4th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– In this morning’s
Argus I am reported as having said that if members visited Perry’s wood-yard, in Lonsdale-street, they would see a stock of karri which had been passed for theconstruction of ammunition waggons by the Commonwealth expert. I did not say that, though I may not have made my meaning sufficiently plain. There is no karri in the stack of condemned timber referred to, which consists of Tasmanian and New South Wales blue gum and iron bark, which is in all respects equal to karri.
– I wish to know from you, Mr. Speaker, in regard to the printing of the two pamphlets entitled, Secret Remedies and More Secret Remedies, which were laid on the table yesterday, an what form they will be issued, and whether there will be enough copies available for general circulation?
– It has not yet been decided whether there shall be enough copies printed for general circulation. That is a matter for the House to determine. The information laid on the table will be printed in the form of an ordinary Parliamentary paper, but the two publications referred to by the honorable member will be issued as one document.
– Will you, Mr. Speaker, consider the advisability of making the information available for public libraries, schools of art, and other institutions now receiving copies of the official reports of our debates?
– I shall not promise to do that, because in many cases publications sent to these institutions are not opened. I myself, and, no doubt, other honorable members, have seen lying unopened copies of Parliamentary documents which the authorities of Parliament have been asked to supply, but which the receivers have not taken the trouble to look at. In my opinion, if enough copies are printed to enable every member to have one, and to leave a few over for special, purposes, that will be sufficient.
– When will the re port of the Public Service Commissioner be available? It is now overdue, and we ought to have it when considering the Estimates.
– I shall invite the Public Service Commissioner to make it available as soon as possible, and shall lay it on the table directly it comes into my hands.
– I wish to ask the
Minister of Trade and Customs a question based on a statement in this morning’s Age, from which these are extracts -
The reports of the cane inspectors for the sugar districts of Queensland show that for the most part all is well with the industry. Considerable development is taking place in the Cassowary scrub lands at Port Douglas. During October four new farms were registered, and further registrations are said to be pending. All scrub falling and cane planting is being done by black labour prior to registration for bounty. There is a decided shortage of ploughmen and field hands, and farmers have difficulty in securing the necessary labour to complete planting. At Cairns …. there was a scarcity of labour in all classes. The acreage under cane planting is exceptionally large in the Mackay district, and planting is still proceeding.
As these reports are a direct contradiction of the statement made yesterday by the honorable member for Richmond–
– The honorable member is using statements published in a newspaper to reply to something said in this House by another honorable member, which he may not do. If he has a question to ask, he should ask it.
– My question is, May we take these reports as reliable? Are they the reports of the inspectors of the Commonwealth Government?
– The reports of our inspectors are made available to the newspapers, and the statements published in the Age, are, I believe, correct, though I have not had them checked word for word. The inspectors are independent of the sugar company, or any one else, and I believe their reports to be correct.
– Has the Prime Minister seen the ridiculous statement made by Mr. Lloyd-George, in regard to the Commonwealth land tax, and will he take steps to have it contradicted?
– I have not seen the statement referred to, but if it in any way reflects on Australia I think that it is incorrect.
– The cablegram is published in to-day’s newspaper that Mr. Lloyd-George has stated that2 1,000,000 worth of land in the Commonwealth has been cut up for closer settlement as the result of our land tax, and that 2,000,000 acres have been added to the agricultural areas because of the operation of the tax. I ask the Prime Minister whether Mr. Lloyd-George, in making that statement, had not available at ‘the House of Commons, and at the High Commissioner’s office, the official statistics of the Commonwealth ?
– All statistical information is supplied to the High Commissioner, and I have no doubt that whatever statement was made by Mr. Lloyd-George was based on the best official information that he could get. Honorable members here have later and fuller information which supports statements of the kind referred to.
– Does the Prime Minister say that the land tax has had the effect spoken of by the honorable member for Cook?
– I refer the honorable member to the official statistics.
– Is it not shewn by the report of the Land Tax Commissioner presented to Parliament that last year only£18,000,000 worth of land changed hands, and that half of it was bought by taxpayers?
– My recollection is that something like£19,000,000 worth of land was cut up during a period covering only about half the term referred to by Mr. Lloyd-George, that is in about nine months.
– If the Prime Minister takes any action in this matter, will he send for the information of Mr. Lloyd-George a copy of a letter written to the honorable member for Lang by the Commonwealth Statistician, in which is pointed out the fallacy of attributing to the land tax sales to the amount specified? Will he send a copy of that letter to Mr. Lloyd-George to correct the wrong impression that he has evidently formed?
– Mr. Lloyd-George is an exceeding able Minister of the Crown, and a Liberal, and I expect one Liberal to communicate with another.
– Has the Printing Committee, Mr. Speaker, the right to veto the printing of any particular paper laid on the table? I ask the question because important documents have recently been laid on the table, and the Committee has vetoed the printing of them.
– The Printing Committee from time to time presents reports to Parliament which it is for the House to accept, reject, or amend, as it may think proper.
– On Tuesday last I asked a question about the fining of some cadets £1 each, some twenty-five of them having pleaded guilty.
– Reports on the case have not yet been received by the Minister, who, I know, is very much troubled because his instruction, that legal assistance shall not be employed, has been disobeyed. Reports have been called for, and will be furnished when available.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and the desired information will be furnished as early as possible.
asked the Minister or Home Affairs, upon notice -
The Federal Electoral Department has decided that a foreign woman who marries a natural-born or naturalized British subject is entitled to have her name on the Federal electoral rolls, provided she has the necessary residence qualifications and is of age. The husband’s nationality in such a case extends to the woman he marries. If, however, he is a foreigner, and secures naturalization after his marriage, his wife, if she is a foreigner, also must secure naturalization as well?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Debate resumed from 19th November (vide page 5625) on motion by Mr. Hughes -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– My first duty is to express the pleasure I experienced in listening to the very fine speeches which were delivered by the AttorneyGeneral in introducing these Constitution Alteration Bills. In my opinion, he dealt with the legal questions involved in a most admirable way. He cited facts and figures which afford convincing proof that the restricted Constitution under whichwe are at present governed at least retards political thought and action in Australia. I am sorry that the Opposition were not able to agree with the Government in their desire to have one general discussion upon the Trade and Commerce Bill which would have covered the facts connected with the whole of them. That would have been the most practical way of dealing with these questions. But we are greatly indebted to the Attorney- General for the concise way in which he put the whole case in moving the second reading of six separate Bills. I amsure it was a pleasure to honorable members on both sides of the chamber to listento him. I am under the impression that the questions which have now been submitted for our consideration will not be received in the same way as they were received two years ago. Since then circumstances have altered. To-day there is a calmness prevailing amongst the opponents of our proposals which is not the calmness of assured victory, but which is due rather to a recognition of the fact that the time has arrived when effect must be given to some, if not all, of the amendments proposed if we are to have an effective Federal system of government. I should like, .without trespassing unduly upon the time of honorable members, to give my own impressions of the Federal movement from its earliest stages, (because our Constitution rests upon that movement, and it is under that Conistitution that this Parliament exists to-day. Australia federated largely without visible pressure from outside, although a feeling of insecurity was experienced prior to that “time. The different States agreed to federate after many attempts had been made in that direction by statesmen both in Conference and in Convention. In 1891 the first Federal Convention was held in Sydney. The Constitution which it framed was referred to by one of its members, who is now a distinguished jurist, as “ strong as a fortress and sacred as a shrine.”
– That was Mr. Deakin’s phrase.
– Then I am more than pleased to pay honour to its author. To what did he apply it? To the draft Constitution which was drawn up by the leading statesmen of Australia and New Zealand - a Constitution which the moment that it was subjected to the common sense of the Democracy of Australia, was brushed aside as if it had never existed. That Constitution, as honorable members are aware, was .never submitted to the people, and had no hope of being carried. To-day it forms part of the printed lumber literature of Federation. That is its sacred shrine now, and it is likely to remain there. I am not one of those who wish to belittle the efforts of leading federalists, as Federation has developed. Far from it. I do not think we have paid a sufficient tribute to them, but it is no reflection on their work to say that we have not yet attained the Constitution which the Australian people desired. That is the fault of our system of government generally, and that fault is to be traced to the desire of the States to give up none of their sovereign rights in the interests of the people of Australia. I believe that the Governments of Australia are more conservative in that respect than are its people. If the people could understand the position as clearly as the Attorney-General has presented it - if they could only see it apart from political misrepresentation - it would be .corrected right away.
– If they only saw his view of it.
– If they only saw his presentment of the facts of the situation. The next Federal Convention was differently constituted, inasmuch as the public in most of the States had a great deal to do with the selection of its delegates. The Constitution which it evolved was, in the very nature of things, a much more Democratic instrument than was the draft Constitution of 189 1. I come now to the point when that Constitution was submitted to the people. In passing, I wish to remark that at the later Federal Conventions, Queensland had no “representation. The Government of that State did not desire to be associated with the Federal1 movement. The . party with which I have been associated all my life desired a more liberal Constitution than that which we have at the present time. But our views could find no expression at the Convention, and, I venture the opinion without reflecting on those who were in power in Queensland at the time, that the Constitution would have been even worse than it is if that State had been represented. In that respect, therefore, we lost nothing. The Constitution Bill was ultimately submitted to the electors. It was supported by many of us who did not believe that it was the best Constitution which could have been framed by a Convention elected by the people. The reason why it was adopted was not because it was absolutely good, but because it contained provision by which its defects, when they were made apparent, could be remedied.
– The honorable member for Ballarat urged that on every platform in Victoria.
– I should have opposed the Constitution Bill if I had not believed that the means provided for its amendment would enable the people to improve it from time to time as they wished.
– It is a cumbersome piece of machinery, all the same.
– I have already said that, although the provisions relating to its amendment were not in terms which I thought sufficiently Democratic, the piece of machinery itself was too good to cast aside, and I am of the same opinion today.
– I am not.
– In my opinion the Australian people have benefited by the Federation which has been brought about under our Constitution. They are not to blame that the Constitution is not better than it is. They had no choice in the matter. They had to say either “ yea “ or “ nay “ to its acceptance. They had to accept or reject, not six proposals such as are put forward in these Constitution Alteration Bills, but 127 proposals. By a majority in each of the States, either through their representatives in Parliament - as was the case in Western Australia - or by a direct vote they wisely decided to accept them.
– They did so by a direct vote.
– Western Australia came into the Federation by direct vote, if my memory serves me rightly, after this Bill had passed the British Parliament.
– It was a second thought !
