17th Parliament · 3rd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon-Brown) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
SenatorBIGSON.-Onthe5thApril IaskedtheMinisterrepresentingthe MinisterforCommerceandAgriculture aseries of important questions regarding the prices of meat lamb and mutton. The question, which was not answered, has been removed from the notice-paper. Iaskthatitberestoredtothenotice- paper and that an answer be supplied as earlyaspossible
SenatorFRASER. - The honorable senator’s request will be complied with.
– Will the Minister representingtheMinisterforthe Interiorsaywhetheritisafactthatit takes from twelve to eighteen months to complete naturalization papers? In view of the fact that an alien cannot apply for naturalization until he has resided in this country for five years, will the Minister ascertain whether arrangements can bemade whereby application for naturalization canbe made before an alien has resided in Australia for five years?
SenatorCOLLINGS.-Iknowthat therehasbeensomedelayincompleting naturalizationpapers,butthatisdue entirely to the fact that thedepartment isseriously understaffed. Every effort is being made tohandletheworkasex- peditiously as possible. I shall bring the matter to the notice of the Minister for the Interior and ascertain if anything can he done in the direction suggested by the honorable senator.
– I am not in a position to give any further information to the Senate regarding the hold-up of Dutch ships, which is due to a shipping dispute between the Dutch Government and the Indonesian seamen who walked off the ships and declared them black. To enforce the manning of the ships would probably result in a general holdup on the water-front,which is most undesirable. The matter is still under consideration andI am hopeful that something will be done to-day in regard to the matter.
Call of the Senate.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) - by leave - agreed to -
That there be a Call of the Senate at3.30p.m.onthenextdayofmeet- ingoftheSenate,notbeingearlierthan the3rdMaynext,forthepurposeofcon- sideringthethirdreadingoftheConstitution Alteration(SocialServices)Bill1946,the ConstitutioinAlteration(OrganizedMarketing of Primary Products) Bill1946and the Constitution Alteration (Industrial Employment) Bill1946.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture states that the informationasked for is being obtained and as soon as it becomes available, it willbesupplied to the honorable senator.
SenatorCOLLETT asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
Will the Minister inform the Senate as to the progress of negotiations with the Government of the Union of South Africa for an exchange of representatives as High Commissioners in residence?
– The Minister for External Affairs has supplied the following answer : -
The exchange of the High Commissioners between theUnionofSouthAfricaandthe Commonwealth of Australia was agreed upon in principle by the two Governments some time ago.
Fartherconsultationsarenowtakingplace regarding theactualappointmentofHigh Commissioners,anditishopedthatan announcementonthesubjectwillbemade atanearlydate
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice - 1.Isitafactthatthedoctormakingthe examinationtoassessthepercentageofin- capacity is not the person who decides what pension willbe granted?
– The Minister for Repatriation has supplied the following answers: -
Grant to Tasmania
asked the Min ister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
Has the Government received from the TasmanianGovernmentarequestforagrant of £800,000 to compensate Tasmanian primary producersforlossesduetofrosthailbush- fires and drought; if so, has a decision yet been reached
SenatorFRASER.- The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture informsme thata request has been received and that the matter is receiving consideration.
Debate adjourned from the 10th April (vide page 1276), on motion by Senator Ashley -
That the bill be nowread a second time.
.- This is a bill to increase the number of the justices of the High Court of Australia, ostensibly from five to six, but really from six to seven, because the Chief Justice is not included.I view this proposal with a great deal of suspicion. No reason has been given by the Minister in charge of the bill for the additional appointment, nor has he indicated that there is any urgency about it. At this stage of our history, when every possiblesaving should be made, it is not right to incur the expenditure involved in this appointment.
-In his second-raading speech, the Minister stated the reasons very fully.
-I would describe them, not as reasons, but rather as speciousexcuses.Anincreaseofthe number of justices of the High Court is absolutely unnecessary at this critical period of our history. What is the urgency of this proposal ? It is merely an attempt to propitiate certain Ministers who desire the High Court, to become the mere creature ofthe Government.
– Who toldyou that?
– That i.s plain from the speeches of several leading Ministers who, should the Labour party ever again hold the reins of office, will play a leading part in the administration of this country. We cannot ignore the fact that they have set out to subordinate the highest court in the land to the wishes of the Government. This is the first step taken by the Government, acting under the compulsion exerted by some of its influential members, to rob the High Court of its power to dispense evenhanded justice, to the people of Australia.
– Is not the honorable senator concerned solely from the point of view that a new appointment, will be made by a Labour government?
– Not at all. I do not believe there is any need to increase the number of justices of the High Court. I ha ve not the slightest doubt that, if this bill is passed, our suspicions will be amply justified when the announcement of the name of the new appointee is made. The Government will have no scruples in appointing to the post a man who is ready to become ite willing servant. This has been done in the past, and will no doubt be done in future. The work of the High Court is no greater in volume now that it has been in the past, and I am not aware that any cases have been delayed because justices could not be made available to hear them. The only reason advanced in support of this measure which might appear to have some merit in it is that it is desirable to have an odd number of justices on the Bench in order to avoid an unequal division of opinion. Every one knows that it is only very seldom that all justices of the court hear any one case. Therefore, the fear that at some time there might be an equal division of opinion among the justices is. so much “’ flam “, and the Government’s only excuse for the appointment of an additional justice goes by the board. The Government has no good reason for appointing an additional justice. It takes this action simply because of pressure “brought to bear upon it by some Ministers, and some of its supporters, in order to ensure that its wishes are not in any way baulked by the court. This is an attempt by the
Government to bend the court’ in its interpretation of the law of the land towards its own views. If the Government could point to a single instance in which justice has not been done, in which the court has failed to give a fair decision, there might be grounds for this action ; but the court at present is beyond suspicion. The Government’s action will inevitably bring the court under suspicion of favoritism towards one particular brand of politics. That is the worst possible thing that could be done to the High Court. Although I realize that the numbers are against- the Opposition, nevertheless, I enter my protest against this unwarranted interference with the course of justice. This action will belittle the status of the court which should be the highest tribunal in the land, worthy of being regarded by every man, woman, and child in Australia as a tribunal which will uphold justice in the interest of every section of the community
– That did not apply to appointments made by previous governments which the honorable senator supported. Al] their appointees were “ lilywhites.”
– The honorable senator is not far out; out of the mouths of babes and sucklings we sometimes hear the truth. Only one of the present justices has been mixed up in politics at any time. However, I make my protest although I know that it will be useless. I repeat that to drag down the highest court in the land in order to make it pliable to the political will of the Government is not .playing the game of politics as I expected it would be played by all parties in Australia.
Senator ASHLEY (New South WalesMinister for Supply and Shipping) f 10.19]. - in reply - I thought that in my second-reading speech I had given ample reasons to justify the appointment of an additional justice to the High Court. Senator Leckie said that the work of the court had not increased sufficiently to warrant such an appointment. I remind him that on the basis of sitting days the work of the court has increased by 34 per cent, in respect of hearings by the J? -til Bench and by 54 per cent, in respect, of hearings by -a single justice. That answers the argument that the business of iiic High’ Court does not warrant the appointment of an additional justice. Senator Leckie has alleged that the appointment will be a political one. I am not in a position to say who will be appointed to the High Court, and I regard it as most improper that the name of any member of the bar should be bandied around in this chamber, or anywhere else, in connexion with the appointment. I draw attention to the fact that when Sir John Latham, who had been Attorney-General in a government formed by the parties now in opposition, was appointed to the High Court there was no suggestion that the appointment had political significance. Judge Drake-Brockman,of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court, also had political affiliation prior to hia appointment.
– But he is an Arbitration Court judge.
– That is all the more reason why he should be free from political bias, because he is called upon to adjudicate in disputes between various sections of industry. I am not complaining about Judge Drake-Brockman’s work as a judge, but when honorable senators opposite allege that the Government intends to make a political appointment to the High Court, it is well that these things should be borne in mind. I am confident that when the new justice of the High Court has been chosen, the people of this country will be satisfied with his qualifications and with his ability to discharge his duties without being influenced by political considerations. I have already explained the need for the appointment of an additional justice. At present, with only six justices on the Bench, an equal division of opinion can be most embarrassing to litigants, rich and poor. It is true that there is a procedure by which a verdict can be given in such cases, but that is not so satisfactory as a majority decision, and it is not acceptable. I believe, therefore, that the Government is fully justified in providing for the proposed new appointment.
Question ‘resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 10th April (vide page 1279), on motion by Senator Ashley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This bill provides for an agreement between the Government of the Commonwealth and the Government of the State of Queensland, which renews the arrangement made between those Governments with regard, to the sugar industry. I am firmly convinced that this agreement, which has operated since 1915, has had the support of the members of all political parties, and that the great majority of the people of Australia desire it to be renewed. The measure provides for a renewal of the agreement signed in 1940. Considering the facts of the case, and taking all the circumstances into ‘consideration, the agreement is not a generous one. The price of 4d. per lb. i? less by one half-penny than that originally agreed to in 1915. The reduction from 4-kl. to 4d. per lb. was made during the depression period. The reason given for it was that the prices of all primary products had fallen in varying degrees, and that, as the purchasing power of money had increased, the price should be reduced by one halfpenny per lb. That is the reason why the price of 4d. per lb. obtains to-day, and the Government is now asking the Parliament to renew the agreement for five years at that price. During the last five years the prices of all primary products have increased. The Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley), speaking on a Constitution alteration bill a couple of days ago, mentioned that primary producers had been able in the last five years to reduce their overdrafts and mortgages by £60,000,000, owing to the high prices which they had received for their products during the war period.
That is not the position in the sugar industry. The producers of sugar have not received a fraction, of a penny more for their product on the home consumption market during that period. As all other primary producers have received considerably increased prices, and as the price of sugar was reduced by one halfpenny per lb. during the depression period the cane-growers- should now be given an increased price to compensate them for the increase of the cost of production. A large proportion of the sugar producing lands in north Queensland are in an area which was a declared military area, liable to invasion during the early part of the war with Japan, and were subjected to all the distress and turmoil which occurs in such circumstances. Tt was probably more difficult to get labour ou the sugar-fields than anywhere else in Australia, and it is only because the producers who were left on the land worked day and night that production could be continued. Under great difficulty they maintained the production of sugar for use in Australia, and also for export, to enable Australia to build up its overseas exchange. Had the industry not been, part of the economy of Queenslend, which has been developed with roads, railways and other facilities, the northern part of that State might well have been invaded and despoiled by the Japanese.
The people of Australia have enjoyed a con tinuous supply of Sugar, and they have been fortunate in that respect. The agreement has been in operation 31 years, and they have never suffered from a shortage of - supplies during -the past twenty years. It may have been difficult at times to obtain sugar in certain parts of the Commonwealth, but there has never been an actual shortage of stocks. At present the people of this country pay less for’ their sugar than, do those in any other, capital city in the world, except New Zealand where the price is the same. A comparison of the prices in other countries is given in the following table: -
I admit that at some period in the last 31 years sugar has been cheaper in certain, countries than in Australia, but if an average were taken over that period it, would be seen that the price generally in Australia has not been greater than in any other part of the world, whilst it has been much lower than in many countries. Prior to the signing of the agreement, the Australian Sugar Producers Association and the Cane-growers Council of Queensland asked for some variation of the price of sugar. They stressed that production costs had greatly increased since the existing agreement was entered into, and also that the present export price of sugar was higher than in normal times. Indeed, that higher export price has been the reason for maintaining the average price of sugar at a reasonable level. The law of supply and demand is operating in respect of sugar,- and at the moment there is a world shortage of this commodity. When the countries which before the war produced sugar with cheap labour resume production, the export price of sugar will fall, and, as a consequence, the average price also will fall. That will make the position of those engaged in the industry most difficult. Foreseeing that state of affairs, the organizations which I have mentioned asked the Commonwealth Government, through the Government of Queensland, to provide in the agreement that the rawsugar industry shall be given. added protection against the possibility of adverse developments, so as’ to ensure as a minimum, that the profits of the industry in any year for which the agreement will operate shall not fall below the average profits of the 1936, 1937 and 1938 seasons. I understand that their request was considered, but, unfortunately, the agreement before us does not embody any such provision. The organizations concerned ask that the position be reviewed should the production costs increase. During the war certain sugarproducing areas temporarily ceased production because of a shortage of man-power, and for other reasons. Those areas will probably again he brought into production. Moreover, the Queensland Government has appointed a royal commission to investigate the prospects of establishing ex-servicemen in the sugar industry. That Government has in mind a greatly increased population as the result of the immigration policy of the Commonwealth
Government, and, accordingly, is adopting a long-range plan. There is, however, need for. the stabilization of prices if additional areas are to be devoted to sugar production. All parties agree on the need for a greater population and on the necessity for planning production to meet the increased demand. The greater the population the greater the consumption of sugar. Without come guarantee of stable prices, it will be impossible for the Queensland Government to go ahead with its scheme for the settling of exservicemen in the sugar industry. The bill provides that the agreement shall come into operation on the 1st September next. In the meantime, I ask the Government to review the situation in the light of the reduced prices of sugar which can be expected, and also of the Government’s migration policy. I ask for an assurance that those engaged in sugar production will receive a remunerative price for their product.
.- This bill will, I believe, have the general approval of honorable senators, and therefore there is no need for me to discuss it at length. Nor is there any necessity to repeat the arguments advanced by Senator Cooper. The agreement before us is a renewal of the existing agreement which will expire on the 81st August next. The first sugar agreeagreement between the Commonwealth Government, the Government of Queenslaud, and the sugar industry came into operation in 1915. The agreement has continued since then with but very slight variations. Recently those engaged in the sugar industry made representations to the Government for the fixation of a slightly higher price for sugar sold in Australia and for the improvement of some of the provisions of the agreement. ‘The drafting of this bill has been delayed for some time whilst inquiries have been proceeding into those representations. Finally a decision was made that the proposals submitted by the industry should not be accepted on the ground that any anomalies that had arisen were offset by the rise in the overseas price in the product. The people of Australia are very fortunate indeed in having this agreement. During the two great wars of this century it has enabled Australian consumers to be supplied with sugar at a price lower than that ruling in many other countries. Since its establishment the industry has gradually progressed and has now reached stability. Like other industries, however, it has. been subjected, during the war period, to very heavy increased costs, which could not have been met had the overseas price of sugar not been increased. During the whole of the war period when prices of all other commodities soared to extraordinary heights, the price of sugar has been maintained throughout Australia at an average of 4d. per lb. But for the improved overseas price the Government would have had to como to the assistance of the industry in order to enable it to carry on. Tinder the International Sugar’ Agreement Australia has been allotted an export quota of 400,000 tons per annum, a quantity in excess of that required for the home market. The Government has always been adamant on the point that the industry itself must accept responsibility foa- the effects of variations of the overseas price. Should the overseas price of sugar deteriorate to any great degree, however, the Government will be forced to come to the assistance of the sugar industry because of its vital importance in the settlement and prosperity of our northern State. This industry offers wide scope for the. establishment of new settlers on the land and the rapid development of the vast empty areas in Queensland. Australia has the distinction of being the only country in the world in which sugar is produced by white labour, and we should be proud of the fact that because of the efficiency of the sugar industry it is able to market its product in overseas countries in competition with sugar produced in black labour countries. The product of black labour countries, however, constitutes a constant menace to’ its successful continuance. In the years to come Queensland will be probably the mast important State in the Commonwealth. It possesses a great, variety of resources, and great potentialities which offer inducements to the settler or the industrialist that are unrivalled by any other State. The Government should therefore encourage the expansion of industries already established in Queensland. Representations have recently been made to the Queensland Government for the rehabilitation of a certain number of ex-soldiers in the sugar industry. That move has my whole-hearted support. Those engaged in the sugar industry have great faith in the Commonwealth Government, irrespective of the party that holds the reins of office. The only serious set-back it has suffered took place about fourteen years ago when, as the result of Government action, the price of sugar for domestic consumption was reduced by½d. per lb. Although that seemeda tragedy then, the action of the Government was, I believe, quite justified, because at that time the prices of primary products of all kinds had reached a very low level. Apart from that variation the price fixed by the agreement in 1915 has remained static. The industry has no misgivings as to its future treatment by the Government. The only concern expressed by those engaged in the industry is at the apparent lack of appreciation of the needs of industries of all kinds often displayed by Government officials. Recently representatives of the sugar industry asked the Government to consider whether some adjustment should not be made in the agreement to meet the high cost of raw materials, machinery and plant. The governments submitted matter to the Tariff Board. Although the Tariff Board is a worthy body, its very composition detracts from its efficiency, because it does not include in its membership representatives of vital industries upon whose future it is asked to report. As I have said, a definite feeling exists in Queensland that there is a tendency in Canberra and. the southern States to overlook important facts concerning industries in other States.Whether that feeling is justified or not, it is very real; and it is one reason why the people are reluctant to give greater powers to the Commonwealth Parliament. The people in the distant States believe that New SouthWales and Victoria consider that they arc Australia; that there is no real appreciation in New South Wales and Victoria of the actual position in industries in other States. I should welcome a thorough inquiry into the sugar industry, because anyindustry in order to survive and progress must operate upon an economic basis. A full inquiry into the industry would be to the advantage of the industry itself, because there is a lack of knowledge of the sugar industry in some quarters in this country. The industry has been of tremendous importance in the development of Australia. By contributing so largely to the settlement and development of coastal areas in Queensland it proved of immeasurable value to the nation as a whole during the war. Therefore, our people as a whole should have a thorough knowledge and understanding of its worth to the community. Because of the huge profits made by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited, my colleagues often imply in a jovial way that the industry is correspondingly prosperous. That is not so. However, despite the profits made by that company, the cost of refining sugar in this country is lower than the cost of refining in any other country. These facts may be appreciated by the Government and its advisers, but the people generally do not make themselves acquainted with such facts, and, therefore, are apt to be misled by thoughtless critics of the industry. The problem of developing Queensland is of importance to Australia as a whole. Therefore, we must encourage the expansion of industries such as the sugar industry, which has proved so valuable to the nation in the past. For that reason, the people of Australia should be prepared to bear the little additional cost involved in obviating the collapse of the industry in the event of the depression of the world price of sugar. Owing to the efficiency of the industry the Australian people, during the war, were adequately supplied with sugar at reasonable prices. At the same time, the industry also maintained adequate supplies to processing industries, and enabled them to maintain production at prices comparable with overseas prices in normal times. Should circumstances call for review of the industry, or of the agreement, I am certain that the Government will deal with the industry, as the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has said, justly and fairly.
– Although the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) referred to the assistance given to the Fruit Industry Concession Committee, I was surprised that he. made no reference to the establishment df a sugar depot at Hobart. From time to time we have advocated the establishment of such a depot, and I notice that this matter is mentioned. in paragraph 11 of the schedule to the bill, which reads -
That the Queensland Government, if. and when requested by the Commonwealth Government, shall establish a sugar depot at Hobart provided that the Commonwealth Government shall not make such a request unless the request be accompanied by evidence proving that a general shortage of sugar has occurred in Hobart which is due to wholesale merchants in Hobart or the Queensland Sugar” Board railing to adhere to the present arrangements whereby special reserve stocks of sugar are supplied to and held by such merchants.
That provision does not go far enough. Tasmanian senators are tired of reiterating the obvious,” that Tasmania is’ an island and suffers in many ways due to its isolation. But the shortage of sugar at times in Tasmania has been more than acute; frequently, supplies have been reduced to the danger line. There* fore, I arn very disappointed that on this occasion no provision is made for the establishment of a sugar depot at Hobart. C trust, however, that that position will be rectified. Paragraph 11 of the schedule provides that the Common.wealth Government will not, consider the establishment of a sugar depot at Hobart unless the request be accompanied by evidence proving that a general shortage of sugar has occurred due to the failure of wholesale .merchants, or the Queensland Sugar Board, to adhere to certain arrangements. Under that provision a general shortage must occur before remedial action is taken. Obviously, it is wiser, and, indeed, imperative, to take preventive action before a ‘ shortage occurs. I should like the Minister to give special attention to this matter.
.- Certain provisions of the agreement appear to me to be unusual and deserving of very careful consideration. The sugar industry has stood up to its obligations very well. During the war it stood the test of trial, emerging triumph antly as an industry that is serving the public. At the same time, I do not think that the Minister was justified in making the comparison between prices which he made.. He pointed out, for instance, that the price of sugar in Italy is 27d. per. lb. Every one knows that special circumstances governed these matters during the war, and, therefore, comparison of Australian prices with those in other countries is useless. However, the Minister informed us that the price of sugar in New Zealand is 4d. per lb.
– That is equal to the price in Australia.
– Yes; but New Zealand does not produce sugar.
– New Zealand im ports sugar from Fiji, where it, is produced by black labour.
– I know all about that; but in our general jubilation we must not run away with the idea that this is the only country in the world in which sugar is sold at 4d. per lb.
The Commonwealth, of course, does not come into this matter. The State of Queensland takes the full responsibility. The Commonwealth’s part is merely the imposition of a general prohibition on the importation of sugar.
– It also determines the price to the consumer.
– That is under the agreement, of course; but it is just as well to remember that this is the only primary industry that enjoys a complete embargo upon imports.
The next aspect of the sugar industry’ to which I wish to draw attention is that the output is restricted. I trust that in its desire to bring about organized marketing schemes in other primary industries, the- Government will not resort to a restriction of output. Generally speaking output 7-estrietions imposed upon primary industries in this country not only have not been of advantage to those industries, but also have been disastrous to Australia and to the world.
It is noteworthy that the sugar industry is conducted by the people engaged in it. The Queensland Government is not concerned at all except in a. supervisory capacity, and I have no doubt that this form, of control has been largely responsible for the success of the industry. The Government could take a lesson from the sugar industry when formulating plans to deal with other primary industries. The prosperity of the sugar industry depends upon the price of export sugar. If that price were to fall substantially below its present figure of £15 a ton, the industry would soon be in economic straits.
– Further restriction of output would be necessary.
– I am’ not sure about, that.
– Does the honorable senator -suggest that in that event an increased price should be paid to the growers to enable them to carry on?
– I. do not know what the remedy would be, but something would have to be done. It has been stated ti at should new circumstances arise in the sugar industry, an examination would be made to ascertain what action should be taken; but I point out that prices arc apt to drop very suddenly, and possibly before, an investigation could be carried out, a whole year would elapse with consequent heavy loss to those engaged in the industry. As honorable senators are aware there is a movement, originated in the United States of America.; and now finding favour in other parts of the world, towards free tra die: A feature of this policy is that no country should export sugar at less than its home consumption price. The adoption of that policy would affect several Australian primary industries, but particularly the sugar industry, because whereas the home consumption price of sugar in this country is £32 a ton, the export price is £15 a ton. If we were compelled to export sugar at not less than £32 a ton, we would scon find that’ we had no export trade at all.
– We export only raw sugar.
– There is a home consumption price for that too. I repeat that if under some new international agreement Australia were prevented from exporting sugar at less than its home consumption price, the sugar industry in this country .would very soon be in a perilous position. The Queensland sugar industry is an outstanding example of successful application of scientific methods and management. Only because the industry has been maintained at a high level df efficiency have we been able to buy sugar in this country at the present low price. The Queensland sugar producers have been very much alive to the need for the application of science to sugar cane growing. They have adopted the latest methods of planting, cultivating, harvesting and refining.
– They have been encouraged by a complete embargo on the importation of sugar.
– That is so. I have no objection to this measure apart from the criticisms that I have made. I congratulate the Queensland sugargrowers upon their success and efficiency.
– What of the beet sugar producers in Victoria?
– The Queensland producers have been able to retard to a considerable degree . the’ production of sugar in Victoria.
– The beet sugar producers have always had a higher price than sugar cane growers.
– I am not offering criticism in that regard. As the result of the adoption of scientific methods of production, sugar producers in Queensland have been able to keep their industry on a firm footing. But it might be dangerous to regard the. agreement as a rigid , compact. In the event of any reduction of export prices, or if for any other reason the cost .of production increased, I am inclined to think that the Government would have to take immediate action to- prevent the producers from suffering hardship.
, - T am pleased that the responsibility of piloting this bill through the Senate has been allotted to me.
– I rise to order. The Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) moved the second reading of this bill, and I submit that, if the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Collings) now speaks on his behalf he will close- the debate.
– Owing to an innocent error, the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) moved the second, reading of the measure, although it was my responsibility to do so. He and I have already discussed that matter, but I take it that my speech, as the Minister in charge of the bill, will close .the debate.
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Collings) is correct. Inadvertently I moved the second reading of the bill, but if the Minister will wait until other honorable senators who desire to speak have addressed the Senate on the measure, he will then be able to close the debate.
– Strictly speaking, if the Vice-President of the Executive Coun-. cil (Senator Collings) spoke at this juncture he would not close the debate. That would not be permissible under the Standing Orders. As the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) moved the second reading of the bill, the debate will not be closed until he replies to the debate, assuming, of course, that he wishes to do so. As a mistake has occurred, however, it would perhaps be preferable for the Vice-President, of the Executive Council to refrain from speaking until other honorable senators who wish to discuss the measure have clone so.
– Is there a precedent for your ruling, Mr. President, because an important point, i? involved? Can the mover of a motion, “That the bill be now read a second time “ delegate to another Minister his right to reply to trip debate?
– I have made it clear that the speech- in reply by the mover of a motion closes the debate. A Minister may delegate to another Minister his right to reply to the arguments advanced during the debate, but he cannot delegate to another Minister the right to close the debate.
– Then I shall speak later.
– I am sure that this bill will not be opposed, but some of the remarks made in support of it call for reply. It must be admitted that the producers engaged in the industry have shown that excellent work can be done under difficult conditions, in fostering an industry of this kind by the employment of white labour in a tropical zone. Those engaged in the industry enjoy an embargo against overseas competition. They are in the fortunate position of having a monopoly of the sugar producing lands in Queensland, and the restriction of the output i= controlled by ‘the industry itself. The producers are licensed, and the area of land available for production is limited. The quantity of sugar-cane which a grower may produce is limited by the quota which he is permitted to send to the mills.
Reference has been made to the price of sugar paid by the people of Australia. The producers are to he commended upon the fact that by modern methods of production, and by planting improved varieties of cane, thereby increasing its sugar content, and in other ways they have reduced overhead costs and increased their production. They are in the fortunate position of having had a guaranteed price for their product. They know from year to year what price they will receive for it. The price to be paid is assessed after the closest investigation of the conditions in the industry, and the price paid by the consumer in Australia enables the growers to sell their surplus overseas at the price ruling in the world’s markets. Taking an average of the overseas and the home consumption prices, the producer has received a profitable return for his labour. These conditions are not enjoyed by producers engaged in many other industries, and some appreciation of that fact should be expressed.
When we are told that, the cheapest s n car in the word is obtainable- in Australia, it should’ be remembered that, despite the anxiety of the growers and others on the sugar cane-fields of north
Queensland during the war period, the industry could be carried on. Disturbances occurred owing to the shortage of labour and essential materials, but by comparison with other countries the Australian growers were in a fortunate position. The sugar-producing areas in some’ other countries became battle zones. Queensland is capable of carrying a population equal to that of the whole of Australia. It has enormous areas suitable for the production of sugar which are not now being used for that purpose. If the industry is to be carried on under Australian conditions, as I contend it should, I do not see how it offers great opportunities for expansion, as was suggested by Senator Courtice. If the price remained as1 provided in this bill, and if the overseas price fell, the return to the growers would have to be reviewed. The only way to place the growers in a profitable position would be, either to increase the home consumption price, or reduce the output of sugar so that the producers would not have to sell a portion of their output at a. price lower than the’ cost of production. No one will say that the cost of producing sugar in Queensland could be substantially reduced. Despite the high standard ‘ already attained in the industry, it is possible that the peak of efficiency has not yet been reached. It may be possible so to improve the quality of the cane that more sugar can be produced from a given area. I have no objection to the bill, oi1 to the renewal of the agreement, but 1 emphasize the point mentioned by Senator Sampson, that in Tasmania there are several important processing establishments, which use large quantities of sugar. Representations have been made from time to time that there should be in Tasmania a depot at which considerable stocks of sugar are maintained all the year round. Shipping difficulties frequently cause concern to those in charge of those industries, because of the risk of supplies of sugar being interrupted. Honorable senators can imagine how serious a shortage of supplies would be to those industries, and to Tasmania generally. There is no reason why largely increased stocks of sugar should not be stored in Tasmania. I hope that the matters which have been raised during this debate will be given sympathetic and early consideration by the Government.
– The debate has not produced many statements to which I need to reply. I have been greatly interested to notice the belated conversion of a number of Opposition senators to the policy of government ownership and control of industry, and of orderly marketing. The two things which distinguish the sugar industry from other industries in this country are, first, that, it is governmentowned and controlled, and,” secondly, that the marketing of the product is under government control. Those who have extolled the sugar industry for its efficiency and success have belatedly subscribed to the policy of the Labour party.
– How can it be said that the sugar industry is governmentowned ?
– In 1915 the Queensland Parliament passed legislation giving to the Government of that State the power to acquire the whole of the sugar crop of Queensland. Incidentally. 1 mention that an astute Labour Government in that State embodied in the acquisition legislation the words “ and other commodities”. The then’ chamber oi review - the Legislative Council oi Queensland - did not notice that those words were included. The result is thai the ‘Government of Queensland has power to acquire ‘any commodity. During the war of 1.914-18 that power was exercised, mid that Government acquired all the galvanized iron in Queensland, thereby preventing the exploitation of the community by private enterprise. However, if pursue that line of argument at any length I shall probably be called to order. I was ‘ particularly impressed by the remarks of Senator Leckie, and the tone in which he commenced his dissertation. Senator Herbert Hays who endorsed the remark of the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) that the retail price of sugar in Australia, was lower than in any other country except New Zealand, said that it appeared that the present Government was claiming all the credit. ‘Senator Herbert Hays said that it was no wonder that other countries had to charge more for sugar, as their territories had either been battle areas or had been overrun by the enemy. The position to which reference has been made has prevailed ever since the sugar industry was acquired by the Government of Queensland. Since then, sugar has always been supplied to the people of Australia, at a price below that charged in other countries. If time permitted, and if the end of the present sittings was not so imminent, I could tell a story about the sugar industry which no other honorable senator could tell, because I am old enough to go back further in my experiences. I remind the Senate that there was a time when sugar was produced in Australia by kanaka labour.The then members of the Labour party decided that, although sugar was a tropical product, there was no need for the industry to employ blacklabour. Accordingly, it was converted to a white labour industry, and white men’s standards were set and maintained. Despite the establishment of those improved conditions, the Australian sugar industry has been able to sell its product at low prices. When Lord Lothian visited Queensland in1938, he got. a little off the track, as did Senators Leckie and Herbert Hays, during their speeches in this chamber. In my hearing, Lord Lothian said that tropical products could not be grown successfully with white labour. When I replied that sugar was being produced in Queensland under white labour conditions, Lord Lothian advised me to wait until the second and third generations of white men were so employed, when the position would probably be different. He was astonished when I told him that thewhite men then producing sugar in Queensland were the second and third generations of white workers in the industry. I am proud of the high standard of efficiency in the industry, which Opposition speakers have admitted, and of the progress thathas been made along scientific lines. During the debate reference has been made to restriction of output. The impression given was that honorable senators thought that restrictions ought not to have been imposed. We have heard a. good deal of late about “go-slowism” and restriction of output, but in the sugar industry all that was done was to safe guard the growers from the very thing which Senator Leckie said must not be overlooked. The quantity of cane which would be accepted at the mill from any grower was stated in order to prevent growers from planting greater areas than those previously planted. The Government has always been aware that when dealing with the price of sugar in the Australian market and in the world’s markets care must be taken to ensure that the return to growers will not be so low as to prevent them from carrying on successfully. The growers have been protected. No man in this Parliament knows more about the sugar industry than does Senator Courtice who has been engaged in it since he could engage in any form of industry. The honorable senator says that whenever an enquiry into the sugar industry is made the producers should be consulted. Whenever the Tariff Board is commissioned to enquire into an. industry it visits the places where that industry is established, and invites all persons concerned to state their views. Every opportunity has been given to producers of sugar to present their case. Senator Leckie said that only the sugar industry was protected against competition by the prohibition of sugar imports. I have already said that it is the only Australian industry which is owned and controlled by a government, and that there is general agreement that it has been most efficiently and successfully controlled.
