15th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Minister representing the Prime Minister state whether in view of the urgent necessity to ensure the adequate defence of Australia, and in view of the fact that the interest burden on the international debt absorbs a high proportion of the national revenue, the Prime Minister, to ensure that our people shall not inherit a legacy of war debts, will take immediate steps to instruct the Commonwealth Bank Board to make available to the Government whatever money is necessary to finance Australia’s war activities, in accordance with the statement in the report of the Royal Commission on the Monetary and Banking Systems, section 504 of which states -
Because of this power, tlie Commonwealth Bank . . . can lend to the government!! or to others iu a variety of ways, and it can even make money available to governments or to others free of any charge.
If the Prime Minister will not take this step will he state his reason for not doing so?
– It has not been the policy of this Government to direct the Commonwealth Bank Board what to do.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Commerce been drawn to a oablegram, published in the Canberra Times of the 8th September, stating that the British Government has fixedthe prices of wheat afloat, and all forward shipments until further notice, as follows: - Manitoba No. 1, 28s.1½d. per quarter; Manitoba No. 3, 25s. 6d. per quarter; South Australian, 21s. 3d. per quarter ; Western Australian, 21s. 3d. per quarter? Can the Minister give any explanation of the basis on which these prices have been arrived at, and particularly of the reason for the difference between the prices of Manitoba No. 3 and Australian wheat?
– I noticed in the press this morning the statement referred to, but up to the present time the Government has not received official advice on the matter. It is making inquiries regarding the correctness of the report. If the honorable senator will place his question on the notice-paper, I shall furnish a considered reply at the next meeting of the Senate.
– Is the Government aware that several well-trained air pilots have left Australia in the last twelve or eighteen months, and is the Government trying to discourage their departure from this country?
– The Government is aware of the report in the press regarding the matter, and is doing all it can to induce airmen to remain here.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
In view of the fact that a state of war has been declared in Australia, and that it may be necessary for linemen to travel by air to make quick repairs should the telephone lines be damaged, will the PostmasterGeneral consider insuring such linemen against the risk of air travel, in the same way as when such men travel by train or motor bus on similar work?
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answer to the honorable member’s question : -
Departmental officers travelling by any authorized means while on official duty are not specially insured, but in the event of injury, receive the benefits . prescribed in the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act. No officer is ordered to travel by air.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Development, upon notice -
– The Minister, for Supply and Development has supplied the following answers : -
The amount of £2,340,450 docs not include ex. penditure on activities still under the control of the Defence Department.
asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : - ! and 2. No. When my reply to the honorable senator’s original question on this matter was given on the 1st June last, it was the intention to discontinue day watches for shipping at other than lighthouse signal stations and to introduce, where practicable, standard hours of duties which were being drawn up for the various types of light stations. It subsequently became apparent, however, that in a national emergency the duties of lightkeepers would have to be correlated with other important aspects of defence. Action along the proposed lines therefore has unfortunately had to be deferred.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Development, upon notice’ -
– The Minister for Supply and Development has supplied the following answers : -
See reply to No. 5. 5. (a) The following work is being done by contract, viz. -
Motion (by Senator McLeay) agreed to-
That leave be given to introduce a bill for an act to amend the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1922-1937, and for other purposes.
Bill received from the House of Representatives .
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Collett) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The object of this bill, which is frankly a war measure, is sufficiently indicated by its short title. In substance it follows closely a similar measure passed in 1914. Whenthe bill was introduced on that occasion, it was said that the measure related to trading with the enemy, and that its operations would be confined to the duration of the war. It was also said that the main purpose of the measure was to make trading with the enemy a statutory offence. It will be observed that it is illegal, under the common law, for a person to trade with the enemy. This measure gives statutory force to the common law and provides penalties for breaches of the law. The bill, while following closely the provisions of the 1914 act, does not include certain provisions embodied in the principal act b y an amending measure in 1916, to deal with conditions that did not exist in 1914, and do not exist now. If, un happily, the war should continue, and similar provisions should become necessary, they will have to be inserted by means of an amending bill. It may be of interest to honorable senators to learn that in the year ended the 30th June last, we imported about £4,500,000 worth of goods from Germany, by far the largest item of which was machinery, and that Germany, in turn, took about £3,000,000 worth of goods from us, about two-thirds of which was wool. The offence of trading with the enemy is made punishable summarily or upon indictment. Proceedings may be initiated only by the AttorneyGeneral, or by a person authorized by him. It was found by experience in the last war that it was desirable to give to the Attorney-General power to delegate his authority, so that offences committed in distant parts of the Commonwealth could be dealt with promptly. An arrest may be made without the authority of the Attorney-General, or the person authorized by him, but proceedings against, the person so arrested may be instituted only on the authority of the AttorneyGeneral, or the person authorized by him.
The definition of trading with the enemy has been slightly widened in comparison with that of 1914. Clauses 3 and 5 are the principal features of the bill, and set out what, in effect, constitutes trading with the enemy. Sub-clause 2 of clause 3 provides that a person may be deemed to trade with the enemy if he performs or takes part in -
Briefly, that provision authorizes the publication in the Gazette of a notice of warning. Technically, this notice will not be a proclamation in that it will not have been passed by the Executive. It will provide that certain acts’ committed after 9.30 p.m. on the 3rd September, and before the passing of this bill, as well as such acts committed subsequently, will constitute trading with the enemy. It was pointed out, when the second reading of the Trading with the Enemy Bill was moved in 1914, that the powers conferred by it were wide; but it was added that the circumstances were such as to warrant the exercise of them. A comparison of the provisions of this bill with that of 1914 will show a considerable degree of similarity. Our 1914 measure was, in turn, based very largely upon the Trading with the Enemy Act passed by the British Parliament. Although we have not yet received a copy of the Trading with the Enemy Act passed by the British Parliament this year, we have reason to believe that it follows very closely the British measure of 1914.
It may be taken, therefore, that honorable senators are being asked to re-enact legislation which experience has shown to be necessary, and which was sufficient to meet the circumstances in which we found ourselves at the beginning of the last war. As the measure is one which may be more appropriately dealt with at the committee stage, I shall not delay honorable senators further at present. Those who have expressed their horror of any form of profiteering derived from war will, I am sure, give to this measure their full support.
– Every member of the Opposition is in favour of this measure because it is an attempt, at any rate, to prevent trading with the enemy. Having given the bill some consideration we are still of the opinion that it leaves rauch to be desired; and we shall endeavour to improve it when the committee stage is reached. I want to express a few thoughts regarding this measure because of what occurred in Australia during the great world war. We contend that in no circumstance should this or any other Government allow any trading whatever with the enemy after the outbreak of war. It is all very well to decide that we shall not in the ordinary process of business trade with a. country with which -we are jit war, but something more far-reaching is required. Every care must be taken to ensure that there shall be no subterranean trading with the enemy. Some honorable senators will recall that during those distressful years 1914-18 goods were sent to neutral countries whence they were transferred to countries with which Australia was at war. I assert most definitely that every care must be taken to see that this measure becomes a reality and not merely a pious hope. When the bill is in committee I propose to move an amendment which I know will have the wholehearted support of the Opposition and I trust of honorable senators opposite. In this connexion I point out that tho British Commonwealth of Nations, of which Australia is an integral part, has in its vast natural resources and secondary industries means of waging war other than its man-power, gunboats, submarines and bombers. We have a powerful economic weapon. Therefore, we ask that no trading of any kind with the enemy shall be permitted, because we believe that those other great resources to which I have referred are powerfully complementary to that greater force which is exercised through manpower and machines. It gives me much pleasure to be able to announce to the Senate that, as the result of the watchfulness exercised by the Opposition in the House of Representatives, this bill has already been considerably improved. I am very hopeful that when the amendment which I have forecast is submitted to the good sense of honorable members opposite, it will be adopted in order to improve the measure still further. For the information of honorable senators who might not have had the opportunity to follow the progress of this bill as closely as I have owing to the courtesy extended to me by Ministers, I point out that clause 15, as originally drafted, read -
Notwithstanding anything contained in this act, the Governor-General or a Minister may by a licence under his hand exempt any particular transaction or classes of transactions from the provisions of this act.
It was felt that it would be most unwise to place this responsibility in the hands of a Minister. I am not suggesting that any Minister would abuse this responsibility, but if we want a united parliament and a united community in the prosecution of this struggle, we must see that no ground whatever is given for suspicion. We do not know who might exercise this responsibility in the future. Therefore, no Minister should he given the discretion to issue a licence, because in that event circumstances might arise to justify the suggestion that a Minister was leaning in one direction when he should lean in another. Consequently the words “ or a Minister “ appearing in thu clause as originally drafted were deleted. Furthermore, a new clause was added to provide that every licence granted in pursuance of this legislation shall be published in the Gazette. I congratulate the Government on having accepted that amendment, and I hope that I shall be able to supplement that congratulation later, when the amendment I have forecast is dealt with. The Opposition gives to the bill its blessing.
– I am sure that the Government will exercise to the full every power given to it to prevent trading with the enemy. Whilst we are desirous of maintaining trade with every friendly country, we should watch the position carefully in order to ensure that no trading shall take place, directly or indirectly, with an enemy country, or even a neutral country, if the Government has reason to believe that our commodities will eventually reach Germany, or any enemy country. I urge the Government to bear this point in mind. We wish to extend our markets for our main products, such as metal, wheat and meat, during the period of the war, but I hope that we shall trade mainly, if not exclusively, with Great Britain and its allies, and that every channel through which our products might indirectly reach the enemy will be closed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Definitions).
– In respect of the definition of an enemy country, what would be the position of a person who traded with what was formerly Czechoslovakia, with which we have done extensive business in the past? Although at the present time Czechoslovakia is dominated by the German Reich, shall we permit the continuance of trade with parte of that country not yet absorbed by the German forces?
– Whether or not any country has been friendly with us in the immediate past, trade with it will not be permitted if it be occupied by the enemy.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 (Trading with the enemy).
– What would be the position of an Australian who might be sending to Italy commodities which, we knew, although we could secure no definite proof on the point, were eventually finding their way into Germany? What steps would the Government take in a case of that kind ?
– It i3 impossible to to say at the moment what steps would be taken, but if it were known that this trade was going on, action would certainly be taken to prevent it.
– Sub-clause 2 provides that -
Any person who, without lawful authority, deals, or offers or proposes or agrees, whether directly or indirectly, to deal, with any money or security for money or other property which is in his hands or over which he has any claim or control for the purpose of enabling an enemy subject to obtain money or credit thereon or thereby, shall be guilty of an offence.
Would a corporation in Germany be included in the definition of “ enemy subject “ ? I think that that is essential. The definition clause provides that “ enemy subject “ includes corporations which have been declared in the Commonwealth Gazette to be controlled by enemy subjects.
– Does not clause 6 cover the point raised by the honorable senator ?
– If I have the Minister’s assurance that provision is made to prevent the sending of money to a corporation in Germany I am satisfied.
– There is no doubt about that.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 6 to 14 agreed to.
Clause 15 (Power to grant licences).
– I move -
That after sub-clause (1 ) the following new sub-clause be inserted: - 1. (a) No transaction shall be exempt pursuant to this section or ti any proclamation made under this act unless the Governor-General declares that he is satisfied that the effect of the completion of the transaction will not be directly or indirectly to supply an enemy country with goods, wares or merchandise.
This proposal does not require much elaboration. As I said in my secondreading speech, the Opposition is wholeheartedly behind the Government in its attempt to prevent trading with the enemy; but at the same time we want to be quite sure that no subterranean channels are left open by which trading with the enemy can be carried on. I have no desire to impeach any section of the community, but every one with experience of past wars knows that there Ls no patriotism in some people, particularly where extravagant profits are possible. We wish to be absolutely certain that this clause is watertight, so far as human ingenuity can make it so. It may be argued that having issued the licence, the Governor-General will surely say that he was perfectly satisfied as to the bona fides of the transactions. That would be a perfectly justifiable explanation, but we desire to incorporate in this bill a specific provision in plain and easily understandable language, that the Governor-General in Council may be called upon to assure the Parliament and the community that any goods exported under this provision will not be either directly or indirectly supplied to an enemy. The Opposition realizes the difficult task that confronts the Government in giving effect to this legislation. I trust that the Government will see its way clear to accept the amendment, if for no other reason than that it will be a further demonstration to the community that it is prepared to go to the limit in order to prevent trading with un enemy. In a war trading means as much as all the man-power and engines of destruction that may be employed.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) said that there was no need to elaborate his reasons for introducing this amendment. I agree with him. The clause provides that every licence granted shall be published in the Gazette so that every one may see it. A similar provision for exemptions was found necessary in 1916. when the 1914 act was amended, and is also included in the British act. It was found necessary under our act, and more particularly under the British act, to issue more than 200 licences in order to meet special cases. I am not aware that there was any specific abuse in those cases.
– Can the Minister give us any idea of the nature of the licences?
– No. but the Government believes that the inclusion of the amendment is not warranted. Therefore, I am not prepared to accept it.
.- The Minister has told us that any licences granted under this provision will be advertised in the Gazette, and
Hinde known to the world. He has also said that during the last war over 200 licences were issued, but he was unable to furnish us with any details with respect to particular cases. In the House of Representatives last night, when this clause was under discussion, the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Hughes) mentioned that during the last war a licence was issued to a policy-holder of a German insurance company which had an agency in Australia, permitting the policy-holder to pay the insurance premium in order to complete his contract and enable the company to pay on the policy. The Minister also mentioned a number of other instances in respect of which licences were issued. After discussion the Government amended the clause to provide that a licence must be issued by the Governor-General and published in the Gazette. We contend that that is not sufficient. We want to put an end to all trading with enemy subjects, either directly or indirectly, during the war, because we are resolved to do everything possible to bring the conflict to a successful conclusion. We object to any goods produced in Australia finding their way to the enemy. It is all very well for the Minister to say that every licence issued will be advertised in the Gazette. The inclusion o’f the amendment will strengthen the hands of the Government. I understand that this proposed new clause was taken from the British act of 1915, experience of the 1914 legislation having proved that it was necessary. It should be inserted in this bill, in order to prevent any goods from finding their way to Germany through neutral countries such as Italy. Senator Brown this afternoon asked what was the position with respect to trading between Australia and Italy. I do not suppose that the export of goods from the Commonwealth to Italy will be prohibited while Italy remains neutral, and we want to be quite sure that none of those goods will find their way through to Germany. I do not understand why the Government will not accept the amendment.
– The Government considers that it is not necessary.
– It seems to me that the Government is not desirous of making the legislation really effective. I ask honorable senators to show by their vote that they do not desire any goods to find their way into an enemy country.
.- I believe that every honorable senator is most anxious that the blockade of the enemy shall be complete. I should have preferred the elimination of clause 15 which seems to me to open the door to transactions which the Government would have difficulty in controlling. In 1914 a similar legislative provision was made, and it was amended in 1916. The executive of the Waterside Workers Union held the opinion that certain wheat being shipped to Java would ultimately reach the enemy, and I think that it was correct in its surmise. On that occasion the union refused to load the wheat, and the Hughes Government applied for the deregistration of the union. The Opposition desires to assist the Government, and it contends that the enemy should not be supplied with any of our materials. I have heard no reason advanced which has convinced me of the necessity for this clause. I think that the Government would be well advised to accept the amendment. The fact that any licence granted would have to be approved by the Governor-General in Council and published in the Gazette leaves me cold, because in all probability this Parliament would not be in session at the time.
– Every transaction will have the broad light, of day directed to it.
– As soon as a licence -has been issued, the harm will have been done. The amendment is a sound one, but I repeat that, in my opinion, the inclusion of this clause is a blot on the bill.
.- I think that honorable senators are considering this matter from a wrong angle. It seems that the whole position is safeguarded by clause 15. It is hardly likely that any government would grant a licence to ship goods to Germany or to any other enemy country. It should be remembered that goods of German origin, distributed throughout the world, may be required for our own purposes, and we should not be prevented from buying such goods from a neutral country. We can trust the Government not to send goods out of Australia to assist the enemy.
– It appears to me that the amendment overreaches itself. If it were adopted we might as well delete clause 15. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) has apparently directed his mind to safeguarding the interests of Australia. If he glances at clauses 3 and 5, he will see that if the Governor-General did anything in the nature of what would be forbidden under the amendment, he would be acting contrary to, not only the spirit, hut also the letter of this bill. Subclause 2 of clause 3 is as wide as possible, and paragraph d provides that a person shall be deemed to trade with the enemy if he performs or takes part in “ any act or transaction which at common law or by statute constitute trading with the enemy”. That covers every possible transaction. To tighten this measure up as suggested by the Leader of the Opposition would be to render clause 15 quite useless. To suggest that the Executive Government would advise the GovernorQeneral to issue a licence subject to clause 15 in contravention of the spirit of this legislation is to assume something which no deliberative assembly should assume. If the Executive were to advise the Governor-General wrongly, it would be responsible for its action, and if we desire elasticity at all we should leave the clause as it stands. During the last war certain chemicals were required for the treatment of. wounds sustained by our troops. Serum needed for the cure of tetanus could be obtained from a country that drew its supplies of that serum from Germany, but under the proposed . amendment such a transaction would be forbidden. Therefore, the amendment might operate to our detriment. I remember an attempt being made to export to Germany certain grass trees from which picric acid was obtained for use in the manufacture of high explosives, and that request was properly refused. We hope that the present struggle will be of short duration, but it may prove to be a long one, and it is essential to make this provision as elastic as possible. Ample protection is afforded by the fact that every licence granted in pursuance of this clause must be published in the Gazette.
– That provision was not inserted until the Opposition in the House of Representatives requested its inclusion.
– I regard it as u very proper provision, because it will tell the world exactly in respect of what commodities licences are granted. I remember very difficult questions arising in regard to the export of certain products from this country. It was suggested that they were finally finding their way through neutral countries into the hands of the enemy. The Leader of the Opposition should allow the clause to pass in its present form as sufficient safeguards have already been provided.
. - I am quite satisfied that clause 15 is required for the effective working of this legislation. A number of essential commodities possessing a chemical base may have to be obtained from neutral countries having trading relations with an enemy country. It may also be necessary for Australia to export certain classes of goods to our own prisoners of war resident for the time being in enemy territory, but the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) deals with the export of all goods from Australia to an enemy country. The intention is that we shall take every care that none of our produets go to enemy countries and with that, I am sure, we are all in agreement. I am willing to do all that is necessary to restrain corporations, merchants or individuals in Australia from trading with the enemy even through neutral countries, but the amendment will not in any way bring about the cessation of trading, ‘because the completion of the contract, to which the Leader of the Opposition refers in his amendment, may be done without the knowledge of the Government. We know what goods certain countries import from Australia in normal’circumstances, and if any country should take more than its normal requirements, we would naturally assume that our exports to that country were going elsewhere; but until we are advised of the ultimate destination of the goods bought by neutral countries, how is any one to know where the completion of the contract takes place? We all are anxious to do everything possible to prevent tradingwith the enemy; hut the point mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition is not covered by his amendment, because we do not know where the completion of the contract will ultimately be. The bill provides that if the Government suspects that a neutral country is taking more than its normal requirements the case may be investigated, and if a neutral country is suspect the issue of a licence can be prevented. I cannot see how the amendment will tighten up the provision.
– The opposition to this amendment suggests that there is a feeling that indirect trading with the enemy will be necessary, and that some provision for it must be made. We have every reason to believe that there was a good deal of indirect trading with the enemy during the Great War. Senator Gibson and Senator A. J. McLachlan said that Australia might require certain chemicals manufactured in Germany which could be obtained only through neutral countries. The implication was that some provision should be made whereby such goods could be obtained through a neutral country, involving indirect trading with the enemy.
– We can trade with neutral countries now.
– Exactly. That is why I believe that the measure is so much eye-wash.
– Some traders did not find it eye-wash during the previous war.
– lt all depends upon the administration. 1 do noi agree with Senator A. J. McLachlan that the amendment negatives another provision in the bill. All it does is to add to the responsibility of the Governor-General. We know that goods can be exported from Australia to neutral countries, and on the face of it everything appears satisfactory, but in many instances those goods eventually find their way into an enemy country and we have no means to prevent it. The amendment does not go. so far as I should like, but I do not see how we can do more than the Leader of the Opposition proposes. We have to accept the assurances of neutral countries, but whilst the element of risk cannot be eliminated from all such transactions, we should do as much as is humanly possible in order to give effect to t/he policy embodied in the bill. Even if we add to the responsibility of the Executive we are doing so only in conformity with the policy which the Government itself has laid down. The Government is not prepared to go as far as we are in giving effect to its own policy, and that is ground for suspicion.
– I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings). Senator A. J. McLachlan contends that if the amendment be carried it will negative another provision of the bill. I direct the attention of honorable senators to sub-clause 2 of clause 5 -
Any person who, without lawful authority, deals, or offers or proposes or agrees, whether directly or indirectly, to deal with any money or security for money or other property which is in hia hands or over which he has any claim or control for the purpose of enabling an enemy subject to obtain money or credit thereon or thereby, shall be guilty of an offence.
