat into the market and sell it at whatever price competition will award. We know how the law of supply and demand operates; it is the surplus product which regulates the value of the remainder. When those who are in the market to-day are satisfied, the surplus regulates the price of the balance. The position is entirely illbalanced, when we find that the primary producers are on the one hand thrust between the nether mill-stone of competition which regulates the price of what they produce, and the upper mill-stone of the system from which competition is entirely banished, and the prices of their requirements are fixed by an arrangement. It is impossible for primary producers to succeed under that system. If competition is a good thing to regulate the price of wheat or fruit, it ought to be equally good to regulate the price of harvesters, and everything else which the primary producer requires. Yet, sir, honorable senators sitting on your left hand, who always affect to be the farmer’s friend, are not raising a sturdy voice on behalf of a body who have been looking vainly to that party for the redress of their grievances and for assistance. Theposition is very serious. I speak as one who knows something of the troubles of our back-block settlers. I speak as one who knows, from practical experience, that if this system continues much longer, a distinct set-back and discouragement will be given to primary production and settlement. The Labour party is standing forward for the purpose of holding the balance evenly, and saying if competition is a good thing for selling wheat, fruit, or any other primary product, it should also be a good thing for regulating the price of everything which the farmer requires, be it great or small.
– I do not intend to apologize for rising, although I spoke at some length on a previous Constitution Alteration Bill, and the newspapers commented adversely on the time my speech occupied. Senator Lynch’s remarks on trusts and monopolies force a reply, and I am not going to apologize to either the Chamber, or anybody else, for making some remarks. I am in favour of combining. I want Labour to combine. The whole policy of Labour throughout the world to-day is that they have the right - and they know the power which lies behind their might - tocombine. The greatest disadvantage from which the worker ever suffered was that he had not the power or the right to combine. I am fond of giving historical allusions and parallels on great questions. lt was the great Liberal party in the United Kingdom which achieved the right to labour freely to combine, and now that Labour in Australia has won the right to combine, all the representatives who are sympathetic with Labour are turning the sword against capital. I intend to make another declaration. I am in favour of a -combine of capital in this country. I believe that a great need in Australia to-day is population. What is the use of asking people to come here unle>.; capital, combined or separate, follows those people? And what is the use of asking capital to come here separate or combined unless people come here also ? My honorable friends opposite cannot blow hot and cold in this matter. It is because of the true relation of labour and capital that I say that the greatest advantage will accrue by labour combining. The greatest advantage to labour and the whole of the community will be in capital following the same principle - combining to advance the development of this country. After what we have heard in this debate, there is no possibility of escape from the fact that, from the Prime Minister downwards, the Labour party has beer> favorable to a combination of capital with labour. There is not, from the Prime Minister downwards, a single member of the party who has not pointed out the advantages of the combination of labour and capital. There is bound to be co-operation in some respects to achieve certain things, and there is bound to be opposition between the two so long as human nature lasts, and it is the duty of the Legislature to try, in every reasonable and legitimate way in which legislation can do so, to help in that co-operation, and so far as legislation can resist their destructive effects one upon the other, to resist them.
– Is the honorable senator making his valedictory speech?
– I am making a speech, which is rather a bold one. 1 am glad that Senator Lynch has drawn these remarks from me. I repeat that I am in favour of combining, and I am not going to apologize for, or to withdraw, my statement either here or elsewhere. Now that this vile attempt is being made by the other side to amend the Constitution with the express purpose of crushing combines, it is our duty to show that it will make the conditions of the workers rather worse. Under the economic or social conditions which prevail now, how is the worker going to benefit in the country unless capital is encouraged to come here? I say to the worker that the surest and safest way of lifting himself economically and: socially is to encourage capital to come into the country. The Coal Vend, combined with the shipping companies, has been praised by honorable senators on the other side. They know that the co-operation between the two combines had the immediate effect of giving increased wages to the workers under the combines. If the AttorneyGeneral thought that the combination was injurious to the Commonwealth, why did he refuse to use the very instrument which this Parliament had created in order to punish combines? There is no answer to the statement that, when he had the choice of using two Acts, he initiated a prosecution under an Act, only to elic” from the Judges of the High Court that the combine was practically no detriment to the public. In my second-reading speech on the first Bill I read some extracts from the judgment of the Court. I showed that the Chief Justice pointed out that, by the co-operation between the colliery owners and the ship-owners, the workers were benefited, and that the allegation of detriment to the public had not been proved, and that, therefore, the case must be dismissed. But when the converse position might have been created in the Court, as against the combine, the Attorney-General took care that the later Act should not be used ; and 1. think that, on the whole, he is to be complimented upon having taken that course-. At the same time, it is clear that there is more or less of cant about all this talk of economics. We cannot have capital coming here unless we encourage it, either individually or collectively. It is oT no use for the Government to ask people to come here unless, side by side with them, capital is encouraged. Should, at any time, an arrangement be made with labour to injure the community, I shall favour legislation to stop that kind of thing. If a combination of labour should attack either a State or the Commonwealth by its instrumentality, I shall do all I can to prevent, that kind of thing. If an individual should use his capital, or a combine should use their capital, against the interest of the workers or the producers, or against the general welfare of the community. I shall just as strongly advocate the extension of the legislation in order to prevent that kind of thing.
– Do you call that fair?
– It is fair; and no man is fit to be a parliamentary representative unless he tries the whole balance fairly between them. What is the result of all this controversy about the judgments of the High Court? There is no definite evidence upon which you would convict either an individual or a company for having done anything to the detriment of the Commonwealth. The proof of that is afforded by the fact that when one great combine was brought before a Royal Commission, the report of that Commission stated that in some respects that combine had done much for the advancement of Australia and for the advancement of that part of Australia the development of which is a most serious problem. I refer to the northern and tropical portions of Australia. If this Parliament has a sort of preconceived opinion that any monopoly or trust is injurious to the country, then we say, let it be brought before a Commission, and be subjected to the same source of inquiry as the Sugar Trust has gone through, and we will stand by that verdict. But, in the face of the report of the Sugar Commission, regarding what that great Trust has done in one direction. I say that any Legislature should pause before it attempts to condemn a trust. It is quite true that the Commission points to certain dangers, and states that by the operations of the Trust the price of sugar may be affected. I admit that; but if we are going to stand by that as a test, what is going to become of the whole of the Protective policy of Australia?
– Order !
– I shall not pursue that point any further. All I desire to say is that many of the utterances of the members of the other side are not sincere, and, furthermore, that if their policy regarding trusts and combines were carried out, it would be destructive of that very class of whom they profess to be the friends and supporters.
Question - That the Bill be now read a third time - put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 8
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Bill returned from the House of Repre sentatives, with the message that it had agreed to the amendments recommended by the Governor- General in this Bill.
Senator PEARCE laid upon the table the following paper : -
Electoral Act 1902-1911. - Re-distribution Scheme, New South Wales : Further Report and Maps furnished by the Commonwealth Electoral Boundaries Commission.
– On behalf of Mr.
Speaker, Chairman of the Library Committee, I have to lay on the table the report of the Joint Library Committee of the Parliament of the Commonwealth.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) pro posed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
Question put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 8
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) pro posed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
.- It might be necessary to give increased powers to the Commonwealth to enable it to deal with certain corporations, but it is now proposed to hand over to the Federal authority the sole control of all corporations. This is entirely opposed to the Federal principle, and, unless we are prepared to break up Federation and put the Constitution in the melting-pot, we should not allow a measure of this kind to be passed. Under the measure, every company in the State, every farming and dairying company, or other corporation connected with our primary industries, would be brought under the control of the Federal Government. This is one of the last things to be desired. Great confusion would be created, because corporations would not know where they stood owing to the possible conflict of Federal and State laws. It seems to me there is no occasion for this question to be submitted at the forthcoming referenda, because the Constitution already gives power to the Commonwealth, by agreement with the States, to obtain all the authority necessary. Under article 37 of section 51 it is provided that the Commonwealth shall have power, to make laws with respect to - -
Matters referred to the Parliament of the Commonwealth by the Parliament or Parliaments of any State or States, but so that the law shall extend only to States by whose Parliaments the matter is referred, or which afterwards adopt the law.
The Commonwealth Government have never approached the States with a view to arriving at a reasonable understanding in regard to the matter now sought to be dealt with. No doubt, as the Commonwealth grows, it will be found necessary to exercise more powers, but it was never intended by the framers of the Constitution that the present ruthless method should be adopted. When all parties are agreed that the Federal power shall be increased, there will be no difficulty in the way. If the Commonwealth Government approached the State Governments in this or other matters, the State Governments would be found amenable to reason. But when a stand-and-deliver attitude is adopted, and the States are threatened with the absolute swamping of all their functions, they are bound to stand on the defensive and declare that they will not give away any more of their powers. We fmd that the Commonwealth is always trying to secure more powers. The Government endeavoured to secure control of the State Savings Banks.
– Order ! The honorable senator cannot discuss that question.
– Are not the State Savings Banks corporations?
– The honorable senator was proceeding to discuss the action of Parliament in passing legislation dealing with Savings Banks. There is nothing to prevent the honorable senator from discussing the Savings Banks of the States which are corporations.
– An attempt was made by the Commonwealth Government to get hold of the State Savings Banks, which are corporations, but the people had not sufficient confidence in the Commonwealth Government, and unanimously refused to do as was desired. I believe that the powers now proposed to be conferred should be obtained after consultation with the States. Mr. Beeby, in his manifesto, is very strong on this point.
– You now have a new political saint.
– I do not know the man at all.
– You always canonize our deserters.
– I am strongly opposed to this proposal, which, as I say, has been strongly condemned by Mr. Beeby ; and, although it is hopeless to think of negativing it here, we may rest content that it will be rejected by the people.
– A very nice legal and constitutional question is involved in this proposal. A difficulty was suggested in another place, and no solution has ever been attempted by the Attorney-General or other members of his party. The question has arisen as to what law will operate in the case of an individual who is making boots in Melbourne, as compared with a company or corporation engaged in the same line of business. This is not a legal question, but a matter of common sense. It is said that common sense is the foundation of common law, and I want to know exactly where we stand. Is it contemplated that special advantages shall be conferred upon individuals as opposed to corporations engaged in the same line of business, or viceversa? When the Attorney-General was confronted with this question, he said hecould not define the powers, and when hewas further pressed, stated he did not know what the powers were. Now, I wish to know whether any honorable senator can answer my question? We are being asked to put this proposal before the public, and yet, apparently, no honorable senator on the Government side can say clearly and definitely what the effect of the law will be in the case of individuals and corporations respectively.
– The doubt surrounding the question will tend to add to the income of members of the honorable senator’s profession.
