12th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. W. Kingsmill) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I have been too busy to read the newspapers this morning, and consequently I have not seen the statement referred to.
– Has the attention of the Leader of the Senate been called to a report in this morning’s press that the Nationalist convention, now sitting in Sydney, has passed a resolution favouring the extension of the life of both Federal and State Parliaments to five years ; and if so, can he say whether the Government is prepared to give consideration to such a proposal?
– My attention has not been called to the statement, bue personally, I should have no objection if we were appointed for life.
– Can the Leader of the Senate say whether the Government intends to comply with the resolution of the Senate, carried on the 30th April last, that the correspondence between the Government and the Commonwealth’ Bank regarding the payment of 3s. per bushel f.o.b. for wheat authorized by the Wheat Advances Act be laid on the table of the Senate?
– I regret to have again to tell the honorable senator that no reply has yet been received from the bank in relation to the subject he has mentioned.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon noVice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. The timber is understood to be on consignment. No further particulars are immediately available.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished to the honorable senator as early as possible.
Payment to Hospitals
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– These matters are being considered.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The proposals of the Government in connexion with superannuation will be dealt with in a bill shortly to be introduced.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
What would be the annual saving to Australia if the Australian Navy were handed over to the British Admiralty, and a subsidy paid to Great Britain to cover the cost of providing the same amount of naval protection as is provided by our present fleet?
– Inquiries will be made, and a reply will be furnished to the honorable senator as early as possible.
Subsidized Aerial Service
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Whether the Government will give special consideration to the question of subsidizing the present aerial service to Tasmania to enable its continuance?
– The Government has already considered this matter, but it is regretted that, owing to the present position of the Commonwealth finances, the Government is unable to see its way to render the assistance asked by the company.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
The President reported the receipt of a letter from Senator Daly tendering his resignation as a member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works.
Debate resumed from 25th June (vide page 3028), on motion by. Senator Barnes -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Senator Sir GEORGEPEARCE( Western Australia) [11.11]. - This bill provides for supply for one month, and includes the expenditure on the naval, military and air forces. I notice a statement appearing in to-day’s press - I do not know whether it is authoritative - that the Government contemplates reducing the expenditure on the Defence Forces by a further £250,000. Among other suggestions is one that the camps of training shall be suspended for the coming year. I hope that the Government will seriously consider the whole question before it further slashes the defence expenditure of this country. Even now, our defence forces have been cut to such an extent that they are practically on bedrock; if they are cut further our whole defence system will be a sham. I regard expenditure on defence as being in the nature of an insurance premium. A business concern which is in difficulties does not cut out its insurance premium, but retains it.
I know that I shall be told that everything is all right, and that Australia is in no danger. In support of that contention I shall be told, first, that Great Britain is still able to defend us. Australia has lived - I was about to say loafed - on Great Britain in the matter of defence for over 100 years. During that period the protection afforded by Great Britain has been sufficient ; but I shall show that the time has come when we can no longer rely solely on Great Britain to protect us. I shall quote figures to prove that the British taxpayers are already bearing a heavier burden of taxation than we in Australia are called upon to bear. In my opinion, it is a mean way of meeting our obligations to say that we are content to throw on the taxpayers of Great Britain the responsibility of providing for the defence of the whole Empire. Secondly, I shall be told that we can rely on the League of Nations to prevent war. That may be so. I sincerely hope that the League of Nations will be an effective instrument in preventing war; but I point out that one of the great factors contributing to war is the presence of armaments. Although the League, ever since it came into being, has devoted its attention towards the limitation of armaments, it has not accomplished anything effective in that direction. The figures that I shall give the Senate presently will prove that the only great power which has really reduced its armaments is the Empire to which we belong - Great Britain. I invite the attention of the Senate to a publication which has been placed in the hands of all honorable senators - the Journal of the Parliaments of the Empire for April 1930. In that publication honorable senators will find references to discussions in the House of Commons on the British naval, army, and air estimates. The journal contains some significant statements. There are some matters that we, in Australia, cannot afford to ignore, particularly in view of the fact that we are situated in the danger zone of the Empire, because of our being so far removed from its heart - so far from that part of the Empire where any real provision for defence exists. On page 290 of this publication will be found the following statements and figures, dealing with the naval strength of the principal powers in 1936, which I commend to the serious consideration of honorable senators: -
Naval Strength of Powers in 1936.
On11th of March, in the House of Commons. Sir Charles Cayzer (Unionist, City of Chester ) asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he could tabulate a statement showing what the . precise naval strength in all categories of war vessels under twenty years of age of the five signatory powers of the London Naval Treaty, would be in 1936, assuming that all the signatory powers built up to the full tonnage allowance permitted them under the terms of the treaty as modified by the agreement concluded with the French and Italian Governments.
The First Lord of the Admiralty (Right Honorable A. V. Alexander) gave the following reply: -
I wish to direct particular attention to the fact that the above limitation of naval strength , was the minimum which the great powers could accept, and it should be noted that, in the case of France and Italy, the limitation was only obtained under the greatest possible pressure. It is true that the British Empire has a greater tonnage in battleships than either of these two nations, but it should be borne in mind that its greater numerical strength includes a number of capital ships of an obsolete character. The real test is the strength of the respective nations in effective capital ships under twenty years of age. Of this class Japan, in 1936, will have a tonnage of 154,750, as compared with the tonnage for the British Empire of 138,650.
Senator Sir GEOEGE PEARCE The Washington ratio took into consideration all warships then in commission, but the figures which I have just quoted relate to effective ships in 1936. I should add that the submarine of today is capable of travelling from China to Sydney, and return under its own power. It is as well for us to remember that the safety of the Commonwealth depends to-day, as it has always, solely upon control of the seas by Great Britain, and for the benefit of those who smugly consider that we are safe, I may point out that, at the present time, the British navy does not occupy a first place among the great powers. Actually in some respects it is not equal to the navies of two great powers with frontiers to the Pacific Ocean.
So much for the navy. I turn now to the position with regard to the British army. On page 316 of this publication will be found an important statement made in the House of Commons by the Right Honorable G. Shaw, the Secretary of State for War. Before I read it, I would remind honorable senators that the views expressed are not those of a militarist, but of a Labour Socialist Minister in the Ramsay MacDonald Government. This is what Mr. Shaw said - “ I intend for a few minutes,” Mr. Shaw added, “to speak about our general policy, and to explain why the Government still proposes to maintain the forces at their present level. If anyone will examine closely what has been done in this country during the last tcn or eleven years, in the shape of reductions in the army, and compare it with the position in other countries, there can be no doubt that they must conclude that the policy of unilateral disarmament has not achieved its object. It is impossible to examine the figures, and looking facts in the face, to conclude that any foreign country has followed the example set by this country. “ I do not want to make invidious distinctions, but I ask anybody who takes an interest in the question of disarmament to note carefully the conditions of affairs as shown in the League of Nations’ books on the subject, and then I think there can be no question at all that the enormous reductions which have obtained in this country have not been reproduced in other countries. Disarmament in this country, instead of being a lead to foreign nations, has not led to that desirable result.”
I should like Ministers to pay special attention to this warning from the British Labour Minister for War - “Therefore, it is impossible in the circumstances for me to recommend to thu Government any further unilateral disarmament, because the figures are against it, experience is against it, and, in my opinion, the prospects of the future are against it’. I do not want to go into a long argument to demonstrate that position, but the committee will see what I mean when I say that the chances of disarmament are against unilateral disarmament as a policy. “ The Government will take a leading part, and make actual proposals for a diminution of land forces.- We have done everything that we can to bring about the day when, by international agreement, armaments will be reduced all over the world. All that we shall continue to do, but at the present moment it is absolutely impossible for us to propose any further diminution in the numbers. . .” ‘
I sincerely hope that every Australian who wishes this country to be secure from aggression, will give the closest attention to the .statements which I have just read. Mr. Shaw’s is the more significant, and comes with additional force, because no one can say that the present British Labour Government has not consistently endeavoured to give effect to its policy of disarmament with a view to ensuring world’s peace.
