13th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. F. J. Lynch) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
I promised to have these inquiries made, and am now in a position to inform the honorable senator that complaints have previously been received regarding interference by theRoyal Australian Air Force
W/T stationat No. 3 Squadron, Richmond, New South Wales. Everything possible has been done to reduce interference at Richmond, and the complainants have been advised to consult the Signals Officer at the Richmond aerodrome, who will assist with advice. Many of the receiving sets used in country centres are not very selective in their tuning, and the same sets would be useless in any of the cities where broadcasting is carried out by a number of stations. As the majority of the. transmission from Richmond occur on a frequency of 181.8 kcs., it is suggested that if listeners placed a wavetrap tuned to that frequency in their aerial circuits, then most of the interference would be eliminated. A similar station to that at Richmond, New South Wales, is in daily use at Point Cook, Victoria ; no interference is being caused to broadcast receivers situated 400 yards from the transmitter, and no complaints have been received from residents of this district.
– On the 1st September Senator Dunn asked me a question, upon notice, in regard to the Newnes shale oil undertaking. In pursuance of the promise which I made in the course of my reply, I now lay on the table of the Senate a copy of an agreement dated the 12th May, 1932, between the Commonwealth of Australia, of the first part, the Shale Oil Development Committee Limited, of the second part, and Robert Ambrose Treganowan and Cecil Osborne Chambers, of the third part, and copies of documents ancillary thereto, relating to the Newnes shaleoil undertaking.
With reference to the reduced railway freight of £7 10a. per ton for beer from Melbourne to Kalgoorlie, and £615s. per ton from Adelaide to Kalgoorlie, how are these freights apportioned between the Victorian, South Australian,and Commonwealth Governments? 2.Is it a fact that Victorian beer from Melbourne is curried over the Commonwealth railways at a lower rate per ton per mile than South Australian beer from Adelaide to Kalgoorlie?
I am now in a position to advise the honorable senator as follows : -
The freightof £7 10s. per ton, Melbourne to Kalgoorlie, is apportioned between the various systems as under -
The freight of £6 15s. per ton, Adelaide to Kalgoorlie, is apportioned between the two systems as under -
I am now in a position to advise the honorable senator as follows: -
Under an agreement made with the Richmond Brewing Company by the Victorian. South Australian and Commonwealth railways, the through rate on beer by rail from Melbourne to Kalgoorlie was reduced to£7 10s. per ton subject to a guaranteed minimum tonnage annually, and to theRichmond Brewing Company giving on undertaking to forward all Kalgoorlie ‘consignments by rail for a period of twelve months. Approximately 1,000 tons of beer are railed annually from Melbourne to Kalgoorlie.
By arrangement between the Victorian, South Australian, and Commonwealth railways, consignors of clothing, jam, pickles, and groceries are granted a freight concession of £2 per ton on consignments from Melbourne to Kalgoorlie subject to an agreed tonnage for a fixed period,and toan undertaking being given that the whole of the consignments will he transported by railway. No arrangement has been made for reduced freights for mining machinery and explosives, but consideration would, on application,be given to concession rates subject to the guarantee of given quantities within prescribed periods.
According to railways standard classifications, varying rates are charged for different commodities:beer is curried at a classified rate lower than the commodities named. On the other hand, many commodities, such as agricultural, produce, &c., are carried lower than beer.
Is it a fact that whilst the railway freight on beer from Melbourne to Kalgoorlie has been reduced to £7 10s. per ton, the freight on sugar required for the manufacture of beer in Kalgoorlie is £11 17s.6d. per ton for the same journey?
Is it intended to reduce the freight on goods required for Western Australian industries to the rates so generously afforded to the products of eastern factories?
I am now in a position to advise the honorable senatoras follows : -
Yes. According to railways standard classifications, varying rates are charged for different commodities. The beer referred to is carried at a rate fixed by special agreement with the railway systems of Victoria, South Australia, and the Commonwealth: the agreement provides for a given tonnage within a given period, and for the whole of the consignments to Kalgoorlie being forwarded by rail. The railway systems would give consideration to applications for reduced rates for sugar, under the same conditions.
The fixing of through rates is determined by agreement between the various railway systems concerned in the traffic, and any application for special freights would be considered on its merits.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Ou the 1st September, Senator E. B. Johnstonaskedthe Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, the following questions, upon notice: - 1.In connexion with the proposed transfer of the Patents Office to Canberra, is it pro posed to continue the practice of purchasing the houses in Mel bourne owned by transferred officers ?
I am now in a position to advise the honorable senator as follows:-
The following papers were presented : -
High Commissioner for Australia in London -Report for 1931.
Copy of Agreement made on 12th May, 1932, between the Commonwealth of Australia and the Shale Oil Development Committee Ltd., R. A. Treganowan and C. O. Chambers.
Tariff Board - Reports and Recommendations -
Fishing Appliances (Reels).
Formaldehyde and Preparations thereof.
Frozen Fresh Fish.
Generator and Starter Brushes for Automobiles.
Hyposulphite of Soda.
Jewellery Cases, Brush and Toilet Cases, and Spoon, Fork, Carver Set, and similar Cases.
Nicotine Spraying Preparations.
Sodium Alumino Silicates, either natural or synthetic.
Vessels exceeding 1,000 tons gross register.
Audit Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1932, No. 81.
Customs Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1932. No. 90.
Papua Act - Ordinances of 1932 -
No. 1 - Port Moresby Electric Light and Power.
No. 2 - Stamp Duties.
No. 3 - Supplementary Appropriation 1931- 1932.
No. 4 - Constabulary.
No. 5 - Appropriation 1932-1933.
– I lay on the table -
Tariff Board Act- Tariff Board- Annual Report for 1931-32, together with Schedule of Recommendations.
The report is complete, but in the annexure, which containsa summary of the recommendations made by the board during the year, a few recommendations relating to tariff revision matters which have not been finally considered by the Government have been omitted.
– When will the omitted recommendations be made available to the Senate?
– I am not able to say at the moment; but they will be made available to honorable senators as soon as possible.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Willhe take into consideration the demonstration of the new Australian invention (marine diving suit), and have tests undertaken by naval experts of the Royal Australian Navy ?
– The testing of the invention referred to is a matter for private enterprise. A similar invention was investigated by the Navy in 1928, and was found to be not suitable for naval use.
[3.16].- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a short measure for the purpose of ensuring that certain rules relating to evidence shall apply in respect of prosecutions under section 79 of the Defence Act 1903-1927,. for the failing to deliver up, when lawfully required so to do, arms, accoutrements or other naval or military articles belonging to the Commonwealth. Since in a recent case before the High Court, relating to a prosecution under this section, those rules of evidence were held to be inapplicable, it would not be safe to rely on such rules in future unlessthey receive the statutory recognition which the present measure proposes. Unless the rules apply, the activities of the Defence Department with regard to the care and custody of naval and military stores are likely to be seriously hampered. Accordingly, subsection 1a, which it is proposed should be inserted in section 79 of the act, provides that if, in any prosecution under that section, for failure to deliver up, when lawfully required so to do, any arms, accoutrements or other naval or military articles belonging to the Commonwealth, or to any corps, it is proved to the satisfaction of the court that any such article was in the possession of the defendant at any time prior to the time at which he was required to deliver up the article, he shall be deemed, in the absence of proof by him of the lawful disposal of the article, to have continued in possession thereof up to the time when he was required to deliver up the article. In addition, inability to deliver up the article shall not be a defence unless the defendant proves to the satisfaction of the court that such inability did not arise from any negligence or wrongful act or omission on his part. Although this is only a minor measure, honorable senators may wish to study it before discussing it, and, therefore, the Government has no objection to the debate being adjourned. Honorable senators may not know that for some time there has been an increasing loss, not of arms, but of articles of uniform, especially during the present period of depression. This loss has been intensified by the substitution of voluntary enlistment for compulsory military training, certain individuals having taken advantage of the voluntary system to obtain issues of uniform and, in some cases, of equipment - particularly those containing leather - and neither they nor the equipment issued to them has since been seen. In a number of corps, the losses from this cause have been fairly severe. When the department catches one of these delinquents it is most desirable that it should be able to prosecute him successfully, if guilty, and that he should not be allowed to escape on a technicality. In the case to which I have referred, that was the position. The Government wishes so to amend the law as to prevent this means of escape.
Debate (on motion by Senator Barnes) adjourned.
[3.20] . - I move-
Thatthebill be now read a second time.
This measure also is of a technical and legal character. In 1919 an agreement was made between His Majesty’s Governments in the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth of Australia, and the Dominion of New Zealand, to make provision for the exercise of the mandate conferred upon His Majesty the King for the administration of the island of Nauru, and for the mining of the phosphate deposits on that island. The agreement was approved by the Commonwealth Parliament in the Nauru Island Agreement Act 1919, and a copy is set forth in the schedule to that act.
The agreement provided that the administration of the island should be vested in an administrator. The first administrator was to be appointed for a term of five years by the Commonwealth Government, and thereafter the administrator was to be appointed in such manner as the three Governments decided. The administrator was empowered to make ordinances for the peace, order and good government of the island, subject to the terms of the agreement. As the result of discussions in England in 1921 between the Secretary of State for the Colonies and the Prime Ministers of the Commonwealth of Australia and of New Zealand, it was considered desirable to make more explicit provision for the exercise of the powers conferred upon the administrator. Further discussions by correspondence ensued, and a supplementary agreement was completed on the 30th May, 1923.
A bill for an act to approve this supplementary agreement was passed by the Senate in 1924, and was read a first time in the House of Representatives on the 8th May, 1924, but had not been considered in that House prior to the prorogation of Parliament, when it lapsed.
The need for again submitting this supplementary agreement for Parliamentary approval appears to have been inadvertently overlooked, and the object of the bill is to remedy the omission. The supplementary agreement provides as follows : -
The agreement thus provides certain safeguards not contained in the original agreement, and gives the Government immediately responsible, for the time being, for the administration, greater powers of control over the administrator, in regard to both legislation and administration. The supplementary agreement does not affect in any way the provisions of the agreement of 1919 relating to the working of the phosphate deposits.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Halloran) adjourned.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The amendments proposed in this measure are purely formal. They merely provide for the alteration of the words “ North Australia “ and “ Central Australia “ where they occur in the Principal Act, to “ Northern Territory.” When the Principal Act was passed by Parliament in 1927, this Commonwealth territory was divided into separate territories under the names of “ North Australia “ and “ Central Australia.” These territories have since been amalgamated, and the whole of this area is now known as the “Northern Territory.”
The act was introduced for the purpose of assisting settlers in the various States and the Northern Territory by way of advances in the purchase of wire and wire netting for the erection of rabbit-proof andmarsupial-proof fences, and the advances have been made to settlers at an interest rate of 5 per cent. repayable over a period of 25 years. Recently the rate of interest was reduced to 4½ per cent.
So far as the States are concerned, power was given in the act for prescribed conditions with regard to the advances, to be laid down in agreements between the Commonwealth and State Governments. Negotiations were accordingly entered into with all the States, but only Queensland and Western Australia accepted the terms of the agreement. In the case of the Northern Territory the machinery is provided in regulations promulgated by the Commonwealth. During the period of nearly five and a half years since the act has been in operation the total advances made to settlers in the Northern Territory was slightly less than £700.
– I have examined the measure, and agree with the Minister (Senator McLachlan) that its purpose is to overcome certain technical difficulties arising out of other legislation passed by this Parliament. For this reason, I have no objection to its speedy passage.
– This measure seeks to amend one of the excellent legislative proposals introduced by the Bruce-Page Government with a view to helping our farmers and pastoralists. I suggest that, while we are altering that act, we should insert amendments to give further relief to those concerned, and ensure that wire and wire-netting shall not, in future, be subject to serious tariff and other burdens which have been upon these commodities in the past. The intention to give assistance to. our farmers and pastoralists by means of cheap wire and vermin-proof netting was referred to by Mr. Bruce in his budget speech on the 8th July, 1926. He announced that the Govern ment would lend to the State governments £3,000,000 at the rate of £500,000 a year for a period of six years, at concession rates of interest, to assist the States to provide their settlers with cheap verminproof fencing. It was anticipated that all the States would take advantage of this legislation, and, having this in mind, the Government apportioned the money as follows : -New South Wales, £788,428; Victoria, £262,738 ; Queensland, £733,020 ; South Australia, £295,255; Western Australia, £606,945; Tasmania, £40,654; and Northern Territory, £272,960. The act, which was passed in 1927, was deemed to have commenced on the 1st July, 1926. It set out the form of agreement with the States, and contained adequate provision for the carrying out of the scheme. It must, therefore, have been a surprise to the government of theday - it certainly was amazing to me - that only two State governments took advantage of it.
– Was not that because some of the State governments had more advantageous schemes in operation?
– If they had, all I can say is that the farmers and pastoralists in those States were indeed very fortunate. I am unaware of the reasons actuating those States which did not pome into the scheme; but I know that Western Australia, which, through its Agricultural Bank, has always provided liberal assistance to its settlers, and, in proportion to the work done, has made higher advances than are obtainable in other States, considered the proposal very beneficial, and readily joined in the scheme. Up to the 30th June, 1932, an amount of £610,838 had been transferred from the loan fund to the trust account provided for under the act, but only £542,166 had been received by the States from the Commonwealth. I am not quite certain how the amounts have been allotted, but according to an article that appeared in a recent issue of a Western Australian newspaper, that State has had advanced to it the sum of £328,472, while Queensland has received £213,000, and the Northern Territory only £694. If those figures are correct, it would seem that, although this legislation is being amended for the benefit of pastoralists in the Northern Territory, or in Central
Australia, so far that territory has taken very little advantage of the act.
Despite the fact that little more than half a million pounds had been advanced by the Commonwealth under this legislation, the last Government imposed a primage duty of 10 per cent, and a sales tax of 6 per cent, on all wire and wire netting that entered Australia. I am pleased that the budget speech delivered last week promised au alteration of that condition of affairs. But the fact remains that this assistance has been given to settlers only on the condition, while the Scullin Government was in office, that 16 per cent, of it found its way back to the Treasury.
