12th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. W. Kingsmill) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Representation op Victoria.
– I have to inform the Senate that, pursuant to the provisions of the Constitution, I notified the Governor of the State of Victoria of the vacancy caused in the representation of that State in the Senate by the death of Senator H. E. Elliott, and that I have received through His Excellency the Governor-General a certificate of the choice of Mr. Thomas Cornelius Brennan to fill such vacancy.
Certificate laid on the table and read by the Clerk.
Senator Brennan made and subscribed the oath of allegiance.
Letter from Sir Robert Gibson.
– I have received the following letter : -
Commonwealth Bank, Melbourne, 14th May, 1931.
Dear Mr. President,
I enclose herewith a letter dated 7thinst., which I received from. Senator Sir George Pearce in connexion with the matter raised by Senator Dunn in the Senate on the 6th inst., during my examination before that body.
In complying with the request of Senator Pearce, Ihave, after consideration, decided that I should follow the suggestion that I forward to you the documents which I received from Senator Pearce, and I think I should also refer to the circumstances under which these came into my hands. The papers referred to are now enclosed, and consist of one envelope, one letter and three sheets covering questions to be asked in the Senate.
I arrived at the Hotel Canberra by motor car at about 10 minutes to 1 o’clock onthe 6th inst. Upon my arrival I was handed the correspondence enclosed. After lunch I went directly to the Senate, and, in accordance with your kind invitation, I was immediately conducted to your room. You will remember that I asked you to arrange for my telephone connexion with Sydney, as I desired to check with the Governor of the bank some figures covered by Senator Pearce’s questions. You will observe on the paper covering Senator Pearce’s questions, my pencil notes resulting from my conversation with Sydney. I remained in your room till I was conducted tothe Senate. I had no communication with SenatorPearce of any nature whatsoever, other thanthose referred to in this communication.
I feel justified in submitting to you this explanation for such actionas you deem advisable, in view of the fact that the issue raised bySenator Dunn would appear to involve my honour as wellas that of Senator Pearce.
Yours very truly, (Sgd.)Robert Gibson,
The course thatI have decided to take is to lay this letter and the accompanying documents on the table of the Library for the information of honorable senators.
– I have to announce the receipt of a letter from Senator Barnes, tendering his resignation as a member of the House Committee of the Senate.
Waterside Workers Regulations : formal Motion for Adjournment.
– I have to report the receipt of a letter from Senator Pearce informing me that it is his intention to move this afternoon, “ That the Senate at its vising adjourn till 10 a.m. to-morrow”, for the purpose of discussing a matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The action of the Government in gazetting new Transport Workers (Waterside Workers) Regulations.” Is the motion supported ?
Four honorable senators having risen in their places,
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [3.7]. - I move -
That the Senate at its rising adjourn till 10 a.m. to-morrow.
I regret that it is necessary once again to bring this matter before the Senate, because it seems to me that the Senate, in pursuance of its undoubted rights as a branch of this legislature, having disallowed previous regulations, did all that was necessary, and that it was not competent nor proper for the Government again to bring forward regulations which in substance and effect are the same as those the Senate has already disallowed. ‘ It is extremely improper for a Government which professes to believe in democracy and in the government of the people by the people, to take executive steps in defiance of the expressed will of the legislature. When I use the word “legislature “ I am not using an inappropriate term. The power of disallowance has been given to either branch of Parliament. It is not exercised in the same way as the legislative power to pass bills, for which the consent of both Houses is required. Parliament has expressly provided that the power of disallowance can be exercised by either branch of Parliament. Under responsible government the executive is not above the legislature. On the contrary it is responsible to the legislature, and it is, therefore, astonishing that an Administration, which claims to be democratic and to speak for democracy, should be found to be transgressing the sound rule that the executive . is responsible to the legislature, and thai the legislature has the right to impose its will on the executive. Here we have a branch of the legislature legally and constitutionally disallowing the regulations, and the Government of the day with a gesture of contempt again passing through the Executive Council, and obtaining the assent of His Excellency the Governor-General to other regulations precisely the same in effect. I suggest that the time must arrive when the consideration will arise as to whether the Executive is treating His Excellency the Governor-General quite fairly in this matter. The government of the Commonwealth is administered by among others His Excellency the Governor-General. He is the head of the Government. Under our Constitution express powers are conferred upon the legislature. Is the name of His Excellency to appear on Executive minutes defying the legislature? That is altogether against the canons of responsible government. His Excellency the Governor-General acts on the advice of his Ministers, who are “ responsible to Parliament “. Under the British practice that has come to mean the House of Representatives, because it is only that House which makes and unmakes Ministries. But that House does not constitute the Parliament; it is only one House of the Parliament. The Parliament has deliberately given to the Senate, in its control over the Executive, the power to disallow regulations. Is the Executive entitled to ask His Excellency the Governor-General to be a party to its acts of defiance of the legislature? If that were so, there would be no necessity to choose a person of experience and ability to fill the post of Governor-General. The mere fact that His Majesty’s representative is required to be a man of wide experience and knowledge presupposes that he is actually a part of the machinery of government, and that he is not without freedom to exercise those qualities for which he is chosen for his high office. I am making these remarks concerning the procedure that has been adopted by the Government, because so far as my reading discloses such a procedure has never been adopted in any responsible Parliament in the British Empire. If this practice is to be continued, the Executive may find that the Senate has other resources than those it has yet used, and that the Government is not the sole interpreter of the constitutional rights of this chamber. I suggest to the Government that, although it has pursued this course up to now, the time has arrived when it should take stock of the circumstances, and consider whether it has not pursued this matter far enough. If this practice is continued the Senate may be forced to take action, which I assure the Government is within its power, and which, if adopted, may have unexpected results.
I also take this opportunity of expressing my regret that the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth (Mr. Brennan) should have used such flippant language in regard to this matter as he employed in a statement issued in Melbourne, and published in the Melbourne Argus of 19th May. The Attorney-General said -
The issue involved is something more than a dispute between the House of Representatives and the Senate, or even between the Ministry and the Senate. The question is the regulation of industry on the waterfront; the preservation of peace, mid the avoidance of disorder and bloodshed.
That is a flippant statement. “When the Attorney-General made it he well knew that lack of peace prevailed, and bloodshed and disorder occurred on the waterfront before the Transport “Workers Act and its regulations were brought into force. Scarcely a year passed without its waterside workers strike, and violence and disorder being resorted to by those engaged in such strikes. Yet the AttorneyGeneral makes the pretence that in reverting to those times, and reestablishing the conditions that then existed the Government will bring about the preservation of peace and the avoidance of disorder and bloodshed.
– It is mere hypocrisy.
– The Attorney-General continued -
There is more than 100 per cent, excess labour clamouring for employment at the waterside.’
That is due not to the regulations under the Transport Workers Act but to other causes for which the Government must take its share of the responsibility. The Attorney-General continued - 111 feeling of a dangerous kind has been engendered by the indefinite continuance of what is almost a boycott against the Waterside Workers Federation. That feeling has been allayed largely by the regulation which gives preference in employment to returned soldiers and members of the federation.
That is a half truth because preference is only given to returned soldiers who are members of the Waterside Workers Federation. Preference is not given to returned soldiers generally. I remind the Senate of the figures which I quoted on a previous occasion showing that there are as many returned soldiers amongst the volunteers as there are in the Waterside Workers Federation
– Are not the volunteers unionists?
– I am coming to that. The Attorney-General went on to speak about the question of preference to unionists but there is no question of preference to unionists at issue here. The volunteers are also unionists - they are members of a registered union. But the difference between the two unions is that the members of one union ever since its formation and registration have adhered to and loyally abided by the award of the Arbitration Court whereas the members of the other union to which the Government is proposing to give preference has openly, repeatedly and defiantly flouted, the Arbitration Court and treated its awards and findings with contempt. The AttorneyGeneral continued -
Has the Senate nothing better to do than to assemble again and again merely for the purpose of disallowingthem.
If the Senate has nothing better to do it is because the Government does not find us anything better to do. We have something of importance to do in this regard, because we are carrying out the promise made to these volunteer workers in the name of the people of Australia. We told them that if they came to the rescue of the people by carrying out the transport work of the country, employment would be found for them whenever practicable. We gave an unmistakeable pledge that they would not be victimized when the strike was over. The AttorneyGeneral went on to say -
If its policy is one of blank negation and opposition it will have much to answer for, should the evil tendencies which the Ministry is endeavouring to restrain burst their bounds and cause incalculable injury to the nation’s shipping and to the interests of the working classes.
