17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Bosevear) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to tomorrow,at 10. 30 am
Transport To Australia
– Has the attention nf the Prime Minister been drawn to the press statement that the Australian Resident Minister in London, Mr. Beasley,is endeavouring io arrange for English brides of Australian exservicemen to be brought to Australia on board British naval vessel?? Can the right’ honorable gentleman . say what arrangements, if any. have been made in this regard?
– I have not seen the press statement, and can only say that the Resident Minister in London has advised me that he is doing his best to obtain all theaccomodation possible for the transport to Australia of the brides of Australian ex-servicemen. I shall make inquiries, and . let the honorable member have whatever information I receive.
Speech By Mr. Bevin,
– Did the Prime Minister have the pleasure, of listening to the speech by the British Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Bevin, broadcast from England during the week-end, in which complimentary references were made to the part which Australia has been playing in the provision of food for Britain? the right honorabl gentleman obtain the full text of the speech, so that it may be available to honorable members, particularly to those who sit in Opposition ?
– I have not seen the text of the speech, but from the remarks of the honorable member I assume that at last somebody is offering praise for what Australia is doing in connexion with the provision of food for Britain. I shall be glad if the honorable gentleman will supply me with a copy of the speech, in order that I may peruse it.
Grievances of ex-Ser vice men - Fishing, Timber-cutting, Saw-milling : Loans - Securityfor Advance to Minor - University Studies : Aliens of Enemy Origin; Interrupted Courses.
– Did the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, during his week-end visit to Brisbane, meet any organizations of ex-servicemen which had demanded a visit by him to discuss their grievances, and did he promise to redress any of the grievances that were placed before him?
– AsI was in Brisbane on business that was not related to my department, I took the opportunity to meet informally two representatives of ex-servicemen’s associations, and to discuss with them some problems of post-war re-establishment training as they affect Queensland. I said that I would look into the problems, and explained the reasons for the existence of certain difficulties which prevented my acceding to their requests. I did not receive, or give an interview to, the individual who had ad dressed to me a letter which, in the House recently, I termed a very uncivil communication.
– I ask the Minister for Post-warReconstruction whether it is a fact that fishing, timber-getting, and saw-milling are not industries in respect of which loans can be granted to eligible persons under the Re-establishment and Employment Act? If so, will the Minister give consideration to having these industries included in the scope of the act for the benefit of the servicemen concerned?
– The Repatriation Department deals with applications for loans to ex-servicemen. If the honorable member will submit the facts to me, I shall convey them to the Minister for Repatriation, and an answer will be supplied.
– Can the Minister for Repatriation discover the reason why an ex-serviceman in South Australia who is twenty years of age, has been advised departmentally that because he is a minor he is not qualified to give security for an advance of £1,000 under the provisions of the Re-establishment and Employment Act?
– If the honorable gentleman will let me have all the particulars, I shall obtain a reply for him.
– On Friday last the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, during the debate on the release of enemy aliens from the services to take up university courses, said that 911 members of the Services had been released for this purpose. Yesterday, I myself heard the Minister for Supply and Shipping say in the Senate that the number was 837. Can the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction say which figure is correct ?
– The first estimate, which was obtained in a hurry in order to answer a question, was that there had been837 releases. When the figures were checked, it, was found that the number was 911.
– The Minister for Postwar Reconstruction said last week that all university students, who had done one year’s course at a university, and who had since become members of the f orces, were eligible for release so that they might continue their studies. If I can give the names of some students who have been refused their discharge, will he see that they are released forthwith?
– The qualifications are that the students must have successfully completed one year at a university, and that they are not key men in any of the services. If the honorable member will give me the names of any students in whom he is particularly interested, and if they have successfully completed a year’s course at a university, and are not regarded as key men in any of the services, they will be released.
– I have received the following telegram from a resident of the district of Tullamore -
Fifty tractors immobilized owing short supply power kerosene. In view of appeal by Minister for Commerce to wheat growers conference, Parkes,last Friday, for extra acreage, will you request assurance from Minister to make supplies of power kerosene available?
I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping to do what he can to help these people obtain supplies of powerkerosene.
– I shall direct the attention of the Minister for Supply and Shipping to the situation described by the honorable member, and I am sure that he will do everything possible to have it corrected.
DameENID LYONS.- I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Supplyand Shipping whether the Government has done anything to arrange for the making of a complete Commonwealthwide geological survey? If not, in view of the importance of the mining industry in terms of wealth produced, and as a basis of future stability for existing engineering industries, will the Minister for Supply and Shipping recommend to Cabinet that such a survey be proceeded with immediately ?
– Honorable members will recognize that the control of minerals is primarily a State matter. The Commonwealth Government does bear in mind that the welfare of the people as a whole, and also the defence of Australia, is bound up with the exploration of mineral resources. The matter has been considered by Cabinet, and it is proposed to discuss with the State Governments the best way to explore our national mineral resources.
– In view of the splendid contribution of Australian women to the war effort, and of the importance of the part which they will be railed upon to play in promoting the future peace and prosperity of the world, will the Prime Minister consider the inclu sion of women in all Australian delegations to future meetings of the United Nations Assembly?
– Consideration will be given to the matter raised by the honorable member.
– by leave - As the result of allegations made regarding the administration of Rowville prisoner of war camp, Victoria, and the shooting of a prisoner of war on the 30th March, I have decided to appoint Mr. Justice Simpson to make an immediate investigation of the affairs of this camp, and of the circumstances whichled up to the shooting, with fatal results, of an Italian prisoner of war on the 30th March.
– Has the Treasurer seen the statement of the Secretary of the Victorian Property Owners Association, Mr. H. P.Higginson, that while a good pre-war home was held down to its 1942 valuation, an inferior one built in 1946can be sold at its cost, which is no less than 50 per cent. above that of the prewar house? If so, does the Prime Minister consider this an equitable state of affairs, and can he say whether the Government proposes to take any immediate action in regard to real estate controls. some considerable time having elapsed since the war ended ?
– The honorable member comments on the fact that houses built perhaps ten or twenty years ago canbe sold at no more thanthe prices ruling in 1940 or1942 as the case may be. That is true, but a small margin is allowed to ensure that the owner shall not lose by the sale. Notwithstanding the control, the owner, in many instances, stands to make a substantial profit on his investment. A similar kind of house built during the last few months would probably cost much more than did the house built ten or twenty years ago.
Therefore, so that the person who sells a new house at the present time shall not be required to incur a loss, it is essential to allow the sale to be made at about the real cost of the house. The control of sales of real estate and property and land transfers presents a very difficult problem, as honorable members will realize. Every effort is being made to keep prices of property down to a reasonable level, but there has been some inflation, despite all the controls that have been imposed. This, has been unavoidable, because there are all sorts of reasons why additional amounts should be added to sale prices. At the moment, I can see no solution for the problem raised by the honorable member,but the control of property transactions, in commonwith other controls, is examined from time to time.
– As Chairman, I present a statement by the War Expenditure Committee of subjects on which confidential memorandums have been addressed by the committee to the Prime Minister.
– Will the Minister for External Affairs make a statement soon regarding the Russo-Persian difficulty and Australia’s attitude towards it, particularly in connexion with the recent vote ofAustralia’s delegate at the meetings of the Security Council?
– I do not propose to make any general statement now. With regard to the vote on a matter of procedure before the Security Council, subsequent events showed that the vote of the Australian delegate was correct because, two days later, the council did what he suggested. I have already promised the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) to make a general statement, but I do not believe that it would be of any assistance at present while the council is actually dealing with the matter. Our view is that this dispute should be investigated and all the facts relevant to it obtained, and that no country has the right to take away from the Council’s jurisdiction any matter once it has jurisdiction over it. We are carrying out that policy. That is the only policy on which the Security Council, in our view, can be successful.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs whether he has seen cabled reports from New York to the effect that the Australian delegate at, the meeting of the Security Council clashed vigorously with both the British and American delegates in regard to the Russian “ walk-out “ ? Will the right honorable gentleman say on whose initiative Colonel Hodgson spoke? Did he speak on instructions from the Government or on his own initiative? If he spoke on instructions from the Government, was the Government fully aware of the British and American view on the subject?
– The general instruction to our delegate was to keep the Persian dispute on the agenda; not to allow it to disappear, merely because it had been said that an agreement had been made, but to press for an investigation of it, and to see that the investigation was conducted according to proper procedure, so that cases would be filed by both sides, and a proper hearing would be given to the matter. In all that he has done, the Australian delegate has acted strictly in accordance with that principle, which incidentally was followed in London by my colleague, the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Makin). Not only has this general instruction been carried out excellently by the Australian delegate, but in addition the advice that he gave at an earlier stage was followed by the Council two days later. One cannot anticipate every turn that a debate may take at a meeting of a body of this character. The fact that, on one matter, the Australian delegate happened to vote against the delegate of the United Kingdom or the United States of America, has no bearing on the point. He has to do his duty honestly to Australia, and as a member of the Security Council. He cannot be expected to ascertain how other countries intend to vote before he makes up his mind how he will vote.
Occupation Force in Japan: Supply of Uniforms - Evacuation of Lae A bea - Relief OF Garrison Troops - Demobilization .
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping aware, that the chambers of. manufactures in Sydney and Melbourne have failed to co-operate with the Government in supplying the large numbers of uniforms, shirts and trousers needed for the Australian Army of Occupation in Japan? Is he also aware -that recently 600 servicemen had to travel from Victoria to Sydney with insufficient clothing? Will he negotiate with clothing manufacturers in Queensland to have the garments manufactured by them so that the manufacturers in Melbourne and Sydney .shall not be able to hold a pistol at, the Government’s head?
– I believe it is true that the Department of Supply and Shipping has had difficulty in getting manufacturers to supply the clothing necessary for the occupation forces. I do not know the details, but I understand that the difficulty relates to prices. However, I hall place the honorable gentleman’s question before the Minister for Supply and Shipping who, I am sure, will take all steps to have’ the position made right.
– Has the Minister for the Army .seen the report in Monday’s Sydney Sun that the troopship Winchester Victory arrived in Sydney on ihat day carrying a sign bearing the words “ False promises, Mr. Forde, what about it?” Has the Minister, also seen the complaint of the men on the ship that the Minister had promised them personally when lie visited Lae that they would be back in Australia by the 28th February? Will the Minister inform ,the House why he failed to honour his promise to these men, and whether there are still in the islands other men who were promised by him that they would be home by the end of January, February or March i . What does he propose to do about it?
– If the honorable member had mentioned this matter to me or placed the question on the notice-paper, I could have given him the exact dates of the sailings of ships. When I visited
Lae and other centres,, questions were asked about the expected departure of the troops, and the local commanding officer, having a full knowledge of the .sailings of ships, was able to supply the information. The arrival of the Winchester Victory at Lae was delayed, because 5,000 Japanese had been shipped from Faroe Island, leaving a large number of Australian troops there in what is considered to be an Unhealthy area. The Winchester Victory was diverted by the Director of Movements at Army Head-quarters, Melbourne, to go first to Faroe Island and lift the Australian troops there before proceeding to Lae. Having before him the over-all picture, he considered that that instruction was advisable in the interests of Australian troops generally. The Winchester Victory was then sent to Lae, ‘ where it lifted the troops, and it arrived in Sydney early this week. [ have not broken any promise that I made to the troops at Lae. By order of the Director of Movements, who has before him a chart showing the position of all these ships, some alteration has been made in their running. The Director of Movements is a highly trusted officer, who possesses all the necessary information, and I arn confident that every decision which he ma Iws is in the best ‘interests of the troops generally. The position is not always known to individuals who, becauseof a lack of complete information, sometimes criticize particular decisions. I assure the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) that I am just as anxious as he or any other member of the community is to get all the troops back from the islands. As the result of very definite action taken by the Commonwealth Government, the return of troops is far ahead of -schedule.