– On a point of order, I ask what clause of the bill refers to the primage duty or the sales tax on wire notting, fencing wire, &c. ?
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - The honorable senator is referring in general terms to the principal act which this bill proposes to amend.
– It is clear that this bill provides for the continuance of the assistance available to farmers and pastoralists under the principal act. I am pointing out that, during a certain period, that assistance was available only on the condition that at least 16 per cent, of the amount advanced went to the building up of governmental revenues, and the producer had to pay interest and sinking fund on thatamount. I do not wish that to continue. Surely I arn entitled to ask the Senate to say that thi.? wise policy of assisting the farmers to protect their crops arid holdings against the ravages of the dingo and the rabbit shall be administered in such a way that every penny voted will be utilized in the direction intended by the act! By means of an amendment that I glial! bring forward in committee, 1 wish to remove from pastoralists and farmers any fear of the application of the primage duty and sales tax to those commodities in future, and also to ensure that the original cost of the netting shall not be substantially increased, as it has been in the past, by the addition of anti-dumping duties imposed under the Australian Industries Preservation Act. You are aware, sir - none better - -that for many years past English manufacturers of wire and wire netting have not quoted to Australian purchasers the low prices at which they have sold their products in New Zealand, because of the knowledge that when the netting arrived in Australian ports a heavy antidumping duty would immediately be imposed upon it. I hope so to amend the principal act as to prevent a continuance of the vicious principle of transferring loan funds to revenue under the guise of assisting the Australian producer.
– Is the honorable senator prepared to abolish the sales tax?
– Certainly. The Government has promised to cease to apply it to this particular item, but that legislation has not yet been brought forward.
– Would the honorable senator abolish it. altogether?
– Yes, I tried to remove it from many more items. I fought against the legislation which enacted it, when it was introduced by the Government of which the honorable senator was so distinguished a whip in the Senate. I endeavoured, unsuccessfully, to have exempted from it a large number of items affecting the primary industries, including those, to which I am now referring.
I hope that the Government lillI keep this legislation in force, and that the balance of £2,500,000 that so far lias not been applied for by the States will be utilised in assisting the pastoralists and farmers. At the same time, we should see that they obtain their wire netting at world’s parity price, because they have 1o sell their wheat, wool, and other products in the open markets at that price. As the settler has to struggle so hard, not only against drought and fire, but also against the ravages of rabbits, dingoes and foxes, we should help him, wholeheartedly and openly, and not permit a drawback of 16 per cent, to governmental revenues.
– The Government is reducing pensions in order to square the ledger.
– When the time comes to discuss that matter, the honorable senator may find that there are in this chamber others who hold views as humanitarian as his. But let us take that hurdle when we come to it. I hope that, in committee, this measure will be amended to provide that, notwithstanding anything contained in the Customs Act 1901-1930, and the Australian Industries Preservation Act 1906-1930, duties of customs shall not be imposed on fencing wire, barbed wire, or wire netting of any kind. If that amendment is embodied in the principalact, we shall be able to protect these people, in the matter of taxation, from the vagaries or whims of this or any other Government before the £2,500,000 has been spent. We shall ensure that the whole of the amount still to be advanced under the existing legislation will be used for the assistanceof the settlers concerned, and that a portion will not be placed to the credit of Consolidated Revenue in order to bolster up extravagant expenditure in Canberra.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In committee :
Clauses 1 to 5 agreed to.
– I move-
That the following clause be inserted - “6. Notwithstanding anything contained in the Customs Act 1901-1930 and the Australian Industries Preservation Act 1906-1930, duties of customs shall not be imposed on fencing wire, barbed wire or wire-netting of any kind.”
The committee is now amending the principal act under which a balance of £2,500,000 remains unexpended. This amendment is merely to ensure that when that sum is being advanced thesettlers concerned shall receive the fullest benefit of the expenditure, and that the commodities purchased with it shall not be taxed through the customs in a direction which could mean the diversion of anything up to 16 per cent. to the Commonwealth Treasury, and the unfortunate settler being charged heavy interest on that amount. I submit that this amendment is entirely cognate to the principal act. It simply provides that when this expenditure of £2,500,000 is incurred to assist farmers and pastoralists no portion of it shall be diverted to customs revenue at the expense of the producers.
– I submit that the amendment moved by Senator E. B. Johnston is not in order in that it is not relevant to the subjectmatter of the bill. Standing Order 201 provides that -
Any amendment may be made to any part of thebill, provided that same be relevant to the subject-matter of the bill, and be otherwise in conformity with the rules and orders of the Senate.
The amendment moved by the honorable senator is irrelevant to the subjectmatter of the bill.
– It should be moved as an amendment of the Customs Act.
– Yes. The bill merely provides for the substitution of the words, Northern Territory for North Australia and Central Australia. The amendment of the honorable senator should be moved as an amendment of the Customs Act. Moreover, it is not competent for a private member of this chamber or of another place to move for any reduction in the levies by the Crown. That right rests only with Ministers of the Crown. On these grounds, I submit that it is not competent for the committee to consider the amendment.
– The objection raised by the honorable the Minister is fatal to the insertion of the proposed new clause. My ruling is that the amendment is not relevant to the subject-matter of the bill; but would be more pertinent to an amendment of the Customs Act.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment.
Standing and sessional orders suspended; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a short bill to amend the Designs Act 1906-1912 by inserting therein a new section, 4b. The existing Designs Act applies to the Commonwealth and the territories within the Commonwealth, namely, the Territory for the Seat of Government and the Northern Territory. The purpose of the bill is to enable the act to be applied to such, territories as the Governor-General by proclamation declares, thus ensuring uniformity in the law relating to designs throughout the Commonwealth and those territories to which the act is applied. It will make for easy administration. At present, we have to pass ordinances for each particular territory with exactly the same verbiage. This will be avoided if the bill is carried.
– Is there any special reason why the Territory of Papua should not be included?
– If is not within the Commonwealth.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate.
Standing and sessional orders suspended; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
In committee: (Consideration resumed from the 20th May, vide page 1123, volume 134).
Clause 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 -
After section sixty of the Principal Act the following section is inserted: - “60a. - (1.) An association which -
is, or purports to be, affiliated or associated, or,
claims, or has, at any time, whether before or after the commencement of this section, claimed, that it is affiliated or associated, with any body of persons, incorporated or unincorporated, and whether within or beyond Australia, which, by its constitution or propaganda or otherwise, advocates or encourages the overthrow by force or violence of the established Government of the Commonwealth or of a State, or of any othercivilized country, or of organized government, shall not be eligible for registration as an organization. (2.) The Attorney-General may, at any time, apply to the Court for an order calling upon any organization to show Cause, on a date specified in the order, not being less than three days and not more than seven days from the date of the order, why the registration of the organization should not be cancelled on the ground that it -
is, or purports tobe, affiliated or associated, or
claims, or has, at any time, whether before or after the commencement of this section, claimed, that it is affiliated or associated, with any such body of persons, as is described in the last proceeding sub-section. (4.) If on the hearing of the order to show cause, the organization fails to show cause to the satisfaction of the Court, the registration of the organization shall be cancelled. (6.) An association, the registration of which as an organization under this Act has been cancelled in pursuance of this section, shall not be eligible for registration as an organization until after the expiration of a period of three years from the date of cancellation of its registration. (7.) In any proceedings under this section, the burden of proof that an organization -
is not, or does not purport to be, affiliated or associated, or
does not claim or has not, at any time, whether before or after the commencement of this section, claimed, that it is affiliated or associated, with any such body of persons, as is described in sub-section (1.) of this section, shall lie upon the organization.”.
.- I move -
That the words “ whether before or,” paragraph 6, sub-section 1 of proposed new section 60a, be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ within six months.”
The effect of my amendment would be to make the proposed new sub-section read as follows: - 60a. - (1.) An association which -
There may be organizations in Australia affiliated with organizations outside Australia deemed to be a menace to the Commonwealth. The purpose of my amendment is to give them at least six months’ notice to cancel whatever affiliation they may have. During the second-reading debate, it was said that at least one organization in Australia was affiliated with a foreign organization which was regarded by honorable senators as a menace to the well-being of the Commonwealth. In the circumstances, I think, that the organization mentioned should have an opportunity to dissociate itself from that which has caused so much alarm to honorable senators opposite, otherwise, it means its deregistration. I do not think that the Government is anxious to act vindictively. The Australian Railways Union has been mentioned as having been affiliated with the Red International. I have no personal knowledge that such is the case, but even if it be true, most railway men are good Australian citizens, with no desire individually or collectively to do anything inimical to the best interests of Australia. Surely the Government is not so unfair as to insist on depriving this union of an opportunity to conform to the law. If the clause passes as it stands, any organization in Australia affiliated with an organization outside Australia which, by its constitution or propaganda or otherwise, advocates or encourages the overthrow by force or violence of the established Government of the Commonwealth or of aState, or of any other civilized country or of organized governments, will not be eligible for registration under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act as an organization. I do not believe that there is any trade union in Australia which would do the things mentioned; but there may be unions which are, or have been, affiliated with organizations in other parts of the world which seek to do things that are entirely foreign to the aims of any Australian organization. The Australian Railways Union has been mentioned. Most, if not all, of the members of that organization are good Australian citizens; and if, as has been alleged, that union has at. some time been affiliated with an organization with headquarters at Moscow, it should be given a chance to cancel its affiliation.
– The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
– I am afraid that I cannot accept the amendment in its present form, because its effect would be to limit the operation of this legislation for a period of six mouths.
From the honorable senator’s remarks, I gather that that is not his intention ; rather does he desire to limit the period for which this legislation willbe retrospective. He seeks to meet the case of certain more or less wild gentlemen, such as those who sent representatives to Russia, but subsequently refused to pay their expenses, and now have repented of their youthful folly. I agree with him that cases of genuine repentance should be provided for, and I am disposed to accept an amendment to meet them. On reflection, however, the honorable senator will agree that his amendment in its present form would nullify the effect of this measure.
.- Paragraphb of sub-section 1 of proposed new section 60a appears to be perfectly clear. I want to substitute the words “ within 6 months “ for the words “ whether before or.” As paragraph b at present reads, any organization in Australia which has at any time claimed affiliation or association with certain organizations against which this measure is directed, will automatically be deregistered. I want to give such an organization a period of six months in which to sever its association with tho banned organization, so that its members may retain the privileges which they now enjoy under the laws of the Commonwealth. If, at the expiration of six months from the passing of this measure, it still retains its affiliation with the body complained of, it should then be liable to deregistration. It would be time enough for these Australian organizations to come under the provisions of this legislation if, after six months, they failed to sever their connection with an undesirable organization.
– The intention of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes) is clear. During the secondreading debate, the matter to which he referred was discussed at length, and some honorable senators, in addition to those in direct oppositionto the Government, expressed their objection to the retrospective provisions of the bill. The principle underlying paragraph b of subsection 1 proposed new section 60a is vicious in that it seeks to set up machinery to inflict on an organization which has committed one offence, the greatest penalty possible - its deregistration and the denial of the right to approach the courts which have been established under the laws of the country for the fixation of the wages and conditions of labour of its members, and to enjoy the awards which it has succeeded in obtaining from the court. Obviously the desire of the Government is to make the arbitration laws of this country a kind of second barrel to the criminal code. We on this side have objected to that, but our objection has been overruled by the Government and its supporters. We ask that the provisions of this paragraph be not made retrospective. In its present form, it provides that any organization which, perhaps, many years ago, cancelled its affiliation with an organization that has in the meantime, become a revolutionary body, seeking to overthrow the Government of the country in which it is domiciled, is liable to de-registration on the application of the Attorney-General. That should not be; and we seek to avoid it.
– The honorable senator seeks to destroy the effect of this legislation.
– I shall not disoute with the Minister the legal effect of the amendment which has been moved ; but, surely, we can agree whether it is right or wrong to provide that an organization which has once offended shall for all time be punished.
– I am prepared to meet the honorable senator on that point.
– This Parliament should not establish the precedent of making retrospective punitive legislation of this kind. It may be, as the Minister suggests, that the amendment in its present form wouldhave a certain effect. In that case, it should be easy to draft an amendment to give effect to the obvious intention of the Leader of the Opposition. We submit that organizations which are affiliated with other organizations regarded as undesirable shall have an opportunity to cancel their affiliation, and thus avoid deregistration and the loss of privileges. Surely, the Minister is prepared to meet the Opposition in itsreasonable request.
– I cannot accept the amendment in its present form; but I am prepared to alter the wording of subsection 1 of proposed new section 60a by adding after the word “ which “ the words “within a period of six months immediately preceding the commencement of this section, or at any time thereafter.” That would involve the deletion of the following words in paragraph 6 “ at any time, whether before or after the commencement of this section.” Apparently, the only difference between the Government and the Opposition is whether the period shall be six months or twelve months.
– We want to make it six months after, not twelve months before, the commencement of this legislation.
– To do that would be to make the bill ineffective.
– The Government seeks to penalize particular organizations.
– If the honorable senator will show a little patience, he will see that all the predictions about the character of this legislation indulged in by his leader and himself are so much window-dressing. Provision is inserted for the exercise by the Attorney-General of some discretion. Honorable senators surely realize that the Minister will not, for his own amusement, seek to deprive organizations of registration. Under proposed new sub-section 2, he is required to apply to the court for an order calling upon an organization to show cause, on a date specified, but not. less than three and not more than seven days, from the date of the order, why it should not be deregistered. It provides further that the application to show cause shall be heard by a court constituted by the Chief Judge and not less than two other judges, and stipulates that if the organization fails to show cause to the satisfaction of the court, its registration shall be cancelled. It is essential, from our point of view, that this procedure should be followed in this class of case. The provision is not unusual in Commonwealth laws.
– It is not, unfortunately.
– It is necessary under modern conditions.