That provision should be read in conjunction with sub-clause 1 of clause lo -
Notwithstanding anything contained in this act, the Governor-General may, by licence under his hand exempt any particular ir:,”saction or class of transactions from the provisions of this act.
As a layman I should say that that destroys the effect, of the clause referred to b)’ Senator A. ,T. McLachlan.
– I said that if the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition be adopted it would neutralize the effect of the whole of clause 15.
– I contend that sub-clause 2 of clause 5 is neutralized by clause 15 under which licences may be issued. The object of the amendment is to make the provision watertight. It has already been stated by the Minister in charge of the bill that during the previous war 200 licences were issued.
– Not necessarily in Australia. “
– If this amendment be carried it will relieve the Government of some responsibility.
– On whom is the responsibility to be placed?
– The amendment will obviate the necessity for the Government to determine who shall and who shall not have a licence.
– The honorable senator wishes to place the responsibility on the Governor-General.
– Which means the Executive.
– The Government takes the responsibility in both instances.
– We want to make sure that the Government shall assume all responsibility.
– But the honorable senator said previously that it was to relieve the Government of some responsibility.
– Australia is now at war with Germany, and we do not wish to supply that country directly or indirectly with Australian goods. The Assistant Minister contends that if this amendment be carried it will be of no benefit to the Government.
– I did not say that.
– If a definite provision be made as proposed by the Leader of the Opposition there will be n* difficulty in administering the measure. How will these licences be obtained? The Government will not determine on its own initiative to whom licences shall be issued.
– Yes it will.
– It will be guided by the recommendations of its officers. The only argument adduced in opposition to the amendment is based on the contention that we may require chemicals produced in Germany; but there is nothing in the amendment to prevent the purchase of such necessary commodities through neutral countries.
.- I support the amendment because I believe that this war will be a war of resources rattier than of man-power, and an effective blockade is essential if we are to win. We all know that during the last war trading was carried on with the enemy on a very extensive scale.
– Do not make wild statements.
– Many leading men in England, including military and naval leaders, have published articles giving details of such transactions. As a soldier in the last war, 1 saw enormous quantities of Portland cement captured from the Germans. All of us knew where that cement came from; it had been used in the building of “ pill boxes Writing in the American, Tribune, Rear-Admiral Consett stated that Germany would have been brought to its knees years before it was defeated if the blockade of Germany had been made fully effective. The same writer pointed out that 70 tons of nickel was shipped through Sweden to Germany during the last war. Nothing in this bill prevents trading from being carried on with a country like Italy, or Rumania, from which, we can be quite certain, raw materials purchased from British countries will be exported as manufactures to Germany. In view of these facts, we should do everything possible to ensure that in this war the blockade of Germany shall be fully effective. As I said previously, this is not a war of man-power; it is a war of resources. If the interchange of raw materials and commodities with the enemy be permitted, God help us 1 British countries possess more resources than the enemy, and if any of our raw materials enter Germany through neutral countries, it will be due simply to stupidity on our part.
– I am afraid that the tendency in some quarters is for enthusiasm for the. cause to blind reason. All of us agree that fvery effort should be made to ensure that no commodities from Britain or any of its allies shall reach the enemy, but, as Senator A. J. McLachlan has pointed out, there must be exceptions even to this important principle. For instance, during the last war we were obliged to secure tetanus serum from Germany. That is more an international than a national matter. Such a transaction is dealt with by organizations like the Red Cross. In order to save the life of a soldier, whether he be an enemy or an ally, exceptions must be made to the general rule in such instances. In this war, the enemy might find it necessary to obtain a serum from a British country in order to save the life of a German soldier. However, if the amendment be agreed to, it will be impossible in any circumstances to enable such goods to be supplied to the enemy, even were an international organization like the Red Cross to request that it be made available. It is obvious that the Government will exercise the greatest precaution in implementing this legislation. Every effort will be made to prevent any good* from reaching Germany, directly or indirectly, unless exceptional circumstances exist. Furthermore, before action even of that kind can be taken, it must be approved by the Governor-General, who will act on the advice of the Government, and, owing to the wise amendment inserted at the suggestion of the Labour party, the world must be told when any of our goods are allowed to be sent to Germany, directly or indirectly. The measure as it stands provides adequate safeguards to the Au. tralian people. I suggest that had a las been passed in Germany during the last war to prevent the transmission of tetanus scrum to any British country when it was required to save the life of a soldier, we should have felt very bitter about the matter. Every honorable senator must realize that a wounded soldier is entitled to such medicine as is necessarv to save his life.
– I am indeed surprised by the arguments advanced . by honorable senators opposite against the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings), and if further opposition of that kind is displayed, I shall be convinced that capitalism alone is responsible for war. The contentions of honorable senators opposite rest on the ground that we might require some article from the enemy. I point out that the proposed amendment would not prevent the importation of any article to Australia. It would not prevent the importation of tetanus serum in circumstances such as those mentioned by Senator Wilson. The Assistant Minister (Senator Collett) will admit that some of the material captured from the Germans, even up to 1917, when Germany’s economic position was acute, had been indirectly obtained from the countries of the Allies. If the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition be rejected, the way will be open for similar practices in this war. Summed up, Senator Wilson’s argument amounts to this : After the enemy has wounded our soldiers, we should go to the enemy for sera needed to treat them. That argument surprises me. If I saw any merit in it, I should certainly oppose the amendment. Apparently honorable senators opposite are prepared to leave loopholes in this legislation which can be used to assist the enemy so long as the profits are retained. In that case I can only conclude that they are still not prepared to close the door of trade completely to the enemy. That is correct. Senator Lamp stated that pill boxes constructed on the German front in the last war were built of Portland cement. I hope honorable senators will agree to the amendment.
– A feature of the debate on this clause is the genuine desire evinced by honorable senators on all sides of the chamber to prevent trading of any description that will benefit the enemy. That is the very purpose of this measure. Fifteen of its sixteen clauses are designed to prevent either outward or inward trade with the enemy. But this is an escape clause. It provides that the Governor-General may prescribe exemptions as he deems fit. Naturally, an exemption would be granted only for the purpose of benefiting Australia. I understand that 200 exemptions were granted in the last war. How many will be granted on this occasion we do not know. In this clause the Government is simply seeking power to make exemptions, should they be deemed desirable in the interests of Australia. I do not think that any one will quarrel with that principle. But the proposal submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) is fundamentally different. He proposes to make this clause an escape clause for one-way traffic only. It provides that the Governor-General in Council may prevent the export of goods which directly or indirectly may reach an enemy. I concur with every word of it ; but I contend that the same provision is already made in the bill. It is designed to prevent traffic either way, whereas the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition is aimed at traffic in only one direction. I cannot imagine any government charged with the responsibility of prosecuting a war allowing goods to be exported from its shores which are likely to reach or to benefit an enemy. Whilst I agree entirely with the purpose of the amendment, it seems to be absolutely unnecessary.
Senator ARMSTRONG (New South Wales [4.38]. - I support the amendment. I am rather surprised at the turn of the discussion ; there is a feeling in my mind that once more the horrible word “trade” is to obtrude itself in the conduct of this war. Although this billis designed to prevent trading with an enemy, it contains a clause the effect of which will be to open the gate as widely as possible in order that trade may take place. The whole conduct and the eventual outcome of this war will depend upon the successful blockading of Germany. From communications which we have received it seems likely that ultimately we shall reach an impasse on the western front, and that the outcome of the struggle will be determined by the internal economy of the countries concerned. We have only to remember that during the last war thousands of our allied troops lost their lives when attacking pill boxes constructed from Australian cement.
– They were constructed of portland cement, which is a kind of cement not manufactured only in Australia.
– If that be so 1 withdraw that remark. It is beyond question, however, that a considerable amount of trading went on between Germany and the Allies during the last war.
– Australia did not trade with the enemy.
– The amendment is designed to make doubly sure that Australian goods do not reach enemy hands. It has been said that during the last war certain quantities of tetanus serum were obtained from Germany by the Allies. I point out that all of Australia’s requirements of tetanus serum can be manufactured in this country. The argument that the door should be left open to permit the importation of essential supplies of this kind no longer holds good. We should prosecute this war with the utmost vigour, using all our efforts to finish it as soon as possible. I believe that this can best be done by taking every advantage that our position gives to us. The greatest advantage we have is in our abundant supplies of primary and secondary products, without which no war can be successfully waged. We should take every precaution to see that no portion of our vast material resources reaches the enemy.
– I support the amendment. If honorable senators will read it carefully they will find that it does not refer to imports. It was designed for the purpose of blocking material exports which would be likely to be of assistance to the enemy. There would be nothing to stop the Government from securing necessary medicinal requirements through neutral countries. German goods are stored in most countries of the world, neutral as well as enemy countries, and goods purchased from neutrals are no longer German goods. We may all rest assured that if the Government requires supplies of these goods in the interests of the people or the health of the military forces it will be able to procure them. We are anxious to ensure that our surplus production shall not fall into enemy hands. I need only remind honorable senators that during the last war it was reported on good authority that neutral ships loaded in Australian ports and transhipped their cargoes to enemy vessels off the Australian coast. During the war wheat and flour were exported from Australia to neutral countries, and a good deal of it found its way into Germany. All we ask in this amendment is that the provisions, of the bill be tightened up in such a way as to prohibit completely the export of goods either directly or indirectly to the enemy. We realize, of course, that it is almost impossible to prevent goods sold to neutral countries from eventually reaching Germany; but we should do everything in our power to do so. When we are enacting legislation such as that now before us, let us go the whole course and do the job thoroughly.
This bill has a purpose altogether apart from that concerning the export of materials to an enemy country; it also blocks trade between an Australian citizen and an enemy subject in Australia. During the last war certain persons took over and carried on the business of enemy subjects within Australia. In effect, certain persons were employed by enemy subjects to carry on their businesses until the war terminated, whereupon they were handed back to their German owners.
– What does the honorable senator suggest should be done in such circumstances ? Does he suggest that we should destroy the buildings and property of enemy subjects?
– Provision is made in the bill for the appointment of a controller of the property of enemy subjects. This is an all-embracing measure. The purpose of the amendment is to make it more effective.
– In what way?
– By prohibiting the issue of licences for trading between this country and an enemy country.
– It will not do that.
– We claim that it will; that is its purpose.
– What, does the amendment say?
– Order ! Honorable senators have ample opportunity to speak to this clause. If they wish to do so, I shall be glad to hear them. They must allow the honorable senator addressing the Chair a reasonable opportunity to state hiscase.
– It is not my intention to labour the amendment. I consider that it is necessary, and I hope that it will be accepted.
– We on this side are anxious to prevent any goods from Australia reaching an enemy country. We have been told that the amendment will not achieve this purpose, and also that the provision already in the bill is sufficient. My leader (Senator Collings) has said that if the amendment is not watertight, Ministers or their supporters should tell us how it may be made so. Will the Minister say what goods, wares or merchandise should be permitted to go to any enemy country? We have been told that it may be desirable that certain classes of goods should come here from Germany, and tetanus serum has teen mentioned. But I understand that we manufacture in Australia the whole of our requirements of that commodity. Senator A. J. McLachlan mentioned that certain goods were received from Germany during the last war. Our amendment does not touch that phase of the business at all. Its purpose is to prevent any classes of goods or merchandise from Australia reaching an enemy country during the war. The Minister spoke of the considerable experience which Australia had during the last war, when over 200 licences were granted in order to allow certain transactions to be carried on.
– No; I said that about 200 licences were issued under the British act.
– That is beside the point. The fact is that during the last war a large number of licences were issued under the British law, and I assume that a considerable number was issued under the Commonwealth act. Can the Minister tell us what goods were exempted during that period?
– The answer is “ No “.
– Then the whole thing is problematic.
– When a licence is issued it will be published in the Gazette and the whole world will know of it.
– I am aware of that. Since the Government is opposed to the amendment, the Minister should be able to tell the committee what good* might be permitted to be sent to the enemy.
– Licences will be issued in respect of certain transactions.
– If the Minister will tell us a little more we may be satisfied. If for humanitarian reasons certain goods should be allowed to go to an enemy country during the war, he should tell us so.
– The honorable senator will know before they go.
– We know that during the last war certain goods reached enemy countries. Our purpose now is to prevent goods from Australia reaching the enemy during the present war.
– This clause is based on. the experience of the last war and on circumstances which arose from time to time. In my opening remarks I mentioned that during the last war about 200 licences were issued under the British act giving authority for certain transactions to be completed. It would seem that the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) has two facets. The same amendment was submitted in the House of Representatives and some one remarked yesterday that the more often he heard it read the greater virtue it appeared to have. For my part the more I hear about it this afternoon the less need I can see for it. I hope that the committee will reject it.
.- The amendment is not necessary because all that it seeks to do is already provided for. Before the Governor-General issues a licence he must be satisfied that it will not in any way benefit the enemy. The amendment is so worded that if it were inserted the Governor-General would not issue any licences at all, because he oould not be sure that goods affected by any transactions in respect of which licences were granted would not eventually reach an enemy country through a neutral country. Consequently, the effect of the amendment would be to hold up the whole of the trade of Australia.
– That would be ridiculous.
– Of course it would be ridiculous. That is the flaw in the amendment. No one can be sure that, if we sell goods to persons in, say, Spain or the United Stales of America, those goods will not eventually find their way to Germany. Therefore, the amendment, if inserted, would stifle all trade from Australia.
– The honorable senator entirely misunderstands my amendment.
– That would be its effect and, as I have said, the position is amply covered by the clause as it stands. No licence will be issued unless the issuing authority is satisfied that the transactions will not in any way benefit the enemy. Our friends opposite have asked for information about certain classes of transactions in respect of which licences may be necessary. During the last war licences were issued in connexion with certain insurances that had been effected. As is well known in the business world, insurance companies all over the world are, in certain phases of their businesses, associated. Some insurance risks are divided amongst a large number of companies in different countries.
– In other words insurance business is international in scope.
– That is so. During the last war a German insurance company had an agency in Australia, and a policy-holder in this country was licensed to send money in payment of his premiums so that his contract might be completed.
– My amendment makes no reference whatever to insurance companies. It relates to goods, wares, or merchandise.
– It would be safe to say that among the 200 licences that were issued during the last war many related to goods, wares or merchandise. The amendment is not necessary because the clause provides for everything which the amendment would do. If members of the Opposition wish to. stifle altogether trade from Australia let them say so. “We shall then know where we are. I repeat that the amendment, if carried, will have that effect. Therefore it should bc rejected.
– The Labour Opposition in this Parliament has told the Government that it will support all measures brought forward for the adequate defence of this country. The amendment which my leader (Senator Collings) has submitted is designed to prevent goods of any description produced in Australia from reaching the enemy during the war. The clause as it stands contains too many loopholes. Sub-clause 1 of clause 1 states -
Any person who, during the continuance of the present state of war, trades, or directly or indirectly offers or proposes or agrees to trade, or has before the commencement of this act traded, or directly or indirectly offered or proposed or agreed to trade, with the enemy shall be guilty of an offence.
Acceptance of the amendment would prevent the commission of such an offence. One honorable senator asserted that it was necessary to obtain certain goods from Germany. I point out that inability to obtain certain goods in China, owing to the war with Japan, has led to scientific discoveries which have rendered it possible for China to produce those goods.
– Honorable senators opposite have failed to appreciate the object of my amendment. It has nothing whatever to do with the issue of licences, but it would ensure that, once a licence had been granted, no transactions under it would result in goods finding their way ultimately, directly or indirectly, into an enemy country. ‘Senator Leckie hn« evidently misunderstood the desire of the Opposition. I do not suggest that Australia should cease trading with friendly or neutral countries. All I say is that the Governor-General, before issuing a licence, should see that proper inquiries are made to ascertain what will be the full effect of the transaction. Should it be suddenly discovered that a neutral country was taking larger quantities of certain goods than it normally purchased, the Government should assume at once that those goods were finding their way into an enemy country. We were told by Senator A. J. McLachlan that certain needs might arise that would render it desirable to obtain goods of enemy origin. He spoke of anti-tetanus serum, but I have ascertained that most of this serum used in Australia is manufactured in this country under Commonwealth Government supervision. I submitted my amendment’ for the inclusion of an additional sub-clause in good faith, and the more cri ticismI hear from the ministerial side the more I am convinced that I am on the right track. If I encounter further obstruction from Ministers and their supporters, I shall ask them to state candidly what interests they desire, to protect. Why are they blocking my amendment?
– In the interests of Australia.
-I would like, to accept the explanation, but the strong opposition to the amendment, both in this chamber and in the other branch of the legislature, convinces me that honorable senators opposite are not concerned solely with the general interests of the community. There is no patriotism where profits are concerned. I have had experience of the conditions prevailing during five wars, and this lead. nie to suspect every move and to take care that legislative power is not conferred without proper scrutiny. The suggestion has been made that the Opposition desires to stop all trade. That is absurd, because, if that were done, Australia would be ruined. War can be waged by other means than by the use of engines of destruction. We have monetary power and ability to produce goods and to see that they do not go to the enemies of the Empire. As my proposed new sub-clause would provide an additional safeguard, 1 urge the committee to accept it. I know that it will be the work of the Labour party, during the period of reconstruction following this war, to tell the people the truth about what happened, and I desire to be able to say that we attempted to prevent trading with the enemy.
– I suggest that it might be of advantage to insert in the bill a schedule of the goods in respect of which licence? may be issued. It is true that during the last war Britain issued about 200 licences to insurance companies and banking institutions to trade in various commodities. Senator Wilson remarked that, as the licences would be gazetted, we should know in ample time to what goods they referred; but, unfortunately, this Parliament would in all probability be out of session when the licences were granted. Senator Leckie declared that the safeguard sought by the Opposition was already incorporated in the bill, and that, therefore, the amendment was unnecessary. If that be so, why does he object to additional emphasis being put on the principle? He also remarked that if the amendment were agreed to it would interfere with the trade of this country. If the principle is already in the bill, trade will be stopped in any case. I am afraid that the Government’s refusal to accept the amendment leaves me of the same opinion as Senator Collings. I had experience of the last war, and, no doubt, when this struggle is over, tales similar lo those told in respect of the 1 914-18 upheaval will be heard.
– When I heard the speech delivered by the Minister (Senator Collett), I thought that the Government was making an honest attempt to prevent trading with the enemy; but I was more than surprised to hear Senator A. J. McLachlan and Senator Wilson suggest that if the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) were adopted, it would be impossible to obtain through neutral countries German chemicals and drugs used by medical practitioners and those engaged in Red Cross work, for the benefit of Australian soldiers and others. Senator A. J. McLachlan made the astounding statement that goods, wares, and merchandise are the commodities which the Government wishes to exempt.
– He did not say anything of the kind.
– He did ; I recorded his words at the time. Senator A. J. McLachlan mentioned the necessity to provide for the importation of serum used in the treatment of tetanus, which he said could be obtained only from Germany. Honorable senators opposite apparently overlook the fact that Australia is now at war with that country. Do they think that German aeroplanes are dropping icecreams and snowballs on the unfortunate Polish people? When we ask that the Governor-General shall not be empowered to issue a licence authorizing the purchase of goods from an enemy country we are told that we are endeavouring to restrict the importation of drugs essential for the protection of human life. Members of the legal fraternity in this chamber have informed the committee that the adoption of the amendment would prevent the importation of goods which they consider are essential; but surely the Government has sufficient ability to administer this measure in a reasonable way. If coal were being exported from Australia to a neutral country with the object of its transfer to Germany, its ultimate destination could be traced. We have an overseas trade section of our Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics which should be able to supply the Government with all the information it requires in respect of exports and imports. The destination of goods exported from Australia to neutral countries can be traced.
– The honorable senator cannot expect the GovernorGeneral to do that.
– It could be done by the Government. Goods which can be obtained from Empire countries should not be purchased from an enemy. I am afraid that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, which is- an international corporation, will be able to send material to neutral countries, whence it will go to the Germans for manufacture into ammunition that may be used for the destruction of Australian soldiers.
– The honorable senator knows that that company would not do anything of the. kind.
– I am firmly convinced that some of the steel produced by that company will be manufactured into shells and used to blow Australian soldiers to pieces. Senator Leckie offered a direct insult to the members of the Opposition by saying that we are attempting to prevent Australia from trading with friendly nations, when in fact we are trying to conserve Australia’s: interests; The only persons who* know what is really intended are Ministers, some of whom were associated with a certain move which was made not long ago. If the amendment he agreed to it will show the Australian people that this committee believes that everything possible should be done to prevent any corporation, company or individual from trading with the enemy.