– What about the men who were to have been repatriated in J an u a ry ?
– It is obvious that the honorable member is concerned more with making cheap, petty party political capital out of these matters than with learning the truth. When the war ended, we had only enough ships to bring back 6,000 troops a month, but by intensive organization on the part of the Army authorities, the Commonwealth Government, the British Navy, and the
British Ministry of Shipping, we have been able to bring them back in what is considered to be record time.
– What has the Minister for the Army done to honour the promise which he made during his visit to Lae early this year that an investigation would be made into the points system of release with a view to allowing extra points for overseas service? Seeing that a great many servicemen are anxiously awaiting the outcome of such an investigation, will the Minister make an official announcement on the subject?
– The system of demobilization by points was decided by Cabinet in the first place, and when it was reviewed by Cabinet some time later, it was decided that the system offered many advantages. As over 300,000 persons had been demobilized under the points system, it was not thought advisable to depart from it.
– Has the Treasurer read the statement of Mr. B. J. McDonald, president of the Legion of exServicemen, in the Sydney Sun of Monday, that Sunday night’s national security loan broadcast, in effect, promised a returned soldier a pig farm, buildings, equipment, stock and land for nothing, and in so doing, was fantastically unreal? Has the Treasurer noted also that the acting State president of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, Mr. Bolton, described the broadcast as “ melodramatic pathos” and “nonsense”? If these criticisms are soundly based, will the right honorable gentleman take steps to ensure that future broadcasts shall be more realistic and less misleading than the one referred to?
– I have not read the statements referred to by the honorable gentleman, nor did I hear the broadcast. I shall ascertain whether the broadcast had the defects described by the honorable gentleman. I expect to find that the criticisms themselves are fantastic.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs whether, in view of the shortage of softwoods in this country, the Cabinet has decided to suspend the duty on softwoods imported from other countries, and on those already held in bond in this country.
– That matter is still under the consideration of the Government.
Braitling Case - War Damage - Fares of Returning Evacuees
– In view of the assurance given to the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), can the AttorneyGeneral tell me when Mr. Justice Simpson, or some other justice of the Supreme Court, will be sent to the Northern Territory to inquire into the Braitling case?
– I am not aware how the matter stands, but I shall ascertain the facts and inform the honorable gentleman as soon as possible.
– In view of the illuminating article in this morning’s issue of the Sydney Daily Telegraph, in which it was stated that building costs had increased by at least 50 per cent. as compared with 1939, will the Minister for Works and Housingkeep this fact in mind when compensation is being assessed for those who lost their homes in Darwin by bombing, or by destruction by the services.
– It is news to me that there was ever an illuminating article in the Sydney Daily Telegraph. The question of the honorable member refers to property destroyed in Darwin. Therefore, it is a matter for the War Damage Commission to deal with.
– Will the Minister for the Interior see that those persons who w ere com pulsorily evacuated from Darwin during the war have their fares paid by the Government when they return? Will the Minister make available to me a copy of the McInnes plan for the re-building of Darwin ?
– The Government has already decided that, in necessitous cases, it will pay the return fares of persons who were compulsorily evacuated from Darwin. I shall see that a copy of the report and plan for the rebuilding of Darwin is supplied to the honorable member.
– The following Australian Associated Press cable from London appeared in this morning’s press : -
A new order for the control of wool will come into force on April 15, under which a requisition bond will be necessary to buy wool in the United Kingdom. Licences will also be necessary to process wool. Will the Prime Minister instruct the Australian Resident Minister in London to examine this order, and the possible, unfavorable reaction on the approaching wool sales in Australia, and press Australia’s real and substantial interest in such orders in the United Kingdom ?
– I have not read the report to which the honorable member referred, nor have I any’ details about the matters . which he mentioned relating to the wool position in the United Kingdom, but I shall make inquiries and supply an answer.
Fruit Drinks - Proposed Legislation
– Can the Minister repre- ‘senting the Minister for Trade and Customs state the reason for the failure of ihe New South Wales Prices Commissioner to prosecute traders found guilty of overcharging at the Sydney Cricket Ground, despite evidence submitted in support of the charges? In view of the High Court’s decision upholding the validity of regulations fixing the price of diluted fruit drinks at 4d. a glass up to 10 oz. size, why have not officers of the Prices Branch launched prosecutions to check the wholesale defiance of regulations by milk bar proprietors in Sydney, who continue to charge 5d., and in some cases 6d., a glass for such drinks?
– I cannot answer the honorable member’s questions offhand, but shall have the matter investigated and furnish a reply as soon as possible.-
– According to a press announcement, the Government intends by legislation passed through this Parliament, to continue price control after the 31st December next. I ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that at a recent conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers the Premiers agreeed to transfer to the Commonwealth the necessary power for this purpose for a three-year period? If so, how many States have passed the necessary legislation? I also ask the Prime Minister whether it was agreed at that time that price control should be lifted from goods which were in adequate supply in the competitive field? If so, does the right honorable gentleman propose to continue the present policy in respect of goods in adequate supply until the 31st December next or will he remove the control regulations for such items as speedily a.’ possible?
– As the honorable member for Fawkner- (Mr. Holt) and other honorable members know, some of the States did refer to the Commonwealth certain powers thai were unsuccessfully sought by referendum. In some States prices control power was included in such reference. The States consider that the power so referred is ample to enable the Commonwealth to continue prices control. Speaking from memory, I think the Victorian Parliament included some addendum in- the legislation which it passed which rendered its measure inoperative unless similar’ legislation was passed by all other State Parliaments. The Legislative Council of the Parliament of Tasmania rejected the measure submitted to it. I understand that the Premier of “Victoria proposes to submit to his Parliament a bill to refer to the Commonwealth power to control prices. No assurances were sought from me at the conference.
– I believe that the right honorable gentleman said something about the subject being a “ pain in the neck “ which he would like to get rid of.
– I could name several “ pains in the neck “ that I would like to get rid of. When the subject was considered at the conference and a decision leached that price control should be continued for a period, some Premiers considered that the references that their States have made already gave the Commonwealth ample power, and other Premiers undertook to submit legislation to their parliaments with the object of transfering power to the Commonwealth Parliament. As the Attorney-General will be discussing this matter in the House within the next week or so, I do not propose to comment, at this stage, on legislation that will come before honorable members.
– Will the Prime Minister undertake to abolish price control of poods in adequate supply?
– I believe that on one occasion I told the honorable member that when goods were in adequate supply, or when the supply was equal to or greater than the demand, that, the necessity for price fixing in respect of such items would have disappeared. I can say definitely the Government considers that if there is any indication of an inflationary tendency in prices of goods or commodities it is absolutely essential that price control shall be retained. It is the policy of the Government, to retain price control by whatever means that can bp achieved in order that there shall be no inflationary trend in prices and costs.
Work of Honorary Organizers
– In view of the press announcement of the very low cost of raising loans in Australia during the war compared with the cost overseas - for example, only about one-third of the cost in Canada - due to the devoted service of the honorary organizers of war loan campaigns, I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government will consider making a slight token of appreciation of the services which these persons have rendered to the nation?
– The honorable member has correctly stated that magnificent work was done throughout Australia by those who composed the honorary committees which organized the raising of war loans. Both the country and the Parliament are deeply grateful to them for their services in that connexion. I shall give consideration to his suggestion.
– Will the Prime Minister say what progress has been made with the negotiations in regard to the sailing of food ships from Australia to the Netherlands East Indies, which has now been delayed for six months? When does the right honorable gentleman expect that these ships will leave Australia?
– When the honorable gentleman questioned me on this matter last Friday, I said that an answer had been prepared to a previous question by him, and that negotiations were still proceeding, but that I desired to relate the story up to the minute before replying finally to him. I had hoped to be able to-day to give to him a complete story as the result of negotiations during the week-end of which he was cognizant, but, unfortunately, I cannot do so, because the negotiations have not been concluded. Even though I am not able to state that the matter has been concluded, I shall see that the honorable gentleman will be given the story up to date.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Air been drawn to the statement published by the Brisbane Telegraph, and attributed to BrigadierGeneral Cook, to the effect that the use by the American Army of Eagle Farm airfieldwill continue until satisfactory arrangements for its transfer to an Australian agency can be made, and that the American authorities wish to maintain it as the rear echelon base? Will the Minister take immediate steps to have an Australian agency established, so that the necessary transfer may be effected as soon as possible?
– I have not seen the statement referred to, but I know that it has been suggested that Eagle Farm airfield will be the head-quarters of American aviation companies and the American Air Force. That is not correct. Arrangements are in train to have this airfield handed back to Australian control, and I hope that these will be concluded before long.
Special Industrial Magistrate to Hear Disputes
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether it is a fact that no special industrial magistrate is at present functioning in Sydney for the settlement of disputes under the Civil Constructional Corps award, with the result that clients desiring to make claims arebeing seriously prejudiced by delay? As the award in question specifically provides that any dispute shall be settled by a special industrial magistrate, will the right honorable gentlemanstate whether it is intended to make such an appointment, and, if so, when ?
– The first intimation that I had in. respect of this matter was gained from what I read in to-day’s press. I doubt whether there are many cases awaiting hearing. I shall take steps to have a special industrial magistrate duly appointed.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to the statement by Mr. Attlee, Prime Minister of Great Britain, that it was not proposed to discuss the nationality of married women at the forthcoming meeting of Prime Ministers in London? Will the right honorable gentleman consider the possibility of himself introducing the matter at that meeting, with a view to inducing the various governments within the British Commonwealth to set up committees of investigation, as the Leader of the Opposition suggested during the debate on the bill thatwas introduced in this House last week?
– This matter is not mentioned on the short agenda that has come to hand. The Minister for Information has been particularly interested in it. Should an opportunity be presented, I shall see whether it is possible to accede to the request of the honorable member.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs aware that scrap metal, such as tin, lead and zinc, are being exported from. Australia to foreign countries and sold at prices higher than the fixed prices for new metals in Australia, which cannot be exported ? Will the honorable gentleman investigate the position, and, if necessary, take steps to adjust prices, or to prohibit the export of scrap metal, and thus obviate unemployment in the refining industry in Australia?
– I am not acquainted with the position. I shall have the matter investigated, and shall supply an answer to the honorable member.
– Has the Minister for
Works and Housing seen a statement in the Brisbane C ourier-Mail that there is an acute shortage of galvanized piping in Brisbane, with the result that repair work to houses and to water and sewerage services is seriously affected? Will the Minister take immediate action to ensure that stocks of piping are made available?
– The matter will be considered. As honorable members know, there is a shortage of building materials all over Australia, but it is the function of my department to see that available supplies are distributed as equitably as possible between the various States.
– I inform honorable members that a suggestion was made with regard to the first three Orders of the Day, namely, the Constitution Alteration (Social Services) Bill 1946, the Constitution Alteration (Organized Marketing of Primary Products) Bill 1946, and the Constitution Alteration (Industrial Employment) Bill 1946, all of which propose alterations to the Constitution. I consulted with the leaders of all three political parties represented in this House, and they agreed that it would be to the advantageof all honorable members if the three bills could be debated on the motion for the second reading of the bill now before the House. This debate being concluded, each bill will then be dealt with separately. I wish all honorable members to understand that the three hill may be debated simultaneously.
