3 March 1926

10th Parliament · 1st Session

The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.

page 1201


The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon T Givens:

– I have to inform the Senate that I have received a communication from His Excellency the GovernorGeneral enclosing a certificate of the choice of Alexander John McLachlan to fill the casual vacancy in the representation of South Australia in the Senate caused by the resignation of Senator B. Benny. The certificate will be laid on the table, and read by the Clerk.

Certificate read by the Clerk.

Senator McLachlan made and subscribed the oath of allegiance.

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Oil Exploration

Senator POLL brought up the report of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts upon the expenditure on oil exploration, development, refining, &c, in the Commonwealth and Papua, being Part II., comprising shale oil, power alcohol, liquid fuels, &c.

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The following papers were presented : -

Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act - Re port of the Repatriation Commission for the year ended 30th June, 1925.

Commonwealth Railways Act - By-law No. 37.

Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Postal purposes in Queensland at Quilpic.

League of Nations - Sixth Assembly, 7th to 26th September, 1925-

Report of the Australian Delegation. New Guinea - Ordinance No. 6 of 1926 - German Missions.

Norfolk Island - Ordinance No. 2 of 1926- Territorial Waters.

Northern Territory- Ordinance No. 7 or 1926 - Dingo Destruction.

Papua - Ordinances of 1925 -

No. 13- Appropriation 1925-1926, to gether with Estimates of Expenriiture for year ending 30th June, 1926.

No. 14 - Immigration Restriction,

No. 15. - Superannuation.

No. 16 - Native Plantations.

Public Service Act - Regulations amended -

StatutoryRulcs 1926, Nos. 8, 9, 10, and 11.

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sixthassembly:reportofaustralian delegation

Motion (by Senator Pearce) proposed -

That the paper, “League of Nations - Sixth Assembly, 7th to 26th September, 1925: Report of the Australian delegation,” be printed.

Debate (on motion by Senator DrakeBrockman) adjourned.

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Honorary Minister · QUEENSLAND · NAT

– On the 4th February Senator Foll asked the following questions: -

  1. What is the cause of the daisy regarding the construction of telephonic communication at the Ceratodus settlement in the Upper Burnett, Queensland?
  2. Is he aware whether great inconvenience exists there in consequence of lack of telephonic communication ?
  3. Will he give instructions to ensure that this work be immediately proceeded with?

The Postmaster- General was not then in a position to reply, and promised to make inquiries. He finds that telephone communication was provided at Ceratodus in August, 1925, and presumes that the honorable senator’s questions have reference to the establishment of communication with Abercorn. The economics of this proposal would not justify the erection of a departmental line at present, but pending further developments arrangements are being made for the railway circuit between these places to be made available for public use.

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Senator GRAHAM:

asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -

  1. Under what Statute and by what authority were deportation proceedings taken against Paul Freeman ?
  2. What was the name ofthe boat on which he was deported?
  3. How many times did that boat return to Australia with Paul Freeman on board ?
  4. What was the ultimate result of these deportation proceedings, and where was Paul Freeman landed ?
  5. What was the total cost in connexion with the Paul Freeman case ?
Senator PEARCE:
Minister of Home and Territories · WESTERN AUSTRALIA · NAT

– The Prime Minister has supplied the following re plies to the honorable senator’sques- tions -

  1. The ‘‘order of deportation,” dated 24th December, 1918, for the deportation of Paul Freeman, was issued by the Minister for Defence under the Aliens Restriction Order 1915, an order made under the War Precautions Act 1914-1915.
  2. Sonoma.

  3. Twice.
  4. Finally interned at the German Concentration Camp, Holdsworthy, New South Wales, and eventually sent to Germany by the s.s. Valencia on the 10th October.1919. under the “ Order of Deportation “ referred to in 1 above as a German subject.
  5. Approximately £30.

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Assent to the following bills reported : -

Railways (South Australia) Agreement. Bill.

Oodnadatta to Alice Springs Railway Bill.

Precious Metals Prospecting Bill.

Petroleum Prospecting Bill.

Customs Tariff (Papua and New Guinea Preference) Bill.

Papua and New Guinea Bounties Bill. navigation bill.

Reservation and assent, after reservation, reported. crimes bill.

Bill received from House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Pearce) reada first time.

Senator PEARCE:
Minister for Home and Territories? · Western Australia · NAT

– I move -

That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the second reading of the bill being proceeded with forthwith.

My reason for submitting this motion is that I desire to move the second reading of the bill to-day. i do not intend to ask honorable senators, unless they wish to do so, to proceed with the debate to-day. They may move that the debate be adjourned until to-morrow, but. as we have a very small business-paper today, it would facilitate matters if I had the opportunity to move the second reading forthwith.

Question put.

The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon T Givens:

– There beingan absolute majority of the whole Senate present, and novoicebeingraisedinthenegative,I declare the motion agreed to.

Second Reading

Senator PEARCE:
Minister for Home and Territories · Western Australia · NAT

.. - I move -

That the bill be now read a second time. lt will be seen that this measure deals with four separate subjects. In the first place., it provides for amendments of the criminal code of the Commonwealth. These I do not intend to deal with in detail at the present stage; they can be explained and discussed in committee. Other portions of the bill relate to unlawful associations, revolutionary propaganda, and revolutionary action. He would be a bold man who would say that there is no necessity to take legislative action with regard to unlawful associations. Since the recent war - even before it and certainly during the wai1 - practically every civilized country, has found it necessary to arm itself with some measures with which to combat unlawful associations. It is not the mere declaration by this Parliament that an association is unlawful that makes it so, since there are. certain associations that are unlawful in the sense that their very constitution - their reason of being - is against law and against order. In other words, they declare themselves to be against law and order and against constituted society, and they proclaim their intention to wreck and change existing society, not by constitutional and lawful means, but by revolutionary and unlawful means. That being so, it is surely only in accord with common sense to say that all civilized communities should take measures to protect themselves against these associations that have already declared war upon them. Two associations which fall within the category to which I have referred have already been established in most civilized’ countries, .land certainly have shown themselves in Australia. The first to which I refer is commonly known as the “I.W.W.”- the Industrial Workers of the World, an extraordinary term to apply to such an association, because, if there is one thing it despises and condemns, it is work. The other body is known as the communist party. The Industrial Workers of the World first made their presence felt in Australia during the late war. When

Australia was engaged in (hat struggle, this organization, by word of mouth and printed document, advocated and practised sabotage, the deliberate destruction of property, and interference with commercial enterprise. It sought not only to convert its immediate followers, but also, by its influence, to convert and subvert the trade unions of Australia to the policy of the general strike. In Sydney, during the war, the position became serious. Lives were lost, and buildings were burnt down, and there was more than circumstantial evidence that the fires were due to, and caused by, the emissaries of the Industrial Workers of the World. It became apparent that action had to be taken, and this Parliament, in 1916, passed the Unlawful Associations Act, which remained in operation during the war and for six months after the war period. That act and the effective administration of the law by the Government of New South Wales at that time kept the organization in check, and, for the time being at least, practically stamped it out of existence. Since then, however, the Industrial Workers of the World have renewed their activities and have come out into the open. Any person who visits the Sydney Domain can hear its advocates openly preaching its pernicious and wicked doctrines. I am not alone in my view of this organization. Mr. Lang, the head of the New South Wales Labour Government, has publicly denounced it, declaring it to be 75 per cent, criminal.

Senator Duncan:

– The New South Wales Government recently prosecuted a man for selling the literature of that organization .

Senator PEARCE:

– I come now to the Communist party, which is far more formidable, widespread, and insidious, and, in my judgment, much more dangerous. It is also more powerful, because behind it are the resources of one of the governments of Europe. The Russian Government to-day not only places its imprimatur upon communism, but also gives official support and direction to the spread of communistic doctrines and propaganda wherever it is possible for the emissaries of communism to work. Those emissaries, therefore, work at the direction and instigation, and with the financial and other support of the Soviet Government of Russia. When we know that that Government has recently declared that its object is to bring about world-wide revolution, to overthrow what it calls the capitalistic system in all countries, that it is training and sending out emissaries of every nationality to spread those doctrines which it hopes and believes will bring about, by force and bloodshed, the overthrow of the existing systems of government in all countries, we cannot regard communism as unimportant, or as lacking virility and strength, nor can we judge it merely by its numbers in Australia. We must remember that behind it stands the Soviet Government of Russia with all its resources to help on the nefarious work of communism in every country. I propose to give a case in which we have had actual demonstration of an emissary of communism being sent to Australia by the Soviet Government for the purpose of carrying on communist propaganda. I refer to a man named Zuzenko, whose career is probably well known to many honorable senators, because much of it at different times has appeared in the press. Zuzenko came to Australia, and proceeded to carry on propaganda work in the direct interests of communism. In order to enable him to carry on that work, he got in touch with a section of the trade unions in Australia. From his papers it was afterwards discovered that he was officially recognized by the Soviet Government as its chief emissary in propagating revolutionary doctrines in Australia. For some months this man carried on his work. He endeavoured to subvert the trade unions of Australia, and to use the Labour newspapers for the purpose; and for a time he was partially successful in his efforts. Subsequently, he was arrested and deported. After his deportation and return to Russia, he obtained stolen papers, and, on the strength of those stolen papers and a forged passport, he returned to Australia under another name. For a few weeks he continued his nefarious work until he was again arrested and deported. The archives of the Attorney-General’s Department contain documentary and other evidence of this man’s activities, of his efforts to subvert the trade union movement of this country for revolutionary purposes, of his attempt to use the Labour newspapers of Australia to advocate revolutionary and communistic ideas, and of the measure of success which he attained. When he was deported for the second time, he named as his successor Mr. Considine, then Labour representative for Broken Hill in the House of Representatives, and Mr. Considine made no secret of the fact that he assumed the responsibility of acting in place of Mr. Zuzenko as the representative in Australia of the Soviet Government.

