14th Parliament · 2nd Session
The DEPUTY President (Senator Sampson) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Statements in PARLIAMENT : Opinion OR Attorney-General.
– I rise on a matter of privilege and intend to conclude my remarks with a motion. Since the last sitting day something has occurred which, I feel, is of paramount importance to every member of the Senate. Therefore, I ask honorable senators to pay particular attention, in a non-party spirit, to what I shall say. I also ask very earnestly and sincerely for their unanimous support of the motion.
As an outcome of certain happenings, perhaps, in the Senate and also in the House of Representatives. « Cabinet Minister occupying an important position - the Attorney General - on Friday even.ing last issued to the press and to the nation a statement in which he lays down t1 Ls very important dictum -
Where an offensive statement was made, and, upon challenge, waa not withdrawn, no parliamentary privilege should attach either to the making of the statement in Parliament or its publication in the press.
Although that statement was made but a few days ago, it has called forth from all important sections of the Australian press a storm of protest which probably is unprecedented in the history of this country. I invite honorable senators to look back over the pages of history, and consider how dearly has this freedom of Parliament been won. I have a personal knowledge of the political history of the last half century, and I remember very clearly some important phases of the struggle for the freedom of Parliament and the exercise of constitutional methods which have, for so long, been associated with the British Empire, of which Australia is a part. The history of British Parliamentary institutions, which ensures to members the privilege of free speech within the Parliament, is of early origin. It was judicially recognised as far back as 1397 by Henry IV., and because of several conflicts with the Crown it has, on several occasions been confirmed by statute. The first of these, was. the outcome of a prosecution of Mr. Strode, a member of the House of Commons, in thu reign of Henry VIII. That act lays down the right of members of Parliament to freedom of speech. The Bill of Bights reaffirmed this privilege and declared that -
The freedom of speech and debates in Parliament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out. nf Parliament.
The Attorney General of this Government, in his statement to the press during the week-end, goes back over the centuries and proposes to destroy a right which even the people of those times believed to be necessary in the interests of an unfettered Parliament. In the famous case Stockdale v. Mansard, Lord Denman, Chief Justice, said -
Privilege, that is, immunities and safeguards, ure necessary for the protection of the House of Commons in the exercise of its high functions. AH the subjects of the realm have derived, are deriving, and I trust will continue to derive the greatest benefits from the exercise of these functions. All persons ought to he very tender in preserving to the House all privileges which may be necessary for their exercise, and to place the most implicit confidence in their representatives as to the due exercise of those privileges.
Learned writers on constitution matters are careful to note that Parliamentary privilege does not imply complete licence of expression in the House, but they are equally insistent that Parliament itself should bo the sole judge of what is or is not permissible.
– I rise to a point of order. I direct attention to Standing Order 427, which reads -
Any Senator complaining to the Senate of a statement in a newspaper as a breach of privilege, shall produce a copy of the paper con- taining the statement in question, and be prepared to give the name of the printer or publisher, . . .
I do not wish to baulk discussion, but I feel that in the circumstances, the standing order should be complied with
– Shall I quote from the newspaper-
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Sampson). - Is the honorable gentleman speaking to the point of order?
– Y.cs; I am not complaining about the action of the Leader of the Senate, but I have not yet read the whole of the newspaper report.
– Under the Standing Order, an honorable senator, speaking to a question of privilege, should produce the newspaper containing the statement of which he complains.
– Does the Leader of the Senate deny that it was made by the Attorney-General, or that it was published in practically every newspaper in the country?
– That is not the point at issue. The honorable gentleman should comply with the Standing Order.
– Does the Leader of the Senate deny my right to speak on the question of privilege?
– No; all I ask is that the Leader of the Opposition shall comply with the Standing Order.
– Make no mistake about it, I shall produce a copy of the newspaper, if not now, at some other time.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- I take it that the Leader of the. Opposition is directing attention to a statement appearing in the press, and upon which he raises the question of privilege.
– The statement was made to the press, subsequent to the adjournment of the House of Representatives on Friday last. .