– That being understood, I am sure that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) will agree that there should be no enforcement of any ruling against granting extensions of time to honorable members speaking during the debate, because, to deal simultaneously with the three bills, which cover so much ground, may require more than the time normally allotted for speeches on a motion for. the second reading of a bill.
– The Prime Minister has already given such an assurance to enable honorable members to deal exhaustively with the three bills in one debate.
Debate resumed from the 27th March, (vide page 649), on motion hy Dr. Evatt -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- In 1944, the, Government, put forward a number of proposed amendments to the Constitution - a very substantial number which finally reached about seventeen - and the people, were given one vote in relation to :all of these amendments, because they were included in one bill. As honorable members know, the proposals were rejected. At that time, the Attorney”General (Dr. Evatt) pressed very strongly, not once but many times, for a non-party approach to the problem, and he consistently emphasized that questions of constitutional power should not be determined along party lines. It cannot bt said that that ambition was entirely realized; nevertheless, there were honorable members on this side of the House who gave, support to the Government’s proposals. The Government has now changed its mind on both points. As to the first, I have no regret. It is a good thing that questions should come before us in three- bills instead of in one. That removes one of the difficulties which arose on a former occasion. However, the ‘ Government proposes to hold a referendum on these proposals on the same day as the general elections! That- involves at once the abandonment of a non-party approach to them.
Honorable Members. - Why?
– Because the dominant reason why caucus has decided to have the referendum on polling day is that it desires to confuse people into believing that a vote for constitutional amendment necessarily will involve a vote for the Government, ‘and that a vote against the Government will in some way be regarded as against one or other of the referendum proposals. After all, honorable members opposite must not think that we are children in these matters. When a government decides to have a referendum concurrently with a general election, the inference is quite obvious.
– The right . honor able gentleman is battling very hard for points.
– The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke) will not even be able to battle for points at the general election; it. will be a clean knock-out. However, I am quite unmoved because junior members on the Government side of the House resist my suggestion. I do not observe that any experienced member would care to deny it.
In 1944, the Opposition put forward a reasoned amendment to the proposals then made by the Government, and the last paragraph of this amendment was as follows : -
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 tlie structure and working of the Constitution.
We still believe that such a convention is essential. Indeed, it might be a very good thing if we adopted the practice of holding such conventions periodically - I do not mean at short periods, but at substantially long periods - in order that the working of the Constitution might bo reviewed in a proper atmosphere and in an objective way. Our belief- that then ought to be a convention is strengthened by the character of the amendments now before us, some portions of which arc good, whilst others are open to very serious criticism. The total character of them, taken together, is that they are hurriedly assembled and piecemeal. I propose to deal in turn with each of the three proposals - social services, marketing, and employment - and I propose to examine them in a critical, but constructive way. “Where I take exception to something I shall make positive suggestions in relation to it. The secondreading debate on bills designed to amend the Constitution should present a great opportunity to the House for a pooling of ideas, and therefore, whilst I shall be critical on some matters, I shall not make a merely blank, negative approachto them.
I turn first to the social services amendment. This is a proposal to alter the Constitution by including power in relation to maternity allowances, widows’ pensions, child endowment, unemployment, sickness and hospital benefits, medical and .dental ‘ services, benefits to students, and family allowances. The Pharmaceutical Benefits case, which was recently decided by the High Court, has undoubtedly produced some real questions as to the validity of social services other than invalid and old-age pensions. This matter of the power of the Commonwealth to make appropriations at. large or for. purposes not to be found elsewhere in section 51 of the- Constitution, was debated to some extent in this House on a former occasion. Up to the time of the decision of the High Court, apart from some obversations in an earlier case, the Commonwealth practice had uniformly been over a long terni of years to rely upon a wide interpretation of section SI of the Constitution. It reads -
All revenues or moneys raised or received by the Executive Govern ment of the Commonwealth shall form one Consolidated Revenue Fund, to be appropriated for the purposes of the Commonwealth.
The question that, has existed since the words were written into the Constitution might be put, in this way : when section 81 authorizes this Parliament to appropriate money for the purposes of the Commonwealth, are those purposes to be found in the legislative and executive powers specifically conferred by the Constitution, or does “ the purposes of the Commonwealth “ mean any purposes that the Commonwealth Parliament may think proper? The first is a narrow interpretation and the second a wide interpretation of the words. Quite plainly, if the nar- row interpretation applies, there are many appropriations made by this Parliament that are either invalid or . doubtful. For 40 years the Commonwealth Parliament acted on the wide view. I think that can be said about governments of all political complexions that have occupied the treasury bench. The High Court, did not, in precise terms, decide that question in the Pharmaceutical Benefits case. I think the AttorneyGeneral will agree that, in some of the judgments, one doe’s not find that neat question neatly determined ; but, at the same time, I think that perusal of the judgments indicates a real doubt as to whether, if a challenge were made, the wide power of appropriation would be upheld. I say, “ if challenge were made “, because there are some matters within the scope of this proposition that have never been challenged. Maternity allowances, for example, have always been subject to this question, but have never been challenged, and, I daresay, would never be challenged ; but, in the event of a challenge, there are doubts, and, therefore, it is proper that those doubts should be resolved in relation to social services, to which, this Parliament attaches importance. These doubts might have been resolved in one of three ways. They might, have been resolved by a reference of power from the States under Section 51, paragraph (xxxvii.). I know that the experience in seeking references of power from the States of late has not been an entirely happy one, but I greatly doubt whether either Houseof any State Parliament would refuse a reference of power that would validate such matters as, by way of example., child endowment , and widows’ pensions. That - is one method that might have been pursued. It is the method that we believe should have been’ pursued. The second method is to have a referendum taken separately from the general elections, so that genuine election issues shall not be confused by questions of constitutional power. After all, in general elections, the prime conflict is between political programmes and policy, and the moment that is confused by arguments on constitutional power there might be produced entirely strange results; results not expected’ by either side in the political conflict. The third method is one that the Government has adopted, a referendum taken concurrently with the general elections. I say quite plainly that, in the circumstances, the way will he open to a great mass of skilful propaganda, in which the merits of the constitutional issue may entirely disappear. The Government has adopted the third method, unwisely, in my view, and has taken the occasion to include new items. The proposed amendment, the terms of which I have just read to the House, specify certain matters about which there is no argument at all. Widows pensions, maternity allowances, child endowment and family allowances are common ground to all parties in the House, and we all support the removal of any doubt as to their validity. Unemployment and sickness benefits, hospital services and medical and dental services are, in their turn, most desirable, but we believe, as honorable gentlemen opposite know, because for some time we have made no secret of our views on this matter, that those things should all come within the scope of some form of national insurance, and, therefore, would have been much better dealt with by expanding or clarifying, as the case may be, the Commonwealth’s insurance power under section 51, paragraph (xiv.) of the Constitution. Having stated those general views, I add a few words about some of the expressions employed. Take the phrase “medical and dental services”, as a separate head of power, because it is so stated. The expression is very curious. The learned Attorney-General was questioned about this during his second-reading speech.
– It says “ provision of”.
– I am sorry. Yes, “ provision of “ andthen the other words follow later. The Attorney-General was questioned about this during his secondreading speech. I agree that it was as the result of the question that he said what he did, and I do not desire to tie himto anything he said without having weighed what he was saying. But the right honorable gentleman was asked by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) whether this power would enable the Commonwealth to nationalize the medical and dental professions. The Attorney-General said -
The Commonwealth could obtain the services of medical and dental practitioners, nurses and the like for that purpose; but the proposed alteration would not enable the Commonwealth to say, “ We shall make all members of the medical and dental professions part of the service of the Commonwealth “.
– Why not?
– We shall be able to do everything necessary and incidental to providing these services. That is a very wide power.
-Would this provision control the registration of doctors and dentists?
– Not the general registration. t he right to practise in those professions is governed by State law. This proposal would not affect that, nor would it affect the right of a doctor or a dentist as an individual to practise his profession.
– Would it not override the State laws?
– It would enable the Commonwealth to make use of the services of doctors and dentists to provide national medical and dental services.
With very great respect, I believe that explanation to be inadequate. I am rather disposed to think that on reflection the right honorable gentleman will agree with me. Recently, in the High Court, the Airlines case was decided. It was a case that attracted great atention, and in it the High Court decided unanimously that a power to make laws with respect to trade and commerce among the States included a power to set up a government airline, under a government corporation, though, by reason of section 92 of the Constitution, that airline could not be given a monopoly. In other words, the Commonwealth Government could not prevent another company from engaging in the business of interstate flying, but it could, under the trade and commerce power, set, up a government service. That was not an obvious decision. As the AttorneyGeneral knows, that finally disposed of a problem that had arisen once or twice in the past in the court and very many times outside the court,because there was one view that the trade and commerce power is a power to regulate trade and commerce in the hands of those who carry it on, and not a power enabling the Government to engage in it.
Mr.Falstein. - In any case, there is an appeal pending to the Privy Council.
– Ah application for special leave to appeal has -been announced. What will happen I do not know. All I can do is to discuss the matter on the unanimous finding of the High Court, and its view was that the trade and commerce power enables the Government itself to set up an airline and does not confine the Commonwealth Parliament to regulation of airlines in the hands of other people. Apply that to the power to provide medical and dental services. There is no real question of interstate trade and commerce in the provision of medical or dental services, and so it is not likely that section 9!a will be brought into this argument. In those circumstances, very little doubt exists that not only the words of the proposed am end ment but also the decision of the High Court will mean that under those words, the medical and dental professions could be nationalized by making all doctors and dentists members of one government service which had a monopoly of medical and dental treatment. In that sense, this power includes a power to nationalize medicine and dentistry.
– Is there anything wrong with that?
– I have a very great objection to nationalizing the medical profession, but that is a matter of practical politics which, perhaps, we can discuss more fruitfully on another occasion. I am pointing out , at present what the power will do. As there is no immediate urgency about this problem, it is a great pity that the Government does not defer it, pending consideration of the whole Constitution by a convention’ along the lines that have been suggested from this side of the House. After all, a national convention, duly elected, might come to’ the conclusion that it would be better to give to the Commonwealth Parliament full power over public health as such than to deal with the problem piecemeal.
Similar comment upon piecemeal and rather ambiguous treatment arises in relation to the reference to sickness and hospital benefits. After all, these are matters which deal with results rather than causes, and, if I may say so, experience of the last few months under the legislation -that has been passed shows that the proposed powers are much more likely to be exercised largely for industrial ends than in a real attempt to deal with the problem of health. In this country or in any other country, the problem of health isdealt with not merely by looking at certain results and trying to deal with them, but by seeking causes and trying to deal with them. In the long run, social preventive action may prove to be much more important than medical treatment.
The other phrase about which I desire to say a few words is the expression, “ benefits to students “. I am a little uncertain as to the scope of this. . I have no doubt that many benefits to students - benefits which are very liberal, and I have a warm appreciation of what has been done in that regard - are being provided under the repatriation powers of the Commonwealth. As far as it goes, the expression is quite all right, but again, it deals with only a fraction of the total problem - the total problem being the assistance of education generally. Grants to the States in aid of education, I agree, can in any event be safely made under section 96^ of the Constitution, and they should be made, because for reasons’ which I discussed at some length on an earlier occasion, it seems to me that, as time passes, the Commonwealth is bound to accept increasing responsibility for education. Therefore, my reference to “ benefits to students “ is made, not with a viewto condemning government action for thepurpose of benefiting students - I support it - but to point out that it represents only one small fraction of a total problem, ‘ and, consequently, represents what. I describe as a piecemeal treatment of a large problem.