I come now to the position of the British Air Force. On page 318 of the same document there appears the following:
On the 17th March, in the House of Commons, the Air Estimates were introduced by the Under-Secretary for Air. Previously, there was presented to Parliament a memorandum by the Secretary of State for Air, Lord Amulree, explaining the Estimates in detail.
The memorandum had stated that the Estimates for 1931 show a net total of £18,100,000, being an increase of £250,000 on the 1930 figure of £17,850,000.
There has been no alteration during 1930 in the main features of air policy. His Majesty’s Government, having regard to the fact that Great Britain still ranks fifth in the world’s air powers, in terms of first-line strength, and to the marked growth in recent years of air expenditure abroad, have approved a further modest instalment of the home defence scheme, which will proceed in the coming year in accordance with programme. It is their earnest hope that the forthcoming. Disarmament Conference will bring about a general reduction in air armaments (the rapid development of which the world over they view with profound disquiet) and remove the present serious disparity between the Royal Air Force and foreign air services.
In view of the present world situation, can any one read these statements by responsible -British Ministers concerning the three arms of the British defence forces, without a feeling of disquiet? Everybody knows that, within the last few years, notwithstanding the tragic lesson of the Great War, extremely delicate situations have arisen in Europe on more than one occasion. The will to war still exists there. All the nations, with the exception of Great Britain, are increasing their armaments. It is impossible to view, without feelings of great uneasiness, the spectacle of Russia menacing the peace of the world. The Soviet Government has declared its intention to spread its pernicious doctrine to all other countries by any and every means at its disposal. To this end Russia has built up the strongest air force and the largest standing army in the world, and the Soviet Government is now feverishly engaged in the construction of munition factories for the’ supply of its enormous armies in time of war. Quite recently, on the anniversary of Lenin’s death, there was held in Moscow a parade of Russian forces, comprising all the services and including the most modern war equipment, greater than has ever been got together in time of peace in the history of the world. I should hope that, if members of the Ministry, and their supporters, have regard to these facts, and realize fully what they may mean to Australia, they would hesitate, even at a time like this, when the need for economy is so urgent, to further whittle down our tiny defence forces. I, therefore, appeal to the Government to reconsider its defence proposals.
Although Australia’s contribution to. the defence of the Empire is greater than that made by any other dominion, it is by no means comparable with the burden resting upon the taxpayers of Great Britain. We are not bearing, and have never borne, our fair share of Empire defence expenditure. I, therefore, suggest that it is unfair to Great Britain to make further economies in the defence vote, thus throwing an even greater share of the burden upon Great Britain which, at the moment, is facing tremendous difficulties connected with unemployment, but nevertheless is determined to maintain the three arms of the service at their present strength. I earnestly hope that the Government will realize the dangerous position in which the Commonwealth will be placed if there is a further reduction in our defence expenditure. I offer these remarks in no party spirit. I do not introduce the question of the attitude of the Government towards the reduction of defence expenditure, but I urge upon Ministers, in view of the actual effect of the world’s policy, to hesitate before they diminish any further the efficiency of the . small defence force we now have in Australia.
– The utterances of the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) are quite timely, the purpose of them being that we shall take such steps as are necessary to preserve the safety of this country consistent with our obligations under the League of - Nations, and to draw attention to the very little chastening effect the late great war has had upon mankind. I well remember Mr. Lloyd George in one of his press contributions giving figures showing clearly that in respect of the service that has lately been brought out of nothingness the air forces that the nations of Europe had built up were far superior to what they had even during the most trying hours of the war. Those figures have been amply backed up by the statements of Senator Pearce. We have also to remember that, despite all its protestations about its desire to bring the nations of the world into a better and more humane understanding, the United States of America has not slackened in its efforts to perfect what it has to-day - the strongest navy in the world. We have, further, to recollect that Japan which, only a short while ago, was - I say it without disrespect - in the backwash of civilization, is now struggling forward and. wrestling for pride of place with the second or third-rate powers of the world. When we add to that the failure of the great war to impress on mankind some dim recognition of its duty to secure a permanent peace, we must see that it ‘ would be most foolhardy for this country to slacken in its efforts to safeguard itself from attack. Furthermore the need for defence is acknowledged by a British Government of the shade of politics to which the Commonwealth Government claims affinity.
At the risk, perhaps, of being regarded as egotistical, I recall that in the past in this chamber I directed attention to the unfairness of any country, particularly an Asiatic country, laying any sort of claim to this continent of ours. I cited figures in support of my argument to show that the old shibboleth of the teeming East, like the equally old claim that an Englishman’s home is his castle, has no foundation. I pointed out that the teeming East did not exist, and had never existed ; that it was only a figment of the imagination of some writer in the past which had been taken up by other writers with an equal lack of discernment and without justification. If there is any teeming part of the world it is in the Caucasian area. There are about sixteen countries in Europe whose density of population is greater than that of any country in Asia, not excepting India, Japan or China.
This continent of ours lay slumbering for untold centuries in the back yard, as it were, of China, yet it remained for men of European countries to discover and colonise it. The Chinese had discovered the use of the mariner’s compass, and by its means could navigate the dark and stormy waters of the world, but they failed to discover the southern land.
Australia, however, has a much stronger claim to be left alone to work out its material destiny should the claim be put up to the League of Nations by any other country, Asiatic or otherwise, that, because of its density of population, it should be permitted to have free access to this continent of ours. As a matter of fact Asia is i more sparsely populated continent than Europe, when its total area is divided by its total population; the density on population per square mile of Europe and Australia combined, is more than that of Asia to-day.
When, therefore, the League of Nations is asked to establish racial equality, which means nothing more than the unquestioned entry of the people of other countries into Australia, what should be the standing injunction on the part of the League to the people who make that application ? It should say, “ Consume your own smoke, develop your own undeveloped areas and people your own vacant lands, instead of looking west or south towards a country such as Australia, which, in the past centuries, you could have discovered for your selves having means and opportunity to do so.” It is a primitive law and in accordance with natural right that those who discover a new country are entitled to possess it.
I have mentioned these matters before, but they have been lost sight of in the rush and tear of other pressing questions of the hour. Our strongest claim to retain Australia is that its development is the result of the efforts of the hardy pioneers of the British nation, and that the population per square mile of Caucasian countries is much greater than that of a country which i3 supposed to .be entitled to relief on the grounds of the density of its population.
While I am engaged on this subject, 1 may perhaps be pardoned if I also refer to the work of the Washington Naval Conference, which was attended by Senator Pearce, as representative of the Commonwealth Government. When the right honorable gentleman submitted his report, I had the temerity to suggest that the conference had failed to recognize what the right honorable gentleman has just now admitted, the effectiveness of long range under-water craft. I am glad now to have some indication, that, after all these years, these craft have come into fashion among naval men. I have always felt that it is useless to send even the strongest and stoutest battleship in the world to sea if it is not accompanied by the craft that can fire the torpedo, which in the end does the damage to the big enemy ships. Short-range submarines are ineffective for that purpose.
– The British, delegation at the Washington Conference endeavoured to secure the abolition of submarines.
– The right honorable gentleman’s report showed that they were’ in favour of the short-range submarine. But a change has come over the scene, and the naval authorities are now in favour of having Bubmarines with the longest possible range, even those that can leave their home ports and deliver an effective blow on the opposite side of the globe. For me, however, to pit my experience against that of the British navy, would be too tall an order, and at the time I contented myself by pointing out what I thought should be part of our naval policy. It is quite evident that in such matters the orthodox view to-day may, in a few years, become useless and out-of-date.
