12th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. W. Kingsmill) took tho chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Senator salt (South AustraliaVicePresident of the Executive Council) [3.1]. - by leave - I have received from the Prime Minister the following document: -
Since the announcement was made in Parliament last week on the question of preference to returned soldiers, representations have been made to the Government on behalf of the returned soldiers’ organizations in Australia by the federal president, Captain Dyett.. Ab Prime Minister, I pointed out that the Government had no intention whatever of abolishing preference to exsoldiers in Commonwealth employment, and that as the Government’s main object was to protect returned soldiers from exploitation, it had stipulated that contractors for Government work should give first preference to returned soldiers who are members of unions. Non-unionists are not covered by arbitration awards, and may be employed by contractors at less than award rates, and the Government’s desire was to safeguard the conditions of returned soldiers. Preference to unionists is protection to the workers. The Labour party has always stood, and will continue to stand, for the principle of preference to unionists. The president of the Returned Soldiers’ League, Captain Dyett, who came to Canberra to interview me on the matter, assured me that practically all the ex-soldiers who are offering for Commonwealth employment are unionists. There was, however, he declared, a sentiment surrounding the question of preference that he did not desire to have disturbed. Neither does the Government wish, in any way, to interfere with that sentiment. Captain Dyett added that bis policy has always been to advise the working soldiers to join the unions con- earned. In view of the assurance that practically all the returned men, who are offering for Commonwealth employment, are unionists, the Government has agreed to Captain Dyett’s earnest appeal to retain the preference-to-soldiers clause intact. The conditions in the contract will, therefore, be that preference shall be given, firstly, to returned soldiers and sailors, and, secondly, to members of trades unions. This will also apply to employment and dismissals in the public Berrico. The proposed new clause stating that in the carrying out of work under contract unnaturalized aliens should not be employed except in cases where British labour is not available will be inserted. It is pitiful to see returned soldiers carrying their swags along roads on the construction of which gangs of foreigners have been engaged. Captain Dyett, who has always . PUt the case for returned soldiers in a1 fair and reasonable way, expressed his appreciation of the sympathetic attitude shown by the Government towards the many representations made on behalf of ex-members of the Australian Imperial Force. Despite what has been said by others, the Government will continue to sympathetically administer the laws as they affect the men who have suffered the hardships of war.
– I should like the Minister to state what is the position of a returned soldier now compared with what it .was prior to the recent action of the Government?
– The returned soldier is now in the position he occupied prior to the issue of the recent instruction insisting on preference being given in the first place to ex-soldiers who are members of trade unions.
– -Is the Senate to understand from the statement of the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Daly), in explanation of the attitude of the Government in the matter of employment of returned soldiers that if a returned soldier who is not a unionist is alongside a unionist who is not a re- turned soldier, the trade unionist will get employment in preference to the returned soldier ?
– No. The position is perfectly clear. For certain reasons the Government saw fit to impose conditions relating- to the employment of returned soldiers and those conditions have now been removed.
– Does the Senate understand-
– I remind Senator Lynch that the Minister is not responsible for what the Senate understands. I suggest that the honorable senator should ask if it is a fact that certain things have been done.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate if it is a fact that the attitude of the Government in the matter of employment of returned soldiers is the same ae it was before this Government came into power.
– It is impossible for me to say whether the attitude of the Government is the same ; but if the honorable senator desires ‘to ascertain if the future policy of the Government in connexion with the employment of returned soldiers will be the same as that which was in operation when the previous Government was in power, I say that it will be.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Markets, without notice -
– I am not aware of the circumstances as outlined by the honorable senator, but if he will supply the Government with full particulars, I can assure him the Minister will take all possible steps to see that our produce is sent overseas.
– On the 27th March, Senator Cooper asked the following questions, upon notice -
I am now able to furnish the honorable senator with the following information. -
price of agricultural machinery;
– On the 10th April, Senator E. B. Johnston asked the following questions, upon notice -
Austral tan-made agricultural machinery in Perth are from 10 to 12) per cent in excess of the prices charged by the same Australian manufacturers for similar machines in Melbourne ?
I am now able to furnish the honorable senator with the following information . -
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Daly) if the Government has received a report from the South Australian Lakes Oil Company with reference to the discovery of oil?
– I have had a conversation with Mr. Gepp with reference to the matter and am now awaiting a report from him on the subject.
Senator DOOLEY brought up the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, together with the minutes of evidence, relating to the proposed construction of a federal highway within the Federal Capital Territory.
The following papers were presented -
Customs Act and Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1930, No. 23.
Public Service Act - Appointment - PostmasterGeneral’s Department - R. T. Hinckley.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Ordinance No. 5 of 1930 - Seat of Government (Administration).
Embargo on Imports, including Parts.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers are -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers are -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home Affairs -
In view of the importance of aviation, will the Government take immediate steps to provide a proper aerodrome at the Federal Capital of Australia, equipped with the necessary hangar and with telephonic communication and water ?
– Certain improvements have been effected on the area at Canberra which is available for use by aircraft. A water supply is also provided. The question of the erection of a hangar and other conveniences for visiting aviators depends upon when funds can be made available for the purpose.
– On the 10th April Senator H. E. Elliott asked the following question: -
I informed the honorable senator that the information will be obtained as far as possible. I am now able to furnish the honorable senator with the following information : - 1 and 2. Motor bodies and motor chassis are separately recorded in the import statistics. Importations from the United States of America from 1st January, 1929, to latest dale available (10th April, 1930) were -
Debate resumed from 1st May(vide page 1288) on motion by Senator Sir George Pearce -
That Ordinance No. 4 of 1930, Advisory Council, made under the Seat of Government Acceptance Act and the Seat of Government (Administration) Act, be disallowed.
Ssnator OGDEN (Tasmania) [2.17].- Ido not intend to occupy the time of the Senate in discussing this subject at any great length, asI think we have already wasted too much time on a matter which is not of very great importance to the general community. The question whether the Government or some responsible local authority shall control the sweeping of the gutters and be entrusted with the responsibility of removing garbage, is one with which this Senate should not concern itself very much. I believe, however, that construction works when completed should be handed over to some responsible local authority. In the first place I should like to refer to a statement of the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Daly) in regard to this subject, and in which he uttered a threat, which, in my opinion, was empty and useless. I advise the Minister that in the future he should think more seriously before indulging in such tactics since they might bring him and the Government, of which he is a member, into complete ridicule. The suggestion that questions of this kind, even if the Constitution would allow it, might become the issue at an election makes the Minister and the Government look absolutely ridiculous. The Federal Capital Territory has experienced many forms of administration. In the first place certain works were carried out under departmental control, but that form of administration was not particularly economical. I think that there was more waste under departmental control before the advent of the Commission than there has been since. Later on, departmental control was continued under the supervision of Mr. Griffin, the designer of this remarkable city. I have often wondered whether we should have complete trust in the judgment of the architects of Australia, since they have chosen for the capital city such a remarkable and costly design as that of Canberra. Much of the financial burden that it involves is due to the extravagant and ambitious lay-out of this city. So, whether it is to be controlled by the Cabinet as provided for under the present ordinance, or whether it is to be governed by a local body, the burden will be no light one. I certainly do not envy the Government its duty of administering the affairs of this capital as is now proposed.
The third attempt at providing a suitable method of government was the setting up of the Federal Capital Commission. No other course was available at that period. Parliament decided, whether rightly or wrongly, and in my opinion, wrongly, that the Seat of Government must be removed from Melbourne to Canberra by 1927. There were not sufficient resources at the command of the departments to carry out the hurried construction work necessary to enablethat removal to be made within the period allowed, and the Government, of the day, wisely, I think, appointed a commission in order to expedite the work.
Sir John Butters, although he may have Uwu somewhat extravagant in his methods, did what he was told to do in completing the construction of this building, and the necessary offices in as short a time as possible.
– Then he did what he liked.
– I am not discussing that aspect of the matter. He was on trusted with a duty, and he was told ro complete certain works within a given rime, but his progress was largely determined by outside influences. For instance, he was left in the hands of trade unions. He could not engage a bricklayer without the consent of a trade union in Sydney. He told me when I came here in the early stages of the construction of * Canberra that the average number of bricks laid by the men then working here was 316 a day.
– The honorable senator loses no opportunity to point that out.
– I am doing so only iri order to emphasize the difficulties under which the Commission laboured. If there” was extravagance in the building of this city, as has been suggested bv previous speakers, it was not due entirely to the Commission, but was largely because of the desire to remove the Seat of Government to these inhospitable surroundings.
– “Were the bricklayers responsible for the shortage of concrete in the foundations of the permanent administrative building?
– The honorable senator can inquire into that matter for himself. There was, no doubt, a good reason why the cost of construction hem was a great deal higher than it would have been under normal conditions.
– “What about the wastage due to mistakes?
– I am not defending the Commission; I am pointing out that explanations can be given for the high cost of construction. I realized at the rime that the appointment of the Commission was a mere expedient, and that it must eventually be supplanted by another form of government. The only logical alternative, in my opinion, was that the Public Works Department should retain control of constructional work and that a local authority should be set up to carry out purely administrative work. I realize that the problem confronting the Government is ah extremely difficult one owing to the design of the capital. We have two or three villages such as Ainslie and Kingston separated by long distances. Of course there are roads, footpaths, water mains and drains throughout the capital, and all sorts of services have to be maintained and repaired, although no revenue is being derived from thom, so that for a good many years, probably, there will be no great progress in Canberra. During the lifetime of honorable senators there ia not likely to be further marked development. In my opinion, this city has nearly reached its zenith now from the point of view- of population. After the transfer of a few more officials has been effected the population will no doubt remain practically stationary for many years, and there will probably be very little increase in the revenues from the Territory within the next twenty years. Therefore, whatever form of government is substituted for commission control, all those difficulties will have to be faced.
It has been urged that the late Government did nothing to bring about local control, as advocated by Senator Pearce and other honorable senators. It is true that that Government did not set up a local authority, but it practically did what the present Government now proposes, with one or two exceptions. It continued the commission system for twelve months under modified conditions and with less expense in salaries than had been formerly incurred. It dispensed with the services of the Chief Commissioner and appointed Mr. Christie. It laid the foundations of all the economies that have been effected by the present Government. It intended to introduce those economies, but I frankly admit that it did not appoint a local authority.
– It did not lay down any permanent policy. It was considering the whole problem, when it went out of office.
– I do not consider that the present proposal of the Government embodies a suitable permanent policy. I believe that the Minister has promised that at the end of twelve months the matter will be re-considered.
– The Minister says that within twelve months a report will be made to Cabinet upon the whole subject.
– I think that the Minister might have gone further and said that at the end of a year there will be a definite reconsideration.
– There will be.
– I shall be content to accept that position, if the Minister will promise that within twelve months this system will come up for reconsideration. I have no desire to harass the Government. I believe that Senator Pearce would be satisfied with such an assurance by the Minister.
– I would accept it.
– Then I shall not discuss the matter at any length at the present time. I am out to fight the Government on important issues and will do so when the time comes, but I do not intend to administer pinpricks where no great national issue is at stake. I believe that the alternative suggested should have been given effect to.
– The Government nas a similar belief.
– If the honorable senator gave the Senate that assurance the debate might be shortened.
Senator hoare (South Australia) [3.31]. - Senator Ogden appears to entertain the opinion that the Senate is wasting a considerable amount of time on a matter that is not of much importance to the community generally. I remind him that the Government is endeavouring to do something to ameliorate the conditions of those who have been compelled to live in Canberra. The honorable senator will probably remember that he was partly instrumental in bringing about their transfer to the Federal Capital city. I remember the occasion when the labour party defeated the Government in the Senate by one or two votes on the question of the construction of this very Parliament House. Strangely enough, a few hours later, when the whips were cracked and the Senate again met, the numbers were reversed and, if ‘my memory serves me well, Senator Ogden was one who twisted on his original vote.
– I did reverse my vote.
– Then the honorable senator is, in some measure, responsible for the construction of this temporary building, and for the premature transfer of the Commonwealth Public Service to Canberra. Had he and others insisted that the point at issue be either the construction of the permanent Parliament House or nothing at all, we should probably be still in Melbourne, no whit the sorrier.
– Unfortunately the issue did not depend on my vote.
– The honorable senator was one of those who twisted on their original vote, and therefore I * can see no reason why he should complain about his present environment. Had I reversed my decision in the matter I should be prepared to admit that I hastened the time of transfer to the Federal Capital city.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. I know that Senator Hoare is not endeavouring to misrepresent me; but the question before the Senate on the occasion to which he refers was whether this Parliament House should be a provisional or a permanent structure. I first voted for a permanent structure, but afterwards reversed my decision and voted for the present provisional building.
– I have already intimated that. The honorable senator and others twisted on their original decision, and now they and all of us should endeavour to make the best of a bad job.
– Does the honorable senator think that it is a bad job?
– I certainly do, and I think that everybody else will admit it. We should endeavour to make the best of existing conditions and give the people of Canberra a form of selfgovernment that will modify the hardships associated with their existence in this bush Federal Capital city. I do not go so far as to say that the proposed advisory council will have the desired result, but at the end of its twelve months term of office it will be able to make some recommendation to Parliament with a view to giving effect to a more satisfactory form of self-government. I do not think that it is the intention of the Government that the proposed advisory council should be the ultimate form of government in the Federal Capital Territory. It is merely a stepping-stone to something better. That was indicated by the statement of the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Daly) last Friday. The council will be elected on a very democratic basis. The ordinance relating to its establishment provides -
– (1.) For the purpose of the election of members of the Advisory Council, the Territory shall be regarded as one electoral division returning three members. (2.) Subject to the disqualifications set out in this section, every person not under 21 years of age, whether male or female, married or unmarried -
The Government is certainly giving the people of Canberra the widest possible power to elect three representatives on the council.
– What effective power will the Advisory Council have ?
– Its three elected members will be able to state the grievances of citizens which will be listened to by the other members of the council and the Minister.
– Do not try to defend the council.
– I am merely endeavouring to state the case as I see it. I am confident that the Minister concerned will give ear to the representations of the elected members of the council. The Government should be given credit for making a serious attempt to do something to assist the people of the Federal Capital Territory. It is remarkable that the Bruce-Page Government did not endeavour to confer some measure of self-government on the people in this area. It failed in its duty, and now the remnants of its supporters raise a storm of protest when this Government endeavours to rectify the omission. Surely the complaints of the residents of Canberra were loud and long enough for all to hear. They were disregarded by the Bruce-Page Government.
Senator Odgen complained that the cost of Parliament House, and of the Federal City generally, was too high, and he attributed a good deal of the blame to the bricklayers who worked in the Territory. Why did he not draw attention to the wastefulness of the Commission; to its sins of omission? Why did he not remind honorable senators that hundreds of bags of cement were scandalously withheld from the foundation of an executive building whose construction was begun in the vicinity of Parliament House? Why did not the officers of the Commission properly supervise the construction of those foundations and see that the contractor put in the prescribed quantity of cement?
– After an inquiry those foundations were pronounced satisfactory.
– The fact remains that hundreds of bags of cement which should have been put into the foundations were not put in. The Public Accounts Committee which inquired into the cost of alterations to Yarralumla House was unable to get the exactcost of the work. No one could say definitely what any one section of the work cost, because the whole of it was debited to one account. SenatorOgden sees fit to complain of the bricklayers of Canberra. Why does he not deal with the costly mistakes of others.
– I would do so if I knew that they had acted wrongly.
– The honorable senator must know some of the mistakes which have been made in connexion with roads, culverts and kerbing. Why has he not complained about them? He has seen fit to criticize the bricklayers; but he has overlooked the wrong actions of others, which have added considerably to the cost of Canberra. The honorable senator said that Sir John Butters acted on, instructions received from the late Government. That maybe so; but he was guilty of tyranny and oppression when he formulated rules and regulations which he expected the residents of Canberra to obey.
– The subject under discussion is an ordinance dealing with the election of an advisory council. The honorable senator must, confine’ his remarks to that subject.
– That fact should have been pointed out to Senator Ogden when he was speaking.
– The honorable senator must not reflect on the Chair.
– I have here a statement prepared by the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr. Blakeley) in connexion with the Canberra Advisory Council -
With regard to the desire of the members of the Opposition in the Senate that there should be granted a complete civic control for the residents of Canberra, the Minister for Home Affairs states that, after carefully considering this phase many months ago, lie had decided to recommend to Ihe Govern ment that, during the transition period as from the Commission method of control and semi-civic control, there must be complete Government control with participation by the people of their representatives on the advisory council. To this end, three citizens are to be appointed to this advisory committee.
It is anticipated that during the next twelve months there will be comment and probably criticism of the administration both by the people and by the elected members of the Advisory Council.
When providing the ordinance for the election of the Advisory Council, the Minister purposely restricted the term to twelve months both for the elected members and the civic administrator. This was done with the hope that at the end of twelve months greater civic responsibility may be granted to the people. It is too early at present to say what will he done, but prior to the end of the twelve months term of the Advisory Council, the Minister will survey the whole situation and report to Cabinet.
