5th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I - I desire to ask the Minister of Defence whether, in view of the report of the Inter -State Commission regarding the operations of the Printers’ Typothetae, it is the intention of the Government to institute proceedings against that organization under the Australian Industries Preservation Act; and, if not, is it because the Government consider that they have no power under that Act to deal with this combination?
– The report to which the honorable senator calls attention has been referred to the AttorneyGeneral’s Department.
– W - Will that report be made available to honorable senators?
– I think it has been made available to them. It was laid on the table of the Senate last night.
Industrial Dispute - Progress of
Work - Mr. Teesdale Smith’s Contract - Free Labour
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs if it is the intention of the Government to include in the offer to submit the industrial dispute at the Kalgoorlie end of the transcontinental railway to arbitration the twenty-one men who are engaged in the depot at Kalgoorlie ?
– I have here a copy of a letter which has been sent to the honorable senator by the Prime Minister, and which reads -
Melbourne, 20th May, 1914
In reply to the telegram from Mr. Costello forwarded by you as follows : - “ Ascertain whether old conditions, walking time, camp shifting time, &c, be embodied, and whether Engineer Smith is empowered to fix up matters should our branch decide to accept offer.”
I desire to inform you that the old conditions as to walking time and shifting camp will be embodied in the new agreement. With regard to the men at the depot, however, I am informed that a very large number of Commonwealth railway employes would be affected (and not several, as was suggested by you the other day) by the determination, and, therefore, the concession could not, it is regretted, be conceded.
– Arising out of the answer which has just been given, I wish to say that I received that letter a fortnight ago. What I wish to know is whether, with a view to bringing about a cessation of hostilities, the Government will include in their offer to submit the existing dispute to arbitration the twentyone men who are employed in the depot at Kalgoorlie?
– I will lay the, honorable senator’s representations before the Minister.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs if he can inform the Senate whether the Port Augusta section of the transcontinental railway has yet been completed, or whether the rails have been laid as far as the commencement of the
Teesdale Smith contract. If not, how far distant are they ‘
– I have not the information at present, but I will endeavour to obtain it for the honorable senator.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs whether the Teesdale Smith contract has yet been completed, and, if not, whether the Minister has any idea when it will be completed. I also wish to know what will be the amount of the penalties imposed 1
– I have no information by me at the present time, but I will endeavour to obtain it for the honorable senator.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
Is it the intention of the Government to resume construction work on the western end of the Transcontinental Railway by so-called free labour?
– The answer is -
The honorable senator’s suggestion has not previously been made. I may say that the Government have been awaiting acceptance of its offer to refer the whole of the matters in dispute to the arbitration of a Supreme Court Judge, provided the men would first go back to work on the schedule of wages from 12s. Cd. a day upwards which was offered to them some time ago.
The following paper was presented: -
Public Service Act 1902-1913- PostmasterGeneral’s Department. - Promotion of E. O. Brown as Clerk, 4th Class, Radiotelegraph Branch, Central Staff.
– I ask the VicePresident of the Executive Council if he will be good enough to supply the Senate with the names of any firm or firms in Australia, other than the Shaw Wireless Company, which would have been capable of undertaking the manufacture and construction of wireless plants during the régime of the late Government? If the honorable senator is not in a position to supply the information now, will he undertake to furnish it to the Senate at a later date?
– I shall be pleased to comply with the honorable senator’s request. I have not the information at present, but I will obtain it for him.
– I .desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs whether it is correct that the Administrator of the Northern Territory has prohibited the catching and exporting of birds - an old industry there? If so, is his act an administrative one, or is it based upon an Act of Parliament?
– That is a question which affects the Department of External Affairs, but why, I am unable to say. If the honorable senator will supply me with a copy of his question, 1 will endeavour to obtain the information for him during the course of the present sitting.
– Will the Minister of Defence supply the Senate with the reasons which actuated the Government in furnishing an answer to a question by me in which I stated that the price of the Fruit World was 9d. per copy; and also with He reason which actuated the Vice-President of the Executive Council in declaring that the price was only 7d. per copy? Also, will he inform the Senate which statement is correct?
– I have obtained some information on this question, but it seems to me that there is a little more contained in the statement which I have here than can properly De regarded as an answer to the honorable senator’s inquiry. The information is contained in’ a letter which is signed by Mr. Edwards, and reads -
In regard to the debate in the Senate last night respecting the purchase by the Department of copies of the Fruit World, it might be pointed out that Senator Ready rang up the Secretary of the Department, and inquired to whom he might refer for information concerning the purchase of. the papers. He was informed that I am the officer who deals “with these matters. Senator Ready then telephoned me and desired certain information. Thinking tha could be given to him better than over the telephone, I stated that if he so wished 1 would see him. This 1 did at once in one of the Senate rooms. Regarding the misunderstanding .concerning the price paid, viz., whether it was 7d. or 9d. per COP - the reply given to question No. 2 asked by Senator Ready is correct - “ The grice paid amounted to 9d. per copy, which included the cost of wrappers, wrapping, addressing, postage, &c.”
The price actually paid for the publication itself was £30 per thousand, or a little over 7d. per copy. That is the net price for the copies of the journal. The gross price amounted to - to be strictly accurate- 9 3-5d. per copy. This included 2d. per copy postage on the 3,000 copies sent to individual farmers in America, us well as the cost of printing the wrappers, wrapping, addressing, and fixing the wrappers, advertising space on the back cover, also packing and freight on 2,000 copies sent to the agents of the New South Wales and Victorian Governments in San Francisco.
– I ask the Minister of Defence whether he has read the various leading articles which have appeared in the Age newspaper for a week past, and, if so, whether they are in any way responsible for the delay on the part of the Prime Minister in making an application to the Governor-General for a double dissolution ?
– I venture to say that neither the honorable senator who asked the question, nor the Senate which listened to it, expects to receive an answer to it.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Defence whether, in view of the fact that a Government supporter has wired to his constituents telling them that an election will take place as the result of the vote of this Senate last week, he will take us into his confidence, and tell us what the political situation really is?
– I am not aware that it is a fact that such a wire has been, sent. I assume that Senator Gardiner has some information on the point. If he will supply me with the name of the Government supporter who sent the wire, lie will place me in a position to consult him with a view to ascertaining the information which induced him to despatch that wire.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers are -
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
“£1,000,000 FOE BABIES.
ABUSE of Bonus Hinted at: “ Over a million has gone in maternity allowances, or baby bonuses, or whatever you like to call them,” said the Federal Treasurer to-day, with a return before him showing that up to the present 206,542 applications for the £5 allowance on the birth of a child have been paid by the Federal Treasury, the exact amount being £1,032,710.
Sir John Forrest said “that in a great many cases the persons who received the money were in a position to pay their own maternity expenses, but they felt that, as the money was available, and taxation was pretty severe, they might as well take it.” “ I hope,” said the Treasurer, “ that as time goes on, the public mind will decide that public funds’ raised by taxation from all classes of the people should not be given away to those who are well able to pay for themselves, and, moreover, are willing to pay.”
– In reply to the honorable senator’s several questions, the Treasurer Las replied that the statement quoted is sufficiently clear in its meaning, and that he has been correctly reported.
– I gave notice of these questions to he answered, and I wish to say that a little more courtesy might he extended to honorable senators by replying to questions in detail. I think it is time that this practice was put a stop to.
Gray and St. Mary’s, Tasmania
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
What steps have the Department taken with reference to the petition to the PostmasterGeneral from the residents of Gray, Tasmania, asking for telegraphic or telephonic connexion with” St. Mary’s ?
– The answer is - The matter was referred to the Deputy PostmasterGeneral, Hobart, for attention, and he is being asked for a report as to the action he took in regard thereto.
Senator BARNES (for Senator
Blakey) asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Immediately the Minister has come to a decision with regard to the dual position held by Mr. Petersen as Director of Physical Training, will he make available the whole of the papers in connexion with the deputation of the Association of Physical Culture Instructors who waited on him on 17th September, 1913?
What time has actually been given by Mr. Petersen to the Defence Department?
Will the Minister kindly make available a statement showing details of duties performed by Mr. Petersen since his appointment?
– The answers are -
– On the 14th May Senator Barnes asked several questions in regard to an electoral matter. The Chief Electoral Officer, who communicated directly with the honorable senator, has sent tome a copy of his letter, as follows : - 3rd June, 1914.
Dear Senator Barnes, -
I desire to inform you, by direction, in reply to your question as to whether the registrars for the subdivision of St. Arnaud and Shepparton are refusing to remove from the Commonwealth electoral rolls names which are objected to, that the Commonwealth Electoral Officer reports as follows : - “ The Electoral Registrar, St. Arnaud, states that a Mr. Langshorn advised him that he had a list of names that he intended to object to, but on being advised that the police review was then in progress,he said he was satisfied to withhold them until the review was completed.
The Electoral Registrar, Shepparton, advises that he has no knowledge whatever of the matter.”
Chief Electoral Officer for the Commonwealth.
This answer should have been sent tome directly. I would have given the information to the honorable senator before, but I only received the letter to-day.
Sena tor BA RNES. - Arising out of the reply, I wish to ask whether the attention of the Minister has been called to a report in the Argus of the 13th May. of the evidence given before the Electoral Commission, by a gentleman named Mr. Archdale Parkhill, secretary to the Liberal Association of New South Wales?
– Order ! The honorable senator is asking a question about an entirely different matter. The time for asking questions without notice or giving notice of questions has passed ; but the honorable senatorm ay give notice of his question to-morrow.
Motion (by Senator Stewart) agreed to -
That Senator Barkerbe granted three weeks’ leave of absence, on account of ill health.
– Before calling on the next business, I desire to point out that the order of the business appears on the notice-paper as it does because of my direction. It seems that while. I was temporarily absent from the chamber last night there was some doubt as to whether the suspension of the Standing Orders for the specific purpose of dealing with certain Bills could or could not apply to those Bills when other business had intervened. The suspension of the Standing Orders was specifically moved to deal with particular subjects, and that suspension will apply until those subjects are finally dealt with, unless the Senate otherwise orders. If honorable senators will look at the first volume of Rulings of the President they will find that in ruling 36.1, Sir Richard Chaffey Baker ruled -
If the Standing Orders are suspended to enable a Bill to pass through its remaining stages without delay, necessarily they are suspended for that purpose until the Billhas passed its final stage.
– As a matter of information, sir, mayI ask would that technically keep formal business on one side?
– No ; because the Standing Orders provide that, even when the Ad dress-in -Reply, which takes precedence of all other business, is under consideration, the Senate may deal with formal matters which necessarily do not give rise to any debate. If Senator McGregor so desires, he is at liberty now to go on with the business for which he obtained the suspension of the Standing Orders.
– I desire to go on with these Bills untilthey are disposed of.
Debate resumed from 3rd June(vide page 1750), on motion by Senator McGregor -
That this Billbe now read a second time.
.- May I, before addressing myself to this measure, state, in reference to what has just transpired, that, although such a course appeal’s to be unnecessary, it was intimated by myself last night that every facility would be given to Senator McGregor to approach the Constitution Alteration Bills to-day at the earliest possible moment. With regard to the six measures, I am sure that the Senate will appreciate the course taken by the honorable senator in suggesting that those who address themselves to the first. Bill should be at liberty to speak as to the provisions of the remaining five measures. That course was adopted previously, when these old friends were before the Senate, and I am sure that honorable senators will recognise that the measures overlap, or are intertwined, to such an extent, that it is hardly possible for one to allude to the provisions of one Bill without actually violating the Standing Orders. Therefore, on the score of both convenience and brevity, I think that the course suggested by Senator McGregor is one to be commended.
– Did you say that the proposals are inseparable?
– No; but I do say that when we come to deal with constitutional amendments of this kind, some of them have such a great bearing on others that it is a considerable convenience, at any rate, to an ordinary man like myself, to be free to discuss them as a whole, and not to necessarily keep within the four corners of any one proposal. When I moved the adjournment of the debate last night, I had it in contemplation to follow the brief, but still explanatory, speech of the Leader of the Opposition, and to deal with some of the more important problems which arise from the re-presentation of the measures. But, on reflection, I have come to the conclusion that such a course is unnecessary. These proposals have been twice before the Senate, and on two occasions have been submitted to the people by referendum. In these circumstances, I cannot help feeling that no good purpose is to be obtained by further examination as to their provisions, or by argument as to what they mean or what their effect will be.
– You give them up.
– I gave my honorable friend up as a bad job long ago ; but I think that he, hardened as he is in the ways of the political evildoer, will agree with me that further discussion is not at all necessary in a Chamber composed as the Senate is, where most of the members are old parliamentarians, and even those who have only recently made an appearance here have taken an active part in Federal politics outside. I assume that most of us were present on a platform when these proposals were being submitted for the popular verdict.
– It will be a case of “ no appearance “ for the defendant.
– If the honorable senator likes to put the matter in that way, he is at perfect liberty to do so ; but I venture to think that those who know mc a little better than he does would assume, with some degree of confidence, that if I were so disposed I should have no great difficulty in occupying the rest of the afternoon in discussing the measures. I do not propose to do so. I put it as a practical proposition to my fellow senators, who are all thoroughly seized with these proposals.
We have all taken part in the conflicts that have raged round them, and I presume that these questions will be. heard of again when we next make our appeal to the constituencies. If I thought the slightest good was to be obtained either inside or outside the House by a further examination of these provisions, I should feel it my duty to make it, but I cannot think that any good would result. I therefore do not propose to examine this or the other five measures, and will merely indicate the attitude the Government intend to take up regarding them. I am sure Senator McGregor never anticipated when he put them forward that the Government would receive them with any cordiality. His attitude towards them remains unchanged, and so does that of the Government.
-Colonel O’loghlin. - Has not the Government some proposals for the alteration of the Constitution?
– We have, but they are not these.
-Colonel O’loghlin. - What are they ? We have not seen anything of them
– If certain honorable members elsewhere had not taken so long to express a little matter, the Government would probably have presented their proposals in this regard earlier.
– Why not present them here when we have lots of time?
-Colonel O’loghlin. - And where we are so prompt in disposing of them.
– Probably that is one reason why the Government did not present them here. I cannot be expected to accept these measures now any more than I did on a previous occasion. I therefore think it right to inform the Opposition that the Government will certainly not make any facilities for their passage into law.
– I do not know what we are to assume from the Minister’s closing statement. I suppose it would be ‘ demanding too much from poor human nature to ‘expect that the Government would by this time have had their eyes opened, by what is going on around them, to the necessity of extending the powers of the Federal Parliament to deal with the growing evil of trusts, and lessening the industrial unrest now existent.
Is the Minister’s statement to be interpreted to mean that the Government will not only not support the passage of these Bills, but will endeavour to prevent them being dealt with in another place, or being put before the people? The Minister did not make it clear whether that is the position he takes up. One satisfaction which supporters of these measures have at present lies in the fact that whether by the force of reason, or the growth of public opinion, politicians and others who at one time strongly opposed any alteration of the Constitution whatever are being forced to admit the necessity and inevitability of extending the powers of the Federal Parliament. Whereas, at one time, we had to fight all sorts of shadows and shams whenever we spoke of the necessity of extending the powers of the Federal Parliament, our opponents are now being compelled by public opinion to come forward and debate the real substantiality of these proposals, and are no longer able to delude the public by forecasting all sorts of dire evils that may come upon the Commonwealth if extensions of power are conceded. I have here the report of the resolutions, proceedings, and debates of the Inter-State Conference held in Melbourne in March and April of this year. I suppose if one were tq search Australia for the bitterest opponents of the extension of Federal powers, he could find no bitterer than the bulk of the men who constituted that Conference. I make an exception of some, particularly the Premier of Western Australia and his Ministers, because they candidly recognise the necessity and inevitability of the extension of Federal powers, and cordially support it, and want to see it come, as it should come, from the people, and hot through any action by the State Premiers. One has only to read the debates of the Conference to see the position of bitter hostility taken’ up by many of the other State Premiers and Ministers. Their attitude is, “We must not give up these powers, because if we do we shall be diminishing our own importance.” They are being forced now to reveal their real attitude which is dictated by the fear that they may cut a smaller figure in the public eye if the powers of this Parliament are extended more than they have been in the past. If one wanted a powerful argument as to the necessity of extended powers for this Parliament, one could not look for it in a better place than in this document. What was the reason for the meeting of Premiers? It was because, as they put it themselves, “on certain questions it is desirable in the interests of the States individually and collectively that there should be common action, uniformity of law, and uniformity of administration.” That is exactly what the Federal Constitution was intended to give to Australia. Those who framed the Constitution intended that all questions, where it was desirable that there should be uniformity of legislation, administration, and action, should be dealt with by the Federal Parliament. Yet we find these gentlemen in the most contradictor’”’ spirit meeting together, so far as the majority of them are concerned, to take combined action to see that the Federal Parliament gets no further powers. On the same day, and almost on the same page of the debate, we find them agreeing .to take ‘action to secure uniformity, and from their own statements admitting the almost impossibility of achieving it. One subject of debate this year was the necessity for a uniform standard of foods and drugs - a very necessary and vital matter for the health of the community.. The subject is a hardy annual at these Conferences, and every Premiers/Conference has wasted .pages and pages of debate upon it. On each occasion they have agreed to bring in uniform legislation and take united action on the subject, and yet there are no two States of the Commonwealth to-day that have uniform standards for food and drugs. It is informative to glance over some of the statements made. Mr. Scaddan, who is a good Federalist, says on page 26 -
It is true that some of the regulations that we put forward had eventually to be dropped owing to an adverse vote in the Second Chamber, but at the same time that has not affected the regulations to any great extent, and while at the present time we are having some little difficulty with some traders in the West, the regulations are generally accepted as being in the interests of the community. We want the other States to pass the same legislation as we have passed, so as to have uniform standards and uniform methods of labelling throughout the Commonwealth. Some of the traders in Western Australia objected to Parliament pass ing the legislation I have mentioned, and said, “Wait until the ‘other States come in.” We thought that if we waited until the lost of the other States came in we -would never have any legislation at all.
Mr. Homburg, the Attorney General for South Australia, spoke as follows
I notice from a perusal of the papers that have been left with me to look over that both the Victorian and New South Wales Governments introduced measures, but neither of them found the assent of the two branches of their Legislatures. On the other hand, when this matter was mooted some years ago, we in South Australia were prepared to confer tha power upon the Federal Parliament to legislate in respect to a uniform standard for foods and drugs for the whole of Australia. When at a previous Conference this matter was mentioned, there appeared to be unanimity of opinion that it was n matter for the Commonwealth to undertake. Subsequently, however, Victoria and New South Wales determined that it was a matter for the States, and at that point the proceedings broke off. South Australia took the view that it was a matter for the Commonwealth.
Mr. Scaddan. ; The Commonwealth Government admit they have not the power.
Mr. Homburg. ; The Commonwealth Parliament can legislate on the subject if each of the respective States is prepared to concede that power to the Commonwealth. At present the Commonwealth power is limited to making provision in respect to imported foods and drugs. The States have power to provide legislation with respect to foods and drugs manufactured in the various States, but we are in the difficulty that the Commonwealth may exercise its jurisdiction in’ respect to imported goods, and limit us to foods and drugs manufactured in our States.
Mr. Holman. ; A conference of experts, comprising representatives of the State Government and the Commonwealth, agreed upon standards which have been accepted or which are likely to be accepted by the Federal Government.
Mr. Homburg. ; Might I ask the representatives of Victoria and New South Wales what objections they have to handing this matter over to the Commonwealth ?
– Very strong objections.