Another means of placing the safety of Australia beyond any doubt, to which I directed attention, was that Australia should be relieved by some other English speaking people of its control of New Guinea and Papua. Of course, I was left in that respect in lonely isolation. I was told that it would bc an act of foolishness on the part of Australia to surrender the control of islands so rich and so necessary for further development by Australians and Britishers. But I pointed out that if we could get the United States of America interested in these lands immediately to the north of Australia, we should have the power and might of at least another 100,000,000 people of the English speaking race to aid, if only indirectly, in the preservation of peace and the defence of our country. I got very little support on that ground) but I should be in favour of handing over New Guinea and even Papua to the United States of America. If it wants elbow room for its people, it will help us to develop these islands in the interests of the white race, and of the highest standards of civilization, and furthermore, in the interests of the preservation of the peace in the South Pacific. If America is not interested, it will not come here, .but if we could only get it to do so by putting forward this suggestion, the peace of the Pacific Ocean, the breaking of which to-day is the prospective dread of the nations of the world; would be assured.
– The honorable senator is ploughing a lonely furrow.
– I remind the honorable senator that every reform has originated in the mind of one man. Some may think it foolish that those in a continent. capable- of supporting 150,000,000 persons, should suggest that the Englishspeaking rape should further interest itself in- these Southern Seas, but action in the direction. I have suggested would be one of. the greatest guarantees of world peace.
– I remind the honorable senator that the Senate is now debating a motion for the second reading of a bill to grant one month’s Supply.
– This subject was introduced by the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce), who rightly directed the Government’s attention to the necessity of adequately defending this country, and to the extent to which our defence system has already been impaired. In those circumstances I’ thought that I was justified in elaborating the subject. There is, of course, such a thing as propaganda. If we in Australia could get a higher conception of what we should do, and endeavour to maintain this country as the home of the white race, whose standard should be of the highest, we should be rendering a very valuable service to ourselves and to those who are to follow us.
.- A few days ago the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) was asked whether there was any truth in the statement that the Government had under consideration the possibility of reverting to the old system under which Australia contributed a subsidy to the British Government in lieu of the present system of maintaining its own navy. Our defence expenditure is placing a heavy burden upon the taxpayers of this country, and, as the Leader oi the Opposition pointed out, the Government proposes to make further drastic reductions in the interest of economy, which will further impair the efficiency of the defence policy now in operation. Considering the protection afforded, our naval defence expenditure is heavy, and at the best we have a fleet of sufficient proportions to resist only a minor attack. If we were to endeavour to maintain a fleet capable of protecting the whole of the Australian coast, the financial burden would be greater than the taxpayers could possibly carry. In answer to a question which I placed on the notice-paper with respect to this matter, the Minister said that inquiries would be made. In view of the present financial circumstances, the Government should see if we could not secure protection equal to that we are nowreceiving by the payment of a subsidy, which would be much less than the cost we are now incurring in maintaining our own fleet. I do not think any other dominion has attempted to maintain its own navy. The sister dominion of New Zealand has found it more economical to pay a subsidy to the British Government than to build and maintain a fleet of its own.
Only a few months ago this Government handed over the submarines Otway and Oxley to the British Navy, because it was considered more economical than maintaining them as units of the Australian Navy. The Government is seeking avenues in which economies can be effected, and the Defence Department is receiving more attention than any other in this respect. While every one wishes economies to be effected wherever possible, such economies should not be made at the expense of efficiency. It might be more economical to adopt the policy in operation prior to the establishment of an Australian fleet, and to pay a subsidy to the Imperial Government to maintain British war vessels in Australian waters. Although such a suggestion may be scoffed at, it should be considered by this or future Governments. At present our fleet consists of only two modern cruisers and a seaplane carrier; the other vessels in service are practically obsolete.
– We are paying a high premium and not receiving sufficient protection.
SenatorFOLL. - Exactly. I do not wish our existing fleet dispensed with if it can possibly be maintained in an efficient state, but in the present state of our finances the burden is becoming too heavy for the taxpayers to carry.
– New Zealand considers it preferable to subsidize the British Government.
– In effect, the honorable senator wants “father” to do it.
SenatorFOLL. - I am not for a moment suggesting that we should shirk our responsibilities in the matter of Empire defence.
– A subsidy would have to equal the amount we are now spending.
– I am suggesting that the protection we are now receiving from the Australian Navy could be afforded by Great Britain at a much lower cost.
– We could save approximately £2,000,000 a year.
– By employing British seamen at British rates of pay.
– There is some merit in the proposal I am submitting. I do not suggest that the Motherland should be asked to provide naval protection without adequate payment.
– I remind the honorable senator that the importance of the subject he is now discussing is beyond dispute; but it is scarcely one to debate on the second reading of a bill to provide Supply for one month. I would suggest that consideration of this subject would be more appropriate when the budget is being considered.
– I contend that the administration of the Defence Department can be discussed on the second reading of any Supply Bill in which provision is made for defence expenditure. I am merely suggesting a direction in which adequate protection couldbe afforded at reduced expenditure.
– Was the Australian fleet of any service in 1914?
– Certainly, but had the Australian fleet not then been in existence, ships of the British fleet would have been in Australian waters.
– I doubt it.
– If we paid a subsidy for naval protection that protection would be afforded.
– I again ask the honorable senator to confine his remarks as much as possible, to the bill.
– I am entitled to speak for an hour, and do not see why my remarks should be curtailed.
– It is merelya matter of taste.
– If you, sir, consider my remarks are out of place, I should prefer you to say so. As a representative of Queensland, I have a right at this juncture to express my views on the defence expenditure of this country.I do not wish a reversal of policy if adequate defence can be provided, but we must recognize the fact that economies have to be effected, and, if in this instance expenditure can be saved without impairing efficiency, the suggestion should be adopted. Under such a scheme modern vessels of the British Home Squadron would interchange with those on the China, Mediterannean, Atlantic and Australian stations, and we should have the protection afforded by. the most modern ships. Moreover, there would be a constant inters change of the various ratings, who. would advertise the wonderful potentialities of this country, and, indirectly, its development would be stimulated. I trust that the Government will give serious attention to the proposal which I have briefly outlined.
– I understand that this bill provides for one month’s Supply and that in each instance the amount set down is based on last year’s expenditure. Honorable senators, therefore, do not know what economies are proposed in the various departments. As mention has been made of the Defence Department expenditure, I shall not refer to that matter, but shall direct attention briefly to one or two other departments in which economies might be made.
The Estimates provide for the expenditure of £10,850 for the Health Department. That amount includes £2,000 for salaries and contingencies in connexion with the department’s activities in New South Wales, £1,300 in respect of Victoria, and £2,040 for Queensland and North Australia. Medical services in the various States are supplied by the State Governments, so that a lot of the work done by the Federal Department of Health is merely a duplication of those services. An expenditure of £10,850 a month is fairly heavy, and I submit that it could be substantially reduced.
The sum of £8,850 is set down for the Department of Markets. That sum represents about £100,000 a year. In my opinion, that department could very well be abolished and its services placed under the Trade and Customs Department as previously. The greater part of the expenditure proposed is for the salaries of officers. Experience has shown that once a new department is created its costs continually grow despite what the Government in power might do to keep them down.
The Forestry Branch of the Department of Home Affairs also offers opportunities for economies. I am in favour of abolishing the branch altogether and leaving forestry in the hands of the States.
– That would make for even greater duplication, because every State would then have its own department. The Commonwealth, department avoids duplication because the States have agreed not to carry out certain works so long as it is done by the federal authority.
– In all cases where services are being rendered more or less effectively by the States we should seek to curtail expenditure. We should endeavour to restrict federal activities to matters which are purely federal in spirit, and not make all our economies at the expense of the Defence Force.
