12th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. W. Kingsmill) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Six Delegates from Australia.
Surprise was created to-day when it became known that the official Labour movement had sent .six delegates to Moscow for the Red Internationa/1 of Labour Unions’ Congress, to open on 15th July.
The delegates are Messrs. J. Elder (Queensland militant minority movement), F. Nolan (Queensland branch Australian Railway Union), L. Sharkey (vigilance committee for Red International Labour Union’s defence in Sydney Labour Council), W. Orr (mine workers’ council of action), G. Richards (mine workers’ council of action), and L. Varty (Victorian militant minority movement).
Nothing was known of the departure of the delegates.
The delegates were selected by the NewSouth Wales State executive of the Australian Labour party.
Were passports issued in the names of those delegates?
– My attention has not been drawn to the paragraph read by the right honorable senator, and I have no knowledge as to the departure of those delegates. I fail to see how the matter concerns the Government. Evidently those gentlemen represent organizations which, I assume, have the right to send representatives to other p’arts of the world’ if they so desire. I fail to appreciate the significance of the right honorable senator’s question.
– In view of the early arrival in the Senate of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill, will the Leader of the Government in this chamber (Senator Daly) cause to have prepared, for the information of honorable senators, a memorandum similar to that made available in another place when the bill was originally brought down there?
– I have already given instructions that a similar memorandum shall be prepared for the convenience of honorable senators. My intention is to move the second reading of the bill on “Wednesday next. I presume that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator
Pearce) will then secure the adjournment. That will enable the Senate to proceed with the budget debate, leaving the resumption of the debate on the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill until the following week.
– Yesterday Senator H. E. Elliott asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence the following questions, upon notice -
The Minister for Defence has now furnished the following replies : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
Self Determination Rights of Colonies
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
Select Committee: Discharge of Senators ‘From Attendance.
– by leave - I have conferred with the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) with reference to the attitude of the Senate towards the Central Reserve Bank Bill, and desire to make the following statement: -
The action of the Opposition in the Senate on the Central Reserve Bank Bill, in first stifling discussion by moving the amendment for a select committee-
– I rise to a point of order. Is Senator Daly in order in imputing motives, by accusing the Opposition of stifling discussion on the Central Reserve Bank Bill? The Opposition took legitimate action under the provisions of the Standing Orders, which provide that a motion may be moved to refer a bill to a select committee
– It is very improper that such criticism should be indulged in. Yesterday’s proceedings with regard to the Central Reserve Bank Bill were strictly in order, and I do not consider that discussion was stifled. Furthermore, it is not in order for an honorable senator to reflect on a vote of the. Senate unless he moves for the purpose of rescinding that vote.
– If the words that I have used are objectionable, I have no hesitation in withdrawing them. What I proposed to say did not reflect upon any vote of the Senate. The objection taken by the Government was that the motion for the select committee was moved at the very beginning of the debate, and it was that action that stifled discussion on the second reading of the bill.
– Referring further to the point of order, I may say that while it would be very improper for the Leader of the Senate to utter such a sentiment, I do not see how the Chair can call to order any person outside the Senate who is not an honorable senator. If that were permissible, press criticism might lead to interminable discussion and trouble that would be perfectly ineffective.
– I shall couch my statement in this way: The action of the Opposition in the Senate on the Central Reserve Bank Bill in moving the amendment for the appointment of a select committee before any opportunity was given to Government supporters to debate the merits of the measure, amounted to the stifling of the discussion on the bill.
– I rise to a point of order. I contend that Senator Daly is saying the same thing in- different words by claiming that discussion on the bill was stifled. Surely the honorable senator could give the view of the Government without reflecting on the vote of the Senate.
– Then I will say that the submission of the amendment so early in the debate did not permit discussion of the main motion before the Senate. The action of the Opposition in appointing five of its own members, on a committee of eight, cannot be accepted by the Government as a genuine offer of assistance. Such combined action is without precedent in the history of legislation in Australia. The Government can take no part in an inquiry in which confidence has been so ruthlessly destroyed, and honorable senators on this side who have been nominated to the committee have asked Mr. President to excuse their attendance from all of its meetings.