Senator Barnes:

– Are all the Russians who come to Australia emissaries of communism ?

Senator PEARCE:

-No. The Government takes good care that known emissaries of communism are not permitted to enter Australia. The Russians who are coming here are opposed to the bolshevik system in Russia.

The Communist party in Australia was. founded in 1920, on the basis of a manifesto issued by the provisional executive. That manifesto, copies of which are held by the Attorney-General’s Department, is addressed to the workers of Australia, who are invited to prepare for their part in the coming international communist revolution. It” urges that the only way to attain the objective of communism is by forcible revolution. The word “ revolution,” as used in the manifesto, does not mean revolution by peaceful persuasion, but revolution brought about by force and bloodshed. On that point the manifesto is perfectly plain. The method of communism is revolution ; the manifesto says so expressly. The workers are recommended to form groups in every mill, factory, workshop, and field, so that the organization will always be in a position to direct and control, through its members, every industrial dispute and disturbance among the workers, keeping always in mind the same end - social revolution - and utilizing every spontaneous action of the workers to that end. It directs its members to take an active and, wherever possible, a leading part, in every craft or industrial union, and to endeavour to get its members elected to the executives of the various organizations, so that the activities of those organizations may be directed towards a complete social revolution. It endeavours to induce the workers to replace the existing craft unions by more “ up-to-date “ and efficient industrial unions, which will be more advantageous for social revolutionary mass action, as well as the communistic recon- struction of society. I take that from Volume 1, No. 1, of the Australian Communist, published in Sydney. In the list of members of the provisional executive of the Soviet Communist party in Australia appear the names of Mr. W. P. Earsman, of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers ; Mr. J. S. Garden, secretary of the Sydney Trades and Labour Council; Mr. T. Walsh, the general president of the Australian Seamen’s Union; Mrs. Adela Pankhurst Walsh, and others. The Australian Communist also contains an appeal to women, written by Mrs. Adela Walsh. Mr. Earsman,whowas one of the founders of the Victorian Labour College, accompanied Mr. Garden toMoscow as a delegate to the Third International. The constitution of the Communist party was published in Sydney. It is headed “ Headquarters, Communist Hall, 395 Sussex-street, Sydney, New South Wales,” and the “Statutes of the Communist International” appear at the beginning and at the end of the document. The objects of the communist organization are set out to be -

The overthrow of capitalism, the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat, and the International Soviet Republic, the complete abolition of classes, and the realization of socialism - as the first step to communist society.

Senator Gardiner:

– When was that issued ?

Senator PEARCE:

– In 1920. It is also provided in the statutes -

The World Congress of all parties and organizations forming part of the Communist International is the supreme authority of this International.

The greater part of the work and principal responsibility in regard to the Executive Committee of the Communist International devolves upon the party in the particular country, where, in keeping with the regulation of the World Congress, the Executive Committee has its residence for the time being.

Representatives are appointed by the local organization to the executive, and in statute No. 12we read that -

The general condition prevailing in Europe and America makes obligatory upon the communists of the whole world the formation of illegal communist organizations alongside of those existing legally. The Executive Committee has charge of the universal application of this rule.

One of the main objects of this body is the formation of an illegal association. Finally a member of the International journeying to another country has a right to the fraternal support of the local members of the Third International. The name of the bodyis the “ Communist party of Australia - the Australian section of the Third Communist International.” It is organized in groups, with a central executive and a State council. There are provisions for financing and the like. Rule 14, which deals with discipline, provides that -

  1. The party claims from its members loyalty and fidelity to the general will of the organization, and insists upon the subordination of all other interests to the Communist party. It demands, and will insist on, its members imposing a rigid self-discipline, and that they will respond to the party’s demands and needs. . . . (c) Members must at no time lose sight of the fact that the communist organization, as expressed in the Communist party, is of paramount importance, and that all other activity shall be carried out to that one end.

In the instructions for secretaries and members of groups, special attention is paid to spyingwithin the trade unions. Reports of the work of trade unions, and the need for keeping district groups supplied with current information on trade union affairs, are particularly referred to in the constitution of the Communist party. So long as this organization confines its activity to the appointment of committees and such matters, it is not proposed to deal with it. but when it endeavours to incite to violence, or to revolution, then the Government will take the necessary action to suppress the organization.

In order to show that this organization is connected with the Moscow International, and therefore with the Soviet Government, I point out that in 1919 Mr. Garden, whose name I have already mentioned, made the following statement: -

White ants can do more damage to a building than all the gales that blow. The method of the One Big Union is to white-ant the existing craft unions from within, and when we have destroyed their substance we will build up our one big union from the ruins. Our policy to obtain our ends, will be to bore from within, and keep on boring.

Mr. Gardenwent to Moscowwith Mr. Earsman, and after his return -

Senator Gardiner:

-Did the present Government find the money for him to go?

Senator PEARCE:

– It did not.

Senator Gardiner:

– I am gladto have that denial.

Senator PEARCE:

– After Mr. Garden returned he made this statement in regard to communism -

I believe it lias found the keynote to organization so far as the Anglo-Saxon movement is concerned. The Communist party in Australia has a membership of just close on 1,000. and yat it is able to direct close on 400,000 workers -that is>, including 237,000 in the State of Nev South Wales - all organized workers. It also directs 11.0,000 organized workers in Brisbane, Queensland. The Communist party in Australia is based on the nuclei system. Every union has its nuclei from twenty down to two. but every union has its nuclei. All nuclei leaders must meet once a week, and these nuclei leaders the unions discuss the problems of their organizations, the problems of the working class of Australia. In every discussion of problems they formulate “their tactics, and then go out to their various unions, factories, and workshops, and mines, and carry out the policy as directed. The Communist party, along with the leaders of the nuclei, formulates that policy. On every burning: question that affects the working class you will find that the nuclei leaders arc first in the field to give direction to the working claps how to meet the situation. The Labour Council of New South Wales constitutes 120 unions. Vet the Communist party has full control of the executive. Out of the twelve members of the executive eleven are members of the Communist party, and they direct these 120 unions and the policy of each union. We found, also, that by directing our energy inside we were Able to liquidate the Industrial Workers of the World, which was the militant organization of Australia. . . . The Industrial Workers of the World changed their tactics: they came inside with us. and started to co-operate inside the craft unions to break down the craft barriers, and link up all their forces into six great industrial departments throughout Australia . . . and we decided to form a Communist party -

According to- the report of the Labour Council of New South Wales for the year ending 31st December, .1924, 67 unions are represented on the council. The report shows that the representatives of these unions do not love the Labour party. At page 7 it states -

The communist delegates were refused permission to sit as delegates because of their growing to the present leaders of the Labour party, and because of their influence among the masses, which is growing rapidly.

After abusing the Labour party generally, iiic report proceeds -

It can be said of them. “ They are busy ploughing the land for communism, and the Communist party is busy sowing the seed.” Every day the communist issue in politics becomes more and more the main issue. The shadow’ of communism is over the Labour movement. All efforts to banish communism and communists are bound to fail. The good old times of playing at politics are gone. Revolution has stepped upon the stage.

That was addressed to the representatives of 67 trade unions in Sydney, yet we do not find that any union took exception to the terms of the report. Then there is a manifesto on the subject of war, repudiating all external war, and all troubles with foreign nations, in favour of civil war within Australia. It reads -

But just because we wish for lasting peace, we must take up with greater passion, with sacrifice and devotion, the fight against the capitalist social order, a fight which cannot ‘be carried on with fine words and resolutions, but only in the last resort with weapons in the hand.

The Communist party in Australia to-day is a reality. It claims to have a tremendous and growing influence in the community. Its membership is comparatively small, but in view of the serious consequences of its growth we must deal with it early. The organization publishes a newspaper of its own in Australia It regularly produces a journal in Sydney, called the Workers Weekly, a four page newspaper with no advertisements in it. It also produces iti Sydney a sixteen-page monthly called “ The Communist, a journal for the theory and practice of Marxism.”’ One wonders whence the money comes to make it possible to continue this journalistic activity.

Senator McHugh:

– From the National party !

