5th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– Can the Minister representing the Postmaster-General say whether the Government have yet arrived at a decision regarding the establishment of a wireless station on King Island? I understand that some information of a semi-private character was supplied yesterday to anhonorable senator, but I did. not have an opportunity of seeing it, and I desire to know if it can be made available to me also.
– I shallbe very glad indeed to give the honorable senator a copy.
– Have arrangements yet been made’ by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department to pay the amount owing to Shaw Wireless Limited ?
– As I promised the honorable senator a few days ago, I brought this matter under the notice of the Department, but I have not yet received an answer.
– They are very slow.
– They are.
– Can you not shake them up?
– I will try to do so.
Contract for Earth works.
– Is the VicePresident of the Executive Council in a position to state whether the contract let at the Kalgoorlie end of the railway line was advertised in the press?
– I have received the following report on the subject -
I have made inquiries, and have ascertained that tenders were not invited in the public press. It is not usual to advertise for tenders f or piece-work in connexion with small railway earthworks. The practice in most railway undertakings is for any one wanting small piece-work to go to the Engineer-in-Charge and ask for work, and agree upon a price at which the cutting, or whatever the work is,shall be done. Of the six tenders for clearing which were received, that of Wm. Morris was the lowest.
– Has the attention of the Leader of the Senate been directed to the remarks of the GovernorGeneral, Lord Denman, in which he thanked the Victorian Government for their hospitality in giving him a roof to cover his head ; and will the Federal Government put this rich Commonwealth in a position to house its GovernorGeneral, not only in Victoria, but in other places where a residence for His Excellency is desired?
– My attention has not been directed to the remarks in question, but I had the pleasure of listening to them, and have no desire to add anything.
SPEECH BY SENATOR McCOLL.
– Has the attention of the Vice-President of the Executive Council been called to a report in the Riverina Herald, published in Echuca I think, in which he is reported to have said -
They had had Labour Governments in power, but no Labour Government had been returned a second time to office, showing that it was not a success.
If this report is correct, does the honorable senator think it was in accordance with the facts to make such a statement, seeing that, after three years of power, a Labour Government has been returned in New South Wales and Western Australia ?
– The report is not correct.
The following papers were presented -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act 1911. - Award by Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration on Plaint submitted by Australian Telegraph and Telephone Construction and Maintenance Union; together with Statement, by the President, of the Laws and Regulations of the Commonwealth, with which, in his opinion, the Award is not or may not be in Accord.
Award by Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration : Australian Telegraph and Telephone Construction and Maintenance Union. - Memorandum to the Prime Minister by the Public Service Commissioner, dated 7th May, 1914.
Debate resumed from 14th May (vide page 1007), on motion by Senator Oakes -
That the following Address-in-Reply be agreed to : -
To His Excellency the Governor-General.
Mav it Please Your Excellency -
We, the Senate of the Commonwealth cf Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
– I propose to practically confine my remarks to paragraph 3 of the GovernorGeneral’s Speech for this reason: That, in my opinion, it is the Speech, and the rest is merely window dressing, and so much fudge. The paragraph reads -
During the first session of this Parliament my Ministers, for reasons which they advise me were beyond their control, were unable to pass legislation on many subjects outlined in their policy statement presented to you on 12th August last. Those subjects comprised Bills dealing with the prohibition of preference or favoritism in Government employment, and the restoration of the electoral provisions for voting by post.
I enter ray protest against the words “ or favoritism “ being put in the mouth of the Governor-General. It is the first time in the history of the Federal Parliament that party epithets have been put in the mouth of His Majesty’s representative. If this is continued, it will lead to reprisals; that is to say, if His Majesty’s representative is asked in this Chamber to make use of party epithets and party misrepresentations, it will lead to interjections being made during the delivery of His Excellency’s Speech.
– There is no statement there except as to what the Government intends to prevent.
– The term “or favoritism “ is used. Whatever opinions we may have on the question of preference to unionists, no one «an claim that a Bill dealing with either the establishment or the abolition of the principle will affect the question of favoritism one way or the other. You «an pass fifty Bills to abolish and prevent preference to unionists, but no such Bill will prevent favoritism, and I know of no Government more likely to use favoritism than a Government constituted such as the present one is. I think it’ was very bad taste, and extremely inadvisable, apart from the party issue, for such words as these to be placed in the mouth of His Majesty’s representative in opening this Parliament. Again, an attempt is made to create the impression that a large number of measures on many subjects have been held up by the Senate. The Government apparently did not read the Speech a second time, otherwise they would have seen that in paragraph 4 they contradict themselves, because they say -
These measures failed to pass, and it is intended to make a further effort to pass them in the short session now commencing.
The only other measure, so far as I know, that failed to pass was a Bill to increase the -reserve under the Australian Notes Act.
– And the Loan Bill.
– The Loan Bill was carried with the exception of an amendment
-Colonel O’loghlin. - And the Audit Bill.
– The Government themselves dropped the Audit Bill. It did not fail to pass, but was simply amended. So far as any rejection or straight out opposition to their Bills was concerned, Ministers can only claim three in the whole of the session that failed to pass.
– Do you say that the Audit Bill was only amended?
– That is. all.
– You mean that it was mutilated.
– The Government themselves recognise that, because in paragraph 4 they are forced into the statement that it was only these two Bills that failed to pass. These paragraphs bring us face to face with an issue far more important than the two test Bills, and that is that, under cover of those measures, an attempt is being made to alter the constitutional position of the Senate in the Federal Parliament. It is to that issue that I propose to address my remarks, because I consider that it transcends in importance any particular measure that may have been before us at the time. The Senate was constituted as it is, after long fighting, prolonged discussions, many compromises, and many concessions on the part of the various shades of political thought throughout the Commonwealth, and it stands there in the
Constitution in a position that has no equal in any Legislature throughout the world. The Senate occupies a peculiar position, and a strong position too, and ve to-day see an attempt being made, not by a direct attack, but by a side issue, to destroy its status in the Constitution. It is well, I think, that we should look at the means that are to be adopted to achieve this object. We should examine the constitutional position of the Senate. We should make it clear that we recognise that position, and are prepared to defend it, and that if it is to be altered, that must be done in the way laid down in the Constitution; that is, under section 128, which provides a straightforward method of dealing with both the power and the constitution of the Senate if the people of Australia so desire. The Government say that when they have passed the two test Bills through the House of Representatives by the casting vote of the Speaker, and that when the two Bills have been rejected by the Senate, or have failed to pass the Senate, or the Senate has made amendments which the other House refuses to accept, they will have complied with the provisions of section 57 of the Constitution, and Will therefore be entitled to a double dissolution. It is that claim which I propose to examine. I must crave the pardon of the Senate in advance for being obliged to make a large number of quotations from various parliamentary and constitutional authorities in order to establish my contention that the Government have no right to ask for a double dissolution, and that when the so-called test measures meet the fate which they so richly deserve, the Ministry will not have complied with the provisions of the Constitution. The first quotation is from a gentleman who took a very prominent part in most of the sessions of the Federal Convention, who has made a study of Federal Constitutions, who is a recognised authority on our own Constitution, who has the advantage of being associated with neither political party today, and who has recently set down his views in a very valuable volume entitled The Making of the Constitution I refer to Mr. B. R. Wise, who, on pages 122 and 123 of that work says -
Sir Samuel Griffith pointed out before the Federation Convention of 1891, “ that the principle of equal State representation in a House of equal authority with the people’s
House, which he considered to be the fundamental principle of a federal system, created new and unprecedented conditions in the working of responsible government. Nobody (lie said) has ever tried the experiment of a Government depending upon one House, and the machinery of the State equally depending on the other.”
It is a strange thing that Sir Samuel Griffith thus practically set out in prophetic terms the condition in which this Parliament finds itself to-day.
– Was it not that condition which was responsible for the introduction of the dead-lock provision?
– No. To-day we have a Government ‘ ‘ depending upon one House, and the machinery of the State equally depending on the other.” Now, a great writer has said that finance is government, and that the motive power of the machinery of State is not legislation, but finance. It is only when this Chamber, by its treatment of the financial measures of the Government, renders government impossible that section 57 of the Constitution was intended to operate. It was that very contingency which the framers of our Constitution had in their minds when they inserted that provision.
– The honorable senator says that it is limited to finance ?
– I do not. The Minister of Defence is so adept at twisting my words, and is so fond of attempting to put into my mouth words which I did not use, that he cannot even listen to what I intend to be a quiet, unimpassioned speech upon a constitutional question.
– I am not endeavouring to twist the honorable senator’s language at all. I merely wish to make his meaning quite clear.
– I will make it quite clear myself. It will be noted that section 57 follows immediately upon those very important sections of the Constitution which deal with the financial powers of the Commonwealth. The framers of our Constitution dealt first with the control of the purse, and endeavoured to fit in the Federal system of government with responsible government. They endeavoured to ingraft on the United States of America’s Federal system of government the British system of responsible government. In attempting to do that, they found that they were up against one of the most difficult propositions which they could tackle. They recognised that if they made the House of Representatives all-powerful in matters of finance - that being the House to which the Government would be responsible - they might be faced with the opposition of the smaller States, which would refuse to subordinate their position in the Federal Parliament because the two big States would have such an overwhelming majority in representation. Thus it came about that, whilst safeguarding responsible government, the delegates to the Federal Convention had to make the Senate so nearly equal in power to the other House as to assure the smaller States that their position would be secure if they entered the Federation. If that problem had not been solved, Federation would never have been an accomplished fact. If honorable senators will carefully read the Convention debates, if they will note the fight which took place over the finance sections of the Constitution, they will recognise that it was the endeavour of that body to give the Senate almost co-equal power with the other House in financial matters. They will see that this Chamber was to exercise the power of suggestion in the case of Money Bills - it has since been established by precedent that that power of suggestion is equal to the power of amendment - and if they recognise that finance is government, and that the Government are responsible to the House of Representatives, they will realize that the framers of our Constitution, in effect, said, “ Having made the Senate so powerful, and having established the system of responsible government, it may happen that if a majority in the Senate are hostile to the Government, that Chamber may use its power to bring the government of the Commonwealth to a stand-still. To obviate this, section 57 was inserted in the Constitution. It is evident, therefore, that what the framers of the Constitution had in their minds was the possibility of a dead-lock in respect to finance bringing responsible government to an end. If one entertained any doubts on this subject, they would be dispelled by the first words of section 57 of the Constitution, which reads -
If the House of Representatives passes any proposed law, and the Senate rejects or fails to pass it-
Why is the House of Representatives specially mentioned there? The Government introduce Bills in the Senate just as they do in the House of Representatives. Why, then, is the other Chamber specially picked out in this section ? Because it is there that Money Bills must originate. The very opening words of section 57 indicate that what the framers of the Constitution had in their minds was that a dead-lock might arise in respect of financial Bills.
– Is it not equally true that all big measures are originated in the other House?
– No. One of the biggest Bills ever submitted to this Parliament was originated in this Chamber - I refer to the Navigation Bill. To my mind, section 57 of our Constitution is supplementary to sections 53 to 56. In sections 53 to 57 the Convention delegates dealt with a set of circumstances of which they had had experience in State Parliaments, and what that experience taught them was likely to arise in this Parliament. Every one of these gentlemen had had experience of State Upper Houses which, when hostile to a Government, always embraced the opportunity of hitting at that Government through their financial measures. In the history of Australian State Parliaments, not a single case can be cited of a dead-lock having arisen on any question other than that of finance. Recognising that, can we doubt what was intended by the framers of our Constitution when they inserted section 57 ?
– Did not that naturally follow, seeing that tacking in regard to financial measures had been prohibited ?
– Of course. I now propose to quote from another gentleman who was looked upon in the Convention as more or less of a champion of thesmaller States. At the same time, he was one of the sturdiest Democrats Australia has produced; and throughout the Convention, wherever he could do so consistently with his advocacy of the rights of the smaller States, he championed the cause of the people. I refer to the late Right Honorable C. C. Kingston.
