17th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J.S.Rosevear) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– As chairman, I present the Seventh Interim Report of the Social Security Committee, and move -
That the paper be printed.
SirFREDERICK STEWART (Parramatta) [2.31]. - I ask the honorable gentleman whether or not my name is attached to the report. If so, I wish to make certain comments. My query is prompted by the fact that some weeks ago I sent to the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) my resignation as a member of the committee. If my name is not attached to the report, I have nothing to say.
– The name of the honorable member appears on the front page as a member of the committee, but does not appear as a signatory to the report.
– Are the signatures of the other members of the committee attached to the report?
– No; my signature is the only one that is attached to the report.
Sir FREDERICK STEWART.Well, then, the absence of my signature has no significance. I protest against my name continuing to appear as that of a member of the committee, seeing that my resignation has been in the hands of the Prime Minister for some weeks. I ask that, before the motion is seriously considered, my name shall be deleted from the report.
– The honorable member has been assured by the honorable member for Bass that although his name appearsas a member of the committee it does not appear as a signatory to the report.
– Nor does the signature of any other member of the committee, except that of the chairman.
– That is so. The honorable member for Parramatta asked whether or not his name appeared as a signatory to the report. The statement of. the honorable member for Bass clears the position in that respect.
– The honorable member for Parramatta did not participatein the making of the report.
– I am prepared to give reasons for my resignation from the committee, but I consider that I had better not do so. All that I ask is that my name shall be removed from the list of members of the committee, as I ceased to be a member of it some weeks ago.
– It is perfectly true that the hon- orable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) advised me by letter that he had withdrawn from membership of the Social Security Committee. I regarded that merely as an act of courtesy to me, as the committee had been constituted by this House.
– And the name of any member of it must be removed by the House.
Mr.CURTIN - I assumed that the circumstances which the honorable gentleman recited in his letter were at that stage not final. As I believe the honorable gentleman will acknowledge, it was presumed that certain discussions were to take place. I personally endeavoured to smooth certain roughnesses. All that I have to say now is that, when this House constituted the committee the honorable member became a member of it, and until the House discharges him he remains a member of it.
– I do not want to exaggerate what may be a small matter into a large one. But surely what the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) is endeavouring to convey is this: “I have not seen this report, and I have no idea what is in it”.
– I did not participate in the final discussions in relation to it.
– I have no knowledge of any difference which may have arisen, leading to the resignation of my colleague. The matter can be put beyond question if the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) will say, as I am sure that he will, that the report which he, as chairman of the committee, has presented, is not a report in which the honorable member for Parramatta has concurred. That would completely clear the position of the honorable member for Parramatta, who may wish to reserve his judgment on a number of matters with which the report deals. The question as to whether or not the honorable member for
Parramatta should continue to be a member of the committee, can be resolved in the usual way. I invite the honorable member for Bass to clear the position.
.- in reply - It is perfectly true, as the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) has pointed out, that he did not participate in the final discussions on this report. Although he was a member of the committee and participated in its early deliberations, be later ceased to take any part in them. He did not see the final draft of the report, nor is he a party to anything that it contains.
– I consider that before putting the motion I should state the position. The Social Security Committee, as the Prime Minister (Mr.Cur tin) has rightly said, is the creation of this House, and a member of it does not cease to be such merely by sending his resignation to the Prime Minister, as the constitution of the committee may be altered only by the House itself. If the Prime Minister is assured that the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) is not prepared to continue his membership of the committee, he may move for his discharge from service on it and for a fresh appointment.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– A section of the press has to-day indicated the possibility of the Government deferring the presentation of the Constitution Alteration (Post-war Reconstruction) Bill to the Senate until some time in July next. If that be the intention of the Government, will the Prime Minister consider also deferment of further debate on the bill in this House until the same time, in order that both branches of the legislature may consider the measure in the light of the then existing circumstances?
– The busiiress-paper indicates clearly the desire of the Government. The bill is at present before this House. I ask the House to pass it as speedily as appropriate deliberation of it would justify, in order that it may be sent to the Senate with as little delay as possible.
– Is the AttorneyGeneral yet in a position to make a statement in regard to the proposal to establish the aluminium industry in Tasmania?
– In this matter, I have been acting on behalf of my colleague the Minister for Supply and Shipping. He and I. consulted with the Premier of Tasmania yesterday and on the previous day. I hope to be able to announce the completion of an agreement with Tasmania in the very near future.
Campaign in Malaya - Foodstuffs.
– In view of the keen distress that was caused to the friends and relatives of Australian soldiers who fought in Malaya, by reason of the bowdlerized and sensational press accounts which were published during that campaign, will the Prime Minister have an official examination made of the detached and impartial story in relation to Singapore contributed by Sir George Sansom to the January issue of Foreign Affairs, which recites the great gallantry and devotion of all the forces engaged in that campaign, in order to determine whether or not a condensation of it may be made for distribution to the Australian press?
– I shall see that consideration is given to the suggestion of the right honorable gentleman. I see no reason why a condensation of the article should not be published by the newspapers without any direction from the Government. There is as much justification for regarding as important an article written by the distinguished gentleman to whom reference has been made as one from some other source. I shall see what can be done in the way of issuing a condensation of the article.
– Yesterday, the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) asked a question relative to the dumping at sea near Sydney of a quantity of tinned foodstuffs returned from a forward military area. Investigations have been made into this matter, and Major-
General Plant, General Officer Commanding New South Wales Line of Communication Area, has informed mc that a quantity of canteen stores was dumped after being condemned by the health authorities. About 23,000 cases of canteen stores were returned recently from the Northern Territory, and after examination by the health authorities not more than 4,500 cases were condemned as being unfit for human consumption. The condemned cases had been exposed to tropical weather and the containers had rusted. The examination was carried out, and a part of the stores condemned, as a safeguard to the health of the troops. The matter was carried out entirely by the Canteens Central Control.
– Can the Minister for Labour and ‘ National Service say whether his department has made available sufficient labour to ensure that supplies of domestic firewood shall be available to the people of Melbourne during the coming winter months?
– I have received deputations from various people in Melbourne - persons associated with the Forestry Department and others - who are concerned about firewood supplies, and I think that, as the result of conferences with the man-power authorities, sufficient labour is now available to ensure that firewood sufficient to meet the target suggested by the members of the deputation, and also to solve the problem of harvesting salt.
– Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture seen a statement by Mr. A. W. Thompson, secretary of the Milk and Ice Carters Union, in to-day’s Sydney Morning Herald that the dairying industry is in a chaotic condition, and that the man-power authorities are to blame for the decision of about 200 dairymen on the South Coast of New South Wales to close down their dairies in the past eighteen months? If so, will he consult with his colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service, so that greater endeavours may be made to supply the man-power necessary to meet the needs of the dairying industry?
– The answer to the last part of the honorable member’s question is “ Yes “.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Health seen a report in the Adelaide Advertiser of the 4th March that seven patients who were in danger of dying from influenza complications recovered after having been treated with penicillin, and will he take the necessary steps to see that supplies of this important drug shall be made available to meet the requirements of the people of this country? Will he also inquire into the method of drying-off which is in operation in Great Britain?
– I have not yet seen an account of the cures to which the honorable member has referred, but in its own laboratories the Commonwealth Health Department is hard at work, and successfully, in producing penicillin in this country.
– Last night the Minister for Home Security (Mr. Lazzarini) made a statement, on behalf of the Minister for the Interior, that the method adopted by the Government in connexion with the acquisition of land, to which reference was made by honorable members on both side3 of the House on the motion for the adjournment of the House last Friday, was both practical and fair. In view of the facts disclosed in this House last week, and also the further fact that honorable members continue to receive letters stating that bargaining amounting to huckstering is still taking place, will the Prime Minister say whether his promise’ that an inquiry would be made and an independent valuation obtained will be fulfilled?
– The answer which was circulated by the Minister for Home Security (Mr. Lazzarini) was merely a statement of the existing law on the subject. I do not want to interfere with the existing laws, unless that law works unjustly. I shall, however, make a fur ther examination of this question, and let the honorable member have a reply as to whether, in my opinion, the procedure in government acquisition of land fulfils the requirements which I envisage as being necessary in respect of independent valuations.
Storage of Emergency Stocks
– As considerable inconvenience is being caused in various towns by the storing of emergency food stocks in halls which previously were used for entertainment purposes, will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture take steps to remove such stocks?
– I shall have immediate investigations made. .If the honorable gentleman will be good enough to supply me with the instances to which he has referred, immediate steps will be taken to rectify the position.
Fruit and Vegetable Businesses
– A claim that it has become absolutely impossible to conduct fruit and vegetable businesses lawfully in Queensland country towns since the introduction of price-fixing culminated in a royal commission into the fruit and vegetable markets of Queensland. It was stated in substantial evidence given before the commission that it is not possible to conduct a fruit and vegetable business in that State without infringing the regulations. In view of that and other evidence, will the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs urge that impending prosecutions of small country shopkeepers be withheld until the report of the royal commission is presented and considered?
– I regard the honorable member’s question as a fair one in the interests of those who are concerned, and I believe that the law officers of the Crown should examine the findings of the royal commission. Should a complication of the nature referred to be found to exist, I am of the opinion that adjustments should be made. I shall be pleased to take up the matter on those lines.
– I desire to know from you, Mr. Speaker, what is the present circulation ofHansard; how many copies are issued free to, or at the direction of, members of the House of Representatives and of the Senate; how many copies are issued free to approved organizations; how many copies are issued to annual subscribers; and what is the average number of copies issued upon payment for single copies?
– The information will be obtained and supplied to the honorable member.
– Has the Treasurer observed reports in the press during recent months that there have been negotiations of a secret or semi-secret character in regard to an international currency and a reversion to the gold standard in the post-war period, as well as statements that certain Allied countries, namely, the United States of America, Great Britain, and some British Dominions, have agreed to revert to the gold standard, that Russia has, at least unofficially, agreed thereto, and that Australia also is expected to agree? Will the Treasurer indicate whether these negotiations are official on the part of the Allied Nations, or do they represent merely a meeting of representatives of international finance, and will he state whether the Australian Government has been consulted in the matter?
– I am aware that discussions have taken place in London and Washington on the subject of currency stabilization after the war. They have been on what is known as an expert level - governments as such have not participated. The Australian Government has been represented by a delegate, and is being represented at the present moment. In the discussions that are taking place between officials representing parts of the British Commonwealth of Nations governments have not been in any way committed. The Australian Government has not considered the acceptance or rejection of any proposal.
– I take it that Australia will not be committed without the matter being referred to Parliament?
– The Government is not committed to anything at all; there have merely been discussions among delegates from the various Dominions. They have been considering formulas submitted by Lord Keynes, and by Dr. White, of the American Treasury.
– The report states that it is expected that Australia will agree to the proposals.
– People sometimes expect a lot of things that do not happen. The fact is the Australian Government is not committed to the acceptance or rejection of any proposal.
– Has the Prime Minister received from the miners’ federation any communication indicating its reaction to his threat yesterday to resign in certain circumstances?
– No, nothing that I would regard as decisive. Such indications as have been received by me are of a nature that I welcome.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the wealth of information which he possesses indicates that the Government is going to get more coal, or , the miners’ federation a new Prime Minister?
– I think that there is a greater probability of our getting more coal than there is of any change of government.
– On Tuesday last the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) asked whether the attention of the Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley) had been directed to criticism published in the London Daily Express of the 6th March of the delay in the transit time of letters by airgraph, air mail, and surface route, forwarded from Great Britain to Australia. The PostmasterGeneral has given consideration to the comments of the Daily Express, and he issued the following statement yesterday : -
The average time for an airgraph mail from the United Kingdom to Australia is fifteen days compared with 21 days quoted by the newspaper. Since the 1st January this year 47 airgraph mails have come to hand, the maximum time en route ‘being 22 days, and the minimum ten days.
Time taken in the transit of air mails depends largely on the shipping facilities available for their conveyance by sea across the Pacific. When a good connexion is achieved the mails arrive in less than six weeks. The transit time, however, varies considerably, but on the average the use of the air mail is advantageous as compared with mails carried by sea throughout.
The transit time of surface mails also varies considerably, because under war-time conditions regular schedules are impracticable, and the Post Office is forced to use the vessels which are available. Since June, 1943, only on two occasions have the mails from the United Kingdom taken longer than three months to reach Australia. Excluding those two mails, which took about 100 days each, the average transit time was 02 days.
The transit time of ordinary mails from Australia is approximately the same, and in no case since June, 1943, has the voyage of the conveying vessel occupied more than three months.
On peace-time standards the present mail service -is far from satisfactory, but under war conditions the time taken in overseas transportation is unavoidably prolonged. The despatch of mails is governed by the shipping facilities available, and there is every reason to believe that in the United Kingdom as in Australia every opportunity to despatch overseas mails is availed of.
– In view of the conflicting statements that have been made regarding wheat stocks in Australia, and the commitments into which Australia has entered regarding them, will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture ask the Australian Wheat Board to prepare a reliable statement on the position ?
– I agree that conflicting statements have been made in regard to wheat, and I shall have a detailed statement on the subject prepared and published by the Australian Wheat Board.
– When all applications for motor tyres and tubes up to the 10th .February were dealt with, there was revealed a serious shortage of supplies which affects many hundreds of deserving primary producers, and results in the curtailment of their activities. Will the Minister for Supply and Shipping arrange for the setting aside of a special quota of tyres and tubes for the use of those engaged in the production of food? If he cannot arrange for extra supplies, will he instruct the Deputy Controller of Rubber in Queensland that a large proportion of permits for the release of tyres and tubes shall in future be made to those directly engaged in the production of food?
– I appreciate the importance of the subject raised by the honorable member’s question. The allocation of raw rubber is not within the control of the Australian Government, but is subject to an authority in another country, and is based on the needs of all Allied countries and the supplies available. Raw rubber is in short supply, and the problem is to make the best distribution of what is available. I agree that primary producers should receive a high priority, and I shall ask the representative of the Department in Queensland to give special attention to the honorable member’s request.
Supplies and Distribution
– In view of the fact that discharged soldiers returning to civil life are not provided for in the retail tobacco quotas, will the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs ask him to take steps to ensure tha*, these men, who have served their country in the forces are able to satisfy their requirements in regard to tobacco?
– Apparently the honorable member’s point is that when discharged soldiers return to their home districts, the demand for tobacco in such areas is increased, without any corresponding increase being made in the quota available. I shall take the matter up with the Minister for Trade and Customs, but it would help if the honorable member could cite specific instances. 1 cannot ask the Minister to make a general review of the situation, but where an anomaly exists the matter could, no doubt, be adjusted.
– Has the Treasurer seen the financial statement of the Premier of New South Wales which shows that, since the introduction of the system of uniform taxation, the Treasury of New South Wales has amassed millions of pounds a year in cash resources? Will the Treasurer accept this fact as an indication that the terms conceded to New South Wales and the other States were over-generous?
– I have not seen the financial statement referred to,but I am fully aware of the financial position of all the States. The fact is that three of the States havebeen showing very fair surpluses, largely as a result of war activities and Commonwealth expenditure. The Prime Minister and I put that point very forcibly to the State Premiers at the last Premiers Conference. As I said yesterday in reply to another question, I asked the State Premiers to forgo certain of the grants they have been receiving for various purposes. New South Wales acceded to the request insofar as it applied to the Federal Aid Roads Grant and the grant for fodder conservation. There have also been surpluses in Queensland and Victoria. Whether or not there should be a change of the system of distribution provided for in the Income Tax Reimbursement Act is a matter of Government policy, and I cannot now make a statement upon it. The honorable member may rest assured that these matters do not escape notice.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether he will confer with the Minister for Trade and Customs with a view to fixing the prices of hay and other fodder. I believe that the Minister is aware that the present selling prices of those commodities are unpayable to the producer.
– I shall take up that matter with the Minister for Trade and Customs.
Assent to the following bills re ported : -
Coal Production (War-time) Bill 1944.
Coal Mines Profits (War-time) Bill 1944.
Debate resumed from the 8th March (vide page 1121), on motion by Dr. Evatt -
That the bill be now read a second time,
Upon which Mr. Menzies had moved, by way of amendment -
That all words after “That” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - (vide page 1027).
– When this bill becomes law it will be entitled the Constitution Alteration (Post-war Reconstruction) Act. This should serve to remind us of the fundamental purposes of the bill and the use to which the powers now sought will be put when they are granted. First and foremost among the powers asked for is that to make laws with respect to the reinstatement and advancement of members of the fighting services, and the dependants of those who have been killed, or injured, in this war. There can he no doubt whatever that this is a Commonwealth responsibility. Many hundreds of thousands of men and women have answered the nation’s call. For the period of the war they have set aside their personal plans and ambitions, and, unfortunately, it is true, a number of them have made the supreme sacrifice. Many of them also will have their health impaired. The nation will look to the Commonwealth Parliament to see to it that these individuals do not suffer by reason of the fact that during the war they set aside their personal plans and ambitions, and that they are not placed at any disadvantage because of the sacrifices they make. And the nation will look to the Parliament to ensure that the dependants of those who are killed will not suffer by reason of the patriotism of their fathers. But the task of rehabilitating the members of the fighting services cannot be carried out independently of the national economy. The problem of the reinstatement of returned soldiers, sailors and airmen’ cannot . be solved merely by displacing non-service personnel in industry in order to make way for them. Such a solution would not appeal to the returned servicemen themselves. It is also true that the activities of many hundreds of thousands of citizens in this country who are not actually in the fighting services have been subjected to governmental direction, and these persons have also been subjected to a certain measure of discipline during the war. They also will have to be reabsorbed, into the nation’s peace-time economy. Therefore, our real task of reconstruction is one of planning and developing the national economy to absorb not only returned servicemen, but also munitions workers and others who have, in the meantime, been transferred from non-essential industries, and also, of course, the young people who are entering the labour forces of the country. The powers at present possessed by this Parliament are inadequate to enable us to achieve that objective. During more than four years of war our economy has been completely re-organized. Hundreds of thousands of people have been diverted from their normal peace-time occupations, and the task of rehabilitating all of them will undoubtedly be colossal. The reorganization of the economy of the country for purposes of war has been carried out by the Commonwealth under its defence power, but that power is not sufficient to cover all the aspects of rehabilitation which I have just mentioned. When the. Constitution was drawn up in 1901 the aeroplane was unknown. There was no such thing a; wireless; and total war was not even dreamed of. Consequently, no provision was made in the Constitution to secure the rehabilitation of all who might be engaged in -the prosecution of a total war such as the present conflict. In the postwar period we shall be .confronted with unforeseen difficulties; and just as total war has meant the complete reorganization of the economic life of this country, so must rehabilitation and reconstruction mean the complete reshaping of the national economy. That will be possible only if this Parliament is given powers which it does not now possess. Fifteen months ago the Premiers and the Leaders of the Opposition in the various States and Commonwealth representatives, both Government and Opposition, met at the Constitution Convention in Canberra and came to an agreement as to the powers which it was necessary to transfer to the Commonwealth Parliament in order that it might carry out the task of reconstruction. The representatives of the States went back to their various parliaments, and two of the parliaments passed legislation referring those powers which were agreed upon at the Convention to the Commonwealth Parliament. Four of the States failed to do so. This bill is necessary because the Premiers of those four States were unable to induce their various parliaments to pass legislation in accordance with the agreement that they had entered into at Canberra. In the meantime, a good deal of opposition has developed to a reference of the powers agreed upon at that Convention to the Commonwealth Parliament. The people of Australia may well ask from whom this opposition comes. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), in the speech he made on this bill, qualified himself for the leadership of the “ No “ campaign in the referendum, and it is true that the amendment that he has moved would, if carried, destroy all hope of these powers being given to this Parliament. I was intrigued by the technique of the right honorable gentleman. First, he gave a grossly exaggerated account of the powers which this Parliament already possesses.
– Exaggerated in what way?
– I shall deal with that later. Then the right honorable gentleman dilated at great length on the decisions of the High Court as constituting a declaration of the amplitude of the authority already possessed by this Parliament under the defence power in the Constitution ; and, finally, he examined the fourteen proposed additional powers in detail, dividing them into three categories: first, the powers which he said the Commonwealth already possessed and which it was therefore not necessary to ask for; secondly, the powers which he thought the Commonwealth Parliament should not have; and, thirdly, the powers which he said ought to be granted to the Commonwealth Parliament but without any time limit at all. As to the decisions of the High ‘Court, I say that, as far as . my experience and opinion go, those given since war broke out do not envisage an everwidening vista of territory within which the Commonwealth could legislate. On the contrary, for every decision which tends to show that the defence power is of fairly wide application, one can cite another decision tending to show that the power is indeed narrow. Regarding the defence power itself, the right honorable gentleman said that, in his opinion, it covered a very wide field in which the Commonwealth could legislate. In regard to the powers which he said the Commonwealth already possessed and did not need to ask for, and the powers which he said that the Commonwealth should not have, the right honorable gentleman made such a good case for the first of those as to destroy the validity of his argument in regard to the second. In answer to an interjection by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott), he said that in his opinion the defence power would cover the rehabilitation of munition workers. I have already pointed out that this is a total war, and that the need for rehabilitation would extend beyond members of the fighting forces and munition workers. Hundreds of thousands of people have been diverted from their peace-time pursuits by such regulation as prohibition of the production of non-essential goods, and all those ought to be covered by any legislation which this Parliament enacts in the post-war period. The right honorable gentleman, I believe, did agree with that view, because this is what he said -
What an absurd thing it would be if farreaching powers enabled the Commonwealth Government to take the country from this point to that, but then made it necessary for the Government to leave the country there with all the resultant confusion.
The right honorable member used the word “ country “, but I should like to paraphrase that statement to make it deal with people,, because, after all, “ country “’ is a vague word. This is how I would paraphrase it : - “ What an absurd thing it would be if far-reaching powers enabled the Government to plan the activities of individuals in the building of an economic edifice designed for the prosecution of the war, but then made it necessary for the Government to refrain from planning the activities of those same individuals in order to reshape that edifice for the purposes of peace “. If the right honorable gentleman’s interpretation of our defence powers is as wide as that, his argument that employment and unemployment and production and distribution of goods, proposed powers Nos. (ii) and (vii) in this bill, should not be given to the Commonwealth falls to the ground, because, in reshaping our economic edifice for peace-time purposes, undoubtedly, it will be necessary to exercise powers over employment and the production and distribution of goods.