– I have to report the receipt of the following letter from Senator Dunn : -
Mr. President, Dear Sir,
For the reasons given this morning by the I .loader of the Government, I respectfully beg to be excused from attending any meeting of the Select Committee on the Central Reserve Hank Bill.
The regular method of effecting that object is to move that an honorable senator who does not desire to sit on a select committee shall be discharged from attending its meetings.
Motion (by Senator Daly) agreed to -
That Senators Dooley, Dunn and O’Halloran
Ik; discharged from attendance as members of such committee.
Bill read a third time.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 10th July (vide page 3972) on motion by Senator Barnes -
That tlie bill bc now read a second time.
[11.17]. - I regret that the Government has deemed it necessary to postpone the taking of the next decennial census. The omission will be a very bad advertisement for the Commonwealth, because all civilized nations regard as essential the enumerating of their peoples at regular intervals, and it is the uniform practice to do so. This is the first time, I believe, that any civilized country has failed to discharge that obligation. Even the Government of Turkey takes its census regularly. I understand that the Government is postponing the taking of our next census on the score of economy. I would, however, remind honorable senators that not long ago the Ministry made a grant of £1,000,000 to various State Governments to assist in relieving the unemployed, and I suggest that the taking of the census would give a considerable amount of employment, particularly to that section of the community, the clerical workers, who do not, as a rule, benefit materially from relief works put in hand by Governments during times of depression. After the returns have been collected, considerable time will be occupied in tabulating, examining and dissecting the information. An expenditure of £100,000 taken from the grant of £1,000,000 to the States, and spent on the actual collection of the returns would probably give more relief to clerical workers, who suffer particularly in times of depression, than the expenditure of dic same amount on the ordinary relief works put in hand by the State Governments. A substantial proportion of the expenditure on these relief works goes in the supply of material, whereas expenditure in connexion with the taking of the census would nearly all be in payment for labour. Even if the bill is passed the Government will still have power, by proclamation, to take the census next year. I therefore trust that the Ministry will reconsider its decision.
– Is not the taking of the census necessary in order to redistribute the electoral divisions?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Yes; but I do not regard that as so important as the relief of the unemployed. We should not forget, also, that large numbers of women would secure employment if the census were taken. The position of unemployed women in Western Australia - no doubt the other States are also suffering in the same way - is serious. State Governments can make provision for unemployed men, but it is much more difficult to provide relief for women who are out of work. In Western Australia the State Government has established a camp at Blackboy Hill, which was a training camp during the war, and it is able to arrange for a certain amount of work, in the form of scrub-clearing, for single men; it is not so easy to find suitable employment for single women who are out of work. In all earnestness I appeal to the Government to see if it is not possible to take the census next year, so as to give relief to some of those unemployed men and women workers who are not provided for by the ordinary relief works put in hand by the Federal or State Governments.
I’ll. 24]. - I assure honorable senators that nobody regrets more than the Government, the necessity for postponing the taking of the census next year. The Government had to decide between works which could, and works which could not, lie postponed. It also gave careful consideration to the unemployment problem. I remind the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) that if we had to employ a staff to collect the statistics, the census could not be taken for £360,000. The right honorable gentleman knows, of course, that the collection of the returns i3 usually done by policemen and postmen.
– A special staff is usually employed for the census work.
– Yes, but a great deal of supplementary work is done by policemen and postmen.
– Much is also done by district council clerks.
– They are paid for it-
– Of course they are, hut they are not unemployed. After the returns have been collected the bulk of the expenditure incurred in dissecting and collating the information would be’ spent in the Statisticians departments in the eastern States, so unemployment in Western Australia or South Australia would not be relieved to any appreciable extent, whereas the grant of £1,000,000, made available recently by this Government, was distributed among the States on an equitable basis. The collection of the statistics would give immediate relief for only a certain number of persons, and the subsequent work would provide employment for fl. larger number, chiefly in the eastern States, for some considerable time.
I assure the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition, that the Government fully realizes the need for the taking of the census, aud if it were possible to do it, even though the bill were passed, it would put the work in hand. In any case the census will bc taken at the earliest possible opportunity.