– Why is it necessary tomake the act retrospective over such a long period of time?
– Because of certain proceedings which it is desirable should bo checked.
– The Government wants to use this law for propaganda purposes.
– That is the sort of thing which we hear on almost any Sunday afternoon in the public parks of our capital cities. May I remind the honorable senator that it is the duty of the Government to protect the body politic, and especially to protect decent trade union organizations?
– A lot this Government cares about them!
– It is our intention to protect the trade union movement against those organizations which in recent times have become very red in their outlook, and to meet the wishes of the Leader of the Opposition, I am prepared to amend the clause to the extent already indicated, thus limiting the period of retrospectivity to twelve months. Honorable senators opposite wish to delay the coming into operation of this section for a period of only six months; but, as I have explained, the amendment submitted by the Leader of the Opposition would limit the operation of the act to a period of six months from its commencement.
– But this bill will give trade union organizations no chance of repentance.
– The intention is to hang them !
– Senator MacDonald paints a very lurid picture of the future of the trade union movement under this legislation. He is quite wrong. Any organization which sees the error of its ways, and repents, will not be deregistered. If only the honorable senator will open his mind to reason he will realize that jurisdiction will rest entirely in the judge, and that no Attorney-General would so abuse his power as to attempt to deal with organizations in the manner suggested.
– Will this legislation touch the New Guard?
– It will touch any organization that offends against law by affiliating with certain bodies overseas. I have yet to learn that the New Guard is likely to come within the ambit of this measure.
.- I fail to see that the amendment suggested by the Minister will do anything to improve the position. On the contrary, it will make it worse. If, for instance, the Australian Workers Union two years ago became affiliated with the Red International, it would come within the ambit of this legislation.
– No; its retrospectivity is limited to one year.
– Then if an organization, ten months ago, affiliated with the Red International, itwould become subject to this bill. It is not unreasonable to ask that such a body should have an opportunity to get out of any difficulty created by its affiliation with an organization overseas, at a time when it was not illegal to do so, and in some cases it is not possible to get the views of its membership at short notice. In the case of the Australian Workers Union which, as honorable senators know, is an Australia-wide organization, it would take about four months, the time usually occupied in the election of its office bearers, to get the opinion of the membership. I fail to see that any harm would be done by the adoption of my amendment which will give trade unions a period of six months within which to sever affiliation with a banned overseas organization.
– Under the honorable senator’s amendment, we could do nothing at the end of six months.
– The Minister may be right, but my intention is to allow trade unions reasonable time to purge themselves of any offence against the law, and the amendment is so reasonable that I fail to understand why there should be objection to it.
– The Minister might well agree to the postponement of the clause in order to have it re-drafted. This has been done over and over again in this chamber with a view to bringing suggested amendments into verbal conformity with other clauses of a bill. I am a member of two trad? unions, and I do not care very much whether they are registered or not, for the simple reason that the Arbitration Act nas become a machine to reduce wages and . worsen the conditions of the workers. Therefore, registration Milder it is about as valuable and nourishing as a “dummy “ is to an infant. But, bad as this amending bill is in many respects, it is absolutely vicious in its attempt to make offences retrospective. Obviously, the reason why the Minister cannot agree to Senator Barnes’ proposal is that the Government intends to take action against certain organizations because of their political activities within the last twelve months. Having become affiliated with these foreign “ ogres,” their activities, we are told, are now a menace to the Commonwealth. I except, of course, the New Guard ! This is the explanation of the attitude taken up by the Attorney-General with regard to the retrospective proposals of the Government. The bill is also a double-barrelled iniquity, because while the act is to be made retrospective as regards certain offences, the onus of proof is thrown upon the persons charged. I know all that has been said by Senator McLachlan and the Leader of the Senate and other members supporting the Government - that in certain circumstances it is difficult to prove guilt, and, for that reason, it is much easier for the Government to achieve its benevolent purpose by throwing the onus of proof on the person accused. Even if we admit that in certain circumstances such action may be necessary, all those people who so loudly boast that Ave shall always be right if we follow England, must acknowledge that, as a general principle, only the most extreme emergency can justify the application of the method suggested in this bill. It enacts that any one, who, at any time, has been connected with these banned organizations, will be automatically precluded from any of the advantages, that may be available to them under the philanthropic measure known as the Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
Does the Government believe that arbitration is an effective method for the peaceful settlement of industrial disputes, and that it averts calamities that otherwise might ensue? If it does, it should leave the way to the courts open to any one who can avail himself of them. Yet in this case the members of a union are to be practically precluded for all time from becoming registered as an organization, however much they may value that privilege, because of some siu that they allegedly have committed corporately, the onus of disproving which is to be thrown on them. The limitation of the period with respect to which action may be taken is a concession that is marked by Scotch caution. If legislation is to be retrospective why not, make it apply to any time that is past? What particular vice attaches to an offence that was committed twelve months ago that does not pertain to one .that was committed eighteen months or two years ago? If a man offends against the criminal code, by plundering, thieving, forging or murdering, he is liable to the punishment prescribed for the offence, even though twenty years may elapse before it is possible to charge him with it. I agree, of course, that that is not retrospective legislation.
– And the offence would be against an existing law.
– That is so. The most vicious criminal cannot be tried for an offence against a law that does not exist at the time of the doing of the act complained of. Yet the Minister, without attempting in any way to show that retrospective legislation is either just or necessary, asks us to enact it.. The distinction is sometimes drawn that an act which may be unjust is justified by an emergency. What emergency does the Government say exists that would justify the retrospectivity of this legislation? What dangers have been incurred by Australia during the last twelve months that differ from any that were incurred ten, twenty or thirty years ago? What danger is likely to result from the underground workings of some miscreants that necessitates making this legislation retrospective to the extent of twelve months? If retrospective legislation is unfair and unjust, as in 999,999 .out of 1,000,000 it must necessarily be, it is equally unjust whether applicable for twelve months or twelve years. If honorable senators cannot produce something better than the suggestion that has emanated from the Minister, I trust that they will have the manliness to oppose the clause.
[4.40]. - I remind the committee that we are not dealing with ordinary procedure in connexion with trade union matters. It has become a well-known practice of bodies that are controlled from Moscow, to change the name but not the aim of their organization, and so to adapt themselves that, by subterfuge, they may evade any law that is enacted to check their growth in countries in which the Soviet is directing its propaganda. Anybody who has read, as I have, the instructions that have been issued from the Comitern in Moscow, knows that that is one of the directions that have been given to those who are red-anting trade unions in various parts of the world.
– And it has been faithfully carried out.
– I agree with the honorable senator. Let us not be mealy-mouthed about this matter. Let us look at the particular case, which is very well known, that has had a considerable influence on the Government in its introduction of this legislation. I refer to the case of the Australian Railways Union. I venture to affirm that the action taken by the executive of that union was one of the most audacious and impudent that has ever been perpetrated upon a trade union in Australia. Without any consultation of its members, the executive of that union assumed the responsibility of affiliating with the Red International of Moscow. Honorable senators travel all over the Commonwealth, and they know that the members of the Australian Railways Union are as sane and as law-abiding as the members of any other trade union, or the community generally. They have no sympathy with Moscow, nor do they wish to see the government of this country overthrown by force and violence. Yet in their name this small body of men affiliated one of the biggest unions in Australia with Moscow, and all that it stands for. I remind Senator Barnes, and those who are criticizing this legislation, that itwas introduced over three months ago. Inthe meantime, what action has that executive taken to bring itself into line with the great bulk of the trade unions of this country, by cancelling the affiliation? It has taken no action whatever. It has impudently remained quiescent, hoping that some loophole will be left in this legislation, and that by subterfuge it will be able to carry on its propaganda at the behest of Moscow. It can be effectually dealt with only by the method proposed in the bill, with the alteration suggested by my colleague the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator McLachlan). We neither need nor desire to go back over a period of years. The affiliation, which impudently is in existence to-day, we say, shall be met by this legislation, and we do not propose that these men shall be enabled to wait until the Governor-General has affixed his signature to it, and then avoid its consequences by the mere passing of a resolution. They, and not the Government, have trapped their members into the position which at present exists. Senator Barnes spoke of its being necessary for the members of this union to have time to take a vote on the matter. 1 remind him that a vote was not taken when the affiliation was effected. When the members of the union wake up to the fact that their award, and the protection afforded to them by the Arbitration Court, are endangered as the result of the impudent action of their executive, the probability is that they will elect a new executive. When this legislation becomes law, it has to be implemented by action taken by the Attorney-General.Let us assume that the loyal members of the Australian Railways Union say, “We do not. want to he affiliated with Moscow; we did not authorize such action, and we propose to have an executive that will act more in accord with Australian sentiment by refraining from having anything to do with Moscow.” Would the AttorneyGeneral ask the court to cancel their registration? Of course he would not. But he will have the power to take that action if this executive continues impudently to defy the opinion of the great mass of, not only the people, but also the trade unions of Australia that have no sympathy with Moscow. Consequently, 1 say that the honest trade unions which desire to effect reforms by constitutional means have nothing to fear from this bill, as amended in the direction suggested by the Vice-President of the Executive Council. All that they have to fear is an executive like that of the Australian Railways Union, which acts nefariously by affiliating with Moscow and the Third International.
. - lt is well that it should be observed that the section with which we are dealing’ divides itself naturally into two parts; that there is a distinction between section 60a 1 and 60a 2. With respect to the first, I agree - if I may say so with respect - with the criticism offered by the Vice-President of the Executive Council (.Senator McLachlan) concerning the amendment proposed by Senator Barnes. That honorable senator, I believe, has not quite grasped the point of the Minister’s criticism. If he has, he must see that the only effect of his proposal would be that the provision would remain in operation for six months, and that thereafter it would cease to have any effect. If the clause went through in the form suggested by him, what would happen should an association, nine months after the act became law, blatantly and openly purport to be affiliated or associated with one of these organizations, and proceedings were taken against it? It would say, “It is nine months since the act was passed”; therefore, we are exempt from its penal provisions.” Consequently, I suggest that the only difference between the amendment agreed to by the Minister in charge of the bill and that which Senator Barnes has suggested is the difference between six months and twelve months, and that, if the Minister had agreed to the insertion of the words “ within six months,” he would have done what the honorable senator desired.
– We are not particular about the words used, so long as the principle is accepted.
– The only difference in principle is that between six months and twelve months. I confess that I apprehend difficulties if the clause is carried in its present form. Some of those difficulties are indicated by the illustrations given by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) of the activities of theAustralian Railways Union. The right honorable senator admitted that the action taken by the executive of that union was. contrary to the views of the great bulk of its members. The mass of the people: will agree with him. The penalty in. the case of a registered organization claiming to be affiliated with forbidden, organizations abroad is de-registration,, and it follows from that that the punishment of de-registration, if it is punishment, must fall upon men, who, according; to the Minister, may be guiltless. The only protection against that, is that the Attorney-General is not likely to proceed, in cases where there has been a change in the executive and open repudiation of the action of the old executive. Still the fact remains that the organization would, come within the law as it stands. There are two paris of this proposed new subsection - one dealing with organizations, which are assumed to be about to apply for registration, and the other dealing with organizations already registered. An application to de-register an organization, for the reason that it is or claims to have been associated with an unlawful association, must be heard before a court consisting of at least three judges who may - indeed, the measure provides that they shall - order cancellation if the facts relied on are not disproved by the organization. Why cannot the Minister in charge of the bill frame the first part in somewhat the same way, and leave it to the court to say whether the present conduct of the organization, which is claiming to be registered, is such that it is not entitled to registration by reason of the fact that it has been, in the immediate past, and probably is at present, associated with an organization whose object is the overthrow of constitutional government.
– Does not. the honorable senator think that the two parts are connected?
– One deals quite clearly with organizations applying to beregistered. I refer to proposed new section’ 60a 1 b. The last words before proposed new sub-section 2 read “ shall not be eligible for registration as on organization “. They surely contemplate an organization applying for registration. The bill provides that it shall not be eligible to be registered if it purports to be affiliated or associated with any of these’
Organized bodies of persons outside the Corn mon weal th.
– Under the procedure of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, such a ease would be heard by the Registrar.
– Quite so.
– But there is an appeal from his decision to the judges, so that it would go before the court.
– Yes, in the case of an appeal. It appears to me that too much responsibility is thrown upon the Registrar.
– Section 60 of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act provides that the court shall deal with that matter.
– The right of appeal may cover the matter. Will not grave difficulties arise in defining “ purporting to be affiliated or associated with an organization “. How does an association “purport” to be -affiliated? Is the whole association to be rendered liable for the acts of individual members or for the acts or statements of the executive? I can see a great deal of difficulty, and that is why it appears to me that in the first sub-section of section 60a 1, some provision should be made whereby the matter would go straight to the court and not to the Registrar. Then I suggest also in regard to proposed new sub-section 4, in which it is provided that the registration of an organization shall be cancelled in the circumstances set out that it would be quite sufficient if it were amended to provide that the court, even if it thought that in the past an organization had done these things, but had mended its ways and was now willing to conform to the statute, need not be deregistered.
– I would not object to that.
– I suggest that there should be some provision in the first portion of the proposed new sub-section, whereby some sort of judicial hearing, other than that by the Registrar, would be required before registration was refused.
– As that is provided for in section 60 of the principal act, it is not necessary to make an amendment to that effect at this stage.
– That may be so.
– I think that the difficulty which now confronts the committee could readily be overcome by a thorough understanding of what honorable senators on this side of the chamber actually desire. We are anxious that this amending provision shall not. become operative until six months after the bill has been assented to.
– The honorable senator wishes to postpone .the operation of this provision for six months?
