20th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Edward Mattner) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– On the 3rd July, Senator Arnold asked a question concerning television and the stage of development that it has reached in Australia. The Postmaster-General has now furnished the following information: -
A delegation recently was sent overseas to inquire into various aspects of television, Buch as technical requirements, programmes and cost. The delegation consisted of Mr. Moses, representing the Australian Broadcasting Commission, a high technical officer of the Postmaster-General’s Department, and an official of the Broadcasting Board. Those gentlemen have only recently returned to Australia. As soon as their report has been received and studied, a decision will be reached.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs seen a report to the effect that cease-fire talks in Korea are held up by the United Nations’ leaders because agreement has not been reached on whether members of the press should or should not be present at those talks? In view of the fact that every hour lost in successfully concluding the negotiations may mean the loss of an Australian life and the wrecking of an Australian home, will the Minister request the Cabinet to instruct our delegates to the United Nations to protest strongly against -such unwarranted, unnecessary and criminal delay?
– I am sure that the matter raised by the honorable senator is already receiving the earnest consideration of the Government. However, I shall bring it to the notice of my colleagues.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
Will the Minister consider reading in Parliament the terms of the Presidential citation earned by the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, for gallantry in action in Korea T
– I am advised that the citation published in General Orders for the United States Army in Korea, No. 453 of the 23rd June, 1951, reads - 3rd Battalion Royal Australian Regiment, 2nd Battalion Princess Patricias Canadian Light Infantry Company “ A “ ,72nd Heavy Tank Battalion (United States) are cited for extraordinary heroism and outstanding performance of combat duties in action against the armed enemy near Kapyong Korea on the 24 and 25 of April 19al. The enemy had broken through the main line of resistance and penetrated to the area North of Kapyong. The units listed above were deployed to stem the . assault. Early on the 24 April the. 3rd Battalion Royal Austraiian Regiment moved* to the right flank of the sector and took up defensive positions North of the Pukhon river. The 2nd Battalion Princess Patricias Canadian Light Infantry defended in the vicinity nf hill 677 on the left flank. Company “A” 72nd Heavy Tank Battalion supported all units to the full extent of its capacity and in addition kept the main roads open and assisted in evacuating the wounded. Troops from a retreating Division passed through the sector which enabled enemy troops to infiltrate with the withdrawing forces. The enemy attacked savagely under the clangor of bugles ! trumpets. The forward clements were completely surrounded going through the first day and into the second. Again and again the enemy threw waves of troops at the gallant defenders and many times succeeded in penetrating the outer defences but each time the courageous indomitable and determined soldiers repulsed the fanatical attacks. Ammunition ran low and there was not time for food. Critical supplies were dropped by air to the encircled troops but still they “ stood their ground in resolute defiance of the enemy. With serene and indefatigable persistence the gallant soldiers held their defensive positions and took heavy tolls of the enemy. In some instances when the enemy penetrated the defences the Commanders directed friendly artillery fire on their own positions in repelling the thrusts. Toward the close of the second day the 25 of April the enemy breakthrough had been stopped. The seriousness of the breakthrough on the Central Front had been changed from defeat to victory by the gallant stand of these heroic and courageous soldiers. The 3rd Battalion Royal Australian Regiment, 2nd Battalion Princes Patricias Canadian Light Infantry and Company “ A “ 72nd Heavy Tank Battalion displayed such gallantry determination and esprit de, corps in accomplishing their mission under extremely difficult and hazardous conditions as to set them apart and above other units participating in the campaign and by their achievements they have brought distinguished credit on themselves their homelands and all freedom loving nations.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The Minister for Immigration has supplied the following answer : -
The number of Italian immigrants expected to come to Australia in the first six months of the operation of the Australia-Italy Assisted Passage Migration Agreement will probably not exceed 10,000. It is a fact that the agreement does not mention the numbers of immigrants who are to be received in Australia under its provisions. This omission is designed to give the Australian Government the right to regulate the number of immigrants we accept according to our needs and the proven suitability of the immigrants we get. The agreement does, however, provide for the scheme to operate for a period of five years from a date to be fixed and may be continued thereafter by mutual agreement. The date of operation is at present being considered and will, it is expected, be in the very near future. Australian interests will not be affected in any way by the operation of this agreement because of reported Communist influence in Italy. Our screening measures in respect of immigrants to be selected will be such that the possibility of persons with any doubtful security background being accepted will be reduced to a positive minimum. Our own highly trained security officers will undertake security screening of all persons who are presented, in collaboration with experienced British authorities. Our selection criteria, which is generally recognized as being of the highest standard, will ensure that only those immigrants who may be readily assimilated into the Australian community will be selected. Their absorption into the economy will have been pre-established by our requisitions which go forward to the Chief Migration Officer, Rome, from time to time. These requisitions are based on known labour shortages in essential industries in Australia and’ specify the number of immigrants to be selected and their occupational categories during given periods.
– On the 27th June, Senator Gordon Brown asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration the following question : -
In view of frequent reports that have appeared in the newspapers of Australia, concerning the arrival in this country of immigrants of a very low calibre, and with no conception of hygiene, will the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration seek the fullest information on this matter, ascertain who is responsible and inform the Senate of the steps being taken to prevent such immigrants from coming to Australia?
The Minister for Immigration has supplied the following answer: -
Recent press reports in regard to the unsuitability of certain classes of migrants coming to Australia should be accepted with considerable reserve. For example, some of these reports claimed that the master of a ship carrying a number of Lebanese and Syrian passengers had commented very strongly as to their unsuitability as migrants. The master in question emphatically denied the statements attributed to him and the criticism apparently emanated from other alien passengers on tha ship, who considered they had been misled as to the quality of the accommodation which would be provided and resented the presence of other aliens on board. In comparison with our total volume of migration, the number of Lebanese and Syrians coming to Australia is very small, less than .3 per cent. Every alien migrant admitted to this country is required to undergo a prescribed medical and radiological examination and is subjected to strict tests to ensure that he is satisfactory from the point of view of general character and is not likely to constitute a security risk. The Department of Immigration has set up a number of posts in Europe manned by its own officers. Because of the number of aliens seeking to enter Australia, it has not been possible for Australian officials to personally examine all applicants for admission and we have bad to rely on the good offices of British consular officials for assistance in this regard. Action is, however, being taken to increase the number of Australian posts overseas and in particular to deal with migrants from Mediterranean countries at whom criticism has been mostly directed.
– Oil 28th June, Senator Tangney asked a question relating to the supply of butter from Western Australia to Sydney and Canberra. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has now advised that he has had inquiries made into the butter supply position in “Western Australia, and that the Australian Dairy Produce Board has informed him that 1,520 boxes of butter were in cold store there at the 30th June. The estimated production for July in Western Australia is 27,000 boxes. As the average monthly consumption in that State is 26,000 boxes, it appears that at some period in July there may be a relatively small local surplus of butter. However, allowance must be made for a possible over-estimate of production and also for the fact that some of the production is not table quality butter. It can therefore be said that there is no real surplus at present available in Western Australia for transfer to other States. When excess supplies become available, arrangements for their transfer to other States will be made by the industry through the Commonwealth Dairy Produce Equalization Committee Limited. Transfer costs will be adjusted under the butter equalization arrangement and the question of subsidizing freight will not arise.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has furnished the following answers: -
As honorable senators know, I read to the Senate a few days ago the statement referred to by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. ‘ Copies of the statement have since been distributed to all honorable senators.
– Can the Minister representing the Postmaster-General inform the Senate of the composition of the Australian Broadcasting Commission? What salaries and allowances are payable to its members ? Is it a fact that the only Western Australian representative on the commission, Mrs. I. M. Kent, has been replaced by Dame Enid Lyons? Is it not a fact, therefore, that Western Australia, which comprises one-third of’ the area of the Commonwealth, thus has no direct representation on the commission? Is it not a fact that a Melbourne daily newspaper announced last week that Dame Enid Lyons had joined its staff as a special feature writer? Will her appointment to the Australian Broadcasting Commission provide a link between the pres3 and that body? As Dame Enid Lyons is in receipt of an Australian Government pension of £500 per annum, and as Mrs. Kent, who is also a widow, has no other income, is this appointment an indication of the Government’s policy to give to him that hath and to take from him that hath not?
– The honorable senator’s questions deal with two distinct and separate matters. Offhand, I am unable to furnish information about the composition of the commission and the salaries and allowances paid to its members. I shall be glad if the honorable senator will place her questions relating to those matters on the notice-paper. In regard to the other matters raised, I shall bring them to the notice of the Government.
– Under the draft Japanese peace treaty a sum of money is to be allotted for compensation for prisoners of war of all the allies. Tn the absence of the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, can the Minister for Trade and Customs give a forecast of what will be the Australian share of that money? Will it be sufficient to pay an allowance of 3s. a (lay to all our former prisoners of war who suffered so much at the hands of the J Japanese ?
– It is not practicable at this stage to make a reasonable computation of the amount that will be available for the purpose mentioned by the honorable senator.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The Minister for Immigration has furnished the following answer : -
A passport was issued at Melbourne on the 25th June, 1951, to John Joseph Brown, secretary of the Australian Railways Union, who had declared his intention to visit Vienna “ for the purpose of attending the Administrative Committee meeting of the Land Transport Section of the World Federation of Trade Unions between the 10th and 19th July “. He stated that he proposed to leave Australia by air on the 8th July. The passport policy, which has been adopted by the Government, on the advice of the competent security authorities, has been explained on a number of previous occasions. Mr. Brown’s passport, like the passports of all Australians not having an approved reason for a visit to Soviet occupied or dominated countries, was not made valid for travel to those countries. Mr. Brown is at liberty to visit the western zones of Austria and the sectors of Vienna occupied by the Western nations; but if he proceeds to the Soviet section of Vienna or to any other Communist country excluded from the validity of his passport, the document will be cancelled and impounded as soon as it comes under notice.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for’ Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has furnished the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the fact that jubilee year is one of thanksgiving for 50 years of nationhood, a nationhood hastened by the spirit and endurance of Australian soldiers in two world wars, will the Prime Minister consider granting during these celebrations some recognition to the men who exemplify this spirit, namely, the Victoria Cross heroes?
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answer : -
The Commonwealth Government is fully conscious of the part played by Australian soldiers in the progress of this country towards nationhood. However, the Government does not support the practice of making grants to individuals in connexion with the jubilee celebrations.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator O’sullivan) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The effect of this bill is to make the small increase in the size of the Cabinet to which reference was made in the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General. The measure proposes to raise the number of members of the Cabinet from nineteen to twenty, and to increase the Cabinet fund by the amount of £1,350. This is a small addition, which is no more than appropriate to the addition of the twentieth Minister. Cabinet first became composed of nineteen Ministers in 1941. At that time the increase to nineteen was made under regulation. In 1946, after the war, the number of nineteen Ministers was confirmed by statute, experience having indicated a very great growth in Cabinet business. I desire to point out that the work of Cabinet and of individual Ministers has at least doubled during the last few years.
In these circumstances I put before the Senate this entirely reasonable proposal. I remind honorable senators that a substantial interval has passed since the number of Ministers first became nineteen, and also that recently the Parliament has been enlarged.
– In another place honorable members of the Opposition opposed and voted against this measure, but they made it particu larly clear that they did so only for the reason that a very limited amount of time was given for debate. There was no criticism of the proposal itself. The position is that the Opposition in this chamber will not oppose or vote against the measure. It is interested to know whether the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) is in a position to state what will be the title of the new portfolio. I understand that a new portfolio will be created, and if the Minister is in a position to give some information to the Senate on that point honor able senators will be glad to receive it.
Senn tor Cameron. - Perhaps the new Minister will be called “ Minister for Regulations “.
– With a real desire to be helpful to the Government, I suggest that it appoint a “ Minister for Broken Promises “. He could be kept very busy repairing all the promises that this Government has broken. Let nic 7’efer to a few of them. The Government promised to reduce governmental expenditure, but that expenditure increased by £212,000,000 last year. It promised to reduce the number of public servants, but the number has increased by 7,500. It promised to reduce taxes, but the revenue from sales taxation has increased by approximately £10,000,000, and £103,000.000 has been taken from the wool-growers. A “ Minister for Broken Promises “ would be kept very busy repairing the Government’s promise to put value back into the £1 and to reduce the cost of living. He could also devote his attention to the unfulfilled promise to review and strengthen the existing laws with respect to sedition.
. - in reply - The help that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has given the Government is typical of that which we are accustomed to receive from the Opposition. This Government inherited a legacy of broken promises. It is looking, not backward, but forward. I assume that an existing portfolio will be allotted to the new Minister. It is not the intention to create a new portfolio.
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 Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Spooner) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a purely formal measure to amend the Defence Act consequential upon the passing of the National Service Act 1951. Under this measure, Parts XII., XIII. and XIV. of the Defence Act relating to universal military service in time of peace are repealed, as these parts have been superseded by the provisions of the National Service Act 1951. The bill also provides for amendments to certain sections of the Defence Act by omitting references therein to Parts XII., XIII. and XIV. of the Defence Act, and substituting, where necessary, references to the National Service Act 1951. In effect, the bill will delete from the Defence Act all provisions relating to universal military training because that phase of national preparedness is now covered by the National Service Act.
– The Opposition has not had a great deal of time to consider this measure in the Senate, but it was considered elsewhere, and no opposition was raised. I accept the Minister’s assurance that the bill is purely formal, but there is one matter to which I must draw attention. The bill provides that Parts XII., XIII. and XIV. of the principal act shall be repealed. I find that Part XII. refers to the general obligation on males to undergo training in the naval, military and air forces. Section 125 renders liable for training persons between the ages of 12 and 26 years, and that provision is to be repealed. Part XIII. deals with exemptions from personal service, and Part XIV. with registrations and enrolment for naval, military or air force training. Evidently, the Government is. pinning its faith to the recruits who become liable for training upon attaining the age of eighteen. If the international situation is as tense as the Government has told us, it seems strange to me that the Government should be deliberately discarding its power to call up for training males between the ages of 12 and 26. I acknowledge that there is another provision in Part IV. of the act by which, in time of war, all males between the ages of IS and 60 years become liable for service if called upon, but that relates to time of war only, and we are still at peace. The Government claims that the danger of war is imminent; yet it is deliberately abandoning a wide field of recruitment. If the Government’s worst fears are realized, and the war breaks out before the end of 1953, the youths now being called up for training will not then be 21 years old. Then there will be two more classes, containing lads of nineteen and twenty years of age, who will have been recruited in the intervening years. The point I make is that the action that the Government is taking under this measure must be construed as some kind of reassurance to the nation that no vital, or immediate, urgency exists. That is the way it will be construed when it is understood. I venture to suggest that that is a light in which the High Court might well regard this action in considering the scope and extent of the defence power at the present time. I again suggest to the Government that the action that it proposes to be taken under this measure may constitute a real weakening of the case that it will be able to present to the High Court on aspects of the defence power. In particular, I should like the Minister to indicate how he reconciles this lessening of the obligation to serve with the Government’s claim that there now exists a grave national emergency for which Australia must prepare.
– in reply - This is a consequential measure that is designed to obviate duplication. Unless it is passed the provisions of the Defence Act in respect of military training will continue in force concurrently with the provisions of the National Service Act in relation to such training. That is the background of the statements that I am now about to make and in respect of which I must apologize for my inability at the moment to cite the relevant sections of those two acts. However, the measure now before the Senate is completely consistent with the policy of the Government. The bill will not in any way weaken the .present military effort. The measure relates to compulsory service in what, in my day, were known as the junior and senior cadets. The Government will still encourage those cadet corps at the various schools, colleges and universities and will encourage students to join them to do preliminary military training and to seek promotion in them. We believe that lads who are keen and enthusiastic in those corps will, upon receiving their call-up under the National Service Act, provide potential non-commissioned officers under the national service scheme. In addition to the cadet corps we have the Citizen Military Forces, and it is hoped that many of the youths who complete their period of compulsory national service training will be prepared to do even more for their country and will continue their military training in those forces. It is hoped that the school cadet corps will furnish valuable material to assist the training of young men under the National Service Act, because the former cadets will already have received certain basic training. It is also hoped that many of the national service trainees will join the Citizen Military Forces, where they will enter upon a higher responsibility because they will be liable for military service -abroad. That is the explanation that I furnish in response to the request by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) for more detailed information. I do not think that the measure can be regarded as weakening the national defence effort; on the contrary, I think that it will strengthen that effort and place it on a more logical basis.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– Clause 12 of the bill proposes to repeal Parts XII., XIII. and XIV. of the principal act. Section 124 of that act authorizes military training for four age groups of youths and young men. Youths between the ages of 12 and 14 years may receive training in the junior cadet corps ; those between 14 and IS years in the senior cadet corps; those between the ages of 18 and 25 years will receive national service training; and men between the ages of 26 and 40 years may join the Citizen Military Forces. Broadly interpreted, that section confers upon the Government power to call up compulsorily all youths and young men between the ages of 12 and 26 years. The repeal of that section by this measure means that the Government will give up the right to call upon those young men to render compulsory military service, and under the National Service Act, the Government will have the right to call up for service only young men of the age of 18 years. Surely that shows some appreciation by the Government of the lessening of the danger to Australia. If there were a grave danger to this country, it is most unlikely that the Government would decide to reduce so seriously the number of young men upon whom it can call for the defence of the country. I put it strongly to the Minister that my colleagues and I find it difficult to reconcile the Government’s claim that war is likely, and that we must prepare for it in a short time, with the repeal of that particular section. I recognize that it is the policy of the Government to concentrate upon the eighteen year-old group, but I draw from that the conclusion that the action of the Government in this matter cannot be reconciled with its claim that we . are living in a state of grave national emergency.
– I have no desire to prolong this debate, but I believe that I should point out that few people are in a better position to judge the seriousness of the world situation than is the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who has had the opportunity to confer with the Prime Minister of Great Britain and the President of the United States of America and -with, the military leaders of those two countries. I assure honorable senators that this issue is most important, and urge the Senate to accept the proposal in this bill. I do not desire to raise any controversial matter in this debate, because I regard defence as too important to be made the subject of party politics. I remember that in 193S, people in high places on our side of politics had grave doubts whether there would be a war. Responsible leaders in this Parliament criticized the government of the day because they thought that it was engaged in war mongering. But within a year, we were at war. I remember, too, that this country was saved by a miracle from occupation by the Japanese. I do not think that any responsible government, having regard to the international position, can afford to take a risk in defence matters. The Prime Minister of Great Britain, who leads a Labour Government, is so concerned about the world situation that he has decided that the defence effort of the United Kingdom must be doubled this year in spite of the fact that Great Britain is “ up against it “ economically. The United States of America has given a great lead to the free world and is expending vast sums of money on defence. In those circumstances, an obligation rests upon us to realize the seriousness of the situation and pull our weight.
Replying to the points that have been raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), I point out that the Government is largely guided by its military advisers. There is a limit to the number of men who can be trained in the next three years, during which I think the international situation will remain critical. The coal-mining industry, the railways, and the food industries have already directed the attention of the Government to the terrific, strain that the long period of compulsory training for youths aged seventeen years will impose upon their man-power. Yet, having regard to the urgency of the situation, we must concentrate on that group. That advice has been tendered to us by our military leaders. In view of the requirements of defence, housing and other immediate problems, there is a limit to the number of men that we can call up in the next year. If we believe that it is proper te call up youths in the sixteen year old group or in the nineteen year old group, the Government can, under this bill, reconsider its decision. To call up boys between twelve and sixteen years of age for military training at this stage would be almost a physical impossibility. “We must all accept . our responsibility for defence preparedness. It is recognized by the United States of America, by the United Kingdom, and by our own military advisers that the best way to keep the peace is to be adequately prepared for war. Preparedness is a worthwhile insurance premium. I hope that members of the Labour party truly appreciate the duty that rests upon all of us in these difficult days of international tension.
– I very much appreciate, as I am sure my colleagues do, the assurance that has been given by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay), presumably on the advice of military experts and of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) himself, that the international situation is not so serious as the Government sought to have us believe.
– The honorable senator is placing an entirely wrong interpretation on what I have said.
– I am entitled to place my own interpretation on the Minister’s remarks. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) pointed out that clause 12 removes from the Defence Act the power to call up men between the ages of 19 and 26 years for military training in peace-time. In reply, the Minister assured the Leader of the Opposition that this action was not being done without legal and military advice, or without consultation with Great Britain. The proposal to remove from the Defence Act the provision to which I have referred is, in effect, an assurance that there is no immediate threat of war. Surely, if war was threatened the Government would know a few months ahead.
– That is the position in which the Government is placing itself. Again I express the Opposition’s gratification at the assurance implicit in this legislation that international tension has now eased to such a degree that a power that has been on the statute-book for decades can now be relinquished. This bill has given the show away, and I can now quite understand the Government’s eagerness to have .the Defence Preparations Bill out of the .way before . introducing this one. The Opposition’s efforts in resisting the Defence Preparations Bill have not been wasted. The nature of this bill demonstrates that the conduct of the Opposition in this chamber yesterday was fully justified. I abhor war, but nevertheless I believe that we should be fully prepared to defend ourselves.
Senator McKENNA (Tasmania - Leader of the Opposition) [11.20 J. - I should not have spoken again but for the comments of the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay). I should not like him to interpret my comments as an indication that I favour the compulsory calling up of children from 32 to 18 years of age.
– Hear, hear !
– As the Minister agrees that I did’ not intend to convey any such suggestion, I need not develop the point. I merely pointed out that the Government was relinquishing its right to call up for training youths between 18 and 26 years of age. I also make the comment that the Opposition does not suggest that there should be any diminution of the nation’s preparations for war.
– Hear, hear !
– As the Minister accepts that assurance also, I am not at issue with him on that point. I make only one further comment. I appreciate what the honorable gentleman said about the position of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who can have a much better appreciation of the international situation than anybody else. He has been abroad and in contact with world leaders, and also he is in daily communication with other nations in order to receive progress reports of developments around the world at the highest level. But I warn the Government against relying on the judgment of one man. It is essential that members of the Government parties, and. of the Opposition as well, should have the opportunity to bring their minds to bear upon the grounds that form the basis of the Prime Minister’s judgment. I do not suggest for a moment that all the information that may be available to the Prime Minister can be made public, but the Government has baldly claimed that there is a grave international emergency and has not taken the Parliament or the nation adequately into its confidence. Military advisers are not always the best individuals to determine policy. Their task is to carry out policies as they are determined by the Government.
– I think that we should refer Senator Aylett’s comments to our military advisers.
– I have no objection if the Government considers that it should do so. The Government has been neglectful of its duty in failing to give full information about the emergencies that threaten this country to the Parliament and, through the Parliament, to the nation.
