17th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 2 p.m.. and read prayers*
– I present a peti-tion signed by 6,974 electors of South Austrafia praying that more food, particularly butter and meat, he sent to the people of Great Britain. I intend to. take action in this matter.
Ordered to.be printed.
– On the 2nd March, Senator Amour asked me the following questions, without notice: -
Will the Minister for Trade and Customs inform the Senate whether his attention has been drawn to a statement in the Melbourne press that the Lord Mayor of Melbourne intends calling a public meeting to discuss the need for approving additional food rationing in Australia to give further help to the people of Great Britain?
If so, will he advise the Lord Mayor of Melbourne and the Premier of Victoria, who is aiding and abetting this political campaign, that they are rendering a grave disservice to the people of Great Britain by attempting to create the impression that Australia has not done, and is not doing everything possible to help them in their difficulties?
Will the Minister also advise the representatives of the Government of Great Britain in Australia that certain anti-Labour interests in this country are trying to use them in this proposed campaign, the real purpose of which is to discredit the present Government in its efforts to help the people of Great Britain?
Will the Minister tell the Premier of Victoria that he would he much better employed in planning to prevent bush fires in Victoria, and leaving national and international affairs to those on whom the responsibility rests - the members of the Commonwealth Parliament?
My reply to the honorable senator is that I- cannot give my support to the proposals advanced by the Lord Mayor of Melbourne for the following reasons : -
Those people who are anxious to assist the United Kingdom can do so by refraining from using their full ration and destroying the coupons. If this were done, food would be at the disposal of the Government for shipment to England hs opportunity offered, thus achieving the some end, although not in so spectacular a manner.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Minister for Supply and Shipping in a position to make a statement as to how far the negotiations have proceeded with respect to the establishment in Tasmania of the aluminium industry? If the negotiations have been completed, when will step? be taken to establish the industry?
– I have nothing to add to the statement which I made on the subject last week.
– Will the Leader of the Senate state when, he will be in a position to reply to a question I asked a few clays ago as to the accuracy of certain figures regarding the wages of waterside workers in Sydney?
– The information desired by the honorable senator will be obtained during the day.
Newspapers Despatched by Registered Post.
– Has the PostmasterGeneral yet completed his inquiries with regard to second-class mail matter sent, by registered post to members of the Royal Australian Air Force, which matter I brought to his notice a few days ago?
– This matter ha? been referred to the department in Melbourne. Inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished to the honorable senator as soon as possible.
– I lay on the table the following paper: -
Canadian Mutual Aid Agreement - Ministerial Statement, together with telegraphic text of the agreement. and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Senator McLeay) adjourned.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
Debate resumed from the 21st March (vide page 1636), on motion by Senator Ashley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) stated that the Government hopes to fool the whole of the people by seeking the power to reestablish in civil life those now engaged in war ‘ activities. He said also that the Commonwealth Parliament has more power than is generally conceded. I do not know that the Government has any desire to fool any of the people, let alone all of them, with its referendum proposals. So far as the powers of the Commonwealth are concerned, I point out that during the present war the High Court has had to interpret the defence power on a number of occasions. Certain limits have been placed on that power. In a recent case, the High ‘Court held that National Security (Industrial Lighting) Regulations were beyond the defence power of the Commonwealth Parliament. On that occasion the Chief Justice said -
Under the regulations the Minister is given complete control of artificial lighting in industrial premises. No doubt good lighting is conducive to efficiency, and industrial efficiency is important for the purpose of the effective prosecution of the war. But the same thing might bc said of any proscription of standards in factory conditions, or in almost any other conditions affecting human life and well-being. For example, the provision of food, clothing, housing, and recreation for workers, is required for full industrial efficiency. But, in my opinion, the existence of war does not result in handing over to the Commonwealth general control of these subjects.
That decision of the Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia I place against the statement of the Leader of the Opposition that the Commonwealth Parliament has much more power than is generally admitted.
– Read the further comments of the Chief Justice.
– There is a further reference to the question of powers. We are told that it is generally conceded that this Parliament has-
– Is not the honorable senator quoting from a confidential document?
– The statements are not confidential.
– They are marked “ confidential “.
– They are not confidential in this chamber. I understand that the publication from which I am quoting has been issued to all honorable senators, but not to persons outside. That being so, the statements are not confidential in this chamber. The trouble is that honorable senators opposite do not like statements of fact being placed before them, or set out in writing. The statement continues -
But a case subsequently determined, in 1926, illustrates how, in time of peace, the defence power tends to become almost ineffective, except in relation to military and naval purposes, strictly so-called. . . . But the principle was rejected by the majority of the court, which said: - “ . . . Despite the practical difficulties facing the Commonwealth in the maintenance of its dockyards and works, the power of naval and military defence does not warrant these activities in the ordinary conditions of peace, whatever be the position in time of war, or in conditions arising out of, or connected with, war”.
Those quotations are an effective answer to the Leader of the Opposition and also to the statement of Senator James McLachlan that the existing Constitution is sufficiently elastic to enable all that is necessary to be done. Of all honorable senators opposite, Senator Cooper was the fairest when dealing with the Government’s proposals. Senator Cooper said that he believed it was necessary to vest additional powers in the Commonwealth Parliament. In that respect he is in agreement with honorable senators on this side of the chamber. He then asked, first, whether the best method of obtaining these powers for the Commonwealth was by way of a referendum; secondly, whether the present was an opportune time for the holding of a referendum; and, thirdly, whether the powers now possessed by the Government are adequate to enable it to carry out its post-war programme. With respect to the last-mentioned matter, I point out that enlistments in the fighting services now total approximately 900,000, and this number will continue to increase while the war lasts. In addition, a huge number of civilians ave engaged directly, or indirectly, in war work. For instance, over 400,000 civilians are employed in munitions factories. It has been estimated that when the war ends, practically half of Australia’s total working population will have to be transferred to peace-time industries. Those facts should be a sufficient answer to the questions raised by Senator Cooper. Bearing in mind the decision of the High Court, to which I have just referred, I think that the honorable senator will admit that the Commonwealth will not possess adequate powers upon the cessation of hostilities to transfer half of our total working population from war-time to peace-time jobs. In peace-time, the Commonwealth does not possess power to deal directly with employment and unemployment, either to prescribe the terms or conditions of employment, or to ensure security of employment. Under its present powers it could set up industrial conciliation and arbitration machinery, but only in relation to industrial disputes which extend beyond the limits of one State. It could directly regulate the employment of persons engaged in interstate commerce, but the difficulty is that it is impossible to isolate those persons as a class. That is the extent of the Commonwealth’s peace-time powers in respect of employment, and it should be a complete answer to the questions raised by Senator Cooper. The honorable senator also contended that the Commonwealth could still obtain all the powers it required by agreement with the States, and he urged that negotiations with the States should be continued with that end in view. I pointed out last night that the Canberra Convention, which substan tially recommended the granting of the powers sought under this measure to the Commonwealth was one of the most representative conventions ever held in Australia, and Senator Cooper agreed that that was so. If there be any real ground for the honorable senator’s contention that a referendum should not be held during the Avar, but that the Commonwealth should seek to obtain these powers by agreement with the States, 3 submit that even at this late stage, when we are now considering the Government’s proposal to ask the people to determine these matters, it is not too late for those States, which have not carried out the undertakings their representatives gave at the Canberra Convention, to enact the bill drafted at the Convention or to come forward again and reopen negotiations with the Commonwealth with the object of giving to the Commonwealth Parliament the powers which it requires so urgently. I have not the slightest doubt that this Government is prepared to keep open the door to further negotiations by the States on this matter. [Extension of time granted.]
Under this measure, the people are to be asked to give to the Commonwealth Parliament fourteen specific powers, and these proposals are accompanied by three safeguards or guarantees. I do not propose to examine those matters in detail. However, I emphasize that the Government is seeking these powers for a period of five years after the cessation of hostilities. That means that the exercise of these additional powers by the Commonwealth will be given a trial for that period at the end of which the people will then be in a position to say whether or not the powers should be permanently vested in this Parliament. I have already said that upon the cessation of hostilities practically half of our total working population will have to be transferred from war to peace jobs. Will private enterprise alone be able to meet that situation ?
– Why not?
– I do not think that private enterprise will be able to do so. We must remember that at all times a certain percentage of our people are unemployed, whilst at various periods that percentage assumes alarming proportions. The history of recent years shows that private enterprise has not been able to deal with the problem of unemployment which has developed in this country. The reason is obvious. The whole ideology and desire of private enterprise is actuated by the profit motive. There is not the slightest doubt that private enterprise is concerned only with the employment of those people who are necessary for the conduct of its businesses, and has no care for what we term surplus labour. I suggest that, in view of all that has happened, including the depression periods when we have been in the slough of despond, the only way in which it has been possible to meet our problems has been by economic planning-. The only reason why Australia as a nation has been able during the war years to do such a magnificent job is that the economic life of the nation has been planned. Surely there is nothing wrong with similar planning of our whole economic life in time of peace, if we wish to see our people happy and contented, and not queued up in long lines waiting for soup, with women ill-clad and children under-nourished. One way to get over these difficulties is to make available to the National Parliament the powers which it needs but does not yet possess. In the depression the State Governments were not able to meet the difficulties with which the country was faced. Western Australia, which was not very different from other States, except that its Government gave perhaps more consideration to the problem than was the case elsewhere, had mass unemployment, with unemployment relief committees raising funds and trying to provide comforts for the poor unfortunates who could not find work. It was a physical impossibility for the State Government to provide employment for the whole of its people, lt made a magnificent effort to meet the situation, and even had recourse, if my memory serves me correctly, to asking organized labour in the State to agree to the insertion of part-time employment provisions in its protective legislation, in order that the work available might be spread over a larger field.
– Where does this bill help in that direction?
– The subject is entirely covered by “ employment and unemployment “.
– It is a matter of power, and money.
– As already pointed out, finance is also provided for under these proposals. Without going into a long dissertation on finance, I could easily explain to honorable senators opposite why the control of the credit resources of the nation should be in the hands of the Commonwealth Parliament. If they were, we should have all the money we needed, and should not have to pay the high interest rates charged at present.
The only other point on which I shall touch is the power over national health. As I read the Constitution, the only health power which the Commonwealth Parliament has at the present time relates to quarantine. It is proposed by this bill to give it authority to extend its activities considerably in respect of public health. There is no subject more deserving of the careful attention of the National Parliament. I hope that, as the result of the unfettered discussion of the bill by all parties in this chamber, it will be speedily passed into law and submitted to the people for their endorsement.
.- The bill is one of the most important pieces of legislation introduced into this chamber for a generation. It behoves all of us to give it earnest consideration, and to determine whether its passage, and the adoption of its provisions by the electors of the Commonwealth, would assist towards the improved government and administration of this continent. The Government has, on a number of occasions, asserted that this is a matter of great urgency. It is suggested on behalf of the Government by its spokesmen, both official and unofficial, that unless the measure be adopted by the people, then, when we cease to be engaged in hostilities with our enemies, we shall be thrown into something approaching chaos. The picture drawn is that, the moment fighting with our enemies ceases, all the power which the Government at present exercises under the defence placitum of section 51 of the Constitution will come to an end. Therefore, it has been said that we must pass this measure now; we cannot wait until we have ceased to struggle with our enemies. First of all, I should like to refute that suggestion. If honorable senators opposite would take the trouble to examine the National Security Act, they would find in it a provision - section 19 - stating that the powers of the Government under that legislation shall continue for a period of six months, at the most, after His Majesty has ceased to be engaged in the war. The point I wish to emphasize is that there is a great and real distinction between the termination of military operations against our enemies and the ending of the war. The war in which we are now engaged will not end, in the sense of the wording of the National Security Act, at the moment when an armistice is signed; it will not end until we have concluded a peace treaty with all our enemies.
– That might happen within a week.
– And it might take ten years. That is a most important practical consideration in relation to this matter, because it falsifies this suggestion that these matters necessarily must be determined before we cease fighting our enemies. Obviously a considerable period will elapse - I do not care much whether it is eighteen months or six years - between the signing of an armistice with our enemies, and the actual conclusion of the war by the making of a peace treaty. It will be recalled that after the last war, the peace treaty with Germany was not signed until more than six months after the armistice, and that legally we were at war with Austria, and, I think, Turkey, until about 1922. During a considerable portion of that period, the War Precautions Act continued to operate. Having refuted the suggestion of urgency, the second point which I wish to emphasize is the fact that it would be much more convenient to consider a matter such as this between the declaration of the armistice and the signing of the peace, than to endeavour to reach a decision now. In fact, having regard to the conditions which prevail to-day, it is difficult to imagine a more inopportune time to ask the people of this country to make drastic alterations to the Commonwealth Constitution. Apart from anything else, if the referendum be held now, we shall disfranchise every member of our fighting forces who has the misfortune to he in the hands of the enemy. Are these people to have no voice in what the future constitutional structure of this country should be? lt is true that they may number only 20,000 or 30,000, but these are matters in which they are very much concerned. Also, we have been told that 900,000 men and women have enlisted in the various services. “ It is true that some of them do not seem to do very much fighting, but there are thousands of others who are actively engaged in operations against the enemy on the various fronts. These men are far from sources of information, and therefore are not in a position to form a reasoned judgment upon the very difficult questions which these proposals raise. For that reason, if for no other, I suggest that this is not a suitable time to embark upon an undertaking of this character.
– If the people to whom the honorable senator ‘has referred returned to this country and found that they did not agree with what had been done, the position could be remedied in five years.
– Why not wait until they return before reaching a decision upon this matter? We should not suffer by the delay, because in the interval, the Commonwealth Parliament would still be able to exercise all the powers which it possesses at present.
– Or asks for.
– Yes, and when the fighting is finished, what could be better than that we should have a popularly elected convention, representative of the Australian people, not to consider a poor miserable hotch-potch proposal like this, but to consider seriously and for months on end if necessary, what form the Australian Constitution should take in the new era which we shall face after th° war. I say deliberately that this measure has all the evidence of being ill-considered and hastily conceived. Any body of people which sat down to consider seriously what kind of amendments we should make to our Constitution for a period of five years, would not, if its members had any common sense at all, have included some of the things we find in this measure.
The history of this bill is rather interesting. It will be recalled that late in 194:2, the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) produced to this Parliament a bill which was designed not to amend the Constitution but to destroy it.
– And he knew it.
– He knew it very well; but he was very earnest about it and actually produced a little booklet on the subject. I do not know how much these publications cost the taxpayers, but this one consists of 188 pages, and apparently was designed to convince the Australian people, members of Parliament, and the delegates to the Constitution Convention, that they should accept the Attorney-General’s first proposal; but what happened when the Convention met to consider this proposal, with the assistance of the very valuable tome, which, by the way, quite rightly was not for sale, because I should not think that any one would wish to buy it? The bill about which so much space has been devoted in the document was thrown into the waste-paper basket. The Convention was then asked to consider a second bill produced by the AttorneyGeneral, and at the end of a week it unanimously came to the conclusion that it would have nothing to do with the measure. A drafting committee was formed, and it met for three or four days. Imagine a committee sitting occasionally for a few days for the purpose of amending the Constitution ! The measure which we are now debating was based on the decisions of that committee, Its recommendation was that the powers should be limited in their operation for a period of five years from the termination of hostilities. Let us consider whether the powers should properly be put into a measure which is to operate for only five years. I refer particularly to the fourth of the fourteen points drawn up by the Attorney-General which the Commonwealth Government is to have -iven power to pass laws with respect to companies. I hesitate to use the contents <>f the second edition of the yellow book which was circulated to honorable senators yesterday, because it is marked “ Con fidential”, but as you, Mr. President, have received a copy I suppose that 1 shall be permitted to do so, and that we may discuss the matter between ourselves. The only thing that I was surprised at was that the document was not headed “ without prejudice “, which, in effect, would mean “not to be used against me”. In this second edition, the Attorney-General has made it plain that what is intended with respect to companies is that the Commonwealth Parliament shall be able to pass a uniform company law which would regulate the creation, registration, and management of companies throughout the Commonwealth. At present that matter is governed by six State companies acts. How could we embark upon an undertaking of that kind for only five years? The matter has only to be stated to indicate that the proposal is perfectly ridiculous. Are we to suppose that if this bill were agreed to all of the State companies acts would be abolished, that all companies now in existence and all new companies would be registered under a Commonwealth act, and that at the end of five years, if these powers were not continued, the whole structure would fall to pieces, and all the companies registered under this precious Commonwealth companies act would cease to exist.
I shall refer to one other matter - the proposed power with respect to the people of the Australian aboriginal race. 1 shall not enter into a discussion a3 to whether it would be good or bad to have the Australian aborigines subject to Commonwealth legislation. Many people might well say that they were lucky beings if they were free of Commonwealth control, but I shall not go into that. The point I desire to make is that this again is a proposition which can find no proper place in a bill intended to operate for only five years. Surely it is not suggested that these unfortunate people will come under the control of the Commonwealth legislature for a period, and at the end of five years are to be thrown back to anybody who will look after them. Obviously that proposition was inserted in the bill without thought or consideration.
– A similar remark is applicable to the proposal regarding the standardization of railway gauges.
– Yes, are we to assume that because we provide in the bill that for a period of five years this Parliament shall have power to pass laws with respect to the standardization of railway gauges, all railway gauges in the Commonwealth are to be standardized within five years?
– The hill does not provide anything like that.
– If the proposition does not mean that it is of no use ‘in a bill intended to operate for only five years. This measure bears oh its face all the signs of lack of consideration and hasty conception. It is not proper that the Constitution should be bandied about in the way suggested. I can well imagine what happened at the meetings of the drafting committee. I can understand the Attorney-General saying to one member of the committee, “ Of course, old chap, you would like to have power to deal with trusts, combines and monopolies. You have supported that proposal since 1910 “. Having included his pet subject the Attorney-General would get that member of the committee to support the bill. I should say that some of the other powers owe their origin to some such procedure. The dominant consideration was, what is likely to attract the approval of Mr. X or Mr. Y? Not “ Is this a desirable thing to put into the Constitution by way of an amendment for a period of five years f”
Now I turn to a consideration of one or two of the precious fourteen points. The first to which I shall refer is that on which the Government hopes to hang the whole fourteen.
– And hang Australia !
– Yes. I refer to the first proposal that the Commonwealth should be given power to pass laws with respect to the reinstatement and advancement of members of the fighting forces.
– Is there anything wrong with that?
– The only thing that is wrong with it is that it is put into a measure which is intended to operate only for five years. If there be any justification for putting it in the bill at all it must be upon the assumption that the Commonwealth does not possess that power to-day but this Ministry, apparently acting on the view that the Commonwealth Parliament has not the power at present, is prepared to take to itself the power to deal with this problem for only five years.
– If we made it for all time, would the honorable senator support it?
– Yes, I would support it. My point is that the Commonwealth already has the power, and has always had it. Indeed, it is exercising that power to-day in connexion with soldiers who fought in the 1914-18 war. If there is any power about which there can be no doubt, it is that the defence power does extend over the area referred to in that point. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) referred to a reliable authority on this subject, and I shall repeat some of his statements. He drew attention to what the High Court had to say upon this subject in 1920 in the case of Attorney-General of the Commonwealth and Baldwin. In that case the court was considering a section of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. In the course of its consideration the court expressed clearly its view regarding the powers of the Commonwealth in respect to the rehabilitation of the members of the fighting services. It was a unanimous decision; five of the judges gave one judgment, and a separate judgment was given by Mr. Justice Higgins. In 27 C.L.R., at page 398, it is stated-
In our opinion, the Commonwealth Parliament had power under section 51 (vi.) of the Constitution to enact this provision. It is a provision for the re-establishment 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 of the power.
I invite every honorable senator on the Government benches to compare the language used by the High Court in that judgment with the language in paragraph (i) of this bill. I defy any one to show that there is any distinction between the two statements.
– Would that decision concern the Cockatoo Island Dockyard case ?
– I am speaking now of the rehabilitation of members of the fighting services. That is a clear statement by the High Court that the restoration of members of the fighting forces to civil life is manifestly within the defence power.
– Does that statement, say anything about advancement?
– I have no doubt that that case has had the attention of the Attorney-General in recent weeks. Evidently the right honorable gentleman was impressed by the decision because on page 7 of the second edition of the confidential book with a yellow cover which was handed to us yesterday, he said -
There is good reason to think that in relation to reinstatement, strictly so-called - the actual first re-establishment of a serviceman in civil life - the Commonwealth’s existing authority is complete.