– Yes. The Government is desirous of making it retrospective for twelve months, but it has not given us its reasons for so doing. Its actions in this respect are contrary to the canons of fair play, and are also opposed to the views of the legal fraternity. I recall a case which came before the courts in Brisbane only a short time ago, under certain retrospective legislation passed in order to bring to book certain individuals in the political arena. Every barrister, and practically every thinker, in the legal world was opposed to the retrospective nature of the legislation, the sole object of which was to bring certain individuals within the law. Notwithstanding the opinions of eminent counsel as expressed at that time, the Government is endeavouring to embody in this particular provision a principle which has in the past been strenuously opposed. As stated by Senator Brennan, the Government will penalize the members of a union for the act of their executive. It has been said by some honorable senators opposite that these organizations should not have affiliated with what have been termed unlawful associations, but even that point is arguable. It is a question of what is just and fair. Every opportunity should be given for the members of an organization that has affiliated with an overseas association of the type covered by this bill to come within the ambit of the law. The Minister in charge of the bill has shown how vindictive the Government is by proposing to make this provision retrospective. “We have been told on numerous occasions by honorable senators opposite, that they are desirous of bringing about a better understanding between organized labour and organized employers, but, in this instance, they are endeavouring to penalize persons who should not be punished merely because an association of which they are members is affiliated with an organization whose head-quarters are 13,000 or 1’4,000 miles away. If the Government and its supporters are anxious to encourage a better feeling between employers and employees, they should give more consideration to the rank and file in the trade union movement. If the proposal submitted from this side of the chamber is adopted, the members of the rank and file will have an opportunity to say to their executive that they are opposed to affiliation with an organization which may have its head-quarters in Moscow or Timbuctoo, and that they wish the executive to withdraw affiliation.
– In the past, the rank and file have had no voice in the matter.
– That may be so. Honorable senators opposite profess to hold a brief for the rank and file of the working class movement. They contend that -certain extremists have wormed their way into executive positions, and by so doing have obtained control of certain industrial organizations. If honorable senators opposite are anxious to assist the rank and file, why should they endeavour to trap them in this way by passing retrospective legislation under which they may be deprived of the benefits of the Arbitration Court? If members of the rank and file stand by their executive in advocating affiliation with organizations whose object is the overthrow of constitutional government, they can be penalized, but they should have proper notice of this alteration of the law. If, on the other hand, they desire to dissociate themselves from such’ organizations, they should not be punished for what has been done in the past.
– They have not shown much objection in the past.
– The honorable senator said a moment or two ago, that the rank and file had been misled by their executives; now he says that they have, not offered any objection to affiliation. The vindictiveness of the Government in proposing to make this provision, retrospective, clearly demonstrates that it has no desire to do the right thing by these men. The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Pearce) said that the Attorney-General could be trusted to do the right thing. Those of us who have had experience in such matters realize that when once a law is enacted effect must be given to it. No regard will be paid to the opinions expressed in this chamber. Organizations affiliated with an unlawful association within twelve months preceding the passing of this measure may be deregistered. As a lawyer, Senator McLachlan knows that that is so. Several cases lately, in which unions have been concerned, have been decided on the letter of the law. The question is whether it is fair for the Senate to lay it down that an organization affiliated twelve months ago with an organization in Moscow or Timbuctoo, or some other place on the other side of the world, must be penalized. I do not think that is fair. My long acquaintance with industrial organizations enables me to say that very often the rank and file are indifferent to what is done by executives. They have so much confidence in their leaders that, they leave most things to them.
– The honorable senator must be speaking of long ago.
– I am speaking of what has occurred within the last 25 years. In most instances the rank and file place great reliance in their leaders, and it is possible for men who are not in accord with the feelings and sentiments of the rank and file to secure executive positions. Again, the leaders are often far ahead of the members generally, and have often brought about affiliations without the consent of the members.
– That is a candid admission.
– I have no need to be anything but candid. Very often, governments have taken actions which are not endorsed by the rank and file of their supporters. I might cite the proposed reduction of invalid and old-age pensions. Actions have been taken by governments which, if first submitted for approval to the rank and file, would have brought about their defeat. It is the same in the trade union world. Many actions taken by executives would not have been endorsed by the rank and file if first submitted to them. It does not follow, however, that the actions taken were wrong. From my experience, the leaders have often been right, and the rank and file wrong. At any rate, in regard to this amendment, we are anxious to give the rank and file in the trade union movement an opportunity to say whether they desire to be affiliated with Moscow or some other place, and take the consequences. It is only fair that that opportunity should be afforded to them. If the amendment is not accepted, certain persons actually opposed to the trade union movement of Australia, and who are boring within it to bring about its destruction, will be afforded every opportunity to do so.
– It must be obvious to honorable senators that the amendment submitted by Senator Barnes cannot be accepted. If he would withdraw it I should like to submit an amendment to insert after the word “ which “ in the first line of the proposed new section the words “ within a period of twelve months immediately preceding the commencement of this section or at any time thereafter.” Senator Brennan will see that that is not thesame as the amendment submitted by Senator Barnes.
– It certainly is not.
– A consequential amendment would be necessary in paragraphb by omitting the words “ at any time whether before or after the commencement of this section.” The proposed new section would then read -
Any association which, within a period of twelvemonths immediately preceding the commencement of this section or at any time thereafter, is or purports to be affiliated or associated, or claims orhas claimed that it is affiliated or associated . . .
If the rank and file are so anxious to do certain things, as we are led to believe they are, they have had since May of this year, when this bill was introduced, to consider the position. In the circumstances, a period of twelve months is quite fair.
– We do not mind the period beingtwelve months prospectively, but we do when it is retrospective.
– We have heard advocates in the Arbitration Court time and time again clamouring that awards be made retrospective. The Government is now clamouring for retrospective legislation in the interests of good order, and of the body politic. The duty of any Government worthy of the name is to preserve the good government of the country, and its people, against the intrusion of a class of individuals who we know are eating into the trade union movement. It may be that proposed new sub-section 4 should be amended, as Senator Brennan suggests, by altering “ shall “ to “ may,” and providing that “ if the organization fails to show cause to the satisfaction of the court, the registration of the organization may be cancelled.” I accept the suggestion. It would afford an organization double protection, first, that of the AttorneyGeneral who deals with such matters in an absolutely judicial frame of mind, divesting himself of allhis politics, and secondly, that of the court. Under section 60, an application may be made to the court by an organization, a person interested, or the Registrar. Assuming that the amendment is made, if the rank and file of an organization have not been able to assert themselves, and if it is shown to the satisfaction of the court that grave injury is likely to be done to the rank and file through their neglect or their casualness, which is so characteristic of the Australian people, or through any other cause, the court, in its discretion, may decline to deregister the union. Having regard to these facts, the retrospective bogy set up by honorable senators opposite amounts to nothing. In any case, what are honorable senators so desirous of protecting? For whom are they so solicitous? No member of the rank and file can be hurt, and the Government will see that he is not hurt. Apparently, there is anxiety on the part of my friends opposite to protect some in dividuals of whom they are mortally afraid, whereas, we are only anxious to protect the body politic and the general trade union movement, which, in the main, is not associated with the red movement. Having regard to the fact that one huge Australian organization has already taken the step of affiliating with some overseas organization, I thinkwe should stand for the protection of- the public rather than for the throwing of sops to those who have taken actionin violation of the best interests of the country. I ask the honorable senator to withdraw his amendment to allow me to move mine. In any case, his amendment would render the whole of the provision inoperative in six months.
– If Senator McLachlan would accept Senator Brennan’s suggestion to leave out the word “ shall “ and replace it by the word “may “ it would tone down the severity of the provision, and make it more democratic. The Minister asks whom we are seeking to protect by asking for the omission of the retrospective effect of the section. I want to save the rank and file of a huge organization known as the Australian Railways Union. It is true, as Senator Pearce has said, that the rank and file of that organization have made no attempt to move their executive to cancel their affiliation with an extreme Russian organization. I think it a pity that they have not taken steps to protect themselves. They knew some months ago the effoct of this bill. On the second reading, the dangers confronting them were pointed out. If they are deregistered, they will become a group of fragments, and will have to build up a new organization. They might not desire to do that. My advice to the members of the union is to take steps to cancel the union’s affiliation with the Red International, for by so doing they might save their organization. The provisions of this moasure are pernicious and vindictive. Why should we go back twelve months in order to rope in an organization which did something that at that time was strictly lawful? From a legal point of view the Australian Railways Union was justified in becoming affiliated with the Red International twelve months ago.
– What about the moral view-point?
– This measure may make legally right something which will still be morally wrong. Nothing that the Government may do can make right a thing which is morally wrong, and this Parliament should not be a party to any such attempt. If a union did something which at the time was within the law, why should we now make it appear that it broke the law? Surely there are ample means of punishing a union whichhas offended against the law without passing retrospective action to deal with it. This legislation will do a grave injustice to the rank and file of the unions. Before making them liable to punishment we should give them an opportunity to cancel their affiliation with the organization objected to. If within, say six months, of the passing of this measure, they have not cancelled that affiliation, they will know what to expect, and will not then be able to complain of lack of fair warning. I hope that the Australian Railways Union will cancel its affiliation with the Red International, but whether it does so or not we should treat it fairly, and not seek by retrospective action to rend it in twain. Legislation of this nature is designed to destroy arbitration. Although during recent months, the Arbitration Court has reduced wages, the time will again come when it will increase them. I hope that the Government will agree to the deletion of the retrospective provisions of this measure.
– I ask the mover of the amendment to agree to its withdrawal for the time being, in order that I may move an amendment which will, I hope, be regarded as satisfactory.
.- At the request of the Minister, I now ask leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendmen t - byleave - wi th d r awn .
– I move -
That after the word “which”, line 1 of subsection 1 of proposed new section 80a, the words “ within a period of twelve months immediately preceding in commencement of this session or at any time thereafter “ be inserted.
If my amendment is agreed to, there will be certain consequential amendments; in paragraph b of sub-sections 1, 2, and 7 respectively, it will be necessary to omit the words “ at any time, whether before or after the commencement of this session “. Proposed new section 60a will then read -
An association which, within a period of twelve months immediately preceding the commencement of this session, or at any time thereafter
If the amendment is agreed to, this legislation will be retrospective only for a period of twelve months. I propose also, in that case, to accept the suggestion of Senator Brennan to substitute the word “ may “ for “ shall “ in sub-section 4 of the proposed new section.
– I oppose this sop offered by the Minister, for I cannot see any difference in principle between a period of twelve months and a period of twenty years. No person with a sense of British justice can agree to prescribing that certain actions shall constitute an offence and then charge a person with it. Although not a lawyer, I, as a journalist, have had considerable experience in the law courts, and I know something of British justice. I confess that it has been a startling revelation to me to find that this Senate is prepared to attempt, first, to prescribe what shall be an offence, and then to charge a person or persons with having committed that offence prior to the passing of the act. If that were done all respect for law would go. The AustralianRailways Union is a rather extreme organization which does not represent my views in politics. Like Senator Rae and Senator Colebatch, its members are disposed to use the strike weapon.
– Order !
– I regret the absence of the honorable senator from Western Australia, but if he were present I would make the same reference. Although my views do not entirely accord with those of the Australian Railways Union, I know something of the view-point of its members - generally a fine body of men - since for a time I served with the Queensland railways. At the time of its affiliation with the Red International, that union had a perfect right to do so ; until now it has not been considered such a dreadful thing to be so affiliated.
– It is only a bogy.
– For us now to provide that action taken some time ago by that union constitutes an offence is about as sensible as to provide that a person who professes to be a freethinker and joins a rationalist association is necessarily a menace to the peace, order, and good government of this country. Those who have studied sociology know that the church, as a whole, is supposed to be one of the pillars of the capitalistic system. The accepted religion of this country-
– The honorable senator must confine his remarks to the amendment.
– In this country there are other organizations against which a similar charge could be laid.
– An “ association “ is defined in the bill.
– But once this principle is accepted, it will be possible to bring in a special bill to get at any association. For instance, it would be possible to introduce a measure to attack and destroy any of the many hundred sects associated with the Christian religion, on the ground that it is a dangerous organization. I have had something to do with Communists, mostly in the direction of opposing them ; but I say now, as I have said many times on the public platform, that I hope that the people of Russia will make a success of the great experiment in which they are engaged. If they can do that, there may be some hope for humanity, because, possibly, we shall not have recurring wars.
– Does not the honorable senator think that the governing authorities in Russia have murdered enough people yet?
– Does not the Minister think that the Christian nations have murdered enough in their trade wars? At least, it can be said for the Communists in Russia that they did not start the world war.
– Russia has offered the most reason able proposals for a continued peace.
– That is so. Russia has submitted the only reasonable proposals likely to end the trade wars in which, hitherto, European and other nations have been so often involved.
My objection to the whole bill, is that it creates a new class of offence, and will inflict punishment upon innocent persons. I do not care whether the retrospective provisions of the measure extend back a period of twelve months or twelve days. My whole objection is to the principle involved. No member of this Parliament in these days of advanced democracy should support the passage of such a measure as this.
– Who will be punished under it?
– It is a deliberate attempt to “get” particular trade unions. I object to that just as much as I would object to any attempt by passing a special act to “ get “ a particular man. The whole proposal is so outrageous that, finally, we on this side have driven the Minister in charge of the bill to withdraw his ad libitum view about the retrospective provision in the clause, and to substitute a period of twelve months. Istill object to it on principle, also, because the bill creates a new class of offence, and it is an attempt to “get” particular individuals. So far as arbitration is concerned, a considerable number of people still believe that the strike weapon must be employed if the workers are to obtain justice. Legislation of this nature breeds disrespect for arbitration. If the bill is passed in its present form, a number of trade union organizations will not seek re-registration, and as a consequence, we shall probably have a recurrence of industrial trouble throughout the Commonwealth. Apparently, that is what some honorable senators supporting the Government would welcome. I am entirely opposed to making the proposed new section retrospective for the period of twelve months. We should at least give six months’ warning to members of those organizations which are likely to come within the scope of the law. I should prefer Australian trade unionism not’ to be affiliated with the Red International. As an Australian Labour man, I do not desire affiliation with any political organization in any part of the world, because I believe that we should develop our own industrial movement on Australian lines. This bill is contrary to the average man’s sense of what is right and just.