That was Mr. Watt, the Premier of Victoria, but he did not say what the objections were. What objections can there be from the public point of view, seeing that, as Mr. Homburg has pointed out, uniformity is so essential to the health of the community? There can be no objection except the vanity of the politician. Mr. Homburg replied-
The objections have not been shown in the communications passing between the respective States. I have been anxious to learn the objections of New South Wales and Victoria, seeing that the Commonwealth must necessarily exercise an exclusive jurisdiction in respect of imported food, and the States can only have control over the manufactured article.
He then pointed out another difficulty that arises when the States come to deal with this matter -
You may agree on uniformity of legislation to-day, but there is nothing in the world to prevent one of the Australian States passing different legislation next lear, so that you may never be able to maintain that uniformity. You may have Parliaments agreeing upon a standard to-day, and subsequently one of them may make a serious alteration, and hamper manufactures very considerably. That is my reason for suggesting that the Federal Parliament should, with the approval and in consultation with the States, have the power to effect this uniformity.
– Would you suggest that course in connexion with gold-buying and footwear, and other similar matters on which uniform legislation is desirable?
Mr. Homburg. ; I do not think it would be a bad plan, where the States can agree on a matter which applies to all of them in an equal degree, to allow the Commonwealth to undertake it.
That is a common-sense reply. The other attitude is dictated by the vanity of the politician, who fears to see his position diminished in the public eye. On page 28, Mr. Peake. Premier of South Australia, takes up practically the same position as his colleague. He says -
It appears to be a desirable thing to have uniform standards for foods and drugs, but the difficulty is not so much in providing uniformity as in maintaining it. From the working of the Acts in the different States with regard to foods and drugs, we can see that it is quite possible that under the altered laws of any one State there may be very serious restraint of trade; that is to’ say, one State n, 4 fix a standard for certain articles which may be much above or below the uniform standard, and prohibit the importation into that State of anything below that special standard. That might act very much in the way of restraint of trade, shutting out an article produced in one State because it does not conform to the standard in another State….. There should be somebody that would have power to prevent an alteration unless it were agreed to by all the States. Otherwise, I cannot see any advantage in arriving at a resolution. We may decide that a uniform standard is advisable, but we must set up a power that will prevent any State from departing from the uniformity.
How could they do that? The only way in which it could be done would be by giving the Commonwealth Parliament the necessary power. No Parliament of South Australia to-day can say to a future Parliament of that State, “ We have passed an Act in agreement with the other States in which we have said that there shall be a uniform standard of food products, and we forbid you to alter it.” Each Parliament is a law unto itself, and, as Mr. Homburg pointed out, any subsequent Parliament may depart from a law passed by its predecessor. Mr. Murray, on this subject, said -
There is no need for handing over the mattei to the Commonwealth, because the States can deal effectively with it. There are a great many things wrapped up in this.
Mr. Scaddan. Where uniformity is necessary the Commonwealth can legislate more effectively than the States.
Mr. MURRAY.; I do not admit that. If we surrender this power we surrender a great deal more than the States would feel disposed to surrender. It would mean a tremendous diminution of the power of the States in domestic matters that we desire to maintain.
That is the only argument that is used against the proposal, and what is there in it but the desire that “ We,” the State Premiers, “ have to maintain our power to legislate on this subject, although we know that we cannot legislate upon it effectively, or so as to secure uniformity?” Mr. Hol man said -
We cannot draw a line between the regulation of food, the regulation of footwear, and the regulation of gold buying. All these matters in which we need uniformity are open to the objection that the uniformity may be departed from.
– W - We have had an Act dealing with footwear hanging up in the last two or three years in South Australia, waiting for the other States to pass a similar Act.
– This is in relation to trade. I take another case in relation to trade. It is admitted on all hands that it is desirable that there should be uniformity in companies law throughout the Commonwealth. What is the present position in this respect? The Commonwealth has the power to pass a companies law dealing with the registration of companies, and their operations Inter-State. ‘In addition, the State Parliaments have the power to pass companies laws dealing with the registration of companies and with their operations Intra-State. In order, therefore, that the whole field of this legislation may be covered properly in Australia, we require to have seven companies laws.
– We already have six. Senator PEARCE. - Yes, because the Commonwealth has not, so far, legislated in this direction. At present part of the field is not covered, and this is the part which Commonwealth legislation could cover. We have to contemplate the possibility of the Commonwealth passing a seventh companies law, and we know that the probability is that, instead of helping trade, that would serve to hinder it. Trade to-day does not know any geographical boundaries. The trader in “Victoria registered under the companies law of this State will not sell his goods only in Victoria. He will sell them wherever in the Commonwealth he can secure a buyer. There is no restriction upon his selling his goods anywhere. We have made Australia one compartment for the purpose of trade. The only restriction is the Tariff restriction and the inspection at the geographical boundaries. Whilst we have done that we continue the practice, for the purpose of the laws governing trade, of cutting up Australia into six compartments. The thing is so childish that it is beyond our comprehension to understand why reasoning men are prepared to continue.
– Does that not apply to almost all matters of Government administration ?
– We have men on the Government side who pride themselves upon being business men, and yet, because they fear a Labour Government gaining possession of the Treasury bench with these extended powers, they are prepared to champion this absolute confusion rather than agree to any amendment of the Constitution which would bring it to an end. They adopt this course, although their own common sense and their knowledge of business compels them in their heart of hearts to recognise the absolute necessity of the proposals we make.
– Does not the honorable senator’s argument apply to every Government administrative act, and might he not contend that we should have uniform laws governing education, land legislation, and everything else?
– No, it does not.For the purpose of land legislation Australia is not one geographical whole.
– Is it not one land?
– No; so far as laud legislation is concerned, we might have all kinds of arbitrary distinctions made without hindering the development of the country. We might divide Australia not only into six, but into sixty different compartments, and have sixty different sets of land laws without hindering the development of the Commonwealth.
– By local government?
– Yes, and by doing so it is quite possible that we should assist rather than retard the development of- Australia. But we have made Australia for the purpose of trade one, and having made the trade area one we should make the law that governs that trade one.
– How much would the honorable senator leave to the State Parliaments if he secured for this Parliament all the powers he desires for it?
– There would still be left quite sufficient to fully occupy the time of the State Parliaments with advantage to the communities they are governing. I do not know of any State in the Commonwealth in which there is not a demand from various sections of the community for legislation which has never yet been fully met by the Legislatures of the States.
– And never will be. Senator PEARCE. - The honorable senator’s admission shows that there will be plenty left for the State Parliaments to deal with when all matters of Federal concern are handed over to the Federal. Parliament. I come now to deal with the question of industrial unrest. On this question we may clear our minds of party influence and excitement, and frankly recognise that industrial unrest does exist, though we may agree to differ as to the cause of it. Honorable senators opposite try to make the electors believe that certain agitators have a monetary interest in promoting it. Honorable senators on this side know from practical experience how absurd and nonsensical that is. We know that it is due to the deep-rooted desire in the breast of every educated human being to better his condition in life. Wherever we find an educated community, we find a restless and discontented people. We find people who are not content with things as they are, and do not believe that what was good enough for their fathers is good enough for them. We find people animated by discontent with existing conditions striving to better their conditions.
– With the knowledge that they can be bettered.
– Yes, and in the belief that they know how they can be bettered. That discontent is to be found in all countries, and the more highly a community is educated the more discontented the people are with the mediteval systems from which we are in these days emerging. The gentlemen who profess to believe that industrial unrest is promoted by a few paid agitators are befooled themselves, or are trying to befool the public.
– If the honorable senator could guarantee industrial peace there would not be half the men living on the unions that there are to-day.
– When the honorable senator speaks of men living on unions, I do not know what he is referring to. If he refers to the paid secretaries of unions, I have only to say that if ever the time comes when I am given the choice of accepting a position as the paid secretary of a union or going to crack stones on the roadsides, I shall choose the latter.
– That is a very serious reflection upon the unions.
– Yes. I daresay I should have an easier time cracking stones. I have had some experience as the unpaid secretary of a union, and from what I know of the kicks and cuffs which an unpaid secretary receives, I can scarcely say what my position would have been like if I had been a paid secretary. Those who think that the paid secretaries of unions have a blissful experience speak from their ignorance. Those who speak from knowledge and experience in the matter know that these men render very valuable services for the money they receive, and work very hard to earn it.
– If we could guarantee peace throughout the world, there would be no defence necessary in the way of armies.
– I cannot guarantee peace throughout the world. I am not a magician, and cannot bring about the millennium. I am pointing out that a state of industrial unrest exists in every country where education has progressed. The problem which, as practical men, we have to deal with is the legislation we should pass in order to adjust the differences in the industrial world as best we can and as well as we can. We have in this country - in the States and in the Commonwealth- endeavoured to meet the situation by passing wages boards legislation or industrial conciliation and arbitration laws. I have never made a secret of the fact that I look upon both as mere palliatives, and not as panaceas, for all the evils of industrialism ; but I am prepared to admit that while, like all human laws, they fail many times, they are the best means yet discovered by the wit of man to, at any rate, temper some of the absurdities of industrial warfare by bringing about a more reasonable method for their settlement than was provided by the strike and lock-out. As a community we have reached a stage when we can agree generally upon that. But what do we do? We say to the Commonwealth Parliament, “ You shall have power to deal with industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State,” and we say to the State Parliaments, “ You shall have power to deal with industrial disputes within the limits of your State.” Then we get the High Court to determine what these things mean, and, as one of the Judges of that Court has said, “ We have had a mass of decisions which have landed us in a Serbonian bog.” What is the way out of it? Here we find that the State Premiers are in this bog up to their necks, and they were forced to the conclusion that there were only three ways out of it. It will be found that in the pages of the report of the Conference, from 144 onward, the members of the Conference expressed three differing opinions. One was expressed by Mr. Scaddan. He says that the way out of the bog is to give the Commonwealth Parliament complete power to deal with all industrial disputes. He stood alone. Another view was represented by Mr. Holman, who says that the way out of the bog is to give the Commonwealth Parliament complete power to deal with industrial arbitration. He proposes a limitation upon the industrial power which Mr. Scaddan would give this Parliament.
– Does the honorable senator think that Mr. Holman was influenced by a desire to get rid of a troublesome subject?
– I give Mr. Holman, as I give the other State Premiers, credit for the highest motives. Mr. Barnes and others say that the way out of the bog is to take from the Commonwealth Parliament the powers it now possesses in this matter, and leave the State Parliaments the sole power to deal with it. I believe that either one of these two courses represents the only way out of the difficulty. So long as we have two authorities dealing with this question we shall experience trouble in legal interpretation, and shall encounter a veritable Serbonian bog. The fringes of it may alter from day to day as the Justice gives his decisions, but the bog will remain all the time. Talk about taking away power from the Commonwealth Parliament! Does any honorable senator believe that a referendum with that object in view would have any chance of being accepted by the people? We all know that it would not. When it is proposed that the powers of this Parliament shall be extended all sorts of bogies are trotted out. For instance, we have been told that such a course would mean the payment of a uniform wage throughout Australia. Mr. Holman destroyed that bogy by pointing out that in New South Wales, where there is only one Arbitration Court, a uniform wage has not resulted. On the contrary, that tribunal gives varying awards in different districts according to the cost of production in each. Then it was urged that one Court would never be able to deal with all these disputes. In reply Mr. Holman reminded these critics that if this Parliament were armed with the necessary power there would be nothing to prevent it legalizing the Wages Boards of the States which are already in existence. But, assuming that the Commonwealth Parliament did not alter a single tittle of the States’ industrial legislation, that it took over the Industrial Disputes Act of Queensland, the Industrial Disputes Act of New South Wales, and the Wages Boards of Victoria, we should not then experience a clashing of decisions, because this Parliament would say to a certain trade, “ Your disputes will be settled by a Wages Board,” and to another organization, “ Your disputes will be settled by this Court,” and to still another trade, “ Your disputes will be settled by that Court.”
– We could extend our own arbitration scheme then.
– But even that might not be necessary. This Parliament could create fifty Courts if it chose, or no Courts at all. It could do anything that it thought would fit the circumstances. I would also remind honorable senators that this Parliament is just as open to the pressure of public opinion as are the State Parliaments. My honorable friends opposite, when they attempt - as they did attempt at the last election - to make this industrial question a fight between Wages Boards and Arbitration Courts, are trying to throw dust into the eyes of the people.
– The underlying principle of both is the same.
– Of course it is. I was strongly tempted to quote a large number of the utterances of State Ministers on this question. I hesitate to do so, because they are very lengthy, and, after all, honorable senators will have an opportunity of perusing them for themselves. But the fact remains that by a majority the State Ministers have said, “ We will not consent to hand over any power to the Commonwealth. If we hold any opinion at all, it is that the Commonwealth Parliament should hand over certain powers to us.”
– The public will not have a chance of seeing those records.
– Coming to the question of .a uniform companies law, I find that Mr. Mackinnon said -
I desire now to present the reports of the Legal Committee, consisting of Mr. Hall, Mr. Blair, Mr. Homburg, and myself. On the subject of uniform company law the committee recommends the following resolution : -
That in the opinion of this Conference it is desirable there should be a uniform company law throughout the ‘Commonwealth, and that this law should follow the English Companies Act as far as is practicable.
The Attorney-General of New South Wales to forthwith prepare a Bill for submission to the Attorney-General of each State, with a view to its early enactment by each of the States.
That motion was agreed to. I need not recapitulate what the Premiers themselves said with regard to uniformity of legislation in the matter of food and drugs. They found that their Legislative Councils vetoed their regulations even after an Act had been passed. In regard to the Meat Trust, they passed the following resolution : -
That the States respectively continue inquiries into the alleged existence and effects of a meat combine in Australia, and also continue to consult together and interchange information ‘thereon, and, if necessary, take combined legislative action to regulate the operations of the alleged and similar trusts.
They will fight to the death against this Parliament being armed with power to pass one law which can effectively deal with that Trust, and, at the same time, they will fight for the rest of their political existence to get twelve Houses of Parliament to pass laws dealing with it. What is the reason for this except that they fear that if the Commonwealth Parliament were clothed with the necessary power the prestige of the State Parliaments’ would be lowered ?
– It is a question of £ s. d., chiefly.
– In regard to the hall-marking of jewellery, Mr. Mackinnon moved -
That, in the opinion of this Conference, it is desirable that the States should make proper provisions for the hall-marking of gold and similar jewellery by uniform legislation in each of the States; the Attorney-General of South Australia to forthwith prepare a Bill for submission to the Attorney-General of each State, with a view to its early enactment by each of the States.
Why should we not have one law for the whole of the States? What reason can be urged against the adoption of that course, except that the Conservatives of Australia, who fear this Parliament because it is elected on the basis of adult suffrage, know that at present the Legislative Councils of the various States - especially where those bodies are elected on a property qualification - have the final say in the making of their laws, and will take care that their class interests are guarded ? In regard to gold buying, the Conference decided -
That it is desirable there should be uniform legislation with regard to the purchase and sale of gold, silver, and precious stones throughout the Commonwealth, and that such legislation should follow the Acts of West Australia and Victoria; the Attorney-General of Victoria to forthwith prepare a Bill for submission to the Attorney-General of each State, with a view to its early enactment by each of the States.
Again, why should not this Parliament be endowed with the necessary power to pass one Act for the whole of Australia ? Coming to the question of footwear regulation, the Conference affirmed -
That it is desirable that there should be uniform legislation with regard to the manufacture and sale of footwear throughout the Commonwealth, and that the law officers of New South Wales and Victoria consult together and prepare a Bill to regulate such manufacture and sale for submission to the Parliaments of all the States. The conduct of such matter to be with New South Wales.
One has only to look at this matter to see the ridiculous position that we occupy. The Commonwealth, by its legislation, now says, “ You shall not put cardboard into children’s shoes and sell them as shoes made of leather. If they contain cardboard you must mark on them that they contain cardboard.” But suppose that these goods are imported into” Western Australia. When once they have passed out of the Customs anything may happen to them.
– In the absence of State legislation?
– Although the consumer has been protected from these fraudulent goods, in the absence of State legislation the local manufacturer cannot be protected from competition with similar goods which are manufactured in other States. Consequently the States say that they want uniform legislation in this matter. They affirm that without it the fraudulent trader in a State where there is no such legislation possesses an advantage over the trader in a State where there is such legislation. As a matter of fact, the argument has been used in the Legislative Councils of some of the States, “ We ought not to pass this legislation, because, if we do, our manufacturers will be disadvantaged as compared with the manufacturers in a neighbouring State.” The Premiers, therefore, meet together and say, “This ought to be done, but we will not do it unless we all do it at once.” But those who are willing to-do it find that the Legislative Councils in their States are unwilling to do it. In Western Australia, for example, the Legislative Assembly passed a Pood and Drugs Act, but the Legislative Council vetoed the regulations made under it. So the Premiers met again the following year and asked each other, “ How did you get on?” As a matter -of fact, they all started off the same mark, but all their attempted legislation met with the same fate, with the result that they are now farther from uniformity than ever. Yet they say that they will not hand over to the Federal Parliament the necessary power to enable it to deal with these matters. Year after year this farce is perpetuated because of the fear that this Parliament would use such a power unwisely and unjustly. They feel that whilst the power is retained by the State Parliaments they can rely upon the Legislative Councils to set the interests of the people on one side, thereby allowing children to be poisoned with adulterated infants’ food rather than permit this Parliament to pass an effective law preventing it. For the same reason they are willing to allow children’s health to be injured as the result of wearing adulterated footwear. Once again these Bills are before this Par liament. I hope that it will not be long before they are before the people, and there is not the slightest doubt that when they are submitted again they will be carried. Seeing that in the short space of two years a deficiency of 250,000 was brought down to a deficiency, in one case, of under 10,000, it is a pretty satisfactory sign of the education of public opinion.
– Leaving aside the 114,000 informal votes.
– Yes. We have no right to count in the informal votes, because we can only speculate as to how they were intended to be cast. This indicates that at the next time of asking the Bills will become law. It may be that they do not embody all that we should ask for. At any rate, we believe that they embody the powers which the people of Australia are prepared to give at the present time. Even when the Constitution lias been altered in this way, it may still be found necessary to amend it. I am one of those who believe that from time to time, as it is found necessary, we should take power to alter the Constitution. I do not believe that what is right to-day is right for all time, because what is right to-day may be a hideous wrong twenty-five years hence. The position in which we find ourselves is that we, unhappily, are governed by the dead hand of the past. We have unfortunately a cast-iron Constitution, which the High Court lias not seen fit to extend and to bring up-to-date in the same way as the Supreme Court of the United States did in regard to the Constitution of that country. I venture to say that if the Supreme Court of the United States had taken up the same attitude in the interpretation of the Constitution as our High Court has seen fit to take, there would have been several revolutions before this time in that country. If there is one man whom the United States has to thank that there has been no revolution, that man is Chief Justice Marshall. But, as we have not got that interpretation placed on our Constitution, we have to get the people to amend it so as to give the power which we find to be necessary. I trust that not only will these Bills pass, despite the opposition of the Government, but that, should another place not deal with the Bills, when the time comes for His Majesty’s representative to be asked to place them before the people, he will accede to the request, recognising that it is in the interests of the people that they should be given every opportunity to be consulted as to whether, in their opinion, the Constitution should be amended in the way indicated.
– Stone-walling !
– The frivolous interjections uttered by honorable senators on this side are evidence enough of the flippant way in which they are prepared to treat great public questions. The statement made by the Leader of the Senate that he, on behalf of the Government, would not offer any facilities for the passage of these proposals was, of course, neither more nor less than we could expect from him; but his absolute failure to debate the questions cannot be excused by his contention that the hopeless minority in which his party finds itself is a justification for letting them slide.
– It will be more hopeless next time.
