3rd Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– It is quite impossible at this juncture to inform my honorable friend of that date.. Certain negotiations, which are more or less of a delicate character, are proceeding, but the honorable senator may rely upon this much, that no contract will be entered into except subject to the sanction of Parliament.
– Following upon that question I beg to ask the Minister whether the delicate negotiations to which he has referred have any relation to the £25,000 bond or bank guarantee entered into in connexion with the recently cancelled contract ?
-Ican give my honorable friend no information on the subject.
– I beg to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council, without notice, whether the Government propose to recover the sum of , £25,000 from Sir James Laing and Sons or from Barclay and Co., who took over the guarantee ?
– On more than one occasion.. I. have explained to the Senate that the Government is acting under the advice of leading counsel in London, and as soon as the time is ripe for making a full disclosure of what is going to take place my honorable friend will get the necessary information.
At a later stage
– I ask the VicePresident of the Executive Council, without notice : Is it a fact that the Government have released Sir James Laing and Sons from all responsibility for the payment of the £25,000 deposited in connexion with the contract for the convey ance of mails when they accepted the bond oF Barclay and Company?
– I do not know whether my honorable friendis asking a question of law or of fact. If it is a question of fact, the Government did nothing of thekind.
– The Government said so.
– I can only assure the honorable senator that any rights we haveagainst Laing and Sons will not be overlooked.
– Arising out ofthe honorable senator’s answer, I ask whether it is not a fact that, from his place in the Senate chamber, he said that the Government had accepted the banker’s bond for the£25,000?
– Of course we accepted the banker’s bond of Barclay and Company for £25.000.
– And released Laing and Sons.
– I am quite sure that I never at any time suggested or hinted that we had released Messrs. Laing and Sons. I give the honorable senator the further assurance that the Government are as anxious as he can be for the enforcement of all Commonwealth rights against Messrs. Laing and Sons.
Report presented by Senator Henderson; and read by the Acting Clerk as follows -
The Printing Committee have the honour toreport that they have met in Conference with the Printing Committee of the House of Representatives.
The Joint Committee, having considered all the Petitions and. Papers presented to Parliament since the last meeting of the Committee, make the following recommendations with respect to certain Petitions and Papers not ordered by cither House to be printed, viz. : -
Committee Room, 10th October, 1907
– Mr. President, I ask the leave of the Senate to move that the report be adopted.
– The question is that the honorable senator have leave to submit the motion.
– What are the petitions ?
– A number of petitions have been presented to Parliament, and are we not to know what they contain?
– At the present time Senator Henderson isonly asking leave to submit, without notice, a motion for the adoption of the report. If that leave is granted, then, on the motion, it will be competent for the honorable senator to make aninquiry regarding the petitions.
– I wish to know what the petitions are. . I want the report to be printed and circulated, and considered on another day.
– The report, as read, contains certain recommendations for the printing of papers, but in respect of a large number of papers no recommendation is made, so that it will be quite open to any honorable senator to submit a motion for the printing of a particular document. The report of the Committee will appear in the Journals.
– If that course is followed, sir, the motion- will have to be brought on as private business on a. Thursday evening, when there is either no quorum or only a bare quorum. I take the liberty of objecting to the report being adopted on this occasion.
– If there is an objection, the matter cannot be proceeded with.
– Perhaps Senator Neild will withdraw his objection, because it seems to me that he spoke under a misapprehension. I understand from you, sir, that if the Senate gives leave to Senator Henderson to move to-day that the report be adopted, it will be competent for any honorable senator to discuss the recommendations of the Committee, and to dissent from them.
– It will even be competent for Senator Neild orany one else to propose that the report be adopted with certain additions.
– How can I move an amendment when I do not know what the contents of the report are?
– I intend to move an amendment, and while I am doing so the honorable senator can look at the report.
– I gathered from Senator Sayers that there are certain documents which he wishes to have printed.
– I want to know what they are before we deal with the report.
– Then we may just as well abolish the Printing Committee.
– I shall put again the question that Senator Henderson have leave to submit the motion.
Honorable Senators.- Hear, hear.
– There being no objection, the motion may be submitted.
Motion (by Senator Henderson) proposed -
That the report be adopted.
Senator Colonel NEILD (New South Wales) [2.40]. - On any future occasion when a report is brought up from the Committee I shall object to the motion for its adoption being moved in this informal and unparliamentary manner. It is a recognised parliamentary rule that when the report of a Committee is presented it is ordered to be printed and considered on a future day. Although it was not put from the Chair in that way, what we have just done has been practically to suspend the Standing Orders to allow this motion to be moved without notice.
– When would the honorable senator expect the printing to be done if the report was hung up indefinitely ?
– There would be no hanging up of the report. The course of procedure which I am now advocating was followed the other day. When I objected to what is practically a suspension of the Standing Orders, Senator Henderson moved that the report be printed and considered on a day in the following week. It was considered on that day, and dealt with promptly, but in the interim we each had an opportunity to see the recommendations of the Committee. I was called out of the Chamber for a few minutes this afternoon, and therefore I heard only -part of the report read. It is out of all reason that I should be shouted at from various parts of the Chamber because I wanted to know what was being done in the public time and with the public money. All I heard was that a large number of petitions had come in from the public, and that it was proposed to treat them with such absolute disrespect and contempt that they were not even to be printed. It is against the practice of Parliament for such a course to be adopted. I do not care who wishes to pursue a cheeseparing policy in the Commonwealth. That policy should not be carried out at the expense of the people.
– In the case of other Parliaments, is it the practice to print all petitions which are presented?
– It is the practice to print the text of the petitions and to state the number of signatories. That is the practice in the English Parliament, and in fact, in every well-conducted Parliament.
– What is the good of the petitions without the signatures?
– I am prepared to address Mr. President, but not to keep up a running conversation with every honorable senator who desires to interject. The position which is taken up in connexion with the Printing Committee is unreasonable. Heretofore such a policy has not been pursued by a Committee in any well-regulated Parliament. I do not know why there should be such an extreme touchiness about our Printing Committee. Apparently it must be spoken of with bated breath and grovelling humbleness. We must not dare to suggest the possibility of the Committee making the most infinitesimal error.
– The very object of this discussion is to enable some of usto criticise the Committee.
– I am now doing it. Or rather I am criticising the attitude of some honorable senators with regard to the Committee. I have not a thought that is lacking in the highest regard for the honorable senators who constitute the Committee. But while we may desire to consider their feelings, and to conserve the public funds, we ought also to pay a certain amount of regard to> the wishes of those who petition Parliament. They get up petitions at very great personal trouble. Not one of the petitions to which reference has been made was, I suppose, got up as a result of the expenditure of money. Probably, in every instance, signatures were laboriously collected by enthusiastic citizens who take a keen interest in the affairs of the Commonwealth.
– Were any of them “ faked “ ?
– I do not suppose that there is amongst the petitionsto which the report refers a single “faked” petition like one which was presented somewhere else as a monumental joke. To put myself in order, I beg to move that the petitions referred to in the report of the Printing Committee be printed.
– I point out to the honorable senator that the Report is from a Joint Committee. No petitions presented to the Senate are enumerated in this document. The only petitions referred to in it are those which have been presented ‘to the other Chamber. They have not come within our official cognizance in any way whatever, and I do not see how we can order to be printed documents that have riot (been tabled in the Senate.
– I thank you, sir, for that explanation. The error into which I have unintentionally fallen simply proves the undesirableness of dealing with matters in such a slipshod reckless manner. I was called out of the chamber for about three minutes and did not hear all the report of the Committee read. Consequently, I have taken up time needlessly, because of this hurry-scurry way of dealing with the reports. In the future I shall always’ object to a report of the Printing Committee being taken before it has been considered by honorable senators, or until we have an opportunity of knowing what is in it.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia) £2.50]. - I desire to move an amendment upon the motion, for the purpose of getting printed a paper which has been laid upon the table, dealing with tobacco, cigars, and cigarettes. The paper takes the form of a return which was compiled under a motion moved in the Senate, with regard to which Senator Walker and myself collaborated. It is a very interesting return, which will be useful to honorable senators when we deal with the Tariff. I cannot understand why the Printing Committee did not include it amongst the papers recommended to be printed, as it contains very instructive material. If Senator Neild will allow me to say so, I think that had he not been so impulsive, he would have realized that he had an easy method of dealing with the petitions referred to, even if they had not been presented to the Senate, and even though the Committee had not recommended that they be printed. He, or any other senator, could have moved that any document referred to in the report be printed. I do not think that there is a single senator who would not have agreed to take such a motion as formal. There is no justification for objecting to the report of the Printing Committee being adopted, be cause its adoption does not take away from us any of our rights and powers in relation to the printing of any paper.
– Why not give notice with regard to the paper which the honorable senator now wishes to have printed ?
– I did not give notice in this instance, because I heard the report read, and know that the document to which1 I allude is not recommended to be printed. Senator Walker and I ‘both know the contents of the paper, and I ask honorable senators to take my assurance that it is an instructive return well worth printing. I understand that the reason why the Printing Committee did not recommend it to be printed was that another place has dealt with ‘ the tobacco duties. That is. a good reason why another place did not require the return to be printed ; but I presume that in the dim and distant future the Senate also will deal with the tobacco duties, and in that event the information will be very useful to us. I move -
That the following words be added : - “ and that the return of quantities of and duty paid on tobacco, cigars, and cigarettes taken out of bond, laid on the table of the Senate, be printed.”
. The reason why I objected to the report of the Printing Committee being adopted without discussion was that I see from the public press that a large number of petitions have come down from some of our constituents, and I should like to know what is in them. I do not want the signatures to be printed, but I think the petitions themselves should be printed.
– What have we to do with, matters that are not before* the Senate ?
– Of course, the honorable senator thinks that we have nothing to do with anything that does not concern Victoria.
– I rise to a point of order. We are not discussing whether certain petitions shall or shall not be printed. No petition has been presented to the Senate, and, therefore, I urge that a debate on the lines that Senator Savers is pursuing is not in order.
-I cannot prohibit the honorable senator from alluding to petitions that are mentioned in the report of the Printing Committee, although those petitions have not been presented tq the Senate. The report states that certain petitions re the proposed Tariff have been before the Printing Committee, and that no recommendation is made. Although, as I have pointed out, there would be a difficulty about ordering a document to be printed that has not been laid upon the table of the Senate, an honorable senator is not debarred from alluding to any matter contained in the report of the Committee.
– My point is that the Printing Committee have had information that is not in the possession of other members of the Senate regarding petitions presented to Parliament. As one of the representatives of the people, I want to know what those petitions contain. I do not want to know who signed them, but I wish to know their contents, because they may lead me, at some stage during the debates that may take place, to comply with the wishes of alarge number of people. It is not fair that certain honorable senators, owing to the fact that they are members of the Printing Committee, should knowwhat is contained in those petitions, whilst other honorable senators are deprived of that information.
– The Printing Committee is the most intolerant body connected with the Senate.
– Some time ago great objection was taken by Senator Guthrie to the methods of the Printing Committee. I think that if certain privileged members of the Senate are to know the contentsof petitions other honorable senators will be placed in a false position. People who sign petitions should not. be treated in a cavalier manner. We should pay deference to their wishes. ‘Generally speaking, a petition to Parliament is not a lengthy document. Unless an alteration is made in our procedure with reference to reports of the Printing Committee, I shall join with Senator Neild in objecting at all times to the reports being adopted without consideration.
– I fancy that Senator. Sayers is under a slight misapprehension as to one or two points connected with the subject under discussion; and I am sure that if I show him that he is in error he will not resent it.
– Not at all.
– Senator Sayers is not prejudiced in any way by anything which it is now proposed to do. Whether we adopt or reject the report of the Printing Committee, it will still be competentfor any member of the Senate to move for the printing of any document or the product ion of any information that it is within the competency of Federal officials to supply. Hissecond point was that the Senate had a. perfect right to be made familiar with the contents of every document submitted to the Printing Committee - that anything: which went before that Committee should be available to every honorable senator.’ I agree with him to the fullest extent. But I call the attention of the honorable senator to the distinction which you, Mr. President, drew in your remarks between a petition presented to the Senate and one presented to the other House. The petitions referred? to in the Printing Committee’s report were not addressed to the Senate, or to Senator Sayers or myself, but to a body which is ordinarily referred to here as “ another place.” Had it not been that the committee is a joint one - had we appointed, as we were entitled to do, a separate Printing Committee of our own - those petitionswould not in any way be before us.
– The public at largethink that they have come before both Houses of the Federal Parliament.
– I have sufficient faith in the intelligence of the public to believe that when they wish to address the! Senate they send a petition to it, whilst when they wish to address the other House - as they may desire to do at the present moment when the’ Tariff is being dealt with there - they very properly send their petition to that Chamber. These petitions were not addressed to the Senate, and if the matter had been considered by a separate instead of a joint; Committee, the Senate would never have heard a word about them. For thatreason, it was quite outside the province of our section of the Committee to make any recommendation regarding them.
– Our Committee have mentioned them.
– They have made no recommendation. I do not know what; transpires in the Committee, but I am prepared to believe that when a documentapplies to one House more than to the other, the members of that House are allowed to determine whether it should be printed or not. I cannot see that anybody is prejudiced by the proposal of the Committee. If I wished a document to be printed I would invite . the Senate to order it to be printed. It is competent for Senator Sayers to do the same. I propose to sup- port Senator Pearce’ s amendment, because the information which he seeks to acquire will be distinctly useful to the Senate when it has to deal with the matter covered by the return.
.- Apparently, no matter what course is suggested by the Printing Committee, their actions meet with disfavour from certain honorable senators. At one time fault was found with them for not meeting frequently enough. Steps were taken to have a joint meeting of the Printing Com- mittees of the two Houses with a view to prevent overlapping, and to save the expense of unnecessary printing. When the joint Committee presents reports exception is taken to them by certain honorable senators on the ground that they would like certain papers to be printed and circulated. Is any honorable senator really serious in asking the Printing Committee to consider the advisability of printing petitions, some of which are about a mile long?
– Where are the names?
– Would anybody toe bothered to read -half the names ? Exception is taken merely to find fault with the Committee. If any honorable senator desires to know what kind of petitions have been presented to another place, and the objects of the petitioners, all that he has to do is to read Hansard. As a member of the Committee, whilst I am anxious to do all I possibly can to facilitate the printing of matter that will be of importance to honorable senators, and to the public generally, I shall be no party to advocating the printing of petitions that come from all parts of Australia with regard to matters connected with the Tariff proposals. How does it concern the people generally whether a petition is printed or not? As a rule there are only about half-a-dozen lines of matter at the head of the petitions.
– Where does the mile length come in?
– In the signatures. What sense would there be in simply ordering that the headings to the petitions should be printed ? What assistance would that be to any honorable senator?
– It would show us that the people there took great trouble to try to alter the Tariff.
– If the people in any particular State took a serious view of any matter affecting them they would take the additional trouble of acquainting their members of the subjects which they desired to have ventilated. As these people have not thought it of sufficient importance to acquaint Senator Sayers of the subjects which they desire to have considered, surely the taxpayers of Australia ought not to be called upon to incur the expense of printing the documents. I have no desire to remain a member of the Printing Committee if it is considered to be an intolerant body, and above criticism. There is not much joy in meeting once a fortnight to consider these matters in the best interests of the Senate and of the people if, after we have pursued that course, unjustifiable exception is always to be taken to our reports. If Senator Sayers wants any petition printed, he can move accordingly, and if he receives sufficient support it will be printed. But the honorable senator does not desire to pursue that course. All he wants to do is to fire away at the Printing Committee because something that they have done does not meet with his approval. Te Printing Committee are actuated by one motive, and one motive only.
– Of course, the Committee are always actuated by good motives.
– We have no personal ends to serve.
– We know all that.
– Then why this criticism from a certain quarter every time a report of the Committee is submitted to the Senate? One would really think that we had some personal object in view when we submit our reports. We have no motive of the kind, but are actuated by a desire to economize where economy is necessary.
– I support Senator Pearce’s amendment.Ido so in no spirit of antagonism to the Printing Committee. I have every sympathy with them and believe that they are really doing their best to fulfil the functions for which they were appointed. Senator Sayers said that Senator Guthrie opposed the Committee. Senator Guthrie did nothing of the kind. His whole objection was that in the past the Committee” did nothing. I am sure that he cannot but be satisfied now that they are doing something.
– I said that Senator Guthrie was the strongest critic of the Committee.
– That was because the Printing Committee in the past did not meet or do the work which they were appointed to do. The present Committee are endeavouring to do it. Senator Neild and Senator Sayers ought to be satisfied, if only on account of the explanation given by Senator Millen. Nothing that the Committee have done up to the present time deprives those honorable senators of a single right which they possess as senators. Either of them, if he could obtain the support of a majority of the Senate, could get the printing of the Ten Commandments ordered, and it would be done. If either Senator Sayers or Senator Neild makes himself acquainted with any item referred to in any of the Committee’s reports, there is nothing to prevent him from rising in his place and moving that the document in question be printed. If the Senate supported him it would be printed. Consequently, I do not see what those honorable senators have to complain about. I attach a certain amount of importance to the return referred to in Senator Pearce’s amendment. I am sure that a majority of honorable senators would like to see it in print in order to be fully seized of its contents. For that reason I intend to support the amendment in order that the return may be printed, and I am sure that no member of the Committee will offer the slightest objection. It is very unfair of some honorable senators-
– To want other documents printed.
– If they want other documents printed, let them move accordingly, and not be so fastidious or talk for talking’s sake without consideration or knowledge.
– I should like Senator Henderson, when he replies, to state whether the Printing Committee have taken steps to make inquires into the question raised in this Chamber recently as to the duplication of the setting up of documents presented to both Houses, and the consequent increased cost of printing. The matter was dealt with at considerable length, and therefore I do not propose to go over it again. Have the Committee given, or do they intend to give, it any thought?
– I think that Senator Henderson gave the explanation the following week.
– I wish to explain that I have not the slightest objection to the work that the Printing Committee have carried out during the present session. What I objected to was that in previous years the
PrintingCommittee had never been called together, and had done nothing. The very fact of my calling attention to that has put the Committee on their mettle, and during the present session they have done everything that the Senate expects them to do. The question raised by Senator Sayers is the printing of petitions that have arrived from Queensland, but that were not sent to the Senate at all. But for the Printing Committees of the two Chambers meeting as a joint Committee, the Senate would have known absolutely nothing about those petitions, and Senator Sayers would have been entirely ignorant of them except from the public press. There was nothing to prevent him from going to the Clerk of another place in his capacity as a senator, and asking to be allowed to peruse them. In that way he could have informed himself of their contents without putting the country to the expense of printing, not merely thirty-six copies, but copies to be distributed throughout the Commonwealth to show what the people in some backblock in Queensland thought about a certain question.
– Then according to the honorable senator the capital of Queensland is a back-block. I am glad to hear it.
– I do not know that it is not. Probably I was in the capital of Queensland before either of the honorable senators for Queensland who have spoken. Unfortunately, I was only too glad to get away fromit. I support the Printing Committee absolutely for the work they have done during the present session, and I also support Senator Pearce, because it is the right of every honorable senator to have any paper that is placed upon the table of the Senate printed if he can induce a majority to support him. Papers laid upon the table of another place are quite another matter.
– Queensland has some representatives in another place.
– Who neglect their duty, if Senator Sayers’ contention is correct. Queensland has also representatives on the Printing Committee, and they have not thought it worth their while to distribute to the Commonwealth at large the petitions that have been presented. I yield to no man in this Chamber in upholding the principle that every individual in the Commonwealth has an absolute right to approach Parliament by petition. But if people want to approach the Senate they should approach it by the front, and not by the back door - the House of Representatives. If residents of Queensland petitioned the Senate in a matter of any importance I should be prepared to assist Senator Sayers in having their petition printed and circulated, but I am not prepared to advocate the printing of petitions presented to another place.
– I should not have intruded upon the debate but for the remarks which have been made by Senator Guthrie. I express my hearty appreciation of the work being done bythe Printing Committee. I agree with the remarks of some honorable senators opposite, and especially with those that have fallen from Senator Millen, with regard to the present position. After the explanations we have heard from both sides, it seems that it is within the province of any member of the Senate to. ask that any petition which he thinks is of sufficient importance should appear upon the records. I am satisfied with theposition as disclosed by the debate, but I may, I think, be permitted to deprecate the warmth which Senator Guthrie introduced into his remarks in reference to Queensland and Queensland petitions.
.-I have been very pleased with the discussion which has taken place, and I am hopeful that it will prevent a similar occurrence in the future, now that honorable senators have a better understanding of the position. The members of the Printing Committee will not feel at all offended by Senator Neild’s uncalled for suggestion of intolerance. They will have pleasure always in bowing to the will of the Senate, and honorable senators moving for the printing of papers need not expect undue opposition from them. When the members of the Printing Committee have done what they think to be their duty in regard to papers which come under their notice, they will be content with whatever the Senate may do afterwards. Senator Sayers has asked that every paper that comes before the Joint Printing Committee shall be placed in his hands. That could only be accomplished by the printing of every paper, and, if that were done, the Printing Committee might just as well be abolished. If that Committee serves any useful purpose, it is in preventing unnecessary printing. That is the reason for its existence. Senator Neild, in moving that these reports should be printed, proposes that we should incur an expenditure which is entirely unnecessary.
– I have not moved it, and do not intend to do so.