– I join in the discussion again, with some reluctance, in order to clarify some of the points that have been mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). The Government accepts his statement that the Opposition realizes that there should be no diminution of the defence effort. It regards Senator Aylett’s statement as having been completely foolish, wild and irresponsible. It is bad for the Parliament as a whole that an honorable senator should rise in this chamber and say that the Government is perpetrating a fraud on the nation and does not sincerely believe in the necessity to prepare for defence merely because it has introduced a bill to remove from the Defence Act those provisions which relate to the training of boys. Surely there must be some limit to the way in which we play at party politics and make irresponsible statements !
– I rise to order. At no time have I said that this country should not prepare for war. The statement by the Minister that I did so is untrue and I ask that it be withdrawn, because it is a slur on my ‘prestige and character.
– No point of order is involved.
– I do not think that I said that the honorable senator had stated that the country should not prepare for war. I joined issue with the honorable senator on his utter lack of decency in saying that the introduction of this measure indicated that there was no need to make the requisite arrangements to have the nation prepared for war. The contention of the Leader of the Opposition was fallacious. What is being done, in effect, is to translate inaction into action. The existing ‘provisions in the Defence Act for the calling-up of certain classes of people in various age groups are “not being utilized, because the Government’s advisers consider that it would be impracticable to do so, even if the Government was so minded. The Government has a considerable problem on its hands already in connexion with the calling-up of eighteen-year-old youths. With respect to the Labour party, I ‘point out that conditions in the world have changed since the Defence Act was’ placed on the statute-book. The Defence Act provides for the training of people within Australia. Because of a change of the military scene, the policy of the Government has been changed. In the new scheme of things provision is made for compulsory training within Australia, with emphasis on getting a greater force into the militia voluntarily, with the obligation for overseas service if the need should arise. The point that I am endeavouring to make is that this is not any derogation or reduction of the existing defence preparations, but in truth a very substantial practical strengthening of preparation. It is fallacious to say that the proposed relinquishing of power to call up boys under eighteen years of age constitutes a weakening of the arrangements. I repeat that emphasis is to be ‘placed on compulsory military service within Australia of youths in certain age groups, enlargement of the cadet corps, and the recruiting campaign for the militia. The Government considers that a better defence programme will be achieved as a result.
– .1. should like to correct a misstatement that has been made by the Minister -for National Development (Senator Spooner). Obviously the Minister did not listen carefully to my remarks. I did not say, or imply, that we should let up oil any of our defence preparations.
– When the honorable senator reads the Hansard proof of his speech he will be ashamed of himself.
– It is most indecent for the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay), and the Minister for National Development to accuse me of saying something that I did not say. I said that the Government should continue with its defence programme. I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) whether it is a fact that the amendment before the committee will result in the Government surrendering the right to call up men between 18 and 26 years of age for military training by removing that power from the Defence Act. Honorable senators cannot say that it is not a fact. .Senator McLeay stated that the Government has acted ‘upon the most expert advice obtainable. After the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) received that advice he said that the Government could afford to remove from the Defence Act the power to call up men between the ages of 18 and 26 for military training.
I have never at any time suggested that the Government should not adhere to its defence programme. I have advocated the adoption of all necessary defence measures, but I do not intend to shut my eyes to the hard cold facts. It is most improper of a Minister of the Crown to accuse an honorable senator of being indecent because he pointed out these facts. If it is possible to remove these provisions from the Defence Act it must be because the international situation has improved. If world tension has . not eased why has the Minister proposed that this power should be dispensed with? Nobody appreciates the present position more than does the Opposition. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber support the principle of preparedness for defence. Nobody can accuse them of having adopted any other attitude.
.- I should like the Minister for Trade and “ Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) to inform the committee of any action the Government proposes to take to ensure that the training which will be received by youths of eighteen years of age will not be wasted. How will the Government ensure that after these youths have been trained for an initial period they will continue to receive training until they reach the age of 25 years? Unless something definite is done in that respect it is likely that .very few of them will still be receiving military training until they attain the age of 25 years. It is after the age of eighteen years that lads commence to transfer from one job to another. What safeguard is it intended to provide in order to ensure that the young men who have been trained will return to military camps for further training?
– The matter raised by the honorable senator really relates to the national service scheme and not to this bill. This measure is designed to amend the Defence Act 1951 by the deletion and insertion of certain provisions, and I am prepared to debate the need for those amendments to he made. I regret that I am not in a position to give a detailed answer to the matters raised by the honorable senator, other than to say that I am confident that, within the capacity of the Ministry and the Government, every effort is being made and everything proper is being done to maintain continuity of service, which of course is most essential. I agree with the honorable senator that it would bc futile ‘to call up young men, to train them, and to let that be the end of it. I am sure that there will be a continuing effort tq maintain their interest in military training, and that for that purpose short periods of training will be provided for under, the national service training scheme. It is hoped that the young men who have undergone their initial training will volunteer for active service in the militia.
– I consider that the matters raised by Senator Cole deserve more consideration than has been given to thom by the Minister. The last point made by the honorable senator is a very important one. He wishes to know what will become of the young men in the 12 to 18 years old group who are called up and trained. I suggest that it will be found that they will drift away and will not take any further interest in military training. I wish to know whether the right to call up the 18 to 26 years age group has been surrendered because of representations that have been made by leaders of industry. If that is so I should like further information upon the matter. The Minister has stated, as one of the reasons for the surrender of the right to call up that group, that insufficient staff is available to train the numbers concerned. Surely there is something wrong if that is correct. I think that all those matters deserve a better explanation than that given by the Minister, and I hope that the relevant information will be made available to the Senate this morning.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Message received from the House of Representatives, intimating that it. had agreed to the amendments made by the Senate in this bill.
Debate resumed from the 13th July (vide page 1703), on motion by Senator 0’Sut.livan -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– Before the adjournment of the debate last evening, I had been pointing out the unlimited scope of regulations which mav be made under this bill and I had referred to regulations which could be made to provide for the diversion and control of resources, including money, materials and facilities. I suggest that if such regulations are made they must have regard also to the control and direction of capital for investment purposes and to the control and direction of essential housing materials. Does not this measure suggest that when the proposed Commonwealth Bank Board begins to function it will determine whether or not advances of capital should be made to certain industries ? If it does, I consider that the workers engaged in industries which are not regarded as essential within the meaning of this legislation will be adversely affected. If there is also control and direction of essential materials, it is not difficult to visualize the tremendous impact that such controls will make on the progress of housing programmes in this country. The control :ind direction of materials will have a direct bearing on employment in the building trades. This Parliament is being deliberately deprived of the opportunity to make any decision in such matters, because the bill provides that they shall be under the control of a person appointed by a Minister. The bill also provides for the control of “ facilities,” but gives no definition of that word. In fact, the bill contains no definitions at all. I do not know what the word “ facilities “ is intended to mean in this bill. It may mean anything. It may mean transport or foodstuffs. Perhaps its meaning was left vague so that a legal tribunal will be able to interpret it later.
It seems to me, as I said last night, that this bill provides for bureaucracy in excelsis. It will give unlimited power to individuals who have not been elected by the people, as we have, to determine the destiny of this country. Regulations may be made and can be enforced, with penalties for breaches of them, in relation to the adjustment of Australia’s economy to meet a threat of war. Now, who is to do this adjusting? Is it to be the Parliament of the country or some outside body? Is it to be civil servants or some single individual so authorized by the Minister? There i3 already in existence an organization called the National Security Resources Board, which was established by the present Government to control essential commodities. “Will that body control the Australian economy from now on under this measure? The preamble to the bill provides that regulations that may be made under it - will include also measures to secure the maintenance and sustenance of the people of Australia in the event of war and to- contribute towards the maintenance and sustenance of the people of countries associated with Australia in defence preparations:
What does that mean? The Minister certainly gave us no indication of its meaning in his second-reading speech, which was similar to the legislation itself in that it can be described only as amazing. His speech was a political propaganda stunt, which fortunately he was not permitted to carry on to the end. It was also an insult to honorable senators on this side of the chamber. The most remarkable feature of it was that he departed from a procedure that has been followed ever since I have been a member of this Parliament, in that he did not supply a copy of it to honorable senators. Perhaps the speech was too dangerous for him to commit to paper, because he knows full well the implications of such a measure as this becoming operative in a time of peace.
At the moment not one of us knows with which country we are expected to be at war at some future date. The bill proposes the direction and control of the whole of Australia’s economy by bureaucrats and planners, without any reference to the Parliament. How does that proposal compare with the pre-election promises of the Government parties, the members of which so forthrightly criticized the fact that Labour governments had made regulations during the last war. Yet the Government parties, after having been elected to this Parliament on the plea that they would abolish controls and get back to the status -quo ante by diminishing the power of the bureaucracy and reducing the size of the overloaded Public Service, have introduced a bill that will increase the bureaucracy in both size and power. I suggest to honorable senators opposite and to the Government, that if this legislation is as essential as they claim it to be, the Government should take a referendum of the people on it in conjunction with the referendum to be taken on the Constitution Alteration (Powers to Deal with Communists and Communism) Bill. It should also tell the people, at the time of the referendum, honestly and straight from the shoulder just where we stand in relation to international matters and so give them an opportunity to decide fairly whether they will agree to have a peace-time economy that is consistent only with the existence of. a state of war.
I submit that the preamble to the bill is designed to obviate the possibility of an unfavorable High Court judgment on the bill should the legislation be challenged. It is remarkable that the Communist Party Dissolution Act also had just as long a preamble as this bill has. What is the idea of having a “ preamble ?
– Of course it is ! But is goes further than that. Its aim is to convey to anybody who may have to rule on the validity of the measure, what was in the mind of the Parliament when the act was passed. We know that the High Court has been consistent, since federation in holding that any legislation in respect of a war economy must be related to the fact that a war is in existence at the relevant time and that the legislation is necessary for the safety of the Commonwealth in relation to actual war. Under the existing defence laws of this country every government, irrespective of its political colour, is charged with the responsibility of maintaining the country’s defences. It appears to me that this Government has been lacking in discharging even its existing responsibility in that respect. What does the preamble to the present measure mean? I do not propose to go into the matter at extreme length but, taking it by and large, it means in effect, that Australia is to be pledged to support collective action in the event of international aggression. We agree with that principle, but where is there international aggression to-day except in Korea? Negotiations for an armistice are already in progress there. The preamble says that a state of international emergency exists, but no evidence has been offered in support of that statement. The preamble to a bill should be factual. The .preamble goes on to say that, because of an international emergency essential preparations for defence are called for with a degree of urgency not hitherto necessary except in time of war. When is the evidence to support that statement ? Yet, without offering evidence, the Government is preparing to direct people here and there according to its will. I believe that the preamble was inserted in the .bill in an effort to influence the High Court should this legislation be challenged. I am confident that, should it be challenged, the High Court will declare it invalid on the ground that the country is not at war.
Of course, there may be another war. Who can say when or where a war may break out? But we are not justified in interfering with the whole economy of the nation merely because there is a dispute somewhere in the world such as that in Persia. There have always been international disputes and tensions. Indeed, there has generally been a war going on somewhere in the world, but no previous Australian Government ever felt it necessary to seek such extraordinary powers at a time when Australia was itself not directly involved. If the Government has any real reason for taking this proposed action, it should take members of the National Parliament into its confidence, even if it be necessary to hold a secret session of the Parliament for the purpose.
Senator Cormack referred to the interruption of rubber production in Malaya as a justification for this legislation, but I cannot agree with him that such an event justifies what the Government is proposing to do. I am inclined strongly to the belief that the introduction of this legislation is merely a part of a great, world-wide struggle that is about to begin between capital and labour. I am as good an Australian as any other man, and as eager to .preserve our freedom and security, but I am not prepared to give to a government extraordinary powers in time of peace. Recently, when we were discussing proposed legislation to deal with Communists, Government supporters had much to say about democracy, and the propriety of seeking a decision from the people. Well, let us ask the people to express an opinion on these proposals of the Government. Of course, the Government has not the courage to consult the people on a proposal to interfere with civil liberties and the economic freedom of the individual.
It has been claimed that, in order to maintain a stable economy, there must be a certain percentage of unemployment. Perhaps the Government is introducing this measure knowing that it can be used to bring about unemployment. When the percentage of unemployment is high enough, the employers will be able to dictate their own terms. Certain industries will be declared unessential, and will be closed down. The employees will not be directed to other jobs. They will just be allowed to remain out of work until they are compelled to apply for employment in some of the remaining industries, and then they will be taken on at the employers’ terms. Who is to decide whether an industry is essential or not? Honorable senators on the Government side contend that this measure is the only thing that will save Australia, but I believe that a large number of them do not even know the contents of the bill. If they do know what the bill contains, then in view of their statements they are recreant to the interests of the people who elected them. The members of the Government parties told the people during, the last two general election campaigns that they should get rid of the power-drunk Labour Government and elect them to office. They said that if they were elected they would abolish controls and bureaucrats and prune the Public Service. This bill is evidence a the insincerity of those promises.
During a time of peace the people should not have forced on them by bureaucrats a system which could be justified only if the country were actually at war. If this legislation is necessary, then the Government has failed lamentably to carry on the defence preparation measures originated by previous Labour governments. Senator Tate tried to justify the Government’s right to give authority to some people to issue regulations to control the lives of the people. He said that there would be not much danger in the issue of such regulations because the Senate, and the Regulations and Ordinances Committee existed to safeguard the rights of the people. He said that that committee could function during parliamentary recesses, when regulations are generally issued ad lib. I do not say that it cannot act, but I do ask whether it will act. I have been a member of that committee for some time, and its practice has been to sit only when the Parliament is in session. Some time ago, as the result of representations made by the committee, a legal officer was appointed to keep the members of the committee acquainted with the nature of all regulations and their effect upon the freedom of the people. During the war, regulations were turned out like sausages, and it was very difficult for the members of the committee, particularly the lay members, to appraise the true effect of the total issue. That is why a legal man was appointed to help the committee. When the committee meets, regulations are placed before it and the committee then decides whether they should be disallowed or be referred to the Senate. That affords no direct protection of the people against the impact of faulty regulations. Unless the committee makes a decision, nothing can be done, and unless a regulation is challenged within fifteen, sitting days of the reopening of the Parliament, again nothing can be done. I definitely oppose this bill.
– I congratulate Senator Byrne upon the admirable speech that he made during this debate. I agree with a great part of what he said. I believe that the dangers to democracy which may arise under this legislation are real, and that we should take every means available to us to ensure that those dangers shall not arise, or that, if they do, they shall be promptly overcome. I do not agree with the honorable senator who has just resumed his seat (Senator Nash), who implied that because the Regulations and Ordinances Committee has been ineffective while he has been a member of it, it will be ineffective in the future. I recently circulated to members of the Government parties resolutions of a committee composed of Government supporters which, if adopted, will make the work of that committee effective. Senator Tate has explained to honorable senators what the committee could do and what it intends to do. I assure those honorable senators opposite who are honestly perturbed about the danger of a mass of regulations, that we intend to make that committee and the Senate itself effective organs to prevent a bureaucracy arising.
Senator Nash interjecting,
– I am addressing the President and not the honorable senator who just shouted at me from the other side of the chamber. It is within the province of honorable senators to restore the Senate to a position in which it can be a most vital and effective part of the Parliament. If war occurs and a great number of regulations are issued, then the Senate and Senate committees will have to do the work of preserving the people’s freedom. But we have the assurance of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) that it is not the intention of the Government to issue a spate of regulations. That assurance was given to every honorable senator of the Government parties, and also to the public, before the bill was introduced. It is largely on the strength of that assurance that we can give wholehearted support to the bill. The country’s state of dire necessity is the reason for this measure. I refer again to the attitude of Senator Byrne on this matter, because he said that the whole hill stood or fell according to our belief in regard to its urgency. I want to convince honorable senators that the matter is urgent.
I deplore the lamentable speech just made by Senator Nash, because it was an attempt to make the public believe that there is no urgency in the international situation. He insinuated that the Government is using the measure for some wrong purpose. Woe to those who cry, “ Peace, peace ! “, when there is no peace. I cannot believe in the sincerity of any honorable senator who rises and says that he has not somewhere in his mind a fear that there is a great danger of war. If honorable senators opposite refuse to accept the assurance of the Prime Minister or of anybody on this side of the chamber, and believe that we are insincere, surely they can accept the assurance of Mr. Attlee and Mr. Morrison. If those gentlemen are slightly too nationalist in outlook for the taste of honorable senators opposite, then they should accept the assurance’ of Mr. Shinwell, who has never been suspected of being a strong nationalist. Every member of the British Cabinet believes that the danger is great. It has increased taxation to a level never before reached in peace-time, and has imposed controls that have not previous! been imposed in Great Britain in peacetime. Those things have been done by a socialist government. Even if every honorable senator on this side of the chamber were a liar, that should be sufficient evidence that the danger is great and pressing. There is something that we cannot call patriotic in the attitude of men who, for party advantage, minimize the danger that exists and pretend that modern warfare is something like warfare in the old days.
For a war of the kind envisaged by Senator Nash, one would have to go back, not to the Boer War but to the Battle of Fontenoy in the eighteenth century, when “a French general said, “ Messieurs, vouz tirez les premiers or “ Gentlemen, you fire first “. The opposing ranks stood waiting in solemn array until one side decided to fire. Those leisurely days, and even the leisurely days’ of the nineteenth century and of the early twentieth century have gone. To-day, war comes like a bolt from the blue.” We do not know everything that is in the mind of the Kremlin, but we do know that there is aggression in Asia. It may be that there is a parley in Korea only because the enemy is preparing to strike somewhere else. Persia is a danger spot, and possibly more than that. A war is going on in Indo-China. Honorable gentlemen opposite say that the democratic forces are fighting & battle for imperialism, but in fact they are fighting a battle for civilization. War is going on under the British flag in Malaya. It is war by midnight assassination and murder, but it is our war. Everywhere there is aggression.
If we could achieve what we seek t” achieve by means other than this bill,, we should do so. That is my reply to the people who will be hurt by it, and I do not deny that some people will be hurt. Some honorable senators will be hurt by it. None of us will be able to escape the impact of the measure. I am one of those who believe that where competition and the law of supply and demand can do things they should be allowed to do so. There is perfect honesty in our assertion that we believe in the working of economic forces where they are free to work. But the economic forces that have been so well described by -the old classical economists are no longer free to work. During the last 70 years, successive governments of every political colour have been putting dams and other obstacles’ in the way of the free flow of economic forces. We believe that where there is a free flow of those forces they should be permitted to operate. Competition is a real force when it operates, but, having stopped competition by means of protective tariffs, the fixation of wages and other devices, we cannot suddenly say that we shall abandon those practices and return to a state of nature. It would be a state of chaos. Unfortunately, sometimes a situation arises in which a government is forced to interfere further with such free flow of economic forces as there is. I regret that that situation exists now.
The two great problems that we must try to solve are those of inflation and of preparing for the possibility of war in order to prevent it. I believe that neither of those problems can be solved unless we grant great and swift powers of decision to the Cabinet. As to the bureaucracy, having been a public servant for a long time I know that there is no more upright, and, in their own sphere, capable body of men in the community than public servants. I know that their outlook tends to be limited. Since I have been a member of the Senate, my own outlook has broadened considerably, because I have been away from certain pressing necessities and urgent problems. Senior public servants often work for long hours at very high pressure. Since I entered the Parliament, I have had occasion to criticize privately the attitude* of a number of public servants, but I have never doubted their integrity, sincerity or ability. We must prevent the establishment of a bureaucracy in which public servants will have unlimited sway, not because the officials will be bad or incompetent men, but because there must be some wind of opinion from outside. We shall entrust the administration of this bill largely to what is called a bureaucracy, but, in addition, there will be the Cabinet, advisers of all kinds upon whom the Cabinet may call, if it so desires, and the Parliament.
I agree with honorable senators oppo- site that it is good that we are debating this bill at length. It is our duty to the country to do so. I agree also that the debate has not been fruitless. But I hope that we shall not hear another speech delivered in the deplorable tone in which Senator Nash spoke, and that other honorable senators who criticize the bill will do so in the enlightened way in which the honorable senator whom I have commended made his criticisms. I do not wish to dispute the capacity of the Labour party to rise to a high pitch of patriotic duty,- but I cannot allow to pass without challenge the statement by Senator Nash that Labour’s defence record is impeccable. It is like the curate’s egg - good in parts. Until 1916 it was an excellent record, but in those days the Federal Labour party was not controlled as it is controlled now. Honorable senators opposite openly acknowledge that they obey the orders of the federal executive of their party. In the great days of the Labour party, when it helped to build a great defence system, the federal executive gave no orders, made no suggestions and had nothing to do with the formation of policy.
– Is the honorable senator speaking from experience?
– I am certain that I am stating a fact that is -new to some honorable senators opposite. The reason that I make that statement with complete confidence is not that for which Senator Aylett is sneering and leering. There was no federal executive of the Labour party then. It is to that happy accident that we owe the great work that Watson, Fisher, Hughes and Pearce did for our defence movement. Three of those men subsequently left the Labour party - Watson ‘of his own accord, and Hughes and Pearce because the disgruntled rump that remained when the good men had left the party threw them out. Fisher became High Commissioner for Australia in London and did not re-enter politics. I admit that during the war, under the inspiration of the late John Curtin, there was a good war effort by this country.
– The right honorable gentleman had to drive his colleagues.
– I shall give them all the credit that they deserve, and perhaps a little more than that. But there was a period betwen the last two wars when the Labour party was completely unpatriotic. I inform Senator Aylett, who asked just now whether I was speaking from experience, that I remember a Labour party conference in 1934 to which I was a, delegate.
– I rise to order. What transpired at a Labour conference in years gone by has no relation to this bill.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Reid).- If Senator McCallum will continue his speech the Chair will judge the relevancy of his remarks as he develops his argument.
– I submit that what transpired at the Labour conference to which I have referred is directly relevant to this bill because it related to an issue similar to the issue now before us. It is important that the people should know whether they can trust a particular government in the matter of defence. At the conference a motion was proposed by a delegate from the Victorian branch and supported by every Victorian delegate present, to the effect that Australia should not take part in a war until an enemy had actually landed in this country. I rejoice to say that as the result of the efforts of certain delegates from New South Wales, who were not representative of the then dominant force in that State - at that time there was a split in the Labour party and the group known as the Federal Labour party was represented at the conference - and as the result of the efforts of a very patriotic representative’ from Western Australia, some Tasmanians, and a group of Queenslanders under the leadership of Mr. Forgan Smith, the motion was defeated. I remember well the white hairs of Senator Cameron waving as he tossed his head and declaimed about the great contribution to peace which would be made by the acceptance of that proposition. We can at least say that he is consistent on that point.