– Possibly. At any rate, honorable senators know that the electors have to finally decide in these matters. Therefore, if the Leader of the Government here could have brought forward solid and substantial arguments against the passage of these proposals, it was his bounden duty to the electors to give them the benefit of those arguments, and his failure to do so cannot be excused on the ground that he would have no possibility of carrying his views in this Chamber. It appears to me that it is treating the electors with the utmost contempt for honorable senators on the Government side to decline to discuss these matters, which, whatever any electors’ views may be, all must admit to be most important. I do not intend to speak at any length on the proposals, but there are one or two points to which I wish to briefly allude. First let me allude to one or two of the objections which have been urged from time to time to giving the Commonwealth Parliament any increase of powers. One peculiar line of argument that has been generally followed has been that the States are fitted to deal with all those matters which come close home to the people, in regard to their social and commercial life and their domestic affairs. This class of critic pour contempt on the Federation as merely a method of handling Defence and Customs questions, and possibly one or two other things. But they are continually decrying it as a Parliament which is constitutionally unable to deal with questions which affect the daily life of the citizens. I think that any one who peruses the Constitution must see that it does deal very closely, giving the fullest possible powers, with many matters of the utmost importance to the daily life of every citizen. We need not take the whole of the thirtynine articles which enumerate the powers of this Parliament, because some of them are of a mere machinery class. But let us take the actual subjects of legislation. Apart from the tremendous importance of the incidence and the method of taxation, we have to recollect that the price of commodities - this is apart from the mere taxation which the average citizen has to bear in the shape of imposts payable to the Government - is affected in almost every branch of trade and commerce by the Customs dutieson various articles; that the imposition of a duty or its removal may make an enormous difference to a considerable section of the people, even in regard to one article. When we come to consider the wide powers which are entirely absorbed by the Commonwealth in regard to Customs and Excise duties, we see that in regard to the ordinary matters of life this Parliament has a tremendous power. Again, if we take the settlement of the land, which, as far as our separate land laws are concerned, is a State matter, we see that here again the position is affected by the power which the Commonwealth possesses, and which it has exercised to some extent to pass land taxation. We can influence and control the land policy of the States by the method in which we handle our taxing power. Then, if we take purely commercial matters, we find that, apart from the imposition of Customs duties, we can prohibit the importation of any goods which are considered dangerous or obnoxious in any degree, and we can also regulate the export of all goods. We can control industrial relations to some extent even in the simple matter of deciding as to what sized bags shall be imported or exported, and the weight of commodities which they shall contain. If we go into what might be called the social and domestic relations, we find that the Commonwealth
Parliament lias the .power to pass uniform laws concerning divorce and marriage, and the custody of infants who may be affected by such proceedings. If we take more national matters, we find thai w« have the sole right to say what class <>i” persons shall be allowed to enter this country, and what their health or their complexion shall be. We have the right to exclude criminals or aliens of any particularly objectionable class or colour. Therefore our influence is felt in every direction. This may appear obvious enough to honorable senators who know quite as much about this matter as I do myself, many of them, perhaps more, but my object is to point out to the numerous electors, who have been led to believe that the function of this Parliament is nothing higher than the management of military and naval questions, and Customs matters on a uniform basis; to show to those who read our debates - and I am glad to say that the number of readers of Hansard is increasing every day - that we have innumerable duties, powers, and responsibilities cast upon us.
– That is without altering the Constitution?
– Yes. We have the sole, control of postal, telegraphic, telephonic, and wireless communication. We have the power to legislate for the sole control of lighthouses and to pass measures safeguarding property and life. We have the sole fight to control immigration, emigration, and navigation. We have absolute and unlimited powers in regard to taxation in any direction that this Parliament may think fit, with only one very small restriction, and that is that we must not discriminate between States or parts thereof. We have a good deal of power to act for the benefit of the agriculturist and the primary producer, quite apart from Customs taxation, by adopting the latest scientific method of foretelling the state of the weather by our power to deal with astronomical and meteorological phenomena. Again, in regard to the collection of statistics and census matters, the Commonwealth Parliament has full and absolute control. We have the sole power to determine the nature of the currency and the coinage, and to deal with weights and measures, and many other matters which enter into the daily- commercial and social life. It is unnecessary to further elaborate my statement. My object is to point out that the argument which has been so often used, that it is dangerous to intrust the Commonwealth Parliament with the powers asked for in these amendments, must either fall to the ground absolutely, or, if it is to be upheld at all, those who argue in that way should argue that we ought to be deprived of many of our existing very great powers and responsibilities. If we are not fit to be trusted with the desired added, powers then we are not fit to be intrusted with the powers we already possess, because many of the latter are greater in certain directions than many of the former. When one comes to analyze the whole of the proposed amendments he will find that very largely, if not entirely, they are designed for the purpose of giving effect to the powers which are already embodied in the Constitution. In other words, they are really amendments to make more clear and legal those powers which the framers of the Constitution believed that they had intrusted to this Parliament. I wish to point to one item in regard to industrial matters where our present restrictions work detrimentally and unfairly. Take, for instance, the Defence Act. There is nothing more frequent in my experience, which is not confined to one State, than to hear parents complain of the distance which their children have to go to drill and the dangers which young lads meet with in having to be out at night. They say, “ Surely the Commonwealth Parliament might have seen that these young lads drilled in the day time and that the employer should” bear any loss of time involved in attending parades.” When one tells these parents that it is impossible for the Commonwealth Parliament to put in the Defence Act a section to provide that no employer shall stop payment for time lost by any cadet in attending parades they are astonished. It seems incredible to them that a Parliament possessing such enormous powers in some directions should be so limited in others, and it is difficult to convince them that one is not “ pulling their legs.” They really believe that it is only necessary for a majority to vote for any such proposition in both Houses for it necessarily to become law. Having lived under State Parliaments whose powers were not limited in the same way as ours are, by a written Constitution, they find it difficult to grasp the fact that their Federal members are prohibited, by the mere wording of the written Constitution, from passing certain kinds of legislation which they want them to pass. I take it that this Parliament could, if it liked, decide that the Commonwealth shall compensate any cadet for time lost in leaving his employment to attend parades. That proposal was foreshadowed by our Government when in office, and would have been introduced by them if they had secured a renewal of power. We could provide money for that purpose under our present powers out of the Consolidated Revenue, thus taxing the citizens generally to find it; but if we attempt to find the money by the obviously just method of asking the property-owners tto bear the burden, small as it is, we are met by the ridiculous position that we have no constitutional power to do so. That. is only one of hundreds of ways in which we are hampered by the absurd limitations of the Constitution. We have under our complete and absolute control a number of Territories, including a large area surrounding the future Federal Capital, something resembling a Crown Colony in the Territory of Papua, and a country larger than several European empires put together in the Northern Territory. Surely if we can be trusted to exercise those powers, there can be no danger in giving us the few additional powers asked for in these measures. I quite agree with Senator Pearce that we may look forward in the future to making still further amendments in the Constitution. One of the profoundest superstitions that has ever hindered human judgment has been the fetish-like worship of written Constitutions. After all, they are merely human documents drawn up for certain purposes by those deemed best fitted to do the work at the time; but that is no guarantee that they will be of permanent benefit to the community. Personally, I am sorry that the power to amend the Constitution lias not been made far easier. It would have been better if the method adopted by some of the individual States of the American Union had been incorporated in our Constitution. It is provided there, in some cases, that there shall be periodical conventions for remodelling the Constitution - some of them not even the length of a generation apart. In addition to whatever amendments may be passed in the meantime, there must be, after the lapse of a certain number of years, a convention elected to consider all amendments brought before it, and bring the Constitution up-to-date. This is a much better plan than the worshipping of dead Constitutions because of their antiquity and the supposed genius of their framers. We should do well if we realized that, like ali other human instruments, they are full of imperfections, and should be amended from time to time without hindrances being placed in the way. I hope that we shall have an amendment, for instance, to enable us to say that, if any double dissolutions occur, instead of the people being in any way frightened, of two elections following each other in eighteen months, the election of both Houses shall automatically come together again at the end of the next term. One of these measures proposes to give the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court power to deal with wages and conditions of employment on railways the property of a State. One argument employed with some effect from end to end of the Commonwealth against that proposal was that if a State permitted the Commonwealth to fix the wages, hours, and other conditions of its railway servants it might as well hand over its railways to the Commonwealth at once, because whatever power controlled the industrial conditions really controlled the railways, and might as well own them. The best answer to that argument is that the Court, like other industrial tribunals, controls the wages, hours and other conditions in scores of industries in the Commonwealth now, but no one contends that by that means the Commonwealth has practically obtained the ownership of those industries. The profits still remain the property of the owners of the industries, which are still run commercially as their owners think best, and, therefore, the railways would still remain the property of the States even if the Court were empowered under the Constitution to fix the wages and labour conditions of the railway employes. It is ridiculous to say that what applies in the one case does not apply equally in the other. Many people believe that the most important of our proposals is the power asked for to nationalize industries. There are two phases of that question. Some people object altogether to giving the Commonwealth powers which might be used to such an extent as to plunge the country into enormous liabilities and commitments; others, while not so much afraid of that occurring, say that the method by which we propose to invest Parliament with the power to nationalize an industry is distinctly unfair. We propose that the question shallbe decided by Parliament itself. A resolution must be proposed declaring any industry or service to be a monopoly. This must be carried by an absolute majority in each House, and on the strength of that the industry will then become the subject of legislation which will have to run the ordinary gauntlet of parliamentary procedure. Many say that instead of following that course we should submit the matter to the High Court or some other judicial body. Not content with having two Houses of the National Legislature, and what is practically another House, in one sense, in the shape of the High Court, considering the powers that it has over this Parliament, these people propose to create a fourth legislative body to determine what industries are or are not fit subjects for nationalization. That would be ridiculous. Parliament is the proper body to determine a matter of that kind, because if it abuses the powers intrusted to it the electors can deal with it effectively at the proper time. Other people, again, object altogether to nationalization. I do not believe that pure Socialism can be brought about merely by the nationalization of a particular industry. I am prepared at all times to admit that any proposal to nationalize an industry, either by the Government taking over existing works from private owners and running them, or by the State starting afresh in competition against existing owners, must be treated on its merits and not on mere abstract or academic principles? What then, is the value of the proposed power to nationalize industries? The great safeguard that it would be to the citizens would lie in the fact that in the majority of cases its very existence would render its use unnecessary. The mere knowledge on the part of exploiters of industry in the Commonwealth that any flagrant abuse of their powers could lead to their profits being wiped out of existence, and their industry made public property, would prevent them for their own sakes from outraging public opinion
It is, therefore, impossible to conceive of a more valuable reserve power in the hands of the Commonwealth Parliament than one by which it could, whenever necessary, bring legitimate pressure to bear to prevent any combine, trust, or monopoly from exploiting and plundering the public.
– The New South Wales Labour party say it is not their policy to nationalize existing industries, but to start industries in opposition to them.
– I am not responsible for what the New South Wales Labour party say or do, but I believe that in the majority of cases that is a far wiser way of carrying out our ideas. If it came to a question of paying a fancy price for an industry already established, or starting one with the powers and credit of the Commonwealth behind it, I should favour the latter course every time. If we could acquire an industry on reasonable terms that would be profitable to the community, it would be wise to do that at any time. But I am concerned now only with the powers we are asking for the Commonwealth Parliament. I contend that there is nothing whatever in the argument used from time to time that we are seeking for this Parliament powers which it cannot use wisely or effectively. I do not believe that there is any special virtue in centralization or in local control. These are mere phrases, and whether one or the other is good depends on the circumstances in every case. I should be the last to suggest that all things should be centralized in one Government. There are many matters which are not now sufficiently localized, and in connexion with which, if individual citizens had to exercise their responsibility, the effect would be to train them in the knowledge of civic duties and responsibilities which is sadly lacking amongst us at the present time. I believe in the public being educated by having responsibilities thrust upon them in connexion with all matters with which small communities can best deal. But where we find that the conditions of Australia make it not only possible, but desirable, that we should have uniform action in regard to important matters, we should be prepared to hand over those matters which are rightly the subject of uniform legislation tothe only power that can bring about uniformity. Senator Pearce, in his very lucid and explicit style, and without any fireworks or padding, has clearly shown to what extent it is already deemed necessary by legislators iu our various States to secure uniformity of legislation on a variety of subjects. The honorable senator, at the same time, showed how futile it is to try to effect that uniformity by conferences and resolutions of State Premiers. Before the present Federal Constitution was adopted there was a kind of permissive Federalism in operation in the shape of the Federal Council of Australia, which met at Hobart and passed resolutions on matters which the representatives of the different States considered proper subjects for uniform legislation.
– But nothing was done.
– A few things were done.
– There were plenty of pious resolutions passed.
– Just so ; but there was nothing of first-rate importance done.
– The honorable senator is talking of a time before Senator Ready was born.
– Even though Senator Ready was not born at the time, he possesses the power to read and study. Any one who has a love for his country can easily make himself acquainted with all the facts concerning the evolution of our present Federal system in Australia. The Federal Council was established in 1884 or 1885, and was comprised of delegates from the different States who met to debate matters of mutual concern, but it proved to be entirely ineffective. S<» far as the sanction of law and constitutional methods are concerned, that Council had a better right to exist and do effective work than have the annual meetings of State Premiers which now take place. It was a constitutionally organized Federal authority, yet its proposals fell through in the vast majority of cases, because it was required that they should have the assent of each of the State Parliaments represented in the Council before they became law. Whatever good proposals were put forward had little more than the merits attaching to the good resolutions passed by a debating society. We have been told, with a great flourish of trumpets, of the splendid work which has been effected by the recent Premiers’ Conference in connexion with matters requiring uniform action in the different States.
– There has been splendid work accomplished. The Conference demonstrated that the Federal Parliament should have more power.
– Just so. There is the proposal for the locking of the Murray, and some of its tributaries. We are told that the agreement arrived at in connexion with that matter is a splendid and statesmanlike proposal. But those who ardently desire that it should be realized, and believe that the locking of the Murray will prove an effective and profitable undertaking, need not imagine that because certain resolutions on the subject were adopted by the recent Premiers’ Conference the realization of the project is any nearer fruition. It is not merely necessary that each of the State Parliaments concerned shall carry legislation in both of their Houses to give effect to the proposal, but it is also necessary that the Commonwealth Parliament shall carry legislation on the subject and pass grants of money in order to enable the resolutions of the Conference to be given effect. These multifarious authorities require to bp consulted, and to pass legislation, before anything effective can be done, and it may easily happen that without any intentional neglect on the part of any one of them the matter may be allowed to rest for all practical purposes just where it is for the next seven or ten years. It is ridiculous, in the circumstances, for the Prime Minister or the State Premiers to prune themselves upon the practical work done by the Premiers’ Conference. I have no objection to such Conferences. Anything that brings men together to converse upon matters of common concern should do good, even if it only tends to expose the difficulties that lie in the way. If it were not for the conviction of the necessity for uniformity of legislation upon many matters there would have been no demand for the establishment of this Federation. If a practical method could have been evolved whereby the six independent and sovereign States could have arrived at a common conclusion upon matters of common interest, and it could have been translated into legislation within a reasonable time, it would have been evolved long ago, and would have been in active operation a generation back. It is because repeated trials and experiments demonstrated the impossibility of getting six Parliaments, comprising two Houses each, to pass the same legislation at the same time that it was found necessary some years ago to establish a central Parliament, which, on all matters of common concern, should be able to speak with one voice for the one people. As the complexities of civilization become greater with the progress and development of this Commonwealth, these matters will increase in number, in connexion with which it will be found necessary to have a strong central national force, which alone will possess’ an arm long enough to stretch from shore to shore of this continent. Those persons who still refuse to admit the logic of facts, to confess that they may have been in error a few years ago, when for blind partisan reasons they fought against these proposals, and who refuse to recognise the growing volume of evidence in favour of this Parliament being invested with the powers for which we ask, are the Conservatives and reactionaries of Australia, and deserve to be cast into outer darkness by the people on the first opportunity. It has been argued, and I think this constitutional aspect of the matter requires some consideration, that we are wasting our time in the Senate in passing these Bills, because the Government, as we have been informed by their representative here, will refuse to give them consideration. While the Constitution lays it down that in certain circumstances one House of this Parliament can pass certain legislation for the alteration of the Constitution over the head of the other, it is questioned whether it can be effective unless the Government favour the proposal made.
– Is not that an abuse of power?
– That is what I want to deal with. In order that those who follow this debate in Hansard may have it at first hand, I propose to quote the exact passage from theConstitution bearing upon the matter . Section 128 of the Constitution provides that -
This Constitution shallnot be alteredex- ceptin the following manner: -
The proposed law for the alteration thereof musthe passedbyan absolute majority of each House of the Parliament, and not less than two. nor more than six, months after its passage through both Houses the proposed law shall he submitted in each State to the electors qualified to vote for the election of membersof the House ofRepresentatives.
But if either House passes any such proposed law by an absolute majority, and the other House rejects or fails to pass it, or passes it with any amendment to which the first-mentioned House will not agree, and if, after an interval of three months, thefirst- mentioned House in the same or the next session again passes the proposed law by an absolute majority, with or without any amendment which has been made or agreed to by the other House, and such other House rejects or fails to pass it, or passes it- with any amendment to which the first-mentioned House will not agree, the Governor-General may submit the proposed law as last proposed by the first-mentioned House, and either with or without any amendments subsequently agreed, to by both Houses, to the electors in each State qualified to vote for the election of theH ouse of Representatives.
When a proposed law is submitted to the electors, the vote shall be taken in such manner as the Parliament prescribes.
That is as far as I need to read, because the rest of the section is not relevant to the position before us. I want to emphasize the point that, whereas the ordinary method, where a party has a majority in both Houses, is for both Houses to pass the proposed law for the alteration of the Constitution, and then, in due course, have it submitted to the people, when the two Houses are not in agreement, it is specially provided by the Constitution that either of them shall have the power to pass such a proposed law over the head of the other. But in order that that may not be done without due deliberation, it is provided that it must be done in two successive sessions, or, if in one session, with an interval of not less than three months between the first and second time of passing the proposed law. Honorable senators are aware of the condition that exists at present. Senator McGregor has stated that there has been an enormous growth in public sentiment in favour of these proposed amendments of the Constitution, and only for this section 128 of the Constitution, we should have no opportunity of testingwhether the people require these alterationsornot. There couldbe no better justification f or submitting these proposed amendments ofthe Constitutiontothe peoplethanthe experience we have gained duringthe lastfew yearsofthe increase inthe number ofthose who favour these proposed laws. On the last occasion there was a very much increased aggregate poll, and the vote in favour of the proposal was almost sufficient to entirely wipe out the majority against them on the first occasion. That growth of public opinion in favour of these proposed amendments of the Constitution affords ample justification for their submission to the people again at the first opportunity. On the last occasion the Government failed to secure the passage of this legislation. The Bills were passed through the Senate and transmitted to the other Chamber, where they were not dealt with. They are now being submitted here again in ample time to permit of full consideration being given to them in another place if the will of the Government should be equal to their opportunities. If they are not dealt with there, clearly those persons who stand in the way of their submission to the people are acting the part of reactionaries, or something worse - the part of absolutism and czar ism.
– In view of the vote which was recorded against these proposals at the last election, does the honorable senator think that the Government would be justified in again submitting them to the people f
– They would not only be justified in submitting them to the electors, but it is the bounden duty of everybody possessed of a shred of Democracy to insist upon that course being followed.
– In spite of the fact that the electors have turned them down on two occasions?
– The people have turned Senator Oakes down on more than two occasions, and yet he is here. They will, however, I feel sure, again turn him down at the first opportunity. Senator Millen was at one time an ardent Free Trader. He Was a member of the New South Wales Parliament, though not at the period when I was a member of it. There was not room enough there for two such great men at the same time. In the State Parliament he will recollect a party of Protectionists arose, and at election after election its members were turned down, until at length, after much fighting, they succeeded in gaining a majority. If Senator Millen, copying hi one-time leader, Sir George Reid, thinks that, because he has once been beaten he should throw overboard his principles, 1 can understand him taking up the attitude adopted by Senator Oakes, and declaring that, because these proposals have been turned down on two previous occa sions, they should not again be submitted to the people.