– As a result of the discussion on the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) I am convinced _ that the real intention of the Government is to secure power without responsibility. All we ask is that with respect to the issue of licences the Governor-General shall be responsible to a greater degree than the Government proposes. No such guarantee has been given. The Government wishes to be supplied with a blank cheque so that it may do as it pleases. We are asked to believe that the Executive is above suspicion and can do no wrong. I am prepared to concede that in time of war the average member of a government would not knowingly do anything to assist an enemy, but we know of instances of ad nauseam governments having been imposed upon, and incalculable harm done when they have been allowed too much power. When the Opposition suggests that certain safeguards should be. provided, it is said that we are imputing ulterior motives. We are not doing anything of the kind. We are asking that the Governor-General shall be satisfied in every instance that an enemy country is not being supplied directly or indirectly with goods, wares, or merchandise. It has never been denied that during the Great War enemy countries, through the medium of neutral agencies,, succeeded in purchasing goods or commodities of various kind which had helped to prolong the conflict. We know that enormous profits are made out of war and in this war they will provide a sufficient incentive to certain people to take the risks involved in breaking this law. The penalties provided will not be so great a deterrent as honorable senators opposite imagine. The greater the profit to be made the greater the risks an offender will be prepared to take.’ I am not so much concerned about the penalties provided as I am to see that it is made mandatory upon the Government to give full effect to the policy embodied in this measure. But even if the penalty were imprisonment for twenty years, and the profits to be made by breaking the law were sufficiently attractive, many people would be prepared to take the risk of illegal trading. A perusal of crime records, and an examination of the risks which certain persons have been prepared to take in order to make enormous sums of money, should convince honorable senators opposite on that point. Many years ago most of the countries in Europe adopted a policy of self sufficiency. Italy, for example, in its efforts to become selfcontained, began to grow wheat where it had not been grown before. It. is possible that if this war should last for any length of time, wheat from Australia will be sold to Italy, but. whilst on paper the transaction might appear to be quite legitimate, such wheat will ultimately find its way to Germany. In such circumstances I can quite conceive of members of this Government asking, “Is it, not so much better that wheat should be sold to Italy than that we should be obliged to subsidize our wheat-growers because they cannot find profitable markets?” No doubt, some will be prone to exercise discrimination in that way. In these circumstances the additional guarantee embodied in the amendment proposed by the Loader of the Opposition is all the more justified. The attitude adopted by honorable senators suggests that they are in favour of trading with the enemy within limitations which they themselves would lay down without consultation with anybody else. This chamber is not to be told what those limitations will be. The Leader of the Opposition, and Senator Brown, have asked for information on that point, but no satisfactory answer has been given. In effect, the Government asks the Senate to give to it a blank cheque and to trust it to do the right thing. As the result of the bitter and costly lessons of the past, we are not prepared to do that. We should be recreant to our trust if we did. We seek to do our duty by the people by insisting that all that can be done shall be done in order to ensure that the intention of Parliament shall be carried out. If this Government seeks the co-operation of the Opposition it must be prepared to concede something in the direction which [ have indicated. When it asks for certain power it must, be prepared to undertake that it, must exercise such power in accordance with the spirit and letter of the policy laid down.
– In his second-reading speech the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) commended the Government for introducing this measure, and intimated the willingness of the Opposition to facilitate its passage. A few moments ago he said that he did not object to provision being made for exemptions under this clause, but moved his amendment because he wanted to be satisfied that none of the goods exported under an exemption would reach an enemy country. In view of the clear provision of clause 5, honorable senators opposite are simply misrepresenting the position when they say that the Government desires to leave the door of trade open to the enemy. The whole purpose of this measure is designed solely and simply to prevent trading with the enemy. The amendment provides no greater safeguards than are already provided in the clause as it stands.
– The honorable senator, apparently, thinks that the measure is so good that it is incapable of improvement.
– No. I submit, however, that the amendment will not effect , an improvement. I could understand the honorable senator proposing that no exemptions at all should be permitted. In that way he would accomplish the purpose which he apparently has in view. That, proposal is covered completely by clause 5. Why should the Government introduce a measure of this kind if it were not sincere in its desire to prevent trading with the enemy? Furthermore, severe penalties are provided in respect of offences under this bill. No necessity exists for a declaration by the Governor-General, as proposed in the amendment, because clause 5 specifically provides that no one shall trade with the enemy. The amendment, therefore, is unnecessary, particularly in view of the statement by the Leader of the Opposition that he recognized the necessity for permitting exemptions. The amendment dors not provide any additional safeguard.
It is merely an attempt to force the Government, to make a declaration with regard to a matter over which it has hecontrol. All the necessary precautions will be taken in. order to ascertain the destination of goods exported under licence before permits are issued. Can honorable senators opposite say what methods other than those provided in the bill they would apply to prevent trading with the enemy.
– I would remove the clause providing for exemptions.
– If the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition will prevent the illicit trade with the enemy which was so apparent during the last war, it should meet, with the approval of this chamber. The administration of this legislation is to be the responsibility of the Government. I stated in this chamber yesterday that governments do not govern. I shall give an instance of that. Senator Lamp referred to the quantity of nickel exported to Germany during the last war. Ninety per cent, of the world’s production of nickel comes from Canada., whose soldiers were dying in thousands on the Western Front during the last war while the people selling the nickel to the enemy were living in comfort in Canada. Mr, Arnold White, addressing a meeting in London, reported in the London Times of the 22nd March, 1917, referred at length to the mysterious way in which Britain had allowed an extension of Norwegian territorial waters from the internationally accepted 3-mile to a 4-mile limit. This extra mile allowed great American ships to pass immune through Norwegian waters with 10,000 ton cargoes of ore for Germany. He inquired into this matter and found that the political heads understood nothing of the significance of the extension of Norwegian territorial waters to which Britain had consented. Those who instigated it, in Mr. White’s opinion, knew exactly what it meant, He said that but for that extension it would have been impossible for the great American ships to have carried 100,000 tons of ore into Germany in 1916. Is it safe to allow government by regulation ? It is well known that during the last war our greatest enemies were inside the Empire, and we have them in Australia to-day. It is well known that German banks continued to trade in London for two and a half years after the Inst wnr broke out. Is that to the credit of the British Government? At the meeting in London to which I have referred, a unanimous resolution called on the Government to close the German banks in London. That is how the British Government conducted the last war. If this amendment be carried it will prevent to a far greater degree than would clause 15 as it stands these illicit actions of the real enemies of the country.
.- A significant point which seems to have been entirely missed by honorable senators opposite is that this clause can render null and void all of the other clauses in the bill. We must remember that Australia with its small population is likely to gain much less than Germany from the licensing provision in this bill. In moving the amendment the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) was actuated solely by a desire to help the Government to improve the bill. As the clause now stands, the Government’s hands are left completely unfettered, but if the amendment be carried responsibility will be thrown on the Government to make perfectly sure before licences are issued thai the goods which they cover will not reach Germany either directly or indirectly. There is no provision in the bill to prohibit the importation into Australia from Germany of essential commodities. The argumems advanced by Senator Leckie were completely groundless. The honorable senator knows that we have our representatives in practically every country and it. should be possible for the Customs Department to be able to trace a shipment of goods to any part of the world. 1 appeal to honorable senators opposite to be reasonable and to pass the amendment.
– The Minister has stated that, in the last war 200 licences were issued in England under legislation similar to that now before us. It is regretted thai he was unable to state the number of licences issued in Australia.
– Very few licences were issued.
– Is it not possible to give the committee an idea of the number ?
– I only know that it was very small.
– Then that demonstrates fully that if the amendment were carried there would be practically no interference with trade.
– It suggests too, that this clause is ample for the purpose.
- Senator Herbert Hays said that adequate safeguards are already provided in the bill. I contend that clause 5 has been negatived by clause 15. Clause 15 reads -
Notwithstanding anything contained in this act -
It does not specifically mention clause 5 ; it refers to the whole act - . . the Governor-General may, by licence under his hand, exempt any transaction or class of transactions from the provisions of this act.
All that the amendment seeks to do is to make that provision watertight. If, as was the case during the last war, the number of licences issued under this legislation be few, it will not be very difficult to police them. If the Government sees in the amendment moved by my leader a blow to its pride the Opposition will be satisfied to delete the clause.
Question put -
That the new sub-clause proposed to be inserted (Senator Colungs’ amendment) be inserted.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator James McLachlan.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– The penalty for an offence under this clause is £500 or three times the value of any goods or money in respect of which the offence has been committed, whichever is the greater, and the alternative is imprisonment for six months or both. In clause 5 the penalty is £500 or imprisonment for one year or both. What is the reason for the differentiation? Of course, the fine actually imposed may be as low as £5, but unfortunately the ordinary citizen does not understand that under the Acts Interpretation Act the penalty provided in a Commonwealth act is always the maximum penalty. Would it not be possible to have uniformity in respect of penalties under this measure?
– I agree with Senator Allan MacDonald. Under the 1914-16 act the penalty for contravening the provisions of sub-section 1 of section 9b was a fine not exceeding £100 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months. In the case of a company, the penalty was a fine not exceeding £100 and a further penalty aot exceeding £50 for every day during which the default continued. A director, manager, secretary, or officer who was knowingly a party to the default was liable to a penalty not exceeding £100 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months.
– Why not have uniformity in the alternative punishments ?
– The penalties in this clause relate to different sets of circumstances. The penalty fine under this clause is much more severe than under clause 5.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 7.30 p.m..
Clause agreed to.
Clause 16 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without, amendment;: report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes). - In conformity with the sessional order, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Collett) read a first time.
.-I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This short measure is designed to remove a doubt that has existed regarding the admiralty jurisdiction possessed by the Supreme Courts of the several States. By an imperial act known as the Colonial Courts of Admiralty Act 1890 it is provided that every court of law in a British possession, which is for the time being declared, in pursuance of that act, to be a Court of Admiralty, shall he a Court of Admiralty. The act also provides, however, that where there is no such declaration in force, every court in the possession, which has Original unlimited civil jurisdiction, shall be a Court of Admiralty.
It is clear from the decisions of the High Court itself that, if no declaration of this nature were in force, the High Court of Australia, and the Supreme Court of every State and territory, would be a Colonial Court of Admiralty, and, therefore, able to exercise admiralty jurisdiction. It is equally clear, however, that if such a declaration is in force, the court declared to be the Colonial Court of Admiralty, will possess this jurisdiction to the exclusion of all other courts in the British possession.
Whether such a declaration is in force is a matter for doubt. In 1914, the amending Judiciary Act inserted section 33 a in the principal act specifically declaring that the High Court should be a Colonial Court of Admiralty within the meaning of the Colonial Courts of Admiralty Act 1890. If this provision was validly enacted, the admiralty jurisdiction of the Supreme Courts was thereby destroyed. The Colonial Courts of Admiralty Act requires, however, every colonial law made in pursuance of that act or affecting jurisdiction of, or practice or procedure in any court of a British possession, to be reserved for the signification of Her Majesty’s pleasure thereon. Section 60 of the Commonwealth Constitution provides that a proposed law reserved for the Queen’s pleasure shall not have any force unless and until, within two years from the date on which it was presented to the Governor-General for the. Queen’s assent, the Governor-General makes known by speech or message to each House of the Parliament, or by proclamation, that it has received the Queen’s assent.
The amending Judiciary Bill of 1914 was assented to by the Governor-General on the 29th October, 1914. Later it was forwarded to His Majesty and assented to by him on the 7th September, 1916, but this fact was not notified until the publication of the King’s OrderinCouncil in the Gazette on the 16th November, 1916. Whether this procedure invalidated the amending legislation is a matter upon which the justices of the High Court have not been in agreement, and until the doubt is removed it follows that it is not possible to say whether, since 1914, the Supreme Courts of the States have or have not had admiralty jurisdiction.
I think that it is generally agreed that it is desirable that, not only the High Court, but also the Supreme Courts of the States and the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory, should be in the position to exercise admiralty jurisdiction. This bill proposes to achieve that objective, and to remove the present doubt by repealing the declaration contained in section 38a of the Judiciary Act that the High Court is a Colonial Court of Admiralty.
The Commonwealth Constitution also empowers this Parliament to vest original jurisdiction in the High Court in matters of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction. The amending act of 1914, to which I have already referred, also amended section 30 of the Judiciary Act, which deals with the original jurisdiction of the High Court, by adding paragraph b, which vests in the High Court jurisdiction over matters of admiralty or maritime jurisdiction. In view of other provisions of the Judiciary Act which remove from State Supreme Courts all matters of federal jurisdiction, and, with certain exceptions, return that jurisdiction to those courts as State courts exercising federal jurisdiction, some doubt also arises whether this amendment does not, to some extent, destroy the full admiralty jurisdiction which the Stat* Supreme Courts would otherwise enjoy. As, by reasons of the decisions of the High Court, it is quite clear that the High Court, as a court of unlimited civil jurisdiction in a British possession, possesses admiralty jurisdiction, this provision is also unnecessary, and might be repealed in order to remove any semblance of doubt regarding the jurisdiction of the State courts. The bill, therefore, proposes to repeal this paragraph also.
In short, what is proposed in this bill is to ensure that henceforth there shall be no doubt that the Supreme Court of every State and the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory, as well as the High Court of Australia, is a colonial court of admiralty, and able to exercise admiralty jurisdiction. The question of removing the doubt to which I have referred has, on several occasions, been judicially mentioned by justices of the High Court, and the desirability of this Parliament taking action urged.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Foll) read a first time.
– I move -
Th at the bill be now read a second time.
This measure is not, in principle, new to this chamber. Shortly after the outbreak of what is known as the Great War, this Parliament passed the War Pre cautions Act 1914, and the present bill is to a large extent on the lines of that statute. Some of its provisions, however, have been taken from a draft bill prepared by the British Government and known as the Emergency Powers (Defence) Bill, which is now law in Great Britain. The object of the bill is to give to the Executive wide powers of regulation and control in relation to matters which concern the defence of the Commonwealth, the safety of the community, and the efficient prosecution of the war.
In time of war it is essential that, in Australia, there should be one authority which can deal without delay with any ‘ problem or situation that may arise in relation to the prosecution of the war. It would not, I think, be denied that the Commonwealth should have this power, which the exiperience in the Great War taught us, the Commonwealth Parliament is competent to exercise. It is, however, clear that it would be impracticable for every matter which requires regulation or control, and every act or transaction which it is necessary or desirable to prohibit, should have to come before the supreme legislature itself. Many things in the present emergency, will have to be done very quickly, and it is essential, therefore, that some authority should, in advance, be vested by Parliament with the power to make such provision as is necessary. The only alternative to such a course would be that many things would have to be done without legal authority, and Parliament would have subsequently to validate the things done and indemnify the persons who did them. Of the two courses, I think it will be agreed that the firstmentioned, which is that proposed by this bill, is preferable.
The bill, therefore, gives to the GovernorGeneral power to make regulations for securing the public safety and the defence of the Commonwealth and the territories of the Commonwealth. It then proceeds to specify certain matters which are of particular importance, such as, the control of alien enemies and the regulation and control of the sale of goods and their prices. This particular provision of the bill gives, in fact, almost unlimited powers of legislation. The regulation-making power will not, however, extend to authorizing the imposition of any form of compulsory naval, military or air force service or any form of industrial conscription or extension of compulsory service. Further, the regulations cannot authorize the trial by courts martial of any persons not subject to naval, military or air force law.
The classes of legislation by regulation contemplated by the bill are those contained in the regulations which have recently been issued under the Defence Act, and it is proposed that on the passing of this measure, the regulations so made shall, for the sake of greater convenience, be re-made under this measure. The regulations in question will then in their application and enforcement have the assistance of the machinery and procedural provisions of this measure. Thus, by clause 6 of the -measure, certain extra territorial force may be given to the regulations; in connexion with prosecutions and the other proceedings under the regulations the proof of instruments will be facilitated by clause 9, and proof of certain other matters will be provided for by clause 15, which relates to the onus of proof as to whether or not a person is an alien. Clauses 10 to 14 deal with the trial of offences, and include special provisions designed to enable the authorities to nip in the bud the doing of any act, which, if done, would be an offence under this measure. The bill is expressed to extend to the territories of the Commonwealth, and to continue in operation during the present war and for six months thereafter.
I recognize that the Government is asking for very wade powers, but the Government believes them to be necessary. I can only repeat the assurance given by the Prime Minister, when he was introducing this bill in the House of-Representatives yesterday, that the powers to be conferred in this measure will be used by the Government in a fair manner for the purpose of ensuring that every citizen shall receive his just due, and in order to enforce the law of the land, and assure the safety of the country. I urge the Senate to treat this measure as urgent, because it is necessary that the powers asked for be conferred as quickly as possible.
– I take this opportunity to express my appreciation of the high tone of the debate which took place in this chamber to-day and on the two preceding days. Though we have been considering measures which certainly left room for considerable criticism, nothing has been said which any of us need regret. Particularly I want to say how much I appreciate the tone adopted by my colleagues of the Opposition. We feel that these are, indeed, sad times, and we realize to the full the tremendous responsibilities devolving upon the Government. The promise I made a day or two ago of co-operation by the Opposition with the Government during these times was not an idle one, nor was the declaration which I read on behalf of the par ty to which I belong. We intend to stand by that declaration, and to carry it out to the best of our ability. We are prepared to stay here, to do our work as members of the Senate, which, is an integral part of the Parliament of the Commonwealth, just so long as the Government gives us the opportunity, and so long as our presence is required. We are prepared to stay here no matter how inconvenient it may be to us, and no matter how long it may keep us from our homes, because we realize that every other need must be subordinated to the need of the nation. Just because we have declared that we shall not enter a socalled National Government, we are the more anxious to do all that we can to support the Government insofar as we find ourselves in agreement with what it proposes, while at the same time doing the work which we think that an effective Opposition ought to do. I hope that, in the course of this debate, we shall not be deemed guilty of any offence because we insist upon retaining the proper position and function, of an Opposition, namely, the position and function of watchdogs of the nation at. a time when the Government is necessarily asking for abnormal powers. We recognize the need for giving to the Government special powers during these exceptional times, but most of us in this chamber have had some experience of what happens when a government is granted unlimited powers. Some members of this side of the chamber, at any rate, have had to suffer because they exercised their right of criticism during times similar to those through which we are now passing. “We intend to be particularly watchful that the same kind of thing does not occur again, that the civil liberties of the people are not trampled upon. We have not forgotten all that happened under the War Precautions Act during the years 1914-18. We believe that this Parliament is entitled, no matter how difficult the times may be, to exercise the right of review and the right of veto. We claim both those rights for this chamber, as well as for the House of Representatives. Not only do we claim them, hut we propose to insist upon the opportunity to exercise them. The Government may say in a moment of complaisance, “ We do not propose to take those rights away”, but there is a part of this bill which definitely proposes to do that very thing, and to that particular clause the Opposition will propose an amendment.
Parliament is a part of the legislative machinery of this country. Its function is the making of laws. Cabinet has the function of formulating laws to be submitted to Parliament for consideration. Now, I understand, we are to have an inner War Cabinet, the reason for which T quite appreciate, but we shall never agree to that inner War Cabinet, however constructed, having the power to supersede the laws of the country without Parliament being afforded an opportunity to review its decisions. It is all very well to tell us that no rights are ito be niched from Parliament. That might be so if Parliament were allowed to function, but it is within the knowledge of all of us that for many years past Parliament has been almost wholly prevented from functioning except during short and widely separated intervals. In season and out of season the Opposition has protested against this growing tendency. We abject to being sent away for months at a time, and then being called back for a few weeks, only to be sent away again. If there is no work for Parliament to do it is time that we re- viewed the situation, and decided what ought to be done with Parliament. We know, however, that there is always work for Parliament to do, and we ought to be given the opportunity to do it. Whilst we do not deny the seriousness of the days ahead, whilst we have no desire to detract in the slighest degree from the importance of the task with which the Government is confronted, we insist that the foot must not be forgotten that the citizen himself has rights which this Parliament ought not to take away. Let me put this thought before the Senate: It is generally admitted to-day that the responsibility for the war now being waged on the other side of the world rests almost entirely’ upon the dictatorships. We could, if we wished, study the situation critically, but this is not the occasion to do so. We could go back further and find why dictators have risen to power. We can agree, I think, that the present international situation has arisen because some individuals have arrogated to themselves dictatorial powers which they are exercising with cruel ruthlessness. If the world has reached its present unfortunate position because of their action, we shall not gain anything in this country, if, in consequence of our fears and desires, we adopt similar dictatorial methods and disregard entirely the civil rights of the community.
It is easy to admit, as the Minister did iu moving the second reading of the bill, that the measure grants exceptional powers to the Executive, but we have a right to inquire how these powers are to be used. It may be said that the Ministers are honorable men known to all of us, who can be trusted to exercise with fairness the powers sought to be conferred by this measure; but we are not altogether unmindful that the political situation in the Commonwealth is not so stable as we should like it to be. Although a minority government is in control, it must secure the support of a majority of members in both branches of legislature before it can pass its legislation. The fact, however, remains that we do not know to-day how the Cabinet will be constituted next week. While we might have supreme confidence in those at present in control, we are not sure that we would have the same confidence in some of those who might be in office within a few days.
– Is the honorable senator thinking of some of his own supporters ?