– It is not owned by any government.
SenatorCOLLINGS.- The sugar industry is owned and controlled by a government and the price of sugar is regulated by a government. The industry is a shining example of the value of orderly marketing , and Queenslanders are naturally proud of it. We have converted a black labour industry into a white labour industry and we have given to the workers’ in it a white standard of comfort. It is the only industry in this country which gives to everybody associated with it, the producer, the processor and the consumer, a “fair go”. That is true of the sugar industry only because it is the sole shining example of the efficacy of the policy of the party on this side of the chamber, the policy of national ownership, control- and orderly marketing. I am grateful to honorable senators for the favorable way in which they “have received the bill.
– Some of ‘the statements made by the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Collings) demand some reply from this side of the chamber. I .remind the Minister that there are others who have some knowledge of the sugar industry, though possibly not so extensive as his own. If my memory serves me aright some of the Ministers statements are entirely inaccurate. As the result of extensive inquiries I have made in Queensland, I formed’ the impression that the tapering off of the service contracts of -the Solomon Islanders, more commonly known as kanakas, was commenced under the regime of the Mcllwraith Liberal Government in Queensland. This culminated in indentured labour from the Solomons being terminated by the first Commonwealth Government led by the Liberal leader, Sir Edmund Barton. This is on record and notwithstanding all the oratory of the Minister cannot be disputed. The retail price of sugar has been referred to by many honorable senators. If I were a sugar-producer, I would not be inclined to stress the cheapness of sugar because its cheapness forms the greatest protection the industry possesses. If the price of sugar were raised, and there were no commensurate increase in the adult and juvenile population of Australia, considerably less sugar would be consumed. In other words its cheapness encourages its use. Sugar is one of the finest, foods produced. Honorable senators who have claimed that sugar is cheaper in Australia than in other countries have based their computations on entirely wrong assumptions. They arrive at their conclusions by endeavouring to relate the domestic value of currency in another country to that of our own., but that is highly improbable unless when considering the export factor. To say that in Canada the price of sugar is fixed at the equivalent of 5$d-. per lb. Australian is entirely erroneous. In order to arrive at a true comparison, the real value of wages and the cost of services in Canada vis-a-vis Australia and many other factors must be taken, into account. That would constitute a difficult mathematical problem, and when the results were arrived at they would probably convey nothing. To say that we have the cheapest sugar in the world is therefore open to considerable doubt. “When the Minister was extolling the virtues of the sugar industry, I could not help thinking that, although the price of sugar on the domestic market remained unchanged throughout the war, costs of production and processing had risen steeply as in the case of other industries; Notwithstanding this, I understand that the growers are still receiving practically the same ‘ value for the sugar content of- their cane as they obtained at the beginning of the war.’ It is true that the export surplus has been sold at a price slightly higher than that ruling in pre-war years, but it obviously could not have been high enough to cover increased production costs arising from the Avar. So we are forced to the inescapable thought that if the sugar-growers in Queensland are able to continue in profitable production at to-day’s prices and still meet these increased costs, they must have been on a “jolly good wicket” before the war. A large quantity of refined sugar must have been exported during the war to our own and Allied troops serving in islands adjacent to Australia. I do not know whether the cost of this sugar was charged under reverse lend-lease agreement at export parity or home consumption price. If that sugar were sold at home consumption price the proceeds would help to meet the higher costs of production in Australia. As far as export trade to Great Britain is concerned, when I was in. the Old Country in 1943, I saw no - sign of Australian sugar; most of the sugar which I saw there was beet sugar produced in Great Britain. That beet sugarwas but a pale and rather anaemicshadow of our own cane sugar. Its only virtue is that it is sweet; it has not the body of sugar produced from cane to which we have become accustomed in Australia. It was not until . I arrived in Scotland that I was able to get
West Indian cane sugar, which closely resembles the Australian product. The Minister made a great feature ‘ of the government ownership of the sugar industry in Queensland. I dispute the accuracy of the statement that the industry is entirely government-owned. The sugar industry of Queensland was established as the result of the work of intrepid pioneers who carved out of the virgin bush areas of soil capable of growing sugar-cane. It was upon the base laid down by those early pioneers that the Australian sugar industry was subsequently built. These hardy pioneers were not only interested in tilling and increasing the productivity of the soil; they also established councils of growers for the purpose of investigating the possibilities of the expansion of the industry by the adoption of scientific methods of growth and processing. Because of the work of these earlier settlers the “sugar industry has to-day reached a creditable peak of efficiency. A word should be said, too, for the Colonial Sugar , Refining Company Limited. Under the legislative conditions of ‘ the embargo, it would have been an easy matter for the company to have been content with refining sugar. That, in itself is. a profitable , business But the company went much further and u to be congratulated upon its farsightedness in carrying out scientific investigations out. of which have been developed the most up-to:date processes of sugar refining which have enabled Australia to compete in the world’s markets with other sugar-producing countries which employ black labour in the cultivation and processing of the product. All these achievements have been accomplished by individual initiative and forethought on the part of private enterprise. To say that the industry is entirely government-owned is therefore very wide of the mark. I support the bill because this industry is a shining example to the whole of the primary industries of Australia as to what can be achieved by proper organization. This industry has flourished without any necessity for making an appeal to the people to abrogate the restrictions imposed by section 92 of the Constitution. What applies to the sugar industry applies possibly to every other primary industry. My best wishes go to the industry because it is the negation of the Government’s idea that only by an alteration of the Constitution can it adequately control the orderly marketing of our primary products. The sugar industry gives the lie to that claim and I wish it every success.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Approval of agreement).
[12 noon - j.n view of the statement made by the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Collings) that the sugar industry is government-owned and controlled, I should like to >ask if it is not a. fact that the farms are owned by private individuals, and the Government comes into the picture only in a technical way with respect to the acquisition of the product.
– That is what I said.
– Secondly, I ask the Minister if it is not a fact that a government led by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) arranged for the first sugar agreement? Thirdly, is it possible to continue this agreement without effecting any alteration of the constitution ?
– In my earlier remarks I answered the first question asked by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay). In 1915 a Labour government in Queensland passed the Sugar Acquisition Act which gave to the State government power to acquire the whole of the product. I did not say that the Government operates the farms.
– The Minister did say that.
– I did not say that previous governments had not done a wonderful job in developing the sugar industry; because I know the story of the industry and how it has developed. That is the answer to the first question asked by the Leader of the Opposition, lt would be possible for any State Government to enact legislation to acquire in a similar way any other primary product, and to apply the same processes as has been applied in respect of the sugar industry, by making an agreement with the Commonwealth in terms similar to those provided in this agreement. 1 am unable to answer the third question asked by the Leader of the Opposition without reference to the historic facts; but if the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) has had anything to do with this arrangement, and which honorable senators opposite agree has contributed to the establishment of this very fine industry, then that is one very bright spot in the right honorable gentleman’s ca reel’
– The sugar industry is very largely carried on on a. co-operative basis. The farms are owned by private individuals, but most bf the mills are owned collectively by the growers. There are a few private mills. For instance, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited controls three mills in Queensland. Generally, however, the industry is carried on on a co-operative basis. As the. Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Collings) has said, a Labour government in Queensland in 1915, in order to make the agreement workable* passed legislation to enable it to acquire the whole. of the product. It did so under an agreement with the Commonwealth Government in relation to the price of sugar and the control of importations of sugar. No government has anything to do with domestic arrangements within the industry except that these arrangements are supervised by an independent tribunal representative of the growers and the mills. That body which is under the presidency of a judge of the Supreme Court of Queensland, determines conditions as between the different sections of the industry. I am sure that the Minister had no intention of conveying the impression that the sugar industry is State-owned.
.- I am dad that Senator Courtice has made the position clear, because the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Senator Collings) repeated his statement that the whole of the industry was government-owned and controlled. That was news to us ; but, of course, it was possible that, without our knowledge, the Queensland Government had acquired the farms and mills as well as the interests of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited. I suggest that the Acting Leader of the Senate (Senator Ashley) should exercise a little government control over his colleague, because the latter under his own private control allow? his tongue to run away with him, and makes statements such as that which Senator Courtice has found it necessary to correct. The statement made by the Vice-President of the Executive Council with respect to kanaka labour was also wide of the mark. His claim that the prosperity of the sugar industry is due to the efforts of Labour governments also is groundless, because that industry has been fostered under this agreement which was originated by a Liberal government.
– I rise to order, Mr. Deputy Chairman. Is Senator Leckie now dealing with the question before the Chair?
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Senator Cooper). - As the clause deals directly with the agreement,, the honorable senator is in order.
– I realize that the Minister for Health (Senator Fraser) is very perturbed about some of the things that 1. am saying. He realizes that his colleague has been guilty of trying to mislead the committee, and he rushes tr his rescue by endeavouring to silence me. The Vice-President of the Executive Council, in his enthusiasm, claimed for his party credit for things for which it has not been responsible. In his exuberance he made a statement which one of his colleagues has corrected.
Senator COLLINGS (Queensland - Vice-President of the Executive Council) 1 12.8 . - Senator Leckie says that . in my enthusiasm I made a statement which is nor correct. I have- already explained what my statement meant; and I have left no room for “doubt whatever on that point except in the minds of members of the Opposition who prefer to be an authority unto themselves, and place their own interpretation upon my remarks. I have said what I have meant; but if, in my enthusiasm, I have been guilty of any inaccuracy it is only because, for once, I have followed the bacl example which Senator Leckie always sets in this chamber.
– I should like to know what would be the position of growers in another State, not covered by this agreement, should they decide to grow sugar? 1 have in. mind certain parts of Western Australia, where, with a proper system of irrigation, it may be possible to grow sugar-cane. That is not a frivolous statement. I well remember that honorable senators from Queensland and New South Wales poohed-poohed the idea that bananas and peanuts could be grown in Western Aus… , … but those industries are now flourishing in that. ‘State. It may he practicable under different conditions in the future, to grow sugar-cane in Western Australia with success equal to (hat achieved by the industry in Queensland. Therefore, I should like to know whether a separate agreement would have to be made to cover growers of sugar-cane in States other than. Queensland and New South Wales, or whether this agreement would be altered to embrace them?
– The answer to that question should be obvious to the honorable senator. However, if sugar-cane is grown in other ‘States, the industry will have to observe exactly the conditions with respect to price, wages and other aspects as are prescribed in this agreement.
Clause agreed to.
Clause :!> agreed to
– I should like the Minister in charge of the bill to answer the question I raised in my second-reading, speech with respect to the establishment, of a sugar depot at Hobart. Under this agreement, the Commonwealth undertakes that it will not make a request to the Queensland
Government to establish such a depot unless the request be accompanied by proof that there is a general shortage of sugar in Tasmania. That means that the request will be made after a shortage has occurred. Surely, provision should be made to obviate a shortage.
– I have made a note of the honorable senator’s remarks, and shall bring them to the notice of the responsible Minister.
– The shortage of sugar in Hobart has been due entirely to the general dislocation of transport. The responsibility of the Queensland Sugar Board is to ensure that all capital cities have adequate supplies of sugar. The fear expressed UY Senator Sampson is groundless, because the board will utilize all practical means possible to ensure the maintenance of supplies to Tasmania.
– The shortage of sugar in Tasmania has been aggravated by the lack of shipping. Certain industries in thai State are substantial consumers of sugar, and the establishment of a depot would ease their position considerably.
– I have made a note of the representations of Senator Herbert Hays and his colleagues from Tasmania, and shall have the matter examined.
Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Tim; n Reading
Motion (by Senator Collings) proposed -
Tl,at fu’ bill be now rend i third time.
– The question that I put to the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Collings) has not been answered. What I want to know for future guidance is what action possible future sugar-producers would have to take to reach an agreement with the Commonwealth Government. This bill deals with an agreement between the Commonwealth and the State of Queensland. If there were suga reproducers in Western Australia they would not have any connexion with Queensland, and presumably a separate agreement would have to be executed with the Commonwealth on their behalf. I know all about the conditions that must bc observed in the industry, but, as the agreement mentioned in this measure is between two specified parties,’it seems to me that any third party entering the field would have to be the subject of a separate agreement. Much of the misunderstand1 ing of this matter has been caused by the colleague of the Vice-President of the Executive Council who sits behind him, and has been importuning him to get on with the business before the Senate. We on this side of the chamber do not propose to allow this measure to be hurried through this chamber without due consideration.
1 12.19]. - The honorable senator desires to know what would be the attitude. of this Government if the sugar industry were developed in Western Australia. I assure the honorable senator that sugar-producers in Western Australia would receive the same sympathetic consideration as is given to sugar.growers in Queensland, provided the State Government of Western Australia entered into an agreement with iiic Commonwealth similar to that now !n operation between Queensland and the Commonwealth.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 10th April (vide page 12S0), on motion by Senator Ashley1 -
That, the bill be ‘now road :i second time
.- I do not propose to speak at length on the sales tax measures, because 1 realize thai the Government is anxious to have them passed by the Senate as soon as. possible. It is pleasing indeed that the Government has decided to reduce, from 25 per cent. to 12-) per cent, the sales tax on a number of items, and also to exempt certain other items from sales tax altogether. Whilst I realize that it would be a waste of time to urge that the Senate make certain requests in regard to these measures, 1 ask that special consideration be given to a reduction of the sales tax on floor coverings. Carpets, linoleums and other floor coverings are just as essential in homes as any .other furnishings. During the war the price of floor coverings in creased, in. some cases by as much as 300 per cent., and it seems unreasonable, in view of the inflated building costs, that 12£ per cent, sales tax should still be imposed upon these goods. Although the sales tax is being reduced to 12£ per cent., the amount of tax collected on floor coverings will still be three or four times greater than it was before the war because of the greatly increased price of those goods. I see no reason why sales tax should be imposed on any material required for building or furnishing a house, and I trust that the Government will give attention to this matter. As the Leader of the Opposition in’ the House of Representatives (Mr. Menzies) has said, the Liberal party of Australia ii prepared to do everything possible to have this unfair tax repealed. Its administration by the taxation authorities requires a substantial st:; ft’, and business organizations are put to considerable trouble to furnish returns. In these days when all available labour is required to increase production,- the Government would be well advised to reduce the administrative cost, of the sales tax byexempting as many items as possible, with the ultimate objective of removing the ta-x altogether.
I have received requests from country people for a reduction of the sales tax on spare parts for motor cars. That re- 1 quest is timely, in view of the considerable increase of the tax on petrol. Impositions such as the sales tax are usually intro- .duced in time of emergency, and once having been imposed, their removal is most difficult. I ask the Government ‘ to examine this matter.
.- 1 ask the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) to endeavour to have the sales tax on paint removed altogether. Workmen have to paint their homes. I do not know what the price of paint is in the mainland States, but in Tasmania it is 30s. a gallon. That imposes a heavy burden upon the working man. During the war, paint was bard to get, with the result that to-day a large number of houses urgently need painting. It is unfair to ask working nien to pay sales tax upon any materials required for the maintenance of their properties.
– When .speaking on the War Service Homes Bill I referred to the heavy burden imposed by the sales ta.x. I pointed out that ex-servicemen required not only houses, but also fur.nishings. I urge the Government to consider the complete removal of sales tax from furnishings. Most servicemen were young and single when they enlisted, and now, as they are being demobilized they are marrying and seeking homes. We are not showing very much gratitude to the men who fought for this country, when the Treasurer takes back from them in the form of sales tax upon furnishings and other essential commodities, some of the money that has been accruing to them during their period of service. That is a most objectionable pra’ctice. Surely the Treasurer can find better means of raising revenue than by taxing “ diggers “ on their purchases of floor, coverings, furnishings and other home requirements. I trust that the Minister for Supply’ and Shipping (Senator Ashley) will make strong recommendations to the Treasurer to remove this burdensome imposition.
Senator HERBERT HAYS (Tasmania) 1 12.27 . - The financial position of this country at the time of the original imposition of the sales tax was very different from what it is to-day. At that time, every method of raising revenue bad to be exploited to the fullest degree. Similarly, during the war. when vast sums of money were required for the defence of this country, the collection of sales t’x v.- as probably quite justified. To-day, however, this form of taxation is a source of annoyance to all sections of the community. Its incidence falls with undue severity upon the people who are least able to carry the hurden. It would be most interesting to know how the costs of collecting and policing the tax, compare with the revenue actually received. I believe that we would all be surprised at the small balance that actually finds its way to the Treasury. It is an expensive form of taxation and one which presses unduly upon the individuals referred to by Senator Allan MacDonald and Senator Lamp.
Sitting suspended from 12.30 to 2.S0 p.m..
– in reply - The Leader of the Opposition (Senator MeLeay) has drawn attention to the need for a reduction of the sales tax on floor coverings. The tax on carpets has .been reduced from 25 per cent, to 12i per cent.
– Does that reduction apply to feltex?
– Yes. Several honorable senators claimed that exservicemen will be penalized to a considerable degree in re-establishing themselves in homes because of the sales tax on building materials. Exemptions already in operation cover practically all materials used in home construction. They apply to bricks, tiles, stone, plaster and plaster products, metal building materia] other than rolled steel structural sections weighing more than 10 lb. a. running foot, sheet iron of gauge 10 or lighter, concrete, cement, lime, glass, timber, joinery, piping, pipe fitting3 and certain household fixtures. Exemption has not been granted in respect of certain other materials such as nails and paint, because of their wide use for purposes other than building, and because of the practical difficulties in the way of allowing any exemption conditional upon the use of those goods for building purposes. As the result of those concessions, the sales tax on the few remaining taxable items of building material has only a slight effect on building costs. The Government will, however, be pleased to give further consideration to the matter when the sales tax is again under review.
Question resolved in the affirmative
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without, amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 10th April (vide page 1280), on motion by Senator Ashley -
Unit the bill be now read ii second time.
.- As this bill is complementary to the measure we have just passed, I support it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Ashley) read a first time.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a. measure to insert in the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act a section which will enable the next senior judge of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration to carry out the duties of the Chief Judge of the court, ‘ in the absence of the Chief Judge, or his inability to perform the duties of his office. It also removes an anomaly in relation to the constitution of the court, where the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth intervenes in any case before the court in which the questions of standard hours or the basic wage are in dispute. In most statutes dealing with courts, as for instance the Judiciary et, ii is provided that in the absence of the Chief Justice or the presiding judge of the court, his powers and duties may be exercised by the next senior judge. There is, however, no such provision in the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. In some cases where the Chief Judge of the court is unable to sit, the work of the court can go on without hindrance. There is, however, a provision in the principal act under which the court has no jurisdiction to make certain awards relating to standard hours or the basic wage unless the case is heard by the Chief Judge and not fewer than two other judges. Hitherto the necessity to meet such a situation has not arisen.
His Honour Chief Judge Piper has recently been in communication with the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General concerning the state of his health, and His Honour was willing to relinquish his office because of his fear that he would not be able to carry out the duties of his office. It has, however, been agreed that His Honour should- be entitled to take leave of absence on account of his health. Accordingly, if this bill be passed, it is intended that His Honour shall take leave of absence. In that event, it is essential that some other judge shall carry out his duties. The bill provides that the next senior judge of the court shall perform the duties of the Chief Judge during his absence from office or inability to perform the duties of his office. The matter is of some urgency, as the court is about to undertake the investigation of standard hours in the printing trade. This case may take a considerable time, and having regard to the health of the Chief Judge, it is impracticable for him to participate in the hearing. It is accordingly proposed that the next senior judge shall act in place of the Chief Judge. I should mention that, as the absence of the Chief Judge would mean that only four judges would be available, it is the intention of the Government to appoint an additional judge of the court who would be able to act, not only in cases required to be dealt with by the Full Court, but in other cases also.
Clause 4 of the bill amends the provision in the act which relates to the intervention by the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth in the public interest in proceedings before the court concerned with the standard hours in industry or the basic wage. As the section now stands, the Chief Judge and two other judges must constitute the court where such intervention occurs. The amendment proposed is to enable more than two judges to sit with the Chief Judge. The court will then be constituted by the Chief Judge and not fewer than, two other judges. This provision is similar to that in section 18a of the ‘act which requires the court to be constituted by the Chief Judge and not fewer than two other judges when hearing cases involving standard hours or the basic wage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Amendment of section 18b) -
– I understand that this clause relates to the procedure to be adopted in cases in which the Government intervenes. Does the Government’s _ intervention in the 40-hour week case mean that it supports the request of the unions? I should like ro know the significance of this clause.
– It has been the custom for governments to intervene in matters of his kind. I do not say that the Government’s intervention in the 40-hour week case necessarily means that it favours a 40-hour week.
– This is an important matter, and I suggest that the Minister should study the principal act so that he may advise us of the effect of this clause. I am particularly interested in the provision relating to government intervention, and should like some information on the point that I have raised.
– I shall obtain information from the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) on the point raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay), and if necessary will move that the bill be recomitted to enable this clause to be more fully discussed. Or if the Leader of the Opposition desires it, I shall give the information to him later.
– With that assurance, I have no objection to the bill being passed.
Clause agreed to..
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed, from the 10th April (vide page 1255), on motion by Senator Ashley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
e of the proposals, the Opposition would advise the electors to vote “Yes “. It would appear that the Opposition favours a “ Yes “ vote in respect -of two of the matters to be submitted to the electors, and “ No “ in respect of the third, proposal.
There has been a lot of ill-informed talk about the wonderful job that the framers of the Constitution did. No doubt those men were brilliant in their own way; but they took good care to ensure that Australia would continue to be, not one nation, but six separate States. It is a great pity that they were so State-‘ minded. Those who have read the history of Australia prior to the adoption of the Commonwealth Constitution will remember that even before Victoria was separated from New South Wales the latter State adopted a policy of free-trade. It has been said that Scotsmen have caused a great deal of trouble in the world, and I believe that a Scot called Syme caused a good deal of trouble in Victoria. He was the first individual in that State to advocate protection. By the time that the proposed Constitution came before a convention for discussion, the contending parties were so bitter about the merits of free-trade and protection that it was difficult to keep them apart. When the Constitution was brought into being, it would seem that, every possible obstacle had been’ placed in the way of making Australia’ a nation in the full sense of that term. If we proceed by piece-meal methods to alter the Constitution to what it ought to be, there is a long job ahead. In Canada they were much wiser than we in Australia were when a constitution was being framed. Before what is now known as the Dominion of Canada was formed . there were Upper Canada and Lower Canada. At. that time a high.lander named MacDonald and a lowlander named Brown were bitter enemies. However, they met’ for 48 hours with tl air advisors, with the result that what is now known as the Canadian constitution, was framed. They took care to ensure that the central power should be supreme. The factor that influenced them most was the weaknesses of the American constitution. It may be said that the United States of America has done very well with a weak constitution, but it could be argued that it would have done better with a constitution providing for a more centralized authority. The Canadians remembered that when the Civil War broke out in America the lack of centralized authority was most detrimental. Most people think that the Civil War was fought for the emancipation of the slaves, but those who know the facts know that that was not so. The Civil War was fought to decide whether there should be union, or no union. It happened that a slave escaped from one of the southern States to a northern State, and that Abraham Lincoln then said that every slave who escaped to the northern States would thenceforth be free forever. It was only then that the chattel slave question was raised. Canada saw that weakness in the American constitution and guarded against it by providing in its constitution that if any doubt arose regarding any power, it was to be resolved in favour of the central administration.
Iii his recent utterances the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) seems to ‘have gone out of his way to “ hit the Government to leg”. Perhaps he has seen the writing on the wall in South Australia. He attacked nationalization, but it would seem that he did not have his ear closely to the ground, because I understand that the Parliament of South Australia, has carried a measure to nationalize all electricity undertakings in that State. That legislation has been passed despite the almost feudalistic set up of the Legislative Council in that State. The Leader of the Opposition also said that any benefits which had accrued to .the people had not resulted from action taken, by the Commonwealth. He went on to say that the money had greatly depreciated in value, and he endeavoured to prove that conditions generally were far from good. I say to the honorable senator that in no .Allied country has money depreciated less than has Australian currency. He said that he was in favour of some but not all of the powers in respect of social legislation being vested in the Commonwealth. The nationalization of the medical profession was anathema to him. I suggest that the honorable senator should read again Bernard Shaw’s The Doctor’s Dilemma,; it is as good now as it ever was. Whether or not the people agree that doctors are ethically better than other- people, it isnot fitting that the health of any human being, and the treatment that he should receive from doctors, should depend on pecuniary interest. I remind the Senate that almost every discovery in the realm of medicine has been made by men attached to institutions subsidized by governments. The greatest scientists of the world h,awe worked for governments. Can any one imagine Einstein going around the country begging for money to enable him to pursue his research into relativity, or that scientists with an assured income should have been asked the best way to produce explosives when the war broke out? Only those people whose bread and butter was secure could concentrate on scientific research.’ I am sorry that proposals for complete nationalization of health and medicine are not embodied in this bill. The Government cannot go too far in that direction because the health of the community is the most important national matter. It should accordingly be the business of the Government to legislate in matters of health, without restrictions. The whole of our social evolution depends on the health of the people.
Another bill deals with organized marketing. There seems to be some doubt in the minds of our friends in the House of Representatives as to what is meant by the terms “ organized marketing “, and “ primary products “. Because of the quibbles that have been and will continue to be raised as to the precise meaning of words or phrases used in the Constitution, I regret that the Government did not decide to put but one question to the people, namely, “ Are you willing to vest the Commonwealth Parliament with all of the powers “now vested, in the State governments?” If that had been done, a good deal of confusion that will arise in the minds of the people would have been avoided and the fruitful field for profit among the legal fraternity would have been correspondingly diminished. We shall not get very far by dealing with this subject piecemeal. It seems that the gentlemen who framed the Constitution saw to it that future generations of lawyers would be provided with an extensive field for disputation. Percy Bysshe Shelley summed it up well when he said, “ Bight or wrong will vindicate for gold “.
Another measure deals with terms and conditions of employment. Honorable senators opposite claim .that the Government should not have the right to determine hours of work, the conditions under which a worker shall labour, or the basic wage. They are willing to allow the Government to determine the price of wheat but when it comes to a similar exercise of power in relation to the terms and conditions of employment of the workers they say, “ We shall have none of this “. Surely these matters are of the very essence of politics. Honorable senators opposite favour the granting of subsidies to primary producers and others, but they insist that the courts should deal with the terms and conditions of employment of the workers. A survey of history will show that the determination of conditions of working people has always been made a matter of politics. Let us consider for a moment what happened in the British Empire 100 years ago. I go back 100 years because apparently honorable senators opposite bring to the task before them the .mentality of the days of Queen Victoria. In those clays there was great agitation over the subject of industrial conditionsOne of the planks of the Chartist movement was an eight-hour day. The Earl of Shaftesbury was then agitating to prevent the employment of children of seven years of age and upwards in the coal pits. The champions of the working class in those days found that they had to bring their petitions before the Parliament, and thus industrial questions were brought within the realms of politics. Trade unions which had been illegal for 20 years were established as the result of an act of Parliament authorizing their formation, and the whole question of industrial conditions and industrial organization was brought into the political sphere. Honorable senators opposite claim that politics should he left out of matters submitted to the people by way of referendum. That could be done only by preventing members of Parliament from conducting campaigns prior to the taking of the referendum or by summoning a convention of non-political representatives to discuss these matters. The members of the convention could be elected by a direct vote of the people. If that were done it would probably be found that representatives of the three principal political parties would be nominated to attend the convention. The members representing each political party would probably be determined by a vote of the people. Supposing as the result of such a vote the convention consisted of twenty Labour and nineteen Liberal and Australian Country party representatives. The final result of their deliberations would be that twenty votes would he recorded in. favour of any proposals submitted and nineteen against them, or vice versa. Is not that what happens here? The only way in which complete freedom from political bias could he achieved would be to appoint representatives to the convention ‘drawn from Callan Park or Mars. It would be possible to hold a convention consisting of delegates appointed by the parliaments of the various States. But as Labour is in office in almost all of the States that method would not be subscribed to by honorable senators opposite. When they claim that the referendum should be taken out of the realms of politics they remind me of members of the Sydney Reform party who proudly boast that they belong to no political party. Prior to the Lord Mayoral elections however they hold a party meeting at which they elect a candidate whom they nominate for the office and support on a purely party ticket. To say that politics should be left out of the referendum may sound a lofty ideal to the uninitiated ignoramus who knows nothing of sociology and philosophy but it means nothing to the average intelligent person. We should go direct to the people and ask them to vest in the Commonwealth Parliament all of the powers now enjoyed by the States. Honorable senators opposite stand aghast at such a suggestion. They say, “You would then be able to d’o what you like “ ; but what could we do? We could do no more than the States are doing now. I.s it claimed that the States abuse their power’s? ,1s there any reason to suggest that members of the Commonwealth Parliament are less intelligent than members of the State legislatures? The State parliaments are not inhibited by the Constitution; their power has been vested in them by the British Government; and, generally speaking, they govern wisely and well. They have not prescribed a 20-hour week or a basic wage of £35 a week. Their members know only too well that they have to give an account of their stewardship to the people. What will precede the taking of this referendum? Whole columns of arguments both for and against the proposal will beadvanced by lawyers and politicians which will only result in confusing the people. We should tighten up the Constitution so that its meaning is .plain for all to see. The inhibitions placed upon the Commonwealth Parliament by the Constitution have retarded the development of this country. We have long passed the stage in our -history when the Commonwealth should be clothed with full powers. I trust that in the not distant future the Government will take courage into its hands and ask the people for them.
If the people are wise enough to agree to the three simple questions to be put to them, the additional powers vested in this Parliament will represent merely a drop in the bucket. Our “ horseandbuggy “ Constitution was already out of date at the time it was given Royal assent.
– r Would the honorable senator support a proposal for the holding of a conference to examine and report upon desirable amendments of the Constitution?
– :Such a conference was held prior to the taking of the last referendum. It was attended by the Opposition leaders in the House of Representatives who gave their sacred word that they would support the fourteen points proposed to be submitted to the people. For what purpose would such a convention be called ? Is it not apparent that such a body would be composed of people whose economic interests a.re divergent; because, whether we like it or not, we live in a world in which communities are divided into classes according to their economic interests. In any case, as I have pointed out, a conference was held prior to the last referendum, and it is obvious that at that conference the great majority of delegates agreed upon the fourteen points submitted. However, as the proposition developed some of those delegates went back on the word they gave at the conference ; and by the time the referendum was held vested interests had got to work and influenced various sections to believe that it would be a mistake to support the Government’s proposals. The result was that the people were thrown into confusion. Whether or not honorable senators opposite agree with the three proposals embodied in these measures, they should not object to giving to the people an opportunity to express their views upon them. A vote, in support of the passage of these measures will not necessarily be a vote in favour of the proposals which they contain. All honorable senators should support the passage of the bills in order to give to the people an opportunity to vote upon these proposals. I support the measures; and I regret- that the opportunity is not being taken on this occasion to ask the people to give to the Commonwealth the same powers as the States now possess.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cooper) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Ashley) read a first time.