– I do not say that the honorable senator’s party should not again submit them to the electors. But apparently he expects Mr. Cook to do that.
– I do not expect Mr. Cook to do anything. But I do say that the Leader of the Government has no right to stand in the way of the submission of these proposals to the electors. Me should give free play to the expression of the people’s will by constitutional methods. The latter part of the section of. the Constitution which I have quoted affirms that if either House of the Parliament passes a proposed law twice, it may be submitted by the GovernorGeneral to the vote of the electors. Now, if the Senate ever passes any proposed law for the amendment of the Constitution it must always be in opposition to the will or the Government for the time being in office. It is also clear that any Government in power must possess a majority in the other Chamber. Consequently it follows that if any proposed amendment of the Constitution were twice agreed to by another place, and if it were rejected by the Senate, it would always reach the Governor-General, because the Government of the day would be behind it. If the Governor-General is only to act on the advice of r his Ministers, if he is not to use his own judgment in this matter, I say that the section of the Constitution which I have quoted, so far as it relates to the Senate, is a farce.
-Colonel O’loghlin. - Surely we can expect the Leader of the Senate to stick up for our rights in this matter ?
– I do not know that. The exigencies of party frequently lead men to do things which otherwise they would not do. That is the curse of the party system.
– That is why the honorable senator is not a party man.
– I believe our system of party government leads men of the broadminded calibre of Senator Millen in ordinary matters to take up an extraordinary position on questions of this kind. We have a right to insist that if our Constitution was intended to be a workable one the section which I have quoted must mean that if the Senate twice passes a proposed law which the Government cannot see their way to accept, it is the bounden duty of the latter to see that the electors have an opportunity of pronouncing their judgment upon it. The Governor-General should be afforded every facility to carry out the duties which have been cast upon him.
– Is it the honorable senator’s contention that the GovernorGeneral himself ought to send that proposed law to the people, or that the Government of the day ought to advise him to do so?
– My contention is that the Governor-General constitutionally must submit the proposals to the electors.
– Off his own bat, or on the advice of the Government?
– My contention is that he must do it.
– The conditions of the section having been complied with, the honorable senator argues that the GovernorGeneral must act?
– That is my contention.
– Does the same argument apply to a double dissolution ?
– Not necessarily. There is not a perfect analogy between the two cases. If the Governor-General does submit these proposals to the electors, he does not necessarily alter a single line of the Constitution. He leaves it to the people to say whether they will or will not assent to the proposed alterations. But if he dissolves Parliament, and thereby hangs up the business of the country
– The honorable senator is disappointing me with his logic.
– I am sorry, because I live principally to convince Senator Millen. My contention is that the two cases are not analogous. In the one case the proposals would be submitted to the people, and everything would go on just the same until their verdict had been pronounced. Consequently, I contend, the Governor-General, if the conditions precedent are fulfilled, should submit these proposals to the people. Unless he does so it is a farce for the Constitution to say, *’ If either House “ should pass a proposed law. In such circumstances, it is clear that the section should apply to only one House. If the GovernorGeneral is not to submit proposals to the people without the assent of the Government, we shall never get any proposals affirmed by this Chamber and rejected by another place before the electors. If we are to read the Constitution in a commonsense way we must conclude that it is the bounden duty of the Governor-General to remit these proposals to the electors, and that it is the duty of the Government to put no hindrance in the way of that being done, and to provide all the necessary machinery to allow it to be done. Any Ministry who failed to do that would be acting a treasonable part to the people who have intrusted them with certain responsibilities. The people’s sovereignty must be respected. I trust that these Bills, at 1,:r they have been carried here, will receive better treatment in another place than they received on a former occasion. If they are put before the electors at the next election. I feel sure that they will be carried by an even larger majority than that by which they were defeated two years ago.
.- If there are two matters which are engaging the attention of the people of Australia more than anything else, those matters are the cost of living and industrial peace. If we consult the man in the street we shall find that Acts of Parliament, party government, the action of Federal and State Legislatures, have all been relegated to the background, and that these two questions overshadow everything else. My honorable friends opposite recognise that just as well as does the average elector. They recognised it at the last election when, seeing that the increased cost of living had spread to Australia, they issued that famous placard, which read, “ Vote for the Liberal party and a reduction in the cost of living.” That was the placard with which they attempted to tickle the ears of the electors, and in many instances it was used successfully to induce people to support them. They appealed to electors’ pockets, and particularly the pockets of their supporters. We have not had even a shadow of an attempt on their part to face this vital and important problem. Although I do not profess to have the knowledge and experience of some of my honorable friends opposite, I have realized that in the Federal arena in the near future the problem of the cost of living must engage the attention of legislators. It is a problem which the average elector realises cannot be dealt with by one State, and, as Senator Pearce showed, there is a very great need for additional power to be given to this Parliament in order that the problem may be dealt with in the Federal arena, and not by means of varying and conflicting State legislation.
In studying the Federations of the world, I read the splendid work on Modern Constitutions, by Mr. W. F. Dodd, which contains a reprint of every Federal Constitution. In my endeavour to get what light I could from my stand-point as a student, I examined first the Constitution of the Swiss Confederation, and I found that, as regards the trade and commerce power, that Confederation has infinitely more power than this Parliament has. The Swiss legislators are net limited as we are. They have not had any experience, as far as I could gather from Dodd, of passing laws in excess of their power. They have not had the experience we had with the Trade Marks Act, which we clearly thought came within the purview of this Parliament as a subject of legislation. They have not had any experience of an Act like’ the Seamen’s Compensation Act, or any measure of that kind, which fell to the ground as far as it related to intra-State trade, because their Cantons correspond to a lesser degree with the States in our Federation.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - What powers has the Swiss Parliament itself ?
– Article 64 of the Swiss Constitution reads -
The Confederation shall have power to make laws :
Upon civil capacity.
Upon legal questions relating to commerce and to transactions affecting personal property.
Upon copyright in literature and art.
Upon the protection of inventions applicable to industry, including designs and models.
Upon the collection of debts and bankruptcy.
Under that article, I take it, the Swiss legislators have almost complete power over trade and commerce. It is a remarkable thing that combines, as we understand them, are practically nonexistent in Switzerland. There are no complaints made by any writer whose work I have read of the Swiss Parliament being unable to deal with combines.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Of what size is Switzerland ?
– Its area is small, I admit.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - How many people are there ?
– I admit that, in point of size and population, Switzerland can hardly be compared to Australia. But let us glance at the legislative powers of the Federal or Imperial Government of Germany. I find that the powers we ask for here as regards trade and commerce Germany has possessed for very many years, because article 4 of its Constitution reads -
The following matters shall be under the supervision of the Empire, and subject to Imperial legislation: -
There it is clear that the central authority of Germany, which is one of the most important Federations in the world, and is not a Unification, has complete power over trade and industry - exactly what we are asking for by our proposal. I suppose that Senator Gould will not fall back on the statement that Germany is only a. very small nation.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - It is a great nation.
– Years ago it was thought necessary to protect the people of Germany by giving the Federation complete power over trade and industry. South Africa I pass by, because it is a Unification, and I have no desire to compare a Federation with a Unification. Coming to the Constitution of Canada-
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - That is very like a Unification, too, because certain powers are given to the Provinces, and the rest remain with the Federation.
– That is understood; but, except by party fanatics, who have been trying to deceive the electors, it has never been claimed seriously in any deliberative Assembly that Canada, is not a Federation.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - And the legislation of the Provinces is subject to the approval of the Executive Government of the Dominion.
– That may be so., but Canada is clearly a Federation. Article 2 of the powers of its Parliament is brief and to the point -
Thu regulation of trade and commerce.
That is, complete power over trade and commerce inside that vast Dominion - not exclusive power, but concurrent power with the States. America and Australia are the only two Federations with a constitutional limitation over trade and commerce. The third clause of Article 1 of the Constitution of the United States gives the trade and commerce power in these words -
The Congress shall have power to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes.
Practically the limited power that we have in our Constitution.
– Except that we have left out the aborigines-.
– The fact is clear that, in asking for these additional powers, we are not doing the strange and new thing which our honorable friends on the other side have alleged. At the first referendum they implied that we were asking for something which was unprecedented. They frightened the people with the Home Rule bogy. They told them all kinds of tales to scare them, but now the people are well educated. They have been awakened, and are taking an intelligent and concentrated interest in these matters, and, like Senator Rae, I have very little fear that at the next referendum the vote of last year will be turned from “ No “ into “ Yes.”
Let me revert to the question as to why we should have these additional powers. As regards the matter of the cost of living, I have noticed that honorable senators on the other side have climbed down from the platform they occupied at the referendum of two or three years -ago. At that time they said that there were no trusts and no combines. They alleged that the arguments we used in. reference to the prices of foodstuffs to corner all our staple commodities were exaggerations. They said that there was. no need (or the Federation, to have additionail power-. Already they have been, forced from that position to admit that some power over trusts is necessary, and we have foreshadowed in another place a Bill to deal with, trusts, showing that their opinion has had to be changed because the will of the people has made itself so manifest.
I am quite prepared to hear these statements of exaggeration when we deal with the profits made by monopolies, but we have been able by means of Royal Commissions and other methods of inquiry to obtain a good many particulars as to the huge profits during the last year or two. We have obtained particulars which cannot be refuted, and I propose- to quote some particulars that are revealed in a parliamentary document which I think it is in the interests of the people to know. We have heard that there are no big profits, that the Labour party are alarmists, that we exaggerate these things. I have not seen any quotations from this paper in Hansard.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - What paper is it?
– It is a parliamentary paper for 1912, entitled “ Secret remedies: what they cost and what they contain.” I suppose that my honorable friend will not challenge the authenticity of this document, considering that it is a reprint of two publications issued by the British Medical Association.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - I have seen both number one and number two.
– Even the- honorable senator, with his legal knowledge, cannot contradict or deny the statements contained in this paper.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - We always realized that the manufacture of patent medicines was a moneymaking game.
– This is the new attitude. The old attitude was that the big profits were exaggerated. Let us look at the particulars of a few patent proprietary medicines, and in dealing with this matter let me say that I am a Protectionist. In my opinion our legitimate chemists, who have had to pass a rather stiff and necessary examination to become qualified, should be protected.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - They do very well out of patent medicines, too, remember.
– They do not, and; that is the point. Both the patient and the chemist want to be protected. The profits on patent medicines to a chemist are not 10 per cent, as a rule, and not 5 per cent, in some cases. Take, for instance, Doan’s Backache and Kidney Pills, which, it is claimed, will cure everything except corns. The wholesale price is 2/9 a box.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Yes, but consider what you can import them for if you choose to box them here.
– That is so, and I wish to show how these people are robbing the citizens of the Commonwealth. All that a chemist makes on a box of these pills is 3d. The rest goes to the patent medicine people, who have their head-quarters in the principal States.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - The newspapers get a fair cut in, too.
– Certainly a large amount is spent in advertising, but the chemist is in the position of having to sell a widely-advertised drug because the public demand it. He gets nothing out of the sale beyond from 5 to 10 per cent., which is not fair to him, especially as he has to give credit sometimes. Let me supplement the argument of Senator Pearce, who stated that it was necessary, and showed that the Premiers thought it was necessary, to have a uniform Food and Drugs Act, by which all over the Commonwealth the conditions for the control of these medicines would be similar. I will take a dozen proprietary medicines to show the need for increased powers being given to this Parliament. Stearne’s Headache Cure, which is very commonly used, is sold in the Commonwealth for1s. per box of twelve wafers. The drugs are very cheap, being acetanilide, caffeine, and sugar of milk, and the estimated cost of the drugs in a packet (118 grains) is a little under a halfpenny. That, I think, proves the contention often put forward by the Labour party that big profits are being made throughout the Commonwealth by these means, and that there is need to check them.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. What would the honorable senator do? Would he have Stearne’s headache wafers made here, or have the price reduced, or what?
– If we had the power to enforce a uniform Food and Drugs Act we could do as was done in Western Australia - compel the makers to put the formula on the bottle so that any man who was taking a patent medicine could go to a chemist and say, “ What can you make me up that formula for?” He would know what he was getting, and if the chemist made up the formula for half the price both the chemist and the public would benefit. I find also the following information: -
Clarke’s world-famed blood mixture, price, 2s.9d. a bottle, contains 81/4 fluid ounces, composed of four or live simple drugs: estimated cost of the ingredients, lid.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Would the honorable senator limit a chemist’s charges for making up a medical man’s prescription?
– I would if there was no competition and the chemists were exploiting the public; but I have yet to learn that there is no competition among them.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - The chemist makes a good profit.
– The chemist is more entitled to get profits, being legally registered and having passed an examination, than are those people who are exploiting the public -
Doan’s Backache KidneyPills, 2s.9d.a box, containing forty “kidney pills” and four dinner pills.”’ The following formula gives a similar pill: - Oil of juniper, 1 drop: hemlock pitch, 10 grains: potassium nitrate, 5 grains: powdered fenugreek. 17 grains; wheat Hour, 4 grains: maize” starch, 2 grains. The estimated, cost of the materials of the forty kidney pills and four dinner pills,1/2d.
It would take a lot of advertising to bring that cost up to 2s. 9d. -
Warner’s”Safe” Cure, sold at 2s.9d. a bottle, made of simple drugs: estimated cost, 51/4d.
Allan’s Anti-fat, 61/2 fluid ounces, price, 6s. 6d.; estimated cost of the four simple drugs, 3d.-‘
Zambiik. price1s. l1/2d. per box, containing 3-5ths ounce; ingredients, oil of eucalyptus, vaseline, and resin; estimated cost,1/4d.
Here, again, we see the need for Commonwealth intervention -
Stedman’s Teething Powders,4s.6d. per box of sixty, powders, composed of calomel and sugar of milk: estimated cost,1/4d.
Steedman’s Soothing Powders, 2s.9d. per packet of twenty-four powders, composed of calomel, sugar of milk, maize starch, and ash; estimated cost, id.
The formula for Beecham’s Pills is given as consisting of aloes, powdered ginger, and soap, but the cost is not given. In the case of Pink Pills for Pale People, which are sold at 2s. 9d. a box, the estimated cost of the ingredients of thirty pills is one-tenth of a penny. Mother Seigel’s Syrup, sold at 3s. 6d. a bottle, is made up from another simple formula, the estimated cost of the ingredients for three fluid ounces being one-third of a penny. Phosferine, another largely-advertised quack remedy, consists principally of quinine and phosphoric acid, with a little sulphuric acid, and the estimated cost of the ingredients of a 2s. 9d. bottle is id. Mexican Hair Restorer is sold at 3s. 6d. a bottle, the estimated cost of the ingredients being 2d. I have quoted sufficient to show that reform along these lines is very necessary. Western Australia is the only State that has attempted to approach the matter, and I understand that even she has had very serious trouble with the proprietors of quack medicines, because, being very wealthy, they try by every means in their power to defy the Government and prevent them putting into force the Act which directs that the formula shall be printed on the bottle.
– A so-called cancer cure was recently prohibited from being imported into Australia, and yet works have been established in the direction of South Melbourne to manufacture it.
– That will, I suppose, be another cure of the same kidney ; another quack medicine to exploit the public.
I wish now to deal with the important decision given by the Privy Council in the Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s case so far as it affects our constitutional position. Mr. Knox, of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, refused to answer certain questions put to him by the Sugar Commission. The Commonwealth instituted a prosecution, and secured a fine; but the company appealed to the Privy Council, who, in their judgment, used the following words -
Until the Commonwealth Parliamenthas intrusted aRoyal Commission with statutory duty to inquire into a specific subject, legislation regarding which has been assigned to the Parliament by the Federal Constitution, that Parliament cannot confer such powers as the Acts contain on the footing that they are incidental to inquiries which it may some day direct.
The Attorney-General, when the decision was cabled out, said it was impossible to exaggerate its importance. It means that we have not only no power to legislate, but are limited to such an extent that we have no power even to inquire.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Except into matters within the Constitution.
– But, as most of the matters into which we wish to inquire are intra-State, particularly those concerning trade and commerce, we are absolutely blocked from asking questions concerning them. When the Fruit Commission were in Tasmania, we had another instance of this. Mr. W. D. Peacock, of Peacock and Company - which is part of another combine operating very successfully from their own point of view, but in many cases detrimentally to the fruitgrowers - was asked certain questions connected with his interests in the parent or investment company controlling the subsidiary companies, and also his shares in the subsidiary companies. He refused to answer the questions, and the Commission was powerless to elicit the facts that it wanted. He took his cue from Mr. Knox.
The present Government, frightened by public clamour, have promised to institute an inquiry into the Beef Trust; but what will happen if those gentlemen take the same stand as Mr. Knox and Mr. Peacock, as they certainly will ? What will the Government do ? What will be the use of the Commonwealth spending its money, or what will be the use of deluding the public into the belief that Mr. Justice Street will make an effective inquiry into the operations of the Beef Trust, if certain persons will not answer questions? The whole thing is farcical, and until we have complete power over trade and commerce it will be of no use for us to move in the direction of an inquiry into any industry.
The question of industrial unrest and industrial peace is of the greatest importance to the Commonwealth. We have in Tasmania a system of Wages Boards. Our smaller, or State Right, politicians have always declaimed, and always will, against Arbitration Courts. A little while ago- and this will show why Wages Boards were introduced into Tasmania. - at the annual meeting and conference of the Tasmanian Rural Producers Association, in Launceston, the dreaded bogy of the rural workers’ log came up for consideration, and the Hon. John Hope, M.L.C., a very old and prominent representative of the Liberal party, made a most interesting statement. His position gives his words a good deal of weight when we are considering the right of the Arbitration
Court to interfere in the rural workers’ dispute. As reported in the Examiner of 9th October, 1913, he said that “ the Wages Board was brought into the Tas- manian Parliament for the purpose of blocking the Federal Court from imposing any of its fads on Tasmania.” That is a very candid statement, meaning that the Wages Boards were granted, not to help the worker to secure better conditions for himself, but in order that the Federal Arbitration Court should be prevented from interfering in Tasmanian disputes. I do not think that can be denied by any Government supporter, hence their advocacy of Wages Boards-. We have heard it said more than once that a Wages Board is a better method of settling disputes than an Arbitration Court, and yet, in the debate in this Chamber on this very Bill two years ago, it was said by more than one honorable senator that the delay and waste of time and cost in connexion with Wages Boards had been considerably greater than in connexion with Arbitration Courts. Until there -is one central authority competent to deal with industrial disputes, the Wages Board system must inevitably break down. We are accused, in voicing that opinion, of promulgating merely the opinion of our own particular party, but that that is not so is shown by an extract from a report issued by Mr. A. B. Piddington, now Chairman of the Inter-State Commission, on “ Industrial Methods in New South Wales.” Mr. Piddington is admitted to be an unbiased gentleman, and should be competent, knowing the various ramifications of the Wages Boards and arbitration systems, to determine which is the better for the settlement of such disputes. After dealing with the matter fairly exhaustively, Mr. A. B. Piddington declared unhesitatingly in favour of arbitration. I propose to quote from the Sydney Daily Telegraph of 10th November, 1913, the views he expressed on the subject of arbitration and Wages Boards.
The machinery suffers from very serious deficiency. .lt is a prime requisite of all justice .that decisions be arrived at speedily and certainly, and it is difficult to believe that industrial peace can be secured by any form of industrial justice which involves intricate litigation, long delay, tedious investigation, and, in many cases, hope so long deferred that suitors grow sick of waiting, and break through the artificial fetters which, in the interests of industrial peace, the law has placed upon their freedom of action.