I do not know whether that is intended as a threat; but if it is it leaves me absolutely unmoved. I am confident that the Governments of the States who are responsible for the maintenance of law and order will see that law and order are observed. I have no fear that any instigation to disorder is likely to come from the volunteers. They have always shown themselves to be lawabiding men. They have never broken the law but have worked in conformity with it. Therefore, if that warning needs to be addressed to anybody it should be addressed to the members of the Waterside Workers Federation. I propose to read the statutory rule, No. 53 of 1931 -
Regulations under the Transport Workers
I, the Govern or-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, acting with the advice of the Federal Executive Council, hereby make the following Regulations under the Transport Workers Act 1928-1929, to come into operation forthwith.
Dated this fifteenth day of May, 1931.
Isaac A. Isaacs
By His Excellency’s Command, C. E. Culley for Minister of State for Transport
Transport Workers(Waterside Workers)
Senator Sir George Pearce
– Petitions, notices of motions, and questions will be asked for later.
– Standing Order 64 reads - (1.) A motion without notice, that the Senate at its rising adjourn to any day or hour other than that fixed for the next ordinary meeting of the Senate, for the purpose of debating some matter of urgency, can only be made after petitions have been presented and notices of questions and motions given, and before the business of the day is proceeded with . . .
That procedure, I submit, should be observed in this case.
– The honorable senator is correct. It was my omission that petitions, notices of motion and questions were not called on. Apparently, the only way to put matters right is to ask honorable senators to disregard for the time being the motion moved and the speech made by the Leader of the Opposition, and for me to ask whether any honorable senator has a petition to present. Has any honorable senator a petition to present? There being no petition, I now call on notices of motion, and questions without notice.
– On the 14th May, Senator the Right Honorable Sir George Pearce asked the following questions, upon notice : -
What is the amount held now -
Will the Minister state the total amount of the note issue -
The answers to the right honorable senator’s questions are as follow: - 1. (a) Approximately £20,100,000; (b) £23,150,000. 2. (a) Approximately £200,000; (b) £15,240,000. 3. (a) £42,878,000; (b) £50,153,000.
Waterside Workers Regulations: Formal Motion for Adjournment
– I have to report the receipt of a letter from Senator Pearce informing me that it is his intention to move this afternoon “ That the Senate at its rising adjourn till 10 a.m. tomorrow “ for the purpose of discussing a matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The action of the Government in gazetting New Transport Workers (Waterside Workers) Regulations.” Is the motion supported?
Four honorable senators having risen in their places,
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [3.9]. - I move -
That the Senate at its rising adjourn till 10 a.m. tomorrow.
I do not propose to repeat my speech; but I shall read Statutory Rules 1931, No. 53, so that they will be before the Senate -
Regulations Under the Transport Workers Act 1928-1929.
I, the Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, acting with the advice of the Federal Executive Council, hereby make the following Regulations under the Transport Workers Act 1928-1929, to come into operation forthwith.
Dated this fifteenth day of May, 1931.
Isaac A. Isaacs
Governor-General. By His Excellency’s Command, C. E. Culley for Minister of State for Transport
Transport Workers(Waterside Workers)
Penalty : Ten pounds or imprisonment for one month.
Penalty: Ten pounds or imprisonment for one month.
Penalty: Ten pounds or imprisonment for one month.
Motion (by Senator Sir William Glasgow) agreed to -
That the document quoted by Senator Sir George Pearce during his speech be laid upon the table.
Statutory Rules 1931, No. 53, Transport Workers (Waterside Workers) Regulations
. - In view of the important constitutional rights involved in this action by the Government, it is astonishing that the Leader of the Senate (Senator Barnes) has nothing to say in reply to. the observations of the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce). The promulgation of fresh regulations under the Transport Workers Act is clearly a challenge by the Government to the supremacy of Parliament. There is in it something more than a mere sordid fight upon which the” Attorney-General (Mr. Brennan) is engaged to preserve some of the rights which he imagines are possessed by those who form the strong battalions in his election campaign. There is involved a grave constitutional question, and I repeat that it is most extraordinary that no explanation of the Government’s action is vouchsafed by its representatives in this chamber.
– There will be a reply to-morrow.
– The honorable Minister may have the decision of the Senate a little sooner than he expects to receive it. I wish to direct the attention of honorable senators to a few fundamental principles with regard to this regulation-making power of the Government. Parliament is the supreme authority. In some instances it delegates certain powers to the executive, but it has never subordinated itself either by provision in statutes or in practice, to the will of the executive government. The Acts Interpretation Act contains certain provisions dealing with the disallowance of regulations, and notwithstanding all that has been said to the contrary, the views expressed by the Senate, buttressed by the opinion of the highest court in the land, is that regulations may be disallowed by either House immediately they are made. It would be ridiculous if the executive, in defiance of views expressed by one branch of the legislature, could make regulations, refrain from presenting them to Parliament for the full period of time allowed by the Acts Interpretation Act, and administer them in the meantime as though they were the law of the land. Parliament, in whom reposes the ultimate authority with regard to these matters, must be in a position to check a too petulant or stupid government.This Parliament has never parted with its control over the making of regulations. J stress this point because of the course now being pursued by the Government.
Notwithstanding the disallowance by the Senate of regulations the same in essence as those now under discussion- I remind honorable senators that an adverse vote in one chamber is sufficient to disallow a regulation - and in defiance of all constitutional principles and practice, the Government has issued fresh regulations which are practically on all fours with those disallowed a week or two ago. The Government, which vaunts its adherence to the principles of democracy, is violating our statutes, and is endeavouring to inflict its will on the community in defiance of action taken by one branch of the legislature. It has done this, not only on the present occasion, but on other occasions. One would think that the observations made recently by judges of the High Court would be respected by a Government which prates of its adherence to British jurisprudence and constitutional practice. Since the High Court lays it down definitely that Parliament is supreme over the executive, I venture the opinion that the re-enactment or re-issue of these statutory rules in the form which they now take, will be found to be valueless for the protection of those whom they seek to shield. Is the Government to be allowed to issue regulations having all the force of law, in contemptuous disregard of the Parliament? Only a week or two ago this chamber disallowed exactly the same regulations. If we failed now to take action the whole procedure for the disallowance of regulations would prove a farce. Control by Parliament over the executive would disappear. One of their honours in the High Court, in the course of his judgment, said -
In my judgment it was open to the Senate to proceed to disallow the regulations before they were laid before the House. But in any event, the resolution of disallowance having been passed before the expiration of fifteen sitting days from the time when the regulations were laid in fact before the Senate, the requirements of section 10 were observed in substance and the resolution was therefore valid and effectual.
Another of the High Court judges referring to the Acts Interpretation Act, said -
Therefore the power of disallowance is to ensure the control aud supervision of Parliament over regulations. But it is argued that this control is subject to two conditions precedent.
Then he went on to deal with the conditions precedent, and said -
In the present case the object of the legislature is to preserve the legislative power of the Houses of Parliament over regulations made by the executive or other statutory authorities; not to give a new legislative power, but to maintain the Houses of Parliament as the dominant authority in legislative matters. It is therefore desirable that some procedure should be prescribed which will bring the regulations to the notice of the Houses.
His Honour then referred to the provisions governing the making of regulations, fixing the period of time within which regulations should be tabled in Parliament, and the procedure to be adopted for their disallowance. If that time has elapsed without action having been taken by either House, the action of the executive government has the full authority of Parliament, silence being taken to have given consent. Dealing further with the power of disallowance, the learned judge said -
But then it is said that a regulation can only be disallowed if a resolution be passed to that effect after notice of it has been given at any time within fifteen sitting days after the regulation has been laid before the Houses. The purpose of the provision, however, is to fix a period of time beyond which disallowance should not take place, not to impose it as a condition on the power of disallowance.
I ask honorable senators to consider the following observation from the commonsense, practical point of view : -
The opposite view would enable the regulationmaking authority to delay the presentation of any regulation to Parliament, and thus keep it in force for fifteen days at least, and if disallowed then re-enact it, and delay presenting it to Parliament for another fifteen days.
That would be similar to the Government’s policy - on one day there is a law regulating a certain thing, and on the next day it is gone. Such a position was never contemplated, and it is too utterly absurd to contemplate. His Honour proceeded -
By this method a regulation might be kept in perpetual operation, and in fact it seems to have been adopted in the present case. On the 20th March, 1031, the Senate disallowed the Regulations 1930, Nos. 158-9, and on the same date the present Regulation 1931, No. 34, was made, having as, I think, substantially the same effect. This procedure was entirely subversive of the control of Parliament over regulations, which it is the main object of section 10 of ‘ the Acts Interpretation Act 1904-30 to preserve.