– I am sure the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) appreciates the situation in which the Government finds itself. In reply to the points which he raised, the Statistician advised the Government some time ago that, although it would be desirable, for scientific purposes, to take the census next -year, no serious harm would result if it were postponed for a couple of years. The Government is giving serious thought to the unemployment difficulty. Unfortunately, the people who suffer most during times of depression are those who follow the unskilled occupations.
– What about the big army of unemployed women in Australia? No provision is made for them in relief works that have been put in hand.
– That is true. The Government has given serious thought to that aspect of the problem also. The present situation is so difficult that no Ministry could do more than the present Government is doing.
– I am not reflecting upon the Government in that regard.
– I am aware of that. The right honorable gentleman has been generous in his criticism of the bill. The Government has gone to the limit of its financial resources in providing for unemployment, and it has covered the most necessitous cases; more it cannot possibly do. The Commonwealth Statistician has submitted to the Department of Home Affairs a lengthy report on this matter in which he states, inter alia -
I have discussed the matter in some detail with the ‘.Prime Minister himself, and, although I am a keen advocate of census taking, I was very much impressed with the view ho then expressed that the owner of starving stock would he better advised to spend existing funds in feeding them rather than counting them.
It is true that certain estimates, sometimes of considerable importance, which have to be made from time to time, become increasingly liable to error with the distance from the last census, but such a possibility will have to be allowed for in the arguments based on these estimates.
It is also true that statistics, including those obtained by means of the census, as well as those based thereon are being increasingly used for purposes of business as well as of economics and of public administration, but it is doubtful whether the deferment of the taking of the census for two years will seriously affect the position.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from committee without amendment.
Debate resumed from 25th June (vide page 3147), on motion by Senator Daly -
That the papers be printed.
– While this motion is merely one for the printing of two papers, a few words should be said concerning the momentous and farreaching subjects with which they deal. The first report is that of that distinguished jurist, Sir William Harrison Moore, who represented the Commonwealth at what we believed was to be a conference of experts in the Old Land. The origin of the conference is to be found in the determinations of the Imperial Conference held in 1926. The genesis of the conference, the report of which we propose to print, is to be found in the declaration of the Imperial Conference in that year, that the dominions are -
Autonomous communities within the British Empire, equal in status, in no way subordinate one to another in any aspect of their domestic or external affairs, though united by a common allegiance to the Crown, and freely associated as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations.
Subsequently, Great Britain and the other members of the British Commonwealth of Nations determined that a conference should be held to see how best practical effect could be given to this determination, while keeping the machinery of Empire in its proper poise. While we had be lieved that that was really to be a conference of expert jurists, Sir Harrison Moore’s report in paragraph 2 points out that the representation of some of the dominions took a political, and almost an executive, character. Sir Harrison Moore states -
It will be seen from the report of the conference that, instead of being a small committee of experts the conference was a rather large body to which most members of the British Commonwealth has sent several members. This fact, together with the fact that Great Britain, Canada, and the Irish Free State sent Ministers, and that most of the other members of the conference were officials, caused some tendency to treat the conference as analogous to an Imperial or international conference, whose members are “ national delegates “ whose delegations act as units and not as individuals, presenting a national andnot an individual point of view. In fact, the precise functions of an international body of experts have not yet been definitely established by practice. But it is obvious that, in proportion as the influences to which I have referred assert themselves a conference tends to draw to itself a political character, and the signature ofmembers may be regarded as that, not of individuals, but of the Government represented.
This conference, as I understood it, was to prepare the preliminaries for a further Imperial Conference. It was to provide the headlines, so to speak, under which the great principle endorsed by the Imperial Conference in 1926 should be given practical shape and form. It was not, therefore, to decide questions of policy, or to come to final conclusions. Although certain recommendations were made, I venture to suggest that they point to the form the legislation of the dominions or the Mother Country should take, with a view to perfecting the plan, and giving effect to the principle, enunciated in 1926.