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - I do not think it .is necessary for the Leader of the Opposition to produce the newspaper in question. The statement of which he complains was not made by a newspaper but was made by some one else, and published in the press.
– 1 again direct your attention, Mr Deputy President, to Standing Order No. 427 and I submit that it should be complied with.
– That is not what the Leader of the Senate is after. He wants to cover up the tracks of his ministerial comrade.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order !
– All I am asking is that the Leader of the Opposition shall produce a copy of a newspaper containing the statement in question, and give the name of the printer and publisher. The mere averment that the Attorney-General said so-and-so is not sufficient ground upon which to base a motion of breach of privilege.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Is the Leader of the Opposition now in a position to comply with the Standing Order?
– Yes; I produce a copy of the Melbourne Age dated the 11th September, 1937, containing the statement made by the Attorney-General, upon which I have raised this question of privilege. The Age is printed and published by Quinton Thomas Bone, of 34 Mimosa-road, Carnegie, for David Syme and Co., at the Age Office, Collinsstreet, Melbourne.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Th, honorable senator may proceed.
– Not being so well informed on Senate procedure as is the Leader of the Senate, I probably yielded to his wish for complete compliance with the Standing Orders when I need not have done so, because I hold in my hand a printed extract from the newspaper in question and I consider that I would have been quite in order if I had submitted it to the Senate. As a matter of fact I quoted from it although, on the spur of the moment, I was not able to give the name of the printer and publisher. However, having satisfied the Leader of the Senate on that point I shall proceed.
I was saying that learned writers on constitutional matters have over and over again stressed the view that Parliament itself should be the sole judge of what is or is not permissible in the House. This is only right when one considers that the conception of parliamentary institutions as the supreme court of the land is a very old one. Neither parliament nor its members - and may I add neither the Senate nor any of its members - should be responsible to the courts which it creates and supports, for anything which occurs within its walls. And if Parliament is supreme in these matters, if it is the judge of what is permissible or not permissible, under its Standing Orders, how can it be argued that members should be subject to outside authority? It is unfortunate that in some cases individuals suffer unjustly from what is said under cover of parliamentary privilege; but that is unavoidable, both from the viewpoint of expediency and general justice. Parliament exists for the preservation and enforcements of rights, and when any individuals or body of individuals are injured by some abuse they have the right to have the matter discussed by their representatives in the Councils of the State. If these abuses were discussed in the ordinary courts to the damage of the reputation of some persons there would be no redress. Can we say that the dignity and functions of Parliament, which is concerned with the amendment of abuses and tie redress of injuries, is not great enough to warrant the extension of the same privileges as are available to every member, counsel and ‘witness in the ordinary courts of the land? Of course, the discussion of an’ abuse should proceed without abuse of the discussion - but Parliament has ample powers to- see to that. Let us recall some of those happenings which may not be actually within our knowledge as participants, but are known to us as readers of constitutional history and constitutional government. What is the history of our parliamentary institutions? Parliament as we know it today has not always existed. Parliaments were not always the institutions with which we are so intimately acquainted to-day. History records the long struggle for the democratisation of Parliament, a considerable portion of which is within the knowledge of honorable senators. A long and bitter struggle was waged by Parliament against the power of kings who could dissolve Parliament or do anything .they wished with it; but that struggle ended in a victory for the common people. There was a long struggle, in which my parents participated, for liberty of conscience for members of Parliament, and that is now a statutory right. The bitterness engendered in the struggle, which I still remember, has not been forgotten, and the rights for which the people then fought are more or less commonplace today. Any member of either branch of this legislature may now decline to take the oath; if he has a conscientious objection to so doing he may make an affirmation. Although I was only a child at the time I remember the bitter struggle which occurred in Great Britain for that privilege. Many of us recall the struggle for the payment of members of Parliament, a reform which gave persons such as those who now constitute the Opposition in this chamber, the opportunity to become members of the legislature. In the early days a poor man could not become a member of Parliament; and there is no need for me to elaborate that point. I am not anxious to occupy time unnecessarily, but I honestly believe that if I am permitted to state my case clearly the Senate will carry the motion with which I propose to conclude my speech. It is only in recent years that parliamentary allowances have been paid after