– The honorable senator gave us to understand that he would do so on this occasion and on all future occasions. I sincerely hope that he will reconsider his decision, and will see that a better course is open to him which will not involve extra expense. With respect to the question asked by Senator Chataway, I repeat that if the honorable senator looks up Hansard, he will find the answer which I gave to his question after it had been deliberated upon at a special meeting of the Printing Committee.
– The remarks to which I referred just how were made on the 2nd October, since that meeting of the Committee. So that the honorable senator has misunderstood me.
– I thought the honorable senator’s question had reference to a duplication of printing.
– Yes ; of certain documents.
– The question which the honorable senator asked some months ago, and which was considered at a special meeting of the Printing Committee, had reference to a duplication of printing. The Committee foundthat, owing to circumstances which they could not control, some duplication of printing is likely to take place in spite of them, but they have reduced the unnecessary printing to a minimum. What Senator Guthrie has said in regard to the petitions is perfectly correct. The honorable members who presented some of these petitions in another place are members of the Printing Committee, and they agreed that it would be unwise to print them-. If we print any of these petitions, it will be urged that we should print them all. I quote the following from the Votes and Proceedings of another place to show the character of these petitions -
Petitions praying that the House will notpas the Tariff introduced on the 8th August, especially the items which render dearer food, clothing, and other essentials used by the poorer classes, were presented as under : -
By Mr. Joseph Cook-From women electors of Parramatta, New South Wales.
By Sir William Lyne - From women electors of Adelong, New South Wales.
Petitions severally received.
And on another day I find this record -
Mr. McWilliams presented a petition from sawmillers of Southern Tasmania, praying that the House will not remove the duty from imported timber, and suggesting that the rebate of the duty on pine used in the making of butterboxes be made when the butter is exported. These are the kinds of petitions presented to another place. It should be remembered that the Printing Committee is a Joint Committee of both Houses, and they have never so far advised the printing of these petitions. I hope that in the interests of economy, and of their reputation for good sense, that they never will.
Senator Colonel NEILD (New South Wales) [3.25]. - Senator Henderson has quite misunderstood what I said. Wehave wasted nearly an hour over this matter, and what I said was that I would continue to pursue the course which I pursued a month ago in connexion with the Printing Committee’s report, namely that I would take exception to the adoption of the report as a formal . matter, because I desired that it should first appear in print so that honorable senators might have an opportunity of considering it.
Amendment agreed to.
Question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.
– I ask the Vice-. President of the Executive Council, without notice, whether there is any justification for the statement appearing in this morning’s Argus, that a discussion had taken place between Sir William Lyne and the Premier of Victoria regarding the building of Commonwealth Offices in London, and that the Premier of Victoria insists upon having the right to decide what shallbe the style of the building?
– That an interview between Sir WilliamLyne and the Premier of Victoria took place is a fact, but it is not a fact that the Government are responsible for anything that may have been said by the Premier of Victoria.
– Did he make the statement ?
– The newspapers have credited him with the statement. I am not acquainted with the details of what took place between my honorable colleague and the Premier of Victoria; but I am loath to think that the report referred to can be strictly accurate.
– Assuming that it is true that the Treasurer of the Commonwealth has consulted with the Premier of Victoria with regard to the character of the building to be erected in the Strand, will he also call into consultation the Premiers of the other States before arriving at a decision on the subject?
– I do not propose to reply to hypothetical questions, but I can tell my honorable friend that all negotiations in this connexion will be undertaken by the Government, who will be responsible to Parliament, and must be relied upon to do what is best in the interests of the Commonwealth.
– I wish to ask the Minister of Home Affairs a question, without notice. In view of the honorable senator’s statement that the vote of£1,000 appearing on the Works Estimate for the survey of a cable route across Bass Strait would not be required if the Government could come to terms with the Eastern Extension Company, may we assume that the newspaper report that the Patrol had been delayed and prevented from carrying out her work in connexion with the survey is incorrect ?.
– In the first place, I do not remember having said that if the Government could come to terms with the Eastern Extension Company the vote would not be required.
– I gathered that from what the honorable senator said.
– What I said was that even if we came to terms with the Company, we should probably find that as the cable has been laid for a considerable time, its period of usefulness would very soon terminate, and it would be desirable before we should reconstruct the cables across the present route to ascertain whether we might not obtain other and better routes which would possibly serve the people on the intervening islands in the Strait. I did not quite catch the question with which the honorable senator concluded.
– The Argus states that the cable steamer had been delayed at Flinders Island, and that therefore her work in connexion with the Tasmaniancable had been retarded.
– I did not see the paragraph in the Argus, butI do not think it has any relation to negotiations between the Post and Telegraph Department and the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company. I assume that the steamer has been detained by stress of weather. If the honorable senator will ask me a specific question on the subject at a later date I shall endeavour in the meantime to get the necessary information to reply to it.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
– Arising out of the answer, I beg to ask the Minister whether, in the allocation of 1903, a population basis was used, and. if so, in respect of what year ?
– I am not in a position to say off-hand, but I assume that the population as ascertained at the census of 1901. was taken. I shall inquire into the matter, and give my honorable ‘ friend the information later on.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable senator’s questions is as follows : - 1 and 2. Australian applicants will, other things being equal, receive preference.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
A correspondent writes to us from Melbourne : - “I note that your immigration Department in London very wisely discouraged British labourers from going to Queensland. . . The heat is almost unbearable, and only fit for black labour. . . From the sugar-growing districts of Queensland to the Northern
Territory is purely a black man’s country. I have been all over the northern portions of Australia, and consider it a shame and disgrace to lower the British working man to the status of an Indian coolie. . . I admire the Immigration Department for. the stand they have taken to discourage British labourers from going to the cane-fields of Queensland to be employed in the most degrading labour for a white man “ ?
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow -
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– Inquiry will be made, and a reply furnished as soon as possible.
– Will the Minister be good enough to get a reply to this additional question : Are the inspection fees credited to the Commonwealth?
Motion (by Senator Keating) pro posed -
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act relating to procedure on applications for a declaration Under the Excise Tariff 1906 (Act No. 16 of 1906).
Senator Colonel NEILD (New South Wales) [3.36]. - I regret very much that the Minister has not given to the Senate any information as to the nature of the Bill.
– With concurrence the Minister may speak if he wishes to do so.
– I object.
– I am opposing the motion because I do not think that the Bill is required.
– The honorable senator does not know what the Bill is about.
– That is not my fault. I am only going by the motion on the notice-paper.
– In one breath the honorable senator wants to know what the Bill is about, and in the next breath he says that it is not required.
– I can only judge from the motion on the notice-paper and the statement made by the Minister yesterday. All the knowledge which has been vouchsafed to the Chamber seems to me to show that the Bill is not necessary. It is allegedly a Bill to enable the Government to do that which it has failed to do for the last nine months, and that is to collect the Excise duty in respect of harvesters and other agricultural machines. The Act which it is proposed to amend imposes an obligation on the Government to see that the workmen are paid decent wages, but, according to a statement in a Melbourne newspaper, the workmen employed by Mr. H. V. McKay are receiving a beggarly pittance, which is a disgrace to the State. The Act has been in force for nine months, and, I understand, on excellent authority, that during that time no less than.1,500 harvesters, besides other machines, have been turned out at McKay’s works.
– Then the men are all improvers.
– Very largely.
– They are improving McKay’s profits rapidly.
– One thousand five hundred machines, at an Excise duty of£6 each, represent a total sum of £9,000, which the Government has failed to collect. It has also failed lamentably to see that the fair rates of wages stipulated for in the Excise Act have been . paid. I have here a statement which, apparently, was sworn to. I find that ironmoulders receive the nominal pay of 8s. a day ; improvers, 5s. rod. ; and bound apprentices, is. 4d. Is is. 4d. a decent wage to pay to a bound apprentice in these works, whose proprietors, for nine months, have not paid the Excise duty which they are under’ an obligation to pay ? Let me put this firm in juxtaposition with an importing house. What would be said if an importing house had been enabled to obtain their goods through the Customs for nine months without paying a solitary copper in Customs duty? It is a positive disgrace to any Administration or, if the Ministers did not know of it, to the officers. Somebody must be responsible for this state of things. I take it that some of the Ministers must have known about its existence. I can only suppose that the thing has been, to use a colloquialism, allowed to slide. Let me point out what wages a day are paid to these unfortunates. According to this printed list, a core-maker gets 5s. A furnace-man, sweating under the heat of the climate plus the furnace, is provided for with a miserable pittance of 7s. 6d. a day. A furnace-man’s labourer gets 6s. 4d. ; fourteen labourers get from 6s. 4d. to 7s. ; turners, journeymen, 8s., one of them seeming to have got as much as 10s. 6d. I suppose that he is looked upon as a bloated plutocrat. Then, turners’ improvers ger 6s. . 4d. a- day ; ditto, under twenty-one, 5s. 9d. ; and apprentices, unbound - what is an unbound apprentice? - 2s. 3d. It is horrifying to read this scale of wages in a country which has been, and is, highly prosperous. It is shameful that such wages should be paid by a firm who, by shifting their works outside the reach of the factorylaw, have managed to conduct their affairs in a kind of manufacturing free-booter style. According to the list, an “ improver, centreing lathe saw “ - I suppose that he works at a centreing lathe saw - gets 3s. 4d. a day.
– Yes, and the explanation given is that it is so different from any other saw.
– It is to be hoped that the saw has no teeth, because it is simply disgraceful for a boy to fee working a circular saw for such a wage. It is a most dangerous duty. It would take me some time to go through this list of rates of beggarly pay, but some of the instances are simply shocking. Here are twenty-four apprentices at is. 3d. ; sixteen boys at is. 3d. ; thirteen sheet iron-workers, journeymen, at 8s., somebody seeming to have got as much as 10s. 6d. ; and six improvers, over twenty-one - fancy the idea of having improvers over twenty-one years of age ! - get 6s. a day. I think the’ whole of this information ought to be printed in Hansard, and I am therefore disposed to read it right through. The Hansard record is rather more enduring than a newspaper, not, perhaps, because it is more interesting, but because of its handiness.
– Has the honorable senator also a list of the rates paid by Sydney importers?
– It is a wonder, that the whole of these unfortunate people have not emigrated to New South Wales, where they could get decent pay.
– We do not .give the importers Tariff assistance such as the manufacturers receive.
– We granted protection to McKay conditionally on decent wages being paid.
– My excuse for mentioning these details is not to make any attack upon manufacturers on account of rates of wages paid, whether in Melbourne, in Sydney, or elsewhere. I take this course simply because the industry is carried on under certain conditions, one of which is that the manufacturers must pay £6 per machine Excise unless certain wages are paid. But not one penny piece has been paid by these people. They have neither paid decent wages nor the Excise duty.
– They should- be brought up with a round turn.
– These manufacturers secured a protective duty of £12 per machine on condition that they paid j£6 Excise - one half the Customs duty - if m they failed to pay proper rates of wages.
– They had to pay that Excise unless they obtained an exemption certificate. They have not obtained the exemption yet
– No; they have it all their own way. Let me point out the difference between these .people and ordinary manufacturers. Take a tobacco manufacturer, for instance. He has on his premises, from morning to night, an Excise officer, . who keeps a key to the establishment. Nothing goes in and nothing comes but without the knowledge of the Excise officer. The same applies to the sugar refiners and the distillers of spirits. There are Customs officers to watch everything that goes on, and to protect the revenue. But who protects the revenue in the case of these implement manufacturers? What attempt has the Government made during nine months to protect the revenue, and what efforts have they made to protect the work people? I shall be told that the matter is sub judice, and, therefore, that 1 ought not to talk about it.
– The action of the Government is not.
– I asked yesterday whether the Government would supply an accountant, or provide the funds for one, to ascertain whether these workmen were entitled to extra pay. But I was told that the Government could not do it because the matter is sub judice. The Minister who gave me that reply, with the astuteness of an experienced lawyer, thought he could bluff me.
– That was not astute of him !
– Really, an effort of that kind ought to be put forth with some little regard to the knowledge that any man of the world must have of such matters. We are asked’ to believe that it was not competent for the Government to supply a witness. That is all that an accountant would be. I might just as well be told that because a man had been arrested for murder, the case was sub judice, and the Attorney-General could not employ counsel to prosecute him. Of course that is a reductio ad absurdum, but it just about fits the case. The Government say that because the matter is before the Law Courts it is out of their power to intervene for the purpose of furnishing evidence. What did the Commonwealth Government do in the case affecting the bringing of the railway servants under the Conciliation and Arbitration Acts? The Commonwealth was represented at every stage. There was no saying, “ Oh, we must not touch it, because it is sub judice.”
– When a State Government sued an individual for income tax, the Commonwealth intervened.
– The sub judice business did not matter then. It will be well for me to read a letter which was written by Mr. Joseph Woolf, on behalf of these workmen, and which appeared in the Argus of two days ago- “Dear Sir, - I regretyou have not yetreplied to my letters of the 24th ult., 2nd inst., and 3rd inst. , I observe you have published ; in the ‘ Age ‘ of Saturday last your reply, which has not yet reached me, and this I will now deal with. “ It is obvious that the simple question iswhether the men’s right to be paid fair wages (and the alternative duty of the Government to obtain payment of £6 per harvester) is to be defeated through not calling a witness. This witness is an accountant, who, before going into the witness-box, must qualify himself to give evidence by examining books. This witness has. to be paid either by the employed or the Government, who are primarily interested to collect the duty, and see that the. law is carried out, and not defeated. Mr. M’Kay is not asked to pay this fee, so whether he objects or not is besidethe question, and this obviously is not an issuebefore the Court, and it cannot concern the Government what Mr. M’Kay thinks on the subject. Therefore, the question of who pays a. witness is not, and cannot be, a question of subjudice.’ “ Your use of the term implies innocence and’ freedom from knowledge of legal procedure, besides a suggestion of my having committed some(unknown) contempt of court in transmitting the men’s request for help to have the law enforced.. I observed recently in the House of Representatives in answer to Mr. Reid and Mr. Knox respectively, re the mail contract, the same reply of sub judice, although there was no writ, no court, no judge, no issue, and the mysterious., mail syndicate was in England. This illustration shows there is some mystic or solemn meaning attached to the phrase as used by Ministers, which I do not know. You may recall a similaraffection for the use of a favourite word in the well-known case of the Scottish dame, who condemned the new minister, because his first sermon did not contain ‘ the blessed word Mesopotamia.’ “ The men now instruct me to inform you they deeply regret the Government’s failure to recognisethe position, and say they are not satisfied to be put off with such a reply, which is obviously no answer. They, therefore, wish to know the real reason (if there be one), why the Government wish the employes should be forced to provide out of their own small earnings, a heavy sum of money which the Government are bound’ to provide, equally for the necessary protection, of the revenue - and the carrying out the policy of Parliament, as declared in an act of Parliament sanctioned by all political parties in the Commonwealth,and approved by the electors of all the states of Australia. The employes hope that the Government will speedily decide to grant their request. “ In conclusion, I am surprised to refer your to the evidence of James A. S. Brown, agricultural machine maker, appointed after a conference of the united trades in support of the new protection in this industry, and of Francis: Lyons, then secretary of the Agricultural Implement Makers’ Employes Union, before the Tariff Commission on 25th January, 1908. This shows that, prior to the first federal tariff, and since the employes have continuously worked to achievethis new protection, and which work resulted inthe present Excise Act being passed, and they are not, and will not, be satisfied for the employers to obtain maximum benefits and the employes to receive minimum benefits. I shall be glad of aprompt reply, so that the men may immediately decide upon the future course of action.”
That letter seems to me to sum up the case very well, and I am disposed, having read it, to leave the argument without any additional word of my own. I will now read the list of the wages paid as sworn to in Court yesterday -
That is the case of a foreman. Clearly, where wages of from 10s. 6d. to 12s. 6d. a day are given in this list they are the cases of foremen. Ten and sixpence is the wage of an ordinary artisan: in New South Wales.
– Has the honorable senator gone into the figures to find out how many improvers and’ apprentices, bound and unbound, are employed?
– I have had no time to dissect the information, for I have been extremely busy. One thing that strikes me is that when this question of the new . protection, affecting the workers of Australia, is being discussed only three members of the party which claims specially to represent labour - and now only two of them - take sufficient interest to remain in the Chamber. I have read that list, not in order to occupy time, but because I think it is well to have it printed in
Hansard, where it can be circulated, so that the people may see what the new protection is that is to be fostered by the Bill, leave to introduce which has been sought by the Minister of Home Affairs. I oppose the introduction, of the Bill because I do not think it is required. The Government, had it liked, could have made some effort during all this period of nine months. It has only discovered the necessity for the measure now when it is being pressed to supply an accountant - a very proper thing, because his duty would be of double effect. It would protect the revenue and also the workers. The whole object of the main Act and of this Bill is to protect the revenue and the workers. I am compelled, with great regret, because I do not like to say disagreeable things, to state that so far as any knowledge has been given to the public, the Government has made no serious effort, if any effort at all, in administering the Act that has been in force now for nine months, to protect either the revenue or the workers. The revenue has suffered ; the workers have suffered; and now, in asking for a Bill to do what ought to have been done long ago in another way, the Government seems to be seeking further cause for delay rather than to adjust the obligations which it owes to the people, whether they are taxpayers or wage earners or both. In the case of any other manu- facturer whose product is liable to Excise duty there is a Customs House officer on the premises all the time. In this case, McKay and Company - I do not want to deal with them only - these good people somewhere in the wilds outside the reach of the Factories Act of Victoria, carrying on business practically as manufacturing outlaws, so far as the laws of the State are concerned, and clearly outlaws as regards the law of the Commonwealth, have no Customs House officer on their premises. There is” no one to see what they do, or how many machines they make, and when the Government is asked to appoint an accountant it does not even answer the letters. Apparently one got into the Age, but did not reach the solicitor to whom it was supposed to be a reply. The Government, it seems, considers that it is the duty of these labourers and workers, as they are called according to their different classifications, improvers, and apprentices, bound and unbound - these poor devils at from1s. 3d. a day upwards - to find an accountant, in order to give the Government an opportunity to collect the revenue. I defy any one to contradict that proposition. These poor people, these boys, these humble earners, are to have their miserable pittances mulcted by the fees of an accountant - he must be a man of reputation - to the tune of perhaps one hundred guineas, or it may be more.
– Some of them are men getting boys’ wages, according to that list.
– No doubt, and ‘their miserable earnings are to be mulcted in order to pay an accountant one hundred, two hundred, or three hundred guineas, to enable the Commonwealth Trea. surer to collect the Excise duty.
– Even if they are. receiving full men’s wages, why should they pay to protect the Government revenue?
– I do not know why, under the general Excise Act, the Government do not insist on the sugar and tobacco operatives being compelled to pay the salaries of the lockers who are in charge of the premises. That would be just as appropriate as the proposal to make these poor fellows pay the cost of the accountancy investigation necessary to enable the Minister to collect Excise. The idea of sweating a boy at1s. 3d. a day to make him contribute to the necessary funds to pay an accountant to enable the Customs or Treasury Department to collect its revenue !
– It is cruel, is it not ?
– It is not only cruel ; it is a shame, and utterly wrong. This is not the only firm. It is the only one we have heard of, but we cannot shut our eyes to the fact that, according to the morning papers, there are no less than 120 firms all at the same game - all applying to the Court for an exemption from Excise without disclosing the fact that they have compliedwiththe law by paying their workpeople decent wages.
– Making the farmers pay an additional price for their harvesters and robbing their workpeople at the same time.
– They are making the farmer pay £12 extra for his harvester, whilst some of them are sweating their workmen in this melancholy and disreputable fashion.
– The farmer is set-. ting his machine cheaper than he was getting it before.
– Senator Stewart is of a generous disposition, and takes a friendly view of things, but I am sure that he does not approve of this sweating list.
– Certainly not.
– He will also recognise that the natural tendency in the price of any article is rather to be lowered than to be raised. As an article comes into more general use, the manufacturers or agents are able to sell cheaper, because the magnitude of the business enables them to reduce their expenses. One of the chief items of cost in connexion with the price of an agricultural machine is the expense of the commercial traveller, who necessarily spends large sums of money in bringing the machine into notice. If in the first few years he only sells one or two dozen machines, necessarily the price must be much higher than when he is able to sell them by the hundred, as the years roll on. The cost per machine must be materially reduced, where, perhaps, the commercial travellers’ costs have been, in the early years, as high as £20 per machine, but come down to a £5 note, or even less, as the sales increase. Therefore it may be- it must be - that the reduction in price is partly due to the development of the trade, and not due to the operation of any fiscal laws, either of Customs or Excise. I do not wish it to be thought that I am charging any of the other 119 manufacturers, who are applying to the Court for -certificates of exemption from the payment of Excise,” with paying the shockingly inadequate rates of wages shown in the list which I have quoted. But I own that I shall, be very curious to see, as time goes on, what rates of wages they , have paid. If one firm alone - admittedly far and away the largest - owes £9,000 in Excise duty in nine months, or £1,000 a month, what is owing by all the other 119 manufacturers, however small their individual outputs may be?
– I do not think the honorable senator should blame them all because of the action of one.