Sir. Harrison Moore makes his own position quite plain in his report, in which he says, inter alia -
My own position in the Conference was that of an expert merely, not charged with the representation of any views of the Commonwealth Government, save to take care that the Government was not committed to any judgment on any recommendations that might be made or to the acceptance of anything said in the report ofthe conference. I considered it, therefore, a particular part of my duty at the Conference to see that nothing that was done, and nothing that was said in the report, should embarrass the Commonwealth Government in taking whatever course upon the recommendations of the conference it should think fit or prejudice the full consideration nf the views of the Commonwealth Government by the other governments. It will be seen that the terms of the report draw attention, in the words of the Imperial Conference report of 1026, to the advisory and preparatory nature of our work, and I emphasized this further in a statement I made at the final meeting of the conference which was recorded in the proceedings.
On the other hand, it appeared to all of us that we were not assembled merely as “ legal experts,” and that the notion of a constitutional expert included the consideration of the working of constitutions as a matter of practical politics. As our task included the making of recommendations for legislative, or other governmental action, we had to take account of what appeared to be practicable and to have a reasonable chance of being accepted by the Governments, Parliaments, and people of the several members of the British Commonwealth. It was part of this last consideration that a fair measure of agreement among us was necessary if, our work was to assist “the governments by which wo were appointed. Our aim was not scientific, but practical. Thu function of the Conference extended to recommending such courses of action as might ultimately find the several governments in accord upon them, and, therefore, it, was evident that there must be some “give and take.” ‘
Again, in the paragraph dealing with the Colonial Laws Validity Act, Sir Harrison1 Moore states, in referring to the difficulties that arise, that “Various methods of providing forell or. some of these matters were explored.” That almost, in. a sense, expresses the functions that this conference performed under the Imperial Conference.
Turning to the report of the conference itself, we find that there fs a clear recognition, not only of its origin, hut also of the purposes for which it was held. The conference summarized its deliberations under five main headings, one of which was subdivided. The report deals with the following subjects :- Origin and purpose of conference; disallowance and reservation; extra territorial operation of dominion legislation; Colonial Laws Validity Act; merchant shipping legislation and Colonial’ Courts of Admiralty Act, 1890, and the suggested tribunal for the determination of disputes. Of those subjects perhaps some of us may regard the settlement of interdominion disputes as the most important. These subjects are important not only to the Empire but to civilization. The British Commonwealth of Nations, as it is rightly termed, should hold closely together, and the machinery to enable it to function most effectively in the interests of our people and of civilization generally should receive most careful attention. While we believe that a great deal, of attention has been given to these subjects by the delegates who attended the conference which assembled last year, and who approached their duties with a recognition of their responsibilities, there still remain a number of problems the solution of which can be found only by further examination by the statesmen of the various countries concerned. Any one reading the report cannot help but conclude that bur Empire has worked very smoothly. If honorable senators refer to the subject of disallowance, and reservation which is dealt with in the third section of this report they will see that there has been scarcely any friction. A significant feature which emerges, and which is of particular importance, is in relation to the Colonial Stock ‘Act of 1900, ‘/It is an important and interesting subject, not only from the viewpoint of the British Chancellor of the Exchequer in Great Britain, or of the Treasurer of the Commonwealth, but also from the. viewpoint of the future relationship between the British Commonwealth of Nations. Under the provisions’ of the Colonial Stock Act of 1900 our securities may be made trustee securities of the United Kingdom, and if we were competent to pass legislation in this respect some control could be exercised. The principal recommendations in this respect are to be found in paragraph 25, which reads -
The general question of the terms on which loans raised by one part of the British Commonwealth should be given the privilege of admission to the trustee ‘‘st in another part falls naturally for determination by the government of the latter, and it is for the other governments to decide whether they will avail themselves of the privileges on the terms specified. It is right, however, to point out that the condition regarding this allowance makes it difficult, and in one case, impossible for certain dominions to take advantage of the provisions of the Colonial Stock Act of 1900.
We might carry that further because it appears to me that the making of the stock of one country a trustee security in another lends itself to a reciprocal arrangement between, the various members of the Commonwealth of Nations.
– The conference recommended the discontinuance of the use of the word “ colonial.”