Then the argument takes a curious twist. The Government set ofl upon this expedition into constitutional amendments on the basis that it would be able to get the people of the Commonwealth to agree to anything that it might suggest, if only it could convince them that some part of what the Government asked for was necessary to rehabilitate the soldiers. However, that argument does not seem to have gone too well; after all, the High Court decision is a clear refutation of the basis upon which the argument is put. So we find that the Attorney-General and his colleague, the Postmaster-General, have changed their ground ; they seek now to shift the centre of gravity of the whole argument. They have said “Yes, that may be true, but the thing that we are worried about is that we shall not be able ro provide preference in employment for returned soldiers unless we get additional powers “. Immediately after the quotation from the Attorney-General’s precious yellow book to which I have drawn attention, the right honorable gentleman has something to say under the heading. “ Power to Provide for Preference “. It would appear that the Government is greatly concerned about its alleged inability to ensure preference to returned soldiers. I recall that, although about twelve months ago an act was passed by this Parliament to provide some measure of preference to returned soldiers, the present Government has done little to enforce it. Indeed, so far as we can discover, the Government has done nothing to enforce that legislation. Now the Government suggests to the Australian people that they should pass its referendum proposals in order that preference may be given to returned soldiers. I have known the Labour party to do some audacious things; I realize that it now claims that it provided for the defence of this country, although it objected to every effort that was made in the past to bring that about; but no claim that it has made could be more audacious than that the public of this country should be asked to amend the Commonwealth Constitution in order to enable this Government to provide for preference to returned soldiers. However, as the Government itself has chosen this subject as the ground of battle, I suggest that if the people want to put the principle of preference to returned soldiers in jeopardy, they should agree to this constitutional amendment, because under this bill the Government is seeking complete power over employment and unemployment. In the exercise of that power, should it be vested in the Commonwealth Parliament, the Government, with its servile majority, could, if it saw fit, pass legislation providing that no one who was not a trade unionist could obtain employment. Under that head of power it could provide for compulsory unionism. That is to say, the preference would be to unionists, not to returned soldiers.
– All imagination ! We have not said anything about preference to unionists as against preference to returned soldiers.
– It is not imagination. I have here a report from the Sydney Morning Herald, dated the Srd March last, which states -
A resolution opposing the policy of preference to service personnel after the war va> passed to-day by the Australasian Council of Trade Unions’ interstate conference.
There, the masters of the Labour party declare clearly that they are opposed to preference to ex-service personnel. Certain State Parliaments have already passed satisfactory acts regarding preference to returned soldiers. I believe that the Victorian act came into operation yesterday. Having regard to the known view3 of the Labour party and the trade union movement with regard to preference to unionists and preference to returned soldiers, I fear that if the people of this country agree to these proposals, including the proposal to give to the Commonwealth power over employment, this Government could override the laws of the States which provide for preference to returned soldiers. There is no escape from that position; and, as some r.( my colleagues have said, I am not too sure that that is not the aim of the Government. The Postmaster-General and the Attorney-General have chosen to shift their ground on this subject. They want to represent to the people that preference to returned soldiers can only bie got provided the referendum is carried. I say deliberately that one act which is more likely than any other to destroy the whole principle of preference to returned soldiers, would be the acceptance of these propositions.
I turn now to another matter which I -confess I find a little puzzling in this bill having regard, more particularly, to some of the declarations which have been made by the Attorney-General. The bill provides that the Commonwealth shall have power with respect to the organized marketing of commodities. Honorable senators will observe that there is no reference at all in the bill to section 92 of the Constitution, which provides for freedom of trade, commerce and intercourse between the States. The obstacle to organized marketing of commodities in this country in the past has not been due to the division of powers between the Commonwealth Parliament and the State Parliaments. The obstacle which upset the marketing proposals before the war was section 92 of the Constitution. The Attorney-General quite frankly recognized that fact in the booklet which he prepared in relation to his first bill which was never considered by anybody. At page 81 of that booklet, which is entitled Post-war Reconstruction, the Attorney-General, after referring to various limitations on the power of the Commonwealth Parliament, said -
A good example of this is section 92 which as already pointed out effectively limits the marketing and price-fixing powers of the
Commonwealth in time of peace. If, therefore, the Commonwealth is to possess power in respect of these matters for the post-war period, it is desirable to give to its laws their full legal effect notwithstanding anything contained in section 92.
And at pages 108 and 109 of the same booklet, the learned doctor proceeded to ask himself a series of questions, and proceeded to give the answers. One question that was asked was -
What kind of interference is it necessary tu guard against?
And the answer given was -
Some provision is obviously necessary to free the Parliament from the restrictions imposed on the Parliament by section 92 of the Commonwealth Constitution, the full effect of which cannot yet be regarded as finally settled but which stands as a perpetual menace to any scheme of compulsory marketing of primary products._
That is a fairly definite view; and when the Attorney-General, who, after all, is the chief legal adviser of the representative of His Majesty the King, makes a statement like that it is worthy of some credence. As it happens to be in accordance with my own view on the subject I quote it in support of that view. However, I confess that I was a little astonished, having regard to those statements, to read at page 18 of the confidential booklet presented to us yesterday, an opinion which seems to me to be just the contrary. I remember a character in English history who was called “ Ethelred the Unready “. I am not so sure that the Attorney-General is not qualifying for the title of “ Evatt the Ever-ready “, because he always seems to be ready with a legal opinion. I have no doubt that it is just a coincidence - I would not suggest anything to the contrary - that each opinion happens to accord with the particular policy which the Government is pursuing at the moment. Notwithstanding the clear statement made by the Attorney-General that section 92 is a perpetual menace to marketing schemes, I find that on page 18 of the latest edition - I do not know whether this is the final, or final extra - he says -
When heed is paid therefore to the line of judicial decisions that have followed the James case I think it cannot be doubted that the power proposed in this paragraph can be made effective.
Section 92, according to the AttorneyGeneral in this precious booklet. Post-war
Reconstruction, was a perpetual menace to any such scheme of marketing of primary products.
– Was, or is?
– It is not a menace now. The learned doctor has spoken, and the position now is that it cannot be doubted that the Commonwealth’s power to pass laws with respect to the organized marketing of commodities can be made effective. In those circumstances, I am forced to rely upon my own view on the matter, because I get no assistance whatever from the learned Attorney-General. The proposition for Commonwealth control of the organized marketing of commodities was no doubt included to attract the attention of the primary producer.
– I was going to suggest that it was included for the benefit of Senator Crawford.
– That is a probability, but, whatever the reason, the Government has not been prepared to face up at any rate to one issue which it must face. That is the desirability of relieving the Commonwealth from the burden of section 92, if it is to make effective its schemes for the organized marketing of primary products.
I turn now to some other heads of power to be found in this bill. The outstanding ones are employment and unemployment, production and distribution of goods, and profiteering and prices. Every one of those is enormously extensive. I would not undertake to say what are the limits of the power to deal with employment and unemployment. Here again I thought that I might get some assistance from the booklet we received yesterday, instead of which I find running through it, in reference to the propositions included in the bill, statements such as these : “ But it is not a term of art “ ; “ This is not a technical term “ ; “It is very difficult to define what the limits of this power are “ ; and “ We shall have to leave the matter to the High Court for future decision”. Personally, I find it very difficult indeed to place any real limits upon the power to pass laws with respect to employment and unemployment, which, in conjunction with the power over production, must necessarily affect every industrial and economic activity in the Commonwealth.
– “The sky is the limit.”
– I quite agree.
– That information comes from the Leader of the Senate, who is a leading Minister.
– I am glad to have the admission, but it would have been more honest on the part of the Government had it said, “We are asking you to support a referendum which is designed to remove all the limitations on Commonwealth power “. In other words, on the admission of the Minister, we are after all not so very far removed from the Attorney-General’s first bill - the one that went into the waste-paper basket. I am not prepared to support a proposition which gives to the ‘Commonwealth so extensive a power. It is useless to say to me, “ Well, you know, it is still the same people, the people of Australia, who are merely transferring their power from the States to the Commonwealth ; they are not transferring it to a foreign body; it is still going to be exercised by their representatives”. That argument overlooks a most important consideration. It is a matter of very great importance in a continent the size of Australia to determine through what instrumentalities your governmental powers are to be exercised. Prom what I have seen of the exercise of governmental power by the Commonwealth in Canberra since I have been here, I am not enamoured of the idea of giving it any more power. I say that because I believe that, in relation to many of these matters, the powers will be much more effectively and efficiently exercised by local State Parliaments, which are in much closer touch with public opinion in their States than we are, better acquainted with local conditions, and much more responsive to the public opinion of the States in which they operate. Most of them have one other virtue, that although their Upper Houses have been subjected to some criticism in this matter, they appear to be able to exercise their own judgment in relation to matters that come before them, and really to review the activities of their lower chambers.
– Has the honorable senator ever attended the Legislative Council in Victoria? It meets about one hour a night.
– Yes, I have. It does some very useful work in that State, no matter how much or little time it spends on it. I guarantee that much more detailed consideration is given to legislation in the Upper House of the Parliament of Victoria than is given in this Parliament or in this chamber. I will undertake to say that, in relation to the bill on this very subject, the Legislative Council of Victoria gave it much more detailed consideration than we shall be able or allowed to give to this bill.
– It did not run it through in one sitting.
– Of course it did not. The Minister in charge of the measure did not attempt to say, “This bill has to be passed by 3 o’clock on Thursday afternoon “. It sat for week after week to deal with it and gave detailed consideration to all the headings that appeared in it. I am therefore not enamoured of the suggestion that we should give to this Government power to extend its activities to a whole host of matters which are obviously better dealt with by the State Governments, and by the representatives of the people in the State Parliaments. We appear to have in this country a perfect mania for centralization. I do not believe that the difficult problems that Australia will have to face in the years that follow the end of the war can be satisfactorily solved until we are prepared to admit that the responsibility for the determination of many of them must rest with local bodies, such as State Parliaments and municipal authorities, which should discharge the functions which the people in Canberra seem only too ready to do.
– Then the honorable senator does not agree with the Government’s planning advisers?
– I do not. For example, the Government seems very keen on a Commonwealth housing scheme, which involves running the whole show in relation to housing in the Commonwealth from Canberra. The Govern ment has not provided for such undertakings in this bill, but doubtless that will not matter.
– Do not worry. It is under “national works”.
– I thought that the Government” would find a place for it somewhere. Let us conceive for the moment the varying circumstances in relation to housing in the Commonwealth. Do honorable senators really think that an authority sitting in Canberra, acquainted with the conditions of Canberra, or of New South Wales, will be a more efficient body to deal with the problems of housing in Townsville or Brisbane than authorities at these centres. Surely that is a subject, if ever there was one, which must lend itself to local administration and local determination ; yet we are asked to place that matter, and a host of others, under the control of the Commonwealth.
Already I have referred to the extraordinarily wide powers which may be exercised under the paragraph dealing with the production and distribution of goods. These phrases have a familiar ring about them. I seem to have heard the words before - “ Socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange “. It sounds well. Apparently we are being asked to insert in the Commonwealth Constitution a provision which would enable the Common,wealth Government to give to this country the blessings or the curses of the “ socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange “. I see no reason why we should not consider seriously amending the title of this bill, because in its present form it is most misleading. The words “ Postwar Reconstruction and Democratic Rights “ seem to be hardly appropriate. The measure would be more accurately named if it were referred to as “ A bill to effect the socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange”, because that is its frank objective.
– Ah! The cat is out of the bag.
– I am afraid that it has been out for some time. I have no doubt whatever that that is the object which the Government has in mind in introducing this measure. We have been told, quite frankly, what a terrible thing it would be if, after the war, the Commonwealth Government found itself in possession of a number of factories which no longer could be used to produce goods for defence purposes and which it could not itself use for civil production; but what of it? I have no doubt that the Commonwealth would have no difficulty in getting rid of these plants to people who would be prepared to undertake the responsibility of carrying them on to meet the needs of the community. There will be no need for the Commonwealth Government to embark upon the production of boots and shoes, clothing and other civilian requirements.
– Probably the honorable senator would favour selling those establishments to private individuals who would not pay for them, as was the case with the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers.
– Surely it is not suggested that the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers was a successful venture, and one which we should seek to repeat after this war?
– It was a satisfactory safeguard.
– I do not think that it was a safeguard against anything. So far as I can remember, the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers was closely associated with the shipping combine, and carried on its activities in the same way as did other members of that combine. The only trouble was that, like other State undertakings, it was not run efficiently, and was unable to balance its budget. When ‘the losses began to accumulate, the then government took the opportunity to sell the steamers, and it was just as well that that was done. Apparently honorable senators opposite would have kept the ships under the control of the Commonwealth, and would have permitted the huge losses to continue. No doubt they would have drawn upon the resources of the Commonwealth Bank to meet the liability.
There is one thing which I should like to add to what I have said already about power over employment and unemployment: I am a little surprised that members of the Labour party should have permitted this paragraph to pass in its present form. When the National Security Act was passed they were very keen to ensure that nothing should be done in the way of industrial conscription. It will he recalled that when that act was before Parliament, a special provision was inserted forbidding the making of regulations aimed at industrial conscription. That provision still appears in the act. but it has been overridden by a later provision. When that later provision was introduced, the Labour party resisted it on the grounds that it would enable the Commonwealth to introduce a system of industrial conscription. However, there does not appear to be any safeguard in this measure in relation to that matter. There is no doubt that industrial conscription may be effected under the proposed powers in respect of employment and unemployment, and although honorable senators do not like any one to say it, I believe that they want that power.
– We have it now.’
– Yes, and I have no doubt that the Government wishes it to continue.
– We shall be able to rope in people of the honorable member’s type.
– That may be, but regardless of who is to be roped in, I am glad to hear the honorable member admit that he wishes the power to continue. He is, of course, a logical exponent of the doctrine of socialism. [Extension of time granted.] The honorable senator accepts as a perfectly logical approach to the problem the fact that if the Government is to regulate production and distribution, it must also regulate the employment of the citizens of this country, which means, of course, that it must have power to tell men and women where they shall work or shall not work. That is as complete a system of industrial conscription as it is possible for any one to imagine.
In the course of this debate reference has been made to the general extent of the defence powers. I do not accept the proposition that at the end of the war - by that I mean not the mere declaration of an armistice but the making of a peace treaty - a complete change will come over the community, and that all the powers which the Commonwealth Parliament has exercised during the war for the purpose of the defence of the Commonwealth -vill suddenly come to an end. That would be attributing a lack of good sense and intelligence to the High Court. It has held’, during this war, as it held during the last war, that the Commonwealth Parliament has power to do anything that is necessary for the defence of the Commonwealth. Senator Nash referred to the Industrial Lighting case, and he seemed to be a little surprised to think that the High Court should have arrived at the decision which it made in that ease. What the High Court said in effect was, “ Here we have a government purporting to exercise defence powers but it is seeking to regulate something which has no real connexion with defence at all “. The High Court held, therefore, that the regulations were bad. Unfortunately, Senator Nash did not complete his reading of the judgment of the Chief Justice which appeared in the booklet that was prepared by the Attorney-General. The Chief Justice said -
In my opinion, the industrial lighting regulations do not have any real connexion with defence.
What is wrong with that? It seems to be a rather satisfactory position for this community to be in. We should have some safeguard in relation to the exercise by the Commonwealth of its constitutional powers. When it does exercise those powers the court will declare a law to be invalid if it comes to the conclusion that, despite appearances, it is not a bona fide exercise of the power. To suggest that the whole structure of wartime work will suddenly come to an end overnight when the war is over is plain nonsense. Let us consider one or two of these matters from that point of view. In the course of the war the Government has promulgated a whole series of regulations controlling prices, mainly to prevent inflation. There is a deliberate policy lying behind that action. It is said that if prices were allowed to go to their natural level in time of war they would skyrocket, and the Government has wisely decided that it will prevent that sky-rocketing process as far as possible in order to avoid the catastrophic fall of prices that would follow. It is beyond dispute that the’ High Court has held that the regulation of prices during the war is within the defence power of the
Commonwealth. In taking that view it appreciates and understands the purpose of the policy which is being pursued. Such action is justified under the defence power, partly, at any rate, because it is a policy designed to avoid the rise and fall to which I have referred. Having accepted that as the basis of the policy, and as a justification for its association with the defence power, it would be nonsensical for the High Court to hold that the power suddenly came to an end because we had ceased to fight our enemies. Just as the Commonwealth is entitled under the defence power to mobilize the resources of the community for war, it can demobilize them. Just as it can raise fighting forces, send them to the front line and restore them later to civil life, so it can mobilize men and women for war and demobilize them. 1 do not regard it as an unsatisfactory feature of the situation that, whilst the Commonwealth holds those very wide powers, they will remain subject to the control of the High Court, and that the court will be able to say that a particular regulation is bad if it has no real connexion with the defence of the Commonwealth in the circumstances that may exist after the war.
I find the proposed- new constitutional guarantees almost ludicrous in a community which has always enjoyed the benefits of freedom of speech and religion. We are now solemnly asked to put into the Constitution a provision to secure these rights on probation for five years, in case they may lead us into harm’s way. We have always had them, but now we must give them a trial, and for five years we are to have the blessing of these precious freedoms. The AttorneyGeneral must have lost his sense of humour, if he ever had one, when he introduced the proposal designed to ensure that the Government shall not govern by regulation except with the consent of Parliament. He proposes that we should insert in the Constitution a provision for that purpose, but, curiously enough, only in relation to the proposed new powers. It is to have no relation to the defence power or to the other powers set cut in section 51 of the Constitution. If this proposal is adopted when the AttorneyGeneral promulgates a regulation with regard to the provisional powers sought in the bill he will have to post a copy of it to every member of this Parliament, and it will not become effective until members have had it in their possession for fourteen days. Let us see how this will work. Although the Senate could continue to sit for weeks or months for the purpose of dealing with business that could be brought before it, it will rise at the end of next week, and is not likely to meet again for some months. After the Parliament has adjourned the Attorney-General, if his proposals were law, could promulgate a regulation for the conscription of labour. That would be put into an envelope and sent through the post to each member of both branches of the legislature, and, after they had had it for fourteen days, it would become law. I do not reflect on honorable senators when I say that most of the regulations that come to them soon find their way to the waste-paper basket. Regulations are not interesting documents to read at any time. It is proposed to provide this wonderful safeguard against the passing of regulations. The most ludicrous proposition is that which provides that even this procedure shall not be followed if the the Governor-General in Council declares, on specified grounds, that the making of a regulation is urgently required. In other words, all that will have to be done in order to avoid going .through this procedure, will be for the Governor-General in Council to state the grounds on which the regulations are regarded as urgent, tt is not necessary for me to remind honorable senators how easy it is to overcome a proposition of that kind. Practically every piece of legislation that has been introduced into this chamber since I have been a member of the Senate has been dealt with as an urgent measure. So it will be with these regulations. Should the Ministry say that any proposed regulation is urgent, even these paltry safeguards will not apply; the regulation will become operative without any notification at all to members of the Parliament.
I conclude by saying, as I did earlier, that I believe that it would be a good thing for the community if there were a thorough overhaul of our constitutional machinery. In my opinion, that is a task to be undertaken, not in a period of war, but after the war is over; and it should be undertaken by a convention elected by the people. The overhaul of constitutional machinery is not a matter for a few days’ discussion, such as occurred at the so-called convention in November and December, 1942; the deliberations should extend over several months. In that way, we may evolve some alterations which would improve the existing structure and be acceptable to the people. I know of no way in which the cause of constitutional reform is more likely to be defeated than by putting before the people ill-considered proposals, such as these. I believe that the public will realize that the proposals of the Government are only another political dodge, and do not constitute a serious attempt to improve the Constitution. Accordingly, I am confident that, just as previous referendum proposals have been rejected by the people, so these proposals also will be rejected ; and properly so. I shall do my utmost to induce the people to vote against them. But with their rejection the chances of reasonable constitutional reform will, in my opinion, be destroyed for a generation. For those reasons, I shall vote against the second reading of the bill, and in committee 1 shall oppose its clauses. Should the bill be passed by the Parliament, I am confident that it will meet with defeat at the hands of the people.
– I am rather pleased to hear the prophecy of Senator Spicer, because in the past he has been such a poor judge; during the past two years I do not know of one occasion on which he has tipped a winner. Evidently, the honorable senator has been unable to impress the people of Victoria with the soundness of his arguments; either he is out of step with them, or they have lost confidence in him, because in a few months’ time we shall know him no more in this place. However, he made certain remarks to which I propose to refer. The honorable senator’s ponderous manner, and his use of legal phraseology, reminded me of the remarks of his colleague in the law - I was tempted to say his colleague in misfortune - .Senator A. J. McLachlan, who referred to the giants and the pygmies who discuss constitutional reform. When Senator Spicer essays to criticize the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), I cannot but feel that Senator A. J. McLachlan must have made subtle suggestions at the expense of the honorable senator. In his analysis of the hill, Senator Spicer practised the lawyer’s art of inference; I almost said the lawyer’s art of lying by inference. For instance, he referred to -
The reinstatement and advancement of those who had been members of the fighting services of the Commonwealth during the war, and the advancement of the dependants of those members who had died or been disabled in consequence of the war.
