13th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator theHon. W. Kingsmill) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
[8.1]. - by leave - I have to advise the Senate that on receipt of the news of the assassination of Mr. Inyukai, thePrime Minister of Japan, the British Ambassador at Tokio was requested to convey to the Government of Japan a message of condolence from His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia.
The following papers were presented : -
New Guinea Act - Ordinances of 1932 -
No. 4 - Appropriation 1931-1932.
No. 5 - Mining.
– I ask the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) what steps are being taken by the Government to assist in the search for the missing Junker seaplane, which left Koepang, Timor, on Sunday last for Darwin, and has not since been heard of? Has the Government taken any steps to advise aviators from overseas that the air route from Koepang to Wyndham is 100 miles shorter than that from Koepang to Darwin, and offers the advantage of an emergency landing ground at the Drysdale mission station?
– by leave - Replying to the latter portion of the honorable senator’s question, I may say that no steps have been taken to advise aviators from overseas in the direction indicated. In regard to the first portion of the question theActing Director of Civil Aviation has been in continuous communication with me on the subject. As the first messages received were very confusing it was impossible to ascertain the exact time at which the seaplane left Koepang; but eventually that matter was cleared up. The Government also received information to the effect that the Dutch Government was sending a destroyer to search the route that the seaplane would take. Obviously that is the best kind of search that could be organized. At present the Commonwealth Government has no seaplane in the north of Australia, and it is almost certain that if the seaplane has been forced down it would have come down at sea, and therefore, might be picked up by the Dutch destroyer searching in the locality. In addition, we opened up wireless communication with vessels likely to be anywhere in the vicinity of the route to be taken, including a steamer, the Marella, I think, en route to the East from Darwin, which will traverse some portion of the area in which the seaplane may have come down. All vessels have been asked to keep a look out. Further, all telegraph stations have been notified, and all station-owners in touch with the telegraph line have been asked to communicate with the native population to see if any information can be obtained in that way. The only means by which the Commonwealth Government might organize a search isthrough theWest Australian Airways, which at present has an aeroplane atWyndham. That, however, isa land plane, which could not proceed to sea, and it is very improbable that the missing aircraft has come down on the land. It does not seem practicable to do more at this juncture than is being done. From either the Dutch destroyer or the steamer Marella we may get some information.
SenatorRAE - I ask the Acting AttorneyGeneral whether he has an answer to the question I asked last night concerning the bankruptcy affairs of Mr. W. C. Clegg, a former solicitor of Sydney?
– The honorable senator referred to this matter during the consideration of the Bankruptcy Bill in committee last night, and I have to inform him that I gave instructions for an inspection ofClegg’s books and documents to be made this morning by a responsible officer of the bankruptcy administration. The books and documents, I am informed, are not in the possession of an officer of the bankruptcy administration, but of the official trustee. The papers werehanded over to the official trustee by the police afterClegg’s conviction, and were in a state of confusion. Clegg attends the office each day under escort to assist in the work of straightening out his affairs. I have been informed that the securities are now properly filed and indexed, and no difficulty should he experienced in tracing them. If the honorable senator furnishes me with particulars of the case referred to by him I shall have further inquiries made.
Formal Motion fob Adjournment.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon.
I have to inform you that it is my intention to move this day, the 19th May, “That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till 10 a.m. to-morrow “ in order to discuss a matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The failure of the Government to take immediate steps to institute prosecutions in respect of a breach of section 24c of the Crimes Act, which deals with sedition.
Is the motion supported ?
Four honorable senators having risen in their places,
.- I move-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till 10 a.m. to-morrow.
I desire to thank honorable senators for giving me an opportunity to bring this matter, which is of urgent public importance, under the notice of the Government. Section 24c of the Crimes Act reads - 24c. Any person who -
I have before me three statutory declarations signed at Sydney on the 6th day of May, 1932, which contain the words, “ I make this solemn declaration conscientiously believing the same to be true . . . “ The first is in connexion with a matter brought under the notice of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) in another place by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), concerning the association of members of the Defence Force with an organization known as the New Guard, which has its headquarters in Sydney. In reply to a charge made by the honorable member for West Sydney, the Prime Minister said that it was the intention of the Government to appoint a royal commission. At that time the Lang Government had also been challenged by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the State Parliament (Mr.. Weaver) to appoint a royal commission. This caused a good deal of comment, and there was an outcry in the press that Mr. Lang was not game to have an inquiry. The scene then changed to Canberra, where the Prime Minister took up the challenge and said that a royal commission would be appointed. It was ascertained later that the New South Wales Government had also decided to appoint a royal commission to inquire into the charges made concerning the attack upon Mr. J. S. Garden at his home at Maroubra. I should like to know why the
Commonwealth Government has changed its mind and does not now propose to appoint such a commission? The New South Wales Criminal Investigation Department is in possession of hundreds of documents and sworn statements from responsible and leading citizens, dealing with the activities of the New Guard, and I propose to read various affidavits on the subject to the Senate. Incidentally, I may inform honorable senators that no person interrogated by the Criminal Investigation Branch has been subjected to intimidation. The first statutory declaration that I shall read is by H. Symonds-Poynton, and is as follows: -
I, Henry Symonds-Poynton, of 71 Bedfordstreet, Newtown, in the State of New South Wales, do solemnly and sincerely declare -
That I joined the New Guard about last September, 1931, realizing the seriousness of such a movement, and how dangerous it could be if it entered the political arena. Now that this body has developed into a Fascist menace, I consider that I am free of all obligations to them, and intend to expose their aims and objects re political movements as follows.
– Was he a Lang spy? Senator DUNN. - The affidavit continues -
Being a member of the New Guard Intelligence, I was free to examine any paper or papers that came through that department. The principal recent object of this body was to fan the workers into revolution per medium of starting fights at Labour rallies, for instance, the Town Hall rally of Mr. J. T. Lang on the 21st April, 1932. A hundred and fifty New Guardsmen were present in the vicinity of the Town Hall, with instructions not to start trouble by directly attacking Labour sympathizers in the large crowd present, but it was arranged to start a fight and then fan it along.
The New Guard is formed on aggressive military lines, comprised as follows: - Air force, sea guard, harbour guard, mobile battalions, shock troops, home defence, essential services, and even men to form tank corps. Thus every branch of military and naval units are represented and controlled by trained men and officers of the reserve list, and still serving.
Previous to the opening of the. Sydney Harbour Bridge, plans were made under the direct control of Colonel E. Campbell to kidnap the most influential members of the Labour party and members of the Legislative Council; for this, plans of Berrima gaol were obtained, and its position for defence ascertained for machine guns, riflemen, numbers of men it could accommodate, water supply, and every military detail. In the meantime, all responsible Ministers and executives of Trades Hall were being shadowed day and night, and reports made hourly to Head-quarters, New
Guard, Intelligence. I, myself, was told by Mr. E. Campbell that I would be one of the men picked to guard Mr. Lang and his men who, as far as I can remember, were J. Garden, Graves, Chapman, Martin, D. Grant, E. Voight, Gosling, Cavanagh, Kilminister. This list was headed by J. T. Lang.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable senator is reading an alleged sworn declaration which has reference to a case that is now before the courts of New South Wales, and deals with an alleged assault upon Mr. Garden, one of the members of the Sydney Labour Council. The last sentence read by Senator Dunn refers to an alleged plot to kidnap members of that council. As that case is sub judice, is it in order to refer to it in this chamber ?
– May is very explicit on this subject. At page 333 of the 13th edition, there is to be found this opinion -
Matters awaiting the adjudication of a court of law should not be brought forward in debate. This rule was observed by Sir Robert Peel and Lord John Russell, both by the wording of the speech from the throne and by their procedure in the House, regarding Mr. O’Connell’s case, and has been maintained by rulings from the Chair.
I rule, therefore, that the utterances of Senator Dunn leading up to the point of order raised by Senator Pearce are out of order.
– In that event, I shall proceed with another part of the affidavit, as follows: -
On one occasion, about Friday, the 22nd April, 1932, I was introduced to Mr. Dynon, who told me—–
– I again rise to a point of order. Is it in order for the honorable senator to read the rest of the affidavit which you, sir, have ruled to be out of order. Further, will the whole of that statement appear in the official records of Hansard?
- Senator Dunn must avoid reading any further reference in the affidavit to the subject that has been ruled out of order. The simplest way is for me to rule that the reading of the whole of the affidavit is out of order.
– I have another statutory declaration, which reads -
I, Henry Symonds-Poynton, of 71 Bedfordstreet, Newtown, in the State of New South
Wales, do solemnly and sincerely declare that I have seen in New Guard offices particulars and plans relative to the seizure (by the New Guard) of the tanks for revolutionary purposes; also a complete . . .
– I rise to a point of order. The whole gravarnan of the charge made against certain persons in New South Wales is that members of the New Guard participated in what is described in the affidavit being read by Senator Dunn as a revolutionary attack upon certain individuals. As the honorable senator has indicated that he has other statutory declarations of a similar nature, I submit that he should give an assurance that they do not concern matters which have already been ruled out of order.
– I sustain the point of order raised by the right honorable senator. I learn from this morning’s press that consideration by the Federal Government of allegations made against certain persons has been postponed because the case is under review by the courts. Senator Dunn will not be in order in further pursuing this line of debate. As a matter of fact I thought that a protest would have been made before the right honorable the Leader of the Government in the Senate first rose to order.
– With all respect to your ruling, sir, I——
– The honorable senator may not discuss my ruling except by immediately moving to disagree with it.
– I do not wish to do that. I have another affidavit which does not deal with matters that are before the court.
– Is it another frame up?
– I ask that that interjection be withdrawn. It is offensive to me.
- Senator Guthrie will withdraw his interjection.
— I withdraw it.
– This is a statutory declaration, witnessed by Andrew F. Dryburgh, J.P., and signed by H. SymondsPoynton. It reads -
I, Henry Symonds-Poynton, of 71 Bedford- street, Newtown, in the State of New South Wales, do solemnly and sincerely declare that the following list of names are locality commanders, Division C.O.’s and office-holders (of the New Guard): -
Captain Walker, A.I.F., Mosman locality. Commander Hill, ex Royal Navy, Narrabeen. Captain Cox, ex A.I.F., North Sydney. Mr. Dawes, ex Royal Navy, Curtiss-road. Balmain, I.O.
Mr. Slocombe, Divisional Administration. B.l.
De Groot, Zone Commander. Pursell, Division Administrator, B.3. J. Murphy, 92 Arden-street, Coogee, L.Adm. Binney, office not known, but important. Capt. D. Henry, Mobile Battalion Commander.
Major J. Edgley, Zone Commanding Officer, 76 Pitt-street, Sydney.
Cox, Company O.C., Drummoyne. Cutbush, O.C., Enfield locality (also in Civic
Legion. ) and I make this solemn declaration conscientiously believing the same to be true and by virtue of the provisions of the Oaths Act of 1900.
Declared before me -
In support of my motion for the adjournment, and despite the many points of order that have been raised—–
– That is quite true.
– Is the honorable senator in order in discussing points of order that have been raised and upheld ?
– The honorable senator may not discuss those points of order unless in dissent.
– I thank you, sir. At different times we have heard much about this chamber having been established for the preservation of State rights. Even “ Blind Freddy “, if he listened to the debates in this Senate, would wake up to the fact that it consisted of honorable senators who are supported and controlled by party machines. I have no quarrel with that, because I, too, like yourself, Mr. President, am controlled by a party machine.
– Order ! The honorable senator will immediately withdraw that statement and apologize to the Senate for having made it.
– If I have implied that you, sir, are controlled by a party political machine I respectfully withdraw the implication and humbly apologize to the Senate and to you for having made it.
– It is only to the Senate that the honorable senator must apologize.
– I do so, sir. The New Guard movement-
– The “ Safeguard “ movement.
