13th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. W. Kingsmill) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
The following paper was presented : -
Naval Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1932, No. 44.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Financial Emergency (State Legislation) Bill.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: -
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow: -
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the amendments made. by the Senate in this bill.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives with amendments.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a short bill, the principal amendment of which is designed to carry a step further the policy of the Government in dealing effectively with unlawful associations. Section 30a, sub-section 1 of the Crimes Act provides - “30a. - (1.) The following are hereby declared to be unlawful associations, namely -
Any body of persons, incorporated or unincorporated, which by its constitution or propaganda or otherwise advocates or encourages -
Clause 3 of the bill proposes to insert in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act a new section 60a, the effect of “which is that an organization which is or has been asso- ciated or affiliated with an unlawful organization may be deregistered. When the registration of an organization is canceled, the members of the organization cease to be entitled to the benefits of awards of the court. Unions cannot on one hand flout the law by identifying themselves with unlawful bodies, and on the other hand, claim the benefits of the law. Clauses 2 and 5 are designed to protect genuine unionists from victimization. At present there are attempts to compel men to join particular unions which have extreme political tendencies. The .remaining clause is a technical provision inserted at the request of the Tasmani.au unions to meet the peculiar provision of the law in that State with respect to the functions of magistrates. It is contended that, although a “ Commissioner “ exercises the functions of a magistrate, he is not a magistrate within the meaning of the act as the law at present stands.
Debate (on motion by Senator’ Barnes) adjourned.
– In moving
That the bill be now read a second time,
I should like particularly to make some reference to the tremendous changes that have- taken place comparatively recently in the fundamental concepts concerning the use of gold that, for many years, have governed those considerations which, in the main, have influenced the operations of the great banking institutions of the world in all countries whose currency was linked with gold. As Australia has in the past conducted her currency control and banking on lines somewhat similar to those adopted by the world’s great banking institutions, and as the reserve behind our note issue as originally conceived was in harmony with the fundamental concepts influencing the operation of those institutions, it is desirable to’ set out as briefly as possible the main purposes for which gold has been used in the past.
Broadly speaking, it has been used for five purposes - (1) As a measure of value - the currency being linked with gold at a legally-defined weight and fineness for the currency unit; (2) As an actual metallic currency passing from hand to hand in the daily life of the community; (3) As a reserve against the note issue to secure its actual convertibility into gold on demand for two purposes - (a) to maintain confidence in the note issue; (b) to prevent inflation:
These were, I think, the main considerations which underlay what is popularly understood as the gold standard under which the great bulk of the world’s currencies were managed prior to the world war. Since then the world has tried to get back into the old groove and, in great measure, it has failed.
We all know, of course, that the practice of gold coin passing from hand to hand has almost drifted into the limbo of forgotten thing3. I doubt that we shall ever again see gold functioning to any extent in any part of the world. Consequently the question naturally arises, and is being asked on all hands to-day: Why immobolize and render sterile huge reserves of gold against note issues which, in practice, are inconvertible and which, speaking broadly, there is no desire or intention to convert? The answer to this question gives rise to a further one: Is the best use of gold the strengthening and support of the note issue, or should the gold reserves of a nation be regarded as the buttress of the nation’s currency in the wider field of world finance? This, in turn, has raised a still further question : Should not the national reserves, or some part of them at all events, be held in foreign exchange as being a cheaper and easier vehicle of international finance? Finally behind all this an idea is developing that, by concerted action by the great trading nations, apart altogether from the settlement of international exchange, these national reserves, controlled and guarded by the respective central banking systems of the world, and free from political control, can be used as a basis to regulate price levels and save us from the worst effects of those fluctuations which have plagued and puzzled us for generations. It is from an extreme example of those fluctuations that the world is suffering so acutely to-day. Finally we reach the school of thought in which are to be found some financial authorities and some very eminent economists, who are prepared to go so far as to say that it is not necessary for gold to function in the picture at all; that a properly managed currency is all that is needed in the future.
I do not share that view. In an altruistic world that scheme may be all that is claimed for it. But we have to remember that the “ legality “ of all currencies flows from Parliament and political action. However strongly we may try to entrench the central banking systems of the world or free them from political attack, to err is human, and I arn afraid that Divine forgiveness will not absolve us from the consequences of human error in the realm of finance any more than in any other sphere of mundane affairs. There are two practical difficulties which will, I think, in the future compel the use of gold or some such suitable substitute if it be possible to find it, though possibly in a. different form from what has been the popular conception of the functions of gold in the days gone by. For instance, there must exist somewhere, and in some form, some effective means to prevent, internal inflation and a common standard of comparison.
I have set out these considerations, not because the Government, or I, myself, go nearly as far as some of those theories indicate, but to indicate the views of a number of leading world financiers, and also the manner, and the extent to which we are drifting away from what in former days was regarded as the sine qua non of the basis of sound finance. If we throw our minds back to the days when we liked to have a few sovereigns jingling in our pockets, I think that what I have just said will be more readily appreciated: and the reason for this change of outlook among financiers and economists will be more apparent.
It must be remembered that in comparatively recent times the central banking idea was very imperfectly developed and very little understood. Nearly every country permitted its banking institutions to issue its own notes; -and gold reserves were considered a sine qua non to secure public confidence in their convertibility. To-day, we find an almost universal acceptance of the theory of central banking, and a recognition of the fact that the control of the note issue is the function of the central bank and no other. In Australia we have more or less muddled through to that position from the time when the trading banks issued their own notes, although in every step that we have taken we have maintained the statutory reserve against the note issue. In so doing, we have acted wisely, for I do not think that public” opinion either here or elsewhere is yet ripe for the change to which I have referred - the time when the whole of the national reserve might be regarded as a support for the nation’s currency in world finance.
There are signs that the world is getting ready for this change, and honorable senators will see evidence of that in the bill itself. The reason for the gold reserve behind the note issue is, in addition to its being a safeguard against inflation, psychological rather than practical, particularly under present-day conditions. As finance - and the note issue is an important part of finance - rests on confidence, and confidence in turn is a matter of psychology, we cannot afford to ignore the psychological aspect. In a matter of this sort we must not act in advance of public opinion, either in Australia or elsewhere, or the basis of our credit will be disturbed, and possibly destroyed. Consequently, this bill does not propose to interfere with the proportion of the ‘reserve behind the note issue; it merely proposes to change its nature.
We must satisfy ourselves whether or not there is anything revolutionary in the proposed change, whether it is sound or unsound. In a speech which I delivered in the Senate on the 18th June, 1931, as reported in Hansard, pages 2753 to 2757,
I set out in detail, in tabulated form, particulars of the central banks of the world, and showed that many of the various statutes controlling them permitted their reserves, or portions thereof, to be held in foreign exchange, in varying proportions. That is a clear indication of the change of world opinion in relation to the true function of the reserve. The important difference between the provision controlling the reserves behind the note issues of the central banks set out in that list, and the proposal contained in this bill, lies in the fact that whereas in every case quoted the foreign exchange permitted was gold exchange, it is now proposed that the exchange shall be held in sterling.
Now that England is off the gold standard, in common with practically every country in the world excepting the United States of America, France, and South Africa, and, perhaps, Germany and Italy, which are nominally still on the gold standard, we have to consider whether any danger to Australia is involved in this change. Personally, I see no danger in it. In the first place, practically the whole of our world trade is ultimately settled in sterling; and, secondly, sterling bids fair to become the world’s standard of exchange, since gold prices to-day fluctuate to a’ greater extent than do sterling prices. Thirdly, sterling will, in my opinion, ultimately be linked with gold. And, even, if that be not the case, our interests are so indissolubly linked with sterling that any risk we run is negligible. For instance, England’s departure from the gold standard last September made no difference at all in the rate of exchange between London and Australia. That indicates that our immediate objective is the restoration of the parity of the Australian £1 with sterling, as far as the respective price levels of Australia and Britain will permit, rather than that we should seek a parity with gold on the old basis. Fourthly, our foreign obligations, with the exception of our American public debt and a few local Government debts payable in gold, are all sterling obligations. Consequently, if the bank, in the unfettered discretion which this bill gives it, decides to convert the whole of the present gold reserve into sterling, I think that, rather than weakening the reserve now held, it may materially strengthen it. It would, at least, provide a much more ready method of strengthening the reserve than would be possible with gold at its present price, and it would enable the bank more easily to comply with the obligation to strengthen the existing statutory reserve of 15 per cent, to 25 per cent, by the 1st June, 1935, which was imposed on it by the Senate a few months ago. As honorable senators know, Australia departed from the gold standard before Great Britain, in September last, took a similar step, to be followed almost immediately by the rest of the Empire, with the exception of South Africa, and by many other countries. In those circumstances, the future of sterling is of such importance that it should be specially studied from an Empire stand-point.
The Government has requested the British Government to discuss the monetary policy of the Empire at the Ottawa conference. It may be that at that conference it will not be found possible to do more than establish the ground work for future discussion by experts. But there can be no doubt that if the various units of the British Empire, acting together, were to give a lead towards the solution of the world’s monetary problem, a great step would have been taken towards recovery from the financial problems at present troubling the world. I do not suggest that one’ country, or even one Empire, can settle these problems single-handed’; it is necessary that at least four or five great powers should operate to that end. The Empire could, however, give a lead.
Should this problem be considered at Ottawa, I hope that the position of silver will not be overlooked, for I believe that the remonetization of silver throughout the Empire would go far towards raising the price of that metal, thereby improving the purchasing power of some of the Empire’s best customers, particularly those of Great Britain. While I have never been in agreement with the bimetallists, and those who advocate the exchange between gold and silver at a fixed ratio, I believe that the almost complete demonetization of silver has had a profound effect upon price levels, and has accentuated the scarcity of gold, thus helping to impoverish the world. In this direction the Empire could give a lead to the rest of the world without exposing itself to great danger. If it were possible to raise the price of silver, and to settle the vexed questions of reparations and international war debts this year, we should probably witness a wonderful change by the end of 1933. In considering the future of gold, we must not overlook the unbearable strain which the payment of reparations and international war debts has thrown upon the normal operation of the gold standard. I doubt whether any change of monetary policy can operate satisfactorily while we have, these payments clogging the whole machinery of international finance and exchange, and throwing the world’s trade out of gear. Possibly, by the time the Empire delegates meet at Ottawa, some progress will have been made in the settlement of this vexed question and the way cleared for a further step.
I turn now to the bill itself. The first six points I wish to make are these: First of all the Commonwealth Bank asked the Government to make this change in the law. The Government did not seek the alteration; the request was made in the first instance by the bank itself, and the Government has been consulted fully in connexion with the whole proposal. This bill, which we are now asking the Senate to concur in, has been submitted as a result of mutual and joint deliberations. Secondly, it is not dictated by political considerations of any kind, and I ask honorable senators to approach it from that standpoint. Thirdly, it is not a selling of our gold to meet our debts abroad. It is not proposed for a moment that this gold should enable us to meet our debts abroad. The object is, if the Bank Board decides to exercise its discretion to sell the gold, that the reserve may be held in a different form. Fourthly, it is not a similar transaction to that proposed when the Senate was asked in 1931 to authorize the shipment of gold to the extent of £5,000,000.
– The effect is much the same.
– The effect is not the same ; it is not to accomplish the same purpose. In so far as the act of 1931 is concerned, it was a case of selling the gold and weakening the reserve behind the note issue, for the express purpose of meeting our debts abroad. This is not a transaction of that character at all. Fifthly, this bill does not in any sense weaken the reserve behind the note issue, and, sixthly, it will probably prove a means of materially strengthening it.
This bill does not in any way conflict with the fixed determination of the Government not to interfere in the slightest degree with the control by the Bank Board of the high responsibilities which the law has left in its hands. The exercise of the authority, which is to be given by the bill, is left to the unfettered discretion of the Bank Board. If, after we have passed this bill, the Bank Board, in the exercise of its discretion, decides not to use this power, the matter will remain exactly as it is to-day. On the other hand, it will be within the absolute discretion of the board to sell some or all of the gold, and to create a reserve in sterling to the extent of a part or the whole of the existing gold reserve.
In this regard, may I say that I think that the Commonwealth Bank Board has proved its title to the unstinted confidence and esteem of the Australian public and of this Parliament. It has performed its duties in the past, in the unprecedented circumstances it has been called upon to face, with a calm resolution and balanced judgment which I am sure will inspire the Senate to vest in the board these added powers with supreme confidence, knowing that they will be wisely used for the benefit of Australia. If any honorable senator has any doubt as to the manner in which the bank has discharged its duties, may I refer him to the admirable historical record of the bank’s operations, and its handling of the delicate and intricate problems it has been called upon to face since its appointment in 1924, contained in the speech of the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) in introducing the bill in another place?
Without detracting in any way from the work and worth of the high officers of the bank and the other members of the board, may I record an appreciation, with which I am sure every member of the Senate would like to be identified, of the great work of the chairman - Sir Robert Gibson? No one can over-estimate the nature of the strain that he has been called upon to bear since he assumed office - and particularly since his re-appointment by the late Government - a strain to which he is still subjected. Amidst the welter of political conflict, in a set of unprecedented circumstances, with a world upside down, and the whole edifice of finance rocking to its foundations - despite sickness and suffering and private sorrow - he has stood as a rock, calm and unperturbed, giving ungrudgingly of his best, spending, and being spent, in the service of his country. That Australia has weathered the storm 30 far and so well is due very largely to the service of that great man. Hence, I repeat, with their record of work behind them, with the bank staffed as it is, with a board in whose personnel we have every reliance, and with a leader whose very name spells public confidence, we can, I am sure, accept the board’s advice, and leave the power to exercise this new function in its hands without any misgivings that our confidence is misplaced.
There is another point of great importance to which I desire to draw the attention of the Senate. If the board, in the exercise of the discretionary power which the bill confers, decides to convert the whole of. the present gold reserve of £10,500,000 into a sterling reserve, at the present price of gold it would result in a sterling profit of about £3,000,000. Under the provisions of section 60j of the act of which this bill is an amendment, were no provision made to the contrary, this profit would ultimately fall into the hands of the Commonwealth Government. Sub-clause 4 of clause 5 of this bill is designed to prevent that. This . shows, I think, clearly that no political reason has prompted an amendment of the law. Such a windfall with its consequent budgetary relief would be more than acceptable just now.
I want, however, to draw the attention of the Senate to a very important, and, in view of what I have said earlier in my speech, a most significant provision of the bill relating to this possible profit. It is to be placed in a special reserve, which is to be left to the discretion of the board to use for the purpose of the note issue, or as a controlling factor in regulating the ex change rate if the board at any time or or for any reason desires to so use it. This is a move in the direction of a recognition, as I indicated earlier in my speech, of what many bankers and economists regard as the true function of a reserve of a central bank, and puts the board in a position to some extent to adopt a line of actionwhich, many believe, will ere long be adopted on a world-wide basis. It is true that, in the strict sense of the term, the Commonwealth Bank is not a central bank, though to-day, in all material matters, it is performing the functions and fills the place of a central bank in this country.
