10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 3 p.m. and read prayers.
Transfer of Public Servants - Cost of Buildings - Selection of Homes
– A booklet has been issued to the Public Service concerning the transfer of public officers to Canberra. Yesterday the Prime Minister stated that the Government was appointing a committee to inquire into the alleged excessive cost of houses at Canberra, and that later a statement would be made with regard to the purchase of public officers’ homes in Melbourne. I ask the right honorable gentleman whether the Government will extend beyond the 30th June the date on whichpublic servants must make a decision in regard to their housing requirements at Canberra, in order that they may know all the facts when doing so?
– The honorable gentleman will recognize that it would not be fair for me to make any statement as to the action to be taken without consulting the Minister for Home and Territories, who has charge of the arrangements for the transfer of the Seat of Government to Canberra. If he will put his question on the notice-paper, I shall consider it with the Minister for Home and Territories.
– I point out to the Prime Minister that an examination of the facts connected with the erection of houses in Adelaide under the Thousand Homes scheme shows that these houses are to cost a little under £700 each, compared with which the cost of buildings at Canberra is very high. Does not the right honorable gentleman think it advisable to appoint some sound practical authority to make an investigation into this matter, seeing that the houses at the two places are being built under somewhat similar conditions, a large number being erected in each place at the same time ? Such an authority might be asked to report whether the buildings being erected at Canberra are not costing considerably more than they ought to cost.
– The honorable member’s suggestion will receive consideration. I remind him, however, that at Canberra a great amount of construction has had to be undertaken within a very short time, owing to the decision to transfer the Seat of Government to that place at an early date, and that the country was previously almost unoccupied. In any consideration of respective costs of construction, those facts should be borne in mind.
– I have a question to ask of the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, also concerning Canberra. A number of public servants, knowing that I visited Canberra during the week-end, have questioned me about certain localities at the Federal Capital, because they are required during this month to wait upon an officer and select a site for a residence there. I ask whether, in view of the ignorance of conditions at Canberra of many public servants, arrangements cannot be made whereby a few officers, representative of the different grades of the Service, can visit Canberra, so that they may advise their comrades concerning the different building areas there, and thus put them in a better position to make their choice?
– A committee of the Public Service is, with the approval of the Government, watching the interests of those who are to be transferred to Canberra. In addition, married officers of the Public Service have been given the right to travel to Canberra at half rates with their wives for the purpose of selecting blocks of land for themselves.
– Can the Treasurer inform the House of the position of affairs with respect to arrears of taxation on leaseholds? Is there still litigation in connexion with the matter?
– Some eighteen months ago a royal commission consisting of Mr. Warren Kerr and Mr. Duffy was appointed to make recommendations with regard to thebasis upon which valuations could be framed, so that the leasehold tax could be estimated. Those recommendations have been received, and as a result, in the great majority of cases, the assessments havebeen substantially reduced. The collection of the tax is proceeding; but there are certain cases in which Crown leaseholders have objected to the revised assessments, and those cases are coming before the court.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– Steps are being taken to procure the information desired by the honorable member, which will be furnished when available.
asked the Minister for Mar kets and Migration, upon notice -
Wheat, 25s. per ton.
Sugar, 37s. 6d. per ton.
Copra, 61s. 3d. per ton.
Tallow, 78s. 9d. per ton.
Frozen meat,d. per lb.?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Frozen beef,d. perlb.
Frozen mutton, ld. per lb.
Frozen lamb, ld. per lb.
Payment for Typists
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The original agreement of 1922 in respect of the period during which the Commonwealth maintained the station’s expenditure was extended from three to four years, and that four years expired on 28th March, 1926. The agreement, in other respects, concerning the interior service was amended by the Wireless Agreement Act No; 24 of 1924.
Educational Facilities for Children
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Whether it is the intention of the Department of Home and Territories to establish schools for the education of the children of married officers of the Department of Defence, who are expecting transfer to the mandated territory of New Guinea, atRabaul?
– Inquiries are being made as to whether the number of children now requiring education in Rabaul would justify the re-opening of the European primary school.
Papua: Exploration for Oil
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable members questions are as follow: -
Debate resumed from 14th June(vide page 3037), on motion by Mr. Bruce -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I do not think that I have ever known the political situation to be more confused than it is at present. For many years honorable members opposite were complaining that this Parliament has not supreme control of all matters affecting the Commonwealth as a whole, and yet they are now raising the strongest pos- sible abjections to proposals for legislation which should give effect to their wishes. On the other hand, many honorable members on this side of the chamber who have determinedly and effectively opposed the attempts to amend the Constitution are now supporting the bill. Are we to assume that the members of the Labour party, although in favour of the granting of extensivepowers to the Commonwealth, are afraid of offending the susceptibilities of the organizations with which they are associated? I cannot understand their attitude, and no more admire their inconsistency than I do that of honorable members on this side of the chamber. Indeed, I have begun to wonder if the Government really wishes its proposals for the amendment of the Constitution to be adopted. It certainly appears to me that its procedure has been devoid of tact. One can only assume that the Executive is displaying political inexperience in bringing down these proposals at this juncture. Does the Government imagine that they are likely to obtain the approval of the electors? If Ministers had acted wisely, they would have delayed the introduction of the States Grants Bill until the proposals for the alteration of the Constitution had been adopted. I desire to direct the attion of the Houseto the propaganda already started by one member of the Cabinet - I refer to an interview published in the Melbourne Herald on Saturday last - who says that those who object to the passage of the Trade and Commerce Bill are extremists. He declares that State rights are not being infringed, and then endeavours to develop an argument on the point. I think that the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) will find as the debate proceeds that the going will be hot and heavy, and that very strong arguments can be brought against the Government’s proposals.
– Is the honorable member referring to the bill now before the House?
– I am referring to the propaganda in connexion with the proposed amendments of the Constitution provided for in a measure which has already passed through this chamber, and also in connexion with this bill. The Attorney-General said that those who are complaining that the present Government is doing what other National Governments have never attempted to do, have not taken the trouble to inform themselves of the facts. The honorable gentleman is usually careful in what he says in this House; but he was not justified in making that statement. Honorable members have informed themselves, so far as is possible with the facts at their disposal, of the probable effect of the proposed amendments, and I say that they differ from those submitted in the past just as much as tweedledum differs from tweedledee. They differ, it is true, but they reach the same point. The measure which has already been passed through this chamber gives to the Commonwealth Government absolute control of all industry and commerce in Australia. When we take from the proper powers of the States we open the door to unification, which I do not believe, for a moment, one honorable member on this side of the chamber considers is in the interest of Australia. Last night the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) worked himself into a state of frenzy in delivering what was a great speech for the gallery. He referred to the trials and tribulations experienced by the workers 70 or 80 years ago, and claimed that the Labour party had been respon sible for the better conditions which now prevail. The honorable member must know that that statement is wholly incorrect, as there was no Labour party in the Parliaments which reformed those abuses. The franchise was too restricted.
– Then the honorable member admits that the workers were denied representation.
– Yes; the workers had not then a vote, although they are as much entitled to representation in Parliament as is any other section of the community. Every member of this chamber should consider the interests of the whole people, and not those of any section. The honorable member for Batman said that the improvement of industrial conditions in Great Britain and Australia had been brought about by the activities of the Labour party; but it was the great Liberal party that was responsible for that. The need for reform was great, but the change in the conditions of the working people was made almost before the Labour party was heard of.
– The honorable member should speak of something with which he is conversant.
– I am speaking, not of the Federal Parliament, but of the State Parliaments. There were one or two Labour members in the State Parliaments in later years.
– The statement of the honorable member for Swan is not correct.
– In the Western Australian Parliament there were only six Labour members when the Arbitration Court was established. When the Arbitration Act was passed in New South Wales, how many Labour members were in the Parliament?
– Twenty-nine, and Labour held the balance of power at that time.
– Liberal governments introduced most of the industrial and social legislation of Australia. I do not wish to detract from the work done by the Labour party, but it is absurd of honorable members opposite to claim that they are responsible for all the wonderful reforms by which the economic slavery of 80 years ago has been replaced by the thousandfold better conditions of to-day.
– The agitation of the workers 80 years ago against the yoke of intolerable conditions compelled the granting of reforms.
– I dispute the contention that the reforms brought about by Liberal governments in this Parliament were wholly due to the pressure of the Labour party. The honorable member for Batman argued last night that the employers should be compelled, under pain of severe penalty, to obey the awards of the Arbitration Court, but that the employees should be free to do as they chose.
– He did not say that.
– That was the only inference to be drawn from his speech. Has one honorable member opposite dared at any time to stand up and tell strikers that it was their duty to obey the award governing their industry?
– Wake up!
– There is an Arbitration Court in New South Wales. The coal-miners, however, preferred to come under the Federal Court, but they were not satisfied with it, and repeatedly disobeyed its awards. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) when Prime Minister introduced a special measure to provide for special tribunals to deal with disputes in the coal-mining industry. That legislation was approved by the miners’ representatives, and apparently by the employers also. And they have been working under the decisions of the tribunals for a long time. At the present time the mines are not being worked, and the whole continent is suffering in consequence.
– The miners are not on strike.
– Are the coal-miners to be bound by an award, or are they to be allowed to hold the country to ransom?
– There has not been any industrial trouble amongst the coalminers since the special tribunals were established.
– I remind the honorable member for Swan that the bill relates to essential services.
– I am just leading up to the subject of essential services. If the Arbitration Act were fully opera tive, and employers and employees were bound by an award, would there be any need for this bill?
– Yes, because the workers cannot get access to the court.
– If employers and employees abided by the awards, and there were no strikes or lockouts, would there be any need for the Commonwealth Parliament to seek power to deal with the stoppage of essential services?
– The industrial position is changing every year.
– The Arbitration Court exists for the adjustment of industrial conditions in accordance with the changing requirements of the times, and it is the duty of both employers and employees to refer their grievances to the court, and abide by its decision. The honorable member for Batman said last night that the miners were justified in refusing to work, and that no power on earth could compel them to work if they did not wish to do so. Are they to be allowed to hold the country to ransom by refusing to work, and using violence to prevent others from working?
– Does the honorable member believe in Japanese slavery?
– I do not believe in slavery at all. It is idle for the right honorable member for North Sydney say that the miners are not on strike.
– The engineers are on strike; does the honorable member blame the coal-miners for that?
– I am blaming existing legislation.
– For what does the honorable member blame the coal- miners ?
– I am not blaming them.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member has several times attempted to connect me with the existing industrial trouble by saying that I was responsbile for the introduction of certain legislation. I desire to point out that the legislation which I introduced provided special tribunals for the coalminers, and they are still at work.
– The honorable member is not stating a point of order, but is making a personal explanation.
He is not entitled to interrupt an honorable member’s speech to do that.
– I feel satisfied that the right honorable member is sorry that he introduced legislation which has brought about the conditions which exist to-day in some industries. If the awards of the Arbitration Court were obeyed there would be no need for the Commonwealth Parliament to have the powers which this bill seeks to confer upon it.
– If all laws were obeyed there would be no need for this Parliament.
– I am under the impression that it is our duty to make laws and enforce them.
– A police force is needed to enforce the law.
– As the States have police! forces, why does the Commonwealth require this additional power?
– The honorable member might as well talk about the ten commandments.
– My argument comes down to this ; it is absurd to have on the statute-book an arbitration law which one section of the community can defy at any time.
– Does the honorable member think that the fault is always with the workers?
– Certainly not. I have already referred to lockouts as well as strikes. A special tribunal is appointed to regulate the coal-mining industry. Certain persons employed in that industry refused to work under the award of that tribunal, and the result is that tens of thousands of people are thrown out of employment. The Western Australian shipping services are disorganized, and industry throughout the Commonwealth is paralyzed. What is the use of having an Arbitration Act on the statute-book, when a smallsection of workers can defy it and hold the community at their mercy?
– It is quite wrong; but what does the honorable member propose to do about it?
– Instead of asking fo’- these extra powers, we should remove from our statute-book an act that cannot be enforced, or set about amending it by providing drastic penalties for those who will not obey awards. They might, for instance^ be disfranchised. At any rate, there are various means of imposing penalties. I am somewhat tired of the way in which industry is held up from time to time. Not long ago, it was a case of “ Please, Mr. Walsh, do not do this “ ; or “Please,. Mr. Walsh, do not do that”and when Mr. Walsh a couple of years ago was fined £100, no effort was made to collect the fine from him. A similar state of affairs existed about eighteen months ago. It is not right that a Government should refrain from making the law operative against any section of the community, or against any individuals. I want to make my position clear in regard to the bill now before us. I should strongly support it if we had no Arbitration Act on our statute-book, and if it passes, and is submitted to a referendum, I shall advise the people to vote “Yes” upon it. Nevertheless, I claim that there is no need for the bill. In the first place the people gave the Government no mandate to introduce it. No one suggested a few months ago, when the elections were held, that an effort would be made to submit a referendum on such an important subject as this. Yet now we are being asked to spend approximately £100,000 in seeking the opinion of the people upon it. I see no justification for this huge expenditure, whilst at the same time the Commonwealth announces that it can no longer make the per capita payments to the States. I shall not record a vote on this bill, because if we had an Arbitration Court working effectively we should have no industrial trouble. Employers and employees in Great Britain are not bound by the awards of arbitration courts. They are free to go on strike, or to lockout without any breach of the law. In Australia, we have tried a new method of giving industrial peace to the country, and those employers or employees who commit breaches of industrial awards are supposed to be liable to penalties. Unfortunately, it has failed. Where are we going now? The introduction of this bill seems to indicate that the Government believes that the future will hold as many difficulties as the past. Consequently it is asking the people to repose in it the power to see that essential services -are maintained. It was necessary for the Government of Great Britain to see that essential services were, maintained during the recent general strike, and with no Arbitration Act on our statute-book, the Commonwealth Government would be obliged to do the same. But there is an Arbitration Act on our statute-book, and therefore there should be no need for the Commonwealth Government to seek this amendment.
– The honorable member does not expect the Arbitration Court to bring about an industrial millennium?
– No. But no industrial organization should be strong enough to defy the law. I have the greatest contempt for any one who is prepared to advocate the passing of a law and then declare that it is absolutely impossible to enforce it. Yet that is practically the attitude that honorable members assume in asking for these additional powers when we already have an Arbitration Act on our statute-book. They are certainly powers which, in other circumstances, the Government should have.
– This bill is intended to give the Government power to deal with those organizations that defy awards given by the Arbitration Court.
– No. The bill simply gives the Government power to see that essential services are carried on. It does not give it power to take action against those who prevent those services from being carried on. For one thing it provides for no penalties:
– It is true that the Arbitration Act provides for the enforcement of penalties, but this bill does not deal with that matter. Its purpose is to see that essential services are given to the people.
– That is just what I was saying. There are no punitive powers under this bill. It merely empowers the Government to see that essential services are carried on in case of a hold-up of industry. For example, during a hold-up of shipping, the Government may assume the responsibility of taking over certain ships and putting a crew on board, and in that way seeing that transport is maintained.
– The whole trouble is to get the men to go on board.
– The greatest responsibility of the Government is to protect those men afterwards. When they have manned the vessels and performed a national service they should not subsequently be thrown to the wolves as they have been so often in the past.
– Where are the 1917 strike-breakers to-day?
– Yes. Where are they? What has happened to the men in the New South Wales railways who remained on duty to carry on the essential services of the community? Their treatment has been disgraceful. When the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) was away at the front, and when others here were doing their best to see that the essential industries of the country were being carried on to help the boys at the front, there was a hold-up of industry. We saw recently what the Government of New South Wales did to those men who came to the assistance of the country at that period. But that is one of the difficulties encountered when politics are brought into a matter of that sort. I do not propose to vote for the bill, but I shall not vote against it.
– The honorable member is on a bridge.
– No. In the first place there was no mandate for this proposed amendment of the Constitution, and in the second place I see no necessity for it. I do not think the Prime Minister would have submitted this amendment to a referendum by itself. As a matter of fact, it is a part of and a corollary to the other bill, to which the electors are to be asked to give their consent. If it passes both Houses qf this Parliament and is submitted to a referendum, I shall strongly urge the people to vote “ yes “ upon it. I shall do so because I have no faith in the utility of the Arbitration Court. No matter what improvement may be made to our Arbitration Act, and no matter how strong a Government in power may be, it is wrong to interfere with economic laws by our legislation. It is absolutely impossible to get cohesion among workers and employers by means of Arbitration Court decisions. The very bringing of the parties before a judge, and the taking of sworn evidence in courts, tend to bring about more animosity than could be induced by any other system evolved. No matter how strong a Government may be,- no matter what amendments may be made to the
Arbitration Act, and no matter how determined we may be to maintain industrial peace, no power on earth can force the workers to accept employment under conditions of which they do not approve. I cannot agree to any employees having power to hold at ransom the essential services of this community.
– What about the profiteers and exploiters?
– I have said in this House, on more than one occasion recently, that I consider persons who act in restraint of trade and control’ huge monopolies are a greater danger to Australia than the worst bolsheviks, for they cause animosity against all employers, which is not justified. I want the strongest possible power to deal with them. I am sorry that the State parliaments have not taken more drastic action in regard to them, for they do a great deal to injure Australian conditions generally. I do not propose to vote on this bill-
– That is a party decision - the decision of the honorable member and myself.
– Yes; but if the question is submitted to the people, I shall urge them to vote affirmatively on it.
– The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) told us that he proposed to make his. position perfectly clear, and he concluded his speech by saying that he did not intend to vote on the bill, but that if the question were submitted to the people, he would urge them to vote “ yes “.to it.
– The only thing the honorable member made clear was his confusion.
– It is quite clear that he does not know where he stands. Possibly, in the committee stage of the bill, he will explain his position. I hope that I shall be able to define my position so that every honorable member will know my attitude. Some honorable members opposite, notably the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), have charged honorable members on this side of the chamber, who are opposing this bill, with inconsistency. They say that, as we voted in favour of the trade and commerce measure, we should vote in favour of this one.
– Honorable members opposite are even more inconsistent than honorable members over here.
– That is only a matter of degree.
– Personally, I can see distinct differences between the two proposals. By this bill a merely emergency power is sought to deal with a temporary crisis, but in the previous, bill, permanent power was being sought. Another difference between the two measures is that this one, unlike its predecessor, is designed for party political purposes. That is shown not only by the bill itself, but also by every speech that honorable members opposite have delivered upon it. I voted for the industry and commerce measure for the reason that it proposed that thi3 Parliament should be equipped with a large instalment of the power that this party has been seeking for it for the last sixteen or seventeen years.
– And yet it nearly broke the hearts of honorable members opposite to have to vote for it.
– The honorable member for Swan, and the honorable member for Wannon’ (Mr. Rodgers),- during the discussion on it, congratulated the Labour party on their prospect of gaining, by means of it, fourfifths of the power it had been seeking for this Parliament for many years. The honorable member for Swan was quite clear on that matter, if on no other. When I read this morning’s press reports of the interesting meeting that was held at Scott’s Hotel yesterday afternoon, I was convinced beyond any doubt that the attitude that honorable members of the Labour party had adopted on that bill was right. It was sufficient for me to find that Sir Arthur Robinson and Mr. Menzies, who are among the rankest conservatives in this country, were opposed to it.
– They are also opposed to this bill.
– I read the report of their speeches very carefully, and I do not remember a single condemnatory word on this bill. The space occupied in dealing with it was infinitesimal compared with that occupied by the adverse criticism of the trade and commerce bill. I noticed no criticism of this bill.
– They criticized it all right.