– The very disturbing report in the press in relation to Defence Department expenditure has exercised my mind considerably. I do not pose as a naval or even as a military expert; but I do know something of the Citizen Forces of this country, because I have been actively associated with them for 32 years. On the 14th May, I asked a number of questions relating to camps of continuous training. Those questions and the answers thereto are given in Hansard, page 1883, as follow: -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow: -
I have risen to impress on the Government that the alleged economy suggested in the press report will not be an economy at all. Since the change over from the universal training system to one of volun- tary enlistment in November, 1929, it has been found exceedingly difficult to get the various units up to the strength of the very small establishment then laid down. There were no camps of training in 1930, but, in order that advantage might be taken of the splendid opportunity such camps afford for training, a large number of units, largely at their own expense, and with little cost to the Government, conducted a four-days’ bivouac. According to information given to me in reply to a question, of the 46 infantry battalions throughout the Commonwealth, only three were on the 31st March up to the skeleton establishment laid down. I do not know whether the report in the press is correct - I certainly hope that it is not - but if it is correct, I point out that for a saving of about £50,000 the Government will practically ruin our Defence Force. The eight-days’ camp of continuous training puts the coping stone on all the patient self-sacrificing work done throughout the year, mostly at voluntary night parade. Even in the face of all sorts of rebuffs, and the exercise of parsimony to the extent of cutting the defence vote to the bone, the spirit of service in the military forces is so strong that they will still carry on; but if the Government does do what the press alleges .it intends to do, I fear that our citizen force system, on the military side at least, will be a mere sham - a thing of no value. That would be a very serious situation indeed; and, therefore, I hope that ‘the Government will give this matter its most serious consideration. When the changeover from universal training took place we were told that in a very short time the units would be up to the skeleton strength laid down, namely, 35,000. That standard has not yet been reached ; at no time has the number, of trainees exceeded 27,000 - a mere skeleton of what we had before the abolition of universal training. I realize that savings must be made; but I implore the Government, whatever else it does, to leave the training vote untouched. In the past, other governments have made cuts in the Defence Department’s expenditure, but they realized that the training vote was the key to the situation, because the camps of continuous training form the basis of efficiency in the Defence Forces. As I have said, we shall endeavour to carry on with voluntary bivouacs if the camps of continuous training are abolished ; but in that case it will be an even harder task than it is now to promote that esprit de corps which is so essential to efficiency. I sincerely trust that the press report is incorrect.
.- With you, Mr. President. I regret that so much time has been taken up in a way that I did not contemplate. There may be some ground for the fears that have been expressed by honorable senators this morning regarding the Defence Forces of the country; but in view of the state of our finances, it is idle for honorable senators to talk of piling up expenditure in the way that has been suggested.
– Who has suggested piling up expenditure?
– Those honorable senators who have spoken.
– We have merely suggested that the defence vote be not cut further.
– Honorable senators are probably unduly fearful in this matter. It may be that the warning that they have issued this morning will have the desired effect. To me the serious problem facing us is not so much the defence of the country as the feeding of its people. Senator Sampson said that the strength of the militia forces was not as good as was anticipated. What can honorable senators expect when so many of our young men are tramping the country with no settled place of abode? I am aware that numbers of our young men regard a course of military training, not only as good training, but as a great pastime-
– Some of them undertake a course of military training from higher motives than that.
– I do not deny that. But what chance have they of attaching themselves to a unit anywhere when they are tramping the country looking for food? The feeding of the people is the chief concern of the Government. With that problem I am more deeply concerned than with any other which confronts us. I am not one who would. willingly allow the country to get into such a condition that it would become the easy prey of any other country. It is said that Russia has the largest army in the world. It is also said to be stronger in the air than any other European power and, in all probability, is endeavouring to build up its navy on similar lines. Of late I have read a great deal about what is being done in that country. Much of it I do not believe. It is, however, generally agreed that the five-year plan has been developed to a stage that, permits Russia to dump her products in the markets of other countries. Russian operatives and workmen are now more efficient than they have been for centuries.
– Is that why Russia is dumping timber in Australia?
– That timber has not yet been disposed of, and I believe that the Government will take effective steps to prevent dumping of Russian products in this country to the dislocation of our own industries. But I have no doubt that the Soviet Government is honestly convinced that, unless adequate measures are taken to protect Russian industry, the socialist republic will be menaced by European powers. It is this fear in all countries that is responsible for the building up of armaments. The great war arose out of this fear. Germany finding herself surrounded by armed potential enemies, built up the strength of her army and navy to make her position secure. Then came the Great War. I hope that Australia will never be so threatened.
This Government realizes to the full the need for adequate defence, but it is also confronted with very grave financial difficulties which it is doing its best to overcome. I am well aware how severely the unavoidable economies will press upon certain people and how distasteful it must be to all. honorable senators to be obliged to give support to such proposals, but the Government is deter.mind to do all that is possible to lift Australia out of its present difficulties.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In committee :
Motion (by SenatorBarnes) proposed -
That the bill be taken as a whole.
– I realize the need to economize time in the passing of this bill, but 1 should like to know if there are in the measure any items of expenditure other than those relating to the ordinary departmental services.
– The Minister has’ explained that the bill is based on last year’s Estimates.
Motion agreed to.
Bill reported from committee without requests; reported adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Regulations : Motion to Disallow
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [12.25]. - I move -
That Statutory Rules 1931, No. 73, Waterside Employment Regulations, be disallowed.
I make no apology for again moving in this matter because, for reasons which have been given very frequently of late, the Senate, if it disapproves of regulations, has the right to disallow them. But there is a special reason why these regulations should be disallowed. This week I endeavoured to obtain from the Leader of the Senate (Senator Barnes) a statement of the Government’s policy with regard to work on the waterfront. On the first occasion I asked a question without notice, and, as the Minister did not reply, I put the question on the notice-paper. . Still the Minister declined to furnish a reply, so that honorable senators have no official information about the Government’s policy regarding this matter. It is significant that the information, which the Leader of the Senate would not give to members of this chamber, was furnished in another place by the Prime Minister in reply to a question asked by Mr. Lyons, the Leader of the Opposition. I do not know whether the Minister’s attitude is in pursuance of the Government’s determination to ignore the Senate with regard to these regulations, but apparently that is the explanation. When he refused to answer my question this morning, I naturally assumed that he was not present at the meeting of the Executive when this matter was discussed, and did not know what was the policy of the Government. I, therefore, am obliged to refer honorable senators to a question asked by Mr. Lyons in another place, in reply to which the Prime Minister said this morning -
The Government has adopted the view that licences should, in future, be issued to the classes of persons entitled to preference under existing regulations. Licensing officers have been informed of the Government’s, policy in this regard, which is being put into operation.
This means that the only persons who will be permitted to work on the wharfs in future at licensed ports are members of the Waterside Workers Federation and those returned soldiers “ who were at any time during the first six months of the year 1930, holders of licences under Part 3 of the Act in respect of any ports to which the act applied during that year.” This now is the policy of the Government. It means that members of the Waterside Workers Federation, many of whom did not go to the war, but did take part in a strike in 1917, thus interfering with the movements of transports and the despatch of clothing and food for Australian soldiers on active service, are to be given preference over men who fought for this country, unless the latter happened to be in the possession of licences during the first six months of last year. I protest against the Government’s action, and I urge the Senate to disallow these regulations. I have endeavoured to ascertain how many returned soldiers are members of the Waterside Workers Federation and also how many ex-soldiers are included in the ranks of the volunteer workers. I assume that the information furnished by the general secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation would be . some indication. He would not err in the direction of lessening the number, and his information indicates that of a total membership of 17,158 there are 3,938 returned soldiers in the Waterside Workers Federation. They represent about 20 per cent, of the unionists. According to the advice furnished by the Deputy Chairman of the Commonwealth Steamship Owners Association, the total number of volunteers is 4,151, of whom 1,040 or 26 per cent, are returned soldiers. Under the Government’s regulations, 3,938 unionists returned soldiers are entitled to work, whereas only those of the 1,040 volunteer returned soldiers who held licences at the particular period mentioned in the regulations are entitled to work.