– If my honorable friend has done me the honour of listening to what I have said, he must surely have heard me say that I do not wish, for a moment, to allege that other manufacturers are paying the same beggarly wages. But I do say that, in view of these disclosures, I am curious to see what wages other manufacturers are paying. I hope that, for the honour of the manufacturers of Victoria and of the rest of the Commonwealth, no other schedule of wages such as that to which I have referred can be shown. I hope other manufacturers are paying decent wages, but clearly there is great risk of the revenue losing the £9,000 that I spoke of. I had something to say on this matter last week. I spoke on information supplied to me, and which I Believed to be accurate. From what I have seen published in the daily newspapers since, all that I said about rates of wages has” been proved to be abundantly true. I, therefore, feel a great deal of confidence in the accuracy of the statements I am putting forward this afternoon. ‘ Certainly, I never before suggested anything like the rates of wages to which I have just referred, or the possibility of such an outrage upon any foody of workers. And I am more astonished than ever that the Minister, the Government, or, I will say, the Department have not taken action in the matter. I say the Department, because I wish to be entirely impersonal. I hope that Ministers will not think that I am making any personal charge against them, or that there is any element of rancour in my remarks. I believe it is my duty, as a representative of the people, to “direct attention to this extraordinary dereliction of duty on the part of the Government during the whole of the nine months which the Act has been in force, arid to express the ‘opinion that, so far as I under stand the question, the need for the Bill which -the Government seeks to introduce does not exist. I am at a great disadvantage in replying to the Minister, who did not make any speech in moving his motion. If the honorable senator can show that there is a real need for this Bill, it will be my duty to support the motion, whereas it is my present intention to oppose it, as, in my opinion, affording evidence that the Government has not done its duty, and might have taken action in this matter had it chosen to do so. I wish to be assured that the Government has taken some action, and that there is some evidence of the failure of the principal Act. I certainly never heard of an Excise Act being amended before any effort had been made to make use of it. We have had an Act in. force for nine months, there has been most urgent necessity to act under it, the Government has not made the smallest effort to take the necessary action, and yet* we are asked now to amend” it, with the knowledge that, because of the business at present being considered in another place, the passage of the Bill proposed to foe introduced must necessarily be delayed almost indefinitely. We have passed measures inthe Senate, and sent them on to another place, where they have reached no later stage than the first reading after over three months have elapsed. If we pass the Bill now proposed to be introduced, we do not know what opportunity there will be to have it passed into law this side of Christmas. So far as we know, this bucanneering can go on for the next three months, people can continue to evade the law, and to beggar the workers of Australia in a most reprehensible manner.
– The honorable senator has taken the somewhat unusual course of opposing a motion which is almost invariably passed as formal. He has taken the further unusual course of criticising a measure, and of stating that he is not aware that there is any real need for it, when he does not pretend for a” moment to know what its contents are.
– The Government have not told us.
– My .honorable friend refuses to give us an opportunity to tell him.
– No; that is n6t fair. I offered to sit down, and the Minister would not speak.
– No, I was prevented from speaking.
– My honorable colleague took the usual course of moving his motion as a formal motion. It would have been a most unusual thing for him to attempt to explain the provisions of a measure on the motion for its introduction. I complain that if Senator Neild had only permitted the introduction of the Bill and waited until my honorable colleague had had an opportunity to deliver his speech in moving the second reading, he would have been supplied with all the information that could be required.
– If that had been done the honorable senator would not have had a chance to advertise himself.
– Order !
– Senator Neild has declared, without sufficient knowledge, that there is no need for this measure, and I wish to tell him that the Bill is being introduced because Mr. Justice Higgins, the President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court, has discovered that he has not sufficient power to properly and adequately discharge his duties in connexion with that Court.
– We told the honorable senator that when he was dealing with the Bill last year.
– Senator Macfarlane seems to be overflowing with knowledge. The attention of the Government has been drawn to this fact by Mr. Justice Higgins,. and the aim and object of theBill is to endow the President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court with the necessary powers to enable him to effectively and completely carry out the provisions of the Excise Tariff (Agricultural Machinery) Act of 1906 which he is charged with the responsibility of administering in this connexion. I submit that that alone is a sufficient justification for the introduction of the measure. I do not wish to anticipate the remarks of my honorable colleague, but it will be found that the object of the Bill is to enable the Judge of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court to compel the production of witnesses and documents. Senator Neild, who is usually fair and reasonable, has complained that the Government say that the matter to which he has referred is sub judice, and he has quoted in this connexion the remarks of the solicitor for some of the parties. The honorable senator seems to deny that the matter is sub judice, but I ask him whether it is not a fact that the question whether fair and reasonable wages are being paid to the employes of the manufacturer, to whom he referred, is at present before Mr. Justice Higgins, as the President of the Court ? Is not that the real question before the Court at this moment?
– No, an attempt to dodge the Excise duty.
– My honorable friend is not doing himself justice. He must admit that the real question before the Court is whether this manufacturer is paying fair and reasonable wages in accordance with the provisions of the Excise Tariff Act.
– Does the honorable senator think that that question requires much proof in view of the listof wages I have read?
– My honorable friend is not fair, because he must know that that is a question for the Judge of the Court to decide. He must know also that for an honorable senator, who cannot possibly be qualified to speak as to the fairness or otherwise of a rate of wages, to attempt to prejudice any manufacturer or discredit him by statements in the Senate, attacking the rates of wages he pays, is against the best traditions of Parliament, and is an unfair course for honorable senators to follow.
– Surely we can compare the wages paid by other manufacturers with those paid by McKay, and then draw our own conclusions ?
– Let me refer the honorable senator to the terms of the Act. Under section 2 it is provided -
That this Act shall not apply to goods manufactured by any person in any part of the Commonwealth under conditions as to the remuneration of labour which -
are declared by resolution of both Houses of Parliament to be fair and reasonable, or
are in accordance with an industrial award under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904, or
are in accordance with the terms of an industrial agreement filed under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904, or -
And then we come to the present application before the President of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court.
So at the present moment the application before the Court is for the President of the Court to declare whether the rates of wages paid by this particular manufacturer are fair and reasonable.
– Why not collect the Excise in the meantime?
– Because the Government must be just, and must permit manufacturers to avail themselves of the four courses provided in the Act to secure exemption. The point I am dealing with at the present moment is as to whether the question of the rates of wages is not sub judice. I submit that it is irrefutable that the only question before the Court at the present moment is whether the rates of wages paid by this manufacturer are fair and reasonable.
– The other question is also before the Court-that if they are not fair and reasonable he must pay the Excise.
– Undoubtedly ; but we should not, by anything we say in Parliament, attempt to prejudice either of the parties to an application before the Court. It is the duty of any senator in my position to invite the Senate not to depart from its traditions, and not to attempt to prejudice either party before the Court, or influence that tribunal one way or the other. I do not propose to discuss whether the rates of pay are fair or otherwise, because I consider that if I did I should be exceeding my functions. Is it reasonable and right for the Senate to be asked to discuss the rates of wages when the Par-: liament has deputed the determination of that question to a judicial tribunal ? Senator Neild has seen fit to attack the Government because we have failed to collect the Excise duty. He must be acquainted with the term’s of the Act which permits an exemption to be obtained. It was to come into operation on the 1st of January, 1907, and, if necessary, a Court of Arbitration was to be constituted. Within a few months from the commencement of the Act a Court was duly constituted, and I believe Mr. Justice O’Connor made the judicious suggestion that the fixing of what both parties would consider to be fair wages was a matter which, if possible, should be settled by the Wages Board. In Victoria, the systemof Wages Boardshas been an eminently successful feature of the Factories. Act. With great wisdom, and with a desire to secure complete amity between employers and employes, Mr. Justice O’Connor made that suggestion. Accordingly, a Board was constituted. For four months it sat and discussed the matter in its various phases, but, ultimately, and I think most unfortunately, it was unable to arrive at a fair and common basis as regards the various trades which are related to the manufacture of agricultural machinery. Consequently the Arbitration Court has again been constituted, and 120 manufacturers are now calling upon its President to fix the rate of wages in order to secure the exemption to which they are entitled. It is the duty of the Government to offer every reasonable facility to enable the, manufacturers to secure that exemption. We have acted in fairness, and with no desire to prejudice the parties to a particular application. Then Senator Neild has made an attack upon the Government because we have failed to go to the expense of employing an accountant. For what purpose, pray ?
– To save the revenue.
– The question of revenue only comes in when the Excise duty has to be exacted on the number of machines which have been made. Thereis no difficulty in ascertaining that number. My honorable friend went further, and made it appear that the duty of an accountant would be to investigate thebooks of this firm for the purpose of dealing with the rates of wages. Whether a manufacturer carries on his business at a loss, or at a profit, has nothing to do with the rates of wages. He can only carry on his business subject to the terms of the Excise Tariff Act, and he can only get the exemption if he pays fair rates of wages.
– And with the graceof the Government.
– My honorable friend is quite mistaken. A manufacturer is entitled to an exemption, provided that he establishes his right in any one of the four prescribedways. It is urged as a sort of heinous crime that the Government havefailed to employ an accountant. That, I think, ‘is a most unreasonable suggestion. An investigation of the. books can havenothing to do with the rates of wages to be paid. According to the terms of the Act, the rates of wages must be fair and reasonable. In all these circumstances, what crime has the Government committed? Wehaveonly carriedout the terms of the Act.
– How many months elapsed before the Government took any action ?
– The Government have not taken any action yet.
– Of course, no action has been taken. It was our duty to allow a fair and reasonable time tothe manufacturers to establish their claim to an exemption. Who originated this legislation which has for its object the payment of adequate remuneration to the workers? It was originatedby the Government. Necessarily we have the fullest sympathy with the legislation, and desire to see that justice is done to the workers as well as to the manufacturers.
– But not to the revenue.
– Oh, hang the revenue !
– My honorable friend, of course, sees nothing but revenue in these matters. That is his fiscal faith.
– I want to see the men paid decent rates of wage. -
– Exactly ; and that is the object which the Government seek to achieve. I think I have shown conclusively that the subject-matter of my honorable friend’s address is essentially one which is sub judice, and does not call for heated attack or heated argument. I submit that a fairer course would be to permit my colleague to bring in this Bill, and when it is circulated honorable senators willI think see, not only thatit is necessary, but also that the objects which it seeks to achieve are commendable.
– Probably I would not have taken upon myself the responsibility of initiating the debate, but, as it has been initiated by Senator Neild, I propose to refer to one or two most extraordinary statements , by Senator Best. He has asked honorable senators to remember to whom they are indebted for this legislation, and he has expressed the entire sympathyof the Government with the purposes of the Art and the proposed Bill. I accept his assurance, but I must say that I would accept it with a great deal more confidence if the ‘Government, who are asking for additional powers, had made some effort, however feeble, to exercise the powers with which we have already intrusted them. When the Government came down with the first instal ment of the new protection it was cordially welcomed and supported on this side of the Chamber.
– Did the honorable senator support it?
– I am surprised at that. .
– M honorable friend, when he is a little more mature, will probably find less reason to be surprised. We opposed the enormous amount of protective assistance which was being given to certain industries; but we said, “ If the country has decided to shower Tariff favoursupon certain manufacturers we are prepared to go the whole way with any party who will see that the advantages so obtained shall be fairly distributed between the manufacturers and the workmen.” It was in that spirit that I and my. honorable friends on this side supported the Bill of last year. Senator Best - and I think, to some extent, Senator Neild - has confused the issue. For the purposes of this argument it does not seem to me to matter whether the men are being paid fair wages or not. The crux of the position is: Has the Act been carried out, and,. if not, ought we to give further powers to Ministers ? It was not for the Government to determine whether the wages paid were fair or not. What does the Act say? It says that on the 1st of January, 1907, unless, practically, a certificate of exemption has been obtained, a certain duty shall be payable. ‘ I ask the Minister whether since that date a single penny has been collected from the manufacturers of agricultural machines. Further, I ask whether they have made any effort in that direction ? Senator Best has said that the employment of an accountant is quite unnecessary, as, if required, there will be no difficulty in determining the number of machines which have been made. Why should we wait a single moment for the payment of an amount which is due to the Crown? The obligation wasnot thrown upon the Crown to disprove that the manufacturers were complying with certain conditions. The terms of the Act were simple. It provided that if, on the 1st of January, the manufacturers had not obtained a certificate of exemption, they must pay certain sums into the revenue. The charge against the Ministry is that they have neglected to collect the duty or made an effort in that direction.
Now I come back to the statement of the Minister.
– Have the certificates of exemption been issued?
-No certificate has been obtained, and the Ministry have not, as they ought to have done under the Act, collected the Excise duty.
– Some certificates were issued in South Australia, but not before May or June.
– I had particularly in my mind the matter that is taking place in Melbourne just now. I believe that my honorable friend, Senator W. Russell, is quite right in saying that certain certificates were issued in South Australia. But as against that I point out that there are some States in the Union which do not possess Arbitration Courts or Wages Boards where these implements are being made, where no application has been made for the exemption, and where no effort has been madeby the Government to collect the Excise. The most extraordinary statement in the whole of Senator Best’s speech was that dealing with the suggested appointment of an accountant. He said that there was no necessity to make such an appointment, because the Government could at any time easily ascertain the number of implements upon which the Excise was collectable. That is to say the Government, according to the Minister, couldeasily ascertain the number of machines upon which the manufacturers were entitled to contribute towards the revenue. But it is a curious thing that so recently as the 15th August last, when the Minister was asked to supply information as to the number of implements which had been manufactured, and which were liable to Excise, he could not tell us. My honorable friend was asked the following questions by Senator Chataway -
The answer given to question 3 was as follows : -
It is not practicable without great delay and exhaustive inquiry to give any estimate.
If it was not practicable, without an exhaustive inquiry, to tell the Senate on the 15th August the value of the machines manufactured, how can the Minister say now that it is an easy thing to determine the number of machines upon which the Excise is collectable? My view is this: that from the 1 st January of this year the Government ought to have called upon the manufacturers to pay that Excise duty, leaving them later on, as is done with ‘ regard to the Customs, and under a multiplicity of other Acts, to secure a refund of the money if it was not properly collected. Senator Trenwith laughs. Of course I can understand that he does not like to have anything done which might injure Mr. McKay, whose champion he has always been in the Senate.
– May I “be permitted to say that I have not been the champion of any man. So far as I have been the champion of anything in reference to this question, it has been of the industry, in which thousands of men have been employed.
– I am obliged for the explanation. If my honorable friend resents having his advocacy of the interests of Mr. McKay referred to in that way, I can only say-
– As a man, I do not care any more for Mr. McKay than for any one else, but for the industry in which he is engaged, I do care.
– The honorable senator was so well armed with literature, and made himself so well acquainted with the McKay industry when the matter was under discussion last year, that I may be pardoned if I assume that he had special sources of information.
– I had the same information as the honorable senator might have had.
– If Mr. McKay resents his name being brought prominently into our debates, he has only himself to thank, for he is the only manufacturer who has sought to evade the legislation of this country by removing his works from one place to another. If, therefore, he is suspected byany decent body of men, he has only himself to blame.
– The honorable senator is rather rough on private enterpr ise.
– There is no stronger advocate than I am of checks being placed on the efforts of any enterprise, public or private, to exploit the public interest. The immediate crux of the charge against the
Government, if I may use that term without wishing to be offensive to the VicePresident of the Executive Council, is not whether Mr. McKay or any one else is paying a decent wage, but whether the Government have allowed an Act of Parliament to remain inoperative, and whether they have jeopardized the revenue by so doing. Because, if any of these manufacturers have failed to obtain an exemption certificate, the revenue will have been jeopardized. There can be no doubt about that. The Minister’s answer to Senator Chataway showed that exhaustive inquiries would be necessary to determine the amount of revenue which those manufacturers are liable to pay to the Government. What have the Government done to protect the revenue? Simply nothing. The Act passed by this Parliament was specific. It contained nothing about allowing a time of grace. It simply provided that from the1st January, 1907, this Excise should be payable unless certain certificates of exemption were obtained. Those certificates were not obtained. Therefore the simple duty which the Government had to discharge was to call upon the manufacturers to pay the Excise. I only hope that the debate which has taken place, and matters which have occurred outside, will stimulate the Government in the administration of the Act, and will inspire them with a little of that courage in which, it seems to me, they are sadly lacking.
[4.52]. - I think that the honorable senator who first spoke upon this motion, took advantage of that opportunity to give expression to some views which he thought he might not secure another chance of expressing for some time. I had absolutely no idea that such a discussion would be initiated. I thought the motion would be dealt with as purely formal, and when you, sir, called out the business, I said, “ formal.”
– I called, “ not formal.”
– I did not hear the honorable senator, nor did my colleague.
– I said it quite plainly.
– I do not dispute the honorable senator’s statement.
– I was anxious to hear what the Minister had to say about the Bill.
– It is a most unusual procedure to take exception to a Bill at this stage. I understood that the matter would be purely formal, and it would have been out of order for me to say a word on submitting the motion. So far as the Bill itself is concerned, as I said yesterday, it simply proposes to give to the tribunal that’ deals with these matters powers similar to those enjoyed by the Courts with regard to obtaining evidence the production of documents, the appointment of assessors,and matters of that sort. I think that when honorable senators see the Bill, as they will do in the course of a few hours, they will realize that it is a necessary measure for clothing the President of the Court with the full powers essential to enable him to investigate the questionssubmitted to him.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 9th October, vide page 4393) :
– I move -
That the schedule be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following new schedule -
When progress was reported yesterday, I pointed out to the Committee that, owing to the fact that we had cut out certain items from the first schedule, it would be necessary to make amendments both in the second schedule and in clause 2: In the first schedule, as the Bill came up to us, the amounts to be paid totalled £533,000. It was recognised by the Government, however, that, although we might pay the bounties for five years, eight years, ten years, and for the various other periods mentioned, from the1st
July, 1907, it was not likely that the whole of the moneys authorized to be paid under the schedule would be claimed or paid. Consequently, in the second schedule, the Government only asked for an amount, up to the 30th June, 1908, not to exceed £60,000 ; up to the 30th June, 1909, a total amount not to exceed £118, 000; up to the 30th June, 1910, a total amount not to exceed £175,000, and so on to the end of theperiod, for which the bounties are to be granted, the 30th June, 1922, when the total ‘amount for which the Government asked to be authorized to spend was £412,500. That amount, however, is less, as I said before than the total £533,000 represented by the first schedule. Now, the Committee have struck out from the first schedule mohair, copra, and tobacco, the proposed bounties on which totalled £115,000. As I said yesterday, seeing that the amount in the first schedule is not equal to the amount in the second, it is necessary for us, having altered the first schedule, to alter the second proportionately. In other words, we require to alter the second schedule to an amount bearing the proportion that £412,500 bears to £533,000. In order that honorable senators may see how what I propose will work out, I have prepared a memorandum which has been circulated. It is as follows -
The gross amount appropriated under Schedule I. when the Bill was received from the House of Representatives bore to the gross amount asked for under Schedule II. the proportion of 533,000 to 412,500, i.e. 5,330 to 4,125.
Therefore, the amount to be deducted from the total of Schedule II. on account of the items omitted should not be£115,000, but 4125-533oths. of that amount, viz.,£89,000.
The amount under Schedule ii. will therefore be£412,500-£89,000, equal to £323,500.
– Suppose the full amount of. bounty is claimed?
– Then the Government will have to come to Parliament for a special appropriation. But it is not expected that the total will be claimed. We look upon a claim for the total amount as being beyond the range of probable results. In the circumstances, I ask the Committee to adopt this alteration as a consequential amendment. I regret the necessity for it, because I am sorry that honorable senators have seen fit to strike out certain items in the first schedule.
– It is not necessary for the honorable senator to move the omission of the whole schedule, but only that the second column be left out and the new column substituted for it.
– By leave I will amend my amendment as you, sir, suggest.
Amendment amended accordingly, and agreed to.
Schedule, as amended, agreed to.
Postponed clause 2 consequentially amended and agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Debate resumed from 9th October (videpage 4381), on motion by Senator Best -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– In moving the second reading of this measure yesterday, the Vice-President of the’ Executive Council referred somewhat triumphantly to the criticism which had been launched from various quarters of the globe at the parent measure when it was first introduced to the notice of the Senate. He seemed in some way or other to suggest that the Government had emerged from a mighty conflict to reap the rewards of a rich and glorious triumph. One is almost inclined to think that theself -congratulations of the honorable senator were a little premature, when he isso soon under the necessity of asking for an amending Bill. I only refer tothat now in order to suggest to the honorable senator and his friends on that side of the Chamber that they would perhaps profit if they were a little more attentive to criticism directed from this side of the Chamber, and a little less inclined to become irritable when . any of us sitting on your left, Mr.
President, venture to make a suggestion intended bond fide for the purpose of improving a measure.
– Was that the only side of the Chamber from which criticisms came?
– I shall refer shortly to the criticisms of those who, whilst predicting that the Bill would be a failure, still elected to support it. At present I am referring to the criticisms which the VicePresident of the Executive Council had in his mind when he gave us a very pretty picture of the strenuous conflict in which he had been engaged. In order to show that we on this side have some reason to congratulate ourselves upon the action taken when the first Bill was introduced, I should like to give one or two quotations from speeches which were made by those who were presumably the authors of the Act, when it was first introduced to Parliamentary and public notice. A gentleman intimately associated with it - Sir William Lyne - ushered it in with these and many other similar words : -
I am sure that the Act will do all I have said and more beside. It will effectually prevent attempts to establish monopolies. More than that, the fact that such an Act is placed upon the statute-book will instil into the minds of those who might be inclined to promote monopolies a fear of the penalties that might fall upon them if they did so. It will have a good moral effect in that respect.
The same distinguished statesman, a little later, dealing with the great public evil which had arisen in the United States owing to the action of the railway companies, pointed out that the railways here were happily owned by the States, but added -
We have private shipping companies which can act in a precisely similar manner, and it is in respect to them this Act will apply.
