7th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Senator BAKHAP presented a petition signed by 1,003 persons, Indian-torn subjects of His Majesty, praying that natives of ^British India resident in Australia may be included amongst those to whom the provisions of the Old-age and Invalid Pensions Act apply.
Petition received and read.
– Is it. permissible for me to move, at this stage, a motion, without notice, with regard to the petition I mentioned earlier?
– The honorable senator should have taken action at the proper time. The honorable senator, however, may proceed now, by leave.
– Then, if there is no objection, I move -
That the petition be printed. .
– The standing order provides that such a motion can be moved only if the mover proposes to take some action on the petition.
– I do - propose to take some action.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers ‘ were presented: -
Defence Act 1903-1018. - Regulations amended- (Statutory Rules 1918, Nos. 383, 384.
Income Tax. - Statement showing number of. (State and Commonwealth Incomes of £2,000’ and over from personal exertion (1st July, 1916, to 30th June, 1916).
Norfolk Island. - Report of the Administrator for the year ended 30th June, 1918.
Post and Telegraph Act 1901-1916.- Regulations amended- Statutory Rules 1918, Nob. 249, 255, 265, 287, 2B9, 290, 291, 306, 307, 311.
Ballasting of Line
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Works and Railways whether he is yet in a position to answer the question that I put with respect to the ballasting of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway?
– The following reply to the honorable senator’s question has been supplied: -
The ballasting operations were suspended on 14th instant. Certain construction works, however, will be continued on the resumption of work on 6th January.
Cost of Recruiting - Visit of Egyptian and Palestine Forces to Great Britain and France
-Some days ago I asked whether the Minister for Defence would lay on the table a return showing the cost of recruiting. Is the honorable senator in a position to give the Senate any information on the subject?
– On the 5th September the honorable senator moved for a return showing expenditure since 1st November, 1916, on recruiting. I am now able to supply the following information : -
Separate records of recruiting expenditure were not kept prior to 1st January, 1917; I am therefore unable to furnish you with the expenditure for November and December, 1916, but if it is absolutely necessary that it should be ascertained, an approximate figure can be estimated.
– In view of the arduous conditions of life, the strenuous desert fighting, and many hardships endured by the Australian troops in Egypt and Palestine since the commencement of the war, and the fact that for -nearly four years they have been practically debarred from the privileges of civilization,, will the Government consider the advisability of affording as many of the men of these forces as may desire to do so an opportunity to visit England and France prior to their return to Australia ?
– The matter referred to by the honorable senator has already been the subject of communications with the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) in England.
Assent to the following Bills reported: -
Loan Bill (No. 2).
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that the House had agreed to the Senate’s amendment.
– I ask the Minister for Defence when the mothers or nearest female relatives of fallen soldiers . may expect the promised distribution of medals or badges which was announced some time ago. Is the honorable senator in a position to tell the Senate how. the matter stands at present?
– Under the first contract entered into for the supply of; these badges there was considerable delay in securing the necessary enamel. Eventually we had to cancel that contract. The Business Board took the matter up again under another contract. I am inquiring to-day what progress has been made under the second contract.
Quarantine : Western AustralianPolicy of New Zealand Government.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs whether the Government propose to accept the suggestion of the Western Australian Government to use Albany, Rottnest Island, or Garden Island as a Quarantine Station for troops at present retained on troopships outside Fremantle in connexion with the pneumonic influenza epidemic.
– I hope to be able to give the honorable senator a reply later on.
– I ask the Leader of the Senate whether he has noticed in this morning’s metropolitan press a statement to the effect that the Government of the Dominion of New Zealand has decided to pay all nursing, medical, hospital, and other expenses arising out of the recent epidemic of Spanish influenza in that country? In the event of the epidemic unfortunately extending to Australia, will the Government take into consideration the adoption of a similar policy ?
– It is a good thing, as suggested by an honorable senator on my right, to shake hands with the devil when you meet him. That opportune time has not arrived, but I shall place the suggestion contained in the honorable senator’s question before the Acting Prime Minister.
– I ask the Leader of the Senate whether he has any information to give honorable senators regarding something which is said to have occurred in the Cabinet with respect to Mr. Jensen ?
– For the moment I plead guilty to forgetting the stage at which my information given to the Senate on this subject ceased. If, as I gather from Senator Gardiner’s inquiry, having made one statement here, I did not supplement it with a later statement concerning the retirement of Mr. Jensen from the Ministry,I can only express my regret that I did not on Friday afternoon inform the Senate as to what took place on that day, which was that, in conformity with the announcement previously made, the Executive Council took the necessary action to retire Mr. Jensen from the Ministry, and a notice to that effect has been gazetted Mr. Watt has since been sworn in to assume the portfolio of Minister for Trade and Customs.
– I ask the honorable senator whether the retirement of Mr. Jensen is due to anything else except the information disclosed in the evidence and report of the Royal Commission who dealt with the purchase of the Shaw Wireless Works and other matters connected with Naval administration?
– No. I hope no suggestion of that kind has gained publicity.
– Is the Minister for Defence in a position to answer the question I put to him some time ago on the subject of the persons who have been interned?
– On the 12th December the honorable senator asked the following questions : -
I am now able to furnish the honorable senator with the following information : -
– I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer whether he is yet in a position to give me the information for which I asked three or four weeks ago concerning the Government option over the Blythe River iron deposits.
– I hope to have the information for the honorable senator later in the day.
– On several occasions I have asked the Leader of the Senate whether the Royal Commission appointed to inquire into the question of enemy aliens in the Public Service is still engaged in the work. If the Commissioner has finished his work, what have been the results of his investigations, and will his report be laid on the table of the Senate?
– The report has been received. I speak with : some reservation when I say that I think the Commissioner has completed his labours. The report is under the consideration of the Government.
– Have the members of the Royal Commission, of which Mr. McBeath is chairman, concluded their labours, or are they conducting investigations in other directions?
– The Commission has not yet concluded its labours.
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether it is the intention of the Government to carry out the recommendation of the Royal Commission on Navy and Defence administration for the establishment of a superannuation fund for members of the Permanent Navy and Military staffs?
– The matter is under the consideration of the Government, but a decision has not yet been arrived at.
Pensions to Soldiers’ Dependants - Administration of Department
– In the event of a soldier being killed at the Front, and leaving a wife and several children in Australia, they are entitled to certain pensions - in the case of the children, until they reach the age of sixteen years. I ask the Minister for Repatriation whether, if a child, on reaching ‘the age of sixteen years, is, still under medical treatment, and unable to do anything for herself, the Department makes any provision for continuing the pension?
– It would make no difference in that case if the pension were obliterated altogether, because the Repatriation Department undertake to furnish that widow and children with an income until the children reach the age of eighteen. Apart from that, if the child is a genuine invalid and requires a’ pension, the Repatriation Department will furnish it.
– H - Have the Government considered the question of altering the administration of the Repatriation Department in the direction of having sole control placed in the hands of Commissioners paid a salary commensurate with their work, and entirely responsible to Parliament, thus doing away with officers who are now acting in’ an honorary capacity?
– The question of the revision of the machinery of the Repatriation Department is one of the matters which will be considered by the Government very early in the recess.
– When may we- expect the information I moved for on 28th November, relative to the regulation of the importation of certain goods?
– I shall try to get the information at a later hour.
– Has the Leader of the Senate yet received information about certain inquiries which I asked should be made in America regarding prohibition of the manufacture and sale of intoxicants?
– A cablegram has been addressed to the’ Australian Commissioner in America asking him to furnish a full report on the subject.
Badges for Recruits - Demobilized Postal Officials
– Is it the intention of the Government to furnish members of the Australian Imperial Force who were in camp when the armistice was signed, and who have since been demobilized, with a badge to show that they offered their services to theircountry? If so, will the Government expedite the issue of such badges, as many of the men concerned are finding difficulty in securing employment?
– It is the intention of the Government to issue such badges, and we are endeavouring to expedite their manufacture and distribution.
– Has the Minister representing the Postmaster-General yet received an answer to questions I put some time ago regarding postal officials who joined the Australian Imperial Force and were afterwards demobilized?
– I shall cause inquiries to be made.
– In view of the possibility of an early peace, is it the intention of the Government to continue this session after Christmas, or begin a new session early in the year, to deal with legislation to meet peace conditions in Australia.
– I must ask the honorable senator for notice.
– Cannot the Minister make a statement? There is no time to give notice now.
– I shall make a statement before the week closes.
– Has the Minister representing the Treasurer obtained the information which he promised last week regarding the number of incomes from personal exertion of certain amounts?
– Ipropose to lay the information supplied in answer to the question on the table in the form of a return.
asked the Minister re presenting the Attorney-General, upon notice -
Can he inform the Senate whether the sudden reduction in the price offered for osmiridium, viz., from £36 10s. to £15 per ounce, is a genuine market quotation; if it is not, will he investigate, and take steps to protect the interests of the osmiridium miners? If £15 is the true value of the metal, can he state the cause of the sudden slump?
– Probably owing to the demand for osmiridium falling off, and to the unsettled state of the world’s metal market, due to the prospect of peace, the price of osmiridium dropped to £15 per ounce, but this is still considerably in. excess ofthe pre-war price of £5 to £10 per ounce. The interests of the producers will be safeguarded to prevent exploitation.
Litigation - Valuation
asked the Minis ter representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– I shall try to furnish the reply later this day.
asked the Minis ter for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers are: -
Captain Olifent was appointed to this position on account of his special qualifications for the duties required. He has had much experience in the handling of natives of Western Australia and the Northern Territory, and served In the Australian Imperial Force as a transport officer, with the rank of major.
Suspension of Works
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
Does the policy of the Government in connexion with the Henderson Naval Base apply equally to the Bases in the eastern States?
– The Acting .Minister for the Navy has furnished the following reply: -
As stated when announcing the policy of the Government, it is intended to follow the recommendation of the British Admiralty that Flinders Naval Base be completed, to allow it to be occupied, and that certain work at Sydney be proceeded with. It is not intended to do any work at Fort Stephens at present.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information desired will, if possible, be obtained and supplied.
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice -
Is it a fact that the Metal Recovery Co. Ltd., of which company Colonel Oldershaw is chairman of directors, and the De-tinning Works, Sydney, have refused to buy or receive tin scrap from any other State excepting Victoria and New South Wales; . and, if so, will the Honorary Metallurgical Adviser to the Government, Sir John Higgins, allow the tin scrap producers of Western Australia, South Australia, Queensland, and Tasmania permission to export, so that the whole of this material in these States may not be wasted ?
– I am having inquiries made of the companies concerned. I might point out, however, that no applications to ship tin scrap from the States mentioned have been received. If any such application is received, it will be duly considered by the Government. Sir John Higgins, as Honorary Metallurgical Adviser, does not grant permits. When consulted, he advises the Government.
Welcome to Returned Nurses: Seniority - Provision for the Employment of Mechanics.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Will the Government give consideration to the question of according an appropriate public welcome on their return to Australia to nurses who have served at the Front?
– Nurses are conveyed through the streets in motor cars in the same manner as the other personnel returning. They thus share in the public welcome. After the car procession in Melbourne, they are conveyed to the Grand Hotel, where their relatives await them, and they are entertained by the Nurses Club. Similar procedure is followed in other States. They are thus treated by the Department in the same manner as other Australian Imperial Force personnel. The matter of further welcomes is one for the public.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Will the rule of seniority which applies to officers of the ‘Australian Imperial Force who may take up duty in Australia on their return also apply to nursing sisters who have been on active service and who may take up duty in military hospitals?
– The same principles as regards seniority and employment have been adopted for returned members of the nursing services as for returned officers of the Australian Army Medical Corps, Australian Imperial Force. .
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers are : -
The matter of employment for returned soldiers is one for the Repatriation Department, and I am bringing it under the notice of that Department. 2 and 3. It has been represented to this Department that the officials of the State Railways Departments Western Australia, have intimated that they could absorb a number of thea men if certain material, orders for which had been placed in Great Britain over two years ago, could be procured from abroad.
ls it a fact that non-official postmasters in some country towns in South Australia have to carry out their postal business and provide office accommodation on an allowance of £2 5s. per week. 2 Has the allowance been recently reduced to this amount? If so, why?
– The answers are : -
Where the allowance is less than £110 per annum, the rule- is not to place the office in charge of any one who has not a business to look after which will necessitate attendance during the hours the post-office is open. The same arrangement applies in South Australia as elsewhere in the Commonwealth.
Debate resumed from 13th December (vide page 9255), on motion by Senator Pearce -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– I approach the discussion of this important matter with a feeling that, perhaps in the hurry of the last week or two, an important measure of this character cannot receive that attention which it deserves. During the last ten or fifteen years there has grown up. in Parliament a procedure which, in my opinion - I do not wish to say anything derogatory to this Parliament - has had the effect of turning Parliament into an institution merely for the passing of legislation rather than for deliberation and discussion. After our experience of the War Precautions Act during the last four years, I think it might fairly be claimed that thi3 Bill should be discussed* at some other time than in the concluding days of a session ; and if I, on the second reading and in Committee, took the time which I believe I should occupy in endeavouring to point out the dangers of the measure, honorable senators anxious to get to their homes before Christmas would, no doubt, be inclined to assume that I was “ stonewalling,” and any record of that character, as far as ordinary legislation is concerned, would not be justified.
– Hear, hear !
– I am aware that honorable senators opposite are inclined to laugh or smile at this statement, for the simple reason that there is on record a rather lengthy speech from me, made in an endeavour to prevent the suspension of the Standing Orders to pass a Bill of over 200 clauses without delay. In view of the fact that the motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders was moved at 10 o’clock at night, I used all my physical powers to prevent the purpose of the Government being achieved, and I think I succeeded, for the measure was not passed till the next day. But in connexion with this Bill, I shall set the minds of honorable senators at rest. Much as I oppose it, and much as I fear it, I shall not prevent other honorable senators from having an opportunity of speaking upon it. Therefore, I shall not speak at undue length, and certainly not at greater length than upon the motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders to which I have already referred.
Now, let us have a look at the Bill. It is a measure to extend the provisions of the War Precautions Act for three months after war ceases. Senator Pearce, when introducing the first War Precautions Bill, emphatically declared that the powers then asked for would end with the signing of peace. He was most definite in his assurance, and pointed out, as Ministers often do, in a most legitimate way, that extraordinary powers were being sought, but only for the purpose of dealing with the enemies within the Commonwealth during the period of the war. When the first amending measure was being discussed in another place, the Minister in charge, speaking on the 28th April, 1915, said -
The Bill will operate only so long as the war lasts.
Mr. Hughes, in introducing the first War Precautions Bill in 1914, said -
The Bill confers upon the Government power to make orders and regulations of a farreaching character, and, as honorable members may see in clauses 4 and 5, is mainly directed to preventing the leakage of important secrets, to secure the safety of means of communication, railways, docks, harbors, or public works, and to deal effectively with aliens, and, in certain circumstances, with naturalized persons. Its aim is to prevent the disclosure of important information, to give power to deport and otherwise deal with aliens, to interrogate and obtain information in various ways, and to appoint officers to carry into effect any orders or regulations which may be made under the Bill.
The Minister in charge of this Bill in another place, when introducing it, declared -
The Government does not desire to extend its provisions in order to initiate new matters of policy, and the power to make new regulations will be exercised only in case of national necessity. Though the operation of the Act be extended, it is the intention of the Government that immediate action shall be taken to consider and repeal regulations or orders no longer necessary, and to remove governmental control as soon as possible in all cases where it is practicable or advisable to do so.
-reading speech on this measure, stated -
The greater part of the regulations under the War Precautions Act dealing with the defence power will be repealed at the earliest possible moment. Naturally, they may be allowed to expire immediately there is some certainty of peace, and a return to normal conditions.
– They will all be repealed.
– As soon as we can say definitely that peace has arrived, all these defence regulations under the Act will be repealed.
– That is definite.
– This, of course, will not cover regulationsaffecting internment. I have already pointed out that if repatriation of aliens is decided upon, the powers of the War Precautions Act will be necessary to carry out such a decision, and the regulations in that regard must be extended until such time as the repatriation of aliens, if adopted, can be completed. We are not in a position to say now what policy in that regard will be adopted until we know something of the decisions of the Peace Conference, and have further information as to the course of action to be followed in other parts of the Empire.
In the second part of this statement Senator Pearce was referring to aliens; but is there one honorable senator who believes that, although this was really given by the Minister as one of the reasons why we should extend these powers, the deportation of aliens should be carried out under the War Precautions Act? I venture to say that when Senator Pearce reconsiders the position, and realizes how serious will be a proposal for the deportation of aliens from this country when the war has ended, he will be inclined to think it unwise to give effect to this policy under the War Precautions Act. I call attention to this because, in view of the Minister’s secondreading speech, we are asked to grant this extension of powers -with our eyes open, and with the knowledge that he stated definitely that the Government wanted these powers retained for a period after the war. I suppose that technically the war is still in” progress, but I maintain that men interned under the War Precautions Act must ‘be dealt with on the merits of each individual case, and not under this measure, merely because of their birth or association with the country with which we are at war. If it came to a question of deporting aliens - people who before the war were welcomed and,” in the case of some of the States, assisted, to come to this country - I do not believe that even Senator Pearce himself would be disposed to use these powers in that way.
I am now going to refer to another proposition put forward by the Government. The Minister, as one reason for an extension of these powers, made reference to the difficulty that would arise if the moratorium came suddenly to an end. But I do not think that the moratorium itself is legitimately a question for War Precautions regulations.
I have taken some trouble to endeavour to get back to first principles, and I find that powers were vested in the Government in the early , stage of the war which were in the nature of what might be termed martial law. Later there came into existence what has been known as military law, .and I venture to say that, by virtue of the War Precautions Act, the Government have, been exercising their particular powers. In Great Britain the Parliament is in the happy position, under the Constitution, of being supreme. It has authority to legislate as it thinks fit. There is no need there to adopt expedients to overcome difficulties.
– In Great Britain Parliament has no constitutional limita-tions.
– That is so, but in the Commonwealth, unfortunately, these extended powers are not enjoyed, and therefore in time of war expedients had to be resorted to.
– Those powers camo into existence ‘as soon as war was proclaimed.
– I can see I have not made myself clear to the honorable senator. .1 was endeavouring toshow that when war was declared Great Britain had a Parliament which, under its Constitution, could legislate in any direction it wished.
– This Parliament had practically the same authority under the war powers of the War PrecautionsAct.
– I must ask the honorable senator to allow me to finish my argument. When war was proclaimed this Parliament was without the constitutional powers to legislate in regard tocertain matters, and the War Precautions Act was brought into existence. I wish to m’ake a comparison between theconstitutional position in Australia and that in Great Britain, and unless I can get honorable senators in agreement upon this aspect of the question, I shall not” be able to develop my argument. I havesaid that when war broke out the Parliament of the Mother Country had constitutional authority to legislate in any direction it wished, but in Australia we were limited by provisions in our Constitution, and therefore we had to resort to* an expedient which is called the War Precautions Act, under which we took the necessary power for the Executive to conduct the war. Senator Pearce wilL. I think, agree that this is a reasonableview of the situation at that time. Our . Parliament is subject to the Constitution,, and subject to the decisions of the High. Court.
– That is right.
– Honorable senators will see, before I finish, that I am endeavouring to deal with the constitutional aspects of the problem in a proper way. If honorable senators will’ turn up the records of Hansard, they will, I think, find that there was noactual division in regard to the proposal to grant these powers to the Executive,, and they will have no difficulty, either,, in proving that I was one of the Ministers responsible for that course of action.
– I do not think that is a matter to be ashamed of.
– Had I thought that the powers then being conferred upon the Government of which I was a member would be used .by the Government of which I also was a member, in the way that they were used, I should have reason to feel ashamed for the whole of my life. I have shown the difference which existed betwen our constitutional powers and those of Great Britain when the war started. We were then dependent upon the Executive authority. In time of war, Britain could claim Executive authority. It could call into existence what, in the early stages of the war, was known as martial law, what was afterwards called military law, and what, still later, were given effect to as War Precautions regulations. I propose to quote the opinion of a very distinguished Judge as to the powers possessed by Great Britain herself in respect of military law’ and regulations. Discussing the question of their legality, Judge Blackburn said -
Although the Bill of Bights does not condemn military law, it is quite certain that it does not sanction it.
It will be seen, therefore, that he expressed a doubt as to the power of Britain, even when at war, to use her war powers in certain directions. We have reached that stage in connexion with the measure the operation of which we are now asked to extend. I have cited the opinion of a very eminent judicial authority, with a view to showing that it is very questionable whether military law exercised by the Executive in time of war possesses constitutional sanction. Certainly such sanction is not derived from that document from which all our rights and liberties flow.
I come now to the War Precautions regulations. They were passed for the purposes that I have indicated. But I do not think that even the Minister who has charge of them will claim that they have not been used for a hundred purposes absolutely different from those for which they were intended to be used when they were passed. Why, every tremor, every panic of the Government, was met by a new War Precautions regulation. If I chose, I could trace these regulations through many of their ramifications. I could show what has been accomplished under them. I could illustrate the ridiculous manner in which they have been used. I might, for example, cite, an instance in which a number of girls with cameras endeavoured to obtain some photographs of our returning Anzacs. Under these regulations, their cameras were taken from them by the police and the girls were informed that they could not recover their possession until they had retired 1,000 yards from the scene. I mention this case as one which illustrates the ridiculous way in which the civil power dealt with things with which it was not accustomed to deal. Since I left the former Hughes Government, I think I have kept the Senate pretty well informed of the way in which the War Precautions Act has been used, because I have usually called attention, under cover of our Standing Orders, to any regulation which the Government sought to use in a way different from that which was originally intended. There is no need, therefore, for me to deal with these regulations in detail. At the same time, I may be pardoned for devoting a little time to one or two of them. One of these regulations was passed for the purpose of dealing with shearers and the handling of wool. It cancelled agreements which had previously been made, and abolished preference in the matter of employment. It actually cancelled agreements which had been obtained under an award of the Arbitration Court. It may be said that, in time of war, it is necessary for the Government to possess power to prevent people doing certain things. But when that power is used to deprive the workers of something which has already been conferred upon them by law, it will be recognised that the Government is attempting to go too far.
The possession of prohibited publications was made an offence under another regulation. I am not going to blame .the Minister for the way in which he used that power. I gave an illustration of the class of publication which the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) had censored when I dealt with the temperance pamphlet, Defeat. As a matter of fact, quite a number of publications which were allowed to circulate freely in Great Britain were prevented, under this regulation, from being circulated in Australia. The temperance people desired to use the war period for the purpose of pointing to some shocking examples of the waste that is occasioned by drink. I venture to say that there is not a Government in Australia with a following sufficiently strong to carry through Parliament a measure to accomplish that which Senator Pearce accomplished under this particular regulation. He prevented the public from getting the view of the temperance people of the effects of the use of liquor during war. I do not say that it was not an extreme view. That is a matter of opinion. But it is the right of a free people, even if they hold extreme views, to express those views, provided that they do so within the limits imposed by the law.