It is pertinent to observe at this stage that the Constitution Convention was unanimous in its agreement that the powers should be referred to the Commonwealth Parliament. It is true that the Leader of the Opposition was absent during the last sessions of that Convention. Surely it would be ridiculous to imagine that all this galaxy of talent at the Convention, including the Premiers and Leaders of the Opposition of all the States, with the representatives of the Government and distinguished representatives of the Opposition of this Parliament, was wrong in its conclusion that it was necessary to grant these increased powers to the Commonwealth Parliament.
– The representatives were equally convinced that it was unwise to try to obtain the powers by referendum.
– That is a different matter, with which I shall deal in a moment. The point now at issue is that al] those distinguished gentlemen at the Convention, with the single exception of the Leader of the Opposition, who, accidentally or otherwise, was absent from the final sittings, were in complete agreement.
– Not all of them. The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator McLeay) definitely opposed the resolution.
– I have here the record of the proceedings of the Convention, showing that in the committee stage the Convention resolved, on every clause, that it was necessary to give these powers to the Commonwealth. I am reminded of the old lady who, witnessing a review of the battalion in which her boy served, exclaimed, “ Look, they are ali out of step but our Robert”. That is exactly the position of the Leader of the Opposition in this case.
The Opposition is divided on the question of whether the time is opportune to take the referendum. The amendment moved by its Leader indicates that, in his opinion, the time is opportune. In subclause 6 of the amendment he actually proposes to make provision for the redrafting of the bill. For what purpose does one redraft a bill? Naturally, in order to put forward a proposition to Parliament. The point is that the redrafting of the bill means that the Leader of the Opposition wants a referendum to be taken.
– That is not stated, but, reading the amendment further, one finds that it indicates that the referendum would be taken before the cessation of hostilities, because paragraph 8 reads -
That provision should :be made for the setting up, within a period of two years after the termination of actual hostilities, of an elective popular convention for the review of the structure and working of the Constitution.
The final paragraph is introduced for the purpose of some long-term action. The remainder of the amendment deals with the short-term action which the Leader of the Opposition proposes should be taken. For that reason, I say that the amendment definitely envisages the taking of a referendum before the cessation of hostilities. We therefore have a distinct division of opinion on the Opposition side. The Leader of the Opposition, in fact, claims that a referendum ought to be taken, but to ask for powers different from those asked for m the Government’s bill, whilst another section of the Opposition says, “A referendum should not be taken now; we do not want it taken in war-time, but, if one is taken, then the powers asked for should be those asked for in this bill”. That puts the position in a nutshell.
– In any case, if the Leader of the Opposition wanted a referendum taken after the war, he could not make provision for it in a bill now. That is what the Opposition suggests.
– The amendment is most specific. The Leader of the Opposition does not suggest what the right honorable member for Yarra indicates. He does not object to a referendum being taken, so that I do not know why the Minister for War Organization of Industry is criticizing him.
– The point that I am making is that the Opposition is divided on the subject.
Since the Convention was held, there has undoubtedly developed in the community a good deal of opposition from vested interests to the granting of these powers to the Commonwealth Parliament. There has been, I believe, a systematic and sinister campaign to the effect that, if the Commonwealth Parliament were granted such additional powers it would mean a continuance of the type of regulations which have been introduced to assist in the prosecution of the war. That is such a silly idea that perhaps it is scarcely worth my attention, but I think I should make the position clear. The regulations or laws which a government puts into effect are related to the economic objectives which it has in view, and of course are limited by the powers which it possesses to give effect to them. The controls and restrictive regulations which are in operation during the war are enacted because of the economic objective which the Government now has. Our economic objective is to maximize our available resources for the prosecution of the war. As a corollary, it follows that there must be a minimization of the use of resources for other than war purposes. Consequently, the type of regulation introduced in time of war is such as very considerably to restrict the activities of individuals. Our economic objectives in the post-war period will, however, be entirely different from that which we have in time of war. I wish to state what they ought to be, to relate them to the powers which the Commonwealth possesses to carry them through, and to indicate the type of controls, if any, which will be required in order to have those objectives implemented. I believe that in the postwar period our economic objectives should be these -
Surely it is absurd to think that the “ maximum use of the nation’s resources, technical skill, scientific discoveries and inventions so as to attain and maintain a higher standard of living “ can be realized by imposing restrictions of any kind on the people. If our economic objective includes the provision of “ sound nutrition, adequate clothing, housing, medical care and education”, surely it is absurd to think that the regulations restricting supplies of clothing, the erection of houses for the workers, the provision of proper medical care and the guaranteeing of proper educational opportunities to all people will be continued after the war. So it ought to be clear to every one that in the postwar period the restrictive controls and regulations that have operated during the war will not be continued under any conditions, because the purposes of those controls in war-time are related to an economic objective entirely different from our post-war economic objective.
In order to achieve the objective that I have outlined, the Commonwealth Parliament must possess additional powers. The question may be asked : Do those who resist the granting of additional powers to the Commonwealth - they include members of the party led by the Leader of the Opposition, with the exception of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Hughes) - also oppose the economic objectives which I have described ? Certain statements made from time to time indicate that those honorable gentlemen will he opposed to the realization of at least some of them. If my memory serves me correctly, the Leader of the Opposition, when speaking in Melbourne some months ago, said that in his opinion, Australia in the post-war period would be a much poorer country than it had ever been in its history. I emphatically deny that. Australia, after the war, will be a richer country than ever before, because we shall have at our disposal, in spite of the tragic loss of so many men on the fighting fronts, the largest labour force in our history. If the powers which are now sought are granted to the Commonwealth, and if the Labour party remains in office, there will not be hundreds of thousands of labour units languishing in unemployment. On these counts, I join issue with the Leader of the Opposition and other honorable gentlemen opposite who declare that in the post-war period this country will be poorer.
– On the same reasoning, the longer the war lasts the richer Australia ought to become.
– I cannot follow the logic of the honorable member. In the post-war period, it will be necessary to re-absorb into civil life not only members of the fighting forces and workers in munitions establishments but also those who have been transferred from their pre-war occupations to perform some tasks necessary in the conduct of the war. This task of rehabilitation can be done only in an expanding economy. The controls which have- been exercised in war-time are really negative. The war effort of this country has not been achieved by the regulations which the Department of War Organization of Industry has put into operation. They are of a negative character. The positive side of- the war effort is the building up of the strength of our fighting services and the vast numbers of men in industry who have undertaken the production of munitions of war and supplies generally. Those are the positive achievements in attaining our economic objective in wartime. In peace-time, positive action will ensure the attainment of the economic objectives that I described earlier. These positive measures will be the stimulation and development of all kinds of production, so that the requirements of the people, who, because of war, have been denied many things, will be met when peace returns. , Positive action will include the undertaking of a vast housing programme in the post-war period. There will be houses fit for heroes to live in; houses which will not discourage the raising of larger families, of which this community is greatly in need; houses which will contain all kinds of domestic laboursaving devices to lighten the burden of the housewife. Does that sound like a programme of restriction? On the contrary, the activities of all the people of this country will be vastly expanded so that restrictive regulations and controls will be out of the question. Apart from better housing and clothing, Australians will require greater production of certain kinds of food, because an examination has shown that the diet of the people is not so well balanced as it might be. Even in war-time we are taking steps to correct that lack of balance. Therefore, on all sides, in respect of housing, clothing, food and education, there will be an expansion of our economy in the postwar period. In addition to housing for the workers, we shall require more schools, hospitals, libraries and community centres, all of which will give increased and increasing employment to the people of this country in the post-war period. The kind of laws which will be required to be enacted will be exactly the opposite of restrictive. I mention what our national objective should be to show that the idea that restrictive controls might continue after the war is entirely false, and is being propagated throughout the community to-day for ulterior motives. This is being done to create antagonism to the granting of these increased powers to the Commonwealth Parliament. One of the first things that the Government will do when the war is over will be to sweep away all controls of a restrictive character which have no part in post-war reconstruction. Already I have had some discussions with my colleague, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Chifley), to ensure that there shall be a proper synchronization of his activities with mine in regard to expanding production and relaxing existing controls. As conditions improve, culminating in final victory, the time will come when almost every restrictive regulation which has been necessary in time of war will be relaxed or removed entirely, and in its place we shall have a regulation or law which will have the effect of expanding and stimulating the production of goods and services which the people have been unable to enjoy in time of war. Of course, it will not be possible to do that instantly. The Government could not possibly develop overnight a programme for the production of goods and services for civilian consumption any more than it could evolve overnight a programme of munitions production. The change will take some time, and during that intervening period when a number of commodities will be in short supply - I am confident that it will be a very limited period - it may be necessary to continue the rationing of certain classes of goods.
In regard to the inauguration of a building programme, I point out that it will not be possible to have at our disposal immediately victory comes sufficient man-power and materials to undertake a construction programme on the enormous scale that will be required. Workers will have to be trained for the job, and the production of raw materials for the construction of schools, houses, hospitals, &c, will have to be organized. For a short period, there may have to be a system of priorities covering the use of available labour and materials. For instance, houses for the workers will have to come before the erection of palatial residences for the wealthy, and the construction of schools and hospitals will have to take precedence over the construction of vast city buildings. However, whilst it is true that for a limited period certain controls may have to operate, they will not by any means constitute the central theme of the Government’s operations. The Government’s main purpose will be to stimulate and expand the production of goods and services of all kinds, and any idea that the granting of these increased powers to the Commonwealth Parliament would result in a continuance of restrictive regulations which have been necessary to balance our economy in time of war, is sheer lunacy. The whole emphasis of our policy in the post-war period will be in turning an economy of scarcity of goods required for civilian use into an economy of plenty. To do this, of course, we must have plans, and I am glad that the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), speaking at the Constitution Convention, laid emphasis upon the necessity for planning our economic activities in the post-war period. He said that the planning and direction of the policy of production must be in some one’s hands. We do not wish to revert in the post-war period to the completely unplanned economy which we had in the period between the two world wars, because if that were to happen I am certain that we should have again large numbers of unemployed. To ensure that our resources of man-power and materials shall be utilized fully there must be a planning authority, but that will not mean that the day-to-day activities of men and women will be ordered and directed as they have had to be in time of war. On the contrary, within that broad planning organization and the broad plans that will be made by the Government - I am sure that every one will recognize the necessity for those plans - there will be plenty of room for individual enterprise, individual initiative and, I fear, occasionally, individual favour. [Extension of time granted.] Unless the Commonwealth Parliament be granted the increased, powers sought in this bill, it will be impossible for it to plan the type of national economy that will be required in Australia after the war. This is not an easy country to develop, for it is a country of great distances and a great variety of climatic conditions. After the war we shall be confronted with a most unstable international economy, and during that period this Parliament will be faced with the necessity to make vital decisions. The Parliament, therefore, should be given an increase of power to enable it to grapple with the many problems of an unexpected character that will inevitably arise. If the powers asked for in this bill be not granted the colossal task of post-war reconstruction will be wellnigh impossible of successful achievement; but if the additional power be conferred upon the Parliament, the vision splendid of Australia unlimited will be well on the way to realization.
– “Let us have a referendum” has been the thought uppermost in the mind of the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) ever since he became a member of the Commonwealth Parliament. From his point of view the subject of the referendum, or the time of holding it, did not matter “ twopence “. I regard the right honorable gentleman as one of the most misunderstood men ever to enter the Parliament. Many people considered that he desired to be Prime Minister. I do not believe anything of the sort. I am perfectly sure that his one and only ambition, when he stepped down from the serene austerity of the High Court Bench and entered this chamber, was to bring about an alteration of the Commonwealth Constitution. Having made two visits overseas, and having gazed upon the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbour, since becoming a member of the Ministry, the right honorable gentleman is more firmly convinced than ever that somehow the four freedoms must be emplanted in the Commonwealth Con- stitution. Let us look for a few moments at the manoeuvres - I can call them nothing else - that preceded the introduction of this bill. They afford one of the most delightful political spectacles in the history of the Commonwealth. First, the “Four Freedoms Bill” was submitted to us; but that donkey would not gallop. The bill was not approved by the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, the Trades Hall or the caucus. Honorable members are aware of the biblical reference to the difficulty of a camel going through the eye of a needle. I have a very strong suspicion that the opening of the Australian ballotbox will prove too narrow to enable this elephant to get into our Constitution if the question is finally submitted to the people.
Having failed with the “ Four Freedoms Bill” the Government adopted a suggestion which was made, I believe, by the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) that a convention of some sort should be held. In due course a convention assembled in this historic chamber towards the end of 1942. The Minister for “War Organization of Industry has just told us that the Convention unanimously agreed to the principles contained in this bill. I dispute that statement. The present Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator MeLeay) did not have very much to say at the Convention, but what he did say was to the point. He said -
I wish to record my opposition to approval of the bill by the Convention. I approve of the bill being submitted to the State Parliaments. I do not approve of it as a member of the Convention.
No words could be plainer than those ; yet notwithstanding their clarity the Minister for War Organization of Industry has just said at this table - fifteen months later - that the Convention gave unanimous approval to the bill. It did nothing of the sort.
– Senator McLcay approved of the bill.
– He said that he approved of the bill being submitted to the State Parliaments, which is a very different thing from approving of the bill. The Premier of South Australia, Mr. Playford, said -
The Commonwealth Government must bear in mind that representatives of the State governments at this conference table have no power or authority to commit the Parliaments of their States, which may have entirely different views of what adequate powers are from what the Convention or individual members of it may have. Whilst I personally am quite willing to accept Mr. Cosgrove’s amendment, and to analyze it and the powers that are to be conferred under it, it is on the distinct understanding that there will be no charge of breach of faith if later on we do not agree to every individual item that is suggested by the Commonwealth.
At that point Mr. Curtin interjected, “We quite agree with that”. So much for the contention that the Convention unanimously approved of the bill.
– Fancy a Premier sponsoring in the Parliament of his State a bill which he did not approve!
– He undertook to introduce the bill, but the honorable member for Ballarat must be aware that Cabinets sometimes have disagreements. I have known of recent disagreements in Commonwealth Cabinets.
– The contents of the bill were discussed at the Convention.
– Quite true, but that did not justify the statement of the Minister for War Organization of Industry that the Convention had unanimously accepted the bill.
– The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) who was at the Convention, also said so.
– I do not care what that right honorable gentleman said. The fact is that the bill was not unanimously approved by the Convention.
– The Convention reached a unanimous resolution earlier in its proceedings.
– Unanimous agreement to consider a matter is one thing, but unanimous approval of the matters considered is quite another. The Premier of South Australia pointed out clearly that final approval depended upon the State Parliaments.
– Half a dozen old Tories might have had some reservations.
– The honorable member for Ballarat will no doubt put his point of view presently. It has been said during this debate that the powers mentioned in this bill belong, at present, to either the Commonwealth Parliament or the State Parliaments; hut that statement is only partially true. Generally speaking, there is a division of powers between the Commonwealth and State Parliaments; but honorable gentlemen must be well aware that neither the Commonwealth Parliament nor the State Parliaments can legislate in contravention of the provisions of Section 92. We have, in this country, a state of affairs very different from what obtains in countries with a unitary form of government, such as Great Britain and New Zealand. The governments of those countries have complete power over everything, without any barriers or inhibitions whatsoever. The constitution of the United Kingdom is the day-to-day law of the United Kingdom and that law is altered from time to time. But there are also many forms of federal government throughout the world. I have done a good deal of reading on this subject in days gone by. Without doubt, the Commonwealth Constitution was deliberately modelled upon that of the United States of America. But some aspects of the economy of this country are unparalleled in the United States of America. The Government of that country started with thirteen States, but there are now 48 States in the union. Australia started with six States. One of these, New South Wales, had 40 per cent, of the people of the continent, who owned 45 per cent, of the national wealth. Moreover, 95 per cent, of the industrial trouble which at the moment is dominating the economy of the nation is located in New South Wales. Whether we like them or not, we must face those facts. Only the introduction of our lamented friend Mr. Lang into the State politics of New South Wales is needed, completely to upset the whole of the Australian economy. We shall not secure the submission of a proposal of this sort .to the people of Australia, without an inquiry upon it being made. There are very grave doubts, in the State from which I come, as to whether or not the present Commonwealth Parliament exercises properly the powers that it now possesses, and as to whether or not it should continue to possess them. If the electors of the southern portion of Australia were asked whether or not these specific powers should be granted to the Commonwealth, or whether the existing balance between the Commonwealth and the States should be retained or certain powers should be withdrawn from the Commonwealth, in all probability they would vote in favour of a reduction of the powers which the Commonwealth now exercises.
– At the last elections, South Australia returned four Labour men and only one anti-Labour man.
– There were many reasons for that result. At the four general elections which preceded the last election, only one Labour man was returned from South Australia.
– The election which counts at the moment is that which returned four Labour men.
– What counts is the individual judgment of the people in every State, as to whether or not these powers are required by the Commonwealth; and it is a notorious, historical fact that governments which have been returned to this House with huge majorities have almost immediately been denied the additional powers for which they have asked.
– That occurred in 1925 and 1926.
– Another instance was the conscription referenda. After the Labour victory in 1910, when the Fisher Government was returned with a tremendous majority in both Houses, a proposition to increase the powers of the Commonwealth was rejected by a huge majority of the people. The point that I make is that, to begin with, the present is not the time to alter the Constitution. If the AttorneyGeneral, and the Government of which he is a member, are prepared to persevere, they can get from the State Parliaments all that they need. Had the AttorneyGeneral and, perhaps, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), met the members of the Legislative Council of Tasmania in Hobart, man to man and face to face, the verdict of that chamber might have been different from what it was. Talk of reactionary Legislative Councils in the States, by honorable gentlemen opposite, is of no avail. With the exception of Queensland, there is a Legislative Council in all the States, and they will not be shifted in a hurry. Unlike my friend from Adelaide (Mr. Chambers), I have been a member of a State Parliament; and it was at the time of the depression to which he referred yesterday.
– Not in the Legislative Council.
– I would no more be a member of a Legislative Council than I would be a member of the Senate. When I was offered a seat in the Senate, I said that I would go there when I wanted to retire from politics, my reason being that I was too young to be a member of that chamber. That, however, is by the way. For the three years of the depression - I say this for the special benefit of the honorable member for Adelaide - I was a member of the Parliament of South Australia. During that time, the Hill Labour Government was in office ; and a more dreadful record of administration does not exist in the history of South Australia than that which was left by that Government. When it went to the country in 1933, sixteen months before I entered this Parliament, it had four supporters returned in a House of 46 members. My friends ought not to court an argument on the history of Labour administration in South Australia, because I have too close a personal acquaintance with it. The Labour Government of South Australia of that day was as conservative a body as could be any Legislative Council of that State. That is characteristic of the Labour party the world over. If you want to have anything progressive done, if you want forward movement, you have to get right away from the Socialist, who always ends as a Communist, a Nazi, or a Fascist. That is the history of socialism the world over. It is a fact that always, even back in the ancient democracies of Greece and Rome, the dictators who reached the top came from the bottom, from the left or the reds: there is no other source. The side in politics to which I belong does not produce that type. All the Lenins, Stalins, Hitlers and Mussolinis in modern history have been leading exponents of socialism, and leading’ lights on the red side of the line.
– From what source do the Quislings spring?
– I should say that they, too, come from the socialist side. Before this Parliament completes its term, I shall be reminding the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) of that interjection. The question is : By what method ought the Constitution to be altered? I consider that theonly possible method to-day is that of negotiation. I do not blame the Attorney-General personally, because this is a government measure. The Government may consider that it would be rather derogatory to its dignity to negotiate with such minor mortals as the members of the Legislative Council of Tasmania, or the House of Assembly in Perth or Adelaide.
– We have been doing it all the time.
– I tell the Government that the conditions with which it has to comply in order to secure an alteration of the Constitution are without parallel in the federal systems of the world. The greatest number of hurdles and the highest, that are to be found in any system have to be surmounted before the Australian Constitution can be altered. An overwhelming majority of the electors of the Commonwealth as a whole may vote in favour of the proposal, but if there is the smallest majority against it in each of the three smaller States, which combined represent less than 20 per cent. of the total population, then it is “ ditched “. Every honorable member knows that. So I repeat that the only sensible, diplomatic, safe course to pursue at present is to attempt to obtain these powers by negotiation. Like the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), I am far from satisfied that the possibility has been exhausted of achieving the result desired by negotiation with the States.
– Does the honorable member consider that the negotiations would prove successful ?
– Had I not believed that they would be, I should not have made the submission. I have already said that the result might have been different had senior Ministers gone to Tasmania during the consideration of the matter by the Parliament of that State. I have no doubt that they would visit Tasmania in order to participate in a general election, and that they will do so during the referendum campaign. Surely, in view of what was at stake, it was not too much to expect them to endeavour to resolve the matter face to face and man to man with the members of the State Parliament in Hobart.
Let us consider another aspect. Even if the referendum be carried, the powers granted will be exercisable by the Commonwealth only for five years after the war. I have previously had occasion to criticize the set-up in this Parliament. Quite lately, I have referred to the Government and the Opposition as having lived in political adultery in the Advisory War Council. On this occasion, the parties are participating in a companionate marriage ; because, if they cannot agree, these powers will cease to exist at the end of five years after the termination of the war. There is nothing permanent about this arrangement, and nothing which commends it to the electorate. What the electors want is something permanent, something showing determination, something which will enable them to know where the Government is going. That is not the case here. Two or three speakers have referred to the necessity for the Commonwealth to have these powers in order to avert another depression. I had thought that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) had dealt with that point so effectively that that ghost would not walk again or that fib be repeated. I am reminded that Burns once wrote -
Some books are lies fra end to end,
And some great lies were never penn’d.