A little later he affirmed that this Bill would touch the sugar company. The VicePresident of the Executive Council, who was not then a Minister, gave the Bill his benediction in these words -
It is a thoroughly well-thought-out measure, and wise in its conception.
– I say so now.
– The honorable senator added -
This Bill is a wise and peaceable legislative provision, available to meet emergencies as they arise.
I invite the attention of honorable senators to the fact that, at that time of vast enthusiasm, and of a great deal of nicely worded phraseology, which ushered the Bill in, the Government absolutely refused to listen to any suggestions that the Bill was imperfect, and ought to be improved, They scouted suggestions of that kind almost as if they were the emanations of the enemy.
– Honorable senators opposite sought to make it less perfect by making it less effective.
-That statement is absolutely without foundation. Not once, but a dozen times - and knowing something of the tactics of debate I am aware that if what I say is not correct there are men in this Chamber sufficiently studious to turn up the records-
– Can the honorable senator mention any amendment suggested on the other side to make the Bill more effective?
– It was sufficient to fulfil the obligations which fall upon honorable senators on this side of the Chamber to point out the defects in the Bill. We were not called upon to do anything more. The prime function which rests upon the Government, so far as legislation is concerned, is to bring down its proposals. The chief obligation upon the Opposition is to look into them and see whether or not they will accomplish the object at which they are aimed.
– And not improve them?
-I do not say anything of the kind. A Minister can and does have his trained officials to assisthim in the office week after week, ifnecessary. in the preparation of a Bill. Does the honorable senator suppose that the Opposition is prepared to employ skilled assistance of that kind in order to come forward with a newly-drafted measure ?
– I was talking about suggestions.
– Suggestion after suggestion was made, and argument after argument addressed to the Senate, to show that that Bill would not work. Every suggestion was brushed to one side with the cheery optimism ofmy honorable friend, who said that “ this is a thoroughly well thought-out measure, and wise in its conception.”
– I asked the honorable senator to supply any suggestion made by the other side for its improvement.
– We fulfilled our obligation when we pointed out the weak. spots in the Bill. It was for the Government then to have conferred with its trained draftsmen to see how to improve it.
– Perhaps the Government did not believe in the Bill from the start ?
– I am not going to suggest that, and I am sure that Senator Walker does not really mean it. I absolutely believe that the Government, when they introduced the measure did so with the bond fide intention of grappling with the difficulty which they saw. I believe to-day that in theory the Government are keenly anxious to do the same, but I am a little disappointed that they have not tested the efficiency of the Act which was “ thoroughly well thought out and wise in its conception.” I desire to remind honorable senators, as the basis of my chief remarks, of the origin of the principal Act. Here, again, I am in the unfortunate position of referring to a gentleman whose name appears to excite Senator Trenwith somewhat- - I mean Mr. McKay.
– I’ do not care how the honorable senator mentions Mr. McKay, but the honorable senator charged me with being his special champion. I have not been the special champion of any man.
– Senator Trenwith acted in such a strenuous and stalwart way that I thought that he was entitled to be called a champion. But if he objects to the term I readily withdraw it.
– I do not object to the term “champion.” I think it is fairly applied.
– We all know that the Bill was brought in as a matter of. urgency, because it was alleged that we were threatened with the importation of 2,000 harvesters. We remember the pathetic, the perfervid appeal of a onetime Attorney-General, when he almost implored the other Chamber, metaphorically with tears in his eyes, not to depart to the enjoyment of its Christmas dinner before it had passed that, measure, knowing that if it did so hundreds - I am not sure that he did not say thousands - would be without that very necessary meal. Now, by an irony of fate, so strange that it is almost like poetic justice, we suddenly find the Government bringing in special legislation to deal, amongst others, with the very man whose alleged interests ostensibly, but really whose adroit engineering at that time, caused the introduction of the Australian Industries Preservation Bill. I wish to make a simple declaration which I made when that Bill was before the Senate, which I have ‘repeated on many occasions since, and propose to repeat now - that there is no individual in Australia, or in the Universe, who can be more sincere than I am -in the declaration that I am prepared to exhaust all the resources of Parliament to check the operations of combines working to the detriment of the public.
– The Universe is a big order.
– It may be, but I use that expression because, as I think I can show later on, the one . big social evil with which we will be called upon to grapple is the irresistible and inevitable tendency towards the aggregation of capital.
– If it is inevitable, how can we get at it?
– I do not wish to “get at it” in the way to which my honorable friend refers. The Senate is not a predatory body. All that we desire to do is to regulate it.
– The honorable senator knows what I mean.
– What I wish to point out is that when the Excise Tariff Bill of 1906 was introduced, the prime force behind it was the fear, real or alleged, that we were threatened with some wholesale importations. It was said that these importations were going to’ take place at the instance of a big American or Canadian trust. ‘ The law, as passed, was primarily aimed at trusts outside of Australia, but it is idle, and worse than idle, to attempt to fight trusts outside of Australia if at the same time we are prepared to foster trusts within. There is good reason why we should turn particular attention to trusts, even though they should be only embryonic, within Australia. We can get at trusts outside of Australia by means of the Tariff, but those which are inside are specially protected by the Tariff. They owe a special obligation to the community, which confers large favours upon them through the Tariff, and we have a right to see that those obligations are honestly and faithfully redeemed. I must say that, so far as the existing law is concerned, nobody is at the present moment ‘in a position to say authoritatively whether it is imperfect or not, and why ? It is because the Government have absolutely failed to test it. If they have made any effort in that direction, they have themselves to blame if honorable senators are not aware of the fact, for, so far as we know, no effort has been made to make the Billoperative, or to see whether it would fail.
– How can we go into Court if we have not the necessary evidence? The honorable senator would be the first to lash out at the Government if they attempted to do so.
– No, I should not. I promise the Government that, irrespective of what may be the peculiar political circumstances of the time, they will find me behind them in every effort they make to give effect to the law for the suppression of injurious monopolies. When the Minister asks me how the Government can gol into Court without the necessary evidence, I reply by’ asking the honorable senator how the Government can expect to get information in a case of this kind unless they do go into Court. The honorable senator has told us that the Government could not get the necessary information, but what did he disclose a little later on ? He explained that the Government, with a degree of innocence with which I did not credit them, applied to the suspected parties for the information on which they hoped to found an indictment. Such innocence might be commendable in certain circumstances, but. one does not look for a display of it from those who are charged with the administration of the law. The suspected persons would know the moment a Government official came to them what his purpose was, and to ask them to furnish the information upon which a prosecution could be founded was either sublime innocence, or a mere waste of time.’ It is not in that way that we shall get information. This reminds me of one of the principal arguments I addressed to the Senate when the Australian Industries Preservation Bill was under consideration. I wished at that time to know how we were to prove intent. I said that there was only one way of doing it, and that was to judge by the act and its consequences. What is. the position to-day. I do not know what information the Government may have been able to obtain outside of official channels, but I do know that, with regard to coal, oil, and shipping, there is certain definite information available, which ‘ I venture to suggest brings the vends’ or combines concerned fairly within the four corners pf the Act.
– I think that we had that information about the Confectionery Trust also.
– I agree with the honorable senator, and perhaps the Brick Trust and other trusts might be included.
– And able and skilled lawyers say “ No.”
– It is a remarkable thing that, although less than twelve months ago,- on the advice of all the skilled lawyers of the country at their disposal, since we may assume that the Governmentwould secure the best legal advice in framing such a Bill, and with the assistance of the present Mr. Justice Isaacs, who possesses one of the most subtle brains in Australia; we were informed that we were being asked to pass what would be an. effective measure, we are now, when the Ministry are called upon to administer it, suddenly told that lawyers of equal skill and ability advise that the Act is useless.
– No, we have never said that.
– That it is so much idle ink scattered inartistically upon so much waste-paper.
– They had their weather eye on the foreigner on that occasion, and overlooked the gentleman at home.
– No. Speaking as a layman, it seems to me that, if there is a weak spot in the Act, it applies to one just as much as to the other. The Minister overlooked one matter in dealing with this question. He complained with some show of disappointment, if not of grief, that the injured parties would not come forward and supply the Government with information. I say that Messrs. Scott, Fell have done so ; they have given the information, and published it in1 the press. With regard to the Oil Combine, other people have done the same thing, and it would be the easiest thing in the world to find out whether .or not a combine exists, and is allowing rebates. That could be proved- in this way. I understand that the system on which the Oil Combine works is to supply their oil to customers and allow a rebate to those who stock only their commodity. If a* case were brought before the Court, and every distributor of the Combine’s oil were put in the witness-box on oath, we should have no difficulty in finding out the truth. Whilst one man, if he stood alone, and his mind was morally warped, might be pre- pared to perjure himself, when each would know that there might be fifty witnesses, none would dare to do so, because they would recognise that, amongst fifty, we should not have to go far to find one who would tell the truth. And, faced with a prosecution for perjury, self-interest would induce witnesses to tell the truth who might not otherwise be prepared to do so.
– It would be a hard case if we had to subpoena fifty witnesses in order to get the truth.
– That is so; but I am asking whether it is not worth our while to make some effort to give effect to the provisions of the Act. I do not say that there would be no difficulties in the way. I cheerfully recognise all the difficulties which must confront any Government called upon to administer an Act of this kind. I recognise the adroitness, ability, and resource of’ the owners of capital working in this large way. But that does not excuse us for sitting down and bemoaning the fact that nothing has been done when we are not attempting to do anything. I was referring to the fact that the Minister has complained that individuals who claim to have been injured are slow to come forward and give the Government information. There may or may not be some justification for the complaint, but I direct the attention of the Vice-President of the Executive Council to the fact that there is another body to be considered that is not in a position to come forward, and that is the general public. It is one thing to say that a Combine may be injuring an individual, and that the individual, because he is in the power of the Combine, declines to come forward with information ; but what about the injury done to the trade and general interests of Australia? The public is not a corporate body, but it may be suffering the. greatest injury of all. Who is to represent the public if it is not the Government who are charged with the administration of the Act?” I mention this specially because it seems to me, noting the little developments of later days, developments which have mad© greater strides in America, that possibly a subsequent, and perhaps early, development of the trust movement will be a tendency on the part of the controllers of capital to arrive at terms with their employes for a distribution of profits, relying upon the fact that, having established peace, as it were, within their ranks, they will be free to exploit the public. In dealing with a matter which came before the Arbitration Court in New South Wales the other day, Mr. Justice Heydon addressed some very pertinent observations, which bear on this matter, to the parties before him. He said that there was -
An erroneous impression that employers and employes had only to arrive at an agreement for the apportionment of the profits of an industry between them to secure the sanction of the Court. He said, however, it was necessary for the Court to interfere in the interests of the public. Unions of masters and men were in a position to give expression to their views, but the public were not organized, and could not come forward. The Court must therefore protect them.
I apply every word of that reasoning to the Government in this connexion. The public is not in a position to come forward if their interests are being injured; there is no one entitled to. speak for them but the Government, and I contend that,, in a case of this kind, it is not sufficient to say that the individual injured declines to speak. The question for the Government to consider is : Is an injury being inflicted upon the public?
– My honorable friend can see that the Government do not shirk their responsibility. I have informed honorable senators of our intention to appoint a staff for the special purpose of dealing with this matter.
– That is after the Bill is passed.
– That is the object of the Bill.
– I am dealing at present with the Minister’s complaint that individuals who claim to have been injured by trusts do not come forward to give evidence.
– It is a matter of evidence.
– I say that it is immaterial whether one individual comes forward to give ‘ evidence or not. Where trusts are organized in the highest degree, it is probable that they will be in a position to- prevent injured individuals giving information of the kind.
– Can the honorable senator not see, also, that, while a person may have good grounds for making a complaint, he may not- be able to produce a tittle of evidence on which a conviction could be secured.
– That is perfectly true; but I am at present endeavouring to reply to the” complaint made by the VicePresident of the Executive Council, that persons who are said to have been injured will not supply the Government with evidence. I say that it is not their duty to do so. The duty lies upon the Government to get the necessary evidence where any restraint of trade is brought about, and any detriment to Australian industries is inflicted, so that certain penalties might follow. I say that whether one or fifty persons are not prepared voluntarily to give information, it is still the duty of the Government to make an honest and strenuous effort to carry out the provisions of the law.
– On evidence.
– That can only be carried out on evidence.
– And if we cannot get evidence under existing conditions, we must provide machinery to get it.
– We may assume certain things, and may infer that a trust exists. Have honorable senators any doubt about the existence of a Coal Trust when the agreement has been published in the press? Will any member of the Senate, except for the purposes of political debate, tell me that he does not honestly and sincerely believe in the existence of a Coal Combine when the agreement under which the Combine works has been published, and names have been given ? And yet there is no move on the part of the Government.
– Is there anything in’ the agreement which would convict the Combine of a breach of the Australian Industries Preservation Act?
– I certainly think there is, taken in conjunction with the fact that they decline to sell coal to certain individuals.
– That is not in the agreement.
– I am taking the whole of the facts into account. There is the published agreement, showing that there is a working understanding between the coal companies, and that, taken in conjunction with the fact that they refuse to sell coal to certain individuals, is sufficient justification for saying that there is a restraint of trade.
– But that is not in the agreement.
– I thank my honorable friend for his interjection. I am taking the agreement, plus the other facts to which I have referred.
– I asked Senator Symon when he was speaking on the Bill if a refusal to sell could be said to be a restraint of trade, and he said that he did not think so.
– I can readily understand that in one circumstance a refusal to sell is not a restraint of trade; but a refusal to sell systematically to certain people, unless they insure that somebody else shall get the carriage of the article, is another thing. However, the province of the Senate is not to attempt to adjudicate on such matters, but to legislate. If the Bill does not deal with a case of that kind it is hopelessly bad.
– Does not the honorable senator’s argument imply that every man is guilty until he proves himself to be innocent?
– No; but that is what the Bill does. It says that so long as one proves the existence of a trust he is entitled to assume as proved the fact that its competition is unfair.
– But if the honorable senator urges the Government to enforce the law when they have no evidence, surely he implies that every man is guilty until he proves himself to be innocent.
– I do not do anything of the kind. When a man is put in the dock, I do not assume that he is guilty, but I put a man on trial if I suspect him. I have a very strong suspicion regarding several of these big aggregations of capital, and that suspicion is shared by the Minister. The only question involved is whether or not the Government have shown timidity in proceeding to work - whether they have not sought, perhaps by over-caution, to get a complete chain of evidence before they ventured to move.
– There is circumstantial evidence.
– My honorable friend has only to read the language of the Act to see that its framers recognised that the Government would have to rely upon circumstantial ‘ evidence. For instance, a charge that a combine, acted “ with intent “ is not likely to be .proved by means of documents or admissions. ‘ It can only be proved by circumstantial evidence. I believe that the method which the Government propose in this Bill is a mistake. At the same time, I recognise that it is not possible to amend the Bill except by practically recasting its provisions. It is proposed - before any litigation has been commenced - to intrust a departmental officer with the power to examine documents belonging to a suspected firm. That, I think, would be a very proper .power to give to a Court. I do not think that an inquiry ought to be conducted in a holeandcorner manner by an official of that class. I cannot become enthusiastic over the Bill, because I believe that it is a mistake to that extent. In my opinion, every power taken in the Bill would be a right and proper one to confer upon a -Judge.
– Why is it right in the Customs Act and wrong in this Bill ?
– Has the honorable senator had. any admission from me that it is right in the Customs Act?
– Does the honorable senator deny it ?
– I believe <that I shall conform to the Standing Orders if I discuss this Bill rather than the Customs Act. I am not discussing the Bill from the stand-point of an opponent. Those who are charged with the administration of the Act have admitted that so far as they can determine it is a failure. Surely there is an obligation upon us to see whether we cannot perfect the legislation, and not merely to swallow the first proposal which is brought down. Do honorable senators think that we are likely to get the best results by allowing the inquiries to be made by a nonjudicial officer? Ought not that power to be confided to the Judge who will be called upon to inquire into any complaint ? That is the view I take, but I do not see that it is possible to suggest an amendment. I believe that in order to accomplish that object it would be necessary to recast the Bill. The responsibility of going on with or amending the Bill rests with its authors. If the Government proceed with the measure in this way, as I have no doubt they will, they must not be restless if they are reminded of the criticisms which/were directed at its provisions when they bring down the first of that continuous instalment of amendments which Senator Best has foreshadowed. I believe that the Bill is framed on wrong lines, but, holding a very serious view as to the growth of these combinations and trusts, I am not prepared to take any Step which would in the slightest way impede the action of the Government in trying to control them. Further than that I am not even prepared to give the Government an excuse for not going ahead. They seem to me to have been rather anxious to find a reason for not carrying out the law. I am not going to give them any justification for putting forward that reason. Perhaps honorable senators will bear with me whilst I deal with the position of trusts as a whole. This is npt only the most serious industrial problem, but also the most serious social problem with which we have to grapple. These aggregations of capital are the result of economic forces which we cannot control.
– Hear, hear.
– I anticipated that cheer, and I shall now proceed to give my honorable friend another opportunity to applaud.
– I wish it would come from the whole of the Opposition.
– I venture to say that every word I have uttered so far wiLl be cordially indorsed by every honorable senator on this side. If there is a party in the Senate which must accept as a serious responsibility the task of devising some means to control trusts it is the party that sits on this side. These aggregations we could not stop if we would, and I venture to say that we would not stop them if we could. They exist as the result of industrial developments, mechanical inventions, and great advances in the arts and sciences, and it appears to me that they must go on. Three courses appear to me to be open to us. It is a great habit with my socialistic friends opposite to point to these aggregations of capital. I believe that I state their position, correctly when I say that they point to the tendency of capital to accumulate as the. chief reason for the nationalization of industries.
– We do hot advocate the nationalization of industries, but only of monopolies.
– I understand that at present the party put forward as being within what they regard as practical reach, the nationalization of monopolies, but that ultimately their aim is the nationalization of industries generally.
– Oh, no.
– I am very glad to hear that. There are not so many converts to be made as I thought there were, and consequently the obligation on this side is lighter than I anticipated. It is sufficient for my argument if I say that the object of my .socialistic friends is to nationalize monopolies, and they argue that, with these aggregations going on, when the various branches of an industry are brought under one control, it is then ripe for nationalization. It is an obligation upon those who are antiSocialists to devise means to control trusts. I frankly admit that there are only three roadways down which we have to travel. The - first is nationalization; the second would be to control’ the trusts ; and the third would be for the trusts to control us. I put the third one by as being at present unthinkable. I refuse to believe that at this time of day, and in a community eminently fitted to grapple with legislative problems, we shall fail to devise means to control trusts.
– In America they have been very unsuccessful.
– The honorable senator has been deploring that failure.
– I have been deploring the failure of the Government to give effect to a measure which was .wisely conceived.
– I am afraid that if the Opposition were on the Treasury bench they would be equally as great a failure as the Government.
– My honorable friend will see that I am trying to state the case, and to deal with a large economic question as fairly as I can. Eliminating that third course, we are narrowed down to two, and it becomes a question of nationalization versus control. My honorable friends on the other side being advocates of nationalization, are not under the same stress as are anti-Socialists to see whether we can control these big industries.
– What does the honorable senator mean by anti-Socialists?
– I mean my honorable friends on this side of the Chamber - those- who are pledged to see that fair play is given to private enterprise. It appears to me that, in proportion as trusts flourish, the position of my socialistic friends is strengthened. If I saw that there was a trust which it was not possible to control I would immediately enrol myself under the banner of the nationalizes. There is no alternative ‘ to control but nationalization. Those who are not believers in nationalization have to accept the great responsibility of devising some means by which trusts can be controlled. It is for that reason that I repudiate the suggestion which has’ been made in certain quarters - I am glad to say not in this Chamberthat in some way or other the party to which I belong is not unfriendly to big trusts and combinations. There is no anti-Socialist- who will be slow to approve of every means which is devised or suggested for the control of aggregations of capital, when once they seek to work in a way detrimental to the public interests. Socialists are not under the same stress nf finding remedies to control trusts as are the anti-Socialists, and I support that view to some extent by a reference to the utterances and general demeanour of honorable senators when the Australian Industries Preservation Bill was first submitted here. It will be recollected that the members of the Labour Party said frankly that they were going to support that Bill, but that they had no faith that it would prove effective; indeed, they predicted that it would be a failure. Some of them said that they were supporting the measure because, knowing that it would be a failure, they wanted to give it a trial, and to let it be an object-lesson to people that by legislation ‘ they could not control trusts, thus making the way easier for themselves to preach the doctrine of. Socialism. It is to this side that the people have to look for a party strenuous in its efforts and resolved to find some means to curb the injurious action of big. aggregations of capital.
– And, consequently, honorable senators opposite will be strongest supporters of the Bill?
– It does not follow, because Ave seek to control combinations, that we should, therefore, seek to put upon the statute-book a law as to which, twelve months afterwards, the authors of it come down and say it is futile.
– The honorable senator believes in mixing his own medicines.
– I want to mix some medicine for some one else. If I thought that by an amendment of the clauses of this Bill we could achieve what I believe to be the right objective, I would do so. Probably the best course would be to throw it out at this juncture, with a view to getting a better measure.
– What does the honorable senator propose?
– The only effective course would be to give the powers which, under this measure, it is proposed to confer upon the Comptroller-General, to a Court.’
– Then the honorable senator thinks the legislation would be perfect and complete.
