4th Parliament · 3rd Session
The President took the chair at 3 o’clock, and read prayers.
– I desire to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council whether it is correct, as stated in a morning newspaper, that, in addition to sending out a document regarding the Referenda Bills prepared by representatives of the two parties, it is also intended to send to each elector a copy of the Hansard report of the debates on the several measures ?
– So far as 1 am aware there was no authority for making a statement of the kind. If the honorable senator cares to give notice of the question I shall ascertain the position.
– Is it the intention of the Government, in addition to the pamphlet mentioned, to issue a limited number of the reports of the debates in the same way as was done at the last referendum ?
– I understand so.
– Has the Minister representing the Postmaster- General yet laid upon the table the papers relating to the recent negotiations for the Tasmanian mail contract in accordance with the order ofthe Senate, and, if not, are they likely to be tabled during this session?
– The papers will, I believe, be laid upon the table this afternoon.
– Can the VicePresident of the Executive Council tell me when the order of the Senate for a return showing the costs of Royal Commissions will be complied with ? In reply to my last inquiry, 1 was informed that the return would be tabled last week, but I have heard no more about it.
– I have done all that I possibly can to expedite the production of the return. 1 gave the Department a reminder, and was informed that ithas not yet been furnished with all the par ticulars required. When they will be ready I cannot say.
– I wish to ask the Minister of Defence if he has yet had time, pursuant to the promise he made the other day, to inquire as to the discrepancy between the electoral rolls and the State Statistician’s figures as to population.
– Yes ; and the Chief Electoral Officer told me that he expected to be able to furnish me with’ a further statement to-day. 1 may be able to answer the honorable senator’s question on the motion for adjournment.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) agreed to-
That during the remainder of the present session, unless otherwise ordered, the hour of meeting of the Senate on Wednesdays and Thursdays be half-past Ten o’clock in the forenoon, and that unless otherwise ordered the sittings of the Senate or of a Committee of the whole Senate on those days be suspended from 1 p.m. to 2.30 p.m.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers -
Defence Act 1903-1912. - Regulations amended, &c-
Universal Training -
Statutory Rules 1912, No. 228.
Statutory Rules 1912, No. 230.
Royal Military College.- Statutory Rules 1912, No. 231.
Entomology : Report of Second International Congress.
Maternity Allowance Act 1912. - Provisional Regulation. - Statutory Rules 1912, No. 225.
Public Service Act 1902-191 1-
Promotion of C. H. Auty to position of Clerk, Fourth Class, Accounts Branch, Central Staff, Department of Home Affairs.
Provisional Regulations. - Statutory Rules 1912, No. 232.
The Clerk laid upon the table the fol lowing return: -
Return to Order of the Senate of 28th November, 19,12 -
Mail Service, Melbourne and Tasmania - Tenders, &c.
The PRESIDENT reported the receipt of a message from His Excellency the Governor-General, recommending certain amendments in the Bill.
– I move -
That the message be taken into consideration forthwith.
The two amendments which have been recommended by the Governor-General should have been made, consequential upon other amendments, when the Bill was going through Committee. Neither of them involves a new principle. One amendment is to omit page 3 of Schedule III. I may mention that the page, if retained, would probably be inoperative, although itmight cause some confusion of thought amongst ship masters. The amendment to substitute “ fifty “ for “ fifteen “ in clause 115 is entirely consequential upon a series of amendments dealing with the same matter, and is not of any importance. It would seriously inconvenience the working of the Bill if the word “ fifteen “ were allowed to remain in the clause. I shall fully explain the amendments when we get into Committee.
– I raise no objection to the motion. It is impossible for any one who has only heard the message read to know whether or not the amendments open up questions of any importance. I am quite willing to assist the Minister in dealing with the Bill as far as I can, but it must not be assumed that, in assenting to the motion, we necessarily agree to- allow the amendments to pass, unless they are of such a character that it is possible to arrive at a judgment on the spot.
– I must take exception to this business being brought on forthwith, for the reason that the amendments may have an important bearing on the Navigation Bill. I do not know what they are.
– They are only drafting amendments.
– That may be the case, but I do not think that honorable senators should take anything of that kind for granted.
– The Government have given their assurance that these are drafting amendments.
– I do not think that even that is good enough, because strange things have happened before now in connexion with Bills, merely because honorable senators were indifferent, and took too much for granted. I think that the amendments should be printed and circulated.
– If there is an objection by any honorable senator, the matter cannot be proceeded with.
– I object.
That the message and amendments be taken into consideration in Committee to-morrow.
Bill received from the House of Representatives ; Standing Orders suspended ; and Bill (on motion by Senator Findley)read a first time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives; Standing Orders suspended;. and Bill (on motion by Senator Findley)read -a first time.
Bill received from the House of Repre sentatives ; Standing Orders suspended, and? Bill (on motion by Senator Findley) read a first time.
Bill received from theHouse of Representatives ; Standing Orders suspended, and Bill (on motion by Senator Findley) read a first time.
Bill received from the House of Repre sentatives ; Standing Orders suspended, andBill (on motion by Senator Findley) read’ a first time.
Bill received from the House of Repre sentatives ; Standing Orders suspended, and Bill (on motion by Senator McGregor)read a first time.
Bill returned from the House of Repre sentatives without amendment.
Bill received from the House of Representatives ; Standing Orders suspended, and Bill (on motion by Senator McGregor) read a first time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) proposed : -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Bill being passed through all its stages without delay.
– I should like to seriously ask both sides whether this thing has not gone quite far enough. We have had a perfect deluge of Bills this afternoon. The Standing Orders have been suspended without question in every case, and now a most important measure, far-reaching in its character, and of great consequence to the people of Australia, is brought forward, and we are asked to suspend the Standing Orders : to discuss it in the most perfunctory fashion, and pass it into law practically without any consideration. The forms of procedure which have been found necessary by long practice to safeguard legislation are thrown to the winds. We are practically asked to pass this measure without discussion, and to simply say “ ditto “ to the other House. Personally, I object to : this hurried legislation. There is plenty of time to deal with these measures in a proper manner, and I fail to see why they should be rushed through in sthis fashion.
– Senator Stewart has anticipated what I desired to state. I do not know that I need say more than that. But I wish to prevent any idea arising that I am in any way concurring in the evident desire of the Government to push through, in the short time of three or four days remaining to us, legislation which in itself would form sufficient work for a whole session.
– Do you want to come back after Christmas?
– No, I do not; but it is much more preferable that I should be inconvenienced than that we should pass legislation in a slovenly fashion, which not one of us can pretend to study if we put it through in the few days remaining to us.
– If it had not been for the no-confidence motions in the other Chamber we should have had these measures here in plenty of time.
– There has not been a no-confidence motion in this Chamber. The Minister who has moved this motion, and who asks us to rush through eight or ten measures of first-class importance in three or four days, was the very Minister who moved that the Senate should adjourn for a month.
– Because the Government could not handle their business. Half the measures that we are now asked to consider could have been brought before the Senate at the time we went awayfor a month’s holiday.
– Why did your party hang up business in another Chamber through no-confidence motions?
– No-confidence motions in the other House have no relation to the holiday of the Senate. The Senate adjourned because the Government were not in a position to go on with their business. I defy any honorable senator to point to a case where, within three or four days of the close of a session, a House of Parliament, with any claim to be a deliberative Chamber, has been asked to pass such a number of measures of first-class importance. We have not finished dealing with the referenda proposals ; they will require further consideration by the Senate before we deal with the measures, which the Government have now thrown down.
– And there are the Estimates, too.
– Yes. If the Senate, irrespective of parties, is prepared to indorse the present proposal of the Government that in three or four days we should consider measures which could reasonably occupy the time of a deliberative Chamber for five or six weeks, it can do so; but I wish it to be clearly understood that honorable members on this side take no. share in that course of action.
– I join with Senator Stewart and the Leader of the Opposition in the regret which they have expressed that all this legislation should be rushed through in the remaining days of this week, but I do not join with them in putting all the blame on the Government. They say that this legislation could have been brought forward in time for the Senate to properly deal with it.
– Why could not the immigration Bill have been brought on when we got a month’s holiday?
– The reply to that is that on two occasions the honorable senator’s leader in another place either moved or assented to a vote of noconfidence being moved against the Government.
– That had nothing to dp with the reason why we took a month’s Holiday.
– It had this to do with it; that the Government followed the usual custom and suspended business while a vote of no-confidence was under consideration.
– That was not the reason given by the Vice-President of the Executive Council for the month’s adjournment.
– I cannot say what was in the mind of the VicePresident of the Executive Council. While I regret that these measures should be brought forward at this stage of the session, I desire to say that it is not the fault of the Government. The honorable senator was a party to the votes of noconfidence which were moved in the other Chamber, and which resulted in the adjournment of the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill (on motion by Senator McGregor) read a first time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives; Standing Orders suspended, and (on motion by Senator Findley) Bill read a first time.
REFERENDUM (CONSTITUTION ALERATlON) BILL (No. 2).
Bill received from House of Representatives; Standing Orders suspended, and (on motion by Senator Pearce) Bill read a first time.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives with a message intimating that it had agreed to amendments 3 to 8 made by the Senate, and had disagreed with amendments 1 and 2 for the reason that they caused a limitation.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) proposed -
That so much of the Standing Orders besuspended as would prevent the message being at once considered and all consequent action taken.
– - I suggest to the Government that in view of the way in which these Bills are being dealt with, it would only be fair that they should indicate what business it is proposed to take to-morrow. We are tobe asked to deal with measure after measure, and how can we say that it is desirable to put down a particular Bill for tomorrow when we see that the businesspaper is already crowded? We are now asked to consider forthwith the message of the House of Representatives with reference to the Workmen’s Compensation Bill. That may mean turning aside from the consideration of the Constitution Alteration Bills. A call of the Senate has been arranged for to-morrow, and may have to be postponed if the debate on those Bills is not finished by then.
– - The amendments of the Senate which have not been accepted by another place are of a trifling character, and I am sure that when they are explained, Senator Vardon, who moved them, will not insist upon them. The first amendment that has been rejected by another place is that with respect to the father of an illegitimate child against whom a pre-maternity order has been made. When Senator Vardon moved his amendment he had in his mind a provision in the South Australian Act in connexion with pre-maternity allowances. But under the Bill as it stands the father of an illegitimate child is responsible for its support. By making the amendment we should not widen the scope of the Bill, but should rather limit it. Consequently, another place has not accepted the amendment. In view of the reason given, I trust there will be no difficulty about concurring with the action that has been taken elsewhere.
Question resolved in the affirmative. in Committee :
Clause 3 - “ Dependants “ means such of the members of the workman’s family as were wholly or in part dependent upon the earnings of the workman at the time of his death, or who would, but for the incapacity due to the accident, have been so dependent; and where the workman
Senate’s Amendment. - After “child” (first occurring) insert “or of a child in respect of which any maintenance or pre-maternity order has been made.”
House of Representatives’ Message. - Amend- ment disagreed to.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) proposed -
That the Senate does not insist upon its -amendment.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) £3.40]. - All that I have to say is that I am not in a position to assent to or dissent from the motion submitted by the VicePresident of the Executive Council. I have not even had time to turn to the Bill to see what it originally provided, or how far the reason submitted by another place is good, bad, or indifferent. It is impossible for me, under the circumstances, to take part in the discussion of this proposal.
– -Ihave already pointed out that the amendment made by the Senate was not necessary, because the parent of an illegitimate child was already liable in respect of it. With the very best of intentions Senator Vardon secured the insertion unnecessarily of an amendment taken from the South Australian Act.
– I have looked into this matter, and am satisfied that my amendment is not necessary. I was influenced by a case which occurred in New South Wales, and which was referred to in the course of our debates. My idea was to broaden the Bill, and make it as comprehensive as possible, but I am now convinced that no practical benefit would be secured by the amendment. In fact, strictly speaking, the amendment would cramp the Bill rather than enlarge its scope.
Motion agreed to.
Senate’s Amendment. - Leave out “ an ille gitimate,” line 13.
House of Representatives’ Message. - Amend ment disagreed to.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) agreed to-
That the Senate does not insist upon its amendment.
Resolutions reported; report adopted.
Debate resumed from 13th December, (vide page 7030), on motion by Senator McGregor -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– When proceedings were suspended on Friday I was referring to the Arbitration Court, its atmosphere of suspicion and antagonism, and the industrial unrest caused by its failure to recognise any mutual consideration or community of interest between capital and labour, employer and employe. I was also referring to the time occupied by cases before the Court, and I mentioned the Tramways case, which has occupied 100 days. That represents practically one-third of the working days of the Court for a whole year.
– I am informed that it represents half a legal year.
– For which the Constitution is responsible, and honorable senators opposite are not willing to amend it.
– In my view, the Constitution is in no way responsible for it. It is a question whether the award that has been given will settle the matter, and whether there will not be a reference to another Court to decide whether there was a dispute at all. What may we anticipate from the proposed amendment of the Constitution? It is surely that, instead of the work of the Court being reduced, it will be increased, and, instead of its action being more expeditious, it will be loaded up with work which it will be unable to perform. I have quoted the number of our industries, and the number of employes engaged in them, with the object of showing that they are all to be handed over to this Court, instead of the work of the Court being limited to disputes extending beyond the limits of one State. I have referred to the failure of Arbitration proceedings in New Zealand and New South Wales, and have indicated my preference for a Wages Board system, with leave, in the case of unfair competition between industries in the different States, to appeal to a Court established for the purpose of dealing with such questions. Such cases will, I believe, be found to be exceptionally few, because each year employers and employes will, to a greater extent, be forced to recognise that the conditions and wages of industry must approximate in all the States. If wages are higher in one State than in another, the tendency will be to level up rather than to level down.
– We were told in Western Australia by the honorable senator’s party that they were going to be levelled down.
– I do not know what has happened in Western Australia, but, speaking from our general experience, I venture to say that the operation of the Wages Board system since it was initiated has been in the direction of raising wages in every instance, and not in the direction of levelling down.
– Can the honorable senator point to any instance in which the Commonwealth Courts of Conciliation and Arbitration have reduced wages as the result of any of its judgments?
– No. I say that, no matter what tribunal we establish, whether it be a Wages Board or an Arbitration Court, unless wages are increased all the time the worker will have no use for it. I have said also that, so far, the operation of such Courts has been in the direction of raising wages.
– That is the honorable senator’s objection to them.
– I beg the honorable senator’s pardon. That is a gratuitous statement on his part. I have expressed no objection to them, and if the honorable senator were at all acquainted with the history of the matter, he would be aware that it was largely due to my own influence that Wages Boards were established in South Australia. I wish now to show that Canada has followed upon other lines in the passage of the Industrial investigations Act. Their idea was conciliation and conference. The leading feature of the measure may be expressed in the words. “ Come : now, and let us reason together, and see if we cannot arrive at a mutual understanding.” The Canadian Act has been very economical in its working. I refer to it because I believe it would be worth the while of. this Parliament to consider the advisability of adopting similar legislation rather than of continuing the expensive system we have established. Under the Canadian Industrial Investigations Act before a strike or lock-out can take place, the matter in dispute must be referred to a Board created under the Act. The Board consists of three persons, one appointed by the employers, the second by the employes, and the third by the first two, or, if they fail to agree upon an appointment, by the Minister administering the Act. Thirty days’ notice has to be given before action of this kind can be taken. The mode of reaching the tribunal is as follows : - Application forms are provided and these forms embody -
There must also accompany the application a declaration that, failing adjustment of the dispute, there will be a strike or lock-out in the industry. An application may be made by organized unions or unorganized employes. When the Board is constituted, it is its duty to investigate the whole case. It sits with open doors, and takes sworn evidence. It pays the expenses of witnesses, and imposes penalties if its summonses are disobeyed. The members of the Board, . during the time of sitting, are paid a sum. . of £4 per day. If a settlement is arrived. at, a memorandum is drawn up and signed by both parties to the dispute. This is put in the form of an agreement to last a certain time, and is made binding. If a. settlement is not reached, a full report of the case is made to the Minister, with such recommendations for a settlement of the dispute as may to the members of the Board seem fit. The report is signed by the Registrar and published in the Labour Gazette. That is the end of the matter so far as the Board is concerned, and where an agreement is not reached, a strike or lockout may be resorted to. The great virtue of the Act is that it brings the parties together, permits of a frank discussion of differences, and the publicity of the proceedings usually brings about a settlement as - the result of the pressure of public opinion. So far as I am able to learn, the working of the Act has given general satisfaction. I believe that if we were to pass legislation on such lines, it would be a boon to this community, and would result in a great saving of time, expense, and friction. I ask honorable senators to take note of the results of the operation of this Canadian measure. The number of disputes dealt with in 1907-8 was34 ; in 1908-0, 21;-: in 1909-10, 27; in 1910-11, 24: or a total of 106 cases. The number of cases in which a strike or lock-out was averted in 1907-8 was 32 out of 34; in 1908-9, 19 out of 21; in 1909-10, 25 out of 27 ; in 1910-11, 19 out of 24 ; or a total of 95 out of 106 cases. The number of cases in which a strike or lock-out was not averted was, in 1907-8, 1 ; in 1908-9, 1 ; in 1909- 10, 4; in 1910-11, 4; or a total of 10 such cases. The number of employes estimated to have been affected by the 106 disputes is given at 101,680. I want to compare these results with the results of arbitration proceedings. New South Wales enacted a Conciliation and Arbitration Act in 1901. Mr. B. R. Wise, who was the author of the Act, took exceptional pride in it, and looked upon it as an almost perfect piece of legislation. He declared that under it there -was no form of dispute that might not be very quickly settled. But what was the result of its operation? In 1901 there were 2 strikes; in 1902, 12; in 1903,II; in 1904,II; in 1905, 36; in 1906, 29; in 1907, 52 ; and during the first three months of 1908 there were 33 strikes. The result was that the. Court was quite unable to deal with the business brought before it, and declared at that time that it had as much business in front of it as would take it two years to do. The result was that the Act was abolished, and tribunals in the nature of Wages Boards substituted for Arbitration Courts. It appears to me that this goes to show that the system of arbitration is not by any means the best system that could be adopted. Let me give an illustration of the operation of the Canadian Act, which I quote from the Registrar of Boards of Conciliation and Investigation for the years 1910-11 -
Application from members of the Toronto Railway Employees Union - No. 113 employed by the Toronto Company - Board established - Unanimous report by Board - Strike averted.
Application received July 5,1910.
Parties concerned - The Toronto Railway Company and employees. Members of the Toronto Railway Employees Union number 113.
Applicants - Employees.
Nature of industry concerned - street railways.
Nature of dispute - concerning demand for new working agreement.
Number of employees affected - 1,300.
Date of constitution of Board - July 16th 1910.
Membership of Board - His Honor Judge John A. Barron, Stratford, Ont, Chairman, appointed on the joint recommendation of the other members of the Board : Mr. J. P. Mullarkey, Montreal, Que., appointed on the recommendation of the employing company; and Mr. J. G. O’Donoghue, Toronto,Ont., appointed on the recommendation of the employees.
Report received - August, 20, 1910.
Result of inquiry - Board presented a unanimous report making certain recommendations for the settlement of the dispute which were accepted by both parties concerned - a strike being thereby averted.
A copy of the schedule was embodied in the Board’s report, the same to take effect from the 16th July,1910, and to remain in force for two years from the above-mentioned date.
The new schedule of wages provided for increases from 21 to 24 cents, or nearly is. per hour, to the various men in the employ of the company. It is further stated that -
The Board expressed in its report its appreciation of the spirit of fairness exhibited by the parties to the dispute, and of the deep sense of responsibility which each side felt that it owed to the city of Toronto. It was the opinion of the Board that the final acceptance of the award was due to the large concessions made in the interests of the public by the President and officers of the company on the one side and their employees on the other. Referring to a critical period in the inquiry the Board also stated : - “ It was then that the respective sides began preparations, one to order a strike, the other to meet it. In fact, both sides at this point kept calling for the award, eager to quickly meet the consequences which were then believed to be inevitable. It was at this critical moment that the splendid advantages of conciliation were most apparent.”
That shows, I think, a very satisfactory state of things. Let me now compare the cost of the Canadian method with the cost of arbitration in Australia. I hold in my hand a letter whichis signed by Mr. F. A. Acland, Deputy Minister of Labour in Canada, and reads as follows; -
I would state that the cost of administering the Act has averaged about $25,000 each year since the Act was enacted. The Boards have averaged annually about twenty-five in number, so that it may be said generally that an inquiry under the Act costs about $1,000; needless to say, some disputes reach a far higher cost than this figure, but the average is reached because of other inquiries being conducted at slight cost. This expenditure covers payments of members of the Board, charges of witnesses called by the Board, all travelling expenses of members, witnesses, &c, and occasional travelling expenses of an officer of the Department. The figure named ($25,000) does not include expenses other than occasional travelling and printing incurred in the Department, nor were any officers of the Department appointed expressly for the purposes of the Act, though naturally clerical assistance has been somewhat increased by the duties of administration.
The letter reveals that the administration of the Industrial Investigations Act costs about £5,000 a year, and that the actual cost of settling a dispute averages200. I ask the Senate to contrast the working of the Canadian Act with the working of our Arbitration Act, to note its expedition, and to see whether Canada does not com- pare very favorably with Australia in this regard. That is all that I want to say regarding the question of industrial disputes. I stand now, as I have always stood, for the recognition of the fact that there is a community of interest between capital and labour, that they are dependent one upon the other, and that there should be mutual consideration one for the other, with the desire on both sides to do justice. I feel sure in my own mind that the taking of parties before the Court, one being the Complainant and the other defendant, breeds a spirit of antagonism, and instead of bringing the parties together pushes them further apart. Personally, I would sweep the Arbitration Court out of existence, and establish something a good deal better in its stead.
Regarding the other proposals to amend the Constitution, I desire to say a few words. It is proposed to insert in section 51 the following new paragraph -
Conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes in relation to employment in the railway service of a State.
I object strongly to any other body interfering between a State and its employes. Each State has its own Parliament; everv railway employe has the right to appeal to the members of that Parliament, and so far as I know the men have usually obtained justice from their own Parliament. I have spoken to a number of the railway employes of South Australia, and found that a great many of them do not want this Federal interference, but would much prefer to remain as they are, and to be able to settle their affairs with their own Parliament. I am very glad that that is the case.
– They will still be free to do that.
– This proposal holds out to the men, as all these proposals do, an invitation to carry any matter in dispute to the Federal Arbitration Court.
– That will only be done when they cannot settle a dispute with their own State.
– The desire all the Way through has been to enlarge the jurisdiction of the Federal Arbitration Court, and to bring more and more people under its influence.
– To make it Australian.
– To set the whole of the industrial community in Australia in turmoil and unrest.
– It is the most successful Arbitration Court which has ever been established.
– Then God save us from any unsuccessful Court which may be established. I do not wish to have to do with an unsuccessful Court if our present Court is successful. I quoted the other day the number of cases which have been taken before the Court, the time occupied in dealing with them, and the costs incurred. I venture to say that if a return of the total expenses could be obtained, it would be found that the cases had cost over £100,000.
– And one strike would involve ten times that amount.
– It is also proposed to seek power for this Parliament to deal with trusts, combines, and monopolies. If the Anti-Trust Act, as amended the year before last, is not sufficient to deal with these bodies, I am prepared to give any power which will be sufficient for that purpose, but so far we have not had a test of the amending Act. The Coal Vend was declared by the High Court to be a combination not in restraint of trade, and not detrimental to the public. In fact, the High Court upheld the deliberately expressed opinion of the Attorney-General, Mr. Hughes, that it is a beneficent institution, and works well for both parties concerned. I have no desire to shield these combinations in any way. We in Australia are better off than are the people in America, where trusts and combines have taken root, and where, I believe, they do a good deal of harm. Take, for instance, the Beef Trust of Chicago. It was able to go to the railways there and say, “ We demand that you shall carry all our goods at so many cents a ton less than you shall carry the goods of our opponents.” It. went further than that. It said, “ We demand, not only that you shall carry our goods at so many cents less a ton, but that the extra charge you make to our opponents shall be credited to us,” and that demand was actually complied with.
– That is not as bad as the Beef Trust in Western Australia today.
– In Australia, with the State-owned railways, it is absolutely impossible for that sort of thing to take place.
– In Western Australia, the beef does not come by railway, but by steamer.
– I should be pleased to hear what the honorable senator has to say about the meat supply in his State. I know what the trouble is there. The High Court has laid it down that if it can be proved under the Anti-trust Act as amended that a trust, is injurious to trade, or detrimental to the public in any way, it can be dealt with under the Act. I object to the proposal regarding monopolies, because no attempt is made to define a monopoly. It is a difficult word to define, and if we pass the proposal there ought to be a specified basis on which to act. The Bill does not say that it shall be a monopoly in restraint of trade or detrimental to the public. It merely provides that if an absolute majority of the members of this Parliament declare that a business is a monopoly, it shall thereupon be a monopoly, and no other statement will be needed, no matter what the business may be. Further, it provides that the monopoly may be acquired on just terms, but there is no definition of “just terms.” Is the question to be referred to arbitration? When the Attorney-General spoke on the matter before, he said that the phrase simply covered plant and buildings, and so on, but allowed nothing for goodwill. If “ just terms “ will not include some recompense for the good-will of a business, it will be an unjust proceeding, because there are many cases where the good-will of a business would be worth more than all the plant and buildings put together. Take, for instance, the Melbourne Age. I venture to say that the good-will of a newspaper business like that is worth more than all its plant and buildings put together. A man may have devoted the’ best years of his life to the building up of a good and successful business, and the value of the business depends on the man himself and the work he has put into it. If my honorable friends are going to recognise no obligation for the good-will, chey will do the man an absolute injustice. So far as I can see, that is what the proposal really comes to.
– You are reading that into the clause.
– Will the honorable senator tell me what he reads into it?
– I cannot read that into it.
– All that I am contending is that the clause should provide for a way of determining what is a “monopoly “ and what are “just terms.” Un less that is done, the owner of a business will be left entirely at the mercy of any” Parliament which chooses to take action.
– Can you define “ just terms”?
– I have my own ideas as to what the term means. If I were going to take a man’s business, I would ascertain the value of his building, plant, stock, and good-will, add the figures together, and say, “ That is my estimate of the value of your business.” I am told that the Attorney-General did say on a previous occasion that the good-will of a business is not to be taken into consideration at all.
– Will not the Judge say what the good- will of a business is?
– Does this clause contain any reference to a Judge?
– Yes, in determining the question of the taking over of a business, as the honorable senator knows.
– I shall read the proposal for the information of the honorable senator, who, I think, has not read it.
– I have read it over and over again.
– The proposal reads -
– In the case of a dispute, who is going to interpret “ just terms”?
– According to this proposal, Parliament will.
– The party concerned will have the same right as anybody else to appeal to the High Court.
– More beautiful litigation ! More appeals to the High Court ! More trouble all the way through. I admire the way in which members of the Labour party are anxious to throw people into the High Court, or a Court of any description ; but I cannot say that I admire their idea of acquiring a man’s property on terms such as are suggested in this proposal.
– Do you not think that there ought to be a right of appeal by anybody against any such thing?
– I think there ought to be a right of appeal before a man’s business is touched. The first thing that ought to be done should be to prove that it is a monopoly, in restraint of trade, and detrimental to the public. When that is proved, we have something to go upon, but by this Bill it is only necessary to declare by a resolution of Parliament that a business is a monopoly.
– It will not be carried, so you need not worry about it.
– I do not know whether it will or not, but, at any rate, it is only right that the people should know exactly what is intended. The Minister of Defence stated that the Premiers of the different States had held a Conference, and were prepared “to cede to the Commonwealth many of the powers asked for by the Federal Government. I do not find any statement to that effect in the report of the proceedings of the Conference. In the first place, South Australia was not represented on the Conference at all. The South Australian Ministry were at that time fighting for their life, and when the present Government came into power there they decided that they would not take any steps until the referenda proposals had been finally disposed of by this Parliament, and they would then be prepared to do something in the matter.
– Until the Liberal party came into power - that is the reason which the Premier of South Australia gave.
– The sooner the Liberal party comes into power the better it will be for the Commonwealth. I have here a copy of the draft Bill which was presented to that Conference, and this is what, under the heading of “ Labour and employment,” was proposed -
Labour and employment, so far as is necessary to enable the Parliament of the Commonwealth -
to prevent and settle industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State, and to provide that any condition of employment determined by any award or order of any authority constituted under any law of the Commonwealth for the prevention or settlement of any such industrial dispute shall, if such authority so determine, be a common rule of the industry concerned.
So that it will be seen that the Premiers of the States were only prepared to cede those powers on certain conditions, and as regards powers in industrial matters they were proposed to be limited to disputes extending beyond the boundaries of any one State. The State Premiers also agreed to this provision -
Combinations and monopolies in relation to the production, manufacture, or supply of goods or services so far as is necessary to enable the Parliament of the Commonwealth to control or to acquire on just terms the business or industry of any such combination or monopoly when such business or industry extends beyond the limits of any one State, and when such combination or monopoly has been declared by the High Court to be in restraint of trade or commerce to the detriment of the public.
I think the Premiers adopted a commonsense attitude in that matter. They laid it down that it was not advisable to interfere with a man’s business until it had been proved that the business was a monopoly, in restraint of trade and detrimental to the public.
– Good old Conservative gag.