If the ordinance is disallowed it will be impossible to have civic co-operation with the Government in the carrying out of the administration of Canberra.
The present Minister for Home Affairs has already saved £37.000 in connexion with the administration of the Federal Capital Territory. It is expected, that the total saving for this year will amount to about £80,000. I urge the Senate to give the new system a trial for twelve months. At, the end of that period any alteration found desirable or necessary can he made. I oppose the motion.
– Under the proposal of the Government the citizens of Canberra will have some representation - albeit an ineffective representation - upon the body which for some time to come will control the destiny of the Federal Capital. If the motion is agreed to, and the ordinance disallowed, things will remain as they are until legislation has been passed setting up a municipal form of government for the Federal Capital Territory. We have to decide which system is to operate. I feel that the residents of Canberra will be more satisfied with the representation proposed in this ordinance than with no representation whatever.
– The proposed advisory council will not govern Canberra.
– I realize that the new body will act only in an advisory capacity, but the proposal of the Government will give the people of Canberra some representation; it will provide them with a means of making their desires known to the Government.
– The Advisory Council will play an important part in laying down principles for the guidance of the Government as to the future control of the Territory
– The representation of the people of Canberra will be at least as effective as was their representation on the late Federal Capital Commission. This Parliament approved of legislation introduced by the Bruce-Page Government providing for the appointment of a Third Commissioner; but that representation was satisfactory neither to the residents of Canberra nor to the Third Commissioner himself.
– That representative had n vote.
– He certainly had a vote but the other members of the Commission could outvote him as they did time and time again. The system to which the late Government gave effect was not a suitable way out of the difficulty. The Commission, however, is to go, and it is the interregnum about which I am now concerned. With the great problems confronting the Commonwealth at the present time I cannot see any possibility, within the next few months at any rate, of legislation being enacted by this Parliament to set up a sort of municipal government for Canberra that the people of Canberra would desire or the people of Australia would wish to give them. I am therefore faced with the position that if this ordinance were disallowed Canberra would be under i he control of the Chief Commissioner acting on behalf of the Minister, and the only representations that the residents could make would be by way of deputations or something of that sort to the Minister or Chief Commissioner. The position would not be nearly as suitable as the course proposed by . the Government under this ordinance giving the people three elected representatives on an advisory council, and giving that council the right to advise the Minister, and through him, of course, this Parliament) as to what should be done with the pro-1 Merna that lie immediately ahead of tha citizens of this area. It is a poor substitute for real responsible representation for the Territory, but it is better than nothing at all, and I am afraid that if the ordinance were disallowed all that would be left would be something that would nor. meet the situation nearly as effectively as that which is provided for under the ordinance. For that reason I cannot vote for the disallowance of the ordinance.
– It seems to me that one of the reasons why Canberra cannot be dealt with on the same economic basis for the purposes of self government as that of other Australian towns is because of its design. I have always been n believer in town planning, and in making proper provision for public utilities of the future.. I believe in making provision in Canberra for parks and open spaces, and for the many scientific, educational and other institutions that may be expected to be located at the National Capital as it develops; but I venture to think that it is a great pity that this city was not designed more on lines suited to Australian conditions and Australian sentiment. It has always seemed extraordinary to me that the designer of the Australian National Capital should have Wen a foreigner. A native and citizen of the United States of America, Mr.
Griffin must have been expected to be naturally lacking in British sentiment and Australian sentiment. I believe he had not seen Australia until after his design had been accepted. It is strange that the Commonwealth should go to the United States of America, not only for its motor cars, pictures, talkies, and slang, but also for a designer for its national capital.
– I should not class Mr. Griffin as a foreigner.
– I think Americans can be ‘ regarded as foreigners, at any rate so long as Australians are treated as such in the United States. During the war they were our allies, but ever since that time they have been telling us that they won the war, quite forgetful of the long time they took to make up their minds to participate in the struggle. At any rate our action in having an American design for our capital is inconsistent with the many slogans sounded so often in federal political circles to-day advocating use of Australian brains and Australian manufactures.
The position in Canberra has been accent iia red because successive Australian governments Iia ve refused to permit Australian architects to make necessary modifications of Mr. Griffin’s design, even where the latter has been found to be freakish, economically unsound or unsigned to Australian conditions. Canberra is certainly an. example of town planning run mad. The idea of town planning- as I have always understood it is to have proper regard for the requirements of posterity, but as applied in Canberra it seems to me to have been to give the maximum of discomfort and disadvantage to the present, and probably the next two or three, generations.
Canberra has a population of between 6.000 and 7,000 people who are scattered over an area of 25 square miles, an area larger than the cities of Perth or Adelaide. The effect has been to increase tremendously the cost of the usual municipal services, such as water supply, lighting, sewerage, road construction and maintenance. There are half a dozen small settlements or suburbs with separate shopping centres thus preventing the establishment of one good business centre with its resultant trading values, which, under the leasehold system, should have provided a valuable asset to the nation. These separate and scattered suburbs have compelled the residents, in most cases, to live very much further from their work than is the case with residents of large cities like Perth and Adelaide. In the absence of a tramway system the citizens of Canberra are involved in considerable economic losses in travelling to the various government offices. Public servants, who really cannot afford motor cars, are- consequently compelled to purchase them.
– I ask the honorable senator to deal more with the subject of the ordinance.
– The whole question of local government is bound up in the cost of these services. I am trying to show how a fantastic design has increased the cost of services here, and how it is due to this design that the rates collected will not permit the citizens of Canberra to bear the whole burden of the upkeep of the city, as is done in other Australian cities laid out ou lines more suitable to the people. Because of this design, not only have we so many roads, that come directly under the ordinance, to be maintained, but also civil servants have been compelled to purchase motor cars in order to get to and from their employment. They would not have been compelled to do so had a different design been adopted. So much is this the case that to-day Canberra has an Australian record for the number of motor cars owned per head of the population.
– That may be a tribute to the wealth of the people.
– It is entirely due to the fact that we make the people live two or three miles from their employment and deny them the advantage that most residents of country towns enjoy - the opportunity to live close to their work so that they can slip home to their meals. In Canberra the citizens cannot reach their homes with any degree of comfort unless they have motor cars. I do not blame any one who has to live here and can possibly afford to have a motor car, if he makes an effort to get one.
It has struck me as extraordinary that members of Parliament are spared the discomfort and inconveniences to which the residents of Canberra are subjected. Members of Parliament are accommodated at the only two residential hotels close to Parliament House and the Government offices - the Hotel Canberra and the Hotel Kurrajong. I think it would be fairer if the permanent residents who have to live in hotels or boarding houses were permitted to occupy the accommodation houses that are close to the Government offices, and which are now occupied by members of Parliament, and if the irregular and casual visitors, including ourselves, were forced to secure accommodation in the far-flung suburbs and outskirts where the permanent residents are now compelled to live. If this were done I think that members of Parliament would have a fuller appreciation of the disadvantages brought about by the layout of this infant city.
– Surely the honorable senator would not expect Parliament to inflict penalties on itself?
– But it seems extraordinary that only sufficient accommodation for members of Parliament and distinguished visitors should have been provided close to the Secretariats and Parliament House, while people who have to work in those offices are compelled to live at what seem to me to be unwarranted, expensive, and economically unsound distances from their work. It is this condition of affairs that has compelled us to give consideration to matters affecting Canberra, as we are doing in connexion with this ordinance, because the people of the city, under this extraordinarily expensive layout, are quite unable to pay the usual proportion of the cost of self-government that is borne by the people of other Australian towns. Of course, as it is the seat of government, the Government will have to contribute a certain amount, but under the existing design that amount will always be very much larger than it would otherwise be. Senator Barnes, the honorary Minister, has told us that the rates paid by the citizens of Canberra for the upkeep of the services of the city amount to only 6 per cent, of the total cost. I am sorry that he was not a little more definite but I take it that he meant that the citizens contributed 6 per cent, of the ordinary cost of maintenance, exclusive of the upkeep of the parts of the city that belong particularly to the Government.
The proposed Advisory Council is at least an improvement on the form of government by commission under which this city has been labouring and suffering for many years. I have always strongly opposed any form of government by commission. I regard it as undemocratic, as a negation of representative government, and an evasion of ministerial responsibility.
– Commission control saved Sydney at any rate.
– It may have done good in Sydney, but the graft that existed in that city could not have arisen in Canberra had the work been done, as I think it should have been done, by a responsible department of the Crown, with the approval and under the direction of a minister and Parliament.
– Commission control has worked successfully in Washington.
– I regret that I have not in my mind at the moment the full facts about Washington, but even if they were in my mind I doubt if the President would let me refer to them in this debate. No greater example of the failure of government by commission can be seen than in the city of Canberra. Judging by the cost of the works and services carried out by the Commission, I am perfectly certain that millions of pounds could have been saved if the work had been done by public contract, under the supervision of departmental engineers and architects. I hope the time will come when self-government will be given to Canberra on the lines desired by the Leader* of the Opposition; but in the meantime I think that, as a temporary measure, the Advisory Council as proposed by the Government is an improvement. As it is a council to be appointed in conformity with a law of which the Senate has approved, I see no reason why
I should vote for the disallowance of the ordinance. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) referred to the appointment of public servants to the Advisory Council who, he said, will merely carry out the instructions of the Minister. My experience of permanent heads of departments in Western Australia., and also during the short time I have been a member of the Federal Parliament, has shown me that their advice to Ministers is based on sound knowledge and training, and that they can be relied upon to give a Minister the best possible advice, I have found, too, that whilst public servants carry out the instructions and policy of the Minister of the day, where there are differences of opinion they always leave the responsibility with the Government or with the Minister. Where they disagree with the views of the Minister, they generally protect themselves by recording their recommendations in writing and allow the Minister to “ carry the baby.” If there is a danger, I think it is that the Minister will be far more likely to carry out the wishes of the heads of departments than the converse. It is notorious that some Ministers - I am glad they were not in this chamber - have been like putty in the hands of some departmental heads, who seemed to acquire an uncanny facility for persuading them to rubberstamp the approval of all their recommendations. However, I believe the permanent heads of the departments who are to be placed on the Advisory Council are men of the highest integrity and ability, as well as citizens of Canberra, who can be relied upon to advance the welfare of the citizens whilst protecting the interests of the Commonwealth. I do not think any good purpose will be served by disallowing this ordinance. On the contrary, it would appear to me that its disallowance would be an expression of opinion by the Senate that full municipal control of Canberra should at once be given to the residents. That may come in the future. The Minister has promised that the whole matter will be reviewed very soon. As the Advisory Council is to be appointed for only one year I do not see that any earlier benefit will accrue to the Commonwealth or to Canberra by disallowing the ordinance.
Senator THOMPSON (Queensland, [4.10J. - I do not wish to say more than a few words on this subject, because I contend that this is not the proper time or place to survey the work that has been done in this connexion. I must confess at the outset that I was disappointed with the Federal Capital Commission, which had the affairs of Canberra under its control for some time, because I had high hopes of it. I differ from Senator E. B. Johnston in that I rather regard a commission as a board of directors, which usually does better work than a large representative body. However, the Commission had a very arduous task to perform. It was up against the necessity of doing work rapidly in a limited time, and if the conditions were carefully reviewed, I think it would bo found that it did fairly well in difficult circumstances. I do not think that this temporary arrangement of the Minister - because that is all it is - is a good proposition. I agree with all that the Leader of the Opposition has said with respect to it; but at the same time there is an interregnum which must be bridged in some way, and probably nothing very much better than that proposed could be suggested. As the Leader of the Government has indicated that the whole question will be reviewed in a year’s time, I lean to the view that it is advisable to give the Government this year to inquire into the subject with the aid of the practical working of the council, and at the end of that period they should bring down a bill embodying a scheme for the control of Canberra which will be acceptable to this chamber. It seems to me that there are several very difficult problems to be solved, one of which is the allocation of the revenue between the two contributing sections. In Canberra all the public buildings belong to the Government, and also most of the tenements rented by the people. The fact that the city is one of the future means that the expenditure has been very much greater than that in an ordinary municipality. When I ,was of youthful age, I was mayor of a township of only 2,500 inhabitants. We had a very small revenue, but we managed to make the revenue meet expenditure, and initiate new works.
– The honorable senator would.
– We had to. One of the problems of the Advisory Council will be to ascertain how much responsibility can be allocated to the Government, and how much to the ratepayers in order to arrive at some scheme of municipal representation, which, I take it, after the comparative failure of the Commission must now be given a trial. I believe in trying out the municipal idea of giving the people representation, because until they have that right and endeavour to solve their own problems, they will probably never be satisfied. Another problem closely associated with the development of Canberra is the treatment of rural lessees. That is most difficult to deal with, and will require al] the enthusiasm and acumen of the members of the council to bring recommendations before the Government which will satisfy those people on the land who are endeavouring to make a living by raising sheep.
– They will not have representation on the Advisory Council.
– I thought they would.
– There are about 600 lessees in a population of 5,000 or 6,000.
– I take it thai the members of the Advisory Council will listen to the requests concerning the disabilities of rural lessees, and that it will be their duty to endeavour to make recommendations to the Minister which will assist in overcoming those difficulties. I think that there is a possibility of the Advisory Council doing good work in the direction of conducting investigations during the next twelve months. There is no doubt that, during this period, the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr. Blakeley) will virtually be a dictator, since all decisions will rest with him. He will be in active control of the Federal CapitaTerritory for the time being. If the advice of the council to the Minister is likely to enable a reasonable measure providing for the control of Canberra to be brought down within twelve months’ time, I do not think we should disallow the ordinance. We should give the Government an opportunity during that period to make better provision for the control of the Federal Capital Territory. I]) these circumstances, I do not intend to support the motion for the disallowance of the ordinance.
.- On this occasion, as on others during recent years, the time of the National Parliament has been occupied in discussing local affairs when more important business should be under consideration. While we have temporary arrangements for the control of Canberra we shall find that the time of Parliament is taken up in dealing with trifling problems which should be solved by some form of local government. »I regret that the Government has not gone further in giving the people of Canberra local government.
– It will; this is only a temporary measure.
– But it is in a very in- _ definite form. We have been assured that the Minister for Home Affairs will report to Cabinet on the subject within twelve months, but that does not mean anything. We do not know what he is likely to report at the. end of that period-
– He is going to report on the form of control that should be introduced, and which should be embodied in a bill to be submitted to Parliament.
– Is it suggested that in twelve months’ time the Government will introduce a bill to provide for the election of a municipal instead of an advisory council?
– The Minister will endeavour to give Parliament an opportunity to discuss a proper system of control for Canberra.
– Will the Minister give an undertaking to that effect? Previously he said that the Minister would report to Cabinet.
– That is the object ; it will be done in twelve months, or as soon after as possible.
– Does the Minister now suggest that legislation will be introduced to give the people the right to elect a municipal council? Are we to understand that at the end of twelve months the Minister will not only report to Cabinet, but will submit a bill to Parlia- ment in which provision will be made for the people to elect a municipal council?
– I do not say that it will be within twelve months; but within a reasonable period.
– 1 am astonished at the Minister for Home Affairs promulgating this ordinance, because he has always taken a deep interest in Canberra, even before the seat of government was established here. He is the only member of Parliament who has built a home in Canberra, and has always endeavoured to do his best for the people here. I cannot see what experience he is likely to gain through an advisory council.
– The Minister definitely stated that it was a purely temporary arrangement.
– How can we bind him down?
– Of course, he cannot be bound down to a week or a fortnight. We know that at the end of this period of 12 months some such arrangement must be made, or the whole responsibility will be thrown into the hands of the Minister.
– Would the honorable senator read the Minister’s statement to the Senate?
– It was quoted by Senator Hoare, but I did not hear all it contained. It was not sufficiently definite; the Minister merely said that the matter would be considered at the earliest opportunity.
– Although the Minister said that he would report to Cabinet, I think I can say that from Cabinet a report will be made to Parliament.
– If he reported to Parliament we should have an opportunity to review the situation.
– So long as it is clearly understood that this need not be done precisely within twelve months, I can say, unequivocally that it will be done.
– If the Minister will give an assurance that it will be done within a year, or within a reasonable period, I think that the Senate will agree to the present ordinance. I have taken an interest in the progress of Canberra from the beginning, and I am satisfied that the present discontent on the part of the citizens can be removed only by giving them responsibility over their purely local affairs.
– I can say that within twelve months, or within a reasonable period thereafter, Parliament will be given an opportunity to consider the whole matter.
– On that understanding I accept the present proposal, but I am afraid that advice without responsibility will prove of very little use. An advisory body may suggest all kinds of wild schemes. I have heard claims of the most extravagant nature made as to what should be done for the people of this city. Until the residents are given the power to govern themselves in purely local affairs, a proper civic spirit cannot be developed. Members of Parliament, generally speaking, leave Canberra at the end of every week, and the spirit of discontent is prevalent throughout the Public Service.