I stress that language. The procedure adopted by the Government is entirely subversive of the control of Parliament over regulations. Notwithstanding these observations by the highest tribunal in the land, notwithstanding the practical point of view that I have put forward, notwithstanding that its action is subversive of all of those principles, the Ministry has subordinated the constitutional government of this country to petty party interests.
– And it says that it proposes to continue to do so.
– I am obliged to the honorable senator for that interjection. We have been informed that the Government proposes to continue this course of action. Well, then, the Senate will have to continue to sit. This is a matter of first-class constitutional importance. If the executive government can take this action, we shall revert to the conditions that existed in the time of the Stuarts, and even further back in English history. If that power exists, it is a dangerous power. It is a weapon the use of which no democracy should sanction. Unless it be established that the Government has not that power, this country will witness a fight between the Parliament and the executive similar to those that were waged many years ago in England.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) has done a service to the community by bringing this matter under notice, doubtless with a view to taking such further action as he may deem necessary. I consider that the regulation is entirely worthless and that the High Court would so declare it. This open defiance of Parliament is stupid, and only a pettifogging mind would resort to such tricks to get round the clear spirit of the statute that has governed the regulation-making power of executives under not only British but also Australian legislation. It may be that the Government desires to buttress in some manner or other its failing cause. That its cause is failing, is obvious; I advise the Government to coneider seriously what it is doing. It is challenging the supremacy of Parliament, and is seeking to control Parliament in respect of this regulation-making power. It claims to be above the law, and to own no duty in that regard to either this or another place. Both chambers are fettered by the principle that is involved in this matter. I put it to the Government again, to pause before proceeding to issue further regulations, or at least to read these judgments, which a few nights ago the Leader of the Senate expressed a desire that honorable members of both sides of this chamber should read. Ministers may then obtain a little light as to what the regulating power means, and as to what limitations are imposed upon them. This is a matter that appeals not only to the legal but also to the practical, common-sense side. I support the observations that have been made with respect to it by the Leader of the Opposition.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [3.47]. - There are only two points to which I should like to refer. The first is the reason - if it can be dignified by such a name - given by the Attorney-General for the Government’s defiance of the Senate in this matter. The honorable gentleman has said that the Executive is entitled to defy the Senate, because the House of Representatives is more freshly from the people. That would be a very bad and an utterly futile argument in any event, because the Senate is elected on a basis different from that of the House of Representatives; it is elected upon a State basis. If there were anything in the argument of the Attorney-General, it would follow that at least one-half of the Senate ought never to be in existence, and it would destroy one of the underlying principles of the Constitution, which is that the Senate shall ensure some element of continuity in our parliamentary system.
But if the argument is a bad one in any event, what can be said of it in presentday circumstances? The Government was returned to office about eighteen months ago with a majority of nineteen members in the House of Representatives. To-day, because of its conduct of the affairs of the Commonwealth, it is entirely without a majority, and is able to hang on to office only with the assistance of the votes of a little band of opponents whose position it is every day endeavouring to undermine..
– I ask the honorable senator to connect his remarks with the motion.
– I am attacking the reason given by the Attorney-General for defying the Senate in this matter. But what has happened apart from the loss of its majority would in any case take away from the Government the right to defy this section of Parliament. Two by-elections and a general election have been held since it was returned to power. The first byelection resulted in the conversion of a Labour majority of something over 8,000 votes into a Nationalist majority of something still larger. In the second byelection the Government had not the courage to put forward a candidate in support of its policy, and the result was a diminished Labour majority to the extent of some 10,000 votes. The third was a State election. It was fought on the issue of this Government’s policy, and resulted in the Labour party suffering a defeat that is without parallel in the history of Australia. Never since the formation of the Labour party in Australia has it suffered a defeat so severe, either in the Commonwealth or in any State, as that which it suffered in Tasmania the other day. Yet in the face of that verdict of the people the Attorney-General has the impudence to say that this Government represents the people, and is, therefore, entitled to defy the decisions of this Senate.
There is only one Other point to which I wish to refer. The position of the men on the waterfront is indeed a pitiable one, and for that state of affairs the present Government, by its policy, is largely responsible. Its tariff, its prohibitions, and its other acts of a similar nature, have destroyed the shipping trade of Australia, with the result that there is work for practically no one on the waterfront to-day. I propose to quote figures showing the position that has arisen. The waterside labour required in the years 1926 to 1928 in the principal ports of Australia numbered 13,650 persons. The number of men available from 1926 to 1928, when they were all federation men, was 19,727. There was thus a surplus of 6,077. Then the volunteers came on the scene, and in 1928 they numbered 6,939. Their number has now diminished to about 4,000. The number of workers required on the waterfront in the principal ports of Australia is now only 6,225, yet between the members of the federation and the volunteers, there are nearly 24,000 men available; there is thus a surplus of 17,550 men. Instead of putting up futile regulations of this kind iu order to deprive certain people of work and give it to others, I appeal to the Government so to alter its entire policy that there will be a fair amount of work for the whole lot.
– It must be clear to honorablesenators that the Government’s action in gazetting these new regulations is contrary to what is provided for in our Standing Orders. If a bill is introduced and rejected by the Senate, it cannot be re-introduced until after six months. The Government is now attempting to do by regulation what, under the Standing Orders, it cannot do by legislation.
– The Government has a remedy; it can ask for an act of Parliament.
– That is what I say. The Government is attempting to do by regulation what it cannot do, and has never attempted to do, by legislation. It is a dangerous practice, and I believe that the manner in which the Administration is defying this chamber is without precedent, not only under federation, but also in the State legislatures.
.- It is astonishing that the Government should keep on in a childish way issuing new regulation’s half an hour after this branch of the legislature has disallowed others. Where is it to end ? It is certainly bringing legislation to a farce. Who will give in. first? Is this Senate to surrender its rights and privileges because the Executive chooses to re-gazette a regulation a day or two after it has been rejected by this chamber, or is the Senate, for the sake of its own privileges, to take drastic action to compel the Government to cease this childish practice? It has already been pointed out by Senator Colebatch that this side of the Senate is just as representative of the opinion of the people as the Government itself. The argument that the Senate is moribund, and that the decision of the people at the last Senate election has been wiped out by a more recent decision of the people in respect of the House of Representatives can be brushed to one side. At any rate, there is no evidence, as far as the people are concerned, that they want the Government to make a farce of Parliament by issuing special regulations in the interests of a particular section of the community. These regulations represent the worst type of class legislation we could possibly have. Every one sympathizes with the wharf labourer. His is an occupation for which in the best of times there is always a surplus of labour. For the last 40 years I have never known a scarcity of labour on the waterfront. It is an occupation to which unskilled labour will flock. But because there are thousands of unemployed wharf labourers to-day, the Government seeks to give a monopoly of the work available to one small section. Before this interference on its part the members of the Waterside Workers Federation had an equal chance with the volunteers to get whatever work was available, and, as a matter of fact, in practice there was a recognized division of the work between the federation men and the volunteers. Prior to the passing of the Transport Workers Act there was always among the wharf labourers an. undesirable element; the ship-owners had no opportunity to choose the men they wanted, men upon whom they could depend, and men who would not pillage other people’s goods. That was all changed when theact came into force. According to the Attorney-General (Mr. Brennan) there is now peace on the waterfront. I deny it. There was more peace and honesty on the waterfront before these regulations were issued. Bad feeling has only broken out again because of the issue of these regulations. Previously the men were settling down, and many of them were finding work in other directions. The present Government has issued these regulations at the dictation of the Trades Halls in Melbourne and Adelaide. Peace has prevailed on the Queensland coast since the Transport Workers Act was passed, and the work has been more or less divided between the unionists and the volunteers. Prior to that, it was one of the most disturbed waterfronts in the Commonwealth.
Fremantle is more or less free of trouble. All the waterfront trouble has now shifted to Melbourne and Port Adelaide. Why should the men working in all the other ports be victimized because there is a surplus of labour in Melbourne and Port Adelaide? We are told that the business people in the latter port are suffering because the volunteers do not spend their money in Port Adelaide.
– They dare not live there.