– I know, and the honorable senator knows, that it is quite possible that within a few days there will be some persons in the Cabinet of whom he would not approve, and they would not be senators from this side of the chamber. I should like Senator Leckie and those associated with him to understand that under no circumstances can a composite government be termed a national government. Should a composite government be formed, we shall know how to assess its value, and I shall not hesitate to say what I think concerning such an administration. If this Government has the courage which it ought to possess, it should tell those persons who want to burgle their way into office that this is no time to be scrambling for portfolios. A point which I made clear earlier this week was that the Opposition will take no part whatever in the formation of a national government. We are not selfish, but we believe that we can contribute more to the security of the nation and the ultimate triumph of right over might in the struggle which is now commencing by staying where we are and exercising the rights we have just to the degree that the Government will permit.
– The honorable sena tor would look all right over here.
– The transfer of some members of the Opposition from this side of the chamber to the treasury bench would add not only talent but also beauty, and in the latter I, of course, include myself and my worthy deputy (Senator Keane).
We do not intend to support this measure unless we can insert some amendments in order to protect the rights and liberties of the people. As I said when speaking on the Trading with the Enemy Bill which passed, this chamber to-day, we shall try to improve the Government’s proposals, but we shall refuse definitely to become accessories before or after the fact, in matters which destroy the civil liberties of citizens of the Commonwealth, and in the final analysis it will be found that those things which we say are wrong are, in fact, wrong. We shall then be able to go to the people and say that we supported the Government to the extent of trying to improve the measure, and we shall know that our hands are clean. The Government is asking this Parliament to give to it a blank cheque to be filled in as it feels disposed. That is not an extravagant statement; it is borne out by a perusal of the bill. After this legislation becomes operative we shall have government by regulation, and to that the Opposition violently objects. We shall be told that all regulations may be disallowed by Parliament within fifteen days after the day on which Parliament first meets; but of what use will be the power of review or- veto if Parliament is not summoned?
– But Parliament will be summoned.
– It is useless to tell the Senate that regulations may be disallowed within fifteen days of the. assembly of Parliament, because during possibly fifteen weeks or more of recess, during which regulations have been in operation, cruel injustices and hardshipe will have been inflicted upon the people.
– The honorable senator is assuming that there will be injustice.
– I am justified in assuming that when unlimited and unbridled authority is given to any government there is always the danger that the power which it possesses will be exercised tyrannically. We all recall the troublous times between 1914-18.
– A Labour Government was then in office.
– There are Labour governments and Labour governments, and no one knows that better than the honorable senator. Surely he realizes that at that time there were some persons in the Labour movement and in the Opposition in this Parliament who had the courage to stand up to their convictions, and eventually the whole of the people of Australia applauded the stand we took during those trying times. I wish to be scrupulously fair to the Government, although I am not always in a sufficiently good humour to admit it willingly. In moving the second reading of the bill, the Minister said -
The regulation -making power will not, however, extend to authorize the imposition of any form of compulsory naval, military or air force service or any form of industrial conscription or extension of compulsory service. Furtlusr, the regulations cannot authorize the trial by courts-martial of any person not subject to naval, military or air force law.
We are pleased to have that assurance, but 1 make bold to say that no such pronouncement would have been made had there not been an effective Opposition in this chamber and in the House of Representatives.I shall also want to be assured that, no other powers which the Government already possesses by legislative enactment will be used for those purposes.
– The honorable senator knows what powers we possess under the Defence Act.
– Yesterday we debated the same principle, and I now say that if ever there was a time when there was no need to exercise compulsion in any direction it is now.
– What of compulsory unionism ?
– I am surprised that Senator Wilson has been able to remain silent for so long. Unionism became compulsory solely because the employing class exercised over its employees dictatorial powers such as are sought under this bill. -lust as we are faced to-day with the evils following upon the dictatorial attitude of Hitler, so in days gone by we had troubles with dictatorial employers. Such men have since learned wisdom. The old methods are no longer tolerated, and therefore we have the assistance of courts of conciliation and arbitration, in which the representatives of both parties confer in a common-sense way, a much saner method of settling our industrial differences. In the early days that was impossible, there was little cooperation, and the employing Hitlers, Mussolini’s and Stalins persectited the employee class to such an extent that they were compelled to form organizations for their own protection.
– Is there not some analogy between compulsory unionism and compulsory service for defence purposes ?
– I do not know how far up the garden path the Minister thinks he can lead me, but I assure him that he is wasting his time, because I can go the whole way and beat him before we get to the darkness. There is no analogy whatever between conscription for military service and compulsory unionism. There is no need whatever to compel men to give their services in defence of this country. Not long ago the Government launched a recruiting campaign in order to bring the Militia strength up to 70,000. So successful was it that the ultimate strength was 78,000. Many more recruits could have been obtained had they been required. I have submitted to the Minister for Defence a letter which I received from a friend of mine giving an undertaking to raise 500 men in one district by his own personal efforts. I repeat that there is no need to compel Australians to defend their country. All my activities and training have been in the direction of pacifism, but even I would not need to be compelled to give my services, if that became necessary, in order to help to defend this country. I believe that I am contributing materially to this end hy leading this band of devoted followers constituting the Senate Opposition in our fight to prevent the Government and its supporters from taking away from me any rights which I, as a citizen of the Commonwealth, aim entitled to exercise.
Let us look at the bill. I feel certain that a stranger, coming into this chamber to-night, would find it difficult to believe that honorable senators were dealing with so serious a subject as war, because at the moment there is displayed a certain amount of levity which, in my opinion, is hardly appropriate to the occasion. I have said that I propose for a few moments to deal with the bill. By that I mean its phraseology. Hitherto I have been dealing with the sentiment and the idea in the mind of the Government in seeking the power whichthe passage of this measure will confer upon it. I shall not refer to the bill in detail; that can more properly be done at the committee stage. I wish to place before honorable senators a mental picture of the bill and the attitude of the Opposition to it. The bill asks for unusual powers to be given to the Executive because of the unusual times in which we now find ourselves. With that we have no quarrel. We believe that unusual powers are necessary and we are willing to grant them; but we are not prepared to sign a ‘blank cheque or to confer on the Government powers in excess of what we believe are essential, unless we receive an assurance that Parliament will be given an opportunity to review the use made of those powers. When we reach clause 19 of the bill in committee, honorable senators on this side will have something more specific to say, and decisive action will be taken. I know that the Government has the numbers, but we shall not agree in any circumstances to certain of the proposals. Despite continuous rebuffs, due in part to the submissive attitude which apparently makes Government supporters in this chamber close their minds to any argument however right they might believe it to be, we are more or less optimistic, and we are almost inclined to believe that even the Government senators are amenable to reason. For the present, I leave it at that, and reserve my further remarks until the committee stage is reached.
– I associate myself with the opening remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) regarding the high tone in which debates on important matters have been conducted in this chamber during our sittings since the outbreak of war. I recognize that even under war conditions there will be matters of high policy on which vital differences of opinion will occur in the community. Senator Collings emphasized that the Opposition has during the last few days, shown that such matters can be fairly debated on their merits without indulging in personalities. The high standard to which the honorable senator referred in general terms as having been observed by members of has party has also been evidenced in speeches from the ministerial and Country party benches, and I venture to hope that however high feeling may run in this national crisis, the same happy state of affairs, in which the leader himself has set a noble example, will continue in this chamber.
The Australian Country party has already given to the Government a very definite assurance of support in any action that may be necessary for the defence of Australia, for the protection of our people, and for the presentation of a united front against the enemy. When we give an assurance of that kind we mean to carry it out in as effective a manner as possible. That, at any rate, is the attitude of myself as one member of the Country party.
Although this bill is designed to confer upon the Government very wide powers, I intend to support it without reservation because to-day every other consideration should be subordinated to a determination to stand behind the Government in the tremendous struggle in which we are now engaged.
This is essentially a war measure. During the debate on the previous bill Senator Ashley said that the Australian Labour party was in tune with the British Labour party, at any rate so far as its attitude to a national government was concerned. I am sorry that the Australian Labour party does not further tune in to the British Labour party by accepting without a division legislation of the kind now under review. I read in the cable news received immediately following the outbreak of war, that in Great Britain the Emergency Powers Defence Bill had passed through the House of Commons without a division. That measure, I believe, contains provisions similar to those which we are now considering and, in effect, it is our old friend the Defence of the Realm Act, familiarly known as “ Dora “, in a new form. Similarly in this National Security Bill, we have our old friend the War Precautions Act with which the present Attorney-General, Mr. W. M. Hughes, was associated during his term of office as war-time Prime Minister.
As I said yesterday, we are more than fortunate in that’ the conflict is raging far from our shores, but we do not know how long this state of affairs will last, or whether our ultimate fate will be decided on the battlefields of Europe. While the titanic struggle is raging on the other side of the world, it may be very difficult for many Australians to appreciate the seriousness of our position as a country engaged in a world war. It may be hard for our people to realize that our existence as a nation, and the continuance of all those liberties which, as Australians, we hold dear, and to which the Leader of the Opposition has so eloquently referred on many occasions, are absolutely at stake in this war, in which we are participating as a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations. That is the reason why the Government is seeking such drastic and far-reaching powers as those which are conferred by this measure. In the public interest is is essential that the Government should have power to deal immediately with any vital matter which in this emergency may arise without warning.
– We give all that power.
– Yes. Let us give that power ungrudgingly so that the Government may act secure in the knowledge that it has been entrusted by Parliament with full authority, and will not have to seek subsequent ratification by Parliament of any action which it may take.
– The Government might make the honorable senator sell his wheat at 2s. a bushel.
– We must trust the Government to do the right thing in that matter. I hope that the mistakes made during the last war will not be repeated.
The very name of this measure, the National Security Bill, shows that its essence is the security of the Australian people and their protection from the common enemy, including, if necessary, the enemy in our midst. I feel sure that this Government, or any succeeding government which the Leader of the Opposition fears might be entrusted during the course of this war with the administration of legislation such as this, whether the change takes place in 18 days’ time or 18 months’ time, will fulfil to the best, of its ability its duty to the people.
– Would not the honorable senator like to have this measure reviewed at reasonable intervals?
– No. I think that this power should be given to the Government for the duration of the war. Should supplementary power or an alteration of the present authority be found desirable, then this Parliament, during the sittings which will take place from time to time, will have an opportunity to amend this measure, just as it has power to review any legislation.
– Will Parliament sit every six months ?
– I have no doubt that Parliament will sit at regular intervals. I am reminded that Parliament must be called together from time to time in order to grant Supply. In any case, I have no doubt that the Government will do the right thing and will keep Parliament regularly in session.
– The honorable senator has great faith.
– When our national existence is at stake we must put our faith in the Government - any Government which the people may from time to time elect. The machinery to implement this legislation will be very extensive and complicated, and will apply to every part of the Commonwealth. It may affect all, or any, of our industries, whilst the private life and future of many thousands of our citizens will undoubtedly be greatly affected by its incidence. It will be necessary for the Government, therefore, to exercise the greatest care and judgment in the selection of persons and authorities to whom it may find it necessary to delegate the powers conferred upon it under this legislation. In this connexion, I urge that our primary industries should be represented on all boards, or authorities, appointed to deal with the control, production or sale of primary products.
– What about one, or two, representatives of the trade unions also?
– I agree that all sections of the community should be fairly represented on boards, or authorities, whose’ administration will affect their particular interests. This legislation will be far-reaching in its incidence. It gives to the Government almost unlimited power to do anything, in any place, at any time.
– And anyhow.
– No; with careful deliberation, and, I hope, with the national interest and security always in mind. The measure presages hundreds of regulations. These, I submit, should be framed and placed before Parliament as soon as possible in order that Parliament may be kept informed as to exactly how this legislation will operate. In the power possessed by both Houses of the Parliament to disallow regulations^ we shall preserve that popular control of government which the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) is so anxious to retain. Where practicable, the services of State departments and . authorities should be utilized, in conjunction with those of the representatives of the producers, in the implementation of this legislation. In that way, the Government can avail itself of the. generous co-operation which the Premier of each of the States, Labour, Country party, and United Australia party alike, has so generously offered. Furthermore, unnecessary expenditure caused by the overlapping of State and Federal authority will thus be avoided. The Government has given a welcome assurance that the interest of no section of our people will be overlooked during this crisis. It was with interest and pleasure that I heard the Prime Minister say so in a recent broadcast speech. Very drastic powers will be conferred upon officials and authorities appointed under this legislation. If it be deemed essential for national security the Government may take- over control of many industries, including our primary industries. Again I urge that on any authority established for this purpose, the primary producers should be adequately represented. Furthermore, I urge Ministers particularly to watch the interests of our primary producers, because the exportation of our primary products to the Mother Country and to any of our allies might prove to be a vital factor in achieving that victory which every true Australian desires. I again ask the Government to give an assurance that regulations under this measure will be framed immediately and tabled before Parliament adjourns. In that way we shall retain that measure of parliamentary con trol so earnestly desired by the Leader of the Opposition.
– All regulations must be tabled within a specified time.
– Yes ; and in that provision lie the safeguards sought by the Leader of the Opposition. I point out to honorable senators opposite the necessity for the Government to have complete power to act promptly and effectively in any emergency as soon as it should arise. When Hitler attacked Poland a week ago he did so without warning. The destruction of British or Australian shipping, the bombing of Australian cities, or a blockade preventing the export of our primary products overseas might occur without warning at any time. Disaster might come upon us like a bolt from the blue. Is it the desire of the Opposition that in an unforeseen emergency, the Government shall be obliged to call Parliament together in order to obtain power to deal with Buch an emergency? I do not believe that that is the case. The British Labour party acted rightly in permitting legislation similar to this to pass through the House of Commons without a division. I hope that in any future national emergency, our Government for the time being will act promptly for the common security. In such circumstances we must trust the Government to exercise these powers, immense as they are, wisely and in the interests of the nation. At any rate, the Country party has undertaken to stand solidly behind the Government in the defence of Australia and in the prosecution of this war. The Government is fully justified in enacting this legislation as a preliminary step to the fulfilment of that task.
– At the outset, I register my protest against this legislation being rushed through this chamber in this way.
– Is it not urgent?
– Parliament could have been assembled a week earlier, or we could postpone consideration of this measure for a few days. This legislation affects the whole scheme of things politically, and in order to do their duty as members of this Parliament, all honorable senators must study it to a greater extent than they have so far been able to do. The present circumstances are similar to those which arose at the outbreak of the last war. Parliament is being stampeded into passing legislation. Later on we shall regret our present haste. In justifying Britain’s attitude towards Germany, the Prime Minister of Great Britain declared that Hitlerism must be destroyed. We agree with that view, but we do not agree with what is being attempted under this legislation, because this measure, for all practical purposes, proposes to establish Hitlerism in Australia. The powers which it is proposed should be surrendered to the Executive are similar to those exercised by HitleT in the name of national socialism. In our case the Government is seeking equal powers in the name of national security. It is another instance of noble sentiments being used for the mostnoble purposes.
– Does the honorable senator think that regulations of this kind were justified in the last war ?
– The extent to which they were used was not justified. I intend later to direct attention to the manner in which the powers granted to the Government in the last war were abused. My objection to this measure is that it seeeks to confer upon the Government unlimited powers. The Government does not require unlimited powers. As my Leader (Senator Collings) has said, whilst we are prepared to grant requisite powers, we are not prepared to sign a blank cheque. But the Government is asking for a blank cheque, and, most likely, its request will be granted. Power is one thing, but the way in which it is used is quite another thing. Writing on this subject in 1917, Professor Harrison Moore, of Melbourne University, who, in his day, was one of Australia’s most eminent legal authorities, and were he now alive would be regarded as an ultra-conservative, said -
Professor Moore has made one important point of which we should not lose sight. It is stated in these terms -
If, however, our conception of law is no more than an expression of will and power, it loses its moral value and ultimately its efficacy in the control of man’s relations. Within the State, it is a standing invitation to resistance.
– It does not operate in that way in Germany.
– We have yet to learn that it docs not. This bill is an expression of will and power. It proposes to multiply laws through the medium of regulations, and it will provoke the very resistance which the Government claims that it will prevent. Thus the so-called law becomes primarily responsible for lawlessness or law-breaking. That is exactly what happened under the War Precautions Act of 1915, the administration of which provoked disturbances of all kinds. I speak from bitter experience, because I was one of many who suffered unnecessarily as the result of the enforcement of the Illegal Associations Act during the war. Meetings were broken up, the right of written self-expresssion was denied, and all sorts of acts, committed in the name of authority, gave rise to resistance and ultimately to the repeal of the act. This Government now proposes to make a law independently of the approval or disapproval of the people. No mandate has been given for this to be done, even in a time of war. I submit that all the powers which the Government desires to possess, and which are necessary, are contained in the recently enacted Supply and Development Act, the National Registration Act, and the amended Defence Act. Provision is made in sub-clause 3 of clause 5 of the legislation we are now considering for the delegation of power to all sorts of persons, whether qualified or not. Similar powers were delegated under the War Precautions Act of 1915, with the results to which I have referred. Clause 8 provides for the holding of trials in camera. That means that a judge will have authority to close the doors of his court against the public, representatives of the press, and any other person likely to give information -concerning its proceedings. That is an unjustifiable reversion to star chamber methods. The closing of courts will lead to many abuses of the law which otherwise would not occur. Clause 13 provides for the establishment of a secret service force, similar to the Gestapo of Germany and the Cheka of Russia. Under it the Government may appoint spies and “pimps” to gather information upon which people may be arrested. In other words, it is an inducement to people to become agents provocateur in order to justify their existence. Clause 18 provides that this legislation may override all other statutes. This will give the Government practically dictatorial powers. The intention is that if there is in this act anything that is inconsistent with the provisions of any other act, this act shall prevail. Both the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and Senator Foll have stated that the powers sought by the bill, if granted, will not be abused. All the tyrants throughout history have given similar assurances. The tyrannical judge who ordered men to be transported from England to Australia because they attempted to form trade unions - the men known as the “ Tolpuddle Martyrs “ - might have said that he had not abused his power, but had acted in the interest of the safety of the people. I can imagine how eloquently he would attempt to justify the sentencing of those men to transportation. The men in charge of prisoners in Van Diemen’s Land in the early days of Australian settlement no doubt would have disclaimed any desire or intention to abuse the power vested in them and, in the name of justice and of the people, would have tried to justify the atrocious acts which they committed. Therefore, when I am told by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Senate that these powers will not be abused, I am. not prepared to accept their statements at their face value. What I would regard as an abuse of power they would not so regard, and they would attempt to justify themselves accordingly. The Prime Minister has admitted the danger of maladministration by rigid-minded official- nil don./ in charge of government departments. That is a definite danger, and I have no doubt that abuses will take place if the present situation develops. The average official is not very much different from the average member of the public, and it generally transpires that, when men have power over their fellows, they abuse it. Ministers of the Crown, justices of our .law courts, employers of labour and subordinate officials all abuse power. In my opinion, very few men are qualified by status and conviction to have power over their fellows ; therefore, we should he very careful about surrendering or delegating power to persons in high places. It should not be delegated or surrendered to a greater degree than is absolutely necessary, and the onus of proof rests on the Government. The Government has not attempted to furnish such proof. It has said, in effect, that a serious position has arisen ; we agree with that. It has said also that Australia is in danger of attack from without; we agree with that too. Nevertheless, that is not a sound and sufficient reason why the Government should ask for absolute power to override any act on the statutebook. In a Bowen prize essay entitled The Rule of Law During the War, published in 1937, the Prime Minister said, at page 22 -
In times of stress, parliaments are ready to delegate to executives extended powers of determination of policy, and courts of law will stretch rules of interpretation to their utmost.
That was what the right honorable gentleman said before he became mentally subordinated by the interests which he now represents in Parliament. He referred to the case of Lloyd v. Wallack, which was outstanding at that time, in the following terms : -
By regulation 55 ( 1 ) of the War Precautions Regulations 19.15 it was enacted that “ Where the Minister has reason to believe that any naturalized person is disaffected or disloyal, lie may by warrant under his hand order him to be detained in military custody in such place as he thinks fit during the continuance of the present state of war.” Wallach was accordingly committed to an internment camp. Application, was made for a writ of ha.beas corpus, which issued out of the Supreme Court of Victoria, and the return to which stated that Wallach was detained under the authority of warrants from the Minister for Defence. These warrants recited (in accordance with Regulation 55 (1)) that the Minister upon information furnished hi him had reason to believe and did believe tha t Wallach was . disaffected or disloyal. The Supreme Court held that the return was insufficient, but on appeal the- High Court reversed this, and further held thai the Minister was under no obligation to stare the reasons for his belief.
This case, considered from the point of view of its actual effect, is a virtual suspension of une of the fundamental provisions of Magna Charta.
That is, that a nian shall not be imprisoned without a trial. That occurred under the War Precautions Act. There you have a grave abuse of power by the highest placed judges in the land. I submit the evidence of Mr. Menzies to support that contention. We are told that they are now more sympathetically disposed. They may be, individually, or we may think that they are, but when pressure is brought to bear against them, as it is in an ‘ atmosphere of war, we find that many whom we regarded as sympathetic and just in normal times, are quite the reverse.