One of the most important matters to be investigated is the sum that the Government should allow to the local governing authority for expenditure on matters other than purely national undertakings. Senator E. B. Johnston remarked that the present proposal seemed to him to be an improvement on the Commission form of government, but I cannot see eye to eye with him on that point. Even when the citizens of Canberra were allowed to elect a third commissioner, they did not return men who were able to work in harmony with the Commission, and therefore they themselves are largely responsible for the present awkward situation. If they had returned a third commissioner who could have worked with Sir John Butters, many good things could have been done for the city; but their representative was always fighting the Chief Commissioner over matters that were not worthy of consideration.
– The first Commission did good work.
– -Yes. Sir John Butters was a man of action, and he did big things in Canberra.
– But he was an extravagant administrator.
– I remind the honorable senator that, when Sir John Butters began his administration here, he took over control from the Works Department and was required to have Parliament
House ready for occupation by a certain date. At that time workmen were unobtainable here, and advertisements applying for them were published in the daily newspapers in Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide. The men who made themselves available were offered more than the award rates, and full time wet or dry. At the outset building was so brisk in the State capitals that few workmen were available in Canberra. But when, eventually, they were attracted here they demanded such conditions of labour that the cost of employing them was tremendous. The payment of full wages whether the weather was wet or dry alone involved an additional outlay of £80,000 in building Parliament House. *
– How much extra did the blunders cost?
– Those who blame Sir John Butters .and others for extravagance often are not aware of all the facts. Naturally the workmen took advantage of the opportunity to secure favorable working conditions. They obtained cottages for 2s. 6d. a week, and probably made their jobs last as long as possible. I realize that Sir John Butters, though a great administrator, showed no capacity for governing the people of Canberra.
I hope that the Minister will endeavour to establish a municipal council as soon as possible. The most difficult problem, of course, is to determine the amount of subsidy to be paid to the local governing authority for purely local expenditure. I have heard it said that Canberra is already out of date from a town-planning point of view, and that the design should be revised before further expenditure upon it is incurred. I have been assured that no town-planner would pass the present design of this city. If that is so, the matter needs thorough investigation. I hope that at the earliest possible date the Government will bring in a bill to vest authority over local matters in a representative body of the citizens, in order to remove the present discontent and produce a proper civic sentiment.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [4.33]. - I need not offer any apology to the Senate for having submitted this motion. The discussion has shown that the majority of members feel that the time has arrived when a limited form of municipal government should be given to the people of Canberra. I wish to correct the statement of Senator E. B. Johnston that I advocated full municipal control. I did not do that ; I specifically pointed out matters to which I would, at the present time, limit that control.
– The Government is also in favour of that.
– A considerable majority of honorable senators, if given an opportunity, would vote in favour of the extension of a limited municipal authority. Another justification for the motion is the fact that the discussion has elicited a statement by the Leader of the Senate, by interjection today, supplementing the promise made by the Minister for Home Affairs, that the Government will, within a period of twelve months or thereabouts, give the Senate in some way an opportunity to review this matter, and will then state its views on the subject of giving a form of municipal, control to the citizens.
– After Cabinet has considered the matter it will, within a reasonable time, give Parliament an opportunity to discuss the form of selfgovernment to be granted.
– In about twelve months ?
– Yes; or within a reasonable time.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.That at any rate is a distinct improvement on the statement that was promulgated by the Minister, which merely indicated that he would report his view to Cabinet.
I wish to clear up one or two matters. During this debate the Vice-President of the Executive Council took occasion to make a claim which has been advanced on several occasions previously and which I challenge, that the economies that have been effected in the administration of Canberra are due to the action of the present Government. I have in my hand the fifth annual report of the Federal Capital Commission. It purports to cover the Commission’s operations to the 30th June, 1929, but actually the information in it goes up to October of that year. On pages 6 and 1 the report in timates that the staff employed by the Federal Capital Commission at the end of June, 1929 numbered 408, whereas at the end of October of the same year the number had decreased to 285. The present Government was not in office when the reduction was made. Dealing with expenditure for the current year the chief commissioner reported : -
It will not be out of place for me to mention here that in December, 1028, the instructions to the Commission were to prepare to proceed with all speed to transfer the rest of the Public Service to Canberra at the earliest possible moment. This involved a heavy programme of designing and estimating, but when the estimates for the first year’s operations were submitted in April, 1929, the financial situation had so developed that the Treasurer declined to approve of the raising of loans moneys to the extent of one and a quarter millions, which was found to be necessary, and the Commission was informed that the Treasurer would not approve of the raising of more than £050,000 for the present financial year. The whole scheme was thereupon revised, and whilst in the course of revision had to be reduced a further £50,000, and these estimates were approved by the Minister and the raising of the necessary loans approved by the Treasurer as required by the Act. In the course of a few months, however, as a result of a decision of the Loan Council, instructions were issued that the whole schedule was to be further revised and brought down to £405,000.
All that occurred while the Bruce-Page Government was in office. The report continues -
In order to assist the Commission in .bringing its staff down to the lowest point consistent with efficiency in its many activities, the Commission sought the services of an outside mind in the hope that some new light might be thrown upon the subject, and its own staff committee assisted in this matter.
The Honorable the Postmaster-General very kindly made available to the Commission the services of Mr. A. J. Christie, then DeputyDirector of Posts and Telegraphs, Brisbane. Mr. Christie came to Canberra and commenced his investigation towards the end of July.
The result of Mr. Christie’s investigations was shown in the reduced staff and the cutting down of the Estimates to which I have already referred, all of which took place during the regime of the Bruce-Page Government.
During this debate I have been the subject of mild reproof at the hands of my friend and colleague, Senator Colebatch. First of all, he reproved me for proposing to disallow an ordinance that is not inconsistent with the principal act. I take it that the honorable senator, therefore, lays down the principle that so long as ordinances or regulations are consistent with the act under which they are promulgated, the Senate should take no action to disallow them.
– I did not say that at all.
– If the honorable senator will read the Hansard report of his speech he will find that lie goes very near to saying that. I suggest that that is a very dangerous principle to lay down.
– I did not lay down any such principle:
– 1 believe that the honorable senator will discover from his speech that he did. If lie applied it to ordinances and regulations generally the honorable senator would find himself in a very dangerous position, one to which I should not give my consent. I shall not lend myself to the acceptance of ordinances and regulations just because they are consistent with the parental act. That would give the Government a free hand to make ordinances and regulations of any kind, provided that they kept within the four corners of the act. Some of these acts, and specficially the one with which we are concerned, contain practically no principle at all. They merely provide that such a thing can be done by regulation. The principles are laid down in the regulations or ordinances themselves. I fancy, from what has been published recently in the press, that before long we shall have before us a regulation which will be quite consistent with the act, but one to which I think Senator Colebatch himself will be the very first to object. I do not think that I am open to reproach for my views. 1 consider that this ordinance raises a new principle in connexion with the government of Canberra, although it is quite consistent with the act, and that I and the Senate generally have a perfect right to disagree with it -if we so desire, ft has been said that the matter is of no significance. If it is then I can only say that it has excited the minds of honorable senators to a remarkable degree. The Government considers it to be of such importance that the Vice-President of the
Executive Council thought it necessary to issue a threat to the Senate on thi’ subject.
– I challenged the honorable senator to humiliate the Government on the matter.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Senator Daly referred to my action as= a direct challenge to the Government, and almost conjured up in the minds of some honorable senators visions of a double dissolution. I suggest to Senator Colebatch and those who deprecated my action in the matter because of its alleged triviality that their view is not supported by the importance attached to the subject by the Senate generally.
There is another matter which I desire to clear up, and here again Senators Colebatch and Johnston administered a mild reproof. They contended that my statement that the four departmental heads who will bc members of the Advisory Council will not be free to give their real opinions on matters that arise for discussion was in some way a reflection on public servants; that I insinuated that public servants did not give honest advice to their Ministers. For a long period I was a Minister of the Commonwealth, and during that time I was very frequently the subject of criticism. But there was one criticism to which I was never subjected, because there could never have been any foundation for such an accusation. During the whole course of my ministerial career I was never once guilty of sheltering myself behind the action of a public servant. On the contrary, on many occasions I accepted full responsibility for actions of public servants with which 1 did not agree and which I should have forestalled had I the opportunity to do so. I accepted as criticism against myself disapproval of actions that were actually taken by public servants. I took full responsibility for them, and never once sheltered myself behind an officer although I could have advanced the excuse that the action was taken by the public servant concerned, without reference to me. I have always entertained the highest opinion of the probity, courage and zealousness of our public servants, but I have always maintained that a public servant’s duty is to his
Minister. Ministers change and politics change, but one undeviating rule must govern public servants: they must be loyal to the government of the day. A departmental hoad may have his own private opinions, but must never obtrude them in public against the policy of his Minister and the Government. The public servants who will be on the Advisory Council will be there not as private individuals but as heads of departments. Does Senator Colebatch or Senator Johnston suggest for one moment that they are going to express on that council views that run counter to the opinions of their Ministers? The only way that the Advisory Council can give advice is by resolution passed when it. is in session. Let us assume that some matter is agitating the minds of the citizens of Canberra ; that one of the elected members of the council brings forward a motion that certain advice be tendered to the Minister and that he is supported by the other two elected members. Does any honorable senator believe that any of the four departmental heads on that council would cast a vote in favour of such a resolution until he knew the opinion of his Minister on the subject? Does any honorable senator believe that one of those public servants would vote for that resolution if he knew that it was contrary to the expressed opinion of his Minister? Of course, he would not.
– I said that I believed that he would give his honest opinions on the subject, and I still hold that belief.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE But he would give that opinion to his Minister in the ministerial office, not at the Advisory Council. On many occasions in my office, I have had from public servants expressions of opinion against my own views. Those departmental heads debated the subject in an endeavour to prove that their view was right, but always in the secrecy of my office.
– Did they ever convince the honorable senator?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE:Several times, which shows that I have a mind capable of being influenced by reason. Once such a question was settled by a ministerial decision the public servant concerned would no more think of publicly combating the ministerial view than of endeavouring to fly to the moon.
– Would he not endeavour to help the Minister to form his opinion.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Yes, but in the ministerial office only. This Advisory Council will be a public body, and we shall really have the ministerial view- repeated four times by these departmental heads. That is all.
– The Minister may have formed no opinion on the subject, and may be waiting for his departmental head to assist him to do so.
– He will form his opinion and probably take the advice of these public servants in the ministerial office. I consider that it is a farce to put these four representatives of the Government on the Advisory Council, because, by reason of their loyalty to the Minister, they cannot express a personal opinion on any matter upon which they have not consulted him.
– The Minister has no opinion at. present on the matter of the self-government of Canberra, so that he can be advised on the subject.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Could that advice not be tendered without this expensive council? If the Minister has not yet formed an opinion on the matter he has merely to walk across to the secretariat and call together these four departmental heads, who would give him their views in half an hour.
– What about the representatives of the people?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Their opinions could be expressed at the meetings of the Advisory Council. I shall not cover the ground that has already been covered. I merely wished to express myself with a view to clearing up these few points.
I believe that we have the numbers to carry this motion if a vote is taken. I said at the outset that in bringing this matter forward I acted not in my* capacity as Leader of the Opposition, but as a private senator. The debate has demonstrated that this question has not been raised for party purposes. My only desire has been to advance the view, which I hold strongly, that the time has arrived for the people of Canberra to be given a limited form of municipal control. I do not, however, desire to embarrass the Government or those honorable senators who, during the debate, have expressed a desire that the residents of Canberra should be given some form of control of local affairs. I feel that the Government will take notice of the strong expression of opinion of honorable senators, and in view of the Minister’s assurance that within the next twelve months the Senate will be given another opportunity of reviewing this question, I ask leave to withdraw the motion.
Leave granted ; motion withdrawn.
Debate resumed from 1st May, (vide page 1310) on motion by Senator Daly -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- Last week I attempted to show that the statement contained in the last paragraph of the Minister’s speech does not indicate clearly the intention of the Government. Reading that statement one would be led to believe that the Government would embark upon no project to which reference had not been made in the Prime Minister’s policy speech. That conclusion is wrong, for in this bill the Government proposes to do something which was not placed before the people. This proposal is an attempt by the Government to give effect to the policy of the Labour party as set out in its platform. We have only to look at that platform to see what might happen if the present Government were entrusted with the power which it seeks in this bill. I do not think that the people will be willing to agree to the Government’s proposal, even if it reaches them, but it would be well for us to consider the possibility. To no government would I entrust the power sought by this bill. I should not dream of taking from the people the right to decide those big constitutional questions especially reserved to them by the framers of the Constitution. We should not make it possible for a chance majority in Parliament to filch from the people their rights.
We must consider this proposal in the light of the platform of the Labour party. Unfortunately, a great number of the electors of Australia have a very hazy idea of what that platform contains. The constitution adopted at the eleventh conference of the Labour party held in Canberra in 1927 shows, under the heading “ Constitutional and electoral reform,” that the Labour party is pledged to obtain -
Unlimited legislative powers for the Commonwealth Parliament, and such delegated powers to the States or provinces as the Commonwealth Parliament may determine from time to time.
What does that mean? It means no less than the abolition’ of State Parliaments and the centralization of all governmental control in. the Commonwealth Parliament; in a word it means unification. Those persons in the community who are opposed to unification should be brought face to face with what is in store for them if they consent to give to the Federal Parliament the power sought by this bill.
Another plank of the Labour party’s platform is -
The Commonwealth Parliament to be vested with authority to create new States and provinces.
It is debatable whether or not the creation of new States would benefit the Commonwealth as a whole, and therefore I shall not, at this stage, refer further to that plank of the Labour party’s platform.
One of the most important planks of the platform is that which reads -
The Senate to be abolished.
Prominent members of the Labour party at conferences and union gatherings and on public platforms have declared the abolition of the Senate to be one of the first objectives of the party. The abolition of the Senate is desired by the Labour party because it realizes that the Senate stands in the way of the accomplishment of those wild schemes of the militant section of the Labour party, which, unfortunately dominates the ‘party to-day. The full control, which the- section desires, cannot be obtained while the Senate, which was set up by the founders of the Constitution as a House of review and the champion of the sovereign States, exists. I believe that some amendment of the Constitution in relation to elections to the Senate is desirable, but I hold strongly that the Senate, either in its present or some other form, is the best safeguard that this country can have against the introduction of wild schemes, which & chance majority, comprising perhaps one fanatic in another place, might put into operation. The first draft Constitution provided that the Senate should comprise senators elected by the various States, subject to certain age qualifications. I believe that would have been a better Constitution for the Senate than that finally agreed to.
A further objective of the Labour party is -
The High Court of Australia to have final jurisdiction in all Australian causes.
The granting of the powers sought in this bill would enable the Government to go further than that ; it would make possible the abolition of the High Court altogether. From time to time Labour members of Parliament have protested against the power of the High Court.
– That is the avowed object of this amendment.
– Here we have a bald announcement that the Labour party is prepared to corrupt the fount of justice by taking away from the judiciary the power it at present possesses. Surely the people will see in this proposal the unseen hand, and realize the dangers with which it is fraught.
The Labour party’s platform also provides -
The principle of adult suffrage to be embodied in the Constitution.
Probably no one would raise serious objection to that principle; but I point out that if power existed to alter the Constitution almost at will another government could do away altogether with the principle of adult suffrage. Apparently the Labour party assumes that, because at the last election” it was returned with a majority, it will remain in office for ever. I do not think that it will. In any case, I am not prepared to give any government that power.
– The Government has not felt very secure during the last few days.
– It has received a severe shaking because of its attempt to deprive returned soldiers of their prefer- ence. The Government did not dare to tell the electors that a Labour Government would abolish the preference so long granted to returned soldiers; but at the behest of the militant section of the Labour movement it endeavoured to do so. I am not prepared to entrust the destinies of this country to such men as “ Jock “ Garden, Kavanagh, Crofts, and the other wild element in the party. It has been said that the Labour party has no policy. That may be so; but there is one thing it dare not do; it dare not deviate one inch from the path dictated by the disciples of Moscow.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable senator said that the Labour party acted at the dictation of the disciples of Moscow. Both in this chamber and in another place the Australian Labour party has’ repudiated any alliance with Moscow. I therefore ask the honorable senator be called upon to withdraw his remark.
– The honorable senator will have an opportunity later of dealing with the remarks of Senator Ogden. The accusation is not against individuals, but against a party.
– I shall endeavour to show that there was foundation for my statement. The Labour party recently selected candidates for the new civic administration of Sydney. Among those candidates is Mr. “ Jock “ Garden, who is not only a representative of the Labour party, but is also a representative of the Third Internationale of Moscow. Indeed, he is its representative in Australia, and the editor of the Pan-Pacific Worker. In the light of that fact, it is correct to say that the Labour party dares not depart in the slightest degree from the policy dictated by Moscow. The Australian Workers Union and the militant section of the Labour party are at war ; but when the test comes we find that the policy of the extremists becomes the policy of the party.