– That publication was an insult to our soldiers. It was to protect our soldiers that it was suppressed.
– The honorable senator has said that it was an insult to our soldiers. But the Temperance organizations were quite prepared to excise that portion of the pamphlet which referred to our soldiers, and to issue the publication without it.
– If that had been done, I do not suppose that the Minister would have suppressed it.
– I do not wish to pose as the defender of the Temperance people, but in time of war the advocates of temperance have just as much right to express their views as they have in time of peace.
– They made statements about the soldiers’ wives which were detrimental to recruiting ?
– Were the statements true?
– I do not desire to question the truth of the statements, or the taste that was exhibited in issuing them. My point is, because a war is in progress, are we entitled to say that we will establish in Australia a new law, under which we shall become not only the judges of morals, but also the judges of good taste? When the
Government took to themselves these powers, they did so with a very definite purpose. There were cases in which we feared that men were betraying their comrades, and others in which individuals were procuring information and doing things in respect of which the existing law did not permit us to say, “ These things must cease.” Consequently, the Ministry took to themselves these powers. The Government claimed that they were entitled to possess them as an Executive conducting a war.
One of the first of these powers, which seriously interfered with the trade of this country, and which, I think, could not be defended at all, had reference to the regulation of the price of bread. The validity of our action was tested in the Courts of the Commonwealth. I think we had to wait until the 13th May, 1916, before we obtained that decision. We fixed the price of bread, and a representative of the master bakers challenged the validity of our action. In the decision which they gave upon this question the Justices of the High Court were markedly careful. They based their decison, not upon whether we constitutionally possessed the power to do what we had done, but upon the fact that, because the Government thought it necessary to possess these powers in time of war, they were justified in taking them. That was, roughly, the decision of the High Court. But if we are now to extend the operation of the Bill for three months after the termination of the war, I claim that it will hold good only until such time as the first trader challenges its validity. The moment that challenge is made, the War Precautions Act will go by the board. When the war is over, when there has virtually been peace for four months and a signed peace for two months, if a case of interfering with the commerce of a State comes before the High Court, is it likely that that tribunal will say that the Government are justified in the action which they will have taken ? Ministers should seriously consider this aspect of the question.
But our War Precautions regulations do not deal merely with the prices of bread, sugar, and many other commodities. Of course, the intention of the Government was to prevent the exploiter from exploiting. I do not mind saying that even for that purpose I doubted them, and I doubt still the wisdom of using our War Precautions regulations. But what has been the outcome of all these regulations? They are interfering at present, in a manner once undreamed of, with trade in every direction. Take mining concerns and company formations - these are all suffering. Before I could float a- company, even for the most beneficent purpose, I would require to secure the permission of the Government. “All these hindrances should cease now that peace has practically arrived. But, if peace were to be signed in March next, and these regulations were to expire in July, it is almost certain that Parliament would be called upon to further extend the Act and its regulations. The Government, no doubt, would advance what they would deem good reasons. There are mining concerns in Australia regarding which mighty interests are at stake. We cannot walk through the streets to-day without hearing criticisms and comments which - to put it mildly - make one very doubtful whether the right thing is being done by the Government under these extraordinary powers. We must get back to normal conditions sooner or later; and, the sooner the better. Why not at once? Why cannot the Minister say that every regulation which has been issued, and which affects the trade of this country, the formation of companies and the like, shall expire at a given date ? Why should not the Government let that statement go out, so that financial concerns might know the exact date upon which the regulations would cease? I am about to put an entirely supposititious case ; and I shall not impute motives: This is the sort of thing we hear upon the streets. A company promoter approaches a wealthy man, and says, “ We could make so much a ton out of wool scrap.” I will not refer to tin scrap, since Senator Pratten has the monopoly of that. “ And,” says the promoter, “ I can show you that there is a profit of £5 a ton in it.” The man of wealth says, “ I agree that there may be; but can you show me how we shall get shipping space, seeing that the Government are controlling it?”
– That has actually happened.
– 1 am glad to hear that confirmation. .But I am still advancing an imaginary case. The promoter says to the moneyed man, “ You put up your money and I will show you a profit of so much.” “ Very good,” says the other, “you show me that you can get the shipping space for so much, and I will consider your proposition.” The promoter ascertains that he can get the necessary space, but that it will cost him £2 a ton over and above the shipping charges. He returns to the wealthy man and puts the position to him, and he is asked, “What is that for?” His reply is,- “ I cannot get the space without an arrangement of that kind. But there will still be a profit of £3 a ton for us.”
– What do you mean to suggest? That some one has to be bought ?
– I am suggesting that, moving about the people, I hear these things discussed everywhere, and that the sooner the Government free themselves and their Departments from being in a position where, under the powers conferred upon them, things can be said which ought not to.be said of them, the better it will be for everybody. The sooner the Government can free their administration of any whisper that money is being made where it should not be, the better it will be. And, to that end, these regulations should be cancelled.
– Do you believe that sort of thing to be true ?
– As I said, I have been stating an absolutely imaginary case, but one which is based upon what 1 have heard outside. I have no charges to make against any one. Under the War Precautions regulations, which interfere with shipping space, I merely ask if such a circumstance could come about. And, if it could,- it is time that we all got back quickly to normal conditions. I am not a business man; but I claim to keep my eyes and ears open to everything that may affect the public interests.
I have cited an imaginary case, based upon the export of wool scrap. Senator Pratten has dealt with tin scrap, and he showed what could happen under the
Regulations. Do not honorable senators think that such conditions should immediately end ? The Government, with their majority, are apparently perfectly satisfied with the outcome of the tin scrap business. But a wise Government, while they might not agree that Senator Pratten’s case was very strong - although I do -would, at any rate, say, “ The sooner we return to normal times, the better.” So far as I am concerned, while individual trading is the law of this country, I will do all I can to allow it to be as free and as untrammelled as the most earnest business man could wish.
I ask honorable members to turn their attention now to another question wherein the War Precautions regulations interfere. I ask honorable senators, in view of the fact that the war is over-
– Not legally over.
– Even if it were raging still, the regulation to which I am referring should not have been put into operation. It is that which would prevent me, as an Australian citizen, from advocating upon the public platform an Australian Republic. It might be an unwise thing for an Australian public man to do. His advocacy- might put him out of public life ; but there is no reason why there should be a regulation to prevent him from defending such a system of government. In New South Wales, about fifty years ago, there was the most distinguished advocate of an Australian Republic who has yet appeared in Australia. I refer to the late John Dunmore Lang. He was a fearless and independent advocate of an Australian Democracy. He stirred the people to their depths, and the country was all the better for his advocacy of the principle;
– The honorable senator admits that to have founded a republic in those days would have been an abnormality.
– Normal times have now followed upon a condition of war. Is there any reason why it should be sta. offence to discuss any condition of government in Australia?
– W - What about Sir Joseph Cook?
– I referred to a distinguished advocate of the republican sentiment. When Sir Joseph Cook was plain “Joe Cook,” of the Australian Labour party, he also was an advocate of that principle. One notable book produced by the late John Dunmore Lang was entitled The Coming Republic. It is well worth reading to-day. My study of his works has convinced me that he was a great Imperialist. He advocated that Australia should be governed by the Australian people, free and untrammelled from the influences of Great Britain.
– Great Britain does not trammel us very much at present.
– I agree that it does not. I am not complaining of that, but of the regulation which would prevent me from discusssing a question of that nature without taking the risk of finding myself in the clutches of the law.
– The regulation was issued while the Empire was fighting for its life.
– Yes, and even then I should not have been prevented, if I had so desired, from advocating Australian Republicanism.
These regulations depend, after all, upon their administration. In Great Britain, the people of the Mother Country were fighting just as hard for their lives as were the Australians. In Australia, a War Precautions regulation would prevent me from wearing a badge of a certain blend of colours - the green, white, and orange. I understand that those are the colours of the Sinn Fein organization. In Australia, we may not wear a badge signifying “ Ourselves alone.” But in Great Britain, men belonging to the Sinn Fein organization have been elected to the Imperial Parliament.
– What sort of a “ show “ would you have had during the French Revolution if you had worn the white cockade instead of the tricolour?
– The honorable senator will not coax me into a discussion of that subject, because I am fully aware that I would be at a disadvantage.
– But the principle is the same.
– Perhaps, when the honorable senator addresses the Senate, he will enlighten honorable sena. tors as to why the tricolour is now the national emblem of France.
– S - So far as the advocacy of Republicanism is concerned, there is a Republican Party in South Africa to-day which has incurred no disabilities.
– Exactly. Reverting to the French Revolution, I wish to add that I cau read of the horrors of that period without being horror-stricken - realizing that they were necessary to wipe out a rotten system of government. I do not desire to pose as a prophet of evil; but if the Governments of this country do not awaken, and will not cease from interfering where they have no right to interfere; if they will not cease from taking away the liberty of a man here, and another there; then, notwithstanding our marvellous prosperity, if all safeguards are broken down, it is not improbable that, few as we are, and free as we are, there may yet be a revolution in Australia. And, if it does break out, it will arise from dissatisfaction concerning Government action.
– What will they do after a revolution here?
– Start to build up again.
– And then have another one?
– Exactly ; and so it should.be. A revolution is, to my mind, exactly like a duststorm or a thunderstorm in the back country. .Senator Bakhap has probably as good a knowledge of Australia as has any other member of the Senate. He will often have seen in the back country a black cloud arising, and if he had wisdom in such things he would unharness his team at once, and make provision for a duststorm. It might take hours to pass, but when it did pass the air would be pure, and clear, and cold, and the intolerable heat of the previous hours would be gone. In the same way in the midst of sultry and almost intolerable conditions a thunderstorm arises, and after it has passed there is again a pure atmosphere*, and everything goes smoothly. A revolution is exactly the same.
– Was it the same in Russia?
– Its effect is exactly the same. It can only arise from the existence of intolerable conditions, and the only way in which to prevent it is to prevent the growth of the conditions which bring it about. I say that War Precautions regulations are amongst the things which tend to make an otherwise contended people grievously discontented.
– Do we not have elections rather than revolutions in this civilized country?
– We do to some extent.
– The- honorable senator is condemning the principles of Democracy when he talks revolution.
– I am not talking revolution, but I am referring to the kind of thing which leads to revolution.
– Democracy must fail before revolution, is possible.
– Democracy and Parliaments are only on their trial’. I am speaking, not of what may happen under Democracy, but of what is likely to happen under the arbitrary exercise of power by one man. I am speaking; not with any wish to score a point as Leader of the Opposition, but as a man earnestly desiring, now that the reasons for the exercise of this arbitrary power no longer exist, that we should get back to normal conditions as soon as possible. We may do so by the removal of grievances which have arisen under the exercise of this power, and I may say that those grievances have chiefly affected the trading community.
– There are grievances, but the honorable senator is using a very unsatisfactory argument to establish his case.
– I am quite sure that I shall not establish a case to the satisfaction of the honorable senator. I can, however, establish a case satisfac-tory to. myself merely from the little pinpricks that affect the section of the community in which I am chiefly interested, and which I represent here, and that is the Labour section.
Let honorable senators imagine for a moment a War Precautions regulation in time of war preventing the publication by a Labour newspaper of the Sermon on the Mount. Perhaps Senator Pearce would say that the Sermon on the Mount ought not to be published in war time. He might ask me Why it should not be censored.
– No; what I would ask the honorable senator is, when and where did anybody do that?
– Within the last two months.
– I shall refuse to believe it until the honorable senator produces the proof.
– I expect that it was a very free translation of the Sermon on the Mount.
– It can hardly be used to justify a political revolution.
– I venture to say that if the principles of the Sermon on the Mount were put into practice it would amount to a political revolution. I am glad to have heard Senators Pearce and de Largie question my statement, and ask that proof of it should be produced. I suppose that if I produce proof they will admit it; and I can produce the proof. I will give the Minister for Defence particulars of the instance when this occurred. Ex-Senator Rae is conducting a little Labour newspaper, and he was so harassed and annoyed by the censor that he deliberately sat down and wrote out the Sermon on the Mount, and sent it on to the censor, and he exhibits it in his office to-day with the censor’s blue pencil run through it. I should not care to continue speaking until the proof which I am prepared to give is wired for and sent over here, but I will undertake to send for it.
– Hear, hear ! I want to see it I can tell the honorable senator that the censor who did that would not continue twenty-four hours in office. I cannot credit that any one would be so stupid.
– I know that the honorable senator cannot credit it, nor could any one else. But what I arc complaining of -is that these things can happen, and have happened, under the War Precautions regulations.
– It may have been a travesty on the Sermon on the Mount.
– lt was an actual copy of it, word for word. . ExSenator Rae knew that the censor would not recognise it.
– I am tempted’ to make an extended speech by the disbelief of Senators Pearce and de Largie, but I shall not do so. I accept the challenge of the Minister for Defence, and later I shall produce absolute proof of the statement I have made.
– Hear, hear! Before we rise at the end of the week.
– It may be that my wire may be censored, and that, under the War Precautions Act, letters returning the proof may be opened by the Post and Telegraph Department.
– No, they will not.
– That might “ happen, for it has happened already in the case of letters sent to an honorable member in another place. A number of his letters were put into one big, plain envelope, and sent up to the Commonwealth offices for delivery. When the honorable member asked an attendant who was responsible for this, the answer was that he did not know, but that a boy had delivered the envelope about 3 o’clock the previous day. The attendant was then asked to initial the envelope as the one he received, and he did so. That happened under the War Precautions Act.
– The matter was mentioned to me by Mr. Catts, the honorable member to whom I refer. He gave me the information as to the way in which his letters were interfered with, and he said that they were sent in a big envelope to the Commonwealth offices, and when he asked the attendant who did this, and why his letters -were opened, the answer was that they were delivered in the envelope, and the attendant initialed it as the envelope which was delivered to him.
– That does not prove that itwas done by the censor.
– The sending of wires on political matters is censored.
– No, not on political
– The Minister for Defence adopts the attitude that he would not do these things ; but will he believe me when I tell him that I sent a wire to my wife -
Russell Higgs, and Gardiner resigned from Ministry owing to Hughes issuing regulation to question voters in polling booths. and that that wire was censored after I resigned office.
– I have heard the honorable senator say so.
– The honorable senator will not believe it?
– I do not know whether it is true or not. I heard the honorable senator say so I was not here at the time.
– Will the Minister believe that the censor would censor a telegram of that kind?
-Only if it had any bearing on the instructions he had received in regard to the war.
– I am here stating a fact. ‘Speaking from memory of an incident that occurred two years ago, I say that the first act I performed after resigning from the Hughes Ministry was to walk down to the telegraph office and write out and send the telegram I have already quoted. I sent that wire to my wife, and it was censored.
– The honorable senator means that it was delayed.
– It was delayed by the action of the censor. It was interfered with by the telegraph officials; who stopped that wire going through. The Minister will not challenge the truth of my statement; but he says that he was not’ here at the time. I know that he was not. I am not accusing the honorable senator, or any one else in particular, of doing this; but I say that it is an illustration of the kind of thing that can be done under the regulations of the War Precautions Act, and I, therefore, ask why we should extend the operation of that Act when the necessity for it has gone?
– The censorship of telegrams has gone.
– Have the Government repealed that regulation ? Has that censorship gone by the repeal of the regulation ?
– By the withdrawal of instructions.
– Exactly; and if there were exciting times again, the instructions could be re-issued. I am not. dealing with imaginary cases, but I am showing why the opportunity to do these things should not be continued.
– By the way, the honorable senator should know that that particular censorship was carried out, not under the War Precautions Act, but under the Defence Act. That power of censorship is given under the Defence Act.
– Is the Minister quite sure of that?
– Yes; in time of war.
– That destroys the honorable senator’s argument.
– Not at all.I shall find out whether that kind of thing can be done under the Defence Act. I shall send a telegram, and I challenge the Minister of Defence to stop it, under the Defence Act, and take the consequences of doing so. The honorable senator must remember that the message to which I have referred had no bearing whatever upon the war.
We have an important wheat industry in this country, and the War Precautions regulations are interfering to prevent the farmer dealing with his wheat in the way in which he would like to deal with it.
– Would he like a free market ?
– I doubt it.
– State Acts deal with that matter, and not the War Precautions Act.
– I have no doubt that Senator Russell thinks he knows all about it - that this interference is not under the War Precautions Act - but I ask him under what Act the Government control the shipping for the carriage of our wheat to the other side of the world. If I had 100,000 bushels of wheat, which I wished to send to London, would not the shipping in which it would be taken away be controlled under the War Precautions Act?
– The shipping is controlled under the War Precautions Act, but not the wheat.
– I make the statement that a farmer in Australia growing wheat, and desiring to sell it in a foreign market, is interfered with by regulations under the War Precautions Act, and I say that the time has come when that should cease. I can quite understand the Government, with- their interest in the Wheat Pool, taking this action. I was a member of the Government who originated, organized, and brought into existence the Wheat Pool, and it is one of the things which stand to the credit of the Labour Government. Some time ago I asked the following questions about wheat : -
I received the following answers : -
I asked another series of questions in these terms the following week: -
What was the cost of carrying wheat from Australia to Great Britain -
In 1914, by privately-owned vessels?
In 1916, by privately-owned vessels?
In 1917, by Commonwealth vessels?
In 1918, by Commonwealth vessels?
To these questions I received the following answers: -
What does this mean if it is not an interference with the farmer in getting his wheat to the markets of the world? He has to pay the Commonwealth Government for carrying his wheat in their ships 150s. a ton, when in pre-war days it would be carried for from 19s. 6d. to 32s. 6d. per ton.
Let us examine the present position. The action of the Government in tying the farmer up compels him, with his arrangement with the States, to pool his wheat. Then in carrying his wheat to the market on Commonwealth ships the Government increase the freight charges to him from 6½d. and 10½d. per bushel, which were the rates before the war began, up to more than 4s. per bushel, which was the rate until the Gazette notice lowered the price a few days ago.
– Even then it was carried at 50 per cent. less than the world’s rates.
– My argument is that, although there has been no material increase in the cost of using our ships during the war, the farmers under this iniquitous War Precautions regulation were called upon to pay, instead of 6d. and1s. per bushel, over 4s. per bushel, and the Government intend to continue that regulation. In answer to Senator Russell’s interjection about the rates, let me give him the following information, which he will recognise as one of his own answers to my questions: The total earnings of the Commonwealth ships in carrying 190,751 tons of wheat, and 23,551 tons of flour to the Continent of Europe, the United States of America, and the United Kingdom were £1,351,568 10s. If the highest pre-war rate was 30s. per ton, and the Commonwealth Government are carrying the wheat at £7 10s. per ton, we can well put down the profit at £5 per ton. ‘ In two years the Government practically paid for their fleet out. of the earnings of the farmers.
– I challenge that statement, not as coming from you, but the general statement that the ships have made so much profit.
– What called my attention to this was a statement in the press that Mr. Hughes had said that, in eighteen months from the Commonwealth taking the ships over, they had paid for themselves, and there was a surplus of ?15,000.
– That statement is not correct on the figures given in this Chamber.
– Then let us take the figures given in this Chamber. Seeing that the pre-war prices for freight were from 19s. 6d. to 30s. per ton, as stated by Senator Russell, and the charge has been ?7 10s. per ton, the Government should surely have got a profit of ?5 per ton out of the wheat and flour they carried.
– What about the price of coal?
– The Minister cannot pretend that there has been any great increase there.
– I do. The prices of coal, labour, and other shipping charges have gone up enormously.
– I know the charges have gone up, but it is altogether beside the point to say they have gone up enormously. I am not making a cheese-paring comparison in which all those charges are not allowed for. If I grant, for the sake of argument, that the charges have gone as high as ?3 per ton, the Government would still show a profit of ?4 10s. per ton on a freight charge of ?7 10s. per ton. Under the War Precautions Act, and by means of the arrangement with the States, the farmer is compelled to put his wheat into the Pool, and then the Government fleece him through their shipping charges. I am responsible, also, for the shipping arrangement, but I was not responsible for such exorbitant charges as those, and I refuse to take any responsibility for them. Compare the prices of wheat in Great Britain. The following information is taken from the Hansard of the British House of Commons: -
Mr. Outhwaite on 15th March stated British farmers were guaranteed 64s. to 80s. per quarter.
Mr. Outhwaite on the 28th March asked a question regarding the freight of wheat to Australia. The reply given by the Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Shipping Control was as follows: ; “… Liners are paid 70s. per ton, which is calculated to be equivalent to blue-book rates. This may be taken to be, roughly, a rateof1s. 10?d. per bushel.
Mr. Outhwaite on 30th April stated British Government acquired wheat from Australian farmers at 39s. 9d. per quarter, with freightage at 15s. per quarter. . . . British farmers sell from 78s. per quarter.
Mr. Lough on 24th July stated Australian wheat was bought at 32s. and 38s. a quarter, and understood freight was 13s. quarter (1s. 8d. bushel).
Mr. Runciman on 24th July stated ; “ I observe from newspaper reports that wheat can be purchased in the United States at about 10s. per bushel, or 80s. a quarter. . . .” “ . . We were bound, therefore, to make very large purchases in Australia for our own security in regard to our food supplies, and we did that on generous terms to the Australian Government and the Australian farmers, and both got something out of it. Certainly the Australian Government got something out of it, and they were entitled to do so. . . . “
We are not, as a Government, entitled to get out of the farmer more than a fair percentage of profit. 8th February, 1917.
Mr. Prothero. . . . We have made in times past an appeal, for instance, to India, to Australia, and, indeed, to Canada, to send us their wheat at a lower price than they would get in the world’s market, because we are their own kith and kin, and they have done so. Last year, I believe, an approach was made to Canada. It was made too late, and they did not come into the proposal; but two very prominent Canadian farmers told me this - They said, “We should object to taking less than the market price so long as the British farmer sticks to his price and takes all the war profits which he can get.” 16th March, 1917.
Mr. Outhwaite. ; . . I have seen it stated that Australian farmers last year got about 4s. a bushel, or 32s. a quarter, for their wheat, and I am interested to know why the Australian farmers are getting 32s. a quarter, while the British farmers have been guaranteed from 64s. to 80s. a quarter? I want to get the price that is being paid to the Australian farmer, in order to compare it with what the British farmer is extorting. . . . 28th March, 1917.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Shipping Control (Sir Leo Chiozza Money), in reply to a question asked by Mr. Outhwaite re the freight charged on a bushel of wheat from Australia at Blue-Book rates, stated - “My right honorable friend asked me to answer this question. An exact equivalent cannot be stated; but the liners are paid at the rate of 70s. per ton, which is calculated to be equivalent to Blue-Book rates. This may be taken to be, roughly, a rate of1s. 10?d. per bushel.”
Mr. Outhwaite.;Can the honorable gentleman state the rate at which wheat is now being imported from Australia?