– ‘Yes; it is out of harmony with our new status, and can be altered only by statute. That question, which is of considerable moment, was discussed; but I realize that the power of reservation and disallowance has not caused any difficulties in the past. The ex-territorial operation of dominion legislation is a complex problem. The recommendations in that regard are to be found in paragraphs 40 to 43. The report is illuminating and indeed helpful. Paragraph 40 reads -
Wo ure agreed that the most suitable method of placing the matter beyond possibility of doubt would be by means of a declaratory enactment in the terms set out below passed, with the consent of all the dominions, by the Parliament of the United Kingdom.
Paragraph 41 reads -
With regard to the extent of the power so to be declared, we are of opinion that_ the recognition of the powers of a dominion to legislate with extra territorial effect should not be limited either by reference to any particular class of person (e.g., the citizens of the dominion) or by any reference to laws “ ancillary to provision for the peace_ order and good government of the dominion “ (which is the phrase appearing in the terms of reference to the conference).
Paragraph 42 reads -
We regard the first limitation as undesirable in principle. With respect to the second we think that the introduction of a reference to legislation ancillary to peace order and good government, is unnecessary, would add to the existing confusion on the matter, and might diminish the ‘scope of the powers, the existence of which it is desired to recognize.
Paragraph 43 is as follows:-
After careful consideration of possible alternatives, we recommend that the clause should be in the following form: - “ It is hereby declared and enacted that the Parliament of a dominion has full power to make laws having extra territorial operations.”
That is a direct recommendation of the conference. In paragraph 54 the conference dealt with resolutions which it is considered should be passed at the next Imperial Conference. That paragraph reads -
With regard lastly to the problem which arises from the existence of a legal power in the Parliament of the United Kingdom to legislate for the dominions, we consider that the appropriate method of reconciling the existence of this power with the established constitutional position is to place on record a statement embodying the conventional usage. We, therefore, recommend that a statement m the following terms should be placed on record in the proceedings of the next Imperial Conference: -
It would be in accord with the established constitutional position of all members of the Commonwealth in relation to one another that no law hereafter made by the Parliament of the United Kingdom shall extend to any dominion, otherwise than at the request and with the consent of that dominion.
That is a definite and explicit recommendation. The conference then deals with the complex question of succession to the throne in paragraph 59 in this way-
As, however, these freely associated members are united by a common allegiance to the Crown, it is clear that the laws relating to the succession to the throne and the Royal Style and Title are matters of equal concern to all.
Then follow certain suggestions and recommendations which should be considered by a conference specially convened for the purpose. A suggestion which the conference made was in the following terms: -
Inasmuch as the Crown is the symbol of the free association of the members of the British Commonwealth of Nations, and as they are united by a common allegiance to the Crown it would be in accord with the established constitutional position of all the members of the Commonwealth in relation to one another that any alteration in the law touching the succession to the Throne or the Royal Style, and Titles, shall hereafter .require the assent as well of the Parliaments of all the dominion!: as of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.
The position in regard to merchant shipping legislation is the most difficult and intricate of all the problems which confronted the conference. Honorable senators will find suggestions with respect to the tribunal on page 24 of the report. There is also a recommendation that the suggestions submitted should be further examined by the Governments concerned. As I have already indicated, recommendations of the conference are of great importance and may be attended with momentous results. It is absolutely essential that Australia should be adequately represented at the forthcoming and all succeeding Imperial Conferences. I feel that the Commonwealth of Australia should be in the forefront at such gatherings, as conclusions- may be reached which may have a very im- portant bearing, not only upon Australia, but on the whole civilized world. We 3hall be lacking in our duty not only to ourselves, but to civilization, if Australia is not represented at such conferences, which undoubtedly strengthen those links which bind the Empire together.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [12.0]. - Australia owes a great debt of gratitude to Sir Harrison Moore for the very valuable services he has rendered at Geneva and elsewhere in connexion with matters of considerable importance to the Empire and Australia. Before dealing with his report I should like to see a few more honorable senators on the Government benches. [Quorum formed.]
