6th Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
If cartoons as well as reading matter are subject to military censorship?
Payment of Land Tax - -PARCEL Postage Rates.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
How many applications have been received’ by the Land Tax Commissioner from men liable ‘ to pay the Federal land tax, that is, those owning land worth over £6,000 unimproved value, for an extension of time for the payment of the tax, on the ground that the applicants have volunteered for service at the front?
– The Commissioner states that only one application on the grounds mentioned has been received. The application has been granted.
asked lie Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers are -
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers are -
– I suppose that in the meantime the urgency of the war matter will be held up!
Report on the proposed extension of buildings and plant at the Small Arms Factory, presented by Senator Lynch.
The following paper was presented : -
Northern Territory. - Ordinance No. 4 of 1915. - District Council.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
– I point out to the Minister, and to the Senate, that the only effective way by which what the honorable senator suggests can be done will be by suspending the Standing Orders for that purpose. It could be done, perhaps, by a general agreement among honorable senators, but if any honorable senator were to take the point of order that another Bill was being discussed under cover of the Bill immediately before the Chair I would have to uphold the objection. Again, I would point out that if, after making an arrangement, any honorable senator were to insist upon his right to discuss a subsequent Bill, I could not prevent him from doing so. It is entirely for the Senate itself to suspend the Standing Orders to enable the course to be taken, or it can be done by a general agreement which can be honorably kept by honorable senators, but which I could not compel them to keep.
– I understand that the Vice-President of the Executive Council is asking, in moving the second reading of the first measure, that he shall be at liberty to traverse the ground covered by the whole of these six Bills. Of course, upon the motion for the second reading of any of the other Bills any honorable senator will be at liberty to discuss the principles which are involved in it. Nothing can prevent him doing so - neither an agreement to the contrary nor anything else. The Vice-President of the Executive Council is merely asking that there shall be a general understanding that in moving the second reading of the first of these Bills he shall not be confined to the particular ground-work covered by that measure. I think that a similar measure was adopted on the last occasion, and that, as a matter of fact, there was very little discussion, on the second reading of the other measures.
– This is a matter entirely for the Senate itself. My powers are limited by the Standing Orders, which compel me to take a definite course of action. Of course I can refuse to take notice of any breach of our Standing Orders until my attention is drawn to it. But when once my attention has been directed to any breach, I can no longer refuse to take official cognisance of it. I think it would be more satisfactory to everybody concerned if honorable senators were to follow the course suggested by the Vice-President of the Executive Council. I shall assist them to do so by being as blind as possible until my attention is officially drawn to any transgression of our Standing Orders. Of course, if my attention is directed tc irrelevance on the Dart of any honorable member in discussing any Bill, I shall have no option but to insist upon the observance of our Standing Orders. However, I will take the sense of the Senate upon the matter by asking whether it is the desire of honorable senators tha-t the Vice-President of the Executive Council should have leave to discuss the whole of these Constitution Alteration Bills upon the motion for the second reading of the first measure.
Honorable SENATORS - Hear, hear!
– In moving -
That this Bill be now read a second time,
I desire to say that none of these measures contains very much that is new. Their provisions are very familiar to most honorable senators. No less than four times already this Chamber has passed, if not these identical Bills, almost similar, measures, and yet they have not been finally disposed of. Seeing that honorable senators are thoroughly conversant with’ their provisions, and that the country itself is- also familiar with them, I do not intend to prolong my remarks anduly on the present occasion. There are, however, one or two matters in connexion with which I propose to quote a few figures, because I think it is desirable that a statement should be made showing the reception which these measures met at the hands of the people on two occasions. I also intend to deal with the treatment accorded to these proposals by the late Government at the close of the last Parliament. I do not think that the present occasion should be allowed to pass without making some reference to that. But apart from these references I shall content myself with dealing briefly with the principles underlying the Bills. In the first place the proposals contained in them were submitted to the people in 1911 in the form of two Bills, namely, the Constitution Alteration (Legislative Powers) Bill 1910, and the Constitution Alteration (Monopolies) Bill 1910. The nature of the reception accorded to these two measures by the electors is clearly set out in the following table :: -
– Western Australia was the only State which adopted them.
– As Senator Lynch has interjected, to the credit of Western Australia it must be said that it was the only State which realized at that time the importance of these measures, and in which a majority of the electors supported them.
– That was due to the number of Victorians in Western Australia at the time.
– It was a splendid result, and something which the Western Australians may well be proud of.
Although the reading of all these figures may be somewhat wearying to honorable senators, they will be of great use to the electors, and by putting them in all their detail before the Senate, my object is to show that the increase in the course of two years in the number of those supporting the proposals fully justifies the Senate in again passing these measures and asking the people to record another vote upon them. In 1913 another referendum vote was taken on six measures proposed for the amendment of the Constitution. The voting on that occasion was as follows: -
Table - continued.
I really regret having to weary honorable senators with those figures, which, dull as they may be to honorable senators who are perfectly acquainted with them, are important. As the electors of this country ,will soon be called upon to deal with questions of this magnitude, and settle for themselves what shall be the powers conferred upon this National Parliament, I make that the excuse for reading the figures at greater length than I would otherwise have done. Now, there is another matter to which I desire to refer before passing to the general principles of the Bill, and that is the question which will be asked, Why, at a time like this, are these measures being brought before the people of Australia? Mv answer is that they are being brought before the people because, although this Senate faithfully fulfilled the constitutional conditions entitling the people to vote upon these matters at the last general election, the Government then managing the affairs of this Parliament gave such advice to His Excellency the GovernorGeneral as prevented the people settling the questions once and for all upon that occasion.
-Colonel O’Loghlin. - The onus rests upon the previous Government.
– Yes ; the onus is upon them for giving such advice, which I do not think I am exceeding tem perate language by describing as almost criminal. That advice was a distinct breach of the Constitution, and, strong as that assertion might be, I shall justify it by quoting from the Constitution to show what powers were conferred upon this Senate by the framers of that instrument. And, in quoting from the Constitution, I am not doing so in an offensive party spirit. If I speak boldly and fearlessly, it is that our opponents may reply to the charges. This special power to which I refer is given in section 128, and, as it appears so late in the Constitution, perhaps it may be taken to be the matured judgment of the Convention; that those who were dealing with this question found that no special powers had been’ conferred upon the Senate, and so they drafted the following provision -
This -Constitution shall not be altered except in the following manner: -
The proposed law for the alteration thereof must be passed by an absolute majority of each House of the Parliament and not less than two nor more than six months after its passage through both Houses the proposed law shall be submitted in each State to the electors qualified to vote for the election of members of the House of Representatives.
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 firstmentioned House will not agree, and if after an interval of three months the first-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 the House of Representatives.
As members of the Senate are aware, during last Parliament this Senate took the constitutional attitude that, even if there were a majority in the other House - a majority which I may say was not such as would be recognised in any British Parliament; a majority of one only, and that was the Speaker - which would’ refuse to pass these measures, and so deny to the people an opportunity of voting upon them, it was entitled to pass the very measures which I am now introducing, and send them along to the other House. The House of Representatives, however, did not pass them, or, to use the phraseology of the Constitution, it failed to pass them. After the constitutional interval of three months had elapsed, the Senate again passed these measures, and again forwarded them to the other House. Notwithstanding the fact that the Constitution is definite, and that the conditions were complied with, the questions were not submitted to the people, and I say that the people of this country were tricked out of their right by the advice given to His Majesty’s representative - advice which, to my mind, can only be described as criminal, and I am amazed that it was ever accepted.
– The most astonishing thing to me is that after the declaration which you have just made, you can pretend that these are not party measures.
– I will deal with that phase of the question at a later stage. Now, the Constitution directly laid down the conditions under which the two Houses should get a constitutional amendment before the country, and I affirm that the party opposed to them must take the responsibility of so altering the Constitution that, if the precedent were followed, never again would this Senate be able to do what the framers of the Constitution intended we should do; never again could this Senate, against the will of the other House, force a question - 2 to the country, because the majority of the other House would always represent the Government. So narrowing is the effect of that advice that it takes away from the people those constitutional safeguards which the framers of the Constitution gave to them. In 1911 these questions were submitted to the people by the vote, certainly, of a party, but a party which represented the people of Australia, and on that occasion, the people outvoted them. Some people might say that we should have been satisfied with that decision, but we were insistent, and again had them submitted to the people in 1913, when the margin against them was so narrow in all the States that, if the informal votes had been favorable to them, the decision would have been the other way. As a matter of fact, three of the States carried the questions, and three were against them, but by such a small percentage that I think it would have been almost the bounden duty of the Government then in office, had they wished to deal with non-party questions, to have recommended again submitting them to the people. However, the Government of the day thought otherwise. I admit that they had a good deal to think about to maintain their position as a Government. At the present time we are working under conditions altogether different to the calm which prevailed when these measures were presented _ to the country on the previous occasion. But that does not render it unnecessary for us to ask once more for the large powers which these measures are intended to give to an Australian Parliament elected by the Australian people. I have heard it interjected from the other side that this is a party question. I challenge honorable senators opposite not to make general statements of that character, but to show in unmistakable language in what way these measures will benefit one party more than the other. We have in the Commonwealth a Labour and an anti-Labour party, and I challenge those who say these are party amendments, calculated to benefit one party as against the other, to make, not general assertions, but a clear statement showing in what direction our party. as a Labour party, can benefit by these powers.
– Hear, hear ! Whom do they enrich ?
– They enrich the whole of the people of the Commonwealth by restoring to them - if I may use the word - the powers that the framers of the Constitution fondly believed they had conferred upon the Australian Parliament. As a matter of actual fact, repeated decisions of the High Court have shown that the powers which the framers of the Constitution imagined they conferred on this Parliament did not really exist. I have here a long list of decisions of the High Court on Bill after Bill passed by this Parliament by the votes of many of the very men who were members of the Convention that framed the Constitution. If the members of the Convention did not believe they had the constitutional right to pass those measures they should never have fooled the Parliament and the country by passing them.
-Colonel O’Loghlin. - Liberal Ministries.
– Liberal . or Fusion Ministries, or Progressive Democrats, or whatever name they were passing under during the various stages of their existence.
– It would be interesting, and perhaps historical, if a list showing the names of the Bills, and by whom they were introduced, were published in the columns of Hansard.
– It would be extremely interesting, but as I do not wish to cover all the ground myself, I shall be pleased if, before the debate is finished, some other honorable senator will supply my short-comings in that respect.
– It would indeed be appropriate to introduce that into a nonparty debate.
– I did not make a single party statement until I got a party interjection from the other side, and I shall not allow an interjection to convey an impression that I am dealing in a party way with a measure of this kind, especially when, as a matter of fact, I can prove that nearly every Bill passed by both Houses of this Parliament, and subsequently disallowed by the High Court, was assisted in its passage by the very men who sat on the Convention that drafted the Constitution, and who firmly believed that they had power to legislate in those directions. I shall quote their own words to show that some of the leading men belonging to the party opposite actually asked for consti tutional amendments of such a nature as we are now introducing. So much for the claim that these are party measures. I say to the small but intellectual Opposition, “I invite amendments to these Bills that will give us the powers we are asking for in a better form than that in which we have put them forward.” I invite them, when the Committee stage is reached, not to make general statements that our Bills are too cumbersome, and take too large powers, but to draft in clear and definite language, amendments which will be an improvement. I promise that the Government will be prepared to accept anything better than wo have proposed. If our draftsmanship shows that we are taking more powers than are needed, and their draftsmanship can clearly define the powers that are needed, I am prepared to give their amendments the fullest and freest consideration. That offer was made in the other House by the Attorney-General - which reminds me that, although on previous occasions the Bills were passed in another place by the necessary majorities, and with fairly big minorities against them, they were passed on this occasion in another place by a unanimous vote.
– A unanimous vote, and the “ gag.”
– I am pleased that they were passed at a time like this without opposition in another place, and I hope the electors outside, when the Bills come before them, will follow that splendid example; and, even if they cannot see their way to vote for them,, will allow the people who voted for them on previous occasions to take the responsibility of carrying them this time, by themselves refraining from going to the polling booth. That is a fair position for men who find themselves up against the inevitable. If I sat on the benches opposite. confident as I always am in the right of my own side, I could not survey the figures of the previous votes without feeling convinced that it is only a matter of time before the electors of the Commonwealth adopt these amendments, or amendments more drastic. One cardinal mistake was made in framing the Constitution, Instead of having a Federation in which the States had sovereign powers, and the Commonwealth delegated powers, we should have had a Constitution in which the Australian Parliament had the sovereign powers and the States the delegated powers. Had that been done, it would have meant, not the bringing about of Unification, but that, whenever the Federal Parliament passed a law which clashed with a State law, the Federal law would be supreme. Instead of having to wait after a law was passed for actions to be taken before the High Court, and for the High Court to tell us that, because one part of it was unconstitutional the whole law must fall to the ground, we should have been in the position of the British Parliament, and the will of the two Houses of the Parliament of the Commonwealth would have become, whenever expressed in legislation, the law of Australia. That would have been a sound system to adopt; but I do not blame the framers of the Constitution for not adopting it. In these advancing days of civilization, there are engineers in our mechanical workshops who know a great deal more about a locomotive than did its first inventor. There are ordinary mechanics to-day who know more than Robert Stephenson knew. If our Australian Fleet was deprived of its officers, and its management left to the men, it would still be a Fleet before which the Fleet with which Nelson won his famous victories would not last very long. I do not want adversely to criticise the framers of the Constitution. They gave us what is, after all, a workable instrument of government; and the chief reason why it is workable is that they made it possible for the people to amend it if they desired to do so. I come back to some of the opinions of prominent men belonging to the party opposite as to the necessity for constitutional amendments. In a memorandum written by Mr. Garran, at the request of the Deakin Government, in response to an inquiry from the Premier of Natal as to how the Constitution worked in actual practice, the following statements appear: -
The trade and commerce power ought not to bo divided between States and Commonwealth. The limitation to Inter-State and external commerce bisects the subject of trade and commerce, and makes a hard-and-fast division of jurisdiction, of which it is difficult to determine the boundaries, and which does not correspond with any natural distinction in the conduct of business. It would be more satisfactory, if feasible, to take power over trade and commerce generally.
Mr. Groom, the then AttorneyGeneral, indorsed that memorandum with this statement : -
I have carefully perused the memorandum, and I fully agree with the views expressed.
Mr. Deakin sent the memorandum to Mr. Moor, Premier of Natal, and to the Secretary of State for the Dominions. Again the Hon. TV. H. Irvine, E.G., speaking of the Referendum Bills in 1910, supported the trade and commerce amendment, which went further than even the present one. He said -
I have come to the conclusion that this amendment of the Constitution ought to be made. We should have complete power over trade and commerce.
Mr. Deakin, in his second memorandum on new Protection, declared -
As the power to protect the manufacturer is national, it follows that, unless the Parliament of the Commonwealth also acquires power to secure fair and reasonable conditions of employment to wage-earners, the policy of Protection must remain incomplete.
He recommended an amendment of the Constitution to give effect to this. Then I find this statement -
Mr. P. McM Glynn, the AttorneyGeneral in Mr. Deakin’s Government, in a lengthy memorandum, stated in plain terms that the powers under the Constitution with regard to trusts and combines and industrial matters were most unsatisfactory; that, out of thirty-three combines here, the Commonwealth could deal with but three or four, and none of these could be completely dealt with without an amendment of the Constitution; that the States could not deal with trusts and combines.
And he recommended that the Constitution be amended to enable Parliament to make laws with respect to “ trusts, combinations, and monopolies in restraint of trade in any State or portion of the Commonwealth.” Even the State Premiers agreed that the Constitution should be amended. I have quoted those opinions of leaders of the Liberal party, and from a publication which has been circulated broadcast, and although it has been in circulation for some years, not one of the statements accredited to those gentlemen has once been contradicted. That is why I use a public document which they have had the full opportunity of either contradicting or denying if they were inaccurately quoted. Let us use the chief brains of the legal sectio’n of the Liberal party. I refer to Mr. Glynn, Mr. Deakin, Mr. Irvine, and Mr. Groom, who,
I think, fairly represent the party. I have no desire to make an invidious comparison with our legal friends opposite, and I do not quote from their speeches, because no such handy reprints of what they have said are available. The gentlemen I have cited are, I think, fairly representative of those who say that these measures involve party questions. If those leaders say that such amendments of the Constitution are necessary, how can any one honestly say that we are simply asking the electors to put op a party fight? I speak with all earnestness to the representatives of the other side, who have during this crisis - and I acknowledge the fact publicly - given us a generous support in dealing with war matters. If we, as a party, believed that, for the welfare of the people of the Commonwealth, the amendments were necessary four or two years ago, now, in the time of war, they are doubly or trebly necessary. If they were needful then to protect the people from the growth of trusts and combines, I contend that at present there is a tenfold need why we should have the additional powers. Let us examine the situation. What is the position which our honorable friends are putting up now? They are saying, “ Why not exert your war powers ? Why not use the reserve powers which a Government engaged in such a contest has the right to use at any time or moment?” In my view, the reason is that it is safer for a self-governing people to follow the well-beaten track of law and order.
– In war time?
– Yes, in war time.
– All right.
– So far as I am concerned, we will never go out of our way to use the inherent powers of a Government at a time like this, if it is possible, without first consulting the representatives of the people.
-len. - What powers are you using with regard to the sugar transaction ?
– I ask the honorable senator not to take me off the track. He knows what failings I have for drifting into something which I do not know much about. It is very easy to say to the Government, “You can use any power you like to make good if certain measures are needed for the war, and the .people will support you in your action.” But I point out that it is wise for those who are called upon to act to refrain from using emergent powers till the last moment. The last act of a Government which represents the interests of the people should be to use the powers they undoubtedly possess when those powers can be obtained, perhaps a little more slowly, but much more effectively, by asking the Parliament to pass legislation empowering the Ministers to do what they wish to do. Let us look at the action of the British Parliament, which, I ventureto say, is almost within sound of the guns: which are threatening its very existence.
– And ours.
– And ours.
– Their sugar deal did not turn out very well.
– Although the British Parliament has sovereign powers- - not powers limited by a printed Constitution such as ours is - can my honorable friends opposite point to one case where the British Government have exceeded the powers given to them by the law of the land? Can they point definitely to> one case where the British Government have used their emergent war powers t They have done nothing of the kind. They have asked Parliament, in every case, to give them power, so that they may go safely step by step, and not create precedents which might prove awkward at a later period. I am rather proud of being associated with colleagues in a Government who say, “ If the emergent powers have to be used, we will not fear to use them,” but until the time for compulsion comes, we shall ask the peopleto give us additional powers to enable us to continue in the course which my honorable friends many years ago were fond of pointing out, and that is the safe course of law and order. In other words, we shall ask the Parliament to make clear the way in which we should go. We propose to consult the Parliament, and, therefore, the people, on everything we intend to do. Let us see how strange this cry of “ Use the war powers “ is, compared with the statements of two years- ago Perhaps I may be permitted to refer here incidentally to Melbourne newspapers, and to the party cry which has !been raised - “ These are either party powers or war powers. If they are war powers, are you going to wait for a considerable time before you can use them? Do you intend to let the war go on and do nothing?”
– But you want them for times of peace.
– We did. ‘Senator Bakhap. - That is the paradox.
– “We wanted the powers in times of peace. I said a moment ago, aud I am sorry that the honorable senator did not hear my statement, which was made loudly enough, that in times of war we want the powers with a great deal more urgency. It is well that he should understand that. But when we did seek the powers in times of peace, let me state plainly what the other party said .about our request, and I think it will be admitted to be a fair summing up of their statements. They said that, urged on by a little band of tyrants in the Trades Hall, we wanted huge powers with which we could exploit the thrifty; that we could attack the men who, by business capacity and ability, had built up huge fortunes, and worry the thriftless, urged on by the Trades Hall ; that we wanted to exploit the trading community.
– Did you say that the other party said that?
– I say that .your -party did.
– Then it must have been a party matter?
– Your partyalways tried to make it a party matter.
– Order ! I ask the Minister to address the Chair.
– I think that any man who read the press of the day will admit that it is perfectly true that the Liberals made people fear that the Labour party wanted these powers to, in plain language, rob them. Here is a party now telling us that we possess greater powers, which we can use for war purposes. Senator Bakhap said a while ago that the statement that we would rob the people was true. I suppose he implies that we would do so. He has on the notice-paper a motion in which he says that we ought to obtain the power to take, not only the farmer’s horse, but the farmer’s son.
– Quite so, in time of war.
– Let us examine the extraordinary power which the honorable senator wants us to use.
– And you have the power in time of war.
