17th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I have received from Mrs. H. J. M. Payne a letter of thanks and appreciation for the resolution of sympathy and condolence passed by the Senate on the occasion of the death of the late ex-Senator Herbert James Mookford Payne.
– I have received from the family of the late ex-Senator Arthur Rae a letter of thanks and appreciation for the resolution of sympathy and condolence passed by the Senate on the occasion of the ex-senator’s death.
– On the 17th March, Senator Gibson directed a question, without notice, to’ the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, concerning the system of licensing wheat-farms. I have received information from the Minister to the effect that it is not intended to alter the existing system of registration of wheatfarms and licensing of growers. The regulations provide that temporary registration maybe granted, and this provision has been used to obtain additional areas in districts where war-time needs make it desirable. As regards the licensing of wheat land which is not entitled to registration, it is not intended to grant licences except for registered wheatfarms.
press Statement by PostmasterGeneral.
– Has the Postmaster-General read the following report in Saturday’s issue of the Sydney Daily Telegraph?
” QUISLINGS “ ATTACKED IN SENATE.
Canberra, Friday. - Some Australians were prepared to surrender Australian territory, the Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley) said in the Senate to-day.
He was replying for the Government to criticism by Opposition senators to the signing of the Australian-New Zealand Agreement early this year. “ Such men are ‘ quislings ‘’, he continued.
Does that report express the views of the Government? If not, does the PostmasterGeneral intend to correct it?
– I am not responsible for reports in the press, but the statement referred to is a fairly accurate report of what I said. I have before me an exact report of my statement, which was as follows : -
Unfortunately, there area few persons in Australia who are prepared to surrender Australian territory, despite the appalling sacrifice and suffering of our servicemen. Such menarepotential quislings at a time of national crisis.They cry “ stinking fish “ to everything Australia does in the interestsof Australia. When the Government got aid from the United States they called it antiBritish. When the Government protects Australia’s vital interestsin the South- West Pacific they call it anti-American.
My statement was merely a generalization. I do not know what the honorable senator implies by his question, but I did not refer to him. I think that he will agree that no exception can be taken to my remarks.
supply and Distribution.
asked the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
In carrying out the provisions of the Liquid Fuel Regulations, will the Minister inform the Senate whether the activities of the major oilcompanies supplying the distributors are properly and adequately policed?
SenatorFRASER. - The Minister acting for the Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following answer : -
Yes. I am informed that the activities of the major oil companies are under constant and adequate supervision by the Liquid Fuel Control Board to ensure full compliance with the Liquid Fuel Regulations. However,I shall look carefully into the matter.
asked the Leader of the Senate, upon notice -
SenatorKEANE. - The replies to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
– On the 17th March, Senator Herbert Hays addressed a question to me, without notice, referring to the carriage of second-class mail matter to and from Tasmania. I have inquired into this matter, and am able toadvise the honorable senator that the withdrawal for overhaul of the steamship Nairana, the vessel regularly employed on the Bass Strait mail service, has led to some delay in the transmission of second-class and parcel mails between the mainland and Tasmania. The department has, however, utilized every available vessel for the purpose. The question of whether additional shipping facilities can be provided has been discussed with the authorities concerned, but it is regretted that the circumstances preclude the provision of any further shipping on this route. It is anticipated that Nairana will resume her normal running early in April.
Debate resumed from the 17th March (vide page 1526), on motion by Senator Ashley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Commonwealth Constitution - the statute which covers the administrative and legislative ambit of the Commonwealth Parliament - is the basic possession of the people. It is well, and correct, therefore, that the people themselves should have the right to reject or approve any alteration, diminution or extension of the powers which it contains. Any proposal to alter the Constitution of our country raises to the highest possible degree the responsibility of those who have to make the decision. Under the Imperial Act which constitutes the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia, provision is made for its subsequent alteration and, in the present instance, we, the members of the Commonwealth Parliament, have to consider the passing of a bill to provide the electors of Australia with an opportunity to express their opinion on the proposals. Our responsibility is immense, but it is by no means final; that prerogative belongs to the people. We owe it to the electors that sound and complete consideration be given to any proposals which have as their objective the alteration of the country’s Constitution. Let us, therefore, approach this vital measure with all the wisdom, courage, and desire to serve the people, that we can individually and collectively display. At the outset it will, I am sure, be of assistance in this debate if we recapitulate, briefly, the events leading up to the present bill. On the 1st October, 1942, the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) introduced . into the Parliament a bill to provide for alterations of the Constitution, to enable the Commonwealth Parliament, so he said, to make laws for the purpose of carrying into effect the war aims and objects of the United Nations, and for the purpose of post-war reconstruction generally. That bill passed only the first-reading stage in the House of Representatives, as the Government later decided to convene a convention consisting of representatives of all States, both Government and Opposition, and representatives of each side of this Parliament. That Convention met on the 24th November in the same year, and the first surprise we received was the withdrawal of the bill to which I have just referred, and its replacement by a completely different measure. Without going over the same ground too much, it is sufficient for me to recall to honorable senators that the Convention ultimately rejected the second proposal made by the Attorney-General and then agreed on the appointment of a committee consisting of the six State Premiers, the AttorneyGeneral, and the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes). That committee, after sitting for some days, presented to the Convention a draft bill which it recommended should be referred to the respective State Parliaments for implementation. As the Convention had already agreed that a referendum in war-time was not desirable, and that the States should be asked to transfer certain powers under placitum (xxxvii.) of section 51 of the Constitution, it was obviously desirable that some indication should be given to the State Parliaments as to the powers the Commonwealth considered necessary for its purpose. The Convention committee was the outcome, and the draft bill presented by it was the fruit of its deliberations. When the draft bill was before the Convention I -took the opportunity to point out that the Convention, having agreed to resort to transference of powers by the States in preference to a war-time referendum, and the committee, consisting of the leaders of the respective State Governments, having consented to certain conditions, there was no purpose in the Convention, as a ‘Convention, considering the ‘State’s proposals. On page 166 of the record of proceedings of that Convention will be found the following statement by me : -
I wish to record my opposition to approval of the bill by the Convention. I approve of the bill being submitted to the State parliaments. I do not approve of it as a member of the Convention.
That is followed, in the next line by the statement -
Motion agreed to, Senator McLeay dissenting.
Other speakers, from Western Australia and Tasmania, spoke against the proposals in the bill, although their names are not recorded as showing their dissent. I was not prepared, as a member of the Convention, to give the hall mark of quality or approval to the draft bill as submitted. I thought then, as I still- do, that immediately the drafting committee had agreed upon the form of the bill, it became a matter for the respective State parliaments to decide. I make no apologies for my attitude at the Convention. The substance of my address to the delegates is summed up and appears on page 155 as follows: -
Since then, the Commonwealth has appointed a Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, but that is about all that has been done. As I pointed out at the Convention, surely it is not asking too much of the Government that it should first indicate the plan which it has in mind for post-war reconstruction. On the basis of that plan, the people, I am convinced, would be prepared to consider dispassionately the alterations of the Constitution which might then prove necessary. The Government is, in effect, asking that we provide a complete set of harness, but has not yet indicated the breed, type or size of the horse which will carry the harness.
Dealing now with the draft bill submitted to the Convention, it is unnecessary, I think, to itemize the final decisions of the State parliaments in respect to the powers to be transferred. Suffice it to say that each State parliament, with the exception of Tasmania, passed the bill, some with, and others without, modification. It was proved, therefore, that the people of those States, through their elected representatives, were not prepared to transfer “ holus bolus “ te the Commonwealth Parliament the powers asked for. They were, however, as their respective legislative acts signified, willing to transfer certain of those powers. The objections voiced in the State Parliaments to the complete reference of powers to the Commonwealth Parliament indicated a distinct unwillingness on the part of the States to allow a greater degree of centralization of power in Canberra than exists to-day. This Government having decided upon a referendum, it behoves us to consider carefully the implications behind the proposed alterations, and, at the same time, the necessity, or otherwise, of such alterations. We, as members of the Senate, must approach this measure, bearing in mind not only our individual responsibilities but also our more important function as men chosen to represent the States. Our bicameral system of Parliament provides the respective States of the Commonwealth with equal representation in the Senate, and with this a consequent protection of the principles of federation. Therefore, it is not asking too much, despite the rigidity of caucus control in the Labour party, that all honorable senators approach this debate as guardians of the States House, find with the desire to preserve the rights of the States which sent them to this Parliament.
Let us consider for a moment the present powers of the Commonwealth Parliament. First, I emphasize that it is not my desire to enter into a legal disputation in the matter. That can well be left to the learned’ members of the legal profession. However, I feel that it is of value to honorable senators to give some attention to views which have been expressed by those competent to do so. For instance, there is the case repeatedly quoted in the past few years and commonly referred to as the Balding case. In that case, the High Court gave a ruling which has a distinct bearing on the powers of the Commonwealth Parliament in relation to post-war action. I quote the High Court’s ruling on that occasion, C.L.E., 27, page 398 the following appears : -
In our opinion the Commonwealth Parliament had power under section 51 (VI.) of the Constitution (the defence power) to enact this provision. It is a provision for the reestablishment in civil life of persons who have served in the defence forces of the Commonwealth when they are discharged from such service. That is a matter so intimately connected with the defence of the Commonwealth as manifestly to be included within the scope nf the power.
Other well-known legal authorities have time and time again averred that just as the Commonwealth Parliament has power under the defence provisions to convert civilians into soldiers and to convert a country at peace to a country at war, so obviously must the reverse process be within the competence of the Commonwealth Parliament. Any suggestion by lukewarm supporters of that view that such powers are limited must surely apply with equal force to this Government’s limitation of the .present proposed alterations to a fixed period of five years after the present war ends. The Government asserts, among other things, that under the Commonwealth’s existing powers, ‘it is not able effectively to handle the job ahead of this nation. It has said that without increased powers the Commonwealth Parliament cannot legislate for the welfare of those who have been members of the fighting services, or the dependants of those members who have died or been disabled as a consequence of the war.
We have on the statute-book at present the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act and the War Service Homes Act, and there has been no suggestion that the Commonwealth does not possess -the power which it has already exercised under those acts. There is little doubt in my mind that the Government is attempting to play with words, at which sport, incidentally, it has proved itself a past master. Any attempt by it to cloud the other issues involved in these proposed amendments by appealing to the sensitivity of the people in regard to such matters as the welfare of our fighting men and their dependants, is nothing short of political chicanery. With the very laudable sentiments contained in proposed new section 60a (1) (i) of the bill, the Government hopes to fool all the people into accepting the whole of its referendum proposals on the basis of the naturally sympathetic interest every one will have in relation to our fighting forces on their return to civil life. If any legal doubt exists as to whether the Commonwealth Parliament has the power to legislate in this connexion, I agree that it should .be put beyond doubt; and I am in favour of this being done. What I do object to is the Government’s attempt to cloud the issue in relation to the other proposals with an issue which is naturally very popular politically.
We find again that the Commonwealth Parliament actually possesses much more power than is generally conceded. For instance, we have the fairly recent action of this Parliament in relation to the imposition of a uniform income tax. That power of the Commonwealth Parliament was exercised under the authority of the taxation provision in the Constitution and not, as is so often suggested, under the defence power of the ‘Commonwealth. To my mind, arid I speak with some knowledge of Cabinet administration, it appears that a Parliament possessing control over the’ nation’s pursestrings can surely recognize the degree of its authority in regard to other legislation affecting the States.
On the 22nd October, 1936, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), who was then Leader of the Opposition, when speaking during the debate on the Constitution Alteration (Marketing) Bill, said -
What we need is a general review of the Constitution in the light of the experience of the last 35 years and having regard to the changed character of the world and Australia and the probable developments of the next twenty years . . .
I am quite positive that after the years of controversy surrounding the Commonwealth’s constitutional powers there is now a keen realization that the time has arrived for our Constitution to be overhauled comprehensively and not to bc dealt with in a purely sectional way . . .
Those are the words of our presentday Prime Minister. Yet this bill, purporting to secure the consent of the people to alter the Constitution along certain lines, clearly shows, to those who have studied the details, that the proposed alterations are nothing more than a desire to pave the way for -the implementation of the Labour party’s policy, under a smoke-screen of sentimental appeal on behalf of our fighting men. At the risk of repeating myself, I wish to add my quota of opposition to that section of our community which maintains that the Constitution as in existence to-day should remain for ever unaltered. Members of the Convention of over 40 years ago did a magnificent job, and the wisdom of their work has been proved over the years. They realized, however, that changing conditions might one day present a set, or sets, of circumstances which could not be handled with effectiveness under the limitations imposed. I have said on rn.imer.ous occasions that there is room for improvement, but the nature of the improvements and the time when they shall be considered, are important features of the proposals in respect of which the Government and the Opposition do not see eye to eye. Consideration of amendments to our Constitution, which has stood impregnable for so long, is not a question in which the Attorney-General, the Government, the Opposition, or politicians alone should have all the say. I am strongly in favour of a convention representative of all sections - the consumer, the worker, the producer, the housewife, the commercial, business and professional man, and political parties. Such a body could, with, careful consideration, arrive at a basis whereby specific proposals could be presented in such a way that the people would unhesitatingly approve, and success would be assured in our common desire to improve the Constitution. The less populous States in particular are. as we well know, disinclined, to additional powers being granted to the Commonwealth
Parliament. In considering their attitude, we must surely have regard to the immense area of our island continent. The centralization of control in Canberra, despite any protestations to tin.effect that the delegation of power is in operation, clearly militates against efficient administration in many instances. Some parts i of Australia are situated over 2,500 miles from the national capital, and times without number sections of the people are told that decisions on this or that matter cannot be made until instructions are received from Canberra, or until the particular subject in which they are interested has been referred to head-quarters at Canberra for advice. Take, for instance, the position with reference to the administration of the Department of Trade and Customs in the various States. “We have in each State Sub-Collectors of Customs who are the deputies for the ComptrollerGeneral of Customs in their respective spheres, yet on numerous occasions business men, importers and others are held up in their work of serving the public by the lack of authority possessed by those on the spot. If assurances could be given that the delegation of powers to the officers resident in the respective States would be enlarged, we might feel happier about the position, but I am afraid that experience has not encouraged us to hope for much in that direction. Take again the administration of the Lands Departments in the various States. The officers in the State Public Services have particular knowledge of local conditions governing all aspects of the .position, and are consequently in a much more favorable position to make decisions. “Under centralized control from Canberra, the humbugging at present experienced by many of our people would be accentuated. The geographical disadvantages, too, provide a considerable dissimilarity in the conditions affecting different parts of Australia. Climate, production and rainfall in the States as far apart as Queensland and “Western Australia make it almost impossible for uniform conditions to be applied.
The terms of the bill suggest, naturally, the form in which the question will be put on the ballot-papers handed to the people. .Lt is this aspect of the measure which leaves me no option but to advocate the complete rejection of the Government’s request for extra powers. The complete list of additional powers which the Government is asking for will be presented under one question : “ Are you in favour of the addition of these powers to, those already in the Constitution ? “ To that the answer must be “ Yes “ or “ Ho “ - there is no middle course. Honorable senators on this side of the Senate would, no doubt, be quite prepared, and I might venture anxious, to see that certain of the powers were added to our Constitution, but when the acceptance- of those which we consider desirable is made conditional on the acceptance of those which wedeem it dangerous to grant, then, as I. have said, we have no option but tothrow the lot overboard. Many honorable senators on this side of the Senate, for instance, actively campaigned in the. last referenda in favour of “ Yes “ vote in relation to the granting of power to the Commonwealth to deal with “ Air Transport “. Now we find that the electors are being asked once again to consider granting that power to the Commonwealth Parliament, but, because of its inclusion as one of many items, we find ourselves unable to advocate it. The very vagueness, too, of certain of the provisions and proposed powers make it exceptionally dangerous and difficult to agree with. For instance, I once again refer to “ Air Transport “. In this connexion I should be quite happy to support that additional power if assurances could be given that such power referred only to control, and not to State ownership of our transport services. Paragraph (vii) of the proposals has relation to primary production as part of a general application to production and distribution of goods. The wording of this paragraph leaves me no option but to oppose it. As my opponents at the last referendum will recall, I was a strong advocate, as I still am, of orderly marketing. This proposed additional power, however, goes far beyond what I should be prepared to grant. In regard to the marketing question, if the power were limited to those primary productions in which we have an exportable surplus, I should be happy to advocate its adoption, but once again the grouping of all proposed additional powers under one heading prevents me from agreeing to those to which it would otherwise be possible to give support.
The actions of the present Labour Government, and its record ever since its assumption of office, encourage one to believe that, despite hurried protestations to the contrary, the evil dragon of socialization will soon not only raise its head over the industrial horizon, but also will be in full view of an alarmed people. We are asked to agree to the insertion into the Constitution of power to enable the Parliament to legislate for the peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to employment and unemployment. What is meant by that? Surely when it is a matter of putting into a statute, such as the Constitution, a section dealing with questions of this magnitude, we should ensure that the welfare of the people as a whole is well safeguarded. That this has not been done is clearly evident. The interpretations put on the words “ employment, and unemployment”, in relation to constitutional power, are various, but there can be no doubt that into them can be read, with real simplicity, the power to control every angle of the daily lives of all the people of this country. With the right to legislate in respect of “ employment and unemployment “ the Commonwealth, if it so desired, and with the present labour union controls it is more than a mere likelihood, could take from the individual his right of freedom to select his own particular vocation. If the people are miserably hoodwinked into believing that Utopia is just around the corner, there is nothing to stop the Commonwealth taking control of all industry, allocating the employees as it thinks fit, and ordering the managements and the workers to do whatever the union bosses think should be done. The dangers of regimentation, with its attendant evil lieutenant, restrictions of individual liberties, have made themselves so evident during the war years, when such control no doubt is necessary, that I am sure that the people will be wide awake to the horrors of such peace-time control. foolish I should be to suggest that, as soon as the war is over, all controls should be lifted, but what I do say most emphatically is that individual initiative and enterprise must be encouraged, if we, as a nation, are to survive and our people are to be assured of economic security.
– Does the honorable senator believe that price control should lie removed immediately the war ends?
– I think that it will be necessary to exercise control over prices for some time after the war, but that can be done under our defence powers.
There can be no gainsaying the fact that decentralization of authority is a far greater contribution to successful administration than a system of remote control. A splendid example of that is to be found in the administration of the Federal Aid Roads Agreement between the States and the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth provides the necessary finance, and the States, with a sounder, knowledge of their own local conditions than could ever be acquired by a distant administrator, handle all the details in relation to the work required to be done, observing only certain conditions of policy as laid down by the Commonwealth.
Section 96 of the Constitution reads -
During a period of ten years after the establishment of the Commonwealth and thereafter until the Parliament otherwise provides, the Parliament may grant financial assistance to any State on such terms and conditions as the Parliament thinks fit.