I turn from that matter to the second bill, upon which I desire, to make somesuggestions for the consideration of- the House. The. second measure deals with marketing, and I make two preliminary observations about it. This problem, so far as it deals with section 92 of the Constitution - freedom of interstatetrade - was omitted from the referendum of 1944. Marketing was included in the referendum, but there was nothing: about qualifying the effect of section 92:
Now, it is stated to be a matter of such urgency that it must be put before the people at the forthcoming election. My second preliminary observation is that this proposed amendment is entirely different from the one put forward by the Lyons Government in 1936-37. I want to explain that with some care, because there is a disposition in some quarters to .believe that this particular proposal merely takes up a proposal with which a number of us on this side of the House were very actively associated in the referendum of 1937, and which agitated parties in such a way that a great number of people found themselves in opposition to it, who will undoubtedly find themselves supporting this one. On that occasion the proposal was that a new section - section 92a - should be inserted in the Constitution in these terms -
I lie provisions of the last preceding section shall not apply to laws with respect to marketing made by or under the authority of the Parliament in the exercise of any powers vested in the Parliament by this Constitution.
The whole idea of that proposed amendment, which would have prevented section. 92 from invalidating a marketing law, was that validity should be given to joint Commonwealth and State marketing schemes. Honorable members will recall that before the war we had a great deal of experience - some of it very painful - el:’ these matters. The Commonwealth and the States went into joint schemes in relation to wheat and dried fruits.’ Each State passed a bill which dealt with trade in that commodity within its own boundaries, and the Commonwealth then put the coping stone on the structure by passing legislation which dealt with interstate trade in the same commodity, and it was hoped that between the two sets of legislation, the whole field of transactions in that commodity would bp dealt with.
– What if one State stood out of the scheme?
– If that State was not concerned with the production of that particular commodity, there were occasionally ways and means of overcoming the problem. The real difficulty arose, not from the abstention ‘of any one State, hut because section 92 cropped up and invalidated attempts which were made to restrict the interstate movement of goods. In that condition of affairs, we had certain good elements and one very bad element. The good elements were these: lt is a very good thing to have joint Commonwealth and State action on marketing matters. After all, the States control a great number of factors which the Commonwealth does not touch. The States are in charge of land settlement, agriculture, water supply, and production policies generally, whilst the Commonwealth had power to deal with interstate trade which enabled it to come to the rescue, provided section 92 did not operate to destroy the scheme. Another «d vantage was that, Commonwealth and State schemes were invariably the subjectmatter of discussion between the governments. They became well known to the producers who were affected, and there was a general opinion developed, and a very wide representation of producer opinion at all relevant times.
What the proposed amendment contemplated in 1936-37 was simply to prevent section 92 from invalidating joint Commonwealth and State marketing schemes. The proposed amendment in the bill sets out to do something quite different. It is designed to give to the Commonwealth power to deal with the organized marketing of primary products. That is a new power to be conferred upon the Commonwealth Parliament, and. as the Attorney-General pointed out in his second-reading -speech, it is a power which will operate upon intrastate trade just as much as upon interstate trade. In other words it is a power which will enable the Commonwealth to deal with marketing transactions which begin and end in one State, and, consequently, it proceeds upon the footing that all that isneeded is a single Commonwealth control and npt joint Commonwealth-State control. That, of course, means that there is a very sharp distinction between this amendment and the one with which some of us were associated some years ago.
– And also the proposed amendment of 1944.
– Yes. In brief, it is now proposed to transfer the whole field of the organized marketing of primary products to the Commonwealth, and te- render co-operation with the States unnecessary. That would produce a state of affairs in which the problems of production, which would still remain primarily problems for the States, and the problems of marketing, which would become, in effect, exclusively the problems of the Commonwealth, would be dealt with entirely separately, subject to this qualification, that the Commonwealth, by marketing legislation, might very well be able to exercise an indirect control over production without having any real responsibility for it. That would be a bad business. It would be very unwise to deal with the problem of production and the problem of marketing in entirely separate compartments, each under the authority of a different legislature. It was for that reason that before the war we saw so clearly the great merit of joint Commonwealth and State action. I would have thought thatit would be clear to most of us that, if the organized marketing power were to be used in order to stabilize prices, the volume of production would probably have a direct relation to the stabilized prices. Yet, under these proposals the volume of production, except for the indirect pressure which I have described, would remain a matter for the six State Parliaments, whereas the problem of the stabilized price would be under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Parliament. To put it in another way, volume of production may be determined by the policies of six State governments and the price stabilization scheme would be under the exclusive control of the seventh Parliament, the Commonwealth Parliament. In using the word “ exclusive “ I do not desire the Attorney-General to take me as saying that it is not a concurrent power, but the exercise of it will make it, in effect, an exclusive power, because it will invalidate all State schemes inconsistent with it.
The second comment I wish to make on the proposed amendment turns upon the expression “ primary products “. That expression is not defined. The AttorneyGeneral brushed this problem aside by saying -
In the ordinary popular sense primary products are understood to include not only the immediate products of such occupations as the agricultural, dairying and pastoral industries, but also certain processed goods derived directly from those products. All Australians, for instance, would immediately recognize butter, cheese, flour and dried fruits as primary products, though not cakes or bread.
I do not desire to use too strong an expression, but it seems to me that that statement is rather astray and somewhat misleading, if I may use that term inoffensively . The expression “ primary products “ is not a technical one, and, indeed, so far as I have been able to discover, it is almost peculiar to Australia. My search through the Oxford Dictionary recently indicated that apparently the editor of that work had not met the expression at all. Where an expression is used in a constitution, and that expression is not one of technical law, the meaning of it must be ascertained by the courtsby evidence, the perusal of books, records and statutes, and by other means. By reference to contemporary sources, the courts must determine whether there is an accepted and popular meaning for it.So if this amendment be accepted by the people, the High Court will be called upon, from time to time, to decide whether, as these words are understood, butter, cheese, coal, sugar, iron ore or anything else, is a primary product.
Mr.Scullin. - Butter is sometimes said to be a secondary product.
– Both the right honorable member for Yarra and I would have a little difficulty, I venture to say, in regarding butter produced from a factory as a primary product; yet the Attorney-General says that under this legislation butter would be deemed to be a primary product. I should think it a novel use of language to say that a flour miller is a primary producer, yet we are assured that flour would be regarded as a primary product.Factories are to be found in the capital cities of Australia which manufacture large quantities of cheese; yet we are told that a commodity like cheese must be regarded as a primary product.
– The best illustration would probably be butter and margarine.
– A good argument could be developed in respect of those products. It would hardly be suggested by most people that margarine is a primary product, yet some forms of margarine are just as close to the original source of production as is butter. lt may interest honorable members -to know that at least one definition of “ primary production “ has been endorsed ‘ by this Parliament. For almost as long as there has ‘been an Income Tax Assessment Act, that measure has contained a definition of “ primary production “. Let me say at once that I do not contend that that definition would bind any court, but it would be one source of information available to a court to determine what these words mean, because, as the Attorney-General knows, it has been the common practice of the High Court, in determining the meaning of word’s in a constitution which are not terms of art, to consult contemporary sources including contemporary statutes. The words “primary production” are defined in’ the Income Tax Assessment Act as follows : -
Production resulting directly from the cultivation of land or the maintenance of animals gr poultry for the purpose of selling them or their bodily produce, including natural increase, and includes the manufacture of dairy products by the person who produces the raw material used in that manufacture.
The production of farm butter would come within that definition, but the production of butter in a factory in the ordinary course would not come within it, nor would the flour produced by a flour-miller or the cheese made hy a cheese-maker come within the definition. It should be clearly understood by the public that the expression “ primary products”, though it will unquestionably include wool, wheat and live stock, may, and probably will, turn out not to include articles which result from processing certain goods.
– What about fellmongers’ wool ?
– That is another instance. In fact, the whole subject of processed products in a form which is not the form in which they come from the farm would have .to be considered.
– What ‘about tinned fish?
– I hope that honorable members will not invite me to say now what I think does and what does not fall within the definition. That question will have to be determined one fine day by the High Court and. not by us. It will be determined in the light of such material as the court can get together. If there is to be a power to deal with primary products as distinct from others, then I suggest to the Attorney-General that, with all its difficulties, some definition should be undertaken; otherwise, many people who believe that they are to have the benefit of organized marketing will never obtain it. The more I consider the terms of this amendment, the more remarkable it seems to me that the Government should have departed from the substantial terms of the 1936-37 amendment. The very point that I have just been raising is another confirmation of that. The final point that I want to make on this amendment is this: The word “ organized “ also is one of uncertain meaning. All marketing conducted, under the authority or by direction of the law may be said to be in one sense “ organized “, since the law may be said to put such marketing into working order.
– I am sorry that my friend should think that a contribution of this kind is mere “ straw-splitting “. It is not designed to be “ straw-splitting “. Everybody, and most of all the AttorneyGeneral, will agree that the more thought, we give to the words that w6 write into a constitution - words that arp not altered so easily as are those of an ordinary statute - the better. If the honorable member is quite satisfied to have his constitution-making done in a slapdash, indifferent way, and regards every careful examination of the language used as mere “ straw-splitting “, the Constitution will turn out to be a very bitter disappointment to him. If this view as to the meaning of the word “ organized “ prevails, then the whole of the law relating to the sale of primary products, including the setting-up of boards, the licensing of those engaged in transactions, and the prices and terms and conditions of sales will pass into the hands of the Commonwealth’.
The third bill also lends itself to some comment. It deals with the terms and conditions of employment in industry. The wording is short -
Section fifty-one of the Constitution is altered by inserting after paragraph (xxxiv. ) the following paragraph: - (xxxiv.a.) Terms and conditions of employment in industry, but not so as to authorize any form of industrial conscription :
Paragraph (xxxiv.a.), now proposed, will immediately precede the existing paragraph (xxxv.), perhaps the best-known paragraph in the Constitution, which reads -
Conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State.
When the bill first arrived, and this provision manifested- itself, I had anticipated that paragraph (xxxv.) was being repealed. But it is not being repealed. This new power is being added to the list of powers in section - 51 ; therefore, in the event of its being adopted by the people, it will take its place side by side with the conciliation and arbitration power as it now stands. Prom a drafting point of view, and from the point of view of results, I confess that that astonishes me; and my astonishment grows when I consider the very brief explanation that was given by the learned Attorney-General, who said this-
The new power which the bill proposes to give to this Parliament will not in any way abrogate or curtail the existing industrial powers given by section 51, paragraph xxxv. The new power, however, will supplement the present conciliation and arbitration power in two vital respects.
He then went on to describe the direct legislation which could be passed. I want to put this to honorable members - perhaps it may be a little complex, but I believe it to be important: If paragraph (xxxv.), the present conciliation and arbitration power, were repealed, and the new power in paragraph (xxxiv.a.) were given its full interpretation, clearly it would enable the Commonwealth, either by direct legislative enactment, or by the setting up of tribunals, or both, to regulate all the terms and conditions ‘of employment, including, of course, wages, hours, and so on. The Attorney-General will agree with that. In other words, paragraph (xxxiv.a.), the proposed new power, is so farreaching, that, under it the Commonwealth could deal with the terms and conditions of employment as it thought fit. It might decide to have them dealt with through the arbitration court, or through a series of tribunals. It might decide to deal with them by direct’ legislative enactment. It might decide to have a little of each in the way in which it dealt with the matter.
– It could also set up . another court.