– No doubt ; but it may be claimed for members of that profession in Parliament that, so far as the framing of laws is concerned, they have ever sought the good of the public rather than the furtherance of the interests of their profession. A good lawyer need not trouble one straw about the laws made by Parliament. If it is desired to define or limit the powers of corporations, let us specifically set out what we want, and make the position of all corporations perfectly clear. The obligation is on the advocates of this Bill to indicate the effect of the law on individuals and corporations whose activities are identical. We are entitled to ask for some explanation. When a similar proposal was placed before the people in 1911, the same difficulty was pointed out over and over again by the most eminent constitutional lawyers. I object strongly to this legislation, which involves a leap in the clark. We have a perfect right under the circumstances to ask that further light shall be thrown upon the difficulty that I have instanced .
-341- - In view of the statements which have been made by way of interjection, I wish briefly to put what appears to me to be the real intent and purpose of this Bill. We have heard a great deal in the course of the debate about the granting of powers which it is alleged are necessary fu: the well-being of the people of Australia. Every one will admit that if a Bill can be passed by Parliament which will help forward the peace, progress, and happiness of the people, it is our duty to assent to it. But if, on the contrary, it can be shown that a proposal is going to make, not for peace and order, but for disorder, friction, and trouble, not only to the individual, but to the Government, I submit that we ought to go extremely slow before we express approval of it. I fancy that more attention will be paid to this Corporations Bill by those who discuss the policy of the Government on the public platforms than to any other of this group of measures. When the word “ corporation “ is used, it is frequently assumed that it applies to what are known as trusts, combines, and monopolies. It cannot be too often stated, however, that this measure deals only with what are known as joint stock companies. There is a very big difference between the institutions which are referred to very frequently as corporations, and which may be described as trusts, monopolies, and combines, and limited liability or joint stock companies, such as will be affected by the measure. Let me remind honorable senators of a growing class of companies which are to be met with in nearly every electorate in Australia. I speak of those wHo are intimately connected with the primary industries of the country. It is impossible to go into a dairying district without finding dotted about it limited liability companies which, if this proposal is carried, will be brought under the control of a uniform Federal law. These companies frequently run little creameries to suit the convenience of a small ‘ number of dairy farmers. In the larger centres the creamery gives place to a butter factory. Perhaps, not far away, there is a bacon-curing establishment. These are mainly co-operative concerns, or, in other words, limited liability companies. They are joint stock affairs, which have been formed to suit the requirements of producers. Every one of us professes a desire to encourage co-operation in the form I have indicated. I venture to suggest that such companies do more than anything else ‘to secure to the dairy farmers an adequate return for their labour. Let me refer to another class of companies connected with another body of our primary producers, namely, the wheat farmers. Co-operation has not, perhaps, proceeded as far in respect to them as it has done’ in regard to the dairy farmers. The conditions of wheat growing do not appear to lend themselves so readily as does dairying to such co-operative enterprises. But, nevertheless, the idea is growing, and you will find now in nearly every representative wheat district, at all events in my own State, that the farmers have realized ‘the advantages which are derived from cooperation. They have formed small joint stock enterprises. We have companies started the purpose of which is to buy for the farmers. Some of them are limited to the buying of machinery, the company lending its collective credit, and being thereby in a position to make better terms with the vendors of machinery than the individual farmer would be able to make for himself. There are in some instances companies which have been formed for the purpose of selling wheat. These companies act as vendors for the growers, being able to operate with bigger lines, and to finance to greater advantage than individuals can. Frequently they enable their members to hold off the market, securing to them’ needed financial assistance in the meanwhile t!o an extent that they would not be able to obtain if they depended upon their- individual resources. Another class of co-operation is to be found in many of our inland towns in the shape of what is known as auction marts. These are often nothing more than galvanized iron buildings with perhaps saleyards attached, representing the efforts of small companies possessed of limited capital to provide a definite local market in which they can dispose of their produce or with convenience to themselves purchase articles which they require. In regard to mining also, very frequently a number of men interested in a mine will, in order to secure the advantages of the company law, instead of working as ordinary partners, form liability companies. That is not done with a view of inviting outside capital, or to put shares upon the market, but to enable the men interested in the mine to carry on their pursuit more advantageously, and to safeguard the individual rights of each one of the co-partners. Something of the same kind occurs in reference to many businesses. We have an increasing number of commercial undertakings which are in the hands, not of individuals, but of small proprietary companies. Perhaps a man who has founded a business will take the members of his own family into partnership, or he may take in one or two of the managers of the concern. He will transfer the business in this way from a privately-owned concern into a limited liability company. The experience of honorable members will enable them to bear witness to. the fact that we have a great variety and multiplicity of limited liability companies in Australia. As far as I am able to judge, they are likely to go on increasing, because, as has frequently been said in the course of this debate, the times call for larger and larger enterprises, and for combination and cooperation. Now I want to know in what position these small companies will be after this Bill is passed. This is an attempt, to bring all of them under one uniform. Federal law.
– Would not that be a good thing?
– I do not think it would. I do not think that a law whichmay be necessary to deal with big concerns having ramifications all over Australia, and a share-list quoted on every stock exchange in the country, is suitable to be applied, say, to a small creamery company on the south coast of my own State, or to a small mining company in Queensland. It has to be remembered that not one of these small creamery companies wants tooperate beyond its own locality. It is not formed for the purpose of trading outside a State, or even outside a district. Why do honorable senators opposite want to use this great Federal hammer to crush such a little nut. )
– We do not want tocrush it.-
– I remind the honorable senator of the classical bed whose proportions were such that those who subjected themselves to it or were forced to lieupon it, in the one case had to be stretched out and in the other to be amputated. The honorable senator wants to do the same thing here. He is prepared to sacrifice everything for the sake of rigid uniformity.
– We are proposing tosacrifice nothing.
– I have been trying to point out the undesirableness of having one hard-and-fast companies law to deal with both purely local and domestic companies with which the States of Australiaare dotted, and with great concernsoperating in every State. If Senator Stewart is -not prepared to accept that as an argument which should cause him to go slow in this matter, let me direct his attention to another undesirable consequence which will probably flow from the passage of this Bill. I propose to again quote the opinion of Mr. Justice Higgins, not in order to load Hansard with frequentrepetitions of that opinion, ‘but because it seems to me that by removing Mr. Justice: Higgins, metaphorically, from the Bench,, and putting him in the witness-box, I shall’ produce a witness whom even Senator Stewart must accept with respect. The honorable senator will agree with me that there is often in the Law Courts considerable difference between what people think and what they contend for, but when, some time ago, a case was put forward on behalf of the Commonwealth, it was contended that this Parliament, under the Constitution as it exists to-day, possessed the powers which it is the purpose of this proposed amendment to bestow upon it. Mr. Justice Higgins, in certain remarks which have now become well known to honorable senators, said - If the argument for the Crown is light - And I wish to point out that if this Bill becomes law, and the proposed amendment is adopted, the argument which the Crown addressed to the Court then will be a sound and valid argument, and the position which Mr. Justice- Higgins merely indicated will become the actual position with which we :shall be face to face. His Honour said -
If the argument for the Crown is right, the Jesuits 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 b-“ 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.
I am prepared to judge this Bill on that utterance of Mr. Justice Higgins. It cannot be said that he was in any way a partisan when delivering himself of those views. He was speaking as a trained and able lawyer, who is probably as familiar as is any man in Australia with what the Constitution contains. He swept on one side the claim which was then advanced on behalf of the Commonwealth, pointing out that if it were made good the extraordinary condition of affairs which he described would be brought about. We might have, side by side in the same street of the same town, and under the same roof, two businesses, -one carried on by half-a-dozen men and calling themselves a partnership, and the other “by another half-dozen men calling themselves a limited liability company, conducted in competition each with the other, and under totally different laws. Senator Stewart and others tell us that that is what we require ‘to secure the peace and happiness of the people of Australia. I am inclined to think they are supporting these measures because they have been told by their sponsors that all these powers are necessary. I admit the urgent necessity for a general company law dealing with companies whose operations extend beyond the boundaries of one State, so that when such companies are being launched it should not be necessary to have six registrations in the six different States, or to have six winding-up petitions, and the whole procedure gone through in the Courts of the six States which should be sufficient if carried out in one. There is, however, a big difference in passing a general companies law, regulating the establishment and winding-up of companies, and such a position of affairs as Mr. Justice Higgins has described. When we speak of the operation of this Bill, should the proposed amendment of the Constitution be adopted, we are told that we should have a uniform companies law. No one objects to that for a moment. But the power 10 pass such a law for the purpose of the formation and winding-up of companies is one thing, and to give the Commonwealth Parliament absolute control over the personnel and every detail of the operations of every limited liability company throughout Australia is quite another matter, and, as Mr. Justice Higgins has said, is a proposition which will be extraordinarily big with confusion. If the supporters of this proposal wish to be fair,as they say they do, to the electors of Australia, I suggest that, having advocated it upon the platform, they should conclude their addresses by saying to those who may be listening to them, “Whilst we urge the acceptance of this proposal, and believe that such an amendment of the Constitution is necessary, we think it is only fair that we should tell you that Mr. Justice Higgins holds an entirely opposite opinion.” I should like to know if any of our honorable friends opposite will be sufficiently honest and frank with the electors to put side by side with the opinions that they will utter in support of this proposal the views expressed by one who is at least as competent to form an opinion as to the meaning of the constitutional provisions as is any member of the Senate. I do not notice that Senator Findley indicates any enthusiastic assent to my proposition.
– It is a novel one.
– I quite recognise that. I can understand that my honorable friend is abashed, and that he regards it, not merely as novel, but as an audacious proposition that he should put the matter fairly before the electors whom he will address.
– In the honorable senator’s way?
– Does Senator Findley dispute the accuracy of the opinion expressed by Mr. Justice Higgins?
– I have not formed any opinion about it.
– It would probably be more correct to say that the honorable senator has formed an opinion, but he will not express it. He admits that my proposition is a novel one, but he has never been restrained from doing anything by reason of its novelty. On the contrary, members of the party to which he belongs rather pride themselves upon the freedom and .daring with which they take up novelties. I suggest that the honorable senator, having completed the exposition of his reasons for supporting this proposal, should, in fairness to the electors, read to them Mr. Justice Higgins’ opinion. He might then conclude by saying, “ Ladies and gentlemen, as you have now had the benefit of my views, and the benefit also of Mr. Justice Higgins’ opinion, I am prepared to leave the matter in your hands.” Such a novel experience should be a refreshing incident in a somewhat chequered political career. I hope that Senator Findley will accept my suggestion in the good spirit in .which I offer it.