He said that ample powers in that connexion ‘already exist under National Security Regulations. No one knows better than does Senator Spicer that that is not so; he knows that whilst the Commonwealth may have power to reinstate, or to demand the reinstatement, in their peace-time avocations of all soldiers, and others who were previously working in some government enterprise, the power to exert the same influence in private enterprise does not exist. The honorable senator sneeringly referred to a statement by the Attorney-General in a book with a yellow cover in which the right honorable gentleman said, “ There is good reason to think that in relation to reinstatement, strictly so called . . . the Commonwealth’s existing authority was complete”. The honorable senator professed not to know what the AttorneyGeneral meant in that statement, yet no one. knew better than he did that it meant reinstatement in the job that the man had vacated. The honorable senator’s sneer was not only cheap; it was also inane. In my opinion, he insulted our intelligence by inferring that we cannot see what is obvious. He asked what urgency existed for the measure, and claimed that he would he able to refute the contention of urgency advanced by honorable senators on this side. I believe that all honorable senators are aware that the Commonwealth requires these powers in order to be able to make preparations immediately to meet problems which will arise in the post-war period. We must be ready to deal with those problems upon the demobilization of service personnel so that we shall be able without delay to place them in civilian occupations.
– Would the honorable senator indicate which of the powers sought under this measure are not already possessed by the Commonwealth ?
– Yes; power with respect to organized marketing, and power to deal with trusts, combines and monopolies. I remind honorable senators that the Commonwealth established numerous munitions annexes. As the operations of the industries in those annexes begin to diminish the natural tendency will be to reduce staffs. We must remember that many of the persons now employed in those annexes were previously not employed in industry at all, or were employed in other industries. Therefore, it is suggested that the Government should use those annexes for the manufacture of articles essential in private life, such as electrical appliances, telephones, plastic materials, refrigerators, &c.
– Does the honorable senator say that the Commonwealth does not possess power to do that under its defence power?
– The Commonwealth does not now possess power to do so.
– Does the honorable senator mean that government munitions annexes should be converted into governmentcontrolled factories ?
– Yes. The Government having built those annexes does not contemplate getting rid of them to private enterprise. For the edification of the two honorable senators who have just interjected, I point out that the Government cannot engage in the manufacture of articles for sale in competition with private enterprise. I repeat that the powers sought under this bill are necessary in order to enable the Government to utilize munitions annexes and various undertakings which it has established during the war for the purpose of providing employment for ex-service personnel in the post-war period. Senator Spicer deliberately attempted to mislead the Senate when he said that the Commonwealth already possesses power under the National Security Act to do that. The Commonwealth does not possess power which would enable it in peace to employ ex-service personnel in the production of commodities for sale in competition with private enterprise. Both the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) and Senator Spicer wailed about the fact - and nobody regrets it more than do honorable senators on this side of the chamber - that a number of our men who are prisoners of war will not have an opportunity to vote at the referendum. I do not know, but I should like to think that the concern of those two honorable senators in this matter was sincere ; but I think that the importance which they have attached to that factor has been magnified out of proportion to the remainder of their arguments.
– That is a dirty insinuation - to say that our regard for prisoners of war is insincere. I ask that the honorable senator withdraw that remark.
– I regret that at the moment I was preoccupied, and did not hear exactly what the honorable senator said.
– I stated that the reference made by the Leader of the Opposition and Senator Spicer to the fact that prisoners of war would be prevented from casting a vote on these momentous questions was magnified out of all proportion, having regard to the number of prisoners of war.
– We object to the insinuation made by the honorable senator.
– The statement just made by Senator Large did not contain any insinuation. I can only be guided by the words used by the honorable senator. He has not used an unparliamentary expression or words which lie can be asked to withdraw on the ground that they are offensive to any honorable senator.
– I rise to order. The Standing Orders provide that words used by an honorable senator to which objection is taken pan be taken down by the Clerk. The statement made by Senator Large was that Senator Spicer and I were not sincere in the remarks we made with respect to prisoners of war being unable to cast a vote at the referendum. The honorable senator did not repeat those words in hi* explanation to you, Mr. President.
– I regret that for the moment I was preoccupied, and did not hear the words used originally by Senator Large. I asked the honorable senator to repeat the words he used, and he repeated them; and in my opinion they do not call” for a withdrawal. Standing Order 423 reads -
When any senator objects to words used in debate, and desires them to be taken down, the President shall direct them to be taken down by the Clerk accordingly.
– The remark to which I object is that the statements made by me and another honorable senator with respect to prisoners of war were insincere. J ask, Mr. President, that you direct the Clerk to take down the words to which I object, and convey them to yOU.
– I remind the Senate that on Friday, the 6th March, 1942, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay), having on the previous day objected to certain words used by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane), asked that they be taken down when the following ruling was given by ex-President Cunningham : -
The .purpose of this standing order is to protect senators from objectionable, offensive and disorderly expressions, and it should be applied for that purpose only. The reading of such words must be followed by an explanation, withdrawal or apology by the honorable senator deemed to have offended against the standing order.
I was preoccupied when Senator Large used the words complained of. The Leader of the Opposition raised a point of order and asked that the words be taken down. The Clerk Assistant has now brought to me the following statement dictated to him by Senator Large : -
Both Senator Spicer and Senator McLeay referred to the fact that a number of prisoners of war would be deprived of their right to vote on this question. 1 doubted the sincerity of their concern. Certainly the importance of the matter was magnified out of all proportion.
– I doubt whether Senator Large used the word “concern”, but that is -immaterial.
– The words in the statement handed to me are somewhat. different from those which Senator Large, repeated to me. I take it that the Leader of the Opposition admits that the words quoted were substantially the words used.
– The Leader of the Opposition regards the words used as offensive to him and asks for their withdrawal. Is Senator Large prepared to withdraw them ?
– I do not propose to withdraw them.
– As President I have to decide whether or not the words complained of are offensive and should be withdrawn. Unless that power were vested in the President, it would be possible for an honorable senator objecting to the use of certain words to bring about the suspension of an honorable senator who used them, by insisting upon their withdrawal. Should the President rule that the words are offensive and should be withdrawn, and the senator offending refuses to withdraw them, he must, under the Standing Orders, be named. A certain amount of latitude must be allowed to honorable senators in debate. I do not intend to be too severe in my decisions with respect to the language used in debate. An honorable senator may doubt the sincerity of another. An honorable senator may believe that statements are insincere. It is possible to go too far in raising objection to language used in debate. The words used by Senator Large are not offensive and there is no need for me to deal further with the matter.
– I expressed an honest opinion, and I think that I was justified in doing so. I hope that objecting does not become a habit on the part of the Leader of the Opposition. This is not the first time he has done so.
– Order !
– We are freely twitted with lack of sincerity by honorable senators opposite-
– Order ! I ask the honorable senator to proceed with his speech.
– Our sincerity with regard to preference to returned soldiers . has been doubted. Our purpose is not so much to concern ourselves with the introduction of a bill granting preference to returned soldiers, because, that may operate very harshly, causing brother to compete with brother for a job. It had that result after the last war. Sons who were not old enough to enlist had after the war to fight for the right to work against their own fathers or uncles who had returned from the war. In principle, we do not like that sort of thing, and so we hesitate to introduce measures giving .preference to returned soldiers. Rather we advocate a guarantee of economic security for all. That is our purpose and yet we have to submit to the charge that we are insincere in our treatment of returned soldiers. I am not surprised at points of order being raised, or at the particularly vicious fight waged by members of the Opposition, because they realize that we are preparing for the implementation of a new social order, which embodies the guarantee of economic security to all. That is not in line with the policy of our opponents, and we expect them to fight to the last ditch. As they are pushed farther and farther back, we expect them to be more vicious and more unscrupulous in their methods of fighting, because they realize that within a few months’ time we shall be then in’ the position which, unhappily for us, they occupied a few years ago. In those days, no matter how logical our arguments were, they could run the steamroller over us. When they are about to be given some of their own medicine, they become particularly vicious in their opposition to government measures.
– Victors can always be generous.
– I did not notice any outstanding magnanimity on the part of opponents of the Labour party when, for several years prior to the advent of the present Government, it fought in this Parliament for amelioration of the social conditions of the people of this country. I should like to issue a warning to the conservative-minded senators of the Opposition. They should realize that, when the men and women of our fighting services are demobilized after the war, they will not be prepared to submit to a “ double-cross “ such as that imposed upon returned men after the last war.
If the living conditions of the .people of this country are not improved and some degree of economic security guaranteed, there may be created a state of affairs which would be worse than the war itself. [ have always held the opinion that the Labour party is actually a buffer between the people, and the red revolution which might be caused by the conservative attitude adopted by people such as honorable senators opposite. In August of last year, the people of this country demonstrated in no uncertain way that they would have no more of the policy pursued by our friends, the enemy - I trust that honorable senators opposite will not object to that expression.
– No, but the expression “ double-cross “ is on the border-line.
– Irrespective of what government was responsible, I consider that the returned soldiers of the, last war were “ double-crossed “. They were told that they were fighting a war to make the world safe for democracy, and that Australia would be a land fit for heroes to live in; but when they came back, all that was given to them was halfhearted preference legislation which, in effect, meant preference to the business end of a pick and shovel, but no preference at all when it came to good jobs. At no time since the last war have private employers recognized preference to returned soldiers.
– The Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia has never made a statement such as that which is now being made by the honorable senator.
– I have heard many returned soldiers make that statement. The Leader of the Opposition referred to the fact that the Prime Minister had said that he was in favour of a comprehensive, and not a piecemeal, overhaul of our Constitution. We are all in favour of a comprehensive overhaul ; but not while we are at war. However, in view of the general realization that at the end of the war the Commonwealth Government will be confronted with numerous difficult problems, we believe that certain amendments to the Constitution are necessary to enable us to carry out the promises we have made to members of the fighting services. Unlike the last war, when servicemen were promised “pie in the sky when you die “, we are promising a betterment of social conditions here and now. We are promising beneficial social welfare legislation such as no other country at war has been able to offer to its people. We are offering these things as a guarantee of our good faith, and by that means we are ensuring that members of our fighting forces shall have confidence in us.
The Leader of the Opposition raised objection to the socialist aspect of this measure. I do not know why honorable senators opposite continue to be so conservativeminded, and to object to everything savouring of socialism. In this war, we have had an object lesson in the value of socialism or the socialist ideal. In the last war, the Allied nations were unable to “ take a trick “ until their governments realized the necessity to assume control of everything essential to a full war effort. They found it necessary to take over the railways, the production of foodstuffs, and various other essentials, and when they did that, some measure of success was achieved. When this war broke out it was realized that the capitalist system of society could not stand the test of a world war, and control of the various commodities and institutions essential to a 100 per cent, war effort was taken promptly. The very fact that the capitalist system of society breaks down immediately a severe test is applied to it, and that those in authority have found it necessary to resort to the socialist ideal is, in itself, a commendation of the one and a damning of. the other. That is why I cannot understand intelligent honorable senators opposite objecting to socialism.
On two or three occasions the words “ industrial conscription “ have been used in the course of this debate. To-day we are all liable to industrial conscription if we are between the ages of 18 and 60. Conscription is the law of this country, even without the passing of this measure. The Amalgamated Engineering Union, of which I am a member, has abrogated many of the privileges which it won over a long period of years, by accepting a dilution of labour and the employment of female labour.
– These things will not be carried on in peace-time.
– I do not suggest that they will. I am merely pointing out what has been done by some sections of the community in the interests of our war effort. These people have been more sincere in their endeavour to “win this war than have other organizations such as the Law Institute. I have not noticed any move on the part of that body to open its ranks; on the contrary, there is evidence of a jealous regard for its privileges.
– What about doctors?
– The same thing applies. Many instances have come to my notice of men being prevented from acting as medical practitioners. The Opposition, in regarding Professor Bland as an authority on constitutional matters, showed that it is bankrupt of ideas, yet the Leader of the Opposition, having quoted certain remarks by that gentleman, said, in effect, “ The oracle hath spoken”. Senator James McLachlan claimed that this Parliament has all of the powers necessary to provide for the standardization of railway gauges, but I contend that it has not the powers required to enable it to bring that about, because the railways carry merchandise used for ordinary commercial enterprises. As to the slight offered by Senator Spicer, because the powers sought are only to be exercised for a period of five years from the cessation of hostilities, that is entirely beside the point. Once this Parliament decided to bring about the standardization of railway gauges, I do not believe that anybody would entertain a proposal to alter the decision. “Big business “ was responsible for the present variations of railway gauges. Vested interests in New South Wales desired that the wheat, wool and other products of the Riverina, which is nearer to Melbourne than to Sydney, should be marketed in Sydney, and that is the reason for the difference in the railway gauges oi Victoria and New South Wales. The statement has been made that government enterprises have resulted in great financial loss, but I could mention some that have returned substantial profits. The Australian Commonwealth
Line of Steamers provided healthy competition with the private shipping companies and protected the people of this country against the high freight charges imposed by those companies for the carriage of our primary products overseas. The Commonwealth Woollen Mills and other government enterprises have provided a valuable stimulus. It should .be recognized that government enterprises of that kind should not be judged by the financial outlay, but by their benefit to the people. Senator A. J. McLachlan informed us that the High Court would never question the legitimate use of the defence power in the Constitution. He said that there were two legal members of the federal convention, and one honorable senator interjected, “ The others must have been honest men “.
– That was a cheap jibe.
– It is not far from the truth. The honorable senator remarked that we have got along very well for 44 years without serious amendment to the Constitution, yet he admitted that it contained anomalies. He said that as the Constitution of the United States of America had not been altered, there was’ no justification for a change in the Austraiian Constitution. I interjected, and I repeat, that the people of that country are in a devil of a mess in many respects. They have problems due to the presence of coloured races, and difficulties caused by conflicting State laws. I hope that Australia will never be in a pickle similar to that of the United States of America. Senator Uppill quoted the views of an English authority for the purpose of showing that attempts to alter constitutions often failed. Having lived for many years in England, I know that a nod from a lord is a breakfast for a fool. That is why I became discontented with conditions in England and preferred the freer life in Australia. The honorable senator remarked that we were hoodwinking the people by saying that the powers sought were necessary, and he added that this Parliament already had sufficient power to provide for the reinstatement and advancement of members of the fighting services. Do not the claims of the workers engaged in the munitions factories deserve equal recognition? Of course they do. I contend that the increased powers sought are necessary to enable the Parliament to implement promises made to the people. This Government Is hampered at present by the fact that it cannot conduct commercial enterprises. It is desirable to remove that restriction, so that ample employment may be provided after the war. Power is needed to carry out national works such as the standardization of railway gauges and the utilization of munitions annexes for commercial projects after the war. The restrictions which are hampering the Commonwealth Bank should be removed.
– What restrictions?
– The restrictions which prevent it from embarking in private trading.
– Nonsense !
– The Commonwealth Bank is dictated to by the Loan Council, I presume.
– Have another guess.
– That is not a guess. The Bruce-Page Government placed severe restrictions on the operations of the Commonwealth Bank. Even if the bank has the right to trade, it does not trade because that Government passed legislation which converted the bank into a bankers’ pawnshop. That was done in the interests of the private banks.
– Nonsense !
– The interests represented by honorable senators opposite want to harness man’s inventive genius in order to make profits for the few, whereas we on this side claim that it should result in benefits to the community as a whole.
– One man’s inventive genius entitled him to royalties, practically all of which have been taken as taxes.
– Two families in Australia have, I understand, amassed wealth amounting to between £150,000,000 and £160,000,000. That is not a bad effort.
– The honorable senator is somewhat extravagant with his noughts.
– The attitude of honorable senators opposite reminds me of a boy whistling while passing a churchyard.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Courtice). - Order!
– A few families in Australia, among them the Robinson and Bailleau families, have amassed wealth amounting to millions of pounds. The inventive genius of man which has made that possible ought to have resulted in a higher standard of living for the community generally. I stand for the implementation of the socialist ideal, whereas honorable senators opposite shy from it. In opposing this bill they seek to thwart effect being given to the people’s ideals, and to prevent the Government from standing between the people and red revolution.
– Does the honorable senator believe in public companies?
– I believe in national undertakings. I do not believe that the only incentive to enterprise is the hope of monetary gain. That is the conservative view which is held by honorable senators opposite.
– Evidently the honorable senator believes in work without wages.
– I have done a lot of work for which I have not received any wages. The only incentive which honorable senators opposite understand is that of personal monetary gain. That in my opinion is a wrong view. I should regard as the greatest incentive imaginable, the possibility of doing something to help the downtrodden, the poor, and the needy. I hope that honorable senators opposite will indulge in some introspection, and will ultimately support the Government’s proposals. Whether they like it or not, they will have to accept a considerable instalment of the socialist state of society. In spite of their present opposition, I hope that honorable senators opposite will accept without demur that state of society when it comes. They realize that the Government is about to implement its policy, which provides for economic security for all.
– What about preference to returned soldiers ?
– When the present Government’s policy has been given effect, there will he no need for preference to returned soldiers. One can understand the keenness of members of the Opposition - E was’ about to say their spleen - at the present time because of their realization that the policy of the Labour party is about to be implemented. The Government will honour its promises to the people, and within a few months it will have achieved some of its purposes. The next few days will probably be the last opportunity that some honorable senators opposite will have of putting up a fight, and it is understandable that, in the circumstances, there is a temptation for them to be vicious. I realize that they have to fill in their time-sheets, and in that way satisfy their bosses that they have done their job. Otherwise, their election expenses would not be met on the next occasion, I believe not only that the measure before us will be passed by the Parliament, but also that the powers asked for will be granted by the people. I believe also that those powers will be used wisely by the present Government, and that as a result the ideals of the Labour party will receive a considerable measure of implementation.
.- Australian citizens are, with wisdom, asking: “What is behind the Curtin Government’s request for more power ? “ Is it an honest endeavour to surmount any difficulties hindering post-war reconstruction, or is it a bid for outright socialism? To me, the answer is quite clear. I quote from the official organ of the New South Wales Federal and State Labour Governments, the Standard, of the 24th February last, which says -
The recent Federal Australian Labour party conference resolved that a nation-wide campaign for socialism be started immediately, and that the implementation of such campaign he left in the hands of the Federal Executive.
The bill now under discussion seeks a continuance, in peace-time, of the necessary war-time regimentation of individuals and businesses, and as a result, the establishment of socialization of industry in all its phases. A socialist government is on top for the time being, and it hopes to place on the statute-book, with the approval of the people of Australia by means of a referendum, legislation which will be akin to a totalitarianism comparable with world-hated Nazi-ism, but without its concentration camps.
Mr. Churchill recently defined totalitarianism as ;
A single party, armed with secret police, engrossing to itself practically all offices, even the humblest, in the government, with the magistrates’ courts under the control of the executive … a society in which nobody counts for anything except the .politician or an official, where enterprise gains no reward and thrift no privileges..
Bureaucracy does not in itself constitute totalitarianism, but, generally, is its forerunner. It was so in Germany, Italy, and Japan. Germany, before becoming a totalitarian state, was probably the most bureaucratized country in the world. France, before 1940, provides a most interesting example of a country suffering from bureaucracy which had not led to totalitarianism. Excessive powers fell into the hands of French public servants largely through the lack of any clear, or clean, political leadership. The results were almost as bad as those of totalitarianism - delays, red tape, complacency, suppression of criticism and entire unpreparedness. Probably, this was in fact a pre-totalitarianism period. Unless the people are awakened from the trance into which the present war-time fictitious prosperity has lulled them, they will find their freedom forfeited - freedom to choose their occupation, to seek the highest awards through their own enterprise, and freedom of speech and of action. The very foundations of democracy are threatened by the sinister provisions of this bill. As a true democrat, I intend to vote against the measure in its present form.
The public has had bitter experience of the Government’s abuse of its unlimited powers under the National Security Act, and will be most chary of granting further powers to operate when that act lapses six months after the cessation of hostilities. If, however, the Government has not already adequate constitutional powers to deal with such national matters as civil aviation, health, standardization of railway gauges, marketing of primary produce, conservation of water and other works of a reproductive nature. I am sure that every honorable senator on this side of the chamber would readily assist in obtaining such powers for the Commonwealth. A referendum to amend the Constitution to grant such powers to the Commonwealth may be necessary. The alternative to a referendum is another conference of State government representatives to produce a formula which would transfer to the Commonwealth Parliament requisite powers to carry out the projects of a national character which I have mentioned.. However, it does not appear likely that the Government would favour such a conference.
The people of Australia have always been reluctant to sanction alterations of the Constitution. In this they have not been different from other peoples. The Constitution of the United States of America, although four times as old as that of the Commonwealth has seldom been altered, despite many attempts to do so. The powers conferred upon the Government at Washington are to-day much the same as they were 160 years ago. Under this bill, the Government proposes to ask for a “ Yes “ or “ No “ vote for all the powers sought. No doubt, a few of the powers asked for would readily be given if submitted to a referendum, and a simple “ Yes “ or “ No “ required of electors in respect of each of the fourteen proposed powers. It is, therefore, a question of “All or Nothing”. Thoughtful citizens will see the danger involved in such a course, and, I am sure, will record a definite “ No “.
There is another class of citizen upon whom Ministers and economic professors have exercised a Svengali spell. They must be awakened from their trance before the referendum is taken, when they will wake up - all too late - to the realization that by a “ Yes “ vote they will have placed themselves in the grip of an Australian Nazi-ism. It will indeed be poor satisfaction to have won the war for freedom and lost it again at the ballot-box.