We base this bill on the principle that the economic ills of Australia cannot be cured by the normal methods which we should like to adopt. We must give extraordinary powers to the Executive to enable the changes we wish to make to be brought about by natural means. We shall do all that’ we can do to ensure that that power shall not be abused. Because of the urgent pressing need to prepare our defences and because of the impending peril in which the country stands, we ask honorable senators opposite to accept this bill.
– I am pleased to have an opportunity to debate this measure, especially as the debate in another place was gagged in conformity with the growing practice of the Government to stifle discussion of important measures about which the general public should be fully informed and to force them through the Parliament without proper explanation or consideration. This bill is described as a bill that relates to defence preparations that are necessary during the present national emergency. Senator McCallum said, “ Woe to those who -cry ‘ Peace, peace ! ‘, when there is no peace “; but we say, “ Woe to those who cry ‘ War, war ! when there is no war “. As honorable senators will recall, in the nineteenth century Pavlov conducted some very interesting experiments on dogs, as the result of which he was able to give to the world an insight into what is known as conditioned responses or mental conditioning. His experiments in accustoming dogs to perform different actions in accordance with variations of the ringing of a bell, are too well known for me to need to repeat them here. Similar results to those achieved by Pavlov are to be seen in the actions of honorable senators opposite whose minds have been conditioned by repeated statements by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) about the imminence of war to accept the proposition that war is inevitable.
The preamble to this bill covers a very wide field. It suggests to the conditioned minds of honorable senators opposite that war has almost come upon us. The title of the bill itself contributes to that conditioning. “When the Prime Minister introduced the bill in the House of Representatives, he said -
Preparations, military and civil, take years and must be made to an effective time-table. We believe that we must be ready by the end of 1053.
The contradiction contained in those two statements is apparent. If, in fact, there is a grave national emergency to which the minds of the people must be conditioned, is our potential enemy the one who, as Senator McCallum has suggested, is disengaging himself from Korea so that he can attack us?
– That is a gross misrepresentation of my words. I want not to attack an enemy but to be able to defend ourselves against one.
– The honorable senator said that the cessation of hostilities in Korea might enable an enemy to strike against this country.
– That is so.
– The honorable senator takes the national emergency for granted instead of admitting that the Government is conditioning the minds of the people to believe that the present international situation is unresolvable and that war is inevitable.
– That is gross misrepresentation.
– The Prime Minister and honorable senators opposite have repeatedly said that war is inevitable.
– I rise to order. I ask you, Mr. Acting Deputy President, whether the honorable senator is entitled to draw an inference which cannot possibly be drawn from my remarks.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - No point of order is involved.
– The whole tenor of the Prime Minister’s speech was designed to condition the minds of the people to the inevitability of war.
The provisions of this measure, and the regulations that will he promulgated under them, will impinge upon every phase of civil life. I trust that the draft peace treaty with Japan, the terms of which were announced recently, will be as effective as honorable senators hope it will be. I have grave doubts about the efficacy of the treaty that is now being made with the honorable Japanese gentlemen. Since the end of the recent war the Japanese have been able to cultivate the esteem of honorable senators opposite, any one of whom would have cheerfully annihilated them five years ago.
– I rise to order, Mr. Acting Deputy President. The honorable senator’s remark that I have cultivated the esteem of the Japanese, against whom I fought in the last war, is offensive to me, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - I ask the honorable senator to withdraw the remark.
– I withdraw it. From what we can learn from the published draft of the proposed treaty it is clear that the Government is prepared to trust the Japanese and to extend the hand of friendship to them. At the same time, however, the Government says the Malayans, Persians, Koreans and IndoChinese are beyond the pale. When those peoples speak of peace they are branded as Communists. The Government says that we cannot call them our friends. Is not Australia a signatory to the United Nations Charter, which guarantees selfdetermination and self-government to subject peoples? While. we subscribe to the Charter, we should not try to run the whole world. Any one with half an eye can see that the whole of East-Asia is now undergoing a transformation. Why? The disturbances that are occurring in East Asian countries had their origin in the reaction of the peoples of those countries to the injustices and exploitation to which they had been subjected foi’ centuries. But for the initiative of the Labour Government of Great Britain, we should not have been able to reach a compromise with the people of India. I admit that that compromise is uncertain. Nevertheless, as a result of it India, Pakistan and Ceylon remain within the British Commonwealth of Nations on a basis of equality and friendship. That has been of great benefit to democratic countries, the governments of which would be well advised to adhere to such a policy. On the contrary, however, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in introducing this measure in another place, declared that conditions in Malaya, IndoChina and Persia may involve us in war by 1953.
In the guise of making defence preparations the Government is now seeking to set up a super-authority in this country. I agree with Senator Grant’s statement that the Prime Minister seems to be the only individual who really knows what the Government proposes to do under this measure. History will bracket Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, and Menzies among those who, in a time of peace, instituted bureaucratic regimes in their respective countries. Honorable senators opposite have made several admissions that are illuminating. For instance, Senator Seward, when dealing with the compulsory direction of labour, of which no mention was made in the Minister’s second-reading speech, said that if vital industries were short of labour the Government, necessarily, would have to direct labour to them. Although the bill itself specifically provides that no regulation shall be made for or in relation to the direction of labour the fact remains that if any industry is arbitrarily closed down employees in it will be obliged to seek work in other industries. The worker must work in order to earn his daily bread and under such conditions many workers will be forced to leave their homes and go elsewhere in search of employment. Thus, under this measure the Government will be able, indirectly, to conscript labour for industry.
Government senators interjecting,
SenatorO’BYRNE. - Evidently, what I have said has stung honorable senators opposite and’ helped them to realize that they are being used as stooges for big business and other interests in the community that have found at last a demagogic genius’ who, they believe, can hypnotize the people. That gentleman, undoubtedly is a word spinner, but he merely talks and does nothing. This measure will present those interests with the ideal set-up for the exercise of the greatest possible power on their part. Senator Gorton said that” sup porters of the Government would closely watch every action that was taken by regulation under this measure. Apparently, he does not realize how ineffective their watching will be. His colleague, Senator McCallum, who has spent many years in the Public Service, admitted that whilst public servants as such are strictly limited in the exercise of powers that may be delegated to them by Ministers, no such restraints will be imposed upon those to whom Ministers may delegate powers under this measure. Senator Gorton also implied that something: should be done about the present method of selling our wool by auction. He implied that it was wrong that representatives of other nations with which we are friendly should be obliged to bid against one another for our wool, and he suggested that that system should be altered. The wool-growers of this country would want to say something on that subject. However, under this measure some public servant will be given sole power to dispose of the wool clip, and the growers themselves will have no voice in the disposal of their product.
Sitting suspended from. 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– I have already drawn attention to the preamble to the bill which recites the alleged necessity, on the ground of the existence of a state of emergency, to embark upon unlimited defence preparations, andI have emphasized the contradictions in the statements made by Ministers, not only in the Senate, but also in the House of Representatives. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan), who introduced the measure to the Senate, mentioned a number of eastern countries which he said are a potential source of danger to this country. In reply to that assertion, I pointed to the splendid efforts that have been made during the past few years to improve our relations with certain eastern nations, notably India, Pakistan and Ceylon, during the difficult phase of evolution through which they are passing. I cannot understand why we should not assume a similar policy towards all the nations of SouthEast Asia. Instead of seeking to reduce the danger of war by extending the hand of friendship to them, this Government seems to be bent upon provoking them by engaging in unlimited rearmament. The Minister contended that by engaging in an armaments race we are furthering the cause of world peace, and he sought to justify this measure on that ground. However, rearmament and world peace are incompatible and contradictory.
Perhaps the worst feature of the bill is that it does not set out specifically the powers that the Government seeks. The measure has been drafted in such a way that, if passed, it will enable the Government to overthrow all our traditional liberties. There is no justification in a time of peace for any government to abrogate the liberties of its people. Of course, that tendency has characterized the conduct of the present Government during the last few months, when it has made some extraordinary reversals of policy. I recall one measure that was introduced by the previous Government that empowered the Minister for Health to administer the act by regulation and without the authority of the Parliament. However, that particular measure had the saving grace that it was intended to ameliorate the lot of suffering humanity, and it did at least pay some tribute to the spirit of parliamentary government by including a provision that no regulation made under the act would be valid if it infringed the personal liberties of members of the community. I point out that there is no such saving grace in this authoritarian measure, the nature of which reveals the complete misrepresentation indulged in by members of the antiLabour parties during the last two election campaigns. Then they emphasized that they stood, above all else, for the liberty of the subject. Now that they have attained office, however, they have cast off the cloak of liberalism and have revealed themselves as ambitious powerseekers.
As I pointed out previously, the Government has deliberately attempted to condition the minds of the people to believe that war is inevitable and imminent. The consequences of its campaign against peacelovers is that today any one who advocates international peace is stigmatized as a Communist. Whenever the Government seeks to make inroads on our liberties its supporters inside and outside Parliament begin whispering the dreadful word “communism “ in an effort to distract the attention of the people from their real purpose. The consequence of this campaign is that the people have been driven to a state of war hysteria similar to that which prevails in the United States of America. I thought that the pathetic instance mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) two days ago of irrational behaviour by an unfortunate woman in Sydney, who continuously burned sulphur in a block of flats in order to drive the Communist germs out of the crevices of the wails, was a good illustration of that fact. By introducing this legislation the Government has- shown the utter hypocrisy of the promises it made to the electors at the last two general elections. It is now endeavouring to persuade the people that we should adopt the slogan, “ Guns before butter “. The associations aroused in my mind by that phrase are too bitter for me to countenance it. The war scare which this conditioning of the people has brought about follows a definite line. We hear many references to the Communist line. This bill reveals in its true colours the line that is being followed by the Government and its supporters. Under this legislation the Government proposes to assume absolute power. I warn it that absolute power is dangerous, and corrupts. Absolute power never has, and never should, reside in the hands, of any democratic government in peace-time. I stress the word “ democratic “, because power similar to that contained in the bill has been assumed only by dictators. The people who gain from this legislation are the manufacturers of armaments, the steel combines and the monopolists. They regard this measure as a god-send, because it will put their smaller competitors out of business.
The Prime Minister, in his secondreading speech in the House of Representatives, said -
We cannot develop coal and hydro-electric power as we must without doing what we can to concentrate men, plant and materials to that end.
Honorable senators opposite protested loudly when I said that this bill would empower the Government to direct labour.
The statement of the Prime Minister which I have read is an admission that the Government is seeking authority of that kind. Legislation that has been introduced by the Government during this sessional period provides definite evidence of an attack upon democratic principles, trade unions and political parties. Any organization, whether it be a small business or an organized group of labour, which stands in the Government’s way, may be suppressed. Obviously, honorable senators opposite do not realize the true purposes of the policy which is being followed by the demagogue who is their leader. He is not even sitting in his place in the House of Representatives, but has delegated his authority to one of his lieutenants. He is drawing away from parliamentary precedent and procedure, and is delegating to other authorities the responsibility that rightly belongs to the Parliament. He is enshrining himself as the big chief. I feel certain that honorable senators opposite do not understand the kind of line that they are following; otherwise they would have fought more bitterly against this bill, not only in the secrecy of their party room, but also in this chamber. I make that statement because I understand that this bill wa3 debated hotly in their party room, but honorable senators opposite weakly submitted when the ring-master cracked hh whip. The phrase, “ our way of life “ often falls glibly from the lips of Government supporters. Do they not realize that -this totalitarian bill is the most blatant attempt in our history to change our way of life? This Government is seeking power to take the action that has been taken by similar counter-revolutionaries in other parts of the world. It desires to transform democracy to suit its own purposes. It is carried on by a momentum to actions which could and would destroy the ideas, organizations, persons or procedures that may stand in its way as it seeks to achieve that transformation. A democratic society directs its energies to peace. Preparations for war must inevitably direct this country into war. The Government admits that it has its followers inside and outside of the Parliament well and truly conditioned. If we continue to follow the line which is now clearly revealed in our domestic policy, armament policy and foreign policy, we shall make a third world war inevitable, and a period of barbarism will follow that disaster.
I appeal to honorable senators to examine closely the provisions and the scope of this bill, and to make certain that the sub-committees to which Senator McCallum has referred will always be vigilant in order to preserve our democratic way of life, and to ensure that the delegation of authority shall be in the hands of persons who can be trusted to exercise the power wisely. If Government supporters are recreant to their responsibilities as democratically elected members of this chamber, and if they are not prepared to limit the scope of this bill, our proud claim that we are developing an ordinary man’s democracy cannot be sustained and the slide towards counter-revolution, reaction and fascism cannot be prevented. I oppose the bill with all the strength at my command.
– Usually, the bills which are introduced into the Senate are measures of a specific kind, in which the aims and ambitions of the Government are clearly defined, and the circumstances that make their introduction necessary are well understood The procedure in committee enables an honorable senator to examine a bill clause by clause, line by line, and even word by word. This bill, however, is an exception to the rule, because it is couched in general terms, its scope is not limited, and it knows no boundaries. I am amazed indeed when I read clause 4, which provides - fi.) The .Governor-General may make regulations for or in relation to defence preparations. (2.) The regulations which may be made under the last preceding sub-section include, without limiting the generality of the power to make regulations conferred by that subsection regulations for or in relation to -
I emphasize that such a power is unlimited. There are merely some heads of power, without limiting the generality of those other matters that the
Government hopes to take unto itself. My first objection to the bill is based upon purely political grounds. This Government is in office because it employed clever propaganda to persuade the people that the previous Labour Government was retaining economic controls unnecessarily, and was, in fact, powercrazed. This Government is in power to-day because of the fear that it created in the minds of the electors. ‘There is no stronger emotion than fear of the unknown. At least two of the bills that have been placed before the Parliament during the current session would have been unnecessary had the present Government parties not secured the defeat of two referendums by instilling into the minds of the Australian people an unreasonable fear of bureaucratic controls. The carrying of those referendums would have done much to make Australia one of the great nations of the world but, because the Government made political issues of constitutional problems, it now finds itself hamstrung and lacking sufficient authority to govern the country effectively in these difficult times. When Labour was in office, it was accused by its political enemies of favouring government by bureaucracy, and of attempting to circumvent our democratic parliamentary system. Strangely enough, since Labour’s defeat, the bureaucrats have disappeared. They have become “ public servants “ and “ departmental advisers “, and, like the tribes of old, they have multiplied and prospered because there are now 6,000 more of them than there were when the Menzies Administration was elected.
Clause 11 states -
Thus, Ministers are to be given complete power to sign away the obligations that rightfully rest upon them as members of the Government. The recipients of delegated power need not necessarily be public servants. I heard one honorable senator opposite say that the Labour party was not willing to trust public servants. Apparently public servants are not to be given a chance to be trusted. Any Tom, Dick or Harry can have powers delegated to him under this legislation. Once again, the Government is following the procedure of establishing a base on which to found its legislation. The bill is preceded by a series of recitals which are unrelated to law. They are a clever combination of half truths, innuendoes, and assumptions. They form a hysterical and emotional base which has no foundation in law. They are deliberately designed to arouse the emotions of the people, and induce them to support a bill which, in effect, could end the parliamentary system of government. The Government is painting a picture of Russia, hovering like an eagle ready to snatch at the rest of the world. Whether that picture is accurate to-day or not, a search of the archives reveals that it is a picture with which the people of the world “have been confronted for more than half a century. There never has been a time in living memory when, according to some people, the world has not been going to the dogs, and war has not been just around the corner. In my reading, I have come across the text of telegrams sent from London as far back as 1880, naming Russia as a threat to world peace, but expressing the faint hope that war in Europe would be avoided for a few months at least. That picture has been in the minds of some people ever since those days, with the exception of a few years during the transitional period in Russia. If a war is likely to occur within the next two or three years as the Government would have us believe, would it not be far better to approach the problem coolly and calmly? Would it not be better for the Government to take the Australian people into its confidence and place before the Parliament the specific legislation that is considered to be necessary for war preparations? By introducing this measure the Government is, in effect, saying to the people, “ Certain things must be done, but they must be done by certain unspecified people. Even the elected representatives of the people cannot be told what we have in mind “.
A situation is being created in which, it will be possible to close the Parliament and continue legislative processes without even Cabinet meetings. The lives of the Australian people from the time they rise until they go to bed are to be subject to control. How could any Opposition subscribe to such a proposal? We do not even know the general lines on which this legislation is to be implemented. There must be some generalities in all legislation, but at least the principles on which it is to operate should be laid down.
We gather from the speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in the House of Representatives that nonessential industries will have to form a queue behind the essential industries in the rush for materials, but who is to decide the order of priority in the queue? Is the Prime Minister himself to do that, or will it be attended to by one of the Ministers or perhaps one of the pooh bahs who, without even the benefit of Public Service traditions behind him, are to exercise powers under this measure? It is ironic that the very businesses that have been permitted to flourish under the administration of this Government will be the first to fall under the axe. After the 1949 elections, the Government announced with a triumphant flourish the abolition of capital issues control, which had been criticized as being unnecessary in peace-time. The inevitable result was a flood of money into luxury industries. Now those new and greatly expanded industries will have to join a queue, and I suggest that they will be a long way from the head of the list. Within eighteen months, the very businesses that were established as the result of the stupidity of the Government will fall under the axe that the Government, in its persistent stupidity, proposes to wield on our economy. Will priorities be decided according to the demands of economic necessity, or will the list be drafted in the halls of society? Will the final decisions be made by those experienced lobbyists who descend on Canberra in swarms like locusts from time to time ? The people are inclined to be suspicious of governments, and they will wonder whether the proposed powers will be exercised without fear or favour or merely for the benefit of special interests. One of the recitals in the preamble to the bill is in these reckless terms -
And whereas in present circumstances the defence preparations mentioned in the preceding paragraphs cannot be carried out without the diversion of certain of the resources of Australia (including money, materials and facilities) for use in, or in connexion with, defence preparations :
That is one of those delightfully vague expressions that we are accustomed to hear from the Prime Minister. But it means that the whole economy of the nation is to be controlled for as long as the Government continues to assert that it must prepare for defence. The Parliament can be by-passed and, under bureaucratic direction, various groups of industries will be able to squeeze their rivals out of business. Obviously some industries must fall by the wayside when materials are withheld, and the disposition of available materials will probably be decided in future at social gatherings and in the lobbies of this Parliament without regard for equity.
Later this year the Government will ask the people at a referendum to grant it power to deal with the Communist party. That referendum will cost £250,000. Advantage should be taken of the opportunity to ask the people at the same time to express their opinion of the powers that the Government proposes to acquire under the terms of this bill. That would, be consistent with the declarations that have been made in the past by members of the Government parties, who frequently said that Labour governments had no right to tamper with the economy of the nation without first obtaining the approval of the electors at a referendum. Not even the most optimistic of the Government’s supporters is likely to assert that this legislation cannot be challenged successfully in the High Court, but, of course, the Government will not submit its proposals to the people for endorsement at the referendum because they are directly opposed to the principles of the policy with which it won the recent election campaign. One of the most alarming features of the bill is not only that it will transfer power from the Parliament to certain unknown persons, but also that it will authorize those individuals to perform legislative as well as administrative, acts. They will have power to make regulations. Some sort of liaison must be established between the Government and the claquers who will make regulations and orders under the legislation. I assume that the National Security Resources Board, that strange creature of the Prime Minister and the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), will be allotted that all-important task. That is far from reassuring. I make no personal reflection on Dr. Walker, who is the head of the hoard, but. in my opinion, he lacks the sort of background that is necessary for the efficient discharge of the duties of such a high position. No doubt he is a very capable man, but he will not inspire confidence in the people, and that is a great disability in a democracy. He lacks practical experience of industrial management. At present he is the economic adviser to the Government. Economic advisers nowadays seems to be even more plentiful than were liaison officers during the war, when such individuals seemed to spring from nowhere overnight Dr. Walker was a university teacher, a wartime administrator, a member of the Unesco, and an economic consultant. Will the hardheaded business men of Australia have faith in the ability of a man with such a background to determine policies that will affect the security of their undertakings? . Will the trade unions, which play a vital part in industry, have faith in a man who has had no industrial experience? Will the ordinary man and woman in the street be prepared to trust this bureaucrat? Will the State-governments and the municipalities, whose authority will be almost entirely overridden by this legislation, be happy to submit themselves to his will ?
One of the most amusing features of the bill is to be found in sub-clause (3.) of clause 4. Apparently the Government was overwhelmed by a fit of remorse while the measure was being drafted and decided to include a provision that it should not authorize the making of regulations to impose taxation. I have never tried to forecast what certain events will bring forth, particularly on Saturday afternoons, but I can prophesy with confidence what the Government will do about taxation when it drafts its budget for presentation to the Parliament next September. It does not need to enact special legislation in order to acquire powers in relation to taxation. A provision has also been included that the making of regulations in connexion with the borrowing of money on the public credit of the Cornmonwealth shall not be authorized. However, the Government has already indicated its intention to negotiate a second 100,000,000 dollar loan. There is also included that hardy and popular vote-winning provision that the measure shall not authorize the making of regulations for or in relation to the compulsory direction of labour. There is no need for the making of such regulations. The Government has already taken to itself, for the first time in the history of parliamentary government in this country, limited power of direction of labour. It has struck at the roots of the arbitration system, including the right to strike. Both Senator Nash and I pointed out during the debate this week on the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill (No. 2) 1951 that, when that measure became law, the Government, through the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, would have the right to direct persons to work in a particular industry. Is not that direction of manpower? Senator Sheehan has pointed out that the Government will also have the power to close certain factories.’ Although under that measure the Government will not be able to direct that Bill Jones shall perform certain work, it will be able to prevent him from doing a specified job. The wheel has taken a full turn, and the Government now is attempting to clothe itself with full power. During the general election campaign in 1949 we heard from the opponents of Labour, who purred softly into the microphones, such statements as “Ladies, do you want to carry your own parcels ? You will have to do so if Labour stays in office “. After eighteen months in office the Menzies Government is now attempting to rise to heights of direction never previously attained in this country. Power is to pass from the elected representatives of the people to certain picked men, poobahs and claquers, people unheralded and unknown, to make orders providing for any matter which may be provided for by the regulations. Although psychologists have told us that unrestricted youth is very bad, these unknown little boys are to be empowered, not only to make regulations, but also to make orders under the regulations. This may be done in various parts of Australia. Some may make regulations in one State at variance with regulations made by their counterparts in another State. During the debates on measures that have been passed by the Senate this week I stated .that the Government would be unable to enforce some of the main powers that it wanted to take to itself. However, the Government will certainly be able to enforce the regulations and orders to be made by these unknown people, because penalities of fines up to £5,000, or two years imprisonment, or both, are provided for disobedience. Apart from the Prime Minister, only Stalin, Hitler, and Mussolini have tried to take such sweeping powers to themselves. Never before has an Australian government in peacetime tried to abrogate the rights of Parliament and to give vast powers to people responsible to nobody but themselves. This procedure will completely destroy and circumvent the parliamentary system. The opponents of Labour, when in Opposition, adopted the consistent line of accusing the Labour administration of having done certain things by using controls and taking away the freedom of the people. In the joint policy speech of the Government parties, delivered during the genera.! election campaign in ] 949, the present Prime Minister stated -
We must choose our road. Upon our decision will depend the future and fate of this nation. Every extension of Government power and control means less freedom of choice for the citizen. Government activities are monopolist. Monopolies exclude choice. No choice for the producer. No choice for the employee. No choice for the customer. The abolition of choice is the death of freedom.