– Oh, yes. The choice of the means available to the Parliament to carry out the new powers would be unrestricted. But paragraph xxxv. is not repealed; it still stands, and, still standing, it must be given some meaning. You cannot leave words in the Constitution deliberately, and at the same -time deprive them of all meaning. The courts will come to the conclusion that paragraph (xxxv.) must be given a meaning quite independent of - this new power, since it will continue to be independently stated. Therefore, it is highly probable that paragraph (xxxv.) will be interpreted as containing an exclusive code on the subject of industrial conciliation and arbitration. In other words, the court will say, “Where the Constitution wants to deal with conciliation and arbitration, it uses the express terms conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any on State ‘ “. That is the constitutional .. provision in respect of conciliation and arbitration. Therefore, the new power has to be dealt with as not including conciliation and arbitration. That is the only way in which you can reconcile these two powers. Otherwise, the new power completely abolishes the old power, which becomes mere surplusage. The result of that would be indeed curious. It woul’d mean that this Parliament could legislate for a 40-hour week; it could pass an act prescribing a basic wage; it could, if it thought fit, pass an act containing a model set of conditions which were to he applied to all people; but, so far as the Arbitration Court was concerned in its task- of dealing with industrial disputes, it would still be subject to the limitations under which it now works - in other words, it would still be confined to an interstate dispute, and that dispute would still need to be an industrial dispute, and so on, and all the technicalities that have been evolved in relationto paragraph (xxxv.) would continue to operate.
– This is purely the opinion of the right honorable gentleman ; it is not the factual position.
– Of course, I am stating my opinion ! I hope that it is a respectable one on matters of this kind. I go further, and say that I shall be very surprised if the honorable member finds himself disagreeing with it. As honorable members may realize, I have given a good deal of thought to this matter, and I do not want to have any confusion in relation to it. I am stating my view. If the Attorney-General finds himself in possession of another view, I. shall listen to that view with verygreat respect. To sum up : On that interpretation, which is the only interpretation that makes any sense of leaving paragraph (xxxv.) in the Constition, the court would still be subject to all its jurisdictional difficulties. I suppose that there is hardly a trade union official in Australia who has not found himself in a position to complain about the technicalities that are involved in the limitation of the court’s jurisdiction. To adopt a scheme like this, leaving the conciliation and arbitration power untouched, and putting in this other power of direct legislation on industrial conditions, is really to make the worst of both worlds. After all; the prescribing of industrial conditions has become so special a task and requires so prolonged an examination, and such a careful balancing of evidence, that it has become a fixed part of Australian policy for 40 years to entrust this responsibility to independent arbitral tribunals. If there is one thing that has characterized the Australian treatment of an industrial problem, it has been our evolving of this system of compulsory industrial arbitration, with matters being determined objectively by independent arbitrators. To take it crudely away from those tribunals by concentrating on the new power, and giving the “ go-by “ to arbitration, would be merely to make it a matter of political offer and counter-offer at a general election.Whatever may be the temptation to some of us at some time or other to consider that it would not be a bad idea to be able to make an offer to the electors of a shorter working week, or a bigger wage, the fact still would be that such a competition, regularly pursued, would invite disaster for the country. Quite frankly - and I say this with great personal respect for honorable members - the Parliament is not qualified to determine the basic wage or standard hours, because no member of Parliament could hope to have more than a mere fraction of the information that is possessed by the Arbitration Court when it approaches such a task. Above all, at a time when our greatest problem is that of restoring and increasing our production, any “catch-as-catch-can “ methods of dealing with factors which bear so closely upon production might very well prove to be nationally ruinous. If the Government had desired to preserve arbitration, but to get rid of technicalities in the arbitration jurisdiction, and to pave the way for the most flexible and simple machinery, surely its right course would have been, not to write in this new power, but to amend paragraph (xxxv.), so that it would read “ conciliation and arbitration for the settlement of the terms and conditions of employment in industry “. In one hit, all jurisdictional difficulties would disappear. No longer would there be arguments as to whether there was an interstate dispute. But the court, and not the Parliament, would proceed to settle the terms and conditions of employment, and could deal with that problem all over Australia.
There are just three supplementary observations that I want to make, and I shall have done. The first of them is this : The view which I have put forward - that paragraph (xxxv.), the existing conciliation and arbitration power, will continue to be interpreted as an exhaustive and limiting definition of the conciliation and arbitration power - is, I believe, strongly supported by the fact, very well known to the Attorney-General, that paragraph (xxxi.) of section 51-that is to say, the paragraph which deals with the acquisition of property on just terms from any State or person, &c. - has been so interpreted as to give to it and its terms a full operation, notwithstanding the normal implications that may have been made in other paragraphs. But for the existence of paragraph (xxxvi.), it might have been said that the exercise of any one of a dozen powers in section 51 would have authorized Parliament to pass a law taking someone’s property, and on that taking there would he no limitation whatever.
– Paragraph (xxxvi.) deals with them all.
– Yes, and it has, therefore, been given a universal operation. It is the code on the subject of the acquisition of property. If there is in the Constitution specific reference to legislation on conciliation and arbitration that provision becomes the code of such power on that point. My second comment is this: It may be said that the States have always had power to make laws .directly dealing with wages and hours of work, and that, in spite of this fact, no disaster has followed. It is an argument which I can almost hear the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) using in the most disarming fashion. Our industrial history shows that after the Parliament of New South Wales enacted the 44 hours week, the High Court decided iti tho Cowburn case that the State act had no application to any case governed by an award of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. Dp to that time there had existed a pleasing belief that there was never any inconsistency between a Commonwealth and State law, provided a person was hopeful enough or rich enough to obey both. By the High Court’s decision, the New South Wales act was so limited in its application that it became, to a very large degree, useless, and, in any event, gravely anomalous; because, if there are two authorities dealing with hours of work, one by statute and one by awards, the anomalies to which such a situation would give rise must produce many industrial l roubles. Consequently, ever since there has been a Commonwealth Arbitration Court, the scope of State legislation on such matters as I have mentioned has been restricted. But the moment the Commonwealth assumes power to legislate directly regarding wages and hours of work, peg ging of wages, &c. - even assuming that my earlier argument about the Arbitration Court is wrong - the functions of the court become so shrivelled that the court falls into a position of secondary importance. It becomes little more than a. board of reference to deal with some minor adjustments outside the major rules laid down by Parliament.
The last phrase of the new power is - and I can almost hear the discussion which preceded its framing - but not so as to authorize any form of industrial conscription.
– What is wrong with that?
– It is a very distinct echo, of the last referendum campaign. I can imagine the honorable member for Griffith saying, “ This is no good. I have just beer studying the referendum figures. For heaven’s sake let us get away from any suggestion of industrial conscription “. No doubt it is a very shrewd move.
– The words are taken from an act passed while the Leader of the Opposition was Prime Minister.
– Yes, and they were inserted in the act in recognition of a strong demand from the Labour party. If industrial conscription connotes industrial compulsion by the authority of law, will the amendment exclude compulsory unionism ? It is a matter upon which I should like some’ enlightenment. If the High Court decides that the new paragraph contains a full and express statement of the industrial law. I should like some assurance that the defence power will be available in the event of another war to uphold man-power controls, which, on the Government’s own showing, were vitally necessary during this war.
My last word is this: I have studied these three bills. I have pointed out various aspects of them which, in my opinion, deserve criticism, and other aspects in which improvement might be made by applying different methods ; but all this leads to the conclusion that the proper course would have been to take steps to validate those social service measures which command general support, while putting all these other questions before a convention which might examine points of substance and draftsmanship with a view to placing before the people proposals which would not be discussed during a general election campaign, and would not- excite dispute along party lines.
.- The Leader’ of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) made a speech which was full of legal definitions and opinions. I shall not attempt to deal with these proposals from the legal point of view, but shall debate them more from the point of view of. the layman. I was surprised to hear the right honorable gentleman say that the Government was proposing to hold the referendum on the date of the general elections for the specific purpose of clouding the issue. The record of this Government is such that there are no issues to cloud on election day. Right up to the time when the Leader of the Opposition began his speech, I believed that every member of the Opposition would support the Government’s proposals for the alteration of the Constitution, and I was greatly disappointed when I” learned that they did not propose to do so. The choice before ihe Government was to hold a’ referendum before the date of the general election, on that date, or after that date. The people have been very heavily taxed during the war, and have been called upon to make all kinds of sacrifices. Therefore, I believe that, from considerations of economy alone, the Government is justified in holding the referendum on the day of the general elections, thus saving many thousands of pounds. The complaints of the Leader of the Opposition will cut no ice with die public.
The right honorable gentleman admitted that there was some doubt concerning the validity of certain social service legislation, and he mentioned maternity allowances, widows’ pensions, and child endowment. He went on to say that those provisions had never been challenged ; but who is to know that at some time in the future the AuditorGeneral may not question the expenditure of money under those headings? He then expressed the fear that if. as the result of an affirmative vote at the referendum, the Commonwealth Parliament passed legislation for the provision of a national health service, with dental care, &c, this might not be in the best interests of the’ country. I point out, that when war broke out in 1939. the Government called up many thousands of persons for service in the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force, and enlisted thousands of women in the various auxiliary services. All of them were medically examined and X-rayed. They also received dental treatment. If we could obtain statistics, I believe we should find that approximately 1,000,000 Australians received free medical and dental services during the war. That was necessary to make men and women fit to go out and fight for their country, or to serve it in other ways necessitated by the war. Is it not equally important that the population should have medical and dental services in time of peace? If the Government’s proposal is agreed to at the referendum, the nation will benefit and our people will be healthier.
– Does the honorable member really believe that?
– Yes. The economic situation in Australia, and perhaps in other parts of the world, is such that it is impossible for basic-wage earners to pay for all the medical and dental treatment that they and their families need. I speak specifically of a profession with which I was once associated. I know that a member pf this Parliament was charged an amount of 50 guineas for dental treatment for himself and his child; another man, earning £4 17s. 6d. a week, was charged £58 for dental treatment ; a third, whose child underwent orthodontic treatment for only half an hour weekly for about six months, received a bill for £110.
– The honorable member’s charges were excessive.
– They were not my charges. No dentist has the right or the authority to make such charges. The people of Australia cannot afford to have essential medical and dental treatment if they are liable to such large fees. Did not the medical profession and the dental profession give -sincere and thorough service to service men and women during the war ?
– Ask any soldier, sailor or airman, andhe will tell you that he was given the very best medical and dental service during the war. If that can be done in war-time, why can it not be done in time of peace, when doctors and dentists can work under better conditions ?
– Servicemen did not get civility.
– They did. I know as much about the matter as the honorable member, because I enlisted in the dental service during the war. It is unfair to the profession to make such charges. Servicemen were treated so well by doctors and dentists that, after six months of war, parades of men requiring treatment had increased by 50 per cent. The men were anxious to have good treatment, and they knew that they would receive it. The records will prove that.
– What was the honorable member’s rank?
– I was not a brigadier. I was a lowly captain. We did the work irrespective of our rank. If doctors and dentists gave satisfactory service during the war on salaries, is it not logical to believe that they would give the same service in peace-time under similar conditions ?
– That is a reflection on the professions, and their members willnot be grateful to the honorable member for making such an assertion. I am confident that the people will agree to the Government’s proposal regarding social services.
On the second proposal, relating to orderly marketing, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) spoke of all the legal obstacles that might arise.
– He conjured them up.