It is obvious, therefore, that whilst the Commonwealth may control the finances of a nation through taxation, it can also perform a most useful national function by granting to the States the necessary money, and leaving the administrative and other details to the State authorities. No one would venture to suggest that the Federal Aid Roads Agreement had not worked to the satisfaction of all concerned. Let the Commonwealth Government, then, extend this principle of co-operation with the States and then there will be no need to submit the country to the expense of a referendum in war-time.
Forced by certain sections of public opinion to alter once again his approach to the vital question of constitution alteration, the Attorney-General has inserted three amendments in this bill. These, according to the Government, provide for freedom of expression and speech, freedom of worship, and a safeguard against the misuse of the powers of delegation. I shall touch briefly on each of these new features in the bill. First, in regard to freedom of speech, does it not strike honorable senators as most remarkable that after so many years of our existence as a nation, a Minister has suddenly awakened to find that our freedom in this respect is threatened. Without equivocation, I say that the whole thing is an illusory gesture, and is totally unnecessary. We, with great British traditions, have never had occasion to doubt our freedom in this’ respect, and it is not out of place to remind this Parliament that any attempt by a parliament to abridge that freedom would be discarded unhesitatingly, as being an inroad into our hereditary privilege. In regard to freedom of religion, it might be as well at this stage to quote section 116 of the Constitution, which deals with this matter. That section reads -
The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or .public trust under the Commonwealth.
The purpose of the Attorney-General’s last-minute insertion in the bill of a reference to this matter is purely to add a restriction to the actions of any State Parliament in a way similar to that in which the Commonwealth Constitution at present controls the legislation of this Parliament. Here, again, I present the same argument as I applied to the freedom of speech: A State Parliament in Australia is not likely to introduce legislation which would restrict the liberties of subjects in relation to their religious beliefs. Then why this further attempt to draw a red herring across the trail and confuse the electors into believing that the proposed alteration in relation to religious matters is a further additional power to be granted to the Commonwealth Parliament, whilst in fact the power is unmistakably inscribed in the Constitution to-day.
The third amendment purports to provide a parliamentary check on all legislative regulations made under the authority of any law made by the Parliament under the powers proposed to be conferred by the referendum. In other words, it provides that regulations made under any act dealing with any of the powers proposed to be granted under this bill - if it pass the gauntlet of the referendum - must be tabled in Parliament and may be disallowed under certain circumstances; but what is new’ about that”? The Acts Interpretation Act, as amended in 1937, provides, in section 48, sub-section 4, that either House of this Parliament may disallow any regulation after it has been tabled. Why, therefore, insert such a provision in the Constitution? Any argument put forward by the Government that the provision already existing in the statutebook might he deleted subsequently by Parliament is too weak to consider for one moment. In addition, I would draw the attention of the Senate particularly to two aspects of this latest attempt to fool the electors: This so-called “protection against bureaucracy”, will apply legally only to those proposed additional powers and not to the existing provisions of the Constitution. Further, the provision is limited in its application to a period of five years after the war. The bill will, of course, be considered in detail at the committee stage. I take the opportunity to present the views of professor F. A. Bland, Professor of Public Administration at the Sydney University, which appear in a foreword by him to Australia’s Changing Constitution, by Mr. D. H. Drummond, M.L.A. In this book, Professor Bland expresses himself in no uncertain way. He says -
Any transference of power that results in a weakening of the federal system, and in overwhelming Ministers with domestic details, must seriously interfere with the capacity of Australia to play its proper role m Empire and world affairs . . .
Upon the manner in which the peace settlement is handled and policed will depend much of the safety of the next generation, and it will be fatal if Australians are represented at the world convention by Ministers chosen primarily because they are in favour of multiplying free social services, the corrupting coin of party politics, rather than by Munsters who arc so steeped in world problems that they will be able to urge an order in which social services will be possible at all. Modern politics, sharpened by humanistic tendencies, thrive upon a bread-and-circus policy, but Australia’s international future and our own physical safety demand that our foreign Ministers should have a different background and a wider backing. We shall not always be able to enjoy privileges without obligations . . .
Professor Bland further states -
It is clear that authority in a Labour government lies, not in Cabinet nor in Parliament, but in a group which owes no responsibility to the electors. The effect is entirely to change the nature and principle. of parliamentary government. When, therefore, the people are asked to trust Parliament, and to approve of such a modification of the Constitution as would threaten the federal system, it is well to remember that we are living not under the traditional British form of parliamentary government, but under a peculiar Australian brand in which Ministers obey orders and take directions from persons who have never been chosen for that purpose by the people …
– The parties now in Opposition held the reins of government in this country almost without interruption for 30 years.
– Those words were written recently by an outstanding man. No wonder he was forced to make those comments, in view of the sorry proceedings witnessed in this Parliament during the last two and a half years, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) having to go cap in hand to the Australian Labour party for instructions as to what policy he should adopt. Professor Bland goes on to say -
There is no warrant for believing that centralization of political power would be followed by administrative decentralization
It is incontrovertible that democratic government in Australia will continue to be little more than an aspiration until the localities are made responsible for their own affairs until the scope and powers of local authorities are enlarged, and. costs and methods of administration brought home to the citizen in his locality. It is entirely fallacious to believe that this end can be attained only by destroying the States . . .
Both the Commonwealth and the States should make a vow to renounce the temptation to monopolize administration. It must be a. real partnership. Both should concentrate upon those aspects for which their abilities qualify them
Those words were written by a man eminently qualified to speak regarding public affairs and administration. In my opinion, they sound a distinct warning of danger to the people of this country who will be called upon to determine whether these powers should or should not be granted. I have attempted to make my own attitude clear. I conclude by summarizing, into the following six points, my approach to this vital matter -
– -The Opposition did not do much for them after the last war
– It did provide preference in employment to returned soldiers, and that is more than the present Government proposes to do. My concluding points are as follows : -
– I shall endeavour to express my views on this important bill without quoting extracts from the statements of any biased cheap-jack ashas the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay).
– I rise to order. Is the honorable senator in order in refer ring to a man holding a prominent position on the staff of the Sydney University as a biased cheap-jack?
– I did not near Senator Aylett refer to any member of the Sydney University staff as a biased cheap- jack. I understood that he made the general statement that he would not quote extracts from the statements ofany cheap-jack. If the honorable senator did refer to a university professor as a biased cheap-jack, I inform him that the expression is not parliamentary. He would be in order in using the term in a general way.
– If we cast our minds back 25 years, we shall recall that there was a depression in this country in 1920. With the passage of time a change occurred, and from 1924 to 1927 was a boom period. After 1927, it was evident that another depression was approaching. It came; and we did not recover completely from its effects until the present war overtook us. It is true that before the outbreak of war the depression had lifted considerably, but it remained with us for a number of years. Depressions are largely responsible for the lack of co-ordination which has revealed itself in thiscountry every few years. Australia is a country with seven Parliaments - six State Parliaments and one Commonwealth Parliament. Whenever anything went wrong, the States refused to accept the responsibility, saying that the Commonwealth was to blame. Conversely, the Commonwealth blamed the States. This “ passing the buck “ continued, with the result that unemployment was rife, hundreds of thousands of persons in this country were in dire want, and the only preference which returned soldiers could claim wasthe preference to starve. The Leader of the Opposition, who was a member of the Government at that time, will not deny that tens of thousands of soldiers who fought in the last war were it want, some of them actually starving. We have now reached the stage at which an attempt is being made to fix on the appropriate authority the responsibility for any chaos which may exist. Although, in my opinion, the States which will benefit least from the passing of this measure will be Tasmania and Western Australia, I believe that, unless the increased powers be given to the Commonwealth, every State will in the near future suffer from a depression worse than any Australia has yet experienced.
– Did not New Zealand also suffer from a depression after the last war?
– The depression was practically world-wide. In order to prevent a depression, we must get at the root of the evil. If there be unity on the part of the privileged few, it is not difficult to bring about a depression. Similarly, where there is no central body with power to deal with major problems, it is not difficult to bring about a depression. If we wish to prevent future depressions, some central authority in the places where they are caused must be vested with power. This bill will give to the Commonwealth Parliament an increased measure of control which, if exercised wisely, will prevent another depression such as that which befell this country some years ago. In order to illustrate my point, I shall refer to what happened in Russia and Germany. Under a system of central control poverty became a thing of the past; no one starved because no one lacked employment and a fair share of the country’s goods was available for all who were prepared to pull their weight. Those results were possible because in each of those countries there was a central authority with power to control vested interests and to prevent them from organizing a depression. Those who have suffered most during the depressions which have befallen Australia have been the primary producers. Many of them have been forced off their holdings because of disorganized markets, low prices and the action of financial institutions . in calling in overdrafts and refusing credit. This country’s welfare hinges upon the success of its rural industries; so long as those engaged in rural production are doing well the country as a whole does well, but should those engaged in rural production be driven from their holdings it means that a depression has overtaken the country. In order to prevent the ruin of those engaged in primary production, the Commonwealth Parliament must have the power to control the marketing of primary products and to fix their prices. For instance, we do not see to-day, as we saw in the past, produce for which the producer received £17 a ton being sold to the consumer at £37 a ton. Due to lack of co-ordinated control, the profit from such transactions found its way into the pockets of the’ middleman. The control now exercised by the Commonwealth could not be effectively exercised by a State government, because the latter cannot control marketing outside its own boundaries. For that reason, only the Commonwealth can co-ordinate marketing throughout the Commonwealth; and it can do so on a basis which will equalize matters for any State which finds itself at a disadvantage in marketing its products in other States. It is essential, therefore, that the Commonwealth be given complete control over the marketing and distribution of primary products in peace-time. In the past, we have had instances of producers of certain commodities over-producing for the limited market available in the State in which they operate, and, because of lack of control of the marketing of such products in other parts of the Commonwealth, their industry was reduced practically to chaos. However, when the Commonwealth is given control over marketing there will be no such thing as over-production. We have also witnessed instances in the past in which producers in a particular industry in a particular State were practically ruined because other States prohibited the entry of such products. For instance, the Victorian Government raised the bogy of corky scab in respect of one product, and the Tasmanian Government prohibited the entry of another product on the ground that it was infected with Pacific flea. In each instance, the primary desire was to prevent those products from flooding local markets. A central marketing authority would be able to .discover whether such prohibitions were justified, and, if so, would be able to take appropriate action with justice to all producers concerned. I repeat that co-ordinated control of marketing is essential to the economic security of primary producers. Unfortunately, that truth was not brought home to us until this war. It is significant that since the outbreak of hostilities the primary producers of Australia have already repaid to financial institutions a total of £60,000,000 in spite of the fact that, at the same time, they have invested generously in every war loan, and have met every call of the Government for increased production. Such a state of affairs has only been made possible under a system of organized marketing whereby fixed prices have been guaranteed to the producer and have given him economic security. If the Commonwealth is not allowed to retain its present powers in this respect after the expiration of twelve months after the war, the security which the primary producer now enjoys will go overboard, and our rural industries will relapse into the chaos which has been a feature of primary production during the last twenty years. It would be a bold person who would say that any of our industries, primary or secondary, enjoyed absolute security during the 25 years preceding the outbreak of war. As I have already said, the necessity for a central authority with sufficient power to solve production problems on a nationwide basis was not really brought home to us until this war. Will any one now suggest that the present system, which has more than proved itself, should be thrown overboard ? Does any one wish to see our economy return to the old pre-war order when hundreds of thousands of our people were unemployed, and primary production generally was in a chaotic state owing to the lack of a central co-ordinating authority and each government was pulling against the other endeavouring to “ pass the buck”?
Under these proposals the Commonwealth does not propose to deprive any State of any of .its existing powers, but simply asks the people to give to the Commonwealth sufficient power to enable it to assist the States, particularly in matters calling for action on a nationwide basis. The Leader of the Opposition stated that the Commonwealth now possesses sufficient power to rehabilitate service personnel in civil life. That is true. Indeed, after the last war, the Commonwealth in many instances exercised that power, but the point I emphasize - and the honorable senator apparently overlooks it - is that the Commonwealth did not have sufficient power to maintain ex-service personnel in industry after their rehabilitation. That is where governments fell down on the job after the last war.
– The honorable senator’s ministerial colleagues are not taking much notice of him.
– I have n0 doubt that they are fully acquainted with the contents of the measure. I am merely making a few observations for the benefit of honorable senators opposite. I regret that the Leader of the Opposition preferred to rely upon a statement prepared for him by an anti-Labour professor instead of his own intelligence and knowledge of the subject. The problem which will confront this country in the post-war period will he unprecedented. Any one who thinks that the present members of the services will be content after the war to return to civil life and put up with a starvation depression similar to that which confronted this country after the last war is making a big mistake, lt is essential that, the National Government prepare its plans immediately to cope with problems that will arise after the war. The Leader of the Opposition stated that the present is an inopportune time to hold a referendum. It will be still more inopportune to do so after the cessation of hostilities, because the slightest delay in attacking these problems will mean chaos. We must move in this matter immediately in order to be ready to implement our legislative machinery immediately upon the cessation of hostilities so that the members of the services can be rehabilitated expeditiously in industry. I have on many occasions told the Senate that we must make our post-war plans to accommodate more than the mere 7,000,000 people who at present comprise our population. If we are to hold Australia, we must plan to absorb at least double that number. We cannot do this without some central controlling administrative authority, or unless we delegate administrative powers to the various States, so that they may work together with the central power. That is why it is most essential that the referendum should be held now and not after the war. If we leave it until then, it may be too late, because, if the plana are not then in operation, the soldiers to whom so much has been promised may be just as impatient for action as they are for action now to end the war. If they felt that way, no one could blame them. They would rightly blame us, the elected repre-sentatives of the people, if we dilly-dallied and dawdled until far too late to put the whole organization into operation. They would not thank us to bring them back into a similar state of chaos to that which obtained in Australia from 1919 until the beginning of this war. In order to eliminate the anomalies which now exist as between the various governments of Australia, let us arm some responsible body with the power and duty of organizing the post-war era, so that we may guarantee economic security to the whole of the people, instead of to only a privileged few who always enjoy prosperity. One of the major problems with which the Opposition is confronted is that, if .the bill be passed and the Commonwealth Government put into force its extended powers, it will be able to deal with trusts, combines and monopolies. To discover the cause of depressions, it is not necessary to go past the doorsteps of those bodies. In order to deal with them for the protection of the people of Australia, somebody must have the necessary power. At the present time, with six separate State Governments, and with the powers of the Commonwealth so restricted, nobody has power to deal with them as they must be dealt with for the sake of the economic security and welfare of the people.
Another instance is the breaks of railway gauges. Nobody has a better right than the Commonwealth Parliament to tell the people that a standardized, railway gauge is essential for the defence of Australia, as has been proved during this war. The anomaly existed long before then, but it has not been possible to remedy it without the sanction of all the States concerned. The Commonwealth Government could not step in and do the job, except during war-time, but what is needed is not war-time but peace-time legislation, because it is a peace-time work. It should have been undertaken years ago and will probably have to be begun in the near future. We need to brush all such anomalies aside. We require a government with courage to declare that it intends to do the work regardless of whether it suits the interests pf trusts or monopolies, or affects private business or manufacturing enterprises.
That is another reason why the powers are most essential.
As regards the fixation of prices and the institution of orderly marketing, are we to say after the war is over, with our experience of the control of prices during war-time, that those subjects can be left to the control of merchants and other representatives of private enterprise? Are those people to be allowed to make prices fluctuate as they think fit, just as they have in the past, and to manipulate markets to the detriment of some sections of the people, >and to the benefit of a privileged few in another section? Those are further reasons why the increased powers asked for are necessary.
It would be a severe blow to Australia if at the referendum the people did not grant increased powers to the Commonwealth. It would be a step backwards instead of forwards. I shall entertain grave fears for the future of Australia if the increased powers are not granted, because I know the “ willynilly “ way, to use one of Senator McBride’s phrases, in which major problems of national importance have been handled during the last 25 years. I happen to know from my short experience here how certain interests use their power to block progress. I know how certain sinister interests work behind the scenes to prevent undertakings from using their powers for the benefit of the community. We must put ‘a stop to monopolist concerns working to benefit industries in the United States of America or Great Britain to the detriment of Australian industries. We must be able to ensure that the markets of Australia are open to beneficial Australian industries, and are not controlled by those who want to destroy them. It is in those matters that the Commonwealth Parliament must be able to exercise some central control over monopolies. I say .without fear of successful contradiction that monopolies have always been operated to cause the downfall of the industrial activities of this country. They have retarded its progress for the last quarter of a century, and their operations are becoming more pronounced as time goes on.
– Name one.
– If I did name one the honorable senator would point to what he would call the development which they had brought about in Australia. At the same time those big companies which have been responsible for some development in Australia have established subsidiary concerns to conceal from us that they are more vitally interested in their overseas organizations. I ask any honorable senator opposite to name one major company in Australia which is not tied up with the big companies of Great Britain and America. That is why it is most essential that the Commonwealth Parliament should have power to protect the development of this nation. If Australia does not develop, it will perish. This country- will not develop as it should unless there is control of private monopolies, which, as I have said, may claim to have been responsible for a. certain amount of progress in the past, but which in fact have had a great retarding influence. I hope that the referendum will be carried, because, if it is not, almost certainly this country will slip back seriously within, the next 30 or 40 years. Not only -must the referendum be carried, but also the extended powers, if granted, must be used effectively.
– The development of this country during the past twenty years has been remarkable.
– This vast country, which has been occupied by the British race for 150 yea.rs, to-day has a population of only 7,000,000 people; yet the honorable senator suggests that Australia’s development has been remarkable ! I invite the honorable senator to take his mind beyond the limits of this city, and to reflect upon the vast undeveloped lauds which exist throughout the length and breadth of the continent; the huge unharnessed waterways and potential, irrigation schemes which could be developed to provide national wealth and widespread employment for many thousands of people who to-day do not have decent homes to live in; and the many other rich resources of Australia, development of which has been stifled by private interests. Can these ‘things be regarded a? evidence of remarkable development? In my view it is the lack of progress in this country which is remarkable; so remarkable, in fact, that when invasion by the Japanese was threatened, this country could have been taken with a “ shanghai “.
– Whose fault was that? It was the fault of the Labour party.
– If any one was to blame for that state of affairs, the responsibility can be laid at the door of successive governments which were supported by the honorable senator for a quarter of a century.
– We must not decry our own country.
– I am not decrying Australia. I am paying a tribute to its vast potentialities, but at the same time I am deploring the lack of initiative which has been shown in the past 25 years. That is something which is recognized by our Allies to-day. This country can be developed adequately only by granting these proposed increased powers to the Commonwealth Parliament. I do not fear the abuse of these powers, either by this Government or by any other government; but apparently that fear is in the minds of honorable senators opposite. Why that should be, I do not know,- because we on this side of the chamber are not afraid that these powers would be used by a government supported by honorable senators opposite. We do not believe that any government could be so inhuman or so biased as to abuse these powers. My only fear is that the increased powers will not ‘be implemented as fully as I should like to see them implemented in the interests of the development of this country and the welfare of its people.