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [5.55]. - I should like to add a few words to what Senator Millen has said on this Bill. He pointed out the difficulties which, as a consequence of the multiplicity of small corporations, would arise should this proposal be adopted. He referred to butter factories, but there are corporations of a very different character which would be affected. People desire at times to carry on undertakings without rendering themselves personally liable for all that may be done in the name of the association of which they are members. I take the case of a yacht club, a rowing club, or a cricket club. These are sometimes formed into limited liability companies. Again, there are such clubs as the Commercial Travellers and other clubs, each formed by the association of members of a particular section of the community, who may desire to be relieved of the liability attaching to every individual of a partnership. Honorable senators are aware that if an ordinary company becomes involved in difficulties, every member of the partnership is liable for the ‘whole of the obligations of the firm. People naturally prefer to form themselves into limited liability companies, in order that both themselves and. the public may know just what their personal liability in connexion with the business carried by the company will be. TheGovernment propose to ask for this Parliament the power to pass a companies law under which they may control corporations, formed under the law of a State, including, their registration, dissolution, regulation,, and control. Under such a law a company would require to be registered in Melbourneor at Canberra, and persons in Western Australia or in Northern Queensland requiring; to search the records of the company, would have to go to the central office in order todo so. The proposal must have the effect of imposing quite unnecessary restrictions, upon persons desiring to form themselvesinto small companies. To invoke thepowers of the Commonwealth Parliament, for such purposes as have been indicated inthe discussion of this measure would be likeusing a steam-hammer to crack a nut.. We may find a corporation registering in Australia in order to control some small affair in which .£400 or ,£500 or £r,000,is involved.
– They have to do it now.
– - It is true that if a company isformed in a State it has to register at thecapital of the State, but it is not so difficult in dealing with a State as it will bein dealing with the Commonwealth.
– Could not the corporations have a branch in each State?
– Possibly they might, but that would bring a great deal more machinery into existence. If the Government were to say that as it is impossible for corporations, whether” “foreign or local, which-, desire to operate in Australia as a whole, to be dealt with satisfactorily underhalfadozen companies laws. I admit - that it would be a good thing to have only one law on the subject. If a banking or financial companyintends to operate throughout the Commonwealth, it will be alike beneficial to thecountry and to the community to have a Companies Act dealing with the whole of* Australia, and I would agree with the Government moving in that direction if thescope of the Bill were confined to the cases- of corporations, whether local or foreign, doing business in more than one State of the Commonwealth. If -they wish to pass a law of that character, and feel that the law as it stands in the States “is insufficient to give the control which they think ought to be exercised, I would say, “ By all means let us amend the law,” but -when we are confronted with a sweeping proposal of this character, it is time, I think, that we paused to consider what ought to be done. The proposal is to omit paragraph xx. from section 51 of the Constitution, with a view of inserting another paragraph covering all corporations except - municipal or governmental corporations, or any Corporations formed solely for religious, charitable, scientific, or artistic purposes, and not for the acquisition of gain by the corporation or >its members.
At the present time there are in the Commonwealth, some hundreds, possibly thousands, of small companies under the law <of the State in which they operate. Although the operations of the small companies do not affect any other State, yet the Government desire this Parliament to have power to pass a comprehensive law which will practically wipe out the laws -of the States and bring all companies, small and large, within its meshes.
– What objection is there to that?
– The proposal is very objectionable, because the substitution of a Federal law for the State laws will unnecessarily hamper the development of the States by means of small corporations. The demand is tantamount to saying to individuals, “ If you want to limit your liability in any undertaking, we ar,e going to place you under a general law, instead of allowing you to deal with that of the State.”
– What difference would that make?
– There is the position of the States to be considered. It is a, duty we owe to the States to see that their privileges and rights are not unduly interfered with. If it can be shown that abuses exist under the State laws, and that a demand has emanated from the public to make a great change, well and good, but we have not heard a single word to that effect.
– Why should we have half-a-dozen companies laws?
– Why should we not allow each State to deal with those corporations which do not attempt to operate beyond the boundaries “of the State ? I have already said that I have no objection to a general law dealing with corporations which operate beyond the limits of a State.
– I do not see that there is a very great deal to reply to. Senator St. Ledger is very anxious to get an answer to a question which he has repeated times without number. He has suggested the case of a corporation, as well as an individual, running a boot factory. If he were to refer to the Bill that we have passed dealing with trusts and combines, he would find that the very same thing applies there. An individual who is not running a trust or combine will be in exactly the same position as a bootmaker who is not in a corporation with respect to the boot trade. There will be absolutely no difference. Some honorable senators have talked about our employing a steam hammer to crack a nut. We are not attempting to crack anything, but are merely asking the people to empower this Parliament to legislate with respect to corporations. A wail has been raised by Senators Gould and Millen with respect to the poor little butter factory, and the poor little bacon-curing factory, which may arise in any one State exclusively. But there are such factories operating on the boundary of two States.
– And the commerce powers would enable you to deal with them.
– No, because these factories are located on the boundary of two States. The members of a corporation running such a factory are drawn from two States, but they are only operating as one institution. It is for the purpose of preventing confusion arising out of a position of that kind that we desire the people to invest this Parliament with additional power. The complaint is that we intend to deal with corporations established in a State. Did either Senator Millen or Senator Gould ever hear of the butter scandals that were disclosed in Victoria in connexion with corporations which were not operating outside its boundaries?
– Would not those scandals have occurred if the law had been Federal ?
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Could not the State deal with that case?
– Why did it not do so? It is the very diversity of the State laws in connexion with trading and financial corporations which makes it necessary that a central authority should have the power to control the whole of these corporations in Australia, so that not only the members of the corporations, but the public generally, may be protected from the operation of any corporations which might be inclined to act wrongly. We have a right to protect the public from the operations of corporations, just as we have a right to protect the public against individuals. While Senator Millen was dilating upon the opinion of Mr. Justice Higgins, if I understood His Honour aright, he was referring more particularly to the operation of the libel laws.
– No, the companies laws. The whole case turned on the power of the Commonwealth over corporations.
-In dealing with corporations or individuals, Mr. Justice Higgins was referring to the libel laws. Of course, we do not intend to enter into an argument on that question here, but we intend to enter into an argument as to whether it is best for the peace, order, and good government of Australia that a central authority should have power to legislate with respect to trading and financial corporations established in Australia, and even to corporations established within the borders of a State. I have a little knowledge of the working of the State Companies Acts, and how they affect companies which operate on the boundary line of two States. In my opinion, it is nearly time that some action was taken for the purpose of making the laws more uniform, and more understandable. No business man in Australia could be expected to know all the State laws with respect to companies and corporations, but he could easily make himself acquainted with a uniform law on the subject, and that law would get rid of an immense difficulty which now exists. The complaint from the other side that companies would haveto go to Melbourne or Yass-Canberra reminds me of the arguments I heard from the platform in connexion with the referenda of last year. I suppose that these arguments will be repeated next year, although they have as much to do with the question as have the flowers that Bloom in the spring.
Question - That the Bill be now read a third time - put. The Senate divided.
Majority … …. 8
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
– Before we finally pass this Bill, I think it might be just as well to draw the attention of honorable senators to the fact that this idea of nationalizaion of monopolies, or anything else, is by no means a new one. It was tried for many years as far back as the eleventh century, and especially in connexion with the farming industry. It may possibly be argued that I should not deal with that question at the present time, but the statement has been made in another place that wheat and butter are the subjects of monopoly, and it is to be assumed that, if this Parliament thinks fit, it can declare - and it probably will declare, because the Attorney-General has drawn attention to those particular classes of produce - that wheat and butter are the subjects of monopoly. We can go back a very considerable time to see how it affected the man on the land when an attempt was made to nationalize monopolies. Honorable senators opposite will recognise this book from which I am about to read as representing very much what is the position to-day -
In the nth century of our era, the Chinese nation, under the dynasty of Song, presented a spectacle nearly analogous to that seen in Europe, and France especially, of late years. The great and knotty question of social and political economy filled all minds and split into parties every class of society. Those people who at other times have seemed so indifferent to the proceedings of their Government, then flung themselves passionately into the discussion of systems which aimed at an immense social revolution.
I think honorable senators will agree that, leaving out the fact that it was in China, and under the dynasty of Song, the description of the position there is very much the same as that of the position in Australia today. People have flung themselves into opposite camps, and are discussing politics and socal revolutionary ideas which, in the past, they have practically neglected. It will be interesting to note that -
The reformer, or chief of the Socialistic party, was the famous Wang-ngan-che, a man of remarkable talent, who kept all classes of the Empire in excitement during the reign of several emperors.
I am not denying that, amongst those who belong to the Socialist party, we also have men of remarkable talent, who keep all classes of the country in excitement during a period of years. Then we are told how Mr. Wang-ngan-che agitated and worked up a considerable amount of excitement. Later on, when he got a footing in the country, he packed the High Court Bench of that date, and generally had a very good time -
Historians add that he was incompetent to conduct affairs of State, because he bad only general views on the subject, and would have governed according to maxims which, though good in themselves, he did not apply to the right time and circumstance.
If that does not exactly apply to many of the proposals that now emanate from the party in power, 1 am no student of modern history. Amongst other things, this great man said -
In order to prevent the oppression of man by man the State should take possession of all the resources of the Empire, and become the sole master and employer. The State should take the entire management of commerce, industry, and agriculture into its own hands with the view of succouring the working classes and preventing their being ground to the dust by the rich.
It sounds almost as if it were the report of a Sydney Domain utterance -
According to these new regulations, tribunals were to be established throughout the Empire, which were to fix the price of provisions and merchandise. For a certain number of years taxes were to be imposed - to be paid by the rich - from which the poor should be exempt. The tribunals were to decide who was rich and who poor.
Just as it is now proposed that Parliament shall decide what is a monopoly, and what is not -
According to Wang-ngan-che the State was to become the only proprietor of the soil ; in each district the tribunals were to assign the land annually to the farmers, and distribute amongst them the seed necessary to sow it, on conditions that the loan was repaid either in grain or other provisions after the harvest was gathered, and in order that all the land should be profitably cultivated the officers of the tribunals should fix what kind of crop was to be grown and supply the seed for it.
– What are you reading from ?
– I am reading from The Chinese Empire: forming a sequel to the work entitled “ Recollections of a Journey through Tartary and Thibet,” by M. Hue, formerly Missionary Apostolic iri China. The book is in two volumes - I am- quoting from volume 2 - and was published in London by Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, the date of publication being 1855. Then we are told how the farmers are going to manage -
The seed, then, is entrusted to them, and they begin by consuming part ; they sell or exchange it for something which they imagine they need more than anything else. Corn has been given them; they leave off working,’ and become idle. But supposing all this does not happen; the grain is sown, all the necessary labours of cultivation are properly performed, the time of gathering the crop arrives, and they are called upon to repay what was lent them. The harvest which they have watched as it grew and ripened, and regarded as their own property, the well-earned fruit of their labours, must now be_ divided. Part must be yielded up, or sometimes, in bad seasons, the whole crop. How many reasons will be alleged for refusing to do so ! How many real and imaginary necessities will stand in the way of the restitution ?