Let me come to another plank in the platform of the Labour party. It is the. most remarkable of the lot. The party is pledged to the initiative, referendum and recall. But now it is deliberately proposed to take away from the people the power to say what alterations of the Federal Constitution should be made.
– .No. We are asking the people themselves to decide that question,
– If the people are foolish enough to grant this power to the Federal Parliament they will no longer have any voice in altering the Constitution. But I believe that this is not a genuine straight-out proposal which the Ministers hope to have carried. It has probably been brought forward in obedience to that Moscow policy which” calls upon Ministers to seek the power to amend the Constitution at-will.
– It is a sprat to catch a mackerel.
– It is a sop ro satisfy the extremists in the Labour party. The other day the Prime Minister said that the Government proposed to carry out Labour’s policy which included national insurance, drastic amendments of the arbitration law, the vicious and cruel principle of preference to unionists and a number of other things. But he also said, “ Gentlemen of Moscow, we cannot give you these things unless you grant us the power for which we are now asking”. This proposal, which is designed to emasculate the Constitution, is merely a bluff. Ministers know very well that the people will not accept it. In a word it is merely a sop to delude some of the Government supporters. Ministers thus hope to be able to evade the responsibility of having to bring in legislation to give effect to certain planks in the Labour platform some of which are indeed interesting.
What are Labour’s proposals in regard to defence? Labour does not believe in having a- defence force. Some Labour supporters say that they would wipe out all forms of defence. An honorable member in another place made that statement the other day. Labour says that a defence force is unnecessary. Not long ago a prominent and respected member of the Labour party, and a man of some intelligence, told me that there was no need for Australia to spend very much on defence. He said. “ Even though there may be danger of aggression in the future, Great Britain. which has had so much out of Australia, would defend this country”. In those words we have the policy of Labour. The British “ Tommy “ with a standard wage of 25s. a week is to fight to maintain the standard of £6 10s. a week for the Australian worker. At any rate, that view is held in Labour ranks by quite a number. Other portions of the defence policy of the Labour party are as follow: -
Adequate home defence against possible foreign invasion.
I do not know whether the system now in operation is or is not an adequate home defence against possible foreign invasion -
That the Commonwealth Constitution be amended to include a condition that no Australian can be conscripted for military service.
Yet they conscript unionists.
– The honorable senator was opposed to conscription for a long while.
– Yes, and if I had known there would be so many shirkers whom I can see without looking very far, I should have changed my mind long ago. During the war I saw quite a number of men of military age who might have gone to the front but stayed at home.
– Why did not the honorable senator enlist?
– I did not go to the war myself because I was over the. age and was not physically fit to serve as n soldier, but oh the platform I urged men to go, and that is more than was done by a number of men who opposed conscription.
Labour says in effect, “You shall not live if you do not join a union “. The man who refuses to join or offends the union powers-that-be is pursued to the brink of the grave. He is looked upon as an outcast. He and his children are doomed to suffer and starve. That is the philosophy of Labour. I have known good reliable honest citizens who have done much for this country, but, who, because they have offended against union bosses, have been driven from pillar to post and prevented from earning a decent living because of the operation of the vicious policy of conscription of trade unionists. This policy of the Labour party will be put into operation if the Commonwealth Parliament gets the power which the present
Government, is now seeking for it. The defence platform of the Labour party also provides for -
Amendment of the Defence Act to secure Mie deletion of all clauses relating to compulsory training and service.
Effect has already been given to that particular plank.
– But not by law.
– No; it has been done behind the backs of the representatives of the people. I doubt whether the first plank “ Adequate home defence “ is genuine - whether the party is in earnest in regard to it. “We have this also in the platform -
All sentences imposed by court martini to be subject to review by a civil court.
Some of the military senators are better qualified than I am to speak on that subject - ‘
No employment of or interference by soldiers in industrial disputes.
That is another dangerous power to entrust to u Labour Government pushed by so many unseen forces. Homes may be invaded; there may be bloodshed. Yet my friends over there would not allow these disturbances to be quelled.
– That is not accurate.
– The Hogan Government has recently withdrawn the police from the waterside workers’” pickingup places.
– Probably because there is no need for the presence of police.
– To me it looks like inciting trouble. The best way to preserve peace is to prevent the possibility of disturbance. People will not tackle an adequate defence force. There is never trouble where a sufficiently strong body of police is available. A sufficiently numerous body of police would probably have prevented the recent trouble on the coal-fields. Another plank in the defence policy of the Labour party is -
No raising of forces for service outside the Commonwealth or participation or promise of participation in any future overseas war except by the decision of the people.
If a foreign force is sailing towards Australia, intending to bombard Sydney, we must not fire a shot until a referendum of the people is taken!
– Under those conditions no Australian would look for the excuse that the honorable senator gave for nor fighting in the last war.
– If . danger threatened this country and was close to our shores, we could not send men abroad to try to prevent it from coming without first holding a referendum. But while the people were being consulted the guns would be firing. If the present proposal of the Government is carried it, of course, means the abolition of the referendum, but one cannot expect consistency in politics. There are other planks in the defence platform of the Labour party.
– Is there one about the trainee being able to keep his rifle?
– That has disappeared since Senator Ogden left ‘the party.
– I confess that I have made the statement that one plank of the Labour party’s platform advocated the .retention of rifles by trainees, but that plank was cut out at the Canberra conference. It was rather’ too dangerous, I suppose.
– It was one of the planks put into the platform of the party when Senator Ogden was a member of it.
– It was not put in with my consent, thank heaven. Another plank in the platform of the Labour party, which perhaps should be the subject of another discussion, comes under the heading of “Finance and Taxation,” in relation to the imposition of embargoes for the effective protection of Australian industries subject to the control of prices in the industries benefited. The Labour party is giving effect to that plank of its platform relating to the imposition of embargoes, but is not taking a referendum on the subject.
– That has been the salvation of Australia up to the present.
– I do not intend to debate that subject at this juncture; there will be an opportunity later. “We can, however, see the dangers which this country would have to face if the people were foolish enough to support the proposal which the Government is now submitting. “What does it really mean? As
I have already stated, it” means practically tearing the heart out of the Constitution. Quite recently I read the debates during the Federal Convention, in which are to be found many proposals for amending the Constitution. After considerable discussion it was finally decided that the Constitution should be altered only with the consent of the people. That is the principle embodied in all modern constitutions. The latest constitution drafted in the British Empire is that of the Irish Free State, in which is embodied the same principle. For the first eight years of the operation of that Constitution Parliament had the right to alter it.
– It used that right to extend the period of eight years.
– I did not think it could do so.
– It has done so’.
– Article 50 of the Irish Constitution reads -
Amendments of this Constitution within the term of the Scheduled Treaty may be made by the Oireachtas, but no such amendment passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas, after the expiration of the period of eight years from the date of the coming into operation of this Constitution, shall become law, unless the same shall, after it has been passed or deemed to have been passed by the said two Houses of the Oireachtas, have been submitted to a referendum of the people, and unless a majority of the voters on the register shall have recorded their votes on such referendum, and either the ..votes of a majority of the voters on the register, or two-thirds of the votes recorded, shall have been cast in favour of such amendment. Any such amendment may bc made within the said period of eight years by way of ordinary legislation and as such shall be subjected to the provisions of article 47 hereof.
– That power of amendment was used to extend the period of eight years.
– The argument 3 am submitting is that the principle of consulting the people is embodied in the latest constitution framed within the British Empire. It was placed there by the consent of the Irish delegates. The proposal we are now considering is to divest the people of the right to amend the Constitution, and to give the executive power to usurp the authority, which means not only the destruction of the
Constitution but practically the breaking up of the federation. It is well known that a considerable section of the people in Western Australia and Tasmania, and, more or less, in South Australia, believe that those States would be better off if they withdrew from the federation. A number of well-meaning and intelligent people in those States have been urging secession for years. I have taken up the opposite attitude, and have told them that they are foolish, and that, under existing conditions, they could not live outside the federation. I can, however, assure the Senate that, if the Constitution could be amended as is proposed in this bill, the feeling in favour of secession would grow and become so powerful that it is quite possible that some of the States would break away from the federation.
– Does the honorable senator contend that all questions of vital importance should be referred to the people?
– Then why did the honorable senator not favour a vital amendment of our arbitration law being referred to the people?
– I am speaking of amendments to the Constitution. There are some questions which should not be referred to the people at all.
– Is arbitration one?
– The argument used by a number of well-meaning people - quite apart from supporters of the Labour party - is that the Federal Constitution is too rigid, too inelastic. That is not so. It is the rigidity of party discipline that makes it difficult to amend the Constitution. I remind the Senate that on three occasions when the principal political parties were in agreement the people consented to an amendment of the Constitution. When two or three proposed amendments were put to the people in 1906 there was one upon which all parties and the people agreed. There was another proposal in 1910 or 1911 to amend the Constitution to give the Commonwealth the right to take over the debts of the States; that was an amendment which had the support of the political parties and the people. Again, in 1928, the financial agreement between the Commonwealth and the States had the support of the principal political parties and also of the people. The only obstacle to-day is the unbending attitude of section-! of political parties. In 1926 the late Government proposed certain amendments of the Constitution to give greater, but not complete, industrial powers to the Federal Arbitration Court in connexion with which there was an agreement up to a certain stage when the militant section outside got busy. A conference was held on the 11th May, 1927, at which the present Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Daly) was present, but owing to my regard for the Minister I will not quote the speech he delivered on that occasion. That conference decided to support the proposals of the Bruce-Page Government until the militant section in New South Wales, led by Mr. Lang, intervened. A quarrel then commenced and Mr. Theodore-
– The honorable senator has the facts all upside down.
- Mr. Theodore changed his ground-
– What about Senator Barnes?
– He turned a complete somersault.
– At the conference Mr. Theodore and Mr. Matt Charlton agreed to support the proposals, but when the militant section in New South Wales got busy they changed their attitude and supported Mr. Lang.
– Mr. Charlton was not there; the honorable senator has not the facts.
– However, Mr. Charlton gave the proposals his benediction. Is that correct?
– When the militants in New South Wales got busy Mr. Charlton, like Senator Barnes, turned a complete somersault.
– I did not.
– Then I shall say the Honorary Minister changed his opinion. Up to that point there had been unanimity, and but for the change in tactics the increased industrial powers which the Government was seeking would have been in operation to-day. The Labour party in Victoria supported the proposals, and the members of the same party in New South Wales and in Tasmania opposed them, and owing to the conflict of opinion between the parties they were defeated. When I hear any reference to the inelasticity of the Constitution, and to the difficulty of amending it, I reply that the difficulty is due not to the Constitution, but to party divisions.
I predict that these proposals if they ever reach the people will be defeated. I do not believe that Labour’s heart is in the proposal contained in this bill. It may have the effect of placating some of the party’s supporters, but the Government will need a lot of moral as well as political support if it is to recover some of the ground lost during .the last few days. There will be some rows in the camp, and the reports of what has occurred will make interesting reading.
– There will be no rows in the camp.
– The Government’s proposals in this instance seem to be an attempt to placate its militant supporters. I have quoted some of the planks of the Labour party which would be put into operation if this proposal were adopted. It is no use any member of the Labour party telling me that he is not bound.
– The Labour party “made” the honorable senator.
– It will never “ make “ the honorable senator who interjects. That would be impossible. At the last conference of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions held in Sydney, a motion was carried stipulating that every member of the party was bound to give effect only to the planks of the party’s platform and to pledge himself to nothing else.
– When was that conference held in Sydney?
– A few weeks ago. It was held either in Sydney or Melbourne, and that resolution was reported in the press.
– The honorable senator may as well be right as wrong.
– I think it will be found that 1 am not far wrong in saying that every member of the Labour party
Is bound to support the planks of its platform and to advocate nothing else. The Government’s proposal in the present bill will, no doubt, reach the people, despite any action that the Senate may take regarding it, but I do not think i hat there is any possibility of the people accepting it. They are pot likely to give away their birthright; they will not agree to scrap the safeguards in the Constitution. For myself, unlike supporters of the Government, I am prepared to trust the people with regard to this sacred document. I wish it to be preserved, not destroyed. I do not desire the final word as to the destinies of this country to be left to a chance majority in this Parliament. “What Labour may do to-day another party can undo tomorrow.
– Unfortunately they do not.
– They sometimes should. Uncertainty regarding the future government of Australia creates in the minds of the people a feeling of uneasiness that helps to destroy our credit. I believe that our credit abroad would be hotter than it now is if a number of the extreme proposals of Labour had not been advanced. The present bill leaves the people in doubt as to what may happen next, and they are chary about investing their money in Government loans. If the bill were carried it would go a long way in the direction of destroying our credit, not only at home but also abroad. 1 believe that I am correct in saying that the people, in their wisdom, will reject this extraordinarily revolutionary proposal to take away from them the right to amend their own Constitution.
– I think that it is to be extremely regretted that the Government, at a time when the head of the Cabinet is suggesting that both parties should come together in a spirit of political peace, has put forward a measure of this kind for acceptance by both parties in both branches of the legislature. The amendment proposed by this bill does violence to the political beliefs of those who sit, in the ranks of the Opposition and also violates the spirit and principles that underlie the Constitution that was granted to us some 30 years ago. If the Prime
Minister is sincere in his protestation concerning the need for political peace, it is his duty at this critical juncture to submit only measures that can be discussed without stirring up the party strife that he apparently deprecates. The present proposal is likely to be received with the greatest hostility, .so far as I can see, because I regard it as destructive of the very principles on which the States federated.
To my mind, the arguments advanced by the Minister in his second-reading: speech in support of the acceptance of the measure, do not carry the weight of conviction. He stressed what we all know to be a fact - that varying decisions have been given by the High Court regarding the interpretation of various sections of the Constitution, and he proceeded to draw from that the conclusion that the remedy would be to transfer to this Parliament the power now exercised by the High Court, which fleas solemnly set up under the Constitution for the purpose of interpreting it. I venture to think that there would be a great deal more certainty under judicial decisions than there would if political considerations were allowed to carry weight. There would be changes in political thought, changes in forms of government, and changes in party shibboleths and beliefs, and the Constitution, forsooth, if we accept this bill, would be the plaything of the party in power from time totime. As Senator Ogden pointed out a. few minutes ago, neither the Irish Free State Constitution, which represents the latest word in constitution making, nor the Swiss Constitution, makes Parliament the judge of its own power, which is exactly what the Minister suggests should be done when he invites the Senate to accept this bill. He invites the people of Australia to make the,Parliament the final judge of its own power, when neither the Swiss Confederation, which enjoys the right of the referendum, nor the Irish Free State, provides for the exercise of such power by its Parliament.
It becomes us to consider in quick review a few of the leading principles of this Constitution. The Leader of the Government drew to his aid the utterances! of eminent politicians and judicial authorities during the passage of our Constitution through the House of Commons within a few days of thirty years ago. I do not desire to follow the honorable senator in discussing the various details of that discussion, but I draw from the debates, and from this very instrument itself, the conclusion that I think was well stated by Dicey when he said we had established a federation, a political contrivance intended to reconcile national unity and power with the maintenance of State rights.
What is the first principle that strikes one concerning this Constitution ? It was a compact, an agreement, a statutory contract between the six States of Australia,” and the power that they themselves were creating, and I submit to the Minister that the bill is not only inconsistent with the principles of the Constitution, but violates one of the fundamental moral laws embedded in every religious and moral system in the universe, a law that is given expression to in the Koran better than in any other book that I know, in the words, “ O yo faithful, keep your covenants.’’ Can it be said that an attempt to filch the power intended by the Constitution to be exercised by the High Court, and to endow this Parliament with it. is in conformity with the solemn agreement entered into between the contracting parties to the federal compact? The very name federation implies trust and honour. The bill is a violation, not only of the principles of the Constitution, but of our moral obligations. Let us examine the four constituent elements of this instrument. First of all we constituted a legislature consisting of these two Houses of Parliament. Then we superimposed on that the executive. Thirdly and lastly, we placed within the Constitution itself the judicial power, and we established a body to exercise that power, which was to balance, weigh, and determine the rights and privileges under the Constitution of the six co-partners of the Commonwealth. In section. 51 of that document, we specified 39 subjects that were to be dealt with by this Parliament. National matters were left to the jurisdiction of this Parliament. We conferred on this Parliament what may be described as the national powers that ought to be exercised by it; and some of them were absolute powers; they were taken over straight away. But how many of them has this Parliament seen fit to exercise, although they were regarded by the founders of federation as matters essentially within the province of this Parliament? We have not touched, for instance, the difficult problem of marriage and divorce, but the party opposite screeches from the housetops that it is necessary to widen the powers of this Parliament by letting it be the judge between itself and the various States as to what powers it should exercise. It is obvious that there is a violation of principle here. While the judicial power consisting of the High Court was made an arbiter with powers in some respects more extensive than those of Parliament or even the executive, I think that, having regard to the fact, that the judiciary is part of the Constitution, we can say that it is the Constitution itself and not the judiciary that is placed above the legislature. One writer has referred to it as the living voice of the Constitution - the unfolder of the minds of tho people whose will stands expressed in that supreme instrument.