– I know that we have. To the farming people who were misled two years ago, to the business men of this country who were- misled two and four years ago, as well as to the financial people of this country who were misled as to the nature of the powers we wanted, I say: If we wanted extraordinary powers with which to exploit the people, could we ever get a better time to do so than now? Have we done it? Have this Government taken one step during the nine months of the war to deal unfairly with the earnings of any citizen in this community? Senator Bakhap talks about the powers we have. He recognises that the war may make it necessary for any Government to pass a Conscription Bill, to take any man who is fit to fight and make him fight.
– Yes; but he has an objection to applying the conditions of war to the times of peace.
– I think that the honorable senator will agree with me that if we have the war powers now, and we can use the power to take a man from the plough, we can also take the horse. If we can take a man from working in a coal mine, we can take the coal which he has mined. If we can take the farmer and his son, surely we can take the produce of the farm. But have we taken that stet) ? Have we not, rather, followed the good axiom adopted in Great Britain in time of war, “ Business as usual “ ? By that method the people have been going along in a much less hysterical manner than have people on the other side. Our .motto here is “Business as usual.” I wish to point out to those who use the argument that we were really a dishonest party, that we were only awaiting the time, and forming plans in secret at the Trades Hall, to rob the thrifty of their hard-earned wealth, that here is a time when an honorable senator is prepared to rob them of their sons. I, of course, am not using the term offensively. Senator Bakhap is prepared to take sons of men because he believes that in a national emergency they should be taken.
– You will have to take them yet.
– A time may come when we shall have to take the eons, but that will be the time to take the horse, the coal, and the wealth. The two things cannot be separated in a Democracy such as this is.
– In time of war they cannot.
– No ; but can honorable senators opposite honestly say that the Labour party are seeking great powers for electioneering purposes, are not using powers, and are not to be trusted? If they will not admit that during the last nine months we have not only used the enormous powers we possess, but have used them with consideration for every business, , financial, and producing interest in this country; if they are not prepared to openly and fairly make that admission, and create a feeling in the minds of the people that the affairs of the Commonwealth are being conducted by men who have not a sense of responsibility, and an honest consideration for every interest in the country, I will be prepared to admit that my honorable friends are getting very near the limit of what is a party fight in a time of grave national crisis. We have administered the affairs of the Commonwealth in the light of day. I am only labouring this point for the reason that the misstatement which created most apprehension in the minds of reasonable citizens, who did not understand the wiles of politics, when these questions were put before them previously was, that if the powers were granted to the Australian National party, they would be used for their own vile ends. Our answer to that allegation is that in nine months of war, the Government, with an overwhelming majority in each House, could, if they had had any evil designs on any one, have exercised the powers in that direction. I venture to say that outside this Parliament, as shown by the recent elections in South Australia, Queensland, and Tasmania, the management of the affairs of the Commonwealth by the Labour party has met with almost unanimous approval, and I hope that we shall continue to meet with such approbation. I have drifted some way from the constitutional questions. The powers we ask for are necessary. They are more necessary in time of war thai* we thought they were in time of peace. We have found ourselves hampered on every hand. We hear an outcry at times against this man or that man. One man, because he has a German name, is attacked. Let us .see what is happening in regard to some of our citizens who are taking the most patriotic and active interest in the affairs of the Commonwealth. In this community there are trusts and combines who have used, and are using, their combined power to exploit the widows and children of the men who shed their blood for our country, the wives and children of the men who are fighting, and are willing to shed their blood in our defence, and to make them pay exorbitant prices for the necessaries of life. There are trusts and combines in this fair Australia of ours which are doubling the cost of living to the wives and children of the men who are fighting for as at the .front. Sir William Irvine has said that we have not the power to deal with trusts and combines, and that we should have it. Are we to sit down idly and allow every man from the Commonwealth who is now fighting for the Empire to know that while he is thus engaged the Beef Trust is doubling the price of meat to his dependants here? It is not merely a small increase which has taken place, but an increase which will represent millions of pounds to the Trust in a comparatively brief period. My honorable friends opposite ask what the Government have done in regard to the shortage of sugar. Let me tell them that we have stood between the combine and the people. We have not treated the combine unfairly, but we have taken care that the people shall have sugar at a reasonable price.
– The Government had the power to do that.
– Because the Queensland Government had the power to purchase it.
– Which power the Government contested in the New South Wales Wheat case.
– We contested that power, because the New South Wales Government represented only the people of that State, and made a very good deal on their behalf. We represent the>
Commonwealth, and we used the law in an endeavour to allow the whole of the people of Australia to share in that- deal.
– The VicePresident of the Executive Council believes that the action of New South Wales was inimical to the interests of the Commonwealth ?
– Most assuredly I do. To a slightly lesser extent than it benefited the people of New South Wales it injured the people outside of that State.
– I hold that it was antagonistic to the Federal spirit.
– I do not think that the decision of the High Court was the correct one, and I say that if an appeal were made to the Privy Council that tribunal would, in all probability, upset it.
– The Commonwealth Government have as their legal adviser one of the keenest lawyers in Australia - one whose measures have not been upset by the High Court. When an appeal was made against the seizure of wheat by the New South Wales Government the Commonwealth Government acted on his advice.
– Does the VicePresident of the Executive Council say that many of the cases which have been brought before the High Court at the instigation of the present AttorneyGeneral have not fallen to the ground ?
– I do say so; and I challenge the honorable senator to mention one of those cases.
– What about the Coal Vend case?
– I do not want any interruption which conveys only a vague meaning.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order ! I have allowed some latitude to honorable senators, but this running fire of interjections across the chamber must not continue. ‘Senator Bakhap will have an ample opportunity of stating his case.
– I feel that, to some extent, I am responsible for the interjections. I say that the Government used no extraordinary powers in commandeering the Queensland sugar crop. A precedent was to he found in the case of the wheat seizure in New South Wales. But I would point out to honorable senators that this circumstance in itself is the strongest reason why our Constitution should be amended. Let us assume that there is in Queensland a Government which supplies the Commonwealth with 48 per cent, of its beef and 80 per cent, of its sugar, and that it desires to make up a large deficiency in its revenue. If it can do what the High Court has held it can do, it will simply have to commandeer the sugar crop and the beef supply of Queensland. By increasing the price of these commodities Id. or 2d. per lb. it will be in a position to raise millions sterling. Thus, it becomes apparent that the recent decision of the High Court in the wheat seizure case constitutes the very strongest reason why the powers which the Commonwealth Government seek in these Bills should be conferred upon this Parliament. We now ask Senator Bakhap, realizing that this great power is enjoyed by the State, to take the platform with us and make the constitutional amendments which we propose a national matter.
– What has the VicePresident of’ the Executive Council to say when I tell him that the best lawyers declare that not one of these Bills, if adopted by the people, will alter the position that has been created by the Wheat case in New South Wales?
– I know that the best lawyer in the Commonwealth does not say so - I refer to Mr. W. M. Hughes. So far as the Sugar Combine is concerned, the Commonwealth Government, assisted by the Government of Queensland, have stood between the Combine and the people. A move was on foot to secure an increase -in the price of sugar. An increase of a penny per pound would be equivalent to millions of pounds annually. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company, with that splendid capacity which distinguishes its management, had not only sent its sugar from our bonds to places where it was realizing a better price, but it had bought up fresh supplies.
– After the shortage became known, the only lot of sugar sent out of this country was exported on the authority of Mr. Tudor. The VicePresident of the Executive Council ought to be fair.
– I hope that I am fair. I am not blaming the Colonial Sugar Refining Company for its action.
It not only sent out its own sugar to where that article would command a better price, but it purchased other people’s sugar to prevent us getting hold of it. It purchased thousands of tons in this way. That is a perfectly legitimate business deal, and I have no complaint to make in connexion with it. But are the Commonwealth Government to leave themselves in a position in which they cannot protect the people from exploitation in this way ? Then let us look at the position in regard to meat. Whilst riding in the tramcars I frequently observe the prices that are marked up in the butchers’ shops in Sydney. Quite recently I noted an increase of as much as 3d. per lb. in that city within the short space of one week.
– What is the cause of the advance in the price of bullocks in all the markets round our cities?
– The Beef Trust.
– What about the drought?
– Dreadful as the drought has been, it has not made any perceptible difference in the number of cattle in the .Commonwealth. Everybody is aware that the great bulk of our beef supply comes from Queensland. I find that at the end of 1914 the approximate number of cattle in the Commonwealth was 11,200,000, whilst at the end of 1913 it was 11,483,000. These figures show that there has not been any perceptible difference in the number as the result of drought. At the end of 1914 there were 2.27 beasts per head of the population, as against 2.36 at the end of 1913. I was perfectly prepared for the interjection of Senator Gould, and had taken the precaution to obtain these figures in advance. Anybody who reads the history of America will see that the course followed by the Beef Trust there was first to create an artificial scarcity of live stock, and afterwards to raise prices. Similar tactics are being pursued here.
– What was the result of the judicial investigation into the allegations concerning. the Beef Trust in the Commonwealth a few months ago.
– The investigation in New South Wales proved that the Beef Trust has obtained a footing in
Australia, and that it is operating here. We know that it is not operating for fun.
– What did Mr. Justice Street say about the matter?
– What any Justice may say about it does not concern me. When I speak as a representative of the people, I endeavour to be accurate. Some time ago, a Commission sat in Sydney for the purpose of inquiring into the operations of the Beef Trust. On that occasion, Mr. Malkow jauntily stated that those interested in the Trust had been building it up for twenty years, and that the Trust was now in operationin the Commonwealth. “Senator Bakhap affirms that the Trust is not responsible for the increase in the price of meat.
– Do the growers get more for their cattle now than they did three or four years ago ?
– I desire to be allowed to state my case without interruption. Even if the Combine has not increased the price of meat, surely, if it has the cash with which to purchase the necessary cattle, it can increase it. Consequently, a wise people will empower the Commonwealth Legislature to prevent such an evil. I can point to the prices paid for meat in New South Wales five years ago and the prices being paid at the present time by householders. Even if Justices do not know that there has been an extremely large increase in those prices, I have no hesitation in saying that the population who are comparatively poorly paid for their work, know it. What is there of a party character in the action of a Government in asking the people to give this Parliament power to control monopolies? If we possess these powers, we may be able to prevent certain evils from springing into existence. Only a few months ago a portion of the German Fleet was threatening our cities. The knowledge that the battle cruiser Australia carried larger guns than did any of those enemy vessels, alone prevented the bombardment of our capitals. Just as our Australian Fleet saved our cities on that occasion, so will these powers, if conferred upon this Parliament, save our people from the raiding operations of trusts and combines. Many companies in our midst, whose members are appealing with patriotic fervour to the manhood of this country to volunteer for the front, are deliberately making the wives and families of the men who are fighting for them pay more for their foodstuffs. It may be said that that raises a party issue, but I say that it is a national issue. The people are asking to be protected from exploitation by a section, and we are asking in these Bills for the constitutional powers necessary to protect them.
Debate (on motion by SenatorDe Largos) adjourned.
Additional Defence Minister - Com mittee of Military Defence - Registration of Males - Mobilization of Wealth - Tariff - Adjournment of Parliament.
– I ask the leave of the Senate to make a statement regarding certain proposals of the Government in connexion with the composition of the Government, and also in connexion with the war.
– I feel that perhaps I owe an apology to the Senate for not having been in a position to make this statement at the commencement of the sitting to-day, but the fact that I was not arose from circumstances over which I had no control.
– Perhaps an apology is due to the honorable senator.
– Perhaps so. First of all, let me say that the Government have been considering the creation of an additional portfolio, with a view to relieving the strain caused by the circumstances of the war, and it has been decided to introduce a Bill to provide for an additional Ministerial portfolio, the holder of which will probably be known as Minister of the Navy or Minister of Marine. That has not yet been quite settled. In Canada, the Minister of the Wavy administers the Navigation Department, Fisheries, and other Departments connected with marine affairs. Possibly something of that kind will be decided upon here. In any case, it has been decided that the naval shall be separated from the military side of the Defence Department. Then it is proposed to ask the two parties represented in both Houses of this Parliament to form a Committee, to whom question’s affecting the
Avar and Australia’s participation in it can be referred by the Government. It is proposed that each party shall be asked to nominate six members of that Committee, and that there shall be eight members from the House of Representatives, and four members from the Senate. It is desired that on the Committee each State shall have two representatives, if that can be arranged. The Minister of Defence, the Minister of the Navy, or such other Minister as may be specially concerned in any question, will preside over its deliberations when dealing with that question. It will be an advisory Committee, and will deal with such questions as are referred to it by the Government. We have in view the fact that there are certain questions- of a non-party character in connexion with which the advice of such a Committee would be valuable. If the question referred to the Committee be one relating to military defence, the idea is that the Minister of Defence shall preside over meetings of the Committee dealing with that question. If the question be one referring to naval defence, the Minister of the Navy will preside over meetings of the Committee at which that question is considered.
– The Minister will be Chairman of the Committee, by virtue of his office.
– Yes; Ministers whose Departments are concerned in the questions referred to the Committee will be ex officio members of the Committee, and will preside over its deliberations when the questions in which they are respectively concerned are under consideration. I have further to say that the Government consider it advisable not to proceed with the consideration of the Tariff at the present time. Of course the duties imposed by the Tariff would not be legalized if there were any prorogation of Parliament, but so long as Parliament is merely adjourned from time to time it is unnecessary to legalize them, and the duties will continue in force. It is proposed in the circumstances, not to proceed with the consideration of the Tariff at the present juncture. I have next to say that the Government are of the opinion that the time has arrived when weshould commence to organize the whole nation to meet the present crisis. This relates not- solely or wholly to military questions. It is ithought necessary that we should have registration of all males between the ages of seventeen and sixty years throughout the Commonwealth. This registration should set out their various trades, callings, or professions, places of residence, the qualifications they possess for working at other callings, and whether they are married or single. Then, in addition, it has been thought desirable that we should take stock of the national wealth, of the community. With that object in view also it is proposed to provide for the registration of all persons in the Commonwealth, their incomes and possessions. A Bill to give effect to this will be presented at an early date. The full details have not yet been outlined, but without committing myself to all the details I have now stated, I have given a general outline of what the measure will contain. We do not approach this matter in any spirit of panic, but it is thought that the time has arrived when we should be prepared for any emergency, and to be prepared we must be organized.
– An eminently wise decision. It is a pity it was not arrived at long ago.
– -Whether the emergency be of a domestic, financial, or industrial character we should be pre.pared no matter what the nature of the crisis we have to face, to meet it as an, organized people. The basis of our organization involves a knowledge of the resources of the nation, and the Registration Bill which will be introduced is intended to secure that information. I do not think that there is anything further to add to this statement, except to say that the measure dealing with the last subject I have referred to will be introduced at a very early opportunity, and it is believed t>v the Government that effect can be given to its provisions quickly, because we already have the machinery for the collection of the statistics and information I have referred to.
– It will be really an enlarged census.
– It will involve merely an extension of the work of the Census Branch of the Statistician’s office. It should give us speedily information as to our resources that we may be enabled to use in the best way possible to serve the interests of the nation.
– May I be permitted, by leave, to make one or two remarks upon what the Minister of Defence has said?
– I should not have adopted a course which is unusual, except in view of the distinct importance of the statement just made to the Senate by Senator Pearce. I desire only to say that I have listened to it, as I am sure every other member of the Senate has done, with intense pleasure and gratification. It seems to me that the course outlined will pave the way for that united national effort which we all know to be necess’ary to insure success, and for which we have all been longing. I can assure the Minister of Defence that, so far as those who are ordinarily his political opponents are concerned, he will find them loyally co-operating to give effect to the policy he has outlined.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives without amendment.
Debate resumed from this day (vide page 4671), on motion by Senator Gardiner -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– The very interesting announcement just made to the Senate by the Minister of Defence must indicate,, even to the most unthinking, that we areliving in very extraordinary circumstances. The fact that a British Parliament or a British community should receive with approval a proposal for legislation of a compulsory character, and of the scope indicated by the Minister’s ‘ statement, proves beyond any doubt that the times in which we are living are not normal or usual. Anything in the nature of compulsion is abhorrent to British ideas of government, but circumstancesalter cases, and, as we are living in very extraordinary circumstances, we are obliged to make our preparations accordingly! The proposals referred to by the Minister of Defence are intended to meet conditions existing during the time of war, and’ when our conditions again become normalwe shall resume ordinary constitutional’ methods of legislation to meet ordinary circumstances. We are obliged to recognise our necessities for the present and for the future, and in the ordinary conduct of affairs we do not desire anything in the nature of military law if we can possibly avoid it. However, we require at the present time constitutional powers which we do not now possess, and in order to secure them we have been obliged again to submit the proposed amendments of the Constitution which are before the Senate for consideration today. As these Bills are before us, not for a second time, but, as the VicePresident of the Executive Council has said, for the fifth time, and we have on every previous occasion had a full-dress debate upon them, the subject with which they deal may be considered somewhat hackneyed, and it will be granted that it is difficult, in discussing them at this stage, to break any new ground, or to review them from any fresh stand-point. There is one aspect of the question which will, I think, be recognised by all, and that is the consistency with which the Labour party have pressed these measures upon the consideration of the people. It is typical of this party to consistently and persistently advocate legislation which they believe to be for the benefit of the community until their object is accomplished. That is a big feature of this debate. We have had these questions before, and I hope that, so far as the Senate is concerned, this, the fifth time, will be the last upon which we will need to discuss these Bills, and that the people will soon have an opportunity to accept proposals which we regard as so necessary for the proper working of our Constitution.
– If they are not accepted, shall we have a repetition of this business next year? Will the Labour party never accept the decision of the people as final ?
-“ Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof.” When we come to the sixth fence, if ever we do, it will be time enough for us to consider how we shall take it. In the present Parliament the Senate has a certain obligation to discharge. Members sitting on this side of the Senate went to the country advocating certain principles, amongst them being the Referendum Bills, and they should discharge their obligation. ‘ Senator’ Guy. - They were the issue of the election.
– Yes, they were one of the prinicipal issues of the late election, and, having been returned to power, we are bound to give effect to our pledges. Honorable senators sitting on the other side of the chamber may not feel that they are under any such obligation, but we on this side received a mandate from the country to do so. We pledged ourselves that if returned we would give the community once more an opportunity of saying whether they view these proposals with favour or otherwise. If there were any questions of really live importance at the last election, they were those affecting the amendment of the Constitution and preference to unionists. The last of these two subjects was forced upon our party in a way- that permitted of no escape. Our political opponents thought that by cracking the whip of a double dissolution over our heads we would not risk the loss of our majority in the Senate by going to the country on a double dissolution on the question of preference to unionists. But, as I have said, that question was forced on us, and I am proud to think that the Labour party recognised their obligation to trade unionism. With a double dissolution looming in the near future, we took such steps as were necessary under the Constitution to place before the people the questions indicated in the six Bills now before us again.
– A general election is never a proper time to submit such questions. I may say that it is always right to present questions of Constitution amendment to the people free from the turmoil of a general election.
– There may be something in that. As a party, we recognised that, as a general election was inevitable, it was our duty to give the people an early opportunity of saying “Yea” or “ Nay “ to these questions. We took up an attitude which, I think, every one must admit is conferred on us by section 128 of the Constitution. Under that section this Chamber has a perfect right to present to the people whatever amendments may be deemed necessary, but we were refused that opportunity by the Government of the day, which, in my opinion, did a most unscrupulous thing when they violated the Constitution by denying to this Chamber the right to submit to the people the questions which are now before us. But what has been the result of that high-handed action? As soon as the people had the opportunity they quite properly and strongly resented the action of the Fusion Government, which they rejected. In view of the fact that, the Labour party were returned to power on a definite pledge, we would be unfaithful if we did not present these Bills to give the people the opportunity that was promised to them. It may be said that when we were debating these questions on the last occasion in the Senate the present war was not overshadowing the world. That is quite true, but, on the other hand, the full effect of the war was felt at the time that the election was held, for just then the Germans were making their tremendous rush through Belgium to Paris, and it looked as if the forces of the enemy would be the .conquerors before the armies of the Allies had time to get properly going. There was never a more anxious time in 1 he history of the war than then, and the people of Australia knew exactly what they were doing when they voted out the .Fusion Government, and pub the Labour party in power. The fact that they changed their Government is, I think, the best possible proof that the country was behind us. Recognising this position, I would like to refer briefly to a matter that has been touched on more than once, namely, the overtures made by Mr. Hughes to Mr. Joseph Cook, the then Leader of the Government. I am not going to add anything to what has been said on that subject already, but I would like to say that overtures were also made to a member of the Fusion Government in “Western Australia, and perhaps this is the first time that I am making known, in this Chamber at all events, that such overtures were made to another leader in that Government. Sir John Forrest was approached by the Labour people in Western Australia to cease party strife, because it was thought that a general election was a very dangerous experiment ro try during Avar time. Representations were made to him as the leader of the Liberal party in Western Australia, and I am sorry to say that they did not receive that consideration which we thought a hey deserved. What was the result? The very fact that the Labour party in
Western Australia made friendly overtures to Sir John Forrest was taken by our political opponents to mean that we were afraid of the result of the coming elections, and that we were appealing for mercy to save our political skins. That was the attitude taken up by the West Australian newspaper, which declared that war or no war the fight between the Labour party and the Liberal party must be fought to a finish. Therefore, when we now hear this cry, “ Cease party strife,” we can only regard it as a political red-herring drawn across the track to prevent the Labour party from giving effect to their promises to the people. We were forced to fight on that occasion and we won; but now the Fusion party are endeavouring to get by strategy what they were unable to achieve by a straightout fight. I hold that if we were so foolish as to attempt to humbug the people over these referenda proposals by accepting the suggestion now made, we would write ourselves down as mere political poltroons, who were not capable of carrying on the government of the country. The attitude of the Opposition at the present time appears to lack sincerity, especially in view of the attitude adopted in another place. I do not know exactly what is their position in this Chamber, but I would have expected the Leader of the Opposition to speak before I rose. He would have done so had he followed the ordinary course of debate, for I did not try to usurp his turn, but waited until I saw that he was not going to rise. I am not aware what may be Senator Bakhap’s position in this matter.