After lengthy reference to the intermittency of the sitting of the Boards, delays in the making of awards, the multiplicity of Boards, and the consequent inevitable friction, the Commission declares that all parties are agreed that it is now essential that those who preside over arbitration tribunals shall be permanent salaried officers of the State.
That is what we have been maintaining for many years past.
One award alone in the railway group had added charges to the Service of no less a sum than £00.000 per annum. Sums of this magnitude were very rarely at stake in eases before the Supreme Court. It seemed, therefore, imperative that, for the decision of such questions and of others, sometimes of the highest general importance to employers and employes, the State should employ men of very high judicial qualities. Such a tribunal should be the Court of first instance, and, except in a very restricted class of cases, the final Court. The Industrial Registrar, Mr. .T. B. Holme, on a careful computation, found that twu additional Judges, constituting or presid ing over tribunals of first instance, would be able to cope with all the business likely to be brought forward.
– Was the £60,000 the cost of the arbitration proceedings?
– No; the increased expense following upon the award. Mr. Piddington argued that a matter involving so much expense should not be decided by representatives of the employers and employes, with a lay chairman. He said that such a matter should be dealt with by a highly qualified Judge. In condemning Wages Boards generally, he made the following statement in reference to strikes and lock-outs: -
Mr. Piddington does not think any good object would bc served by attempting to put compulsion on a union by. taking a ballot of its members before striking.
He controverts the attitude adopted by the Liberals in this regard -
As to preference to unionists, he suggests that power should be given to Boards to declare in their awards what duties shall be undertaken by employers, in order to provide unions with reasonable opportunities for securing the operation in their favour of the .normal preference clause.
– Then he favours preference ‘.to unionists.
– He ‘does, and considers that Wages ‘Boards should be abolished, and that in their place there should be a highly qualified Judge. That is the contention we have raised in favor of Federal control of arbitration. I-n these matters we are often accused of supporting arbitration, because it favours our own particular party. Honorable senators are aware that in this connexion Mr. Justice Higgins has been made the target of all the press of Australia because of his awards. In his award in the case of the Rural Workers Union at Mildura, he made a statement which supports the views to which we have given utterance, in favor of arbitration as against the strike. There are politicians on the other side like Mr. Conroy, who would go back to the barbarous method of the strike. We have to fight these gentlemen as well as the red rag Socialists in the unions, who also prefer the adoption of that method for the settlement of industrial disputes. Were it not for the efforts of such men as Mr. Hughes, Mr. Laird Smith, Senator de Largie, Senator Guthrie, and other gentlemen prominent in the industrial world on this side, there would have been many more industrial upheavals in the Commonwealth than we have had. We have only to remember what took place in connexion with the recent difficulty with the Waterside Workers Union to know that these gentlemen actually prevented one of the most disastrous maritime strikes that have ever occurred in Australia from .being brought about. The members of the Labour party have always been on the side of industrial peace, whilst honorable senators opposite have always tended to foment industrial disturbances until they become so serious that they break out. To show that we are in favor of industrial peace, and are sincere in advocating arbitration, I quote this short statement from Mr. Justice Higgins’ award in the case to which I have referred -
Hero I may say incidentally that in every case in my experience, except in the case of the United Labourers Union, the leaders of the labour organizations arc always found to exert their influence in favour of peace; and, as one of their chief arguments, they hold out the prospect of relief from this Court or some Wages Board. This statement, based on actual and careful investigation made by an impartial tribunal, is contrary to the statements so often made by d priori theorists, who fancy that they know without inquiry that all labour troubles are due to “ agitators,” misleading unfortunate workers for their own ends. T. do not hope to convince these theorists; but I think it well to let the public know what I find on close scrutiny of actual facts.
The members of the Labour party in these proposals for the amendment of the Constitution suggest measures which would do more for the stability of trade and commerce, and to promote the progress of Australia, than anything else that could be done in connexion with industrial matters. Leaving industrial matters for the moment, and coming to trusts and combines, we have often heard it said from the other side that it is impossible to fix the prices of commodities by an Act of Parliament. A good deal of criticism has been directed against socialistic undertakings and State enterprises having for their object the checking of the depredations of trusts. Our friends particularly refer in this connexion to the report of the Sugar Commission, and their refusal to recommend the nationalization of the sugar monopoly. Throughout Tasmania during the last referenda campaign our opponents confidently quoted from the Sugar Commission’s report to meet the views expressed by members of the Labour party, but they quoted only a portion of the report. I propose to read a short extract from the report of the Commission to show that they advocated something which we should require increased Federal powers to accomplish. While they did not go to the length of recommending the nationalization of the sugar industry, they proposed that the Commonwealth Parliament should fix the price of sugar to the public of Australia. They deal with the financial position of the company, and show that its capital is approximately £6,000,000, and then they go on to say -
This means that £2.375.000 has yielded investors generous dividends distributed halfyearly, and reserves (inner and distributed) of £3,025.000. We think it fair to conclude from these figures, supplied by a company whose expansions of business have been built on a basis of milling and refining profits, that the milling and refining industries in Australia are conducted, as a matter of fact, under conditions which admit of high profits.
Unfortunately, when we come to the growers, we find a very different story. While “the millers and refiners make handsome profits, the profits of the growers, as a class, are quite inadequate.
Then I come to their recommendation, which is where they advocate the fixation of prices, and is as follows: -
That” is a part of the report of the Sugar Commission, which members of the Liberal party were careful not to refer to in the addresses they delivered on the subject. The Commission recommended, in fact, that the Commonwealth should take over and control that huge industry for the benefit of the whole people. Yet because they did not definitely recommend the nationalization of the industry, our friends on the other side were careful on their platform throughout the Commonwealth to refer only to a portion of the Commission’s report.
– The honorable senator should know that the price of sugar in the Common-‘ wealth is regulated by the price outside of Australia.
– It is regulated by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and if we had the power which Senator Gould persists in refusing to this Parliament, we should be able to do what was done in New Zealand. I have here a copy of the judgment in the case against the Colonial Sugar Refining Company in that Dominion. The company was convicted in New Zealand of an offence under sub-section 3, sub-section d of the AntiTrust Act, and fined for that offence £250. It was convicted under another section, and fined another £250. Certain members of the Merchants Association Levin and Company, Ballantyne and Company, and Nathan and Company, were each convicted under section 9 of the Act of aiding and abetting the sugar company in connexion with the offences for which the company was fined, and they were each fined £500.
– Are these all criminals ?
– They are a class of people holding the opinions which are held by honorable senators on the other side. They appealed against these convictions, and I propose to quote a short extract from a judgment of the Court to show how the Judges of the New Zealand Court viewed the operations in New Zealand of the great trusts which our friends opposite defend -
In the present case the sugar company have clearly a monopoly in the manufacture of refined sugar in New Zealand, and practically a complete monopoly in the sale of it, as the amount of imported refined sugar, so far as regards competition, was negligible. The company wished to preserve that monopoly, and to exclude foreign competition. It also wished to secure the co-operation of the merchants as a distributing agency. The object of the merchants was to secure the exclusive control of the sugar trade, keep the distribution of sugar in their own hands, and to prevent competition. The company and the merchants combined to carry out their objects, and, in order to carry them out, committed the offences which we have already dealt with. So far as can be judged from the evidence, to carry out these objects necessarily involved the commission of these offences. If the monopoly or control sought to be obtained can only be obtained by breaches of the law, it is, in our opinion, of such a nature as to be contrary to the public interest, although if it could have been obtained without breaches of the law, it might not have been contrary to the public interest. Apart, however, from the above consideration, it appears to us that the monopoly or control sought to be established was of such a nature as to be contrary to the public interest. It is not necessary, as in the Coal Vend case, to prove an intent to control the supply or price to the detriment of the public, or to show that any detriment has happened to the public. All that the Court has to consider is the nature of the monopoly or control, and whether such nature is contrary to the public interest. The effect of the monopoly and control sought to be obtained by the merchants was to keep up the price of sugar to sub-purchasers, which, had it not been for the monopoly, would be reduced, and to make it impossible for the public to get the benefit of such reduction. Prima facie, such a monopoly would, in our opinion, be of a nature contrary to the public interest. There may, however, be other considerations which negative this conclusion. Thus, if the monopoly is reasonably necessary in order to prevent the destruction or crippling of an important local industry, or if it is reasonably necessary in order to secure the efficient and economical distribution of the product of that industry the monopoly might not be contrary to the public interest, although it tended to keep up prices. In the present case, however, it appears to us that there is no justification for the contention that a monopoly of distribution by the merchants is necessary to protect the sugar company from foreign competition. Nor is there any reason to believe that the monopoly is necessary in order to secure efficient and economical distribution of the manufactured article. Mr. Fairbairn’s evidence shows that, so far as sugar is concerned - and that is the only article we have to consider - the distribution can be satisfactorily carried out without the necessity of levying so heavy a toll upon it as the merchants combined to levy. No evidence was called by any of the defendants to contradict Mr. Fairbairn. A considerable number of purchasers of sugar were content to work under the second scale. The effect of the third scale, coupled with the condition that they should not give away the discount, was to give these persons an additional profit which they had not asked for, and which they had done nothing to earn. We think, therefore, that the conviction under this charge must be affirmed.
There is the position which obtains in New Zealand, where they were tried and convicted by the highest Court in the land, and where, upon appeal, their conviction was upheld. Yet honorable senators opposite defend them, and go round the country declaring that there is no monopoly. When we advocate the control of these monopolies, either by the fixation of prices or by nationalization, we are met not merely with the argument that prices cannot be fixed, but with the statement that the Government cannot make a success of anything.In reply to the argument that prices cannot be fixed,I have here a little evidence, taken by the Fruit Commission, at Mildura, where a little Dried Fruit Trust exists - a Trust which has been instituted in the interests of the growers themselves. Mr. de Garis, secretary of the Trust, was asked by me the following question: -
You have not found it difficult for your association to fix the prices for the last few years?
His reply was -
Previously he had advocated that an Act of Parliament should be passed for the purpose of fixing the retail prices. I therefore asked him -
When you mentioned an Act of Parliament to fix the retail prices, you evidently have faith that an Act of Parliament could fix the retail prices. What provision would be in the Act so far as the retailer is concerned? - That the fruit should be Australian fruit; that the price at which the buyer should buyshould be the price at which he could buy imported fruit from the distributor. These would be the two main conditions.
Then you suggest that an Act of Parliament should be passed to prohibit the retailer selling Australian fruit under a certain price? - Above a certain price.
In other words, you want to limit his price? - Exactly; in his own interest, as he would see later on, when he sold more fruit.
They not only succeeded in fixing the prices of that dried fruit throughout the Commonwealth, but went to the length of suggesting that the consumer should not be called upon to pay more than a certain price for his raisins, his sultanas, his currants, &c.
I come now to the assertion that the Government cannot successfully run any enterprise. Considering that the Government are successfully conducting many Socialistic institutions to-day, I am indeed surprised that such a statement should be trotted out. The Vice-President of the Executive Council was very jubilant when he told the Senate that the shipping venture of the Western Australian Government had proved a failure. He said that it had resulted in a loss of so many thousands of pounds. Of course, be misquoted the amount; but as he is so often guilty of misquoting I did not attach any particular significance to that. Further, he overstated the loss, as I shall prove from an official document in a moment. But his great argument was that because there had been a loss, ergo,thisGovernment enterprise had proved a failure. I wonder if he would apply that argument to the Postal Service. In the Postal Department there will, I understand, be a loss for the current year of, approximately, £500,000. Will Senator McColl say that because there has been that loss the Post Office has been a failure?
– T - That loss means a benefit to the people.
– Of course, it does. It means a saving to the people. Yet
Senator McColl says that because a loss has been incurred by the Western Australian Government in instituting a line of steamers which ply along its coast the undertaking cannot be any good. May I point out to him that many of our railways when first built, especially agricultural railways, are run at a loss, and are expected to be run at a loss? But let me deal with the line of steamers established by the Western Australian Government, the working of which Senator McColl said has resulted in a loss of £30,000 or £40,000 annually. In the first place, his figures are not correct; and, in the second, his statement is not one of fact. Taking as I do a deep interest in this matter, I adopted the precaution of keeping in touch with the Hon. Thomas Bath, Minister of Lands in Western Australia, who promised to keep me informed of the work of these vessels. Quite recently he sent me along the following document in connexion with them : -
Four vessels are owned by the Government - the Kwinana, the Western Australia, the Eucla, and the Una.
The Kwinana and the Western Australia were purchased with a twofold object, (1) to assist the producers in the north-west of Western Australia, and (2) to reduce the price of moat to the consumers in the metropolitan area. Both objects have been attained.
Before the State steamers entered into competition, the small cattle-owners in the Kimberley district were at the mercy of the Shipping Combine and Meat Ring.’ The latter chartered steamers from the former - cornered the space, as it were - and then bought cattle from the small owners at their own price. The Government themselves felt the effects of this combination. We had cattle to sell off the Government station established in the interests of the aborigines, and because we would not sell to the charterers of the ship for 5s. a head less than was offered by another purchaser, they refused to bring down the stock from Wyndham for less than £4 a head, although £3 had been the charge previously. It is not unfair, therefore, to fix the freight as being £4, when our ships came along.
When we bought the steamers, we brought down the freight to £2 10s. a head. The steamers provided facilities for all the small owners to send their stock to market, and, in consequence, the price of cattle at Wyndham went up 10s. a head. It brought down the freight £l 10s. a head from the figure it had reached immediately before we had entered into competition.
Thus, with 30s. saving in freight and 10s. better price, the producer benefited to the extent of £1,200 on each shipment of 600 head of cattle. As the steamers have carried about 15,000 head to date, the gain to the producer represents something like £30,000.
That Senator McColl left entirely out of his calculation. The letter proceeds -
One certain effect must be the advancement of the pastoral industry and the utilization in the near future of vast areas of grazing land not now taken up.
The consumer has also benefited materially. The Government opened cash meat stalls in Perth, Fremantle, and Subiaco, reducing the price of meat on an average by 3d. a pound. These stalls have been extensively patronized, and have shown a fair profit. They have had a wonderful effect in steadying and regulating the price of meat. More than this it is not the desire of the Government to do.
The Eucla was purchased to provide the south coast with shipping facilities. Owing to an enormously increased amount being demanded by the Adelaide Steam-ship Company for the conveyance of the mails after the termination of their last contract, the Federal Government contemplated putting on a motor car for the performance of the service; but the State Government agreed to do the work with the Eucla for the sum previously paid the Adelaide Steam-ship Company. There is a small loss on the Eucla, taking interest and sinking fund into account; but the service is needed in the interests of the development of that part of the State.
The steamers were run at a loss of £19,354 7s. lid. for the first year. This includes interest, depreciation, and displacement. The loss on each ship is as follows: -
The Una, which is a very small boat, and used principally for short trips, showed a profit.
It was not expected that the vessels would pay in the first year. The cattle shipping season lasts during only six months (the coot portion) of the year. This season was half over when the Kwinana was purchased, and had concluded when the Western Australia commenced operations. We were then faced with the “ off “ season, with little time to fix up freights on a satisfactory basis. All the difficulties incidental to the establishment of the service had also to be overcome, with the powerful competition of the shipping companies and their sympathizers against us.
These obstacles have now been successfully surmounted, and the acting shipping manager is confident that the Kwinana will show a substantial profit to the end of next September.
The Eucla is not expected to show a profit until the copper mines at Ravensthorpe are developed. These, with the encouragement of the Government, will soon be in full operation.
With regard to the Western Australia, she has proved to be not the class of ship suitable for the north-west coast. She is one of the best sea-going boats in Australia. She is also one of the fastest, and has excellent accommodation for passengers; in fact, she was built more for passengers than for freight, and, consequently, is not the kind of ship likely to prove remunerative to the State. The
Government, however, wish to dispose of her, if a satisfactory price is forthcoming, and acquire a vessel of the Kwinana type.
With another vessel like the Kwinana, our manager is confident that there would be an annual profit of something like £30,000.
We are in no way daunted by the result of our enterprise, and when we are able to accomplish what we have in mind, we shall see bright prospects ahead. We feci that the State steamers have come to stay, no matter what Government may be in power. The northwest and southern parts of the State would bo in revolt if they were taken off.
That is an effective reply to the statement made by Senator McColl. When Mr. Troy, the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Western Australia, was here the other day he told me that when Mr. J. J. Holmes, Liberal candidate for the Legislative Council, who had condemned the Administration and asked for a commission ‘of inquiry into this enterprise, visited the north-western province of the State, he made the chief plank in his platform the continuance of this line of steamers.
– Every Liberal did the same thing.
– Mr. Troy told me that in opening up that great State a loss of over £60,000 annually was incurred on agricultural railways.
– Quite recently I received a letter from a big station owner near Hall’s Creek in Western Australia, iri which he stated that the best thing that the Labour Government of that State had done was to establish this line of steamers, and that it meant a substantial profit to him.
– Nobody in Western Australia would advocate the discontinuance of this line of steamers. The position reminds me very much of the attitude taken up by honorable senators opposite towards the Maternity Allowance Act and the Land Tax Act. When they were in opposition, these measures were anathema to them. But now that they are on the Treasury bench they do not attempt to repeal them.
I had a chat, too, with Mr. Troy regarding another venture on the part of the Western Australian Government, and that gentleman was also good enough to give me a fine booklet on the State agricultural implement factory which has been established there. Evidence has been given before a Royal Commission that the stripper harvester has been selling for £81 in Adelaide, £80 in Brisbane, £74 in Sydney, and £81 in Tasmania, with from 15£ to 27 ner cent, for interest added on time payment terms, and that the cost of production in the case of the McKay harvester is £45, and in that of the imported harvester only £35. The Western Australian Government have taken some action in this regard.
– These harvesters have been sold for £105 in Western Australia.
– That is so. I received the figures from Mr. Troy. Perhaps Senator McColl, who poses as a friend of the farming industry, will complain because the Government have taken a hand in reducing the exorbitant profits revealed to the Commission and helping the farmer. Mr. Troy is a farmer, and, therefore, is qualified to speak.
– So is Senator McColl.
– That is so - a dry farmer. Mr. Troy told me that a plough which was sold by private enterprise for £40, with 8 per cent, interest if terms were wanted, is being sold by the State implement works for £25, with three years to pay for the article, at 5 per cent, interest.
– I do not know that it is fair to let the farmers of the eastern States learn these things, because they will become very dissatisfied.
– The publication of this information will make the farmers of the eastern States realize their mistake in voting “ no “ at the previous referenda, and convert some of them into voting “yes “ on the next occasion. Mr. Troy also informed me that, whereas £105 was the price charged for a harvester by private enterprise in Western Australia, the State works are now turning out a harvester for £65 - that is, for £40 less. This will horrify my honorable friends opposite, who, of course, have nothing to say on the matter.
– And the State works are paying very much higher wages - 25 per cent, more than McKay is paying.
– I am reminded by the honorable senator that the wages paid are higher, but that is not everything. Those who have had any connexion with the sale of agricultural machinery know that the biggest profits are derived from the sale of duplicate parts. When a man. buys a plough or an agricultural implement, and a part breaks, the manufacturer charges about five or six times the cost price for a duplicate part, and in that way fleeces the farmer. In Western Australia, however, duplicate parts of State agricultural machinery are sold at 50 per cent, less than the prices charged by private enterprise, so that the farmer not only obtains his machines at a cheaper price, and receives better treatment, but gets any duplicate part for 50 per cent, less than he formerly did from private enterprise. This is practical Socialism, and it is helping the farmer.
– The Liberals who represent farming constituencies have nothing to say against the State works. It is only the town Liberals who oppose the works.