Honorable senators will observe that the complete liquidity of the sterling reserve is guaranteed under clause 2, which reads -
Section sixty a of the principal act is amended by inserting after the definition of “Constable”, the following definition: - “ ‘ English sterling ‘ means currency which is legal tender in the United Kingdom, and includes -
balances standing to the credit of the bank at the Bank of England or at any other of its bankers in London;
bills of exchange, or advanees secured by bills of exchange, which -
are payable in the United Kingdom in currency which is legal tender in the United Kingdom;
will mature in not. more than three months, and the security for the payment of which bills is, in the opinion of the bank, satisfactory; and
treasury -bills or other securities of the United Kingdom which will mature in not more than three months.”
May I conclude by saying that the change which will be accomplished in converting our gold reserve into a sterling reserve, if the bank decides to take that action, has the approval of some of the highest financial authorities in London? Professor Gregory, who occupies the Chair of Banking in the University of London, said recently -
But, in fact, all that is necessary is that notes and deposits alike should be encashablc either in foreign exchange (i.e., drafts or Treasury transfers on London), or in gold bar. If this is accepted as a rational solution of the problem of securing convertibility, no gold need be hold in vault at all; still less need a purely mechanical division be made between gold held in Australia and earning assets held in London.
– What is the date of that statement?
– I have not the actual date, but it is quite a recent utterance by Professor Gregory. He went on to say -
If gold is wanted at all, it will be wanted in London, and not in Australia; unless, indeed, an utterly wasteful use of gold is to be encouraged. Since Australia is profoundly interested in the future of world prices, she should not adopt a form of central reserve and currency regulations which is antiquated in conception and inimical to her own interests, as well as those of the world as a whole.
Other prominent men in the world of finance have expressed themselves in somewhat similar terms, and some of the leading London journals have entirely commended the move the Government proposes to make. The change is in line with modern thought on this subject, and will do nothing - in my judgment, at all events - to adversely affect the credit of Australia in those quarters in which it is most desirable to maintain it at the highest level.
Incidentally the change, to whatever extent the board exercises its discretion, will add to the profit of the Note Issue Department of the Commonwealth Bank. Owing to the short-dated nature of the securities in which it is proposed to hold the reserve, the resultant profit will not be large ; but, be it large or small, I hope I have made it abundantly clear that this consideration has in no wise influenced the Government in its decision to comply with the request of the bank. We are doing it because we believe it to be inherently sound, and of benefit to Australia, putting us in better shape to meet the changing circumstances of ‘the times in which we find ourselves.
I wholeheartedly commend the bill to the consideration of the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Barnes) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 5th May, (vide page 371) on motion by Senator McLachlan -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- I may say at the outset that, while criticizing certain features of this measure, the Opposition will accord to the Government all the support that is necessary to enable it to give effect to its intention to maintain law, order and good government in this country. As a matter of fact, the party that I lead in this chamber has always stood for the maintenance of law and order, and has never had any sympathy with communism or any other “ ism “ whose object is the destruction of everything that we value in our social structure. It has, of course, been found desirable at times, not only in Australia, but’ also in every other country, to effect alterations, constitutional and otherwise, and possibly to discard what for years may have been very highly valued by all ; but the method of effecting such alterations which suits the temperament of the Australian people is that of the application of reason.
We do not differ from the Government in regard to the principles of the bill, but rather welcome the steps that are proposed for the purpose of ridding Australia of those elements which are causing so much disturbance within our borders. We shall willingly co-operate, with the Government in any step that it may take to deport any person other than an Australian who may be regarded as a danger to the peace, order- and good government of this country. .
While I am on this subject, may I remind honorable senators that we are the more determined to stand behind the Government in this matter for the reason that in the past the party to which we belong has, at all times, been the worst sufferer because of the existence in our midst of a socalled Communist party. That is particularly the case on the eve of a general election, when the statement is made from every platform, and by the whole of the press, that the Labour party is allied to the red element. The press invariably publish glaring headlines, of which “ Another Bed Outrage “ is a typical example, with the object of inflaming the public mind against the party on whose behalf I speak to-day. May I recall to the mind of honorable senators an incident that occurred in Melbourne recently? The Acting Premier of Victoria, while addressing a public ‘ gathering, was violently assaulted and ill-treated by a body of alleged communists, or members of the red element. That appears strange when considered in conjunction with the charge that has been levelled at this party, of being in collusion with that element, which exercises such a disturbing influence at different times.
– Where do their second preferences go?
– Their last preference always goes to the Labour candidate. On the hustings, that is the advice which is openly given to their followers. The attack on the Labour leader in Victoria, and the fact that at elections the communists always advise their supporters to give their last preferences to Labour candidates, go to show that in the past the Labour party has been charged falsely and maliciously with having been hand in glove with this element. At election times, it has been the practice to make a mountain out of a molehill.
– How is it that the Victorian Railways Union has linked up with the Third International?
– Merely for the purpose of exchanging literature. I am perfectly certain that the Victorian Railways Union, in common with every other body in Australia, does not stand behind the tactics employed by organizations in other countries - tactics which often cause so much commotion in those countries. Possibly this” may be due to the fact that there does not exist in Australia any need for violence. The conditions which may urge men in, say, Russia or China, to create disturbances, do not exist in our country.
I repeat that there is no connexion between the Australian Labour Party and any element of the character aimed at by this bill. If the platform of the Labour party had been adopted to the limit, we should not have had to-day iri this country anything like the number of people there are calling for the passage of such legislation as this. Nationalist governments have been responsible for flooding the Commonwealth with this element. Had Labour been in office from the inception of federation, our immigration law would have been so strictly drafted, and so closely administered, that it would have been impossible for these people to get into this country, and we should not now be put to the trouble of making provision to deport them.
In committee, I shall endeavour to induce the Government to moderate the drastic powers the bill proposes to place in the hands of certain individuals. These powers should be most carefully guarded, so that an instrument likely to be tyrannically applied may not be placed in the hands of one individual. Trial by jury is stabilized in the laws of Great Britain and its dominions. I hold that every man is entitled to a fair and public trial for whatever crime he is alleged to have committed, and that he should not be punished until his guilt has been proved to the hilt. There are provisions in this bill which do not conform to the best traditions of British justice, but I shall probably have more to say on this aspect in committee. Proposed new section 30ab puts a tremendous power into the hands of the Attorney-General. It enables him to apply the third degree to any person believed by him to be connected with an unlawful association. I shall take an opportunity to deal with it in committee.
– That is the proper place to do so. «.
– The bill will, no doubt, have a speedy passage. It is one of those measures which are necessary for any country to pass for its selfpreservation. I noticed, however, in the press the other day that, within the last couple of months, 50 persons had been deported. With the exception of one case, that of a man who was shanghaied away from Adelaide a few weeks back, I know nothing of the reasons for all these deportations. I have put a question on the notice-paper, and it should elicit some information on the point to-morrow. With the alterations which I shall suggest in committee, there is no reason why the bill should not pass.
– Like the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes) I agree with the main principles of this bill and with the proposition put forward by the Minister in charge of it (Senator McLachlan), that we should keep pace with the times in respect of the drafting of our criminal law. The criminal law of the Common- wealth is incorporated in the act which this bill purports to amend. I rise to speak at this stage,- because I wish to call ‘attention to one or two objectionable features of its machinery provisions. General principles can more effectively be discussed on the second reading than in committee, when one is ‘ restricted to the actual clause under consideration at the moment. No one, particularly no member of this Parliament, would quarrel with the legitimate objective of the Government in introducing this bill. But we are entitled to discuss the appropriateness,. or otherwise, of the method suggested for securing this very desirable goal. This Parliament has a fundamental right to protect the Constitution and the constitutional form of government set up under that instrument; it has every right to curtail the activities of any who may desire to destroy the Constitution or overthrow constitutional forms of government, Federal or State, set up by that instrument; but that does not mean that we are in duty bound to accept any proposal which may be presented by the Government. When our friends were sitting on this side, they were not prepared to accept the proposals put forward by the last Government, although it had for the time being the backing of the majority of the people of Australia. On questions of this kind, there is ample room for the interchange of opinions and for the consideration of the view-points of the different sections of the community represented in this chamber, with a view to securing more effectively the objective with which Ministers and honorable senators of the Opposition are in agreement.
I have no quarrel with the provisions of the bill which propose to deal with certain organizations by penalizing or regulating them, because before they can be so penalized they must be dealt with in the courts of the country. The courts will decide whether they are unlawful associations within the definitions ‘ contained in this measure or in the parent act, and whether they should be dealt with as such; but I think that if a provision of this nature is to be applied efficiently, and to operate satisfactorily, it is essential that there should be uniformity in decisions. This is one of what I regard as the weaknesses of the machinery provisions of the act. An application that’ an association be declared an unlawful association within the meaning of the act may be made to a justice of the High Court or to a justice of the Supreme Court of a State. It would be better if the application of the law remained entirely with the justices of the High Court, because then there would be uniformity throughout Australia. Another vital objection which I have was mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes), namely, the differential treatment which may be meted out to individuals as compared with organizations with property. Organizations will have the right of trial in our courts, whereas individuals who may be members of an organization that has been convicted will have no such right, although they may not have had an effective voice in the decision which brought their organization within the ambit of the law. Then simply because a man may be a naturalized British subject he will be liable to deportation on the order of the Minister. One of the fundamental principles of British justice is the assumption that a person, charged with an offence is held to be innocent until he is proved guilty, but in this legislation, as well as in a number of other acts passed in recent years, we are reversing the principle, because we are throwing on a defendant the onus of proving his innocence. This abrogation of a well-recognized principle of British justice should be strongly resented by those honorable senators who, only a few days ago when we were discussing another measure, were so much concerned about the maintenance of the purity of the English language. I suggest that they should be equally concerned about the maintenance of the fundamental principle of British justice to which I have referred. I also object to authority being given to the AttorneyGeneral, without an order from the court, to deport any person. In this objection I hope for the support of Senator Colebatch, who, as we all know, is so strongly opposed to almost every form of political control. If deportation is to be regarded as a corrective, and I think that, subject to the proviso which I have mentioned, it is, then it ought not to be the football of party politics. If ought not to be possible for a man to be deported for certain offences this year, and to be allowed next year to commit similar offences with absolute impunity simply because the complexion of the Government has changed in the meantime.
These are my principal objections to those provisions in the bill to which I have directed attention. I am also strongly opposed to the disfranchisement of those who happen to be members of an organization at the time that it is declared to be an unlawful association because, as I have already told the Senate, an individual member may be absolutely opposed to the policy agreed upon by the majority of the organization to which he belongs. The same anomalies are likely to arise in the punishment of executives of an organization. An executive may, by a majority decision, resolve to take action which will bring them within the ambit of the law, and although this decision may be opposed by a member of the executive, if he happens not- to have been born in Australia, he will be liable to all the pains and penalties provided in this bill. It should be possible to legislate against these anomalies, and thus to create more confidence in the law as the bulwark of our constitutional form of government. I support the basic principles of the bill because, as I observed at the outset of my remarks, I believe it is necessary that we should take all necessary steps to safeguard our present form of democratic government.
.- I should not have spoken at this stage, but for the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes) who, in reply to an interjection referred inter alia to those provisions of the measure which deal with unlawful associations. The honorable senator mentioned particularly the Australian Railways Union, and if I remember aright, he said that the purpose of the Australian Railways Union in seeking affiliation with the Red International was- to obtain literature. I regard the action of that union as so important and significant, that I intend to repeat what I said on a former occasion concerning the matter. Some months ago the Australian Railways Union, at a conference in Melbourne, decided unanimously to seek immediate affiliation with the Red International. The average reader of his newspaper may be forgiven if he fails to appreciate what affiliation with this body really means.
– That decision to affiliate was made by the executive; not by the rank and file.
– I am aware of thai, but up to the present I have heard no objection from the rank and file agains! the decision of the executive.
– -The’ have not been given the opportunity.
– That may be true, but it is strange that they have not protested, because many of them must be opposed to the course decided upon by the executive. For the better understanding of what this affiliation of the Australian Railways Union with the Red International means, I direct the attention of honorable senators to the following extracts from an article appearing iti Encyclopaedia Britannica, 14th edition -
Fundamental principle - The following are their basic principles : -
The Communist International is the organization of the Communist parties of each nation; it is therefore, revolutionary. Its chief purpose is to accelerate the development of events towards world revolution. It rejects any compromise or co-operation with bourgeois parties. Similarly it rejects parliamentarism as a normal method of political development. Id certain circumstances, it advocates a unity of front with Socialist parties, including the Second International. This is, however, neve; more than a temporary and tactical cooperation. The Communist International is honest enough to state openly that it is only ready to support the Socialist parties so far as the “ hangman’s rope supports the convict.” The aim of the Communist International is the creation of really revolutionary proletarian parties which shall be the advance guard of the revolution and the combination of them in a great homogeneous International Communist party.
Further on, the article states -
The conditions of affiliation to the Communist International prescribe that every party which desires affiliation to the Communist International must develop a systematic and persistent Communist activity within the trade unions,, works committees, co-operative societies and other mass organizations of workmen. Within these organizations it is necessary to organize cells, which by persistent and con*tinuous work must win the unions, &c, to the cause of communism. The Communist cells must be completely subordinated to the party as a whole.
This ‘information is sufficient to show the dangerous nature of the action taken by the executive of the Australian Railways Union. I compliment the Government on having taken steps to amend the Crimes Act to provide that any organization which sets out to overthrow constitutional government may be declared by the court to be an unlawful association. The provisions of the bill dealing with the distribution of revolutionary matter by means of newspapers, handbills, or otherwise, have my approval. The revolutionary propaganda which has been distributed freely throughout Australia during recent years, particularly in one State, has caused many so-called Australians to become avowed communists. Objection has been raised by one honorable senator to the power sought by the Government to deport undesirables from Australia. I cannot understand any one who has Australia’s best interests at heart objecting to the deportation of a person whose presence in this country is a menace to its peace, order, and good government. I shall -support the second reading.
– I shall not oppose the second reading of this bill. Indeed, I welcome the bill in the hope that it will remove the stigma which, in the minds of some persons in the community, attaches to the Labour party because of its alleged association with the “ red “ element in our midst. If this legislation will rid the country of that element, it will be to the advantage of the great Labour movement. I doubt, however, the necessity for the introduction of this legislation, for I understand that any citizen of the Commonwealth who breaks its laws can be effectively dealt with under existing legislation. The legislation which was introduced some years ago to deal with the organization known as the Industrial Workers of the World was effective. I am concerned with the position of a citizen who, in good faith, joined an organization when it’ was acting within the law, and may in future find himself to be a member of an unlawful organization. He should be given the right to withdraw from the membership of that
organization on becoming acquainted with the fact that it has been declared an unlawful association. Let us consider the case of the Australian Railways Union to which reference has been made. I understand that the resolution to affiliate with the Red International was carried by the executive of the organization by a small majority, and that when the matter came before the representatives of the various branches of the union at a conference, the proposal was rejected. It appears,’ therefore, that one or two individuals on the executive of the union have brought the whole of the members of the organization within the scope of this bill.
– When did that rejection take place?
– At the last conference of the union held in Melbourne.
– Then how is it that the union voted funds to send Mr. Anderson to Russia?