– We have heard that before, but, unfortunately, honorable senators opposite have not provided anything reasonable in substitution for what the State Premiers proposed. What they want to do is to take matters into their hands, and merely say, “ This is a monopoly,” without proving anything whatever. Mr. Holman, a member of the Labour Government of New South Wales, speaking at the State Premiers’ Conference, said -
What I wish to emphasize is that if the whole control of commerce is handed over to the Federal Parliament, then the local control by the States is reduced to only a few narrow and formal matters, which, I confess, Mr. President, it is hardly worth maintaining the State Parliaments to carry on.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
Mr. HOLMAN. ; What would it mean? The hawker who sells peaches on Prince’s-bridge is engaged in domestic commerce. ‘His business would be regulated by Federal law. The regulations in Sydney about the wire netting of butchers’ shops would have to be re-enacted under Federal law. The man engaged in shop keeping in the selling of any commodity, how. ever small, or however large, is engaged in domestic commerce, and the control of all the interests arising out of that would be a Federal matter. As I say, I think it is indisputable that all men are engaged either in commerce or industry - that is, all the men who are in any way contributing to the upkeep of the community. If that be so, the immense range and sweep of the proposal to hand domestic commerce over to the Federal Parliament becomes at once apparent. Without further labouring- the point, I can only say that it is one of “the most radical and revolutionary changes in the relations between the States and the Federal Parliament that can be conceived; and I venture to say, as a Labour man, that it is a change which is in no way necessitated - I will put it in that way - by the demands of our platform or of our movement. It would constitute, I think, a very deep and serious inroad upon the local governing powers of the States, and I am inclined to think, so far as one can judge of such a wide movement, that that was one of the objections which seriously contributed to the defeat of the referenda proposals. It was felt that this was a proposal to hand over somewhat gratuitously to the Federal Parliament a large power, which would injure the effectiveness of the State Parliaments without improving the effectiveness of the Federal Parliament.
I quite agree with Mr. Holman in the attitude which he took up on that occasion. I fail to see that the Government have put forward any good and sufficient reason for asking for these powers from the people. I sincerely hope that when the question is put to the vote of the people they will, as they did on a previous occasion, turn the proposals down by a very large and substantial majority.
.- I did not intend to speak in this debate, but in view of the importance of the subject, and the fact that there are some considerations which present themselves to one who represents the smallest State in the Commonwealth, I shall not allow the occasion to pass without saying a few words.
The great underlying principles of these referenda proposals are briefly these : First, that the people should control the conditions under which they live; secondly, that they should use the most effective means of controlling those conditions. We on this side differ materially from our friends opposite, inasmuch as we do not think that the prosperity of a nation is made up altogether by the amount of wealth that is produced. We believe that the prosperity of a nation depends on the happiness and comfort of the units that compose that nation ; and in that respect there is a very wide line of demarcation between the legislation of- the Labour party and that of those who now compose the Liberal party.
– They all like to get as much as they can, do they not ?
– That is human nature. We, personally, do not claim to have more virtues than our friends on the other side, but we do claim to have a set of principles which make for the progress and prosperity of a young nation ; and we fur ther claim that there is an absence of those principles in our friends opposite. The people have, through the State and the Federal Legislatures, two avenues for expressing their wishes. To hear our friends on the other side discuss this question, one would imagine that there were two different communities actuated by entirely different motives. That is not a fact.
We are as a people desirous of having our wishes carried out as speedily as possible. As far as the State of Tasmania is concerned, the wishes of the people have been systematically ignored by the Liberal party, not only of Tasmania, but also of? Australia.
I have noticed during the course of this debate that very little has been said by honorable senators opposite regarding the effectiveness of Federation., They have continually slummed and skimmed over those portions which, they know would weaken their case. They have slummed over the fact that when Federation took place the people thought that certain specific powers were given to the Commonwealth. It was thought that we had greater powers over corporations than subsequent events proved to be the case. It was thought that we could legis-late to prevent trusts and monopolies when we federated. It was thought that we had power, by legislation, to bring new Protection into force. Did not the Leader of the Liberal party go to the country with very glowing promises, and great flag flapping, making magnificent speeches in favour of that policy of new Protection? Where is it now? What have honorable senators on the other side to say about it?
We thought that we had power to make a common rule when we established our Arbitration Court. We thought that when an award was given in a certain industry we had power to apply it to every employer and employ^ engaged in that industry in the Commonwealth. Yet what did we find? A condition of chaos for a certain period of time. We found in Melbourne, for instance, that when the Arbitration Court fixed the minimum wage of those employed in the bootmaking industry at £2 1 6s. a week, owing to- the failure to apply the common rule, employers were paying £2 8s. a week under the award of a Wages Board. That was penalizing the employer who was paying the higher wage, and was a very undesirable condition of affairs. In order to make our arbitration legislation effective, the representatives of the Labour unions have had to cite before the Court every employer engaged in a particular industry.
Again, it was not known that the power did not exist to enforce union labels. It was thought that our Trades Description Act gave us very much greater powers over goods that are sold in Australia, and yet we found that many of those proposals which were advocated by honorable senators on the other side were impossible of fruition after a few years of Federation. The Minister of Defence alluded at length to the Trades Description Act. He showed that articles detrimental to the public were being imported to Australia, and that it was necessary for the protection of the public that the constituent parts of those articles should be branded on the packages containing them. We find that patent medicines, to which are attached all kinds of fictitious statements as to their curative properties, are being sold all over Australia. The labels cannot be attached to them when they are being passed through the Customs, but they are attached when they are landed in Australia. For instance, there is one preparation which is called the Radium Microbe Killer, and this is the description which appears on the label-
It is a positive and certain cure for all diseases, and is guaranteed to be perfectly harmless. lt will effect a cure in every instance if given a- fair trial. The microbe killer’ is perfectly harmless, and can be taken* in any quantities without danger.
That label is false on the very face of it, and there are hundreds of other similarly misleading labels attached to packages in order to bulldoze the confiding public. A friend of mine, who is a chemist, quite recently gave me the constituents of a teething necklace which had come through the Customs, and was being retailed in Tasmania for 9s. The article consisted of a bone necklace and a powder. The necklace was to be put round the neck of an infant suffering from teething, while the powder was to be consumed. The analysis showed that the powder consisted of a small quantity of resinous matter and a larger quantity of mineral matter, chiefly magnesium compounds. This was supposed tr- work wonderful cures upon children. When the article was stopped at the Customs, the persons who made a profit from it commenced manufacturing in Aus- tralia, and the Federal Government are. powerless to interfere. The Queensland meat importers, having to work under conflicting laws in different States, put up their commodities in tins with different brands upon them.
These conditions exist only because the Commonwealth Parliament have not power to enact one law applying throughout Australia. ‘ Owing to the helplessness of the Federal Government the cost of living has risen all over the Commonwealth. It has been asserted that the cost of living has risen because of the increase in wages. I do not deny that the increase in wages has had some influence in increasing the cost of living, but I say, also, that in many instances the increased cost is due to the fact that, as one manufacturer put it to me the other day, when wages rise 10 per cent., profits rise 20 and 25 per cent.
– The new President of the United States of America says that the cost of living has risen because of high Protection and combinations.
– The increased production of gold has also had an influence, in Tasmania prices have risen almost twice the extent of the rise in wages. Some figures were compiled by the Hobart Public Service Association, in order that they might be presented to a deputation that waited on the Premier of the State. They show that the increase of wages in Tasmania was 32 per cent., whilst the increase in the price of clothing, such as would be used by the labouring classes in Hobart, was, during the same period, 64 per cent. Another table shows that provisions in Hobart rose 85.57 per cent., and that house rent rose no less than 48.5 per cent. So that the cost of living and the amount of profits increased altogether out of proportion to the increase in wages. That is what we have been complaining about. Some manufacturers have been enabled, under our present system, largely owing to the weakness of the Federal Constitution, to extort more out of the pockets of the confiding public as wages have risen. By means of these referenda proposals we are making a serious attempt to cure the evil.
We know that the cost of living and the cost of commodities in every trade have risen enormously. We know that the prices of meat, wheat, flour, tobacco, coal, sugar, the cost of transport, and the charges for ail kinds of necessaries have risen altogether out of proportion to the rise in wages. 1 have before me an extract from the evidence given before the Royal Commission on Customs leakage. When the Commission sat in Hobart, Mr. Barnard, the Collector of Customs, was examined by Mr. Roberts, M.P., as follows: -
I hold in my hand an Inter-State certificate relating to a consignment of envelopes. The entry sets forth that the selling value of the consignment at the time of transfer was £10 2s. 6d., but that the estimated value of the goods for the purpose of duty was only £4 10s. In other words, there is a difference of £$ 12s. 6d. Can you tell me whether that difference is a fair index of the difference between the selling value of goods and their value for the purpose of duty in all cases? - I cannot say but it would seem to be about a fair thing! You must add to the value for duty oversea freight, warehouse costs, landing costs, profit and duty. These, I think, would pretty well absorb that £z.
Here is another Inter-State certificate relating to vehicles and parts thereof. It sets out that the estimated selling value of these goods was £12 15s., and that their value for the purpose of duty was £.6 3s. 4<1. So that this case was about on a par, or only a little better, from the exporter’s point of view, than the one to which I have just directed your attention? - Yes.
I have here still .mother certificate, which relates to cotton piece goods from the United States. Their selling value is set down at £<) 7s. 6d., and their value for the purposes of duty at ,£5 4s. 6d. The duty is 5 per cent., which would add only 5s. 3d. to their value for the purpose of duty, thus leaving a balance of over £4 on an article the selling value of which is £<) odd. What have you to say to that? - It is very much on the lines of the other cases which have been quoted.
The certificate which is now before me sets out that the estimated selling value of a consignment of silk is £13 ros. 6d., and that_ its value for the purpose of duty is £3 15s. What is your opinion of these figures? - They disclose
There is an indication on sworn evidence that, in spite of our restrictive legislation, large profits are being extorted out of the public, because the central authority has little power to intervene.
– Does not the honorable senator know that profits in the “rag” trade are always about 50 per cent. ?
– I can speak with authority on the “ rag “ trade, because I happened to be engaged in it for some years in Tasmania. In very few instances does the profit exceed 50 per cent, though fairly good profits are made. In very few industries, indeed, are the profits stated in the evidence of the Royal Commission reached. Com- petition does not permit very large profits to be made. But competition in many trades of Australia has been stifled. Honorable understandings have been arrived at, and those concerned make the public pay as much as they can, or, to use the words of an American, “ what the traffic will bear.” The price of coal at Newcastle was, in 1906, raised to ns. per ton, ai: advance of 3s., whilst the miners’ wages went up only is. per ton. The Shipping Combine was afterwards formed, and then coal went up to 14s. per ton. I believe that it Ins since gone up to as high as 24s. ‘ This Parliament has no power to limit the enormous profits that are being wrung out of the people. The High Court actually declared that the Coal Vend was not a monopoly; but I shall quote what Mr. Justice Isaacs said in his very important judgment - one of the most momentous judicial decisions ever given in Australia.
– The Coal Vend case did not involve the construction of the Constitution, did it?
– I understand that, if the constitutional powers which we are asking for had been embodied in the Constitution, the Coal Vend would not have been able to fix prices, or, if they did, we should have been able to nationalize the industry, as we have’ not power to do now.
– That is another thing ; but the prosecution did not fail because of the Constitution. It failed because the majority of the High Court thought there was not sufficient evidence. They may have been right or they may have been wrong.
– I say that they were wrong, because Mr. Justice Isaacs said, in his judgment -
I have no hesitation in finding that the Australian public have suffered great detriment in respect of excessive prices charged for Newcastle coal, and that the excess is accentuated by the restriction on choice introduced by the Vend and made more thoroughly effective by the shipping combines.
It is true that the judgment of Mr. Justice Isaacs was upset by the High Court, but the fact remains that the people of Australia have had to pay the piper, an.J that is what I am chiefly concerned about. Hundreds of instances have been . given, and more will be given, to show how extortionate profits have been wrung out of the people. The Shipping Combine has been responsible for exploiting the public to an enormous extent.
– Senator Guthrie says that there is no Shipping Combine.
– I would not accept his authority on such a matter.
– He says that it is a good thing.
– The first-class steamer fare from Launceston and the north-west coast of Tasmania to Melbourne - about 554 miles - is £2 [8. 6d., which works out at between [ Ad. : and 1?d. per mile. By Sydney express one could travel first class to Sydney and back for 60. The distance is 1,153 miles, and the cost works out at 1?d. per mile. In other words, although the sea traffic is always cheaper than railway traffic, travelling between Burnie and Melbourne is as dear as travelling between Melbourne and Sydney. I have many other instances in mind. For instance, fruit-producers are charged 17s. 6d. per ton for carrying fruit from Sydney to Brisbane. The same shipping company bring the fruit of the northern producers from Brisbane to Sydney for 9s. 9d. per ton, unfairly discriminating in favour of the northern producer to the extent oi nearly 100 per cent.
– The Commonwealth has absolute control over that now .
– The matter is not controlled as I should like to see it controlled, r*
– That is Inter- State trade.
– But the Commonwealth has not effective power to impose a remedy. The true remedy is the establishment of a line of Commonwealth-owned steamers trading between States, and also in the Intra-State trade.
That brings me to our chief means for the improvement of the conditions which now obtain in Australia, and that is the nationalization of monopolies. 1 am aware that many of our honoraBle friends opposite view this proposal with holy horror. They are continually pointing out that it has been a failure in many instances and ineffective in others, but where they can point to one failure in nationalization we can point to ten in private enterprise. If we look abroad at what is done in other countries we shall find that many have set us an example of what may be done by Government enterprise in the carrying on of industries under such powers as we propose to give this Parliament by amendments of the
Constitution. In France the tobacco, match, and gunpowder industries are Statemonopolies.
– And they are verybadly managed, too.
– I expected that interjection. That statement has been made before, and especially with regard to thetobacco monopoly. I reay inform honorable senators that France derives a revenuefrom the tobacco monopoly of between.- ^16,000,000 and ;£i 7,000,000 a year. When dealing with this question, our honorable friends opposite are accustomed toassert that the tobacco made under Govern- ment management of the industry in Franceis not fit to smoke. I learn “from a wellinformed globe-trotter that in France the Government make four or five different qualities of tobacco. Of course, when thebest tobacco which can be got in Australia is compared with the cheapest tobacco to be bought in France, the comparison is not a. fair one. I could give some interesting., figures concerning the French tobacco industry. It is stated that the average price of tobacco in France under the State monopoly is 4s. 1½d. per pound. This includesall kinds of tobacco, plug, flake cut, and finned. The average price of tobacco in Australia under the private monopoly is 6s. 8Jd. per pound, showing a difference of 2s. 7d. per pound. What is of greater importance is that, while in France the nation secures a revenue of ^£16,000,000- from the industry, in Australia we pay nearly ^1,000,000 to a private monopoly that fleeces our citizens.
– What isour annual revenue from Customs and Excise on tobacco?
– I cannot say from memory. In England a big movement is being conducted for the nationalization of the railways. Honorable senators who read English newspapers will know that the nation is taking overthe monopoly of the National Telephone Company, and the transaction will be completed as soon as the charges are assessed by competent outside authorities. In Hungary the nation has a monopoly of the tobacco industry, and I find from the - Statesman’s Year-Book that there are in that country twenty-one factories, employing 19,415 men, and supplying all the - tobacco the nation uses. The silk culture - is a national business in Hungary, and in > 1907 employed no less than 73,616 families. In Japan the copper, silver, iron, . coal, and other mines have been nationalized with striking success. It will be within the recollection of honorable senators that Japan sent her envoys to Europe to study the Hungarian and French systems of Government control of the tobacco industry, and immediately on’ their return Japan assumed control of the tobacco industry in that country. I could give no better illustration of the success of her enterprise in this direction than to remind honorable senators that, in her great struggle with Russia, Japan succeeded in floating a loan of a great many millions sterling on the security of her tobacco industry. That will indicate the value of the nationalization of such industries.
– I think she has to pay 6 or 7 per cent, interest for the loan.
– I do not know what interest Japan is paying, but I know that no private money lenders will lend money to any nation without security.
– Especially in time of war. Great Britain has had to pay a higher rate of interest than that stated on some occasions.
– In Germany, State coal mines are worked with conspicuous success. In Australia we have spent £154,000,000 upon railways, and I find that last year, after paying interest and all charges, we had a clear profit on that expenditure of . £1,424,000. That is a good argument for State control in this country. I find, also, that the railway return provided , £5,369,000 of the interest due on public borrowing. Coming to the separate States, we know that Western Australia has had a State hotel running successfully for some years past.
– Western Australia has several such hotels.
– I understand that they are conducted upon exemplary lines.
– I may inform the honorable senator that there would be quite a number of State hotels in Western Australia at the present time were it not for the action of the Legislative Council of that State.
– I am sorry to hear that, but it is quite in. keeping with the action usually taken by the Legislative Councils of Australia. We know that Western Australia has nationalized the shipping service, which is returning a good profit. The Western Australian Government were in such a position that they were unable to secure new boats to carry on the service, and had to content themselves with starting it with one boat, which a member of the Senate has described as a tank. In spite of this handicap, I find that Mr. Scaddan, the Premier of the State, in delivering his Financial Statement on 17th October last, said -
The s.s. Wexford, now known as the Eucla, was purchased by the Government for£10,500 for the purpose of assisting our producers in the South-Eastern portion of the State, and with a view to giving improved facilities for the conveyance of mails, cargo, &c. She commenced running on the 4th August, and up to date has shown a profit of£250 on her running, and that is after allowing all charges that any private company could possibly allow, and, in some cases, even more. She is proving an excellent vessel for the service. The s.s. Darius, now known as the Kwinana; has been engaged on the North-West cattle trade, and. is now visiting the Eastern States for the purpose of bringing over sheep, coal, and bran, having taken over 1,000 tons of chaff from Western Australia to Eastern ports. She commenced running on the 16th June last, and up to date shows a profit of £1,750. She is eminently suited for the cattle trade, and will, I am sure, prove a valuable asset to the State, and be the means of delivering cattle to the metropolis at a reasonable rate. She was purchased for £1 7,000, less an amount to be deducted for electric light installation, and about£1,200 was spent in alterations. The manager of the Government Steam-ship Service has made arrangements for the Kwinana to pay a visitto New Zealand in the near future for the purpose of taking produce there and bringing some back. The s.s. Western Australia, formerly known as the Mongolia, is now en route to Fremantle, and should be with us before the end of the month. She will be engaged upon the North-West passenger and cattle trade, and those who have Seen the vessel pronounce her as being eminently suited for the purpose for which she has been acquired. Her purchase price was£39,500, but with the alterations which have been effected, including the installation of wireless telegraphy, she stands valued at£50,000 at the present time. In fact, to give evidence that she is worth £50,000, I might explain that the insurance companies in England have accepted a risk to the extent of£50,000 on that boat. . . .
I may add, that tenders were recently called by the Commonwealth Government for the NorthWest mail service, and the State Government lodged a tender. I am hopeful, therefore, of being able to secure the contract for the conveyance of His Majesty’s mails to the NorthWest portions of our State on somewhat similar lines to the South-East coast service.
He further says -
The estimated expenditure for the year in connexion with the State steam-ship service is £61,462, while the revenue has been estimated at£73,000, showing an anticipated profit on the operations of the four steamers of£8,462.
Dealing with State shipping, I may say that, even in Tasmania, a Select Committee appointed by the State Legislature has brought in a report favouring State-owned vessels. Whether the Legislative Council of the State will permit Tasmania to engage in the enterprise with the aid of Commonwealth subsidies I am not in a position to say, but, judging from past actions of that Chamber, I believe that it will turn the proposals down, and it will remain for this Commonwealth Parliament to link Tasmania with the mainland by a line of Stateowned vessels.
– The honorable senator might refer to the nationalization of the brick-making industry.
– I intend to do so. I notice that honorable senators opposite have been significantly silent concerning these invasions of industry by the State. In spite of the troubles which arose in connexion with it, I believe that the Victorian State coal mine has proved to be a profitable undertaking. I had an opportunity of inspecting cold storage facilities provided by the State in Victoria for the benefit of the primary producer, and I find that Government stores in every instance are paying their way handsomely.
– They are paying the producer, too.
– They are assisting the producer immensely.
– Why interfere with the State powers if that be so?
– We wish to extend the powers of this Parliament. We do not propose to touch these industries undertaken by the State Parliaments. I might refer honorable senators to the work done by the Newport workshops. I have figures which go to show that the saving to the taxpayer secured by the construction of thirty-nine locomotives in the Newport workshops amounted to £45,747, and that ^100,000 per annum is saved to the taxpayers of Victoria by the construction of locomotives and rolling-stock at the Newport workshops instead of by private enterprise.
– Yet they had to send for engines to Walkers Limited, a private firm in Queensland.
– The reason for that was that the State workshops could not turn out all that were required in the time necessary. We have had a frank statement from Mr. Graham, the Victorian Minister of Agriculture, that he favours State Export Departments and a Commonwealth line of steamers. Those of us who have been to South Australia, and have seen the working of the admirable State Export Department there, will admit that it is of immense benefit to the producers of the State. Perhaps it would convince even honorable senators opposite if they heard the opinion expressed upon that Department by Mr. Butler, a prominent member of the State Parliament.
– It is a very good enterprise.
– I am glad to have Senator Symon’s assurance on the subject, because he should know. It has been said that the establishment of that State Export Department, which is doing a work that was previously undertaken by private enterprise, has increased the value of land in South Australia by £1 per acre. That is a striking testimony to the good which State enterprise is doing in that State.
– Then what does the honorable senator wish to interfere with it for?
– We have made provision not to interfere with these State institutions.
– Why noi leave them alone, as the States are doing very well?
– Because we know perfectly well that the Legislative Councils in all the States will do as little in this direction as possible.
– The honorable senator does not mean to say that these Bills have been introduced to abolish the State Legislative Councils?
– No; the honorable senator is misinterpreting what I have said. I come now to what Mr. Griffith, who is a Labour Minister, is doing in New South Wales. I recently heard a fine speech which he made in Sydney, and have here some extracts from the report of it which appeared in the newspapers next morning. Dealing with the Brick Combine, he said -
Nearly all the big builders are members of the brick combine. The Government wanted so many million bricks, but why pay twice as much as the bricks are worth? (Interruption.) So we started brickworks. You recollect the ferocious criticism that broke out, but shortly before Parliament rose the Public Works Committee investigated the position. Members of both sides of the House went carefully into the facts and figures, and unanimously decided that the works were a success - (applause) - and will save the country ^40,000 a year, and should have an output of a million a week. This was signed by the Liberals as well as the Labour members, but they were honest enough to say the truth on that particular occasion.
You have heard about the timber combine. You are in that combine now. (Applause.) I have purchased the Rozelle Joinery Works, and all jobbing work for public buildings is being manufactured there ; and it is 33 per cent, cheaper than before. We bought out the firm with the plant, and the contracts and commissions, and the rebates, from the combine. If you can’t kill a combine the best thing is to get into it.
Mr. Griffith then deals with blue metal, and shows the enormous saving effected there. Referring to lime and cement he says -
Then there is lime, for which we were paying £2 a ton. Butnow the Government will be able to land it in Sydney at £I a ton. Then there is cement. I got from New Zealand the manager of one of the biggest cement works to visit our works, and his report shows that the first year’s supply will pay for the whole of the plant. These’ are a few of our undertakings, and we ask your support to go further and extend our operations. (Applause.)
Dealing with the profits, Mr. Griffith says -
The quarry in nine months, after allowing for depreciation, sinking fund, and interest, showed a profit of£2,742. The joinery works - according to Mr. Borchardt, the public accountant - has a capital invested of £47,000. The sales were £64,000, the gross profit £16,000, and the net profit £11,590, showing a return on the money invested of 14 per cent.
Regarding the brick works, Mr. Griffith said -
The foreman in charge of the Balmain Technical College reported that the face bricks sent to him were the best he had seen. The man in charge of the Daceyville works, in reply to the Minister’s request for his opinion, said he had never used better bricks ; the delivery had been good, and the weekly supply well kept up.
– In South Australia it cost £,25 some time ago to make six bricks.
– The people of South Australia should get a Labour Government, and then they might do better.
– This was done by a Labour Government.
– The gentleman continues -
The Government could make bricks at £I a thousand less than it could buy them, and when the maximum of 1,000,000 a week is reached, the Government will be saving £1,000 a week for the taxpayer. (Applause.) I wish the combine to know that next year, if they do not bring their prices down to a proper thing, the Government will go into competition, which will make them do so.
– May I mention that the produce depot of South Australia was not established by a Labour Government ?
– No, and I am not discounting that.
– it was not established by a Labour Government, but Mr. Batchelor was a Labour Minister in the Holder Government.
– I think it was established by the Price Administration.
– But it is none the less entitled to credit for that.
– Quite so. In Tasmania the Leader of the Labour party has moved four times in favour of establishing such an Export Department, and each time the Liberal party has taken fine care to see that private enterprise is not interfered with. Regarding nationalization, I think I have already given some instances where it has been successful. The Commonwealth is running its own Woollen Mills, Clothing Factory, Harness Factory, and Small Arms Factory, and I do not think that there has been any serious allegation as to the way in which the factories have been conducted.
– There will be in time.
– We believe that we can extend these institutions. There are many instances where a State could not grapple with an industry, because it was too big to be handled. It would be unfair to ask a particular State to nationalize an industry that had branches, or did business in every State, or in many of the States. We believe that if private enterprise can do these things successfully there is ho reason why the Commonwealth Government should not do it.
– But you are doing it.
– We are doing it to a certain extent, but we want to do it for the benefit of the people.
– What you want to do is to confiscate a business.
– There is no confiscation about the matter. Any one who reads the Bill will see that the thing is to be done on “ just terms.” If my honorable friends accuse the party of confiscation they will have to similarly accuse both Houses of the National Parliament, because an absolute majority of each House will be required before an industry can be taken over.
– It is confiscate or pay - one of the two.
– We are going to pay in some instances.
– There is another alternative, and that is to start an opposition, and wipe them out.
– Exactly. I could cite more instances, but I do not wish to speak at too great length. With these successful examples before us, we, as the Labour party, believe that we can not only extend the influence of nationalization beyond the State arena, but manage many big industries which, in the interests of the people, should be managed nationally, and not by a few persons.
Before proceeding to deal with the arbitration proposal, I wish to quote two statements of about twenty-eight words each to show the attitude which has been taken by some members of the Opposition with regard to our proposals. In 1910, Mr. W. H. Irvine said -
We on this side should not be afraid to give this Parliament a wider power, because the governing political party is directly opposed to us on these matters.
That is a very statesmanlike utterance regarding the trade and commerce proposal. In a recent speech, Mr. Irvine said -
I hope that it will be safe at some future time to extend the trade and commerce powers of this Parliament, but I say emphatically that it is not safe to do so at the present time.
That seems to be the type of argument which is adduced by honorable senators on the other side when we bring forward proposals to give the people of Australia more complete control of the conditions under which they live.
– No. Mr. Irvine was speaking for himself, and himself alone.
– Mr. Irvine seems to be rather a leading member of the other party. I have never refused to take responsibility when one of our leaders, such as Senator McGregor, has made a statement, and I think that when a responsible constitutional authority of the high standing of Mr. Irvine makes a statement on a subject, my honorable friend should not attempt to dodge it by making such a remark.
– They ran away from their programme as soon as he attacked it.
– That is so.
– Which statement of Mr. Irvine’s should we take - the first or the second?
– That is for the honorable senator to decide; but the Labour party can go to the people with clean hands. They have not blown hot one day, and cold the next day ; nor have they changed their opinion on a subject in the short space of twelve months. If consistency is a virtue, and I presume that it is a virtue, all parties should at least strive to be consistent.
– You can over-praise virtue.
– I think that consistency is a virtue which the people of this country are very quick to recognise. In his speech the Minister of Defence quoted a return showing the success of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, but since it appeared, I have obtained from the Bureau of Census and Statistics a return dated 2nd December, which is considerably fuller, and which reads as follows -
The return shows an increase upon the figures supplied in the earlier return. It shows that in Australia about 120,000 employe’s are controlled by the Federal Arbitration Court, notwithstanding the fact that it has not been in existence as long as many Wages Board systems in some of the States. We have heard, particularly from Senator Vardon, a very strenuous and fierce denunciation of that Court, and all its works. It has been said that it has not been a success, but I notice that the honorable senator went to no pains to point out where it has been a failure. He was conspicuously silent on that point. Have any of the awards been broken ? In very few instances has there ever been a serious strike.
– Has a Wages Board award been broken?
– Yes, in hundreds of cases. In Victoria there have been 396 breaches of such awards.
– Out of how many?
– I have not the total number of the awards in this State, but I think I can give what is a fair comparison. In Australia there are 200,000 men working under Wages Boards, and 120,000 men working under Arbitration Court awards. There have been nearly ten times as many breaches of Wages Board awards as there have been of Arbitration Court awards.
– You ought to give the figures.
– In Victoria there have been 396 breaches of Wages Board awards, while in New South Wales there have been 3,055 prosecutions.
– How do you define a breach?
– It may be a breach on either side.
– Senator Vardon is “splitting straws.” It is well known that there have been far more minor breaches of Wages Board determinations than there have been of Arbitration Court awards.
– In Victoria the total number of Wages Board awards in 1910 was ninety-one.