Yet, in this House the same fibs are repeated time after time. As was pointed out by the Leader of the Opposition, the fact is that in countries where there is a unitary system - such as Great Britain and New Zealand, and indeed countries under totalitarian rule where anything can happen by the stroke of a pen - the depression was just as severe as in Australia, South Africa, Canada, Switzerland, the United States of America and others which have a federal system of government. For honorable members opposite to say to the electors, as the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) did a few minutes ago, that it is necessary for the Commonwealth to have these powers in order to avert another depression, is not to put the case fairly.
– We had as much natural wealth then as we have now.
– The speech of the Minister was the most amazing concatenation of contradictions that I have ever heard. He spoke of the necessity for new powers, presumably to enable the Government to carry out its policy of socialization, and he also said that after the war the regulations, prohibitions and restraints of trade which now exist, would be abolished. He said that certain priorities would continue in force for some time after the war. I do not know how any government will administer a system of priorities unless it also prevents some people from doing what they want to do, and others from getting what they want to get. We cannot have priorities and individual enterprise at the same time. It is amusing, indeed, I find it alarming, to hear some of these dyed-in-the-wool socialists talk about their desire to safeguard the rights and opportunities of private enterprise in the socialist millennium that is to come after the war. The Minister spoke of the great wealth of this country. It struck me forcibly that every few minutes he referred to the necessity for constructing new hospitals. I do not know whether he expects a series of terrible epidemics in the post-war period, but he certainly had a severe hospital complex to-day.
– He probably expects many casualties after the next election.
– That may be. Bills of this description will cause a great many casualties in the political arena. Normally, one would assume that the Minister this afternoon was giving expression to government policy, but that may or may not have been the case. During the present series of sittings we have had experience of Ministers being contradicted promptly and their statements repudiated by the head of the Government ; there have been instances also of statements by the head of the Government being just as promptly contradicted by some members of his party. Even within the last 26 hours we have heard suggestions that if the coal-miners do not do what the Prime Minister desires, the right honorable gentleman may even resign.
– Has the honorable member submitted an application for his job?
– I would not lead the crowd opposite for a million pounds a year. What an ambition! Paney sitting at that table and looking occasionally over my shoulder and seeing those who were behind me ! I have heard of Ned Kelly’s armour, but I would need to wear it on my back.
– The honorable member attempted to lead a party on one occasion, but he got “dished”.
– That statement does not challenge my capacity to lead a party; it may only reveal incapacity on the part of other people to follow a leader. I do not mind these things being brought up ; they are matters of history and of fact.
– The honorable member both led his party and left it.
– But I did not do both at once. During this debate we have seen some remarkable exhibitions. The Government has a majority which constitutes a danger to itself. There is no doubt that the Prime Minister is unable to look forward to his .projected trip to Great Britain. The last Labour Prime Minister who went to Great Britain found that remarkable things happened in his absence. He learned of appointments being made to the High Court Bench, and of numerous cablegrams intimating the concurrence of various Ministers in decisions that had been made.
– What happened to the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) when he was Prime Minister?
– If the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) is to be regarded as a martyr, I, unlike St. Paul, am able to say that I was not consenting unto his death. That statement may astonish some of my honorable friends opposite.
– If so, it was the only time that the honorable member did not throw stones.
– That is not a fair description, but I tell the Minister for Home Security that I shall never throw stones at him, because I certainly could never disfigure him.- Yesterday, the Leader of the Opposition referred to the repatriation power, but he did not mention one important aspect, namely, that some time after the repatriation schemes had been in operation difficulties were encountered, because men had been put into all sorts of impossible undertakings, causing the Commonwealth Government to appoint a royal commission to examine the schemes and assess the financial losses that had arisen. I am not now referring to the Pike report. The thing that grieves me about this proposal is that the Government is concentrating on the repatriation power. Everything of which I am conscious, everything which the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), as the result of his rich experience, put to this House yesterday, goes to prove that at no stage of the proceedings after the last war did the Commonwealth Government lack the power to deal with repatriation problems had it been so minded. There was an important difference between the set-up in Australia and the state of development after the last war and the position which will have been reached in the relations of the Commonwealth and the States after this war. During recent years we have seen lbc powers of the Commonwealth strengthened at the expense of the States. There, is no doubt that when the war is over the Commonwealth Parliament will, whether it likes it or not, have to shoulder the responsibility in regard to repatriation. I shall be very surprised if there is anything that the Commonwealth Parliament wants to do in regard to repatriation - including employment - that it cannot do under the law as it stands to-day. In the tariff the Commonwealth Parliament holds an important weapon. If the proprietors engaged in a secondary industry declared that they would not apply the Government’s policy of preference to returned soldiers, Parliament could withdraw the tariff protection which they enjoyed, and what would be their position then?
– What about those industries which do not need tariff protection ?
– I do not know any secondary industries in that position.
– The steel industry is one.
– The steel industry is in receipt of certain bounties, and so do many other industries. The Commonwealth is also able to lay down conditions in respect of marketing schemes under which certain industries benefit. Thus, the Commonwealth possesses important and extensive powers - but it is one thing to possess powers and another to use them.
I am anxious that we should refrain from indulging in specious thinking, or in that Piltdown logic to which I referred by way of interjection while the Minister for War Organization of Industry was speaking, and of which he gave such a notable exhibition this afternoon. After the war, the people will demand that a great many of the restrictions which at present prevent them from doing what they want to do shall be swept away. The Minister for War Organization of Industry spoke of the prosperity that would prevail after the war, but many farmers and small business men are acutely conscious of the lack of prosperity that prevails to-day. During every stage of the world’s civilization the great monuments that have been constructed - the Pyramids of Egypt, the cathedrals of the Middle Ages and the Suez and Panama Canals of modern times - were possible only because there was a big surplus of labour available. The Minister painted a glowing picture of the millennium that will burst suddenly upon us when peace is signed. During the election campaign I told my electors - though many of them did not believe me- that when this war was over the world would be poorer than at any time during the memory of living man. It is only necessary to travel around the country, or to go through the cities, to realize why this must be.
– The honorable member was always a bad prophet.
– It is just a matter of hard facts. The honorable member for Wannon represents a country electorate. He must know that one can travel from here to Sydney without seeing a fence that is not in need of repair, the reason being the shortage of materials and labour. Why is there a housing shortage to-day? Because hundreds of thousands of men have been diverted to the services, where, instead of being engaged in production, they are engaged in destruction. It is absurd for a responsible Minister of the Crown to speak of the wonderful prosperity that will prevail after the war. There is no deception in this world half so bad as self-deception. As Russell Lowell said -
There is nothing we read in torture’s inventions
Like a well-meaning fool with the best of intentions.
There are too many people in Australia to-day who seem to think that liberty consists in licence, that everybody should be able to do as he likes. Their idea is that, after the war, there should prevail a state of affairs which can be best described in the last sentence of Judges -
In those days there was no King in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.
That is why we have the present condition of affairs on the coal-fields, and in the abattoirs at Homebush. The people will want to know why these things are allowed to happen in time of war by a government to whom they gave the greatest vote of confidence ever received by any government in Australia. They will want to know why it is that our men are called upon to face danger, disease and death in New Guinea and the islands to the north, while other men in Aus- tralia refuse to mine the coal which is essential to the prosecution of the war effort. It is impossible to wage effective war of any kind, let alone total war, unless coal production is up to the required standard. However, it is not necessary to labour that point. Enough has been said on it to impress its importance even on the minds of honorable members opposite.
When voting on proposals for the alteration of the Constitution, the people are not influenced by party considerations. During the last referendum campaign, when it was proposed to amend section 92 of the Constitution so as to give the Commonwealth control over aviation, I spoke in favour of the proposals inall centres throughout my electorate, but the electorate of Barker would not accept the scheme as a gift. They turned it down absolutely, yet a few months later I was returned by the biggest majority that any candidate for that electorate has received since federation. I do not believe that the people will vote on party lines on the present proposals, either. I have many friends in the Labour party, just as honorable members opposite have friends in the parties represented on this side of the House. I am convinced that a great many of the electors will not touch these proposals with a 40-ft. pole. The Government will learn what the people think of the proposals for the alteration of the Constitution when they see how the electors vote in the industrial areas. The fact is that the people are very jealous of their power to accept or reject proposals for the alteration of the Constitution. I believe that they will reject the proposals on this occasion because they will take the view that the Government has not exhausted all other possibilities. It is my belief that the Government may well inscribe as an epitaph on the gravestone of these proposals the following words: -
It nods, it curtsies, and recovers,
When the wind blows above -
A nettle on the grave of lovers,
Who hanged themselves for love.
Mr.RIORDAN (Kennedy) [4.30].- Under this measure, which I support whole-heartedly, the people are to be asked to grant to this Parliament powers in respect of the matters set out in the bill for a period of five years after the war. The necessity, or otherwise, of the measure has been dealt with at length, notably by honorable members on both sides who are learned in the law. It has been introduced by the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), who is an ex-justice of the High Court. As the sponsor of the bill, he expressed the view that the Commonwealth does not possess powers in respect of these matters. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), who is a King’s Counsel, contended that the Government already possesses adequate powers. He was followed by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), another King’s Counsel, who agreed with the submission of the Attorney-General, which was also supported by another King’s Counsel in the person of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes). I take it that the twelve representatives of the Government and Opposition parties in the State Parliaments at the recent Constitution Convention acted on the advice tendered to them by their legal experts when they agreed to the proposals adopted by that assembly; and those proposals are merely restated in this measure. That is. they were of opinion that the Commonwealth does not possess adequate powers in respect of the matters set out in this bill. They agreed to submit, in the form of a bill to their respective Parliaments, identicalproposals which were adopted by the Convention. I also point out that whilst the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator McLeay), who was one of the representatives of the Opposition party in this Parliament at that Convention, agreed to the main resolution that additional powers should be referred to the Commonwealth, he disapproved of the draft measure adopted by the Convention. Apparently, he wanted to have a dollar each way. That draft measure has been adopted in its entirety by only two States. Therefore, it is now incumbent upon this Government to submit these proposals to the people by a referendum. The legislature in Queensland which was one of the States to adopt the draft measure in accordance with the promise given by its representatives at the Convention consists of only one chamber. But the legislatures in New South Wales, the second State to enact that measure, and the other States, consist of a lower house and an upper house, the former in each case being elected on a democratic franchise. The Upper Houses of those legislatures are, however, elected on a very restricted franchise being composed of gentlemen, the majority of whom are aged, and represent mainly vested interests. In each State in which the measure agreed upon at the Convention was either wholly rejected or passed with amendments, these gentlemen decided its fate, and they exercised their power in opposition to the wishes of the majority of members in the democratically elected lower houses. To-day, the majority of honorable members opposite adopt a similar attitude towards this measure which contains almost the identical proposals contained in the Convention’s draft bill. This fact makes one wonder where the opposition to these proposals really comes from. Both in the State Parliaments, whose upper houses rejected the draft bill, or accepted it’ with amendments, and in this House, opponents of these proposals represent vested interests. Their opposition arises from the fact that vested interests know full well that should this Parliament be clothed with adequate powers to deal with post-war problems, this Government will not hesitate to use them to improve the lot of the masses. As the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) has said, this Government was elected a few months ago by the greatest majority recorded in this country since federation. To-day, the Government proposes to ask the people to give to it the powers it requires to deal effectively with post-war problems, and I have no doubt that they are confident that the Government which has steered Australia through its greatest crisis by providing adequately for the. defence of this country, will deal just as effectively with post-war problems. Vested interests, and those who occupy positions of privilege in this country, realize that this Government means business in this matter, and is resolved to deal with post-war problems in a way that will confer benefits upon the great mass of the people who placed it in office.
As some of the States have failed to carry out the undertaking they gave at the Constitution Convention, and as these powers are urgently needed by the Commonwealth Parliament, this Government must now ask the people themselves to resolve this matter. Having failed to get the States to refer powers to the Commonwealth in respect of these matters, the Government now proposes to adopt the second method provided in the Constitution, namely, direct appeal to the people by referendum. The honorable member for Barker has said that many supporters of the Labour party have told him that they will not support these proposals. To those people, if they exist outside the imagination of the honorable member, I say that if power be not given to the Commonwealth Parliament to deal adequately with post-war problems, this nation, will very probably find itself confronted after this war with a crisis and a depression much more devastating and degrading than wm the depression of 1929-32. I have no doubt that when these proposals are submitted to the people the great majority of Australians will bear in mind that possibility, particularly when we remember that, on this occasion, the nation has converted its peace-time economy to a war-time economy to a much greater degree than was the case in the last war. To-day, hundreds of thousands more men and women are in our armed forces and in war industries than was the case during the last war; and should these people be thrown upon the. labour market, even for a period of six months after the cessation of the present hostilities, chaos will be inevitable. However, if the Government be clothed with adequate power to grapple with the major post-war problems, national and international, that will confront us, we shall be able to avert such a catastrophe.
The economic revolution, whose outbreak coincided with the outbreak of the last war and which has swept onwards with increasing force, undiminished even by the man-made depression, has received further impetus from this war, and when the war ends there will be an admirable opportunity for the Curtin Government in this Parliament to effect further major improvements of the lot of the workers, provided that the people agree to an extension of the Commonwealth’s powers.
– How long is it since the honorable member opposed the referendum for the surrender of power over marketing by the States to the Commonwealth ?
Mr.RIORDAN.- I take it that the honorable member is referring to the 1936 referendum?
– Yes, the referendum for the transfer of power over marketing to the Commonwealth.
– When that referendum was held I, like all other Labour members from Queensland, was in the backblocks of Queensland supporting the then Government in Opposition to the Labour party.
– The honorable member is awarded full marks.
– The honorable gentleman’s interjection is indicative of his lack of knowledge of the constitutional problems that confront this Parliament. Our major problems extend far beyond the limits of any one State, and, unless the Commonwealth be given the powers now sought, we may find six States dealing individually with matters which affect them collectively. Just as the State Parliaments differed in their treatment of the agreement unanimously made at the Constitution Convention of 1942 by their accredited representatives, so they will differ in their treatment of other important matters which concern the well-being of the Australian people; but if the Commonwealth be clothed with these powers, our national problems will be dealt with in a national way.
This war has brought home to us the fact that Australia must play an increasingly important part in international matters. We have set up a diplomatic corps and have appointed men to represent us in other parts of the British Empire and in Washington, Moscow and Chungking. When the war ends we shall be required, for our own sake, to make our voice heard at the peace conference, and the economic conferences that are bound to take place as the world starts to readjust itself to the new conditions that will operate. Our representatives at those conferences must speak with the voice of Australia. They will be required to undertake, when decisions have been reached, to return to Australia in order to have them ratified, not by State Parliaments, but by the Commonwealth Parliament. To ensure that the Commonwealth Parliament, not six State Parliaments speaking on behalf of the people in those States, shall speak on behalf of Australia, it is proposed that the powers of this Parliament be enlarged. It is conceivable that the nations will reach agreement as to the production of a particular commodity or distribution of raw materials. Would any one say that Australia’s participation in that agreement should be subject to ratification by six individual State Parliaments instead of by the National Parliament? It would be an impossibility for Australia to speak effectively on international matters if its voice were subject to control by State authorities.
It is incumbent upon us to maintain the Australian standard of living at the highest possible level. If it were left to the Parliaments of the States to determine that standard, it is likely that as the result of the activities of reactionaries and vested interests in those Parliaments, we should have varying standards in the different States, as was the case in the depression, and a shifting of the population from the States with lower standards to the State maintaining the highest standard, and a consequent breaking down of the standard in that State. It is, therefore, essential that this Parliament be clothed with power to preserve the living standards of this country as a whole. The world has moved on, and will never go back to the economic conditions of 1939. We do not wish to go back, but there is a grave danger that if, as suggested by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), we find ourselves after the war poorer than when we started, attempts may be made to smash down our present living standards. It is therefore incumbent upon us to put this Parliament in the best possible position to protect them. The Government itself realizes that it owes a responsibility to the people, particularly in the post-war period, and is presenting Parliament with an opportunity to give them economic as well as social security. It has already started on its social security campaign by introducing legislation which ultimately, I hope, will result in the fullest possible social benefits being conferred upon the people. If the Government does the right thing, and the Parliament is given the necessary powers after the war, it may be possible also to achieve economic security for the great mass of our people.
As to the suggestion that the taking of the referendum be postponed until after the war, we do not know when the war will end, but we do know that if we wait .until after the war we shall be involved during that most critical period immediately following in a long discussion in this Parliament, and ultimately the electorate will be asked to decide the issue. All that will take time. The Constitution provides that, if an amendment of the Constitution is sought, the referendum must be taken not earlier than two months or later than six months after the bill is passed by Parliament. That alone will mean delay, which may at that particular juncture prove fatal. It is evident that those who ask that the taking of the referendum should be postponed until after the war do not want it to be put to the people at all. They do not wish this Parliament to be clothed with the powers which are sought in this measure. In other words, this postponement, this procrastination, has for its object the eventual shelving for all time of the submission of the bill to the people.
The first power sought to be added to those which the Commonwealth now has relates to the reinstatement and advancement of the members of the fighting services. The honorable member for Barker and others suggest that there is no doubt as to the repatriation powers of the Parliament. We know that a repatriation act was passed after’ the last war, and we know what effect it ha3 had, what it has done, and what left undone. Honorable members opposite mouth platitudes about preference to soldiers. Under the existing Constitution (his Parliament can give to soldiers preference of employment only in its own service. But this bill proposes to enable this Parliament to give not only preference to soldiers, but preference to unionists and even preference to members of the Millions Club and the Melbourne Club.
The next proposal is for power over employment and unemployment. This is a far-reaching power. I believe that the ultimate object of the paragraph is, first, to ensure that all those who are able and willing to work shall get work; secondly, to overcome any depression that may hit this country after the war ; and, thirdly, to ensure security from want for all sections of the community who are able and willing to work. The States, because of the limited areas over which they have jurisdiction, are unable to deal with the problems of employment and unemployment in the same way as this Parliament can. This Parliament has power throughout the Commonwealth, and knows no State boundaries. In addition, its financial resources are not so restricted or limited as are those of the States.
The third power sought relates to the organized marketing of commodities. The war has shown what organized marketing can do,, and how it has rehabilitated thousands of primary producers. The mortgages and bank overdrafts owed by primary producers have been reduced, I have been informed, by over £60,000,000 since the war began, and organized marketing has been one of the things that have made that result possible. It is opposed by market-riggers and manipulators, because it takes from them the power which they have enjoyed for so long to work and manipulate the markets at the expense of the primary producers.
Nobody offers any objection to uniform Commonwealth control of companies. Trusts, combines and monopolies also should be controlled by the Commonwealth. This Parliament must have a hold over them, in order to prevent them from exploiting the community, and to ensure that they shall retain the monopolistic rights which they have acquired only if they act in the interests of the whole community. The United States of America has its antitrust laws, and we in this country should have similar legislation. Next is the subject of profiteering and prices. I hope that after the war we shall see even greater control than exists to-day over them. - The control of overseas exchange and investment should years ago have been vested in the Commonwealth Parliament. Air transport also is a matter which should be in its power.
– It already is, by the judgment of the High Court.
– It is true that the States did refer to this Parliament certain powers relating to aviation.
– But they could be revoked to-morrow.
– That is true. The interjection of the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) shows a lamentable lack of knowledge on his part of the provisions of the Constitution. No section of the community and no State will offer objection to the proposal to give this Parliament power to bring about uniformity of railway gauges. The war has shown bow the double handling of goods and passengers, made necessary by the breaks of gauge at the various State borders, has handicapped the war effort of Australia.
In the post-war period, a vigorous programme of national works will be of vital importance to the Australian economy. Shortly after Japan entered the war, the Commonwealth Government hurriedly formed the Civil Constructional Corps to undertake in the undeveloped and unpopulated north certain vital defence works. Those projects, by their very nature, were the responsibility of the Commonwealth. If the “national works “ power sought in the bill be not granted to the Commonwealth, Queensland and Western Australia, which have small populations and very limited financial resources, will not be able to develop the isolated outback areas to the same extent as the Commonwealth Government could. Many prominent people who reside in the southern States agree that, if only for defence purposes, Northern Australia must be adequately populated. If the Commonwealth possesses the “ national works “ power, roads will be constructed and facilities will be provided to encourage people to settle there.
In peace-time, the paramount consideration of any government should be the health and well-being of the people. The Commonwealth should have power to pass legislation to grant family allowances, but a legal doubt has arisen as to whether the Commonwealth has authority to pay child endowment, even under its appropriation power. If this bill becomes law, all doubts as to the constitutionality of the Commonwealth’s action will be resolved.
I regret that in the past, Australia has not treated the people of the aboriginal race with the care that they deserve. In the north of Australia, they are a dying race, and the survivors should receive from the National Parliament every possible assistance. The Commonwealth should be responsible for their welfare, and I am gratified that the Convention held in November, 1942, agreed that necessary power should be vested in the Commonwealth.
The bill provides that the fourteen powers shall be exercised by the Commonwealth for a period of five years after the cessation of hostilities. In my opinion, the five-year limitation is so vital as to be the most important part of these proposals. The representatives of the States who attended that Convention unanimously agreed that these powers should be granted to the Commonwealth for five years. Realizing that they had no mandate from their Parliaments to transfer those powers permanently to the Commonwealth, they were prepared to concede them for the most important period of reconstruction after the war. This bill is the result of a compromise. Its provisions were accepted by the delegates to the Convention, but they were unable to persuade the State Parliaments to ratify the agreement. But I believe that the people, when given the opportunity, will grant to this Parliament the powers that it now seeks.