I want the public to realize the distinction the Government is making. It is excluding all volunteers, except those who are returned soldiers, who came to the rescue of the country’s trade and kept industries going during the strike, and it is excluding all the returned soldiers among those volunteers who did not hold a licence at the particular period referred to in the regulations. In the Government Gazette of the 18th February, appears a notice specifying the ports to which the Transport Workers Act applies. These are Melbourne, Port Adelaide, Newcastle, Brisbane, Bundaberg, Bowen, Innisfail, Goondi, Mourilyan, Townsville, Lucinda, and Port Douglas. I invite the Senate to disallow these regulations, and I appeal to the Government to stop ite provocative action, and, if it really desires to have peace on the waterfront, and to do justice, to see whether it cannot propose some system for sharing the work which will end the present situation. Its regulations are a gross injustice, particularly to returned soldiers, and to men whose only crime is that they tried to observe the law. Let the Government evolve a. scheme for sharing the work, and, with the assistance of the States, make provision for relieving the excess number of men who are apparently looking for work on the waterfront, either by providing for them as unemployed, if there is no other work for them to do, or by finding other work for them. The Government should not perpetrate a gross injustice on any section of the community, least of all upon a section that is trying to uphold the law; yet it is deliberately entering the arena saying, “ There are more workers, than there is work available. We shall differentiate between them, giving to those who broke the law preference over those who obeyed the law.” Is the Government deliberately encouraging law breaking? Before a new regulation is gazetted I appeal to Ministers to try to do something of a constructive nature. Hitherto their every action has been of a destructive nature. Let them consider whether they cannot bring the ship-owners, the Waterside Workers Federation, the volunteers and the returned soldiers into conference to evolve some scheme by which this present condition of affairs may be ended on a basis of justice and not of injustice. If that were done, Ministers would have something to their credit. The Senate is prompted in what it is doing, not by any political motive, but because the volunteers were promised that justice would be done to them. We must stand by that promise, and I, therefore, once more appeal to the Government to explore the field I have indicated, and see if something cannot be done to put an end to this regrettable state of affairs.
– I should not have risen to speak on this matter, which has almost been worn threadbare, had it not been for the fact that the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition feels hurt because of some imagined slight on my part. Earlier in the day I said that I had not read the morning newspaper, and had not seen the quotation used by the right honorable senator. He asked a question regarding the intentions of the Government, and I asked that it be deferred, because, knowing that it was the intention of the Government to give further consideration to the matter referred to, I could not furnish the right honorable senator with an immediate answer.
– My question was on the notice-paper, and was not based on anything in this morning’s newspaper.
– The right honorable senator quoted a question asked of the Prime Minister by Mr. Lyons.
– It was a copy of the answer given to Mr. Lyons in another place from which I quoted.
– I was not aware of that. I can assure the right honorable senator that I had no intention of slighting him or any other honorable senator. I am always willing to give any information at my disposal that has been made available in another place.
With regard to the motion, I do not propose to waste time in discussing it. The numbers are against the Government, and, as I have already said, the matter has been discussed threadbare. I let it go at that.
– The remark made by Senator Barnes as he resumed his seat, that he proposes to let the matter go because he knows that the numbers are against him, induces rae to offer some observations, with the object of showing that not merely is it by reason of the force of numbers that honorable senators desire consistently to vote these regulations out as often as the Government brings them in, but that since we last took a vote upon this subject, a new point has cropped up to which I think it is very desirable the attention of honorable senators should be directed. I was not here yesterday - despite the efforts of some honorable senators to attend, by the operation of a force majeure we were unable to do so - but I understand that Senator Payne pointed out that the Transport Workers Act says nothing about preference to any particular class, and that he urged that regulations giving preference to a particular class were inconsistent with theact. I think the point is already covered by a judicial decision, but. I want to allude to the position that has arisen as set out in the- reply of the Prime Minister to the question asked by Mr. Lyons. Robbing the matter of all circumlocution, the Government says, “ First of all we shall pass a regulation giving preference to the members of the Waterside Workers Federation, and then we shall decree that licences shall be issued only to those who have that preference.” By reason of the Senate’s disallowance of the regulations in the past, a certain period of time - certainly a very short period - has been provided in which wharf labourers who are not members of the Waterside Workers Federation have obtained some employment on the waterfront.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– During the luncheon adjournment I refreshed my memory on the point raised by Senator Payne yesterday, namely, whether it is within the act for the Executive Council to pass regulations which decree preference to unionists. That matter came before the court in February or March of this year, and, by a majority, the court decided that such action was within the terms of the act. Mr. Justice Starke very strongly dissented, his Honour the Chief Justice dissented also, but the majority of the judges held that it was a proper exercise of authority under the act.
I propose, however, to deal with the position which has been created by the latest step taken by the Government. According to the note read this morning by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce), it is apparently intended to confine the issue of licences to members of the Waterside Workers Federation. Perhaps honorable senators and the public generally will realize what would be the effect of such action if it were carried out. The position at present is that when the Senate disallows a regulation, the ship-owners are free to pick up where they like, and, I suppose it would be hiding a patent fact from ourselves if we did not admit that they felt bound to pick up, and did, in fact, pick up members of the Casual Waterside Workers Association. But behind the regulations altogether, there is a provision that no person whatever shall be picked up who does not hold a licence, Therefore, the position henceforth will be, if the Govern ment follows the policy indicated in the note read by the Leader of the Opposition, that while the regulations are in force, the ship-owners must give preference to members of the Waterside Workers Federation, and, even when the regulations are disallowed, the ship-owners will not be able to pick up members of any other association because thosepersons will not possess licences.
– It is a double-headed penny.
– Yes, it is a double-headed penny. It next behoves us to see whether there is anything in the Transport Workers Act entitling the Government to do as it proposes. The act sets out in the new portion introduced by the act of 1929, under what is one of the sub-branches of section 8, that -
Any person desiring to obtain a licence as a waterside worker at a port to which this part of the act applies may make application to the licensing officer at that port in accordance with the prescribed form.
No qualification is prescribed ; any person may make application. The Government now, however, proposes, in effect, to say to the licensing officer, “ Any person may make application to you for a licence, but you will grant licences only to those who are members of the Waterside Workers Federation “. That, it seems to me, is not only a violation of the spirit of the act, but a violation of the very letter of the act. It would be an interference with the operation of minor justice, as if the Government were to say that in every case before petty sessions, judgment was to go only to the members of the Waterside Workers Federation.
– A mandamus would surely lie against that.
– I do not like to suggest offhand what the proper remedy would be, but an order issued to a quasi judicial officer, such as a licensing officer, to the effect that licences are to be issued only to a certain set of persons, when the law says that any person may apply, would surely not be upheld by the courts.
It has been suggested that various motives actuate those of us who belong to this side of the House in constantly disallowing these regulations. It has been put down to caprice, and to class hatred. If there were any caprice in the matter, I suggest it would be exhibited if the
Senate were on one occasion to disallow a regulation, and on the next allow a regulation, the very same in substance. The Senate cannot be charged with acting capriciously, because it has gone on constantly saying that it will not allow regulations of this kind, no matter what particular form of words are Used. Our attitude all along has been that the regulations are unjust, and that we will not permit them.
– The Senate acted capriciously the first time it disallowed the regulations, and it has merely been consistent in its caprice.
– The honorable senator says that the Senate, when it first acted, was moved by caprice. I am afraid that he lacks a nice sense of the delicacy of our language when he says that, because the Senate chooses to take a view contrary to that held by the Executive, it is capricious. Caprice involves the idea of something unsteady and easily influenced, and not a steady and direct pursuit of a particular policy. In this case there are very special reasons why the Senate should adhere to the attitude it has taken up.