– I am a pacifist, but I take exception to a basher gang being set up and subsidized by members of the Sydney Chamber of Commerce, as has been definitely proved by the affidavits and documents that are held by the Criminal Investigation Branch of New South “Wales. It has been definitely established, in affidavits that have been signed in New South Wales before justices of the peace of that State, that seventeen members of the Commonwealth Parliament are members of this organization. It would be interesting to learn who they are. Not one member of the Opposition in this chamber is included in the number.
A week ago, the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), with a great flourish of trumpets, adopted the role of a politically strong man, by taking up the challenge that had been issued to the Lang Administration in New South Wales by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Parliament of that State, to appoint a royal commission to inquire into the activities of the New Guard. Since then, however, the Lang Government has been dismissed from office by the Governor of New South Wales, and Mr. Stevens has stepped upon the stage. What I, and those who are associated with me, would like to know is, what has happened since the promise was made by the Prime Minister to appoint a royal commission, that would account for his having gone cold on that proposal?
During the course of my speech, I have been subjected to interruption by honorable senators opposite, including Senator Grant. In connexion with the Financial Agreements Enforcement Bill that honorable senator had not the courage to record his vote, but adopted the cowardly course of returning to Tasmania so that his name would not have to appear in Hansard in support of the measure.
– I remind the honorable senator’ that only the subject of the motion itself may be discussed.
– I ask you, sir, to protect me from the violent assaults that are made upon me, or to give me the right to protect myself.
– The honorable gentleman is quite well protected.
– If you will give the word to “ go over the top “, I shall go over, quick and lively.
– The honorable gentleman will kindly refrain from the use of such technical terms.
– Vicious attacks have been made on leading members of the Australian Labour Party by members of the New Guard, at Kings Cross, Enfield, Bondi, and Manly. It is true that New South Wales has a constitutionallyappointed police force for the preservation of law and order. The leader of the New Guard, Colonel Eric Campbell, on one occasion while the Lang Government was in office, stated in the Sydney Town Hall, that at a certain hour on a given day he would march at the head of 10,000 New Guardsmen into the Parliament House of the State, throw the Lang Government off the treasury bench, lock the- door of the building, and take the key away in his pocket. He also asserted that if the police force stood in his way he would brush them aside. We Labour politicians who supported the constitutionallyelected Administration in that State -immediately -accepted the challenge, and said that if Mr. Campbell attempted to “ down “ the police force we were prepared to see that law and order was preserved. At the meeting to which I have referred, this gentleman went on to say -
We have to use the United Australia party and the United Country party to arrive at a definite stage. After we have used them and organized our forces, we shall step on the stage and Set up a dictatorship.
That statement was equivalent to a pronouncement of the intention of this body to adopt the role of the Nazis in Germany, who to-day are fighting constitutional government.
At various times this semi-military organization has carried out drilling operations on the outskirts of Sydney. When reporters and press photographers from The World and the Labor Daily stumbled upon these illegal evolutions they were set upon, cruelly beaten, and badly smashed up. The Labour movement has stated very definitely that such mass attacks by basher gangs under the jurisdiction of this semi-military organization will be resisted with all the force at its command. There the matter rests. The first attack was made at Maroubra, the victim being Alderman Garden.
– On a point of order, I submit that for the last two or three minutes the honorable senator has been transgressing the ruling of the Chair. The whole gravamen of his charge is that these persons, as members of the New Guard, have organized themselves to attack certain individuals.
– The honorable senator must refrain from proceeding along those lines.
– If I strayed for the moment, I apologize. The police authorities of New South Wales now have in their possession documents that have been seized from this body, relating to arms, ammunition, tanks, and other military stores. We submit that the acts of these persons constitute sedition in its worst possible form. They imagine that they can set up in Australia a sinister military dictatorship. At the outset, they intend to make use of political parties, who may have some leanings towards them ; but at a later date, if they achieved their object, they would repudiate any allegiance to such parties. On one occasion, while the ex-Premier of New South Wales was addressing a Labour meeting, rubber hosing was affixed to the exhaust pipe of his motor car, and then carried to the interior of the car through a hole in the window, the object being to fill it with poisonous fumes. Had that plot succeeded, and death resulted, those responsible would have been guilty of murder. Yet, the Sydney Sun and other newspapers laud these men. It is significant that officers of the Australian Defence Force have been “ getting under cover,” by dissociating themselves entirely from it. The navy and the army belong to the people of Australia.
– The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
[3.42]. - I do not know that there is anything that calls for reply in the wild and incoherent statements to which we have just listened. But there have been certain references to an allegation that confidential defence papers were found in the possession of unauthorized persons. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) has already announced that the police authorities of New South Wales will be asked to consent to a responsible officer of the Defence Department seeing those papers, and that a full investigation will be made into their nature, making a copy of as to whether any unauthorized person had them, and if so, how they came to he in his possession. Until that inquiry is completed, I shall withhold judgment, and I ask honorable senators to withhold theirs, in regard to the truth or otherwise of these allegations.
The honorable senator has on the notice-paper a question that will be answered later by the Acting AttorneyGeneral (Senator McLachlan) in regard to the setting up of a royal commission to investigate the charges that have been made.
Motion (by Senator Sampson) agreed to -
That the Senate do now divide.
Question - That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till 10 a.m. to-morrow - put. the Senate divided. (President - Senator the Hon. W. Kingsmill.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable senator’s questions is as follows: - 1 and 2. While it is a fact that an announcement was made by the Prime Minister that a royal commission would be appointed, a promise was made subsequently by the late Premier of New South Wales that a commission would be appointed by his Government. In view of the need for economy, it does not appear that any good purpose would be served by having two commissions inquiring into the same matter. So far as the Commonwealth is concerned, steps are being, taken to arrange for an inquiry by a senior officer of the Defence Department into the allegations made that officers of that department are in touch with the New Guard.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Will he lay on the table of the Senate all the messages that were received, by beam wireless or cable or code or by overseas telephone, by the Governor of New South Wales from the British Dominions Office, instructing Sir Phillip Game to dismiss Mr. Lang, the Premier of that State, from office?
– The PostmasterGeneral has no knowledge of any such messages.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Does the Government intend to issue instructions for the laying down of two keels for passenger steamers to be built at Cockatoo Island for the Tasmanian shipping trade; if so, will the steamers be built this year?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The Prime Minister has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s question : -
The present financial position is such as to preclude consideration by the Commonwealth Government of any proposal of the nature mentioned by the honorable senator.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Does the Government intend to make a. grant to Lyon Brothers, re-search engineers, of Newcastle, of any sum of money out of the federal grant of moneys for unemployed, to help them in their research work in relation to oil fuel from coal, and so to materially assist the minors of the northern coal-fields?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The Prime Minister has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s question : - -
The question of the allocation of moneys made available for the relief of unemployment in New South Wales is one for consideration in the first place by the Employment Council, which has been established for the purpose of considering proposals and making recommendations to theCommonwealth Government.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Assistant Treasurer has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s question : -
Victoria - Mr. C. A. Norrie and Mr. Clive
Queensland - Mr. J. P. Bottomley and Mr.
South Australia - Mr. W. Queale and Mr.
Western Australia - Sir Charles Nathan and Mr. R. O. Law.
Tasmania - Mr. Guy Parsons and Mr. R.
The personnel of the New South Wales Employment Council is - Mr. J. Garlick; Alderman E. E. Collins, Wagga Wagga; Mr. P. A. Gourgaud, Department of the Interior; Mr. E. Riley; and Mr. J. P. Abbott. In addition, invitations have been extended to Mr. W. H. Crouch, Everton, Condobolin, president of the Shires Association of New South Wales, and Mr. G. J. Baker, Coogee, president of the Local Government Association of New South Wales, to accept positions on the council.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) agreed to by an absolute majority of the members of the Senate -
That Standing Order No. 68 be suspended ii]) to, and including the 21st instant, to enable new business to be taken after halfpast ten p.m.
Bill read a third time.
Standing and. Sessional Orders suspended by an absolute majority of the members of the Senate.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce a bill for an act to amend the Forestry Bureau Act 1930.
Bil] brought up, and read a first time.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [3.51]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is purely a machinery measure rendered necessary by alterations made in the administration of the Northern Territory, and the change of the name of the Department of Home Affairs. Section 2 of the Forestry Bureau Act 1930, dennes the words “ the Territories “ to mean the Territory for the Seat of Government, Central Australia, North Australia, Papua, Norfolk Island and New Guinea. When the Northern Australia Act 1926 was repealed, ‘ the Territories of Central Australia and North Australia were amalgamated into the Northern Territory. It is necessary, therefore, to alter the words “ Central Australia, North Australia “ to “the Northern Territory.” This action is taken by clause 2 of the bill. Section 7 of the Forestry Bureau Act 1930, provides that the Inspector-General of Forests, the secretary to the Department of the Treasury, and the secretary to the Department of Home Affairs shall be trustees of the fund. The Department of Home Affairs has been abolished and is now known as the Department of the Interior. The functions of the secretary, Department of Home Affairs, are vested in the secretary, Department of the Interior. It is necesary, therefore, that the secretary, Department of the Interior, should be a trustee of the fund in place of the secretary, Department of Home Affairs. Clause 3 of the bill makes the necessary amendment.
– The reorganization of certain departments having resulted in the dismissal of a number of married and single returned soldiers, I should like to know if any have lost their employment in this particular governmental activity.
– This bill ha3 nothing whatever to do with the employment of labour.
– That being so, I shall have nothing further to say.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended by an absolute majority of the members of the Senate.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce a bill for an act to amend the Solar Observatory Fund Act 1930-31.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
[4.4]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is purely a machinery measure rendered necessary by the alteration of the name of the Department of Home Affairs to the Department of the Interior. Section 5 qf the Solar Observatory Fund Act 1930-1931 provides that the Director of the Observatory, the Secretary to the Department of the Treasury, and the Secretary to the Department of Home Affairs, and such other person as the Minister may appoint, shall be the trustees of the fund. The Department of Home Affairs has been abolished, and the functions of that department are now vested in the Department of the Interior. The Secretary to. the Department of the Interior should, therefore, be made a trustee of the fund in place of the Secretary, Department of Home Affairs. Clause 2 of the bill makes the necessary amendment.
The Common-wealth Solar Observatory Foundation and Endowment Fund consists of (a) donations contributed for the purposes of the foundation and endowment of the observatory, where such donations are in the form of money or securities; (b) investments made out of donations contributed prior to the commencement of the act for the purpose of the observatory; and (c) any other money or property received by the trustees for the purposes of the fund. The transfer of certain moneys and securities to the fund is being held up pending the passage of this measure. Honorable senators may be interested to know that the amount now in the fund totals £2,976, of which £2,460 represents the face value of inscribed stock held by the trustees, the remaining £516 being cash. All the money has been “privately donated.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate. >
[4.7]. - I move -
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the introduction and” passing through all its stages without delay of a bill for an act to amend the Insurance Act 1932.
I say frankly that this is a more important bill than either of the other two with which we have just dealt. Should any honorable senator, after I have moved the second reading, desire to secure the adjournment of the debate in order to have an opportunity of studying it, the Government “will offer no objection. My only reason for asking that the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended is that it is hoped that the Senate will be able to rise to-morrow, and the Government desires to get this bill through before the adjournment.
Question resolved in the affirmative by an absolute majority of the members of the Senate.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
[4.9] . - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
When the Insurance Act 1932 was framed it was the intention of the Government that a deposit should be made in respect’ of all classes of insurance business, and that every’ person carrying on the business of insurance should make a deposit. In the definition of “insurance business “ no specific reference is made to workers compensation insurance business. Persons carrying on insurance business other than life insurance business, must lodge a deposit, based on the annual premium income, the maximum of such deposit not to exceed £40,000. If the annual premium income of any person, excluding the income from workers’ compensation business, was such that he would be required to lodge the maximum deposit of £40,000, it would be competent for the States to require a further deposit in respect of workers’ compensation insurance business. Thus, the aggregate deposit made by that person would be greater than that contemplated under the act. To remove the doubt on the question whether this form of insurance is covered by the act it is proposed to amend the definition clause of “ insurance business “ by including in that definition “ workers’ compensation insurance business.”