The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) objected to the bill on the ground that it would increase centralization. Whether he meant centralization of legislation or centralization of administration, I do not know. He could have no valid objection to the centralization of legislation, because that already exists,, even in the States. The Parliament of Queensland, sitting in Brisbane, legislates for the whole of that State. The same condition obtains in the other States. Therefore, I assume that the objection of the right honorable gentleman was to the centralization of administration, and I agree with his view. However, this bill does not mean the centralization of administration, as we understand it at the present time. Centralization of administration had to be imposed because of war conditions. The Leader of the Australian Country party represents a Queensland electorate, as I do, and I assume that he was echoing the sentiments of some people in Queensland who are opposed to centralized administration. In peace-time, all administration should be decentralized as widely as possible. Under war conditions, centralization of administration is imperative. The average citizen in Queensland has been more war conscious and less complacent than the citizens of other States. Because of the heavy demand on transport, he cannot obtain the variety of commodities that the people of other States are able to purchase. Their geographical position definitely penalizes the people of Queensland. They are entitled to improved conditions. If the enemy threat to the eastern coast of Australia has receded, a greater supply of commodities should be made available to them. and other restrictions should be relaxed. Some of them are most irksome. For instance, a farmer residing in the Cairns district may require a spare part for his tractor. Because of centralized war administration, he has to send to Brisbane an application for permission to purchase it. Brisbane is half-way between Cairns and Melbourne. The farmer has to wait for three weeks until a Commonwealth department in Brisbane approves the release of the required spare part, although the local garage or store may have it in stock. Honorable members opposite have suggested that many of these war-time controls and restrictions will be continued after the war, but the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) dealt effectively with that stupid contention. These harsh restrictions to which the people are now subject will not be reimposed in the post-war period. The ordinary citizens of the various States who have been suffering because of centralization of administration, should be told clearly that the passage of this measure through the Commonwealth Parliament will not mean centralization of administration any more than has been the case with the passage of similar measures through the State Parliaments. Taking, for example, the State of Queensland, in which my electorate is’ situated, I say emphatically that if these powers were conferred upon the Commonwealth Parliament, the resultant centralization of administration would be no greater than would be the case if the powers were retained by that State. Therefore, that argument against the passage of this measure falls to the ground.
I hope the Government will not delay in submitting these proposals to the country. I believe that the people will grant these powers to the Commonwealth willingly, knowing what problems will have to be faced when the war is over, and realizing that the Commonwealth Parliament - the central authority - must be clothed with every possible power to enable it to cope with the task with which it will be confronted when hostilities cease.
– I ask leave of the House to make a brief statement of the Government’s intention in regard to one aspect of this measure, without forfeiting my right of reply on the motion for the second reading. I have already informed the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) of my intention to ask for leave ,to make this statement, and he has approved of the procedure.
– Cabinet has decided to recommend to the House the inclusion in the bill of three amendments: First, an amendment to ensure that, in its exercise of the new fourteen powers, Parliament should, as a constitutional right, have a full opportunity of supervising the exercise by the Executive of delegated legislative powers; secondly, an amendment to guarantee freedom of speech and expression against impairment by the Parliament either of the Commonwealth or of a State; and thirdly, an amendment to extend .the existing guarantee of religious freedom - contained in section 116 of the Constitution - to legislation of the States as well as legislation of the Commonwealth. As honorable members know, I have always favoured the inclusion of the two latter safeguards, and I included them in the bill circulated for discussion at the Constitution Convention. They were not proceeded with because it would have been impossible to include them in a State act of Parliament under the machinery of reference by State legislatures adopted by the Constitution Convention.
There is evidence that the people, whilst prepared to submit to necessary restrictions imposed by the Executive, under delegation from Parliament, during the war, are anxious to revert to the normal method of legislation as soon as possible after hostilities cease. At the same time, the Commonwealth should not accept constitutional limitations which might really impair the efficiency of government in the post-war years. The increase of delegated legislation is not a phenomenon peculiar to Australia. It has become common, in modern times, to all democratic communities. A dozen years ago, a strong committee in Britain inquired thoroughly into the practice. It reported that, in its opinion, delegation of legislative power was inevitable, and had some important advantages. Parliament finds itself increasingly engaged in determining broad principles of legislation rather than in working out the minute details of every legislative scheme. The crux of the problem is not to prohibit delegation of legislative authority - which would make government impossible - but to make sure that Parliament shall have a better opportunity, at all times, of knowing and supervising what is being done. The present legislation is contained in section 48 of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901-1937. Regulations are laid before each House of the Parliament within fifteen sitting days of their making, and either House may disallow a regulation by resolution. As long as this remains the law, the main problem is so to organize parliamentary business that each House can keep an effective scrutiny of subordinate legislation made by the Executive. No modern legislation can claim to have solved this problem fully. It cannot be solved merely by making a constitutional amendment. It is a fact, however, that the opportunity now given to the Houses by that act to disallow regulations could be abolished by another act. The draft amendment which we shall recommend embodies a sound principle and creates an effective safeguard against parliamentary abdication of control of regulations, yet ensures reasonable working of governmental machinery.
As the result of long struggles, freedom of speech and freedom of religion seemed securely established in the modern democracies ; but the rise of the twentiethcentury dictatorships in Europe has shown that fundamental rights can be swept away and that the consequences can be disastrous. In the Government’s view, the two freedoms - freedom of expression and freedom of religion - are fundamental to the whole idea of democracy. It would be wise to include them as specific safeguards in the Constitution. I have emphasized previously the desirability of taking this course, and I pointed out at the Convention that my opinion was strengthened, not weakened. Both in the United States of America and in Australia, the courts have held that analogous guarantees of individual rights are not absolutes, to be exercised independently of the rest of the Constitution. Otherwise, liberty would degenerate into licence. The freedom guaranteed by the Constitution is ordered freedom. Therefore, the guarantee of freedom of speech and expression does not protect any person from the ordinary legal consequences of publishing defamatory, seditious, subversive, blasphemous or obscene matter. The guarantees are regarded as subject to the requirements of public order, safety and morals, and also to those of national security in time of war. For example, the present war has made it absolutely necessary, in the interest of public safety, to impose restrictions upon the publication of matter likely to be prejudicial to the war effort. Such restrictions are permissible in time of war, but not in time of peace. Experience has shown, however, that guarantees of this kind are an effective protection for the individual against repressive legislation. The guarantee of freedom of expression will prevent the imposition, in time of peace, of such war-time restraints as censorship. It will encourage or ensure the free discussion of public affairs which is essential to enable the people to exercise their rights as citizens.
Section 116 of the Constitution already contains a guarantee of the freedom of religion, based upon the provisions of the United States Constitution. This is a safeguard against Commonwealth action only, which is anomalous, especially since, by their very nature, the legislative powers rf the State rather than those of the Commonwealth are the more likely to involve the risk of interference with religious freedom. The proposed amendment simply extends to the States the existing constitutional provision contained in section 116. The safeguard has been adopted in the Constitution of Tasmania but in no other State.-
It will be remembered that in President Roosevelt’s famous reference to the “ Four Freedoms “ he referred, first, to “ freedom of speech and expression “, and secondly, to freedom of every person to worship God in his own way “.- These are two fundamental freedoms which can and should be included to safeguard individual rights throughout Australia.
In submitting the three amendments, I have- taken into account the suggestions made in the House by the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender). It is proposed to include all three amendments in the Constitution for the period of the proposed grant of the fourteen powers to the Parliament, i.e., a period ending five years after the cessation of hostilities. Before the end of the period it is proposed that a convention shall be called to consider the revision of all provisions of the Constitution, including the provisions now proposed to be inserted for a temporary period.
– This is a most extraordinary bill, and we have heard a number of most extraordinary speeches upon it, including one by the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) and another by the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan). The bill consists of only two clauses and is a supreme example of the work of a master craftsman in the art of hidden intentions. I have no doubt that when the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) realized the results of the deliberations of the Convention he was staggered. He must have stood in rapt admiration of them. He had recently stepped down from the High Court Bench, where he was accustomed to deliver wordy judgments-
– Did the honorable member say “ worthy “ ?
– Well, worthy and wordy. In two short clauses of the bill the Convention achieved the masterpiece of hidden intention. This bill, of course, is a design for socialization, and it has been welcomed as such by honorable members opposite. The bill provides power to do anything and everything. It is “ everything to everybody “. It is a hotch-potch of powers, some already held and some hoped for, by which the Government hopes to gull a gullible public. The Government also hopes that two or three of these provisions will cause the people to give an affirmative vote to the whole of” them. But I doubt whether there is sufficient gilt on the gingerbread. As the Attorney-General has pointed out, in the eighteen references to the people of proposed alterations of the Constitution in the last 42 years, the people have given an increasingly negative vote. They distrust all propositions to clothe the Commonwealth Parliament with greater power. Although they have been exhorted, time and again, to give this Parliament additional authority, they have declined to do so. They have been told that unless additional power were granted this Parliament would become legislatively impotent and the country would go on the rocks; but they have become sceptical about such statements because the country has become increasingly prosperous, and is today regarded by other countries of the world more highly than ever before. Some time ago the Attorney-General wrote a pamphlet entitled War Aims and
Reconstruction. That delightful production contains this pertinent paragraph -
The fifteen proposals for the amendment of the Commonwealth Constitution were rejected because the people could not be reasonably sure how the powers would be exercised.
– Can they be sure to-day ?
– Obviously they cannot, and consequently they regard with the greatest suspicion every proposal to grant additional powers to the Commonwealth. The Attorney-General also said in that pamphlet -
What is needed is to tell the people more about the objects to be achieved.
Fortunately for us, explanations on this occasion of the objects to be achieved have been given by more than one Minister. The Attorney-General has said that these powers are required to ensure the rehabilitation of people now in the fighting services; but while he was saying this, the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) was saying, outside Parliament, that the powers were required to enable munitions factories to be used for normal trading purposes. The Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman), and other honorable gentlemen opposite, have said much the same thing, and have made it clear that these powers are required for socialistic purposes. In effect, therefore, this bill is a design for socialization. The Minister for Munitions made it clear to the taxpayers that the Government intended to use for competitive trading purposes the instrumentalities created by funds which the taxpayers themselves have provided. Private enterprise need not be, and is not, alarmed on this account, for it has proved itself competent to deal with such situations, but people engaged in private business undertakings object to manufacturing concerns established by the taxpayers’ money being used in ordinary trade competition. In 1938, 12 per cent. of Australia’s 3,150,000 bread-winners were government employees and the remaining 88 per cent. were privately employed. Private enterprise does not fear government competition, because a long succession of failures has occurred in government enterprises. I shall direct attention briefly to two or three of them. The Government established a Commonwealth shipping line during the last war which resulted in aloss to the community of £6,500,000. Between 1915 and 1929, the Queensland Government lost £4,500,000 through government enterprises of one kind or another.
– Many of them were “sold up”.
– That is so. Although a Labour government has been in office in Queensland for many years, and although its members believe in the socialization of industry, new government enterprises have not been established to take the place of those which failed so dismally. Some classic examples of failures in government enterprises have occurred in New South Wales. Let me say quietly, and with bated breath, that the government lost more than £400,000 - nearly half a million - in the Walsh Island dockyard undertaking.
– I could give some better examples.
– Probably the honorable member will do so. The people fear that if these proposed amendments to the Constitution are made private enterprise may disappear in this country. Because the Government must delegate its authority, control will be exercised by bureaucrats who have displayed quite an immense degree of enthusiasm in assuming the responsibilities of government. In their enthusiasm, they have ridden roughshod over the whole of our democratic forms of government. This enthusiasm has been contagious, the Government also having caught it. I invite the House to note the departure by the Government on two occasions from established parliamentary practice. The first occasion was that on which, under National Security Regulations while the Parliament was in recess, the rate of sales tax on clothing was reduced ; and the second was that on which invalid and old-age pensions, which had been automatically reduced by the operation of a cost-of-living adjustment, were restored to their former level. Both of these actions were politically popular, yet they violated all the principles of parliamentary and democratic government and established precedents the results of which are unpredictable.
– They were humane.
– I have acknowledged that they were politically popular, but assert that they violated all the principles of the democratic form of government. Such matters can be resolved only by the Parliament itself. The honorable member who has interjected may be content to be a cypher in the legislative halls, but other honorable members consider that Parliament should be consulted upon such issues. There should be no power higher than the Parliaments of this country. That is not recognized by our honorable friends opposite. Only yesterday, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) said that if the miners considered that some other person should lead this country he would not hesitate to stand aside in order that more coal might be won. By that very acknowledgment of his subjection to a trade union, he also acknowledged the existence of a power superior to Parliament. At the request of a mere 22,000 persons in a population of 7,000,000, he is prepared to vacate his position in the sacred name of democracy and in the hope that more coal may be won.
– He said that he would do so only if he were an obstacle to the winning of coal.
– He acknowledged that his Government is entirely ineffective, and said that if the miners regarded him as a stumbling-block he would not stand in the way of more coal being won ; in other words, that he was prepared to resign.- He thus acknowledged the existence of a power higher than the Parliament which chooses the Prime Minister and submits to his leadership.
– The honorable member has done more to irritate the miners than has any other member of this House.
– The only conclusion that may logically be drawn from such a statement is that the present Administration, from the Prime Minister down, does not believe that there is any right in the Parliament itself, or even within the Constitution, to govern the people of this country. Ministers and their satellites have temporarily been vested with authority, and have so interpreted their power that, by means of bureaucratic controls, they have reduced the people to a subservience which stifles freedom. I agree with the observation of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Hughes), as do other honorable members on this side of the House, that a referendum should not be held in time of war. The country is not sufficiently balanced to consider the handing over of additional powers without a close analysis of the reasons for the need of them ; and, as the Attorney-General has said, the people ought to know how the powers are to be exercised. The people of a country at war cannot make such a close analysis as is needed in this matter. The Constitution Convention would not have agreed to a reference of powers had it heard the observations which were subsequently made by the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin), or by the theorists who attended the Summer School of the Institute of Political Science at Canberra. The Attorney-General has decided that something might be gained by the introduction of certain freedoms and the acceptance of other proposals; therefore, when amended in the manner forecast, the bill will no longer be that to which the Convention agreed. The right honorable gentleman hopes to obtain the support of the press, as well as a measure of support from the Opposition.
– The Attorney-General has merely given notice of his intention to move certain amendments in committee. As these are not yet before the House, discussion of them at this stage is out of order.
– I am drawing attention to a proposed vital alteration of the bill. Although great stress has been laid on the Convention, and on the committee which drafted the’ bill, it has become patent during this debate that, in the rush and bustle of the closing stages, the fourteen powers to be referred were agreed to by the Convention with unseemly haste. When the bill went to the proper places for its consideration, the several Cabinets were divided upon it. After advice had been taken and consideration had been given to it, only two States passed it without alteration. The Attorney-General has deprecated the introduction of partyism in a referendum proposal. The policy of the Labour party provides for the socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and when we find an attempt to vest additional powers in the Commonwealth and hear responsible Ministers say publicly that they intend to implement that policy, we must conclude that this automatically becomes a party matter. We on this side are opposed to socialism, and, therefore, we must resist the granting of powers which would be used to bring about socialism. I shall read an extract from a speech which the president of the Australian Labour party delivered last November -
It would be impossible to deny that our war effort was governed by an intention to implement the extreme left wing planks of the Labour platform in the form of nationalisation.
We heard something similar to that from the Minister for War Organization of Industry to-day, and the Minister for Munitions has recently spoken in a similar strain. The speech continued -
We associate this war emergency with the achievement of nationalization and socialization. The Labour movement creating a new civilization to prevent the perpetuation of the old one, will push the capitalistic system right out of the way . . . Our Government at Canberra is so impressed with the inevitability of this transformation that it has appointed a sub-committee of its own members to plan how it shall take place in this country.
That is a clear admission that the Government’s purpose is the socialization of Australia. Indeed so determined is the Government to bring about that state of affairs that it has appointed a subcommittee of Cabinet for the purpose. The first essential to the implementation of its policy is the granting of additional powers to the Commonwealth, and to that end it has introduced this bill.
– We have not heard before of that sub-committee of Cabinet.
– The honorable member would do well to give more attention to the activities of his own party.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Martens). - I ask the honorable member to give more attention to the bill.
– We on this side do not stand for the socialization of industry. We believe in capitalism, a term which is often greatly misunderstood. Honorable members opposite have said frequently that capitalism constitutes a danger to peace and freedom - they have said it so often that I have almost believed it - but facts do not prove their contention. According to the reasoning of honorable members opposite, the unscrupulous and war-like powers of this world are the capitalist powers, whilst the peace-loving nations are those which believe in socialism. But what are the facts? The United Kingdom and the United States of America arc capitalist countries, yet they are among the peace-loving nations. They were the originators of the Atlantic Charter and of the Four Freedoms to which reference is so frequently made in this House. Those capitalist countries stand for freedom of speech, whereas the totalitarian States have suppressed free speech and denied to their people the other freedoms which are enjoyed by the inhabitants of democratic countries. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) rightly said that dictators spring from the ranks of socialism. This war has given us examples of the truth of that statement. Yet we are told that if we will submit to socialism our troubles will be over and this country will be prosperous. Socialism breeds bureaucrats - a race of men who are suckled on the milk of authority, and who, partaking too freely of that beverage, become drunk with their own power. They regard the individual as a pawn or cypher. These people are only human; in that respect they are not different from honorable members in this chamber. They have the frailties and weaknesses of human beings and they react to criticism much the same as do others in the community. I believe that most of them are sincere and honest men, but if we give to them unlimited powers, such as this bill would vest in them, all the freedoms that we enjoy to-day will be in danger. Already we have seen something of this in the revelations that have been made. Mr. Drummond, a member of the New South Wales Parliament, recently published an interesting booklet in which he put the position succinctly when he said -
The highway of all history to tyranny and dictatorship is extreme centralization of government. When this extreme centralization is practised in a country as vast as Australia the danger is increased manifold.
I shall not discuss the bill at length, but I wish to speak particularly of three of its clauses. Let us look, first, at the provision for the reinstatement of members of the fighting services. The clause is a sugar-coated pill which the Government hopes will be swallowed by the people. Legal gentlemen in this chamber - the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) and others - have told us that after the last war successive governments did not lack power to do what was necessary for the repatriation and rehabilitation of members of the fighting services.
– Those governments did not make a good job of it.
– If the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) had studied the repatriation acts of other countries, he would know that not one of them is so generous as the legislation in force in this country.
– That is true in relation to repatriation.
– The Minister cannot have it one way in one respect and a different way in other respects. I repeat that the governments which were in power after the lastwar lacked no power necessary for the repatriation and rehabilitation of the fighting men. Those powers still exist. A great deal has been said about preference to returned soldiers, and it has been claimed that t he Commonwealth now has power to ensure that preference shall be extended to them. I wonder that honorable members opposite have the effrontery to mention preference to returned soldiers. Already, the Government has received a direction from Parliament to bring in a bill to give preference, but it has not done so. When I moved in this House that preference be given to returned soldiers, one Government supporter after another rose in his place and said that there was no need to do what I proposed, and that preference should be enjoyed equally by unionists. Now, they mouth this platitude about preference to returned soldiers. It is no more than a piece of political window-dressing. They do not intend to give preference, and they would not advance such arguments if they had any sense of decency. The electors will not be deceived by this claptrap when they are acquainted with the record of the Government.
With regard to employment generally, I believe that the Commonwealth Parliament has power under the Defence Act to do everything necessary for the rehabilitation, both of the returned soldiers, and of others. If there is any doubt regarding the Commonwealth’s power to effect repatriation and rehabilitation, we shall help the Government to ensure that the necessary power is written specifically into the act. It can be done if the Government is willing that it shall be done. We do not propose to allow the Government to use the preference issue as an excuse for obtaining a wide charter in respect of such matters as employment and unemployment, and production, distribution and exchange. When the Leader of the Opposition was speaking, the Attorney-General interjected that the Government sought power for this Parliament to provide employment and prevent unemployment. It was so simple, he said, that everybody could understand it. I believe that any power asked for should be stated in simple terms, but it should be made clear what the power is, and the purpose for which it is wanted. If the Government already has power in regard to any particular matter, no mention should be made of it in the bill. That would be the honest and straightforward approach to the matter. If the powers of Parliament are insufficient, the people should be informed clearly and simply in what respect they are insufficient. Then the Government would be able to draft a simple straightforward bill, instead of a measure of this kind in which certain proposals are coated with sugar to disguise their bitter content.
The paragraph dealing with employment and unemployment confers a very wide power covering every relation between employers and employees. Similarly, the clause relating to production and distribution is not sufficiently defined. We know that it is the policy of the
Labour party to assume control over production, distribution and exchange. In another part of this bill there is provision for assuming control over exchange, and that completes the trinity. Therefore, the direction in which we are heading is clear.
The bill proposes to give to the Commonwealth complete control over all industry, except primary production, and to assume control over that with the consent of the Governor in Council of a State. If the bill is passed, all existing controls can be continued for a period of five years. The people have been so aroused by the irksome nature of existing controls that they are not likely to welcome their extension for a period of five years after the war. Honorable members on both sides of the House will agree that the rumblings of discontent among the people support this view. It is this suspicion in the minds of the people regarding the possible abuse of added powers by the Commonwealth which was responsible for the defeat of the powers bills in some of the State Parliaments. Members of State Parliaments are much closer to the people than we are here. They know how the people are likely to react. Notwithstanding the undertakings given by the State Premiers at Canberra, mem”bers of State Parliaments knew that the people would not agree to the Convention proposals. That should be a warning to the Conrannwealth Government not to persevere with them. It should take advantage of the offer of the Opposition to co-operate with it in obtaining those powers that are really necessary to ensure effective post-war reconstruction.