We, parties to this statutory contract, which was accepted by referendum of the people, by every State in the Commonwealth, and enacted at our request by the Mother of Parliaments, now seek to make one party to that contract the judge of what it should or should not contain. That’ does violence to one’s sense of what is moral and fit. It does violence to the very principle that underlies the Constitution, that the High Court should exist to handle without fear or favour questions between State and Commonwealth, and to decide what is and what is not constitutional. As may be expected, varying decisions emanate from that court. I cannot congratulate the Minister on the series of cases that he cited, because if be will review some of them he will find that while some of the judges have said that if it is necessary’ to overrule a decision given in a previous case they will overrule it. They have suggested from time to time that a decision in a previous case went on a different ground altogether. In the Duncan case, or one of the Queensland cases, the decision was based on the power of the Government to expropriate property. A broad principle has now been laid down in the James case, and it has been decided to accept that as the law of the country in the matter.
No series of decisions can be expected to remain untouched; but while judicial decisions may vary the Government proposes, if the people will carry this referendum, to substitute for judicial uncertainty, a legislative and political uncertainty which will be far greater, as it will vary in conformity with the conflicting ideas of party government. These three things, the parliament, the judiciary, and the executive, were instituted as a check and balance on each other. I think it was Poster who said - “ There exists a system of checks and balances each of which has been -used or designed to preserve the original power of the Constitution unchanged”. If our legislation is unconstitutional, and the High Court decides that it is unconstitutional, can we chafe at that when it is the very Constitution itself that decides that we shall not have the power. If the executive, on the other hand, feels that some act that they are asked to do by Parliament or by the party supporting them is beyond their power, they hold their hand. From time to time in dealing with measures, and in passing legislation, both branches of the legislature have to consider whether an act is constitutional or unconstitutional ; whether they are acting within the powers that have been granted to them. It is obvious that the refinements and distinctions that have to be drawn were recognized by the convention, the people of Australia, and by the British Parliaments, because, during the passage of the bill through the Imperial Parliament some 30 years ago, the right honorable Joseph Chamberlain, who introduced it, dealt with the very aspect of it which I am now putting to this chamber, the federal nature of the compact between the parties. It has been stressed also by those eminent authorities, Messrs. Quick and Garran, that it is a federal contract that was made, and it provides the method by which it shall be altered. Now, by some device or other, the Government suggests to the people that they should alter that state of things, to the detriment of every one. I am not going to enter a controversy as to whether this alteration is competent or not. This is not the time or place to do that. But one can be assured that if Australia were misguided enough to carry the proposed alteration, its constitutionality and its legality are going to be questioned. Can any State in the Commonwealth, having become a party to this bond, suffer its people to have superimposed upon them, as the interpreter of the Constitution, the very Parliament which was a party to the contract? I venture to suggest that it does violence to national justice as well as to the true construction of the principles that underlie the Constitution.
I think that it has been very well put this afternoon by Senator Ogden that this is simply doing away with the High Court. It is cutting out the important functions that the High Court discharges in this country; the functions that we fought for and had delegated to that court under the judicial clauses of the Constitution. It is eliminating as arbiter and interpreter of the Constitution that structure that we ourselves built up for the purpose of interpreting the Constitution. I say that the Government is doing violence to the very principles of the Constitution when it makes that proposal. It does not emerge when you first examine the thing. It simply appears to be an added power to alter the Constitution, a power that is entirely out of keeping with the concluding section of the Constitution, which will immediately precede it if this is approved by the people. But when you look at it in its reality, it is simply cutting out one of the three great heads in the federal system, the judicial system. Maybe that is part and parcel of the idea; that the High Court of Australia should be removed from its high estate. But when you remove the judiciary and make this Parliament the interpreter of the Constitution - apart from the other reasons that I have advanced - you are embarking upon very dangerous ground. Nationally it is dangerous. It will do violence to State interests, and I venture to think that it will create a greater danger of turmoil than we can ever hope to cure, without a reversion to the judicial system.
This matter of keeping a system of checks and balances to preserve the original power of the Constitution unchanged was debated for many months on end and examined from every point of view by those fine men who framed the Constitution of Australia. I speak with some feeling because I went right through that period in very close touch with a number of the framers of the Constitution, and knew how exercised their minds were that they should produce as perfect a piece of government for this country as was possible. I knew the attention that was devoted to every phase and feature of the Constitution. I knew how they contrived to make this great instrument have a proper balance, and I knew that at the back of their minds there was- this: that to the National Parliament should be delegated national powers ; that to the State Parliaments there should be left the remaining powers. Those great underlying principles guided them in submitting this bill for the acceptance of the Home Parliament, and it was on those principles that the measure was accepted by the Parliament of the Mother Country. I think that it was Lord Haldane, whose assistance Senator Daly called to his aid, who pointed out how well safeguarded the Constitution was in relation to its amendment under section 128. The Minister has suggested that the majority of the people cannot destroy the Constitution, and that Parliament cannot destroy it. I suggest that the very insertion of this amendment in the Constitution would be destructive of it, for the grounds that I have already assigned. Such an alteration would destroy one of its very foundation pillars, one of the central stones of the arch; that the High Court should function as the interpreter of the Constitution. What function will the High Court have if the Ministry of the day with a majority in both Houses desired to have more power? I speak without any party feeling. I think that one honorable senator referred to the exercise of the education power at present vested in the States. What would happen if the Ministry of the day decided that it would add another paragraph to the 39 contained in section 51 and take complete power over the education. The succeeding government might consider the education question too ticklish, and decide not to have any education power at all. Again, what if some Minister succeeded in moving his government to take over the administration of the land of this country, and the succeeding government considered that it did not wish to be saddled with those additional powers, that the problem was even more ticklish and troublesome than the administration of Canberra, and that it should be left to the States ? I do not know how the States would function.
– It is conceivable that a government would unload Canberra on to the States.
– That is a possibility that I am sure would commend itself to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, who would probably hand the Federal Capital over to New South Wales. The whole position would be ludicrous, out of keeping, out of poise, out of harmony, and out of sympathy with the principles of the Constitution. The proposal is a breach of good faith. It is not doing justice to the States, and is capable, not only of destroying the Constitution, but of rendering the whole legislative system of Australia ineffective and inefficient. It is capable of producing a state of chaos in this country that would be simply amazing.
The Minister put it that the structure was inconsistent with the foundation. With Senator Ogden I agree that the people are not likely to rob themselves of the powers specially reserved to them in the Constitution. But there is always a danger, especially in times of stress and difficulty, that they will fly to anything to relieve them from their troubles. The structure of the Commonwealth rests on three great pillars - the Parliament, the executive and the judiciary. Should they consent to the removal of the central pillar of the Constitution, the structure erected on it must inevitably fall, unless it is again placed in position. In the debate in the House of Lords on the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Bill, the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies, in his second-reading speech on the 29th June, 1900, said-
I would nsk your lordships to observe that no proposed alteration of the Constitution, the object of which is either (1) to diminish the proportionate representation of any State in the Senate or House of Representatives, or (2) to diminish the minimum number of representatives, or (‘3 ) to alter in any way the limits of a State, or (4) to affect the provisions of tin: Constitution in relation to any particular State, may become law unless it is approved by the majority of the electors voting in the State which will be affected by the proposed alteration. I would ask you to compare those provisions for a change of the Constitution with the provisions that obtain in the United States of America. You will notice that in the case of the Commonwealth of Australia a proposed change must not only bc passed by a majority of the people in a majority of thc States, but also by a total majority of those voting in all the States on the question.
Lord Selbourne contrasted the Australian Constitution with that of the United States of America. The Leader of the Senate (Senator Daly) said that Lord Haldane had stated that the Australian Constitution was modelled, on the British system. The Minister, as a lawyer, should know thai Lord Haldane would not fall into such an obvious error as that, and that he never intended his language to be accepted literally. He also stressed the federal nature of the Constitution, the difficulty of ^changing it, and the protection that that difficulty afforded to the constituent States forming the Commonwealth.
– Will the honorable senator tell us how the British people are able to carry on without any constitution at all?
– The British people have entered into no compact such as we have entered into. If they had done so, they would honour the agreement. They would not do violence to a bargain honorably entered into, for they believe in keeping their covenants, and not in seeking surreptitiously to change the Constitution, as the Government is seeking to amend section 12S which was put in expressly to protect the parties to the compact.
– We are all one people.
– It is well that we are. If Senator Barnes had entered into a contract with other honorable senators and myself and all the parties to that contract had agreed on the appointment of an arbitrator to interpret the terms of the contract, what would the honorable senator say if I set myself up as the interpreter of the contract and decided that he would get only what I was willing to give him? In such a case Senator Barnes would show his righteous indignation. Yet the honorable senator is a member of a Government which would do violence to the principles underlying the Constitution. He would give to the Commonwealth Parliament full powers, and allow it to delegate certain specified powers to the States.
The powers of the States and the Commonwealth were fully debated during the passage of the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Bill through both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, as it was debated here before the matter come before the British Parliament. The debate in the Mother of Parliaments revealed the difference between the Canadian and Australian systems, and the advantages of the latter. If the Minister has any lingering doubt as to the soundness of our Constitution, I suggest that he read pages 240 to 242 of the report of the Constitution Commission. He will see there a summary of the reasons for the Constitution being framed as it is, and also some reasons why -we on this side of the chamber who believe in the federal system, will fight to the last ditch any amendment which would vitiate the principles underlying the Constitution.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– Senator Daly has quoted some remarks by Lord Haldane. If he had turned back to page 93 of the British Parliamentary Debates Vol. S3, he would have found that Lord Haldane, then Mr. Haldane, expressed himself in this manner - lt is true that, in Canada, the genera) powers of legislation are reserved to the Dominion Parliament, while only specified powers are given to the Provincial Parliaments. But the latter have among these specified powers the widest capacity for dealing unrestrictedly with property and civil rights. Therefore, rather technically than in substance is there a difference between the Provincial Legislatures of Canada and those of Australia. But the difference between the Constitution, which’ this bill proposes to set up, and the constitution of the United States, is enormous and fundamental. This bill is permeated through and through with the spirit of the greatest institution which exists in the Empire, and which pertains to every Constitution established within the Empire - T mean the institution of responsible government, a government under which the executive is directly responsible to - nay, is almost the creature of - the legislature. That is not so in America, but it is so with all the Constitutions we have granted to our selfgoverning colonies. On this occasion we establish a Constitution modelled on our own model, pregnant with the same spirit, and permeated with the principle of responsible Government.
He then went on to use the words quoted by Senator Daly, but it is quite obvious that he realized the limitations which were imposed by the Constitution for Australia, which was then’ under consideration in the House of Commons, and that it was a compact between sovereign States entering into a bargain. He was simply referring to the principles of the responsible government which found a place in that Constitution. But there can be no doubt as to the view the right honorable Joseph Chamberlain took. In introducing the bill in the House of Commons, he is reported on page 54, volume S3 of the House of Commons’ Debates, to have said -
Vow, to this new Parliament so constituted thirty-nine distinct subjects have been expressly referred. .Amongst them are the tariff, post office and telegraph services, defence, currency, bankruptcy, marriage and divorce, and old-age pensions, and also the following matters - to which I call special attention, because they involve interest outside Australia as well as locally - first, the fisheries in Australian waters, beyond the territorial limits of Australia; secondly, copyright: thirdly, legislation dealing with the people of any race not being natives of either of the States (I think that has in view legislation in regard to Asiatics ) ; fourthly “ external affairs “, a phrase of great breadth and vagueness, which, unless interpreted and controlled by some other provision, might easily, it will bc seen, give rise to serious difficulties; and, fifthly, the relations with the islands of the Pacific: which also involves, of course, many questions in which foreign nations are concerned.
A little later, he said -
The Imperial Parliament occupies a position of trust, which it is not the desire of the Empire, and which I do not believe for a moment it is the desire of Australia, that we should fulfil in any perfunctory or formal manner.
Again, as reported on page 62 of the same volume of debates, he dealt with the right of appeal to the Privy Council, the removal of which may be one of the underlying objectives of certain individuals who support this proposal for the amendment of the Constitution. He said -
I think we recognize, once for all, that these relations depend entirely on their free’ will and absolute consent. The links between us and them at the present time are very slender. Almost a touch might snap them. But, slender as they are, and slight as they are, although we wish, although 1 hope, that they will become stronger, still if they are felt irksome by any one of our great colonics, we shall not attempt to force them to wear them. One of these ancient links is precisely this right of appeal by every subject of Her Majesty to the Queen in Council. The bill weakens that - there is no doubt about that - and thereby there opens up, as I shall show, a prospect of causes of friction and irritation between the colonies and ourselves which, in my opinion, would be more numerous and more serious than anything that is likely to result if the right of appeal is retained.
As we all know, the right of appeal to the Privy Council was retained, but to a limited extent only, and, in common with some of the other Dominions, there may bc a desire on the part of Australia to get rid of what some regard as an archaic method of appeal.
These arc considerations, to which honorable senators should address themselves. Senator Daly claims that the power sought for this Parliament would convert what is a federation in name to a real federation. He suggests that the present system is cumbersome and that we could with safety adopt the method now suggested by the Government. In additional to a number of international writers on the Constitution, we have a most valuable contribution to the literature on this subject by two distinguished Australian jurists, Quick and Garran. On page 2S6 of their Annotated Constitution of the Australian Commonwealth they deal with the preamble of the Constitution as follows -
It will be noticed that the preamble to this Constitution contains no less than eight separate and distinct affirmation? or declarations: -
The agreement of the people of Australia.
That is a point I have already made -
They indicate there the importance of the agreement part, and stress, as I have already stressed, that it is an agreement between sovereign States of the Commonwealth - that it is a federal compact. On page 333 under the head of “ A Union of States “ they deal with the same subject as follows: -
The primary and fundamental meaning of a federation (from the Latin foedus, a league, a treaty, a compact; akin to fides, faith) is its capacity and intention to link together a number of co-equal societies or States, so as to form one common political system and to regulate and co-ordinate their relations to one another; in other words a federation is a union of States, subject to the preservation of State entity and State individuality within defined limits. Such a union as that of the United States called into existence a central government to deal with the general affairs of the union, but there was some discussion and doubt among publicists whether, as its resultant, it established a new State. The phrase “ federal union “, or the abstract noun “federation” described the bond of union between the “ United States”, but was silent as to whether the States so united formed a single composite State.
In this case there can be no doubt on the point. On page 337, they deal with the “Federal Structure of the Parliament “ in the following way : -
As the Commonwealth itself is partly federal and partly national in its structure, so also is its central legislative organ the Parliament. Each originalState is equally represented in the Senate; the right of State representation is embedded in the Constitution and docs not depend on inference or implication. The Senate derives its power from the States, as political and co-ordinate societies, represented according to the rule of equality. (Madison, in The Federalist, No. xxxix., pages 237-8.) In this manner the States become interwoven and inwrought into the very essence and substance of the Commonwealth, constituting the corporate units of the partnership as distinguished from its personal units, the people. Thus the Commonwealth is buttressed by the States and vitalized by the people..
Again, on page 339, dealing with the “ Structure of the Federal Parliament,” they say -
The structures of the two Houses of Parliament is compfetely federal, the House of Representatives embodying the national aspect, and the Senate the provincial aspect, of the federal duality. But in the exclusive powers of the House of Representatives with regard to the initiation and amendment of money bills there is a predominating national element, and this is still further emphasized in the “deadlock clause” (section 57), which is designed to ensure that a decisive and deter mined majority in the national chamber shall be able to overcome the resistance of a majority in the provincial chamber.
There can never be room for doubt regarding the nature of this compact or regarding what Australia has done in entering into this solemn agreement between the States.
I wish now to refer briefly to the conclusions which have been drawn by the same learned authors as to the legal position that has arisen. On page 988 they say-
The Constitution is the master of the legislature, and the community itself is the author of the Constitution. In this respect a federal legislature differs from a supreme legislature like that of Great Britain, which is the embodiment and essence of the sovereignty of the British nation. Sovereignty resides in that person, or body, or class of persons in whom is ultimately vested the power to amend a constitution of government.
A little later they say -
No amendment of the Constitution can be made without the concurrence of that double majority - a majority within a majority. These are safeguards necessary not only for the protection of the federal system, but in order to secure maturity of thought in the consideration and settlement of proposals leading to organic changes. These safeguards have been provided, not in order to prevent or indefinitely resist change in any direction, but in order to prevent change being made in haste or by stealth, to encourage public discussion and to delay change until there is strong evidence that it is desirable, irresistible, and inevitable.