I do not suppose the Senate is prepared’ to admit that it need follow the guidance of any body or institution, but at least in this instance it is able to point to the fact that it is doing exactly what the court has already done. Just twelve months ago, an application was made to the Arbitration Court for preference to members of the Waterside Workers Federation. The Government intervened on that occasion to suggest what the law was in regard to preference. That the Government view was well put will, I conceive, be at once admitted when it is known that I was there to put it. I did put it before the court, and I took the judgment of His Honour, Judge Beeby, when it was delivered. In the course of that judgment he said-
I anticipated that the federation would submit some reasonable proposal for the sharing of the work with the volunteers until, in the course of time, they had been absorbed by the federation on an agreement somewhat similar to that which closed the history of the 1917 strike. But no suggestion of compromise was made. I was asked to grant the union full preference without any alternative proposals.
The Leader of the Opposition suggested that the Government might be better employed at this time than in making regulations when an effort is being made for all parties to come together on the major problems which confront the country, and. when this bickering over one of the minor,problems tends only to create a spirit in. which harmony is not likely to prevail. Twelve months ago the court absolutely refused to grant preference to members of the Waterside Workers Federation. If there were no other reason for rejecting or disallowing this regulation, I would say that there is ample reason in the fact that it decrees preference to unionists. The whole principle of preference to unionists appears to me - and I take this opportunity of definitely stating my conviction - to be opposed to that fundamental spirit of our law that all persons shall be equal before the law. I cannot conceive how these persons, merely because they choose to join a union, can. justly claim that they are entitled to some special preference under the law.
The principle of preference was first established in our Arbitration Act, but it was used, thanks to the wisdom of our judges, with the very greatest caution. Eventually it was established that preference to unionists would not be granted except in those cases in which the employers were definitely giving preference to non-unionists. His Honour, Mr. Justice Higgins, as early as 1917, stated -
A provision for preference has to be wellearned. It is by no means a matter of course. It is pretty well known that I am chary of giving preference.
I do not think that any one would accuse that learned and highly-respected judge, who has now passed to his reward, of exhibiting prejudice or class-hatred against non-unionists. He continued -
I have refused it in all cases but one; and in that case, I granted it as the employer refused to undertake not to discriminate against members of the claimant union. The present case, indeed, affords a good illustration of one of the dangers of preference.
The case referred to was the Sydney strike of 1917. Continuing, His Honour said -
Because men of this federation have preference, men who were not members did not resort to the wharfs for employment - there was no use;, for the members of the federation had a practical monopoly; and when they refused to work the operations of the ships had to cease.
It will be remembered that this was in the midst of the war. The judgment proceeded -
Moreover, I have had in the course of this case, several examples of the tyranny which this monopoly fosters.
That, I take it, is the monopoly of preference to unionists -
Sometimes, when the rapid movement of goods has been essential - as when the goods were perishable in rain - men of the federation took advantage of the position to demand extra rates; and the employer had to submit, not on grounds, of justice, but of necessity.
So that the learned judge, whose sympathies are almost a matter of common knowledge, declined as early as 1917, and persisted in his attitude during the tenure of his office, to grant preference to unionists, admitting that it opened the way to tyranny.
I am not going to say anything derogatory to the members of the Waterside Workers Federation. I should like to see them, as I should like to see all other classes of the community, busily engaged at work. But there is this comment to make on the proposals of the Government: they will not, even if given effect, make two blades of grass grow where only one grew before ; they will not provide two jobs where only one existed before. It is admitted that the most that is desired is that one class of men shall obtain the work which another class previously had. None of us likes to see any class of the community unemployed, and as the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) suggested, the Government ought to direct its energies towards seeing that there is something in the nature of a fair division of work between all classes of deserving men. I am prepared to concede that the Waterside Workers Federation contains a large proportion - there may, of course, be exceptions - of very worthy men.
Preference has been granted by the courts only in a most sparing manner. In the instance to which I have been referring, it was definitely refused by the judge who went into the whole history of the case, and who had the case for the waterside workers presented to him, as well as that in support of the principle of the act. Now wo have the spectacle of the Executive going behind the court, and saying that, although the court, after having looked into the matter from every point of view, decided that preference should not be granted, the GovernorinCouncil, which means that the Executive, shall declare that in this case, preference is to be granted to unionists, and that in spite of the long expressed and oftrepeated determination of one branch of the legislature that it should not be made the law of the land. For those reasons I intend to support every motion submitted for the disallowance of such regulations. The action now proposed by the Government, which is probably in accord with the statement made by the Prime Minister, seems to me to fly in the very face of both the letter and spirit of the law.
– I desire briefly to reply to the contention of Senator Brennan, that the action, of the Government cannot be supported by reference to the principles or the judgments of the Arbitration Court. The honorable senator must admit that it is a fundamental principle of arbitration that if an employer persists in discriminating against employees the court may grant preference to unionists. I do not think that the honorable senator would attempt to assail that principle. Whit has happened on the waterfront? The employers have definitely and clearly stated that they will discriminate in the selection of their employees, and that they will refuse until absolutely compelled by economic circumstances - until they have absorbed the whole of the volunteers - to employ members of the Waterside Workers Federation. Is that not discrimination? The court has not” considered the action of the employers in that regard. Subsequent to the proceedings referred, to by Senator Brennan, the AttorneyGeneral met the shipowners in conference when they made it clear that in the employment of labour they would continue their policy of discrimination.
– It was once the custom to employ both volunteers and members of the Waterside Workers Federation.
– The employers discriminated against members of the Waterside Workers Federation until they had exhausted the ranks of volunteer labour.
Members of the Waterside Workers Federation were not employed until the ranks of volunteer labour were completely exhausted.
– That is not correct. It was once the practice to call for men from both sections before the volunteer labour was exhausted.
– In certain ports the policy was adopted of giving employment to certain members of the federation before the volunteer labour was exhausted, but that was an exception to the general rule. I know what has happened at Port Adelaide, where there was discrimination of the worst form, because it was discrimination based upon victimization. Apparently the sentence which the employers wish to impose upon members of the federation is victimization for life. Could a government with any conception of Labour principles, and faced with the shipping combine’s unbending resolution not to give members of the federation fair play by continuing their policy of discrimination, do other than this Government has done? Could any honest government with any principle at all do other than this Government has done in the matter of re-enacting regulations compelling employers to do what the Federal Arbitration Court would do in similar circumstances.
– That court did not do it.
– The honorable senator’s knowledge of the law must compel him to admit that what would not be evidence before the court would be evidence s before ‘ the Federal AttorneyGeneral.
– Then he is above the court.
– He is not above the court. The honorable senator cannot deny that the British and Australian shipowners have definitely stated that they are going to continue the policy of discrimination against members of the Waterside Workers Federation in favour of the volunteers. So long as there is no legal tribunal prepared to rule that their policy is wrong they will continue to discriminate. Parliament has vested the Executive with power to make regulations for ensuring peace on the waterfront, and if necessary to mete out justice between employers and employees. As the employers have continued in their policy of discriminating against members of the federation, the Government has been forced to take the action it has. If the employers did not discriminate to the extent that they have, I could understand the contentions of Senator Brennan; but in view of the discrimination I cannot see that there is anything in the action of the Government which is in conflict with the general principles laid down by him, and upon which he bases his opposition to preference. He must admit that if preference to unionists generally is an abrogation of the British principles of equality, all British principles require policing and legislation to protect them. The court has resolutely refused, as a general principle, to grant preference to unionists; but the court has not refused to grant preference where employers, have unfairly discriminated against employees. The Government, knowing that unfair discrimination was being shown against a certain section of waterside workers, and being fortified in that belief, continues to re-enact these regulations.