– Speaking for myself - I am the only member of the Opposition present just now - I can say that we are going to fully debate the measures. We are not going to shirk the issue in any way.
– I did not suppose the honorable gentleman would.
– He is a good fighter.
– Those of us who know the honorable senator best will always give him credit for candour. His attitude in this Chamber has always been straightforward. At the same time, we might reasonably have expected that the Leader of the Opposition would have followed the Minister in this debate, but, for some reason best known to himself, he did not do so. If there is going to be any stage managed performance in the Senate such as we saw in another place, I can only say that the members of the Opposition will be acting very foolishly indeed. The grand march out performed recently by the Opposition in another place, instead of staying to take part in the debate, as they were in duty bound to do, is more likely to injure them than to redound to their credit, and the booming of the big guns of the press, with the incessant appeal to “cease party strife,” in order to cover up the retreat of the Opposition, will deceive very few indeed. Both in Parliament and outside, our political opponents are losing no opportunity to seek party advantage wherever they can get it. All this is merely another proof that they themselves have not yet ceased party strife, even though the war is upon us. It has been argued that this is the only Parliament in the British Dominions proceeding with party legislation, and we have been urged to follow the example of the British Government. The British Parliament was in an entirely different position. It had sat for very nearly its full term, and the British Government were by no means in the strong position occupied by the Government here. It had not a working majority of its own. Had it not been for the support of the Irish party and the Labour party, it could not have held office as long as it did. There was no need for a coalition here, because this Parliament has practically just been elected. The electors have expressed their opinions - they did so under war conditions - and we know exactly where we stand. The Government have an overwhelming majority in this Chamber, and a substantial working majority in another. Our party placed its programme before the people, and the electors indorsed it. There is, therefore, nothing for us to do but to go on with the referenda proposals as far as lies in our power. We recognise that our first and greatest responsibility is to attend to the war. We cannot shirk it, nor are we attempting to do so. As to-day’s announcement indicates, we are prepared to make war matters non-party ones, and have no desire to take things lightly, and everything that a community could possibly expect to have done for it the Government have done during the present war. It, therefore, ill becomes our political opponents to belittle the Australian efforts as compared with those of other Dominions in the British Empire. The Conservative Canadian Government have not formed a coalition, nor a ‘ combined war council, such as we propose, although they are not in the strong position of the Australian Government, Being in a minority in the Senate, they must feel the weakness of their position, as did our Fusion Government of twelve months ago, yet Sir Wilfrid Laurier has not been asked by the Prime Minister of Canada to enter a Coalition Cabinet. If there is one part of the Empire that could well have been compared to a magazine from the commencement of the war, it was undoubtedly South Africa. The forces of that community were taxed to their utmost to put down a rebellion, which was actually headed by prominent members of the Union Parliament, including Commandant Beyers, General Christian De Wet, and General Delarey. One would have naturally expected in the circumstances the formation of a Coalition Government there; but nothing of the kind was done. In New Zealand, when the war began, the life of the Parliament had nearly expired, but that did not prevent members going to the country. A genera] election was held in the midst of the war, and the result was a very close division of opinion in the House, the actual figures being thirty-nine for the Government, and thirty-seven against. Yet no coalition has been formed there. When the New Zealand Government declared’ their intention to go on with their programme, the Opposition, headed by Sir Joseph Ward, marched out of the House. This shows that Mr. Joseph Cook was not at all original in his recent grand march performance in this building. In view of all these facts, it must be recognised that the Federal Government have taken up a by no means extraordinary attitude in saying that there is no necessity for a coalition. There is no reason for us to compromise with our principles, or to refrain from putting the referenda questions before the country. We are acting perfectly consistently in the position in which we find ourselves, in doing what we are doing. I have shown that, except in the British Parliament, there is no Coalition Government in existence in any part of the Empire, yet if one were to take heed of the
Liberal newspapers one would imagine that coalitions had been formed in every Parliament of the Empire except that of Australia. The announced intention to appoint another Minister to help in the work of the Defence Department and the War Committee will just about meet the requirements of the case. It would be extremely foolish to say that, because one Department is abnormally busy, all the other Departments should be shut up. In fact, it would be madness to refuse to do the necessary work in the Departments that are not overtaxed. There are other things than the war to be attended to, and there are other things in connexion with the war that should be attended to, and for us to shut up Parliament, and devote all our time to platform recruiting work, would be most foolish. The Government have pledged themselves to do all that is humanly possible to help us to do our part in the war. Before the elections were held, Mr. Fisher, speaking for the members on thisside, pledged every man and every shilling in the community to see the war to a successful issue. We have shown by what we have done since that we intend to carry out that policy, and, whilst the war may be still a long way from its end, we have shown no slackening, but have proved our intention to see it through. We can say with truth, that our Australian defence is equal to the occasion, and we are anxious to see that the Constitution gives us those powers that we desire to use for the benefit of the whole community. We contend that at the present time we are unable to exercise the functions that we ought to exercise. Without the alterations outlined in these measures, we are so hampered that it is impossible to pass the legislation that is really necessary for the welfare of the Commonwealth. It is our duty to safeguard the interests of the community so far as lies in our power. The oommunity have given us a mandate to pass these measures, and in obeying that mandate we are simply honouring the pledges that we gave the people at the last election.
– With reference to these measures for extending the functions of the Federal Government, I can conceive of no higher duty or obligation resting on a National Parliament than that with which we are confronted As regards the war, we are all at one, and nothing can possibly sepa rate us in our quest for victory over our enemies, not even a question of this kind. The fact that we are at war does not necessarily imply that our obligations Co the electors have ceased in any degree, but rather that they have become intensified. The powers sought in these measures are powers which the Labour party has time and again made known to the people. There can be no question as to our limitations under the Constitution, and but for the fact that we have sympathetic Governments in the State Parliaments, our position, as a Commonwealth, would be much worse than it is at present. An instance is furnished by the Government of New South Wales, and that of Queensland. But for their active sympathy and co-operation in matters affecting the general weal our position from the stand-point of the capitalist would have been much worse than it is. The Wheat Acquisition Act of New South Wales saved the farmers a quarter of a million of money, whereas the speculators lost over half-a-million. There is speculation in connexion, with the foodstuffs of the people. In regard to the sugar question, the attitude of the Queensland Government has shown that they are prepared, not only to support and protect the people against the ramifications of the trusts in- that State, but also to cooperate with the Federal Government in order that the whole of the people of this country may be benefited by that means. While those Acts stand out clearly to the ‘ credit of the two State Governments there was no obligation resting upon them to do anything of the kind. They might have said, “ If we were to act in that manner we would break the spirit of the Federal compact which provides for InterState trade on a Free Trade basis.” On that ground they might have refused, ea a Government, to take any action for the preservation and protection of their people. The good results which have already accrued in New South Wales and Queensland are only an indication that if the powers were given to us in the National Constitution we might, with greater force and advantage, create a position in times of national calamity and peril which would protect the interests of the people from one end of the Commonwealth to the other. If I know anything of the compact for Federation it was one for the preservation of the whole of the people, that what affected one State and had a direct bearing on another, should be a matter of Federal interest. But we find that no such spirit has been evidenced. We find that wherever one State lias had an interest which it could conserve to its own advantage, little or no consideration has been given for other States. Take trade and commerce at the very border lines of each State. The one desire uppermost with a State is to bring all the trade and commerce of its own territory to a central seaport, notwithstanding the fact that an easier exit to market might be found in the adjoining States. The spirit of State interest or .State rights has maintained itself as vigorously as ever. In large centres centralization has become more rampant than ever it was. But powers, such as those which are asked for in these measures, would enable the Federal Government to so distribute our trade and commerce that such things would be rendered altogether unnecessary. In connexion with our industrial laws it will be admitted, I think, that there is a need of uniformity as regards the working conditions of the masses. At present in Australia there are seven sets of industrial laws, each one differing from the others, and it seems almost impossible to use the Federal law to any particular advantage. It does not matter what the nature of the dispute is, it does not matter how far-reaching its effects on the Commonwealth may be, if a dispute is confined to an industry within a State there can be no interference on the part of the Federal Government.
– Where is a necessity for interference on the part of the Federal Government if the dispute is confined to one State?
– I will endeavour to show. During the year of 1909:10 we had evidence in connexion with the coal trade of New South Wales. Whilst the dispute amongst the miners was confined within the limits of a district, and to -a certain, organization, the position of the whole Commonwealth was imperilled, and trade and commerce were almost at a stand-still. Coal being a necessary product for the conduct of all industrial and commercial life,- it was perceived that some power should be given to the Federal authorities which would render it imperative that a Court should deal with the difficulty, which seemed to be beyond the bounds of the State authorities to cope with. As we were affected directly, and as it affected trade and commerce, and threatened the whole of our national life, we claim that some power should be given in the Constitution which would enable the Federal Government to act. It is a matter of history that as the result of a test case it was found that the question was outside the jurisdiction of the Federal Government, consequently the men had to continue the agitation, and the whole of our industrial, life was threatened. We find another instance in connexion with our railway systems. In each State there is a system of railways controlled by the Government, and it is only under State laws that any people who feel aggrieved can seek redress. It is a case of men going to law before their employer. There is no means of redress outside the employer for the settlement of a grievance. Therefore, in connexion with our great railway systems it is imperative that some power should be given to the Federal authorities to go into any State where there is a dispute or a difficulty and adjust it, even though it may be against the interests of that State which may be contending against its own employees.
– Set aside the State authority which is the representative of the State-owning of property.
– The right of one man ceases where the right of another man begins. The right of the Commonwealth is greater than “the right of any State, and no difficulty can arise in connexion with the railway system of a State which does not affect the Commonwealth as a whole. Surely it is apparent that something should be done to put an end to this guerilla warfare which is ever manifest in connexion with our industrial life. I am conscious, of course, that these sax proposals have been submitted on several occasions to the Senate, that the arguments have been threshed out, and have become almost threadbare. In a question put to an honorable senator, Senator Bakhap asked whether, in the event of our not succeeding at the polls we would come again with the proposals. To that question I reply “Yes.”
– Drag the principle of the referendum in the mire have one every day.
– Our motto is, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again! “ In the course of five years we have had three Federal elections.
– It is the only time that one has intervened between the statutory periods.
– We were elected to the Senate on certain pledges, which were made known to the people. If there is any true test as to the reasons why these proposals should be submitted at this hour to the country, it is the fact that when %ve were in the first blush of this awful conflagration which is upon us we said to the people that, if returned to power, one of our first acts would be to resubmit the referenda proposals. The people gave us an overwhelming majority, and if we were to refuse at this hour to resubmit the proposals, we would certainly be recreant to our trust and the principles we have espoused.
– You have an overwhelming majority in the representation, but you did not have an overwhelming majority of the votes. You had a very small margin of votes.
– That is immaterial. I have yet to learn that any Government have constructed their policy on the aggregation of numbers so far as the election was concerned. The practice has been that if a Ministry had a majority of one in the House, even though the majority was the Speaker, the party would still continue to carry on the affairs of government. This is one of the affairs of government so far as the Labour party is concerned. We say that, unless the powers are conceded to the Parliament, we cannot give effect to the wishes of the people as set forth on our platform and enunciated in our policy speech. If we cannot give effect to our policy, and we were to refuse at this hour to proceed with the referenda proposals, it means that we are to shut up shop, go home, and tell the people that we cannot do anything while the war is in progress. I have no doubt that our honorable friends on the other side would like to see that. It would suit their programme very nicely, and when we went before the people again this statement would be thrown in the faces of our supporters - “ Although the Labour party had a great majority in both Houses, what did they do for you? They promised you that they would do this, that, and the other, but when the crucial test came they were found wanting.”’
The people would have a just grievance against us. We are asked to desist from taking these proposals to the people on the ground that we are now at war. But do not honorable senators recognise that we were at war previously ? The greatest war of mediaeval times is that between capital and labour.
– Only in mediaeval times ?
– I should have said in modern times. That conflict has raged for many ages, but that is no reason why we should now lay down the puny arms of rebellion. The worker has had to fight his way all along the line of progress, he has had to manifest a spirit of eternal vigilance, otherwise he would not have attained the position which he occupies to-day. In endeavouring to give effect to the proposals embodied in these Bills, we are only exercising our undoubted prerogative. We are merely seeking to cope with an evil which has been only too apparent for many ages. We do not aim at overthrowing the present capitalistic system by means of these proposals. Their purpose is the regulation of the affairs of life in their relation to the. social and industrial welfare of the people. That one man should have the right to indiscriminately impose certain prices on articles of food - to corner the foodstuffs of the people, and to demand any price that he may choose for them by reason of his possession of a monopoly - is an iniquity that knows no hounds.
– Is that being done in Australia?
– I unhesitatingly assert that it is. It was done in Queensland in connexion with butter. Two shiploads of butter were despatched from that State to London after the drought had made its presence felt. When the shipments reached England, instead of the butter being unloaded, it was returned to Australia to be sold here. Having first created an artificial scarcity in the article, the owners of this butter were thus enabled to exact a higher price. That is not the only instance of exploitation by a combine to which I can point. There are trusts in existence in connexion with our coal, our wool, our meat, indeed, in connexion with every article of diet that one can mention. Of course, one may not be able to place his finger upon them. That is the difficulty. Bub we have merely to reflect that our population has not increased in a ratio commensurate with the increase of our commodities to recognise that there can he no real scarcity of commodities.
– Is there no real scarcity of meat in Australia to-day?
– There is no real scarcity. It is a monopoly of that commodity which creates the scarcity.
– Why, it will take Australia ten years to recover from the effects of the drought.
– Exportation is only legitimate after the needs of the people have been satisfied.
– Should what is required for the needs of the people be sold compulsorily at a lower price than it would realize if exported?
– Our experience is that food exported from this country is sold at its d.estination for less than it would realize within our own borders.
– Then why all this cry about exploitation in connexion with export ?
– The position is that if we disallow any article to be exported in excess of our normal requirements, competition will bring the local price within reasonable bounds. But by creating an artificial scarcity monopolists are able to command their own price.
– Half of our wheat crop has to be exported in normal years.
– I take no exception to exportation in excess of our own needs. But I claim that we have the right to the first cut-
– At our own price?
– No; but at a price which is reasonable for the article.
– Who is to fix what is reasonable?
– When the powers sought in these Bills are conferred upon this Parliament, the Commonwealth Government will be able to regulate the prices of articles consumed. At the present time there is a Necessary Foodstuffs Commission sitting in New South Wales.
– If the honorable senator is going to rely upon that, he is doomed to a fearful disappointment.
– Whether that Commission is sufficiently constituted or not I do not propose to discuss ; but I am certainly more prepared to place the interests of the people” in the hands of a
Commission of unbiased experts than I am to put them in the hands of a designing monopoly, which has only one interest to serve - its own pecuniary interest. When we reflect that in America there are about nine or ten men who own from £600,000,000 to £700,000,000 worth of wealth, it will be apparent to the ordinary man where the wealth which is being created is going. He will then realize whether there is a fair distribution of it, or whether a few individuals are reaping an advantage at the expense of the many.
– Under the Necessary Commodities Act in New South Wales the price of butter was fixed. Yet in Sydney on Saturday last I saw people scouring the city for a half-pound of butter, and they were unable to get it.
– The butter is in Victoria and South Australia, where it is being sold by the hundredweight. Make no mistake about it.
– The honorable senator would have made no mistake if he had seen people in Sydney telephoning from a club for it, without avail. In such circumstances what is the use of fixing a price ?
– We should fix the price and handle the commodity.
– Since the Necessary Commodities Commission began its work in New South Wales it is quite evident that there has been concerted action on the part of some people for the purpose of creating a scare in the market. When we find cattle which ought to be on our farms being sold for beef, we can only conclude that some ulterior motive is operating.
– The producers dried off their cows because of the price of butter.
– -They desired to break down the work of the Commission, and to render it impossible for us to say what was a fair price to pay for butter.
– It paid the dairymen better to sell’ their cows for beef than to milk them and to sell their butter at the price fixed for it.
– The fact may be explained in various ways.
– The north and south coast districts of New South Wales - which are the dairying districts - have just experienced two of the best years they have ever had. The companies are actually refusing to take their cream.
– These facts explain what is behind all this. I am inclined to think that there has been concerted action on the part of certain individuals who desire to thwart the ideals of the Labour Governments, not only of New South Wales, but of the Commonwealth. The development of the Labour movement has been most striking. Indeed, that movement has spread over this country with the force of a tornado. There has been an enunciation of certain principles which have been the dream of our fathers for ages, and the people have subscribed to ideals which are dubbed socialistic. I say all hail to such socialistic ideals as will protect the interests of the masses against the greed of capitalism. We have been met with the sentimental cry that these Bills ought not to be referred to the 1 electors at this time, because the people are in dire distress as the result of their sons having fallen in the war, and because our country is a house of mourning. We bemoan the losses which have been sustained, not only by our own people, but also by our Allies. But, because we are engaged in a great struggle for liberty against a military despot, it is not to be assumed that the people of Australia are incapable of managing their own domestic affairs. If we are going to protect the British Empire from a military autocracy, we have as much right to protect our own people against the ravages of individualism and capitalism. That being so, opposition to our proposals on the ground that there is lamentation throughout the land, and that the people are grief -stricken to such an extent that they cannot discharge their ordinary duties, seems to rest upon a very unstable foundation. It may be said that we are asking for extraordinary powers, but the necessity for their exercise has never been more apparent than it is at the present time. The cost of living was never so outrageously high as it is today. We have had it thrown in our teeth that. the high cost of living is due to the greatly-increased wages of the worker, but it cannot be shown that any advance in the wages of the worker has increased the cost of the necessaries of life. The evidence given in the various industrial Courts upon applications made for increases of wages shows that the plea always put forward by the workers in support of their application has been that their wages should be increased because the cost of living has gone up. The fact, therefore, is not that the increase in the cost of living is due to the increase in the wages of the worker, but that the increase in the wages of the worker has been necessary because of the increased cost of living. Our whole civilization is gradually becoming more and more organized. The workers are organized to-day as they never were before. That is why we have in the Senate thirty-one members who represent the cause of Labour and only five representing the Liberal cause. That is why we have a majority of ten in another place, and why five out of six of the State Governments at the present time are Labour Governments. But, whilst Labour is organized, capitalism and the interests of commerce are also organized; I was going to say to an equal extent, but I will say to a far greater extent. Trade and commerce of any consequence at all, having a unity of interest, has its combination or organization, or, if it has not, those carrying it on have what they are pleased to call “ an honorable understanding.” The two forces to which I have referred are at war, and it is the object of this Government to seek from the people all the powers necessary to enable them to adjust the relations between the two conflicting parties in such a way that neither shall be in a position to fleece the other, and that, combined, they shall not be in a position to fleece the general community. As a new member of the Senate, I admit my limitations in dealing with this question. I have no more desire that the people should be harassed, or that the spirit of party conflict should be encouraged, at a time like this than has any other member of the Senate. If I thought that submitting these proposals to the people would in any way interfere with the successful prosecution of the war, I should be the first man in this Chamber to rise up in protest against anything of the kind. If there is opposition and party conflict in connexion with the matter, they must come from the other side. So far as honorable senators on this side are concerned, they have not raised an issue that was not before the public previous to the war and since its commencement. We have all along had these necessary amendments of the Constitution in view. It is singular that the Opposition should raise the cry of truce in regard to these matters, and, at the same time, refrain from putting forward their arguments against these proposals. The fact that they have used no argument against them in the Senate or in another place will, doubtless, be noted by the general public. This should be a reason why we have a right to anticipate that there will be no party conflicts when these proposals are submitted to the people. If honorable senators opposite are not prepared to debate them here, I take it that they will not be prepared to debate them on the public platform at the referendum.