On page 989, they state the position -
Where a community is founded on a political compact, it is only fair and reasonable that that compact should be protected, not only against the designs of those who wish to disturb it by introducing revolutionary projects, but also against the risk of thoughtless tinkering and theoretical experiments.
The Constitution of the Commonwealth has provided a safety valve in the shape of a section defining the method by which its amplification and modification may be effected, but its use is shielded with precautions, the wisdom and propriety of which claim favorable consideration from every reflecting mind. The provisions for the amendment of the Constitution may be considered under the following separate headings: -
1 ) Alterations which may be made.
Initiation of alterations.
Reference of alterations to the electors.
Presentation of proposed alterations to the Governor-General for the Queen’s assent.
These provisions were carefully inserted in order to guard against any hasty alteration of the Constitution. That being so it is even more necessary that we should oppose such an amendment as this, which would enable the parliament of the day to determine its own power - to decide what powers should be exercised by the Commonwealth Parliament and what powers should rest with the States. On page 991 of the volume from which I am quoting, Quick and Garran, in dealing with the restrictions on the amending power, state -
It is now necessary to draw attention to several restrictions on the amending power. They may be summarized thus: No amendment -
diminishing the proportionate representation of any State in either House of the Parliament;
diminishing the minimum number of representatives of a State in the House of Representatives;
increasing, diminishing, or otherwise altering the limits of a State;
affecting the provisions of the Constitution in relation to the foregoing matters. may be carried, unless a majority of the electors voting in the State interested approve of the proposed law. Hence an Original State cannot, without its consent, be deprived of equal representation in the Senate, or of the minimum number of five representatives in the popular chamber. No State, without its consent, can suffer an increase, diminution or alteration of its limits. They then refer to the provisions of section 128 which applies, and which they regard as the safeguarding of the Constitution.We are asked to jettison that which Quick and Garran refer to as the safety valve of the Constitution. I commend to honorable senators the observations of these two constitutional authorities regarding the powers of alteration as set out on page 994. The proposal which is now placed before us is probably the result of some of the suggestions made by witnesses who appeared before the Royal Commission on the Constitution. If honorable senators will peruse the report of that commission they will find that even those gentlemen who fathered these proposals before that body, and who presented a basis similar to the terms of this proposal, did not go as far as the Government now propose. Mr. Kennealy, who, I understand, gave evidence before the royal commission on behalf of the Labour party, submitted a proposal intended to give the Commonwealth Parliament complete legislative powers, but subject to such limitations as would ensure the control of Parliament by the people. Mr. Kennealy, as will be seen from a perusal of his evidence on page 235 of the commission’s report, indicated that he favoured the safeguard of a referendum of the people, which, as Senator Ogden pointed out, exists in the Constitution of the Irish Free State, and is also to be found in the Swiss Constitution. Nothwithstanding that, the Government submits this proposal stripped of any such protection as Mr. Kennealy suggested, and asks Parliament for complete power to amend the Constitution whenever Parliament so desires. I think I have said sufficient to indicate that I am totally opposed to the bill, and if this proposal ever comes before the people, I shall oppose it with the utmost energy and ability at my command. It is a breach of faith with the people and is, I think, a violation of the federal principle embodied in the Constitution. It is inimical to the best interests of the people, and if it is adopted I can conceive, for instance, of a majority of the smaller States controlling the destinies of a great State, such as New South Wales, or on the other hand, some of the more populous eastern States inflicting their wishes upon the smaller States.
– Cannot the honorable senator see us as one people?
– Yes. We are a people who believe in home rule and should live in such a way that there would be no marked division amongst us. The supporters of the Government who are anxious for the millennium, cannot wait for the peaceful and steady development of a great country such as this, but are looking for a council of perfection. The Minister said, in effect, that, because of certain judgments of the High Court, the Government should jettison that great tribunal and substitute Parliament as the sole arbiter. Such a policy is contrary to good government and sound reasoning. I intend to oppose this bill, and when the proposal which it embodies is brought before the people I know that it will be ignominiously rejected for the reasons I have given.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [8.22]. - I invite the Senate to consider for a few moments the purely constitutional aspects of the very interesting and informative speech with which the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Daly) introduced this measure. At a very early stage in his remarks he said, referring to the Federal Parliament of Australia -
Tn practice it has been found that it has not been endowed with powers essential to its exercise as a federal body, even in a restricted sense. There cannot bc said in its defence what has been said of the American Constitution.
Having made that remark the Minister proceeded to refer to the powers of the Australian Commonwealth in matters of trade and commerce and industry. The only inference that could be drawn from his remarks was that in those two respects - the trade and commerce and industrial powers - our Constitution bestows upon this Parliament lesser powers than are conferred upon the Federal Parliament under the Constitution of the United States of America. As a matter of fact the exact contrary is the case. In the case of the Commonwealth Parliament, the power regarding trade and commerce with other countries and among the States is absolute. In the case of the Constitution of the United States of America, not only is the central Parliament strictly confined to trade and commerce with other countries and among the States - not only is it excluded as our Parliament is, from dealing with intra-State trade and commerce, but even its power in respect to trade and commerce with other countries and among the States is confined to the regulation of trade and commerce. It has been held in the courts that that power of regulation does not extend so far as prohibition, but in our case the power is absolute; it does extend to prohibition. In the matter of trade and commerce, while there is within the two Constitutions’ the same limitation: that the federal power cannot interfere with intra-State trade and commerce, there is this essential difference: that in the case of the United States of America the power is confined to regulation whereas in the case of the Australian Commonwealth it is an absolute and entirely unrestricted power extending to prohibition.
When we come to consider the matter of industrial powers we find that the central parliament of the United States of America has no industrial powers whatever; they are purely matters for the State legislatures. In Australia, however, a most extraordinary use has been made of the trade and commerce power. So far we have not had an opportunity to consider certain regulations promulgated under the Transport Workers Act - regulations promulgated under the trade and commerce power of the Commonwealth. No such regulation could be contemplated for a moment under the Constitution of the United States of America. The idea that under the trade and commerce power of the Commonwealth the Government can, by executive act, appoint places at which labour can be engaged and things of that sort done could not be contemplated under a constitution which the Minister has suggested confers wider powers than does the Constitution of Australia. The honorable senator also mentioned as an instance of the limitation of the powers of this Parliament that, the High Court had declared Part VII. of the Trade Marks Act to be invalid. The provisions of Part VII. of that act could never have been thought of under the United States Constitution. And why were they declared invalid by the High Court? Because this Parliament sought to use its trade and commerce power to impose industrial conditions with respect to a trade union label under a Trade Marks Act.
– That was not the reason.
– To my mind it would argue an extraordinary defect in our Constitution if the Parliament could so use a Trade Marks Act as to impose under it industrial conditions. The Minister also said that the industrial powers which we were supposed to possess were non-existent. Has he read the debates in the conventions leading up to the establishment of federation ? Is he aware of the opposition put forward at conference after conference to the proposal of the late Mr. Justice Higgins that some limited power in regard to industrial matters should be reposed in the Commonwealth? If he has read those debates 1 am sure that he will agree with me when I say that had the framers of the Constitution conceived the remotest idea that the paragraph relating to industrial power, in section 51 of the Constitution, would be used in the way it has been used, not even a shadow of industrial power would have been granted to the Commonwealth. It was contended over and over again by Mr. Higgins and the few who supported bini, that this power would never be used except in extreme cases - to grapple with great industrial disputes such as the shipping trouble in the early “‘nineties” which was then fresh in the minds of those charged with the task of framing the Constitution. The sole purpose of that paragraph in section 51 was that the Commonwealth Parliament should be armed with power to deal with some great industrial dispute extending over the whole Commonwealth, and entirely incapable of solution by a State Parliament. Had the members of the conventions dreamed for a moment that this power was going to be used to determine the wages of bank clerks all over the Commonwealth or that the issue of a demand upon employers in different States would be regarded as constituting an interstate dispute, nothing is more certain than that the paragraph would have been excluded. Nothing is more certain than that the framers of the Constitution would not have allowed the Federal Parliament any industrial powers whatever.
What has happened in Australia? Contrary to the statement of the Minister that powers we were supposed to possess have been found to be non-existent, judicial interpretation has clothed this Parliament with industrial powers that the framers of the Constitution never intended for a moment it should possess. It was never contemplated that this industrial power would apply to anything but bona fide industrial disputes actually existing beyond the limits of one State, and existing in such a way that the power of one State would be altogether ineffective to deal with it. I confess that I am not particularly impressed by the quotations that the Leader of the Senate favoured us with from speeches delivered by my friend the right honorable Sir George Pearce when he was a member of a Labour government in 1914, and I venture to suggest that the time will come when the Leader of the Government himself will stand aghast if he is confronted with some of the speeches made by him in 1930.
The honorable senator made certain suggestions as to how this power would be used if the Senate and the Australian people could be induced to extend it to the Government. He said it could not be used to destroy the inviolability of the Commonwealth and of the several States; it could not be used to destroy the federation. I put a direct question to him. I asked him whether he thought that the words “Notwithstanding anything in the last preceding section,” meaning section 128, which are the words used in this bill, could apply to the closing paragraph of that section. I would particularly direct the attention of the Senate to his reply: “I do not think so.” Is that the basis on which we are to amend the Constitution - the charter of the people’s rights? An honorable senator representing the Government in this chamber,” and an ornament of a learned profession, when he is directly asked whether certain words mean so and so, says that he “does not think so.” Are we not entitled to be sure what those words mean before we pass the bill? Are we to agree to this important measure on the suggestion of the Leader of the House that he does not “ think “ it means a certain thing. I do not hesitate to say that if those words do not mean what they say,, they do not mean anything at all. The bill is described as one for “ an act to amend the Constitution by conferring on the Parliament full power to amend the Constitution.” I am not, as the Leader of the House is, a man of legal training, but I have some slight, though probably very imperfect, knowledge of the English language, and when I read in one part of the bill the words “ full power to amend “ and a little later the words “ notwithstanding anything “ I am forced to the conclusion that those words mean precisely what, they say, and I find it very difficult to place any other interpretation upon them. In any case, I repeat that we are not entitled to leave anything in doubt. We must have something more from the Minister than the statement that he “ does not think “ that those words mean what they obviously convey.
Two honorable senators who spoke this afternoon referred to the Irish Constitution. I mention it merely to illustrate the danger there would be in passing something the Minister says he does not think means so and so. The provisions of section 50 of the Irish Constitution were unquestionably intended to make it a rigid constitution. It was thought, however, that during the first few years of its operation it might be found desirable to make some small amendments, and that possibly it would be unwise to go to the bother of a referendum for that purpose. Therefore, although section 50, which is a far more rigid provision than we have, provides for a referendum on an alteration of the Constitution, which can be carried only by an absolute majority of the total number of electors enrolled, or a two-thirds majority of the electors who vote, it was enacted by the Imperial Parliament, because of the possibility of some trifling amendment being required in the early stages of the working of that Constitution, that for the first eight years the Irish Parliament might itself make such amendments as it thought fit. Matters proceeded placidly enough for the first seven years, during which a number of small amendments were made. But just after the seven years had expired, the Irish Parliament made use of that very provision to amend the section so as to extend the period within which amendments might be made without reference to the people. That extension will - I say “ will “ because of the knowledge that I have of the debates in the Irish Parliament at that time - be continued from time to time, and what is intended to be a rigid Constitution, alterable only by the will of the people, will become a flexible one alterable at any time by the will of Parliament itself. I am not proposing to argue whether a rigid or a flexible Constitution is preferable in such a case. In any event, there can be no analogy between our conditions and those in Ireland, because Southern
Ireland is not a federation. But I put forward the argument from the point of view that it is extremely dangerous to include in the Constitution something which may be interpreted in a direction entirely different from what was intended. There cannot be the slightest doubt that the Imperial Parliament intended that the Irish Constitution, after a lapse of eight years, should be a rigid one, but, because of the ineffective manner in. which that intention was expressed, the intention itself will be defeated and the Constitution of Southern Ireland, for all time, will be a purely flexible one, alterable at the will of Parliament.
– It may not work out in that way.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.I think that there is not the slightest doubt on the matter. Apart altogether from that contention I would argue that the federal character of our Constitution will be completely destroyed if amendments, which in the nature of things must increase the power of the Federal Parliament and decrease the powers of the State Parliaments, can be made at the will of the Federal Parliament alone. The Commonwealth Constitution is a federal compact, because it can be altered only at the will of the Commonwealth Parliament, and at the will of the people of Australia voting as States. That is what constitutes it a federal compact. I should like to refer honorable senators to the definitions of “ a federal compact “ as reproduced on pages 230 and 231 of the Constitution Commissions’ report. To the first of these definitions I would particularly invite the attention of members of the Government. It is as follows : -
The distribution of powers between the local and central governments may vary to any extent; but the fundamental idea is always that of the two-fold sovereignty and the independence of each government within its own sphere.
That is Sir Robert Garran’s definition of a federation. Next we have the more comprehensive definition by Sir Harrison Moore as follows : -
A “ federal government “ exists where, in a political community, the powers of government are distributed between two classes of organization - a central government affecting the whole territory and population of the sovereignty, and a number of local governments affecting particular areas and the persons or things therein - which are so far independent of each other that the one can not destroy the other, or encroach upon the sphere of the other as determined by the Sovereign in the Constitution. Both are completely subject to the State. Either may be changed or abolished at will by the State.
Then conies this very significant paragraph which I shall quote because of the reference made by the Leader of the House to the part played by the High Court in the interpretation of the Constitution. Sir Harrison Moore goes on to say -
It appears to involve also the existence of some authority recognized by the central and local parts as competent to determine the conflicts which arise as to their respective powers.
That is what the Leader of the House in the course of his speech specifically set out to destroy, and, therefore, set out to destroy a- fundamental principle of federation, without which no federation could exist. Viscount Haldane, quoted with approval by the Leader of the House, said -
But the natural and literal interpretation of the word confines its application to cases in which these States, while agreeing on a measure of delegation, yet in the main continue to preserve their original constitutions.
That is a state of affairs that could not exist if this Parliament arrogated to itself the right to detract from the powers of the States for the purpose of adding to the powers of the Commonwealth. Bryce, in The American Constitution, refers to the States in these words -
Still less are its minor communities, the States, mere subdivisions of the Union, mere creatures of the National Government, like the counties of England or the departments of France. They have over their citizens an authority which is their own, and not delegated by the central government. They have not been called into being by that government. They - that is, the older ones among them - existed before it. They could exist without it.
In Australia each of the present States was a separate political entity before federation. Freeman, in his History of the Federal Government in Greece and Italy, says -
The name of Federal government may be applied to any union of component members, where the degree of union between the members surpasses that of mere alliance, however intimate, and where the degree of independence possessed by each member surpasses anything which can fairly come under the head of merely municipal freedom.
And so one finds definition after definition, until at last one comes to the definition of the word “ federation “ in the Oxford dictionary - “ A society or league formed for joint action or mutual support: now chiefly, a body formed by a number of separate States, societies, &c, each retaining control of its own internal affairs.” Each of those definitions of “ federation “ - and the royal commission on the Constitution was unable to find a single authoritative definition which varied from them - will be inapplicable if this amendment be carried, because the powers of the States will no longer be at the will of the people, voting as States, but will be subject to the unrestricted will of this Parliament.
I shall say a few words in regard to the power of amendment itself. There can be little doubt that, with the exception of the last paragraph of section 128, the power of amendment can be altered in the same way as any other portion of the Constitution - by reference of the proposed amendment to the people after both Houses of Parliament have agreed to it, and by the amendment which is thus referred being accepted by a majority of the people and a majority in a majority of the States. Then we come to the question, “ How is the final paragraph of section 128 to be amended?”
The royal commission on the Con- ‘stitution heard conflicting evidence on the subject. Sir Robert Garran expressed the opinion that it could be altered in the same way as any other provision of the Constitution. But every other constitutional authority examined by the commission took another view, as did the members of the commission, without dissent.
– What was the opinion of Mr. Owen Dixon on the subject?
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.Mr. Owen Dixon appeared as a witness before the commission on behalf of the Victorian Bar, and gave an extremely interesting and informative mass of evidence which I commend to honorable senators. At a later stage Mr. Kenneally submitted to the commission an opinion by Mr. Owen Dixon as to how the Constitution could be altered in order to achieve Labour’s objective. In that opinion he said in effect, “ You cannot achieve the result you want without eliminating the last paragraph of section 128.” He did not express any opinion as to how that paragraph could be got rid of. He did not say whether, to get rid of it, a majority in every State of the Commonwealth must be obtained, or whether he approved or rejected Sir Robert Garran’s opinion that it could be amended the same as any other provision of the Constitution. As that opinion was submitted to the commission long after Mr. Owen Dixon gave his evidence, we had no opportunity to obtain any further information from him on the point. The Senate may take it from me that Mr. Owen Dixon gave no opinion as to the manner in which section 128 may be amended. The last paragraph of that section reads -
No alteration diminishing the proportionate representation of any State in either House of the Parliament, or the minimum number of representatives of a State in the House of Representatives, or increasing, diminishing, or otherwise altering the limits of the State, or in any milliner affecting the provisions of the Constitution in relation thereto, shall become law unless the majority of the electors voting in that State approve the proposed law.