– Yes. I am prepared to accept the. legal opinion of the Attorney-General in preference to that of the Leader of the Opposition. However, the right honorable gentleman admitted that orderly marketing would be a great asset to Australia. Primary producers know that the National Security Regulations enabled them to secure better prices during the war than previously, and many of them have approached members of this Parliament to ask that orderly marketing be continued in the post-war period. Honorable members on this side of the House have received numerous requests, and I am sure that honorable members opposite must have received them too. The views of the producers provide a satisfactory answer to any objections that can be raised. They know that they were better off during the six years of war than they were at any time previously, and they admit that this was due to the operation of orderly marketing. It is strange that, whenever war occurs, we find it necessary, for the benefit of growers, consumers and the nation as a whole, to provide for such controls by means of regulations. Orderly marketing was necessary in time of war. Is it not equally necessary in time of peace?
– What does the honorable member mean by orderly marketing - Government control?
Mr.CHAMBERS.- I mean the method that operated during the war. That would satisfy primary producers. They are concerned about the best method of assuring high prices for their goods.
– They had inexhaustible markets during the war.
– It is all very well to talk about markets during the war. There were just as many mouths to feed and just as many bodies to clothe prior to the war as there were during the war, but methods of distribution in peace-time were such that a percentage of the population was over-clad and over-fed whilst a high percentage starved, or eked out a meagre existence on the dole. This Government will not stand for a repetition of such a state of affairs. That is why honorable members opposite are fearful that the Government will be returned to power at the general election. They do not want these proposals of the Government to come into effect. They want preference to be given to the same sections of the community as have had preference under anti-Labour governments down the years - the sections which took things away from the workers and never gave them back. An organization in South Australia , used to employ 3,000 men in order to complete a contract quickly, and would then “sack” 2,500 of them. It was able to keep down wages and lengthen hours of work because men clamoured at its factory gates in hundreds all day and every day for employment. Honorable members opposite want that to happen again.
– The honorable member is talking rubbish.
– Rubbish or no rubbish, such things have happened all down the years. As the Attorney-General said, all we ask is a fair deal for the people of Australia.
Sitting suspended from 5.11 to 8 p.m.
– I turn to the “ bill for an act to alter the Constitution by empowering the Parliament to make laws with respect to terms and conditions of. employment in industry.” The Leader of the Opposition, in a manner that did him little credit, castigated the Government for having included in clause 2 the provision that alteration of the Constitution in the way proposed shall not “ authorize any form of industrial conscription “. How the “ boys “ would smile when they read that, he said. Yet it was he who first found it necessary to incorporate in legislation the words “ industrial conscription”, for, in moving the second reading of the National Security Bill 1939, he said-
Sub-clause 7 contains a new provision which was not in the war precautions legislation. It reads - “ Nothing in this section shall authorize -
theimposition of any form of compulsory naval, military, or air force service, or any form of industrial conscription.”
I wonder whether the “ boys “ smiled on that occasion. As the Menzies Government realized the need for a provision against industrial conscription in the National Security Act, so this Government desires to make it clear in concise terms that, in giving power to this Parliament to control terms and conditions of employmentin industry, the people would not be giving it power to impose industrial conscription. The Government desires when the referendum is held to protect the people from being hoodwinked by misrepresentation of the sort that the Opposition indulged in at the last referendum. What objection can there be to power over employment being given to the Commonwealth Parliament? Given that power this Parliament will be able to regulate wages, working hours, and holidays, on a uniform basis for the whole of Australia. The time is ripe for an end to be brought to interstate jealousies and the difficulties arising from varying wages and hours in the different States. My own State, South Australia, has profited in the last twelve months as the result of the operation of certain conditions in another State, but I speak nationally and have no regard for State boundaries, those imaginary lines that have retarded this country’s progress. This is the National Parliament, and it should have the right to dictate a uniform set of industrial conditions for the nation. I think the people will agree with me. They will realize that they must ensure that the Commonwealth Parliament shall have the power to legislate for social services, orderly marketing, and terms and conditions of employment in industry. Given those powers, whatever party be in power will be able to legislate in the best interests of the people. I do not speak politically. If the Menzies Government were still in power and asked the electors to vote “ Yes “ on the three questions that this Government intends to put before them, I would support it. Hence, I hope that the Opposition will forget party issuesand ask the electors to carry these three bills unanimously on election day.
– This is not the first occasion on which the Parliament has been asked to agree to certain bills having for their object the amendment of the Constitution by way of an appeal to the people of Australia. There is no need to go over the ancient history of these matters, except to say that the Constitution of the Commonwealth is a peculiar document. By its very nature it must be one of the outstanding acts of any federated country. The United States of America, Canada, South Africa, Switzerland and Australia are examples of democracy operating under federal constitutions. It stands to reason that there are certain methods of altering that Constitution shouldthe necessity arise, but it is equally clear that the methods contained in the Constitution are not always the methods that are the most acceptable to the people who have to give consent. The method incorporated in the Australian Constitution, I think, is one of the most cumbersome, lopsided methods in any Constitution. Government after government has attempted over a long period of years to secure alteration of the Commonwealth Constitution, but I think only two of the many attempts have been successful. One was in 1905 or 1906, when the people consented to an alteration of the method of electing the Senate. The other gave the Commonwealth certain authority over, and infinitely more responsibility for, the debts of the six States. Since I came to this. Parliament, about twelve years ago, two other attempts ha ve been made to alter the Constitution. I was on the “ Yes “ side in 1937, when we tried for two amendments, one to surmount what were believed at that time to be, but have since proved to be not quite what we thought they were, the difficulties arising out of the adverse decision of the* Privy Council in the James case relating to dried fruits.’ The other was a simple matter concerning aviation. Both were turned down overwhelmingly by the people.
Less than two years ago, the present Government believed that the people, having returned it with overwhelming numbers, would agree to any alteration of the Constitution it cared to submit to them. A very interesting bill was passed through this Parliament. It had every bit of trimming and icing from a wedding gown down to a birthday cake, but it was not acceptable to the people. It did- not receive the support of a majority of the voters or a majority of the Sta tes. . Only two States out pf the six voted for it. The Attorney-General is an able lawyer, and, no doubt, a persistent man. I have no doubt that if some day he came to the table and told us exactly what his ambitions were when he entered this Parliament, we should learn that one of the foremost was that he should be able to. say, “ I got the people of Australia to alter the Constitution in the way I said it should be altered “.. Now he is having a second stab at altering the Constitution, but this time he is submit- ting his proposals in three separate parts. I thought that, having regard to the importance of the proposed changes he was asking the Parliament to submit to the people, the right honorable gentleman’s three speeches w.ere extremely short. I also thought them remarkable, not for what they said, but for what they did not say. I think the bills remarkable, too, not for what they ask the people to agree to, but for what the right honorable gentleman hopes they will agree to, which is not plainly stated in them. I intend to deal first with the three speeches. He talked about the all- Australian purposes for which money is raised by the Parliament. He said that the Parliament ought to be able to spend for any Australian purpose the money it raised. Exactly what does that mean? He gave us two interpretations of section 81 of the Constitution. It is clear that section 81 has been interpreted by the High Court in the way in which, perhaps, any common-sense man would interpret it, namely, the only purpose for which the Commonwealth Parliament can spend federal revenue is a purpose permitted by the Constitution. Any other construction of section 8.1 is unthinkable. In my view, any other construction would produce a “.tate of affairs in which no State parliament would have the right to exist, let alone govern, if the Commonwealth Parliament decided to trespass on its preserves. This bill is framed in a most alluring way. The right honorable gentleman put down a list of the things over which he wants power. I shall deal with them one by one. Maternity allowances were introduced into the Commonwealth by a Labour government in 1912 and have been in operation ever since. There has been no attempt by any one to upset them. There has been no question in party politics of their being invalid or opposed. No party has threatened to remove them from the statute-book. No person- has appealed to any court challenging the constitutional validity of those payments. That being so, why does the Attorney-General, after the lapse of 35 years, discover some vague doubt, some probability of challenge, or some vague intangible reason why these payments- may no longer be deemed to be constitutional? He cannot sustain any argument there, and obviously the reference to maternity allowances has been included for some political purpose. Widows’ pensions have not been challenged from either side of the House. Nobody has appealed to the High Court or to any other court, claiming that the Commonwealth did not possess constitutional power to mate those payments. T remember perfectly well, and the Prime Minister will also remember, that ii? 1941 the Child Endowment Bill was introduced in this chamber by a government formed by the parties who now form the Opposition.
– Do not be silly. Honorable members opposite quarrelled among themselves and it was the Labour party which, in fact, passed the bill.
– If the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) wants a little dissertation on the subject of members of parties quarrelling among themselves, 1 can give it to h im.
– The honorable member is qualified to do so.
– I do not want to pursue that matter to-night, but if we ever discuss the history of quarrels in this chamber, I shall be able to portray the honorable member’s- difficulties with the Labour party, and that will not, suit him.
– The “ white rabbit “ is a little annoying to-night. The next matter is unemployment benefits. I remember when the National Insurance Bill was passed in this Parliament, with great difficulty I admit, and with not very much support from honorable .members opposite. No question was raised then regarding the constitutionality of the bill and the payments which might have been made under it.
Mr. Conelan interjecting,
– I was a member of the Government which introduced the National Insurance Bill, and I know a good deal about its history. However, this is not the time for me to deal with that aspect. It may suit the honorable member’s book because, I am well ,aware that he will have some difficulty in explaining to his constituents his attitude towards some of these matters.
– Order ! It will suit the Chair if the- honorable member for Barker will return to the bill.
– Next to be mentioned are sickness and hospital benefits, and accompanying them are medical and dental services. The Attorney-General is not seeking two separate powers. He is asking for one power divided under two heads, and the objective of the present Government, if it were stated clearly and openly, would be to nationalize the medical and health services of Australia. I have no objection to the Labour party adopting that as a political plank and as a goal that it desires to attain, but if that be its aim, the proper course for the Government to adopt is to take the country into its confidence and announce frankly what it proposes to do under this provision. The real reason why maternity allowances, widow’s pensions, child endowment and unemployment benefits, have been included in the Government’s referendum proposals is to give to the pill a coating of sugar - medical and dental services and hospital’ benefits - because some doubt exists as to whether this will be acceptable to the community. If the Prime Minister desires this Parliament to have power over medical and dental services and hospital benefits, there, is no need to include in the bill any reference to the other items, but he desires to . create in the minds of the people the belief that, if they do not endorse the. Government’s proposals, they will lose maternity allowances, widow’s pensions and child endowment. In my opinion, that, is not the proper approach to these matters. It would be better, in what is reputed to be a democratic community, if the objectives of the Government were stated openly and clearly, and without equivocation and any attempt at camouflage. In addition, the bill provides for “benefits to students”. I do not know what that expression means. The Attorney-General did not define it. Therefore, the electorate is asked to vote for something which has not been explained and which may not be clarified later. Again, that is so much window dressing. Family allowances have not been defined. I do not know of any family allowance which is paid at present. It cannot be child endowment, because that is specifically mentioned in the headings, so if some other family allowance is contemplated the Attorney-General should inform the House what it is. I do not know whetherhe proposes to pay a wage to married women, as someone suggested a couple of years ago, but whatever it is, we should be told what the Government has in mind and what will be the cost to the community. Not one of those conditions has been complied with, and, therefore, I contend that the electorate will need to be extremely careful about accepting the provisions of the bill.
I come now to the second bill, which provides for the alteration of the Constitution by empowering the Parliament to make laws providing for the organized marketing of primary products, unrestricted by section 92 of the Constitution. I do not wish to repeat the comments which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) uttered this afternoon, but I desire to examine closely the Attorney-General’s speech. He said, first -
The object of this bill is to alter the Consitution so that this National Parliament can deal effectively with what has become one of Australia’s most urgent national problems - the organized marketing of primary products. The Commonwealth has done so during the war.