– Then it must have been very mild criticism. They were somewhat like the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), who said that, he would not vote on this measure. I suppose, however, that on reach; ing his electorate, he will find some excuse for advising his constituents to grant the power sought, because he can see in this measure something that will strike a blow at the great mass of the workers. That is the conclusion that I draw from his attitude. Many of the utterances of those who were assembled at Scott’s Hotel yesterday may be described as rather more than interesting; in fact, they were amusing. In support of my contention that honorable members on the Opposition side were right in voting for the first of these bills, I point out that one of the most conservative gentlemen present said, “ The voice is the voice of Bruce, but the hand is the hand of Charlton.” Therefore, we on this side can congratulate ourselves upon the fact that, after many years, we have made the logic pf our proposals felt to such an extent that a majority of honorable members opposite have “ seen the light.” They now admit that proposals to which they have objected for long years have something good in them.
– Did the honorable member notice Mr. Menzie’s extraordinary mistake in crediting Labour with advocating the delegation of the powers to a non-political body?
– I did, and that gentleman may be left to further probe that matter. I agree with the honorable member for Swan that a peculiar position has arisen. We may expect some interesting spectacles on the public platforms during the coming campaign. I shall not be surprised to see the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), Sir Arthur Robinson, and a few others, like Mr. Jock Garden, Mr. Tom Walsh, and M.r. Johnson on the one platform.
– Talk about a Scotch mixture !
– Yes, indeed. We shall not be surprised to see the honorable member for Swan falling on the neck of Mr. Jock Garden, and apologizing for the things he has said about him in the past. My opposition to the present bill is consistent with my attitude to the former measure. I look upon the powers sought under the previous bill as powers that Labour has long striven for ; but I regard the powers, sought under the present bill as entirely different, and purely for emergency purposes. I regret that the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) is not in the chamber at the moment. Last night, he was very definite in contradicting a statement by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) that “ the foundation of the Peace Officers Bill was the refusal of the Lang Government to allow one of its judges to sit on the Deportation Board.” The Prime Minister declared that he had never suggested that that was the reason for the introduction of that bill. He said, “ The honorable member may look up my speeches, but I tell him that I have not given that as a reason.” The Prime Minister was emphatic on the matter. I interjected at the time that he must have been misreported in the newspapers, because I had a distinct recollection of having read a statement by him to that effect in the press, and in Hansard. I give the Prime Minister credit for having some degree of respect for his own statements, and it remains for him to tell the House why he endeavoured to mislead us. In Hansard of the 28th August, 1925, I find, at page 1876, that the Prims Minister, in speaking on the Peace Officers Bill, and referring to the New South Wales Premier, said -
The Governor-General .has issued a proclamation stating that there exists in Australia a serious industrial disturbance prejudicing or threatening the peace, order, or good government of the Commonwealth. The act requires that following upon the issue of such a proclamation a board -shall he created.
One honorable member raised a point of order, and the then Speaker, the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) stated that the Prime Minister was advancing reasons in support of the bill. The Prime Minister continuing, said -
The Commonwealth Government asked the New South Wales Government whether it would have any objection to our approaching the Chief Justice of New .South Wales to ask him to allow one of the Supreme Court judges of the State to act upon the tribunal.
The assertion by the Prime Minister last evening was definitely opposed to the statement that I have quoted. Then followed Mr. Lang’s reply, and the -Prime Minister continued -
It might have been proposed to constitute this tribunal to deal with the most undesirable person who had ever entered Australia. Yet the reply given was that, irrespective of what the Commonwealth Government might contemplate, and even if the- person who might be deported was a most undesirable person to retain in Australia, the Government of New South Wales would render the Commonwealth Government no assistance in carrying out the Commonwealth law. I remind the House that the New South Wales Government had been asked only to permit the Chief Justice of the State to be approached.
This all had a distinct reference to the Peace Officers Bill.
– And had nothing to do with the present bill.
– But it had. At page 1879, the Prime Minister stated -
Hie appointment of <a tribunal is necessary; yet Mr. Lang is. not prepared to allow the Commonwealth Government even to approach a Supreme Court judge of New South Wales in the matter.
– Have you not your own judges? Cannot you trust them? Or are the High Court judges not low enough to do the job?
That was a characteristic interjection by the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley). Yet, in reply to the honorable member for Yarra last evening, the Prime Minister invited him to look up his speeches, and assured him that it would be found that he had not even suggested that the reason for the introduction of the Peace Officers Bill was the refusal of the New South “Wales Government to allow one of its judges to sit on the Deportation Board. The quotations that I have made from Hansard show that that refusal of the New South Wales Government was the very foundation of that measure; and, in fairness to the honorable member for Yarra, I have taken the liberty to submit these quotations in proof of his contention. I do not think that I could give a more forcible reason for opposing the present bill than that it is entirely different from the preceding one. In one instance, it is proposed to alter the Constitution to give the Commonwealth the power at any time to take necessary action, whereas, in the other, the power is to be used only in cases of emergency.
– The Constitution contains a number of powers - some of them beneficial - which can only be exercised in emergencies.
– If the amendments proposed by the Labour party in 1913 in relation to trade and commerce had been accepted, there would now be power to deal with any dispute that might arise.
– The Government, in this case, want power to police a law which they have not the power to pass.
– Exactly. The Government now wants the power to make a temporary law; whereas, if the proposals submitted by the Labour party in 1913 had been accepted, the power now sought would have been embodied in the Constitution for all time.
– The inconsistency is all on the other side.
– What power under the trade and commerce provisions would be sufficient for these circumstances?
– If it bc possible to charge honorable members on this side with inconsistency, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) surely has displayed greater inconsistency. He was very definite regarding the other referendum proposals. He voted against that bill; but he is not prepared to vote either for or against this one.
– Can the honorable member tell us why the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) is going to advise the people to vote “ Yes “ for this bill, when he himself will not do so?
– No. The honorable member for ‘Swan did not give us his reason. I only know that he said that he would make his position clear; but in that respect he disappointed’ me. I must await his future utterances before I can hope to understand his attitude. In the meanwhile, I leave him to his constituents. From some of the speeches which have been made it is clear that the power now sought is desired for one purpose only. The honorable member for Warringah (Sir Granville Ryrie) was very definite. He wants the Government to have this power so that it can be used against the working classes of the community. He waxed eloquent regarding the suggestion of the Leader of the
Opposition that the military might be called out to quell disturbances.
– The Leader of the Opposition went over that statement eight times during the course of his speech.
– The honorable member for Warringah went over it only once.
– But he went over it like a steam roller.
– Yes. Although the honorable member referred to the matter only once, he spoke with greater vehemence than did the Leader of the Opposition in his eight references. The honorable member for Warringah was indignant at the suggestion that the Government, or the party to which he belongs, would so much as think of calling up the military. I remind him that not many years have passed since the then Leader of the Opposition in this House - the leader of an anti-Labour party - moved a vote of censure on the Fisher Government because it refused to send a military force to Brisbane to smash a strike of tramway men who were endeavouring to preserve their rights.
– I did not advocate anything of the kind.
– That was only because the honorable member was not then here.
– I am speaking of the party rather than of the individual. The motion of censure to which I referred was moved because the Labour Government then in office refused to accede to the request of the anti-Labour Government of Queensland to send a military force to Brisbane to quell the tramway men. In the light of that experience, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) was justified in expressing his fear that this power, if granted, would be exercised in the direction of using the military against the workers. The honorable member for Warringah need not have been so indignant. While he was speaking, one could imagine him, with his sword unsheathed, calling on those under his command to “ Give it to these fellows in the neck.”
– While he himself remained in the rear.
– I do not say that; but I can imagine after listening to him that the honorable member would give his order so emphatically that there could be no mistake at its meaning.
– In a fight of that nature, many of his old comrades would be against him.
– Notwithstanding that a night has passed since the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) spoke on this bill, I cannot help thinking of his remarks. In a characteristic speech, he endeavoured to belittle the workmen of Australia. He said that in the United States of America there would be no need for legislation of this kind. From his remarks one would think that Australia was the only country in the world in which there was any dissatisfaction among the workers. I remind him that the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) repeated a few days ago what we on this side have often said, namely, that there is less industrial turmoil in Australia than in most other countries:
– I shall speak much more emphatically in connexion with the next bill.
– While the honorable member for Wakefield may not accept the statements of honorable members on this side, he will, I think, accept the word of the Prime Minister, whom he has slavishly followed lately. A most emphatic statement was made in this chamber by the present Prime Minister after his return from a visit to England and other European countries. Speaking in connexion with the Industrial Peace Bill in 1920, the right honorable gentleman is reported in Hansard, page 3329, to have said -
The problem of industrial unrest is worldwide. Any one’ who has been out of Australia recently knows that our industrial problems and troubles are small in comparison with those of nearly every other part of the world.
– I did not agree with the right honorable gentleman then, and I do not now.
– The right honorable gentleman made these statements as the result of his visit to other countries. He went on to say -
Early last year I visited Great Britain, the United States of America, France and
Canada. On my return I was surprised by what I heard said on public platforms, -
He may have been thinking of some of the speeches of the honorable member for Wakefield- and in private conversation, and by what I read in the press, concerning the conditions in Australia. The impression was abroad that this country was a seething cauldron of unrest, and that it might be better to seek some peaceful land where industrial conditions were more stable. There never was a more absurd impression. We have our industrial troubles; but, as I have said, compared with those of other countries they are small.
– He was referring not to the United States of America but to the older countries, in which the conditions were as bad as they could be.
– Canada, the United States of America, France and England came within the scope of his remarks, which constitute a most effective answer to the comparison that was made by the honorable member for Wakefield, between the conditions in Australia and those in the United States of America. I regret that some honorable members of this House will persist in decrying and belittling the Australian workman and everything that is done in Australia. I have heard only one reason given by the Prime Minister for this legislation, and it to a great extent gave away his case. He referred solely to the coal dispute, and that was an indication that if he possessed the powers which are sought under the bill he would use them against the men who are engaged in the coal- mining industry. Intervention by the Prime Minister, not along party lines, but along the lines of peace, would settle the great bulk of the disputes that occur in Australia. The man, who is at the head of the Government of Australia would follow his legitimate functions, if he took steps to induce the parties to any dispute to discuss their troubles at a round-table conference. When the dispute occurred in connexion with our coastal shipping the Prime Minister deliberately declined to intervene. It was left to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) and Mr. Lang to secure the attendance of Admiral Clarkson at a round-table conference, and whilst the Prime Minister was telling an interested meeting that it was going to be a fight to a finish, and that they should take off the gloves, the dispute was settled.
– Is the honorable member in favour of conciliation tribunals ?
– Certainly I am. If the Prime Minister, as the head of the Government of Australia, would step into the breach and use the conciliatory methods which were used on that occasion by the Leader of the Opposition and Mr. Lang, there would be very little necessity for the emergency powers that this bill seeks to confer upon the Government, and that will be used against only one section of the community.
– In what way was the coastal shipping dispute settled?
– The Deputy Chairman of the Australian Commonwealth Shipping Board, Admiral Clarkson, was induced to attend a roundtable conference. It will be re-called that he took the action against the wishes of the Prime Minister. The dispute was settled by conciliatory methods, and there has not since been a recurrence of the trouble.
– What were the conditions of settlement?
– The principal consideration is that the dispute was settled peaceably, and to the satisfaction of both sides.
– Do not forget that Mr. Hibble has not yet been able to settle the engine-drivers’ strike.
– The Prime Minister might have settled that dispute if he had intervened when I asked him to do so.
– He did not intervene. I have quoted one case to show the results of peaceful intervention. Eight times out of ten such a course has the desired effect, but instead of intervening the right honorable gentleman stands aloof. He adopted that attitude towards the British seamen’s dispute. The Leader of the Opposition asked him to arrange a conference, but he turned the suggestion aside so that he might make political capital out of the trouble and placate the people who provided the Government with political funds. The bill and the speeches that have been made upon it by honorable members opposite contain only the one suggestion: that is, that these powers are desired by the Government in order that they may be used to strike a blow at the great mass of the workers whenever they have the manliness to object to conditions which they do not wish to have imposed upon them. For that reason, I strenuously oppose the measure.
. -Several speakers have argued that the Government did not. receive a mandate to seek the powers which, under this measure, it proposes to ask the people to confer upon the Commonwealth. I differ from those honorable members. If the recent elections were fought upon any particular issue, it was upon the necessity for an amendment of the Constitution in the manner that is now proposed. “ Law and order “ was the cry that rang throughout the Commonwealth prior to the last elections, and this Government was returned to power for the purpose of restoring and maintaining law and order. So that it may be maintained, it is necessary for the Constitution to be amended in the way that is now suggested. I cannot understand the contention that we on this side are not proposing to act in the best interests of the workers. There are two classes of workers. One engages in strikes, and the other continues at work. If this power is granted to the Commonwealth the Government will be able to look after the real workers, despite the opposition of the shirkers. Although we may sympathize to a certain extent with strikers and their families, and admit that their grievances may be such as to compel them to go on strike, at the same time we must realize that when a vital industry is upset the great mass of the workers, and not the strikers alone, suffer. The coal industry in New ‘South Wales has been brought to a stand-still by a few engineers, with whom even the coalminers appear to be out of sympathy ; but the coal-miners, because they belong to the union, have to join in a strike that concerns only a section of the employees in the industry.
– The coal-miners have not gone out on strike.
– They will not return to work if what they term “ scab “ labour is employed in place of the engineers who are on strike. That is equivalent to striking.
– That position has not arisen.
– I have heard of the coal-miners intimating that they would not go back to work if “ scab “ labour was employed. The effect of the dispute is felt by the workers in Victoria, and even as far away as Western Australia. ‘ This Parliament should have the power to intervene, not to combat the strikers, but rather to assist that section of the community which is not shirking, but working. When the federation was formed 25 years years ago, certain powers were given to the Commonwealth. One of the most necessary powers, if we are to be one people with one destiny, is the power we are now discussing The Liberal Government which was in power in New South Wales during the railway strike in thatState, in 1917, showed that it had some backbone, and it tried to carry out the power which it is now proposed to confer upon the Commonwealth. It appealed to the men who were still at work, and to the farmers, for assistance in carrying on services, which at that time were essential, not only for the State and the Commonwealth, but also for the boys who were fighting overseas. There was a prompt response, and farmers and working men went from all parts of the State to Newcastle and Sydney to carry on the essential services. Later, a Labour Government came into power in that State, and a few weeks ago we had the pitiful spectacle of those who remained loyal to the State being penalized for doing so, while those who went out on strike were rewarded by having their former positions restored to them. The first essential service that is being visibly affected by the coal strike in New South Wales is the gas industry, and, because of that, a board appointed by the Government is restricting the use of that necessary commodity. Workers outside the coal industry are suffering, but they are all equally greedy to get as much as possible of the commodity that is declared “ black.” Those who are not on strike are using gas, and are travelling on the trains and trams. If they are heart and soul in the movement, why do they not refrain from travelling on the trams and trains, and using gas ? It is impossible to have an effective strike of that kind because, when one section of the community strikes, it strikes against the rest of the people. Therefore, it is this Government’s duty to see that essential services are carried on.
For these reasons I have pleasure in supporting the hill. I listened with pleasure, up- to a certain point, to the analytical remarks of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), who waded into shallow waters, however, when he spoke of what the Labour party had done for the workers. He drew a pitiful picture of the position of the workers in this country and Great Britain 60 or 80 years ago. Honorable members on both, sides of the House will probably agree that his statement of the conditions then existing was correct, but when he tried to arrogate to himself and his party all the credit for the improved state of affairs to-day, he became untruthful. In any case, this Parliament is not the place in which to make that kind of speech; it. carries no weight here. It might be effective iri the constituency represented by the honorable member, and might appeal to persons who do not investigate the truth of what they hear. But in. this Parliament his statement cannot be allowed to pass uncontradicted. The great advances made by the working classes were brought about by the parties on this side of the House, which existed long before the Labour party. Even the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) must agree that a reform precedent to most other reforms was the granting of one man one vote, which was introduced into this country long before the Labour party was known.
– I said that this party pioneered reforms, and that honorable members opposite, sixteen years afterwards claimed credit for them. They are doing so in the proposed amendment of the Constitution, for which the first of these bills provides.
– I do not agree that the Labour party fathered those proposals. Proposals of the kind have been mooted for a long time, and I have had the pleasure of voting for a proposal similar to that parried last week. I classed myself then as a member of the Liberal party. I do not agree that the proposal originated with the Labour party, for it has had much support outside the ranks of that party in all the States. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) spoke of a resolution carried by an almost unanimous vote at a meeting at Scott’s Hotel. The honorable member should bear in mind that that meeting was just as unanimous on the proposal carried last week as on that which we are now discussing, and that the same vote covered the two. Therefore, his argument against the Government could be used with equal effect against the Opposition. I regret that on this occasion, when I break the ice in the parliamentary field, my speech should be on a subject that has been made a party question. I am surprised that it is regarded as a party question. I was partial to the amendment moved by the honorable the Leader of the Opposition last week, but the issue was confused, and even members of the Labour party were not unanimous on it. On this occasion the attitude of the Opposition has been determined bv the crack of the whip by Mr. Lang and others in New South Wales.
– That is absolute nonsense !
– I hold that opinion, even though the honorable member may consider it to be nonsensical. As - a result of the whip being cracked in New South Wales, and the news being broadcast that certain honorable members are likely to be expelled from the Labour party, the Labour party has decided to be unanimous in its opposition on -this occasion.
.- I listened with interest, but not with pleasure, to the remarks of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Perkins), since certain of his statements were palpably unfair and incorrect, and detracted greatly from his address. The honorable member’s speech is in keeping with those delivered from the Government benches generally, and conclusively proves our statement that the bill is directed solely against the workers of Australia. The honorable member referred to the 1917 strike. God forbid that we should have a repetition of the reactionary legislation and administration that was put into force by the Fuller Government- during that dispute. I strongly oppose the bill, because, if this proposal is carried, we shall no doubt have a recurrence of that reactionary administration. During the 1917 strike, the Fuller Government suspended laws relating to mining and also to navigation so far as intra-state trade was concerned, and at the same time suspended provisions for the use of proper appliances to safeguard human life. I cannot understand the honorable member for Eden-Monaro referring to that abuse of power as a justification for this proposal. He suggested that the Government has a mandate from the people to submit the bill to Parliament. Evidently he regards the decision of the people at the last election as virtually giving a blank cheque to the Government. As a matter of fact that election was fought under panic conditions. The Government misled the people, and by the expenditure of many thousands of pounds was able to work up a state of public hysteria and to camouflage the real issue of the election in order to secure a majority vote. As the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) has stated, in the comprehensive proposals submitted to the people at the last election, there was no suggestion that legislation of this character would be introduced, and there was certainly no mandate for proposing such a drastic alteration of the Constitution. I opposed the bill passed last week, and strongly criticized it. In my second-reading speech, I urged that the whole question of constitutional alteration should be deferred until the “promised constitutional convention was held at Canberra next year. That bill, which has a distinct relation to this, was more or less a thing of shreds and patches. It sought power from the people to enable this Parliament to legislate on industrial matters such as wages and conditions of employment, but under it the Government would not agree to seek an extension of the trade and commerce power to enable this Parliament to exercise proper control over the activities of profiteers and exploiters of the community. During the war the absence of such a power gravely crippled the Commonwealth, and that has directly contributed to the economic difficulties existing in Australia to-day. The great objection to the bill is that if, given effect to; it will directly affect the workers of Australia, and, at the same time, permit the profiteers and exploiters to continue’ their activities. They are to escape Federal jurisdiction, which alone would enable trade, and commerce, with all its ramifications, to. be effectively controlled. Industrial matters have, in the past, been effectively dealt with by the States concerned*, but it has been shown that, under existing conditions, we cannot effectively legislate with regard to exploitation and profiteering, and, because of the absence of an attempt on the part of the Government to seek that power, the people can come to no other conclusion than that the bill will operate against the interests of the working classes. The inconsistency of this proposal must meet with severe criticism. The Prime Minister’s speech has only to be read to ascertain that the Government seeks to smash strikes by any and every means. It is prepared to ask for the fullest measure of direct legislative power for the purpose of destroying Australian trade unionism; but it refuses to seek direct legislative power for the settlement of industrial disputes. The people will not understand the inconsistency of the Government’s attitude. The manner in which the proposed alteration of the Constitution has been approached by the Government, and the way in which its proposals have, been framed and submitted to this House, have, undoubtedly, contributed to the hostility with which they have been greeted by the people. These proposals will most likely be defeated,, because they are incomplete and improperly drafted. Under the bill passed last week, the Government seeks to withdraw direct legislative power from State governments in regard to indus,trial matters, and to vest it in central Commonwealth authorities. Four States controlled by the Commonwealth Government could, under those circumstances, flout the will of two States, the State governments of which had been given a mandate by the people to give effect to a certain industrial policy. If both proposals were carried, a Commonwealth government hostile to those governments could thwart the will of the electors of two States. Such a position would be intolerable and absurd. At the present time we have State Parliaments with plenary power to legislate on industrial matters. We have a Federal Parliament whose industrial jurisdiction is limited. The Government does not now propose to give unlimited industrial- jurisdiction to the Commonwealth Parliament, but merely that it should legislate industrially through’ subordinate authorities.