– These are matters of fact, and not matters of opinion ; and I am glad that Western Australia decided as she did. Our Constitution is based on that of the United States. When it was adopted, and for about a quarter of a century before, the people of the world had turned their attention to the development of that country ; and the public men of Australia looked to that country as a guide in the framing of our Constitution. They ignored the fact that our sister Dominion of Canada, after eighty years’ experience of the United States Constitution, adopted a different form of government altogether. The Canadian people were more likely to be fully acquainted with the value of the United States Constitution than we were ; they were near neighbours of the United States, and had a country larger in area than Australia, with approximately 3,000 miles of border line alongside the great Democratic republic. They realized the advantages, and also the disadvantages, of the form of government adopted there. Canada federated more boldly than did the United States, and more boldy than did the statesmen who drew up the draft Constitution of the Commonwealth. The beacon light of the preamble of the Canadian Constitution was lost sight of altogether. The Australian draftsmen reverted to an effort of 1787. The distinguished men who drew up the United States Constitution gave as little sovereign power to the States as they could. They safeguarded the Constitution by placing the Executive above Par liament so that the country could not be sold by the latter. In my opinion . they were right in what they did; but with greater experience, and when the power of emperors and kings to do injury to the young republic was no longer a menace, Canadian statesmen saw that a broader and freer federation was the instrument of government for a free people. I admire all those who do their best; and we must admit that good work was done by the Australian Conventions at the time to. which I referred - work, but for which we might not have been here. Although’ we may think they could have gone further and done better, there is no limit to our admiration of those who took part in those Conventions. The preamble of the Canadian Constitution is as follows : -
Whereas the provinces of Canada, NovaScotia, and New Brunswick have expressed their desire to be federally united into one Dominion under the Crown of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, with a Constitution similar in principle to that of the United Kingdom, etc.
They wished to have a central Government capable of dealing with national affairs common to all the people, without let, hindrance, or restraint, except by the Dominion Parliament itself, and they wished the Provinces to have delegated to them powers which would enable them to become great and prosperous without in any way retarding the national development; and this they accomplished. Our opponents say that the proposals now before us will lead to a unified system of government ; but the Attorney-General has told us that, as a matter of fact, the proposals, if carried, will give this Parliament less power than that enjoyed by the Canadian Parliament.
– Hear, hear; considerably less !
– Honorable membersopposite have never answered that statement - they have never for one moment suggested that the Provinces of Canada have been hampered in their local development by reason of limited powers. As a matter of fact, the Canadian Provinces have not been hampered ; and their growth and prosperity, in many instances, are as phenomenal as those of the States of Australia. When the producers on the plains of Canada were embarrassed by combines and trusts in connexion with wheat production, and in other directions, they were fully protected by the Judiciary of the Dominion. The trusts and combines there had no set of compartments into which they could retire and defy the Dominion Legislature and Judiciary; and they were compelled, as I saw at the time I visited Canada, to carry the farmers’ grain in the order in which it was deposited at the railway stations, although they had for years previously tried to wipe out those who were not working with them. It is to protect those who need protection most that this proposal regarding trade and commerce has been introduced. There is another fact that must be patent to all honorable members who took part in framing the draft Bill of our Constitution. I doubt if there is a single honorable member who then held that the words “ trade and commerce with other countries and among the States “ had the limitation that has since been placed on them by the High Court. As I have said, the preamble of the Canadian Constitution declares for a government similar in principle to that of the United Kingdom. Why did those words find their way into the preamble? Evidently the people of Canada had profited by the experience of others, and realized the possibility of what subsequently happened. However, I shall come back to that subject later on. It is only fair to the men who drew up the draft Constitution of Australia to say that they had not before them the facts that we have in regard to the working of the United States Constitution. The trusts and combines in America were then in their infancy ; that country was prosperous, and “triumphant democracy “ was - shall I say - the catch word of the political world. Into this trend of opinion the framers of our Constitution were swept; but within a few years we found the Government of the United States rent asunder because of its impotency to protect their own people - the very people that the Constitution had been brought into existence to protect and secure against monopolies inside or out, and enemies of the country whether at home or abroad. What has since been the course of events? We find men of the highest statesmanship in the United States who seek the highest positions of political honour advocating the recall in connexion with the Judiciary, because they cannot trust that Judiciary. This is the working of the Constitution of a people, not second in intelligence and education to any other in the world - people better trained in Democratic institu tions than those of any other country. This is a position that honorable members opposite are defending and trying to justify. In myopinion, that is not only a wrong but a suicidal course. The AttorneyGeneral pointed out that our distance from the great European countries, plus our Democratic institutions, and largely, I think I may say without egotism, the policy of the party to which I belong, have played a great part in preventing combines and monopolies from getting the footing here that they would have got in any other country of its size nearer the centres of the world’s population.
– It is largely due to the policy of the public ownership of public utilities.
– Exactly ; and I pay a tribute to those great Liberal statesmen who not ‘only foresaw the necessity of the State ownership of utilities, but fought for and maintained the policy. In Queensland, if the entire control had been left to so-calledLiberal statesmen, the great northeastern part would have been under syndicates at the present time. However, I must get away from that point, and call honorable members’ attention to the fact that Mr. Roosevelt, who was a candidate for the Presidency for a third time, had the recall as a plank in his platform.
– And the people rejected him.
– Neither name nor fame will be allowed to stand in the way of the profits of trusts, combines, and monopolies.
– The man they elected is head and shoulders over him.
– I am not here to discriminate between the great men of the United States of America, nor to reflect on the choice of a great people. I believe that they will be able to work out their own salvation in their own way, and that the majority of them, if they had an opportunity to cast a direct vote to-day, would do so. The gibe of the press and the Opposition is, “ Why do not the people of the United States amend their Federal Constitution?”
– Because they cannot do so.
– Rubbish !
– At least three-fourths of the States must agree to an amendment.
– Three out of every four of the States must agree to an amendment before it can be brought into force, and most of the astute political and legal, minds of the country say it would be an almost superhuman effort, if not absolutely impossible, to get three-fourths of the States to agree to an amendment of the Constitution in certain respects, in view of the moneyed power that prevails. Could we obtain a reasonable amendment of the Constitution if three-fourths of the States had to approve of it, and we had, instead of six, something like fifty States to deal with, while monopolies, trusts, and combines were raging here as they are in America? I do not believe that we should be able to succeed. I have full faith, however, in the great country of the United States of America, whose people must be left to work out their own salvation. They are,not altogether unhappy, but in the midst of their political and other turmoils derive out of life, a reasonable degree of happiness. We are dealing, however, not with the position in America, but with the question of what form of Federal Government will secure the best results for Australian people, and it is distinctly unfortunate that the Federal Convention passed by the Canadian system of Federation in favour of that of the United States of America. When I was interrupted I was dealing with the limitations that are placed on our power in relation to trade and commerce. Those limitations affect, . as the AttorneyGeneral has told us, not only our power in relation to trade and commerce, but our power to deal with corporations. Is there one man in the House who thought a little while ago that we had no power to pass a general company law for Australia? My recollection is that the honorable member for Ballarat, by many speeches and hints, led me to believe that there was in our Constitution power to pass such a law.
– We proposed an amendment on the last occasion to give us power.
– The honorable member may have known of limitations that were certainly not known to me when I heard him speak in this way. If there is one power which a central Government - representing one people, a people speaking the same language, sharing the same ideals, and observing the same standards - should have, surely it is the right to pass a general company law. What protection can the smaller man have in making his investments, if we have seven different company laws - one for each State, and a crippled one for the Commonwealth? I hope that this Parliament will never attempt to pass such a law until it has power to deal with it effectively in relation to the whole country. If we had such a power, and passed a general law, then men of small means, instead of wasting their substance on legal advice as to how they might safely invest their money, would put their capital into various enterprises, and the wheels of industry would go round as they have never before revolved. Prosperity would undoubtedly increase. I ask the Opposition to explain why they maintain that each State should have its ‘ own companies law.
– We do not. We proposed an amendment to the contrary at the last referenda.
– The honorable member says that they do not believe ,in each State having a separate law dealing with companies. Could a Federal companies law be made effective in respect of monopolistic companies, unless we had the full trade and commerce power?
– I think so.
– The Attorney-General holds a different view ; but, assuming for a moment that the Leader of the Opposition is correct in his view that we might pass such a law within the limits of safety, is there any danger in our obtaining a general power to deal with the subject?
– Ought there not to be a general companies law?
– And ought not the power to pass such a law tobe beyond all question? If the Leader of the Opposition says that we should pass such legislation, let us secure such an amendment of the Constitution as will leave no room for doubt as to the power that we possess in this regard. This Parliament, as every one knows, consists of representatives of the people, elected by the people, in the ordinary course of events, every three years, and surely it can be trusted to deal with a matter that affects the whole of the people as does a companies law. If we had a general companies law, corporations would have to make out only one set of returns per annum, instead of six, and a still greater advantage would be the security that would thus be given to investors.
– This Parliament thought that it had the power to pass a general companies law before the decision of the High
Court in the case of Huddart, Parker and Company v. Moorehead.
– The Attorney-General bears out my statement that even members of the legal profession in the House thought we had this power, until the judgment of the High Court was given.
– The honorable member for Darling Downs, when Attorney-General, had a general companies Bill drafted, before that decision was given.
– With a view of ascertaining exactly what our powers were.
– I thank the honorable member for Gippsland and the honorable member for Darling Downs for their interjections. The honorable member for Darling Downs admits that he had caused such a Bill to be drafted, but merely, he says, to ascertain what our powers were. Is the National Government to be carried on in that way? When the draft Constitution was before the people, some of us went on platform after platform in support of it; some of us stood up against our own colleagues, and said to the people, “Accept this Constitution, which is worth so much to you.” We were influenced by many of the legal luminaries of the day in taking the view that it would give us this power. The Constitution having been accepted, and the Federal Parliament having been established, the High Court declared that it did not give us the power that we believed it conferred upon us. Then the honorable member for Darling Downs said, “Let us draft a Bill dealing with companies, to see what we can do under the limitations imposed upon us by the Court.”
– No; we gave instructions, first of all, to have a general companies law drafted. That was before our power in this regard was decided by the High Court. It is true that the High Court later on gave a decision limiting our power in this respect - a limitation that I regret.
– And then we brought forward an amendment to give us the power to make a general companies law.
– I can add nothing to that statement which would increase its force. The honorable member for Capricornia and I supported the draft Constitution, believing that it gave us the power to deal with corporations. We were told by legal men that it did so. We now find that it does not, and since the people voted for the Constitution, believing that it gave us such a power, surely they should be given an opportunity now to place the ques tion beyond all doubt. I think we can reasonably claim the support of the honorable member for Darling Downs in this matter. We have to consider the history of Federation. We had federated but a few years when the people of South Africa, comprising States each sovereign in its own sphere, thought” it was time to form a union. They looked for guidance, no doubt, to the United States of America, Switzerland, Germany, Canada, and lastly to Australia, and obtained from members of the Opposition who were then in office here, a memorandum of advice which was not in favour Of our Constitution as it stands.