– I am glad that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes) withdrew his amendment because, clearly, it would not serve the purpose which apparently he desired it to serve. It seems to me that this proposed new sub-section may be divided into two parts. One applies to organizations and associations not yet registered, but which desire to be registered under the Arbitration Act. The other deals with organizations already registered, and provides that the Attorney-General may apply to the court for an order calling upon them to show cause why their registration should not be cancelled. I invite the committee to consider these two portions of the proposed new section separately. The first part, as I have explained, deals with an organization not yet registered, but which may desire registration in the future. This portion, presumably, does not apply to the majority of trade unions, including one which honorable senators have in mind. Even if the act is made retrospective for twelve months, this portion of the proposed sub-section, in my opinion, will not have retrospective application, because it simply fixes the class, and provides that, if an association is, or claims to be, associated with an organization which advocates the overthrow by force or violence of established government, it shall not be eligible for registration in the future. It is perfectly proper for Parliament to provide that if any organization in the past has shown that it is not a suitable organization to be registered, permission for it to be registered in the future may be refused.
– That would mean giving a trade union a life sentence.
– That portion of the clause, I submit, is not retrospective. I do not like retrospective legislation, because, in my judgment, it isnot good for the community, and, generally speaking, is not fair to the persons concerned. But proposed new sub- section 2 is in a different category. It deals with organizations already registered, and prescribes action which the Attorney-General may take to have thenregistration cancelled. He may apply to the court, for an order calling upon an association to show cause why itsregistration should not be cancelled on the ground that it “is, or purports to be, affiliated or associated “ with some other illegal organization. There is nothing wrong with that, and there is nothing retrospective in it, but the same cannot be said for an order seeking cancellation on the ground that an organization “ claims or has at any time claimed “ affiliation or association with any such body or persons prescribed. The latter provision clearly is retrospective, and I cannot help thinking that the Minister in charge of the bill (Senator McLachlan), when having the draft prepared, overlooked the fact that the retention of the words “ or has claimed “ makes inoperative the omission of the words “ at any time whether before or after the commencement of this section “.
– Retrospectivity is governed by the opening words of the proposed new sub-section, which limit it to a period of twelve months before the proclamation of the act.
– With all deference to the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce), I do not think that, is so. In its amended form, proposed new sub-section 1 fixes the retrospective period at twelve months for that sub-section. I am now considering sub-section 2, and I suggest that, if the Minister can see his way to omit the words “or has claimed”, it should be perfectly satisfactory. It cannot then be claimed to be retrospective. In its present form it may impose a severe penalty upon a registered organization. I do not object to action for cancellation of registration in the ease of an organization which “ claims “ affilia tion with some other illegal body; but. I do object to the inclusion of the words “ or has claimed “, because they would mean that, if any registered union at any time in the past had “ claimed “ association with one of these illegal organizations, it would be liable to have its registration cancelled. I think that my honorable and learned friend, Senator Brennan, will agree with me that this is the effect of the inclusion of those words. It carries the principle too far. However bad an organization may have been, if it had conducted its affairs in accordance with the law, I do not think it would be fair to enact that, on account of something which it had done in the past, and which, then, was not illegal, it should, under this proposed new sub-section, be liable to deregistration. I listened with interest to what Senator Brennan said to-day as well as on the second reading of the bill. I think the Minister has made practically all the amendments which are proper to make this bill reasonable and fair as regards its retrospective provisions; but, I hope he is also prepared to strike out of subsection 2 the words “ or has at any . . . claimed “ because their effect is precisely the same. I hope that the Minister will sec the fairness of this suggestion. In my view, it is not reasonable to seek now to penalize an organization because at any time in the past it. may have claimed association with any illegal organization.
– I appreciate the point which Senator Duncan-Hugheshas made, but it is a somewhat difficult one to overcome. Proposed new sub-section 1 is not retrospective in the true sense of the term. It is a little difficult not to have a certain degree of retrospectivity associated with sub-clause 2. Since this legislation has been introduced, there may have been no claim by an organization to affiliation with one of the bodies specified in subclause1; but we know that such claims have been made. Does my honorable friend suggest, that that should be allowed to continue without any redress in the hands of the Attorney-General on behalf of the people of this country? The diffi culty is one of proof.I am giving a concussion by the alteration of the word “ shall “ to “ may “. Where there is true repentance, no action will be taken. I put it to the committee that a certain amount of retrospectivity is necessary. A further amendment of an evidentiary character probably will be necessary. This is a most insidious kind of tiling to deal with, and the legal profession have found it most difficult to obtain actual proof. That is possible only where there has been a declaration by the organization concerned. These unlawful bodies work under a number of different synonyms. The allegation of affiliation with any of them having been made openly, why should not the organization involved be struck off the register?
– An offence is being created where none existed when the act was committed.
– It already is a crime for an individual to be associated with these unlawful bodies. Corruption en masse is a more venal offence. Is escape from punishment to be allowed because the evidence necessary for a conviction is not procurable? My honorable friend who has criticized sub-clause 2 is acquainted with my views on the question of retrospective legislation. But the welfare and the protection of the public is always with me the highest law. When we find these things existing, proof of their existence should be facilitated. The organizations affected have every legal protection. After the Leader of the
Opposition (Senator Barnes) had spoken, I foresaw the criticism that might be levelled at the measure, and when Senator Brennan indicated the conclusiveness of the clause, I offered to amend it; and I am still prepared to do so. But I cannot accept the suggestion of my honorable friend. When the claim has been made by a union that it is affiliated with one of the organizations specified, is it contended that a second claim should be made after the passage of this legislation? Must it do some overt act in the future, when, as we know, this thing has already been done to the detriment of a union? Affiliation is a static event. This may savour of retrospectivity to the extent that it applies to some act that already has been done - an act which, if done by an individual, would render him liable to be deported. Is it argued that because it is done by a union we ought not to strengthen our arbitration law, on the ground that it offends against our beliefs in connexion with retrospective legislation ?
– It will not be an offence until this law is passed.
– I am not sure that it is not an offence now.
– Why has not action been taken against individuals?
– Some of them may be tried before very long. My friend says that it was not an offence. The principle is accepted that for the future no union shall be registered which claims or purports to be affiliated with organizations of the character of those named, that have as one of their objects the overthrow of the country. If this legislation is not to apply to a union that already is affiliated, should such a claim not be made after the actbecomes operative, we shall only be toying with the matter.
– Action may be taken under paragraph a. which says, “ is, or purports to be, affiliated or associated “.
– If that be so, why have paragraph b ? That is one of the difficulties with which we have been confronted in the administration of the law. There will be a further strengthening of the position when I move an evidentiary amendment providing that “ an association shall be deemed to have claimed that it. is or has been affiliated or associated with a body of persons of the kind specified in sub-clause 1 if the committee of management of the association, or the executive committee of the association, or any general meeting of the association or of a branch thereof, claims or has claimed that it is or has been affiliated or associated, or passes a resolution that the association, or the branch is so affiliated or associated “. The fact that I have to move that amendment indicates the difficulty with which we are confronted. These oversea criminal organizations that have as their objective the subversion of all forms of government hop from limb to limb and from twig to twig.
– The honorable gentleman has himself been doing some hopping this afternoon !
– I have to hop when I see the fury that characterizes the criticism of my honorable friends. “Why are they afraid? This legislation will not be administered harshly. Whom do they wish to protect? It is difficult to prove affiliation, because it is done “ under the lap “ in the underworld of the trade union movement. Books and other documents cannot be seized, because they disappear. These are desperate men, who are out to do desperate deeds; and we must make provision accordingly.
– They are only few in number.
– They dominate the rest. Affiliation with that class of people is subversive of the best interests of civilization, and it is necessary for us to protect a union against, not only future, but also past happenings. If the rank and file are opposed to affiliation, and assert themselves, . it will be an easy matter to prove to the court that the affiliation does not exist. This provision has to be retrospective if it is to do any good. If, during the adjournment, the draftsmanship can be improved, I shall gladly accept an amendment in that direction. This seems to me to be a vital point. Is it conceivable that in the future any organization or executive will walk into the net, and thus forfeit their registration? They will take very fine care that they do not. We are dealing, not with above ground, but with subterranean methods. I ask honorable senators to stand for this principle so far as the past act of affiliation is concerned.
– We appear to be making slight progress, seeing that the Minister has shown a willingness to remove some of the obnoxious principles of the clause. I make a final appeal to him, in view of the indication that he has given that during the dinner adjournment there will be a redrafting of amendments that have been hurriedly drafted this afternoon. As a layman, I have some difficulty in realizing just where the committee will find itself if it accepts the suggestions and amendments that have been put forward during the course of the debate.
I wish to make my position quite clear. I have the utmost respect and the- greatest sympathy for the ideals that have always permeated the Australian Labour movement, both industrially and politically, but I have neither sympathy nor respect for the doctrines that have been promulgated by a very small section of migrants, who have been encouraged to come to this country, not by the party which sits on this side of the chamber, but by that which to-day comprises the Government of the country, so far as trade union and other conditions are concerned. Those who believe in the old principles of Australian trade unionism should be permitted to give effect to their ideals. Many members of the legal fraternity are strongly opposed to the retrospective nature of this legislation, because it introduces a pernicious principle. I remind honorable senators representing South Australia, and particularly the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Senator McLachlan) that the Parliament of that State is at present engaged in a political warfare with respect to a bill introduced into the House of Assembly purporting to have retrospective application, and which, if passed, will have very serious consequences upon certain vested rights, which it was thought could not be interfered with. Practically the whole legal fraternity in South Australia has united to denounce the measure. If retrospectivity is pernicious in principle when it relates to the dealings of a wheat merchant with a banking institution, and farmers, as it does in the case to which I have referred, it is just as pernicious when it relates to the affiliation of certain trade unions with organizations with head-quarters outside the Commonwealth, and whose objective is said to be the overthrow of constitutional government. If this provision is passed in its present form it will be held that the members of some of these organizations have committed what will be declared an offence only when this measure is enacted. In view of the objections raised I trust that the Minister will further consider the matter and submit an amendment acceptable to a majority of the committee, thus providing the protection which we are anxious to afford to genuine trade unionists. The Leader of the Government (Senator Pearce) referred to the Australian Railways Union, which some months ago was affiliated with the Red International; but which, I understand, has taken some steps in the direction of severing affiliation. I have a distinct recollection of reading in the press quite recently that at a fairly representative meeting of the Victorian branch of that union, a motion in opposition to affiliation was carried, but I do not know how far the federal organization has progressed in that direction. The right honorable gentleman said that, in his opinion, the great body of the rank and file of the Australian Railways Union has no sympathy with the action of the executive in effecting affiliation on their behalf. I, too, believe that the members of that organization are prepared to adhere to traditional principles. But after referring to the members of the organization in that way the Minister went on to say, in effect, that such men will be punished for an offence for which they are not guilty. That is what honorable senators on this side of the chamber seek to avoid.
– They have a remedy.
– If we pass this provision in its present form they have not. The first suggestion of the Government was to make this proposed new section wholly retrospective. The best we have been able to do is to limit its retrospectivity to a period of twelve months. If we pass it as it is it will mean that certain organizations which have been affiliated with the Red International during the last twelve months will be guilty of an offence and will be liable to de-registration.
– They have a remedy and I am sure that the honorable senator’s logical mind suggests to him what it is.
– I want to give the members of the Australian Railway Union an opportunity to avail themselves of the remedy.
– They have it now.
– They have not. If we pass this bill in its present form certain persons will, as mentioned by Senator Duncan-Hughes, have no redress.The members of an organization may meet the day after the bill is assented to dismiss the executive and cancel the affiliation, but under these retrospective provisions their association would still be liable for an act which at the time it was committed was legal. The Leader of the Government said thatthe AttorneyGeneral will, in the administration of the law, have the power to exercise his discretion. In all such matters a certain amount of discretion must rest with a Minister; but are we to make a law subject to the whim of the Attorney-General whoever he may be? We are placing too great a responsibility upon the AttorneyGeneral. As this provision is retrospective instead of prospective, I trust that the Minister will consider it furtherbefore attempting to pass it.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m. Senator Barnes. - I am anxious to move an amendment to omit from paragraph bof proposed sub-section 1 the words “ or has at any time before or after the commencement of this section claimed “.
– The honorable senator must defer his amendment until Senator McLachlan’s amendment is disposed of.
– I understand that the purpose of Senator Barnes is to test the retrospectivity of the provision. The honorable senator can best do so by movingto omit from Senator McLachlan’s amendment the words “ twelve months immediately preceding “. If the committee agrees to Senator McLachlan’s amendment, it will affirm that the provision shall operate for twelve mouths immediately preceding the commencement of the act.
– I wish to prevent that.
– Senator Brennan and Senator Duncan-Hughes have already pointed out that the proposed new section applies to organizations seeking registration, and I see no great virtue in Senator McLachlan’s amendment to make the operation of the provision restrospective for twelve months. Before applying for registration, the organizations will simply wait until the twelve months have expired, and in any case the matter will still be within the discretion of the court. Honorable senators of the Opposition, however, want to take away from the provision any suspicion of retrospectivity. That can be done, as Senator Barnes proposes, by omitting certain words from paragraph b.
– The best way to test the matter is to move an amendment to omit words from Senator McLachlan’s amendment.