– In his speech Senator Vardon discussed the length of time which the Federal Arbitration Court takes to fix an award, or settle a dispute. I was expecting to hear from the honorable senator some arguments against the Court. I was anxious to hear what he could bring against the Court, and I found that all he could say was that it had created a feeling of distrust - he did not prove his statement - amongst employers and employes.
– It does not want proof, it is apparent.
– The honorable senator objected to the principle of arbitration chiefly. I think, because the Court took such a long time to settle disputes.
– I objected to the principle in every way.
– The honorable senator mentioned some cases in which it took several months for the Judge to make an award. I think that he was referring to the award in the shearers’ case.
– I read the whole of them.
– Most of them took nineteen and twenty days.
– That case took sixtynine days.
– The delay and the expense of the Court were, I think, the honorable senator’s chief arguments. Let us see how long each of the much-vaunted Wages Boards in Victoria has taken to arrive at a determination, and how much some of them have cost, and are costing.: The first one I shall deal with is the Agricultural Implement Workers’ Wages Board, which has sat for two years. I do not think that the Arbitration Court has sat for two years on one case.
– And the case is not settled yet, is it?
– It is hardly settled yet.
– Who is re-opening it ?
– That is immaterial to my argument. Then, the Plumbers’ Wages Board took eleven months to arrive at a determination; the Painters’ WagesBoard took eight months; the Fuel and Fodder Workers’ Board ten months; the Butchers’ Board twelve months ; and the Bootmakers’ Board twelve months.
– Is that the lot? That is six out of ninety-one, and multiply that by the years during which Wages Boardshave been operating.
– The honorable senator is very clever. I have the authority of a gentleman connected with industrial affairs here, that the average sitting of Wages Boards in Victoria is from seven to ten months.
– The honorable senator may contradict me if he can get official statistics, but I make that statement on the best authority. As to the cost of these Boards, the Agricultural Implement Workers’ Board costs the State of Victoria £40 per sitting. It has been sitting four months, and has cost£320, and yet it has not arrived at anything like a determination. The city Wages Boards are costing the State of Victoria£8 10s. perday, besides the cost to the labour unions concerned.
Senator Vardon stated that it took two or three months for the Arbitratration Court to make an award. How does that compare with the work of the Wages Boards? I have here the record of a very important case, that of the Rural Workers Union, affecting Mildura and Renmark. An award was made in that case covering 2,000 men, and twenty-one days only were occupied in hearing it in the Arbitration Court. The cost tothe union was ?150 only. Where does the alleged great cost of Arbitration Court proceedings come in when it requires only ?150 to get an award which is to be in existence for three years, and which covers 2,000 men? We know that the shearers’ case was settled in three months, and surely that is not a lengthy period in which to make an award covering nearly 50,000 workers for three years. The secretary to the Rural Workers Union is going again to the Court as soon as possible, and he expects within three months to get an award covering the rural workers of Australia to the number of about 50,000. If it costs only?2,000 or , ?3,000 to get an award and insure peaceful conditions between employers and employes for three years, then I think SenatorVardon’s case falls absolutely to the ground.
– If it does; there is the word “ if “ again.
– It has been done.
– What about the Broken Hill dispute?
– In that case a settlement was effected.
– Did not the employe’s break the award?
– They may have broken the award. I do not think that you will get an award under any industrial authority which nobody will break. If industrial disputes covering a large area of employment can be settled by the Court at the cost of a few thousand pounds, the price is not too high in order to maintain settled conditions between employers and employes. What we want to do is to provide increased facilities for getting to the Court. Once the workers get to the Court there is no inordinate delay in the settlement of a case, and we should appoint another Judge so as to extend the influence of the Court.
I want now to deal with the industrial conditions in the State of Tasmania. It has been said that we should leave these questions to Wages Boards. It is all very well to say that, but for many years the workers of Tasmania were endeavouring to get Wages Boards established, and it is only within the last two years that we have had the system established there. I shall give a list of the Bills which were brought forward in the Tasmanian House of Assembly for the benefit of the workers, and were thrown put by the Legislative Councils. Legislative
Councils control conditions which honorable senators on the other side would leave as they are to-day?
– That great bogy !
– I find that one honorable senator of the Federal Parliament stated that the Legislative Councils were the bulwarks of the States, and when we hear a remark of that kind made, we know that that honorable senator was a little more candid than other honorable senators sitting on the opposite side. In the first Federal Parliament, Mr., now Mr. Justice, Higgins, moved the following motion : -
That, in the opinion of this House, it is expedient for the Parliament of the Commonwealth to acquire (if the State Parliaments see fit to grant it under section 51, sub-section 37, of the Constitution Act) full power to make laws for Australia as to wages and hours and conditions of labour.
Sir William McMillan, speaking in support of that motion, said -
Since we met in the Federal Convention which framed this Commonwealth Constitution, there has been a considerable evolution of thought with regard to certain matters that were then discussed. … I hold generally that everything that affects the rights and liberties, especially the industrial life of the community, ought to be in the hands of the National Parliament. . . I hail with delight this motion, and I trust the Government will have sufficient influence to get the States to surrender powers which they have now, so that we may deal with those great and far-reaching subjects.
Mr., now Mr. Justice, Barton said ;
That there ought to be such a power exercised I am now convinced, and for this reason, that the grant of Inter-State freetrade which follows the adoption of a uniform Tariff is likely in many respects to be crippled unless the Commonwealth has power to deal uniformly with the conditions of employment throughout Australia. . . That this grant of the power should be made to enable us to meet the inequalities of conditions which ought not to occur amongst an equal people I have, on full investigation of this motion, convinced myself.
Dr. Carty Salmon said ;
I believe that, as with the old-age pensions scheme, we must have uniform factory legislation. We are to have a uniform Tariff, and we must have uniform factory legislation.
That motion was carried, without division, in the House of Representatives.
– Effective legislation never included the fixing of wages and salaries.
– The honorable senator is putting forward his customary quibble, and I do not think it is necessary for me to take notice of his remark. Let me give the honorable senator a further statement of the actions of the great Liberal party in the past. Messrs. Joseph Cook, W. Elliot Johnson, G. Fuller, and J. M. Fowler supported a proposal moved by Mr. Fisher, on the 13th April, 1904, to amend the Commonwealth Arbitration Act so as to include railway servants. They have evidently changed their minds in the interim. On the 1st June, 1904, Mr. Groom, who was Attorney-General in the Fusion Government, spoke in favour of the motion, and voted for it. Mr. Edwards, Mr. Cook, and Mr. Fowler also voted for it, and those gentlemen are now wobblingand twisting in the effort to explain their attitude of a few years ago. We know that Mr. Deakin has crayfished on the new Protection proposals, and is an entirely different Mr. Deakin from the Mr. Deakin of a few years ago. We know that Mr. Groom, who issued a memorandum dealing with trade and commerce for the benefit of the South African Parliament, has mysteriously changed his opinions. We know that Mr. Irvine has also changed his opinion, and that Mr. Sampson has been dragged round by the party Whip.
Another strange thing is that Senator Keating has suddenly and unaccountably changed his opinions. I find, on looking up the division-list, that when these proposals were last before the Senate, Senator Keating sat on the Opposition side on the vote on the legislative powers referendum, but when it came to the monopolies referendum he crossed the floor and voted with this Government in support of this Parliament controlling monopolies. During the last referenda campaign in Tasmania, Senator Keating spoke twice only –once at Launceston, and once at Hobart. I shall give brief extracts from the two speeches he made, taken from the Launceston Examiner and the Hobart Mercury. Speaking at Hobart he is reported to have said -
He defied the angels almost to define the future scope of trade and commerce. He therefore asked his hearers to take the simple course of voting “ No “ with regard to the whole of the proposed amendments, and to ask the Federal Government to submit to them plain, definite, and simple questions intelligible to the average intelligence of every elector who was called upon to vote.
– He was probably referring to the proposal regarding corporations, which nobody understood.
– He was referring to the power to control monopolies - a proposal which was good enough for him to support in Parliament, but was not good enough for him to go before the people and advocate afterwards. At Launceston he said -
So far as the other amendment dealing with monopolies was concerned, he was prepared to give the Commonwealth whatever power was required, but it should not have all it was proposed to thrust upon it, for they must remember that power was accompanied by responsibility.
Yet one of those questions was plain and intelligible enough for Senator Keating to support by his vote in this Chamber. What is the reason for this remarkable change? I think that the people of Australia have a right to have their attention drawn to the matter.
– The Fusion Caucus is all powerful in these things.
– Of course it is. While I am dealing with statements made in connexion with the last referenda campaign in Tasmania, I should like to give a few extracts from speeches delivered by Mr. N. K. Ewing, a member of the State Legislature, who was, I believe, for three years a member of the Senate. As reported in the Hobart Mercury of Wednesday, 15th March, 1911, Mr. Ewing told the electors -
That if the Referenda was carried Tasmania would lose five out of her six senators and probably one member of the House of Representatives, and he asked them to consider what chance this State would have, with such small representation in the Federal Parliament.
That was a deliberate misrepresentation, as Mr. Ewing well knew, because section 128 of the Constitution provides that -
No alteration diminishing the proportionate representation of any State in either House of the Parliament, or the minimum number of representatives of a State in the House of Representatives, or increasing, diminishing, or otherwise altering the limits of the State, or in any manner affecting the provisions of the Constitution in relation thereto, shall become law unless the majority of the electors voting in that State approve the proposed law.
Yet, in face of that constitutional provision, what I have quoted is the kind of thing that was ladled out to the people of Tasmania.
– I should like to have the whole of Mr. Ewing’s speech quoted.
– Is the honorable senator prepared to father it?
– No. The statement quoted was a foolish one.
– It is a fair sample. Mr. Ewing again, in a signed article in the Hobart Mercury, 23rd March, 191 1, said -
The Labour party are asking for the power ito declare any industry a monopoly, and to take over that industry and all connected therewith. Suppose they declare fruit-growing a monopoly. They will then take over all your orchards. What is the use of telling you they will exempt. you from taxation on land if you do not own £5,000 worth. Do you realize they are asking you to vote “ Yes “ so that they may have the power to take all your land? They cannot touch YOU if the majority vote “ No.”
Both statements contained in that passage <were distinctly untrue.
– Were they?
– In the first place, these proposals were not brought forward for the purpose described, and in the second place, if a majority in the Federal Parliament choose to institute a land tax so heavy that it would have the effect of nationalizing the land, they could do so. I wish to make another extract from a statement by Mr. Ewing, reported, on Wednesday, 5th April, 1911. He then spoke -of the proposals brought forward -
First, to hand over the power to control all “trade and commerce whether inside or beyond <the boundaries of a State; and this would affect even the small farmer owning, say, 50 acres of land, for the Federal Parliament’ might pass a law forbidding a man to work after 5 p.m.
These statements are hardly worth dignifying with the name of arguments, but gentlemen like Mr. Ewing went round the country and made them with the object of inducing the people to believe that if they adopted the referenda proposals the burden of life would be made intolerable to the producers. They forgot to tell the people that the State Parliaments could do precisely the same sort of thing under their present powers if they chose to do so. We are sometimes told that it is advisable to leave these questions entirely to the States. I wish, speaking for my own State, to show what the Legislative Council of Tasmania has done in regard to progressive legislation. In 1896, the Council threw out the Wages Attachment Bill and an Eight Hours Bill.
– The Liberal Government in Victoria, thirty years ago, passed an Eight Hours Bill.
– I am concerned only -with what has happened in my own State.
– Senator Fraser’s statement is incorrect. The Victorian Parliament did no such thing.
– I cannot pretend to speak with authority on Victorian matters.
In 1898, the Tasmanian Legislative Council threw out the Wages Attachment Bill; in 1899, it threw out the Wages Attachment Bill and the Workers Compensation Bill j in 1 90 1, it threw out the Workmen’s Compensation Bill; in the first session of 1902 it threw out the Employers Liability Bill and the Factories Regulation Bill; in the second session of 1902 it threw out the Employers Liability Bill and the Factories Regulation Bill; in 1903 it threw out the Early Closing Bill; in 1904 it threw out the Weekly Half -holiday Bill ; in 1906 it threw out the Shops Half-holiday Bill; in 1907 it threw out the Truck Bill; in 1908 it threw out the Shops Half -holiday Bill; and in 1909 it threw out the Wages Board Bill and the Workers Compensation Bill. It was only in 19 10, after the “ kick “ administered by the electors in returning the Labour party to power in the Federal Parliament, that the Tasmanian Legislative Council consented to place any industrial legislation on the statute-book. Yet, honorable senators opposite ask that the well-being of the electors of Tasmania should be intrusted to that august body !
– The honorable senator is a representative of Tasmania, and is not supposed to denounce his own State. He should stand up for it.
– I cannot stand up for a condition of things in which 18,000 people elect one branch of the Legislature which dominates the legislation of the country. I am looking to this Parliament to effect a remedy for that state of affairs. What happened when the great Lyell strike took place? This affords an example of the value of the “ leave it to the State “ argument. The men approached the Premier of Tasmania, Sir Elliot Lewis, and told him that if he would act as arbiter, they would submit to his decision. But the directors of the company in Melbourne refused the offer, and the men went on strike. After that, Mr. J. Ogden, M.H.A., Deputy Leader of the State Labour party, suggested to the Premier of Tasmania that he should induce the Legislature to pass a short Arbitration Act to deal with the special circumstances of the Lyell strike. To the discredit of the Liberal Government, controlled by the party which is so well represented by the Opposition here, they refused to take that course, and the strike went on. One of the aftermaths of the strike was that horrible accident which plunged all Australia into gloom a few months later, and as the result of which one of the finest industries in Tasmania has received a blow from which it will take many years to recover. All that was because of the incapacity of past Liberal Governments, and if our Federal Arbitration Court had had jurisdiction, the strike would have been speedily settled. I remind honorable senators that between ,£300,000 and £400,000 has been invested in the Mount Lyell Mine, which has paid nearly £2,750,000 in dividends, although the directors refused to concede the reasonable conditions asked for.
With reference to the feeling engendered by Arbitration Courts and Wages Boards, I have a quotation to read from the secretary of the Victorian Rural Producers’ Association, the Rev. C. W. Wood, who said in Sydney, at a Congress of the Farmers and Settlers’ Association, in July last -
If the Rural Workers’ Union said settlers must pay £3 to £3 7s. 6d. a week for labour, they were mad. The men were being led by a pack of irresponsible wretches, who were only using them for their own ends. .The)’ were probably men who were too mean to join the association - who would sit back and reap the benefits without “ forking “ out the five shillings subscription. Men who did that were only living on the members of the association, and they were not fit to be called men.
In reply to this bitter statement, let me quote what Mr. Justice Higgins has said concerning the Rural Workers’ Union. His Honour said that -
Except in the case of the United Labourers’ Union, the leaders of labour organizations were always found to exert their influence in favour of peace, which statement was based on actual and careful investigation made by an impartial tribunal, and .was contrary to the statement, so often made by a priori theorists who fancied they knew, without inquiry, that all labour troubles were due to agitators misleading unfortunate workers for their own ends. He did not hope to convince these theorists, but thought it wise to let the public know what he found to be the case on a close scrutiny of actual facts.
That is a pretty conclusive argument in answer to some of those advanced by the other side.
I should also like to put into Hansard a fact with regard to how the present Legislative Councils came to be constituted as they are. I have before me an extract from a despatch sent by Sir William Dennison, Governor in Tasmania in 1848, to Earl Grey, then Colonial Secretary. The colonists were asking for self-government. Sir William
Dennison drew up a report, in which he-‘ stated -
There is essentially a democratic spirit which actuates a large mass of the community, and’ it is with a view to check the development ofthis spirit that I would suggest the formation-, of an upper chamber.
We are paying the penalty of that to a certain extent in Tasmania to-day. That relic of the dead past affords ample indication of the real reason for the TasmanianLegislative Council. Sir William Dennisonalso suggested -
That bishops be members of the Upper House besides certain ex officio representatives of the Government, and the rest, whether members, of the Crown or elected by the people, ‘to holdtheir seats for life.
That proposal was adopted with the exception of the provision for life membership, which was cut out.
Senator Millen, at the close of a very, eloquent address - the Honorable senator always does make an eloquent address, and I am glad to hear him speak - said he hoped to see the spirit of the people arise and deal with these proposals as other proposals have been dealt with in the past. He expressed a hope that they would be rejected even by a* greater majority than that by which similar proposals were rejected on a previous occasion.
I wish to say that, so far as the past is concerned, I hope that the spirit, which at one time was manifested in> Tasmania will be again exhibited, and that, as a result, all these proposalsfor the amendment of the Constitution will be carried. I refer to the spirit which was shown in Tasmania about’ seventy yearsago. Past Administrations in England sent men out to Tasmania to undergo seven years’ penal servitude for stealing a rabbit.
– Not for stealing,, but for taking, a rabbit.
– Men were sent out for fourteen years’ penal servitude because they met to form a union, and were sentenced to be herded for life with the vilest of the vile because they stole a sheep.. Men like Smith O’Brien, John Mitchell, Meagher, and other Irish patriots, and mer* like the Chartists, were sent to Tasmania because they spoke in defence of the rights and liberties of the people and against the privileges of the few. I hope that the spirit these martyred men displayed will animate the people on this occasion. Those who know what the old convict system in Tasmania was, and what the party our friends opposite are descended from did, in their endeavour to protect the rights of property, to put it upon a pedestal, and regard it as far more sacred than human life, will, I hope, be animated by the spirit which was aroused in the people of Tasmania, which, sixty years ago, impelled them to demand a Legislature of their own, shackled though it was, to secure fairer and better conditions. I hope that spirit will be manifested when these proposals are submitted to the people of Australia, and’ if it is I am confident that the powers we seek will be added to those which we now possess in this Parliament, and, as a consequence, many lasting benefits will be conferred upon the people of Australia.
.- I cannot allow the debate to close without expressing a few opinions on the Bill. I rise with a good deal of hesitation, because I am supposed not to knock myself about. Probably this will be my last public speech in Parliament, and 1 must be on my best behaviour. I shall try to suppress my fighting instincts if I can. I have been a fighter all my public life. The fire is still there, but there is a mind controlling it which I hope will continue to be successful. When we federated the people of Australia agreed to do so for a few national purposes only which are known to honorable senators. The principal purposes of Federation were to bring about national control of Defence, the Post and Telegraph Department, and the Customs Department. Various other powers were given to the Commonwealth, but it was never intended that this Parliament should interfere with the legitimate powers of the State Parliaments. There was no whisper of anything of the kind at the Federal Conventions held in Adelaide, Sydney, and Melbourne, or later, when the Premiers of the different States conferred on the subject of Federation.
– The world has moved since then.
– The world has moved, and is moving still. The world is always moving, and, fortunately, for the advantage, as I hope and pray will continue to be the case, of the English-speaking races. It is of no use to go back hundreds of years to the time of our forefathers. No doubt ‘they did awful things in the early days. I am not going to say what they did, but the world has advanced since then, and the British people especially have advanced, until to-day they are the admiration of the rest of the world.
– The Frasers were always a law-abiding crowd.
– No, they were not. I do not claim anything of the kind for them, nor for the McGregors. I say that the British people are to-day the admiration of the world. Where do men go from foreign countries for freedom and safety? Do they not make for London ? Where on this earth do we find Judges higher in tone than those of Great Britain? In my opinion, to try to depreciate British history is almost a crime. I do not say that there, are not black pages in British history.
– Hear, hear ! and very black, too.
– I know, of course, that in the opinion of my honorable friend Senator Lynch they are all black; there is no white in them at all; but some people see with black eyes.
– The honorable senator should not say that everything has been black with me. I have been more respectful to the British Constitution than he and his party have been at times.
– Senator Lynch has misunderstood Senator Fraser. What he said was that the honorable senator looks upon many of the pages of British history as black.
– The honorable senator said that everything was black with me.
– I did not say anything to reflect upon the honorable senator personally at all.
– I accept that. So long as the case is fairly stated I am satisfied.
– If I may be allowed to proceed, I say that Australia was federated for certain purposes, and that during the Federal Conventions not a syllable was uttered in favour of any interference with the States beyond what was provided for at the time in the proposed Constitution. I do not say that there are not amendments which might be made with advantage for the proper working of the Federation. I quite realize that there are some things in connexion with which some improvement . might be made, but I do say that any interference by the Federal Parliament with the State Parliaments will be disastrous. The States of Australia have made marvellous progress. When I arrived here, about sixty-two years ago, Melbourne could not be called a city. There were only two or three streets in it, and bullock waggons were often bogged in what is now Elizabeth-street. 1 remember, too, that the place was at that time placarded with posters demanding ‘‘Separation from New South Wales.” The people of this State then had grievances which, in their opinion, made separation from New South Wales necessary and desirable.
– They were against the Central Government.
– They were against the Central Government; and the various States of Australia will be against the Central Government in connexion with these proposals. If they cannot manage their local domestic affairs successfully, no Federal Government will ever be able to do so. The attempt on the part of the Federal Government to deal with these matters must be a failure; it cannot be anything else. How can representatives from, say, Western Australia be expected to deal properly with questions affecting North Queensland and Tasmania? It is only the local people who are cognisant of all the details involved in such questions. I say : Leave the State Parliaments alone to secure the happiness and prosperity of their respective States. They will do it as they have hitherto done. The States in the past have been marvellously prosperous. The Bent Government during a period of distress got assistance to the extent of £1,500,000 or more from the State Savings Bank, and paid off £4,000,000 of their indebtedness abroad, thereby establishing the credit of the State to a remarkable degree. We know that there has been considerable extravagance in expenditure during the last few years, both by Federal and State Governments, and especially by some State Governments that 1 could name. We have been paying 4i per cent, interest on money recently, and I remind honorable senators that twelve months ago, when we were considering the Commonwealth Bank Bill, I predicted that that would be one of the results of the passing of that measure. I then begged of the Federal Government to hold their hand, and not to encroach upon the Savings Bank business of the States.
– Order ! I do not wish to interrupt the honorable senator, but he must recognise that the debate is upon six Constitution Alteration Bills, and that the matter of State banking does not come within the purview of any of them.
– I consider that the matter to which I have referred does come within their purview, because they are proposals entrenching upon State rights. If they are carried, the States will be shorn of nearly all their powers, or important powers now possessed by the State Parliaments will be duplicated, and may be exercised by the State and Federal Parliaments. This must lead to confusion worse confounded. If we give the State and Federal Parliaments authority to deal with the same matters, it will be bound to give rise to conflict and confusion. I am at a loss to understand why the Government should propose that we should go so much out of our way to encroach upon the powers of the States. These proposals, if carried at the referenda, will lead to a greater revolution than has yet happened in this country. Nationalization or Socialism has been tried, and tried times without number.
– It has been tried in South Australia ; it has been tried in many places, and has always been a failure. If my honorable friends are going to make a success of anything it cannot be by nationalization. I admit, of course, that postal and telegraph matters are controlled by the Commonwealth, and railways by the States. In Victoria we had to put the railways under a Commission, because we found, after years of .working, that the State Government operated the system very extravagantly, and inefficiently.
– The State Parliament was not fit to control the railway service.
– The State Parliament showed itself to be unfit to control the railway system profitably and well. If the people of Australia are so unwise or foolish as to trust the Federal Parliament with the powers sought, God help the country. Because, although it has made marvellous progress, its progress will be arrested. Until a few months ago we could borrow money more cheaply than it could be borrowed in almost any part of the world, but now, through extravagance, we are wasting millions of money in various ways.
– On what?
– On the Northern Territory and the Federal Capital.
– My honorable friends opposite are going to waste millions of money on the railway to Western Australia. They propose to borrow money at 4J per cent., when two or three years ago they could have borrowed it at per cent. If the Commonwealth and State Governments squander millions, and the expenditure does not produce a proper return, there will be disaster. If a citizen squanders his money recklessly, he will have to suffer, and so will a Government which spends public money extravagantly. One reason why the Colonies federated was because along the River Murray there were a dozen Customs houses. This system became an .awful nuisance to the people of Australia. If a man had to send a flock of sheep across the Murray he had obstacles to surmount. The thing was a farce, and that was one of the reasons why we got rid of the Customs houses. We wanted Free Trade throughout the continent, and we also desired to have our defences put on a proper footing. Instead of six defence systems we now have one system, ,and I do not think it is a failure. I compliment the present Minister of Defence, who, I think, has done very well. The Government desire to obtain from the people authority for the nationalization of monopolies. It is all very well to speak of the administration of our railways and post-offices, and other services. As a business man with fifty years’ experience of “Australia, I flatter myself that I ought to know a little about these matters. I admit that it is right enough for Governments or municipalities to run tramways, gasworks, and even railways and postal services, under proper guidance and management, but I predict that any attempt by a Government to enter into trade and commerce can only result in failure. I travelled through Europe twenty-eight or thirty years ago. I know that, in Sweden and other countries, the liquor trade is carried on under Government supervision, and I must admit that in Sweden the experiment has worked very well, because only one class of liquor is supplied, and the men who are authorized to sell are respectable and reliable, which, of course, has a good effect. But, as a rule, the liquor trade is not controlled. If the conduct of public houses were improved in that respect, I would not object.
– Where the liquor trade is controlled by the State, it is the worst failure in the world, as in Russia.
– Russia furnishes us with an example in the other direction. I spent some time in that country, and am> acquainted with its conditions. I knowthat the Swedes have achieved a great success in this matter, but the Russians- , have met with quite the reverse.
– What about theState hotel in Western Australia?
– That case has been, cited, and I am not going to contradict what has been said. If this idea of buying out successful ventures and businesses, at the cost of millions of money, isattempted to be carried out this country will be ruined before it knows where it is,, because the Government cannot run a big; business commercially. If these proposalsare accepted and given effect to, by-and-by nearly all the people will be Government, officials. At present, we are largely overtaxed to maintain Government officials. Oneout of every eight persons in the Commonwealth is a Government official, and, byandby, the proportion will be one to every four or five. What will happen then?” Public servants will control the country. Can honorable senators expect any success;; to be achieved when public servants arerunning the whole country and the other citizens are struggling and toiling? Consider how the poor farmer has to work day and night for his living. He is not helped in any way.
– He is helped by the States - by socialistic works.
– By taxing him.
– Socialism has neverhelped, and never can help, the farmer.
– It is helping him.
– It can never help the producers. I am sure that Senator Pearce will agree with me that, wherever a gross injury is done to the primary, producer, a great wrong is done to every man in the Commonwealth. Our honorablefriends opposite object to Legislative Councils. We, on the contrary, support thesecond Chamber because the Legislature of every leading country in the world containstwo Houses. The reason for our preference for the bi-cameral system is, of course, quiteplain. A Legislature composed of oneHouse is likely to run away with the bit in its teeth, and a second House is supposed to be a check on hasty legislation. Is the Senate a check on hasty legislation?”
– Certainly. Look at how we checked the rush to-day.
– I remember well what a great discussion there was in the Federal Convention over the question of State rights. Each State was allowed to have six senators, because otherwise the Federation would not have been accomplished, and this concession was made with the view of preserving State rights. Have the senators for Western Australia tried to prevent the Federal Government from taking over the State Savings Bank?
– They have no intention to do so.
– Of course not. The small, as well as the large, States were allowed six senators each to preserve State rights. But in the Senate I have never heard a word in regard to State rights. Are they ever mentioned here? The time may come, perhaps, when New South Wales and Victoria, with two-thirds of the population or more, will object to the present system of representation here. In Victoria, Wages Boards have been established for a long period. Having employed large numbers of men for very many years in Australia, I ought to know something about the conditions of employment. Seeing that, in the very early days, 1 was an employe, I ought to be fairly familiar with both sides of the question. I know of no system or process which is superior, or even equal, to the Wages Board system. I recognise, of course, that no system is successful in all its features. Even Wages Boards may fail in some cases. I hold that where an employe and employer are brought face to face, and they are of the average stamp, as a rule they will come to reason and arrive at a satisfactory conclusion. About ten years ago the United States Government sent to Australia an envoy named Victor Clarke, and in his report - which may be consulted in the Library - he praised our Wages Boards highly, and so has every other writer throughout the world. My honorable friends cannot come across a writer anywhere who has not praised the Victorian system as the best one yet adopted or created. Where you have arbitration by legal process before a Judge, then you get delay, expense, and all sorts of difficulty and trouble, and, instead of allaying passion and turbulence, you increase, and, very often, encourage it.
– Did you support the principle of Wages Boards when it was first introduced here?
– I do not remember.
– Would you like to be told?
– That I did not oppose the principle I know. If the honorable senator will look up the records of thirty or twenty-five years ago, he will find what I did in the Upper House. In my opinion, it is not possible to improve upon the Wages Board system. 1 am at a loss to know how the Government could bring themselves to agree in Cabinet to ask the people for power to bring the railway employes of the States under Federal control. I wish that I could have been present at the Cabinet meetings to know who differed. I can well imagine that Senator Pearce, with his hard, good, common-sense, would object. We are deliberately asked by the Federal Government to approve of a proposal to take control of State employes, and, I suppose, of municipal employes, too. I can hardly conceive how the Government could bring forward the proposal to take control of the whole of the State railway servants, who should be under strict discipline, because the security of the lives of many people depends upon the manner in which they perform their duties. There must be strict discipline in railway services to secure good management, but the Federal Government now seek to interfere and take control of the State railway services. How can you expect members from Western Australia, the north of Queensland, and Tasmania to understand the conditions that prevail in connexion with the Victorian railways? It is impossible for them to do so. The control of those services should be left to the people who brought them into existence, who understood them, and have successfully carried them on for many years. I cannot conceive it possible that the people will agree to the proposal by the Federal Government to take over the control of such services as these. Then, again, there are a number of private railways in different States by means of which the country has been developed, and yet the Federal Government propose to interfere with the management of those railways, which are assisting the primary producers. I trust that the Government will even now see their way to amend their proposals.