– That might have been done without the consent of the members of the union, yet under this legislation those members would be penalized for something for which they were not responsible. Some honorable senators who favour this legislation were at one time members of Labour organizations and described as agitators and rebels. They know how it is sometimes possible for one man to sway a meeting in a certain direction, and, surely, they do not think that all the members of an association should be penalized if a small meeting is swayed in the wrong direction. A member who disagrees with the decision arrived at should be given the opportunity to resign from the union.
– The AttorneyGeneral is not after sparrows, but hawks.
– That may be; but the bill empowers the Minister to deport persons without a trial. That is contrary to the principle of British jurisprudence, that an accused person shall be regarded as being innocent until proved guilty.
– A similar provision already exists in the Crimes Act.
– Then what is the necessity for it in this bill?
– The principle must be extended.
– I am afraid of that extension. When a member of the Industrial Workers of the World was before the court on one occasion he said that the circular which was found in his pocket had been placed there by the police with the object of establishing a case against him. I do not want men to be punished unless they are guilty, and, therefore, I claim that we should provide that every accused person shall be given a trial, and further that he shall be given the benefit of any doubt. While I have no sympathy with persons who attempt to overthrow constitutional government by force, I think that there is some justification for dissatisfaction with laws which permit a man to be deported without a trial. Our object should be to legislate fairly in the interests of the whole of the people. A good deal has been said regarding revolution. The term “ revolution “ has many meanings. There was, for instance, a revolution in New South Wales last Friday. At 5 o’clock or 5.30 in the afternoon of that day one government was in power in that State; an hour later another government was in office. That was a revolution, albeit a bloodless one.
– I describe it as a visitation of providence.
– Nevertheless, it was a revolution. I want to ensure that no injustice is done to any man in the Commonwealth. If an accused person is not proved guilty he should at least be given the benefit of the doubt, and persons who joined organizations in good faith when such organizations were acting within the law should be given an opportunity of resigning, or of declaring themselves, before being deported.
– I am pleased that the Labour party has agreed to support the bill in the main, for in the past that party has been somewhat lax in regard to certain organizations in our midst. In my opinion, a measure similar to this ought to have been passed years ago. That the executive of the Australian Railways Union decided to link forces with the Red International is to its discredit. That decision is a blot on its good name.
– The conference now sitting will upset that decision.
– I hope that the earlier resolution will be rescinded, for surely there is no necessity whatever for the unionists of Australia linking forces with any revolutionary organization. The franchise for this Parliament is the widest in the world, and, therefore, there is no necessity for anything of a revolutionary character in this country. If the people wanted a communistic Parliament, they could have it without any blood being shed. As I understand that it is desired to deal at once with another measure, I ask leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended and bill read a first time.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [4.37]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The object of the bill is to suspend the emergency legislation embodied in the Financial Agreements Enforcement Acts and the Financial Emergency (State Legislation) Act recently passed by this Parliament. The events leading up to the passage of those acts, and what has since happened, are so fresh in the minds of honorable senators that it is unnecessary for_ me to refer to them. The justification for the steps which the Government took was the extraordinary action of the Government of New South Wales, led by Mr. Lang, in repudiating its obligations under the Financial Agreement. That Government has since been put out of office, the Parliament of New South Wales will now go to the country, and the people of that State will have an opportunity to express their desire in the matter of who shall represent them. Mr. Stevens, the Premier in the new Government which has assumed office, has declared hia intention to subscribe to the resolution passed at the Premiers Conference. The ersolution reads -
This conference affirms its adherence to the Premiers plan, undertakes to meet interest obligations, and to continue progressively to reduce budget deficits.
As the Premier of New South Wales has stated that his Government intends to act in unison with the Commonwealth Government and the other State Governments, it is considered desirable that the operation of the emergency legislation covered by the bill should be suspended. The conflict which occurred between the Commonwealth Government and the late Government of Hew South Wales inflicted tremendous hardship and inconvenience en the public, and it is our desire to terminate that hardship and inconvenience at the earliest possible moment. The Government, therefore, desire to pass the bill through all its stages without delay, so that it may be assented to to-day. That should result in a normal state of affairs being reached in New South Wales at the earliest possible moment. Yesterday the Government notified the two banks in New South Wales with which the State Government does its business that it had lifted the ban on government funds handled by those two institutions, so that ordinary banking facilities are already available. The new Government, recognizing that the Commonwealth law is the law of the land, has issued instructions to its officers to observe the federal law in every particular; it is not only observing the law, but has issued instructions to its officers to do so. The sooner this legislation is passed, the sooner will that Government be able to obtain revenue to meet its obligations, and to confer with the Commonwealth Government in the matter of meeting its future liabilities. As the measure is urgent, I ask the Senate to pass it without delay.
.- I do not intend to oppose thebill; but I should like some information from the Minister (Senator Pearce) as to some of its provisions which seem to be somewhat conflicting. In one portion it is provided that the legislation, to which the Minister referred, shall be suspended, and in another that some portion only shall be suspended. I understand that, as a result of certain action, the Lang Government of New South Wales has been compelled to hand over to another administration. It would, therefore, appear that some individual or authority has already been punished for a breach of the Commonwealth law. Clause 3 provides -
The suspension, under the last preceding section, of any act, proclamation, regulation, notice or direction shall not affect -
Any right, privilege, obligation or liability acquired, accrued or incurred under or by reason of any such act, proclamation, regulation, notice or direction prior to its suspension;
Any penalty or punishment incurred in respect of any offence against any such act, or any contravention of any such regulation, committed prior to its suspension. . .
Evidently, some one who has been guilty of a breach of the law has already been punished. Does clause 3 empower the Government at some future date to punish that individual, say, to the extent of imposing a fine of £1,000. Is it the intention of the Government to hold such a powerful weapon over the heads of some individuals who may already have been sufficiently punished? I do not know that I should have any great objection to offer to its being done ; but I should like a little more information on the point.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [4.46]. - I welcome this bill only a little less heartily than I would one to repeal entirely the Financial Agreements Enforcement Acts. My sole reason for addressing myself to it is to ask the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) to explain clearly the necessity for it. I have no doubt that there is some such necessity, and I should like to be informed of it. On the face of the matter one would think that, since the Financial Agreements Enforcement Acts have no cause or effect, except in so far as they are brought into operation by proclamation, regulations, &c, it would have been quite simple for the Government to withdraw its proclamations and notices, and thus render that legislation dormant. So far as the Financial Emergency (State Legislation) Act is concerned, I take it that it does not matter whether it is in force or not, because the act that it was intended to correct has not come into operation.
– I should like the Minister to explain why the word “ temporary “ is used in the title of the bill.It seems to indicate that the Government may make up its mind at some future date to revive the enforcement legislation. If there is no such intention, I can see no reason for characterizing this suspension as “ temporary “.
Regarding State officers in New South Wales who loyally abided by the law of the Commonwealth and observed its instructions to the letter, will the Government see that any punishment imposed on them is cancelled?
– They were reinstated yesterday.
[4.48]. - The reason for the employment of the word “ temporary “ is that there cannot be a permanent suspension pending the result of the elections that are to be held in New South Wales. While in a democratic country like ours it is unthinkable that New South Wales should revert to Langism-
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.And barbarism ; still, that is- a possibility. If a government led by Mr. Lang were returned to power, these measures would again be needed.
– Is not the word “ temporary “ superfluous in any case? Can a suspension be anything but temporary ?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.That may be. But the reason for its use is that which I have given.
Replying to Senator Barnes; all that I can say is that probably some offences have been committed against these acts, and the regulations and directions issued under them. Clause 3 preserves to the Commonwealth its rights in regard to any prosecution that may have been originated, or that may hereafter be instituted. The Government has not yet had the time to examine all that was done in contravention or in defiance of the law, and, until its knowledge is complete on that matter, it does not wish to give up any right that it may possess. It may be desirable, in the public interest, to take certain action, and this clause will enable that to be done.
Senator Colebatch’s point was fully considered by the Government. Counsel was consulted on the matter, and recommended that, as the suspension of the acts would automatically cancel the proclama tions, that course should be followed. The effect is the same.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Saving of rights, liabilities. &c).
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [4.53] . - I rise, not to offer any opposition to this clause, but to express the very confident hope that the Government will be extremely slow to exercise the powers that, very properly, are reserved to it. The procedure that has been followed has had the desired effect of giving to the people of New South Wales an opportunity of expressing their opinion. There is very little doubt that a number of public servants in New South Wales have been torn between two conflicting loyalties. Although we may be quite clear in our minds as to which they ought to have obeyed, I think that it would be wise of the Government to let bygones be bygones.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from page 782.
– I was endeavouring to stress the power that underlies the vote of the people. Nothing can prevent the people from electing a Nationalist, aLabour, or any other government that they wish to have. Therefore, I claim that there is no necessity for any person or persons to advocate revolution in Australia. We on this side recognize that the safest, in fact the only, way to effectreform is by the education of the people. It is of no use in a country like Australia to endeavour to effect one’s purpose by force. That which is won by force must be held by force. We realise that there is no room in this country for the extremist on either side; both are wrong, and both are a menace to progress. An example of the use of force was referred to by the’ Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes). Those who assaulted the Acting-Premier of Victoria recently, seemingly are prepared to knock on the head any one whose views do not coincide with theirs. They believe in freedom of speech and action when it is on their side; but if it be opposed to them, they do their utmost to prevent it. They should be compelled to form a community of their own on some island where they would be able to make laws for themselves and adopt methods that suit their particular “ ism.” If that were done, the stage would quickly be reached when they would be fighting each other. These people are a menace to any community, and the question is, what should be done with them? The bill provides that if they were not born in Australia, they shall be deported to the country whence they came. That is the proper place for them. The government of that country could then deal with them as it thought fit. In the main, those who have caused upheavals of the character that I have described are importations, principally from foreign countries. Many of them do not speak the English language properly, which shows that they are unBritish. A striking feature about them is that they travel from State to State well-dressed, and to all appearances wellfed. The question is frequently asked, who finds the money for the prosecution of their operations? That is what we on this side are at a loss to know.
No person should be allowed to interfere with another’s freedom of speech and action, and violence such as was witnessed the other day in Victoria should be sternly suppressed. For many years this type of man has been an absolute annoyance to decent-minded citizens. Wo have only to recall the frequent outbreaks of trouble on the waterfront to realize the truth of that statement. There were times when a strike was caused merely because a skipper did not say “ Good morning “ to a steward. It was people of this type who brought about the downfall of the Commonwealth Shipping Line. They had the best conditions of any seamen in the world, and yet were not satisfied. They wrecked their own movement, and prevented the accomplishment of what they desired. If there is no law on the Statute book that will enable such men to be deported, the sooner it is enacted the better. On the other hand, however, as Senator Payne has pointed out, the number of Communists in Australia is increasing appreciably. That, in the main, is due to the wave of depression which is causing misery and despair throughout Australia to-day. Those who are facing starvation will adopt any means to achieve a measure of relief. Such a result, however, cannot be obtained by force. Any small success that might be won in that way to-day, would assuredly be lost to-morrow. The safest, indeed the only way, is to endeavour to lead the people into right channels by the use of our system of education, which, like our franchise, is the broadest in the world.
While supporting the bill, I agree with Senators Barnes, Dooley and O’Halloran, that there is some danger of innocent men being penalized under it. Many a man who has been found guilty and sentenced has subsequently been proved innocent. Those affected should have the right of having their case heard by some court of competent jurisdiction. Such a provision would not impair the efficacy of the measure, and the Government would do well to consent to its incorporation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Unlawful Associations).
.- This afternoon the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes) asserted that the official Labour party was not associated or linked up with or supported by the official Communist party, and that at elections the votes of the Communists when distributed went to other parties’ candidates, and not to the official Labour candidates. I knew at the time that the honorable senator was misinformed, and I have since ascertained from the official results of the last Federal elections that in Victoria of the 5,679 votes secured by Mr. Partridge, the Communistic candidate, 3,538 went to the Labour party, principally to Mr. Cameron, and only 332 to Senator Brennan.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator Plain).The honorable senator is talking of something that has no application to this clause.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 agreed to.
– I respectfully suggest that I was on my feet before the clause was passed.
– I wish to speak on clause 3.
– The clause has already been agreed to.
– I shall ask for the reconsideration of the clause.
Clauses 4 and 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 -
After section 30f of the principal act the following sections are inserted: - “ 30FD. Any person who, at the date of any declaration made by the High Court under this part declaring any body of persons to be an unlawful association, is a member of that association, shall not be entitled to have his name placed on or retained on any roll of electors for the Senate or House of Representatives, or to vote at any Senate election or House of Representatives election unless so entitled under section forty-one of the Constitution.”.
– Proposed new section 30fd disfranchises any person on proof of the fact that he is a member of an unlawful association. It is a severe penalty on a man who may not have had any association or connexion with the decision that has brought his organization within the purview of this law. I have no suggestion for an amendment, but the Minister might give some explanation of the proposed operation of this new section.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [5.10]. - There are two points to which I wish to direct the attention of the Acting Attorney-General (Senator McLachlan). It would appear that the disfranchisement under this proposed section is to be permanent. I suggest that the words “so long as he remains a member of that association “ should be inserted. There should be room for repentance. Again, the words “ unless so entitled under section 41 of the Constitution “ require some consideration. I think I am right in saying that section 41 of the Constitution has never been interpreted by the High Court. At any rate, there is a great deal of difference of opinion as to its meaning. The section was raised in the case of a Japanese pearl merchant at Broome, but the decision of the court was given on other grounds. I think that the Electoral Department has interpreted the section in this way -
The right to vote under a State franchise “ must have been acquired by lawful enrolment as an elector for the more numerous House of the Parliament of the State prior to the passage of the Commonwealth Franchise Act 1002, and that in order to bo entitled to Commonwealth enrolment the elector concerned must have continuously retained his right to such State enrolment.”
In those circumstances, the words, “ unless so entitled under section 41 of the Constitution”, apply only to aboriginal natives of South Australia.
– We could not deny enrolmentto any who are enrolled by a State.
– I take it that the Minister is aware of the interpretation that the Commonwealth Electoral Department has given to section 41 of the Constitution, that a man is entitled to Commonwealth enrolment, not on the ground that he has been enrolled by a State, but on the ground that he was enrolled prior to the commencement of the Commonwealth Franchise Act of 1902. The exemption, therefore, affords no protection to any one. As the proposed section reads a person who, at the time the declaration was made, was a member of an unlawful association, becomes permanently disqualified from voting at a Commonwealth election. I do not think that such is the intention.
– I have two short amendments to move to this clause. So long as the State in which a man is located desires him to be on the roll, the Commonwealth bows to its decision. If his offence is such that a State chooses to make provision for removing him from the roll, he remains off the roll; but, upon reflection, it seems to me to be rather drastic to keep him permanently off, and I propose to amend the section by limiting the disfranchisement. In the meantime, I move -
That after the word “ court “, proposed new section 30fd, the words, “ or the Supreme Court of a State “, be inserted.