– That is precisely the same stand as our honorable friends opposite take in regard to legislation introduced by the Labour party which they formerly opposed. They now tacitly support the legislation, and have to admit that they do. These facts go to show that if we had sufficient power, and Senator Rae put the case very clearly. It might not be incumbent on us to use the power in all cases; but if we felt called upon to use it in regard to the necessaries of life and commodities generally, we could nationalize and run the industries. There is a number of industries to which we would do well to turn our attention, and which materially affects the cost of living. I refer, not only to sugar and coal, but also to tobacco. Many other nations have set us. an example in regard to the tobacco business. For over a quarter of a century the manufacture of tobacco in France has been under governmental control. So it is, too, in Austria and Italy. During the last decade Japan took over the manufacture of tobacco as a Government monopoly. What has been the result there? According to the latest figures obtainable, Japan is not making the big profit which contimental countries make. France is making as high a profit as £16,000,000 a year, but Japan is making a profit of £2,000,000, and the monopoly has not been established more than ten years. During the big war with Russia the tobacco monopoly was regarded by the financiers as such a profitable industry that Japan floated a war loan of £60,000,000 on the security of the national tobacco works.
– And the Japanese are almost a non-smoking race.
– That is so. Statistics show that the Japanese use less tobacco per head than do the people of any other nation. There is ample opportunity for Australia to move in this direction. If the people pass the referendum proposals on the next occasion, as I believe they will do, we can help to build up here a nation of people who will control the conditions under which they live through Governmental agencies, who will have a say in the fixation of prices, and who through national undertakings will be able to show to the world that Australia is able to provide by the people, and for the people, a sufficient supply to meet the demand. I think it is about time that I quoted a statement which was made by a gentleman who is associated with the party on the other side. I know that it will be welcomed. We find that our honorable friends opposite, when it suits them, can be just as loud in the denunciation of trusts as we are.
– Hear, hear. That is right !
– I am glad that Senator Oakes says, “ Hear, hear,” because in’ Hansard of the 3rd December, 1912, I find a record of a statement made by a prominent Liberal, which deals with a very big combine and trust in Australia. He is rather a distinguished representative of Tasmania, and I am sure that my honorable friends on the other side will agree with what he said- about the Shipping Combine.
– Give us his name.
- Mr. W. J. Mcwilliams, M.H.R.
– A good man.
– That is so, and I hope that the Minister will agree with the following statement of Mr. Mcwilliams in the other House -
I have only to say that, although all the representatives of Tasmania, including members of the Labour and of the Liberal parties, urged the Postmaster-General not to give a joint mail contract to the two shipping companies trading there, since by doing so he would only bc assisting in building up a combine^ -
He objected because the Labour Government gave a contract to the shipping firms for two years only, with the idea of es- tablishing a Commonwealth-owned service after that time, and this was his protest. Dealing with the PostmasterGeneral, he said -
He accepted a joint tender from the two companies, so that there is no chance of any competition in the shipping trade between here and Tasmania. If any action taken by the Government since the original contract was signed - a contract which I opposed - has tended more than any other to strengthen a combine, it is that of the Minister in giving the mail contract to joint tenderers for a further period of two years.
He must be very pleased, indeed, to know that the Liberal Government not only did what the Labour Government did, because it was only a local arrangement that the Labour Government made, and for two years only, but gave the Shipping Combine a contract for seven years - that is, until 1920.
– A splendid arrangement, too.
– A splendid arrangement, too ! But listen to Mr. McWilliams on it -
He has thus bolstered up and buttressed the combine, and destroyed all possibility of competition. There are two shipping companies trading between Australia and Tasmania, and I do not hesitate to say that there is a combination between them. I do not state that there is a written agreement, but I do say very distinctly that there is what is called an understanding between the two companies, and that there is practically no competition between them.
Senator McColl wants proof that there is a combine.
– Senator Guthrie has admitted it.
– I asked a question on the subject of steamer freights, and Senator McColl said, in reply, “ If the honorable gentleman will give me proof of a combine we may take action.” I am now giving the proof. Continuing, said Mr. McWilliams -
Mr.Laird Smith. - How could we prove the existence of a combine to the satisfaction of the Court where there was no written agreement?
Mr. McWILLIAMS. Hosts of witnesses could be called to prove that there is such a similarity in the rates and conditions observed by the two companies as to suggest the existence of a combine. Evidence could be given as to the similarity of conditions that would be the strongest possible proof of the existence of a combine.
– Do you think that competition should exist between the shipping companies ?
– It would be much healthier for Australia if it did. Mr. McWilliams further said -
I believe that there is no case in regard to which the Government could prove the existence of a combination so clearly as they could in connexion with the Shipping Combine, if they would institute a general prosecution instead of confining their attention to the combination in shipping in relation only to the Coal Vend. The action of the Government in extending the joint contract, to which I have referred, for two years has made it utterly impossible for the people of Tasmania to bring competition into the field. Yet honorable members opposite talk about their desire to fight these combinations. I ask - and it is a question which will be asked from every platform in Australia during the next six months - What have the Government done to fight these combinations and trusts, which they say, and which I say, are injurious to the people of Australia? Honorable members in this House, and most of those who know me outside, are aware how strongly I am opposed to the Shipping Combine.
This gentleman, who held the balance of power, was in a position to hold up his little finger and force the Government to take action against the Shipping Combine. But what did he do ? He sat quietly by - my honorable friends opposite are silent now - while the Government gave a contract, and thus bolsters and buttresses the combine, to use his own words, until 1920 in secure and solid possession of the trade of Tasmania, and with power to exploit the people for the next seven years. That is what has been done.
There is another subject with which I should like to deal, and that is the failure of the Government to attempt any kind of prosecution as recommended by Mr. McWilliams against this trust. When it suits them, as I said before, we find honorable senators on the other side quite ready to oppose and denounce combinations, but they are not in that mood now, nor do they bring forward any practical proposal to deal with these combinations. It is very patent to the people that combines may go on just as long as they like, committing what depredations they like on the pockets of the citizens, and force up the cost of living to any extent before the present Government will take action. That is very evident indeed, and, consequently, the people are now turning their attention to a party who will honestly attempt to do something. Until we get additional powers for this Parliament, however, we cannot attempt, even in the slightest degree, to control a trust. My honorable friends on the other side are bringing forward an AntiTrust Bill, which I suppose they will claim they can do under the Constitution. I feel sure that there will be no disposition shown on this side to oppose it, although we are of opinion that it will be useless under our present constitutional powers.
Sitting suspended from G.SO to 8 p.m.
– If the Labour party had sought merely their own party advantage thesereferenda Bills would not be before the Senate to-night. It would be easier for us to win at the coming appeal to the people untrammelled by any constitutional alteration proposals. We should have a clearer-cut issue, and no constitutional questions to explain on the platform, and we could make the fight more of a personal one. We might easily have secured a tactical advantage by not bringing the Bills forward at this juncture; but I am proud to say that the party unanimously decided that, if possible, when the next appeal to the people came, they should be asked, not only to return the Labour party to power, but to consider the greater, wider, and grander question of giving this Parliament power to check the depredations of a small minority who are in a position to extort from the public a greater share of the wealth of the country than they are entitled to. The people will therefore realize that we have been entirely unselfish in the matter. We have placed principles before party, and have honestly tried to put in the hands of the people themselves the opportunity to work out their own economic emancipation. Today’s Argus publishes an interesting interview on the subject of trusts with Mr. Elwood Mead, the eminent irrigation expert who recently returned from America. Among other things, he says -
That the disclosures of the Muckrakers, as the group of investigators are called, is shaping public opinion is shown by the recent legislation for the control of trust and transportation. The doctrine that the Government should do nothing which the individual would undertake, and should leave business alone, worked fairly well so long as there was still land and mines to give away, and the moans of production were simple and widelydistributed, but badly when capital began to centralize industry in great factories, and stifle competition by secret rebates of the privatelyowned railway. Freedom from Government interference gives individual liberty only to those whocontrol capital, while it places wage-earners and the owners of small factories under an irresponsible domination that makes the claim of individual industrial freedom a farce. When at last an attempt is made to adjust the Government to modern conditions, the rigid character of the State and Federal Constitutions is found to be the safeguard of wealth and privilege. The initiative and referendum are revolutionary expedients to evade the checks and balances of the regular law-making channels. Growing discontent with American methods and making laws is certain to lead to radical changes in the near future.
Thatplain statement from so eminent a gentleman must carry a good deal of weight, particularly as in the same issue of the paper appears a column headed “ Typothetae,” “ A Power for Mischief,” “ Inter- State Commission’s Report,” “Matter for the State.” This article shows that similar conditions prevail in Australia, as revealed by a report from that greatest of all authorities, the InterState Commission. It is stated -
In August, 1912, Mr. William Brooks, the president of the Master Printers’ Association of Sydney, proposed to the Melbourne Master Printers’ Association that they should ally themselves with the paper houses in a scheme involving a 25 per cent, loading of the charges for material to non-conformers. This proposition was recorded in the minutes of the Master Printers’ Association, and was under debate and negotiation till March, 1913.
– Is that preference to unionists?
– It is preference to their own particular union, which was formed, not only to exploit the public, but to penalize the members of the trade who will not come in and join the exploiters. As Senator Guthrie remarks, the arrangement stifles the opposition of those who stand out, and eventually kills them, so far as business is concerned.
Although the instigation to the formation of the second combine came from Sydney, there was no evidence that any Sydney trader had agreed to assist, or had assisted, the Melbourne Typothetae in its operations in restraint of trade.It is therefore probable that the provisions of the Australian Industries Preservation Act could not be successfully invoked. This was evidently known to Typothetae witnesses, who, though reminded that they need not answer questions tending to incriminate them, and reminded of the Commonwealth Act, gave their evidence quite freely. The large suppliers in the paper trade have their branches in Sydney, as well as in Melbourne, but non-Typothetae men, if they inquired for supplies at the Sydney branches, would, in the ordinary course of business, be referred to the Melbourne branch, so ‘that the combine got practically all the advantage of sealing off the Sydney market without any risk of such overt acts of co-operation in the system ot monopoly as would bring them within the mischief of the existing Act.
It is clear that the conditions of which Mr. Mead speaks are already in our midst. It rests with the people by voting for the referenda, to insure that any such combine shall be effectually checked in the future. Like Senator Bae and Senator Pearce, I am sanguine of the result of the submission of these Bills to the people. I believe they will be passed with an overwhelming majority, and that thus we shall take one of the most forward steps yet taken in the history of the Federation.
– Realizing that the speedy passage of these Bills is most desirable in the interests of the people, my contribution to the debate will be brief. The summary action of the Senate a few nights ago in regard to another matter appears to have given the Government cold feet, and the successful passage of these Constitution Alteration Bills will add to their shivers. I shall make passing reference to the most important questions dealt with by the late Premiers’ Conference. The delegates to those periodical gatherings take themselves very seriously if nobody else does, and it would be amusing if it were not so serious to read the reports of their proceedings. At the last meeting, a number of resolutions were carried in favour of uniform legislation on health, pure foods, foot-wear, hall-marking of jewellery, and gold buying. These sound very well, but, apparently, it did not strike the bright intellects attending the Conference that the cure for all their troubles on these questions was embodied in the referenda submitted by the Labour party at the last election. The delegates to a man were violently opposed to our proposals on that occasion. Assuming for a moment that it would be possible to get uniform measures on these subjects through the twelve State Blouses without the omission or addition of a comma, it would take about twentyfive years to do it. Even if uniform measures were put through each of the six Lower Houses, does any one dream that they would go through the Upper House in each State without mutilation in the two years which the Premiers themselves anticipate? It is the height of impossibility. Assuming even that uniform measures did get through the Upper
Houses, no one would believe that the power of vested interests would allow any one of them to be successfully administered. The ordinary 1-lb. tin of jam bears on the label the words “ Registered under the Pure Foods or Health Act “ of Victoria, Queensland, or New South Wales, as the case may be. Similarly, in South Australia, Western Australia, or Tasmania the jam is registered under the local Act. Why should it not be possible to register a tin of jam under a uniform Commonwealth law, allowing it to be sold in any part of Australia? It is ridiculous that we cannot have one piece of legislation controlling food and health matters throughout Australia, and these referenda proposals, in that regard, cannot be logically opposed. The second Bill deals with corporations. Branches of the Employers Federation, Chambers of Agriculture, and Chambers of Commerce, time after time pass resolutions in favour of a uniform companies law for the Commonwealth, but the same people, when this legislation, which would help in that direction, is put forward, most violently oppose the giving of additional powers to the National Parliament. Those who oppose the constitutional alterations profess to be the guardians of the interests of the primary producers, and this aspect of the question was brought rather prominently under my notice in Queensland recently. A number of fruit-growers in the Bowen district met in conference, and passed a resolution complaining about the differential regulations to which their exports are subject in the southern States. In exporting fruit from Queensland they have to pay fumigation charges, inspection fees, and so forth, which is quite right; but their complaint was that when the fruit reached Melbourne it was often condemned, and, even if it wa3 not, it was subject to another series of inspection fees and charges. The Conference passed a resolution advocating uniformity throughout the Commonwealth regarding these matters, yet nine out of every ten of the very same people, for I know them intimately, having represented their district in the State Parliament, voted, -I am sure, against the referenda on the two last occasions, although the referenda proposals aimed at giving the Commonwealth the very power which they are now asking for. The most important question in these measures is the enlargement of the powers of the Arbitration Court, covering as it does the question of industrial peace or industrial unrest. It was laid down by a majority of the High Court, sitting in Melbourne, that, in order that a dispute may come under the operation of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, it is not necessary that it should exactly fulfil the strict letter of the Constitution and extend beyond the limits of one State. It is laid down that a dispute, actual, threatened, impending, or probable in another State may be joined with the dispute existing in the original State, and so make an industrial dispute which may be brought under the operation of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. That may be said to be arguing upon an hypothesis, and upon the dictum of the High Court, but I shall endeavour to show, in a concrete way, that a dispute which does not actually extend beyond the bounds of one State may have a most significant effect in another. I can refer honorable senators again to the dispute in the meat business which recently occurred in Sydney. It will be agreed that, so far as that dispute went, on the face of it, it was confined, not only to the State of New South Wales, but to the metropolitan area in that State. Still, I contend that it had a very serious application to the State of Queensland. It has to be understood that the shopmen within the metropolitan area asked for improved conditions. Of the 600 retail butchers doing business in the city of Sydney and its suburbs, 540 agreed to concede the demands of the shopmen. Sixty of the 600 were opposed to granting the concessions asked for, and the 540 had to fall into line with the insignificant minority of sixty retailers, at the bidding of the trust on top, per medium of the Employers Federation. The carcass butchers plainly told the 540 retailers that if they persisted in conceding the demands of the men there would be no carcasses supplied to them. Consequently there was an actual lock-out of the slaughtermen at the abattoirs in Sydney. So far, apparently, the dispute did not affect Queeusland ; but I can show that, even at that stage, it affected the northern State. Some of the retail butchers did open in defiance of the Victum of the so-called master butchers md the retailers’ association; but, when they tried to do business, they found that they could not get rid of their byproducts, ‘as no firm dealing in their byproducts would be allowed to touch them. In these days the butchers give as the excuse for the high price of meat the statement that the by-products constitute their profit. Here is where the application of the matter to Queensland came in, and the dispute really extended beyond the limits of the State of New South Wales. The shopmen were nominally the cause of the trouble; but it was not the shopmen whom the Employers Federation, the so-called master butchers and the Beef Trust, were aiming at. They were aiming at the slaughtermen who were locked out from the abattoirs in Sydney. Slaughtermen are to-day receiving a wage of from £5 to £6 per week in New South Wales and in Queensland, and they earn every penny of it. If these slaughtermen at the Sydney abattoirs could have been locked out for a sufficiently long period of time to compel them to cave in and accept, we will say for the sake of argument, £4 per week for the work for which they were receiving £6 per week, honorable senators can see the effect which would follow in Queensland by virtue of the fact that the northern State, is the greatest cattle-producer of the Commonwealth. Had the Beef Trust got going in Queensland and in the Northern Territory, honorable senators can realize how serious the position would have been from theworkers’ stand-point, although the dispute was apparently confined to New South Wales. On that occasion it was. forced upon my mind very conclusivelythat the Employers Federation in New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland had foregone the old method of combating the workers in industrial disputes. Nowadays these so-called masters have no timefor the “blackleg” and the “scab.”
– Does the honorablesenator mean within their own ranks?
– The ‘* scab “ is. a unionist who goes back on his union.
– What about the shopkeepers who wanted to open in Sydney and to whom . the honorable senator referred a little while ago?
– They were men who were not in any association.
– Then they ought tohave been allowed to work.
– The honorable senator told us the other night that he is against compulsory unionism.
– Does the honorable senator say that they should have been allowed to open their, shops?
– They were in a position to buy cattle and sell meat, because, in most cases, they ran one-man shops. The Employers Federations in the various States are to-day fighting the industrial war on class lines by highly scientific methods. They do not want the “blackleg” in these days, and prefer to carry on the industrial war by endeavouring to make the people feel the pinch. We contend that to protect himself the worker must adopt equally scientific lines, and the Bill now before the Senate dealing with industrial matters aims in that direction. We had an experience in Queensland of the scientific method which the employing class are now using against industrialists in the Brisbane general strike of 1912. The cause of that strike commenced nearly three years ago, is still being debated, and is before the High Court in Melbourne to-day, and finality in the matter has not been reached. The scientific method adopted on the occasion’ I refer to was that the Employers Federation of Queensland, like that of New South Wales, issued an ultimatum to the storekeepers - even those who conducted one-man or one-woman shops - that at a certain time, say, 6 p.m. on Thursday, they must close their doors, and no food supplies should after that hour be sold to the public. They did not endeavour to employ blacklegs any more than the master butchers did in Sydney the other day. The object was to make the people feel the pinch. The feeling in my mind at the time of the Brisbane general strike - and I did not hesitate to state it from a public platform - was that if the Employers Federation closed all the shops and prevented the people from obtaining food, I, for one, would not see my wife and children go hungry. That is the feeling amongst the workers of the Commonwealth generally, and I again sound a warning note to our friends opposite. If redress is not given to the industrialists of the Commonwealth by the methods proposed by the Labour party as instanced by the proposed alteration of the Constitution, the onus of any trouble that may -follow will be upon the shoulders of the party they represent. They are really the revolutionaries.
– The honorable’ senator will call me a “ red-ragger “ next.
– I spoke of the honorable senator, not personally, but as a member of a political ~party and of his politics, and I say that the members of that party are the “ red-raggers.” They are the coffee-room and dress-circle “ redraggers.” They refuse to provide a settlement for industrial disputes by a legislative enactment.
– What is the honorable senator talking about, when he knows that we have Wages Boards established by law!
-The employers are not” abiding by the determinations of the Wages Boards, and they are in that way telling the workers to go on strike, and creating industrial unrest. The man who some little time ago was referred to in Brisbane as a cute Yankee, and who had the forces of the Government behind him, is not now spoken of in that way. The employing class now speak of Mr. Badger as being a blanky fool, although “ blanky “ is not the word they use.
– They could not get a load of provisions through the streets of Brisbane without Harry Coyne’s signature to a permit.
– No; but the Employers Federation closed up the shops, and there was no load of provisions to be got. I shall show honorable senators why Badger is now a fool in the opinion of the Tories of Queensland. They make no secret of the matter. They frankly say that instead of sacking the unionists who wore the badge straight away, and sending the case to the Federal Arbitration Court, Badger should have allowed the men to wear their badges, and should ‘have started calmly to weed them out one at a time, and dismiss them. They will tell you, without a blush, that it would have been necessary for Badger to sack only about a dozen, and the rest, through fear, home necessities, and so on, would have taken their badges off. That is an instance of the scientific method now adopted by our opponents. It is permeating commercialism throughout the Commonwealth. We have an illustration of it in Melbourne to-day, in Adelaide, in Sydney, and in Brisbane, owing to the “‘defects of the Commonwealth
Conciliation and Arbitration Court. I refer to the trouble which has taken place in the baking trade. My honorable friend asked rae, a few nights ago, to make a special reference to that case. I contend that this trouble has arisen entirely because of defects in the existing Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. We can make the proud boast that no award ever made by the Federal Arbitration Court has yet been broken.