Sir L. Chiozza Money. ; Yes; ls. 10id. per bushel is the figure for which my honorable friend asks.
Mr. Outhwaite. Is wheat being imported at the rate which has been given?
Sir L. Chiozza Money. The answer is in the affirmative. That “is the rate. 26th April, 1917.
Mr. Outhwaite asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether his attention had been drawn to the fact that, through having control of shipping, the Government has been able to compel Australian farmers to accept 39s. per quarter for the wheat purchased from them, on .which freight charge to England is 15s. per quarter; and can he say why, under these circumstances, the Government has not compelled British, farmers to sell wheat at less than the maximum price, which has been fixed at 78s. per quarter?
Captain Bathurst. - The figures given in the question are inaccurate. I may add that there is no relation between the price agreed to be paid for Australian wheat under a contract made several months ago and the price at which farmers are now compelled to sell homegrown wheat. 30th April, 1917.
Mr. Outhwaite asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether, in view of the fact that the Government has acquired wheat from Australian farmers at 39s. 9d. a quarter, with freightage to this country of 15s. a quarter, he will take immediate steps to reduce the maximum price at which British farmers may sell wheat from 78s. a quarter to some figure more closely approximating to the cost of Australian wheat landed here?
Captain Bathurst. - I have nothing to add to. the answer given to the honorable member on Thursday last (26th April, 1917).
Mr. Outhwaite. Is the honorable gentleman aware that he did not answer this question on Thursday at all? He said the figures were incorrect. Is he aware that the first figure is got from the statement made by the president of the Victorian Farmers Union, dealing with prices given in Australia, and the other figure is given from the front bench?
Captain Bathurst. - I am informed by the Wheat Commission that the figure is incorrect; but it is immaterial whether it is correct or incorrect. Questions of this character are greatly to be deprecated, and render the negotiations for the purchase of wheat in other countries somewhat delicate and difficult.
Mr. Outhwaite. Is the honorable gentleman aware that his attention is drawn to the facts in this question for the purpose of showing that we are paying too high a price for British wheat, and has nothing to do with the price we pay abroad, and that we are allowing the British farmer to extort twice as much as we give the Australians?
Captain Bathurst. - May I take the opportunity of saying that there is nothing whatever to show that there is any disparity, considering the altered conditions, between the price paid for this wheat and British wheat. The contract is one which was made several months ago, when the conditions in the world generally were wholly different from what they are to-day. 16th July, 1917.
Mr. Lough asked the President of the Board of Trade whether quantities of wheat purchased by his Department are now lying in Australia, owing to the impossibility of obtaining freight? If so, what is the total quantity, when was it purchased, and what still remains to be shipped; whether this wheat is all paid for, and, if so, at what price; whether it is still in good condition, and if he anticipates it will be fit for human food when ultimately brought to this country?
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour (Mr. Bridgeman). - Purchases of 500,000 and 3,000,000 tons of Australian wheat were made on behalf of Great Britain, France, and Italy, under contracts dated 3rd October, 1916, and 4th December, 1916, at the prices of 32a. and 38s. respectively, free on board.
The whole of the 500,000 tons has been paid for and shipped. Of the 3,000,000 tons, part only has been shipped, and, under the terms of the contract, full payment is not yet due for the whole amount.
The wheat, is in good condition, and it is anticipated that it will be fit for human consumption on arrival in this country. . . . 24th July, 1917.
Mr. Lough. ; . . . I asked my honorable friend, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Shipping Control, whether he had not bought a great de”al of cheap wheat, and where it was lying, and he told me, “ Yes, we have bought 3,000,000 tons of it.” I said, “Where is it?” and he said, “In Australia.” . . . . . These vast quantities of wheat were bought at 32s. and 38s. a quarter, and I understand the freight was 13s., so that it could be landed here at 50s. a quarter. . . .
That was at. a time when British farmers were getting up to 80s. I say now to the .Government: The war is ended. Let us get back to normal conditions in trade as soon as ever we can. Let not the farmer be kept in a position in which, no matter how the price of his product rises in the world’s markets, he gets only those low returns for it. He has to pay increased rates for shoeing his horses, for the clothing he wears, for the food he consumes, and everything he uses; yet the British Government were selling his products at one-third less than they were paying to their own farmers. The Australian farmer did not complain much about the fact that the British farmer was getting 80s. and he was getting 40s. - a rough comparison which is rather against our farmers, because the highest they were paid was 38s. - but with that fact staring him in the face, he feels that he has paid enough.
The war is over ; but I am beginning to think that the huge indemnities which we expected to get from Germany are not coming our way, so it is time that our farmers were told that they are free to see if they can make better bargains for their products.
-But can they make better bargains?
– I want them to have liberty to do so, if they can.
– They have that liberty now.
– The Minister says the farmers are free now to take this course. Will he make an announcement in this Senate for the guidance of the farmers? Will he say that they are free to make the best arrangements they can for the disposal of their products?
– The Acting Prime Minister has said that, if they like, they can take it on.
– Take what on?
– Control of their wheat.
– I do not want to be misled in my argument by the Minister saying something when I am thinking quite the opposite. I have no doubt that the Government would be agreeable if the organized farmers did take control of the Wheat Pool; but I am asking the Government to give the individual farmers the right to dispose of their wheat - to obtain shipping and to send it to whatever market in the world they please.
– In what way would that help the farmers?
– In the same way that the Government helped them in war time.
– Would you allow the farmers to send wheat to Germany?
– The honorable senator knows that the conditions under which our farmers will be allowed to export wheat to Germany will be regulated by the termsof peace, and the way in which this Parliament deals with German trade after the war. As far as trading with Germany is concerned-
– You are asking for this freedom now.
– I can see the honorable senator is not anxious to indorse a Free Trade argument when he has an opportunity.
– But I am asking if you are prepared to allow our wheat to be sold to Germany.
– I am not afraid of any catchy question of that nature As far as trading with Germany is concerned, I say that, the war being over, and starvation conditions, perhaps, being experienced in Germany, I can see no good reason why our wheat and our flour should not be sent to the German market. I know, of course, that my Christian friend holds different views on this subject.
– I do on that.
– I say that, as far as the world’s markets and trading with our late enemy are concerned, these matters will all be regulated by Parliament.
– At present wheat could not get through the blockade, anyway.
– The honorable senator is quite Tight; but the question introduced by Senator Thomas is just one of. those that might be expected from him.
Let us consider the business aspect of’ the position. The farmer, who toils to produce his wheat, should surely have the world’s markets open to him when war conditions have passed away. I venture to say that, if this course were adopted, it wouldrelieve the Wheat Pool of a huge volume of produce that, at the present time, constitutes a grave difficulty, and it would not injure the Wheat Pool to any extent at all.
– It would only bankrupt it; that is all.
– The Minister says it would bankrupt the Wheat Pool, the assumption, of course, being that they are going to make all the profits out of the future wheat. If the Wheat Pool has been conducted on sound lines - and I am not a critic of the Pool - the position should not be endangered in any way. I was discussing this question with a keen business man some time ago, and reference was made to the loss of wheat by weevil, mice, and bad handling. In reply he said, ‘ ‘ That may be good political stuff, but you can take it from me that the farmers have been fleeced a great deal more by us fellows than by mice or weevil.” That was the candid expression of one who knew what he was talking about. I want our farmers to be able to seek the best market available to them. Very little wheat will go to the private buyer except, perhaps, to those private firms which may have shipping available, and thus be in a position to compete with the Wheat Pool in regard to rates. But, speaking generally, the private buyer would not be content with less out of the deal than the Pool is making, and if farmers were given freedom of action it would probably be found that the Wheat Pool, which is irksome now because it is forced upon them, might then be less irksome.
I question whether, from a business point of view, these regulations were wise in time of war. I am certain they are not wise in times of peace. Let us get back immediately to pre-war conditions. When peace is signed business men should be in the position to arrange their plans free from restrictions in regard to future trade. If this Parliament met immediately after the beginning of the New Year, or continued this session with a short adjournment over Christmas, and devoted itself exclusively to the consideration of these problems, it would be engaged upon the best work it could put its hand to - provided, of course, the Government have their schemes ready. If, however, the Government schemes are not ready, the position may be different. I do not want Parliament to get ill-digested schemes for consideration. I ask the Minister not to proceed with this Bill. He referred to the dangers to be anticipated with regard to the moratorium provisions ; but I ask him to call the State Parliaments together, and induce them, in their respective spheres, to pass legislation to meet this danger. If he will not do that, then I ask him to call this Parliament together in order that the several problems may be definitely settled. With the experience of the last four years the citizens of the Commonwealth are agreed as to the necessity for certain powers being invested in the Commonwealth Parliament. To secure an amendment of the Constitution would only take from four to five months, and this Parliament would then have all the powers of a free Parliament. Let this course be adopted instead of amending the War. Precautions Act, and instead of contending with the States as to whether this or that authority can legally be exercised by the Commonwealth.
– I thought it was the exercise of those powers, under the War Precautions Act, that the honorable senator was complaining about.
– The honorable senator is always interjecting something that is nearly the same as what I am talking about. 1 have been speaking of the misuse of the powers of the War Precautions Act. But I realize that, situated as Australia is, it is necessary for us to have certain powers, which at present are not vested in this Parliament.
– And which the States have refused to grant to this Parliament.
– That is so. But the suggestion I make is a simple one. It should be possible to put through both Houses of Parliament an amending measure giving to the Commonwealth Parliament the same powers as. are exercised by the British Parliament. Several months ago I put on the business-paper a notice of motion affirming the desirableness of the Commonwealth Parliament having power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth. If that were passed in both Houses and submitted to the people we would be doing better work than we are doing at the present time. It could be submitted to the people in about three months’ time - just about when peace would be signed - and then this Parliament would commence an era of legislation unchallenged in any of the Courts of Australia, and unchallenged by any State Parliament, because then we would be exercising the same powers as are enjoyed by the British Parliament.
– These regulations give us that power.
– They do nothing of the kind. Every observant man will agree that when the war is over we shall need all the powers which I have indicated, in order to deal with huge undertakings, including repatriation, that will require urgent attention by this Parliament. By adopting the course I suggest, the whole responsibility would then rest, not on the Ministry, but on Parliament itself.
I regret very much that the Government are persisting, in peace time, with a measure that restricts the liberty of the Australian people in this way; but I am not going to- attempt to prevent the Government from giving effect to their Bill. It is their Bill, and they are responsible for it. They must take the responsibility of continuing this war system when peace has arrived. The Minister will realize that I have left out of my argument all reference to those annoying regulations that affect, particularly, the people I represent - the Labour section of the community. The Minister has deliberately used these powers - I am holding him responsible for all his officers - to harass, annoy, and degrade the Labour organizations of Australia in a way that has made thoughtful and serious men among them - men who are lovers of good order and peace - think that, perhaps, some other system must be tried to get decent consideration at the hands of Parliament and the Government. The sooner these restrictions are removed the better it will be for the future of Australia. Trade at present is being interfered with on every hand. There is scarcely a business that has not been harassed by these regulations. There is no organization that has not been harassed by them; and I repeat that the sooner these annoying and useless restrictions are removed the better it will be for Australia.
– I suppose no measure has created so much dissatisfaction in. the community as the War Precautions Act, and no Bill has ever been such a surprise to the business community as the one now under discussion. No Act has been so keenly resented in many respects, and no Act has been . so patiently borne. When we go to the genesis of this legislation, we can all reasonably assume that such powers were wanted during a time of stress, and when the Commonwealth was in danger. I believe that when the last Parliament passed this Act there was a general expression of opinion that the powers were necessary, and that it was right, just, and proper that the safety of the Commonwealth should be looked to. But I submit that the Act itself, asagreed to unanimously by Parliament, did not even suggest to those who supported it, the marvellous and unparalleled development which has since taken place in regard to governmental activities. So far as I can see, the Act generally alluded to “ persons prejudicing the success of His Majesty’s Forces in Australia, preventing the transmission abroad of letters which would be dangerous to the Commonwealth, and securing the safety of His Majesty’s ships and Forces.”’ It aimed at preventing the spread of false reports, and conferred on the Minister certain authority in regard to the military. It alluded to the navigation of vessels, and was generally designed to prevent assistance being given to our enemies in connexion with the war.
Only one or .two little sections in it refer to the great developments which have since occurred in regard to the way in which the Act has operated on the commercial community. It does seem to me that when approval was unanimously given to the measure by the last Parliament, no member of that Parliament, and very few, if any, of the Ministers of the day, imagined that, after four years of war, a position would be brought about such as exists to-day. When the German menace was hurled at civilization, it was quite right that we should sink all minor differences in an effort to win the war. That was our first consideration. Not only Australia, but other countries, had to enact restrictive legislation- in that connexion. France had to enact very restrictive legislation, and so had America; whilst in England, the Defence of the Realm Act, commonly called “ Dora,” has operated, to some extent, along similar lines to those laid down in our own- War Precautions Act. Under all of these Statutes, this, .that, and the other generally are forbidden; but in the case of Australia, they are not forbidden bv law, but by 400 odd regulations which have been framed, principally on the advice tendered by officials to Ministers, and “which have been approved and gazetted. Under our War Precautions Act, during the past four years, we have gradually suffered a diminution of our liberties. Before the war, this country was probably the freest in the world, and perhaps there is no Act on cnr statute-book which has caused so much dissatisfaction as has that of which I am now complaining.
– The people would have been hurt very much more if there had been no such Act.
– It is’ a farreaching Act. I admit that it was a measure which was necessary under war conditions. It was essential that the Commonwealth should have supreme control in time of war. But the point which we have now to consider is whether or not the whole- of the provisions of the Act shall continue to operate after the war has terminated, practically at the sweet will of the Ministry.
The Bill has reached us from another place in a slightly changed form. The first intention of the Government was to ask Parliament to continue the whole of the provisions of the Act for six months after peace has been declared. That proposal has been amended elsewhere, and the Bill now before us provides that the Act shall continue iri force three months after peace is proclaimed, or until the 31st July next, whichever may be the longer period. That is an improvement in the right direction; but I wish to say, frankly, that I shall be acting in accordance with the wishes of a great majority of my constituents if I vote against any extension of the measure whatever. The obligation is on the Ministry to tell us definitely what powers they wish to be continued, and what powers they are willing to surrender in the not distant future; but no such information has been vouchsafed by the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce). He adduced certain arguments as to why the operation of the Bill should be extended; but those’ arguments did not convince me that the Government should continue to possess the great reserve powers which are conferred by this Act for a single day after peace has been proclaimed. What are those powers? We talk very freely about them., and there was a good deal of discussion in another Chamber in regard to them. I have gone to considerable trouble in an endeavour to dissect these powers in order that we may accurately know what they really are.
I have here three volumes of regulations and orders which have been issued since the outbreak of the war by the various Governments of the day, under their war powers and under the War Precautions Act. The regulations framed under that measure provide for the appointment of “ a competent naval or military authority” to exercise -certain powers. But at this stage I should like to place upon record the regulations which, in my opinion, it is necessary to continue in operation, and those which, in the near future, should be abolished. One regulation provides that “ persons may be removed from the vicinity of military camps, forts, hospitals, or posts, if their presence is prejudicial to the maintenance of the discipline, or of the health, training, or administration of troops.” Such a regulation may, I think, be reasonably continued. We know that demobilization will be going forward for some considerable time, and I would not like the Minister for Defence, whoever he may be, to be robbed of control over the welfare of our troops on their arrival here and prior to their demobilization. Another regulation which should be continued in operation is that which relates to the unlawful possession of official documents. Clearly, too, the conveyance of letters to or from interned persons without the authority of the officer commanding the place of internment, should he prohibited. I am also sympathetic with the continuance of the regulation which prevents the introduction of intoxicating liquors into camps, forts, hospitals, or military posts. It is equally clear that there should be no authorization of the use of naval or military uniforms, and that the sale of those uniforms or parts of uniforms, without permission, should be prohibited. It is fair to allow the Government some power to prevent the making of untrue statements in applications for separation allowances. Probably that power may be taken by the Minister for Repatriation in the regulations which govern his Department. I think, too, that no man should falsely represent himself to be a returned soldier or sailor. Such an act may reasonably be made an offence. The forging of official documents and the personating of persons to whom those documents have been issued, should be an offence. Then, there is a regulation under our War Precautions Act which makes incapable of assignment, the right of any relative or dependant of a soldier to receive allotments of his pay or separation allowance. It seems to me that this matter might also be dealt with by a regulation through the Repatriation Department. Another regulation prohibits the payment of moneys to persons interned on the warrant of the Minister, except with the permission of the Minister, or of the secretary or acting secretary of the Defence Department. The alien restriction order of 1915, made under the authority of the War Precautions Act, contains restrictions upon aliens entering and leaving the Commonwealth, and upon alien enemies resident in the Commonwealth. I am quite in accord with the suggestion that there should be considerablereserve powers, even after the war is over, in connexion with the treatment of aliens in this country. Another order deals with the registration of aliens; and still another, which might well be continued, relates to the Active Service Moratorium, which provides for the postponement until six months after the war of the payment of any principal moneys under mortgage, but not of interest, by the members of our Forces. I do not agree with the extension of the moratorium regulation which touches the civilian portion of the community, but only with that which deals with our soldiers. Another regulation, to the continuance of which I have no objection, is that which restricts the acquisition of land by persons who are not natural-born British subjects. There is also another regulation, in connexion with land transfer, which restrictsthe transfer of land to persons of enemy descent. I am in accord. with the view that, if necessary, there should be some reserve of power after the war is over in relation to the matters which I have mentioned. I am not sure whether the regulations dealing with the power given to prohibit meetings of associations of persons of enemy origin ought not to be continued for some time. Then there is another regulation which has my sympathy, making it an offence to advocate disloyalty or hostility to the British Empire. There is also a regulation against the spreading of falsereports likely to cause disaffection. That, perhaps, is open to a good deal of abuse. Still, some power might well be given to the Government, if it were properly safeguarded in connexion with public and personal liberty. A further regulation makes the falsifying of reports an offence.
There are very important regulations having to do with wool - regulations which give power to regulate the purchase or the sale of wool. No honorable senator will say that a continuance of certain wool regulations is not necessary in connexion with the sale of the clip which we have made for at least eighteen months ahead. There is still another regulation which creates the Butter Pool ; and some regulation is necessary, after the war is over, to continue that Pool in relation to the dairying industry.
Now, although I have mentioned some regulations which, in my opinion, it is necessary to continue after the war to a greater or less extent, I have before me very many which operate against the commercial and trading community, and which are not necessary.
– How would the honorable senator continue those which he says are necessary?
– By straight-out and definite legislation, which should come before this Parliament in the ordinary manner.
– There is no power to so legislate.
– I am totally opposed to being required to attend this Parliament as a representative of New
South Wales,, to be an automaton, and to be asked to say “ Yes “ to everything under the War Precautions Act. I am not a constitutional lawyer. The Minister has told us that the Government have four or five of the most eminent constitutional lawyers, who are going through all these matters and tendering advice. I am trying to deal with the subject from the commercial stand-point, and to get down to the bones of the matter, indicating as a business man what is and what is not, in my opinion, required.
– The honorable senator said he would destroy the law under which we make these regulations.
– It -is obligatory for the Government .to go through the regulations,, and to let the Act expire by effluxion of time. And, before that comes # about the Government should tell this Parliament definitely what they desire and What they do not want.
I would like now to deal, from the lousiness stand-point, apart from the constitutional aspect, with the many regulations which, in my view, are not now necessary. I do not think it necessary to reserve any power in the matter of obtaining and communicating naval or military information without the permission of the Government after the war is over. No regulation is required with regard to communications with spies.
– That will not be continued after the war is over. Honorable senators have already been told that.
– la it proposed, after the war, to continue the regulation with respect to postal articles intended for enemy countries having to bear an indorsement that they are so intended? The Minister does not know.
– I tell the honorable senator that we are inquiring into these matters as fast as we can, and that if any of these powers can be dropped the regulations will be done away with immediately after the war is over.
– I may say that I have taken my duties in connexion with this Act somewhat seriously, and I have had the time to set down what, I think, is, and is not, necessary to be continued. I propose to go through a number of the regulations, and to ask why they are wanted now, or must be continued after the war. We are anticipating that period when the original Act will have expired by effluxion of time, and when peace will . have been proclaimed with the enemies mentioned in the original measure - namely, the Emperor of. Germany and the Emperor of Austria. These former monarchs are already fugitives. As monarchs, they do not exist. “We may reasonably assume, therefore, that the war is over, so far as any further naval or military danger to the Empire is concern
– Then why are the armies of occupation still in the field?
– To enforce the peace terms which are to be placed upon Germany and her Allies, and not to defend the safety of the British Empire or of Australia. Those armies are there to carry to a logical and complete conclusion the determination of the Allies to destroy for all time Prussian militarism.
There is a regulation prohibiting the photographing of naval or military works without permission. I take it that that will go, since there will be no need for its retention. There is another respecting the possession of wireless telegraphic apparatus without permission of the Minister for the Navy; and one also to the effect that the possession of ciphers, codes, or of other means of secretly communicating naval or military information is prohibited unless intended and used solely .for commercial or other legitimate purposes. I do not see very much objection to those; but I do not think that the embarkation of passengers suspected of communicating with the enemy need be prohibited after peace has been proclaimed, seeing that we shall have no technical enemies then. There is another regulation which reads to the effect that trespassing on or loitering in the vicinity of’ tunnels, viaducts, or culverts, and injuring or being upon railways, or on, under, or near railway works with intent to injure them, is prohibited. I do not suppose it will be ‘ necessary to continue that regulation. Another regulation prohibits vessels from entering dangerous areas. Still another states that any person who, by act or default, endangers the safety of any vessel, is guilty of an offence. Then there is another that no person may use, without permission of the Minister, badges intended to indicate that the wearer is a person rejected for active service. That is not unreasonable, of course. There will be no further necessity for any regulation which prohibits assistance being given to the escape of prisoners of war, seeing that there will be no prisoners of war. It will be no longer necessary to so strictly carry out the passport regulations. Perhaps it will be necessary to continue to make guilty of an offence persons in possession of false passports, or letters of safe conduct, and alien enemies passing under assumed names. I am quite willing to give the Government ample powers in connexion with the treatment of aliens; but the Government do not know what powers are necessary at present, in view of the fact that the whole question of alien enemies is still “in the melting pot. There is another regulation which reads that attempting to commit an offence, aiding or abetting an offence, or harboring any person who has committed an offence, is forbidden. Surely, in connexion with civilian offences - and there can only be civilian offences after peace has been proclaimed - the power and authority of the State police should be sufficient to protect the liberty and peace of the community. Another regulation prohibits the embarkation of suspected persons. According to regulation 59a, the burden of proof of lawful authority for any act, which, if done without such authority is an offence, is placed upon the accused. A regulation such as that is not in consonance with our ideals of Brinish justice. It practically says, ‘ You are guilty until you have been proved innocent.” I ask the Minister (Senator Pearce) whether he proposes, if the Bill is carried in the form in which it now appears, to continue such a regulation. Another regulation sets out that provision is made for the proof in legal proceedings of orders or instruments issued by competent authorities under the regulations, or printing or publication, or authorship of printed matter, and of cer tain formal matters. The powers conferred by the regulations are, under regulation 60, to be in addition to, and not in derogation of, any other powers exercisable for securing the public safety and the defence of the Commonwealth. Provision is made for giving notices pursuant to the regulations. Regulation 62 states that persons claiming to act under any permit granted under the regulations are required to produce such permit when directed. I am referring now to some of those regulations which I consider will be superfluous in the near future; and I draw attention to the scores and scores of regulations which, by thick-headed officialdom, can be made instruments of irritation to the community. Another regulation sets forth that the Naval Board and the Military Board are authorized to appoint competent authorities to carry but the regulations. There is no objection to that, provided the regulations are not too many. Regulation 63a provides that competent authorities and senior officers of police are authorized to extend to any natural -born subject, whose father or whose father’s father was a subject of a Sovereign” or State at war with His Majesty, all or -any of the restrictions’ imposed on aliens or on alien enemies by any order made under the Act I have already said that I think some of the regulations in connexion with aliens are necessary. In order to save the time of the Senate, and that I may not strain too much the patience of my honorable friends, instead of going through the three volumes of these regulations which are on the table,. I shall try to put a few before the Senate in a concise form, so that honorable senators may know what they are doing when they are asked to vote for the extension of the War Precautions Act. Regulation 64 reads -
Any person born in the British Dominions who, by birth, ‘became by the law of any State which is at war with the King a subject of that State, whether he remains a subject of that State or not, shall be subject to the same restrictions with respect to departure- from Australia as are imposed on naturalized persons by. any order made under the Act.