Senator PEARCE:

– My honorable friend says that with hia tongue in his cheek. This journal, in its issue of 5th June, 1925, gives news of the communist activities throughout Australia. It deals with events in, South Australia, Queensland, Tasmania, the coal-fields of New South Wales. Western Australia and Victoria. It sets out lists of the representatives. There are ten groups with the names of the secretaries printed. The journal supports every form of industrial unrest and disturbance irrespective of the merits of the case. It urges the fomenting of every possible source of discontent, because discontent brings nearer the day when the workers will be so dissatisfied that they will undertake a social revolution. The names of some of the persons at the head of these groups make interesting reading. For example, the chairman of the Melbourne group appears to be a Mr. Shelley. He was born in Berlin, and his full name is Joseph Weinman Schelly. He was associated with the activities of the Industrial Workers of the World in Western Australia. Coming to Melbourne, he became chairman of the Communist party here, and adopted the English and poetic name of “ Shelley.” He apparently has a permanent position as leader of the unemployed. TheWorkers’ Weekly also made appeals to the American sailors, during their visit to Australia, which were certainly inconsistent with the performance of their naval duties. On the 14th August, 1925, a special article explained that the promotion of revolutionary propaganda amongst the alien immigrants was flagging, and that additional workers were required in that promising field. When the strike of British seamen occurred, it presented the Communist party with a magnificent opportunity. A leading article published in the Workers’ Weekly of the 28th August, 1925, was headed “ To Arms, Workers,” and contained a direct incitement to violent revolution. I quote from the Workers’ Weekly of the 28th August, 1925, the following : -

To-day, transport is one of the vital industries. It constitutes the artery alongwhich the life-blood of the modern society (the commodities) must travel.

That statement and the activities of the communists in the British seamen’s strike, are significant, and they are a justification for this bill dealing with certain phases of industrial action.

There has been an attempt to make it appear that the Government intends that this bill shall strike at legitimate industrial agitation and action by legitimate trade unions.

Senator Needham:

– There is no doubt about that.

Senator PEARCE:

– I give that statement a flat contradiction. No one can study the constitution of the Communist party as I have outlined it. and its declared intention to institute certain activities, without realizing that that party does not propose at the outset to bring about revolution by means of armed force, such as would be used in civil war. That may come later. The present intention is that in the early stages its action shall be along industrial lines. If, therefore, Parliament is to remain quiescent because the action taken by communists is of an industrial character, that inaction will only play into the hands of these revolutionaries. They look upon industrial action not as a means of improving the condition of the workers, but as a means of bringing about that chaos and anarchy in society which would be a preliminary to the revolution at which they are really aiming. Therefore, this legislation is aimed not at legitimate trade union action and agitation, but at the use that is being made of the trade union movement by communists to disrupt society, and especially its chief artery - transport. Those who observed what took place during the British seamen’s strike cannot doubt that it was seized upon by the Communist party in Australia for its own purposes. In the first place, it is notorious that that strike was directed by communists. Mr. Tom Walsh, who took a leading part in its propagation and continuance, is a foundation member of the Communist party in Australia.

Senator Gardiner:

– According to his sworn evidence, he is not now a member of the Communist party.

Senator PEARCE:

– He was a foundation member. In that strike he was ably backed up and supported in his activities by Mr. Garden. It is also a fact that that particular strike was accompanied by scenes of violence and the advocacy of violence, entirely foreign to industrial action in Australia. The like of the recent occurrences at Fremantle, Cairns, Gladstone, and Brisbane is, fortunately for us, quite unknown in the history of Australian trade unionism.

Senator Findley:

– There was a more serious outbreak at Fremantle whilst the Nationalist party was in power.

Senator PEARCE:

– I was in Western Australia during the series of actions at Fremantle to which I refer, and I know that they were fomented and carried out by communists, against the advice and the will of the great bulk of the trade unionists of that State. There were no more bitter critics of the action of the communists than the waterside workers of Fremantle, who were wholly opposed to the methods that were adopted by the British seamen, and by Mr. Houghton and other communists who were advising them. Ultimately the position became so desperate that the Collier Labour Government was compelled to arm and send along to the wharf a large body of police. As soon as the State Government showed signs of firmness, and a determination to see that the law was obeyed, the turmoil disappeared like mist before the morning sun, although its previous weakness in handling the situation amounted to an encouragement to the men to continue their unlawful acts.

I come now to another phase of the matter that manifested itself during the British seamen’s strike, and which I deem it my duty to mention in the Senate. There has been growing up in recent years, amongst a certain section of the trade union movement, the impression that trade unions are above the law : that they can, with impunity, conspire to defeat the law ; and that action which, if taken by any other persons in the community, would place them in the dock to answer a very serious charge, can, in the name of trade unionism and industrial action, be taken with impunity. It is a crime to conspire to defeat by force the laws of the country. Yet what occurred during the British seamen’s strike? This Parliament passed certain laws to enable the Government to deal with those revolutionary leaders who, for over twelve months, had been disrupting the commerce of Australia. The influence of those men was exercised, not only in the case of the British seamen’s strike, but also in innumerable cases of job control and local strikes in the Australian shipping industry. After Parliament had passed the law to which I have referred, a conference was held in Sydney. It was attended by men who purported to represent the trade unions of Australia, including members of the Commonwealth Parliament, and, at its termination, it was coolly announced that plans had been made whereby, if the Government dared try to give effect to that law, forcible action would be taken to prevent it from doing so. It is a serious state of affairs when legislators and leaders of any movement think that they are above the law, and when they openly conspire to defeat the law by force. It is obvious that what was in the minds of those who took part in this conference was an endeavour to bring about a ‘general strike. In other words, if the

Commonwealth Government dared to enforce a law which it was authorized by this Parliament to enforce, they would seek by direct action to defeat the Government in its object.

I wish now to discuss statements made in various quarters as to the right to strike. It is said that the trade unions of Australia, in common with those of other countries, enjoy an inalienable right to strike. In my opinion, they have no such right. In my judgment, they gave it up when, by their political action and effort, they placed on the statutebooks of the country a law providing for compulsory industrial arbitration, which made strikes illegal, and provided for the punishment of those who took part in strikes. I have taken the trouble to look up some of the speeches made when the first Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Bill was passing through this Parliament. It is interesting to note the change that has come over the Labour party since the days when it was led by Mr. Chris. “Watson. Speaking on the 6th August, 1903, Mr. Watson said-

In Australia wo have had a very bitter experience of strikes. As an officer of a trade union, I have never advocated strikes. I have always looked upon them - though I was a unionist even prior to the time when I finished my apprenticeship - as a last resort. In the absence of legislation upon industrial matters, and without trade unionism, I believe that the worker would be poorly off indeed, because very frequently, even though a strike may not succeed, the fear of its repetition prevents attacks being made without very considerable reason, and thus minimizes the number of outrageous attempts’ on the part of unscrupulous employers. Therefore, whilst I believe that strikes are necessary under some circumstances. I recognize that, even when they are successful, they inflict such injury on the individuals who are most affected, as well as upon the State as a whole, that we should make any experiment within reason, adopt any expedient, and go to any length rather than suffer their continuance.

All these facts go to show that the voluntary system is not the success which some people would have us believe. . . .

Further, I had doubts at that time as to how we could ensure that a strike would terminate with the pronouncement of any judicial decision. In. this connexion I am. glad to acknowledge that the first inkling which I gained of a satisfactory way out of that difficulty was when Mr. Kingston, and afterwards Mr. Reeves publicly put forward the proposal* to make trade unions responsible before the court, to make their funds responsible, and thus influence their members- With regard to compulsion, I might point out that the whole basis of society rests upon compulsion in one form or another. At any rate, we must adopt the appearance of compulsion if society is to he preserved. Of course, compulsion does not obtrude itself upon our views as such. Why? Because the great majority of the people are law abiding. . . . 1 have been looking through the debates of the last two Labour Congresses held in England, in September, 1001, and September, 1902, and I find that the smaller unions were almost invariably in favour of compulsory arbitration. . . We say that a strike is an injury to the community.

Mr. Watson was speaking for the Federal Labour party. Mr. Hughes, speaking on the 11th August, 1903, said -

I agree with the honorable member for Melbourne, that had there been no Arbitration Act in New South Wales, there would have been a great strike there, and, judging by what happened in 1890 and on other occasions, I believe that it would have extended to the other States. The right of the employer to lock out his men in New South Wales has gone, as has also the right of the employee to strike. Any one who has had experience of unions knows that the right to strike is to the average unionist so priceless a heritage that he can hardly realize that anything could sufficiently compensate him for his loss. Therefore, I do not wonder that some men in England and America should hesitate to accept the opportunity which compulsory arbitration would afford for the settlement of their disputes. At the same time, I desire to point out that the right to strike was abandoned - I shall not say cheerfully - but without any open complaint in New South Wales.

I have quoted the opinions of the then Leader of the Labour party (Mr. Watson), and his very able lieutenant, Mr. Hughes, who was also at that time president of the Waterside Workers Federation. Both of them recognized that, with the bringing in of compulsory arbitration, the trade unions had given up the right to strike.

Senator Findley:

– Since the passing of that measure, Mr. Hughes has led many a strike.

Senator PEARCE:

– That does not make it right to strike. I could also quote from speeches made by Sir George Reid and Mr. Deakin to show that they also recognized that the right to strike had gone, but I pass on to quote from the remarks made by Mr. W. G. Spence, at that time head of the Australian Workers Union. Mr. Spence was one of the founders of trade unionism in Aus tralia, and one of the greatest men the movement has ever produced. He said -

Those who belong to the party with which I am associated, and who from their personal experiences, as well as from their more or less close study of social science, are naturally deeply interested in this measure, cannot but be pleased with the reception with which it has met at the hands of the House. The evidence is that arbitration without compulsion is ineffectual for settling disputes, and that nothing short of compulsion will secure that industrial peace without which no country can prosper.