– Any additional powers granted to the Commonwealth now must be taken from the States.
– The honorable senator knows perfectly well that the carrying of this measure will not result in the States being deprived of their powers, and he knows also, I suggest, that the implementation of these wider powers by the Commonwealth, will be to the greater advantage of the States. However, when I have concluded my remarks honorable senators opposite will have an opportunity to draw the attention of the Senate to any part of this measure which they contend will take from the States any power which they exercise to-day. I submit that anything which the States can do to-day in the interests of the people of the States may still be done even if the referendum be carried.
– The honorable senator should read the bill.
– The only difference between honorable senators opposite and myself is that whereas I have read the bill intelligently, they have not done so. Having read the measure, I have been able to rise in this chamber and express an opinion on it. Honorable senators opposite may disagree with what I have said, and perhaps my opinion may be wrong, but at least I have not found it necessary to enlist the services of a Sydney professor to prepare my speech.
– Who did that?
– So far there has been only one speaker from the Opposition side of the chamber on this measure, and that is what happened in regard to his speech. “First of all, he obtained the permission of the Senate to read his speech, and then, when he got half way through it, he started on a story which a Sydney professor had written, and continued on it until the conclusion of his speech. At least I have had the initiative to express my own views, which I think are in the interests of the State which I represent, and of other States. If any State is likely to suffer by tha granting of these additional powers to the Commonwealth it is Tasmania; but the position as I see it is that if the Commonwealth is not given the extra powers, or if those powers are not utilized fully when they are granted, Tasmania will suffer a. great deal more.
– The honorable senator is having 5s. each way now.
– No, I am 100 per cent, in favour of the bill.
.- This is a bill of major importance to the whole of Australia, and one in which the Senate, as the States’ House in this Parliament, is vitally interested. As this may be the last occasion upon which I shall have an opportunity to give expression in this chamber to the views I hold in regard to the Constitution, I shall endeavour to review briefly the relationship which was brought about between the Commonwealth and the States by federation. At the inception of federation I was a political and legal novitiate, but I was associated closely with those giants - and they were intellectual giants - who brought the Commonwealth Constitution into existence. Sometimes I am inclined to compare those men with the pygmies who to-day administer, or endeavour to administer, the Constitution, because the charge which I wish to level against the Government is that it has shown a little Australian outlook in introducing this measure. It is unfortunate that we in this Parliament, who are the parties to the contract entered into with the then colonies - and the Senate in particular was designed to see that that contract was preserved in its entirety - do not discuss these matters without party feeling. We should give that judicial consideration to which every proposed amendment of the Constitution is entitled. My criticism will not be tinged with rancour or party feeling, because I regard the Constitution, not sacrosanct, but as sacred. One of the fundamental principles of federation is that alterations of the Constitution must pass through the sieve of consideration by both branches of the legislature. It was not intended that any Parliament should take what powers it pleased, as was proposed in the first bill presented by the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), but that the great Australian public should determine by their vote whether the proposed alterations were acceptable to them or not. It will be my duty as an Australian, not to adopt the little ‘Australian standard that appear to have prevailed in certain quarters, but to express my views, both in this Parliament and throughout the Commonwealth, in order to show, in the first place, that there is no necessity for any of the -powers sought in this bill, and no justification for the attempt to draw wool over the eyes of the people with regard to some of them. Think of the men who fought for federation ! Our minds go back to Sir Henry Parkes, who was inspired with a love of the Australian nation. He and many of his contemporaries laboured for the consummation of a great ideal. We formed little leagues and associations in an endeavour to foster the Australian spirit. Among those who represented New South Wales at the Federal Convention were Sir Edmund Barton, Sir George Reid, Sir William Lyne and Mr. Richard O’Connor. From Victoria we had Mr. Alfred Deakin, Sir George Turner and Sir Isaac Isaacs, who, I am glad to say, is still amongst us. Among the men from South Australia were Mr. C. C. Kingston, a forthright man, Sir Frederick Holder, Sir Richard Baker and Sir Josiah Symon. Although they were opposed to one another politically they were in agreement regarding the necessity for federation. I remember one of them, during a controversy on another matter, describing another as having the bowels of a billiard ball. On another occasion one of them challenged another to a duel in Victoriasquare, Adelaide, although they afterwards became friends because of their common interest in fostering a national spirit among the people. In my then young heart the flame of a great ideal had been kindled, and it was encouraged by the example of those great men whose work in framing the Constitution was not destructive, but constructive. When I see the pygmies of to-day and yesterday, and observe the timorousness of men to exercise powers the possession of which is as clear as. the noonday sun, I wonder what the fathers of federation would think of their successors in the federal sphere.
– Does not the honorable senator think that time marches on?
– I believe that they would be horrified at some of the suggestions heard to-day, especially that of Senator Aylett, who thinks that we should adopt the system of Nazi-ism.
– I did not say that; that is a lie.
– The members of this Parliament are called upon to express what they believe to be the true Australian outlook.
It is necessary (for us, who are charged with the duty of passing or rejecting this measure, to consider the growth of the federal spirit. It grew in the first place by reason of the “ barbarisms of borderism”, as they were called by Sir James Patterson. People crossing from one State to another were called upon to allow their goods and chattels to be overhauled at customs houses erected on the borders by the States. The feeling became so acute in South Australia that that State achieved distinction by taking a dispute to the Privy Council. The national spirit also grew because of our isolation in the matter of defence. Each State had its own small defence force. South Australia had even a small gunboat named Protector, which I think ultimately was sent to Queensland. It was recognized by the founders of federation that Australians lived on the borders of the mighty continent of Asia, and that their position could not be regarded as secure from a defence point of view. We were entirely dependent for our safety and protection, and have been ever since, on the strong arm of the British Navy. The time arrived when it was thought that New Zealand should be consulted with a view to worth-while co-operative action. The flame of federation was growing, although the people with the little Australian outlook expressed the fear that the movement would result in unification. In South Australia, two members of the Parliament of that State declared throughout the length and breadth of the land that the proposal would mean the end of the Colonies, and that the object in view was the establishment of one government for Australia, which would be administered from one of the large capital cities. It was stated that the framers of the Constitution bad declared, “ We recognize that Australia cannot be administered from one centre. We shall maintain a balance of power between the States and the Commonwealth. We shall hand over to the Commonwealth certain powers of a national character and retain within the ambit of the States powers “over local matters “. They recognized the difficulties of administration associated with the centralization of authority. They knew that decentralization was essential to this country’s future welfare. They recognized also that under a unified form of government, New Zealand, because of its geographical situation, would not come in. It was for reasons such as those that the Constitution was accepted in its present form; the Colonies would not accept a unified form of government. Under the Constitution finally agreed upon, national powers were vested in the Commonwealth Parliament. I shall deal later with what is meant by national powers. It may be that changes will be necessary, but in my opinion it was a very sound principle indeed to limit the powers of the Commonwealth Parliament. After a prolonged struggle, during which every possible argument was advanced for and against the federation, that principle was accepted by the people. During the campaign the difficulties associated with a central authority in a country so vast as Australia were stressed, but when it was pointed out that the States would still have the control over problems affecting the land and such matters as water supplies, the people were satisfied. I shall not deal with all the obstacles that were placed in the way, particularly by New South Wales, because honorable senators know that that State has always sought advantages for itself. Nor shall I enter into a controversy regarding many other matters that could be raised in a discussion of this measure. 1 pass on to say that, in my opinion, the Constitution gives to this Parliament plenary powers in regard to certain things. It does so in respect of taxation. That is one of the attributes of this National Parliament. It also possesses other powers which I rather think have not been overlooked by some people. When I consider some of the proposed amendments I am reminded that it is an old political device to set up a cockshy. I remind Senator Tangney, who, since her election to the Senate, has interested herself in matters concerning Commonwealth control of such matters as marriage and divorce, that it is within the power of the Commonwealth Parliament to legislate in regard to those matters; but no government, regardless of its political colour, has yet had the courage to reform the divorce laws of this country. Something should be done in regard to the matter of domicile, so that litigants in divorce proceedings may know where they stand. I ask Senator Tangney to have regard to that fact when she is considering how she will cast her vote. We have, had certain views pre.sented to us in an orange-coloured cover-
– A revised edition.
– There has been a number of editions. The one in the orange-coloured cover is hot off the press. I have always regarded the Attorney-General as a federalist, but the first bill which he prepared stamped him as practically a unificationist. Honorable senators are aware that, from a political point of view, the Constitution rests on the Parliament, of which the Senate forms an important part, the Executive and the judiciary. Yet the Attorney-General introduced ‘a bill to give to this Parliament the power to alter its own Constitution, which I submit was a violation of the contract entered into between the people of the several colonies. That piece of legislation did not have a particularly good reception. Under it the final arbiter in matters affecting the Constitution - I refer to the High Court of Australia - became functus officio. On that point the Premier of Queensland, Mr. Cooper, had a few words to say. As I have said, that bill did not have a good, reception, and therefore, with that political sagacity - that quickness and deftness of mind which characterizes the Attorney-General and which I have no doubt .exercises its influence on his colleagues - the right honorable gentleman was quick to see that that cock would not fight in Australia’s interests, and he withdrew the bill. And then a so-called convention - I apologize to the Leader of the Opposition for the adjective - was called. Why was it styled a convention? So_ that it would carry some -political weight outside. The proceedings at the conventions held by the giants of the federation are available for all to read. After perusing the outstanding speeches made at those meetings one would- pause to describe the meetings held at Canberra in the same terms. I venture to say to the political heads who attended the Canberra Convention that very few of them knew little about the history, or the contents, of. the Constitution, or the balance of that document. Among those present was the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), who for years has avowed the necessity for altering the Constitution.
– Has not the honorable senator done likewise?
– -No ; and it is due only to lack of courage that our politicians, many of whom have never read the Constitution, and know nothing at all about it, suggest the necessity for alterations of the kind embodied in this measure. I protest strongly against the maugling of the Constitution, which is a document which the Senate in particular should regard as sacred. This is what the right honorable member for North Sydney said at the Canberra Convention -
But Dr. Evatt adopts the strategy of that Trojan horse. The members of the Government come into the citadel and propose, upon the pretence of some innocent and beneficent purpose, to disembowel, to eviscerate, to emasculate the Constitution, and to do all this while still posing as federalists. Dr. Evatt surrounds the incomprehensible by the unknowable, throws it on to the table and says, “There it is”. He is a most extraordinary man. He takes it as a personal affront if you do not agree with him. But even his best friends are at a loss to know what he wants them to do.
The selection of the right honorable member for North Sydney as a member of the drafting committee was well “timed. However, that particular bill is now in the discard. Apparently, we are to have in .relation to amendments to the Constitution, changes from day to day. Is this great document, which took the giants of federation years to frame, now capable of being altered within a few hours? Why was the original bill jettisoned ? It was because the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), who possesses one of the most astute political minds that have ever graced this Parliament, saw that that cock would not fi edit. He knew the spirit of Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania, and he knew that that measure would be anathema to those States.
Therefore, it was calmly brushed aside. In a statement published in the press at the time - and I thought it was a little hard on the Attorney-General - the Prime Minister was reported as saying to the Convention, “ You can start with a clean sheet “. Subsequently, another measure was presented. As I have pointed out, the committee which drafted that measure was loaded. It? members included only two with legal training, the remainder being officers who dared not intrude their views. However, on that committee was the right honorable member for North Sydney, who used to be called a dominating personality; and also on it was the hypnotic Attorney-General. Apparently, after a few hours’ deliberation, such bodies can turn out constitutions without effort. In passing, I am reminded of the reams of propaganda which have been turned out on this subject, all of it based on a mistaken view - the Little Australian view of the Commonwealth’s powers under the Constitution. Delegates at the Canberra Convention opposed the holding of a referendum; and, at that stage, there was no limit in point of time. What did the Attorney-General do then? The right honorable member for North Sydney admitted that on a previous occasion he had secured the passage of bills through both Houses preparatory to holding a referendum; but in the midst of the last war even the bold W. M. Hughes paused before taking a step that would disturb the nation at such a critical time. He then said that the winning of the war was Australia’s first job - not talking at street corners. The Premier of Victoria, Mr. Dunstan, opposed the taking of the referendum in unmistakable terms. He said -
Perhaps the first matter that should be considered is whether this is an opportune time to deal with sweeping alterations to the Constitution. I agree with the comments made by Mr. Fadden.
The Premiers of Queensland, Western Australia, and Tasmania took a similar view, and their remarks left a pretty strong impress on the Convention. Even the Attorney-General at one stage said of the bill then before the Convention -
It was the unanimous opinion of the Convention that it would be undesirable to effect permanent alterations of the Constitution at such a critical stage in our history. The Commonwealth Government was a party to this resolution. It was accepted as the basis of its subsequent programme.
All of the State Premiers opposed the holding of a referendum because it would be a disturbing element in the community during the war; and the referendum proposed under this measure will be a disturbing element. I have no doubt that those who opposed the holding of a referendum at the Canberra Convention are still opposed to such a step being taken during the war. Whether they have been dragooned into expressing an opposite view I do not know. The time limit imposed in this measure is a significantfeature of the Government’s proposals. It is a most shocking thing that any limit of time should be put on any alteration of the Constitution. If an alteration be justified it should be made for all time. I regard this bill as a mongrel measure. To me it savours of a companionate marriage, being absolutely devoid of all morality and abhorrent to the law. Yet the Government desires to impose this measure upon us. Honorable senators opposite might pause for one moment, and ask themselves if chaos will arise at the expiration of the period of five years after the end of the war, when, as the measure provides, these alterations will lapse. The Attorney-General is apparently one of those who would gamble on the event. He said, “ I think it is such a good thing that if we take a referendum the people will give us the full powers”; but let honorable senators think of the chaos and confusion that would result from a uniform company law whose operation was limited to five years. I have laboured for many years to secure uniform company law for Australia ; my office in Adelaide was paid on one occasion to prepare a bill for the purpose. South Australia then had no proprietary companies, but the proprietary companies in Victoria saw no good in the bill. Copies of it were sent to the Commonwealth Government, but I do not know what became of it. I suppose it is still in the archives. The only good feature of the transaction was that the fees for the work were promptly paid to my office. Let honorable senators also imagine the confusion that would result from limiting the power to standardize the railway gauges of Australia to a period of five years. What marvels would have to be done in that short time to complete the task? If not, we should be subject to all the restrictions that are placed on the Commonwealth in peacetime in regard to the construction of railways within the limits of a State. The Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) knows them well. If complete uniformity is brought about in five years, the Minister for Health (Senator Fraser) will be able to travel from Perth to Canberra on a 4-ft. 8£-in. gauge and so avoid the annoyances about which he complains. The Minister may have some hope of an affirmative vote at the referendum in Western Australia if the unfortunate stretch of narrow-gauge line between Perth and Kalgoorlie is to be converted to the broad gauge. But if the Commonwealth Government wishes now to do any of these things in relation to railways, it already has all the necessary powers.
– Oh, no!
– The honorable senator, a “know-all” who has read the Constitution a few times, has probably held it upside-down. I refer the honorable senator to the provisions of the Constitution, in regard to railways for defence purposes, and the control which the Commonwealth can exercise over railways and transport. An extension of the National Security Act will do all that is necessary to better advantage than by securing an alteration of the Constitution, which, according to the Attorney-General, will disappear in a few years’ time. The right honorable gentleman himself has admitted that, if any of these powers were withdrawn, a tremendous amount of trouble and confusion would be caused. At page 52 of the report of the 1942 Convention, the right honorable gentleman is recorded as saying-
It would be unsatisfactory unless all the States made the reference, and the scheme would be defeated if any State rescinded the grant during the period fixed.
The report of this alleged Convention brought back to my mind recollections of nearly 50 years ago. After the Canberra Convention met, the astute Attorney-
General said to himself, “ This won’t go, I must save my face”, so what did he do? His Prime Minister had said to him, “ You may have a blank sheet “, but when it seemed that nothing could be done the Premier of Tasmania, Mr. Cosgrove, appeared on the scene. I could not help being struck with the similarity of the tactics adopted by the Attorney-General on this occasion to those adopted by some of the founders of federation towards the end of last century. Honorable senators all remember what was called the Braddon blot, for which Sir Edward Braddon undeservedly incurred a great deal of discredit. The truth of the matter, which I am telling now at the risk of disclosing something that ought not to be told, even after this lapse of time, is that federation could not have been accomplished then unless that financial provision had been inserted in the bill as a compromise to bring about unanimity on the part of the members of the Convention. Members in those days were not without political guile, just as politicians of to-day are far from being without it. Two distinguished gentlemen of my acquaintance drafted the Braddon blot and took it round to all the leaders at the Convention, who agreed that it was a temporary way out for a ten-year period, and that afterwards the Commonwealth Parliament could work out its own salvation. The leaders at the Convention did not like to do the deed themselves, so they took Sir Edward Braddon into their confidence, and he agreed to shoulder the responsibility. If there is any reflection now on the memory of that great man, I assure honorable senators that he was not to blame, because it was one of those expedients to which shrewd political heads resort from time to time to bring about the greater good, and this brought about the greater good of Australian federation. When I read of Mr. Cosgrove coming along with a nicely worded amendment that these powers should be handed over for a specified period under section 51 of the Constitution, my mind went back to how the Braddon blot was inserted. When I met Mr. Cosgrove shortly afterwards, I said to him: “History has a habit of repeating itself ; Braddon came from Tasmania, his clause went down as the Braddon blot, and if the one which I suppose the Attorney-General devised and you fathered is adopted, and these powers are referred to the Commonwealth by the States in the medley in which they stand, your contribution will be known as the Cosgrove curse “. That is how I saw the thing. Nobody wanted a referendum, nobody wanted a contest over the Constitution, and everybody asked, “What do you want?” So, having loadedthe Convention and given the thing a few hours’ consideration, they said, “ We will do all these things and agree to this and that “. It is a question whether these powers will stand, in view of what has been done in New South Wales, because unless these powers are referred by the States as a whole they are valueless. Distinguished pundits in this country, occupying big positions to-day, have advised me that these references by the States are dangerous to the Commonwealth Constitution. I have always held the view that if the States as a whole refer them, they are perfectly good, and are something in the nature of what we know in law as a licence coupled with an interest; but here is a medley. One State may transfer, and another may not, and it. seems to me that “ reference by the States” is merely a “get out”.
I think that I have said sufficient about the history of this bill, and I shall now address myself to one or two of its minor features, before I proceed to deal with what I regard as the absolute failure of this Government and of its predecessors - I do not exempt them from blame - in the exercise of the defence powers of this country. First of all, there is the provision under which the Government may venture into business undertakings - if that is what it means. The history of the Government in business is pitiable. For the information of honorable senators, I shall quote an extract from a paper which was prepared the other day by a well-known authority on the history of State government enterprise in Western Australia. The paper reads -
Our contemporary “planners” will find little to comfort them in the results accruing from Australian experiments in nationalization. Figures for the trading year 1941-42 from Western Australia reveal that the State Implement Works made a net loss of £9,369 for the year. Since its inception the net loss on this “ socialist “ undertaking now totals f 343,334! The loss by the State sawmills since their inception has now reached the tidy figure of £44.56<i. The State brickworks showed a net loss of £1,265 for the twelve months under review.