– I do not say that anything human can be “ perfect and complete,” but that course would be far better in itself, more effective in its results, and would appeal to a larger measure of public sympathy and support than will a proposal that hands, over to a departmental officer such . extraordinary powers as these. I do not condemn them merely because they are novel. I do not attach much weight to an argument against any proposal on the ground of its novelty. You might searchthe statute-books of every country on earth for a remedy for the evils with which we desire to cope, and not find one. These combinations are quite a modern develop ment, and it is natural, when you find modern developments growing up-
– As a result of heavy Customs taxation. Senator MILLEN. - They are probably fostered by that kind of legislation ; but, at the same time, we have to be practical, and Ido not wishto drag in a matter that is highly contentious. I am trying to deal with thesubject in as. impassioned a manner as is possible for a man of my temperament. What I want to make clear - and’. I should like to think that I echo the sentiments of honorable senators on this side when I say it - is that a party that stands ‘for liberty’ for every private enterprise, must share the responsibility’ of finding some means of controlling trusts. When we speak of liberty for private enterprise there is no suggestion that , such liberty should be allowed to degenerate into licence,” and no suggestion that the freedom which we give to private enterprise shall be read as a warrant for the spoliation of the general public.
.- I do not propose to engage in the very pleasant occupation - somewhat common in debating societies - of saying, “ I told you so,” on’ this occasion. However much some of us may have pointed out that we had no faith in the Bill - now the principal Act - which was before the Senate last year, and which had for its object the dealing with trusts, I do not think that any of us doubted the honesty and bonafides of the Government which brought it forward. We believed them to be genuine and whole-hearted in their effort to cope with what they recognised to be a public evil. It is no discredit to them that they have failed. It merely adds another testimony to the fact that they were not correct in saving that you can wipe out these trusts,or can, by legislation, effectively control them. I echo what has been said by Senator Millen, in regarding trusts as a natural result of our economic conditions. We shall continue to have them so long as those conditions” are created and continued, and we can only get rid of them when we alter the conditions which have bred them. As to legislation of this class, I think now, as I thought last year, that, although by legislation we may be able to curb the trusts when they adopt methods of an extreme character, . and which outrage public feeling, and decent methods of commercial dealing, as fast as you close up one gap made by the trusts, they will find another. You may declare one sort of combination illegal, and the trusts will find another means. Therefore, the Parliament which sets out to curb these trusts has to be continually adapting its laws to meet the altered circumstances. Only by so doing can any Parliament pursue a policy which will be effective in controlling trusts. Legislation of this character, whatever it does, will have a very limited success. That has been the ease in the. United States.. The Bureau of Corporations; in its report for 1906, page 75, says thisIt is. impossibleto prevent such’ abuses, by purely penal legislation. This does not mean that the enforcement of the anti-trust law has not been beneficial, for it has. Its enforcement has compelled some respect for the law, which, until recently, was whollv’ lacking. ‘But so far as effecting a permanent change of the conditions which that law denounces, but little has been , done. The imposition of a penalty upon a combination simply drives the men in that combination to the formation of another device for accomplishing the same purpose, and this for the reason that combination is an industrial necessity.
– In America, they do not discriminate between agood trust arid a bad one.
– That makes their net wider than outs. The mere fact of being a trust constitutes a breach of the law.
– They are trying to stop combinations of all kinds. Here, we are merely trying to prevent them from becoming injurious.
– The passage concludes -and hence will be engaged in despite penal legislation.
Itis the methodsofcombinations that are aimed atatinourlegislation.In
America, the legislation aims at the combination itself. A trust is, of course, a mere epitome of that competition of which Senator Walker is such an admirer. The only substitute for the trust system is that co-operation to which the opponents of Socialism object. Given the present economic conditions, and the only system that can successfully cope with the trust method is co-operation. That co-operation must be either the co-operation of private capital or co-operation by the public. You can only have the two forms when you have industry conducted under modern economic conditions. You have to make up your mind, either for co-operation for the benefit of the private capitalist, or co-operation for ihe public good. A trust does not make for competition. A trust kills competition, and becomes co-operation for the benefit of private capital. Our policy of Socialism amounts to the same thing, except that it means co-operation for the public good. That is the only difference. Both systems involve combinations of capital. The first Act of this character that this Parliament passed has, apparently, proved futile.
– It, has not been tried.
– It has not been tried in one sense. But I give the present Government credit to this extent : . that I believe that if they saw a chance of a successful prosecution ,of any trust whose operations have been complained of, they would initiate such a prosecution. I cannot conceive of any reason why they should fail to do so.
– “-Hear, hear.
– In the first place, I believe the Government to be one of honest men. I do not think that any trust in Australia could buy them. Indeed, I do not think that there is a Government in Australia that any trust could buy. No honorable senator would deny that it would be a popular thing for any Government to take action against a trust carrying on operations in this country. Consequently, on the score of popularity - and most Governments are supposed to seek popularity - the best thing this Government could do, in the eyes of the country, would be to prosecute certain trusts, that were active in Australia.. As the Government have not prosecuted any trust, I am forced to the conclusion that they believe that the law is not sufficient to enable them to. succeed if they did initiate a. prosecution. That forces me to the further conclusion, that some amendment of the law is necessary.
I listened carefully to the informative speech of the Vice-President of the Executive Council, and to the criticism directed against it by Senator Symon; and I must say that, in my opinion, the leader of the Opposition put up a very weak case against this Bill. Senator Symon’s main contention was that the present Act gives all the necessary powers if it is properly administered. He said, for instance, that it could be put in operation against the Coal Vend.- The honorable and ‘ learned senator said - “ If the Crown Law officers thought the facts surrounding the case were such as to warrant proceedings being taken, the existing legislation is ample. “ But- what does that mean? When Senator Millen moved the adjournment of the Senate with regard to the Coal Vend, the Vice-President of the Executive Council promised that the Government would review the position^ The Government had all the information brought forward by Senator Millen before them. I presume that they brought thai information before the Crown Law officers.
– Hear, hear.
– No prosecution followed. What are we to assume from that? Senator Millen said that the evidence^ was sufficient. Yet the Government has taken no action under the existing legislation. Why not? Surely we do not believe that the Coal Vend has bought . the Government? As the Government have taken no steps to prosecute, I am forced to the conclusion that the Government have been advised by the Crown Law officers that the present legislation is not sufficiently strong to enable a prosecution to be sustained. I cannot conceive that any other position can be maintained.
– If that be so, may we not assume that the evil that is going on is very slight, if it be an evil at all?
– The evil may be a big one, but the Government may be convinced that the evidence is not sufficient to sustain a prosecution under the existing law. I take it that if the Crown Law officers could make out a prima facie case they would not hesitate to recommend a prosecution ; and if they recommended a prosecution, I cannot see any reason why the Government should not take up the case. But the Government have not done so. They have brought down a Bill asking for greater powers. They must, therefore, be convinced that the existing legislation would not enable them to prove a case and secure a conviction. Senator Symon admitted, when Senator Best challenged it, that his interpretation of the limitation of the power of discovery in section 11 of the principal Act was not altogether sound, but went on to say that, whilst it was true that that section dealt only with individuals, and the powers under it were not conferred upon the Attorney-General, the difficulty could have been met by the Government calling on the persons complaining to take proceedings. That is to say, when Senator Millen, for instance, brought forward the question of the Coal Vend and quoted from the newspapers the names of certain gentlemen who had made statements, the powers under section 11 could have been exercised, according to Senator Symon, in that particular case, by the Government calling on one of the persons mentioned by Senator Millen to take proceedings against the Coal Combine of Australia.
– No; to put him in the box.
– No. Section n only deals with the class of case where an individual prosecutes a trust. It does not deal with the Attorney-General and his powers. The only case in which I could conceive of an individual responding to a call of that kind by the Government, would be if the Government said to him, “ You take the case into Court and we will back you up with funds.” One of the most powerful Governments on earth - the Government of the United States - have been for years unsuccessfully fighting these trusts.
– In a protective country, always remember.
– That is beside the question.
– The honorable senator will admit that so far as we can judge there are tremendous influences which seem to paralyze the Government even there.
– I admit that it is altogether too big a task for any individual to undertake. Therefore, section 11, to my mind, is inoperative, and the only way in which it can become operative is for the Government to obtain the consent of Parliament to stand behind some individual.
– Or for the Government to take for themselves the same powers as they sought to give the individual in that section.
– That is exactly what the Government are doing in this Bill. The only quarrel which the honorable senator has with the Government is that they are doing that. This Bill gives the Government power through its officers to acquire the information that the individual can get before the Court.
– If the individual can get it before the Court, why cannot the Government get it before the Court?
– I shall deal with that question later on. I had thought of it. Senator Symon fears that individuals will be harassed under the new powers which the Government seek. He said that there might be one thousand persons harassed and only one prosecuted, but, at the same time, he stated that he would give all the powers asked for after the prosecution commenced. The logical conclusion of that argument is that Senator Symon would rather drag each one of those thousand persons into Court. Remember that in the one case the evidence is not published. Nothing is known to the public to the detriment of the manufacturer who is suspected, whereas, under Senator Symon’s suggestion, when the man is brought before the Court the whole of the evidence is made known to the world. It can be known by his rivals and his name may be damaged, but in the case of the inquiry by the Comptroller the general public may know absolutely nothing about it, and would know nothing about it until it was decided that there was to be a prosecution.
– They would not even know whether any favoritism had been shown.
– There can be no favoritism, because the time for i. man to show that there has been favoritism is when he comes before the Court after a prosecution has been- launched. No prosecution would be launched until the Comptroller made out a case.
– Supposing the Comptrailer made an inquiry into the books of three men,- all equally guilty, and prosecuted in only one case, or even in none? There is no safeguard against that.
– That is always a possibility of administration.
– It is less likely in a Court than in a departmental office.
– The same favoritism is possible in selecting individuals for prosecution. If the Court is given these powers, who has ..to take the initiative but the Attorney-General, who can exercise the same favoritism?
– It is not the AttorneyGeneral who takes. the initiative. It will be taken by members of this Senate. Public pressure on the Government will always force theGovernment.
– That is the answer to the honorable senator’s suggestion.
– The same door is open to favoritism in either case. It will be the Attorney-General who takes the initiative even after the Comptroller reports. He reports to the Attorney-General, who then decides whether he will prosecute.
– The Comptroller has to report to the Attorney-General under the Act.
– That is true, . so that there is no more chance of favoritism in one case than in the other. The fear of harassment under the proposed new law is unfounded. There would be more fear. Qf harassment if these powers were conferred upon the Court than if they were conferred on the Comptroller-General. Senator -Symon objected to their being given to the Comptroller-General . He recognised that they exist under the Customs Act, and made a kindof prophecythat theywould be used to harass traders and manufacturers. But is it not a fact that every im-: porter in Australia could, under the Customs Act, beput in the dock at a police court to-morrow, and made, to prove his’ innocence? But’ is that done?- In how. many cases are importers put into the dock;?
– And where has there been even complaint of abuse?
– If there have. been complaints at all, they have been that many have not been put in the dock, but have been allowed to settle their cases in the Minister’s room. I do not make those complaints, but I know that some people make them. I have not heard any case of complaint about that section in the Customs Act.
– The complaint . was so loud that the Government had to remove, investigations under the Customs Act from the-‘- Police Court to the Collector’s Court.
– The law has not bee’ altered. It was passed in 1902.
– And the Government do notenforce it.
-There has been no alteration in the Customs Act since that time..
– There has beenno alteration” in administration-.
– There may . have been an alteration, in administration, but there has been none in the law. It. is the law to-day that every, importer’ in Australia can be put into the Police Court dock, and made to prove his innocence.
– Some are put there,, and some the Minister settles with.
– None are put there, but the power still exists. Senator Symon, seems to find a bug-bear in the Bill in the penalty for refusing to answer questions. The Vice-President of the Executive Council pointed out that the penalty must beawarded by the Court. It is not for theComptroller to inflict it. A man may refuse to answer the Comptroller’s questions’, but the Comptroller has to report to . the Court, and the. Court has to decide what penalty it will inflict, if any. Senator Symon backed up his objection’ to that power being given to the Comptroller with the argument that that official might ‘ ask a manufacturer all sorts of questions about, hii private interests,- and seek to elicit information, the publication, of . which, might, be to his detriment, . and which might be useful to his rivals. But the honorable senator quite overlooked the fact that in the proposed new section 15e provision is made to protect the suspected person against the misuse’ of information elicited, and further overlooked the most important fact of all, that the evidence given before the Comptroller’ is not to be made public. There is,’ therefore no possibility of an accused person’s rivals getting the information unless it is wrongfullygiven, in which case the Comptroller or any other officer guilty of divulging it will be liable to a very heavy penalty: Consequently, that objection of Senator Symon’s does not seem to be valid. The honorable. Senator also disputed the contention of the Vice-President of the Executive Council that, in the United States, there exists legislation practically equivalent to what is proposed in this Bill. Section 20 of the United States Act to Regulate Commerce, 1906; gives to the Bureau ofCorporations full powers of investigation with regard to the carriers concerned; They can go into the question of balances, of profit , and loss, and can even prescribe the kind of books that the trust hasj to keep.. The Bureau may employ special agents or. examiners, and are given full powers of examination. Senator Symon skid that that tribunal only dealt with the common carrier. He said that the. evidence which it collected was only used to deal with railway trusts, which, he said, could not exist in Australia with its State-owned railways. Let me inquire into that point. The Statute from which I have quoted provides in section 3 as follows -
That whenever the Inter-State Commerce Commission shall have reasonable ground for belief that any common carrier is engaged in the carriage of passengers or freight traffic between given points at less than the published rates on file, or is committing any discriminations forbidden by law, a petition may be presented alleging such facts to the Circuit Court of the United States sitting in equity, having jurisdiction.
I quote that to show that the Commission has the power to report to a United States Court what it finds on its investigation. Senator
St. Ledger. - That is an Inter - StateCommission.
– But let us see how far they go in actual practice. Let us ascertain first the reason for the appointment of the Commission. I quote, from Volume 26 of House Documents, the following extracts from the report of the Commissioner of Corporations to Congress in 1906 -
The position of the Bureau-
The very Bureau created by that Statute - . at the time of its creation was unique. It owed its existence largely to a public feeling arising from unusual industrial developments. Public opinion thereon was vigorous, but confused and vague. In general, the tremendous concentration of industrial power, the obvious use, in many cases, of improper industrial methods of competition, and the instances of clearly unsound or fraudulent finance connected with corporations, led to the general belief that there had arisen a new industrial problem, a set of conditions not adequately met by existing laws Numerous experiments at solution had been made by way of anti-trust laws, but the admitted futility of most of these laws led only to the negative conclusion that such was not the way to treat the great industrial changes of which every one was cognizant. Upon only one point can it be said that public opinion was fairly clear and unanimous, and that point was the desire for “ publicity “ - in other words, the desire for information. It was not clearly understood to what use this information should be put, nor, indeed, what subjects it should cover: but the demand for accurate information was fundamentally sound. The policy of the Bureau has been framed in accordance with this demand. Its field may be divided into subjects relating to law on the one hand, and subjects relating to economic industrial facts’ on the other. It must examine and compare the statutes under which the corporations are doing business with industrial and statistical facts.
Earlier in the report, it is stated that -
The investigation developed the line of division between the work of the Department of
Justice and the Bureau. The Bureau, in obtaining facts upon which the President may make recommendations to Congress -
I ask special attention to this - necessarily will obtain facts which might require prosecutions under the anti-trust law.
– Hear, . hear; our very case.
– It is. This tribunal is appointed by Statute for the purpose of compiling information, and in their investigation of the accounts of common carriers, may obtain facts which will require prosecutions under the anti-trust law, not only of common carriers, but of other combinations.
– The law against common carriers is always more strict than that against ordinary combinations of merchants.
– It will be noted from the preceding paragraph which I have read that the Bureau is not confined in its investigations to the facts relating to the operations of common carriers only, but, as they say, in accordance with public demand for publicity, they have from time to time supplied reports dealing with the affairs of all these great corporations.
– How do they get the information ?
– Under the Statute, which gives them full power to appoint commissioners of accounts. We are dealing with this matter in a kid-glove fashion compared with the mailed-fist of the United States law.
– The conditions in the United States are very different from ours.
– The industrial conditions in both countries are the same, only that they are older and have developed more in the United States than in Australia.
– We wish to check the development of trusts here.
– I have here a United States newspaper, which reports the initiation of a prosecution against one of these trusts. We are asking here that the Comptroller- General shall have the right to demand that these persons shall prove themselves innocent of a charge made against them, that they are using their powers contrary to the provisions of the Australian Industries Preservation Act.’ After investigation, we must report to the Attorney-General, who decides whether he’ will publicly prosecute the trust, and, if he decides to do so, the prosecution will take place in Court. Let us contrast that with what is done to-day in America. I propose to read a short extract from an American Journal called Tobacco, issued in New York on nth July, 1907, to show what is taking place there -
Tobacco trusts securities seem bound to get another big tumble in Wall-street in the immediate future. Government prosecution of the Tobacco Trust was begun in earnest this week, when a bill in equity was filed by the Government on Wednesday in’ the United States Circuit Court for the southern district of New York, against the Tobacco Trust, charging that it is a monopoly in the restraint of trade in violation of the Sherman law.
That this action will be taken causes no surprise, for it has been known for” some time that the Tobacco Trust was booked for early prosecution ; but the nature of the prayers to the Court in this case will mark a startling departure in anti-trust prosecution, more radical than anything yet undertaken by the Roosevelt Administration, and which promises to produce far more satisfactory results than anything that has been attempted in that line in the past.
The new method of procedure now adopted by President Roosevelt and the officers of the Department of Justice aims at nothing less than the placing of every monopolistic or lawbreaking trust in the hands of a Receiver-
I take it that that is during the prosecution. who as the agent of the Federal Court shall carry on the business of the corporation. This proceeding, which is the latest of the Roosevelt’s policies relating to the control of corporations, is to have a trying out in the prosecution of the Tobacco Trust, and if the movement succeeds other capitalistic combinations which may be similarly violating the laws may expect similar treatment.
In this case, a man is not only called upon to defend himself, but the Government actually take his business out of his hands, and put it into the hands of a Government official, who is entitled to bring any information he is able to obtain during his administration of the business before the Court as evidence against the owners of the business.
– Is not the appointment of a receiver to be the result of a prosecution ?
– No; the reference is to a receiver, who as the agent of the Federal Court shall carry on the business of the corporation.
– That is concurrent with the prosecution.
– Yes; but any facts elicited by the receiver in the carrying on of the business can be submitted as evidence against the trust.
– Must there not be strong evidence of illegality before a receiver is appointed?
– The quotation I have made refers to a preliminary application to the Court to appoint a receiver. This prosecution starts with an application to the Court by the Government for the appointment of a receiver, who is to take charge of the business of the trust.
– That application must be justified.
– We have already said that we are prepared to agree to any provision in reason if only proceedings are commenced against the trust.
– Are honorable senators opposite prepared to support such a provision as that to which Senator Pearce is referring ?
– Will the Government take the responsibility of proposing it?
– Here is a quotation I should like to make to clear up the point raised by Senator Dobson -
The Receivership plan is regarded by the Administration as a method of giving to the prosecution of trusts a practical effect. According to this plan, the Government virtually says to the corporation, “ You are breaking the law, but it is difficult for us to make you carry on your business in such a way as to conform to the law. So we will ask the Court to appoint a Receiver to carry on your business for you - in your own interest and in the interest of the people.”
– Before the trust is proved guilty ?
– I take it that a prima facie case of a breach of the law must be made out.
– Does the honorable senator know whether these applications are made ex parte ?
– I could not say. The article continues -
According to the project for Receivership, the agent of the Court would be expected to conduct the business of the corporation in conformity with the Sherman law and the other more recently enacted statutes for the regulation of the trusts.
– Is that the law in the whole of the United States, oronly in the State of New York?
– The honorable senator will remember that the reference was to an agent of the Federal Court.
– Does the paper from which the honorable senator is quoting represent the Tobacco Trust?
– No, it does not . represent the Tobacco Trust, but it is devoted to the interests of the tobacco trade. There is a power compared with which what, the Government are asking for is mild indeed.
– Can the honorable senator say whether the receiver was appointed in the case he has quoted?
– No; for the simple reason that this is the first time such an application has been made.
– Did the Government get the receiver in the case quoted ?
– The case has not yet been heard.
– There is no evidence as to how this works out in practice.
– No, but I am showing that, so far as legislation is concerned, the methods the Government propose to adopt are mild indeed compared with the methods adopted by the Government of the United States in dealing with trusts. What would be said if the Government asked that the ComptrollerGeneral should have the right to take the train to Newcastle, step into the offices of the coal companies, and say, “ Under our anti-trust law I am going to run your business for a month?”
– The Government would have to get an order from the Court first.
– What would be said if the Government asked for power to make an application to the Court for such a purpose?
– They would first have to make out a prima facie case against the trust.
- Senator Millen has said that the Government are responsible if the Australian Industries Preservation Act is inoperative. When the Vice-President of the Executive Council asked the honorable senator how the Government could be expected to go into Court without evidence, Senator Millen somewhat naively replied, “ How can they get the evidence if they do not go into Court?” I can imagine Senator Millen saying to one of his clients, “ We need not mind about the evidence, we will take him into Court, and we will get the evidence afterwards.” I can imagine that the client, in such circumstances, would button up his pockets in the belief that the honorable senator had designs on his money. I ask leave to continue my remarks on the resumption of the debate.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6.27to7.45p.m.