They were beautiful, well chosen words. But let us consider what has occurred in the Parliament during the last week. The Government has legislated to suspend the rule of law and provided that ordinary, decent people - not Communists - can be removed from their employment. Other legislation will result in the direction of labour and the smashing of the right to strike. Not content with taking away the rights of the trade unions, the Government now wants to take away the rights of Parliament itself. If I may venture a prognostication on a Saturday afternoon, I believe that the High Court of Australia will stand up to this tyrranical Government, in the interests of the decent people of Australia. Although I have stated previously in this chamber that the Government should exercise certain controls, I have suggested that they should be introduced by constitutional law. Tariffs should be revised, in order to encourage Australian manufacturers to increase the standard of their goods, and the Government should ban the export of building materials while the need for additional houses in this country exists.
Measures such as the one before the chamber are merely pushing the people around and taking away their few remaining rights. If the Government introduced constitutional measures with specific provisions to provide housing or to check inflation, I would be the first to support them. I do not consider that the shattering of the faith of the people is a good defence preparation. The people should be able to look to the Government to try to assist them in their day-to-day problems. I consider that this bill is unsound constitutionally, and I feel sure that it will bo challenged before the High Court. What will happen then ? We shall come back- to the question with which we started. If substantial heads of power were provided for the purpose of coping with imminent dangers, the Government would then be able to use the specific powers that it requires. I have always stated that, as a general rule, I would support the granting of greater constitutional powers to the Commonwealth. I have been castigated by members of the Liberal party for adopting that attitude. Yet honorable senators who support the Government have now stated that they favour the holding of a constitution conference in order to examine the powers of the Commonwealth. There is no doubt that an examination of the subject would result in greater powers being granted to the Government. Without any hesitation I brand this legislation as probably unconstitutional, definitely totalitarian, and a disgrace as peace-time legislation in a democracy.
– I am amazed at the attitude of the Government, which has not adhered to the intentions which it originally expressed in connexion with this measure. Yesterday, honorable senators heard a satirical outburst by Senator Gorton, who challenged the Opposition to remain in Canberra in order to debate this bill. It was stated that the Government would not restrict the debate. During the past week honorable senators have witnessed gagging in excelsis, not only in this chamber, but in another place. This is the most contentious legislation that has ever been presented in the annals of Australian parliamentary history, yet debate on it was ruthlessly suppressed in another place after less than two days’ discussion. In this august chamber honorable senators have debated the measure for approximately the same lenght of time as it was debated in another place. Now, after promising to allow free and untramelled discussion, the Government has left the Opposition to protest against this iniquitous legislation, which trespasses on the fundamentals of our democratic way of life. I protest against the undue haste with which the Government has dealt with this measure and the way in which it has conducted the business before the House.
– It is legislation by exhaustion.
– It comes into that category. It is evident that the Government intends to use its numbers in order to have this legislation passed. The procedure that the Parliament adopts normally is to adjourn on Fridays and carry on the discussion in the following week. On this occasion, the Government promised the Opposition that it would not stifle discussion on this measure. On the basis of that statement I imagined that honorable senators who support the Government would have spoken to the bill after each Opposition senator had spoken. I have not heard the honorable lady senators opposite make any defence of this iniquitous bill. They have not attempted to state whether they consider it will be acceptable to the womenfolk of Australia. I do not think that they will be able to defend this iniquitous legislation, which has been foisted upon the womenfolk of
Australia. This measure will give access to the very hearths and homes of the people and if the Government trespasses on the hearths and homes of the people without the sanction of the women of the Senate it will find that it will receive some very acid rebuffs.
I have awaited the presentation of some genuine and strong explanation by the Government of the facts that have been enumerated by my colleagues. But what have honorable senators witnessed? Why have not the Government’s principal supporters risen to defend this measure against the criticism of the Opposition? No Minister or legal senator opposite has challenged the arguments that have been advanced by the Opposition. The Opposition has stated that this bill would not successfully withstand challenge in the High Court. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber have pointed out that the validity of the bill is in question. Those speeches were made by laymen.
– We noticed that.
– That is all the more reason why the criticisms should he answered so that the Opposition may be satisfied that there is no legal ambiguity in connexion with the measure. This bill is likely to affect the validity of the Defence Act. Being only a lay-man, after reading the defence power in the Constitution, I say that the Government is only empowered to seek to control goods and services that have a direct bearing upon defence. This legislation proposes to enable the Government to do more than that. It is designed to provide for the overall direction and control of every phase of our national economy and to harness that economy to a war effort. In other words, the national economy is to be socialized. I have no illusions concerning the word “ socialism “, because it was used frequently during two recent general election campaigns by the opponents of the Australian Labour party in an endeavour to create in the minds of the people a fear of socialism. I make no apology for the fact that socialism is the ultimate objective of the Australian Labour party, because that party desires to achieve its ojective by means of progressive and constitutional legislation, whereas the legislation introduced by this Government is of doubtful validity.
The Australian Labourparty has always demonstrated that it is concerned with the effective defence of Australia. Its policy on that matter has been objective and is too well-known to need repetition. Every one is conversant with the success achieved by Labour administrations during the last war, the circumstances in which a Labour Government was elected in the early days of the war, and the manner in which it improved and geared the economy so that our war effort, comparatively speaking, was greater than that of any other country. The Australian Labour party is just as interested in the defence of Australia as the Government parties are. Because it is so interested, the Opposition in this chamber desires that a positive plan for the defence of the country should be introduced so that it may be made known to the people and an opportunity provided for discussion and analysis.
During World War II., the Labour administration set up a War Advisory Council, upon which the Opposition was represented and in that way shared all the secrets of the war effort.
– A few secrets were let out of thebag, too.
– I do not intend to refer to that matter. I merely wish to stress that the Opposition desires that a concrete plan for the defence of the country should be presented. If the international situation is as grave as members of the Government would have us believe, I suggest that our very nationhood is imperilled by the threat of invasion and catastrophe, and that the Opposition in this chamber, as representatives of the people of Australia, should be informed of the precise measures which the Government proposes to take in order to meet that situation. I suggest that a body similar to the War Advisory Council should be established. The attitude of the Government seems to be one of noncooperation with the Opposition. Yet, the members of the Opposition are also members of this Parliament and collectively represent a majority of the people of Australia.
– Misrepresent them !
– I do not agree with the honorable senator. The Government is a combination of two political parties, the total number of their supporters not being equal to the number of supporters of the Australian Labour party. The lack of co-operation on the part of the Government has been evident in thischamber during the past week. When the Conciliation and ArbitrationBill (No. 2) 1951 was being debated in the Senate, honorable senators opposite treated with indifference the statements of men who have had years of practical experience in the trade union movement. One would think that if the Government is earnest and sincere in its desire to prepare for the defence of the country, it would consult with the Australian Council of Trades Unions, which is the fountainhead of our industrial life, and that it would confer with practical men so that in the event of war there would be full support from the industrial workers of the country. Such support was not lacking during . World War II.
In the United States of America, as the result of investigations into treasonable activities, certain persons were tried and convicted under the laws of the land. Evidence given at those trials revealed how the internal economy of the United States of America would be endangered by an attack by a foreign power. Particulars of that evidence were published in the newspapers and thus made known to the world. Yet in this country, the Government throws a vitally important measure before the Opposition and says. “ You must accept it “. Ultimately, of course, the Opposition must accept it, but when it asks for explanations of the objectives of the bill, no satisfactory information is forthcoming. Sir Keith Murdoch, who is a staunch supporter of the Government parties, recently visited the United States, and an American newspaper columnist, Drew Pearson, wrote of his visit as follows : -
Sir Keith Murdoch, a leading Australian newspaper man, on his just completed visit, found America the best informed nation in the world and the nation with the freest discussion of its problems. He was impressed by the way things are brought out into the open and nothing is hidden and no punches pulled. Sir Keith Murdoch feels that this is democracy’s greatest strength.
So there we have a supporter of the present anti-Labour Government in this country commending America, which is one of the world’s greatest democracies, for the freedom of information it enjoys. America lays its innermost secrets bare even before aliens or any other person. Information of a kind that this Government would unnecessarily keep hidden is sent all around the world by American news services. But in. this country a small coterie is to be given the right to set itself above the Parliament, and, in. effect, to make laws without reference to the Parliament. The Government claims that this bill is necessary because the serious international situation carries a threat of war. But it does not intend to acquaint the Parliament, and the people whom members of Parliament represent, with the facts. For that reason the Labour party is suspicious of this bill and its iniquitous provisions, especially those contained in clause 4, upon which some of my colleagues have already commented extensively. That clause is so iniquitous that I shall recapitulate what it sets out to do. It states - (1.) The Governor-General may make regu lations for or in relation to defence preparations.
As I have already stated, there is doubtful validity in any attempt in peace-time to establish a control over materials and commodities by means of regulations under which officials will be able to go into people’s homes, confiscate their money and property, and direct labour. Such powers are the very antithesis of the principles embodied in the Constitution. Sub-clause (2.) states that regulations may be made for or in relation to -
Not to meet the “ demands “ of war, but to meet the “ probable demands “ of war - the fictitious, imaginary demands of war. I contend that such powers do not come within the ambit of the defence power, and that they are ambiguous. The most illuminating and most dangerous provision is contained in paragraph (b) of that sub-clause. Under it, regulations may be made for or in relation to - the diversion and control of resources (including money, materials and facilities) for the purposes of defence preparations;
Senator Nash dealt fully with the ambiguity of the word “ facilities “. But the aspect about which I am most concerned at this juncture is connected with the use of the words “ including money “. We remember how articulate the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) was, not only during the last two general elections, but also in State election campaigns, about the socialization of Australia under Labour. His catchery then was, “ If you return a Labour government it will socialize all the little homes, the little farms, and the little shopkeepers. It will also take thepoor widow’s savings which she has accumulated and put into the savings bank”. That is exactly what the bureaucrats will be able to do in relation to “ facilities “ and “ money “ if this measure is passed. The right honorable gentleman should eat his words. Under the Commonwealth Bank Act recently passed by this Parliament, a board is to be established which will direct money into appropriate channels. There is no doubtthat the appropriate channels will be channels that suit the big monopolies. So all the money, the people’s money, the workers’ money, is to be subject to the totalitarian regimentation provided for in this clause.
The provisions in sub-clause (3.) represent an attempt by the Government to salve its conscience by exempting from the provisions of the bill certain features of our national life. That sub-clause reads, in part -
Nothing in this section authorizes the making of regulations -
with respect to the borrowing of money on the public credit of the Commonweal th ;
for or in relation to the compulsory direction of labour; or
Paragraph (c) is the one in which I am particularly interested. Some of my colleagues have already mentioned different ways in which labour can be compulsorily directed. Under this bill there will be no escape from it. During the war we had “ pegged “ labour. If this legislation is held to be valid and is implemented then, although the act will preclude the Government from directing labour, it will merely make a regulation to peg labour, and so trespass upon the rights of the individual irrespective of the wishes of the community. It will abridge the human freedoms about which its supporters so loudly mouthed during the recent general election campaign. We are now witnessing a great reversal of form by our opponents, because I have not yet heard any opposition to this measure expressed by Government supporters. They have accepted the techniques of totalitarianism lock, stock and barrel.
Honorable senators opposite have said that the purpose of this bill is to enable the Government to establish and expand industries essential to preparation of our defences. Apparently the production of all commodities will bp regimented and non-essential industries will go to the wall. Who is to determine what constitutes an essential industry? I foresee a great deal of wrangling among the different sections of big business in an attempt to decide which is Peter and which is Paul. A bureaucratic board will be established and clothed with very wi’de powers to determine what commodities and services are essential. The whole of our economy will be regimented under this totalitarian scheme and the already large army of bureaucrats will be augmented. When the Labour Government was in office it was frequently twitted by the then Opposition for having increased the number of persons on the pay-roll of the Commonwealth. Far from having reduced the number of Commonwealth employees, this Government has already greatly added to _ it. The provisions of this bill will gravely threaten the economy of Australia. Opposition senators have made concrete proposals on many occasions for stemming inflation, which is the principal evil that besets us. Expert advice on the measures that should be adopted to cure the ills of inflation is available to the Government from world economic authorities as well as from outstanding economists in thi? country.
Most of the legislation that has been introduced by this Government has had for its purpose the stimulation of production. In the sphere of secondary industry production has greatly increased, but rural production has rapidly declined. Yesterday, Senator Seward attributed the decline of rural production to the shortage of steel and agricultural implements.
Some time ago I asked the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) for details of the exports and imports of steel and other metalliferous metals, but he declined to supply them. He was not even courteous enough .to ask me to place my question on the notice-paper.
– A similar question by Senator Fraser had been answered by me only three weeks earlier.
– The Minister’s defence of his action does not satisfy me. I am entitled to receive from him the same courtesy as he extends to other honorable senators.
– I shall see that the honorable senator shall be given a copy of the answer which I gave to Senator Fraser.
– I shall be glad to receive it. The statistics that relate to imports and exports reveal that a large quantity of metal is being exported from Australia but that much more is being imported. If wc need steel for the revitalization of rural industries, no exports of steel should be permitted. The problem of the decline of rural production, however, has been brought about by factors other than the shortage of steel. The price of wool has now reached such fabulous heights that farmers are abandoning other less remunerative forms of rural production and turning to wool-growing.
– The price of wool is not so fabulous now. As a matter of fact it is only a little above the pre-war price.
– On the contrary, the price of wool has reached such fabulous heights, and the life of the wool-grower is so comparatively easy, that many farmers are no longer willing to engage in other branches of rural industry. At a conference of graziers in Victoria recently, when the Treasurer was upbraided “for having introduced the wool sales deductions scheme, he said, “ Wool grows while you sleep “. He no doubt made the statement when he was stung to irritation. He said that one should go on one’s knees every night and thank God for this wonderful gift. No wonder our rural industries are declining! During my recent campaign in the western parts of South Australia, on numerous occasions I saw sheep being driven by drovers in stream-lined modern motor oars. What a difference from the old days!
– .Why should they not?
– I do not begrudge the wool-growers and drovers these good conditions, but I regret the detrimental effect that the prosperity of the woolindustry is having on the other rural industries. Human nature being what it is, lt is only natural that farmers usually engaged in other classes of farming should now turn their thoughts towards wool-growing.
This bill envisages government by regulation. The Opposition is against that. We protest that the Government should not be empowered to make regulations delegating powers to bureaucrats who in turn will have the authority to delegate to other bureaucrats some of their power in relation to a particular industry or part of an industry. There will be bureaucrats ‘ upon bureaucrats under the provisions of this bill. The Government desires to be given a blank cheque by the Opposition, but we do not intend to give it. Moreover, we protest against its being taken by force of numbers. The Australian people will resent the making of regulations to control the whole of their economic and social life. There have been protests against this measure from all quarters. Even the press has vigorously protested against it. The chambers of manufactures, by no stretch of imagination Labour sympathizers, have expressed their opposition to the bill, and no doubt will test it in the courts when it becomes law. We claim that there is now no need for any control. In wartime controls were necessary, but they are not necessary now despite the portents mentioned by honorable senators on the Government side. The Opposition claims that during the war, manufacturing interests, under the guidance of Labour governments, built, up a great system of war production which could be swung into effect now without the need for more regulations. I read an article in the press recently about an eminent American manufacturing authority associated with the Chrysler-
Dodge interests who visited Australia to inspect his company’s Australian factories. Referring to this gentleman’s visit to motor car plants in Adelaide, the report stated-
More cars could be expected from Chrysler’s Adelaide plant within six months, with progressive expansion thereafter, the American president of the Chrysler Corporation’s export division (Mr. C. B. Thomas) said to-night. . . Mr. Thomas said that the Adelaide plant could be converted to defence work “ just as your Government wants it any day “.
I direct particular attention to that remark. The report continued -
He added that Australian labour, allowing for higher mechanization in America, produced on a parallel with American labour. . . . The Australian worker could not be beaten anywhere in the world.
That may give honorable senators a different opinion of the Australian worker from that which they usually hold. Labour opposes the bill because it is totalitarian in nature. Moreover, it is fraudulent because by it the Governmentproposes to arrogate to itself unconstitutional powers in order to rectify the results of its ineptitude during its eighteen months of office.
– It is wrong that we should be discussing this bill on a Saturday. It would have been much better to adjourn the Senate from Friday to Monday and allow any honorable senator who wanted to go home during the week-end to do so. This is the second occasion on which the present Government parties have caused the Senate to meet on a Saturday to pass a “ phoney “ measure. On the 30th J une, 1938, the Senate debated and passed a national health insurance measure. By forcing the passage of that bill on that day, the then Government denied to tcn honorable senators, who took their seats in this chamber very shortly afterwards, the right to vote upon it. Everybody knew that that bill was “ phoney “, and after it was passed, it was shelved. It never saw the light of day again. To-day the Senate is being asked to agree to a bill that the Government knows will be declared by the High Court to be invalid. The Government’s insistence on the Senate sitting to-day is pure showmanship.
The bill must be worse than the Opposition has alleged it to be. I say that because the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan), although be poured forth a tirade of abuse against the Labour party in the course of his second-reading speech, did not follow the normal practice in delivering the speech. He did not, as is usual, read from a typewritten document. Perhaps the speech that he had prepared contained, something that he was unwilling to reveal to the Senate. I suspect it disclosed that, under this measure, there will be a greater degree of interference with the liberties of the people than either the Government or the Opposition has stated. This is the first occasion on which honorable sena:tors have not been supplied with copies of a Minister’s second-reading speech to peruse before the resumption of .the debate on the bill. There must be some reason for the Government’s haste in this matter.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has said that there will be a war within three years. So as to bolster his case and to stampede the people into believing that he is right, this legislation has been introduced. In many respects, it is similar to legislation that was passed in 1939, under which an advantage was given to large industries at the expense of small ones. During the last war, Senator Arthur visited Newcastle and ascertained that there were ‘large stocks of shells at the works of Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. Subsequently, he asked the Government to tell the Senate the cost of shells manufactured at Maribyrnong and the cost of those made at Newcastle by Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. It transpired that the Government was paying 7s. 6d. more for each of the shells made at Newcastle than for those made at Maribyrnong. Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited said that a mistake had been made and refunded thousands of pounds to the Government. If Senator Arthur had not discovered what was happening, the Commonwealth would have been mulct in a large sum of money. Despite the fact that this country was engaged in a war, a large industrial concern was taking its pound of flesh from the people.
This legislation will interfere with small industries. There is a strong movement in this country for the decentralization of industry. This week, the president of the Liberal party in England announced that he had met with a great deal of success in his consultations with leaders of British industry in regard to moving large industrial undertakings from Britain to Australia, together with the employees of those undertakings and materials for building houses adjacent to the places at which they would be established. Under this bill, the Government will issue directions as to the way in which materials and plant shall be utilized. That will discourage British firms from moving to Australia. The Government will divert materials and plant from small undertakings to large ones. That will be a source of industrial trouble and will have an adverse effect upon the defence of this country, because, when a war occurs, small undertakings play an important part in the manufacture of armaments and military equipment.’ During the lastwar, almost every garage workshop in Australia did some work for defence purposes. Under this measure, some small businesses will be closed, others will be refused building materials with which to expand their activities, others that have space in their build?ings for additional plant will be refused that plant, and others that have plants will be refused the raw materials that they require. That will be done by what I shall call a board of directors, and the Senate will have no voice at all in the matter.
This bill, which is one of the worst that has been introduced into the Parliament, makes provision for the issue of regulations. The Minister for Trade and Customs has said that the Regulations and Ordinances Committee of the Senate will peruse those regulations and that the Senate will be able to disallow any of them that it considers undesirable. That statement is as far from the truth as it is possible for it to be. Some of those regulations will have retrospective effects, and others will become operative from the date of issue. If the committee decided that a regulation ought to he disallowed, it would have to wait until the Parliament met before it could act. It was wrong for the Minister to tell the people that their liberties will not be endangered by this bill because the regulations issued under it will be scrutinized by the Regulations and Ordinances Committee.
The measure is designed to arouse fear in the minds of the Australian community. It is intended to make workers afraid that they will lose their employment and investors afraid that they will lose their money. The Government is using fear of unemployment as a weapon against the workers. The Atlantic Charter states that two of the basic freedoms are freedom from fear and freedom from want. Fear of unemployment involves fear of want.
Government supporters have spoken much of the need for defence preparations. One of the most important commodities for defence purposes is oil. We have heard that prospecting for oil is going on in the Northern Territory and in New Guinea, but no flow oil has yet been produced in commercial quantities. However, a. considerable quantity of oil is being produced at Glen Davis, yet the Government proposes to close down the Glen Davis project. Another important industrial requirement is electric power. The Labour Government began the development of the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme, but this Government is allowing the job to slow down. I find it hard to believe that the Government is really trying to prepare the country for wai”. It looks as though this legislation is a. pay-off to the great captains of industry; not to the small manufacturers, because they are to be put out of business, but to the big men who will get the big contracts. This is all a part of the Liberal party’s policy of giving more to the wealthy and less to the poor.
– There has been ample opportunity to discuss the bill. I do not propose to traverse all the arguments that have been advanced for and against it. I am content to place on record the fact that 1 am 100 per cent, behind the Government. I endorse the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in his policy speech during the last general election campaign, that in the new Parliament the Government would institute. such controls as were thought to be within the limits of the Constitution. This bill gives effect to that expressed intention.
It has been suggested that this legislation would not survive a challenge in the High Court. That may be the opinion of some honorable senators, but it is not mine. I am sure that the Government has been wary in the preparation of the bill, because it does not wish to experience a repetition of what occurred over the Communist Party Dissolution Act. I have read the bill, and I am confident that it would not be declared invalid by the High Court.
Much has been said about the attitude of chambers of commerce and chambers of manufactures to the measure. It is true that some opposition has been expressed by the chamber of commerce in Sydney, but a former president of the South Australian Chamber of Manufactures made this statement -
The power to introduce controls to preserve our way of life is urgently necessary.