How can there be compulsion if the unions retain the right to strike? The two things are incompatible. The last quotation I shall make is from a speech delivered during the debate in the House of Representatives by Mr., now Mr. Justice Higgins, who subsequently became the first president of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. He said -

The point is that trades disputes are not the concerns only of those who are immediately engaged in the quarrel. Such disputes affect the public; they affect innocent people, who have nothing whatever to do with them. It is all very well to say that a man should be allowed to do what he likes so long as he does not interfere with any one else: but it cannot be said that trade disputes do not interfere with other people. . . . Personally, I regard this bill as a modus vivendi - a mere working compromise, which is devised to prevent most tragic results. I think that it was well said -

The ample proposition that hope makes

In all designs begun on earth below,

Fails in the promis’d largeness.

Those words were prophetic. Running through the whole of these quotations is the recognition of the compulsory element at the back of the Commonwealth industrial legislation. I desire, however, to make it quite clear that the purpose of this bill is not to remedy any omission from our arbitration law. It is not a law to inflict punishment in respect of strikes because of any laxity in our arbitration legislation. I am not justifying it as a bill to deal with strikes in the ordinary sense - that will be covered by an arbitration bill to be submitted later on - but I am endeavouring to show that the communists of Australia have seized upon the trade unionists to bring about a new class of strikes - revolutionary strikes. Mr. Walsh has publicly stated that the strikes which recently affected the shipping industry of the Commonwealth were intended not to increase wages or shorten hours, but to wreck the existing capitalistic system. It is therefore a new class of strike which we have under consideration. That class of strike which Parliament contemplated dealing with by setting up an Arbitration Court is one. in which the workers and employers quarrel over rates of wages or hours of labour, the one party to a dispute seeking to get more than the other party is willing to concede. In quarrels of that description the Arbitration Court intrudes as a means of bringing about- a just settlement. The other class of strike does not como within that category. It is plainly intended to create revolution, and it is the leaders in that class of strike, or lookout, as the case may be, at which this bill is aimed. It deals not with the ordinary industrial trouble, but with that industrial trouble which has for its end and aim nothing but revolution. I quote from the report and balance-sheet of the Labour Council of New South Wales, dated 31st December, 1925, the following -

A special meeting of the council was held to consider the recommendation of the executive relative to the policy to he supported by the unions at the annual Labour party conference.

I quote this, because when we speak of Mr. Garden and the communists, our friends opposite say that these men have no connexion with the Labour party.

Senator Gardiner:

– They have no more connexion with the Labour party than the honorable senator has.

Senator PEARCE:

– We have been pointing out that the communists have been boring into and white-anting the unions, which are the basis of the organization on which the Labour party is built, and here we are informed that a special meeting of the Sydney Labour Council was called to consider the recommendations of the executive relative to the policy to be supported by the unions at the annual Labour Conference. Of the twelve members of that executive, eleven are declared communists. At the conference in question the policy of the Labour party was to he framed. Here was an organization, affiliated with Moscow, about to consider the recommendation of the executive of the Labour Council of .New South Wales as to the line of action to be taken by the unions at the conference. After attacking the decision to exclude communists from the Labour party, the report of the Labour Council of New South Wales says - -

Every day the communist issue in politics becomes more and more the main issue. . . .

The shadow of communism is over the Labour movement. . . .

Revolution has stepped upon the stage.

On pages 14 and 15 of the report appears a resolution mourning the death of Nikolai Lenin iu Russia. This resolution was carried, the delegates standing and singing “ The Red Flag.” According to statements appearing on pages 24 and 25 of the report, in the manifesto of the council of “ war “ appeal’s the following:

But just because we wish for lasting peace we must take up with greater passion, with sacrifice and devotion the fight against the capitalist social order, a fight which cannot be carried on with fine words and resolutions, but only in the last resort with weapons in the hand.

As these sentiments appear iu the annual report of the organization it is to be presumed that they express the views of those who comprise the Labour Council of New South Wales. In these circumstances, can anyone believe that this body is anything but revolutionary or friendly to communism? If there is any doubt on this point, Australia has had during the last two years irrefutable evidence of those sentiments being put into practice, and of a revolutionary strike being brought about as part of the weapon used by this organization. The Government contends that the Commonwealth must be armed to protect itself against this movement, because wherever it makes its appearance, and whether or not it receives the support of the Labour party, it is destructive of the Commonwealth as it exists to-day. The Communist party and the Labour party have one thing in common, and that is the plank in their platform for the socialization of the means of production, distribution, and exchange. But the difference between them in this regard is that whereas the Labour party seeks to achieve that object by constitutional methods, the Communist party declares that it will obtain it by revolutionary action. There is a difference in method, but not a difference in the object sought to be achieved. Nobody can quarrel with any organization, no matter how fantastic its ideas may be, provided it is prepared to attain its ideals by constitu tional action. But the people of the Commonwealth would be very foolish if they saw two powerful organizations in this country with a common ideal - one declaring that it proposed to achieve its object by revolution, and the other by constitutional means - and if, seeing evidence of the organization on which the political body was built being prostituted and used for revolutionary purposes, they hesitated to take legal means to defend the Commonwealth merely because it might be imputed that such action was being taken solely for political purposes. Is not that the whole sum and substance of the attack that the Government has to meet from the Opposition benches ? We are accused of introducing this bill for political purposes. Should we sit supinely by, because of this imputation, and allow the organization which openly declares that it is whiteanting the movement which stands at the back of honorable senators opposite, to continue its poisonous propaganda ?

Senator Needham:

– Deal with it.

Senator PEARCE:

– We propose to deal with it. It is obvious, however, that our present legislation is defective.

Senator Gardiner:

– Will the Government deport Messrs. Walsh and Garden if this bill is passed ?

Senator PEARCE:

-Yes. if they offend. It is a well-known principle of British justice that when a man has once been tried and found not guilty of an offence, he cannot be again tried for that same offence. I am not now speaking of Mr. Garden.

Senator Gardiner:

– Then if Mr. Walsh behaves himself he will not be deported.

Senator PEARCE:

– No; but if he offends against this law he will be subject to this law. This legislation is not aimed at a particular individual, but at all persons who offend against it.

Senator Gardiner:

– I thoughtthat the mandate that the Government secured at the last election was to deport certain individuals.

Senator PEARCE:

– The honorable senator is welcome to any comfort he can secure from that small point. The fact is that to-day revolutionary propaganda is carried on, not only by unlawful associations, but also by individuals. One of the means adopted is most unworthy, and despicable. There is no more despicable organization in Australia than one that proceeds to corrupt the minds of the young people of this country and to produce class hatred. Surely it should be sufficient to allow adults to settle this dispute but we find that there are Sunday schools devoted to the propagation of class hatred. Those who teach in such schools will come within the scope of this measure. The Government does not intend to place this measure on the statute-book and to allow it to remain there unused. It is intended to take action under it whenever such action is justifiable.

Senator Gardiner:

– Does the bill deal with the Sunday schools to which the Minister has referred ?

Senator PEARCE:

– Yes. We hope by the strict and fearless administration of this law, backed up as it is by the overwhelming mass of public opinion in this country, to be able to save Australia from the revolutionary forces at work in our midst. In no part of the world should talk of revolution be heard of less than in Australia. Here we have the ballot-box open to all adults. This Parliament is elected on the freest franchise in the whole world. There should surely be no need to talk of revolution in Australia.

Senator Findley:

– Then whytalk about it? It is so much piffle.

Senator PEARCE:

– Why does not the honorable senator and his friends talk to Mr. Shelley, whose head-quarters are. I understand, at the Trades Hall, and also to Miss Shelley, and urge them to cease their foolish propaganda ?

Senator Needham:

– Why do you not put an end to it ?

Senator PEARCE:

– Why does not the party opposite urge the body to which I refer to cease its foolish propaganda in this country ? I ask honorable senators to agree to the second reading of the bill, feeling sure that they will pass it, and I give them my assurance that the Government will administer it.

Debate (on motion by Senator Gardiner) adjourned.

page 1211


Message received from the House of Representatives, intimating that it had passed the following resolution, in which it desired the concurrence of the Senate : -

That a Joint Committee be appointed to inquire into the law and procedure in relation to

enrolment on the Commonwealth electoral rolls;

postal voting at Commonwealth elections ;

signed articles;

polling facilities;

donations or gifts by members or candidates; and to report on any additional safeguards necessary to prevent impersonation and duplicate voting.

That four members of the House of Representatives be appointed to serve on such committee.

That the committee have power to send for persons, papers, and records, to move from place to place, and to sit during any adjournment of the Parliament.

That a message be sent to the Senate requesting its concurrence, and asking that four members of the Senate be appointed to serve upon the said committee.

Ordered -

That the consideration of the message be an order of the day for the next day of sitting.

page 1212


Proposed New Standing Order

Senator PEARCE:
Minister for Home and Territories · Western Australia · NAT

.- I move-

That the proposed new standing order recommended in the report from the Standing Orders Committee, presented to the Senate on 11th February, 1926, be adopted.

Honorable senators will remember that on the 3rd September, 1925, the Senate carried the following motion: -

That the Standing. Orders Committee be requested to submit for the consideration of the Senate additional standing orders for the limitation of debate on any bill declared by the Senate tobe an urgent bill, in respect of initial stages, second residing, committee stage, any particular clause or clauses, any part or parts of the bill, and remaining stages, and such consequential standing orders or amendments of the present Standing Orders as the committee may think necessary to giveeffect to these proposals.