My comment on that is that during the war, there has been a lot of disorganized marketing of primary products. That was, inevitable. It began with the outbreak of war, because Australia’s export markets were cut off. I was Minister for Commerce for a few months in 1940-
– What a shocking reflection on the country.
– I fail to see how that was a shocking reflection on the country, but I say, as a statement of fact, that we were not able to export certain surplus primary products, including apples. That compelled the Government to establish a board to handle the apple surplus. That board, however it was constituted, must have offended some interests, because we had several million bushels of fresh apples which no other country could acquire from us, not because it did not want them, but because it could not provide the requisite shipping. Our inability to export our surplus primary products gave rise to serious problems. The AttorneyGeneral, in his speech also said -
Many primary producers are apprehensive of the future if the Parliament cannot continue to do so during the years of peace, and particularly during the difficult years that lie immediately ahead. In particular I instance organizations of growers of wheat, barley and potatoes.
One of the primary industries in my electorate is potato-growing: Last year, under Commonwealth control, a potatogrower was compelled to enter into a contract with the Commonwealth before he was permitted to grow potatoes for marketing. One grower was told to prepare a certain acreage for seeding, and was notified in writing what the acreage was to be. The preparation of the land for a potato crop is not completed when it has been ploughed once with a team or tractor . The operation requires five or six workings of the soil, according to the district in which the grower has his property. After he had prepared the land, the producer received a circular instructing him to reduce the acreage by 25 per cent. Other operations of that, board were equally fantastic and foolish. Producers were not permitted to harvest and market their crops when they were ready. Many were told to leave their potatoes in the ground until an officer of the Potato Control Board telephoned them or notified them in writing how many tons of potatoes they should dig, and when they should market them. The price, of course, was fixed by the Commonwealth Government. In my opinion, the producers of Australia do not want a continuation of that kind of control. In his speech the Attorney-General instanced in particular the organizations of wheat, barley, and potato-growers. To begin with, potatoes are never exported from Australia. I put it to the right honorable gentleman that there is a vital distinction between the orderly marketing of export commodities like wheat and barley, and the marketing of potatoes and onions, which are not export commodities.
– We are exporting potatoes to Ceylon.
– Odd consignments have been exported to Ceylon and New Zealand. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) knows as well as I do that the quantity of potatoes exported in peace-time is negligible. Year after year, not one bag of potatoes is sent outside the limits of the Commonwealth. So I emphasize to the Attorney-General that the position regarding potatoes is entirely different from that of wheat. Barley stands midway between the two. In some years, large quantities of barley are exported; in other years, none is sent overseas. If the Attorney-General wants the power that he claims in this bill he must require it for one specific purpose, namely, to circumvent that section of ‘the Constitution which provides that the Commonwealth shall not differentiate between States and parts of States.
The next matter which I desire to raise is the definition of “ primary product “. I asked by interjection this afternoon whether butter and margarine are primary products. I was a member of the Parliament of South Australia before I became a member of the House of Representatives, and I remember this point being thrashed out more than once. According to the law of South Australia and, I am informed on very good authority, of New South Wales, “ primary product “ does not include butter, cheese and the like. In South Australia, it does not include wine.
– The honorable member is a merchant’s man.
– I am no more a merchant’s man than the honorable member is a grower’s man. Tl’ie position of wine affects South Australia in particular. According to all standards, wine is a secondary produet, and according to my reading of this bill, one would expect wine to be classed as a primary product. I want to know exactly what we- are to think. I put two cases to the Attorney-General, and ask him to examine them. Under Commonwealth income tax law - I had occasion to fight this out when the right honorable gentleman was abroad last year - a mau, who, in the- Northern Territory, shoots buffaloes for their hides, is not classed as a primary producer. The income tax law states that, to be a primary producer he must keep and breed the animals and birds which he is selling. If that rule is to be applied, it stands to reason that a man who shoots dingoes or kangaroos is not a primary producer. Right at our own doorstep, in Sydney, this point has -been illustrated in the fishing industry. It has been held there that fishermen are not primary producers because they do not breed the fish they catch. These matters should be carefully thought out. It is of no use for the Attorney-General to say, as he did in one speech, that this is a matter for the courts to determine. The first thing that any Parliament should do is to express its legislation in terms so clear that they will be understanda’ble hy ordinary people and will not need legal interpretation. Nothing in these bills gives us justification for believing that the ideas they are said to express have been expressed clearly. Clarity of expression is not to be found in these measures.
Let us look at the mining industry for another example. As the AttorneyGeneral is well aware,- certain standards have been laid down by the Commonwealth Government in .relation to ore concentrates. The price of wolfram has been fixed, but the concentrate must be 65 per cent, wolfram-oxide free, whatever that may mean. The raw product from the mine does not reach that standard. Itlias to be processed into a concentrate of that standard before the fixed price becomes payable. I wish to know how this measure would affect wolfram concentrates. As we all know, ore which is mined at Broken Hill is shipped to Port Pirie, where Lt is concentrated. Ore mined elsewhere has also to be converted into concentrates. Are we to consider the ore as a primary product and is it still a. primary product after it has been converted into concentrates? These points are important in our consideration of this measure, .particularly insofar as they relate to the mining industry, but nothing in the bill clarifies the position.
– Potatoes are potatoes wherever they are produced.
– Of course potatoes are potatoes whether they are baked, mashed or boiled. Some people like them one way and some people like them another way. I do not know of many people who like them raw, but some people will get a raw deal under this bill.
– The assumption that must be drawn from The speech of the honorable member is that the High Court judges ore half-wits.
– I have not said or suggested anything of the sort. The job of the judges is to interpret the law. It is not their job to put their thoughts into the minds of legislators. If (he Government desires to use the term “ primary products “ it should define it. Unless the term be defined there will be many disagreements on the High Court Bench as there are in this House about the meaning of the term. W e should not ;take. that risk. We must remember, too, that some of the members of the High Court Bench have been members of this House, and it may be that in the not distant future their number will be increased.
The Attorney-General said, in his speech -
The general object has always been to bring about price stability in the primary industries, to assist them to bear the heavy burdens of climatic uncertainty and world competition, and to ensure for primary producers a reasonable standard of living and adequate economic security. The methods used have included “.pooling’’, compulsory or voluntary; “orderly marketing “ by means of zoning, quotas and the like; and arrangements to ensure better grading, packing, advertising and so forth.
I contend that the Government already has the power referred to by the right honorable gentleman. It lias exercised such power when the country has been at peace and when it has been, at war. I have administered certain legislation as a Minister of the Crown, and I know what has been done in this regard. Action has been taken already by Commonwealth Governments to grade, pack and advertise our primary products.
The Attorney-General cannot expect to be able to sustain in this House the argument that if , the Government be given the powers which are being sought in these bills it will be able to influence the prices at. which Australian produce will be sold in overseas markets; yet unless he can do that very thing the case he has stated must fall to the ground. I do not know much about overseas trading conditions at present, but, I have a strong suspicion that when peace finally arrives - and it looks like being much delayed - there will be less trading between merchant and merchant and very much more trading between government and government. Some honorable gentlemen opposite are indicating by interjections their approval of that state of affairs, but I do not approve of it. May I point out that, recently the United Kingdom Government, which honorable gentlemen opposite no doubt are happy to follow, appointed a cotton purchasing board which was charged with the responsibility of purchasing all the cotton requirements of the United Kingdom. There is to be only one purchasing authority for the United Kingdom, and it is to be a government authority. The cotton organization may be enlarged, and if it be ‘ enlarged it may also cover wool. Anyway, an agreement with a currency of fourteen years has recently been made between this Government and the United Kingdom Government for the pur- chase of Australian- wool. That procedure may be followed in regard to wheat and other commodities. If that kind of dealing is to go on what will be our position if our Constitution be altered? Undoubtedly some kind of a bargaining agreement will be made between the Commonwealth of Australia and the United Kingdom. What could be the effect of such an agreement? This Government already has power, which was used without hesitation even before the war, under which certain prices and standards were fixed. If the local price of an article involved in such an arrangement did -not, appear to be satisfactory, the Government exercised constitutional power which it already possesses to provide bounties to enhance the local price. There is an important provision in relation tobounties, however, to the effect that they must be distributed equally ‘ among all producers in all States. If the constitution amendment which the Government is now proposing be accepted bounties may not be payable on an equal basis.
The Attorney-General is also suggesting that section 92 should be overridden. I do not know what the positionwould be if such an alteration occurred.
– The Government which provided the bounties and fixed the conditions would be answerable to the people.
-I admit that that would be so, but in this democratic community the people have the opportunity only once in three years to express their view, and the damage would be done before a government could be brought to book. The people could protest as much as they liked about certain administrative acts, but they could not do anything else about them. They have the opportunity to express their minds only at the triennial elections. No doubt they will do so later this year, and justice will overtake honorable gentlemen opposite.
– Section 92 has nothing whatever to do with bounties.
– I did not say anything about that. I said that the Attorney-General is seeking authority to override section 92. In that respect these proposals are very different from the Constitution alteration proposals of 1944, which were rejected by the people, and also those of 1937. I shall not go further into that aspect of the subject except to say that the whole purpose of the Government in office in 1937 was to secure a sufficient amendment of the Constitution to enable the Commonwealth to maintain in operation certain legislation then on the statute-book which it was feared might become inoperative under certain circumstances. It has been proved beyond question since then that those fears were unjustified. My friends opposite have declared time and time again that they believe in Australia being one and indivisible, without distinction between State and State; yet they seem to be eager to secure the amendments of the Constitution now proposed which, in my opinion, amount to a negation of arguments which they have propounded again and again in this chamber.
I shall bring to the notice of honorable members another subject which some honorable members of the Labour party, including the honorable member for
Ballarat (Mr. Pollard), have argued effectively, relating to the payment of differential rates between producer and producer. I know perfectly well, as does the honorable member for Ballarat, that it costs more to grow an apple in, say, Stanthorpe, Queensland, than in Tasmania. If this proposed amendment of the Constitution be accepted, does the Labour party intend to provide differential rates for produce in different States of Australia?
– Definitely yes, if differential rates are justified.
– That is the answer I wanted. That brings us to the question as to who is to be the judge in regard to differential rates. Is the Government in power for the time being to determine the matter?
– What better judge could there be?
– That is a matter of opinion. I might have very great confidence in the honorable member for Ballarat. In fact I have expressed confidence in him on certain occasions.
– The honorable member has admitted that it costs more to grow an apple in Stanthorpe than in Tasmania.
– I am sure it does.
– Then what better judge could there be on that matter than the honorable gentleman?
– The remarks of the honorable member have certainly resolved some of my doubts. The apple is a relatively unimportant product, but let us consider wheat for a few moments. It is well known that it costs more to grow wheat in some parts of Australia than it does in other parts. Does the Labour party propose that differential rates shall be paid for wheat?
– If it is demonstrated that it costs more to grow the wheat differential rates should be paid.
– Order !
– I do not know what sort of an administration we shall obtain from an authority which seeks to apply a policy of differential rates for the same product as between producer and producer and State and State.
– A merchant applies that policy.
– But a merchant is not the Commonwealth Government. He is a buyer and seller in the market. Sometimes the market is open, and sometimes it is hedged round by Government restrictions.
Mr. Pollard interjecting,
– Order ! I shall name the honorable member for Ballarat if he continues to interject.