That statement was made by Mr. Pope, who occupies a high place among manufacturers in South Australia. No one can reflect upon his sincerity or integrity. It would seem that there is no unanimity among manufacturers in respect of the bill, and I suggest that when they all realize the full import of the measure, they will be ready to support the Government.
The defence programme has tremendous implications for the people of Australia. Without doubt, it is the most important matter that could . come before the National Parliament at this time. I agree with the Government that it is urgently necessary to put our defences in order. The world is in a state of turmoil, and international relations have deteriorated gravely during the last two years. This emergency measure has been introduced because it is necessary so to order our economy as to make possible the effective defence of the country.
I was particularly interested in the speech of Senator Seward, who discussed national development, transport, shipping and food production. He dealt with every phase of our economy. “We cannot undertake an adequate defence programme unless we place our vital industries upon a satisfactory basis. It is for that reason that the Government has introduced this measure. The Government realizes that the success of its proposals will require the co-operation of the people as a whole. Unfortunately, our primary industries, which will be required to make a substantial contribution to any sound defence programme, have been operating under great difficulties for many years. Production has steadily declined in those industries. Perhaps, the greatest difficulty that confronts them is that they have been unable for many years to obtain their requirements. Recently, at a clearing sale that was held in a district in South Australia a fanner paid .£.1,050 for a seven-furrow plough. That is fantastic, but I cite that fact in order to indicate the desperate shortages that exist of implements that farmers require if they are to increase production. That state of affairs must be remedied. Essential industries must be guaranteed adequate supplies of the materials that they require. For instance, the steel industry must be assured at all times of adequate supplies of coal. Steel is required for the manufacture of farming implements and materials that are required by the primary producer if he is to be enabled to increase production. Unless that is done we shall be unable to produce sufficient food for not only ourselves, but also those countries with which we may be associated in the event of a third world war. The object of the measure is to enable the Government to implement such a plan, and, at the same time, to enable secondary industry to produce equipment for the armed forces. I do not suppose that anything contributes more to inflation than does production of defence needs. Consequently, this measure is designed, as far as it is possible to do so, to minimize the inflationary effect of production of materials that are required for defence purposes. As the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has pointed out, our economy at present is overstrained. We are trying to do too much with the limited resources at our disposal. We must recognize that we cannot continue along the lines that we have been following during the last few years and, at the same time, make adequate defence preparations. Recently, I discussed the problem of inflation with the Premier of South Australia and he informed me that new industries that had been established within the last twelve months had committed themselves to a capital expenditure of over £700,000,000. We have a milk bar economy and this measure has been introduced to remedy the position.
The object of the bill is not to givepower to the Government to impose controls over every aspect of community life. Indeed, the Government would not entertain such a proposal for one moment. Under the measure it simply asks for power to place our economy on a proper basis in the interests of defence. For instance, the validity of existing capital issues control is now under challenge in the High Court and one effect of this measure will be to strengthen the Government’s case in that respect. I repeat that it is essential to curtail production in non-essential industries and to divert adequate supplies of. materials to vital industries in the interests of defence and of the development of the country.
– How will shareholders fare in industries from which materials are diverted ?
– I do not suggest that some industries will not be adversely affected under these proposals. It is generally recognized that some interests will be hurt. However, I am confident that all controls that are imposed under the measure will be administered sympathetically. As I said earlier, the Government must win the co-operation of the people as a whole if these proposals are to be successfully implemented. I believe that the people will recognize thai the only object of the Government is not to control every phase of community life but simply to do things that it must do if it is to prepare our defences adequately. The bill has been carefully considered. It is essential and well-founded, and I have no doubt that it will play a substantial part in arresting present inflationary trends. In view of our defence commitments, these proposals should be implemented at the earliest possible moment.
– I join my colleagues in protesting against the introduction of this measure.
– Does the honorable senator mean that he is opposed to the bill?
– I realize that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan), who is leading the Government in this chamber, is getting tired and resentful because of the length of time during which the debate has dragged on. However, I remind him that he himself is responsible for our being here this afternoon. It has been said that the bill contains authority for the Government to impose an enormous number of undefined controls, but that such controls are necessary to enable Australia to overcome the difficulties that lie ahead of it. For the moment I shall disregard that contention and direct my remarks to a consideration of the reaction of the people to the implementation of the measure. I have been in public life for some years and prior to that I was associated with the administration of rationing in this country, therefore I have been able to form a good idea of the reaction of people to economic controls of all kinds. I say at once that irrespective of the political complexion of a government, it cannot expect such measures to meet with success unless it pays sufficient attention to what I might call the human factor. A restrictive measure can operate successfully only with the co-operation of the majority of the people. The opposition of people to economic controls is due not to any incompetence or dereliction of duty on the part of our ‘public servants, who, although they render magnificent service to the community, are constantly maligned, but to the failure of the government that introduces them to convince the people of their necessity. This Government has repeatedly said they are not necessary. That is the first point that I make in relation to this measure. Even in time of war our people resented the imposition of economic controls, and if they were right in doing- so then, it follows that they are doubly right in doing so now.
I emphatically disapprove of the rush tactics adopted by the Government in its attempt to force this measure through the Parliament, and point out that the use of such tactics has characterized the passage of three or four other measures of major importance. In taking part in the debate on one of those measures I described it as a “ repugnant bill “, and I apply the same stricture to this bill. Let me remind honorable senators that this measure was introduced in the House of Representatives as recently as the 2nd July, and was passed by that House after insufficient discussion because the Government applied the gag.
The provocative nature of this measure is indicated ‘ by the outhurst that it has aroused, perhaps not so much in the press, as amongst chambers of commerce, chambers of manufactures and other responsible bodies. After the Government introduced the measure to the Senate yesterday it did not even furnish us with copies of the second-reading speech made by the Minister for Trade and Customs. However, after the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) had protested at the tactics adopted by the Government, the Minister said that he would permit the bill to be properly discussed and in the normal manner. Although the Opposition does not, of course, complain about that, I point out that the circumstances associated with the introduction and discussion of the measure are most extraordinary. This is the first occasion in thirteen years on which the Senate has been required to meet on a Saturday, and the fact that so many honorable senators on both sides of the chamber have taken part in the debate upon it indicates the magnitude of its proposals. It is now 4.30 p.m. on the afternoon of Saturday, the 14th July, and we are still engaged in the debate on the second reading of the bill. If members of the Government derive any satisfaction from the personal inconvenience to which they are subjecting us, they are welcome to it.
As I have said, the proposals contained in this measure are so far-reaching and are, in the opinion of honorable senators on this side of the chamber so inimical that they would require at least one hour each to express their profound objections to it. It cannot be denied that this is a bad- bill, because it is opposed to our fundamental concepts of democratic freedom. Furthermore, when passed the measure will be quite useless because I know, from my lengthy experience of such matters, that it cannot be enforced even if it can be implemented, and even if it successfully runs the gauntlet of litigation in the High Court. We must not lose sight of the unfortunate fact that there is in the community a large and influential section of the people whose whole business is the furthering of its own interests regardless of the welfare of others. I refer to those who are usually stigmatized as black-market operators. Illicit transactions and evasion of civic obligations are so widespread that it is almost impossible to defeat the ingenuity of those unscrupulous, but highly successful individuals. If the Government could combat them and introduce a workable system of economic controls, I should support it, because I am one of a family of good Australians who have made many real sacrifices for the safety and progress of this country, and I want every member of the community to have a fair chance.
The justification advanced by the Government for seeking such extraordinary powers as those contained in the bill is that Australia’s comparative isolation from other countries will not prevent it from being involved in a war that may arise out of the present unsettled state of international relations. Although a welter of alarming statements has been made by Ministers, members of Parliament and others to the effect that we may become .engaged in a war within a period of from one to three years, I believe that the only reliable estimate of the international situation is .that supplied by men and women who have travelled the world. I candidly admit that, after having read their views, I am unable to say whether the international situation has improved, or worsened. However, my colleagues and I agree that proper measures should be taken for the adequate defence of this country, and we do not object to those provisions of the bill which will achieve’ that purpose.
What is the most effective way in which we can contribute to the cause of the democracies? In the Parliament and in the press, a warning has been given that, unless conditions improve, Australia may not be able within a few years to produce sufficient food .to meet the requirements of its own people. Effective measures must be taken immediately to avert such a disastrous situation. The Government should concentrate upon that problem, but I do not think that it can rely on this bill to assist it because, as I have already stated, this legislation may not survive a challenge in the High Court. I realize that proper provision must be made for defence, and that an obligation rests upon the Aus-, tralian nation to ensure that its armed forces shall be of sufficient strength and shall possess the most modern weapons and equipment; but I also point out that because of our limited man-power and production, such a condition of efficiency can be reached only at the expense of the primary and secondary industries.
When the National Service Bill 1950 was under consideration, I directed attention to a difficulty which, I expected, would be no less pronounced then than it was during World War II. I am not so vain as to think that I am the only senator who has been approached by a parent or the manager of a factory with a request that I make representations to the Department of Labour and National Service to have a youth exempted from call up for compulsory military training. If many thousands of youths are required to train in the Royal Australian Navy, the Army and the Royal Australian Air Force, the primary and secondary industries must suffer as a result of that depletion of man-power. Under this bill, the Government will have authority to close luxury industries in order that essential industries shall not be obliged to compete with them for materials that are in short supply. Presumably, the Government will determine procedures under which persons who are employed in those luxury industries will transfer to other jobs. Senator Willesee has pointed out that, under the bill, people cannot be ordered to work in a. particular factory, but such provision can be made that they will not be able -to work in a certain factory. Having regard to the importance of primary and secondary production to the defence effort, I am inclined to agree with those authorities who say that stimulation >of production may, in the long run, he the most effective contribution that we can make to the defence effort of the democracies.
Inflation is seriously weakening the national economy. An honorable senator has pointed out that a farmer is obliged to pay £1,000 for a plough. Who is to blame for the inflated prices of goods and services? Certainly it is not the Labour party. I remind honorable senators opposite that, during the life of the last Parliament, Senator McKenna introduced the Constitution Alteration (Prices) Bill, which -was passed by the Senate, but was not even considered by the House of Representatives. The Government refused to give the people an opportunity to declare, by way of a referendum, whether they were in favour of vesting prices control in the Commonwealth. Probably, some authority to exercise .prices control may be taken under this bill, but any attempt to administer such a power will be frustrated by selfish but influential sections of the community. This measure will find general acceptance in the community only if there develops in this country a state of public conscience that is foreign to me and to our way of life. I shall be surprised, indeed, if the co-operation of which Senator Hannaford has spoken will be forthcoming. The bill is a savage measure, and in that regard, I refer particularly to clause 4. When the true nature of the bill becomes known, as it will certainly become known if an attempt is made to force it upon the public, the Government will realize the impossibility of administering the measure. I am convinced that, should the bill be challenged in the High Court, it will be declared invalid just as was other legislation that depended on long recitals. Clause 4 provides - (2.) The regulations which may be made under the last preceding sub-section include, without limiting the generality of the power to make regulations conferred by that sub-section, regulations for or in relation to -
That is an impossible provision. 1 remind the Senate that in the worst days of rationing, the greatest hardship was suffered not by the privileged class, but by working people who lacked, not the coupons, but the money necessary to buy rationed commodities such as clothing. Not one English-speaking country has introduced such all-embracing legislation as this in peace-time. Hitherto, legislation of this kind has been confined to dictatorship countries. The Labour party is no less aware than is the Government of the need to make an adequate preparation for defence. We appreciate, too, the important part that civil production plays in defence. As I have said, I am not prepared to say at this stage whether civil production or military preparation is the most urgent problem but I have no hesitation in saying that the Australian people will resist any legislation that will deny them the right to work when and where they please.
In recent years, food production has been receiving the attention of all governments in this country It is no new problem. Producers cannot be blamed for deserting one avenue of production in favour of another in which prices are more profitable. Under existing State land laws, many good farmers are unable to earn a reasonable living, either because their holdings are too small or because they are situated in unfavorable rainfall areas. Land laws are, of course, the sole prerogative of the State governments and it is true that, in some States, those laws have been liberalized, but I believe that there is scope for co-operation between the Australian Government and the State governments with a view to ensuring the increase of primary production that is so necessary in the interests of this country generally. As Senator Seward and Senator Hannaford have said, soil erosion presents a serious national problem. This Government has not done anything to assist the States to combat soil erosion, although the Labour Administration gave special attention to the problem. Instead of policing the individual, the Government should attempt to encourage the people to increase the production of food and essential goods. The Opposition would support a defence preparation programme in which the whole community was called upon to co-operate, but it fears that chosen individuals and groups will be favoured by the Government under this legislation. This is a police measure that is entirely foreign to the ideals of freedom-loving Australians.
– The second-reading speech of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) was the most extraordinary of its kind ever to have been delivered in Australian parliamentary history. Introductory second reading speeches by Ministers are most important. They are studied throughout the world in places where administrators, legislators and parliamentary draughtsmen are concerned with legislation and the specific bases upon which it rests. But, on this occasion, the Minister’s second-reading speech consisted mainly of cheap gibes at the Opposition. He gave no details of the bill and stated no reasons for its introduction. As other honorable senators have observed he provided no copies of the speech for our information. I believe that the truth is that he had not prepared a written speech for himself and had notes to cover only one small aspect of it. Incidentally, he has forced us to proceed with the debate at once on the strength of that sketchy speech. We have had only a few minutes in which to study the bill itself. I condemn strongly the offhanded way in which he informed the Senate that the bill had been explained in the House of Representatives and that we could have informed our minds from the proceedings in that chamber. I should be wanting in my duty to the Senate if I did not stigmatize his conduct as an insult to this chamber. It was unfair to the Opposition and unworthy of the Leader of the Government parties in the Senate. The Government’s behaviour in relation to the bill has been entirely irrational. The measure was gagged and “guillotined” through the House of Representatives in a relatively short space of time. But the Minister for Trade and Customs informed us at the outset that we might debate it at length and assured us that there would be no curtailment of the debate. If there was an urgent need to force the bill through the House of Representatives, against vigorous protests, what has happened in the meantime to permit so much latitude in this chamber? Of course, the Government now seeks to have the measure passed by the Senate by a process of exhaustion. Honorable senators have had a heavy business programme this week. They were forced to remain here yesterday until midnight and I have no doubt that the Government intends to follow the same programme to-day. It commands the necessary numbers to enforce its will, but the Opposition has the energy to keep it here.
This bill will authorize the introduction of controls of all kinds. The Opposition concedes at once that there is a need for controls in the light of the international situation and the grave condition of our economy. It has declared it3 attitude in relation to prices control and profits control, and it would willingly consider on their merits any specific measures relating to special objects if the Government would introduce such bills. But the Government, although it recognizes the seriousness of our problems, seeks to solve them by presenting a bill the main purpose of which is set out in two lines in sub-clause (1.) of clause 4, which is as follows : -
The Governor-General may make regulations (or or in ‘relation to defence preparations.
That is the heart and core of the bill. Sub-clause (2.) recites particular matters, without limiting the generality of the very wide provision that I have quoted, to which regulations may be addressed. It refers to the expansion of Australia’s capacity to produce or manufacture goods or to provide services; the diversion and control of resources, including money, materials and facilities; the adjustment of the economy; and measures to secure the maintenance and sustenance of the people. Over and above those purposes spreads the provision in sub-clause (1.) The magnitude of that proposal can be appreciated if honorable senators realize that the power to make regulations may be exercised by three individuals - either the Governor-General and two Ministers, or the Deputy of the GovernorGeneral, who is a Minister, and two Ministers. Is that a democratic proposal ?
– The honorable senator must know from experience that such a procedure is never followed.
– My experience, on the contrary, is that it does happen all the time. Usually, the two Ministers associated with the Governor-General in that formal endorsement of regulations very frequently have no knowledge of many of the regulations that are promulgated.
– Do I understand the Leader of the Opposition to say that when Labour was in office those matters did not even go to Cabinet?
– I am not saying that. I am drawing attention to what happens, and I am stating the position in a perfectly accurate way.
– It is a most inaccurate way.
– This power can be exercised by three individuals, which nobody on the Government side can deny.
– That is what I have been doing during the last few minutes.
– The Minister has failed miserably, because it can be done. The provision is broad enough to be dangerous, because these wide regulations would empower a person to make orders on any matter that may be provided for by the regulations. Not only may regulations be made in that way to cover every phase of life in this country, but also they enable a person to be picked out to make orders which would have legislative effect.
The third broad aspect of this bill to which I shall refer is contained in clause 8, which provides penalties for breaches of any regulations or orders made under this measure. The penalties will be the same for a breach of the act, of one of the regulations, or of one of the orders. The penalty in the case of a prosecution in a court of summary jurisdiction is a fine not exceeding £250, or imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or both. The penalty in the case of prosecution on indictment is a. fine not exceeding £5,000, or imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years,or both. Those are vast, heavy penalties. It is provided in sub-clause (4.) of clause 8 that an offence against this legislation shall not be prosecuted summarily, when the smaller penalties would apply, with out the written consent of the Attorney-General. So that it is thought that most of the proceeding will be on indictment. Those broad provisions of the bill wipe out the Parliament in favour of the Executive government of this country, and even, ultimately, a small section of that Executive government, and they also enable officials to legislate in the place of the Parliament. All of these criticisms concern this chamber more than the other place because if the bill is valid, the regulations and the orders made under it will override State laws in very many particulars, and this being a States House, at least in name, it behoves honorable senators to be very concerned with that aspect of the matter. Again, if this measure turns out to be valid it can set aside civil liberties and civil rights throughout this community. I shall not, at this stage, deal with other provisions which can be examined, I hope, at the committee stage. I inform the Government that the Opposition intends to give the measure the most extensive examination at the committee stage.
In short, what the Government asks for in this bill is broad power to do exactly what it likes with the whole of the Australian economy. It has not. presented any plan or programme of controls to Parliament. The only conclusion is that the Government has no plan or programme for attacking the inflationary tendencies in this country. If there were any doubt about the broad scope of clause 4, which enables the Governor-General to make regulations with relation to defence preparations, it would be removed by a consideration of sub-clause (3.) of that clause, which reads - (3.) Nothing in this section authorizes the malking of regulations -
If those matters were not excluded they would, in the opinion of the Government, be within the scope of the power conferred upon the Governor-General to make regulations. The exclusion of taxing power is insignificant, and the Government has all necessary power, apart from this measure, to borrow money for public purposes. Of course it has no power in relation to the compulsory direction of labour, but the vastly important feature is that, but for the specific exclusion provided it would have been within the power of the Governor-General to make regulations even in relation to that matter.
– Yes, indirectly, as I am reminded. While there can be no regulation made to direct any individual to go from one job to another, or to do this or that, I agree with Senator Sheehan that the same result can be accomplished by the type of thing that Senator Hannaford said would be done, which, of course, will mean that people will have to be hurt because of the closing down and constriction of businesses. Accordingly, when these diversions and constrictions take place, men will be thrown on the labour market. The most significant feature is that, under this measure, the GovernorGeneral will determine in what place labour is required. That means, in effect, that men will go where the Government directs. While these regulations may not deal with compulsory direction of labour, they need not do it, because under the provisions of this bill exactly the same result can be achieved by the economic conscription of labour. A man must eat ; if. he is thrown out of his work here, he must find other work there, and it may not. be the work that he chooses or wants. The exclusion in relation to .the compulsory direction of labour means very little because, as. Senator Sheehan has pointed out, the Government can achieve exactly the same result by merely closing down one industry after another and forcing men to either travel to .the projects available to them or accept work in other industries that do not suit them personally at all. If that is not economic conscription, what is?
I shall now point out what can be done under these powers. I shall dispense with the term Governor-General, because it is well understood. The Government can legislate by regulation to restrict travel, as was done during the war period; it can legislate to provide for the rationing of foodstuffs, clothing and petrol, and it can embark on a policy of wage pegging. It can regulate working hours, in derogation of awards, and it can close or partially close industries. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has already indicated that a distinction will be drawn between industries regarded as essential, nonessential, and less essential. The decision in relation to every industry in this country will be made by the Government, or by a person appointed by the Government. When one considers the ramifications of industry, and remembers what had to be done quite recently in the period of acute war, one can see the whole array of officialdom in relation to commodity after commodity, and in relation .to phase after phase of the activity of this country. A director would be appointed. The deputy directors in the States, the assistant directors, and the sub-assistant directors throughout the country will be in a position to examine industries in their areas and exercise a power of life and death over them. Ultimately, that power will be exercised, not by the Government itself but at a relatively low level of administration by some junior officer.
The regulations could enable the Government to control credit completely and fix prices and profits. If that were the only object of the legislation the Opposition would approve of it. But it also enables the Government to control services and facilities of every kind. Those services could include the work of all professional men including doctors, lawyers, dentists and chemists. Under this measure the Government could control the admission of students to universities as their admission was controlled during the war.
– It was not controlled very successfully.
– The control was attempted under regulations which were quite valid. If this legislation is applied it will be adequate to enable dire action to the taken in the way that similar action was taken during the war.
I have a grave doubt whether this bill is constitutional. I recognize that the Government has sought to provide a basis for its provisions in the recitals. It is good to observe that the Government has profited from the lesson that was given to it by the High Court in relation to the Communist Party Dissolution Act.
The second recital in the preamble to this measure states -
Whereas in the opinion of the Parliament and of the Government of the Commonwealth, there exists a state of international emergency in which it is essential that preparation for defence should he immediately made to an extent, and with a degree of urgency, not hitherto necessary except in time of war.
One criticism that the High Court made of the Communist Party Dissolution Act was that, despite the recitals in the preamble, there was no statement by the Parliament or the Government that a state of international tension existed. The Government had overlooked the necessity to make a statement such as that. The justices of the High Court also criticized the fact that no memorandum from the Executive Government had been placed before the court. Now the Government has sought to strengthen this ‘bill by claiming that a state of international emergency exists. But that claim will not dispose of the matter. The court will make up its own mind on that subject and it has already indicated clearly that no government can recite itself into power.