– They advised that the Union of South Africa should have the full, trade and commerce power.
– The statesmen of South Africa on meeting in convention soondiscarded proposals for a form of government based on the lines of those of the United States of America and Australia. Although they were a people who spoke different tongues, who had differing interests, and had just emerged from the conflict of war carried on under the most direcircumstances, they determined to adopt a unitary system. They were afraid, apparently, that a Federal’ Constitution would break down just as ours had done.
– And the honorable member for Ballarat says that the tendency is towards disintegration rather than centralization.
– Whatever the tendency may be, the astute statesmen of South Africa, with our own experience in front of them, adopted a unitary form of government and no complaint has been made.
– Very severe complaint has been made.
– I am not an advocate of that form of government for Australia if we can have a full Federal system which is reasonably practicable for the conduct of Australian affairs. Our Constitution as it stands is an impossible one for Australia.
– That is a tribute to the men who framed it.
– They could not foresee everything, but as it stands the Constitution is not a satisfactory instrument of government for the future. I hope and believe that it will be amended. The honorable member for Ballarat in the course of one, of his finest flights, when replying to the Attorney-General, said that our pro posals had been turned down at a previous referendum by nearly a quarter of a million of votes. What does that reference mean ? It means, if I understand the honorable member correctly, that when you are defeated in principle you should bury your heads and bury your principles as well.
– That is what the Opposition have always done.
– That is not the attitude that a party with any backbone will take up. If we believe that these amendments of the Constitution are necessary in the interests of the people, and to insure the good government of Australia, then I hope that at least one party will be strong enough and manly enough to put them before the people as often as they have an opportunity to do so until they are finally accepted. That is what this party proposes to do. It is taking its opportunity. I believe that the approaching election time is opportune for these referenda, and that the people will not be confused, because the subjects with which they will be asked to deal are cognate with the other issues involved. I believe that our proposals will be received very differently from the way in which they were received on the last occasion. Were my belief quite the opposite, it would not alter my view of the need for the proposed amendments, nor should I cease to advocate them. The honorable member for Ballarat referred incidentally to a remark I made at a meeting at Ipswich, to the effect that if the proposed amendments were not sanctioned, other amendments would be submitted which would make some who were timid fall down with fright. Unfortunately, things have since happened that have made people fall down with fright. The Brisbane trouble would not have happened had our proposals been carried when first submitted.
– Why is that ?
– The men were victim ized because the dispute was confined within a State. The manager has been honest enough to say that they were put off. It was stated in the report to the directors in London that they were put off when they did not give satisfaction. The elected representative of the men was put off. But I am glad to say that the men behaved as men. They endeavoured to have the dispute made an Inter-State one, but, had it been possible to go to the Conciliation and
Arbitration Court in the first place, the trouble would never have been heard of.
– Was not the dispute before the Commonwealth Court at the time of the strike ?
– It was not before the Court when the men were put off. The wives of the tramway men were worried to a shadow, and lost the bloom of health, fearing that their husbands, acting independently and in the interests of their class, would do things for which they would suffer. There was all this worry and distress, and yet you blame men for going to excess. Why should there not be the right to appeal to the highest Court in the land? The private citizen whose case involves an amount of£300 has the right to have it settled by the highest judicial tribunal, and it is anomalous to treat the man who has only the work of his hands between himself and starvation differently from the man who has means to protect himself in any Court in the land.
– The men had the right to go to the Commonwealth Court, and used it. There was a plaint before the Court at the time of the strike.
– To get the right to go to the Commonwealth Court they had to extend the dispute to another State, as the honorable member knows. Do I understand him to say that a State dispute can be taken to the Commonwealth Court?
– I said that the plaint was filed in the Commonwealth Court before the strike took place. That has been proved over and over again.
– It does not disprove what I have said. The strike was the last act, not. the first, and it was unfortunate. The business of Parliament should be to anticipate trouble. Why did the authors of the Constitution limit the exercise of the powers of this Parliament to the settlement and prevention of industrial disputes by conciliation and arbitration? Why did they not give to the Parliament full power to legislate as it pleased for the settlement and prevention of disputes without confining it to the adoption of conciliation and arbitration? Why should there not be intervention before a strike is pending? Why should there not be unlimited power to anticipate trouble ? Why, in industrial matters which affect ninetenths of the people, should Parliament be cribbed, cabined, and confined, although in matters of less importance it has free scope? There is much more that I should like to say on this subject, but I shall conclude my remarks to inviting the people of Australia to consider whether this Parliament cannot be fully trusted with the powers that are asked for - as fully trusted as the House of Commons or the Canadian Parliament. I ask them to say whether these proposals do not give a wider scope to Home Rule than any other that could be put before them. During the referenda campaign it was cleverly suggested that our proposals were an interference with selfgovernment and Home Rule, and artful references were made to the liquor question and the question of monopolies. I would -say in regard to Home Rule that Australia is one people, with one national thought, and with one country. There is no desire among the members of this party to make -special laws for any portion of Australia. We wish the people of the different parts of Australia to have full autonomy in dealing with local matters. There should be a wider distribution of self-government, and that, I hope, will be brought about by the adoption of our proposals. I believe that the Minister of Trade and Customs should have power to deal, not only with questions of import and export, but with the whole subject of trade and commerce. He should be able to control, not merely the importations of merchandise from other countries, but its transport from State to State, and all the operations in regard to it until it reaches the consumer. At present our laws shelter rogues and vagabonds, to the embarrassment of honest traders. Once merchandise has been imported into the Commonwealth, this Parliament has no power to make laws concerning it. We have the sworn testimony of the highest health authorities that this Parliament should have the power to control the sale and distribution of patent medicines, which at present it has not got. Trade and commerce is one grand whole which should be controlled by one authority. This Parliament can be trusted to deal fairly and justly with every interest in Australia. In my opinion, all the proposed amendments are necessary and overdue, and will be sanctioned by the people. If they are not accepted now, They will be accepted later, when those who believe in them have had further opportunities for explaining what is intended, and what will be the effect of them. If some of the members of the Opposition are (faithful to the statements that they have made from time to time, they will join with the Labour party in advocating these proposals. I ask the members of my party, in dealing with these matters, to confine their efforts to the explanation of what is meant and what would be accomplished by the amendments, putting aside the misrepresentations, and worse, concerning our intentions. The Labour party is as much the guardian of the Constitution as any other party. We are bolder, and risk more in the interests of the nation, but in doing that we advance a good cause for the benefit of the whole people.
– In the first place, I desire to correct a misapprehension of the Prime Minister concerning a statement made by the honorable member for Ballarat at the first Federal Conference in 1891, The Prime Minister sought to make it appear that the honorable member for Ballarat was then passing judgment upon the Constitution which had been framed, whereas he was merely expressing a fervent hope that a Constitution would be framed which would command our reverence and respect. These are his words -
We should seek to erect a Constitutional edifice which shall be a guarantee of liberty and union for all time to come to the whole people of this continent and the adjacent islands, to which they shall learn to look up with reverence and regard, which shall stand strong as a fortress and be held sacred as a shrine.
The Prime Minister sought to make it appear as an eulogium upon the Constitution.
– The Constitution was not then drafted.
-No. The delegates had not then begun to draft it. They were merely discussing a series of resolutions as to the lines upon which it should be drafted.
We have been told by the honorable gentleman that we require a Constitution like that of Canada. I shall dismiss that aspect of the matter with one quotation from Mr. Bryce, who is, at least, as great an authority on constitutional questions as is the Prime Minister or the AttorneyGeneral. Mr. Bryce says -
The range of powers granted to the National or Commonwealth Parliament of Australia is very wide - wider than that of Congress or of the Swiss National Assembly, or even of the Dominion Parliament in Canada.
That is Mr. Bryce’s judgment upon the range of our present powers under the Constitution, and I suppose that he is one of the greatest living constitutional writers. That is his detached opinion upon our powers as compared with those of the Canadian Parliament.
Then the Prime Minister spoke of South Africa. But the position of South Africa is that there the National Parliament has to deal with a tremendous racial problem. There is only a small fringe of white people, and there are many millions of coloured people in that country. Consequently, a different central power from our own is required. There, strong influence needs always to be exercised by a strong central Government, otherwise it could not grip and control the tremendous problem with which it has to deal. Whenthe Prime Minister talks about the range of powers in the South African Constitution, will he be good enough to recollect, in the first place, the composition of the Senate in that country? I find that senators there are elected, not by the people, but by the Provincial Councils ; in other words, by the State Parliaments
– That circumstance does not affect their powers.
– We must take their Constitution throughout its range and balance. I find, too, that in South Africa senators must possess a property qualification. Before a man can become a member of the Senate of that country -he must have property to the extent of £500 over and above all mortgages. Do honorable members opposite agree with that?
– Then they had better stop talking about the South African Constitution. It is true that the South African Parliament possesses the great powers to which reference has been made. But where do they reside ? In the National Assembly. How is that Assembly composed as compared with our House of Representatives? There are121 members of the House of Assembly in South Africa, and there were only 349,000 electors in that country when they united. In this Chamber there are 75 members, who represent 2,500,000 electors. If we had the same proportion of representatives here as obtains in South Africa, we should have 760 members in this House alone.
My point is that, under each of these Constitutions, the functions to be exercised are balanced by the power necessary to exercise them strongly and judiciously. It is time that this question was raised in this debate.
– This is a distinct gibe at adult suffrage.
– Will the Honorary Minister hold his gibing tongue for a moment, and I will tell him what I mean. A series of propositions has been placed” before us. They are the same propositionswhich have already been turned down by the Commonwealth. It is true that they have been slightly altered in their form. A bit has been taken off here, and a bit hasbeen put on there. But they differ in noway substantially from the proposals which were submitted to the electors at the last election. I wish to know what authority the Government have for endeavouring to thrust these proposals down the throats of an unwilling public? The electors havegiven their answer to these same propositions onoe - perhaps it was the most decisive vote which has ever been exercisedin the Federal arena. For my honorablefriends opposite to immediately turn round and attempt to thrust these proposals downthe throats of the public is a denial of popular government.
– That is good.
– What are the reasons for their action? In the firstplace, we are told that on the last occasion the people did not understand theproposals. The poor benighted public did not understand them. But honorable members opposite do. I say that that statement in itself is art insult to the intelligence of the community. In the next place my honorable friends say that on the last occasion their proposals were defeated owing to the money power on this side of the chamber. In other words, they affirm that the majority of the working men of Australia who must have voted “No” on that occasion can be turned from their purpose by the moneyed power of the Commonwealth.. I say again that that is an insult to the working men of Australia.
This is a proposal not to enlarge our Constitution for the purpose of making; it a better balanced instrument. It is a definite and precise effort by honorablemembers opposite to manipulate the Constitution in the interests of their party machine. That is the real truth. Here is a statement by one of the most intelligent members of the Labour party…
Speaking at Bathurst the other day the honorable member for Macquarie said -
He claimed that the proposals to be submitted (by the Federal Parliament were necessary in order that the Government should properly carry out its platform.