Section 11 of the original act provides that a person carrying on insurance business, other than life insurance business, shall deposit with the Treasurer money, or approved securities, to the value of £1,000 in respect of each £5,000 of his annual premium income, but so that the deposit required shall not exceed in any case £40,000. As already stated, it is the intention of the’ Government that all persons carrying on insurance business shall lodge a deposit with the Treasurer. If the annual income of a person referred to in this section is less than £5,000, it would appear that he could escape the obligation to lodge a deposit. To place this matter beyond doubt, it is proposed to amend section 11 by providing that the deposit required to be made under this section by any person shall not in any case be less than £1,000 or more than £40,000.
Section 16 of the original act provides for the furnishing of certain returns, balance sheets, and other documents, and imposes a penalty on any person who wilfully or knowingly makes any return under the act, which is false in any material particular. No provision, however, is made in respect of any person who refuses, or fails, to furnish the returns required under the act. It is proposed, therefore, to insert a new subsection 3 b providing that “ any person carrying on insurance business who refuses or fails to furnish any return, balance-sheet, or other information required by or under this section shall be guilty of an offence - penalty £200 “. Subsection 2 of section 16 of the original act provides that a person having made an initial deposit shall, in any year, with in three months after notice given by the Treasurer, or within such further time as is specified in the notice, make to the Treasurer a return showing the net liability under life insurance business, or the annual premium income for other insurance business. It will probably be found in the administration of the act that returns will be required on numerous occasions, and that the making of formal notices under the hand of the Treasurer will prove onerous. It is proposed, therefore, to insert an additional sub-section 3 a providing that, in addition to the returns, balance-sheets or other information required under section 16, a person carrying on insurance business shall furnish such other returns, balance-sheets, or information, and at such times as are prescribed. Although the power still remains for the Treasurer to call for additional returns, it will not be necessary to exercise that power where an obligation to furnish such additional returns has been imposed by the regulations.
Debate (on motion by Senator Barnes) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 18th May (vide page 887), on motion by Senator Greene -
That the trill be now read a second time.
– One of the objects of this bill is to cancel the registration of the Australian Railways Union in favour of other organizations. Honorable senators may like to know how it is that the Aus: tralia Railways Union is in existence. Prior to the railway strike in 1917 organizations known as the Amalgamated Railway and Tramways Employees Association, and the Railway Worker, and General Labourers Union, were iD existence. Quite a number of the members of the former were dissatisfied with the way in which it was conducted, and petitioned the court to give legal recognition to the Railway Workers and General Labourers Union. That recognition was given, and its members secured awards covering some of the men who will be affected by this bill. Prior to the strike in 1917, and before any serious industrial trouble occurred, the Railway Workers and General Labourers Union amalgamated with the Australian Workers Union, and that section is now known as the Railway Workers Industrial branch of the Australian Workers Union. That branch continued to protect the interests of some of the men until the Australian Railways Union came into existence, and secured registration in the court. Arbitration awards were then obtained covering the whole of the men in the service. During the strike in 1917 an organization which it is proposed under this bill to recognize as a lawful association, came into existence. Its members comprise those who were said to be loyal to the service, but in union circles generally, it is known as a “ scab “ organization.
The principal object of this measure is to secure the de-registration of the Australian Railways Union. Its members are not to be given the opportunity to resign 9nd to join with the Railway Workers Industrial “Branch of the Australian Workers Union. The secretary of that branch has received scores of applications from men within the service who are anxious to join the Australian Workers Union, and I understand that quite a number of them have actually enrolled. An agreement was entered into between the Australian Workers Union and the Australian Railways Union about twelve months ago, under which it was arranged that the members of the industrial branch of the Australian Workers Union should join up with the Australian Railways Union, provided that the Australian Railways Union vacated the field rightly belonging to the Australian Workers Union. I understand that that agreement has not been honoured, and that quite a number of men engaged in industries previously covered by the Australian Workers Union are insisting upon remaining members o’f the Australian Railways Union. If their organization is de- registered they will have no opportunity to join any organization, other than that to which I referred a few minutes ago, even though its objects may be lawful. I am not making an appeal on behalf of the Australian Workers Union. I do not know what its attitude will be; but I do not think that it is the duty of the Government to instruct employees in the railway or tramway services to become members of any particular organization.
If this policy is adopted it can result’ only in industrial chaos. I am not so much concerned with the executive officers of the Australian Railways Union as I am with the rank and file. The members of the executive are quite capable of looking after themselves. When the Crimes Bill was under consideration a few days ago I predicted that those who might be punished under that act would be men who were not in any sense responsible for the action taken by the organization. A similar position will arise under this measure. Workers should have a right to decide the organization to which they shall belong. If an organization is declared unlawful, its members should have the right to appoint an executive prepared to obey the law. Under this measure they will have no such right. I was in error in stating the other day that the Australian Railways Union was withdrawing its affiliation with the Red International, as I find in the Railroad, the official organ of the Australian Railways Union, a report of the State conference, held in Goulburn on the 18th April, concerning affiliation with the Red International. That paragraph reads -
It waa moved, seconded, and carried, on a ‘ count of 28 “ for “ 20 “ against “ -
That this conference endorse affiliation with the Red ‘International Labour Union, and request delegates to the Australian council to arrange for a nation-wide ballot of the rank and file on the question in order to consummate our action in that respect.
– The 18th April of this year.
– It was only a State conference ?
– Yes ; I understand that it was the federal council of the Australian Railways Union that carried, by a majority, but not an absolute majority, of its members, a resolution favouring affiliation. The resolution adopted at Goulburn by 28 votes to 20 endorsed the action of the federal council, but the arguments of some of the delegates were of sufficient importance to prevent the executive putting its policy into operation, and to induce it to submit the whole matter to the rank and file for determination.
– If affiliation is rejected this measure will not apply.
-It will affect the members from the time it is enacted.
– Only if they affiliate.
– Perhaps the executive thought it had the authority to transmit affiliation fees overseas. If the Australian Railways Union is deregistered its members will not have an opportunity to elect another executive opposed to affiliation with the Red International Labour Union. Up to the present affiliation with that organization is legal, but within the course of a day or two of this bill being carried, the Australian Railways Union may be declared an unlawful organization. I have no sympathy with those persons who come to this country to foist views foreign to most unionists upon the working people of this country. I have spent practically the whole of my life in the industrial arena, and I consider that those who are in the Labour movement in Australia to-day have sufficient to do in looking after the welfare of their own people. The conditions, working and living, in Australia are better than in any other country in the world.
– It is time they were revised.
– That may be so; but action of this kind will not get us anywhere. I am conversant with Australian conditions and have always supported measures in the interests of Australian workmen. If, by reason of their glib tongues, a few extremists gain access to a union or to Parliament, they do not usually last long, because of their lack of balance. By the way, the opprobrious term “red ragger “ that is so freely used to-day is probably no worse, relatively, than the old term “ agitator “ was a few years ago. Why should excellent citizens, who represent the majority of unionists, be victimized and their organization destroyed because of the clap-trap of a few of the irresponsible individuals? The reason appears to be that the Government is anxious to protect the “ loyalists “ of 1917. There has been too much political dabbling in union affairs. A Nationalist government assumes office, and panders to the desires of the loyalists of 1917. A Labour government follows and sets out to protect the interests of those who were loyal to the unionists at that time.
– And to persecute the others.
– What the honorable senator terms persecution is indulged in by both sides. It is improper for the Government to determine that a certain organization shall be declared an unlawful association, and shall be disbanded. The matter should be left to the good sense of the members of the association. I recollect the strife that occurred between the Australian Workers Union and the Machine Shearers Union, which resulted in court proceedings and the presentation of a balance-sheet that proved that the squatters had financed the Machine Shearers Union. The squatters selected that organization for their support, because they recognized that it was a more pliable tool than the Australian Workers Union. The very existence of the Australian Workers Union was threatened; it was regarded as a rebellious body, and in order that it might carry on was compelled to adopt rules in compliance with the finding of the Arbitration Court. It has carried on successfully ever since, and represents the highest type of efficient and law-abiding institution.
It was enough for the Government to introduce an amendment to the Crimes Act. To go further and specifically penalize unions because of the action of a few extremists is wrong. This legislation gives the members of such an organization no choice, after being disbanded, except to join up with what is termed a loyalist union. I am confident that if the Australian Railways Union were destroyed by extreme action on the part of the Government, its members would refuse to associate with those who remained loyal to the service in 1917. The position would inevitably result in dissatisfaction and strife, and eventually we should get back to pre-arbitration days, to the days of rebellion, when staunch workers were prepared to bare their backs to the lash in the cause that they believed to be right; when traces were cut, and the red steer let loose. I warn” the Government that we may regress to those unfortunate times if it insists on this kind of legislation, denies to the worker the right to choose his union, and refuses to give him a chance to correct wrongs. If it is the aim of the Government to bring about chaos and industrial trouble in order to cancel awards and withdraw the advantages that have been so hard won, its efforts must fail miserably. On the other hand, the exercise of sweet reasonableness and greater goodwill could achieve much. I have never stood for extremism, but I do believe in freedom of speech - in hearing the other man’s case - for I feel that I am competent to judge for myself. I also believe that members of industrial organizations have an equal right to hear the other man’s case, and to judge for themselves. The sinister talk about glibtongued extremists running away with the reason of others, is so much balderdash. It is only necessary to place the facts before the average Australian worker, and he will unerringly sift right from wrong.
SenatorRAE (New South Wales) [4.40]. - I am opposed to this measure, although not altogether for the reasons advanced by Senator Dooley.
Proposed new section 60a reads -
An association which -
Claims, or has, at any time, whether before or after the commencement of this section, claimed, that it is affiliated or associated, with any body of persons . . .
That is going beyond reasonable limits, and making this legislation retrospective.
I do not share the opinions of Senator Dooley with regard to affiliation with overseas organizations. I contend that any organization, whether purely Labour or otherwise, is not necessarily neglecting its work here by affiliating with bodies in other countries. Such action might add considerably to the strength and importance of the organization. It certainly is the modern tendency.
– It is not an offence under this measure to affiliate with organizations in other parts of the world.
– Not by reason of the fact that those organizations are in other parts of the world. I am dealing, not with what the right honorable senator has in mind, but with an argument advanced by Senator Dooley, who said that we had enough to do to build up and control our own organizations, without affiliating with overseas bodies. Sometimes considerable advantage may be gained by linking up with a kindred association overseas. I cannot see how the affiliation of the Australian Railways Union with the Red International of Labour Unions can in any way endanger the Commonwealth or break down the system under which we live. It is not accurate to describe that body as a Russian organization. It meets in Moscow for the simple reason that no other country will permit it to hold its sessions there. I do not know what warrant Senator Dooley has for assuming that the proposed affiliation of the Australian Railways Union with the Red International of Labour Unions is the work only of officials. Obviously, the fact that the Australian Railways Union proposes to submit the resolution adopted by its State conference at Goulburn to the vote of its members indicates that the matter will be decided by the organization and not its officials. Senator Dooley is so accustomed to his own organization being run by an oligarchy of paid officials that he imagines every other organization is run in the same way.