– While I admit that this question has been very well threshed out, both in the House of Representatives and here, some of the arguments put forward by the Leader of the Opposition in this Chamber have not yet been dealt with. Credit has been given to Senator Millen for the comprehensiveness and eloquence of his remarks, but it appears to me that he utterly failed to appreciate the greatness of the problems presented to us. The honorable senator’s ingenuity often results in his overreaching himself, not presenting arguments fairly and fully, and distorting the utterances of honorable senators on this side. The honorable senator does not use the mental alertness and intellectual ability which he possesses to put a case as fairly as one would expect the leader of a party to put it. In his opening remarks he repeated a statement reported to have been made by the Prime Minister, that it did not matter whether the proposals were submitted in six or sixty Bills, that the Government desired the whole of them to be passed, and that it was not much use passing one Bill and rejecting the others. The honorable senator said he would reverse the argument, and say that it would be of very little use rejecting one proposal unless senators rejected the whole of the proposals. I interjected that that was very different from the attitude taken up by the opponents of these proposals on the occasion of the last referenda. Then we heard throughout the length of Australia the complaint that four of the five proposals were embodied in one measure, and the denunciation of the alleged trickiness of the Government in embodying in one measure several proposals, some of which it was desirable to pass, but which it was impossible to vote for unless the other objectionable proposals were also supported. It was said that on that account it became necessary to vote against the whole of the proposals.
– It deliberately prevented the electors from having a choice.
– That statement was made all over the country. I believe that a very fair case was made out for the interdependence of those questions, and that it was practically impossible to grant the Commonwealth certain of those powers without granting the whole of them, with the exception, possibly, of the power relating to the railway services. The argument of Senator Millen that because the proposals have been separated, and we are asking the electors to support the whole of them, that is sufficient justification for our opponents asking the electors to reject the whole of them, seems to me to be very lame logic. The fact that the honorable senator dealt with and raised objections to every measure is sufficient warrant for contending that each proposal should be treated on its merits.
– Are they not all inter-dependent ?
– Very largely, with the one exception I have mentioned ; but the contention on the first occasion was that these questions should have been separated, so that the electors might have had the opportunity of accepting some and rejecting others, and that they were tricked bv having to take all or reject all, and now when the proposals are separated, honorable senators opposite are finding excuses for asking the people to reject all the proposals. Senator Millen stated that he would regard the proposals as practically clauses of a Bill ; but that attitude cannot fairly be justified. Let us take some of the objections that have been urged regarding the powers of the Commonwealth . to deal with trade and commerce. Senator Millen stated that it was not proposed to separate the question of trade and commerce with countries beyond the continent from InfraState trade and commerce, but the Bill contained a provision that trade and commerce on the railways should be exempted from the operation of the proposed new powers. It must be borne in mind that the Constitution provides that those who control the State railways can be prevented from discriminating between one State and another, so as to defeat the purposes of Inter-State Free Trade. We do not propose to interfere with the powers which we already possess to deal with railway traffic. On the last occasion we specifically stated that there was no intention to deal with the freights and fares, and the general management of the State railways, but it was persistently stated by our opponents that under the trade and commerce proposal we could deal with the whole management and control of the railway systems of the various States. In the present Bill a special provision is inserted in order to make it clear that it is not intended to take power to deal with railway freights and fares, or with the general management of State railways, and that power is only proposed to be taken to deal with industrial disputes in the railway services. We know that already under the Constitution the Commonwealth has power to deal with trade and commerce on Inter- State railways.
– You are asking for more power.
– We are not asking for any more power, because we are specifically exempting from our proposals any power to deal with trade and commerce on State railways other than that already provided for in the Constitution.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 -p.m.
– When the sitting was suspended, I had commenced to refer to the criticism levelled against us last year for not dividing the referenda questions, and this year because we have done so. I understand that a constitutional point was raised that the questions could not be submitted to Parliament in one Bill, even though they were voted upon by the electors separately. Senator Millen referred in his speech last week to what the people of Australia decided when they adopted Federation. I shall read the remarks he made -
In regard to the Constitution that prevails in Australia the people decided that they would adopt as the broad dividing lines the principle that the only powers they would surrender to the National Authority would be those in regard to matters which were national in their scope and purpose.
But the people of Australia did not .decide, as Senator Millen said they did. As a matter of fact, the first decision to which the people of Australia came was upset, as far as one of the most important States of the group was concerned, by New South Wales repudiating the agreement come to as to the minimum number necessary to adopt the Federal compact ; and it was only after a Conference of Premiers, initiated by the State of New South Wales - by the party of which Senator Millen himself was a member, and of which Sir George Reid was the head - for the purpose of making amendments in the Constitution, that the necessary majority of the electors of that State accepted the Constitution Bill. Those who now oppose the alteration of the Constitution, even though they may admit that it may be necessary at some time to alter it, and those who say that the Constitution is so perfect in its main principles that there is no necessity to alter it, were the strongest opponents of it when it was first submitted to the people, on the ground that it did not contain sufficiently easy methods of securing alterations.
– Does the honorable senator think that that was really the objection in New South Wales?
– That was one of the objections most strongly raised.
– I think the Capital question had a good deal to do with it.
– The inference one may draw from that remark is that the plea regarding the alteration of the Constitution was a mere subterfuge.
– Oh, no; I do not say that.
– While the Federal Capital question was a more or less sensational point to a good many, the majority of the people of New South Wales did not care two straws where the Capital was.
– But one of the most important alterations made in the Constitution was in regard to that matter.
– That is so, and, of course, there were many who attached importance to the Capital. But I can assure the honorable senator, from my own experience, that the majority of the people of New South Wales were, up to the last decision, absolutely indifferent as to where the Capital was situated. As soon as they knew that the Constitution provided that the Capital was not to be in Sydney, the persons who resided near that city naturally enough realized that it was not to be adjacent to where they .resided, and became indifferent. The rest of the people of the State were also indifferent to the claims of parts of the country which were directly interested. The strongest point raised by the majority in New South Wales who secured the meeting of the Premiers’ Conference which amended the Constitution, was the objection to the rigidity of it, and the claim that the people wanted a Constitution sufficiently elastic to be capable of ready and frequent amendment.
– Who said that?
– The majority of those who secured the rejection of the Constitution by New South Wales in the first instance.
– Give us an example.
– The leading statesmen of New South Wales, including Sir George Reid and the strong party which he led, adopted that attitude.
– Sir George Reid voted for the acceptance of the Constitution at the first referendum.
– But he also led the revolt against it. It is well known that he gained his title of “ Yes-No” on account of the attitude he displayed towards that measure, backed up by a majority of his party, and by people in the country, who pronounced most emphatically in favour of amending the Constitution in the direction of inserting the provision for its easier amendment, and also in favour of a provision for the prevention of disputes and dead-locks which might arise between the two Chambers of the Legislature. The people of New South Wales were largely influenced by the argument that was used all over the State that the rigidity of the American Constitution had been the barrier standing in the way of the political and economic progress of that country; and it was urged that we must, at all hazards, resist the imposition of a Constitution on our people unless it contained more liberal means of amendment according to the will of the people. Time after time it was urged that many of the provisions inserted in the Constitution represented compromises- between conflicting interests in the Convention, and that many of them were only accepted as tentative proposals. Had it not been for the idea that, after a few years’ experience of the working of the Constitution, there would be means ready at hand for the people to amend it, many of the delegates would have resisted to the death the acceptance of some of the clauses embodied in it.
– -Nothing of the sort was said in the Convention.
– With the exception of Sir William Lyne, every representative of New South Wales in the Convention supported the Constitution at the first referendum.
– I am not talking of the delegates to the Convention. I say that Sir George Reid led the attack on the Constitution. He scarified it from end to end. He attacked its financial provisions, and many other of its clauses, and took a leading part in the opposition to it. No doubt, he may have considered it a point of honour to vote for the measure which he had helped to frame. Nevertheless, one of the leading points that he made against it was the difficulty of amending it unless a provision were inserted to liberalize it in that direction. I was living in the State of New South Wales at the time, and knew Sir George Reid and those associated with him. The Labour party worked in the same direction with him in advocating those amendments, which the Premiers’ Conference afterwards adopted. I say again that the Federal Capital question was a subordinate issue compared with the question of future amendments; and I say, further, that the people of Australia who adopted the Constitution then were not the people of Australia who have the power to vote regarding it to-day. In South Australia alone of all the States, women were permitted to vote. Of course, their numbers were, by a special arrangement, not counted, so to speak. At that period, practically only one-half of the people of Australia had any voice in regard to the acceptance or rejection of the Constitution. In no other State, except South Australia, had the women any voice. Afterwards, the Federal Parliament gave the vote to women, and, at a later period, all the States have adopted laws granting representation to their sex.
– The women have now spoken.
– At the time when the Constitution was adopted, its lines were laid down by men only ; and it is no argument for the present suitability of the Constitution to say that the people of Australia voted for it then. In the first place, many thousands of the people who voted for it are now dead. In the next place, onehalf the population, namely, the women, had no votes. Furthermore, a new generation of voters has sprung up, and there has been a large increase of population. These factors make the electorate a very different one from that which adopted the Constitution thirteen years ago.
– Perhaps they would not adopt it at all now.
– Possibly they would not. At any rate, the fact remains that the electorate has changed. If we are to have anything like progress and development, the present electorate Has a right to speak. The people have a right to say that they are not going to be ruled by the dead hand, and that, therefore, they will have a voice in determining whether the Constitution shall be amended.
– What periodical increase of population, does the honorable senator suggest, justifies frequent alterations of the Constitution?
– I am not going into details of that kind. But when such enormous changes are made that we can safely say that there has been an increase of voters to the extent of several hundred thousand, it cannot be contended that the people who voted for the Constitution thirteen years ago are the same as those who will vote upon it to-day.
– What about those who decided as to the referenda proposals eighteen months ago?
– I may as well deal with that aspect of the question at once.
– I do not think that any one contends that the Constitution is not susceptible of amendment.
– No; our opponents readily admit that the Constitution ought to be amended, but “they also say, “For Heaven’s sake, do not amend it.” They say, “ We like a Constitution which is capable of amendment, but you must not touch it.” Two years will have elapsed since the people were last appealed to on this question. The people of Australia, with their alertness, will now know a great deal more than they knew when the first referenda votes were taken. I assert that the vote taken in 191 1 was taken- under false pretences, and that the opponents of the proposed amendments were, speaking generally, most unscrupulous in the methods adopted to secure their defeat.
– For example?
– Examples would be endless.
– Give us one.
– I am not going to enlarge on what has been said as to the amount of money spent in trying to secure the defeat of the referenda proposals, but 1 do say that money was lavished freely. I saw numerous instances where some, who are amongst the most impecunious individuals in the community at ordinary times, were exceedingly flush of means at this particular time. I know that organizations were supporting organizers, speakers, lecturers, and newspapers; that subventions were given to the country press; and that in many other ways money was spent wholesale. I do not know, from personal knowledge, where it came from.
– The repeal of the Corn Laws cost over £2,000,000, but no one says that there was corruption then.
– We live under other circumstances, and in another land’, where we have no pocket boroughs. Notwithstanding all the noble traditions of the Old Country, the way she carried on her electoral business affords no guide to us. However, I am sure that, in the first instance, money was lavishly expended in order to secure the defeat of this policy. In the next place, I say that the vast majority of the people - and it is no reflection upon them to say so; if they think it is, I cannot help it - did not understand the proposals submitted. Let me refer to one absolutely dishonest method that was adopted by the opponents of these proposals in their attempts to hoodwink the people. Senator Ready quoted a statement by one speaker in the State he represents who asserted that these questions ought to have been submitted to the people in the simplest possible language. None of our opponents on that occasion had the honesty to inform the people that the proposals must necessarily be submitted in the exact form in which they would appear in the Constitution, and that, therefore, it was impossible to present them in the simple language of a nursery book. Our opponents made no effort to enlighten the electors, but attempted to befog them.
– Why did not the honorable senator enlighten them?
– I did my best in that direction, and I believe that in all those places in which I addressed the electors more votes were cast in favour of the proposals than would otherwise have been the case. Most of our opponents had unlimited means at their disposal - as against our limited means - and they used their opportunities in a most unscrupulous manner. The great party newspapers made the most extravagant statements in order to gull the people. They represented that the people would lose their homes, and that even their hen-roosts and pig-stys would be nationalized if they adopted the proposals. These results were put forward, not as possibilities, but as the certain outcome of the adoption of the Government policy.
– If the pig industry were a monopoly, it could, under the Government proposals, be nationalized.
– That is the point - if it were a monopoly. . The most dishonest methods were adopted by our opponents.
– Would it not be putting the matter more moderately if you said that the arguments of the other side did not agree with yours ?
– I do not think that would be an appropriate way in which to describe the situation. In no instance did I endeavour to show that the proposals would bring about an industrial or social millennium, or that they would represent the be-all and end-all of our political dreams. The arguments used by us did not go beyond setting out that if the proposals were adopted they would facilitate the working of the Federal machinery on the lines laid down by those who framed the Constitution. Over and over again, we were able to show, on the authority of the framers of the Constitution and others, that the proposed additional powers were necessary to give effect to the Constitution, and we were able to justify every one of them out of the mouths of our opponents. One of the most important points of the indictment of Senator Millen was that we were asking for more powers than we required. He said -
It is admitted that more powers are being asked for than it is intended to use, and when it is declared that a large measure of the power sought is not to be exercised, I am entitled to ask over what matters the excess powers will operate. It is admitted that many of these powers are not to be exercised, and this indicates one of two things - either we are being asked to grant powers over Federal matters which the central authority is going to neglect, or we are being asked to grant powers in respect to local concerns which the Federal authority is incompetent to use. I interjected then that that was what I called chop-logic. It reminded me of the case of the boy at school who declared that a horse chestnut was a chestnut horse. Senator Millen said we were either going to use powers which rightly belonged to the local authorities, or to neglect certain matters in regard to which the Federal authorities should be rightly exercised. The contention that we should only ask for such powers as we immediately required is entirely unsupported by our past experience and by the occurrences of every-day life. Owing to the burglar scare, a certain citizen might seek to obtain a permit to carry a gun or pistol, and, according to the argument of the honorable senator, the authorities might say, “ It is all very well for you to have firearms with which to shoot burglars, but we have no guarantee that you will not use them against your wife or neighbours.”. What guarantee is afforded against the misuse of other powers ? It is absurd to argue that a written Constitution must embody in a specific form a statement of all powers that are to be exercised by the Federal authority. Such a thing was never intended. All that is required is that the Constitution shall embody general powers based on general principles. For example, we have power to impose a Tariff, and we could, if we liked, impose a most absurd and detrimental one. We could impose duties of 500 per cent. Then, again, we have authority in regard to oldage pensions, and if we cared to abuse our power we could provide that every pensioner should receive £10 per week. To quote another case, we could, in connexion with our land tax, levy 5s. in the £1. All these things could be done if Parliament consisted of a number of lunatics. It would be possible to pass the most ridiculous legislation in regard to any one of the thirty-nine articles in section 51 of the Constitution. But we have a safeguard against abuses in the average common-sense of members, which is not likely to be lower than that of the people who sent them here, and we also have the fear of consequences, which keeps members tolerably straight in regard to legislative matters. The fact that we have to go before the electors every three Years and justify what we have done causes men of all political complexions to do what they conceive will meet with the favour of the majority. It is idle to argue that if power is granted to nationalize the tobacco industry, or any other large monopoly, it will be exercised in the direction of nationalizing old women’s mangles or hen-roosts. No honorable senator opposite has shown that the powers conferred by the Constitution could be set forth in such a manner as to confer the bare authority necessary to pass the requisite legislation, and to prevent us from going one step further. No alternative proposals have been put forward. Honorable senators opposite say that they are in favour of more power being granted, but they are careful to abstain from indicating how they would define such powers, or how they would restrict them in order to prevent theft misuse. I quite expect to hear the answer that it is not the place of the Opposition to bring forward legislation, or to make suggestions for the guidance of the Government. But this is a matter in which the people as a whole are directly concerned, and a mere negative policy will not appeal to the majority of the electors for a very long period. ‘ Any one can offer the most destructive criticism against the best proposals that ever emanated from the mind of man, but the people will not for long be content to be dressed in nothing beyond a necklace of negatives. They are. beginning to realize that the evils with which we are beginnig to cope are real, and are not the wild imaginings of a few politicians who are actuated by considerations of personal aggrandizement. , Why is it more dangerous for this Parliament to possess complete powers over trade and commerce than it was for the individual States to possess such powers within their own domains prior to Federation? Why should not our powers be complete in regard to all those matters which have been handed over to us by the Constitution? We have power to pass laws applying to marriage and divorce which would absolutely supersede the laws of the State. Why do not our opponents demand that we should be restrained from using this power to an unlimited degree?
– The States handed over that power.
– Yes, and they handed it over in an unlimited degree.
– But they did not hand over the trade and commerce power in an unlimited way.
– The average elector never dreamt for a moment that there was any limitation imposed upon the trade and commerce power of the Commonwealth Parliament.
– The members of the Convention who framed the Constitution were aware of the limitations.
– If the members of the Convention knew of the limitations, their mode of expressing them would lead one to believe that they held the cynical opinion that language was given us to conceal our thoughts rather than to express them. I remind honorable senators opposite that - previous Federal Parliaments have passed legislation which leaves us with but two alternatives in passing judgment upon their action, because many of the ‘laws they passed have since been declared unconstitutional by judgments of the High Court. Some of the delegates to the Convention were afterwards members of this Parliament, and assisted to pass those laws, and we are therefore forced to the conclusion that either they believed that this Parliament possessed the necessary powers to pass such legislation, and so, according to the judgment of the High Court, misinterpreted the Constitution, or we must accept the discreditable alternative that they deliberately passed legislation which they knew was invalid in order to curry favour with the electors.
– We could not suppose that.
– I do not accuse them of it; but I say that if they knew just what powers were given to this Parliament by the different sections of the Constitution in passing legislation which was subsequently declared to be beyond the powers of this Parliament by judgment of the High Court, we are driven to the conclusion that they were merely humbugging the people. The fact, no doubt, is that, though many of them were eminent lawyers, they did not know that the powers of this Parliament under the Constitution are as limited as the High Court has declared them to be. That is also the position of the public. We are acquainted with parliamentary forms and phraseology, but the ordinary citizen, taking . up the Constitution and reading therein that power is given to this Parliament to make laws “ with respect to trade and commerce with foreign countries and among the States,” would come to the conclusion that we have the power to legislate with regard to trade and commerce generally. I should come to that conclusion myself, though I have a better acquaintance with parliamentary language than has the average elector. To-day, the average elector of the Commonwealth is astonished when the limitations imposed upon this Parliament by the Constitution are pointed out to him. Could we, for instance, in this Parliament, declare a general holiday all over the Commonwealth? I say that there is no power under the Constitution for this Parliament, or the Executive Government of the Commonwealth, to declare a public holiday all over Australia.
– Yes, there is ; and it is done.
– I am aware that the Commonwealth Government could close Commonwealth Departments on a particular day, and, to some extent, paralyze business throughout the Commonwealth. I do not set my knowledge of legal matters against that of Senator Symon-
– The Commonwealth Government could not close all the shops.
– Just so ; that would be interfering with industry, employment, and trade and commerce, and we are not in a position to declare a public holiday all over the Commonwealth.
– We could declare it.
– We could not effectively declare it.
– So it is in the States. A man need not close his shop unless it be under some Early Closing Act, or some legislation of that kind. .
– Under Shops and Factories Acts people may be compelled to close their shops. I am not contending that the Commonwealth Parliament should have any such power, but that the average citizen would argue, logically enough, that as a State Government may declare a public holiday in any municipality or district for the purposes of a special local function, or over a whole State where general State interests are affected, so the Commonwealth Parliament must have a like power to declare a national holiday in con- nexion with any matter concerning the whole of Australia. The reasoning of the average elector would be that in matters affecting the whole of the Commonwealth this Parliament possesses plenary powers. The limitations of the Constitution are matters of astonishment to the average man and the reason why, in the majority of cases, the electors on the last occasion when these proposals were submitted to them, did not support them-, was that no effort was made, or no opportunity afforded, to inform them as to the distinction between the granting of these powers and the practical legislation which would be likely to flow from them. Passing from that matter, I should like to refer to the argument with respect to the selfgoverning powers of the States and the Commonwealth which was made a leading point by Senator Millen. He said that it was impossible by any known means to increase the self-governing powers of the citizens of Australia. With all the honorable senator’s fluency of speech, mental agility and clearness of thought, he confused the powers of Parliament with the powers of the people. He said -
Until we accomplished Federation the States Parliaments were equipped with the power to pass any law they liked. Federation did not add to those powers at all. It merely transferred some of them. What it did was to hand over a certain authority, certain powers which the States up to that time had exercised individually. Whilst Federation did not add to those self-governing powers, no more will the measures of the Government add to them. They may say, if they please, that it is desirable that certain powers should be exercised by the central authority, but they cannot possibly add to the self-governing powers by transferring to the” central authority powers which they already possess.
He went on to refer to the powers of the State Parliament. Here I say there must, be drawn a broad a”nd deep distinction be- tween the powers of Parliament and the powers of the people, lt mav be true that we cannot add to the powers of the peopleas expressed through their Parliaments by transferring them from one to another. But the whole point of our contention in regard to Legislative Councils is that they do not represent the people. The States to-day are not really living under a democratic form of government, but under a sham form of “Democracy.
– Indirectly they are*through their Ministers.
– Very indirectly, throughMinisters who are turned out of office, and many of whom are dead and gone. The people of Australia are still ruled in the States by laws made by nominee legislators who are dead and gone. It has been said that each successive Government can infuse enough new blood into a nominee Legislative Council to enable it to properly represent the people of to-day. But that is a fallacy. Senator Millen was clearly confounding powers with rights. To say that we cannot increase the powers of the people by transferring; authority is as farcical as it. would be to contend that the city of Sydney might, through its municipal institutions, govern the whole State of New South Wales. The people of NewSouth Wales had a right to establish a Defence Force, and to some extent they did so ; but will any one contend that they were as safe against possible foreign aggression as they now are when they form an integral part of the Commonwealth ? Tosay that the powers of the people cannot be increased by transferring them from an incompetent, local, and limited authority to a general and unlimited authority is to quibble with the ordinary meaning of words. It is this kind of hollow, sham. and humbugging logic which is so frequently used to deceive the people, instead1 of to clarify their thoughts, that I so much’ object to. I may instance the case of oldage pensions. Prior to the Commonwealth taking over the question some of the States were only too willing to make a success of the schemes they had instituted, and todo justice, however tardily, to the old pioneers living in their midst. But they found that their laws were not wide enough to include some persons who ought to be included, but who were necessarily shut out because they had spent some part of their time in other States. So the scheme could not be made as complete and effective under local and divided control as it has been under the national control of the Commonwealth Parliament. The same thing may be said of many other powers, some of which we are asking for in the proposed amendments of the Constitution. With respect to the Legislative Councils, we have been told that in the case of those in New South Wales and Queensland, which are nominee bodies, new blood may be introduced when they become too Conservative or Tory. Senator Millen argued that these powers may be safely left with the Legislative Councils, because the party with which he was once associated under Mr. Reid went to the country after the Legislative Council of New South Wales threw out the land and income tax proposals of the Government, and were returned with a sweeping majority, when the Legislative Council withdrew into its native obscurity, and passed the measures. I can speak with some little* knowledge of New South Wales, and I say that scores of measures were rejected by the Legislative Council which were carried by large majorities, or unanimously, by the Legislative Assembly of that State. Honorable senators know that it is impossible to appeal to the country in respect of every little measure. We cannot expect to arouse people to a state of abnormal indignation over a matter which they favour in the abstract, but which is of real concern only to a section of the people, and thus overcome the objection to nominee Legislative Council. In those States in which the Legislative Council is elective the position is infinitely worse. For instance, after every State but Victoria . had carried womanhood suffrage its Legislative Council rejected the measure time after time, disfranchising practically one-half of the population owing to the Tory instincts of its members. What hope is there of amending the constitution of those bodies ? It would take practically a revolution to change the constitution of any elective Legislative Council in Australia.
– In New South Wales it would take less effort to alter their constitution than it would take to alter the Federal Constitution.
– I do not know how much effort it would take, but I think the honorable senator will admit that the Imperial Government would require to have a voice in the matter. It might be possible to abstain from making fresh nominations until the Legislative Council disappeared by effluxion of time, but that is not a practicable proposal. And even if it were attempted to stuff the Legislative Council with enough men who would be prepared to carry a measure for its abolition, it would take years of effort to bring about that result. To say that jio legislation which the people desired has ever been seriously opposed by the Legislative Councils is to ignore the history of the States. By interjection I quoted the example of the Coal Miners Eight Hours Bill in New South Wales. Twenty years ago - the year after I first obtained a seat in the Legislative Assembly - Mr. Edden, the present Minister of Mines in the McGowen Government, introduced a measure to legalize eight hours from bank to bank in coal mines. It was read a second time by the Legislative Assembly without division, and sent to the Legislative Council, where it was rejected. A year or two later it was again passed by the Assembly, and either shelved or rejected by the Council. During the last eighteen or twenty years it has gone from one House over seven or eight times, and so recently as last session, although it left the Assembly with the weight of the Government at its back, it was rejected by the Council, lt is all very well for Senato< Millen to say that a Ministry, if it likes, can appeal to the country on the defeat of such a measure, but experience of human nature shows that the hundreds of thousands of persons who are engaged in other industries will not get so excited over the denial of eight hours to the miners as to secure a victory which will carry the Council off its feet. The reason is that thousands of persons are interested in one thing, while other citizens are interested in something else, and often the confusion of party politics makes it impossible to concentrate our efforts upon a matter which affects the daily lives of a. comparatively small section of the community. In the same way one might quote nearly any measure. Unless it is a leading item in the programme of the Government it is impossible to arouse public feeling to such an extent as to defeat all the opposition which may be offered by a body acting, like the Legislative Council does, as a barrier against the people’s will.
Again, political parties, in their endeavours to get legislation put through, cannot devote their whole time and energies to one measure, but have to consider other measures also. So we find that Governments are frequently faced with what might be called the veto power of the Legislative Council, which, when it does not actually prevent legislation from being carried, results in cutting out its vital principles and frequently in reducing it to absolute futility. Further, the existence of the Legislative Council is a potent influence in returning to the other Chamber men who advocate measures with their tongues in their teeth, knowing very well that whatever they may vote for in one building will be “biffed out” - to use the vernacular - in the other building. The existence of the Legislative Council is, therefore, a potent factor is creating hypocrites in the other House.
– Your Legislative Council is a radical one compared with ours.
– Perhaps so; because, as a last resort, it is possible to so alter its composition as to force measures through; but for any one claiming to be a Democrat, to say that that is a rational and legitimate way in which the people should be asked to exercise their self-governing powers seems to me to be a travesty on common sense.
– I have never said that.
– No; but the honorable senator made it a leading point in his address that the self-governing powers of the people could not be increased by transferring any portion of them from one authority to another ; that the taking away of certain powers which the States have and handing them to the Federal authority would not increase the people’s powers.
– Is not that only duplicating them?
– My contention is that the honorable senator’s argument is wrong for two reasons : First, you can practically increase powers by making them more effective; and secondly, you can increase powers by giving them to a Legislature which will use them, instead of allowing them to remain subject to a self contradictory, paradoxical form of government, under which one House exists for the purpose of giving effect to the people’s will, and the other House exists primarily for the purpose of obstructing and delaying the people’s will.
– Revising, not intentionally obstructing.
– I cheerfully admit that, while we have two Houses constituted as. the Assembly and Council are in the respective States, we shall have careless legislation by one House, and good work done by the other in the exercise of its revisionary powers. But that is because, where the responsibility is divided, it does not frequently fall equally on both parties. I recollect the time when a Banking Bill, in which probably Senator Walker was interested, was passed through the Legislative Council of New South Wales,’ notwithstanding the protest of a dozen or so of us. The members of the Council sat for three or four hours after their usual time for adjournment waiting to finally deal with the Bill as soon as it was forced through the Assembly. I know of numerous instances where legislation which had been demanded by the people for years and years only got through the Council in a mutilated form, while legislation which suited class interests was rushed through with lightning speed. I recollect the Bills of Sir George Dibbs to make bank notes legal tender in New South Wales, and to suspend the enforcement of payment by the banks, being carried through the Assembly at the point of the bayonet. As soon as the measures were passed, the members of the Legislative Council hastened back to the Chamber, and carried in half-an-hour the legislation which we had resisted for two solid days and nights, the Governor being ready on the spot to sign the Bills before the ink on them was dry. No more hollow or hypocritical contention has ever been raised than that Upper Houses exist for the purpose of checking hasty legislation. They exist for the purpose of checking democratic legislation, and killing it outright whenever they get the chance.
– The Labour Ministry put ten men in the Upper House lately.