– He had had plenty of experience of deadlocks.
– I quote again from Mr. Wise’s book, page 124. This is what Mr. Kingston said -
There must be a check, and a substantial check; and if the smaller States are only going to be offered something which is nominally a check, and which will not stand the test of time and use, it appears to me difficult to suppose that there will be any disposition on their part to enter into an alliance, by which they practically subordinate their powers and interests in any federal question to the decision of the majority in the National Assembly.
I come now to our own history as a Parliament. I say that in the very first Parliament of the Commonwealth, we were on the verge of having to put into operation the provisions of section 57, and of having to do so in respect of a financial measure. When the first Customs Tariff was introduced into the House of Representatives, there was a majority there in favour of a protective Tariff. In the Senate there was a majority against it. Had it not been for the wonderful leadership of that statesman, the late Mr. R. E. O’Connor, that Tariff would never have got through the Parliament, even in the form that it did. Those of us who saw the magnificent work which he did, realized that he was responsible for its safe passage.
– The honorable senator would be quite on safe ground if he said that the other House wanted a higher Tariff, and this Chamber wanted a lower Tariff.
– The Senate established a very valuable precedent in regard to that Bill. I would suggest to those honorable senators who entered this Parliament at a later period, that it would be well for them to study the negotiations which took place between the two branches of the Legislature in respect of the first Commonwealth Tariff. On that occasion the Senate established the precedent that it had a right to return the Bill with suggestions at any stage. That contention was severely combated in another place. At length, however, this Chamber sent back what might be termed its ultimatum to the House of Representatives, and the Government were then faced with the position that they had to take the responsibility of dropping the Tariff and of’ calling another session, and taking advantage of the provisions of section 57 of the Constitution to make an appeal to the country. That was suggested in the debate which took place elsewhere. Mr. Deakin - as will be seen by reference to Barnard for 1902, page 15,682 - on that occasion said -
Having accepted the Federal form of government, it is not for us to endeavour, without a mandate from the electors, to secure unification by negotiations between the two Chambers. If it ever sought to reduce the Senate to the position occupied by the Upper Houses of the Parliaments of the States, it will be necessary for the people to signify that they are in favour’ of such a change in the Constitution.
The point I wish to make is that if the Government succeed in obtaining a double dissolution in the present circumstances they will have reduced the Senate not merely to the position occupied by the Upper Houses of the States, but to a lower position, and they will have done so without any appeal being made to the people, because the appeal will be made only after the precedent has been established. If this House and the other go to the country in such circumstances the Senate will have been reduced to the position, and will have the powers, if a municipal chamber.
– That would depend upon the verdict of the people.
– It would do nothing of the kind, because whatever the decision of the people may have been this position would have been established: That if ever this House dared to disagree with another place in two consecutive sessions on any Bill, no matter how small or trumpery, it would do so knowing that the Government of the day could claim a double dissolution and send it back to the country. No Upper House in Australia, or in the world, is in that position’ to-day. An Upper House in that position would be merely a recording chamber - a body which had merely to put the imprimatur of another place on legislation without any power to cross a ” t” or dot an “ i.” It would never dare afterwards to take any part in the legislation of the country. Let us now ascertain the view the Government themselves take of these measures, and the view they take of what it is necessary to do in order to establish their claim to a double dissolution. I have pointed out, and have read quotations here, to show that the framers of the Constitution thought that this was a section that could be invoked only on great issues, and that even when dealing with the Upper Houses of the States it would never be contemplated to do such things as this on small and trumpery issues. I am going to take first the Prime Minister, who has the right of precedence by virtue of his office, if not by virtue of the influence which apparently he wields in the Cabinet of which he is the head. He is reported in the Argus of the 26th March, speaking at Wanga ratta at an Australian Natives’ Association gathering, to have said -
If a double dissolution did take place, it would not be an appeal from the Constitution; it would be in the very essence of constitutional procedure, and part of the machinery for resolving serious troubles.
Do honorable senators see the connexion ? He says that this constitutional machinery is for the purpose of resolving serious trouble. What is the serious trouble which the constitutional machinery is there to solve ? It is a measure upon which the two Houses are disagreed. That is the serious trouble that the Constitution contemplated. The Constitution never contemplated a party election platform; it contemplated a Bill in dispute between the two Houses; it knows no parties, and this section was never put in either to assist or disadvantage parties. Section 57 was framed for the purpose of dealing with a deadlock between the two Houses over a measure or measures. That is the serious trouble that the Constitution recognises. Let us see what is the serious trouble that the Prime Minister recognises. Are these Bills the serious trouble ? Let us hear the Prime Minister on the point. He is reported in the Argus of 27th March, speaking at a party meeting at Prahran, to have said -
I am alluding particularly to a speech which I read this morning, in which I am solemnly warned that when we go to the country we should not go on small questions such as the postal vote and prohibition of preference to unionists. Who, in the name of Heaven, ever suggested that we should go on that alone? The notion is preposterous, and how it should have got into the brains of the people I cannot understand. I think it would be absolute folly for us to go to the country on such questions as these….. These two simple measures are intended to enable us to fulfil the conditions of the Constitution, and to get an appeal to the people.
Apparently, therefore, according to the Prime Minister, the Constitution was framed not for the purpose of dealing with great issues at stake between -the two Houses, but for the purpose of dealing with great issues that have not been disclosed to the two Houses. Can we believe that a set of lunatics drafted the Constitution, or that they were not in possession of their senses when they put in section 57 ? Can we believe that they were contemplating a set of conditions of which the two Houses would be ignorant, or that the issue upon which the two Houses were to be dissolved was ‘one they had never heard of and knew nothing about, but that was in the brains and locked up in the cabinets of the respective parties working under the , Constitution? Can we believe that? Mr. Cook apparently believes it, but will he get the Governor-General to believe itf I have my doubts on that point. According to Mr. Cook there is no dispute except over a simple unimportant measure. We come now to the real motive power of the Government, the AttorneyGeneral, upon whom the Government should, and must, lean for legal advice. He is the Minister to whom every Cabinet looks for direction on constitutional questions. Mr. Irvine is much more astute than Mr. Cook, but he gives a reason where Mr. Cook gives the motives. Speaking, at Sandringham, as reported in the Age of 12th May; 1914, he said -
The anti-Preference Bill had been described with almost sickening reiteration as an empty sham, because the Government had already settled the matter by reversing in administration the policy of its predecessors. The reply to that assertion was contained in his unanswered challenge to Mr. Fisher, and which he now repeated. Was Mr. Fisher prepared to pledge his party and himself that if returned to power again they would not resort to this practice ? If so, he, for one, would be prepared to withdraw this Bill. (Cheers.) The framing of the Bill would prevent a Labour Government giving preference in future behind the back of Parliament. The Bill was chosen as a test measure because it represented a clean cut difference between the two parties.
– Not between the two Houses.
– No; he simply says between the two parties.
He would utter no opinion on the point whether or not the Governor-General had any discretion. Liberals need not trouble themselves with that. The point was that there was an absolute block in the parliamentary machine. A majority of the people, . represented in one House, was prepared to carry, on the government of the country, and an overwhelming majority of members of the Senate blocked the way. The Senate was a non-representative Chamber, and could be nothing else while a citizen in one State had seven or eight times the voting power of a citizen in another State. Under these conditions Parliament had become unworkable.
The conditions were that the citizens of one State had seven or eight times the voting power of the citizens of another State -
The only course open to the Government was to pursue the path that led to the one solution the Constitution afforded for deadlocks.
According to Mr. Irvine the present position has been created by the constitution of the Senate, that is to say, by equal representation of the States in the Senate, and he says that in order to cure this the Government are going to put into operation section 57 of the Constitution. An honorable member in another place said that if a double dissolution could be obtained on this Bill it was a fraud upon the Constitution. That statement is absolutely justified by Mr. Irvine’s speech, because section 128 was deliberately put into the Constitution at the Convention, and afterwards accepted by the people, as the only means by which the equal representation of the States in the Senate could be altered.
– No one proposes to alter that.
– Mr. Irvine says he does. There is no other meaning in his words. The connexion there is clear. He said -
The point was that there was an absolute block in the parliamentary machine.
How is the block . brought about?
A majority of the people, represented in one
House, was prepared to carry on the government of the country, and an overwhelming majority of members in the Senate blocked the way. The Senate was a non-representative Chamber, and could be nothing else - while a citizen in one State had seven or eight times the voting power of a citizen in another State. Under these conditions Parliament had become unworkable.
Not because of the party system; not because of anything this party has done; not because of our policy, but the conditions were that a man in Tasmania had eight times the voting power of a man in New South Wales. The AttorneyGeneral says the way to cure that difficulty is to take advantage of section 57 ; not to take advantage of section 128. He says, “Let us disregard section 128; let us try to bluff the Governor-General by bringing up two trumpery measures, and getting a disagreement on them. We cannot alter the present condition of things under section 128, because Tasmania will not give up her power, but by section 57, if we can get the GovernorGeneral to give us a double dissolution, we shall have accomplished by an indirect method what we would like to accomplish by a direct method under section 128. If we can strip the Senate of power > under the Constitution we shall have ac complished the same thing as if we did away with equal representation of the States.” That is Mr. Irvine’s position, and he made it absolutely clear in his speech at Sandringham.
– That is a gross misrepresentation of what Mr. Irvine said.
– The Minister is entirely out of order in characterizing anything Senator Pearce has said as a gross misrepresentation.
– I withdraw the remark, but I am entitled to say that it is a misrepresentation of the words used by my colleague.
– Having put the titular head of the Government, and the motive power of the Government, in the witness-box, I am going to put in the whipper-in of the Government - the gentleman who goes about the country making speeches which he afterwards disowns in this chamber. I do not know whether he will disown the speech delivered by him at Echuca, as reported in the Argus of 13th May. It is very interesting as showing that what was running in the minds of Mr. Irvine and Mr. Cook has got into the mind of the VicePresident of the Executive Council. He has thrown in his lot with them, and goes about the country practically saying the same thing. This is what he is reported to have said -
The Government were this session endeavouring to get to the country, and were charged with insincerity.
What a horrible charge against such a Government -
They had a great programme-
Where is it? which they would give to the people when they were ready for it. They awaited the decision of the new Governor-General whether they would be allowed to go to the country or not.
They did not need to wait for the new Governor-General. All they needed to do was to hand in their resignations before Lord Denman went, and they would have been before the country in a month. The honorable senator knew that, and yet he told the poor unsophisticated people of Echuca that the Government were dying to get to the country, but somebody would not let them. Apparently the GovernorGeneral would not let them.
– How can you say that Lord Denman would have granted a dissolution ?
– If he did not give it to this Government, he would have given it to somebody else, but a dissolution would have been inevitable.
– How do you know that unless you had a private conversation with him?
– Because we would not attempt to carry on with a minority in another place. We would not attempt to do so, and the present Government having thrown up the sponge, there would be nothing else for it. The point in regard to this is that Senator McColl admits that the Government have not brought their policy forward. He admits that it is not their policy that is in dispute between the two Houses. That has not yet been brought forward, and yet the Government propose to go to the Governor-General and say, “ There has been a great dispute between the two Houses.” When they are asked about that dispute, and whether it has arisen in connexion with their policy,’ they have to answer, “No; we did not let the Houses know our policy. We did not know what it was. The dispute is over two measures which Mr. Cook says it is absolute nonsense to think involved great issues.” When Senator McColl gets upon the platform, he becomes very much excited. He gets into a wild and whirling state, and apparently does not know exactly what he is saying. When he reads what he said in cold print afterwards, he says, “ Good gracious, did I say that? What could I have been thinking of?” But when the honorable senator is asked a question in this chamber, of which due notice has been given, and submits an answer in calm blood, we are surely entitled to assume that he speaks after consideration, and will not seek to withdraw a statement trade under those conditions. Recently Senator Ready asked the Vice-President of the Executive Council what measures the Government proposed to introduce to reduce the high cost of living. The honorable senator replied -
The general effect and purpose of the whole policy of the Government, both as to legislation and administration, will have the result indicated; but, in view of the state of parties in this Chamber, the Government consider it would be futile to submit its proposals to Parliament prior to an appeal to the electors.