The first matter to which I wish to direct attention is that referred to by Senator McLachlan, the position of the Grown in relation to the various parts of the British Empire. It is a most important question. I am quite in accord with the recommendations made by the conference attended by Sir Harrison Moore, but we cannot shut our eyes to the fact that there is some division of opinion on the point, particularly in South Africa where the matter was recently discussed. What has taken place in South Africa shows how necessary it is that we, in Australia, should know the attitude our Government proposes to take up on this important question at the forthcoming Imperial Conference. The Crown, as we know, is practically the principal link that binds the various parts of the Empire together, and I trust, that before the Prime Minister leaves for England, ‘ we shall have some information as to the attitude he will take up on this vita] point. From the discussion that has taken place in South Africa I should imagine that the Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa will almost certainly raise the issue at the Imperial Conference. I do not, however, anticipate that .the Australian Government will take up an attitude which is out of harmony with that of the people of Australia. There is not the slightest doubt about the attitude of the people of Australia. They stand for the principle set out in the recommendations contained in the report of the conference attended by Sir Harrison Moore.
Another matter of prime importance in the recommendations of that conference relates to the law governing shipping. It is recommended that the Merchant Shipping Act should be amended in such a Way that its provisions will apply only to the United Kingdom and Crown colonies, that each of the dominions may make its own law relating to ocean going as well as coastal shipping, and that these laws shall be, as far as possible, uniform. I can imagine the result that would follow the adoption of that recommendation, with the various self-governing nations of the British. Empire passing separate laws dealing, not merely, as we do in our Navigation Act, with coastal shipping, but also with ocean-going shipping, and at the same time endeavouring to make their laws in this respect as far as possible uniform. To-day the law in relation to ocean-going shipping is uniform, because the Parliament of the United Kingdom is the only law-maker in relation to it. We want to preserve all the rights to which we are entitled, but it is one thing to have a right and quite another thing to know that it is wise to exercise it. It may be much wiser not to exercise it, especially if the same result can be achieved by not doing so.
– Particularly if the exercise of the right brings about tremendous complexity.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.There would be complexity, diversity and confusion, if each dominion exercised its right to make laws governing oceangoing shipping. We must remember that, after all, these recommendations are merely an indication of what the dominions may do. Our Government has, therefore, to make up its mind whether it is desirable for the Commonwealth to pass laws relating to oceangoing shipping, and, as the Prime Minister will shortly be representing Australia at the Imperial Conference, I am sure- Ministers will welcome an expression of opinion on the point from this Parliament.
– Hear, hear!
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.These are not party matters.
– Hear, hear!
– It is . no derogation of our dignity as self”governing nation if we decide that it is more con.venient for us not to exercise our undoubted right to pass legislation dealing with a certain matter if we feel that, by the non-exercise of that right, .we can achieve a better result. At the present time, the Merchant Shipping Act ‘practically governs all shipping other than coastal, and is working quite smoothly.
– It governs coastal shipping to some extent.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.There are certain minor limitations on the power of the Commonwealth to deal with coastal shipping; but, as a general principle, it has the power, which is embodied in our Navigation Act, to deal fully with coastal shipping. It has had no power to deal with ocean shipping. Now, however, under the new dominion status, it appears that it has the right to deal’ with ocean-going shipping. The question is whether it is wise to exercise that right. There is certainly really no reason why it should do so at the present time. When things are working smoothly it” is just as well to leave them alone. Simply to pass laws for the sake’ of asserting our right to pass .them reminds me of the old story of the navvy who was appointed as ganger, and immediately proceeded to sack his . life- time mate. When the mate asked why he had been . sacked, the ganger replied, “ To show you my authority.” Australia has suddenly discovered that it is invested with au authority to pass certain legislation, and if it were- anxious to exercise tb,at right, and every dominion proceeded to do the same, an extraordinary position would arise, unless, of course, it was exercised in exactly similar terms. . Even then there would, be six sets of uniform legislation, each administered by - a different authority. Administration is almost as important as legislation. . At the present time the administration of the law relating to ocean-going shipping is in the hands of one government, and that leads to simplicity and smooth working. I trust that the Government will ‘not be induced to act on the recommendation of this conference simply because this particular recommendation has been made. It would not be, I submit, in the interests of Australia, nor of the Empire, to exercise our undoubted right to pass this legislation at this juncture. There is always the danger that, if each dominion proceeded to pass legislation controlling ocean shipping, as it would undoubtedly have the right to do, it might do so without regard to uniformity. Hopeless confusion would arise.