I am personally responsible for including the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of a State, particularly because the High Court is not functioning in Western Aus- tralia or South Australia at the present time. The administration of the criminal laws can be successful only when it is speedy, and I have suggested that the State courts should have jurisdiction in this matter. After all, the determination to which they have to come is on wellsettled lines provided by statute. What constitutes an unlawful association has been declared by us in the Crimes Act, and there is no great difficulty in point of law in coming to a decision. The onus, as honorable senators have already suggested, lies with an association to prove that it is not unlawful. There is, of course, the redress of appeal in the event of a Supreme Court coming to a determination on any erroneous principle of law.
– A person who belonged to an organization which by virtue of . a proclamation had gone out of existence might not have given up his evil ways; he might still hold his former views. The individual who perseveres in his evil ways for the upturning of the social order should be brought up to the scratch in a very thorough manner, and the only way in which that can.be done is by requiring him to sign a declaration to the effect that he openly and candidly disavows every belief he formerly held on communism, and that he no longer believes in the tenets of an association that has been declared unlawful.
– The signing of a - paper will not alter his mind.
– It may not bring about a change of heart, but it is the only means known to us by which we can satisfy ourselves that he has given some sign of conversion from his evil ways. After a man has purged himself of his guilt, and decided to commence a new civic life, completely disavowing all his former evil beliefs, he should be entitled to come forward and apply for a vote and get it. In the absence of such a declaration, if we can only guess that he has had a change of heart, it is like blindstabbing to imagine that he has done so.
– I agree with Senator Sir Hal Colebatch that disfranchisement should not be permanent; and I disagree with Senator Lynch, for it would be use less to expect a man of the type indicato sign a declaration that he had-chan8. his views. In all probability, such a person would cheerfully make a false oath to avoid disfranchisement. A fair measure of punishment should be inflicted to prevent an undesirable member of the community from enjoying the same rights and privileges as are exercised by decent citizens.
– Such a person may not be an undesirable member of the community; he may be innocent.
– His membership of an organization declared by the High Court to be illegal, would indicate clearly that he was undesirable. I therefore suggest that the Minister should adopt the provision in the Immigration Act recently before the Senate, and fix a period of five years within which a person convicted of an offence under this act shall be denied the franchise. I should have no objection to the term being made ten years, because in these days, when everyone talks about his rights and no one talks about responsibilities, it is the duty of. this Parliament to see that members of illegal organizations do not enjoy the same privileges as decent citizens.
Amendment agreed to.
, - Probably some modification of the provision is necessary. No one holds more strongly than I do to the need for -firm dealing with these misguided people. Nevertheless, I am afraid that disfranchisement for life would be somewhat severe. I therefore move -
That after the word “not”, proposed new section 30fd, the following words be inserted: - “ for a period of seven years from that date “.
Some lengthy period of disfranchisement should be provided. In fact, I believe that most of the persons who may be convicted under this proposed new section would be better out of the country altogether, and if we were in a position to establish penal settlements. I should favour that course. If section 41 of the Constitution means what it is said to mean, we must retain the reference to it, and if the States continue to enrol these people, it will be difficult for our electoral officers to keep them off the Commonwealth rolls.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [5.27]. - The course of action now contemplated would be a reversal of the practice followed by the Electoral Department. Under instructions at present in force, any person who was proved to be a member of an illegal organization would be struck off the federal roll even if he retained his State electoral privileges. Before the amendment goes to the vote, I should like the committee to consider what it means. Is it seriously contemplated that all the members of a particular organization, such as, for instance, the Australian Railways Union, the great majority of whom may be entirely opposed to action by the executive which may bring them into, conflict with the law, shall be disfranchised for a period of seven years?
– That is the effect of this clause.
– Surely, that cannot be contemplated. Extreme punishment inevitably defeats its own purpose. I have great respect for the opinion expressed by Senator Lynch, who has suggested that members of an illegal organization might purge their offence by making a declaration to the effect that they no longer endorse the views which, perhaps, brought them under this law. Every one is free to think what he likes, but he must be careful about what he says, and not advocate lawlessness by any other person. To punish a person who at once dissociates himself from an illegal organization would be an entirely mistaken idea of justice. In a large organization like the Australian Railways Union, many members must, to a large extent, be drawn into a course of action against their will. To disfranchise them for a period of seven years would be an extreme and unjustifiable step.
– I hope that the Minister will not persist with this Draconian proposal, because the effect may be quite the opposite of what is intended. If conviction under this act meant disfranchisement for seven years, the probability is that the person concerned, realizing that he was to be regarded as a pariah for seven years, would not be disposed to change his opinion. On the contrary, human nature being what it is, he would probably persist in his wrong doing even beyond- the seven years limit. As a case in point, I remind honorable senators that, many years ago, the then secretary of the Industrial Workers of the World, which, if not proclaimed to be an unlawful organization was about to be, said some wild things, wrote some wild things, and, I believe, secretly attempted to do some wild things. But, in the course, of time, realizing that he could not continue to run counter to the views of his fellow citizens, he changed his opinions, and now is known to the Minister .in charge of the bill, and even to the Prime Minister. In fact, I am not sure that sometimes his views are not quoted with approval in this chamber. If that man had been disfranchised for seven years, the chances are that he would become an incorrigible. Now he takes the opposite view. Against such men we should not shut the gate of mercy.
– We have to consider the claims of civilization and the community generally.
– Why make the period seven years ? The man to whom I refer has seen the error of his ways, and to-day he is a reputable citizen, acting and speaking sensibly and patriotically, and leading others to forsake the paths they formerly trod. I ask the Minister to postpone the clause with a view to inserting a provision which will give such men an opportunity of recovering their lost manhood. They should not for seven years bear the brand of Cain.
– The term could be made less than seven years if the Senate so desires.
– Who is there in the community or, indeed in this Senate, who would dare to throw the first stone? I would not, for I have done wrong many times. If this citizen who has atoned for his past misdeeds is still to be liable to punishment for them, of what value is the doctrine of atonement in which we all profess to believe? Let us give him, and other men similarly situated, a chance to return to the fold. If we do not, we shall make of them worse citizens than they were before.
.- This proposal will be unworkable. At a later stage I propose to move that all the words after “ association “ be left out, because I consider that the clause is altogether too drastic. A member of an association which is declared to be unlawful is already sufficiently punished in that the declaration deprives him of the benefits which he expected to derive from the association.
– What benefits could he hope for from an unlawful association ?
– Does the honorable senator think that a man would join an association unless he hoped to obtain some benefit from it? Once an association comes under the ban of this legislation, every member of it becomes an outlaw. Should the Australian Railways Union, of which mention has been made to-day, be declared an unlawful association, 30,000 railway men in Victoria, as well as many thousands in the otherStates, would be outlawed, and their names removed from the electoral rolls of the Commonwealth and the States. One does not expect such legislation in a deliberative assembly. Yesterday’s newspapers contained a report that a number of ballot-papers in the Geelong district in the recent election had no mark at all on the front of them, but were marked on the back with the word “ Communist.” Although the Communists in that district appear to value the franchise lightly that is not true of Australians generally. The first part of the clause is all right.
– Taken by itself it does not mean anything.
– Then we should strike out the whole clause, rather than enact legislation which is both drastic and foolish.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [5.43]. - Since there is already an amendment before the chair, I suggest that we insert after the word “ not “ the words “ until he furnishes proof that he is no longer a member of such organization.”
.- Tn some of the States joint rolls for both Federal and State elections are in use. How would a member of an unlawful association who desires to vote at a State election be treated in the event of his name being on the joint roll?
– If his name is on the roll I doubt whether he could be prevented from voting.
– If this clause is passed in its present form, we shall soon have separate rolls for the Commonwealth and the State, as in the past. Mention has been made .of the Australian Railways Union. There is no doubt that that union is associated with the Red International; indeed, many of its members glory in that fact ; but that does not mean that all the members of the union are Communists. We must remember that many of these men joined the Australian Railways Union, not because they believe in revolutions, the rule of the mob, or basher gangs, but because they must join a union or lose their job.
– Ninety-five pei cent, of them do not believe in force.
– Apparently there is a majority of members of that union who favour affiliation with the Red International; otherwise they would take steps to rescind the resolution which was carried.
– Steps to thai end are being taken at a conference which is now sitting.
– The trouble is that the Communists rule the union, and force the other members to pay fees to the Red International. I know something of the terrorism of railway yards. Men are forced to join unions in which they do not believe; and unless they are in the majority their position is hopeless. This clause may mean the punishment of innocent men.
Senator Lynch referred to a man who had undergone a change of heart. It is difficult to provide for cases of that kind, but I remind the honorable senator that a man who commits a burglary, and is sentenced to five years imprisonment, has to serve his sentence, notwithstanding any change of heart during his imprisonment. He may have the term reduced because of good conduct; otherwise the sentence stands. We could provide that names may be restored to the roll, subject to good conduct, but I am afraid that that would cause complications. It would be difficult to prove that there had in fact been a change of heart. I hope that the Minister will make the position clear.
– Crimes of the nature covered by this provision are not crimes against individuals. The organizations aimed at are those which are deemed to be detrimental to the welfare of society generally. It is useless to deal with them by ordinary methods. When I first saw this provision it appeared to me to be too drastic ; but the more I consider the position the more I am convinced that something drastic must be done. Men guilty of these crimes value the franchise highly; they will pause before doing anything which might involve them in the risk’ of disfranchisement for five or seven years. It is futile for honorable senators opposite to suggest that the members of the Australian Railways Union are not affiliated with the Red International, which openly advocates revolution. During the debate this, afternoon the Leader of the Government (Senator Pearce) interjected that the expenses of a Queensland delegate who is visiting Russia were paid by an organization known as the Friends of the Soviet Union.
-That person may have been going to Russia merely for a trip. ‘
– I do not think so. He is one of those individuals who wishes to impose Sovietism on this country. We can only judge such individuals by their actions and utterances.
– In visiting Russia he is acting within the law.
– I know that. Who are these Friends of the Soviet Union? They are those who, in combination with members of other organizations, constitute what is known as the Communist element in this country. Although honorable senators opposite may think that the penalties provided under this provision are drastic, I contend that when a country is in danger, as a result of the activities of any particular section, no penalty imposed upon them can be too drastic. We know the propaganda of the communists, and are conversant with the circulars they have issued suggesting that, during the present depression the time is opportune to impose bolshevism and sovietism and all the other “ isms “ which they support, upon the people of this country. It is the responsibility of the trade union organizations in Australia to purge themselves, their rules and objectives, of this undesirable element. We shall give them an opportunity to do that under legislation which the Government proposes to introduce. I have no quarrel with the members of trades unions, fully 80 per cent, of whom are loyal British subjects, but, unfortunately, they are dominated by the undesirable section. It is only by the means proposed under this bill that anything can be achieved. The Government which honorable senators opposite supported played with this matter for political or other reasons. It made no definite attempt to deal with unlawful associations, with the result that to-day we find that one of the most important labour organizations supports communist principles.
– Eighty per cent., of the members of that organization do not believe in communism.
– Then, as good Australians, they should leave the organization. There are numerous unions in this country which they could join. There is no reason why they should remain members of the Australian Railways Union.
– They should be -given an opportunity to join other organizations.
– That opportunity will be provided. There are three other organizations possessing privileges equal to those of the Australian Railways Union, which refuse to be associated with the red element in this country, which they could join. I would willingly accept the amendment suggested by Senator Colebatch if it were practicable; but the change of conscience to which Senator Lynch referred would have to exist in reality before any action could be taken in the manner suggested. It is utterly futile to suggest that the persons concerned would themselves be capable of furnishing adequate proof. By whom would the proof be furnished ? In my capacity as Acting Attorney General, instances have come under , my notice where certain persons have had to furnish proof, and without disclosing what has occurred, I know the difficulties which exist. No punishment imposed upon a person who aims at the overthrow of constitutional government, or the general disruption of society, can be too severe. The punishment imposed upon an offender should be sufficiently severe to cause him to remember it, and. also to have an effect upon the younger members of the community. A precedent already exists under the Crimes Act for punishments of this nature, and drastic punishments are provided under the Unlawful Associations Act. It is provided in the Crimes Act that-
Any person over the age of eighteen years who is a member of an unlawful association, and any person who occupies or acts in any office or position in or of an unlawful association, or who acts as a representative of an unlawful association, or who acts as a teacher in any institution or school conducted by or under the authority or apparent authority of an unlawful association, shall be guilty of an offence.
Penalty: Imprisonment for one year.
It is not proposed to go to that extent; but imprisonment should be provided as a mark of disapproval of the action of an individual or those with whom he associates.
– Disfranchisement may be regarded as greater punishment than imprisonment.
– It is unlikely that a person would take more interest in political matters than he would in his personal freedom. Some effective ‘means must be provided to discipline these people. I would be sorry to see a man punished who had undergone a change of conscience. We should legislate in a definite way in order to frustrate the activities of undesirable persons. I should like to meet the position outlined by Senator Lynch and also to give effect to the amendment which Senator Colebatch suggested. If a term of seven years is too long, it could be reduced to five years, or even to three years, but something definite must be done to show our disapproval of the methods adopted by a certain section of the community.
Senator Reid has suggested that difficulties would be found in disfranchising certain persons owing to the fact that in some of the States a joint Commonwealth and State roll is used. In this respect we are guided by section 41 of the Constitution, which provides that -
No adult person, who has or requires a right to vote at elections for the more numerous House of- the Parliament of a State shall, while the right continues,, be prevented by any law of the Commonwealth from voting at elections for either House of the Parliament of the Commonwealth.
There have been some decisions which suggest that the legislation does not go as far as some think, but my view is that that section means exactly what it says. If a person is enrolled on a State roll the Commonwealth Government has not the power to deprive him of the franchise. He could not be disqualified from voting for a period of seven years unless the Government of the State in which he was resident also disqualified him for that period. This measure will provide an opportunity for the States to legislate on similar lines; some already have done so under their criminal laws. While I am not adamant with respect to the seven-year period, the committee should record its disapproval of the actions of those who are anxious to defy the law. There are too many in our midst who wish to encourage class hatred, and to set up barriers such as should not exist in this or any other civilized country. The policy which they advocate can have only a detrimental effect upon a country, and will too readily be seized, upon by demagogues anxious to obtain political place and power. Why should we not enact a measure that will have some effect upon members of unlawful associations? I venture to suggest that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes) really thinks that drastic legislation of this nature is necessary, particularly when he knows that the organization of which he is the president is a law-abiding one. I am prepared to accept some modification of the present proposal, but not in such general terms as suggested by Senator Sir Hal Colebatch, which would leave a way open to evade the act.
– I hold the view that a person is innocent until proved guilty. The members of the Australian Railways Union should not be held responsible because its executive decides to affiliate with the Red International.
– The executive is elected by the members of the organization.
– Yes, but some men talk themselves into responsible positions in unions, and, having done so, are able to influence others to support a certain policy which eventually may be detrimental to the organization as a whole. Under the existing law the members of the Australian Railways Union are not precluded from affiliation with the Red International. At present they are compelled to join an organization in order to participate in the awards of the Arbitration Court. Members of an organization, which has been declared an unlawful association, should have an opportunity to withdraw from that organization without being disfranchised for life. Should they decide to remain members of such an organization they should be punished.
– The ‘ honorable senator said that if a man resigned from a union he would lose his job.