– Let the honorable senator not make any mistake about that.
– If they are prepared to debate .them from the public platform, they should now state their arguments, that the people may be given an opportunity to decide whether these proposals are worthy of consideration at the present time.
– The honorable senator must not forget that the leaders of his own party have confessed that the proposals have already been discussed almost ad nauseam.
– That may be so, but I am not aware that it is a good reason for the silence of the Opposition.
– We will give it to the honorable senator pretty loudly presently.
– I shall be prepared to listen to the honorable senator’s loud voice, and will not take any exception to it, either.
– The honorable senator should not make any rash promises.
– I mean to_ say that we on this side are in a position to welcome any opposition which our friends opposite have to offer to these measures. I am quite sure that if I had had the good fortune to follow Senator Bakhap, rather than to precede him, in this debate, my address would have been more animated. I am. ‘ satisfied that, notwithstanding all that honorable senators may have to say in discussing these measures, their discussion of them can only assist our case. Their silence will not do it any harm. I have no doubt that the spectacular demonstration in another place, the other day, will only pave the way for a greater demonstration of public feeling against the opponents of these proposals for their silence, and on the ground that they left the legislative chamber when a matter of vital interest to the Commonwealth was under consideration. I believe that they will have to pay the penalty for that. I am satisfied that the people were never more earnest in their consideration of matters of a national and political character than they are to-day. I had the pleasure of spending a few weeks in Queensland during the recent election campaign in that State. I had no previous knowledge of the people there, but I want to say that I never saw so much interest shown in a political campaign as I witnessed on that occasion. ‘ The people were united in seeking to return to Parliament a party that would serve the highest and best interests of the State, and I am glad to be in a position to say that they did their work well. In view of what took place in Queensland, I am of the opinion that the people will give more attention to these referenda proposals when they are submitted to them than they would give to them at any time other than that of a general election. I believe that the cry for a truce in this matter when the people are at war will be ignored, and that no notice will be taken of sentimental talk which has not redounded to the credit of the public press, which is, in a measure, the leader of opinion, or of the men who have made use of such talk with a knowledge of the limitation of our powers for good government in the Commonwealth. I trust that when the people are given an opportunity to vote upon these measures all the scare about the war will be at an end, and the war itself will be a thing of the past. I hope that the questions will be settled once and foxall, and that we shall have a Constitution which will enable the Commonwealth to work out its destiny as a progressive nation.
– It is not my intention to traverse the principles of the Bills now before the Senate. After the explanatory speech of the Vice-President of the Executive Council and those of honorable senators who followed him, the many arguments in support of these measures will already have been recorded on the pages of Hansard. There is, however, one phase of the question which has not, in nay opinion, been sufficiently stressed, although it was mentioned by Senator Gardiner in moving the second reading of this Bill. I refer to the necessity which now confronts us of bringing these Bills before the Senate with a view to their submission to the people of Australia within the next six months. The fact that they are brought forward again at this time is due to an outrage committed upon the Australian Constitution when they were previously passed by the Senate, and were rejected in another place just prior to the. recent double dissolution. I think that the responsibility for that rests primarily with the Cook Government, who, in my opinion, wrongly advised the GovernorGeneral. I wish that I possessed all the thousands of pounds that have been wrongly taken out of the pockets of the people since that time, and because these proposed amendments of the Constitution were not then carried. The exploitation of the consumers that has gone on since the outbreak of the war in connexion with almost every necessary of life has been astounding. I hold that that must be laid at the door of the. late Government. There is another important consideration involved in this aspect of the situation, and that is in regard to the standing of the Senate itself. It was clearly pointed out that the Senate, in putting its request before the Governor-General for the submission of these questions to the people, had complied with every detail and with the letter as well as the spirit of section 128 of the Constitution. I was one of those who prior to the double dissolution did not take any exception to the Governor- General’s action or impending action in the matter. I had no fear of a double dissolution. My colleagues of the Labour party will bear me out that, inside and outside the Chamber, I took the view that the existing situation was of no use to the Labour party. The Cook Government were hanging on to power by the casting vote of the Speaker, and, in my opinion, that position was of no use to Australia. Many honorable senators will remember that I took the view that the course which should be followed by the Labour party at that time was to challenge the Cook party to a double dissolution, on the condition that the referenda questions were at the same time submitted to the people. I believe that, if the Labour Party had adopted that attitude, the GovernorGeneral would have seen that the amendment of the Constitution was not a party question in the sense in which our opponents sought to make it one. I believe that if our party had adopted that attitude at the time, the Cook Government would not have agreed to submit the referenda proposals to the people, or to advise the Governor-General to do so, but I think that it would have had an effect upon the Governor- General himself. Consequently, I never took any exception to the granting of a double dissolution before or after it was granted. I said on public platforms recently that the GovernorGeneral, having granted a double dissolution, was bound in consistency and common sense to have agreed to submit the referenda proposals to the people when, under section 128 of the Constitution, the Senate had asked him to do so. The fact that they did not do it has been to the detriment of the Australian people ever since that time. I do not think that the Senate should have taken lying down the decision of Sir Ronald Munro Ferguson, in not accepting the motion passed in the Senate by an overwhelming majority, for, by so doing, a precedent was established.
– His advisers always shoulder the responsibility for such a position.
– But I take exception to the decision. The Australian Constitution is written in black and white, although the advisers of the GovernorGeneral may have the right to guide the Governor-General in the interpretation of that Constitution, subject to the will of the people, when the people have an opportunity of speaking, I say no Government should ‘advise the vice-regal representative to say “ Yes “ in regard to one proposal and “ No “ in regard to another very similar question.
– But the Government take the responsibility’.
– Even if they do advise him, it is not his province to accept advice when we have a written Con.stitution as a guide. The people of Australia have suffered very severely in consequence of the decision of the Government not to allow the questions to be put to them, and I think the Senate should assert its standing by passing some motion with regard to the matter.
– It will only be making a fool of itself if it does.
– If the people of Australia had had an opportunity of voting on these questions at the last election they would have affirmed them, as they did the policy of our party, and I can assure Senator Bakhap that, on that occasion, it was not the Labour party who were made a fool of.
– We accepted the decision.
– I am not satisfied with the acceptance of the position bo far as it concerned the turning down of the resolutions of this Senate on the constitutional questions, when it is clearly laid down in section 128 of the Constitution that this Chamber has authority to pass such resolutions. I say now that we should go further, and endeavour to remove the precedent that was established.
– The power of the Governor-General to grant a dissolution is not mandatory on him ; it is permissive.
– Yes; and if he interprets it as permissive in one case, to be consistent, he should interpret it similarly in similar circumstances regarding another question.
– But whatever may be his interpretation of the Constitution, the responsibility for it is taken by his
– I hold the contrary view, and I hope some action will be taken with regard to the precedent established. Now, with reference to these referenda questions, something was said just now about the Wheat Acquisition Act of New South Wales. I feel sure that every senator, at the consummation of Federation, and even up to quite recent times, fully believed that we had InterState Free Trade in Australia.
– Senator Bakhap believed that himself.
– I believe that we should have it, but these proposals absolutelydebar us from getting it.
– That opinion, at all events, is in opposition to the view taken by the Attorney-General, Mr. Hughes, and I want to quote an instance ‘to show that, quite apart from the Wheat Acquisition Act, Free Trade does not exist between the States of the Commonwealth.
Having been in close association with a. fruit-exporting district in North Queensland I had reason recently to observe that, when shipments of fruit were being made to Melbourne from Bowen, they were subjected to a most rigid inspection, and fees and charges were levied upon the growers for this service. This is quite right; but, when the fruit reached Melbourne, other fees and charges were levied for inspection, and various deductions were made from the value of the consignment.
– And very often a consignment is condemned.
– Yes ; sometimes the fruit is condemned. Naturally the exporters in that district are rather aghast at this state of affairs, and they have passed resolutions protesting against it, yet three out of every four of those people would have voted “ No “ at the referendum, which would have, made it possible to have a uniform practice with regard to such matters as this. We have not Inter-State Free Trade, and we will never have it until it is given to us constitutionally as asked for in these Bills.
– It is not asked for in these Bills; it is expressly prohibited.
– We could then have universal inspection fees and charges.
– You must have inspection at the port of landing.
– I do not object to the inspection, but I do object to further charges after the exporters have been charged for inspection at the port of export. Now, with regard to the question raised by Senator Millen, when the Vice-President of the Executive Council was speaking in connexion with the sugar deal, I want to say it was only because we had a sympathetic Labour Government in power in Queensland that the Commonwealth Government were enabled to step in on this occasion and act in the interests of the people of Australia. I feel certain that if we had had the late Liberal Government of Queensland in power, they would not have conferred with the Federal Government with the object of coming to an agreement concerning the sugar crop. Responsible members of that party have stated publicly in the press that if the Denham Government had remained in power their object would have been to commandeer the whole of the Queensland sugar, crop, and that they would have received £31 a ton for it. None of my honorable friends can dispute that assertion.
– Then the late Government have laid themselves open to reprobation just as much as any other Government that adopted a monopolistic attitude.
– Since then we have had the statement made in the press that one of the late Ministers, a gentleman now holding the position of Deputy Leader of the Opposition, that they would have got £31 for their sugar, and I hold that the arrangement recently made between the Commonwealth and the Government of Queensland is a good one for Queensland and the Commonwealth.
– The action proposed by the late Government would have meant ruin to the sugar industry.
– Yes, wholly; and it shows that anything emanating from the Labo’ur party, or any one associated with the Labour Government, is never entertained by the Conservative party. The people of Australia will be the gainers by the arrangement with regard to the Queensland sugar crop, and I think the announcement made by the AttorneyGeneral in the other House yesterday, holding out the promise that sugar would be retailed at 3d. per lb., is something upon which the Government may be congratulated. Why, here in Melbourne at the present time, with the wholesale price at £21 per ton, the retail price is 3d. per lb., and it seems to me that somebody has been making a good thing out of the low-priced sugar in Victoria in the past. It certainly was not the sugar-grower or the sugar-worker.
– The honorable senator knows that it is an axiom amongst grocers that they make very little out of sugar.
– It is a bigger man than the grocer who makes it.
– With sugar at £21 per ton it is retailed at 3d. per
Id., and if it jumps to £25 per ton it can still be sold at 3d.
– Mr. Tudor’s figures show that quite recently it has been sold at under 3d. per lb. retail.
– At 2s. 7£d. for 12 lbs.; but everybody does not buy sugar in that quantity If the honorable senator makes inquiries he will find the price is 3d., going to show that the mer chants have been doing well in Victoria and New South Wales out of sugar, notwithstanding that the consumer did not get it any cheaper than he will under the Commonwealth agreement with the Queensland Government.
– When I was a boy I used to pay 6d. and 4d. a lb. for black sugar, and now I can get white sugar at under 3d.
– In these referendum questions the National Government are not seeking to take away from the States their sovereign powers; but are seeking to obtain for the National Parliament - not for the Labour Government or the Labour party, but for the Federal Parliament - powers equal to those enjoyed by the States.
– If each State would embark upon Socialistic enterprises the Federal Parliamentary party would be quite prepared to leave them alone. That is the point.
– When the Federal Government can make arrangements in the interests of the people, not only of a State, but of the Commonwealth, they are perfectly justified in acting
– The Federal Government have very little regard for their powers. That is quite easily demonstrated
– We are hoping that the questions will be carried on the next occasion. One of my friends on my right, while Senator Gardiner was speaking, made some reference to the Beef Trust, and wanted to know if it existed in Australia. I admit it is pretty difficult for any judicial committee or Judge sitting as a Royal or other Commission to prove the existence of a Beef Trust.
– There is no difficulty in proving that it exists in parts of Western Australia. It has been proved over and over again.
– It is difficult to prove it judicially.
– It has been proved by a Royal Commission in Western Australia.
– Now we know that the object of all trusts is to eliminate competition, and the fact that the producer of stock in Queensland to-day might be getting higher prices for hia beasts does not show that there is no Beef Trust in operation in this country.
We all know the methods of the American Beef Trust. It buys up all the available stock, and pays the highest price for it, until it can wipe out all competition. When competition is destroyed it brings down stock prices to any level it chooses, and sells the meat at any price it likes. The grower of stock then has to accept a price imposed by the trust. It will not be long before there is only one buyer in Australia.
– Could not the railway authorities easily discriminate against the trust through the medium of railway charges ?
– I would remind my honorable friend that when once a trust gets hold of a State its power is soon so great that it overrides the power of the State Government. The Beef Trust has controlled legislators in America, and is exerting its- influence even on the Judges. When Senator Watson was speaking about the raw product, Senator Bakhap interjected, “ Produce it, and you will get your price for it.” I ask why, even before the outbreak of the war, when meat was being sold at 4£d. on the other side of the world, the consumers in Australia were paying 8d., 9d., and lOd. a pound for it?
– Where was it being sold at 4 1/2d.
– At Smithfield, and at a time when the people of Australia were paying 9d. for it. This shows that when one of these institutions gets control it dominates the position. To carry these national amendments is the only way for the National Parliament to acquire the power to deal with price exploiters. The possession of that power is in itself a protection to the consumer, as has been proved by the recent deal in sugar. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company has apparently agreed, if we can read between the lines of Mr. Hughes’ statement, to refine the Queensland crop, because it knew from certain statements made by the Premier of Queensland that the Labour Government of that State would have no hesitation in exercising its power to acquire the refineries compulsorily, and treat the sugar themselves. That is why Mr. Knox has come in so glibly and freely, and undertaken, on behalf of his company, to refine the sugar purchased by the Commonwealth Government from the Government of Queensland. The possession of powers to protect the people is always a safeguard against inroads on the interests of the people.
– Do you say that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company has given in because of fear?
– I do not go that far, but it believed, in my opinion, that the Queensland Government would not stop at taking over the refineries themselves.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould-. - Notwithstanding the report of the Commission specially appointed to inquire into the sugar industry ?
– The honorable senator mistakes the position. I was giving it as my opinion that the Queensland Government would not have stopped at acquiring the Millaquin refinery at Bundaberg, and the Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s refinery at New Farm, for the purpose of refining the sugar which the Queensland Government are buying from the mills. I was seeking to show that the possession of that power has been of benefit to the whole community. Objection is taken to the resubmission of these questions on the ground that they have been twice defeated. I should have liked to see them put to the country at a general election, because I should be sorry if they were defeated again.
– It was not our fault that the Bills were not carried when they were submitted to this Parliament last time.
– In view of what happened then, we are quite justified in putting them forward again. If we had had the right to put them before the people at the last election, and they had then been defeated, it would have been fair to wait until the next general election before submitting them again.
– And have saved the money of the country.
– The money that it will cost to submit the questions on this occasion cannot be debited to the Labour party. It can be fairly charged to the action of the late Government and the wrong decision given by the GovernorGeneral, who showed such inconsistency in giving a “ Yes-No “ decision on two exactly similar questions. Why should we not try again for the benefit of the National Parliament? We have never heard of Liberal politicians refraining from making more than one effort to get into Parliament. I have heard of them going up time after time. They do not accept their first defeat as a reason for not trying again, yet they resent a further attempt to get an affirmative vote from the people on these questions. We are prepared to leave the matter in the hands of the people. We believe that if the position is put properly before them they will give an affirmative vote in order to protect themselves against the outrages of the monopolists and gamblers in foodstuffs. Shortly after the outbreak of war we had the spectacle in Victoria of three speculators controlling the whole of the wheat production. Recently, Senator Story quoted an instance of a man whom he knows cornering the dripping market. This individual purchased 50 tons of dripping at 4 1/2d. per lb., sold a few tons at 5 1/2d. per lb., and some more at 6d., and proposed to hold the rest until the price went up. A glaring instance of that kind will surely bear repetition. We have seen fortunes being made out of chaff, and under our eyes a corner is being established in Victoria to-day in potatoes. Our opponents are prepared to let these things go on. They say, “Put aside all these party questions.” If these are party questions - and I say they are national proposals in the interests of the people as against the market-riggers and gamblers in foodstuffs - I would ask our friends opposite who it is that makes them party questions? It is certainly not the Labour party. It is amusing to hear the false cry for the cessation of party warfare or political hostilities during the war. This cry has been raised under the cloak of patriotism. I heard a remark this afternoon about the principles of Democracy having been dragged in the mire. Our opponents have no hesitation in dragging the good old flag, about which they preach so much, and which they say is unblemished and untarnished, through the mire themselves, and tarnishing it for . party purposes. There is not an antiLabour paper in the Commonwealth that is not seeking to make party capital under the false cry of patriotism. If you read the two dailies in Melbourne you will see that nothing is too small or insignificant for our opponents to take up. Shielding themselves under the flag of patriotism, they are attacking the Labour party and the Labour Government for putting forward the referenda proposals. They are quite prepared to see the people continuously flouted, robbed, and exploited in regard even to the necessaries of life. In the name of patriotism they bang the big drum, wave the flag, and light bonfires in opposition to democratic proposals of this kind.
– The statements in the Age to-day in regard to the powers of this Parliament are absolutely misleading.
– We should not object if the press would stick to anything like facts, but if they stuck to facts their occupation would be gone. Their cause would be turned down, because they have no arguments. The very weakness of their case is shown by the fact that they have to resort to these absurdities. At the same time, they object to a National party like the Labour party giving the people the opportunity of saying “ Yes “ or “No” to these proposals. That is all we ask for in re-submitting these questions.
– You might want that every day. ‘
– If the necessity arose, we would ask for it every day ; and if the people thought it necessary, they would agree. The people, if their good sense prevails, will give us a Constitution that will enable us to legislate as its framers thought we would be able to do. The objection of our opponents to the resubmission of these proposals is, in my opinion, entirely unsound. If the Opposition are consistent, I take it that when the questions are put to the people they and their press followers will follow the example set by Mr. Joseph Cook, their Leader, in another place. The Opposition in that House could see nothing wrong with the proposals, and could not attack them with any justification, and, therefore, made a dramatic exit from the chamber. I wonder if they will adopt the same attitude in the coming campaign. To be consistent, they should do so. Our opponents are everlastingly crying out about industrial peace, which they say they believe in. We have on the statutebook an Arbitration Act, and we have in operation an Arbitration Court which has performed excellent work, but is crippled because it cannot adjudicate until a dispute extends beyond the limits of one State. This means that, before an industrial dispute can reach the Court, it must be enlarged and amplified, and extended to another State. Very often we cannot get it before the Court even then.
– Are there no State Arbitration Courts?
– We have none in Queensland; there is one in New South Wales; but I believe none in Victoria.
– There are adjudicating authorities all over the States.
– We do not believe in adjudicating authorities like the Wages Boards, which consist of representatives of employers and employees, but which often have as chairman one of the gentlemen known as “ guinea-pigs.” He sits there by virtue of the fact that he receives a couple’ of guineas as a fee, and our experience in Queensland is that these “guinea-pig” chairmen are very seldom unfriendly to the employing side.
– That exists in New South Wales also.
– I have no doubt it exists in every place where the Wages Board system is in operation.
– The chairmen of Wages Boards in Tasmania are most estimable men.
– Of course there are exceptions; but the majority of them are hangers-on to the anti-Labour party, and very often dependent for their positions on the loyalty they show to that party at election and other times. Unless we extend the operations of the Arbitration Act, and allow any genuine dispute to be settled by the Federal Arbitration Court, we shall undermine the spirit of arbitration. If we are going to break down that spirit, it would be better to wipe it out altogether, and give us again the good, old-fashioned, direct action. We had a general strike in Brisbane some years ago. I heard Senator Bakhap say here on one occasion that a load of flour or bread could not be taken down the main streets of Brisbane at that time without a permit from the Trades Hall.
– Quite so.
– Yet the party with which the honorable senator is associated proved, to the satisfaction of the High Court, that there was no dispute in existence 1
– No Federal dispute; it was a Queensland dispute.
– We say, If you are not going to make the Arbitration
Court accessible to industrial bodies, wipe it out. Personally, I think that our opponents are doing their best to break down the spirit of arbitration. I am not unduly enthusiastic about the arbitration methods, since I see opponents endeavouring by every means in their power to violate the awards of the Arbitration Court and other judicial tribunals. What is the action of them and the people whom they represent in this Chamber? Almost every award given by an industrial tribunal is violated by the employing class.
– They are pure anarchists.