– What I wish to know is how the producers of Australia will stand if this proposed amendment of the Constitution be accepted. The honorable member for Ballarat, can speak with a certain amount of immediate experience on this matter, and I have been extremely interested in his comments. I shall also be interested to hear him speak on these bills. The producers of Australia do not desire an alteration of the Constitution under which any Government may fix conditions. I do not believe that the producers desire discriminatory variations in payments for the same commodity in various parts of Australia. The producers have become sick of Government controls during the war. They do not desire war-time controls to be carried into peace-time. They remember some of the objectionable things that have been done during the war. In Western Australia, for example, wheatgrowers at one stage were paid 12s. 6d. an acre not to grow wheat. Nevertheless wheat stocks accumulated there.In the Wimmera district a distillery was constructed to turn wheat into power alcohol, and when the factory was ready wheat was not available for the purpose. Another huge distillery was erected at Wallaroo, in the electorate of Grey. I believe there is one in New South Wales, and maybe there is also one in Western Australia. Wherever one looks at industry to-day, one finds that there is dissatisfaction with the existing controls. That applies in respect of the production of apples, wheat, barley, potatoes and onions. Wherever one goes among primary producers, the continuing exercise of authority under war-time regulations is questioned. What the Labour party asks to-day is that there shall be carried into a time of peace the authority to do those things that havebeen done under the stress of war. I do not believe that the producers will agree to that. Let us consider for a moment the production of wheat, which may become a political issue before long. There is no necessity for an alteration of the Constitution to enable the Government to do what it is doing under the present wheat plan. It proposes to carry on that plan for a period of five years, and under it to pay a guaranteed price. It does not ask for an alteration of the Constitution in order that it. may do that. The AttorneyGeneral appeared in a somewhat new role recently when he argued this matter in the wheat-growing areas. He did not tell the wheat-growers that the Constitution had to be altered in order that they might receive a guaranteed payment of 5s. 2d. a bushel for five years. I ask the right honorable gentleman, when replying to the debate, to say whether it is necessary to alter the Constitution in order to give effect to the payment of a guaranteed price of 5s. 2d. a bushel. I do not think that he will say that it is. He has been rather vocal lately in regard to the producers being so much better off than they were under certain other conditions. A table has been produced to show the increases of their incomes. The income of any farmer has a direct relationship to two factors, seasons and prices. Given reasonableseasons, and good prices, whether those prices happen to be the normal prices obtainable for a product in the markets of the world or prices fixed by the Government under war-time conditions, or otherwise, the conditions are not altogether normal. From 1 942 to 1946 there have been acts of the Commonwealth Parliament which have fixed prices for certain primary products. In some instances, these have been record prices. There have been record prices in the dairying industry, for a period of years in the potato industry, for onions, and in some instances for fruits. I have never known stone fruits to be dearer than they have been this year. A record price was paid for apples in South Australia last year. I had to pay11s. a case for “ Statesman “. I could not buy a “ Democrat “ for any price; that variety just would not grow. While such prices exist, it stands to reason that a table such as that produced by the Attorney-General will reflect the conditions of the industry. .But those increases of average incomes have been brought about, not by reason of any particular political virtue in the ‘Government, but because the Go_vernment decided, as an act of policy, that it would make certain bounty payments, or fixed price payments, for commodities. So long as it is prepared to continue along those lines it will be able to produce a table of the type cited by the A t torn ey-Gen er al.
The other point which the right honorable gentleman made was in regard to the way in which mortgages had been paid off. It stands to reason that if you have conditions operating such as have operated during the last few years, under which men received record money incomes but were not able to spend very much on replacements, repairs, new buildings, machinery, top-dressing and that sort of thing, there should be heavy reductions of the indebtedness of the farming community. But I put it to the AttorneyGeneral that as soon as certain controls have- been lifted and the farming community can purchase machinery, wire netting, piping, galvanized iron, and everything else that is required for repairs and construction, the reverse side of the picture will be revealed, and, whatever my be the income, a much higher proportion of it will be used, not to reduce mortgages, but to overtake the very great leeway which occurred in primary production during the war years. Therefore, from my point of view these tables do not mean very much.
I come now to the third bill, which deals with industrial control. The important feature of it is that it refers to “industrial conscription”. I do not know what party the . Attorney-General had in mind when he mentioned the possibility of industrial conscription in time of peace. [Extension of time granted.) The conditions which ought to produce industrial peace in any community are constant work, good wages, and opportunities for a man to improve his position. Those conditions cannot prevail under the present control, and I do not see how they are going to improve - in prospect, at any rate - by the alteration of the Constitution proposed by the right honorable gentleman. What he is really aiming at is to put into effect the generation-old policy of the Labour party, that all control of industry in regard to rates of wages, hours of work, conditions of labour and everything else shall be determined by statute, or by some other means in this Parliament.
– Hear, hear!
– There is no question as to where the honorable members opposite stand.’
– If that policy be good in respect of wheat, it is also good in respect of wages.
– The matter is not one which can be determined very easily in this Parliament. Not many of us would essay to establish ourselves as judges on such a matter. It can be determined only by properly constituted tribunals .which are vested with full authority to make an investigation of the different factors concerned, and of the effect of certain judgments on industry generally, if given effect. The Attorney-General also said -
You cannot secure and sustain increased production unless yo.u can secure terms and conditions upon which employers and employees alike are willing to work. Broadly, this is what the war-time national powers achieved.
A willingness to work is one of the outstanding deficiencies in Australian industry to-day. There is a distinct unwillingness on the part of many persons to engage in the occupation which they seem to contend is theirs by some special right. The coal-miners, for example, maintain that nobody else is entitled to mine coal. They may go on strike whenever, they like, for no reason, or for any excuse that they can think of on the spur of the moment, notwithstanding that they may dislocate the services of a whole city, as they did last Christmas. No industrial arrangements can be carried on satisfactorily under such con:ditions. Whatever the Attorney-General may say about establishing in Australia conditions which will attract immigrants to this country and improve the prospects of new businesses being started, the first essential is a real approach to industrial peace; and I consider that that will not be attainable until there is a distinct exhibition of willingness on the part of those engaged in industry, whether employees or employers, to abide by the decisions of the Arbitration Courts. There is to-day too much of a tendency to depart from those decisions. I cannot see how we shall improve the prospects of industrial peace by getting farther away from the arbitration courts, as this proposed alteration must take us, and making rates of wages - for example, the basic wage - a political issue in the Commonwealth Parliament. I have heard honorable members opposite, as well as on my own side, deplore quite sincerely on more than one occasion that certain industries had become, to use their own expression, a “ political football “ in the Parliament. If you make the basic wage and the conditions of industry generally a “ political football “ for all time, I shudder to think what will be the industrial conditions under which our economic life will have to be carried on. The time has arrived for a thorough overhaul of the Australian Constitution. I am not one of those who say that the Constitution as drafted in 1899 is sacrosanct and must not he questioned or altered. But I do believe, from the experience of referendums that have been submitted, that the general temper of the people demands that any proposed alterations shall be agreed upon at a properly constituted national convention, at which each of the six States will be equally represented.
Mr.Calwell. - There is no provision in the Constitution for another convention.
– There is no provision in the Constitution, or in any law, for conferences of Commonwealth and State Ministers, yet they are held in this chamber time and again, and are among the most useful gatherings that take place in the Commonwealth. Consequently, it does not follow that what I have suggested should not be done. That is a most reactionary view for any Minister to take.
– I thought that the honorable gentleman believed in governing by the law.
– I certainly believe in government by the law. But this is a question not of the law but of making the law, of devising means under which a properly constituted body may calmly and dispassionately consider what are the defects of the Australian Constitution as it stands to-day, and what alterations of it have been made necessary by the lapse of the time and the new conditions that have arisen, partly as the result of our growth, partly as the result of the disparity of increase in the three big States compared with the three small States, and partly as the result of the impact of two great wars on the economic and social life of Australia. Those are matters which require calm, dispassionate consideration by men who, perhaps, are not very closely connected with politics, but have a fair knowledge and experience which will enable them to say how the Constitution ought to be framed in order to allow the political and economic life of the country to be restored to that healthy condition which I believe to be necessary, but which most certainly will not be achieved even if these proposed alterations are agreed to by the people.
.- The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) said a great deal, but very little of what he said was to the point. This debate is a. forerunner of the confusion that is likely to arise when the referendum proposals are before the people. It will be necessary for the Government to state its case very clearly and very simply, because there will then be many persons who, like the honorable member for Barker, will set out to confuse the minds of the people. A referendum was held in 1944 in which the Government asked the people to grant to the Commonwealth Parliament fourteen additional powers. This request was refused, and in October last, the High Court had before it a case in which the Attorney-General of Victoria brought an action against the Commonwealth of Australia in respect of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act. In that ease it was decided that the AttorneyGeneral of a State was entitled to bring an action for a declaration that federal legislation which interferes with the public rights of the citizens of a State was invalid. The Commonwealth Parliament had passed the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act, a fine piece of legislation, designed to provide free medicines for the people of Australia through the agency of approved chemists. The Attorney-General of Victoria, when the Dunstan Government was in power, asked the High Court to declare this act invalid. The High Court gave the matter deep consideration, and after hearing argument, reserved its decision. Then, on the19th November, it declared that the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act was invalid; that, in fact, the Commonwealth Parliament had no power under the Constitution to pass an act of that kind. The judges were at great pains to state their reasons for the decision, and it is evident from those reasons that other Commonwealth legislation, providing for social services, some of which have been in operation for many years, will most probably also be invalid. The provision of such social services as maternity allowances, unemployment and sickness benefits, widows’ pensions, and child endowment may be outside the power of the Commonwealth. Is it expected that the Government shall stand idly by without taking action to place beyond question the power of the Commonwealth in respect to these matters, when it is open to the AttorneyGeneral of any State, at any time, to move the High Court for a declaration that, the legislation is invalid? If such a declaration were made by the High Court in respect of other social services there might be no child endowment, no unemployment and sickness benefits, no widows’ pensions and no maternity allowances. Honorable members will admit that maternity allowances represent a magnificent social benefit by which a woman may draw a certain sum of money before the birth of her child, a furthersum upon its birth, and receive still further payment later on.
– Does the honorable member think that the power of the Commonwealth to legislate in respect to such matters should be written clearly into the Constitution?
– And that there should be no going to the High Court for rulings regarding the validity of Commonwealth legislation ?
– If the honorable member for New England reads the judgment delivered by the justices of the High Court in the Pharmaceutical Benefits case, he will see that it is almost certain that if some other phases of Commonwealth social service legislation were challenged they would be declared invalid. After the decision to which I have referred, the Government had the advice of five eminent lawyers regarding the validity of Commonwealth social service legislation. All of them, including Mr. Barwick, K.C., of New South Wales, said that the powers of the Commonwealth were doubtful in respect of unemployment and sickness benefits, maternity allowances, widows’ pensions and child endowment. Commonwealth power was valid in regard to old-age and invalid pensions, because it. was expressly written into the Constitution. When we read the judgment of the High Court, and study the Constitution itself, it is difficult to understand how any one could have advised the Commonwealth Government that Parliament had power to pass legislation in respect to the social services referred to. Those who gave that advice were obviously relying on section81 of the Constitution, which reads-
All revenues or moneys raised or received by the Executive Government of the Commonwealth shall form one Consolidated Revenue Fund to-be appropriated for the purposes of the Commonwealth in the manner and subject to the charges and liabilities imposed by this Constitution.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 April 1946, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1946/19460403_reps_17_186/>.