All these undertakings were operating at an advantage over private enterprise in that they did not have to carry the burden of taxation- Let us consider for a moment what might happen if, under the authority of this measure, the Government decided to make a little excursion into the coal-mining business^ At present there are two governmentowned coal mines. One of them is at Wonthaggi, in Victoria, and up to the end of 1941 that mine had lost well over £1,000,000 in eleven years. In 1941 it was losing £2,337 a week, all of which, of course, came out of the pockets of the taxpayers. The other governmentowned mine is at Lithgow, New South Wales. In 1941 that mine was losing £316 a week, which also came out of the pockets of the taxpayers.
Apparently, there are in this Parliament Jeremiahs who cannot see Australia developing after the war, and who believe that this country will be swept by a great depression. These people believe that merely because the Commonwealth Government is .given Constitutional power to legislate in respect of “ employment and unemployment “, a depression may be avoided. Mere words will not stop a depression. The last depression was caused, as Senator Aylett wisely said, by the rapid fall in the prices of primary products. * Primary production carries the economic burden of this country upon its shoulders, and’ primary production failed because prices fell, with the result that our whole economic system went to pieces. It is all “ moonshine “ to say that a depression can be avoided by conferring this additional power upon the Commonwealth Parliament. It is an attempt to mislead the people, particularly those who suffered the privations of unemployment during the last depression, into believing that they will have social security merely because the Commonwealth Parliament has certain powers. The fact is that the Commonwealth Parliament already possesses that power. The machinery is there, and. in fact, ha3 been in operation. I believe that the opportunity for development which will be presented to this country after the war will be unparalleled in our history. What country has escaped the lash of war as Australia has done? I believe that many thousands of people who have grown up under the heel of Nazi-ism and similar kinds of government, will flock to this country after the war, many of them bringing substantial financial backing. In my view, the granting of these proposed wider powers to the Commonwealth will upset the balance of powers under the Constitution. Just think of it! After spending a few days in a preliminary discussion, delegates to the Constitution Convention appointed a drafting committee, which apparently came under the hypnotic influence of the AttorneyGeneral and the domination of the right honorable member for North Sydney, whose views on constitutional reform are well known. The report of the Convention indicates that the delegates - 90 per cent, of them untrained, in . constitutional law - arrived in Canberra with their advisers on the 24th November, 1942. They discussed the proposals until the 30th November, when they set up the drafting committee, which produced its report on the 2nd December. One of the members of the Convention - I think that he came from Western Australia - asked the Attorney-General to explain one or two of the proposed powers, but he would not explain anything. After three or four days of discussion at this so-called Convention, the Attorney-General said, “I will not give you- any explanation “. I have reviewed briefly some of the powers sought in the bill, but the power that transcends all others in importance is the first. In the measure, which the Attorney-General originally presented to the Parliament, he was not on bowing terms with the Constitution. He intended to give to this .Parliament the power to alter it, but on this occasion-
– He was going to smash our arbitration system.
– Yes . 1 am reminded that, when anti-Labour governments tried to pull the industrial. arbitration system of this country together -
– Pull it to pieces !
– I hear the loud laugh that bespeaks the vacant mind. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) thundered at Bendigo that the previous governments, by their legislative proposals, would ruin the arbitration system, but what is the present Government doing to it? Under this bill it could abolish the Arbitration Courts, and it has taken many stops already to bring about its downfall. Its prestige has been undermined, and members of the present Ministry will live to regret the day when that happened.
I turn to the most important part of the bill, because this is the stalking horse with which the Attorney-General hopes to gain the votes of the people. This is what ho expects will secure the affirmative votes of the men and women employed in munitions factories. He says, “ Our power in time of war is ample “. I submit to honorable senators opposite that the defence power that the Government is now using is the first attribute of sovereignty. Taxation is a plenary power, and the defence power is a plenary power. The Government can expose men to their death by sending them abroad, as it is doing, or it Gan assign them to service in various parts of Australia and its territories. It can co-opt men for this or that industry under the defence power, yet forsooth, somebody says, “We cannot provide for these men”. If that is not a small Australian outlook on the Constitution I do not know what is.
– The parties which the Opposition represent never did it-
– Blame is attachable to “every government, but did the anti-Labour governments act in a parsimonious way towards the men who returned from the last war?
– The honorable senator’s party left them with a ‘ swag to carry.
– Every power that the nation requires for its defence is given to it by the present Constitution. We have not hesitated to send men to their death in the jungles of New Guinea. Unfortunately for Australia, the opinion has gained ground that defence means fighting within the borders of Australia, and that the defence power, like a bladder, can be blown up and extended in time of war. I maintain that the defence power is always present. Those things which are legitimately required for the defence of the country can be done under the present Constitution. The High ‘Court has always expressed that view. I think it was Sir Isaac Isaacs who, when a member of the High Court Bench, said, “ You must not make a mock of the Constitution “. When the court considered that a certain government was endeavouring to implement some of its’ own political ideas by the -use of the defence power, it said, “ You shall not pass. That would be an abuse of the defence power “. When the Bunnerong ease was heard in the High Court it was held to be unnecessary for the defence of the country to keep a company in operation. The members of the High Court bench are men of sense. [Extension, of time granted.”] The sub.ject of the Constitution is so dear to my heart that I could not let this occasion pass without expressing my views as an Australian to men in whose hands the future destiny of this country lies. The defence power does not operate only when we go to war, and cease to operate when peace returns; it is always available. I do not exempt from blame some of the members of this Parliament who share my own political views with regard to this matter. Our outlook has been wrong. The policy of isolationism which for so long has pervaded this country has created its own atmosphere. In the days when the defence of Australia was in the hands of the colonies, who questioned their power to send men anywhere to fight, or to provide for them adequately when they returned? If that power rested with the colonies before federation, will any one say that it is not inherent in the defence power vested in the Commonwealth under the Constitution? To me any other view is ludicrous and evidence of a Little Australia outlook. Yet such a view has currency in this country, due perhaps to the fact that a royal commission on the Constitution once said -
Tn time of war the Commonwealth Parliament may pass any law, or may give the Executive authority to make any regulation, which it considers necessary for the safety of the country.
The Commonwealth in time of Avar was, for all practical purposes, a unified Government.
The writer of an article in The Australian Law Journal states -
The actual connexion between a particular measure and the defence of the country is a question of fact.
On almost every occasion that the High Court has been called upon to decide whether certain action would constitute a legitimate exercise of the defence power it has not refused to regard the exercise of that power as legitimate. In my opinion, the construction that has been put on the law in some quarters is an affront
Vo the High Court. We may find difficulty with regard to the matters submitted to the High Court from time to time, but I ask: Can there be any limit to the defence power, whether in peace or in war? That power is in the Constitution, and has been, exercised in respect of repatriation, war service homes, soldiers’ pensions, and the like. I say to the Government that there is nothing to prevent it from exercising that power. In that view I am supported by an eminent constitutional authority, Mr. W. K. Fullagar, K.C., who says that there is no limit whatever to the defence power, so long as it is legitimately used for title purpose of defence. It may spring to the eye when we are engaged in war, but it is there all the time, and can be exercised’. Indeed, it has been exercised. We have done, and can do, for our soldiers all that is necessary for their rehabilitation. Here are the views of Mr. Fullagar, K.C, as he himself expressed them -
As the Commonwealth has power to conscript men and women for the fighting services mid for warfare, so, in my opinion, it has power to make provision for their restoration to normal civil life.
If that be not a good Australian view, a view which would be endorsed by the High Court, I should be greatly astonished. This matter has never been tested. The High Court had never been asked for a pronouncement upon this matter, and has not had an opportunity to determine it. I say again that there can be no limit to what can legitimately be done for the defence of this country. To take any other view is, in my opinion, to take a Little Australia view. Does any honorable senator think that the Commonwealth in this respect has less power than New Zealand or the United States of America? Not once did this question arise when those great men who framed the Commonwealth Constitution were dealing with the defence power. What powers may the Commonwealth exercise? Many of them have already been exercised by the present Government. Already it has exercised the power to take young men and women and place them here and there, and to transfer them from one place to another. How much farther does the Government want to go? If the Government sees fit to provide for those men and women after the war, the power to do so is there. I repeat that, in’ the opinion of the eminent constitutional authority to whom I have referred, and with whose opinion I agree, the Government has the power to do anything for these people. I have spoken more forcibly than is customary in this deliberative chamber, but, as I have said, any suggestion that there is a limit to the defence power hurts me as a federalist, just as any step towards unification hurts me as a representative of a State. I am of the opinion that the country is being misled in regard to the defence power of the Commonwealth, and therefore I have devoted my remarks mainly to that aspect. Any further remarks that I have to make I shall leave till the bill is in committee. I pray that if the proposals go to the electors, they will be defeated. I say that because I believe that their acceptance would lead to endless litigation, and would throw the Constitution out of balance. It would leave us in a state of uncertainty, whereas under the National Security Act the Government can accomplish anything that is necessary; and there is no need to impose a six months’ limit. That is my view. Is there any State which would refrain to-day from giving to the Commonwealth power over aviation?
– The States have already agreed to refer that power.
– Yes, but in such a way that many things become mixed. I say that the’ Commonweath has power over aviation. Should it doubt that that is so, I urge it to test the matter before the High Court. Then, should it be found that the power is not vested in the Commonwealth, I, if still a member of the Senate, should vote for the rehabilitation of servicemen and of others dragged from their avocations, and, in some instances, treated harshly. Moreover, I should tell the people to vote as I would vote. The Government has not made out a case for its proposals. .Subject to what Senator Spicer may say, I am confident that power over aviation comes within the defence power. It may be a long step, but from one point of view it should be fairly short for the Prime Minister who, all along, has visualized the defence of this country as being controlled by the Air Force. I again appeal to the Government not to persist with these proposals. If the slightest doubt existed in my mind regarding the defence power of the Commonwealth, or the Commonwealth’s power to rehabilitate exservice personnel, and even those who, under ministerial orders, have been transferred from their ordinary civilian occupations to -war industry, I should be prepared to vote for the measure. However, were I to vote for the bill I should be declaring myself to be a “ Little Australian “, a man who entered a federation, without believing that the defence of this country was made secure under the Constitution in every respect, or that the defence power, like the tax power,, was plenary. At every opportunity I shall oppose the referendum on the ground that the Commonwealth already possesses adequate power to implement the proposals embodied in this bill, but this Government is afraid to put its courage to the test in that respect.
– The merits and demerits of this measure have been discussed at length in editorials and in the news columns of the press, and many newspapers which are strongly opposed to the Government politically support these proposals. Undoubtedly, a great divergence of opinion exists with respect to these proposals. I have received many letters asking me to vote against the bill. Senator A. J. McLachlan spoke of the giants of the old days when federation was in the air. I remember as well as Senator A. J. McLachlan does what happened in that period. Supporters of federation had a good case to put up to the colonies. Intelligent men at that time realized that such matters as defence, navigation and health should be in the hands of the central authority. The credit assigned to those giants by Senator A. J. McLachlan is entirely misplaced. When the people of Australia decided to federate, these so-called giants looked around in search of a ready-made constitution in order to save themselves the trouble of drawing up one; and they adopted the Constitution of the United States of America almost without alteration. I remember that the reason they gave for so doing was that the American Constitution had stood for 100 years without amendment. The giants to whom Senator A. J. McLachlan referred may have been giants in the law courts, but they were certainly not giants in statesmanship. One of the greatest difficulties confronting Parliament arises from the fact that so many lawyers take a hand in the drawing up of documents. The honorable senator referred to the “ Braddon blot “. Prior to federation, the little State of Tasmania was paying its way. Its population was increasing, and the State was meeting its national debt. Tasmania made the greatest sacrifice of all the States in joining the federation. However Tasmanians were big enough to realize that federation was essential. The “Braddon blot “ was necessary in order to save Tasmania from economic annihilation. Tasmania has always been confronted with the difficulty that the attractions of the mainland drew many of its people away from the State. About 30 years ago the loss of native-born population in Tasmania to the mainland was 16 per cent., and the “ Braddon blot “ was provided in order to conserve the economic security of the State. Under that provision, Tasmania received a per capita grant from the customs revenue of the Commonwealth for a period of ten years. That was a statesmanlike step. Consequently, although mainlanders saw fit to call that provision a “ blot “ it was nothing of the kind to the intelligent men who represented Tasmania at federal conventions. As I have said, the framers of our Constitution adopted almost unchanged the American Constitution. To-day, we must realize that times have changed. Conditions now existing throughout the world were not conceived by the men who drew up the Constitution. Are we so conservative that we shall never recognize the need for a change? The last half century has brought phenomenal changes throughout the world. Honorable senators opposite should realize that fact, and should be prepared to learn from experience. Senator A. J. McLachlan told us something of what these giants of the past accomplished. Had they been giants in political economy, Australia would not have been confronted with the economic conditions which have marred its history. Those giants were only in the knickerbocker stage so far as statesmanship and knowledge of the underlying principles of democratic government were concerned. 1 f that were not so, we should to-day have a financial system capable of meeting the needs of the country. Senator Aylett said that the adoption of these proposals will put an end to the depredations of monopolies and trusts. On that ground alone they are more than justified. The first member of the Commonwealth Parliament to attack the money monopoly was the late Mr. Prank Anstey. He wrote a book entitled Money Power, in which he described the fight between American bankers and the world-famous President of the United States of America, the late Theodore Roosevelt. In that book Mr. Anstey said -
The men controlling the great trusts and the principal banks of America organized a scheme of complete dominance over the industrial and financial life of the American nation. .They waged a war of extermination against every competitor.
Against this policy Theodore Roosevelt set bis teeth. He prosecuted and secured against Standard Oil verdicts that loaded the trust with penalties to the extent of $29,000,000.
At once the Standard Oil Banks (under Rockfeller), the Steel Trust Banks (under Morgan), and the Beef Trust Banks (under Armour), entered into an offensive alliance. This triple alliance dominated the financial world of America, lt had a majority on the Clearing House Association of all the big cities.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Paragraph (vin) of the proposed new powers deals with exchange, investment and the borrowing of money. I have drawn the attention of honorable senators to the power of money, and how it was exercised against an ex-President of the United States of America. More than once I have told the Senate what the clearing of cheques means. The last weapon used* by the private banks against the pioneers of the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank was the threat to refuse to clear cheques. They were forced at last to do so, and the great Commonwealth Bank was established. What happened in America is told in the following way:-
Within three days (from October 20th to 23id; 1007) every bank in the United States had been brought to heel, taught obedience and mobilized for action. The representatives of banks expelled on the 20th, having duly made submission, were readmitted to membership. Every bank received its orders, its ammunition, and the hour of action.
Next day (October 24th, 1907) the strike of the Bank Trust against the nation commenced. Every bank, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, refused to pay out gold; refused to pay anything but paper currency of its own creation -
So that the whole banking system of America refused to pay depositors their gold back again - - a currency with which every bank throughout the United States had previously been stacked - the incontestable proof of preparedness.
On October 25th, 1907, Pierpont Morgan declared, on behalf of the Banking Association of America : “ We- will continue to trade in a paper currency, and pay no more gold, until we get from President Roosevelt the necessary guarantee against adverse legislation. Thepeople can take paper money, or leave it; they will get nothing else. The mills, mines and other industries controlled by ourselves and allied interests will slacken down or close until we get effective guarantees against anti-trust prosecutions.”
This was the ultimatum of the Money Trust to the subject nation.
Senator James Mills said in the Senate of the United States of America -
This recklessness and remorseless brutality corned from men whospeak our language, who were born under the same skies and nurtured in the principles of a common faith. It comes from the cold, phlegmatic heart of avarice - avarice that seeks to paralyse labour and increase the burden of the nation’s debt - avarice that refused tobe satisfied without the suffocation and strangulation of all the labour of the land.
That is Senator Mills’s opinion on the action of the banks in withdrawing gold from circulation and refusing to pay the fine of 20,000,000 dollars imposed on them by the SupremeCourt of America. The statement continues -
Thebanks held the country by the throat. If any depositor moved legal process, the great magnates could carry him from court to court for years. If the Government enforced the law of cash redemption the Banking Trust threatened to close its doors.
There is, of course, nothing to stop the banks from closing their doors, if the depositors come for their money and the banks do not wish to pay them. I remember that in 1892 thirteen banks out of23 in Melbourne closed their doors -
Only a revolutionary seizure, that Congress was not prepared to enforce or the press to endorse, could defeat the conspiracy of the financial thuggery.
More and more mines, mills and factories full into the hands of the Trust, at depreciated values. Hordes of men were out of work. The United State Attorney-General denounced the conspirators as “ pirates whose operations are worse than those of the notorious Tweed gang “.
The London Standard of the 7th December reported as follows: -
Mr. Pierpoint Morgan is in virtual control. He has made it too strenuous even for Mr. Roosevelt. Mr. Roosevelt sent an invitation to Mr. Morgan to come to White House and discuss the situation. Mr. Morgan consented to go only when Mr. Roosevelt sent him a personal letter, promising a different attitude towards financial interests in future.
New York Herald of 25th November, 1907, said-
Roosevelt has received his lesson. We shall hear no more of his attacks on the trusts.
Therefore, Mr. Pierpont Morgan defeated the President of the United States of America, a man of fearless disposition, who once tackled a grizzly bear with a bowie knife. However, he could not stand up against a financial combination of that sort.
The London Daily News of 6th December said -
The Trust magnates hardly seem to have moved a finger, yet they made their power felt throughout the civilized world. They have made no. sacrifices, but on the contrary, will emerge wealthier men than before. They have brought the most powerful Government in the world to its knees ; they have forced it to suspend certain laws, and made it promise to interfere with them no more.
As I have said before, no matter what government is in power, there is a stronger power. The following shows how the money power brought a British government to heel: -
The City, the financiers and the moneylenders in New York and Paris refused to put up credits in support of a balanced budget.
They wanted humanity crucified on a cross of gold. We declined absolutely, and resigned. Twenty men and one woman - a British Cabinet - waited one black Sunday afternoon in a Downing Street gardenfor a financial decision from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
Many people believe that the Federal Reserve Bank of New York is a’ national institution, belonging to the Federal Government of the United States of America, but in reality it is a private bank, the same as the Bank of England. Those words were used by Sir Thomas Johnston, M.P., of the Ramsay MacDonald Labour Government. The following was written by Mr. Ludwell Denny, in his book America Conquers Britain, published in 1930: -
Many nations may laugh at our State Department, but all must tremble before our Federal Reserve Board. . . . High money rates in the United States of America early in 1929, for instance, forced an increase in the official bank rates at once in England, ten European countries, in two Latin-American countries and two in the Far East; and in almost every ease that action restricted business and brought suffering to millions of foreign workers. That blow hit Britain hardest of all.