– Which authorities would have unlimited industrial jurisdiction.
– I am coming to that. I am contrasting the two measures for the amendment of the Constitution in order to show how illogical is the attitude taken up by the Government. If the proposals contained in the Constitution Alteration (Industry and Commerce) Bill are accepted by the people, the Federal Government will have power to withdraw the direct industrial legislative power from the States completely, but it will not be vested in this Parliament.
– It will not be able to take the legislative power from the States, but there will, nevertheless, be two authorities invested with complete industrial power.
– Under the first referendum proposal the Commonwealth Government will have the power, if it thinks fit, to introduce legislation to take over completely arbitration, conciliation, and the determination of allindustrial matters in Australia.
– But not exclusively.
– It can nullify the effect of any concurrent legislation passed by the States.
– It cannot take away the right of the States to go on legislating upon industrial matters.
– But if that legislation can be subsequently nullified as a result of Commonwealth legislation, of what use will it be?
– The Attorney-General says otherwise.
– I do not profess to be a lawyer, but it is quite clear that, under section109 of the Constitution, where this Parliament legislates within its prescribed powers, any State legislation in conflict with Commonwealth legislation is to the extent of the conflict null and void. In the circumstances I cannot understand how the Attorney-General can argue that State tribunals will continue to operate unless this Parliament permits them to do so by vesting in State tribunals its authority.
– It is the old fiction in relation to concurrent powers.
– In the light of recent High Court decisions, it is a pure fiction, as the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) reminds us. We may vest State tribunals with Federal authority, and we may take it away from them, and nullify in every respect any industrial authority exercised by State tribunals. In the bill now under consideration the Government asks for plenary powers to interfere in and repress industrial disputes in regard to essential services when they arise, but it does not ask that this Parliament should have plenary powers to legislate in regard to the other industrial matters contained in the first bill. Whatever may be the opinion held with regard to the merits of the first of these bills, it is my opinion that the introduction of the measure now under consideration will damn the proposals contained in both when they are submitted to the people by referendum. The effect of the first of these bills is to give the right to this Parliament only through authorities to determine industrial conditions, but the effect of the amendment of the constitution proposed by the bill now under consideration is to vest in the Commonwealth Government a direct power which might be exercised in defiance of the popular will. The exercise of this power would not in any way be based upon policy speeches or party programmes. What I mean by that is that if the constitutional amendment proposed by this bill is carried the Commonwealth Government for the purpose of “protecting the public in the case of the actual or probable interruption of any essential service,” will be able to exercise what will be a permanent power and not an emergency power. It will be a power embedded in the Constitution, and may be utilized at any time and in any circumstances.
– Not in any circumstances.
– It may be exercised in connexion with a matter which would not be an issue, in the ordinary sense, of any Federal election. Ordinary industrial questions of hours, wages, and conditions may, and often do, arise when policy speeches are delivered prior to elections. But the question of the rightful or wrongful exercise of the essential services power dealt with in this bill might arise at any time. Once this provision is embedded in the
Constitution the effect of it will be that the Government, the parliamentary Executive, will have a very dangerous power which it may use in a moment of hysteria, and the use of which is calculated to bring about chaos. If this power is conceded by the people in the form in which it is proposed to submit the matter to them, the Government can bring down at any time emergency legislation of a far-reaching character. It can introduce a bill laying down what are essential services, and vesting in the Executive the power, at any time it considers there is an actual or probable interruption of any essential service, to issue a proclamation setting out that such a condition of affairs has arisen, and then, by virtue of an act passed under this power, it will be able to do anything that its sweet will dictates.
– Suppose the Government of Victoria had a dispute with the employees of the State Coal Mine, does the honorable member assume that this power would enable the Commonwealth Government to intervene and take charge of that dispute?
– I certainly say that it could do so if this proposed amendment of the Constitution is carried. I may be wrong, and I speak with deference to constitutional lawyers, but I challenge the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) to address his question later on to the Attorney-General. I contend that if this power is conceded by the people the Commonwealth Government, for the purpose of “ protecting the interests of the people in the case of an actual or probable interruption of any service” in connexion with any industry whatsoever, will have power to intervene. It will have power to take over the running of State railways and defy the State authorities altogether. It will be able to say to a State Government. “ We have this power under the Constitution, and we are going to exercise it ; “ and the State Government will have no power to challenge its authority. This bill goes to the very root of things, and is certainly the more important of the two constitutional measures, because it proposes an absolutely fundamental change in the Constitution. It will give an immense power, not so much to the Federal Parliament as to the Federal Government, because if this poweris granted the Federal Government may be trusted not to allow a situation to develop where legislation will be necessary to deal with any position arising. If this power is granted, the legislation based upon it will be forthwith passed, and be such that the Executive will have authority to act if circumstances arise which it thinks warrant action. It will be able to absolutely override every State authority, and reduce the States to a condition of absolute servility.
– It would have to take action by bills introduced into this Parliament.
– Its action would, admittedly, be discussed by this Parliament after the damage had been done. Honorable members opposite assert their dread of unification. This bill is a very big step in the direction of unification, but, in my opinion, in a wrong direction. This Parliament has no right to usurp a vague and nebulous power of this description. Before the bill passes the second reading, we would be wise if we determined that its purpose should be couched in much more explicit phraseology. This power is asked “ to protect the interests of the public in cases of actual or probable interruption of any essential services.” It has been argued that the High Court will interpret the meaning of these words. I put it to the AttorneyGeneral that, if this power is granted by the people, we can pass an act to define what are essential services, and can set out what steps should be taken to protect the interests of the public, and the government, in the name of protecting the interests of the public, may do anything. I assume that, under this power, the Government will be able, under certain conditions, to jail men, to deport them, to suspend the Habeas Corpus Act, or do almost anything else it pleases. It will be able to say it did all these things to ‘ “ protect the interests of the public.” It might, for instance, assume continuous control of a State railway system, of a shipping line, or a State department, or even take control of the government of a State, if, in its opinion, the State government interfered with the interests of the public by the interruption of any essential service.
– The British Government possesses very extensive powers.
– I shall deal with the point raised by the honorable member in a minute. Assuming that the Government did any or all of these things, some one might apply to the High Court, after the damage was done, for an injunction to restrain the Federal Government in taking the action which it had already taken. Then it would be a question for argument before the High Court. Where are we to drift to? The fact of the matter is that the whole Constitution requires revision. We need to revise the powers of the judiciary; the tenure of office of Arbitration Court and other judges should be controlled and determined by this Parliament. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) reminded me of the plenary powers possessed by the British Parliament, but that has already been discussed. The Government might have approached the matter from a different stand-point, and might have proposed to ask the people for a comprehensive power over all things, including the creation of new States, about which the honorable member for New England is so much concerned.
– Does the honorable member contend that this proposal would give the Government those comprehensive powers ?
– No; my objection is that the Government refuses to seek comprehensive powers except in relation to an actual or probable interruption of any essential service, and that is why I say that this proposal is directed against the trade union movement in Australia. Under this power the Government would be able to do almost anything so long as it was in a position to say to the High Court, if its action were challenged, that its action was taken to protect the interests of the public.
– The honorable member assumes that the trade unions are above the government.
– I have not suggested that. I have suggested that this legislation, and, in fact, the whole of the legislation introduced by’ the present Government during the last three years, indicates its class bias. I am not prepared to trust the Government. I say that we should approach the amendment of the Constitution in a general way. This attempt to gain industrial power is aimed against unionism. The Government is not seeking power to deal with profiteers and exploiters. They are not to be interfered with in any way. That is the burden of my complaint. My suggestion is that the Government should put their question to the people in this form -
Are you in favour of giving the Government power to smash strikes? Are you prepared to enslave yourselves as industrial conscripts to the Bruce-Page Nationalist Government?
That would put the purpose of the Government clearly and succinctly, and the people would be able to realize the nature of the power which they were asked to give the Government. It would be a dreadful state of affairs if the people were misled and stampeded into carrying the proposal now before us. If it were carried, the Government could claim a full mandate for the most reactionary measures. As I stated earlier, by carrying it, the people would give the Government a blank cheque. Their acceptance of this proposal would represent the endorsement by the people of the Crimes Act passed earlier this year, and would give the Government carte blanche to go ahead in their “rake’s progress” towards industrial chaos. If the Government is really anxious that the Constitution should be amended in the direction suggested, the consideration of these proposals should be postponed for another year. Submitting them now, which is undoubtedly inviting defeat, will cost the Commonwealth £100,000, that could be better spent in assisting our primary industries, in relieving unemployment, and in the economic development of Australia. The Government is rushing the bill through because the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) is shortly leaving Australia to attend the forthcoming Imperial Conference. If it were not for that, three or four months could be devoted to a discussion of the whole constitutional position. The manner in which the Government’s constitutional proposals are being considered is not’ contributing towards equanimity in the public mind. The right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) said that the tactics of the Government savoured of callow politics, but in my opinion its action in this respect goes even further. The political inexperience which it has displayed has been very caustically criticized by certain of its
Victorian supporters. Even experienced Parliamentarians in this House, some of whom have held executive positions in past administrations, have stated privately, and others by implication have suggested, that they are opposed to the manner in which these measures are being rushed through Parliament. Anyone would think this was a measure of no significance whatever, having regard to the way in which it is being rushed through, but it strikes at the fundamentals of the Constitution, and against its passage I emphatically protest. The Government will provide unlimited time in which to discuss measures of little consequence, but when an extension of the Commonwealth’s constitutional powers is involved, it wishes to rush pell-mell to the people. Its action in this respect savours of putting political beggars on horseback and allowing them to ride to destruction. There is no urgency in connexion with this measure, unless it be, perhaps, that its introduction is part of an arrangement entered into with that wealthy coterie which finances the Nationalist party at election times. “Word has gone forth from the moneyed interests that a measure such as this must be immediately introduced, and this is the result. By the submission of the proposal in this hurried way, the Parliament and the people are deprived of the right to give it the consideration it should receive. If the consideration of these constitutional proposals is not delayed until the Prime Minister’s return from abroad, the Government will raise a hornet’s nest about its ears, and will emerge from the contest severely stung. How can we expect proposals of such importance to Australia to be regarded with equanimity by those who have the Crimes Act still in their memory, and who justifiably believe that this is a rich man’s Government. The electors had had an opportunity of seeing for themselves that much of the legislation passed by the present administration has been for the purpose of relieving wealthy taxpayers of their obligations, and for giving it the right to dispose of Government instrumentalities which were operating in the interests of the people, such as the woollen mills. The legislation passed by this Government has been designed to serve the interests of the wealthy, who have in no small measure contributed towards its political success. The public mind is hopelessly confused at the inconsistency displayed by the Government in introducing this measure, and also that passed last week. Many people will naturally say that if the Government cannot be trusted with the powers sought under this bill, it cannot be trusted with those which it seeks to obtain under the other measure. That is the position with which we are confronted, and we have to face the facts. The Government i3 deliberately creating an atmosphere of suspicion, which will lead to the complete defeat of both these proposals, and will put back the possibility of amending the Constitution for perhaps another ten or twenty years, and will involve the country in an unnecessary expenditure of £100,000. Some may regard its action as courageous, but to me it savours of courage not tempered by discretion. It is the courage of the bull that contests the way of an express train. Proposals submitted in this hurried way prevent their consideration in a dispassionate and impartial manner, and must lead to their eventual defeat. I intend to fight most strenuously and bitterly against this power contained in this bill to protect the public interest in the case of actual or probable interruption of any essential service. I shall oppose the bill, not only because it is directed against the workers of Australia, but because of its vagueness - because we do not know what power we are going to vest in the executive of the Commonwealth.
– The honorable membe ought to favour that. It ought to suit him.
– I would feel more disposed to support the bill if the powers sought under it were as comprehensive as I have already stated. ‘ The proposed amendment of the Constitution in this instance is directed against only one section of the community. If the power sought by the Commonwealth was to be used against exploiters and profiteers it would certainly meet with more approval from those who are now opposing it. The Government would be well advised to drop the whole sorry business until a constitutional session of Parliament can be held. It should heed the public protests uttered, and should conserve the Consolidated Revenue, by declining to expend money in submitting proposals in an atmosphere charged with suspicion and distrust. The manner in which the increased powers have been sought, and the undue haste with which the people are asked to consider the proposals will, I feel sure, result in their defeat.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. Yesterday, the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) said that I had made a bitter attack upon him. I wish to say that I had no such intention. On the occasion to which the honorable member referred I was defending myself against a continuous barrage of interruption and vituperation hurled against me when endeavouring to make a few mild remarks concerning the measure before the House. It is true that a few pleasantries and compliments were indulged in’, but I distinctly heard two honorable members opposite charge me with being one of those who would wilfully shoot or thrust a bayonet into certain persons. I certainly did utter some uncomplimentary remark concerning the honorable member for Batman, which at the time seemed of no consequence, but which, in cold print, does not look very nice. I would not seriously apply such an expression to the honorable member for Batman - or, indeed, to any other honorable member - because, although we differ politically, I recognize his ability. I regret the incident, and I ask the honorable member to accept my apology in the spirit in which it is tendered.
– I also wish to make a personal explanation. I appreciate very much the words just uttered by the honorable member for Warringah (Sir Granville Ryrie). It is true that, at the time the incident occurred, there certainly was what he describes as a barrage of interjections, hut I think the honorable member rather overstates the position in using the word vituperation. Although the honorable member and I differ politically, I do not think there is any one in the chamber who regards the honorable member with more good will than I do. I appreciate the circumstances in which the observation was made, but I did not take it seriously. I regarded it as an impetuous defence or outburst, which if his words had not gone beyond this chamber, would have been well under stood by honorable members. It is true, as the honorable member states, that when his words appear in cold print, they may, perhaps, convey a different meaning to persons outside, who cannot appreciate the. atmosphere in which they were uttered. I have not the slightest hesitation in accepting the apology of the honorable member, which I do gratefully and fully ; and, knowing the circumstances, I may say that, even if an apology had not been made, the incident would not have made the slightest difference in the. good relations which exist between us.
– It was my misfortune to be absent when the Constitution Alteration (Industry and Commerce) Bill was before the chamber, and I am permitted now to deal only indirectly with it3 purport. I take this opportunity, however, to give the reasons why I am supporting this measure, which relates to the protection of the public interests in the event of actual or probable interruption of essential services. I was rather amazed to hear the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) arguing that, in connexion with this bill, all sorts of dangerous possibilities arise that do not occur under the other measure which, under directions from his party, he supported. The honorable member suggested that the consideration of this bill should be postponed for another twelve months.
– Yes, in order that the proposals may receive proper consideration.
– That is what we are hearing everywhere. It is suggested by some that consideration should be delayed until a constitutional session of Parliament is held at Canberra.
– Does the honorable member think the Government should rush these proposals through ?
– No; but I am in favour of submitting these questions to the people at some time, whereas many of those who are criticizing the action of the Government to-day are not in favour of putting them before the people at any time. It is astounding that the Labour party, which has always been in favour of granting unlimited powers to the Commonwealth Parliament, should express the same objections to these bills as are being uttered by people whom honorable members opposite regard as their political enemies. Almost identically the same sentiments as were uttered by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) were expressed by Mr. R. G. Menzies at the famous meeting at Scott’s Hotel yesterday. Politics make strange bedfellows, and it is remarkable, indeed, to find the honorable member for Reid in association with Mr. R. G. Menzies, and the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) linked with the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory). The two latter gentlemen are opposed to these proposals for the same reason, namely, that both are hopelessly tory in their outlook. We can scarcely credit our senses when we hear men, who almost owe their political livelihood to the flaunting of their democracy, employing the old tory cry, “ The time is not ripe,” and declaring that these powers are too dangerous to be entrusted to the Commonwealth Parliament. Any honorable member of this chamber who says that this Parliament cannot be trusted with certain powers is insulting it, and placing a very low value upon his own intelligence. He declares, in effect, that he has no faith in the ability of this Parliament to do the work which the people have asked it to do. If the Commonwealth legislature can be trusted with any powers at all, it can be trusted with all the powers that the people choose to bestow upon it. How can any honorable member say that the people are not prepared to trust this Parliament? Mr. Menzies said yesterday, as reported in the Age, which, for some strange reason, is hostile to the referendum proposals -
He did not profess to know what “ protecting the interests of the public in essential services “ meant. If they were to put into the Constitution some power to deal with essential services, then they would confer on the lawyers of this community one of the greatest boons they had ever had. There would be no termination of the argument in the High Court as to what was an essential service.
Is there likely to be any termination of argument in the High Court as to the meaning of the Constitution? -
It might be applied to a soap factory.
That is a reductio ad absurdum -
A proposal which could hot be defined, and which might be dangerous, should not be accepted.
That is what the honorable member for Reid said. If the conservatives in both political camps fear the granting of this power to the Commonwealth, there must be some big merit in that power.
– The circumstances in which the proposal is made, and the motives underlying it, make me suspicious.
– Both the honorable member and Mr. Menzies consider that this is a dangerous power to confer on the Commonwealth Parliament. Apparently Mr. Menzies is concerned for the safety of the interests he represents. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) said, a few night ago, that the object of the Government in seeking these additional powers was to get an opportunity to shoot down the workers. If Mr, Menzies is afraid that he and his friends will ‘be shot down, and the honorable member for East Sydney fears that his constituents will be shot down, we may assume that such a calamity will not befall anybody. I cannot understand why members of the Opposition should trot out the old gag that the Government desires to shoot down the workers.
– Past Governments have done it.
– On no occasion in the history of Australia has a Government shot down the workers. The honorable member for East Sydney spoke of an occasion when gatling guns were sent to Newcastle. I have heard of that incident, and I have been told of occasions when past Governments dragged the workers almost to the cannon’s mouth, but investigation has not revealed one instance of any Australian Government having called out the military forces in order to shoot down the workers engaged in an industrial dispute.
– The Eureka stockade.