– I suggest that the committee defeat Senator McLachlan’s amendment with a view to enabling Senator Barnes to move to omit from paragraph b the words “ or has at any time before or after the commencement of this section claimed “. The effect of that amendment would be to remove the retrospectivity from the provision. At the same time it would effect the purpose of the Government - that no organization with certain affiliations shall be entitled to registration. A few years ago there was an organization of trade unions in Pacific countries known as the PanPacific Secretariat. After it had been in operation for some time, and affiliation on the part of the Australian movement had been considered, it was discovered that the secretariat was affiliated with another organization in Europe which might be covered by the words in the proposed section now under consideration. By the retrospective nature of the Minister’s amendment, a perfectly innocent organization, not now registered under the arbitration act, might easily be forever deprived of the right to be registered.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Defence) [8.10]. - As Senator Brennan has pointed out, there are two divisions of this section - one applying to applications for registration, and the other to unions already registered. When we come to the part dealing with unions already registered, we propose to make the same amendment, because, obviously, the union which is to-day affiliated with some overseas organization, but is not registered, is in exactly the same position as a union already registered which is affiliated with some overseas organization. Any union can conformto the law by annulling its affiliation, and it is extremely unlikely that the Attorney-General would take any action in such circumstances. The Government feels that it needs this power, because, as Senator McLachlan pointed out, certain tactics are adopted at the direction or suggestion of the Soviet - changes of name and such like methods - to dodge the observance of the laws of the Commonwealth, intended to prevent the spread of certain propaganda. I, therefore, ask the committee to adopt this very unusualbut, nevertheless, necessary provision.
– I cannothelp thinking that lawyers will find themselves in difficulty if ever these complicated sections which we are attempting to amend as we go on come before a court of law. It has beenconceded that this provision is divided into two parts, one dealing with organizations which seek registration and which are tainted, and the other with organizations which have been registered and which also are tainted. The one part is designed to prevent a tainted organization from being registered and the other is designed to remove a tainted organization from the register. In all friendliness to the Government, I suggest that these two branches could be better placed. The first could be attached as a proviso to section 55, sub-section 1, which deals with what organizations may be registered. The second could best be attached to section 60, which provides -
If it appears to the court on the application of any organization or person interested or of the Registrar - that certain things have been done - the court may, if in its discretion it thinks fit, order the registration of the organization to be cancelled, and thereupon it shall be cancelled accordingly.
Under section 60 of the principal act, the Registrar may move for the cancellation of the registration of an organization. If the latter part of sub-section 2 were included in that section, in some form of words which would give the AttorneyGeneral power to move, his action would give an importance to the application which it would not have otherwise.
We have been favoured with an advance copy of a further amendment, dealing with the Onus of proof, which it is proposed to move. I make these remarks because of the consideration I have given to the proposed amendment. I fear that we may reach a decision which it will be difficult to construe, and may lead to trouble. There does not appear to be a great difference between the opinions of honorable senators of all parties. The Opposition professes to be anxious to have nothing to do with affiliations with bodies on the other side of. the world, such as we have in mind ; and we must accept the assurances it gives. It surely is no disadvantage that a provision goes into’ an act with the approval of all parties. I do not know whether the Leader of the Government has other business to place before the Senate, or whether he desires that we should proceed with this measure; but it seems to me that, having regard to the further amendment of which we have received notice, we should take time to consider the whole sub-section again, from the point of view of the wording rather than that of the spirit.
I do not think that there is so much in the retrospectivity of this provision as the Opposition appears to believe there is. Were we to set out to prove that an association is at present affiliated with one of the organizations here mentioned, one of the ways in. which to do so would be to prove what it said, or did, at any time within the last twelve months or other period. It is a question of evidence, rather than of anything else. The suggested amendment proposes to make this kind of thing evidence. I do not altogether agree that what is here charged as being a retrospective operation is really retrospective. If the desire were merely to catch some one for something he did in the past, and for which he is now sorry, I would join the Opposition in disapproving of the attempt; but one of the best ways of proving what an organization is to-day is to show what its actions have been in the past.
– It is a question of the character of the union.
– Yes; that can often be shown best by proving how it has acted in the past. That is not only in accordance with the ordinary principles of British law; it is also perfectly fair to the person charged.
– But we should not base our case on it, as the Leader of the Government proposes.
– The amendment refers to an association which, within a period of twelve months immediately preceding the commencement of this section, or at any time thereafter, makes certain claims.
– The court is the best body to determine the character of an organization.
– The court can only do that on the evidence placed before it as to the acts, words and resolutions of the organization in the past. The Leader of the Government will see that the words “ or purports to be “ will have to be altered. Indeed, there will need to be a number of amendments ; and it seems to me that we are likely to involve ourselves in complications if we try to amend this section as we go along. In all friendliness, I suggest that the Government should withdraw the bill for the time being, and reconsider it, not with the object of receding from the position the Government has taken up, but to make its. position clearer than it can be made by amendments which are made, somewhat hurriedly, as we go along. I do not want to be placed in the position of either voting against the Government, or of voting for something the meaning of which is in doubt. That is my position now.
[8.21]. - Senator Brennan suggested first, that these provisions should be separated, and placed after the sections dealing with registrations and cancellations as they appear in the principal act. I assure the honorable senator that that matter was fully considered by the Attorney-General, who decided to separate the clauses, because they dealt with entirely different classes of things. It is true that they deal with registrations and cancellations; but, sections 55 and 60 deal with the ordinary registration of uni.ons, covering such matters as there being two unions in one industry, and other ordinary matters which have to be provided for. Section 60, which deals with cancellations, is the ordinary provision in every arbitration act dealing with cancellations for various causes; it is entirely different from this legislation, designed to protect the community. The AttorneyGeneral thought that it would be wise to separate this provision from the ordinary trade union regulatory provisions.
As to the other point raised by Senator Brennan, I grant the pungency of the criticism, and the danger of making amendments as we go along. I suggest, however, that we should adopt these amendments tonight, in which case I undertake not to ask the Senate to adopt the report of the committee until to-morrow. In the meantime, I shall bring both the amendment and the criticism of it under the notice of the Attorney-General and the draftsman. There will be ample time between now and to-morrow afternoon for full consideration to be given to the matters raised. It would be an advantage to get the amendment into the bill so that the clause can be put into the shape in which we want it to emerge. It is now figuratively shreds and patches; the Government wants to have the whole garment before it. . If we do as I suggest we shall have before us the whole clause, as amended, when we come to adopt the report of the committee. If necessary, the bill could then be recommitted. In any case, on the motion for the adoption of the report, a discussion could take place. To those who desire to help, the Government, I say that we should go forward until we reach the report stage, leaving the actual adoption of the report until to-morrow.
– From the remarks of the Leader of the Government (Senator Pearce) it is apparent that the Government’s desire to come to a decision upon the suggested amendment is only in order that the supporters of the Government may compose their differences. We, on this side, desire that full consideration be given to the amendments which we have suggested. We appear to be getting into somewhat of a tangle, inasmuch as the Minister in charge of the bill wishes to amend it, while we, on this side, seek to amend it still further, either before or after his amendments have been dealt with. If honorable senators supporting the Government desire the spirit of sweet reasonableness to prevail during these debates, I suggest that it is unwise for them to adopt the attitude which some of them have adopted to-day. Because we on this side are trying to prevent an assault from being made on what we understand is meant by the principles of British justice, the Minister points a reproving finger at us and demands to know whom we are trying to protect. I regret that the Minister in charge of the bill is not now present, so that I could assure him that we, the members of the Opposition, are as mindful of any oath or affirmation, or other pledges, that we have given in our public life, as are honorable senators on the other side of the chamber. Only a few days ago, I affirmed my allegiance in this chamber, and by that affirmation I stand. Throughout my public life I have declared my allegiance to the Australian Labour Party. I stand by that also. Notwithstanding what may be said to the contrary, neither I nor the movement which sent me here has or desires to have any affiliation other than with the industrial and political organizations of the Australian Labour Party. The Labour party is not seeking to protect any one who is not entitled to protection. Perhaps a homely illustration will explain my meaning. I am a pledged total abstainer from alcoholic beverages; but I have never urged that every other person in the community who indulges in alcoholic beverages is an unmitigated scoundrel who should be exterminated or deprived of his industrial and political liberty; yet, this Senate is asked to pass an amendment which means that a person shall be adjudged guilty of an offence, notwithstanding that his action took place at a time when it did not constitute an offence. That is a serious matter. The Minister in charge of the bill could just as reasonably propose that we should make drunkenness a crime punishable by imprisonment for twelve months, and then seek to provide that because Jones was drunk nine months ago he has com- mitted an offence and should be incarcerated for the period provided under an amendment of the law yet to be adopted. Those of us who are pledged to the policy of the Australian Labour Party do not desire to save any one from the consequences of his acts once he knows the penalty associated with them. We have only one object in view; we desire to protect those organizations which in the past have done thethings set out in this amendment - things which at the time did not constitute a breach of any law - but will not repeat them when they know that they are unlawful. Should there be any persons in the community so perverse as to continue in wrong-doing, we can rely on the law as it stands to deal with them. We cannot escape the fact that these clauses deal with two entirely different things. In the case of an organization seeking registration we have a perfect right to say to it that if it is now guilty of this offence, it should not obtainregistration. But I contend that we have no right, and there will be no justice behind our action, if wo enact that because at some earlier period in its history it was guilty of an act which is now,but was not then, an offence against, the law it is not eligible for registration. After all, the court will decide whether or not an organization is entitled to be deregistered, and I fail to see how honorable senators supporting the Government can justify their attitude. The amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition would, I believe, meet the wishes of honorable senators on both sides. It provides that an organization which is or purports to be affiliated with an association declared to be illegal shall not be entitled to registration. It seems to me to be a subversion of all that we have hitherto understood to represent Britishjustice, to enact that a certain course taken at a time when it was not an offence against the law should, under this provision, now be an offence. I feel sure that we shall get out of our difficulties if we adopt the suggestion made by Senator O’Halloran, for the withdrawal of the Minister’s amendment so that the clause may be amended along the lines indicated by the Leader of the Opposition. We can deal with the other matters as they arise.
Supporters of the Government should not prejudice their case or tempt honorable senators on this side to reprisals by saying things which they must know do not apply to us, or to the organizations to which we belong or represent. It is, I suggest, unworthy, and certainly exceptionally bad taste, to hint at an underworld of trade unionism, because it will naturally tempt some honorable senators on this side - and I am probably as prone to do it as any one else - to elaborate, at some length, and with some dramatic effect on the facts regarding the underworld of capitalism, and all that it stands for. We do not get anywhere by deliberately taunting one another. We were told this afternoon that some trade unionists are desperate men, who do desperate things. I suggest that we are not qualified to understand the conduct of desperate men, but I can imagine no more desperate man than’ he who finds himself unable to obtain a livelihood, even though he be willing to go to any lengths, desperate or otherwise, to get it. I repeat that we are not competent judges in this elegantly appointed chamber, to say just what constitute desperate deeds by desperate men.
– Would the honorablesenator include Mr. Chapman in that category ?
– To whom is the honorable senator referring?
– The general secretary of the Australian Railways Union.
– Nobody has yet charged Mr. Chapman with being a desperate man ready to do desperate things. The interjection by the honorable senator illustrates one of the things to which I object. Why does not he say something about honorable senators who are here - myself for example? I am always ready to protect myself against a charge of being a desperate man prepared to do desperate deeds. In this case, I stand for a fair deal for the organizations, and I say that they will not get it if the Minister’s proposal is adopted. I do not wish to get into an argument about the things which Senator Hardy would like me to mention. There will be other opportunities to do that. Although all of us say we believe in what is generally understood to be British justice, this chamber apparently is ready to accept an amendment, the effect of which will be to make a crime of something which was not a crime at the time it was committed. Why make this legislation retrospective for twelve months? We might just as well make the period for all eternity.
– Twelve months was the first period thought of.
– Probably the honorable senator is right. The desire of the Opposition is that when this bill is passed, it shall be impossible for any organization to secure registration unless it has purged itself of the alleged crime specified in the act or that being a registered organization, it shall be de-registered if it persists in its offence against the law. Can anything be fairer than that? If supporters of the Government consider this calmly and judicially, they will, I feel sure, acknowledge that we on this side have shown them the only right way out of the difficulty.
– There seems to have been a tremendous lot of debate around and about an extremely nebulous subject. Honorable senators on both sides of the committee have expressed their anxiety that trade unions which desire registration shall come into the court with clean hands. It is simply a matter of character and, so far as I am concerned, I approve the analogy used by Senator Collings, namely the analogy of sobriety. If any one applying for a position proclaim himself a teetotaller, and if it came to the knowledge of his prospective employers that within quite a limited period he had been indulging in an orgy of intemperance, would it not be quite right for that lapse to be taken into consideration, not for the purpose of administering punishment, but as a test of the applicant’s character? That, I take it, is what we have in mind at the moment. Our purpose is not so much to administer punishment for acts committed prior to the passing of this measure, as simply to provide that unions seeking registration, or those desiring to avoid deregistration, shall prove that their history has been such as will enable them to make the applica tion with some confidence. And again, we have to remember that after all - although one. would not suppose this to be the case, judging by the speeches of honorable senators opposite - the AttorneyGeneral is not the man who settles these questions. The court, I take it I am right in saying, is the tribunal which makes the decisions. The most pressing need, apparently, is clarity in the draftsmanship of the proposed new section, and to ensure this, I am inclined to accept the suggestion of the righthonorable the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce). It would be a perfectly safe course for honorable senators on both sides, because both allege, and I believe sincerely, that they do not wish this peril which, perhaps, appears to be a little more imminent to honorable senators on this side than to honorable senators opposite, to remain. Having complete confidence in the courts appointed in this country to carry out the wishes of Parliament, and what now appears to be the wishes of both sides of the committee,I hope that the suggestion made by the Leader of the Senate will be adopted. I was surprised to hear Senator Collings say that these provisions should be considered calmly and judicially, becauseI have never seen the Senate working in such a calm and judicial atmosphere. Indeed, I was almost tempted to say that it is so calm as to vergeon the condition of dullness. I can assure the honorable gentleman that if he has any luck at all. he will probably be somewhat worried later at the vehemence with which opinions are sometimes expressed in this chamber.
– You will find me happy then.
– I was. beginning to suspect that, for I noticed that while the honorable senator expressed a desire for calmness, he was apparently prepared for a storm, and I feel sure that whenever stormy weather is experienced in the Senate, he will acquit himself very worthily. I repeat that the suggestion made by the Leader of the Senate is, in my opinion, a good one, and I hope that the committee will adopt it.