My assertion that the action of the Senate was capricious was based upon the fact that the Senate, up to the present, has not given the slightest consideration to the question whether there has or has not been, unfair discrimination. Discussions have taken place on numerous occasions concerning what has happened in Queensland, where it is alleged butter was thrown into the sea, and regarding pillaging and ullaging in some ports in States not represented by honorable senators supporting the Government, concerning which we have little information. Not one honorable senator has laid a charge - with the exception that they took part in a strike - against any members of the Waterside Workers Federation at Port Adelaide. The unfair discrimination against certain employees who were parties to the plaint justifies, as far as Port Adelaide is concerned, any action of this Government to force the British shipowners to confer with the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Brennan) and bring about some equitable system under which work on the waterfront shall be allocated. Until the British shipowners give way and mete out even-handed justice between these two sections of employees, and so long as Parliament gives the Executive power to make regulations, I trust that the Government will continue to issue regulations of even a stronger nature than those now under consideration.
SenatorRAE (New South Wales) [2.43]. - It has been said that this subject is already worn threadbare, but as the members of the Opposition continue to reiterate their case, senators who favour the regulations should also continue to put the position from their viewpoint. Senator Brennan said that the conflict between the volunteers on the one hand and the members of the federation on the other, did not have the effect of making two blades of grass grow where only one had previously grown; but I would say that the action of the shipowners does not have that effect either. Senator Brennan further stated that the will of the Senate has been flouted by the Executive in continuing to issue regulations, but the Government has the overwhelming support of honorable members in another place.
– The honorable senator should not be too sure.
SenatorRAE. - Whatever changes may have occurred recently, there has not been any falling off in the support given to regulations of this kind. The shipowners have been exercising discrimination against the members of the Waterside Workers Federation. As employers generally are opposed to unionism, it is their invariable policy to grant preference to non-unionists. The principle of arbitration recognizes unionism as a necessary factor in our arbitration system. Consequently, it is only logical that they should be granted preference. Personally, I should prefer to see that preference won by the strong arm of the men themselves, than that it should be obtained by any action of the court. At times I have opposed proposals to seek preference in the court. I have told the men concerned that if they displayed sufficient grit they could win preference for them selves.
There is something in the contention of honorable senators that the granting of preference creates a monopoly, and that a monopoly leads to tyranny. Abso lute power is not a safe weapon to be placed in the hands of any organization, because the tendency of human nature is to tyrannize over others when the opportunity presents itself. Many a man who is a good fellow when on an equality with others becomes objectionable when placed in authority over them. I admit all these things; but I submit that a very much worse tryanny is exercised when unionism is deprived of its power. The tyranny exercised by unions is trivial compared with that exercised by organizations of employers when they give preference to non-unionists.
– The volunteers are unionists.
SenatorRAE. - They are bogus unionists, working hand in hand with, and in the interests of, their employers. The volunteers are acting in the interests of the employers, and are, therefore, not true unionists. No decent Labour man can regard them as true unionists. If they are unionists at all, they are unionists of an inferior kind, because they are playing the game of the employers. Honorable senators opposite have stated that they oppose the Government’s action in this matter because of the lamb-like nature of these volunteers who rushed to the assistance of the employers.
– Of their country.
SenatorRAE. - This talk about the volunteers going to the aid of their country is so much bunkum. When unionists take action to further their own interests as wage-earners, they have a perfect right to take advantage of the position the country is in. I remember that during the war an appeal was made to the miners at Broken Hill not to cause any industrial upheaval, as it might harass the country, and restrict the supply of lead and other materials required by the allied nations. They responded to that appeal; during the whole period of the war they did nothing which would interfere with the output of the mines. But how were they repaid? Hardly was the war over than attacks were made on their conditions of employment. A strike of eighteen months’ duration was necessary before they were able to win a minor victory. Had I been one of their number, I should have advocated getting a share of our rights while the opportunity existed. During the war the coal-miners of Australia, by direct action, won a 7-hour day in the mines, or eight hours bank io bank, although for eighteen years previously they had unsuccessfully attempted to obtain the same result by political action. Although, on several occasions, the House of Assembly in New South Wales granted their request for eight hours bank to bank, which is practically the equivalent of seven hours in the pit, the Legislative Council either threw out the measure or shelved it. By taking the matter into their own hands the coal-miners won within a week what they had striven to obtain by political action over a period of eighteen years. A number of fairminded employers admitted that the request of the coal-miners was reasonable; but the reactionaries in the Legislative Council of New South Wales would not give way. Remembering such instances E say that the workers are justified in taking whatever means lie to their hands to win their case. Honorable senators point out that, as a result of these troubles, the consumer is injured. If the consumer is too apathetic to take action in the interests of justice, he has no right to complain if those immediately concerned take matters into their own hands. I regret that the majority of honorable senators, like a majority of the judiciary, is so conservative that it is opposed to the granting of preference to the members of the Waterside Workers Federation. I suggest that the combined wisdom of the executive government of the Commonwealth, backed by a majority of the members of another place, is at least equal to that displayed by the members of this chamber. If honorable senators opposite are content to come here week after week in order to defeat the granting of preference to these men, I am prepared to come here until the crack of doom - if I live that long - to oppose them.
, - Having listened attentively to the legal arguments of Senators Brennan and Daly, it appears to me that up to a pertain point they agree. Senator Daly advanced what to me was a new argument. when he said that the reason why licenses were granted only to members of the Waterside Workers Federation was that the members of the other union were given preference by the shipowners. Assuming that that preference was given by the shipowners, the question arises as to the reason for their action. I have read that collisions have at times occurred between the two bodies of men seeking work on the waterfront, during which bottles, palings and other weapons have been freely used. If men seek to force their opinions upon their fellows in that way they are setting themselves above the law, and declaring that the law exists only to be broken. Have we arrived at that stage of society in which there is to be no respect for the law? The law is the considered product of the wisdom of a free democracy. In resisting that law we are attempting to get back to the supposed time when our forefathers lived in caves. The essence of law in civilized communities is that it protects the weak agains! the strong. When law is brought into contempt the weak are placed at the mercy of the strong.
Leaving the legal aspect of this question, and dealing with it as a politician, .1 am reminded that we on this side have been held up by honorable senators supporting the Government as men who have deliberately set themselves to tyrannise over the trade unionists of this country. If that charge were a fair statement of the position, should we not be proving ourselves a foolish body of men, seeing that we should by our action deliberately antagonize a body of probably 1,000,000 organized workers? It would be nothing short of lunacy to attempt such a thing. At least it could not be said thai men who were willing to face such tremendous odds were guilty of cowardice. The Senate takes this action only because a number of unionists have repeatedly and deliberately set themselves above the law, and have in consequence brought untold hardship and misery on other sections of the community not so well placed as themselves. When the members of the Waterside Workers Federation broke an award of the Arbitration Court, they broke a law of this land which was made, not by a body of capitalists, but by the repr” sentatives of a free democracy. As a socialist, Senator Rae surely would not put any man or any section of men above society as a whole? If society is to be controlled, that control must be exercised by the representatives of the whole people, not by one section of them. When the wharf labourers in Western Australia refused to work on the waterfront they said that they would not return to work until they received instructions from the Eastern States. It is clear that a coterie of men in the east was responsible for holding-up transport on the Australian coast. Do honorable senators opposite call that democracy or socialism? Is it not rather a pure form of intolerable anarchy ? It is a type of socialism which one can associate only with a body of lunatics on the one hand and helpless victims on the other. A government which backs up men who defy society is following a wrong course in its own interests. Human nature is such that when it is hit it wants to hit back. When the produce of unfortunate settlers in Western Australia was left to rot on the wharfs time after time, because a handful of men defied society, others in the State realized that it was time that society had a say in the matter. Society is having a say in the matter now when we on this side of the House proclaim that no section of the people shall set itself above society. But even a most worthy system can be overdone. I recall what happened following the introduction of the boycott in Ireland, which, by the way, was responsible for the introduction of a new word in the dictionary of the English language.
– And a very useful one too.