– I move-
That, in the opinion of the Senate, no tender for the carriage of mails from the Commonwealth to countries beyond the seas should be accepted in cases where such tenderer differentiates against members of any union.
In giving notice of this motion I had in my mind the fact that very shortly we would be asked to consider tenders for an oversea mail contract. Believing as I do that the States have legislated in the direction of recognising the existence of trades unions and trades unionists, and remembering that this Parliament has also legislated in that direction, I consider that the Government should ask persons when tendering to say what they intend to do in regard to trades unionists. At the present time the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company and the Orient Steam Navigation Company are engaged in carrying mails between Australia and England. Those two companies will not employ trades unionists. All their men are shipped in London from what is known as the Shipping Federation, which is not even a bogus union, because, in the case of bogus unions, frequently a man has the right to join if he likes to do so. In London the agent for the Employers’ Federation - for it can be called nothing else - is at the Shipping Office ready to compel every man who desires to ship to pay1s., and become a member of the Shipping Federation. Referring to the substitution of white men for lascars on the steamers belonging to the Orient Steam Navigation Company, Senator Pearce, in his speech on the AddressinReply in 1905, read the following quotation from the Kalgoorlie Miner of 19th May, 1905-
On 6th April, the Orient liner Ormuz signed on her first “ all-white “ crew in accordance with the terms of the new contract. According to the London Star, the change from lascar to white labour was not effected without a slight hitch. It writes - “ Members of the Seamen’s Union who presented themselves for employment were surprised to find that an agent of the Shipping
Federation was allowed to attend and object to the engagement of union men who were unable to produce fully paid Shipping Federation tickets. Many of the men were naval reserve men of unblemished character, and, owing to this restriction, they were unable to take up employment.”
Here was a nice state of affairs. So long as men belonged to trades unions they were prevented from getting employment. No matter what the character of a man was, if he would pay is., and belong to the Shipping Federation, he was taken on immediately. It has been stated frequently that black labour had to be employed on the steamers because of the unreliability of white labourers. It is no wonder that the men are unreliable, because who but. the scum of the earth - those who have descended to the lowest rung of the social ladder - would dream of selling themselves into a job for is. ? The experience of the steam-ship companies has been such, I believe, as to command the sympathy of some of us. On the arrival of the Or muz at Adelaide the chief engineer complained about the character of the men he had to employ.
– No, the reporters.
– At all events, it is sufficient to know that the chief engineer did state that he had to take on unreliable white men. If the men were unreliable, as he .always contended they were, the company were to blame, because they would employ only non-unionists. The extract from the London Star in the Kalgoorlie
Miner continues - “ It should be explained that the holder of the Shipping Federation ticket pledges himself to work with union or non-union men, so that though it is professed not to be antagonistic to unionism, it, in fact, deprives its holders of the right to go on strike against non-union labour.” The truth is (writes the London correspondent of the Adelaide Advertiser) that the Orient Company, when issuing notices relating to the engagement of a crew for the Ormus, stipulated that all men desirous of employment should possess the Federation ticket and benefit books fully paid up. The company has done this for years.
When the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill was before the Senate the members of the Labour Party strongly advocated a principle which is known throughout Australia as preference to unionists.
– This motion, I take it, does not ask for that.
– No. We continually pointed out to the Senate that, although it was a generally accepted term, it was really protection to unionists. In thismotion I ask for protection to unionists. I invite the Government, when, considering, tenders, or when asking persons to tender, to ascertain their intentions in regard tounionists. It has been complained by some honorable senators that white labour isunreliable, that frequently men, through getting drunk, fail to turn up and leave the steamer short handed, and that in somecases a steamer has been unable to go tosea until the captain has dragged the; men out of hotels and taken them on board. Why do not the company try to.> increase their opportunities to get good’ men ? Do we not know that the Seamen’s Union has offered to supply the steamshipcompanies with men for a number of years, to guarantee every man, and to recoup any loss which might be sustained through the action of a bad man.
– Could they enforce the guarantee?
– Mr. Havelock Wilson, who is a member of the House of Commons and President of the Seamen’sUnion, made that offer publicly to the steam-ship companies.
– Suppose that the men say that they will not go, .what canbe done to them?
– When I filled the position of secretary to a trade union I found that the men who. joined the unions were very, loyal to their officers and prepared to comply with an order to do any. thing which they had, by resolution; agreed to do. I have known men to suffer, financially for many months through obeying an agreement which by resolution they had authorized their officers to enter into. !
– No trade organizationas a body has ever repudiated a liability into which its officers have entered.
– That is so. For many years I was secretary to the Trades and Labour Council in Perth. Not once was I repudiated by the unions when they had authorized me to pursue a certain course ; not once did they attempt to break away from ‘ an agreement into which they had entered. In a letter which Mr. Have- lock Wilson addressed to Senator Pearce on ist April, 1905, he describes the actions of the Shipping Federation, and offers to enter into the /guarantee which I have just indicated. I propose to read the letter so that, it may be reprinted in *Hansard** and perhaps assist me to make out a better case. It reads as follows -
Maritime Hall, West India Dock-road,
I have been watching with considerable interest the negotiations which have been going on with the Commonwealth Government and the P. and O. and Orient Steam-ship Lines respecting the future of the mail contracts, and the employment of lascars. I have ascertained that the P. and O. Company have practically completed their contract with the Imperial Government for te outward mails, and that they intend to continue to carry lascars. The Orient Company are prepared to carry white labour if their price, £150,000, is accepted, but, in any event, the Orient Company must have the price for which they tendered. I have gone into the matter very closely with a number of shipping experts, and we find that for any shipping company to do justice in the carrying of the mails - on anything like decent boats - £150,000 for the outward and homeward mails is not at all too much. I am further informed that the Orient Company have inserted a clause in the contract that they are compelled to carry white men, and that if, as a cnsequence of insubordination of the firemen, there is any delay in the delivery of the mail, thefine which should be imposed shall not be insisted upon. I sincerely hope the Federal Government will not agree to this, as it would give the company the opportunity to put forward the plea of incompetent firemen whenever the mails were late from whatever cause.
It will be seen that when they were compelled to employ white labour on their steamers they had to ask the Government to recoup them for any loss which they might sustain from the insubordination of the very crews which they selected, through not going to the market where, as they knew very well, the best men - unionists - would be found. The letter continues -
Our union is prepared to meet the Orient Company on this point in the following way : - If the company will make a contract with our union for one or a number of years, we will supply them with competent firemen at a rate of wages to be agreed upon, and withcompetent sailors; and if any trouble should arise, or any delay be occasioned in consequence of misconduct on the part of the men supplied by us, we would undertake to make good the damage sustained by the company as a result of this, provided the Federal Government agreed to this, and that the men’s default was fully proved” after a full and impartial investigation. . I am conversant with the trouble experienced by the Orient Company with regard to the white firemen. It was due, in my opinion, to the fact that the company would insist upon these firemen belonging to a free labour association - the Shipping Federation. Good men would not submit to be forced into that organization, and, as a result, thecompany had the misfortune to get only the poorest class of ‘stokers available in the market, although they paidthe same wages as other firms and treated them as well. I believe, if the Labour Party of
Australia will agree to the price which has been tendered by the Orient Company, which we have found not to be in any sense extortionate, and stipulatefor the enforcement of the penalty for delay in delivering the mails, the company may be willing to arrange with our union for the supply of crews’ for their ships. Certainly I think that one year’s experience of such an arrangement would demonstrate its advantage to the company in twelve months.
– No; as a matter of fact, both in Australia and throughout the world, the protection to the non-unionists is given by the trades unionists.
– The motion does not ask for that.
– No. The steam-ship companies deliberately send an agent to the shipping office and refuse to take on union men, but will take on any man who will pay1s. on the spot.
– A unionist can pay his1s. and go in.
– In their legislation the Commonwealth and the States have sought to settle all industrial disputes with regard to wages and working conditions through the channel of unions of employers and unions of workers. The workers’ union in the boot trade, for instance, endeavours to keep wages as high and hours of work as low as possible, not only for unionist workmen, but also for non-unionists. I am always proud to remember that when I was secretary of that great union in Western Australia, it was always my duty, under the direction of the executive council, to endeavour to assist non-unionists as well as unionists. It is not true that the unionist as well as the nonunionist can come along and get work in this shipping society.
– He can if he pays the shilling.
– We had honorable senators opposite complaining some time ago about wharf labourers being prevented from getting work unless they joined a union. Why should men have to pay to get work under conditions that are degrading to white workers ?
– If a man joins that organization, he practically fights against his own union.
– Practically he does. I am sure that the ship-owners are not only desirous of excluding unionists from employment, but that they are as far as possible trying to squeeze out the Britisher altogether.
– What is meant by ‘ preference to unionists “ ?
– That term “ preference “ is applied to certain conditions under an Act of this Parliament. Some of us have always said that the term which should have been used was ‘ ‘ protection to unionists,” because, in my experience, as a worker, employers have often sacked men simply for taking a prominent part in a union. I say that that is wrong. They have no right to make any man suffer because of the action that he takes in connexion with his union. The ship-owners are gradually crowding out the Britisher, and taking foreigners into their employment. Perhaps the principal port in Australia, so far as tonnage is concerned, is Newcastle. According to the shipping list on the 8th inst., there were sixty-four vessels in that port, mostly oversea ships. Eight vessels left that day. Thirty-four of those vessels were captained by foreigners. We may assume that, on an average, each vessel carried a crew of twenty. I do not suppose that average would be too high for such a large number of ships. That would mean that there were about 1,280 men aboard. I am assured, by a man who has spent nearly the whole of his life on the wharfs of Newcastle, that out off that total number of seamen not more than 200 would be Britishers. To use has own language, “ If the whole of those vessels went to the bottom in one night, Great Britain would not lose more than 200 subjects.” The Government ought to give some assurance that tenderers for the mail contract will be required to give satisfactory assurances in regard to the labour employed, before the Government will accept any tender. The money of the Australian taxpavers should not be used to bolster up any industry which is conducted so as to boycott unionists and Britishers, and give a preference to non-unionists and foreigners. I hope that the Vice-President of the Executive Council will see his way to give us an assurance in regard to what I consider to be a very grave and important subject.
– I can fully bear out what has been said by Senator Croft in regard to contracts for the carriage of British mails. It is an absolute restraint on the employment of British subjects for ship-owners to compel those who man their ships to join the Shipping Federation. At present no man is’ allowed to ship on board one of the
Orient Steam Navigation Company’s vessels without the Federation’s book.
– What is that Federation?
– It is a union of which the employers are the founders, .and the members of which have absolutely no say as to the election of officers or the organization of the Federation. The whole thing is worked by the employers.
– D Does that union close its books?
– No. To be absolutely fair, unionists, as well as nonunionists, are admitted to the Federation. But what unionist would join a Federation as to the constitution and management of which he had no voice? The Government ought at once to make an announcement that one of the conditions in any mail contract entered into will be that no unionist shall be debarred from being, engaged on the ships of the successful tenderer. In fact, I would go so far as to say that only Australians should be employed under any mail contract accepted by the Commonwealth Government. How are. Britishers treated at present by the companies whose ships carry our mails ? On the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company’s vessels, although British subjects are employed, they are of a dusky hue. But when the Australian Government enters into a contract, it should have something to say as to the manning of the ships.
– When the ships belong to the Commonwealth Government it can say what it likes.
– What is the position regarding British seamen to-day? Great Britain, being unable to obtain sufficient Britishers to man the fighting Navy, has had to come to Australia for recruiting purposes. A branch of the Royal Naval Reserve has been formed here. It is a wellknown fact that, although the Imperial Parliament has year after year voted large sums of money for the purpose of manning the ships of the Navy, the Admiralty has not been able to get the men. And why? Because the mercantile marine, the natural recruiting ground for the Navy, has been manned by coolies, lascars, Chinamen, and foreigners generally. The Britisher is not prepared to enter into competition with such cheap labour. The British mercantile marine is run absolutely on free-trade lines. The ships are virtually factories, and their owners go to the cheapest market in the world for their labour.’ The result has been that the British seaman has been wiped out, and our British mercantile marine is now principally manned by foreigners. Make the conditions on board our ships such as we are trying to make them, bearable for the crews, and give them such conditions as workers on shore enjoy, and Australians will take to the sea just as they take to any other means of livelihood. I wish to say, in fairness to the Orient Steam Navigation Company, that a fortnight ago the chairman of directors was present in the Senate gallery, and he told me that, in consequence of representations which had been made to him by Mr. Havelock Wilson and Mr. Hughes, of the House of Representatives, his company had decided to abolish the Federation ticket on board their ships.
– Then there is ho need for this motion.
– The Orient Steam Navigation- Company may not be the successful tenderer. The public press has informed us that there are four tenderers. As to who they are we are in complete ignorance.
– It is admitted that James Laing and Sons have tendered.
– That has not been admitted officially. But it has been stated in the press that one of the tenderers is the Orient Steam Navigation Company. If any Australian company is prepared to undertake that contract, and engage Australian crews, it should have some preference.
– It should not be allowed to discriminate against unionists, at all events.
– Certainly it should not. I do not think that if any of the existing shipping companies of Australia received the contract they would discriminate against unionists. Senator Croft will be well advised, having brought the matter forcibly before the Government, to withdraw the motion, because he will have an opportunity, when the contract is placed before the Senate, to insert a clause giving effect to the object of the motion, instead of having merely an academical discussion on a provision which the tenderers may al read v have put into their tenders. Some of them mav have said that thev are prepared to employ Australian labour. If thev have, then we shall hear what they have to say when the contract is laid ‘before us. It will save the time of the Senate, and avoid considerable expense, if the course which I suggest is taken, instead of our discussing a bald motion such as is now before us. Let us wait until we see the tenders, and, if they do not contain the provision, let us seek to insert it.
– Does the motion mean that if an Australian firm tenders, and is successful, it must employ none but unionists ?
– No; all the motion says is that there shall be no discrimination against unionists. If a dispute arises regarding wages or conditions of labour, and has to be submitted to the Arbitration Court, and if, then, the Arbitration Court decides that preference shall be given, of course that decision will have to be carried out. If the contract is given to an Australian company, we shall have the right by our law to bring any such dispute before the Arbitration Court. There is absolutely no fear, with an Australian company as contractor, of our ever being stuck’ up in the case of our mails, because there can be no strike.
– Have there been no strikes in Australia since the Conciliation and Arbitration Act was passed ?
– There have been none that I know of in any matter that could be referred to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. Up to the present the Act has been a complete success, not so much from the point of view of the cases that have gone before it, as by the fact that the existence of the Court has brought about settlements of disputes without recourse to law. I hope that when we legislate for workers generally we shall not forget that the services pf the Commonwealth are conducted, not only on land, but also at sea, and that what applies to the workers ashore ought to apply also to the workers at sea. In competition with Australian workers, who are compelled to live in Australia and to obey Australian conditions, there are the coolie, the Iascar, and the Chinaman, who, if they have wives, can keep them - they could keep twenty of them if they had them - on less than it costs the Australian worker for rent alone. Is not that absolutely unfair competition? Australia has no right whatever to pay a large subsidy of Australian money to employ the very cheapest labour that can be got on the face of the earth. I know that in this matter we have the entire sympathy of the whole country. Although Senator Macfarlane is smiling, and is interested in those mair companies, he knows that it would be far better for Australia if men were employed on the mail boats at Australian wages, and were able to be decent citizens of the Commonwealth, in the place of the crews that those boats carry at the present time, and that do not leave one. penny of their earn- .ings in Australia. I hope that the motion will be carried, or that Senator Croft will agree to withdraw it on condition that the Government give him an assurance that a clause such as he advocates will lae embodied in any contract that is placed before Parliament.
– Any contract will have to be ratified by both Houses of Parliament.
– The Government will complain if a new clause is moved, so why not take time by the forelock now ?
– Those of us who have had experience in connexion with trades unionism will readily grasp the importance of the motion. I see no. reason why it should not- receive practically the unanimous support of the Senate. It must appeal to us as one of those humane conditions which aim at no more than allowing; a man to give his life’s work upon a fair and equitable basis. The shipping people in England may have a. right to employ their own labour, and do .whatever they choose with their own property, but when it becomes a question of a ‘ branch of shipping over which the Australian Legislature has a controlling influence, we should consider the advisability of incorporating Australian ideals in any contract arrived at between the two parties. I recognise the serious importance of the mail contract question, and realize that the Government of the Commonwealth have not all the say. In fact, on a previous motion in this Chamber, I expressed the opinion that the Commonwealth appeared to be the creature of the shipping ring of England. I have riot departed from that view. Still, I recognise that we have some say, in that a company has to get so much of our money for the contract into which they enter. Of course, it becomes a question with them whether they will accept our conditions or not. If .they do not, we are in the happy position of being able to say, “ Well, take us as we are or leave us.” That is precisely the position in which’ we stand at this moment.
– We .have an Australian tendering.
– Probably we have. He may be Australian only in name. We shall see when the tenders are laid before us. If there is an Australian tendering, I earnestly hope that his tender will be acceptable to the Commonwealth. If it is, the Government will experience no difficulty in introducing into the contract all the provisions embodied in this motion. Of course, as has been said, here, the forced levy of is. per head by the Shipping Federation has worked very serious injury. That has already been pointed out, and it is not necessary to reiterate it. I hope that the Government will give the motion consideration, and that when the conditions of contract come before the Senate, we shall have the right to a say in the matter. I trust that on that occasion we shall be able to obtain enough sympathy in the Senate to enable us to insure the presence of these conditions in the contract.
Debate (on motion by Senator Keating) adjourned.
Second Reading. “Debate resumed (vide page 4497), on motion by Senator BEST-
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– When the debate was interrupted by the adjournment for dinner, I was referring to. some of Senator Millen’s objections to the Bill. Amongst.. other things, he said that there was a clear case against’ the Standard Oil Company in Australia,-‘ and that, under the existing legislation-, the Government could recover penalites from the company. I have been given to understand that since Parliament passed the Australian Industries Preservation Act, the Standard Oil Company has had no written agreement regarding rebates in Australia.
– Rumour says differently.
– I have been given to understand, on very good authority, that that is the case. The rebate system still flourishes, but .there is no evidence to prove that it flourishes.
– If there be no evidence, how is it that honorable senators opposite ^ can make the assertion so strongly?
– The evidence is in possession of the other side.-
– The evidence is in the possession of those who could, if they were put in the witness-box, make such statements as would clearly indicate that there was a rebate, and yet not bring them within the provisions of the Act. There is an understanding that “ If you are a good boy, and act as you should, you will pro- bably get a Christmas box at the end of the year.” At the end of the year there is a certain amount written off the account. It is not written off as a rebate, but it is a rebate, and is only given to those who buy the oil of that one firm and no other. But it is not possible to bring any evidence, written or oral, to show that it is given for that reason. The only evidence that can be brought is the circumstantial evidence that only those who remain loyal to the Standard Oil Company, and buy none but their oil, get this advantage.
– It is quite a coincidence.
– It may be only a coincidence. You cannot bring a solitary person to produce any writing to show that there is an agreement, or to say, “ I was promised by. the Standard Oil Company that if I bought only their oil I would get a rebate.” That is what I am told. Senator Millen suggested that this was a very clear and easy case, but when it is investigated it is seen that it ‘ is neither so clear nor so easy as it might at first appear to be. The honorable senator says that it is wrong to give the powers proposed to the Comptroller-General of Customs, but that it would not be wrong to give such powers to a Court. It seems to me .that there is some mental confusion in this reasoning. If the powers proposed .to be given to the Comptroller-General ought not to be given, it would be equally wrong to give them to the Court. If we say that it is wrong to allow the Comptroller-General, merely because he suspects some person,” to put him in the dock, cross-examine him, compel him to produce his books, and examine his books, agreements, and contracts, it must be equally wrong to allow a Court to place a suspected person in the dock, appoint officials to go through his books, and persons to cross-examine him as to his agreements and contracts.
– In circumstances in which everything disclosed would be published.
– That is so. If these powers were intrusted to the ComptrollerGeneral as proposed, the suspected person would have, the advantage of secrecy, but if they were given to a Court, his affairs would be investigated in the broad light of day, and the whole of his business exposed to the world.
– Does the honorable senator prefer the secret method ?
– I say that if it is wrong to give these powers to the ComptrollerGeneral it is equally wrong to give them to a Court.
– We are proposing a milder method.