There is the position in a nutshell. Honorable members opposite are thinking only -of their party political propaganda, and mot of any deficiency in the Constitution as such. Here we have the frank and blunt statement that these proposals are submitted for the sole purpose of enabling the Labour party to properly give effect to its platform. It is just as well that the truth should be told in this candid way by -a member of that party. “The AttorneyGeneral has said that Constitutions should be “ scrapped “ just as battle-ships are scrapped, when they become obsolete in. ten years. But before we begin scrapping our Constitution we must take care that we do not scrap the institutions which have grown up under that Constitution.
We have had the law and the gospel upon this matter, and it is about time that the application thereof was made. I propose to find out by a few brief inquiries what is at the bottom of these proposals. First of all, :there is a proposal for a unification of the trade and commerce power. We are to shave plenary power over trade and commerce, to use the Attorney-General’s expression, with no limitations whatsoever. “That is a unification of the trade and commerce power. Then we are to have a unlfication of the power over all private cor.porations, over all businesses, over all ^enterprises which have for their purpose the building up of private capital and the serving of the community. . Again we are ito have a unification of the industrial power., “Then we axe to be vested with power to -control labour and other conditions of employment on State railways. It is further proposed that we should take to ourselves full power over conciliation and arbitration, and full power over trusts and com.bines In a word, there is to be a complete unification of the only limited powers now -in our Constitution. It is time, therefore, -.to ask this question, “Where is it intended that these powers which it is proposed to take over shall reside?” The answer is, “ In this Parliament as it is at present constituted.” How is it constituted? Can it be said that this Parliament is a national one in the true sense of the term?
I have here some figures which undoubtedlyshow that it is not.
In Canada where it is alleged that Parliament possesses these higher national powers - let us suppose for a moment that it does, although Mr. Bryce says it does not - what sort of a Parliament is to be found? Has Canada a State Rights House - a Senate - which limitsthe conditions and powers of the people as a whole ? Nothing of the kind. In Canada there is a House of Commons, consisting of 320 members, and a Senate which is nominated, and, therefore, under the control of the Lower House. It will be seen that in Canada the Senate cannot escape the control and manipulation of its decisions by the Lower House, because these are come to by men who represent the people as a whole. I have shown what the composition of the South African Parliament is; and the same remarks apply wherever we look. We hear of the great national powers exercised in Germany ; but there the Government approaches pure absolutism in its control. In Australia there is no such state of affairs; here, in every case, power is proportioned to the control to be exercised. We have a strictly defined and limited power in this House, while the Senate is all on an undemocratic basis, which gives a man in Tasmania nine times and a man in Victoria six times as much power as a man in New South Wales.
– Why does the honorable member attack the Constitution?
– This is no attack ; I am merely pointing out facts. When we federated the States surrendered purely national powers to be exercised for national ends, but kept strict control of their domestic and internal affairs; to insure this the Senate was constituted on the basis named.
– The “ Labour party were opposed to that part of the Constitution.
– Yes; but ever since the Labour party have .been in office they have not said a word about it.
If the referenda be carried, there will immediately arise in the large States a demand for extended parliamentary control and influence over the larger powers intrusted to the National Parliament. The Constitution will be all awry; its balance will be torn right away, and it will need to be redressed at the earliest possible moment. It is time those who represent the smaller States know what they are facing in advocating these powers - they should know that they must be subject to a firmer national popular power than is the case at present. Before we are asked to nationalize those powers - and I use the word “ nationalize,” not in its popular, but in its real sense - before we are asked to put those large national powers into the keeping of this Parliament, it ought to be made a National Parliament, which it cannot be said to be with the facts staring us in the face. New South Wales, for instance, contains 36 per cent, of the population, and Victoria 30 per cent., thus sharing 66 per cent, between them, while the other four States together contain 34 per cent. Or,’ again, “the three large States, including Queensland, contain 80 per cent, of the people of Australia and the other three States 20 per cent. This means that New South Wales is represented in the Senate in a ratio of nine to one, and Victoria in a ratio of seven to one, as compared with Tasmania. Then, New South Wales has one-sixth of the power, and Victoria one-fifth of the power, that Western Australia has in the Senate. We have heard much about the Upper Houses of the States, but there is not an Upper House in Australia formed on such an unequal basis as is the Senate. I believe that the Legislative Councils of Victoria and South Australia have a franchise of £15, while in Tasmania it is j£io ; but will anybody say that this represents as great a disability as there is at the present time in the Senate? So far as I can see, the Senate has not a vestige of popular power in it or about it, so far as its constitution is concerned, though I am not finding fault with that, because it represents a compromise in which State rights were to be fairly and fully considered in relation to all questions affecting the nation. But with a restricted Senate, and full State-right power, there goes a limitation of the functions that we may exercise ; and that range of function, as I have said, is of a purely national character. These proposals entirely sweep away present limitations - and the AttorneyGeneral in making. them is keeping intact the limitations on the parliamentary power of Australia.
It is time we heard from the Government what their attitude is on this great question - whether they are going to put the great internal functions of the States under the control of the Senate which does not represent the popular will, and thus preserve the unequal power of the States that I have pointed out. A more undemocratic proposition was never put before this chamber - never was there aimed so deadly a blow at Democracy. I say,, again, that before the Government have the right to go to a free people, every man.and woman of whom are supposed to he equal at the ballot box, and ask them to* repose these domestic and internal powersin an unequal Senate - before they propose such a travesty on representative and democratic government, they ought to think long and hard. It is all right now when, by a stroke of luck, Labour is installed in power in the Senate; but Labour is not going to be there for all time. The party has triumphed for the present overthose disabilities so far as the partycomplexion and character of the Senateis concerned; but the Government have no right to consider their present advantage only. They have no right toconsider their party colour, or their party desires and ideals, in framing these alterations in the Constitution; this mattershould be regarded quite free from party considerations. To take power over all thebusiness and industries of the two largeStates with 66 per cent, of the population, and give them- into the keeping of theSenate, composed as I have shown theSenate to be, is the geratest outrage on Democracy that has so far been proposed.
What is the object and purpose?1 What lies behind these proposals? Honorable members opposite know, aswell as I do, that if these powersare taken over there will immediately be a> movement, which they themselves will1 head, for a revision of the StaterightsSenate. In other words, we shall be threeparts on the way to Unification. A plunge in that direction is being taken now; and honorable members opposite care not what the consequences may be as to the ultimateshape and form of the Constitutional instrument. Honorable members’ opposite are risking all in the interests of their immediate party propaganda. If the referenda) be carried there will instantly be an agitation for a revision, deep and drastic, of: the powers which this Parliament now exercises. That is the object, as can be.made very plain by a few references.
First, I should like to quote the opinion* of the Attorney-General and of the PrimeMinister on the composition of the present: Senate. A short three years ago, when, honorable members opposite jibbed at the- -arrangement to pay 25s. per head to the -States, the Prime Minister said -
There is no shadow of honesty about such a -suggestion. There would be no possibility of altering the Constitution.
The Attorney-General said -
This infamous attempt to fasten this fetter upon our limbs for all time is inexcusable. . . Were the Constitution before them to-day they would spit upon the provision relating to equal representation. They see now that democracy is hampered in every direction.
I make these quotations in order to show exactly where we are drifting. In the last debate we had on these very questions the Attorney-General said -
Whatever, then, may be necessary to the Federal system, equal representation of the States is not; nor is a judiciary, nor - and I emphasize <this point - is a fundamental distinction between the manner of altering ordinary laws and altering Constitutional laws, so called.
Here the Attorney-General is laying down that we must aim at the abolition of State -Rights, as such, on the ground that they are an unnecessary part of Federation and the inescapable inference is that we must aim at the elimination of the power of the Judiciary to guard and interpret our present powers. This, too, he said has nothing to do with Federation, and neither have the provisions in the Constitution which hamper an alteration of the Constitution itself. The ideal -of the Labour party is the abolition of all these provisions; and in this connexion other members of the party are entitled to be heard. Mr. Holman, who is at least the equal of many of my honorable friends -opposite in his range of intellectual power and perception, said -
The argument - if he could dignify it with the marne of argument - that because ‘Parliament imposed the Tariff it should have charge of all industrial legislation would not stand investigation. The step that was suggested meant in the -long run, the end of the State Labour, parties. First, industrial legislation would go; then, in three years, there would be a request for the railways ; then in another three years, lands, education, and control of mining.
Then, again, the honorable member foi Hindmarsh makes no bones about what he -wants. He said, referring to the proposed amendments of the Constitution -
This question ‘will be fought out, not on its merits, but on the question of whether we should “have unification or not. … I repeat that this measure more than any other which has previously been considered by this Parliament represents the parting of the ways. Sooner or later the real question which it raises must be decided, and the sooner the better.
The Leader of the Opposition said, in the course of the same debate, “ If we are to face a unitary Constitution, we had better face it at once,” to which the honorable member for East Sydney, Mr. West, replied, “ The proposal before us is the steppingstone.” That is to say, it is the steppingstone to a unitary Constitution.
– Why does not the honorable member quote the honorable member for Flinders?
– I intend to make a few more quotations. My desire to-day is to place on record some statements by honorable members of the Labour party; we shall have ample time later on to deal with the details of the Bills themselves. A little while ago the Minister of External Affairs declared that he was a straight-out Unificationist.
– So I am.
– The honorable member has always made quite plain his position in that regard. Then, again, Senator Gardiner, a little while ago, said -
I am a straight-out Unificationist. I do not believe in there being seven Parliaments in Australia. I believe in one national Parliament to rule the whole of the destinies of the people of Australia.
– The honorable member for Parramatta once said that he was a straight-out. Republican.
– Many of my honorable friend’s party are saying the same thing to-day. If the honorable member would like me to quote some of their statements in that regard, I shall be pleased to do so. I find, also, that Mr. Prendergast, the Leader of the State Labour party in Victoria, asked during the last campaign whether it would not be better to have Unification and wipe out the political barnacles in the States. That was a clear and unequivocal statement on the part of “one of the leaders of the Labour party, and many others of the same purport could be quoted. When we were discussing this question in the House on a former occasion, I said that what the Labour party were asking for was a complete unification of the trade and commerce power. In a word, they were asking for what was neither more nor less than industrial unification. The honorable member for Maribyrnong then interjected, “ Why make two bites at a cherry?” and he went on to ask. “Are we not a National Parliament?” I replied -
No, we are a National Parliament, modified by a State Rights Senate.
– It is about time we were but of those bobbles.
Later on the honorable member said -
Why go to the people half-a-dozen times when we need go only once?