I agree that employment is necessary to ensure the self-respect and comfort of the individual, and power may properly be sought to legislate against the causes of unemployment. The Government, however, seeks power, not to legislate in order to provide employment or to prevent unemployment, but to legislate in respect of employment generally. This would give the Commonwealth power to intervene in all relations between employers and employees. The Commonwealth Government could, for instance, destroy the arbitration system, and substitute other methods of industrial control. There is, of course, nothing strange in that, because it has already set up special machinery. in the coal-mining industry to deal with industrial disputes. If this power were given, the Commonwealth Government could destroy the entire system of industrial control and replace it by its own decrees. It could control the life of the worker by drafting him into certain employment against his will. Of course, the Government is doing that now. The man-power authorities may send the worker, not where he wishes to go, but where the Government wishes him to go. I do not think that the people would be enthusiastic about a proposal to extend that power for a period of five years after the war. If this power were granted the Commonwealth Government could determine the tenure of a man’s job, and could engage or discharge workers at its will. They would be mere chattels in the hands of bureaucrats. Of course, there is nothing strange or new in that; that situation obtains .to-day. The Minister for War Organization of Industry smiles, but he knows that be has ruined more industries since his Government has been in power than could possibly be established in a period of five years after the war.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting, I was explaining that the power sought by the Government with respect to employment and unemployment is almost unlimited, and I was indicating some of the controls which the Government would thus be enabled to exercise during the next five years over the lives of civilians as a whole. I drew attention to the fact that if the power in respect of employment and unemployment were granted in the terms in which it is sought, the Government would retain as much power as it exercises to-day under war conditions. For instance, it could draft boys and girls into any industry, to the universities or to country districts. The Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) said nothing to show that that would not be so. He told us that after the war the existing controls would be lifted subject to priorities being established. I fail to understand bow he could lift controls, and, at the same time, establish priorities. Thus, the power sought under the bill in respect of employment and unemployment is complete. It would enable the Government to interfere in every way with any, or all, industries and financial institutions, and, therefore, the whole economy of Australia might face destruction at the hands of an irresponsible government. As I have already pointed out, the president of the Australian Labour party has stated that a sub-committee of Cabinet has already been appointed to consider the implementation of socialism. Thus, all the freedoms which the people enjoy in peace-time will be placed in jeopardy if the powers which the Government now seeks are granted to if. The statement of the president of the Australian Labour party, and similar statements by some Ministers, are akin to that made by Dr. Lloyd Ross, or some other bureaucrat, that, after the war, the Civil Constructional Corps would be used in the construction of homes. Such statements must prove embarrassing to a government, because they show how the bureaucrat is now at work.
– There will be no industrial conscription in peace-time.
– I have no doubt that the Man Power Directorate will be anxious to retain its present power after the war, and many other bureaucrats will hang on like grim death to their present powers. The Government, in order to implement its socialist policy, will have to appoint more bureaucrats. It is significant that the powers now being sought by the Government include the three fundamental powers required to implement socialism, namely, control of production, distribution and exchange. Therefore, I submit that in making any amendment of the Constitution we should provide safeguards and guarantees against the abuse of these powers on the part of any government or any individual Minister. Such guarantees and safeguards are provided for in the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), and I submit that they will render workable the proposition now put forward by the Attorney-
General. [Extension of time granted.] Without such safeguards it would be as dangerous to give to any government the powers now sought as it would be to give a box of matches to a child while playing with a keg of- gun-powder. The result in both cases would be devastating.
Much has been said about unemployment immediately after the last war. Tremendous political capital has -been made out of that cry, and I have no doubt that honorable members opposite will continue to distort the facts in that way in order to win support for the Government’s referendum proposals. They have said in this debate that the last war was immediately followed by a period of depression, and with much emotion they declared that at that time returned soldiers were wandering the country looking for jobs. There was a depression in this country, and it hit us pretty hard, but the reason for it was not that the government of the day did not possess sufficient power to deal with the causes from which it arose. As a matter of fact, the States with their sovereign powers possessed all power necessary to provide employment for our people at that time. No .State government lacked adequate power for that purpose. I also point out that at the same time depressions occurred not only in countries which have a written constitution, but also in countries which have an unwritten constitution. It occurred, as the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) emphasized, in the United Kingdom, which has an unwritten constitution, and in the United States of America, which has a written constitution, which has been much lauded by honorable members opposite. Therefore, it cannot be said that unemployment occurred in Australia at that time because governments lacked the power to cope with that problem. Honorable members opposite will do a great disservice to the nation if, when they go on the hustings during the referendum campaign, they claim that the depression arose because governments in this country did not possess sufficient power to prevent unemployment. This fact is amply born out by the following index figures in respect of purchasing power, nominal wage, effective wage and the percentage of unemployed on a base figure of 1,000 for the year 1911 :-
These figures which are taken from the ‘Commonwealth Year-Booh for 1922 tell a different story from that told by honorable members opposite with respect to the depression that followed the last war, particularly when we remember that about 10 per cent, of the community were unemployable. It is significant that in those years when our soldiers, who were then being repatriated, found it difficult to settle down again to civilian life, mainly because many of them during the war had developed roving dispositions, the percentage of unemployed in 1921 was only 9.5. That proves that no vast amount of unemployment existed in Australia at that period.
– The honorable gentleman must know that that percentage represents approximately 400,000 people. Does he say that so many of our people can be classed as unemployable?
– No. The point I make is that that figure proves how wild are the statements made by honorable members opposite, particularly when we remember that at that time very many soldiers found it difficult to settle down again in civilian jobs. Therefore, the claim that a vast volume of unemployment existed in this country in the four years immediately following the last war is not in accordance with the facts. Honorable members opposite will render a great disservice to Australia if they base their advocacy of the ‘Government’s referendum proposals on false claims of that kind. If granted, the power now sought under the bill with respect to production and distribution will give to the Government complete control in that sphere. I realize that this power cannot bo used with respect to primary pro duction without the consent of the States. Nevertheless, the Commonwealth would be able to control the distribution and marketing of all primary products, cattle and sheep, the products of mines, forests and fisheries; and as effective distribution is dependent upon transport services the ‘Commonwealth would automatically acquire complete control of all transport facilities. What a “ break “ the granting of such powers to the Commonwealth would be for a Minister like the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward), who is an avowed advocate of the socialization of every activity of the community! In effect, it would be equivalent to presenting socialization to the Minister on a platter. I hesitate to think- of the consequences to the country if those powers are given to any government or any individual Minister.
Like all other honorable members in this House I believe in federation, because a strong central government is essential to the national welfare. At the same time, I believe that State instrumentalities or provincial councils can do some jobs far better than can a Commonwealth Government; and, likewise, local-governing bodies, in -their own spheres, are capable of doing certain jobs better than the State governments. Therefore, I support the principle of the delegation of powers by the Commonwealth. At the same time, I agree that we must have sufficient power in this Parliament as the central authority to carry out those things which we consider requisite and necessary, but only those things which we consider requisite and necessary for the job of work that we have in hand. As I believe that the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition covers those things completely, I shall have no hesitation in supporting it.
– It is pleasing to me, on the occasion of my first contribution to the debates in this House, to have received a cordial message of good wishes from my predecessor, Mr. J. A. Perkins. He refers to the fact that though we have different political opinions and have engaged in political contest, we are able to retain respect and friendship for each other. I wish publicly to acknowledge the kindness and assistance which I have received from Mr. Perkins since I became the member for Eden-Monaro. I know the deservedly high respect in which he has been personally held by all his contemporaries in the Parliament, and as his successor I shall endeavour to emulate his adherence to the best traditions of thisParliament.
This bill is to seek, by referendum, substantially increased peace-time powers for the Commonwealth. In war the Commonwealth possesses all the powers necessary to ensure the safety of Australia. In peace it also requires all the powers necessary to protect this continent. For that purpose Australian development must proceed in accordance with a strategic and national plan. For that purpose also the population which must be substantially increased, must be virile and healthy. Wise exercise of the powers to be sought by this referendum and extension of those powers at a later stage can make a substantial contribution towards these objectives. These powers are also urgently needed to secure the successful re-establishment in civil employment of the vast army of men and women now in the armed forces and in the armaments factories. Their total is equal to half the total normal working force of this Commonwealth. By the necessary exercise of its almost unlimited war-time powers the Commonwealth has uprooted that portion of the working population from its accustomed tasks and has set it to the tasks of war. Vesting itself with complete man-power authority the Commonwealth has set hundreds of thousands of men and women to the tasks which the nation requires of them, irrespective of the injury inflictedupon their individual lives. When the demands of war end these men and women are not to be cast aside, and left unaided in an overcrowded labour market. They and their wives and children are not to be left to starve if there is no employer who wishes to use the bread-winners’ labour for his own profit. The obligation will be upon the Commonwealth and the nation to restore them to positions of economic usefulness and afford them opportunities to live in modest comfort and in the security for which they have fought and worked. The Commonwealth will have that obligation but it will not be assured of the power to fulfil that obligation unless this bill and the referendum be carried. The immediate purpose of this referendum is to provide powers to ensure guaranteed employment in the post-war critical years. An affirmative vote by every elector at this referendum will be a vote to clothe himself with power to prevent another depression. To the degree that this position is seen by the voters the referendum cannot fail to pass. To the degree that this outstanding issue is clouded in the minds of the people, it is possible for the referendum to be defeated. There is no ground for easy optimism that the referendum will be carried. Opposition to it is being largely fostered on the cry that what we need is less instead of more government control.
The public is being taught to believe that public economic controls are synonymous with the existing economic restrictions. The cry to sweep away the controls and restrictions is welcome to every man who finds that he must fill in forms in triplicate to have any prospect of obtaining many of his daily needs. This propaganda is as superficially effective as it is basically misleading. Goods are in short supply to-day, not because of government controls, but because of the war. Government controls have been the only means of overcoming shortages of many basic necessities, of maintaining reasonable prices, and of assuring the fair distribution of what is available. The ordinary man who to-day objects to the necessity to fill in a complicated form to have a chance of obtaining a motor car tyre should remember that without the governmental control he would have no chance whatever of obtaining one. Without government control, tyres, which are so scarce to-day because of the rubber shortage, would be at fabulous prices, and obtainable only by the man of wealth and influence. It is admitted that public economic controls are to the advantage of Australia in gearing the nation for maximum war efficiency and for maximum war production. Admitting that, I can see no basis for the argument that some control will not be to the advantage of Australia in gearing the nation for maximum peace efficiency and for maximum peace production. Government controls have been a necessary and major factor in overcoming production deficiencies, in achieving the production of vast quantities of new types of wartime goods, and in the amazing general war-time productive performance of this country.
The exigencies of war have taught us undreamed-of things about our capacity to produce. That tremendous increase of production has been achieved on a basis of public planning to fulfil national needs. It is in dramatic contrast with the achievements of a planless economy in the pre-war decade when production was limited by its capacity to provide profits. In the war years, under governmental controls, although one-half of the total working force is engaged solely in tasks of destruction, yet not one man, woman or child has gone underfed or underclothed. But in the peace years, under private profit-making controls, although the total working force was available and eager to increase the civil supply of goods and services, yet hundreds of thousands of men, women and children were underfed and underclothed. On the day that war broke out fourteen trade unionists in every hundred walked the streets seeking work to support themselves and their families. If the tremendous achievement of maintaining civilian living standards with only half the total working force available for the task has been possible under government controls, then how much is possible in the way of raising living standards with a continuance of public economic control in peace when the full working force is again available? It becomes apparent that it is only by a continuance of public planning and public control that we can reach the goals to which I referred earlier and which it is agreed we must reach if Australia is to survive. Yet, public irritation at restrictions and resentment of officialdom are being played upon to defeat this referendum and to restore the pre-war “ freedoms “ when the war ends. That campaign may succeed. Unless every man who sees the position clearly plays his part, the referendum may be defeated and the party which now governs Australia may be de feated at the next general elections. On a true presentation of facts I have no doubt that the Labour party will be returned with ever-increasing majorities. But I do not ignore the possibility that a tremendous political confidence trick can be successfully put over the Australian electors even in three years’ time. If the electors are deluded into voting out public economic controls for the sake of regaining “ freedom “, what will they get? We can never go back to the pre-war setup, the so-called good old days. They were not good enough. But even if we could, what freedom was there then? Economic controls may not have been exercised by government, but those controls existed nevertheless. There were iron controls exercised by powerful vested interests who serve only the cause of private profit. So long as a man’s labour could be employed at a profit, so long as a farmer’s output could be purchased at a profit, so long as it was more profitable to sell to the small business man his requirements than to crush him by competition - just so long were the workman, the farmer and the small business man permitted to make a living. But economic fear was their constant companion, dread of illness or of unemployment which would cut off their means of subsistence marched constantly with them and their families. They knew themselves to be at the mercy of economic forces over which they had no control. There was no freedom then, and for the people to seek to return to those conditions in the name of freedom would be to sacrifice two real freedoms enunciated in the Atlantic Charter - freedom from want, freedom from fear - and to endanger the other freedoms set out in the charter. Any attempt to revert to the pre-war economic system must fail. We have passed it and we cannot return to a system of chaos, misery and unemployment such as that which developed under an uncontrolled economy after the last war. The obvious reason why the chaos and unemployment must be greater if the same circumstances exist is that a greater number of men and women will be demobilized from the armed forces after this war, and far greater numbers dismissed when the war factories cease to produce. To my mind, those are the circumstances in which a government desperately seeking to support a private profit-making economic structure, could he tempted to abolish democracy and establish a totalitarian dictatorship. That could happen in time of chaos, misery and unemployment in the postwar years. It could happen only in such a time.
It could not happen in a publicly planned and publicly regulated economy, in which fulfilment of the basic needs of every citizen would be the first consideration. On the other hand, wise use of the powers now being sought by the Commonwealth can with certainty provide for the people guaranteed security, living standards and opportunities to develop their own individualism on a scale such as has never before been visualized. The lesson that we have learned, and we have to apply, is that which has been taught us in these bitter years of war. If half the total labour force can maintain pre-war living standards by a regulated and planned economy, then great advances are possible when the other half of the labour force is also available for the tasks of production instead of for those of destruction.
The powers sought are necessary to enable what is a clear possibility to be converted into an actuality. They are necessary to ensure that men do not stand idle and hungry when useful work is awaiting them. They are necessary to provide that the productive and distributive capacities of this people are geared to the needs of the people, and not to the private profit of powerful vested financial interests. They are necessary to fulfil the possibility of providing guaranteed minimum living standards for every man and woman in the community. They are urgently necessary to maintain and to control a guaranteed purchasing power in the years which will follow the war. They are also essential to ensure a guaranteed and adequate return to the primary producers of the basic foodstuffs, clothing materials .and the .commodities necessary for housing bur people. They are essential also to undertake the great capital projects in country areas which will develop the resources of this con- tinent. Such projects are those needed for the utilization of the ever-flowing waters of the Snowy River, which are now running to waste; for the development of a magnificent port at Twofold Bay, too long neglected because its development did not coincide with vested profit interests: in Sydney and Melbourne ; and for the development of the Shoalhaven and the Tantawangla water schemes. I may mention that all those projects, so important to the nation, are in the important constituency which I have the honour to represent.
When we see the vast expenditure on labour and material that has been made possible in the war effort, largely by nationally controlled organization and planning, we may form some estimate of the vast expenditures which will be possible for the good of the community in times of peace. I do not speak now of expenditures of money. It is an expenditure of human effort applied to material resources through the tremendous agency of machine power. In wartime, money is the measure of that expenditure.’ This year we measure it at about £600,000,000.’ It is true, of course, that that enormous increase of the national output is by no means solely the result of a publicly controlled organization. From it must be deducted the wastage of capital assets which are not being replaced during war. Allowance has to b”b made for the production by abnormal efforts of very large sections of the people who are working longer hours during this period of strain, and who are forgoing holidays. Allowance must also be made for the entry into industry during war of tens of thousands of women, many of whom will, when peace returns, wish to revert to their task of home-making. But, after all those offsets and allowances are made, the balance remaining is still sufficiently great to give us the prospect of achieving many of our social goals. Within a reasonable time after the war we should be able to look forward to the achievement of important material benefits for the people, that is, if the Commonwealth is given the necessary power, and exercises it wisely.
Out of the added national income which should be available under a properly organized, nationally planned system, we should be able to provide a minimum living standard for everybody, subject to a works test for those who are able to work. We should be able to provide child endowment sufficient to meet the full cost of rearing each child, an allowance in sickness and old age at least equal to the guaranteed minimum living standard, a greatly improved living standard for all those willing to play their part in the work of the community, with due rewards and incentives for energy and initiative. It should also be possible to remove entirely provisions under which social service payments may be regarded as a bar to thrift and to effort. It should be possible to make the payments a matter of right, and a fulfilment of an implied contract between the individual citizen and the community as a whole, so that such payments as the allowances in old age and invalidity would be additional to whatever the recipient had been able to earn and to save for himself. That principle already applies in the social benefit known as child endowment. The fulfilment in their entirety of these undertakings may be a matter of some years hence, but I am proud to support a government which has already taken substantial steps along that road, and which intends to take further substantial steps. The making of these payments as a right would remove much of the existing subjection to officialdom.
And that, I think, brings us . to a matter of the utmost importance. The achievement of guaranteed material security should not in itself be a goal, but a means to reach a goal, at which should be the maximum freedom of the individual to express himself and to develop his character. Clearly, the development of human individuality is unachievable while the individual lives in perpetual economic fear. That fear, obviously, cannot be removed without some public control and planning in the economic sphere. Surely then we defeat ourselves if we achieve economic security by bolting the door to individual freedom. There is food for thought in the words of Mr. Winston Churchill, that “ we must beware of building a state of society in which no man counts for anything except the politician and “the official; in which enterprise has no advantages, and thrift reaps no reward “. To travel the road to economic security we do not have to become little “ stooges “ of the State, and we should take care that we do not find ourselves travelling along that side track.
During war it has admittedly been necessary to impose many governmental restrictions on the people, but these should in no way be confused with governmental controls. The restrictions have been the product of shortages of supplies, and of the need to curtail civil production and consumption in favour of war production and consumption. In war, those controls have had to operate to impose restrictions on the civilian population. In peace, they ca 11 operate with equal success to remove such restrictions, and add greatly to the goods and services available to the people, instead of reduce them. There is to-day much protest against what is loosely termed Bureaucracy. It must be admitted that, in the hurried establishment of new Commonwealth departments, and in the appointment of officials with tremendous powers over the daily lives of their fellow mcn, some injustice, tyranny, mistakes, and unfair acts of administration have been inevitable. We should be the last to condone those things, or to attempt to justify them, impossible though it may have been to prevent them in all cases, but when these injustices occur, when these tyrannies are practised, and when these mistakes in administration are made, it is the man without influence or power to make his protest heard in the land who is the victim. We have all read or heard of examples of the misuse of administrative authority during war-time. True, they may be few when set against the proper use of official authority. Nevertheless, we should hate such things which are in fact a poison in our economic system if allowed to develop. I was very angry recently when I read that it was alleged that a censor had informed the Rationing Commission of a statement he had seen in a private letter, so that the writer of the letter could be prosecuted. Such abuses should be fought ceaselessly, exposed and prevented. That is why I am glad that the Government has decided to place in the referendum proposals constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech and freedom of expression, and safeguards on law-making by regulation. Constructive steps should also be taken to combat any trend towards bureaucracy. That can be done by changes in the educational system, so that education for the duties of citizenship would have at least an equal place with education for the task involved in earning a living. The development and extension of courses in the duties of public administration must be considered. The membership of this National Parliament must also be increased.
A private member has an important role to fill in assisting any of his constituents who has cause to feel that he has been unjustly treated by officials. He has also an important task in keeping a constant watch upon the Executive and its u-8 of administrative power. To-day, the private member is overworked in the discharge of these tasks. It appears to me also that the Executive is large in relation to the size of the Parliament. If the number of members was doubled there would be .available a wider field of choice for the appointment of the best men. to Cabinet. Happily, that is not a real difficulty at the moment. The country is fortunate that, in addition to the great talent and ability which is so conspicuously assembled in the present Cabinet, a deep reservoir of untapped talent and ability is available among private members on this side of the House. All are ready to serve their country to a greater degree should the necessity arise.
For a long time, I have believed that with the extension of governmental power and, of the field of public administration, there should also be an extension of the checks upon the misuse of such power. The Public Service is setting a magnificent example in the exercise of the administrative authority conferred upon it. It has been necessary to appoint an independent Auditor-General and staff to watch the . administration of the people’s money, and to report to Parliament. Why should there not bc a similar independent statutory authority to watch over administration affecting the liberties of the people and to report regularly to Parliament upon the exercise by the Executive of its regulationmaking power? It would be of great benefit if there existed, as the direct servant of this Parliament, an independent Auditor-General of Civil Liberties, with sufficient staff to police this important field. Such an official should report immediately to Parliament upon the need for each new regulation and whether the power proposed to be taken exceeded the power needed. He should have authority also to investigate the use of that power, once granted, and to report to Parliament anything which, in his opinion, was a misuse of power. He and his staff should be available to private members for the purpose of examining cases which appear to indicate the misuse of administrative power. Such an officer should have power to investigate and report upon such cases. Similarly, the department should be available to the private citizen who has cause to consider himself the victim of official injustice. Briefly, what I suggest is an extension, of a system which has already been established by the AttorneyGeneral in the form of the Legal Aid Bureau to assist discharged servicemen in presenting their appeals against the official decisions of the Repatriation Commission. Whilst there may be objections to this proposal, it appears to me to have great advantages, and I hope that it will be considered in connexion with the extension of Commonwealth powers. For the reasons that I have given, those powers are essential not only to the development of a strong and prosperous Australia, but also to the survival of this nation.
.- I congratulate the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser) upon his maiden speech in this House. The subject-matter bore every evidence of careful reasoning, and he .delivered it confidently and effectively. Whilst I do not necessarily agree with all the sentiments that he expressed, I do subscribe to many of them. I was interested to hear his advocacy of individual freedom. The force of his contentions made me wonder why he sat on that side of the House.
– It was a good United Australia party speech.
– I am not in the least surprised that the Government decided to introduce this bill. Indeed, I should have regarded it as passing strange if it had not done so. At the last elections, the Government was returned with an overwhelming majority and would have a perfect right, under normal conditions, to endeavour to give effect to its policy. What is the policy of the Labour party? The Labour party has always advocated the granting of unlimited powers to the central government. Why does the central government require those powers ? One of the most effective answers was given by the federal president of the Australian Labour party and secretary of the Australian Workers Union,. Mr. Fallon, who stated publicly -
We associate this war emergency with the achievement of nationalization and socialization. We are indeed making use of the war to implement our labour policy.