– Yes. They will not accept the awards of these Courts. They do not openly violate an award or refuse to pay; they merely lodge an appeal and take the award from Court to Court, and by that method endeavour to postpone indefinitely the payment of the award and ruin the union financially. Their purse strings are longer than those of the union. In Queensland, we have had any number of instances where the employers have not observed awards. I drop a warning note once more to the Employers’ Federation, the Women’s National League, and various Liberal associations and kindred bodies, that if they continue to act as they do, the industrial army of Australia, if I know their feeling, will not be bothered much with Arbitration Courts. Unless our opponents realize that fact, and make the Arbitration Court acceptable, and honorably abide by the awards when made, the onus for the existence of industrial disputes and unrest will lie on them, and not on the industrial class..
– How will you make the industrial classes abide by the awards ?
– We can say with some pride that ever since the operation of the Federal Arbitration Court, there has not been an award made by the Court which the workers have not honorably observed, and I challenge the honorable senator to mention a case.
– But has not every truly Federal award been in favour of the workers?
– I am not prepared to grant that.
– Do you not see that it is almost foolish to ask the question if no such award has been unpleasant to the workers ?
– The awards have been very unpleasant; the men have been by no means satisfied with every award that has been made.
– That is, when they were getting 10s., and wanted £1, they got 15s. In every case the award has been in their favour.
– The illustration which the honorable senator gives of wages rising from 10s. to 15s. a day in one jump goes to show how much out of touch he is with the workers. They may get a rise of 6d. or Is., but to suggest that they get a rise of 5s. a day at one jump is absurd. I advise the honorable senator to go and tell that yarn to the marines.
– I did not say “ a day.”
– Slight increases have been given by the Court, but by no means satisfactory increases. Let me assure the honorable senator that, whether it is through the Court, or by some other method, in the very near future other increases will have to be given, and more than a paltry 6d. a day, which has been given with one hand, while Is. a day has been taken out of the pockets of the worker by the exploiter. We believe - in fact, we know - that trusts are on the rampage in Australia. As Senator Watson has pointed out, it is the consumer - the man on a wage of 8s., 9s., or 10s. a day, with a family of kiddies’ - who needs to be protected. Perhaps the people whom Senator Bakhap represents- the men who get their wages increased by a jump of 50 per cent, at a time - might not feel the oppression so much as the worker does. But I can assure the honorable senator that we know the evil to exist; and, for the sake of the Australian people, I hope, and sincerely believe, that when the proposals are submitted to the electors, they will be carried.
– Before calling on Senator Bakhap to proceed with the debate on the Constitution Alteration (Trade and Commerce) Bill, I desire to read to the Senate a despatch which has been re ceived from the Imperial authorities with reference to a resolution passed by the Senate on Thursday, 13th May. The resolution, which was moved by Senator Pearce, seconded by Senator Keating, and supported by several honorable senators, was -
That the Senate expresses its sympathy with the relatives of those who, by the sinking of the Lusitania, were wantonly murdered on the high seas in the name of war.
The following despatch has been received : -
Downing-street, 20th May, 1915.
I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of Your Excellency’s telegram of 14tb May, and to request you to inform your Ministers that His Majesty’s Government much appreciate the sentiments of sympathy with the relatives of those lost in the sinking of the Lusitania, which are expressed in the Resolution of the Senate and House of Representatives.
The resolution has been published in the press of this country.
I have the honour to be, Sir,
Your most obedient humble servant,
Senator BAKHAP (Tasmania) T6.27]. - Before I deal with the merits or demerits of the referenda proposals, I desire to say something which is not suggested by the fact that they are to be submitted in a time of national stress. I complain of their submission at all, because, to my mind, this action drags the principle of the referendum in the mire. That principle has my support, and I believe that its occasional employment can be most salutary; but it may well be said of it, as has often been said of other things, that it should be regarded as the extreme medicine of the Constitution, and should not be made the daily bread of the people. When we reflect on the fact that the’ Commonwealth embodies a very large portion of the earth’s superficies, that it extends from Macquarie Island in the south - almost near the Antarctic circle - to territories in tropical waters, it will be understood, and I think generally conceded, that the principle pf the referendum should not be lightly employed to agitate the population of such vast, widely-separated territories. In 1911 - only four short years ago - similar proposals were submitted to the people, and submitted in what I will concede was a proper way; that is, at a time when the minds of the electors were not distracted by personal appeals or considerations in connexion with the election of their representatives in the National Parliament. The people were asked to vote on the proposals in a time of peace, and free from the turmoil of a general election, - that was a proper procedure to adopt - and the electors, by a vast majority in the aggregate, turned them down. In 1913, only two years subsequently, the proposals were re-submitted, and the minds of the electors were once more agitated. I maintain that in that year they were not submitted with as much propriety as in 1911, for they were submitted in connexion with the confused and involved issues of the general election, and designedly in order to secure a larger vote from the people in favour of the proposals, because it was believed that human nature, being what it is, people voting for possibly a majority of the representatives belonging to the Labour party would almost as a natural consequence be more inclined to give a larger affirmative vote in favour of the proposals.
– Not only were representatives of the Labour party unexpectedly defeated in 1913, but the proposals were once more rejected.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– Before the business is called on, I would like to inform the Senate that it has been decided to appoint the Honorable J. A. Jensen to the new portfolio to be created uuder the Ministers of State Bill which will shortly be brought before the Senate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives and (on motion by Senator Pearce) read a first time.
– When the sitting was suspended, I was referring to the improper frequency with which the principle of the referendum is being used. I pointed out that the proposals contained in these Bills had, with perfect propriety, been put before the electors in 1911, when they were rejected by an overwhelming majority. With less propriety - seeing that they were submitted at a general election - they were again placed before the electors in 1913, and were again rejected.
– By a very small majority.
– By a substantial majority, and by a majority of the States. The same set” of proposals was resubmitted for parliamentary consideration within six months of the date of their second rejection by the people. In consequence of the large Labour majority in this chamber they were then sent down to the other branch of the Legislature, where the Government of the day properly refused to put them before the country. In 1915 we find the Administration once more desirous of referring these proposals to the people. I say that this is a prostitution of the principle of the referendum, and I would point out that, if these measures are rejected in December next, as they may be, notwithstanding the optimism of my honorable friends opposite,we have no assurance that the decision of the electors will even then be regarded as final. The Labour party, by its constitution, will be urged to again and again submit these proposals to the people, in the hope that through very weariness they may be impelled to exclaim, like the stoic Zeno at the call of death, “ Why do you thus importune me*? I obey thy summons.” There is a very strong degree of probability that the proposals will not be accepted by the people.
– We hope that they will be adopted.
– There are reasons for assuming that they will meet with a fate similar to that which they met on two previous occasions.
– Do not prophesy.
– I do not. But I know that many persons who have hitherto supported Labour are determined to turn down these proposals. Personally, I will not be in the least surprised if the result of the forthcoming appeal to the electors is as decisive as it was in 1911.
– The honorable senator is talking rot.
– The event will show whether my anticipations are based on reason or not. I am not enamoured with the idea of continually submitting proposed amendments of the Constitution to the people. I am in favour of imposing a condition which will prevent the resubmission to the electors of any constitutional amendment which has been once rejected until a period of eight or nine years has elapsed.
– Why not make the period fifty years?
– Our Constitution is comparatively a” thing of yesterday. Its masonry, so to speak, is yet green. Before the people can have any proper appreciation of the differentiation between purely Federal functions and State functions, they are being asked to adopt proposals which in many essentials will completely destroy the sovereign functions of the States.
– The time is not ripe.
– The time will never be ripe for the destruction of the Federal edifice which was created with so much care only a few years ago.
– It is a very old house now.
– It is nothing of the sort. The speech delivered by the Vice-President of the Executive Council in moving the second reading of this Bill has rendered my task comparatively easy. He focussed our attention upon the intentions of the Government, and thus enabled us to see the cardinal objective of the Labour party in resubmitting these proposals. I well remember an American professor, who was not very much of a philosopher, and who was engaged by the Labour party in 1911 to go through the Commonwealth and to advise the people to adopt the referenda proposals. 1 allude to Professor Mills.
– Does the honorable senator say that he was “ engaged “ ?
– Yes. His services were availed of by the Labour party.
– Who “engaged” him?
– In some instances he charged for admission to his meetings. Did he not speak in Tasmania under the auspices of the Labour party?
– But he was not “ engaged “ by that party.
– I know that the Hon. W. M. Hughes addressed a gathering at which Professor Mills was present, and he said that the objective of the referenda proposals was to enable the Government to fix prices. The VicePresident of the Executive Council, in discussing these measures this afternoon, practically confined his remarks to that objective. He refrained from a reference to any other purpose on the part of those supporting these measures than the desire of the Labour party to fix prices. The honorable senator did not analyse the measures. I am prepared to admit that, as so many honorable senators have spoken upon them, they probably consider that a close analysis of them at this stage is not necessary. Nevertheless the Vice-President of the Executive Council practically confined himself to urging upon the Senate, and through it, upon the people of the Commonwealth the advisability of giving the Commonwealth Government power to fix prices a t this juncture.
– The Minister said to prevent exploitation.
– What is the alleged object of the power to fix prices if it is not to prevent alleged exploitations ?
– Does Senator Turley say that the object is not to fix prices?
– No, I do not.
– The basis of the whole, set of these proposals is the intention of the Government to fix prices, and judging by the remarks of the VicePresident of the Executive Council, in introducing this Bill, all the rest may be regarded as leather or prunella. The statement of the honorable W. M. Hughes, when these proposals were firstsubmitted to the people, to the effect that the main object of the Labour party in” submitting them was to secure the power to fix prices, is emphasized and accentuated by the remarks which have fallen today from the Vice-President of the Executive Council.
– I say that we want to fix the people who fix the prices.
– My honorable friends want to fix prices. I have not the slightest hesitation in denouncing the Administration as traitorous to the truly Federal idea in making these proposals. I have, with considerable emphasis and directness, stated that I was one of those who assisted in a humble way to bring about the consummation of Australian nationality fourteen or fifteen years ago. I remember that the main objects of the National party at that time were to secure a complete system of national defence and complete Free Trade between the different States. We wanted Free Trade, and we believed we had secured it by adopting the Commonwealth Constitution. I am satisfied that the people as a whole practically paid no attention at all to the representations of those who took the platform at that time in connexion with the other functions of government which it was proposed to vest in the National Administration.
– The honorable senator is speaking only for Tasmania.
– No ; I was in New South Wales at the time. I voted in New South Wales, and not in Tasmania, for the acceptance of the Commonwealth Constitution. I was in the very thick of the campaign in what was regarded at the time as the most antiFederal State. The main arguments used to induce the people to adopt the Commonwealth Constitution were based upon the desirability of instituting InterState Free Trade, and a national system of defence. In connexion with the war, the Governments of certain of the States have taken what I regard as emphatically un-Federal action. The New South Wales Government commandeered the whole of the wheat harvest of the State, and in South Australia the State Government interfered in connexion with commercial transactions between residents of that State and residents of Tasmania. The present Labour Administration of the Commonwealth, for the moment, forgot themselves, and made an attempt to carry out their administrative duty. They lodged a plaint against the State of New South Wales which went before the Inte’r-State Commission, and was subsequently adjudicated upon by the High Court. Unfortunately for the true Federalists of the Commonwealth, the High Court handed down a decision reversing the decision of the Inter-State Commission, and held that the Government of New South Wales had not abrogated their right to acquire any property or commodity within the State, and that their power to do so had not been alienated by the terms of the Commonwealth Constitution. The High Court decided, therefore, that the wheat grab by the New South Wales Government, although obviously antiFederal, was quite constitutional, from the stand-point of the sovereign rights of the State of New South Wales. I am against monopoly in any shape or form. I believed that the institution of InterState Free Trade would counteract the disturbing influences affecting Australian commerce in the shape of the various State Tariffs. Every Federalist believed that by the adoption of the Commonwealth Constitution, perfect Free Trade between the States had been secured.
– Did not the present Government uphold that position?
– The present Government brought a plaint against the New South Wales Government, but when the High Court reversed the decision of the Inter-State Commission, they refused to carry their plaint to the Privy Council. They stopped dead, and in utter negation of their own action in bringing that plaint, they instigated the State Government of Queensland to seize the sugar crop of that State, an act absolutely similar in character to that of the Government of New South Wales in seizing the wheat crop, and possibly only because of a flaw in the Federal Constitution.
– There is this difference, that the whole of the people of the Commonwealth will benefit proportionately and equally in the distribution of sugar.
– I shall show presently that it is in the highest degree probable that the people of .the Commonwealth will not benefit by that action at all. I say that- it is administratively perfidious that the Commonwealth Government should challenge the action of the Government of New South Wales, and, almost before the ink with which the decision of the High Court was penned -was dry, should instigate the State of Queensland to perform a similarly unFederal act.
– Does’ the honorable senator riot think that he is overstating the case?
– I am not overstating it. This is a Chamber of review, and the facts are in every one’s eyes. Was not the Premier of Queensland here the other day, and is it not an open secret that he came down to Melbourne’ to enter into negotiations with the Commonwealth Government in connexion with this matter?
– Order! I am prepared to allow exceedingly wide latitude in the debate upon these Bills, but I think that opportunity should not be taken of the motion for the second reading of the Bill now before the Senate to discuss at length matters which are not relevant to it. The honorable senator may refer to these matters by way of illustration, but he should not, under cover of the motion for the second reading of the Bill, enter upon a discussion in detail of transactions which are not relevant to the subjectmatter of the Bill.
– I was only giving an illustration in response to the VicePresident of the Executive Council.
– Senator Gardiner referred to the matter in his secondreading speech.
– The transaction with the State of Queensland was referred to by the Minister.
– The honorable senator will remember that I was absent from the chamber for a time, and the reference must have been made then. He ought not to go beyond a reference to the matter as an illustration of his argument.
– I shall endeavour not to be discursive. T think I am entitled to allude to the matter by way of illustration, because, the main Labour .objective, the securing of power to fix prices, is involved in the action of the Government to which I have referred. It should not be forgotten that this involves, in the opinion of Mr. Holman and other eminent men, a substantial and radical alteration of the Commonwealth Constitution in respect to the relation between the National and State Governments. I feel like a lioness robbed of her whelps when I reflect upon the fact that there can be no Free Trade between the States comprising the Australian Commonwealth if it is within the power of the Government of any State to render nugatory the whole system of commercial transactions involved in the term “ Free Trade.” Although a layman, I am in agreement with many lawyers in the view that trade and commerce in the Federal sense becomes very largely a matter of. transport, and the right of a State Government to entirely isolate the whole of any particular product produced within the borders of a State is not imperilled by the Constitution as it at present exists, and will not be imperilled by any or all of the proposals now under the consideration of the Senate. In fact, it is confirmed, because honorable senators will find that the Constitution Alteration (Nationalization of Monopolies) Bill, under which it is proposed to give the Commonwealth power to deal with monopolies expressly exempts from its operation any monopoly carried on by a State. Sub-clause 2 of clause 2 of that Bill provides^ -
This section shall not apply to any industry or business conducted or carried on by the Government of a State, or any public authority constituted under a State.
That being so, New South Wales can continue to grab wheat ; Queensland can continue to grab sugar; Tasmania may grab potatoes, tin, or timber- which I am sure it will not do - and the Commonwealth Government expressly inhibits itself from any interference with any such State monopoly. By virtue of this Bill the power of New South Wales or Queensland to interfere with Inter-State trade and commerce in the widest and most fruitful sense of the term is neither impaired nor inhibited. I venture to say that there is not one of these Bills which remotely affects the power, as declared by the High Court, of the Government of New South Wales, or of any other Australian State, to constitute itself an outright monopolist of any product raised or manufactured within its borders. Honorable senators challenged my statement that the adoption of these proposals would not secure perfect Free Trade and commercial relationship as between the Australian States.
I now make them a present of my opinion, and ask them in what way they can refuse to acknowledge that each individual Australian State .under the Constitution Alteration (Nationalization of Monopolies) Bill is protected in respect of any monopoly that it cares to establish. If this were a truly Federal Government; if it had truly Federal ideals, would it not at once ask the Parliament and the people of the Commonwealth to remove the disability under which the people of the different States clearly suffer by reason of the decision of the High Court in the New South Wales wheat case? But it is doing nothing of the sort. Senator Keating is a lawyer whose opinion on legal questions is respected, not only throughout the Commonwealth, but boyond its confines, and I think I am not anticipating if I say that he entertains the view that not one of these Bills will impair, in the slightest degree, what has been adjudged by the’ High Court to be the right of each State to monopolize anything raised or manufactured within its borders. I have obtained the opinion of three eminent barristers who are unanimous in the view that these Bills do not touch in any degree the decision of the High Court in the wheat case. That being so, what value are they as making any substantial provision for the amelioration of the grievance disclosed by the quite recent action of the States, and by the quite recent decision of the High Court? They are of no value whatever; they are only so much waste paper.
– Then do not object to our having the waste paper.
– I object to the people of the Commonwealth being solicited to pass measures which will be ineffective in dealing with a substantial grievance, but which, perhaps, will be effective in respect of the attempt of the Commonwealth Administration to indulge in certain fallacies that are ages old. The Minister seemed to stress the point that these powers for_which they are asking are sought by the Administration because of the war. He appeared to argue that, because there was a prospect of their being necessary in time of war, it would be in the highest degree advantageous to place them on the statutebook so that they might be exercised in time of peace. But these proposals for the alteration of the Constitution did not have their genesis in time of war. They were initiated when the whole Empire was in a state of profound peace. We, therefore, can regard them as having been conceived to assist in crystallizing certain Labour ideals so that they can be given direct effect and used as instruments of National Government. There is no more fallacious argument than the contention that because a certain course of action is judicious in time of war, it is essential to follow that course of action in time of peace. War is the very negation of peace. We submit to certain measures in time of war only because of our desire to bring about a state of peace, when those measures, to which we have reluctantly submitted, will be no longer necessary. As “well might the Minister argue that because a medical man administers strychnine, cocaine, morphia, or some other potent drug to a man suffering from some acute inflammatory complaint, it is desirable that that man should continue to take daily morphia or any other anodyne. Strychnine is a tonic when taken in medicinal doses, but who would take an ounce daily?
– Bather do I argue that if we build one warship in time of peace we may require to build two in time of war.
– I fail to discover the relevancy of the interjection. These powers which the Government is proposing to exercise in absolute antagonism to its attempt to punish the State of New South Wales for an infraction of the Commonwealth Constitution, may, perhaps, be beneficially exercised in time of war, yet have no healthy relationship to the condition of - the body industrial or the body politic in’ time of peace. These proposals were conceived in time of peace for use in time of peace, and because we object to their use in time of peace we are now opposing them. It is not proposed that they shall be placed on the statutebook merely during the currency of the war. If passed and accepted by the people they will remain on the statutebook to be used by any Socialistic Administration in time of peace. It is that which we combat. We do not combat these proposals on the ground that the Government should not use certain powers in time of war. In this time of war it is using powers which it says are not inherent in it.
– And the honorable senator is opposing them.
– I have supported every war measure which the Ministry have brought down.
– These are the most important and necessary war measures that we have brought down.
– They are not war measures. Does the Vice-President of the Executive Council deny that they were conceived and twice submitted to the people when there was no thought of .the present war in the Blind of the Labour party?
– They are ten times more necessary now that the war is on.
– But we are not going to give the Government these powers in time of peace, although we allow it to exercise similar powers in time of war. We did not gainsay its use of them in the slightest degree.
– The war has shown the urgent necessity for them now. Senator BAKHAP.- Nothing of the sort. In what way has the war shown it to be desirable to give to the Commonwealth Government power to acquire monopolies in times of peace?
– In every direction.
– In what direction lias it been shown that the Commonwealth Parliament should have power to declare any industry established at the cost of very much treasure and mental exercise, to be a monopoly 1 The war has disclosed no such reason.
– Tell us why you are afraid to trust the people with these powers ?
– There has been a great deal of objection on the part of honorable senators opposite that honorable senators on this side are not discussing these proposals at this stage, but they were discussed by all the older members of the Parliament on former occasions; and I do not think they can be accused of cowardice if they refrain from dealing with them now. I have discussed the referenda proposals a hundred times on .» hundred different platforms, but have not yet, in the Parliament of the country, made any deliverance upon them; and I think that if I supply the deficiency I might reasonably do so now, seeing that I have not spoken on these constitutional amendments in this Parliament.
– We are. listening to you with a great deal of pleasure.
– Answer the question, Why are you not prepared to trust the people 1
– Because these powers have been exercised by Labour with great disaster to the other sections of the community.
– If the honorable senator will be patient, I will tell him. After all, these questions of constitutional amendment, boiled down, mean the fixation of prices.. They are not a Liberal versus Labour matter in the strictest sense of the term. I do not think that the Liberal party will assert that it is the custodian of the interests of the agricultural community solely, and, on the other hand, I do not think the Labour party will plead guilty to the charge that it is concerned only with the interests of the metropolitan folk. The cardinal and great question involved in this matter of the referenda proposals isi the fixing of prices, and as such, it constitutes an issue between the country people and the people of the cities.