– I am not talking about what the Labour Ministry have done there, but about how the Legislative Councils have exercised their powers up to date. Of course, if new blood is introduced - and some of it, it is to be hoped, is more democratic than the old blood - the Council may be brought more and more into conformity with the will of the people. This year the Legis- lative Council threw out a measure in which lt was proposed to call together a convention for the creation of a constitution for a Greater Sydney, not because they objected to the principle of it, but because they objected to the democratic franchise on which it was to be elected. Later the Council, in the most exulting and chuckling manner, threw out a measure in which it was proposed to give adult suffrage to the whole of the municipal voters in New South Wales.
– It is a monstrous thing to give votes to people who have no interest in the place.
– According to the honorable senator, a person is to have a vote by virtue of his citizenship for the Federal Parliament, which deals with some of the most far-reaching social functions of the community, and for the State Assembly, which deals with many more, but is not to have a vote for the body which deals with the lesser and smaller interests affecting the district in which he lives.
– Every citizen’ contributes to the Federal revenue, but. every citizen does not contribute to the municipal revenue.
– I deny that.
– Order ! I hope that the honorable senator does not intend to continue that line of argument.
– No, sir; but surely I may be permitted to say that every citizen is an agent in promoting trade and enhancing the value of property in a municipality.
– That is not the basis of municipal representation.
– Unfortunately it is not. It is not a question of whether these things in themselves are right or wrong. The fact is that the House which is responsible to the people, and carries measures through, sometimes by enormous majorities, is thwarted in its efforts by a Council which is irresponsible, or, if elective, responsible to only a limited number of the people, and these not necessarily the most intelligent, though they may happen to own the most land or the most dollars. In regard to the statement that this duplication of powers is sure to lead to confusion, let me point out that we already possess some powers of a nature which are not exclusive - some powers which we, and also the States, can exercise - and, so far, I am not aware of any confusion having arisen in these matters. Here, again, I would ap peal to the common sense of those who are not blinded by mere partisanship as to whether there is any reason to suppose that the Federal Parliament will be any more destitute of common sense than are the State Parliaments in the exercise of any powers it may possess. Take, for instance, the proposed power dealing with labour, employment, and unemployment. Does it necessarily follow that, because that power will be far-reaching, it will, if granted, be exercised in respect of all the trivial matters of industrial life? Does it follow that, if we could,, we would insist upon the streets of a municipality being swept, and waste paper being picked up and put in baskets?
– Do you admit that you are seeking to take power to do that ?
– I do not. If we possess the power, will it necessarily follow that the Commonwealth Parliament will overload itself with the impossible task of regulating the most trivial and purely local affairs of the community ?
– Should we adopt a proposal like that when the AttorneyGeneral says he does not know what it means?
– I am not aware that he has made such a statement ; but if he did, it has been torn from its context in presenting it here in that bald manner.
– That is the usual explanation ; but if you will look at Hansard, you will find those words reproduced there - that he does not know what the meaning of the words is.
– To which words does the honorable senator refer?
– The words of the “ trade and commerce “ power.
– Unfortunately no man - and I expect again to be taunted with quibbling - is able to explain in every detail how these powers will operate. It is impossible to invest any Legislature with the exact powers which it will require for all time to use. To say that you can follow up all the intricate and complex relations of our social, commercial, and industrial life, and show on every occasion where they will and will not operate, is manifestly stating the impossible. Senator Millen contended, and we all know, as a matter of fact, that the States within their spheres have absolute powers. We know that, in respect of the matters on which they can legislate, there is no limit, either to the injurious or the ridiculous legislation which they may pass in the exercise of those powers. Without going to the wildest extremes, let us suppose that the State of Victoria decided by Statute to abolish all the municipal and shire councils of the State, and run the whole of the State by means of the State Departments. We know that the Victorian Parliament has the legal power to do that. The reason that they would not attempt to do it is, first, that no Parliament Wants to burden itself with detailed work for which it is’ obviously unfitted, and, second, it is not going to pursue a course which would meet with the general condemnation of citizens throughout the State. And I say that the common sense of the Legislature, and the power of the electors to punish their Parliament, if it does not act in a commonsense manner, are as sufficient safeguards in the case of the Federation as they are in the case of the States. This is the only Parliament in Australia that is elected on a democratic franchise. It is constituted by members who are elected by the men and women of Australia in their respective States. Every adult, irrespective of wealth, rank, or position, is entitled to the exercise of equal political power, and consequently, as no State Government is constituted on the same democratic basis, we can fairly .claim, beyond any power of refutation, that we are more amenable to the wishes and the will of the electors than are the members of any State Parliament. The electors can mete out punishment to us if we transgress decency or common sense in our legislation. They can elect Parliaments to reverse our decisions if they are not satisfied with the laws which we enact, and it is the fact that popular control is being exercised in a way that does not suit many of the constituents of honorable senators opposite that causes them to oppose the granting of these proposed powers, and not the fear that those powers will be misused. They know that public opinion can operate on this Parliament in a more effective, prompt, and speedy way than it can on any State Parliament, because in the States they are buttressed by a Chamber that has been established to curb the growing powers of the Democracy, and to maintain the privileges and rights of exploiters and robbers who have held sway too long in this community. Senator Millen stated that the late Chief Justice Marshall of the United States of America had expressed his opposition to similar powers to those which are asked in these Bills being given to the Federal Government of the United States of America. He quoted Chief Justice Marshall as saying -
It is not intended to say that those words comprehend that commerce which is completely internal, and is carried on between man and man in a State or between different parts of the same State, and which does not extend to or affect other States. Such’ a power would be inconvenient, and is certainly unnecessary.
Senator Millen quoted that extract to show that the powers asked for in these Bills are unnecessary, but the fact that that opinion was expressed by Chief Justice Marshall some considerable time ago justifies the assumption that, .with the rapid march of events, with the enormous arid comparatively recent growth of trusts, monopolies, and combines, and the marvellous growth of trade in that country, that gentleman’s opinions would be quite different if they were expressed to-day. Time after time we have been informed that it was owing to the broad and liberal interpretation of the Constitution of that country by Chief Justice Marshall that they had that smooth working of the trade and commerce provisions which otherwise would have been impossible. We are told that the way in which that great jurist interpreted the Constitution of the United States of America and laid down precedents, which other Judges have since followed, has done a great deal towards reducing the friction which would otherwise have existed in the working of that Constitution, and that possibly some social and industrial problem might have been left unsolved had it not been for his broad, judicial interpretations. It has been as- serted by those who know better than I do that the majority of the Judges of the High Court Bench have placed the most narrow construction upon matters which have come before them by way of appeal. If in the United States of America we have the highest Judges putting the broadest and most liberal interpretation on the Constitution, and in this country an opposite course is taken, it is only an illustration of the oft-quoted aphorism that bad laws well . administered are better than goods laws badly administered. In the same way, a narrow Constitution broadly interpreted might grant greater freedom than a broader Constitution interpreted in the most narrow way. Our position in regard to the High Court is a reflection, not upon the ability or the character of the gentlemen who compose that Court, but upon the interpretations placed by them upon enactments which have “been passed in good faith by this Parliament and previous Parliaments, believing that the Constitution gave all the powers embodied in those laws. I say, therefore, that that is quite a sufficient answer to Mr. Justice Marshall. As regards industrial arbitration, when Senator Millen was referring to that proposal I interjected that the last word in regard to industrial matters “had not yet been spoken, and he retorted that my last word was the strike.
– Which you did not deny i
– I did not, and do not now. I believe that if all other efforts fail, it is the inalienable right of any per- ;Son to refuse to give his services if the conditions will not suit him.
– Nobody denies that.
– But that has been stigmatized as striking. It is an unfortunate fact, in regard to our language, that the words we use do not always mean what they are supposed to. The word “ strike “ in its primal use implies violence. To strike is equivalent to smiting. It is an act of violence, but what is commonly termed a strike in industrial matters is purely a form of passive resistance. The loose use of the word has misled people into thinking that the right to strike is the right to inflict violence, while in reality it is only a passive state of refusing to do any more work. I think that any body of workmen that gave up that inalienable right would be fools; but I say that if you agree to arbitrate, it is not right to first resort to arbitration, and then to strike if you do not get your own way. I believe in carrying out agreements when you make them unless you are forced into agreements by circumstances absolutely beyond your control. The reason why I =hold that arbitration is not the last word in industrial legislation is that it must be clear to those who look beyond immediate circumstances that society is in a transition stage. Old institutions are crumbling into dust, they are proving obsolete and ineffective, and are being rightly replaced by new institutions more calculated to meet the needs and aspirations of the people. Of course, there will be many evils, and many wrong things done in that transition stage. I think every one will admit that we are in a transition stage in many of the relations of life, particularly in our industrial and commercial relations, and therefore it would be the wildest egotism to suppose that any law which we pass is going to have any degree of permanence in regard to matters of this kind. I am just as much a Labour man as ever I was, and I say frankly that I take arbitration as a present-day palliative. As long as I could get good results from it, I would use it, and when it ceased to bring about good results I would throw it away as I would a sucked orange.
– Does that apply to individual cases, or as a general principle ?
– I would put that forward as a general principle. Arbitration is not the last word in industrial legislation, nor will arbitration bring about that consummation which will alone give us industrial peace in this world - effective Socialism. Until that time arrives, we take arbitration as a present-day palliative, and when it fails to do good work we would be fools if we did not throw it on one side and substitute something better. If nothing better offers, the inalienable right to refuse to work under the conditions offered will never be given up by my will anyhow. We would be fools to say that all the political wisdom of the ages is embodied in every proposal that may emanate from us from time to time, but where we are satisfied that the workers have not received their fair share of the wealth that they produce, now that we have secured political power, the efforts of our Conservative friends opposite will never prevent us from seeking to obtain economic justice by the exercise of that political power. If we fail by one means we will adopt another. If this law does not suit, we will put it on one side and bring in a fresh, one. We will go on and on, bringing in fresh proposals, until we do accomplish all that is possible by political means.
– Go on experimenting.
– All legislation is experimental. I should like to know how we can tell that any legislation will suit the country until we have tried it.
– Fifty per cent, of the employes to-day will be employers fifteen years hence.
– They will be more likely to be dead.
– Most of the employers to-day were employes twenty years ago.
– My esteemed friend is, I am afraid, speaking of conditions as he knew them forty or fifty years ago, when he was in his prime. But year by year it becomes more and more difficult for an individual to Become an employer, as industry becomes more highly organized. As more and more capital is required to launch into trade or commerce, it becomes less and less possible for an individual to rise from the position of an employ6 to that of an employer.
– If the honorable senator will allow me to say so, his own career contradicts that.
– My own career started a considerable time ago. It did not start yesterday. I “ argued the point “ in Bourke twenty years ago with Senator Millen when we were both in a Labour league together. This is an age of organization, of joint stock companies, of syndicates and of trusts.
– The joint stock company has gone. It has had its day.
– At any rate, it has not entirely disappeared. It must be admitted that the use of capital in a co-operative way by combinations, trusts, and syndicates is making it more and more difficult for an individual to start out in life and become an employer or director, or anything in a large way.
– Nearly all the farmers were employes a few years ago. I know a great many of them.
– I know that most of the farmers are becoming State Socialists. They are asking the Government to do everything for them, though they object to the Government doing anything for their employes. Senator Millen in his speech last week quoted Mr. Hughes and Senator Pearce as having derided anti-trust legislation as bound to be futile and ineffective. I contend that we are morally bound to use our best endeavours to see what can be effected by means of such legislation. We have limited powers under the existing Constitution. We are therefore acting perrfectly consistently in saying that to give us a fair opportunity of doing what we want to do effectively those powers must be increased, so that our legislation may not prove as ineffective as anti-trust laws have been under the American Union. We do not want it to remain a dead letter. A celebrated writer on trusts and combines in the United States of America has remarked upon the futility of anti-trust legislation, arid has given many anecdotes, one of which I shall quote, in order to show how the trusts fight any legislation passed to hamstring them. It appears that while it is common to impute corruption to American Legislatures, they are not all deserving of that kind of criticism. The celebrated Beef Trust was indicted in the State of Missouri for a breach of the anti-trust legislation of that State. The State Legislature was honest and incorruptible. So were the Judges. Consequently no time was lost inbringing these men up and prosecuting them under the law. They were convicted and four firms concerned were fined $5,000 each. They did not do what huge monopolies have often done, take the matter through Court after Court, but they paid spot cash immediately the fines were inflicted.
– They showed their respect for the law.
– Yes; but the next day they put up the price of beef all over the State of Missouri 2d. per pound, thereby netting ten times the amount of the fines inflicted upon them. That showed that they respected the letter of the law, but were absolutely able to evade the anti-trust legislation. We know also that trusts that have, been dissolved by order of the Supreme Court of the United States of America, and have been fined enormous sums - which by the way, have not been collected - are still as flourishing and powerful as ever they were. It is fair to assume that we shall have trouble in enforcing anti-trust legislation in the Commonwealth. But our opportunity is greater because here the trusts, not having lived so long, or having such opportunities of bribing the Legislature, or corrupting the Judiciary, or in other ways effecting their infamous purposes, anti-trust legislation may be expected to do more than it has been able to effect in the United States of America. I agree with those who argue that the possession of the railways by private companies in the United States of America has been a fruitful source of strength to the trusts. They have been able to manipulate traffic rates, to secure rebates, and in other ways ito exploit the general public as they would not have been able to do if the railways, had been owned by the State. Our friends opposite sometimes urge that the private ownership of railways in the United States of America has to a large extent been the foundation ‘ of the success of the trusts. If that be admitted, it forms a splendid justification for the national ownership of large public utilities. Senator Fraser believes that it is a good thing that the States should own the railways, but if he uttered such sentiments in England or in the United States of America, he would be dubbed a dangerous man, who ought not to be returned to Parliament. The most conservative classes are quite willing to admit that it is a good thing that the services which have been’ nationalized should so continue. But they decline to go a step further. In countries where the telegraphs and telephones and the railways are in private hands, they would be quite unwilling to nationalize them. If we secure these powers, and it should unfortunately happen in a few years time that our opponents are placed on the Treasury benches, it will be -found that the legislation that we carried by means of these extended powers will be maintained and supported by them. Because, once this legislation is enacted, their conservative intellects will be able to grasp the fact that it is good legislation, but the moment it is proposed to nationalize something else they will object to it as the mad scheme of mere visionaries. That has been the experience in all communities). The thing that is, is all right. The thing that you propose to do, is wild and visionary. If Senator Millen and the members of the Opposition were to go to England, and there advocate the Government ownership of railways, they would be dubbed Socialists, and persons who were seeking to overturn the foundations of society. A very unfair statement was made by Senator Millen in regard to the prosecution of the Coal Vend. He alleged that instead of using the anti-trust legislation carried in 1910, the present Government used the legislation passed in 1906, and that the Coal Vend escaped through the meshes of that law.
– Which law the honorable senator’s own leaders had declared to be impotent.
– He claimed that we had more or less humbugged the people by prosecuting the Coal Vend under the law passed in 1906 when we ourselves had carried an amending law in 1910 which would have closed up the crevices through which the Coal Vend escaped, under the decision of the High Court. I contend that that was a very unfair statement for Senator Millen to make. In the first place, the Coal Vend prosecution was not initiated by the Labour Government. It was initiated bv the Government of which Senator
Millen was himself a member. That Government had only the 1906 Act to proceed under.
– The honorable senator is wrong in saying that the prosecution was initiated by our Government. All that was initiated was the making of the inquiries under the Anti-Trust Act. No summons was issued, and no legal proceedings were instituted.
– But the honorable senator’s Government used the 1906 Act.
– No; the AttorneyGeneral of the present Government took the full responsibility of prosecuting under the 1906 Act.
– I have no doubt of the correctness of what Senator Keating is saying. It is quite true that inquiries had been made by the previous Government. But they made those inquiries under the only Act on the statute-book, and that was the Act passed in 1906. The amending Act was not passed till 19 10.
– If the Government found that the 1906 Act was ‘ imperfect, why did they not take steps immediately to pass legislation in order to enable them successfully to prosecute the Coal Vend?
– I am endeavouring to deal with that question.
– It is a very awkward question.
– The inquiries were made under the 1906 Act. The next step was that, in 19 10, the present Government introduced amending legislation.
– They initiated action against the Vend before bringing in the Bill.
– Before they had any opportunity to bring in the Bill. It was stated by the Attorney-General, and the representative of the Government in this House, that it was not intended to make the Bill retrospective, and that the prosecution would proceed under the existing law.
– You admit that it would have been possible to pass the Bill first and initiate proceedings afterwards, instead of the reverse?
– No. As the alleged offences were committed when the 1906 Act was in force, it was held that the subsequent legislation could not constitutionally be. made to apply. If I commit an act which is no offence under the law to-day, and an Act is passed in 1913 which makes that act an offence, it cannot be fairly held that the new law will apply to what was done in 1912.
– The 19 10 Act did not alter the nature of the offence, but merely threw on different shoulders the responsibility of proof.
– I am not arguing on theo constitutional rights or wrongs of the case ; but I am pointing out that the Government intimated that there were considerable doubts as tq the constitutionality or legality of making the Act retrospective, and therefore they proposed to proceed under the law which was in force when the alleged offences were committed.
– The object of the 1910.BUI was to shift the onus of proof.
– Whether that be so or not, I am merely pointing out that the Government were afraid that it would be illegal to prosecute the Vend under the act of 1910 in respect to an offence alleged to have been committed before the passing of that Act. Honorable members did not attempt to question that position.
– Every one assumed that the prosecution would take place under the amended legislation.
– There was no reason to assume anything of the kind, because it was definitely stated that it was not intended to make the law apply to offences committed before the passing of the Act.
– Why did not the Government bring in the Bill, and institute the prosecution afterwards?
– Because it was held that the legislation could not be made to apply to an offence committed beforehand.
– It was not a question of offence, but a question of proof. Who would have assumed that the AttorneyGeneral would prosecute under an Act which was considered to be ineffective ?
– For the reason I have stated, the Attorney-General announced that the Government would do the best they could under the existing law, imperfect and all as it might be. If the contention of the Government then was weak or futile, honorable senators did not raise any voice against it, as they are now doing. With regard to the nationalization of monopolies, I believe that we can do far more good in connexion with the proposal relating to this matter than by passing any of the other proposals put forward. I would not attempt to argue that we should nationalize everything, or that nationalization would overcome all evils ; but it would prevent the growth of huge moneyed interests to the detriment of the people. If we want to ward off the evils which have resulted from the enormous aggregration of wealth in the United States of America, we can do it in no more effective way than by nationalizing all those industries which from their nature require the investment of a large amount of capital in order to insure profitable results. ‘ Honorable senators opposite have agreed that there are huge monopolies and trusts operating in the United States of America, and attribute them to the influences exerted by the high Tariff. It is debatable whether or not highly protective Tariffs encourage trusts, but my contention is that the trusts in the United States of America have flourished to an extent that cannot be wholly accounted for by Tariff influences. Only a few years ago, two or three of the largest cotton-thread manufacturers in Great Britain amalgamated and formed enormous trusts with millions of capital. Then, again, quite recently, several big shipping firms amalgamated for the double purpose of decreasing expenses and increasing profit. Trusts have developed in the United States of America to a larger extent because of the larger opportunities and greater scope for the operation of combines; but the same thing is going on in Great Britain and the Continent. We can see that this is the inevitable growth of commerce and industry, and that either trusts using their wealth and power to extort still more wealth from the people, must control our large industries, or the people, through their Parliaments, must own and control them. By adopting some midway course, we may exercise partial control, and may shear these large trusts ot their more harmful features; but we cannot effectively deal with the problem by any other means than nationalization. We cannot conceive of any other method for preventing the aggregation of enormous wealth in the hands of a few, with all its attendant evils. We are told that we .shall be compelled to adopt- the wicked course of confiscating private interests in these large industries, or, in the alternative, to buy them up at ruinous prices, and that, if we adopt the latter course, we shall have to borrow money and plunge the country into debt.
– Which alternative does the honorable member recommend?
– I do not say that we should adopt one course or the other.
– You are on the horns of a dilemma.
– I am not on the horns of a dilemma. My honorable friends opposite have had the barefaced audacity to go before the electors and assume that they could impose upon them by telling them that we were on the horns of the dilemma indicated by the honorable senator. There is. another course to pursue which will relieve us from the dilemma in which honorable senators would no doubt gladly see us placed. That course is to start in business for ourselves, and, incidentally, if it becomes profitable, to buy up similar industries to combine with our own. We find that we can build up State industries. In New South Wales, we have a State brickworks. The industry was not started by attempting to buy put the Brick Combine, but by establishing independent works.
– And now the price of bricks is higher than ever.
– The price would have been much higher but for the establishment of State works.
– But the State works were going to reduce the price of bricks.
– Honorable senators always endeavour to show that our efforts are ineffective if they do not in five minutes remedy the evils which have grown up under their regime, extending over many generations.
– The Minister for Works in New South Wales claimed that the starting of the brickworks would bring down the price of bricks. As a matter of fact, the price has gone up.
– The only way in which the price could be reduced would be by the State making sufficient bricks to bring about effective competition with the Combine.
– Senator Millen’s interjection proves that a Combine exists.
– Exactly. If he wanted to build a cottage in Sydney, he could not buy his bricks from any firm he chose.
– I could build it more cheaply than the Government built their cottages at Daceyville.
– If the honorable senator wanted bricks, he could not go to any particular kiln, but would have to buy them through the Combine, who would select the kiln to supply the bricks.
– Have the State brickworks destroyed that kind of thing ?
– No, because they are in their infancy. The State itself has been one of the biggest customers of the private brickworks, because it has required from 20,000,000 to 30,000,000 bricks per annum for public works. First of all, the brickworks have had to supply State requirements, . and consequently the general public cannot buy any bricks from the State works. Therefore, the Combine still have the run of the market. It cannot be claimed that the works are ineffective, because they have supplied the State with bricks at prices lower than those charged by the Combine.
– That is disputed. They are charging the Department using the bricks the market price for them.
– That is purely a bookkeeping matter in order to give due credit to the brickworks. I may say that I saw the whole of the conditions laid down for the establishment of the works, and know that the estimates covered land, buildings, depreciation, and insurance fund for the payment of workmen’s compensation, and the manager is given the freest possible hand to engage and discharge men as he thinks fit. I have been told on very good anthority that the State brickworks have at any rate succeeded to the extent of making bricks for 25s. a thousand, when the price charged per thousand for bricks made by private firms is £2 7s. 6d. We find that in other countries in which there has been no more open declaration of Socialism than there has been in Australia, the manufacture of commodities in everyday use has been nationalized. Senator Ready referred to a number of them in his excellent resume on this question. They have made a striking success of their nationalization, and have at the same time added considerably to their Consolidated Revenues. What has been done in those countries might be better done here, because this community has been accustomed to State-owned enterprises of many kinds which are in private hands elsewhere. I wish now to refer to one of the great bogies which our friends opposite have raised in connexion with the fixing of prices. They say that if we are going to control monopolies and industries, and make laws regulating wages, we must also fix prices. Senator Millen’s statement on the subject, boiled down, is that there is practically only one way of fixing prices. He admits that we can fix the price of one factor in production, but contends that it is impossible to go back to the different stages of production and fix all the prices ; for instance, for the retailer of bread, the grower of wheat, and the intermediaries who- mill the wheat, and so forth. He says that if we attempt to do that some loss will ultimately be inflicted which the general public must be called upon to bear, and that it will be necessary to meet the difficulty by a manipulation of the Tariff. I dissent altogether from that view. The honorable senator’s argument raises difficulties which it is quite unnecessary for us to consider. If it became necessary to fix the retail price of bread, the tribunal called upon to do so would do as Wages Boards and Arbitration Courts do in fixing the wages of labour.
– They generally fix wages for a considerable term - three years, for instance.
– I am not dealing with that aspect of the matter. I say that it would- be quite unnecessary to go back and fix the price at each stage of production until we had fixed the wages of farm labourers, and the cost of the machinery used by the farmer. What the tribunal would do would be to consider what would be a fair price to charge the consumer for bread in view of the existing various factors in its production.
– Suppose they altered ?
– Then necessarily the tribunal would have to alter the price of bread.
– The factors would alter more rapidly than the tribunal could work.
– I do not think so. Possibly the factors would not alter in the same direction, and an alteration in one would balance an alteration in another, so that the disturbance would not be so great or so frequent as the honorable senator predicts. It is easy to raise difficulties, but difficulties exist in order that they may be overcome.
– It is just as easy to make promises.
– We are not making promises. We are contending that this will be the natural evolution of affairs. If we cannot control monopolies in any other way, we have as much right to fix the prices they should charge as those controlling them have to exploit the public by fixing the prices for them. I can give an illustration of what occurred recently in Sussex-street,
Sydney. Owing to the great dearth of potatoes, the price went up to over £20 per ton. I saw a statement in the Sydney
Daily Telegraph, which is fighting these proposals, openly admitting that the Sussex-street produce merchants fix the prices of produce to suit themselves. The statement was subsequently made that, owing to the excessively high rates fixed by the Sussex-street merchants, people refused to buy, and then Sussex-street came down to absolutely low prices, in order to try to unload their stocks. In the trade and finance columns of the newspaper referred to it was assumed that prices were fixed from time to time by the associated merchants who do business in produce in Sussexstreet. It was not hinted for a moment that they experience any difficulty in doing that. I am engaged in the fruitgrowing industry, and I know that while the middle-man collars most of the profits, I do most of the work. I ‘know that fruit agents and dealers meet and decide from time to time what prices they will give the grower, who has to take what he can get ; whilst the public have to give what they are asked. We find associated employers engaged in trading and commercial institutions meeting from time to time to fix the prices of commodities, I will not say entirely irrespective of the cost of production, but largely independent of it. What is done by them could be very much better done by the community in their own interests. Whilst it may be necessary to give a vast amount of local control in regard to minor matters, I say that, in connexion with commodities largely used by the whole community, and dependent for their production and price largely on the movements of Inter-State, and even international, trade, there is no body so fitted to exercise these functions as would be a tribunal created by this Federal Legislature. Let me say now that the issue that has been raised of Home Rule, or local selfgovernment, versus Unification is not the true issue. Senator Millen, in his eloquent peroration, reminded us that the British race has always fought strongly, and, if necessary, by the use of armed force, to retain the right of self-government. He took us back to very ancient days on the threshold of historic times, when our forefathers used to meet under the village greenwood tree and boldly uphold the cause of local selfgovernment. My reading of. history has taught me, however, that in the long list of monarchs who have ruled England from the threshold of pre-historic times up to the present there was only one who ever bore the title of “ Great.” I refer to Alfred the Great, who was chiefly celebrated, according to my reading of history, because he successfully destroyed the seven kingdoms of the then decadent Saxon Heptarchy, united England, and made it one self-governing State.
– What about Alexander the Great?
– He unified the world.
– And sat down and wept because there were no more worlds for him to conquer.
– Just so. I thought that Senator Keating referred to my going so far back in English history, but I was dealing with the remarks of Senator Millen, who alluded to very ancient historic times in England.
– Will the honorable senator now refer to much more local and recent attempts made by Victoria, Queensland, and Tasmania, to secure local selfgovernment, apart from the government of New South Wales?
– I shall not forget that. Senator Millen placed his chief reliance on some traditional instinct of the British race in favour of local self-government.
– The honorable senator might refer to the most recent local instances of it.
– I shall do so when I am ready. I say that if we go back to the threshold of authentic history, we shall find a successful attempt made at Unification by the destruction of the seven separate kingdoms of the Heptarchy into which England at that time was divided. My object in referring to that specially is to say that 1 have no doubt that at that time the Conservative party of the day found one hundred and one good reasons to show that the ancient liberties of Britain could only be preserved by keeping seven live distinct monarchies going. I have no doubt that the kings, princes of the blood royal, and dependents on the monarchy of the seven kingdoms emphatically declared that the old order of things should prevail for ever. So now, what is is right, and what is going to be is bound to be wrong, especially if we on this side propose it. I contend that when in Port Phillip, and later on in Queensland, agitations arose for separation from New South Wales, the different portions of Australia were, for all practical purposes, as far apart as Australia and England, and it was as difficult for them to dobusiness one with the other as it is now for us to do business between Australia and England. There is no comparison whatever between the conditions existing in those comparatively ancient times in Australia with those now prevailing in the Commonwealth. In those days the separate communities settled in Port Phillip, and later on in Queensland, felt themselves called upon to secede from the parent State on account of the neglect of their interests. But in those days there was no prompt delivery of mails, and there were no railways, telegraph lines, or telephones. Now, a man in one capital can call up a resident of the capital of a neighbouring State, and hear his voice as distinctly on the telephone as he can hear the voice of a resident of the nearest suburb. The advance of science, discovery, and invention has been so great in the meantime that people living in the most widely separated portions of Australia to-day are really more closely in touch with each other than were the people of neighbouring counties of England of the time to which Senator Millen has referred us, or the people of Queensland and New South Wales when those States were separated. If I had lived in those times, I would, no doubt, have been one of the strongest advocates of the measures then taken by the people. And I say that there is nothing inconsistent in having complete centralized Federal powers in regard to matters which affect the whole of the people of Australia, whilst at the same time giving the widest possible measure of local self-government to the different States in matters of purely local concern. The New South Wales Parliament could to-day, if it pleased, take over the management of every detail of municipal government in the city of Sydney, but no one supposes that the members of the State Parliament would be such lunatics as to propose to do anything of the kind. Does the fact that they possess the power to interfere in every little local detail mean that there is any real danger of anything of the kind being done? If the powers which it is necessary for us to have to deal with matters in which all Australians are concerned carry with them a possibility of abuse which would lead to our interfering with local and purely State concerns with which we have no direct right to interfere, I say that the incidental power is one which it is absolutely impossible to detach from the general powers we seek. In the case of every power which is vested in this Parliament by the Constitution there are possibilities of abuse. We could pass absurd or injurious legislation by the extreme and unwise exercise of those powers. If we have the enormously important power of attending to the defence of every human being on this continent, we may be safely trusted with the exercise of that power. If we have the right to pass laws relating to the succour and the sustenance of the old and the infirm by the granting of pensions, if we nave the right to pass laws regarding such social contracts as marriage, and also divorce, applying to the whole of Australia-
– A subject which we have not touched yet.