There seems to be very much objection to that, for “surely a regulation is not now wanted to prohibit any naturalized British subject going outside the Commonwealth after the war is over.
There is another regulation which may, or may not, be wanted after the war is over, and that is the regulation which restricts the holding of shares in companies by (persons of enemy descent.
I have here a long list of other regulations which, in my opinion, might very well be repealed. Briefly, they refer to many of the activities of the civilians of the Commonwealth, and are responsible very directly for a great amount of the dissatisfaction that exists now in connexion with Commonwealth control under the Act. One regulation reads to the effect that competent authorities are given the right of access to any land or building. Under another, any land may be used for the training of forces. Under other regulations, roads may be stopped up ; the removal of vehicles, boats, vessels, or craft, animals, foodstuffs, equipment, and warlike stores from any area may be ordered ; a census may be takenof all goods, animals, and other commodities; premises licensed for the sale of intoxicating liquor may be closed; the extinguishment or obscurity of light in any area, if necessary for naval or military area may be ordered; inhabitants may be ordered to remove from any area, if necessary for. naval or military reasons; inhabitants may be required to keep indoors; suspects may be removed from specified areas; entrance to British ships alongside harbors or alongside wharfs, without permission, is forbidden; entrance to enclosed wharfs, without permission, is forbidden. I should like to know whether the Minister for Defence can indicate why, in the opinion of the Government, it is necessary even now to continue the operation of the bulk of these regulations. Under other regulations it is provided that members of the Forces may be prohibited from entering any premises specified in an order of a competent authority; power is given to return certain persons to New Zealand ; to search persons and goods at ships and wharfs; harbor authorities may be required to prepare schemes for the destruction of harbor works; tampering with telegraphic apparatus is prohibited; telephonic conversations in any but the English language are prohibited; the possession of carrier pigeons in any area prescribed by order is prohibited : instruction in wireless telegraphy is restricted to natural-born British subjects.
– I rise to a point of order. For the last twenty minutes the honorable senator has proceeded by practically reading the regulations one after another. 1 may be allowed to direct attention to the fact that when an honorable senator rises to a point of order, the honorable senator to whose remarks he takes exception is required to resume his seat. SenatorPratten has been quoting the War Precautions regulations practically continuously, except that now and again he interpolates the following sentence : -
I should like the Minister to say whether be proposes to continue this regulation.
I understand that there is a standing order which prevents tedious repetition. I submit that reading the regulations, with the occasional interpolation of one sentence, cannot be designated as a speech.
– T - This is the first time I have ever heard such a point of order raised. We are at the secondreading stage of a Bill, and the Minister for Defence takes exception to the method of procedure adopted by Senator Pratten, not because he contends that the honorable senator is reading his speech-
– That was one of the objections.
– T - The Minister for Defence did not say so. He complained that Senator Pratten has been reading the regulations. I take it that the object of the honorable senator’s speech is to show that it is not in the interests of the country that the War Precautions Act, under which these regulations have been issued, should be continued. There could be nothing more in consonance with the letter and spirit of our Standing Orders than to quote the regulations to show that, in the opinion of the speaker, to continue their operation would be prejudicial to the interests of the country. The Minister for Defence must have very hurriedly decided to raise the point of order which he hasraised.
– May I speak?
– The honorable senator may speak to the point of order, but it rests with the Chair to decide whether honorable senators shall be heard on a point of order.
– I am both grieved and disappointed that the Minister for Defence should have taken this point of order with the object of preventing me referring to the regulations that are current under the War Precautions Act. Some little time ago, I said I had gone to the trouble of collecting a number of the regulations and having them set out in a concise form in order to save the time of the Senate. . If I am prevented from referring to the regulations in this way, I shall claim the privilege of reading them word for word as they appear in the Emergency Legislation issued under the authority of the Government.
– The Minister for Defence has raised a point of order.
– Is he not obliged to state his point of order in writing?
– No; that is not necessary. It is only a disagreement with a ruling of the Chair that requires to be set out in writing. The Minister for Defence has raised the point of order that, in effect, Senator Pratten is guilty of tedious repetition by reading merely the gist of a number of regulations, and interpolating the query as to whether the Minister proposes to continue those regulations if the operation of the Act is extended. I may point out that Senator Pratten, when inviting the Minister to express an opinion by way of interjection, was himself disorderly, because all interjections are disorderly, and they should not be invited. I am not prepared to rule the honorable senator out of order if he does not repeat the same argument over and over again. I should have to ask him to discontinue his speech if he did that. I rule that he is in order iri reading the gist of the regulations, provided that he uses his references to them as a specific argument why the operation of the War Precautions Act should or should not be continued.
– The next regulation issued under the Act to which I wish to refer prohibits the transmission of letters to or from ‘ the Commonwealth otherwise than through the post. In my opinion, it is unnecessary and unreasonable to make criminals or breakers of the law of people who carry private letters overseas, as was done before the war. Another regulation states that printed matter, without the permission of the censor, must not be exported. I do not think that a regulation of that sort is necessary now that the war is over. The censorship of such matter, which, I take it, refers to newspapers and printed matter generally, is not now necessary. Another regulation states that persons carrying on the business of receiving, for reward, letters or packets for delivery to other persons, are required to register with the censor. I do not think that regulation will be required again on the declaration of peace. The use of searchlights, semaphores, or other apparatus for signalling, is prohibited. That will be an undue interference with the liberty of the subject when the war is over, and it will not be necessary to continue that regulation. By another regulation, notice is to be given of air flights. Presumably, if that regulation is continued, the Government will desire to keep control over air flights. I do not think that such a power should be given to the Government, in view of the great development we hope for in connexion with the navigation of the air commercially after the war is over. Another regulation briefly says that the display of fireworks or the lighting of fires in such a way as to serve as a guide, signal, or land-mark, is prohibited, t do not think that there is any -further necessity for the Commonwealth Government to assume this power, which is possessed by the State Governments. In this connexion, I saw in the newspapers only this morning that the Commonwealth Government have prohibited the lighting » of fireworks in connexion with the Peace celebrations. I do not believe that this National Parliament desires to interfere in connexion with these minor matters in regard to which sufficient powers for their regulation are already possessed by the State Governments.
– This is for the protection of shell-shocked soldiers.
– That may be so; but I take it that the State authorities could deal with that matter as efficiently and effectively as could the Commonwealth Government. There are many other regulations, extending from the prohibition of false reports to the closing of premises, prejudicial to public safety. But I need not weary the Senate by referring to them all. I can say that, in my own personal experience, I have seen some of these arbitrary powers used by the military while the war was going on in such a way that injustice was inflicted upon persons. I cannot, in this Chamber, as a representative of the State of New South Wales, by my vote, or in any other way, assist to continue the operation of some of the arbitrary powers which were given to military officials to exercise while the war was going on and the public safety was at stake.
Another regulation gives power to require newspapers to submit to the censor matters relating to the war before printing or publication. I shall not ask the Minister any other questions, because you have ruled, sir, that interjections are disorderly, and, therefore, any reply that the Minister might make would be considered disorderly. But I point out that no censorship is required in connexion with the publication of any matter by newspapers when peace is declared, as they are already reasonably well controlled by the law of libel and slander. Power is given to require writers of pamphlets to submit to the censor before publication any matter relating to recruiting. That, of course, should automatically go overboard, as recruiting has ceased. Alterations made by the censor in matters submitted to him are not to be shown in print without permission. If the censorship is continued after the wasis over, it would be a very good thing to print the alterations that the censor has made, so as to show the people exactly what has been done. This country during war time has been, to some extent, plagued by the censors, and I have heard very curious stories about their operations. I was told that a cable was received in Australia stating that “Ceretti had left New York.” This referred to Monsignor Ceretti, the Papal representative,’ and its publication was prohibited by the censor on the ground that “it was forbidden to publish the movements of ships.” Power is given for alteration by the censor of matters submitted. The submission of cinematograph films relating to the war may be required before they are exhibited. Power is given to destroy seized postal articles. Approaching military works, in respect of which orders prohibiting approach have been issued, is an offence. I object to any such power being given to the military authorities after the war is over, because even an innocent person can be made a culprit in that case, and probably persecuted by official authority.
The manufacture or sale of firearms, ammunition, or explosives within any specified area may be prohibited. The importation of firearms, ammunition, or explosives without permission is prohibited. Any person who, by the discharge of firearms or otherwise, endangers the safety of any member of the Forces is guilty of an offence. Any person who, without permission, is in possession of firearms in the vicinity of any railway, dock, harbor, &c, is guilty of an offence. These restrictions upon firearms do not appear to be very much; but with such regulations all sorts of harassing restrictions are imposed on the business community. Only the other day a Melbourne business man, in the hardware line, who sells arms and ammunition, told me that the work imposed upon his firm by the voluminous records that he has to keep in connexion with arms and ammunition, took the whole timeof an additional clerk or two. He thought, naturally, now that the war is practically over, peace is assured, and there is no further danger for Australia, that during the Christmas holiday season he need not keep, at any rate, records of the sales of sporting ammunition. Hie applied only last week to the recognised authorities. He was arbitrarily told that those records would have to be continued; and here he is, at a busy season, selling sporting ammunition, and compelled to keep detailed records, under this Act, of practically every cartridge he sells, for no reason that I can see but that some official wants to keep his job.
Restrictions are placed on the storage of inflammable liquids in any specified area. The State laws fully provide for that now. The possession of celluloid or’ cinematograph films in any prescribed area is prohibited. I can see no reason for the continuance of that regulation. Masters of vessels are required to comply with any directions given for navigation in harbors. Surely the Navy does not want to keep control over the merchant service when the war is over. The Naval Board may issue orders as to pilotage. That is unnecessary now. . Seamen0 on ships chartered by the Government who desert are judged to be guilty of an offence under the War Precautions Act. Surely there is power under our various Merchant Shipping Acts to deal with any cases of desertion of seamen that may occur after the war is over ? It is an offence to interfere with the discharge and loading of shipping. It is an offence to interfere with shearing operations. It is an offence to interfere with shipbuilding operations. Such powers as . these are altogether superfluous now that the war is over. If the Commonwealth Government insists on retaining these powers, it means an attempt to override the authority and laws of the States, and practically to- achieve Unification without a vote of the people.
The dyeing of military clothing is prohibited. The sale of phosphorus without permission is prohibited. Persons attempting to cause mutiny, sedition, or disaffection amongst the civilian population are guilty of an offence. Persons obstructing, misleading, interfering with, or withholding information from officers or persons carrying out the orders of the authorities, are guilty of an offence. I do not think powers such as these interfering with civilian rights are necessary now. Powers are given under the present Act to search premises and persons, and to seize articles found therein. Power is given to stop and search vehicles.- Power is given to require answers relating, to any matter affecting the public safety or the defence of the Commonwealth, or to require the production of documents, books, and papers, rela tive to any such matter. Powers are given to prevent the conveyance of letters into or out of the Commonwealth otherwise than through the post. Powers of arrest are given in connexion with these matters, and it does- not require a very lively imagination to conceive what may take place in the exercise of powers such as these by the officials to whom the control would be given. The power to search premises and persons, and to seize articles strikes at the very root of the liberty of the people of Australia, and I cannot be any ‘‘party to continuing those powers, as the Government now ask. Various other considerable powers are given to the Government. Male British subjects, for instance, between the ages of seventeen and forty-five years, are prohibited from leaving the Commonwealth unless in possession of a passport. The Minister is authorized to direct the detention in military custody of any natural-born British subject, one, at least, of whose parents was, or is, a subject of a State which is at war with the King. I do not think powers such as these should be given to the Commonwealth “Government after the war is over. It should not be within the power of the Government or of any official to restrict a male person born in Australia, one of whose parents was a British subject, from entering or leaving Australia after peace is declared. I, therefore, think the passport regulation should, and must, go overboard after the war is ended. Another regulation provides for the supervision of the distillation of coal tar, and forbids the use of crude coal tar except -with the permission of the Minister. Surely that is not required, nor, surely, is the regulation in connexion with coal battalions required.
I come now to a point that. was made something of by .Senator Gardiner, in connexion with a regulation that has caused probably more dissatisfaction in the business community than almost any other individual, one. I refer to the War Precautions regulation of 1916, dealing with companies, firms, and businesses. This regulation restricts the issue of new capital by companies and associations, prohibits the voluntary liquidation of companies without the consent of the Treasurer, and provides that the consent of the Treasurer must be obtained for the erection of buildings for amusement purposes. Since this regulation came into force, every person or association of persons that wanted in any way to transform their old businesses into limited liability companies, or to create a new one, has had to obtain the sanction of the Treasurer.
– And it was. very hard to get.
– It was extremely hard. I have heard complaint after complaint from my many friends regarding the administration of that regulation, which cannot be personally administered bv the Treasurer ‘ or the Secretary to the Treasury. Its administration must necessarily be placed in the hands of Government officials. I have known of cases where applications have been stuck up for many months. I have known of cases where certainly some hardship has been caused. I have known of cases of impertinent interference. A regulation such as this should be jettisoned as soon as possible, and the Ministry would be well advised not to continue it.
– The honorable senator is now discussing the regulations and not the Bill. He is entitled only to discuss the regulations, or the powers exercised under the Act, as reasons why the Act itself should or should not be extended! He is’ not entitled to discuss every regulation in detail as he is doing, and to point out that it should be repealed. The question before the Senate is whether the Bill should or should not be read a second time.
– On a point of order, I take it that this Bill purports to extend the existing War Precautions Act. That Act has under it a number of regulations, which are deemed to be part of the Act itself. Would not they come within the cognisance of any honorable senator who is discussing the proposal to extend them?
– I have already ruled that it is competent for the honorable senator to refer to the regulations, and to give any reasons based on those regulations to show why the Bill should not be passed, or why the Act should not be continued, because there is no doubt that they are relevant to the subjectmatter of the Bill; but I point out to the Senate that it is not competent for the honorable senator to appeal to the Minister and to the Senate for the repeal of this or that particular regulation. The question is whether the Bill shall be read a second time, or otherwise. ‘
– This Bill will extend those regulations.
– Of course, it will. The honorable senator can use it as an argument against the continuance of the regulations, but he is exceeding his legitimate privileges in discussing every regulation at length, and asking for its repeal. The repeal of the regulations is not the question before the Senate, but the continuance or otherwise of the War Precautions Act.
– Seeing that every regulation passed is-
– -Order I I have given my ruling, and it is not open to question except in the proper, orderly way.
– I thank you, Mr. President, for ruling that my general remarks are in order. L shall pass on shortly to further regulations, and deal with the matter from another angle. I do not consider it is necessary to continue the regulations dealing with glycerine, or with ‘ hides. I have had very many complaints in connexion with the latter regulation. In my opinion greater consideration should be given to the leather export trade. I do not think it is necessary, either, to have any regulations to deal with patents, or to have any inquiry in reference to applications for patents, the publication of which may be detrimental to the safety -of the Commonwealth.
Coming now to the War Precautions Act prices regulations, I want to say that .this is, I think, a very unexpected development of the operation of the Act. I am not going to say that the whole of these regulations are ultra vires, but I do say that if the Government wish to fix prices they should come along with legislation that can be discussed by this Parliament instead of dealing with the subject behind Parliament and under cover of the “War Precautions regulations. It is no longer ‘necessary to deal with rabbit or sheep skins in this way. The interference with the business in sheep skins has been most disastrous. The regulation controlling sport has gone overboard. It was the last to come and the first to go, and racing is no longer interfered with.
– Will it make the honorable senator happy to know that the tin plate regulation also went overboard to-day?
– I am glad to hear it. I am endeavouring to deal with this matter in detail from the commercial stand-point and in the kindliest spirit, and I appeal to the two Ministers present, who will have a voice in this matter in Cabinet deliberations. I know that Ministers are exceedingly busy with the multifarious matters connected with their several Departments, with the result that sometimes these subjects are referred to officials for report, and that these officials report to the Minister that this or that regulation cannot be abolished. But at the back of all this is the real fundamental reason that if they were abolished, some official would lose his job. If you do not want to do a thing, over 150 reasons can be produced to show why it should not be done; but, on the other hand, if you want to do a thing, you can produce adequate reasons to show why it should be done.
I can quite understand, as the Minister for Defence has said, that Ministers do not want these things hanging about their necks any longer than is necessary. I am placing the matter before the Senate in some detail in order that honorable senators may know exactly what the Bill means, and with the hope that within three months or so the now unnecessary half of these restrictions will be abolished and the other half ‘abolished when peace is declared. There is no longer any necessity for the regulations concerning galvanized iron, meat, for stocks of goods or the leather industry. Another list of unnecessary regulations includes restrictions in regard to foodstuffs, the requisitioning of goods for munitions, and the restric- tion of action in regard to certain matters without the consent of the AttorneyGeneral. Some control with respect to these undertakings may be necessary, but certainly it is not necessary to retain the regulation providing that no person may, without the consent of the AttorneyGeneral, bring any action against a State authority in consequence of the refusal or failure to supply any person with trucks for the conveyance of wheat. Surely the State legislative authority can provide for that. Power has also been given to refer disputes relating to the supply of coal to a Board ; and there is a regulation concerning the prohibition of unlawful assemblies in certain areas. It is an offence to resist an officer of Parliament while engaged in the discharge of his duties. There are many more regulations, largely of a similar nature, which I think are quite unnecessary. I have endeavoured to dissect the whole of these orders, to show just what the Bill really means.
In addition to the regulations that have been published in the official ‘book, I have before me some forty or fifty others that are among those issued this year, and which have not yet been put into book form. One is to the effect that no company, individual, or firm shall loan any money to any business establishment at a greater rate of interest than 4£ per cent.
– Does that apply to banks ?
– No ; I thank the honorable senator for the interjection. Many firms are carrying on business on private loan money; and the gravamen of the complaint against this regulation is that, while banks are allowed to charge these firms or companies 6 per cent, or more for loan money, private individuals are prevented from buttressing a business financially at a greater rate than 4£ per cent., though very often private individuals lend more money to these private concerns than the banks.
– And very often private individuals advance more than a bank will allow.
– That is so. I know of several firms who have overdrawn to the limit of their bank accommodation, for which they are being charged 6 per cent. In many such cases, their directors or friends, who have complete confidence in the business, have put in a few extra thousand pounds for the time being, in order to prevent any interference with the continuity of trade. Yet this regulation to which I have referred, says that these persons, who for years have been doing business in this way, shall not, for the future, get as much in return as the banks are charging. I consider this regulation absolutely unnecessary, and an interference with the finances of the country. Another regulation, dealing with the erection of buildings, prevents the expenditure of more than £250 on any property such as tramway premises or a tramway, without the consent of the Federal Treasurer. Very often this means that a proposal comes before some junior official in the Treasury, who, before’ he gives his consent and affixes to the application the rubber stamp as the hall-mark of his approval, asks some most impertinent questions.
These two examples of recent regulations will, I think, convince the Senate that it is high time steps were taken to remove some of this public disaffection in connexion with the administration of the Act, and show the urgent need there is for a return to pre-war conditions, and to constitutional government. I have a considerable amount of information in relation to these restrictions on trade. They control companies, firms, and businesses, buildings, cinema films, goods, mining, patents, racing, and shipping. The specific commodities affected are butter, coal, coal-tar, cornsacks, flour, flax, glycerine, galvanized iron, hides, leather, luxuries, meat, phosphorus, rabbit skins, sheep skins, sugar, tinplates, wool, and foodstuffs generally. There is a long list before me now of regulations dealing with the prices of commodities in Victoria. The list includes biscuits, cocoa, cornflour, kerosene, knitting wool, sauces, soda, scrap tin, tobacco, whitelead, and so on. It consists of about sixty items, and for the life of me I cannot see why the restrictions are necessary. I cannot see, for instance, what the price of Worcestershire sauce has to do with the carrying on of the war, or the safety of the Commonwealth. It may be that this policy has been determined upon by the
Government, or it may be the desire of the Minister to control these commodities; but I think that if we are to go in for price-fixing, we should do- it by legislative action, because, as far as my experience goes, many of the officials responsible for price-fixing have had no experience whatever, until they find themselves at the head of a table, and in a wise, stolid and placid manner hear evidence from the commercial community with regard to particular commodities, the prices of which are being investigated. As a rule their decisions are reserved, and they are subsequently given with all the authority and weight that attach to a judgment by the Supreme Court. This, and many other things in connexion with our War Precautions Act, have irritated the business portion of the community, and have thrown most of the persons who are engaged in trade and commerce in Sydney into a state of seething indignation.
– The honorable senator has already informed the Senate of that circumstance four times within the past quarter of an hour. I think that that is quite often enough.
– ,1 should be very sorry to be guilty of tedious repetition, and I hope, sir, now that I have your close attention, that no further repetition will be necessary.
– If there be any further repetition, I shall be obliged to take action.
– I now propose to deal with the question of Boards and Committees. All these Boards and Committees have been formed under the Act, and most of them consist of persons who are engaged in the particular business which each body controls. I have already occupied a considerable time in placing before honorable senators a mere skeleton of. the Act. I should be obliged to occupy much more time if I dealt exhaustively with these Boards and Committees. But in deference to you, sir–
– Order ! I am not placing any restrictions upon the honorable senator in that regard. But it is my duty to see that a statement is not repeated again and’ again. The honorable senator is, however, quite entitled to discuss fully the question of the Boards and Committees appointed under the WaT Precautions Act, or, indeed, any other matter in relation to it.