– Then let the people say so ; that is all we ask.
– It is a question between the producer and consumer.
– Not at all.
– The fixing of prices is nothing new.
– And the disaster to other sections of the community consequent upon the fixing of prices is nothing new either.
– Why does the honorable senator claim to represent the country people ? His party did not get a majority in the country districts in this State.
– I am quite certain that nobody will challenge the statement that the major portion of the Liberal party’s strength lies in the rural districts of the Commonwealth.
– It is not so in New South Wales.
– It is held to be unsatisfactory that we have such a large concentration of the people of the Commonwealth in the capital cities of Australia, and nearly all who approach the consideration of this question from a rational stand-point, and who are gifted with anything like political and economic foresight, urge the desirability of a larger number of the Australian people going on to the land. We hear from every politician the shibboleth, “Go on the land, young man !”
– When they can.
– The city population of the Commonwealth is protected and largely benefited by the fiscal policy of this country.
– Do you object to that?
– No, I do not. To a reasonable extent I am a Protectionist. Now the bulk of the industrial population of the Commonwealth is in the cities. I am using the term “ industrial “ in the same sense as I would use the word “ artisan.” I mean those employed by manufacturers, the manufacturers themselves, and those dependent on manufactures in a direct or indirect degree. All these people, I say, experience a benefit from the Protective policy. which exists for the raising of prices to a level above that obtaining in the production of goods in other countries. The Protective policy, which benefits the people of the cities, has for its object the raising of prices, and consequent upon that raising of prices, the increase of wages paid to the industrial section of the community. Now it is significant that in this time of war no proposal has yet been made to reduce, say, the price of boots by a couple of shillings, or to take 10s. off the price of a suit of clothes. There is no proposal to reduce the price of gunny bags which the farmer so much requires. No; the fiscal policy of the Commonwealth has for its object the raising of the cost of articles, many of which are absolutely essential to the farming community.
– Give us one or two of them.
– I have instanced one : the increase on boots. The fiscal policy, in fact, increases the price of almost every article of secondary production.
– Machinery, for instance.
– We are supplying hundreds of thousands of pairs of boots to our troops cheaper than Great Britain can supply them.
– I am not going to be deflected from my arguments by those interjections. I am saying that the object of the Protective policy is to enable prices to be raised, and as a conse- quence, to allow wages to be increased, and, therefore, the policy directly benefits the people of the cities and the artisans.
– I must .remind the honorable senator that a discussion on Free Trade versus Protection is hardly relevant to the Bill before the Senate.
– I am illustrating my point that the proposals for constitutional amendment, representing the ideals of the Labour party, involve a question which discloses a radical difference between the interests of the city people and the interests of the farming population.
– Did I not hear the honorable senator regret that Great Britain did not have more protection for her steel industry ?
– I said nothing of the kind, and the Minister should not endeavour to father any statement like that upon me.
– It would have been a good thing, anyhow.
– The cry against high prices touches those articles which the French revolutionists called articles of * prime necessity - bread, meat, butter, and so forth. The object in fixing prices is not to make them higher but to fix them lower, in order to give the populations of the cities the advantage of obtaining articles of primary production at lower price than they would bring in the open market. Was not that the object of the wheat grab in New South Wales? Is it not the object of the Necessary Commodities Boards, instituted in some cases by Liberal Governments? The object is to reduce prices, not to raise them. The object of a Protective Tariff is to raise prices so that wages may be raised, and so that the benefits of the policy may ‘be enjoyed by the metropolitan population.
– Was that the object of the wheat grab in Victoria?
– Fixing of prices is always done at the cost of the pro- .ducing community, particularly the agricultural community, which is responsible for the production of those articles the prices of which are complained of at the present time.
– Is it not a fact that at 4s. 9d. the New South Wales farmers have got the highest price they have ever obtained for wheat?
– Is it not a fact that the farmers of Victoria were compelled to sell their wheat at 4s. 6d., whereas now it is selling at 6s. or 7s., thereby practically losing 3s. per bushel?
– Was it not in their interests, to fix the price ?
– Let the referenda proposals be decided by the votes of the farming community, and honorable senators will see them thrown out as they were thrown out before. It is to the urban communities that the party now in power looks to have the referenda proposals carried. There is a serious kink in human nature not always observed by politicians, but seen every day by philosophers.
– The farmer is slowly finding the honorable senator out.
– I would not be here but for the votes of the farmers, and their case is going to be championed by me, although I am not a farmer. A few weeks ago I accompanied a friend into a licensed victualler’s establishment, where I was introduced to the manager, who was very much concerned by the proposals which were then before the State Parliament of Victoria to considerably reduce the hours during which licensed premises could remain open for business. I listened very sympathetically to him, though I did not take any particular part in the conversation. He resented the action of the State Administration in submitting those proposals ; but presently, when he and my friend, who at one time had been in the licensed victualling trade, began to discuss the question of counter lunches, the manager of the hotel broke out. He spent £1,000 a. year on counter lunches; used 70 lbs. of sausages a day and several rounds of corned beef, and several rounds of pressed beef, and he very much resented the high price of beef. He did not want to have his business interfered with, but he was quite prepared to see the “ obnoxious Administration “ interfere with the butchers, “who were making too much money,” which he thought he was not doing. It is the same right through nil classes of the community. Every man wants a high price for the article or commodity he is producing, and he wants to see every other man selling his product cheaply. The tin miner talks of the monopoly of the Colonial Sugar Refining
Company, but he rejoices when tin advances 100 per cent, overseas. He would regard the city plumber who proposed that the price of tin should be reduced in order to make solder cheap as a lunatic; in every-day language he would tell him to “ go and get his head read “ ; but he would applaud with both hands the statement that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is a pirate and a robber, and has been exploiting the Australian people for more than a generation. I approach this subject from the stand-point of the producer, and in view of the fact that the waste spaces of Australia must be filled with cultivators and producers of articles of prime necessity, as they were called by the French revolutionists; but while I am in favour of high wages and of a Protectionist policy, I abhor absolutely the man who says that he is in favour of high wages, and of protecting the manufacturer against the low-priced goods of other countries, yet turns round and, while in the same breath advocating the placing of men on the land, is desirous of compelling the agricultural producer to sell his commodities at an arbitrary price, fixed, not in the interests of the producer, but in the interests of the other man.
– The honorable senator has missed one important point. The tin miner cannot fix the price of the product of his product, whereas the Colonial Sugar Refining Company can do so.
– Can the wheatfarmer fix the price of the product of his labour? Is that not fixed overseas? Honorable senators may be prepared to do it, but are not some of the State Governments in Australia robbing the farmer of the price of his wheat to-day? Are they not robbing him of the price of his butter, and of the price that he might secure for. his chaff?
– From my own personal experience, I know that the Wheat Ring can, and does, fix prices.
– I am willing to see Protection adopted, and every attempt made to raise the standard of wages in order to raise the standard of living among the industrial community, but I deprecate any attempt made on behalf of that community, which is very largely metropolitan, to secure articles produced in country districts at prices which will be fixed- in their own interests, and not in the interests of those who are adjured to go on the laud and produce what the cities require. I again, denounce this Administration which is appealing to the people of Australia, in an alleged spirit of nationalism and federalism, for not boldly taking the situation in hand and proposing an amendment of the Constitution which would not confirm the State of New South Wales in its rights, as pronounced by the High Court, or the State of South Australia in its unfederal action, or the State of Queensland in its equally unfederal action, but will secure to the people of Australia that object which was dear to them when Federation was consummated. The Administration is acting with perfidy in this regard, for, while it contested an action against the State of New South Wales, immediately afterwards it instigated the State of Queensland to a similar act.
– I remind the honorable senator that a little while ago I did not permit him to pursue that line of argument.
– I shall not pursue it any further.
– Why does not Senator Bakhap give some redress to the people of Australia; why does he not say why he is absolutely opposed to giving them any power to govern themselves?
– I am not going to give to the National Administration the power to destroy the essential feature of the Federal compact. If honorable senators wish to substantially alter the nature of the Federal compact, let them adopt the proposal of Senator Keating and relegate the whole matter to a Convention similar to that which propounded our present system of government; and let them not submit these proposals to the people in the interests of alleged socialistic objectives which, if the realization of them is attempted, will result in disaster to the people. The Minister has alluded to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, whose stock, because of the national action, has already fallen 26s. per share. Many of these people were charged with having done a number of absolutely dastardly things. It was suggested that they had given £50,000 to anti-referenda funds in order to protect their business.
– That is a statement which Mr. Knox did not deny.
– He said that he .had given the money for a certain pur pose, but he would not pursue the subject any further. Had I been Mr. Knox, and really had given this money to the campaign funds in connexion with an attempt to defeat the referenda proposals, I should have boldly stated that I had done so, because, in my opinion, he would have been justified in doing so, in, the interests of his enterprise. The stock of that company has fallen to the extent of 26s. per share in the last few days
– The best commendation the action of the Federal Government could have received.
– A blow which will have its effect on the history of the Commonwealth for generations has been dealt at this company, whose shares can be bought openly in any stock exchange in Australia. The loss already entailed by the fall in share values will represent a sum of about £150,000 at least. If Mr. Knox, or the directors of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, thought that the interests of their shareholders would be impaired by the adoption of the referenda proposals to the extent of £150,000 a year, would they not have been honestly justified in subscribing £50,000 towards any fund created to resist them? When I was addressing the country in connexion with the referenda proposals in 1911, I drew attention to the fact that the finest sugar was then 50 per cent, cheaper than black sugar was twenty-five years previous to 1911. The president of a Shearers Union was at one of my meetings. He came round to my hotel afterwards, and said, “ I heard that argument of yours about the sugar. I know it to be a fact, and, consequently, I am going to vote against these proposals, for if you can blow a hole into the argument in one direction it will be possible to blow many other holes into it.” But it is a fact that sugar was 50 per cent, dearer in Australia fifty years’ ago than it is to-day.
– Were not suits of clothes, boots, and other things dearer?
– According to a statement for which the Minister of Customs is- responsible, sugar has appreciated only about two-hundredths of a penny per lb. as compared with the price last year. At the time this statement was made - I am giving it on the authority of Mr. Tudor - sugar was being retailed in the Commonwealth at under 3d. per lb. That is only a few weeks ago. I have the statement here cut from one of the papers published at the time. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company makes a’ profit of about a quarter of a million sterling every year-
– Over halfamillion.
– In the year of the first referenda campaign it declared dividends to the extent of” £240,000 per annum.
– That was for the half-year.
– At every meeting I addressed against the referenda proposals I was greeted with the remark, “ What about the Colonial Sugar Refining Company 1 Did it not make a quarter of a million in profits this year, and would it not be a good thing for the Government to take it over?” Is this the objective of the Government? Is this the objective of the Labour party - to declare every profitable enterprise of any magnitude whatever a monopoly, and then to impair its stability in some way by some covert action, or to attack it directly and absorb it? What sort of incentive is this sort of thing going ‘ to give to private enterprise during succeeding generations? For the purposes of argument, I am perfectly willing to admit that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is a monopoly. As a matter of fact, it is not a tyrannous monopoly. It is a company conducted in the light of open day. Shares can be bought on any stock exchange in Australia. There is nothing of the ring, trust, or combine, or anything of a sinister or deleterious nature about it.
– Ask the cane growers of Queensland what they think about it.
– Does the honorable senator deny that he can buy shares in the company to-morrow? Is there anything sinister in connexion with the company ? It sells sugar at a price 50 per cent, less than inferior sugar was sold for half a century ago. Why? Because it mixed the sugar with brains. It has given service of the highest order to the Commonwealth, but because it has not .gone into liquidation - and the National Administration would not have recouped it its capital if it had - and because it has made a profit of a quarter or halfa.million pounds a year it is declared to be something pernicious, that the Government should take over or undermine. But I will admit, for the purposes of argument, that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is a monopoly, and that it makes a profit of half-a-million a year.
– Two hundred and seventy thousand pounds in a . half-year.
– I will grant that that is so. I have not been following the share market in connexion with the profits of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. I am not a speculator in shares; but let us say that it makes a profit of a million a year.
– What is a million anyhow !
– I have known honorable senators do discreditable things for less than a million .
– Mr. Knox says that you only got £50,000.
– Smuggling Chinese into Australia. Is that what you mean ?
– Very likely. There are some people engaged in that occupation, but if the honorable senator is making any reference to me I inform him that he cannot connect me with any attempt to smuggle Chinese or any other aliens into Australia.
– Possibly, but it would not be very difficult.
– Let us say that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company makes a profit of a million a year. That is twenty million shillings. There are five million people in Australia. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company provides the whole of the population of Australia with sugar, and, consequently, it is rendering this service to the whole of the people at a cost of 4s. per head. What service will any honorable senator perform for any other person in any other capacity at the price of 4s. per head?
– We know what the disclosed profits are, but do not know the reserve capital.
– This successful enterprise, which has been selling sugar to the people of Australia at less than 3d. per lb., has a right to make some profit. Is it the Labour party’s ideal that such an enterprise as this should fail, or that every successful joint stock company should go into liquidation? Is that their objective? They do not like to see these profit-bearing balance-sheets, because there is a cant of Socialism abroad. There is a cant of industrialism abroad. If a man makes a profit in an enterprise the people are told that he is a robber, an exploiter, and a pirate. A false economic philosophy is being preached. Nobody is preaching the glory of success in business - the glory of initiative which enables something that was unproductive and not previously disclosed as a resource of the Commonwealth to be turned into wealth. There is no glorification of that brain power or of that capacity, but there is a continual volume of calumny directed at the successful business man; and the false doctrine is being preached to the people that the successful business man is an exploiter, a pirate, and a robber. Who is it that was invited the other day to go to Broken Hill to preach against the “food pirates”, the “ exploiters “, and the “ robbers “ ? Beyond all doubt the situation of the Australian Commonwealth, allowing for the difference in temperament between the peoples of France and Australia, shows that the conditions that preceded the French Revolution are, to a certain extent, being artificially set up here. What precipitated the French Revolution, which otherwise might have been peacefully and constitutionally effected ?
– Fellows like you.
– It was fellows like the Labour party that made the revolution what it became - a regular terror to mankind; so that the people breathed with relief when it was no longer hanging over them. It was a bad harvest that precipitated the French Revolution. The people listened to the -tale that they were being exploited by those who were hoarding up grain. They demanded the free circulation of grain, and accused the capitalists of hoarding vast stores of it, in order to enhance prices and rob the people. In spite of the greatest efforts that were made to disclose these imagined stores of grain, the largest store ever found in one place consisted of forty cartloads secreted for the purposes of a certain religious community. The free circulation of grain was demanded, the exploiters were denounced, every artifice was employed to relieve the situation; but, singular to say, it was only intensified, for bad harvest, succeeded bad harvest, and the revolution degenerated into what it became for nearly two years - a reign of terror. The people, forgetful of the lessons of history, forgetful that the English had attempted to fix prices - and I suppose they could not be expected to remember that the Romans, the Babylonians, and the Chinese, had made similar attempts - were convinced that th<* situation would be relieved by the fixing of prices, and the law of the maximum was instituted. This was, in effect, a national attempt to fix the prices of articles of prime necessity. That law did not fix the price of so many articles as the Australian Labour party appear to have in contemplation, but it did fix the price of a good number of commodities, mainly those produced by the rural communities of France, and attempted to fix them in a downward direction for the benefit of the metropolitan community of Paris. Even in the time of the English Edward III., the legislators of the day pursued the same fallacies, and attempted to remedy the same evils, by the same improper means that the Labour party seek to employ to-day. I shall not deal with what was done in the time of the Romans, the Babylonians, or the Chinese, but will quote something written by a much greater man than we have ever produced in Australia - a man who was himself a revolutionary and a friend of freedom, and who was at one time provisional President, if not President, of a French revolutionary Government. He was a literary man, a scientist, and historian, and gave to posterity a history of the disastrous attempts of his countrymen in the direction of fixing prices.
– The conditionswere entirely different. Their standard was commodities; our standard is gold.
– I venture to say that the sound, sane laws of economy will have to be followed by every community that desires to escape disaster. It is a singular fact that the operation of the law of the maximum was practically contemporaneous with the reign of terror. The reign of terror began with the establishment of the revolutionary tribunal, and within two months the price of commodities had been fixed. On the 10th Thermidor, Robespierre met his death, and the reign of terror came to an end; and it is hard to say whether Frenchmen breathed more freely because of this, or because of the abolition of the law regulating the price of commodities, which came to an end with the ending of the .reign of terror. Alphonse La Martine wrote- - Senator Long. - On a point of order, I desire to ask -you, sir, whether the very imperfect knowledge that Senator Bakhap is displaying regarding the Trench Revolution has anything to do with the constitutional amendments now before the Chamber?
– The question of whether Senator Bakhap’s knowledge is perfect or imperfect is not a point of order. The honorable senator has been very discursive, and I have already checked him once or twice; but I do not feel inclined to draw the line very tightly, because the subject is a large one, and honorable senators are entitled to a great deal of latitude in discussing it. At the same time, I am closely watching the honorable senator to see that he does not become unduly discursive.
– I thank you, sir. It must be remembered that there has been no discussion of these proposals from. this side of the Chamber up to the present. Their effect will undoubtedly be so far-reaching, and so subversive of the present principles of our Constitution, that I may reasonably claim a certain amount of latitude in discussing them, particularly as the Minister had extended to him, and properly so, the latitude of discussing the whole range of the six Bills in one speech. My knowledge of the French Revolution is admittedly imperfect; unhappily; my knowledge of many things is imperfect ; but the knowledge of an historian, himself a French President, of the results of the experiments of his countrymen in fixing prices, cannot, except impertinently, be regarded as imperfect. He says -
From decrees of violence, vengeance, and sacrilege sprung these decrees of power, wisdom, and magnanimity. The menacing movements of the people of Paris, who were beset with the reality of famine and the phantom of monopoly,’ the ravings of Chaumette and Hebert in the Commune, compelled the Convention to make deplorable concessions which resembled zeal, but which were only weakness. In requiring from the people all their energies, the Convention considered itself also obliged to put up with all their transports.
The Convention wanted all the energies of the people to prosecute the war against the Powers of Europe, and it was perforce compelled to put up with all their false ideas of economics] - “ ‘ It was not, as yet, strong enough to govern its. own force. The Convention decreed a maximum - that is to say, an arbitrary price - above which, no bread, meat, fish, salt, wine, coals, wood, soap, oil, sugar, iron, hides, tobacco, and stuffs could be sold. It fixed, likewise, the maximum of wages. It was making itself master of all the liberty in commercial transactions, in speculation, and labour, which exist only in a state of liberty. It was placing the hand of the State amongst all sellers, all purchasers, all labourers, and all proprietors of the Republic. Such a law could not but produce the concealment of capital, the cessation of work, the languor of all circulation, and the ruin of all. It is the nature of circumstances which fixes the price of provisions of the first necessity; it is not the law. To order the husbandman to give his corn, and the baker to give his bread, below the price That these provisions cost them, would be to command the one to sow no more, and the other to no longer knead.
The maximum brought forth its fruit by* compressing in every direction the circulation of ready money, labour, and provisions. The people laid the blame of these calamities of nature upon the rich, upon the merchants, and upon the counter-revolutionists.
And the greatest Frenchman of his generation declared that their opinions were all based upon the phantoms of monopoly. Are we not at the present moment doing what the French revolutionists did, and in. a manner productive of the most disastrous results? Already the Premier of the Liberal Government of Victoria is under the necessity of disavowing to the farming community responsibility for haying attempted to fix the prices of articles of prime necessity produced by the agriculturists of this State. The various Victorian politicians are trying to “get from under,” and are disclaiming any responsibility for the fixing of prices in a manner resented by the agriculturists of this State. I venture to say that the first opportunity which the agriculturists of New South Wales get to show their marked resentment of what is happening in that State will be productive of a result, the conclusiveness of which no one will deny. Senator Keating has alluded to the fact that a few days ago he saw in Sydney butter being sold in a club. There was a stringency in regard to butter. I saw in the press a statement to the effect that, because the dairymen of New South Wales had requested that an increase in the price of butter be granted, they were called brutally callous.