In war-time, it is inevitable that the lives of citizens should be regimented, but such regimentation and control should1, and must, be gradually tapered off. Indeed, I am of the opinion that this should, begin now. The time is ripe to commence the demobilization of our army of bureaucrats through the multitudinous directorates, committees, production executives, and other similar governmental bodies. This Government, however, has shown no eagerness to start this demobilization and is, in fact, inclined towards the encouragement of the present system. These bureaucrats have “ dug in “ during the war, and will be the instruments by which regimentation in peace-time will implement the Labour party’s policy of socialization.
The bill is definitely designed to crush private enterprise, which, before the war, gave employment to approximately 600,000 persons. Private enterprise, undoubtedly, was the foundation of our war effort, and it- can, and must, be the mainspring of our post-war reconstruction plans. British and American private enterprise have turned out vast quantities of war equipment, sufficient not only for the use of the fighting services of their respective countries, but also for all the Allied Nations as well. Fighting equipment, the value of which amounts to a fabulous sum, has been sent to the gallant Bed Armies of Socialist Russia. China, too, has benefited, and so has Turkey - a neutral country.
In bringing down this measure the Government has artfully placed in the foremost position the obligation for the rehabilitation of Australia’s fighting, services. Appealing to sentiment, the Government hopes to implement the first plank of Labour’s policy - the socialization of production, distribution and exchange. It is an attractive wrapping which will appeal to the sentiments of the people and distract attention from the questionable contents of the referendum proposals. No need whatever exists for an alteration of the Constitution to provide for the rehabilitation of the men, and women, of the fighting services. Under section 51, placitum (xxxi.), of the Con.stitutiion. the Government can acquire for land settlement any State or privately owned property. The War Gratuity Act, the War Service Homes Act, the Commonwealth Public Service Act and the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act provide for all contingencies, including preference to returned soldiers.
The subject of preference is becoming a live question. I ask, “ What is the Government doing about it?” And I answer, “Nothing!” We find that the Australasian Council of Trade Unions has declared against the policy of preference to returned soldiers, and so- iis guilty, as an organization of Labour interests-, of repudiating in a flagrant and’ soulless manner the inescapable duty and desire of the nation. What is the Government’s policy in relation to this matter? Is it preference to returned soldiers, or is preference to trade unionists, to be followed by Labour’s obvious desire of compulsory unionism? For years the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act and kindred acts have been operating without challenge, and the Government is merely attempting to hood-wink the public into the belief that more powers are necessary for the rehabilitation of the fighting services. Pensions and benefits are already provided for in the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act.
It has been, officially stated that S60,000 persons, including the Militia and 47,000 women, have enlisted or enrolled in the three services since the outbreak of war. This total enlistment includes, of course, prisoners of war and many dead and discharged men. There will, however, be nothing like that number requiring assistance in employment after the war. Thousands will, on demobilization, return to their former employment in trades and professions. They are looking forward to the .day when the shackles of the regimentation are removed. National Security (Reinstatement in Civil Employment) Regulations make it obligatory for an employer to reinstate an ex-service employee. Many thousands will re-engage in our post-war fighting services, since it is obvious that Australia, for many years to come, must maintain adequate defence forces. Thousands, on the other hand, will take up vocational training under the repatriation scheme and so further prepare them for their return into civil employment. After the last war, 27,233 underwent courses of instruction in vocational training, extending over periods from six months to three years, involving an expenditure of £4,235,000.
I have some knowledge of the yeoman service in this phase of repatriation performed- by the present Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway), representing the Trades Hall in Victoria, in making the scheme the success it was. I am sure that my friends the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) and the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron) joined with him in helping to make a success of the scheme. This is an appropriate time to remind honorable senators that twelve months after the signing of the armistice following the last war on the 11th November, 1918, the bulk of our forces overseas numbering about 250,000 were repatriated. The majority, disregarding assistance offered, found their way into civil life. In June, 1920, there were 2,037 men still in hospital, whilst only 6,049 men, approximately 3 per cent., were awaiting re-establishment into the ordinary avenues of civil activity. A fair percentage were unemployable for various reasons. These figures are official, and can be checked by the records of the Repatriation Department. If, ten years afterwards, Australia should be gripped in a world-wide depression - an epidemic causing misery and poverty - why blame the Government of that period for unemployment? One would think by the interjections of honorable senators opposite that the then Government was responsible for the depression, and gloried in its awful effect. Hundreds of supporters of the Government then in power who were in business were ruined ; unfortunately, the minds of some became unhinged. They became inmates of mental asylums. Neither a non-Labour nor a Labour government could have avoided unemployment. The depression was an epidemic, like influenza, which swept round the world. It had to run its course. All credit to Australia, which, regardless of party politics, was the first country to recover. At the time when the depression hit this country, returned soldiers took their share in the privations with the rest of the community, and set a fine example of restraint and appreciation. Honorable senators opposite have thrown across the chamber the jibe: “ What did your government do for returned soldiers during the depression?” I draw honorable senators’ attention to Hansard, of Friday, the 10th May, 1930 - published during the depression period. A Labour government was then in power. On the previous Wednesday a press notice calling tenders for a specific Commonwealth Government work stipulated that preference would be given to unionists. Here was Labour’s direct challenge to a non-Labour government’s policy of preference to returned soldiers in government contracts. That policy had been followed since the conclusion of the last war as the result of a Cabinet decision. As a protest against this reversal of the preference policy, the Opposition moved the adjournment of both Houses of the Parliament. The protest was so vigorously pressed home that the Government was. driven into a corner, and had to raise the white flag. The result was that preference to returned soldiers was restored. What consideration did the Scullin Government give to returned soldiers? None. Its troubles about diggers so long as nonsoldier trade unionists got the jobs in the height of the depression.
During the regime of the Menzies Government, committees were formed within and without the Cabinet to study and formulate plans for the rehabilitation of those serving in this war. Vocational training had begun before that Government went out of office. A press statement issued last week by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) indicates that those reports are being adopted by the Curtin Government. Provision has been made for the pay and dependants’ allowances to vocational trainees in this war. For the thousands unable to work, or take advantage of this training, the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act provides a war pension or a service pension. This bill is unnecessary, in my opinion, so far as the rehabilitation of the fighting services is concerned. The Government’s failure to implement preference to returned soldiers, as inserted by the Senate in the act mentioned last year, clearly indicates the Government’s lack of sympathy for demobilized ex-service men and women. I oppose the bill in its present form, and shall conclude by again quoting Mr. Winston Churchill, who said -
We must beware of trying to build up a society where nobody counts but politicians or officials, a society where enterprise gains no reward and thrift no privileges.
– This bill, as we know, seeks to provide for the inclusion in the Constitution of fourteen additional powers, which are asked for mainly for the purpose of dealing with a post-war situation that is bound to arise. I do not think that any honorable senator will deny that the post-war situation on this occasion will be very different from that which we had to face after the Great War of 1914-18. The position will be different also so far as primary and secondary production are concerned. We shall find control of them monopolized and centralized to a much greater degree after this war than after the last war. Socialization of industry has been referred to by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay), but the fact which is being ignored is that production is being socialized to-day as never before. That is to say, it is being carried out by groups of workers to a far greater degree than after the last war or even shortly before this war. Under existing conditions’, production is carried out with the use of less labour power, more efficiently and more cheaply than before the last war, and for all practical purposes is socialized under private monopoly control. There we have a contradictory state of affairs which will cause a clash, that will have to be settled either in Parliament or outside of it. That cannot be avoided if, as the Opposition predicts, primary and secondary production are to be controlled after this war to a far greater degree by private monopolists than previously. If those people are to continue to be a law unto themselves, with the right to lay down the conditions under which production shall be carried on, the state of affairs to which I have just referred will arise, and we shall either have to settle the question constitutionally, through the medium of Parliament, or it will be settled in other ways, as has been done in other countries.
The Labour party stands for the constitutional method of settling disputes and of effecting necessary adjustments.
When this war is over there can be uo such thing as “getting back to normal”. Any one who believes that there will be a restoration of the status quo ante is due to be disillusioned. Today, private monopoly control of industry supersedes to a far greater degree than ever before individual ownership and control of production. That is the great change basically, and economically, which will force into being the political superstructure necessary to effect an adjustment. If it be a superstructure similar to that which came into existence in the Axis countries, there will be another war or internal revolution; but if it be a superstructure similar to that which the Labour party advocates, we shall be getting nearer to democracy in reality rather than democracy in name only. Therefore, I make this appeal to honorable senators: When they speak of socialization of industry, they should not forget that owing to the effects of an economic development, particularly as it has been accelerated by the exigencies of war, we have socialized production today to a far greater degree than ever before. That brings into being at once the question of what is to be done after the war to adjust the position; what power the Government should have to bring about that adjustment in a constitutional way; and what is to be done with all the labour power that will be offering after the war ? That latter question is one that must be faced realistically, and all the legal quibbling and verbal trimmings and embellishments indulged in by honorable senators opposite, particularly those representing the legal profession, cannot in any way assist us to solve the problem. We must get down to a practical policy. What are we to do? After the last war, all the factories and workshops which had been engaged upon the production of war material were closed, or passed into the hands of private individuals, with the result that hundreds of thousands of men who had produced the materials which made victory possible, together with hundreds of thousands of others who returned from the war, instead of being absorbed into in dustry, were left to their own resources. They were left to the mercy of the owners of private produce, and the onus was thrown upon capitalists to determine how and when labour should be employed. The result, of course, was chaos, and a condition of industrial and political anarchy in which hundreds of thousands of people became unemployed. Ultimately the best that could be obtained from any government in power at that time, particularly the Commonwealth Government, was a limited programme of relief works, and from the State Governments, work in return for the dole. No doubt honorable senators opposite will deny that they represent interests whose desire it is to see a similar state of affairs created after this war, but such is the case. These interests want to see a large reserve army of unemployed which can be used to reduce the cost of labour to the irreducible minimum, and in the case of hundreds of thousands of people in this country and millions in other countries that irreducible minimum who must work in return for the dole. The lower the cost of production, the higher the rate of profit that can be made. Apparently, honorable senators opposite fear that if a Labour government continues in office in this Parliament, and is clothed with the additional powers sought under this measure, vested interests will not be masters of the situation after this war as they were after the last war; will not be in a position to ignore the demands for employment by hundreds of thousands of workers; and will not be in position to lay down the terms under which production shall be carried on. For generations past, those interests have been masters of the economic situation to a far greater degree than should have been permitted, and that is one of the reasons why there is a Labour Government in power in this Parliament to-day. The impoverishment of the people generally over a long period of years ultimately created such a strong feeling of antagonism, that with every succeeding general election, Labour representatives were returned to Parliament in greater numbers, until very soon, we shall have a majority in both Houses of the Parliament. Our occupation of the treasury bench is due primarily to the denial in past years to hundreds of thousands of people, of reasonable access to the means by which they live. Naturally enough, the interests which honorable senators opposite represent oppose the granting of these additional powers to the Commonwealth Government.
In his second-reading speech upon this measure the Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley) said -
The outbreak of war found the people of Australia, along with the people of all the Allied Nations, unprepared to meet with the total effort the great emergencies which called them into action, lt is only after four years of continuous planning and struggle that we are now reaching that stage of organization and that state of efficiency which is necessary to enable us to crush the predatory powers that have thrown the world into chaos.
The reference to “ predatory powers “ is no exaggeration, because it was “ predatory powers “ holding office in the Axis countries which took the initiative in bringing about this terrible war. However, the Allied Nations have risen to the occasion, and their war effort has involved the provision of employment for hundreds of thousands of unfortunate men and women who previously had been unemployed, and so had been denied the means of a decent livelihood ; but now that head-way is being made, and there has been a clear demonstration of what can be done by the working people if they are given the opportunity, they are demanding, as they have a right to demand, that continuous employment shall be maintained after the war. That is what we ask and that is what the Opposition opposes. I am surprised that Senator Brand and other honorable senators opposite who in the past have shown sincere concern for the welfare of exservicemen have not shown a greater understanding of the position. I am surprised also that they have made frequent reference to the preference to returned soldiers clause which was inserted in a certain measure passed through Parliament last year, knowing full well that the words are not worth the paper on which they are written. The amendment which the Senate made to the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act provides only that returned soldiers who are competent shall receive preference. To that the returned soldiers might well answer : “ Thank you for nothing “, because they realize that if they are competent in industry they will receive preference in any case. Obviously a man who is competent is the most profitable and the cheapest employee, so that preference to competent men is really automatic. A law is not needed to ensure it; the economic law is sufficient. We are concerned more about the exservicemen to whom employers will not be under an obligation to grant preference. The Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act is silent in regard to these people. That is why this bill provides for “ the reinstatement and advancement of those who have been members of the fighting services of the Commonwealth, during any war “.
The determination of honorable senators opposite to oppose this measure is evidence of their insincerity and lack of patriotism. Is this an example of their so-called concern for the ex-servicemen? Here is a practical proposition - something which means a great deal more than the preference section which they had inserted in the Repatriation Act; yet that great legal luminary Senator Spicer has announced his intention of opposing it. Senator A. J. McLachlan, another legal gentleman, also said that he intends to oppose it. If they do, and we find that it is impossible to adjust these matters in a constitutional way, and without undue friction or delay, I am quite certain that the adjustment will be effected in other ways which are lass desirable.
When dealing with the proposed power in respect of employment and unemployment, Senator Spicer, in his assumed simplicity, wanted to know where it would begin, and where it would end. Apparently the honorable senator would like a complete specification setting out everything that is to be done. Neither the Government nor the Opposition could do that. It could not be done when the original Constitution was adopted. In those days, members of Parliament expressed themselves in terms similar to those in which we express ourselves in these days when we desire to give discretionary power to the Government to deal with the two important matters of employment and unemployment. Take the power with regard to “ census and statistics”. What was meant by that? What census had the Government in mind? Did it refer to the date on which the census was to be taken, to the number of men to be employed and to the localities in which they were to be employed? Such an approach to the problem is insincere, and its chief object is to discredit the Government. It is so much humbug and make-believe. Servicemen and workers see the matter in that light and will express themselves at the referendum as clearly as they did on the 21st August last. Members of the Opposition juggle with words to the same degree as in the past, but the people generally are more sceptical than in the past. Although they may lack a knowledge of parliamentary procedure, they have an intelligent idea of their own rights, and they are generating a strong determination to see that those rights are observed. The Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley), in the course of his second-reading speech on the bill, stated -
In order that the people of Australia may be able to transfer, without utter dislocation and chaos, from a war economy to a peacetime economy, they will require to have at their command the legislative and executive machinery necessary for the purpose. And as the change-over can only be carried out satisfactorily on a national basis, it is essential that the people should be able to operate that machinery through the National Parliament and the National Government - of course, with the continuance of the active co-operation of the parliaments and governments of the States.
It would be economically, financially and politically possible to change over from a war-time to a peace-time economy without friction or delay, provided that the co-operation of the Opposition was forthcoming; but, as the Government could not get that co-operation, it had to take the action contemplated in the bill. Senator A. J. McLachlan said that the taxation and defence powers are plenary powers. I am in agreement with him. Taxation is. the very basis and machinery of government, but the honorable senator’s interpretation of the taxation and defence power might not coincide with the judgment of the High Court, if an appeal were made to it. If an action of a government were challenged on the ground that it was unconstitutional, as the uniform taxation proposals were challenged, we know that the court could decide that the Government had not plenary power. Under section 51 of the
Constitution, the High Court could rule against any action of a Government at any time. That section provides -
The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth. . . .
The words, “ subject to this Constitution “, would give that power to the High Court. Although I agree with Senator A. J. McLachlan, I insist that these additional powers shall be set out in the Constitution in order that the position may be made perfectly clear.
– There is nothing about taxation in the Government’s proposals.
– There is in this booklet. Senator A. J. McLachlan referred to placitum (ii.) relating to taxation and to placitum (vi.) relating to the naval and military defence of the Commonwealth. There is no need to include those powers in the bill, as they are already in the Constitution. That should be obvious to the honorable senator. The members of the Legislative Councils of the various States are, for the most part, opposed to the policy of the Labour party; they believe in private monopolies controlling the means of production, both primary and secondary, to the detriment of the people. That that is a fundamental part of their policy, and influences them whenever reforms are suggested, is shown clearly by the refusal of the Legislative Council of Victoria to agree to the following 46 measures submitted to it over a period of many years : -
Parliamentary Elections (Railway Employees and Civil Servants) Bill.
Wheat Marketing Bill.
Apprenticeship Bill. (Second reading put off for six months.)
Income Tax Bill. (Laid aside.)
Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works Bill. (Laid aside for three months.)
Police Offences Bill.
Day Baking Bill.
Parliamentary Elections . (Railway Employees and Civil Servants) Bill. 1927 (Labour in office) -
Fair Rents Bill.
Farm Produce Agents Bill.
Lifts Regulation Bill.
Local Government Bill.
Local Government Acts Amendment Bill.
Metropolitan Milk Supply Bill.
Milk Board Bill.
Real Estate and Business Agents Bill.
Stamps Bill (No. 2).
Stamps (Bills of Exchange) Bill.
Totalizator Bill. 1928 (Labour in office) -
Business Agents Bill.
Real Estate Agents Bill.
Stamps (Sheep Duty) Bill.
Stamps (Sheep Duty) Bill (No. 2).
Unemployed Workers Insurance Bill. (Second reading put off for two months.)
Constitution Act Amendment (Numbering of Ballot Papers) Bill. 1930 (Labour in office) -
Closer Settlement Bill.
Farmers Relief Bill.
Unemployed Workers Insurance Bill. 1931 (Labour in office) -
Country Roads Bill.
Factories and Shops Bill. (Second reading put off for two months.)
Unemployment Relief Amendment Bill.
Unemployment Relief Amendment Bill (No. 2).
Wheat and Flour Acquisition Bill.
Box Hill Lands Bill.
Landlord and Tenant Bill.
Landlord and Tenant (Distress for Rent Abolition) Bill.
Stamps (Amendment) Bill.
Stamps (Marketable Securities) Bill.
Supreme Court (Judges Retirement) Bill.
Constitution (Reform) Bill.
Local Government (Rates) Bill.
Melbourne Metropolitan Council Bill. (Second reading put off for six months.)
Constitution (Reform) Bill.
The rejection of those bills is evidence that the powers vested in the Legislative Council of Victoria have been used to the detriment of the people generally, and of the workers in particular. Surely that state of affairs is not to continue indefinitely. Recent happenings ought to convince the Opposition that they cannot continue.
The bill seeks to vest in the Commonwealth Parliament power over trusts, combines and monopolies. There is no reason why that power should not be granted. Are trusts, combines and monopolies to continue in the future, as in the past, practically to take the law into their own hands and to be the real power governing this country behind the Parliament? If honorable senators opposite think that that state of affairs will continue indefinitely, I assure them that they will be disillusioned before long. Another important power sought to be vested in the Commonwealth Parliament is the control of overseas exchange and overseas investment. That is an important power. Honorable senators will recall that after the last war millions of pounds which should havebeen invested in the development of industries in Allied countries was sent abroad to cheap-labour countries, such as Malaya and Japan, and to Axis countries. Primary and secondary industries in Australia and other Allied countries were starved for finance, because financiers had the right to send their capital to countries which employed cheap labour. In that way capital was used to the detriment of workers in the home lands. What was the result? Germany was able to extend and improve its primary and secondary industries beyond recognition. It was enabled to build up its military machine out of which profits amounting to millions of pounds were made by investors in Allied countries. When the war came Germany was prepared, but the Allied Nations were totally unprepared, simply because no control was exercised in Allied countries over the investment of capital in foreign countries. The object of such investments was, as I have already said, to take advantage of the profits obtainable in low-wage countries. The Government now desires to control trusts, combines and monopolies. It should say that capital which has been created by the labour of the workers in this country shall continue to be employed in this country for the benefit of the nation as a whole. In asking for these powers the Government is asking for something that is very necessary. Honorable senators will recall that during the depression years Mr. Montagu Norman, the Governor of the Bank of England, and those in control of private banks in Australia directed attention repeatedly to the accumulation and freezing of credits. Those credits could not be invested at a profit in Australia, and rather than they he used, as they could and should have been used, for the purpose of developing our primary and secondary industries, they were allowed to freeze and accumulate until such time as they could be invested in low-wage countries. Therefore, from every point of view, these powers are necessary to enable the Government to deal with postwar problems, because a position may arise in which any action taken by the Government to deal effectively with such problems may be challenged by the courts because of the doubt now existing in respect of the Commonwealth’s powers. The Government is endeavouring to take a long-range view of post-war problems. It realizes that conditions similar to those which arose after the last war are likely to arise after this war, and even to a greater degree on this occasion. Therefore, the Government would be failing in its duty if it did not say ‘to the people that it requires these powers in order to be able to protect the people. Should the people reject these proposals, that will not be the Government’s responsibility; but, at the moment, the Government has the responsibility of saying to Parliament and the people, “ If you want us to safeguard your position in the future, if you want us to prepare for the change-over from our war-time economy to a peace-time economy, and if you want to be assured in the future that you will have every possible opportunity of access to the means by which you live, yon must give to the Commonwealth Parliament power to do these things on your behalf “. That is the appeal which the Government now makes to the people. But honorable ^senators opposite oppose that appeal. In doing so, they are influenced not so much by the interests of the nation as a whole, or a desire to build up the strength of the nation, or that we should have a democracy in reality that will ostracize poverty and destitution, as by their desire to increase the bank balances of monopolies. That is the explanation of their opposition to this measure. In the financial press one reads of accumulating capital and proposals by financial institutions to organize after the war a speculative boom out of which some people are expected to make millions of pounds.