Whatever case the Government may make out for this reactionary legislation, it cannot support its condemnation of an organization because, in the past, it may have done certain things. How does the honorable senator, or his Government, know that this organization wishes to stand by what it did several years ago ? Why should present-day legislation be given retrospective effect upon any particular organization? Has the
Government the venomous idea of absolutely destroying the Australian Railways Union? This provision will enable that to be done. There are many laws which sound a warning that certain things will happen in certain eventualities. This deliberately attempts to penalize an organization for action that it took before the people, through the Government, raised any objection to it. The point raised by Senator Dooley - that, so far, it has been perfectly legal and proper for the Australian Railways Union or any other organization to affiliate with the body mentioned, surely furnishes an adequate reason why it should not now be punished for that action! What argument can the honorable senator advance in justification of visiting punishment upon an organization for having done what was perfectly legal? I am astonished that even those who supported the reactionary legislation that was recently enacted by this Parliament, should be so manifestly unjust as to agree to this particular provision. Apparently, the sole object of the bill is to penalize all the unions that are affiliated with other organizations with whose political opinions the Government does not agree. Can it be said that, since the Australian Railways Union became affiliated with this overseas organization, it has in any way advocated or attempted the breaking of the laws enacted by this Parliament; that it has advocated or promoted violence in this country; that, through its official journal, or by means of instructions to its members, it has advocated or done anything of an illegal nature? I am not so familiar with the workings of this body as to be able to say positively that it has not advocated or done anything illegal; but, so far, it has not been so charged, and consequently it presumably is a’ law-abiding organization. This Government seems determined to go out of its way to render ineffective any militant organization that i3 not prepared meekly to submit to anything that the tory element decrees.
The proposals in regard to unions that were mentioned by Senator Dooley have been referred to by way of interjection by Senator Greene. That honorable gentleman disputed the assertion of persecution. I say definitely, from a knowledge of the workings of the New South Wales railways, that all that successive Labour governments have done is to restore the seniority rights of those who were victimized for having taken part in the strike of 1917. No Labour government has attempted to persecute any one. At the time of the 1917 upheaval, many old and trusted railway servants were discharged, while others were reduced in rank, and replaced in a number of cases by men who were not competent to fill their positions, their only qualification being that they had remained “ loyal “ to the Railway Commissioners. Persecution was visited upon “ dinkum “ unionists. The commissioners deliberately went to work to assist in building up “ scab “ organizations. It is those organizations that the present legislation is designed to build up again, contrary to the opinions and the principles of the majority of the workers of this country.
Whatever arbitration, may have done in the past - and I contend that it has not obtained for the workers half as much as they could have obtained without it had they stuck to their guns - all that it is doing now is to take away the few concessions that were extorted in the past from employers, partly by direct action and partly by legal means. It is degrading those whom it formerly professed a wish to serve. Every obstacle -is being placed in the way of unions functioning as such, and every possible incentive is being offered to men to desert their legitimate organizations and to join the miserable “ scab “ outfits that the commissioners instituted with a view to beating down the conditions which the former, after much agitation over a long period of years, succeeded in winning.
– The statement that the Government is doing all these things is a most extravagant one.
– I do not think so. Because of an inability to express myself more forcefully, I err on the side of moderation. Had I a sufficiently wide vocabulary, I should be able to express in very much stronger terms my opinion of this Government, and particularly this branch of the legislature, for doing everything possible to break down the position of the working class of this country. One of the methods employed is to stab unionism in the back, and to use arbitration as an instrument for depriving the workers of the few concessions which, in more prosperous times, they wrung from the employing class. Reactionary as moat of the legislation is that we have dealt with during the last session or two, it offers no excuse for this descent to such depths of persecution.
– Is it not a fac that the honorable senator “ scabbed “ on the Australian Workers Union?
– I point out to the honorable senator who has interjected, th-t what Senator Rae may or may not have done has nothing to do with the question.
– I have no wish to shirk a reply to the interjection.
– The honorable senator would be out of order if he replied to it.
– I bow to your ruling, sir. But it would be grossly unfair if 1 were prevented from removing the stigma that has been attached to me by the honorable senator. I say that, no matter who it was who told the honorable senator, it is an absolute Iia.
– The honorable senator must be more particular in his choice of language. I suggest that a more fitting term would be “inaccurate”.
– It is worse than that. I am inclined to the belief that our Standing Orders are unduly restrictive of the use of plain language for the expression of plain facts. I am sorry that we are not permitted to use the vigorous language of the days of Shakespeare. That would much better suit my ideas than does the convention of concealing our thoughts in prim language instead of giving expression to them. If honorable senators believe that by this type of legislation, of which we have had a surfeit lately, they can repress the progress of the working class; if they consider that they can kill ideas by making it illegal to express them; if they are of the opinion that they can ward off changes that, in my opinion, are inevittable, by persecuting those who, with greater foresight, realize the necessity for making them they are mistaken ; whatever their motives the effect will be the same. This repressive legislation must inevitably lead to outrage. It will make that discontent which now, to a limited extent, can find expression, seethe, and burst its bonds through being unfairly and unjustly repressed. To imagine that communism can be wiped out by making it an offence to belong to an organization which is affiliated with the Red International of Labour Unions is absurd. Honorable senators might just as well try the time-honoured expedient of King Canute, who endeavoured to sweep back the waves of the Atlantic. This legislation will, to some extent, create chaos, it will increase the discontent which is seething in this, as in every other, country of the world, mainly because of the economic conditions in which the people find themselves. What we believed before the war was to be steady progress, hat now become entirely changed. Destitution and poverty exist side by side with an abundance of the good things of life. There must be upheavals unless these conditions are altered. Instead of doing anything towards applying a remedy, repressive legislation only serves to intensify the causes of the existing evils, and affords an incentive to those who are prevented from- using legal means to voice their needs. I protest against legislation of this character. I believe that, in opposing, it, I am acting in the best interests of this country, and that those who are supporting it are actuated only by a desire to hamstring unionism, to make it a dumb and humble dog to obey their wishes, instead of operating to benefit the class which has built it up. I warn those who are so blindly endeavouring, by repressive legislation, to wipe out others whose opinions and aspirations differ from theirs, that they will find ere long that they are making a serious blunder - that by using a mere majority in Parliament to carry through legislation of this character without proper discussion, they will aggravate the very evils which they are trying to avoid.
– I do not propose to beat the wind in dealing with this bill. It is just another gesture on the part of a brutal majority, and is particularly aimed at the Australian Railways Union, which it is proposed to deregister because it is affiliated with an overseas body. Surely Senator Pearce recollects the day when he was an active member of the Amalgamated Carpenters Union, when it was affiliated with the Second International, a militant organization, whose headquarters were in Paris. Among its leaders was Jean Jaures, who was assassinated in 1914 on the eve of the outbreak of war. Another of its leaders was Leibknecht, of Germany, another great militant. At that time the right honorable senator was a member of the Fisher Labour Government. To-day, by legal pin-pricks, he is endeavouring to have the Australian Railways Union deregistered. As time goes on, men’s views, like wine, become mellowed. But the right honorable gentleman cannot think that he or his fellows on the treasurybench can put back the clock of Australian trade unionism. If the Australian Railways Union can be deregistered because of its alleged affiliation with an organization in Russia, why should not a Labour government, courageous enough to do so, bring about the deregistration under the company law of any of our commercial firms trading with Soviet Russia? What an outcry there would be if, say, Dalgety and Company, the great agents for Australian grain and wool-growers, were deprived of the rights enjoyed by them by registration under our company law! During the regime of the Bruce-Page Government, Russia bought wool from Australia to the extent of £2,000,000, yet nothing was said against it; and I understand that the Soviet Government is now about to purchase 350,000 bushels of Australian wheat. A trade is likely to develop between Australia and Russia. Yet there is no suggestion that any of the commercial firms engaged in trading transactions with Russia should be deregistered.
I have studied the provisions of this bill. I find in them no proposal to extend preference to unionists. Hansard shows that the Labour governments of which Senator Pearce was a member included in their arbitration law, designed to establish peace and goodwill in industry, a provision extending preference to unionists. When, by chance, we encounter our political opponents at election time, we hear them pleading for peace and goodwill between capital and labour. Yet in this bill they are, so to speak, throwing a spanner into the works of the trade union movement of this country. The Government is, in this measure, constructing a constitutional cage, and apparently the Acting Attorney-General (Senator McLachlan) expects that, by holding out his index finger, the dove of peace will alight upon it and be persuaded to enter the cage. Knowing the trade union movement as I do in all the States, I am sure that the Minister will be much disappointed, because it is not at all probable that industrial organizations will accept these proposals meekly. In 1917 the workers in New South Wales went on strike for a definite purpose, and they should not be penalized indefinitely. Practically all grades of society, including the medical and the legal professions, have their organizations. It would not be wide of the mark to say that the members , of those professions are banded together in the most rigid form of organization it would be possible to conceive. If any member of the British Medical Association, which is really an organization of medical workers, acts in defiance of its recognized rules, he is immediately disciplined.
The executives of industrial organizations are elected at their annual conferences, and are rightly regarded as the custodians of the rights and privileges of the particular bodies which they represent. Recently there was a conference at Goulburn, representing approximately 30,000 members of the Australian. Railways Union. The election of the executive at these conferences is on the card system. Because of certain action taken by the council of the Australian Railways Union, the Government proposes to sabotage that organization. Clause 5 contains a provision that the Railway Service Association, the Government Tramways Electrical Branch Workers Association, and the Government Railway Transport Staff Association of New South Wales shall be deemed to be registered organizations for a period of six months from, the commencement of this measure. It will be noted that the whole of the references are to the State of New South “Wales. There is no mention in the bill of anyother ‘State, so it is clear that the Government contemplates, in the event of an emergency rendering necessary, possibly, the calling out of the military and naval forces, being able to deal with strikes or other troubles by utilizing the services of members of the associations named. The psychology of the industrial movement has changed materially since the time when the right honorable the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) was a prominent member of it. Then it was believed that arbitration would be a useful buffer between the organized forces of capital and labour, and that the decisions of such a tribunal would meet the needs of the time. But since political thought is progressive, necessarily trade unions are advancing with the times. Latterly, the arbitration system has been prostituted to serve the ends of interested parties, and so many of its decisions have caused friction in industry and losses in real wages to the workers, that some more effective method for the solution of our industrial troubles is required. Frequently an award of the Arbitration Court is submitted to the High Court for interpretation, and sometimes it even goes on to the Privy Council.
This legislation will not meet the position that confronts us to-day, because, if anything, it is a direct challenge to the trade union movement in Australia, and particularly in New South Wales. If the Government and its supporters were honest they would admit that ifr has been drafted to meet difficulties arising out of the action of the ex-Premier of New South Wales, who believes in unification, particularly in relation to our railway services. That is the right view. I happen to be a member of the Federated Engine Drivers Union, which includes engine drivers and firemen on the coalfields. At various times there is sharp conflict between the different sections of mine workers-, but no ono can doubt that engine drivers and firemen should belong ro the miners’ organization, because their activities are allied. The same may be said of all railway workers, but Mr.
Fletcher, representing the organizations named in clause 5, rushed post haste to Canberra to interview the Prime Minister, and state their claims to be regarded as separate associations. Why did not the Prime Minister take the stand that, as the grievances of railway workers of New South Wales were purely a State matter, the Commonwealth would not intervene, and thus become involved in an industrial war with the Government of New South Wales. But so far from doing that, the Government welcomed the representations made on behalf of those organizations, believing, possibly, that their continuance as separate entities would split the Australian RailwaysUnion, and that they would be the nucleus of a railway organization within the State department to carry on the transport and other services as well as act as volunteers to collect New South Wales revenue that would be attached under our financial enforcement legislation. The _Leader of the Senate did not mention that the Government contemplated utilizing the services of these men in the way indicated, but, obviously, that is the quid pro quo for their registration under this bill as separate organizations. I know that we shall be defeated in our opposition to this bill, because the Government will use its majority to do so. But I appeal to the Leader of the Government (Senator Pearce), as one who helped to build up the trade union movement, not to do anything now to destroy it. While not desiring to issue any threat, I remind him that Labour governments have been in office in the Commonwealth before, and that they will be there again. The passing of this legislation, and the injury that it will do to the trade union movement, may cause a future Labour government to adopt retaliatory measures.