– I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The bill provides that the National Security Act 1939-1943 shall terminate on the 31st December, 1946. The prin cipal act became law on the 9th September. 1939. Section 19 of that act reads -
This act shall continue in operation during the present state of war and for a period of six months thereafter, and no longer.
In the act. “the present state of war” was defined as meaning the state of war existing between His Majesty the King and Germany. After Italy declared war in 1940 the principal act was amended and section 19 of that act was repealed, and the following section inserted in its stead -
Thisact shall continue in operation until adatetobefixedbyProclamation,and no longer, but in any event not longer than six months after His Majesty ceases to be engaged in war.
In the amending act of 1940 the definition of “the present state of war” was omitted . The view has been expressed that in the absence of amending legislation the National Security Act would continue in force until the last of the peace treaties between His Majesty and our enemies has been signed. The Government is of the opinion that the act as well as the regulations, orders, rules and by-laws authorized by it, should terminate on a definite date. Provision has therefore been made in the bill that these shall cease to have effect from the 31st December, 1946.
However, the Government proposes to continue control of matters of vital importance to the community such as prices and other anti-inflationary and anti-profiteering activities. Specific measures will, therefore, be introduced before the end of the year to deal with these matters. This course is similar to that adopted after the war of 1914-1918. This will restore to the Parliament full and effective control over certain matters now dealt with by the National Security Act and the regulations, orders, rules and by-laws authorized . under that act.
– The proposal embodied in the bill is much preferable to continuing the thousands of regulations passed under the National Security Act. However, I ask why the Government has decided that the principal act is not to terminate until the 31st December next. As we are to have another sessional period before the nest general elections, I thought that we might be able to consider in conjunction with this measure the specific controls which the Government intends to continue after the 31stD ecember next. I repeat the warning which I uttered a few days ago. I sincerely hope that the Government will not yield to pressure from any quarter to continue unnecessary controls and restrictions. So many controls have been imposed during the war that the structure of regulations has become top heavy; and the sooner all unnecessary controls are terminated the better it will befor everybody. I admit that until conditions returnto normal it will be necessary to retain some controls; and when the special measures dealing with these are introduced we shall have an opportunity to discuss each one upon its merits. I should say that it will be some years before we return to normal insofar as housing and the control of speculation in land are concerned. However, many controls, and many departments: created to administer such controls, are slowing down our return to normal conditions. In such departments thousands of public servants are merely “cooling their heels”. The Government’ must free industryfrom unnecessary restrictions as soon as possible. 1 understand that in order to meet the wishes of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), and members of the House of Representatives the Government is anxious that the measure be passed through the Senate without delay. The Opposition will not delay the passage of the bill. In any ease I appreciate the fact that the Government has the neces-sary numbers to give effect, to its desire in this respect. However, the bill does not contain any controversial provisions. . I should like the Minister to answer the question. I raised in my opening remarks.
Senator ASHLEY (New South WalesMinister for Supply and Shipping; [3.25]. - in reply - The Government thought it advisable to fix a date on which these controls will be terminated. Perhaps I can best illustrate the wisdom of this action by pointing out ‘that when tobacco rationing was lifted some time ago, manufacturers protested that those controls were lifted too early. By fixing a. terminating date for these controls the Government will let the people know its intentions. The Leader of the Opposition (Sena’. or McLeay) need have no fear that the Government will fail to remove any control as soon as it becomes unnecessary; because the Government realizes that the retention of these controls is unpopular.. However; it is necessary to retain certain restrictions longer than others, and measures will be introduced for that purpose during the next sessional period. All controls and restrictions are being reviewed from day to day. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has given instructions that controls must be terminated as soon as possible.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages, without amendment, or debate.
Debate resumed (vide page 1372).
– The framers of the Constitution, who realized that changed conditions would necessitate alterations of the Constitution, provided certain machinery by which such alterations could be made One method of altering the Constitution is by holding a referendum of the people. It is provided that if a majority of the electors of the Commonwealth in a majority of the States, favour an alteration of the Constitution, that, alteration shall b.e made. However, a referendum is not necessarily the best method of altering the Constitution. In fact, I contend that a referendum should be held only as a. last resort, when all other avenues have been explored. In considering the bills now before the Senate we should ask ourselves are these alterations necessary? Are they for the benefit of the people as a whole? Has every other avenue been ‘ explored of effecting the alterations without risking a rejection of the proposals at a referendum? There is a tendency for people, to be confused by the issues involved in a referendum. They are told by one political faction to vote “ Yes “, and by another .to vote “ No “. Many irrelevant issues are introduced, with the result that electors are not able to get, a clear picture of what is intended. When a referendum is held in conjunction with general elections, the confusion is intensified.. The electors have to vote simultaneously for members of the’ House of Representatives, members of the Senate, and for or against the referendum proposals. On these grounds I consider that all other methods of altering the Constitution should be thoroughly explored before the decision to. hold a referendum is reached. I ask the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) whether any attempt has been made to have the powers to be sought at the proposed referendum , conferred upon the Commonwealth by the States? In August, of last year, a conference ‘of Commonwealth and State Ministers was held, and certain powers which had been sought at the 1944 referendum, were conferred upon the Commonwealth voluntarily by the States. These included power to control prices, and power to standardize railway gauges. The impasse in regard to the authority of the Commonwealth tomake certain social service payments was not reached until after that conference. E am confident that had that matter been put to the State premiers they would have consented to the exercise by the Commonwealth of powers to legislate in respect of social services. Although the 1944 referendum was not held in conjunction with a general election, the issues then placed before the people caused widespread confusion. No expense was spared by the Government in its campaign for an affirmative vote; yet the proposals were rejected by four States and by a majority of the electors of the Commonwealth.
The Constitution Alteration (Social Services) Bill seeks to alter the Constitution by empowering the Commonwealth Parliament to make laws for the provision of maternity allowances, widows’ pensions, child endowment, unemployment, pharmaceutical, sickness and hospital benefits, medical and dental services, benefits to students and family allowances. I am sure that all members of Parliament - certainly all those who are members of the Opposition parties - are in favour of the payment by the Commonwealth of social service benefits. When governments of which we were supporters were in occupation of the treasury bench, we placed upon the statute-book social service legislation which has since been a great boon to the people of Australia. I am sure it is the desire of every one that our social service legislation should be placed upon a sound legal basis, and that all doubt as to its constitutionality should be eliminated. It was only when the High Court, in November of last year, ruled that the Commonwealth’s proposed pharmaceutical benefits scheme was invalid .that any doubt was cast upon the validity of Commonwealth social services legislation generally. Had the Government been really perturbed about the situation then created, it would have taken immediate steps to obtain from the States authority to legislate in respect of social services, or it would have held a referendum at an early date. I have no doubt that the State Premiers would have granted the necessary power had they been asked to” do so. One can readily imagine the fate of any State government which refused to permit the payment by the Commonwealth of social service benefits to the people of that State. It would have not survived the next elections. I have no doubt that the Com- mon wealth could have solved its problem immediately without resorting to a referendum. In these circumstances one is inclined to look for other motives for the holding of a referendum. It seems likely that with a general election in the offing, the referendum proposals are being brought forward to cloud the real political issues, and to conceal the Government’s mismanagement of its post-war reconstruction plans.
I come now to the Constitution Alteration (Organized “Marketing of Primary Products) Bill. In his second-reading speech, the Minister for Supply and Shipping stated that primary producers in this country had been able to reduce their mortgages and bank overdrafts by £60,000,000 during the war period, and that the level of .their incomes had increased substantially. .That is quite true. There is no doubt that many farmers to-day have much more money than they had before the war. That is not due to Labour administration of the organized marketing of primary products. It is undoubtedly attributable to war conditions, which have brought about inflationary prices. When the supplies of commodities are short the prices are a secondary consideration. Australia has had to feed, not only the members of its own fighting forces, but those of its allies. Primary production has boomed in the last five years, with the result that many farmers have had more money than formerly.
– The Government is still giving subsidies to them for drought and flood relief and other purposes.
– Although money is now plentiful, the production of commodities is limited. This condition of affairs prevails in every part of the world where countries have been engaged in warfare, and especially in the countries of the victors. Many farmers have not been able to maintain their properties as they would have liked. They have had to postpone the maintenance and improvement of their holdings, and they still have money in hand which normally would have been expended in the upkeep of their farms. A plentiful supply of money is as much an effect of war as is the prevalence of gangster3 and blackmarketing. Ministers who are accustomed to dealing with astronomical figures seem to find difficulty in comprehending the importance of smaller sums. A few days ago a senior Minister, in reply to the statement in the press that the shipment oi goods to the value of about £30,000,000 had been held up through the failure of certain industrialists to load Dutch ships in. Australian ports, replied that the value of those goods was “only” £5,000,000. I point out, however, that that sum is about one-half of the defence vote in 1937-38.
The primary producers need a stabilized market for their products, but the requirements of the States differ greatly. From Geraldton, in “Western Australia,’ to Cairns, in Queensland, practically every kind of primary product is grown. The State authorities are better informed than a central authority could be about what can be grown in the States, and what can be marketed. It would be far hotter for the marketing of primary products to be carried out in co-operation with the States.
– Efforts so far in that direction have been unsuccessful.
– Should we not keep trying? If the proposal embodied in this bill be sanctioned by the people, the complete control of primary production will be placed in the hands of a central authority. I am wondering whether the measure is designed to give effect to the third plank of the Labour platform, which provides for the socialization of production. By the passing of the banking legislation, the Government has obtained control of banking and exchange. Through the transport legislation it has control of distribution. By the recent legislation relating to interstate air services, the Government has acquired control of aerial transport. Is -this bill designed to complete the chain by providing for the socialization of production? The proposal could be so construed.
In Queensland, marketing legislation passed by the State Parliament had been in operation for yeai’3, and has been of great benefit to the farmers. It provides for the establishment of grower-controlled commodity boards, and there is no better system of marketing in Australia than that adopted in Queensland. The members of these boards are appointed by the votes of the people who are directly interested in the commodities to be marketed. Provision is made for grower control, with minority government representation. Seventeen of such boards have been established, and not one has been a failure, whilst fifteen of them are still in operation. The men elected to their membership understand the actual production of the commodities dealt with and their preparation for market. If this bill becomes law, does the Ministry intend to hand over the control of marketing to government-controlled boards, or to grower-controlled boards? The Queensland system should be examined and, reported on before an official decision is taken.
The third bill provides for an alteration of the Constitution to enable this Parliament to make laws in respect of terms of employment in industry. That seems to suggest that the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration is to be abolished.
– No, that could not be done.
– I am putting my own construct on on the purpose of the measure. For many years, the Arbitration Court has been a bulwark of great value to employees in the fixing of their working conditions and it has done most valuable work. The Government, apparently, wishes to allow the Parliament to usurp the functions of the court, and deal with hours of labour and other conditions of employment by direct parliamentary enactment. If that occurred, the fixation of industrial conditions would become merely a play thing of party politics. At election times, the candidates would barter for the votes of the people. That would be opposed to our democratic system of government, and injurious to the general morale of the people. It would allow pressure politics to be employed, as they have been in this Parliament in the past. We all know the strong influence that can be exercised over governments, and particularly Labour governments. The industrial unions are well organized, and »power pressure groups oan bring strong influence to bear on the government of the day. Those nearest to the seat of the central government can more readily apply pressure than those in more distant States. En Queensland and Western Australia, many workers are employed under State rather than Commonwealth awards. During the years that the Arbitration Court has been in existence there has grown up a. body of men who are expert in sifting evidence and arriving at mibiased decisions in regard to various and difficult industrial problems. These men hear both sides of a question, and then in a calm atmosphere they weigh the pros and cons and arrive at a decision. It would be difficult for a central Parliament to deal with such matters satisfactorily. In my opinion, a uniform award throughout the Commonwealth would be most impracticable. To-day, in Queensland there are three different award parities. The Parliament of Queensland knows the conditions in thatState better than any centralized government could possibly know them. The existing system of arbitration is basically sound, and has stood the test of time. It may’ need alterations from time to time to meet changing circumstances, but that can be done without destroying the whole structure. Should i it be found that arbitration laws nee.l to be brought up to date, measures can be introduced for that purpose. It would be far better to carry on with the Arbitration Court, and to improve the legislation from time to time, than to hand over the control to a central authority.
.- Before proceeding to discuss the bill, I should like to correct one or two misstatements of Senator Cooper. Either the honorable senator is in possession of wrong information, or he has used the right information awkwardly. He claimed that a referendum is not necessary, and thai the Commonwealth Government could obtain in other ways the additional powers it needs. I remind the honorable senator that efforts to obtain additional power without holding a referendum have been made in the past without much success. Senator Cooper said that, if approached, the State Premiers would agree to hand over certain powers to the
Commonwealth, thereby obviating the necessity of a referendum. I remind him that on a number of occasions in the past State Premiers have agreed to hand over certain powers, but unfortunately, their action has required ratification by their State Parliaments. With the exception of Queensland, each State has the bi-cameral system of parliamentary control, with a different franchise for each branch of the legislature; one House is elected on the democratic vote of the electors, whilst the other is elected by votes cast by a privileged few in the community. In some of the States the chambers with a restricted franchise will not ratify agreements entered into by their Governments with the Commonwealth Government. So long as these Legislative Councils are able .to enforce their antiquated views on their States, legislation to transfer powers to the Commonwealth will continue to be held up. The only alternative is for the Commonwealth to obtain the necessary powers from the people; and that means a referendum. The present Government has done everything possible to avoid another referendum. Senator Cooper said that the States would not clare to oppose the transfer to the Commonwealth of powers in respect of social services, but the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) has opposed some of the Government’s proposals in this connexion. When we find the leader of a party in” this chamber opposed to the Government’s proposals, how can we expect anti-Labour forces in the Legislative Councils of the States to support them? It would be a waste of time to proceed along the lines advocated by Senator Cooper.
Dealing now with the bill itself, I venture the opinion that the proposal in respect of social service benefits will have the support of most members of this Parliament, and will receive the endorsement of the electors. There is, however, some objection to the proposals in respect of the orderly marketing of primary products. There is a vast difference between marketing and organized marketing. The sugar industry is an excellent example of the advantages of organized marketing.- It is true that only one State is greatly concerned. If more States were involved, any agreement made by thom with the Commonwealth would have to be ratified by the State parliaments concerned. Other industries could well follow the example of the sugar industry and arrange for the organized marketing of their products.
The wheat-growers of Australia have had to appeal to the Commonwealth Government for assistance, particularly in the direction of organizing their industry. TIle Menzies Government first introduced legislation to provide for a guaranteed price for wheat; it proposed a guaranteed price of 3s. lOd. a. bushel, f.o.b. Later, it was found that the price was not sufficient ; ‘id the wheat-growers approached the Commonwealth Government to have the p-ice raised. That has been done, and the price to-day is 5s. 2d. per bushel. That 1’lan could not work satisfactorily unless ir had been agreed to by all the States. Only by a repetition of what has taken place in connexion with wheat could a referendum be avoided.
– The last proposal in respect to wheat has not been agreed to.
– It has been agreed rr> by various associations of wheatgrowers as well as by the State Premiers, and I do not fear that any spanner will b? thrown into the works.
– If controls were removed, wheat would bring Ids. a bushel.
– The wheatgrowers of Australia realize the need for a guaranteed, price if they are to have economic security. They know that if the scheme were abandoned they could get 10s. a bushel for their wheat to-day if shipping were available, but they also know that when, world competition in the wheat market is again restored to pre-war intensity the price might fall to ls. 6d. a bushel. They prefer some guarantee of economic security over a period of years.
Let us consider wool. Had it not been for the existence of a guaranteed price, and an agreement for the stabilization of the industry, the price of wool would be lower than it is to-day. We must remember that huge stocks of wool are on hand in various countries. Were those stocks to be offered for sale in an unrestricted market the price of wool might fall to 6d.. or even 3d. per lb.
The position in the wool industry to-day, and the economic security which woolgrowers enjoy, is clear evidence of the value of government control and organized marketing. The same may be said of other industries us, for instance, the fruit-growing industry. Only the existence of a guaranteed price and a system of organized marketing has preserved many fruit-growers from ruin.
– The control of apples and pears was not good for Queensland.
– That may be so, but what Queensland lost in respect of apples and pears it gained in respect of sugar. When the Government desired to control the peas industry, many growers objected, but in order to stabilize, the industry the Government had to take control. With the impending lifting of National Security Regulations growers of peas are almost unanimous in their desire that the controls against which they fought should be continued. The same arguments could be advanced in respect of vegetables of all descriptions. Whenever it is suggested that there should be a return to open competition without any guaranteed price, the primary producers concerned clamour for a continuation of controls and a guaranteed price. They know only too well that their industries will be thrown into a state of chaos if the National Security Regulations are lifted, and provision is not made to afford them protection by other means. Senator Cooper claimed that . the increase of the farmers’ incomes had been brought about, not by the actions of the Government, but as the result of Avar conditions. I remind .the honorable senator that rural producers of this country are at present being subsidized to an amount of £50,000,000 annually. If that amount were deducted from the total income of the farmers the figures quoted by Senator Cooper would not be so nattering as they appear. Subsidies were paid to the farmers to guarantee them economic security long before the outbreak of the war. Therefore, the claim that the improvement of their financial position is due entirely to war conditions has no foundation. As the result of the fixation of guaranteed prices and the economic security afforded to the farmers by the payment of bounties and subsidies there are now 240,800 farmers with incomes ranging from £250 to £5,000 a year. If guaranteed prices and . organized marketing schemes cannot be continued primary industries will soon find themselves in a state of chaos. The Leader of the Opposition (.Senator McLeay) objected to organized intra-state marketing. If there is no intra-state control of commodities, of what use is interstate control? Farmers in one State could flood the market in that State to the exclusion of all others. In order to guarantee the economic security of the farmers we must have both interstate and intra-state control, and control over exports to overseas countries. We must have complete control over a product from the time it leaves the producer until it reaches the consumer. . Such control is necessary to-day and will become more essential as the years go by.
I come now to the proposed industrial power to control the terms and conditions of employment in industry. Industrial conditions are inseparably bound up with organized marketing schemes and guaranteed prices for primary products. In the past farmers who were paid a price for their products based on the law of supply and demand found, on many occasions, that, because of intense competition, they were unable to pay a reasonable wage to their employees. As a result many rural workers were subjected to sweated labour conditions. This, however, was more prevalent among the big wool-growers than among the small farmers. If the Commonwealth Parliament were given power to legislate in respect of terms and conditions of employment and to fix a uniform basic wage throughout the Commonwealth, it would be able to place workers in the same position as primary producers whose ‘ industries have been stabilized on a fair basis. We should have power to compel all producers to pay a wage fixed as appropriate to the work performed. It is obviously unfair to cater for rural employers by the granting of subsidies, the fixation of prices, and the establishment of orderly marketing schemes, and have no authority to cater for the rural workers. Do honorable senators opposite .claim that it would be just to subsidize dairy farmers to an amount of, say, ls. lOd. a gallon for milk, and, at the same time, allow them to hire a man for £1 a week and keep? Lender the Constitution the powers of the Commonwealth Parliament in relation to industrial disputes are limited to intervention when a dispute extends beyond the limits of any one State. Even then the Government is restricted to the use of the limited powers conferred upon it by conciliation and arbitration legislation. Honorable senators opposite are continually talking about strikes and asking what the Government is ‘ doing about them. Under the Constitution, the Government is powerless to intervene in an industrial dispute unless it extends beyond the confines of one State. Yet, when it makes a move to alter the Constitution in such a way as to overcome this restriction, honorable senators opposite immediately claim that it has all the powers necessary and that it must not interfere in industrial matters. As Senator Grant has pointed out, it is obviously unfair to fix the prices of primary products and not to fix the rate of wages which the recipients of those prices should pay. Power to do that is all the Government asks under the amendment of the Constitution proposed by this bill. Is it just that a man working, say, in the southern T>art of Tasmania, should be compelled under the State law to work 44 or 48 hours a week, whilst another man doing identical work, in the north of Queensland is called upon to work only 40 hours a week?
– The climatic conditions of north Queensland might justify the shorter working week there.
– The honorable senator is merely quibbling. I shall put the question in another way. Is it fair that a man. should work a 44-hour week in, say, the Riverina, whilst another man, doing exactly the same job across the border in Victoria, should work 40 or 48 hours a week?
– A line of demarcation has to be drawn, and anomalies of the kind mentioned by the honorable senator are inevitable.
– Is it right that industries working a 44-hour week in one
State should have to compete on the open market against similar industries in an adjoining State where a working week of 40 hours has been prescribed? There should be absolute uniformity throughout Australia in the industrial sphere. Power to bring this, about is all the Government seeks in this bill. It does not seek power to conscript employers or employees or to force wages beyond the level that industry can economically afford to pay. All of the State governments are to-day exercising the power which we believe should be vested in this Parliament. All but one of them are controlled by Labour governments. In the unlikely event of a change of government following the next federal elections, honorable senators on this side of the chamber would have no fear- that a government supported by honorable senators opposite would exercise the powers sought in this bill to the detriment of the workers. Prices of commodities have increased on the average by 33 per cent, since 1939 ; this Parliament should have power to adjust the balance between the prices of commodities necessary for the worker and the wages received by him. There is no reason why this Parliament should not also have’ power to fix the number of hours to be worked in any industry. If the Parliament were given that power it could do much to wipe out. the evil of sweated labour. In spite of the fact that five of the six States are controlled by Labour governments, the textile industry continues to be the greatest exploiter of sweated labour in the Commonwealth. In the textile industry great .disappointment was expressed when the school leaving age was raised from fourteen to sixteen years, thus robbing it of many thousands of its sweated child workers. . It is . time that the National Parliament possessed power to rectify that position, and, in effect, declare that Australia is one country which will not allow girls, aged fourteen and fifteen years, to be used in the production of goods under such conditions; Honorable senators opposite say that the National Parliament should not be granted that power, that this Parliament should have no say whatever in matters of that description. However, the Government takes the opposite view, and will persist in its endeavours to obtain these powers for the .Commonwealth in order to enable this Parliament to guarantee economic security to not one section but all sections of the community. Of course, the greatest opposition to the Government’s proposal in respect of industrial employment will come from the captains of industry in this country, who, however, pale to- insignificance when compared with the captains of industry in other countries. If those who control industry in Australia had as broad an outlook as the Henry Ford organization, for instance, they would offer no objection to this proposal ; but their outlook is as narrow as Little Collins-street, from which will be poured out propaganda designed to defeat the Government’s proposals.
– But the people will decide these issues.
– There is no doubt about that; and the people will give their decision in the -affirmative, just as they will return this Government at the next general elections, because since the last referendum they have awakened to the filthy propaganda that was “ put over “ them by opponents of the Government’s proposals. They realize that that untruthful propaganda, which emanated from the clever Mr. Menzies, was designed to Hoodwink them. The people have awakened to that realization with the result that hundreds of thousands who voted “ No “ at the last referendum will cast their ‘ vote in favour of these proposals.
I have not the slightest doubt that the primary producei’3 will support the Government’s proposal in respect of the organized marketing of primary products. Already they are urging the Government to retain its war-time controls in their sphere. This proposal will be opposed only by the intermediate men who do not yet realize that the carrying of the proposal will mean more security for them. However, the farmers and the workers will support the proposal. As to the Government’s proposal with respect to social services, the only opposition I have heard expressed is that by the Leader of the Opposition; but he stands alone. These powers are essential to the National Parliament and I have not the slightest doubt that the people will decide by an overwhelming majority to grant them to the Commonwealth, refusing to be gulled as they were at the last referendum.
– The object of the Constitutional Alteration (Social Services) Bill is to alter the Constitution to give to the Commonwealth power to make laws for the provision of social services. I shall leave no one in doubt as to where I stand on this issue. I oppose each of these’ proposals to alter the Constitution, and I intend to vote against each of the three measures.
– The honorable gentleman will not be here after the next general elections.
– If the honorable senator implies that I shall not be reelected because I am prepared to state my honest convictions, I shall be happy to stay out of Parliament. However, 1 still have the right under the Constitution to express my opinions in spite of what others may think, The Minister in charge of the measure has been kind enough to supply a list of opinions obtained from eminent Kings Counsel in Australia with respect to the validity of legislation passed by the Commonwealth Parliament. These eminent gentlemen summarize their opinions in such terms as “valid, insecure, probably valid “ ; but rarely do we find a definite opinion expressed as to whether -any of these acts are valid or invalid. I believe that even if the proposed alterations to the Constitution be agreed to,, we shall still have divergence of opinion among eminent lawyers as to the validity of legislation of this kind subsequently passed by. the Commonwealth. Before any proposal is made to alter, the Constitution the onus rests upon the Government to show clearly that such alterations are necessary. The Government has not done that in respect of these proposals. Its proposal with respect to social services is designed to stampede the people. Its intention is made clearer by its decision to hold the referendum on polling day at the next general elections, knowing, of course, that this circumstance will tend to sway the people towards its view. It will be said, of course, that any one whovotes “ No “ in respect of any of these proposals will vote against the retention of existing social service benefits such asmaternity allowances, widows’ pensions, child endowment, sickness and hospital, benefits.
– That is not true.
– It is true. Unfortunately, too many people are afraid to stand up to what they believe. Effective legislation providing for social services is now on the statute-book, and, obviously, no party would attempt torepeal it. It is the duty of the Government to say who, in its opinion, will challenge any’ of this legislation. Thematernity allowance is available to the poorest women as well as the richest; it is accepted, by’ all classes, and no questions are asked. Section 81 of the Constitution has been interpreted by all governments during the past 40 years in the broadest and widest sense. Even the judgment of the High Court on the Pharmaceutical Benefits case does notrender those benefits totally invalid. In any case, section 51 (xxxvii.) of the Constitution provides an additional safeguard, because under that section the Government can resolve its difficulties in co-operation with the States. The Attorney-General- (Dr. Evatt) has said in the House of Representatives that the power sought would’ enable the Commonwealth to use. dentists and doctors to provide dental and medical service; and, of course. the Government agreed under pressure from the Opposition to place the tag “but not so as toauthorize any form of. civil conscription “” on to that provision. I can imagine how honorable senators opposite squirmed when the Government accepted the Opposition’s amendment in that respect, because they know that these proposals are designed to give to the Commonwealth complete conscriptive powers. Or, perhaps, they may comfort themselves with the thought that, even if the Government’s proposals are agreed to at the referendum, legislation based on such proposals will be found to be invalid. In spite of that tag, I still refuse to support these proposals to alter the Constitution.. To-day the Government sees fit to pay 6s. a day in respect of each patient in public hospitals. But every one knows that legislation of this kind will not provide one extra bed in any hospital throughout Australia. It will not help in the slightest ‘degree to overcome the present acute shortage of hospital accommodation. I have not the slightest doubt that these proposals, if they are agreed to, will sound the deathknell of friendly’ societies and will mean the regimentation of dentists, doctors and chemists. Officialdom will eventually attempt to limit medical research, and, indeed, refuse to recognize new practices in medical science, or admit the advent of new diseases.
The Government claims much credit for the alleged prosperity which has re?ult;ed from its marketing schemes. How many honorable senators have firsthand knowledge of the operation of these scheme- during the war.- As I have said on previous occasions, food is the first munition of war; and during war-time the demand for food was greater than the supply. The problem then was not to increase the price to the producer. Almost every primary product would have realized higher prices; but what happened? In order to prevent this the Government fixed a ceiling price on all primary products. Therefore, all this talk about subsidies is just nonsense, Senator Aylett, said that the. Government is paying over £50,000,000 annually in subsidies to primary producers, and. apparently, he opposes such assistance being given to them. He does not realize’ that those subsidies returned to primary producers less than they would have been able to obtain in the open market for their products. I am not saying that the ceiling price was not justified ;.but those are the facts, and we should not delude ourselves as Senator Aylett has deluded himself. When the demand for any product exceeds the supply any producer can sell at high prices. Let me remind the Senate what the right, honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) said upon *this matter at the last referendum. He said -
If overseas markets ure tightened up and nt the same time Australia has a bounteous harvest for which there is no outlet abroad, 1 should like to know what, powers the marketing hoard will have to dispose of the surplus . above Australian requirements. Will this food or produce be destroyed?
The Government has not yet answered that question. However, the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Senator Collings) made a very illuminating remark earlier to-day when he said that if the export price of sugar had not risen the industry would have ‘collapsed. He implied that, in all marketing schemes Oversea prices had a great bearing on local prices. We have heard a great deal about the wheat industry. In my opinion, the proposed scheme under which ;s. 2d. a bushel will be paid for’ wheat, is the greatest indictment of the Scully wheat stabilization plan, because it proves that that plan was entirely inequitable.
It. is worthy of note that under an organized marketing scheme, we experienced not long ago the greatest shortage of potatoes that has ever occurred on the mainland. People were able to buy only 1 lb. or 2 lb. at a time, and sometimes even those meagre supplies were not available. Why? Because of the use by the Potato Board of its inspection powers. I remind honorable senators that growers have no appeal from the .decisions of inspectors. If an inspector says that potatoes cannot be marketed, that is the last word. The growers have no redress. Merchants, of course, are . given the fullest protection, and are much better off than ever before. Repressive use of inspection powers can create artificial shortages. Last October and November, when there was a widespread scarcity of potatoes, large stocks of wholesome potatoes were withheld from the markets because they were found by the inspectors to have a small quantity of scab. Actually they were fine potatoes, most of them weighing not less than S oz. and when peeled were as good as any first-grade potato. I had to dump hundreds of bags of them. The inspector refused to allow them to be sold to the public.
– Did the honorable senator dump them oh the Adelaide market, ?
– No. That is not permitted.
– Then, where were they dumped ?
– I received uo return for them except their value as stock feed. 1 dumped them in ray own paddocks.
– Was that done in accordance with instructions?
– I could not send them to the Adelaide market.
– Other growers put them on the Adelaide market for local consumption.
– No. When an inspector tells a grower that his potatoes cannot be marketed that is the end of it. I am a grower, and I know how the inspection of potatoes operates in Adelaide. Perhaps Senator O’Flaherty will be generous enough to admit that my produce has a very good name on the .market. Under this Government’s marketing proposals, should a glut of any primary product occur, inspection will he carried out ruthlessly, and although officialdom will ensure a fixed price, the quantity of produce’ permitted to pass inspection will be so small that the ultimate return to the growers will be far below the fixed price. An affirmative vote on the marketing powers will transfer the whole field of .marketing of primary products to the Commonwealth, yet the Commonwealth has no control over production. “ Organized “ must mean that everything relating to the sale of primary products’, including the setting up of boards, the licensing of growers, and control of prices and terms and conditions of sale, will pass into the hands of the Commonwealth. Then, every primary producer, employer and employee alike will become an agricultural conscript. So long as the States and the Commonwealth agree) the Commonwealth may make funds available to the States for any purpose upon which agreement has been reached. That, in my opinion, is an ideal arrangement. It prevents centralization, and gives flexibility to any marketing problems that may arise. We are now asked to alter section 92 of the Constitution. It is one thing to suspend the Standing Orders of the Senate to achieve a certain objective, but it would be quite a different matter if we were to abolish the Standing Orders. In a small way, I have endeavoured to assist, (he incorporation of marketing schemes in our economy. I say, let us not destroy a substantial’ structure built by successive generations merely because some of the plaster is a little bit flaky. Some of us, perhaps, hope for too much.