This effort to establish nationalization went on for a time, and then the people rose in their wrath against this method of making the farmer grow a certain amount of crop, which was to be kept to feed the people m the cities. The farmer said, “ I do not take the stuff that the people in the cities produce,” and therefore he declined to do much more than consume the seed that was supplied to him for the cultivation of crops. Eventually they turned out the Socialists.
The Socialists again gained power, and the experiments .continued over a period of something like 200 years. I should like honorable senators to realize that these experiments went on, not against the will of the reigning powers, but with their consent. It was almost impossible for the people, at that time, without the consent of the head of the Chinese Government, to carry out any of their Socialistic propositions. There was another gentleman called See-ma-Kouang who appears to have been the Leader of the Liberal party at that time. He eventually came to the top, and the name of the reformer was loaded with execration. Lastly, the Socialist party were persecuted again, and forced to fly the country. That was in the year 1129, and more than 200 years after the first effort was made to introduce Socialism into China. That was a practical experiment amongst millions and millions of people ; and it is how for. this Government to show how they propose to benefit the farmer by nationalizing his wheat and butter industries, which have been declared by the Attorney-General, as the mouth-piece of the Government, to be the subjects of monopoly. While the Government are nationalizing the butter industry, I would ask whether they propose to nationalize the weather - whether they propose to make it rain when rain is wanted, and to make the grass grow and the cows calve? If they do not, how are they going to carry on the butter industry as a national industry? There is one other point to which I desire to draw attention, and that is that we are putting ourselves in what has been described as an anomalous and false position. We are handing over to this Parliament the right to declare what are monopolies and what are not, just as in China some 700 or 800 years ago the governing authorities declared what were and what were not monopolies and took it upon themselves to nationalize monopolies. All I have to say to the Government is that this wonderful policy of nationalization which they talk about on the public platforms is the thrice-exploded Utopia of a dead Chinaman.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 till 8 p.m.
– I wish to ask one or two questions regarding this Bill. First, I desire to know whether the Govern-, ment intend to define what a monopoly is? If the Bill be carried, and the referendum question embodied in it is adopted by the people, the Constitution will be amended accordingly. As a result, Parliament may be called upon to legislate next session. What is .to be the basis of the legislation to be passed? Surely we are entitled to ask what is in the mind of the Government in regard to the definition of “ monopoly “? Apparently, there is not a man in the Ministerial party, and not a member of the Government, who is in a position to give the slightest information upon the point. Walking in the dark is safety as compared with this; because a man walking in the dark has other senses than sight to guide him, but in this matter we have no information to guide us. I am not going to support any measure for nationalizing monopolies without knowing what a monopoly is. Honorable members opposite may swallow this proposal if they like, but, as a member of the Liberal party, I decline to do so without entering a strong protest. The Royal Commission in their report on the Sugar Industry admit that there is a monopoly in existence there, but they advise the Government not to nationalize it. If the Government intend to act upon the report of their own Commission, and are not going to nationalize the sugar-refining industry, what industry are they going to nationalize ?
– How can any one answer that question, seeing that nobody knows what monopolies will arise in Australia in the future?
– I admit the difficulty of defining the term. “ Nationalization “ is a polysyllable, which, as here used, may mean much or nothing. We may say the same in regard to “monopoly.” But we ought not to embody such a provision in the Constitution without making an attempt at definition. There is no precedent for this kind of thing. What is going to happen when either House of Parliament in the same session has, by resolution, declared that a monopoly exists? Parliament is to have power under such circumstances to make a law for carrying on the industry or business under the control of the Commonwealth, and to acquire “on just terms “ any property used in connexion with the industry or business. Who is to determine the “just terms”?
– An arbitrator.
– The Bill throws no light on the subject. Why should not the matter be referred to the High Court?
– Then the High Court would be an arbitrator.
– If this power is delegated to the High Court, that body will have a power of legislation. I object to transfer legislative power from this Parliament to any arbitrator or Court. What machinery will be set up to determine the amount of money to be paid on taking over an industry ? That is the simplest and plainest of questions, but no answer is vouchsafed. If Parliament itself is going to determine the “ just terms,” we have a right to be informed on what principles ‘the terms ,are to be ascertained. Let me give an illustration : Suppose it be admitted that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s business is a monopoly. We know from the report of the Royal Commission that the good- will and business of the 1 company would, if sold, be worth between seven million and eight million pounds Suppose Parliament determined to acquire the company’s business. I presume that the Treasurer would submit a motion to Parliament. Suppose he said that, in his opinion, the business of the company was worth only six millions of the taxpayers’ money, and that he would not agree to pay more. It would then be left to Parliament to determine whether six millions or eight millions should be paid. Thus there- would be two million sovereigns to gamble with. I should have liked to have an opportunity to trace the history of “ graft “ in the United States of America, and to show that the possibilities of that evil there are infinitesimal as compared with the opportunities for “graft” presented by this innocent looking Bill. In the case I have mentioned there would be two million sovereigns jingling at the doors of Parliament. That is the situation that is likely to arise when such a matter is considered by one or other House of the Legislature. If I am returned, as I hope I shall be, to the next Parliament, I do not wish to be subjected to any such temptation. You, sir. open our proceedings each day with a prayer, in which you ask that we may not be led into temptation. I may be one of those who will stand at the door of this Chamber when sovereigns are being jingled about to tempt members of the Senate.
– The honorable senator has no faith in the prayer.
– I say that the prayer expressly forbids us to do this thing which would lead us into temptation.
– The honorable senator’s petition is that we may be delivered from evil.
– Possibly, if the Vice-President of the Executive Council could be delivered from me, he would feel that that prayer had been answered.
– That prayer will be answered when the referendum is taken.
– I believe that it will. I cannot think that any people will seriously entertain such a proposition. I am confident that the people of Australia will not approve of the embodiment in our Constitution of any amendment which may lead to opportunities being afforded for “ graft.” If this measure represents the last resource of the Government for dealing with monopolies, I say that the last stage will be worse than the first. It would be infinitely better to permit them to continue their operations uncontrolled than to allow them to effect the destruction of this Parliament in the event of differences of opinion as to the price to be paid for “buying them out. Of what use is it to have honorable senators to play the ostrich in this matter?
– They will spend their money in the campaign against these proposals at the referendum..
– Let them spend all they like upon it. If (Key do so corruptly, there are heavy penalties which may be imposed upon them. Let me appeal to the experience of every member of this Parliament when we were discussing the Tariff eighteen months ago. Do not honorable senators know that a member of the Senate could not have his breakfast, dinner, or tea, or could not leave the chamber to get his papers from his private box, without having inducements of every kind held out to him, and suggestions made that if this or that course were followed in dealing with the Tariff, certain interests would be benefited ? What will happen when monopolies are to be nationalized, and the public purse is to be dipped into for the purpose? Suppose the Government determines to nationalize a monopoly, and those controlling it stand out for a certain price. What will they do? Honorable senators may reasonably assume that they will do whatever they may think may be necessary to secure their price. If this proposal be embodied in the Constitution, I see illimitable vistas of “ graft “ and corruption in front of us. That is why I so strongly resist the passing of this measure. There is a reference in the Bill to monopolies supplying any specified service. This can only apply to some Australian combine supplying any specified service to the Commonwealth, whilst every outside monopoly supplying such a service will be able to cany on its operations without interference.
– We can control outsiders by the Tariff.
– That is utter nonsense. I take, for instance, the Marconi system of wireless telegraphy ; the Government have landed themselves in a difficulty right away in connexion with this matter, and are engaged in a lawsuit in connexion with it. It is a question whether or not, by the system they have adopted, the Government have infringed the Marconi patent. Do they propose to nationalise Marconi ?
– No; we have nationalized Balsillie.
– And the Government have landed themselves in a difficulty in consequence.
– They are now nationalizing a lawsuit.
– Exactly. Their nationalization of this public service ha3 landed them in a law suit. As the matter is still sub judice we cannot press the Government too hard upon it, but I am entitled to ask whether, assuming that Bal.sillie’s patent is an infringement of Marconi’s, the Government propose to nationalize the Marconi system?
– We say that it is not an infringement.
– And the Government are so -frightened about it that they will not let the Marconi people see it.
– Why should we?
– We know that the patents for the manufacture of articles that are the most important factors in carrying out the private and public services of monopolies are held by outsiders. They have the whole world to roam over. But the moment an original invention of an Australian for Australian purposes becomes a monopoly, it is to be swallowed up by a cormorant Government. The outside patentee can come to the Government, and say “ You can have my patent at my price.” But the discovery of the Australian patentee may be seized upon and nationalized by the Government. Wireless telegraphy is a specified service. It is certain that with the development of science the improvements in connexion with the system will be probably greater than the results already achieved. Under this measure, while the holder of a patent outside Australia may say to the Government, “ If you want my system of wireless telegraphy you can buy it at my price or go without,” whereas, if an Australian makes an important discovery in connexion with wireless telegraphy and patents it, the Government can inform him that they propose to take it over and nationalize it. Is that likely to be an encouragement to the inventive genius of Australia ? I do not see why we should not allow an Australian patentee to enjoy the advantages in Australia which every outside patentee will have.
– So he will.
– Not if this proposal be embodied in the Constitution.
– “On just terms.”
– I ask again who is to determine what are just terms? Will it depend upon my vote, or the vote of any other member of the Senate? Will it be me or any other member of the Senate who will be standing outside the door of this chamber when a difference of opinion as to whether the price to be paid for a monopoly shall be a certain sum or £1,000,000 more is to be decided by one vote? If this proposed amendment is embodied in the Constitution we shall be confronted with the issue in that form. If the Government have a majority of only one, and it is a question whether £500,000 or £1,000,000 ‘shall be given for a particular monopoly, and I know it, and the monopolists know it, my vote will be worth £500,000 or £1,000,000. I do not impute corruption to the members of this Parliament, but I impute corruptibility to human nature. I do not impute direct and intentional corruption now or in the future to any member of this Parliament. In the matter of personal honesty and uprightness I do not believe any Parliament in the world is superior to it. That is the reputation of this Parliament.
– We want to keep it.
– Just so; and I am pointing out the grave danger of putting such an amendment in the Constitution as is proposed by this Bill. What it will do will be to leave Senator St. Ledger or Senator Guthrie standing outside the door of this chamber when £500,000 is hanging in the balance.
– The man who would be guilty of what the honorable senator suggests would be stoned out of the country.
– If he got the 500,000 sovereigns he would not care two straws about the stones. He would be away where the stones could not reach him.