They were callous because they were asking a remunerative price for their commodity. I am speaking in the presence of representatives of the farming community, and of farming organizations, and in the presence of a man who knows more about farming than I am ever likely to learn; and I say that many farmers and dairymen, because of the fixing of the price of butter, have dried off their cows, and are fattening them for conversion into beef, And so Protean is the whole of our social, industrial, pastoral, and agricultural life, that if we attempt in any respect to regulate and compress in one direction, unexpected results are produced in another. The price of chaff has been arbitrarily fixed. What does the farmer do when he discovers that he cannot obtain for the paddock of lucerne which he happily possesses the price he thinks he ought to get? He turns his stock into the paddock and feeds off the crop. In fixing one price for chaff, has not the result been that only one grade of chaff, of an inferior quality, has been marketed - that there are now no grades in chaff; and that much stuff which is not fit food for any beasts of burden is being sold at prices at which it ought not to be sold? Is there not a complete deterioration of the product put on the market as chaff ? I venture to say there would have been no shortage of sugar in Australia but for the action of the Government of New South Wales in fixing prices. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company, with that energy and initiative which are peculiar to it, would have imported sufficient sugar to meet the needs of the people of the Commonwealth. But the price of sugar was arbitrarily fixed by the State Government; and I saw in New South Wales a few days ago sugar sold at a table in the Commercial Travellers Club. One man complained that his wife could get .sugar only by the pound, and his friend said, “ I happen to have a few bags of sugar, and if you choose you may have a bag.” That transaction took place, in a Sydney club within my hearing, and it is ‘illustrative of the extremities to which the community is reduced because of this improper, ill-considered, and short-sighted attempt to regulate prices.
-Colonel O’Loghlin. - Why not reserve these arguments till we are dealing with a proposal to fix prices?
– What is the objective of these referenda proposals?
– There is no proposal in these Bills to fix prices.
– The remarks of the Vice-President of the Executive Council in introducing the Bill consisted solely of an argument in favour of giving the Commonwealth power to fix prices, and a eulogy of the action of the Commonwealth Government in instigating the State Government of Queensland to seize the sugar crop so that the prices of the necessary supplies for the people could be fixed. The honorable senator displays remarkable innocence in denying that the main objective of these proposals is to fix prices.
– The proposal is to give certain powers to the people.
– And if the people, as States, exercise the powers they possess in the direction desired by the present National Administration, that National Administration will throw to the winds all its professed desires for an increase of Federal powers because of the necessity of making the Federal Constitution a truly national one. It will condone such action on the part of the States; and will absolutely prevent itself from interfering with the un-Federal action of the State of New South Wales in cornering wheat, and of the State of Queensland in cornering sugar. I have proved beyond all possibility of doubt that one of these proposals contains a special clause prohibiting the National Government from interfering with any Socialistic enterprise undertaken by a State Government. The Government of New South Wales may continue year after year commandeering wheat crop after wheat crop long beyond the duration of the war, and the National Government, by one of these enactments, will effectually prohibit itself from interfering with such unFederal and monopolistic action, notwithstanding that the intention of the original framers of the Constitution was to bring about Inter-State Free Trade.
– Is not this legislation likely to limit monopolies?
– The honorable senator must first prove that a monopoly is detrimental. Does the honorable senator denounce the business of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company as a detrimental monopoly ?
– I do, indeed.
– If the Colonial Sugar Refining Company had continued to struggle unsuccessfully, as it undoubtedly did in the early period of its history, and had gone into liquidation, would the honorable senator be one to urge the National Government to restore to the company its lost money?
– That is quite another matter.
– Of course it is. All the honorable senator desires is to seize the profitable businesses. I do not suppose that the most accomplished historian can at any time tell us the particular cause which led to the decay of strong ancient States and Empires. No historian can lay his finger on the exact cause of the decadence of Spain, or Rome, or of the downfall of Persia, Babylon, or other ancient Empires.
– If you read history you will find that some do tell us.
– Historians allege dozens of different causes. For instance, Lecky alleges that the downfall of the Roman Empire was in many respects clearly traceable to the introduction of Christianity; I do not grant that. It may have been a contributing cause, because of the early Christian doctrine of non-resistance, and of the fact that when the Christians were drafted into the Roman Army they refused to fight, and so on. Although the marked . decay caused by the introduction of these proposals, which will stultify individual initiative, may not be disclosed for centuries, none the less will they most cer’tainly be productive of Australian national decay.
– It has been stated distinctly that large estates led to the destruction of the Roman Empire?
– In this> world you cannot get anything which is absolutely perfect. No doubt there are certain incidents in the operations of commerce which work from time to time, in a minor degree, inimically to the interests of certain people. I think it is Edmund Burke who likens commerce to a broad and noble river bearing great fleets and rich argosies on its bosom, but a river which sometimes overflows, and by its inundations does a certain amount of damage - damage which nevertheless can be easily repaired - and he points out that this river is a great and noble factor in the production of national wealth and in the advancement of national prosperity. I am not going to deny that in ordinary commerce there may be from time to time certain things that are productive of interests which are not altogether favorable to every class of the community. But in the interchange and interplay of commerce, in individual initiative in our present condition of society we get productions which are the very salt of the life of the community. We get commercial operations under way which create wealth, and which cause a certain stimulation of the faculties of every individual in the community who has faculties worth mentioning. Would not every honorable senator present like to see his son a successful business man; would he not like to see his son capable of establishing in Australia an industry which would be productive of, say, a million sterling to him individually, and which would enable him to profitably employ hundreds, nay, thousands, of workmen? I venture to say that any one of us would congratulate himself on having begotten such a son. But if your sons and your grandsons are going to have this prospect before them, if they can ultilize hitherto unutilized Australian resources, make millionaires of themselves in consequence, employ hundreds, perhaps thousands, of men, and yet be open to the reprobation of being exploiters, pirates, and robbers, and open at any time at the hands of a Socialistic State to the sequestration of those enterprises which they have so systematically and so carefully established, what prospect will there be for the nation ?
– How can t]rey make millionaires of themselves?
– Again that fallacious philosophy, that the man who establishes an industry, and is making money, is making it out of somebody. What about, the man who makes two blades of grass grow where only one grew before! Is he not a benefactor?
– How about the man who takes the grass which the other man grew ?
– I suppose in time of drought ?
– All that I can say is that under the system which the honorable senator wishes to see inaugurated here, there will be very little grass in a general sense for anybody to “ collar” - unless it grows in the streets. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company, which is so much spoken of at the present time, and whose operations are said to be so inimical to the best interests of the community-
– And so advantageous to the Liberal party.
– What has it to do with the company except that it fights for it as a legitimate enterprise, and in justification of that initiative and that business capacity which it hopes to see fostered in every class of the community?
– Hear, hear ! And the company gives you some of its sugar, too.
– If the honorable senator uses the term “ sugar “ in what I might call a metaphorical sense, I tell him that he is absolutely wrong. What do I care for the Colonial Sugar Refining Company except in a general legislative sense ?
– They stand up for your party very well.
– If in 100 square miles of brigalow scrub his son established a great paper manufacturing enterprise which employed hundreds of men, and in the course of a quarter of a century made him a millionaire, how would he like to have his son attacked as a monopolist, a robber, a pirate, a man who was doing something inimical to the rest of the community, and whose enterprise ought to be impaired, undermined, or sequestrated ?
– I would have to stand it if it was true.
– Does the honorable senator think that that would be an incentive to other men to use their brains, their business capacity, and their initiative in the establishment of other industries ?
– The old robber barons of the Rhine used their brains, and people had to pay to go through their toll gates. Had they not a right to do it?
– Does the honorable senator allege that nobody has any right except the right of might, which his party is endeavouring to exercise ? The shareholders of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company cannot by their votes protect themselves. The robber barons of the Rhine robbed openly and by force; but there is an attempt nowadays to institute a new kind of robbery - a robbery at the ballot-box. a declaration by people who do not possess shares in a certain enterprise that it is a monopoly, and none the less can it be destroyed or sequestrated, and none the less can the shareholders in that genuine enterprise who imagined that they were going to be protected by a State be robbed by a State.
– Order ! The honorable senator has allowed the discussion on these Bills to degenerate into a discussion on the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. While, no doubt, he is entitled to refer to that company by way of illustration, he is not entitled on this motion to go into a long discursive discussion in regard to the operations of that or any other company.
– I think that this agitation for the passage of these proposals is largely grounded on the antagonism of the Labour party to the Legislative Councils of the States. The States possess the powers to do those things winch the Labour party has in contemplation. Each State has the right to fix prices; nobody denies that it is a sovereign State. But in the States the establishment of that policy is more difficult than it is believed it will be if the National Government secures the power which it is seeking. I wish to refer to this fact because it is believed that the people can, as it were, find a short cut; that by bestowing the power on the National Parliament they will obviate the necessity of agitating to get the Legislative Councils to pass measures which are dear to the hearts of the members of the Labour party in that regard. It is utterly fallacious to imagine that the Legislative Councils are bars to the progress of the people, because it cannot- be ‘ forgotten that the National Parliament has under its direct control a fifth or a sixth of the territory of the Commonwealth. It has controlled the Northern Territory for some years, where there is no Legislative Council to act as a bar to the realization of Labour objectives, and it has spent hundreds of thousands of pounds there, but without result. The white population of the Northern Territory has— not increased, while the white population of Flinders Island and King Island, two dependencies of the State of Tasmania, where there is a Legislative Council, is increasing rapidly. In some of the States the people will not permit the arbitrary fixing of prices by their Governments, and I deprecate the attempt to give the National Administration power to do what the people of these States will not permit their own Governments to do. Should the Labour party succeed with these measures, it will in the near, or not very distant, future cause national disaster, because individual initiative will be restricted. It will not be worth the while of any man to attempt to establish a large industry, because, by a chance vote in the National Legislature, any profit-producing enterprise may be declared a monopoly -. ‘The Labour party has shown its unwillingness to reform the Constitution in a manner consonant with the Federal spirit, and I protest against these proposals for the improper alteration of that instrument, as well as against the perfidy of this Government in condoning the sugar grab of the Queensland Government, which Senator O’Keefe foreshadowed as the possible result of the successful wheat grab of the Government of New South Wales, which the Commonwealth authorities resisted. I shall oppose to the utmost these proposals to support State Governments in monopolistic and un-Federal action, though I should loyally support any amendment of the Constitution which would establish true Federal principles, and remove all restrictions on commercial intercourse between the States. I think that the people will not swallow these proposals as readily as the members of the Labour party anticipate. Those who are likely to benefit by the un-Federal action of the Queens* land Government, which has been con’ doned by the Commonwealth Government, are the sugar-growers of that State, whose industry is protected by a high import duty on sugar.
– How does the honorable senator connect the sugar duty with the Bill before the Senate?
– The honorable senator has not discussed the proposal to extend the industrial powers of this Parliament.
– The Minister did not touch on that matter. The Constitution provides that the National Parlia ment may legislate for the settlement of disputes which are Federal in character, that is, of disputes Which are not artificially induced, and which legitimately extend beyond the confines of any one State. Under the exercise of this power, competent Courts have been erected to deal with Federal disputes. But no sound argument can be advanced for giving the Commonwealth Courts the right to interfere in purely State disputes. As to interference by the Commonwealth in the management of the railways of the States, I say that those who pay the piper have the right to call the tune. On what ground could the Federal authority interfere to regulate the hours and rates of wages of State employees?
– Should w© not have the right to apply a common rule in connexion with any award?
– Australia is a great Continent, with much diversity of interests. Why were not the people who were settled here years ago content to have their affairs administered solely from Sydney? They insisted upon the division of the country into States because excessive centralization was proving most unsatisfactory.
– The honorable senator is now arguing against Federation.
– No. There is a distinction between Federal and State interests. This Federal Legislature has many powers which it has not yet exercised; if anything, too many powers have been conferred on it. In my opinion, the questions connected with Customs and Excise, Posts, Telegraphs, and Telephones, and Defence are sufficient to occupy the attention of this Legislature in ordinary times; but the Constitution has conferred on us many powers that we have not yet exercised. Why should we be loaded with responsibility in regard to purely local matters ?
– -Industrial war is a matter of National concern.
– It may be a matter of merely State concern. The honorable senator does not require my assistance in the settlement of purely personal matters, and have not the people of the States shown capacity to manage their own internal affairs while making rapid progress in civilization and the acquisition of material wealth ?’
– Is the honorable senator against Federal arbitration?
– No; but I am opposed to the Federal Court being empowered to interfere in purely State matters.
– If a State authority cannot settle a dispute, should it not be possible to bring that dispute before a Federal Arbitration Court?
– Are the people of the States dolts ? Have they not intellectual power and capacity sufficient to deal with purely State matters? Honorable senators seem to find it impossible to distinguish between National and State concerns and functions. They are constantly saying that the Australians are one people, speaking one language; but that does not prevent a great diversity of interests consequent upon local conditions. If all Australians had the same interests, would there be an agitation for the creation of a new State in Queensland? Would the people of the Northern Territory be demanding local government? Would the white population of Papua be discontented with the present system of administering their affairs from Melbourne? Distance and local conditions are great factors in creating diversity of interests. There is a tremendous concentration of administrative and legislative functions in Russia. Why, it is said there that God is in Heaven and the Czar is a long way off. Distance, I repeat, is a factor, and, to the white settlers of Papua and of the Northern Territory, the Seat of Government of the Commonwealth is a long way off. I need scarcely remind honorable senators that the people round Lismore, in New South Wales, are even now contemplating the creation of another State. Why? Because, so far as their needs are concerned, Sydney is a long way off. Honorable senators opposite appear to think that because we are one people we should have only one Administration. I admit that we should have only one Administration in respect of national matters; but I believe that the States have certain interests which the communities within those States can best safeguard through the medium of their own Legislatures.
– Is not industrial warfare in Australia a national question?
– Industrial warfare throughout the Commonwealth is a national matter; but industrial warfare at Tindog Creek or Mount Morgan is not a national question.
– It may be the beginning of a national question.
– We should wait till an industrial dispute has attained the dimensions of a purely Australian character. How can a dispute in connexion with the Mount Morgan mine be of Australian interest in the first place? Of course it is of Australian interest in an indirect sense, but in a particular sense it concerns the people of Mount Morgan primarily, the people of Queensland in the second instance, and those of the Commonwealth afterwards.
– The people of New South Wales are directly concerned, because of the establishment of refining works there.
– If an industrial dispute occurs at Mount Morgan, I have a sufficiently high opinion of the authorities in Queensland to believe that they will devise some suitable means for its settlement.
– Can the honorable senator say why, when a decision has been given in respect of such a dispute, that decision ought not to extend to the other States ?
– Yes. My reason is that the conditions which obtain in other States may be very different from those which obtain in Queensland.
– How does it come about that the Australian Workers Union has obtained an award which covers all the States?
– The Australian Workers Union operates largely in connexion with an industry which is. conducted under almost uniform conditions throughout the Commonwealth. Sheep shearing in Australia is the same as it is in Argentine and in the Old Country. There are certain uniform characteristics in connexion with the industry which differentiate it from any other industry. But, after all, it may not be a good thing to have one rule governing that industry throughout Australia. However, I desire to conclude my remarks with a reference to the enervating effect of what I call State monopolies. I would like to know of any great invention which has proceeded from any State monopoly or any Government enterprise. As a matter of fact, there are not many Commonwealth enterprises of a productive character. Most of them have been established in .connexion -with the Defence Department. With what result ? Have they escaped criticism? Are they conspicuous for their cheap production of the articles which they were established to produce?
– Yes. What about the production of agricultural machinery in Western Australia ?
– At a later stage in our history certain things may be disclosed which will act as a sort of intellectual shower bath to the people in connexion with industries which the Commonwealth is prosecuting at the present time. Knowing what I do of the operation of those industries, I would be one of the last to vest the Commonwealth with power to increase its activities in that regard. What is the good of the State industries if those industries do not result in cheapening production? The people have been told that they would get things cheaper if the commercial brigand were eliminated. There is no reason whatever why the different Australian States should not embark on production in different industries in competition with private enterprise so long as they do not adopt the expedient of making good their losses out of their Treasury chests. We should then get a fair guide as to whether State enterprise really cheapens production or not. If the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, for example, operates in a way that the authorities in Australia believe to be inimical to the interests of the people, the State Governments may reasonably embark upon an enterprise of a similar character, and if, without having recourse to the Treasury to make good their losses, they can reduce the price of sugar, their action will be abundantly justified. But otherwise there can be no justification for it. I know sufficient of State enterprise in Australia to warrant me in refusing to aid the Government in that connexion.
– We are often asked to bolster up private enterprise with bonuses.
– Is it not a fact that the Victorian Railway Department can manufacture locomotives 20 per cent, cheaper than they can be manufactured in other parts of the world?
– Is it not a fact that that Department will this yearsus tain a loss of hundreds of thousands of pounds - a loss which will nave to be made good by the taxpayers of this State?
– Has not the State Coal Mine in Victoria been a success t
– It has been a modified success. But there are many other enterprises which have been established by the States and by the Commonwealth and which have been anything but a success. As a matter of fact, they are producing at a very much greater cost than was ‘anticipated. To emphasize the enervating character of State enterprise I intend to conclude my observations with a simple illustration. The French Government hold a monopoly of matches and of the sale of tobacco, and the quality of French matches and tobacco is proverbially bad.
– That is a very old and exploded idea.
– It is a fact.
– It is not.
– What I. am about to state is a fact. Because of this monopoly of matches, the people in France are severely fined if they sell lighting apparatus of a character which will obviate the use of lucifers. That is to say, the people are compelled to use the matches made by the Government. The use of a paraffin lighter is prohibited. I have a cutting from a newspaper which I took out only a few days ago to prove this statement. I was aware of the fact in 1911, and made allusion to it when campaigning against the referenda proposals in that year.
– If the honorable senator has tried to strike any of the wax matches made by private enterprise, and supplied here, he will know that a good deal of patience is needed for those using them.
– The best matches the honorable senator can get, if he chooses to pay for them, and whatever is good must be paid for, are those made by private enterprise. The French Government prohibited the sale or manufacture of substitutes for matches, because the sale of matches was a profitable Government monopoly. Can honorable senators opposite not see how prohibitive this course must be of individual initiative or inventive ability? If the French Government had a monopoly of the manufacture of flints and steels they would probably have execrated the invention of matches. Honorable senators may apply this illustration to any State or national monopoly. If it is found to be profitable to the State, the State authorities will* discountenance any invention that is likely to undermine the profitable character of its monopoly. Consequently, under such a system, stagnation is sure, and national decay must ensue. I am quite sensible of the fact that the effect of such a policy might not be visible in one generation or in two, but it would, nevertheless, be the inevitable sequence of a policy of the repression of initiative such as is disclosed in the attitude of the French Government in the prohibition of the sale of substitutes for matches. Is there any invention of the present time that has been nationalized by the State in any country that is due to the initiative of any persons in the service of the State? The telegraph was invented by private enterprise, the railway is a product of individual enterprise, initiative and ability. But in these cases the State comes in and monopolizes these inventions.
– Is the honorable senator opposed to that?
– I am not; because I recognise that there is a certain field in which certain functions of the State can be exercised with a fair amount of success. I believe that a satisfactory extension of State or national enterprise may be looked for in connexion with transport, in which direction it is fairly successfully exercised at the present time.But I see no prospect whatever of anything like successful national enterprise in the realm of production. I see no hope of cheapened production which will add greatly to the national wealth by the interference of the State in the realm of production. Do honorable senators believe that the State could scrub 5,000 acres of land, put it under wheat, harvest it, and market the crop, as successfully as a wheat farmer cultivating his own land could do? I venture to say that the State could not do so. I am opposed to State and national enterprise in regard to the function of production, but I do anticipate that, from time to time, there will be an extension of national functions in regard to transport.
– Does the honorable senator not think that he is becoming a monopolist?
– Strike high or strike low, there is no pleasing honorable senators opposite. They have been mourning because these proposals were not attacked from this side. They have complained of the cowardice of honorable senators on this side. They have complained of our silence, and have descanted upon what they have described as the ignominious march out of the chamber by my political friends in another place. Now, because I occupy the attention of the Senate in discussing these proposals in a way I did not contemplate - I did not know that they would be brought before us so suddenly - the Vice-President of the Executive Council complains that I am becoming a monopolist of the time of the Senate. I am afraid that my honorable friends will have to endure me to the end. I have very nearly arrived at it now. The Government have made no preparation to repair the breach in our Constitution disclosed by the decision handed down by the High Court. They have been perfidious in that regard in instigating the State of Queensland to similar action to that taken by the Government of New South Wales. They have shown themselves to be unFederal in their intention, and they have no desire whatever to make the National Constitution a truly Federal one. Their sole objective is the accomplishment of certain Socialistic ideals, and as I believe the accomplishment of those ideals will be fraught with disaster to the Australian nation, I have no hesitation in assuring honorable senators that I shall do my utmost in a humble way to defeat these proposals when they are once more submitted to the people.