Section 107 of the Constitution . is not, perhaps, so well known as it might be. It means,, in language which may be understood by a layman that powers that are not specifically delegated to the Commonwealth are State .preserves. Now, through the power of the purse - that is, of course, by means of the uniform tax system - the Commonwealth is reaching out to take, and has taken, State powers. It seeks to usurp State control. It must, if its schemes are to be successful, control production or chaos will result. We ask ourselves what primary industries will benefit? As I said earlier, the object of the Government in this measure is the socialization of production and distribution. The grower is only a pawn in the game. The Government says to the primary producers, “We shall give, you a higher price for your products “. This, of course, must raise the cost of living. The only other way out for the Government is to sweat the agriculturalist, employer and employee alike, and if it comes to a trial between the consumer and the grower, the grower will be a bad loser. It may be said in truth that, if this proposal is accepted as far as the primary produce]1 is concerned, “ A democracy that goes to war, if victorious loses its liberties at its own hands “.
I come now to the Constitution Alteration (Industrial Employment) Bill. Once again democracy is attacked ; but it is not a hold frontal attack. That would alarm us, and unhesitatingly we would resist. “Here, under the cloak of technical and ambiguous language, and upon the pretext of an emergency, is another attempt to whittle away o.ur selfgovernment “. Those are not my words, but words included in the Labour party’s case against the 1937 referendum proposals. . This Government is not prepared to make a bold frontal attack; yet, it has had nearly five years to prepare its plans. It came into power in 1941. It had two years to study the Constitution. In 1943, it went to the people and the No. 1 plank on its platform was a 40-hour week. The Government obtained a majority in both Houses, but when pressed by its disappointed followers for a 40-hour week, its feet grew cold and it said “ Nothing doing. The Constitution bars the way “. It knew in 194.3 that the Constitution barred the way. The 40-hour week was the greatest political hoax ever perpetrated. If this Government had had courage, and had been true to its pledge to its followers, it would have put legislation for a 40-hour week on the statutebook and then let the High Court determine its validity. This Government is running with the hare and hunting with the hounds. I support our arbitration system. Moreover, I believe that the awards of the Arbitration Court must be policed. All governments must enforce determinations of the court. If this bill be given effect it will not correct the fundamental fault in our arbitration system. Every unionist complains about the technicalities of arbitration. Even union secretaries, who often appear &s advocates in arbitration courts, are aware of the delays. It is said that many technical disputes occur in which both employer and employee, in order to get a hearing of their case, indulge in these luxuries. This is noticeable in interstate disputes. An appropriate amendment could be made to section 51 (xxxv), to cover the case. Why should it be necessary to decide whether or not a dispute is of an interstate character? Surely the object of concilia’tion is to act before disputes occur. We want improved methods in order to settle these disastrous disputes more expeditiously. The general public pays for .these upheavals. How long will, they continue? This bill will not improve the position. It is not the responsibility of any government to dabble with hours, wages and other conditions of employment. Let us keep our arbitration system beyond the reach of Parliament. I want our arbitration system preserved. This bill will destroy it and I shall oppose the measure. In 1937, the Labour party said -
Those who believe - responsibility should accompany powers will vote “no”. Protect the freedom the Constitution guarantees. Defend the seamless garment of Australian unity. Resist every attack on democracy*.
All of those remarks are applicable to-day. A deliberate attempt is made by this bill to bring about inflation by increasing prices without a corresponding increase of production. It is sought by inflationary means to increase the national income to a fictitious level to approximate the national debt. If we try to raise the national income to, say, £1,000,000,000 a year, our national debt of £3,000,000,000 does not look so serious as it is. However, if we have not produced any more commodities, our standard of living will not have been raised. If this proposal be agreed to, any man whose pay is £10 a week will be able to purchase only £5 worth of goods with that sum ten years hence. I oppose the three bills, and will vote against them.
.- There is very little to be said against the proposal to legalize the payment of such desirable and indispensable social services as the maternity allowance, the widow’s pension and child endowment. For many years those payments have been made, and they will still be made irrespective of the results of the forthcoming referendum. Why tag on to them other benefits which could well be placed within the scope of national insurance? They could be dealt with adequately by extending or clarifying the Commonwealth’s insurance power under the Constitution. Even with the insertion of the Opposition’s amendment, “but not so as to authorize any form of civil conscription “, electors will be sceptical as to the Government’s motive. It would have been far better to have decided to submit separately the question regarding the social services mentioned ; then a 100 per cent. “ Yes “ vote would be recorded.
The proposal relating to marketing will meet the same fate as that regarding the organized marketing of primary products did at the 1937 referendum, but for different reasons. On that occasion all political parties advocated a “ Yes “ vote, but an overwhelming “ “No “ vote was recorded. This time, Labour stands alone in advocating organized marketing, because some features of the proposal to be put before the electors conflict with section 92 of the Constitution, and are unacceptable to the primary producers. The consensus of opinion is that the distribution of powers relating to interstate and intrastate trade could best be dealt with by a convention appointed to review the Constitution as a whole. All cards would be placed on the table at such a convention, and the matter could be discussed in a non-party atmosphere.
The real reason for holding a referendum is found in the proposal to transfer to this Parliament increased industrial power. The Government seeks authority for this Parliament to legislate in. a field hitherto left to tribunals. Sober-minded citizens contend, that the proper procedure would be’ to correct weaknesses in the arbitration system rather than allow the Parliament to usurp the role of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. Should this proposal receive the endorsement of a majority of the electors in a majority of the States, the authority to fix the basic wage, and declare standard hours would be automatically transferred from the Arbitration Court and State tribunals to the Commonwealth Parliament. The proposal is a frontal attack on the arbitration, system. Issues that can be satisfactorily decided only by an impartial tribunal, after patient and thorough examination of all factors, without extraneous influences, are to be tossed into the political arena. If I were a trade unionist, I should prefer my working conditions to be prescribed by a competent tribunal rather than trust to the whims of any parliament. Those conditions would then be more likely to be static.
The proposed change predicates a drastic revision of all concepts of the legitimate role of this Parliament.’ Large numbers of people who would willingly approve of an increase of the powers of the Parliament for valid purposes, would be most reluctant to support the proposal relating to employment, unless an assurance were given that the Parliament would not be used for the fixation of wages and hours in industry. They realize that decisions in this sphere require detailed knowledge and careful weighing of evidence, much of which is highly technical, and often involves visits to industrial establishments. Beset with other duties, this Parliament has neither the time, nor the competence for this specialized work. Many people are fully persuaded, not only that the trend towards shorter hours is inevitable, but also that living costs in the last few years have outrun adjustments of the basic wage. They recognize that, however well the statisticians do their job, the “ basket “ of commodities on which reckonings are made does not include all items required for a household if its members are to be properly fed and clothed. If the defects are to be rectified, that work cannot be done in a political forum, where one party outbids the other. The only proper approach is a patient, assembly of data, and a balancing of claims in a politically neutral atmosphere, with due regard to the interests of the country as a whole, and to the general economic effects of decisions.
Imperfect as it. may be, the arbitration system has stood the test of over 40 years’ fair and foul weather. It would be a grave mistake to emasculate it, or to take away from the court the highly important responsibilities which it has discharged in the past. It is obvious that the Government has been stampeded by outside pressure groups. It would be much preferable to leave conciliation and arbitration to the Arbitration Court. If settlement of industrial disputes is delayed owing to defects in the arbitration machinery, it should be a simple matter to appoint more judges, or to amend the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act to ensure rapid decisions.
– The approach made to these proposals by members of the Opposition is not in the best interests of the people, or of honorable senators themselves. The approach to the question before us should not be whether this Parliament needs the powers sought, but which authority- can best use these powers if they are granted. The Opposition claims that the powers are not required, because we have managed without them for over 40 years, but that is not a valid argument. The Opposition is merely obstructive. We have to show that this Parliament is more capable of serving the best interest of the people, and should have more resources at its command, than the State legislatures. If given certain additional powers, it could exercise them to the advantage of the people more effectively than could the State authorities. That is the approach which I make to these measures.
When 1 first entered this Parliament, the argument advanced to-day by Senator Brand that a federal convention should determine what additional powers should be transferred to this Parliament seemed to me to be sound. When the late Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, decided that, owing to changed economic conditions, and the necessity for solving great national problems, an interstate convention should be held to consider proposed amendments of the Constitution, he gave a great deal of thought to the selection of men to represent various interests at the convention. One wondered on what basis the delegates should be chosen. It could have been on a population basis, or equal representation of the States, or by political parties. Displaying great breadth of vision, the late Prime Minister decided to invite the leaders of the governments and the leaders of the oppositions in each of the State parliaments and also the political leaders in this Parliament. He accepted a basis of representation, which was fair and just. The conference was hold in Canberra, and it drew up fourteen points in respect of which it decided almost unanimously that-‘ increased powers should be sought from the people. The State Premiers agreed to ask their Parliaments to refer these powers to t’h* Commonwealth. The State Parliaments were then asked to transfer to the Commonwealth Parliament, the additional powers required. Acting in good faith, and believing that our political opponents were sincere, the Curtin Government referred those .matters to the States, but the result was a sad disillusionment. The, Government of the day was, therefore, forced to proceed with the last referendum, but unfortunately the very people, who decided at the convention that the granting of the proposed increased powers would be in the interests of ‘the Commonwealth, altered their attitude and declared that the powers to be sought should not be given to the Commonwealth. Senator Brand has merely advocated “ a convention but that is a general term which needs careful definition. He has used a catch-word, but we have had bitter experience quite recently of such a conference, and it is evident that no good results could come from such a gathering. Senator Mattner said that it was unfair to the electors to hold a referendum on the same day as’ an election. I reject his reasoning that this procedure would assist the party in power. I believe that the Australian electors have minds of their own, and that if they are properly informed on any subject they will record an intelligent vote. In my opinion, the right time to take a vote on a proposed alteration of the Constitution is when a general election is being held. Several reasons for that course could be advanced. One of them is that the holding of an election or the taking of a referendum costs about £100,000, and that it would he unreasonable to hold ah election and a referendum on different days, when by’ holding them on the same day a great saving could be effected. If the referendum were held, during the life of a particular parlia-ment it might be said that the government in power had some peculiar interest in having its proposals accepted by the people; but .if the proposed changes are submitted concurrently with an election, and the people are told that the powers sought are powers which the Parliament believes should be vested in the Commonwealth Parliament for the better government of Australia; and if candidates submit themselves to the electors as favouring or opposing the transfer of such powers to the Commonwealth, the issues before the electors are clear and they are free to decide what they shall do. I regard the proposals of the Government as an honest attempt to give to the Australian people the right to choose who shall govern them, and whether they want the government that they place in power to have the additional -powers. From the observations of honorable senators opposite it would appear that they are pessimistic about their chances at the next election. I agree with that view, but at this stage they should not so openly abandon all hope. They should go into the fight hoping, if not believing, that they will come back with a majority, and be the authority to exercise these additional powers. I remind the Senate that the Labour party stands for arbitration. In both Commonwealth and State spheree conciliation and arbitration is the accepted method of settling industrial disputes. The States now have the powers which the Opposition says would destroy arbitration if transferred to the Commonwealth. The transfer of additional powers would not destroy arbitration ; in the State spheres the State Governments have this overriding power and can exercise it as they choose. That was demonstrated recently in New South Wales when the Government of the State decided that, as a general principle, all persons in industry should have a fortnight’s leave each year. The Parliament of New South Wales legislated to that effect, but that did not destroy the Arbitration Court or rob it of any great power. The legislation merely laid down the principle that the industrialists of New South Wales should enjoy two week’s holiday each year. If additional powers were referred to the- Commonwealth by the people of Australia, it might well he that the Commonwealth Parliament would decide that a 40-hour week should be the law throughout Australia. I say frankly that, if given the opportunity, I would support such legislation because 1 believe that the time has arrived when the people of Australia should enjoy a 40-hour week. But if that were made law, it would not destroy the Arbitration Court. The court would still function effectively. On all fundamental issues I believe that this Parliament ought to have the right to lay down a rule for the ; whole of Australia. We should regard all changes from the point of view of the best interests of the Australian people. i I am particularly concerned about the proposals relating to social services. Foi some years this Parliament has exercised a measure of control over social services. It has exercised that control, despite the fact that many legal men have thrown grave doubts on the validity of our actions. All political parties have done these things, and have taken the risk of its legislation being challenged. Many of us have argued from time to time that the social legislation placed before this Parliament would never he challenged, because any party which challenged it would, be committing political suicide. We hoped that nothing would happen.
But recently the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act came up against a very powerful body - the organized medical profession of Australia as represented by the British Medical Association. I do not know whether that body had anything to do with the action of the then AttorneyGeneral of Victoria, but the fact remains that that legislation was challenged by a former Victorian government. The High Court’s decision in that case has thrown doubt on the validity of the whole of our social legislation, with the exception of that relating to invalid and oldage pensions.
– Only individuals would challenge the validity of any other social legislation that has been passed.
– It could be that, with an election approaching, some association of people in the community would wish to cause an upheaval, in the hope that it would benefit a particular political party, and would decide to challenge the validity of certain legislation. The point is that the way is open for the validity of legislation to be challenged.
– It has been challenged.
– In one case legislation has been challenged. It could easily have been said that no one would challenge its validity.
– Honorable senators opposite threatened to challenge it.
– As things are, it is open to any section of the people to challenge the right of the Commonwealth Government to make certain payments to the citizens of Australia. Recently, the opinions of a number of eminent counsel were sought as to the validity of certain legislation on the statute-book. Their replies indicated that the validity of a number of acts on the statute-book was doubtful. The honest thing to do is to say to the people of Australia, “This legislation is of doubtful validity. We will give you the opportunity to say whether you want to place its validity beyond doubt or whether you desire the doubt to remain “. Any government which knew that certain acts of Parliament were of doubtful validity. would be dishonest, and would be acting against the best interest of the people, if it concealed that fact from them, and did not provide an early opportunity for the doubt to be removed. Accordingly, the Government has said on this occasion, “ As there is grave doubt as to r.he validity of certain legislation, you will be given the chance to say whether you desire it to remain on the statute-book I believe that the Government has adopted the only course which any honest government could adopt. No government should go to the country and say, “ We intend to do this or that, provided that you give to us the power to do so at some future date “. That would be unfair and unreal.
As to whether these powers can be exercised in the interests of the whole of the people of Australia is a matter to which I have given a great deal of thought. I remind the Senate that very great changes are taking place throughout the world. We have been told of the accomplishments of the New Zealand Government. Previously, we thought that we were ahead of the British Government in social service legislation, but during recent years many advances have been made in Great Britain, as well as in New Zealand in this respect. We have done many things during the last few years, but we are still only on the threshold of our social security legislation. We have been active in regard to the economic aspects of legislation, but that phase may lose much of its importance, and in the future we shall have to address ourselves more to the social aspects- of life. By so doing we can make tremendous changes in our way of life. I believe that those changes can be made only on a national basis. The situation which existed prior to the war was ludicrous. For instance, Queensland had legislation providing for unemployment benefits which no other States provided; New South Wales had legislated for widows’ pensions, but no other State had passed similar legislation; Victoria had a slum clearance policy far superior to that of the other States; Tasmania was the only State with a free tried ica! service. The list could be extended, but it is sufficient to say that there was no uniform social legislation throughout the Commonwealth. The effective organizing of social services can be done only on a nation-wide scale. I believe that we ought to try to provide for the whole of the people of the Commonwealth the same standard of social services. Senator Mattner when dealing with the question of national medical services expressed apprehension as to what might happen to doctors in the event of medicine being nationalized and a salaried medical service being introduced. I commend to the honorable senator’s notice the sixth report of the Social Security Committee which contains some very informative matter upon this subject. After very long and careful deliberations, during the course of which it travelled extensively throughout the Commonwealth- and took evidence from hundreds of doctors, the committee unanimously recommended that, as’ part of a long-range plan, there should be instituted a salaried medical service for the whole of the people of Australia. I regret that there is a great deal of misconception as to the medical services available to the people generally at our public hospitals. It is commonly said that the very rich and the very poor are well eared for. From my knowledge of conditions all over Australia I believe that the very poor get a very raw deal. In the out-patient departments of most of the public hospitals throughout the Commonwealth poor people have to wait for hours, sometimes days, before they receive attention. The fact that they are very poor is brought home to them under the present system. The long delays that take place may be due to the fact that doctors attached to public hospitals ‘are unable to cope with the number of people seeking treatment. Undoubtedly they do the best they can in the circumstances but it is not enough. So, for the very poor of this country, we have to do something. One of the greatest hazards faced by mankind is the hazard of ill-health. If a man is struck down by sudden illness he may have to go to hospital and be away from his employment for some months. Finally, after his cure has been completed, he is left with a load of debt for medical attention which he may have to carry for many years. As a member of the Social Security Committee I learned of the great number of people who delay seeking medical attention because of their inability to pay for it. Many people suffering from tuberculosis continue to work and avoid seeking medical attention because they cannot afford the cost of treatment. They should be removed from industry and taken into institutions where they can get the rest which is such an essential part of the cure for that awful disease. Great. Britain, NewZealand and other countries have determined that ill health shall be a charge upon the nation. I understand that the adoption of such a. scheme is now under consideration by the Government. The Government has already sought to go some way towards the achievement of that desirable object by its legislation covering sickness and pharmaceutical benefits, and I trust that before long some satisfactory scheme of providing a national health service will be agreed upon with the medical profession. I have no desire to see members of the medical profession conscripted for service to the people. No one has a better right to his freed1 om than a medical man who has given many years of his life in Study, and. in hospital training. The Government should be able to devise a national health scheme which would be acceptable to the medical profession and the people generally. ‘ I believe’ that at a conservative estimate 60 per cent, of the members of the medical profession would volunteer to join a salaried mud Leal service. That estimate is based on the votes recorded on the subject at the various branches of the British Medical Association. If a salaried medical service were established I have no doubt that that percentage would quickly be exceeded. The. only objection raised to the establishment of such a service appears to be based on the fear that members of the . medical profession might become departmentalized and their progress in their profession stifled by their lack of seniority. We should tackle the problem in such a way as to resolve that fear. It should be practicable to set up a commission to control the service and make provision for medical men to be given a preponderance in the representation.
– It is evident that the Government is preparing a scheme for the nationalization of medical services.
– I believe that that must inevitably come, but that it should be preceded- by the establishment-, of a salaried medical service.
– That, too. is nationalization.
– The honorable senator may call it what he likes. I malano secret of ibc fact that I am an arden i advocate of the establishment of a salaried medical service for the whole of Australia. I would exercise no compulsion over those members of the medical profession who did not wish to join it; they should be free to continue their private practices. Under such a system medical men could apply the latest methods of treatment. We already have the forerunner of such a service in the group practices which are becoming an important feature of medical cooperation and which have enabled doctors to give to their patients specialized medical attention that would otherwise be denied them. I also advocate the provision of improved hospital facilities, with central hospitals in the principal cities and towns and satellite hospitals in the outer areas. This would do much to overcome the difficulty caused by the congestion in our big public hospitals. At the central hospitals facilities could be provided for special treatment. Extensions of medical benefits of this kind are only possible if there is some system of government participation in the. work of the medical profession. The honorary system in* public hospitals will have to be abolished. Many of our largest hospitals are now finding it necessary to pay substantial salaries in order to attract the best men. That is done in Queensland where the hospital medical staffs are almost 100 per cent, in favour of a’ salaried medical service. Under such a system as’ 1 have advocated hospitals would become better organized, members of the medical profession would be better off, more specialists could be trained, and the people generally would receive better medical attention. That is one aspect of social services with which the Government, might very well deal when after the election it is returned to office clothed with the new powers sought under the Constitution Alteration (Social - Services) Bill.
We should approach the problem of providing improved medical services for the people in a realistic way as soon - as the powers are given to us to deal with it.
– On previous occasions the Senate has considered measures of this kind ; and we know the fate they suffered when they were submitted to the people. The fundamental principle of the proposals now before us relate directly to section 81 of the Constitution, which reads -
AH revenues or moneys raised or received by the Executive Government of the Commonwealth shall form one Consolidated Revenue Fund to be appropriated for the purposes of the Commonwealth. . . .
Obviously, no government can provide social services unless it can afford financially to do so. However, widely divergent opinions have been expressed by leading lawyers as to whether, under section 81, the Government has power to expend its revenue for any purpose which it thinks desirable. One interpretation is that the framers of the Constitution meant that all revenue of the Commonwealth could be used for the benefit of the Commonwealth, but such expenditure was restricted by section 51 (xxxvii.). Ho w.retsricted this Government has taken the view ti wit section SI must be read by itself, unrestricted by any other section of the Constitution, and, therefore,, empowers the Commonwealth to expend its revenues in any way it thinks fit. That view has been challenged’ in the High’ Court; and, as the result, these proposals are now to be submitted at a referendum. Previous governments have submitted proposals by way of referendum to the people. We know that out of eighteen proposals for alterations of the Constitution and three “prescribed questions” only three minor proposals have been approved. I believe that the result of the last referendum’ shows conclusively that the people are most . jealous of the Constitution as it stands. And it seems that the people will not agree to proposals which have not first been approved by an elective convention. We have been reminded that prior to the last referendum the Government’s proposals were submitted to a conference;’ but that conference .consisted entirely of party political representatives. Although the Government’s proposals at the last referendum were overwhelmingly rejected, the Government, not deterred, proceeded to flout the will of the people and introduced legislation designed to sidetrack the people’s decision, until certain legislation was challenged recently in the High Court. The court decided that the Government could not apply “ rafferty rules” in this respect, that legislation must not be ultra vires the Constitution. The Government, in its wisdom, now inever. to put these proposals to the people. At the last referendum, it made the mistake of tying up fourteen points in one question, which was presented to the people on a take it or leave it basis. On this occasion the Government is acting more wisely, and will give to the people an opportunity to answer each of these three questions individually. The language of the proposed questions is very subtle. Their smoothness reminds me of the serpent which crept into the garden of Eden. These questions contain sufficient venom to wreck the Constitution. But, fortunately, the people have feasted at’ the tree of knowledge, and are able to detect the subterfuge, and, .therefore, rill refuse to give to any government the powers of a dictatorship. As human beings we -are endowed with the gift of speech to enable us to express and exchange thoughts^ however, it is a pity that very often language is used not to disclose but to hide thoughts. These proposals, in fact, are a trap. To the unwary they appear to be all right, but in them, are hidden the steel grip of the trap. They are worded in such a way as to catch the unwary, but I am sure that that the people have now realized that fact, and will reject them by an overwhelming majority.
– Does not the honorable senator support the proposals?
– They are like the proverbial curate’s egg - good in parts. The Constitution Alteration (Social .Services) Bill empowers Parliament to make laws for the provision of maternity allowances, widows’ pensions, child endowment, unemployment, pharmaceutical, sickness and hospital benefits, medical and dental services, benefits to students and family allowances. “No honorable senator will object to the provision of maternity allowances, widows’ pensions, or child endowment. In fact, previous governments have done as much as the present Government to liberalize such benefits. However, we part company with the Government when it proposes to nationalize doctors, dentists and chemists. Senator Arnold left no doubt in our minds that that i.s the intention of the Government. It would be deplorable if all medical practitioners were to be paid by the Government.
– - Why can we not have government doctors as well as government carpenters and plumbers?
– The government carpenters and plumbers are members of unions.
– And doctors are members of a union too, the British Medical Association.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.No; the doctors are not governed by union principles, because a doctor will always visit a patient at any hour of the day or night should the circumstances be urgent. A doctor docs not cease work at a specified time like carpenters and plumbers.
Silting suspended from 6 to 5 p.m.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.Before leaving the social services measure, I inform honorable senators that when the bill reaches the committee stage, I propose to move that the words “ pharmaceutical “ and “medical and dental services (but not so as to authorize any form of civil conscription)” be omitted from proposed new paragraph (xxiiiA.).
I come now to the organized marketing proposals. Honorable senators will recall that a government of which I was a supporter placed before the people of this country a question very similar to this one, except that it did not go nearly so far. The proposal then was that arrangements for organized marketingshould be left to negotiation between the Commonwealth and the States; but in this case the Commonwealth Government is seeking full authority to legislate in respect of organized marketing. There seems to be some doubt amongst honorable senators opposite as to the. meaning of the words “ primary products “. Certainly these words are capable of a wide interpretation. Speakers on this side of the chamber have suggested that, in respect of a large number of commodities, a judicial determination would have to be sought as to .whether or not they were primary products. For instance, fruit i.-: a primary product; but is dried fruit a primary product? Wheat of course i3 a primary product, but what about flour?
In his second-reading speech, the Minister . for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) drew attention to the benefits that had accrued to primary producers, allegedly through what he termed organized marketing during the war period. I point out, however, that during the war organized -marketing was enforced by the National Security Act, which empowered the Commonwealth Government to do almost anything. The Minister quoted certain figures which he claimed illustrated; the advantages that primary producers had enjoyed through organized marketing during the war. He said that between 1939-40 and 1943-44, the number of primary producers with incomes in excess of £250 had increased by 120 per cent., and that in respect of incomes exceeding £400 the increase had been 200 per cent; £600, 330 per cent.; £1,000, 350 per cent, and £5,000, 150 per cent. With due respect to whoever compiled those’ figures, I doubt their accuracy, and before accepting them finally I should like some confirmation of them. However, for the time being I am prepared to accept them. I ask the Minister for Supply and Shipping what is the reason for the increases? There is only one answer, and that is that we were passing through a period of war, during which there was a ready market for everything we could produce on the land. The enhanced prices for primary products was not due to any regulation of the markets by the Government. In substantiation of that statement, I draw attention to the prices of primary products that ruled after the war of 1914-18. There were no organized marketing -f-hen.es in operation then, yet prices soared because there waa a world-wide demand for our products. In 1918, the price of wheat in this country was 7s. 6d. a bushel and of oats 6s. 6d. a bushel. Lambs brought 30s. a head, beef £5 a cwt. on the hoof, potatoes £15 a ton and subsequently as much as £25 a ton.” Butter was 2s. 6d. per lb.
– How long did that last?
– In 1924 - three years later - wool was 3s. per lb.
– But what happened soon after that?
– Nothing happened for some time. In fact, there was no substantial change until 192S, 1929 or 1930. The worst thing that happened to this country was the advent of a Labour government. Again I stress the fact that the increased returns that have been enjoyed by our primary producers have been due to war conditions rather than to any organized marketing schemes inaugurated by this oi any other government. Organized marketing implies boards that control the production and distribution of commodities. Australians are weary of boards. Before a primary producer can market bis products, he must approach a board, raise his hat politely and bow -before the officials. Is it any wonder that people are sick and tired of controls? The sooner , we return to the system of free markets, the better it will be. If, at the referendum, the people endorse the Government’s marketing proposals, our primary industries will be completely nationalized. Already they are nationalized to a. marked degree, because die Government controls what the primary producer may sow and reap. The Labour party is pandering to the producer in every way in an endeavour to gain support. It pays the potato-grower £12 a ton, but the retail price of potatoes is £8 a ton. The difference between the purchase price and the retail price is met from taxation.
The Constitution Alteration (Industrial Employment) Bill provides for the altering of the Constitution by empowering the Parliament to make laws with respect to the terms and conditions of employment in industry. This proposal covers a very wide field. Control of industry will require a great deal of legislation. Already the Commonwealth has established courts of conciliation and arbitration, and, generally, has done everything possible to enable industry to function smoothly; but industry has not always run so smoothly as we should like, and I am afraid that if the people endorse this proposal at the referendum, the Commonwealth Parliament will become the sole authority to determine wages, hours and working conditions. Then our dilemma will be even greater than it is at present.
– Like the honorable senator, we also are -sick and tired of boards.
– I stated that the people are sick and tired of marketing boards, but they are not yet weary of the Arbitration Court. If they are made to understand that ah affirm a - ti ve vote for the Government’s industrial employment proposal will deprive them of the Arbitration Court, they will unhesitatingly defeat it.
– Why does the honorable senator suggest that the Arbitration Court will be abolished ?
– The court would not be abolished to-morrow or immediately the Government obtained this power, but before long the Government would abolish it. In my opinion,, the Arbitration Court is the only tribunal which should determine wages and working conditions. Personally, I am not impressed with conciliation tribunals. The Arbitration Court is much preferable to them. The functions of the Arbitration Court should be extended, because the tribunal may now adjudicate only when an interstate dispute occurs. If I had the authority, I should empower the court to deal with all disputes whether they were confined to one State or extended beyond the limits of any one State. My principal objection to conciliation is that the employer and. employee, who meet and compose their differences, are not the principal parties concerned. The consumers are the persons who are vitally interested. For example, the employer may manufacture tin-ware, and his employees may demand an increase of wages. The employer says, “Very well, if I grant an increase of wages I must charge more for my goods. That does not matter; I can do it.” The increase of price is borne by the general public. Consequently, conciliation excludes the very people who should have a voice in the fixing of wages and hours of labour - factorswhich affect the prices of goods. In the Arbitration Court, employer and employee state their respective cases, and the- judge makes an award. That is the fairer way.
If the Commonwealth Parliament strips arbitration and conciliation courts of their powers and allows politicians to fix wages and conditions in industry, do not honorable senators consider that the next election campaign would develop into an auction, one party endeavouring to outbid the other by offering higher wages and a shorter working week? One political party might advocate a 40-hour week, and its opponent would immediately promise a 36-hour week. The highest bidder would probably get the greatest support. Another matter which we should not overlook is that this Parliament is supposed to be fully representative of the people of Australia. To a certain degree, it is. But nearly every honorable senator opposite is the delegate of some union, and, consequently, on a matter involving the fixation of wages and conditions, the unions would instruct their delegates how they should vote, and the delegates would obey those instructions. It would be a great mistake to transfer from the conciliation and arbitration courts to this Parliament power to determine wages and working conditions.Whilst I am confident that the people will not endorse this proposal at the referendum, every honorable senator should expose the danger of this power at every opportunity.
– Let us tell the people the truth.
– I agree. Let us truthfully tell the people the full implications of this proposal. Let us not conceal the real issue.When honorable senators opposite emphasize the necessity to place beyond doubt the validity of child endowment, maternity allowances and widows’ pensions, they should tell the people that the Labour party also desires to nationalize the medical profession so that every doctor, dentist, and chemist will be subservient to its will. Honorable senators opposite should also tell the people about the full implications of the organized marketing proposal, instead of reciting a flowery tale that under this Government’s beneficent administration the primary producers are almost millionaires. The Labour party desires to put its foot on the primary producer’s neck, and by controlling production and prices, give to the consumer a cheap loaf of bread. Supporters of the Government should tell the people frankly that they desire this Parliament, to have power to fix wages and hours of employment, and that the people will get everything they want if they return a Labour government to office.
– I have listened with great interest to the fiery remarks of Senator James McLachlan, but I hope that his prognostications will not be fulfilled when the decision of the people on the matters to be submitted to them is given. Not long ago, we debated in this chamber the fourteen points referred to the electors at the last referendum. I supported the Government wholeheartedly on that occasion, and I addressed to the people the same views as those which I had expressed in the Senate. I am pleased to say that a majority of the electors in Western Australia agreed with me, and voted in support of the proposals referred to them. In the States where those proposals were defeated, the result was due to newspaper misrepresentation and utterances in this chamber such as those of the honorable senator who has just resumed his seat. He asked Government supporters to be honest, but he himself should adhere to the truth. He should not insinuate that the powers sought would be used for purposes other than those contemplated by the Government.
This is the only Parliament in Australia which truly represents the people as a whole. In the States which have Legislative Councils the restricted franchise of the upper houses prevents effect being given to the will of the people. It is not possible to bring about a rapprochement between the Commonwealth and the States. At the last referendum we were told by our political friends opposite thatthe proper approach to the problem of the distribution of Commonwealth and State powers would be to ask the States to transfer to this Parliament the powers required by it. Was not a convention held, with the result that it was almost unanimously agreed that the powers sought should be transferred to this Parliament. In Western Australia, the proposals were brought before the lower branch of the legislature, and with some amendments they were agreed to, but, in the upper house in that State, the proposals were so emasculated that they were unrecognizable. I strongly believe that the National Parliament of Australia should have powers similar to those exercised by the Parliaments of the States. Even the Senate is elected on an adult suffrage. It is truly representative of the whole of the people and is it not absurd to say that this Parliament should not enjoy the same sovereign rights as the States?