– What about the award in the baking trade to which you are now referring?
– Let me tell the honorable senator that Mr. Justice Rich’s award has not been broken.
– Not by the bakers of New South Wales? «
– No; the honorable senator has evidently not followed the case. I shall explain the matter for his edification. The operative bakers in their claim asked Mr. Justice Rich to order day baking. He did not make that order. He did not make an order for night baking either.
– No; but they would not work under his award, all the same.
– If the honorable senator will give me his attention, I. can convince him that no award was broken, because none was made in that particular. What did Mr. Justice Rich himself say as to why he did not make the award? He said it was owing to the defects of the existing Arbitration Act.
– That is another matter altogether.
– It is the very same question. He said that the defects of the existing Arbitration Act prevented the application of the common rule, and without the application of a common rule it would be futile to make the award.
– He said the facts of the case did not justify the claims of the men.
– He left things as they were. He did not make an order for day or night baking, with the result that the operatives in the various State capitals have fallen back upon their State tribunals. If there had been any breaking of an award the organizations now going to the State tribunals would be liable to penalties. Each member of them would be liable to a fine of .£100, with the alternative of three months’ im prisonment. What did we find Mr. Justice Powers saying in the Arbitration Court the other day? When he was waited upon by the employing bakers, and asked to intervene, he would not do so. He took the view that the State organizations were quite entitled to go to their State tribunals, notwithstanding the fact that the Federal Arbitration Court did not reach finality in dealing with one aspect of the question. In Sydney a compromise has been arrived at under which there will be half day and half night baking. The day shift will commence at noon. In Brisbane the employes are fighting the reactionary bakers who are adhering to night baking, and they are fighting them on scientific lines.
– The largest single baker in Victoria, Mr. Passfield, was in favour of day baking.
– He has since declared that he voted on the question virtually at the point of the pistol.
– If he did not fall in with the views of the Master Bakers Association probably he would not be supplied with flour.
– He and another baker who were in favour of day baking have been brought up to the collar by the Employers Federation. If they did not do just as they were told by that body they would not be supplied with flour any more than printers who are not members of the Typothetae would be supplied with paper and ink. I contend that the workers of the Commonwealth and their representatives in the State and Commonwealth Parliaments have made big sacrifices in an endeavour to induce the people to arm this Parliament with the requisite industrial powers. If the electors again refuse to do that, the workers cannot be blamed for what may follow, neither can their representatives here. I fear that unless the workers obtain a greater measure of redress than has been given to them in the past, industrial chaos will ensue. There will be industrial chaos unless the employers cease their efforts tonullify the good effects produced by arbitration. Like Senator Pearce, I do not regard arbitration as the panacea of all evils. I believe that it has the effect of lessening industrial disputes. But if my honorable friends opposite, by virtue of the wealth which they can command, are going to nullify its beneficial effects by taking awards from Court to Court the workers will, in my opinion, make their appeal by means of organized labour.
– They will resort to force ?
– They will use the ballot.
– The workers are becoming dissatisfied with the irksome industrial conditions which exist to-day.
They have the power of organization-
– And of the ballot. Senator FERRICKS . - Their power at the ballot-box is being nullified by the attitude adopted by my honorable friends opposite. They are taking awards from Court to Court, and the workers are unable to follow them to the Privy Council. At the present time an appeal is being made to the Privy Council in respect of the Builders’ Labourers’ case. The Merchant Service Guild award, too, is being appealed against by the Steam-ship Owners Association, and the case will shortly come before the High Court. It has been held, and, I think, rightly, that the present Chief Justice of that tribunal has given many decisions which have really placed upon our Constitution the interpretation which is put upon it today. I am not here to reflect upon the Chief Justice. I admit that he is possessed of a great judicial mind, and ‘that he is an eminent jurist. Personally, I think he is a bit behind the democratic tendencies of Australia, but that is owing to his environment. I do not wish to go to the extent that the Argus - the bible of my honorable friends opposite - went recently, when it referred to Mr. Justice Higgins as a “ one-eyed judge.”
– Nor does the honorable senator wish to follow Senator Millen’s example when he called Mr. Justice Gordon “ a chartered bully.”
– I will not descend to tactics of that sort. But I am prepared to accept Sir Samuel Griffith at the appraisement of my honorable friends opposite. It will be admitted that on many occasions his casting vote has decided constitutional issues. Mr. Justice Barton has often concurred in his judgment. Now, assuming that the decision of the Chief Justice was right in those cases - that it was beyond all cavil - and that our former interpretation of the Constitution was wrong, I contend that that is the strongest reason why these Bills should be put through the Senate so that they may be ratified by the people. The Chief Justice, by his casting vote, has said in effect, ‘ ‘ Your Constitution will not allow you to do this. There it is. Take it back and get it altered.” That is the purpose for which these Bills have been introduced. I believe that if they are again submitted to the people at a general election they will be carried. I am not so sanguine that they will be carried if they are submitted by themselves. In that case I fear that they will be lost by a very narrow majority. Should these measures be passed by the Senate they will have to be submitted to the people within a period of six months.
-Colonel O’Loghlin. - The Government are not bound to send them to the electors within six months unless they are passed by both Houses in the usual way.
– I am very pleased to have that assurance.
– We shall have less trouble in getting these referenda proposals before the people than we shall have in getting Ministers there.
– I believe that. The fact that the Arbitration Act is operating to-day within the narrow limits of our Constitution is responsible for the difficulty experienced in reaching finality. The other night I gave an affirmative nod to Senator Gould under a misapprehension. He stated that the High Court had ruled that there was power to appeal from an award of the Arbitration Court. I do not think that the honorable senator was quite correct in his statement. The position is that the High Court has taken up, not an affirmative, but a negative position in that it has said that there is no right of appeal given in the Arbitration Act, but that the narrowness of our Constitution forbids the Legislature prohibiting an appeal. In other words, the Constitution will not permit of any prohibition of an appeal being placed in the Arbitration Act. I sincerely hope that these six Bills, which are of the utmost importance, will not be delayed in their passage through this Chamber, and that they will be speedily dealt with in another place. I feel sure that the pinch which has been experienced by the people during the past twelve mouths owing to the increased cost of living and to industrial unrest has been the means of making them view with alarm the present trend of events. Belief must be sought, and the requisite power to afford that relief must be given by the people to this Parliament. Whatever party may be in office, I say that no Government can go beyond what the people desire. If they do, they will get short shrift at the hands of the electors. Consequently the fears of my honorable friends opposite that the Labour party might, if this Parliament were armed with increased powers, go to extremes, will not bear examination. Our party can be judged only by its past record. If we proceeded to extremes the people would apply the remedy. I commend these measures to the favorable consideration of honorable senators, and as an Australian I sincerely trust that when the electors are afforded an opportunity of voting upon them they will affirm each of them by a large majority.
.- I would not like this measure to pass without saying a few words upon it. We are now dealing, perhaps, with the most important question with which we have yet been called upon to deal. I am rather disappointed at the way in which the Leader of the Senate addressed himself to these proposals for the amendment of our Constitution. His statement, which was brief and indicative of the way in which the Government will treat them, was just what we might have expected from him. But this is one of those rare occasions, I think, when, both parties might fairly unite for the purpose of devising some amendment of the Constitution, with a view to vesting in this Parliament the additional powers with which we are all agreed it should be clothed. Prior to the last election, and when these proposals were before the people a little more than two years ago, the antiLabour party were perfectly satisfied that no trusts, combines, or monopolies existed in Australia, and that consequently the legislative power to prevent their growth was quite unnecessary.
– - No. He said that there were only two out of the twentythree you said there were.
– I am quite prepared to believe that the honorable senator can assure us of everything they said; and, no matter what fair proposition we may submit, he will find some way of shuffling out of the position.
– I get behind Mr. Justice Powers ; that is all.
– I shall try to fairly state the attitude of the Liberal party when our referenda proposals were first submitted to the country, and we asked for power to be given to this Parliament to deal with the great dangers to the Australian people of organized trusts and combines to control the food supplies. Our opponents replied to our statement that there was no danger in Australia of the growth of combines, that really no combines existed ; but what has happened since then ? No less a representative of the Liberal party than Mr. W. H. Irvine has informed the people at a public meeting that he is now aware of the growth of combines. Yet the party are not shifting one iota from their opposition to give to the people of Australia a weapon with which to defend themselves against the ever-increasing danger of a growth of combines of men with the means of taking control of the food supplies and making money out of that control. If there was no evidence of a growth of trusts or combines, I would still favour this Parliament being empowered to deal with the possibilities of such bodies coming into existence within the borders of the Commonwealth at any future time. What harm would be done to the people if the desired power were conferred on this Parliament, and no combine ever showed its head ? None whatever. But what harm will be done to the people if a combine shows its head, grows strong, and takes a portion of the worker’s earnings every week to add to its already too large profits? We who advocate an extension of our constitutional powers are on perfectly safe ground. The conferring of such powers on the Australian Parliament can injure no one. But the refraining from the conferring of the powers on this Parliament, and therefore on the Australian people, may injure every one. That is the position we are in at the present moment. In a speech he made on another matter, Senator Oakes said that although we on this side talked about a combine, we brought no evidence forward to prove its existence.
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable senator quoted a passage from the report of a Commission presided over by Mr. T.
– I quoted Mr. Bavin’s actual words, and now you might quote his words showing where the Beef Trust put up the price of meat.
– I do not know whether Mr. Bavin ever said that the Beef Trust had put up the price of meat, and I do not know whether any one else has said that the Beef Trust has done so, except the man who has to pay for the article.
– I walk about Sydney, where I live, with my eyes open, and I can say that, notwithstanding that the honorable senator and his colleagues told the people prior to the last election to vote for them and for cheap living, beef is 2d. per lb. dearer in Sydney today than it was when his party took office.
– If you like to say that it is ls. per lb. more, you can do so.
– What I wish to drive home is that the honorable senator said that we talked about the existence of trusts and combines, but we never brought any evidence to prove that they do exist. The Commission presided over by Mr. Bavin, who were only authorized to inquire into the food supplies and the prices, went out of their way to include in their report a special passage dealing with the growth of the Beef Trust in Australia, so that the honorable senator, in quoting from the report to show that no trust existed in Australia, was deliberately and intentionally misleading the Senate.
– I did not say that the report stated that there were no trusts in Australia. I quoted certain specified foods which Mr. Bavin said did not concern trusts.
– When I, at the beginning of my remarks, said that the honorable senator twitted us with talking about these trusts, and bringing nothing forward to prove their existence, he interjected, “Hear, hear!” But I said that those who heard his quotation yesterday will remember that he used the quotations to show that these trusts did not exist.
– Not as to the particular items which I quoted.
– I had too much experience in my youth iri catching eels to try to hold such a slippery gentleman as the honorable senator. The point I want to make is the difference between the attitude of the Liberal party opposing the referenda proposals at the present time and their attitude two years ago and at the last general election. Two years ago, according to their contention, there was no danger of trusts and combines in Australia. At the last election they said that there was no proof that trusts and combines had increased the cost of living, and that the real cause of such increase was the presence of the Labour party in office. “Put that party out of office,” they told the people, “ and down will go the cost of living.” That .is what they told the people from one end of the Commonwealth to the other. Unfortunately for themselves, the’ result they asked for was brought about, and, although it is more than twelve months since they succeeded at the poll, they have not only done nothing to reduce the cost of living, hut, so far as their political programme is concerned, they have made no attempt in that direction.
– They do not know how to do so.
– I am quite prepared to admit that it was because they did not know how to do so that many members of the Liberal party opposed our efforts to confer on the Australian Parliament the power to control the growth of the combines and organizations that were daily increasing the cost of living. By a few pence per week on groceries, a few pence per week on meat, a few pence per week on flour, and small increments on other articles in daily use, the people who found the finances to support this Government and their party have been able to take a richer harvest each year from those who have to toil very hard for their living.
– Did you forget the increase in rents?
– No. The increase which has been taken in house rent is a large amount. In Sydney the rents have been increased in the last five years by the combination of property-owners by at least 25 per cent.
– The tenants are finding out that they pay Fisher’s land tax, not the landlords.
– I feel quite sure that it may take the tenants a year or two to find out the honorable senator. But, as Abraham Lincoln said, you can fool some of the people some of the time, buE you cannot fool all the people all the time. The party who live by attributing the increasing cost of living to another party and who promised that when they got into office they would immediately reduce the cost of living, sit quietly in their places and make no attempt in that direction, because they know, -as we know, that the increase in the cost of living - the increase in the grocery bill in Melbourne during trie last few weeks and the general increase in groceries - is due to trade combinations. We know that uie increase in the price of beef is ‘due to the combination of those who are engaged in the beef trade.
– What about the increased wages?
– The increase in wages is due unquestionably to the com bination of the Australian workers, and that increase has been fought bitterly by the other party ever since it has been in existence. I propose to quote, in reply to the quotation made by Senator Oakes, a passage from the interim report of the New South Wales Commission on the Supply and Distribution of Meat, ordered by the Legislative Assembly to be printed on the 23rd December, 1913. Referring to the American Beef Trust, the Commission said -
Apart from this, the Swift Beef Company, of London, which is the representative of Swift and Company, of Chicago, has an agent in Sydney, who purchases mutton here on receipt of cabled orders from his principals. This agent was appointed in April, 1911, and during the first year of his appointment he purchased and shipped about 100,000 carcasses.
I have not made this quotation to show the extent of the trade of the trust, but to show that Senator Oakes was not only wrong, but misled the Senate, when he quoted from a report to prove the very reverse of what this statement proves.
– That does not prove anything as to a trust, does it? Because a big buyer is in the Sydney market, and buys a lot of stock or meat, therefore it seems that there is a trust. Anybody can buy the stuff, if he has the money, and export it.
– If, in face of the fact that Mr. Malkow, the representative of Swift and Company, went before the Commission of his own free will, and gave evidence that he was the agent of the Chicago Meat Company and the Swift Company, operating in England, and that he had come here to establish their works, and that they were expending £350,000 on a plant in Queensland, my honorable friend is prepared to say that that is not evidence of the existence of a trust in Australia, all that I can say is that no one will ever convince him that there is a trust in Australia. If the fact that the greatest trust in the world dealing with the beef supply - the Meat Trust that has made the cost of living, so far as this one staple article of food is concerned, dear to the working thousands of the world - are through their agent establishing works here, is not evidence of their presence in Australia, it is almost useless to attempt to convert tEe party opposite to the view that we are threatened by the growth of such bodies. We are so threatened, and that is why we are endeavouring to pass these Bills, and asking the people to confer on this Parliament the right to deal with a trust or a combine whenever it shows its head. Under the Constitution at the present time we have no power to act within the limits of an individual State. Senator Oakes, no doubt, will say glibly from the platform to the people, “ You have a Labour Government in New South Wales; why did they not deal with the Meat Trust?”
– In the present Arbitration Act they have a very good section with which to deal with the Meat Trust. With section 72 they could break it up.
– I have no doubt that the honorable senator had a good way of dealing with trusts when he dealt with the Coal Combine. The taking of coal at the price which existed months before, the commandeering of coal, or, to use plain language, the stealing of it, may be his method of dealing with a trust, but, so far as any legislation is concerned, we have to deal with trusts and combines in a sensible and practical way, and a common-sense way is to have one law operating from one end of Australia to the other. What would be the result if any State Government attempted to deal with the present Beef Trust? The result would be that, as the trust have established themselves in Queensland, and obtained a commanding control over the meat supplies, a State that dared to legislate harshly against them would find its meat supplies materially shortened, with a consequent immediate rise in the price of beef. The Commission’s report further states -
If the development of the business of the Swift Company in Australia is as rapid as it has been in the Argentine, we shall be within measurable distance of a condition of things in which members of this American trust will have control of a considerable portion of the foreign meat supply of the United Kingdom. and so on throughout the whole report. Three pages of the report are devoted to pointing out to the Government of .New South Wales the existence of the Meat Trust, their operations, and what they intended to do. All this information was given in evidence by their managing director, who came here a few years ago, and was here again two years ago. At the time that he gave the evidence he was establishing works for Swift and Company at Brisbane, with a view to extend ing them to the other States. Once these trusts and combines are given unrestricted power to establish their businesses, there is no saying to what extent they may develop and exploit the public, who require the necessaries of life of which they have command. I want to make it clear that there is no possible danger to the people involved in giving this Parliament power to resist the growth and encroachment of combines which deal with their food supplies, but there is a very grave, pressing, and immediate danger ‘ in allowing things to go on from day to day, leaving this Parliament with no power to restrict the development of these pernicious aggregations of capital. If ever there was an occasion on which both parties should sink political differences and work together it is now, when we are convinced that uniform Commonwealth legislation is necessary to deal not only with trusts and combines, but with the other great questions upon which the public were so evenly divided on the last occasion. The great reduction in the negative vote as compared with that cast on the previous occasion must convince any one that we are within easy distance of carrying these proposals in the near future. What time could be more opportune for the Government, who are in such a hopeless minority in this Chamber, and have such a miserable majority in the other House, to invite the two Houses to meet together to devise measures to extend our constitutional powers, so that we may deal adequately with these growing dangers? It is generally admitted that the Government are unable to proceed with any policy or programme to restrict the increased cost of living.
-Col. Sir Albert Gould. - Because of a hostile Senate.
– They . are afraid to move to combat the growing influences which are increasing the cost of living for fear of offending their friends, and so cutting off the financial supplies that make their political life possible; because if they dared to fight the combines and companies and other forms of organized capital there would be no more election funds to win them their seats. Senator Gould interjected that they were unable to proceed because of the opposition of the Senate. What measures are they being prevented from proceeding with? Surely the honorable senator does not refer to the summary manner in which the Bill dealing with preference to unionists in Government employment was thrown out. The Minister who introduced that measure in another place said himself that preference was npt being given by the Government, as it had already been abolished by minute. Surely the Government do not say that that is one of the measures on which they depended to make the cost of housekeeping a little lighter for the housewife. Senator Oakes actually quoted from the report of the New South Wales Commission to show that there were no trusts and combines, and said it rested with us to prove that there were. I have produced a copy of the same report, and pointed to three or four pages dealing with and definitely naming the Meat Trust. This satisfies me that when Senator Oakes makes quotations in the future it will be necessary to ask him to give us the fullest information as to what he is quoting from. We desire to amend the Constitution in six different directions, but personally, I should have liked to see both parties meet together to make one simple alteration in the Constitution that would, I believe, be effective for all time. It is provided that the Australian Parliament shall have power under the Constitution to legislate on certain matters. If both parties met together we could devise means to strike out the words “ under the Constitution,” so that the Australian Parliament would have what nine-tenths of the Australian people believe that it already has - full power to legislate, on any matters that come before it or that its members may bring up. That is my idea of an Australian Parliament representing the Australian people. I would allow the State Parliaments to exist until their existence was no longer needed by the people. I believe in a Constitution that will give the Australian Parliament powers of legislation, restricted only by the common sense of the people’s representatives.
– Would that mean no State Parliaments?
– Not necessarily, until the people became aware that no State Parliaments were required. Why should there be any restrictions on the power of legislation of this Parliament representing the whole of Australia from coast to coast?
– Because that was the common agreement under which the States entered Federation.