– The Eureka stockade was not the outcome of an ordinary industrial dispute. The fear of this measure that is professed by members of the Labour party is not genuine; it is mere camouflage. They are so amazed at their own courage in having supported a bill introduced by this Government that they seek to save their faces by opposing this measure. They say, in effect, “ We support the Government in regard to the first bill, because it offers us something we want, but the second referendum proposal contains some dangerous power, which we cannot indicate, and therefore we shall oppose it.” This is the first time that the Labour party has said that a Government representing the people should not be entrusted with power to protect them. The attitude of honorable members opposite seems to indicate that they have almost lost hope of ever holding the reins of government in this Parliament. They should not be so fainthearted; we know not what political changes may happen, and it may be that in the course of time they will have an opportunity to exercise this power in the way they think desirable.- Before they, by opposing this bill, lead their party into a political cul-de-sac, I remind them that they are voicing the sentiments uttered by men who are diametrically opposed to them in politics. I do not say that it is impossible for men of opposite political interests to agree, or for men in the same parliamentary party to disagree upon constitutional questions. We have evidence of that in this chamber, and I am sorry to see certain supporters of the Government at variance with their colleagues in regard to these referendum proposals. The attitude of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) is understandable. He is hopelessly conservative - a political troglodyte - and opposed to everything that will make for the national wellbeing. If he had his way, he would abolish the tariff and bring about political and industrial chaos. I am not surprised, therefore, at his adopting a characteristic attitude towards this bill; but I assure the House that all other members of the Country .party solidly support the Government and its proposals for the amendment of the Constitution. It is a great misfortune that when there is such a fine opportunity to get for this Parliament increased powers, certain members of the Opposition and of the Ministerial parties should practically invite their defeat. If the Labour party genuinely desires the first referendum proposal to be successful, it is very unwise to oppose the bill now before the House. .
– Mr Allan, the leader of the Country party in Victoria, has definitely announced that he will oppose both measures.
– Mr. Allan’s opinions are not endorsed by any members of the Federal Country party, except the- honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory). As a member of that party, I regard Mr. Allan as another political troglodyte.
– What is a troglodyte?
– A troglodyte is a cave-dweller or hermit - a person who has lost touch with the progress of the world. I call the attention of honorable members to the actual wording of the paragraph which the bill proposes to insert in the Constitution.
Protecting the interests of the public in case of actual or probable interruption of any essential service.
Those honorable members who wish the Commonwealth Parliament to have considerably increased power should be heartily in favour, of that paragraph. After close study, it appears to me to empower the Commonwealth to do almost anything.
– Could the Commonwealth Parliament nationalize’ the coal mines ]
– Yes, if it were in the public interest to do so. Apparently the bigness of the power that is sought creates an ambiguity that may bring about the defeat of this provision should it ever be referred to the High Court for interpretation. I agree with the honorable member for Reid that the power of the High Court in regard to the Constitution should be curtailed, for it, and not this Parliament, rules Australia. This bill, if approved by the people, will enable a tremendous power to be operated by the Commonwealth in certain circumstances that are not defined. They may, or may not, be industrial: we can only assume that they will be. What the Prime Minister has said in regard to the purpose of this power is immaterial; Prime Ministers are but individuals in parliament, and are here to-day and gone to-morrow. The real meaning of these words will be that which the High Court will give to them, should an appeal to that tribunal follow any attempt by a Federal Government to operate the power which the clause purports to confer upon this Parliament. These words may be defined by the High Court twenty years hence, when the speeches delivered here to-day are entirely forgotten. Very few persons remember the speeches delivered at the Federal conventions over 27 years ago, and twenty years hence very few will remember the speeches delivered on the present proposals to alter the Constitution. For that reason, we must be very careful in deciding how any alteration is worded. A judicial body, perhaps not yet created and composed of individuals not yet born, may interpret the meaning of the language we employ. I shall support the bill, but I think it gives to the Commonwealth a vast field of power, the extent of which we cannot at this moment foresee. “We are setting out on a venture, and no one knows what it may lead to. This addition to the Constitution may become one of the most fruitful sources of political controversy.
– And litigation.
– Yes. There are already provisions in our Constitution which have led to considerable litigation. This may be even worse in that respect, and it is possible that we may, on that account, live to regret our action of today. The amendment will give the Commonwealth unlimited power and plenty of scope to exercise it in any way it likes. I regret that it has not been more clearly defined, because its very indefiniteness may lead to its rejection by the people, and also because in the actual test it may be difficult to operate. The interests of the public may be protected in quite a number of ways suitable to the circumstances, but it may be almost impossible for a government to decide just what means should be adopted. The words “ protecting the interests of the public” leave the future obscured in the dark clouds of mystery. There is also a great deal of uncertainty about the words “ any essential service.” Very wisely, perhaps, the Government has not provided a definition of them ; but if the power sought to be obtained is to be properly operated, I think it would be better to give the people some indication of what is in our minds.
– The Prime Minister, in moving the second reading, gave some indication of what the Government had in mind.
– I have already pointed out that it does not matter what is said here. Our speeches are buried in Hansard, or, possibly, forgotten. What the words actually mean will be decided, perhaps, twenty years hence, when the Government tries to act upon the powers given to it, and the matter is referred to the High Court. No notice will be taken of what the Prime Minister or the Attorney-General of to-day said as to the intention of Parliament. It would be better, in my opinion, for the Government to alter the proposed new paragraph and put forward a genuinely definite proposal to deal with certain industrial contingencies. An amendment that would be likely to meet the situation would be on the following lines: -
Protecting the interests of the public by assuming control in case of actual or probable interruption of any essential services such as railways and steam-ships, and the provision of food supplies in two or more States, and such other services as may be declared essential in a proclamation issued by the Governor General.
A proposal on those lines would, I think, be more acceptable to both sides of the House, and be more likely to get over the great danger confronting us in this campaign - the danger of having not only our own party split up, but also the Labour party opposing one question and supporting the other. For my part, I think the Labour party is illogical in opposing this bill, because the very fact that it favours unification, and is all the time crying out for unlimited powers for the Commonwealth should induce it to vote for an amendment of the Constitution which by the very wording will give it what it has always been wanting. It is peculiar that when honorable members opposite are given an opportunity of getting something for which they have always been asking they shrink back from it. In my opinion, it is too big a power to give to the Commonwealth, but nevertheless I do not regard it as too dangerous a power for the Parliament to exercise. No power entrusted to this Parliament could endanger the interests of the people of Australia. In the 25 years of federation it has not abused any power it possesses to the detriment of the people. No executive has ever had greater power reposed in it than was given to it under the War Precautions Act, but it was never abused from the community point of view. In its operation certain interests that made a very loud noise may have been hurt, but the interests of the general community were protected and upheld. I think it will be admitted by all that if the Commonwealth could handle the power given to it under the War Precautions Act without inflicting any harm upon the general community, it can certainly be trusted to handle the. power proposed to be given to it by this bill. In its very essence, the measure is that for which, the Labour party have been asking for so long. It will give unlimited power to the Commonwealth Parliament, in certain circumstances, to do what it thinks fit in the interests of the public. It will allow a Labour Government, if it has the courage to do so, to make a probable interruption of any essential service an excuse to take control of a certain service in order to get even with “ bloated capitalists.” In that respect I think that the power sought to be obtained is too big. It will give, not only the present Government, but also a Labour Government, too much power.
– That is the milk ;n the coco-nut.
– If it is, why is the honorable member opposing the measure? It is peculiar, I repeat, that honorable members should now shrink from accepting that for which they have been asking for so long. I shall support the bill, although I think it would be better if it were made more definite. I do not hold the view that the Commonwealth Parliament cannot be trusted. I do not think that if ever the occasion for its use arises the power given will be exercised to the detriment of the public interests.
– The honorable member must recollect that these powers will not be exercised by Parliament. They will be exercised by the government of the day.
– Any power that is established in the Constitution exercised by a government must be subject to legislation passed by this Parliament. It is impossible for a government by proclamation, ukase, decree, or administrative act to operate it without the consent of Parliament. A government that attempted to do otherwise would certainly come to grief. The first step the Ministry would take would be to bring down to Parliament a concrete measure to “ protect the interests of the public.” Before this bill goes to a vote, I think the Government would be wise to reconsider it with a view to making it more definite in the direction I have indicated by showing the public how we intend to protect them and what services it is proposed to take over.
– Does not the honorable member think that the new States question is of greater urgency than other matters?
– I am quite prepared to deal with that matter if Mr. Speaker will permit me to do so. The question of creating new States is, perhaps, more urgent than this one; but, as we are to have a constitutional session at Canberra in less than twelve months, it can be dealt with then. Industrial matters have been the curse of Australian politics for a long time, and if, by means of the proposed referendum, we can settle them once and for all, it will be advantageous to the Commonwealth generally. In my opinion, it would be unwise to couple the question of larger industrial power with any others, for it would probably make impossible any amendment of the Constitution. Undoubtedly the Labour party would be torn asunder then, just as it is now.
– The Country party is also torn asunder.
– The honorable member for Maribyrnong must not consider that the honorable member for Swan (Mr. ‘ Gregory) is the Country party. The Government acted wisely in introducing the proposed constitutional amendments covering industrial matters at this stage, for by dealing with them now, we shall leave the field clear for the consideration of our other big constitutional problems next year. Unfortunately matters affecting commerce and industry have dominated every election that has been held in Australia for many years. The industrial issue was practically the only one before the people at the last election, and it cost £100,000 to determine it. The actions of a small group of industrialists forced the Government to go to the country. If we do not separate the industrial from every other issue, we shall have it dominating every election campaign.
– I rise to a point of order. I ask whether past, present, or future elections, or the question of new States, have anything to do with this bill?
– The honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) is quite in order in showing the necessity for separating the industrial from other political issues.
– Some years ago, the Labour party fought an election in
New South. Wales on the 44-hour week, and won. The next election was fought on the 48-hour week, and the Nationalist party won. Labour revived the 44-hour week issue at the last election, and was successful, but probably will be defeated on it at the next election.
– I again rise to a point or order. Is the honorable member entitled to discuss the 44-hour week in dealing with this bill? I contend that he is not.
-The honorable member is quite in order.
– Political history in New South Wales proves conclusively the wisdom of separating the industrial from other political issues. To-day, members of Parliament are in two warring camps over this one subject, and it is impossible <to create either interest or enthusiasm in our other big national questions such as the development of the Northern Territory, the building of transcontinental railways, defence, and finance. Every attempt to do so is defeated by the breaking out of a strike somewhere on such an issue as the 44-hour week, or the deportation proceedings. Mr. Tom Walsh, or some other notoriety, comes into the picture. We shall act in the best interests of Australia if we definitely divorce industrial matters from other political issues. As things are, it is possible that the next Commonwealth election will be fought on the 44-hour week issue. I admit that that is an important matter, but is it worth our while fighting a general election on it, and neglecting the other work entrusted to us ? If these proposals of the Government are defeated, this Parliament will continue to devote 75 per cent, of its time either directly or indirectly to industrial issues. The Government has shown commendable courage in introducing these two bills, and I am surprised that, honorable members opposite have spent so much time in telling us that the time is not ripe for their consideration. They have been trying, for many years, to amend the Constitution, but now that the Government has given them an opportunity to do something definite, they are asking for another twelve months to think things over. I suppose that there is not a State Premier, and hardly a prominent commercial man in Australia, who at some time or other has not de plored the clashing of Commonwealth and State arbitration awards. Honorable members who ask for another twelve months to consider our industrial ills and possible remedies, show conclusively that they are not thinking about the matter at all. ‘
– They are thinking about it.
– I am not speaking of honorable members opposite only. Some honorable members on this side of the chamber have also asked for more time to be allowed them.
– Some honorable members of the Labour party have told us that they have been thinking about this matter for twelve years.
– Yet a good many of them have asked for another twelve months’ time to be given them.
– Will the honorable member tell me, definitely, whether he approves of the provision in the industry and commerce measure that power to deal with industrial matters shall be handed over to outside authorities, and not exercised by this Parliament?
– I have been trying to explain that, in my opinion, it is necessary to divorce industrial matters from other political questions. Unless that is done, this Parliament will in future devote 75 per cent, of its time to the discussion of wages and conditions of work, and I contend that it is not a competent body to do so. I have an open mind as to the proposed authorities. My attitude will be determined by the nature of the bills which the Government introduce.
– -The honorable member is now discussing a measure that has been passed this session; that is not in order. I ask him to confine his remarks to this bill.
– I disagree with those who say that the Government should have delayed this action for another twelve months. If these questions are determined by the people forthwith, we shall be able to devote the whole of the proposed constitutional session at Canberra to other amendments. The time of Parliament should not be practically monopolized by industrial affairs. Some honorable members opposite, notably, the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony), have told us that they have been considering these things for 25 years. Would any one of them be prepared to tell a meeting of wharf labourers that he is unable, at this moment, to formulate his opinions? I know that they could not say . so; and, therefore, there is no need to allow them more time to consider their position. The argument has also been used that the people should be given more time for consideration, but 1 trust that the Government will not be influenced by it. The people will not think about these matters until we submit our case to them on the hustings. Public opinion is like a stagnant pool. It remains undisturbed until something from outside agitates it. I feel confident that in six weeks or two months every man and woman in the country will understand our industrial situation better than they have for the last ten or fifteen years.
– That is not saying much.
– If we shirk facing this question, we shall make no commercial progress. In my opinion, the people will approve of these proposals, for they are becoming more and more firmly convinced that the Commonwealth Parliament should be clothed with greater power over industrial and other matters. Honorable members opposite may lose a great opportunity of increasing the power of this Parliament by opposing either of these questions. I shall not be very greatly disturbed, from some points of view, if the people negative the questions that will be submitted to them. The loss of the £80,000 or £100,000 that will be spent on the referendum is a mere bagatelle compared with the millions of pounds that are being lost annually in Australia through our chaotic industrial arrangements. New South “Wales is losing £100,000 a week, I suppose, on account of the clashing of Commonwealth and State awards. It is only proper, in my opinion, that at the earliest possible moment we should try to remedy this unsatisfactory state of affairs. If the people refuse Parliament the power that it is seeking, they must take the responsibility for what happens. We are a democracy, and believe in trusting the people; and we should not be unduly distressed if they will not give us the powers we seek.
– The people are becoming educated on constitutional questions.
– That is so. The first questions submitted to them by referendum were negatived by a huge majority; the second set by a smaller majority; and the third by a comparatively small margin. That shows that public opinion has progressed. As the circumstances of the country alter, so do the opinions of its people ; and I am hoping that, on this occasion, the people will see the light as honorable members on this side of the chamber see it.
.- I am opposed to this bill. On previous occasions we have had ill-conceived, badly-drafted, clumsy, and vague measures introduced in this chamber. You, Mr. Speaker, as Attorney-General in the last Parliament, introduced a bill which was afterwards proved to be anything but what you and the Government thought it to be. Not an honorable member on the Government , side of the House opposed it. Parliament was placed in a most invidious position by the High Court judgment on it.
– Also a most expensive position.
– That is so. The court told the sponsors of the bill particularly, and Government supporters generally, in no uncertain words, that it was bad in drafting and in law, and so corroborated the view of honorable members on this, side of the chamber. The people, of course, have to pay for this. Bad as was that legislative child of yours, Mr. Speaker, I believe that this one is infinitely worse. The verbiage of the bill is loose and vague, and I do not think that there is the slightest possible hope of the people approving of it. One wonders whether or not the bill is intended for electioneering purposes. I can easily conceive that on an appeal to the High Court as to its validity it would meet with the same fate as very recent legislation that was introduced to interfere with the liberty of a certain section of the community. The measure contains a provision for “ protecting the interests of the public in case of actual or probable interruption of any essential service.” I do not pretend to have the necessary legal knowledge to enable me to frame bills providing for the alteration of the Constitution; but, looking at the matter as a layman, I fail to see how any executive council or parliament can define what essential services really are.
– I can see months of argument in each word.
– I quite realize that the union to which the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), you, Mr. Speaker, and also the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) belong is, so to speak, smacking its lips in gleeful anticipation of the passage of this bill. The more I see acts upset by the High Court, the more emboldened I become to pass opinions on measures drafted by the best legal brains in the community. If the powers sought under this bill are assented to by the people, and are embodied in the Constitution, it seems to me that any legislation based on those powers will be held by the High Court to be invalid on the ground of their vagueness. The Prime Minister has apparently had several matters in his mind in bringing the measure forward. It came as a bombshell to his own party, and it was certainly a great surprise to the public. The announcement of his intention to introduce it was not made until a couple of weeks before honorable members were called together. The bill is of such a kindergarten nature that the Government must have their tongues in their cheeks regarding it. The parties in .this House and organizations outside it need to be unanimous to enable an alteration of the Constitution to be effected. There seem to be various opinions in the National and Country parties both inside and outside the Parliament regarding this bill, but the opposition of both the industrial and political sections of the Labour party is undoubted. One-half of the National party and very nearly one-half of the Country party, so far as the State organizations are concerned, are against the bill. It seems probable that, when the Prime Minister leaves for Great Britain, at least one of his constitutional proposals will have been defeated. The fact that his own party is divided on the matter, indicates that the vote of the people will probably be against the Government. Following upon the introduction of the Crimes Bill, and the Deportation Bill, the Prime Minister is now attempting to have certain vaguelydefined powers inserted in the Constitution to enable him to fly more political kites.
He failed to achieve his object by means of the two former measures, and it appears that, while the present bill, by reason of the votes rather than the active support of the followers of the Government, will be carried in this House, the ministerial supporters in this chamber will, judging by their contradictory speeches, either oppose the measure on the public platforms, or refrain from participating in the campaign. Their contradictory speeches appear to have been made because of party discipline, which caused, the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson), for instance, to build up a case in favour of the proposal, and in almost the next breath to oppose it.
– I thought that the honorable member was most illogical in attacking the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), and then advancing arguments in support of the bill.
– Yes ; he “ out Gregoried Gregory.” The honorable member for Swan made all sorts of contradictory statements; but his attitude is not. singular. Almost every speech I have heard from the Government benches has been of a yes-no variety. If one came into the chamber a stranger to honorable members on the Government side, one would be bewildered. When the eager multitude peruses their- speeches in Hansard I can imagine it scratching its head to determine just where the Government and its supporters stand on this matter. There is no doubt whatever as to the attitude of the Labour party, both inside and outside the Parliament. It is quite unlike that of the Government supporters, who speak and vote one way in the House and are divided by an unbridgeable chasm outside. People who have a sense of humour are thoroughly enjoying the situation. Consideration of the way in which the powers sought may be used does not give me cause for great alarm. I am opposing the measure because it is aimed exclusively at the workers of this country. The language of the bill is loose and vague, and the measure is of such a character that even its sponsors, who are pointing out the necessity to keep the workers in their place in case of industrial upheaval, would not have the courage to put the powers asked for into operation. The workers of Australia are not of the type that would act in a way likely to cause any great harm to the country. Although there have been many strikes in Australia, their number is not as great as the public, during the last election, were led by the Government to believe. The Government was assisted on that occasion by the occurrence of a comparatively small industrial upheaval, namely, the seamen’s strike. It was not- even an Australian disturbance, but it was used as a bogy to frighten the public. From hundreds of platforms pictures were drawn of Australia in revolution. A few heads were broken, and a few pints of blood were spilt; but, judging by the newspaper accounts, one would have imagined that thousands of people had been killed in their desire to overthrow the Bruce-Page Government. The newspaper headlines, and the hysterical outbursts by the Prime Minister .and his supporters, made the people think that a revolution was imminent. Of course, no such catastrophe was threatened. Almost immediately after the election, the Prime Minister, in this chamber, bewailed the fact that so many people were in the habit of traducing the workers. He worked up a fervour in his denunciation of those who said that the Australian worker was always going on strike, and he made out exactly the same case as that presented by the Labour side during the campaign. Given fair wages, and other industrial conditions, plenty of food, proper housing and good education, there is no danger in Australia of industrial upheavals or travail such as that experienced in European and other older countries. The recent general strike in Great Britain is taken to be the main excuse for the passage of this bill. In his second-reading speech the Prime Minister said, “ In Great Britain recently there was an attempt to hold up the whole nation.” No nation can be held up without good cause. The conditions of the people in Great Britain, particularly the coal-miners, are such as to cause great disquiet in the minds of those who have the interests of the Old Country at heart.” It is not the coal-miners’ fault, but the fault of the coal-owners and the Government. But the position which has arisen in England cannot possibly arise in Australia. During 1924-25, out of 42 States in America, 22 had armed militia ready to quell industrial upheavals. In recent years, because of attempts to re duce wages from 9 cents to 8 pence a day, there have been great industrial upheavals in China; more than a quarter of a million Chinese workers have been on strike, and there has been much loss of life and destruction of property.