a dissolution of Parliament. Previously such allowances ceased immediately Parliament was dissolved, but to-day they continue to be paid until polling day. These reforms, some of them important and others of less importance, all had the same definite objective of permitting the humblest citizen of the land to aspire to become a member of Parliament if he so desires, and to ensure that wealth should not be an advantage, or the lack of it a bar sinister, to any individual who desires to become a representative of the people in the legislature. The statement of the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) was not a hasty and illconsidered outburst on which he might be adjudged guilty on Saturday, and, realizing his mistake, withdraw it on Tuesday, for he said - “ For years I have been recognizing that something of this kind must be done.” “With all the honesty and sincerity of convic- tion I can command, I suggest that no honorable senator disagrees with me when I say that, regardless of our party differences, we are all jealous of our democratic institutions, and wish to safeguard the methods of British parliamentary institutions. In view of the position of world affairs, the need to-day is probably greater than it has eve* been for those members who have genuine respect for British constitutional methods, to ensure that anything we do individually or collectively shall not detract from the value of these institutions, or lessen the respect which the general public has - I hope, in increasing measure - for them. There are alternatives to British constitutional methods, and our objectives in the matter of constitutional reform. Honorable senators will not deny that to-day we stand at the parting of the ways, and that if we are not careful Fascism may become firmly established in this country. We have only to do those things which are unwise, relax a little of our enthusiasm for the protection of our rights as members of a parliamentary deliberative assembly, and we shall be definitely, if ignorantly, paving the way for a dictatorship.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Sampson). - >I have been following the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition ( Senator Collings) very carefully, and T think it would assist honorable senators if at this stage he read the motion which ho proposes to submit at the conclusion of his speech.
-! could have commenced by reading the motion, but J understood that the Standing Order required that I should conclude with a motion. The motion reads -
That this Senate affirms its adherence to the principle that freedom of speech and debates in Parliament is essential to a free Legislature and”” a free people, and in no circumstances should be liable to impeachment in any court or place out of Parliament.
The Australian newspapers, or at least those papers which I have had the opportunity to peruse since the statement was made by the Attorney-General, appear to agree on this subject. In the Canberra Times of to-day - la copy of which I pro duce, and the name and address of the publisher of which I can supply - we find-
Privilege has long been conceded as essential to the supreme branch of the legislature - what Coke- called the grand inquest of the nation which had to defend itself against the encroachments of the Crown on the one hand and the injudicious and ill-intentioned attacks of individuals on the other hand. The privilege of Parliament is a settled part of the Constitution, and he who would attack it would attack one of the foundations of the Constitution. This is not a question of the party predominant for the moment in the popular House altering the Standing Orders-
These are the important words - but of attacking something that is indispensable to democratic institutions and alien only under Fascism and irksome to dictatorships. If we interfere with parliamentary privilege, we immediately assail our constitutional liberties and destroy them. “Already, under cover of the Constitution, there are censorships alien to British ideas by puppets sot up by the Government, but these are comparatively harmless so Song as Parliament merely regards them as a ministerial whim. When the next step is to be attempted of permitting a junta to determine what shall or shall not be given cover of privilege, we begin to abandon democracy and return to the mediaeval ideas practised by Fascist dictators.
I have referred to what are probably minor matters such as the payment of members, the gradual whittling away of the privileges of the wealthy in the legislatures, and of the opportunities of citizens, however humble, to aspire to membership of parliaments.
– I rise to a point of order. I again direct your attention, sir, to Standing Order Wo. 427, which reads -
Any senator complaining to the Senate of a statement in the newspaper as a breach of privilege, shall produce a copy of the paper containing the statement in question, and be prepared to give the name of the printer or publisher, and also submit a substantive motion declaring the person in question to have been guilty of contempt.
As the motion to be moved by the Leader of the Opposition is in general terms and does not declare any person guilty of contempt, I ask under what Standing Order this debate is permissible?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - I can discover in the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition nothing that relates to a breach of the privileges of the Senate. The motion simply asks the Senate to affirm in a general way its adherence to the principle of free speech and the privileges of Parliament. This matter should be dealtwith on a substantive motion. I must rule the present motion out of order.