– The money they earn is spent in Adelaide. Are the Port Adelaide people entitled to a monopoly of the money earned on the wharfs? The best thing to do is to let things find their level. It is cruel for the Government to interfere at the present time after the harm that has already been done to shipping. I can remember the time when there were 40 or 50 steamers trading on the Australian coast. To-day there are only seven or eight steamers carrying passengers. The coastal trade has been ruined by the actions of the members of the Waterside Workers Federation, for whom the Government is now trying to secure a monopoly. It is interesting to note that it was in Melbourne the AttorneyGeneral made his declaration about peace on the waterfront. It is generally in Melbourne where the greatest pressure is brought to bear on the Government by small cliques. Again I ask how long this farce is to continue. The Senate disallowed the last regulations by a large majority. Yet the Government, within a day or two, issued fresh regulations to secure a monopoly of the work on the waterfront for one small section. The Senate must assert its position. I trust that the Government will recognize that Parliament occupies a place in the eyes of the public, and that to belittle or make a farce of any branch of the legislature is going too far. If the Government has any common sense left - I am not sure that it has—–
– I thought that “ common sense “ was quite a good English term, but I shall simply say that I trust that the Government will realize the farcical position in which it is placing this Parliament. Because of the prevailing depression there is- already not too good a feeling, in; the community towards this legislature, and I repeat that it is childish for the Government to go out of its way-, for the sake of a small section of the community, to drag it down and make a farce of it. 1 appeal to the Government to reconsider its action. If it possesses any courage it will introduce a bill to repeal the Transport’ Workers Act as a test rather than continue to issue regulations which it knows the Senate, in the exercise of its rights, will disallow.
– The indignation expressed by honorable senators opposite seems to be rather misplaced. While it has been claimed by honorable senators opposite that this chamber has certain rights, which they - have interpreted in their own way and which they say should be respected, they have entirely overlooked other factors involved. Parliament is a high authority, but the views of the people of Australia, who’ constitute a higher authority, are entitled to some’ consideration. When the electors were last consulted, the Transport Workers Act was a burning question. At the last election, the then Government and its supporters went before the people strongly in favour of the retention of that act, but were badly defeated. We are charged with making a farce of this business; but it appears to me that the hoot should be on the other foot, as honorable senators opposite are endeavouring to force upon the people a policy which they definitely rejected at the last general election. That is the only opportunity which the people have had of expressing their opinion on the legislation under which these regulations are issued. This Government has a mandate from the people, and is not acting unconstitutionally in continuing to ask His Excellency the Governor-General- to assent to regulations framed- under ‘the Transport Workers Act. Surely honorable senators recall that when a motion of no-confidence in the Government was moved in another place a few days aso the Government came through with flying colours.- Does that not indicate that the Government retains the confidence -of the people, and’ that it is; so to speak, sound in wind and limb?’ Although honorable senators opposite have stated the position from their view-point, there is another aspect which has to be considered. I read in the press the other day a statement to the effect that the representatives of the shipping interests at Port Adelaide, Brisbane^ and Sydney have no objection to the regulations issued by the Government, and that, generally speaking; they’ were in the- interests of those engaged on the waterfront. The unemployment which exists in the maritime industry is not due to the regulations issued under the Transport Workers Act, but to the general depression which, unfortunately, prevails throughout Australia. Unemployment is not due,’ as some honorable senators suggest, to the high protective duties imposed by this Government, because even if a reduction in imports has caused a certain amount of unemployment in the maritime industry, the tariff has resulted in the establishment of new industries in which additional employment has been provided. I cannot see any valid reason why objection should be taken to the action of the Government in giving, effect to the will of the people who definitely expressed their opinion on this matter when they were last con-, suited. 1
.- I am sorry that the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Barnes) fails to recognize that the Government has not adopted the only honorable course open to it by endeavouring to repeal the Transport Workers Act, as the members of the Labour party said they would do, if returned to power. The Minister said that the Government was acting under a. mandate from the people; but he knows that the party to which he belongs promised ‘the people that; if they were returned with a majority they would repeal the Transport- Workers Act. Has any attempt” been made to do that? The Government is prepared to ignore constitutional procedure by persisting in gazetting regulations similar to those which have previously ‘ been disallowed by the Senate. Within half an hour of the disallowance of the- regulations issued prior to- those now’ under consideration the Government obtained the signature of
His Excellency the Governor-General to similar regulations which were shortly afterwards gazetted. How long is this to continue ? We know our rights. Honorable senators have as strong a mandate from the people of Australia as have the members of another place. Wo have a mandate from a majority of the people of Australia. Every senator filling an ordinary vacancy in the Senate is elected by a majority of the people of the State which he represents, and no honorable senator can be elected unless he secures a majority of the votes of the people of a particular State. In these circumstances, if any chamber has a mandate from the people it is the Senate. As a representative of a small State such as Tasmania, I cannot stand idly by when any action is taken by the Government which may result in a recurrence of the condition of affairs which existed in the transport industry up to within three years ago. For seven years the trade between the mainland and Tasmania was dislocated by continual industrial disturbances on the waterfront, but since the Transport Workers Act came into operation there has been no such interruption. No complaints have been made with respect to the way in which the work on the waterfront has been performed during the last three years. Volunteers came to our assistance, and it i3 our duty to prevent any injustice being done to those who restored continuous communication between the various ports of Australia. The question has been pertinently asked as to how long this practice is to be continued. We can deal with the position only as we find it. New regulations have been issued, and I trust that they will be disallowed. I strongly protest against the action of the Government in disregarding the constitutional course, and ignoring this important branch of the legislature. I believe that this Government is prepared, even at the risk of violating the laws of the Commonwealth, to force its will upon the people of Australia. I trust that the Senate will see that the rights of the people are respected, and that the workers who came to our assistance at a critical period will continue to receive the protection to which they are justly entitled.
– I, too, wish to ‘enter my protest against the action of the Government in twice defying the Senate in this matter. Shortly after the Senate adjourned on Friday last, the Executive Council adopted regulations similar to those which the Senate had previously disallowed on two occasions, and thereby defied this branch of the legislature. The flimsy reason which the Prime Minister gave on the 12th May in justification of the Government’s action was that -
The Government will not allow the members of another place who were not before the electors at the 1929 election, to govern this country.
Although the Senate has the constitutional power to disallow regulations, the Government persists in defying this branch of the legislature. If the Government is opposed to the action of this chamber, why does it not introduce legislation to validate its action? It does not do so, but gazettes regulations behind the back of the Senate. It seems to me that it is a case of political trickery, and in defying the Senate the Government is acting the part of a political confidence man who is always desiring to do something behind the back of the custodian of law and order. We have also been confronted with the spectacle of the Government endeavouring to issue bad paper money, which it would have done but for the action of this chamber. It also endeavoured to ship our gold reserve, and take away from the Commonwealth Bank the control of the note issue and to place it in the hands of the Treasurer. Again the Senate asserted its rights and prevented such a course being adopted. In this instance, by a political trick, it is endeavouring to defy the Senate. Mr. Scullin further said -
This Government will issue regulations as fast as the Senate may disallow them.
That is a striking statement for a democratic leader to make. Does he believe in acting in defiance of the Senate which is elected on the broadest franchise ? Does he realize that the members of this chamber are elected by a majority of the people in the States? Let us consider the attitude adopted by this democratic leader. The present Leader of the Opposition in another place (Mr. Lyons) has been visiting the various States addressing public meetings. The Premier of N8w South Wales (Mr. Lang) - I have no time for Mr. Lang or his policy - has been appearing on public platforms, and placing his policy before the people of the Commonwealth. Mr. Theodore, who is the real leader of the Ministry, has adopted a similar course. But the Leader of this Government has remained quietly in Canberra, and has refrained from addressing public gatherings in any capital city of Australia in support of the policy of his Government. The only reply that Mr. Scullin has given to Mr. Lyons or Mr. Lang has been from a little box in Canberra from which he broadcasts certain statements. That is the democratic leader who has the impertinence to say that the Government will issue regulations as fast as they are disallowed by the Senate! If the Prime Minister wants to be a popular leader, let’ him follow the example of Mr. Lyons, and give the people an opportunity to say whether they support him now as they did in October, 1929. Let the Government test the feelings of the people by an election. The Government shows no desire to obtain the views of the electors, even to the extent of the Prime Minister getting on the public platform in any part of Australia.
– I thought that this motion was a purely formal one, and that the principle involved would be debated to-morrow. Honorable senators have made it an excuse for giving expression to their political opinions concerning Mr. Lyons, Mr. Lang and others. Indeed, some of them have, as it were, travelled from Dan to Beersheba. I am pledged to constitutional government, and would not stand for anything which deliberately attempted to upset that principle. I leave to constitutional authorities the question whether the issue of these regulations is, or is not, constitutional. This afternoon about six opinions have been given, most of them being to the effect that the regulations are not constitutional. The constitutional aspect has been emphasized during this debate. There is also the humanitarian point of view to be considered. The issue and re-issue of regulations, and even the passing of the Transport Workers Act itself, are the outcome of serious trouble on the waterfront some time ago. On that occasion some of the waterside workers acted indiscreetly: their action is to be regretted. I point out, however, that troubles of that kind are likely to happen when conflict arises between employers and employees. So far as the waterside workers at Port Adelaide are concerned-
– They acted in contravention of an award of the court.