Those were the words to which Sir Harrison Moore and Sir Edward Mitchell attached chief importance, as did every other authority that was examined by the commission, with the exception of Sir Robert Garran. They all held that an amendment of this kind would affect the provisions of the Constitution in relation to the making of such alterations, and therefore could not be carried except, by the unanimous votes of the States.
It appears to me beyond question that to give full amending power to the Federal Parliament, notwithstanding anything contained in section 128, would mean the removal of all the safeguards that were obviously intended to be given to the smallest of the States by the last paragraph of section 128. For that reason I have not the slightest hesitation in saying that, if, in spite of our efforts, this issue goes to the people, the proposal cannot be embodied in the Constitution unless it is approved by a majority of the electors in every State of the Commonwealth. , It alters the provisions of the Constitution whereby certain amendments could bc made, and section 12S clearly says that no amendment altering those provisions can* be made except with the approval of every State in the Commonwealth. Sir Edward Mitchell and a great many other eminent constitutional authorities go much further than that. They say, in effect, “ This bill, if passed, would be an offence against the Constitution.” The reason is that it conflicts with the covering clauses of the Constitution. The first of these covering clauses refers to the “ indissoluble “ Federal Commonwealth. “ Indissoluble “ can have no meaning apart from the words “ Federal Commonwealth.” Therefore, if anything is done which destroys the federal character of the Commonwealth, you immediately offend against the covering clauses. For that reason any State which had entered into this compact on the ground that it was an indivisible and indissoluble federal compact could not bo held to be bound by any constitution that might be set up in place of the present one, if the federal character of the instrument were destroyed.
I venture to suggest that if this amendment were carried, and any State were forced against its will into what would amount to a unitary system, by which every federal element would be destroyed, that would be the shortest possible method of destroying any true union so far as the Australian Commonwealth is concerned. You cannot force the people against their will into a compact that they never contemplated, without doing infinite harm to the whole foundation cif Australian unity and Australian nationhood. I suggest, too, that the only safeguard that this Senate has lies in the words contained in the first of the covering clauses, “indissoluble Federal Commonwealth.” It is a curious thing that whilst the closing paragraph of section 128 is undoubtedly designed to protect the smaller States, it affords no protection to the Senate. It merely says that no amendment affecting the proportionate representation of the States in either House of the Parliament shall bo carried without the consent of the State concerned. If you abolish the Senate you do not affect the proportionate representation of any State in the Senate; you abolish it altogether.
The protection of the Senate lies in the federal character of the Constitution. The framers of the Constitution no more contemplated the abolition of the Senate than they did the abolition of the House of Representatives; therefore they made no special provision against its abolition, except the words contained in the covering clause “indissoluble Federal Commonwealth “. If you dissolve the Senate you dissolve the Federal Commonwealth. Without that protection no paragraph of section 128 would prevent any four of the six States voting for an amendment of the Constitution which would abolish the Senate, because the abolition of the Senate would not mean any interference with the proportionate representation of the States in either House of Parliament.
– Does not section 9 define the Constitution?
– It does, but it is in the covering clauses that you have the protection of this Senate. This Senate must remain in existence so long as there is a Federal Constitution. Only by destroying the federal nature of the Constitution can we destroy the Senate.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that the people can abolish the Senate now?
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.No, not without abolishing’ the federation.
– If the people could not abolish the Senate, could Parliament do so under the proposed amended conditions?
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.I. suggest that this bill, which purports to give the Federal Parliament power to amend the Constitution, is an utterly ridiculous and entirely insincere proposal.
I should like to draw attention for a moment to a contrast between this bill and the proposals that were submitted to the royal commission by the president of the Federal Labour party on its behalf, and adopted by the two Labour representatives on the commission, Mr. Duffy and the Honorable D. L. McNamara. In order to give effect to this, Mr. Owen Dixon, now a justice of the High Court, drafted a considered amendment which appears at pages 365 and 366 of the report of the Royal Commission on the Constitution. I invite honorable senators to peruse that, and also to read the recommendations put forward by Mr. Duffy and Mr. McNamara, which will be found at pages 301 and 302 of the report. I venture to suggest that no more sincere or able” men can be found on either side of politics to-day than those two gentlemen. Although they recommended that power should be given to the Parliament to alter the Constitution at its will, they did insist upon certain matters being definitely fixed in the Constitution and unalterable excepting upon a referendum of the people. It would be interesting to examine those matters which Labour’s representatives on and before the commission insisted should be unalterably fixed in the Constitution excepting by passage of the measure through Parliament and reference to the people. The first of these matters was the qualification of electors. It is set out clearly in the report of Mr. Duffy and Mr. McNamara that the qualifications of electors, subject to the usual disqualifications, should be persons of the age of 21 years and upwards. That suggestion was made because it was feared that the day might come when in both Houses of the Parliament there would be a conservative majority which would raise the age of electors - particularly the age of electors for the Senate. It is worth considering that this Parliament is the only parliament in the world that has the same qualifications for membership of both Houses. Referring again to the Irish Constitution, which has been mentioned, I remind honorable senators that the framers of that Constitution had every written constitution in the world translated for their benefit so that they might judge between them. They found that Australia was the only country in the world that had the same qualifications for the electors of both Houses. Australia’s example was, however, discarded, and the Constitution finally adopted provided for an age limit of 30 years for the electors of the Upper House of the Irish Parliament.
Senator -Thompson. - That was altered afterwards.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.These representatives of Labour wished to have 21 years definitely set out in the Constitution so that no ultra-conservative Parliament might raise the age in the future. Why has a provision to that end not been included in this bill? It is because Labour congresses sitting in Melbourne and Sydney have carried resolutions in favour of extending the franchise to persons of the age of eighteen years. If this limitation were placed in the Constitution, that extension of the franchise could not be accomplished without consulting the people, whereas if the bill is carried in its present form, a Labour majority in the two Houses of the Parliament could extend the franchise to persons of eighteen years of age if it so desired.
Another provision which Labour wanted retained in the Constitution was the limitation of the life of Parliament to three years. While I hold the view that three years is too short a life for the Federal Parliament, I cannot imagine anything more likely to lead to abuse than that the Parliament should have a free hand to extend its life at its own will and pleasure. Yet that would be the case if this amendment were carried. That is probably the reason for the limitation proposed by Labour’s representatives on and before the commission not being inserted in the bill.
– Has not every State Parliament that right to-day?
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH Only within certain limits. Personally I favour an extension of the life of Parliament ; but not a provision- under which Parliament can extend its own life at will.
The third provision was that no person shall be conscripted under any law of the Commonwealth for naval, military or industrial service. It has been suggested that this amendment is put forward to placate the extreme section, of the Labour party. There can be no doubt that a limitation of that kind against compulsory service would be found awkward by any one who wanted to set up the Soviet system of government, the basis of which is compulsory military service - compulsion from beginning to end. Two other equally awkward provisions which I do not intend to discuss, but which the representatives of Labour insisted should be inserted in the Constitution and be unalterable excepting by the voice of the people, were trial by jury and religious freedom. Yet the -Government has not deemed it necessary or desirable to make provision in this bill for either principle. It is also worthy of note that Mr. Kenneally, on behalf of the Australian Labour party, desired the retention of the final paragraph of section 128 of the Constitution in order to preserve its federal character. But that also is cast to the winds.
Senator O’Halloran gave an indication of what was likely to happen if this amendment were carried. He said that it would be used to make simple alterations of the Constitution. I am sorry that he did not give a more complete definition of the word “ simple.” But he gave some indication of what he meant when, he mentioned education as a subject which, under these amended powers, might be taken over from the States by the Commonwealth. Any amendment which gave this Parliament power to take away at will a State activity such as education would destroy the federal nature of the Constitution.
It might be worth while to consider the position that would arise if education were taken over from the States by the Commonwealth. The Constitution of the United States of America gives no power whatever to the central Parliament in regard to education. It is true that the central Parliament sudsidizes education, but its control is solely in the hands of the State legislatures. Canada is not a federation as we understand it; it is a unitary system. In the Canadian Constitution certain powers are set up as being exclusive to the provincial legislatures. Section 93 of the Canadian Constitution provides that in and for each province the legislature may exclusively make laws in relation to education. South Africa affords an even more striking illustration. Section 85 of the Constitution of the Union of South Africa, setting out the powers of provincial legislatures, reads - “Education, other than higher education, for a period of five years, and thereafter until Parliament otherwise provides.” The framers of that Constitution were undoubtedly imbued with the idea of Senator O’Halloran. Education was to be a matter for central control. They provided that the central legislature should at once take over higher education, and that the provinces should continue to control primary education for five years and that thereafter the central Parliament should make such laws as it thought fit. The result was that from the first there was a division of control which created numberless difficulties, particularly in connexion with the training of teachers. Conferences were held; but all of them were unavailing. In 1924 the Government of the Union appointed a royal commission to inquire into the whole matter. After full inquiry the commission recommended that the provincial administrations should immediately assume the control of every form of education other than the agricultural colleges and institutions of university rank. They condemned the idea of unifying the whole educational system, declaring that it would mean an increase in administrative costs and a decline in efficiency. They said that unified control of education would introduce the worst possible element in education - uniformity - and lead to stagnation and the destruction of every element of progress. The report of the commission contained the following : -
There is reason to think that the centralization of all control in one Union department of education, would render unduly difficult that co-ordination of educational effort with other interests in the national life- such as commerce, industry and agriculture, upon which the vitality and effectiveness of an educational system so much depends.
If that is true of an area of 470,000 square miles in a country otherwise governed on the unitary system, how much more true must it be in a country of 3,000,000 square miles, governed under a federal system? I have cited the only instance put forward by the sponsors of this bill as a matter which might be eontrolled by the Federal Parliament, and I suggest that experience is against any change.
I now come to a phase of the case with which I find it difficult to deal either with courtesy or patience. It is said that if this bill is rejected by the Senate, it may be re-introduced in another place at the expiration of three months after its passage through that chamber. That contention is not only entirely contrary to the clear meaning of the words of the section; it is obvious that it is intended to be contemptuous of the Senate. Although only a layman, I suggest that in the interpretation of a section of an act of Parliament we must have regard not only to the words, but also to the intention behind them. Surely it would be absurd to contend that the intention of the framers of the Constitution was that when the Senate rejects a bill the proposal contained in it can be placed before the people more quickly than if the Senate had passed it. At present, if the Senate passes a bill for an alteration of the Constitution there must be an interval of two months before it can be referred to the people. But if a bill which has been carried by an absolute majority in another place is referred to the Senate a second time, and is rejected, it may be referred to the people without waiting for two months to expire. Assuming, as one must always assume, that two months will elapse from the time a bill passes the House of Representatives before it is finally disposed of by the Senate, we arrive at the conclusion that a bill rejected by the Senate will reach the people more quickly than if the Senate had agreed to it. That is a manifest absurdity which the Constitution does not contemplate. Before we rose for the Easter vacation an honorable member in another place, when urging the Government to put forward proposals for the amendment of the Constitution im> mediately, said that if put before them at once, they would be carried, but if de’layed for three months they would be rejected. I question whether his first contention is right; I feel certain that the second contention is sound. Time’s glory is to unmask falsehood and bring truth to light. The longer the delay the more certain the people’s nonacceptance of the Government’s proposals, and the more confident will be those who oppose this bill in the justice of their attitude.
It has been published to-day that an amendment is to be made of an act under which this particular referendum is to be taken and which provides for the circulation of literature for and against. It is suggested that because the circulation of this literature would cost £25,000 it is to be done away with on this occasion. But if the saving of money is a good argument, it is an infinitely better argument that at the present time we should save the whole expense of this ridiculous referendum. The government which is prepared to save £25,000 and keep people in the dark so that they may not know what they are voting about, is nevertheless prepared to spend £100,000 or more in order to take a vote. If a vote is to be taken there is no excuse on the grounds of finance for not giving the fullest possible information in regard to the question at issue, and no government that has the least confidence in the justice and wisdom of its proposals should for a moment suggest that provisions passed by this Parliament in order that there may be an enlightened vote of the people should be removed in order to save a few thousand pounds.
Senator Daly said that if this power were given it would be used in order to carry out any mand ate of the people. Every party that has been successful at. an election claims that the people have given it a mandate to carry out its full policy. At the last election one would have thought that there was a particular matter voted upon, but the present majority in another place has interpreted the vote of the people on that occasion as a mandate to carry out its policy even to the extent of substituting preference to unionists for preference to returned soldiers. That has now been retracted, but we were told last week that it was the mandate of the people. Labour’s policy is the nationalization of all the means of production, distribution, and exchange, and the present Government has- interpreted its last victory at the poll as a mandate to put that policy into operation. It is seeking to obtain complete political and governmental control of currency and finance. It is seeking to obtain governmental control of production and distribution and, by other proposals for the alteration of the Constitution which I do not intend to deal with further to-night; it is endeavouring to obtain complete governmental control of all forms of trade, commerce, and industry throughout the Commonwealth. That is the Government’s interpretation of the mandate from the people, and if this amendment is carried, any victory of any party at the polls may be interpreted as a mandate from the people to put, into operation, by an alteration of the Constitution, all the planks of the platform of that particular party.
This bill unquestionably means unification, which is another of the planks of the Labour party. I venture to say one word without the least disrespect to this Parliament in regard to the fitness of the Commonwealth Parliament to exercise supreme control over the internal affairs of Australia ; that is to say, over industry, trade and commerce all over Australia. This Parliament is so constituted that the highly industrialized city of Sydney has in the effective chamber, the chamber that makes and unmakes ministries, greater representation than the whole of South Australia and Western Australia combined. It is no doubt a democratic principle, one vote one value I think it is called ; but what has happened in State legislatures? Recently the New South Wales Parliament passed a Redistribution of Seats Bill giving representation to the outlying portions of the State in excess of the number of people residing in. them. My friends opposite may say “ That was a Nationalist government. The Leader of the Opposition opposed it.” But in Western Australia a Labour government, without duress, force, or amendment on the part of the Legislati ve Council, passed a Redistribution of Seats Bill doing exactly the same thing. The Labour Premier and Labour Ministers of the State said : “ We cannot have satisfactory government in Western Australia or the due development of the whole of this great State if we are going to say that because half the people live in Perth they should have half the political power.” They, therefore, gave the outlying mining and farming districts some additional representation, so that those interests might have some say in the government of the country.
If all industrial, and trade and commerce matters are transferred to the Commonwealth Parliament it will mean the transfer of all matters relating to internal development to a Parliament in which the city of Sydney out-votes the whole of the States of South Australia and Western Australia, and in which, I venture to think, on a rough calculation, the two cities of Sydney and Melbourne out-vote the four minor States of the Commonwealth. We cannot develop a rich and prosperous Australia with a Parliament endowed with full powers and constituted on those lines. Most of our present ills are due to an attempt to centralize or to adapt one industrial and one commercial policy to the requirements of the whole of Australia, which undoubtedly is not an economic unit; to an attempt to have the same laws, the same industrial methods and the same high measure of political and governmental control throughout Australia. [Extension of time granted.’] I suggest that what Australia needs to-day is not what this amendment and the other proposed amendments of the Constitution may aim at, a greater governmental control of all industries and all trade and commerce from this central Parliament in Canberra, but a tremendously decreased measure of parliamentary and governmental control over industry throughout Australia generally. There should be the minimum of control exercised only by a Parliament on the spot, conversant with local conditions and easily responsive to local requirements. After all is said and done, there is not a great deal to be said in favour of the idea, of government of large areas from a single centre. Reference has been made by interjection to Great Britain. It is a very small place compared with Australia, and I am one of those modest students of history who say that England never did govern, and never could have governed, Ireland satisfactorily. I have a great deal of sympathy with that plank in the platform of the British Labour party favouring local government for Scotland and for Wales. In any case, there can be no analogy between a small place like Britain and a big place like Australia.
When the Canadian Constitution was framed provision was made for the admission of Newfoundland, and after many years of experience of the glories and blessings of government from a single centre, one thing that could not happen, so far as Newfoundland is concerned, is union with Canada. When the South African Constitution was framed it was thought that the two Rhodesias might sooner or later come into the Union; today there is no talk of it. There is talk of Northern and Southern Rhodesia amalgamating, but there is no suggestion that they should enter the South African Union. Nothing is further from the minds of the Rhodesian people than that. When we laid down our own Constitution we inserted a provision by which New Zealand might como into the federation. Is there anybody in Australia or New Zealand, outside a lunatic asylum, who would suggest that it is likely that New Zealand would come into the federation at the present time? The fact ,of the matter is that central government over a large area has never succeeded, and that our federation may succeed only if we confine ourselves to those matters which are suitable to central control.