Sitting suspended from 5.85 to 8 p.m.
– I have a number of objections to offer to this bill, but as I understand that it is the desire of the Government to proceed with other business, I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later hour.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Debate resumed from page 1089.
.- I thank the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Pearce) for having given me an opportunity to peruse this measure before resuming the debate. I have studied its provisions, and as they are to afford reasonable protection to those engaged in insurance business I shall not offer any opposition to its passage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining . stages without amendment or debate.
– I have carefully studied this measure and am at a loss to understand why it has been introduced. That there is urgent need for improvement in the conciliation and arbitration machinery of the Commonwealth in order to make it more effective from the standpoint of the employee, employers, and the public generally, cannot be denied. If this were a comprehensive measure to remove some of the disabilities existing under our present legislation, I should strongly support it, but since I have failed to find in it any attempt to improve the existing industrial law, I shall strongly oppose it. It has been drafted to achieve two objects. In the first place it provides for the deregistration of industrial organizations which affiliate with revolutionary organization overseas. It also proposes to give legal countenance to organizations which are not representative of industrial unionism in this country. Its main object is to protect those who weaken in times of industrial stress and leave their mates at the mercy of the employing class. Industrially we have accomplished more in this country than has been achieved in any other part of the world. For that reason I see. no virtue in Australian unions seeking advice or assistance from organizations outside Australia, particularly when the Australian workers and their leaders have set an example to the rest of the world. Why should we attach a fifth wheel to the industrial coach in order to deal with some mythical organizations which may or may not depart from the traditional policy of Australian industrial unionism, and which accept a policy drafted by organizations in some other part of the world? I do not believe that any important section of Australian unionists will be so misguided as to depart from a system which has been so successful. Even if they should do so, this Parliament possesses ample power under the Crimes Act and similar legislation to deal with them. Under this measure it is provided that organizations guilty of disloyal acts shall be deregistered, while under the Crimes Act provision is made for organizations so deregistered to be declared unlawful associations. As it is impossible for an unlawful association to be registered under the law of the Commonwealth, and the Conciliation and Arbitration Court is constituted under that law, I see no reason for this measure. We have succeeded to a considerable extent in paving the way to the settlement of industrial disputes in Australia by placing the responsibility upon organizations of employees and employers. If they accept that responsibility we are prepared to confer certain rights upon them without undue legislative interference in so far as industrial domestic matters are concerned. The Government has never informed bodies of employers how they are to be constituted, nor has it directed them with respect to matters of internal policy. Until recently organizations or employees and employers have enjoyed a good deal of freedom. But recently there has developed in this Parliament a tendency to lay down rules and conditions for the guidance of organizations of workers. That tendency, in my opinion, has been responsible for a good deal of the evil that undoubtedly exists to-day. It has been productive of considerable dissatisfaction, and has been responsible for some at least of the industrial turmoil that has been -witnessed in Australia within recent years. The responsibility for that rests upon the Government, and upon honorable senators who support it, because it has been caused by amendments to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act that they in previous Parliaments sponsored. But despite that, there is one thing that until now we have not sought to do: that is, to seek parliamentary approval of an organization in relation to its registration. It is provided under section 59 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act that the Registrar may accept applications for registration from organizations of employees in an industry; and, upon such applications being granted, protection is afforded to those organizations, insofar that other organizations are prevented from organizing the employees in that particular industry, and registering separately. But by this bill, because of something that has taken place within recent years in New South Wales, it is proposed to depart from that practice and to give parliamentary approval to certain organizations in that State. The intention is to take away from the Registrar, who should be and who, I believe, is an unbiased person, the right to determine what organization shall be registered, and, as a law-making machine, to say that registration shall be accorded to certain organizations for six months pending the consideration of their applications by the Registrar. That introduces into our conciliation and arbitration machinery a most disturbing feature, which is capable of many interpretations, all of which, if acted upon by the government of the day, possess great possibilities for evil. If it be right for us to take out of the hands of the court, through the Registrar, the power to say who shall be registered as an industrial organization, it is equally right for us to invade other prerogatives of the court; for example, to say what shall be the basic wage, standard hours, margins of difference, and many other things which to-day are determined, not by the legislature, but by the- court, which has been constituted under a law passed by the legislature. I protest most vehemently against this departure from British industrial jurisprudence.
I have on former occasions voiced my protest against the sacrifice of the first principle of British justice, which places the onus of proof upon the accuser and not upon the defendant. I find that under this bill the accuser will not be called upon to prove that an organization is guilty of acts that render it liable to its punitive provisions, but that the defendant organization will have to establish its innocence. I hope that, when the time comes to consider these obnoxious clauses in committee, the amendments that I am sure will be moved by my leader will have the support of those honorable senators who in the past have so jealously championed the purity of the English language and the inviolability of British jurisprudence.
Looking through the records I find that, from 1921 until the present time, many amendments have been inserted in our conciliation, and arbitration machinery by the party which constitutes the present Government. All of those amendments were designed to restrict the rights of the workers under this law; there are no instances of restrictions having been placed on the rights of the employing class. When the workers read in the press and in published reports from time to time, of what transpires at meetings of the Chambers of Commerce, the Chambers of Manufactures, the Employers’ Federation, and other organizations representing employing classes, that arbitration should be swept aside, and that the legal fixation of wages, hours, and conditions of employment should be abandoned ; and knowing, as they do, that at election time, these organizations without exception give whole-hearted support to honorable senators who follow the present Government, and, through their internal organization, claim a voice in the moulding of the policy to which the Government is called upon to give effect if returned to power, can one wonder that they view with some suspicion the numerous amendments of the conciliation and’ arbitration law that are designed to effect prejudicially their interests? If the Government had recognized the urgent need of improving our industrial law, and had brought down a comprehensive measure, I should not have spoken as I have done to-night.
Honorable senators opposite cannot deny that there is that urgent need.
It is necessary to refer to only one point that has been brought very prominently under, the notice of the Australian public during the present week; that is, the antisweating provisions of the arbitration law. The original act makes some attempt to prevent employers from inflicting on their employees the condition known as sweating. That is a term which is applied in industry to employers who compel their employees to accept conditions that are inhuman in comparison with general standards.
– I point out to the honorable senator that the bill deals with only three or four sections of the act.
– I was endeavouring to connect my remarks with the bill and to show that, had the Government brought down a comprehensive amendment of the act, I might not have opposed this measure. I was about to suggest an amendment that shrieks for enactment by this Parliament. The point to which I refer was brought prominently under the notice of the Australian public by Judge Drake-Brockman, of the Arbitration Court bench, in the judgment that he gave in the clothing trade case, as reported in the Melbourne Herald of the 17th inst. The learned judge is reported to have said -
He agreed with the employers!* view that his order would do little to prevent “sweating”; but it was the only power he had.
The report further states -
At the outset, Mr. Carter said he wished to draw the attention of the legislature to the unsatisfactory state of the law with regard to checking “ sweating.”
Mr. Derham (For the employers): Unsatisfactory or otherwise?
Judge Drake-Brockman. - I think it is very Unsatisfactory, and I have no hesitation in saying so.
Had there been in this bill a clause to tighten up those provisions of the original act, I might have been constrained to withdraw some at least of my opposition to the obnoxious provisions to which I have referred. The learned judge went on to say -
I think it my duty to draw the attention of Parliament to what I consider the unsatisfactory state of the law. 1 have said it before, but I mention it again in case Parliament has failed to notice my comments.
When the Government was considering t.hi3 bill, it ought to have taken into account the suggestion of this learned gentleman, especially as he had previously brought the matter under the notice of Parliament.
– It was this judge who wanted to extend an award so as to apply it to non-unionists.
– That is not relevant to the point that I have raised, nor to the bill itself. I assume that my honorable and learned friend was associated with the drafting of this measure. Had he taken this point into consideration, and incorporated a provision to deal with it, I might have been inclined to regard the measure less critically.
There is another very obnoxious principle, and that is contained in the proposal to give retrospective application to this legislation. I do not profess to have studied very deeply the law of other countries on this subject; but I believe that it has always been the practice of British Parliaments to make legislation retrospective only in case of the direst necessity. This bill, however, contains very drastic punitive provisions, and if it is passed in its present form those provisions will apply to organizations, which up to the present, have been operating entirely within the law. People may be punished for something which at the time it was done was entirely within the law. There is no need to establish this most dangerous precedent. It should not be countenanced, and in committee I shall do my utmost to remove these most obnoxious provisions from the bill. Generally, I regard the bill as either unnecessary or bad ; unnecessary because some of its provisions ave already amply covered by other legislation, and bad because it seeks to open up new spheres of activity hitherto untouched in our conciliation and arbitration law. It fails to take cognizance of the need expressed by both- employers and employees for a better law which could have been secured if honorable senators opposite had taken the step which was taken by the late Government, and brought in a comprehensive bill.
– In extolling the great work done by Australia in the field of industrial legislation, Senator O’Halloran, who has just resumed his seat, has said that no one can question the urgent need for improving our arbitration laws. It is a remarkable commentary upon that remark that although our arbitration law has been in existence since 1904 it has been patched almost every year since then, sometimes in detail, sometimes in general principles.
– I extolled industrial systems, and not industrial laws.
– We are, I understand, discussing industrial law, and particularly the amendment of a measure which has been patched almost every year since 1904, the last and most radical of all amendments being that which was introduced by the party to which the honorable senator belongs. I say that by way of dissociating myself from some of the remarks ‘of the honorable senator with regard to the advantages of arbitration. I am one of those who believe that the Arbitration Court is, as it was once described, the industrial storm centre of Australia. I have never been able to understand why at a time when all persons are equal before the law, we in this Parliament should feel that we are under some special obligation to protect one class and prevent the free operation of the forces of the other side, apparently upon the assumption that one side is wholly wicked, and the other is wholly good.
Having said that by way of dissenting from the observations of Senator O’Halloran, I have to admit that I find myself in agreement with some of the criticisms he has directed at the details of this bill. There is only one main principle in the measure, and that is in clause 3. It is a very far-reaching proposal and, for that reason, I cannot accept it. I do not object to that part which refuses registration to organizations which are affiliated or associated with other organizations that advocate the overthrow of established government either in or out of the Commonwealth. Our attitude towards these people should be : “ You cannot have it both ways. You may take advantage of the law that the people of Australia have framed - with such poor results, it seems to me - for the settlement of industrial disputes, or, if you like, you may take whatever benefits you can get by affiliation with organizations that advocate the overthrow of an established government, but if you prefer the latter course you cannot gain the protection of our arbitration act.” It is the second part of the provision which is the more important, because I do not suppose that we shall see many new applications for registration. Already the Commonwealth is so completely industrialized and organized that almost every industrial body of any size anxious to be registered under the arbitration act has already been so registered. The second part of the clause, which provides for the de-registration of an organization, goes too far, and if it should become law would act unjustly towards a section of the people which I am sure no member of this Parliament would desire to see penalized. It is, as Senator O’Halloran and others have said, retrospective legislation. The British people have always looked askance upon such legislation, and it can be truly said that in criminal, quasi-criminal, or highly penal statutes resort is never had to retrospective legislation. As Senator Rae has pointed out, supposing an organization happens to be in gome way affiliated with a forbidden association, the simple fact remains that, whether it is or is not morally, socially, or industrially wrong for it so to affiliate, it is not prohibited from doing so by any law of our country except, perhaps, the provisions we inserted in the Crimes Act yesterday. Under this bill, should it become law, it becomes wrong to do so, and the organization is to be called upon to show cause why it should not be de-registered, because of something which it has done in the past. If the rank and file of such an organization knew the extraordinarily severe penal consequences that were to ensue upon any form of affiliation with a foreign organization they would possibly have been much more active in bringing their executive officers to book or in disowning what had been done. But as I pointed out last night in another connexion, the ordinary worker going about his daily task is not concerned in summoning a meeting of the rank and file to undo something which the executive of his union has done. The same provision in the bill contains the words “ claims to be affiliated “ and “ purports to be affiliated.” How does an organization claim or purport to be affiliated? Is the mere fact that its secretary, possibly without any authority to do so, claims that the organization is affiliated with some other to be taken as implying that the organization purports to be affiliated? And because of that action on the part of the paid officer of the union, or possibly the committee of the union, are thousands of men, totally ignorant of the practical effect of this supposed affiliation, to be deprived for a period of three years of what they regard as the benefits of arbitration? Surely that is imposing upon them a penalty out of all proportion to anything in the nature of wrong-doing they may have done.