There we have it. The Governor-General is there told by the Government. “ We have a policy to deal with this very in,portant question of the reduction of the cost of living, but nobody yet knows what it is. Nobody has seen it, and it certainly has not been submitted to Parliament.” They further say to the GovernorGeneral, “ If you grant a double dissolution, and bring both Houses of the Parliament before the people, we shall have a great fight, not over the measures upon which we ask you to dissolve Parliament, but over some measures which you have *noi seen, and which Parliament has not seen.” Could the most vivid imagination consider that a compliance with section 57 of the Constitution ? That section provides for a deadlock over some particular measure, and it is upon the measure which has given rise to the deadlock that Parliament is to be sent to the country. The present Government say, “ We have not the slightest intention to send Parliament to the country on these measures, which we regard as trumpery, but upon something about which we have not yet made up our minds.”
– It reminds one’ of the saying of one “ Cousin Jack “ to another, “We did not do much to-day, but we’ll give her ‘ Old Harry ‘ to-morrow.”
– Has the GovernorGeneral under the Constitution a discretion in granting a double dissolution? It is necessary to ask that question, because it has been argued that the granting of a double dissolution becomes automatic under the conditions set out in the section. The section says -
The Governor-General may dissolve the Senate and the House of Representatives simultaneously.
It is argued that the word “ may,” as here used, means “ shall.” It is argued that the Governor-General has not to take into consideration the measures which have given rise to a deadlock, and that if it is established that there is a deadlock, he shall dissolve the two Houses. It is said that in legislation we do not insert words which bind the Crown, and that the word “ may,” when it applies to the Crown, always means “shall.” That is the sort of argument that is being used, and I propose to look into that question. First of all, I bring the opinion of Mr., now Mr. Justice, Isaacs before honorable senators. ‘ In a speech on the question with which ‘ Mr. 1 Deakin dealt, namely, the dispute between the two Houses over the Tariff Bill, it will be found at page 15686 ofHansard for 1902 that he said - I say that as far as the Constitution makes any express provision it must be followed. But there is behind that Constitution . . . the whole bulk of British and Australian tradition relating to Parliamentary Government. What I mean is that we have first to look at the Constitution, but if we find anything in it which is inconsistent with what I term the common law of Parliamentary usage, precedent, and tradition, we should be guided by that as well. For example, we find nothing in the Constitution regarding the prerogative of the Crown . . . but it is there all the same. It is embodied in our practice, and the Constitution must be read in conjunction with that practice.
I intend now to refer tosome well-known authorities on parliamentary practice as to the use of the prerogative of the Crown by the King, the Governor-General, or a Governor. The use of these words was rendered necessary by the fact that there is no parliamentary precedent for a double dissolution, and it was unnecessary to set out in the Constitution what should be done in connexion with the dissolution of one House; because, as Mr. Isaacs said in 1902, we have parliamentary tradition and usage behind us, and in such a matter the representative of the Crown would be guided by parliamentary usage and practice. Mr. Isaacs contended that where we find something in the Constitution which affects parliamentary tradition, usage, and practice, it must be read with it, and in the light of it. When we read the constitutional section in the light of parliamentary usage and tradition, we shall then know whether the word “ may “ does or does not mean “ shall.” As to parliamentary usage and practice in this matter, I refer honorable senators to Todd’s Parliamentary Government in the British Colonies, second edition. In chapter xvii., at page 760, I find the following -
The personal sanction of the Sovereign - after deliberate inquiry, and in the exercise of an unfettered judgment - must be given to the advice or recommendation of a Minister whenever it is proposed to have recourse to the prerogative of dissolution.
That is to say that the King could not dissolve Parliament, except on the advice of his Ministers, but the passage continues -
Upon such an occasion the Sovereign ought by no means to be a passive instrument in the hands of his Ministers : it is not merely his right, but his duty to exercise his judgment in the advice they may tender to him. . . . The Sovereign has an undoubted constitutional right to withhold his consent to the application of a Minister that he should dissolve Parliament.
At page 766 there is a reference to a case in Canada, in 1858, upon the defeat of Mr. J. Macdonald’s Ministry, and the subsequent defeat of the Brown Ministry. Mr. Brown asked for a dissolution, and the Governor-General, in refusing the request, presented a memorandum, in which there occurs the following passage, which honorable senators will consider very interesting in view of the present position of affairs in the Commonwealth -
The question for His Excellency to decide is not, What is advantageous or fair for a particular party? but what upon the whole is the most advantageous and fair for the people of the province.
– Hear, hear.
– At page 767 the following statement appears -
An election took place only last winter. This fact is not conclusive against a second election now, but the cost and inconvenience of such a proceeding are so great that they ought not to be incurred a second time without very strong grounds.
Does Senator McColl say “ Hear; hear “ to that, in the light of Mr. Cook’s speech, referring to the test measures as trumpery and trifling measures?
– Yes, I do.
– I come now to another case, which is more analogous to our own than any other which I can find recorded in the history of parliamentary proceedings. Quoting from page 766 of Todd’s work, I find that -
In New Zealand, November, 1877, the Premier, Sir George Grey, requested the Governor, Marquis of Normanby, to dissolve House of Representativeson account of the evenly-balanced state of parties therein.
The Governor in refusing gave as his reason -
– It is because of this that we want the people to speak.
– It is interesting to find on page 778 of this authority that after this dispute had gone on for some time, at the request of Sir George Grey, the whole correspondence that passed between the Governor of New Zealand and the Ministry was forwarded to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, and submitted by him to the law officers of the Crown in Great Britain. I find that Sir Michael Hicks Beach minuted the papers to the effect that he entirely indorsed the Governor’s attitude. What does that mean ? It means . that the Government cannot claim to possess the confidence of the House of Representatives when they exist by the casting vote of the Speaker. That nas been asserted by the Crown law authorities of Great Britain. That being so, the present Commonwealth Government cannot claim to have passed the test measures, and to have created a dispute between the two Houses, when those measures are passed by the casting vote of the Speaker.
– Or to give advice to the Governor-General.
– Or to give advice to the Governor-General. If it was not competent for Sir George Grey to give advice which was to be accepted by the Governor of New Zealand when his Ministry lived only by the casting vote of the Speaker, is it competent for Mr. Cook, in 1914, to bring in a drastic change in the Constitution of the Commonwealth, and bring about a double dissolution of both Houses of this Parliament upon trumpery measures passed with the casting vote of the Speaker? That is a question which the Governor-General will have to answer. The deductions drawn by Todd from these and other Colonial cases are given at pages 800-2, where he says-
As the representative of the Crown in the Dominion, colony or province over which he is commissioned to preside, the power of dissolution rests absolutely with the Governor or Lieutenant-Governor for the time being.
It is the duty of a Governor to consider the question of a dissolution of the Parliament or Legislature solely in reference to the general interests of the people and not from a party stand-point.
When Ministers advise a dissolution on the ground of disputes between the two Houses of Parliament it behoves a Governor to be cautious in acceding to such request.
Does not the fact that the Government publicly, and in Parliament, have said that they are seeking a double dissolution in order to bring before the people a policy which has not yet been disclosed to Parliament, prove that they are seeking a double dissolution for party pur poses. They have practically said so. They say, “We believe that if we can get a double dissolution we shall have a party advantage in putting our policy forward.” They say, further, that they will not put their policy forward first, because that might give their opponents a party advantage.
– Yes, because Parliament is unworkable.
– That does not prevent the Government from bringing forward their policy.
– There is no need to do so in an unworkable Parliament.
– The same objection applies to the test Bills. Why do the Government bring forward those two measures? If they can bring forward those measures they can bring forward their whole policy, and if they do I hoy may be able to show that there is a grave and serious dispute between the Houses. I confess, if I may assume the rae of a prophet, that they would be able to do it. Unless the Government take that course they are not in a position to say that there is a dispute between the Houses. All that they are in a position to say is, “ There is a dispute between two parties, and we are seeking a party advantage to get a double dissolution in order that we may have a sporting chance in the House where we are in a minority at present.”
– Why not be fair? The Government have brought forward the whole of their policy.
– The Government say that they have not done so, and I am taking their word. Dicey, is one of the recognised authorities on Federal Constitutions. On page 530 of his work, The Law of the Constitution, he refers to the Australian Constitution in these words -
The Constitution further is so framed as to secure respect for the Senate; the longer term for which the senators are elected and the scheme of retirement by rotation, which will, in general, protect the” Senate from a dissolution, are intended to make the Senate a more permanent, and, therefore, a more experienced, body than the House of Representatives.
On page 532, he says -
But an Australian Cabinet oan under certain circumstances cause, indirectly at any rate, the dissolution of the Senate.
On page 533, this passage occurs -
Thus the elaborate and ingenious plan for avoiding, in case of disagreement between the two Houses, a Parliamentary dead-lock is simply an attempt to insure by law that deference for the voice of the electorate which in England constitutional conventions enforce in the long run upon both Houses of Parliament.
Respect for the voice of the people - on what? On a particular law. What does the reference to the House of Lords mean ? It means that where the House of Lords has repeatedly opposed and delayed a Bill for which the people of the United Kingdom have been clamouring, that House has in the long run been compelled by public opinion to give way. What Dicey has in his mind is not a question of party advantages or party fighting at all, but a measure of importance which the people badly need aud desire, which the people’s House has put forward, and which the other House has continuously blocked. Can the Government say that there has been any clamouring for either of these test Bills? Can they say that there has been any demand for them? Can they say anything but that they are the result of party machination ? Can they say anything but that they have been merely conceived in the mind of the clever AttorneyGeneral for the purpose of securing a party political advantage? There are people outside who are absolutely indifferent to both of the Bills, and do not care a snap of the fingers for either of them. I propose to show that in respect to dissolutions the Commonwealth Constitution does not give the Cabinet any greater privileges than are enjoyed by a British Cabinet, or were enjoyed by the Cabinet of a Colony before Federation. On page 535 of the Law of the Constitution, Dicey says -
Thus the Governor-General- is appointed by the Crown, i.e., by the English Ministry, and fdls substantially the same position as, before the formation of the Commonwealth, was occupied by the Governor, e.g., of Victoria.
On the question of dissolutions in England, Dicey says at page 428 -
The prerogative, in short, of dissolution may constitutionally be so employed as to override the will of the representative body, or, as it i3 called, “ The People’s House of Parliament.”
On page 429 of the book, he writes -
A dissolution is allowable or necessary whenever the wishes of tlie Legislature are, or may fairly be presumed to be, different from the wishes of the nation.
On this point, let us see whether the Government can establish the fact that this section of the Parliament is antagonistic to the wishes of the people of Australia. It is rather significant, in scanning the returns of the last election, to find that in the Senate, where the Labour party have a majority of the members, they were returned by a minority of the votes cast - arising, of course, from the equal representation of the States - while in the other House, which is supposed to be elected by the popular will, they got a majority of the votes cast. I intend to be quite frank as to how I arrive at these facts. At the Senate elections in New South Wales the candidates included Socialists, so-called, while in South Australia, Tasmania, and Victoria there were Independents. In the case of each State I took the figures of the highest Liberal and the highest Labour men. I added to the Liberals in Victoria and South Australia and Tasmania the vote for the Independents, while in New South Wales I added to the Labour vote the Socialist vote. I think that I was fair in adopting this method, and if there is any advantage it goes to the Liberal party, because the Independent vote in the three other States is greater than the Socialist vote in New South Wales.
– You are generous, so far as Victoria is concerned.