Senator McLachlan made reference to one matter which was deliberately placed in our Constitution - the power to make laws dealing with marriage and divorce. This power was. inserted in our Constitution, although it is not in the Constitution of the United States of America, from which ours is copied, because it was felt that its absence from that Constitution offered a temptation for one State or another to set up’ still easier forms of divorce until we have the “Reno of Restless Hearts,” and a State practically living on the revenue derived from visitors who go to it in order to secure a divorce. It was felt that this element had been destructive of the national life of America, and the framers of our Constitution said, “ We shall have nothing of that kind in Australia. We shall have uniform marriage and divorce laws.” Surely there can he nothing more necessary than uniform legislation on those lines; yet the Commonwealth Parliament has done nothing in the matter. The States have set up a friendly rivalry, each State endeavouring to make it easier for people to get married or divorced within its borders. There was no political kudos to bc gained by introducing uniform marriage and divorce laws for the Commonwealth. It has been the same with weights and measures. During the last 30 years the development of electricity has established reason after reason why there should be uniformity of standards, but the Commonwealth Parliament has been so busy over things it should not have bothered about, matters which the framers of the Constitution intended it should not deal with, that it has had no time to attend to matters that would have been of the greatest value to Australia.
Why have we this craze for amendments of the Constitution? In 143 years the United States of America has had only nineteen amendments of its Constitution. Of those, ten were made in 1791, only four years after the passing of the Constitution, and every one of those ten was directed to limiting the powers of the Federal Parliament, and preserving the powers of the States and the liberty of the people. Of the subsequent amendments only one, that which was passed in 1913, giving the federal authority a little additional power in regard to taxation, has increased the powers of the central Parliament as against the States. Only one other, the eighteenth amendment, has increased the powers of the central Parliament as against the people, and that amendment still remains an experiment, which I venture to think the people of Australia will be very slow to adopt. Washington, in his farewell letter to the American people, emphasized the need for reciprocal checks in the exercise of political power by dividing it and distributing it into different repositories, and constituting each the guardian of public weal against invasion by the other. Coolidge, 130 years later, said-
No plan of centralization has ever been devised that did not result in bureaucracy, tyranny, inflexibility, and decline. Liberty cannot be divorced from self-government. . . the national administration is not and cannot be adjusted to the needs of local government. It is too far away to be informed of local needs, too inaccessible to be responsive to local conditions. The States should not be induced by coercion or by favour to surrender the management of their own affairs.
The sole purpose of the amendment now before us is to concentrate all power in the central government. I believe that the direct opposite is what the industries and the people of Australia desire.
Is it not significant that the Government has refrained from placing before Parliament any one of the amendments upon which the whole of the members of the Royal Commission on the Constitution were unanimous? Not one of the amendments on which the commission was unanimous has been mentioned in this connexion. We have heard about the “dead hand of the past;” but I venture to say that a student of the Australian Constitution cannot fail to be impressed by the wisdom of the framers of that instrument. They did not anticipate a class-party ridden Parliament. They failed there ; they did not provide against it. They did not anticipate a Constitution strained by Parliamentary action and judicial interpretation of the powers intended to repose in the Federal Parliament. They did not anticipate the greed of politicians to get everything in their own hands, and to control everything from a single centre. I venture to say that had politicians during the last 30 years worked the Federal Constitution as well as the framers built it Australia would be in a happier condition than she is to-day. It is not the “ dead hand of the past “ that we have to fear. That was a constructive force - something which built up. What we have to fear is the destructive element - the foreign element ; led by those “ impatient of all forms of power - unfurnished brows, tempestuous tongues, expecting all things in an hour - brass mouths and iron lungs.” I shall vote against the second reading of the bill with the full knowledge that its rejection by the Senate will not prevent’ its reference to the people, but in the strong and firm conviction that it will never reach the people; because I do not think that the Government will dare to face the chastisement that it will receive if it ever submits a measure of this kind to the electors of Australia.
– I have listened with a great deal of attention to the arguments advanced by honorable senators opposite, amongst whom there seems to be a good deal of misunderstanding, doubt, and misconception, not only in connexion with this proposal, but in relation to others which have been submitted for our consideration. In this regard I am reminded of a story which was frequently told during the war of a military trainee - an ex-jockey - who was selected to lead a deputation to the officer controlling the camp to protest against the quality of the food being supplied. The jockey on behalf of his fellow-trainees submitted a sausage which he said was “ off,” but which the officer said was all right. The officer, however, was persuaded to sample it, and then said that it was “ on the turn.” To that the jockey replied, “ Blimey, General, it is not on the turn ; it is half way down the straight.” In that case, as in this, there was doubt. I do not know what valid reasons can be advanced for refusing to give Parliament the power to amend the Federal Constitution. Appeals have been made to the people from time to time for extended powers and on each occasion the majorities against the proposed ‘ amendments have been reduced. We have been informed by Senator Ogden that the red hand of Moscow is at work, and that the proposal which the Government has submitted has been suggested by Mr. Jock Garden aud Donald Grant. Why should such a suggestion be made? It was anticipated by the framers of the Constitution prior to the inception of federation, that in view of the development which would naturally follow, and the extent to which the population would increase amendments of the Constitution would be necessary from time to time* and that the Federal Parliament would have to obtain additional powers. In 1914, the present Leader of the Opposition, who was then a member of the Labour party, said, as reported in Hansard of the 4th June -
Why should we not have one law for the whole of the States? What reason can ‘be urged against the adoption of that course except that the conservatives of Australia, who fear this Parliament because it is elected on the basis of adult suffrage, know that at present the Legislative Council of the various States, especially where those bodies are elected on a property qualification, have the final say in the making of their laws, and will take care that their class interests are guarded.
That statement is as true to-day as it was in 1914; but the right honorable senator has changed his opinion merely because a Labour government is in power. Senator Colebatch, in concluding his speech, referred to the dead hand of the past; but, in order to thoroughly understand the situation, we should refresh our minds concerning the opinions held by eminent authorities at that time. One of these said -
I advocate a federation of our Australian colonies in that 1 am convinced such a federation must contribute not a little to promote the grand destiny which awaits Australia, to give a fresh impulse to the development of her resources, and to ensure for her ni> enduring prosperity and peace.
The Italian ^Republics and the Hanse towns of Germany in mediaeval times attained by federation the highest degree of contentment and prosperity. The Dominion of Canada in our own day alfords a like example. It had been only a few years federated when in 1874 the Governor-General, Earl Dufferin, made an extensive tour of the Dominion Provinces, and as the result of his observations he was able to write “ Everywhere I have learnt that the people are satisfied - satisfied with their own individual prospects, and with the prospects of their country: satisfied with their government and the institutions under which they prosper.” With spontaneous unconcerted unanimity of language, the entire Dominion has declared its faith in itself, in its destiny, in its connexion with the mother country, and in the well ordered freedom of a constitutional monarchy. Words cannot express what pride I feel in the loyalty of Canada to England. Nevertheless I should be the first to deplore this feeling if it rendered Canada disloyal to herself; if it either dwarfed ,or smothered Canadian patriotism, or generated a sickly spirit of dependence. And he adds that the “daily growing disposition to extinguish sectional jealousies, and to ignore an obsolete provincialism, proves how strongly the young heart of the confederated commonwealth has begun to throb with the consciousness of its national existence “. Such are the cheering results achieved by federation in the Dominion of Canada, and such, too, 1 am confident, shall be attained in the Australian Commonwealth.
That manifesto was issued 30 years ago. Every honorable senator has the right to express his own opinions. While I disagree with the views of honorable senators who oppose this bill, I am debating it merely from the political viewpoint;’ God forbid that I should descend to personalities. We were told by Senator Ogden this afternoon that the Labour party was a disloyal element in the community. He referred to the Australian platform of the party and quoted the following paragraphs from it: -
Citizens, on completion of training, to retain arms delivered to thom during training.
No raising of forces for service outside the Commonwealth, or participation or promise of participation in any future overseas war, except by a decision of the people.
I have before me the official report of the Australian Labour party’s Ninth Commonwealth Conference, begun in the Trades Hall, Brisbane, on Monday, the 10th October, 1921. Senator Ogden was then a member of the Tasmanian section of the Labour party and was also a member of it in 1924, so, with all due respect for his present attitude to the Government and to the Labour party generally, he subscribed to all the decisions of the party to which he is now objecting. He talked about Moscow to-day, but I wish to place upon record that I shall not allow myself to be ruled from Moscow while I am a member of the Labour party, living under the Commonwealth Constitution. I am satisfied with the ideals of Australian life. Jock Garden and Donald Grant are not members of the Communist party. I believe that when the test is applied concerning the intentions of the Government, it will receive the warm commendation of the electors. The Labour party believes that the framers of the Constitution did not lay down hard and fast rules relating to federation. We believe that largely owing to the deeds on the other side of the world of our ex-soldiers, of whom certain honorable senators, including myself, were comrades, Australia has realized its nationhood, and must take its proper place among the other nations. That result can only be brought about by widening the scope of the present Constitution. There is no ground for the fear that the small States will suffer as a result of the present proposal.
Debate (on motion by Senator Chapman) adjourned.
Regulation Under Transport Workers Act: Delay in Placing Before Parliament.
Motion (by Senator Daly) proposed -
That the Senate tlo now adjourn.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [9.52]. - I desire to bring before the notice of the Senate another instance of the Government legislating behind the back of Parliament. This Go vernment has shown, to a contemptuous degree, a defiance of Parliament. It has absolutely ignored the will of Parliament as expressed in the various acts on our statute-book. Almost at its inception it gave illustrations of that attitude to Parliament by its administration of the Defence Act. That act provides for compulsory military training, but the Government suspended the training of our youths without asking Parliament to amend that law. Next we had the spectacle of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Penton) taking upon himself to promise all sorts of tariff alterations, and ultimately bringing down a schedule of some 300 items, without consulting the Tariff Board in regard to them. Then there was a further instance of disregard of, Parliament when a whole host of tariff prohibitions were enforced, none of which apparently will ever come before Parliament for comment. It is presumably the intention of the Government to continue these prohibitions without parliamentary authority, although one would think that, in a vital matter of this kind, the earliest opportunity would have been sought to obtain parliamentary approval of the action taken. Later we had under notice the ordinance for the appointment of the Federal Capital Advisory Council, in which matter I drew attention to the procedure that had been followed. It will be remembered that the presentation of the ordinance was delayed until the very day on which the Senate was to rise for the Easter adjournment. The ordinance was laid on the table at the last moment, apparently to prevent Parliament from expressing its views concerning it. We have also had our attention drawn to the Government’s decision with respect to preference to returned soldiers. In that case instructions entirely foreign to the requirements of the Public Service Act were issued behind the back of Parliament.
The latest instance of the Government’s flouting of the will of Parliament is its action in regard to the Transport Workers Act. A number of statements of a most inflammatory character have been made by the Attorney-General (Mr. Brennan) regarding the intentions of the
Government. I have in my hand a copy of Statutory Rule No. 38, issued on the 9th April, 1930, and signed by His Excellency the Governor-General and the Attorney-General. The regulation makes an alteration of the picking-up places and the times for picking up transport workers. This matter is now the subject of an award of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. The decision was made under a Commonwealth law, and. therefore, has the same effect as a law of this Parliament. I draw the attention of the Senate to the fact that to-day is the 7th of May, and that on Friday next, 30 days will have elapsed since the promulgation of the regulation in the Commonwealth Gazette. Here, again, we have an instance of the Government deliberately withholding an important regulation for weeks when it might have been placed before Parliament for, consideration. It has been withheld, apparently, until the very last minute, when it must be laid on the table if it is to have any force and effect. I bring this matter forward in order to” direct the attention of the Senate, and, I hope, of the country, to the fact, that this Government has again shown a contemptuous disregard of Parliament and of the law. By its latest action the Government has practically defied Parliament. One would think that on a matter such as this, concerning which there is strong difference of opinion, and where an arbitration law, made after due consideration, is to be vitally altered, the Government would have taken the earliest opportunity of bringing before Parliament notice of its intention by laying the regulation on the table. But 28 days have elapsed, and only to-day I accidentally happened to become possessed of a copy of the Statutory Rule to which I have drawn attention. Otherwise members of Parliament would have no information concerning it other than may be gleaned from the press. I suppose that the intention was to delay the tabling of the regulation until Friday next, the Government thus availing itself of the full period of 30 days. It is well that Parliament and the country should know that this is the way in which the present Government proposes to act in legislative matters of this kind.
– I appeal to the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition not to entertain the ideas that he does concerning the intentions of the Government. Take the example quoted by him upon which he relied to base the charge of contemptuous disregard of this chamber and of Parliament. He mentioned tariff prohibitions, but I point out that that matter was thoroughly ventilated in the other branch of the legislature, and a complete answer was given to the Leader of the Opposition in that chamber. It was made clear that the only way in which those prohibitions could be made effective was by following the procedure adopted by the Government in regard to them. The complaint that no time limit had been fixed for them does not avail the Leader of the Opposition in the charge of absolute disregard of the principles of legislation. This was an emergency measure, introduced at a time in many respects similar to that when regulations were issued under the War Precautions Act. I invite the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition to consider what criticism his Government was subjected to with reference to some of the regulations under that act - criticism that, on the face of it, may have been well merited, but, when investigated, might have been found to be absolutely without justification. These prohibitions have been inserted after very careful consideration, and after very close conference with financial authorities. They have been brought into operation in their present form after deliberation as to their probable effects, and also with due regard to all the principles that would operate in the minds of this legislature had it been called upon to deal with them.
With regard to the ordinance to which the right honorable gentleman referred, as I pointed out to the Senate when the debate on the subject was proceeding, the matter of the government of Canberra has engaged the attention of this Government ever since it has been in office. The Government has endeavoured to inaugurate some form of government which would be acceptable to the residents, and which would operate equitably between the residents of Canberra and the general taxpayers of the Commonwealth. It was only after a good deal of deliberation that the Minister in charge of the Federal Capital Territory introduced the ordinance. The creation of an advisory council was agreed upon, and the ordinance was brought down here. The Government was not concerned whether the Senate did or did not sit during the following week. Had it been considered necessary the Senate would have sat the following week, and so have had a full opportunity to discuss the ordinance. But honorable senators knew that they could go away on their vacation, and, on their return, disallow the ordinance if they thought fit, and they were given an opportunity to spend Easter with their families and in their own towns. It was certainly not intended to sacrifice their rights.
Take the matter of statutory rules. It is of no use for the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition to refer to a “ contemptuous disregard “ of the rights of the Senate unless he is prepared to follow up his charge by pointing out where the privileges or rights of this chamber or any of its members have been jeopardized as a result of the actions of this Government. The right honorable gentleman continually reminds us that he has had nearly twenty years’ experience in a ministerial capacity. He knows that the action of the Government was not a departure from the customary procedure. I had only a limited experience as Leader of the Opposition; but I cannot see that the action of the Government is in any way inconsistent with that of the previous Government with regard to the treatment of regulations and ordinances. There have been instances where a regulation remained in operation for twelve years before it was tabled in this chamber. Would I not be equally justified in referring to that as a contemptuous disregard of the rights of the Senate? But I can understand that, in the rush of business, it was quite easy to overlook that regulation, and that it was not until it was necessary to bring it into operation and the authority was sought that the omission was noticed. I assure honorable senators that the Prime Minister is honestly anxious to work amicably with the Senate, and that he has no desire to slight honorable senators. I recall the instance when you, Mr. President, drew my attention to what appeared to be a slight on the part of the Government in connexion with the appointment of committees. I referred the matter to the Prime Minister, who immediately rectified the position.
The complaint made by the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition to-night does not really give me anything to place before Cabinet, because there is nothing in the right honorable gentleman’s contention.
– When will the Government lay the regulation on the table?
– I shall look into that matter immediately. I assure honorable senators that, on the admission of the Leader of the Opposition, we have suffered nothing by the delay.
– The regulation has been operating in Melbourne without the approval of Parliament. What a chance it would have afforded the Opposition had it been tabled !
– I cannot see that the Opposition would have had any greater chance than it has had. The Senate has been discussing Canberra for two days and before that it debated a matter that resembled a want of confidence motion. If the Leader of the Opposition is serious in his complaint I shall place it before Cabinet. I assure him that his request will receive that sympathetic consideration which every other request from this chamber receives at the hands of Cabinet. It would appear that, because of its big majority, the Bruce-Page Government did not always consider it advisable or even necessary to table regulations within the statutory time, but that in the opinion of the Leader of the Opposition we should be punctual because of our minority.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.9 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 7 May 1930, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1930/19300507_senate_12_124/>.