– That is so. Originally, the boycott was applied to the man who grabbed farm land behind his neighbour’s back; when tenants were fighting powerful instruments of cruel oppression ; to the man who scabbed - I intensely dislike the term - on his fellows. Then, in the development of that principle, men boycotted the storekeepers who supplied provisions to the land-grabbers; also the blacksmith who shod his horses, the baker who supplied the blacksmith, and the barber who shaved the baker, and so on. It was not long before the boycotted were in an overwhelming majority over the boycotters, and the boycott broke down. So it is with trade unionism. The movement arose from the most worthy motive in the world, namely, the liberation of the workers from age-old conditions of what was practically economic servitude. But in this country, at all events, in recent years, trade unionism has been running badly to seed. Over a long series of years too many trade unionists have been guilty of unlawful acts against society, and disobedience of the laws of the country, until, finally, as in the case of the transport workers, the people called upon the Government of the day to put an end to their tyranny. This the Bruce-Page Government did by passing the Transport Workers Act. It is the duty of the Senate to stand by that law. The mandate has been given to us to see that the scales of justice are held evenly between all sections of the community; to see that no section is permitted to rise superior to society and dictate its own terms for the carrying on of industry. On many occasions, Senator Barnes has, with quite justifiable pride, pointed to the honorable record of the Australian Workers Union, of which he is the official head. It is the boast of that organization that it has always loyally obeyed awards of the Arbitration Court. This being the case, is it not a matter for surprise that Senator Barnes should, as a Minister of the Crown, be a party to the making of regulations which justify the action of a small section of trade unionists in disobeying the awards of that tribunal? Why does not the honorable gentleman speak to these wharf labourers and tell them plainly that it is their duty to obey the laws of this country in the same way as the Australian Workers Union has done. If they had loyally accepted the Arbitration Court’s awards there would have been no need for thislong series of futile regulations which have come before this chamber during the last few weeks. Stripped of their legal verbiage, these regulations are, in essence, the law-breakers’ charter. Repeated acts of disobedience by these waterside workers have brought the laws of this democratic country into contempt. But, in the long run, these lawbreakers will have to suffer for their misdeeds, and as we have good reason to know, they do not hesitate to appeal to the law for protection if they stand in danger. One of the principal spokesmen for these law-breakers, is Donald Grant, a man with no respect for creed or system, human or divine. He took part in the East Sydney by-election, and when, as I have been told, perhaps for the first time he was in trouble, he cried aloud for “ British justice “ ! So I repeat that the Leader of the Senate should advise these wharf labourers to put themselves into proper relationship with their fellow-unionists. The best friend of trade unionism is not the man who flatters them and tells them that they are always right, and cannot do wrong, but the man who, when occasion demands, tells them that they are in the wrong. This Government has made many attempts to enforce its mistaken industrial policy upon the country. It has conceived many ideas but, up to the present, has brought forth nothing of practical value.
It is said that the Senate is out of touch with public opinion. I deny that. This chamber represents the matured public opinion of this country. When, in 1914, the Senate stood to its guns it was not then said of it that it was out of touch with public opinion - that it was effete or reactionary, the reason being that it stood to the enforcement of the policy laid down by the Labour Government of the day. It did the thing that Labour wanted then. Now that it will not go that far it is roundly abused and condemned. But things have changed since then. Latterday members of the Labour party would have the people of this country believe that the Senate, as at present constituted, is quite out of touch with public opinion and, as part of the constitutional machinery for the government of this country, should be tossed on the scrap-heap. It is about time that the Government and its supporters realized that they are in the wrong in this matter, and they should be sporting enough to acknowledge the fact. I again appeal to the Leader of the Senate to go to these waterside workers and tell them that the Government will insist upon their observance of the law. There would then be no need for the gazettal of these regulations from week to week, and their disallowance by the Senate in the interests of the people.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The Senate divided. (President - Senator the Hon. W. Kingsmill.)
Majority . . . . 18
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Judiciary Act 1927, provided for the repeal of section 11 of the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1910, and the repeal became effective on the 25th November, 1930. Section 11 enacted the continuance in the Territory for the Seat of Government of the jurisdiction of the several inferior courts of the State- of New South Wales. The Court of Petty Sessions Ordinance 1930, provided for the establishment of a Court of Petty Sessions to deal with matters which theretofore had been dealt with by inferior courts of New SouthWales. Because of the expense and inconvenience which would be involved in the hearing, at Canberra, of cases arising at Jervis Bay, that district was excepted from the application of the ordinance. Accordingly, at the present time, so far as summary jurisdiction is concerned, neither the courts of New SouthWales nor the Court of Petty Sessions at Canberra has any jurisdiction. The Court of PettySessions Ordinance could by notice in the Gazette, be made to apply to Jervis Bay, but for the reasons given above, it is not considered desirable, at the present juncture, to extend its application to that place. The most convenient method for dealing with the position is to restore to the New SouthWales Courts jurisdiction in respect of Jervis Bay. Any. other course would involve the establishment, at Jervis Bay, of a separate court, and the provision of court accommodation, lock-ups and officers. The bill is designed to effect the restoration of New SouthWales jurisdiction in respect ofJervis Bay.
– Have arrangements been made with the New South Wales Government to accept the jurisdiction proposed to be conferred upon the New South Wales Courts?
– The New South Wales Government accepted a similar arrangement previously, and I am assured that there will be no trouble in that respect.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended, and bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator Barnes) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I have previously directed attention to the incidence of the sales tax, particularly in regard to the sale of firewood in South Australia, and I have with me now correspondence showing that large employers of labour are very adversely affected. Firewood merchants in a small way of business arc practically exempted. In other cases the incidence of the tax is on a much reduced scale. But where considerable employment is given, the tax operates most unfairly. I mention the matter now to give Senator Barnes an opportunity between now and the next meeting of the Senate to sec if something cannot be done to afford relief to the people who are thus affected. The facts are within the knowledge of Ministers, but probably owing to the amount of business the Government has to do, and possibly partly because of the political situation, the injustice that was pointed out months ago has not yet been removed. The Government should declare its attitude on the matter. When Senator Daly was Leader of the Government in the Senate I brought this anomaly under his notice, and subsequently I brought it under the attention of Senator Barnes, but so far nothing has been done by the Government. If something is not done, many large firewood merchants will be compelled to dismiss numbers of their employees. A communication on the subject was addressed to the department of the Prime Minister on the 4th of June last, and I trust that the matter will not be allowed to drop.
– I support the request made by Senator McLachlan. I have seen the correspondence dealing - with the matter, particularly a very full statement of the case presented by one of the firewood merchants of Adelaide, and I suggest that Senator McLachlan hand it to Senator Barnes in order that the anomaly which now exists may be removed. Fuel in the form of briquettes, which are available in Victoria, is exempted from the sales tax, but firewood, which we are obliged to burn in South Australia, is not. “When I was Leader of the Senate the matter was brought under my notice by Senator McLachlan, and I promised that I would consult the Government on the point, and that an early opportunity would be given to Parliament to rectify certain anomalies discovered in our sales tax legislation. Of these anomalies, the one pointed out by Senator McLachlan is undoubtedly the greatest. I support the honorable senator’s request for the Government’s earliest and sympathetic consideration of the matter.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [3.25]. - A few weeks ago a prominent business man in Melbourne expressed to me the view that a tax upon turnover would be much more satisfactory than the sales tax, that it could be administered with greater ease, and that the rates could be adjusted to secure the same amount of revenue.
– The Government had the opinion of Sir Edward Mitchell that a tax on turnover would not be constitutional
– Of course, that puts it out of court. In view of the support given by Senator Daly to Senator McLachlan’s request, I suggest that when the new Ministers are appointed, the newly-appointed Assistant Minister (Senator Daly) should look specially into the sales tax legislation with a view to suggesting amendments.
– I do not recollect having had this matter mentioned to me by Senator McLachlan previously, or having seen any correspondence in regard to it.
– The correspondence was forwarded to the Prime Minister’s Department.
– I shall bring it under the notice of the Treasurer with a view to the removal of any injustice that it is possible to remove.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjournedat 3.27 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 26 June 1931, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1931/19310626_senate_12_130/>.