In 1926 Sir Josiah Stamp, of the Bank of England, who, with his son, was killed inthe blitz on London in 1940 said -
Never in the history of the world has so much powerbeen vested in a small body of men as in the Federal Reserve Board. These men have the welfare of the world in their hands, and they could upset the rest of us either deliberately or by some unconscious action.
The following was written by Sir Josiah Stamp to the London Times of the 3rd February, 1923:-
The memoirs of the late Lord Snowden, who was Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Ramsay MacDonald Labour Cabinet, reveal the fact that during the 1929-32 depression Wall Street demanded a reduction in the British unemployment dole. Lord Snowden said: “On Saturday, 22nd August, the situation was hectic. The Bank of England submitted to Mr. Harrison, the president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank, the tentative suggestion for a reduction of unemployment payments. Mr. Harrison replied by telephone that, while he waa not in a (position to give the answer until he had consulted his financial associates, his opinion was that it would give satisfactory assurance.”
The interdependence of the money .policies of the United States and Great Britain, or - not to put too fine a point upon it - the dependence of the latter upon the former - has been dramatically demonstrated. We are informed that the bank rate must certainly be raised from 4 to 5 per cent, next Thursday. There is nothing in the present position of British industry which would in itself call for an increase in the rate. . . . The incident seems to show clearly who it is that cracks the whip, and who obeys the signal.
I also submit the following information : -
Nor is the growing importance of American finance , in international trade an assuring event. One of the things that can be assumed as a certain consequence of the war is that finance is to hold a more important grip on international industry .than hitherto, and that in their own interests communities must protect themselves so far as possible against an imperious international financial trust.
In any event, it is quite clear that this country will have to watch not only Lombard Street, but Lombard Street and Wall Street. . . For finance can command the sluices of every stream that runs to turn the wheels of industry, and can put fetters upon the feet of every Government that is in existence. Those who control finance can paralyse the nation, can make it drunk, can keep it normal. And in all their transactions their own interests are put first. Of course, these interests a.re involved in the general interest. They cannot flourish in a dead economic State.
But they fix exchanges, bank rates, capital values, they can tighten or loosen the purse strings of Governments and manufacturers; they control the means upon which the political and industrial State depends for its existence. - (Mr. Ramsay MacDonald in Socialism, Critican and Conservative.)
The Prime Minister, at his interview with the junior Minister on Monday, said the proposals which the Government submitted to the Bank of England had to be telephoned to America to see if they could be approved of there. - (Mr. Ernest Thurtle, Labour Government Whip, in the Daily Herald, August 27, 1031.)
Speaking in the British House of Commons on September 10th, 1931, Mr. W. Graham explained how the British Government was forced to reduce’ the dole rates at the instigation of Wall Street: “. . . it was specifiCali Y put to us (the late Ministers) that, unless one item in particular - a 10 pex cent, cut in unemployment benefit, to yield £12,280,000 - was included in the programme, it would not restore confidence, and we were told that no other item could be put in substitution. Let the House be under no misapprehension. It was because of an outside insistence upon that specific point that the la.te Government broke.”
The following is included in the definition of banking given in the Encyclopedia Britannica : -
Banks create credit. It is a mistake to suppose that bank credit is created to any important extent by the payment of money into the banks.
A deliberate statement made by the banks to suit their own purposes is that bank loans come from depositors’ money. The banks do not lend money at all. The banks can create credit. Senator Aylett quoted to the Senate a statement that the primary producers of Australia had paid off bank overdrafts amounting to £60,000,000 since the war started. Assured prices for their produce enabled them to do that, but that £60,000,000 has gone out of circulation, because the banks not only create money, but destroy it. That is banking practice the world over. Banks create credit and destroy credit, because under the present system bank credit is the equivalent of money. We are also told that- “ The Banks are creators of credit.” - The Times. City Notes, October 13th, 1926. “ The amount of money in existence varies only with the action of the banks in increasing or diminishing deposits. Every bank loan creates a deposit (money), and every repayment of a bank loan destroys one (money).” - Right Honorable Reginald McKenna, in Post-War Bank Policy. “Banks lend by creating credit (money): they create the means of payments out of nothing.” - -Encyclopedia Britannica (Vol. 15. “Money”.)
The Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems reported as follows, on page 196, under the general section “Creation of Credit”:- . . Because of this power, the Com- monwealth Bank is able to increase the cash trading in the ways we have pointed out above. Because of this power, too, the Commonwealth Bank can increase the cash reserves nf the trading banks; for example, it can buy securities and other property, it can lend to the governments or to others in a variety of ways, and it can even make money available to governments and others free of charge. . . .
When the war started I put to the Menzies Government a proposition which would have saved this country millions of pounds in interest. At that time I was a member of the War Expenditure Committee. I suggested that every government contract should include a clause stipulating that the successful tenderer must finance the contract through the Commonwealth Bank. Bay, for instance, n contract for £100,000 were let for the manufacture of footwear. Upon the completion of the work, the Government would pay to the contractor a cheque for £100,000 drawn upon the Commonwealth Bank. It must be remembered, of course, that all big business concerns have overdrafts, and that it is not unlikely that a contractor undertaking a job costing £100,000 would have to borrow, say, £60,000 from a bank. If my scheme were adopted, instead of a private bank drawing 6 per cent, on £60,000, the Commonwealth Bank would get 6 per cent, on that sum, and of course all the profit by that bank would go to the nation. Then, when the Government paid the contractor by cheque, that cheque would immediately go back to the Commonwealth Bank to pay off the overdraft. There is only one cheque in the entire transaction. If the contractor were allowed 5 per cent, profit on his contract, he would receive £5,000. Honorable senators can . readily appreciate what vast benefit would accrue to the nation if all government contracts, totalling many millions of pounds, were financed in that way. When a man goes to a bank seeking money to finance a business undertaking, he does not actually get money at all ; he gets credit. When the second war loan of £20,000,000 was floated, all that the banks did was to credit the Commonwealth Government with £20,000,000 in their ledgers. % Then they merely honoured their cheques, and that was the whole transaction. Four years ago I travelled the length and breadth of Australia telling the people how the war could be financed without the greatly increased taxes that we are paying to-day. Taxes are imposed primarily to pay for the cost of government, so that if we can devise a system under which the interest bill can be kept at a minimum, taxes can be reduced. Our biggest burden to-day is our huge interest bill. We are now paying £60,000,000 a year in interest alone upon money borrowed largely from the private banks. I use the word “ money “ in that sense, because bank credit is, in effect, the same thing as money. When the banks created £20,000,000 worth of credit for the second Australian war loan, that represented new money, and it had the same currency value as bank-notes and silver at that time. The banks make credit out of. nothing and charge the credit to the nation. Could there be a bigger swindle tiran, that?
– Does the honorable’ senator suggest that most of the money that is put into loans to-day comes from the banks?
– A lot of it does.
– The honorable senator said that most of the money for loanswas provided by the banks. .
– Unfortunately,, that has been the case in the past, but to-day we have a government which is watching financial problems very closely.
– What percentage of our accumulated loans represents money provided by the banks?
– Before the war the private banks invested approximately 80’ per cent, of all loans. I remind the honorable senator that when the first Australian war loan of £20,000,000 was floated, the Australian Mutual Provident Society decided to invest £l,500,000 in it, and thedirectors of that society instructed their bankers to apply for £1,500,000 worth of bonds. The bank sent a cheque to the Treasury, obtained the bonds, and drew £2,500 commission on the transaction, because all brokers and bankers were paid 5s. per cent. The bank then held thebonds as security against the overdraft,, and the Australian Mutual Provident Society proceeded to liquidate the overdraft. Obviously no institution such asthe Australian Mutual Provident Society has millions of pounds lying idle awaiting investment. When I spoke last in this chamber, I instanced the method used by the private banks during the depression to secure loan investments from clients who had overdrafts. Incidentally, depressions are caused solely by the banks calling up overdrafts and refusing further credit. The business of the world is run on credit and the only institutions which can create credit are the private banks. In almost every city of the Commonwealth one finds on the best corner blocks in the commercial areas fine bank or insurance buildings of five or six stories. Many people have the impression that these buildings are filled with money, and that the various managers are standing at the doors ready to shovel it out to whoever wants to borrow it. The fact is that these institutions do not lend money at all because they do not have it to lend. I am reminded- of the story of an Irishman who once saved the Bank of Dublin : There was a run on the bank, and when there were only a few sovereigns left, “ Paddy “ then hit upon the idea of warming them up. The sovereigns were then passed over the counter quite hot, and “ Paddy “ said to the customers, “ We are making them as fast as we can. There is plenty of gold there “. This brought back the confidence of the clients and the situation was saved. I have already told honorable senators how the great Knickerbocker Bank of New York was “ black-balled “ by the association that handles the clearing of cheques, and the managers of two New York banks which would not come to heel committed suicide.
I have had many letters urging me not to support this bill because allegedly it infringed State rights and would reduce State Parliaments to the status of city councils. That is all “bunkum”. Frequently one hears the question asked, “ Why do we have seven Parliaments for 7.000,000 people?” The popular impression seems to be that it costs a tremendous sum of money to run a State Parliament ; but the fact is that the total cost of running the New South Wales Parliament and the judiciary of that State is ls. 8d. a head per annum, whereas, when the war started, the interest bill of New South Wales alone was between £6 and £7 a head of the population. Those “ giants “ who brought about federation knew no more about finance than does the man in the moon, otherwise they would not have permitted the British system of banking to prevail in this country. It was most unfortunate indeed that this country inherited that system. From the day of its establishment in 1694, the policy of the Bank of England has been the financial impoverishment of the British people. In 1880, when Gladstone became Chancellor of the Exchequer, he said that until then he had not realized the po wer of the “ city “, meaning, of course, Lombard-street.
I am convinced that some of the special war-time powers with which the Commonwealth Government is now clothed, must continue after the war if chaos is to be avoided. Much has been said about post-war reconstruction. In my opinion it will be possible to change from a wartime economy to a peace-time economy with very little loss of time; but that will have to be done by the Commonwealth Bank issuing interest-free money. Many people ask the question, “How can the Commonwealth Bank issue interest-free money and still pay interest to its depositors?” I point out that last year the Commonwealth Bank made a profit of £1,250,000. Surely that great institution could lend a few millions of pounds to its own government interest free. In any case, what would it matter if the Commonwealth Bank charged 3$ per cent, interest, the same as the private banks, when all the profits of the Commonwealth Bank go back to the nation? It is only a book entry after all. Why should we penalize the men who come back from the war by asking them to pay a share of our war debt, because that is what a continuance of high taxes to meet our interest commitments on borrowed money will mean. Since this war started we have gone farther into debt to the amount of £950,000,000. That vast expenditure could have been avoided had national credit, been used. Actually, the people of this country were in a much more fortunate position than the people of any other belligerent country when the war started, because they had their own national bank; but unfortunately it has not been utilized as it should have been to finance the war. The Government has spent millions of pounds on the construction of annexes for the production of war materials. A most undesirablefeature of our war effort is the cost-plus system. On one occasion I asked an accountant whether the £100,000 which a firm had returned to the . Commonwealth Government had been a voluntary contribution to the war loan, and he said, “ Yes, after I went through the books on the cost-plus system “.
Our post-war reconstruction scheme will be successful only if we can put our ex-servicemen back to work. It makes me sick to hear talk of preference being given to returned soldiers. There would be no need for ex-servicemen to ask for preference if the reconstruction job were tackled in the right way by the use of national credit. For instance, there is in prospect a huge irrigation scheme in Queensland which would cost something like £30,000,000, and what does the cost matter so long as we have the men and material. Even the orthodox university economists, who have been misleading governments for 40 years, admit now that money does not count in a war effort. All that counts is men’ and materials. Adequate man-power will be available when our men come back from the fighting fronts, and given the opportunity, they will very quickly produce the material. There is an urgent demand for more hospitals, schools and homes. There is a housing shortage even in this city, as the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) is well aware. All these schemes could be carried out by the use of national credit. I cannot understand why honorable senators opposite continue to apply static minds to the most dynamic situation which has ever faced the world. Are we to hear nothing of value from the Opposition? The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) spoke for 40 minutes, and I have never heard him more eloquent, but, unfortunately, he has a static mind. No member of the Opposition has ever been able to prove any of my remarks to be inaccurate. The Government is not now selling treasury-bills to the private banks.
It b a great fallacy to think that the problem before the world is to find work for men. Every invention does away with manual labour, but should we urge scientists to invent no more laboursaving machinery? We should grasp the fact that the time has arrived when there should be a leisure age. It has been proved beyond doubt that three or four hours work a day would provide for the needs of the people. Therefore, why should the workers be called upon to work up . to ten hours a day merely to put money into the hands of multimillionaires? I remember a coal strike that occurred in Newcastle 25 years ago, when the proprietor of a coal mine said, “ We will starve the workers into submission “, and he locked the men out for months. When I spoke about the American Constitution it brought to my mind the words of Abraham Lincoln that the true principles of democracy are government of the people, by the people, and for the people. When Mr. Bernard Shaw was asked for a donation to some object in Great Britain he replied, “I am already paying 18s. 6d. in the £1 by way of income tax, and I cannot give a donation for anything. I am living on my capital to-day But it was not realized that in the first eighteen months of the war the civilian casualties would be greater than those experienced on the battlefield in the 1914-18 war. Moneygrubbers did not realize that what they made out of the war would be of no use to them because the Government would take a great deal of it back in the form of taxes. I notice that the inventor of the Owen gun receives a large royalty, but 18s. 6d. in the £1 of the amount he receives will go back to the Government in the form of income tax.
– Does the honorable senator regard that as a fair reward to the inventor?
– How is a new order to be brought about until we find out what is fundamentally wrong with the present order ? At the Summer School of the Australian Institute of Political Science held in Canberra none of the speakers endeavoured to discover what is fundamentally wrong with the present order. Incompetent and corrupt governments calling themselves democratic brought the dictators into existence. At the Treaty of Versailles Mr. Lloyd George said that high finance laid down its terms with the arrogance of emperors. That is why the Dawes plan and the Young plan were brought into being. When the money grubbers of Wall-street imposed an indemnity on the people of Germany of £24,000,000 in gold, they said, “ Now we have Germany where we want it”, but it was impossible to keep down a nation with a population of 70,000,000. What brought Hitler into existence? Thyssen, the great steel magnate, said that he financed Hitler, hut afterwards he had to flee the country. It was impossible to start a revolution such as that organized by the Fuehrer with a small sum of money. It was necessary to have the assistance of big landowners, big industries and big shipping companies. Hitler said that he would raise Germany out of its depression, but, instead of raising it commercially-
– The honorable senator must confine his remarks to the subject-matter of the bill.
– I contend that this measure has a direct bearing on the new order and on trusts and finance. The Bank of International Settlements at Basle is the head of the whole financial swindle, and when it was established it was not under the control of any government. It was used in the 1914-1S war to settle in gold the financial differences between creditor and debtor nations. Although the money of that great bank had to be funded the institution is still in existence. International finance has no country. The great financial interests are interlocked and can squeeze the lifeblood out of the people.
It has been said in the press that the post-war problems will be dealt with by the Governments of Great Britain and the United States of America, but the control will be exercised, not by the governments, but by the financiers of Wallstreet and Lombard-street. There must be a national movement to break the money of the Pierpont Morgans and the Rockefellers, but that movement will not come from members of Parliament. I stated when addressing 3,000 persons in the Melbourne Town Hall on one occasion that such a movement would not originate in parliaments, but that the people themselves would have to force their representatives to take action. Until the representatives of the electors in the National Parliament are called upon by the people to take such action, we shall look in vain for a- new order. Under the Atlantic Charter we are to go back to the gold standard, and it is said that America holds most of the world’s gold. It is held by the Federal Reserve Bank and not by the American Government. That bank ‘lent 300,000,000 gold dollars to China a few months ago. The whole world will be in debt to the United States of America before this war concludes.
The break in the railway gauge between Sydney and Melbourne was due to economic considerations. The New South Wales people wanted the Riverina wheat to go to Sydney but the distance from the Riverina to Melbourne was 200 miles less than to Sydney and therefore the break of gauge was introduced.
– “ Giants “ did that.
– They were not schoolboys in knickerbockers. I heard Deakin, Barton and the other founders of federation speak and they presented a good case in support of the proposed federal union, but what has been the cost of federation? At one time the income tax collected by the States was greater than that imposed by the Commonwealth Government, but at the present time the Commonwealth tax is greater than that of the States. The greatest and most unscrupulous power in the world to-day is that exercised by men in control of high finance.
– Proposals for the amendment of the Constitution, as contemplated by this bill, have been before the people since November, 1942, and therefore a good deal of consideration has been given to the matter by the people. During the last fortnight the subject has been discussed in this Parliament, and I have watched with a good deal of interest the attitude of its members toward the bill. Many of them seem to be in doubt as to whether the measure should be accepted, but I am convinced as to the course which I shall pursue. “Whilst I am opposed to the powers sought in the bill, and believe that the measure will be passed by the Senate, as it has been by the House of Representatives, I am convinced that when a referendum of the people is taken regarding those powers the electors will decline to grant them. During my parliamentary experience I have not witnessed so much backing and filling by members of this Parliament than I have in respect of this bill. A leading member of the House of Representatives, whose speech was fully reported in the press, said that he would not vote for the bill in the Parliament, but would support the proposals when they went before the people. His statement reminds me of the story of two Irishmen who thought that they would like to have a half-holiday. Wot being convinced that they were justified in staying away from work, they decided to apply a test. They agreed, to throw a brick into the air; if it remained in the air they would go back to work, otherwise they would have a half-holiday. This is not the first time that a measure of this description has been before the Senate, but on the previous occasions the measures submitted had a more specific purpose. Unlike its predecessors, this measure aims at the wholesale destruction of the Constitution; yet its terms are so indefinite that even members of the legal fraternity, who have been educated in regard to the making of laws, are divided as to its real meaning.
– Even the AttorneyGeneral cannot tell us what it means.
– That is so. When the trained legal minds in this Parliament cannot understand it, what chance has the ordinary layman of knowing what the proposals mean ? The Constitution under which we are now working has been in operation for over 40 years, and has not proved a bad instrument. I doubt whether any other country has made progress equal to that made by Australia in the last 43 years, or has a standard of living equal to ours. Australia has been able to hold its place, in the trade and commerce of the world during that period and, therefore, we should approach the subject of an alteration of the Constitution with a good deal of thought. Only on one occa sion during the 4’3 years that the Constitution has been in force has there been any serious friction between the Commonwealth Parliament and any State parliament. That was in the early thirties, and then the friction was between the Scullin Labour Government in the Commonwealth sphere and the Lang Labour Government in New South Wales. That friction had nothing to do with the .Constitution, but was simply a matter of which parliament was giving effect to the Labour party’s policy. There is sufficient elasticity about the Commonwealth Constitution to enable practically all the things that are necessary for the country’s good to be done. Our Constitution has been framed largely on that of the United States of Amenca. That country will have to face a post-war period as Australia will have to do, but there is no talk of altering its Constitution.