– If we can be trusted to exercise the manifold powers which are already embodied in the Constitution, knowing that all the members of one House, and one-half of the Senate, are at the mercy of the electors every three years, what strength or weight can be honestly, urged before the electors against them giving us other powers which are no more likely to be abused ?
– Or even used, because we have not exercised these powers we now possess.
– There is no country in the world which uses all the powers it possesses.
– Why clamour for more powers until you have used those which you have?
– Some of the powers we thought we had under the Constitution have been shown to be ineffective.
– On the subject of marriage and divorce - a most domestic subject - Parliament has never attempted to legislate yet.
– The honorable senator is unnecessarily prolonging my remarks by interjecting about marriage and divorce.
– You introduced the subject.
– Merely as a statement of fact.
– We have never attempted to exercise that power. We have never had the time or the chance to do so.
– I contend that there has not been any very urgent demand yet on the part of the people that we should deal with those subjects.
– What ! No demand for a uniform divorce law?
– Order ! I hope that the honorable senator will not try to get Senator Rae to discuss that question.
– I am certainly not going to attempt to discuss the question, sir, but I think that I am within my rights in pointing out that we possess that power, and the suggestion that we have not exercised it can be disposed of easily by saying that there has not been a general demand that we should, and that we have had other matters to deal with which have taken up a reasonable amount of time in each session. It is a very fair thing to say that when a very large and important section of the people demand that further legislation shall be passed under the powers which we have attempted to exercise, we shall have a perfect right to ask them to make those powers complete, to bring them into line with what they thought they were conferring when they voted for the acceptance of the Constitution Bill.
– How can you say that the people are demanding them, after the verdict of the 26th April, 1911?
– I charge the honorable senator, as I charge nearly every member of his party and thousands who are attached to it, with having, because of their narrow and bigoted party feelings, deliberately tried to mislead the electors.
– You cannot say that the people are demanding any changes, seeing that they turned down the former proposals.
– The enormous number of electors who did vote for the previous proposals justifies me in saying that a very large and important section did desire those powers to be given to this Parliament. Can the honorable senator state from memory the total majority against the proposals ?
– A quarter of a million.
– Two hundred and fifty-nine thousand.
– In New South Wales, in which over 900,000 electors are now enrolled, more persons abstained from voting than voted against the proposals of last year. Admitting that they were turned down by that majority in a population of between four and five millions, of whom nearly onehalf have votes, we would only require to change the opinions of 130,000 voters to completely demolish the honorable senator’s position, and his argument, too. Fur- thermore, there have been more electors added to the rolls of the Commonwealth since the last vote was taken than constituted the majority which turned down the proposals, and the intelligent young Australians are nearly all in favour of granting these extended, powers. To say of a country which advances at the rate at which Australia does - a country possessed of the intelligence, the mental development, and the power of assimilating new ideas that characterize Australia - that, because two years back the electors voted against these proposals by about a quarter of a million, they are going to turn them down at the next referendum, is the greatest political piffle. Let me describe what the average man in Senator Millen’s party did then. I heard many of them, and knocked some of them out, I am glad to say, here and there.
– Two hundred and fifty thousand knocked you out, though.
– After the alleged Liberal organizers had told all sorts of terrible tarradiddles on the quiet to the men who they thought would swallow them, when they got before a mixed audience they painted the proposals in the blackest possible colours, and then they said, “ Let them say what they will for the proposals, we bave, at any rate, succeeded in throwing some doubt on the claims which are made for them, and, if you have any doubts, vote ‘ No.’ “ After sowing in the minds of the electors doubts erected on the most flimsy foundation, on the most biased and unscrupulous statements in their meetings, they said, “ If you have any doubts, vote No,’’ and be on the safe side.” They said to the electors, not once, but in thousands of instances, “Turn these proposals down now ; they can be brought forward again, and then, if you want them, you can vote for them. Give yourselves time to pause and reflect.” A good many of the electors have been thinking and thinking, some of them in their pockets, too.
– Your prospects are pretty doubtful, then?
– You bled them pretty well.
– The people have been Wed by the trusts, combines, and monopolies, which honorable senators opposite say do not exist.
– Name one.
– They are such a hydraheaded body that there is no occasion to specify one.
– The Sugar Company ?
– I am not confining my remarks to that company. In yearly every department of trade and commerce, which is reeking with corruption and infamy* there are dishonorable understandings. There are sometimes temporary, and what might be called fluctuating, methods of combination, but there are combines, and the combines, especially among middlemen, are fleecing the public right and left, from the cradle to the grave. We are up against them in every relation of life, and especially among the poor - among those who are compelled to supply their- wants in retail - are these exactions and extortions felt. In regard to the rise in prices, it,, is all very well for honorable senators opposite to talk about the Tariff. I recollect when some of the honorable senators opposite came up to help a successful candidate whom I was opposing in Parramatta. They raised the cry of the Tariff, which Sir William Lyne had just introduced there. One man followed me round with a plug of tobacco, and said that he had had to pay a penny more than he paid a month previously. In that little city, nearly every tradesman put up the price of commodities, which were on the free list. They charged the imaginary duties on things which never had, and have not now, to pay any duty. They charged increased prices on articles which were of local creation and manufacture, and nearly every increase in price was ascribed to the Tariff by those who were attempting to use it as a weapon to kill the Labour party of that* day in “the State Parliament. The story was told all over New South Wales in order to influence the State elections. It was said that the Labour party had backed up Sir William Lyne in imposing a Protective Tariff, and that, therefore, Labour was responsible for the higher prices which were being charged by storekeepers - in many cases on articles which did not come within the purview of the Tariff. That is only a sample of the dishonest methods which were resorted to by the supporters of honorable senators on the other side in trying to defeat our proposals.
– But only a New South Wales elector would be taken down by such a suggestion.
– No. I think that the State represented by the honorable senator was also taken in by similar stories, some of which were read from speeches the honorable senator made by Senator Ready. The most wild, visionary, and preposterous results were predicted as certain to accrue if our proposals were accepted. It is on that kind of thing that the party opposite lives. Its political life is dependent upon the misrepresentation of its opponents. I quite admit that there is ample room for honest difference of opinion as to the measure of power which should be given to one authority or retained in the hands of the other. But right through the last referenda we found that our opponents were not content with the legitimate arguments which might be used against the proposals, but misrepresented and distorted them in every way, and that those who, having regard to their responsible positions, did not dare to utter the same absurd and extreme statements, at any rate fathered the persons who did so to an unlimited extent.
– In Tasmania they told the electors that they would have to go to Yass-Canberra if they wanted to get a culvert mended.
– Just so. They said that everything would come under the Federal Parliament. It would be almost an insult to one’s intelligence to repeat the absurd statements which were thrown broadcast throughout New South Wales and every other State. The opportunity will now be given for the arguments of both sides to be put tersely before the people. I think that that will result in the enlightenment of many who were misled on the last occasion, and I hope that there will be an honest attempt on the part of those who are opposed to these proposals to give honest arguments against them, instead of resorting to all sorts of fanciful and distorted statements, in order to mislead the average elector.
– Take that home to yourself.
– I have taken it home.I have not deliberately made misrepresentations to any elector.
– When you say you have not done it deliberately, do you mean to say that you have done it impetuously?
– The honorable senator is only trying to get something into Hansard that is damaging to his opponents. While I am not attempting to claim that all the members of our party are angels in disguise, I do say that we have endeavoured to use arguments of a solid character to show the advantage that will accrue to the electors of the Commonwealth if they add to the powers of the Federal Parliament by carrying these proposed amendments of the Constitution. We charge our opponents with not having placed the case fairly before the people. We say that those interests which fancy they will be injuriously affected by having their wings clipped in the future, have subscribed enormous sums of money, and paid fancy prices to country journals-
– Sixty pounds to the Labor Call for one advertisement.
– The honorable senator is making an unfair statement. That has absolutely nothing to do with the question which we are now discussing. I say that the press was corruptly purchased in many cases. In other cases it voluntarily took up the side of wealth. That is only natural on. the part of the big metropolitan journals in Sydney, which are part and parcel of the commercial community, and of the monopolistic concerns of that State. Papers like the Sydney Morning Herald and the Sydney Daily Telegraph have put forward all the forces they can against these proposals, because they themselves constitute a monopoly to a large extent. I recollect seeing, some time ago, a circular issued by the Daily Telegraph to the lawyers, in which they stated that if the lawyers did not advertise in that paper they would not mention their names in reporting cases in which they were engaged.
– Do you say you saw the circular?
– Yes, with the signature of the manager of the Daily Telegraph attached to it.
– You do not mean to say that counsel in Sydney advertise?
– They put in what are called “cards,” I believe.
– Lots of advertisements in connexion with their businesses pass through the hands of the press.
– Yes. I saw another circular jointly signed by the managers of the Sydney Morning Herald and the Daily Telegraph to their news agents, stating that- if they accepted the agency for any other daily paper, they would withdraw the agencies for those papers from them. That was done because at that time there was a movement on foot to start a daily paper in Sydney representing Labour interests. All these things go to show that these large and wealthy journals are themselves endeavouring to exploit the public and indulge in the monopolistic tricks of combines as far as their opportunities permit them, and, consequently, we can only expect them to be on the side of wealth and exploitation. They are immensely wealthy concerns, and we could not expect them to be fighting other than in the interests of those with whom they are closely associated from a business stand-point. We know that their dividends are created by the fat advertisements which they get from the commercial interests, and their efforts are, to a large extent, directed towards showing the people, whose pennies they get to keep them going, the disadvantages that will accrue from the proposed legislation. I hope other speakers will deal with matters which I have not touched. I express my undoubted belief that a sufficient number of the electors, at any rate in the State which I represent, and which is not an inconsiderable factor in the Commonwealth, have been convinced, by a more close and intelligent consideration of these proposals than they gave to them when they were placed before them on the last occasion, and by the solid logic of inexorable facts which have touched them very much in their pockets, that they are the minimum proposals necessary to give us effective control of trade, commerce, and industry which, by their very nature, especially in these advanced times, are becoming more and more, not merely of Inter-State, but international importance, and relying on that growth of public intelligence, I have no fear as to the results of the approaching campaign when these questions will be submitted again to the people.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia) [10.22]. - I wish, in .the first place, to congratulate Senator Fraser, whom Senator Rae well described as our dear and esteemed friend, on his vigorous and effective speech. It was a very remarkable effort on the part of a man whose age is over four score. It is a very pleasing feature in this Senate - in fact, in Parliament generally - that, however much we may engage in controversy, and whatever our differences of opinion may be, the goodwill and the comradeship which exist amongst us are not unmoved by such an announcement as Senator Fraser made as to his retirement from political life, and we rejoice that, although in the fulness of years and honour, he is still taking a keen interest in political matters, and advocating those views which he believes to be in the interests of the country. I also compliment Senator Rae on the exceedingly interesting and very comprehensive speech which he has made from his point of view. With great modesty he said he hoped that speakers who followed him would refer to those matters which he had omitted to mention. I can assure him that there is nothing in the wide world, relevant or irrelevant to these Bills, which he omitted to mention. -He carried us back to prehistoric times. He took us through all the incidents of the Heptarchy, and adduced most ingenious arguments from the condition of things brought about by Afred the Great in support of these proposed amendments of the Constitution. Not that Alfred the Great knew much about Federalism; but still it is always well, if you cannot get any appropriate argument, to, at any rate, get something which is interesting from the historical point of view. The honorable senator stated that it was no argument against the granting of these powers to say that they might possibly be abused. I quite agree with him. If a power ought to be vested in a particular body, whether political or otherwise, it is expected to be used for right ends, and it is no argument against the granting of that power that, in the hands of the unscrupulous or the vicious, it is liable to be abused. There is no valid reason, furthermore, why these proposals should not be again submitted to the people. I do not think that amendments of the Constitution ought to be submitted too frequently ; but it was unnecessary for Senator Rae to enlarge at so much length on the position that these amendments had already been put to the people a year or more ago, and that we were going to test the feeling of the people once more upon them. I think it was hardly worth his while to make that a text for the use of some very violent language respecting those who take a different view from himself. It is not a pleasant thing to have accusations of dishonesty and unscrupulousness made in the cold-blooded way in which the honorable senator made them. It is true, he stated that he had never deliberately used misleading arguments on this subject, and, I am sure, he has not done so on any other subject. I would attribute to him on all occasions a sense of confidence in the views which he puts before this Senate, and I think he would resent most bitterly the doubting by anybody of the purity of his motives, or the absence of a sense of his responsibilities. All I suggest to him is that he ought to extend a little of the same sort of consideration to those who are opposed to him. Why should he not think as well of them as he asks them to think of him?
– I do.
– Then, why did the honorable senator occupy so much time in a tirade of very vehement and unwarrantable abuse?
– Because I heard so many of those extreme statements made.
– Other people might think that the honorable senator’s statements were unreasonable, unfair, and unjust. They might even go the length of saying that they were not honest.
– I cannot imagine anybody saying that about me.
– That is just where the honorable senator’s want of fair play is evidenced.
– I do not mind hard knocks.
– I am not saying this with the view of giving hard knocks, but with the view of having introduced into the discussion of this question some little forbearance and consideration for those who are opposed to the views held by the honorable senator. I am not saying this in a quarrelling, or even in an expostulating, fashion. I am saying it rather by way of suggestion that these deliberations of ours may be more profitably carried on if we refrain from observations of that character. But I am bound to give the honorable senator this credit - that he went on to say he admitted that there was ample ground for difference of opinion. The moment he admits that he disarms us. If he admits that there is ample room for difference of opinion he must be willing to concede that those who oppose the measures before the Senate have a right to entertain differences of opinion concerning them.
– I complain of those who deliberately accuse our party of wanting these powers for dishonest motives.
– I have not heard any one say that.
– I have.
– I am sorry. I do not say that the party who are bringing forward this policy want it for dishonest motives. They want amendments to be made in the Constitution because they, as a party, believe that they will secure an advantage thereby. No one complains of that. It is what is done in America and everywhere else. I do not suppose for a moment that the party represented by the present Government would have brought forward these proposals if they did not anticipate some party advantage. What happened two or three years ago? Did not the Deakin Government bring in a proposal to amend the Constitution with respect to the Braddon section? Did not the Labour party - and, I think, rightly - oppose that policy? I joined with them in opposing it, because I thought that it minimized the power of the Commonwealth, and would deprive the National Government and Legislature of powers rightly belonging to them. I take the opposite view with regard to these measures. Availing myself of the permission which my honorable friend has given me, that there is ample room for difference of opinion, I am going to fill up a little bit of that ample room, being unable to see eye to eye with him. I hope that he will act upon his own precept, and bear it in mind when the opposite view is being advocated by other people. Of course, in dealing with these constitutional questions, some people may go upon platforms and indulge in heated rhetoric and in appeals to passion. We cannot exclude that sort of thing from the advocacy of any political proposal. As my honorable friend knows, a large proportion of the people are less susceptible to reason than they are to appeals to passion. Therefore, it is one of the elements of political advocacy that if you want what you believe in to be carried you must - honestly, of course - use every instrument that is available to you.
– Within limits.
– I said “ honestly.”
– My objection was to those who have gone beyond the bounds of honesty.
– My honorable friend, judging from his powerful and eloquent address to-night, is able to go on the platform in any part of New South Wales and refute any statements that are unfair. The proposals before us are very important and far-reaching. That is admitted on all hands. They are not regarded lightly on either side. They are proposals for conferring added powers upon the Commonwealth to enable it to do something which it cannot already do.
– Rounding off the Constitution.
– I am a plain man, a man of blunt speech. My honorable friend is rhetorical. I simply say that they are added powers. That being the case, the question is whether they interfere with, or curtail, or encroach upon, the powers retained by the States under the Federal compact when they united. If these proposals do interfere with, or curtail, or encroach upon, the powers which the States have, on what ground do we invite them to surrender these powers? Is it because the States are incompetent to exercise them?
– Some of them.
– My honorable friend used the word “ incompetent “ ; I thank him for it. Does the national safety require that these powers should be transferred from the States to the Commonwealth? If the States are incompetent to exercise the powers, surely these proposals mean inviting them to express a want of confidence in themselves?
– Not incompetent through want of ability, but through existing circumstances and lack of opportunities.
– What circumstances? What opportunities? The opportunity will arise when the necessity arises. My honorable friend knows that the electors, men and women, who sent him and myself to this Parliament, are the same voters who vote for the State Houses of Parliament. I do not forget the Legislative Council when I say that.
– The honorable senator is using the word “ incompetent “ as I had no intention of using it. I did not mean it in the sense of want of ability. I meant that the States would be incompetent, just as they would be incompetent as States to defend the country.
– My honorable friend meant it in the sense of want of ability to exercise the powers.
– Just so.
– But they have power to regulate wages and conditions of labour for their own servants.
– Not effective power.
– Not effective in what way?
– Each State can only legislate for itself, and not for the whole of Australia.
– If these autonomous States at present enjoy these powers, they are entitled to exercise them, and the only ground upon which you can urge that they should part with them is that they are incompetent to exercise them. You have to convince the people, not merely as elements in the Federation, but as the governing power in the States. The men and women of Australia have to be convinced that, although they would be competent as electors of the Commonwealth to exercise these powers, they are not competent as electors of the States.
– If the people hand over these powers to the Commonwealth, they will be simply handing them over to themselves in another capacity.
– All I say is that you can only ask the people to hand over these powers if you can show that they are incompetent to exercise them at present. But what my honorable friend is doing is to treat the people who sent us here as a parcel of children.
– Their limitations within the States render them powerless in some instances. A State cannot enforce the new Protection policy.
– If you want to institute the new Protection policy, you must introduce it as part of the Customs law. You have full power.
– No, we have not. The High Court has ruled us out on that point.
– Then you cannot complain of the States if they have not introduced it.
– Would the honorable senator have the people left helpless?
– No. In principle, I am entirely in sympathy with the new Protection idea. The object of it is to prevent certain industries getting the benefit of Protection unless there is a certificate showing that the workmen employed in those industries are receiving adequate wages and fair conditions.
– And that the consumer is safeguarded also.
– Yes; but I think the consumer came in second or third. However, I am not going to discuss the new Protection policy now. I will deal with the specific measures that we have before us.
– The honorable senator is misconstruing the word “incompetent.”
– I have accepted my honorable friend’s explanation. I contend that the meaning I have put upon it is the only meaning possible that will justify these proposals, and, this being so, a serious indictment is being brought against the electors of the States, because if it is applied to these proposals it might be applied to any proposals. The Commonwealth might take one power after another until they practically eliminated every power retained by the States and emasculated them. If only you can persuade the people you might denude them of all the powers their representatives at the Convention insisted should be retained by the States, and which the people, by their own voice at the referenda, declared that the States should have. If we look at it in this way, it is obvious that Federalism is really on its trial under these proposals. We have had one amendment, of no great consequence, in the Constitution; but here are six Bills, under which it is proposed to make six important, far-reaching, and drastic amendments, which will add important powers to the Commonwealth. If it is urged that these large powers should be transferred to the Commonwealth, the question of the retention or abolition of Federalism should be raised and settled at once.
– If a power does not prove useful, it is eliminated, and something else is put in its place. We are always in a condition of change.
– It is quite true that all things change. We live in a world of change. What is good today may be found insufficient or bad tomorrow. We can accept that very valuable proposition without in any way finding in it any support for these proposals.
– A written Constitution is necessarily an imperfect instrument.
– Ours is a very good instrument. Under the conditions I have shortly summarized, it is pleasant to think that Parliament is not the forum which has to determine the acceptance or rejection of these amendments. The people will be the real arbiters. These proposals have been introduced on the initiative of the Government, backed by the full force of a party so strong and united that they have a majority in both Houses. These conditions make resistance or amendment at this stage perfectly futile ; and seeing that we cannot amend or reject these Bills, it is necessary for us to look at them as a whole, and face the situation that Federalism is on its trial. At this stage we cannot do anything, but fortunately this is only one step. We shall have to appeal to the authors of the Constitution - the people. It is for them alone, as individuals and States, to pronounce judgment. It ils to them that the arguments, fro and con, are to be addressed. They have to be convinced, and the burden of convincing them lies on the advocates of the proposals ; and unless the most overwhelmingly convincing arguments can be addressed to the people in support of the proposals, they ought to be rejected. In view of the position and strength of the Government, nearly all the debates we have had here and in the other Chamber have been more or less academic. They have assisted to clarify the issues with, which we are dealing, and they have enabled us to exchange views to our mutual advantage. We may not be able to change the opinions of honorable senators opposite, but no doubt we have thrown some tight on difficult constitutional questions which may receive reconsideration at the hands of my honorable friends. The Government have a perfect right to endeavour to secure the acceptance of these proposals, but I regret to say they have used some extravagant and unfortunate arguments. I may say at once that I do not regard the Constitution as sacred. It would be absurd to say that the Constitution is not susceptible of improvement. It is, of course, of human origin, and therefore fallible ; and . the strongest Federalists will frankly admit that if the necessity for amendment, or even for the enlargement of the powers of the Commonwealth can be established, it will be no sacrilege to amend the Constitution.
– If you had to make the Constitution over again, you would not frame it on the same lines as formerly.
– I should - why not?
– The majority would not.
– The majority would - why not ? The honorable senator has not mentioned anything to justify his opinion. I think our Constitution is a remarkably fine piece of work; but it does not follow that it is incapable of improvement or beneficial alteration. It is a remarkably fine piece of work, and for that reason violent hands should not lightly be laid upon it. It should be remembered that there are two parties to the bargain. The Commonwealth is not the dominant partner, but is in one sense the subordinate partner. It has been created. Like Eve, who was formed out of the rib taken from the man Adam, so the Commonwealth was instituted from powers taken from or yielded up by the States. It is really a subordinate growth or outcome of the States, whose powers were undiminished except in regard to those matters which were passed over to theCommonwealth.
– It was the outcome of the people’s will.
– Of course it was. But it has been a growth from the States. The States have not grown from the Commonwealth ; they were there beforehand, and the Commonwealth was carved out of the States.
– It was not carved out ; but it was an aggregation from the States.
– My honorable friend is mistaken. For the reason I have stated, the Constitution is a fundamental law, which is unchangeable by the Federal Legislature. My honorable friends, who are all men of acuteness, and ability, know perfectly well that simply because the Commonwealth was created in the way I have said, the bargain or compact - that is all the Constitution is - is a fundamental law which is unchangeable by the Federal Legislature.
– It can be changed only by the people themselves.
– It is not the people, but the people and the States, who created the Commonwealth, and who, in point of fact, breathed into it the breath of its very life, who can do this thing.
– We are asking them to do it.
– My honorable friends are doing more than that. The honorable senator used expressions which caused me to think that it was desirable to explain the true position. Over and over again he told us that the Commonwealth wishes to “take” these powers.
– By the process provided for.
– The expression indicates a misapprehension of the true position. They must be given to us.
– By the people.
– By the States. The honorable senator cannot have read the Constitution, or he would know that they can only be given to us by a majority of the people and a majority of the States. These amendments cannot be carried by majorities of the comparatively huge populations of New South Wales and Victoria, otherwise the liberties of the people of the other four States would go by the board.
– Who are the voters ? Are they not the people?
– The voters in the States have a different power from the voters of the Commonwealth as a whole. My honorable friends know that each State is represented in this Chamber by six senators. 1 wish my friend, Senator Needham, to understand this matter before he goes upon the platform, and, quite unintentionally it may be, leads the unfortunate people astray. I wish him to understand that the position under Federation is quite different from what is generally apprehended. The fact that each State has six representatives in this Chamber should be convincing evidence that the States, as States, are quite different from the people included in the general mass of the voters of the Commonwealth. It is the people of the six States who send six senators each to this Chamber who have, the power to exercise a veto upon these proposals or to give away any of the powers and rights which they already possess to the Commonwealth which they have created. The bargain was that the States should have these powers, and the Commonwealth should not have them, and we cannot secure them for the Commonwealth unless they are handed over to this Parliament by the States. We are really suppliants to the States for these powers.
– Is not the word “ take” complementary to the word “ give “ ?
– My honorable friend did not put it in that way. Of course, we know that it is more blessed to give than to receive.
– The honorable senator should give us his vote, and he will be blessed hereafter.
– No; if I did so in respect of some of these powers, I should afterwards feel that I deserved, and probably would receive, the condemnation of the State from which I come. Of course, we have growth and decay in Federal as well as in other political systems, and one Constitution may be more easily altered than another. An absolutely unchangeable Constitution would be, in a certain sense, an absurdity. There are various ways in which it is possible to enlarge powers under a Constitution - by amendment, by interpretation, by custom or use which has grown with the lapse of years.
– Can they- not be enlarged by judicial interpretation?
– No; the powers cannot be added to, but their exercise may be, and ought to be. It is only the duty of the Court to so interpret these powers that they may be effective.
– The United States of America is an illustration of that. Many of the States elect their senators now. .
– The honorable senator is a reading man, and knows what the position is. We have an instrument which purports to invest certain powers for national purposes in the newly created entity, the Commonwealth. I am as true a Nationalist as is any honorable senator on the other side, But I say these powers were only delegated’ to the Commonwealth Parliament. They are like powers given by a principal to his agent, neither more nor less. The first thing we have to do is to establish that the power exists ; that it has been conferred upon the agent, namely, the Commonwealth. That is sometimes a very difficult thing to do, and honorable senators, in their criticisms of views that may have been taken, should bear in mind that there is nothing in the world more difficult than to say whether a particular power has been conferred in all its ramifications.
– It is alien to the Australian temper, which likes direct action.
– It may be that the Federal system does not suit the Australian. But I wish to point out that it is the person who claims that a certain power exists upon whom the burden of establishing the fact that it does exist is thrown. We cannot presume that certain powers are vested in the Commonwealth ; it must be expressly shown that they are. That is a consideration which should mitigate our censure, if we are in- clined to censure those who have the responsibility of interpreting what our powers are. But once it is clear that a power has been conferred upon the Commonwealth, it is our duty, as has been stated by the learned Chief Justice Marshall, quoted by Senator Rae, to do everything possible in order to make that power effective, and to see that its operation is what the Constitution intended it should be.
– But the honorable senator will admit that, without saying anything offensive of the Judiciary, it may be contended that they may give a broad or a narrow interpretation of our power.
– No doubt ; but one thing I say in that connexion is : Who are we to sit in judgment ? We are not a Court of Appeal f rom, the High Court. We have a right to our own opinions, and are entitled to say that we differ from the interpretation of the High Court, but we are not entitled to say that their interpretation is narrow or broad because of bias either towards the Commonwealth or the States. Senator Rae has said that there is ample room for differences of opinion, and if that be so, surely we may say that the view which we call narrow may be fairly entertained even by those who may have the widest possible interests of the Commonwealth at heart.
– But’ is there not a definite understanding as to what is meant by a wide or a narrow interpretation.
– No, there is not, and that is the trouble. The Justices of the High Court are to put the construction upon the Constitution which, as men of uprightness and integrity, their consciences and their reasoning powers impel them to put upon it. The rigidity of the Constitution that is spoken about is for these reasons largely theoretic. We speak of our Constitution, and the American Constitution is spoken of in the same way, as an indestructible union of indestructible States. That statement is true so far as we can predict the indestructibility of any thing. What we mean is that it shall last after we have all passed away, and we hope for centuries yet to come. It is indestructible in the sense that it is to last, and to be our scheme of national self-government with the States on one hand and the Commonwealth on the other. It contemplates in every line of it that the States are to remain intact.
– The honorable senator means in this Commonwealth?
– Yes; that in this Commonwealth the States are to remain intact in the full plenitude of the powers they retained, unless they assent by the method prescribed by the Constitution to give any of them up to the Commonwealth. If the people in the States so willed it, I suppose they could adopt an amendment practically dissolving the Federal tie altogether, but so long as the Federal tie remains, then the Union must be indestructible, and the Federal bond the basis and charter of the Union we enjoy.
– The honorable senator desires to deny to the people of the States an opportunity to express their opinions on these Bills?
– No ; I have said over and over again that I objected to Senator Rae dealing with the matter as though it were suggested from this side that these proposals could not be put before the people again.
– Then the honorable senator will vote for the second reading of these Bills?
– Because, if the honorable senator does not do so, he will refuse the people an opportunity to express their opinions.
– I think they will vote against them, and I do not want them to be put to the trouble. I never listened to so odd an argument. When I disapprove of these proposals, why should I take them a step further than they have reached at present in order, we will say, to allow the people to be beguiled into doing something which I think would be inimical. to their interests? The considerations to which I have directed attention are forgotten, or, if remembered, are ignored. The consideration of proposals of this kind is urged from a point of view which seems to me to be entirely inconsistent with the Federal basis of our union. The test of a desirable amendment is whether it promotes or subverts the Federal system.