– His life would not be worth twopence.
– The people would not necessarily know anything about the matter.
– The best answer to Senator Guthrie is that, according to the statements of honorable senators on the other side, this kind of thing is operating in the United States of America to-day.
– One has only to refer to the history of the United States of America to know that that is so. We know that they, first of all, appointed their own legislators, and when they could not do that they appointed their own State Supreme Court, and got their franchise through wholesale. But those franchises were nothing in comparison to the amounts which may.be involved should the Government propose to nationalize a great monopoly. I suppose that the capital of the Tobacco Combine cannot be less than £5,000,000. It is admitted that the shipping companies constitute a monopoly, and the value of their ships, good-will, and trade must be £8,000,000 or£10,000,000. Suppose we are asked to determine what are the just terms on which these monopolies should be’ nationalized? Do my honorable friends think that they are likely to remain very quiet when there is a difference of between half a million and one million as to the price? No, they would not do that if their property were in issue. They might go so far as to say that they would be entitled to bribe individuals. From that point of view, they have the right to assume that companies will do so.
– How do we get land for railways or city improvements?
– Under Acts of Parliament. Will my honorable friends pass a measure like the Lands Acquisition Act before they attempt to put this power into force?
– With proper public machinery.
– Exactly. I would give my assent to this proposal to amend the Constitution if I had an assurance from the Vice-President of the Executive Council that the Government would pass a Bill dealing with the nationalization of monopolies on the lines of the Lands Acquisition Act.
– When that legislation comes on it will be explained.
– It will be pretty difficult for any one to explain the legislation. Surely I am entitled to know before the present measure is passed how the legislative power, if granted, is to be exercised. It is true that as regards the acquisition of land we have to trust, unfortunately, almost entirely to a Minister. I know that there is machinery provided for arbitration in such cases. I have been engaged on many arbitration cases both for a Government and against them.
– It will be done under an Act of Parliament.
– Will the honorable senator give us an indication of the way in which the Labour party will administer this power if conferred upon the Parliament ?
– An Act of Parliament is not to declare what is a monopoly.
– That is another important point. If our honorable friends opposite would now define what is a monopoly, we might be willing to allow this proposal to go through, because we should then know how far the power could be operated, but they will not venture to define “ monopoly.” If they will tell us what the word means, or is likely to mean, and that on that definition they will, if returned with a majority at the next elections, frame a measure, we might then know where we are.
– This is a proposal to give Parliament the power.
– My honorable friend is not giving us the slightest information, but he is sitting there tight and silent. The Liberal party will never submit to a policy of this kind. If the proposed power is put in the Constitution, and in the whirligig of politics we are sent back to the Treasury bench, I should not support a majority which would not take the power out of the Constitution. The Labour party declines to define the terms on which they propose, if this power is granted, to legislate, or to give an instance of how it may operate, or how or where they intend to get the money to nationalize any industry on “just terms.” They do not give us the slightest light or information as to how. the Parliament or an arbitrator will be protected.
– In other words, you want to know from a school boy how he will make his will?
– My honorable friend has answered my inquiry. The insertion of the proposed power in the Constitution will be identical with the word of a school boy, or a lunatic making a will, because the law protects either against that kind of thing. We do not want a measure which would allow school boys or lunatics to play with the Parliament and Constitution as they choose. I have absorbed a great deal of time in discussing this and other proposals. I have exhausted your patience, sir, and, perhaps, incurred your anger, but I have a duty to perform. I do not care two straws whether my .action commends itself to the Chamber or to outside persons. I have pointed out the great dangers which may result from the insertion of this power in the Constitution, and now I want some light and information.
.- I think we have reached the objective of the Labour party when we are asked to approve of a power to nationalize monopolies being inserted in the Constitution. A change has been made in this provision since it was last put before the electors, and that is contained in the second paragraph reading -
This section shall not apply to any industry or business conducted or carried on by the Government or a State or any public authority constituted under a State.
On the last occasion this proposal was considered a good many honorable senators pointed out that the business of the Melbourne Tramway Company and State tramways would be good things for the Commonwealth to take over, but as the proposal is now framed State industries and businesses conducted under the authority of a State are to be exempted from the application of the proposed legislative power. For so much, of course, we may be thankful. We may at once assume that only industries which are paying will be taken over, and that an industry which is unprofitable will be left severely alone. In that case, how are the unprofitable industries to get on? It is what people make in profitable industries which enables them to keep industries going which they hope will become profitable. I am afraid that if the proposed power is granted and exercised, the unprofitabe ‘industries will go to the wall, and a great deal of trouble and misery will be caused to the indivi duals engaged in them. The exercise of the proposed power means the destruction of the unprofitable industries, and the sufferers will be those who always pay the penalty - the industrial workers’. In all times of industrial strife and change, in the long run the burden falls upon the workers. This is a proposal in the direction of wholesale Socialism, which, of course, is the objective of the Labour party. It will enable the Federal Parliament to nationalize any industry. No matter whether it is large or small, whether local or extending over a large area, it can be taken possession of. The Federal’ Parliament can call all the private land in Australia a monopoly, and nationalize it. Some of the Labour literature says that land is the greatest monopoly in. Australia. Under this power all private land can- be taken over. There is no indication afforded to us as to what compensation will be given, to the industries that are to be taken over. No matter how many persons are dependent upon an industry, or what suffering: or loss may be caused to private people,, there is nothing to indicate that they will be treated fairly. The use of the Vaguewords “just terms” was -forced upon the Government on the last occasion by the Opposition, and it was only after a very long and severe debate that the words were accepted by the Government. Judging by that, we may conclude that the personswho are to lose their living, and the people W.10 are to lose their industries, will not get fair terms, unless the course of procedure is put in the measure. That is howvalues are to be ascertained, how compensation is to be obtained, and who are todecide various questions. Once we start, upon a career of nationalization, the appetite of the Labour party will get whetted. We shall have the ultras and the extremists; on the other side at once on the qui vive to carry out their particular fads.
– You still have faith inour continued presence on this side?
– The honorablesenator has admitted that he is a wholehogger. I have heard him say here, “ I am a whole-hogger Socialist. I am going; the full length of Communism. I want a communistic community.”
– I have never said that.
– I have heard the honorable senator make that statement.
– I deny that.
– I accept the honorable senator’s denial.
– There is ‘a big difference between Communism and Socialism.
– I think that the honorable senator used the words “ comthe difference community.1’ I am afraid that the difference between Communism and So-There is a distinction without a difference. There is no doubt that the ultras and the extremists on the other side will have a rare chance; they will get their teeth in, and will not let go. The moderate men, who do not want to go so fast, will either have to fall into line or get out. This proposal, if accepted, means a long stride towards Unification. It means that every incdustry, trade, and business in Australia will be at the mercy, not of Parliament, where there is the right of free discussion, but of the Caucus, where the vote of one -man may carry a measure.
– Which Caucus do you mean?
– I mean the Labour <Caucus, which rules this. Parliament today, and which, in turn, is ruled by the Political Labour Council. What is this Senate to-day? It has become merely a registrar for the House of Representatives. It, again, registers the decision of the Caucus; and the Caucus registers the decisions of the Political Labour Council. Mr. Labour CounciPresident of the Political Labour Council, said last year, “ Why, this is the Parliament ! You are only wanted to go there to carry out our instructions.” If these people had their way, the employing class would be exterminated, and Socialism would be applied to the fullest extent. If it were a question of nationalizing an industry after fair discussion and the passing of a Bill to take it over, one might feel inclined to consent to it, but it is merely nationalizing by means of a resolution, with as meagre information placed before the Parliament as has been placed before us regarding the Bills that we are now considering. This proposal is absolutely out of place in a Federal Constitution. The genesis of our Constitution is amity and trust between the Commonwealth and the States; but now there is no amity and trust. It is war to the knife between the Commonwealth and the States, and the Commonwealth is endeavouring to throttle and destroy the “States. An industry would be made a monopoly by a simple resolution, passed first of all by the Labour Caucus, and then passed by the members of the Caucus vot ing for it in Parliament. To call it a resolution by Parliament is an absolute misnomer. It is the resolution of a section only of the Parliament. I should like to ask this question : Will the people interfere with this great deed of partnership, this Constitution that was adopted after careful inquiry by the best men that we had in Australia at the time, and make it the mongrel Constitution which it would be if these proposals were embodied in it? It would then be neither fish, flesh, nor good red herring. It would be a Constitution that would be the laughing-stock of theworld, and I do not believe that the people of this country will give these great powers to a moiety only of the Parliament. We have the platform of the Labour party now before us. We know that it has been very considerably modified as compared with the platform of seven or eight years ago. It was then proposed to nationalize everything, while now it is proposed to only nationalize monopolies. But if the people accept these proposals, a very different Labour platform will be put before the country directly afterwards. If industries are to be Socialized, the best authority to undertake that would be the local authority that would be on the spot, knew all the circumstances, and could attend to the details of management, and the worst would be the Federal authority. In view of the way in which the Federal Government are managing their business to-day, the people will not be inclined to trust them with the management of businesses under this heading. Businesses are built up by individual brains and energy, whether they are carried on by one man or a combination of men. They will not be built up in the way in which the Commonwealth is managing its business. This proposal simply means that, as soon as a business is built up by individual enterprise, ability, and energy, it will be looked upon as a good thing to appropriate; and when a few businesses are taken, others will soon be mopped up, until we reach that period that our Socialistic friends look for - wholesale nationalization and Socialism. We have enough mad schemes before the country to-day, and enough madmen promulgating them. Let us stop at that, because, if we pass these proposals, no good will result from them, and the prosperity of Australia will receive an undoubted check.
– I desire to take this opportunity of giving one glaring sample of what I accused honorable senators last night of doing - deliberately misleading the country in dealing with these proposals. Senator McColl said that if these proposals were carried, and became part of the Constitution, we could proceed to nationalize the land. He said, “ All you have to do is to pass a resolution declaring that this is a monopoly, and the thing is done.” The proproposed amendment of the Constitution reads -
When each House of the Parliament in the same session has by resolution, passed by an absolute majority of its members, declared that the industry or business of producing, manufacturing, or supplying any special services is the subject of a monopoly the Parliament shall have power to make laws for carrying on the industry or business by or under the control of the Commonwealth…..