– Thank you. In deference to the Senate, however, I shall not deal exhaustively with these Boards and Committees. But I do desire to point out what is now taking place. Honorable senators will readily recognise that the Act deals not merely with external, but also with internal, trade. The monster has grown far bigger even than the most imaginative legislator of four years ago ever dreamed. The Act is interfering with enterprise everywhere. It has the effect of centralizing in Melbourne a very great amount of additional work. In the trains coming from Sydney day after day and week after week, may be seen scores and hundreds of business men who are being dragged to Melbourne in connexion with its operation. Even members of this Parliament have had a considerable amount of extra work thrust upon them as the result of this Act, whilst hosts of officials and small coteries of interested persons have been called into being because of its operation. Let me take the mining industry by way of illustration. It iswell known that the control of mining throughout Australia is to-day almost completely in the hands of interested parties. By means of this Act, we are setting small mines against big mines, small shippers against big shippers, the sugar-growers against the fruit-growers, in some respects the pastoral interests against the manufacturing interests, and the dealer against the broker. Everybody is crying out, and particularly the poor grocer, who considers that he is being sweated in connexion with the price of sugar.
Instead of the Government desiring to retain all possible power without the control of Parliament, Parliament should desire to retain all possible power without the control of the Government. I come now to a resolution which was adopted the week before last at a big meeting of the constituents of all the New South Wales representatives in this chamber. That gathering, which was convened as the result of the joint efforts of the presidents of the Chambers of Manufacture and Commerce, unanimously affirmed -
That this meeting of the manufacturing and commercial interests of New South Wales, whilst recognising the necessity for the War Precautions Act during the term of active hostilities, is of opinion that circumstances do not justify the expressed intention of the Federal Government to retain for a further period all the powers therein conferred upon them, for the following reasons-
– The Government have never expressed any such intention, and consequently the motion is founded on a fallacy.
– I did not father the resolution. I am merely reading a motion which was carried at a large meeting convened by the presidents of the Sydney Chambers of Manufactures and Commerce. That motion continues -
That is the resolution which was carried by a large number of business men.
– The foundation portion of it contains a fallacy, inasmuch as it says that the Government have expressed an intention to retain all these powers. That statement is not correct.
– But the Government are asking for a renewal of all the powers which they have wielded under our War Precautions Act. Whether they intend to exercise them, I cannot say.
– There are none so blind as those who will not see. The honorable senator has been told something quite different.
– I have been told nothing of the kind.
– The honorable senator was told during the second-reading speech of the Minister that we did not intend to exercise those powers.
– Then, why not frankly say what the Government are going to do, and what they are not going to do ? .
– We did that in both Houses.
– So far as I am aware, there has been no specific announcement in either House with regard to the matters that I have placed before honorable senators this afternoon.
– I think that the honorable senator himself made an interjection to the effect that the statement of the Minister was very specific.
– When I made that interjection I think that the Minister withdrew from what I regarded as a very definite position.
– The only qualification that I made was one which the honorable senator himself declared this afternoon that I was quite justified in making, in respect of alien enemies.
– Even at this late hour the Government will be well advised if they submit a list of the regulations which they intend to abolish. At present the commercial community does not know where it is. It does not know whether the Government intend to exercise all the powers that are conferred by the principal Act. Even at the present time permits have to be obtainedfor the export of goods to the East. I do not know whether the Minister for Defence was present when I gave an illustration of this fact in connexion with sporting ammunition.
– I have been here all the afternoon, worse luck.
– I have a little more to say upon this matter before I conclude my remarks. It is the most important matter that can affect the busi- ness community, and I am here as the representative, largely of the commercial community of New South Wales. The resolution which I have just quoted shows that the whole of the commercial community of that State is behind any man who will stand up in this Chamber and oppose any extension of the provisions of the War Precautions Act.
I wish now, calmly and dispassionately, to discuss the reasons which have been advanced by Ministers as a justification for asking Parliament to prolong the operation of the Act for three months after the war or until the 31st July next, whichever period may be the longer. The speech delivered by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) in support of this Bill may be very briefly summarized. His first argument was that an extension of the principal Act is necessary because the lifting of the moratorium would involve payments which it would be impossible for the country to stand, and would greatly increase the rates of interest.
– Does the honorable senator agree with that?
– I intend, first, to state the whole of the points made by the Acting Prime Minister, and then I shall proceed to deal with them seriatim. The honorable gentleman further stated that it is necessary to afford some protection to municipalities, mayors, aldermen, and trustees who have invested in our war loans money placed at their disposal from any action that may be taken by the States. He affirms that further loans will be needed, and that it is, therefore, necessary to check the issues of capital and the rates of interest. His assumption is that, otherwise, capital which is required for our war loans will be diverted into other channels.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– Just previous to the adjournment, I was entering on a digest of the statement of the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt), setting out reasons why, in the opinion of the Government, the War Precautions Act should be extended. I stated that one of the reasons advanced was that it would be dangerous to lift the moratorium; and, further, that public bodies which had subscribed to the war loans should be protected. A third reason set down by the Acting Prime Minister was that further loans would be needed ; and a fourth was that it would be necessary to continue control over shipping in order to check freights, and to prevent coastal shipping from leaving those waters for more remunerative areas. The continuance of the Act was necessary, also, so that pricefixing and contracts relating thereto should be continued, and that there should be powers retained to prevent increase of prices. . The Acting Prime Minister further stated that it was necessary to retain some control over aliens and internees, and that powers were needed to protect the metal industry from enemy influence; also, that if the Act lapsed altogether there would be an interregnum of disorder, if not chaos. To my mind, all this means that this very objectionable Act is, if the Ministry can do so, to be extended in some directions as long as the Government see fit.’ And, under these powers, they will continue to veto, not only certain matters of public interest, but they will debar discussion of some contracts and’ some prices. I admit that the contracts entered into by the Federal Government must be completed; but I hold the view that to talk of enemy influence in connexion with metals and the control of Australian industries would be, for a -long time, sneer nonsense. The German position is far too hopeless for any argument such as that to hold water.
I have admitted to-day that the moratorium provisions, so far as soldiers are concerned, are probably necessary; but I would remind the Government that for four years borrowers of money have been contracting themselves out of the moratorium. Lenders have been incorporating in mortgage deeds and the like a provision that borrowers shall not be able to take advantage of the moratorium. And, whether that is legal or not, the fact remains that for the period of the war, borrowers who have had to sign any legal documents have largely been compelled to contract themselves out of the provisions of the Federal moratorium, so far as the law will allow. The moratorium must end some day. We cannot go on indefinitely postponing the cessation of that part of the War Precautions Act. The present is a fairly prosperous period. I have previously pointed out in the Senate how greatly the wealth of Australia has been increased since the war began. If the Government are going on indefinitely prolonging the moratorium provisions, even so far as the civil population are concerned, the end will be very much worse than the present position. The speech of the Acting Prime Minister practically asks us to extend the provisions of the War Precautions Act when there is no war to take precautions against. That speech actually contained cogent reasons why we should do something different. The Act as it stands indemnifies municipalities and trustees who have invested money in war loans. If the Act were to lapse, it is not likely that the States throughout Australia would seize the persons of the mayors and aldermen of municipalities who had invested municipal moneys, or that they would seize trustees and put them in gaol. If those persons can only be protected in this way, their protection will require to be continued during the ten years which must elapse before the longest of the Commonwealth loans matures.
Ordinary legislation will provide for shipping control. It has been suggested that if shipping control is lifted, ships will go away from the coast of Australia, seeking more remunerative freights. I have spoken to several of the prominent shipowners of Australia, who provided, before the war, vessels to run around our coasts which were second to none in any part of the world. These men absolutely scoffed at any idea that they would send their vessels away while the trade of Australia remained to be done. Those shipowners had built up a fleet which, in size and capacity, was the equal of any service in any part of the world; and they scouted the idea that should the restrictions be lifted they would do anything but look after the Australian trade, whereby they had been gaining their livelihood, and creating dividends. The Government, in this Bill, appeal for unlimited powers of dictatorship. We are asked to trust the Government. Why should not the Government trust Parliament? We are the representatives of the people. We have trusted the Government for four years of war time, and surely it is reasonable for the Government now to trust Parliament to do the proper thing until matters shall have returned’ to normal.
The Acting Prime Minister has mentioned that it will be necessary to continue financial regulations and restrictions, because next year we shall have to raise further war loans. I agree that we shall be required to do so; but there is before another place at the present time a Bill proposing to make it compulsory for defaulters, according to their means, to subscribe to war loans. I have pointed out in this Chamber that not more than 10 per cent, of the total wealth of Australia has already been put into Australian war loans, and that probably nearly half the people have done less than their- bit, while only a little more than half have done more than their share in this respect. We do not want any restrictive trade or commercial legislation or financial regulations which will interfere with the unlimited flow and development of the trade, commerce, industry, and mining of Australia, seeing that we have a Bill already before Parliament - and for which I personally shall vote - to compel every man, according to his means, to subscribe to war loans.
– The Bill does not propose to do that.
– If it is properly amended in this Chamber - this House of review-
– Order! I point out that that subject is not now under discussion.
– I was but replying to an interjection. Continuing my argument, I point out that there is a great reservoir of wealth yet to be tapped in connexion with our war loans. Many wealthy people have not yet invested anything, and this Parliament has the power to compel investment. Secondly, the fact that we have to raise further loans is no reason why financial restrictions should continue to te imposed to the detriment of the development of Australian trade and industry.
With regard to price-fixing, I am not a legal member, but it seems to me that that principle is entirely ultra vires. With respect to the statement of the Acting Prime Minister that another reason for the continuance of this measure is that power should be given to prevent the advance of prices, I do not think any business man believes that in the future we shall see further advances of prices. Prices all over the world have risen skyhigh owing to the continuance of the war ; but now, honorable senators may go into the commercial centres of Sydney or Mel bourne, and they will note that prices are dropping every day.
We have to ask ourselves whether the Executive should continue to exercise wide powers of legislation under the Act without the approval of Parliament. To that there can be only one answer ; and that is “no.” Another question which we should ask ourselves is : Have’ we reason to believe that Government Boards and Government officials will exercise all the powers which the continuance of these regulations will give them in a manner beneficial to the community? The answer again must be, “ no.” We can fairly ask ourselves also whether necessary services should be kept alive by some Act of Parliament - by the continuance of the War Precautions Act, or by the passage of special legislation ? To that we can all unhesitatingly answer, “ yes.” No reasoning can justify a further continuance of the censorship of news. Yet the Government propose, not only to use the censorship to prevent criticism of our Allies at the present juncture - with which I am fully in accord - but it has been stated by a member of the Government, I believe, that it is intended to use the censorship in connexion with certain commercial matters. What for? What is feared ? What commercial mutters are there in connexion with which the Government fear that the particulars should see the light of day ?
– Who made that statement ?
– I believe it was made in another place. I shall be very pleased indeed to draw the Minister’s attention to it specifically when this Bill is in Committee.
Talking of statements, I remind the Minister that, owing very largely to the censorship, a good many extravagant statements have been made during wartime that the general public have been unable to contradict. I need only remind honorable senators of the statements which were made specifically with regard to the number of reinforcements required. At first it was said that we required. 30,000 per mouth. Then, speaking from memory, the number was reduced to 15,000. Then we were told that 7,000 would be required, and, speaking’ from memory again, I believe that a Judge, after full investigation, recorded the* statement that we required only 5,000 a month.
– All under different sets of conditions.
– Possibly; but the public were not fully informed of those conditions. The man in the street in such circumstances very rightly says, “ First you say one thing, and then you say another; which is right?”
We have been informed that the powers claimed by the Government through the extension of the operation of the War Precautions Act are required in order to protect the metal industry. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), while en route to England to take part in the negotiations with the British Cabinet, in connexion with which he is engaged to-day, made a certain statement when in New York, which is reported in the following terms by the American Engineering and Mining Journal, of the 5th June, 1918: -
Our mines were entirely under the control of German capital when the war came. They are no longer under that control. Arrangements have been made by which for twentyfive years to come the control cannot be reestablished. But, to be fair, German energy and capital were very fair to us. After we took over the mines ourselves we found the plants and organization so excellent that we were able to begin at once the making of ships and munitions. Without the German pioneer work we never could have got going so early or so fast.
– It is too ridiculous to suppose that Mr. Hughes ever made such a statement.
– I can only assume from the publication of a statement of that sort, which Senator de Largie rightly regards as ridiculous, that the Prime Minister was misreported. But this is the sort of thing that goes out to the world, and is read by the average citizen, and not known by him to be untrue, or grossly exaggerated. Another statement was cabled out here which has been referred to by Senator Gardiner, and which again was attributed to the Prime Minister. It was to the effect that so much profit had been obtained from the operations of the Commonwealth line of steamers that the whole of the cost of those steamers had been paid off. That must have been another instance of misreporting, because, according to the in formation placed before the Senate by the Minister in charge of shipping, whilst the actual cost of the Commonwealth steamers was about £2,000,000, the actual net earnings of the steamers over two years was about £1,250,000.
Another thing to which attention may be directed is the fact that so faT no approval of the purchase of these ships has been given by this Parliament.
– Order! I should like the honorable senator to tell me how he connects this matter with the War Precautions Bill.
– I was about to show that the purchase of the Commonwealth line of steamers was carried out under the provisions of the War Precautions Act, and no specific parliamentary authority has yet been given for the expenditure of that money. I say also that the order for wooden ships that was placed in America, and which is likely to result in such a big loss to the Commonwealth, was placed under the authority of the War Precautions Act or the waT powers of the Government.
A regulation was, not long ago, issued wherein it was provided that, in connexion with contracts for any naval or military work, tenders need not be called. In fact, any naval or military work, no matter what the cost involved might be, was placed outside the ambit of the Public Works Committee, which was specifically established by this Parliament to inquire into works of this nature.
– No; those works are excluded from the consideration of the Committee by the Public Works Committee Act.
– Would the honorable senator have referred the construction of the Australian Imperial Force camps to the Public Works Committee?
– I am not at all criticising the action of the Government in time of war, but I have pointed out that the war is practically over, and I want to show honorable senators to what they will commit themselves by prolonging the operation of the War Precautions Act.
– Are we. spending money on works now without referring them to the PublicWorks Committee? Why put up a man of straw in order to knock it down again?
– I have mentioned the regulation, and I can turn it up if necessary to satisfy the Minister for Defence.
I have mentioned that officials are very largely concerned in the administration of the War Precautions Act. I do not want to suggest that busy and much harassed Ministers should be held personally responsible for everything that goes on. Of necessity, these powers must be largely delegated to officials. I should like to give an illustration in order that honorable senators may have some idea of the lengths to which some of these officials will go when any one dares to criticise them. Honorable senators will remember the celebrated tin scrap case that I had the honour of bringing before the Senate. They will remember that replies by officials were accepted by Ministers, were ordered to be printed, and have been distributed broadcast. I do not wish to review this case at length, but, as a matter of illustration, I draw attention to paragraph 20 in the reply given by Colonel Oldershaw. He says -
On Tuesday, 26th November, I telephoned to Mr. Pratt, and asked him what steps he was taking with regard to the tin scrap, as the alterations at the factory were nearly completed, and we would shortly be in a position to treat his scrap. Mr. Pratt said that unless he could get an export permit he would have the adjournment of the House moved, and the whole gross scandal exposed.
With all the responsibility that attaches to my position 1 want to say that that statement is a cold, calculated, wilful and deliberate lie.
– Order! I point out that the honorable senator had several opportunities of discussing that matter, one of which was created by himself. He did not avail himself of those opportunities, and the matter having been decided by two specific votes of the Senate cannot be revived now.
– I was using an illustration, and I intend to use others.
– Order ! The honorable senator did not use his quotation as an illustration. He used it for the purpose of giving it an express and emphatic contradiction.
– The reason I did so was-
– The honorable senator must not dispute my ruling except in the proper and orderly way.
– I shall certainly obey your ruling. I am here to make a deliberative speech, and to put arguments before the Senate with respect to what is going on. The only reason I brought that matter up was to inform honorable senators that ‘I was in Mr. Pratt’s office when that alleged conversation took place.
– Order ! The honorable senator must not allude to that matter again.
– I should like to call attention to a good deal of dissatisfaction that is expressed from time to time inside and outside this chamber in connexion with the answers which are given to our questions when we inquire about some of the activities under the War Precautions Act. Senator Russell will understand that I do not make any personal allusions to him, but am referring to replies to questions supplied to Ministers by officials of their Departments. On 28th November I asked the Vice-President of the Executive Council
Will the Minister have prepared and laid on the table of the Senate a copy of all corre spondence with neutral countries or their representatives regarding the purchase, or invitation of offers with a view to purchase of wheat from the Wheat Pool during the past twelve months.
To that question I received the following reply -
The Australian Wheat Board has had no cor respondence with neutral countries or their representatives on the subject mentioned, dealings with neutral countries being handled by the London Committee.
Well, I have here a copy of a letter from the representative in Australia of a neutral Government showing that on the 23rd September last he sent an inquiry to the Wheat Board in regard to the purchase price of 20,000 tons of Australian wheat.
– Has the honorable senator the reply to that letter? A uniform reply is sent to such letters, and the writers are referredto the Allied Commission in London.
– VicePresident of the Executive Council overlooks the fact that the specific reply that I received to my question was that the Australian Wheat Board had no correspondence with neutral countries, yet the Minister himself admits that the letter to which I referred was sent.
– No, I do not. I know nothing about it.
– I beg the honorable senator’s pardon; I do not desire to refer to him personally in connexion with this matter.
– I ask the honorable senator to confine his remarks to the subject matter of the Bill before the Senate. All these criticisms refer to matters that do not come under the War Precautions Act at all. The Minister in charge of the Bill has assured the Senate that, except in regard to shipping, matters in connexion with the Wheat Pool are dealt with under Acts other than the War Precautions Act. The question is wide enough without introducing extraneous matter, and I ask the honorable senator to confine himself more closely to matters affected by the Bill.
– I understand, and have understood during this debate, that references such as I have made are quite in order. Senator Gardiner quoted very extensively in connexion with the wheat question.
– Only in so far as it was affected by questions of freight.
-The wheat to which I have referred was to go abroad, and ships would have had to be used to transport it. I was talking about an inquiry sent to the Wheat Board from the representative of a neutral country asking the price for 20,000 tons of wheat, and subsequent correspondence may prove that they wanted to provide the ships to take that wheat.
This Bill also provides some power under the censorship, and, consequently, through the censorship, confers power on the Intelligence Branch of the
Defence Department. I do not think honorable senators need reminding about the very prominent exhibition that was made by the intelligence officer in Sydney when giving evideuce in connexion with the Irish internees. When asked who Wolfe Tone was, he said he was a man who was killed in a motor accident in 1916, and he also made some silly remarks about Robert Emmet. This same man, who is in charge of the Intelligence Department in Sydney - a city consisting of 750,000 people - and whose reports I have no doubt have great weight with the Minister, will, under this Bill, still be armed with a good deal of authority over civilian occupations. I saw this selfsame man about two years ago enter and take possession of a newspaper office, seize all the publications, and destroy the type, and so on, because he had made a report, I presume, with regard to the excessive zeal of that paper about the internment of the Germans. Your ruling, sir, precludes me from alluding specifically to one or two matters which I wished to mention, but I think, generally speaking, I can say, from official answers given in the Senate, and documents which have been printed by order of the Printing Committee, that the replies that have been given by a certain legal Department of the Commonwealth consist entirely of special pleading, and, to a large extent, emulate the arts of the Police Court attorney.
The exasperating treatment of reputable men who come over to Melbourne in connexion with their legitimate business still continues. A week or two ago I was asked by a friend at the Oriental Hotel - this is in connexion with the Treasury regulations that restrict the formation of new companies - to give him a hand. He is a most respected and wellknown solicitor in Sydney, and has occupied many public positions. His story was that on the previous day he had been kept on the door-mat of the Treasury, not waiting to see the Acting Prime Minister, or the Secretary of the Department, but to see some official or other. He had been kept waiting all the morning and all the afternoon, and had been unable to obtain an interview, although he had come over from Sydney specially for the specific case that he was on.
I wish to allude to the secrecy that exists in regard to some of the governmental operations. Not long ago, owing to various complaints that had been made to me by members of the Sydney Stock Exchange, and which, after investigation, I found justifiable, that the purchases of war stock and war bonds from the market were done in Melbourne,, and, consequently, depreciated the Sydney quotion for war stock by at least per cent.-
– Will the honorable senator tell me how he proposes to connect that matter with the War Precautions Act?
– Yes; because this actual thing is done under the provisions and powers of that Act.
– The purchase and sale of stock is not done under that Act.
– Then the withholding of information is. I asked, ‘ What is the amount of purchases made monthly to the 1st October of Government war stock, bonds, or certificates; what brokers are employed, what commission is paid, what price is being given, and where is the stock being bought ?” I received answers stating that in August £154,500 worth was bought, and in September, £70,000 worth odd, but that it was inadvisable that the name of the broker should be disclosed; that the Government pays no commission, that it pays the market price of the day, and that it was considered that in the public interest the places of operation should not be stated.
– That matter does not come under the War Precautions Act. I have already asked the honorable senator not to go beyond the provisions of that Act. The operations he speaks of are carried out under the provisions of quite another measure. The Minister does not require the authority of the War. Precautions Act to withhold information. He can do so whenever he chooses. I must ask the honorable senator to keep strictly to the subject before the Chair.
– I shall endeavour to keep strictly within the four corners of a very large and engrossing subject. We have seen in connexion with the illegitimate honey shipments what a big scope there is, in the matter of freight to England, for making money. I am glad the Government took the action it did in hanging up that shipment at Brisbane, and hope that the prosecution which the Government have decided upon under the War Precautions Act will be pressed to the bitter end.
I understand that since this Parliament began we have had no prorogation, and that when we rise and sit again it is merely a continuation of one session. I gather that this is because of war conditions. In August, 1917, Mr. Jensen, the then Minister for Customs, brought down an amending Excise and Customs schedule
– Will the honorable senator tell me how he connects that matter with this Bill?
– I claim, as a representative of the people in the Senate, my right to discuss Customs and Excise reductions and additions-
– The honorable senator will have a perfect right to discuss them when the proper time comes. On this Bill is not the- proper time, and he cannot be permitted to do it now. The fact that we had no prorogation of Parliament, but only adjournments from time to time, is due to the action of Parliament itself, and not tothe War Precautions Act. It has been done by resolutions of each House.
– I- understand that it is because of the state of war existing.
– It has nothing todo with the War Precautions Act.
– But because of the existing state of war, this Parliament is precluded from discussing those very vital things.