When we read of these intentions we realize the real opposition to this measure.
I repeat that the Government would be failing in its duty if it did not warn the people of what is likely to happen after the war. Our people were not sufficiently’ warned in this respect after previous wars. I recall that when the men who served in the South African War were demobilized they looked in vain to the Government to rehabilitate them in civilian life. On the contrary, the British Government at that time authorized the importation of hundreds of thousands of coolies into South Africa to displace white men in industry.
– Just as this Government did recently in the Northern Territory when it drove returned soldiers off their mining leases.
– The only Chinese with whom I have had anything to do are those employed in the aircraft industry. They are not displacing anybody, and they are receiving award rates and conditions just the same as Australian workers. But nothing of that kind was done after the South African War. We do not need to be reminded of what happened after the last war - of the starvation and conditions generally in the black areas of Great Britain, or the hunger marches in the streets of English cities. And all this occurred while British capital, which should have been used to provide work for the unemployed in Great Britain, was poured into Germany, Italy and Japan. Much the same can be said of conditions which existed in France and the United States of America after the last war. These facts cannot be denied. We must face up to them; and I warn honorable senators opposite that if they are not prepared to face up to realities in this chamber, and do the just thing by the men who are now fighting and working in the interests1 of the def ence of this country, they will be forced to face up to them outside. It will be better for them to face the facts here, and to support this measure, which is designed to enable the Commonwealth Parliament to provide conditions for our people after this war incomparable with those which have existed at any time in our history.
Honorable senators opposite will not get off outside this chamber as easily in this matter as they have been able to do in the past. In future, they will not be in a position to do as they have done since honorable senators on this side were elected to the Senate. In the past, we appealed to them time and time again, when their party was in office, to do something for the unemployed, but we might just as well have appealed to wooden gods. Honorable senators opposite then saw thousands of our men on the dole. They saw thousands of our citizens deteriorating mentally and physically, but failed to turn a hand to help them. However, when this war broke out and the workers of this country became indispensable for the protection of honorable senators opposite, and the interests they represent, jobs were soon found for every one. The workers were then given free medical and dental attention, and free clothing and housing in the armed forces. Previously, members of the Opposition in this chamber and the House of Representatives denied them the opportunity to earn a fair living, but, when the country was in danger, had to stand aside and allow a Labour government to help those whom they now found to be indispensable. That state of affairs will not be repeated after this war to the same extent as after the last, and I advise honorable senators opposite to take warning in time of that fact.
– I agree with Senator Spicer that this is one of the most important bills ever brought before the Commonwealth Parliament, but it is most unfortunate that proposed important reforms of the Constitution, such as these, should be discussed in the atmosphere which has prevailed here to-day, and which was so unpleasantly evidenced in the House of Representatives last week. Every member of the Parliament, no matter’ to what side of politics he belongs, is vitally interested in an alteration of the Constitution, which should be always discussed on non-party lines, apart from other measures which engender party heat.’ It would have been much better to approach it in a cooperative way in a constitutional session, as Senator Sampson, by interjection, suggests. Even if the bill were passed to-morrow, there would be no likelihood of the referendum being taken until towards the end of September at the very earliest. Consequently, there was no need at the end of a period of a session such as this, and on the eve of the Prime Minister’s departure to an important conference overseas, to throw this measure before Parliament, and allow only a few hours for its discussion in both Houses. The constitutional session suggested could easily have been held while the Prime Minister was overseas. There would be no need to keep him in Australia for the purpose. Every honorable member with a sense of his responsibility must be vitally concerned with any proposal to alter the language of the Constitution. It has been my privilege to see a number of constitutional measures passed through Parliament, and a number of referenda taken, generally with a negative result, although on one or two occasions with satisfactory results, but ‘never was one started off on the wrong leg like this one is being started.
The origin of this measure, including the proposal for a referendum, has very largely rested with the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt). I do not believe that the Government as a whole has had the opportunity since the last elections, in view of its many other duties, to give real consideration to such problems as are involved in these most vital and drastic constitutional reforms. The bill represents the work and wishes of the Attorney-General, who has set out, with his well-known aggressive and persistent attitude, to force the referendum upon the people at this juncture. I believe that his impetuosity in pushing the referendum forward at this time will delay real constitutional reform in this country for many years. ‘When the last general elections began, the right honorable gentleman was absent on an important mission overseas. When he returned, towards the end of July, 1943, the best judges thought that both parties had about an even money chance of obtaining a majority. The AttorneyGeneral, as honorable senators will remember, immediately used the press to denounce the Labour party’s socialist policy. As the Opposition parties had launched their campaign very largely against the Government’s socialist proposals, the right honorable gentleman could see the damage that was being done to the Government’s cause. In opening his election campaign in Sydney on the 4th August, he said to the press : “ There will be more room for private enterprise and business initiative after the war than ever before.” It was a clever statement on his part, made at a time when his political opponents were helping the Labour party by unfortunately and foolishly wrangling, but he was not quite sure which way the cat was going to jump. His statement caused great displeasure to the real controllers of Labour policy, and he has been on the wrong leg ever since, in the estimation of those who believe that Labour can put its socialist policy into force. He has therefore been doing his utmost to get back on to the right leg again. We know perfectly well that the powerful trade union movement outside, which is the backbone of the Government, has said to him : “ No more of your speeches encouraging private enterprise. For the first time in 25 years we shall soon have a majority in both Houses of the Commonwealth Parliament, and we want to see the Labour policy implemented before that majority is lost.” He hag had to reply that he cannot carry out Labour’s socialist policy in full unless the people give to the Commonwealth Parliament the extra powers which are now being asked for.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– I regret exceedingly the manner in which these proposals have been presented to Parliament and to the country, because I believe that this action will result in the withholding for many years of much needed constitutional reform. I have said on many occasions that I look forward to the time when there will be much more local government control in Queensland than there is at present. I am sorry that the Government did not consider these proposals, in consultation with the State Parliaments - I am sure that the fullest co-operation would have been forthcoming - by holding a popularly elected constitution convention to discuss every aspect of constitutional reform. I endorse the statements made by Senator A. J. McLachlan regarding the great ability and vision of the men who were responsible for framing our Constitution. The fact that it has met Australia’s, needs during the past four decades, with few real challenges, is an indication that the job was done exceedingly well; but 43 years have elapsed, Australia has developed enormously, and in the light of that development, the need for certain amendments has become apparent. I believe that the correct method to remedy these deficiencies would be to hold a properly elected convention at the conclusion of hostilities, for the purpose of making a full survey of the needs of this country. The State of Queensland lends itself admirably to the creation of smaller autonomous districts. I go as far as to say that some of the existing State boundaries might be altered with advantage. To Australia as a whole a proper system of unification such as that which has been advocated by the Labour party from time to time, would have much more to commend it than does this hotch-potch proposal. True unification must involve the decentralization of powers, whereas this measure aims only at further centralizing authority in the National Parliament. My Queensland colleagues know that in the northern and central districts of that State, there are areas which to all intents and purposes are independent States. They have their own peculiar problems which very often are not understood, even by the State Parliament, meeting in Brisbane. How much less can those problems be understood by a Parliament meeting in Canberra? An elected convention could analyse the full requirements of the Australian Constitution in the light of modern developments, and would give to residents in the distant areas of Queensland to which I have referred, and of similar selfcontained districts in other States, an opportunity to state their case. I am sorry, therefore, that this measure has been brought hurriedly before Parliament, and jammed in between other measures dealing with a wide diversity of subjects, including social benefits and the 25 per cent. “ tax grab “. The amendment of the
Commonwealth Constitution is a matter of far-reaching importance, and it should be dealt with at a special session to deal with the Constitution, as was the original intention. I look forward keenly to the time when we shall have a convention such as I have suggested, meeting in Canberra, and reviewing completely the Commonwealth Constitution.
When I was in Great Britain in 1935, I was impressed by the amount of authority vested in local governing bodies in that country. I recall that on one occasion, my brother, with whom I was living at the time on the outskirts of London, was encountering some difficulty in regard to a taxation matter. Apparently his views did not coincide with those of the Taxation Commissioner - a state of affairs which seems to occur frequently not only in Great Britain, but also in Australia, and I am sure, in every other country. My brother decided to place the matter before the local tax representative, who had an office at the town hall, and the problem was solved very quickly to the satisfaction of both parties. In Great Britain much of the power of the central government has been delegated to local governing bodies. Unfortunately, the proposals which we are now discussing are not aimed at decentralization, but at even greater centralization of powers. Instead of granting additional powers to the States or to provincial authorities, we are seeking to widen the powers of the Commonwealth.
– I say, without hesitation, that this bill seeks to add to the powers of the Commonwealth, at the expense of the States, and to give nothing in return. No endeavour is being made to make local governing authorities more self-contained than they are at present.
A deplorable feature of this measure is the manner in which all kinds of constitutional reforms - many of them no doubt are dear to the hearts of members of the Labour party - are tacked on to the important question of rehabilitating ex-servicemen.
Paragraph (i) of clause 2 deals with the reinstatement in employment of service personnel on to which the remaining points are attached. Government spokesmen on this measure, including the Attorney-General himself, have all stressed the fact that the rehabilitation of men and women of our fighting services upon demobilization will present many difficult problems, but there is no difference of opinion in regard to that matter. In fact, there is widespread recognition of the need to make adequate provision for the rehabilitation of those members of the community who have been fighting this war for us, or have been engaged in various activities associated with the war; but it has been demonstrated clearly by some of our most brilliant legal men, that even without the carrying of the proposed referendum, the Commonwealth Parliament does not lack power to deal adequately with the re-establishment in civilian life of demobilized service personnel after the war. I have no wish to traverse the ground which already has been covered most satisfactorily by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and other members of the House of Representatives, and by Senator Spicer in this chamber. It is childish to suggest that the High Court of Australia may rule that the defence powers conferred upon the Commonwealth Parliament to enable the Government to take whatever steps it considered necessary for the defence of this country shall cease the moment hostilities end. One might just as well suggest that although the Commonwealth has power to convert men into soldiers and send them to New Guinea, it will not have power the moment hostilities cease to bring them back again. Obviously that is not the case. The Commonwealth’s power to ensure the re-establishment of returned sailors, soldiers, and airmen in civilian life has never been challenged in any way. I was privileged to be a member of the Senate when the first repatriation bill was introduced by the late Senator E.. D. Millen. Many years later I was privileged also to be the ministerial head of the Repatriation Department for two years. During the existence of. the department, the Government have been called upon to deal with the problem of putting returned soldiers back into civilian vocations and helping them in very many ways. Constitutional authority to do these things was never questioned. Let us consider for a moment some of the things that were done. First, there was no constitutional query in regard to the right of the Government to pay a war gratuity bonus to returned men at the end of the last war.
– That was partially a political bribe.
– I resent that statement strongly. It is an insult to suggest that the men who during their period of service receive very little payment were “ bribed “ at the end of the war by a gift of a war gratuity bonus. It was some little recognition on the part of a grateful country of what men had done to assist Australia through the last war, and I resent the statement of the honorable senator. After the conclusion of the war, not only was the Repatriation Department able to place large numbers of men in employment, but it also introduced a scheme providing for the welfare and education of the children of returned soldiers. Money was advanced’ to returned men to enable them to go into business or to buy furniture for their homes. The War Service Homes Commission was established, and the Government undertook the building of houses.
– Not many of those men are living in those homes to-day.
– Many still are, but in all probability a very large proportion of the men in occupation of war service homes to-day received financial assistance in building their own homes, which proved to be a much more satisfactory scheme than that in which the homes were built by the Government. Any scheme under which the Government sets up a building department is doomed to failure. Hundreds of men who returned from the last war acquired their own homes, and many of them have paid off the whole of the purchase money, because of the favora’ble terms made available to them by the War Service Homes Commission. These things were done under the defence power, and no question of the constitutionality of the action arose. The defence power is available to-day.
One honorable senator opposite discussed the subject of the settlement of returned soldiers on the land. I admit that some failures were experienced in that connexion, ,but that was not due to a lack of power on the part of the
Commonwealth Parliament. The Government has power under the Constitution, as was pointed out to-day, to acquire any land that it may need for the purpose of settling returned soldiers on the land. I think that former Governments acted wisely in that matter, because they left the greater part of the administration in the hands of the State authorities, which already had the necessary machinery for carrying out the work.
– In Western Australia a loss of £7,000,000 in respect of the settlement of returned soldiers on the land was written off by the Government of that State.
– A proportion of failures would be experienced in connexion with any land settlement scheme, even if it were administered by the mostexperienced men available. Had some of the adjoining settlers been consulted before such small blocks as some of those allotted to returned soldiers were made available, the failures would not have been so numerous as they were. I could refer to successful land settlement schemes in North Queensland, where returned men were happily settledin sugar-growing districts. Whether this bill be passed or rejected, the position of the returned soldier will not be affected in the slightest degree, and it i3 regrettable that the Government has tacked on to the measure a reference to the rehabilitation of service personnel. In providing for the rehabilitation of servicemen and others in their civil avocations, we should not attempt to introduce the socialization of industry, but Senator Large has frankly admitted - and I commend him for his honesty - that he favours the proposals in the bill because they would result in a big step in the direction of the socialization of industry. I stand for private enterprise, and I make no apology for that statement. Private enterprise covers every avocation from that of a professional man to a farmer. The greatest individualist in this country is the primary producer. The great iron and steel industry, the woollen mills, boot and shoe factories, electrical engineering and wireless works, and the timber industry have been developed by private individuals and with private capital. They are among the greatest assets. we have, and they should be preserved, because they will prove the best means of rehabilitating in civil employment the members of the fighting forces. It is a great mistake on the part of honorable senators opposite who have quoted figures to-day to suggest that the re-employment of service personnel after the war will practically all be an obligation on the Commonwealth. I have heard a reference to 900,000 enlistments. The overwhelming majority of the members of the fighting services at present have come from industry, and, if industry be not interfered with, they will find after the war that their old jobs are waiting for them.
– Most of the men who enlisted were from the ranks of the unemployed.
– I am surprised at that nonsensical remark. If the Government allows the regimentation and rationalization of industry to continue for a longer period than necessary, that will prove to be the worst thing it could do from the point of view of the rehabilitation of returned soldiers. Senator Large gave a list of the articles which he considered should be manufactured in the munitions factories as soon as peace is declared. He referred to refrigerators and articles of that kind. Some of the plants may be suitable for the manufacture of such goods, but once the Government sets out to manufacture them trouble will begin. In Queensland, State enterprises had a good trial many years ago, but they have long been discarded, even by the Labour party. Anti-Labour governments in Queensland disposed of some of those enterprises, but when Labour again took office it got rid of the State timber mills, and it has never attempted to establish a State enterprise since, although it has had a big majority in Parliament for many years and no Upper House to hamper its operations. Although the party has reigned in Queensland continuously since 1932, it has never established another State enterprise. It learnt its lesson quite early, and has not repeated its mistakes. The Minister for Health (Senator Fraser) knows that some of the State enterprises in Western
Australia were disposed of by the local authorities owing to their failure.
– Does the honorable senator favour the abolition of the State Parliaments ?
– I believe in a proper system of unification. If we gave local autonomy to certain areas, and could substitute for the State Parliaments a better system than we have at present, I would strongly favour their abolition. I should like to see local autonomy given to many smaller areas, instead of to the present States. I believe that the State boundaries will have to be altered at some future time.
Offensive and inaccurate statements have been made with regard to the treatment of returned soldiers, but Australia has no cause to apologize for what it did for them after the last war. I think that the first body to admit that has been the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. This country has what is generally recognized to be the most liberal form of repatriation in any part of the world, and the benefits given to its returned soldiers compare more than favorably with those provided in any other country. Of course, I realize that no monetary reward is sufficient to repay a man for the loss of a limb or of his general health, but the repatriation activities of Australia are something of which we need not be ashamed. 1 do not agree with the honorable senator who thought that the returned soldiers had been “ double-crossed “. In the early days of the Repatriation Department, every provision was made for returned soldiers themselves to manage repatriation affairs. The Repatriation Commission, and the various tribunals established in connexion with the work of the department, were composed of returned men. It is easy to throw cheap gibes at one’s opponents, but the repatriation policy has been continuous and has given satisfactory results, irrespective of the political party that has been in power. No one speaks more highly of - those in charge of repatriation matters than do the returned soldiers themselves through their representatives on the league.
– A parliamentary committee reported on those lines.
– That is so. Yesterday, I read a booklet which was issued recently by the Department of Labour and National Service, in which the policy of the Government in regard to the treatment of returned soldiers is set out. We on this side believe in preference to returned soldiers. When we say that, we do not mean only preference to one man over another who also is applying for a job, but a system which gives to every man who has fought for his country an opportunity to re-establish himself in civil life after perhaps a long absence from his ordinary avocation. We mean also that where two men are applicants for a job, the man who has had war service should receive the appointment if capable of performing the work. But how can we expect real preference to be given to returned soldiers by a Government which says -
Much harm has been done by uninformed comment on the question of absenteeism. The public has lacked accurate information on the matter, and the average man and woman outside industry has little understanding of the conditions under which war workers live and carry on their jobs. It is the exceptional that makes news, and the individual’s general approach to the problem is largely coloured by what he has hastily concluded from the day’s happenings. Thus there is a disposition to contrast unfavorably the behaviour of workers with that of the men in uniform, or (to make the point more sharply) the mon “in* the front line”.
The comparison is misleading. It is misleading to compare the conditions in which front-line troops are fighting for three weeks, or even for three months (after which they will have to be rested in special conditions), with those in which industrial workers are expected to work continuously year after year. When daily hours are discussed, the intensity of industrial work and its monotony are usually disregarded; yet these might easily make men at the work-benches turn enviously to the idea of an’ open-air life, with comradeship and a man’s job to be done, freedom from worry about food, shelter, clothes and medical attention, and the prestige of wearing a uniform.
– There are many men in our cities walking about in uniform and enjoying the prestige that the uniform gives to them.
– That publication by the Department of Labour and National Service suggests that a man working in a factory is worse off than a man fighting in the front line! Ask the men who fought in the Owen Stanley range and beyond it what they think “of the difficulties associated with food supplied to them. Men who fought in the jungles of New Guinea are the envy of the poor unfortunates who work under modern conditions in munitions factories! I do not underestimate the value of the work performed in our munitions factories, but the comparison is not fair. Senator Amour interjected that numbers of men are walking about our cities in uniform and enjoying the prestige that the uniform gives to them. I have the same views about some of the men in base jobs as has the honorable senator. My remarks were not meant to apply to them. The article to which I have referred refers specifically to men in the front line. I repeat that we can look for little real preference to returned soldiers from a Government which holds such views. If ever we had any doubt as to the real reason for these proposals, those doubts would be set at rest by the speeches of Senator Large and others on the Government benches. Earlier in my speech, I commended the honorable senator for his fearlessness in admitting that his desire was to implement a policy of socialism. He was not then in the chamber. 1 commended him on his honesty in saying that that was the objective qf the Labour party. The honorable senator is much more worthy of commendation than is the Attorney-General, who some months ago had a good word to say for private enterprise. His praise of private enterprise was uttered before the elections, when he did not know what the result would be, and he wanted to have something in each camp. Senator Large is to be admired for his outspokenness. I recall also the utterance of the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) a few months ago. Numbers of munitions contracts are running out, and the Minister visualizes empty government workshops. He, therefore, advocated the conversion of those plants to the manufacture of washing machines, mangles, refrigerators and similar articles. He was quite frank about it when speaking in Adelaide some time ago, on behalf of the Government. Following that speech, the Minister was silent for some weeks. I do not know the internal workings of the Labour party, but I imagine that the Minister for Munitions was warned by the Attorney-General to “pipe down” because a referendum campaign would soon be in progress, and it would not help the Government to have a Minister talking about using government munitions factories for the manufacture of mangles, refrigerators, bicycles and golf sticks. After a silence of two or three weeks, the Minister for Munitions made another speech. On that occasion he said that there was plenty of room for private enterprise alongside government enterprise. He realized that he had made a mistake when he spoke previously. In his later speech he was not so keen on socialism; but, of course, the referendum was a little nearer. Later there was a Summer School of the Australian Institute of Political Science at Canberra, at which some most illuminating speeches vere delivered. The second line of defence, comprising such men as Professor Copland, Dr. Lloyd Eoss and others, came into action.
– What did the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Mr. Menzies) say at those gatherings?
– Professor Copland, one of the stalwarts of the system of defence in depth, mentioned a number of commodities which had been subjected to price control under war-time conditions, and then went on to say that a large percentage of them would have to be regimented for all time. He was followed by Dr. Lloyd Ross, another adviser of the Government, who had something to 3ay regarding socialism. Then the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) joined in the chorus about regimentation. Some Ministers, and some officials in the new departments, seem to think that because the people generally have accepted a measure of regimentation in war-time without strong protest, they will accept it without complaint after the war. I claim to know something of the public mind, and I say that although the people have accepted regimentation in war-time, it is most distasteful to them. They are prepared to make any sacrifice that is necessary in war-time, but they will not accept regimentation just because the
Attorney-General and others wish to continue war-time controls into the postwar period. The people will not so easily surrender their liberty. When one honorable senator on this side referred to industrial conscription, Senator Lamp said, “ You send men to get killed ; why don’t you send them to work? “
– That is my policy.