Thus, the change-over to socialism is to be effected under cover of the war. No one will deny that the policy of the Labour party is the socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange, but I refuse to believe that the people at the last elections voted on that issue. It is an impudent assumption that the people endorsed that policy. In fact, they were told that the socialist policy of the Labour party would be “ locked up “ for the duration of the war. What becomes of the declaration of the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), who, on the eve of the election, said -
Let there bc no mistake. There will be more room for private enterprise and business initiative after this war than ever before in Australia’s history.
– Then what is the honorable member growling about?
– The Government is not honoring that undertaking. On such an assurance, the people were justified in believing that no attempt would be made to destroy private enterprise to make room for government trading. The effort of the Government to secure almost unlimited power is a complete somersault and a political handspring by certain Ministers. The people did not have the faintest idea that the declaration of the
Attorney-General regarding private enterprise was to be abandoned. They certainly did not expect that the Government would take this step towards socialization. However, it is apparent that the people will be given an opportunity to pronounce judgment on the proposals to empower the Government to continue for an indefinite period wartime controls and restrictions and to regiment the people in their way of life. They are to be asked to say yea or nay as to whether the Government shall have power to set up a bureaucracy. The bureaucratic officials of the Government revealed clearly at the Summer School of the Australian Institute of Political Science held in Canberra last January, that it was intended to retain permanently this bureaucratic control, which is pure, unadulterated Fascism. A Labour newspaper circulating in New South Wales pointed out that under the plan outlined by those bureaucrats the people will be subjected to exactly the same restrictions as the Germans and Italians suffered under Hitler and Mussolini respectively. The newspaper stated -
Under the plan we shall eat what is rationed for us. We will work where we are told to work. We will read what we are allowed to read. We will send our children wherever the planners order than to be sent. We will enjoy such entertainments as the planners permit. We will ‘be regimented as much as Germany ever was.
I ask: What becomes of the Four Freedoms of which we hear so much? Apparently, they are to be thrown overboard and we shall have an order of industrial conscription. We are developing a real Simon Legree form of control. Our kith and kin are fighting this Fascist attitude in various theatres of war to-day. Mr. Forgan Smith, a former Labour Premier of Queensland, stated some time ago that it was dishonest to use the war for political ends. I am afraid that some Commonwealth Ministers are prepared to use the war for the purpose of giving effect to their fanatical socialist ideas. When I was a member of a State Parliament, I advocated the granting of additional powers to the Commonwealth Parliament. Indeed, I still do so; but my experience of this Government convinces me that the granting of such sweeping powers as those for which it is now asking, would be dangerous, at least until the people have an opportunity to give calm and cool consideration to the proposals under peace-time conditions. I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), providing for a popularly elected convention to give consideration to these important matters. It is not wise to divide . the people in war-time. In any case, I believe that the closer the administrator is to his work, the better will be the job that he will do. If these powers are granted to the Commonwealth, every matter requiring decision will be referred to Canberra with all the attendant delays and irritations. Even to-day, it is well nigh impossible to secure a decision from a Minister. One Minister “passes the buck “ to another and months pass before a decision is reached. By that time it is often too late to be of any real value.
The Government’s contention that it is essential to amend the ‘Constitution in order to enable the Commonwealth to tackle such problems as employment and unemployment is one thing’; but to show why it is necessary for the Commonwealth to possess those powers is quite another matter. Yet, that is what should be fully explained to the people before they are asked to cast a vote on- the proposals. The same applies to the continuance of rationing, limitations of manufactures, the control of raw materials and supplies, extended financial powers and so on. ‘Certain services and utilities of nation-wide value, including civil aviation, monopolies, trusts and combines, the organized marketing of primary products and the standardization of railway- gauges, should be controlled by the central authority. Behind the proposals of the Government, however, lurks the old Labour policy of unification, which, in effect, means the elimination of ‘States as independent, units having control of their own domestic affairs. At the recent Summer School of the Australian Institute of Political Science held in Canberra, government officials advocated government control of resources available to industry, rationing, price control, control of capital issues and trading bank policy, and the nationalization or control of certain industries or resources. The manner in which the existing war-time powers are being used is sufficient to show how they will be used in peace-time. Already we have “ Gestapo “ methods firmly entrenched in this country. Recently, a censorship scandal was created by the disclosure that private letters were being opened, and private telephone conversations tapped, without any relation whatever to national security. One cannot ignore the experience of this country during the past two years. The Government’s record is one of bungling, blundering, discrimination, and inefficiency. I am quite certain that if these proposed additional powers were granted, the Commonwealth Arbitration Court would be one of the first institutions to receive the axe. We should then have wages and conditions fixed by regulation, and industrial matters generally would be made the football of party politics. In many instances strikes and industrial unrest are attributable directly to government interference in matters which properly are the concern of the Arbitration Court. The Arbitration Court has the responsibility of handling in a fair and impartial manner, all industrial matters, and its decisions and actions are tempered to preserve a balance between industries and to ensure justice to the parties concerned in disputes.
Many of the powers which it is proposed to seek by means of a referendum are already possessed by the Commonwealth. Plenary powers exist to-day to repatriate members of the fighting forces. As has already been pointed out in the course of this debate, there is on our statute-book the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, which is probably the best legislation of its kind in the world. If the Commonwealth cannot deal with repatriation to-d’ay, why is that act on our statute-book? Never at any time after the last war was it suggested that the Commonwealth did not have constitutional power to do all that it thought should be done for members of our fighting services, even to the acquisition of land for soldier land settlement schemes. That, df course, is quite apart from the wide powers provided by defence legislation. Under the
National Security Act, these powers will be retained by the Commonwealth for a period of six months after the declaration of peace, and that, I suggest, will be several years after the actual cessation of hostilities ; but notwithstanding that, the Government, doubtless for propaganda purposes, will so obscure its intentions as to indicate to the people of this country that it is unable to deal fully with the question of repatriation unless these increased powers be granted to it. The Government will resort to propaganda of all kinds in its endeavour to mislead the people in this’ regard. Propaganda is being, and will continue to be, used to confuse the issue. The people will be told . that if they vote “ Yes “ at the referendum, many popular things will be done for the soldier and for the civilian; they will be promised the sun, the moon and the stars, if only they will consent to grant these increased powers to the Commonwealth. There is evidence of that in the magazine Salt, the publication of which, after all, is financed by the taxpayers of this country. In a recent issue of that magazine there appeared an article supporting the granting of increased powers and I only hope that equal space will be made available in a subsequent issue for the publication of the other side of the question. It is most unfair for the Government to use government publications to make partisan statements to the fighting forces, without allowing the other side of the case to be stated.
We must not allow ourselves to be deceived by subtle propaganda to the effect that these increased powers are necessary to prevent another depression. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) dealt with this aspect of the matter earlier this evening. I remind honorable members that after the last war, countries with unified as well as federated governments experienced the same period of depression. The unified system of government existing in Great Britain and New Zealand did not prevent the depression from spreading to those countries, and in fact, its incidence was more widely felt there than it was in Australia. Also, Australia emerged from that depression much quicker than countries which had a unified system of government. The Commonwealth already has ample power to prevent the recurrence of a depression similar to that which took place after the last war. To argue otherwise is merely a political trick and propaganda. In any case, I am opposed to the holding of a referendum in war-time. We should not rush forward with such important proposals as these whilst the nation is engaged in a life-or-death struggle. These matters require cool and calm consideration, and that cannot be given during a period of emotional stress.
The amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition provides amongst other things for the holding of a popularly elected convention, so that the people of this country may give calm consideration in peace-time to the granting of the additional powers now being sought by the Commonwealth. Should the people reject these proposals - I have no doubt that they will - an opportunity to secure for this central Parliament the powers which are really necessary may not recur for many years. It is all very well for certain Ministers and other honorable members opposite to say that if these powers were granted they would not be used in the manner I have indicated ; but I remind the House that the Government is obliged to obey caucus, and that caucus is controlled largely by outside interests which call the tune to which the Government must dance. It cannot be denied that Labour’s pet policy of socialism will be demanded. There is evidence of that in the speeches of certain Ministers. I refer particularly to that of the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward), who, a fortnight ago in this chamber definitely advocated socialism. The Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin), the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron), and the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) also have advocated socialism at different times and have suggested that the Government should own its own industries, operate them, and enter into obvious unfair competition with private enterprise. These statements and other utterances by government officials have painted a rather alarming picture of things to come. All of them have made the point that private enterprise would have to make room for government trading after the war. It has been said also that only the continuance of wartime controls and restrictions can bring economic security to this country. One could quote many instances of the failure of government enterprises. For instance, take the Queensland State enterprises of a few years ago: The total borrowed capital of those enterprises was more than £5,000,000, and the net loss, including the uncharged interest, was nearly £4,500,000. There are the State-owned coal mines at Wonthaggi, in Victoria, on which the loss last year was £67,000. In Western Australia there is the State Implement Works, which since it3 inception has lost £343,000, and the State sawmills which have lost about £45,000. These undertakings have been operating in unfair competition with private enterprise because State enterprises do not have to pay company tax. Is this the millennium which was promised to the taxpayers of this country by the Government? Is it the new order about which we have heard so much? -Taxpayers today are feeling the crippling effect of heavy taxation, but they are paying their taxes without a grumble because they know that the winning of the war must be our first consideration; but it will be a different matter when they are asked to carry the burden of heavier taxation as has been forecast by Professor Copland, to make up the losses of Government trading concerns. It appears to me that there is a desire on the part of certain Ministers to ruin private enterprise and commerce generally and to cause disruption and chaos in the hope that out of the wreckage and misery which will result, they will be able to fulfil their clearest and most earnest wish for government-owned and governmentcontrolled industries. I submit that already the Commonwealth has all the power necessary to engage in whatever trading ventures it wishes. For instance, we already have government control of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, and Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, whilst some years ago we had Commonwealth participation in shipping services.
– We have a Postal Department too.
– And that is not conducted as well as it might be. I could tell the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) quite a lot of things about that department.
I deprecate strongly the ever-growing practice of delegating authority. Experience of the attitude of some of these bureaucrats who have been clothed in a little brief authority is very disturbing. Some of them are dictatorial and insolent in no uncertain way. They can and do issue orders which completely change the lives of civilians, and I fear that if the people of this country were to agree to the granting of additional powers to the Commonwealth, the present system of law-making by regulation and government by bureaucracy would continue. I have always believed that the possession of dictatorial powers by anybody outside of Parliament would be strenuously opposed by the Labour party, but, apparently, times have changed. I draw the attention of honorable members to the following words of the British Prime Minister, Mr. Churchill -
We must beware of trying to build a society in which nobody counts for anything except the politician or an official, a society in which enterprise gains no reward and thrift no privileges.
In the past, the less populous States have had a rather raw deal, and I fear that if plenary powers be conferred upon the central government, these States will be more or less ignored entirely. Already they are harassed in many ways. Take, for instance, the State of Tasmania: The administration of meat rationing in that State is much more severe than in any other State; there is a complete embargo upon the sale of lambs, and any housewife who purchases a leg of lamb from a butcher is liable to prosecution. At the present there is no passenger steamer plying between Tasmania and the mainland, the only passenger service being by air. Would the central government dare to treat one of the more fortunate mainland States in such a manner? Also, the population of the less populous States is being enticed away after those States have spent many thousands of pounds upon their education and training. The representatives of the less populous States have to go cap in hand and almost beg help from the Commonwealth Government, and even then they cannot obtain adequate compensation for the disabilities from which their States have suffered through federation. Governments, generally speaking, favour the more populous States because in them are the great majority of voters. We must never cease to fight for the retention of the right to individual development. I agree with the remarks of the last speaker concerning individual freedom. We must never give up our right to clear and healthy private enterprise and to industrial expansion. Democratic principles are being pushed into the discard. We have been authoritatively informed by certain government advisers concerning what we, as individuals, will be allowed to do after the war. In the light of what has been said, I consider that the people are to be asked to choose between individual liberty and State control ; and I have no doubt what their choice will be.
.- I support this bill for the amendment of the Constitution. I do not intend to detain honorable members long, nor shall I discuss the technicalities of the Constitution, but the measure is so important that I do not wish to give a silent vote upon it. Even constitutional lawyers. in this Parliament and in the courts of this country find difficulty in interpreting the Constitution, and the High Court itself cannot be relied upon to give unanimous decisions. Diversity of view is to be found on every hand regarding the exact meaning of certain provisions of the Constitution. Perhaps this is understandable for Mr. Alfred Deakin said on one occasion that the Constitution was only the framework, or the ground plan, of the national economy. However, as this National Parliament is charged with the duty of legislating for the whole nation it should seek a grant of power which would put its authority beyond question. The intentions of the Constitution should be stated so plainly that the man in the street may be sure of the sovereignty of the National Parliament. To achieve these ends some alterations of the Constitution are necessary. The decisions of the Constitutional Convention that was held towards the end of 1942, made it amply clear that the Parliament needed added power. Attempts have been made, in the course of this debate, to’ discredit the findings of that Convention, but. the fact is that its decisions were unanimous. May I remind honorable members that both the Government and the Opposition of every State Parliament were represented at the Convention, and the representatives agreed that they would sponsor the Commonwealth Powers Bill in the State Parliaments. I shall not go into the reasons which caused some of the State Parliaments to decline to pass the bill in its approved form, because in my opinion, the reference of the question to the people by referendum is a much more desirable way to deal with the subject than is the reference of power to the Commonwealth by the State Parliaments. With the exception of the Queensland Parliament, the State Parliaments are not fully representative of the people. In every State except Queensland one House of the Parliament is elected on a privileged franchise. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) gave us to understand that when he reached the age of retirement he might think about seeking a seat in a Legislative Council.
– I did not mention a Legislative Council.
– It seems to me that most of the members of the Legislative Councils of Australia receive what might be called a privileged old-age pension, for they are well advanced in years. It could be said that, in some senses, the Legislative Council of South Australia has controlled the affairs of the State for the last 80 years, for the elderly men who, for the most part, comprise that council, are elected on a privileged franchise and are not answerable to all the people.
A good deal has been said in this debate about preference to service personnel. It. is worthy of comment that although all the man-power of South Australia is subject to some degree of control in these days, not even returned soldiers who may be partially incapacitated would be elegible to stand for election to the South Australian Legislative Council unless they were 30 years of age. I consider, therefore, that the views of the people on constitutional reform can be ascertained much more satisfactorily by referendum than by the reference of certain questions to the State Parliaments.
During the recent election campaign the Labour candidates throughout the Commonwealth, and I among them, made it clear that during the life of this Parliament a measure of constitutional reform would be sought. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) said something about coaxing chickens into a coop, and then shutting the door on them. Some of the chickens released for the last election campaign by the interests represented by honorable members opposite, did not return home to roost. We may draw our own conclusions from that fact. The speech of the Attorney-General in introducing this, bill convinced me that the powers that are being sought are absolutely necessary if we are to ensure the complete rehabilitation of this country after the war. Nearly all honorable members opposite who have spoken in this debate have agreed that some additional power is necessary, but, according to them, the wrong political party occupies the treasury bench. My view is that if additional power is essential it should be granted irrespective of the political party in power at the time. In spite of the poisonous propaganda that is already being released in this Parliament against these proposals and which will be released in greater volume during the campaign that will follow, I believe that the people will realize that additional powers are essential to enable the National Parliament to put into operation a truly effective post:war programme. I associate myself actively with this proposal, because of its importance. Unless these powers are granted, this Parliament will be impotent in relation to certain matters. In the first speech that I made in this House I said that when federation was projected wonderful pictures were painted of the future of this country. I am satisfied that reafforestation, water conservation, and many other works can- not be carried out by the States. The sooner we cultivate a national spirit, the sooner shall we be recognized as a nation in the true sense. I am confident that, when the matter is placed before the people, it will grant these powers to the Commonwealth without reservation.
– I have been at some pains to learn what really . lies behind this proposed referendum. I have listened to the speech of the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), and to the explanations that have been made by other Ministers, and I have asked myself whether the purpose of the referendum is te provide for the transition from war to peace, for what many people consider will be a brave new world, or a mixture of the two, and I have not yet decided in my mind what is the real intention of the Government. The Attorney-General said -
This group of powers, together with the existing powers of the Commonwealth, the Government regards as adequate, but not more than adequate, to permit the carrying out of an Australia-wide policy of post-war reconstruction.
Later, the right honorable gentleman spoke of the plans that were being made by the Ministry of Post-war Reconstruction, and said -
It must be plain to every thinking person that no post-war planning can be satisfactorily continued, let alone completed, until the Commonwealth’s constitutional position is placed beyond doubt.
That is all very well, but I am still not clear in my mind as to’ whether the Government proposes to deal only with demobilization during the transition period, or at the same time also with its planning for the future of this country in a wider sense. These two aspects require clarification. Obviously, there are two objectives which will have to be achieved when hostilities are ended. The first is the demobilization of the country in the wider sense; that is to say, from a war footing to a peace footing, involving the ungearing of the whole of the war machine and the gearing up of the country for peace-time pursuits. Primarily, this concerns the internal economy of the nation. The second objective is that of planning for the future, making provision for a new order or a brave new world, and is much wider in all its aspects. It involves the future economy and the social development of this country, and will be concerned with whether we are to remain a country of free enterprise or are to be organized at some future date on a socialist basis. Shortly, it concerns what every one in this country may regard as the fundamental way in which our future life should be organized, and it has an international as well as a national basis. The machinery required to deal with these two aspects differs fundamentally; both the methods, and the way in which the powers are to be granted, are different. The problem of demobilization will be comparatively simple of solution, and politically will not be very difficult. But the demand for a new order - whatever that may be, depending on the State of mind of those who view what the future is to be - will be an entirely different proposition. The powers that will be required, and the methods by which the new order will be brought into existence, will require a great deal of thought, planning and care in working out. There will be some overlapping. The powers necessary to usher in a completely new order obviously would enable demobilization to be effected. Equally, some of the powers required to effect demobilization would help to make easy the organization of the future development of this country. I consider that these two matters should be considered separately, for the present at all events.
I shall enlarge briefly upon these two aspects of the problem. The first matter is the transition from war to peace. What powers will be required, and what problems will have to be faced? The first and most important matter is the re-employment of the personnel who are now engaged in the fighting services, in the production of munitions, and in the various other war industries that have been .established in this country since the beginning of the war. What is the size of this problem? It has been said that it concerns the replacement in ordinary civil and peace-time life of a million or more people. I do not consider that the problem is as large as some people believe it to be. To-day, as the House knows, there are approximately 800,000 in the fighting services, as well as a large number in munitions establishments, and others who have been diverted from their ordinary peace-time employment to industries that are useful for war purposes. A large proportion of these has been taken from positions that will be open to them after the war. Many of those who have come from the country will return to the country when the war ends. Numerous women who have left household occupations and other avenues will revert to them. Then there are thousands of men and women beyond the age at which they would normally be employed, who are still carrying on merely because the exigencies of war require them to do so. All of these will revert to their former positions.
– That was not the case after the last war.
– The last war was entirely different from the present war. On this occasion, a large proportion of those who are engaged in war-time occupations will certainly revert to their former positions. The number to be replaced in ordinary peace-time occupations will be not 1,500,000 persons, but probably not more than 200,000 or 250,000. I do not suggest that that will not be a difficult problem, but it will not be of the same order of difficulty as would be the handling of more than 1,000,000 persons. Obviously, certain powers will be needed, and the matter will definitely have to be taken in hand, because, without planning, quite certainly much confusion, and even chaos, will ensue. Every honorable member on this side of the House agrees that certain powers will be needed, and that planning will have to be done, for the disposition of those who are demobilized. Members of the Government say that it will be necessary to find employment for those who have not an avenue to which they may return. In my view, the demand for labour will be so enormous that the case will be one rather of rationing labour than of finding jobs, at least in the early days of peace. An examination of the economic situation to-day discloses that every section of the people is short of goods. The ordinary civilian population is short of clothes, of household utensils, and of almost every other commodity that it needs. The man on the land will have to replace a very large portion of his equipment, his fencing, his machinery and plant, and the man who is without a house will have to be provided with one. An enormous quantity of consumable as well as capital goods will be required. The demand will swell like a flood upon a. market that will be ill-equipped to meet it.
– Is the honorable member in favour of the bill?
– In some respects I am, but in other respects I am not. Later, I shall make suggestions which I hope will meet with the approval of the Government. The difficulty will be,’ not to encourage, but rather to damp down consumption. Monetarily, we are living to-day in a state of concealed inflation.
– Faintly concealed.
– It is nothing like what it might be. In previous inflations, money has lost its value by up to 25 per cent., 50 per cent., and sometimes 100 per cent. What is happening in this country today? A portion of the money in our possession has been devalued by from 15 per cent, to 20 per cent., whilst the remainder has lost all its value because it cannot be expended. When the war comes to an end, if controls over prices are suddenly lifted, there will be a sudden rush of this money into the market seeking an outlet. Inevitably, prices will rise and chaos will be produced. This, I say with a good deal of dismay, will mean the continuance after the war of at least some of the controls that exist to-day. I say that with some dismay because I do not like controls; indeed, I do not believe that anybody in this country does ; yet they must continue for a certain period if complete chaos is not to eventuate. The s.ame thing applies in other directions. Should there be a large demand for goods and an insufficient supply to meet that demand, there will be a tendency for prices to rise. Therefore, a continuance of some measure of price control will be necessary. The same will bc true also in respect of materials and man-power. There will be a large demand for labour of all descriptions by all sections of the population. That will apply not only to large undertakings, such as housing, but also to the business of manufacture, because manufacturers will require labour to meet the demand for their goods. In the manufacture of those goods, materials will be required, and so, again, a measure of control will be necessary there. Let us for a moment consider what is involved in a big housing programme. Large quantities of timber and other materials will be necessary, and unless some general control be exercised over those things - on a diminishing scale, I hope - there will be confusion. Energies will be diverted into the wrong channels, and the results will be unsatisfactory. Similarly, some measure of control will be necessary over finance. Money must be diverted into the right channels so that the right classes of goods will be produced, lt is clear that some control must be exercised during the transition period from war to peace. If we examine the bill we shall find that provision is made for the granting of some of these powers and for other powers also. I believe that the powers already possessed by the Government will be adequate for some years after the war. In my opinion, the bill provides for powers far greater than will be required’ for the transition period, and far less than will be necessary for the future development of Australia. In other words, the bill goes too far in one direction, and not far enough in another direction.