Other statements made during the debate on the last occasion were as follows : -
– The people desire fewer Parliaments.
Senator de Largie. Surely the industrial peace of the whole Commonwealth is of much greater importance than the tin-pot dignity of any one State.
– What is the use of our perpetuating imaginary lines of demarcation and keeping in existence this bogey of State rights?
Then again the honorable member for Herbert, Mr. Bamford, said that they proposed to ask the people for an indorsement or otherwise of the proposals set forth in his scheme for Unification. During the debate on the last referenda proposals his remark was, “ The Government are simply stealing my clothes.” Every one knows what the honorable member’s political clothes are. They are the habiliments of a Unificationist. The honorable member would enormously increase the powers of this Parliament, and reduce the status of the State: Legislatures to that of provincial councils. The honorable member for Hindmarsh, Mr. Archibald, in a fine outburst in this House, said -
I do not think that we need trouble ourselves much about Unification or Federation. Perhaps in three or four, or ten years, we may have again to consult the Australian electors and ask them to endow us with more legislative powers. What will be left of our Yankee Constitution in the end is a question for its Yankee framers to answer. It is their business rather than mine.
A Minister interjected, “ It is the business of posterity.” The honorable member went on to say -
That is so. Doubtless, to use a colloquialism, it will “ go up the spout,” where it ought to go. . . . It is unnecessary for us to worry about the State Houses ; they are quite capable of looking after themselves.
There are many more quotations of the kind, but my time is limited, and I shall have to refrain from further reference to them.
The present Postmaster-General has moved in this House -
That in the opinion of this House it is advisable the manufacture of tobacco, cigars and cigarettes should be a national monopoly.
He also gave notice of his intention to move -
That in the opinion of this House it is desirable that the educational systems of Australia should be brought under Federal control.
Another member of his party, the honorable member for Wannon, has made a demand in this House that the lands and. railways of Australia shall be brought under the control of the CommonwealthParliament, whilst Senator Pearce hasmoved that, in order that the Parliament may be able to effectively protect the people from the depredations of trusts, combines, and monopolies, we should have the full power of nationalization. In addition to that, Senator Pearce, a little: while ago, sent round Australia a proposition to the effect that this Parliament, should so alter its Constitution as to take power to re-arrange the Constitutions of the State Parliaments with a view to obliterating the State Upper Houses, and confining them to one-Chamber Legislatures.
Mr.Fenton. - Hear, hear,
– Is that still proposed ? Is it at the back of the propositions that are now before us?
– The honorable member for Maribyrnong should not interject. If he does, the honorable member will be appealing to Mr. Speaker.
– I donot desire the honorable member to interject.I am simply pointing out what lies at the back of these proposals, and what is meant in the ultimate. I am pointing out the objective of my honorable friends opposite. At one time or another they have made propositions, and I am speaking now of responsible Ministers opposite - which would rob the States of every vestige of power they possess, and would centralize all that power in the National Parliament as composed to-day.
They have yet another objective in view, as I shall show. Their idea is to get rid of, not only the State Parliaments, but the High Court, or so to reshape the Court as to rule it out as a responsible factor in the interpretation of our Constitution. Mr. Hall said a little while ago, when he was a member of this House, that the action of the High Court had been in this direction -
When Judges have been entrusted with the power of making or declaring the law they have always set up principles that have worked in favour of the employing class and against the working class.
That also is a statement made by the Prime Minister of Australia. A little while ago he said -
In every instance where he had known progressive legislation to be passed by any Parliament they found the Judges taking the most conservative view of the legislation. There was- -always an inclination on the part of the Judges to construe the law against the men who were least able to defend themselves.
– He has behind him the great authority of Jack Cade.
– When I quoted -.this statement by the right honorable member during our consideration of the previous -referenda proposals, he made the comment, “ The history of the world declares it.” In other words, he asserted that the history of the world declared the truth of his statement. Then we have had the honorable member for Melbourne Ports saying
If the High Court decides against this Parliament then we should so frame our laws that we shall be able to dictate to the High Court what we mean to have done.
Senator Stewart, the most candid of them all, said in the Senate in 19 10 -
In a great crisis the people of the United States would sweep aside the Federal Supreme -Court just as we hope to sweep the High Court of Australia aside before very long.
The honorable member for Cook has also :said that the High. Court was against them in the Harvester case, against them in the case of the railway servants, and in regard to the common rule. The High Court, he said, would not allow them to carry out their policy, and therefore they must so :shape the Constitution as to take from the Court that power to interfere. When discussing this matter at the Labour Conference - and here we come to the true inwardness of their views - Mr. Holman, trying to conciliate the Federalists of the Conference and to put himself in line with them, argued in this way -
The Labour party of the States and the Commonwealth should devote their energies to the amendment of the Federal Constitution so as to make it a more democratic instrument. The Senate should be elected on a democratic basis.
I say so, too, if they are to unify these large powers. The present Senate will become absolutely intolerable when these large national powers are made to reside in their control. A delegate to the Conference interjected, “ The High Court should be. abolished,” to which Mr. Holman replied “Quite so,” A delegate then rose and said that he - hoped that Mr. Holman would not communicate to the press the fact that the Labour party intended to amend the Federal Constitution in the other directions he had urged.
It might result in the referendum proposals being defeated if this leaked out. Let them first get in the thin end of the wedge by carrying the referendum proposals.
– From what is the honorable member quoting? He is quot-ing from a report in the daily press.
– From a report of the recent Labour Conference in Sydney. Mr. Minahan, the chairman, and member of the State Assembly, said -
He would recommend to Mr. Holman the suggestion of the delegate, that he should ‘maintain secrecy as to the further amendments of the Constitution he had advised them to agitate for.
There are their proposals, naked and unshamed - Unification, the abolition of the High Court ; and all these processes with a view to the ultimate socialization of the means of production and exchange.
– Do you say that the Labour party is in favour of Unification?
– I do, unmistakably.
– It is not true.
– I say it in the most emphatic language I can employ. Once again I should like to make a quotation, snowing the opinion of honorable members opposite about the Senate.
– It is a wicked lie to say that this party is in favour of Unification.
– The honorable member must withdraw that statement.
– I decline to withdraw it, because it is a lie to say that this party is in favour of Unification. I say that it is a lie.
– Do I understand that the honorable member refuses to withdraw his expression?
– Unless the honorable member for Parramatta withdraws his statement, I must refuse to withdraw what I have said. He tells a wilful untruth when he says that this party is in favour of Unification. I decline to withdraw my statement.
– The honorable member must not leave the chamber, and must withdraw his statement.
– I decline to allow the honorable member for Parramatta to make his statement unchallenged, and I refuse to withdraw what I have said.
– Then I name the honorable member for disregarding the request of the Chair.
– As you, Mr. Speaker, have named the honorable member for disregarding the authority of the Chair, I ask whether he will not withdraw what he has said.
– I hope that he will.
– I do not wish to show any disrespect to the Chair, but I refuse to allow the honorable member for Parramatta to slander this party.
– My duty after what Mr. Speaker has done-
– May I say a word ? Nothing was further from my thoughts than to give the honorable member offence. I quoted statements which had been made by responsible members of the Labour party, and from them drew an inference as to the ultimate objective of the party. If that is not fair political argument, I should like to know what is.
– The honorable member knows that the Hobart Conference of the Labour party refused to support Unification.
– For the present, certainly. I hope that the honorable member will withdraw what he said.
– If the honorable member will withdraw what he said, I shall withdraw what I said.
– I cannot withdraw what I said.
– I appeal to the honorable member for Capricornia to withdraw what, he said. He must see that there is no other course. Had the honorable member for Parramatta been saying anything that, according to the rules of Parliament, he should not have said, I would have stopped him, but I had no power to prevent him from saying what he did say. His deductions might have been right, or they might have been wrong, but they did not give me the right to interfere. Under the circumstances I trust that the honorable member for Capricornia will withdraw his remark.
– I know that you, sir, have no other course to take than that which you have taken, and I do not wish to show any disrespect to you, but I feel that I cannot withdraw my statement, as the honorable member for Parramatta refuses to withdraw the statement that he has made about the Labour party.
– You are stating the truth, and are quite right.
– Do I understand that the honorable member for Capricornia still refuses to withdraw his statement?
– It is my duty in supporting Mr. Speaker, who represents the
House, and is bound to give effect to itrules of procedure, to move -
That the honorable member for Capricornia be suspended from the service of the House for the remaining part of this sitting.
– Mr. Speaker -
– The honorable member may not debate the question.
Question - That the honorable member for Capricornia be suspended - put.
The House divided.
Majority … … 24
Question resolved in the affirmative.
This proposal most unwarrantably condemns as bad and worthless . the various factory laws and Wages Board systems of the States, and it asks the people to deprive the States of all further independent powers of industrial legislation. It would wrest from the States the control of their own public services by rendering State employes (as far as the condition of their wages and employment are concerned) amenable alone to Federal authority ; and it would vest every detail of management and regulation of our entire industrial life throughout all its widespread ramifications in the Commonwealth. No prudent or intelligent citizen can regard the suggested transfer of authority without dismay. Other proposals contained in the industrial referendum signify unification ; but this goes further. It clutches at unification and then strikes a hard and shrewd blow for State obliteration.
I have never used language as sweeping and definite as that, and I am bound to say that I agree with every word of it.
Federal Labour Ministers may say what they will against this view, but no other is logically tenable. The proposal contemplates the establishment of a centralized Federal judiciary, invested with supreme power to make awards determining the pay, conditions, and hours of work in every form of employment carried on throughout the length and breadth of Australia. It ignores time and distance ; it takes no heed of territorial and climatic disparities; and it presupposes the existence of a supernatural omniscience and impartiality in the persons to whom the proposed judicial duties will be delegated.
Try aswe may, it is impossible to conceive a Court capable of fixing offhand a wages scale that would do equal justice to men working in the same industry in temperate Victoria and tropical Queensland. Yet the industrial judiciary would have more difficult work than that. It would be required to devise and promulgate awards determining the Day and conditions of labour in all our industries - awards that would reach from Palmerston to Port Adelaide, from Cape York to the Leeuwin, and govern with perfect equity and justice all the thousands of conflicting interests and antithetical circumstances which operate between.
Consider for a moment the multiplicity and variety of our industries. In Victoria alone we have, approximately, 100 Wages Boards presiding over as many diverse avocations; and yet there are trades still unprovided for. These tribunals are composed of expert tradesmen, thoroughly versed in every branch and detail of their crafts. It frequently happens, never<beless, that they have to sit for weeks before they can arrive, with all their special knowledge, at a wages scale fair to the employers and em- 1 ‘loves engaged in a single State, and that the smallest of the Australian States, where the climatic and other conditions are virtually uniform.