– We do not agree to the retrospective provisions of the measure.
– But I would point out that the punishment is not retrospective. All that trade unions are asked to do is to provide a certificate of character to enable them to avoid deregistration, or, in the case of those seeking registration, to prove themselves worthy of it. I do not think that that is unreasonable. Both sides are agreed upon it, yet we appear to be unable to come to a decision. I. shall support the course proposed by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce).
– My political memory goes back to a period ten years ago, when the present Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) and I in the House of Representatives constantly opposed retrospective legislation that was almost invariably carried by the votes of the Labour party. Consequently, I am not unduly influenced by the present expressed desire of members of the Opposition to avoid retrospective legislation, nor by the suggestion that this is the first occasion upon which it has been placed before Parliament, or that it will break down all the best traditions of the British race, and that the committee is on the eve of taking a most unwise step. Because such a step lias been taken before, however, that, does not mean that it is either a good or a sound one. The VicePresident of the Executive Council (Senator McLachlan) this afternoon emphasized the necessity for dealing with miscreants who had offended in the past. On that, point, all that I can say is that this bill was placed before us on the 5th May last, that four months have since elapsed, and that it has not yet passed even this chamber. That raises in one’s mind a doubt as to whether it is either urgent or necessary to deal with one particular organization. 1 almost doubt my oown decision when I find myself in accord with those who sit opposite; but I am not at all confident that this is a fair provision. After all, the Government must rest on fair dealing. I am quite convinced that it both desires and means to be fair, but I am not at all sure that it is being fair. I am not referring to the first portion of the provision. I shall vote with the Government on that. because I do not think that it is in any way truly retrospective. It merely defines retrospectively those who shall be ineligible to apply for registration in the future. But the second portion appears to me not to be fair to an organization which, at th time that it made its mistake, was acting legally so far as the laws of this country ore concerned. I believe that Australia is over-governed. I do not suggest that the fault lies with the Commonwealth Parliament: let us assume that it lies with the States! We have regulations, ordinances, and statutes galore. If we add the fear that a man may be hit also by subsequent legislation, no one will know where he stands. I again suggest to the Government that this point surely is not vital. I do not speak from the union point of view - though, perhaps, I might be claimed to have been a member of the lawyers’ union - when I say that even if, in the past, a union has done something grossly wrong, it would be wise and fair, taking all the circumstances of the present moment into account, to say, “ We are not going to hit you for what you did in the past; if you can only stand up to it for the future, we shall give you a run “. “ Oh, it is excellent to have a giant’s strength “. There is no need for me to complete the quotation ; I do not use it in any way offensively. I hope that the Government will see that, in a sense, this is a minor point, even though it embraces a major principle, and that it would be a fair thing not to try to hit an organization which admittedly it can hit - and hit hard - at the present time, but which under the law as it existed in the past was not liable to be hit.
– I, too, feel guilty at once more rising to speak on this subject, because, like my honorable friend, Senator MacDonald, I once suffered from those who did that kind of thing. That was in the days when the press reported speeches delivered in Parliament. But I cannot help feeling that there is much in what was said by my learned colleague, Senator DuncanHughes; and there is also much - although perhaps honorable senators may think it painful to me to say so - in what was said by Senator Collings, with which I feel bound to agree. I- accept the view put by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) in regard to the consideration given by the Attorney-General to the division of this provision into two parts. Knowing now that the Attorney-General has considered the matter, I am quite prepared to yield anything that I felt upon that point. But it seems to me that this matter resolves itself into one very simple question. Let us take the case of an organization that once was affiliated with organizations abroad, but has now definitely ceased that affiliation. Is there any person who would deny registration to that organization by reason merely of the fact that it once had that affiliation? If there is, then it can only be for purposes of punishment, not for purposes of precaution or safety. I agree with everything that has been said on tha t particular point. We ought not to make punishment for an offence retrospective; or, in other words, we ought not to make punishable retrospectively something that was not punishable at the time that it was done. The same remarks apply to the second branch of this proposal. Is there in this chamber any man who would desire to cancel the registration of an organization, not because it is now affiliated with any organizations abroad, not because it is feared that it might become so affiliated, but because it once was affiliated.
– Has not the honorable senator confidence in the court that will decide the question ?
– That is my next point. The express provisions for retrospectivity do not in that connexion appear to me to be necessary. When the court comes to consider, let us say, an application not for registration, but for the cancellation of registration, it will hear evidence upon the point. That evidence may take the form of definitely proving that within twelve months the organization concerned was affiliated with an organization abroad. But it may none the less satisfy the court that that organization has abandoned its affiliation, and that it is not at the time so affiliated. If the court is so satisfied, unless prohibited by the act of Parliament itself, it will decline to de-register. Therefore, while evidence may be given of what an organization has done within the previous twelve months, in order to show, on the analogy mentioned by my colleague, Senator Kingsmill, its present character, if the judge is satisfied that that present character is good, notwithstanding what was done twelve months previously, it will grant the registration in the one case or decline to de-register in the other. But that principle would apply under the ordinary laws of evidence, even though it was not included in the proposed amendment. Consequently, while I agree that retrospective provisions positively enacted are always objectionable - that is to say, they have an objectionable side, although the need for them may sometimes render it necessary to depart from a settled principle - it seems to me that here they are not necessary, and that the effect of them may be to involve people in punishment, not because of what they are to-day, but because of what they were yesterday. They are unnecessary also because character over a period may be proved even without express authority. The court thus would be left in the best position to decide the matter, and could decide it without having its hands tied. Therefore, while I willingly accede to the first view put forward by the Leader of the Senate, -I am not shaken in the opinion that it would be well to reconsider the whole matter with a view to placing before the committee a clause that will take away nothing that the Government desires to preserve and embrace nothing that the Opposition desires to exclude. I hope that I am not so tainted with party bias - although I am not ashamed to profess party loyalty - as to believe that there is any harm in an amendment that meets the wishes of both sides. Particularly does that apply to a non-party chamber, such as the Senate is, andI hope will always continue to be.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted (Senator McLachlan’s amendment) be so inserted - put. The committee divided. ( Chairman - Senator the Hon. Herbert Hays.)
Majority . . 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Defence) [9.3].- I move-
That the words “ at any time, whether before or after the commencement of this section,” paragraph b, sub-section 1 of proposed new section60a, be left out.
This amendment is in conformity with that outlined by the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator McLachlan), and it is necessitated by the redrafting of the proposed new sub-section.
.- I desire to leave out the words “ claims, or has at any time, whether before or after the commencement of this section claimed that it is affiliated or associated “ in paragraph b. The proposed new . section would then read - “ An association which is or purports to be affiliated or associated …”
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Defence) [9.6]. - As I have moved a prior amendment, I suggest that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes) should test the feeling of the committee by moving to leave out the words “ or has “. To enable him to do so I am prepared to temporarily withdraw my amendment.
Amendment - by leave - withdrawn.
Amendment (by Senator Barnes) proposed -
That the words “ or has “, paragraph 6, subsection 1 of proposed new section60a, be left out.
– It is my intention to support the amendment moved by the Leader of the
Opposition (Senator Barnes), but I should like to make it clear that I am totally opposed to the bill unless it is amended in the way I desire. It appears that the whole of this proposed amending arbitration legislation is not merely aimed at the persons supposed or proved to be affiliated with the Red International of Labour Unions, but is framed to give the Government an opportunity to charge with an offence many who are not so affiliated. This assertion is based on certain facts, which have come before my notice. We were informed some time ago, when considering certain amendments of the Crimes Act, that an appeal could be made to the court. We were told that after the Government had prosecuted any one for an offence that the court could be moved to justify the issue of a proclamation declaring an organization illegal on account of its alleged subversive policy. About that time we were informed, not only through the press, but in other ways, that the representatives of organizations were ordered to vacate certain, premises in Sydney - that owners of premises were to evict them. One organization in particular was falsely accused by the Government of being associated with the Communist party, or being a body affiliated with that party - I refer to the League Against Imperialism. The president of that organization is not, and has never been, favorable to communism. The Communist party does not allow unions or organizations of any kind to be affiliated with it; it is composed of individual members. That organization has been directed to vacate its premises and become, as it were, hoboes in the wilderness, because if one landlord is not allowed to have it as tenants, others would be similarly precluded. The intention is to disrupt that body without legal proceedings being taken. We have also been informed by the Attorney-General that persons numbering about 50 have been deported without any publicity being given to the nature of their offences, or without having had an opportunity to defend themselves.
– Are they British subjects ?
– They have been resident in Australia. Under that legislation persons who maybe Commnnists or accused of disloyalty may be deprived of their rights as citizens and be deported without any one knowing the reason. This legislation provides the Government with a further means to stamp out freedom of political action which differs in principle from that of the Government now in office. In these circumstances, I denounce this legislation altogether. It is a specimen of the worst kind of repressive legislation that the Senate has been asked to consider. During recent months, we have dealt with an amendment of the Crimes Act and the Immigration Restriction Act, and we are now considering an amending arbitration act, all of which are so inextricably inter-related that any person termed a militant or who desires a change in the present system of government is liable to be treated asa disloyalist.
-I ask the honorable senator to confine his remarks to the amendment before the committee.
– The present proposal mitigates only in the slightest degree the attack made upon trade unions on the ground that they may have been guilty of subversive acts with respect to the Government of the country. Although I intend to support the amendmen t, I shall take every opportunity afforded me of voting against the whole measure. It has been said that members of the rank and file of a certain organization could have taken action to cancel affiliation with the Red International; but it must be recognized that, while we, as members of Parliament, naturally make ourselves acquainted with any matter of political importance, the rank and file of a union are not so politically educated. Only the vaguest of rumours get abroad as to what has been accomplished in this Parliament. It is not every one who subscribes to Hansard, or reads it. The vast majority of the members of the Australian Railways Union know very little of this projected legislation.
– Probably very few of them had any voice in the affiliation with the Red International.
– Quite so; but, even if they all voted for it, is it not possible for them, in the light of greater knowledge, to change their minds and desire to retrace their steps? Senator Pearce and
Senator McLachlan are insisting on this legislation being made retrospective to prevent any such change of tactics. Senator Pearce has pointed out that resort is had to all sorts of tricks, and that certain people are working underground. If this legislation is enacted, skittling all the principles upon which our democracy is based, there may be some point in the right honorable senator’s remarks about working underground. At present there is no concealment. The affiliation to which reference has been made was entered into openly. The Trades and Labour Council of Sydney has also affiliated with the Red International of Labour Unions. According to Senator Pearce, an organization may change its name and blossom forth as a new body; but I should say that, if the executive remains the same, or substantially the same, and the membership is recruited from those following the same calling, it will be an easy matter to prove whether it is trying to escape the law by a change of name.
– The honorable senator’s remarks would be more appropriate on the general question of the acceptance of the clause.
– Thank you; but I understood that the amendment was being taken as a test.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Defence) [9.19]. - The Government cannot accept the amendment. We are dealing, not with a tamecat, but with a tiger which has already done a great deal of mischief in the world, and which will do a great deal more. Before the court can order the registration of a union to be cancelled certain facts have to be proved. Those facts clearly are only in the possession of the organization. What evidence could be brought by the Government to prove its case? We have a resolution of the Australian Railways Union published in the press. A certain gentleman, Mr. Chapman, informed an astonished world that his union had affiliated with the Red International. The Government could not produce the man who moved the motion or the one who seconded it ; nor the motion itself. To attempt to do so would be asking us to do the impossible. But we could produce as evidence the fact that the union itself had claimed to have affiliated with theRed International, and that would be the only evidence we could produce. We have to remember that, in this case, we are dealing with a body which, by affiliation, has joined with another which says that you are entitled to do anything you like to defeat the law of the country in which you live; that you can disregard the law because you are against the law. The object of the Red International is to overthrow the law as we understand it. How could we proceed by ordinary law-making processes to deal with a tiger like that? To deal with such an extraordinary set of conditions, we must have extraordinary legislation. Senator Duncan-Hughes approached the question as if we were dealing with lawabiding citizens. They are not. By their affiliation with the Red International, they have declared that they stand for the overthrow of the law; such is the declared objective of the Red International. If we are to combat the propaganda which is going on in our midst, and in all civilized society to-day, we must arm ourselves with extraordinary legislation. It is of no use to regard this matter as if we were dealing with ordinary citizens by means of ordinary laws. Let me recall a few things in connexion with the affiliation of the Australian Railways Union. A conference in Melbourne of the Victorian branch of the union was denied all knowledge of when the affiliation had taken place. Members of the union wanted to know how the affiliation had been brought about, and they were not given the information.
– What evidence has the honorable senator of that?
– 1 am going by the press report of the proceedings. I take it that the report was supplied to the press. The honorable senator knows that newspaper reporters are not admitted to such gatherings. The press report was that members wanted to know when the affiliation had taken place and who had authorized it. They were told in effect that it was none of their business; that the matter had been arranged by the central executive. A little later, a delegation left Australia for Russia, and among them was one who announced that he was the representative of the Australian Railways Union. We saw letters in the press, signed by members of the union, asking who had authorized this man to go to Russia on their behalf. They said that they had not. been consulted, nor asked if they wished to send a delegare to Russia.
– The honorable senator is now going by the press reports.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Yes; and the gentleman who has now returned is on a lecturing tour to pay his expenses. There has been a revolt in the union ; it refuses to pay its share of his expenses. I mention these matters to remind honorable senators of the difficulty in which the Government would be placed if this amendment were agreed to. It would be asking the Government to scotch a snake without arming it with a stick.
SenatorO’Halloran. - We are afraid that it would mean killing the canary.