– The law provides that only members of registered organizations shall obtain the benefit of awards of the Arbitration Court. That would be quite lawful, and within the bounds of reason. But if an election resulted in a change of officers, and the new executive decided upon affiliation with the Red International and was declared unlawful, all its members would share its fate without being given an opportunity to leave its rank’s. “Would that be a fair deal to the 80 per cent, who, according to the statement of the Minister, had no knowledge of what was being done and were not a party to it? Let us consider the case of the Australian Workers Union. That has always been a lawabiding union, and to-day is not affiliated with- any of these organizations. But let us suppose that Senator Barnes and Mr. Grayndler, were defeated for the positions of general president and general secretary respectively, and the executive decided to affiliate with the Red International, not knowing that this law was in existence and binding upon all its members.
– The members will be mighty careful as to whom they elect to the executive.
– Affiliation ia within the law.
– It is not. Look at section 30a of the Crimes Act.
– If any doubt existed as to whether the Government or the court had the power to declare an association unlawful, I could understand the introduction of a bill of this character to remove that doubt. But itis proposed that an individual who is not responsible for what is done shall be guilty of a crime, and no opportunity is to be given to him to defend himself! Senator Colebatch’s idea is that he should have an opportunity to prove his innocence. I say that the onus should ba on the prosecution to prove that he was still a member of the association that was declared unlawful. Are such men to be branded as criminals? I ask the Government to give this matter further consideration.
– I consider that the clause is too drastic. While admitting that affiliation with organizations such as the Red International of Russia, whose object is destruction and not construction, I think it has been clearly proved this afternoon that it would be unfair to disfranchise for life the members of big unions. The case of the Australian Railways Union has been cited. It is said to be admitted by that organization that_ it is officially associated with the Red International, and that it proposes to send a delegate to attend a conference of that body. But a large number of. its members are lawabiding citizens, and to disfranchise them for even seven years would be altogether too severe. Some definite punishment, however, must be specified, if only with a view to making members of these big unions much more careful in the future in the election of their executives. The curse that is associated with the majority of the unions is, that their executives comprise young men with few responsibilities, the married men with a stake in the country usually absenting themselves from their meetings for fear of being howled down. The agitator class is only too ready to link up with any organization which aims at the destruction of the British Empire. An honorable senator opposite this afternoon ad- vanced as an argument in favour of no punishment being inflicted, the fact that these huge unions are dominated by a very small number of their members. If a greater number took their responsibilities more seriously, and attended meetings regularly, a sound body of men would be elected to the executive positions, and the red element would be rendered ineffective. To compel them to take a vital interest in the election of the executive, it is necessary to punish them in some way if they allow the reds to assume control and to join up with disloyal organizations. I suggest that if they were disfranchised for three .years the punishment would fit the crime. These men are, as they ought to be, keen to enjoy the privilege of the franchise, and if they knew that they might be deprived of it, they would see that their executive did not affiliate with the Red International and similar organizations of destruction. I move -
That the amendment be amended, by leaving out the word “ seven “, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ three.”
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– The Minister’s explanation of proposed section 30fd confirms my opposition to it, and convinces m’e that I must support Senator Barnes’ suggestion to delete it. The Minister says that we must punish persons who become members of unlawful associations or permit associations of which they are members to do unlawful things. But other sections of the act give ample powers to punish these people, and this further punishment of depriving many innocent citizens of the franchise is unnecessary, and should not be countenanced. For one thing, the very object of honorable . senators, the prevention of communism in this country, may be frustrated by the insertion of this section in the act. Fortunately the Communists are not very strong numerically in Australia. Communism has not attained in Australia the strength it has in other countries, because every adult physically and mentally capable of shouldering the burdens of citizenship has a right to determine, not only the Constitution under which he or she lives, but also the membership of the Parliament which “governs under that Constitu tion. That right, which is jealously guarded by all true Australians, is our greatest safeguard against the growth of revolutionary propaganda and methods in this country. It is all very well for the Minister to say that it is the duty of the saner elements in unionism to purge their ranks of communism. As the Leader of the Opposition has said, most of the trouble, so far as Australia is concerned, is due to importations. If the policy of the Labour party had been applied in years gone by, the number of Communists who have landed here would not have been permitted to land. The evil, however, has been done. These people form groups with a unity of purpose to secure control of an industrial organization. It is comparatively easy for a small group of men operating in a centre of population, where the head office of an organization is situated, to secure control of it, and impose on it a policy which would not be representative of the view of the majority if they had an opportunity to express it. That is more particularly the case in such scattered organizations as the Australian “Workers Union, the Railway Workers Union, and the Enginedrivers and Firemen’s Union. Yet, according to this bill, innocent men who do not hold to the policy which may have been forced upon their organization, are to be disfranchised and forced to ally themselves with revolutionaries, with those who do not believe in democracy, or in the exercise of the franchise to rectify any evils that may exist in our midst, but prefer the short and bloody course of revolution. I appeal to honorable senators not to force into that environment a great body of loyal citizens to whom the act should never apply, and to whom, in my opinion, there should never be any reason to apply it. Employers have the right to organize to protect their interests. Workers also should have the right to organize to protect their interests. But if organizations of employers and employees are not to receive legal recognition, the whole of our conciliation and arbitration machinery will break down. If we are to deregister organizations because they have peculiar views, the members of those organizations will become pariahs, and be denied the right to earn a living.
My views upon extremism and revolutionary doctrines are as strong as those of any honorable senator supporting the Government, but I believe that the only way in which the world can settle its difficulties is to give people the franchise, to educate them to lead better lives, and so enable them to perform the duties of citizenship, particularly the function of selecting men to frame laws for their government. I cannot, therefore, support the retrograde step suggested in this bill. When I was a lad I remember seeing troops who were being sent from Australia to fight for the franchise-in South Africa. Are we to take the retrograde step of depriving people of the franchise for which our soldiers then fought? According to the Minister, there are plenty of loyal organizations in Australia, which will afford protection to men who are purged from existing organizations. Does he mean that the proposal is to destroy the organization of industrial Labour which has been built up as a result of great sacrifice in the past, and which, despite mistakes of leaders and the rank and file of Labour, has served a great purpose in this country, a purpose which older nations have envied, and which they regard with a certain amount of longing? Is a chance majority in this Parliament to throw all this to the winds, and set up in its stead organizations such as exist in America, under the protection of the masters, and not in any true sense workingclass organizations, certainly not bodies which represent the opinions of the great mass of the workers in that country? I trust that there is no suggestion of that kind.
When I spoke on the second reading, I lid so honestly and truthfully believing that this was a bill to improve the safeguards for the maintenance of our democratic system, our constitutional form of government, and the supremacy of the Parliament for the time being elected to govern the country. But if there is any truth in the suggestion that this proposed section is to be used against the organized workers of Australia, as I believe it could be so used very effectively, the power to disfranchise a man being a great power indeed, I may be inclined to withdraw that commendatory reference. I hope that the Minister will re-consider this matter, and realize that there is already ample power in the principal act, and in the other amendments which this bill proposes, to punish an organization which may, for the -time being, get on the wrong track, and its members, without pursuing this vendetta and running the risk of penalizing many thousands of men, in no way responsible for the circumstances in which they find themselves.
Mention has been made of the Victorian branch of the Australian Railways Union. It was not the members of that union who decided to send a delegate to Russia; it was the council of the organization that took that step, not, so I am credibly informed, with the idea of becoming affiliated with the Red International, but because it wanted to secure authoritative first-hand information for its members upon the condition of affairs in Russia. The delegate was pledged to return and give a truthful description to the members of the organization of the conditions he found in Russia. He was sent on a tour of investigation.
– What benefit could that be to Australian workers?
– Does it not benefit us to. secure the ideas and viewpoints of people in the other parts of the world? The Commonwealth frequently sends various persons on .missions for that purpose, and what we as a parliament representing the nation can do, I submit a big industrial organization like the Railways Union has a right to do on behalf of its members. According to the press reports, which are all I have to guide me, there was some plain speaking at the conference of the Australian Railways Union, and members strongly expressed the opinion that ‘ the money spent by the council in sending this man to Russia could have been much better spent on the recent Victorian election to return Labour men to Parliament to give effect, not to a revolutionary policy, but to the policy of the Labour party. There was a majority of 39 to 12 against those who showed some tendency to sponsor affiliation with the Red International. I mention these points to show that the Railways Union has, to a certain extent, been treated unjustly in this debate.
I appeal to honorable senators not to do a second injustice to every organization in Australia by agreeing to the proposed new section.
– J. listened with a great deal of interest to the Minister (Senator McLachlan), and I say definitely that we have to deal firmly with the people against whom this legislation is aimed, because they are in control of industrial organizations not only in Australia, but throughout the world. It seems to me that the logical course to follow would be to disfranchise, not the members of an organization which may come within the ambit of this law, but the members of the executive, for life. I, therefore, give notice of my intention to move to insert after “ member “, the words “ of the executive of that organization “. Senator O’Halloran has suggested a method for the purging of an organization which may be convicted under this law. Surely that could best be accomplished by disfranchising the executive for life? The honorable senator has told us that he has had considerable experience in the working of organizations, and that not infrequently a small group of men secure control of a union and direct its policy very often against the wishes of the majority of its members. We all know that to be a fact. It is within my own personal knowledge that, although the majority of men belonging to industrial organizations are quite decent citizens, unfortunately they have not an effective voice in their control. Whenever they get up to speak at a meeting they are howled down, or perhaps something else happens to them. It is idle to say that we are going to overlook these many and serious offences against the law that have occurred, and that we can control these militant communistic organizations by tender treatment. The whole world is face to face with a serious crisis, and the governments in all countries must deal with these people drastically. The executive of any organization which involves its members in action that is inimical to the welfare of the people, particularly at a time like this, when the Empire is confronted with such grave dangers, ought to be dealt with in the most effective possible manner. Anything that savours of revolution or dis loyalty should be put down with a firm hand.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [8.20]. - One feature of this proposed new sub-section which I do not think has received sufficient attention in this debate is that it creates a new form of unlawful association. That, I take it, is clear. The act, as it stands, declares certain associations to be unlawful, but curiously enough this penalty of disfranchisement does not attach to any person who may have been a member, or continues to be a member, of such an unlawful association. The list of unlawful associations is now to be added to by the inclusion of -
Any body of persons, incorporated or unincorporated, declared by the High Court or the Supreme Court of a State . . . to be an unlawful association.
It is clearly contemplated that many of the organizations against which this law may be invoked may be regarded as border-line cases, because the act provides for an appeal against the decision of tha court in cases where there may be an element of doubt as to whether or not a particular organization is an unlawful association. There is no provision for disfranchisement in the act, but in this legislation we are enacting, that if the Government believes some border-line association ought to be declared unlawful, it may cite that body.before the court, and if it is declared to be an unlawful association, every member of it will be . disfranchised for a period of years, without regard to the fact that he’ may not have known it to be an unlawful association. To me the position appears to be utterly illogical. Surely it should be sufficient to provide for disfranchisement if a man remains a member of such an organization after it has been declared illegal.
– The point just taken by Senator Colebatch would appear to be a good one on the surface. I would, however, remind the committee that the membership of associations declared to be unlawful under the present act has disappeared. That is the crux of the whole difficulty, as I told the Senate in my second-reading speech. Senator Colebatch has spoken of certain associations as being on the borderline. My answer to that is that unless they are definitely within the ambit of this law they will not be declared to be unlawful. It is because of our inability, at the present time, to bring’ certain known illegal organizations within the law that makes resort to this measure necessary. They are not borderline cases in any sense of the word. On the contrary they are the very worst type of organization which we could have in this country, and that is why this somewhat extraordinary method has been adopted to have them declared unlawful. I could give many illustrations of the manner in which they carry on their activities, how by subtle change - one organization merges into another, and how, by the adoption of respectable and high-sounding designations, they are able to carry on their nefarious work unmolested. We have certain powers under the original act, but without these amendments of the law we cannot deal effectively “with this sinister form of propaganda that is being put out by these various organizations which are a menace to Australia. We suggest that members of ordinary organizations should purge themselves of their associations. They must know what is going on. Are they so blind to the actions of their executive, which very often are published in the newspapers, as not to know exactly what is the objective ? It is for them to relinquish their membership and ally themselves with trades and labour councils or other responsible bodies. Senator O’Halloran suggested that this is a sinister attempt to destroy the Labour movement. I absolutely deny that, and I invite the honorable senator to consider the present position in New South Wales. There, just prior to the defeat of the Lang Government, we had the spectacle of an attempt to drive men into an organization that had, for one of its objectives, affiliation with the red industrial element. This amending legislation is not aimed at decent industrial trade unionism in any form; it is an attempt to purge this country of the communistic element which, for so long, has been advocating doctrines inimical to the best interests of the workers, and is alao retarding the financial and economic recovery of Australia. These people have been preaching class’ warfare for years, and have been doing their best to destroy the benefits won for the workers by legitimate trades unionism. It is time that they were dealt with firmly. Senator O’Halloran has asked what steps can a member of such an industrial organization take to protect himself. The remedy is a simple one. All he need do is to sever his connection with it, and associate himself with a legitimate organization.
– Then that is the object of the bill ?
– Its object is to protect the decent trades unionist.
– By driving him into “ scab “ unions.
– Certainly not. Members of those unions are working harmoniously under Arbitration Court awards. The epithet used by Senator O’Halloran is well known as the stock-in-trade of some street corner orator, but I did not expect to hear it in this chamber. The trade unionists in New South Wales, whom the Lang Government attempted to force into other industrial organizations, are just as honorable as are members of any other organization in this country.
– The 1917 volunteers !
– They stood by their country at a time when loyalty meant something to us. The honorable senator’s denunciation of them now shows that wo have indeed come to a pretty pass. Those unionists, I repeat, are working side by side with members of the Australian Railways Union and are quite as decent as are any members of the latter organization. They know only too well what would befall them if they came under the authority of the dictators in the Australian Railways Union, because they deprecate, as Senator O’Halloran hae deprecated, the attitude of the executive of that organization. I understand that a further amendment is proposed. If the Senate desires that only the executive should be punished, I shall have to accept an amendment to that effect ; but I point out that there is every opportunity for men to get out of unlawful associations and to form other organizations for themselves.
– They would still be disfranchised.
– Not if they were not members ot the association at the date of the declaration. They could resign in time to avoid disfranchisement. When the complementary legislation which I have mentioned has been dealt with, they will be able to obtain redress from the federal court by obtaining registration as another organization. 1 ask honorable senators to stand by the clause. It is not so strong as I desired, for, like Senator Hoare, I would put these undesirable men where they could not work injury to their fellows.
– I fear that this clause may do an injustice to the unionists of Australia. Senator Millen suggested that we should punish only the executive of the union which breaks the law of the land. If that were the position, a union could evade the law by carrying on without an executive.
– That would mean dispensing with the bosses.
– The clause in its present form would make it possible for the High Court to declare the Australian Workers Union, or the whole Labour movement, an unlawful association.
– Or even the Australian Womens National League.
– I think that body would be perfectly safe. This legislation is not directed against it, but against the unionists of Australia. It will mean that in many cases the innocent will suffer for the guilty. Senator McLachlan said that there is no danger of the general body of members of a huge organization being disfranchised; but that is a matter for the High Court.