– Whether it promotes or subverts the national interests.
– No; whether it promotes or subverts the Federal system.
– The Federal system merely means a division of powers.
– Unification is disclaimed, I am glad to hear. Of course, Unification has its parallel in England at this moment without Home Rule for Ireland. The principle of Unification in England would, on constitutional grounds, be an absolute bar to Home Rule for Ireland.
– Let the senators on the other side answer that.
– It would not be anything of the kind, and nobody has ever advocated that with Home Rule we should have separate Governments for Munster, Leinster, Ulster and Connaught.
– I do not wish to go into the question of Ireland. My honorable friend is going for a division of Ireland into four Provinces. The United Kingdom consists of England, Scotland, Ireland-
– Do not leave out little Wales.
– I was going to mention gallant little Wales. If there is a unified system in England, as undoubtedly there is, the Unification will cease when Home Rule is given to Ireland, and it will cease in exactly the same way, as Unification is inapplicable - I do not say that it ought or ought not to be - ‘ to the condition of things in Australia, because a limited self-government is given to Ireland just as a limited self-government, if you like, was given to the Commonwealth, and a limited self-government retained by the States. I have no objection to a unified form of government, but the people of Australia would not have it.
– How do you know?
– Because they adopted a Federal system, and would not have a unified form.
– Were they given the chance?
– They were given the chance, because the strongest opposition that was offered, certainly in my State, by the Labour party to the Constitution Bill, was that it was a Federal system of government, and not a unified system.
– So it was in our State.
– It was nothing of the kind.
– I do not think that my honorable friend ought to interject that remark, because that was so. The people of Australia wanted a Federal system; and it is of no use for my honorable friend to say that they did not have the chance to get the other system. There would have been no National Union if Unification had been pressed. The people of Australia at that time would not have listened for a moment to a proposal of that kind. They only consented to a Union when the autonomy of the
States was assured to them, with the fullest possible powers which could be left to them after endowing the National Government with its essential powers.
– These proposals will not involve Unification.
– My honorable friend is again disclaiming Unification. I said that I was glad to hear that these proposals are not meant as a step towards Unification.
– We shall not rob the States
– I have said that.
– Why labour the question, then?
– I thought it was my honorable friend who, by his interjections, was labouring the question. I did not labour it. I do not wish to discuss the question, for the reason that Unification is disclaimed. It would mean, as I have already indicated, Australia without State autonomy at all, or with a subordinate form of it. It would, in point of fact, take the independent heart out of the. States. For that reason I am pleased that these proposals are not put forward as a step towards Unification, whatever the effect of them may be. Again, reference has been made to a broad and a narrow construction of the Constitution. I do not take any exception to those who, holding the same view as myself, put a broad construction on the powers of the Commonwealth. One party may want to adopt a broad construction, while another party may wish to adopt a narrow construction. I am with those who want to put a broad construction on the powers that are given to the Commonwealth. We could not work out - and that has been found in America - the great destinies of this country if we niggled at its powers.
– Has not that been done?
-I think not, as I shall show presently. You may have a broad interpretation wherever it leads to, or you may have a narrow interpretation wherever it leads to. I am for a broad interpretation. But you must first determine what are the powers on which you are going to place your interpretation, and, in considering the desirability of an amendment, you must take into consideration that you are dealing with a Federal system. From the point of view of the Commonwealth, to which powers have been given by the other parties to the compact, you are the people who have received what I may call benefactions or gifts, and the other people are those who have given you, so to speak, of their abundance.
– Are there any Federations flourishing to-day with as great, or even greater, powers than we are seeking now?
– Greater in the case of Canada.
– There is one Federation without any limit to its powers, and that is South Africa.
– Is it?
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON.- We have to deal with our own system. One honorable senator was good enough to assist me by interjecting that we have more powers than has Canada. I think not.
– Will you point out where they are less?
– They are infinitely less, as I shall point out in a moment. The Australian people would not have the Canadian form at any price. What is our Federal system? The VicePresident of the Executive Council, whose speech I read with the utmost attention, gave a sort of historical summary, which, though interesting, was, I think, erroneous. My honorable friend said -
The reason for that opposition was that the framers of the Constitution built it on the American model. We could not afford to hobble and fetter ourselves as the American people had been hobbled and fettered for more than a hundred years. Therefore, the Australian Constitution was not carried on the first attempt. . . . It was too near the American pattern to be accepted by the people of Australia.
It so happens that our Constitution was framed absolutely on the American model - on the model of that Constitution, which certainly, till ours was framed, was considered the finest written system of government which was ever brought into force. This is what Mr. Bryce said about it -
After all deductions it ranks above every other written Constitution for the intrinsic excellence of its scheme, its adaptation to the circumstances of the people, the simplicity, brevity, and precision of its language, its judicious mixture of definiteness in principle with elasticity in details.
Our Constitution was founded on that model, but is an improvement upon it in very many respects. It is only natural that we should have profited by the experience of America for 100 years in regard to its Constitution. The people of Australia never rejected our Federal Constitution because it was framed on the American model. In 1891 the first Convention was held in Sydney, when they framed a Constitution which, if I rightly recollect, followed the Canadian pattern. Anyhow, the people of Australia would not entertain it. No one would take it up or offer it to the people.
– There were none so poor as to do it reverence.
– Quite so.
– Sir Edmund Barton, who was then in the New South Wales Parliament, endeavoured to get it through that Legislature in 1891.
– Sir Henry Parkes was, I think, then in power. It was his movement, and although there was some talk about it, it vanished into thin air. At any rate, public opinion in Australia never favoured the Canadian system of Federation, under which the Dominion is dominant and the Provinces subordinate. In 1897-8, there came the National Convention, the members of which were elected by the people, and at which the American system, which emphasized the autonomy of the States, was adopted. The States gave up certain enumerated powers which were vested in the Federal Parliament, and retained, all the residual powers. That fact should always be remembered.
– Very few of the States had an opportunity to say whether they preferred the Canadian or the American system. Western Australia was not given a chance to express an opinion on the subject.
– Who was responsible for that?
– The autocrat of the West.
– Most of the people of Western Australia, and certainly those on the gold-fields, were in favour of the Constitution Bill as accepted by the other States.
– They would have favoured any Constitution in order to get away from the rule of an autocrat.
– The supporters of Federation had a second string to their bow. It was not the promise that Western Australia would be linked up with the East by means of a rail way that brought that State into the Union. It was the threat of the goldfields’ population to appeal to the Throne for separation if Western Australia did not enter the Federation that induced the leaders to take action.
– I had a finger in that pie.
– And the honorable senator has had a finger in other “ pies” which have proved of service to Australia.
– -What caused the Bill to go through was that the majority on the coast voted for it.
– I wish to emphasize a fact that appears at every stage of the discussion - that the States not merely preserved their autonomy, but that all that the Commonwealth received was certain specific powers which - they handed over to it. We all know that the Bill, as passed by the Convention, was carried by a majority in every State which voted upon it. I have no desire to reopen old sores, but by a circumstance that did not redound to the credit of New South Wales the majority originally fixed as necessary to secure the passing of the Bill in that State was increased from 50,000 to 80,000, even while the Convention was engaged in framing the Constitution. If there is one thing more than another that shows the importance of State autonomy it is the difference between the Canadian system and that upon which our own Constitution is modelled, namely, that State autonomy is preserved, and that every power not specifically passed on to the Commonwealth is retained by the States. In reply to some remarks made by Senator Rae and the Vice-President of the Executive Council, I would point out that it was not the difficulty in regard to the power of amendment that brought about at first the defeat of the Constitution Bill in New South Wales, but the circumstances to which I have already referred. The alteration of the power of amendment was not the chief matter brought before the Conference which met in February 1899. From New South Wales came, no doubt, the proposal to which Senator Rae has referred, for a modification of the provision against deadlocks. From that State also came a proposal to modify the Braddon clause by limiting its operation to ten years, as well as the crucial proposal in regard to the site of the Federal. Capital. I agree with
Senator Rae that possibly a large number of the people of New South Wales did not care twopence about the Federal Capital site, but the fact remains that their leaders did.’
– The Sydney newspapers made the question of the site of the Capital a fighting one.
– The leaders pf the people of New South Wales and those who represented them at the Convention, too, took a very strong view of the subject. So strong was the pressure from some quarters that in the Convention I was prepared to vote for the selection of Sydney as the Federal Capital. I cared not where the Capital was established as long as we secured Federation. Feeling in one of the States, however, was very strongly against the selection of Sydney as the Capital.
– I am very glad that the honorable senator did not vote for it. There is not room for the two.
– Probably it would not have been desirable, but the question of the Capital did not seem to me to be vital, or one upon which the Federation should run the risk of being wrecked. While the power of amendment was modified by the Conference, I venture to say that that modification was very much like a chip in porridge. The original provision was that a Bill for a proposed amendment of the Constitution could not be submitted to the people unless it had been carried by an absolute majority in both Houses. The amendment made was, I think, that a Bill providing for an amendment of the Constitution might be submitted to the people if, after an interval of three months after its rejection by one House of the Parliament, an absolute majority in the other House agreed to it. What possible difference could that alteration make? So long as we are permeated by what is in some respects the vicious system of party government, he party in power can rarely fail to secure in both Houses a majority in support of any proposal to amend the Constitution. The Sydney Daily Telegraph also objected to Federation on the ground that it was really a scheme advocated by the people of Victoria, from the common instinct of loot, in . the desire to plunder New South Wales. In South Australia I remember very well that one of the most thoughtful men who has ever been associated with any party in politics, State or Federal - the late lamented Mr. Batchelor - set out in the Southern Cross the objections of the Labour party to our Constitution. So far as my recollection goes, any difficulty in securing an amendment of it was not one of those objections. But, curiously enough, one of his objections was that the Constitution did not sufficiently protect the Judiciary and the Inter-State Commission. He was jealous of any interference with those two bodies - jealous of the kind of criticism to which one of them has been subjected - because, he said, “If they should offend New South Wales and Victoria, the Government that appointed them, might be thrown out.” I recollect that the answer to that objection was “ Did any one suppose that the House of Representatives would listen to complaints from defeated litigants against Judges or members of the Inter- State Commission who did their duty as upright men?”
– The Labour party in New South Wales objected to the Constitution because it provided for a High Court.
– That was because they desired’ Unification. We cannot have a Federal system, with a written Constitution, without having somebody to determine whether the Commonwealth, on the one hand, or the States, on the other, are exceeding their powers or not. Under a Federal system we must have some tribunal to decide whether the body with the delegated powers is exceeding its jurisdiction, or whether the body which gave it those powers is exceeding its jurisdiction. It cuts both ways. If the Commonwealth is checked and restricted by the judicial authority, the States are equally checked . and restricted by it.
– In Germany there is no High Court.
– There they have the sword - power in shining armour.
– Switzerland has the recall.
– Honorable members opposite may expand their referendum as much as they choose. It would be an absurdity to say that every Act which was passed by this Parliament should be submitted to the people for ratification or otherwise. I do not think 1hal Senator Rae would like to live* under the German system.
– It is a Federal system without a High Court and without a referendum.
– But it has the sword. I admit that there is a little more difficulty in securing an amendment of the Constitution in America than there is here, because there they require any proposal to amend the. Constitution to be carried by a two-thirds majority, and there is also the intervening Convention. Our Constitution is infinitely better and more democratic than is that of the United States of America. In fact, ours is the most democratic Constitution in the world.
– Why was the method of amendment made easier in our Constitution than in the American Constitution?
– In order that it might be exercised. But that does not mean that it should be exercised for improper purposes.
– Does it not argue that the Constitution mav need alteration?
– It will be admitted that every Constitution must be regarded as susceptible of improvement and amendment. But it is a dangerous thing to have too great frequency of amendments or too great facilities, because it tempts people to bring forward amendments as to which they would otherwise think twice. That is the reason why statesmen in America - men against whom there is no imputation of impropriety - are opposed to any greater facilities being afforded to amend their Constitution, as that would tend to render less stable and less reliable a Constitution which has so long stood the test of time.
– The United States of America are rapidly becoming an Augean stable.
– Oh, no. We know the troubles which will occur in any community. They do not depend so much upon the Constitution as upon the difficulty of sheeting home charges such as the honorable senator refers to. He spoke of the Vend case. But that case did not involve a constitutional question at all. The High Court simply came to the conclusion that the evidence forthcoming was not sufficient to convict the Vend for a contravention of the provisions of the Australian Industries PreservationAct. The Vend case was not an illustration of a contracted Constitution. We possess all the power that is necessary to deal with such combinations as the Coal Vend, and, so far as I know, the Act to which I have referred is absolutely effective. But when we prosecute a person, we have to establish our case. Some of us may take the view which the Justice who heard that case in the first instance took. Others may share the view of the majority of the High Court that the evidence forthcoming was insufficient to secure a conviction. But no additional powers are required to enable us to control such combinations as the Coal Vend.
– The Vend will remain strong while that decision stands.
– The honorable senator is entitled to his opinion, but I do not share it. The Vend case has no more to do with the matter with which we are now concerned than Tenterden Steeple has to do with Goodwin Sands. Until the Civil War took place in America there was no amendment of the United States Constitution which really effected ai! alteration in it. Nobody can say that that country has not prospered enormously in population, in industry, in wealth, and in everything which goes to make a nation.
– And yet her people are groaning under corruption to-day.
– That, to a large extent, is due to the abominable Tariff which is in operation. The first ten amendments that were made in the American Constitution were merely the adoption of a sort of postscript, or supplement - a Bill of Rights largely dealing with the personal freedom of individuals. Two others were mere nominal corrections. After the War of Secession a very vital amendment was made in the Constitution - an amendment registering the result of that war, and putting an end to slavery. In 1910 came an amendment which we do not require, because we already have the .power to impose income tax. I have tried to find reasons in the speech of the Vice-President of the Executive Council for the amendments proposed by the Government, but the honorable gentleman did not do himself justice. His method of commending the proposals is not fortunate, and his references to the High Court must be regarded as unwise as well as illogical. He said that- all the difficulties that have arisen with respect to the legislation we have passed have been due to the narrow interpretation of the Constitution given by the High Court.
He told us that the High Court has an appellate jurisdiction in regard to the
Courts of the States, and that that brings it into such a relation with the States that it is apparently dominated by preference for them. He said, further -
Our High Court, in addition to its work of interpreting the Constitution, is given an appellate jurisdiction ; the Supreme Court of America has nothing whatever to do with the States.
I do not think that any honorable senator will say that that argument ought to have been used, or will admit that because the High Court hears appeals from the State Courts it is therefore influenced in its decision on judicial questions by a bias towards the States.
– The judgments of whose Courts it sometimes overrules.
– Yes. The Vice-President of the Executive Council stated -
The result has been that any extension of the United States Constitution has arisen from the action of the Supreme Court. It could arise in no other way, because the Court has no particular interest in connexion with any State.
Is it fair to suggest that our High Court is influenced in favour of the States because it hears appeals from their Courts, and, as I am reminded, often reverses their judgments ?
– There are over forty States in the American Union, and only six in our Union, so that relatively a State is more important here than there.
– Every State in the American Union is of importance. My honorable friend does not suggest that the High Court is likely to be influenced in favour of the States on constitutional questions because it hears appeals from their Courts.
– I was not referring to that matter.
– The Vice-President also said -
Every right the States have I am prepared to fight for.
If that is my honorable friend’s position, he should fight tooth and nail against these amendments. I do not say that we are not entitled to differ from the High Court. I go further. If a provision of the Constitution gives us, or appears to give us, a power, and an interpretation of the Court seems to take away that power, we may go to the people and say, “ It was intended that this power should be given to us, and it has been declared by the High Court that it has not been given. We wish you to make the position clear.”
– That is how we stand.
– No ; the Labour party is asking for additional powers. The only illustration given by the Vice-President of the Executive Council had reference to the union label case.
– There was an important decision the other day to the effect that a dispute is not a dispute simply because a demand has been made on paper.
– That decision did not involve any constitutional question. My honorable friends are taking the position of defeated litigants. They seem to think that because those who, in their view, ought to have succeeded have not succeeded, the High Court is wrong, and this Parliament should be given additional powers. I have not studied the case to which the honorable member refers, but I understand that it amounts to this : that a dispute does not exist merely because it is set down in a letter that there is a dispute.
– The decision was that the making of a demand on employers did not create a dispute.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON.Exactly. That is not a constitutional question, and the decision is not a ground for extending the powers of the Commonwealth. The union label decision affected the interpretation of the Constitution. I was amongst those who thought at the time it was proposed that the union label provisions were not constitutional, because the label was not a trade mark, properly socalled ; but even if you say that in that case the. decision was too narrow, look at the decision in the case in which it was decided that Commonwealth public servants are exempt from the payment of State income tax. That decision involved a very broad construction of the Constitution - a construction which many thought was erroneous and inimical to the interests of the States. It cut away a portion of the States’ revenues from income tax, and, more important than all, it was differed from and reversed by the Privy Council.
Sitting suspended from midnight to 1 a.m. (Wednesday).
– I propose now to examine very briefly the proposed amendments themselves, in the light of the views I have indicated, in order to ascertain whether, in my opinion, they encroach upon the State domain, and whether the States may fairly be asked to yield them up ; in other words, to curtail their own powers and enlarge those of the Commonwealth. Personally, I have no desire whatever to aggrandize the States, or increase their powers in* any way. I rather think that the States might have done more to bring about certain economic advantages from Federation than they have done. There are various avenues through which they might have exercised a greater measure of economy in government. It is not worth while to enter into details now; but what I have said will explain why I am not disposed to aggrandize the powers of the States. But, at the same time, I am not disposed to see them curtailed, unless there is some overwhelming national necessity for doing so. With regard to the references made from time to time to the Legislative Councils of the different States, all I have to say is that the constitution of those bodies is a matter for the States themselves. It is their business. We have no right to pass legislation in order to reform or to improve their system of selfgovernment. It is for the States themselves to decide what they will do in that respect. It is entirely irrelevant to the consideration of these powers that there may be some legislative obstacles in the way of achieving certain democratic results, to which my honorable friends have referred. The fact that there are Legislative Councils in some States with property qualifications, and that there are nominee Councils in other States, and that these bodies have not been willing to pass the legislation which some people wished, is no reason why the Commonwealth should take it in hand to overthrow or change the machinery of self-government of the States. The first of the proposed amendments deals with trade and commerce. What I have to say as to that can be put in a few sentences. The provisions of the Constitution are -
Trade and commerce with other countries and among the States.
That was designedly inserted in order to preserve the internal trade of the States to themselves. Their domestic trade was not to be interfered with, but was to remain under their own local control. The provision of our Constitution is similar to that of the American Constitution.
– It is wider, because the American trade and commerce provision only gives power to regulate.
– In so far as our provision is wider, it is so much the more in favour of the enlarged views of those who advocate this proposal. It is quite obvious that the intention of the founders and framers of the Constitution was that there should be no interference by the Commonwealth with the internal trade of the States.
– The honorable senator will recollect that the Convention deliberately dropped the words “ to regulate.”
– I think that is so. The point is that this additional power was expressly withheld from theCommonwealth by the framers of the Constitution. My honorable friend, the’ VicePresident of the Executive Council, said that the term “among the States” was ambiguous. He suggested that it would have been better had the word “ between’* been used. In my humble opinion there is no ambiguity about the word “ among.” The object of it was, of course, to prevent one State from impeding or restricting the trade of another, the fundamental principle of our Constitution being freedom of trade as against State discrimination. I am afraid that there has been some amount of exception in the application of that principle on the part of some of the States. Some of the States have not been very scrupulous with respect to the framing of regulations, which to some extent have interfered with that equality and freedom of commercial intercourse which was one of the primary objects of Federation. Of course there is no difficulty in securing the accomplishment of the intention of the Constitution. “Trade and commerce with other countries and among the States “ means Inter- State trade and commerce. Now it is proposed - and I think this is a very large power, and one which the State should be very slow to give up - to surrender the whole control of all trade and commerce, Inter-State, foreign, and domestic, to the Commonwealth. I should say that the States would be very foolish if they surrendered the power of controlling their internal trade. But there is another point to which I wish to direct attention. This proposal proceeds to expand into five additional lines the exception that the power is not to include trade and commerce upon railways the property of States. Why that, exception should be made if control is to be taken of all trade and commerce I do not understand. The railways of the States are carriers, trading in competition with other forms of carriage. As Senator Rae has indicated, a provision of this kind will’ be very difficult of comprehension by people who are called upon to vote upon it. We must all recognise that voting upon proposals of this kind will proceed mainly on party lines. Perhaps a small margin of voters of trained intelligence will be able to comprehend, or to read a meaning into, this rather complicated and technical language. But there will be nothing more difficult than to make the people comprehend the meaning of these words. I should say that the vote will not depend upon an intelligent comprehension of what this provision really means,’ so much as upon the effect of the views of the leaders on both, sides upon the popular mind, aided, I dare say, by those appeals to their passions and local patriotism to which resort must always be had in such circumstances. I mean the sort of local patriotism that was expressed by the Swiss politician who, when asked why he always asserted the point of view of his States as against the point of view of the Federation, said, “ My shirt is nearer to me than my coat.” The next proposed amendment lis that enlarging the power of the Com.mon wealth with regard to corporations. The power already existing in the Constitution is to make laws with regard to - foreign corporations or trading or financial corporations formed within the limits of the Commonwealth.
It is proposed to substitute a very complicated provision consisting of three paragraphs, a, b, and c, which will be very difficult to comprehend and explain, and which will have the effect of taking away from every State its power to legislate to enable companies to be formed even for provincial or local purposes. I do say that that is taking away from the States something which they can exercise very well. The power has been exercised in all the States hitherto. They all have their Companies Acts. It seems to me to be intolerable to make all persons who wish to establish small local companies within a State - say, for taking over a proprietary business - incorporate under Federal law, and be made solely amenable to that law.
– Does not the Constitution at present give us power to frame a general companies law ?
– No, it does not enable the Commonwealth to take away from the States their power of exercising legislative authority with reference to local companies formed within their own limits. Of course, the new provi sion does not apply to municipal corporations. It merely relates to trading companies. But we know very well that there are scores and scores of companies formed simply for the purpose of taking over proprietary businesses. Perhaps a man gets tired of running risks, and wishes his children to participate in his business. He does not wish to risk his money, so he forms a limited proprietary company. That kind of thing is done in every State. Even under the Canadian Constitution the power is expressly reserved to the provincial Governments to make laws with reference to the formation of companies for provincial purposes.
– Take small butter factory companies, for instance.
– The reason given by the Vice-President of the Executive Council for this proposal was that it would secure honest investment. I have no more faith that we will secure that by the proposed amendments of the Constitution than that we will convert human beings into angels by the same means. If that be the only reason for the proposed interference with the power of the States to regulate their companies law, it is a very feeble one to take to the electors to induce them to accept this proposal. That some amendment of the Constitution is desirable is a question that is worthy of consideration, but these proposals are not as definite or precise and exact as they should be to meet what our honorable friends opposite regard as defects in the Constitution. They are a very large net thrown to enable them to catch everything. The next proposal is a very wide one with regard to labour, employment, and unemployment. That, on the face of it, is surely far wider than is necessary to meet any difficulty which has arisen in this connexion.
– It is no wider than the operation of a Tariff.
– My honorable friend enumerated a great many things like the Tariff, marriage, and divorce laws, and other matters ; and I agree that the powers required to deal with those matters are very large powers, but defence, Customs duties, and such matters are national affairs, and that we should deal with them is in accordance with the cardinal principles on which we federated. The Constitution, in express terms in paragraph xxxv. . of section 51, secures to the States the regulation of their own industrial affairs. That was undoubtedly the intention, and the late Right Honorable C. C. Kingston was one of the foremost in Australia to place” upon the statute-book of a State legislation for concilation and arbitration for the settlement of industrial disputes. The paragraph of the Constitution referred to was introduced merely to enable this Parliament to control industrial matters where the mischief arising from industrial disputes travel beyond the boundaries of a particular State.
– What did the Federal Convention mean by putting into the Constitution a power with respect to “the prevention” of industrial disputes?
– I suppose they meant what they said.
– How are we to prevent them if we must wait until there is actual warfare in the industrial world?
– I do not think we can prevent them in any way, unless by enforcing awards or agreements. I agree with Senator Rae that the right to strike is not merely inalienable, as he says, but is fundamental. The only way in which we can prevent industrial disputes is by seeing that the parties abide by the terms of awards and agreements.
– Suppose there is no award or agreement in existence?
– Then the sooner those interested make one the better.
– By what method ?
– If in the State, by the method provided by State law. Is a State not competent to make laws in that direction?
– Have the States done so?
– If they have not, we have no more right to complain that they have not exercised the power than they have to complain that we have not exercised the powers which Senator Rae enumerated. If they do not exercise the power that is their business.
– A dispute arising in one State may affect the same industry in another State.
– Of course, I agree that that is so. Paragraph xxxv. of section 51 of the Constitution enables this Parliament to make laws with respect to -
Conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State.
What does that mean? It means that the power of dealing with industrial disputes, and conciliation and arbitration in respectto them, was preserved to the States; and when we ask that they be handed over to. this Parliament, we are asking for powers which the State enjoy at the present moment, which they are perfectly competent to exercise; and if they have not been exercised to our satisfaction, that is no reason why the States should be asked to give up those powers.
– The failure of the States to exercise those .powers may paralyze industry in other States.
– That may be so; but we are not in the position of schoolmasters who may whip the offending States into subjection. It would be like a child thrashing its parent. The’ constitutional paragraph I have read is a clear recognition that industrial disputes and legislation in the direction of conciliation and arbitration in respect- to them arewithin the ambit of the States powers.
– We can only defend the Commonwealth from injury by nipping the evil at its source.
– We cannot do so. We have to ask the States to hand the power over to us, and it is a power which they are competent to exercise. I point out that honorable senators opposite are asking for a great deal morethan is necessary to meet such cases as Senator Rae has mentioned, arising, for instance, from a decision in respect of wagesin one State’ reacting upon another. What’ the Government do is to ask for the control by the Commonwealth of labour, employment, and unemployment. At one swoop they propose to take from the States all the powers which, as autonomous States, they at present possess for controlling the conditions of labour and employment in any trade, industry or calling, the rights, and obligations of employers and employes, and so on. I say’ that that is a very large order. The need for some regulation has been admitted from two points of view ; that is to say, there is a need for some uniformity in regard to wages and labour conditions.
– And for economy. We could have one authority dealing with the matter, instead of six authorities in the different States.
– There would be no economy. The honorable senator surely does not mean that we should centralize the settlement of all labour disputes in Melbourne? If we are to have Federal conciliation and arbitration tribunals, we must have one in every State, and there may be branches in different parts of the States.
– I take the case of the Australian Workers Union award. Does the honorable senator suggest that the six different States could have as effectively dealt with that industry as did the Federal Arbitration Court?
– I am not saying a word against the efficiency of the Federal Arbitration Court; but one thing I will say about it is that, without reference to the question of appeals, the delays, costs, difficulties and complications surrounding it are simply deplorable. There will need to be decentralization of some sort. If we are to commit the Commonwealth to exercise all these powers with respect to labour, employment and unemployment, the Commonwealth must take over control of the Wages Boards that are working very successfully in some of the States, and must have the arrangement and adjustment of all labour conditions and disputes throughout Australia. Senator Long has submitted a reason for some amendment which I say is not intelligible in the sense that if these powers were granted now they would lead to no economy in the way the honorable senator supposes.
– Have I not given ‘an instance in support of my contention in the case of the Australian Workers Union award ?
– No, because that was a matter which came within the powers of the Commonwealth Court. It is possible that the same may be said of the Tramway dispute ; but as there are some difficulties about that which may be the subject of further litigation, I shall not refer to it.
– The Australian Workers Union happens to be an organization which is Australian.
– Yes, like the Seamen’s Union. There is economy in having such a matter determined by the Federal Arbitration Court; but in the same way every dispute of- a Federal character that extends beyond the boundaries of a particular State may be dealt with by the Federal Court. But there would be no economy if every State labour dispute, and the conditions of every State industry, had to be brought to Melbourne for settlement. I have said that there may be some reasons for amendment, to secure uniformity of conditions, and to prevent unfairness of competition between the different States. These are matters which are worthy of consideration. In 1909 there was a Conference of Premiers, at which an attempt was made to deal with the subject ; and I remember that a letter from Mr. Deakin was submitted to the Conference suggesting that an amendment of the Constitution might be moved in that respect, unless the States referred the subject to the Commonwealth Parliament to be dealt with under the section inserted in the Constitution for that purpose. My objection to that proposal was that it was in the interests of the industry rather than in the interests of the worker. The power sought to be conferred upon the Commonwealth was only to enable us to interfere in such cases if the effect of the differing labour conditions was to bring about unfairness of competition in a particular industry. I thought then, and still think, that that was a mistake. If, however, we had before us now a proposed amendment of the Constitution which would meet that particular point, my disposition would be to support it. That would be a perfectly legitimate proposal, but it appears to me to be impossible to support such a comprehensive and far-reaching power as this, which would enable the Commonwealth to control all labour within the domestic or local sphere of the States. It would be an invasion of the sphere of the States. It would be, not merely the improving of a power at present possessed by the Commonwealth ; it would really mean superseding the States in the exercise of power that properly comes within their scope. I come now to the further proposed amendment of the Constitution enabling us to pass laws providing for conciliation and arbitration for the settlement of industrial disputes in relation to employment in the railway service of a State. That surely cannot be justified. The adoption of such an amendment would mean a direct interference with one of the utilities or instrumentalities of a State. We resent any interference by the State with our instrumentalities. The High Court, in the income tax cases, held that the levying of income tax upon the salaries of Federal public servants was an interference with a Federal utility. Surely , the socialistic principle - which I justify and support - of committing our great railway enterprises to the States, makes those services part of the instrumentalities of the States. If honorable senators opposite say to the States, “ We wish you to give up this power,” they are asking them, first of all, to acknowledge that they cannot control one of their own governmental instrumentalities; secondly, to admit that they must be supervised or controlled in the management of their own railway employes ; and, thirdly, that the management of their railway employes must be taken over by the Commonwealth.