– The United States of America is in a mess, as the honorable senator knows.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.That country seems to be getting along very well. We should be thankful that it is on our side. If an alteration of the Constitution be desirable, Ave should alter it along the lines which were adopted in framing it. That is to say, there should be a convention for the purpose and the delegates to the convention should be representative of all shades of political thought. Some people will say that such a convention was held towards the end of 1942, when the Premiers and the Leaders of the Opposition in the State parliaments met representatives of the Commonwealth Government and of the Opposition in this Parliament. It is true that they met, but to say that that gathering was a convention is to describe it incorrectly. Let us recall what happened. The Convention was convened by the Commonwealth Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), who sent to the Premier and the Leader of the Opposition in each State a copy of a draft bill which had been prepared under his direction. He asked them to consider it, and to come to Canberra prepared to discuss it. But when the delegates reached Canberra they found that that draft bill had been discarded by its author, because in the meantime he had realized that it would not be acceptable to the States. The delegates had an entirely different bill submitted to them. Evidently they thought that if the Attorney-General could discard one bill they could do so too. Accordingly they scrapped his second bill. As has already been pointed out, the Premier of Tasmania, Mr. Cosgrove-
– Acting under instructions from his Cabinet.
– I do not think so. Rather do I think that he acted under instructions from some one else after he reached Canberra. However, I am prepared to give to Mr. Cosgrove the credit for moving that a drafting committee be appointed to prepare a further bill. His suggestion was agreed to, and a drafting committee, consisting, of the six .State Premiers together with the Commonwealth AttorneyGeneral and the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) was’ appointed. They returned to the Convention with a new bill which embraced fourteen points. One would have thought that that measure would have been thoroughly discussed by the Convention, but, apparently, the Attorney-General did not think that it was necessary to explain the measure. However, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) thought otherwise, and it was agreed that the bill should be discussed. After four hours’ consideration, the supermen who constituted the Convention had agreed upon smashing a Constitution which had taken the best intellects of Australia ten months to prepare, including discussions at conventions extending over seventeen consecutive weeks.
– In what way did the Canberra Convention smash the Constitution ?
– The Constitution has not. yet been smashed, but the Convention set out to smash it. Later, it was’ agreed that the draft bill which had emanated from the drafting committee should be submitted to the several State Parliaments. That was done in due course. New South “Wales and Queensland grabbed the bait and swallowed it hook, line and sinker.
Victoria was somewhat different. Having studied the bill, the Victorian Parliament decided that if the Parliaments of the other States agreed to it Victoria also would come into line. The three other State Parliaments were not keen to take the bait.
– They were keen enough at the Convention.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.The Parliaments of South Australia and Western Australia had a good idea of what centralization at Canberra would mean to them. South Australia had had some experience of the administration of a territory by a government situated at a distance. That State knew what the Commonwealth had done with the Northern Territory. When South Australia undertook to develop that portion of the continent the population of the State was only 126,000. In those days mechanical aids to pioneering were few. When the Commonwealth Government took over the control of the Northern Territory 3,300 persons had been established in mining and pastoral industries in the Northern Territory, and were getting some return for their labour. Yet in 1932 after 21 years of Commonwealth control, the population, of the Northern Territory had risen to only 5,600, whilst the financial returns were worse than’ in 1911. On the 19th July, 1932, the then Minister for Home Affairs said -
Since North Australia was taken over by the Commonwealth in 1911, there has been spent . on it annually about £500,000 more than has come out of it, and in some years as much as £1,000,000 more.
The territory has thus always been a liability to the Federal Government. If the advocates of centralization could point to any success resulting from Canberra control and administration they might persuade us there was something in their arguments, but the hard facts are against them.
– That was under Nationalist governments.
– Let me bring the matter up to date. Less than six months ago between 60 and 70 gougers were mining at Hatches Creek, and were obtaining a mineral very essential to our war effort.
– That has been disputed in the House of Representatives.
– I claim to know more about this mine than the honorable member who raised it in another place. At all events, the Government decided to dispense with the gougers, apparently with the idea of mining this mineral in dead earnest. At the time it came to that decision, it had 500 Chinese working in Sydney, and the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) said, in effect, “ We do not. want these Chinese here. Get them out of this “. Those 500 Chinese were sent up to Hatches Creek. In the meantime the Government had expended a considerable sum in developing the mine. However, th.e Chinese were found not to be satisfactory and, subsequently, the Government decided to abandon the mine. I promise honorable senators opposite that in the near future they will hear a good deal more about what happened at that mine.
The people of South Australia and Western Australia have a fairly good idea what centralization of government in Canberra as embodied in these proposals, would mean to them. At this juncture, it may be interesting to review a little history. I propose to cite the views expressed by leading members of the Labour party who were then in opposition and are now members of the Government, when discussing the . Constitution. Alteration (Marketing) Bill in 1936. Honorable senators will note that the proposals now before us include a proposal that the Commonwealth should be given control of the marketing of primary products. I admit that in 1936 the Labour party had. only three representatives in this chamber, and, so far as I can remember, they supported that measure. However, it is interesting to hear what the present Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings), who was then Leader of the Opposition in this chamber, had to say on the’ subject of unification. He said -
The Opposition believes that this Parliament should have all the legislative powers and nobody else should have any.
I now turn to the views expressed at that time in the House of Representatives by gentlemen who are now prominent members of the Government, and are now strong advocates of the proposal that the Commonwealth should be given control of marketing. The present Minister for
Labour and National Service (Mt. Holloway) then said -
There can be no doubt as to what the result would be of a reference to the people of proposals formulated by a conference representative of all parties and advocated by them in the electorates for the removal of the anomalies which everybody will agree exist at the present time.
Apparently, that. Minister has now changed his opinion on that subject. The view he then expressed is of particular interest to me because I am of opinion that any proposals to be submitted at a referendum should first be recommended by a conference or a convention. On the same occasion, the present Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), who was then Leader of the Opposition, alluded to the bill as a paltry amendment. In a primary producing country such as ours, legislation appertaining to the marketing of primary products can hardly be regarded as paltry. The Prime Minister went on to advocate that the Government should include in that measure provision for the establishment of a 40-hour week in rural industries. He contended that if that were done, the referendum would have some chance of success. On the same occasion, the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), who was Attorney-General in the Scullin Government, said -
I take leave to doubt whether in the past the primary producers have lent support to the policy of Labour and now find on practical grounds they have done a wrong thing and followed a mistaken course, and must not be surprised if they are left to stew in their own’ juice.
A former member for Cook, Mr. J. Garden, said -
The Government is spending £100,000 to satisfy the greed of certain sections of the community from which it receives political support.
The present Minister for Transport stressed the point that the measure was only a scheme to sell our first-grade produce overseas and compel Australian consumers to pay first-grade prices for a second-grade article. He urged ‘ the Labour party to oppose the bill, and advised the workers to vote against the proposals.
The late Dr. Maloney, who was then the honorable member for Melbourne, said -
In fact, it is merely legislation to inflate the prices of foodstuffs.
He said he was wholeheartedly of the opinion of his leader that the inclusion of a provision for a 40-hour week would increase the chances of success for a referendum, and he was willing to accept the bill if such a provision were included in it. The present Speaker of the House of Representatives. the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear said -
It will be readily conceded that the powers asked for in the proposed referendum are indeed paltry. . . .
In short, the table of the Australian consumer was to be taxed to provide a cheap menu for .overseas countries.
From those extracts it will be seen that many prominent members of the present Government have changed their views entirely with respect to the Commonwealth’s need to control marketing.
I agree that many anomalies exist in the Constitution. That is but natural when we remember the changes which have occurred during the last 40 years. However, the primary reason given by the Government for these proposals is that it requires these powers in order to enable it to deal effectively with postwar problems.
– ‘Can we deal with those problems without increasing the powers of the Commonwealth?
– I think that we can. In view of our small population, we have done a very good job in helping our Allies in this war. We have played the game towards them at all times. However, despite our contribution to the war effort of the United Nations, although it is the best we can make, victory will really be won through the efforts of the bigger nations. When we compare our war effort with that of the larger nations, we shall not be able to claim a very important voice in the settlement of post-war problems. We shall have a seat at the peace table, but that seat will not be near the top.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.Surely the honorable senator can answer that question for himself. One reason is that we are only a part of the British Commonwealth of Nations, and the representatives of the Mother Country will have a seat near the top of the table. The larger nations will decide not only such matters as new boundaries, but also the future allocation of world trade and commerce; and we shall have to abide by their decisions in that respect even should we make some noise about the matter, or tell them that we have altered our Constitution in order to enable us to take a more prominent part in world trade.
To-day, members of the Australian fighting services are scattered throughout all war zones. Another reason why I oppose the holding of a referendum during the war is that, even should every member of the services be given an opportunity to cast a vote, their minds will not be on matters of this kind. Indeed, they will not be able to weigh the issues on which they are asked to vote. I also oppose the holding of a referendum during the war because the urgency for such a step disappears when we remember that, under its defence powers, the Commonwealth can now do practically anything it wishes.
– For how long?
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.For the period of the war and six months afterwards. The powers in this bill are to last for only five years. If they are good, why not let them continue for all time? Six months after the war ceases does not mean six- months after an armistice has been signed, but six months after the peace treaty has been signed, which may be two years after hostilities cease. We have, in the National Security Regulations, power to do practically anything we like. I am inclined to think that many regulations made by the present Government will be its undoing when the vote on the referendum is taken, because the people are becoming very tired of them. Although they are quite ready to submit to them while Australia is fighting for its life, they do not want to be subjected to them for the rest of their existence.
– They will not be asked to do so.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.They will be under present conditions. A housewife carrying two string-bags from shop to shop of a morning, one with the week’s meat and the other with groceries, 13 prepared to do so as her contribution towards winning the war, but she would refuse to walk to the butcher, the baker and the candlestickmaker for the rest of her days.
– Many had to do it during the depression, under the Government which the honorable senator supported.
– If the present Government is given the powers asked for in the bill, it will make women do it for the rest of their lives, and even Ministers will have to walk about all their lives with their coupon books in their pockets. A great many things are irksome to the people at the present time, but they are carrying on and doing their best because it is war-time. They will, however, refuse to suffer these indignities after the war, and it must be impressed upon them that if they vote for the referendum they will suffer them for the rest of their lives. One instance of unnecessary restriction is to be found in meat rationing. Canada imposed meat rationing but has suspended it for a time. It is the most ridiculous impost ever put on the people of Australia. I am not speaking without my book, because I have been connected with the industry for a lifetime.
– The honorable senator evidently does not want to give the British people more meat.
– I do; but the Government Statistician’s figures show that since the war began in 1939 we have supplied Great Britain with all the meat which its ships could take away. There is a great deal of meat in Australia still awaiting ships which have to arrive. We have fed all the men who have come to us from America, and our own troops, and yet to-day we have 13,500,000 more sheep, 1,500,000 more cattle and 500,000 more pigs than we had in 1939.
– We .shall need every one of them before the Japanese are beaten.
– We can meet that emergency when it comes. T-have simply pointed to the results up to the present, after all that we have done. Until three weeks ago practically every cold store in Australia was filled to the roof with frozen meat, branded as O.K. for export, and ready to be sent away. During the past week or two some vessels have arrived and taken some of it away. When I left South Australia a month ago that State had 6,000 tons of meat awaiting shipment. In addition it had stock in the’ paddocks ready to be slaughtered, but losing weight and value every day. That position still continues. This bill proves the master-mind behind the draftsman. Like all unpalatable medicines, it has some .sweetening in it. Paragraph (i) relates to- the reinstatement and advancement of members of the fighting services. The sponsors of the bill know quite well that that is a very popular cry, commending itself to most of the people. To gain sympathy, one has only to talk a’bout service men and women. They have all my sympathy and will have all my help. Every man -who has handled arms, helped to defend- this country, will have all the help that I can give him. I do not refer to the man who lias only worn a uniform. I regard the men and women in the munitions factories as being in civilian jobs. I believe that they are being very well paid for what they are doing, and receiving more than their usual remuneration. I do not think that they come under the proper description of service men and women.
We have heard quite recently in the Seriate many references to soldiers who served in the last war. Honorable senators opposite have said, “ We are not going to treat our soldiers in the way that they were treated after the last war. They are going to be looked after and well treated “. Tn fact on one occasion I heard it said that “When our men came back from the last war we welcomed them as heroes but let them die as paupers “. That statement is not correct. Any one who looks at the matter fairly must agree that no country in the world treated its returned men from the last war better than Australia did. The latest figures are not available, but up to the 30th June, 1941, we had expended on the repatriation of our soldiers, practically £290,000,000. This expenditure included the following items:- War pensions, £171,569,093; service pensions, £1,973,312; medical treatment, £10,263,064; and soldiers’ children education scheme, £2,232,148. To this must be added war gratuities, soldiers’ settlement schemes and war service homes, £91,000,000. That was a very creditable effort for a country with a small population like ours. We have heard it said that if we do not pass the bill Australia will suffer a most terrible depression after the war, and that the whole country will be in a very serious state. I do not subscribe to that view. My opinion is that for the three or four years following the war, far from having a depression we shall experience good times, but after that there will be a depression. Any one who tries to delude himself to the contrary should think again. We cannot destroy the world by knocking everything to pieces, and then start to rebuild with limited resources and hope to escape a depression. When the depression comes, our standard of living will have to go into cold storage for awhile, because a depression will affect all of us, and not only one section. It is hound to come, whether or not the Commonwealth Parliament is given these .powers. It is useless to tell the people that if they accept these amendments of the Constitution they will never have another sad day, but will always be wealthy, healthy and happy. That is all flapdoodle, and I do not subscribe to it.
– That will be better than putting them all on the dole as was done by the Government which the honorable senator supported.
– I refuse to take all the blame for what previous governments did. The next proposed power deals with employment and unemployment. At first blush one might ask, “ Why should not the Commonwealth Parliament have control of those things ?’’ But second thoughts would prompt a decided “ No “ for answer. We quite agree that the Commonwealth Parliament should have the power where unemployment exists, to ensure that those who are unemployed are given suitable employment.
– How would the honorable senator do it?
– The Government could do it now. Why does the Minister ask me such a question ? He knows that the Government could make a grant to any State at any time. It is, as I say, quite right that the Commonwealth Government should have the power to do away with unemployment. We do not want it. We believe that every man should have some work to do and be well remunerated for it, but the full intention of the term “ employment and unemployment “ in the bill is to cover, not only work, but also hours, conditions of labour and wages. It will give the Government power to sweep the Arbitration Court aside. Take, for instance, the Women’s Employment Board. That tribunal has ruled that women workers who have gone into certain factories to do war work shall be paid £1, £1 10s. or, in some cases, even £2 a week more than women who have been doing the same work in those factories for years. Recently the Government secured the passage through Parliament of a measure empowering the Coal Commissioner to do exactly as he pleased in the coal-mining industry. Was not the Government legislating in respect of employment on that occasion? It cannot be claimed that the Govern1 ment has not the power to deal adequately with the- coal-mining industry; but the results achieved have been very poor indeed. Also, during the past year, goods valued at £250,000 have been pillaged from the wharfs in Australia. Why does the Government not use the power which already it possesses to curb these activities? If the Government were to set an example by handling these powers effectively, honorable senators might be inclined to agree to the granting of some additional powers.
The following is an opinion of this measure which has been expressed by an eminent King’s Counsel in South Australia, Mr. Villeneuve Smith : -
There are no limits within which to contain these words except their whole unabridged etymological meaning. But if you cannot foresee all the circumstances by which the future may exhibit their uttermost confines, it is easy to say now that, as a minimum, they must include -
Whenever the. relation employeremployee exists, the federal authority may, by appropriate legislative action, occupy the whole fieldof control in respect to that relation.
The Commonwealth could acquire compusorily any property from any State or person wherever the relationship of employer-employee exists.
Could sweep away, by appropriate forms of legislation, all arbitration tribunals, awards, and substitute other provisions.
Could render void all State Liabilities Acts, Workers’ Compensation Acts and the like, and replace them by its own.
Could order any employer to engage any person or class of persons on such terms and conditions as it chooses; could transfer any person - servant or employer - to any place; could order an employer to dismiss any person or class of persons, or to retire them on such terms and conditions as it chooses.
In short, it could usurp controlof the whole business and economic structure including the compulsory acquisition of banking, insurance, shipping, mining, the press, or any other form of commercial activity where the relationship of employeremployee functions in whole or part.
Further, it could impose upon the Civil Service of any State such terms and conditions as it sees fit irrespective of any State legislation.
– We coulddo all those things; that does not mean that they would be done.
– I am afraid that honorable senators opposite might be inclined to do most of them and that is why I am not at all anxious that they should have the opportunity.
Paragraph (iii) relates to organized marketing of commodities. I am in favour of organized marketing, and when the marketing referendum was held, I did all in my power to obtain an affirmative vote.
Paragraph (iv) relates to uniform company legislation. Whether or not that is desirable, I cannot say, but already we have legislated for uniform bankruptcy law and uniform income taxation, and I see no reason why we have not power to legislate for a uniform company law.
Paragraph (v) relates to the activities of trusts, combines and monopolies. I am as anxious as any one that these interests should not be permitted to interfere with our industrial and commercial developments, and I have no objection to legislation in that direction.
I come now to paragraph (vii), which relates to the production and distribution of goods. Ever since I have been interested in politics, one of the outstanding planks of the Labour party’s platform has been the “ control of the means of production, distribution and exchange”. Again I shall quote the remarks of Mr. Villeneuve Smith -
The term “ production and distribution of goods” comprehends every act of man in relation to goods and every act of man in his dealings with man in producing or distributing goods.
The production of primary productsis exempted except with the consent of the State Governor in Council (i.e., the government of the day). The consent, once obtained, could not be revoked or modified by the State parliament.
The distribution of primary products is not’ exempted. The power includes the distributing and marketing of sheep, wool, horses and cattle and the products of the mines and forests, andpersists right up to the hands of the consumer.
The power includes complete dominion by the Federal Government over every sort of transport connected with goods.
Paragraph (vii) is very cunningly worded, as Mr. Villeneuve Smith has pointed out. It provides that the Commonwealth shall have power over production, other than primary production, but there is no guarantee that the Commonwealth will not interfere with the distribution of primary products. Although the primary producer will be free to grow whatever crops he chooses, the Commonwealth will be able to fix prices, and in that way exercise full control over primary production.