– It will depend on the men -themselves whether or not (hey decide to get out of the union.
– The High Court would be the judge. The Minister said that men who resigned from one organization could form another. Does he suggest that they should keep on doing that as one organization after another is declared to be unlawful? I am afraid that this clause may bring disaster to the bona fide unionists of Australia. Senator McLachlan deplores the use of the term “scabs”; but I wonder how he would regard a lawyer who offered to give advice for half a crown instead of the usual fee. We must take care not to allow our prejudices to destroy our sense of fair play. We may quarrel with men ; we may even condemn them in our minds ; but we ought not to crucify them. The very men whom Senator McLachlan expects this clause to reach will not be reached by it, because the Communists in the community do not value the franchise.
– If the Minister will temporarily withdraw his amendment, I am prepared to move one which I think will be acceptable to the Senate.
Amendment - by leave - withdrawn.
– In its present form, the proposed section is too drastic. I, therefore, move -
That after the words “ member of “, proposed new section 30fd, the words, “the committee or executive of “, be inserted.
During the debate on this clause, various proposals have been put forward, none of which appears to be entirely satisfactory, since honorable senators do not wish to embitter men by submitting them to harsh treatment because of some act on the part of the members of the executive of their union. It should be sufficient to punish the members of the executive for any wrong they commit; but I would not go so far as Senator Millen, and disfranchise them for all time. Since the members of the executive of a union usually take an active part in elections, a period of three years should be sufficient, for that would cover at least one election.
– They could still take part in the election.
– That may be: but their position would be weakened if they themselves were unable to vote. The Australian Railways Union has probably 30,000 members and an executive “of about 36. It is not right that the actions of three dozen men should penalize 30,000 nien to the extent set out in the proposed new section. The disfranchisement of the executive for a period of three years should be sufficient.
.- If tb-3 Minister (Senator McLachlan) will not listen to the pleadings and sound reasoning of honorable senators on this side of the chamber on behalf of the members of recognized trade union organizations, perhaps he will realize that action may some day be taken by an Attorney-General in a Labour administration under the extensive powers of this proposed, new sub-section against an employers’ federation, or organizations of timber merchants, master butchers, or pastoralists. The AttorneyGeneral would have power to compel the members of such organizations to produce a list of members, and their books, and to furnish such other information as the law provides. Should the High Court decide that any such organization was acting contrary to law, its members could be disfranchised. Do honorable senators opposite wish the members of such organizations to be disfranchised, or even deported ? They would not like action to be taken against men who spent their money illegally to assist in their election to this Parliament.
– I rise to a point of order. I take exception to the remark of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes) that certain persons have spent money illegally to assist in the election of members to this Parliament.
– I had no desire to be offensive. I withdraw the word illegally, to which exception has been taken. It is dangerous for any government to tinker with .the franchise. During a period of industrial trouble 50,000 unionists may be involved, and all of them, after a decision had been given hy the High Court, might be disfranchised. Such action would materially assist in bringing about a state of revolution. The clause has so many objectionable features that I hope the Government will decide to delete it; if it does not, I shall vote against it.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes) has made some wild statements, including the absurd suggestion that if this provision is adopted the Australian Workers Union may be disbanded. The Government has no desire to interfere with reputable trade unions, and I defy the Leader of the Opposition to show where this measure can have any detrimental effect upon genuine trade union ists. The Attorney-General has to bring a ease before the High Court, where evidence is heard from both sides, and only when the court rules that an organization is unlawful can its members be punished. Members of an organization likely to be declared unlawful by the High Court should join some other union.
– Why not delete the clause ?
– We must have some means to deal with people who are a danger to the Commonwealth. It is time that Parliament recognized the menace which unlawful organizations are to the well being of the whole community. An amendment has been moved to provide that the executive instead of the members of an organization shall be punished; but I do not think that such a proposal would be effective. Registered trade unions have to supply the Arbitration Court with a copy of their rules and the names of the members of the executives; but that has not to be done by the Communist party which is not a trade union organization. Even organizations usually controlled by an executive could carry on their work without appointing an executive.
– Their decisions could be reached at mass meetings.
– Yes. If the High Court declares an association to be an illegal body every one .of its members should be punished. Even if that were provided, it would be difficult to obtain a list of the members of an association which had been declared unlawful. The membership roll could be destroyed, and it would be difficult to locate its members with the object of disfranchising them.
– That is why I suggest punishing the executive.
– A union has an executive; but the Communist party can do practically what it likes.
– What of the Australian Railways Union ?
– All that organization has to do is to withdraw from the Red International.
– Senator O’Halloran says that it is proposing to do so.
SenatorREID. - -Reasonable men should withdraw from an unlawful body. Unfortunately, it is not only members of the general community who have joined up with such organizations; but some public servants, paid with the people’s money, are now associated with the Red International. Surely we are not to stand idly by, and allow public servants to be associated with revolutionary bodies, whose sole object is the overthrow of constitutional government. It would be difficult to disfranchise members of unlawful associations, some of whom might be enrolled under a false name. They consider that they are justified in so acting.
– I am afraid that this provision will be entirely nugatory in its effect.
– It is a “ dud “.
– I am an upholder of the English language, as the honorable senator knows. He and I agree in sentiment, but differ in the manner of expressing our sentiments. What I desire to point out is that this can be of no effect because the High Court cannot declare any body of persons an unlawful association, for the reason that it is given no guidance as to what constitutes an unlawful association. It may be that my remarks might more appropriately have been made with respect to clause 2, but as there is here a reference to unlawful associations I consider that the attention of the Acting Attorney-General (Senator McLachlan) should be drawn to the matter.
– Does not the act say what an unlawful association is?
Senator -BRENNAN.- No.
– Is not “ unlawful association “ defined by section 30a?
– By section 30a, Parliament has merely made a declaration of what are unlawful associations; just as, possessing plenary powers, it could declare black to be white.
– But is there not a definition of what is provided for by that section?
– That is the whole difficulty. When Senator Sampson asked was there not anywhere a definition of “ unlawful association “, I said, “ No.” I do not profess to carry in my mind the terms of every act of Parliament, and I speak subject to correction. There is not in the act of 1926 a definition of “ unlawful association”. By clause 2 it is proposed to amend sub-section 1 of section 30a, by inserting a new paragraph the effect of which will be to have the following declared unlawful associations: -
Any body of persons, incorporated or unincorporated, declared by the High Court or the Supreme Court of a State in. pursuance of the next succeeding section, to be an unlawful association.
But the next succeeding section is nothing more than a procedure section, the purpose of which is to show how an organizationmay be brought before the court, and to provide remedies for certain contingencies. Therefore the High Court cannot declare any person to be a member of an unlawful association, and consequently the provision that those who are members of such an association shall be deprived of the franchise for some period of years can have absolutely no effect. If this clause were differently worded, so as to make it clear that it was a definition clause, that might be all right. But as it stands, there is no indication that it is a definition of unlawful association ; and in no way is the High Court directed in the provision that follows to consider whether or not any body of persons falls within its terms.
– If those bodies did any of the things referred to in sub-sections 1, 2 and 3, would not that be a reason for declaring them unlawful associations?
– That may be a reason. All that I am saying is, that the act does not clearly make that provision.
– If these were included in the definition clause, would that make any difference?
– It would make all the difference in the world.
– But if they did these things, there would be no need for the declaration of the court.
– Exactly. Once they did those things they would be declared by act of Parliament to be unlawful associations. If this provision had gone a little further, and had said the High Court was to be given the power to investigate whether a certain body of persons was banded together to overthrow the Constitution by violence, or for certain other purposes, I could understand it.
– But must not the court be asked to establish that fact?
– It may be the intention to bring them before the court with a view of seeing whether they come under the provisions of section 30a; but that is not what is said.
I agree with those who have said that the clause is very drastic in its provisions. The case of the Australian Railways Union has been cited. Surely it must be known to all that there are hundreds, one might almost say thousands, of persons, who are members of that union only in the sense that they pay their dues. They neither approve nor disapprove of what the red-raggers among the executive may do. It is true that, technically, they can displace the executive. But the ordinary humble worker, who possibly is not very good on his feet, does not like to do either of two things: He certainly will not withdraw from the union ; nor will he, while remaining in it, take any part in resisting the views of the extremists, who’ are so loud in their professions. Yet, if this clause becomes operative, and such an organization is declared unlawful, every member of it will be deprived of the franchise. The effect will be, not to repress communism or communistic ideas,” but to embitter a large number of men who have no sympathy with those who speak loudest upon these subjects.
I desire to direct the attention of the Government, and of honorable senators opposite, to the very drastic penalties that already are provided in the case of those who are members of these organizations. Section 30b of the principal act makes -the following provision : -
Any person over the age of eighteen years who is a member of an unlawful association, and any person who occupies or acts in any office or position in or of an unlawful association, or who acts as a representative of an unlawful association, or who acts as a teacher in any institution or school conducted by or under the authority or apparent authority of an unlawful association, shall be guilty of an offence.
Penalty: Imprisonment for one year.
Section 30c provides that any person who, by speech or writing, advocates or encourages the overthrow of the Con stitution, the overthrow by force or violence of established government, or the destruction or injury of property of the Commonwealth, shall be guilty of an offence, and shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for any period not exceeding two years; and in addition, if he was not born in Australia, to deportation. It should be remembered, therefore, that this penalty is additional to those that are already provided for this very offence.
– But this penalty applies only to those who are declared by the High Court to be members of an unlawful association.
– If the honorable gentleman means that that is the principal purpose of the bill, I advise him with all modesty and in complete friendliness to look into the act, with a view to seeing whether my criticism in regard to the lack of a definition is not fatal to the entire operation of the act. If he does that, I feel confident that he will conclude that I am right. I oppose the clause as being altogether too drastic, not upon those whom the Attorney-General would like to catch, but upon the. considerable body of men whom none of us desire to catch.
– The criticism of the honorable senator applies to the first amendment that already has been agreed to by the committee. While there is something to be said from the technical point of view, I direct the attention to proposed new section 30aa 3 which makes the provision that the averment in a summons that a prosecuted body is an unlawful association is prima facie evidence that it is . so. If necessary the clause can be amended, as the bill goes through another place, in such a way as to specify by definition an unlawful association. But the draftsman of this bill accepts section 30aa as being a definition in itself, because it couples with it the provisions of 80aa 3 in which the averments in the summons are made prima facie evidence that an organization is an unlawful association. That avoids the introduction of a definition clause of an unlaw* ful association, which, I understand, the Attorney-General has decided should not be defined except in the terms of the act itself. But the point is well worth considering. The honorable senator has mentioned one aspect which is new to me. As I have already said it will be considered before the bill passes another place.
– I am rather surprised at the storm which has broken out on the question of penalty. Senator Lynch has painted the doleful picture of an unfortunate man who finds himself struck off the roll and goes headlong to ruin. But I suggest it is quite possible the person in question may not care. A few years ago, about 43 per cent, of the persons on our electoral rolls cared to vote at a Commonwealth election, and Parliament had to bring in a bill imposing a penalty on persons who do not record their votes. We, therefore, cannot regard the right to vote as such a cherished thing as some honorable senators suggest it is. On the other hand, if the person did care about losing his vote it might have the effect of making him reform. The loss of the franchise for seven years is not too severe a penalty. It would not involve more than two elections. Is it not reason- able that a citizen should lose his vote for two elections if he is’ responsible for the offences set out in the bill, including advocating or encouraging the overthrow of the Constitution of the Commonwealth by revolution or sabotage; the overthrow by force or violence of the established government of the Commonwealth or of a State, or of any other civilized country, of organized government? A great deal has been said as if this provision were aimed at the law-abiding decent members of unions. It is nothing of the sort. It is directed at people of revolutionary or subversive tendencies, and that class of person is not altered by this franchise section. The Minister has explained that it is intended to operate against people against whom “it is difficult to obtain evidence to secure a conviction. If people attempt to overthrow the Constitution of the Commonwealth by revolution, it is a very small penalty to debar them from exercising votes for two parliaments.
I come to a third point with reluctance, because it is not for me to discuss the question Senator Brennan raised. A
King’s Counsel will not advise the Senate on the legal position in regard to proposed section 30aa without good reason. But I am inclined to think that the section will also be invalid for another reason. I speak with a certain amount of diffidence, but section 8 of the Constitution provides . the qualifications for electors of senators, and section 31 the qualifications of electors of the House of Representatives. The former is unimportant tor the moment, but the latter reads as follows : -
Until the Parliament otherwise provides, but subject to this Constitution, the laws in force in each State for the time being relating to elections for the more numerous House of .the Parliament of the State shall, as nearly as practicable, apply to elections in the State of members of the House of Representatives.
That means that in the various States the electors of the House of Assembly shall be electors of the House of Representatives.
– Parliament has otherwise provided.
– Yes, but the words “ subject to this Constitution “ apply. Parliament may determine as much as it likes, but the Constitution over-rides the determination in this respect, and we, therefore, refer to the Constitution to see what it says. Section 41 says -
No adult person who has or acquires a rightto vote at elections for the more numerous House of ‘the Parliament of the State -shall, while the right continues, be prevented by any law of the Commonwealth from voting at elections for either House of the Parliament of the Commonwealth.
It seems to me fairly clear that it is impossible for the Commonwealth Parliament to determine that those who have a vote for the lower House of the State Parliament shall not be entitled to vote for the Federal Parliament. It, therefore, is the State and not the Federal Parliament which has to determine this matter. Section 31 is subject to the Constitution, and section 41 is the section of the Constitution which governs this matter. We are debating a provision, which can have no practical effect, just as Senator Brennan thinks it will be inoperative on another account. The debate, however, has had this result: it has shown that immediately a question of imposing a penalty upon an imaginary person is raised, the Opposition will rise to defend him. I suggest to honorable senators of the Labour party that, if they believe that an offence is one which should not be committed, it is wise to apply some penalty to it. But we have found them adopting the same attitude for weeks past in regard to the Lang Administration in New South Wales. They declared that they were not in favour of Mr. Lang and his Government, but whenever a vote was taken, they were always on the Lang side. It is an instance, I suggest, of faith without works. It would be a very good thing for the Opposition, and for the country also if, when they held that an offence had been committed, they came out in the open and said. “ We shall apply a penalty in respect of it.” Otherwise their suggestion that they do not believe in the offence lacks a great deal of sincerity in the ears of the listener.
There is one other point which I would like to mention. The Minister said that it would be an easy matter for a member of a union, if he found that it was an unlawful association, to retire from it. I am not an authority on unions, but I have been told that it is not an easy matter to get out” of a union once you have become a member of it. You may be held for the balance of the year, or perhapssix months after you want to resign. There are many organizations to which many of us belong, from which we can resign forthwith the moment we send in our ‘resignations, and we cannot be retained for six months or a year afterwards. But it is useless for the member of a trade union, finding that he is held to be a member of an unlawful association, to think that he can escape from the penalty attaching to his membership. By the rules of the union, he is debarred from resigning.