It often occurs, too, that Wages Boards are required to compile “ logs “ of the most diverse, interminable, and bewildering complexity. Judges might undertake such work, but how could they possibly perform it (in view of the vast amount of essential information wholly foreign to their experience, which they would have to absorb and digest beforehand) within a reasonable time, so as to give satisfaction to their clients? New South Wales tried the experiment of such an Arbitration Court, and that it proved a failure was chiefly because the Court was always months and years in arrears of its work. And that was why New South Wales was forced to copy Victoria and establish Wages Boards.
The truth of the matter is that the idea of a centralized industrial judiciary is a vain and empty dream. It could only be brought into the region of the practical by appointing almost as many Judges as we now have Wages Boards - certainly such a number of Judges as would reduce the judicial office to a contemptible place in public estimation. From whatever aspect the question is examined it looms up stark, crude, and impractical. Perhaps its insanest feature, however, is that the overloaded central judiciary is to assume control of State servants. Every school teacher, every railway employé, every State servant from the State Governor down to the youngest window cleaner at the railway station, is to be empowered to appeal to the Federal Court whenever he is dissatisfied with the terms of his employment or desires an increase of wages.
Labour orators declare that this sweeping transference of industrial control does not import unification, and that it would not interfere with the administration of their own services by the States. The contention is farcically absurd. In the last analysis the authority which manages and administers any service or industry is the authority empowered to fix wages, prescribe hours and conditions of work, and determine questions of promotion. All such powers would be torn from the States and placed in the hands of the Commonwealth. What, then, would be left to the States except a mere shadow and illusive semblance of authority - the paltry right to conduct the Public Service under the supervision and predominant control in all essentials of the Federation.
Sitting suspended from1 to 2.30 p.m.
.- I am glad to hear the concluding remarks of the honorable member for Parramatta in regard to the desirability of amending the Constitution in certain respects. I do not know whether the honorable member speaks for his party as a whole.
– Hear, hear.
– I take it that he does ; and we have been told that he, at any rate, believes in certain amendments in order to give this Parliament greater power over trusts and combines and industrial matters. Even if this be only a halfhearted declaration, it is something from an honorable member who occupies the prominent position of Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
– He made no such declaration.
– The interjection simply shows what a divided front the Opposition present on this and other questions.
– The Leader of the Opposition backed up the Deputy Leader.
– I do not know whether the honorable member for Echuca has just awakened, but I feel confident that my ears did not deceive me when the honorable member for Parramatta was speaking. It is unfortunate that I am compelled to add that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, in declaring in favour of the amendments, expressed the opinion that the way proposed by the Government is not the proper way. That, however, is the usual attitude taken up by the Opposition in regard to legislation on this side. The little disturbance just before lunch, arose, I think, out of a general accusation that was levelled at the Government side of the House of being in favour of Unification - that was the reason why such strong exception was taken then to the remarks of the honorable member for Parramatta. For myself, I say at the outset that, if the Federal Parliament is not granted the increased powers proposed, it would’ be better by far to have Unification than continue the present system. I arrive at that conclusion, however, from quite a different point of view from that presented by the honorable member for Angas. That gentleman declares that if the amendments are carried it would be better for us to have Unification at once, whereas if the powers are not granted I should be prepared to follow the honorable member for Herbert and support out-and-out unification. We have now practically come to a “dead end;” and, according to indications, there are certain honorable members opposite who are going to present to the country quite a different case from that which they presented on the last occasion. Indeed, I am looking forward to the honorable member for Parramatta, and other prominent Oppositionists, putting before the people the view that it is absolutely essential, particularly in regard to trusts and combines and industrial matters, that we should have greater powers. The honorable member for Flinders, when this question was before the House in 19 10, said -
I propose to advance, as shortly and concisely as I can, some reasons why, in the interests of Federal development, this alteration, great as it is, ought to be made.
These are very emphatic words, as members of the Opposition will agree. The alterations now proposed are exactly the same as before, only they are presented in such a way as should meet the objections of the Opposition and certain newspapers on the last occasion. The honorable member continued -
First of all. let me deal very shortly with the argument, advanced by a good many speakers opposed to the Bill, that it leads towards, or has a tendency towards, Unification - that it is the first step towards a unitary form of government. That is an argument I utterly fail to grasp ; I cannot see the meaning of it. Unless the position be taken that any increase at all, or any important increase, in the subjects over which this Parliament is given constitutional power by section 51, amounts to a step towards Unification, or is based on the principle of Unification, that argument cannot apply to this case. Undoubtedly, it is proposed to give the Commonwealth a very important additional power, part of which has hitherto been exercised by the States; but unless we can say that every accretion to the Federal power is in itself a step towards Unification, or is likely to lead to other steps towards Unification, the argument seems to fall to the ground.
I need not quote further. I do not think that in all my experience of parliamentary records I have read more emphatic language.
– And very sound, too!
– I believe so; and I hope that the logic of the honorable member on this occasion will be quite as sound. If there is one honorable member opposite who is prepared, definitely and unequivocally, to express his opinion it is the honorable member for Flinders. I have had occasion many times to differ from the honorable member, who sometimes has dealt out the lash very severely to our side; but I always honour a- man, no matter what his politics may be, or whether he is in this House or outside, who is prepared to express his opinion fearlessly. When we find the honorable member indulging in such definite language as I have quoted, we should have a very definite note running through his address on the present occasion.
– It is. different from what was said by the honorable member for Parramatta.
– I do not expect, on this or any other question, unanimity on the Opposition side of the House. A good deal has been made of what Dr. Woodrow Wilson and Mr. Bryce have written and said.; and I am prepared to defer to those eminent men on certain questions. It does happen, however, sometimes that we cannot quote with effect expressions of opinion, even of eminent men, of many years ago, before we were surrounded by an entirely new set of circumstances. If Professor Bryce were to study the operation of our Constitution, as we find it today, I doubt whether he would be of the same opinion as when he penned, the words quoted by the honorable member for Parramatta. Whilst I am prepared to pay every regard to the opinions expressed by these eminent and brainy men, I cannot forget that in matters economic, industrial and legislative, the world moves apace. We move almost at express speed, and that being so, we cannot attach too much importance to views that were expressed by these men many years ago. The Australian Commonwealth to-day finds itself in a position that it has never previously occupied. It is under the immediate shadow of trusts and combines, which have wrought such sad havoc in America. These vast organizations have grown up under the American Constitution, and as a true Australian I desire to urge the people of this continent so to arm themselves as to be able to keep from our shores the trusts, monopolies, and combines which have made such great depredations on the family life of the United States of America. Prevention is better than cure, and if we secure the powers for which we ask I believe that we shall be able to keep Australia free from these organizations. I desire now to read certain statements made in regard to Dr. Woodrow Wilson, who has just been elected to the highest office in the gift of the great nation of the United States of America - statements made by one of his political friends, Senator James O’Gorman. In an article contributed to the North American Review, Senator O’Gorman, referring to Dr. Woodrow Wilson’s attitude towards trusts and combines, writes -
As a result, those organizations which have grown rich from legislation which gave to them special privileges see in him an enemy. The coteries of capital which have fixed the prices that the consumer must pay for life’s necessities are his enemies. Those who regard politics as an opportunity for spoils are his enemies. Those who have long dominated political parties and determined election results by the cruel logic of heavy corruption funds are his enemies.
He goes on to say of Dr. Woodrow Wilson -
On the trusts, on labour, on the high cost of living, on every subject that affects the wellbeing and happiness of the individual, he is positive and unmistakable. He declares that “ those who buy are not even represented by counsel. The high cost of living., is arranged by private understanding.”
Dealing further with the new President’s policy, Senator O’Gorman wrote -
Speaking of what, for a better name, he calls “confederacies” of capital, he declares that, “ laws must be devised which will prevent this if laws can be worked out by fair and free counsel that will accomplish that result without destroying or seriously embarrassing any sound or legitimate business undertaking or necessary and wholesome arrangement.” Surely such radicalism is not of a character that honest business should fear a Democratic victory. …
Dr.Woodrow Wilson, in conducting his recent campaign, therefore expressed himself in favour of principles such as we are to-day discussing. He declared that he was prepared if he were elected to the Presidential chair to seek certain powers that would keep in check those predatory organizations that are gnawing at the very vitals of the people.
– Did he indicate any remedy ?
– I shall show the honorable member what has been proposed. There were really only two men in the Presidential contest, and I feel convinced that had it not been for Mr. Roosevelt’s candidature it is very questionable whether the programmes of the various parties in the United States of America would have been as democratic as they were. The Americans appear to have a prejudice against selecting a man for the office of President for a third term, and there can be no doubt that Mr. Roosevelt polled a marvellously good vote under the peculiar circumstances in which he offered himelf for election. Having practically broken up one of the oldest parties in the States, he headed a new party which in the contest left it far in its wake. Let us look at some of the planks in the platform that he put before the people. The very first plank was “easier and more expeditious methods of amending the Constitution.” He advocated that policy because he realized, I feel sure, that it was necessary that there should be an easier method of amending the’ Constitution in order to bring it more into conformity with uptodate and democratic ideas. He declared his belief in the “ initiative referendum and recall in the respective States,” and announced himself in favour of “effective national jurisdiction over problems which extend beyond the reach of individual States.” That plank in his platform is in accordance with part of our own programme. Then again, he declared himself in favour of placing a limitation upon campaign contributions and expenditures, a policy that we have already embodied in our electoral law. Here is a rather startling plank in his platform -
Popular review of judicial decisions on laws for securing social justice.
I read into that plank a determination on the part of Mr. Roosevelt that if elected he would be prepared to remit to the people any judicial decision that seemed to be against the interests of the people, and that he would allow the people themselves to determine whether or not it should stand. Other planks in his platform were as follow -
Full and immediate inquiry into the high cost of living and immediate action thereon.
The strengthening of the Sherman (Anti-Trust) law by specific prohibitions.
When we look at the platform put forward by these two great Americans, the man who was sucessful in the Presidential campaign, and the man who for a term and a half had occupied the office of President, we must see that they realize the great danger that, instead of threatening, is actually in their midst. We do not desire to allow injurious trusts and combines to secure too strong a footing in Australia. No one can deny that the American Congress is a very powerful Parliament, but although its members are supposed to represent the views of practically 100,000,000 people, they find themselves in the grip of trusts and combines.
I desire now to make a few quotations referring to the extent of trusts and combines in other countries. First of all, I shall deal with a trust which, strange to say, exists in Free Trade England. I differ from a view expressed last night by the Attorney-General, who said that under our protective system trusts and combines seemingly had a better chance of thriving than under Free Trade.
– He forgot the cotton trust.
– I was about to refer to that trust.
– And the reaper and binder trust.
– When reapers and binders were absolutely free the farmers had to pay “ through the nose “ for them.
– They had to pay ^55 for a machine that could be got in America for ^25.
– Quite so.
– What are they paying now?