– What would be the source of the pressure?
– There is the pressure of fear of misrepresentation’ and pressure of all sorts. I stress again that this bill is, in my opinion, much more farreaching than is realized by some members of this Parliament. I base that opinion on the manner in which they have allowed themselves to be stampeded into supporting legislation such as this. This bill is dangerous and unnecessary, and if the international position becomes more serious all the abuses that occurred under the War Precautions Act of 1915 will occur again, and, possibly, to a greater degree. For the people to be able to protect themselves against abuse of power by those in authority, they must be in a “position to divest them of the power they possess. This bill proposes to deprive the people of that right. It may even deprive them of the right to vote, and of many other rights which they now hold. I believe that the powers conferred by this bill will be abused. Those whose economic interests can be advanced as a result of the war will exert the greatest pressure to see that their interests are protected. I am judging the Government in the light of our experience of the Supply and Development Act. The Government is disposed lo yield to that pressure and, to the degree^ that it yields, the powers granted to it will be abused to the detriment of the workers and the people generally. Senator Johnston suggested that we should co-operate with; the Government. I submit that under existing conditions the co-operation that he and other’ honorable senators suggest should be forthcoming- is impossible because of the fundamental difference between the defence policy of Labour and that of the Government. Defence minus profits to the greatest possible degree is the defence policy of Labour ; defence plus profits to the greatest possible degree is the policy of the Government. There can be no co-operation while such differences exist. The Opposition must be here to exercise that restraint which will be necessary to prevent such companies as the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, and the financial institutions on whom the Government depends, from exacting, or demanding a greater margin of profit than that to which they are entitled.. SO, in this instance, there can be no co-operation. I could indicate how in other ways the policy of the Government is having a detrimental effect on the people, but for the moment I shall reserve what I have to say until a later stage of the debate, or, perhaps, until some other occasion. I repeat again that this bill, and the powers it proposes the Government shall have, are unnecessary. The Government can do all that it needs to do, consistent with the policy for which it stands. If, without this bill, the Government believes that additional powers are needed, it should state exactly and precisely to what degree those powers are needed, and the manner in which it intends that they shall be used.
– The honorable senator’s Leader thinks that more powers are needed.
– If the Government has a good case to show that it requires additional powers for the effective defence of Australia no one would refuse them. But when the Government says, in effect, “We want practically absolute powers to do what we think fit and for other persons to do what they think fit “, in the light of our experience, not only during the war of 1914-18, but also right through the ages, we would be foolish indeed if we agreed to grant them. T commend to
Senator Gollett Buckle’s History of Civilization. In that workhe will road of the manner in which dictatorial powers were rased in the United Kingdom to the detriment of the people, of the fight the people had to wage and the sufferings they had to endure at the hands of persons in high places to gain the powers that they possess to-day. Buckle gives us the records and tells us where they can be examined. His records and statements in that direction have never been questioned. Persons in high places are not very much different from persons in low places ; they are just as much creatures of their prejudices; they act and react in the same way to the various stimuli to which they are subjected. Experience has proved right through the ages and, in our own lifetime, particularly in Australia, that we should never surrender or delegate to those who govern us any more powers than are absolutely necessary. So, as this legislation proposes that that which should be avoided shall be done, to that degree I am opposed to it. This country can be defended by men upon whom we may depend; they do not need to be coerced, exploited or driven to defend it. The whole of our experience has proved beyond the slightest doubt that they respond nobly when the call is made; they are prepared to do their best of their own volition when they realize that danger confronts their country.
– The Government is not unmindful of the extreme character of this legislation; it is fully alive to the fact that it is asking Parliament to grant emergency powers which would not be sought in times of peace. As similar powers were granted during the war of 1914-18, it is difficult to understand the expressions of horror from some honorable senators at the proposal that, during the present struggle, a democratic country should grant to its government powers of this character. It is said that this must, of necessity, result in the establishment of a dictatorship, Fascism, or Nazi-ism, or something of that kind. Emergency powers are asked for. because there is an emergency, and because it is essential to the defence and security of this country that the Government should be in a position to act effectively and quickly. Consistent with the safety and security . of the country, this Government believes im the maintain en ce of the maximum liberties of the people. On many occasions I have spoken in this House of the meed to be very watchful to see that the liberties of the people are adequately protected and safeguarded. It is generally agreed by all sections that a democracy can best carry on when the three Estates, the legislature, the executive and the judiciary function separately; but in times of peace or war, exceptions are admitted to that rule. It will be remembered that during the last twelve months well over a hundred regulations have been tabled in this House. Each of these regulations is a legislative act, but the reason for action being taken by regulation instead of by legislation is either because it is necessary to meet an emergency or because the action relates merely to a machinery matter. So even in peace time we carry on a large part of our legislation by means of regulations made by the Executive. That does not mean that this Parliament is deprived of its powers. Every regulation has to be tabled in Parliament and Parliament can disallow a regulation at any time within fifteen sitting, days - sitting days, mark you ! - of the tabling of that regulation.
– There is nothing is this bill requiring the sitting of Parliament.
– It is not necessary for . a bill to set out that which is compelled by the Constitution. If the honorable senator reads the Constitution he will see that this Parliament has to meet at certain regular intervals. As a matter of practice, the Government must come to Parliament for Supply ; and when it does so, every honorable member has the right to move for the disallowance of any of the regulations that have been made in the interim. I would also point out that the tariff provides another instance of acts coming into operation by executive action rather than by legislation passed through Parliament. Tariff schedules are subsequently ratified by Parliament. It is essential in order to prevent evasion for the Executive to act subject to subsequent parliamentary review. One does not often see members of the Opposition criticizing that practice or moving for the disallowance of schedules imposing higher tariffs. Yet when the Government is asking for a similar power to protect Australia and make the Empire safe, some honorable senators are raising unnecessary objections, objections which cannot possibly be justified in the circumstances. I would also point out to honorable senators that this Senate has appointed a committee on which several members of the Opposition as well as Government supporters are represented which very carefully considers all regulations. The foremost matter which that committee considers is the degree to which regulations interfere with the civil liberties of the people. I am sure that the regulations which are framed under this bill will be examined with the same careful scrutiny as that committee has displayed in examining other regulations.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) has stated that this war has been caused by dictatorial powers. That is admitted and this Government is just as opposed to dictatorship as any member of the Opposition. The rights of the people through their representatives in Parliament are protected by means of that power of veto which is given to this chamber to disallow any regulation that is made to meet a particular emergency. There is no departure from that principle in this bill. The honorable gentleman also stated that, although he would feel disposed to trust the present Government, he might not be prepared to trust, future governments, whose composition he could not foretell. But the same right will be left to honorable gentlemen, when a new government is formed, to disallow any of the regulations or to refuse Supply. The honorable gentleman declares that this bill is a blank cheque. I concede that that is so, but Parliament can prevent the payment of that cheque by the disallowance of regulations.
– Oh !
– The honorable senator knows perfectly well that the Government must come to this Parliament for Supply.
– Once a year.
– Senator Cameron was of the opinion that this legislation was being rushed through Parliament, but ample time is being allowed for consideration because there is nothing new about this measure. Similar legislation has been thoroughly thrashed out on previous occasions. Senator Cameron also said that there was nothing urgent about this measure, but I point out to him that one of its functions is that of price fixing. Already there have been attempts at profiteering and every moment of delay means further opportunities for profiteering. Apparently the honorable senator is willing to allow it to continue.
– How are prices to be fixed?
– Leave that to the Government. Senator Cameron also said that this bill would impose Hitlerism, but that is a gross exaggeration and such a suggestion should never emanate from the mouth of a responsible member of the legislature.
– That was the effect of the War Precautions Act. The Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) is the best witness of that.
– To show how absurd that interjection is, this bill does not entrust to any one man the power to make laws. The power to make laws is entrusted to the Governor in Council and the Ministry consists of some fifteen members. In any case this Parliament has the right to review all regulations that are framed. I admit that there is a wide gulf between this legislation and the legislation that is usual in normal times, but all that it does is to reverse the process. Instead of Parliament acting first and the Executive administering, the Executive will act first and the Parliament will ratify afterwards. That is essential for the adequate defence of the country.
Senator Cameron said also that great lawlessness was created in the years of the last war as the result of the War Precautions Act. I point out to the honorable gentleman that that war was carried to a successful conclusion and that afterwards we returned to our normal democratic form of institution. The honorable senator who says that he suffered privations as the result of the War Precautions Act is now a member of the democratic legislature of this country. The honorable senator pointed to clause S and expressed great horror saying that it imposed on this country the Star Chamber. In the star-chamber method the tribunal holds its inquiries in camera. This bill does not provide for that. It provides that the judge, who is a man with judicial training and with knowledge of the need for publicity and the need for open courts, shall, if he thinks it necessary in- the interests of public safety or the defence of the Commonwealth, exclude any persons. To suggest that that would be analogous to the Star Chamber is to put forward an academic argument and is an attempt to create a suspicion which should be non-existent. To-day in certain circumstances judges and magistrates have the right to sit in closed court. I cite, for example, maintenance cases between husband and wife, affiliation cases, and adoption cases. In those cases the magistrates exclude persons because it is in the public interest to do so. The provision to which Senator Cameron objects in this hill enables the judges or magistrates to exclude persons from the courts only when they think that it is in the interest of the safety and security of the country to do so. Certain members of the Opposition it seems are trying to create suspicion at a. time when every one should be trying to create a sense of security and to weld the people together. I regret that certain criticisms have been levelled against this measure, because they have no justification. This is a time for helpful criticism. I congratulate the Leader of the Opposition on his speech. I feel that generally the Opposition is being more helpful now than it was prior to this emergency. It makes me proud of the Labour Opposition when I see it allow this emergency legislation to be dealt with without delay, because it shows a spirit of co-operation.
The honorable senator also suggested that under clause 13 arrests could be made without warrant. That may be, but a man may bc held for only ten days. Under existing legislation, arrests are often made without warrant, but there is always a time limit within which they j ii must be brought before a judge, magistrate or justice of the peace. This bill contains no departure’ from the ordinary practice.
– Which clause provides for a limit of ten days?
– Clause 13, subclause 2 a, contains that provision. Senator Cameron also suggested that the powers to be granted to the Executive would most likely be abused. Unfortunately, the honorable senator’s mind seems to be full of suspicion.
– The suspicion is justified by experience.
– He further described the bill in extravagant words, which would have been better left unsaid, when he said that it was dangerous and unnecessary. The Leader of the Opposition, who speaks as the Leader of the Labour party in t.his chamber, admitted that the bill is necessary, as did also the Loader of the Labour party in the other branch of the legislature.- It is true that they asked for alterations of the bill, but it remained for a junior member of thu party vo say that the measure is dangerous and unnecessary. I suggest that members of the party opposite should follow the example set by their leaders and show a more co-operative and helpful spirit.
The honorable senator also said that the Government had ample authority to do all things necessary without seeking these additional powers. I ask him how prices could 1be fixed without these powers? Does he imagine that at a time like this the Government can introduce bills to fix the price of leather, sugar, tea, and thousands of other commodities, such bills to follow the normal procedure until finally they arc assented to? The Commonwealth Government has no power to fix the price of any commodity, but because it asks for such powers in the present emergency, in which it may be necessary to act quickly, the honorable senator says that this bill is dangerous and unnecessary. I assure honorable senators that I shall be extremely watchful in order to ensure that the civil liberties of the people are protected to the maximum, consistent with the preservation of the safety and security of the people. We shall need to be particularly watchful from now onward of the regulations which will be placed on the table from time to time, in order to prevent any abuse of these powers or unwarranted interference with the rights and liberties of the people.
– Obviously, it is’ the intention of the Government to re-impose the regulations that were in force during the last war. The legislation empowering the making of those regulations was similar to this bill, and it remained in force until 1920. This measure, which is to remain in operation for the duration of the war and for six months after its close, .proposes to create a force of men similar to those who were employed as military police in the last war; that is to say, a body of “ pimps “ and “ phizzgigs “ to enable effect to be given to these regulations. Those methods were employed on a previous occasion, and I have no doubt that similar things will be done during this war.
– One would think that a circus performance was about to begin, not that a war was in progress.
– The Government proposes to take action to control aliens, and to that end it will employ these men to sneak upon their fellows, so that later they will be taken to court, and their cases heard behind closed doors, with the result that, upon the evidence offered by men of the kind that I have mentioned, they will be convicted and placed under control. Not only will the liberty of the people be endangered ; their property may also be taken from them. When similar regulations were gazetted in 1914, a Labour government was in office. That Government promised that there would be no conscription of men for service overseas, but only a short period elapsed before determined attempts were made to force conscription on the people. In anticipation of the conscription referendum being carried, many of the workers of this nation were taken to camp, where they were described as “ Hugheseliers “. While the regulations remained in force, many innocent people were caused great suffering. Under these regulations, a person may be arrested for attempting to influence public opinion, orally or otherwise. A member of this Parliament could be prevented from addressing his constituents, and workers may be prevented from holding processions, or gathering for any purpose associated with their work, or to oppose the introduction of conscription. Under clause 18, it is proposed to give to the GovernorGeneral power to frame regulations which would have the effect of cancelling the provisions of an act passed by this Parliament. We are asked to authorize the Government practically to dispense with Parliament, since this measure provides for everything necessary being done by regulation. In the House of Representatives, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said that he was asking for a vast reservoir of power. The carrying of this bill - and it will be carried because the Government has the numbers - will give to the Prime . Minister the powers of a dictator. I doubt whether the dictator who is accused of being the world’s greatest menace had greater powers conferred upon him than this Parliament is asked to confer upon the Australian Prime Minister.
– No single power will be given to the Prime Minister under this bill.
– For whatever is done by the Government of the day, its leader, the Prime Minister, is given the credit or the blame. The Prime Minister is the head of the Government, and as such will be responsible for any regulations or acts that will be implemented. The workers of Australia will not willingly accept any and every regulation that the Government may introduce. Ir has been said that regulations framed under this legislation will have to lie on the table of Parliament for fifteen sitting days before they become law. That may be, but persons affected by the regulations may have their civil liberty interfered with for a period of six months before Parliament can deal with their cases.
– The same thing applies to tariff schedules.
– At the moment I am concerned, not with tariff schedules, but with the civil liberties of people who may be denied their undoubted rights, and may have all sorts of things done to them under these regulations.
– That state of affairs exists under other regulations.
– The workers of Australia will not accept these regulations without protest; but should they attempt to resist them, some members of the special force to which I have referred will give evidence against them, with the result that they may be incarcerated in gaols for a number of years before they are released. During the last war “ frame-ups “ of that nature sometimes occurred. Many people were in trouble at that time because similar regulations to those now proposed were in force and because their civil liberties were being attacked. Their wives and families also had to suffer because they had the temerity to stand against oppression. In these circumstances I sincerely trust that the amendment which my leader proposes to move making possible a review of these regulations from time to time will be agreed to. It would not be fair for us to allow our fellow citizens in this fair land to be persecuted without giving Parliament an opportunity periodically to review the whole situation. I shall reserve any further remarks I wish to make until the committee stage of the bill is reached.
– In his condemnation of this bill the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) stressed the fact that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was leading a minority party and that therefore his Government was a minority Government. For this reason the honorable gentleman said that he was not prepared to agree to the granting of these unusual powers to the Government. I remind him that this Parliament consists of members of three parties each of which is in a minority when opposed by the combined membership of the remaining two parties. Consequently when the war in Europe occurred a few days ago the Prime Minister had three courses open to- him. First, he could have sought a general election; secondly, he could have invited the other parties to co-operate with his party to form a national government to undertake the conduct of the Avar; thirdly, he could have carried on with his minority. I shall examine briefly these alternatives.
As to the suggestion that a general election should be held I venture to say that not one person in the Parliament would have been agreeable to the pursuance of that course. Any honorable member who had done so could have been sure that in an appeal to the country he would have received the treatment that he deserved, for undoubtedly that procedure would have delayed our defence preparations by not less than four weeks. Such a procedure was entirely out of the question. The Prime Minister was then faced with the second alternative, the formation of a truly national government composed of representatives of all parties. Realizing that he was the leader of a minority government he intimated to the other parties that he was prepared to form a national government consisting of representatives of each party. The Labour party, rightly or wrongly - wrongly in my opinion - refused to accept the principle of a national government. What the attitude of the Country party will, be, ultimately, T am- unable to say. The plain fact, however, is that in this national emergency the Prime Minister was quite prepared to form a national government. When he found that that course was not acceptable to other parties he decided to carry on the administration of the country and prosecute the war with the assistance of his present colleagues. 1 have no doubt that the Government will do a good job, but I also have no doubt that a better job would have been done had a truly national government been formed. It is not the Prime Minister’s fault that that was not done.
This war can be prosecuted to a successful issue by one of two authorities - the Government which is, in effect, the Executive Council, or the Parliament. Is there a single honorable senator who would seriously suggest that Parliament could direct Australia’s part in the war effectively and expeditiously? We have only to consider what has happened here to-day to see how impossible that would be. I do not criticize honorable senators for their conduct, but the fact is that we spent several hours to-day debating the provision of a bill which, to my mind at least,, was not in any way vital. We have a perfect right to express our opinions, but I do not think any one of us would endorse the view that Parliament itself could satisfactorily prosecute the war. Parliament is a legislative, not an administrative, body, and the immediate job that has to be done requires effective administrative action. ]for this reason it is highly desirable that Parliament should delegate certain powers to the Executive. The Labour party cannot logically object to the pursuance of this course, seeing that it has refused to co-operate with the Prime Minister in the formation of a national government. This Parliament is composed of 110 members who sit in two Houses. Its personnel is drawn from the four corners of this great continent. The Government is formed of fifteen or sixteen men who sit round a table and deliberate. The members of the Government receive secret information on which to base their decisions. Nothing can be secret in Parliament. The Executive does not sit in the limelight and does not waste time. Moreover, no party advantages are to be gained in consequence of its consultations. Parliament, however, has the glare of publicity shed upon it and all the information with which it deals is public. It must surely be apparent to honorable senators that, in these circumstances, Parliament could not effectively deal with the situation that faces us. Consequently, it. is undeniable that the Executive Council is the appropriate body to do the job that has to be done.
The line of cleavage between the Labour party and ourselves is clearly marked. The Labour party believes that the present Executive may abuse the powers proposed to be vested in it. Labour does not oppose the principle. In fact the Labour party of 1914 equipped the Labour Government of the day with similar powers to those which this Government is now seeking. I do not say that all the decisions, Or all the regulations, for which the Government was responsible at that time were wise, but at, any rate it was an administrative body which acted in the manner in which the present Government desires to act. The only fear that our opponents have expressed is that this Government, may abuse these powers. I do not say at this juncture that the Government will abuse its powers, but if it does so I shall join with other honorable senators in protesting. Unless powers such as are now being sought are granted to the Executive, the country will continue to flounder in difficulties, and our part will not be effectively prosecuted. For this reason these unusual and unlimited powers should be granted, and not even the fear that they may be used ferociously should cause us to refuse to grant them.
The Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues have said that the civil liberties of the people are likely to be abrogated, and that the very means of livelihood of some people may be endangered. I admit that the powers now being sought are far-reaching, but they are necessary. The Labour party has no real ground for complaint, seeing that it has refused to co-operate with the Prime Minister in the formation of a national government. If Labour representatives were in the Government they could probably take more effective action to preserve the liberties of the people than they may be able to take otherwise; but honorable gentlemen opposite are not prepared to join a national government, because to do so would conflict with a plank of their party platform. In other words, they are willing to put a miserable plank of their party platform before the national safely. To me that is such an extraordinary attitude that I do not think those who adopt it should be given much consideration. For my part, I am prepared to do my utmost in every way to assist the Government in this emergency. Although honorable members of the Labour party, who claim to represent half the electors of Australia, have chosen to put their party platform before the national safety, they have had. the temerity, to plead that the passage of this bill may result in the curtailment of personal liberty ! I cannot understand that attitude. What is an infringement of the Labour party’s platform compared with the safety of this country? The Government had no alternative but to ask for these powers. If the Labour party were in office, and were charged with the task of prosecuting the present war, I should have no alternative but to give to it the unlimited powers contemplated under this measure. I should expect that party to use these powers fairly and with discretion, and I believe that it would do so. Yet the party opposite, which refused to co-operate in the government of the country, declares that the powers to be conferred on the present Executive might be abused I The Leader of the Opposition states that he prefers toi stand back and act, as a watchdog, but this is not a time to bark. It is a time when we should all put our shoulders to the wheel and throw aside political ties that would prevent us from playing our part in connexion with the defence of the Empire. No party should say at a time like this that it is justified in holding hack. The position is serious, and every ounce of ability and effort at our command should be thrown into the fight, so that this war may be brought to a successful conclusion.