I now ask that the recommendation of the committee be adopted. It practically embodies the guillotine provision which is in operation in the House of Representatives, the British House of Commons, and many other deliberative assemblies. Although the words “ limitation of debate “ are used, I venture to say that in reality if this standing order is administered in a common-sense way, it will not lead to any limitation of debate, but will rather give assistance in debate to honorable senators on both sides of the chamber. The present arrangement is most unjust. The Government can now move, “ That the Senate do now divide,” and if that motion is carried the debate is brought to an end. But if an active minority desires to block the passage of a measure, which it knows the majority wishes to pass, it can occupy practically the whole time allowed for debate, and the only weapon in the hands of the Government is the “ gag,” by which the mouths of its own supporters are shut, and the whole field of debate is in the hands of those who are opposed to the measure. Under the guillotine provision a reasonable time is allowed for the discussion of a bill or motion, and, that time having been fixed, each side alternately can put forward its speakers, and all aspects of the matter can be debated. This is fair to the majority as well as to the minority. It is much fairer than the application of the “gag,” which often excludes useful contributions, and permits what is practically a waste of time by honorable senators who merely talk against time. I feel sure that the proposal will commend itself to the Senate. The Government has no intention to employ it to improperly curtail debate or to prevent the proper ventilation of any item of business. It merely desires to protect the interests of the majority in the Senate against the minority. It is considered that the majority should have the same right under the Standing Orders as that now possessed by the minority.

Senator NEEDHAM:
Western Australia

– I hope that the Senate will reject this motion. Although I have every respect for the Standing Orders, it seems to me that the concluding words of the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce), in commending the motion to us, afforded sufficient reason why we should hesitate before adopting the new standing order- The honorable senator stated that it would be fairer to adopt the guillotine process than to apply Standing Order No. 281, which is known as the “ gag.” I do not agree with him, because the proposed new standing order would create the very danger that the Minister thinks would be avoided. I can imagine honorable senators occupying their full time of one hour each on the second reading of a bill. By the time they have exhausted the period certain honorable senators may easily have been deprived of an opportunity to express their views on a subject of which they have a very close knowledge. To my mind, this limitation is unnecessary. We have 36 honorable senators, none of whom unnecessarily debates any measures brought forward. Even if any were disposed to do that, sufficient power to limit debate exists under other standing orders. No honorable senator may speak for more than one hour on the second reading of a bill, unless granted an extension of time; and in committee there is a limitation of fifteen minutes. Often the Senate has no business before it, and that due to the expeditious manner in which its work is done. We have just resumed after an adjournment of three weeks, and it is Strang’: that we are now asked to agree to a standing order limiting the time allowed for the discussion of business. The reason for the introduction of this motion is that the Minister, no doubt, became tired last session of the application of the “ gag “ when certain measures were before us. At frequent intervals we had the spectacle of the Leader of the Government in the Senate moving “ That the question be now put.” That continued until he became ashamed of himself. To save himself from that ignominious position, he suggested a new standing order. That standing order, which is worth examining, commences -

When a motion for leave to introduce a bill is called on, or when a message is received from the House of Representatives transmitting a bill for concurrence, or at any other stage of a bill, a Minister may declare that the bill is an urgent bill, and move “ That the bill be considered an urgent bill,” and such motion shall be put forthwith, no debate or amendment being allowed. If the motion be agreed to without dissentient voice or be carried by an affirmative vote of not less than thirteen senators, a Minister may forthwith, or at any time during any sitting of the Senate or committee, but not so as to interrupt a senator, who is addressing the Senate or committee, move a further motion or motions specifying the time which (exclusive of any adjournment or suspension of sitting, and notwithstanding anything contained in any other standing order or any sessional order) shall be allotted to all or any of the following: -

  1. The initial stages of the bill up to, but not inclusive of, the second reading of the bill;
  2. The second reading of the bill;
  3. The committee stage of the bill:
  4. The remaining stages of the bill; and the order with regard to the time allotted to the committee stage of thebill may, out of the time allotted, apportion a certain time or times to a particular clause or clauses, or to any particular part or parts of the bill.

Under that standing order thirteen senators will be able to determine the period to be allowed for the discussion of an important measure. That is not right. It should not be within the power of a little more than one-third of the members of this Senate to determine the time to be taken in discussing any measure. Nor should it be within the province of any Minister to say how long a debate on any subject shall last. Again, we find that a certain period may be allotted for the consideration of certain clauses or parts of a bill. It may happen that after the second-reading debate an entirely new position confronts the committee. Honorable senators may be endeavouring to obtain information to assist them, but which may not be obtainable in the Library. Yet the bill will be put through without their having the opportunity to put that additional information before the committee. That is not right. The proposed new standing order also provides that-

Standing Orders 281, 431, and 433 shall not apply to any proceedings in respect of which time has been allotted inpursuance of this standing order.

Standing Order 281, which enables any honorable senator to move “ That the Senate do now divide “ or “ That the committee do now divide,” provides ample opportunity for the limitation of debate. It gives the Leader of the Government in this chamber sufficient time to make up his mind as to what is a reasonable period for the discussion of a bill. Whether he considers that one or more days should be devoted to a measure, Standing Order 281 is sufficiently comprehensive to meet all that is required. I wish to make it clear that I. do not agree with Standing Order 281. To me it is obnoxious. I do not believe in the limitation of debate in Parliament.

Senator Kingsmill:

– We have noticed that..

Senator NEEDHAM:

– The honorable senator will possibly have other opportunities to notice it. Parliament is a place where men meet to parley, to talk, to discuss, to deliberate. That being so, why should their deliberations be limited ? If Senator Kingsmill is so anxious about the time of the Senate, Standing Order 2S1 gives him power, even as a private senator, to limit debate, provided that he has the support of twelve other honorable senators. That standing order was used during the last session of the last Parliament when the Immigration Bill, the Navigation Bill, and the Peace Officers Bill were under discussion. Those measures, particularly that dealing with deportation, were “ gagged “ and “ guillotined “ through both branches pf the Legislature. What happened to the Immigration Bill ? When examined by the High Court, it was found to be unconstitutional. The High Court was not limited by any standing order. After counsel on both sides had addressed the court, that legislation was declared to be unconstitutional.

The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon T Givens:

– That question does not arise now. I have already allowed the honorable senator a great deal of latitude. I now ask him to confine himself to the question before the Chair.

Senator NEEDHAM:

– 1 have no desire to do other than deal with the subject before us. I was using the judgment of the High Court in relation to a certain measure passed last year to show the clanger of hurried legislation.


– The honorable senator may not refer to it again. He must obey my ruling.

Senator NEEDHAM:

– I have no desire to dispute your ruling. Sufficient is it to say that that decision of the High Court should have taught Parliament and the Government a lesson. When the Immigration Bill was before this Senate, honorable senators on this side were scarcely permitted to speak, because of the operation of Standing Order 281. The whole of the time occupied with that measure in this chamber was not more than sixteen hours of continuous sitting. It took the High Court nearly eight days to discover the unsoundness of that law. We should, therefore, be careful what we do. The proposed new standing order provides that Standing Orders 431 and 433 shall not be operative when it is in operation. Standing Order 431 deals with motions not open to debate. Honorable senators will therefore see the comprehensive nature of the new standing order. Standing Order 433, which it also proposes to make inoperative, provides that if the motion “ That the Senate do now divide “ be carried, the Senate shall vote on the question immediately, without further debate or amendment; but that, if the motion be not carried, the debate shall be resumed. The proposed new standing order does not permit of the debate being resumed : it provides, instead, that the debate must cease at a certain moment. I can imagine the Leader of the Government in the Senate introducing a bill, moving its first reading and fixing the second reading for another day. A certain time will be allowed for the second reading. When that time has expired, the “ guillotine “ will be brought into operation. The bill will then be considered in committee, and again, at the expiration of a further period, the “guillotine” will be applied.’ The same will occur in connexion with the third reading. It will be possible for a Minister to ordain that a bill shall pass all stages within 24 hours. That is ridiculous.


– It would be ridiculous if the position were as the honorable senator states ; but he knows that it is not so.

Senator NEEDHAM:

– I have read the proposed standing order. I direct the honorable senator’s attention to paragraph 3. which reads -

Standing Orders 281, 431, and 433 shall not apply to any proceedings in respect of which time has been allotted in pursuance of this standing order.


– The Senate, and not the Minister, is master of the situation.

Senator NEEDHAM:

– If the proposed new standing order is adopted, honorable senators will not have the opportunities which they now have under Standing Order 433. I still contend that, as the business in this chamber is dispatched with such expedition that we are frequently waiting on another place, it is ridiculous to submit such a motion. We are asked to approve the proposal merely to render it unnecessary for the Minister in charge of the bill to be in the unenviable position of applying the “gag!’ perhaps 20 or 30 times during a debate, and also because a similar standing order is in operation in another place. If honorable senators on this side of the chamber had been guilty of wilfully delaying business. I could understand such a motion being brought forward, but it cannot be said that we have. Only to-day the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Pearce) moved the suspension of the Standing Orders to enable him to move the second reading of the Crimes Bill. If it was our desire to unnecessarily delay business, we could have debated that motion until late to-night, but we did not do so.