– That is admitted. When honorable senators ask how long the issue of new regulations and their disallowance is to last, I ask how long are the waterside workers of Australia - the best in the world - to remain under a ban ? When are they to have again the rights of citizenship in Australia? Less than a week ago the whole of the business premises at Port Adelaide were closed to discuss the position on the waterfront. I emphasize that that was not done as any party political move; the business people of Port Adelaide voluntarily closed their premises in order to attend two of the biggest meetings ever held in that city. They carried the following motion: -
That we, citizens and ratepayers of Port Adelaide, protest to the Federal and State Governments against the action of the shipping authorities in re-employing volunteer labour on the wharfs of Port Adelaide.
We consider that the action of the federation in the past has been sufficiently punished, and the work and behaviour of their members since their re-employment quite justifies the action of the Federal Government in attempting to retain their employment.
We view with alarm the employment of Southern Europeans whilst so many of our citizens, many of them are returned soldiers, are unemployed.
This meeting further suggests to the State Ministry that failing the efforts of the Federal Government to satisfactorily settle this trouble, constitutional action be taken for the State Government to take over all work on the waterfront.
That motion was submitted by one of the councillors of the municipality at a meeting organized by the citizens themselves, and presided over by the mayor of Port Adelaide. The meeting wa*s held because of the serious position which exists at Port Adelaide.
– Is it a fact that the business people of Port Adelaide are afraid to supply goods to the free workers ?
– I do not know that that is so.
– Surely the honorable senator is aware that the shopkeepers were boycotted if they supplied good’s to volunteers?
– I do not know that ; but I do know that the bulk of the volunteer workers at Port Adelaide are not residents of that city. It may be said that that is because they are afraid to live there. A false impression seems to exist in many quarters regarding the actual state of affairs at Port Adelaide. Eight thousand good waterside workers, and their dependants, who are residents of Port Adelaide, are now on the dole. In addition, there are thousands of single men, some of whom have never worked, and who have no prospect of obtaining employment. Moreover, there are hundreds of young girls in that city who are unable to obtain work, and whose position is indeed desperate.
– Where do the waterside workers who do work at Port Adelaide reside?
– The members of the Waterside Workers Federation comprise a good proportion of the citizens of Port Adelaide. The mayor of that city explained that 500 of them who, prior to the trouble on the waterfront had’ partly paid for their homes, are now without homes. It is no exaggeration to say that hundreds of men, women and children at Port Adelaide are living on bran and pollard, and are without furniture, and almost without clothes.
– Unfortunately, that is true of other places also.
– The position at Port Adelaide is worse than it is in most other places. The work on the waterfront at Port Adelaide ought to be done by the workers who live there.
– Who does it now?
– The work is done largely by men who travel to and from Port Adelaide in motor vehicles. As soon as their day’s work is finished, they clear out of the city. At the Adelaide railwav station large numbers of Southern
Europeans, many of whom cannot speak the English language, may also be seen returning by train each evening from Port Adelaide. The money that they earn is sent to Italy. The business people of Port Adelaide who have granted credit to local unemployed citizens can carry them no longer. The work that is done in the port is grabbed by men from other places, and the money they earn is taken away from Port Adelaide. I desire to emphasize that two crowded meetings of citizens, held at midday, at which unanimous protests were made, could not possibly be the outcome of a party squabble between unionists and non-unionists. The feeling of the people of Port Adelaide is that the waterside workers have been sufficiently penalized for disobeying the award of the court. When the trouble was on. I, with others, addressed about 1,500 of them, and urged them to return to work. The ship-owners gave them an hour in which to decide whether they Would return to work or not, informing them that if they were not at work within that time, volunteers would take their places, and they might not be employed again. The men refused to return to work; thousands of them have been sorry for their action ever since. Certainly, the people of Port Adelaide generally are sorry that they did not return to work. The municipality of Port Adelaide is practically bankrupt, because it is impossible to collect rates; about 50 shops in the business portion of the city are empty and deserted. During the period that the regulations operated, business revived wonderfully. Business people there said that it was a godsend to have some of the money earned in the city spent in the local shops. I have been informed by several business men that waterside workers to whom they had given credit promptly offered them their fi rst pay. Apart from the constitutional aspect, I suggest that there is nothing very creditable in an overwhelming majority in the Senate saying that it will have only volunteers on the waterfront. I know that many of the shipping companies do not want the volunteers.
– They need not have them.
– Most of the shipping agents at Port Adelaide act under instructions from their head offices iu Melbourne, which, in turn, are subject to directions from London. I know that the numbers are here to disallow every regulation that is made. Nevertheless, as an Australian citizen, I urge the Senate not to disallow these regulations.
– Is there not a better way?
– There is another way; I do not say that it is a better way. It has been suggested that the Transport Workers Act should be repealed. I assume that these regulations are in order until they have been disallowed by the Senate. If they are in order, there is no necessity to amend the act. They are only assumed to be out of order because they have been disallowed by the Senate on two occasions. Considering the treatment which has been meted out to regulations under the Transport Workers Act, what chance would a proposal to amend that act have? Honorable members opposite do not oppose these regulations because they are unconstitutional; they oppose them because of a feeling of loyalty to the men who volunteered to work on the waterfront when there was trouble there.
– Have not the ship-owners shown a compromising spirit ?
– I have no complaint to make concerning their attitude; nor have the citizens of Port Adelaide. The shipping agents at Port Adelaide are helpless because they must obey instructions sent from Melbourne and dictated by the shipping companies in London. I repeat that I do not stand for any unconstitutional action; but the circumstances of this case are so serious that I urge the Senate to hesitate before disallowing these regulations. An extra’ ordinary position confronts us and an extraordinary ‘action is therefore necessary. There are nine ports in South Australia ; but in only ‘one of them - Port Adelaide - did trouble occur. I can speak only from the point of view of Port Adelaide. If these regulations are disallowed, the main port of South Australia will practically become idle. It is not sufficient to say that the inactivity at that port is due to the operation of the tariff. The fiscal policy of the country is what Parliament makes it. The point I wash to emphasize is that the work that is available at Port
Adelaide is given to men, who at one time were kept in a compound under unnecessarily vigilant police supervision.
– Were those men South Australians?
– I think that the majority of them were. Some of them were young men who, out of a sense of loyalty, undertook work which was refused by others. Although some of them worked well, they are not the men for the job. They do not live in the district, and the money that they earn is not spent in Port Adelaide. While they are employed, good men who have spent all their lives on the waterfront stand idly by. Nine thousand persons in Port Adelaide are in receipt of the dole, with the result that many business people of that city can no longer carry on. The waterside workers there are without employment, and without money; while the business people have lost all the capital that they had invested in their businesses. Unless we can get these people back to work the position will continue to be unsatisfactory. Apart altogether from the constitutional phase of this question, and whether the action of the Government is right or wrong, I hope that honorable senators will not do anything to further disturb conditions on the waterfront. I have no doubt that those honorable senators who represent Tasmania in this chamber may be able to show that Tasmania has benefited from the operation of the Transport Workers Act. That has not been our experience in South Australia. An overwhelming majority of the people living in Port Adelaide are earnestly desirous of seeing members of the Waterside Workers Federation again permanently employed on the waterfront.