– But the Commonwealth laws would predominate, if they conflicted with State laws. If the honorable senator believes in unification, let him say so.
SenatorNASH. - I believe in Australia as a nation, and in this Parliament being in truth the National Parliament. That is the only way in which progress can be made socially, industrially, or in any other direction. This Parliament cannot continue to legislate with regard to national affairs under a Constitution established 45 years ago. The outlook of the people is different from what it was then. The framers of the Constitution did not foresee problems which are now awaiting solution. If progress is to be made, we must get the people to agree that the Commonwealth Parliament should do more of the legislative work of this country than at present. Otherwise we shall return to the horse and buggy age. When the motor car came on the scene, people travelled much more rapidly than they did in horse-drawn vehicles. They move infinitely more speedily to-day in aeroplanes, but this Parliament is still required to conduct the affairs of the nation under a horse and buggy Constitution.
– If the people say “No”, we must accept their verdict.
– The people are to be asked to say either “ Yes “ or “ No “.
– The honorablesenator will complain if they say “ No “.
– The constant interruption of speakers must cease. I ask Senator Nash to address the chair, and not Senator Herbert Hays.
SenatorNASH. - I believe in majority decisions and will abide by them. If the people vote against the proposals embodied in these bills, I, like a good democrat, will accept their verdict. The Government has abided by the decision that was given at the last referendum. There is nothing to prevent it from again asking the people to confer the powers which it believes to be necessary in the best interests of the people. Under Commonwealth law, this Parliament has the right to impose taxes. It tells the people what taxes they have to pay, and whether they like it or not, they have to pay them. The people have also to abide by the law in relation to tariff and excise duties. Why should the Parliament not have the power to confer benefits on the majority of the people? It is the majority with which I am concerned. I am not concerned about those composing a small section whose only aim over the years has been to grind down and make as much profit as they can out of others who are less fortunately situated. Let us have the proposed social services. Honorable senators opposite have contended that there is no doubt about the validity of the social services which the present Government has enacted since it assumed office. Senator Mattner stated definitely this afternoon that there was no possibility of legal interference with them. I am not concerned as to whether or not he is a lawyer, nor do I know’ whether he possesses the knowledge that would entitle him to make such an assertion. Usually, I have not much to say about the legal profession. I believe it to be highly trained and highly honoured, and that its members, when asked for an opinion, give it in all honesty and to the best of their belief. The Government has obtained the opinions of eminent counsel in respect’ of certain enactments, and these make interesting reading. Section 51 (xxiii.) provides -
The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for thc peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to -
Invalid and Old-age pensions;
Yet, according to the opinion given by Mr. Maughan, K.C., the validity of invalid and old-age pensions is doubtful. That legislation has been on the statutebook since 1911. Sir Robert Garran, K.C., has stated his opinion that the validity of the maternity allowance is insecure. Mr. Maughan, K.C., and Mr. Barwick, K.C., say that its validity is doubtful; Mr. Ham, K.C., says that it is invalid ; and Dr. Copple, K.C., says that it is probably invalid. Thus five eminent authorities hold the opinion that it is either invalid or that its validity is insecure or doubtful. I state these opinions in- contradistinction to the opinion stated by Senator Mattner, that there is no doubt about the validity of social services that have been enacted by the Government. Following a recent decision of the High Court in the Pharmaceutical Benefits ease, that legislation is deemed to be of doubtful validity, and it is considered necessary to ask the people to give to this Parliament the power to preserve their rights in relation to these social services. Is there anything wrong with that? ‘ “Why should it h<3 said that, the Government is trying to “put something over” the people, when it is asking them to protect themselves against what might happen in the future, should there be a change of government in the Commonwealth Parliament? Sena- ‘ir James McLachlan said that there was nothing .wrong with the maternity allowance, widows’ pensions and child endowment, but inferred that there was something very much wrong with unemployment benefits, sickness and hospital benefits and medical’ and dental services.
– I did not say anything about hospital benefits.
– Then I shall excise that. The honorable senator went on to suggest that there was a “nigger in the wood-pile “ in the Government’s desire, by means of a clouded request to the people, to preserve the maternity allowance, widows’ pensions and child endowment, and that was the nationalization of the medical profession in this country; but he did not quote the additional provision, which reads : “ but not so as to authorize any form of civil conscription “.
– That was inserted by way of amendment. By whom, was that amendment made?
– By the AttorneyGeneral.
– It was made at the. instigation of the Opposition.
– Is there anything wrong with a proposal to provide a free medical service for the* people of Australia? Are we not rendering a valuable service to the people if we can make medical benefits available to them? Such benefits would be of greater value if granted without any means test. I agree with those who say that 60 per cent, of the members of the medical profession would be prepared to work under a scheme of nationalized medical services. Those who would not accept employment under such a. scheme could continue to carry on private practice. If only 40 per cant, of the members of the profession accepted the scheme it. could be effective. There are sound reasons why the electors should vote “ Yes “ in respect of the proposed social services power.
At the 1944 referendum the electors were asked to give to the Commonwealth power to deal with employment and unemployment, but honorable senators opposite and the parties to which they belong fought that proposal, as did many of the newspapers of this country. They persuaded many workers that the granting of that power would lead to industrial conscription. It is probable that the same argument will be advanced on .this occasion, but the people should know that they are asked -to- vote to give power to the Commonwealth over “ terms and conditions of employment in industry, but not’ so as to authorize any form of industrial conscription “. It will be seen, therefore, that the bogy which frightened many electors on a previous occasion and caused the referendum proposals to be rejected, is not likely to be so terrifying on this occasion. Even if this, Parliament were given power to determine wages and conditions in industry, including the fixing of the basic wage, I do not know that it would exercise that power. There is nothing in the proposals before us to say that that duty will devolve on this Parliament if additional powers were given to it. The Minister’s second-reading speech indicated that there was no intention to interfere with the system of conciliation and arbitration. During the war various industrial tribunals were set up, and they did a magnificent job. It may be said that industrial disputes occurred despite the existence of those tribunals. That cannot be denied. Moreover, there will he industrial disputes in the future. It is true, however, that during the war industry ran well, especially when the great number of workers engaged in industry is taken into consideration. The Women’s Employment Board, which was set up during the war, did good work in making determinations which protected women in industry against exploitation by private commercial interests. That tribunal decided that women who were doing the work of men bad to receive a certain proportion of a man’s pay for such work. The board ultimately fixed the pay for women at 90 per cent, of the rates paid to male workers doing the same class of work. Such a state of affairs is not acceptable to those who want to get labour at the cheapest possible rates, and employ women to the detriment of male workers who have family responsibilities. I realize that there will be all sorts of objections to this Parliament having power to prevent the exploitation of women workers and others. I have always stood for arbitration, and I still stand for it, because I believe that it is the best method of maintaining peace in industry. Under the existing law, however, the Arbitration Court cannot deal with a dispute unless it extends beyond the limits of one State. The proposal before us will make it possible for theArbitration Court to deal with industrial matters, regardless of the extent of the trouble. Should workers in an ‘industry desire a determination by the court, they will be able to apply for it without first creating a dispute and extending it into two or more States. When the matter is examined honestly, we must decide that this is a power which is necessary in the state of society under which we live. This Parliament should have power to work in the interests of the majority of the people.
We have been told that there will be considerable opposition to the granting of powers in respect of the organized marketing of primary products, lt has been said that the term “ primary products “ is indefinite, but the bill has been amended and now the definition of “ primary products “ has been extended to include flour and other wheat products ; butter, cheese and other milk products; dried fruit and other fruit products; meat and meat products; and sugar. Had it not been for. the system of organized marketing that operated during the war the primary producers of this country would now be experiencing great difficulties, because a large proportion of their produce could not be exported. There was, in fact, no market for much of it, and so the Government had to come to the assistance of producers. It is difficult to understand any person who claims to represent country interests saying that organized marketing is not in the best interests of producers. Organized marketing does not suit the middle man or those who exploit primary producers and get a “ rake off “ for themselves. However, I am not concerned about them, but for the men who make a living from the land. They are just as much entitled to protection against exploitation as are workers in secondary industries.
– All sorts of specious arguments have been advanced by members opposite, apparently for the purpose of convincing themselves that they ought to oppose the Government’s referendum proposals. The density of their mind is that of lead ; their reasoning is as clear as mud. They have said nothing to convince any ordinary person - let alone an honorable senator - that the proposals of the Government should not be accepted. Indeed, honorable senators opposite have contradicted one another.
– There is a split in the Liberal party.
– They called themselves the’ United Australia, party a little while ago, and now they are Liberals. They have changed their names many times since the time they were known as the “National Ass”. Senator Mattner said that our social service legislation was already on the statutebook, and no one would challenge it. I remind him that acts of parliament have before this been challenged by individuals as in the James case, which had to do with the marketing of dried fruits. The Pharmaceutical Benefits Act was challenged recently and the High Court held some parts of it were ultra-vires the Constitution. Evidently, the honorable senator is a kind of Rip van Winkle. He went to sleep for a time, and has now wakened with no knowledge of what has happened in the meantime. He assumes that he is the only person representing South Australia qualified to present the case of the primary producer. I remind him that others from that State have also had first-hand experience of war-time controls of primary produce.’ He mentioned potatoes, although I cannot quite see what they have to do with the bills before the Senate, except that, during the war, there was in operation. a system of inspection of potatoes. He forgot to tell us why the 100 bags of potatoes which he had were dumped. In point of fact, a contract had been made with the growers ‘in his district to supply for Army purposes potatoes which must be clean and free from disease, so that they would carry. The honorable senator admitted that the potatoes were infected with scab, and that inspectors discovered this. He also said that his produce had been sold in the Adelaide market, where his reputation stood high. What he did not point out was that the ordinary buyer did not know potato scab when he saw it. It affects potatoes in such a way that rot develops some time after they have been taken out of the ground.
– The honorable senator’s knowledge of primary production is probably confined to growing french beans in the back, garden
– My back yard is 10 feet by S feet. I deliberately made it that size so that I would not be bothered with having to look after it, and I guarantee that nobody will grow anything in it. However, I am interested in r>00 acres of land within 17 miles of Adelaide, and on it is grown some of the finest produce to be found anywhere in South Australia. I sometimes go out there on the job myself. For eleven years before that I was on the land in the area from which Senator Mattner comes, so that I have some knowledge of primary production.
Senator Mattner also said that the first plank of the Labour party’s platform was a 40-hour week. He accused the Labour party of having told the people that it would institute a 40-hour week, and then accused us of having moved with leaden feet once we were returned to power. Almost immediately afterwards, Senator James McLachlan said that, after the last referendum, the Labour Government, with superhuman courage, tried to do the very things against which (lie people had voted. This is a strange contradiction in the speeches of the two honorable senators from South Australia. I remind the Senate that this Parliament has no power to legislate for a universal standard of a 40-hour week, and if honorable senators had any knowledge of the Arbitration Court they would know that the court has no power to move in the matter, either. Many attempts have been made by organizations to extend the power of the court, but there is no way of getting around thi; constitutional provision that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court has power to deal with interstate disputes only. It was not the Labour party which brought in the National Security Regulations extending the power of the Arbitration Court. It was the party which, at that time, called itself, I think, the United Australia party. That the defence power was invoked to deal with disputes within the confines of ‘ a State is clear proof that power to deal with them is not vested in the Commonwealth Parliament. The National Security Regulation was brought into force at the instigation of the then Minister for Labour and National Service, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt). On the one hand’, we are charged with having feet, of clay because we fail to do something- on the other hand we are charged for having gone straight ahead. Honorable senators opposite cannot have it both ways. The facts are that immediately following the outbreak of war a member of a government supported by the present Opposition quickly realized that it was necessary to invoke the defence power to deal with disputes of that kind. Hence there is- necessity to alter the law now aud to devise the requisite machinery for dealing with them. Exactly the same principles apply to the basic wage. Some years ago the Piddington Commission was appointed to examine the question and to make recommendations in respect of the basic wage. Mr. Piddington’? recommendation was shelved and it has never been given effect. If this Parliament establishes a commission to inquire into such matters why should it not have power to implement the commission’s findings? The power of the Arbitration Court to intervene in industrial disputes is limited to such disputes as extend beyond the confines of one State. “Not so long ago the Shop” Assistants Union tried to get a federal award, but the Arbitration Court held the view that as there was no dispute extending to two or more States it could not adjudicate in the matter or make an award. Some provision- should be made which would compel the Arbitration Court to adjudicate in any- matter submitted to it. irrespective of whether it. has interstate -or intra-state ramifications. Furthermore, the court should not waste weeks and months before it- hears the case. In South Australia an industrial code is in operation. All that has to be done there in the case of an -impending dispute is to notify the judge, and the case is immediately called before the court. “When a matter is brought before the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration it is necessary to go -through all sorts of formalities, to distribute sworn statements that cost hundreds of pounds, and to issue summonses - a very lengthy process - before the court will move. It .should be the responsibility of the court itself to handle these formalities. I am aware that some o.f these difficulties -can be overcome by amending the act under which the court operates. I trust that that will be done in the near future, and “that it will be extended to cover wider aspects of conciliation than can be handled at present. At present a conciliation commissioner can act only within the powers delegated . to him by the court. He cannot settle a dispute, but has to report back to the court. The Commonwealth Parliament should be clothed with power to estab- 1ish the requisite machinery to enable the Arbitration Court to handle all disputes.
– Every State has its own industrial legislation.
– It is all very well for the honorable senator to suggest that these matters can be dealt with by the State tribunals. I remind him that the powers of the State Arbitration Courts are strictly limited to the adjudication of matters arising within the borders of the State. Disputes which extend the dislocation of industry beyond the confines of one State, but which, in th’emselves are confined within the border of one State can be dealt with at present under the defence power, but that power will be forfeited upon the repeal of the National Security Regulations.
– Industries in Queensland and Western Australia work almost exclusively under State awards.
– If people desire to use State tribunals there would be nothing to prevent them from continuing to do so if this proposed amendment of the Constitution be agreed to. However, as they have no jurisdiction outside the borders of their own States, they could not give a determination on the. “hours question which would have application beyond their own state, neither could they establish a uniform basic wage. Under the system which prevails to-day varying basic rates of pay are fixed in different States and for different parts of States. A number of basic wage determinations, both State and Federal, have been made. They apply, however, only to those who have the good fortune to bc working under a court award or order. Many people are under the mistaken impression that every adult is entitled to the basic wage. That is not so. Thousand’s of people in Australia over the agc of- 21 years do not get the basic wage.
– The hours of employment should be regulated having regard to the special conditions of a particular industry.
– I agree. That is recognized by the courts to-day, but no uniform standard has been established throughout Australia. The court has said that in industry generally the working week shall be of 44 hours. But many industries are not on a 44-hour week. For instance, the Commonwealth Public Service, which operates under an award of the Commonwealth Public Service Arbitrator, works only a 36fhour week. In some industries working under federal awards the working week is 40 hours and’ in others 42 hours. All waterside workers throughout Australia engaged on casual work are paid on the basis of a 40-hour week. Special industries and special circumstances are recognized by the award of special hours conditions.
– Tha.t seems to be an equitable way of dealing with the problem.
– That is so, but we wish to reach those people who do not come within the jurisdiction of a court; we must be given power to deal with them. I am amazed at the philosophy expressed by honorable senators opposite. They say that they would do this, that, or the other thing, or that they are prepared to do it, but when they were in office they did nothing. When we - this terrible Labour Government - suggest doing something they become suspicious of our motives. The only character in fiction to which I can liken them is Shylock. Senator James McLachlan says,’ “ Let us be honest and state what we mean by these social services “. The Labour party believes in the stabilization of the. economy of this country so that the needy shall get a better deal. We have placed some social services on the statue-book, and others are to follow, but, the maintenance of the existing services and provision of the projected service depend on whether the people authorize them at the referendum. The policy of this Government is that social security shall be available to the people from the cradle to the grave. The maternity allowances are payable to mothers before and after the birth of their children. First children are taken into consideration in the assessment of the basic wage, and subsequent children qualify for child endowment. Senator James McLachlan took umbrage at the Labour party for not having given credit to the Menzies Government for having instituted child endowment. It did not institute child endowment because it believed in it, but because, in 1934, the Arbitration Court adjourned the basic wage case to give the then Government the opportunity to decide whether it would not be cheaper to pay child endowment than force industry to pay a higher basic wage than the judges of the Arbitration Court thought the workers would otherwise be entitled to. Child endowment was introduced as a charge on the people in order to relieve the captains of industry of the burden of a higher basic wage. In those circumstances honorable senators opposite are welcome to all credit they feel entitled to for having instituted ‘ child endowment. The child endowment paid under the Menzies Government’s legislation was insufficient, but the people had to wait until Labour gained office before, the rate was increased. Child endowment is paid in respect of the second child and subsequent children until they reach the age of sixteen years, when, on taking employment, they come under the industrial laws. Then, under the unemployment benefit scheme, they are entitled to financial assistance to tide them over periods between jobs, and the assistance given is handsome compared with the miserable dole of 4s. lOd. a week that the Government of South Australia paid to the workless during the depression. Sickness benefits are provided for those who become ill. The hospital benefits scheme provides- for the payment by the Commonwealth Government to hospitals of a, subvention of 6s. a day in respect of each occupied bed in public wards. People in public wards are entitled to free hospital and free medical treatment. We have never” had that in South Australia or in any other State, not even Queensland, which for years has had a magnificent hospitals scheme in operation. If a man is so incapacitated as not to be able to work he is entitled to the invalid pension. At 65 years of age he qualifies for the old-age pension. We propose to ask the people to consent to an alteration of the Constitution to enable the Government to legislate for the continuance of these services and for the other purposes that it has in mind. It is on those “ other purposes “ that the Opposition joins issue with us. Senator James McLachlan declares that the Labour party wants to nationalize medical services and that the Liberal party does not believe in nationalization at all. But, in Adelaide the Liberal Premier of South Australia called a special session of the Parliament 1 of South Australia to pass legislation nationalizing electricity services which hitherto have been in the hands of a private monopoly and those services were nationalized yesterday. He quarrelled, with the combine that held the electricity franchise, and with the aid of the Labour party fought it to the finish. Yet the honorable senator brands the Labour party as the “nationalization policy party which intends to nationalize the medical profession”. Good heavens! fu every State of Australia and in many other countries medical men work as the salaried servants of governments. In all Australian public hospitals there are salaried doctors. All the Government intends to do is to extend the principle of a salaried medical service. There is nothing wrong with that. We want; to ensure that, men and women and children shall seek medical advice when they need it, hoping that that will result in detection of illness before it reaches the serious stage at which hospital treatment becomes necessary. We also want to ensure easier access to medical advice for people in remote areas. That will lead to a much healthier community than we have. Yet the honorable senator expostulates. “ Tell the truth. You want to nationalize the medical services “. So we do. He also .=aid, “ You want to nationalize dental practitioners “. Of course we do. In every State of the Commonwealth there are dental clinics at which aspiring dental practitioners receive practical training after having gained theoretical knowledge at a university.
They are taught by salaried servants of the State among whom are some of the finest men in the dental procession. They are nationalized. Some of the finest educationists in the dental profession are paid by the State governments, and they do not practise privately. All that the Commonwealth Government now has in mind is to extend systems of that kind. Honorable senators opposite say that the Commonwealth can achieve that purpose in collaboration with the States. Three or four of the States passed legislation in co-operation with the Commonwealth in respect of the fourteen points submitted at the last referendum, but that does not prevent, the Commonwealth from seeking means to extend similar benefits to those States which were prevented from doing so because of the opposition of the upper houses, which are elected on a privileged franchise. The people whom the majority in the upper house in some States represent are content to exploit sickness and illness in the community. As I have said, the Commonwealth must not be frustrated by these Shylocks in its endeavour to extend social services to all States. Honorable senators opposite say that the Government wants to nationalize doctors, dentists and chemists. I repeat that the Government’s intention is to widen existing social services.
– Surely, the honorable senator does not deny that.
– I am dealing with the statements of honorable senators opposite. Surely, the honorable senator and his colleagues mean what they say. Do they want us to believe that they are just talking in tarradiddles ?
– The members of the medical and dental professions arc honest men, and the honorable senator should not talk about them in that way.
– When the truth is driven home to honorable senators opposite, they squeal like stuck pigs. I now turn to the Government’s proposal with respect to industrial employment. Honorable senators opposite, again speaking with their tongues in their cheeks, argue that the “National Parliament, if granted the power sought under this head, would not. have the time, or ability, to regulate wages and. conditions in industry. “No one suggests that the Parliament itself will attend to matters of that kind. Granted the power sought, it will be able to set up a tribunal and delegate those powers to it. However, the Commonwealth does not now possess that power under the Constitution. I can see no reason in the world why it should, not be given that power. During the war, the Commonwealth delegated powers in respect of the organized marketing of primary products to boards. This Government has established growercontrol of primary industries by appointing to boards representatives of the growers. Under that system it has handed ‘ over control of industries to the producers. Despite all the talk of honorable senators opposite, even at the last election, of their intentions to give to primary producers control of their industries, it has remained for this Government to institute that system. The Australian Country party, which was founded as a militant organization in order to throw off the shackles of the so-called nationalist organization, failed to institute such reforms in the interests of the producers. Under the present system, the producers will keep their fingers on the pulse of their particular industry, with the Commonwealth backing them up financially, and through governmental agencies helping each industry to expand its markets and to give back to the producer the proceeds of his labour less only the actual cost of marketing his product. No previous Government has applied that ‘ policy. Surely, then, there is nothing wrong, or dishonest, in the Government’s request that the Commonwealth be allowed to retain in peace powers to establish organized marketing of primary products which it exercised under its defence power during the war with such beneficial results to primary producers. After all, “ the proof of the pudding is in the eating”. Even Senator James McLachlan ‘admits that the primary producers have never been better off than they are to-day. Therefore, there can be’ nothing wrong in enabling the Commonwealth to continue to exercise in peace the power whereby it inaugurated its war-time marketing schemes.
Honorable senators opposite have alleged that the Government, since the people rejected its proposals at the last referendum, has acted in defiance of the people’s decision. “We were told by bush lawyers in both branches of the Legislature that the Commonwealth, under Section 81 of the Constitution, possessed the powers it now seeks - the appropriation power - that was the argument advanced by Senator Mattner, who said that it was generally ‘ supposed that under the appropriation power, the Commonwealth could achieve all of the objectives embodied in the Government’s present proposals without altering the Constitution. When the view of the bush lawyers was backed up to some degree by the opinion of eminent counsel, the Government acted on the assumption that it possessed such powers ; and that was the position until that view was exploded by a recent decision of the High Court which gave rise to doubts a? to the validity of existing social ser- vice benefits with the exception of invalid and old-age pensions, which are specifically provided for in the Constitution. The Government now simply seeks’ to resolve those doubts by asking for definite power to enable it to continue existing social service benefits. That’ is the explanation of the legislation which the Government has passed since the last referendum. Therefore, I hope that we shall hear no more implications concerning the honesty of the Government inpassing that legislation. I deprecate any attempt on the part of any honorablesenator to question the honesty of Government supporters.
– The honorablesenator has not hesitated to question the honesty of honorable senators on this side.
– I havenever questioned the honesty of honorable senators opposite. They express opinions different from those which I hold but, if they believe in those opinions, they have the right to state them. No- honorable senator has the right to challenge the honesty of an honorable senator who expresses an opinion with which he does not agree.
– The honorable senator has been doing that all night.
– I deprecate this continual challenging of the honesty and integrity of an individual because he holds an opinion different from that -of another individual. I give everybody credit for honestly believing what he advocates, although I may point out inconsistencies in statements. However, that does not alter the fact that at no time should the honesty of honorable senators of this side of the chamber be challenged because they support particular legislation. I shall support the second reading of this bill.
– ‘Senator O’Flaherty accused honorable senators on this side of the chamber of being suspicious of any legislation introduced by the Government. As a matter of fact, we need not be suspicious, because the real intention of the Government in seeking constitutional reform has been confessed. The cat was let out of the bag in the House of Representatives recently. The Government intends that the Parliament shall have the’ power, to fix wages and working conditions. If that occurred, one political party in an election campaign would endeavour to outbid its opponent, and that would be most unedifying and dangerous. The Government’s three proposals for alleged reform of the Constitution are blatantly and unashamedly submitted for political purposes. That fact cannot be denied. The proposal with respect to social services is designed to persuade the gullible and credulous that unless they cast an affirmative vote, the validity of child -endowment, widows’ pensions and maternity allowances may be “successfully challenged. But maternity allowances have been paid since 19.12, and have never been challenged. Nor are they likely to be challenged. The Labour party also declares that unless a majority of the people vote for these proposals at the referendum, they will be denied all the blessings of nationalized dentistry, mealcine, pills and potions. In 194.4 the
Government submitted to the people seventeen proposals for constitutional reform. As we know, the Labour party told the same story then as they are telling now. The Government commenced its campaign by attempting to scare the people, declaring that1 if these powers were not granted to the Commonwealth, it would be impossible to rehabilitate exservice men and women. Of course, those statements were utter nonsense. The proposals were submitted to the people in globo instead of seriatim, a. stupid and undemocratic procedure, and they were soundly defeated. However, it is interesting to examine the reason why some of those proposals have now been abandoned. Lest honorable senators opposite have forgotten, I shall refresh their memories.
In 1944, the. Government sought power to legislate in respect of matters relating to the re-instatement and advancement of members of the forces, employment and un-employment, the organized marketing of commodities, companies, trusts, combines and monopolies, profiteering and prices, the production and distribution of goods, control of overseas exchange and overseas investments, air transport, standardization of railway gauges, national works, national health, family allowances and people of the aboriginal race. To those fourteen subjects, three were later added. Our old friends, trusts combines and monopolies has disappeared; the Government is no longer concerned with it. It is extraordinary that so many of those proposals which the Government emphasized at the time were vital for the reestablishment of the country after the war, have now shrunk to three. The Constitution Alteration (Industrial Employment) Bil! is designed to alter the Constitution so as to enable the Parliament to determine wages and working conditions. In other words, the Parliament would fix the basic wage and reduce hours of labour to 40, 36 or 30 a week, as the spirit of, the Labour party moved it. Any denial that that is the intention, is nonsense, because a member of the House of Representatives and a Minister let the cat out of the bag. The Royal Commission on the Constitution in 1929 dealt with the matter of industrial ‘powers, and the claim that the
Parliament should fix hours and conditions of employment. The commission declared -
We do not think that it would he for the good of Australia that the Commonwealth Parliament should be occupied with industrial questions or that federal elections should turn on industrial issues.
That view is absolutely sound. Regardless of the merits or demerits of an issue at an election, the majority of the people would probably vote for the political party which outbid the other in the matter of wages and working conditions. That would stultify the work of the conciliation and arbitration courts. A majority of the people desire to continue the arbitration system, and a majority of unionists desire it to be preserved. But arbitration is jeopardized for two reasons. First, the Government has signally failed in the past four years to enforce the law in respect of arbitration. Trade unionists, who desire arbitration, have failed to resist other trade unionists who are opposed to it. That failure has affected adversely morale, and the Government must accept the blame, because it has positive power and equally a positive duty to uphold the law. In many instances, that has not been done. The report of the Royal Commission on the Constitution, though made in 1929, contains many matters which are still worthy of study and reflection.
Another proposal of the Government for alleged reform of the Constitution relates to our old friend, “ organized marketing”., Twenty years ago, it was called “ orderly marketing “. Under this proposal, the Government will-stultify section 92 of the Constitution.
– How does the honorable senator know that?
– On reading the bill, there is no escape from it. It is worth remembering why that section was embodied in the Constitution. Prior to federation, the six States acted towards one another more or less like foreign countries. When we passed from New South Wales to Victoria, we saw a Customs House at Wodonga, and others were established on the borders of other States. Tasmania, like the other States, had its own tariff. That is why the Constitution provides in section 92 that “ on the imposition of uniform duties of customs, trade, commerce and intercourse among the States, whether by means of internal carriage or ocean navigation, should be absolutely free “. When proposals to circumvent that provision, have been submitted to the people, they have been defeated. I have no doubt that when the present proposal, which is designed to hamstring section 92, is referred to the electors, it will meet with the fate which it deserves. On many occasions eminent lawyers, such as the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Mr. Menzies), have been sent to the Privy Council to ask what section 92 means, and the law lords have said that it means just what it says and nothing else. Nobody objects to the organized marketing of primary products or to orderly marketing of. any kind, but trade and commerce between the States must be unrestricted. That is one of the reasons why I object to the proposal with respect to organized marketing.
If the Constitution needs alteration a specially elected representative convention should be held to review its operation and to draft desirable amendments. This is what that great Australian, the late Sir Henry Parkes, had to say regarding alterations of the Constitution -
There, is nothing to prevent the election of ti federal concourse, representing all the colonies and the whole people. Let it never be forgotten that it is not the approval of the few men wlm form the Parliament of to-day, ‘ but the ratification by the people who constitute the nation, either through their representatives, or by their direct voice, which is required. Tt will never do to allow the destiny of Australia, to be made the sport of paltering politicians, who are here to-day and gone to-morrow.
The proper way to deal with these proposals would be to hold a convention, and, after its recommendations had been submitted, we could consider them and invite the people, by referendum, to transfer any necessary additional powers to this Parliament. We have had many debates on proposals which have been submitted to the people for alterations of the Constitution, but I have always thought that that was a great mistake. In the hurlyburly of politics, and with the present political set-up, we have not sufficient time for quiet study of constitutional problems, and, because of that fact, we have had the spectacle which has been presented in this chamber to-night. At the last referendum, fourteen proposals for the alleged reform of the Constitution were considered by the people. I am glad that on this occasion common sense has been shown, and that the people will have an opportunity to vote on the three issues separately, but the proposals are blatantly and unashamedly party political. The object is undoubtedly to get around a difficul tv which confronts the Government, so that the Parliament itself shall have power to regulate hours of employment and other conditions in industry. That. is a great mistake, because at election time success, in all probability, would go to the highest bidder. That would ultimately bring ruin and misery to the people of Australia.