– The honorable senator’s remark means that he favours industrial conscription for all time.
– I did not say for all time, but only so long as the country is in danger. The honorable senator must not attempt to put into my mouth words I did not use.
– There was no reference to war-time; the reference was to industrial conscription. However, if Senator Lamp says that his remarks applied only to war-time, I accept his explanation.
– Some control will be necessary after the. war.
– We shall be foolish if we imagine that the people will accept regimentation indefinitely. They will not accept it. On the contrary, they are looking forward to the day when the controls will be removed and they will be free again to do much as they please, without being subject to control in matters of details in their lives. There is danger that once a bureaucracy has been set up, those vested with a brief authority will not relinquish that authority willingly. Their power over the lives of others is something that they do not like surrendering. Some officials in the new departments that have been set up since the war began have become arrogant, and, unfortunately, a socialist government is likely to treat them sympathetically. That is one reason why we on this side do not want to give too much power to such people. Let us first get back to a normal Australian life. We can then hold a convention to decide upon necessary reforms of the Constitution. It will be dangerous and wicked to divide the people on a referendum during a war. To-day, scarcely anybody in this country is living a normal life. Thousands of men who, unfortunately, are .prisoners of war will not have an opportunity to vote on these proposals. Will any one say that their claim to exercise a vote should not he considered? Thousands of men and women fighting and working in New Guinea will have no opportunity under the abnormal conditions in which they find themselves to express a reasoned opinion on these proposed amendments of the Constitution. At least 1,250,000 people in Australia to-day are living abnormal lives. Thousands of men are in camps in the far north doing work for our own forces and those of our Allies. What opportunity will they have to settle clown to study these proposals; but as citizens of this country they should be given full opportunity to do so. Thousands of people will not be able to give to these proposals the same thought and consideration which they would be able to give to them under normal conditions. Not one of the powers being sought by the Government under this bill has for its objective the re-establishment of any person in his or her pre-war avocation. Honorable senators opposite know that during the last 40 years thousands of people have been given employment as the result of arrangements made between the Commonwealth and the States in relation to such works as the construction of roads and railways. Some honorable senators have referred to the urgency of standardizing our railway gauges. Did the Commonwealth lack power to cooperate with the States in the construction of the standard gauge railway from Brisbane to Kyogle, or from Port Pirie to Port Augusta? We did not hear any talk at that time that the Commonwealth lacked sufficient power to undertake that work in conjunction with the States. The majority of the powers sought under this measure are purely eyewash. However, because apparently some people complained that no provision was being made to guarantee freedom of religion the Attorney-General, who has been closely associated with the interpretation of the Constitution as a member of the High Court, agreed to make that provision just in order to “ make weight “ for the Government’s case. Has any one ever seriously contended that the principle of freedom of religion in Aus tralia, or in any part of the British Empire, is likely to be challenged or revoked? Has any man in this country ever been denied the right to worship how he will, or to belong to whatever denomination he chooses? No one has been persecuted in this country in respect of his religious beliefs. Indeed, it is significant that people who have been persecuted on religious grounds in other countries have sought refuge under the Union Jack. But, to-day, after 43 years of federation, the Attorney-General in order to satisfy the whim of some person, or persons, has included a guarantee of freedom of religion in this measure. Incidentally, as these powers are to be sought for a period of only five years after the war, what will be the effect of that guarantee at the expiration of that period? Or, if these proposals be defeated at the referendum, will freedom of religion still exist in this country? [Extension of time granted.] Such tactics are not worthy of a great lawyer, who has occupied one of the highest legal positions within the gift of this nation. Some honorable senators have mentioned freedom of speech. I have noticed the lack of that freedom only on those occasions when the Government “gags” a bill through this Parliament. However, if honorable senators opposite desire to include a few additional freedoms in this measure, why do they not provide for freedom of association in order to guarantee to every citizen the right to earn his living at whatever calling he chooses, and also the right to decide whether or not he desires to join a union? Freedom of opportunity is another freedom which could be included in the measure. That is freedom of the citizen to live his life as he pleases, free from bureaucratic control. Honorable senators opposite have had much to say about the hardships and difficulties endured by many of our people in the past. Like Senator Large I was bom in Great Britain. I came to this country as a young man for the same reason that Senator Large did. I decided to try my f ortune in a new country, and I came to Australia because I believed that greater opportunity existed for a young man in Australian than in any other country. There is no position in this land to which any citizen cannot attain. It is significant that practically every man who has been Prime Minister of this country, and nearly all who, to-day, have risen to prominence in industrial life, were not born with silver spoons in their mouths but started in life in very humble circumstances. In most cases, they started with only a few shillings in their pockets, and succeeded by sheer hard work. It cannot be denied that Australia offers golden opportunities to every man who wants to work and equips himself to take advantage of opportunities of advancement. Any attempt by a government to take from the people their individual right to chose their own means of livelihood, and, instead, regiments our citizens as a whole in the way that the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron) and Senator Large have suggested, will be to the detriment of this nation. I say without apology that I represent private enterprise. I believe that private enterprise will do more to build up this country than any government is capable of doing. Let the Government keep out of private enterprise, and attend to its primary duty of protecting the rights of the people. I warn this Government against embarking upon half-baked socialist schemes. Such undertakings will be doomed to failure. Summing up, I believe that the measure is ill-timed and unnecessary. It is not fair for the Government to ask for these powers by relying on the subterfuge that it requires them in order to be able to rehabilitate the members of our services. It is not fair for the Government to divide the people by holding a referendum during a war. I shall resolutely oppose the measure, and I shall do my utmost to ensure the defeat of the referendum.
.- I support the bill because I believe in democracy - Government of the people, by the people, for the people. It is well recognized that if democracy is to function the people must take an intelligent interest in their government, lt was for that reason that the Labour party came into existence. The Labour party is the greatest democratic organization in existence in this country to-day. Any person can join the party on the payment of an initial subscription of 2s. 6d. in the case of a male and ls. in the case of a female. The party has branches in every part of the Commonwealth. Those branches send delegates to their respective State conferences, and those conferences lay down the policy for the respective State branches of the party, [n their turn, the State branches send delegates to a federal convention of the party, and that convention lays down the policy of the Australian Labour party. That is democracy in actual practice. I am a member of the Australian Labour party because I sincerely believe in the principle of democracy. On many occasions honorable senators opposite have said to me that they wish their party had an organization similar to that of the Australian Labour party. They said that if they had such an organization they could win every election. They know that they, have sufficient money for party political purposes, but have not an organization as efficient as the Labour party. I know that honorable senators opposite admire our organization, and its strength. To-day the Labour party in this country has over 750,000 members. Honorable senators opposite oppose these proposals because they are afraid of the strength of the Labour party. They say that it would be quite proper to submit these proposals to the people if their own party were now in power. They have not said that these powers are unnecessary. They have merely said that the present is not an opportune time to hold a referendum. Obviously, their sole aim is to harass the Government in its efforts’ to improve the lot of the average Australian citizen. The present Constitution has been aptly described in an army magazine as “a horse and buggy constitution in a jeep propulsion age”. The Constitution was drawn up over 40 years ago, and, obviously, it is due for revision in the light of the changes that have occurred in that period, particularly in the spheres of science, industry and communications. At the time it was drawn up we had not heard of the radio, the aeroplane, the cinematograph, electric and oxy-welding, the X-ray, or deep therapy. In many machine shops to-day one will see automatic machines turning out five different articles in one operation. We have great engineering undertakings, and, in Tasmania, one of the greatest jobs ever done in the world - a floating bridge made of concrete and steel. We have advanced in our technical instruction, but not in constitutional development. It was suggested by Senator Cooper that a responsible Minister or delegation should be sent to Tasmania to convince the members of the UDDer House in that State of the necessity to pass the bill to refer powers to the Commonwealth Parliament, in order to avoid the necessity for a referendum. It is evident that Senator Cooper does not know the calibre of the persons who constitute the Tasmanian Upper House. It is an antiquated hotbed of conservatism, one of the worst,if not the worst, in Australia. I can tell the Senate how it actually came into existence. In 1849 Governor Denison wrote the following letter from Tasmania to the Colonial Secretary in London : -
Without, therefore, wishing or presuming to give an opinion on the general question of the best form of legislative body, I may say that under the peculiar circumstances of these colonies, I should most strenuously recommend the adoption of a second or upper chamber.
When wc consider the elements of which society here is composed - when we see the low estimate that is placed upon everything which can distinguish a man from his fellows, with the sole exception of wealth - when we see that even wealth does not lead to distinction or open the road to any other ambition than that of excelling in habits of self-indulgence, it can hardly be subject of surprise that so few are found who rise above the general level or that those few owe more to the possession of a certain oratorical facility than to their powers of mind or the justness of the opinions which they advocate.
The broad plain of equality, as in America, receives the whole of the community; and though there are many who would gladly avail themselves of any opportunity of raising themselves above the general level, yet here, as in America, any attempt to do so would be frustrated by the jealousy of the remainder of the community.
Your Lordship can hardly form an idea of the character of the population of these colonies
It is unusual to assume that colonies are offshoots from the parent stock, containing in themselves the germs of all the elements of which society in the Mother Country is composed.
This can only be said of any colony with many reservations, but it cannot be said oi these colonies with any appearance of justice or truth.
The last part is the most important -
There is an essentially democratic spirit, which actuates the large mass of the community; and it is with the view to check the development of this spirit, of preventing its coming into operation, that I would suggest the formation of an upper house.
That was the origin of that antiquated hot-bed of conservatism, the Legislative Council of Tasmania, which has been in existence ever since. It rejected the bill to enable Tasmania to refer powers to the Commonwealth. It is elected by persons whose income from freehold property is not less than £10 per annum, or who occupy property the rental of which is not less than £30 per annum. In addition, graduates, doctors, lawyers and ministers of religion, and also officers and members of the Navy, Army and Air Force are entitled to vote, hut my wife, who I contend is just as intelligent as I am, does not possess a vote, nor does any other woman unless she is an occupier or owner of a property. In this enlightened age, such an antiquated body should be pushed out of existence. Senator Cooper would not think it desirable to convince those old gentlemen of the necessity to do what we are asking, even if he knew that they had rejected 66 bills since 1934.
– Many of those bills would never have been sent to the Upper House if the Government had not known that they would be rejected. It said, “ Thank God for an Upper House”.
– That shows how little the honorable senator knows of the Labour party in Tasmania. Some of the rejected bills were designed to provide for wages boards and other benefits for the workers. In 1934 the following bills were rejected : -
Elizabeth Dempster Compensation. Licensing. Bush Fires. Wages Attachment.
In 1935 the first two rejected were -
Launceston Corporation (Flood Prevention enabling ) .
The last-named bill would have prevented the disastrous flood which caused the loss of thousands of pounds. Another unsuccessful attempt was made to pass the Elizabeth Dempster Compensation Fund Bill. The following were rejected : -
Elizabeth Dempster Compensation. Totalizator (No. 2).
The following bills were rejected in 1936:-
New Norfolk Water.
Marketing of Primary Products.
Glenorchy Private Streets (Special contribution ) .
In 1937 the list was as follows: -
Constitution (No. 2).
Marketing of Primary Products.
In 1938 the Tasmanian Government wanted to purchase a building to accommodate the Tasmanian tourist bureau in Melbourne instead of paying thousands of pounds a year in rent, but the Legislative Council thought it better for Tasmania to pay rent than to buy the property. The following bills were also rejected : -
Motor Vehicles Tax.
Tourist Bureau (Melbourne purchase).
Defacement of Property.
Marketing of Primary Produce.
In 1939 the council rejected the following:
Constitution (Defence Forces Franchise).
Cruelty to Animals Prevention.
In 1940 the following were rejected: -
Tasmanian Government Insurance.
In 1941 the following bills were also rejected : -
Launceston Corporation (No. 2).
Places of Public Entertainment.
League of Nations Union (grant).
Master and Servant.
In 1942 the list included -
Constitution (No. 3).
Officers of Parliament Salaries.
Wages Boards (No. 2).
Constitution (No. 2).
In 1943 the following measures were not proceeded with: -
Public Works Execution (No. 2).
Tasmanian Government Insurance.
The last glorious act of the council was to throw out the Commonwealth Powers Bill of 1942. Honorable senators can see from that list that wehave no chance whatever of getting the Legislative Council of Tasmania to change its opinion. An organization known as the Industrial Christian Fellowship, associated with the Church of England, publishes the Malvern Torch each month. In the January issue appeared the following : -
We are warned that this year is to see for this country the bitterest and most costly fighting of the war. The sacrifices will be acceptedwith stoical courage. But men and womenwill be asking ever more insistently “to what end?” And if the disappointment of 1919 and 1920 is repeated in 1945, there will be a resulting bitterness that may make the peaceful evolution of a new order impossible.
asked why we did not wait until the prisoners of war came back, or the returned soldiers were rehabilitated in industrybefore we put forward these proposals. Knowing the spirit of the soldiers, I say definitely that they and the workers will not tolerate another depression such as we went through from 1929 to 1933. Since the inception of federation, we have seen at least two wars and one very tragic depression. Are the parents of the soldiers and the soldiers themselves going to submit to a further financial depression ? I say definitely that they are not. We have to plan ahead on a national basis. We must bring the people now engaged in war and war industries back into production for civilian needs. If we are to have any success we must do the job properly. Dealing with paragraph (i), the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) said in the House of Representatives -
If the right honorable gentleman means that we had abundant powers to grant preference to returned soldiers in the employment of the Commonwealth Public Service, we have, but the Commonwealth does not possess power to grant preference to returned soldiers in industry generally.
That opinion was supported by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) and by the Attorney-General. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLcay) said that the Government had made no effort whatsoever to give effect to preference to returned soldiers in Commonwealth or in any other industries. According to the advice we have received, the preference section of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act can apply only to members of the Commonwealth Public Service or to those engaged in undertakings conducted by the Commonwealth Government. Can honorable senators opposite supply an instance in which we have at any time succeeded in getting preference for returned soldiers in private employment by means of Commonwealth law? It has never been done. It is impossible to do it. I believe that that section in the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act is useless, and I said so when it was passed. I also said that we should appoint a tribunal to which men could appeal when refused preference. Until we do so we shall not secure preference to returned soldiers at all. I have heard a number of remarks about waterside workers and other industrialists. The waterside workers throughout Australia placed the returned soldiers in No. 1 priority. They have always done so, and I hope they always will. The Meat Industry Employees Union also places returned soldiers in No. 1 priority in the pick-up. The Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia has not yet decided what constitutes a returned soldier. At the Hobart conference it failed to decide who should be eligible to be so classified. I contend that the public servants in New Guinea who took up arms and fought until overwhelmed and are now prisoners of war are justly entitled to be classified as ex-servicemen, but according to the federal executive of the league, they are not so classified. It does not even regard militiamen as returned soldiers. We have some thousands of militiamen serving this country. They participated in the action at Milne Bay and have rendered very good service elsewhere. Under Commonwealth law, members of the Australian Imperial Force, even if they only serve in northern Queensland will be classified as returned soldiers, because they have served in a battle area. Until such time as the returned soldiers can decide among themselves what constitutes a returned soldier, the Commonwealth Government cannot be expected to give preference to ex-servicemen. I have enough confidence in the Government to believe that when the referendum is carried justice will be done to returned soldiers. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) and Senator Foll have referred to the question of whether present controls in industry were just, and whether they should be continued after the war. When Senator Spicer was speaking, I said by interjection that I believed that if it were right to conscript men to fight for their country, there should be power also to conscript men to work in the interests of their country. That is a principle which I support to-day. I am of the opinion that a certain degree of control must continue after the war. Following is an extract from the Malvern Torch, the official organ of the Industrial Christian Fellowship, setting out the views of Mr. Seebohm Rowntree, a wellknown and successful manufacturer in Great Britain: -
There is general agreement that if chaos is to be avoided, those controls can only be very gradually relaxed when peace comes, and some must continue indefinitely.
Mobility of labour, both geographical and industrial, is an essential condition of full employment. If work is not available in a given locality or a given trade, workers must be willing to change their place of residence and their occupation. If this condition is demanded of the workers, the community must facilitate the change by ensuring an adequate supply of suitable houses and providing adequate training facilities.
Employers will have to submit to control over the locality in which they will be permitted to open factories, and it is not unlikely that some measure of central control over prices may be found necessary. Certainly it will be necessary to take effective steps to prevent monopolies from acting in ways which are injurious to the welfare of the community.
Experience will show which. of the existing controls can be done away with or relaxed, and when this can be done, but although the aim should be to exercise as little central control as is necessary to ensure full employment, both employers and workers must look forward to a measure of control over their economic activities considerably greater than was exercised before the war.
In addition to controls which are forced upon us, it is essential to the maintenance of full employment that all those engaged in industry should always allow the interests of the community to take precedence over their own selfish interests.
That is an unanswerable argument advanced by a wealthy manufacturer whose opinion is that it will be necessary to continue certain controls after the war in order that chaos in industry may be avoided.
– After the last war prices in Great Britain increased by 200 per cent.
– I do not doubt that. I am a lover of Australia, and I believe that one of our greatest needs is- a strong virile nation. We must give to the working people a decent standard of living and good working conditions so that they will be encouraged to populate this country. We cannot go on as we have been in the past, and I welcome the announcement by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) that something should be done to increase the population of Australia. To emphasize the gravity of this problem, I shall cite some startling comparisons of the areas and population of Japan,. Australia, and Queensland, respectively. Japan, including Korea and the islands of Formosa and Sakhalin, has a population of 98,000,000, whereas Australia’s population is 6,806,752, and that of Queensland 1,000,000. The area of Australia is 2,974,5S1 square miles, Japan 147,327 square miles, and Queensland 670,500 square miles. The population of a single Japanese city - Tokyo - is 6,274,000, compared with Australia’s total population of 6,806,752. It can be seen, therefore, that the population of Japan is 91,193,248 greater than that of Australia, and that whereas the area of Queensland is more than four times that of Japan proper, the population of Japan, including Korea and the islands of Formosa and Sakhalin, is 98 times as great as that of Queensland. Therefore, whilst Queensland has an area many times greater than that of Japan, one single Japanese city has a population six times greater than that of the entire State of Queensland. It is necessary to put into operation a concrete plan of employment in order to give to the people of this country an opportunity and an incentive to produce strong healthy children. The conservative idea of allowing private industry to continue unchecked is out of date. Once again I quote Mr. Seebohm Rowntree, on the conservative policy .pursued in Great Britain. He says -
If a private individual spends more than his income he is running a- risk. If he goes on indefinitely doing so there is only one end to it - namely, the bankruptcy court. Therefore, when trade became very depressed and taxes yielded less (income tax yielded less, super-tax yielded less, less beer and tobacco and other heavily taxed commodities were consumed, and therefore, they yielded less), the only wise course in such a situation was for the State to cut its coat according to its cloth. It must economize. All expenditure which was not absolutely essential must be cut down. Less must be spent on the education, housing, slum clearance, social services and defences, and this process must go on until the budget was balanced. That policy has been adopted three times in the- last twenty years with the most disastrous results, but now economists come to realize that this policy, far from being a cure for the evil, aggravated it. The mass unemployment from which we have suffered for twenty years was largely the outcome ot this wrong treatment of an incipient depression.
Because I believe that this problem must be tackled on a national basis, I favour the inclusion in. this measure of power in respect of employment and unemployment. We must plan ahead; we must have a programme of national works, and in my view, such a programme should be interstate in character. To-day we have the spectacle of coal being carried from Newcastle in New South Wales through two States to South Australia, whilst in Tasmania, almost unlimited potential hydro-electric energy is going to waste. As a national project, why not develop Tasmania’s hydro-electric schemes, and carry the power to South Australia to save the transportation of coal from Newcastle? That is something which could occupy the minds of our post-war planners. I point out also that in the north-eastern portions of Victoria, the southern portions of New South “Wales, and parts of South Australia, there is an area known as “ the Mallee “. At present that area has a very poor rainfall, but it is claimed that if Lake Eyre could be filled, the resultant evaporation would create an adequate rainfall and transfer those lands into fertile country. That could be done, it is stated, by diverting the northern rivers of Queensland through New South Wales and into South Australia. Another worth-while undertaking would be the reafforestation of the Murray Valley. From time to time, serious floods have been experienced in South Australia, Victoria, and the lower portions of New South Wales. Unfortunately, it has been impossible in the past to reach an agreement in regard to this very important work; but it is one which might well be tackled as part of a scheme to give employment in the postwar years. Also, certain goods which are imported to-day could be manufactured in Australia. Why should not the Commonwealth Government set up new industries in the undeveloped States? Hundreds of tradesmen leave Tasmania every year to take jobs in the mainland States, and Tasmania will never develop industrially whilst that loss continues. At present Australia imports clocks and watches from various countries; but if this measure were passed there would be nothing to prevent the Government from establishing the watch-making industry in Tasmania. I point out also that Tasmania has vast deposits of limestone suitable for the manufacture of synthetic rubber. Rubber is required urgently for our war effort, and that is a matter to which the Commonwealth Government might give some attention. I am confident that Tasmania will never be sufficiently strong financially to carry out the electrification of its railways, and Commonwealth assistance should be forthcoming to do that work. If that were done. Tasmania’s railway system could be placed on an economic basis, and the enormous interest bill which has to be met at present could be eliminated. Another matter which should be undertaken by this Government is the development of a deep-water port in the northern part of Tasmania. If that were done I believe that Tasmania could attract some shipping trade from the industrial ports of lie mainland States. In the Tamar River there is an excellent port, but it is not connected by railway with the rest of the State. The Commonwealth Government should assist in that work.