– There is no doubt that the: Government are proposing the milder form of torture. If I were a business man, I should prefer to have my business affairs dealt with by the ComptrollerGeneral in the way proposed, than have them dragged publicly before a Court, perhaps to the advantage of my business rivals. Senator Millen has said that there are three ways in which action may be taken to deal with the difficulty - nationalization of the industries, the control of the trusts, or allowing the. trusts to control the nation. The honorable senator favours the control of the trusts, and thinks it impossible that the trusts could ever control the nation. That contingency does not appear to be quite so remote when we consider the history of the United States, and learn that the trusts subsidize political parties, and that in support of President Roosevelt’s own campaign they contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars, as was shown bv the Harriman exposures. When we “find that trusts in America have subsidized the great Republican Party of the United States, we may assume that they did so for some good reason, that they expected a quid pro quo, and that when they were prepared to spend thousands of pounds in a political contest, it was because they thought they had some chance of controlling the- nation. We have started here to control the trusts, but have not succeeded so far. I venture to say that if Senator Millen and others will face this question, they’ .will’ be forced to the conclusion that the only effective method of control is that proposed , by the Labour Party - the nationalization of the industries. But I am prepared to give the Government whole-hearted support on this Bill. I am prepared to give the Comptroller-General the powers asked for, notwithstanding that they may be novel and unprecedented. We have to remember that we are dealing with conditions that
– It appears evident that the policy of the Commonwealth is to try to regulate and control trusts and combines in order to prevent them from inflicting injury upon industries or individuals. If the existing Act is not effective, it is our duty to enact such an amendment of it as will enable the Attorney -General, or private persons, to proceed against injurious trusts with some reasonable hope of success. I have listened with very great pleasure to several of the speeches that have been made on the Bill. I think there is something in the argument used by Senators Millen and Symon. They shrink from giving powers to a Customs House officer, ‘or to any Government official, which are unheard of in our judicature system, but they would- not object to give ample powers to a Court. I do not know whether the Vice-President of the Executive Council has considered such a suggestion, but it appears to me that instead of authorizing the ComptrollerGeneral of Customs to proceed to work up a case, and compel members of trusts to produce their books and answer any questions that might be put to them in order to secure evidence, it would be far better to authorize the Attorney-General, or a private individual who feels himself aggrieved by restraint of his trade, or injury to his industry as a result of the operations of a trust, to make an application to a Court having Federal jurisdiction, for leave to proceed.
– To do what?
– To proceed against a trust where there was prima facie reason to believe that the trust was guilty of a breach of the Act.
– Does the honorable senator mean to say that no man should be permitted to proceed with a prosecution against a trust without the consent of a Court ?
– No, but that instead of adopting the drastic course of sending the Comptroller-General of Customs into a man’s counting-house to ask him to produce his books and to answer all kinds of questions, the injured per-
I should, in the first instance, go
– Who are the honorable senator’s leaders?
– Never mind. They are better qualified than the honorable senator to speak on this matter. Senator Pearce has, I think, shown conclusively that the Government have been rather timid and half-hearted in dealing with trusts and combines. I am not blaming the Government, but I am inclined to think that prima facie cases have been established to justify proceedings.
– And the honorable senator would lash himself into a fury if we proceeded with a case and failed. He would then say, “Ah, I told you so.” Anything to discredit the Anti-Trust Act.
– I do not think I would. If there were reasonably sufficient evidence that a trust or combine in Australia was acting in restraint of trade, I think the Government should have instituted proceedings against it.
– “ Reasonably sufficient “ is not good enough for a Court.
– We know that a cargo of coals was refused to a certain ship-owner because he did not belong to the Coal Combine. The question to be considered is whether what was done by the Combine was or was not a breach of the Act. If it was not, why did we waste hours in discussing the matter? If it was, or if we have reasonable grounds for believing that it was, proceedings should have been instituted,
– Suppose we could not prove a contract or agreement in restraint of trade?
– The agreement was published in the press, and a certain shipowner could not buy coal from the Combine. I am not prepared to say that the refusal of the Combine to sell coal to that ship-owner was a breach of the law.
– Of course not.
– If it was not, what are we all talking about?
– That is the honorable senator’s look-out.
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council listened to all the criticisms of the Government for not instituting proceedings, and fell back on the statement that the existing Act is not sufficiently stringent, and that it is necessary to introduce an amending Bill to make the law effective to get at such combinations as the Coal- Combine. My honorable friend seems to think that what was done by the Coal Combine was not a breach of the law.
– I did not say anything of the kind. What I say is that the skilled and experienced officers of the Crown Law Department report that the machinery of the Bill now proposed is necessary to enable a prosecution to succeed in these cases.
– But did the Crown Law officers report that the action of the Coal Trust was in restraint of trade or injurious to an Australian industry, because, if they did, I think there were reasonable grounds for proceeding. We all know that when proceedings are commenced, it is possible to obtain leave to discover, and the sections of the Australian Industries Preservation Act are most drastic in compelling persons to answer questions.
– In criminal proceedings?
– No. But why should not civil proceedings be taken?
– Are the Government going to treat all these people as criminals in future?
– All those who offend, certainly.
– If civil proceedings cannot be taken, the sooner we alter the law the better. But I understand that civil proceedings could be taken, and the persons charged would have to produce their books of accounts and contracts, and it would then be discovered whether there was any action on the part of the Combine constituting a breach of the Act.
– Those injured have the right to proceed for treble damages, and why did they not do so if the case was so clear as the honorable ‘senator suggests ?
– I am not saying that the case was abundantly clear. I am inclined to think that what was brought under the notice of the Senate in the case of the Coal Combine was not a breach of the Act. We have been making a great fuss about nothing, but if it should lead to an amendment which will make the law more effective, so much the better. I should be more satisfied if the powers proposed were intrusted to a Court than that we should appoint two or three officers, who would form a tribunal that would develop into the Inter-State Commission, involving no end of expense and trouble in the creation of a department that would have practically nothing to do. Cannot this Bill be so recast as to bring these matters within the purview and control of a Court ? . I hope that Ministers are not going to repeat the scandals, if I may use the word, which took place under the first Minister of Trade and Customs in the Commonwealth, when a man who made a mistake in a Customs entry, and went back to the Customs House and pointed out the mistake to a clerk was told, “ We cannot allow you to correct your mistake. We are going to prosecute you, and to deal with you as we deal with every one else.” An innocent man who made a mistake, even in an addition or through misreading a line in the Tariff, was put on the same level as a rascal who was trying to cheat the Government.
– The man who innocently made a mistake was acquitted.
– No, he was fined.
– Oh, no.
– It was announced in the press that proceedings were being, taken against a man.
– And the case was dismissed.
– No; but, instead of being fined .£50, the man was, if innocent, fined probably £5. Surely the honorable senator must remember that there were scores of cases in which men were fined a substantial sum for simply making a mistake, and when everybody knew that they were innocent of an offence. Let us guard against that sort of administration, because it can do no good. I do not believe that the public, and certainly not the merchants and manufacturers who are in the trusts, will have the slightest confidence in officials who try to acf as lawyers and detectives in seeking to frame a case. We ought to have such a law as would enable an aggrieved person to obtain the leave of the Court to proceed, and then, even before the writ was issued, these drastic provisions might be put in force. Senator Pearce has put in a most happy manner the question of monopoly or co-operation. He sought to show that there is no means of putting an end to these trusts except by adopting some such scheme of Socialism as the Labour Party suggest. So far as I can judge, the result of this agitation for a kind of social revolution must end in. a particular way. If we desire to secure progress, we cannot limit or control the evolution of the individual. We must give to the individual the fullest opportunity for expansion, but, side by side with that, we must display the greatest regard for the sacredness. of individual life. Some of my honorable friends cite “ the factory in the garden “ - depicted in that charming little pamphlet which we received recently from Cadbury Brothers - as an instance of Socialism, but I contend that it is exactly the contrary. There is an instance of individualism which has reared up one of the greatest factories known to the world, and of an individualist who has shown remarkable care and solicitude for the lives of his employe’s.
– Which depends upon the caprice of a single individual.
– No, it depends upon the two things which I have mentioned. Does not the character of life depend upon the character of the people individually and collectively? If we destroy in any way the energy and the expansion which comes from individual effort, we shall retard the progress of the world. But side by side with that we need to have neither more nor less than the same regard for the sacredness of life as Cadbury Brothers have displayed. When we legislated on this subject before, I believed that we had passed- a measure of a most drastic character. Restraint of trade is well known in law. It is illustrated . by hundreds of cases. I recollect the celebrated China tea case, in which the Chinese ship-owners entered into a kind of combine, and gave certain rebates to all the persons who shipped tea by them., but left out in the cold two ‘or three ship-owners. It washeld by the Court - by a majority of one, I think - that it was a restraint of trade, and’could not be done. If any facts come out to show that one man has been aggrieved,’ there are scores of cases to show whether it is or is not restraint of trade, and if there is a prima facie case proceedings ought tobe taken. If the same timidity is shown in the future as has been shown in the past we shall never have a water-tight Act, because it may again be pleaded that the Act is not quite sufficient. I gathered from what I read the other day that the idea of appointing a receiver in the United’ States is quite new. It appears to me that there the -authorities have gone a little toofar. I do not believe that the Australian public would favour such legislation aswould enable the authorities, before they had taken one step to prove that a defendant was guilty, to appoint a receiver and send him down to the countinghouseof the defendant to take possession of hiscash, books, and receipts.
– It has not yet reached that stage here, thank goodness.
– No, and it ought not to reach that stage.
– It will not if westop it.
– But it is going toofar to treat a man as guilty before his guilt has been proved.
– In America the Government have had to take a special means to meet a special difficulty.
– In Australia it isnot necessary for the Government to go out of their way to do an injustice, and totreat as guilty a man whose guilt has not been proved. To - appoint a receiver totake the management of a business is about all that we should do in the case of a guilty man. A very great deal of good’ might result from having one or two provisions which would compel every set of men acting as a trust or combine to register, and to disclose on the register the wholeof their agreement. If we intend to deal’ with this subject in a drastic manner, as I am afraid we must, why should we not start at the beginning, and enact such legislation as would keep us informed with regard to combines and trusts? If we admit that there are good trusts and bad trusts, we are quite entitled to enact that all trustsmust be registered. It would entail no hardship upon the good trusts. Every trust would have to register the names of its members, and file with the registrar its Agreement setting out the terms of the combine. It could be seen by the Attorney-General or the law officers, who could judge whether it was legal or not. I do not mean to suggest that some trusts could not evade our legislation. If we are to deal with trusts, we ought to know who compose a trust, and what its constitution is.
– That is the very object of the Bill.
– Does . not the honorable senator know that some of the American trusts have not a written agreement ?
– I admit that the law may be evaded, but surely ‘the Minister does not mean to say that in the Bill there is provision for trusts to be registered ?
– Of course not.
– Then the Bill ‘is seekingto do in an indirect way what I suggest should be done in a direct way. Over and over again, Senator Pearce has tried to find out whether or not there is a Tobacco Combine. If we had a law to the effect that every set of manufacturers or sellers, or importers, when acting collectively, was to’ have a name, to register under that name, and to file a copy of its constitution, it would afford some kind of protection. I think that the Bill might well be recast in the directions which I have suggested. That I am sure would meet with the approval of honorable senators on this side. We believe in giving drastic powers to be exercised by a Judge and not by a layman. The control of the most complicated question with which we have -yet had to deal is being removed from trained men to untrained men. There does not appear to me to be much common sense in doing that. I hope that the idea of appointing two or three officers to carry out this most difficult business is not going to end with the creation of the InterState Commission, because very soon we shall have instituted every Department which is provided for in the Constitution. I see no reason yet for the appointment of the Inter-State Commission, or for the appointment of the officers whom the Minister has named; We have at our command the High Court and the States Courts exercis’ng Federal jurisdiction; in fact, we have more Courts now than we have work for,and we should utilize them.
– - Very probably I shall have to approach the consideration of this Bill differently from any previous speaker, because I have only what might be called an historical acquaintance with the principal Act. It is from newspaper commentaries, reminiscences, and Hansard reports that I have to gather what was the intention of that measure, and how it was meant to be carried out. The whole of this debate has been more or less reminiscent, I am glad to say not recriminatory, as to what was intended by those who were responsible for the introduction and passing of the principal measure. During the debate, I interjected that one evening. I asked Senator Best, on the motion for adjournment, to give us some information on the constitutional and legal aspects of the question. I was replied to in a very diplomatic, and probably in what he would think a very wily, manner, that the constitutional and legal aspects had been caiefully considered in connexion with the original measure, and that if I would employ my leisure by turning up the pages of Hansard, I could there, find all that information.
– That is quite true, and I can supply . the pages. I did not desire to introduce a question which had previously been so fully discussed.
– I can quite understand my honorable friend’s point of view, . but he did not grasp my point of view. Of. course he could not know that it was in my mind that the legal and commercial aspects of that rather extraordinary measure, which we are now asked to amend, had been thoroughly considered. It naturally followed that I would require to know why the. measure has failed to carry out the intentions for which it was- framed. I am not going to say that I intend to exhaust myself in giving the Government assistance in framing an amending Bill. Of course the duty of the Opposition is not simply to oppose. . There are times and occasions when an Opposition must do more than that. I trust that we shall offer no factious opposition to this measure. But, at the same time, it will not be remarkable if our deliberations upon it are exhaustive and’ long drawn out. It is a measure that is intended to supplement an Act that is admittedly a failure. It has been made plain over and over again in answer to questions that the present Act is insufficient.
– Every fundamental feature of the Act is sound, but. there is a little difficulty in getting evidence.
– There is not enough of it.
– That is so.
– If that be so, the longer the discussion, the more difficult it is to understand whether there is any foundation whatever beneath the original measure. The Vice-President of the Executive Council does not seem to be altogether pleased at the prospect of this Bill requiring long and critical discussion.
– Let the honorable senator criticise as much as he likes, but when hp threatens to “ draw out “ the debate, I take exception to his attitude.
– I did not threaten to draw out the discussion unduly.
– That is what the honorable senator said.
– The VicePresident of the Executive Council misunderstands the application of the term.
– Of course, there is such a thing as “ linked sweetness long drawn out.”
– Certainly, the Bill requires careful discussion. Nothing could be more evidential of that fact than that it is intended to amend an Act which is practically useless. I expect that the real explanation of the failure of the Act is that, notwithstanding its elaborate character and its extended provisions, the Crown Law officer’s found that the more they considered it the more likely it was that it was unconstitutional. They, probably, found that they were fettered by the terms of the Constitution, and came reluctantly to the conclusion that it is almost impossible to frame an Act which will stand the test of legal investigation within the limits of Federal jurisdiction.
– Does the honorable senator wish to help us?
– That is not the question now. The Government will get help from this side of the Senate when we think it advisable to give it to them. It is of no use for the Government to try to evade the difficulty. They cannot escape some kind of odium for the failure of the Act. The Vice-President of the Executive Council is getting either a little provocative or a little tired, but I do not think that he has any right to object to the criticisms that
I am making. Why is it that the Government did not test the Act in the Law Courts? We have been told that the Crown Law officers gave particular attention to the matter, and found the Act defective. Does not that show that under the Constitution such measures are almost impossible to work?
– How can that possibly be? The Bill itself is an answer to the honorable senator’s statement.
– An observation which the Vice-President of the Executive Council dropped in the course of his speech in moving the second reading, showed the real state of the case. If my memory selves me rightly, he admitted that there was a combine in Victoria in the confectionery trade. But, because it confines its operations to this State, he admitted that it cannot be touched by the Federal Act. That suggests this question : How does the Government hope to get at such combines under present circumstances? It is difficult to discriminate in the making of laws so as to affect a combination of individuals. and not a single individual. Suppose a combine like the alleged confectionery combine in Victoria chose to extend its opera, tions to New South Wales and to Queensland. Suppose it was registered in each’ State. There you would have an instance of a combine legally registered in more than one State”. Why should it not extend all over Australia?
– Any connexion between them ? *
– That is the point.
– Hence the Bill. My honorable friend is beginning to get a little light.
– I will put the case in another form.
– I think we ought to have a quorum. [Quorum formed.’]
– I was illustrating the difficulty of dealing with a combine existing in one State which might extend its operations throughout Australia, and was pointing to the probability that it might not be touched by any measure that could be passed under our Constitution.
– I must confess that I cannot appreciate the argument of mv honorable friend. We have certain limited rights under the Constitution. We are going to work up to the extent of that limit.
We can do no more. But my honorable friend’s argument is that we ought not to work up to that limit.
– I am illustrating a point that has a very direct bearing upon the Bill. I am pointing out difficulties with a view to asking the VicePresident of the Executive Council whether he thinks that his measure will meet them. We are given to understand that, after consideration by the best legal intellects in Australia, the existing Act has so far largely failed, and surely, therefore, when criticising the Bill which the Government have brought iri to remedy the defect, I have a right to point out a difficulty that is likely to occur in order to ascertain whether the Bill can or will grapple with it. p The only answer which I receive is that I am not allowing the Government to go on with the Bill. The attitude which the Vice-President of the Executive Council ought to take up, seeing that the difficulty which I am pointing out is quite probable and not hypothetical, is to state frankly whether and how the Bill is likely to meet it. If he cannot answer the question, it is for the Government to say how far the Bill will affect trade or industries or combines in. Australia at all.
– Supposing that the honorable senator proves that there are some difficulties which the Bill will not meet, is that a reason why we should not have it for the difficulties which it can meet?
– It is a reason for asking the Government how far their Bill proposes to meet the difficulty to which I have referred, if it proposes to meet it at all. It is the duty of the Government to construct measures, but it is none the less our duty “to criticise them, and to show possible defects, but not for the sake of mere criticism, because we are just as desirous as are the other side of grappling effectively with an evil which certainly is showing signs of existence in Australia. We wish, however, to act only with the fullest light that we can get upon the question. When leading senators upon this side of the Chamber assure the Government that they are earnest in their desire to grapple with those evils, I deprecate a reply which seems to suggest that we are offering criticism for the mere purpose of criticising, and to anticipate the odium of failure in order to assign it to this side.
– What is the object of the honorable senator’s criticism?
– Possibly it is to point out difficulties. They are obvious. It is useless for the VicePresident of the Executive Council to attempt to say that he does not recognise the particular difficulty which I have indicated. He referred to it himself. My object is to show the existence of the difficulty, and to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council when he replies to point out what sections of the Bill are likely to overcome it, if it can be overcome. I know that he and other honorable senators on the other side who have listened to the illustration which I have given see the difficulty which is bound to occur and to go on increasing in Australia. I do not see how by this Bill we are going to grapple with it. It has been . frequently stated that the reason for the failure of the principal Act lies in the difficulty of procuring evidence. Honorable senators opposite will not admit that the chief cause of the failure lies in the difficulty of the problem itself or in the imperfections of the existing law. I cannot understand the excuse that evidence cannot be got. Since the opening of this session charges of direct breaches of the law have been made every week from the other side of the Chamber, and in the most direct terms, against combines or individuals. About a month ago Senator Pearce brought forward very strong charges against the Tobacco Combine. He produced what I should call fairly strong evidence in sup- port of the charges. It has been alleged time and again by honorable senators opposite that there are combines in Australia doing the very thing which Senator Pearce in direct and explicit terms charged the Tobacco Combine with doing. Assertions are made in the newspapers in distinct detail with regard to persons and incidents, and when we criticise a measure of this kind, we are told, notwithstanding the wealth, the directness and seriousness of the charges, that there is no such thing as evidence available. The two positions are entirely inconsistent. Either the evidence upon which those assertions were made was absolutely fictional, or it was in some respects true. If it was true, it must be in some respects evidence worthy of being brought before a Court of law. Notwithstanding the seriousness and directness of those statements, the Vice-President of the Executive Council and, I suppose, the other members of the Government, after closely investigating them, assert that they want an amending Bill, as they have no evidence. That position is utterly inconsistent and wholly unsatisfactory. The Government, having pointed out that thereal secret of the difficulty is the absence of what they choose to call legal evidence, attempt to get over it by asking in this Bill for power to treat traders, whether individuals or combines, as criminals, before trial. Any individual trader or representative of a combine has to go before a Government official and must answer everything relative to his business, so far as his business may give ground for suspicion that it is in restraint of trade. Having answered every question, he is to be placed in a Court of law as a man who is proved guilty of a crime unless he can prove his innocence. I do not think that the Vice-President of the Executive Council can deny that that is pretty drastic.
– The law proposed in this Bill is the present Australian law.
– I am fairly conversant with legal procedure in the State pf Queensland, and believe that the maxim holds good there that a man is innocent until he is proved guilty.
– Does the honorable senator want the Queensland law on the subject?
– If the honorable senator will remind me of anything which I have forgotten, I shall be glad to hear it. But I wish to accentuate the fact that if. any individual in Australia enters into a trade or business, and the Comptroller has sufficient reason for thinking that he is carrying on his operations in restraint of trade, from that moment he is to.be treated as a criminal. Some suspicion of a serious offence must have come to the ears of the Government before they proposed such a drastic step. We have tried to discover time and again by questions the grounds for that suspicion. We have nothing in proof of it beyond mere assertions from the opposite side. We have had a wilderness of assertion, a desert of proof.
– The honorable senator said a little while ago that’ there was good evidence in the case of the Tobacco Combine.
– I said nothing of the kind. I said that assertions were made on the floor of this chamber with strong circumstantiality of fact, times, and persons.
– Which the honorable senator thought were good.
– I took the word of those honorable senators as good, but the astonishing part of it is that the, statements turned out, on investigation by the Government, to be absolutely not evidence admissible in a Court of law. We learn now the startling fact that, although they are evidence of one kind, from which ordinary inferences might be drawn, they are not evidence from which a Court of law could draw the inference of an offence. The Vice-President of the Executive Council must have good reason for asking for the drastic powers, especially those dealing with trade and industry, contained in clause 4. What are those reasons ? What are the combines doing? Are they such a serious menace so early in our history that we must treat them as possible criminals, or are the Government acting on conjecture? If they have strong reasons, they have nothing to fear by disclosing them. They have been told that we will not fetter them, but surely we are entitled to know why it is proposed that these combines should be met with the drastic treatment provided for in this Bill. The VicePresident of the Executive Council will be doing only his duty to the Senate if he gives, with some degree of circumstantiality and detail, an explanation of the offences committed by the combines, or his grounds for suspecting that they are being committed. If details of grave offences committed by combines were given to honorable senators they might understand the introduction of so drastic a measure. I would like to say that I cordially ‘ approve of the manner and substance of Senator Millen’s criticism of the Bill. Except that there appears to b’e an ineradicable suspicion on the other side that “ no good can come out of Nazareth,” there is not the slightest reason to doubt that . Senator Millen and honorable senators who have followed him on this side are just as desirous of doing what is fair . Between the combines and the public as . the Government can possibly be.