– Something less. If the farmer were in the same position in this regard as he was twenty years ago, he would have to pay for reapers and binders almost as much as was demanded in those days.
– There is now a reduced demand for them.
– Because the combined harvester has successfully competed with them, and, save where they are required for hay makers, has practically driven them out of the market. I desire now to show how in Free Trade England there exists a monopoly which levies toll to the last farthing on every home in the country. In the Argus of 22nd June last the following statement appeared : -
Referring to the death of Mr. Archibald Coats, for the last twenty years head of the great thread business of J- and F. Coats Limited, the Daily Mail says that the great international combination, whose annual profits now exceed £3,000,000 had its origin in a smallfed manufactory started by a soldier of the Paisley Fencibles almost sixty years ago. The prodigious development of Coats’ during the last two decades is one of the industrial romances of modern times. It has consolidated almost the whole of the sewing-cotton business in Great Britain, tied up businesses in America, and linked itself with the leading manufacturers on the Continent. The real beginning of the combination was in 1890, when the present company was started with a capital of ,£5,700,000. During the previous seven years the profits had* averaged ,£426,000 a year. For the next four years the dividend was 8 per cent. Then it mounted to ro per cent. The following year, 1896, it was 20 per cent. ; and two years later 30 per cent., when, for the first time, the profits- exceeded seven figures. In 1900 the profits ‘were- £2,511,945, and a 30 per cent, dividend was accompanied by a 20 per cent, bonus. In 1907 theprofits exceeded £3,000,000. For the last threeyears the dividends have been 35 per cent, and1 the profits regularly over £3,000,000, Meanwhile the paid-up capital has reached io£ millions, and the reserves 8£ millions.
– Does that mean 33 percent, on the paid-up capital or on the original capital.
– That is a difficult question to answer, because we know that in modern company -mongering there isnothing to prevent a company with a smalt share list so watering its stock as to give Jones, who holds fifty shares in it, 1,50c- nares.
– The honorable member must know that these shares are always changing hands.
– My own idea is that very few of the shares in the combine towhich I have been referring have gone out of the hands of the original holders. They are too good to part with. This trust hasa monopoly of the cotton trade, and its profits amount to over ^3,000,000 a year. It is said by those who are in a position toknow, that cotton to-day could be retailed at half the price charged for it, and still1 allow these firms to make a handsome profit- Thread and cotton are used by every housewife in making up clothing or patching the wearing apparel of the little ones, and this combination is able to exact toll on all the housewives of Australia, as well as of other parts of the world.
– It does not even give the measurements that it is supposed to give on the reels.
– There are many other features in connexion with this trust towhich I could refer if my time were not limited. I wish now, however, to make a quotation in regard to trusts in America. It has been said that the Sherman AntiTrust law has been so strengthened as to prevent the operations of the Standard Oil Trust - that under it that trust was declared to be inimical to the best interests of the people, and that an order was made in the United States Court that it should be dissolved within six months. The operations of this trust are of special interest to all those who reside in the back blocks where kerosene is practically the only illuminant now used. It is also the chief illuminant of the poorer people of our cities. The trust was ordered to be dissolved. About forty companies were hanging on to this great combine, a sort of relationship existing between them. But, because their operations were contrary to the provisions of the Sherman law, they were ordered to cut themselves adrift. Instead of doing that, they have, by the manipulation of their shares, established one company, those concerned receiving their profits from one source, instead of from a number of sources as formerly. The trust was compelled by the United States Court to dissolve, and six months, were given for that to be done, but at the end of that time every user of White Rose kerosene in Australia was forced to pay 3d. a tin more for it. The prosecution cost Rockefeller and the trusts something like£8,000,000, and to-day the Australian housewife is helping to pay the fine. To show what companies were in league with the trust, let me quote this statement -
There are more than 1,000 other corporations whose fate has hung upon that of the Oil Trust, including the Tobacco Trust and the Steel Corporation, with its capital of £190,000,000, and its 89 subsidiary corporations. Other enormous concerns which may have to dissolve are the Amalgamated Copper Company (£31,000,000), International Mercantile Marine (£40,000,000), American Smelting and Refining Company (£20,000,000), Sugar Trust (£18,000,000), American Telephone and Telegraph Company (£60,000,000), Interborough (£31,000,000), Western Union (£25,000,000), Consolidated Gas Company (£20,000,000), General Electric (£16,000,000), the Mackay Companies (£20,000,000), the Pullman Company (£20,000,000), and the Westinghouse Electric Company (£12,000,000).
That was a statement printed at the foot of a cablegram published on the 15th May of last year, announcing the decision of the United States Court regarding the Standard Oil Trust. The capital of all the companies I have named totalled something like£500,000,000.
– How does the honorable member propose to cure that ?
– It is for the Americans, who are suffering, to cure it. They are the victims of a disease which is eating into their vitals, but both Woodrow Wilson and Roosevelt are pledged to do all they can to relieve them.
– And to alter the Constitution to enable it to be done.
– Roosevelt made.that the first plank of his platform.
– Has the Standard Oil Company succeeded in dodging the decision of the Court?
– Absolutely.The various companies combined with it have now amalgamated in the manner explained by the Attorney-General.
– Then how will the Labour party deal with a similar case, even if it gets the power that it asks for?
– If we get the power that we ask for, there will never be a similar trust in Australia. No American trust will then seek to find entrance into this country. It will not be worth while.
– Are there not a few trusts here now ?
– Yes ; but it is easier and safer to kill a small snake than to kill a big one. Our policy is to nip these evils in the bud.
The other day some honorable members professed not to fear the Beef Trust, and the honorable member for Moreton seemed to welcome it to Queensland; but let me read a statement about it which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald so long ago as the 4th January of last year. The Herald is not an alarmist paper, and its opinions will be received with respect by the honorable member for Parramatta and others.
– I hope that the honorable member will not run away with the notion that I believe in these trusts.
– I do not like the halfhearted support which we are getting for our proposals for the amendment of the Constitution. I have had undoubted proof from graziers themselves of the fact that the American Beef Trust is trying to make arrangements to control the Australian market. The Sydney Morning Herald article to which I direct attention is headed, “ World Meat Trust.” “ Only Australia and New Zealand Free.” “Advance in prices predicted,” and it says -
With the sole exception of the Australasian trade, the meat producing industry of the entire world is now controlled by a trust with headquarters in America, and a prediction has been made that heavy advances in prices will result. Details of the operation of this gigantic trust reached Sydney yesterday. It appears that as far back as June, 1899, the Beef Trust commenced to extend its operations to Argentina, although indignant denials were made at the time, both inside and outside, as well as in Chicago.
Similar denials have been made in Australia. ‘ Men with meat works to sell say that there is no shadow of the Beef Trust over Australia.
In that period, it seems from the information received by United States Consuls, the Beef Trust has carried its schemes of world conquest a long step towards realization. “ For a long time past,” we are told, according to reports published in both the British and American press, “ United States packers have been investing their profits in big ranches and packing houses in Argentina. They have absorbed the La Plata Cold Storage Company and the La Blanca Company in Argentina, and the former company under their management has become the largest of its kind in the world.”
The Beef Trust is not importing Argentine products into the United States, where it would compete with its own stock. It is employing its control of Argentine meat for the purpose of dominating the British market.
The market in which the Australian producer has to compete !
This is apparently the explanation of the rapid decrease of American meat exports from 122,972,000 lb. in 1909 to 75,729,000 lb. during the past year.
In IQ00 the value of American beef sold abroad was £6,200,000. In 1909 it was only £3,000,000. In the same period Argentina’s exports of beef rose from 24,590,000 lb. to 210,000,000 lb. It is stated that the Chicago packing interests are now operating in Argentina seven large companies and plants, whose combined output this year was 1,480,000 lb. of beef and 2,661,000 lb. of mutton. The bulk of this meat went to Great Britain.
The statement which I wish to emphasize is this -
It now only remains for the Beef Trust to gain control of all the meat in the world by acquiring a predominant interest in the Australian and New Zealand meat industry.
That statement was made more than eighteen months ago.
Despite temporary reductions in price in the United States, the Department of Commerce and Labour in Washington predicts in the immediate future a general increase in the price of meats throughout the world as the result of the operations of the Meat Trust. It is known that the great Meat Trust has already paid some attention to Australia, with what result is only known to the Trust itself.
The Sydney Morning Herald might be called the Argus of New South Wales. It is not an alarmist journal, nor likely to give away those whose interests it generally advocates. Turning to the Steel Trust, I would remind honorable members of the increase in price that we were called on to pay recently for the rails to be used on the transcontinental line. The Argus, in November, 191 1, indicated that the State Governments had paid more for their rails because of the transference of orders from a British firm to other firms. It appears that certain firms have the right to sell particular kinds pf rails. Certain orders have to go to certain companies, but the advantages are pooled, because there is an international arrangement. Great corporations have virtually marked out the world, one saying, “ This is my quarter,” and another saying, “ This is my quarter.”
– The same thing has been done in Australia in the confectionery business.
– Yes. I hope to be able to quote from the memorandum of the honorable member for Angas to show what little control the Constitution gives us of trusts and combines. Every thinking man and woman must realize that, commercially, we move, not as units, but as great organizations. The day of the small man has gone. I have taken an active interest in co-operation, endeavouring to secure its adoption by producers. To-day the individual grocers of Great Britain are fighting the co-operative system, but their real enemies are the multiple shop proprietors. Firms like those of Lipton and Company have scattered their shops all over Great Britain, and no single trader can compete against them. Some of them have their own tea plantations, and even their own ships. The small trader is being crushed between the multiple shop-owner and the co-operative associations. The co-operative movement of fifty or sixty years ago has largely helped to defend the workers of Great Britain against the trusts and combines that have made havoc in America.
– There is co-operation in America.
– Not so much in proportion to population as in the United Kingdom. The great Manchester Cooperative Wholesale Society was started by twenty weavers, with a bag of flour each, some sixty years ago, and to-day has a. turnover of .£30,000,000 per annum. The co-operative movement has spread in England, Ireland, Scotland, andWales, so that to-day the workers largely control the supply of what they eat and wear. But we know that if we are to be successful we must move, not in units, but in battalions. I am sure that honorable members recognise that these great trusts are an enemy to everybody. The small business man or woman has no chance against them.
The Canadian Government have delegated certain powers to their Provincial Parliaments, which do without the luxury of Upper Houses in many Provinces.
– But the Canadian Provinces have a written Constitution.
– But absolute power rests with the central Legislature. Even if all these Bills for an amendment of the Constitution are assented to by the people, the power of this Parliament will not approach within coo-ee of that which is enjoyed by the Canadian Parliament.
– Does the honorable member wish to transform our Constitution into a Constitution like that of Canada?