Some time ago Lord Woolton said that Great Britain would be a poor country after the war. We believe that that will not be so with Australia. Australia should be a rich country after the war, because it will have ample manpower and materials at its disposal to carry out developmental schemes. The editorial read -
But we shall only be poor if we allow resources to be used for the benefit of the few and not for the benefit of all. The first necessity is the acceptance of the policy of full employment, the tremendous productive machinery, created for war purposes, being turned over as quickly as possible for the manufacture of goods for home consumption and for the exchange for other necessary commodities that we cannot produce for ourselves. With this, there must bc the full use of the land according to a policy dictated by two considerations - the maximum production of foods and the provision of the chance of a full material and cultural life for the land workers.
A determined effort should be made to put into operation a five or ten-year industrial development plan.
I draw attention to the necessity for laws or regulations to prevent the hoodwinking of the public. Tasmania sends to Victoria weekly hundreds of tons of “ gummy “ shark. I have seen it labelled as Murray cod, schnapper, kingfish, and as fish of other varieties.
– Is it good to eat?
– Yes, but I oppose the labelling of any commodity in such a manner as to deceive the public. Some time ago, regulations were imposed by the Government of Victoria to prevent the transport of potatoes to that State, although they were urgently needed by the people. There is no doubt as to the urgent necessity for the proper control of the. marketing of primary products. Success kas followed the operations of the wheat and wool pools, and the fat lamb industry has proved of immense value particularly to the people of the southern States. The people of Tasmania and other southern States have benefited from the apple and pear acquisition scheme, and I hope that it will continue to operate. Laws are urgently needed for the prevention of profiteering, a most shameful example of which is provided by the cost of workmen’s ordinary tools of trade. A screwdriver which could be purchased formerly for 7 1/2d., now costs ls. 9d. A plane which prior to the war cost 17s. is now priced £2 10s. A major in the Citizen Military Forces in Tasmania, who has “waved the flag” for many years, was recently selling kitbag locks at ls. 6d. each, although they could have been bought a few months previously at 5d. each. He took advantage of the scarcity of the article in order to exploit members of the forces and others about to enlist. Suites of furniture which are on view in Melbourne shops at £50 I could manufacture and sell at a profit at £15. 1 recently visited Kingston, in Canberra, to buy a bottle of oil which I could formerly purchase for 10d., but the present charge is ls. Gd. The Launceston Trades Hall Council recently informed me that an article, the price of which had been fixed at 2s. Sd., was being sold for 3s. I went to a certain store and was charged 3s. for the article. I telephoned the office of the Deputy Prices Commissioner, who sent a prices inspector to the store next day; but the book entry showed that the article had been sold at 23. 8d., although the store had been fleecing the public for months previously by charging 3s.
Members of the Opposition contend that the present time is not opportune for the submission to the electors, by way of referendum, of the powers set out in the bill. But the answer to that criticism is that a fully representative convention has agreed to the transfer of certain powers to the Commonwealth for a period of five years from the cessation of hostilities. After the war the Government intends to summon another convention, at which proposals will be submitted for permanent alterations of the Constitution. I compliment the people of South Australia upon the petition that they have presented to this Parliament in favour of increased shipments of food to Great Britain. 1 noticed that Senator James McLachlan, although he vigorously waves the patriotic flag, is also opposed to the meat rationing system. I consider that the proposals in the bill are urgently required. I am sure that they will be accepted by this Parliament, and I am equally certain that they will be agreed to by the people of Australia.
– I congratulate Senator Lamp upon his industry and research into what he regards as the misdeeds of the venerable and wise gentlemen who compose the Legislative Council in Tasmania. He reminded us of the very good work done by that august body. It has always acted as a friend of Labour governments by rejecting fantastic proposals, which action has enabled the government of the day to say to its supporters, “ We have done our best. We should have secured this reform, but this dreadful Legislative Council, which is elected on a restricted franchise, stands in the way”. It cannot fairly be said that the franchise in respect of the Legislative Council in Tasmania is restricted, seeing that a person who owns a property having an annual rental value of £10 is entitled to vote. The Legislative Council of Tasmania did a good job when it said “ No “ to this bill.
Senator Nash claimed that the Opposition was exceedingly dull and dense, if it could not understand the bill, because the measure was self-explanatory. If that be so, why did the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) publish a third booklet on the subject? If the fourteen points are so clear, surely the booklet is superfluous. Reference has been made to unemployment in the years 1931 and 1932, when this country was in the trough of one of the worst depressions that this world has experienced. Blame was cast on various governments, but they had nothing whatever to do with the depression, except in a very minor degree, because the trouble was world-wide. Early in 1929, Mr. Bruce warned us of the dreadful storm that was brewing, but nobody took any notice of him. It was extremely unfortunate for Mr. Theodore that as the Labour party’s campaign director in 1929, he made extravagant promises to the people, because after the general elections in that year, the storm arose and soon developed into a tornado. The details regarding unemployment submitted by Senator Nash are interesting, but the honorable senator cited only the figures that suited his purpose. He left off at the year 1932 when unemployment was at its peak. In the following year it fell to 25.1 per cent. In 1934 it was 20.5 per cent., and in 1935 it was 16.5 per cent. In 1936 the figure had dropped to 12.2 per cent., and in 1938 to 8.7 per cent., whilst in the year before the war broke out it was 9.7 per cent. Therefore, the percentage of unemployment at the outbreak of war was what is generally regarded as normal.
Little has been said in this chamber as to the form of government that Australia enjoys. The federation is a mutual partnership which was entered into by the six colonies, as they were formerly known, in which they surrendered certain powers in a sense to themselves, because the Commonwealth and States are all one.
– Are they all one to-day?
– I hope so. They should be in the midst of a great war, but there are signs that they are not. Some of the signs to-day are startling. Many people are blind to our peril and they put their class before their country. I have always been a federalist although some people would call me a “ Statesrighter “, but I hope that I am a good Australian. We should endeavour to obtain a fair distribution of legislative powers between the central Government and the Governments of the States. We have been told that we have a horsearidbuggy Constitution which has long become outmoded. Is the Constitution out of date, and, if so, in what respects ? It may be easy to answer the first question, but it is impossible to give a reasoned reply to the second. I submit that there has never been any deliberative reasoning on the subjects, although it is time that there was such reasoning. We are asked to transfer to the central Government great powers which have never been seriously considered by any one. The transference of those powers is sought, not because the Constitution, con sidered as a permanent edifice, is out of date, but because it is desired that the policy of a particular political party shall be implemented. I submit that any alteration of the Constitution should emanate from mature deliberations, but that is not so in respect of the Government’s proposals. It is true that there was a so-called convention towards the end of 1942. Let us have a look at its personnel,” because the remarks of some honorable senators who have spoken indicate that they have not studied the proceedings of the Convention. I was a member of it, and my memory of what took place is fairly clear. All the representatives who participated in the deliberations were politicians.
– What was wrong with that?
– There was a lot wrong with it, as I shall show. The proceedings were hurried and scant. Even before the Convention assembled, the Government had decided to scrap its original proposals and to present others. Surely that indicates a lack of mature thought. We assembled at 2.30 p.m. on Tuesday, the 24th November, 1942, and at 3.27 p.m. the Convention adjourned until the next day. Practically all that took place on the first day was that the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) introduced a draft bill and addressed, the gathering. We assembled again the next day at 2.30 p.m. On the suggestion of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), it was decided to proceed as with the second reading of a bill. Following that decision, there was a spate of words until the Friday afternoon. Honorable senators can read the report of the Convention and see for themselves what was said. On the Friday, the Prime Minister had to proceed to Sydney on urgent business, which turned out to be a conference with Labour leaders to find out if they would accept his proposal in regard to the Militia. In his absence, the conference was in charge of the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. Forde).
– The honorable senator is wrong.
– I am not wrong; I know that, the Prime Minister left Canberra and went to Sydney.
– He did not go to Sydney for the reasons that have been mentioned, and the honorable senator knows it.
– Be that as it may, the Prime Minister left the conference on the Friday, and handed over the chairmanship to Mr. Forde. On that day, the conference rose at 3.48 p.m., so that some of the delegates could catch the afternoon train to Sydney. When we met again on the following Monday, it was decided that no more second-reading speeches would be made. The Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) may remember that he was in the middle of his oration when that decision was made. Thereupon he graciously consented not to continue his speech. Because of that decision, those representatives of the Senate who had not spoken at the Convention, namely, the Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane), the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay), and myself, as well as the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), did not deliver second-reading speeches. A drafting committee, which consisted of the six State Premiers, the Commonwealth Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) and the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), was then set up. The delegates who were not on that committee did not sit on the Monday or Tuesday. When the Convention .re-assembled on the Wednesday at 2.30 p.m., the drafting committee submitted a draft bill, somewhat similar to that now before the Senate. The Convention terminated about 6 p.m.’ on Wednesday, the 2nd December. It has been stated that the Convention came to a unanimous decision. It is true that the delegates were unanimous on one point, namely, that it was not desirable to hold a referendum in war-time. They were, I think, all agreed that some alterations of the Constitution were necessary, but they did not agree to the fourteen points embodied in this bill. Some of the delegates had certain ideas as to how the Constitution should be altered; others had different ideas. The Leader of the Opposition in this chamber dissented from the decision of the Convention, so how that decision can be said to be unanimous I. do not know. On the last day of the Convention, I spoke, but I shall not weary the Senate by reading what I said then except to say that 1 then stated -
With all the earnestness at my command, J urge that when the time arrives for the holding of a referendum for the alteration of the Constitution, power should be sought to insert in it in clear and unequivocal language the guarantee, not dependent on any legislation that may be passed by the Commonwealth Parliament or the Parliament of any State, that those who have been members of the fighting forces shall be entitled to preference in employment. There should also be the further constitutional guarantee that no person in Australia shall be placed under any disability by virtue of the fact that he is or is not a member of ‘any association or party.
I went on to say -
I am not in a position to determine whether or not the States should be urged to agree to what is proposed. The State Parliaments are the guardians of the interests of the States, and the obligation rests upon them, nol upon me.
To say that the Convention was a deliberative assembly, or that sufficient time was taken to consider what was placed before it, is to say something thai, is not correct. On the Wednesday afternoon the members of the Convention had already made arrangements to leave Canberra that night.
– They had then been sitting for ten days.
– We were noi sitting, and we were not getting information. We were loafing on the job.
– The honorable senator is misrepresenting the whole proceedings.
– I 3ay deliberately that the whole of the proceedings were hurried and 3cant.
– That is not true.
– It .is perfectly true. That is not the way to deal with the constitution of a nation.
– That what Senator Sampson says is correct is clear from the record of the proceedings of the Convention.
– The honorable senator will believe his own story in a minute.
– I do believe it, because it is perfectly true. Politicians are not the most competent body of men to deliberate upon a subject so profound, so embracing, and so far-reaching in its consequences as a proposal to alter a nation’s constitution.
– Whom would the honorable senator have to do the job?
– If the Minister will exercise patience, I shall tell him. The sort of convention that I think should have been called might not have suited the political purposes of the present Commonwealth Government. In my opinion, the Convention should have consisted of leading politicians, distinguished constitutional lawyers, business men of standing and experience, the more far-seeing trade union leaders, experts in public administration, and economists, and they should have had ample time to reach mature decisions. Moreover, it should have been an elective Convention, elected on what I believe is the best system in the world, the system which has been in operation in Tasmania since 1909. I refer to the system of proportional representation in which each section of the community - minority sections as well as majority sections - gets the representation to which it is justly entitled. I do not wish to weary the Senate on this point at this stage, but I have here the figures relating to every State election in Tasmania, worked out on a percentage basis, and showing the seats gained. In almost every case each party at every election got the representation to which it was entitled. As honorable senators know, there are five Commonwealth electoral divisions in Tasmania. The State House of Assembly consists of 30 members - six from each of those divisions. The system in operation in the State works extremely well, and despite the criticism that it is complicated, the percentage of informal votes has been much smaller than at most Commonwealth elections. An elective convention chosen on the basis of proportional representation, would give a fairer cross-section of’ thought and experience in all the States than a convention chosen under any other system, and if given ample time to deliberate, would give satisfactory results. What happened at the Canberra Convention? When the delegates got down to tin-tacks, party politics came into the picture. Of the 24 delegates at that Convention, twelve were on one side of the political fence, and the other twelve on the other side. There were twelve Commonwealth men and twelve State men. That is what the representation eventually boiled down to; and under such conditions the Convention found that it could not make much progress. Whilst the Commonwealth was out to get all it could, the States were determined not to yield more than they were obliged to yield. The system of proportional representation to which I have referred would give a fair cross current of opinion at such a convention, whereas an elective convention would be purely representative of parties. I take this opportunity to read the following letter which I wrote to the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) last December : - Dear Prime Minister,
I note that at your recent conference there was some talk about electoral reform, but 1 did not read of any reference to the longstanding reproach of Senate elections. I think you will on reflection be compelled to agree with me that the present method of election of members of the Senate is about as bad a voting system as such can be.
If you need any convincing as to its unfairness, a brief glance at what happens and has happened in the past under the system, regarded from the point of view of justice to minorities, it can only be described as ridiculous.
The old system of voting with crosses (first past the post) out of which grew the block vote for the Senate was hopelessly unsatisfactory. In the Senate election of 1910, the block vote elected eighteen members of one party on a vote of 50.25 per cent, and none from the other party, which received 49.75 per cent, of the votes.
The block system was altered in 1919 by the addition of preferential marking of ballotpapers, but the method of counting, now known as the Australian Senate system, is such that the most grotesque results are still obtained. For instance, in the election of 1919, Nationalists polled approximately 444 per cent, of votes, Labour 44J per cent., and Country party 11 per cent. - but the result was Nationalists seventeen scats, Labour one seat and Country party none.
The situation was even worse in 1925 (year the writer was elected), when Labour with 43 per cent, of votes got no seats and Nationalists with 55 per cent, of votes got 22. The system has been so designed as to bring about the result that even though one group secures an aggregate of primary votes only slightly below those of the opposing group, the former fails to obtain a single place.
This scandal was thrown into bold relief in the 1934 election, when, although 46 per cent, of voters gave their preferences to Labour candidates, not one was elected. In other words, little more than half the total electorate, who favoured United Australia party candidates, swept the poll and secured a monopoly of representation, as a consequence government followers in the Senate were increased to 33 and Labour representation reduced to only three senators.
Nineteen thirty-seven gave this result, Labour with 51.4 per cent, of votes obtained sixteen senators and United Australia party with 48.6 per cent, of votes got three. The 1940 election gave practically the same result, but the other way round, viz.: United Australia party sixteen seats and Labour three. This year’s Senate election is fresh in our memories when nineteen Labour senators were returned and the minority gets no representation whatever.
Australians are generally supposed to be a practical and common-sense people, but it is truly remarkable that they tolerate the method of election for the Senate, which contravenes a sense of justice, even ordinary intelligence. After the 1934 clean sweep, I urged the then Prime Minister (the Right Honorable Joseph Lyons) to set up an inquiry by a select committee with a view to devising reform of Senate electoral methods before another election was held. But nothing so far as I am aware was either attempted or done, so that in 1937 and again in 1940 and 1943 the disgraceful farce was re-enacted.
If representative government and fairness to nil parties is desired, only one system is possible, i.e., the system in vogue in Tasmania since 1909, which has been and is a conspicuous success, ensuring that representation is in accord with the votes cast in the electorates; the same method is included in the Constitution of Eire.
It is no use trying to avoid the issue ; either all power is to go to the majority, and the minority are not tobe adequately represented, or we can _ honestly devise a system of just representation of all parties in their proper strength by the adoption of proportional representation, which will give the majority the proper control, with accurate representation of the minority.
In conclusion, Prime Minister, I earnestly request that you will set up a committee of all parties to tackle this pressing problem.
I wrote that letter because, for the last twenty years, I have felt very strongly about this matter. I confess that I have not been able to win support or sympathy for my idea. The system to which I refer is in operation in Tasmania and Eire. In the latter country it has proved a spectacular success and has done much to encourage the Irish people to use their votes instead of guns, because not very many years ago elections in Eire were invariably accompanied by riots and bloodshed. The
Government should have set up a convention, representative of various interests, along the lines I have suggested. Politicians by their very nature cannot help being set in one direction or the other. Had such a convention been called, its decisions would have been the decisions of competent men who, on the whole, would be personally disinterested. Unlike the proposals now before us, the decisions of such a conference would have been divorced entirely from party association, and the people would have reason to regard them with confidence. The people cannot regard these proposals with confidence. I suggest that, in order to enable Parliament to deal properly with matters of this kind, a special constitutional session should have been called. Whilst we have this measure before us, we cannot give it full attention, because, at the same time, we are obliged to study other intricate measures, including a complicated taxation bill. This measure is one of the most important that has been brought before this Parliament for many years. The Constitution is not above alteration. It exists for the people; the people do not exist for the Constitution. However, the Constitution is a safeguard which must not be treated lightly. It took the ablest men of two generations ago many months ‘ of concentrated thought to frame the Constitution as it now stands. Only by a miracle could the members of any government alter the Constitution out of all recognition in as many weeks, and, at the same time, exercise wisdom in that work. The proposition put up by Senator A. J. McLachlan that the framers of the Constitution were giants, has been sneered at by some honorable senators opposite; but when one peruses the names of men who took a prominent part in those conventions, one must admit that they were great men. One man in particular from Queensland, Sir Samuel Griffith, was an intellectual giant. The same can be said of many others who attended those conventions including representatives from each of the States. They exercised a great care in framing the Constitution, and it is presumption on our part to think that in a hurried fashion we can improve it, or that the Constitution is self-explanatory.
Perhaps, I may be stupid; but I confess that I do not comprehend the meaning of the fourteen powers sought under this measure. For that reason, I welcome the little yellow booklet which has been compiled by the AttorneyGeneral. I believe that at rock-bottom the purpose of these proposals is to implement the policy of the Labour party. I am not squealing about that. I do not think that Australians will grant additional power to a Government which has shown that it does not know how to administer in the public interest the powers it already possesses. Under this measure the Government seeks power to socialize industry. That is obvious, for he who runs may read. The federal Labour party’s conference has ordered full steam ahead to implement the party’s policy of socialization. Socialization is writ large and plain in Labour’s platform. What is socialism? There are a hundred and one definitions. I shall quote two. The truest definition of socialism which I have heard is this : “It is a plan by which the inefficient, irresponsible, ineffective, unworthy and unemployable will thrive without industry, persistence or economy”. That is not a bad definition. Socialism has been tried time and again, but it will not work. Here is another definition : “ Socialism is a sentimental, beneficent theory that has but one awful objection and that is, it will not work “. Socialism will not work. That has been proved time and again. To any honorable senator who is sufficiently interested in the matter, I commend a book written by a man named Graham, in which he describes the courageous experiment that was carried out in Paraguay in 1890 under Lane and other leaders. The people who took part in that experiment were of good character. Each of them put money into the scheme. But any one who reads that book which is available in the Parliamentary Library will learn why socialism will not work. To reduce the matter to simple English, the problem boils down to this : Who is going to do the chores? The willing ones will not be polled upon by the loafers and drones. In the bee world the drone is denied any share of the communal honey. Socialism is a beautiful theory, but it will not work.
Most socialists would like to turn slush into oyster soup, rocks into bread and water into beer, not by work - not by a jugful - but through the aid of trades hall resolutions. Turning again to the bill, I shall still deal with repatriation. That is the stalking horse at the outset of this little confidential book. Why it is marked “ confidential “ I do not know. The great thing is paragraph (i) - “Reinstatement and advancement of servicemen . . . “. I have asked every one for years, even the Attorney-General himself, to show me where anything in the existing Constitution interfered with, hindered or hampered repatriation in any way. No one has ever been able to tell me. The Commonwealth, as everybody knows, has the full repatriation powers necessary for every legitimate purpose.
– Where does the honorable senator get that from ?
– I know it.I have not got it. from any one. Anybody who has any sense or intelligence, or is interested in repatriation, or was one of the fellows supposed to be repatriated, knows it full well. Government supporters make a big fuss about the soldiers who came back from the last war, and are coming back from this war. Of the 339,000 soldiers who actually went overseas in the last war 58,900 were killed or died of wounds, and of the remaining 278,000 who returned to Australia 83,000 never attended the Repatriation Department at all, and the department did not know what happened to them. They were the fortunate ones who were able to return direct to their trades or professions.