[9.28]. - In regard to the point well made by Senator Duncan-Hughes as to the probability that this new section will be a dead letter in the event of State legislation not supplementing what we are doing, I wish to say that if a State passes a similar provision, disfranchising mem bers of unlawful associations, and we do not have this provision, a member of an unlawful association may be deprived of his vote in the State, but still have a vote for this Parliament. If any State passes a similar disqualification, this section will become effective, and will debar such a person from remaining on the federal roll. Surely the section is worth having if only for that reason. I listened with considerable interest to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes). I remind him, if he needs reminding of it, that there has been a considerable change in the control of trade unions since the red element has started to bore into trade unionism. That that is not a mere stretch of the imagination, is shown by the ‘fact that no trade union executive in Australia has been more active in combating that boring process than has been the executive of which the Leader of the Opposition is so distinguished a member. Foi self-preservation the Australian Workers Union has been fighting continually for the last year or two against the tactics of the red element. Not only is that element boring into trade unionism in Australia, it has also brought into play the principle of terrorism which has enabled a minority in Russia to control a majority. The change that has come over unionism in Australia during the last twenty years can easily be described. The day was when the majority decided on the union’s course of action and issued instructions to the officials to carry it out. To-day, in some of the unions, especially in those with red tendencies, the minority issues the instructions to the majority, giving the latter no means of expressing its views, and by a system of terrorism associated with those delightful words “ scab “ and “blackleg” prevents the genuine trade unionists from expressing their will. Not very long ago, the leader of a trade union in Western Australia made this significant statement in conversation with me : - “ When I instruct my members, I fee that they carry out their instructions.” Although that man is a paid official of his organization, he “ instructs “ his members! This, surely, is the introduction into trade unionism of the bolshevik principle, commonly known as the dicta- torship of the proletariat. It is convincing evidence of the change that has come over the movement in recent years. At one time I was an honorary secretary of my union - I was never a paid official - and, later, president of the Trades and Labour Council of Western Australia; but I was never in the privileged position of being able to issue “ instructions “ to my members. On the contrary, I was instructed by them as to what I was to do. This legislation is not a blow to trade unionism, nor will it in any way interfere with the activities of those organizations. It is, however, a blow at those who are prostituting trade unionism in Australia by using it for unlawful political purposes. Let us consider the case of the Australian Railways Union, which has been referred to so often in this debate. In many conversations with various members of that organization, I have asked why they allowed it to become affiliated with Moscow, and I have not yet met one who could explain exactly how that happened. Many did not know that it had happened. I have asked them if they had an opportunity to vote for a motion in favour of affiliation with the Red International, and not one has said that he had. I have also asked them if they had an opportunity to vote for the election of Mr. Chapman, the leader of the red element. Again, not one has answered in the affirmative.
– Mr. Chapman may not have been opposed.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.In the organization of which Senator Barnes has played such a prominent part for so many years, a ballot is always taken for the election of president. The honorable senator’s views are known, and I am convinced that members of the Australian Workers Union who vote for him are influenced to do so, because they know that he is opposed to the red element. I have asked members of the Australian Railways Union why they allowed such a man as Mr. Chapman to speak for them, and, without exception, they have replied that they have not had an opportunity to express their displeasure at his attitude or to disagree with his opinion.
This state of affairs is possible only because Bolshevik methods have been introduced into the control of that organization. Its affairs are now directed by a minority of its members. I am absolutely certain that the majority do not approve of what is being done. But the remedy lies in their own hands. They should follow the example of the Australian Workers Union which is combating the red element, and prevent persons with communistic tendencies from “ whiteanting “ their union. If they did this, there would be little to fear. I believe that what is happening now will make members of industrial organizations take a more lively interest in the affairs of their unions, and insist upon having the management in their own hands.
– I should not have spoken again but for the fact that the position from the industrial stand-point is not clearly understood and that there is a possibility of influencing the committee to delete the whole of proposed new section 30fd. It is not with any desire to avoid punishment being meted out to lawbreakers that we are asking the committee to take this course, but because the legal aspect, raised by Senator Duncan -Hughes, and also mentioned by the right honorable the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) weakens, rather than strengthens, the case for the Government. The Leader of the Senate admitted that Senator Duncan-Hughes was correctwhen he said that it is not possible, under the Constitution, to disfranchise members of illegal organizations, without the cooperation of the various States. Does the right honorable gentleman believe that the Government will have the co-operation of all the . States in implementing this measure ? If that co-operation is secured, it will be for the first time in the history of federation.
– We may get co-operation in some of the States.
– That is so. “South Australia, Victoria, and Western Australia may pass legislation similar to that of the Commonwealth, declaring certain associations to be unlawful, and as a result the Australian Railways Union, which is a federal organization, will be declared an unlawful association in those
States. Its members will be disfranchised in those States, but not in New South Wales, Queensland, and Tasmania, if those States do not pass similar legislation. Is the Government prepared to pass legislation which will cause such confusion? I hope that the committee will reject this proposed new section. The Leader of the Senate admitted that the minority of members control the policy of certain industrial organizations. The reason for this is obvious. Members of certain unions are so often engaged in work at long distances from their headquarters that they have no opportunity to attend their meetings, and consequently know nothing of the calibre of men standing for election to the executive positions. Thus it ‘is impossible for them to exercise complete control over their own affairs, and for ‘this reason it would be a monstrous injustice to disfranchise them for the actions of their executive. Supporters of the bill have declared that the execu«tive offcers of some organizations in New South Wales are compelling their members to take a certain line of action. The Arbitration Act, passed by the BrucePage Administration, threw upon officials of an organization full responsibility for the action of its members.
– But we also provided for the secret ballot.
– That does not matter. In that legislation the Government compelled officials of organizations to accept responsibility; and this administration is now attempting to fasten on members of an organization responsibility for the actions of their executive. The amendment proposed by Senator Guthrie limits the disfranchisement to members of the executive. That would be impracticable, because if an attempt were made to enforce the law, there would be no executive, and every meeting of an industrial organization would be a mass meeting. The bill provides in other proposed new sections, which, through inadvertence, were not fully discussed, ample penalties for mem.bers of unlawful associations. The people of Australia value the franchise. Thirty years ago we sent nien to Africa m fight that the Uitlanders might secure the franchise; to-day this Government seeks to deprive honest Australians of that privilege.
– When Senator Brennan was speaking I interjected that this clause was a “ dud “ - something which will not go off. I cannot agree with Senator O’Halloran that Australians value the franchise, for I remember that before there was that tyrannous interference with the liberty of the subject, which made voting compulsory, only an inconsiderable proportion of the electors exercised their right to vote. The law which makes voting compulsory is repugnant to me. A man should be able to please himself whether he votes or not; should he decide not to vote, the matter should remain there. We have only to compare the percentage of voters under compulsion with that of pre-compulsion days to see to what extent the people of Australia value the franchise.
It is difficult to fathom the mind of the Opposition. Honorable members opposite seem to take it for granted that the High Court will declare every union in Australia to be an unlawful association. There must be something radically wrong with the unions if honorable senators of the Labour party entertain such fears. Their attitude towards this bill makes one ask - “ What is its object ; who is to ‘ get it in the neck ‘ ?” The answer is clear; the bill is aimed at the enemies of Australia. Seven years ago, before I entered the Senate, I was amazed to find that the Labour party, both inside and outside Parliament, seemed to have an extraordinarily tender regard for rioters and other law-breakers. When itwas suggested that these “ rotters “ should be deported as enemies of their country, the Labour party, while disclaiming any connexion with them, complained bitterly about the attempts to deport them. The Opposition cannot have it both ways; at some time or other it must take a definite stand and declare its attitude. Only last, week we saw the same thing; honorable senators opposite disclaimed any connexion with Mr. Lang, yet they were extraordinarily solicitous regarding him and lacking in any determination to bring him to heel. The discussion to-day has been interesting. We have had a debate lasting four of five hours on a provision which I can only describe as an absolute “ dud “. I cannot reconcile this legislation with section 41 of the Constitution. I suggest to Opposition members that they should stand shoulder to shoulder with us on this side when it is a question of dealing with, in its early incipient stages, a rotten disease which, if not treated drastically now,( will grow like a cancer until it reaches such dimensions that the job of eradicating it will be a difficult, and probably a bloody, one. I compliment the Government on having, with so little delay, set about to honour the promise which it made in December last. I remind honorable senators opposite that a nettle held lightly hurts, whereas a nettle grasped firmly does no injury. I urge them to deal with unlawful associations as they would with a nettle. I cannot see why unions will be ipso facto unlawful associations. I have had a good deal to do with unionists ; I have employed them rather than non-unionists, because in dealing with them I have known where I stood. But why should the Opposition anticipate that the High Court will declare all unions to be unlawful associations? What is wrong with the unions that their spokesmen in this chamber should take it for granted that the High Court will declare against them? I do not think that it matters whether the disfranchisement of members of certain organizations is for three, seven, ten, or even twenty years, because, as I have said, Australians do not value the franchise highly. For people who are enemies of the Commonwealth disfranchisement is no punishment. I see no value in the clause as it stands.
.- I do not want to do or to say anything which may embarrass the Government; but I cannot vote for this clause. I would rather see a guilty person escape than do anything which might injure a number of innocent persons. The speech of the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) made it clear that grievous injury might be done to members of associations declared to be unlawful should a foolish executive affiliate with an organization preaching doctrines which would bring it within the scope of this legislation.”
– A special meeting of the members of the union could be held to depose the executive, or to rescind the resolution.
– To be disfranchised men would have to be members of the union at the time the declaration was made.
– A man might have been associated with an industrial union for many years, and be satisfied that it is a well-conducted organization; yet because a foolish executive decided to affiliate with a revolutionary body without his knowledge or that of the general body of members he would be punishable under this law, provided the State had also done its part to implement the law. Men without moral guilt would thus fall under the weight of the law. I regard this clause as more or less futile, and since, in additional fear that its effect will be different from what is anticipated, in that grievous wrong may be done to innocent persons, I shall vote against it.
– The Minister’s reply to an interjection I made shows that my fear that innocent persons may suffer without trial is well founded. Both the Minister in charge of the bill, and the Leader of the Government in this chamber admit that 80 per cent, of the unionists of Australia do not know what goes on in the organizations to which they belong. That is the case with the Australian Railways Union. The general body of members will not know that a union is in danger of being declared an unlawful association until the judgment has been given. It will then be too late for them to resign their- membership, and so they will be regarded as criminals and will be disfranchised immediately the decision of the High Court has been given. Another aspect of this provision is that an application could be made to the High Court with the object of influencing members of an organization to withdraw from it, believing that it might be declared unlawful. There is not even the semblance of fair play in such a proposal. I do not suggest that the present Attorney-General would be sufficiently vindictive to penalize his political opponents to the extent of disfranchising them, unless there was some justification, but the power exists so to do. He could cite the Australian Workers Union before the High Court.
– Because it is affiliated with the Labour party which believes iu altering by constitutional means the present system of government.
– That could not be done under this measure.
– There is sufficient power for a government to do as I have suggested. The Australian Railways Union has been mentioned because it is affiliated with the Red International; but action could also be taken against the employees of the Postal Department or any other body of public servants, because they are affiliated with the Australian Labour Party. Should the Minister declare the organizations with whom those persons are associated, unlawful bodies, they could be brought before the COUrt, and branded as criminals. They have no means to defend themselves; they have no right of appeal. The measure may not be framed to cover legal organizations; but the committee should guard against the possibility of action being taken against such organizations. The members of the Communist party would not be punished if they were disfranchised; they do not believe in political action.
– Why do they run communist candidates
– To test their strength; to see how many converts they are getting. The supporters of the Government have repeatedly stated that they believe in the deportation of certain persons, and although the Governments they have supported have had amply opportunity to deport undesirables, nothing has been done.
– What of the 52 who were deported during the last two weeks ?
– Some are always being deported, but their deportation is due usually to physical or mental disabilities. I am strongly opposed to this provision, under which innocent persons may be severely punished merely because they happen to be members of an industrial organization. The Government is forging a two-edged weapon, which some day may be turned very effectively against organizations of employers. The members of trade union organizations have fought hard for the privileges they now enjoy. The present Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Pearce) when an official of a trade unionist organization, can recall the activities of “ scabs “. I do noi intend to support legislation of this character, which is a distinct departure from the recognized principles of British justice.
– I should like to say a word or two upon two points raised by the right honorable the Leader of the Government (Senator Pearce). The first is in regard to the constitutionality of this proposal. I entirely agree with the view expressed by Senator Duncan-Hughes that this proposed new sub-section is unconstitutional. We are attempting to do something which, under the Constitution we are not permitted to do. The Leader of the Government suggested that by passing this provision, we shall be setting an example to the States. I submit that if we have no constitutional right to pass this legislation, we ought not to pass it merely to induce the States to pass some act which would make our legislation operative. We ought not to claim powers which, under the Constitution, we do not possess.
– The proposed new sub-section is expressly limited by section 41 of the Constitution.
– How does that affect the position?
– The States must implement this legislation.
– That is what I am protesting against. We are passing a provision which we know cannot operate until the States come to our assistance. I venture to suggest that there should he a better liaison between the Commonwealth and the States than to make it necessary for co-operation to be brought about by the Commonwealth passing a bill which it believes to be unconstitutional.
– We did exactly the same with respect to uniform electoral rolls. For some years the States would not agree to the arrangement; but now four States are operating under the system.
– The position is different in that case. There is no con- stitutional prohibition against the action then taken by the Commonwealth.
– We could not introduce uniform rolls without the assistance of the States.
– That was done under an arrangement between the Commonwealth and the States, but there is no constitutional prohibition against it. We cannot over-ride section 41 of the Constitution, by which section the clause is limited.
The right honorable gentleman also mentioned the type of men, met by him, who are members of the Australian Railways Union. I quite agree that that has been the experience of us all. That is the reason why we have urged that this proposed new sub-section should be modified, if not deleted. It is dangerous, because by the language employed, it may bring under its lash men who have no sympathy with red aspirations, and who are carrying on their occupations in a quiet, humble, and efficient manner. For these reasons, I think that the proposed new sub-section should be deleted.
– I intend to support the amendment moved by Senator Guthrie. The proposed new sub-section is too comprehensive, and does not provide sufficient protection to members of trade unions which may affiliate with an unlawful association, but who are not in sympathy with their objective. Moreover. I understand that if an organization has been cited before the court, its members cannot, even if they desire, resign while the case is being heard. It would be impossible for large numbers of unionists to resign if they thought the organization was likely to be declared illegal. Something should be done to punish the members of an executive of any organization declared to be unlawful, and I am prepared to support any proposal to provide for their punishment by deportation or otherwise. They could also be disfranchised for a specified period. Surely it is possible for some provision to be drafted to cover what I believe a majority of honorable senators desire. The words “ executive “ or “ committee “ will not cover the position ; a governing body under another name may be appointed.
Senator Reid has referred to the possibility of there being a certain amount of roll-stuffing in the event of a union being disfranchised. That could be overcome by the adoption of a method that I have advocated on many occasions in the Tasmanian Parliament. I contend that every person should be provided with an elector’s right, which should bear on its face the signature of the elector, and be produced by him or her when claiming a vote. If the returning officer hadany doubt as to whether the person claiming a vote was entitled to the right, he could obtain his or her signature to see whether it corresponded with that on the right. I am confident that a good deal of misrepresentation is practised at elections. If we could tighten up the electoral machinery so as to eliminate or to limit roll-stuffing, it would be in the interests of the whole community, and certainly would prevent persons from registering or voting in names other than their own. I shall vote for Senator Guthrie’s amendment.