Another great departure from the spirit of British law, which Senator O’Halloran has quite rightly pointed out, is the fact that the onus of disproof is to be thrust on an organization. As the honorable member has said, a principle of our law is that every man is presumed to be innocent until he is found to be guilty. Surely in this chamber, it is not necessary to point out what standing the English system of law has thoughout the civilized world, particularly when contrasted with the American and French systems, more particularly with the latter, which departs so much from the sound principle that no man is to be compelled to incriminate himself. If a man has broken the law, the law itself should be strong enough to gather the necessary evidence upon which to punish him. There have been departures in British law from the foundation principle that a man is presumed to be innocent until he is found to be guilty, but only in certain fairly well defined cases, notably in connexion with breaches of the revenue laws - in cases where the means of disproving the allegation lie in the hands of the person accused, and not in those of any other person. Let us consider the case of a licensed victualler charged with an offence against the law. In Victoria it is necessary to prove that he is the licensee, and the law provides that the mere averment in the information that he is the licensee is sufficient. If he is not the licensee it is quite easy for him to disprove the claim, because the name of the licensee is on record.
– The law goes further than that, in my own State at all events.
– There may be cases of the nature suggested by the Minister because, although the licensing law is not a highly criminal law, it is a branch of the law in which legislatures have been at some pains to put down such offences as illicit trading. Another class of case which I could mention is that of a man found in possession of goods suspected to have been stolen. The onus is on him to show how he got the goods. No injustice is done to him by requiring him to prove his right of possession. But how is a man to prove that the organization to which he belongs does not “ purport “ to be affiliated with some unlawful association outside Australia? The individual member of the rank and file is hurt by this enactment; but what is his remedy? 1 do not see how it is possible for any organization to do otherwise than say “ We do not belong to “ or “ we are not affiliated with,” the association to which objection may be taken, and there it must end. I see no difficulty in asking those who affirm that an organization is affiliated with some outside body that may be advocating the overthrow by force of established forms of government to prove the charge..
The objection which I have to this proposed new section is that it throws the onus of proof on the organization, and this, I repeat, is a departure from a well-established principle of British justice. I might not be disposed to question it if it were an isolated case> but I regret to say that this Parliament shows a tendency to make the path easier for officialdom, for those who lay the charge, by basing our laws upon the assumption”- that the end in view is to make it easy to catch the guilty man. That may be very desirable, but the main thing which we should have in view is to see that we do not catch the innocent man. This is why our English law has been so very strict upon those principles, to which I have adverted. We had, yesterday, a case in which the mere averment - the statement in the summons that so and so is a fact - is to be regarded as proof. Unfortunately that is not an isolated instance of our tendency in law-making. Many such instances may be found in other laws passed by this Parliament. I strongly object to the extension of this principle. This Parliament is based on the broadest franchise in the world, because every adult man and woman has a voice in the election of its members. I, therefore, submit to the Attorney-General that, as the representative of the legal world, including the judiciary, in this chamber, he should be very careful to see that this highly democratic Parliament does not get a reputation for passing Draconian laws, and laws which subvert the ordinary principles of proof are, I submit, Draconian laws.
I shall have something further to say on this point when the measure is in com- .mittee. In the meantime I enter my protest against the two features in the bill to which I have alluded. I do not think they are necessary even to attain the end which the Government has in view. I feel in a somewhat awkward position in thus being obliged to criticize the Government when I know that the end it seeks to attain is a desirable one. I dissociate myself from the view of Senator O’Halloran upon this point, because I am certain that, in introducing this measure, the Government is not actuated by anything but the highest motives, and a desire to do what it can to keep the industrial movement of Australia upon a plane that is worthy of the traditions of the race from which we have sprung, and will get as far away as possible from that newest exemplar of some honorable gentle- man who sit on the opposite benches in this chamber.
– I view this bill from an entirely different angle to that taken by the honorable senator who has just resumed his seat (Senator Brennan). I regard it with great suspicion, based on the knowledge that so much of the legislation that has been passed in this House recently has been aimed deliberately at the people of New South Wales, and I fear that this bill will have a serious affect upon the working classes in that State. It is a deliberate intervention by the Commonwealth Government in the harmonious relations existing in the industrial movement of New South Wales. I take this opportunity to remind honorable senators that the industrial upheaval in. 1917, which probably was the greatest in the history of Australia, was the outcome of intervention by the Fuller Government. The particular organization which will be affected by this legislation has been functioning satisfactorily for the last fifteen years, and its membership to-day numbers 50,000. Because of its supposed affiliation with some body outside Australia, it is to be deregistered, if this measure passes in its present form.
The principle of trade unionism is very dear to me, and I speak with some feeling on this subject, because I have paid the penalty for the part which I played in certain industrial disputes many years ago. I may add that I am prepared to do so again if I believe that the course being taken is the right one, and in the interests of the people I represent. It’ is unfortunate that the Minister in charge of the bill (Senator McLachlan) has not had practical experience in the industrial movement of Australia. The Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) was, at one time, actively associated with it, and owes it much, because it really lifted him into the public life of this country. But, I regret to say, he appears to have forgotten his old associations.
I have been connected with the New South Wales railway employees in their organization for the’ last twenty years, so I have some knowledge of their ideals. I have no hesitation in saying that, if the Go- vernment, by the passage of this iniquitous legislation, throws down the gauntlet to them, the challenge will be accepted. It is one of the best conducted organizations in New South Wales, if not in Australia. Notwithstanding what has been said against it, I can say quite confidently that I have no knowledge of the intrusion of the red element into its membership. I urge the Minister to heed the remarks of Senator Brennan, whose knowledge of the legal complexities of this legislation is profound, though, from the point of view of its economic effect on the organization concerned, probably I can speak with as much authority as any member of this chamber. I hope that the Government will realize the difficult position in which the men will be placed. They will be penalized, not for any act’ of their own, but because some official of the organization to which they belong has advocated something in which some one sees a streak of red. Before any action is taken, there should be a plebiscite of the members of the organization.
– Does the honorable member advocate a secret ballot?
– If a secret ballot were taken, I should be prepared to allow the Minister to conduct it, so great is my faith in him. This legislation is a blow at trade unionism. It is aimed particularly at the Australian Railways Union, but it may not stop at that organization. I do not agree with the previous speaker that the Government is actuated by the best of intentions in introducing this measure.
– Its intentions are bad.
– I do not think that the Minister in charge of the bill (Senator McLachlan) ever has a bad intention; he does not know the difference between a bad intention and a good one. At the end of 1929, the unionists in Australia numbered 901,168, there being 774,031 males and 127,137 females. The total estimated number of employees in all professions, trades, and occupations at that time, including unemployed workers, was 1,988,900. It will be seen, therefore, that the unionists comprised. 45.3 per cent. of the total number. I shall be surprised if the railway men of New
South Wales take this legislation lying down. Rather do I expect them to fight to retain the liberty which our arbitration laws have conferred on them. It may not be long before the Government will apply this legislation to the Tramways Union with which I was actively associated for 22 years. I assure the Minister that the “ red “ element has left the Tramway Union; as honorable senators can see, I am naturally red !
Speaking to another bill recently, 1 advocated a policy of conciliation. I am pleased to think that, as a result of conciliation between the Governor-General and the Governor of New South Wales, there are to be no more amendments of the Financial Agreements Enforcement Act. But this bill will have a more farreaching effect on the workers of New South Wales as a whole than will the various enforcement acts. I appeal to the Minister to accept the suggestion of the honorable senator who preceded me. A good deal is said about the men who are termed “ loyalists “ adhering to their principles; but when members of the Australian Railways Union stand by the principles underlying their organization, fault is found with them.
– How about the men who stood up for their country?
– Sixty thousand Australians died for their country, and of those who enlisted in New South Wales 37 per cent. were financial members of the Australian Workers Union who were kept financial on the books “of the union by their mates.
Some time ago, it was stated in evidence in a court in Sydney that if a sick person is attended by a doctor who is not a member of the British Medical Association no member of the organization will attend him afterwards. So far as the members of the association are concerned, a man can die if he engages some one outside their organization. I take off my hat to the members of the British Medical Association who honour their constitution to the letter, and I express the hope that the time is not far distant when the workers of this country will be organized along the same lines, for only then will they make their organization the power it should be in the community. When they reach the standard set by the British Medical Association they will be held in higher esteem by the community generally than is now the case.
The Conciliation and Arbitration Act of 1904 was enacted with the object of bringing about conciliation in industrial disputes which extended beyond the limits of any one State. The law was welcomed by the trade unionists of Australia generally. No union in Australia has been more loyal to the arbitration law than has the Australian Railways Union. I know something of the effects of industrial upheavals, and I do not wish to see those effects repeated in this country. Rather would I use every effort to encourage amicable relations between employer and employee. Not until it i3 needed to save the workers of Australia will I approve of this amendment of our arbitration law. Legislation of this kind must inevitably cause trouble. The days of the starvation strike have passed. Men realize that there are more scientific methods of achieving results than hunger striking, but I hope that those methods will not be put to the test. The sooner the Government realizes that it is driving the workers of Australia into a state of turmoil the better. If an organization chooses to link itself with some other body, either inside or outside Australia, for the betterment of the workers, we should not interfere unless it is proved that its affiliation is detrimental to the workers. It is time then for the Government to step in; but, in any case, the onus of proof should be thrown on the Government, not on the organization.
I trust that when the measure is in committee honorable senators opposite will assist those on this side of the chamber to amend some of its most objectionable features, which, if passed into law, would have a more disastrous effect upon New South Wales than some of the iniquitous provisions of the Financial Agreements Enforcement Acts. I trust that wiser counsels will prevail that the clauses will be debated free from political bias, and with due consideration to the fundamental principles of trade unionism.
Let us face the position as we see it to-day. For God’s sake do not endeavour to make the working conditions in New South Wales worse than they are at present. Are honorable senators aware that there are men in that State who get one week’s work in every five, and for which they receive only a pittance? Do they suggest that legislation of this character will be the means of obtaining the best service from those engaged in our transport services? Do they expect railway employees to give of their best when they have to submit to a measure such as this ? The railways of New South Wales are the best asset under governmental control. If this legislation is passed, the sole object of which is to penalize the working class in this country, we shall no longer be able to claim that Australia is a democratic country.
I trust that the Minister in charge of the bill will note what I have said, and that when the measure is in committee he will amend clause 5, which provides for the deregistration of an organization with a membership of 50,000 men, which it has taken fifteen years to bring to its present state of efficiency. The members of the transport services of New South Wales are fine types of Australian manhood. Their services are at the disposal of the public day and night, and the least that this Government can do is to assist them rather than punish them. Apparently, our conciliation and arbitration law is to be amended merely to satisfy the wishes of members of organizations who, during a period of industrial strife in 1917, stood by their masters instead of by the organization to which they had sworn to be loyal. The people who will be penalized have not done anything to deserve treatment such as the Government proposes to mete out to them. Legislation of this character will eventually be the means of causing a serious industrial upheaval. If that should occur, this Government, and not the men, will be responsible. I trust that the Acting Attorney-General (Senator McLachlan) will accept the advice of Senator Brennan. If an amendment is moved on the lines which have been suggested, it will have my hearty support. I am anxious to do all I can to assist those engaged in the railway and tramway services of New South Wales.