– Some went in later years to the Repatriation Department, and were “ wiped “.
– The honorable senator knows nothing about the subject. I was one of those who knew what happened. As Kipling says -
The toad beneath the harrow knows,
Exactly where each tooth point goes.
I know that the returned soldiers have been used for party political purposes, and downright lies have been told about them at election times. It is good stuff and goes well with the mob in the Domain or on the Yarra Bank, but it is utterly untrue to say that the Constitution contains anything to prevent repatriation being fully carried out by the Commonwealth Parliament. After the war of 1914-18 the Repatriation Department wa3 set up, and it was never at any time even suggested that the Commonwealth Govern-itier.it did not - have the Constitutional power to provide war pensions, medical treatment, medicines, housing, occupational training or anything else. Some 2S,000 returned men were trained, yet people here ask why the government of the clay did nothing for the returned soldiers. The allegation is quite untrue. Returned soldiers were not only trained, but were given preference of employment in the Commonwealth Government Service. They were also given war gratuities. That was something which none of us even dreamed of getting, and it cost. Australia £27,000,000. I got the shock of my life when I returned in 1919, because I was gi ven bonds bearing o per c-ent. interest, to mature in four years time. We did not ask for the gratuity, or look for it.
– But you took it.
– Of course we did. It was justly earned and we took it without scruple. Any man who had put in four or five years away from his home and country, lived in slush, starved, and been wounded three times, would not regard himself as overpaid with a gratuity of £12S. We took all we could get when we returned, faced with the possibility of. having to start afresh after losing that long period out of our lives. We felt old and tired and strained. The man who has never been in the front line has no conception of what we went through. That is why we diggers when we get together seem to be living in another world. We cannot share many of our experiences with those who did not go, because they would not understand them. I do not blame them, because they could not conceive of many of the things that our fellows did then and are doing now. We have a different atmosphere and background, which counts for a lot. Nothing that this Parliament or the people desired to be done for the returned men, whether sailors, soldiers or airmen, after the last war, could not have been done. Therefore paragraph (i) in its practical application is meaningless. Without imputing motives
I say that it is included wholly for propaganda purposes. It will help to induce the people to vote “ Yes “ at the referendum. The Government has made it quite clear that it wants to continue its wartime powers when peace returns. That is obvious. If these are granted, the possibility of the people being able to review the position later is too remote for serious consideration. Recently a friend of mine wrote to the Sydney Morning Herald in the following terms: -
The Federal Parliament has to be judged by the character of the bureaucratic administration which it has set up. This has been roundly condemned by many who have suffered and is only tolerated because of war necessity, lt is not tolerated on ite merits. Granting the increased powers sought will give the Government a free hand to continue the huge system of over-government by persons not elected by the people - and not responsible to them, indefinitely. Dr. Coombs, one of the leading doctrinaire bureaucrats, made it clear »t Canberra that a very large proportion of the mcn in the military forces are from primary production, mining, building and construction, commerce and finance. A percentage will not return, others will be unfit. These industries alone will make exceptional demands for man-power when the war ends. To say that the Government has to make provision for a million and a half of men and women is sheer nonsense.
The best thing that the Government can do is to get out of thu way and let our industries have liberty to carry on under the freest possible conditions.
I am in entire agreement with that statement. I come now’ to the paragraph regarding employment and unemployment. The Government is at present using its defence power in relation to that subject in order to win the war, and it wants to continue to use it in peacetime. That is obvious. The manner in which the present war-time powers are being used should be a good guide to how they will be used in peace-time. It is fairly clear to me that our Arbitration Court will be one of the first institutions to “ get the axe “. The evidence of this Government’s desire to undermine that skilled and impartial tribunal is too overwhelming to allow of any other conclusion. We have seen it during the last year. The present tendency to interfere is not confined to any one government, because all seem to be only too ready to yield to some pressure group or other with the result that industrial matters- become the football of politics. We have seen that happen, and the delicately adjusted arbitration system that has been built up over the years is thrown out of balance.
I come now to organized marketing. One of the declared purposes of the referendum is to secure to the Canberra bureaucracy the power to continue the economic system which is at present functioning under emergency war-time regulation. That the Government is to continue the present system during the post-war period has been stressed by various gentlemen, including the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt), Dr. Coombs, Dr. Ross and Professor Copland, the Prices Commissioner. That means that all the present boards and war-time dictators will be able to maintain their paralysing grip over the Australian economic system after the war. If any word has been done to death over the last couple of years it is “co-ordination”. We must co-ordinate this, that and tb( other, and then we have to co-ordinate the co-ordinators. Then we find all this terrific waste and muddle and absolute nonsense going on. I picked up in the South African Fruitgrower, a bright little paper published at Stellenbosch, a very good definition of a co-ordinator. He is said to be a man who “brings organized chaos out of regimented- confusion “. That is not a bad description of some of the precious lads that we have running shows for us now. . Stellenbosch is a place to which in the South African war “ dud “ officers were sent. In the course of this debate there has been a lot of talk about democracy. ‘ There are many definitions of democracy, probably the best known of which is “Government of the people by the people for the people “. It has been suggested, and perhaps with some truth although I do not subscribe to it, that it would be more fitting to describe democracy as “ Government of the ignorant by the ignorant for the ignorant “. There may be something in that, for under democracy as we know it, we merely count the heads, irrespective of what is in them. It is claimed that there should be an examination of prospective politicians to ensure that they had certain qualifications and were suitable candidates for election to Parliament. That may be all right, and whilst to some degree I agree with that suggestion, on the other hand, I contend that the people who elect members of Parliament also should have a test of their fitness to perform their important function. It cuts both ways. One hears a lot of “ hooey “ talk about democracy ; but, actually, very few people know exactly what it does mean. Whilst apologizing for the doggerel, my impression of democracy is expressed in the following lines : -
Democracy is making folk
Believe that they are wont
To rule the country for themselves
Whereas in fact they don’t!
Prom time to time,’ we on this side of the chamber have to bear the insulting insinuation by honorable senators opposite that we are the representatives of vested interests in this Parliament; that we represent the “moneybags” of the community, and that we are absolutely devoid of compassion or human kindness. Such suggestions are too silly for words. When people rise to make speeches in this legislature, they should endeavour to forget the Yarra Bank and the Domain where appeals are made to the passions and class hatred of the mob. Such tactics bring our standards very low indeed, and become very tiresome. I ask honorable senators opposite in all seriousness is there a man or woman in this country who does not desire earnestly that there should be employment and adequate wages for every one who is willing to work ; that every citizen should be protected against want and sickness and old-age; that reasonable leisure for the enjoyment of life should be available for all; that higher education should be brought within the reach of all so that every child will have the same opportunity, and no individual shall suffer a disability because he is or is not a member of some particular association or party? We have the means in this country to achieve those ideals, without the sacrifice of real freedom, and I hope we shall have the will to achieve them when the war is over. By all means, let us have a new social order on those lines, but let that new order be brought about by evolution, and not by revolutionary measures such as this.
In conclusion, I emphasize that I am opposed utterly to the bill in its present form, and to the holding of a referendum in time of war, because it is unnecessary, and a waste of time, effort and money. This matter can wait until after the cessation of hostilities. This move to tinker and meddle with the ‘Constitution is an attempt to implement the policy of a particular parity, and the passage of this measure will not be in the interests of the people of Australia generally.
– In the debate upon this measure, mention has been made by several speakers of the alleged “giants” of the past, who were responsible for framing the Constitution ; but who were these ‘ giants “ ? They were merely the elected representatives of the people as we are to-day. Late in 1942 a Constitution Convention was held in Canberra, and was attended by the Premiers and Leaders of the Opposition of the various States in addition to representatives of the ‘Commonwealth Parliament. After certain proposals had been put to the Convention, these “giants” of to-day agreed upon the “ fourteen points “ ; but since then we have seen the “pygmies” of to-day who, previously had agreed to these fourteen points turn their backs upon their own decisions, and advise the people of Australia to vote against the referendum. I was amazed to hear the political “ giants “ of the Opposition say that they intended to oppose the second reading of this measure. To bolster up the ‘ argument which had been compiled for him by some one in Sydney the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) quoted from a document prepared by the United Australia party-Liberal Democratic party-Australian Country party member for Armidale in the New South Wales Parliament, Mr. Drummond. A foreword to that publication was written by Professor Bland, who is a professor of public administration and accounts at the University of Sydney. I am surprised that a man of Professor Bland’s standing in the community should have become associated with political propaganda against this measure. Indeed, I find it hard to believe that that Professor Bland is the same eminent gentleman whose advice on matters of administration and public accounts is held in such high esteem. In a democratic community of course, the majority rules, and I ask honorable senators opposite, who would be more competent to advise a Labour Government, than the representatives of organized labour in this country? After all, they represent a majority of the people; ye”, the complaint is made, that the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) had to seek advice from the federal executive of the Australian Labour party.
– Permission, not advice !
– Permission perhaps, but from whom should the Prime Minister seek permission, if not from the properly constituted federal executive of the Australian Labour party? Does not that executive consist of men drawn from all walks of life - men whose standards are at least equal to those of honorable senators opposite? They are the true representatives of the people of this nation. They are highly respected citizens, and they have a lot of power behind them. When it comes to matters relating to the welfare of the working people, I cannot think of any one who would be better able to speak for the working classes of Australia than the members of the federal executive of the Australian Labour party. Apparently honorable senators opposite believe that it is quite right for them to seek advice from the consultative council of the United Australia party, or is it the Liberal Democratic party - I understand that the name is about to be changed, if it has not been changed already.
– And of course, Sir Sidney Snow.
– Sir Sidney Snow is one of the marionettes who does the dirty work for the international ring of financiers, who control banks, insurance companies, shipping companies and airline companies. Although honorable senators opposite have not said so, their interests are very concerned about the effect of this bill. They fear for instance that the Government of Australia, together with the Government of other members of the British Commonwealth of Nations, may assume control of air transport after the war. These are the people from whom honorable senators opposite take their instructions, yet the Opposition has had the temerity to criticize the Government for consulting the properly elected representatives of the working people of this country.
Professor Bland was cited by the Leader of the Opposition as an authority - who was in a position to say that a Labour government could not be trusted to give effect to the proposals in the bill. Despite the remarks of honorable senators opposite, the people are convinced that alterations of the Constitution are long overdue. The most important matters, regarding which increased powers are needed by this Parliament, are employment and unemployment and the organized marketing of primary products. Preparation should be made now for the transition period, after the conclusion of hostilities, when great numbers of men and women who have been engaged in the fighting forces and in the munitions factories will have to be transferred from war-time to peacetime employment. Unless adequate control be exercised, chaos will result. This Parliament should have complete power to control the destinies of those people throughout Australia. The State governments differ in political colour and have varying policies, and unless the powers sought in the bill be granted, the chief sufferers would be those being transferred from war-time to peace-time activities. The Premier and the Leader of the Opposition in each of the States promised the Convention which met at Canberra that the proposals contained in the bill would be ratified by their respective parliaments, but in one instance the bill was sabotaged by the Upper House. In other States, the measure was accepted, whilst in Victoria and South Australia, the State parliaments, anxious to discredit the Commonwealth Government, failed to give effect to the promises made by their representatives at the Convention. If the governments of the
States are sincere in their contention that a referendum should not be held in time of war, the State parliaments still have an opportunity to ratify the bill. If they did that, a referendum would be unnecessary.
It has been said that the Commonwealth Parliament already has all of the powers that it requires. Under the defence power, the Government has been able to marshal the people for war, and it will be able to demobilize them. If the powers now sought already exist, why did the Menzies Government introduce the National Security Bill, and why was a promise given that within six months of the cessation of hostilities the measure would cease to operate? During the period when the Menzies and Fadden * Governments were in office, very little was done to gear the nation for war. It was only on the advent of the Curtin Government that Australia was equipped for a 100 per cent, war effort. When the powers conferred by the National Security Act cease to operate, the powers sought in the present bill will be vitally necessary. It is well known that the defence power relates only to the calling up of people for defence purposes; it has nothing to do with the civil activities. When 800,000 members of the armed services are to be demobilized, what control will this Parliament have over them, unless some power be obtained in place of that now exercised under the National Security Act? Obviously, the powers sought in the bill will be required for at least a period of five years from the cessation of hostilities, and, in my opinion, the Government should ask for those powers for all time. Roads throughout the Commonwealth have fallen into disrepair because of the impossibility of procuring bitumen. Railway permanent ways badly need repair, and many water conservation and sewerage schemes should be undertaken. It is well known that large numbers of houses are needed by the people. I am convinced that, if the Parliament is granted the proposed powers for a period of five years, the people will not be prepared to withdraw them.
A review should be made after the war of the positions of the officials who have wielded extensive powers during the operation of the National Security Act, because they have taken to themselves powers which the Parliament never intended them to exercise. It will be desirable to replace them by officials who would display more sympathy with the public. We nave been told by the Opposition that the fourteen points in the bill can presage only the socialization of industry. Senator Foll desires the Commonwealth to have complete powers, but what would honorable senators opposite say if the ‘Government presented a measure providing for a referendum of the people to determine whether complete powers should be bestowed upon this Parliament. If that were done, honorable senators opposite might have some justification for the contention that the objective of the Government is the socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange, but that argument cannot fairly be advanced, in view of the fact that the powers sought in the bill are to operate only for a period of five years after the war. It hardly seems proper that four honorable senators, who were rejected by the people at the last general elections, will be permitted to vote on this bill. In view of their defeat at the polls, I consider that they should not be allowed to obstruct the passage of legislation which is to be referred to the people.
– I thought that the honorable senator believed in freedom of speech.
– I do, but those honorable senators should not vote in respect of proposals to be submitted to the people, by whom they have been rejected. Power over organized marketing must mean greater decentralization. Opposition senators know that the Commonwealth Parliament has not the power to control commerce, although it has power to impose excise duties on the manufacture of certain goods, and to control the importation of certain other goods. We can purchase and pay for wheat and wool, and we can sell- those products if we can find markets for them, but beyond those things the Commonwealth has no control. As a consequence, we have seen grow up in our capital cities great combines. Many of those who control those combines do not live in Australia, yet they fleece the farmers of this country. If the Commonwealth be given these additional powers a policy of decentralization will be pursued. The Commonwealth will then have the power to control the industries which have been established during the war. I should like to see in operation a system whereby the population of country districts would be increased so that throughout the Commonwealth there would be bigger country towns, and in them wool appraisement: centres and industries for taking the grease out of the wool, so that the clean wool could be sold overseas. I should like to see also near to those wool appraisement centres, abattoirs and fellmongering establishments. The existence of these industries in more country towns would be a considerable step towards decentralization.
– Those industries exist now in country districts in some measure.
– Yes, but they are owned and controlled by private enterprise. The farmer is paid for his sheep or lambs, but private enterprise reaps all the profits from the skins. I want to see these establishments under government control, so that the farmer will not only be paid for his sheep and lambs on the hook, but will benefit also from his receipts from the fellmongers. I want to see these establishments in country places so that the farmer will have an income all the year round. We should do well also to establish more dehydration plantsand canning establishments in country districts. The Government should adopt the American slogan, “ Eat what you can, and can what you can’t “. If decentralized industries existed throughout the Commonwealth primary producers would be in a better position to meet seasonal conditions. The Opposition says that these proposals mean socialism. I refer them to the activities of the War Agricultural Committees which have been set up and have in operation plans for leasing to farmers tractors, ploughs and farm instruments of all kinds. I have not heard any complaints from members of the Country party that those activities a mount to socialism. I believe that these powers are necessary to enable these things to be done and for the development of the country generally. I do not think that we can hope to bring large numbers of migrants to Australia to swell our population unless we are prepared to develop the country. That means the provision of roads and railways, the decentralization of industry, the building of homes, and the provision of amenities for the people. These things must be provided, but the Commonwealth has not the power to provide them. I believe also that the health of the people should be the responsibility of the Commonwealth. The man on the land is entitled to more than a mere existence; some of the amenities hh joyed by other sections of the community, such as refrigerators, electric stoves, vacuum cleaners, and other appliances should be provided. The wife of the worker should have the same comforts and labour-saving appliances as are now enjoyed by others in the community. We shall have to do something along these lines if Australia’s birth-rate is to improve. Already a declining birth-rate has affected France, and it is now affecting Groat Britain and Australia. If family life is to be encouraged, more than the provision of the amenities to which I have referred will have to be done; the Government will have to take action to ban the manufacture and advertising of contraceptives. We must give security to the bread-winner, so that men and. women shall have no reasonable excuse for not providing Australia with the best migrants of all - I refer to Australianborn children. These things are all bound up with the power over employment and unemployment, and the power to control marketing, which are sought in this bill.
I shall not deal with all the powers which the Government seeks, but I wish to say something on the subject of soldier settlement. Honorable senators opposite have gone to a good deal of trouble to show how good previous governments have been to soldier settlers, and soldiers generally. We were told that 5S,000 of them had not applied to the Repatriation De partment for pensions to which they were entitled. That may be, but far too much wa3 paid for some of the land on which they were expected to settle. The result was that many soldier settlers could not afford to do more than build a shanty and provide their wives with a mirror and a scrubbing brush. Their wives could starve while the men knocked themselves up walking to their bank manager to see what could be done about their commitments. In some soldier settlements I have seen men trying to make a living on poor land for which they were expected to pay £5 or £6 an acre. When they failed to make a success of the undertaking, the callous explanation was that they were failures. Although representations were made on their behalf previous governments did little or nothing to right the wrong. I could take honorable senators to soldier settlements where there is not one of the settlers who originally took up the land. I hope that the electors will vote to enable the Commonwealth to control those who would exploit soldiers who wish to settle on the land. In my opinion, the Government should own the land, and should provide tuition for those who would settle on it, so that they may become acquainted with the best methods of culti vation. They should also be supplied with the most uptodate plant. The worker should be given his due. He should not have to go along each month to his banker and pay all that he has for the right to live in a home, and have nothing left for the butcher or the baker. There should be a fair deal for all. Those who fight for their country, or work long hours in industry to provide the means of war, are entitled to the best that is possible. Some returned soldiers have been settled on marginal wheat lands. It was known that the average rainfall in those areas was not sufficient for wheat-growing. But when the soldiers failed on those areas the blame was placed upon the soldiers themselves. I sincerely hope that the people carry the referendum and, thereby, give to the Commonwealth Parliament sufficient power when the war ends to do many essential things that will spell progress for Australia.
Motion (by Senator Leckie) put -
That the debate be now adjourned..
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown.)
Majority . . 2
.- It is peculiar that the Government which proposes to guarantee freedom of speech and freedom of expression in conjunction with the proposals to be submitted to the people under this measure should observe those freedoms by insisting that the debate on this most important measure shall continue throughout the night. Senator Amour gave three new reasons why these powers should be granted to the Commonwealth. They were to enable the Commonwealth, first, to undertake sewerage schemes; secondly, to construct bigger cities ; and, thirdly, to prevent the production of contraceptives. It is necessary that a measure of this kind even at this unfavorable hour should be considered very carefully and calmly. In asking the people to agree to these proposals, the Government should give specific reasons for their necessity. Unfortunately, there are a few people in Australia who are prepared to surrender the personal liberty and freedom of Australians as a whole despite the appalling sacrifices and suffering of our soldiers in their fight to retain those privileges. Men who are prepared to carry on propaganda of this kind when the nation is at war are potential quislings. They cry “ stinking fish “ in respect of everything that Australia has done in the past, and belittle and traduce the glorious achievements of this nation. I warn the people that persons of this type are wandering around the Commonwealth. Evidence of their activities is available on every hand. Every honorable senator opposite who has spoken in this debate has belittled Australia’s achievements. They have accused the Australian people of compelling returned soldiers of the last war to carry their swags. They have accused the people of Australia of neglecting the interests of the returned soldiers of the last war. They have traduced the great traditions established by Australian soldiers both in the last war and in this war. They have denied that Australia has done anything to raise the standard of civilization or the standard of comfort and happiness of the masses of the people of this country. Yet they are now appealing to the people whom they have traduced to give additional powers to this Government and thus enable them to avenge in a saturnalie of sadistic satisfaction the wrongs which they imagine they have suffered. They ignore altogether what Australia has done. Senator Large said that he came to Australia from the Mother Country because Australia was a freer, happier, and more pleasant country in which to live. Thank goodness at least one honorable senator opposite is courageous enough to say that this country, despite all its deficiencies is not a bad place. It is the best country in the world ; but listening to the arguments of honorable senators opposite one would think that Australia was the most down-trodden and poverty-stricken region on the face of the earth. It was for that reason that honorable senators opposite said that the Commonwealth required these additional powers. However, the fact is that honorable senators opposite did not give one valid reason why these powers should be granted to the Commonwealth. I propose to give several good reasons why it is inadvisable for the people to grant to the Commonwealth the powers set out in this measure.
Sitting suspended from 11.30 p.m. to 12.15 a.m. (Thursday).
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 22 March 1944, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1944/19440322_senate_17_178/>.