.- One would imagine, from the speech of Senator Kneebone that the Transport Workers Act had been responsible for a great deal of unemployment at the various ports in Australia. Exactly the reverse is the case. There has been no diminution in the amount of work avail able through the operation of the act in question. All that the act does is to insure work for all who are prepared to accept the awards of the Arbitration
Court and take out licences. One set of individuals is now doing work which, prior to the passing of the act, was done by members of another organization. The latest regulations made by this Government will limit work at all Australian ports to members of the Waterside Workers Federation, whereas the regulations made by the previous Administration provided that work on the waterfront could be secured by any person who took out a licence and was prepared to abide by the decisions of the Arbitration Court. I agree with Senator Kneebone that members of the Waterside Workers Federation were badly advised and, probably acted against their better judgment when, some years ago, they defied the Arbitration Court. The federation, at that time, was something of a close combine. Times out of number, its members held a pistol at the head of the community. They struck work whenever they thought fit to do so. Senator Kneebone, this afternoon, made an eloquent appeal on behalf of its members, who are now unemployed at Port Adelaide. We all regret that any man should be out of work at the present time. But I remind the honorable senator that a few years ago, members of the Waterside Workers Federation paid very little consideration to the inconvenience and hardship which, by their frequent strikes, they imposed upon the people of Australia. “I well recall the bitter experience of the people in Northern Queensland just prior to the completion of the railway which links the southern and northern parts of that State. Owing to the complete interruption of sea transport services there was a grave shortage of flour and other commodities. The people were on the verge of starvation. So bad did the position become at one time that members of the Australian Workers Union, farmers, and timber workers from the northern tableland banded themselves together to provide protection for the men who were willing to work on the wharfs so as to maintain sea communication with southern Queensland ports. Since the passage of the Transport Workers Act, work has proceeded satisfactorily at practically all ports in Australia. Therefore, the volunteer workers are entitled to all the protection which this Parliament can give to them. On many occasions when the call was made for volunteers to come to the aid of the people during previous strikes by waterside workers, the men who responded to the appeal were afterwards thrown on the scrap heap and the men who were responsible for the dislocation of industry resumed work as though nothing had happened.
– Many returned soldiers, members of the Waterside Workers Federation, have been scrapped in Port Adelaide.
– We all regret that any returned soldier should be unable to secure employment. I remind the honorable senator that not long ago the Leader of the Senate (Senator Barnes), when he was Minister for Works, brought down a regulation, the effect of which was to withdraw the preference in government employment to returned soldiers, but because of the public outcry which his action occasioned from one end of Australia to the other, the regulation was promptly withdrawn. From this it will be gathered that the present Government has nothing to be proud of in connexion with preference to returned soldiers. The previous Administration in all its legislation inserted specific provision for preference to be given to returned soldiers. Senator Kneebone advances, as one reason why the regulations should stand, that members of the Waterside Workers Federation live in Port Adelaide, and spend all their earnings in that city. That argument will not stand examination. It would be just as reasonable, if all the work were given to members of the Waterside Workers Federation, for business people and residents of other suburbs of Adelaide to protest against the monopoly of work on the waterfront being given to citizens of Port Adelaide, on the ground that all their earnings were spent in that port. Before the Transport Workers Act was passed, these men were given ample warning that they must obey the awards of the Arbitration Court. Even members of the honorable senator’s own party urged them not to continue with their foolish policy. I have no doubt the honorable senator himself pleaded with them to remain at work.
– That is so.
– Nevertheless, they persisted in holding up industry until finally the Government came to the rescue of the community by introducing and passing the Transport Workers Act. The frequent disputes always arose at a most unfortunate time for the farmers in Queensland. In fact it seemed that every strike was engineered just at the time when it would injure most the interests of the primary producers. For three consecutive years, the fruit-growers of Bowen had a disastrous experience. Owing to the dislocation of shipping, they were unable to market their fruit, the great bulk of which had to rot on the trees. Those honorable senators who represent Tasmania have, on many previous occasions, retailed similar experiences. For many years in succession, prior to the passage of the Transport Workers Act, the steamship services between Tasmania and the mainland were completely disorganized through a stewards’ strike, a seamen’s strike, or a strike of waterside workers in the height of the tourist season when Tasmania might expect to receive some benefit from that class of traffic. Finally, the general public became so “ fed-up “ with the attitude of waterside workers that there was a definite demand for legislation to safeguard the interests of primary producers and others whose livelihood depended on the transport services. Since the Transport Workers Act was passed, work on the waterfront has proceeded satisfactorily. Had the position been otherwise there might have been some justification for the action of this Government in making fresh regulations or introducing legislation for the repeal of the act. But, as I have stated, for some years now work on the waterfront has proceeded peacefully and continuously. Thousands of men are now in enjoyment of continuous employment. The act does not shut out any individual in the community who wishes to obtain work on the waterfront. The regulations now under discussion seek to confine the work to members of the Waterside Workers Federation, which organization, I remind the Senate, has not always been amenable to the law of the land. A few years ago, it was practically impossible for a man to become a member of it. Its books were either dosed, or the entrance fee was made so high that the average man was unable to find the money necessary to gain admittance to the organization. For many years, the federation had a wonderful run. Its members enjoyed a monopoly of all work on the waterfront, and instead of dealing fairly by the community generally, they took advantage of practically every opportunity to dislocate our transport services, to the ruin of thousands of primary producers. These volunteers came to the aid of Australia when an appeal was made to them to restore the transport services of the country, and I shall not vote to rob them of the position that they occupy in connexion with work on the waterfront. They have done their work well, and have been engaged in it so long that they are now just as efficient as were the members of the Waterside Workers Federation, who previously performed these duties. There is no reason why any member of the Waterside Workers Federation who abides by the conditions that are laid down in the Transport Workers Act should not obtain his share of employment on the waterfront. These volunteers were promised the protection of both the Commonwealth and State Governments; they were assured that if they assisted to restore the transport services their interests would be conserved by legislation and, so far as lay within the power of the Government, by administration. In the ports of Northern Queensland, pillaging has been reduced to a minimum, and the cost of handling cargo is very much lower to-day than it was when the work was carried out under the conditions that operated prior to the enactment of the Transport Workers Act.
– The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
– There are two points in connexion with the regulations to which I wish to refer.
– I point out that the honorable senator is not permitted at this stage to discuss the regulations, but must confine his observations to the action of the Government in gazetting them.
– Then I shall reserve my remarks until the motion for the disallowance of the regulations is before the Senate.
– I regret, Mr. President, that you have given this ruling at such a late stage of the debate, because I, like the previous speaker, am handicapped by it and shall probably have to reserve until to-morrow the greater portion of what I intended to say. But I can say quite a lot in reply to what has fallen from honorable senators opposite, with respect to the attitude of the Government concerning this matter. If it were merely a question of the Government having acted improperly by issuing regulations instead of submitting legislation to Parliament, it would not be necessary for me to say more than that it has not acted singularly in this regard, because the issuing of regulations is a long-established practice which the previous Government was not at all averse from following. As a matter of fact the altered conditions on the waterfront were in the first place the subject of regulations. The government of the day promised that it. would bring in an amendment of the act, and was enabled to fulfil that promise only because a majority of members in both Houses were in favour of that course being taken.
The principal objection to the present regulations appears to be that they affect adversely men who, it is claimed, were loyal to Australia in its hour of need. I do not think that, that counts for anything. I venture to affirm that no honorable senator will deny that the wharflabourers are as loyal as is any member of the Senate. Their loyalty was attested to in another place by Mr. Hughes in 1924 ; and he had an extensive knowledge of wharf-labourers. Many of them participated in the war without hope of gain, and to-day they are the victims of circumstances. It is two and a half years since there was trouble on the waterfront.
– Of course it is; there has been no trouble since the Transport Workers Act was enacted.
– In many other industries there has been no trouble during that period, and the credit for such a state of affairs cannot be given to the Transport Workers Act.
– It put an immediate stop to trouble on the waterfront.
– It did not have the effect of preventing trouble in other industries in which there had been trouble previously.
– It dealt only with work on the waterfront.
– Exactly. I wish to compare the conditions on the waterfront with those that operate in other industries. The fact that there has been an absence of trouble on the waterfront does not afford any guarantee that it will not arise in the future. It is admitted that these men made a mistake and did wrong ; but are they on that account to be deprived for ever of the right to work?
– Why give them the other fellow’s job?
– Much has been said in regard to loyalty. Numbered among those who are registered and employed by the ship-owners at Bowen are four Chinese, whose names are Lam Choy, Ching Ling, Har See Ling, and Too Yeang Ling. Is it the desire of honorable senators opposite that they be given preference inemployment over good Australian citizens?
SenatorFoll. - I suppose that they are all Australian-born Chinese.
– The honorable senator has said that the Waterside Workers Federation increased its contributions to such an extent that it was almost impossible for men to become members of it. Yet an Italian at Port Adelaide was able to pay as much as £10 for a licence!
– The honorable senator ought to furnish proof of that.
– I did not wish to go to that trouble, but I shall do so. The following appeared in , an Adelaide newspaper under the heading, “Bought a Licence “, “ Gross Fraud “ says the Court. “ Italian fined £10 “ : - “ If defendant thought that it was worth £10 to buy the ticket, then it was worth a fine of £10 - the maximum - and I see no. reason why the penalty should be reduced “, remarked Mr. G. H. Harker, S.M., in the Port Adelaide Police Court to-day.
– That fine was imposed for the perpetration of fraud.