This much is certain, and the Government knows it : the moment that .this bill is made law it will be challenged. Even if it survives that challenge, each regulation as is made it will be challenged in turn. I advise the Government to refrain from using the regulation-making power under this bill when, despite the protests and votes of Opposition senators, it becomes law at least until the validity of the act has been decided. I think that the Government will find that the business community will not be slow to launch proceedings in connexion with this legislation. If the Government persists in making regulations before the High Court has delivered a judgment on the validity of the measure it will ‘ throw the whole business life of the country into chaos. Unwise and rash as the Government is in main particulars, I do not think that it will risk creating that state of affairs. In placing this bill before the Senate, the Government has asked the Opposition and the people of Australia to trust it with almost unlimited power which it may exercise without being under any necessity to refer its intentions to Parliament. When people ask to be trusted it is necessary to review their history in order to ascertain whether such trust is justified. That is the only basis upon which one can form a judgment. I have examined the Government’s history in relation to its general conduct of international affairs and in relation to its conduct of Australia’s internal affairs. If a man breaks a promise in the course of his ordinary everyday relationships one is never disposed to trust him again, and if one does trust him one deserves the consequences when he fails to honour his promise once more. Let us endeavour to ascertain how far honorable senators should repose in the Government the trust that it seeks. In 1949, the Government made a series of promises which gravely affected the economy of the country and which concerned the proper preparation of Australia for defence because they concerned fundamental issues. The Government promised that the laws against sedition would be reviewed and strengthened. It is eighteen months since that pledge was made, but no measure has come before this Senate to redeem it. . The Government promised that the Communist party would be outlawed. The Communist party has not been outlawed. Due to the undemocratic methods that were chosen by the Government to achieve that purpose it failed the people in that respect. The Government promised to put value back into the £l and to reduce living costs. Those were propositions that were fundamental to our economy. Not only did the Government fail to carry out that promise, but it increased the inflationary trend by the disbalance that it introduced into four important phases of our economy - defence, housing, immigration, and development.
The Prime Minister acknowledged recently that the Government had overstrained the economy of the country. Is it not time that the Government remembered the- promises that it made and handled the nation’s affairs so that they will not be overtrained? It is of no use to attempt the impossible. Some body must be in a position to make an apportionment between the requirements of the four aspects of our economic life to which I have just referred. The Government promised that its expenditure would be reduced. It honoured that promise by increasing expenditure in its first full year of office by over £200,000,000. Should a government such as this be trusted with the administration of legislation of this vast scope? The Government made a solemn promise to reduce the number of people employed in its Public Service. The Public Service had been increased by 7,500 employees by last January and I have no doubt that it is still growing. The Government promised to reduce taxation. That promise was dishonoured by an immediate imposition of £10,000,000 in sales tax and by the imposition of a tax of £103,000,000* on wool-growers. I particularly recall a pledge that was made by the Prime Minister last October to introduce an excess profits tax. No action has be-en taken by the Government to introduce that tax. When the Opposition in another place criticized the Government’s failure to take any action in that respect, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) said that it did not matter because when the legislation was introduced it would be made retrospective -to the 1st July, 1950. That financial year has gone and the Parliament has not seen the introduction of the excess profits legislation. I suggest that it will not see it while this Government is in power. Government parties promised faithfully that there would be a. complete removal of controls. I wish to refer to page 33 of my bible, which is the pamphlet that contains the joint Opposition policy speech, delivered by the Prime Minister in November, 1949. In the course of that speech, the right honorable gentleman stated -
We will resist the return of oppressive Government controls of all kinds.
The right honorable gentleman also said in that speech -
We must choose our road. Upon our decision will depend the future and fate of this nation. Every extension of government power and control means less freedom of choice for the citizen. Government activities are monopo- list. Monopolies exclude choice. Na choice for the producer. No choice for the employee. No choice for the customer. The abolition of choice is the death of freedom.
This Government now seeks the most complete power from this Parliament in order to allow it to do as it wishes with producers, agriculturists, manufacturers, consumers, and even State governments. Honorable senators will recall the promise that controls would be removed. It is true that the Government immediately proceeded to remove capital issues control. Its action was followed by a flood of flotations of new companies. Now it has clamped down again on such activities by the reintroduction of capital issues control. Apparently, the Government found that it was wrong about that matter, at least. That is the Government which invites the Opposition to entrust it with unlimited power over the people of Australia. After listening to my remarks, I trust that the supporters of the Government will have at least some appreciation of the reason why we have remained in this chamber, and also why we have kept honorable senators opposite here, at great personal inconvenience to all of us. We have done so in order to let the true nature of this legislation be known to the people. The Australian people are entitled to know that the Government is asking for supreme power over almost every activity that they engage in. Why does the Government want such power? Some honorable senators opposite have said that the power will be sparingly exercised. If that is so, why ask for such vast power? I suggest that the Government proposes to embark upon a set course of conduct, but it does not see fit to take the Opposition or the people of the country into its confidence concerning the nature of that conduct. So far, not one word has been said by a member of the Government during this debate concerning the kind of controls that will be implemented under this legislation. The country is in a state of alarm because of what may happen.
I wish to make one more reference to the joint Opposition policy speech to which I have referred, before I dispose of it on this occasion. I shall have it with me on future occasions, however. When this plan of the Government is evolved and comes into effect there will be a controlled economy, which is what the Government seeks to achieve. Non-essential industries will be closed down, and money, men and materials will be diverted into essential industries. I suggest that no one would argue against the proposition that that will be a controlled economy. In the course of his speech the Prime Minister stated -
You cannot have a controlled economy without controlling human beings, who are still the greatest of all economic factors.
Need Government members argue that there is to be no conscription of labour, when the Prime Minister has acknowledged that in a controlled economy there must be direction of human beings, whether by direct conscription, or by ordinary economic conscription?
The international tension is the next matter to which I shall turn, which the Government claims is the basis for the introduction of this legislation. In every speech delivered by honorable senators opposite during this debate reference has been made to the menace of communism. Undoubtedly communism is menacing the world. It is aggressive, dangerous and vicious. I suggest, however, that in the world to-day there is another menace which is born of the existence of communism. I refer to dictatorship, fascism or totalitarianism, whichever word is preferred. I have not yet heard one honorable senator opposite refer to that development, which is a very natural reaction to communism. I would not deny the proposition that dictatorship is far . more efficient than democracy, for the simple reason that a dictatorship can be much more ruthless. It disregards human lives and human rights, and tramples them into the ground. It is backed by the police power of a country. In that connexion I refer honorable senators to recent developments that have taken place outside Australia and which show that that force is alive in the world to-day.
Honorable senators may have read reports in the newspapers to the effect that the Prime Minister of Siam had been seized by naval officers while he was attending a public function on the 30th June. A battle ensued between the army, the air force and the police of that coun try. Those events in Siam provide an instance of the police power of a country contending for supreme power. By “ ‘police power I mean the armed forces and civil police. In the Argentine, within the last few weeks military officers attempted to stage a revolution against the administration of President Peron. In West Germany we have seen again the rise of Nazi-ism and its entry into a democratically elected parliament, in which its representation is as strong as ever it was. Recently in this chamber I spoke about Panama and of what had happened in that country last May. I propose to refer again to those events, because although Panama, is a small and relatively unknown country, the events I have in mind illustrate that fascism is at work. The point that I wish to make to the Senate is that fascism is more dangerous than communism when it is backed by the police force of a country. Fascism is able to assume power in a moment and much more quickly than communism can do so. Panama is a country of approximately 28,500 square miles with a population of only 750,000. Its chief activity is the growing of bananas. It allows the United States of America to control a five-mile stretch of country on each side of the Panama Canal so that that nation may guard the canal. The country has a. president and a democratically elected house of assembly of 42 members. There is a written constitution, which was democratically re-written in 1946. 1 do not propose to weary the Senate by recounting the history of Panama since its inception in 1903, hut I wish to refer to three changes that have taken place concerning the one president. The country does not possess a navy, an army, or an air force, but it will interest honorable senators to know that it declared war against Germany and Japan after the attack on Pearl Harbour.
– Were not the Panamanians ardent supporters of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) at that time?
– I propose to develop my theme in my own way in relation to the matters to which I have referred. The President of Panama, Dr.
Arias, was put out of office by the police force .under Colonel Remon, in 1941, after he had been democratically elected. Despite the fact that he was defeated for the presidency in 1949, he was returned to office by the police force, still under the control of Colonel Remon, and was subsequently thrown out again in 1951. li may interest honorable senators to learn why President Arias was again dismissed from office. He dissolved the Panamanian House of Assembly, which has 42 members, because it had rejected certain anti-Communist legislation that he wished to pass. He reprimanded the Supreme Court of Panama, which stated that the legislation would have been invalid in any event, and he announced government by decree. He was going to make all the laws.
– That is an old Spanish custom.
– -It is. That happening shows how, if Arias had had the backing of the police force, he could have succeeded in his intention. But on that occasion the police force was not prepared to support him, and he was thrown out of office. As a result, democratic elections are now in the course of being held in Panama. The point that I am making is that that kind of thing can happen here or in any country as long as the police force of the country supports the Government. Certain trends have shown themselves in the activities of the Government down to recent months that cause us, on the Opposition side, still further to hesitate to trust Ministers with absolute power. I shall review them very briefly. T refer to the first approach of the Government, in its anti-Communist legislation. Its first thought was to introduce an absolutely unlimited right of search under which a peace officer, without any authorization, could enter any home at any time. Such a right, of course, is one of the necessary powers of the police state. Then there was the Government’s approach in the industrial field. Quite recently, in the last Parliament, it introduced legislation that included a provision for the imposition of unlimited fines and gaol terms for workers who continued a ban or a strike in contravention of an order of the Com monwealth Arbitration Court. The Government’s first thoughts and approach in that matter too were totalitarian. The third matter that I bring to notice was the decision of the Government that service chiefs should not give evidence before a parliamentary select committee that had been appointed by this Senate. By that action the Government sought to put the Executive Government of this country over and above the Parliament and above the people.
Now I turn to the measure before us. I consider that it was described very well in a speech which was made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) himself in. a broadcast to the nation on the 6th October, 1950, which was entitled “ Rising Prices. The Answer “. In that broadcast the right honorable gentleman said -
Price fixation becomes a mere means of recording .price rises unless the Government which fixes the prices also controls all those factors which go to make up prices.
And he added -
Except in time of war, when we pawn our civil liberties, or in a dictator country, this is impossible.
So control of all the factors that go to make up the price of goods can be exercised, only in the time of actual war: or by a dictator. Otherwise, as the Prime Minister has said, it is impossible. Yet he is asking in this bill for the power to do the very thing that he said could be done, in peace-time, only by a dictator. Does anybody wonder why we of the Opposition are concerned when we see these trends? I refer again to a statement that Mr. Justice Dixon felt impelled to make when he was considering the legislation of this Government. It is a very brief reference and it shows that His Honour was disturbed by the trend of legislation in this country. He said -
History, and not only English history, shows that in the countries where democratic institutions have been unconstitutionally superseded it has been done not seldom by those holding the executive power. Forms of Government may need protection from dangers likely to arise from within the institutions to be protected.
I put it to the Parliament and the Senate that this hill seeks to take from the Parliament the power to legislate and vest complete power to legislate in the GovernorGeneral in Council and in persons to be named in regulations.
In view of the series of performances by the Government in relation to bills and other matters that I have enumerated and of the admission of the Prime Minister that the kind of thing that he wants to do can be done only in a dictator country or in time of war, is it any wonder that we of the Opposition refuse to accept this bill and are fighting valiantly against the grant of this absolute power to the Government ?
Now I turn to the Government’s appreciation of the tenseness of the international situation. The Opposition does not agree that the international position is as tense as the Government claims it to be, and I think that the Government will find itself in difficulties under that heading if this measure goes before the High Court. I shall now refer to a statement made by the Prime Minister as recently as the 7th March last in the. Parliament, in the course of which he said -
But invasion movements against an island continent can be conducted only by oceanic powers- We have no present or potential enemy that could become an oceanic power within the time, or anything like the time, that I have stated.
In short, there is a clear statement by the head of the Government of this country, who has all available secret international information at his disposal, that Australia is in no danger of invasion from anywhere for years. I shall read that statement again. It is as follows: -
But invasion movements against an island continent can be conducted only by oceanic powers. We have not any present, or potential enemy that could become an oceanic power within the time, or anything like the time, that I have stated.
The significance of that statement is that when the High Court comes to consider the constitutionality of this measure it will have regard to the proximity or otherwise of danger to this country. If it finds that the Prime Minister has declared that Australia is in no danger of invasion then one can say that this bill is resting upon a very weak foundation. Again I refer to the matter that cropped up in this chamber this morning, when the Government, despite its claims that we are- facing a grave international emergency, actually removed from the statute-book of this country, and therefore removed from its own hands, certain power to call up for military service persons aged between 18 and 26.
– That power has been off the statute-book since 1930.
– The power has been there to call up such men.
– No ; it was withdrawn in 1930.
– The Government removed it to-day.
– It was withdrawn, by the Scullin Government.
– The only power now existing in respect of call-ups for military service is the power to call up persons eighteen years old. They are the only persons covered by the legislation that this Government introduced to provide the defence forces of this country.
– There is complete power to call up everybody as before.
– If the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) believes that, then he should get some competent legal advice.
– The relevant provisions of the Defence Act remain unamended.
– Since my remarks seem to have disturbed honorable senators opposite, I shall now pass to a more peaceful phase of my ‘speech. Why does not the Government hold a referendum on this measure? It was particularly ready in relation to its legislation to deal with Communists and communism, to say, “ We shall deal with that particular subject if the people will let us to do so “, yet it already had ample powers, as has been demonstrated by the High Court and has been stated very clearly in this chamber. Although the Government already has ample powers it is seeking more. But when it wants to control all agriculture and all production it will not get to the people.
Sitting suspended from 5Ji-5 to 7.50 p.m.
– At the suspension of the sitting, I was making the point that this Government alleges that it is most eager to take action against communism and the Communists in this country; yet every justice of the High Court has said that it has ample power to deal with them if it will only adopt the right methods. The Government has said to the people, “ We will do something about the Communists and communism if the people will let us alter the Constitution “. Yet now that it has decided to take action that will affect the lives of everybody engaged in agricultural production, commerce, manufacturing and the professions, and that will affect the people of Australia in their private lives, instead of going to the people and asking them whether they approve of the Executive of twenty members exercising such absolute power it says, “ We shall take this power despite the protests of the Opposition and the Parliament, whether the people like it or not “.
Another iniquitous aspect of this bill is that power is being sought to enable the Government to interrogate persons suspected of having committed offences and to compel them to answer questions that may incriminate them, even though those answers may not be used in criminal proceedings. It is completely wrong for such a power to be “vested in a government.
The power of the Parliament to disallow regulations that may be made under this bill has been discussed at some length to-day. I say immediately that there can bc no truly practical control of such regulations by the Parliament. It is most unlikely that a regulation promulgated by the Government will be voted against by one of its members or supporters. When the Government has. a majority in both chambers of this Parliament, of what use would it be for the Opposition to raise its’ voice and record its vote against such a regulation? A vote taken on a motion to disallow a regulation is a vote that the Government knows in advance it must win. It is idle to say that the Regulations and Ordinances Committee of this Senate peruses all regulations. Let us assume that a dozen or more regulations are made after the end of this sessional period and before the beginning of the next period two or three months hence.
The committee will not meet during that period, but the regulations will be in operation. When the committee eventually considered them it would make a report to the Senate, but what could the Senate then do? The Labour Opposition could move to disallow them but at that point the majority vote of Government supporters would prevail. What chance would there be of Government senators joining with us in disallowing a regulation that had been made by their own Government, especially a regulation that not one rank-and-file member of the Government parties had previously considered ?
– In any event, the damage would have already been done.
– Unquestionably it would have already been done. I do not think that any one believes that we could get support from the Government side, when we voiced complaints about and moved for the disallowance of a regulation that had been promulgated, by the Government.
Some honorable senators opposite have said that this proposal to confer absolute power on the Government to legislate in respect of every aspect of life in this community does not differ from the proposals contained in the National Health Service Bill which was introduced by me in 194S. I have taken the opportunity to refresh my mind by looking at that legislation. In the first place, any power exercised in that field is subject to the limitation of the Constitution that there may bo no civil conscription. The Constitution prohibits any form of civil conscription. Many honorable senators on this side of the cham’ber, including myself, have demonstrated clearly that the measure now before us will permit the imposition of the most grievous form of economic and man-power conscription. The second point I wish to make is that the health legislation to which I have referred conferred benefits on and provided services for the people. It did not authorize any interference with civil rights or liberties or with the property of any person in this country; but the bill now before us will permit unlimited interference with civil rights and liberties and with the property of the people and of corporations. Although the health legislation contained a general regulationmaking power such as is proposed in this bill, there it set out in detail the only matters that could be dealt with by regulation. If honorable senators refer to section 7 of that act they will find that it conferred power to provide general medical or dental practitioner services, maternal and child health services, nursing services, and medical and dental services in universities, school and colleges. I have cited only one third of the services that are listed in that section. In that instance a health programme was evolved and plainly put before the Parliament. Whilst the purpose of that legislation was to confer benefits, the bill now before us will permit nothing but restrictions, including the diversion of men, materials, resources, money and credit. Power to control all of those things has been sought. If it is not to be exercised why has it been sought?
I propose to say a word or two regarding the clause of this bill which deals with the regulations. Regulations that are made by the Governor-General are subject to the provisions of the Acts Interpretation Act. They have to be notified in the Commonwealth Gazette so that all persons may have notice of them. They cannot be made retrospective in action except under very restricted conditions. Clause 5 provides for the making not of regulations, but of orders that may be made by an authorized person appointed by the Government under the regulations. Whilst the bill applies the provisions of the Acts Interpretation Act to those orders, as well as to the regulations, in the case of the orders it negatives the provision that orders have to be gazetted, and it negatives the safeguard prohibiting them from being made retrospective in action. Some relatively minor official may be entrusted with power to make these orders which the clause plainly intends shall have legislative effect. Such orders which are of legislative effect are not to be gazetted and will operate notwithstanding all the evils that may follow from their operation.
From the practical point of view, what is the effect of this bill? In the first place, it seeks to vest absolute power in the GovernorGeneral in Council, who, in fact, is the government of the day, or to be more precise, the twenty men who form the Government. Only eleven of the twenty are needed to carry any proposal in relation to a regulation or any other matter. So, in fact, this bill proposes to vest absolute power in eleven men out of 8,000,000 persons in Australia. We can be certain that among those eleven men, as in every group of men, one, two or three will be dominant and they will direct the thinking of the others. There are many aspects of the bill that during the course of this debate we have not been able to traverse, but which we hope to deal with in more detail in committee. We have stayed here under the compulsion of the Government to draw attention to the fact that the absolute power contemplated by the bill is to be vested in the hands of a few men. Under the bill, penalties will be imposed of up to a £5,000 fine or two years gaol or both, plus expropriation of the property concerned in the commission of the offence. These provisions have been included in the bill riotwithstanding the Prime Minister’s recent admission that Australia cannot be invaded in the foreseeable future. Instead of following the normal course of adjourning this debate on Friday last, the Government kept us here until midnight last night and it has kept us here all day to-day. Let me assure the Senate that I am not complaining for myself. Nor am I complaining for my colleagues. All honorable senators of the Opposition, including myself, have some regard to the convenience of the staff, to the convenience and comfort of the attendants in this Senate and to the convenience of the large staff in the parliamentary refreshmentrooms who are staying on the premises at the behest of the Government. The staff in the refreshment-rooms are not paid over-time unless they stay here until midnight. Then I understand that they are paid the paltry sum of 10s.
– Order ! I am afraid that I cannot allow the honorable senator to proceed as he is now doing. He must confine his remarks to the bill.
– As I see that my time is almost exhausted I conclude with the statement that the honorable senators of the Opposition have remained here because they are opposed to the bill on all the grounds that we have mentioned. The further grounds that we have to place before the Senate will be brought forward if we are given an opportunity to deal with the bill in committee. I suggest that the Government should not continue this process of legislation by physical exhaustion, and I also suggest that when the second-reading debate has been completed the Senate should adjourn until next week.
– Order ! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– The measure before this chamber will induce in every senator a sense of the greatest gravity, because it deals with preparation for war. It is recited in the preamble to the bill that an international emergency exists such as to make it prudent in the opinion of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and his advisers to prepare in a time of peace to such an extent as has not hitherto been considered necessary before a declaration of war. Yet we have had to listen to arguments from the Leader ofthe Opposition (Senator McKenna), which have brought into consideration such diverse matters as 10s. overtime and Panama. We have heard the Leader of the Opposition say with astonishing impudence that the economic situation in this country is such that the Government should be accused of apathy because it broke promises to remedy it. He has said that a government which came to office on a policy of production, chiefly by the agency of free enterprise, is not to be credited with being responsible for defence. When we consider the increase of world prices through low production in overseas countries during recent years, the price to which wool has risen in the last few months and the impact on our economy of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court’s decision to increase the basic wage, which incidentally is costing the Postal Department £10,000,000 a year and the whole economy £200,000,000 a year, we must realize how difficult it has beento overcome inflation. It must also be remembered that the Government has been twice before the people and twice has had a mandate given to it to carry out its policy. My astonishment can best- be expressed by saying that the Opposition’s attitude is like that of the highwayman, who, having successfully robbed a mail coach on the road, joined the remonstrations on the post office steps against the carrier for not having faithfully delivered the mail.
The Leader of the Opposition has said that the introduction of this bill is a reversal of form on the part of the Government. He has tried to convey the impression that because we are waging a zealous and relentless war against the miserable socialist controls fastened on the people in the name of freedom by previous Labour governments, in times of national emergency, we should not impose necessary controls on the people. The history of the Prime Minister is written in terms of the National Security Act 1939. After the declaration of war, the Prime Minister introduced that act on the 7th September, 1939, to control the economy of the country. At that time, he said -
We are asking Parliament to hand over to the Executive a very great reservoir of power, and it may well be said - indeed, it has been said on previous occasions - that in so doing we incur grave risk in the limitation of freedom of the individual, and in the limitation of Parliamentary control. I frankly admit that we do. That risk must always be run, if it is necessary to run it, in order to avoid running a greater one. That is the principle upon which this class of legislation proceeds.
At that time, the late John Curtin, who was the Leader of the Opposition, was of sufficient stature to recognize the need for national security legislation. He said that he felt that the situation demanded some such procedure, and that with a virile Opposition ministerial control would be safe from abuse. I remind the Senate that when John Curtin came to the Prime Ministership the ground work of our war preparation had been laid to a degree that he said was most laudable. But from the time the Labour Government, including Dr. H. V. Evatt, took control in 1941, .the whole system of wartime controls was used for paltry socialist purposes. Records show that our American allies believed that the Australian Government of that time was concerned more with putting its socialist programme into effect than it was with maintaining a virile war effort. It is well to remember that when the war ended the Labour Government, in its thirst for power, spawned war-time controls by tens of thousands. The people became tired of that abuse of power. The growth of those evil weeds soured the soil. Now honorable senators opposite are attempting to exploit .the revulsion that the people, remembering the Labour party’s post-war administration, have for controls such as those. “When it became necessary to wind up our war -effort, the Liberal party did not advocate a wholesale repeal of economic controls. On the contrary, it remonstrated with the Government that decided, in a fit of pique at a decision of the High Court in relation to petrol rationing, to drop prices control from Canberra’s clutches. The Liberal party has at all times advocated the retention by the States of a proper system of prices control. Let us not be so stupid as to listen to the nonsense that the Liberal party believes in the principle of laisserfaire.