– Order ! I must, ask the honorable senator not to discuss that matter. Parliament is not precluded from discussing anything. Ample opportunities are given to every honorable senator to discuss everything when the proper time arrives, but the honorable senator cannot be allowed to discuss everything on the one Bill. The Standing Orders are emphatic that his remarks must be relevant to that Bill, and to that Bill only. I must ask the honorable senator to obey my ruling.
– Of course, I shall obey your ruling; but the Minister in charge of the Bill will bear me out when I say that I gave notice of specific questions in order to have that matter discussed.
– The honorable senator must not disobey my ruling. He must not allude to that matter again.
– I turn, then, to the question of Boards and Committees formed under the War Precautions Act. If a close study is made of the names of the members of those Boards and Committees, there will be found a considerable amount of interlocking business friendships. No man who is familiar with the trade and commerce of the Commonwealth will deny my statement. I do not argue that we should put round pegs into square holes, or square pegs into round holes, in fixing the membership of these Committees, but I do hold that they should not consist so largely of parties interested in the particular matters they control. We are, in connexion with this Administration, losing sight of the golden rule, that no firm should be placed by the Government in a position of control whereby they may be able to make profit out of it. I presume I shall be in order in speaking about. Sir John Michael Higgins, the Honorary Metallurgical Adviser to the Government. My investigations show that he has more ; power in his single hand than any man in Australia is justified in having. He controls not only the whole wool trade of Australia, but also the whole metal trade of Australia. He has told us, in a parliamentary paper which has been printed and distributed, that he is not a Government official, but has been “ requisitioned “ under the War Precautions Act. I think I shall be perfectly in order in alluding to any gentleman who has been requisitioned, like ships, woollen factories, motor cars, or anything else, under the powers of that Act. This metal question, and the control of metals under the War Precautions Act-
– No; the embargoes on export are issued under the Customs Act.
– The Minister’s own chief, the Acting Prime Minister, gave, in another place as one of his reasons for the extension of this Act the fact that the metal question must be further controlled. That question gives me a considerable amount of concern. Under the war powers of the Government, there have been formed a Copper Producers Association and a Zinc Producers Association, and an attempt is being made to form a Tin Producers Association. There is also a Lead Smelters Association, and on all these bodies I understand Sir John Higgins is the Government nominee and representative, I have no quarrel with any organization or company that intend to erect further smelting works and expend capital and energy in further developing the smelting of Australian ores; but the copper organization is peculiarly constituted. It consists of a number of large copper producers, who have banded themselves together under an association and an agreement that no copper shall be sold, so far as they are concerned, outside the association for a term of fifty years. I do not say there is very much wrong with that; but it is wrong to prevent, by virtue of Government control and Government restrictions, any other company from selling its products, when peace is declared, in the open markets of the world. A policy like that is going to do more than anything else to retard the mining development of Australia. It means, practically, that no little mine can be started. All the small producers must sell their copper to this association, and place themselves entirely in its hands as to the returns for their product and the time that elapses before the money is paid. The same might be said concerning the Zinc Producers Association, and generally with regard to the control of metals. While I am not quarrelling with any combination of big interests for the development of smelting of our own ores within our own borders, I am quarrelling with an organization that, backed by the powers of the Government, is bound to control the product of all the other mines under any circumstances.
I do not desire to pursue this question of Boards and Committees very much further ; but I wish to say that’ the tendency of administration appears to be in the direction of making the big man bigger and the small man smaller. I am sorry to go into details, but I want to give one illustration of the position that is being created in connexion with the war powers of the Government. Elder, Smith and Company is a very reputable and highly-esteemed firm, but it seems to me to be an unwise policy to give firms like this so much power, control, and representation in connexion with Government activities. It may be only a coincidence, but 1 believe Sir John Higgins has had an office in the same building as Elder, Smith and Company for some time, and there exists a close personal friendship between him and that firm.
– What is the insinuation?
– There is no insinuation at all. I only want to state the facts, and confine myself to facts. I challenge another inquiry. All I want to say is that when the firm of Elder, Smith and Company, who had never bought a pound of tin before, were appointed sole agents for the purchase of tin, the tinproducers of Australia have a right to kick. The trade is worth £1,000,000 a year; and as one who is interested in the tin-mining industry in Malaya, I can say that while the tin producers of Australia have been appealing to the Government to finance them - which the Government have promised to the extent of £225 per ton - the companies with which I am associated in Malaya, on the 6th December “sold 10 tons of tin on a metallic basis of £245 per ton at Penang, and there was no suggestion at all that there was going to be any stoppage in the purchase of tin there. In view of this, I think we have a right to raise our protest with regard to the position in this country, and ask why the tin producers of this country cannot sell their product at the market price.
– Do you suggest that Elder, Smith and Company were ap pointed agents because Sir John Higgins was friendly with the firm?
– No, I believe Elder, Smith, and Company have been appointed agents because they are agents for the British Munitions Department for the purchase of other metals, and that, probably having satisfactorily done this business, they are asked to undertake the agency for tin. But I do not think it fair that a firm which has not been in the tin trade before should be given a monopoly, while other persons who have been engaged in the smelting and shipment of tin are absolutely excluded. I say that, under the War Precautions Act, the Government have been doing things that are very much resented by firms who are kept out in the cold by these regulations. I give this statement about Elder, Smith, and Company as an illustration of the monopolistic control that is being created under the War Precautions Act. I will admit, if the Minister desires, that these powers may have been necessary during war lime; but my argument is that the sooner we revert to normal conditions the better it will be for Australia.
I do not want to be in any way personal, and consequently I do not wish to pursue this subject too far; but I think it is fair to say that Elder, Smith, and Company are also represented on the Overseas Shipping Board and upon the Copper Producers Association, while the Melbourne manager of the firm is chairman of the Metal Exchange, and they are interested in other activities, so that since the war began they have had three gorgeous years of profits.
– Do you say that they ought not to be so represented ?
– Certainly not. I am only making this statement as an illustration of the position that has been created.
– Is it wrong? That is the question.
– I think it is wrong to give too much control to any firm, however big it ma” be, because if one shipping firm gets on the Board three or four smaller firms are frozen out. A nd when their representative gets on the Metal Board others directly interested1 are again frozen out. I appeal to the Government to consider this aspect of the position. The commercial community is watching these things, and is jealous, for what may satisfy one firm or one man does not satisfy perhaps a dozen others.
I do not wish to say. very much more. I regret that, although I am a member of the National party and a general supporter of the Government, I cannot vote for any extension of these provisions.
– Did you say a ‘ general “ or a “ generous ‘ ‘ supporter?
SenatorPRATTEN. -I said a “general” as opposed to a” generous “ supporter of the Government, because I think that this is far too serious a matter not to be debated in this House of review. It is the province of the Senate, largely representative as it is of the States, to deal with these matters in a thorough manner, and although I am perfectly well aware that the Government want to get all the business through by next Thursday so as to Bend us home safe and sound for the Christmas holidays and longer, I feel it is a duty which we owe to our constituents to place the facts as we see them before the Government for their guidance. 1 hope it will not be thought that I am actuated by any personal reason whatsoever in speaking as I have spoken. I say unhesitatingly to the Government and to my colleague( Senator Millen), who has just returned to the chamber, that in voicing my opposition to the War Precautions Act I am voicing the opinions of the vast majority of my constituents in New South Wales on both sides. I have referred to certain resolutions that have beenpassed by representative business associations. The business community is boiling with indignation at what is going on, and no vote of mine will be given to prolong these powers. It is the duty of the Government to consider as soon as they can, and announce as early as possible, what regulations can be immediately repealed, and how soon trade and commerce can revert to pre-war condtions. I am glad to know that leading lawyers are considering very carefully what regulations can be dropped. I should like to see the Government obtain the services of one or two accountants and leading business men to advise the lawyers. As a member of the Senate for the last eighteen months I feel that, owing to the operation of this Act, members of Parliament have become largely automatons. We have very little say in the government of this country. Everything is done by regulation. I feel that in speaking as I have on this subject I have only been doing my duty by trying to put the commercial aspect of the case and the views of my constituents before the Senate, and I hope that as a result of what I have said the Government will, in the near future, jettison the whole of the regulations now restricting trade and commerce in every direction.
– As we have had two long speeches from two of the Leaders of the Opposition - Senators Gardiner and Pratten - in regard to this Bill, I shall endeavour to be as brief as possible. But 1. desire to put on record one or two facts, and to enter my protest against the continuation of the War Precautions Act. I was one of those who assisted to place it on the statute-book for a specific purpose. But we were then given to understand that it would be used only in cases of emergency and when Parliament was not sitting. That undertaking has not been fulfilled. The Act has not been used in cases of emergency, but on every possible occasion it has been used to further the interests of the Government. It has been used to enable the Executive to do by regulation what, under normal conditions, should be done by legislation. Of course, the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) has argued that in ordinary circumstances our Constitution would not permit us to deal with the matters which are dealt with by the principal Act. I hold that the honorable gentleman should indicate precisely the regulations the operation of which . the Government desire to continue, and also those regulations which they are prepared to rescind. If they will agree to repeal all regulations which oppress the general community - the class which Senator Pratten represents, as well as the class to which I belong - I shall welcome their proposal. If they will consent to continue only those regulations which are necessary for the maintenance of the activities which have been created during war time, I shall not raise my voice in opposition to them. But we know perfectly well that the war period has finished - that the conflict is over. In asking for an extension of these powers, therefore, the- Government are asking Parliament to shatter the Constitution and to govern the Commonwealth by martial law. That was never intended when we placed the War Precautions Act upon our statute-book.
The people of this country were willing to submit to anything while the war was raging, but now that the war is over, the Act has become intolerable, because it interferes with legitimate business and with the people’s rights and liberties. Under its provisions scores of Boards and Commissions have been created, whose functions may have been desirable, or even necessary, during war time, but are certainly neither necessary nor useful in the conduct of the country’s business during time of peace. These bodies have been clothed with powers which are unconstitutional under existing circumstances - powers which they should not enjoy in peace time. It has been asserted that difficulties have been created through the administration of the Act, difficulties which cannot be overcome. If that be so, it is a good reason for not making this form of government permanent, because the longer the Act remains in force the more difficult will the situation become, with the result that we shall never get rid of government by regulation. Even in peace time there is too much of government by regulation, instead of government by Statute law. No doubt, those who are using these arbitrary powers will not relish the loss of them. But I submit that we should follow the example of America, which, immediately the armistice was signed, abolished -the censorship, lock, stock, and barrel. In Britain, too, the Imperial Government have declared that there is no longer any necessity for the stringent censorship which was exercised during the war. Why cannot Australia follow her example? Whilst in Britain almost all the conditions governing the Defence of the Realm Act have been abolished, in Australia the censorship has prevented the sale of books and periodicals which have been circulated freely throughout the rest of the world. I have no desire to deal with the censorship question exhaustively, because it has already been discussed very effectively by Senator Gardiner. What he stated this afternoon in reference to the editor of a certain Labour newspaper whose articles are always good is absolutely correct. That editor copied the Sermon on the Mount in the form of a newspaper article, and submitted it to the censor, who censored it, because he did not know what it was. The regulation to which I chiefly take exception is that which gives unlimited power to magistrates to deal with cases arising under the principal Act. Under this regulation, which is No. 52, the secretary of the union to which 1 belong was fined a large sum for no offence whatever. He was’ charged with having in his possession a copy of the regulations in connexion with certain dockyard work.
– Hear, hear !
– The Commodore has spoken, so it is all right. These regulations had reference to costing work, and a copy of them is in the hands of dozens of men in the dockyard. But because this particular individual was found with an entry in his note-book, only an extract, from one of the regulations, he was prosecuted. If I were to go over to Sydney to-morrow- I will undertake to say that I could get a copy of the regulations to which I refer from dozens of men. These regulations merely relate to the costing of work. They partake much of the nature o’f the card system. As showing that no offence had been committed by this man, the magistrate said to him, “ If you will supply us with the name of the individual who gave you this copy of the regulations, we will withdraw the charge.” This he refused to do. The accused was, therefore, fined £25, with £5 5s. costs, and this, with his private costs, brought the amount he had to pay to about £50. That is what a magistrate can do under our War Precautions Act.
Then the regulation which prevents the holding of meetings, although it may have been a very desirable one during the war period, ought certainly not to be continued now that the struggle is over. To do so is to commit an outrage on the liberties of the people. If individuals offend against the laws of the Commonwealth, let them be prosecuted, and either fined or imprisoned. But in England, when I was there, one was at liberty to attend meetings, in almost every street without being interfered with. The same class of people are allowed to take their place in the British Parliament. I object to giving magistrates so much power as is conferred upon them by the principal Act, and I equally object to giving the military “authorities so much power. Fortunately for a number of those against whom charges were laid under that Act, those charges failed, because they were laid by persons who were not acquainted with the law of their own country. I was subjected to one of these prosecutions for no offence whatever. I called no witnesses, because I was satisfied that the charge would fail, as, in fact, it did. But the authorities allowed the military police to initiate a prosecution against me under the War Precautions Act. That sort of thing should cease. Whilst we were at war there may have been some reason for that measure, but now that the war has ceased I shall not be a party to extending its operations for a single day.
If the Government hold that there are certain activities in respect of which the War Precautions Act should be continued, by all means let us know what they are. But Ministers wish to keep the Act on the statute-book in order that they may harass alike the manufacturers and the workers of this country, as well as their political opponents. I shall not detain honorable senators by reading at length the documents which I have here, but I shall content myself with, voting against the Bill, on the broad principle that any extension of the principal Act would harass “both manufacturers and workers by interfering with their liberties.
– It is my intention to vote against the second-reading of this Bill. I listened very carefully to the remarks of the Minister for Defence (Senator
Pearce) in introducing it the other day, and his deliverance then reminded me very much of the speech which he made on the occasion of the passing of the principal Act through this. Chamber in 1914. Had I been present in the Senate on that occasion I would have acquiesced in that measure, just as did other honorable senators, believing that some form of War Precautions Act was necessary in time of war. Upon neither of the occasions to which I have referred did the Minister seek to justify the action of the Government. He merely said, in effect, “ Give us these powers, and trust to the Government not to overdo them.” That was the position which he took up in 1914. We were then told that, though it was necessary to arm the Government with these powers, they would never be used against the great mass of the people, or for political purposes, but only for the suppression of the exploiter in the matter of foodstuffs and other commodities. We were assured that people who offended against the welfare of the country would be prosecuted, but that personal liberty would not be interfered with. The Senate, therefore, unanimously accorded the Government the powers which they sought, the granting of which has since been bitterly rued by the Labour party. We have, however, profited by our experience during the past four years. During that period- we have noted that the provisions of the Act have not been put into operation against the food exploiter and profiteer. The revelations made this afternoon by .Senator Pratten in the course of his excellent speech, conclusively prove that even the commercial community are labouring under very grave disabilities by reason of the operation of the regulations framed under the Act, with the exception of a chosen few, of, perhaps, 5 per cent. The other 95 per centare the victims of the privileges accorded to the 5 per cent, by virtue of these regulations. We have repeatedly seen prosecutions launched, and penalties imposed in respect of individuals, not for the protection of the national safety, but for the safety of a political party in the Commonwealth - and that party was not the
Labour party. To-day we can judge the attitude of Ministers only in. the light of our experience of the past few years. Promises have been made to us in connexion with this Bill similar to those which were made four years ago. How have the latter been fulfilled ? They have been utterly ignored. For that reason I contend that it is not safe to vest any Government with the powers that are conferred by the principal Act. It is true, as we know to our cost, that the action taken on many occasions against Labour newspapers and against Labour meetings has not been taken for the reason that the welfare of Australia was at stake. Such action can only have been taken for the political safety of the supporters of the Government.
Among the newspapers and periodicals which have been prohibited in Australia under the War Precautions regulations there are publications which have been circulated freely in Great Britain during the past four years. I will mention only one in passing - that is, the Labour
Leader - a newspaper published in London, and openly and ordinarily sold in the streets. But a person in Australia who possesses a copy of this paper renders himself liable to six months’ imprisonment under the War Precautions Act; or to fines, amounting to £100, or to both. Can any honorable senator justify that ? Yet no protest has been made by honorable senators opposite. Many of them, as well as people outside, jeered at those of us who have sought to protest. All sorts of epithets have been hurled at us because we resented this form of interference with the political and civil liberties of citizens. We think that a form of censorship may be necessary in time of war. That is, if we hold the convictions regarding censorship which we had held prior to this war. Before Australia’s active participation in the world struggle we fondly believed that the censorship system had to be brought into vogue during war time to prevent news from reaching the enemy. After our four years’ experience we now know better. We are convinced that the censorship has been aimed, not at withholding information from the enemy on the other side of the world, but at preventing the truth from reaching the people of Australis. It is a remarkable fact that during the four years of war now happily at an end there has been marked discrimination in the treatment meted out to different papers. I cannot emphasize that more strongly than to say that Labour publications in Melbourne - the Labour Gall, the Socialist, and others - have had their copy blue-pencilled and rejected by the censor, and then have found that the selfsame matter has been published either in the Argus or the Age, or both. Those Labour papers have had their material refused, while exactly the same news has been permitted to be published in the other papers. Actually, the Labour papers have taken and reprinted from the Argus ‘or the Age the exact matter which was originally turned down by the censor when sent to him from the Labour offices. That state of affairs has been tolerated in Australia for four years; and those who have protested, both inside and outside of Parliament, have received no sympathy. In fact, men are in gaol for having protested against just such outrages.
I remind honorable senators of what Mr. Hughes did during one of his mental aberrations consequent upon certain experiences in Queensland. By a stroke of the pen and the issue of a regulation under the War Precautions Act- -not on the part of the Government, or of the Minister for Defence, or of the military authorities - the Prime Minister instituted the Commonwealth Police Force; and it has cost Australia some thousands of pounds since. Most people realize now, and are prepared to admit, that that was a freak action on the part of the Prime Minister. But the unhappy fact is that such an action could have been taken under the powers possessed by the Government - powers which override the National Parliament itself. As a matter of fact, I believe the Prime Minister went to Queensland for the special reason of “ kicking up a hullabaloo,” and he certainly succeeded in doing so. During the past four years would any speaker have dared to make a statement such as Mr. Hughes has uttered since he has been in England latterly? What would have happened to a man who had employed the same phrase during the conscription referends? The Prime Minister is credited with the statement that Australia would brook no interference by Great Britain in Australia’s affairs, except by force majeure. I ask honorable senators to imagine that just prior to the conscription referenda, when there was so much talk about the Imperial Parliament enforcing conscription if the vote of the Australian people failed to do so, an anti-conscriptionist speaker had publicly uttered the view that Great Britain could never impose conscription upon us, except by force majeure. What would have happened to that man? He would have got six months without the option. Yet the Prime Minister has gone to the other side of the world and given expression to sentiments which would have not been tolerated in Australia during the past four years of warfare.
This afternoon Senator Gardiner pertinently referred to the late John Dunmore Lang. It is a good job for the late Mr. Lang that he did not live in Australia while the war was on. And it is a good thing for the late Mr. Justice Higinbotham, of Victoria, that he was not alive during the past four years to give expression to the writings and sentiments associated with his name. Both would have gone the way of scores of others - to gaol.
– When things are different they are not the same.
– They can be made to serve the same purpose, and that has been done time after time. The Courts, and the so-called Intelligence Bureau of the Government, took fine care that things, which might have been different, were made the same. That relates to evidence and to everything else.
It has been stated that the continuance of this Act may be necessary in connexion with the deportation of aliens. Senator Gardiner, very properly, stated to-day that if aliens are to be deported such a serious matter would surely warrant an Act of Parliament. If the Australian Government are thinking about deporting Austrians, let them form an indedependent opinion. But the argument advanced by Senator Pearce was that we would have to wait and see what Great
Britain might do, and that if Great Britain proceeded with the deportation of aliens Australia would do the same. As an Australian, I say that we have had enough of this copying blindfolded of legislation from other parts of the world. Australia must think and decide for itself on all-important national matters. If it is necessary to deport aliens - which I do not admit, and would oppose - let the Government have backbone enough to come to a decision for themselves. Let us not witness a humiliating spectacle such as was seen when the Prime Minister returned previously from Great Britain and announced that the welfare of the Empire depended upon the passage through the Commonwealth Legislature of the Daylight Saving Bill, seeing that a similar measure had been passed through the Imperial Parliament.
– I thought the Commonwealth followed the example of Tasmania there.
– The reason which I have just given was the one advanced by the Prime Minister at that time. And what a farce the Daylight Saving Act proved ! Did we not see the Prime Minister returning, and with feverish haste, announcing that we must copy America’s system of building wooden ships ? America was doing so, therefore Australia must do the same. What is the position to-day? Thinking people foresaw that the building of wooden ships would prove a mistake - that wooden ships could not hope to compete with uptodate steel vessels.
– They are building wooden ships in Tasmania now without Federal Government assistance.
– I think the Commonwealth Government are realizing that it is a mistaken policy to build wooden ships. I hope the construction of such vessels will be quickly terminated.
Many other things have been done under the powers provided by this Act and its regulations, which are far removed from the assurance which the Government originally gave that the measure would be employed only in the interests of national safety. I do not forget the numbers of those now interned in camps and prisons for the most paltry offences, or upon manufactured evidence:
There was a foolish man in Brisbane named Thomas Fagan who wrote a letter to the Brisbane Daily Mail. He was prosecuted for the sentiments contained in that letter. He was fined £10, or £12 8s. in all. He had to find sureties also to the extent of £50 that he would not offend again. He paid the fine and found the sureties. Then he was seized by Intelligence officers from the Defence Department and sent to gaol at Darlinghurst, Sydney. “Will the Minister contend that a man who expresses republican sentiments in a letter written to a newspaper is a dangerous man? Is he not rather a foolish man? Yet this man was fined and paid the penalty, found sureties that he would not offend again, and then was interned, notwithstanding the fact that he had a family of seven or eight children. Although he has been interned, strange to say his sureties have not been estreated, and that requires some explanation. I brought up the case here of another man named Schache, an Australian of the second generation. Because, as secretary of a Labour organization, he received a circular through the post in common with hundreds of other Labour secretaries, prior to the conscription referendum, he was taken away from his wife and family and interned, and so far as I know is still interned. That . man does not know to this day why he was placed in an internment camp. The conviction in Queensland is that he was interned primarily to buttress up a prosecution then pending by the Prime Minister against Mr. Ryan, Mr. Theodore, and Mr. McDonnell, secretary to the Labour Executive in Queensland, on a charge of conspiracy. The share of this unfortunate man in the conspiracy was that as the secretary of a Labour organization he received a circular. He was interned under the War Precautions Act, and has been kept in an internment camp ever since on purely political grounds. No other reason can be given for his arrest and detention. When we know that there are dozens of similar cases it cannot be wondered that we object when the Government ask for a renewal of the trust which they have betrayed.
– There must have been something more than the honorable senator has suggested for the arrest of the man to whom he has referred. He cannot expect us to believe that the reason he has given is the only reason.
– If it was not the reason, is it not fair that he should be told what the reason was, or that those who have inquired on his behalf should be told the reason for his arrest and detention?