– Have I the right, Mr. Deputy President, to speak to the point of order?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - I have given my ruling, which the honorable senator may not discuss, unless ho proposes to dissent from it.
– Standing Order 118, in my opinion, definitely establishes my right to do what I am doing. It reads -
Whenever a matter or question directly concerning the privileges of the Senate …. has arisen since the last sitting of the Senate, a motion, calling upon the Senate to take action thereon may be moved, without notice, and shall, until decided, unless the debate be adjourned, suspend the consideration of other motions as well as orders of the day.
SenatorFoll. - The Standing Order refers to the privileges of the Senate.
– The privileges of the Senate have been definitely attacked in the published statement of the AttorneyGeneral.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Standing Order 118 concerns the privileges of the Senate, and they have not been interfered with by the statement published in the newspapers.
SenatorBrown. - The privileges of the Senate have been attacked by the Attorney-General.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - The statement which appeared in the press does not affect the Senate or the privileges of the Senate in the slightest degree. I have already ruled that the motion of the Leader of the Opposition is out of order. He may either amend itor submit a substantive motion, or move dissent from my ruling.
SenatorCollings. - The last thing I desire to do is to move dissent from your ruling, Mr. Deputy President; I have too much respect for you to do anything of the kind.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - It is not a personal matter; I am obliged to enforce the Standing Orders.
SenatorCollings. - Can the matter be dealt with now if I submit a substantive motion in the terms I have already read ?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - The Standing Orders require that notice be given of a substantive motion.
– It now seems that the machinery by which our procedure is governed is anobstacle to the course I have adopted - a course which, I may say, the Speaker and his officials in the House of Representatives fully reviewed this morning and pronounced to be in order.
That this Senate affirms its adherence to the principle that freedom of speech and debates in Parliament is essential to a free legislature and a free people, and in no circumstances should be liable to impeachment in any court or place out of Parliament.
Sino-Japanese Conflict - Pacific Pact – protection of mediterranean Shipping - Report of Mandates Commission on Palestine.
– byleave - I think that it would be of interest to honorable senators if I were briefly to review certain aspects of the international situation. I propose to discuss the Sino-Japanese dispute and the situation in the Mediterranean, and to conclude with a reference to the report of the Mandates Commission on Palestine.
On the 25th August the Japanese naval authorities closed the Chinese coast from Shanghai to Swatow to Chinese vessels, but at the same time announced that they would respect the peaceful commerce of other powers.
– Is the statement which the Leader of the Senate is reading one that will be published, copies of which all honorable senators will receive from the Department of External Affairs? If so, I suggest that it be taken as read.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.Order! The Leader of the Senate will proceed with his statement.
– On the 5th September, the Japanese authorities closed to Chinese vessels the remainder of the Chinese coast excluding Tsingtao and those territories leased to third powers, and reiterated that they would pay respect to the commerce of third powers with which they did not intend to interfere. During the last few days the British Government has been considering the measures to be taken in the event of Japanese naval vessels attempting to interfere with foreign merchant vessels, the Japanese Government having intimated that, if the Chinese resorted to action such as the misuse of the flag the Japanese might have to examine foreign ships. In order to prevent, as far as possible, the misuse of the British flag, the British Government lias decided to raise no objection to the Japanese examining British ships on the high seas for the purpose of verifying the flag. His Majesty’s ships have accordingly been instructed that, if a ship is flying the British flag in their presence, they should, if requested to do so by a Japanese warship, verify the right of that ship to fly the British flag. Masters of British ships in the Far East have been advised, if they are required to stop by a Japanese warship and none of His Majesty’s ships is present, to allow the Japanese to board the ship to examine the certificate of registry on the understanding that an immediate report will bo made by the Japanese warship to the British naval authorities. The Japanese Government has been informed that, while the British Government does not admit the rights of the Japanese Government to verify the nationality of foreign merchantmen, verification will in practice be allowed. The British Government could not, however, acquiesce in any interference with merchantmen other than for verification of nationality. The British Government has also reserved the right to claim compensation for damages sustained by the owners of British ships delayed or stopped under this procedure.