– Exactly ; but the fact remains that this man purchased the ticket for £10. Do honorable senators think that these people should be given protection in preference to bona fide Australian workmen, who in the past have secured the conditions that obtain on the waterfront to-day? When I look round me in the Senate and see honorable senators who for years were in the forefront of the working class struggle, and who know it from end to end, I wonder why their hearts have turned against the good unionists of this country who have built up their working conditions by constitutional means.
I trust that the regulations will not be disallowed. If honorable senators opposite agree - as they must upon a proper consideration of the matter - that returned soldiers and bona fide unionists should be given employment, they should not reject them merely because they believe that the Government has flouted the will of Parliament. I do not regard this as a childish struggle between the Government and the Senate. Nothing is further than that from the mind of the Government. It was elected to administer the law in this direction. It is not necessary for me to tell honorable senators that the policy of the Labour party has always been to give preference to unionists. We believe that this country has reached its present stage of development largely as a result of the efforts of trade unions, and through them the Labour movement generally.
– Are not these volunteers unionists?
– Of course they are members of a union; but if their union is similar tothat organized on one occasion by the pastoralists for the purpose of destroying the great Australian Workers Union, its only object can be to break down the conditions that have been won by bona fide unionists. I again express the hope that the Senate will not reject the regulations with a view to protecting men for whom they have a preference, at the expense of members of the original, genuine union, simply because the Government has adopted this method of giving effect to its policy.
and Senator Dooley have said that because the Government was returned with a majority after it had announced at the elections that it would repeal the Transport Workers Act, the Senate has no right of disallowance of regulations. That is an extraordinary assertion. The Labour party certainly promised that it would repeal the act, but it has not done so. That is another of its broken promises.
– It has endeavoured to redeem many other promises, but has not been allowed by the Senate to do so.
– It did not say to the electors, “ If you return us, you will take away from the Senate the right to disallow regulations; and I am quite sure that the electors did not dream that they were placing such a power in its hands. Yet that is what the Government is assuming. It is a fact, as Senator Kneebone has pointed out, that among the volunteers in South Australia are a number of Southern Europeans, but I suppose there are more people of alien birth employed on the waterfront than there are in any other industry in the Commonwealth. People of all nations follow the sea as a means of livelihood, and the waterside workers are largely recruited from shipping; men employed on ships naturally gravitate to the wharfs. They represent men of all nationalities. But the percentage of Southern Europeans among the waterside workers is not more pronounced at Port Adelaide than it is elsewhere.
– It is not particularly marked in South Australia. I quoted the figures.
– According to the figures, there are quite a large number of men of foreign birth in the Waterside WorkersFederation. A little time ago I gave figures relating to the number of aliens among the volunteers and among the members of the federation, showing that there was very little difference between them. Mr. President, I moved this motion for the purpose of enabling honorable senators to express their opinion on the action of the Government, and, as that purpose has been accomplished, I now ask leave to withdraw it.
Motion - by leave - withdrawn.
The following papers were presented : -
Tariff Board - Reports and Recommendations -
Bismuth Metal and Bismuth Salts.
Brasswork, Bronzework, and Gunmetal Work for General Engineering and Plumbing and other trades.
Oil and Spirit Heating and Cooking Appliances.
Smoothing and Soldering Irons.
Whiting and Paris White.
Norfolk Island Act - Ordinance No. 1 of 1931 - Executive Council.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Ordinances of 1931 -
No. 7 - Medical Practitioners Registration.
No.8 - Dentists Registration.
Seat of Government (Administration) Ordi nance and Public Health Ordinance - Regulations amended -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
What action has been taken to put into effect the recommendations for the safety of air passengers, which were made by the special committee which inquired into the loss of the Southern Cloud?
– The reply to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
The recommendations of the committee covered four aspects, namely, wireless communication, signals, weather reports, and equipment, and the position in regard to each is as follows: -
Wireless Communication. - Consideration is now being given to the manner in which the system of wireless communication recommended by the committee can best be provided.
Signals. - Immediate action is being taken to give effect to the recommendation that Verey light pistol and cartridges should be carried on all aircraft operating schedule passenger air routes. The other recommendations of the committee under this heading are still receiving consideration.
Weather Reports. - Investigations are in progress to ascertain whether it is practicable to obtain the evening forecast based on observations made at6 p.m., as recommended by the committee, but in the meantime action has been taken to have available at each main departmental aerodrome special aviation forecasts issued twice daily by the bureau based on the normal morning observations.
Equipment. - Inquiries are in progress to determine the necessity for duplicating the compass and altimeter on machines operating over routes where blind flying may be necessary, and where no wireless communication aids are available.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
In view of the favorable nature of the report, dated the 21st April, made to the Government on the proposed paper industry of Tasmania by the committee, Messrs. H. J. Gepp and I.H. Boas, will the Government at an early date take action to give effect to the recommendations made therein?
– Negotiations are at present being conducted with the interests concerned in the light of information disclosed in the report. When these negotiations are concluded, the Government will give full consideration as to the method and measure of co-operation most desirable.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
Debate resumed from the 15th May (vide page 1987), on motion by Senator Barnes -
That the paper be printed.
Upon which Senator Sir Hal Colebatch had moved by way of amendment -
That the following words be added to the motion: - “and that after the thirty-first day of August, 1031, the date of the expiration of the agreement between the Government of the Commonwealth and the Government of the State of Queensland, no agreement between the Government of the Commonwealth and the Government of the State of Queensland, or between the Government of the Commonwealth and any other party relating to the sugar industry, and no duty, embargo, or prohibition on the importation of sugar into Australia shall have any force or effect until approved by the Parliament of the Commonwealth.”
, - On the general principle of the need for parliamentary approval I am in sympathy with the amendment moved by Senator Colebatch, but I am bound to oppose it, not only because it is levelled at a great industry of Queensland, which State I have the honour to represent in this Senate, but also because all the steps taken in connexion with sugar in the past - and there have been quite a number of them- have been administrative, and have not been submitted to Parliament for approval. This debate reminds me a great deal of a conversation I had at Rockhampton with Sir Sydney Henn a prominent member of the British Parliamentary Delegation to this country which the Marquis of Salisbury headed. It was brought home to me that Sir Sydney Henn was an economist, and a very good one, too, but of a very cocksure order. I am inclined to think that most economists are built on those lines, and that Very often their opinions are wrong. He asked, “ What is the position of the sugar industry in Queensland? It cannot be an economic one. It is not sound.” In my quiet way I tried to show him first of all that it had a direct bearing on the question of defence, which we considered a very important factor, inasmuch, as the north-eastern littoral of Queensland is easily the most vulnerable part of the continent, threatened as it is by hordes from the north or by any hostile country which for a time may obtain command of the sea. I showed him that there was no other industry capable of peopling the north in the way that the sugar industry was doing. I pointed out that in that part of the country there was particularly favorable land for sugar-growing, and that there was in no other part of Australia, so far as I knew, land of a similar character. I also used the argument that the sugar industry employed quite a large number of people, and settled a great many upon the land with all the benefits that accompany land settlement; also that a large amount of capital was involved in the industry, and that a good deal of efficiency had already been achieved. One of the most important arguments I advanced was that the sugar industry fitted in with our White Australia policy, because cane sugar is grown in other parts of the world by coloured labour. The last, but not the least, argument I impressed on Sir Sydney Henn was that the virile white population of North Queensland disproved the asser-tion of scientists and others that a white population cannot work in a tropical climate. I thought that my arguments had made an impression, but Sir Sydney Henn said, “ I do not care. It is not economic ; it is not sound.” I had to agree, as possibly we must ali do, that, in reality, it is not an economical proposition ; but there are many other things in this country which are economically unsound. It is a condition of affairs which is inseparable from the development of a young country, whose progress is marked by governmental actions similar to those condemned by Sir Sydney Henn. I mention briefly the wine, gold, cotton, butter, galvanized iron, and other protected industries, and cite the high protective duties we have imposed in Australia with the object of enabling the country to develop and progress. But not one of these industries has claims on such high grounds of State as the sugar industry has, and which I enunciated in my reply to Sir Sydney Henn
In the administrative step the Government has taken in regard to sugar it had the advantage of a report by a special committee. The report is very complete and valuable. It will stand as a record for many years to come of the state of the industry in Australia at the present time. It falls under three headings. First there is the section to which all members of the committee agreed. Then there is a majority report and also a minority report. I hope that the printing committee will have the three of them published as one document.
– That is to be done.