– In what direction does it go too far?
– It goes too far in respect of the transition period. There is no objection to the granting of powers for the reinstatement and advancement of those who fought in the service of the Commonwealth, but in what way can control over trusts, combines and monopolies be associated with the transition period?
– Does not the honorable member believe in control?
– Yes; but the control of trusts, combines and monopolies has nothing to do with the transition period. Moreover, what control will be necessary over railway gauges during the transition period ?
– A great deal.
– The same question may be asked in respect of family allowances.
– Quite a lot of control may be needed during the transition period.
– These powers may be necessary at a later period, during which we hope that the country will be organized on a much better basis than now; but they will not be required during the transition period. If we take a longrange view, the second objective, which has to do with the future economic and social development of this country, is equally important. If this subject is to be regarded on a national basis - if the Commonwealth is to exercise full control over such development - the powers required will need to be far greater than are sought in the bill. If the country is to be developed on a national basis, the development must be undertaken by the national Parliament. No country comparable with Australia has a national Parliament with powers so inadequate as those which are vested in this Parliament. In Great Britain one Parliament exercises supreme power over the whole country. The same is true of most European countries. The problems which will confront Australia after the war will be external in their implications; they will largely be associated with the finding of markets. Other problems will be affected by the external factors which may have an influence on our standards of living, hours of labour, and so on. I do not believe that this country can be developed unless some scheme of social security, on a national basis rather than on a State basis, is in operation, yet the only reference that I see in the bill to social security is the provision in respect of “national health in cooperation with the States “. That means nothing, because, at the moment, the States have full power to deal with matters of health: the Commonwealth has no power at all in that field. To act in co-operation with the States means merely to continue to work by agreement with the States. With other members of this Parliament, I have been inquiring into matters affecting the health of the people, including proposals for a national medical service, and we have seen the difficulties associated with the introduc tion of such a scheme in the absence of full powers over health being vested in the Commonwealth. That is one direction in which the bill fails. I repeat that the powers proposed to be granted to the Commonwealth are too great in respect of the first objective, namely, the needs of the transition period, but they are inadequate as regards the second objective, namely, the development of this country on a national basis. The question of education also arises. Hitherto, education has been regarded as a State function rather than a matter to be controlled by the Commonwealth, but why should we not have a national view of education? Instead of training a generation of Victorians or Tasmanians, let us train Australians. We cannot develop this country properly and make of it a great nation unless we take a national view of these important problems. Another matter requiring Commonwealth control is the treatment of tuberculosis. No State acting alone can eradicate this disease; the fight against it must be conducted on a nation-wide basis. Sooner or later, there must be an expansion of Commonwealth powers in a number of directions, but I am convinced that the time is not ripe for a referendum to grant greater powers to the Commonwealth. I agree with the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). I believe that the Commonwealth requires powers to deal with the immediate problems which will face us after the war ends, that is to say, during the transition from war to peace, such as the repatriation of the members of the fighting services and the absorption into industry of the employees working in war industries; but I do not believe that the extra powers set out in the bill are necessary for that purpose. Nor do I believe that the extra powers will be granted by the people. I believe that the Government already possesses all the powers necessary to tide this country over the transition period. National security regulations under which we operate to-day will remain in force for six months after the end of hostilities. That term does not mean the signing of the armistice, but rather the conclusion of the peace. After the last war the peace treaties were signed at various dates, which varied from six to nine months after the signing of the armistice. Now it is generally agreed that the peace terms . were drawn up hastily and were signed hastily. I believe that peace will not be signed for a considerable time after the . termination of hostilities. That will give to us ample time to deal with any alteration of the Constitution which events may make necessary. To-day, no one knows what will come after the war, what the peace treaty will provide, what Australia’s obligations will be, or what powers the Commonwealth will require; and therefore the holding of a referendum at the present time is premature and unwise. I have heard that the Government proposes to introduce an amendment to enable this bill to cover freedom of expression and freedom of religion. I have no objection to that. Freedom of expression should be the inalienable right of every person, and the same freedom should exist in respect of religion. These freedoms may be incorporated in the Constitution, but if we do so what will be thought of other freedoms which are not so incorporated? Is there not danger that it will be thought that the Government does not regard them as freedoms worth legislating for? What is the opinion of honorable members regarding freedom of association? Is the Government prepared to add that? It might very well do so. As I see it, the trouble with the bill is that it goes too far in one direction and not far enough in another. It gives over-ample powers in regard to demobilization, but it provides inadequate powers to deal with, other problems. If the Government were wise it would return to its previous method of seeking to obtain the necessary powers by reference from the States. Failing that, I suggest that the powers sought should be submitted to the people one by one under fourteen separate heads. As the matter stands now, the list begins and ends with perfectly innocuous requests. The first relates to the repatriation of ex-servicemen in respect of which the Government already has the power, while the last relates to the treatment of aborigines. They may be described as a coating of sugar, but within there is a mass of indigestible stuff which the people will reject.
There is a serious danger of overcentralization in Australia. We are a curious people. We love freedom and individualism, yet of all countries in the world ours has, in many respects, the most centralized form of administration. The area of Great Britain is mU 3t less than that of Australia, and it is much more closely populated, but government in that country is less centralized than it is here. Even within our States government is more centralized than in Great Britain. The people fear that if additional powers are granted to the Commonwealth this tendency towards centralization will be aggravated. The people have learned some of the inconveniences of centralization as the result of the restrictions imposed as war measures. They know, for instance, that if they want permission to buy machinery, the application has to be passed on from one section to another until it comes to the central authority before a decision can be given. They are not anxious that this system should be extended or perpetuated. I recognize that a strong central government does not necessarily make for the centralization of administration. I believe that we need one general policy for the whole Commonwealth, but the responsibility for working out that policy should devolve on local authorities to a much greater extent than now obtains.
The people feel still another objection to the Government’s proposals. Parliament has, in a sense, abdicated in favour of a bureaucracy. Government by the Parliament has been largely suspended. I recognize that this is more or less inevitable in times of war, but the people are asking whether, if the powers asked for are granted, there is not a danger that this system will be perpetuated. This afternoon, the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) apparently backed every horse in the race but one - that being the horse running under socialist colours. He made no mention of that, having been instructed, no doubt, to avoid doing so. Other Ministers have also received their instructions I suppose, and they have wisely refrained from mentioning the word “ socialism “. However, the Minister for War Organization of Industry made one extraordinary statement - lie said that the policy of the Government for the future was to abolish restrictions and merely encourage increased production. I remind him that the restrictions at present imposed upon the production of what are described as non-essential goods are designed for the purpose of increasing production in the essential industries. Restriction on one industry is tantamount to conferring freedom on another to expand. Even after the war, the Government will find it difficult to obtain increased production in one direction without restricting production in another, and that will be its justification, no doubt, for continuing to apply restrictions. “We have for a long time been living under a democratic system of government, by which we mean government by the elected representatives of the people. Those representatives constitute the sovereign body, the Parliament of the country, from a majority of which the Executive is drawn. Upon the opposition devolves the responsibility of criticizing the actions of the government, and behind the opposition again is- the general body of the public who are also critical of government action. To-day, the people are asking two questions: Is the Parliament really a sovereign assembly? and Does the Government govern? The Prime Minister gave an explanation to the conference of the Labour party, which was held in - Canberra in December last, that the Government would regard post-war reconstruction as an international as well as a national responsibility. I think that the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) made the Government view clear in a series of articles published under his name in the press. The Prime Minister was placed in the position of having to submit this matter for decision not to Parliament, but to a conference composed of 36 delegates, representative of the trade unions and branches of the Labour party. That conference represented only a small minority of the people; and it is not accountable in any way to the people. It is undignified for a Prime Minister to depend on such a body. Such a procedure is indicative of an oligarchy.
The Government displayed similar dependence upon outside bodies when it amended the Defence Act to permit members of the Citizens Forces to serve outside Australia. The next question I have asked is whether the Government really governs. I hate to refer to the subject of coal, because it has been discussed so much recently. However, the fact is that the miners break the law; and whilst threats and penalties are imposed upon them, they are not enforced. The lawbreakers object to appearing before the courts of the land with the result that the Government has handed over judgments and penalties in respect of disputes in the coalmining industry to special tribunals. A similar attitude is adopted by the waterside workers. They claim privileges similar to those claimed by the coal-miners; and why shouldn’t they? Why should not any section of the community claim the right to be subject only to special laws, and to be tried by special tribunals? However, that is not democracy. The difference between the coal-miners and the rest of the community is that the miners are militant, whilst other sections are not. If all sections of the community became militant, it would be the end of democracy, because democracy rests upon the observance of law and order: Developments of this kind do not appear to trouble honorable members opposite. Nevertheless, they are troubling the minds of the great majority of Australians. I mention these facts because I believe that certain additional powers should be referred to the Commonwealth. I am not a unificationist. However, if we are to develop Australia as a nation, and to inculcate in our people a real Australian ideal, we must clothe the National Parliament with adequate powers to give effect to such a policy. Consequently, I do not like to witness events of the kind which I have just mentioned. They raise doubts in the minds of the people as to the advisability of giving greater powers to the Commonwealth Parliament than it now possesses. All of us agree that today this Parliament requires greater powers in order to be enabled to develop Australia on a nation-wide basis; but it is unwise to ask the people to swallow all of the Government’s proposals in one gulp. Therefore, I suggest that the Government withdraw the measure and modify its proposals. It should seek for this Parliament such limited powers as the people will readily grant. Then, at a later date, as the amendment provides, other powers required by the Commonwealth should be considered at an elective convention at a time when it would not be subject to the psychosis of war, but could give adequate consideration not only to the lessons of the past, but also to the requirements of the future. If that course be followed, the Government will have a far greater chance of carrying a referendum for the reform of the Constitution; and, as the amendment provides for that course, I support it.
.- It would be most unfortunate indeed if the people of Australia were to be deceived by the meretricious display of legal skill which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has made in this debate. Never in .the history of Australian politics has so much chicanery been employed with the object of emasculating a bill, and stultifying federalism. He suggested that what is being done under the Commonwealth’s war-time powers can be undone under its peacetime powers. I can only describe that statement as legerdemain. The bulk of the powers now being exercised by the Government are being exercised under the National Security Act. For the benefit of honorable members, I shall road the concluding section of that act -
This act shall continue in operation until a date to be fixed by proclamation and no longer, but in any event no longer than six months after His Majesty ceases to bc engaged in war.
The meaning of that section is clear. It is equally clear that the great majority of the powers being exercised to-day by the Commonwealth are being exercised under its defence power, which in peace will practically shrivel up to nothing. It cannot be denied that the very form of our federal system indicates that full sovereignty is not vested in the Commonwealth Parliament. Indeed, the Constitution defines the limits of the Commonwealth’s sovereignty, and, saving and excepting those powers which have been reserved by the Constitution to the Commonwealth, ;the full sovereignty vested in His Majesty reposes in the States. Some honorable members opposite have also suggested that the people in the States are different from the. people in the Commonwealth. That is ridiculous. If it were true it would be reasonable to ask a person whether he was born in Australia, or Victoria, or some other equally nonsensical question; and a person born in one State would be entitled to regard a person born in another State as a foreigner. The federal system of Government in Australia differs fundamentally from the federal system of Canada, because in Canada the limited powers are reposed in the States, and, saving and excepting those powers, the Government of the Dominion of Canada has full power. New Zealand has a unitarian system of government. The Government of that dominion can exercise any of the powers which are now being sought to be embodied in our Constitution. I believe that the people of Australia will agree to do so. Should any doubt exist as to whether the powers now sought ought to be exercised by the Commonwealth, or whether any need for them exists, I refer honorable members to a wellknown authority on the Constitution. Mr. A. V. Dicey, in his book The Law of the Constitution, says at page 139 -
Whatever concerns the nation as a whole should be placed under the control of the national government. All matters which are not primarily of common interest should remain in the hands of the several States.
I believe that Sir John Quick was cited as another authority that the test of whether or not these powers are, not merely desirable, but necessary to be included in a federal system of government is whether or not they are of common interest to all the people of Australia. I make it clear at once that it is the policy of the Australian Labour party not to adopt a unified system of government, but to support a federal system along the lines that matters of common interest should be dealt with by this Parliament and that matters of local or special interest should be dealt with by State Parliaments and local governing and semi-governmental bodies. Indeed, if I may add one other authority on this point, I cite the Industrial Australian and Mining Standard, a publication which has the full support of the heavy industrial group of this country. The issue dated the 1st March, 1944, says -
Experience has shown that these six governments never can agree on a common policy applicable all over Australia.
I do not think there is any doubt whatever that there is a necessity for the Coram on wealth Parliament, by reason of the communality of these particular matters, to exercise powers in regard to them. If it is thought that the High Court of Australia is to be continually sitting as an arbiter to determine what power the Commonwealth Government has under the Constitution it will be a very bad thing indeed for the people of this country, because they are not concerned with the decisions of the High Court. They want the Commonwealth Government to have power to give them the things which they should have and the things which they most need in order to secure their livelihood. As to the statements made by members of the Opposition parties, I mention, in passing, one made by the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) in which he claimed that he was not one of the unanimous group at the Constitution Convention which agreed with the principles of the bill before the House, because, he said, from this bill had been dropped the proviso whereby there was reserved to the States power to revoke the reference of powers which they were being asked to make. That statement is completely untrue. It is untrue because, whatever the right honorable gentleman may or may not have agreed to, paragraph d of the motion of Mr. Cosgrove, the Premier of Tasmania, reads -
Page 144 of the report of the proceedings of the Constitution Convention shows that the motion was agreed to unanimously and that the right honorable gentleman was present when it was agreed to.
Much of the force in the arguments of Opposition members on this bill reposes in the fact that five years after the cessation of hostilities the powers will cease to have effect. I do not think that any honorable member, or, for that matter, any person in the Commonwealth, doubts for one moment that this bill is merely a preliminary to a permanent change - that it is of a probationary character. There are a great many other matters of mutual interest to the people of Australia which, no doubt, will be incorporated in the Constitution when a convention is assembled for the purpose of effecting permanent changes. I believe that that convention will be assembled after the conclusion of the war. The only reason why this bill has become necessary and why the business of the Ministry should be occupied by requiring the attention of honorable members to such a measure is that certain members of the Opposition parties in some States failed to honour the obligation to which they committed themselves at the Constitution Convention. It has been canvassed, of course, that the Government should again try. to get the upper house in Tasmania to pass the bill, but every honorable member ought not, and probably is not, so naive as to believe that there are not outside this Parliament powerful vested interests at work which would exercise all kinds of pressure on that legislature to prevent it from doing so. Such a suggestion is merely further evidence of the humbug that has characterized the attitude of members of the Opposition on this bill. Indeed, much of the criticism of this measure by Opposition members was based on the fact that it is to operate for five years after the war ends, but, if we look at the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), we see that paragraph 6 provides -
That to afford adequate power to the Government and sufficient protection to the citizen, the bill should be withdrawn and redrafted so as to declare or provide, over a period of five years from the termination of actual hostilities, that the Commonwealth Parliament has . .
While the right honorable gentleman is telling the House that the bill cannot be of much value to the country because it is limited to five years, in his own amendment he has a similar provision. That is another example of the humbug of the right honorable gentleman.
In a few m orients I shall have something to say about his legal arguments on this matter.
There are many things I should like to see inserted in the bill. “What the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) has proposed to-day is, I think, a beginning, but, if one considers what is included in other constitutions we find, for example, that in the Constitution of the Irish Free State there is a number of guarantees. The first and one of the most important guarantees which should be inserted in any constitution, and one for the insertion of which in our Constitution there is an urgent need, is the guarantee of the liberty of the subject. In the Constitution of the Irish Free ‘State, that is the highest on the list. Every honorable member had experience, in the early stages of the administration of the National Security Act, of cases of persons being arrested and detained for periods of up to ten days without warrant, or without any charge being preferred against them.
– As in the case of the members of the “ Australia First “ movement.
– I should like to put the New Guard under restraint also. That would be an instance in which the provision for summary arrest and imprisonment was useful. I suggest to the Attorney-General, in all seriousness, that the guarantee of the liberty of the subject is most important to individual members of the community. It should be inserted in our Constitution, and have a higher priority than freedom of speech and freedom of expression. The next guarantee in the Constitution of the Irish Free State is that of the inviolability of the dwelling of each citizen. Then come in order the following: -
The right of lawful assembly is an important provision which should also be inserted in our Constitution. It exists here at present merely on the rules of law, but, having regard to the turbulent times in which we now find ourselves, and those which may lie ahead, it should not be excluded from our Constitution. Then comes the right to form associations or unions. That is a most important provision which could be inserted in our Constitution. Next is the right of every citizen to free elementary education. I feel that, particularly in that respect, there is a big field for the Commonwealth to ask for power and to exercise it. There should be a standard system of education, a standard university course, and standard training of a technical nature throughout Australia. I believe that, so far as the Commonwealth is able to establish it, having regard to the appropriation made for that purpose and other requirements, there should be in this country free education up to and including university standard.
– Then the honorable member does not believe that variety is the spice of life?
– I do not believe in a system which permits such a variegation of opinion as is displayed by honorable members opposite, who claim to be a fighting Opposition when what they do is merely to fight themselves. I am particularly pleased that the AttorneyGeneral has, in the amendment announced this afternoon, foreshadowed a declaration of no delegation of powers to persons who are not subject to electoral responsibility. Although I am not entirely satisfied that the amendment has covered the whole subject, nevertheless I think it is breaking most important ground in that respect. One thing which could be done in that regard is so to extend this Parliament, as has been suggested by other honorable members who have spoken on the bill, that it shall sit, as far as possible, continuously. I see no reason why Parliament cannot sit, even though Ministers may be engaged at Cabinet meeting.?, and I think that, commensurately with the sittings and responsibilities of the Parliament, the privileges of honorable members ought to be amplified so that they may be relieved as far as possible of a great deal of the hack-work which they are at present called upon to discharge.
It is rather peculiar that outside interests have, in connexion with this bill, canvassed the proposition that a provision for the freedom of the press should be embodied in the Constitution. I could imagine that to some unwitting people such a freedom might make an appeal, but, although it was included in the French Constitution in the few words of article 55, “Freedom of the press is guaranteed “, I remind honorable members that the press in France, practically from, the end of the last war until the beginning of this conflict, was in the pay of the enemies of France, and the fact that the freedom of the press was guaranteed in the French Constitution did not protect the French nation against Fascism in their own country. The press, or a section of it, while advocating the insertion of its freedom in the Constitution, actually makes its support of the bill conditional upon that amendment. Although it knows that paragraph (ii.) of proposed new section 51a is designed to guarantee to the Australian people complete economic security, it would create the belief on the part of the people that it is working in their interests, whereas the contrary is the case. We might as well insert in the Constitution a guarantee of freedom to make profits to the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited or Australian Consolidated Industries, General MotorsHoldens Limited, or any other monopoly, as insert a guarantee of freedom of the press, because the press to-day is no more than a private profit-making institution. It is conducted by private, sectional and vested interests for their own profit. If there is any doubt whatever that the press is free in the public sense, I remind honorable members of the speech made last night by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen). The press complains that it is subject to censorship, but whenever anything is uttered contrary to its interests, or that is deemed to be contrary to its interests, the press itself censors or “ subs “ it, as the honorable member for Parkes said. Many other things ought to be done before the Constitution is amended to guarantee the freedom of the press in Australia. While on this subject, let me say that when one considers who are the persons in control of the press of this country, one finds that not one of the private lives of those whom I am about to mention will stand examination. Yet they set themselves up as paragons of all the virtues, and presume to tell people what they ought to be doing. There is, for instance, Mr. Warwick Fairfax. If honorable members want to know anything about him”, probably the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) will be able to tell them. There is Mr. Brian Penton, the editor-in-chief of the Daily Telegraph. He volunteered on one occasion for the commandos, but, when they said that they would have him, he did not show up. It is difficult for me to find words to describe Mr. Packer, but I say deliberately that he is a flash larrikin. Sir Keith Murdoch’s record is well known in this country. Finally, there is Mr. McNulty and others of that ilk. Apart from their private lives, thosepersons have, by publicly winning great victories on paper from day to day, done more to damage the morale of this country and the war effort than would’ the rout of a number of our divisions in battle. If the coal-miners are complacent, who can blame them? The daily press tells them unceasingly that any day the war might end. That damages morale. In a way, it is a pity that some action has not been taken against the press before now. If honorable members have any doubt that the pressis not political, I remind them of thecase of the honorable member for Parkes. He held a most important position with Consolidated Press Limited, the publisher of the Sydney Daily Telegraph, Sunday Telegraph and’ the Australian Women’s Weekly. Thehonorable member was “ sacked “ by Mr. Packer because he dared to nominate for the Labour pre-selection ballot for the electorate of Parkes, which he ultimately won. These people, who say that they will assist the Government to carry this referendum, are not persons with whom ordinary, decent citizens would have any business dealings. It should be made clear to the press that it will not receive from the Government any guarantee of freedom, and that, unless it is prepared to behave properly, some of its members may find themselves obliged to serve in most uncomfortable places.
I have heard it suggested that the first of the powers sought by the Commonwealth, namely, “ The reinstatement and advancement of members of the fighting services “, is not necessary. The Leader of the Opposition declared that the Commonwealth already possessed adequate power under the existing defence placitum in section 51 to deal with this matter. As I reminded honorable members earlier, most of the war-time powers have been exercised under the National Security Act. Regulations have been passed such as the National Security (Reinstatement in Civil Employment) Regulations, and the National Security (War Service Moratorium) Regulations. Those are only two regulations which will cease to be effective six months after the cessation of hostilities. Does any honorable member suggest that the Commonwealth ought not to have power after the war to compel private employers to reinstate in their service persons who had been employed by them at the time of their enlistment? It is suggested that when members of the forces are demobilized they ought not to be given a moratorium in respect to their debts in order that they may rehabilitate themselves financially? Those powers should operate for at least five years after the termination of the war.