The British Government has kept the Commonwealth Government fully informed as to this aspect of the situation. Australia is not, however, directly concerned, as no ships on the Australian register are engaged in passenger or cargo traffic with Japanese and Chinese ports, although as honorable senators are aware three ships owned by the ‘ Eastern and Australian Steamship Company Limited, and one owned by Burns Philp and
Company Limited, which are not on the Australian register, follow the route Sydney-Rabaul-Manila-Hong Kong.
There has been little change in the situation at Shanghai during the last few days, although the extension of the Japanese offensive and the prolonged Chinese resistance have caused, increasing danger to the International Settlement. The British Government has continued to impress on combatants their obligations to avoid damage to life or property in this area. It seemed at one stage that it might be necessary to evacuate all British subjects from Shanghai. In fact about 3,700 British subjects, nearly all of them women and children, have been evacuated, but no arrangements are at present being made for further evacuation. Members of the British business community are definitely unwilling to contemplate any general evacuation or abandonment of their interests. Foreign banks resumed normal business on the 23rd August. There is at present no shortage of food, and fresh supplier are entering Shanghai daily. The lives of inhabitants of the International Settlement are still endangered by stray shells and aircraft bombs, but both Japanese and Chinese aircraft appear to be avoiding any attack on the International Settlement. In North China, the Japanese have started an offensive on a large scale south of Tientsin.
As regards the shooting of the British Minister in China, the British Government is still awaiting a full reply from Tokyo. Reports have appeared in the newspapers to the effect that the Japanese have occupied Pratas and Ling Ting Islands. The Commonwealth Government has now received official confirmation of the report that the Japanese have occupied Pratas Island which lies about 180 miles south-east of Hong Kong. Since the occupation meteorological reports from the station on the island have been suspended, but the authorities at Hong Kong have been informed that k is proposed to resume reports as soon as possible. There is so far no indication as to how long the Japanese intend to remain in occupation. The report of the Japanese occupation of Ling Ting Island, which lies about 15 miles west-north-west of Hong Kong, is so far unconfirmed.
There are two other aspects of the Sino-Japanese conflict to which T desire to allude. Mr. Eden, the Foreign Secretary, said in the House of Commons on” the 25th June, 1937-
The House. will be aware of the fact that conversations have been proceeding with representatives of the Japanese Government “n the possibility of u better understanding, a better ordering of Anglo-Japanese relations generally, and it may be said that ,hose conversations, so far as they have gone, encourage us to hope that a more definite exchange of views may lead to further progress. It is anticipated that it may be possible at a very early date to begin the examination of concrete .proposals.
The Commonwealth Government greatly regrets that the existing situation in North China has led to the postponement of these conversations. In reply to a question in the House of Commons on the 21st July, Mr. Eden said -
So long as the present situation in North China persists, it would not seem opportune to open the conversations to which His Majesty’s Government were looking forward, and I have been obliged to inform the Japanese Government that that is the view of His Majesty’s Government.
It will be recollected that at the recent Imperial Conference the Prime Minister outlined a proposal for a regional understanding and pact of non-aggression in the Pacific. All the Governments of the British Commonwealth agreed that a Pacific pact was a desirable objective. It was fully realized, however, that this was a mutter which would have to bc approached with some circumspection, and that it would be necessary to ascertain the views of other interested Governments before attempting any detailed negotiations. Honorable senators will appreciate that the Sino-Japanese dispute has inevitably led to the suspension of conversations for the time being.