– The strike is still on.
– Yes, and it will continue for many years. It began in 1921, since which time there have been endless disputes in China owing to the economic conditions ruling there.
– The trade of Hong Kong has been held up for three years.
– Yes, and the holdup is likely to continue, because the workers are gradually becoming more class conscious and aware of their own power.
– Was it to ensure that the employers should not have to pay that extra Id. a day that a Commonwealth battleship was sent to China?
– Had it not been for the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) and his colleagues who raised the question in this House, Australian men and Australian money would have been used in quelling that industrial upheaval. Fortunately, owing to the publicity given, the proposal had a speedy termination. During 1925 200,000 coalminers and others employed in the iron and steel industry in the Buhr were on strike in an endeavour to prevent a reduction of wages and an increase of working hours. The present great industrial upheaval in England was caused by the coal-owners’ attempt to reduce wages and increase the hours of work. What the result will be we do not know; but the fact remains that while men are compelled to work long hours for low wages, and are unable to educate, clothe and house their families as they should, there will always be industrial upheavals. Australia is different. Because of trade unionism, and the legislation introduced hy the Labour party, in both the Federal and the State spheres, during the past 30 years, we have established in Australia wages and conditions which are unparalleled. Much has been accomplished; but still the fight goes on to prevent longer hours and lower wages from being forced upon the workers. Recently, in New South Wales, there was an industrial dispute regarding the number of hours which should constitute a working week. That has been settled, and now in that
St ate a working week comprises 44 hours. Who would say that there is any necessity to apply the powers sought by this bill to the present strike of engineers? There are some hysterical, panicky and illadvised persons who would rush into that dispute, exercise the powers sought to be conferred by this bill, and say that they were doing so in order to maintain essential services.
– What about the little children who are freezing to death for want of coal?
– If the honorable member believes that that is a fact he must belong to that section which I described as hysterical, panicky, and ill-advised. If the Government desired to get coal to the people, it could do so to-morrow. The attitude of the Government towards in-‘ dustrial peace was well defined during the recent British seamen’s strike. I do not know what the primary producers, or the nation as a whole, lost because of that industrial upheaval, which was no concerns of ours, but was dumped at our doors. Probably the loss to Australia because of that strike was not less than half a million pounds. Most of that amount was lost by the primary producers. Yet the Commonwealth Government did nothing to settle that strike.
– In that case the Government would not be very dangerous if given this power.
– I am speaking of the Government’s attitude towards essential services during the continuation of that strike.. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) endeavoured to persuade the Government to bring the contending parties together at a round-table conference, but the Prime Minister curtly refused to do anything towards settling that dispute. Rather than encourage a spirit of conciliation, he further antagonized the parties to the dispute. It was’ left to the Leader of the Opposition to enter into negotiations with the parties in an effort to settle the dispute. Yet, for £100,000, that strike could have been settled so far as Australia was concerned. The men. could have been paid their additional £1 a month, and the ships could have returned to England, taking with them our wheat, wool, hides, metal, and foodstuffs, for disposal. The present dispute in New South Wales could also be settled by the expenditure of a comparatively small sum of money. It could have been settled a month ago if the Federal Government had agreed to pay the marginal difference and then to take the case to the Arbitration Court.
– The honorable member cannot think much of the principle for which the strikers were standing if he believes they could have been bribed.
– It is both foolish and dangerous to stand aloof from such conditions as existed during the British seamen’s strike, and which exist to-day in connexion with the present engineering strike in New South Wales, and to say “ We must not touch it, because to do so might be construed as meaning that we are blessing it. We may be said to be taking part in a dispute if we do the sensible thing.” The sensible thing has been done in the past in similar instances by both Labour and National governments. It has been done in this chamber since I have been here. Previous Prime Ministers have interceded in disputes, and used their influence to bring about a spirit of conciliation between the contending parties; but, at no time since he has been Prime Minister, has the present occupant of the office taken the part of the first citizen of Australia and endeavoured to settle an industrial dispute. On the contrary, he has adopted the attitude that, if he takes part, his action may be construed to mean that the strike has his approval. It is contended by honorable members opposite that this measure is not aimed at industrialists, but the fact remains that the whole of the speech which the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) delivered upon it pointed in that direction. The following was one of his observations: -
When you visualize what has happened on different occasions in the world -
Apparently Australia was not sufficiently large to provide him with an illustration, and he looked to England, Japan, Germany, China, and other countries to do so. It is certain that he could not point to a strike in Australia to settle which these powers’, if possessed by the Commonwealth, would have been put into operation. Continuing, he said - and consider the position that there is no authority in the Commonwealth to assist or save the community, then you must realize it is time to amend the Constitution, and give such powers to the Commonwealth.
Later he said -
If the nation is being held for ransom, there / must be a power to assist the people. I trust those powers will never be needed; but if the Government did not take action to ensure to the people power to safeguard and protect them, then it would not be doing its duty.
It is not intended to protect the people against the manufacturers, the coal barons, or the shipping magnates, but against strikers in particular, and the workers generally. The right honorable gentleman went on to say -
There is, however, a possibility of a position arising internally in the country which would be as disastrous as external war. . . . The question of essential services deals with an abnormal question and with abnormal times. These powers are so obviously necessary in every community that there is no need for me to expand on the question.
In extenuation of and as an apology for the bill many speakers on the Government benches have said that it is not aimed at the industrialists of Australia, but that, on the contrary, the powers may be used without fear or favour against either employer or employee. I reiterate the opinion which I expressed at the commencement of my speech, that the bill is so loosely drafted that neither the High Court nor any other body will be able to interpret it, even if it is accepted by the people, and no government will dare to put it into operation. I am content to allow the workers to have the last say. Because of their education and their condition in life they are not likely to rush blindly into a struggle that has not a sound foundation. Although the Government may be able to attack this or that small section, it is an altogether different matter to attack the whole of the workers or a big federal organization. “ Scab “ labour may be obtained by applying these powers if they are granted; the so-called loyalists mav be induced to perform certain work for a little time; but inevitably resort must ultimately be had to the workers who ordinarily discharge those duties. Unless those men are given wages and conditions which are satisfactory to them, industry cannot possibly function. I trust that, if the bill is not defeated in this House, it will meet the fate which it deserves at the hands of the electors.
Sitting suspended from 6.26 to S p.m.
.- I leave the constitutional aspect of this bill to lawyers and others who are better able to deal with it than I. I am opposed to the bill because it will not accomplish what it purports to accomplish. It is brought forward undoubtedly because the Government claims to have received from the people at the last election a mandate to prevent strikes. Does any honorable member believe that if the Government had the power to take over essential services it would be able to do anything to prevent the workers from ceasing work if they had made up their minds to do so? Will this bill promote the feeling of community interest which the Government says it is so anxious to promote among the employers and workers ? My view is that it will have an entirely opposite effect. It will not accomplish the two important things that some honorable members seem to credit it with. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson), in his characteristically optimistic manner, which I regret I cannot emulate, asked us to divorce industrial from political matters, and led us to believe that this bill would divorce them.
– When I made that statement I was referring not to this, but to the previous bill.
– As this bill was before the House at the time I naturally thought that the honorable member was addressing himself to it. He spoke of honorable members on this side saying the time was not ripe for this measure, and that the Government should have waited -for a more opportune occasion to present it. I now realize that he must have been referring to the other bill, because no honorable member on this side has said that the time would ever be ripe for this measure. We are opposed to it, lock, stock, and barrel. We see in it a weapon that must be aimed, whether the Government intends it or not, at the industrialists. Let me present the other side of the picture. In the event of a lockout in the shipping industry, does the Government purpose to control shipping and other essential services? A Labour Government, if in power, might contemplate that ; but every important newspaper in Australia would decry any Government that proposed to do such a thing. I am not charging the Government with unfairness,, but I feel sure that in framing this bill it had in mind, and that its supporters have in mind, only the industrialists who may go out on strike. The idea is to employ free labour - call it what you will - so that the men, who are striking, perhaps for better conditions which they are unable to obtain by other means, will be beaten. Is not that the objective? Can any honorable member say that the employers will be dealt with in the same way?
– Why is Mr. R. G. Menzies opposed to the bill?
– He is not opposed to it. The honorable member cannot have read the leading article to which he refers in to-day’s issue of the Age. I suppose the writer of that article is as well informed as the honorable member for New England on this subject, and he wrote of the “ Bruce-Page-Char CharltonScullin combination.” Mr. Menzies’ opposition was directed against the proposals previously before this House, which, for good or ill, members on both sides supported and agreed to unite in submitting to the people. The statement that the time is not ripe for the submission of this question to the people does not represent the view of honorable members on this side. We are irreconcilably opposed to the bill; we believe that it is class legislation, and that it will widen the breach between employer and employee. If the Government, during a serious industrial dispute, invaded the States and replaced men on strike with others, the result would be chaos greater than we have yet had in our industrial affairs. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) adopted a different attitude. He said, “ Let us submit this question to the people for educational purposes.”
– I did not say “ Let us submit it to the people for educational purposes,” but I said, “ If it goes to the people it will be educational.”
– If it is submitted to the people it will be an education to the honorable member for Fawkner and other honorable members on that side of the House. It will give them an education that they will long wish they had never had I know a little about the industrialists of this country, and that is why I do not wish to see a proposal like this accepted. The honorable member for New England referred to the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) as a “ troglodyte.” However much i may differ from the honorable member for Swan, I concede on this occasion that he is not a cave-dweller, because he intends to vote against the bill. If the provisions of this bill were put into operation, they would cause between the workers and the employers a cleavage which I do not wish to see ; and if a Commonwealth government attempted to take up duties which the States have done in the past, ‘ it would get a warm reception. Any Government in New South Wales or Western Australia, and probably in Victoria also, after the Federal Government has removed to Canberra, would bitterly resent the Commonwealth overriding it in these matters and causing industrial disruption and disunion. The bill is an insult to the States, by suggesting that they have not handled these matters satisfactorily in the past.
– That is also true of the other bill, for which the honorable member voted.
– The other bill was undoubtedly different from this one. It contained several provisions that the Labour party had tried, in the face of bitter opposition from the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) and other honorable members opposite, to obtain.
– But the other bill was, just as this one is, a vote of no-confidence in the States.
– This is a vote of want .of confidence in the States for the way they have handled industrial disputes. When there is a strike, and class antagonism runs high, the situation has to be handled delicately. The honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) and the Premier of New South Wales, who intervened recently in the maritime strike in that State, and the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), who has been a successful mediator, know that even the leading representatives of the Labour political organizations have to deal tactfully with such matters. To act under this bill the Government would have to send a large Federal police force - I accept its assurance that it does not intend to use the military - into a sovereign State to try to show the people of that State that they could not manage their own affairs. I know of nothing that would be calculated to make the Federal system of government more unpopular. I am with my friends on this side of the
House, and with the honorable members for Swan and Perth (Mr. Mann), in opposing the bill to the uttermost. The honorable member for Swan, at any rate, does not believe that the Commonwealth should interfere with the sovereign rights of the States. It is unfortunate that the Government has decided to link this proposal with the bill that was passed by the House last week, because Labour members will, in consequence, be placed in an invidious position. Although we supported the other proposal almost in its entirety, yet we are strongly opposed to this bill because, if given effect, it will do serious harm to the trade union movement of Australia. Take my own case. When I am putting the case for the referendum proposals, the industrialists in Western Australia will say to me, “How can we support proposals, one of which has for its object the placing of “ scabs “ in our jobs when we happen to be on strike.” There is no doubt that the linking of these two proposals has aroused a well-founded suspicion in the minds of the workers that they are aimed at the destruction of trade unionism, especially in view of the attitude adopted by the Government at the time of the British seamen’s strike. The submission of this proposalto the people will surely lead to the rejection of that contained in the bill that was passed by this House last week.
.I had the opportunity of seeing this bill before it was introduced into the House.
– Why should the honorable member have that privilege?
– Because I happen to be a supporter of the Government.
– The honorable member has no right to that privilege.
– The honorable member is aggrieved because the Labour party is not in office.
– It is a bad practice for any Government to extend a privilege to some, and not to all honorable members. That is certainly caucus rule.
– I did expect this measure to receive support from the Opposition, except possibly from some of its “ hard-heads.”
– The honorable member means “ die-hards.”
– No. There is a difference between the two.
– Order! Will the honorable member for Richmond proceed with his speech on the bill.
– When I say “ hardheads,” I mean those honorable members opposite who bring into this chamber the ill-digested remarks of agitators and others, hoping that by having them inserted in Hansard they may be brought under the notice of certain extremists in the Labour party, and used to show clearly what they had done in defence of the trade union movement. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) is to be included in that category.
– The honorable member is now talking of the “ bone-heads.”
– Very likely. Honorable members opposite claim that members of trade unions, representing 10 or 12 per cent. of our population, shall be beyond the law, able to do what they like at any time, irrespective of the harm that may be suffered by the remainder of the community.
– So the bill is aimed at the 10 or 12 per cent. of population ?
– I am stating my own view. I do not care to have words put into my mouth by the honorable member. Honorable members opposite claim that trade unionists shall be free from the control of any government. At present neither the Commonwealth Parliament nor the State Parliaments have power to carry on essential services during strikes. Because the bill seeks that power the Labour party views it as an attack upon the industrial workers of Australia. It evidently assumes that essential services are likely to be held up, and that tradeunionists will forget their duties as citizens, and, as it were, hold a pistol to the breastsof the rest of the community.Honorable members opposite say “ For goodness sake do not take away from us the only chance of making fools of ourselves, as the members of the Labour party did in Great Britain.” I am sorry to disappoint them by depriving them of the opportunity to become arrant knaves as well as idiots, that was given to the members of the Labour party of Great Britain.
– Order ! The honorable member must not apply terms of that description to honorable members of this House. I ask him to withdraw them.
– I was referring to the leaders of the Labour party of Great Britain, and I was hoping that the Australian Labour party would not emulate them.
– Order ! Does the honorable member say that, he was not referring to honorable members here?
– That is so.
– The honorable member is a squib.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) has referred to the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) as a squib. We have had little enough humour in this debate, but that surely is a poor exhibition of it.
– If the honorable member for Dalley used that expression, I ask him to withdraw it.
– The honorable member for Richmond undoubtedly stated that we were idiots and knaves. He assured you, Mr. Speaker, that he did not apply those terms to honorable members on this side, but we distinctly heard him use them, and I said that he was a squib for equivocating. In deference to you, sir, I withdraw my remark.
– The honorable member for Dalley should have withdrawn his remark without comment.
– I am sorry that the Opposition is becoming somewhat unruly, but that is not unusual when honorable members on this side endeavour to place plain facts before them.
– I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the bill.
– I am also surprised that the Labour party should oppose the bill, because in its platform is the plank - socialization of distribution. That, I take it, includes the distribution and transport of. foodstuffs, and is, therefore, an essential service likely to come within the scope of the bill. By opposing this proposal, honorable members opposite are nullifying one of the chief planks in their platform. Again, in an amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) to the bill that was passed by this House last week, the words “ supply of services “ twice occurred. When that bill was before the House he contended that Parliament should have full control of all services, but he now opposes this bill because it proposes to take control of essential services. I could understand his attitude if he opposed this bill on the ground that it did not give sufficient power to Parliament. His inconsistency is inexplicable to me. Many essential services cover matters with which this Parliament does not ordinarily deal, such as sanitation, and the distribution of food and water, that are essential to the maintenance of the health of the people. Do members of the Opposition deny that some authority in Australia, whether this Parliament or some other, should have the right to control these essential services in time of emergency? If so, they deny the right of Parliament to do what may be necessary to preserve the health or the lives of the people. Taking an extreme case, if we had a general strike, we should have unionists representing 10 per cent, or 12 per cent, of the population, denying to the remainder the continuous operation of essential services for sanitation and for the distribution of food and water. Logically, their freedom to do so . unchecked is what is demanded by the Opposition. Honorable members opposite have asked on several occasions to be told the motive . underlying the action of the Government in introducing these measures, but I ask them what is their motive in opposing them. Do they desire to have repeated here the debacle that followed the general strike on the other side of the world ? I can see no reason whatever for their opposition to this bill. I direct particular attention to one aspect of the matter which was touched upon only incidentally by a couple of speakers, and that is the position in which the. primary producers of Australia will find themselves should we have a repetition in some other part of the Commonwealth of what happened a few months back in Queensland, when there was- a railway strike, and, simultaneously, an interruption of shipping services north of Brisbane. We had on that occasion one of the nearest approaches to civil war that we have had in Australia’ in recent years. The primary producers, in order to get their perishable products to market, were forced to go down to the wharf at Cairns and see to it that their products were transported. There were there all the elements of a possible armed .clash between one side and the other. Fortu- nately, those who talk most about revolution and direct action are cottontails, and run to their burrows on the first possibility of danger, and when it seemed possible that there would be a clash the farmers with right on their side prevailed. That disturbance was confined to Queensland, but such a state of affairs might arise in other parts of Australia. None of us desire that the farmers should be compelled to follow their perishable products down to the wharfs and load them on the ships. The safe transport of their products to market should be an obligation of the . Government, but whether the Government takes action or not, men will not stand idly by and see the results of twelve months’ labour go for nothing at the whim of other individuals. The primary producers will stand up for their rights as sturdily as any unionist in Australia.
– They are unionists themselves.
– Some are and some are not, but they are all Australian citizens. They will stand up for their rights and will see that they are not deprived of the fruits of their labour by the action of people who have other claims on the community. If necessary, they will follow their products to the wharfs, and will load them on to ships as they did in Queensland, and it will not be necessary then for any government to step in.
– Then what is this measure wanted for?
– In order to prevent any possibility of civil war the Government should be in a position to take whatever steps may be necessary to minimize the risk attaching to an interruption of an essential service. It is my opinion that, if organized labour continues to listen to the hare-brained doctrines of a few agitators who have managed to get to Australia, sooner or later some clash will occur between unionists and the rest of the people. The Queensland Government capitulated, put its tail between its legs, and ran for cover when confronted by organized unionism in that State. I do not wish to see that kind of thing happen in other parts of Australia. The railway men of Queensland were engaged in an essential service when they went out on strike, and the Queensland
Government, suffering from jelly-spine curvature, immediately gave way to them. Gillies and company made only a pretence of fighting the unions. All that Mr. Gillies was looking for was the safe job to which he was afterwards appointed at £1,500 or £2,000 a year. I notice that honorable members opposite are now listening to me very carefully. They are not interjecting so freely as they did when I began, because I am stating facts to which they cannot reply. Their motive in opposing this measure to enable the Government to maintain essential services, is disclosed, and it is clear that what they desire is a repetition in other parts of Australia of the recent action of unionists in Queensland. When the Queensland Labour Government made no attempt to fight the Queensland railwaymen, it can only be assumed that they approved of what those men were asking for. We may have the same kind of thing attempted elsewhere in the Commonwealth, and a clash is likely to be brought about between organized trade unionism and the primary producers.
– It would be two to one on the primary producers.
– I agree with the honorable member, because they would put up a fight, as their fellows did in Queensland. If wharf labourers and other unionists go on strike, and as a result the transport of the primary products of my electorate is held up, I shall advise the primary producers to take the matter into their own hands, if this power is denied to the Government. If it is conceded, I shall do everything I can to induce the Government to take action to prevent any clash occurring between the primary producers and organized unionism.
– Is the honorable member now going to wag the red flag?
– No ; what I have here is a red book written by Mr. J. Ramsay MacDonald.
– What is the name of the book?