– When we have asked what this man was charged with we have received no information. Senator Pearce will admit that he will not tell the reason.
– I do not admit that the honorable senator’s allegations are correct. They are very far from being correct.
– I had it from the mouth of Senator Pearce himself that he would not tell me the reason why another man was arrested. When I asked him the reason he said, “ I cannot tell you. Do you not see, Ferricks, that if I said that this man was charged with saying something, he would remember having said it in the presence of Jones, Smith, ot Thompson, and then it would be known that Jones, Smith or Thompson was a secret service officer, and that must not be known.” When I asked what this man was charged with, the Minister for Defence honestly and candidly said that he could not tell me, because the system would not permit of it. God knows, that system was bad enough in time of war, and I ask, Is it to be continued now that the war is over?
The Minister has repeated with emphasis the statement that the war is over. I believe it is, .and God knows we all hope that it is. But I ask what warrant is there for the Government asking the Senate to give them another blank cheque. I fear that this War Pre-“ cautions Act will not disappear from the statute-book on the 31st July. I fear that the Government will find or will manufacture some other pretext for a further extension of its operation. They have their majority, and they can do it if they please. Protests from this side will be vain. It is only the force of public opinion that will bring the objections to this measure home to the Government. Ifthey dared do so, in the face of public opinion, I believe that we should have extension after extension of the operation of the Act until we reached the time when we must go before the people at the elections.
– The Government would be very foolish if they did that.
– The honorable senator knows that we have had experience of what the Government are capable of, and were it not for their fear of the pressure of public opinion, I have not the slightest hesitation in saying that what I have mentioned would be done. I have shown what they have done in Queensland. They have taken men away from their families without reason.
– The honorable senator cannot say that.
– I can say it when they will not tell the man the reason, and I do say it. Let the Government say on what charge these men were arrested, or else shut up on the subject of freedom and liberty.
– The honorable senator talks a lot now that the war is over.
- Senator Rowell will admit that I said a jolly sight more than he did when the war was on.
– Perhaps, if we had all talked as much there would have been more trouble than there was.
– And, perhaps, there would have been more honesty. If the Minister for Defence were honest in the assurances which he asks the Senate to accept he would not have waited until after the event to repeal the War Precautions regulations which are not required. He would have submitted to the Senate a list of regulations which had been repealed because they were no longer necessary, and it was not intended to use them. He would have told us that the regulation responsible for the censorship had been abolished, along with the regulation giving power to prevent the holding of public meetings in Australia. He would have said that he had repealed, because it was no longer necessary, the regulation under which people go into halls, in which public meetings are held, and take shorthand reports of the utterances of the speakers, as, I find from the newspapers this morning, was done in the Melbourne Town Hall last night. Does that kind of thing suggest good intentions
On the part of the Minister administering the War Precautions Act, or does it show that in future the powers of the Act are to be used only in connexion with the moratorium and the operations of financial concerns? No; it is an indication that things are to continue in the same old way. I have no doubt that, unless a healthy public opinion is created which will show the Government that these things will not be tolerated, there will, to a great extent, be a repetition of what Australia has experienced during the past four years. Honorable senators, in very excellent speeches, have said that this is a system. I think that Senator Pratten said that he did not blame the Minister for Defence. I disagree with the honorable senator in that respect. I do blame Senator Pearce for what has taken place under the censorship and the muzzling of the Labour party and the Labour press during the past four years. If the honorable senator did not actually instigate and order what has been done, he is none the less guilty because of his weakness in allowing others to do it. He knew perfectly well what was going on. Time after time it was mentioned in both Houses of this Parliament and in every State Parliament. We had the spectacle of the censor prohibiting the publication of a caricature of Mr. Hughes on the ground that it was inimical to the war efforts of Australia.
– Has the honorable senator seen The Billy Booh?
– Mr. Hughes has had his eyes opened since the time to which I am referring, which was just before the referendum campaign, and when feeling was running very high in Australia. About that time the Prime Minister went to Sydney, and on one occasion he commanded the proprietors of the Sydney Sun to recall a whole issue. He told them that if they persisted in distributing that issue he would send a posse of police and take possession of their offices. What was the offence committed in that issue? It was a statement that Mr. Hughes had had a somewhat poor reception when addressing a meeting of unionists in Sydney. On that account, instructions were given by the Prime Minister to recall the whole of that issue of the newspaper. I say that Senator Pearce knew very well what was going on, and his chief offence in my eyes was the weakness he displayed in allowing the military people to push him to the extent they did.
– Where would we have been to-day, but for the military people?
– There are a lot of military people in Australia who could have been spared very well for the war, but who took good care that they would not be spared for it, and .preferred to stay here suppressing liberty in Australia. Senator Pearce concurred in all these things if he did not instigate them, and consequently I regard him as responsible for them.
I know that at the time of the disruption in the Labour party, feeling ran very high even in this Chamber, and I am inclined to believe that there was perhaps some spleen shown in the action taken against Labour newspapers and Labour organizations throughout the Commonwealth. Why were Labour offices and buildings raided by the military in the dead of night? Why were Labour officials awakened from sleep at the point of the bayonet and forced to go down to their offices to show that there was no anti-conscription literature there? Actions of that kind would never have been undertaken by the military unless they had a compliant Minister whom, they could mould to their intentions. I take Mr. Bruce Smith as an example of everything that is against Labour. He is Conservatism personified. He is typical of the hard-crusted Tory; but I believe that if the administration of the War Precautions Act had been in the hands of a gentleman of his calibre or kidney, the people of Australia would have received a far better deal than they did receive from George Foster Pearce, the ex-Labour man. I honestly believe, after the experience we have had, that if these powers were placed in the hands of a hard-crusted Conservative, less injustice would be suffered under them than was suffered by their exercise during the past four years by the Minister for Defence. I believe the people would have had a better deal, because they would not have submitted to so much from a Bruce Smith or a Tory Government. Realizing that the War Precautions powers were being pressed for for some time by a Labour Government, the people did their best to fall in with the desires of the Government and avoid the pains and penalties of evasions of the Act; but, instead of the military cult, or the Minister, profiting by the compliance of the people with the Act, they went further. They were given an ounce, and took a pound, and would have taken more if conscription had been adopted. When speaking at public meetings, we used to observe the open sneers on the faces of the military officers in the crowds, as much as to say, “ We will have you after the conscription poll is taken.” We ought then to have realized how far those people would go, especially as we had seen how far they were prepared to go without conscription. The Minister now asks us for a renewal of the trust which the Government have dragged in the gutter, and I, for one, am not prepared to give it. In the future I shall be no party to giving such powers to any Government, especially to a Government that could shelter itself in office for a term of three years and put these powers into operation indiscriminately and unmercifully, irrespective of the domestic and other consequences to those who were the sufferers. The excuse they gave for ihe action they took in certain cases was that they had reason to believe that So-and-so was a danger to the Commonwealth. Any two or three people lucky enough to be in the employ of the Defence Department as secret service agents, or probably even one, would be sufficient to swear any man into gaol or an internment camp without the victim being given an opportunity to defend himself. He could even be deported without being told the charge. That is not a position of affairs which honorable senators want to see continued; but if they concede these powers again to the party on the Treasury bench they will be placing the Government in a position to do the same things again. No Government should have such allembracing powers, and none will get them again in this country with my concurrence.
The bad administration of the Defence Department by Senator Pearce has been the cause of a great deal of dissension. I have previously said, and now repeat, that the best two agents Germany had in Australia were Mr. Hughes and Senator Pearce, by reason of the dissensions and differences they created amongst the people. Those dissensions and differences will be accentuated if those two Ministers are allowed to go on in the way they have gone. They evidently do not mix with the people, and do not realize how the people have been divided by their actions. This has not been on account of what was happening on the other side of the world, but because repressive legislation never conduces to obedience. That is proved in any branch of trade that honorable senators like to name. If, for instance, we try to unduly suppress the liquor trade, it only increases with restriction, and painful effects follow. Repression breeds rebellion. It is like putting a weight on to the lid of a copper and then stoking a good strong fire underneath. Something had to go when the Government stoked np the fire by the application of harassing War Precautions regulations, and the weight was laid on the top of the copper lid. It does not need a great imagination for us, especially those of us who are privileged to go about more amongst the people and to be brought more closely into touch with the man in the street than other honorable senators, to picture what the result has been. It is my firm conviction that for every person in Australia who before the war expressed distrust of or objection to militarism and despotic, authoritative rule, there are easily ten to-day. The extra nine have been made and moulded by the restrictive actions of the Government and their repressive and harsh methods of administering the power which the Senate, in common with the other branch of the Legislature, put into their hands in all good faith. That is why I fear the effect of reposing that power in the Government again. It is not safe when we have no man with sufficient strength and stamina to see that the regulations are applied with discrimination, justice, and mercy. Senator Pearce has proved himself too weak for that task. He has been shown to be as putty in the hands of the military authorities. He and Mr. Hughes, with his tricks and antics, have been directly responsible for a great deal of the dissension in Australia. We are, therefore, justified in expressing our opposition to such a proposal as this when we remember what senators on this side, and their supporters outside, have been passing through during the last four years. Those who thought, and acted, and voted in a certain way were endowed with all the privileges they liked to arrogate to themselves, but those who merely spoke the truth were subjected to all sorts of indignities, including fines, imprisonment, and internment, without being told the cause. If that is what the Government stand for, I do not think the people of Australia stand for it. When, during the next six months, the people take the opportunity of sobering up from their outburst of jingoism, they will realize fully - and they are beginning to realize it now - that it would have been better for the Labour party to have the opportunity of expounding its policy on national questions in this country at that critical time without interference by War Precautions regulations. That would have avoided a great deal of internal dissension, personal recriminations, disputes, and squabbles in the domestic arena - all brought about by the Government and their repressive legislation. Honorable senators opposite, to judge from the way they are. keeping quiet now, are beginning to realize that the Labour party were farseeing in their judgment, and did the right thing in opposing conscription for
Australia. Nearly all our friends are agreed on that now. In any case, would it not have been better if we had been given the right of free discussion when that momentous question was before the people? If any big national crisis”, such as an election, should take place, is it not better in the interests of Australia that each party should have the opportunity of putting their case before the people, who are the supreme arbiters, and letting the people judge? It would not be satisfactory to you, sir, to fight a person with his arms tied behind his back, but the Government have done that sort of thing during the past few years. I am afraid that the Government party will go to the same extent as during the past four years to suit their own ends, and that is why I propose to vote against the second reading of this Bill.
– Like other honorable senators who have preceded me, I much regret that the opportunity given to the Senate for the discussion of this important measure necessarily imposes upon us both hurry and brevity, because it is one of the most important measures submitted to Parliament during the period of the war. It touches some important and far-reaching legislative provisions that we have already accepted. When we were considering those provisions originally, their seriousness .and gravity were emphasized by the Ministers who respectively introduced them. When we are invited to consider this measure we are asked to re-affirm our attitude for a certain period, but under totally different conditions from those that prevailed when we first endowed the Government with’ these extraordinary powers.
After the most careful consideration of what has taken place since the matter was first mooted, and after what has been said in another place and through the press, I feel that the Government have not made out a case for the extension of the operations of the War Precautions Act, as set out in this measure. I think I can fairly and freely express that opinion, remembering as I do that when the Government of the day first asked for this power; in 1914,- I most readily assisted to give it to them.. It was not the present Government, but a Labour-
Government, and I was sitting in opposition, but I most readily co-operated in giving them what they asked for. In the election that took place during the war I announced at every public meeting that whatever Government were returned would be bound to ask for an inordinate extension of power to meet the emergencies that might arise during the war. I also said that, if elected, I would most . loyally accord it to them. From time to time regulations promulgated by the Government in the exercise of the powers conferred on them by the Act were challenged in the Senate, and their annulment was sought, but on no occasion did I support any such action. On the contrary, on more than one occasion, when the Labour Government were in office, with very strong support in this chamber, and when we in opposition numbered only five, I helped the Government to the best of my ability by endeavouring to convince some of their own supporters that it was desirable to grant them the powers for which they asked. Under these circumstances I feel that I can approach this matter with the fullest confidence that my attitude will not be misjudged.
As I have said, I have given a good deal of consideration to what has occurred elsewhere in connexion with the discussion of this measure. Looking back now on what has taken place during this session, I regret very much that this Bill was not originated in the Senate, because then there would have been time for fuller consideration than is possible in the few remaining hours of this year’s sittings.
It will be remembered, as has been pointed out by other honorable senators, that in endowing the Government with the powers conferred upon them by the War- Precautions Act we were giving those powers for the purposes of the war; for the purpose of enabling the Government fully and efficiently, as representative of Parliament and the people, to discharge the obligations of the Commonwealth as part of the Empire in connexion with the great world struggle from which we are now so happily emerging. It was not intended that the powers should be- exercised except for, and in relation to, the performance of that duty, the discharge of that obligation. I find, on looking at this measure, the second reading of which has been moved, that it recites in the second paragraph of the preamble -
And whereas the said Act and the regulations and Orders thereunder continue in operation during the continuance of the present state of war and no longer:
Then, in the enacting part it is provided that we shall extend the Act and regulations made thereunder for a period of three months after the termination of the war, or until the 31st July next, whichever period shall be the longer. I do not think the preamble correctly states the position at all. The Act which we are asked to extend - the War Precautions Act 1914-16, certainly provides -
This Act shall continue in operation during the continuance of the present state of war and no longer.
But sub-section 2 of the same section states -
For the purposes of this Act the present state of war means the period from the 4th day of August, 1914, at the hour of 11 o’clock post meridiem, reckoned according to Greenwich standard time, until the issue of a proclamation by the Governor-General that the war between His Majesty the King and the German Emperor, and between His Majesty the King and the Emperor of Austria King of Hungary has ceased.
So far as the War Precautions Act is concerned, and so far as the Government in the exercise of the powers under that Act are concerned, war ceases when the GovernorGeneral issues the proclamation provided for under that Act. If war ceases on 31st July, I can see no obligation on the Governor-General, acting upon the advice of his Ministers, to issue that proclamation on the 1st August. His Ministers, if they deemed it necessary in the exercise of their discretion, and for the purpose of fulfilling their high Ministerial obligations, might decide that the proclamation should be issued three months or a month later.
– But would not that clash with an Imperial proclamation?
– In what respect?
– I mean if its publication were delayed.
– But, after all, what is the effect of a proclamation? It is a survival of the practice adopted for a communication made by the Crown to the Crown’s liege subjects in the days when there were no newspapers, no telegraphs, and no postal system. It was practically an. announcement from the Crown to its liege subjects, informing them of a certain state of affairs. Unless Parliament takes action to give some consequential legal effect to a proclamation it is simply an announcement. So far as the war is concerned for the purposes of this Act and this Government, or any Government of the Commonwealth, war ceases when that proclamation is issued, and I take it that His Excellency the Governor-General will not publish it except upon the advice of his Ministers.
We have passed other legislation relating to the war, and in those measures we have dealt differently with the question of the period of the war. There is, however, one instance in which we have adopted somewhat the same method of declaring the period of the war. That is the Trading with the Enemy Act. In that measure we provide that the present state of war means the period from the 4th of August until the issue of such a proclamation as that mentioned by the War Precautions Aot. But in other Acts, such as, for instance, the Patents Act 1916, a measure for the partial suspension of a section of the original Act, it is provided -
The operation of section 87a of the Patents Act 1903-9 shall be suspended during the continuance of the present war, and for a period of six months thereafter ….
In that measure we make no special definition of the period of the war.
– But we have a constitutional competency to legislate in regard to patents at any time.
– Yes ; but that has no bearing on the point I am trying to put before honorable senators. So far as the Patents Act is concerned, we say that a certain section of the Statute shall be suspended during the continuance of the present war and for six months afterwards. We do not say, as in the ease of the War Precautions Act, that for the purposes of this Act the continuance of the war shall mean so and so. Then, again, in the Commonwealth Electoral (War-time) Act 1917 the second section provides -
This Act shall apply in relation to elections for the Senate and general elections for the House of Representatives held during the present war, or within six months thereafter.
– Let me he clear on the point I am making. Is it not correct to say that in respect of those matters we have an unlimited constitutional competency to legislate?
– We also had unlimited competency to legislate so far as the War Precautions Act is concerned. What I am concerned about is not our relative competency to legislate upon certain subjects, but our expression of the period of the war differently in different Statutes. In the measure now under consideration the original Act provides that the period of the war shall terminate on the date when the Governor-General issues a certain proclamation.
Now, the Government having passed a certain number of regulations, and having established a number of systems, institutions, organizations - call them what you like - could not be expected, immediately upon the establishment of peace, to allow these powers and establishments to go by the board, so we made provision that for the purposes of the Act the termination of the war should date from the issue by the GovernorGeneral of a proclamation intimating that a state of peace existed. It will be the function of Ministers to advise the Governor-General when to issue that proclamation.
– T - That will give the Government indefinite powers then?
– Yes. I contend that this Bill is absolutely superfluous. I think there has been some confusion concerning the debate on the English Act in its relation to our own legislation. The British Defence of the Realm Act, often spoken of as the D.O.R.A or “Dora,” is a very simple measure. It was assented to on 8th August, four days after the proclamation of a state of war, and its operative section states -
His Majesty in Council has power, during the continuance of the present war, to issue regulations, and so on. I think there is about one other section, but there is no attempt to define what is the period of the war. The only Statutes of the Commonwealth in which we purport to define the period of the war seems to be the one now under consideration and the Trading with the Enemy Act.
– Is there no Imperial enactment defining the period of the war?
– I have not looked, but I know the Defence of the Realm Act does not, and that is the one with which we are most concerned.
I said a little while ago that I had given a good deal of consideration to what had taken place in the debates centering round this proposal, and it seems to me that there is some confusion of the position in Australia in relation to the position in Great Britain.. If honorable senators will look at the debates that have taken place elsewhere, they will find there is a disposition in that direction, not only on the part of private members, but also on the part of some Ministers. A great deal of trouble has taken place in Great Britain, which, I think, has misled many people in Australia, with regard to a proposal from a certain section of the people that the Defence of the Realm Act should be repealed. There is a disposition on the part of some persons in Great Britain to deprive the Government of its powers because they contend that the war is virtually, if not legally, over ; but the Prime Minister of Great Britain has given good reasons why he must retain the powers conferred on him under that Act, “during the continuance of the present war.” Here it is not so. The Government have all the powers under the War Precautions Act, and the regulations already made under it may be operative, even after peace is declared, until the Governor-General, acting on the advice of his Ministers, issues the proclamation required by the Act. There is no disposition on the part of
Parliament to deprive the Government of one tittle of the powers which they possess
– But it would be terribly incongruous if the Commonwealth Government delayed the issue of the proclamation of Peace by the GovernorGeneral after the whole Empire had been declared to be at peace by Imperial proclamation.
– The issue of a proclamation by the Governor-General will not make peace.
– But it will proclaim a state which, on the face of it, must exist by reason of some Imperial proclamation or enactment.
– Peace may come without the issue of any proclamation by the Governor-General at all. The War Precautions Act and the Trading with the Enemy Act are the only two Statutes, apparently, which require him to issue a proclamation. He is required to issue a proclamation, not in order that Senator Bakhap and myself may know that peace has been declared, but “for the purposes of this Act” - that is to say, for the purpose of terminating this Act. The proclamation is not to be issued for the purpose of informing people that there is peace, but “for the purposes of this Act.” When that proclamation is issued, it will be issued on the advice of the Government. Senator Lt.-Colonel O’Loghlin. - If the Imperial Government declare that a state of peace exists, will not that declaration apply to the whole Empire?
– Yes ; so far as it has any legal consequences. But I do not know that there is any obligation on the part of the Governor-General to issue a proclamation at all. As a matter of fact, the issue of a proclamation is often merely a survival of the old days, when there were few means of communicating important items of news affecting the whole nation, as compared with the means which exist to-day, when we have wireless telegraphy, &c. I repeat that the proclamation is required “ for the purposes of this Act.” The Government, therefore, have all the powers that they require. The discretion remains with them as to which of those powers they shall retain between now and the termination of the Act.
I listened with a great deal of interest to the remarks made by the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) in introducing this Bill; and I have also read the debates upon it in the other branch of the . Legislature. Much emphasis has been laid upon the evils which would result from the cessation of this Act, and of the regulations made under it. But nobody proposes that the Act shall cease to operate to-day. If Parliament rises at the end of the current week, and reassembles at the end of February or March of next year, the odds are that the Act will then still be in operation. It is scarcely expected by the most optimistic amongst us that by February or March next peace will have been formally declared. But, even if it has, it will still rest with the Government to say when, “ for the purposes of this Act,” they shall proclaim that peace has been established. Moreover, if any evils will arise from the cessation of the Act now, they will equally arise on the 31st July next, or at the end of the period for which the Statute may be extended. Much has been said of the terrible ills that will result from the cessation of the Act to investments which have been made by certain State authorities in our war loans, contrary to their ordinary powers; and a great deal of stress has been laid on certain other aspects of the regulations, such as the moratorium. But if the evil consequences which would flow from the lifting of the moratorium now are serious, they will be equally evil and serious on the 31st July next, or on whatever date may be fixed for the termination of the Act. They will probably be more serious then than they are now.
– With the exception that by then we shall have been afforded time to get through whatever State legislation may be required.
– There will he just as much time to do that, irrespective of whether or not this Bill be passed. With the reserve power which Ministers possess of fixing the date of the issue of a proclamation “ for the purposes of the Act,” they have everything that they need.
– Does the honorable senator .say that the rest of the Empire may issue a proclamation declaring that the state of war has ceased, and that we may continue as we are?
– I have said nothing of the kind. I have said that the issue of a proclamation does not terminate the war. It is merely an announcement of the fact that the war has terminated.
– What is the purpose of the proclamation ? ‘ It is to legally terminate the war.
– Not at all. It is merely an announcement that the war has terminated. Section 2 of the Act, sub-section 2, provides -
For the purposes of this Act, the present state of war means the period from the fourth day of August, one thousand nine hundred and fourteen, at the hour of eleven o’clock post meridiem reckoned according to Greenwich standard time, until the issue of a proclamation by the Governor-General that the war between His Majesty the King and the German Emperor and between His Majesty the King and the Emperor of Austria, King of Hungary, has ceased.
With the exception of the Trading with the Enemy Act that provision has not been inserted in any of our other Statutes dealing with the period of the war. It was inserted in this Act for a special purpose, and to meet the extraordinary conditions to which the operation of the Act must necessarily give rise. In these circumstances the Government should not be asking for an extension of the Act. Upon Friday last the Minister for Defence -said that the Government did not want all these extraordinary powers. He affirmed that they did not want to continue all the regulations that are now in force, and that officers had already been instructed to ascertain which of them could, without detriment, be repealed. In reply to an interjection by me he added that officers were acting on those instructions at the present time. Why cannot the Government continue on those lines, without asking for this legislation ? If they do so, they will be in a position when Parliament re-assembles to come down here with full information as to the exact position. They will be able to say what particular regulations have been repealed because they were now useless and unnecessary.