– It must be galling to Senator Dein to observe the calm, cool and characteristically Australian manner in which the members of the Opposition have discussed this crisis. When that honorable senator was addressing the Senate, my mind went back to 1914 and to the immediately succeeding years, and I visuali zed the administration of the militaristic junker who bathed the world in blood at that period. The Labour party, which represents the great mass of the people who in the final analysis will be called upon to do the suffering, has every right to express its opinions regarding the legislation that should be introduced during this crisis. It is true that many regulations were promulgated by a Labour government in the last war; but have we not had experience of that holocaust, and of the way in which those appointed to give effect to the regulations played upon the liberties of the people? Honorable senators opposite, judging by their remarks, would lead one to believe that the only persons who will be entrusted with the operation of these regulations are responsible authorities. One of the clauses of the bill allows the GovernorGeneral toappoint certain persons to give effect to the regulations. During the last war, mere lads in the military forces were clothed with dictatorial powers similar to those wielded by a Kaiser or a Hitler.
The Opposition realizes that it is necessary for the people to surrender certain liberties to the Executive. It may be said that the right of Parliament to legislate for the peace, order and good government of the country involves the surrender of some personal liberty by the people; but I suggest that, even if we are prepared to give up our liberty to some extent, it is necessary to watch where we are going. I shall quote from an essay on freedom by Sir William Jowitt, K.C., one of the eminent lawyers of Great Britain, who says -
We shall lose our freedom when, and only when, we cease to value our freedom, and for that very reason we must take care that in these days of strain and stress and difficulty we do not lose our self-confidence or our selfreliance. Frightened animals huddle together, the herd instinct overtakes them. Weak people seek authoritative rule when danger confronts them. They long for a dictator to whom they can surrender their troubles even at the price of surrendering everything else. We suffer from the. herd psychology. We accept too readily opinions, merely because they are generally held.
How applicable to the present crisis are those words! Unless we value our freedom, we are likely to lose it. Whilst the Labour party is prepared to do certain things in this crisis, it is not willing to permit the loss of the people’s liberty for all time. Other eminent persons have spoken on this matter. If honorable senators opposite had discussed it in the councils of their party, I believe that they would have submitted a different proposal from that now before the Senate.
An interjection was made by Senator McBride in response to tihe sentiment expressed that the people might lose their freedom when gaining their security. Let me quote another eminent English author and journalist, Mr. J. A. Spender, who states -
It seems to me very important that liberty should not be placed in a hostile relationship tii co-operation, in which I include the kind of co-operation that a modern state may promote among its members. This requires rulea and regulations which always need watching, for they are sometimes unintelligent and easily become vexatious, but they should not be confused with attacks on the citadel of liberty, the. citadel whose bastions are parliamentary government, free speech, a free press, impartial justice, habeas corpus. If we hold the citadel we can control the rest; if we lose the citadel we lose everything.
Is that not the contention of the Opposition this evening? Was it not the argument of members of the Opposition in the House of Representatives? is it not a fact that under this bill it would be possible to suspend habeas corpus, and to take away the freedom of the press! Regulations could be introduced to deprive citizens of all the things that they hold most deaf. The Opposition requests Government supporters to vote for the inclusion of certain amendments that would make it possible for Parliament to take action in the event of maladministration on the part of those into whose hands the proposed wide powers to be conferred by this bill are to be placed. A clause is included declaring that there will he no military or industrial conscription, but that is merely a sugarcoated pill, for there are other measures under which conscription could be introduced.
The Opposition asks the Government and its supporters to uphold freedom, and to mould this legislation so that it will operate for the benefit of the community. Senator Johnston said that the measure presaged the bringing into operation of countless, regulations. Honorable senatorshave had an opportunity to peruse that fine work by the Lord Chief Justice of England, entitled The New Despotism, in which Lord Hewart showed that by the use of . regulations the power of the British Parliament was being whittled away.
– He was referring to ordinary legislation.
– In normal times.
– But this is a time when we should be particularly vigilant. When they are likely -to give away the liberty they won at such a heavy cost. We have been told that the present situation in Europe is due to the breakdown of democracy, which resulted in the rise of dictatorships. Therefore, it is all the more necessary that we should see that, inthis democratic country, the rights of citizens are maintained. In this connexion the following quotation from a work by Sir Ernest Benn is of interest: -
We have struggled for a thousand years to achieve the right to govern ourselves, and within the little lifetime of most of my readers we have secured the final prizes of universal education aud universal suffrage.
Have honorable senators forgotten that only chance prevented the disfranchise ment of a great section of the Australian people during the last war under the provisions of the War Precautions Act? No citizen in Australia has a constitutional right to exercise the franchise. All of us enjoy the right to record our votes to-day, not because of the Constitution, but because of an act of parliament. This bill proposes to authorize the Government by regulation to suspend any act of parliament, even that which confers the right to vote. That right would have been suspended during the last war only tha t three members of the Cabinet refused to agree to such an iniquitous proposal. It has been charged against Hitler that, in his proposals for the settlement of the Polish question, he insisted that the rolls for the suggested plebiscite should be stacked. All Germans who had been fighting in Poland during the war were to be returned there to take part in the plebiscite. Are we to stand for that sort of thing in Australia ?
– Who does iStaud for it?
– The Government does, if it refuses to accept the safeguard that would make such a thing impossible.
– Why did not the honorable senator’s party place some of its members in the Government to ensure that the right thing was done?
– This Governnien is dominated by persons who are opposed to our ideals. The Labour party represents the poor people, the workers. Honorable senators opposite represent other interests, and I am afraid that we could never carry on together in the same government. However, we can play our part on this side of the Senate. We can do our duty to the country by safeguarding the interests of the people we are sent here to represent. I hope that honorable senators will unite to protect the civil liberties of the people, and to prevent the placing of undue power in the hands of irresponsible persons.
– Who are the honorable senator describing as irresponsible persons?
SenatorSHEEHAN.- Where was the honorable senator during the last war? Surely he must have seen how militarism worked unchecked at that time, how young subalterns, with their heelclicking, were able to force their authority on the people. We ask honorable senators opposite to help us to mould this legislation in such a way as to ensure that this fight will really be fought in the interests of democracy, and so that the people will not lose their liberties as did the people of Germany who, after overthrowing the dictatorship of the Kaiser. have now fallen under the authority of an even worse dictator. We have told the Germans by means of pamphlets distributed over their country that the fight is not against them, but against their leaders. Let us make sure that when the war is over we do not find ourselves under the rule of a government as terrible as that in existence in Germany to-day.
.- This bill is largely on all fours with the measure which was passed by this Parliament during the last war, and at no time did the people of Australia have cause to be concerned over any of the regulations issued under the War Precautions Act passed by the Labour Government in 1914, or under any of the amendments subsequently made to it. I can see no justification for the appeal made by Senator Sheehan to protect Australia from the militarism of subalterns. I regret that he should have seen fit so to exaggerate the possibilities of the situation as to give the impression that we have reason, in the days ahead, to fear for our comings and goings as ordinary civilians, or that there is any danger that we may develop in this country a form of despotic government similar to the dictatorships on the continent. I do not believe that anything of the kind is likely to happen here. Fortunately the Australian people have too much balance to be frightened by pictures of that kind. Though I am one of those who in general abhor the principle of government by regulation, I agree that during a time like this it is necessary that the Executive should be clothed with the power to promulgate regulations if it is successfully to prosecute the war. Already preliminary regulations have been issued in regard to public safety, shipping, aircraft, essential supplies, aliens, passports, financial transactions and the disposal of gold, as well as special regulations under the Customs Act. These cover most of the field, so that there is little room for fresh regulations which might shackle the freedom of Australian citizens. I recommend to Senator Sheehan a perusal of the discussions which took place in this Parliament during October, 1914, when the Fisher Labour Government brought in the War Precautions Bill. In addition to that measure, the Government of the day also had passed through Parliament, a crimes act. I am sure that the people understand that, no matter what government is in power when war is declared, it is imperative that steps be taken to authorize the Government to promulgate regulations.
I compliment the Menzies- Government on the very practical steps it has taken to deal with all these preliminary matters of great importance to the safety of the Commonwealth. I compliment the Prime Minister himself on his very manly utterance made before the declaration of war, to the effect that if England was at war so also was Australia. Every rightthinking person must, in bis heart applaud the Prime Minister for his definite offer of help to the Old Country. This is not a war which concerns one part of the Empire more than another. Australia will play its part, not only in its own protection, but also in helping Great Britain to the full extent of its power. It appears that Great Britain will require the assistance of all of the dominions and colonics in the great struggle which confronts it. I say unhesitatingly that Australia should repeat that well-known declaration of a former Labour leader, the late Mr. Andrew Fisher, that Australia will stand with the Mother Country to the last man and the last shilling. That is a definite statement that can be understood by every Britisher in whatever part of the world he may. reside. Mr. Fisher did not qualify his utterance with any reference to his party’s platform. His statement was made in his characteristic blunt, straight, Scottish manner. Such sentiments are readily understood by the Australian people, and it is such a declaration that we wish to hear not only from the supporters of the Government, but also from the members of the Opposition. I urge the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) to make some definite pronouncement on behalf of his party, because the members of this Parliament and the people of Australia are anxious to know exactly where the Labour party stands in the matter of defence. Senator Sheehan mentioned a book written by Sir Ernest Benn, and I recommend the honorable senator to read also If I Were a Labour Lander, a work of high literary merit by the same author, whose opinions are totally at variance with many of the statements made by Senator Sheehan. . 1 obtained thousands of copies of that work and distributed them throughout Western Australia for the edification of some who think that they are Labour leaders. I congratulate the Government upon the introduction of this measure, and I trust that the Opposition will whole-heartedly support, not only this measure, but also other bills which the Government, will introduce in the interests of the safety of the Australian people.
Last nighr I mentioned certain matters because I have a recollection that, during the previous war, the then Leader of the Senate frequently made the stereotyped reply to questions that it was not in the public interest to furnish, the information desired. I mentioned the control of State harbours and the fact that during the last war various naval control boards in the States had to a degree bungled the handling of merchant shipping and thereby caused a certain amount of delay, I repeat what I said last, night that we have in the Deputy Directors of Navigation in the various States an excellent body of practical shipmasters who should have some voice in the organization and control of State harbours during the present emergency. At present it would appear that there is likely to be divided control, and, in times such as the present, control should be in the hands of Commonwealth officers. I urge the Government to look into this matter without further delay.
I trust that every possible effort will be made to ensure the complete internment of active enemy subjects within the Commonwealth and the territories under its control. Honorable senators will recall that in the early part, of the Great War there was a lack of adequate facilities for the internment, of enemy subjects, and I trust that there will be no cause; for complaint on this occasion. The’ position of the sons of aliens resident in Australia is a matter of importance, and will require consideration by the Government, I trust that natural-born Britishers will not be persecuted by unthinking people merely because their parents were born in an enemy country. Consideration will also have to be given to refugees, many of whom have arrived in Australia only recently from Germany, who have no sympathy whatever with the Nazi Government.
– We have had many assurances of loyalty from the representatives of organizations to which they belong.
– . 1 am glad to know that. Prior to leaving Western Australia I received similar assurances from representative men doing welfare work on behalf of refugees. They are entitled to our help, because they have no more sympathy with the Nazi Government than I have. I trust that the Government will find ways and means to extend special consideration to them, and that no undue restrictions will be placed . upon them, particularly as they are beginning life again in a new land. I support the bill.
– This measure is entitled a National Security Bill. Over and over again money has been described as the sinews of war, yet we find this Government, which is pledged to look after the interests of Australian citizens, pursuing a monetary policy which will place the people in an intolerable position, and in the end will lead to national bankruptcy. The further we get into debt, the more difficult it becomes to safeguard the liberties of the people. Australia is increasing its national indebtedness to a greater degree than honorable senators realize. At present it is nearly £1,300,000,000, -which has to he borne liy a population of fewer than 7,000,000 persons. Prior to the outbreak of the Great War in 1914 Great Britain, which has , i population of approximately 40,000,000 had a national debt of £600,000,000. It. will therefore be seen that Australia with its small population has a national debt twice as great as that of Great Britain at the period I have mentioned. The first duty of the Government to-day should be to decide what will be the best methods to adopt for the financing of war expenditure. I have shown on numerous occasions how it can be done and have cited the report of the Royal Commission on Banking and Monetary System which shows that the Government has complete control over finance. The chairman of the royal commission, Mr. Justice Napier, of South Australia, said -
Should u.t any time there lie a difference of opinion between the Commonwealth Govern- and the Commonwealth Bank Board as to its policy, a free und frank discussion shall take place on the matter. Should their views be irreconcilable, the Government shall tell the hank that they take the responsibility and shall instruct them what to do.
That shows that the Government can, <>n its own initiative, instruct the Commonwealth Bank Board to provide credit free of interest, thus reducing the heavy hurden borne by the people who are already overtaxed. I noticed in a newspaper report that the Government intends to raise an additional £5,000,000 by increased income, sales and other taxes. The Leader of the Senate (Senator Foll) in answer to a question I asked yesterday, admitted that. 180 single men in Canberra are out of work because the Government has insufficient money to provide them with permanent employment. Although money cannot be found to provide work the Government can raise millions for defence purposes. There is not the slightest doubt that the Commonwealth Bank Board, if so directed by the Commonwealth Government, could issue credit to provide for the adequate defence of Australia, provide work, and build the hundreds of houses that are required in Canberra to-day. The Government declines to do so. One of the greatest disadvantages of government by regulation is that such regulations are administered very often by junior officials who, while doing what they believe to be right, are quite incompetent. I mentioned to-day that under the legislation in operation in Groat Britain during the war, the Government could have closed the German banks operating in London, but it is on record that two and a half years after the outbreak of war such banks were still doing business. The following paragraph appeared in the London Times on the 22nd March, 1917-
A unanimous resolution called on the Government to close the German hunks in London. The chairman, Lord Leith of Fyvie, urged that a commission should be set up t<> investigate the books of these banks for three years prior to the war.
Mr. Ronald McNeill, M.P., in moving the resolution, said that for two and a half years they had endured the shame of seeing the Government carefully fostering enemy interests and enemy influences in the social, commercial and financial life of their country. The Government had financed the whole volume of acceptances of the German banks.
Dr. Ellis Powell, editor of the London Financial News, in seconding the resolution, said -
The German banks in the city were part of a vast organization of betrayal.
– I hope that the honorable senator intends to connect hia remarks with the bill.
– I submit that my remarks are relevant to the subject of national security. Finance is of vital importance to national defence. Indeed, money is the sinews of war, and I am endeavouring to convince honorable senators that it can be advanced by the Commonwealth Bank free of interest. The conduct ot war and finance cannot be dissociated. One of the first acts of the British Parliament, following the declaration of war, wa3 to pass a bill providing for credit tt» the amount of £500,000,000 for war purposes. I contend that it is possible for the Commonwealth Bank to advance all the money required for defence purposes, free of interest.
– We would not object to the Government using its power to govern by regulation to do that.
– That is so. Under the powers to be conferred by this bill, the Government could by regulation assume complete control of the entire financial system. If it were really working in the interests of the people of Australia - we know that it is not - it would do that.
This morning. I addressed the following question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister: -
Ju view of1 the urgent necessity to ensure thu adequate defence of Australia, and as the interest burden on the existing national debt absorbs so high a proportion of national revenue, will the Prime Minister, to ensure that our people shall not inherit a legacy of war debts, take immediate steps to instruct the Commonwealth Bank Board to make available to the Government whatever money is necessary to finance Australia’s war activity in accordance with the statement in the report of the Royal Commission on the Monetary and Banking Systems of Australia, section 504, which states - ‘ Because of this power, the Commonwealth Bank . . . can lend to the governments or to others in a- variety of ways, and it can even make money available to governments or to others free of any charge “ ?
I was snapped at by the Leader of the Senate (Senator McLeay), who’ said, quite irregularly, that this question has never been put to the Menzies Ministry. He said that this Government was not prepared to do anything, his reply being -
It- has not been the policy of this Government to direct the Commonwealth Bank Board what to do.
I submit that the honorable gentleman had no right to say that. I asked the same question of the former Prime Minister, the late Mr. Lyons, and received a reply. In my opinion, the Leader of the Senate had no authority to make that statement to-day.
– Order! The honorable senator is not entitled to debate an answer given by the Minister.
– My remarks on this bill cannot be out of order, because admittedly money is the sinews of war. Honorable senators will remember that recently I presented to each of them a book entitled Money, in the hope that they would take some notice of its teaching and learn some things which it is necesSary they should know if they are properly to carry out their duties as members of this legislature. I am afraid, however, that they have neglected to study that publication, otherwise they would now be possessed of information enabling them to understand what I am talking about.
I have made a study of finance and 1 consider that I know my subject. Foi* two days I have listened attentively to other honorable senators making their speeches. I would appreciate the same courtesy from them. The proper finance of this war is of great importance. 1 do not see how honorable senators on either side can disregard what I am saying. We are here to legislate, not in the interests of the banking institutions, but in the interests of the people. On other occasions, when I asked why my suggested method of obtaining funds for defence purposes was not adopted, I was informed that the Government did not believe in political control of banking. Under the Constitution the Government has power to administer our banking and financial systems in the public interest. We must have either political control of banking or continue under existing methods and get further into debt .every year by allowing banking interests to control politics. Even before the war started a huge expenditure during the current financial year was foreshadowed. It now appears that the estimated expenditure will be” more than £100,000,000 as against £?8,0’0’0,000 contemplated a few weeks ago. This is a very serious matter. It is surely obvious that if the people are not to” he crushed by the interest burden, this war must be financed in the way I have so often advocated. It is the duty of the Government to scrap orthodox methods of finance and obtain its requirements through the Commonwealth Bank free of interest.
.- My leader (Senator Collings) made clear the attitude of the Labour party to this bill, and I propose to supplement his remarks. The Labour party was in power at the outbreak of the last war, and it was responsible for the passing of the War Precautions Act, but that law was not administered by a Labour government. The chief cause of the trouble in the administration of that legislation during, the war years was the conscription issue. I was pleased to hear both from the Prime Minister yesterday and from Senator Foll to-day, a clear statement that it was not the intention of the Government to introduce any form of conscription. That, no doubt, will remove many of the fears concerning an issue which, as Senator Sheehan and Senator Cameron said to-da.y, caused so much dissension during the war years .L91A-1S. 1 sup-port everything that has been said by honorable senators on this side of the chamber regarding the operation of the War Precautions Act during those years. I was in the industrial movement at that time and was in a position to assist my friends. I know what some of them suffered from the harsh administration of that law. The bill is not quite a reenactment of thu War Precautions Act of 19:14, even with the amendments that were made to that measure in 1916. The first objection I have to this bill is that, whereas the War Precautions Act was in force for the duration of the war and three months thereafter, this measure will remain in force for the duration of the war and six months thereafter. Another point which I suggest should be conceded by the Government is the request by the Labour party that provision be made for a review of the ‘bill at intervals of six months during the war. It is reasonable to assume that Parliament will meet at intervals of not longer than six months, and the effect of the act can then be assessed. If unanimity is desired in connexion with the bill, surely this suggestion should bc adopted by the Government.
Like other honorable senators on both sides of the chamber, I fully appreciate the enormous powers which are to be given to the Executive. I know also that the Executive will find it necessary to delegate some of these powers to persons, mostly military officers.
As I have suggested, there are vital differences between the War Precautions Act and some provisions in this bill. Foi example, the provision in clause 8 for the hearing of proceedings in camera seems to me to be unnecessary, and in practice will prove to be as bad as the War Precautions Act, which did not have such a drastic provision.
Senator. Wilson said that there was nothing to be feared from this bill “when one realized that any regulations which the Government desired to make must be laid on the table of both Houses of this Parliament in order that they may be discussed and, if necessary, disallowed. I remind the honorable senator, however, that the only occasion on which I have seen such action taken was in connexion with regulations tabled in this chamber in relation to the export of iron ore.
– All regulations are carefully perused by the Regulations and Ordinances Committee.
– I know that. On the occasion to which I have alluded, Senator Wilson and several other honorable senators on both sides of the House loudly complained of the system of government by regulation. I agree with Senator Dein that Parliament cannot carry on a war. That is a job for the Executive, and, as I have said, I know that the Executive must in turn delegate many of its powers to certain individuals. But Parliament, must see that the administration of this act does not result in injustices as malodorous as those thai caused so much trouble in the last war.
– Labour should participate in the administration.
– Why the Labour party has never been in power in the Gommonwealt.il, although in office, I do not know, because it represents 80 Pe, cent, of the electors. I believe that bacl Labour been in power in the war years 1914-18 much of the trouble that arose would have been averted.