– It is called Parliament and Democracy, and, referring to the citizen’s dual personality, Mr. MacDonald says: -
The Independent Labour party begins by taking the great unities of community, nation, and state for granted. It studies functions and functional organizations, but it cannot understand them, and they cannot understand themselves, except in their relation to the whole life of the community which they serve. Thus it cannot hesitate in deciding in favour of a States’ sovereignty, or in coming to the conclusion that the personality which operates in the community is the citizens, not the industrial personality. The man is ‘bigger than the citizen (defining the citizen as the member of an organized State), because ‘part of pertsonality is reserved and does not come within this external and organized sovereignty; the citizen is bigger than the miner or the engineer, because the State, not only in its boundary, but in the scope and nature of its concerns, is bigger than the mine or workshop.
I put that statement before honorable members opposite, and, if they are capable of the mental effort, I ask them to rise above their personality as trade unionists and to regard themselves as citizens of the Commonwealth.
– Let the honorable member read what the author of the book has to say at page 49.
– As honorable members would like a little more of the gospel according to Ramsay MacDonald, I may say that, later in his book, he deals with antagonisms between capital and labour. He says -
This will affect factory acts, workmen’s compensation acts, unemployment, factory and mines inspection, and so on. Only the conflict between capital and labour, when the State must intervene as a third party in supreme authority, imposes such activities on the political State. The industrial work of the political State under Socialism will be largely confined to co-ordinating and registering the rules and decisions of industrial organizations and in providing machinery for arbitrating on their disagreements, and to seeing that the necessary production is forthcoming and equitable distribution secured.
The Government is endeavouring to establish what the arch-apostle of honorable members opposite considers necessary in the maintenance of essential services. An air of pious resignation was noticeable when I quoted this opinion of an ex-Prime Minister of Great Britain, whose words I earnestly commend to the consideration of honorable members opposite. Mr. Ramsay MacDonald says tha t the State must be supreme, as the Commonwealth must be supreme when there is a possibility of conflict between constituted authority and organized labour. If we are to consider the citizen before the industrialist, we must support the pro posal of the Government embraced in this bill. Honorable members opposite are opposing this measure in a desire to place organized labour in Australia in such a position that it will be able to control the conditions of the whole of the people and essentially have the dictatorship of the proletariat.
.- If, in discussing this measure I quote authorities in all parts of the world, I shall be following only the bad example set by several honorable members opposite. In the first place, I wish to refer to the foolish statements of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green), who said that the Labour movement in Great Britain was composed of idiots.
– Carlyle said that the population of England consisted mostly of fools.
– I am dealing with the honorable member for Richmond, who should be the last to stigmatize the trade unionists of Great Britain.
– I was referring to the Labour leaders.
– I remind the honorable member that it was the trade unionists who, between 1914 and 1919, came to the rescue of Great Britain. It was the members of the working classes who responded most readily to the call, and who now, in their poverty and destitution, are asking, not for increased wages, but only for the same pay as they were receiving prior to being locked out. It is the men who are asking for a paltry £2 a week whom the honorable member for Richmond stigmatizes as idiots. He should be ashamed of himself.
– I repeat that their leaders are.
– Their leaders are not idiots. The honorable member quoted the Leader of the Labour party in Great Britain, who was dealing with a country in which there are no self-governing States such as we have in Australia and where there is an unwritten Constitution built upon custom. In Australia we have a Commonwealth Government and State Governments which act in their respective spheres. Since the inception of federation there has not been one occasion on which the powers which the Government now seeks have actually been necessary. The working classes are not anxious for strikes, and, notwithstanding the foolish statements of some honorable members opposite, they have during many generations been exceptionally quiet. The workers, as well as their wives and children, have submitted to conditions of poverty almost without protest. Some honorable members opposite claim that the party to which they belong is responsible for the benefits and the few privileges which the working class now enjoy, but everything the workers now possess has been won by their own individual and unaided effort. It is only since they have become organized that their conditions have’ been improved. It is not many years since some honorable members opposite were associated with those who advocated the employment of black labour in this country.
– There is an advocate of coloured labour in the Senate to-day..
– Yes, and at the time of which I am speaking practically every member of the party advocated it. We do not want strikes, and, if this proposal is adopted, God forbid that they should occur in the future. This bill would not have been submitted but for the fact that there are Labour ‘ Governments in five of the States. The one object of the measure is to organize an army of scabs to take the place of trade unionists who are seeking to improve their conditions.
– At times that may be necessary.
– The honorable member for Richmond referred to the experience of certain primary producers in marketing their produce. After the political atmosphere of Queensland had cleared, the State Labour Government appealed to the electors, and did not lose a single seat. Following the general strike in Great Britain, a Conservative member, who had previously won his seat with a majority of 5,000 votes, retired, when a Labour candidate contested the election and won the seat with a majority of 4,500 votes. That shows that, after all, a vast majority of the electors support those who are attempting to improve the conditions of the workers. When the seamen were on strike in 1890, the military forces were called out, and Colonel Tom Price issued the order, “ Fire low, and lay the cows out.” That order went beyond the military authorities, and penetrated the hearts and minds of the people of Australia to such an extent that it has never been forgotten. Although I am a pacifist, I would not object if the military forces were called out to quell an industrial dispute, because, if force were used to stifle the aspirations of the working classes, when Labour was returned to power our military forces would be disbanded. The Prime Minister, in his policy speech, did not foreshadow the introduction of such a measure as this, and it is only since the Crimes Act has been declared unconstitutional by the High Court that the Government has decided to bring forward these proposals. Surely it is not unreasonable to ask the Government to postpone the consideration of amendments of the Constitution in the direction suggested, until a constitutional session of the Federal Parliament is held at Canberra next year, when the proposed alterations can be fully considered and one set of questions submitted to the’ people. The electors will be heartily sick of elections. A State election is at present threatening in Victoria, certain proposals are to be submitted to the people this year, and next year other amendments are proposed ; and the year after next, if this Parliament runs its full term, there will be another Federal election. In these circumstances, the electors will be going to the ballot-box at the next Federal election, and wiping us all out. When the present Treasurer was occupying a seat on the corner bench he was instrumental in having the Defence vote reduced by £100,000 or £200,000. The right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) will remember the occasion.
– I do. The present Treasurer was responsible for the motion.
– It is wonderful how one’s ideas change when one becomes a Minister.
– Yes. The present Treasurer, who “when a private member so strongly advocated the exercise of economy, has now become extremely extravagant, and is supporting the expenditure of £100,000 on a referendum which has not been sought by the people and although the proposal to be submitted is doomed to defeat because all parties are divided upon it. It is likely to receive strong opposition in at least two or three of the States. The proposals do not go far enough for one political party, and too far to meet the requirements of a certain section of another. As this Government has not introduced any legislation beneficial to the masses, one is tempted to ask the question contained in the good old Book, “ Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Sections of the daily press are supporting the proposals embodied in the bill which was before the House last week, and also those contained in this measure. I cannot understand why the Prime Minister exercises so much influence over his supporters, who are given information in caucus which is not disclosed in this chamber,
– They supported the first bill because the Government promised to introduce this one.
– I am sure that some sinister scheme underlies these two proposals. Having the support of the daily press, the Prime Minister is able to exercise great influence in this country, but he also wields a mysterious influence over the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) and the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt). On the first referendum bill the right honorable member for Balaclava proposed a very vital and desirable amendment. Because it was a good amendment, honorable members on this side of the chamber supported it. The right honorable member for North Sydney spoke strongly against the Government’s proposals. The Prime Minister entered the chamber, and verbally spanked both his critical supporters. Subsequently the right honorable member for North Sydney made a humble apology, and he has since been remarkably quiet. When the right honorable member for Balaclava proposed his amendment, he declared that the handing, over to an outside authority of powers that should be exercised by this Parliament would be subversive of the authority of the national legislature, and therefore harmful to the people. I expected that when his amendment was defeated he would declare his opposition to the bill, but I read in today’s paper that at a meeting of the Women’s National League he declared his allegiance to the Prime Minister.
– The honorable member’s comment is founded upon sheer envy.
– I never envied the right honorable member his association with the Women’s National League; I have had enough to do with those women at elections, but I can understand that under the combined influence of them and the Prime Minister the right honorable member for Balaclava would be ready to promise anything. I am strongly against this measure. The people are being asked not to authorize this Parliament to legislate, but to give the Federal Government power to interfere in an industrial dispute occurring in any State. Already the Federal authority has* all the powers it needs to deal with a national crisis. If a serious railway strike occurred in Victoria, and the lives and liberty of the people were menaced, the State Government could call upon the Federal Government to render assistance, and the Prime Minister and his colleagues could adopt whatever means they choose to secure the lives and property of the people. Why does the Government seek authority to intervene in an industrial dispute if the proper custodians of local interests do not ask for assistance? Why does the Government wish to override the authority of State Governments? This bill can have no other purpose than to enable the military forces to be . used against the workers. The Government hopes for an industrial dispute in which the workers will be driven into revolt; when that occurs the military forces will be utilized to shoot down the workers, and thus break up the trade union organization throughout this country. I feel confident that the men and women of Australia will not give such power to the Federal Parliament, particularly while it is dominated by the party now in power. The intervention of the Federal Government in an administrative sphere now adequately controlled by the State Governments would put back the clock of time 50 years; but if the Government does not intend to intervene, what is the reason for these referendums and the incidental waste of money? If the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General do not contemplate that in the near future the Federal Government shall have an opportunity to intervene in an industrial dispute, why has this legislation been introduced ? If, instead of looking for trouble that may never arise, the Government would apply itself to removing the causes of dis- content, it would be doing good service to the community. Is it any wonder that there is industrial unrest and discontent when, notwithstanding that the inventive genius of man is increasing the productivity of labour, we see in Bourke and Collins streets hundreds of private motor oars where previously there were but few ; when we see the women of the leisured class dressed in finer raiment than ever before, and one section living more luxuriously than people have lived at any other time in the history of the world, whilst, on tho other hand, despite high wages, hundreds of trade unionists are out of work, and are dependent upon their friends, or the assistance they can get from benevolent institutions? With these conditions obtaining, is it a matter for surprise that industrial troubles arise? A wise government that desired to do well by the people would not be engaged in sowing seeds of discord as the present Government is doing by means of these bills, but would be legislating to ensure that the workers get a fair deal, and a due share of the wealth they are producing. In the interests of industrial peace, and for the benefit of my country, I intend to vote against this bill, and on the public platform will do what I can to bring about the defeat of both referendum proposals.
.- Most of the members of the Opposition who have participated in this debate have managed to keep as far away from the bill as possible. The remarks of the honorable member for Ballarat are calculated to incite the people to disorder rather than to bring about industrial peace. I can see no reason why the proposed new powers should be opposed by any honorable member. This is not a class measure. Its purpose is really to ensure the community against happenings which, though desired by none of us, are possible. The power which is sought in the bill may never be used, but circumstances may arise in which the exercise of it by the Federal Parliament will be a blessing to the whole community. The Leader of the Opposition stated that the Federal authority already has sufficient power under the Crimes Act, the Arbitration Act, and other statutes, to deal with law breakers, but the Attorney-General pointed out that the Commonwealth has no power to intervene in certain disturbances in a State, even though a State Government should seek Federal assistance. Of the two opinions, which are we to accept? Surely the Attorney-General, who is a constitutional authority, is best qualified to advise this committee in regard to matters of this sort. Things may happen which will call for drastic action. If the transport services are held up, and the food supplies of the people are interrupted, and the Commonwealth Parliament has no power to intervene, the community may be reduced to starvation. This measure is intended, not to give the Government power to suppress strikes, but to protect the interests of the people generally. It is most regrettable that some honorable members should declare .that the object of the Government in seeking this power is to get authority to call out the military forces to shoot down strikers. No government would dare to do anything so tyrannical. If it did, the people would speedily cast it from office. During the 25 years of federation, the trustees of the community have carried out their obligations to the people in a fairly sensible way, and it is a reflection upon this British community to say that any government, no matter which party it represented, would call out the military forces to shoot down the workers. If the military forces were used at all, it would be to save lives; certainly not to destroy them. The fears of honorable members opposite relate not so much to the bill as to the possible abuse of the powers it seeks to confer. In a time of industrial upheaval, whatever Government is in power must be the best judge of when and how to act in order to secure the continuance of essential services. I have complete faith in any Government that may be in office to use this power wisely. We have been warned that the primary producer may be seriously affected by this legislation. If in the interests of the community it should be desirable in an emergency to commandeer primary products, or take any other drastic action the Government of the day should have power to do that. Under the War Precautions Act the Government wielded far-reaching powers, but in no instance were they grossly abused. It is true that the people were subjected to excessive taxation, but that was inevitable while the nation was passing through a great crisis. It is said that prevention is better than cure. With this power in our Constitution greater security will be afforded to the Labour party than to any other party. It will curb the efforts of those extremists who, unfortunately, are to be found in all parties, and who occasionally get completely out of control. I cannot see how the power sought to be given to this Parliament can be anything but in the best interests of Australia, but I trust that it will never need to be used. Realizing that it will certainly never be abused, I have not the slightest hesitation in giving my whole-hearted support to the bill. I am opposed to the suggestion that this is a matter that could well be postponed until the proposed constitutional session is held. I think the Government is wise in submitting to the people the two great issues in this bill and in its predecessor, apart from any other proposals to amend the Constitution which may be suggested during a constitutional session of this Parliament. The result of the deliberations of such a session should be referred to the people in a calmer atmosphere than will be possible when these two important alterations are submitted for approval. The cost of holding a referendum is infinitesimal in comparison with the enormous loss the Commonwealth must sustain in the absence of the powers sought to be transferred to this Parliament. As an illustration of the losses which the people of Australia are at times called upon to bear, I may refer to the fact that the cessation of coal mining owing to the action of the engineers has already cost upwards of £500,000, while in one month the industrial dispute in the State of New South Wales over the 44 hours’ week has costthe community another £500,000. I suppose no other measure submitted to the Commonwealth Parliament has had a more mixed reception than this. The Australian Workers’ Union and the Worker advise the people to vote against the Government’s proposals. Sir Arthur Robinson and his few conservative friends, supported by the Age, give the electors the same advice. The Leader of the Country party in the State of Victoria and the Leader of the Country Party in the National Parliament are in opposition to one another. Mr. Cain, a Labour member of the Victorian Legislature, tells the people at a
Sunday afternoon gathering not to take notice of Mr. Scullin. Possibly next Sunday we shall have Mr. Scullin telling the people not to take notice of Mr. Cain. Fortunately, there is between these two extremes a middle party of good sound common sense, and I am sure that in the exercise of that common sense the electors will do their duty at the referendum honestly, faithfully, and well. I shall gladly do whatever I can to bring about the adoption of these important alterations of the Constitution.
.- I take this opportunity of registering my opposition to the bill, and having heard the speech of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) I feel somewhat encouraged in my opposition, because I am more than ever convinced that stronger arguments are necessary to make the electors of Australia believe that the power which the Government seeks in regard to essential services is either necessary or desirable. A great deal has been said by ministerial supporters about the mandate the Government received at the last election to maintain law and order. Yet, to-day, the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) said that if this power to intervene for the maintenance of essential services is not given to the Commonwealth Government he will advise the primary producers of his electorate to take the law into their own hands when their produce is held up by industrial disturbances. The honorable member professes to stand for law and order, and yet is prepared to advocate violence and to commit a breach of the peace. He is typical of many other honor.able members supporting the Government. Although they are ever ready to insist on the maintenance of law and order by the industrialists, they .are unwilling to interfere with the operation of vested interestsThey consider it a crime for supplies of primary products to be held up at railway stations, owing to industrial trouble.but remain silent when it is a question of market-riggers allowing the farmer’s produce to waste and deteriorate rather than permit the consumers .to get cheap foodstuffs. The suggestion has been made by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Perkins) that the Labour party’s attitude to the Government’s proposals has been influenced by the opposition evinced in New South Wales, and particularly by the stand taken by Mr Lang, the Premier of that State. I, for one, am not concerned with Mr. Lang’s attitude. I am supporting the Government’s proposals in regard to industrial powers. Although we find various Premiers and others in the States opposing the granting of increased industrial powers to the Commonwealth, we can recall the time when the Labour Government of New South Wales, led by Mr. Holman, opposed proposals put forward by the Fisher Labour Government to give increased powers to the Commonwealth. I have no intention of allowing the opposition referred to by the honorable member to interfere with my advocacy of increased industrial powers for the Commonwealth ; because I do not believe that the Commonwealth can make any proper progress until it has these very desirable additional powers. Big business interests are organizing against the proposed industrial powers. The press is showing its antagonism to the proposals, and I .am satisfied to be in opposition to these forces. This afternoon the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) invited honorable members of the Opposition to give an instance of a Liberal Government resorting to military action to suppress an industrial disturbance. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) has given an instance in which the aid of the military was enlisted in yeaTS gone by; and I can refer the honorable member to the time when the Wade Government in New South Wales, with the aid of the police, cast industrial leaders into prison and put them in leg -irons. If that Government had been in a position to use the Military .Forces, it would have done so without hesitation. However, . we have no need to refer to the actions of Liberal Governments of the past. We have only to look back on what the Nationalist Government now in power in the Commonwealth proposed in its Air Defence Bill, a measure which it was subsequently obliged to withdraw because of the opposition expressed in the press, and in this chamber by honorable members of the Opposition. Clause 45 of that bill provided -
Where the Governor of the State has proclaimed that domestic violence exists therein, the Governor-General, upon the application of the Executive Government of the State, may, by proclamation, declare that domestic violence exists in that State, and may call out the permanent air force, and, in the event of its members being insufficient, may also call out such of the citizen air force as may be necessary for the protection of that State, and the services of the forces so called out may be utilized accordingly for the protection of that State against domestic violence.
Thus, this Government was willing to make use of the Air Defence Force to quell a domestic or industrial dispute. We can imagine air force planes being used in a time of industrial turmoil, swooping down on innocent people and endangering the lives of many citizens who have committed no greater offence than that of taking part in an industrial dispute. It shows to what extent the Government is prepared to go in suppressing industrialists in this country, and the Government’s methods are not likely to be tempered down following their snatch victory last elections. In view of the Government’s action in inserting such a provision in its Air Defence Bill the people of Australia would not be justified in handing over to it the great emergency power it seeks to have. The honorable member for New England could not understand the opposition of the Labour party to the present proposal. I tell him quite candidly that I am opposed to the bill because I am not prepared to trust this Government. I question its motive in seeking for this extended power. The bill seems to me to be merely a sop, or an endeavour to balance things, or justify its action, in seeking for increased industrial powers. It is claimed by Government supporters that the attention of Parliament should not be engaged upon the fixing of industrial conditions, and that the question of adopting a 44 hours week overclouded the main issue at the recent State election in New South Wales. To a large extent that is true, but there was something which overclouded the issue at the last Federal election, and that was the cry of law and order. That cry was a smoke screen, which allowed many of the misdeeds of the Nationalist Government’s administration to be overlooked. I welcome the opportunity the Government is affording to the people of Australia to say whether or not they are prepared to give to the Commonwealth increased industrial powers. I am opposed to the Commonwealth having the power to intervene in regard to essential services, but I take no exception to the Government giving, the people the opportunity to say ‘ ‘ Yea “ or “ Nay “ upon that proposal. I cannot help expressing my regret at the declared intention of the Government to seek these increased powers at such an early date. The issues are so confusing that they require a great deal of time and consideration; and in view of the fact that compulsory voting will apply at the referendum, I think that more than two months should elapse before the people are called upon to give their decision. I do not think that the second proposal of the Government needs more than five minutes’ consideration, but we know that there are many difficulties in the way of securing an amendment of the Constitution. A majority of the States, as well as a majority of the electors, is necessary. It is important, therefore, that we should give the electors ample time to weigh the pros and cons and cast a calm and deliberative vote in the direction they think best in the interests of the Commonwealth. This bill looks inoffensive, but its provisions are most comprehensive. The reason that the Government has advanced for its introduction is that it wishes to protect the public; but it has done nothing in that direction in the last four years. By forcing through Parliament the Crimes Act, the Air Force Defence Act, and the deportation legislation, it has demonstrated beyond question that it desires the powers sought in this bill for use against the industrialists, and for the protection of those who contribute large sums to its party funds. In the light of its past actions, we cannot expect it to do anything to hinder the shipping combines, the bankers, the price-riggers, or the other wealthy interests in this community who are chiefly responsible for the repeated interruptions of our essential services. “What is an essential service? I venture to say that no service carried on in the community can be considered unessential to something or somebody. The Government is not likely to exercise this power advantageously to the working classes. It will, as hitherto, allow those who starve and fleece the workers, to continue their predatory operations without hindrance. If it had been seriously concerned with the welfare of the public, it could have done a great deal by exercising the power th’at’ ii already possesses, to alleviate unsatisfactory conditions that prevail!