Senator Thompson:

– It may be used against honorable senators on this side some day.

Senator NEEDHAM:

– If I live to see that day–

Senator Crawford:

– The honorable senator will be an old man.

Senator NEEDHAM:

– I am still a young man, and I do not think it will be long before I shall be occupying a seat on the other side of the chamber. Conditions change very quickly, and, after the by-election to be held in the Eden-Monaro electorate on Saturday next, it will be found that a large number of electors have already changed their political opinions. If a Labour Government were in office, and such a standing order as this was in force, I would urge it to recommend that it be expunged. It is vicious and unnecessary, and no valid reason has been given for its introduction. I sincerely trust that the motion will be rejected, and that the Senate will be permitted to conduct its business as it has in the past.

Western Australia

– The whole question hinges upon whether there is any necessity to impose a limitation upon debates in this chamber. That, of course, is a matter of opinion. Senator Needham has said that he does not think there is any necessity to do so, because there has not been a tendency to unnecessarily delay debates in this chamber. I cannot agree with the honorable senator. Time has been wasted in the Senate on many occasions by one honorable senator repeating what others have said, and without attempting in any way to cultivate terseness of speech. I, too, dislike the application of Standing Order 281, possibly much more so than Senator Needham, and on many occasions when it has been applied I have - much to the disgust of the Government Whip - voted against the Government, because I consider it a most brutal and unreasonable form of limiting debate. In order to justify my attitude towards this motion, I remind Senator Needham that the Senate is master of its own actions. The Minister cannot dictate in the matter. All he can do is to ask the Senate to agree to a reasonable time in which to discuss a bill. That, I consider, is immeasurably better than applying the “gag” whenever the Minister in charge of a bill considers it desirable. A reasonable time for debate is all that should be necessary, and I can assure the Minister (Senator Pearce) that under this standing order the supporters of the Government will not be better off than they are at present. The members of the Opposition always perform their duties with such zeal that even if a reasonable time for the discussion of bills is allowed, they will, with that alacrity which they invariably display, catch the eye of the President before honorable senators on this side of the chamber are able to do so. If the proposed new standing order is unsatisfactory, as has been said, honorable senators on this side of the chamber have more reason to oppose it than have the members of the Opposition. I repeat, however, that the Senate will be the master of its own action, and will be the judge of the time required for the discussion of any measure. Because I believe that this proposal allows a more reasonable and proper exercise of the powers of the Senate than is provided under standing order No. 281, I intend to give the motion my unqualified support. If Senator Needham meditates he will see that it is almost superfluous to mention Standing Orders 281, 431, and 433, but to make the position more explicit they have been quoted in this proposed new standing order. This is a step in the right direction, and I do not think the Senate will support the fixing of an unreasonably short time in which to discuss a bill.

Senator Needham:

– I do not agree with the honorable senator.


– It is a matter of opinion. Believing that honorable senators will have sufficient time in which to debate important bills, I intend to support the motion.

Senator FINDLEY:

.- This matter was referred to the Standing Orders Committee, on which the

Government has a majority, and the Government nominees on that committee naturally desired to meet its wishes. During the 25 years that the Commonwealth Parliament has been in existence there has been no demand for a material alteration in our standing orders in the direction of curtailing debate in this chamber. In another place, where there are 76 members, it is easy to imagine that the debates may be somewhat protracted, but in the Senate which consists of 36 members, the business is usually disposed of in about one-half of the time. In confirmation of that I may mention that the Senate recently adjourned for a fortnight because the Government had no business to bring before it. Under the proposed standing order a time limit for the consideration of any measure may be imposed. The Minister (Senator Pearce) said that a similar standing order operates in the House of Commons. I am not concerned about the procedure in that chamber, nor am I seriously worried regarding the procedure in another place. But I am very much concerned as to the manner in which the Government conducts and proposes to conduct business in this chamber. There has never beers any necessity for a timetable method of doing business here. That is what this proposal really amounts to. I have heard the Minister say that so much time is occupied by honorable members on this side that occasionally honorable senators opposite do not have the opportunity to express themselves upon matters that come before the Senate. Is there any standing order that will prevent, or that has prevented, any honorable senator opposite from expressing himself fully upon any measure? No limitation is imposed upon debate in this chamber. The reason why it appears that members of the Opposition monopolize the debates is that honorable senators opposite are disinclined to participate in them. It is true that the majority of the pages of Hansard are filled by members of the Opposition, but if members who support the Government felt disposed to share in the debates they could occupy just as much space. When a government has a big majority less activity is displayed by its members, and they do not display so keen a desire to take a serious interest in matters appertaining to the welfare of the people as they would if their majority were not so large. Towards the close of the final session of the last Parliament the Opposition was greatly in evidence in the debate upon, a certain bill, because that measure involved an important principle. Now and again during that debate the Minister (Senator Pearce) moved “That the question be now put,” and thus “ chopped us out.” Senator Pearce has stated that if the proposed standing order is agreed to, and .a time limit is fixed for the consideration of any bill, honorable senators who sit on the Government benches will have a fuller opportunity to express their opinions. Senator Kingsmill went so far as to say that even under the operation of the proposed standing order it was problematical whether honorable senators who sit on the Government benches would be better placed than they now are. In effect his contention was that they are too slow to catch the eye of the presiding officer, and that ‘ the promptitude that honorable senators on this side usually display enables them to receive the call more frequently. The invariable practice- is for honorable senators to be called alternately from both sides of the chamber. I regard Senator Kingsmill’s statement as a reflection upon the occupant of the chair. Unfortunately for us, we of the Opposition are numerically fewer in this than we were in the last Parliament. Labour members on the last Standing Orders Committee were optimistic enough to believe that the general election would return their party to power, and that there would- then be no demand for this proposed new standing order. Their anticipations, however, were not realized. I regard this as an, attempt to restrict the full and serious discussion of measures by honorable senators who sit on this side. Its object cannot be to curtail debate by honorable senators opposite. One has only to look at our numbers to realize that that is so. Senator Gardiner’s term will, unfortunately, expire in June. The Labour senators will then be Senators Needham and Graham (Western Australia), Findley and Barnes (Victoria), Hoare and McHugh (South Australia), and Grant (New South Wales).

Senator Pearce:

– Your number would have been greater if Senator Ogden had not been kicked out of the party.

Senator FINDLEY:

– He was looking for it, and lie got it. Honorable senators opposite do not stand in the way of the Government when it desires to pass any measure; on the contrary, they blindly support it. “Whenever a Government supporter shows a disposition to seriously criticize any measure, or tab: up time that the Government thinks ought not to be taken up, he is immediately told to sit down.


– He does not do so.

Senator FINDLEY:

– We had an evidence of that just prior to the recent adjournment of the Senate. An honorable senator representing Tasmania, to his credit be it said, went to great pains to make himself well informed upon a bill that was before this chamber. He was a veritable digger for information in historical and statistical documents. For several days he was a busy bee. He set his heart upon fitting himself to discharge his duty in a tradesmanlike way. He was prepared to do or die.

Senator Pearce:

– The Government did not interfere.

Senator FINDLEY:

– The proceedings were really pantomimic. The whisper went round, “ Have you . heard the latest?” After that honorable senator had gone to so much trouble to prepare himself, his matter disappeared. Where did it go?

Senator Pearce:

– The Opposition stole it.

Senator FINDLEY:

– The Opposition would not be guilty of an act of that kind.

Senator Graham:

– It was a low-down act.

Senator FINDLEY:

– That was whatthe honorable senator thought. But he was able to get along without his matter. He possesses a very retentive memory. He had thoroughly familiarized himself with his subject, and, although the loss of his matter somewhat disconcerted him for a time, it did not prevent him from making his speech. Then something else happened. I think I saw an honorable senator pulling his coat, and, in effect, telling him to stop. He obeyed. A standing order such as that which is now proposed was not necessary in his case. A nod, a wink, and a pull, and down he went. That was done with the knowledge of the Government. Although we on this side are in the minority to-day, and are numerically weaker than we were before the 14th November last, one never knows what the future has in store for any political party in Australia. It is wall known that the present administration for a few months before the last election was not very sanguine of being returned to power. Certain events created an atmosphere that brought to its aid financial and newspaper support, and it won the day. Its present big majority should cause it to hesitate before introducing such a standing order as that which is now proposed. Has the Minister another London trip in view? I have read that there is to be an Imperial Conference in London in October, and certain names have been mentioned in dispatches. Senator Pearce may be on the list of those who are to make the trip. If that be the reason for the desire to hurry through the business of this chamber, the Senate should refuse to pass the proposed new standing order. A time limit should not be placed upon the discussion of measures in this chamber for the purpose of enabling Parliament to be adjourned, so that one or two members of the present administration may go to London. Surely those honorable senators who know -nhat progress, has been made in. different parts of Australia by having standing orders which are not too rigid, and which permit the full and serious discussion of measures of moment to the people, realize how impossible it will be to continue that progress if a government with a big majority is given power to declare any sort of a bill to be an urgent measure. Why should the Government be given this power? Towards the end of a session the volume of business to be done is sometimes large. That is not because of any shortcomings ii> our procedure, but because governments leave most of their business to the closing period of a session and then rush bills through. The present Administration more than any other has pursued that policy. Towards the close of last session one almost lost count of thi number of bills that came forward for our consideration. . They were introduced and carried one after the other. There was no need for a time-table to regulate the business done in the Senate. I shall occupy no further time in opposing ibis motion. We have got along smoothly for 25 years under the Standing Orders as they stand t’»-clay, and there is no justification for any serious alteration. If necessity existed in the past for such alteration, it does not exist to-day now that the Opposition is so numerically weak; and as the proposed change is a direct attempt to curb the liberty previously enjoyed by Oppositions, I hope that a majority of the Senate will not approve of it.