– A lot of hot air has been indulged in by the Opposition, but the point that impressed me was that which has just been made again by Senator Grant. Under the Arbitration Act, even as amended in 1928 or 1929, a member of a union is prevented from resigning from it during the pendency of a dispute. I believe that the period during which he must continue to be a member is three months. At the moment I am not prepared to debate the question whether any individual can be compelled to remain a member of an unlawful association.
– It has first to be declared an unlawful association.
– The case has been cited of a certain organization that has declared its affiliation with the Red International. Any person who remains a member of that organization knows perfectly well that’ he is defying the law; because already the Crimes Act, by section 30a, declares that any body which is affiliated with any organization that advocates or encourages any of the doctrines or practices specified is an unlawful association. But the trouble is that the innocent man might be caught because of his inability to resign from the union.For that reason I am disposed to accept Senator Guthrie’s amendment.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted (Senator Guthrie’s amendment) be so inserted - put. The committee divided. ( Temporary Chairman - Senator Carroll.)
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Senator McLachlan) agreed to -
That after the word “ not “, proposed new section 30fd, the words “ for a period of seven years from that date “ be inserted.
– I make a last appeal to the committee not to accept this clause. If we do so, we shall bring discredit upon the Senate. It is a grievous thing to disfranchise a man, and I should not like to do it to my worst political enemy.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [10.26]. - I hope that the committee will realize the absolute absurdity of disfranchising a few members of an executive committee. Any persons who are so disfranchised will glory in it, and make themselves out to be martyrs. What purpose will be served by disfranchising a few individuals like this? The whole proposal is most ridiculous.
Question - That the clause, as amended, be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Temporary Chairman - Senator Carroll.)
Majority . . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 7 -
Section thirty l of the Principal Act is repealed and the following section inserted in its stead: - “30l. - (1.) Where in consequence of an application made by the Attorney-General under section thirty aa of this Act, any body of persons has been declared by the High Court or the Supreme Court of a State to be an unlawful association, the Attorney-General may, by order under his hand, direct that any person who, at the date of the application, was a member of that body of persons, shall be deported from the Commonwealth.,
Section proposed to be repealed - 30L. The Attorney-General may by order under his hand direct that any person not bom in Australia, convicted of any offence under section thirty C, thirty J or thirtyQ of this Act shall be deported from the Commonwealth :
Provided that such order may only be made before, or within three months after, the expiration of any period of imprisonment to which the offender has been sentenced for the offence or, if the offender was not sentenced to imprisonment, within three months after his conviction for the offence.
Amendment (by Senator McLachlan) agreed to -
That after the word “ person “, proposed new section 30L, sub-section 1, the words, “not born in Australia”, be inserted.
– I move -
That the words “ by order under his hand direct “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ apply to the court for an order that “.
The object of my amendment is to prevent any one person being clothed with the authority to deport an individual. Action of that-kind should be taken only with the authority of a court of law, which has had submitted to it sufficient evidence to justify the taking of such a step. Nobody should have the power to shanghai an individual out of the country. This amendment will surely appeal to the Minister. My amendment would make it clear that the authority must be given to the Attorney-General by a court. “ The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Senator Carroll). - The honorable senator’s amendment cannot be moved. The committee has already inserted an amendment in a later part of the proposed section.
– Then I ask the Minister to agree to the reconsideration nf the clause at a later stage. It is a non-party and non-contentious matter.
– It may be nonparty, but it is certainly not noncontentious. The Attorney-General already has the power to deport, and it is not exercised by him as a political function.
– If the Minister will not accept my amendment we must rote against this outrageous provision. Why should the Attorney-General without any order of the court be given power to deal with a person he thinks is guilty of some offence? Quite a number of persons have been deported during the regime of the present Government, and there may be a row about it. I want this provision inserted to prevent that possibility. Let us as quickly as possible get rid of any person whose offence warrants his deportation, but only after he has been given a fair trial by his fellowcountrymen. It is outrageous to ask’ Parliament to accept a provision which will enable a man to be deported without a trial.
Senator MCLACHLAN (South Australia - Acting Attorney-General [10.37]. - Section 30l, which provides that the Attorney-General may direct that any person not born in Australia convicted of any offence under 30o, 30j or 30q, shall be deported is proposed to be repealed and replaced by a new section providing that once the court has declared a body to be an unlawful association, the AttorneyGeneral may direct that any person who, at the date of the application, was a member of that body shall be deported. It then goes on to give the AttorneyGeneral power to direct that any person not born in Australia who is convicted of an offence under 30c, 30j or 30q shall be deported. Section 30c refers to persons who by speech or writing advocate or encourage the overthrow cif the Constitution of the Commonwealth by violence or sabotage and so forth. It provides that they shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for any period not exceeding two years, and in addition, if not born in Australia, to deportation by order of the Attorney-General. Section 30j is the provision relating to industrial disturbances, lockouts and strikes. After a proclamation by the Governor-General any person who takes part in, or continues, or incites to, urges, aids or encourages the taking part in or continuance of a lockout or strike in relation to employment in connexion with the transport of goods or the provision of any public service by’ the Commonwealth shall be guilty of an offence, and shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for any period not exceeding one year and in addition, if not born in Australia, to deportation by order of the AttorneyGeneral. Section 30q covers the case of any person who has been deported under the act and returns to the Commonwealth. Such a person is liable on conviction to imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year, and in addition to deportation by order of the AttorneyGeneral. The power to which the honorable senator objects is, therefore, already authorized by the act. In regard to the present proposal, some members of an organization declared by the court to b* an unlawful association, may not have been born in Australia, and we are asking the Senate to give power to the AttorneyGeneral to deport certain of these individuals. But in exercising this function the Attorney-General will not act in a political way.’ He will act as he already acts, in a quasijudicial capacity, paying no heed to politics in relation to the matter. He will merely exercise his discretion, as he frequently * does in other directions, regardless of anything hut the facts before him. Acting in this quasi-judicial capacity, he will decide whether or not deportation is justified. He is limited to the deportation of persons not born in Australia. This power is much needed, and it is one which I think the Parliament will not hesitate to bestow on any Attorney-General, irrespective of his political views. We have never yet had an Attorney-General so craven as to be renegade to his trust.
– I am not so much concerned about the Minister’s contention as to the proposed new sub-section 2, as I am with regard to the proposed new subsection 1, and seeing that, through a misunderstanding, the Opposition is precluded from submitting an amendment to this sub-section on the lines indicated by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes), I hope that the committee will reject the whole clause. The Minister asserted that the deportation powers to be used by the Attorney-General under this clause are similar to those provided elsewhere in the principal act, but I submit that these provisions are entirely different. My objection is that Parliament should not treat the rights of property differently from the rights of individuals. Under the proposed new sub-section 2, a person may be deported by the AttorneyGeneral for being a member of an unlawful association. Under a previous clause the Attorney-General makes application to the High Court for a declaration that a certain body is an unlawful association, and then the Minister may deport an inoffensive member of the organization who may live in the back-blocks, and have no knowledge of what the responsible officers of his organization have done. He may have had no sympathy with their action, but because he is unlucky enough to have been born outside Australia he may be deported.
– Cases of hardship may occur, but the functions of the Attorney-General should be discharged in a sensible way.
– The quasijudicial functions of the Minister should not enable him to deport inoffensive individuals such as those to whom I am referring. If a former alien is a prominent member of an organization, the Attorney-General would have no difficulty in obtaining an order from the court for his deportation; but I hope that honorable senators who believe in British jus.tive, will not leave a loophole for such a gross act of injustice as the deportation of innocent individuals. Under this clause the power to deport would become the plaything of party politics. One Attorney-General might consider that once an association had been declared to be an unlawful body, all the members of the organization born outside Australia should be deported, while another Attorney-General might take the view that inquiries should be made into the circumstances of each case. Both Ministers might be acting within their rights, but they would be applying this legislation in different ways. The proper course to adopt is to put the member of the organization in the same position as the association. The Minister could then make an application to the court, and it would be for the court to decide whether deportation was justified.
– This proposed new section contains no provision for an appeal.
– A writ of habeas corpus is the only redress.
– Then the provision is less to my liking. At one time, before I had served on a jury, I used to wonder whether there was such a thing as British justice; but, after having had experience on a jury of which I was appointed foreman, I reversed my opinion. On that occasion, after listening to the evidence and the summing up of the judge, we spent several hours discussing the pros and cons of the case, and I then became convinced that trial by jury was the fairest system in the world. Members of industrial organizations which may come within this law should be given fair and honest trial, and there should be the right of appeal lest the innocent be penalized. This new section will place altogether too much power in the hands of the Attorney-General. If we pass it in its present form we shall he doing a grave injustice to members of all industrial organizations.
Question - That clause 7, as amended, be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Temporary Chairman - Senator Carroll.)
Majority . . 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 8 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
That clause 3 be reconsidered.
Clause 3 -
After section 30a of the principal act the following sections are inserted: - 30aa.j. . . . (7.) If cause to the contrary is not shown to the satisfaction of the court, it may make an order declaring the respondent body of persons to be an unlawful association. “30ab. - (1.) If the Attorney-General believes that any person has in his possession any information or documents relating to an unlawful association, he may require the person, or, in the case of a corporation, any person holding a specified office in the corporation -
to answer questions,
to furnish information; and
allow the inspection of documents
– I move -
That the words “ cause to the contrary is not “, proposed new section 30aa, sub-section 7, be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ it is “.
This provision is subversive of the first principle of British justice, namely, that a defendant is deemed to be innocent until he is proved guilty. I spoke upon this point at some length earlier in the debate so that it is not necessary to elaborate it: If my amendment is carried, the subsection will read -
If it isshown to the satisfaction of the court, it may make an order declaring the respondent bod)’ of persons to be an unlawful association.
The onus of proof should not lie on the organization charged, but on the prosecution, so that there may he a trial in accordance with the principles of British justice. The amendment would not interfere with the effective operation of this legislation, because if an organization had been guilty of an offence the necessary evidence should not be difficult to obtain. But I desire to guard against the possibility of border-line organizations being declared unlawful when the facts do not warrant such an extreme step. An official or member of some obscure branch may have made disloyal or violent statements against the Government or Constitution, and because the controlling body did not take corrective steps - possibly it did not know of the offence - it may be held to have been guilty of an offence.
– The amendment will not accomplish what the honorable senator desires. When proceedings are taken under section 30r of the Crimes Act, a very strong provision of the law is set in operation, because that section declares that in any prosecution for an offence under Part 2a, the averment of the prosecutor contained in the informationor indictment shall be prima facie evidence of the matter or matters averred. Proceedings on application to the High Court are made by a summons to show cause, and the averment provision has practically placed theonus on the defendant to show cause to the contrary. If cause is shown effectively it must be to the satisfaction of the court. So the insertion of the words proposed would not make any difference. Senator Daly has called my attention to a South Australian judgment in an appeal from a decision of the licensing magistrate. The learned judge there held that the words “to the satisfaction of the court “ limited the discretion of the court. He said -
The Commonwealth Act creates an irrebuttable presumption, whereas sub-section 3 creates a rebuttable presumption, temporarily negativing the presumption of innocence, and throwing upon the defendant the duty of disproving the charge, but only becoming conclusive proof of guilt should the defendant fail to satisfy the court that he is not guilty.
Later in the judgment is a passage which indicates that the judge thought that the words “to the satisfaction “of the court” carried the matter further. The decision of the South Australian court is so foreign to the proceedings to he taken under the Crimes Act that I cannot regard it as authoritative. However, I do not wish to throw any greater burdens on the organizations than is already provided, and I undertake to examine the authorities, and if necessary have the clause modified in the House of Representatives.
– I accept that assurance.
Amendment - by leave - withdrawn.
– I move -
That the words “ require the person or in the case of a corporation any person holding a specified office in the corporation proposed new section 30ab, sub-section 1, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof, the words, “ apply to a judge of the High Court or a judge of a Supreme Court of any State for authority to compel any such person.”
The object of the amendment is to take from the Attorney-General the right to call up any man whom he suspects of knowing something inimical to the best interests of the country, and subject him to the third degree. Before any such examination can be made the court should be supplied with evidence which would justify the suspected person being subjected to examination.
– Unless this provision is retained the machinery we are setting up will be difficult to operate. Difficulty has been experienced in tracing the source of certain moneys which have entered this country, and only by vesting in the AttorneyGeneral the powers sought shall we be likely to obtain information on which to found an application under the earlier portion of the clause. I point out that all the questions which may be put, the information to be furnished, and the inspection of documents must be in relation to certain things which are specified in paragraphs d, e andf, which read -
The penalty provided for an offence is £100 or imprisonment for six months. No Attorney-General will exercise this power without good reason. Having regard to the present position inthis country, I submit that this is a power which should be vested in the AttorneyGeneral.
– Must the organization have been declared an unlawful association before the AttorneyGeneral can take action ?
– This legislation has been introduced only because of the necessity which exists for some power of this kind. Neither an unlawful association already existing, nor one which may be declared under this legislation, is deserving of protection. This provision seeks only to strike at the instrumentalities they employ.
– In view of the Minister’s explanation. 1 ask leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment - by leave - withdrawn.
– The proposed new section does not seem to be complete. It provides that in the case of a corporation the Attorney-General may call upon any person holding a specified office therein, to furnish information; but it does not presuppose any belief that the corporation possesses information or documents relating to an unlawful association, as is the case with a person.
– The term “ person “ includes a corporation.
Clause agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended, and report adopted.
Motion (by Senator McLachlan) pro posed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
– Senator Barnes said this afternoon that certain votes cast at the recent Senate election showed that the second preferences of Communist candidates favoured United Australia party candidates rather than those of the Labour party. The honorable senator must have been misinformed, because the official figures show conclusively that the Labour party secured the majority. of the second preferences referred to. I point out that of the second preferences of a Communist candidate who contested a Victorian Senate seat, 2,787 went to Cameron; 761 to Sheehan, 332 to Brennan, 174 to Guthrie, and 110 to Plain.
– Does the honorable senator intend to connect his remarks with the bill, or is he making a personal explanation?
– I am making a personal explanation. Out of 6,579 second preference votes for the Com- munist candidate only 616 went to the United Australia party. In New South Wales the Communist candidate received 10,291 first preferences, of which 5,961 votes went to Anderson, 4,042 to Dooley, 294 to Cox, and 217 to Greene.
– I cannot allow the honorable senator to discuss, on the third reading of the bill, the second preference votes of Communist candidates. He may make a personal explanation afterwards by leave of the Senate.
– The honorable senator was not misrepresented in any way.
– When I was speaking Senator Barnes said that my statement in regard to the distribution of the second preference votes of Communist candidates was incorrect, and I am showing that those votes invariably went to the Labour party.
– That subject has nothing to do with the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Senate adjourned at 11.27 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 17 May 1932, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1932/19320517_senate_13_134/>.