– In what way are the railways of a State a governing power, as distinct from an ordinary commercial enterprise?
– They are one of the utilities of the State. It was thought better to place such enterprises in the hands of the States, rather than under the control of private companies. Surely the State Parliaments are to be trusted to do justice to their employes?
– But the honorable senator said that the State railways were part of the governing power of the States
– I meant that they were one of the State utilities. Railway servants are State officers, and are controlled in the same way as are other State employes. It is an unheard of proposal that the States should give up to the Commonwealth, or any other body, the control of a section of their own servants.
– Is a railway servant a public servant in every State?
– I think so. Reference has been made to the Government produce depot established in South Australia, and which, by the way, I regard as a very interesting and fair experiment. The officers in charge of that depot are Government employes.
– The honorable senator would deny to public servants that which he would grant to private employes.
– As a member of this Parliament, does not the honorable senator take care that justice is done to the public servants of the Commonwealth? Will he not trust the State Parliaments to deal justly with their public servants ?
– I am not prepared to trust the Legislative Councils.
– That, if I may say so, is all fudge. We have nothing to do with the Legislative Councils. The honorable senator’s argument is that, because in South Australia, for instance, there is a Legislative Council, the members of which are elected on the basis of a property qualification, we should take away from that State all its governing powers. If we are to take away one of its powers because of that fact, we should be entitled to take away all of them. It is for the electors, and not for us, to say that the State Parliaments should not be trusted with the government of the States.
– Give them a chance to say so.
– I do. Iam not in love with Legislative Councils elected on the basis of a property qualification. This apparently is a proposal to abolish by indirect means the Legislative Councils of the States. In some respects, so far as Legislative Councils are concerned, I am far more democratic than are honorable members opposite. That, however, is not the question with which we are now concerned. My responsibility in that regard is as an elector of. South Australia, and I am prepared to’ give effect to my views within my own State. The next proposed amendment of the Constitution is one upon which I certainly have some considerable doubt. I refer to the proposal to insert in the Constitution an independent provision enabling the Commonwealth Parliament to make laws with respect to trusts, combinations, and monopolies in relation to the production, manufacture, and supply of goods, or the supply of services. I wish only to say that no attempt has been made to show why it is necessary to amend the Constitution in this way. I am entirely opposed to trusts, combinations, and monopolies, and desire to give to the Commonwealth Parliament whatever power it does not already possess to enable it to deal with them. As a matter of fact, however, it already has power, and has exercised it. It is not because of any constitutional difficulty that the Government have been unable to enforce it. The trouble has been due to the fact that, in the opinion of the Court, the evidence for the Crown in the recent prosecution was insufficient to warrant a conviction. If the Government could show, as they have not yet done, that more power was necessary, they would have some ground on which to work in asking for a specific amendment of the Constitution, for the power is not one retained in this particular way by the States. We come last of all to a proposed amend- ‘ ment of the Constitution which carries on its face its own absurdity. I refer to the proposal to enable the Commonwealth Parliament to nationalize any industry or business declared to be a monopoly. I do not object to State enterprises. I think that they are, within limits - and limits which would commend themselves to my honorable friends - to be encouraged. We are told that the “Commonwealth has established woollen mills, and if they prove successful no one will be better pleased than I shall be. This, however, is not a proposal to enable the Commonwealth to establish any business. Its most striking feature is that under it Parliament, which is quite incompetent to deal with the subject, would be invited to determine whether a particular business was, or was not, a monopoly. The position might be different if it were proposed to leave to a Court the determination of such a question, and to allow the persons concerned to give evidence before that Court. But the intention is that this Parliament shall have power to determine, on a party vote, whether or not some industry is a monopoly. If a majority decided that it was, then the Commonwealth would take it over.
– Is it altogether improbable that we should invite the Inter-State Commission in the first place to make an inquiry ?
– The proposed amendment does not provide for anything of the kind. It says, in express terms, that if the Parliament, by resolution, declare a business to be a monopoly, then it is to be nationalized, and the people connected with it will have no opportunity to show that it is not a monopoly. It will be for the Parliament, which is utterly incompetent to deal judicially with any subject of the kind, to decide the question.
– The Parliament could safely be trusted to adopt judicial methods.
– I invite the honorable senator to consider the principle of the proposed amendment. I do not see how sensible men, with a sane regard for propriety even in political affairs, can say that if a business is declared by the Parliament to be a monopoly it shall be taken over by the Commonwealth.
A point that must not be overlooked is? that this Parliament might desire to take over a business which a State wished toacquire. I put my views on these questions as shortly as possible before theSenate. These are the conclusions at which I have arrived, and I feel that I can fairly commend them to the consideration’ of my honorable friends opposite. I agreewith the constitutional writers who havesaid that the tendency of the Federal Judiciary in the United States of America,, throughout the whole course of its history,, has been to support every exercise of power which they do not deem to be plainly unconstitutional. That has undoubtedly been the tendency of the Courts. I believe that that is the course which any Federal Judiciary should take with regard to constitutional powers and their exercise, and that it is the course which our Judiciary has at least endeavoured to follow.
– The success of Mar-i shall’ s interpretation of the American Constitution was due to the fact that he alwayslooked upon the Constitution as if it had been drawn up on the day on which he dealt with it.
– Quite, so. That is a sound principle upon which every Judge would desire to act. Some mayarrive at one conclusion, and some at another ; but we are fairly entitled to say that that has been the guiding principle. Whenthe Judges give their decision that the limit of expansion by interpretation has been: reached ; when, to use Senator Rae’s expression, they say in regard to any power or its exercise, “thus far and no farther,” it is for us to be guided by that decision. Should the enlargement of the power be imperative in the national interest, it mustcome from the people and from the States.. But the experience of twelve short years is insufficient to enable us to say that these proposed alterations are indispensable to the national safety and progress, and we should pause before endeavouring to put them intoeffect.
– It is not my intention to detain the Senate long at this hour of the morning. I thank Senator Long for giving, me the opportunity to speak now, because, in accordance with the custom of the Senate,, he had the right to be called next. Out of consideration for my age, and for the fact that I spent last night in the train, he iswilling that I should get away at a comparatively early hour. The speech which we have just heard from Senator Symon was a very fine educational effort, and those who have taken an interest in Federation from the start felt as if we were back in the Convention again, matters were so clearly explained. Senator Rae has spoken of the manner in which the proposed amendments of the Constitution were submitted to the people last year. He was right in asserting that it was most difficult on the last occasion for electors to decide whether to vote “yes” or “no” in reply to questions which involved more than one alteration. The Government deserves credit for proposing to submit the alterations on this occasion by means of six questions; whether six Bills are necessary I am not prepared to say. With six separate questions, each amendment may be dealt with on its merits ; and it will be open to an elector to vote for one and reject another if he so desires. Senator Symon dealt pretty fully with the references to the Legislative Councils of the States. Australia has certainly reason to be pleased that at present we have a Legislative Council in New South Wales. Two amendments of our Constitution have been effected already ; one empowering the Commonwealth to nationalize the debts of the States - present and future - should it think fit; and the other altering the financial year, so that, instead of ending on the 31st December it ends on the 30th June. I am not opposed to having referenda, but I agree with Senator Symon and others that referenda should not be too frequent. I have a few remarks to make on each of the Bills, and I shall make them in the order in which the Bills are named in the motion for the Call of the Senate, taking first the Constitution Alteration (Trade and Commerce) Bill. I am afraid that if the amendment proposed in that Bill were carried there would be a tendency to centralization, and I favour decentralization. I have lived long enough in Australia to remember what a great advantage it was for Victoria and Queensland to separate from New South Wales, and to assume the management of their local affairs. They have gone ahead greatly since then, and much more rapidly than they did before. I should not like us to go /back to the old arrangement, though I think that that is now impossible. The people of the States would not like to revert to it. They are not desirous of losing Home Rule, df I may so put it. Besides, Senator St. Ledger has drawn my attention to the fact that, under section 98 of the Constitution -
The power of the Commonwealth to make laws with respect to trade and commerce extends to navigation and shipping and to railways the property of any State.
It is rather singular that many who are fond of talking about Home Rule for Ireland do not see the necessity for Home Rule for the States. Each State was an entity before joining the Union, and wishes to preserve its individuality, and independence. The next Bill on the list is the Constitution Alteration (Railway Disputes) Bill. It contains such an extraordinary proposal that I do not think anything can be said in favour of it. If an outside body can fix the wages which must be paid by the States in connexion with their railways, the States will be at a terrible disadvantage. I consider that if the wages of the railway men were fixed by the Commonwealth, the rights of the States in regard to the railways would amount almost to nothing. The States would scarcely have the power to make their railways pay under those circumstances. With regard to the third measure, the Constitution Alter,ation (Trusts) Bill, it has to be admitted that trusts and combines flourish in an extraordinary fashion in the United States of America. There are millionaire manufacturers in the Mother Country, but for every British millionaire there are several multi-millionaires in the United States of America. ‘ A close consideration of the circumstances will show that the Tariff has a good deal to do with that. Our friends opposite call themselves Democrats ; but in America the Democratic party is the more Conservative side. It has chosen Dr. Woodrow Wilson as President. He is a pronounced revenue tariffist, and will do anything he can to reduce the Tariff rates, and to prevent the trusts from flourishing as they do to-day. Protection, I believe, and so do many others, is an exploded economic fallacy, despite what rabid Protectionist newspapers may say to the contrary. Reference was made the other day to the Dutch. I had forgotten that Holland was a Free Trade country. Great Britain has often, been referred to as the only Free Trade country, but Holland is also a Free Trade country, and a wonderful country, too. It will probably be impossible for Australia to give up Protection for many years to come; but I hope it will reduce its Tariff considerably. Senator Symon has made some very instructive remarks about the
Constitution Alteration (Industrial Matters) Bill. As to wages being the same all over Australia, I can say in regard to one of the banks, at least, that we pay in Western Australia 12 J per cent, more in salaries than in the other States owing to the distance of that State from the others, and because of the fact that wages are higher there than elsewhere. The Bank of Australasia gives 20 per cent, more to those of its officers who have to reside in Northern Queensland, as a climatic allowance. It is not to be expected that the rate of wages ruling in Tasmania will be the same as that ruling in the Gulf of Carpentaria. As to the Constitution Alteration (Corporations) Bill, surely, as Senator Symon pointed out, each State should be able to manage its own corporations. It has already been noted that many a well-to-do merchant, when he finds himself advanced in years, turns his business into a proprietary company, so that his family may retain its interest in it. That is purely a State concern. With regard to the Constitution Alteration (Nationalization of Monopolies) Bill, I have always been under the impression that the whole is greater than the part, and I cannot see why, because a section desires the nationalization of an industry, the rest of the community should allow it to take place, when it is in the general interest that it should not. I am glad that the Sugar Commission reported before the nationalization proposal could be considered. The moral of its report is that before any industry is nationalized, there should be an impartial investigation of it. I do not see why this Parliament should have the power, by a resolution passed by an absolute majority in both Houses, to declare that a business is a monopoly which is really not a monopoly. Half-a-dozen companies may be engaged in an industry, no one of which could be said to have a monopoly. In the sugar industry there are two refinery companies and several sugar mills, so that it cannot be said that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company has a monopoly. The real monopoly threatening this country is the trade union monopoly. The trade unionists wish to prevent those who are not unionists from making a decent living. I have never known why unionists and non-unionists should not work together in peace and harmony. The theory is that because Unionists have been instrumental in obtaining good wages and getting better conditions, they should have a monopoly of employment, all who are not trade unionists .being looked upon as belonging to an inferior caste. What occurred the other day in connexion with the strike at Waihi, in New Zealand, proves that even in the Labour ranks there is a distinct division. Some of the men engaged in that strike were prepared to obey the arbitration law, while others believed in obeying what I may call the law of the Trades Hall; and I hope that what occurred in New Zealand will be a lesson to us. It is quite evident that if these referenda proposals be carried, the legislative powers of the Commonwealth will be greatly enhanced, and those of the States correspondingly diminished. The States are the parents of the Commonwealth ; and such a result would partake of the nature of political parricide or matricide. The Senate is essentially the House that should uphold the rights of the States; and I cannot understand how any honorable senators can hold it to be consistent with their duty to deprive the States of those rights as embedded in the Constitution.. If Unification is to be brought about, let it be by doing away with the Constitution, which is at once democratic and not democratic. The Senate represents the States, but it cannot be said to be democratic, because, if it were so, New South Wales would be entitled by population to eight senators for each senator that Tasmania sends here. Recently, there has been an attempt to bring the State Savings Banks and the Commonwealth Bank into competition, and I am sorry that this has happened, because I think the States resent the attempt, only one State showing any disposition to support the proposals of the Commonwealth.
– Order !
– We are told iii Euclid that the whole is greater than the part, and in Johnson’s dictionary that “ monopoly “ is something owned by one person or company; but in these days it would appear about mathematics that we know more than did Euclid and Johnson, about lexicography. Section 51 of the Constitution transfers thirty-nine powers to the Commonwealth, but a great many of these have not yet been taken over, including marriage and divorce, bankruptcy and insolvency, and so on. For instance, I see that in some of the States it is considered that the time has arrived when the Commonwealth ought to take over the control of the lighthouses.
– There is a very good Bankruptcy Bill in circulation.
– I am glad to hear it. Honorable senators will remember that that great monarch, Louis XIV., said, “L’Etat c’est moi,” and it would now appear that a certain section of the community arrogate to themselves the right to say that what they desire is proper for the whole community. Under all the circumstances, it would be quite appropriate if the Trades Hall , party adopted the saying of Louis XIV. as their motto. The last remark I have to make is called forth by a comment by Senator McGregor in regard to the High Court, the duties of which will doubtless be increased if these referenda proposals are accepted. I have always maintained that the High Court should be strictly non-political, and I am glad to see that the Attorney-General is of the same opinion. Mr. J. C. Watson, the first Labour Prime Minister, told me in days gone by that we need never be afraid of a Federal Labour Government making bad appointments, because such would recoil on the Government themselves. I was much interested the other day in reading one or two .quotations from the judgments delivered in the High Court, and I should like to submit them to honorable senators. The first is by Sir Samuel Griffith, who said - -
The question of determination is entirely one of construction, and it seems necessary to say once more that the function of this Court is to interpret the Constitution as it finds it, and neither to strain its language to a construction which this Court may think is more beneficial than that which the words express nor to vary its construction from time to time to meet the supposed changing breezes of popular opinion.
Then Mr. Justice Barton said -
The very method and form of this constitutional delimitation involves this consequence, that before a grant of power to the Commonwealth can be held to cut down any power included in the general reservation in favour of the States, it must be clear, either from the words of the grant itself, or by necessary implication from those words, that such an effect is intended. This Court fulfils its highest obligations’ to the people, and truly keeps the trust which they handed to it to defend, when it insures that no attempts at unification on the one hand, and on the other hand no straining of what are called State rights, shall be allowed to sap the sound foundations of the edifice. To hold that a mere claim unsatisfied is, in fact and in law, an industrial dispute, is to cut down the industrial powers of the States in violation of the Federal principles on which the Constitution is built. And just as we have defended it against several undue assertions of State powers, so now we are under an equal duty, though the danger is from an opposite .quarter.
I fear that this is the last opportunity I shall have of speaking in this Chamber. I cannot forget that Senator Symon, Senator Fraser, and myself are the last representatives in this House of the Convention, and that our views are evidently thoroughly in accord. I certainly hope the day is’ coming when a great many things that now appear to us somewhat opposed to our ideas of Federation will disappear. I refer to interference with the liberty of the press on certain occasions, and also with electoral rights. I thank honorable senators for affording me this opportunity of expressing my views, and once more I desire all happiness to those I see around me. .
.- -lt is not my intention to occupy the attention of the Senate for an inordinate length of time, because I realize that both here and elsewhere the subjects under discussion have been threshed almost threadbare. Further, before these questions are submitted to the electors, as in due course they will, no matter what action may be taken by any parties here or outside, opportunity will be afforded to those who desire to place their views completely and fully before the electors. At the outset, I take very strong exception to the attitude of the Government in regard to the introduction of these measures. No stronger justification for my resentment could be found than what was incidentally remarked by Senator Symon in the interesting, lucid, and educational address which he delivered to the Senate a few moments ago. He pointed out that the great bulk of the public would be called upon to vote, influenced entirely by party interest. We have only to look back for a few years to realize what our Constitution is. We are accustomed to speak of this Parliament as, beyond all others in the world, the creation of the people; and to regard our Constitution as one which has been freely adopted by people to whom was afforded the most ample and full opportunity of deliberate choice. But what does this Constitution mean? We have to remember that before Federation there were in Australia six separate communities, which, in their relation to each other, were absolutely independent. They were mutually dependent on a common authority for powers, legislative and otherwise; and the question was submitted to the people of Australia whether they were prepared to accept the Constitution under which we now live. Realizing what they were doing, the people of Australia, by the necessary majority of both States and electors, accepted the Constitution, and we entered on a new regime. I ask those who here and elsewhere talk about the shortcomings of Legislative Councils, Legislative Assemblies, or other bodies in the States, whether they can for one moment pretend, with any seriousness, that, when Australia entered into Federation and decided to become a united people for certain definite purposes, the people handed over to this Parliament, or to any body of men, the right, by devious devices or otherwise, to interfere with their several local Constitutions? Does any one think that the electors who voted for Federation in 1899 thought that they were committing themselves to a Union the effect of which would be to deprive them of power exercised by the State Governments under which they lived, apart from those definitely surrendered under the Constitution? The particular reason why I take exception to the action of the Government in the matter is this : It will hardly be possible for any elector to approach the consideration of the issues uninfluenced by party feeling. The Constitution is the creation of the people. The people’s representatives in 1897-8 framed a document which was submitted to the electors, not once, but twice. It was accepted by the people of every State. They were called upon to vote upon it at a time when they would not be influenced by party bias, and when their judgment would not be warped by any outside considerations. Now, however, the people of Australia are to be asked to reconsider their judgment, to alter the Constitution, and to endow this Parliament with much larger powers, at a time when a general election will be held, and when, I venture to say, the heat of party conflict will be greater than it has ever before been in the history of the Commonwealth. Is that fair and reasonable? Is it just to ask the people to vote upon questions of such serious importance at a time when they will only be able to come to a determination whilst influenced by all the passions aroused by party conflict?
– There will be two parties.
– Undoubtedly ~r but would Senator Rae ask anybody - evert his dearest enemy - to determine upon a document submitted to him by his legaladviser, except at a time when it wouldbe considered with the coolest and calmest reflection ? Is it, then, a reasonable thing; to ask that an alteration of the Constitution of such serious importance should be determined upon by the people whilst under the influence of party feeling?
– We were condemned on the previous occasion for wasting £5°>°00-
– I listened with great interest to the speech of my honorable friend, Senator Pearce, who pointed out that the cost of a referendum was in no sense comparable with the cost to the people of a strike in the shipping industrylasting a single week. If, then, the cost of a referendum is, comparatively speaking, so trifling, why not have one when questions can be submitted to the electors fairly and squarely?
– We are giving the electors an opportunity of doing two jobs ort one day.
– But my honorable friend knows that it will be absolutely impossible for the electors to approach these questions uninfluenced by the atmosphere of party conflict.
– It has been made a party issue by the honorable senator’s side..
– 1 say that those are responsible who are calling upon the electors to decide ‘ such issues at such a time. Few people will be able to exercise a calm, cool, deliberate judgment on the matters at issue. The Constitution is something which belongs to every elector. I do not say that it is sacrosanct.
– The Constitution is a suit of clothes which has become too small for the people of Australia. They want a bigger suit.
– I do not say that the Constitution is not liable to amendment. But when we are going to alter it - to bulge it out, expand it to meet new requirements - we want our people to accomplish their task with a due sense of responsibility and the opportunity for careful deliberation.
– What is wrong with the party aspect? Do not parties stand for definite principles?
– But the Constitution belongs to all parties. Provision has been made for the alteration of the Constitution, but I venture to say that no man outside Parliament, and removed from 4he stress and storm of party conflict, would, as a business proposition, submit a document of this character for alteration under conditions of emotion such as will characterize an appeal to the electors when a -strong party conflict is raging.
– Will this be the first time that a referendum was taken on the -same day as a Federal election ?
– No, it will not; tout the honorable senator should remember that the last was taken at a time when there was no party contention in the matter at -all. The proposed amendment of the Constitution then had relation to the time for the Senate elections, and there was no dispute about that.
– I refer to the Financial Agreement. Does the honorable -senator say there was no dispute about that ? I remember that he made a slashing speech against that proposal himself.
– If the honorable senator’s memory served him as well as mine serves me, he would know that the matter to which he is now referring was -one in which the Government proposed to submit to the people a proposition for the distribution amongst the States of 25s. per head for an indefinite period, and to em:body the proposal in the Constitution. I opposed that, as I oppose this, and for , the same reason. I do not think that it is fair to the people. The honorable senator might remember the instance I gave in -support of my opposition to such a referendum. I pointed out then, as I point -out now, that the Government were not proposing to do the fair thing by the people in putting such a question to them at such a time. Senator Millen and I were then in ^conflict upon the matter. My contention on the occasion referred to was that this Parliament had the power, the responsibility, and the duty of doing those things, and should not shirk it. It will be remembered that I said that to ask the people to say “ Yes “ or “ No “ to the question whether, as electors of the States, they would take 25s. per head of the population or not was like asking them to answer the old quotation from the French exercise book, “ Have you left off beating your motherinlaw?” Am I right in saying that this is the position I put?
– I accept the honorable senator’s word for it.
– I know that I aril right in my recollection of the matter. I say again, now, that the Government are not proposing to do the fair thing by the people in this case.
– This is not a case of beating our mother-in-law.
– Let me apply the question on this occasion also. ;I ask Senators Rae, Findley, and McGregor, Mr. Hughes, or any other member of the Government, to say what they mean by the powers which they are going to ask the electors to give to the Commonwealth Parliament? Are they exclusive? Will the Honorary Minister answer the question?.
– Senator McGregor will answer it when he is replying to the debate.
– Will the Prime Minister answer the question? It is most important that the people should know what they will be asked to vote upon. Senator Needham is going to vote for these proposals.
– I am. -
– And yet’ the honorable senator does not know what he will be voting for. ‘ ‘.
– 1; do. ‘ , “..’.n .’
– Then ‘ I ask. th honorable senator, with respect to trade . and commerce: Is the . power _ asked, f for to be exclusive? Is there any man in. the Senate, or any member of the Government, who could tell the people of Australia whether or not this power is to be exclusive? I have read the speech delivered by the Attorney-General in introducing these measures in another place, and, although the honorable gentleman gave a wealth of information indicating a wide range of reading and great depth of thought, he did not tell the people of this country the one thing which they will demand to know before they vote “ Yes “ or “ No “ on these questions. Are these powers to be exclusive or concurrent? Senator Findley says that Senator McGregor will tell us later on. I think that the Government should be able to answer a question like that. The AttorneyGeneral, when faced with the question, did not know what to answer. Honorable senators talk about the uncertainty of the position of the Commonwealth because of the uncertainty of the decisions of the High’
Court, but what they propose to do, if accepted by the electors, would vastly increase the uncertainty complained of. The speech of the Attorney-General in introducing these measures is one which can be read with the greatest interest. The honorable gentleman pointed out that the line of demarcation between the Federal and State powers is not a straight, but what I might term a “ serrated,” line. He said that it was very difficult to determine, because it depended so much upon judicial interpretation. He quoted, adversely to that gentleman, the honorable member for Flinders as having said that it would exercise the ingenuity of the ablest man, and cause his head to reel, to distinguish the exact line of demarcation between Federal and State power. What is the remedy proposed by the Government?
– To remove the line.
– If the Government came forward with a proposal to make the line of demarcation so absolutely clear that there could be no difference of opinion with respect to it between the Judges of the High Court - no matter how the Court was constituted - one could understand a proposal for the amendment of the Constitution on such lines. But the Government propose merely to alter certain words in the Constitution ; and I again ask whether it is intended or desired that the powers to be conferred upon the Federal authorities in relation to trade and commerce are to be exclusive or concurrent ?
– It is not very material, anyhow.
– I think that that is the very thing the electors will want to know. If the Government are not prepared to advise the electors as to what they are really seeking for by these proposals the electors will be disposed to let things remain as they are.
– Is not the Commonwealth law supreme?
– Provided that the Commonwealth Parliament legislates within its own constitutional ambit, its law - will override the law of a State. Will Senator McGregor reply to my question as to whethere these powers are to be concurrent? If he tells me that they are, I want to point out what trouble we shall be making for ourselves.
– They will not be concurrent.
– Are they to be exclusive ?
– Then the State Parliaments will be rendered absolutely inept, and there will be no power whatever left to them to deal with trade and commerce.
– Trade and commerce should be a national concern.
– I am not concerned to argue that point. I want to know whether Ministers realize what they are submitting to the country, and I say with all confidence that they do not. The very form in which these Bills are presented clearly indicates that they are not the result of a deliberate policy. The draftsman has done his work, and presented measures for proposed alterations of the Constitution just as upon instruction he would have presented a measure for an alteration of the Electoral Act. But I point out that the Constitution is not like the Electoral Act. It is an instrument of government. It is our charter, and the very foundation-, upon which this Parliament rests. It isthe expression of the people’s will in a particular form.
– And cannot, must not, and never shall be altered !
– That may be Senator Needham’s opinion, but it is not mine, and I ask him not to attribute it tome.
– If alterations are proposed, they should at least be understood by those who submit them.
– If it were desired’ by the Government to alter the Constitution so as to bring about the results which honorable, senators opposite declare will be brought about if these proposals are accepted, they should have proposed to recast the Constitution.
– Does the honorable senator mean to say that these alterations may be introduced into section 51 of the Constitution ?
– I will not go sofar as to say that ; but if they are designed to bring about the results which those submitting them say will follow from the adoption of these proposals by the people, it: will mean a re-casting, not of the whole Constitution, but of certain chapters of it.
– That would not matter,, would it?
– I am pointing out how badly this is being done ; and that those who submit these proposals are unable to explain them to the country.
– We cannot please our opponents.
– I know that Senator Rae is very anxious to please even his opponents. Does he say that this is to be an exclusive or a concurrent power?
– We ask for something like that power which the honorable senator’s leader, Mr. Deakin, suggested that the Parliament of South Africa should secure.
– Seriously speaking, the question is one of the utmost importance, and it will be asked by every elector.
– There is nothing in section 51 declaring that any of the powers there enumerated are either exclusive or concurrent.
SenatorKEATING. - The honorable senator knows very well that some of our powers are exclusive, whilst some are not. He knows that with regard to the territory acquired by the Commonwealth the jurisdiction of this Parliament is exclusive, and so with regard to the postal service, telegraphs and telephones, and trade andCustoms. I now ask him whether in regard to every detail of trade and commerce affecting every man and woman in the community it is proposed that this Parliament shall have an exclusive or a concurrent power? The electors will ask for a definite statement on the subject.
– They will get it.
– They will want something less ambiguous than is the proposed amendment of the Constitution as now submitted to us.
– Honorable senators opposite will not answer a simple question.
– It is a very difficult question for them to answer. It is one of the fundamentals.
– That is a tall claim.
– Will the honorable senator answer my question?
– Order ! Senator Keating is asking honorable senators on my right, one by one, to give him a reply to a question which he is putting. I request them not to interject.
– Is not the honorable senator guilty of tedious repetition?
– I shall take the hint. It is not my desire to run up against what might be described as a “ stone wall “ of silence. Whatever the merits or demerits of these proposals may be, I contend that they should not be submitted to the public at a time when it would not be reasonable to expect the electors to judge of them impartially and as carefully, calmly and considerately as we should like them to deal with every amendment of the Constitution. I have, in conclusion, only to thank honorable members opposite for the attention they have given me, notwithstanding that it has been a silent and unresponsive one.
– I have no desire at this hour of the morning to occupy the attention of the Senate at any length. I have only to thank honorable senators for the elaborate way in which they have put their views before the Chamber and the public. As to the question put so often by Senator Keating, I can only say that the people will be asked to give a reply at the next general election, and that, until then, I do not desire to add to the volume of the arguments in which the Opposition have indulged.
Question - That the Bill be now read a second time - put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a second time, and reported without amendment.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) proposed -
That the report be adopted.
Question put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 11
Motion (by Senator McGregor) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Question put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Question put. The Senate divided.
Majority … …11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported without amendment ; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Question put. The Senate divided.
Majority … …11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported without amendment ; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Question put. The Senate divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported without amendment; report adopted.
Senate adjourned at 3.35 a.m. (Wednesday).
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 17 December 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1912/19121217_senate_4_69/>.