The words “ producing, manufacturing, or supplying any specified services “ could not be held by any authority in the world to apply to the ownership of land, and Senator McColl knows that as well as any one. The .honorable gentleman’s statement is simply an example of those deliberately misleading electioneering statements on which honorable senators opposite live politically. We can now, by the powers we already possess, make land absolutely valueless to private owners by placing upon it an enormous impost in the way of a land tax. But the fact that we are not a Parliament of lunatics is the people’s safeguard against our attempting to do anything so idiotic. No one who gives an honest and commonsense interpretation of the English language can say that land comes under the heading of anything which we manufacture, produce, or supply. We cannot manufacture or produce land, and we cannot supply it in the form of a public service. As regards the definition of “ monopoly,” Senator St. Ledger says, “ Define the word.” You can go to a dictionary for a definition of the word; but what we propose to do, if this proposal becomes part of the Constitution, is not to waste time and make food for lawyers in the way of High Court litigation, but to proceed, as this Bill proposes, by denning the thing when we meet it. The procedure set out in this proposed amendment of the Constitution is this : A motion has to be passed by an absolute majority of the members ot both Houses. There is nothing to prevent the fullest and freest discussion of that motion. What would probably take place would be that the party in the minority would put up the biggest possible” fight in exposing anyweak points in the proposal. The idea of Senator St. Ledger that the motion would state the amount proposed to be spent in taking over a particular industryis purely a figment of his lively imagination. The motion would simply state that, in the opinion of Parliament, suchandsuch an industry was the subject of a monopoly. After the motion was carried by both Houses, the next step would be to introduce a specific Bill dealing with that monopoly, and that Bill would gothrough the usual stages.
– Where do you get that from ?
– I get it from this Bill. It states that Parliament shall have powerto make laws for carrying on an industry or business.
– Do you speak for the party, or personally?
– I am explaining what the proposed amendment states. To give effect to the resolution of the twoHouses of Parliament, a Bill has to be passed, and there will be ample opportunity for discussion at every stage. It will have to stand the fierce light of public and press criticism at its various stages ; and if Parliament deliberately undertakes the carrying on of industries or businesses which fail to prove remunerative, or are not conducted in a business-like manner, the electors, every three years at least, will have the opportunity to say, “ We will1 go no further with that kind of business. We will put out of power those who havemade such a mess of what they have already” undertaken.” The power of the public is the best guarantee that the Government will never bring forward propositions which arelikely to be unsuccessful. Honorable senators opposite raised the other point that we would leave alone unprofitable industries.
– You said that yourself the other night.
– Yes; and if Senator Millen was not so blinded by party prejudice, he would know that no set of unprofitable businesses would constitute a monopoly. A monopoly is a business which is soprofitable as to induce the wealthiest persons concerned in the industry to buy out their weaker rivals and secure the whole control’ of the market for themselves. It is only when a business becomes wealthy that, inthe nature of things, it can become a. monopoly detrimental to the public interests. It is not proposed that the Commonwealth should go in for a wholesale system of buying out going concerns. It is merely contended that Parliament should have power to carry on an industry or business under the control of the Commonwealth, and to secure for that purpose, on just terms, any property used in the industry or business. It does not necessarily follow that Parliament is going to authorize the buying out of any business or monopoly unless for the purpose of clipping the wings of trusts and combines. It will be within the discretion of aggrieved parties to take a case to the High Court so that it may be determined whether Parliament has purchased on just terms or not.
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [9.2]. - I am surprised that Senator Rae, who has an objection to judge-made law, should say that the High Court is to determine upon the terms conceded by Parliament when buying out any industry under this Bill.
– We cannot take that power from the High Court.
– Parliament itself will decide what it considers just terms. The question is not one to be determined by the High Court at all. Senator Rae has urged that before a monopoly can be dealt with under this Bill, a measure will have to be introduced to make provision for enabling the property to be acquired on just terms. This Bill does not give the High Court any power whatever to interfere when Parliament has determined what the “ just terms “are.
– I think the honorable senator is absolutely wrong.
.- The question which the High Court is called upon under the Constitution to decide is whether the Commonwealth Parliament has observed or exceeded the powers which it is authorized to execute. If Parliament decided that any particular industry was a monopoly, the Government of the day could bring in a Bill to acquire the property, and Parliament would determine upon the just terms. That is not a matter that has to be dealt with by the High Court at all.
– Does the honorable senator mean to say that every law passed is not liable to be reviewed by the High Court ?
– Every law passed by this Parliament is subject to review by the High Court as to its interpretation, and whether Parliament has exceeded its constitutional powers. But so long as we keep within our powers, the question of whether we exercised them wisely or unwisely is not a matter for review by the High Court. Senator McColl has stated that he would be prepared to assent to this power of nationalization if he were satisfied that perfect justice were done and that no industry would be nationalized except under reasonable conditions. But I object entirely to a Government nationalizing the industries of the country, believing that no Government can carry on a business as efficiently as any private enterprise can. The less Parliament has to do with the carrying on of industries, the better for the country.
– Then the honorable senator does not agree with railways being owned by the States?
– In the early period of Australian history, it became necessary for the utmost facilities to be given to settlers. The circumstances of the States were such that none but the Governments could efficiently undertake railway construction. But I will be bold to say that if to-day there were no railways in Australia, and proposals were made by private individuals to build great lines, the bulk of the people would be behind private enterprise. In the Dominion of Canada, every possible incentive is given to private enterprise, and one of the greatest factors in promoting the prosperity of that country has been the railways constructed by companies, especially the Canadian Pacific Railway Company.
– The Government of Canada gave the Canadian Pacific Railway Company millions of acres of land.
– The Government also gave the company millions of dollars, and even then it nearly became bankrupt. But so successful was the policy, that when it became necessary to construct another railway across Canada, the Dominion Government allowed the work to be carried on by a private company. We want to induce people to come to Australia, and ought to do nothing to discourage enterprise. In Great Britain, also, the railways are controlled by private companies, subject to supervision by the Board of Trade. There was a great railway strike in England last year, when the employes claimed higher rates of pay. I sympathized with them, believing that they were entitled to better treatment. The English railway companies said that if they were to pay. their men increased wages they must have power to increase charges, both for passengers and goods freight.
– In order to keep up their dividends.
– Are the English companies paying enormous dividends?
– Some of them are.
– Some of them are paying very small dividends. If we want the people of the Old World to come here, and to share in the advantages as well as the difficulties of this great country, we must do everything we can to encourage enterprise.
– Is the honorable senator prepared to recommend that the States should sell the railways to private companies ?
– I am not prepared to discuss that question at present. But I should certainly be ready to give opportunities to private enterprise to build railways where we have no lines at present. That policy would open up our country very much more rapidly than it will be opened up by Government enterprise. But I would add that these railways should be subjected to reasonable conditions as to the way in which they carry on their business. No one has objected to the wage-earners of this country receiving decent pay for their services.
– The Brisbane Tramway Company did.
.- I am not going to discuss a strike as to whether men should be allowed to wear a button or not. We need people to come and develop this country. We are one of the outposts of the Empire, and our country is contiguous to lands peopled by nations alien to ourselves who have no sympathy with us. We need population for our defence. Senator Rae has admitted that he would not nationalize a failure.
– We could not, because a failure would not be a monopoly.
– It might be declared a monopoly by the will of Parliament, but I do not suppose that Parliament would have sufficient generosity to say to people who had founded a large industry, and had not been successful, that it would give them help in their difficulties. If any great industry becomes a success, it is to be nationalized. In my view, the Government are the worst body to whom the control of any great industry could be given. The very influences that operate upon a Parliament and a Ministry must tend to make it impossible for a Government to carry on an industry as successfully as it might be carried on by private companies or individuals. I would ask, also, whether the Government have not sufficient to do in the way of preparing and passing legislation for the proper conduct of the affairs of the Commonwealth without taking upon themselves the work of conducting all sorts of business enterprises. I should not consider it at all a desirable state of affairs that everything should be conducted by the Government, and every member of the community tied to a particular wage for the services he performs. A country can only be built up by individual enterprise, and by people working at the same time in the interests of the public and in their own interests. It has been said that it is very hard to define what a monopoly is. That makes it only the more undesirable that the decision should be left to Parliament. If Parliament is to deal with this matter we should certainly define what a monopoly is. I may be told that the High Court will say whether Parliament has been correct in declaring a ‘particular business to be a monopoly, but I would prefer to trust a Court in such a matter rather than the most efficient Parliament ever constituted. Honorable senators on both sides accuse each other of being actuated by party considerations, and that, in itself, is an indication of how undesirable it would be to leave it to Parliament to declare what a monopoly is- Today the Labour party have a majority in both Houses of this Parliament. They might declare any business in the Commonwealth to be a monopoly under this measure, and that would be an end of the matter. The business having been declared to be a monopoly, a Bill could be passed authorizing the Government to acquire the industry on just terms. In this connexion I may say that grave doubt has been expressed as to whether the good-will of a business will be taken into consideration when deciding what are just terms on which it should be nationalized. I have no doubt but that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s business would be declared by this Parliament to be a monopoly, and this Parliament would be prepared, also, to pass a Bill authorizing the Government to acquire that business. Having gone that far we should have’ destroyed the value of an industry which, whatever else may have been said about it, has been of great benefit to the people of Australia. The industryhas employed a very large number of people, and,’ as honorable senators are aware, their conditions and wages may be regulated by Wages Boards or Arbitration Courts. Senator Rae took exception to a remark made by Senator McColl with regard to the power to nationalize lands. I have here the general platform issued by the New South Wales Political Labour League in February last. The platform is practically the same throughout the Commonwealth. “ I admit that in its general planks it mentions simply the nationalization of monopolies, and to that extent there is force in the argument of Senator Rae. But I find that in the State platform of the League reference is made, not only, to the nationalization of any industry which becomes a private monopoly, but also to the nationalization of the land. Whilst Senator Rae may be correct in his interpretation of the platform, we cannot shut our eyes to the fact that the Labour party have a very wide objective. I have heard leading Labour men say, “ We cannot get everything at once. We must go step by step.” In the little pamphlet which I have here I find mention of the fighting platform, and then a reference to the planks of the platform which have been made law. They mention six that have become law, showing that they are building up step by step. Every sensible person who has an objective in view endeavours to reach it step by step. This proposal represents one of the many steps which our honorable friends opposite ask us to take to lead us a long way upon the road to the co-operative Commonwealth of which we have heard so much, and in which all the means of production, and distribution, and exchange will be nationalized.
– It will lead us to the Promised Land.
.– We know that before Great Britain was a nation at all these experiments were tried by the Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians. They have always failed hitherto.’ and will fail again as surely as that we are debating this proposal at the present moment. I emphatically object to this policy. I believe that the people will turn it down. I feel confident that these proposals will be defeated as ignominiously as were similar proposals referred to the people on a previous occasion. If these proposals are carried, I believe that the people of Australia will curse the day when they cast their votes in favour of the passing of such legislation as that now proposed bv the Government.
– There is one aspect of this matter which, despite all that has been said upon the subject, has not yet been dwelt upon, and which should, I think, receive some parliamentary and public attention. Subclause 2 of clause 2 of the Bill provides that-
This section shall not apply to any industry or business conducted or carried on by the Government of a State or any public authority constituted under a State.