The Government professes sympathy with the returned soldiers; but, as a matter of fact, it has not even protected the interests of the ex-soldiers, for they have been obliged to pay from £200 to £300 more for their war service homes than was necessary, owing to the extortionate prices charged by the brick, tile, and timber combines. The increased cost in home construction is due far more to advances in the cost of material than to advances in the cost of labour. If the Government will not protect the interests of the returned soldiers, how can we expect it to worry about the welfare of the general public? It showed us in 1923 what we might expect, when it introduced the Air Force Defence Bill, which included a provision permitting the Air Force to be used in the States, in the case of domestic or industrial turmoil. If it would act against the best interests of the community in that way in 1923, it would be even more likely to do so in 1926, following the Government’s sweeping victory last election, which was made possible by contributions from wealthy interests. At any rate, I am not prepared to trust it, nor do I think are the people.
.- I cannot cast a silent vote on this bill, though my opposition to it will be on different grounds from that of some other honorable members. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook) said that the expenditure of £80,000 or £100,000 on the proposed referendum was a matter of no moment to the taxpayers.
– Nor is it when we are losing millions annually through industrial trouble.
– The general taxpayer is not losing millions. The most that can be said is that the miners are not being paid, and that wealthy mine-owners are not making millions in profits. When the Prince of Wales visited Australia, huge sums of money were spent in public festivities; but nothing was said about the loss suffered by those who were compelled to make holiday on working days. I suppose that large amounts will be spent in the same way if the Duke and Duchess of York come here, I dot not object /.to that.,.,/ .i We are a hospitable people I simply say that ;the honorable member is not entitled to say that mine-owners have lost millions when he does not mention the huge expenditure on jollifications such as I have mentioned as money lost which might otherwise have been saved. I might just as reasonably say that by not going to the races ‘ and wagering £1 I save that amount. There is no substance in that argument.
– The Labour party did not worry about spending £100,000 on a referendum.
– If similar conditions prevailed now I do not know that I should be so antagonistic. At least, when the Labour party asked the people for enlarged powers, it did so unitedly.
– Is the honorable member in favour of the proposed extension of industrial’ powers?
– I am in favour of vesting unlimited powers in this Parliament. I am prepared to go as far as unification. But I am not prepared to give the Government what it wants when it refuses to ask for the wider powers which are necessary for the proper government of the country.
– What does the honorable member want?
– I want this Parliament to be supreme; and not hobbled by a Constitution. It should be able to make any law necessary for the good government of the community. The Government is seeking power to intervene in case of even “ probable interruption of any essential service “, yet it would not accede to the request of honorable members on this side of the chamber that supreme power should be sought in all matters affecting trade and commerce. The Prime Minister said to us, when we asked for it, “ Get thee behind me, Satan.” I contend that before we ask the people to amend the Constitution, we should be practically unanimous in our requests. For that reason it would be wise for the Government to withdraw all these proposals and allow the whole matter of amending the Constitution to be calmly considered in a special constitutional session. Neither honorable members on this side of the chamber nor the Government supporters are united on these issues, and that adds strength to my argument. Many supporters of the Labour party doubt the. sincerity of the Government, and there is something of a schism in our ranks. But the meeting that was held at Scott’s Hotel yesterday shows that the supporters of the Government outside, this House are even more disunited than the supporters of the Labour party are. Sir Arthur Robinson, who has retired from politics, feels that this issue is big enough for him to buckle his armour on again and fight; yet he was largely instrumental in securing the return of the Government. I was secretary of the Labour party in South Australia during one referendum campaign, and I know that tons of printed matter were showered over the Commonwealth in opposition to the proposals that were then made, and from present indications the same thing is going to occur in connexion with this proposed referendum. What is the use of our courting that kind of thing again? It is simply playing for a negative vote. The Government has told us that it is necessary to increase the industrial powers of this Parliament, but I submit that it could strengthen the Arbitration Court, and clothe its presiding officers with larger powers until any necessary amendments of the Constitution were made. The people should not be stampeded, The Prime Minister may quite safely postpone consideration of these highly important matters until he returns to Australia after doing his duty by it at the seat of the Empire. We shall find it difficult to convince the people that the granting of these powers will be of any advantage to them. I do not fear the result of granting the Government the powers sought under this bill, because I have no doubt that it will find means to do what it desires whether the bill is passed or not. Not one honorable member opposite has been able to hide the fact that behind this measure is a desire to do in Australia what was done in Great Britain in connexion with the recent strike there. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) made that fact his “ long suit but he went into the effect rather than the cause of that dispute. Do honorable members need to be reminded of the dreadful conditions of life underground that the miners in the Old Country have experienced while the idlers who draw the royalties from the mines have lived in luxury? The report of the British Coal Commission in 1919 showed that 3,789 mine-owners were drawing £5,960,365 in royalties. If the mines cannot be economically worked at greater depths under the conditions obtaining prior to the strike, why should the poor miners have to suffer a reduction in wages while the idle rich continued to draw huge royalties? For seventeen years I worked in a factory, and received no holiday unless I lost my wages for the time off. I left that factory as a competent tradesman, and as a married man I received the magnificent wage . of 39s. 6d. a week. Subsequently a wages board was established in the industry, which had been refused by the employer until after a week’s strike. The last award gazetted provided for a minimum wage of £5 2s. 6d. a week for the same class of work, so that honorable members will realize what an inadequate wage I was forced to work for before the setting up of the wages board. Yet it is claimed that Liberalism is responsible for industrial development. It is as clear as noonday that the improvement of the conditions of the workers is due entirely to the force behind Labour. I well remember the condition of affairs described in Mr. Anstey’s book, The Good Old Days. But how quickly conditions were changed when the Labour party entered the arena of politics ! The secretary of one of the bakers’ unions, in describing the awful conditions existing in some of the bakeries, spoke of men having to tie up the bottoms of their trousers to prevent cockroaches from crawling up their legs There were no factory inspectors in those days, and the employees slept above the ovens. Scarcely a week went by without some child’s fingers being cut off in a factory that had unprotected machinery. No compensation for injuries was provided at that time. There was no provision in the “ rag “ factories so that the women employees could have their meals in comfort. Mr. West. - And no proper sanitation. Mr. YATES. - I could speak of conditions in the factory in which I worked that were worse than anything that I saw in France during the recent war. Just as those conditions had to be altered, so a 44-hour week must be adopted. Restrictions may be placed upon the workers, the military forces may be called out against them, and aeroplanes may drop bombs upon them; but, if they are killed, other men will arise with the same determination to bring about improved conditions.
– The dropping of bombs is not contemplated under the bill.
– Such a thing has not been thought of.
– Then what does the provision in the Air Force Bill mean? I do not say that such a thing has ever happened.
– Nor will it happen.
– I do not know whether there are men in the community who will again say, regarding the workers, “Fire low and lay them out,” but it is quite possible, under this bill, for armed forces to be used against industrialists. If such action is not contemplated, it is unnecessary to grant such a power as is sought under the bill. The debate shows that such action is anticipated. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green), in dilating upon a recent occurrence in Queensland, said that civil war and bloodshed were then imminent. No working man wishes such a calamity to overtake the community. All the industrialist desires is an opportunity to live a better life, and not work from the cradle to the grave as in the past. He sees wealth produced on every hand, hut little or none of it comes his way. When one strolls through the capital cities of the Commonwealth, one wonders who pays for the elaborate premises such as those erected by dealers in motor cars. These buildings are being constructed on a finer scale than many government institutions, and are paid for out of what Karl Marx describes as surplus value.
– They are paid for by the producers.
– The honorable member is obtruding the primary producer, as is invariably done in such debates as this; but does he know of one worker who has retired on the savings from his wages earned from the primary producer in a manner like that in which the late John Darling retired on the profits he made from them? Has he ever heard of shearers or farm labourers being paid without having worked and earned their wages? Let me tell the honorable member that the earnings of the primary producer go to the city magnates, who live on his labours, as well as on those of the manual workers. The Labour party will help to remove the parasite off the back of the primary producer if honorable members opposite will help toprevent him from fattening on the workers. The policy of the Labour party has been to break up large estates, and to place the small men on the land. On every possible occasion the Labour party has taken action in that direction in every State. The Federal land tax on estates over £5,000 in value may be removed; but to whom will the money go? Not to the workers in the factories, not to the coal-miners in New South “Wales, and not to the other industrialists who have a struggle to live. The primary producer has had no greater friend in politics than the Labour party. No measure in his interests has ever been opposed by this party. More has been done for him in my own State by Labour than by any other political section. Tom Price told the sellers of superphosphate that if they did not stop selling sand instead of super he would import super and sell it direct.
– The honorable member is talking silly drivel.
– Did he not tell them the same about wire netting?
– It never came up for consideration.
– On another occasionI shall quote the Hansard report. I ask the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) who forced the wine depot into the produce department ? Was it not the Labour party behind the Holder Government? I could quote all the enactments of the day to prove my statement. I challenge the honorable member for Wakefield to cite either in South Australia or in this Parliament, one instance in which the Labour party has voted against assistance being granted to the primary producers, or in which it has endeavoured to prevent the development of this country by cutting up the land and making it available. He cannot do so.
– I shall contradict the honorable member’s statements.
– If the honorable member can do so on the facts as reported, well and good; but I shall make a point of looking up the statements and of re peating them on another occasion. . No honorable member opposite has advanced any reason for granting these additional powers to the Government. One of the speakers at the meeting at Scott’s Hotel - he was a lawyer - told his hearers that this legislation would be good for the lawyers. He wanted to know what constituted an essential service, or a probable dispute.
– If he lived in Tasmania he would know what essential services are.
– Possibly ; and he might also try to raise Tasmania from a position of mendicancy. The position in Tasmania is an illustration of the beneficial influence of the. Labour party. When Tasmania’s finances became so low that great difficulty was experienced in carrying on, the government of the country was handed over to the Labour party, which was in a minority. When other governments had fallen down on the job, the Labour party was sent for to put things right. Honorable members opposite have said that this legislation is necessary to keep the Labour party in order. I admit that reforms are not obtained by men wearing gloves, top hats, and dress suits, who merely ask for them. Those who seek reforms in that way have the dogs set on them. In order to obtain redress of wrongs, it is necessary to have a bait for the dog. It is then much easier to engage in conversation with the person it is desired to see. The capitalist must be brought into the open. That is where the Arbitration Court comes in. I have had some experience of wages boards. They have no power to inquire into costs and profits, but the Arbitration Court can ascertain the ability of the business to meet the claim made upon it by the workers. Consequently, the workers obtain better conditions from the Arbitration Court than from wages boards. Strikes are sometimes necessary. In my opinion, no strike in Australia has been unsuccessful. I admit that, at times, the strikers have had to resume work under conditions which were worse than those existing when they went on strike. But that was only for a time. They went back to allow their wounds to heal, and to reason out their next move. They have then attacked from another direction, and, warned by the errors of the past, have come out of the struggle victorious.
– The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) in his book, The Case for Labour, said that there had never been a winning strike.
– Possibly not at the moment; but if the honorable member wants to know what strikes have done, I ask him to compare the conditions which existed in 1892 with those obtaining today. We are told that strikes are barbarous. We know that. Men strike, not because they love strikes, but to obtain justice. Again, strikers are reminded of the effect of their action upon helpless women and children. They know of that before they strike. They know that a strike is no “joy ride”; that it usually leaves them worse off than they were before its commencement. But it is not so at Port Pirie, in South Australia. I am told that there a strike is regarded, as a god-send, because it enables the men employed in the smelters to get away for a time from the poisonous fumes with which they are surrounded in their daily work. After a period away from the works, they return healthier men. If honorable members will compare the standard of living, the hours of labour, and the wages paid to-day with the conditions existing in 1892, they will see what strikes have done for Australia.
– Has the honorable member no good word to say for the Arbitration Court?
– The Arbitration Court is a means to an end. The better conditions which exist to-day are due to the fact, that men have been prepared to contribute from their earnings £1 or 25s. a year towards a fund to enable their representatives to go into the Arbitration Court to present their case against the opposition of trained lawyers. At times, when recourse to law has been unavailing, strikes have been necessary.
Commonsense, organization and determination on the part of the workers - which this bill will not prevent - will obtain justice for the workers. They may have set-backs; but in the long run they must win. These bills should not have been presented at this stage. To the referendum proposals a negative answer will be given by the people. I claim that the taxpayers have a right to be protected from such futile expenditure.
– Having listened to the greater part of the debate on the second reading, I am amazed that honorable members opposite should have determinedly set themselves not to face the real issue. They have suggested’ that the Government had some political object in bringing this measure forward. They would have it believed that it is very improper, and would alter the Constitution in a manner which may have some political, taint, yet they have spent their energies in attempting to make this a political issue. The proposal contained in the bill should be considered without political bias. The question to be determined is whether the proposed alteration of the Constitution is needed in the interests of the whole people. Honorable members opposite appear not to realize how illogical is their attitude. With the general consent of honorable members on both sides, we have already passed a bill for the submission to the people of proposals for altering the Constitution in regard to industrial legislation generally, for the regulation of the relations between employer and employee, and to bring about a better state of affairs in the industrial life of Australia. The intention underlying the bill is that everything shall be done to promote industrial peace, and to prevent the interruption of employment by strikes and other forms of direct action which bring intolerable suffering upon those least able to bear it. This bill is complementary to the measure that we have already passed. It is designed to prevent a state of industrial turmoil from being caused by extremists and other selfish persons who care nothing for the general welfare, but are prepared in their own interests to cause the cessation of industry; it is not directed against any section or class. The bill therefore proposes to give to this Parliament the power necessary to prevent an interruption of any essential service. It is the duty of any government, irrespective of its political views, to take action against any great employing organization or against any great industrial organization which withholds from the people essential services.
That aspect of the matter has not been appreciated by honorable members opposite. Several of them have considered it incumbent upon them to delve into history to describe the labour conditions of many years ago. No one admits more freely than I do that those conditions were a disgrace to civilization. But honorable members opposite claim that the Labour party has been solely responsible for the better conditions that exist today ! Surely such an argument ought not to be advanced in regard to a measure of this character. Can we not have a broader vision, recognizing that many earnest people, irrespective of their station in life, and whether they are employers or employees, are to-day determined to promote in every possible way the happiness and prosperity of all sections) It is therefore not right to try to make political * capital out of this matter. It has been argued that strikes and the consequent suffering they cause are necessary in order that abuses may be remedied. If those hideous abuses of former days still existed any action might be tolerated which would correct them. But that is not what we have to provide for. The bill which was passed last week creates machinery which will ensure that similar abuses shall not exist, and that by a proper system of evolution we shall rid Australia of anything that cannot be reconciled with the public conscience and the ideals for which we are striving. The debate has largely degenerated into abuse of the Government on the part of honorable members opposite, and the imputation to it of improper motives in bringing down this measure. A number of considerations which in no circumstances could be said to be relevant to a right and proper determination of its subject-matter have been allowed to intrude. I cannot understand the inconsistency of honorable members opposite. We have listened to one after another suggesting that it is necessary for the powers contained in the other bill to be conferred upon the Commonwealth Parliament, and that it is improper to say that any government would be likely to abuse them; that the Parliament and the Government ought to be trusted with those powers. Yet, during the last three days they have done theirutmosttodemonstrate that they holdanentirelycontrarybelief.They havearguedthatthepowerprovidedfor in this bill ought not to be given to the Commonwealth because it might be abused. We are consequently faced with the issue: Should this Parliament possess this power? A consideration of its nature and object leads to the conclusion that it is essential. Nobody can deny that it is necessary for the Commonwealth Parliament to have power to take such action as it deems necessary to ensure the provision of essential services to the people. Honorable members opposite have argued that the States have the requisite power to protect and to provide for the needs of their own citizens, and that there is no reason for granting additional power to the Commonwealth. But whilst it is the responsibility of a State to preserve law and order within its own borders and to take such action as will ensure that its citizens are provided with essential services, that is also a responsibility of the Commonwealth. The States and the Commonwealth cannot be separated in this matter. It is necessary for the Commonwealth to have this power, and to exercise it should the occasion arise. Is it not conceivable that a State Government might so fail in its duty that its credit would be completely destroyed, with disastrous effects on the whole Commonwealth. I am not suggesting that such a thing is probable, or that there are indications of it. But if it did happen, should not the Commonwealth have power to intervene, and to take such action as would ensure the continuance of essential services to the people of that State. Let us carry the matter a step further. I suggest that there is clear evidence that State Governments have failed in the past to take action to preserve essential services, and to ensure the peace, order, and good government of their territory. I do not wish to provoke party strife by introducing political issues into this discussion; I merely suggest that there is in existence evidence upon which honorable members should ponder. I base my case on the broader principle that it is conceivable that a State Government may fail in its duty. Notwithstanding the objection to this bill, not only from honorable members of the Opposition, but also fromsome honorable memberson this side, isitnotrightfortheCommonwealthto haveallthepoweritneeds?Thispower will- not be exercised unless there is necessity for exercising it. It has been suggested that the Government has never given any hint of its intention to submit this “ amazing “ proposal. Apparently honorable members have not read my speeches as much as, in my more optimistic moments, I may have hoped. I refer them to a speech I delivered in this chamber on the 28th August of last year -
I, therefore, inform honorable members that we intend to go as far as is necessary in order to ensure the peace, order and good government of the country. If it is necessary to seek further powers, we shall not hesitate to go to the people and ask for them. In the position which I have the honour to occupy I cannot carry the great responsibility that rests upon me unless I have the powers that are necessary to protect the interests of the community. I do not believe that any man could justifiably remain in the position which ‘ I occupy and give effect to its great obligations and responsibilities, unless he had the powers we have already taken, and the further authority for which we now ask. If necessary we shall go further. We shall appeal to the people for all the powers necessary to safeguard their interests and to assure the prosperity of the country.
During the election campaign I spoke in all the States except “Western Australia. 1 made many speeches, and time f.nd again I referred to this question. One of the issues then was the deportation of two men, and in dealing with it I said wo had taken action under our existing powers; that we would take whatever further action was necessary to preserve the peace, order, and good government of this country; and that, if we had not sufficient powers, we would go to the people and ask them for more. To suggest, therefore, that we have never given notice of our intention of taking whatever action may be necessary, is absurd, and those who make the suggestion know it to be so. Honorable members have suggested that the Government will do certain things if this power is conferred upon the Commonwealth. There has been a constant outcry against the possibility of the military being employed to control industrial disturbances. Honorable members opposite know quite well that no such thing is contemplated. They repeat those statements, I regret to say,, merely for .political purposes. The allegations that the Government will employ the military, and similar sinister suggestions, are not worth replying to, for I have every confidence that the people in this country will not take the slightest notice of them. Another contention is that this power will be used against the industrial, but not against the employing, class. Honorable members opposite have endeavoured to show that the Government, in the past, has failed to take action against those whom they described as “ profiteers “ and “ exploiters.” I tell them, and I tell the people of this country, that we are asking for this power so that this Parliament may deal with any section whatever which may be interfering with an essential service. If action has to be taken, it will be taken impartially against either employers or employees. The Government has given the people an undertaking that it will do certain things, and it will carry out that undertaking without fear or favour. I must, however, reply to the allegation that the Commonwealth Government has not taken action against exploiters and profiteers. The honorable member for Cook (Mr. C. Riley) referred to the way in which the returned soldiers had been exploited by profiteers. I would remind him that in the cases to which he referred the action needed to prevent what he deplores should have been taken by the Governments of the States. They have absolute power to deal with the profiteers and exploiters within their own borders. I would, too, remind all those who suggest that this Government has been recreant in its duty, that Labour Governments are in power in five of the States, and that they have unlimited power to deal with these matters within their own territories, while the Commonwealth has only a limited power. I suggest that the honorable member for Cook should make representations to the State Governments to take action to prevent the exploitation of returned soldiers. Another point that has been stressed, is that the power that we seek is unlimited, and if it were granted there would be nothing that we could not do. The Attorney-General said a few words on this subject, but I feel that I should also deal with it as shortly as I can. The suggestion is made that under the bill the Government in power could, if it so desired, bring about the nationalization or socialization of the systems of production and distribution.