– Yes, because I think that electors who would support Mr. Renwick, a single taxer, would support a Labour man in preference to a Liberal. However, I adopted this method, and the calculation goes for what it is worth.
– You will admit that it is a matter of opinion ?
– Yes, it is a matter of opinion, and we have to decide one way or the other. Let me now explain how it works out. The Labour votes given to the highest elected and highest defeated candidates numbered 948,168 for the whole of the States. The votes given to the highest elected and highest defeated Liberals and the Independents came to 958,122, so that there were 10,000 more cast for Liberals and Independents than were cast on this side, and, of course, the difference in the .representation arose from the equal representation of the States here. Let me now “give the figures for the other House, which is supposed to represent the people.
Wherever there was a straight-out contest, I took the Labour man or the Liberal, but there were several cases where there was no contest, and in these cases I took the Senate vote for the Liberal and the Labour candidate, and put that down for the constituency. That,. I think, is fair, because, generally speaking, the Senate vote is a few hundreds below the vote for the House of Representatives, but it runs pretty well on the same party lines. The epitome of the whole position is that Labour in the other House represents 993,893 votes, while the Liberal party represents 953,654 votes.
– What was done with the Independent candidates?
– The Independent candidates, Sir William Lyne, Mr. Wise, and Miss Goldstein, I put with the Labour party, because they ran practically on the Labour platform, and both Sir William Lyne and Mr. Wise announced their intention, if returned, to support the Labour Government. As regards the other Independent candidates, in every case I added their votes to the Liberal votes. An Independent stood for Adelaide, and there were several Independents in other parts of the Commonwealth. I believe that at Corio, Mr. Reid was a Labour man. Anyhow, I added his votes to the Liberal vote. I made the Liberal party a present of all the Independents other than Sir William Lyne, Mr. Wise, and Miss Goldstein. I have accounted for all the votes given for all the candidates, and the position is that, while 993,893 votes were cast for the highest Labour candidates, 953,654 votes were cast for the highest Liberals, including the Liberal Independents. There is a difference practically of 40,000.
– It is a pity that the whole figures are not put in.
– It is almost impossible to put them in, because when one man got 60,000 votes, and another man polled 54,000 votes, how are you to determine which votes were cast for Labour and which for Liberal?
– You might take the mean.
– Yes; for the House of Representatives the information is accurate, because there I took the highest and all the votes given for the candidates.
– There is one important factor that you have omitted in your calculation regarding the Senate votes, and it is that there the Labour party represent the great majority of the States.
– A number of figures were quoted previously by the press, but in every case they left out the constituencies where there was no contest. That is manifestly unfair to our party, because it assumes that there is no Labour vote in the constituency. At Hindmarsh, in South Australia, for instance, there is a Labour vote, and it becomes operative as soon as there is a fight. On the other side, Mr. Glynn’s constituency is a case in point.
– In Gippsland, Mr. Wise did not get a vote outside the Labour party.
– I have quoted these figures to show that, in so far as the people, by their representatives, have expressed themselves in the popular House, a majority of 40,000 are in favour of the party sitting in Opposition, and that it was owing merely to the distribution of the majority in the electorates that a chance majority was given to the party who happen now to be in power. That is to say, the party who happen to be in power, although in a minority of 40,000 of the votes cast, expect that, they being in office by the casting vote of the Speaker, and able only to pass these Bills with his casting vote, the Governor-General will give them a double dissolution in order to bring both Houses before the people. I come now to a later constitutional authority - a gentleman who has been for a long time associated with the Colonial Office, and whom I had the honour of meeting when I was at the Colonial Conference in 1911. I refer to Mr. Keith, who has made a close study of Colonial Parliamentary procedure. On page 186 of his work, Responsible Government in the Colonies, he says -
In South Australia in 1871 the Governor accorded a dissolution to Ministers on their being defeated in Assembly by the casting vote of the Speaker, though both Houses passed addresses asking him not to dissolve.
That is an extraordinary position.
– It is an understandable one.
– Yes. Mr. Keith continues -
His action was clearly correct in the case of so close an issue, as a Ministry formed without a dissolution could not have had any stability.
Then he refers to the refusal of a dissolution in New Zealand, and his comment on that case is -
On the other hand, the Premier argued that the Governor was only a constitutional monarch and must dissolve on advice. The matter was referred to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, who, on 15th February, 1878, definitely approved the views taken by the Governor of his rights and his duties.
Coming to our Federal arena he quotes cases. In 1904, Mr. Watson was defeated and asked for a dissolution, but was refused; in 1905, Mr. Reid was defeated and asked for a dissolution, but was refused; and in 1909, Mr. Fisher was defeated and asked for a dissolution, but was refused. This clearly shows that the same precedent has been established under the Federal Constitution, and that is, that in this matter the Governor-General can refuse to accept the advice of his Ministers, and that whenever he does accept their advice, he must look at the circumstances of the case; that there is no automatic giving or refusing of a dissolution; that it is, and must always be, governed by the circumstances of the case. Again, on pages 188, 189, and 190. Keith says that the question of the power of the Governor to dissolve Parliament was raised on behalf of New Zealand at the Colonial Conference pf 1887 by Sir F. Dillon Bell, New Zealand, who took the view that-
The Governor should, unless there was some very extraordinary cause for interference, as a matter of course, take the advice of his Ministers for the time being as to the question of the dissolution of Parliament.
Mr. Keith adds that Sir Samuel Griffith (now Chief Justice of High Court), representing Queensland, concurred with Sir John Downer -
In thinking that the change would be most undesirable . . . There should be some superior and calmer authority to determine whether a dissolution were necessary or not.
Let me now point out the reason why I am emphasizing this point and driving it home. Do honorable senators believe for a moment that with all the knowledge the draftsmen had of parliamentary procedure, and of the fact that a Governor could, and did frequently, refuse to dissolve a Parliament, the words about the
Governor-General were put in section 57 without any discussion? Do they believe’ that Sir Samuel Griffith, who held the view that it was extremely undesirable thatthe power to dissolve Parliament should be taken away from the GovernorGeneral, allowed those words to be inserted in our Constitution without any discussion? The words used in respect of the exercise of the prerogative are the same as those used in regard to the prerogative itself.
– Who has disputed that?
– The honorable senator knows quite well. Suppose that the Government introduced into the other House a Bill which was afterwards sent up here. If the provision to which I have directed attention means “ shall “ and not “may,” and if this House rejected that measure in two consecutive sessions, the. Government might not desire a dissolution. Yet if the provision were mandatory the Governor-General would have no option but to grant a dissolution. Clearly the position is one in which Ministers advise, but the GovernorGeneral must decide.
– Does the honorable senator think that “may” does mean “shall”?
– It depends entirely on the circumstances. Where a statutory obligation is laid on the Government to comply with the law, the word “ may “ is invariably used, although it means “ shall.” If any confirmation of my view is required it will be found in the letters patent to the GovernorGeneral. In Keith, vol. 3, page 1570, as to Letters Patent constituting office of Governor-General, dated 29th October, 1900, I find the following:-
The Governor-General may, on our behalf, exercise all powers under the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900, or otherwise in respect of summoning, proroguing or dissolving the Parliament of our said Commonwealth.
There is no reservation there as regards section 57 of the Constitution. There is only one other point with which I wish to deal, viz., whether or not the GovernorGeneral has to look beyond these socalled test Bills. Are the Government entitled to say to him, “Although these measures in themselves do not give us the right to a double dissolution, we ask you to take cognisance of the condition of Parliament. We ask you to take a hypothetical view of what Parliament will do in the circumstances”? That is practically what the Minister of Defence meant by his interjection to-day. Evidently the Government think that because they have a narrow majority in another Chamber, and an overwhelming majority against them in the Senate, the GovernorGeneral should grant them a double dissolution. If that be the case, so far from section 57 of the Constitution being used only in exceptional circumstances, I say that, in view of party vacillations in Australia, it will be used every two or three years unless the Senate is content to become merely a register of the decrees of the other branch of the Legislature. Members of Parliament are very human - more human, perhaps, than is the ordinary man in the street. In the other Chamber they would be able to discharge their duties without any fear. The Government would know that, provided they had a majority there, they could proceed with legislation. But how different would be the position in this Senate ! We have to recollect that, in order to safeguard the constitutional position of the Senate as representing the States, this Chamber must not be open to be squeezed. Otherwise, at any time the two big States cared to exert their power it would beplaced in a position of subserviency to the other Chamber. I admit that no great outstanding question of State rights has yet arisen, but if ever the Senate is placed in the position to which I have just referred, the question of State rights will arise. It Will arise if ever the Senate is driven into a position in which it dare not defend State rights for fear that, in accordance with the precedent which would have been established, it would be dissolved, and honorable senators would be sent- to the country. I now wish to quote again from Keith, in order to show what, in his opinion, led to the insertion of these sections of the Constitution. Upon page 633 of his Responsible. Government in the Dominions, volume 2, he says -
In the case ot the Commonwealth, the provisions of the Constitution are, no doubt, in part due to the fact that the Upper House is a body which represents the States as well as the people, “and has thus a power such as’ no other Upper House has ever possessed or is likely to possess.
What will be the position, of the Senate as compared with the Upper Houses of the States if a double dissolution be granted in the present circumstances? Take the Legislative Council of Victoria as an example. It is a Chamber which is absolutely non-representative of the people. If a Bill be sent up to it; - say, a Land Tax Bill or a Factories Bill - it can proceed with its consideration absolutely untrammelled by any thought that it may be dissolved if it amends that measure. It proceeds to discuss it, careless of what the other branch of the Legislature may do, and careful only of the view which the few persons who are entitled to vote for its members will take of its action. That Upper House to-day is regarded as being infinitely weaker than is the Senate. But I ask honorable senators to assume that a double dissolution is granted, and then to compare the Senate with the Upper House of Victoria. In such circumstances, I say that the Legislative Council of this State would have the strength of a giant, while the Senate would have only that of a child. I could understand this proposal being brought forward by a Government that had been formed as a result of an overwhelming desire on the part of the two big and populous States to rob this Senate of its equal representation - to rob it of the powerful position it occupies in the Constitution. Suppose, for instance that these two big States became overwhelmingly Protectionist, and the small States were almost entirely Free Trade. One could understand then a movement arising in the two big States to find some way of destroying or crippling the Senate in order Ito bring about Protection. They would say, “ We cannot get sufficient representation in the Senate to achieve our ends. We cannot destroy equal representation under section 128, because we cannot touch that unless the small States themselves will give it up, and we know they will not do that.” I could understand a Government in such circumstances saying, “ We must proceed by a roundabout method. As we cannot destroy the representation, we must destroy its power.” That is what they are going to do, and that is what this will do.
– Does a dissolution destroy the power of a House?
– It will in this case destroy the power of the Senate, because it will show that a dissolution of the Senate can be obtained because of a dispute over a trumpery measure like this test Bill, and establish a precedent.
– No more against this House than the other. The penalty falls on both.
– The other House is the scene of party conflict. It makes and unmakes Governments, and one of the penalties for that privilege is that in the event of parties being equally divided, it is liable to be dissolved. But a dissolution cannot be forced on it by this House, whereas, in this case the Government are using their narrow majority, or no majority, in the other place, to force a dissolution on this Chamber, because it will not pass some imaginary legislation.
– The penalty falls on both Houses.
– But it is inflicted by one House on the other, and in the other case it is inflicted by the House on itself.
– Are you suggesting that the members of the other House are morally more courageous than senators?
– I am suggesting nothing of the kind, but if the other House, as the result of party action, can bring about a dissolution of this House on this occasion, it holds over this House a weapon such as no other Lower House in the world possesses - a weapon that it was never intended that it should have, and that cannot be logically construed out of the Constitution as it stands. Professor Harrison Moore, of the Melbourne University, an Australian student of the Constitution, who has been so often put forward by our honorable friends opposite as their champion, writes in his Commonwealth of Australia, page 153 -
The ultimate political effect of the clauses of the Constitution on the financial powers is to strengthen the Senate, for it is entitled to exercise an effective control by means less heroic than the rejection of an Appropriation Bill. Dead-lock - this in the strict sense - the bringing of the machinery of government to a standstill, is a contingency so remote as hardly to be within the range of practical politics.