– Listening to honorable senators opposite, one would think that the proposals for the granting of increased powers to this Parliament had already received the assent of the people, and that the Senate was now debating the wisdom of a specific action taken under the new powers. Unfortunately, that is not the position. “We are now called upon to consider whether it is advisable to give to the people an opportunity to transfer to this Parliament certain powers which it does not now possess. I regret very much that Senator Sampson, did not comply with my request to intimate to the Senate the date on which, and the place where, Sir Henry Parkes, one of the men who took part in the early struggles for the creation of the Commonwealth, gave utterance to the words that he read. I am not doubting for one moment that Sir Henry Parkes expressed himself in that way; because the struggle to establish federation was a very long one indeed, and eventually the Constitution as we know it was framed as the result of compromise, and. was designed to meet the varying situations that were likely to develop over the long years which preceded the establishment of the Commonwealth. It has been argued that a constitutional convention is advisable to deal with the various problems with which we are confronted, and that it would then be easy to obtain additional powers for this Parliament. Unfortunately, a convention that met for that purpose within recent years did not prove successful. Senator Sampson took part in a convention several years ago, when the great problem of the rehabilitation of this country as the result of its experiences during the war was under consideration. After due consideration, that convention decided that certain powers should be surrendered to this Parliament. Unfortunately, however, some of the men who had taken part in it repudiated the decisions to which they had been a party, and when the time came to implement them they played the political game and confused the issue. Because of the extreme reluctance of the people of Australia to clothe this Parliament with additional powers; a body of some sort should be set up to popularize the functions and powers of this National Legislature. Prior to the establishment of federation, and long before the conferences that were held in the fifties and sixties of last century, representative men in the colonies, as they were then known, met from time to time and considered the possibility of being able some day to induce the people to come together as a nation. The clamour for separation in New South Wales, and Victoria had hardly died down when great men realized the position which this country would occupy in the future, and suggested that the people should set about the framing of a Commonwealth Constitution. After much propaganda, conferences clothed with real power to formulate proposals for submission to the people were elected. Most of the representatives came from the colonial Parliaments of the day. If one reads the reports of those conferences, one can visualize the fears that were uppermost in the minds of those men. One great federalist of whom we have a good deal of knowledge, Henry Bournes Higgins, became a very distinguished’ justice of the High Court and the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court. After the convention had reached a definite decision, he felt impelled to go on the hustings and urge the people to reject the proposals that were placed before them for adoption. One of the chief reasons which caused this great man to oppose the adoption of the Constitution under which we are working to-day was the difficulty which he foresaw of amending it to meet changing circumstances. He drew attention to the existence of this chamber, which he considered would be one of the main obstacles in the path of development. That belief was engendered by the method provided for the election of representatives to the Senate. In order to appease State-righters, it was agreed that each State should have equal representation in this chamber, which was to become the custodian of State rights and was to resist any development that might be talcing place. Henry Bournes Higgins opposed it because of the possibility of the election of men who would lack vision and would be parochial in their minds and their outlook; men who, in order to serve some unimportant purpose; would fail to appreciate the destiny which those espousing the cause of . federation visualized for Australia in the future. I can live with. Henry Bournes Higgins to-night, in the- remarks of honorable senators opposite. “Not one constructive suggestion has been made, and not one reason given as to why this National Parliament should not be clothed with additional powers. Honorable senators opposite, and honorable members in Opposition mm the House of Representatives have conjured up in their minds some piece of legislation which they imagine would inflict untold harm on some people, instead of dealing with the matter in a proper way. Will any honorable senator opposite say that the National Parliament of a country should not be clothed with the power to deal fully with a matter such as social services? Would he deny to the National Parliament the right to enact laws applicable to the citizens of a nation? Where .would the Parliament of the United Kingdom be if it had to depute te Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, or England certain powers to deal with social problems?
– It has ito constitution.
– That is so. The ‘ tragedy in Australia is that development is retarded because of the existence of a written Constitution. Is the Commonwealth something. . unreal ; are the electors and the members of this Parliament phantom people, or real, living Australians; is this Parliament a live Australian institution, or have we to assume a dual personality, being different persons when we go to our respective States from what we are when we are here? The answer is obvious; we remain Australians all the time, lt is to this National Parliament that the people look to carry out those activities that are necessary in the interests of the nation. Why are we asking the electors to alter the’ Constitution to give greater powers to this Parliament? We do so simply because the instrumentality which interprets the Constitution has come to a decision which, instead of adding to the powers of the Commonwealth Parliament, as it did with respect to uniform taxation, has suggested that, in some instances, the Parliament has exceeded its powers. That decision has brought home to us that certain other legislation which this Parliament has passed was probably not within its power to place on the statutebook. The decision in the Pharmaceutical Benefits case is a warning that other acts which we thought we had the right to pass may also be invalid. In such circumstances, are we not justified in going to the people and asking them to enlarge the powers of this Parliament? Surely honorable senators believe that it is our duty to do that. If this Parliament can legislate to grant to the people of Australia invalid pensions, why should it not also have the power to take steps to reduce to the minimum the number of applicants for such pensions.? Should not this Parliament, which has the power to provide for a man when sickness overtakes him, not have the power to take action to prevent sickness? Should it not have the power to take action to prevent disease from spreading? Would honorable senators say that thisParliament should close down the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories becausethe Commonwealth should not engage in activities of that kind ? In view of the decision of the High . Court in thePharmaceutical Benefits case, it is doubtful “whether this Parliament has thepower to continue those laboratories. When we analyse the arguments of honorable senators opposite, they fall to theground. This National Parliament should: be clothed with power to do the things that I have mentioned, but because honorable senators opposite fear that the medical profession will be nationalized they oppose the grant of that power. For fear of something that they do not like they will not take the power to bring in good legislation.
– The people have denied additional powers to this Parliament.
– They were misled, just as Henry Bournes Higgins foresaw they would be misled. What is wrong with doctors being employed by the State to prevent disease? The State employs other professional men such as lawyers. Whilst some professional men set up in private practice, others elect ro serve the community as public servants. Many great decisions are made by such men. All acts of Parliament are drafted by lawyers in the Public Service. Why cannot a similar state of affairs exist in connexion with the medical profession? Why .should not doctors be prepared to serve the’ people on a salaried basis?
– Some do so now.
– Of course they do. Therefore, why do honorable senators opposite imagine that the granting nf the powers sought would be a calamity? I am amazed at the paltry arguments of honorable senators opposite.’ I f they go to Tasmania they will find a national scheme of medical services in operation. When I was in Tasmania some time aco, as a member of a special committee investigating ‘social services, r heard nothing but praise of the scheme from doctors who were serving the State on a salaried basis. Moreover, the people, of Tasmania were very satisfied with the service that was being rendered by doctors employed by the State.
– Let the other States do likewise.
– Yes, but if they will not, it is our duty to step in and see that the people, receive justice. We should, take a broad national view of this matter, not a petty parochial view such as is taken by honorable senators opposite. If they believe that Australia is a nation, and that this is the National Parliament, they should support proposals for increasing the power of the Parliament. It has been suggested that the States might surrender certain powers to the Commonwealth, but our experience in this regard has not been happy. Senator Sampson and Senator Hays ought to know better than to make such a .suggestion, because there has been a recent instance in their State of the Upper House of the legislature refusing to continue certain price controls, thus throwing the whole .economy of the State out of gear. I understand that the Legislative Council df the Parliament of Tasmania consists of eighteen men, elected on a restricted franchise’; yet they are able to thwart the wishes of the Lower House which is elected on an adult franchise.
– Who put the members of the Upper House there?
– ‘Certainly not the people. As a matter of fact, they put themselves there, because of the restricted nature of the franchise. The position is much the same in Victoria. A man cannot offer himself as a candidate in Victoria for the Upper House unless he possesses real property of a stipulated value. He might own £100,000 in cash, but that would not serve ; he must own bricks and mortar to a certain value, and the property must be unencumbered. In New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia, there are Upper Houses which are denying reforms demanded by the people. While such institutions exist, how is it possible to leave to the States the task of improving the Constitution by referring powers to the Commonwealth Parliament? Honorable senators opposite are, in fact, imitating Nero, who fiddled while Rome burned. They are prepared to wait until the States do something about orderly marketing. I expected that those honorable senators who claim to represent the primary producers would want the National Parliament to have power hi time of peace to do some of the things which it was able to do in time of war under the National Security Act. During the early part of the war, hardly a week went by without representations being made to the Commonwealth .Government by some section of primary producers for a guaranteed price for this commodity or that. They did not go to the State Parliaments, because they knew that only the
National Parliament could do on a national scale what they wanted. They realized that it would be of no use for Victoria to fix one price for a commodity and for New South Wales to fix another. The wheat-growers asked for a guaranteed price. Some wanted 5s. a bushel, while others wanted 6s. ‘There was argument about the price, and the price fixed might have been fair or unfair, but the fact remains that the growers came, to the National Parliament for help, because this was the only Parliament which could give it to them. I am convinced that the primary producers want the Commonwealth Parliament to have power to help them in time of peace as it did during the war. It is ali very well to argue that during the next year or two prices will bc high, and that we can do without controls and marketing boards. Senator McLachlan cited figures to show that primary industries were in a flourishing condition after the last war. He was trying to counter the statement that, a3 a result of orderly marketing, the bank balances of primary producers have increased ; that many of them have paid off their overdrafts, “and that the deposits in State and Commonwealth savings banks, particularly in rural areas, are greater than before. No one denies that times were good after the last war. No one denies that there is a demand now for our primary products, a demand which might continue for five or six years. When 1. was abroad, I attended a meeting of the London Food Council, and heard the representative of South Africa say that the position was worse then than it was during the war - that, in fact, millions of people would die of starvation. Requests for help have been received even from parts of the British Empire. We know that food is scarce now, but that will not always be so. When production i.-: organized, when fertilizers are available, and transport facilities are restored, the need will arise once again for orderly marketing. When that time comes honorable senators opposite will regret, that the Commonwealth Parliament has not the power to legislate to ‘provide for orderly marketing. Would the wool-growers of this country’ be in such a good position to-day but for the powers exercised by the
Government on their behalf during the wa r ?
– The British Government bought their wool.
– That is so, but from an organization established by this Parliament.
– There was no organization ; the wool was bought under an agreement.
– What is more important from the point of view of the wool-growers is that the money paid by the British Government for Australian wool went into the pockets of the woo! growers, and not into those of the middle-men who fleece the growers. The same kind of arrangement was made in respect of wheat, thus circumventing the John Darlings and the Dreyfuses who would have bought it at a low price, telling the wheat-growers it was of no use their growling because there were no ships to carry it away, and no markets here to absorb it, and that it was only out of the goodness of their hearts that they purchased it - and then, would have quietly stacked it away waiting for prices to rise, when they, would become rich at the farmer’s expense.
– The wool-brokers got as much from the woolgrowers as they did at any time prior to the war.
– The wool brokers were unable to exploit the growers as they would have done but for the organization established by this Parliament. I am surprised at the extraordinary lack “of logic displayed by the honorable senator. When he discusses matters that affect his own State he usually argues logically and rationally, but when the Government brings down a bill which does not affect very greatly the State which he represents, instead of expressing the sentiments which we all know he holds deep in his heart, he espouses the cause of those who stand behind the parties represented by honorable senators opposite. I was hopeful that be would express his true self in debating these measures and in a democratic way deal with them from the broader national viewpoint. During the debates on these bills in the Senate and in the House of Representatives, we have had an illustration of the awful fear in the minds of the Opposition that if this Parliament is given power to deal with industrial conditions, all sorts of dire consequences might result. The Parliament is the last place to which workers should appeal for the eradication of their grievances ; it would be the most inefficient institution to deal with the fixation of wages and the conditions of employment. Some time ago the Victorian Government told the Victorian Railways Union, with which I was associated for many years, that railway men could not have access to the Arbitration Court. The union appealed against this decision and sent a very young legal luminary, no less a personage than the present Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives, Mr. Menzies, to argue the ease on behalf of its members before the Privy Council. The learned gentleman, by the exercise of his ability, was able to get from the Privy ‘Council a decision in favour of the union. The opinion was once held by the High Court of Australia - that wonderful institution which is held in such high regard by honorable senators opposite - that it was ultra vires the Constitution for employees of State instrumentalities to approach the Arbitration Court. Subsequently, with a change in the personnel of the Bench, that decision was reversed. Perhaps, in order to allay the suspicions of honorable senators opposite, I should point out that the new appointees to the court were not Labour supporters, nor were they appointed by a Labour Government. “No Labour Government was in office at that time. During the discussion of the Judiciary Bill I was surprised to hear honorable senators make the unworthy suggestion that if the proposals contained in that bill we’re agreed to, the Government would make a political appointment to the High Court. Whilst I agree that no . Parliament can effectively legislate in respect of conditions of employment iri industry, at least this Parliament should have the right to establish certain rules which should operate in the determination of wages and condition.;, and to lay down the framework within which the Arbitration Court should work. We should give the court power to make decisions in respect of certain matters just as we vest in the civil courts authority to interpret laws passed by this Parliament, The court should be given a new charter. Having done that we would not interfere in any way with its decisions. Many years ago when industrial turmoil was rife a peace tribunal was established but it was found subsequently to lack authority to settle disputes and bring about peace in industry. If this Parliament were granted the necessary authority it could establish such a tribunal and clothe it with sufficient power to solve the problems which are causing industrial unrest throughout the country. Our friends opposite, deploring the industrial unrest of to-day, are anxious . that the workers shall toil to their very utmost, but they would deny this Parliament the power to establish the necessary tribunals to ensure that the wheels of industry shall run smoothly. During the war, this Government in its armament factories provided amenities never previously enjoyed by workers. Private employers have seen the light and are following the Government’s example.
– Honorable gentlemen opposite regard that as pampering the workers.
– In the. “good old days “ tha.t is how it would have been regarded ; but, all over the world, captains of industry are- realizing that the worker is at least a valuable animal, and that unless he applies himself to industry their profits must cease. So they are anxious to encourage him. Wherever one goes one reads in the press that our salvation lies in production and more production. We have heard that said often enough in this chamber. So that the workers, who do the producing, shall apply their skilled labour to the task, industrialists are vying with each other in providing conditions that will induce the workers to give of their best. Contrast that with the conditions that obtained not so very long ago. It is only a little while since I, as an official of an industrial union, often had to undergo the unpleasant experience of appearing before disciplinary tribunals in order to protect the interests of fellow unionists threatened with penalties for having put the billy on to boil in order to make a cup of tea at 9 a.m., notwithstanding that they had had to leave their homes at 5 or 6 a.m. in order to be ready to start work when the boss’s whistle blew at 7.30 a.m. They were supposed to work till midday without refreshment.
– When was that?
– Within the last six years, till just before the war.
– Why not deal with present-day conditions?
– Six years ago is nearenough to to-day. It was an offence in the Victorian railways to light a fire and boil the billy outside the authorized hours, and some men were fined for having done so. Some foremen, in the interests of the Railway Commissioners, seeing a fire alight with a billy of water boiling on it, would stand and watch until the billy boiled dry and the solder melted, thereby preventing the unfortunate workers from enjoying the snack that would have enabled them to work harder. To-day the men are entitled to a short spell for refreshments.
– That is a good thing.
SenatorSHEEHAN. - Yes.
– Well, why complain?
– I would regard the honorable senator as a model employer, but he is not associated with the Chamber of Manufactures or the Employers Federation. He is a humane person. But what of the employers that demand the last ounce of sweat from their employees? It is only right that this Parliament, which is entrusted with the affairs of the nation, should have the power to set up industrial tribunals. It should not remain hamstrung as it has been over the years since federation. I look forward keenly to the day when this constitutional obstacle will have been removed. I am confident that the people will wholeheartedly endorse the decision that the Senate is about to make in favour of these proposed Constitution alterations. It is to be hoped that honorable senators opposite, instead of voting merely as the representatives of the employers or as “State righters”, will vote as Australians with the realization that, with the passage of time and the growth of the Australian population, this Parliament must have wider functions, and will need greater power to carry out those functions. I shall have no objection, once this Parliament is clothed with the power that it should have as a national assembly, to the Opposition’s disputing with us the details of the legislation that we shall introduce. But it should at least agree to give the National Parliament the authority to fulfil the mission set for it by the founders of the Commonwealth. The debate has reminded rueof the conversation between Cassius and Brutus over the. bleeding corpse of Cæssar, when, in Shakespeare’s immortal words, Cassius asked -
How many ages hence
Shall this our lofty scene be acted o’er
In States unborn and. accents yet unknown? with Brutus replying -
Mow many times shall Cæsar bleed in sport?
It appears to me that honorable senators opposite have shown by their demeanour to-night that they want this great nation to bleed in the sport of party politics. I ask them, as men who have been sent into this Parliament to carry on the task started by great Australians who once graced its benches, to realize that they have the duty of helping to maintain the progress and development of the Australiannation. Those men went as far as they could, bearing in mind the doubts existing among various sections of the community in their day. They believed that this Constitution of . compromise was something that would be accepted. They said at the conventions, “ Let us have this compromise rather than fail. Let us create this Constitution, and leave to those who come after us the task of building the superstructure upon this foundation”. Therefore, Iappeal to honorable senators opposite not to be wreckers and destroyers, but to co-operate with the Government and support wholeheartedly the granting of these powers to this Parliament in order to build a constitutional superstructure of which future generations will be proud.
– As the Senate has now been sitting for over twelve hours, one is not . in the humour to spend much time in debating these measures. As it is intended to sit into the small hours of the morning, and as many other honorable senators wish to speak, I shall not delay the Senate unnecessarily. Listening to honorable senators opposite, one would be led to believe that the Constitution has caused this country to stagnate. Let us pause, and review the development of this continent. We naturally tend’ to form opinions upon i he basis of comparison. On that basis, honorable senators opposite will pay tribute to our pioneers. Relatively, Australia has made greater progress than any other country in spite of greater difficulties. The development of this continent by a mere handful of people is an example to the rest of the world. Do we fully realize the immensity of that achievement ? Even to-day our population is only ‘7,000,000, but we have developed huge territories and constructed thousands of miles of railways; and. by much of our legislation, we have set an example to older countries, particularly in respect of the social services now enjoyed by our people. Those facts give the lie to allegations that past governments, which were politically akin to the party to which honorable senators on this side belong, held up the development of this continent. Listening to honorable senators opposite one would be led to believe that some designing hand has hindered the progress of this country, whereas the fact is that previous governments have done tremendous work in developing this continent. We should now endeavour collectively to carry on that work, and hand on this valuable heritage to posterity, instead of .complaining that past governments have retarded the progress of Australia. The achievements of our people have been so great that he who runs may read the story of . our growth to nationhood; and that story reflects credit upon every one who has played a part in it. But honorable senators opposite, instead of paying just tribute to those who have gone before us. now play the role of “ dismal Jimmies “,
complaining that the development of the country has been retarded by previous governments. Let us have a look at the history of this country. The colonies by a process of evolution united in a federation. How was federation brought about? The Australian colonies for all practical purposes were separate countries. However, after many conferences, the leaders of the different States agreed upon a federal constitution under which defined powers were given to the Commonwealth. Although those powers were limited, they have not retarded development during the last 46 years.
– Does the honor- able senator wish to retain the Constitution, without alteration, for ever?
– No; but no one can complain that the development of Australia has been hindered because of the Constitution. When the National Parliament seeks additional powers, whence will it obtain them ? They already repose with the States. No alteration of the Constitution involves the creation of a new power, but only the transfer of some power from the States to the Commonwealth. Therefore, when the National Parliament seeks additional powers, it asks the States, in effect, to concede those powers to it.’ If honorable senators opposite are true -democrats, they will not complain if the people refuse to grant additional powers to the National Parliament, because such refusal does no injustice to the National Parliament. Numerous referendums have been held since the inception of federation. However, when previous non-Labour governments asked the people to grant additional powers to the National Parliament, Senator Sheehan and his colleagues opposed such proposals. . When Mr. Bruce was Prime Minister and Mr. Charlton Leader of the Opposition, they compromised upon proposals which were submitted to a referendum at that time. Mr. Charlton agreed to ‘ support’ those proposals. But what happened ? A week . after he gave that undertaking to Mr. Bruce, Mr. Charlton was called to book by the trade unions and Labour party, with the result that he had to withdraw his support of the proposals when they were submitted to the people. Therefore, it is useless for honorable senators opposite to complain that the Opposition kas prevented alteration of the Constitution. All attempts made by nonLabour Governments in the past to alter the Constitution were made party political issues by the Labour party. After all, the same people who elect the members of the Parliament also decide these questions. Do honorable senators opposite contend that the people are stupid because they have rejected proposals for constitutional reform? They claim that in 1944 the people did not understand the Government’s referendum proposals.
– Who said that?
- Senator Donald Grant made that statement. When the Liberal party’s referendum proposals have been defeated, we have accepted the verdict, but honorable senators opposite adopt a policy of “win, tie, or wrangle “. If .the people .support the Labour party, they are sensible. If they oppose it, they misunderstand .the question. Let us take a reasonable view of the democracy. The Constitution, which is (he essence of democracy, contains a provision for submitting to the people proposals for constitutional reform. Senator Sheehan spoke at length about the necessity to place beyond doubt the validity of Commonwealth social services. What I have said about the remarkable development of the country can be applied equally to the social services which the States have granted to citizens in necessitous circumstances. Our great hospitals have been provided by the States for the people’. They are monuments to the determination of the States to care for the sick, poor, and needy. Can any honorable senator point to any country which provides more liberal attention for its sick and needy? Let us look back with pride and pleasure on our many achievements as a federation. Let us resolve to carry on the good work. When honorable senators opposite contend that there is a millstone around the Government’s neck because it cannot give effect to the policy that it desires, I am not impressed. The States already possess those powers. When speaking on uniform taxation, I said that one’s attitude towards any question depends upon one’s point of view. If I am a federalist, I must uphold the spirit of federation. It is improper for us, by some process of undermining, or in some roundabout way, to destroy the great basic principles of federation. Is there not abundant work of a national character for the Parliament of the Commonwealth to do? Senator Sheehan referred to an incident in the railway workshops, when men were punished because they took time off to boil a billy of water for tea. Should the National Parliament interest itself in that kind of matter? I have never turned to the pag’es of history for the purpose of contradicting another honorable senator. Let us profit by our mistakes and look forward to the future. Within the scope of the Constitution, the Commonwealth has provided excellent social benefits. But the States have their rights. .Tasmania has hospitals second to none in the southern hemisphere. The hospitals are well-conducted, and the people use them and receive the best .medical, treatment. These institutions are not provided by the Commonwealth, although the Commonwealth under its new social services programme is making a contribution to them. Let us pay a tribute to the States for the social services which they have provided. At the time of federation, the Commonwealth was given authority to legislate in respect of certain defined subjects. From time to time, the government of the day believed that the Commonwealth should be granted additional powers, but: proposals for constitutional reform were almost invariably rejected. If this Government desires a genuine test regarding constitutional reform, it should submit to the people a clear-cut question, so that they may know exactly what authority the Government is seeking. The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Collings) smiles, but I venture to say that the question submitted to the people at the last referendum was cast in such a way as to confuse rather than enlighten the voters regarding the actual limitations of the powers sought. No one can say definitely what are the limitations of the powers which the Government now seeks. I prophesy that unless these proposals be more clearly defined, the people will reject them.
I am positive that the people will reject the marketing proposal. Primary producers’ organizations in the States have their own marketing arrangements. Each State has its own definite outlook on marketing. What suits one State is not satisfactory to another. So differences of opinion will arise, and the States will, - as they have done in the past, reject ‘ this proposal because, when in doubt, they will vote for the retention of the status quo.
Regarding industrial powers, would any honorable senator say that our arbitration system has not been effective? Senator Sheehan declared that the Commonwealth, by “National Security Regulations, has been able to solve industrial disputes. Surely no honorable senator suggests that the workers are more contented and industry is more settled now than prior to the war. This proposal, if adopted, will grant additional powers, not to the Arbitration Court, but to this Parliament, to deal with industrial matters. This Parliament is the last place which should adjudicate on this subject. Our industrial laws have proved remarkably effective, although conflict has arisen from time to time between Commonwealth and State tribunals. ‘For many years, industries in Queensland, for example, preferred to remain under State arbitration laws rather than adopt. Commonwealth arbitration laws. The same comment may be applied to Western Australia. Measured by the standards of other countries, the rapid development of secondary industries in Australia reflects great credit upon the workers and the capitalists alike. Let us profit by the mistakes we have made, and let this Parliament carry on its work under the present Constitution, the framers of which are entitled to our thanks. Much has been said about the advisability of holding another convention to consider alterations of the Constitution, but what convention could be held comparable with that by which the Constitution was drawn up? The framers were largely divorced from political interests.
– Not at all. They were prominent politicians.
– Of course they were, but they were not party men, in the sense in which that term is now. understood. They met in an atmosphere different from that of the party politics of to-day. At that time there were free-trade and protectionist factions, but beyond that there were no political organizations such as the trade unions and the Employers Federation. After the experience of the convention which was held in Canberra two years ago for the consideration of proposed alterations of the Constitution, an effort was, made to find common ground on which the proposals could be submitted to the people.
– But the representatives of the States broke their word.
– I do not admit that they did, any more than Mr. Charlton broke his word. I stated that he did not carry out the arrangement made by him. Pressure was applied, and he had to withdraw from an agreement’ into which be had entered.
The people who vote on proposals for alterations of the Constitution should not be said to lack common sense, patriotism and worldly nous to such a degree that they are not capable of knowing what is in the best interests of the country. As democrats, we accept the verdict of the people at the general elections. Are they any less intelligent when voting at a referendum than when exercising their franchise to determine changes in the personnel of this Parliament? In the United States of America, attempts have been made to avoid observance of some of the. provisions of the Constitution of that country by the granting of additional powers to the federal legislature, but most, of those attempts have failed. Very few amendments have been made during the last 150 years. If the. people vote “ “No “ when invited to grant increased powers to this Parliament, we should not imply that they lack intelligence, and cannot appreciate the nature of the proposals submitted to them. As sure as night follows day, honorable senators opposite will sooner or later find themselves on this side of the chamber. History is bound to repeat itself* Whatever our political faith may be, it ill becomes us to say that the people lack intelligence. Proposals for constitutional changes should be referred to the electors, as required under the Constitution.
If there be any doubt about the validity of the legislation providing for social services, we should take steps to place the matter beyond doubt. I am not afraid that the people will be deprived of the social services which they now enjoy, whatever the result of the referendum may be.
– Not until somebody appeals to the High Court.
– Even if ‘ the court decided that powers which this Parliament thought it had must no longer be exercised by it, the power to grant social services would not be destroyed; it would remain in the hands of theStates. One of the duties of the court is to interpret the Constitution, and we ‘ have no more right to complain about the court’s verdicts than a cricketer has to question an umpire’s decision. Some time ago I asked a Minister whether, as the High Court had reached a decision in a certain case, all who had suffered loss would be given treatment similar to that to be accorded to the successful litigant. The reply of the Minister was that the court would have to be “seen to “. It ill becomes us to complain of a properly constituted tribunal when its judgment is not in our favour.
The second question deals with the organized marketing of primary products. Honorable senators opposite have given credit to the Government for the high prices that have been obtained for primary products as the result of the establishment of a special organization. 1 shall not say that the Government has not done well in this regard. But if honorable senators care to make comparisons, they will find that the prices received by primary producers during World War I. were higher, and their working costs were lower, than during World War II. The price of wheat was about 7s. a bushel, and at one period it rose to 9s. a bushel. The price of oats was about. 6s. -a bushel. The price of potatoes ranged from about £15 to £25 a ton. The price of fat lambs ranged from 25s. to 35s. each.
– Those prices ruled from 1918 on, not during the war.
– They are the prices which ruled during the war. I was farming at the time, and can speak with authority.- I am not arguing that organization is not a good thing. However, 1 remind honorable senators that during the last four years the fighting services of Australia and America had to be fed, and large quantities of food were distributed all over the world, wherever it was needed. Markets were buoyant. Had the Government not pegged prices, they would, have risen still higher. 1 am not complaining of that. Every honorable senator knows that there was an enormous demand for the feeding of a hungry world, and that that still exists. Therefore, the present Government was not entirely responsible for the prices that were received. It did not create either prices or ‘market. Nevertheless, I give to it credit for having done a good job in the way in which it handled matters. The people are only being deceived by being told that the conditions that operated during the war years may be regarded as a standard which will be maintained if the additional powers which the Government is seeking are conferred on the Commonwealth. The most likely way in which the people can be induced to agree to confer additional powers- on the Commonwealth is by expressing in clear terms the limit of the powers proposed to be taken from the- States. The Commonwealth would then have the co-operation of the States in the conduct of the referendum. I do not share the view that this country has been hampered by the exercise of State rights. Senator Sheehan cast a reflection on the Senate when he said that it was designed to hinder the States. The Senate was established as a. chamber of. review, its chief function being to safeguard the rights of the States and to ensure the maintenance of a proper balance between them and the Commonwealth, so that those matters which properly are the prerogative of the States shall remain under their control, and matters affecting the people as. a whole shall be handled by the national legislature. I shall not remain silent if this, chamber is referred to in other than terms which reflect, credit on it. The functions of the Senate have been clearly laid down. lt is our duty to the people *who sent us- here to maintain the true spirit of federation, and to assist in carrying an the work which has proved so successful iii the past.
.- I. wholeheartedly support these three bills. 1. spoke at considerable length when the same subject was before the Senate a lew years ago. I. believe that the powers with which this legislation deals are urgently needed by the Commonwealth. Nevertheless, the same objective could be attained in a simpler way. All that is required is full voting power for the people; that is, adult suffrage should apply at all elections. Then, the people would transfer to the Commonwealth the powers that it needed when they were convinced that that was’ necessary. I believe that the last war was fought for the maintenance of democracy. I suffered during the course of it, and some of my worthy colleagues lost sons in it. But we have not yet a true democracy. If the principle of one man, one vote, one value, were applied in respect of all our political institutions, the people would transfer power from one body to another. The rejection of constitutional legislation by the small-minded members of the Legislative Council of Tasmania - a few landowners - has made it necessary to submit these questions to the people. In 1849, Governor Denison wrote to the Colonial Secretary of Tasmania a letter that I have already placed on record. I shall quote only the last paragraph of it -
There is sui essential democratic spirit which actuates Die 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.
As far back as 1849 the object of the Legislative Council of Tasmania was the prevention of the onward march of democracy. We are debating these bills tonight because men with small minds have made them necessary, but the time will come when the people will rise up against the “ little Australians “. By their actions i hey have sounded their own deathknell. That dictatorship known as the Legislative Council of Tasmania has an unenviable record for rejecting progressive legislation. The following table shows the number of bills which that august body rejected after they had been passed by the’ other branch of the State legislature : -
It will be seen that during the last ten years 66 bills placed before the council have been rejected. The Legislative Council of Victoria has a somewhat similar record. In 1923 it rejected two bills, and in 1924 a like number. In 1927, when a Labour government was in office, the Council rejected twelve measures. In thirteen years that reactionary body has rejected 47 bills. In “February, 1945, the Churchill Government, introduced into the House of Commons legislation known as the Representation of the People Act, which gave to every person in the kingdom, on attaining the age of 21 years, the right to vote at every election. There Would be little cause for complaint if we had universal suffrage in this country. In such circumstances, I have no i doubt that additional powers would be transferred to the Commonwealth. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) said that it would be a monstrous thing to grant to the Commonwealth powers over employment. Is he aware that Tasmania has no- minimum wage and no standard hours of labour? A few miles from where I live men working on farms are paid £2 15s. a week. They live in cottages provided by their employers. Recently a mail called at my office to inquire if there was any union ho could join that would enable him to obtain an increase of wages. He told me that he had been working for the same family all his working life, yet he was paid only £2 15s. a week, in addition to having a cottage free of rent. Not far away from where he lives is another gentleman whose employees start work at six o’clock in the morning. At 8 o’clock they have breakfast. They then work till twelve o’clock, when they have a break for luncheon. At six o’clock or seven o’clock in the evening their employer “ snoops “ around, and if he finds the men knocking off work he say’s, “ Surely you are not knocking off already? Look where the sun is “. Evidently he expects them to work from sunrise to sundown for £2 15s. a week and a cottage to live in. That man thought that it would be a great honour to have ‘a part in sending a present to His Majesty the King, but he had no thought for his employees. Senator James McLachlan said that if power over employment were given to the Commonwealth the present Government, if in office, would scrap the Arbitration Court and entrust to this Parliament the fixing of wages. That would be quite unnecessary. All that would be needed would be for the Parliament to fix minimum rates of wages and maximum hours of work. All other things could be left to tribunals which could be similar to the existing conciliation committees. Or the Industrial Peace Act, passed during the regime of the Hughes Government, could again be put into operation. Tasmanian wages boards have proved most satisfactory, but for many years attempts to bring them up to date have been unsuccessful. The Industrial Peace Act provides an ideal way for the settlement of industrial disputes. It provides for representatives of employers and employees to meet, with an independent chairman, and for local tri- .bunals. State tribunals, and federal tribunals. Under existing conditions in Tasmania,. it is impossible to improve the conditions of rural workers by providing higher wages and reduced hours of work. On numerous occasions the Legislative Council of that State has refused to bring the wages boards up to date. I have here a letter which the Launceston Trades Hall Council recently sent to the Legislative Council of Tasmania. One paragraph reads -
Our reason for requesting your support of th is measure is that it proposes to grant wages boards in Tasmania the same powers and privileges as the federal Arbitration Court and wages boards in mainland
States. f think that you will agree that it is fair and just that Tasmanian employers and employees should be given the same opportunities in determining the wage rates and conditions of employment as available to employers and employees on the mainland.