We have also to look at this question as it affects shipping in foreign ports. There is no difficulty at present. When a British ship, goes into a foreign port it is under the Merchant Shipping Act, and the British consul in that port is given certain powers under that act. If we exercised our undoubted right to pass legislation dealing with overseas shipping, the British consul would have no power under, our legislation unless we gave it to him. We should be obliged to set up a consular service all over the world, having our own consular authorities in each port to. deal with shipping matters, or pass, .legislation uniform with what has been enacted throughout the Empire, investing the British consular authorities ‘ with the power to act under our legislation. It seems to me that that would lead to a vast amount of unjustifiable printing. The simplest method is that, while we recognize this reservation as a right, this is a case in which it should not be exercised; and we should, by tacit agreement’ or, if necessary, by passing a law, recognize the British act as operating in regard to all ocean-going shipping. That course would probably be unnecessary, because the Merchant Shipping Act is operating to-day and up one challenges its validity.
– If there should be a challenge as to its validity a doubt might arise.
– There is no statutory law to. give, effect to our changed, status. It has been, reached merely by the. passing df a resolution at ‘ an Imperial Conference. -It has now been suggested that legal effect should be given to the resolutions, of the conference, and I suggest that the easiest and most, workable way ; of dealing with ocean shipping is to pass a law main-taining the status quo. We do not need a lot of consular authorities all over the world for Australian ships that may not visit some ports more than once hi twelve months, if at all. The conference attended by Sir Harrison Moore dealt with these matters on a theoretical basis; it was its task not to look at them as every day workable propositions, but to declare the legal position and say what steps could be taken; it did not point to the other, and what seems- to me to bo the obvious, course, that of letting the existing position stand. My reason for speaking to-day is to impress on the Government that it would perhaps be well to maintain the existing state of affairs in regard to ocean-going shipping. If necessary, a bill might be passed to assert our right, but to declare that it was exercised in the Merchant Shipping Act. There would then be no confusion, particularly if we could induce the other dominions to do likewise. There is an idea in many quarters, which is steadily growing, that the British Empire may some day develop into an economic unit. .The more we assert our independence, individuality and separate autonomy, the more difficult it will bc to bring about that result. I hope that the Government will take the view in this matter that the simplest course is the best to follow.
– I am indebted to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) for the suggestions he has made in connexion with the Imperial Conference. I can assure. -him that the Government is approaching the forthcoming conference from a strictly non-party standpoint. The Prime Minister and his fellow Ministers will attend it with one object and that is to do the best they can for Australia as a unit in the British Commonwealth of Nations. I may claim without fear of contradiction that this party is as loyal to the Empire as is any other party. The people of Australia may rest assured that -the right honorable the. Prime Minister will do everything possible to preserve the interests of Australia and of the Empire in any discussion in which - he is called upon to participate. I shall bring’ this debate under the notice of the right honorable gentle man, and feel confident that in it he will find some fruitful suggestions that will unquestionably assist him in the deliberations in which he will take part overseas.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 9th July (vide page 3S44), on motion by Senator Dalit -
That the papers be printed.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [12.17], - I am not ready to proceed with the debate on the motion to print the budget papers. For one reason, the full Estimates have not yet been presented, and I think it is reasonable that I should have an opportunity to ‘ see them before speaking on the motion. I remind honorable senators that this will be practically our only opportunity to speak on the main principles embodied in the budget, as the Appropriation Bill will be presented to the Senate shortly before Parliament adjourns. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
The following papers were presented : -
Northern Australia Act - Ordinances of J 930-
Central Australia - No. 5. - Poisons.
No. 8. - Observance of Law (No. 2). North Australia - No. H. - Poisons.
No. 7. - Darwin Town Council (No.’ 2). No. 8. - Observance of Law (No. 2).-
Senate adjourned at 12.18 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 11 July 1930, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1930/19300711_senate_12_125/>.