And yet the Government propose to create a dead-lock over measures which the Prime Minister says are ridiculous measures. On page 155 the professor says that the scheme under section 57 applies only to measures initiated in the House of Representatives - a fact significant of the parts which the two Houses were expected to play in government.That, of course, refers to money Bills. He adds -
And there is no obstacle to a resort to the familiar means of conference.
If I wished any further evidence of the hypocrisy of these Bills as serious measures in dispute between the two Houses, I need only point to the fact that when the dispute arose over them last session, the Government, although it contains many old parliamentarians, never asked for a conference. Whenever in the States the Houses have come into conflict the first thing done has been to ask for a conference to see. if an agreement can be established.
– A conference over a Bill that has been rejected?
– A conference over amendments.
SenatorPEARCE. - How many times have we seen conferences between the two Houses in the State Parliaments, when a Government have seen that a Bill before the Upper House was likely to be rejected, and have suggested a conference before the final stage ? In this case, however, the Government showed that they did not want any agreement. They were simply trying to manufacture a dispute, and never tried to avail themselves of the opportunity to have a conference between the two Houses. I would suggest that they do so on this occasion to dispose of these small measures. I do not know whether they will, but their action last session showed that they were simply trying to use the machinery of Parliament, as they thought, for a certain end. It is well that we should look at what is to be the effect of these proceedings on the position of the Senate in the Constitution. We are here representing the small, as well as the large, States. We are not responsible for the Constitution being as it is, but we have to be faithful to it, and it is our right and duty to seethat is is not frittered away. If it is to be amended, it should be amended straightforwardly and openly. If equal representation is to go, by all means let us appeal to the people, and ask them to sweep it away. The Minister of Defence threw in an interjection about Mr. Hughes, but Mr. Hughes was honest and straightforward. When the Constitution Bill was before the people, he told them that he was opposed to the equal representation of the States in the Senate, believing that it was undemocratic, and he asked the people to reject the Bill. He has not reiterated those views since the people accepted the Bill ; but now, after the Constitution has been working for years, the AttorneyGeneral, not possessing the courage to head his Government in an open attack on equal representation iu the Senate - because if he did the people would at once see the hypocrisy of their talking about being champions of State rights - says, “ Let us cripple the instrument by which equal representation safeguards the States. As we cannot take the instrument away, let us blunt its edge; let us make it ineffective.” So he and his Government propose to try to achieve their purpose by using these two trumpery measures, passed without having the confidence of the House in which they sit as a Government, to move the GovernorGeneral to prostitute section 57 and give them a double dissolution.
– I am somewhat at a disadvantage in speaking after the most able and lucid speech of my colleague, who has put the position in a way in which it has not been put before during this debate. We all join in the expressions of regret that the Governor-General lias seen fit to resign his position. We have learnt to honour him during the time that he has been here, and felt yesterday that we were parting from a friend. When listening to him yesterday, I could not help contrasting the freedom in his speech with the restraint which he has to exercise in the document which is called his Speech, as presented to this Parliament. The latter is, of course, prepared for him by the Government, and iu it they refer to questions that will not come before this House for a considerable time because of the trouble over the two test measures, as they are called. The other subjects mentioned comprise State Debts, “Uniform Railway Gauge, Distribution of Murray Waters, and many other questions that are to a large, extent merely in the academic stage, and not in any way practical. One could not help noticing the divergence of opinion that obtained at the recent Premiers’ Conference, showing how far we are from reaching the .stage at which those big measures can be brought before this Parliament for confirmation. We are really, therefore, brought down to the narrow point that this Parliament has been called together for no other purpose than to decide on the acceptance or rejection of the two so-called test Bills. We are told that the exigencies of public affairs require our attendance, but I can see no urgency in those two measures. The Government have absolutely failed to show that there was any need to call Parliament together before the usual time. We rejected those two Bills last session, and the Government have again put them forward as serious propositions, by this means retarding important public business. To my mind they could be quietly shelved and solemnly buried, and no one would miss them or regret their departure. They would not even need a monument to be erected over them, because they themselves are a monument to the folly of the Government that presented them. No important public business has been placed before us of which we are within reasonable reach. The whole “show” is entirely given away by the next paragraph in the Speech, which reveals that the only public business before this House this session is to be the two test measures, and Senator Pearce has made it quite clear that there is not the slightest chance of the Government bringing about what they are aiming at by those means. How our minds have become obsessed with the idea that the Government will be able to get a double dissolution on those two measures I cannot understand, because any student of constitutional history and procedure must admit that there is not the slightest ground to warrant such an extreme course being taken on two such trivial matters. It may be argue-d that the two Houses are not iu agreement, but there must surely be some reason for having two Houses. I cannot get a much better authority on the question of the bi-cameral system than the Melbourne Argus, because it is such a stickler for having two Houses. With regard to the Senate, however, its attitude is most inconsistent. It advocates most strongly the retention of the Legislative Council of Victoria, just as its sister organ, the South Australian Register, defends the South Australian Legislative Council, and the Sydney Morning Herald barracks for the New South Wales Legislative Council. But when it is a question of the
Senate, which has most important functions to fulfil under the Constitution - far more important than those of the State Upper Houses - the Melbourne Argus falls from grace. On the 5th February it published a leading article dealing with New South Wales politics, containing the following: -
A Parliament without a Chamber of review, a Chamber to insure time for cooler thought and calmer reason, is still less a Parliament in the true sense cf the expression.
On that dictum how can a party that take the Argus as their political bible bring forward a measure which to all intents and purposes, if it succeeds, must result in the absolute destruction of the Senate for all time? Are the Government sincere in their proposals ? The Leader of the Government himself has said that these two measures are brought forward to create a position by reason of which the” Governor-General may dissolve both Houses. If that attempt succeeds it will become a precedent for all time, and whenever the Senate takes exception to any measure, no matter what its scope, design, or intention, it will always be faced with the threat of a dissolution. The Argus further says -
The only possible safeguard against mob tyranny in a responsible system is the existence of a strong Chamber, free from the influences which make and unmake the Executive of the hour.
I contend that we have in the Senate exactly what the Argus is craving for - a strong Chamber of review. It cannot be said that this Chamber is a fluctuating, variable body. If it comes to the question of which is the stronger Chamber, it must be admitted that there is a more definite expression of public opinion in the Senate than there is in the House of Representatives. This safeguard is more strongly entrenched in the Senate than in the more flexible House, which may be influenced by popular clamour at any time. The argument “which the Argus applies to Legislative Councils in the State Parliaments may be justly applied to the Senate. On the 6th February it was announced that the Commonwealth Parliament was to be called together early in April, and the Argus expressed its delight on that account, and because we had in existence a Government that had a backbone. I do not wish to say that the present Commonwealth Government have not a backbone, but I must say that, so far, they have given no evidence of the possession of a backbone. They seem to be composed of most plastic material, which is moulded by the hands of some irresponsible individuals altogether outside Parliament. They are as plastic as a lump of clay in a potter’s hands. We can trace day by day and hour by hour the effect of the influences that have been moulding that clay. The Argus itself has taken its part in moulding the clay, and many political associations outside have also made their impress on this precious Government with a backbone. The Argus says -
That responsible Government can be carried on with a majority of one in the dominant House, and a large adverse majority in the Senate is impossible.
It is remarkable that any respectable organ should speak of the usefulness of Upper Chambers of the State Legislatures and of the uselessness of the Upper Chamber of the Commonwealth Legislature. The two Houses have different functions to fulfil. The point I wish to establish is that the Senate fulfils a most useful function in the protection of the smaller States as against the larger.
– The smaller States would not have joined the Federation had they not been equally represented in the Senate.
– I thank my honorable friend for the reminder. I may add to what he has said that Federation could not have been brought about if the smaller States had not agreed to come in. The protection of the real essence and spirit of Federation, which our opponents have lauded to the skies, rests with the Senate, and the removal of that power of protection from the Senate must involve the destruction of the Federation itself. Who was it that, during the referenda campaign, went through the length and breadth of Australia denouncing the Labour party for destroying the spirit of Federation ?
– I did for one.
– So did I.
– I am glad to have this honest and open confession from our friends opposite. I remind them now that if they achieve their object and secure a double dissolution - which God forbid - they will have absolutely destroyed the whole fabric of Federation.
I remember the way in which they lauded the Federal Constitution to the skies and proclaimed it to be the product of the greatest intellects that Australia has produced. They said, “ The Constitution is a sacred thing. Let no man approach it with his boots on. Let. every man uncover his head before it.” But we now find the same set of individuals bringing forward two Bills which they cannot defend, and which they admit are nothing to the point, and declaring their determination, by means of these measures, to destroy the spirit and effect of Federation.
– We have never declared any such’ thing.
– Will the honorable senator say that the two Bills referred to are not introduced for the purpose of bringing about a double dissolution?
– No ; but the honorable senator said that they are brought forward for the purpose of destroying Federation.
– I say that they are brought forward for the purpose of bringing about a double dissolution, and that if our honorable friends succeed in their purpose the result must be the destruction of Federation.
– I do not agree with the honorable senator.
– If a double dissolution is brought about by the fate of these measures of minor importance, a similar thing must follow in. connexion with more important measures. My honorable friends cannot reason downwards from the greater to the lesser in this case. If they can accomplish their purpose by such measures as these a similar purpose may be brought about in time to come by more important measures, and the usefulness of the Senate will be gone for all time. The Seriate has proved itself to bc a very useful Chamber. I regret that our honorable friends opposite, when they go outside, ar.e frequently disloyal to the Senate, and are not loyal as representatives of the different States to the constituents they represent. I realize that my outlook to-day is entirely different from what it was when I sat in the South Australian House of Assembly in Adelaide. I had to deal there with matters of a comparatively parochial character, but I deal here with national questions. There I had to consider the in terests of districts and of South Australia; here I have to deal with questions which affect the whole of the States of the Commonwealth. I have to consider how any particular matter may affect, not merely the State from which I come, but Australia as a whole. If I am a party with the Government to anything which will have the effect of weakening the Senate, I shall, like them, be false to the Constitution and to my pledges to those who sent me here.
– The Government are trying to do dishonestly what they are afraid to do honestly.
– The honorable senator’s suggestion backs up my contention, and I say that even if the measures which have been referred to were brought forward honestly by the Government they would still achieve the same disastrous results. When they are brought forward with a sinister and dishonest motive, the evil of the course followed is intensified. It is important to remember that no great national issue is at stake, and that no fundamental principle between the political parties is at stake.
– The members of the honorable senator’s party in another place regard one of the Bills as involving a very important principle.
– They are simply regarding th.e measure in question as a gage of battle. We have here to dissociate ourselves from the conflict taking place in the other Chamber. We have to deal with the question on a higher plane. As a gage of battle the measure may be important, whilst as a Bill it is absolutely worthless, inasmuch as the effect intended could be, and indeed has been, brought about by administration as well as by legislation.
– The Bill seeks to do something which has already been done.
– I have said that as a Bill it is absolutely worthless, and is impotent to prevent in the time to come what it is intended to legislate against. If the Labour party were returned to power to-day they could, by administrative act, undo what has been done by the present Government, and they could, by an Act of Parliament, undo what the present Government propose to do by this legislation.
– But there is a big difference between the two things.
– One is done in the light of day.
– The present Government did not undo what was done by the last Government in the light of day, but by an administrative act.
- Senator McColl has interjected to the effect that what was done by the Labour Government was done surreptitiously and illegally.
– I did not say that.