– As presented in the first instance it is rather misleading, because the part to which the committee in general agreed follows the minority report. There is, however, very little difference between the majority and the minority reports - practically a difference of only £d. per lb. in regard to the price of sugar, and other matters such as over-production, upon which I shall touch later. A complaint, has been made in the chamber about the personnel of the committee, but as the sugar interests had only one representative on it I cannot understand why any exception should have been taken. As °a matter of fact the committee seems to me to have been particularly well chosen. It certainly presented a very valuable report.
The value of the sugar industry to Australia is generally appreciated, especially its machinery-purchasing capacity. The agricultural implements it requires are all subjected to very high protective duties. The greatest objection to the industry is based on the high cost of sugar to individual consumers; but as each id. per lb. means only ls. 8£d. per annum for each person in the community, surely the people generally do not grudge such a trifling amount, particularly when it comes back to them again in many ways. It must also be borne in mind that the comparisons mentioned here and submitted to the committee are between foreign raw sugar and Australian refined sugar, quite different propositions so far as quality is concerned. Furthermore, foreign raw cane sugar is produced elsewhere by coloured labour. I believe that in Cuba the workers on the cane-fields get only their food and clothing. In Java the wage for a twelve-hour day is 4d. for women and lOd. for men. With the exception of butter, sugar has advanced in price from 1911 to 1930 to a smaller extent than any other household commodity, and to a less extent than the basic wage. Comparing the fixed price for raw sugar with the price of foreign sugar from 1915 to 1930, the Australian consumer has been saved about £27,500,000. That is a collossal saving, and, although I have not the means of checking it, I believe it can be proved to be accurate. Surely the people will not grudge a slight increase of cost in view of the figures I have just quoted. Further, it has been demonstrated to the committee’s entire satisfaction that there is only a small margin of profit in the industry. We have also to bear in mind the concessions given by this industry in the form of world parity prices in respect of the sugar contents of exports, the allowance to fruit processors and wholesale and retail distributors, and the ‘ general acceptance of delivery costs to equalize the price at the various capitals, as well as the holding of large stocks for the convenience of customers in the several State capitals.
We have heard a good deal on this subject from the representatives of Tasmania in this chamber. I venture to say that Tasmania is in a better position in regard to sugar than any other State in the Commonwealth, since it has the acfvantage of export parity, and its export of goods in which sugar is contained is much greater than that of any other State in the Commonwealth. As to the fruit processors, I think that there has been some suggestions made, which, although not quite what is required, will meet the requirements of the processors to a greater extent than the protection they have had in the past. This matter can be adjusted by means of the £110,000 which is now available over and above the previous allowance. It should be possible to have this money distributed in such a way as to give satisfaction to the fruit processors. A long letter written by the managing director of Henry Jones and Company, of Hobart, was read in the Senate last week by Senator Sampson. I knew the late Sir Henry Jones personally, and his views on the sugar industry, as expressed to me, were very favorable to it. I venture to say that he could, in a few lines, have made out as good a case as did the gentleman referred to, who took many pages to explain his views.
As far as the wholesale and retail distribution prices are concerned, I may say that the allowance to the wholesalers is absolutely inadequate. As a merchant for many years, I had to pay cash in large sums - there was no waiting for it - for my supplies. One had either to pay cash or go without the sugar. On the other hand, when I sold to the retailers, who, very often, were country storekeepers, I had to wait a long time before I received payment. In some instances I did not get any payment at all. I have always felt that the wholesaler is not on a proper basis and that the present allowance should be increased.
– I am sure that the retailer is not on a proper basis.
– I shall deal with the retailer presently. The committee pointed out that in view of the terms given to retail storekeepers they should accept a share of the loss and, therefore, it did not see its way clear to grant the wholesalers an increased allowance. I dare say that the wholesaler will still go on as he has been doing in the past. The retailers asked for a 20 per cent. margin of gross profit, but a percentage of 20 per cent. on an item such as sugar, with its quick turnover, is altogether out of the question. The committee states that in “Western Australia, from whose representatives we have heard a good deal of criticism, the retailers are getting 20 per cent. If they are then, in my opinion, they are getting too much, because a commodity such as sugar cannot stand such a high percentage.
A good deal of criticism has been launched against the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. I hold no brief for that company which I think is always able to defend itself, but it is amusing to find the venue of the opposition changed from the Government to the Opposition side of the chamber. That fact I think will be appreciated in many quarters. One must pay a tribute to the efficient way in which the Colonial Sugar Refining Company has conducted its operations and also to the money and effort which it has spent in research.
– Whose money ?
– Money taken out of the profits of the company. No one can say that its refining costs are greater than they should be. It was brought out in evidence that the company’s profits had not been wholly derived from its refining operations. In the matter of research work the company has blazed the trail in a most creditable way, and to a greater extent than has occurred in other industries in this country. I have often felt that if the sheep-breeders in Australia, who are always complaining of the losses sustained by the ravages of diseases and pests in sheep, had contributed to a fund to meet the expense of tackling problems common to them, such as the Colonial Sugar Refining Company has done, they would have made greater progress. I know that in many respects the Colonial Sugar Refining Company has been very good to the men on the land. The company once owned a large area in the Mackay district, on which it intended to grow sugar cane, but after a time it felt that its business was more in the milling and refining of sugar and it sold the land, principally to immigrants, on very reasonable terms. Today those men are more or less quite well off by reason of the liberality of the company. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company has been 43 years in business, and surely efficient management over so long a period should result in the creation of large reserves such as the company undoubtedly possesses. The committee says that the company requires £8,500,000 of capital items annually to finance Australia’s sugar requirements.
– The company commenced operations in 1843, and therefore has been established for more than 43 years.
– I am quoting the committee’s figures. Presumably it is 43 years since it commenced operations in Queensland. As I have said, it requires £8,500,000 of capital items to finance the sugar requirements for a year.
As there are very few, if any, concerns in Australia which have to find so much moneyor could find it, I think that the charge for financing is reasonable. We could not find any other concern capable or willing to do the work which the company is doing as cheaply as it is. The committee also sets down the net annual profits of the company arising out of its Australian business at £472,000, which is equal to 5½ per cent. per annum. That surely is not too much for the service which the company is rendering.
I listened to what Senator Payne and others had to say with regard to overproduction. This, I admit, is a very difficult problem, but it has not escaped attention. From time to time, conferences have been held in Queensland - Senator Crawford is more acquainted with the facts than I am - and certain methods have been tried by which to overcome the difficulty. Up to the present, however, they have not been altogether satisfactory. I believe that these conferences will be continued, and I think that it is quite possible some solution of the problem will eventually be reached. The resultant £2,000,000 from the export trade is very useful to Australia in view of the present exchange position. I have heard it said that it is not of any account; but even if the sugar exported is sold at a loss it is one with which the industry bears.
– The home consumer bears it.
– I have shown where the consumer stands. The low margin of profit is brought about by the loss on exports; but, as I have said, the £2,000,000 of export trade is a very valuable item to Australia at present.
I do not intend to speak at length on this subject. It is one in respect of which many quotations could be used, but I rather dislike the introduction of quoted matter in a speech. I shall conclude by saying that I am strongly in favour of the Government’s action based on the majority report of the committee, and will not support any action which may jeopardize this great industry. My vote will therefore be recorded against the amendment moved by Senator Colebatch.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cooper) adjourned.
– I move–
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW (Queensland) [5.34]. - I take this opportunity of expressing our sincere and heartfelt sympathy with Senator Lynch in the bereavement he has just suffered by the loss of his wife. Senator Lynch has been absent for some time owing to the illness of Mrs. Lynch, and now that she has passed away, I am sure honorable senators desire to extend to our esteemed colleague and his family their heartfelt sympathy in their bereavement. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce), who is at present engaged elsewhere, wishes to be associated with this expression of sympathy which perhaps you, Mr. President, will convey to Senator Lynch on behalf of honorable senators.
– I associate myself with the remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Glasgow). I should have mentioned this matter myself had it not been done by an honorable senator on the other side. I am sure that every honorable senator feels deeply the bereavement suffered by Senator Lynch. His wife had had a long and painful illness, and the senator, I have no doubt, went through a period of great trial and worry. As soon as I saw the report of her death in the press, I made haste to express my personal regret to the honorable senator, and to sympathize with him and his family in their bereavement. I am now glad to avail myself of the opportunity of doing the same thing here in the Senate.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. W. Kingsmill) . - I desire to associate myself with the sentiments of those honorable senators who have expressed their sympathy with Senator Lynch in his bereavement. I assure honorable senators that their expressions of regret will be conveyed to Senator Lynch and his family.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 5.37 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 20 May 1931, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1931/19310520_senate_12_129/>.