– On an occasion such as the present, it is somewhat commonplace to say that it is to be regretted that legislation of this kind has to be introduced; but such action must be taken to protect society from the dangers which threaten it. An individual threatened with bodily harm does not hesitate to set up a defence, and; if possible, to thrust the danger aside. The time to set up a defence has arisen, particularly as we are threatened with such an insidious development in our social and communal life. Unless some action is taken we do not know to what lengths certain revolutionary forces in this country will go; instead of continuing to enjoy the glorious freedom we now possess, we may wake up some fine morning to find it has gone. Something must be done.
I make no apology whatever for the course I intend to pursue. I am not concerned with what may be termed the technical blemishes of the bill. In the first place, it is proposed to call upon certain industrial organizations to show cause why they should not be deregistered. If that should happen some innocent individuals must suffer for the sins of the corporate body with which they are associated. But although innocent persons may suffer we have to protect society from its present dangers. A perusal of British legislation shows that provision is made for action to be taken to protect society whenever danger is threatened, even if the innocent suffer. There are numerous instances on record where innocent persons have suffered as a result of actions of the guilty. What is the position under our company law? An innocent person may be held responsible for the actions of a corporate body of which he is a member. We are not going to allow these mischief-making bodies in Australia to continue along their present course. Apparently there are some who think that they should be able to do so. We are the custodians of liberty, which wo did. not win for ourselves, but which has been handed down to us through the centuries.
Senator Mooney sailed all round the subject, and introduced a few emotional splashes into his speech. He spoke superficially; he did not dive down to the roots. When a railway smash occurs the first duty of an. executive officer is to ascertain who was responsible. If danger is approaching, and there is likely to be a social smash, it is our duty to place responsibility on some individual or authority. I propose to dig deeper than Senator Mooney in an endeavour to discover who is creating social disorder in New South Wales. There are two Labour parties in this chamber, and apparently there is a third party in the electorates. Honorable senators opposite contend that they are entitled to two parties, but in union matters they say that there shall be only one. Surely they do not suggest that the trade union movement should consist of persons supporting only one policy. If the principle is justifiable in the case of political parties, why should it not be equally justifiable in the field of industrial unionism? Would Senator Bae shake hands politically with Senator Dooley, or vice versa, or would both unite” in harmony in one body. Of course not. Each claims a separate existence, and attempts to justify it whenever the. opportunity presents itself. But in the minor sphere of social endeavour they join hands, and say that it is altogether wrong for two bodies of employees to exist in the industrial field. Where is their consistency?
No man is justified in claiming for himself a right that he will not extend to his fellows. These honorable senators are agreeable to the “existence of this body so long as it is kept in a dependent, helpless, low, neglected state, with no friends, and no sympathy. They apply to it every opprobrious term that they can think of, but will not accord to it that freedom which other trade unions enjoy. I repeat, that a political party is of an infinitely higher social value than any trade union can be because its aim is to rule the nation, whereas the responsibility of the trade unions is confined to the discharge of comparatively minor functions.
The members of this union to which exception is taken, are servants of the State of New South Wales, who are employed in its railway and tramway services. Who runs those railways and tramways? Is it a foreign tyrant, a wealthy corporation, or an executive that is amenable to the electors at the polls ? It is claimed that the rights of the members of the big organization must be protected. What about the rights of the vast body of taxpayers who have to pay the piper? The way in which the railways of Australia are run is a standing disgrace. In the last six years, the railway services of Australia have returned deficits amounting to £30,000,000. The responsibility for this bad state of affairs rests largely with the members of this big union. Had the service which they rendered been properly performed, this huge millstone would not have been placed round the neck of this country. The time arrived when a number of the men in the service allowed conscience to prevail, and asserted their independence. They made it plain that - they would no longer submit to union tyranny, and, in a patriotic way, did their utmost to make their views prevail, and do their duty. Because of the action which they then took, it is sought to place on their forehead the brand of Cain, to deny to them any sympathy 4 or consideration, and to treat them as pariahs in a free community. Where is the justice of that ? Is it to be wondered at that when, following the 1917 strike, an appeal was made to the people, they would not tolerate the manifest injustice that was sought to be done to that body of men who were loyal to the nation by the party which backed up the strikers. That party was swept off its feet, and kept out of office for years. The men who went on strike exhibited loyalty only to those whom we were fighting at the time. Our men were hard pressed on the Western Front ; and the incendiarists in Australia were hard pressed on all fronts in their wicked endeavour to bring about all the commotion and disturbance possible, so as to cause the utmost interruption to the transport of- the country. An effort was made to have a general strike declared, so that ships could not be loaded with food ‘for our soldiers. These men were the enemies and not the friends of Australia. The loyalists were those who did their best to maintain essential services, because they took the first and the most effective means to supply the wherewithal to keep in good heart those who were fighting for Australia overseas. Yet they were taunted at every turn.
– I have not heard that the honorable senator enlisted.
– That sneer has no point. My reply is that I risked my life not to take one but to save one, which is probably more- than Senator Rae has done. There were plenty of Raes hanging about when the incident occurred in which I figured, but they made no attempt to do what I did. I have in my possession, as a recognition of that action, the award of the British Royal Humane Society.
This little union that it is sought by honorable senators opposite to place in an inferior position was the only one that stood up for Australia at the time, and it was vindicated subsequently when an appeal was made to the people. The feelings of the people were so outraged, that they rose in rebellion and said, “ We shall not stand this any longer ; out you go, bag and baggage “ ; and every Labour man in the political arena was wiped out. That was the answer of the people to these incendiarists, those enemies within our gates. All our efforts are required to keep them in their proper place. Where they obtain the funds to carry on their nefarious operations, no one knows. Is there- any other country in the world where such a condition of affairs would be tolerated, and no evil befall the perpetrators of these outrages? On the occasion to which I have referred, the wharf labourers in Western Australia would not load the ships for the use of the fighting men, and when asked for their reason replied, “ We are waiting for orders from the East”. Rates of pay and conditions of labour were not the subject of that dispute, which was precipitated notwithstanding the fact that the men on the Western Front so sorely needed the wherewithal to keep that fight going. As soon as the people were given the opportunity, however, they dealt appropriately with this rubbish. But they raised their heads again, and sought to justify the stand that they then took. I suppose that they will have to he wiped out of existence once more.
What would happen to Senator Bae if he were responsible for the holding up of essential services in Russia when that country was at war? It would be the last that would be heard of him and his gang, and he knows it. But in this free Australia; these men are able t’o carry on their treasonable practices, and are given a free hand to rob us if they can of the glorious privileges that I for one prize so highly. If they were in any other country but Australia, they would be made to feel the dire effects of such a disloyal act.
– The honorable senator would like to shoot them.
– No ; but I would put them where they ought to be - in some place where they could do no more harm or mischief for a long time. As I said at the outset of my remarks, if we do not protect ourselves, who will protect u»? It is the duty of society to protect itself. Society was created for that purpose, and an executive which does not see that the rights and privileges enjoyed by society as a whole are protected up to the hilt fails in its duty. Is that ragged remnant which says that all is wrong with society possessed of all the true wisdom, patriotism and unselfishness in the land? Instead of allowing the majority to say what is in their interest, in season and out of season they aim to do their level best to overturn this glorious Constitution of ours, and deprive us of the liberty we enjoy. They link themselves up with associations in distant lands as if Australia’s freedom were not good enough for them. Here men can be as free as they like, as free as any bird in the air; they can even be disloyal to the freest Constitution in the world, and nothing happens. But let them go to Russia, that Eden we hear so much about, and say “ Booh.” to the powers that be ! It will be the last booh that will ever come out of their mouths. The freedom we enjoy in Australia is the last word in liberty. Yet we find a union which is allying itself with a body that is seeking to destroy that liberty, and is in sympathy with men who apply to loyalists the vilest of epithets, complaining that the treatment proposed to- be visited upon them is not sportsmanlike. What nonsense! The electors of Australia have already pronounced their verdict upon that issue. The detractors of the glorious freedom- we enjoy have been pitched on the political rubbish heap, and whenever this element of society shows its ugly head again in this country the same operation will be repeated.
I did not propose to speak at length, but I felt that I should be wanting in my duty unless I spoke, and spoke plainly. Again I appeal to Senator Rae. Society is like a household. It is patterned on the household. It needs a head, and its head is the free and untrammelled choice of the people of this country; every man and woman voting, unimpeded in any way whatever. No honorable senator who is a family man. would allow any member of his family to dispute his authority. The son seeking to usurp, or even challenge, the father’s authority, would be heaved out and would feel the kerbstone meet his skull for the first time. In the last analysis, authority must reside somewhere, and we must join in the effort of heaving out any rebellious citizen who seeks to usurp the place of the Executive or challenge its authority. There can be no flaw in that argument. I hope that the homely illustration I have given will sink into the minds of honorable senators. We must have order. It is heaven’s first law. The reverse, of course - the lack of order - must bc hell’s first law, and that is the State we were closely approaching in New South Wales where this villainous doctrine is so rife. That is the course which every free democracy will take unless it is protected by some such measure as this. Those who have the least smattering of history must know that democracy has no fixed status, and never can have it while there exists in its midst scoundrels of the type so much eulogized in this debate, who are all the time seeking to undo the work of the grand old pioneers in the field of liberty. Such individuals must be shown into their proper places. As Aristotle said, the enemies of democracy are the demagogues. Who are the demagogues ? Men who, by the process of lying, seek to sow the seeds of disorder in a peaceful community, setting one section against the other, as was attempted in a recent strike in Australia, until, in the end, society becomes broken into a thousand pieces, and what was once a happy contented and homely body well ruled becomes a disintegrated body of discontended atoms ready to say, “ Give us anything at all in preference to this.” Were not the people of New South Wales rapidly approaching that state recently? That is the stage at which the dictator steps in with the acclamations of the crowd. Anything is preferable to that state of society .which these incendiaries are trying to set up in Australia. The tyrant’s best friend, then, is the demagogue, and Australia has more demagogues to the square acre than has any other country I know of - men with tongues like bullocks and the brains of sandflies who go about deluding innocent citizens. They have no more power to give us a greater liberty than has a rheumatic mosquito; but they can pull down. Any one can pull down; but it takes some one with brains to build up. Make no mistake, we shall defend our charter of liberty. When that lumbering animal, the average citizen in the mass, finds that his rights’* and liberties are being filched from him, he will rise in his might and pour scorn and confusion over those who attempt to rob him. I warn honorable senators of the Labour party that they are enjoying the greatest freedom ever known in the history of the world, and that the only way they can retain it is by keeping guard in the watch tower, scotching at every turn the mischief-makers who rise as they have recently risen in Sydney.
The purpose of this bill is to proceed in an orderly way. First of all, it gives a fair warning to these people that penalties will follow if they do not stop from their bad habits.
– This bill is doing nothing of the sort. It is actually condemning them.
– It is a warning to them to take stock of their position, and that if they do not behave themselves, they will have to suffer the consequences.
– I do not think that the honorable senator has read the bill.
– It provides for the deregistration of the union that happens to be affiliated with any form of unlawful association.
– Even if it renounces its affiliation to-morrow, it may still be deregistered.
– No governmenwould be so foolish as to punish a union for past sins. If we want to pick holes in a measure there is no limit to our capacity to do so. If any body says that it has done wrong in the past, and retraces its false step, no government will prosecute it.
– But that is what the bill proposes in clause 3.