The object of that is quite clear, and the words used express it. It is not the intension to interfere with any industrial undertakings or enterprises carried on by a State Government, or by express authority of a State Government. By that is meant, not a private company carrying on an undertaking by the authorization of an Act of Parliament, but an authority in the nature of a harbor trust, a municipal council, or some similar institution. I wish to ask what will be the position of such an industry as that now contemplated in Newcastle, in my own State, under the express sanction and assistance of the State Parliament. The great Broken Hill Proprietary Company has come forward with a proposition, which it has submitted to the Government of New South Wales, undertaking to start ironworks upon a very extensive scale conditionally upon the New South Wales Government making certain concessions to the company. These concessions involve the expenditure of a considerable sum from the public funds, and include the resumption of some land, and a portion of an existing railway. It is estimated that the expenditure which will be undertaken in connexion with the establishment of these ironworks will reach about £3,000,000. The State Government propose to spend a good deal of money in assisting the undertaking. I wish to know what will happen should a chance majority in the Federal Parliament pass a resolution declaring the business a monopoly.
– There will be a Bill before the passing of the resolution.
– It is the bill which the public will have to pay that is troubling me. I want to know whether it is contemplated that this power will give the Federal Parliament the right to undermine and destroy an industry which the State Government has spent money to build up. I admit that if an industry is carried on by a municipal authority or some similar body, this power will not operate in respect to it. But I am dealing with an entirely different case, which is not singular, and is not limited in New South Wales to the instance I have given. The State Government of New South Wales also entered into a contract for the express purpose of developing ironworks at Lithgow. That contract involved a financial loss to the State. The Government undertook to pay, and did pay for a considerable time, for material purchased from these ironworks a price in excess of its market value. That was a premium paid to encourage the development of the ironworks. When the State Government have assisted citizens to establish works of that kind, and success is reached, is the Federal Government to come along and take them over? There should be some further exemption than is provided for in the sub-clause to which I have directed attention. I should like particularly to refer to the statements made by Senator Rae as to the class of industries which are going to be nationalized. Under this power the Commonwealth Parliament would be able to resume even beneficial monopolies. I want to know whether there is to be any limit in this regard. Why should this Parliament be given power to interfere with monopolies which are not injurious, but are either neutral or distinctly beneficial? The chief spokesman for the Government, Mr. Hughes, has admitted that there are beneficent monopolies, that they are the result of the natural growth of modern industry, that they are here to stay, and are, in fact, labour-saving institutions of considerable benefit to the people, only becoming injurious when they exercise the power they have obtained for the purpose of unduly fleecing the people in the midst of whom they trade. Take one of these beneficial monopolies. What justification is there for interfering? I invite my honorable friends opposite to say why this power is not limited to injurious monopolies - that is, monopolies which are acting to the detriment of the public. It may be said that Parliament would not think of resuming a beneficent monopoly, but I have no warrant for that assumption. I venture to say that when a power is placed in the Constitution, the one thing which troubles the average member of Parliament is to seek to exercise the power ; he is never happy unless he is doing that. This Parliament has shown itself to be no exception to that general rule. I ask honorable senators to consider, too, what is going to be the effect of the exercise of this power.
– Some of the alleged influential newspapers say that we shirk o:ir duties.
– Yes, the honorable senator may shirk his labours, but still strive to exercise the power which does not appeal to me. I am not for a moment defending the honorable senator from the charge of neglecting his public duty. I ask honorable senators to consider what the effect upon industries generally is going to be. If it is known that this Parliament is going ‘ to look round for the purpose of nationalizing successful industries, leaving others to fight their own battles, the effect will be that sooner or later enterprise will cease to operate in Australia. It is well-known that even one great example which our honorable friends opposite are always bringing forward had in its early years a very hard struggle, financially. The interest it earned on the capital expended was very much below that which was obtained in a hundred other directions all round. The struggle was continued, and by degrees the enterprise became successful. That is only one instance. Another instance is to be found in Sydney Harbor - one of the finest monuments, I think, to enterprise which can be pointed to in Australia. I refer to the Balmain Colliery. Year after year men engaged in that enterprise have poured out money like water, going on sinking a shaft in the hope of finding profitable coal. They have gone on in the belief that they had struck the seam, only to find a fault there, and all their work has apparently counted for naught. That has gone on for quite a number of years. Not only have there been no dividends, but very heavy demands have been made upon those engaged in the enterprise.
– There is many a duffer shaft sunk on the gold-fields.
– If enterprising people start out with the warning that if they go into an industry, and it becomes a success, Parliament will resume the industry on its own terms, but that if they fail, they can bear the loss themselves, there is no need to inquire what the effect of the warning is likely to be.
– These men will have a chance to vote on the question as to whether this Parliament should be granted the power or not.
– That sounds well, and no doubt gratifies my honorable friend, but it is not going to deceive anybody, not even himself. How would these men compare with the total voting strength of Australia ?
– They are a portion of the electors.
– When it is admitted on the other side that only successful businesses are to be resumed, I wish to know what is to be the standard of success. Senator Rae has admitted that the Parliament is not likely to attempt to resume unprofitable businesses. Whilst I admit that the statement of the honorable senator does not bind the party, does not bind himself any longer than he is content to be bound by it still I do put it forward as an admission that there is in the minds of our honorable friends that very keen and business-like understanding that the only businesses they will attempt to nationalize will be those which have been proved to be successful.
– And, more than that, to have become monopolies.
– No, not necessary to have become monopolies, but sufficiently attractive from the financial sense to make Parliament declare them monopolies. I want to know, assuming that Parliament does have a standard, what is to be the standard of a successful monopoly. Is it to be a company paying 5, or 10, or 20 per cent.–
– Not the standard of the dividend, but of the amount of injury which they are doing to the public.
– The desire of the Labour party is to obtain power to resume beneficial monopolies as well as injurious ones. There is no provision that the exercise of the power is to be limited to those monopolies which are detrimental. On the contrary, power is sought to take over all monopolies. As my honorable friends admit that they are only going to take over the successful monopolies, I want to know what is the standard by which they will judge whether they are successes or failures. Senator Rae has made to-night the very bold and daring suggestion that this power is sought, not necessarily to resume and nationalize an existing business, but to enable Parliament to start a business on its own account in opposition to what it regards as a monopoly. I do not know whether he was trying to amuse the Senate, but the idea of a Government challenging and entering into rivalry with an existing business is too grotesque for words. Honorable senators, if they want any proof of it, only need to turn to the very interesting report of the Sugar Commission to see what sort of a chance a publicly-conducted undertaking would have in competition with a privatelyconducted one. I think it desirable that I should quote a little from the report. Dealing with the matter of nationalization, the Commission discusses the advantages which are claimed by its advocates, and then says -
Several reasons, in their cumulative aspect, convince us that, at any rate for the present, the nationalization of the refineries would be inexpedient. These reasons may be briefly stated : -
I do not intend to quote the reasons, but I hope that I shall not be accused of having torn anything from its context when my sole desire, rather than to read the whole page, is to be brief ; but if any one should think that I am unfairly quoting the report, my only refuge will be to read the lot. The Commission continues -
Taking into consideration the various difficulties with which public ownership has to contend, and the high efficiency of the present refining business in Australia, we do not think that the public ownership of the refineries would prove as financially successful as the present private ownership.
It is when we remember the personnel of the Commission, when we recall that it was appointed by the present Government, and consisted of gentlemen, the majority of whom had thrown in their public adherence to the principle of nationalization, that we are impelled to the conclusion that these gentlemen, although entering upon their work as Commissioners fully convinced of the advantages of nationalization, found the evidence so overwhelmingly strong that adherence to truth compelled them to set out the facts in this report, and declare that nationalization would be a financial failure. They say, too -
To secure a fair interest on this capital outlay without penalizing consumers would, we believe, be difficult, if not impossible. . . .
In the general result, we cannot avoid the conclusion that the Commonwealth Treasury would be involved in a heavy financial loss, unless it were prepared to make higher demands on the consumers than is necessary under a system of private-owned industry subject to appropriate regulations.
Dealing with the question of public competition - that is, a publicly-owned refinery entering into competition with the existing works - the Commissioners say -
The suggestion has been made that, since refiners are in a position to control prices in the sugar industry generally, the Commonwealth might enter into competition with existing concerns with a view to keeping down the price of refined sugar, while raising the price of raw sugar. We cannot recommend the adoption of this suggestion : -
The suggestion is probably due to an exaggeration of refining profits. The profits of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company are largely due to items other than refining.
The suggestion is open to several of the objections already considered in relation to nationalization.
If the Commonwealth Refinery entered into competition with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, the. Commonwealth Refinery would be severely handicapped. It would have great difficulty in obtaining regular supplies of Australian raw sugar, and in getting its refined article regularly on the market. It would be expected to pay high prices for raw sugar, and to accept low prices for refined sugar.
I do not desire to quote any more. These quotations, bearing in mind the source from which I have taken them, give a complete and overwhelming answer to the contention that it is possible for a public enterprise to enter into successful competition with an established private one. That being so, we are driven back upon nationalization, which this report also shows can only be carried on, at any rate in the sugar industry, as theresultof a very heavy financial loss and a great burden on the consumers. A little while ago Senator St. Ledger raised a point which was disputed by interjection on the other side. The point was that when Parliament was placed in a position to say whether an industry should be resumed or not, and the price which should be paid for resumption, business would be brought so perilously near to Parliament that there would be a danger that sooner or later a public scandal would result. Honorable senators can, I think, discuss this matter without in any way embracing this Parliament, or the next two Parliaments, in the ambit of their observations. But that Parliaments in this coun- try, as well as elsewhere, would in certain circumstances be liable to yield to that temptation, can, I think, be abundantly supported from the experience of the past. Why is it that when we speak of America we all speak of it with regret? It is the belief, well or ill-founded, that something in the nature of corruption permeates American politics. What is the cause of that? I know nothing more than other senators. I get my information from the prints and the writings of those who have deal t with these matters . Honorable senators, if they will make an inquiry, will find that the corruption arises every time from business coming into contact with Parliament. It has developed there, perhaps, largely in two ways. Either by State Legislatures granting concessions to private individuals - that is, private individuals buying members of Parliament to get concessions - or in connexion with Tariff favours. I want to know - and again I say that I am not dealing with the present Parliament, but putting an abstract proposition - on what grounds honorable senators can defend the supposition that if favours are to be bought, or oppression is to be avoided, by the payment of money, any different state of affairs will prevail here than prevails in America? We have had the statement made here today that in the last referenda campaign certain interests contributed £50,000 to defeat the proposals. If that statement were true - -and, so far as I know, there is not a vestige of truth in it–
– It has not been absolutely denied.