– From some of the remarks made at this sitting, one would think that honorable senators opposite are blind to what is going on in their midst. Surely they are aware of the red-anting that is going on in their ranks. We have one of our biggest trade unions affiliated with an organization that stands for the overthrow of society by revolution. Yet, the Opposition would have us omit the words “ has claimed “ and prevent us from proving in a court that this union has within the last twelve months claimed to have affiliated with the Red International. Take away from us the power to prove that, and what evidence can we produce? I venture to say that if we took out a search warrant, and searched the head office of the union, we should find no books. It is known throughout the Commonwealth that this union, through its executive, has boasted that it has affiliated with the Red International, but the Opposition would not allow the Government to produce that evidence to prove its claim. I ask the committee to give the Government that power.
.- No court would take action against an organization on the flimsy evidence of a newspaper report. I have seen press statements concerning myself with absolutely no foundation, and what applies to the individual, can fairly be applied to an organization. But suppose a registered organization has affiliated with the Red International; surely we can give it an opportunity within six months to correct its action.I have no personal knowledge that the Australian Railways Union affiliated with the Red International. Certainly I have seen press reports that it has done so.
– Those press reports have not been contradicted.
– Probably the organization would not be disturbed by newspaper reports if it was not so affiliated.
– If the union is not affiliated it has nothing to fear from this bill.
– But if it was affiliated six months ago, and in order to secure the benefits of the arbitration law, desires to get out of the affiliation, it should be given a chance to do so. Every honorable senator knows that a vote of the Australian Railways Union could not be taken in twenty minutes.
– They did not take a vote to affiliate.
– A gentleman who is active in the trade union movement in Melbourne has informed me to-night that the Australian Railways Union is not affiliated with the Red International. I do not know whether it is or not. We on this side want to give them an opportunity to cancel their affiliation if they have offended in that way. We want to see this Australian organization dealt with justly.
– Does it not appear to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes), who demands an opportunity for these people to prove that they are law abiding citizens, that this legislation gives them that opportunity?
– I should not have risen again, but for the extraordinary remarks of the Leader of the Government, who said that the Government desires that the words proposed to be struck out should remain, so that an organization which during the twelve months preceding the passing of this measure had claimed that it was affiliated with some other body which would bring it within the scope of the operations of this legislation, could be dealt with. As an illustration he mentioned that an official of the Australian Railways Union, as reported in the press, had claimed that that organization was affiliated with the Red International. I hope that it is not suggested that our courts should create a new law of evidence - the acceptance at face value of press statements which may, or may not, have been secured from official sources.
– Those concerned will have an opportunity of proving that the press statement is incorrect.
SenatorO’HALLORAN. - Already these organizations have been dealt with severely by the retrospective provisions which we have passed. Now it is proposed to place on them the onus of satisfying the court that what some member of the organization said, perhaps 20 years ago-
– Within the preceding twelve months.
– In view of thefact that the principle has already been accepted, I shall not discuss the matter further.
Amendment (by Senator Sir George Pearce) agreed to -
That the words “at any time, whether before or after the commencement of this section paragraph 6, sub-section 1 of proposed section 60a, be left out.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Defence) [9.37].- I move-
That the following new sub-section be inserted : - “1(a). An association shall be deemed to claim, or to have claimed, that it is, or has been, affiliated or associated with a body of persons of the kind specified in sub-section 1 if the committee of management of the association, or the executive committee of the association, or any general meeting of the association, or of a branch thereof, claims, or has claimed, that it is, or has been, so affiliated or associated, or passesa resolution that the association or the branch is so affiliated or associated, and a statement by an officer of the association or of a branch thereof, that the association, or the branch, is, or has, decided to become so affiliated or associated, shall be prima facie evidence that the association is so affiliated or associated.”
That is practically a definition of the evidence that can be submitted to show that an organization claims, or has claimed, to be associated with the Bed International.
– This definition of evidence contains one fatal flaw; it provides that if a branch of an organization claims, or has claimed, to be affiliated or associated with certain other organizations it shall be deemed to have been so associated. An organization with branches scattered over the continent may be deregistered, and its members deprived of their privileges, because one branch does something of which the others do not approve.
– The association can deal with that branch.
SenatorRAE. - Irrespective of what may happen to the branch for its action, the whole organization may suffer. That is not fair.
– Any such claim by a branch will be prima facie evidence. The court will decide whether or not it represents the views of the whole organization.
– The action of one branch or of one member may destroy the whole organization.
– Having heard the whole of the evidence, the court may decide not to cancel the registration of the organization.
– It would appear that in order to escape from the barbarism of the Government’s proposal an organization will have to depend on the mercy of the court. One of my chief reasons for objecting to this barbaric legislation is that it seeks to put the industrial clock back to the middle ages, and will prevent individuals and organizations from getting fair play. This bill is based on the allegation that certain organizations are trying to overthrow the government of this country. After the passage of this measure any union which becomes affiliated with such a body will be regarded as a menace to the peace and stability of the Commonwealth. Let me point out that the action of the Government in this matter is doing far more to bring about that undesirable state of affairs than that of any particular union. Necessarily, the effect of all sorts of oppressive legislation is to drive people underground, because they will not submit to tyranny which is provocative of revolution. As a matter of fact, if this course is persisted in, there will be nothing left for the industrialists to do but to turn to revolution as a way out of their difficulties.
– The amendment is about the most astounding proposal that I have ever heard of. It is an attempt to penalize an organization simply because a few hotheads in it may gather together and declare in favour of affiliation with some foreign body. I could not help thinking as I listened to the amendments submitted by the Government to-night, that the deliberate intention is to destroy trade unionism and particularly that section of it which, hitherto, has always stood for constitutional methods instead of direct action. As a member of such a body, the Government’s proposals appear to me to be most absurd. My organization, which has a membership of nearly 3,000, is divided into a number of branches which meet in the various cities at different periods of the year. As we all know, comparatively few members attend trade union meetings, and in nearly every branch there is a limited number of men who have become enamoured of the ideas promulgated by those who are against constitutional methods, and because of action for which these men may be solely responsible, my organization may be in danger of deregistration. The proposals now put forward by this Government are calculated to force trade unionism to adopt unconstitutional means to procure its ends. If the Ministry insists on having its way, it is of no use, apparently, for us to strive to reach some agreement to preserve the arbitration system on a sound basis, because obviously the Government has no sympathy with those trade unions which believe in constitutional methods and is not prepared to assist them to continue along those lines.
– The amendment enacts that if the committee of management of an association or if the executive committee of an association in general meeting, or if a branch of such an association offends against the law by seeking affiliation with some illegal body, it shall be guilty of an offence. I belong to a union with tens of thousands of members. A few members out on some road job - fifteen members can call a general meeting - may adopt a resolution of affiliation with such a body, and although 50,000 members may be opposed to such a course, my organization will be brought within the four corners of the act simply because the resolution carried at a branch meeting would appear on the agenda paper for consideration at the annual conference, although, in all probability, it would then be rejected. Nevertheless, my union would stand in danger of deregistration automatically. If any labour organization decides upon affiliation with the Red International, it will lose the benefit of arbitration, but the members can please themselves. If, after the passing of this bill, members of certain unions decide to affiliate with an illegal body and forgo the benefit of arbitration, the measure will not do anything of a practical nature to overcome the difficulty. As a matter of fact, the tendency will be to drive industrial organizations away from the court and to induce them to use the strike weapon for the settlement of their troubles. There does not appear to be any sense in the Ministry’s proposal. It is the duty of the Government to give an organization a chance to rid itself of the affiliation if it wishes to do so and to enjoy the benefits of arbitration.
– At first I was inclined to believe in the protestations of sincerity made by the Government when Ministers appealed to the Opposition to pass certain provisions on the understanding that action would be left to the discretion of the Attorney-General. I say now, quite deliberately, that I am not prepared to trust the discretionary power of this G overnment. The very com plica ted and obnoxious amendment which has just been submitted has shaken my faith in the sincerity of the Ministers. Up to the present, we have not had an opportunity to study the amendment, and I now feel convinced, that the intention is to inflict the gravest possible hardship on the trade union movement in Australia in order to bring about the disintegration of that wonderful force which, hitherto, has stood for law and order and the peaceful settlement of industrial disputes, so that the people whom the Government represents may work their will upon employees in industry.
– Order! The honorable senator must not impute improper motives to the Government. I. ask him to confine his remarks to the subject-matter of the amendment.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. Chairman. My excuse is that the amendment is long and complicated, and I have only had an opportunity to glance at it. Speaking from memory, it will bring within the ambit of the law, as regards the law of evidence, organizations on the mere declaration of an executive committee or an official of a trade union, who may claim that it is affiliated with bodies opposed to political action and seeking the overthrow of government by force. No regard is to be paid to the fact, as has been pointed out by my leader, that the executive or official making the claim may be a mere nonentity. The union in question may be put to considerable expense and inconvenience to prove its innocence. A government which can bring down such an amendment does not enjoy my confidence. I cannot believe that its administration of the law will be tempered with mercy, and, for this reason, I am absolutely opposed to the amendment.
Question - That. the amendment (Senator Sir George Pearce’ s) be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator the Hon. Herbert Hays.)
Majority . . . . 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
.- I move-
That after the word “ time,” sub-section 2, proposed new section60a, the words “ after a period of six months from the passing of this section “ be inserted.
If this amendment is accepted, an organization that wishes to cease its affiliation with an unlawful association and to enjoy the privileges of the Arbitration Act will have an opportunity to do so within a period of six months. By agreeing to it, this Parliament will display a readiness to enable such organizations to conform to what the. Government seems to think is necessary for the safety of the people of this country. I do not consider that the Government is being asked to concede too much. So far as I can gather, there is only one union which it is suggested has such an affiliation ; and even that has not been proved. It is possible that the Government will never be able to prove that it is affiliated with a body that has its head-quarters in Russia.
– It will not have to prove it.
– The Leader of the Senate would be satisfied with a press report; on such flimsy evidence he would deprive of the benefits of arbitration 50,000 loyal Australians who are anxious to obey the laws of this country. The Government is going the right way to make dangerous to the welfare of the people of this country independent bodies of men who believe in the enjoyment of reasonable liberties.
It can at least be claimed that an Australian would be the first to resent most vigorously repression of this character.I warn the Government that there is a limit even to what an Australian will stand. We enjoy freedom that it has taken many years to obtain. The passage of legislation of this character will merely invite reprisals that will not be in the best interests of the people or of Australia itself.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Defence) [10.7]. - The Government cannot accept the amendment, the only effect of which would be to hold up this legislation for six months while these gentlemen were making up their minds.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted (Senator Barnes’ amendment) be inserted - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator the Hon. Herbert Hays.)
Majority . . 7
Questionso resolved in the negative.
Amendment (by Senator Sir George Pearce) proposed -
That after the word “that”, sub-section 2, proposed new section60a, the words “ within a period of twelve months immediately preceding the commencement of this section, or at any time thereafter “ be inserted.
– This amendment embodies the principle of retrospective punishment, about which we had. a very learned dissertation earlier in the sitting. Those honorable senators opposite who then enunciated the principle that punishment ought not to be retrospectively applied, should now define their attitude. The amendment proposes to make the provisions of the clause apply to organizations that have been affiliated at any time during the twelve months prior to the passing of the act. That, in my mind, undoubtedly is retrospective punishment.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted (Senator Sir George Pe arce’ s amendment) be inserted - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator the Hon. Herbert Hays.)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Senator Sir George Pearce) agreed to.
That the word “ shall “, sub-section 4 of proposed new section60a, be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ may “.
– I am strongly opposed to the retention of sub-section6 of this proposed new section, which provides that an association shall not be eligible for registration as an organization until after the. expiration of three years from the date of deregistration. Unless the Minister will agree to considerably reduce the period, preferably to three months, it is my intention to move to delete the sub-section.
– There ought to bo some period. I am agreeable to one year in lieu of three years, and if the Leader of the Opposition will move an amendment to that effect, I shall accept it.
– I move -
That the words “ three years “, sub-section 6 of proposed new section60a, be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ one year “.
– I shall accept that amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
– I move -
That the word “ organization”, last occurring, sub-section 7 of proposed new section 60a, be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ applicant “.
The onus of proof under this proposed new sub-section shouldrest with the applicant and not with the organization. The person applying for the deregistration of an organization should show why it should be deregistered. We cannot expect an organization to cut its own throat.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Defence) [10.26]. - I remind honorable senators that the committee has already inserted a new sub-section setting out what is deemed to be prima facie evidence. The AttorneyGeneral after making the application provided for in the bill would have to submit that prima facie evidence. An organization is in possession of its books and other records, and could, therefore, show that a resolution was or was not authorized by the union. That information is not in the possession of the Attorney-General; that is why the onus to rebut the prima facie evidence is placed upon the organization.
. - The arguments of the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Pearce) do not appeal to me at all. An organization may be charged with a breach of the law; but the Government may fail to find in the records of any conference or proceedings proof of any such breach. The allegation may be made that a resolution pertaining to affiliation has been deliberately omitted in order to escape punishment. The organization has to prove that it did not do anything of the kind. An organization could be charged with something which it could not possibly disprove. This proposal is in keeping with the barbaric attempts of the Government to pillory trade unions by depriving them of any opportunity to establish their innocence, and to find them guilty of charges not yet defined. It is possible for charges to be made against any of us in our private capacity or otherwise, and for us to find it difficult, if not impossible, to prove our innocence. It is a foundation principle that the onus of proof must lie on the accuser, otherwise things might be said about the accused which the prosecuting counsel had no chance of proving. I re-affirm my statement that this is a deliberate attempt to drive men into the revolutionary camp. They will have no option. If we cannot get justice for our democratic institutions, which are being whittled away by every act that is passed, we must welcome a revolution. This is the worst type of repressive legislation. It sets up a star chamber body to level accusations against an organization, and then throws upon it the onus of disproof. I protest against such legislation. It will not only produce revolution, but justify it.
Clause, also consequentially amended and, as amended, agreed to.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Defence) [10.32].-If progress is reported at this stage, it will still leave the bill in the bands of the committee, and in the meantime opportunity will be afforded to study the effect of the amendments before proceeding further.
Semite adjourned at 10.35 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 7 September 1932, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1932/19320907_senate_13_135/>.