– I quite understand that; but my proposal, if put before the people now, would meet with the approval of nine-tenths of them. Why not have a wider and more far-reaching agreement? Under the old agreement, not only were the States given equal representation in the Senate, but the Convention held that principle to be so sacred that they provided that it should not be altered except with the consent of the States themselves; yet the present Government are doing their best to undermine it by establishing the principle that a Government with a majority represented by the Speaker’s casting vote in the lower House, shall have the right to say to the Senate, “ You shall pass whatever legislation we ask for, or no longer exist as a Senate.” That is striking a serious blow at the principle of State representation. It is not so very long ago that the agreement was made to give the States equal representation in this House; yet the Government are proposing, and their papers are backing them up, to sweep it away. No Government has a right to carry such a proposal on the casting vote of the Speaker. The Government are not prepared to accept any amendments to the Constitution to protect the interests of the people, and have put forward no better proposals of their own than the appointment of a Commission to inquire into the operations of the Beef Trust. That is on “all-fours” with their action in referring the Tariff to the Inter-State Commission. The only gleam of hope that we can get from the appointment of the Trust Commission is that it shows that our continued warnings have at length penetrated the slow understandings of the men who govern the anti-Labour party, and made them realize that the growth of trusts and monopolies is becoming a very real thing in this country. The appointment of a Commission is their idea of placating the popular cry for legislation against those bodies. It only means shelving the question for a little time, but in that little time a great deal of injury may be done. Time is of the utmost importance in this matter. I was rather amused at Senator McColl’. attempt to saddle the Labour party with the responsibility of allowing the Beef
Trust to get a footing in Australia. I understand it is the duty of the Minister of Trade and Customs to pass the plans for all buildings wherein the food supplies of the people are prepared. The plans for the building on the Brisbane River happened to come before Mr. Tudor when he was Minister, and Senator McColl asks why Mr. Tudor did not refuse to pass them. Would not it have been a statesman-like way of dealing with the Swift American Company to refuse to pass plans to which no objection could be taken, and which were in accord with all our laws and regulations? The honorable senator thought he had made a splendid point in throwing on the Labour Government the responsibility for the existence of the Beef Trust, because when the plans for their building were before the Government it did not stop them.
– I did not say that.
– I know the honorable senator did not; but that was the only inference we could draw from his remarks.
– I asked why Mr. Tudor did not inquire what the company was going to do with the building.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - If there was anything wrong being done in the way of trusts, why did not your party introduce legislation to deal with them ? They had a majority in both Houses.
– That is a pertinent question. The reason why such legislation was not introduced is that we knew, as Senator Gould knows, that the Commonwealth Parliament has not the power to interfere with the operations of a business within the limits of one State. We did the correct thing in the circumstances. We asked the people of Australia at the earliest possible moment to give us that power.
– Why go to the Commonwealth for authority when you admit that the Commonwealth could not interfere?
– The honorable senator still sticks in the trench, and contends that the way to fight the Beef Trust was, not to amend the Constitution, but to refuse to accept the plans for its building. If that is not what he means, what would he have advised the Labour party to do? All that was re quired was that the plans should be in accordance with certain regulations. We were dealing with a great organization like Swift and Company, who, according to the evidence of their managing director, have been twenty years building up their beef trade in London, have command pretty well of the Argentine market, exercise an enormous influence, and regulate by cablegram the price of meat in various countries of the world, and Senator McColl says that we could have prevented them getting a footing in Australia by refusing to accept the plans for their building. I am pleased to think that the honorable senator is a member of a Government who, since that time, have discovered that the Australian people are getting very restless under the statement that no trusts exist in the Commonwealth. The grocery hill in Melbourne is increased by 3s. or 4s. a week for the average family, the price of meat has been increased by a few shillings a week, house rent has been increased by a few shillings per week, and every man of common sense in the community is aware that these increases are due to the combination of the people who control the things which they require, whether they be houses, groceries, or beef. The Government stand opposed to legislation which we hope will give the Australian Parliament the powers which the framers of the Constitution imagined they had given us’. We are not asking for any unheardof powers, but for powers which the framers of the Constitution believed were conferred upon this Parliament by the Constitution which brought it into existence. We have, found that they did not correctly anticipate the way in which the Constitution would work. We asked the people a few years ago to rectify the mistake made by the framers of the Constitution. Twelve months ago we asked them the same questions, with increasingly satisfactory results so far as we are concerned. I hope that the questions will be repeated to the people again in the very near future. They will be more alert on the next occasion, because they have had to pay dearly for the mistake they made twelve months ago. Instead of the promise of the Ministerial party that there would be cheaper living being realized, they know now, although the Government will not confess it, that they cannot prevent the growth of combines, trusts, and monopolies until this Parliament is given extended powers. We are asking for these powers because we are determined to fight the combines. We have no money interests in them, and our organizations are not subsidized by them. We know, from sworn evidence given before the Sugar Commission, that it is reasonable to draw the conclusion that a huge bribe was given by the sugar monopoly to the anti-Labour party. How can we expect them to give the Australian Parliament powers to deal with the huge growths of capital represented by the sugar company and by Swift and Company, of Chicago and London, and now established in the Commonwealth?
– The honorable senator should read the report of the Sugar Commission on the question of the nationalization of the industry.
– I have read the report of the Commission and all the evidence given before it, and I can tell Senator Oakes the effect it had upon the honorable senator who leads his party in the Senate. When the first President of the Commission, Mr. Justice Gordon, was conducting its proceedings a little friction arose between him and the Chairman of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and this led the Leader of the Senate to refer to Mr. Justice Gordon as a “ chartered bully.” I was going to say that the power of wealth was so great that it made Mr. Justice Gordon’s position as President of the Commission very uncomfortable. The Chairman of the Sugar Trust, Mr. Knox, was asked whether the company had given £50,000 to the funds of the Liberal party, and, although the gentleman who asked the question told him that his desire in asking it was to give him an opportunity to deny the suggestion, he did not take advantage of that opportunity. He declined to answer the question. If the company had not given a huge bribe to the anti-Labourparty the gentleman managing it would have taken advantage of the splendid opportunity that was afforded him to contradict the statement which had gained currency during the election. He preferred to shelter himself by declining to answer the question. Viewing the whole of the evidence he gave before the Commission, it is reasonable to conclude that the sugar company did pay a huge sum of money into the Liberal party’s funds.
– I wish it were true.
– I remind the honorable senator that one of the lady organizers of the party in Melbourne asked what use it was to spend £50,000 to defeat the referenda proposals if the Government allowed the Labour party to defeat them at the last election. I have no doubt she knew what she was talking about. If the statement is not true, I should like to know where the Liberal party got the money to conduct their campaign in New South Wales.
– It was stated on oath in the Law Courts of Queensland that the Liberal funds received £2,000 from an unknown quarter, and would receive more if it were necessary.
– I wish to say that the need for legislation of this kind is so great that it is desirablethat representatives of both the political parties in this Parliament should get together and devise something which the people of Australia will accept. I believe that if we ceased to make a party fight over these necessary extensions of our powers under the Constitution we might arrive at an agreement upon something which would be of distinct advantage to the Australian people if embodied in the Constitution. It would not be embodied in it by a bare majority of the electors, but by an almost unanimous vote. I say that the time is ripe for such a move to be made. I recognise that it is very difficult for political parties to meet and devise proper methods for securing the constitutional amendments necessary to meet all the difficulties we can foresee. But I believe that if Senators Millen and McGregor sat at the table for an hour together they might discover a means of bringing forward amendments of the Constitution to which both political parties could agree. Under a system of parliamentary government, providing that the members of one House shall go before the people every three years and half the members of the Senate shall go before them at the same time, it is almost impossible to confer too great powers upon the Parliament, so broad-based is it upon the people’s will. There is grave and immediate danger through this Parliament not having the powers necessary to deal with a combine existing even in the smallest States of the Commonwealth. Consideration of State rights seems to have fettered the minds of the framers of the Constitution, and in their endeavour to preserve the rights of the States they, to some extent, have failed to preserve the rights of the Australian people. Although my appeal may be made to deaf ears, I should like the leaders of both political parties in this Parliament to try whether they cannot devise a means by which constitutional amendments sufficient for the purpose can be made in order that Australian people may be given some assurance that they will not any longer be at the mercy of these powerful organizations of capital, shipping companies, sugar combines, meat trusts, rack-renting landlords, and other combinations that are living upon their hard earnings. The time has arrived when this Australian Parliament, representing the whole of the people of the Commonwealth, should have the power to check these dangerous growths wherever they appear.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from Committee without amendment.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) proposed -
That the report be adopted.
Question put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 20
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Consideration resumed from 3rd June (vide page 1750), on motion by Senator McGregor -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– As I have already intimated, it is not my intention to do other than follow the lead of my friend Senator McGregor on the present occasion.
Question put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 20
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from Committee without amendment; report adopted.
Consideration resumed from 3rd June (vide page 1750), on motion by Senator McGregor -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Question put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 21
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from Committee without amendment; report adopted.
Consideration resumed from 3rd June (vide page 1750), on motion by Senator McGregor -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Question put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 21
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read asecond time, and reported from Committee without amendment; report adopted.
Consideration resumed from 3rd June (vide page 1750), on motion by Senator McGregor -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Question put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 21
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from Committee without amendment; report adopted.
Consideration resumed from 3rd June (vide page 1750), on motion by Senator McGregor -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Question put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 21
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from Committee without amendment; report adopted.
Old-age Pensions - Objections to Electoral Enrolment - Northern Territory: Export or Birds.
Motion (by Senator Millen) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I wish to call attention to a very unsatisfactory state of affairs in connexion with the delay in making payments after applications are made for old-age pensions. I had a telegram yesterday from Mr. Price, M.L.A. for Albany, Western Australia, informing me that two claims for pensions had been delayed for twelve and fourteen months respectively. I at once communicated with Mr. Collins, of the Old-age Pensions Department, and received two letters in reply. The first case was that of Mr. William Mason and his wife, of Mortigallup, Western Australia. The delay in that case has been fourteen months, and the Deputy Commissioner of Pensions in Perth has been asked to wire the cause of the delay. The other case is disclosed by the following letter: -
With reference to the telegram from Mr. Price, M.L. A. (W.A.), forwarded by you regarding the case of Jane Alice Osborne, of Mr Barker, I have to inform you that a pension of £26 per annum (20s. per fortnight), from 1st May, 1913, has been granted in this name, and I have wired to the Deputy Commissioner, Perth, to make the instalments of pension due available at once.
It would appear that the delay in determining this claim took place in the office of the Registrar of Pensions at Albany. This official is not an officer of the Commonwealth, and, consequently, the Department has no control over his actions. It might be mentioned that Mrs. Osborne’s claim was not received by the Deputy Commissioner at Perth until 25th April, 1914. It will thus be seen that no appreciable delay has occurred since the receipt of the papers by this Department.
I am instructing the Deputy Commissioner to call upon the Registrar for an explanation.
I have the honour to he, sir,
Your obedient servant,
I am not alleging that the Old-age Pensions Commissioner, or any of his immediate officers, are guilty of neglect; but I wish to call the Minister’s attention to Mr. Collins’ statement that the Registrar at Albany had a claim for so many months, and that it was not forwarded to the Deputy Commissioner. Mr. Collins says the Deputy has no control over the Registrar, because the latter is not in the employ of the Commonwealth Government. In this case, the woman has had to wait twelve months, and is now being given eleven months’ payments in a lump. She might have been in destitute circumstances in the meantime, and in great need of the 10s. a week. Will the Minister inquire if some kind of control can be obtained over Registrars who keep claims for pensions in their offices for so long a period ? Such delays do harm to the old-age pension system, and provision should be made that Registrars shall for ward all claims as soon as possible to the Deputy Commissioner in the State.
– I wish to bring under the notice of Senator McColl an electoral case involving a big principle. We are all anxious to have pure rolls, but we do not want to see people who are entitled to vote taken off the rolls. There has been forwarded to me a notice of objection, which was sent to Annie Elizabeth Gellon, Swan Hill, by J. A. Bowe, Divisional Returning Officer for the Division of Wimmera. This lady has been objected to by some individual on the following ground: - “ That you do not live in the Division, and have not so lived for at least one month.” The following letter will show what truth there is in that assertion: -
Our opponents are evidently doing their best to secure a win by their usual methods. Labour voters in the country are being objected to by the hundred; and as most of our supporters have to leave home shearing, &c., it means that the Senate vote will suffer considerably. I enclose notice of objection. The elector, Annie Elizabeth Gellon, is my housekeeper, has been with me ten years, and has not been out of Swan Hill for longer than a fortnight annually for the past ten years. This speaks for itself.
Wishing you success,
I am glad to see that Senator McColl is present, because I believe both sides desire a fair roll and a pure roll, but do not wish that electors should have their names objected to on frivolous grounds. I have a question dealing with this matter on the notice-paper, but I have thought it of so much importance that I have been prepared to speak on the adjournment at this hour to bring under the notice of the Senate the tactics that are being pursued by certain individuals in this community. I hope that the Government will take notice of my remarks, and will take care that, while the rolls shall not be inflated, no hardship will be placed on bona fide electors whose names should not be objected to. Perhaps through ignorance or apathy they do not take the necessary steps to see that their names are on the roll, and it is not right that a frivolous objection should be lodged, possibly by a paid organizer on one side or the other.
– The notice that objection has been lodged to the name appearing on the roll in this case is given by the Electoral Registrar of Swan Sill.
– The honorable senator does not suggest that the Electoral Registrar issued the notice for party purposes ?
– Not for a moment ; I do not know the Electoral Registrar at Swan Hill. But I say that, whether it be an Electoral Registrar, a Divisional Returning Officer, or a private individual in this community who takes action, there should not be an objection raised to the name appearing on the roll of a person who has lived in the same place for ten years, and has never been absent from it except for an annual fortnightly holiday. To object, in such a case, is to carry objections to extremes. I hope that Senator McColl, who is in charge of the Electoral Branch of the Home Affairs Department, will take steps to see that some penalties are imposed upon people who lodge frivolous objections to the appearance on the rolls of the names of. bona fide electors.
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN (South Australia) [10.17]. - I am glad that Senator Blakey has brought this matter before the Senate. I can assure him that the practice of endeavouringto get the names of electors off the rolls because they may have left their usual place of residence for a short period is not confined to Victoria or New South Wales. I sometimes look through the columns of Adelaide newspapers to discover the doings of Liberal Unions in the State of South Australia. I find the reports of their proceedings very interesting reading. One of the matters which came before them was a report from a secretary, or a committee, appointed to revise the rolls, and send in long lists of names to which they thought objections should be lodged. During my canvass last year I found that several men working on the drainage and other public works in South Australia had notices of objection sent to them. Some of them were single men and others married men. They had to leave their usual place of residence from time to time to get work wherever it offered. Evidently the Liberal Union canvassers had their eyes upon them, and as soon as they got out of a district ob jections were lodged against their names, and they were struck off the rolls. In nine cases out of ten the men who receive these notices of objection do not take any heed of them, and when an election day comes round they find that their names are not on the roll. It is time that this mean attempt to take advantage of the circumstances of workmen to get their names removed from the rolls, should be stopped. Returning Officers should be instructed that no action should be taken upon these objections unless after the fullest inquiries. The mere sending of a notice of objection should not be sufficient to bring about the removal of the name from the roll. By the operation of this system, quite a number of people have had their names struck off rolls on which they were entitled to remain, because they have been merely temporarily absent from their usual place of residence.
.- This morning I asked the Minister representing the Minister of External Affairs a question referring to the catching and exporting of birds from the Northern Territory. I should like to know whether he is now prepared with any information in regard to my question?
– I may reply to the last speaker first. The honorable senator’s question was as to whether the prohibition of the catching and exporting of birds from the Northern Territory was due to an act of Parliament, or an administrative act of the Administrator of the Territory. I find that the prohibition does exist, and that action was taken by the Administrator of the Territory, by virtue of an Ordinance passed on 5th February, 1913. With regard to the matter raised by Senator Needham, it must be obvious to the honorable senator, and other members of the Senate, that it is not possible for me to express any opinion on the matters he has raised, other than perhaps to say that if what he indicates is the case, every one will agree that there is evidence of a laxity which, now that the Treasurer has had his attention directed to it, will no doubt be remedied.
– I did not mean to convey that there was any laxity in the office.
– I quite understand that; and I say that, now that attention has been directed to the matter, stops will be taken to remedy it. As to the matter brought forward by Senators Blakey and O’Loghlin, I would remind them that there is an Act in force with the passing of which many honorable senators present were associated. Under it, where any one leaves a division for a month, he is liable to have his name removed from the electoral roll for that division, but is qualified for enrolment in the division into which he has passed.
– The lady referred to in the case I have brought under notice’ was absent from her place of residence for only two weeks.
– I am not impugning the accuracy of the statement made by Senator Blakey, but he will admit that he has repeated the statement placed in his hands, whilst, on the other side, we have a notice by an official of the country, who is not a partisan or paid organizer for any political party. In this case, it was the Electoral Registrar who sent out the notice. He was in duty bound to do so, if he had information which led him to believe that the elector had been absent from the district, and had consequently become disqualified for enrolment.
– Does not the Act provide that inquiry shall be made before accepting a notice of objection 1
– The Act imposes upon the officials the duty of keeping the rolls as clean as they can.
– S - Suppose a man goes shearing for five or six weeks, is he to have his name struck off the roll?
– Personally, I should say not. The Act for which honorable senators opposite are responsible provided that any person leaving one division and residing in another division for’ a month, thereby became qualified for enrolment in the second division, and, consequently, disqualified for the first. This objection, according to Senator Blakey, was taken by the Electoral Registrar.
– He -lives practically opposite the lady.
– Then I assume that he acted on good information. Mistakes are sometimes made by even the best officials; but when an Electoral Registrar takes the serious step of lodging an objection, it is fair to assume that he has reasonable grounds for doing so. It was easy for the lady to reply that she was still living at the same place, and, apparently, it would have been easy for her to make herself visible to the Registrar. In the letter read by Senator Blakey these words occur -
Our opponents are evidently doing their best to secure a win by their usual methods.
Unless it is intended to suggest that the Registrar is an active Liberal partisan, there is no warrant for that sentence.
– I do not say that the Registrar is a partisan, because I do not know him ; but I think that he is the channel through which some other objections have been sent. I do not say that he took the initiative. The objection was lodged with him, and, in the ordinary course of his duties, he gave effect to it.
– No Registrar is bound to take action on every complaint made to him; he must satisfy himself that there is ground for any objection. My experience of public officials is that when responsibility is thrown on them they, in the majority of cases, honestly carry out their duties.
– Must not a fee of 5s. be lodged with every objection?
– Any private individual lodging an objection must pay a fee of 5s. ; but in this case the objection was lodged by the Registrar:
– On whose information did he act?
– That is immaterial. In signing the objection-card, he took the responsibility, and, I suppose, had previously satisfied himself that there were grounds for the objection.
– I understand that you take objections from one side, and not from the other.
– If the honorable senator thinks that this or any other Registrar will accept information conveyed by members of one political party, and not that conveyed by members of another political party, it is his duty to bring the facts under the. notice of Ministers, so that the officials concerned may be dealt with.
– That has been done by me.
– I am glad to hear it. If there are officers who would act so unfairly, they should not be permitted to remain in the Service longer than may be necessary to sheet the charges home to them; but no one should be condemned on exparte evidence. Now that Senator Blakey has brought this matter under notice, I have not the slightest doubt that Senator McColl will take all necessary steps to probe it to the bottom.
– I have a question on the notice-paper in regard to it.
– I should not have detained the Senate so long were it not for the possibility of the phrase to which I have referred being interpreted to mean that the objection was lodged by the representative of a political party.
– I - It started from some organization.
– The Registrar, on signing the card, took responsibility for the objection ; and, in the absence of other evidence, we must assume that he has carried out his duties in a manner that he considers right and proper.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 4 June 1914, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1914/19140604_senate_5_74/>.