I point out that whereas the War Precautions Act had only eleven clauses, this bill has nineteen, three of which are definitely worse than anything contained in the 1914 act. I concede, of course, that the Government has at its disposal much information which honorable members on this side of the chamber do not get, and that if there were no necessity for legislation such as this, the bill would not have been brought down. It would appear from some of the speeches that have been made by Government supporters that this bill is as innocuous as the War Precautions Act was alleged to have been. I do not agree that that is so. I believe that if the Government had agreed to make provision for a review of this legislation by both Houses of Parliament at specified periods, for instance, every three, six or twelve months, it would not have been subjected to one-third of the criticism that has been levelled against it. I admit that if the Labour party were in power it would have been obliged to introduce legislation of it similar character; but several drastic clauses would not have been included. Provision would also have been made for a review of the legislation at stated periods. This bill will virtually permit the Executive to control every activity in this country. For that reason the Opposition will seek to amend some of its clauses. I realize that the struggle upon which we are now entering is infinitely more serious than the last war. It will veritably be a struggle for the existence of the British Empire and of Australia. Consequently, at such a time as the present no party should split straws on any important matter which comes before Parliament. We seek one safeguard, and that is that the Government to give Parliament every opportunity to review the results of thi* legislation. When we recall our experiences in the last war we can readily realize that the powers to be given under this bill are enormous. In the last war special tribunals were set up to deal with industrial disputes, whilst trade unions were deregistered and awards of the arbitration court were overridden. Our courts gave some very queer decisions in regard to the regulations made under the War Precautions Act. The High Court decided, in effect, that the Executive, by virtue of its regulation-making power under that act, could do practically anything it deemed essential, or convenient, for the efficient conduct of the war. Similar circumstances might arise again. Clause 18 of the bill will give supreme powers to the Government. It provides that regulations made under this legislation shall have effect notwithstanding anything contained in any other act. Thus the Government will have power to disregard any act of parliament. I recall that in the last war the then Prime Minister was particularly bitter in the administration of the war precautions legislation, and did many queer things. As has already, been pointed out, he attempted to disfranchise all men who did not answer the call-up in 1916, and nearly succeeded. Many of the powers under this bill will be delegated to various persons. In that connexion I repeat the warning uttered by one honorable senator opposite that special care must be exercised in the selection of such officers, who -should be men of judicial temperament, experience and education. These officials should be hand-picked. Members of the military forces will necessarily be entrusted to carry out many of these provisions. I reiterate that every opportunity should be given to Parliament to review the results of this legislation. I do not agree with Senator Wilson that it is an easy matter for Parliament to exercise its influence through the channels provided for the disallowance of regulations. Although the Regulations and Ordinances Committee is representative of all parties, I cannot recall one report which has been produced by it, or one which was, with the exception of the regulation imposing an embargo on iron ore. When I was a member of the House of Representatives a regulation was made which dismissed 8,000 men from the waterfront. The Seullin Government took the first opportunity to repeal that regulation, but it was reenacted by a later government.’ Under that regulation those unfortunate men were treated in the most brutal manner. Some members of this chamber, including Senator A. J. McLachlan, cannot be wholly absolved from blame in that regard. That is an instance of the atrocious things which a government can do by regulation.
– That regulation was designed to deal with men who tried to subvert the law.
– Another gentleman who shares the responsibility for that regulation is now the Chief Justice of the High Court. I cannot understand how a government could bring itself to mete out such treatment to the workers, particularly a government which boasted of its sympathy with the returned men, because under that regulation over 900 returned soldiers were deprived of their jobs on the waterfront. It cannot be said, therefore, that government by regulation is innocuous. Assurances have been given both by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the High Commissioner, Mr. Bruce, when he was in Melbourne recently, that in no circumstances would men be conscripted for service overseas. Nevertheless, the Government will be given absolute powers under this legislation. I believe that the present Ministry will not abuse those powers, but we must remember that as the result of hysteria which might follow upon some bad war news the errors committed in 1914 might be repeated. That is a further reason why Parliament should insist that it be given every opportunity to review the results of this legislation. If that guarantee be given, we cannot but admit that the Government has acted wisely in introducing this legislation. If I were the Prime Minister, the first job I would have done would have been to introduce this bill, but in view of the urgency of the position, I would have put it through before now. I think that I have made my position, and that of my party, quite clear.
– The main argument advanced by honorable senators opposite against the case made out by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) is that the Labour party refuses to join in the formation of a national government in the present crisis. In this connexion we were treated to the parish pump philosophy expounded by Senator Dein, who vilifies the Labour party, or the unions, at every opportunity. It is significant, however, that honorable senators opposite have not criticized in the same strain the Country party which so far has failed to join the Government, although it was allied with the ministerial party for many years.
– The Country party has not refused to join in the formation of a national government.
– A rumour is current in the lobbies to-night, and I think it is correct, that Sir Earle Page has resigned the leadership of the Country party. Apparently the way will now be clear for a coalition between the United Australia party and the Country party. Not so long ago, Sir Earle Page declared that he would never sit in the same Cabinet as Mr. Menzies. Furthermore, the Prime Minister declared that even if the Country party were willing to join the Government, he alone would allot portfolios.
– Has that anything to do with the bill?
– It has just as much to do with the bill as had th-s vilification of the Labour party by Senator Dein. I draw particular attention to the fact that regulations under the act will apply not only to enemy aliens but also to persons who arc naturalized. Then, too, the regulations may provide for “ empowering such persons or classes of persons as are prescribed and thereto authorized in pursuance of the regulations to make orders, rules or by-laws for any other purposes for which regulations are authorized by this act to be made “. Thus the measure delegates the power to make regulations not only to the Executive but also to other persons. In effect, that means that persons engaged in, for example, secret service work - those who were known as “ Military Jacks “ during the war - will have the power to make regulations.
– They will not be able to make regulations.
– They will be empowered to make rules and by-laws. What is the difference between regulations, and rules and by-laws? The honorable senator is “ splitting straws “ when he says that they will not be able to make regulations. This is too great a power to be given to such persons. The people of Australia will have surrendered quite sufficient when this power is given to the Executive. Senator Wilson is concerned about the effect of the regulations on the iron-ore industry in his State. When in his estimation a proposal of the Government was detrimental to his State, he moved for the disallowance of. certain regulations that had been made. We are satisfied that the present Government will use the regulation making power under this bill with discretion; but next, week the composition of the Executive may be changed. The Opposition, which plays an important part in the government of this nation, is entitled to know who will be administering these regulations next week or in the succeeding week. Therefore, it makes a reasonable request when it asks that Parliament shall meet regularly, so that adequate opportunity may be given to discuss and criticize what is done and, if necessary, protect the rights of the people.
SenatorFRASER (Western Australia) [11.25] - Yesterday, honorable senators of the Opposition made their position quite clear. The declaration issued by the Labour party set out that the democratic rights of the people must be safeguarded to the maximum ; that the minimum of interference with the civil liberties of the people should be the objective of the Government in carrying out its measures for national security; and that, in order to ensure that this be done, it is essential that the Parliament of the Commonwealth shall remain in session. We admit that if we were responsible for the government of the Commonwealth to-morrow we should have to bring down legislation of this characterSimilar legislation was introduced by a Labour administration in 1914, but, that administration at least kept the Parliament in session until the Christmas vacation. All that we now desire is that the Parliament shall be kept in session so that, if we so desire, we shall have an opportunity to object to any regulations that are made. That is the fundamental principle underlying the whole of the discussion on this measure by honorable senators who sit on this side of the chamber. I am left cold - if I may’ use the expression - by the statement of Senator Wilson, a member of theRegulations and Ordinances Committee that that committee will peruse very closely any of the regulations that are made under the terms of this legislation. This Parliament will not be sitting when the regulations are made.
SenatorCollings. - Nor will the committee.
– As the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) says, the committee will not be sitting. This Parliament, can, and probably will, be out of session for twelve months at a time.
SenatorFoll. - There is not a chance of that.
-I refer the Minister for the Interior (Senator Foll) to the provisions of the Constitution, which enable that to be done. I do not say that that, is the intention of the Government. I remind honorable senators that we on this side represent a considerable section of the people of this great Commonwealth. To-night Senator Dein misrepresented the people by whom he was elected to this chamber. We are prepared, as we stated yesterday, to assist the Government to the fullest degree to cope with any situation that may arise during the present crisis. We are just as loyal to this country as is Senator Dein.
– No one has said otherwise.
SenatorFRASER. - I am pleased to have that rejoinder; I placed a different construction on the honorable senator’s remarks to-night. We do not yet know who may constitute the Executive Council after a. new ministry has been formed. All that we ask is that this Parliament be kept in session to deal with any of the regulations that may be brought down by the Government.
– What does the honorable senator mean by “ kept in session “ ?
– This Parliament could meet on, say, two days a week. I should not care if it met on three, four, or five days. But I am not prepared to hand over to three or four men the destinies of the people of this country.
– That has been done in respect of all other legislation, which gives to the Government the power to make regulations.
– While Parliament is in session it is competent for any member of either House of the Parliament, to move within the prescribed time for the disallowance of a regulation which has been tabled ; but if this bill be passed and the doors of the Parliament be kept closed the right to criticize or disallow regulations will be denied to the representatives of the people.
– This is not the only bill which gives to the Government power to make regulations.
– If this proposed legislation be enacted it will supersede all other acts now on the statute-book.
– There are no principles involved in this bill.
– I disagree with the honorable senator. This bill proposes to give to the Executive power to do exactly as it likes. We would not oppose it if we were sure that Parliament would be summoned at regular intervals. During a time of crisis the Parliament should sit continuously in order that we may exercise our right to consider the problems which confront the nation. The members of the Labour party are just as loyal as are honorable senators opposite.
– That is not denied.
– Nevertheless we are accused 6f disloyalty, because we have declined an invitation to join a national government. We oppose this bill because we believe that it will clothe the Executive with unnecessary powers.
– What power does the honorable senator regard as unnecessary?
– Power to close the Parliament for an almost unlimited period. I am prepared to accept the Minister’s statement that Parliament will not be shut up for twelve months, but at the same time I point out that it may be closed for long periods during which regulations affecting the destinies of the people of this country, and regarding which the elected representatives should be given an opportunity to express their opinions, will continue to operate.
– Then why did the honorable senator’s party refuse to join a national government?
– Because it believed that it could best serve the interests of the country in opposition. After the War Precautions Act was passed in 1914 the Parliament was kept in session.
– It did not sit continuously.
– It sat continuously until the Christmas recess.
– Most of the regulations made under the War Precautions Act were promulgated early in 1915.
– That is not so. The Parliament sat until late in December.
– We have had a most interesting discussion on this bill. Irrespective of what might be said by honorable senators opposite, the people of Australia- know that there will be real danger in the application of the provisions of this bill behind the backs of the people, unless the Government summons Parliament to meet at regular intervals in order to enable honorable senators to review the regula tions made. That is all we ask. It has already been pointed out by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) that were a Labour government in office to-day, it would probably introduce a measure similar to the one now before us. We know that such a measure is necessary in a time of crisis, and that under its provisions the Government will be all,powerful. It will be able, for instance, to withhold information from the people. Our request that the Government should give an undertaking that Parliament will be summoned from time to time for the review of regulations made under this legislation is a reasonable one. I have a very vivid recollection of what happened following the passage of similar legislation in 1914 when the conscription issue was dividing the people of Australia. One section of the people did not get justice as the result of the application of the provisions of the War Precautions Act. I know that to be true because I took part in the anticonscription campaign. Having had that experience, I realize the danger of allowing the Parliament to remain in recess for lengthy periods, thus denying the people’s representatives the opportunity to review whatever regulations are made. I am prepared to believe that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in his wisdom, will see the good that would accrue from keeping in touch with the people through their representatives during these difficult days. We want an assurance that that will be done. It is regrettable that we find ourselves to-day in a state of war j but we have to face realities, and as we expect the Government to live up to its responsibilities, so will the representatives Of the Labour movement in Parliament live up to theirs. Announcements have already been made by the Labour leaders in this Parliament that everything possible will be done to assist the Government in the enormous task ahead. In turn, when we submit amendments to this measure in committee, we shall expect Ministers in this chamber to give to them the consideration that they deserve. It is not necessary for the Labour party to join a national government in order to give the support it promised towards the bringing about of good government during this time of crisis. It is realized that, whereas the administration is carried on by the Government, it is essential that His Majesty’s Opposition, whether in the parliament of a self-governing dominion or in the Imperial Parliament, shall do its part in keeping the government up to its work and at the same time safeguard the interests of the civil population. I ask the Leader of the Senate to give an assurance that Parliament will be kept in touch with the work of the Government in connexion with’ whatever enactments are made by regulations promulgated under this legislation. The Government should have the advice of the representatives of the people in this Parliament because, after all. the ramifications of administration are very great. It has been pointed out to-night that regulations are not usually drafted by a single Minister. As a matter of fact, suggestions for the framing of regulations do not always come from Ministers but from departmental heads and experts who are employed for that purpose. We have a just claim in asking for consideration of the suggestions that we have made, insofar as the operation of this proposed legislation will affect the lives and liberty of the people of Australia. I shall reserve my further comments on the bill until the committee stage.
– Thishas been , a particularly interesting debate. I am pleased that, with one possible exception, Government supporters do not misjudge the stand taken by the Opposition. We have our ease, and we have tried to put it in a gentlemanly way. Issues of tremendous importance are involved in this measure. 1 1 arises out of the declaration of war, and one wonders, in the first place, what could have been done to prevent this war. I feel that, so far us we, and the Empire as a whole, are concerned, everything possible was done to preserve the peace. Unfortunately, because of the actions of the leader who controls over80,000,000 Germans and Czechs, this war whs forced upon us. The last war was undoubtedly fought for profits and trade. Germany was feared as a competitor by many of the nations which later fought on the allied side; it was crushed, and its recovery made difficult by the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles. The economy of the country was interfered with, and the standard of living of the German people was forced down. It was only with the advent of Hitler that hope of something better revived. He promised to lead them out of their difficulties, and they fell in behind him. He established a wonderful propaganda machine, the like of which had never been known before, and he persuaded the people of Germany to support him. He promised them new economic security. He told ihem that, when Germany’s colonies were returned, there would be raw material for the factories, employment would be found for everyone, and there would be general prosperity. Promises of that kind bound the people to him, and enabled him to become a dictator. Then, having been strengthened in his position, he started on his march to conquer the world. Now England and France, backed by Poland, have said to him, “ You will have to defeat us before you can continue your march “. That is the position to-day. Germany is facing France and Great Britain in a war that may be worse than the 1914-18 struggle. It is proposed in this Parliament that we should fight this dictator by methods which savour a good deal of his own. We are to set up a dictatorship here in order to defeat the dictatorship in Europe.I do notbelieve that democracy has failed to that extent. Surely it is not necessary, as soon as a crisis develops, to put aside our democratic institutions for the. time being, and set up a dictatorship. We do not object to the handing over of the power of Parliament to the Executive. We know that, in fact, the Executive exercises that power now. Whether we like it or not, we have to admit that the average private member of Parliament exercises very little influence on the government of the country. What we do take exception to is the proposal to delegate the power of the Executive to persons who are not responsible to Parliament, but who will have power to make regulations.
– The bill provides that by-laws and certain things of that kind may be made, but only within the powers* conferred by the regulations, and those regulations may be vetoed by Parliament.
– That is true, but our fear is that Parliament may not be called together frequently enough; that it may not be given the opportunity to exercise its power of veto within a time that will be of any practical use. I do not go so far as to suggest that Parliament may be called together only once a year, but it is probable that it will not be kept in session for any considerable time each year. I feel that this bill can be improved in many important respects. For instance, the clause providing that cases may be heard in closed courts is objectionable. Even the War Precautions Act did not contain a provision of that kind, and I cannot see why it is included in this measure.
– The Executive cannot; order that cases be heard m camera.
– No, but the judge can.
– He can do so now.
– 1 know, but that provision is designed for the benefit of first offenders who are entitled to have their cases heard in a closed court. The circumstances in which cases would be beard in cambra under this provision, however, would be entirely different. We are all very cool and collected now, and arc facing the future with hope, but as time goes on, and Germany, perhaps, gains some successes, while we find ourselves getting no nearer to victory, we shall probably become embittered. Popular feeling will rise against people in the community who bear German names. Jealous persons may inform against them, and a system of spying and denunciation may develop. We may have here something like the Gestapo in Germany, or the O.G.P.TJ. in Russia. I have no desire to come into conflict with the authorities when such feelings become aroused. I should like to feel that, because we benefited from our experience in the years between 1914 and 191.8, we are taking steps to avoid a repetition of what then occurred. This legislation is to remain in force for the duration of the war, and for six months thereafter, but the war might last for years. Surely there can be no objection to allowing Parliament to review the legislation at intervals of a year. If that were provided for, it would probably have the effect of imposing a check upon those who will have the drawing up of regulations under this measure. If they knew that their actions would be reviewed by Parliament at the end of twelve months, they would not be so inclined to abuse their authority.
In my opinion, it is proposed in this bill to confer too much power on the Executive. We should proceed more slowly. We should confer less power in the initial stages, and then, if it were found necessary, that power might be extended later. Democratic institutions should be first given a chance to handle the situation. We should not be in too great a hurry at the very outbreak of war to hand over our powers to the military authorities.
Sitting suspended from 12 midnight till 1 a.m.
– Senator Johnston referred to the War Precautions Act and the control exercised by the then Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes). The dictatorial manner in which the right honorable gentleman exercised the powers vested in him should make us doubly cautious when dealing with this bill. Honorable senators know that during the years from 1914 to 191S Mr. Hughes was virtually a dictator; only an internal revolution in his party removed him from his position of authority. Under the War Precautions Act, the right honorable gentleman sought to conscript the manhood of Australia before a referendum on the subject was taken. As Senator Sheehan pointed out, he sought to disfranchise those who did not answer the call-up in 1916. The experiences of those years are enough to convince me and my colleagues that we must be wary about granting powers of the kind sought in this bill. The Opposition has proved its case. The Government should heed ite representations and view sympathetically any amendments proposed by its member?.
Saturday. 9 September, 1939.
– I believe that this bill is necessary but I do not agree with some of its provisions, particularly those which seek to give unlimited powers to the Executive. The bill is based on section 51 of the Constitution which gives to the Commonwealth power to legislate for the naval and military defence of the Commonwealth and of the several States. That great constitutional authority, Sir Harrison Moore, once wrote -
In the caac of thu Commonwealth Parliament it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that tlie separation of powers was intended to establish legal limitations on the powers of tlie organs of government, and that the courts aru required to address themselves to the problem of defining the functions of those organs.
That means that the framers of the Constitution had in mind a limitation of the powers of each House of the Parliament when they advocated a bi-cameral system. One was to be the lower house, and the other the house of review. In this connexion it is interesting to quote the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) -
In Australia, then, even more than in England, any excessive bestowal of power on the Executive will be inconsistent with the spirit of the Constitution, if it does not actually violate the letter.
I shall cite instances to show what sometimes happens when people have the power to legislate by regulation^ Those in whom the power is vested are not always entirely to blame for what is done. Most of the abuse of the power to govern by regulation is the result of pressure by outside persons. For twelve years I have occupied an administrative position, and I know something of the influences that are brought to bear. During 1916 there was a big body of public opinion which urged the then Prime Minister to bring in conscription by regulation or executive action, instead of by a referendum of the people. “We must guard against a repetition of such things. If members of Parliament were left alone, I am sure that in their wisdom they would do a good job; but outsiders, with economic, social and financial interests to serve, bring pressure to bear, in an attempt to get things done in their way. As I have said, I believe that this bill is necessary, but I do not agree that the drastic provisions of clauses ‘ 5 -and 18 are justified. I do not believe in excessive powers being given to the Executive to govern by regulation. It is unnecessary, and, moreover, a violation of democratic powers, to give to the Executive the power to override by regulation an act of Parliament. I hope that we shall be able to amend the bill in committee to make it more acceptable to honorable senators on this side.
– I may be pardoned for asking what is the policy of the Labour party in regard to this bill. As a general rule the policy of a political party is declared by its leader. The speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) indicated that he was convinced that powers of the nature contained in this bill were necessary, but he thought that the operation of the measure should be restricted to one year. I thought that we were justified in believing that he had expressed the policy of the Labour party.
– There has been no departure from that stand.
– Since the Leader of the Opposition spoke, other members of that party have denounced the bill lock, stock and barrel, as being a subversion of civil liberties. In the circumstances, I may be forgiven for asking what is the policy of the Labour party in this matter.
– The honorable senator has stated it correctly. We are sticking to it.
– What about the solidarity of the Labour party, and the loyalty of its members to their leader?
– We are right behind our leader.
– I am not complaining.
– The speeches of honorable members opposite have disclosed considerable differences of opinion. This country is at war, and it will be necessary at times for quick action to be taken. I am afraid that honorable senators opposite have exaggerated some of the petty instances that happened during the” last Avar.
– Some of them were bad.
– I was in this Parliament during the previous war as a member of the House of Representatives, and now I am here again at the outbreak of another war. It is true that during. the previous conflict there were individual instances of young fellows assuming powers and authority that they did not possess; but, on the whole, the people of Australia were well satisfied with the conduct of affairs during that period. We must trust some one in times of stress. If wc believe in democracy, we must believe that the present Parliament was elected by a majority of people, and that the persons ‘chosen from among the elected representatives of the people to form a government are entitled to lead the people at this time.