New South Wales

– I am not personally concerned in the adoption of this proposed new standing order, but I should like to warn the Senate against it. j t is true, as Senator Pearce has said, that the House of Commons has a similar standing order, but as there are about 670 members in that House, there is sound reason for limiting the time for the consideration of measures. With 670 potential speakers on any bill, one could imagine chaos instead of consideration of that measure if there were no such time limit. But can Senator Pearce tell me if the House of Lords has such a standing order?

Senator Pearce:

– The House of Lords has nr. standing orders.


– Absolutely: and it has always been my ambition to see .this Senate without standing order?, because in those circumstances its business would be conducted with more dignity. With almost sixteen years’ experience here, I can say that the biggest loss the Senate has suffered has been due to the fact that the backward, modest, thoughtful members supporting the government of the clay, out of consideration for it, have sacrificed themselves and remained silent to the disadvantage of the Senate and the country.

Senator Pearce:

– The honorable senator must take a certain amount of responsibility for ‘that.


– I accept my responsibility; but there has_ been no occasion in this Senate on which I have not been justified in using my power of opposition. Let me take honorable senators back to the last occasion on which, time after time, Senator Pearce, under the Standing Orders, succeeded in gagging me. That was on the Peace Officers Bill. Despite the honorable senator’s gagging, I succeeded in delaying the passage of that bill for a day or two. Under this proposed standing order that would have been considered an urgent bill, but the six months that have elapsed since its passage have shown that there was no real urgency for it. I think I am well within the Standing Orders in using an illustration to show that there was no occasion for the Government to, as it were, break its neck to get that bill passed through in a hurry. Most honorable senators have heard nothing about these peace officers since then, but two of the officers came to light in Sydney last week, as shown in two paragraphs which I shall quote. The first paragraph is as follows: - “If the power of dismissing trivialities, which is conferred on magistrates in England, was conferred on me, I would certainly dismiss this case,”” said Mr. Laidlaw, S.M.. at the Central Police Court yesterday, after hearing evidence in the case in which Alexander Mitchell Jones, a Commonwealth peace officer, charged John Howie, a communist, with having used insulting words to him in the Sydney Domain on 31st January last.

Tones complained that when defendant was speaking from the communists’ platform in the Domain on the Locarno Pact, he referred to Mr. Bruce, and then to witness, saying. “ f ask you to be honest at least in fulfilling the dirty position. … I say let him be honest and report me correctly.” Witness was taking shorthand notes of the meeting.

Defendant admitted using the words, bi’t said he did not refer to Jones personally, but to’ those holding the positions of peace officers.

Would any harm have come if the passage of the bill had been so delayed as to prevent such an exhibition of officious- ness? Why should a man bc brought before the court for saying, “ I ask you to be honest at least in fulfilling the dirty position.” The magistrate took a couple, of days to consider whether the language was offensive, and then he decided to inflict a fine of 5s. If Senator Pearce had not used the existing Standing Orders so effectively, the Peace Officers Bill might have been delayed until honorable senators supposing the Government became so fully informed of the Government’s intentions as to justify them in rejecting the bill. This is the second paragraph : -

William A. M. Cairns, another peace officer, charged John Wilson with having used insulting words in Bathurst-street on 31st January, Defendant pleaded not guilty.

In answer to Mr. TMI. complainant said defendant was addressing a meeting of the I.W.W. organization, and said. “ 1 was at

Dandenong when Premier Bruce made his speech. Bruce, and his dirty thieving liars who follow him, are bringing in an act to deport and gaol members of this and other organizations.”

Mr. LAIDLAW ; Did you take it to mean his followers in the House of Representatives?Ves.

Were any of them present! - No.

Mr. “Wilson’s language was not as mild as that used by Mr. Howie, yet the magistrate dismissed the charge against him. 1 direct particular attention to this case, because the magistrate asked Mr. Wilson if he referred to members i>.f the House of Representatives.

The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon T Givens:

– I have allowed the honorable senator considerable latitude, but a discussion on the administration of the Peace Officers Act is irrelevant to the question before the Chair.


– I regret that. If my reference to an occasion on which the Senate did hurry in passing legislation does not afford an excellent reason why it should not again hurry, I fail to understand how one can illustrate any point. But I appeal for a little more leniency, because had it been senators to whom Mr. Wilson referred, no doubt the magistrate would have ordered him to be hanged, drawn and quartered. The Peace Officers Bill would have been considered an urgent measure by Senator Pearce in the frame of mind in which he was working at that time. Nothing stirs me - not as a party man, but as one who tries to represent the whole of the people - more than do the ill-considered laws that have been passed by this Parliament. Senator Pearce actually talks about passing legislation to interfere with Sunday schools, but he knows that tha Constitution Act will not permit the Commonwealth to interfere with any religion.

Senator Pearce:

– I was referring nol: to schools for religious instruction, but to irreligious schools. They are out to ridicule religion.


– That will be a matter for the new Attorney-General to fight. My endeavour is to prove by illustration how Parliament has suffered by restrictions on debate. The proposal before the Senate to-day is to restrict discussion. Surely, then, we may use illustrations to show that the failure of legislation has been due to the lack of free and full discussion in an institution whose purpose it is to permit of that free and full discussion. We are reaching a position now when Mr. President sits like a schoolmaster to see that honorable senators speak in a language he understands. Otherwise he rules them out of order.


– Honorable senators are only ruled out of order when what they are saying is irrelevant. The Standing Orders provide that anything that is not relevant to the question before the Chair is out of order. If that rule were not observed our proceedings would be endless.


– The whole point of the Minister’s argument, is that the interests of the Senate would be better served, not by accepting every word uttered by senators as being right, but by threshing out every detail of all measures in such a way as to make our legislation as perfect as possible. It appears, however, that no honorable senator should address himself to any subject unless he adopts a manner other than his own. Nothing could be more degrading than that, unless it is the present proposal. A Minister might introduce a measure feeling confident that his own party would accept it ; but before the discussion had proceeded more than ten minutes his own supporters might realize that the proposal was iniquitous. I am sure that the Minister has a lively recollection of how loyally ex-Senator Rae and I supported him when he was a member of the Labour Ministry in 1910. This measure, of course, is aimed at the Opposition, but to my mind it will hit honorable senators on the ministerial side. You, Mr. President, generally adopt the practice of calling honorable senators alternately from both sides of the chamber. When I leave the Senate there will be 29 honorable senators on the Government side, and seven in the Opposition, so that the advantage will be with the latter. Injury is done through modest, thoughtful members of parliament being deprived of opportunities to express their views. For instance, I may say that the Senate has suffered through not hearing the Minister for Markets and Migration (Senator Wilson) - whom, by the way, I take this opportunity of congratulating upon the honour conferred upon him by His Majesty the King - as often as honorable senators would like.

Senator Sir Victor Wilson:

– This proposal will not affect the honorable senator and me to any great extent.


– Quite so; but the widest opportunity for the discussion of all matters is desirable. Party whips should be less prone than they are at the present time to instruct honorable senators to refrain from speaking. I venture to say that, on the average, measures are not debated by more than four honorable senators on either side.

Senator Pearce:

– Honorable senators on this side are generally listening to the honorable senator.


– It would be a reflection on the Chair if honorable senators on this side were permitted to speak more frequently than honorable senators opposite, and if the latter were not given the same opportunity to participate in debates. It seems to me that the Crimes Bill cannot be affected by this proposal, because the time limit has to be fixed during the introductory stage of the bill. Perhaps the motion has been so framed as to exclude that bill from the operation of the standing order. If I were to remain Leader of the Opposition, and this standing order was in force, the pleasant relations between the Leader of the Senate and myself would cease, and an impossible position would be created. Since Senator Pearce has been a Minister, he must thank the Opposition for its consideration in enabling the Government to rush its measures through the Senate at the close of every session. The Labour Government in New South Wales has a similar standing order in operation, and it has been giving the Nationalists in that State an overdose of their own medicine. From one end of New South Wales to the other there is irritation at the application of this very standing order, or one framed on similar lines. It was not formulated by the Labour party, but was handed clown to it by the Fuller Government.

Senator Sir Victor Wilson:

– The honorable senator does not justify an abuse of privilege?


-I do not justify a restriction of discussion in Parliament.

Senator Sir Victor Wilson:

– But the Senate controls the matter.


– Of course. The Minister judges others according to him self. If the New South Wales Legislative Assembly were composed of men of his high calibre, everything would be done satisfactorily in that chamber; but, unfortunately for New South Wales, I have no evidence that there will never be an abuse of the standing order for the limitation of debate. If an honorable senator like Senator Duncan, who represents 500,000 electors, could be prevented from speaking by ten honorable senators who did not score half as many votes as he, it would be most unfair. I ask honorable senators to name the legislation which would have been better if passed as urgent measures. While I know of no measure that has benefited the country by reason of its having been passed hurriedly, I know of many so iniquitous that, if their passing had been delayed until to-day, it would have been better far all concerned. The Peace Officers Act and the Immigration Act passed last year have brought nothing but discredit on the Government.