Opposition senators interjecting,
– Order ! Honorable senators have been allowed considerable latitude in debating this measure. Senator “Wright is relating his remarks to the bill. Interjections are disorderly.
– In the States sphere, the Liberal party has advocated the continuance of the control of rents and essential building materials. I refute the suggestion that honorable senators on this side of the chamber do not subscribe to the view that, in a time of national emergency, some form of national control is necessary. We have sufficient regard for the safety of the realm to say that, in a time of national emergency, civil liberties and property rights must be subordinated to the interests of a concerted national effort.
The Menzies Government, for fifteen months after it assumed office, was hamstrung by a rather short-sighted Opposition in this chamber. The economic garment of this country in that period was moth-eaten and became in a state of disrepair. We are now faced with an international emergency. Having consulted the governments of our allies, Great Britain and the United States of America - if, having regard to our international status and our national power, we may claim the position of an ally of those countries - the Australian Government has said that, much as it deplores controls, the present emergency is such that power to exercise controls must be given to the Executive in order that this country may be enabled, not to fight an inevitable war but to make itself, acting in concert with its allies, so strong that the potential aggressor will not be game to march. By making adequate defence preparations in unison with our allies, we shall preserve peace.
It has been made clear that while this Government, with its instinctive dislike of controls, remains in office, the controls that will be instituted under this measure will be used only for essential defence preparations, and only if voluntary co-operation, which will be encouraged to the full, fails. Surely it will be agreed by all who have the best interests of this country at heart that the Government must be able to divert to essential purposes vital commodities such as sulphur, tungsten and tinplate, and ensure that materials that can be used to stimulate agricultural production, build roads and rehabilitate our railways shall be used for those purposes. There are few persons in the community who will not willingly, and with pride, support the view of this Government that, in a national emergency, we must sacrifice private interests in order to achieve the degree of co-ordination of our national resources that the government of the day considers to be necessary.
Yesterday, Senator Armstrong referred to the protests against this bill that have been made by great business interests, chambers of commerce and chambers of manufactures. There is no honorable senator on this side of the Senate who does not regard the opinions expressed by those bodies as deserving of consideration, but, despite the allegations that are frequently made by honorable senators opposite, we shall, if we believe that the national interest requires us to do so, proceed with the implementation of this measure, even though that may entail some damage to a particular merchant’s interests. With a Liberal government in office, with members of the Government parties carefully scrutinizing the way in which the power given to the Executive is being used, and with members of the Opposition, if they really wish to protect the liberty of the subject, as they profess they do, also exercising vigilance, there is no real danger that the power to make regulations which will be given by this bill, wide though the provissions of the measure are, will be abused. If they are used in the national interest for defence preparations no businessman, no member of the Opposition, and certainly no supporter of the Government, will challenge them. I have never ventured to challenge the eminent constitutional authorities who advised the Government regarding the constitutionality of this measure, but as one with a smattering of law, I have examined with some reserve the proposal to pass to the Government wide power to make regulations regarding the matters set forth in the bill. When Senator Byrne spoke of the delicate flower of freedom being crushed in the hand of political expediency, I was touched, and thought of the community graves of Coventry and the gardens which grow in London that were bombed out of existence because the guilty men who were in positions of responsibility in the ‘thirties made inadequate preparations for the defences of Britain. The flowers that bloomed so beautifully were ruined, and not the flowers of the garden only, but the flower of Britain’s manhood perished as well.
This Government^ after consultation with the Government of Great Britain, has publicly declared in the preamble to the bill that defence preparations must be made to a degree, and with an urgency, not hitherto necessary in time of peace. Let us see how this situation has developed. On the 6th September, 1950, the Congress of the United States of America passed the Defence Production Act, the purpose of which was to confer upon the President power to take prompt and effective measures to promote the economic and military security of the nation. The act conferred power to enforce priorities in relation to Government contracts, to requisition property, to provide for the expansion of industrial production, to stabilize wages and prices,, and to settle labour disputes. It also set up a committee of national security resources. There are those who say that the bill we are now considering was wished on the country almost overnight. Opposition members complained that they had not had time to consider it. The Congress of the United States of America passed the act to which I have referred in September, 1950. In October, 1950, our Prime Minister announced the formation of the National Security Resources Board, and it is interesting to state the names of the members, having regard to the inexpert criticism of the personnel of the board offered by members of the Opposition. They are as follows : -
Chairman, the Prime Minister, Mr. Menzies.
Vice-chairman, Mr. G. T. Chippindall, Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs.
The Secretary for Defence, Sir Frederick Shedden; Mr. I. McLennan, general manager of Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited; Mr. A. £. Monk, president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions; Mr. A. V. Smith, former secretary of the Department of Supply, and now associated with Electricity Meter and Allied Industries Limited; Mr. R. J. Vicars, governing director of John Vicars and Company Proprietary Limited.
On the board there are also five distinguished civil servants, of whom Dr. Walker is executive officer.
The Prime Minister went to a conference of Dominion Prime Ministers hurriedly summoned by the Prime Minister of Great Britain in September, 1950. When he returned, he said that the country would have to be placed on a semiwar footing, and to that end it would be necessary to introduce a Defence Preparations Bill. He was opposed by the obstructive tactics of a hostile Labour majority in the Senate, and he seized the first opportunity to obtain a verdict from the people, who returned his Government to power with a majority in both Houses of the Parliament. Now, in conformity with the terms of his policy speech, he has introduced the present measure, which will authorize the Government to divert materials for defence preparation in face of the imminent threat of war. What the Government is doing here is in line with the course followed by the great democracy of the United States of America. As we know, there is in the United States of
America a government dedicated to the principle of free enterprise and competition. In Great Britain, which is very close to the shores of Europe from which its bad political weather usually comes, there is a socialist government, but that government, I am glad to say, has a due realization of its responsibility for national defence, because it affects the safety of all the families of the nation. The British Prime Minister, Mr. Attlee, speaking in January, 1951, said -
The government does not believe that war is inevitable. But they believe that peace cannot be assured unless the defences of the free world are made sufficiently strong to deter aggression.
The Parliament of Great Britain, remembering how the British people have been battered and starved since the end of the recent war, has decided to use the controls which, in the spirit of socialism, the Government of that country has imposed in order to reduce the consumption of clothing and fabrics, radios, domestic equipment, pottery, glassware and other household goods ; to reduce investment in building; to cut down export production to some extent ; and to make a substantial reduction in the average level of civilian consumption. Is there a man in this great Commonwealth who will not share those sacrifices with the British people? Mr. Hugh Gaitskell, who was recently appointed Chancellor of the British Exchequer, and who is a socialist, when introducing his budget which makes provision for the first instalment of a plan under which the British Government will expend, approximately, £3,000,000,000 on armaments alone within the next three years, made this statement -
The setting, also, of this budget should not be forgotten for it is the clash and conflict between the two great forces in the world to-day, between Soviet imperialism and Parliamentary democracy . . . Rearmament in peace-time does not come easily to democratic peoples, especially so soon after a major war. The popular urge to relax, the pressure for higher living standards, the absorption with domestic issues, are all powerful influences which weaken the will to rearm. The very process of democratic government to some extent encourages all this - often, in the past, with fatal or near fatal results. It has happened many times in history that democracies have played while dictatorships have prepared. It is our responsibility and opportunity to see that this does not happen again. Heavy as our new burdens may seem, how small they are when set against the greater issue behind them. If by these measures we can save the peace, if we can protect ourselves -from the nightmare of the Police State, there is noi one of us here who would not cheerfully accept the burden and, of course, far more too. In all our debates and discussions, heated and prolonged though they will be, let us remember the great moral issues which lie in the background, and let us shape our conduct so as to inspire our friends and confound our enemies.
Great Britain has learned its lesson from the bitterest and most devastating experience that any country could imagine. We recall that the international organizations that endeavoured to ensure the maintenance of world peace from 1919 to 1939 lacked the great requisite of the alliance of American strength. Despite the urgings of Mr. Winston Churchill alone from 1932 to 1939 to the responsible men in Great Britain to prepare, there were others who were not prepared to raise the issue of defence lest they might lose the general election that was held in that country in 1935. I point with pride to the fact that in 1951 our own Prime Minister placed the need for defence preparation in the forefront of the policy of the present Government parties. The Governments of Great Britain and the United States of America, with the full support of the Governments of Canada and New Zealand - the people of New Zealand now rejoice in the fact that nearly two years ago a Labour government in that dominion reintroduced compulsory military training - have pointed to the need of the democracies to rearm to such a degree that Russia will never be so reckless as to cast its weight against them. If we mobilize our potential capacity to produce 140,000,000 tons of steel a year against Russia’s present production capacity of approximately 28,000,000 tons of steel” a year, then, while there is still time, we shall have the opportunity to become sufficiently strong to deter aggression. Are we instead to remain weak as the democracies did up to 1939 and thus be exposed as a prey to Nazi-ism ?
I approached this measure with much heart-searching. I have made myself familiar with all the arguments that honorable senators opposite have advanced. Knowing that the Government is actuated by such a sense of its responsibility that it is prepared to undertake this task which is irksome, disagreeable and unpopular in a democracy, and cherishing the principles of individual liberty and of the supremacy of the Parliament, I should be recreant to my duty if I denied to Ministers the power which they seek under this measure in order to discharge their great task. Therefore, I claim that upon the highest principles, not only is the Senate justified in passing this bill, but also that it has a solemn duty to do so.
– I had not intended to participate in this debate until I heard some remarks by Senator “Wright which I believed I could not let pass unchallenged without failing in my duty. I regret very much the atmosphere in which this debate has taken place. All parties agree upon the importance of this measure. As a matter of fact, the Govern- ment would not have allowed the latitude of discussion that it has permitted in respect of this measure if the press of Australia had not been so vociferous in their condemnations of it for gagging the bill in another place. All sections of the community realize that this is, perhaps, the most important measure that the Menzies Government has attempted to place upon the statute-book since it assumed office over eighteen months ago. That is why the Senate is now sitting on a Saturday for only the second time since federation was achieved half a century ago and why the Government is seeking to pass the measure by a process of exhaustion. The atmosphere of this- debate has not been such as the importance of the issues involved would warrant. Many supporters of the Government share the Opposition’s apprehension in respect of (he bill. There can be no doubt about that. We know that some members of the Government parties were so doubtful about the need for the measure that murmurings arose in their ranks with the result that a special meeting of those parties was called at which the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) outlined the Government’s reason for introducing it. I put it to you, Mr. President, that if it was necessary for the Prime Minister to give fuller information to his political supporters in order to impress upon them the need to pass this bill, it is also necessary for the leaders of the anti-Labour parties to be frank with the Opposition about the need for this bill. After all, we represent many people in this community, and I feel that as responsible members of the Senate we are entitled to know the mind of the Government and the facts upon which the Prime Minister reached the conclusion that this legislation is so vitally necessary. I agree that a good deal has been said by Ministers and their followers in support of the hill, and I agree that we cannot again allow Australia to fall into the position of insecurity in which we found ourselves in 1939. We all know that in 1929 the hopes of the world, as in 1949, were fastened on an era of peace to come. We know that in 1929 there was an international disarmament conference at which the late King George V. said : “ If you prepare for war, then war you shall have “. Following that conference, Great Britain proceeded to carry out King George’s policy of disarmament, and we know the disastrous consequences that followed. Those consequences ensued, not because of the ill will of the’ persons at that conference or of the nations that they represented, but because the nations that we had helped so generously in the years between the wars, proved traitors to the trust reposed in them.
I was amazed that Senator Wright should have referred to the subject of the guilty men of Europe between the years 1935 and 1939. I am sure that if Senator Wright had been a member of the Senate during the war years, and particularly from 1943 to 1945, he would have heard even more emphatic references by members of the Labour party to the guilty men of 1935 to 1939. Those guilty men were the individuals who found the money for the rearmament of Germany. Today, I remind the Senate, other men are willing to provide money for the rearmament of Japan. In 1935 Germany was supposed to be beaten, contrite and on its knees. It became the God-given task of the democracies to assist Germany once again to re-establish itself as . one of the free nations. In the democratic countries people went hungry in order to provide money for the rearmament of Germany, and they were told that there was not sufficient money available to provide even the most menial employment for them. Money was given generously by the financial interests of the world, including Australian financial interests, to enable Germany to rearm. Honorable senators all know that this is true. Yet yesterday morning the people of this country woke up to the fact that the Australian Government proposes now to allow Japan to rearm, just as the guilty men to whom Senator “Wright referred allowed Germany to rearm. If there are guilty men. amongst us, I hope that there will not be any guilty women to share the blame of posterity.
We all agree that there is danger to-day. The only matter on which we disagree is the source from which that danger may come. Will it come from Russia; from a revitalized Japan, built up again by the great democracies; or will it come as the result of our own domestic action or policy? If it does come, will Australia be expected to supply not only men, money and equipment, but also food, as it did in the last world conflict? I feel that Senator Wright was not fair this evening when he criticized the Labour Government of the war years and the work that it did. He referred to the controls introduced during the recent war by the members of the war-time Labour Governments, whom he stigmatized as socialists. Why were those socalled socialists in charge of this country’s economy at the time? Senator Wright should know. They were not elected to office because of a decision of a. majority of the people. Senator Wright and every other Australian knows that in 1940 the Menzies Government was returned to power with a majority in both Houses of the Parliament and could have done anything that it wished to do to prosecute the war effort. It could have introduced economic controls. Although we were engaged in a lifeanddeath struggle for the survival of the nation, the personal enmities of the members of the Menzies Administration led to the voluntary retirement from the highest office in the land of the right honorable gentleman who has again ‘become the Prime Minister of this country. The right honorable gentleman, I remind the Senate, walked out of the job in June, 1941, only five months before Pearl Harbour fell. The ignominious failure of his successor, who is the present Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), followed a few months later, and, as Senator Wright and every other honorable senator knows, the country was left without a leader who had been approved by a majority of the people.
– Tell us about the part played by the two independent members of the Parliament at that time.
– What I have said is true. Mr. Curtin was not elected leader of the nation by the political party that had the majority of supporters in the House. On the contrary, he took on the job because he knew that it had to be done. He knew that the people of Australia, regardless of their political colour, would respond to sound leadership and that they would sacrifice themselves and give everything for Australia in order that it might survive as a nation. The course of events justified his faith in this country and the country’s faith in Mr. Curtin and the Labour party. Yet Senator Wright, who is perfectly well aware of those facts, referred most disparagingly in his snarling voice to the socialist control of those days. He mentioned particularly a speech delivered by the Prime Minister on the 7th September, 1939, three days after World War II. had commenced. I remind the honorable senator that at that time nobody could envisage that the war on which we had then entered would be the most deadly ever fought or that Australia itself would suffer physical contact with the forces of the enemy. The conditions that prevailed when controls were introduced in September, 1939, were vitally different from the conditions that exist to-day. Incidentally I draw attention to the fact that the measure to impose the controls now proposed was introduced, to this chamber on Friday, the 13th July - a date that may have some ironic . significance.
As the members of the Opposition in the Parliament, we have a duty to discharge, not only to those who voted for us, but also to the whole community; and we have a right to demand that in a matter of such national importance we should be taken into the confidence of the Government. I have just read the bill and, like other honorable senators, I have not yet had time to study it. However, it is quite clear that it represents an open cheque on the nation for the Ministry to govern this country without parliamentary approval. Despite the gravity of the times and the surpassing importance of the matters with which the bill deals, the Government pushed it through the House of Representatives in a couple of days, and its supporters in that chamber could not get away from Canberra quickly enough. Other measures of almost equal importance have been rushed through the Parliament in record time during the last few days. Since we all hope to be here for at least a few years yet, it is difficult to understand why the Government and its supporters should be so eager to desert Canberra now. I emphasize that, although this is the most important measure that has ever been introduced to the Parliament in peacetime, we are being denied a proper opportunity to discuss it. We have been sitting almost continuously since last Tuesday and we cannot be expected, for physical reasons, to give the measure the consideration it deserves. Incidentally, I point out that the members of the staff have been working all the week from early morning until late at night, and yet they, like us, aru being detained here at the week-end to enable the Government to engage in its tactical game. We are not opposed to defence preparedness, and it would be ridiculous to say that we are, because our record shows that we have at all times been a party to placing Australia in a good position to defend itself. The Labour Government led by Andrew Fisher established the Royal Australian Navy and introduced compulsory military training before World War I. When the MenziesFadden Government proved incapable of directing the national war effort in 1941, the Labour party took charge. At that time the present’ Prime Minister was the leader of the United Australia party. No wonder that party changed its name a few years later to the Liberal party!
Under the Curtin Labour Government, and, subsequently, the Chifley Labour Government, Australia recorded a remarkably effective war effort. I do not place all the credit for defence preparedness on the doorstep of Labour governments or the Labour movement itself, but I am endeavouring to show that it was under Labour leadership that the people of this country united in a time of great danger. They were fully aware of the situation which resulted in the Labour party assuming office in 1941.
As a united people, Australian men and women made great sacrifices during World War II. I visited war plants at all hours of the day and night, and I saw women who never before had left their homes to take jobs, coming off duty in factories at 4 a.m. They went to their homes and got breakfast for their husbands and their children. They then did the housework, had a few hours’ sleep and returned to their jobs in the factories. J saw women on the farms doing the work of two men, and sometimes more.
– That is a fact. I cite a case that is known to Senator Scott. At Bridgetown, I saw a one-armed woman making fruit cases just as fast as a man with two arms could make them. She also kept house, and worked the orchard. People did those superhuman things in war-time because the very existence of this country was at stake. Everybody got on with the job. Of course, there were a few black marketeers. There are always some profiteers, because human nature is not destroyed by legislation. But, thank God, very few of those black marketeers and profiteers were native-born Australians. I fear that this bill will produce a fresh crop of profiteers and black marketeers who will be able to go on their nefarious ways.
In 1945, the Liberal party was still in its swaddling clothes. It had changed its name from the United Australia party, hut had not changed its character. Some honorable senators opposite were members of the United Australia party, and they hf.ve not changed their views now that they are members of the Liberal party. Senator Wright said that Libera! governments have retained rent controls. Who ever heard such rot! The last fortnight in “Western Australia has been wicked. During the last few days the West Australian has published pictures of families who have been thrown into the streets because the protection against eviction that had been granted to tenants for some years has now been withdrawn. I refer particularly to the protection that was extended to ex-servicemen. The Liberal party has majorities in the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council in Western Australia. The Labour party has never had a majority in the Legislative Council of that State and will never have one, so long as the restricted and property franchise remains. Last Thursday, 21 families were evicted from their homes in Western Australia, because an amendment of the law enabled landlords to turn them into the streets. Even the magistrate who dealt with some of the appeals against eviction could see no . virtue in the law, but he had to administer it. Yet Senator Wright tells us that Liberal governments have retained rent controls. The Labour party does not believe in the retention of all controls. We believe in prices control, and in the imposition of controls to ensure that the best use shall be made of material in short supply, particularly those for defence requirements.
About a fortnight ago, honorable senators opposite laughed at me when I mentioned luxury lines of goods which were displayed in a Melbourne store. Because some Victorian males suffer from cold feet, they have been invited to buy bedsocks of pale pink wool angora. I mention that matter because I was astonished that a respectable Melbourne newspaper should even dare to print the words “ pale pink “. Obviously man-power was required to manufacture those bed-socks of pale pink wool angora for cold-footed men. I should not mind if those factories were diverted to the production of sturdy socks for schoolboys and schoolgirls. Incidentally, many of the materials, including footwear, which are produced for those young people, are extremely shoddy. Mothers now have to pay two or three times as much for footwear for their children as they paid before World War II. A child wears a pair of shoes a couple of times and the soles then peel off. I know what I am talking about. The Government might well introduce some controls to ensure good workmanship and the use of materials of better quality, not only for the defence forces, but also for the general public. I certainly should not object to the Government exercising such a power.
The quality of furniture is generally poor. Some furniture is sold at very high prices, but the stuff is only glued together. It is veneer in the front and three-ply at the back, and it falls to pieces before the young couple who have purchased it can get it into their prefabricated fowlhouses, or whatever they use for houses in these times. Meanwhile, many companies in Victoria are making terrific profits. I refer to Victoria specifically, because I noticed a reference to the profits of companies in a Melbourne newspaper to-day. I have not found that many manufacturers, retailers, brewers and hotelkeepers appear in the Bankruptcy Courts?
– Would the honorable senator like them to appear in the Bankruptcy Court? If they were bankrupt, many people would be unemployed.
– That is not the point that I am making. Wages have never been higher, yet people have never had such difficulty in making ends meet. There has been no increase of real wages.
– Order ! I have listened to the honorable senator with a great deal of attention. I think that she would be much safer if she related her remarks to this bill.
– I shall do so, Mr. President. I merely referred to those matters because Senator Wright stated that Liberal governments had continued rent control. I have proved that the Liberal government in Western Australia has not retained rent controls.
I was astonished at another statement that was made by Senator Wright. He referred to the need for us to be humble in our approach to our allies, the United States of America and Great Britain. Humble! In view of our war effort there is no need for Australia to be humble in approaching its allies. Australia was in World War II. when the first shot was fired. We did not wait until we were invaded before we entered the war. “We went straight into the conflict on the 3rd September, 1939, the day on which World War II. broke out. We put the best of our manhood, into the field. We did a marvellous, job in producing food, equipment, and all kinds of medical supplies. We defended our coastline, which is almost as long as the coastline of Europe. Our air crews flew in the skies above all the nations that were engaged in the war. Ships of the Royal Australian Navy were in all of the seven seas. Our troops were in every land in which armies were engaged. That was not bad for a nation of 7,000,000 people - roughly the population of New York or London, or the number of people on unemployment relief in the United States of America. There is no need for Australians to be humble about their war effort and I am confident that they would give just as good an account of themselves again should the need arise. I have greater regard for my fellow Australians than to believe that they might fall down on the joh, but they must be convinced that whatever restrictions are to be imposed upon them are necessary.
The Government could perhaps have made a greater contribution to our defence preparations had.it concentrated its efforts upon remedies, and not mere palliatives, for the present economic condition of the community. We were promised an excess profits tax, but apparently that has gone into the limbo of forgotten things. We believe, too, that a revaluation of our currency might have done something towards checking the soaring spiral of prices. Some form of Commonwealth prices control is essential. We are no more keen than is the Government to see in this country the nightmare of a police state. I can well remember honorable senators opposite, when Labour was iri office, making appeals on behalf of the women of Australia, and talking about “ string-bag queues “. They blamed Labour’s economic controls for the shortages, of goods, but “stringbag queues “ are still a feature of our daily life, and are hardly likely to be eliminated, by this legislation. Senator Wright’s speech was entirely misleading. It was also very unfair because those of us who have been members of this /Senator Tangney. chamber for seven or eight years, or perhaps longer, know that the war effort of the Curtin and Chifley Administrations cannot be faulted. It was not possible to abolish all controls as soon as the war ended. They had to be relaxed gradually. My visit overseas several years ago convinced me that, in the immediate post-war years at least, Australia had progressed further along the road to peace and prosperity than had many other nations which had not been so deeply involved in the war. In view of the bald information that the Government has given about this bill I cannot support it, but, in common with other honorable senators on this side of the chamber, I promise to give full support to the Government if I am convinced that we are really being taken into the Government’s confidence about the international situation as it affects this country.