In effect, this paragraph means nationalization or socialism, whatever one likes to call it. We have already been given some examples of the failure of government enterprises. Senator A. J. McLachlan referred to losses on undertakings conducted by the State Government of Western Australia, and, in view of a statement made by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) when he was introducing meat rationing, I am prompted to quote some figures relating to State enterprises. It will be recalled that certain sections of the meat industry were antagonistic to the meat rationing scheme and that the Minister told them that if they would not accept the plan the Government would take the matter into its own hands. Some years ago, Queensland adopted, or tried to adopt, a plan for the socialization of industry, but encountered disastrous results. Cattle stations purchased in Queensland showed a loss of £1,669,804, plus £1,324,498 in interest charges. That was in 1929, and the interest losses are still mounting. Some butchers’ shops were purchased, resulting in a loss of £28,014, plus £3,396 in interest. A further £18,000 was lost on the ‘State Produce Department, whilst the State cannery lost £112,696, plus £26,970 in interest. The Government also entered the mining industry, and in that connexion its losses were colossal. At the Baralaba mine the loss amounted to £57,579; the Styx No. 2 lost £71,492, the Styx No. 3 £30,643, Mount Mulligan £177,693, and Warra £38,019. An attempt was made also to develop an arsenic mine and the loss on that venture was £61,300, making a total loss in respect of mining of £436,736. In addition, under State control, Chillagoe smelters lost £1,196,346 plus interest amounting to £385,960. I think that the only State venture which succeeded in Queensland was an hotel. [Extension of time granted.’] This paragraph will give to the Government power to take over any phase of production or distribution. The Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) has already given an indication of the Government’s intentions in regard to the use of munitions factories after the war. It is now obvious that some of these factories at least will become commercial undertakings, and will compete against private enterprise. 1 admit that these factories have done excellent war work, but only because they have been under the control of captains of industry, such as Mr. Holden, Mr. E. G. Theodore, Mr. L. ,T. Hartnet, and Mr. Essington Lewis. These men, who were appointed by previous administrations, have done a fine job, and despite many threats of what would happen to them if a Labour government were to secure control of the treasury bench, they are still carrying on their valuable work. However, the Government will not be able to call upon men like Mr. Essington Lewis to control its industries in peacetime. I cannot imagine Mr. Lewis lifting his hat to the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator ‘Cameron) on his way to work and -saying, “.Good morning, sir”.
– Would there be anything wrong with that?
– He would certainly be expected to do that if he had to work under the Minister’s directions. The Attorney-General has added to the bill, as originally introduced, several provisions relating to what is known as the freedoms. It was very considerate of the Attorney-General to do that, because, if the powers indicated in the bill are granted by the people, they will have practically no soul to call -their own. Admittedly he is prepared to grant freedom of speech, but, at the Summer School of the Australian Institute of Political Science, held at Canberra recently, he said -
The taking away in future of the rights of the individual to choose his own vocation and employment was only one of the freedoms which the Australian people must forgo in the interests of the state.
During the present sittings of this. Parliament history is being made. The measures which are now being placed on the statute-book will be quoted long after present members of the Senate have passed on. As to whether the legislation being enacted will be for the lasting benefit of the country, time alone can determine ; hut we are undoubtedly at the crossroads, and have turned to the left. We are in full transition from the age of the individualist to the socialization period. We arc discarding the individuality that, has made and kept the British nation the greatest power on earth for the last two centuries. We are destroying that incentive which to-day is prompting our fighting forces the world over to suffer, and, if need be, die, in order that the British Empire and all it stands for may live. I say, in all sincerity. “ God forbid that our fighting men shall return home to a country where the liberty and individuality for which they have fought have developed into a bureaucracy equal to if not worse than that which they set forth to destroy.
– I believe that the transfer of some additional powers to the Commonwealth is necessary. “We must give credit to ‘ the founders of federation for having provided a Constitution which, with few alterations, has remained intact for the last 43 years, particularly in view of the vast changes that have occurred in the meantime in world affairs ; but three questions occur to my mind. First, is the best method of obtaining the requisite powers that of consulting the people by way of a referendum? Secondly, if so, is the present time opportune for an appeal to the people? Thirdly, can the Government carry on its programme during the war and in the post-war period without the powers sought in the bill? As to the first question, I consider that the Government is entitled to explore every avenue for the purpose of obtaining the necessary powers without a referendum. In my judgment it could obtain some measure of agreement with the States. If further negotiations with the States were carried out perhaps the necessary agreement could be obtained. During the last 43 years, eighteen proposals for amendment of the Constitution were submitted to the people by referenda, and in fifteen instances the .proposals were defeated. That fact alone should make the Government consider carefully the possible result of a further appeal to the people. If we ask why the people voted “ No “, I think that we must come to the conclusion that they were doubtful of the advisability of altering the Constitution, and when they are in doubt they invariably vote “ No “. Is there likely to be a doubt in the minds of the people on this occasion? I say definitely that there is more likely to be a doubt at the present time than probably at any previous referendum. The proposals to “be submitted to the people are of a more far-reaching character than any on which they have previously been asked to vote. The people are bound to have many doubts regarding the fourteen powers set out in the bill. A very good attempt was made by the Government to secure agreement by the States and to have the proposals accepted by. the Parliaments of the various States. A convention was called on the 24th November, 1942, and it was one of the most representative that could have been held. The twelve representatives of the Commonwealth included the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin). There were six representatives from the Government side .and an equal number of representatives of the Opposition, whilst each State had two representatives^ - the Premier and the Leader of the Opposition. The bill submitted originally by the Attorney-General was thoroughly discussed, and a draft bill considerably different from that first presented, was agreed to for submission to each of the parliaments of the States. In Queensland and New South Wales the- bill was passed without amendment. The Parliament of Victoria accepted it on the condition that all of the other States passed bills that contained substantially the same provisions. The Lower House of the Tasmanian Parliament agreed to the measure, but the Legislative Council in that State rejected it. ‘ South Australia and Western Australia have gone a long way towards granting the powers sought in the bill. That shows that all avenues in the direction of agreement among the States have not been exhausted. On examination of the passage of the measure through the Parliaments of the States we find that all of the mainland States were in agreement on seven points. In Tasmania the Lower House was in agreement with the whole of the draft bill. One of the powers on which the Parliaments of the States were agreed was the first proposal in the bill - that relating to the power for the reinstatement and advancement of members of the fighting services of the Commonwealth in the present war and the advancement of the dependants of those who have died or been disabled in consequence of war. That is the spearhead of the measure, because it is believed that everybody in the Commonwealth would do all he possibly could for the men and women who are now fighting for their country. The States have agreed to the proposals of the Commonwealth in respect of air transport, uniform railway gauge, national works, national health in cooperation with the States, family allowances, and treatment of members of the aboriginal race. In view of that measure of agreement, would it not have been wise for a senior Commonwealth Minister to go to Tasmania while the bill was before the Parliament of that State, and by personal contact with its members seek to obtain their agreement with the proposals of the Commonwealth?
– The AttorneyGeneral queered the pitch by writing to one of the members of that Parliament.
– A compromise might have been effected, thereby obviating the necessity for a referendum. The same thing could have been done in South Australia and Western Australia; the proposals.; of the Commonwealth could have been explained clearly to the members of the Parliaments of those States, :and probably a compromise could have teen effected with them also.
– How would the honorable senator have dealt with Mr. Dunstan, the Premier of Victoria?
– No attempt appears to have been made to meet the States. I realize that my proposal might have involved what some would regard as loss of prestige on the part of the Commonwealth Minister; but there was so much to gain by getting the agreement of the States that the risk was worth taking. It will be seen that there is already agreement regarding seven of the fourteen points, and that with respect to four other points the differences are slight. That means that in respect of only three of them would a compromise have been necessary. By trying to force this legislation through the Parliament, and by deciding to hold a referendum of the people, the Government has antagonized the State Parliaments.
– At the Canberra Convention, all parties agreed to the draft bill.
– The bill now before the Senate is different from the draft bill which was submitted to the Convention. For instance, clause 3 of the draft bill was as follows : - 3. (1) This act shall not bc repealed or amended except in the manner provided in this suction.
That clause is not in the bill before us.
– But the fourteen points agreed to are in the bill now under discussion.
– The draft bill submitted to the Convention empowered the States to withdraw the grant of powers, but that provision is not in the bill before us.
– The bill before the Senate has been framed in accordance with the decisions of the Canberra Convention.
– I am pointing out what I consider the Government should have done, instead of going to the lengths that it proposes in this bill.
– Had the Government done what the honorable senator suggests, its action would have been strongly resented by the States.
– That is a risk which would have been worth taking in order to effect a compromise. Had the Commonwealth failed in its efforts to win the support of the States, it would have had a better case to-day. .
– What is the attitude of the honorable senator towards the bill ?
– I am against the holding of a referendum in war-time. The second question I ask myself is, “If a referendum is to be held, is this an opportune time ? “ To that question I must answer an emphatic “ No “. This is not an opportune time to submit proposals to a referendum of the people. Even under peace-time conditions, the electors have agreed to only three out of eighteen proposals submitted to them by means of referenda. Now they are somewhat overwrought by war conditions; they are suffering from the effects of various restrictions and regimentation; many thousands of the young men and women in the community have been called to serve with the forces or in industry; citizens generally are being pushed from pillar to post and made subject to bureaucratic control ; and for the most part the people are definitely irritated.
– Not many months ugo general, elections were held under exactly similar conditions.
– General elections are held every three years, and the. people are- accustomed to them. The political parties which contest the elections arc known to the people, whereas a referendum is something that takes place at rare intervals, and the proposals submitted to the people are not generally understood. A number of electors are confused and do not know how to vote. That is so even in peace-time; but in war-time they are. more harassed, and are not in a normal frame of mind.
– That state of affairs existed when the general elections were held.
– That may be, but, as I have said, an election is a normal happening which the people understand, whereas the holding of a referendum is not. When major alterations of the Constitution are proposed and the people do not understand the issues, they will most likely vote “ No “.
– The Government is prepared to trust the people and take the risk.
– I am asking the Government to try what I think is a better way; but, evidently, it has made up its mind and will not heed my suggestion.
– The Government wants votes, not advice.
– I offered the suggestion in an attempt to be helpful.
– The honorable senator’s vote would be more helpful.
– I am not willing to be regimented, and told how I must vote.
– Perhaps we could follow the honorable senator’s suggestion, . and send a Minister to confer with him.
– I have shown that the present is a most inopportune time to submit these proposals to the people. There is the further fact that large numbers of electors, both men -and women, are serving in the forces.
– They will all have an opportunity to vote.
– I do not think that even the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) would say that those men and women are in exactly the same frame of mind as if following their ordinary civil avocations. Moreover, there will be difficulty in enlightening the men in operational areas as to the proposals and in securing their votes. It must also be remembered that there are about 26,000 Australians in the hands of the enemy, who will not have any opportunity to register a vote in a matter of such importance to them as a major alteration of the Constitution.
– The Government wants to disfranchise them.
– They are already disfranchised. All those factors militate against the holding of a referendum. The next question I am prompted to ask is whether the Government cannot carry on effectively in the post-war years without being granted these extra powers. I maintain that it can. Already, a Department of Post-war Reconstruction has been established, and is preparing plans to enable the country to deal effectively with problems1 arising in the. post-war period. Under the National Security Act. which was passed by its predecessor, the Government now possesses all the power it will require for the duration of the war and six. months after the termination of hostilities. It might be said that the period of six months after the war is not sufficient. That may be the case. However, I pointout that Parliament passed the National Security Act, and, I presume that Parliament will remain master of its own affairs when that legislation expires. Therefore, should Parliament then see fit to do so, it could extend the period of the operation of that act in order to enable the Government to deal with postwar problems. The Government’s duty to rehabilitate members of the services is most important, but it already possesses adequate power under the National Security Act and the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act to carry out that duty. With respect to the unemployment power we have heard much talk about a probable depression. That bogy is constantly being revived.
– Does not the honorable senator think that this war may be followed by another depression as was the case after the last war?
– No. I believe that, immediately after the war, one of our greatest problems will be to find sufficient man-power for our requirements. We must remember that at no time in our history has our ordinary building programme been neglected to such a degree as has been the case during the last four years. To-day, it is estimated that there is a shortage of between 75,000 to 80,000 houses in this country. Furthermore, all of the materials required in a housing programme are available in Australia in abundance, and are easily accessible. A vast volume of man-power will be required for essential services, such as transport and electricity and gas services. The Postmaster-General’s Department alone will require an enormous volume of man-power, because during the war that department has been obliged to leave much of its plant, materials and machinery, all of which is needing repair. In addition, roadways, water supply and sewerage schemes, and other public utilities, will have to be serviced. Ordinary civilian needs will also make a great demand on man-power. In primary industries alone repair and maintenance work has accumulated to a very great degree during the last’ four years. We must also remember that Australia will play an important part in the reconstruction of Europe, particularly in the feeding and clothing of warstricken peoples who, during the last four years, have been obliged to make shift with the bare necessaries of life. For these reasons the demand for man-power will exceed the supply in the post-war years, and, therefore, the possibility of large-scale unemployment will be remote.
The Government has failed to indicate clearly any limitation to the powers which it seeks under this measure. Each of these powers is far more extensive than one would imagine at first glance. This uncertainty is bound to cause uneasiness in the minds of the majority of the people who will naturally suspect the existence of some undisclosed motive for the Government’s failure in .this respect. I do not say that in any nasty way, but simply point out that fact as something which will militate against the success of the referendum.
– Which powers does the honorable senator say are ambiguous?
– Powers in respect of such headings as, “ The production and distribution of goods “, and “ Profiteering and prices “. Quite a lot can be read into those headings. Indeed, much more can be read into them than the Government may intend. With respect to the power regarding unemployment, for instance, one is naturally prompted to ask whether the Government seeks authority to continue the Allied Works Council and the Civil Constructional Corps. Possibly, it may be decided to go ahead with the Bradfield irrigation scheme in Queensland. One might ask whether that work will be assigned to the Allied Works Council, and, if so, whether that body will have power to regiment man-power as it now does. I am merely indicating grounds for doubts which may trouble the minds of many people simply because no limit whatever is placed upon these powers. T admit that it will be necessary to continue certain controls which the Government now possesses after the cessation of hostilities, but I should like to know for exactly how long such controls will be continued and an assurance that they will eventually be withdrawn.
– For so long as the Parliament deems’ them to be necessary.
– In that case, all that the Government requires to do is to prolong the duration of the National Security Act. This feeling of uncertainty is not without foundation, because very regent events in this Parliament indicate that a Government may use the very wide powers asked for under this measure to the detriment of certain sections of the community. I urge the Government to re–0 Den negotiations with the States, with a view to getting the States to refer to the Commonwealth Parliament all the powers that it really requires. That avenue has not been fully explored. However, an agreement on that basis in respect of only a portion of the powers sought under this measure is to be preferred to risking the rejection of all these powers by holding a referendum during the war.-
– So much has been made of the apparent obsolescence of the Constitution, that I feel justified in. presenting a commendatory reference to this statute by an eminent English legal authority. Viscount Bryce, referring to Australia’s Constitution, said -
As an expression of true Federal Powers it stands on a higher plane for skilful draftsmanship and necessary powers than even the American Constitution.
The people of Australia, like the peoples of other democratic lands, a’re not easily persuaded to alter a basic law, or laws, which have stood them in good stead. Numerous attempts have been made to alter our Constitution, but in almost every instance the electorate has refused to make the alteration suggested. I arn not one of those who maintain that the Constitution- should remain forever inviolate; but I think that the Government could have raised this issue at a more propitious moment. Many of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, merchant seamen and other sections of the people will, through force of well-known circumstances, be prevented from exercising a vote at a referendum held during the war. This point prompts me to direct the attention of the Government to a provision “in the Constitution, in relation to the holding of a referendum. Section 1.28 of the Constitution states that the Constitution shall not be altered except in the following manner : - .. . the proposed law shall be submitted in each State to the electors qualified to vote for the election of members of the House of Representa ti ves.
How will the 35.000 members of our forces who are prisoners in enemy hands, and who are entitled to vote according to law, be enabled to vote? If they be not given the chance to vote, as is obviously impossible at present, will not the holding of a referendum during the. war conflict with that provision in relation to alterations of the Constitution?
I find myself in complete agreement, with honorable senators on this side of the chamber who have condemned the Government’s attempt to hoodwink the public with a sentimental camouflage such as that in the bill. Appealing for power, ostensibly to handle the problems of our fighting services after the war, the Government has cleverly interwoven into the referendum proposed powers which, if granted, will enable the Labour party to control, in peace, every phase of the lives of our people. The dangers of socialization, state ownership and control of industry, are real, and cannot be over-emphasized to the people.
Any denials by Labour Ministers that, the Government does not wish to compete with private enterprise were swept aside quite recently when the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) actually stated that the Government should be granted wider constitutional powers, to enable it to enter industry with the £100,000,000 of government-owned munitions plants which will be available after the war. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) was forced immediately to issue a carefully prepared statement, designed, I suggest, to avoid any adverse reactions to the referendum proposals and not with the purpose of truthfully denying socialistic intent. I am inclined to the view that, until the referendum is out of the way, the Prime Minister and his satellites will protest against any suggestion of socialization, but I am equally certain that this fundamental plank of Labour’s platform will be ruthlessly carried out in the postwar period.
Without attempting to cover ground already traversed by other honorable senators, I say quite clearly that a desire to grant several necessary powers to the Commonwealth Parliament cannot be achieved whilst their adoption is made contingent on the acceptance of the other objectionable proposed powers. The States, with their respective “ onthespot “ administrators, are far more capable of judiciously interpreting the wishes of the people than those bureaucrats situated some thousands of miles away in Canberra. Despite the greatly increased industrialization of Australia, we cannot and must not lose sight of the fact that our country is first and foremost dependent upon primary production. The degree of this dependence is not so much related to home-consumption requirements as to world trade actualities and possibilities. In this instance I should be quite prepared to afford to the Commonwealth Parliament the power to handle the production of tho.se items from rural industry in which we have an exportable surplus. On the other hand, local autonomy should be preserved to the States in cases where the home markets provide a complete outlet.
In the matter of “ Employment and unemployment I am satisfied that the responsibility of the Commonwealth Parliament should cease with the provision of the necessary finance, and the handling of the administrative details should be delegated completely to the States. The great disparity in living, climatic, industrial, social and other conditions to be found in the distances separating the States, makes it obvious that a centralization of power in Canberra would produce anything but a true and sympathetic appreciation of the various problems.
If there is any doubt in the minds of the less populous States as to their future treatment under greater centralization of Commonwealth powers, I recall a somewhat recent action of the Government. The Australian Meat Board was established and its personnel, despite the nation-wide ramifications of the board, was chosen exclusively from New South Wales residents. Subsequent pressure from the less populous States forced the Government to include a representative of the other States. New South Wales, with its great preponderance of parliamentary seats - it has more members in Parliament than the total of Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania - can, and on past performances will, dominate Australian policy without regard to the conditions in, and wishes of, the States with smaller populations. I am opposed to the holding of a referendum in war-lime, and am not prepared to recommend that the Commonwealth Parliament be given a blank cheque such as is contained in these proposals. I am in favour of certain additional powers being granted, but if forced to accept, the dangerous proposals of the Government at the same time, will be compelled to vote against the bill. Let the Government give full consideration to their plans for post-war reconstruction, and on that basis, and at a time free from the worries of war, the people will be prepared to consider carefully any proposals to grant additional powers.