Senator Drake-Brockman:

– Is that why the Government was returned with a large majority?


– I admit that the Government was returned with a large majority, but so far I have been unable to find a reason for it. A musical friend told me recently that any song which had a good lilt would catch the public fancy, notwithstanding that its words were foolish. In my youth the song on everybody’s lips was “ Champagne Charlie is my name.” To-day it is “ Yes, thank you, we have no bananas.” No matter how stupid the words, if the tune is right, the song will become popular. And, notwithstanding the stupidity of the election cry of tlie Government, it won. Its policy song was popular. But it has been my experience that those catchy airs, which every one whistles, and which even the dogs in the street are said to bark, never come back once they go out. Some measures become very urgent when the end of the session is approaching.

Senator Pearce:

– Does not the honorable senator think that the speech which he is now making is justification for this standing order?


– No. Before I rose to speak, I waited to see if any other honorable senator desired to do so. If I sat down now, the proba- bility is that the Senate would . adjourn. I ask Senator Pearce if he would be prepared to accept an amendment providing that the fact that other bills are awaiting consideration shall not constitute urgency? “Would he also accept an amendment that, even in relation to a matter which the Government considers to be urgent, the time limit shall not be less than a certain period? I want only to preserve the rights of those who follow me. If we could be sure that the two parties forming the Government were always in agreement, the position would be different, but at present they do not even meet in the one caucus room.

Senator Pearce:

– Would the honorable senator be any happier if the two parties supporting the Government were to meet in one room and arrive at unanimous decisions?


– Yes. I admit that I am a partisan, and at times a bitter partisan. But the bitterness displayed by Labour members is the result of an earnestness .which has done more to uplift the people than the easy-going attitude of Tory members. Senator DrakeBrockman, for instance, is an outandout Tory who does not know the meaning of bitterness! No matter how bitter I may have become, I have never lost sight of the functions of Parliament nor of the purpose for which Parliament assembles. We are here to discuss the matters which come before us. Even as I speak I notice that Senator Pearce is impatient. Evidently he considers that my remarks would be better unsaid.

Senator Reid:

– Are they not irrelevant?


– I shall be careful how I speak in the presence of Senator Reid now that he has returned from that rarified atmosphere which marks as superior beings all who breathe it. I do not know whether, in the place from which he has recently returned, there are any standing orders which prevent discussion or enable the representatives of the people to speak only when the Government gives them permission. Undoubtedly that will be the position when this standing order has been passed . Senator Pearce has assisted to pass so much legislation that he is no longer interested in debate or discussion. Nothing of which we can think has not already been accomplished by him. He, therefore, is im patient of discussion and introduces standing orders to prevent it. The more we consider our Standing Orders the more we see the wisdom which Parliament has displayed in providing that mistakes made to-day may be remedied to-morrow. Each parliament has improved on -what previous parliaments have done. Hitherto it has been the aim of Parliament to prevent legislation from being passed hastily. The object of this Chamber is to place a brake upon hasty legislation.

Senator Pearce:

– That is a novel compliment from the honorable senator.


– The Government has not the courage to do what the Lang Government of New South Wales has attempted. It will not attempt to wipe out the Senate; but it will not allow honorable senators time to discuss the matters brought forward. It desires bills to be passed without proper consideration. If it were my lot to remain a member of this Senate after June next, and Senator Pearce, towards the end of the session, wished to rush bills through, he would find that the courtesy which leaders of the Opposition in this chamber have always extended to the Government, no matter how constituted, would no longer be extended if this standing order were then in operation. There would be chaos as the end of the session approached. In the last days of the last Parliament five Appropriation Bills were laid upon the table in one day, and honorable senators had to be alert to know which was under discussion. Does Senator Pearce think that, with this standing order in operation, honorable senators would permit five Appropriation Bills to be passed iu one afternoon? It may be said that, with the approach of the end of the session, honorable senators would be more concerned about getting away to attend to their private affairs than with the business before the Senate. But if I again become a member of this Chamber, and at the end of the session this standing order is in operation, I shall give the Government no consideration. Bills will be passed only after clue consideration. It is a matter of surprise to me that the very standing order which in New South Wales has caused so much dissatisfaction is receiving such strong support from honorable senators opposite. It is a tribute to Mr. Lang, the Premier of New South

Wales. Those honorable senators who condemn him really approve of what he is doing, and are following his example. I notice that Senator Payne has just reentered the Chamber. Senator Payne has a good deal to say on most measures which come before us, and his remarks are always to the point. Frequently he waits until the debate has continued for some time before he speaks. Then, having listened to what has been said by honorable senators on this side, and having noticed how honorable senators supporting the Government have failed to answer our arguments, he places his views before, the Senate in a masterly way. The time limit which this standing order imposes would prevent Senator Payne from speaking. What has happened in another place will, no doubt, occur here. The Government, in order to prevent criticism by its own supporters, will arrange for certain speakers to monopolize the time available. For this standing order to be equitable it should provide that the time allowed for the discussion of each question shall be shared equally by all honorable senators. That suggestion, which would not have occurred to me had I not risen to speak,. I now make to the Minister. If one honorable senator wished to make a sacrifice, he could allow another honorable senator to occupy his time. For instance, I could make a sacrifice in the interests of Senator Findley.

Senator Drake-Brockman:

– The effect of that arrangement would be to keep Senator Gardiner quiet.


– That is so. In any case, my voice, with that of Senator Drake-Brockman, will soon be silent so far as this Senate is concerned. I admit that Senator Drake-Brockman could have remained a member of this Senate had not his leader, by clever manipulation, outwitted him.

Senator Drake-Brockman:

– That statement is neither relevant nor true.


– While Senator Drake-Brockman was away from Australia in the public interest, it was rumoured that he was to have the Balaclava seat. There were also rumours regarding what the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) said about the arrangement.

The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon T Givens:

– That has nothing to do with the question before the Chair.


– Had Senator Drake-Brockman discussed his future with the then Speaker and Senator Pearce before he left Australia instead of drafting a new standing order, he might still have been a member of the Senate after June next.


– That is not relevant to the subject before the Chair.


– That is unfortunate, as I should like to show Senator Drake-Brockman that my remarks regarding his leader’s manipulation were, at least, true. But, as 1 have no desire to dispute your ruling, I shall not attempt to do so. This standing order was to have been introduced in the last Parliament, but it was not. At that time Senator Findley and I thought that the Labour party would be returned with a majority. Nevertheless. I had determined in that event to give effect, to the high ideals which I have always advocated, and to provide ample opportunity for the discussion of all the subjects brought forward. I cannot see why any honorable senator should travel 500 miles to speak for an hour and for the Senate to then adjourn. But that has been ray experience. Honorable senators will agree that the business of the Senate is dealt with much more expeditiously when I am not here. But the time that I have occupied in this Senate has not amounted to many hours.


– Brockman . - When the honorable senator is absent the discussion in the Senate is generally relevant.


– That is because Senator Drake-Brockman has then more freedom. I notice that on one such occasion he said that I had spoken from the same platform as Donald Grant. I am glad that I did, and that I am not a superior person like Senator Drake-Brockman, who thanks God that he is not as other men are.

Senator Drake-Brockman:

– I do -not remember making such a statement.


– I do. During the great war Senator Drake-Brockman rendered excellent service at the Front.

Senator Pearce:

– He did not have Donald Grant with him.


– Perhaps not, but I do not think he cared a snap of the fingers who was fighting with him.

Senator Drake-Brockman:

– I did not.


– In Labour’s political fights I do not mind with whom I am associated, so long as I am working with men who support the platform of the party to which I belong. I was referring to the statement by Senator Drake-Brockman–

Senator Drake-Brockman:

– When was it made?


– The honorable senator deals with such big issues that he cannot recall such a trifling incident. The honorable senator uttered some unkind remarks.

Senator Drake-Brockman:

– I have never said anything unkind about the honorable senator, and he knows it.

Senator Pearce:

– But the honorable senator has deserved it on many occasions.


-The Minister cannot allow even a kindly remark to pass without comment. If a majority of the Senate consisted of, say, four honorable senators representing Western Australia, and a similar number from South Australia and Tasmania, those honorable senators would be able to suppress a representative from New South Wales who, at the last election, secured twice as many votes as the representatives of the States I have mentioned. The Minister is apparently losing sight of that aspect of the question. I have already mentioned the action of the Government in bringing a man before the court because he asked a peace officer in the performance of his “dirty business” to report him honestly. If you, Sir, were to speak to-day in the manner in which you did in days gone by, you would be hanged, drawn, and quartered.

The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon T Givens:

– The honorable senator’s remarks are irrelevant. I ask him’ to discuss the motion before the Chair.


-I have no desire to disregard your ruling. In conclusion, I wish to repeat that the legislation under which the peace officers to whom I have referred are operating, was passed in such a hurried manner that it has been found to bo altogether ineffective, and degrading to the Senate.

Question - That the proposed new standing order be adopted - put. The Senate divided.

AYES: 20


Majority . . . . 13



Question so resolved in the affirmative.

Senate adjourned at 5.39 p.m.

Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 3 March 1926, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.