To that appeal the Legislative Council said “ No “. That shows how futile would be any effort to get progressive legislation through, that chamber. We tried to show its members that because of peculiar local conditions, Tasmanian workers would not approach the federal Arbitration Court, but their only reply was that it was obvious that all rural workers would be catered for in the near future by either a wages hoard, determination or a federal court award. Eather than allow workers to organize with a view to obtaining an award from the court, members of the Legislative Council of Tasmania would prefer them to work under a system based on the slogan, “ Starvation drives them on “. When it was urged that a union official should be appointed to wages boards the Legislative Council again said “ No “. The reactionaries realized that such a man would know too much about conditions in industry for their liking. They wanted only the employer and the employee to meet. As the employees contribute to union funds, out of which a secretary is paid, why should they not be allowed to have their representa.ive act for them? The employees also tried to extend the period in which a claim could be submitted, but that was too much for the Legislative Council to concede. The right of union officials to enter any establishment with a view to examining conditions of employment was also refused. It is most difficult for the people of Tasmania to secure just working conditions. We want the wages board system to function properly, or the right to approach the Arbitration Court. We say that it should be the right of the Commonwealth Parliament to fix a minimum wage and the maximum number of working hours. Notwithstanding many of the disadvantages with which we have to .contend in Tasmania, we have there one of the best medical services in the world. The Government said to the municipal councils, “If you will hand over your medical services to us we shall appoint doctors who will treat everybody free of charge”. When the Commonwealth grant of 6s. a day for hospital beds became available, the Government of Tasmania provided free hospital treatment for everybody, and out-patients and X-ray patients also were treated free. ‘ 1 here is no waiting list in Tasmania for out-patients. In cities in other States, an out-patient may have to wait half a day, or even a whole day to see a doctor. In Tasmania, the particulars of the patient’s complaint are immediately entered upon a card, and be is given a chit authorizing him. to see a doctor at a certain time the next day. In this way, the patients are examined and prescribed for without any trouble. The only service we ask people to pay for is dental treatment, and’ for this the patient pays according to his ability. It would be a boon to the rest of Australia if a medical service were introduced similar to that in Tasmania.
I believe in orderly marketing. It is impossible to maintain a guaranteed price without orderly marketing, and without a guaranteed price we cannot expect the farmers to pay award wages. The two things go together.
.- Having learned from Senator Lamp something of the great disadvantages under which Tasmania suffers, and also something of the fine medical service which is provided there, I could not help thinking what a fine place Tasmania must be to die in. I am disappointed that these three bills are being debated together. Each is well worthy of separate discussion. However, the one feature is common to all three - namely, the difference between the way in which the Government proposes to alter the Constitution, and the way in which we say it should be’ done. Senator Nash said that the Federal Parliament should have sovereign power. Well, it will not get sovereign power even if the Government’s proposals. are accepted. That can be achieved only by rewriting the Constitution, and that is what we propose. Our suggestion is that a convention should be called to consider the entire Constitution, and to decide whether the proper system of federation would be the one we now have or, perhaps, the Canadian system. under which the
Federal Parliament has general power, and the Provincial governments prescribed powers. We suggest that a Constitution convention should be held in aa atmosphere not charged with violent party feeling. Honorable senators opposite have said that partisan feeling cannot be avoided, but I believe that it can. At any rate, the atmosphere of such a convention could be very different from that of the Senate or the House of Representatives. Every bill presented to Parliament is prepared by the government of the day, and no government likes to have even a comma altered in one of its bills. . On. the other hand, a Constitution convention starts off with a clean slate and gradually arrives at agreement. Therefore, I believe that such a convention could be largely free from party feeling.
Honorable senators opposite have spoken of the Constitution convention which was held in 1942. There is no doubt that the discussions there took the form of violent party controversy, which is not surprising when we remember that the convention was attended by the Leaders of the Government and of the Opposition from each State, as well as from the Commonwealth Parliament. It might be said that the convention was doomed to failure almost from the beginning. It has been said that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) went back on their word. Mr. Menzies was not there, so he .could not go back on his word.
– Does the honorable senator say that he was not at the convention?
– He was not a party to the convention.
– I am certain that, he was there.
– In 1942 he was not Leader of the Opposition.
– Nevertheless he was there.
– He did not take part in the discussions, and he did not sec the draft bill which was agreed to.
– I understood that he addressed the convention.
– He may have, but he was not there when the bill was drawn up. The Government believes in the maintenance of the existing social services. They have received the endorsement of all parties in this Parliament and all of us desire their continuance. For the sake of its proposal to nationalize medical and dental services, however, the Government is prepared to place them in jeopardy. .But for its insistence on seeking power to control and regiment the members of the medical and dental professions throughout the country, this mea-. sure would have been passed without opposition. I noticed that the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Mr. Eraser, and the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr. Nash, were present in the gallery listening to this debate. It is a pity the Government did not ask them how the nationalization of the medical profession is progressing in their dominion, and by how many millions of pounds its cost has exceeded the estimate. I am informed that the people of Nw Zealand are heartily sick of it, and that the scheme is about to break down under its own weight. The Minister claims that, several eminent lawyers have declared that the existing social services legislation is in danger of being declared invalid. Notwithstanding the importance of that legislation to the welfare of the community the Government is prepared to jeopardize it, merely because of a desire to secure control over members of the medical and ‘dental professions and to obtain a power which it is already exercising. Members of the Government have said that if this power is granted by the people, it will not be used.
– No one has said that.
– The Government is already exercising its power to employ doctors and dentists: it can employ as many members of those professions as it likes.
– Until somebody challenges the use of that ‘power in the High Court.
– There is little likelihood that the High Court will deny the use of that power unless the Government attempts to nationalize medical and dental services. It has been said that on occasions the High Court gives a narrow and at other times a wide interpretation of the words and terms used in the Constitution. The use of the words “ narrow “ and “ wide “ in that context is unfortunate. The term “ narrow interpretation “ indicates to me that the High Court has carefully preserved the spirit of the Constitution, whereas the term “ wide interpretation “ indicates that the court has stretched its authority to the utmost limit. I would prefer the term “ strict “ to “ narrow “ in referring to the interpretation by the High Court of not only the Constitution but all legislation. It is because I want to ensure the validity of such social services as are already provided for in Commonwealth legislation that I deplore the fact that the Government by its own deliberate action is further endangering them.
The second bill relates to what some honorable senators have been describing as orderly marketing of primary products. The bill uses the term “ organized “. I suppose there is not a great difference between the dictionary meanings of the two words, but I do know that some of the organized- marketing operated by the Commonwealth has certainly not been orderly. I am amused that the Labour party, which has always professed to regard the middle-man as the arch-enemy of other men, proposes to ask the people for the permanent right to impose a super-middle-man on trade and commerce. This super-middle-man will be the government agency charged with the organized marketing of the product it handles. It will not sell direct to the consumer. It will acquire the product of the producer and sell it to another middle-man, making its rake-off in the process. The other middle-man, the merchant who formerly dealt direct with the producer, will make his rake-off by belling in turn to the retailer, whose share of the profits will come when he finally disposes of the products to the public. One honorable senator, referring to the sale of the Australian. wool clip to the United Kingdom, claimed that the middleman had been eliminated, but Senator James McLachlan was quick to reply that the wool-brokers, the middle-men upon whose activities the Labour party frowns so severely, have made more out of the appraisement of the wool by the Government’s super-middle-man than they ever made from handling the wool themselves. In all the welter of talk about how the primary producers will benefit from organized marketing of their products not one word has been said about the most important person of all, the consumer, the man who has to pay. Not one board, committee or other instrumentality set up by the Commonwealth or the States to control- the sale of commodities has failed to raise prices to the consumer. I want to see justice done to the consumer. The sooner we turn to the system of ordinary competition the better it will be for every one. I do realize, , however, that, for a. few years, it may be necessary in the disposal of surplus primary products for the Commonwealth Government to sell to another government. To meet that circumstance I have prepared an amendment, which I. propose to move when this bill reaches the committee stage, to insert after “ organized marketing of primary products “ the words “ but so that the law shall extend only to the marketing of such products which normally have a surplus of production for export “. That amendment would enable the Commonwealth Government to carry out transactions with other governments for the disposal of exportable commodities, but it would leave the State governments to control the other commodities, production of which is insufficient for export trade. It is only right that the States should exercise that control, because they control the land on which the crops are grown, the water supply with which the land is irrigated, the transport by which the crops are carried- to market, and all the other factors of production and distribution.
I was amused by the paradoxical argument of Senator Lamp, who said that these three bills were not needed, and that all that was necessary was to extend the principle of adult suffrage to the upper houses of the State legislatures. I do not know how the honorable senator, holding the view that the bills are not necessary, can vote for them, as he obviously intends to do.
Sitting suspended from 12 midnight to 12.4-5 a.m. (Friday).
Friday, 12 April 1946
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I pointed out that the Government’s proposal with respect to organized marketing not only failed to do away with the middleman in commerce and industry, but, indeed, resulted in the setting up of a super-middleman. I showed, that in every case in which a board had been set up, it had not done away with the middleman, but involved an extra cost to the consumer, whose interests must be primarily considered. Taken as a whole, the commodity boards have proved to be abject failures. But, in addition, organized marketing involves the restriction of production, because marketing cannot be organized without imposing some control over production.. Therefore, the power sought by the Government is designed to conscript the producer. Under this power the Commonwealth will be able to direct him as’ to what quantity of potatoes, flax, sugar or any other commodity he may sow, or the number of eggs that may be produced. Therefore, the Government seeks power to restrict .production. It wants power to compel every primary producer in Australia to be brought under its control. Therefore, when at any time he may be compelled by the Commonwealth to cease producing one product, and to undertake the production’ of another, he will no longer be free to engage in the activity in which he has the most skill.
– What does the honorable senator do in his business when he has produced too many machines? Does he keep on ‘ making the same machines?
– No ; but the manufacturer is allowed to make his choice. He will not continue producing machines which he cannot sell. Similarly, when a farmer finds that it does not pay him to continue producing a particular ‘commodity, he ceases producing it. If the Commonwealth wants to set up a glorious scheme of flax production, which is not suited to this country, it does not count the cost. It sets up the industry, and compels farmers, whether they like it or not, to grow flax. Furthermore, endless litigation will arise under the unsatisfactory definition of “primary products “. A deliberate attempt bas been made to define some products. Butter and flour shall still be deemed to be primary products, but margarine, which competes with butter, is not defined as a primary product. Other difficulties will arise. Will rabbits and rabbit skins, or ordinary hides, be primary products? I am led to ask that question because in the Northern Territory the taxing authority imposes no tax on ordinary cattle hides, because they are primary products, but taxes buffalo hides, because they are not a primary product. Dozens of other examples of borderline products could also be mentioned. No one will know whether these commodities are primary products or not. Therefore, we shall experience continual trouble, particularly the farmer, who will be subjected _ to interference by the Government in his business, about which the Government knows nothing. The farmer will be pushed from pillar to post.
The Government’s proposal with respect to industrial employment will give rise to much misunderstanding. Honorable’ senators opposite seem to believe that if the power sought be granted, the National Parliament will be enabled to do anything to its heart’s desire. That is a fallacy, because the conciliation and arbitration power now provided in the Constitution for the settlement and prevention of disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State is to be retained; and that power is not governed by section 92. Nothing in this proposal will enable the National Parliament, if it be granted this power, to improve the existing conciliation and arbitration power. Under the existing power our present system of conciliation and arbitration could be improved, but the granting of the power now sought will make no difference in that respect because the power now sought is to enable the National Parliament itself to fix wages and conditions. If that power be granted. the National Parliament, itself can fix the basie wage, or wages allowing margins for skill; and it can lay down .the weekly hours of work in industry. Ti that, is not the intention, why does the Government seek this power? This power cannot he used under the existing conciliation and arbitration provision which is not. governed by section 92 of the Constitution.
– How is the industrial power affected by section 92 of the Constitution?
– The existing power of conciliation and arbitration is not affected by the proposed new sub-section 3 of section 51, which reads -
The power of the Parliament to make laws under paragraph (iA) of sub-section (1.) of this section may be exercised notwithstanding anything contained in section ninety-two of the Constitution.
That affects only the organized marketing section. Section 92 will not restrict the existing conciliation and arbitration power provided in section 51. Therefore, no fresh power is given under this measure, in respect of conciliation and arbitration. All that the Government can do is to take, over the whole “ show “ and fix wages and hours. However, I think it was Senator Sheehan who said that this wa3 something which the Parliament should not do. How then does the Government propose to exercise this new power? Does the Government propose to create some other tribunal? Al! the explanations that I have heard indicate that the Government will not increase its authority over arbitration and conciliation.
– That is not correct.
– It is correct, with the exception that the Parliament itself will have power under this proposal to determine wages and working conditions. Nothing worse could happen than for working conditions to be auctioned at every general election. If that occurred, I know who would be the highest bidder. We on this side of the chamber do not believe in bribery and in selling the liberty of this country. What applies to the whole applies to any part. If this proposal were accepted, the Parliament could fix a standard wage for the coal-mining industry, and a standard wage applicable to any other industry, or alter working conditions. I can imagine the confusion that would arise. I am opposed to the granting to the Commonwealth of this particular power. When a Liberal party Government proposed an alteration of the Constitution to grant to the Commonwealth power to deal with arbitration and conciliation, the Labour party strongly opposed it and the referendum was defeated. Now, the Labour party supports a similar proposal.
I propose to move an amendment to r.he Constitution Alteration (Organized Marketing of Primary Products) Bill, and Senator James McLachlan will submit an amendment to the Constitution Alteration (Social Services) Bill. The honorable senator’s amendment will remove any doubts as to the ‘validity of Commonwealth social services. By its action in introducing this legislation, the Government is risking the very powers thai it proclaims to the house tops it wants more than anything else. I cannot understand how a political party, which less than ten years ago violently opposed legislation to improve the system of arbitration and conciliation, can now advocate an extension of that power and urge that this legislation should be removed from party political turmoil. These bills have now been introduced for political motives. It is unfortunate that the Government did not agree to the proposal for an elective constitutional convention to examine constitutional reform. By its refusal, the Government is making a political football of the subject, and the result will be upon its own head.
Senator McKENNA (Tasmania) 1 1 a.m.]. - I propose, after some general observations, to address myself to the three bills which are now under consideration simultaneously. I agree with Senator Leckie ‘that each of them is so important that a separate debate on each measure might have had its advantages. In the light of experience of forty-six years, one approaches with great trepidation the question of drafting an alteration of the Constitution. The first consideration is that the mind of man is finite. He is not able to foresee all the possibilities, or all the changes that the march of time brings. The second consideration is that language has its limitations to express thought, and it is not possible to draw clear concepts in words of any particular language. Our Constitution was produced after years of deliberation amongst the common people with statesmen, members of Parliament, lawyers, politicians and draftsmen, and was evolved in an attempt clearly to separate Commonwealth and State powers. It was considered in the .State legislatures, was discussed with the Imperial Authorities and ultimately became the subject of consideration in the Imperial Parliament. The object was to establish very clearly and in separate compartments the powers of the States and the Commonwealth, and those who founded Federation believed that that result had been achieved. The experience particularly of comparatively recent years shows that the fathers of federation failed very miserably in attaining those objects. I refer honorable senators to volume 1 of the Consolidated Statutes covering the period- 1901-35. If they will refer to section 51 of the Constitution embracing 39 heads of power, they will find that the actual wording there occupies only two pages, but it’ is followed by 24 pages of exceedingly small print giving references to the cases that have been decided upon those various heads of power. . In particular, I ‘refer to placitum xxxv. That is one of the powers which is allied with one with “which we are dealing tonight -
Conciliation and Arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State.
There are only nineteen words in that head of power, yet in exceedingly small print there are ten pages of references to cases decided upon that particular paragraph. The actual judgments of the High Court and the superior Courts of this country on those nineteen words are legion, and run into tens of thousands of pages. I put to the Senate that what is true of the past will be true of the future, no matter with what care any alteration of the Constitution is drawn. There are not only the limitations of mind and of language but also the complexity of human relations. Nothing is more complex than the relations which arise from day to day. and from time to time between mankind. The years also bring changes and no draftsman could draw a power and be certain that lit would not be the subject of innumerable judicial interpretations as the years -pass. Senator Lockie has drawn attention to the possibility of the abuse of powers that are granted to the Parliament. T proffer the suggestion that there is no power iri the Constitution which is not capable of abuse. There has been some confusion, in this debate, between the power itself and the innumerable modes in which it may he exercised. As a sample of powers that can be abused, I point out a few. Under the power with regard to marriage and divorce, this Parliament could dissolve all marriages. Under the invalid and old-age pensions power it could decide that old age begins at 21 years or 35 years, or at some other absurd age. Under the powers relating to fisheries it could prohibit all fishing in extraterritorial waters. Under the taxation power it could take all incomes - a horrible prospect, but one that does not cause consternation in the breast of any honorable senator. It could prohibit entirely postal services. Under the power in relation to currency it could prohibit the use of all currency and insist on the community resorting to barter. Under the power over emigration, it could prohibit all departures from this country. Under the quarantine power it could quarantine for many years people who enter this country. There is no power vested in this Parliament that is not only capable of abuse, but capable of very grave abuse. The electors wield, a sanction every three years against any such abuse of powers. Parliamentarians must go to the electors every three years in the cause of democracy. No government would, by a stupid exercise of a very wide power, commit political suicide, realizing that in a very short period it must go before the electors and account for its doings.
The only alternative to the granting of very wide power to a federal parliament would be to write into the Constitution the exact terms of all the legislation likely to be enacted under the power. If that, were done, we should be creating codes on every conceivable subject-matter, and they would be very rigid codes, because, once enshrined in the Constitution, they would bc immutable without further reference to the people. The virtue of a constitution is that it is not an act of Parliament, and not1 a contract. It is not to bc interpreted as either of those tilings. The proper view of the Constitution is that it is an instrument of government, that it is dynamic, and thai; it is not static, having reference only t» the affairs of the present day, but that there is room for expansion and development with the development of society. That is a view that has been expressed by every justice of the High Court. They, have expanded the Constitution in many particulars to embrace new concepts in the development, of our society. The Constitution, to be effective, .must not be only simple in its terms, but also flexible. There must be room under any head of power for the development of any particular philosophy, and, above all, there must be scope for change to meet r.he changing needs of the people.
The subject of sovereignty has .been mentioned in. this debate by several honorable senators opposite. There has been talk of the sovereignty of the States, and a suggestion that, sovereignty might be vested in this Parliament if the residual powers resided in it. In ‘the state of affairs politically which we have in Australia, I adopt, the view that sovereignty resides in neither the States nor the Commonwealth, but, in the people of Australia. It is for the people to say, as they did in 1901, whether the States would have certain powers, or whether certain powers would he vested in the Commonwealth- Parliament Those powers were allotted by the people then. Prior to federation, sovereignty, subject to certain Imperial acts, was largely vested in what are now the States, but the people of Australia by their vote divested the States and created a new federal body. It is for these people from time to time to determine upon the nature of the transfer of powers between the two separate authorities. It is for this Parliament, when it sees the need for change, to give to the people an opportunity to exercise their will. It has been said that a referendum was held a short while ago. That is true, but that was designed to serve for a particular limited period, a critical post-war period. We reached that sooner than we expected, and the powers sought at that referendum were denied us by the people. With that verdict we have no complaint.
My view is that the last referendum was well justified by the educational value it had. It has impressed upon the people the need for constitutional change, and I firmly believe that it will be. the foundation for the success of the referendum dealing with three vital aspects of life in this community, namely, social security, security for the primary producer, and a power that will make for peace in industry.
Turning to the three bills which we are considering, I shall deal first with that relating to social services. It is generally considered by every honorable senator that there is need for extra power to validate expenditure on the various social services that this Parliament has been dispensing. But it is not generally understood how thi* need, arose in particular. I propose to speak on the High Court decision in the recent Pharmaceutical Benefits ease. I am fully aware of all the legal risks I take in attempting to dispose of the matter with comparative brevity. Honorable senators are well aware of the provisions of section Si of the Constitution. That provision states -
All revenues or moneys raised or received by the Executive Government of the Commonwealth shall form one Consolidated Revenue Fund, to be appropriated for the purposes of the Commonwealth in the manner and subject to the charges and liabilities imposed by this Constitution.
The whole danger in which our social services to-day lie revolves around the words, where reference is made to the Consolidated Revenue Fund, that that f and is “ to be appropriated for the purposes of the Commonwealth “. Two views have been taken of that phrase since federation. One is that it gives to this Parliament unlimited scope to expend money as it wishes; and that it would be for this Parliament to determine what were “ the purposes of the Commonwealth “, the word “ Commonwealth “ in that context being regarded as- synonymous with the people or the common weal. The narrower view. was that this Parliament could expend money only on those matters which are specified in the Constitution. That, matter was not a issue until recently when -it came before the High Court, three members of the Medical Society of Victoria having persuaded the Attorney-General of that State to lend his name to proceedings in the course of which the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act was attack-ed in the High Court. In considering the result of that judgment, I propose to divide the relevant words “ to be appropriated for the purposes of the Commonwealth “ into two parts. I shall address myself first to consideration of the words “ for the purposes of the Commonwealth “. and later deal with the words “to be appropriated “. There are two separate concepts to be developed from those words, and to a very considerable extent they were dealt with in separate compartments by the High .Court. ‘ The Chief Justice, Sir John Latham, gave a very lengthy and informative judgment, in the course of which he held that, in his view, the purposes of the Common wealth were completely unlimited; that they were whatever purposes, whether within the four corners of the Constitution or not .to which this Parliament cared to direct its money. He also held that there was unlimited power in this Parliament to appropriate its money in any way it wished to objects, whether within or without the Constitution. But he did hold - and it is a very important qualification - that by appropriating money to those particular objects this Parliament could not legislate - and that is the important word - in those fields, unless those particular objects did fall within the Constitution. In other words, we were in a position solely to appropriate our money and to make just sufficient laws, as would ensure that that money reached the object outside the Constitution ; but if we stepped out further, and legislated in that field out-“ side the Constitution, then our legislation was clearly invalid. I think it might help if I give a brief illustration of the application of - what the Chief Justice said. Perhaps I had better warn honorable senators at this stage that bis judgment was not a deciding factor, and does not really form a part of the majority judgment of the court. But he has developed a very interesting theme, and om1 which, quite frankly and with great respect to the Chief Justice, appeals to my mind very strongly. To give a practical illustration of the way in which His Honour regards the matter: He has said that public health is not within the scope of the Constitution, and accordingly hospitals do not come under the purview of this Parliament, but the Parliament may subscribe money to hospitals, it may pass laws, which go no further than ensuring that those moneys do reach hospitals, but it cannot, by reason of the fact that it has directed money to hospitals which are outside the Constitution, go further and regulate the conduct of those hospitals, nor can it regulate the practices of doctors, nurses, chemists, and the staff of tho.se places; for example, it cannot make laws for their sanitation, for their cleaning, or for allied matters. I think that that presents a very clear illustration of the Chief Justice’s view. But His Honor held, on a consideration of the whole act, that it went much further than . providing free medicine for the people of Australia. He claimed that it imposed rights and obligations on the public, on doctors and on chemists, and accordingly was legislasting in a field entirely outside the Constitution. In his view, he would, not have declared the legislation invalid if it merely had provided for the supply of free medicine to the public of Australia, and had not sought to interfere in other ‘ fields. At all events, he declared the whole act invalid on the ground that I have put to the Senate. Mr. Justice McTiernan, whose view also did not prevail, extended the Chief Justice’s view rather widely. He held that not only could this Commonwealth determine upon unlimited purposes for the application of its money, but it also had unlimited powers of appropriation simpliciter ; in other words, it could spend its money how it liked and where it liked, whether the area was within or without the Constitution; and he said - and this is where he differed from the Chief Justice - “ Having directed your money to an object that is outside the Constitution, you may step into that field, legislate in it and regulate it, even though that particular field is normally within the sphere of the States “. That is a very wide extension of the fairly broad view that the Chief Justice took. The other four nudges - Mr. Justice Rich. Mr. Justice Williams,
Mr. Justice Dixon and Mr. Justice Starke ; held, on a1 very full consideration of the matter that the purposes of the Commonwealth were confined exclusively to those matters that are set out in the Constitution as falling within the purview of this Parliament; and, of course, as they constituted a majority, their view on that matter prevailed. So that we, as a Parliament, must now face up to i lie position that, in the view of the High Court, which interprets our Constitution, wo may direct our money only to purposes that fall plainly within the Constitution.
Let me pass on to the other words “ to be appropriated “ in reference to the Consolidated Revenue Fund. That is the bare power to appropriate our money to an object. I have already put. the view of the Chief Justice and Mr. Justice McTiernan on that matter. In the view of the same four judges, who really decided what the purposes of the Commonwealth are under section 81, two of them very directly, and two of them, in. my view, inferentially only, held that there was a very limited power of appropriation. In other words, if we want to spend our money, we may not step beyond the walls of the Constitution, and we must apply our money only to those heads that are already set out in the Constitution. The reason that I said inferentially only “, referring to the opinion of two judges, was that Mr. Justice Dixon held that it was not necessary for him to decide that particular matter; but he did intimate that he had previously publicly intimated that he took a narrow view of the appropriation power under section 81. Mr. Justice Rich, in a judgment of only 130 words, the first portion of which was directed to a procedural matter, and the last 39 to disposing of the validity of this legislation, agreed with Mr. Justice Dixon in his judgment. So that, on the bare power of appropriation, we have reached this position : Two of the judges - the Chief Justice and Mr. Justice McTiernan - say that the Commonwealth may appropriate its -revenue to any object. Mr. Justice Dixon and Mr. Justice Rich say that it is not necessary to decide that matter; but they said enough to show that they consider it is severely limited. The other two go further, and say positively that the Commonwealth is limited to the appropriation of its revenue to heads of the Constitution. It is for the reason that two judges found in one way, two in another, and two were indefinite, that that doubt on the question of the appropriation power still arises. We have already disposed of the position regarding “ the purposes of the Commonwealth “, but there is still a very grave doubt, with the weight of opinion at least in favour of a very restricted power to appropriate.
Coming to the actual bill on social Services: The Commonwealth already has legislated, I think, in every field there set out except that of “ medical and dental benefits “ and under the new head of “family allowances” which is in my view a perfect instance of the need for a dragnet, power. One cannot foresee to-day what the needs of the future will be. It may be that this Parliament, in its wisdom, at some future date will decide that marriage loans should be made. It may also be that under the’ immigration power or the appropriation power it will decide to offer facilities to people who come into this country. It may be desirable to encourage immigration of family groups, and it may be that free housing may be provided for family groups of different sizes. One may give three months^ free rent to a family of three units, six months in the case of a family of four units, and so on. Those are possibilities that may happen, and we may find this Parliament without power to implement important national developments. In view of the legal position relating to our social services, upon which so many people are dependent, no self-respecting government could continue to provide those services without being- sure that a firm constitutional ba,?is existed. That, in my opinion, is the chief argument for this power. Senator Leckie complained that, if we include provision for medical and dental benefits, this power would permit the nationalization of medicine. He claims that wc are already employing doctors, and could continue to do so.- I disagree with the honorable senator. We can employ doctors in our own immediate services - ‘‘“he public service. the armed forces and so on - but I differ from him if his view is that we can employ doctors to provide facilities to the people at large. In the light of the High Court judgment, I have no hesitation in saying that the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, where many doctors are employed are in great jeopardy. I reaffirm that the necessity for this new power is, first, our lack of constitutional power, as shown by the High Court judgment, and, secondly, the” need to have an expanded power to deal with developments that at the moment we cannot envisage, but which may arise. It has been suggested that these services will nol bc challenged, but each of them is open to challenge in three ways. First, any State may at any time challenge them: and secondly, any State Attorney-General who is a responsible and conscientious man must, if approached by responsible people in the community, lend his name to them as did the Attorney-General of Victoria to the Medical Association of that State. The third way is to take action against people who make false declarations in relation to a claim for benefits. Under our legislation they are liable to prosecution and imprisonment, but administrators have been loath to launch any prosecutions of that nature for the reason that that would provoke a challenge in the High Court. Ultimately, we reach the position that if social services are properly policed, sooner nr later there will be prosecutions of people receiving benefits under false pretences, or as the result of false declarations. There will be appeals to the High Court. If we leave the legislation in its present state we will find that those services will fall one by one.
T come now’ to the power over organized marketing. I suggest that the case was put exceedingly well by the Minister in charge of the bill when he said -
The general object of organized marketing has always been to brins about price stability in the primary industries, to assist them to bear the heavy burdens of climatic uncertainty and world competition, and to ensure for primary producers a reasonable standard of living and adequate economic security.
It only remains to add that from the view of planned economic control organized marketing also permits reasonable standards of employment in primary production. That presents a complete picture of what may be done under this power. It has been said that production is a matter for the ‘States, and that accordingly, the States should be allowed to make laws dealing with intra-state transactions, that the Commonwealth should control interstate transactions, and that we should abolish section 92 of the Constitution only in relation to the latter class. That argument presupposes that agreement between the Commonwealth and the States in matters of national importance will readily be forthcoming. There is much evidence to the contrary. It took seventeen years for all the States to adopt regulations similar to those adopted by the Commonwealth under the Air Convention of 1920 in respect of air traffic and the management of aerodromes. Seventeen years of agitation to get accord regarding a matter which on the face of it should have been the subject of almost immediate agreement does not give rise to optimism. The standardization of railway gauges has been under consideration for 46 years amd is not yet un fait accompli. Even when the Japanese were almost- at our gates, in April, 1942, and when every one surely should have recognized that the Commonwealth should have had control of the resources of the country, -ach of the six States refused to give to the Commonwealth the power to control income tax for the period of the war. In the same critical period they asked the High Court to declare invalid the legislation that, this Parliament had enacted on those lines. As late as January last, when the ‘States knew that the Commonwealth did, in fact, have that, power, they still resisted. In those circumstances, any one who expects ready co-operation by the States is doomed to disappointment. Even the Financial Agreement, which is an undoubted boon to taxpayers, took years of negotiation and discussion before it became an accomplished fact. I may be pardoned if I am pessimistic regarding the conclusion within a reasonable time of an agreement between the Commonwealth and the ‘States where agreement is required to implement a scheme. Undoubtedly, in the matter of organized marketing of commodities. particularly primary products, the concurrence of seven governments is necessary to-day to make the scheme effective and efficient.
– The Legislative Council of Tasmania recently refused power to continue prices control for a period of three years.