– I am not particular. It is the very best example that, for the most part, we can follow. I would remind the honorable member that the Canadian Federation was formed as late as 1867.Asthat country is immediately adjacent to the United States, and as its people were thoroughly conversant with the way in which the American Constitution had operated for fully eighty years, they ought to have been able to say whether or not it was a good Constitution under which to live. In the full light of that knowledge they declined to adopt the American Constitution. They decided to adhere more closely to the British system of government. What did the framers of our Constitution do? They went back to an antiquated Constitution which was drawn up when the people of- America did not know whether that country might not be attacked by Great Britain. Why did Washington and his confrères make that Constitution so rigid? Because they wished for all time to keep the American people undivided as a nation. That Constitution was drawn up under the shadow of the sword. Yet the framers of our Constitution lifted great slabs from the American Constitution, and placed them in our own. The one reason why this Parliament is handcuffed to-day is that we have too slavishly followed the American Constitution. I would further point out that but for the action of a great judge there would have been revolution under that Constitution. In speaking on these proposals, the honorable member for Ballarat said -
As the honorable member for Flinders reminded us, Chief Justice Marshall, to his everlasting honour, transformed what might have been a dead Constitution intoa living one, although its life was derived rather from judicial interpretation than from a plain reading of the original legal intent.
– For that purpose he had to go almost beyond interpretation, and strain words.
– But everyone will admit that whatever successful growth has been achieved by the American Constitution, enabling it to meet the demands of recent and present times, has been owing mainly to Chief Justice Marshall’s interpretation. If, at the time the Constitution was drawn, the intended legal interpretation of its powers could have been put down in black and white, they would have had nothing like the scope that Marshall afterwards gave them. In short, he made the American Constitution live.
According to that quotation we, in Australia, have adopted the main provisions of a Constitution admittedly dead. Surely, then, there should be some revision of our Constitution. Now I puropose to quote the opinion expressed by the honorable member for Angas, who, when he was AttorneyGeneral in the late Administration, drew up a memorandum entitled “ Memorandum relating to the Australian Industries Preservation Act and the Industrial Power, together with suggestions for the amendment of the Constitution in relation to trusts and industrial matters.” Clauses 7 and 8 of that memorandum reads -
The point is not the plenary character of the Federal power within its acknowledged sphere, but whether in the interests of the public that power should extend to legislation in respect of contracts or operations in restraint of trade, whether Inter-State and external or Intrastate, of corporations, or corporations and persons.
No State Acts in the matter exist, or, if passed, could effectively meet the necessities of the case. It is clear that all Acts, Commonwealth and State, while covering operations of persons or companies in different fields of jurisr- diction, should be similar in purport or terms. Otherwise, the lawfulness of operations would depend on locality, and similar facts might be made the basis of different charges under the State and the Commonwealth Acts respectively-
This would mean the application to the same Acts of conflicting views or standards of policy or morals.
It has been said by honorable members opposite that this Parliament has full power ito deal with corporations as we find them in Australia. But, according to the honor-
Able member for Angas, thirty out of thirtythree of these corporations conduct their operations exclusively within particular States, so that only those States have power to deal with them.
But the most important are Inter-State; and none (affecting more than one State) can be completely dealt with without the co-operation of the States or an amendment of the Constitution in the direction suggested. Besides, operations within the jurisdiction of one State (such as those of a purely manufacturing, corporation, or in respect of domestic trade) may affect the industrial activity of all; the equality of opportunity, material development, and consequent improvement in social conditions throughout Australia, which are, or should be, the final ends of uniform legislation, may not be realized to the desired extent owing to the play of activities within the State to which the Commonwealth po power does not extend. _ In some cases, the same combination monopolizes practically the whole of the State trade, and restrains, if it does not monopolize, the Inter-State trade, in respect of particular commodities or services.
For the life of me I cannot understand why the late Government should fly in- the face of the well-considered advice of their Attorney-General, who, we all recognise, lis a sound, constitutional lawyer, and who has d declared that it would be impossible for the Federation under the decision of the High Court to deal with thirty out of thirty-three cases which he examined. He further says that in many cases a monopoly exists within a State, and controls the output there, and that its influence extends to other States as well. The honorable member for Ballarat, the honorable member for Angas, and the honorable member for “Flinders have all declared in set terms that :it is essential that we should have some -amendment of the Constitution
– The honorable member -has dealt with only one power, namely, the power to control trusts.
– I am quite aware of that. We will consider others later. I am going to have the temerity to accept the- views of the honorable members I have quoted in regard to our Constitution in preference to those of Professor Bryce. They have emphatically declared that its amendment is absolutely essential. They are here with us, and know our difficulties; and the opinions of legal men of their standing cannot be ignored. At any rate, their present-day experiences and expressions are more valuable than Mr. Bryce’s opinion of years ago.
– Mr. Bryce does not say that its amendment is not advisable.
– I did not say that he did. But he has been quoted as having glorified our Constitution. I glory in those parts of it which allow our people full play for their energies and make for the development of Australia.
– The honorable member desires a unitary form of government.
– I am sorry if the honorable member did not hear me quote the emphatic expression of opinion by the honorable member for Flinders, who declared that we could not take any step towards an amendment of the Constitution without a scare-cry being raised that the Constitution was in danger. I do not regard our Constitution as a sacred document when it is opposed to the best interests of the people. If it were in the best interests of the people to do so, I would tear it into tatters to-morrow.
– Now the party opposite will say that the honorable member was in favour of tearing our Constitution to pieces.
– The man or woman who tears my declaration in that connexion from its proper context is welcome to all the votes that he or she can thus obtain, because they will be dishonestly obtained. I now desire to quote Senator Depew, who is generally recognised as one of the most eloquent of Americans. I have to admit that the conditions in Australia are not exactly the same as those in America. Here we have a strong lever against trusts and combines in the fact that the railways are the properties of the States. Unfortunately, however, while practically all the railways are public property, and, therefore, immune from undesirable influences, the sea-carriage, by which our produce is sent to the other side of the world, is absolutely under the control of trusts and combines. However, here is what Senator Depew y of -
There are ten men in the s, stop of New York who can, in twenty-four hours, stop every wheel on all the railways, close every factory, lock every switch on every telegraph line, shut down every coal mine and iron mine in the United States. What a travesty on the declaration that this is a Government of the people, for the people, and by the people, when ten men can make starving beggars of 80,000,000 people in twenty-four hours.
That is the declaration of a responsible man ; and, in the face of such expressions of opinion from America and other parts of the world, we should be extremely foolish if we did not take note of the warning. It will be remembered that Mr. Holman, the Attorney-General of New South Wales, made certain proposals before a Premiers’ Conference in Melbourne, to the effect that the States should hand over voluntarily certain powers to the Commonwealth, and that the State Governments should pass -legislation to that effect. The proposals of Mr. Holman, however, were amended almost out of recognition, and, in fact, as was said at the time, were emasculated. I may add that at that Conference, South Australia, owing to the State elections, was not represented, but the Premier of that State has since intimated that he is not prepared to accept even Mr. Holman’s . proposals as amended. The other Premiers have, under the circumstances, allowed the proposals to “ go by the board.’* Mr. Holman, after the Conference had practically concluded, said -
I want to express my very great regret that the Conference has not seen its way to go considerably further than it has done. The scheme as I have propounded it, as members must realize, was intended to meet the great public agitation for an extension of the Commonwealth powers, and as far as possible to end that agitation. I should like to take this final opportunity of pointing out that at the recent referendum, in spite of the immense drawback in the shape of proposed invasion of the autonomy of the State, half-a-million voters, in round numbers, voted for the referendum proposals. I am satisfied that if these proposals for extending the powers of the Federal Parliament had not been coupled with proposals for the invasion of the rights of the States the vast majority of the people would have voted for them. The fact that half-a-million people voted for those proposals as they stood is a most significant one.
Every one must realize that the fact is most significant. A vote of half-a-million electors in favour of the referenda proposals was, I think, magnificent, considering what would have resulted had the vote been successful. While not a recasting of the Constitution, it would have involved considerable alteration. I must admit that had I been an ordinary elector, I might have been inclined, myself, to pause; and it is, as has been said, significant that at short notice, and with comparatively little explanation, so many should have been found to vote in the affirmative. ‘ Mr. Holman continues -
I do not undervalue one or two of the resolutions that have been come to. I think that therecognition of -the need of the common rule is a very great advantage, and I am glad indeed that the Conference have seen their way toaccept that.
Some honorable members opposite are still’ adverse to the common rule, but it appears from Mr. Holman that Tasmania, New South Wales, Queeusland, and Victoria arcprepared to take a step in this direction -
I must candidly admit that the Bill as it now stands is of very little value as a contribution to settle ‘the differences between the States andthe Commonwealth. I must also say, speaking: for the Government of New South Wales, that the Bill will be most carefully and respectfully considered by the Cabinet of New South WalesBut I do not think, speaking for myself and my chief, that we can hold out very much hope of legislation being introduced in New South. Wales on these lines. Had a bolder measure been adopted I think we could have introduce* it in the New South Wales Parliament, and! that our example would have been followed by other States. As it is, I can only express myfear now that the change which we do not seeour way to initiate may be initiated in another quarter, and it ‘will probably be initiated in &- rougher form than suggested.
Mr. Holman, although he opposed the referenda on the last occasion, is of opinion that the State Premiers were taking considerable risks in not adopting the advances he proposed ; and he can see as far as most, men. The Premiers have refused their assistance, and an appeal is now going to be made to the people; and, without .being: unduly optimistic, I am satisfied that the greater proportion, if not all the proposed-, powers, Will be given. The people are be-‘ ginning to realize the great danger to which, the Commonwealth is exposed in the creation of trusts and combines ; and their sentiments, I think, may be well expressed’ in the words of the Queensland grazier, whosaid, “ Good Lord deliver us from theoperations of the American Beef Trust.”
Debate (on motion by Mr. Sampson)) adjourned.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of a message from His Excellency the GovernorGeneral recommending an appropriation for the purposes of this Bill.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of a message from His Excellency the GovernorGeneral recommending an appropriation for the purposes of this Bill.
Mr. ROBERTS laid upon the table the following papers: -
Defence Act - Regulations Amended (Provisional) - Universal Training - Statutory Rules 1912, No.219. Military Forces - Statutory Rules 1912, No. 218.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
I suggest to the Leader of the Opposition, and to honorable members generally, that it would be worth while considering the advisableness of fixing a day or time for the taking of a vote on the Constitution Amendment Bills. Of course, no one can foresee how many honorable members may address themselves to these measures; but I think we might fix some day next week on which honorable members could make it convenient to be present and take a vote.
.- I shall be happy to bring the suggestion under the notice of my colleagues. Although rather a novel proposal, it might meet the convenience of honorable members, without interfering with full and free discussion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 3.41 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 November 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1912/19121122_reps_4_68/>.