– There are many questions which, if I asked Senator Givens, he would decline to answer, and there are questions which, if Senator Givens asked them, I would not answer. But that statement has been made here to-day. Do honorable senators suppose that, if it were true that those big interests were spending money in that way, they would be any more diffident about spending it if there was an advantage to be obtained under the terms of a Bill before Parliament? If it is true that money was spent on that occasion, would it not also be spent when Parliament was discussing whether or not it would resume a certain industry? When you have £1,000,000 floating about here or there, you are creating the possibility of trouble whichthis Parliament ought to guard against. Senator St. Ledger put the view of only successful business concerns being resumed, but here I come somewhat in conflict with Senator Rae. It is not at all clear to me that only profitable businesses might be resumed. We have heard before of the unloading, of unprofitable mines on the market, and I am not at all certain that it would not be an excellent idea to try to work up some interest in Parliament in a big concern with the view of getting Parliament to resume it at a maximum price when that business had already had within itself the early seeds of decay.’ I think I can, by a simple reference to what has taken place, show the great danger that is going to occur to the whole of the industries of the country when Parliament attempts to take a hand in dealing with them. The incident that I want to refer to is that of the Gas Bill which was recently passed through the New South Wales Parliament. A gas company in operation in Sydney was charging a certain rate for gas, which may or may not have been excessive. The Government came down with a Bill for the purpose of reducing the price which the company was charging. The Bill was so drastic that the effect of it was to reduce the market value of those shares from something like £18 to under £12 - -a drop, roughly speaking, of onethird of the market value of those shares. What happened? After a little while, when criticism got to work, the sting was taken out of that Bill, and up went the shares again. There is no American in Wall-street that would not revel in a chance like that. I am not suggesting that anything improper happened ; but I do say that if Parliament is going to take a hand in this sort of thing, it is going to provide opportunities for gambling in shares and the fleecing of innocent speculators in a way that America never heard of. It can easily be realized what might happen if this proposal were carried. Some member of Parliament, either acting in collusion with those who were interested in the share market or acting in all good faith, might put a motion on the business-paper “ That, in the opinion of this House, such-and-such a business is a monopoly, and it is expedient to nationalize it.” The moment that was done, if it was thought that Parliament would be likely to take an extreme view as to the basis of resumption, the result would be, as it was in the case of the Gas Bill in Sydney, to reduce the market value of that business.
– To increase it in the hope of getting a good price from the Government.
– It all depends upon what is happening. I am pleased that Senator Gardiner recognises the danger of the position. The only thing is that he is looking at the danger that might happen when a number of people .were seeking to unload something on Parliament, and he sees that the danger is an active and living one. But I want to draw the attention of the honorable senator to the danger of the reverse side - that is, where a business is being carried on legitimately without any harm to any one, but some malicious man - some man probably connected with the Stock Exchange - manages to get a member of Parliament to put a motion on the business-paper threatening a public attack on that business. That is practically the position that happened in connexion with the. Gas Company in Sydney. The Government of New South Wales came down with a Bill - I am not suggesting that they did it with* any sinister motive - which did make a big inroad in the profits of that company. As a result the shares fell, and when the Bill was amended the shares went up again. Honorable senators can see that between two such operations as those there would be an invitation - if this sort of thing became permanent - to people to step in and by using their public positions, to gamble in the shares of a company that might be affected by parliamentary action. What I am saying now has nothing to do with the principle of nationalization or nonnationalization, but it was suggested by the fact that if honorable senators opposite were convinced that nationalization was the correct policy they should have put into this proposal some indication as to the method by which that power was to be exercised, and should have kept out of Parliament and handed over to a Court, or some other tribunal, the duty of determining whether national interests required that industries or businesses should be nationalized or not. The thing that will do more than anything else to help to defeat the proposal will be that the people will recognise that Parliament is seeking to take a power which no Parliament ever did and never can properly exercise. I want to direct the attention of honorable senators opposite to some figures which have a bearing on the possibility of a big public undertaking being permanently successful when compared with what frequently happens in connexion with an industry that is carried on in a smaller way, even by a Government. I have here some extracts from; the yearly report of ‘the Auditor- General of New South Wales regarding the New South Wales railways, and here is the interesting position : that as the income has been going up the net returns have been proportionately going down. The divergence is so great that the figures should be of some interest, and may be instructive to honorable senators. I may state that the accounts of the New South Wales railways are kept separately from the Consolidated Revenue. In 1905-6 there was a deficiency, which was wiped out by the old-time expedient of issuing Treasury-bills. Starting with a clear balance at the end of the year this was the position : The gross income was £6,853,000, and the net income was £”785,000. That iS to say, there was a profit of 11 J per cent, on a little under ^7,000,000. In 1911-12 the gross revenue had gone up to about £9,250,000, and the net revenue had fallen to a shade under £700,000. While the gross income had gone up nearly 50 per cent, the net income had fallen by nearly £100,000, or from 1 1 J per cent, to 7^ per cent. In the year 1911-12 all private enterprises, with odd exceptions, were making bigger profits and doing better, probably, than they had ever done before. It was a time of abounding prosperity, when, in all branches of industry and enterprise, those who had capital invested, as well as those employed in connexion with them, were doing better than they had ever done before. Yet, in the management of the State of New South Wales, we find that at a time when private enterprise is shooting rapidly ahead these big publiclymanaged concerns are steadily going to leeward. Whether that has anything to do with the fact that a Labour Government is in office in New South Wales, or whether it is due to the inability of a Government to manage a Department when it becomes unduly large, I shall not venture to discuss, but to me it is a most eloquent fact that these figures disclose that, as our public businesses are becoming big, there seems a weakening ability to control them.
– The correct explanation is that during recent years they have been replacing rolling-stock to an enormous extent on the New South Wales railways.
– I wish, for the peace of mind of the honorable senator, that the Auditor-General would bear that out. Perhaps the honorable senator will allow me to give a quotation from this report, which will dispose of any comfort he may derive in that direction. I should like to say that the renewal of the rolling-stock has been a fixed policy in New South Wales for years past.
– During the last five years there have been more engines added to the rolling-stock in New South Wales than in any previous period.
– There have ‘been no more added in proportion to the total capital invested. If the honorable senator wants to hear the truth, perhaps he will allow me to quote this statement -
Appearances seem to point to the conclusion that a relative decline in the net results has set in, brought about by the increased cost of working those services, which will, should it continue, seriously affect the revenue, in part or whole, especially when it is considered that the net profits as shown do not include any provision for depreciation or sinking funds.
If there has been any slight increase of late years in connexion with the renewal of the rolling-stock, that is more than set off by the fact that there has been no allowance for the greater depreciation. The more rolling-stock there is the larger must be the amount set down for depreciation. That is an ordinary business axiom. There are the figures, and honorable senators opposite are entitled to find any explanation they like, but the one which appeals to me is the one which I have given. Passing away from a big matter to a little matter, may I point out that if we are going to have a general undertaking by the Government of all sorts of business enterprises, we must necessarily expect the Government to deal with little things as well as big ones? My reason for quoting the instance which I am about to give is to show that whenever a Government commences to deal with business operations their powers evaporate, and sooner or later a loss is thrust on the taxpayers, either through incompetence or want of vigilance. Some little time ago, in connexion with some public works that were being carried out there, the Minister for Works, leaving the safe beaten track of private enterprise, undertook the works himself, and, in the course of his undertaking, ventured into a horse deal. On that very simple little horse deal the State of New South Wales managed to lose something like £36,000. It happened in this way : Mr. Griffith was dissatisfied with letting contracts to men who had the plant to do the work. He wanted to carry out the work himself,being quite satisfied that he could handle these things better than private enterprise. He set to work, and paid£40 per head for seventy horses, and this is what is said about it -
Complaint was early made as to the unsuitability of horses, and subsequently (on December22, 1911) InspectorLoveridge reported having made a special investigation of the circumstances surrounding the purchase, in which, after reciting the terms under which Mr. W. D. Moxham was entrusted with the purchase, the inspector drew attention to a report made by Mr. Cameron (Superintendent of Stores, Public Works Department), based upon an examination made by Mr. Melhuish, F.R.C.V.S., which disclosed that of 70 horses supplied, two had died, four were unsound, and the balance - 64- were worth an all-round price of £25 per head. In transmitting Inspector Loveridge’ s report to the Public Works Department, the Auditor-General stated that “ the transaction appears to have been one not to the advantage of the Government, and to’ have been conducted very loosely indeed,” and that the loss on the transaction was £1,236 13s. 6d.
Reference was then made to the Crown Solicitor, who advised that Mr. Moxham’s duty was only to select the horses and purchase them as agent, charging commission or fee for his work; and that as Mr. Moxham had been authorized to arrange for delivery at Yanco, the value of the two horses which died en route was a loss to be borne by the sellers, not by the Government, but that as the Department had settled with Mr. Moxham, the transaction was closed. Mr. Moxham was, however, asked for a refund, which he declined to make.
– Unless the honorable senator has the Minister’s reply to the Auditor-General, he quite misrepresents the position.
– I have never heard it said before that the Auditor-General was an unreliable authority.
– The inspector whom the honorable senator quoted has contradicted the Auditor-General.
– I am not prepared to argue the matter any further. Here is the fact that the veterinary surgeon valued the horses at£25 per head after examining them, and that they were purchased for , £40 per head. To show that there must have been something wrong about the transaction, I may mention that the Crown Solicitor was invited to put the law in motion in order to recover some of the amount which the Crown had lost in this deal. This is a little matter, truly, but if the Government are going to take over businesses in a wholesale way - and unless they do it is not worth while to alter the Constitution here and there - if they are going to enter into the realms of private enterprise in a hundred different ways, I have no doubt that deals of this kind will be multiplied. Instead of having one unfortunate deal about a few horses, we shall find that the Government in all its transactions will be doing as it has done in the past, handling affairs much less satisfactorily than they have been handled hitherto by private individuals.
– The Commonwealth is breeding horses now.
– The Commonwealth isin much the same position. I believe that the Commonwealth has some machinery on the Port Augusta railway which is at present being used as a roost for seagulls or crows. I have only risen again to speak because it appears to me that this measure and the one dealing with trusts are the two proposals with which the Government are going to dress the shop window at ‘the next election. It is, therefore, just as well that special attention should be directed to what is likely to take place in connexion with them.
– I have no desire to occupy time in reply to the supposed arguments that have been advanced against this Bill. If I chose to do so I have no doubt that I could furnish the Senate with rebutting statements. But in the interests of public business it is not desirable to do so.
Question - That the Bill be now read a third time - put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 10
Question so resolved in theaffirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Senate adjourned at 10.9 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 18 December 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1912/19121218_SENATE_4_69/>.