. . - in reply - I do not regret having afforded the Opposition a full opportunity to debate this measure. I hope that honorable senators opposite appreciate the Government’s action. I must also thank my colleagues for their cheerful co-operation in making it possible for me to give the Opposition the opportunity that I know it so earnestly desired, and which, I am glad to say, it has- used to such great advantage. I regret, however, what I consider to be the unhelpful attitude of both the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) and his deputy, Senator Armstrong, both of whom have had considerable experience as Ministers of state. In the light of certain legislation that each of them introduced into this Parliament some years ago, it is clear that their arguments on this measure lacked both integrity and sincerity. The Leader of the Opposition would ‘ have us believe to-day that there is something inherently wicked in an act of Parliament that places regulation-making power in the hands of ‘ a government. He pretended to be absolutely horrified by the wide regulationmaking power contained in this bill in spite of the fact that that power may be exercised only in relation to defence matters. In May, 1948, three years after the end of the war, the honorable senator introduced the National Health Services Bill, clause 22 of which provided -
The Governor-General may make regulations for the establishment, maintenance or conduct of a National Health Service.
The sky was the limit. Apparently government by regulation is all right when Labour is in office. In the same year, Senator Armstrong, when Minister for Supply and Development, introduced a measure which had some relation to the possibilities of peace.
– And preparation for war.
– Yes, and that was three years ago. I am sure that no intelligent .person will argue that conditions to-day are not definitely more clouded and serious than they were then. Senator Armstrong has bitterly criticized the regulation-making power of the bill now before the Senate, but only three years ago, when introducing the Supply and Development Bill, a measure conferring wide regulation-making power upon the then Government, he said -
So far as this favoured land is concerned - and it has been favoured in many respects - the quality of our people has been proved in war, and we have done well in the provision of munitions and other war equipment, but we need more people and more industrial resources for -provisioning in time of war, if we are to defend ourselves effectively.
He also said -
I have already stated that modern warfare calls for the whole resources of a country unfortunately engaged in war, and it is the intention of the amendment of the act that the responsibility for provision of the needs of warfare, except man-power, shall be placed upon the Department of Supply and Development.
The honorable senator made those statements in all seriousness. That is why I say that, he was neither serious nor sincere to-day. He went on to say -
The bill before this chamber aims to coordinate in one department, and under one ministerial head, all of the problems which would be associated with supply in the event of any future war, bearing in mind that adequate preparation in time of peace is the greatest insurance that any nation can have against war.
Excellent sentiments !
– Statesmanlike !
– But how different from the honorable senator’s remarks in criticizing this bill! In the speech which I have been quoting, he went on to say -
By streamlined administration, we hope, in an emergency, to be able to move forward immediately in top gear, and at full speed . . I wish this aspect to be clearly understood; we have asked for, and shall receive, very wide ‘powers under this bill. There will be no question about that.
In the light of those very worthy and highly commendable statements, the Senate can readily appreciate how disappointed I was when Senator Armstrong, instead of giving his blessing to this measure, as one would expect of any robust Australian, did his best to sow in the breasts of the audience in the public galleries and of listeners to the broadcast of this debate the seeds of distrust and discomfort concerning the Government’s intentions.
The Leader of the Opposition spoke in a most exaggerated manner about the possible implications of the regulationmaking powers for which the bill provides and about the items that they might cover. He paid very little attention to the first and qualifying sub-clause of clause 4, which provides -
The Governor-General may make regulations for or in relation to defence preparations.
Any regulation that purported to have an impact on any commodity or activity outside the sphere of defence preparations could not have the protection of the provisions of this legislation. The honorable gentleman asked why the Government had not mentioned specific items. If the Government wanted to cause shortages and a panic, it could do so most rapidly by indicating in advance that it intended to control certain commodities ! Any government that did so would be completely irresponsible and should be thrown out of office. I do not believe that even a Labour government would do that.
Another cause for disappointment in a man of the standing and calibre of the Leader of the Opposition was his attempt to give a misleading impression of meetings of the Executive Council. He knows very well what constitutes a meeting of the Executive Council. Technically, his statement that such a meeting could be constituted by two Ministers was correct. Ministers do not make decisions at meetings of the Executive Council. The council merely conveys to the Governor-General for signature decisions that have been made by the full Cabinet. It was very wrong of the honorable senator to broadcast his statement with all the authority of an ex-Minister of his prestige and standing. The honorable senator also said that the exercise of the proposed’ powers could wipe out the Parliament. I have never heard anything so nonsensical. The bil] provides specifically that its provisions must cease to operate by the end of 1953. He complained that the country had been thrown into a state of alarm. Certainly he did nothing to assuage alarm with his extravagant and irresponsible statements. Another criticism was that the measure savoured of fascism. I am fully aware of the gallant records of many honorable senators opposite who have fought against dictatorship, but I point out that no political group in the history of federation has had in its ranks so many men who have personally fought against fascism and dictatorship as have the parties that are represented on this side of the chamber. The statement that men who have already risked their lives to fight against totalitarianism in the flesh are privy to the foisting on the Australian people of the very type of system that they endangered their lives to destroy is mean and contemptible. That was hitting below the belt!
I shall try to present this measure to the people in its true perspective so that they can appreciate its nature properly. It must be examined against the background of the general world situation to-day. Mr. Attlee, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, made the following statement last January : -
The Government does not believe that war is inevitable, but they believe that peace cannot be assured unless the defences of the free world are made sufficiently strong to deter aggression.
Our own Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) recently said -
For those reasons we believe, as I have previously told the House, that we must be ready by the end of 1953. Not, let me repeat, because we believe that war is inevitable by the end of 1 953. That is a complete distortion of our view. But we believe that, if we are ready by the end of 1953 and if the other democratic powers are also ready, then war will probably not come at all. Adequate defence preparations will, I believe, quite probably mean peace. But nothing else will.
The Government parties do not like controls and the people of Australia do not like them. Therefore, controls will be applied only when voluntary negotiation either fails or is completely impracticable. Let us consider what is happening in other countries. Over the three years period from 1951 to 1954, the United Kingdom Government proposes to expend £4,700,000,000 sterling on defence. It intends to increase the number of men under arms to 900,000 by 1952, the largest number ever to be maintained in the forces in peace-time. In order that this programme may be carried out, it will impose restrictions on clothing, fabrics, radios, domestic equipment, pottery, glassware and household goods. Investment and expenditure will be rigidly controlled in order to gear the nation to a state of war preparedness. On the other side of the Atlantic, the Government of the United States of America ^recently passed the Defence Production Act. That legislation gave to the President of that country immediate powers to develop the defences of the United States of America, and to provide financial assistance to friendly nations to resist aggression. The President was given power to require manufacturers to give priority to defence manufactures, and to accept defence contracts. A national production authority has been established in the United States of America to control materials in short supply, and to make allocations to industries requiring them. The measure also empowers the President to impose controls on prices and wages. In fact, there is practically no power that he cannot exercise in order to safeguard and stabilize the American economy with a view to gearing it effectively to meet any possible emergency that might arise and be imposed upon the United States of America by another war. In Canada the Emergency Powers Act was passed “ to enable measures to be taken as urgently required from time to time to carry out adequate defence preparations, to regulate the economy of Canada to meet the needs of defence, and to stabilize the economy and safeguard it from disruption “.
In view of the precautions that are being taken by countries with which we would be associated in the event of an unfortunate and unavoidable third world war, it is imperative that we must get on with the job here, unless we are to be regarded as completely laggard in the partnership. Dp to date much has been done in this direction. The National Security Resources Board on which every major industry in this country is represented has been established. In consultation with the States, the Commonwealth has also established committees, which are making every effort to increase the supply of materials necessary for war production. It will allocate materials urgently required for developing water conservation schemes, and in connexion with the generating of electricity. Such schemes are already afoot. The powers that the Government now seeks are necessary in order that it shall have a complete overall control of the commodities that are in short supply. I emphasize that the Government regards restrictive controls with repugnance and revulsion. They will be utilized only when absolutely necessary, and will be applied always with the greatest care and scrutiny. The special emergency nature of these powers is emphasized by the fact that they are merely temporary. The powers provided by it shall expire not later than December, 1953, or sooner if the conditions in the world so warrant.
The Government parties have not forgotten that when the former Labour Government became power-drunk and contemptuous of the people and unmindful of their rights, the citizens of this country, in their wrath, threw that Government out of office. The Government parties intendtoensure that that shall not happen to them, not only because they want to stay in office, but also because they believe that the average man has natural rights in connexion with which he is not beholden to the State, and upon which the State should not impinge. We do not intend to impinge upon them. This Government, in the knowledge that the people trust it, will not betray that trust. The Government knows that in due course it will have to render an account of its stewardship, and it considers that it will be able to render a very good and satisfactory account to the grateful people of Australia. Finally, this bill represents and expresses the determination of the Government that when the history of Australia is written it shall not be recorded that democracy in Australia failed because it was a case of “too little too late “.
– I rise to make a personal explanation, in accordance with Standing Order 410, which provides -
A senator who has spoken to a question may again be heard, to explain himself in regard to some material part of his speech which has been misquoted or misunderstood, but shall not introduce any new matter, or interrupt any senator in possession of the Chair, and no debatable matter shall be brought forward or debate arise upon such explanation.
I have been misquoted by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan). The Minister stated that I did not make any reference to sub-clause (1.) of clause 4. I think you will recollect, Mr. President, that during my speech I said that that subclause was the very heart and core of the bill. In addition to reading it when I made that comment, I adverted to it on several occasions subsequently. I can only conclude that the Minister was temporarily absent from the chamber when those references were made.
– I accept the assurance of the Leader of the Opposition.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Edward Mattner.)
Majority . . . . 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Declaration of Urgency.
– I declare that the Defence Preparations Bill 1951 is an urgent bill.
Question put -
That the bill be considered an urgent bill.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Edward Mattner.)
Majority . . . . 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative, there being at least thirteen senators voting in favour of the motion.
Allotment of Time.
Motion (by Senator O’Sullivan) proposed -
That the time allotted in connexion with the consideration of the bill be as follows: -
For the committee stage of the bill, until 9.45 p.m. this day.
For the remaining stages of the bill, until l0 p.m. this day.
– Yesterday morning the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) assured honorable senators in this chamber that the debate on this measure would not be curtailed in any way. The Opposition expressed its opinion in relation to this bill so strongly that he gave that assurance. Now, at the conclusion of the second-reading debate, the Minister has proposed the imposition of a time limit of three-quarters of an hour for the committee stages and a quarter of an hour for the adoption of the report and the third reading. I protest against that procedure, because this bill is of vast importance to the nation, conferring as it does upon the Executive Government, apart from the Parliament, almost unlimited power to make regulations. It provides for penalties of £5,000 and two years’ imprisonment, or both. It has thirteen clauses, many of which are of great moment. They deal with the expansion of the production or manufacture of goods, and the power of the Government to divert and control resources, and to authorize individuals to take certain actions. Clauses of that type cannot be debated adequately in 45 minutes. The Minister’s proposal would mean that less than four minutes would be allowed for the discussion of each of these thirteen clauses. That would allow no time for the consideration of eight very important recitals which relate to the international situation. I know that the Government will carry this motion because it has the numbers necessary to do so. Apart from entering an emphatic protest on behalf of the Opposition I do not want to delay discussion on this measure in the exceedingly small and unfair amount of time that will be allowed to honorable senators.
– I want to make an emphatic protest against the amount of time that is proposed for the consideration of this measure in committee. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) is not usually incorrect in his calculations, buton this occasion he has been inaccurate. The amount of time allowed for the consideration of the measure in committee in the terms of the motion before the chamber is only 28 minutes. It is a fairly new departure for preambles of this kind to be placed in a bill and adequate opportunity should be given to the Opposition to examine these very thoroughly. The Government is not prepared to tell the country what forms of control it wishes to impose under this measure. The Opposition expected that during the committee stage the Government would make known to both the Opposition and tho people the controls that it is proposed to exercise. If it is necessary for the introduction of controls, there should be no objection to stating what they will cover. If the Government tells us what they are, honorable senators on this side of the chamber will help them to pass this legislation. I suggest that the allocation of only 28 minutes in which to discuss in detail the clauses of this bill is an insult and an affront to the Opposition. It conflicts strangely with the statements by honorable senators opposite that there would be no restriction of the debate on this measure.
Since the Government has so far failed to use the gag as it normally does, it must appreciate the importance of this legislation, and it must appreciate also that the Opposition should be given a’ reasonable opportunity to discuss it. After the debate had been gagged in the House of Representatives, the Government decided to let the Opposition in the Senate thoroughly discuss the bill. All honorable senators are aware of the kind of debate that usually takes place during the second-reading stage of a bill. For the most part, it is in general form. We are about to move into the committee stage of a bill which, to use the words of the Government, is an important one, but the Opposition is given only 28 minutes in which to discuss its provisions. I object strenuously to such a restriction.
– As the Government has adopted “ stadium “ rules concerning the debate in the committee stage, I suggest, Mr. President, that you should appoint a timekeeper in order that those rules will be carried out scrupulously and so that
honorable senators on the Government side will receive no advantage over honorable senators on this side of the chamber.
.- 1 am amazed by the complaints that have been made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), Senator Armstrong and the ex-Leader of the Opposition, Senator Ashley, who has been cast out of his former position by a vote of his own comrades.
– I rise to order. The words used by Senator Gorton are most offensive, and I ask that they be withdrawn. The words are offensive not only to Labour senators in this chamber, but also to Labour people elsewhere.
– What words does the honorable senator wish me to withdraw?
– The words “ he was dismissed by his own party “.
– Order! What are the words that the honorable senator wishes to be withdrawn?
– The words “he was voted from the leadership by his own party”.
– I said “ the exleader who was removed from his position by his own comrades “.
– Order ! As certain words are claimed to be offensive I ask ‘Senator Gorton to withdraw them.
– I withdraw the words and agree that there is some doubt concerning whether the honorable senator ever was the leader.
– I ask, Mr. President, that the words be withdrawn unconditionally.
– I withdraw them for the sake of peace and quiet. Less than one hour ago the present Leader of the Opposition in the Senate was complaining because he had to be here, and now I understand him to be complaining because he does not need to be here, in spite of the fact that the honorable senator at his own request, has been given two days, in which to discuss this measure.
– I- wish to protest against the curtailing of this debate. The bill that the Oppo sition wishes to discuss in detail in the committee stage covers the acquisition and control of most forms of property by regulation. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber wish the Minister to enlighten them concerning it.
– It becomes more and more obvious that the Government, which started off on the high plane of Marquess of Queensberry rules, rapidly descended to “ Rafferty’s “ rules, was defeated under both, and has now come down to O’Sullivan and McLeay rules.
. -in reply - I take no offence at what the boy has said. It is perfectly true that I. did promise the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) a full and complete debate on this bill. I think that the Opposition has had it - in every way. Yet honorable senators opposite put up this sham of being annoyed. I suggest that they should be most indebted to me for seeking to limit the period of debate during the committee stage. I was faithful to my promise and did not restrict the second-reading debate in any way, although several honorable senators opposite were begging me with their eyes to apply the gag. However, I let them go on and on, much to their discomfort. I do not want to take up their time now and wish to allow the bill to proceed to the committee stage.
– The motion is-
– Three-minute rounds and one-minute spell !
– I am glad to see that after this long debate honorable senators still possess a sense of humour. At the same time, I hope that they will continue to uphold the dignity of the Senate. As all honorable senators know the terms of the motion before the Senate, I do not expect any honorable senator to claim that he did not know what he was voting for.
Question put -
That the motion(vide page 1788) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Edward Mattner.)
Majority . . . . 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause1 (Short title).
– I oppose this clause, every word, every line of it, and every other clause in the bill. The reason for my opposition to the clause is that the title stated in if is a fraud. The clause reads -
This Act may be cited as the Defence Preparations Act 1051.
I consider that that title alone is a fraud, because this bill does not contain any plan for defence. It containsno plans to co-ordinate industry, to increase munitions production, to accelerate rearmament, to strengthen the fighting forces, including the Air Force, or to do any such acts. It also contains no plan to increase food production or anything of that nature. Any one who reads the clauses of the bill after having read the preamble will realize that the bill is a fraud. I suggest that the Government, having broken its promise to us - because I had to make my secondreading speech before I had had a proper opportunity to study the obnoxious clauses - should act in keeping with the bill and with the performance of the Leader of the Government (Senator O’Sullivan) here to-night. by deleting the word “ preparations “ from the title and substituting the word “ mystery “. The clause would then read, “ This act may be cited as the Defence Mystery Act 1951 “. That is exactly what the bill is. It is a mystery to us, and the more we hear in this chamber the pleadings of the Government to give it some consideration the more can the public outside see that it is a mystery. The Government assured us a full debate on this clause and other clauses, but it has continued straight on to the committee stage without having an adjournment after the second reading that would have given to us an opportunity to study the bill’s obnoxious provisions. Let the Government be honest for once - for it has been dishonest with us and the public outside - and change the title to “ Defence Preparations Mystery Act “, which would be far more fitting than the present title.
Question put -
That the clause stand as printed.
Thecommittee divided. (The Ch airman - Senator George Rankin.)
Question so resolvedin the affirmative.
Bill agreed to.
– In view of the assurance of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) earlier to-day that the Go vernment is constantly in touch with the Prime Minister of Great Britain and the defence chiefs of the allied nations, and the fact that international tension has sufficiently eased to justify the Government in abandoning its proposal to call up for service in the defence force men between the ages of 19 and 26 years. this clause should be amended to read as follows : -
This act shall come into operation two years after the day on which it receives the Royal Assent.
– Sit down !
– Honorable sena tors opposite cannot fool the people all the time.
– I rise to order. I object to the tone of Senator Aylett’s speech. It was deliberately designed to bring the Senate into contempt. He is merely seeking to remove a machinery clause such as is included in all legislation.
– I do not know whether Senator Aylett is simply stupid or whether he is deliberately trying to mislead the people. The provision that enabled the Government to call up trainees for military service was deleted from the Defence Act in 1930 and reinserted in 1951. It is wicked for Senator Aylett deliberately to attempt to convey to the listening public a completely false impression which may have very serious effects on this country.
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has made a misstatement of the position which has been broadcast over the air.
– The provision in the Defence Act to which Senator Aylett has referred was repealed by the Scullin Government. The measure passed by the Senate this morning simply relegated to the scrap-heap scrap that had been lying on the legislative road since 1931. It is not dignified for an honorable senator of the standing of Senator Aylett, who should have some understanding of the meaning of legislation passed by the Parliament, to seek to convey a wrong impression to those who may be listening to the broadcast of this debate.
– Order! The time allotted for the consideration of the committee stage of the bill has expired.
Question put -
That clause 2 and the remaining clauses of the bill, the Preamble and the Title, be agreed to, and that the bill be reported without amendment.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator George Rankin.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill reported without amendment.
Motion (by Senator O’Sullivan) put -
That the reportbe adopted.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Edward Mattner.)
Majority . . . . 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator O’Sullivan) proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
– In the five minutes or so that remain for discussion there is not time for me to say much. However, I take the opportunity to record again a most emphatic protest against the behaviour of the Government, which publicly gave to the Opposition an assurance that there would be no curtailment of the debate, and then at 9.30 p.m. to-night set a time limit of fifteen minutes for the consideration of the thirteen clauses of the bill. The remaining stages of the bill were to be dealt with by 10 o’clock, a scant quarter of an hour. The Opposition opposed each of the two or three clauses put before the committee, merely for the sake of recording its dissatisfaction.
I want to refer to one clause which has serious implications. That is clause 4, which is a dragnet clause that gives to the Governor-General, in effect to the Government, power to make regulations “for or in relation to defence preparations “. Sub-clause (1.) of clause 5 provides -
The regulations may empower a person to make orders providing for any matter which may be provided for by the regulations.
Then follow two sub-clauses that relate to the Rules Publication Act 1903-1939 and the Acts Interpretation Act 1901- 1950. They are technical in description and will be more or less technical in application. My point is that so far as orders to be made by “ any person “ are concerned, the provisions of the Acts Interpretation Act would here apply but for their specific exclusion. Individuals may be authorized by the regulations to make orders having legislative effect. That will convey to the Senate how far this power of legislation has been removed from the Parliament. It is bad enough to take the power away from this Parliament and confer it on the Cabinet, but it is carrying the fault too far to put other persons in a position to make orders that have legislative effect. I wish that there were time for the -Government to tell me why orders that have legislative effect, made by such individuals, are not to be published, and can be made to operate retrospectively. This situation may arise: One of the sub-sub-direetors in one of the States may determine that certain goods must not be disposed of. Pursuant to this provision he may, on the 14th July, order a manufacturer not to dispose of certain goods. He may give his order effect from the 1st July, even though he may know that the manufacturer had disposed of the goods on the 2nd July. That act, which was completely innocent and had been done according to the law at that time, may, under this provision, be visited with penal consequences. When one turns to the penal consequences for disobedience of act, regulation or order, one finds that a penalty of £5,000 or imprisonment for two years or both may be imposed. One then realizes that there are serious consequences attaching to such a breach, and one is not surprised that Government supporters in another place have expressed the most complete hostility to a provision of that kind which allows an individual not only to act legislatively but also to give retrospective effect to the laws that he makes. It is true that the Australian Parliament has power to make legislation retrospective and may delegate such power. In the criminal jurisdiction, that was determined in a case in 1915. Mr. Hughes, who was then Prime Minister, caused a regulation to be issued that made an act which, when done, was completely innocent, a criminal offence.
– Order ! The time allotted for the remaining stages of the bill having expired, I put the question -
That the bill be now read a third time.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Edward Mattner.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator O’Sullivan) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave of absence be granted to every member of the Senate from the termination of the sitting this day to the date on which the Senate next meets.
Motion (by Senator O’Sullivan) 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.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Public Service Act - Appointments -
Attorney-General’s Department - L. J. Curtis, J. G-. Siely, W. L. Thomson.
Senate adjourned at 10.5 p.m. to a date and hour to be fixed by the President.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 14 July 1951, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1951/19510714_senate_20_213/>.