– If the honorable senator will not contend that it was done illegally or surreptitiously, he admits that the Bill which the present Government have introduced is without foundation. The honorable senator admits that it is simply a gage of battle. Driven from the ground that there is any strength or force in the Bill, the honorable senator must admit that the Government are, for party purposes only, creating a quarrel with the Senate, and intend to ask the GovernorGeneral to send this Parliament to the country on that issue. That is about the weakest position that any Government could take up. I have not been in Parliament for many years, but I have made myself acquainted with parliamentary history, and in my experience or reading I never came across a weaker position than that taken up by the present Government. There is nothing to justify them. They have shrank from point to point, and have to admit that the Bill which has been referred to is nothing but a gage of battle. I thank my honorable friends for that admission, because it will be useful to submit to the electors.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.30 p.m.
– When the sitting was suspended for lunch I was discussing the effect of the so-called test Bills, the end that was aimed at, and, wittingly or unwittingly, the fact that they would entirely undermine the Constitutional position.
– Wittingly, certainly.
– I used the word “ unwittingly,” because it enables me to prove my point that there has been a distinct and intended position brought about by the Government. In other words, it is not a casual utterance of one member of the Government or a cryptic utterance of the Prime Minister.’
– I notice in the gallery His Excellency Judge J. H. P. Murray, C.M.G., the LieutenantGovernor of the Territory of Papua, and I propose, by the leave of the Senate, to give His Excellency a seat on the floor of the chamber..
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear.
– It is not, I repeat, simply a cryptic utterance of the Prime Minister or a disjointed and individual utterance of certain members of the Liberal Union, but almost saturating the whole of the speeches which are delivered throughout the country I find the same principle enunciated distinctly. There is a definite aim, a united decision, a consensus of opinion to bring about a position which must result as I have said in undermining the constitution of the Senate. I desire to lay special stress on this very vital point, because if we find that to accomplish a party aim the Government are ignoriug the constitutional position of the Senate and endeavouring to emasculate the Senate for the purpose for which it was created, I think it can be shown conclusively that, whatever claim Ministers may have at present to support outside they cannot expect on returning to their constituents to have any response to their call again. The effect of the test Bills and their value as represented by public opinion is discussed by one organ, published in Melbourne, in terms I propose to quote. Writing on the 27th April the Age says -
The one and only tangible outcome of the censure debate up to the present has been to show the people that the Cook Government are firmly resolved to force a double dissolution.
That might be a resolution in their own mind, but I wish to trace the matter further back, and to prove that it was expressed definitely that their intention was to bend towards this goal, and not to further public business. Yet, according to the Governor-General’s Speech, we have been called together for the purpose of expediting public business. Later, in the same article, the Age says -
But the Cook Government appears to have no other aim immediately in view than to press forward with its two so-called “test” Bills, which were rejected by the Senate last session. In other words, it is blindly intent on fabricating what it supposes to be the constitutional pre-requisites of a double dissolution.
In the mind of the Minister these may be pre-requisites to a double dissolution. If it can be proved that the insertion of u large quantity of gunpowder under a rock is a pre-requisite to an explosion, and if it can be found that with intent to destroy a certain building individuals connived together, and in collusion determined to insert the powder and bring about a. condition that would lead to an explosion, and consequently to the destruction of the building, I contend that, although they might not have been parties to the ignition, yet, if they created the pre-requisites of an explosion, they must, in public opinion at any rate, be adjudged guilty as though they had directly forced the explosion. That is the point I want to make. When the Government say that they are bringing about certain conditions, they are attacking the Constitution and warping it from its direct intention in order to entirely destroy the force and the power of the Senate as part of the Parliament. They are doing more than they wish,- in fact, and they are doing something for which the people will condemn them for all time. It remains for me to show that the test Bills have been the subject of ridicule by their own party. It is a marvellous thing that we can suppose that any gentleman holding the exalted position of Prime Minister of the Commonwealth would be a party to sending to the Senate, where the representatives of the States gather, two measures which, admittedly from his own language, arc worthless, and about which he makes jokes. It is a travesty on legislation to send the Bills here; and to go into the country and deride the Senate for rejecting them is practically tantamount to stating that it has sunk as low as he has sunk - a supposition which, of course, could not for a moment be entertained by honorable senators. I can distinctly prove, from Mr. Cook’s own language-
– Do you mean your interpretation of his language?
– I thank my honorable friend for the interjection, because again and again across the table there has been thrown the imputation that on this side there is no understanding of the English language and no ability to draw a plain inference from words. There is, seemingly, an idea possessing the minds of the gentlemen now occupying the Treasury bench that they alone can understand the English language. When the Ministry was formed it was proclaimed as a Ministry of gigantic intellects. It was held up to Australia as a model Ministry. Ministers proclaimed that their advent to office meant the restoration of responsible government, but the very first thing they set their minds to do in earliest was to break down the Constitution. “Responsible government” was another phrase I heard used in this connexion. To whom were the Government responsible if not to the people of Australia? Shall we for a moment entertain the idea that there is any other motive behind the introduction of the test Bills than the desire of Ministers to break down responsible government, to practically prostitute the trust placed in them, and to violate the Constitution with unholy’ hands? In the whole history of true constitutional government in Australia there has never been, to my knowledge, so deep laid a scheme as this, and yet, it is apparent on the surface of it, that it is a scheme so trivial that its very father makes it the subject of ridicule; so trivial that he hopes that no one for a moment will entertain the idea that the Bills are of any value; so trivial that he has not the slightest conception that any one will be serious about them outside, although he expects us to be serious in our treatment of them here. It seems to be one of those blatant attempts which nobody but a person suffering from past indiscretions would contemplate unless he had a bad night’s dream. I wish now to call attention to what the purpose was. Addressing the Australian Natives’ Association at Wangaratta, the Prime Minister used these words -
If a double dissolution did take place, it would not be an appeal from the Constitution; it would be in the very essence of constitutional procedure, and part of the machinery for resolving serious troubles.
I ask any honorable senator if there is any serious trouble to be removed by these test Bills? Boiled down, one measure cannot affect any person who is in private employ. It contains no power to compel a private contractor to either accept or reject a trade unionist, nor does it empower the Government in any sense to either accept or reject trade unionists. The Bill is valueless, even more valueless than the piece of paper on which it is printed.
– You are spending a lot of time on valueless things, then ?
– I thank my honorable friend for his interjection, because if we are spending time on what he calls valueless things, upon the Government must lie all the blame for the time spent by Parliament in discussing these measures, all the cost which the discussion entails upon the Commonwealth, and all the cost that will be brought about if the measures accomplish what they are intended to do.
– Do you charge us with the cost of your party’s ‘ ‘ stonewall? “
– I again thank my honorable friend for his interjection, because it shows unmistakably that the Government are parties to a waste of money, a waste of time, and a prostitution of the Parliament.
– I would like to give you a friendly warning. If any man on your side thanks any one here he is likely to be keel-hauled in the caucus.
– My honorable friend, I believe, lias had a little experience of caucuses, and he knows full well that I am as free a man as he is, indeed, freer. He knows that, outside the Labour party’s platform, I am free to say what I like. The caucus has no terrors for me. Evidently it was lack of courage on the part of my honorable friend which caused him to forsake the rule of the caucus. It would have been better for him had he remained where he was. In addressing a meeting at Prahran, only twenty-four hours later, the Prime Minister said -
I am alluding particularly to a speech which I read this morning, in which ) am solemnly warned that when we go to the country we should not go on such small questions as the postal vote and prohibition of preference to unionists. Who, in the name of heaven, ever suggested that we should go on that alone t
I wish to know if there is anything else upon which we are asked to go to the country ? The Prime Minister exclaimed, “ In the name of heaven.” I need scarcely remind him that the use of such language is forbidden in decent society. Disingenuous allusion has been made to certain Bills which were before us last session. One of these was the Pine Creek to Katherine River Railway Construction Bill. ‘I recollect reading a speech delivered by the Prime Minister, in which that measure was held up as one of the awful examples of the action of this Chamber. It would seem that we are not to criticise a Bill, or to eliminate anything from it, without first gaining the consent of the Prime Minister. We are to go to him and say, “ Please, sir, may we consider this measure ? May we think as we like upon it, or are we compelled to think upon it only just as you do? “ I submit that there is no reason why the Senate should be involved in a quarrel that is not its own. I have no hesitation in saying’ that the Pine Creek to Katherine River Railway Construction Bill’ was returned to the other Chamber in a very presentable form. For twentyfour years past, there has been no Upper House in Australia which has returned a measure of that description to the other branch of the Legislature with’ less alterations. Another Bill which the Prime Minister has charged us with mutilating is the Loan Bill. I say that, the Senate acted perfectly within its constitutional rights when it made requests in respect of that Bill. But, apparently, we must take our orders from a gentleman, who, because of a mere freak of fortune, happens to hold a very exalted position. Ministers were not prevented from giving effect to their wishes in respect to the Loan Bill, except on definite lines, which were in harmony with the platform of the Labour party. The people of Australia knew that we would do exactly what we did. According to the Prime Minister, the so-called test measures, to which I have referred, are not great measures in themselves. Yet in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech we are told that Parliament has been summoned to deal with public business. By the Prime Minister’s own admission, it has not been called together to do that. We have merely to oblige the Prime Minister by occupying time in discussing these measures. Speaking at Cowra, not long ago, Mr. Cook said -
The Government could not stay on with any sense of dignity under present conditions.
Their sense of dignity has been so obscured that we have never been able to discover it. Ministers have remained on the Treasury bench because it was profitable to them to do so. They have been kept there by the vote of their doughty champion - by their great majority of one in the other Chamber. The Prime Minister continued -
They had held their own in the last session, but it had been a pure battle of wits.
That is a strange admission for the Prime Minister to make. He declares that the Government have not held office because the consensus of public opinion is behind them. They have not held it by reason of the policy which they have propounded, because, as a matter of fact, they have never propounded one. The Prime Minister says that the reason no policy has been propounded is that such a proceeding would cause a split in the party. After all, the honorable gentleman is admittedly remaining in office, and earning his livelihood, by his wits.
– The honorable senator will never earn his livelihood in that way.
– I wish that the Minister of Defence would speak in a louder tone, because I am anxious to hear his interjections. They are so exceedingly helpful to me.
– He is more in need of grace than is the honorable senator.
– I am not in need of grace, nor do I fear anything that the Minister may say on this matter. The Prime Minister continued -
Only by the straining of the Standing Orders and such like methods were they able to hold on at all.
What a confession to make ! What audacity it is for the Government to bring down these two trivial measures for the purpose of securing a double dissolution upon them, or, for the matter of that, a single dissolution. The excuse urged by the Prime Minister would make any self-respecting man exclaim, “ I will throw up the sponge. The position is altogether too disreputable. It is too bad a spectacle to present to the people of Australia - that of a Prime Minister living on his vits and holding on to office by the skin of his teeth.” Then I find that, on the 10th February last, at the Lord Mayor’s luncheon, the Attorney-General said -
He, for one, could not enter upon another session with the parties in the state they were at present.
Yet the fact remains that he has entered upon another session with the parties in the state they were last year. Surely there is still left in our political life some regard for truth? If the Minister of Defence had made such a statement, would he be on the Ministerial bench today ? But we have not heard anything of the resignation of the AttorneyGeneral. That gentleman continued -
When the Government, last year, adopted the practice of applying the closure, and the unusual expedient of shelving motions of censure, it was with the knowledge that the position could not remain as it was, and that there must be a dissolution.
When a Government have to adopt the unusual expedients of shelving motions of censure, and of expelling members, I am prompted to exclaim, “ Have pity upon them, O Lord,” for they have descended to the lowest depths of degradation in order to retain their positions. The worst feature of the matter is that their consciences have become so callous that they are’ indifferent to the depths which they plumb. It is bad enough for a man to be bad, but it is infinitely worse for him to be bad and not -to know it.
– We cannot fail to know it from the way in which the honorable senator is talking.