I would point out that we are only asking for powers to enable Parliament to legislate. The first . barrier against nationalization is that the Parliament would have to pass the necessary legislation, and even that would be restricted. The wording of the hill, moreover, confines the exercise of the power to the protection of public interests, and to occasions when there is an actual or probable interruption of an essential service. There must be a probable or actual interruption of any essential service before any legislation that is passed under this power can have effect. It has been asked what are essential services. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) gave half the answer last night. It will not be disputed that the supply of food, transport, light, water, and conceivably power, are essential services; but there must be things that would not fall within the obvious and actual meaning of the words. It would, therefore, be for Parliament to determine what should be inserted in the bill as essential services, and if there were doubt that a service was essential, the enactment would be liable to challenge, in the High Court. It would then be for that court to determine whether the service was essential. By inserting in an act something that was not an essential service, Parliament would be exceeding its power of legislation.
– Parliament might see fit to leave it to the Executive to declare by proclamation what is an .essential service. Any attempt to enumerate essential services must lead to difficulties.
– There would be difficulty, if it were attempted to insert in a bill everything that was considered to be an essential service. Any service that it was necessary to protect in the interests of the public would be essential.
– Does the Prime Minister suggest that if Parliament defines the terms of an essential service, the High Court can make another definition afterwards ?
– Then, this is indeed dangerous legislation.
– When legislation that we pass is challenged, the dispute is taken to the High Court, which is the constitutional interpreter of the powers of the Parliament. It could not be otherwise, since we legislate under a written Constitution defining the powers of the Commonwealth.
– Surely it is the duty of the Government to understand the meaning of the terms that it uses in any bill. It should not be left to future parliaments to determine their meaning.
– The honorable member is trying to make the point which he put forward so unsuccessfully last night. I have said definitely that essential services are services which it is necessary to protect in the interests of the public. I have mentioned some such services, as transport, food, and light. Some honorable members have said that a government might come into power and introduce legislation declaring all sorts of things to be essential services, thus interfering with almost every service connected with the industries of this country. The answer to that is that such legislation would be beyond our powers, under the Constitution, and would, therefore, be declared invalid by the High Court.
– If essential services are obvious, they ought to be enumerated.
– The Prime Minister is certainly proving how contentious is the meaning of “ essential services.”
– The bill provides that action can be taken and legislation passed only for the protection of the public interests, in the case of an actual or probable interruption of an essential service.. There can be no doubt as to the- interpretation of that power. Some honorable members have suggested that, with these powers, we could step in at any time and interfere with any industry. But we must have an actual or probable interruption of a service before any legislation that is passed can he effective.
– The term “probable interruption “ is also contentious.
– Many people have grievous doubts as to how the words “ probable interruption “ would be interpreted.
– I venture to suggest that what constitutes an actual interruption or a probable interruption of an essential service is a matter of fact which will be obvious and certain. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) reminds me that some people hold the view that, on the most trivial happening, it could be suggested that there was a probable interruption of an essential service, and the Government could thereupon take action under the proposed power.
– Not the right honorable gentleman’s Government. I am not afraid of it.
– I quite see the honorable member’s point, and I suggest that the power could not be interpreted in such a way that action could be taken upon a trivial happening on the ground that it was a probable interruption of an essential service affecting the interests of the public Is it conceivable that any one could say that by some trivial happening the interests of the public would be so vitally affected that there should be interference by the Commonwealth? Furthermore, a measure based upon the proposed power would only continue to operate during the existence of a condition of affairs that in fact imperilled the interests of the public. I know the apprehension which it is suggested may exist in the minds of some people : that the proposed power would permit interference by the Government where the public interest was not endangered. It would be straining the interpretation of the power if action were attempted under it in such circumstances, and that would inevitably lead to such action being declared to be outside the powers of Parliament. The only other point to which I wish to refer is the suggestion that the people of this country do not desire the Commonwealth to have this power, and that the whole of the great industrial movement of Australia is bitterly opposed to the proposal. Honorable gentlemen who hold that view cannot have learned the lesson of the last Federal election. The great mass of the people have only one desire; they desire to see our industries carried on peacefully, and to have a system established whereby their legitimate grievances can be remedied by a tribunal, or some other authority to which they can appeal, so as to ensure that the conditions under which they work are just and equitable. If we could reach such a position, we should have acontented workingclass,and would,industrially,beginanewerain Australia.But there are certain people who are not desirous of seeing such a condition of things brought about. Whether these people are reactionaries or extremists, their machinations must be curbed; we must have power to prevent them from throwing the whole of the industries of this country into chaos. It is for this purpose that this power is being asked from the people, and I am confident that they are prepared to vest such a power in the hands of the national Parliament. I ask honorable members to support this measure in this House, and to support it in the country. I am confident that the people will welcome the opportunity to give their decision on this great question, when it is placed before them, and that they will approve the proposal by an overwhelming majority.
Question - put. The House divided.
Ma jority . . . . 19
Clause 1 (Short Title).
– I hope it is not the intention of the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) to proceed further with the discussion of this hill to-night. I did not waste the time of the House, nor do I desire to delay the committee, but I wish to offer some observations on clause 2 dealing with very important matters referred to in the opening speech of the right honorable gentleman, and his closing utterances on the second-reading debate, which might lead to amendments being moved. Without desiring to frustrate the procedure of the Government, I suggest that, after a long debate on what is obviously a very important and vastly controversial matter between parties in this chamber and in the country, it would be wise to give some further thought to the actual terms of clause 2.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 2 (Essential Services).
– I appreciate the point of view of the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), hut I am afraid the Government must proceed with this measure to-night. I regret that time for further consideration cannot be provided, but the right honorable gentleman knows, probably better than any other honorable member, that the present procedure is made necessary to a great extent by the Government having endeavoured to meet, so far as was possible, the wishes of the Opposition. When it was proposed to proceed with the two constitutional bills, I discussed the whole matter with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton). I stated that, for certain reasons, it had been decided that the discussion was not to follow my second-reading speech. I indicated, however, that it was the wish of the Government that this and the Constitution Alteration Industry and Commerce Bill should go to another place tomorrow, and that that might involve fairly long sittings. That arrangement must be adhered to.
.- During the negotiations referred to, I understood from the Prime Minister that this measure was to be passed by Tuesday of this week. I made that known to honorable members on this side of the chamber.
– Why was it not announced last week ? This is the first I have heard of it.
– It is not my duty to make such facts known to the House. I informed the members of my own party of the action to be taken. The position in which we are now placed shows the mistake of rushing measures of such importance as this through Parliament. This legislation was quite unexpected, and, in the circumstances, we had to adapt ourselves to the situation. Although the position is as the Prime Minister has stated, if he can see his way clear to report progress, the bill may still be passed in time to enable it to reach another place before the Constitution Amendment (Industry and Commerce) Bill has been disposed of there. Still, as I understood the Government wished to pass this bill to-day, it is only right that I should say so. I do not intend to occupy the time of the committee at length because I realize that in debating this clause, we can repeat only what was said on the second reading. On behalf of the Labour party, however, I wish to reiterate the view we take of this bill. Nothing has transpired to warrant the Government submitting such a measure. This proposal is in a totally different category from the other measure to which I have referred, which authorizes the taking of a referendum on proposals which have been before the people on two or three occasions, and in connexion with which it is generally admitted that additional power is required. This measure has been suddenly sprung upon the people of the Commonwealth, and provides for seeking authority to extend Commonwealth powers in a way which has not been found necessary during the 25 years of federation. I fail to understand what has actuated the Government in refusing on the one hand to give the Commonwealth either full powers or to amend the section relating to trade and commerce, which is urgently necessary, which is to be deferred until a constitutional session is held, while proposals such as this, which are not urgent, arc being rushed through at this juncture. Members of the Opposition have been twitted with inconsistency in having supported the first referendum bill and now opposing this one. The charge of inconsistency may be more properly made against the Government which refused to take those complete powers over trade and commerce which are admitted to be necessary, and yet declares urgent a measure to give to this Parliament power to control essential services, for which there is no immediate need. The Prime Minister’s speech this evening has justified the attitude of honorable members on this side. When moving the second reading of the bill, he said very little about it; but this evening he explained that essential services would be enumerated by legislation, and would include foodstuffs, transport, light, and heat. The last two services involve the coal-mining industry, and it is clear that in the event of trouble arising in that industry the Government will be obliged to put this power into operation. 1 again ask the Prime Minister what he would do if the Commonwealth now had the power to intervene in the present trouble in the coal-mining industry in New South Wales. How would he mine the coal, which is absolutely “essential to the industrial welfare of the community ? He could not do it ; even if he had these powers he would be no better off than he is to-day. To date the powers that this Parliament already has have been found sufficient. Each State Parliament has authority to preserve order and . the continuance of essential services in its own domain, but if the need arises it can apply to the Commonwealth for assistance. The only occasion on which that assistance has been sought during the 25 years of federation was when the Queensland Government appealed to the Commonwealth for aid in connexion with an industrial disturbance in 1910. If the military forces are not to be used to give effect to the powers that this bill will confer, how does the Government propose to ensure the continuance of essential services ? It must have some enforcing power; it has no police force, and the only other force at its disposal is the military arm. The Government would be well advised not to proceed further with this measure now. Surely if we can defer to a constitutional session the questions of increased powers over trade and commerce, and the creation of new States, which the Treasurer and other ministerialists have declared in years gone by to be urgent, this proposal also can be postponed for more mature consideration. There is a danger, if it is submitted to the people in conjunction with the other bill relating to industry and commerce that both may be defeated. The latter, although giving to the Commonwealth only an inadequate instalment of the power that it should have, has my support; but if it is associated with this other insidious measure, which will not commend itself to any fair-minded person in the community, it is likely to be lost. This proposal has been sprung suddenly on the Parliament and the public. I remember that the Prime Minister did, during the election campaign, make a statement of the Government’s intention to seek additional powers from the people, but that was a time of great excitement, when the Government was putting forward the communist bogy in order to frighten the people. Now that the revolutionaries have been withdrawn from the political stage, the Government has no justification for saying that there is urgent need for power in regard to essential services. The Prime Minister did not mention one instance in which the Commonwealth could have exercised this power had it been embodied in the Constitution. He and the Attorney-General have stated that the Government does not propose to legislate in such a way as to take complete control of industries, and that though certain additional powers will be exercised by the Commonwealth, others will remain with the States. I submit that the Commonwealth cannot allow the State to legislate in regard to certain matters and then step in and override their authority. Unless the Commonwealth is prepared to take complete industrial power, the States must be permitted to police their own legislation. The amendment I proposed on the bill relating to industry and commerce would have given this Parliament complete authority in that area. The Government and its supporters proved by their votes that they did not desire to bestow a comprehensive authority upon this Parliament. Therefore, they are not justified in seeking by this bill to enable any Federal Government to interfere with the authority of the States, which throughout the history of federation have been able to cope satisfactorily with every trouble that has occurred. If at any time they should be unable to protect the community by, means of their police forces, they can appeal to the Commonwealth Government,which, without the power that this bill would confer, could go to their aid. That being so, honorable members on this side of the committee will oppose the passage of the bill in this chamber and on the hustings.
.- Perhaps, before dealing with the clause, I may be allowed to say a word or two regarding the procedure which the Government has elected to follow to-night.
– I allowed a certain amount of latitude to the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, which I cannot extend to other honorable members. The right honorable member for Balaclava must address himself to the clause.
– I appreciate the difference between a private member and the Leaders of the Government and the Opposition, but I protest against the procedure which the Government is adopting. I hope to give reasons for my protest that will be listened to by the Government. I should not have risen at this stage to protest or argue against the substance of this clause had it not been for some observations made by the Prime Minister in closing the second-reading debate. The argument used by the right honorable gentleman referred mainly to two important points in the clause. I shall deal with them seriatim, and add a third point to which no attention was given during the second-reading debate. The first point has reference to the meaning of the words “ essential service.” If I were to place before honorable members the latest definitions of this term by our most expert lexicographers, I feel sure that they would agree that it is open to grave ambiguity. This is particularly so in regard to the adjective “ essential,” which is more difficult to define than probably any other adjective in the language. But it is theoretically possible for us, by description or enumeration, or confinement and limitation, to define the word, and so show the people what they will be voting on. Is it, for example, uniformly in our minds that by the phrase “ essential service “ we mean essential to life, and life only; or essential to life plus the comforts of life - not merely those things which sustain life and enable it to persist under the conditions of this continent, but the ordinary amenities and pleasures that we enjoy in normal times - or, and probably this is what is back of the mind of theGovernment, essential to the economic operations of the community?
– And to national life.
-I have gone past that phase. I am asking now whether we mean by “ essential services “ those which are absolutely and indispensably requisite to preserve the ordinary earning and bread-winning power of the community, or something more than that.
– The expression used in the Victorian Public Safety Preservation Act is ‘’ essential to life.”
– That term is not used here.
– No; a finer term is used.
– In the dictionary I have here there are probably 50 meanings given to the word “essential.”
– Why not read them to us?
-I do not intend to play the role of the schoolmaster. The AttorneyGeneral is better qualified for that than I am. It is sufficient for my purpose to point out that there are innumerable meanings in the turn and application of the adjective. It would probably take many hours for every honorable member to give his view of how the word may be used, according to the lexicographers whose works are here. Different honorable members would read different meanings into the word, each according to his own idea of the intention of the bill. It is unfortunate for me that the Prime Minister was absent during my earlier remarks; but I repeat that, in my opinion, it will become imperative for us, at some stage, in dealing with this constitutional amendment, to define or describe or enumerate or limit what we mean by the word “ essential,” so that the people may know the effect of the amendment; and the courts may know precisely what was in the mind of Parliament. We may define the word in this bill, or we may do so in later legislative enactments ; but it is necessary that we shall define it. I have already pointed out that, by the phrase “essential service,” we may mean service essential to life; or, alternatively, to life, plus the comforts of life : or, again, to the economic operations of the community in its normal capacity.
– And that would mean everything.
– The Prime Minister has said that the interpretation of the term may become a matter for the High Court. In view of remarks that I made here recently, in dealing with industrial matters, it is hardly necessary for me to say that I do not pose as the friend of jurists. I say, emphatically, that this Parliament, in its deliberative capacity, is better able to define the meaning of “ essential service “ than any High Court judge or group of High Court judges. In the exercising of their general duty of interpreting acts of parliament, whether the definition is in the Constitution or in later legislative enactments, the High Court judges may have, of necessity, to determine whether a particular measure, or series of executive acts which emanate from a legislative act, are within the Constitution or. not. Therefore, we should make quite clear what we mean by this phrase. It is open for us to say, for example, whether transport, by sea or land, is essential to the welfare or the life, liberty, and happiness of the people. Judges cannot give a wiser interpretation of this adjective than the elect of the people in this deliberative assembly. At some stage or other, it will become incongruous if, after a series of important executive acts by the administration, the High Court, entertaining a different meaning of the word from that intended by Parliament, says that a service that has been interrupted is not an essential service. The other point to which the Prime Minister referred had relation to the words “ or probable..” I object to the inclusion of those words. In my opinion, they are dangerous to the success of the operations which the Government has in contemplation. If they were eliminated and the remainder of the clause became part of our Constitution, I think the Government would be justified in watching the trend of events in Australia, and in getting into a state of preparedness if it considered any essential service was liable to dislocation or interruption; but I think it would be dangerous for it tj take any step beyond that of preparation. It certainly should not go to the extent of intervention before disruption or interruption becomes actual. There is a vital distinction between intervention to meet actual interruption, and preparedness against the probability of interruption. If the words “ or probable “ were deleted, the Government would still have ample power, should an interruption occur in any essential service, to step in and use any instrumentality or power ‘or authority necessary to relieve the disturbance or protect the public. I strongly object to the retention of these two words, and, before resuming my seat, I shall move that they be deleted. But there is another phase of the matter which is much more important than the two I have mentioned. It is the effect that the amendment to the Constitution embodied in this clause is likely to have on section 119 of the Constitution, which reads -
The Commonwealth shall protect every State against invasion, and, on the application of the executive government of the State, against domestic violence.
We have seen cases in which the executive government of a State has requisitioned military protection. On two other occasions with which I am acquainted the Commonwealth has been unofficially requested to intervene and render assistance to a State; but it has been . unwilling, and, in fact, unable constitutionally to do so. But if this particular clause becomes law and passes into the Constitution, there will at once be two powers that may operate - one where there is a state of domestic violence that may be associated with an interruption of essential services, and the other where there is no such interruption. Without a declaration or request by the Executive Government of the State, the Commonwealth may proceed within the territory of a State to do certain things which at the present time it cannot do because of the prohibition under the Constitution. I shall state a possible case that I have in mind. Suppose that in the great territory of Queensland a strike breaks out in connexion with the coastal shipping service, the railway service, and perhaps the meat works. It may extend at a critical period of thu year to the harvesting or refining of sugar, or the transport of refined sugar - in which the Commonwealth and the public have a vital interest - to other parts of Australia. Suppose the area of in- terruption covers all these services, which are probably all regarded as essential, and most of which certainly would be essential. Suppose the Executive Government of the State makes no request in accordance with section 119. The Commonwealth, in the course of its duty under this altered power, proceeds to intervene, either by the aid of volunteer labour, or by the strength of its own police force, with the addition, probably, of civilians, or with military troops. Is it not possible, and probable, that the State of Queensland would resent the intrusion of the Commonwealth authority into its territory, relying, as it probably would be perfectly justified in doing, on the older section of the Constitution, and not being prepared to invoke the assistance of the Commonwealth. In such a case there would be all the elements of a collision of forces, and not merely a collision of opinion between the State and Federal authorities. I do not imagine that the State could arm itself sufficiently, because a State can not maintain troops under the present Constitution. It might swear in special constables; that is not forbidden by the Constitution. But it would be pitiable if we put words into the Constitution which by any manner of reasoning, or by any possibility or probability, might lead to a condition bordering upon civil war. In other words, I think that the older section and the proposed new one ought to be reconciled before the provision in the present bill is added to the Constitution. Otherwise, there would be, in addition to the possibility of an appeal to the High Court, the possibility of the State obtaining an injunction against the Commonwealth authority on account of the improper use of section 51.
– That is exactly what would happen.
– The provision now in the Constitution has stood the test of 150 years of trial in the United States of America. It was lifted bodily, almost without alteration, from the the American Contsitution, and inserted in ours. The wording in the American Constitution is given in Quick and Garran, at page 964, below the Commonwealth provision. Section119reads-
The Commonwealthshallprotect every Stateagainstinvasionand,onapplicationof the Executive Government of the State, against domestic violence. while the language of the American Constitution is -
The United States . . . shall protect every State against invasion; and, on the application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened) against domestic violence.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 June 1926, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1926/19260615_reps_10_113/>.