– I listened with attention to the honorable senator who has just resumed his seat, and I must say that I never heard a gentleman so completely box the compass logically as the honorable senator has done. He has argued all round these questions, and, no doubt, has made out a good case to his own satisfaction. But while he has argued at one moment that the State may do a certain thing, he has tried fo prove in the next that the State cannot do that thing. He has said that the State Parliaments have control over trusts, and can control them, and in the next Breath he told us that the State cannot control a farm. The honorable senator’s arguments have been mutually destructive, and if honorable senators go through his speech they will find that only Senator Bakhap is left. In the first place he objects to the referenda proposals being brought forward at this time, because this is a time of war. The honorable senator objected just as strenuously when they were previously brought forward because that was a time of peace. According to his reasoning they are all wrong, and are altogether wrong. He objects to the frequency with which these proposals have been brought forward. He says that a period of from eight to nine years should be allowed to elapse after they have been brought forward before they are submitted to the people again. Upon that argument the honorable senator ought not to put up for election at the next Federal elections, but should allow eight or nine years to elapse before he again asks the people to return him to the Senate.
– The people have said that they want an election every three years.
– But the people have a right to say that these proposals should be submitted to them when the representatives they have chosen think that it is right to submit them.
– The honorable senator wants to submit them three times in two years.
– I want to clear the ground of any objection based upon the frequency with which these proposals are being submitted to the people. They were defeated in 1911, and they were nearly successful immediately afterwards. The result of the voting on the second occasion justifies the submission of the proposals to the people again now. The voting on the last occasion showed that, in all probability, at one more asking the people will be prepared to carry them. Those who are opposed to these proposals might have raised the objection that, because so many Australians are at present away from Australia, it is not right to alter the Constitution in their absence. That might have been a logical argument for our honorable friends to use. But it was not used. If that objection be raised, I ask who are likely to be the losers. It is well known that the majority of those who are away. from Australia at the pre sent time voted in the affirmative for these proposals when they had the opportunity to do so. So that the party submitting the” proposals now is the only party likely to lose on that account. Senator Bakhap has said that the frequency with which these proposals are being submitted is a prostitution of the principle of the referendum. My contention is that if the people believe that the Constitution should lie revised, they are the persons to decide the matter.
– They have twice decided that they do not want it revised in this way.
– On the second occasion they were very much nearer to carrying the proposals than on the first. As a matter of fact, they we-re carried by a majority of the States, and those States in which they were carried have a right to claim that these proposals for the amendment of the Constitution should be put to the people again.
– In what States were the referenda proposals carried?
– If the honorable senator will look up the figures, he will find that my statement is correct. His objection to these proposals is that under them the Commonwealth Government will be able to fix prices. Is it the principle of fixing prices to which he is opposed, or is it to the persons who fix prices that he takes exception? Prices are fixed either by Parliament or by private individuals. The honorable senator prefers that private, individuals shall fix prices for the community rather than that the community shall fix prices for itself.
– A man fixes the price of what he produces.
– The honorable senator has been contending throughout the evening that a producer should fix the price of that which he produces, but as against that he says that the primary producer cannot fix the prices of his produce.
– It is the old argument of supply and demand. Senator SENIOR.- Quite so.
– And that is the only legitimate one. ‘ Senator SENIOR.- Then, has not a tailor the right to fix the price that the honorable senator should pay for his suit, as well as a farmer the right to fix the price of his wheat?
– But the farmer does not. It is fixed by the law of supply and demand.
– Prices are fixed by the tailor in the one case and by the law of supply and demand in the other. Senator Bakhap has referred to the action of the- New South Wales Government with regard to the seizure of wheat. He brought in Tasmania, because that State complained of certain action in South Australia.
– In referring to Tasmania I had in mind the action of the South Australian Grain and Fodder Board in intervening in a wheat transaction as between parties in South Australia and Tasmania.
– My honorable friend contends that Tasmania had a stronger claim on wheat produced in South Australia than South Australia itself, notwithstanding that the latter State has had to import wheat for its own use. It has been argued that the fixing of prices in New South Wales has been to the advantage of the primary producer. The primary producer throughout Australia as a whole last season was a buyer of wheat, and not a seller, and it was, therefore, to his advantage that he should be able to buy at a lower price. As to the question of fodder, to which reference has been made, Senator Shannon will support me in the statement that very many primary producers in South Australia have lost their stock because of their inability to pay the excessive prices charged for chaff. Senator Bakhap asked what would be the result if the price of lucerne were fixed. He said that in that case the farmer would turn his stock into his lucerne paddocks. As a matter of fact, lucerne growers in South Australia cannot execute all the orders coming from other States for lucerne, so that, instead of turning their stock into their lucerne paddocks, they have been supplying this fodder to people who needed it, not only in their own State, but in other parts of the Commonwealth. We have to ask ourselves whether the powers which we are seeking under these measures are national. To that question there can be only an affirmative reply. That being so, why should not the nation possess national powers ? If any reply can be made to that question, I should like to hear it. Sena tor Bakhap’s contention is practically that the nation should be bandaged, leg-ironed, and handicapped.
– Why should New South Wales be confirmed in its antiFederal action?
– We pass that by. My honorable friend is carrying his argument from a general to a particular case. I am reasoning that the national power should rest with the nation, and not with part of the nation. The honorable senator has not set up any argument in answer to that contention. His reasoning has been that the States possess sovereign powers, and that the nation should be, not sovereign, but subject.
– In other words, that the part is greater than the whole.
– That the part must be, and should be, greater than the whole. The honorable senator cannot get away from the fact that if the Federal authority is to be supreme, it should be supreme in all national questions.
– Then why does the honorable senator sustain the action of his own State in the case to which I have referred?
– The very fact that my honorable friend points to something that has taken place in my own State is proof to me that we have been leaving sovereign power to the States, instead of vesting it in the whole nation. He condemns the action of South Australia, yet is unwilling to remove the chains from the nation, so as to give it the. power which the States now possess.
– None of these Bills proposes to do that.
– Does my honorable friend say that they will not give to the nation power to deal with monopolies?
– Not a State-owned monopoly.
– We are dealing, not with State monopolies, but with monopolies- in any State.
– State monopolies are specially exempted.
– But monopolies in any State are covered by these proposals.
– Private monopolies are, but not a State monopoly. What Senator Bakhap was speaking of was the action of South Australia and New South “Wales.
– He objected to the action of the South Australian Government. Apart from that point, the whole basis of his argument WaS that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company - which, so far as the honorable senator is concerned, is like the honey-pot to the bee, since he was always hovering over it - because it was a private monopoly, should not be controlled. His argument is that neither private monopolies nor a State monopoly should be under the control of the National Government. In other words, the private monopolist and the State monopolist should be above the power of the whole nation. Is that not what he reasons?
– I think it is clearly the reasoning of Senator Bakhap.
– New South “Wales will be able, even if these Bills be passed, to repeat its action in regard to the wheat seizure.
– It is a well-known principle that, where a State and a Federal law conflict, then the Federal law shall prevail.
– Always provided that the Federal law is within the jurisdiction of the Federal Parliament.
– But will not these measures give to the Federal Parliament a jurisdiction greater than is possessed by any State?
– It will not give the Federal Parliament any jurisdiction over a State monopoly, or over such an action as was taken by New South Wales. A conflict between a Federal and a State law is determined in favour of the Federal law when that law is within the ambit of the Federal power.
– It is because we have felt that Ave are constantly in conflict with State power that Ave are seeking to enlarge the powers of the Commonwealth Parliament.
– The Common* wealth Parliament will be in constant conflict with the power of the States if these amendments of the Constitution be passed, because there is no line between the Commonwealth and State power with regard to any matter.
– I am pleased to have that admission from Senator Keating, because the argument which has al- ways been set up by our opponents is that we are seeking to destroy State rights. Now, the objection taken to these proposals is driving us, whether we will or not, in the direction of Unification. That is the position. I want it to be known clearly that the objection taken by our opponents to the powers we are seeking to obtain is driving us to take complete powers for the National Parliament.
– Is that not the objective behind the whole business?
– The arguments with reference to these proposals show that a very grave mistake was made in the delegation of powers, and even now we are up against the position that the States will still possess powers, notwithstanding that we are seeking to take extra powers for the Commonwealth Parliament.
– I may say that in 1912 I stressed that fact. When these Bills were last before the Senate, I discussed that phase of the question, and from every platform, in my opposition to them, I stressed the fact that there would be a continuous conflict between the State and Federal authorities.
– There is now.
– This will increase it.
– I join issue there. I think the powers will be clearly defined, and that only certain powers, such as those mentioned by Senator Bakhap, will be likely to conflict. The consensus of opinion is that the Commonwealth law will be greater than the State law right through, and we shall not rest until this is cl.early defined.
– Why not define it now ?
– It is defined.
– It is not.
– I observe that Senator Bakhap says he is against these proposals, in the first instance, because they do not go far enough. I think Senator Keating is also opposed to them for the same reason; and, all the way through, the argument against them has been,’ by inference, that they do not go far enough.
– Because they do not touch a truly un-Federal position.
– It is imposed upon those who take exception to the proposals to say where the Bills can be improved. They should be discussed on the floor of the Senate, and honorable senators who are objecting should point out ‘wherein lies the remedy. But there has been no suggestion of that kind from my honorable friends. There has simply been a “stone-walling” objection to the passage of the measures. Because they do not include all, therefore, in their opinion, the National Parliament should not have some of the powers which they affect; because they do not go as far as some honorable senators think possible, we shall have no benefit in any direction.
– And if they embraced the whole powers, the objection would be that the Bills went too far.
– Yes; they would
Bay that the Labour party should then go in for Unification.
– That is what is behind the whole of them.
– I do not think it is. I confess to be a Federalist, and not a Unificationist for I recognise the difficulties there are in the way. As Senator Bakhap has shown, in the early history of the Colonies, and with populations spreading, the objective was decentralization; but, since then, there has come a swing of the pendulum. Our progress is not always in a direct line, but it is often made by taking an entirely opposite course to that which was considered advisable previously. At one stage in our history the movement was towards decentralization, but now there is a tendency, and I think rightly so, in the direction of giving greater power to the National Government, which we realize has not been clothed with sufficient authority to perform its functions properly. Our friends’ attitude is this - I am crystallizing their objections into my own language - ‘ ‘ We object,” they say, “ to these proposals being put to the people because they will give the people greater powers.” But it has not been shown that these powers are not desirable. When the Minister made his second-reading speech he quoted, with some force, I think, the opinions of opponents to these measures, and showed clearly that in their minds there was a firm conviction that increased powers should be taken by the Federal Parliament to meet the circumstances which have arisen since Federation. Yet, strangely enough, we find our opponents declaring that these powers should not be given to the Federal Parliament, which, according to them, must not be permitted to carve out its own destiny and mould for itself a system of government which would be best suited to the circumstances: that it must remain forever “ cribb’d cabin’d, confin’d,” according to a Constitution that followed a bad precedent. The Minister did not stress the point that these were war measures. He said that while Ave recognised they were necessary in times of peace, they are tenfold more necessary to-day.
– You cannot get them through in time to be of use as Avar measures.
– What Ave can do in a very short time with the help of our friends remains to be seen.
– What power will they give you as Avar measures now ?
– I hope the honorable senator will not take it from me that the Minister connected these powers of control with the Avar in any way. He said that whilst these powers were necessary in times of peace, it would have been much more to the advantage of Australia if the National Parliament had had them in this time of war.
– He is only confusing the drought with the war.
– I think my honorable friend has had a complete answer to that contention, just as he has had a complete answer on the question of the Beef Trust.
– What about the Mutton Trust, the Pig Trust, and the Poultry Trust? Where are all these trusts.
– My honorable friend knows full well that they are in existence in Australia to-day.
– No, I do not.
– He knows they are in existence, and that these Bills will give the Commonwealth Government power over them. Senator Bakhap also said that if Australia is to progress the waste places of this country had to be filled up, and I would reply by asking what is the purpose of these measures, and what is the purpose of the Tariff that we had under review, if not to increase and improve Australia as a manufacturing nation as well , as a primary producing country ? The purpose is not simply to fill in the waste places with: farmers; we want mechanics as well. We find, to-day, that it is absolutely necessary that we should have skilled mechanics in Australia. God only knows it may be more necessary in the future than at present; that we may have to stand very much more firmly and bear a much heavier burden than we do to-day. I say that if Australia is in any sense to be protective of her interests and rights, these waste places must be filled - not only the waste spaces the farmer can occupy, but also the waste spaces the mechanic can occupy. It seems strange that it should be contended that these proposals are to benefit the secondary producers only, when they would very largely benefit the primary producers.
– Is the honorable senator prepared to keep prices of commodities always low?
– I have not dealt with the question of fixing prices. But there is a wide difference between taking the occasion of the nation’s need as an opportunity to raise prices unnecessarily and the occasion when we have a surplus of produce for which there is no demand outside. If we increase our population we shall also increase the consumption of primary products, and thereby we shall have a local market to consume that produce which the honorable senator has in mind.
– What would the honorable senator give the farmer for his wheat when there is no crop?
– I do not know that I am expected to answer that question offhand. In such circumstances it would be wise if the Government saw that the farmer was provided with seed wheat, and it might be found necessary to adopt measures similar to those recently applied in South Australia. A great deal of Senator Bakhap’s argument was directed against the fixing of prices. Who fixes the price of the farmers’ produce? Very often it is the wheat buyer who does so.
– The farmer need not sell his wheat if he does not choose to do so, yet the honorable senator proposes to compel him to sell.
– In ninety-nine cases out of a hundred the farmer is compelled to sell. The honorable senator would have great difficulty in finding one farmer who, by the cultivation of produce, has accumulated as much wealth as one gentleman, lately passed away, who farmed the farmer. The man who farms the farmer secures a better yield than the farmer himself.
– Miners stack their ore and sell it when the price suits them. Does the honorable senator not think that the farmer does the same?
– On one occasion I went to the little place from which my honorable friend comes, and I met several primary producers there who told me that they had to sell their raspberry crops almost before the raspberries bloomed, and j had to get advances from the men who bought their crops. They could not hold their crops. The same thing applies very largely to wheat. The producer does not fix the price. A non-producer fixes it in many cases. Senator Bakhap, who takes exception to any one but the producer fixing the price of his produce, is really, battling for a condition of affairs that will enable the man who ia not a producer ** to fix the price of produce.
– These amendments will not fix the price of produce. If they would fix a standard price for commodities all the year round I would vote with both hands for them, but the object of the honorable senator is to fix prices too> low.
– Can the honorable senator point to more than isolated cases where the producer as a whole benefited by the recent enhanced prices?
– The man who had anything to sell benefited.
– The trouble was that there were very few who had anything to sell. Therefore, the .producer was not the fixer of prices.
– In New South Wales four-fifths of the farmers sold their wheat for less than 3s. 6d. a bushel.
– The same thing obtained in South Australia. Senator Shannon, as a wheat agent, ought to know who fixes the price of wheat.
– In South Australia we do not try to fix the price of wheat; we try to get the farmer to ship his wheat to the world’s market. Every farmer in South Australia can ship his wheat at a cost of Id. per bushel.
– Was the Royal Commission in South Australia wrong?
– The Royal Commission in South Australia was very emphatic on the point that there was a difference of 2d. and 3d. per bushel be- tween Adelaide and Sydney, or ‘ Melbourne, and that was because of what was called by Mr. John Darling an “ honorable understanding.”
– If the Royal Commission did not bring out the fact in evidence that farmers in South Australia could ship wheat through ,the Farmers Union at Id. per bushel they did not bring out all the facts.
– I am merely stating what is clearly set out in records in the Parliamentary Library.
– I am telling the honorable senator of what obtains in South Australia.
– I have seen repeatedly in the Journal of Agriculture of South Australia that, on any given day, there was a difference of 2d. to 3d. per bushel in the price of wheat in Adelaide and Sydney or Melbourne.
– I suppose that the report of the RoYal Commission was founded on evidence given on oath?
– The report was founded on the evidence of the individual concerned in the particular transactions, but I do not know whether it was givenon oath.- It was certainly given very reluctantly, but it was given, and when questioned as to whether there was a ring in Adelaide, Mr. Darling denied the existence of a ring, but said there was an “honorable understanding.” The .price of one buyer was the same as that of the buyer next door. There was no competition; that was absolutely destroyed by the “honorable understand- ‘ ing,” and the price of wheat was not fixed by the producer as my friends argue should be the case. Senator Bakhap claims that one object of these Bills will be to sterilize national industry and initiative. The argument is that, unless the individual can do as he chooses, national industry will be sterilized. In most industries the individuals directing them are feed managers, with very little interest in the concerns beyond the salaries they draw, and having under’ their, control individuals who are similarly situated. To say that the same condition of affairs will not obtain under the National Government is to disbelieve what is before our eyes continually. A mine manager is in a very remote degree connected with the success of a mine, so far as the prices that are realized are concerned. He is under the authority of directors, who, in many cases, have never been down a mine, and know little about mining. To Bay that the same system cannot be imparted into the national arena is to state what is not true. Senator Shannon knows the conditions at the Islington workshops, which produce far better engines, considering their life, than are produced by private enterprise.
– I understand that, the South Australian Government have let a contract for engines to private contractors.
– The reason why a contract for £30,000 went out to a private firm overseas was that the Islington workshops were working full time. There are many other cases that could be cited in which the same thing obtains. I have no doubt that, if inquiries were made into Government enterprises in connexion with the Commonwealth Government, we should find that the same thing obtains. The argument that it will be unsafe to give these national powers to a National Government because they are likely to be misused is an argument that cannot be substantiated by experience. The greater the responsibility placed upon the people the better the use they make of that responsibility. I have not heard one really’ sound argument to-night as to why these additional powers should not be granted. It may be suggested that this is a “time of war, and that, therefore, attention should be concentrated upon the war and upon nothing else. But is that -argument advanced outside to the merchant carrying on his business ? Is it advanced in regard to anything beyond national questions? Why should the affairs of the nation stand still and ordinary mercantile matters be permitted to go on? I am not suggesting that mercantile affairs should stop, but honorable senators who argue that nothing beyond the immediate necessities of Parliament should be underaken at the present juncture should also argue tothe merchant that he must cease his business because the war cloud is over him. All through the present controversy it has been urged that the time is inopportune.
– Is it a good time to raise these controversial questions when we are at war?
– I put it to the honorable senator that these questions were raised at a time when there’ was no war. He then said the time was inopportune.
– But you were not able to carry them.
– We were not able to carry them then, but because honorable senators think we shall be able to carry them to-day they raise the objection that the time is inopportune.
– You never heard rae raise any objection to the will of the people.
– Can my honorable friend come forward with any reasonable objection to these proposals going forward? He says he is not against the people exercising their will, but he cannot give the people the right to exercise that will unless he votes for this proposal. I take it that we are all anxious that the people should exercise their will. We sought to facilitate the exercise of tha people’s will at the last general election, but were prevented by the party of which the honorable senator is a member! He was against the referenda proposals being submitted in time of peace; he is against it in time of war; and he has advanced no argument as to why he is against it. I am in favour of the proposals because I believe that these powers should be in the hands of the National Parliament. The adoption of these proposals will give the National Parliament greater powers, and if its powers then are not great enough, then we will seek permission to still further extend them.
Debate (on motion by Senator Ready) adjourned.
ORder of Business - Liverpool Camp.
– I move -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
To-morrow we propose to ask the Senate to pass the Bill, which came from the other House to-day, making provision for another Ministerial portfolio, and then to resume the debate on the Constitution Alteration Bills. We hope to take the vote on the second reading of the latter Bills to-morrow.
– In this morning’s paper there is a statement in reference to the visit I made to the Liverpool Camp, which conveys the impression that I was escorted round the camp by officers, and did not see for myself what was going on there. I want to say, simply and plainly, that upon going to the camp I reported myself to the Commandant, Lieutenant-Colonel Kirkland. My reason for doing that was that, wherever I have been at any time, I have always recognised the person in authority. I did not want to go through the camp as a spy or as a sneak, and I simply went to the Commandant and told him I had come to have a look round for myself. I walked through the lines accompanied by no one. I never told any one in the lines that I was a member of Parliament, and nobody knew I was a member of Parliament, excepting one or two men who happened to know me personally. Everything contained in the report that I sent te Senator Pearce was the result of my own observation, and there were in it no suggestions made to me by officers, or by any one else. Some years ago I held a position of which I was as proud as I am of the position I now occupy. I was then an organizer of the Australian Workers Union. I never went anywhere, I never visited the premises of any squatter in any part of Australia, without reporting ray presence to the man in charge, because I recognised that it was a fair thing that I should let him know that I was on his premises. It was in keeping with that example that, as a member of Parliament, on visiting this camp I reported to the officer in charge. I wish to contradict the statement that on going there I allowed myself to be escorted round the camp by officers, and did not see everything for myself.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.36 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 8 July 1915, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1915/19150708_senate_6_77/>.