– I hope that. my remarks will prove helpful to the Minister. The Government have always had the idea in their heads of getting a dissolution, but it is only from the speeches of others that we can ascertain clearly what the real meaning of this business has been. The honorable member for Lilley said at Gympie -
The Federal Parliament would meet on the 15th April for the express purpose of causing a double dissolution.
Yet when I look at the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, I find that the Federal Parliament met for the express purpose of expediting public business! Which voice must we listen to ? Are we to believe the voice of Ministers and their supporters when they go out into the country, or their voice as uttered through the .” megaphone “ of the Governor-General’s
Speech ? We cannot assume that the GovernorGeneral, when he was here, was not speaking the truth. What, then, becomes of the consistency of the Government who are responsible for what the Governor-General says, and responsible at the same time for their public statements? The Government Whip, speaking at Murwillumbah on the 7th February, before Parliament met-
– Are you aware that Mr. Greene has denied ever speaking at that place?
– He is reported in the newspapers-
– When that matter was brought up in another place, Mr. Greene said that he had never spoken at Murwillumbah.
– Will he say that he has never used these, words in public ?
– What paper are you quoting from, and what is the date?
– Never mind the name of the paper. Is the honorable senator prepared to say that Mr. Greene has not used these words ?
– Is the honorable senator quoting from Hansard?
– I am not quoting from Hansard. The Government Whip used certain words in public on a certain day. If he denies the report, I accept his denial.
– Tell me the name of the paper you are quoting from, so that I can put the matter before Mr. Greene.
- Mr. Greene has had an opportunity of seeing this before, aud has not denied its accuracy.
– Is it not fair to own up that you do not know the name of the paper ?
– Is the Minister prepared to say that Mr. Joseph Cook did not make the statements that I attributed to him ? If not, the assumption is that the other members, including the Government Whip, made the statements attributed to them. If he has not denied them, it is clear proof that he made them.
– I ask you for the name of the paper in which the report appeared.
– I will supply the honorable senator with full information later on . I am not going to give it to him now. It does not matter where the statements were. made.
– It is only fair in public controversy if you read a quotation from an authority to give the name of that authority. What is the name of the paper that reported Mr. Greene?
– The honorable senator is very clever. If he had been a railway contractor he would have been an adept at making side-tracks. Will the honorable senator deny that Mr. Greene uttered these words in public -
The Cook Ministry, when it took office, did so with the deliberate intention of appealing to the country.
Did they, or did they not?
– I am glad of that admission. Mr. Greene also said -
They had made up their minds-
Is that correct ?
– Yes. We always have our minds made up.
– to secure a double dissolution. Is that correct ?
– When it is necessary, as it is now.
– Why is it necessary now ?
– Because of the conflict between the two Houses.
– But it has been finally settled that there is no real conflict between the two Houses. The Government, therefore, have created a position which is constitutionally unsound.
– Who is to be the judge of that?
– If the honorable senator has read much about constitutional history, he cannot be prepared to say that ‘those two test Bills create the position of dead-lock that was contemplated by the framers of the Constitution. The general public would condemn the Labour party most strongly if they attempted anything like what the present Government are attempting. There would be no language in the dictionary severe enough for Senator Millen to use against us if we did what the Government are doing now. The honorable senator, therefore, ought to condemn himself and his Government for making up their minds, as he and other Ministers admit that they have done, to create a position which will bring about a double dissolution. They have presupposed that the GovernorGeneral would grant it on those terms. Can my honorable friend deny that?
– I do not presume to say what the Governor-General will do.
– .The Government have created a position which- is a barricade against the expediting of public business, and involves a waste of the time of Parliament.
– If is your friends over there that are wasting time.
– If an evil thing is introduced in this Parliament, it is our duty to resist it. That is all that we can do on this question.’ The honorable senator knows that the whole of the press of Australia is on the side of his party. We have no means like they have of getting our views before the people. The fact remains that the Government have created the present position with the definite object of bringing about a double dissolution. They made up their minds to do it when they took office, and all the way through they have been conniving at a deliberate attempt to undermine the Constitution.
– What is wrong with it if they did ?
– I will tell the honorable senator. The framers of the Constitution intended that there should be a balance of political power, not of party power. I believe they were entirely oblivious of parties, Labour or Fusion, when they framed the instrument for the Federal government of Australia. The evil of the action of the Government lies in this, that for purely party purposes they are using the constitutional machine in a way that will lead to its absolute destruction.
– Will not that difficulty be remedied if your party agree to pass the Bills? /
– The honorable senator has no right to ask us to do what he himself would not do. The honorable senator has admitted that there is evil in the present situation. That evil must lie at the door of the Government for introducing these measures, and not at our door for resisting them. Those who have been responsible for the Bills must take the blame, and bear the contumely of the people for introducing them. We deserve neither blame nor contumely for resisting them. I am prepared to answer to my electors for anything I have done here. I do not fear to meet them, nor do I want the honorable senator to assume that we are here simply to stave off a dissolution.
– The majority of your party think so.
– The honorable senator is quite wrong. Our party are convinced that to pass these measures simply to stave off a dissolution would be wrong. We would rather meet the electors, if it is necessary, and let them settle this question than be pointed at as dreading a dissolution. We need not dread it; we have done no wrong. Honorable senators opposite have far more cause to dread it than we have. The Speaker himself, who should be above party, but who, I suppose, has the right as a private member to express his views, is reported to have said -
The only thing we can hope for is that circumstances may work in the direction of bringing about a double dissolution.
The honorable member wants circumstances to bring it about. The whole of this business has been built up with a view to bringing about an artificial dead-lock, and yet we are supposed to have met to expedite public business. We are used to having a great many evil things said about us. We have been called Socialists and Anarchists.
– Are you not Socialists ?
– I am a Socialist.
– Then why complain about it?
– I do not complain on that ground, if the ordinary dictionary meaning of the term is all that is intended. But if Continental Socialism is suggested the position is entirely different. Will Senator Oakes deny that, iu common with other members of the party to which he belongs, he has tried to make us responsible ‘ for the doctrines of Continental Socialism ?
– I take the objective as defined by Mr. Chris. Watson - complete State Socialism.
– My honorable friend will get a proper definition if he will consult a work recently published by Mr. Snowden, M.P.
– I do not know anything about snow.
– I. commend the honorable senator to read Socialism and Syndicalism, recently published by Mr. Snowden. It will broaden his mind considerably. The honorable senator does not deny that he has tried to attach to the Labour party in Australia, I will not say the ethics, but the practice and beliefs of Continental Socialists.
– I say that the honorable senator’s party wants full and complete State Socialism.
– I should like my honorable friend to define what he means by State Socialism. Does he object to State Socialism ?
– Let the honorable senator wait until the referenda proposals are brought on, and I shall tell him.
– That is not an answer to my question. I know not where my honorable friend may dwell, but I venture to say that every letter he posts is carried to its address by the employés of a socialistic post-office. Every telegram he sends is conveyed along a socialistic telegraph line. I venture to say that he did not reach this Parliament without riding in a socialistic train, and if in doing so he met with an accident, it is possible that he would take advantage of the opportunity to be treated in a socialistic hospital. The honorable sena-. tor no doubt lias a motor car in which he rides along roads that are socialistically maintained, and to quench his thirst he takes water supplied to him from a socialistic reservoir. In spite of all this, my honorable friend will stand upon a platform and denounce Socialism. He moves, breathes, and has his being in Socialism, and were he removed to some place in which he would be deprived of all these socialistic advantages, which come to him as a boon and a blessing through life, he would say, “ Take me back to a Socialist State.” These are the gentlemen whom we hear prating about Socialism. I am sorry to have to say to my honorable friend, who is such a genial, good-hearted man, that he does not know the A B C of Socialism.
– I shall read Snow when the winter comes on. Perhaps he will enlighten me.
– Snowden is the writer I referred to, and not Snow. 1 have here one of the first pamphlets that were circulated in South Australia on the subject of Socialism. This is the document which the late Mr. Tom Price held in his hand at Mount Gambier one night when a great stir was created. I handed it to Mr. Price on that occasion, and he handed it back to me. This is the thing which he denounced in such strong terms, and I say now, emphatically, that it is an absolute and gross misrepresentation of the Labour party. Yet this Is one of the publications which are fathered by the Liberals. Is there no ethical standard amongst Liberals to prohibit them from bearing false witness against their neighbours? Are they so dead to all thebest traits of human nature as to circulate a thing of this kind? I have here also another of their celebrated pamphlets which was used to win an election. It is one of the vilest things that any party could issue. It is a diabolical misrepresentation, and endeavours to charge a man with something of which he was absolutely guiltless. This pamphlet was circulated in South Australia in hundreds on the eve of an election. It represents the Honorable J. “Verran taking a mask from his face, and so disclosing the face of a murderer, who has in his teeth a knife dripping with blood. This is one of the things fathered by the Liberal Union in order to gain an election. A party that requires to depend for support upon such things should be condemned by all right-thinking people, and every man who has a spark of humanity, and any idea at all of ethical conduct, should forsake such a political institution. I have here also a card that was issued at election time. The first time I saw a card similar to this it was in the hands of a gentleman who occupies a position in the South Australian Ministry. It was taken from the gentleman’s coat pocket surreptitiously as a thing to be shown only in the dark. It differed only from the card I have in my hand in the fact that it was gilt-edged. I believe that this card was circulated throughout Victoria. What was the purpose of it ? Was it to elevate the standard of politics, and to make Parliament respected ?
– What are the words upon it?
– The words are, “To hell with the farmers”! I venture to say that there is no political party that has done more for the farmers than has been done by the Labour party. The words are supposed to be a quotation from a speech by a man who never saw the inside of Parliament, except from the strangers gallery.
– - A similar statement was made in the New South Wales Parliament by a Labour member.
– The honorable senator and his colleagues on the other side were anxious to have something definite.
– Perhaps Senator Oakes’ statement is as true as the statement published on the card.
– The statement published on the card was practically an aside drawn in reply to an interjection, because the man who made the statement did not want the question of the farmers being introduced into the argument he was pursuing at the time. Yet the Liberals made use of that from every platform to convey the impression that the Labour party are opposed to the farmers.
– Let the honorable senator give us the quotation.
– This is the quotation -
To hell with the farmers ! So far as the farmers were concerned, he would blow them up to-morrow if he could.
The term “ blow up “ might be variously interpreted. My mother blew me up at times, but I did not go very far.
– Who made the statement?
– It was made by a gentleman named Mr. B. Bell.
– An obscure member of the Labour party.
– A very obscure member of the party, and one who has sunk into oblivion.
Senator Oakes. If he was obscure, the honorable senator is making a good deal of fuss about him.
– I am not. I am not making a point about the obscurity of this individual, but about the circulation of the utterance of an obscure individual by our honorable friends opposite to accomplish their political ends.
– That statement was published by every Fusion journal in Tasmania.
– This is the kind of thing upon which the party opposite exists, and the party that exists on this vile stuff is prepared to undermine the Constitution in order to accomplish its end. That is the point I make, and my honorable friends opposite cannot escape from it very readily. All these publications are purely defamatory. Our opponents do not circulate statements to combat our views. They do not suggest something better than we propose, but depend entirely upon defamation and vilification. It may be argued that all these things are ancient history, but I find that in the Age of 24th March last, in addressing the council of the People’s party, the Attorney-General is reported to have said -
True Socialism meant the destruction of family ties.
I give that an emphatic denial. I say that there are no more loyal husbands or wives to be found in Australia to-day than are to be found amongst the socalled Socialists.
– I agree with the honorable senator.