Commonwealth control of employment and unemployment is virtually a guarantee of security to the workers that persons able and willing to work shall be given jobs at award rates. Can it be denied that such a problem can be resolved only on a national basis ? After all, it is a problem of organization. One State may be able to provide employment in a particular area because it has works in hand there, but other States will not be in the same position. Undoubtedly, the problem of employment affects every person in the Commonwealth, regardless of whether he is employed or unemployed. As such, it should be dealt with by the National Parliament. Some honorable members opposite have contended that some of the powers sought should not be exercised by this Government. I remind them that those powers will not necessarily be exercised by a Labour government, although we on this side of the chamber hope that they will be for many years to come. But sooner or later the people of Australia may change their political views and these powers will be exercised by anti-Labour parties. On that particular point the Industrial Australian and Mining Standard of the 1st March states -
The fact that a policy of nationalization or of greater government control could he lawfully carried out in relation to a particular subject-matter was no more relevant than the fact that it would >be possible to carry out the opposite .policy of laisser-faire or complete legislative inaction.
– I am surprised that the honorable member should quote as an authority a capitalist newspaper !
– I find it most effective in countering capitalist arguments. The extract which I have read puts the position most succinctly. Some honorable members opposite have suggested that the Government should not seek to control air transport.
– The Government already possesses that power.
– Yes, by reference from the States.
– No, by a High Court decision of the former Mr. Justice Evatt.
– I stated earlier that the powers of the Commonwealth should not be left in doubt. They should be clearly denned in the Constitution. Why should these gentlemen who sit on a Bench, who have not a first-hand knowledge of the immediate problems of government, who are not in communication with other governments, and who do not know the part that’ Australia has to play in international affairs, have the power to determine what can be done or what ought to be done by the Commonwealth Government?
– Even if the Commonwealth Government obtains the powers that it now seeks, the High Court will still have that power.
– That is true; but if it be humanly possible to remove from the High Court the power to make such decisions it ought to be done, in the interests of the people.
– Does the honorable member deny that the Commonwealth has all the international powers under the international conventions, and that local powers have been referred to it by the States?
– Yes, but according to a resolution of the International Labour Office, we also have power to introduce a 40-hour week in this country.
– The honorable member’s knowledge of history is not quite accurate,
– I bow to the superior knowledge of the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) in regard to that matter. Having regard to the vital connexion that aviation has with the defence of this country, it is essential that air services throughout Australia, and outside Australia so far as we are able to share in their operation, should be under government control. By that I do not mean that the Government should hold shares in private companies, but that our civil air services, including the carriage of mails, passengers and freight, should be an adjunct to the Royal Australian Air Force, and that only men who have completed a course of training in the Royal Australian Air Force should be permitted to operate these services. In that way, it would be possible to maintain a reserve of flying personnel for the Royal Australian Air Force which would prove of the utmost value should war occur in the future. This is not merely a commercial proposition; the nationalization of air transport in Australia is vital to the defence of this country.
Mr.White. -We all know that; the Commonwealth already has power to deal with that matter.
– It has power in war-time, but it will not have power in time of peace and in time of peace we cannot say when the next war will be upon us.
I come now to one of the principle objections to this measure raised by the right honorable member for Kooyong namely, the five-year limitation upon its operation. I have already pointed out that in his own amendment the right honorable gentleman suggested a fiveyear period, but, nevertheless, part of his argument in support of his case was that the standardization of railway gauges should not be under the control of the Commonwealth for a period of only five years after cessation of hostilities ; but again I point out that in time of peace we do not know when the next war will be upon us. It is essential for the defence of this country that our railway gauges should be standardized as soon as man-power becomes available. At present, the Commonwealth can only ask the States to carry out this work, and the Commonwealth’s experience in that regard has not indicated that the necessary co-operation would be forthcoming.
There are only three words which properly describe the arguments that have been advanced by honorable members opposite against this measure - confusion twice confounded. On one hand, the right honorable member for Kooyong argued a legal point which was completely answered by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender). The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) expressed opposition to the arguments advanced by the Leader of the Opposition, and there has been similar conflict throughout the speeches of honorable members opposite. On the other hand, the case presented by supporters of this measure has been clear and unmistakable. In my view there is no doubt whatever as to the way in which the people of. this country will vote when the referendum is held. I am afraid that the reason why eminent constitutional lawyers on the Opposition side have failed to agree is because of their private ambitions or bias. Having regard to the fact that opposition to this bill is merely political and is not in the true interests of the people, there is a clear case for putting these powers beyond all doubt. I began my remarks by saying that the rejection of these proposals either by the Parliament or by the people would strike at the very root of federalism. If there is any doubt in the minds of honorable members opposite that these powers may be abused by a Labour government, I remind them that not many yards from this House, there is another chamber which was created by the framers of our Constitution for the specific purpose of upholding the rights of the various States. If the people of Tasmania, Western Australia, and South Australia believe that they may be ruined by the exercise of these powers by this so-called central authority, they have eighteen representatives in the Senate who will have an opportunity to defeat whatever legislation is brought before them. Therefore, more than 40 years ago the framers of the Constitution envisaged a safeguard against the very things which honorable members of the Opposition claim are not safeguarded in these proposals. To deprive the Commonwealth Parliament of these powers at this stage, will be like depriving a growing child of the food necessary to maintain its normal development. Indeed, if this Parliament or the people of Australia be so foolish as to deprive the Commonwealth of these powers at this stage they will be, in effect, depriving Australia, at the most critical period of its history, of the opportunity to become the nation which it should become. Such action not only would undermine the whole system of federalism, but also, I believe, would prevent this country from obtaining the recognition in the eyes of other countries which I believe it must have if we are to play our full part in world affairs. Probably, the most apt words which could be applied to this measure are those of Shakespeare: “ There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so “. It suits the political ends of the Opposition to think that this is a bad bill, but I am convinced that it is in the interests of the great majority of the people of this country that the measure should be carried.
– Holding the opinion that the time is over-ripe for a considerable increase of the powers of the Commonwealth Government in respect of industry and commerce, health, education, justice, and other aspects of our national life, I join with those who have expressed regret that this Parliament is occupying so much time in discussing a measure which not unfairly can be described, as ill-timed, inadequate, and impermanent. Why do I say that it is ill-timed? Most authorities agree that the almost continuous stream of negative decisions by the people of Australia in regard to the various proposals for constitution alteration that have been referred to them is due to the fact that they did not or could not bring themselves to understand the full significance of the Constitution and of the proposed alterations that were placed before them. If this was true in the piping times of peace, how much more true must it be when the minds of the people are pre-occupied and distracted by war exigencies and anxieties? The contention that the referendum is illtimed applies particularly to the servicemen. I know that arrangements were made, and that they will be made again, for the servicemen in operational areas in the different theatres of war to be given reasonable opportunities to exercise their vote. But the most active efforts by the electoral authorities to ensure this must fail. Many of the men who are fighting and bleeding for us are occupied! on such duties and in such theatres as would make it impossible for them to participate either in a general election or at a referendum. Which of our citizens has a better right than have these men to a voice in determining what shall be the Constitution of the country for which they are fighting? However, apart from any opposition to a referendum under war-time conditions, I should oppose the taking of one at any time, either in war or in peace, on the limited issues that are here proposed. I am sure that the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) himself will not claim that this bill includes a category of amendments which, in the light of the experience of nearly half a century, represents a complete category. But a few hours ago, three rather important amendments were forecast by the right honorable gentleman, indicating that the bill as originally submitted fell far short of requirements. It is common knowledge that it is but a pale shadow of that which the right honorable gentleman introduced into this House in 1942. Also, it is not nearly so comprehensive in its proposals as was the bill which he presented to the Convention that met in this chamber in the late months of 1942. Therefore, I do not hesitate to say that, insofar as the category of proposed alterations purports to be a complete list of desirable alterations of the Constitution, it is grossly inadequate. How could it be otherwise, having regard to its origin? We do not gather figs from thistles, and would not expect to collect from a gathering of State Premiers the maximum proposals for the transfer of power from State authorities to the Commonwealth Government. These men, of course, are by their very nature traditional conservators of State sovereignty. It is true that they sat in company with the Attorney-General and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Hughes). One speaker in this debate’ has suggested that they were at a disadvantage because they were not fortified with equal strength of legal advisers compared with the representatives of the Commonwealth. I do not think that one need apologize for them, or suggest for a moment that, fortified as they were by the strongest of all human instinctspolitical self-preservation - they were likely to be overawed in any way by the presence of so distinguished a jurist as the Attorney-General. The men chosen to formulate the Federal Convention nearly 50 years ago were, indeed, great men, judged by any period in our history, but I am sure that even the most modest of them would hestitate to claim that he was endowed with such prescience and foresight as to be able to evolve in the late years of the nineteenth century a constitution which would be adequate for the new world as we know it to-day, less only the proposed alterations included in this bill. When the Convention met to frame the Constitution under which we have been working since the inception of federation, some of the capital cities of Australia were almost as remote from each other as are the continents of Europe and America distant to-day from Australia. The Attorney-General has quite rightly referred to that period as the horse and buggy period. It is true that when the Federal Convention was formulated there was hardly a motor car, hardly any telephones, and few cable services operating in Australia. Industrial machinery was still awaiting the development of the internal combustion engine. We are expected to believe that a convention with that background, even though it consisted of some of the greatest intellects of the time, was able to evolve a constitution competent to meet the needs of the present very changed world. As I have said, we are impelled to fight these proposals on the ground that they are illtimed and inadequate. In addition, I have a complaint to make against them on the score of their impermanence. Many gallant attempts have been made by protagonists of this measure to explain and justify the proposed five-year tenure, but peculiarly enough the real reason for the limitation of tenure has not been mentioned. Of course, this is one of the prices that was paid to the Premiers for their support of the proposal, and not the only one. If I am considered unreasonable and unfair in making that suggestion, may I cite an authority whom I do not think will be challenged by my friends who sit opposite - the Attorney-General himself. Presenting the original bill in 1942, the right honorable gentleman said this -
No time limit is fixed for the duration of the “ war aims and reconstruction powers “. They will and should remain available as long as the needs that call them into being.
It was not intended that these powers should have any time limit imposed until one was imposed by the Premiers at the Convention; and, I repeat, that is one of the prices paid for their concurrence. Let us have a look at the practicability of this provision. Can the repatriation of servicemen fighting in this war be finalized within a period of five years ? Recently, the Minister for Repat.riation (Mr. Frost) introduced measures to extend the repatriation provisions relating to the war which terminated in 1918, yet it is suggested that the repatriation powers which are now being sought, and which honorable members have emphatically claimed to be essential if justice is to be done to our serving men, should terminate after a period of five years after the end of the war. Let us consider the physical impracticability of applying a limited tenure to some of the other items included in the fourteen suggested amendments. One of the proposals is for a uniform company law. This is a subject regarding which there would be general agreement, but does any . one suggest that, after having formulated a uniform company law for Australia, we should revert to the status quo at the end of five years? Similarly, are we to proceed immediately with the standardization of the railway gauges, as was suggested by the honorable member for “Watson (Mr. Falstein), and if so, is it suggested that the work would be completed within five years? If not, is the work to cease at the expiration of that period? Similar criticism could be offered regarding the impracticability of a limited tenure of these powers as applying to a number of other items on the list. Many speakers opposite have contended that these powers should be conceded to the Commonwealth in their entirety, because they allege that they were the fruit of a convention in which all parties in the State and Commonwealth legislatures were of a common mind. I remind the House that after all the main purpose of this measure is to arrange for a referendum to be taken. If there was anything about which the Convention was unanimous it was that there should not be a referendum. The bill as drawn by the Convention was drawn on the assumption that it would dispense with the need for a referendum, because it was considered by all parties present to be undesirable to hold a referendum in wartime. It has been said that even those of us who believe that these proposed powers are inadequate ought to be prepared to accept them as an instalment of constitutional reform, but I regard that as dangerous reasoning. The people of Australia have not shown a great taste for referenda, and they will not lightly tolerate any further reference in regard to constitutional amendments for many years after this referendum has been taken, whether the result be affirmative or negative. I know that I am not alone in entertaining those fears. I believe it to be essential that the Commonwealth authorities should have certain powers if they are effectively to carry out necessary war-time jobs, but it is wrong to assume that the Constitution is now barren of such powers - and many of the speeches made during the last few days would convey that impression. Does any one really suggest that the present Government, or those which preceded it, suffered from any incompetence to deal with repatriation problems in the years that have passed? Fault might be found with the degree to which the promises made to servicemen in the first world war have not been redeemed, but any failure to redeem them cannot be attributed to lack of adequate power on the part of governments. That point was made abundantly clear by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). He also told us that there are other powers possessed by the Commonwealth which are within the ambit of the existing Constitution - powers which, apparently, have not yet been tested to the full, such as the power to make treaties with other countries. We have been told that it is essential that the Commonwealth Parliament should be vested with authority to deal with civil aviation. That is one of the things of which the framers of the original Constitution could not have had knowledge, and therefore they made no provision for it. But the AttorneyGeneral was a member of the High -Court bench which ruled that the Commonwealth did have power to control aviation because Australia was a party to an international air convention. It is undoubtedly true that during recent years a much more liberal interpretation of the effectiveness of the treaty making powers already held by this Parliament has been evident. Whilst’ we on this side urge that power already reposes in the Commonwealth to carry out most of the duties which are implied in the suggested amendments, we admit that in some quarters there is a sincerely held doubt as to the adequacy of those powers to meet all requirements of the immediate post-war period. We, therefore, have freely indicated our readiness to concur in the resolving of any such doubts, and to assist the Government to secure for the central authority such amplified power as may be necessary to do the task effectively. But with regard to other matters not directly associated with the war, or the post-war period, it is essential that something be done to reassure the public mind against the very well-held belief that referendum proposals are subject to party political considerations. Among the fourteen items included in this schedule of suggested amendments, two at least will be presented to the public for the second time. It is not long since a previous administration asked the people of Australia for powers to control aviation and marketing. Strange to say, successful opposition to the granting of those powers was led by the people who to-day say that these powers are essential if a central government is really to act as a national authority. There is real justification for some apprehension on the part of the public in this connexion because of the utterances of leading Ministers, to which reference has already been made, and to which it is not necessary for me to refer in detail. When Ministers say that these increased powers are necessary in order that the Government may enter into trade relations now not legally possible, it raises doubts in the mind of the man in the street as to the rear purpose for which the powers are sought. T believe that the entry of the Government into business activities is fraught with grave danger. It has been said that the Commonwealth owns immense munitions establishments, and that it would be placing an unjust burden on the taxpayers to allow them to remain idle after the war. Many illustrations have been given of the ineptness of Government participation in industry, and I cite the Cockatoo Island Dockyard as a further example. The dock is now operated by a private company under lease from the Government. Before that arrangement was made, it was costing the taxpayers of Australia about £70,000 a year to maintain it in a condition, of inanition. To-day, the Government is receiving quite a substantial rental for it, and is participating in the profits.
It has also been argued that, while the Government enjoys ample powers at the moment under the National Security Act, those powers will cease six months after the termination of the war. I remind honorable members that this limitation was imposed by Parliament itself, and presumably Parliament could, if it so desired, extend the period.
The Government purports to need power to legislate for the repatriation of service men and women. Quite obviously, it already possesses all the power that is necessary to give effect to the most generous repatriation programme. The honorable member for New England described the request as the sugarcoating to the pill, but perhaps it would be a more appropriate metaphor to describe it as the topping of the barrow, for which fruiterers are from time to time fined. The Government knows that the people of Australia are in the mood, to be generous to servicemen, and it hopes to play on this sentiment in order to secure agreement with its other proposals.
It is also proposed that the Commonwealth should be given power to legislate in regard to employment and unemployment. The Leader of the Opposition pointed to the extensive powers which the Government already held in this regard. I am sure it would be hard to convince the 2,000 women who were called up by telegram on Sunday and sent to work in jam factories the following day without being given time to make their peace with their previous employers that the Government lacks power with regard to employment. As to the next power, that in regard to marketing, it is not long since the proposal for increased Commonwealth powers in this regard was opposed strenuously by the Labour party. The Government seeks power to prevent profiteering, but the power is not to extend to prices or rates charged by State Governments or semi-governmental or local authorities. The State Governments, which were really responsible for drawing up this list of powers, say, in effect, “We do not mind the Commonwealth being given power to control profiteering so long as we are left alone “. He would be a bold man who would suggest that all possibility of profiteering ceases simply because a business is under the ægis of the Government. It is also proposed to give the Commonwealth power over production, except primary production, which may be included only by an order of the Governor in Council. It is evident that these powers, instead of representing the minimum required to make the Constitution more workable, are, in effect, the maximum which the representatives of the State Governments, the champions of State rights, were prepared to concede. They are in the nature of the bones which the Australian aboriginal, sitting at his feast, throws over his shoulder to his expectantly waiting gin. There is this difference, however, that at least the aborigine does not expect to get the bones back again, whereas the State Premiers want these powers returned to them in five years’ time. The same applies to the proposal that the Government should be given a qualified power to legislate in respect of national health. I could never understand why the framers of the Constitution failed to include in the very forefront of the exclusive powers to be vested in the central government, power in respect of national health. Doubtless, its failure resulted from a compromise; because I dare say that many of its decisions were arrived at by compromise. However, even now this Government is not asking for complete power to legislate in respect of national health, but power to do so only in co-operation with the States. Surely, it is not essential to amend the Constitution in order to enable us to do that. The Commonwealth has, with the co-operation of the States, entered into several fields in respect of which it was not given power under the Constitution. If the Commonwealth does not already possess power to legislate in respect of family allowances, I should like to know whence this Parliament derived its power to pass the Child Endowment Bill, or to deal with legislation now appearing on the notice-paper with respect to the provision of unemployment and sickness benefits, and pharmaceutical benefits. Whence has it derived its power to provide maternity allowances and widows’ pensions, which come within the classification of family allowances ?
The analysis of the bill which I have made rather hastily reveals clearly that the Commonwealth either possesses all the powers which it is seeking under this measure, or could exercise them in co-operation with the States. It is true that one State, Tasmania, rejected the draf t bill agreed upon at the recent Constitutional Convention, but, surely, the last word has not been said in that respect. I recall an occasion when a change of heart and a change of vote on the part of a Tasmanian politician made a very great difference to certain legislation enacted here. And history may repeat itself. Therefore, I strongly urge that instead of submitting contentious proposals of this kind to the people when they are distracted by war conditions, the Government should make another effort to obtain from the States such amplification of its existing powers as it considers necessary to enable it to deal effectively with post-war problems. Because I believe that this approach has not been fully explored, I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Brennan) adjourned.
The following papers were presented : -
National Security Act -
National Security (Aliens Control) Regulations - Order - Aliens (Queensland Curfew) .
National Security (General) Regulations - Orders -
Control of manufacture of glass (No. 2).
Radio broadcast receivers (No. 2).
Taking possession of land,&c. (30).
Use of land.
National Security (Internment Camps) Regulati on s - Order - Cl a ssifica tion of overseas internees (No. 2).
National Security (Man Power) Regulations - Order - Employer’s return in respect of shearing labour.
National Security (Prisoners of War) Regulations - Order - Prisoners of war camp (No. 13).
House adjourned at 11.34 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Melbourne Transport Services.
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
When may the honorable member for Wilmot expect a reply to the question asked on the 9th February, concerning members of State Parliaments holding Commonwealth positions?
– In order to furnish the complete information desired by the honorable member it was found necessary to seek certain details from the various State governments. These particulars are now awaited.
n asked the Minister for
Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
t asked the Minister for Air, upon notice - 1.What right of appeal, if any, has an officer with an honorary commission in the Citizen Air Force, under Air Force Order 12/ A/12, for the redress of a grievance?
– The answers to the honor able member’s questions are as follows : -
Coal-mining Industry: Northern Coal-Fields.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable m ember’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Volunteer Defence Corps.
e. - On the 1st March, the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) asked me whether the Army proposed to hold Volunteer Defence Corps camp at Easter on the same lines as the Christmas training camp, and, if so, whether it was a fact that the period was to be limited to five days, for which no pay would be drawn.
In reply to the honorable member, I now desire to inform him that on the 8th December, 1943, an instruction was issued by Land Head-quarters which indicated that approval was given for the holding of one eight-day camp in each State for Volunteer Defence Corps personnel of coast artillery and anti-aircraft units either during the Christmas-New Year period, or as soon, after as practicable, and that pay would be available to members attending the camp as follows : -
The above was covered by special governmental approval which was interpreted to cover series of camps extending, if necessary, up to Easter. Victoria Line of Communication Area has already taken advantage of this special approval to the extent of holding two camps - one during Christm as-New Year, and the second about the end of January. On the 25th January, Head-quarters, Victoria Line of Communication Area, notified a proposal to hold a camp for Volunteer Defence Corps personnel between the 6th and the 11th April, 1944 - five and a half days - presumably tocater for personnel who had been unable to attend one of the previous camps of longer duration and asked for decision as to whether pay and allowances would be made available. Land Head-quarters’ decision of the 11th February, advised that as pay and allowances were only available for members attending for a period of six days or over, payment for the proposed five and a half day camp at Easter could not be sanctioned. Service in the Volunteer Defence Corps is voluntary but provision does exist for payment to be made on the basis that a man should not lose financially if called up in emergency. In such a case he can be compensated to the amount of loss of earnings.Under Volunteer Defence Corps regulations, pay cannot be authorized for less than six days, and it is not the policy or intention to alter the relative regulation nor to encourage members to attend for training, except in emergency, likely to have an adverse effect in respect to their civil employment. Pay can be made available for a six day’s camp. Any camp under six days would be voluntary and rations and accommodation only can be provided.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 March 1944, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1944/19440309_reps_17_177/>.