– The Government was not elected by a. majority of the people; it is a. minority Government.
– A majority of the people declared against the Labour party’s policy. If we believe in democracy, we must believe that the Government represents the majority of the people and is entitled to our confidence.
– The Labour party received the votes of a majority of the people at the last election.
– The honorable senator is talking nonsense. The representation of parties in the House of Representatives shows that he is wrong.
– At. the last election only three Government candidates for the Senate were successful.
– The Labour party was lucky at the last election. Throughout Australia, there was a belief that three Labour senators to 33 Government members was not quite fair, and so the electors thought that they would send to the Senate a few more Labour senators to uphold the leader of the party. Unfortunately, the people were wrong, for instead of giving to the Leader of the Opposition a following which would uphold him in this chamber, they returned to the Senate men who differ from their leader in their attitude towards the most important legislation that has ever come before the Senate. The Leader of the Opposition declares one policy as that of his party, but a great many of his followers advocate a different policy.
– The honorable senator is quite wrong.
-I am not wrong. The Leader of the Opposition declared that the power? sought by this bill are necessary in a time of war.
– The same old misrepresentation !
– Many other members of the party, including Senator Sheehan, have opposed the bill, lock, stock and barrel. If I were the leader of a party whose members opposed the policy that I had proclaimed, I should be greatly annoyed.
– Why not deal with the bill?
– I am inclined m doubt that the Opposition hasa policy in. regard to this bill, for its member? speak with two voices.
– With sixteen voices.
– The Prime Minister lias appealed for a united people, but the honorable, senator imputes motives to the representatives of80 per cent. of the people.
– If the honorable senator thinks that he represents 80 per cent, of the people, he must be full of conceit.
– We are rather proud of our sixteen members. Before the hist election there were only three of us.
– That may be, but before the accession of strength, there was greater unanimity among the members of the Opposition.
– We are united now in disagreeing with the honorable senator.
– Surely in a time of war like this honorable senators who have said that they would co-operate with the Government in providing for the safety of Australia and of the Empire, should be able to give more than lip service. Their promise of help should be properly fulfilled. If the ‘Government, is to act promptly and effectively in its war organization, it must have complete power. Honorable senators opposite have urged that authority should be provided to deal with profiteers and also to permit price-fixing and the like. ‘They have clamoured for this for years, and now that the Government is seeking power to do the very things that they desire to have done, they are denouncing if from the housetops. In such circumstances we are justified in questioning tlieir sincerity. Personally, 1 am puzzled to know exactly what their policy is. I begin to doubt whether they have a policy. The power which the Government is now seeking was provided by Parliament for a Labour government in 1914, and I can see no reason why it should not be provided for the present Government. If honorable senators opposite really intend to stand behind the Government they should alter their tactics. Without power of the kind now being sought, the Government would be hamstrung and hobbled in its endeavours to enable Australia to exercise the greatest possible force in this war. If the word “”’ consistency “ means anything to honorable senators opposite, they should withdraw their opposition to the bill. They have asked that the operation of the measure should be limited to a period of twelve months. There may be some reason in that request, but that is no justification for delaying the passage of the bill. We can deal with that point when we reach the appropriate clause at the committee stage. The adequate protection of the civilian population of this country demands action of the kind now being taken, and I urge honorable senators opposite to fulfil their promise to stand behind the Government and the Empire in this grave struggle. It seems to me that some of them do not wish wholeheartedly to support the promises that have been made on behalf of their party. As these powers are absolutely essential to the successful prosecution of the war, the hill should be carried on the voices as was a similar measure in the British Parliament.
Declaration of Urgency.
– I declare the bill an urgent bill.
Question put -
This the bill be considered an urgent bill.
The Senate divided. ( The President - Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes.)
Majority . . . . 2
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Allotment of Time.
Motion (iby Senator McLeay) proposed -
That the time allotted in connexion with the consideration of the bill up to the end of the committee stage be until 2.30 a.m. this day.
– I am surprised that the Government has taken this action, but as it is in charge of the business, I do not object. It must accept the responsibility for its actions. Obviously, honorable gentlemen opposite cannot stand a test. Something was said by Senator Leckie a few minutes ago about the loyalty of the members of this party. Every member of the Opposition is in the chamber except one honorable senator who is paired with Senator Grant, who is absent on account of illness. It cannot be said that all of the Government supporters are in their places. One of them is absent and has not even applied for a pair. He is away on hisown business and is apparently not concerned about his parliamentary duties. The Government has shown that it is unable to stand reasonable criticism, and that its supporters cannot contemplate with equanimity an all-night sitting. Honorable senators of the Labour party, however, are as fresh as paint, and are prepared to stay here not only through this day, but even over the Sabbath if that should be necessary, in order that adequate consideration may be given to public business. Government supporters will not be able to escape the consequences of their actions in this regard. Although chey have shown that they are incapable of continuing to do the business of the country all night, we are prepared to go on indefinitely. We resent the sneers that have been uttered concerning our loyalty. Honorable gentlemen opposite need make no mistake about our readiness to attend to the business in this chamber, and also to carry on the business of the country, in peace or war, when we are required to do so, even though we are not willing to join in the formation of a national government. I suspect that the Leader of ‘ the Government (Senator McLeay) wants to get away as soon as possible so that his party may quietly consider which of his colleagues must be sacrificed in order to permit a composite government to be formed next week. No doubt he desires to get the best, terms possible, although he realizes that he must placate the job-hunters of another party. However, that is his concern, and I am happy about it. T am sure that at least one staff of the Parliament will be glad to know that at 2.30 o’clock they will be able to go home to bed, after having been constantly in their places for 24 hours.
– We shall all be glad to do so.
– The Labour party is prepared to continue to discharge the business of the country.
– I join in the protest made by my leader at the action of the Government in curtailing this debate. Most honorable senators opposite have spoken and nearly all of my colleagues have also expressed their views. It is regrettable, therefore, that the two or three who still desire to speak on this important bill should have been denied the opportunity to do so.
– They will still have an hour available to them.
– Only another hour for the completion of both the second-reading debate and the committee stage of the bill. That is altogether too short a time in which to consider satisfactorily the many details of the measure that still require attention. I regret that the Government has adopted this attitude, particularly as one of the senior members opposite has seen fit, in the speech which he has just delivered, to make certain accusations against the members of the Labour party. The Government should have shown a little more consideration for us.
– I also am surprised that ihe Government should have applied the gag on this occasion, especially after assurances had been given to us that full opportunity would be afforded to consider all the important legislation introduced during this national crisis. Senator Leckie has questioned the loyalty of members of this party.
– I rise to a point of order. Is not the honorable senator required to confine his remarks to the motion ?
– Yes, he must debate the motion before the Chair. He has ten minutes in which to make his speech.
– He is only wasting time now; let us be practical.
– I have been denied an opportunity to express my views on the bill. Until 2.30 a.m. is too short a space of time to consider this measure, because there is one amendment that we desire to move which has barely been touched upon. The gag contrasts strangely with the assurance given by the Leader of the Government that the Senate will be given full opportunity to consider important legislation in this emergency.
– It is significant that the Government supporter who takes only second place as a vilifier of the Opposition had sat down and Senator Aylett had risen when the gag was moved. The Government has displayed ineptitude in handling this situation. The Senate should have sat this morning to consider this legislation. Ever t since Tuesday we have been here discussing a White Paper, the context of which was published in the newspapers and broadcast so that I was able to hear it last Monday at Nyngan, 300 miles from Sydney. Restriction of discussion is not calculated to entice the Opposition to think much of the Government’s offer of co-operation.
– I hope that the Government will not persist with this motion, because it is a bad start if the Government desires really to achieve team-work. The House of Representatives sat until8.30 a.m., in order to complete this bill; until 2.30 a.m. is not sufficiently long a period to enable the second-reading to be completed, let alone the discussion of nineteen clauses. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) has intimated that he will move one amendment, but there arc other objectionable clauses which we desire to discuss in full. We have all of to-day before its. At least we could sit until 4 or 5a.m.
– When we came here this week the Government indicated to use that we should he prepared to sit on Saturday morning, and accordingly we acquainted our families with the fact that we should be here for the week-end. Apparently what the Government had in mind was 2.30 a.m. on Saturday. This ruthless application of the guillotine is a forerunner of the ruthlessness which will be employed’ in the administration of this legislation. We members of the Opposition will make it known to the people that by weight of numbers we were forced to pass this far-reaching legislation without adequate consideration.
– The action of the Government is an indication of what we may expect in the future. The Government, is prepared, to act just as ruthlessly or more ruthlessly in the future if its policy is challenged. I had the idea that that was behind the talk about co-operation - co-operation on the Government’s terms, co-operation if we are all “yes ‘‘-men. This is fake legislation, window-dressing legislation, make-believe legislation, legislation that is designed to save the face of the Government and make it appear that it is doing a great deal more than it intends to do. A few hours more makes not the slightest difference to the Government. There is no urgency ; at least no reasons of urgency have been given. This is the sort of thing that we can expect from glorified mediocrities and political accidents who attribute to others the traits that they themselves possess. This is their idea of meeting argument, fact for fact; their idea, of thrashing out to the limit vital problems. It is the Government’s responsibility and it will have to put up with the consequences, but we will not be intimated by action of this kind. Our resistance to the ulterior motives intended in this legislation will be strengthened rather than weakened by the cowardly action that has been taken to-night.
– I move -
That the figures “ 2.30 “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the figure “5”.
I believe that honorable senators will not be disposed to pass such a sweeping piece of legislation as this with such expedition as is intended in the motion. Having regard to the utterances of honorable senators during the second reading, it is natural that they should desire ample time to discuss the clauses in committee. It is now nearly 1.45 a.m. and we are asking for only three and a quarter hours to dispose of this measure in committee. I feel that the Leader of the Senate (Senator McLeay) will accept this amendment.
Question put -
That the figures urouosed to be left out (Senator Cunningham’s amendment) he left out.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. T. B. Hayes.)
Majority . . . . 1
Question so resolved in the negative.
Question put -
That the motion (Senator McLeay’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 -
Subject to this section, the GovernorGeneral may make regulations for securing the public safety and the defence of the Commonwealth and the Territories of the Commonwealth, and in particular -
for authorizing -
i ) the taking of possession or control on behalf of the Commonwealth, of any property or undertaking;
for applying to naturalized persons with or without modifications, all or any of the provisions of any regulations relating to aliens;
– Will the Minister in charge of the bill explain why the inclusion of paragraph / of sub-section 1 is considered necessary? There are many desirable naturalized persons, and I do not think that this clause should apply to them unless they have been convicted of an offence.
– If this provision were not inserted, a naturalized person might abuse his privileges and shelter behind his naturalization certificate. The fact that he is a naturalized person should” not enable him to be treated differently from an alien who has not been naturalized.
– Would paragraph b(1) of subclause 1 enable the Government to take over an organization such as the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, or to assume control of the banking system ?
– This provision would give the Government power to acquire or take over the control of any organization or undertaking, if it were considered necessary to do so for the successful prosecution of the war.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 6 to 16 agreed to.
Clause 17 (delegation of powers under regulations).
– Is it the intention of the Government to delegate any of these powers to State Ministers or State officials, or will the powers he conferred only upon Commonwealth officers in the various States?
– Powers will be delegated to persons such as those mentioned by the honorable senator, and they will have authority to make regulations under this statute. A similar provision is contained in the Seat of Government Administration Act. It will be obvious to honorable senators that various kinds of boards, councils and committees will be appointed, and it will be necessary for these authorities to make regulations to enable them to carry out the various responsible duties allotted to them.
Clause agreed to.
Clause18 (Effect of regulations, &c.).
– This clause reads -
A regulation made under this act shall, subject to the Acts Interpretation Act 1901-1937, have effect notwithstanding anything inconsistent therewith contained in any enactment other than this act or in any instrument having effect by virtue of any enactment other than this act.
Does the clause mean that notwithstanding anything contained in other statutes this provision shall prevail?
– It over-rides all other acts.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 19 -
This act shall continue in operation during the present state of war and for a period of six months thereafter, and no longer.
– I hope that the fact that we have allowed all of the other clauses to pass practically without debate shall not be taken as an indication of our approval. The imposition of a time limit has deprived us of any opportunity to debate them, so we propose to devote the short period at our disposal to this provision. Obviously the Government does not intend to give Parliament an opportunity to express its disapproval of anything it does except as rarely as is possible. The preceding clause gives the Government power to abrogate any other law ever passed by this Parliament. We want to be quite sure that within a reasonable time we should have an opportunity to voice our approval or disapproval of the Government’s administration of the wide powers which this hill confers upon it. I move -
That the words “ during the present state of war and for a period of six months thereafter.” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ for theperiod of one year “.
Parliament should not go into recess for longer than three months, although in the present circumstances I consider that it should remain in session even if it were necessary to meet only two days a week. We are not unmindful of the fact that as the taxpayers provide our salaries, we should have an opportunity to earn them. Ifmy amendment he carried this legislation will operate for one year and no longer. That would not necessarily mean that the bill would cease to operate twelve months hence, because if Parliament were not in session when the act expired it could be summoned earlier and the period extended.
– It is quite obvious that the Government cannot accept this amendment. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) is aware that various boards and committees are to be appointed, and no one can foresee what the position will be twelve months after this measure becomes law. For instance, a price-fixing committee is to be appointed, and boards are also to be established for handling primary produce and other commodities as well as to dealwith aliens and others. If this amendment were carried the legislation would automatically cease to operate twelve months hence.
– The period could be extended by Parliament.
SenatorFOLL. - If that were done the whole subject would again be open for discussion. As a result of the activities of the organizations handling primary produce, possibly millions of pounds will come to this country. It might be impracticahle to summon Parliament before the legislation expired. The acceptance of the amendment would destroy the value of the legislation. Wide powers are to be entrusted to the Executive in order to conduct war operations in the most efficient manner possible, and these should not be withdrawn in the way suggested. I really doubt the sincerity of the Leader of the Opposition in this matter. I ask the committee to reject the amendment.
– Isupport the amendment submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings). The objections advanced by the Minister (Senator Foll) were not convincing. Having regard to the wide powers conferred upon the Government by this bill, the amendment is essentially fair. The fact that wo have not had an opportunity to discuss the measure fully in the committee stage is an additional reason why the Parliament should be given the chance to review the act and the regulations made under it at least once every six months. If the Government is not afraid of criticism of the regulations that may be made under the act it should give to Parliament the opportunity to review this legislation at regular intervals. The Minister suggested that we might find ourselves in such difficult circumstances that it might not be possible to summon the Parliament. That is a very lame excuse, because no matter how grave the situation a quorum of the Parliament at some place in Australia would always be possible. To-night we had an illustration of the ruthless methods which some Ministers are prepared to adopt in order to gain their own ends. Similar methods would no doubt be used in connexion with regulations made under this measure. The amendment would enable Parliament to obtain some information regarding action taken under the act. Ministers have been pleading for the ‘ co-operation of the Opposition and have made speeches against dictatorships, but to-night they employed the very methods which they condemn in dictators. They are using the guillotine to force this bill through committee. There will be no check on regulations made under this legislation. Rules and regulations will be turned out by the thousand, and they will have the force of law without any consideration having been given to them by Parliament. The Government may keep Parliament in recess for months on end ; it is bound only by the constitutional provision that Parliament shall meet at least once in every twelve months. Up to the present time the Government has not dared to close Parliament for twelve months, but it may pluck up sufficient courage to do so in the near future and rule the people by regulations.
– I listened to the explanation tendered by the Minister, and 1 am not convinced that there is anything wrong with the amendment. This bill must be administered 100 per cent, if it is to be effective. Parliament should have an opportunity to survey the working of the act at regular intervals. I do noi agree with the Minister that there may be a risk of the act being invalidated after the expiration of one year if the amendment be carried, because the Government would naturally see that the Parliament was summoned in sufficient time to extend the act. As three or four honorable senators said during the second-reading debate, the lack of opportunity to review the legislation is its main defect. The Minister knows, despite what Senator Leckie said to-day, that the Government has had the support of the Opposition on the principle of the bill. This is an extremely important clause and the Government should be prepared to meet the wishes of the Opposition. The grant of power to the Government under this bill is probably uneexampled in the history of Australia. It goes much further than the legislation which operated from 1914-18. Because of the application of the guillotine to-night, we have not had a chance to discuss many clauses of the bill in committee.
– I point to a serious defect in the amendment. We all hope that the war will be of short duration. Should our hope be justified and the conflict terminate in two or three months, this legislation, if the amendment were carried, would have to remain in operation for nine months after the conclusion of hostilities. I am sure that that is not the intention of the Leader of the Opposition. Probably he and his colleagues would object to this measure being in operation for any length of time after the end of the war, but he now proposes to insert a provision that would make it possible for the act to continue for six, nine or ten months after the cessation of hostilities. I shall oppose the amendment.
– Senator Foll has said that we should face the facts. The facts, as I see them, are that this bill is designed primarily in the interests of the moneyed classes of Australia. All legislation similar to this has been designed for the same purpose - the protection, as far as possible, when an anti-labour government is in power, of the finance capitalists in this country. That is why the Government objects to the amendment which asks that the act be reviewed at the end of twelve months. If the Government is confident that the results will justify the passing of the measure, it should have no hesitation in accepting the amendment. Objection to it is based upon a fear of the consequences arising from the administration of the act.
– There is not a great deal of time left in which to discuss this clause, but it is desirable that I should place on record the fact that the whole of the discussion on the second reading occupied a total of five hours and 28 minutes. The eleven members of the Opposition who spoke occupied three hours and two minutes, and six Government speakers occupied two hours and 26 minutes. Therefore no charge can be made against the Opposition of endeavouring to obstruct the passage of the bill. All speeches were commendably brief. We desired to analyse the measure in the committee stage, hut were prevented from doing so by the application of the guillotine. The proposal to curtail the period of duration of the act is essential. It is apparent from the remarks of some Government supporters, that they have not studied the bill, and are not conversant with the great power that is to be entrusted to the Executive. “What happened to-night will not enhance the reputation of the Senate. I know of. no legislative chamber in the British Empire that has occupied less time in discussing the business of the country. This Senate, under the control of successive nationalist tory governments, has become a by-word. The Government’s action to-night is of the kind that leads to fascism and all that it means.
– The time allotted for the committee stage has expired.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Collings’ amendment) be left out.
The committee divided. (The Ohairman - -Sejsator James McLachan.)
Majority . . . . 3
Question so resolved in the negative.
Question put -
That clause 19 and the title be agreed to and that the bill be reported without amendment.
The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator James McLachlan.)
Majority . . . . 3
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill reported without amendment.
Motion (by Senator Foll-) propose -
That the report be adapted.
, - In view of theextra ordinary importance of this measure I urge the. Government to give very serious consideration to every aspect of its administratis. The Government has repeatedly asked for tttie fullest co-operation on the part of the Opposition in the crisis ahead, and I am sure, that it recognizes that it will receive that co-operation. If Australia is to- ibe enabled . to do its best in the present crisis, the Government will require not only the co-operation of the Opposition but also the support of every man and woman in this country, and if it approaches its task in the right spirit I have no doubt that that co-operation and support mil be forthcoming. I again emphasize the necessity for keeping Parliament in session as much as possible in order to reassure the people that no methods wilt be adapted of which they would nos approve.
– I assure the honorablesenator that the Government intends’ to act exactly in the way he suggests. It has no intention whatever to keep Parliament in recess for any lengthy period, or to ignore Parliament in any way. However, it will be impossible to keep Parliament in session continuously, as has been suggested by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings). The Government recognises its duty to Parliament. In any case Parliament must be called together to grant Supply, and to deal with other essential financial measures. I express the Government’s appreciation of the offer of support voiced by the honorable senator, and again assure him that this legislation will be administered in the spirit which he has recommended.
Question resolved in the affirmative; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Foll,) read a third time.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till Tuesday next, at 3 p.m.
Senator McLEAY (South Australia
Minister for Commerce) [2.44 a.m.].- I move -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Motion (by Senator Foll) put -
That the question he now put.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the
Hon J. B. Hayes.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.’
The following papers were pre sented : -
Commonwealth. Conciliation and Arbitration Act - Regulati wis amended - Statutory Rules 1939, No. 63,
Commonwealth Grants Commission Act - Sixth Report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, dated 4th September, 1939-, on the Applications made by the States of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania, for Financial Assistance in 1939-40 from the Commonwealth under Section 96 of the Constitution.
Customs Act and Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1939, No. 81.
Dairy Produce Export Charges Act - Regu7 lationg amended - Statutory Rules 1939, No. 80.
Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1939, No. 79.
Customs Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1939, No.78.
Accountancy Advisory Panel appointed pursuant to Section 8 of the Supply and Development Act- First report, dated September. 1939.
Sena te adjourned at 2.48 a.m. (Saturday.)
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 8 September 1939, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1939/19390908_senate_15_161/>.