– Senator James McLachlan occupied quite a long time in discussing the proposals in this bill, and many other things. He referred to what he termed the little Australian standpoint, and claimed that those who drew up the Constitution were giants. He made great play with those giants of earlier years, and inferred th mt the political rights of the people of Australia, were through both Houses- of this Parliament and also the State- Parliaments, in the hands of pygmies. His idea therefore is that those who drew up the proposals for this referendum were nothing but pygmies, compared with the framers of the Constitution. Amongst the giants whom the honorable senator mentioned was Sir Isaac Isaacs who, as ‘ we know, has occupied the highest position in the land, and holds the respect of hundreds of thousands of the Australian people. It is therefore only fair to quote what he said regarding an alteration of the Constitution. At page 39 of No. 74 of The Digest of Decisions and Announcements and Important Speeches appears the following extract from a speech by Dr. Evatt:-
Only a few months ago Sir Isaac Isaacs stated the same great principle very clearly and most forcibly.
The principle referred to there is stated in a previous quotation from a speech by the late Honorable Thomas Playford, grandfather of the present Premier of South Australia, in which he stated -
The people will lose no power. The local legislatures may lose a little, but the people will have larger powers than before.
Sir Isaac Isaacs went on ;
Whatever powers the people grant to the Commonwealth Parliament are granted to themselves, to be exercised by their ‘ own chosen agents and controlled by themselves. They are not powers handed to a foreign body or to a party or to a. clique.
The remarks of some honorable senators opposite to-night indicate a fear in the minds of the people that all the Government desires to do is to seize control of the destinies of the nation in the interests of a clique. Their whole effort in respect of the referendum proposals is to put fear into the minds of the people of Australia. That is the basis of the arguments which they have adduced here to-night. They wish to create in people’s minds the fear that, if they make these powers available to the National Parliament, they will do something to their own detriment. Sir Isaac Isaacs held a very different opinion. Pie went on to say -
They are not powers which would, as in the case of the States, enable a minority of the population, specially privileged politically, to have a double share of government, not only to oppose measures in one House of the Parliament where all arc represented, but also, if unsuccessful there, to alter or veto the decision in the second House which they exclusively for the most part control.
It is asserted by Opposition senators that certain States did not agree with the decisions of- the recently held convention. In two of those States there is an Upper House which is not representative of the whole of the people.
– The State of Western Australia carried a referendum some years ago to secede from the federation.
– Since then a very different opinion has arisen amongst the people of that State. In the two States referred to, there a.re Upper Houses elected on a restrictive property franchise, so that in those instances the will of the people is not being given effect. Although honorable senators opposite talk so glibly about democracy, we find that under the Constitutions of the States when the popular chambers, consisting of representatives elected by the people on the basis of equality, make decisions, it is within the province of upper chambers, representative of perhaps a third of the population, to veto them. I have referred to the opinion of Sir Isaac Isaacs because of the endeavour made by Senator A. J. McLachlan this afternoon to create in the minds of the people of this country the impression that their elected representatives were mere “pygmies” compared with the “ giants “ who were responsible for the framing of the Constitution. I have no wish to say anything derogatory to the achievements of these “giants”, but I have some consideration and respect for those individuals who for the time being, are the elected representatives of the people of this country. I contend that members of Parliament to-day are just as competent, in existing circumstances, as were their predecessors of 40 years ago, to express an opinion in regard to this country’s requirements.
– What does the honorable senator consider is required to-day ?
– The first requirement is the granting of these increased powers to the National Parliament.
– That can be done only by taking power away from the State Parliaments.
– Not at all. We are not desirous of interfering with the rights of the State Parliaments, and one has only to view the provisions of this measure in a common-sense light to realize that the State Parliaments will have to play a most important part in the development of this country. All that this measure seeks is to confer upon the Commonwealth more power to do, things which some honorable senators opposite claim can be done under the Constitution in its present form. Governments formed by the parties to which honorable senators opposite belong have held office in this Parliament almost continuously for 30 years and, according to what the Opposition now claims, during all that time the Commonwealth Parliament had power to legislate in respect of these important matters, but it fell down lamentably on the job. Particularly was that the case during the last depression.
– The Scullin Government was in power then.
– The Scullin Government was in office, but not in power. AntiLabour forces in the Senate used their brutal majority in such a way that thousands of. people in this country were on the verge of starvation. Honorable senators opposite at that time had an opportunity to do a good job for Australia and for the Australian people but they did not do it. Instead, they allowed 25 per cent, of the people to starve by refusing the Scullin Government the finance necessary to rehabilitate oar economy.
– Money from home !
– Whether it would have been money from home or not, at. least it would have prevented 25 per cent, of the people in this country from starving. That is the charge that I make against honorable senators opposite. Senator A. J: McLachlan spoke at length upon this bill, and even obtained an extension of time, but actually he said very little. He referred of course to the “ giants “ of yesterday and the “ pygmies “ of to-day; but let us see just who these “pygmies” are: Presumably be refers to the delegates to the Canberra Convention which was responsible for this measure. I point out that those delegates included the Premier and Leader of the Opposition of each State, in addition to those representatives elected to this Parliament. That Convention was probably the most truly representative political gathering that has ever been held in the Commonwealth.
– Its members fell clown on their job.
– No. It is honorable senators opposite who are falling down on their job because they are endeavouring to foster in the minds of the people of this country a fear of this measure. If there is any such fear in existence at present, it has been created by the press, at the dictates of certain interests, and has been added to by the remarks of honorable senators opposite in this chamber, and members of the Opposition in the House of Representatives. The Canberra Convention considered matters necessary for post-war reconstruction and agreed unanimously upon the fourteen points.
– According to my understanding of the report, the delegates agreed to go back to their respective
Parliaments and to ask them to ratify by legislation what had been agreed upon at the Convention. The. fourteen points were agreed upon by delegates to the Convention as being in the best interests of Australia, not only now, but in the post-war years. I am of the opinion that each and every political representative who attended that Convention went back to his Parliament and reported, honestly and sincerely what in the opinion of the Convention should be done. But what happened then ? In Tasmania, the chamber elected on a property franchise thwarted the will of the Lower House, which is representative of all the electors. In Western Australia, much the same sort of thing happened. There, the Legislative Council is representative of only about one-third of the electors, yet it presumed to defy the will of the popular chamber. The Victorian Parliament we are told, was willing to agree to the transfer of powers provided the other parliaments agreed.
– It showed some, foresight.
– I say that it. has no foresight at all, and it has not the courage to face a political issue when it arises. However, the great States of New South Wales and Queensland agreed that the Commonwealth should be given additional powers in order to meet post-war contingencies.
– They did what their bosses told them to do.
– This talk of bosses leaves me cold. I could retort that honorable senators opposite have for years done the bidding of their political basses. The great difference is that, if we have bosses, they are known to the press and the public, whereas the bosses who control honorable senators opposite work in secret. However, I am not concerned about bosses. I am concerned only to do the right thing for the people of Australia.
– The honorable senator will do what caucus tells him. to do.
– I admit that my opinion on the question synchronizes with that of caucus, but that is because the policy upon which we are both agreed is the only one that is of any use to Australia. The Convention, which was representative of all the parliaments in Australia, unanimously decided that certain additional Commonwealth powers were necessary for the peace, order and good government of the country. Now, when the proposal comes before this Parliament, we are told that if the additional powers are given to the Commonwealth, chaos will reign. As a matter of fact chaos has reigned in Australia in the past. We do not want a repetition of what occurred after the last war. I know it can be said that there was a period of prosperity after the last war, but there was also a period of depression.
– Not until Mr. Scullin got into power.
– That is the full range of the honorable senator’s vision. He does not say why Mr. Scullin found himself in that position at that time. In 1930, unemployment in Australia was 19.3 per cent. In 1931, the figure had reached 27.4 per cent. In 1932 it was 29.02 per cent, and in 1933, 25.1 per cent. Thus, we see that, for the two years in which Mr. Scullin was in office, the figures were 19.3 per cent, and 27.4 per cent, respectively, while for the first two years of office of the succeeding government, the figures were 29.02 per cent, and 25.1 per cent, respectively. What did Opposition members of the Senate do to relieve the situation at the time? Nothing at all.
– They restored confidence.
– They restored such confidence that they fell out amongst themselves, and the Governor-General had to call on the present Prime Minister to carry on. Then, when the people were eai led upon to make a decision at the hist general elections they elected the present Government by an overwhelming majority.
– The parties now in Opposition governed successfully for ten years in the meantime.
– They governed exclusively in the interests of certain sections. Figures have been presented respecting the losses sustained in respect of certain government-owned and controlled ventures. Senator James McLachlan referred to one in Western Australia, on which he said the loss had amounted to £343,000 ; but he omitted to tell the Senate that the Government of Western Australia had made it one of the most uptodate workshops in the Commonwealth, winch is capable of carrying out a wide range of work, particularly marine engineering work. The State sawmills in Western Australia have provided handsome returns, but I point out that State instrumentalities are not intended to make profits. Their chief function is to prevent exploitation of the people. An antiLabour government allegedly sold the Australian Government Line of Steamers. I used the word “ allegedly “, because, although the vessels were practically given away, I understand that the purchase price has not yet been paid. The immediate result of the sabotaging of that national undertaking was that the private shipping companies increased their freight charges. While the governmentowned vessels were operating they prevented increases of freights. Honorable senators opposite advance losses experienced in the conduct of public utilities as a reason why the people should not have an opportunity to decide for themselves whether the increased powers sought should be granted. Would the Opposition be willing to hand over the Postal. Department to private enterprise? T venture to say that even the most conservative members of it would, hesitate to do that. Nor would they transfer to private enterprise the government-owned railways of Australia which have been largely instrumental in the development of this country.
– Certain railways in Western Australia are now operated by private companies.
– One privately-owned railway in that State is proving a financial success at the expense of the Commonwealth because it has a monopoly, of the transport of the whole of the members of the fighting forces travelling between certain points in that State, despite the fact that a government line runs almost parallel to it. I believe that owing to certain instructions the government-owned line is not permitted to carry the troops, but they must travel on the privileged private railway. I deprecate the attempt that has been made to lead the people to believe that any State enterprise is bound to prove a financial failure. I heard one honorable senator say that the success of the munitions plants established throughout Australia is due to the fact that they are managed by certain men. If State enterprises are managed by competent persons there is no reason why they should not produce results similar to those obtained in undertakings conducted by private enterprise. To any intelligent person this bill is self-explanatory. In the first place, it is necessary to ensure rehabilitation in civil life at the conclusion of the war of members of the fighting services.
– There is nothing to stop that at present.
– There -must be. Otherwise, why was not effective action taken for the repatriation of returned soldiers after the last war? Do honorable senators opposite claim that the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act accomplished all that was required?
– The Constitution was not responsible for the unsatisfactory treatment which some returned soldiers received after the last war.
– That act provided them with preference in employment in government instrumentalities. It could go no further.
– What is the Government going to do about it?
– We will go further if we get the support of the people at this referendum. I admit tha: under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act pensions are paid to men who suffered disabilities as the result of their service to the nation in war; but, so far as rehabilitation is concerned, the soldiers in the last war benefited little by Commonwealth legislation. All the Commonwealth Parliament was able to do was to give them preference in employment in the Public Service. That is all we can do to-day unless we are given the powers for which we intend to ask by means of this referendum.
– The honorable senator should read the speech made by the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron).
– I am not concerned with what the Minister said. I want to get down to tin-tacks. In the depression years, in spite of the fact that the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act was in operation, thousands of returned soldiers walked the streets of this country looking for work in order that they might save themselves and their families from starvation, and rear their children in decent homes instead of the huts that their lack of work forced them to occupy. That was the regard given to the returned soldiers by governments supported by honorable gentlemen opposite who now claim that they are the only ones who have ever done anything for returned soldiers. The only thing they ever did was to let them starve. At the referendum the people are to be asked to make available to the Commonwealth Parliament certain powers whereby the Parliament shall be able to dp something practical to rehabilitate men and women discharged from the services in the post-war period. Senator A.. J. McLachlan expressed the opinion, in effect, that the National Security Act- and regulations thereunder could be continued for an unlimited period, but he would not as a legal man lay it down that such is the case. As a layman, I take the view that the whole of the powers at present reposed in this Parliament under the National Security Act will lapse six months after the cessation of hostilities, and, if that is so and the provisions of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act are not sufficient to meet the requirements of men and women discharged from the forces, the Government of the Commonwealth must have the power to enable it to offer protection to those who have fought for the country. So, it seems quite apparent that unless the powers asked for are given by the people to this Parliament, all talk about post-war rehabilitation will be of no avail and that we shall soon find ourselves in a worse position than we were in in the years 1931, 1932 and 1933 when unemployment reached as high a level as 29 per cent, of the population. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Keane) agreed to-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 2 p.m.
Barley - Air Raid Alert in Western Australia - Enemy Aliens in Civil Positions.
.-I move -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
During the debate on the adjournment on the 17th March, SenatorUphill referred to certain disabilities of barleygrowers in South Australia. I have consulted the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully), who informs me that the Government is now considering the whole position of feed grains in connexion with a drive to encourage the use of concentrates by stock feeders. Meanwhile, the contract system for barley has been introduced after consultation with growers’ representatives, andthis ensures reasonable payments to growers. South Australia is noted for the quality of its barley, and for producing regular crops of good barley. The unfavorable quality produced during the present season is unusual and not normally to he expected.
Earlier to-day Senator Collett asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
The Minister for Defence has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s questions : -
– I have received a number of letters from branches of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, chiefly in north Queensland, about the employment of enemy aliens in civil occupations. The following letter, from the Mount Morgan sub-branch of the league,, is typical of those I have received : -
Keen interest is being shown by all Mount Morgan returned soldiers, past and present, on all questions affecting the soldier in action and out of action to-day.
Whilst recognizing the magnitude of the task that confronts the Government to-day, we feel that they are not playing fair to the boys in the line. There are many important questions, as you know, on which all returned soldiers are keen and united, and on all of them they expect a square deal to the man who is fighting for his country to-day.
We would appreciate, sir, if you would bring to the notice of the Government, on the floor of the Senate, the following motion, which was passed unanimously by our members at a largely attended annual meeting of our subbranch. The question, as you will admit, affects our own countrymen. There were many other questions considered, but they will be passed on through our head-quarters. The following is the text of the motion: -
That an emphatic protest be made to the Commonwealth Government (through the member for Capricornia, the honorable F. M. Forde) regarding the release and re-employment of Italians, to the detriment of many old Diggers.
It is unfair to release these aliens and allow them to be re-employed in civilian employment at award rates of pay, with award . conditions and other benefits, including overtime, when thousands of Australian men are kept in the Army in employment battalions and base jobs, at Army rates of pay, with no award conditions or overtime, &c
There is no objection to these internees being put to work in the national interests, but they should be on a par with our soldiers, and should be paid Army rates of pay and enjoy Army privileges and conditions. If the Government urgently needs men in civilian employment let them release Australian men from the employment battalions and give them the opportunity of obtaining the award rates of pay and benefits and replace them by Italian internees, many of whom still foster the spirit of the Fatherland.
At the present time it seems apparent that preference is being given in civilian employment to Italian internees. Many of them are young and capable of active service. We cannot put them in the fighting forces - but do the next best - put them where they can do something of national importance. These men are preventing, in many instances, the old Digger from securing jobs.
The policy at present being pursued by the Government is unfair to our Australian manhood, who are in the fighting forces, and is deliberately allowing ex-internees to re-establish and entrench themselves in civilian jobs before the men in the fighting forces can get a chance.
We would appreciate, sir, if you would ventilate this grievance on the floor of the Senate. We do feel that if steps are not taken at once to prevent these internees from fully establishing themselves in important industries, the lot of our soldiers on their return will be poor indeed, and many will still carry the pack when the war is over.
Yours faithfully, Chas Boyes,
This matter, I assure the Senate, is a live question in the north of Queensland. I wrote to the different sub-branches of the league asking for specific cases, and from the Tully sub-branch I received a letter citing a number of cases. Among them are the following: -
The names in each of the above-mentioned instances can be supplied if necessary.
Before bringing this matter before the Senate I was careful to make full investigations in order to ascertain what was going on with regard to enemy aliens and internees. I was informed that -
All Italians, and, in fact, all enemy aliens and refugee aliens, are called upon to do work of national importance by being drafted into the Civil Aliens Corps where they are paid wages at an amount equal to award rates or soldiers’ pay whichever is the less, and it was stated that the distinction between this and the award rates paid to members of the Civil Constructional Corps has been the subject of much bitter agitation as a grounds of attempting to break down the interests of unionism.
Any Italian released from internmentis automatically drafted into this corps, and no exceptions are made unless by medical report it is shown he is quite unfit for this corps. Then he goes to Man-power who place him in some job for whichhe is most suitable. None of these men, however, are relensed togo to farms. Those who do go back on to farms are naturalized British subjects who were originally bona fide farmers, and it is felt that the proper and most effective way of getting themto work is to put them again into the production of essential primary goods.
On the face of it, that seems reasonable. Enemy aliens or internees arc drafted into the Civil Aliens Corps,but it would appear that in many cases internees have been released, and that enemy aliens have slipped through the hands of the corps to be dealt with by the man-powor authorities, who have placed them in positions that they should not hold. There must be some lack of control, otherwise these persons could not occupy their present positions. This matter is causing a good deal of troubleand concern in North Queensland, particularly when it is known that many Australians called up in labour companies are doing work which these men should be doing. I suggest that the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde), the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) might confer with a view to tightening up the procedure, in order to ensure that these aliens are not given positions to. the detriment of Australians. Unless this matter be taken in hand soon, serious results may follow, because already there is a great deal of discontent. Moreover, if these people are allowed to settle in positions to the detriment of Australians, especially men who are now in the services, there will be further trouble when the war is over. I ask the Government to look into this matter and to act promptly.
SenatorKEANE (Victoria - Minister for Trade and Customs) [11.35]. - in reply - I shall bring the complaint of Senator Cooper to the notice of the responsible Minister. I suggest that, in order to expedite inquiries, he should make available to me the documents that he has read.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator,&c -
No. 8 of 1944 - Victorian Public Service Association: Public Service Association of South Australia; and Tasmanian Public Service Association.
No.9 of 1944 - Professional Officers’ Association, Commonwealth Public Service,
No. 10 of 1944 - Public Service Association of New South Wales.
Lands Acquisition Act and National Security ( Supplementary ) Regulations - Orders - Land acquired for Commonwealth purposes -
Gladstone, South Australia.
Spring Hill, Brisbane, Queensland.
National Security Act -
National Security (General) Regulations - Orders -
Control of Trailer manufacture (No. 3).
Use of land.
National Security (Man Power) Regulations - Orders -
Ex-Dairy Farmers and Dairy Farm Workers.
Registration of Shearing Contractors (Victoria) 1944.
Senate adjourned at 11.36 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 21 March 1944, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1944/19440321_senate_17_178/>.