– I understood that Senator Millen was supporting the Bill.
– I have not heard Senator St, Ledger say that he is supporting it.
– The honorable senator is taking up his usual attitude in making a speech.
– I intend to continue to take up that attitude, and. I am giving my reasons for doing so. I think the Government will beallthe better for the criticism and the more direct it is the better it will be for them and for their measure. I ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council to wait a little. The honorable senator exhibits a somewhat feminine haste to know what my intentions are with respect to this Bill. I can understand his anxiety, but I have no doubt that my intentions are honorable, and they will be declared at the proper time. I have said that I cordially indorse the manner in which Senator Millen led the debate from this side. I join with the honorable senator in saying that one of the great problems with which not only we in Australia, but modern civilization generally, have to deal is the growing danger of the power of combines. We know the way in which some combines are using their powers, and in which others would use them if they could. I yield to no one in my sense of the danger to modern civilization of some of the tendencies of capitalism, and I yield to no one in my desire to assist fair and reasonable legislation to prevent the evil effects of such combinations, and to protect society against them. The honorable senator will more readily understand my intention, when I say that in a young community like this we should profit by the experience of America and other countries, and by doing so may be saved from’ some of the evils from which the people of those countries have had to suffer, and which, if not checked, may, to use the famous words of Kruger, “ stagger civilization.” One cannot fail to observe’ in modern history that there is not only a tendency on the part of capitalism to combine, but that also, whether for self- protection or retaliation, labour is displaying a similar tendency, and it is quite easy to forecast a social condition in which capitalism will join hands with the combination of labour in trades unions, and both will work together not for the benefit, but for the exploitation of the public. In the original measure one of the tests constituting an offence under the Act is that acts charged against a combine are to the detriment of the public. Whilst we may consider the lawful interest of capitalism and of trades unionism there is an interest which , is above them both, and that is the interest of the public. When dealing with capitalism, as. when dealing with unionism, we must consider the public interest. It is somewhat remarkable that there seems to be an absence in our Legislative Chambers of any person whose business it is to advocate the interests of the public. There is, unfortunately, a tendency on the part of politicians, and sometimes of statesmen, to yield by compulsion to the strongest power. When unions are strong there is a tendency on the part of politicians toyield to unionism. On the other hand, if capitalism becomes powerful and by the use of money and the control of labour can exercise an influence in certain directions, there is a tendency on the part of politicians to become the servants of capitalism. In both cases the public suffer. I do not notice any particular desire on the part of the Government to consider the great interests of the public. We should in dealing with such measures seek to restrain the tendencies of combinations in order that the public interests shall not suffer. I mention this because’ last week when we were trying to distinguish between combines and their work there was a chorus of approval from the other side for the work of some combines, just as there was a chorus of disapproval for the work of others. Honorable senators of the Labour Party are the champions of unionism.
– Why not say Socialism ?
– I will not say Socialism, because there is a marked distinction between unionism and Socialism.
– The honorablesenator being a unionist I wished to relieve him of a difficulty.
– I do not know why I should be called a unionist. I know nothing to justify it except that I belong to a profession which is open to everybody who can pass an examination certifying that he has a certain amount of intelligence and character. That seems to be the only restriction imposed upon those who wish to enter that profession.
– Can the honorable senator point to any trades union that is not open to every one in the community?
– I did not charge trades unionism with that.
– That is the inference from the honorable senator’s remarks.
– The honorable senator and not I is responsible for his inference. I wish to have a distinction made between good and bad combines. If capitalism joins hands with unionism in a combine to fleece the public that is a bad combine.
– There is no good combine that is not a Commonwealth combine.
– I am glad to hear it put in that way. If a combination, whether of trades unionism or capitalism, is not based upon a desire to do the fair thing by the public, it is injurious to the Commonwealth and should be checked and suppressed. There are members of the Senate who consider it to be their particular duty to come down upon capitalistic combines, and they are pledged more or less directly to a .policy of nationalization of industries. Senator Pearce has frankly admitted on every occasion that he would prefer to deal with everything that may become the subject of a monopoly on the principle of nationalization.
– It is the only solution of the problem.
– I am glad to hear that interjection. . The contention is that the modern tendencies of capital are such that society cannot exist unless the operations of industry are guided by the principle of nationalization. When the objections of honorable senators of the Labour Party to the operations of capitalism are put forward so strongly we must remember their objective of nationalization. Much of the evidence they bring forward against capitalism must be very carefully sifted, because everything which may tend towards the nationalization of industries is fish to their net. Notwithstanding that capitalism has displayed its greatest power in the United States of America, and by creating financial panics has brought ruin upon many innocent households, there is not a political party in America^ . to-day which stands in favour of the nationalization of industries. I do not think there is a single State in the United States of America in which there is a party advocating nationalization of even the very monopolies from which the people have suffered so much.
– Order. I ask the honorable senator not to enter into a discussion of the merits or demerits of the nationalization of industries. He may allude to the matter incidentally, but he should not debate it.
– I wished to make merely that incidental reference to the fact that in America, where the evils of industrial monopolies are so great, no one has asked for the nationalization of industries. I’ prefer that in this matter we should proceed on the lines suggested from this side. We should do our utmost to deal with combines by legislation, and should pass measures which we may reasonably hope will be sufficient to cope with the evil. We are prepared to help the Government in that direction, but we complain that the Government hesitate to try the effect of their own measures. I think it will be ultimately found that if reasonable men on both sides charge themselves with the duty of legislating upon this very important question, we can effectively guard against the evils of combines.
– The honorable senator has talked a long time; is he in favour of or opposed to the Bill?.
– I am at present treating the measure from a critical point of view, and I intend to go on criticising. It has been stated that a precedent for the drastic provision in clause 4 in regard to evidence has been set by the Customs Act. I do not think that it is right to treat a question of trade and trading combinations from that point of view.
– What is the difference in principle ?
– Nor do I admit that the principle is the same. Prima facie, to enter into trade is not only lawful, but highly desirable, and, therefore, the two positions are not analogous. In the case of the Customs -Act, the Parliament gave drastic powers to the Government in order to protect the revenue. But when we are asked to deal drastically with persons who are engaged in the promotion of trade and industry, strong reasons ought to be given by the Government for treating them in the same way as persons who seek to commit a fraud upon the revenue. I believe that I am not speaking too strongly when I say that we have not yet been furnished with a substantial reason or proof that anything very serious is being done by combines. Something will have been achieved from this side, I think, if the measure is criticised from that point of view. Let us have a clear and strong reason for practically giving to an official the same powers of inquiry, investigation and proof, as have been given to the ComptrollerGeneral of Customs when dealing with revenue questions. I am quite willing to render every possible assistance to the Government in achieving the purpose for which the Bill has been framed, but I do not mind confessing that, in my opinion, all our efforts will be ineffectual. I do not anticipate that, by Act of Parliament, we shall create a sort of industrial paradise in Australia. I do not believe that it could be done in any part of the world by that means. I dare say that a measure of this kind is of great’ interest to trade unionists, and that they closely watch the actions of the two Chambers. Sometimes I think that these measures are brought in for the purpose of getting political support or making political capital. I do not propose to buy political support by holding out illusive hopes to the public at large.
– Will the honorable senator tell us,by way of a change, whether he is for or against the Bill ?
– I shall conclude by saying that I intend to support the measure. I believe that I have suggested some questions which ought to be considered. I do not intend to offer anything like a captious criticism, or to obstruct the Government in the accomplishment of their desire; but I anticipate that Senator Best will be prepared to answer reasonable objections to the construction of some of the clauses of the Bill.
. -No doubt the motion for the second reading of the Bill will be carried on the voices, for I do not suppose that a division will be taken. There is one principle running through the measure which seems to me to be contrary to British justice and fair play, and that is that persons are to be taken to be guilty until they can prove themselves to be innocent. In clause 4 we are asked to enact the following new section - 15a. In any prosecution for an offence against sections 4, 5, 7,8, or 9 of this Act, the averments of the prosecutor contained in the information declaration or claim shall be deemed to be proved in the absence of proof to the contrary -
I strongly object to that principle, and in Committee I shall do my best to defeat its enactment.
– I think it is necessary to say a few words, because of the attitude I took up in regard to the principal measure. I have no intention to oppose the Bill as it is presented. On the contrary. I express the hope that the intentions of the Government may be realized. I do not apprehend thatvery much good will result from our legislation on this subject. I do not believe that the combination of capital is that intense enemy to the public welfare which some persons seem to consider. I recognise that combinations are playing their natural part in our industrial and commercial life. The individual system which has operated for a number of years has served its purpose. It has effected every foot of progress which it is capable of effecting, and, therefore, it has brought into existencethe combinations and trusts with which we are now asked to deal. What do we hope to do by the legislation upon whichwe are now engaged ? I at once express my sympathy with the Government, and my entire approval at the attitude they have taken up under the original Act. But believing now, as I did last year, that that Act was utterly impotent to achieve the purposes for which it was intended, I am inclined to think that even the increased powers that the Government are seeking will ultimately conduce to the same result. That is to say, I believe that this legislation will not succeed in exterminating trusts. It will be more likely to change the method of their operation. In my opinion trusts and combines are useful in their day and generation. They are great educators. They are teaching the great body of the public that their salvation lies in the direction of co-operation. It is now realized that under modern industrial, conditions the aggregation of capital is essential.” Every step we take in industry is proving to us conclusively that unless capital is aggregated, we cannot possibly get the best out of modern conditions. And it is the best that we want. To secure the best results there must be the greatest possible aggregation of capital, and themost skilful application of labour. While I am a supporter of this measure, and am prepared to go as far as the Government propose to go, I nevertheless say that I have no faith in it. I believe that a system of cooperation must inevitably follow the present system of trusts and combines. It is only by a perfect system of co-operation that the benefits arising from such combinations of capital can be assured to the community, and it is by such a system that the evils attaching to trusts will be removed. Trusts are fast becoming the schoolmasters of the people. They are showing the public the means by which they can work out their own industrial and social salvation. Whether success will ultimately come from what has been termed nationalization, or whether it will come from the united efforts of the body politic in some other form, I am not prepared to prophesy. But I sincerely believe that some such method will be the ultimate reprover and remover of the evils to which combines and trusts give rise to-day.
.- I should not hold myself justified in voting against the second reading of this Bill, because it is intended to cope with what is alleged to be an evil, though I do not think that ithas been proved that the evil really exists. Indeed, I believe that legislation of this description may be doubleedged. It may cut both ways.
– Surely the honorable senator has no doubt about the existence of the Coal Combine?
– It has not been proved to be an evil thing. Comparisons have been instituted between the combines that are said to exist in Australia and those of America. There is no resemblance whatever. When we speak of trusts in America it must be remembered that they have been an enormous factor in the development of that country.
– Does the honorable senator deny that the Standard Oil Trust is operating in Australia?
– It has not been shown that there are trusts which are working so injuriously to the interests of the country as to require a stringent measure of this kind. The conditionsin America are quite different from ours. The directors of industries in the United States were, in the first instance, forced to combine because of excessive competition. By combination they endeavored to bring about harmony and economy in working. For a considerable time they did a great deal of good. It was only when they became so powerful that under the high protective system they became able to rule the industry of the whole country, that they became dangerous. But here we have a new country to open up and develop. We are endeavouring to promote manufactures and to find employment for labour. We wish to use up our own raw material. I am afraid that legislation of this description will prove so restrictive as to frighten capital away, and that our industries will not advance as they ought to do.
– That is a good old cry.
– Whether it is an old cry or a new one, it expresses a fear that is in my own mind. I may be wrong, but I am justified in expressing my sentiments. There are provisions in this Bill- that are repellant to me. The idea of holding a man guilty until he proves himself innocent must be repugnant to any fairminded man ; nor do I agree with the provision which enables possession to be taken of a man’s business by an official of the Commonwealth!. Still, I am not going to oppose the Bill. The Government are taking the responsibility for it. I can only hope that if it . is passed it will be more successful than has been the Act which it is proposed to amend. But I am afraid that we shall not get very much good out of it. I believe, with Senator Henderson, that we are learning a good deal from trusts and combines. I hope, with him, that we shall, within a measurable time, be able to hail, the day when it will be possible to make all our people comfortable and happy, and when all will be able to work together for the general good of humanity.
– I have no particular feeling against trusts and combines. I realize that they are doing a useful work in connexion with our industrial development. I admit, however, that their power, is liable to be abused, to the injury of the people. When that point is reached, the community is entitled to use every means to protect itself. I agree in the main with the principle of the Bill, but I dissent from some of its details. For instance, I really cannot see why such great power should be placed in the hands of the ComptrollerGeneral.
– That is the principal feature of the Bill.
– Who is the ComptrollerGeneral that he should be empowered to deal with a matter of such great national importance as this? In the first place, he is a Government officer. He is liable to dismissal by the Government. To my mind, that is one clear disadvantage. A man who is placed in the position of a Judge in relation to combines ought to be independent, both of Parliament and of the Government.
– He is not given power to judge.
– He is given the power to ask questions - to set up a sort of inquisition.
– To collect information.
– To demand incriminating information.
– He is to be practically in the position of a Judge, because any person summoned by him must answer the question’s which the Comptroller-: General puts to him, must produce his documents, and give all other information required. Now, I object to any man who is not clothed with judicial authority being given a power of this character. I object more particularly to an officer who is liable to instant dismissal or suspensionby the Government of the day being placed in such a position. Such powers should not be- given to a man who is not independent.
– The ComptrollerGeneral is responsible to Parliament and to the people.
– He is. not responsible to Parliament. He is only responsible to the Government.
– Which is responsible to Parliament.
– If he does not prove to be an amenable tool of the Government of . the day he may be dismissed; and the very knowledge that that power is held in reserve by the Government might influence ‘ the Comptroller-General to do something of which his own better judgment might not approve.
– What could He do ?
– The point I wish to impressupon honorable senators is that in a matter of such importance as that with which we are dealing; the officer charged with getting information ought to be inde- . pendent of everybody.. He ought to be either a Judge of the High Court or a man in as independent a position as a Judge. If he is not, his decisions will be looked upon with a certain amount of suspicion.
– He does not decide. He only reports.
– Reporting in this case is equivalent to deciding. The Comp-. tiroller-General is to be invested with as much power as a Judge would be. In the . first place, he is to have power to call upon persons to appear before him. He can then submit a number of questions to them, and compel them to produce their books arid documents. If they refuse, they incur a penalty.. But the Bill, as we go on, develops more and more. ‘ In the proposed new section 15c, it is provided that whenever a complaint has been made in writing to the Comptroller-General that any person, or any foreign corporation, or any trading’ or financial corporation formed within the Commonwealth has been guilty of any offence, the Comptroller-General can take certain steps. .. That complaint may be made by a wholly irresponsible individual. No person should be accused of having broken the law, for that is practically what is meant by it, except before a Judge of a Court. This system of private inquisition-
– That no honest man. need fear.
– That has been exactly the language of the rack and the thumb-screw through all the ages. It is said that no honest man need fear this method of inquisition. No honestman need fear to bring his case before a Court of Justice presided over by a. Judge and held in full view of the public. I do not see why we should turn our judicial system upside down. That is exactly what this measure proposes to do.
– It is a wonder that the honorable senator allowed it to be done in the Customs Act.
– We are dealing now with a Bill which has reference to trusts and combines’, and not with Customs matters.
– If it is wrong in the one case, was it not wrong in the other?, Senator STEWART.- When we come todeal with the Customs Act, I shall be prepared to discuss the question with my honorable friend. Even if it was wrong there, and has been permitted, that is no reason why the wrong should be continued here. We ought to apply to this Bill the principles of justice which have been tried by centuries of experience, and which hold good in every other relation of human life. When the Bill goes into Committee, I, shall move to leave out “ ComptrollerGeneral,” and confer all the powers which are now sought to be vested in him on a Justice of. the High Court.
– The . honorable senator wants the Act to be a dead-letter, as it is now.
– I shall be delighted if the honorable senator canhow how giving a Judge, instead of the ComptrollerGeneral, the power will maket heAct a dead-letter. Probably the honorable senator has some reason of his own for sayingso.
– Because of the extraordinary, means needed now, and the extraordinary expense involved on the part of anybody who initiates a prosecution under thepresent Act.
– I agree with the honorablesenato that, unfortunately, it costs a great deal too much to get justice, but it might be possible so to rearrange the procedure before the Courts as to make it as cheap and expeditious as possible. We can easily insert a clause to allow men who are not lawyers to appear before this particular Court. If any honorable senator proposes it, he will have my support. I am opposed to these star-chamber inquiries. That is my fundamental objection to the provisions of this measure. No doubt it is a very serious drawback that justice cannot be got for nothing, but it will be much more serious if inquiries under this Bill are conducted in secret by an official who is not independent, but is merely a creature of the Government of the day. liable to be suspended, degraded, or dismissed by the Government if he does not do exactly what they want. I do not wish to insinuate that the present or any future Australian Government would do anything of the kind, but the danger of such a thing happening ought not to be permitted.
– The danger has not arisen yet under the Customs Act, although the Customs officials are Government officials, and make similar inquiries.
– Only in very unimportant matters. Another reason why the Comptroller-General should not have this burden placed upon his back is that he probably has already quite enough to do to look after his own particular duties. This is a duty which is entirely new to him, of which he has had no experience, and which he ought not to be called upon to perform. A Court, composed as this Bill has it, will never have my confidence. Another objection which I do not see how to get over, and which is repugnant to my feelings, is that when a man is haled before this Court of justice the onus of proving his case is not laid upon the accuser, but the accused is compelled to prove that he is not guilty. If we apply that principle to any other human relation we see how utterly wicked, how abandoned, and how subversive of every principle of justice it is. It would not be permitted in any other matter than the one that we are now discussing. If I accuse a man of murder, he is not compelled to prove that he did not commit murder, but I must prove my case, and, if I cannot, the accused marches out free.
– Desperate diseases require desperate remedies.
– That is the only reason that can be advanced for the proposition of the Government that the trust or combine which is accused of doing something injurious to the public interests must prove its innocence.
– Combines have no consideration for British justice or fair play.
– I do not think that combines are so utterly wicked as Senator Findley would have us believe. I know that they are out after as much profit as they can possibly get, but every man who goes into business is in exactly the same position. If Senator Findley went into business to-morrow, and did not take as much profit as he could get, he would have to get out of business very quickly. So long as private enterprise continues, so long will those who are engaged in it get from it all the profit possible. I know of no reason why we should expect them to do anything else.
– But the honorable senator does not wish to interfere with them, all the same.
– The honorable senator is quite wrong. I merely point out that so long as private enterprise continues we need not be surprised if individuals or companies endeavour to take all the profits they can possibly get.
– The honorable senator only wants to sit on the doorstep and bark.
– If we, the community, are not satisfied with that state of things, we can change it by nationalizing the various industries or occupations in which those people are engaged.
– As we cannot nationalize the industries here and now, why not pass legislation to stop some of their tricks ?
– I am not objecting to the principle of the Bill. Senator Findley is apparently satisfied with the Comptroller-General as the judge in this case.
– He is not to be the judge; he is to make inquiries.
– The inquiries ought to be made in open Court, before a Judge.
– That is what the combine people say now, and the Act is inoperative.
– Because the combine people say it, Senator Findley thinks it quite safe to go the opposite way. Every man ought to be governed by certain general principles of justice.
– He ought to be governed by circumstances.
– One cannot alter his principles every day to suit the circumstances of the occasion. If the honorable senator were submitted to a star-chamber examination, none would be louder in complaint than he would. This chamber would ring with his denunciations if anything of the kind were attempted in his case or in the case of any one associated with him. Very well then ; if we are unwilling to apply that to ourselves why should we ask other people to submit to it? Why not give them the same justice that we would demand for ourselves?
– We are asking combines, and not individuals, to submit to it.
– Combines are composed of individuals. I think the method I have suggested, that is, to have these preliminary inquiries made before a Judge, would be very much more effective than to have them made before the ComptrollerGeneral of Customs.
– They can be made before a Judge now, and they are absolutely ineffective.
– In what way will an inquiry before the ComptrollerGeneral make them effective? Is it not possible to confer the same powers on .a Judge as the Government now propose to give to the Comptroller-General?
– The Judges are overworked.
– We can appoint another Judge. There are plenty of lawyers. We have some in the Senate of whom we- should be glad to get rid. We should be very pleased to see some of them promoted to the Bench. The ComptrollerGeneral of Customs, so far as I know, is overworked, and taking all the circumstances into consideration, I do not think that the Comptroller-General of Customs is a very suitable person to conduct inquiries of this character. Again, I find that he may appoint a deputy. He may hand over his power to somebody else.
– He has only to name a representative.
– What .does this mean ? It means that the Government of the day will name the individual before whom the inquiry is to be made. I think the Senate should insist upon the inquiry being made before a responsible independent Judge of the High Court. I have stated the only objection I have to the Bill.. I agree with the spirit of it. I do not know that it will be of very much value, but, at any rate, we shall have tried another experiment, and, if we fail, it will only bring us so much nearer to the day when the people as a whole will see that there is only one way out of this difficulty, and that is by adopting the collectivist system of production.
Debate (on motion by Senator Colonel
Senate adjourned at 10.35 P’m-
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 10 October 1907, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1907/19071010_senate_3_40/>.