– There is no intention on the part of this or any other government to punish a man who is acting straightforwardly as a citizen of this country, going about his business as he should, and not trying to rob his fellow men of the liberty they enjoy. If men behave, nothing will be done to punish them; but if they continue their misbehaviour they must be punished.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [9.57]. - All I had intended to say on this bill was said by Senator Brennan so much better thaI I could say it, that I would have been content to vote for the second reading and support the honorable senator in the amendments he has suggested but for the concluding words of Senator Lynch. These compel me to draw his attention to the fact that the bill says, not as I think it ought to say, that an association, which is in itself an unlawful association, or is affiliated with an unlawful association, shall be denied the privilege of the Arbitration Court, but that any association which has ever been affiliated with some organization that may, at some future time, be declared an unlawful association shall be debarred from taking advantage of arbitration under the Arbitration Act.
– Deregistration is limited to a period of three years.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.Even if they are only to be punished for three years, the time is quite sufficient to destroy a union entirely. I say in regard to this bill what I said in regard to the Crimes Bill, that when we are setting up a new class of offence it is only common justice and common sense to say to people, who, in the past, may have been guilty of what is now made an offence, “If you do not stop it, you will be punished, but if you are prepared to stop, that is the end of it.”
I object also to that provision which throws the onus of proof on the defendant, although I know there are certain cases in which this may properly be done. There is a case in point under the Gold Stealing Act of Western Australia. That measure enacts that a person found in the possession of gold must say where he got it. I see no harm in that, although even in that case the provision was not inserted without the gravest consideration. In the present instance, if it is charged that some organization is affiliated with some other body declared to be an unlawful association, the onus is cast upon the organization of proving, as Senator Brennan pointed out to-night, what it is quite impossible to prove.
Apart from these two provisions I shall readily support the bill, although I believe that the imposition of extreme penalties must inevitably defeat its own purpose. I regret very much, particularly at the present juncture, that the Government should have introduced the bill in a form which justifies resentment and bitterness on the part of that section of the community which it ought to be the aim of every person to try to draw away from those forces of disruption and disorder that are doing so much harm in our midst. It is a fatal mistake to place an organization like the Australian Railways Union, which comprises 50,000 members, in danger of deregistration under this bill, because of my own knowledge the Australian Railways Union membership includes some of the very best men in our community. It would be monstrously unjust to deregister them because they have been, perhaps, somewhat lax in not controlling their executive, even though tomorrow, as soon as this law has been passed, they take the extreme step of throwing the executive out of office and appointing. a new executive that will do the right thing.
– The AttorneyGeneral is not bound to take action unless he pleases.
-General, as the Minister responsible for the administration of the law, must see that it is carried out. This bill, when it becomes an act, will provide that organizations that come under the provision of proposed new section 60a shall not.be registered or, .if they are registered, their registration shall be cancelled. I trust that the Acting AttorneyGeneral, with a greater readiness than he has hitherto shown to subject his own opinion to that of others who are entitled to be listened to, will agree to some amendment of the two provisions to which exception has been taken so as to make them less objectionable than they are in their present form.
– I have just been accused of refusing to subject my opinion to those of others, some of whom believe that they are better qualified than any one else to set, not only the legal world, but every other phase of governmental activity in order. - I do not claim such a conceit for myself, nor do I think that it should be charged to me, because I have at all times exhibited a readiness to accept amendments or suggestions if I thought them beneficial and likely to make for the good of the body politic. This bill is an extreme measure to meet extreme cases. One such came under our notice only a few days ago, when we had the spectacle of an attempt to compel members of loyal trades unions in New South Wales to join up with another organization which has declared itself to be affiliated with a red organization. Are we, as decent men charged with the carrying on of the executive government of this country, so craven as to withhold our hand and not apply the remedy? We are not attempting to do anything in a spectacular way. All we are doing is to ask Parliament to give us the necessary authority to go to the aid of those loyal trade unionists whose actions -have shown that we can trust them, and save them from being crushed out of existence by the tyranny that existed in New South Wales during the reign of the Lang Government. That is the underlying principle of this legislation. Let me remind honorable senators that the first provision in the measure is one to give protection to employees against the tyranny that was about to be exercised by the Premier of a State. This measure declares that they shall not be compelled to become members of a union that has associated itself with those damnable doctrines of Moscow about which we have heard so much of late. As to the second provision in the bill, the administration will rest in the hands of the Attorney-General, who will not operate it without some very good reason. As I pointed out in another connexion last night, the difficulties of the present situation are very great indeed. Senator Mooney to-night talked about freedom, and told us that the Australian Railways Union in his State desired complete freedom of action. Freedom to do what? To become affiliated with the red element in Moscow ? The object of this bill is to check any such tendency. We cannot allow the interests of the body ,politic to be jeopardized by those who are so much concerned with doing injury to this country.
– Then the honorable senator admits that this is panic legislation?
– I certainly do not. I have no fear that these demagogues to whom Senator Lynch referred so eloquently a few moments ago, these petty tyrants who for the moment strut the industrial stage in the various States, will succeed in their nefarious designs. I feel sure that the good sense of the Australian people will assert itself, and that, ultimately, these militant tyrants will be annihilated. But while there is danger, decent men who deport themselves in conformity with the laws of this country are entitled to a full measure of protection, and it is the intention of this Government to give it to them. Under the Crimes Act, affiliation in the terms described in this measure, if it can be proved, absolutely makes the association concerned an unlawful association. All that we are now doing is to include a similar provision in the Arbitration Act. Some honorable senators opposite, and some Government supporters appear to have a very tender regard for the wrongdoer. Are we ever going to hear a good word said for the man who conducts himself decently? Are we always going to show solicitude for those gentlemen who flirt with red associations, and who do their best to violate and destroy those tenets by which society is held together ?
– They are the heroes all the time.
-Yes. It would almost seem that we must do nothing to interfere with their freedom, which they abuse by seeking ‘ to undermine our most treasured institutions, and to destroy the nation. I speak feelingly on this matter, because I have some knowledge of the forces at work in Australia seeking to destroy this country.
– The New Guard, for example.
-The New Guard is but a passing phrase. It is the outcome of certain developments in New South Wales. I know nothing about the New Guard, but I do know that sinister forces are at work in this country. If my honorable friends opposite are so innocent that they accept the statement that nothing that has been done by these sinister organizations is detrimental to the welfare of the Commonwealth, all I can say is that I am sorry for them. What is there in the bill to which any decent organization can object? It seeks to apply drastic remedies to cope with a difficult situation. There is not in it any provision to which any honest trade union organization can take exception. It is only those who associate themselves with the red organization who can take objection to any provision in the measure.
– I deny that; it is absolutely untrue.
– The Minister has just made a statement that is absolutely false. The honorable senator said that those who objected to any provision in the bill were identifying themselves with red organizations. As far as I am concerned, that is absolutely untrue, and as it is offensive to me, I ask that it be withdrawn.
– I did not say that. I said that the unions that oppose this bill in its entirety are those who are associated with the “ red “ element. No decent trade union could object to the bill.
– There is evidently a misunderstanding as to what was said. Prom what I heard, I think that the explanation of the Minister is correct. He alluded to unions, not to individuals.
– I understood the Minister to say that any honorable senator who objected to any clause in the bill was associated with the “red” element ; but since he now states that that is not what he said, I withdraw the remark that I made.
– Any union which objects to any of the provisions of this bill must, I submit, be taken to object to it for a sinister reason, because there is nothing in the measure which will hurt any ordinary, well conducted organization. It may be that in some directions the bill goes further than the Senate desires; but that is another matter. The object of the clause* is to enableus to control the registration of unions which are branded “ red.”
-Why deregister them?
– What else can we do? They cannot be allowed to blow hot and cold. An organization which is affiliated with the “ red “ element is beyond the pale of civilization.
– Why not deal with it under the Crimes Act?
– That is already provided for.
– I ask honorable senators not to indulge in conversations and recriminations across the chamber. Such action is distinctly disorderly.
– The Crimes Act already contains a provision making any society which is affiliated with a “ red “ organization an unlawful association. I ask leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted : debate adjourned.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended by an absolute majority of the members of the Senate.
Bill brought up by Senator Greene, and read a first time.
Motion (by Senator McLachlan) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
. When Senator Dunn was speaking this afternoon he accused me of running away to Tasmania in order to avoid having my vote recorded in Hansard on the. Financial Agreements Enforcement Bill. The honorable senator knew that statement to be incorrect when he made it. I have never run away from a vote in my life, and I hope that I shall never do so.I spoke against the second reading of the bill, and my name is recorded in Hansard as having paired against the second reading.
– Some six years ago I moved the following motion in another place : -
That, in the opinion of this House, a British woman should not lose, or be deemed to lose, her nationality by the mere act of marriage with an alien, but that it should be open to her to make a declaration of alienage.
That motion was carried, without a dissentient speech, on the voices. The matter has been raised at Imperial conferences by the Australian Government on, I believe, the last three occasions without any decision having been arrived at, though I believe that every Australian Government during that time has supported it. This matter was dealt with at the Hague Conference of 1930. In the nationality convention there concluded, it was agreed that a woman should not lose her nationality on marriage, unless, by the national law of her husband, she acquired his nationality. It was also agreed that naturalization of the husband during marriage should not change the wife’s nationality without her consent. I have received from the organization which first brought this matter to my notice six years ago, a telegram stating that it is understood that Canada will introduce this question at the Ottawa Conference, and asking me to ascertain the Government’s intentions in the matter. I do not expect the Acting-Leader of the Senate (Senator McLachlan) to give me an answer to-night as to the Government’s policy. I merely ask him to submit it to Cabinet before the Australian delegates leave for Ottawa, so that they may be conversant with the views of the Government - views which I hope will be on the lines I have indicated - and consequently in a position to confer with the representatives of the other Dominions with a view to arriving at uniformity in this matter, which affects a large number of women, not only in the Commonwealth, but throughout the Empire.
– I rise in relation to the personal explanation of Senator Grant. Honorable senators know that I am a hard fighter in politics, neither seeking nor giving sympathy. Senator Grant entered this chamber to take the placerendered vacant by the death of Senator Ogden. At the joint sitting of the two Houses of the Tasmanian Parliament, which selected him to fill the vacant position, there was a desire to have a general discusion on the financial agreements enforcement legislation introduced into this Parliament. The following motion, moved by the Premier, Mr. McPhee, was carried unanimously-: -
That this House views with grave concern the important, far-reaching, and dangerous nature of the Financial Agreements Enforce ment Bill before the Federal Parliament, and is of the opinion that such bill constitutes a serious menace to the federal principles of government, and will place the States in a most lamentable position, if at any time, through causes over which the Parliament of the State has no control, it may be unable to meet its obligations.
Following the carrying of that resolution a Tasmanian newspaper, the Voice. stated -
Now Senators Herbert Hays, J. B. Hayes. Millen, Sampson, Grant, and Payne, this matters a little more than sugar, and Tasmanians will very carefully observe what you do when this fearful enforcement iniquity of Mr. Lyons comes before the Senate. By about June next Mr. McPhee will be no more able to pay his full commitments than Mr. Lang. The recently-selected Senator Grant voted to denounce this enforcement bill. The other five can now choose between Mr. Lyons and Tasmania.
If I put the honorable senator in a false position by the statement I made this afternoon, I withdraw the statement, and ask him to accept my apology.
– I accept the honorable senator’s explanation.
SenatorRAE (New South Wales) [10.29]. - Can the Acting-Leader of the Senate (Senator McLachlan) give us any indication of the length of the forthcoming adjournment?
– I shall ask the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) on his return to-morrow, or, in his absence, I shall endeavour to do so, to inform the Senate of the intention of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) regarding the duration of the recess.
Senator Duncan-Hughes raised an important question when he referred to the nationality of married women. I was not aware that the subject was likely to be discussed at Ottawa; but my attention now having been drawn to the matter, I shall see that it is brought under the notice of the Prime Minister, with a view to consideration by Cabinet, so that instructions may be given to the delegates how to act in the event of the subject coming up for discussion at the conference.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.31 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 19 May 1932, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1932/19320519_senate_13_134/>.