I have- here the Commonwealth Statu-‘ tory Rules, which have been put into bound volumes during the past few years. The volume dealing with the regulations gazetted in 1915 contains War Precautions Regulations (General) and War Precautions Regulations (Aerial Navigation). These occupy in that volume some twenty-nine pages of closely-printed matter. In the next volume - that of 1916 - I gather from the index that there are War Precautions regulations dealing with the following subjects: - General active service moratorium, aliens registration, coal, coal tar, coaling battalions, coinage, companies, enemy shareholders, glycerine, hides, land transfer, liquor, mining, moratorium, passports, patents, prices, prices adjustment, rabbit skins, sheep skins, shipping, supplementary, and wool, in addition to war service regulations in connexion with the camps at the time of the conscription proposal. Altogether in that volume these regulations cover 188 pages. In the last volume, that of 1917, the regulations cover the following subjects: - Active service moratorium (general), aliens registration, coal, coal tar, companies, control of sports, cornsacks, enemy shareholders, galvanized iron, glycerine, hides, military service referendum, mining, moratorium, passports, shipping, stocking of goods, supplementary, tin plates, winter butter pool, and wool - 144 pages in all. Up to September last - there were something like 220 or 230 regulations, many of them War Precautions regulations issued during the present year. These have yet to be bound. If they were all collected, they would make a considerable bulk. Indeed, there are so many of them that it is a very difficult matter, even for a lawyer, to know where he is in connexion with particular regulations. These regulations have been turned out. with a regularity which suggests that they come from a factory established for the purpose. Many of them merely amend previous regulations by deleting certain words and inserting others, whilst many others entirely supersede previous regulations. Much valuable work might be done by the Departments if Parliament left this measure alone until next year, and those Departments then presented us with a list showing the minimum to which the regulations had been reduced in the interim. That would be a much easier and more intelligible proposition for us to deal with.
Until peace has been concluded, I do not think that Parliament wishes to deprive Ministers of their present powers under the Regulations to maintain peace, order, and good government in the Commonwealth. I shall support the Government in exercising those powers just as I have supported previous Governments which have asked for the most extensive authority in connexion with the prosecution of the war. Much that will be done and much of what was referred to by the Acting Prime Minister in connexion with the establishment of peace, will be incidental to the war. It merely represents the sweeping up after all the heavy work that has been done by the Government in connexion with the war.’ The Government are justly entitled to exercise all those powers which are necessary to enable them to complete the work upon which they have been engaged and to get back to normal conditions as expeditiously as possible. In these circumstances, Ministers will be well advised if, instead of pushing on with this measure, they simply persist in the instruction that has already been given to the Departments, and abolish as many of these regulations as possible before we re-assemble here. I do not think that by the time we shall have re-assembled the ordinary period for the expiration of this Act will have arrived. When Parliament meets again, we shall be in a very much better position to deal with the whole subject than now. The defeat of this Bill, if the Government do not choose to take that course, will not deprive them of one tittle of the power they now possess. But there is a certain discretion reposed in them as a Government, and I should like to see them exercise it. I do not think they are taking the right course in desiring to jump before they come to the hurdle - so to speak. I do not think they are adopting the correct procedure in avoiding their responsibilities and asking Parliament to extend this Act, when there has been no justification yet given for the extension. It seems that the only justification advanced is that the officers engaged in administering various regulations under the Act have, in many instances, said it is necessary for the regulations to remain in force. The Government are relying too much on their officers in this regard.
Behind this measure is the big principle that Parliament has practically handed over to the Executive of the day, not merely executive powers, but almost complete and unquestionable legislative powers. There has been noted a tendency, not only in the Commonwealth, but in Great Britain, for Parliament, year by year, to lose control of successive Governments. Year after year, Governments are getting more independent of Parliament, and they come forward, not alone in Australia, but in the Mother of Parliaments itself, with a cut-and-dried programme, and there is little opportunity for deliberation or debate. Parliament is becoming more and more a machine for registering the views of the Government of the day. We shall have to fight against that if the parliamentary institution is to survive. . But when the Government of the Commonwealth came in, during a time when bigger things than the existence of parliamentary institutions were at stake, and, indeed, when the existence of the Empire was at hazard, and asked for these powers, there was little disposition to cavil at the proposal, and they were, in the first instance, granted unanimously.
I am reminded that Senator Gardiner was sitting on this side of the Senate during the early days of the war ; and, so far as we who were in Opposition were concerned - we were five in number - on many occasions we came to his assistance to endeavour to convince certain of his own following that they might trust the Government with regard to the powers sought. To-day, we are well advised to hesitate. And, if we realize that we are not depriving the Government of any authority, of any jurisdiction or power, by saying that we desire more particular information before we grant an extension - information as to the direction in which the Government desire certain principles contained in the regulations to be given permanent legislative effect - we will know we are doing no more than the proper thing. It is for that reason that I cannot see that the Government have justified the demand for the extension of this measure. If the % Bill is passed, it will extend the operations of the Act until three months after the termination of the war, or until the 31st July, 1919, whichever period is the longer. It involves the extension of the Act until the 31st July, at the earliest. It does not merely do that. It extends all the regulations made under the Act, except in so “far as the Government may repeal any of them. And, what is more, it extends up to the 31st July, at the earliest, the power of the Government to continue to make regulations.
– Your main argument was that that power would be continued, whether we passed this Bill or not.
– The Government have said that they want to get rid of all these regulations; and if they can do so upon the basis of the suggestion which I have made, they can return next year and indicate the main lines of the subjects with which the regulations deal, and with regard to which they will require something more permanent in form than regulations.
The Act and its administration have given rise to a species of vested interests on the part of certain individuals and groups of individuals. They may say that it is desirable that the Act should be extended indefinitely. There are officers acting under different regulations which, in ordinary circumstances, and in normal times, would never be having the force of law. Those officers are satisfied with the positions they occupy. They are dressed in authority. I do not say that they abuse it; but if they were asked whether it was desirable that the regulations under which they derive their authority should go or stay, it would be only human nature, if there was any doubt in their minds, to give the benefit of that doubt to the offices which they hold.
Reference has been made by Senator Pratten to the regulations having to do with the formation of companies, and with the increases of capital in companies; that is to say, with the necessity for securing approval for the formation of new companies, and for the increase of capital in existing companies. So far as people in the other States are concerned, I know of several instances in which such parties have been put to considerable inconvenience, loss of time, and expense in having to come to Melbourne to expedite replies which correspondence could not. evoke with sufficient despatch. That is a hardship upon people resident in other States. And there is another aspect. There are existing avenues of enterprise which, to a large extent, have been exploited by old-established companies. There are younger men in Australia, animated by a spirit of enterprise, and inspired by ambition, who think they can galvanize new life into some such activity as I have indicated. They have sought to establish companies, but have been faced with the difficulty of registration and of securing authority to carry on. The older men, who have been drawing their dividends from well-established enterprises, and with which the younger men would come into competition, complacently view the War Precautions regulations which assist to give them a monopoly. The Act is a great discouragement to young men, to enterprise, and to ambition.
I hope the Government will consider the advisableness of resting upon the’ powers they already possess. I hope they will not continue to ask Parliament to extend this Act, and, with it, the regulations, and the power to make regulations, seeing that they have already, in my opinion, sufficient power to warrant them in going safely into recess, and to assure them that, when they meet Parliament again, they will be able to submit definite and concrete proposals which may be considered upon their merits in the interests of the measure itself and of Australia, under peaceful and normal conditions. If the Bill, however, is pressed forward to a division stage, I regret that I must deem it my duty to stand by the attitude which I have now expounded.
– If the extension were granted, would it in any way annul the power of the proclamation?
– I am glad to have my attention called to that point. I have noticed, in looking through the Bill, a feature of its drafting. The operative clause is No. 2. It sets out -
And that period is to he called the extended period. The section of the Act, as it at present reads, states -
This Act shall continue in operation during the continuance of the present state of war, and no longer.
Then it proceeds -
For the purposes of this Act, the present state of war means the period from the fourth day of August, One thousand nine hundred and fourteen . . . until the issue of a proclamation.
But that is not struck out; so the section, if it is amended as this Bill proposes, will read -
This Act shall continue in operation during the continuance of the present state of war and for a period of three months thereafter, or until the thirty-first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and nineteen, whichever period is the longer.
And then it will continue -
For the purposes of this Act, the present state of war means the period from the fourth day of August, One thousand nine hundred and fourteen . . . until the issue of a proclamation.
The proclamation would be issued by the Governor-General, and the three months would date from that issue. That will remain in the Act if this Bill is passed, and it seems to be contrary to the purpose of the amending Bill. If the Government desired to make the 31st July, 1919, the last day, or three months after the cessation of the war, they should have struck out the provision respecting the proclamation. It is proposed, however, to leave the reference to the proclamation still in the Act; and the effect of that inclusion will depend upon eventualities.
– If the proclamation is not issued until 31st July the Act will continue in operation for a further three months.
– That is so. For the reasons I have given I trust that the Government will see their way to rest upon their powers under the existing Act, and will not press for the passage of this measure.
– I wonder why the Government desire the extension of these powers. We have been assured by . Senator Keating that they are in a position to exercise these powers until a proclamation has been issued declaring that the Btate of war has ended. Not satisfied with that, the Government propose that they should have a further extension of their powers under the War Precautions Act for three months. I think it is quite probable that they have been impressed by those who have succeeded in establishing themselves upon the almost innumerable Boards that are now controlling the industries of this country to bring forward this proposal. I hope that the Senate will not accept this Bill. The Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) was good enough to furnish me with a copy of his speech in moving the second reading of the measure, and I read it carefully. I am one of those who without protest gave the Government of the day the powers for which they asked when the War Precautions Bill was originally submitted to this Parliament. As a matter of fact, I think that the discussion of the Bill in the Senate was left almost entirely to Senators Gould and Keating, as it was regarded as a technical measure which could be best considered by honorable senators possessing legal knowledge. I was prepared to give the Government very extensive powers while the war continued, but honorable senators will agree that a state of war no longer exists in Australia. If we are to judge by the opinions expressed by the great body of the people of this country, the War Precautions Act and all the regulations issued under it should be allowed to go by the board at once.
These are the things to which I object : Some time ago, the Government, at the instigation of some one - I do not know whom - appointed a Paper Control Board. When that Board commenced its operations the price of paper was £63 per ton. The members of the Board sat once or twice, and when they terminated their sittings we were officially informed by Senator Russell that the price of paper was £63 per ton. This was a decent and respectable Board - a Board with a conscience. The members saw that they were superfluous, and were interfering where they were not required, and they informed the Government that the best thing they could do was to go about their business and let the people engaged in the industry which they were considering attend to their own affairs. What happened after that ? We were informed by the Minister that the price of paper remained at £63 per ton; but I was informed on what I regard as very reliable authority that the price almost . immediately dropped to £42 per ton. What good did the Paper Control Board do? So far as I know, its establishment was of no value whatever to the country.
– It cut down the size of certain newspapers.
– I understand that ‘ it proposed to give some instructions in that direction, but that went by the board, and the price of paper came down to £42 per ton, and I suppose to-day is even at a lower figure.
I take again the action of the Board charged with fixing the price of butter. So far as I can see, the price of butter goes higher every time they touch that commodity. Just prior to the recent election at Corangamite - but not at all because there happened to be many dairy farmers in that electorate - the price of butter was put up another 2d. per lb. A Board of that kind would bo very much better out of existence. I remember when the price of butter was fixed in New South Wales, not under the War Precautions Act, but by some arrangement with the State Government. It was fixed at ls. 3d. per lb. That was all very well for a few days, when it was found that many people refused to produce butter at that price. It was very little satisfaction to the public to know that the price of butter was fixed at ls. 3d. per lb. when no butter was available at that price.
– Does the honorable senator consider that a good argument in favour of price-fixing ? .
– I do not. I doubt very much whether price fixing can be satisfactorily carried out even under the best possible conditions. If the Government themselves operated in an industry they might be able to do something, but I am not sure that even then the conditions that would be created would give any great degree of satisfaction. The establishment of Boards for price fixing provides positions for many persons who like to sit down without doing very much work.
I take the work of another price-fixing Board. Some time ago the price of galvanizediron was fixed at £56 per ton, but the fixed price was ignored throughout the Commonwealth, and importers and merchants dealing in that commodity openly advertised it for sale at £60 and £75 per ton. What is the good of a Board of that description, except to provide positions for a limited number of people? It would be far better in the interests of the country if people composing such Boards were looking after their own business.
If we take the case of the meat industry, honorable senators know that there were deputations introduced and conferences innumerable to deal with the price of meat, and so far as I can learn, the idea of fixing the price of meat has now been absolutely abandoned by the Government, and, in my opinion, it is a very good job that it has.
These are some of the things which have been done under the regulations framed under the War Precautions Act, and the sooner all that kind of business is brought to an end the better I shall be pleased. I have entered my protest against the regulation interfering with the operations of the building trade. I am at a loss to understand why such a regulation was issued . It prevents any person who may desire to build doing so without the consent of the Treasurer. In time of war, when we were severely pressed for money, a regulation of the kind might have been desirable, though I doubt it; but when the war is practically over that regulation should be at once repealed.
Unfortunately, the Government have npt shown that they are at all desirous that their powers under the War Precautions Act should be limited. They have not indicated that they intend to repeal a single regulation issued under the Act unless it be to replace it by another further extending their powers. If Ministers had informed us that 300 or 400 of the War Precautions regulations were repealed we should be in a better frame of mind to give them the extended powers for which they ask under this Bill. They have not done that, and I venture to say the reason why they have not done it is that the members of the innumerable Boards that have been created have behind the scenes .urged the Government to secure for them the extension of the autocratic powers they have enjoyed.
– That is a pure assumption.
– Then why did the Government introduce this Bill J They have all the power they require under the existing Act until peace is declared. Although the armistice has been signed no one can tell when peace will be declared.
– The honorable senator has postulated that all the different Boards have been bombarding the Government with requests to continue the operation of the Act.
– I have not the least doubt that they have done so.
– I do not think that there is any evidence of that.
– I have not the least doubt of it, otherwise why do the Government bring forward a proposal of this kind? I should have preferred the introduction of a Bill proposing the immediate repeal of the War Precautions Act; but, as the Government are evidently not prepared to repeal it, I mustprotest against this proposal to extend the operation of the measure, and I shall therefore vote against the second reading of this Bill.
– I ask myself, in the first place, is this projected extension of the War Precautions Act necessary; is it timely, or is it premature ? My main concern as a Federalist is with a feature of the measure that I do not think has been sufficiently discussed here, if it has been discussed at all. I refer to the constitutional position in regard to an enactment under the Defence powers of the Commonwealth, which is designed to be operative and valid after peace has been proclaimed.
I am one of those who assisted the Government responsible for the introduction of the War Precautions Bill originally to place it on the statute-book. I have no regrets whatever for having done what I did. I do not for a moment associate myself with those who call for the instant repeal of the Act, basing their demand on the alleged fact that the war has come to an end. The war has not come to an end. The war is a fact. An armistice or armed truce has been arranged, and in the present disturbed condition of Europe I should consider it an act of utter folly on the part of the Administration to entertain the idea of now repealing this measure because we are supposed to have actually, if not technically, entered upon the era of peace.
– Would it not be a good idea to slacken its operations in regard to a number of regulations?
– I believe the operation of the Act will be slackened. We have the Ministerial promise to that effect, and I do not hold a Ministerial promise as valueless in this or any other connexion.
I am under some disadvantage in discussing this measure by reason of the fact that I have not had the advantage of that legal training which would enable me particularly to discuss the constitutional aspect of the projected extension of the Act now on the statute-book. I want the Government to understand that I will give them my support in maintaining the existence of that measure until at leastthe Peace Conference has sat and given us some idea of the time when peace may be proclaimed. To show how things have changed, the Act on the statute-book mentions the proclamation of peace “with the Emperor of Germany and the Emperor of Austria, who is also King of Hungary.” Those potentates have disappeared, and the question arises now when we shall have, in the defeated Central Empires or one-time Empires,
Governments sufficiently stable with which Great Britain and her Allies can negotiate a peace. Technically, if our Empire is not able to declare that a state of peace has been arrived at with those erstwhile belligerent countries or their resulting sections, I assume that- it will be necessary for the Imperial Government and this Legislature to take into consideration the passing of some enactment which would legally declare the state of war to be at an end. We saw in this morning’s papers an announcement that it may be necessary to occupy certain other portions of Germany than those contemplated in the original terms of the armistice. If that is done, a state of actual and determined peace may be years in arriving.
While I intend to support the retention of the Act on the statute-book, so long as there is a practical prospect of our actually remaining in such a state as may cause a recrudescence of hostilities, I, as a Democrat and Federalist, must take seriously into consideration my attitude towards any proposed prolongation of this legislation after a state of peace has been technically and actually arrived at. Has it occurred to honorable senators that the arguments in favour of the continuance of the powers possessed by the Administration under the War Precautions Act savour very much of an exaltation of the principle of bureaucracy or autocratic government at the expense of the much vaunted principles of Democracy? It is said that Democracy is unsuited to the waging of war, and it is true that the parliamentary Democracies of the world lumbered and laboured for some time rather heavily before they got properly into their stride in prosecuting this war. But when they did get going, the principal parliamentary Democracies of the world moved with the force and violence of giants, and it may be that when whole nations go to war Democracies are not at such a disadvantage as has been stated. Anyhow, Democracies acting on the defensive, or Democracies when attacked, possess a moral force which is perhaps greater, as Napoleon said, than the material. But when peace has been reached, any contention that a bureaucratic system of government is superior to government by parliamentary democratic institutions is a giving away of the position to which I am not going to assent. I believe that directly we reach a state of peace, we should as speedily as . possible put into operation the machinery of completely democratic and completely parliamentary government.
The Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) said that there was a great deal of difficulty in getting the State’s to consent to legislation which it may be necessary for them to enact, so that the operations of the Government under the War Precautions Act may be continued and extended. I remind the Minister that, notwithstanding the alleged reluctance on the part of the States to agree to legislation of all-round national benefit, the very Constitution by which the Federation was called into being resulted from the agreement and truly co-operative action of the Parliaments of the different States. I have no doubt that, if it is found necessary to approach the State Parliaments with a request that they should legislate for the continuance of the moratorium provisions, so far as the individual States are concerned, and if it can be made clear to the State Administrations that it is a matter of urgency, the State Legislatures will pass the necessary measures. If those State Legislatures, which are more closely in touch with the ordinary financial operations of the people, refuse to pass such a measure, it will tend to show that the prolongation of. the moratorium is unnecessary.
I listened with great interest and anticipation to my colleague, Senator Keating; and, beyond doubt, so far as he went in his elucidation of the construction and general position of our War Precautions legislation, he was very enlightening. I am sorry he did not go much further. I have said that I am at a certain disadvantage in dealing with one feature of this measure, on which I intend to touch, because high legal authorities have been mentioned as having been consulted in regard to the powers of the Commonwealth respecting the passage of legislation of this description. It has practically been laid down by the Judges of the High Court that almost anything can he done per medium of the Defence power when the Commonwealth, as an integral part. of the British Empire, is at war. As a matter of fact, the Habeas Corpus Act is suspended. I do not mean to say that it has been suspended by proclamation or enactment in so many words, but the effect of the decision of the learned Judges of the High Court is that that Act is suspended, for the Minister for Defence can have any individual in the Commonwealth arrested and interned; and it has been laid down in that decision that he is not called upon to give reasons for’ such action.
– We passed a Statute to that effect. That was the War Precautions Act No. 3.
– If I remember, rightly, that decision was given before that Statute was passed, and the Statute may have been a consequence of the decision.
– The decision was given on a regulation.
– Yes; and it was subsequently deemed advisable to validate the whole position, if any validation was necessary, by the passage of a special enactment. The Habeas Corpus Act has as its main principle the bringing of prisoners to trial. “Under it no arrested . person can be incarcerated for an indefinite period without being brought to trial, but the Minister for Defence is not called upon, unless he is personally so disposed, to bring any arrested person to trial. Honorable senators will, therefore, concede the correctness of my statement that the Habeas Corpus Act is, in effect, suspended in the Commonwealth. I shall not charge the Minister for Defence with unduly abusing his powers. I do not think they have been unduly abused. In the special kind of administration permissible under the War Precautions Act, the Minister has been discreet, and, in a general sense, reasonable. I make no attack on him on that account, but it is most undesirable that such a power should be continued, if it may be continued, after peace has been proclaimed - that is, after, by Imperial enactment or proclamation, the Empire is declared to be again at peace. The Empire can be regarded as’ a belligerent Power only when considered as an entity. Consequently, when the Empire ceases to be a belligerent Power in respect to this war, when peace is by Imperial proclamation or enactment declared to have arrived, I maintain that the Commonwealth Constitution, in all its provisions, becomes alive and operative, and cannot be superseded by an exercise of the Defence power or by legislation enacted thereunder.
– Did you say the Defence power? We have the Defence power in time of peace. You are speaking , of the war power.
– The sovereign powers of the States existing in time of peace cannot be abrogated by legislation passed as the result of the war power of the Commonwealth in time of war, and continued into a peace period. That is the common-sense conclusion I come to, and I shall not regard my arguments as invalid until they are pronounced so by a High Court decision. As a Federalist, I am concerned with the constitutional aspect of any action or predicated action. I was sent here by the electors of a State to do, to the best of my ability, what can be done in the interests of the nation as a whole, and to be particularly careful of the rights of my State under the Constitution, which is essentially Federal in principle. I maintain, and shall maintain until the High Court holds otherwise, that when an Imperial proclamation is issued declaring that a state of war is at an end, the Commonwealth Constitution turns down the page of war, so to speak, and resumes its ordinary peaceful operation. Professor Harrison Moore, Mr. Starke, Sir Edward Mitchell, for all of whom, as men of high attainments, I have great respect, may be quoted against me until the end of the year; but I shall maintain that it is unconstitutional to set up the validity of war-time legislation or administration of the regulations under the War Precautions Act after the pronouncement of peace, and that the States should then resume, and, indeed, do at once resume, those powers which they retained when they entered into the Federation. I ask leave to continue my remarks to-morrow.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
Bill presented by Senator Pearce, and read a first time.
Motion (bySenator Millen) agreed to-
That the Senate, at is rising, adjourn until 11 o’clocka.m. to-morrow.
Motion (by Senator Millen) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I askSenator Russell if he now has the information which he promised to furnish me before the adjournment of the Senate in regard to the regulation of certain classes of imported goods.
– I have looked closely into the matter, and’ I find that the form in which the question was asked is not in keeping with the ordinary statistical year, and that, therefore, some delay has occurred in preparing the return. However, it will be got ready at the earliest possible moment, and given to the honorable senator.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.20 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 17 December 1918, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1918/19181217_senate_7_87/>.