– My point is that these untruths are circulated in order to accomplish a certain definite political purpose. Worst of all, to that statement by Mr. Irvine the honorable gentleman’s audience said, “Hear hear!” Having created a certain impression in the minds of the people our friends opposite seek to take advantage of that impression. Mr. Irvine went on to say -
Whether they admitted it or not, these exponents of real Socialism, whom his. Labour friends here were weakly and half-heartedly following, had no film over their eyes. They proclaimed openly that it meant absolutely the destruction of what had hitherto been regarded as the unit of national life. In every country possessing civilization worthy of the name the social system was based on family, on the maintenance of family ties and responsibility. Now it was proposed that these should be farmed out to the State.
I say that such ideas are absolutely foreign to the thoughts of the Labour party. No one who knows the members of the Labour party could for a moment charge them with belief in such doctrines. There has been nothing associated with the Labour party in Australia from which Mr. Irvine could draw such conclusions. I hold that since the advent of the Labour party in Australian politics their influence has tended to elevate rather than to debase society. If we enter our legislative halls in Australia to-day, I say, without wishing to make invidious comparisons, we shall find that the influence of Labour has been to make politics purer and raise their tone in every way. When we go forth amongst the people in the different States we find that the effect of Labour teaching has been not to demoralize, but to uplift. It is unfortunate that a gentleman occupying the position of Attorney-General should associate himself with the infamous pamphlets that have been circulated in Australia solely for the purpose of defaming the Labour party in order that their opponents might secure a snatch political victory. I will go even farther than that. There is a much more serious thing hanging over our heads if the present Government should be retained in power. I desire to utter a word of warning to my honorable friends on the other side, though, perhaps, they may say that there is no need. I predict that if the Liberal party should ever gain power in the Commonwealth - which God forbid they should - the system of old-age pensions will go.
– Who brought it in?
– It was brought in by the Deakin Government, backed up by the Labour party, who compelled them to start the payment of the pensions twelve months before they otherwise would have done.
– Who brought in the system in all the States?’
– Before it was established for the Commonwealth, the old-age pension system was not in force in South Australia and Tasmania, so that it could not have been in force, as the honorable senator says, in all the States. Does he know that long before it was introduced into any State it was on the platform of the Labour party? It was the point towards which they were aiming, and every goal they made tended to make its introduction possible. By the imposition of the Federal land tax, the Labour party pointed out to the Deakin Government that the way had been made possible for instituting a scheme of oldage pensions in the Commonwealth.
– Did not the Deakin party try to block the Surplus Revenue Bill, which was the means of bringing about old-age pensions ?
– Absolutely, they did. lt was not until the Labour party presented an ultimatum to the Deakin party, and made them fearful of losing their Ministerial positions, that the introduction of the principle was made possible. To the Labour party belongs the sole credit of instituting the payment of old-age pensions. Indeed, it is the only bulwark that stands between the maintenance of the system and its annihilation.
– If you talk long enough, you will begin to believe what you say.
– I searched the records until I became convinced as to the true history of this social movement. If my honorable friend can produce contrary evidence, I shall be prepared to believe; but never do I believe anything except on evidence. It cannot be denied that the present Attorney-General, when he was in the Legislative Assembly of Victoria, moved to reduce the amount of the oldage pensions. It cannot be denied that in a Supply Bill it was proposed to reduce the annual vote for this purpose from £216,000 to £150,000, the effect being to reduce the amount paid per week. It may be said, of course, that this proposal went no farther than an introduction; but, as a matter of fact, a division was called for. Forty-one members voted for the proposed reduction, while thirty-three voted against it, the majority including the present AttorneyGeneral. It should be made known to old-age pensioners that he has always been against old-age pensions. Even at the present time he is reported to be dead against the system, for it was only at Sandringham the other night that he expressed his opposition to it. Unmistakably, it is the Labour party whom oldage pensioners have to thank for the introduction of the system and its preservation.
– Do you know what Government in Victoria first put old-age pensions on their platform ?
– I am not dealing with Victorian politics now.
– It was the McLean Government, of which Mr. W. H. Irvine was Attorney-General.
– Not at all. Twentyfive years ago the Labour party advocated the principle outside, when you were against it.
– Order !
– That is absolutely incorrect.
– You were against the principle twenty-five years ago when I was advocating it in the streets of Melbourne.
– Order ! I ask Senator Barker not to interrupt.
– That is untrue.
– This is very entertaining; but, fortunately for the Labour party, the public records show that my remarks are absolutely correct. It is of no use for the Minister to endeavour to get behind my impeachment, or to attempt to take the sting out of it. I hope that the truth will fasten itself upon the minds of those who, unfortunately, are dependent upon the old-age pension. I know that again and again in South Australia the Liberals said to the old people, ‘ ‘ But for the Liberals you would lose your pension.” The pensioners were persuaded that the Liberals were the advocates of the system; but when I came to search the records I found that the very persons in whom the pensioners trusted were those who were likely to lead them to destruction. The GovernorGeneral’s Speech, which tells us that we are met to expedite public business, contains no platform. It is a marvellous thing to have in power a party who have no platform. We never hide our platform under a bushel, because we have no fear as to what the results will be when it is published. Where is the Liberal platform ? Is it in the waistcoat pocket of Senator Oakes, who is smiling genially at me? I think that before any party seek to obtain a double dissolution, they should take the public into their confidence sufficiently to say that if returned they will do this, that, and the other. But the present Government are silent on this point. Where is their platform, I should like to know ? It is not here from want of repeated attempts to formulate one. In May, 1912, for instance, there was a convention held to form a platform, and certain decisions were come to. These decisions were based upon the resolutions of a conference held in the previous year. Here is the fighting platform to which Mr. Deakin referred on a memorable occasion. According to the Argus of 24th May, 1912, he said -
In deciding upon that policy, the conference used as a basis the platform which was suggested at a conference held during the previous November.
It will be seen that we have got a long way farther back than last year. When this platform did come out, it met with a rather peculiar reception. Mr. Deakin went forth and proclaimed that -
The Liberal programme was filled with about a dozen important propositions, having in view the future of this country….. Hera was a bold policy from the Liberal party,
It was the first time, I think, that the Liberal party ever have been bold. Hera was a policy - of bold contour -
Any one who saw that phrase would declare immediately that it was a piece of Deakinism - comprehensive, vital, and national in character.
I am sure that a platform like that would be hailed with jubilation everywhere.
The Liberals were proud of it -
Some of them, not all of them - and pledged to put it into force at the earliest opportunity.
Is it in force ? Where are their pledges ?
– Later on in the year.
– That is the answer of the old procrastinator over there - ab a more convenient season. The two senators on the Treasury bench, Senators McColl and Oakes, were pledged! to carry this platform into effect. Two years have gone by, but the platform has not yet seen the light) of day. Months ago it was announced with a flourish of trumpets. A big drum proclaimed its coming, and, for all I know, guns roared to tell us of its approach. The orators said that ib was a policy of “ bold contour, comprehensive, vital and national in character,” and that the Liberals were proud of it. Are they proud of it to-day 2 Have they evinced any pride ? They are ashamed, apparently, that the platform has not seen the light of day. It is still hidden in darkness. They are ashamed of the future. They seem as though they want the nation to forget the platform. Some persons may say that the Liberal party have a platform. But how do I know whether they have or not? Again and again have I not challenged them to produce a platform, even offered a reward for its production ? But no platform is forthcoming. Here is a political party with views that are as misty and nebulous as the belt of Orion. I am criticising a party who exist practically on a .nebulous policy, a policy that has never been brought down until it could be crystallized into a single sentence.
– “ A necklace of negatives.”
– Even the “necklace of negatives “ policy has not been presented yet. That the GovernorGeneral will grant a double dissolution to a party of this character is absolutely unthinkable. Just before the last elections, Mr. Irvine got hold of the Liberal platform and made mincemeat of it pretty quickly. In the Age of 3rd June, 1912, he is reported to have said -
This fighting programme appeared to have been arrived at by the simple process of elimination, by taking out of it anythingthat could offend the susceptibilities of any one.
What would a platform be like when there had been taken out of it all the things that could offend the susceptibilities of any one ? What would such a platform be worth ? It would be worth the acceptance of nobody.
– It would be like sausage-meat then.
– The interjection of my honorable friend reminds me of a certain gentleman who had been living upon a vegetable diet for some time, and who resolved to purchase some sausages. He took them home and ordered that they should be cooked. The domestic inquired how she should cook them, and was told that they were to be dealt with in the same way as fish. Next morning the sausages were duly produced for breakfast, the cook remarking, “I am afraid that there will not be much for you, sir. There is very little left when the inside is taken out.” So in connexion with theGovernment policy, there is very little to offend anybody. Later on Mr. Irvine stated -
All the bones have been carefully removed, and nothing left but a kind of gelatinous compound, political food for infants and invalids.
I wonder if the honorable gentleman is living on that food to-day. Knowing that the Liberal party consists only of political infants, they are supplied with this “ gelatinous compound “ to keep them from starvation. Here is a political party which claims the suffrages of half the electors of Australia, and which, nevertheless, is fed like infants. Mr. Irvine added -
There is nothing to excite the slightest in convenience to the weakest digestion.
Could he proclaim anything to be more nauseating than that ? Yet he is existing upon that food, and so is the Liberal party, although their number has become very attenuated. Speaking at Moonee Ponds on 28th January, 1913, Mr. Watt, the Premier of Victoria, said -
As a member of the Liberal party, I say that if it does not proclaim itself at these elections it does not deserve success.
Thereupon, the Prime Minister became angry, and said -
The Liberal party has received some advice from the Premier of Victoria, who was very anxious that it should do something that would lead it somewhere.
Does not that seem a rather laughable situation ? Is this celebrated Liberal Union so idle that it requires to be stirred up by Mr. Watt to do something? It does nothing and goes nowhere. Yet this is the party which proposes to introduce legislation to undermine the Constitution. The Prime Minister further said -
He could not take Mr. Watt’s advice, because it would split the party, and that was the only thing he had not the slightest intention of doing.
The Liberal party reminds me of a shaky old cask with the hoops so rusted, and the staves so shrunken, that if it be touched it will fall to pieces. It hides its policy because it fears to split the party. I ask leave to continue my remarks on a future date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator McColl) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I wish to direct attention to a matter arising out of a reply given by the Vice-President of the Executive Council to a question which I put to him to-day. My question related to the letting of a contract for clearing at the Kalgoorlie end of the transcontinental line. The Vice-President of the Executive Council informed me that no tenders were called for that work for the reason that it was not usual to call for tenders for works of such a minor character. I wish to show that that work is not a minor one. Upon the 7th May, I asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs -
The Vice-President of the Executive Council replied -
If none of these conditions is satisfied, it follows that the contract is one for the earthworks for the whole of the line on the Western Australian side of the South Australian border.
– At 4s. 6d. per cubic yard?
– No; at the rates specified. Unless the platelayers catch up to Mr. Morris, that gentleman will have obtained a contract for the earthworks for the whole of that line within the State of Western Australia without any tenders having been called.
– I wish to emphasize the point which has been raised by Senator Pearce. The contract is really one, not merely for all the earthworks on the Western Australian end of the railway, but also for a portion of those works in South Australia until the parties working at either end of that line meet. The contract stipulates prices which, although they are less than those being paid to Mr. Teesdale Smith, are higher than were paid when the Government were carrying out this undertaking by day labour. They are sufficiently high to enable higher rates of wages to be paid by the Government than they have been paying. We all know that the employés on the line in Western Australia are on strike simply because the Government will not pay the same rates as are being paid by a private contractor who does not desire to sweat his men. Thirteen shillings and four pence per day is the minimum rate being paid by him. The fact that the Ministry refuse to pay the wages current on the gold-fields of Western Australia, and have let another contract without calling for tenders, is one more illustration of the beautiful system which they have inaugurated.
– The contract in question was not let without affording an opportunity for competition. The matter is not one which comesunder my supervision, but I am confident that the inference which Senator Pearce has drawn from the statement I made to-day is not correct. I will have inquiries made with a view of giving fuller particulars next week.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 3.58 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 15 May 1914, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1914/19140515_senate_5_73/>.