– That is true. The most attacked and the least understood section of the Constitution is section 92. Boiled down, it resolves itself into a question as to whether any legislation of this Parliament either prohibits or restricts interstate trade, commerce and intercourse among the States. If it merely regulates, it may stand up. . The High Court has considered each case that has come before it on the merits of the case. It has said that whether an act of this Parliament prohibits or restricts interstate trade, or merely regulates it, is a question of fact, and it considers the circumstances of each case. When a matter is a question of fact it ultimately becomes a matter of opinion. Opinions differ on the High Court Bench, and as between the High Court and the Privy Council, as we have seen, on many occasions. If we are to attempt to implement organized marketing with section 92 affecting that ‘hoad of power, we shall be in a position where the validity of our legislation will be determined by opinion of the majority of the Justices of the High Court on the facts. This bill seeks to remove that possibility of doubt and turmoil. I could not understand . how section 92 became associated with the power over conciliation and arbitration in the mind of Senator Leckie. Perhaps he, was confusing that power with the power over organized marketing.
– What about, a common rule?
– That comes under the third head, with which I shall deal later. I should like to dispose of organized marketing first. The justification for this power is very apparent when we contemplate what happened during the war when, under’ the defence power, this Parliament had the power to organize marketing. That £60,000,000 of overdraft was paid off by the primary producers of this country speaks eloquently of the virtues of organized control and a planned economy. The figures presented by the Minister in charge of the bills showed the vast increase in the number of primary producers in the higher income groups the number having increased by several hundred par cent., and this is eloquent of the advantages of organized marketing. If the primary producers flourish, they distribute largesse throughout the whole community; they promote trade and contribute, largely to the revenue. If good conditions are enjoyed by primary producers, it will be possible for the workers in the pastoral, agricultural and dairying industries to enjoy decent living standards. Very little has been done by State legislatures in. those fields, and it was not until the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court issued awards for harvesters and for dairy workers under transient National Security Regulations that any substantial improvement was achieved. I feel confident that most primary producers are anxious that the Commonwealth should have this power, and I only hope that its importance will be understood by the people.
We come now to the industrial power. On the 15th of March, I discussed the limited power which the Commonwealth now has in this field, namely, power over conciliation and arbitration in respect of interstate industrial disputes. I pointed out how farcical it was that our Court of Conciliation and Arbitration should hi- dependent on the fictitious creation of an interstate dispute as a condition precedent to the exercise of its jurisdiction. We seek to remove that anomaly. It was recognized as an anomaly by the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Mr. Menzies) as far back as 1938, when, in a speech, he reviewed the Constitution, and pointed out eight grievous anomalies, and he was careful to explain that his list was by no means exhaustive. He discussed the Commonwealth industrial power, and explained eloquently that he could never understand how the framers of the Constitution could have conferred on the Commonwealth Parliament, such vast power over customs and excise while neglecting to confer full power ‘ over what he described as the ancillary matter of industrial conditions in the great industries they were designed to foster. He said that the present anomaly would persist until the Commonwealth Parliament obtained complete industrial power. We are now asking for power over industry generally,, but with the important qualification that this power shall not authorize any form of industrial conscription. For this qualification I -pay tribute to the Opposition, which stressed the point during ibo last referendum campaign. Even if the wording had been left as it previously stood - “ terms and condition’s of employment in industry” - I do not think there could have been any industrial conscription. It envisages a condition in- which the relation between employer and employee had been established before this Parliament was authorized to regulate conditions. It has been put into a form which negatives power to legislate in regard to the relation between employer and employee - its commencement, its continuance and its termination. This has now been accomplished by adding the words, “but not so as to authorize any form of ind.ustrial conscription “.
I agree with Senator Sheehan that itwould be futile for this Parliament to attempt to legislate in respect of all the details affecting industrial relations. It would not be competent for Parliament to attempt to perform the function of a . skilled tribunal. Whatever is done by Parliament, there must still be an arbitration court. In regard to major matters, such as the fixation of hours, &c, it will be a recommending and advisory body. I remind honorable senators that this Parliament has a responsibility in regard to the national economy, a responsibility which it must discharge. No matter what award an arbitration court may make, Parliament must remain responsible for ‘what results flow therefrom. If Parliament acts unwisely it must face the people in a comparatively brief time. Therefore, we are running no risks inconferring this power on the Commonwealth Parliament. We shall still have ai competent body to determine industrial matters, although the Parliament may fix the maximum number of hours and determine the principles upon which the basic wage is to be calculated. The vast industrial unrest in Australia in recent years has been largely due to the very limited power of the Arbitration Court to deal with industrial conditions, and to the emasculation of arbitration in 1930 by a hostile -Senate, when the Scullin Government tried to put it on a proper basis.
I trust that the Government’s proposals will be supported by every one in this Parliament, and that no one will deal with them in a mean spirit. Two recommendations of the Opposition have been accepted - the need to define the term “primary products” and the need to provide a safeguard against the possibility of the conscription of members of the medical and dental professions. The Government has also accepted the suggestion of the Opposition in regard to avoiding the possibility of power being used to institute industrial conscription. The Government never thought about industrial conscription, but the bare possibility that it could be introduced under the power asked for was exploited by the Opposition at the last referendum, and we are indebted to them for it.
Senator ASHLEY (New South WalesMinister for Supply and Shipping) p.. 44 a.m.”]. - in reply - The debate on these bills has been long, but most of the speakers have covered the same ground as was covered by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay). Therefore, without wishing to appear discourteous to other honorable senators, 1 propose to reply to the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition. I desire to correct some figures which I quoted in my second- read ing speech on the Constitution Alteration. (Organized Marketing of Primary Products) Bill relative to the income of primary producers between 3939-40 and 1943-44. The correct figures of the increase per cent, in respect of incomes within the £400, £600 and £1,000 ranges are 178, 225 and 232 respectively. I regret the error for which no blame rests upon the departmental officials.
The Leader of the Opposition claimed that if the States are prepared to refer powers to the Commonwealth, the Commonwealth oan do all that is necessary to be done. The suggestion of the honorable senator is a matter of method. It is true that the Constitution contemplated the acquisition by the Commonwealth of additional power by means of reference by the States. That method has been tried in the past, not only by the present Government, but also by those that have preceded it, and on all occasions the results have been abortive. When the proposals have been, endorsed by the Lower House of a State legislature, which is elected by general franchise, they have invariably been rejected by the Upper House. The honorable senator said -
The more one examines these problems in a practical way, the more one becomes convinced that the best way to govern this country is in a truly federal spirit, with the States looking after those problems which they are best suited tu attend to, and the Commonwealth concentrating more and more on great national problems. There has been too great a tendency to fiddle with minor matters which can be satisfactorily handled by the States.
Let us see how far these suggestions apply to the proposals in the bills now before the Senate. Will this Parliament he fiddling with minor matters when it deals on a nation-wide basis with social services, with the marketing of primary products involving export problems arising therefrom, and with industrial matters? One of the objects of the measure dealing with, social services is in part to confirm the Commonwealth’s powers which it has assumed and exercised in the past, and which are now in jeopardy. That has been emphasized by many speakers on thisside of the chamber and has been very clearly illustrated by Senator McKenna With regard to industrial matters the Government is merely’ asking for power to enable it to bring about uniformity in industrial conditions throughout the Commonwealth. Some years ago the New South Wales Government ‘reduced hours of employment in industry in that State from 48 to 44 a week. A great advantage was immediately obtained in other States which continued to work a 4S-hour week. A factory in Victoria working a 4S-hour week and employing 1,000 persons virtually had a weekly production capacity of 4,000 hours in excess of that of a similar factory in
New South Wales. Consequently the products manufactured in the Victorian factory could be marketed in New South Wales, after meeting rail or sea freight charges, at a price against which the New South Wales factory could not compete. That is only one of the many instances of ill e clangers of the present system which demonstrates the desirability of Commonwealthwide uniformity in industrial conditions. Great fear has been expressed by honorable senators opposite that it is the intention of the Government to nationalize medical and dental services. Lt was suggested that nationalization would mean that all members of the medical and dental professions would become part of the services of the Commonwealth. The power sought would not authorize that, particularly in view of the stipulation against civil conscription which appears in the relevant measure. That this is a very real fear is shown by the amendment foreshadowed by Senator James McLachlan. The Leader of the Opposition said that an attempt had been made in the House of Representatives to divide the measure into two parts. The Government is already proposing to put three separate questions to the people. It does not propose to increase the number. of questions thereby causing confusion among the people. One of the complaints voiced by honorable senators opposite was that the Government is endeavouring to include social services with some other proposal. That is not so. As to the allegation that the increased incomes of farmers in recent years have been due to war needs, I agree that I here has been a greater demand for all commodities, and when the demand is greater than the supply, higher prices always prevail; but I remind the Senate that before the war prices of primary products were very low. Why, in 1938, wheat was sold at less than 2s. a bushel.
– Foils. 7d.
– Yes. Prices of other primary commodities were comparably low. Government supporters believe that the man on the land who produces the wealth of the nation, is entitled to treatment, equal to that given to, workers in secondary industries who have a guaranteed basic wage and the amenities of city life. Primary producers work long hours and risk their capital and do not enjoy the same amenities as those in capital cities. The next charge made by the Leader of the Opposition was that if the Commonwealth Government were given power over marketing of primary products, the powers of the States would be impaired. Section 92 of the Constitution has been a source of much lengthy and costly litigation, the ultimate result of which has affected adversely the interests of primary producers in Australia. We propose to invite the people of Australia to remove this disability so far as the -primary producers are concerned.
The Leader of the Opposition also said that power over terms and conditions of employment should not be removed from the arbitration courts. He said that there were too many conciliation committees already, but, in the early days of this war, when the Menzies Government was in office, in order to appease the coal-mining industry, one of the most turbulent industries in Australia, it provided a new set of conciliation provisions by establishing a Central Reference Board and district boards to prescribe wages and conditions for that industry. I take no exception to that, but the Opposition cannot have it both ways, and I take exception to people who, as Ministers and ministerial supporters, appointed special conciliation committees for the coal-mining industry, but object to our proposal that there shall be more conciliation facilities for the benefit of the workers. The Leader of the Opposition next referred to what he called the “ go-slow “ policy of Australian workers, a favorite subject of honorable gentlemen opposite. It must be remembered that in the long-wearying war that we have -just experienced the workers did a magnificent job, comparable to a degree with the job done by the men in the fighting services. There might be some excuse for a. slackened effort if that should exist now that peace is restored. The feeling that now that the fighting is finished there is no need to be so concerned about the aftermath is not confined to workers in industry. It is to be seen in every walk of life, regret.table though it is. I agree with the Leader of (lie Opposition that production must be maintained, because, otherwise, we shall be involved within a. very short time in ruinous inflation. The Leader of the Opposition also condemned the Government for its failure during the war to enforce its anti-strike legislation. The Menzies Government’ was in office in the first two years of the war when strikes occurred ; but I do not recall it ever prosecuting -any one for contravening its anti-strike legislation. One of the worst industrial stoppages that this country has ever experienced occurred on the northern coal-fields when 10,000 miners were out on strike for ten weeks, as the result of which more than 1,000,000 tons of coal an lost to this country. That was a major contribution to the difficulties that we had to contend with when we took office. Had ‘that coal been at grass, we should have been in a happier position than we were during the war and are to-day. Honorable senators opposite are continually complaining about the coalminers. They lose no opportunity to criticize the present Government for failing to apply anti-strike regulations to that industry during the war, when the nation urgently needed coal. But what did previous governments, which honorable, senators opposite supported, do in respect of disputes in the industry? On one occasion the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies), when he was Prime Minister, visited the coal-fields and merely pleaded with the coal-miners to return to work. But. his Government did not apply anti-strike legislation.
The Leader of the Opposition also alleged that the Government is seeking power in respect of industrial employment in order to enable it to take industrial matters out of the hands of the Arbitration Court. That statement is groundless. It is not proposed to repeal placitum (xxxv.) under which the Arbitration Court is set up. The Government does not, intend to take industrial, matters out of the hands of industrial tribunals. Evidence of its attitude in this respect was provider! by that which it adopted towards the recent strike at the Bunnerong power house, when many appeals were made to the Government to ignore the court and take action itself to settle that dispute. The Government steadfastly refused those appeals, and insisted that the matter was one for the court, despite the fact that that strike directly involved thousands of workers and caused serious inconvenience in every home in Sydney.
The Leader of the Opposition urged that the proposals .to alter the Constitution should be considered by an elective convention before being referred to the people. That aspect has been fully covered in this debate. He also emphasized that the Senate’ was intended by the framers of the Constitution to be a House of review, and that it should watch the interests of the States. The Senate does review legislation passed in the House of Representatives. However, the Government watches the interests of the people of Australia as a whole, and not merely from the point of view of individual States. The Leader of the Opposition also pointed but that of the proposals submitted by referendum to the people, eighteen had been defeated whilst only three had been agreed to. I suspect that his statement was a case of the wish being father to the thought. He also said that the Liberal parly stand for the federal system. The Liberal party was born only a few months. agO, and I, at any rate, should like to know a little more about if. before I would take it for granted that that party stands for anything. It is difficult to see how the honorable senator’s references to the Federal Aid Roads Act and the Financial Agreement, passed by the Bruce-Page Government, relate to the question whether the powers sought under there measures should or should not be submitted to the electors. The Leader of the Opposition referred to the organized marketing of dried fruits and other primary products, and the effect of the James case upon such schemes. His implications in that, respect have been fully answered by honorable senators on this side of the chamber.
I express my appreciation to the Senate for the reception it has given to these measures. Despite divergences of opinion, I believe that it will be generally agreed that the debate, taken as a whole, was in accord with the tradition of tolerance which the
Senate should strive to maintain. Despite the length of the debate, the Chair found itnecessary to call for order on only two occassions.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Industrial employment).
– I ask the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) to define the words “ employment in industry”.
Does the expression relate to all employment, or is there a distinction between employment in industry and other forms of employment? For example, are the railways or the tramways an industry? If the words “ Terms and conditions of employment” only were used, the meaning would be clearer, but the Government must have in mind some distinction between “employment” and “employment in industry “. I should like to know what is meant by “ industry “.
– Generally speaking, the words refer to all industry. The railways would be an. industry, but professional work would not.
– Isdog-racing regarded as an industry?
Clause agreed to.
Preamble and Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Debate resumed from the 10th April (vide page 1244), on motion by Senator Ashley -
That the bill benow read a. second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
Section fifty-one of the Constitution is altered by inserting after paragraph (xxiii.) the following paragraph : - “ (xxiiiA.) The provision of maternity allowances, widows’ pensions, child endowment, unemployment, pharmaceutical, sickness and hospital benefits, medical and dental services (but not so as to authorize any form of civil conscription), benefits to students and family allowances: “.
– I move -
That, in proposed new paragraph (xxiii a.) the following words be left out: - “ pharmaceutical “ and “ medical and dental services (but not so as to authorize any form of civil conscription ) . “
I explained the object of this amendment fullyinmy second-reading speech, and it is unnecessary for me to repeat those arguments now. The effect will be that the proposed new paragraph will end at the word” services.”.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator James . McLachlan’s amendment) beleftout.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator B.
Question so resolved in the negative.
– The amendment on which the committee voted is that whichI have read.
– When honorable senators asked for particulars of the amendment, it was distinctly stated that all the words after “services” would be left out.It was clear to me that Senator James McLachlan desired to delete the words “benefits to students and family allowances “. I voted on the assurance given by the honorable senator who submitted the amendment. I protest against the alteration of his original amendment.
– I have a definite objection to an amendment being altered while a vote is being taken on it.
– Copies of the amendment were distributed among members of the committee, and as far as I am aware no alteration has been made. The only amendment that I have seen is that which I have read to the committee.
– Ifelt like taking exception to what was being done, because I noticed action in the vicinity of the Chair which suggested that an attempt was being made to alter the amendment on which the vote was being taken.
– I know nothing of any alteration of the amendment, but theclause can be recommitted if the committee so desires. I asked Senator James McLachlan if he desired his amendments to be put separately because some honorable senators might wish to support the deletion of certain words proposed to be left out but not others. I then asked if the committee wished the amendment to be taken as a whole and there was no objection.
Clause agreed to.
Preamble and Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Debate resumed from the 10th April (vide page 1246), on motion by Senator Ashley -
Thatthe bill be now read a second time.
Question put. The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Rill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Organized marketing of primary products).
– “Will the Minister state whether he is willing to accept the amendment that I have circulated?
– The honorable senator must realize that I cannot do so.
– Then,- in view of the hour and the majority that I should have against my proposal, I do not propose to move it. I have indicated the manner in which I consider the bill could be improved.
– The proposed new subsection 2 of sect ion 51 of the Constitution reads -
Without in any way limiting the generality of the expression “primary products” in paragraph (i.a.) of sub-section (1.) of this section, that expression shall be deemed ti.’ include
Ft then proceeds to specify certain products. If the generality of the expression is not limited, it occurs to me that, in addition to the products mentioned, other products could be embraced. Will the Minister clearly state what is intended?
– The reason for specifying (lour and other ‘wheat products, butter, cheese and other milk products, dried fruit and other fruit products, meat, and meat products and sugar, is to ensure that there will be no doubt about their inclusion in the definition of “ primary products “. The generality of the expression is not limited by their inclusion.
Clause agreed to.
Preamble and Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave of absence be granted to every member of t’:e Senate from the termination of the sitting this day to the date on which the Senate next meets.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) agreed to-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to a. date and hour to be fixed by the President, which time of meeting shall be notified to each senator by telegram or letter.
Senator Grant and Senator Lamp: Visit Overseas ; Motor Tyres ; Armed Forces : Leave; Pay in Lieu of Leave - Volunteer Defence Force: Rifles; Recognition - Reestablish ment : University Studies; Land Settlement - Major Cousens - Norfolk Island: Appointment of Administrator - Wak Service Homes Bill: Speech’ by Senator Cameron - Aurora Australis - Postal Buildings - Civil Aviation: Lincoln Aircraft. Broadcasting: “ A. B.C. Weekly” - Rail Transport: Members of Parliament - Questions - Royal Australian Navy: Uniforms’ - Patents.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I take this opportunity to express the hope that Senator Grant and Senator Lamp, who are about to go overseas on mi important mission will have a successful trip and a safe return. I could say more, hut in view of the lateness of the hour I shall content myself with this short reference to their impending visit abroad.
I understand that some time ago the Commonwealth Government gave instructions that all imported motor vehicles were to he fitted with imported tyres. Further, I am led to believe that Canada, for obvious reasons, refused to supply tyres, with the result that all vehicles coming from North America are now fitted with tyres manufactured in Australia. I draw attention to the incidental penalty which is being placed upon British manufacturers. Recently, the importation of British manufactured cars was resumed. Those British cars which have already arrived are fitted with British tyres, which under present conditions means that the buyers have to pay duty on the British product. Owing to the inability of the North American sellers to deliver fully shod motor cars their sales are absolved from the hurden of duty on tyres. As importers have been forced to accept chassis from America without tyres, it appears to be an unfair imposition on the British manufacturer that he should have to pay duty on tyres which he can supply. The point I make is that so long as British cars are being imported fully shod, at the specific request of the Commonwealth Government, such tyres when fitted to vehicles should be exempt from duty, and I urge the Government to give early and serious consideration to this matter, if only as a temporary measure until the supplies of tyres return to normal. The Minister has now informed me that this matter has been referred to the Tariff Board, and that when reply ia received from that body it will be forwarded to me.
– On the ;”)th April, Senator Sampson quoted a letter received by him from a member of the Australian Army Pay Corps Association. I now advise the honorable senator that his representations are under consideration and that he will be advised by letter in due course of the result of the investigation.
On the same day, Senator Allan MacDonald requested that action be taken by the Government to return rifles to former members of the Volunteer Defence Corps for use in the destruction of pests in country areas. I am now able to advise the honorable senator that ex-members of the Volunteer Defence Corps who have returned their rifles may, on application, be re-issued with rifles pending further decision on the future policy regarding rifle clubs. This decision applies particularly to ex- Volunteer Defence- Corps members living in country districts, who desire to use such rifles for the destruction of pests. However, as there is a quantity of .310 rifles available, and as these would be quite suitable for the destruction of pests, it is proposed, in such instances, to issue .310 rifles instead of .303 rifles, unless applicants insist on the latter type. It. is understood, however, that under the Firearms and Guns Act in Western Australia, it is an offence, with certain, exceptions, for any one to be in possession of a firearm without holding a licence. As ex-members of theVolunteer Defence Corps are now civilians, the possession of a rifle or the issue of a rifle in such instances will be subject to compliance with the provisions of the acts and regulations of the State of Western Australia. Therefore, it will be necessary for intending applicants to obtain a licence before a rifle can be made available. The’ honorablesenator also asked for consideration to be given to the recognition of the servicesof members of the Volunteer DefenceCorps by the issue of a special medal.. His suggestion will be given full consideration.
On the 5th April, 1946, Senator Mattner asked that consideration be given to the early release from theArmy of young men who had matriculated and who wished to continue their studies. I now desire to inform the honorable senator that his representations will be given full consideration. With the progress of demobilization, a number of these young men will automatically be released from the Army, but it is- regretted that the release of men with low points cannot he granted out of their proper order of priority while there is still essential work to be performed in the armed services.
Yesterday Senator Cooper asked the following questions : -
The Minister for theArmy has supplied the following answers: -
Yesterday Senator Brand asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army on notice the following question : -
Is it a fact that the pay in lieu of leave is not credited to a deceased soldier’s estate if killed before the 1st April, 1945, while leave pay is added to a deceased soldier’s estate if killed after that date; if so, why?
The Minister for the Army has furbished the following answer: -
All members who serve overseas are entitled to war service leave and payment in lieu is made in the case of all deceased members to the estate provided that the persons legally entitled thereto were the parents, wife or child, or were actually dependent on the deceased. Members serving overseas outside the Pacific area have no credits of accrued recreation leave. Members serving in the Pacific area and in Australia may accrue recreation leave up to two days per month. Payment in lieu of any such leave not taken is made in all cases of death on and after the 1st April, 1945, under the conditions applying to war service leave.
.- On the 11th April Senator
Cooper asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Territories the following questions, upon notice: -
The Minister for External Territories has supplied the following answers : - 1.(a) and (b) No.
– The Sydney Morning Herald of yesterday did me the doubtful honour of reporting that when the War Service Homes Bill was before the SenateI addressed myself to another measure. That is not true. Honorable senators will remember that I pointed out that the War Service Homes Bill had its limitations, and that I then went on to say that if the Commonwealth Parliament had greater powers much more could be done, as it would be possible to eliminate profits. I did not speak on the wrong bill, but confined my remarks to the measure then before the Senate. The newspaper report is an example of so-called smart journalism, the object of which is to create a wrong impression. I have risen to make this correction of the newspaper report so that it will not be said that silence on my part gave consent to an inaccurate statement. The Hansard report of my speech is correct, and a study of it will reveal that the arguments advanced by me were in their proper sequence and related to the bill before .he chamber.
On the 2nd April, Senator Gibson asked a question relating to the effect on wireless communications of the recent Aurora Australis. I am now -in a position to inform the honorable senator that, on the 2Sth March last, aurora phenomena were observed in both the northern and southern hemispheres. Some deterioration in wireless communication between Australia and places overseas occurred from the 25th to the 2Sth March, but the effect was not serious until 10 p.m. on the latter date. From 10 p.m. on the 28th March to 4 p.m. on the 23th March all radio-telegraph and radiotelephone channels between Australia and Europe and the United ‘States were rendered inoperative as a result of the aurora phenomena. During the period of interruption to radio-communication, beam traffic was diverted to the cable channels. Radio communication with nearby Pacific Islands was not interrupted through this cause. From about S p.m. on the 2Sth March till 8 a.m. on the 29th March the aurora phenomena also seriously interfered with communication over the Eastern cable system, via South Africa, and also with the transmission of traffic over the trans-Canadian land-line channel which is operated by Cable and Wireless Limited as an extension of the Pacific cable system. The Pacific cable itself was not affected by the aurora. As a result of the congestion of traffic arising from the dislocation of communication, most of- the traffic lodged during the period of failure of both cable and wireless channels was delayed by from 10 to 12 hours.
On the 3rd April, Senator Lamp raised certain matters relating to the conditions prevailing in the residences of postmasters in Tasmania. The imperative need for overtaking the arrears of maintenance works and preventing the further deterioration of premises is appreciated by the Postal Department and already a large programme of works is in hand. In Tasmania, for instance - excluding minor repairs and maintenance works which are estimated to cost less than £500 - alterations to the Launceston and Devonport offices are now being effected in order to improve the accommodation. Provision is also made in the Estimates for the current financial year for alterations to be made to the Burnie, Currie and Evandale offices and for improvements to the postmaster’s quarters at Stanley. These works will be undertaken at the earliest possible date consistent with the availability of materials and skilled manpower. Special attention is being given by the department to repairs and maintenance works and post offices are beingrenovated in accordance with a predetermined plan. An amount of £4,900 was allotted to Tasmania for repairs and maintenance works at the commencement of the present financial year and an additional sum of £4,000 was provided recently to cover additional works. Sufficient funds will be allocated in 1946-47 to cover the maximum number of repairs and maintenance works which can be undertaken by the Department of Works and Housing on behalf of the Postal Department. Provision for £6,500,000 has been made in the departmental post-war programme for the erection of new postal buildings in Tasmania and elsewhere, the remodelling of 300 existing offices and the establishment of 700 new automatic telephone exchanges and other buildings. Owing to the great number of urgent works confronting the department and the abnormal demands on materials and labour, some time must necessarily elapse before the full programme can be completed. However, the plans contemplate undertaking the most urgent works during 1946-47. Concerning the matter of hot-water services in the official residences of postmasters, the department recognizes that the existing facilities hardly meet present-day standards. At this stage, however, it would not be practicable to undertake the complete installation of electric hotwater services in all cases and some regard must be paid. to the adequacy and suitability of facilities already in use. Naturally, the policy adopted in this connexion must apply to centres on the mainland as well as those in Tasmania. The whole matter is now being investigated carefully with the object of formulating a. policy to be observed generally. With regard to sanitary conveniences at post offices, the standing instructions provide for septic tank systems at official offices situated in centres where there are no sewerage facilities. Already many offices have been provided with septic tanks and outstanding needs willbe covered as soon as possible. In Tasmania requisitions have been placed with the Department of Works and Housing for installations at Ringarooma, Bothwell, St. Helen’s and Beaconsfield and it is proposed to instal similar facilities at Evandale, St. Mary’s and Stanley.
Senator Lamp also asked the Minister rep resen ting the Minister for Civil Aviation whether the Government would use the four-engined Lincoln aircraft now being manufactured in Australia in the services to be provided for the Australian National Airways, and if not why not. The Government will not use these machines for the purpose suggested. The Lincoln is a heavy bomber service type aircraft being manufactured for the Royal Australian Air Force, and is not suitable for civil transport purposes.
On the 9th April Senator Cooper addressed to me a question in regard to the trading results of the A.B.G. Weekly. The following information has been furnished by the Australian Broadcasting Commission : -
– I desire to refer to a question which I asked on the subject of railway accommodation for members of Parliament. The general public cannot secure sleeper reservations unless they give seven days’ notice. The official at the Federal Members’ Room in Melbourne advises me that the Superintendent of Traffic in the Railways Department, Melbourne, granted him permission to make reservations one day before the plan for reservations is actually opened to public. Acting on this arrangement the official on the 5th April applied for twelve berths on the Melbourne-Adelaide train leaving Melbourne on the 13th, eight days ahead. He now advises that the Railways Department has allotted him the worst berths on the train - mainly l’s and 2’s and 19’s and 20’s. I understand that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) has been advised of this discrimination against members of Parliament. Is any further action contemplated by the Government to ensure some better treatment and to stop this apparent victimization? Apparently, members of Parliament have been victimized. Four railway carriages leave Melbourne equipped with 80 sleeping berths,of which 64 are inside nnd sixteen outside. N o fewer than twelve of those applied for on behalf of members are outside berths.
– The matter will be brought to the notice of the Minister for the Interior.
– Some questions on the noticepaper remain unanswered. Will the replies be forwarded to honorable members ?
– I thank the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) for his kind remarks and good wishes concerning my projected trip overseas.
– I also wish to thank the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) for his kind wishes.
. -in reply - Earlier in this sitting the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) referred to the importation of motor vehicles equipped with tyres. The position is generally as stated by the honorable senator. Several months ago, the importationof motor vehicles was examined in relation to the tyre position, and after a survey of tyre stocks, and likely production, it was decided that as many as possible of the motor vehicles which were to be imported during the first two quarters of 1946 should be fitted with tyres and other equipment in the country of origin. Had this not been done, and had all imported vehicles been provided with lyres manufactured in Australia, it would have made such a strain on our existing stocks of tyres that there would have been serious difficulty in meeting the needs of owners of motor vehicles. However, arrangements were made that the matter would be reviewed from month to month in the light of the production in Australia, so that at the earliest possible date the imported vehicles could be fitted with tyres produced in Australia. Unfortunately, for various reasons, production goals of the tyre manufacturers in Australia have not been reached, although duringrecent months there has been a distinct improvement. However, the gap between the production actually achieved and that estimated as the minimum quantity necessary to permit a change in the existing practice has not been bridged and there is still a very considerable accumulated shortage amounting to approximately 100,000 in six months. The position will be reviewed each month in the light of the production figures. With respect to the question raised by the Leader of the Opposition in relation to the exemption from duty of imported tyres in British cars, this matter was referred some time ago to the Tariff Board for investigation. The board has taken evidence from various sections of the trade and other appropriate sources, and, in duecourse will make a recommendation. The matter raised by the honorable senator will not be overlooked. Consultations on the subject have been proceeding over the last six months. In August or September last a deputation representative of Australian manufacturers waited on me in Canberra and protested against the importation of tyres into Australia, pointing out that it would be inimical to the interests of ex-service- men who were going back into the industry.I had just previously decided that the tyre position in Australia warranted the importation of vehicles fitted with tyres. That decision was endorsed by the panelwhich advises the. Government. People whose motor cars have been out of commission for five or six years are entitled to the same priority in regard to tyres as persons purchasing new vehicles. Theposition is being reviewed from month to month, and immediately circumstances warrant it, the importation of motor tyres to Australia will cease.
Yesterday Senator Lamp asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy the following question, upon notice : -
Will the Minister consider replacing the present uniform of naval ratings with a more modern andpleasing one in conformity with present-day standards?
The Minister for the Navy has supplied the following answer : -
A conference of British Commonwealth service representatives, which included delegates from Australia, has recently been held in India to consider inter alia, questions of design and development of uniform clothing in the light of experience gained during the war. The deliberations of this conference will have a direct bearing on the matter raised by the honorable senator, and will be given the fullest consideration on receipt of the report.
On the 11th April, Senator Collett asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction the following question, upon notice: -
The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction has supplied the following answers : -
Yesterday Senator James McLachlan asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General the following questions, upon notice : -
With reference to the answer received by Senator James McLachlan on the 14th June last in connexion with questions asked by him regarding government acquisition ofpatent rights -
Has theGovernment yet given considerationto the repeal of regulation7 of the National Security (Industrial Property) Regulations; if not, will the Government give consideration to the repeal of this regulation?
Is itafact that the operation of this regulationhasa restrictive effect on would-be patentees, particularly in connexion with inventions in relation to home building; if so, will the Government make an early announcement that these deterrents to initiative will be removed ?
The Attorney-General has now sup- plied the following answers.: -
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bankruptcy Act - Seventeenth AnnualReport by Attorney-General, for year ended 31st July,1945.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Common wealth purposes -
Newcastle, NewSouth Wales.
National Security Act -
National Security (General) Regulations - Order -Evacuation of area -Revoca- tion.
Reputations - Statutory Rules1946,No.67.
Superannuation Act - Superannuation Board - Twenty-third Annual Report, for year 1944-45.
Senate adjourned at 3.12 a.m. (Friday) to adateandhourtobefixedbythePresident.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 11 April 1946, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1946/19460411_senate_17_186/>.