A state of grave insecurity has been created in the Mediterranean, owing to recent illegal attacks on shipping by submarines and aeroplanes acting without warning and without revealing their identity. The British and French Governments decided in the early part of this month that immediate consultation between, and action by, Mediterranean and certain other Powers had become necessary in order to deal with an intolerable situation. The British and French Governments accordingly proposed that a con- ference should be convened on the 10th September at Nyon to consider what measures should be taken in order to put a stop to the present state of insecurity in the Mediterranean, and to enforce the rules of international law regarding the treatment of shipping at sea. The British and French Governments invited Germany, the following Mediterranean Powers - Italy, Yugoslavia, Albania, Greece, Turkey and Egypt - and the Black Sea Powers - Soviet Russia, Roumania and Bulgaria - to attend the conference. Germany and Italy declined this invitation. Italy’s absence from the conference appears to have been largely due to resentment caused by Notes sent to Italy by Soviet Russia alleging that Italian warships had torpedoed Russian merchantmen in the Mediterranean. The conference duly met on the 10th September and reached an agreement the following day on proposals which are now being referred to the Governments of the participating Powers. It is hoped that the agreement will be signed, to-day. These proposals have been fully reported in the press. Broadly speaking, they provide for a patrol of the Mediterranean, mainly by British and French naval forces, and assistance from the other participating governments, in order to protect all merchant ships which do not belong to either of the parties in the Spanish conflict. It was suggested that Italy should be asked to take action on similar lines in the Tyrrhenian and Adriatic Seas. The proposed agreement does not accord belligerent rights to either party in Spain. It is hoped that the scheme for the patrol of the Mediterranean will be in force by to-morrow, and a formal invitation to participate has already been sent to Italy. Germany has been officially informed of the results of the conference. I may add that the British Government sincerely desires to place Anglo-Italian relations on a better footing. It feels that, if the existing tension in the Mediterranean were reduced by the cooperation of all powers concerned, much would have been done to create a mon favorable atmosphere.
I referred at some length to the position in Palestine in my statement to honorable senators on the 25th August. It will be remembered that the Permanent Mandates Commission recently considered the report of the Royal Commission on Palestine at an extraordinary session. The full text of the preliminary report of the Mandates Commission to the Council of the League of Nations has now been received by the Commonwealth Government. The Mandates Commission favours in principle the examination of a solution involving the partition of Palestine, but it does not endorse the immediate creation of two new independent States. It considers that a lengthening of the period of political apprenticeship constituted by the Mandate would be absolutely essential both to the new Arab and the new Jewish States. This apprenticeship might take one of two forms. One solution would be a provisional cantonization whereby the two States, while enjoying a wide measure of internal autonomy and full power to regulate immigration, would be united tinder the mandatory Power for matters of defence, foreign affairs, and Customs. The other solution would be a separate mandate for each State until such time as each had given proof of its ability to govern itself. The appropriate moment for granting self-government would not necessarily be the same for both States. The Mandates Commission closed its report by paying the following tribute to the Mandatory Power, Great Britain : -
As for the Mandatory Power itself, the concern with which it has for nearly twenty years sought to appease the antagonistic feelings prevailing in Palestine must awaken in any man of good-will a degree of admiration all the higher in that it was exercised in a world in which brutal violence often stills thevoice of humanity. Let the Jews, who all too often, and without justification, show impatience at the delay and hesitation which the Mandatory Power has felt compelled to bring to the building-up of their national home, ask themselves whether there is any other nation by which they have been so little persecuted and to which, for generations past, they owe so many benefits. Let the Arabs, whose opposition to what is nevertheless a measure of higher justice which cannot be carried out without a sacifice from their side (ran be readily understood, remember the origin of their national emancipation. Without British efforts, certainly there would have been no Jewish national home; but also there would have been, on the threshold of the twentieth century, no independent Arab States.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- I have to inform the Senate that I have received from Miss Bruce Smith a letter of thanks and appreciation for the resolution of sympathy and condolence passed by the Senate on the occasion of the death of the honorable Arthur Bruce Smith, K.C.
Assent to the , following bills re ported -
Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill 1937-38
Post Office Works Bill 1937.
Income Tax Bill 1937.
Repatriation Fund (Baillieu Gift) Bill 1937.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1937, No. 90.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at Richmond, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
– I ask the Leader of the Senate, as representing the Prime Minister, whether it is a fact that, as a sequel to the damaging disclosures made in the House of Representatives on Friday last, as the result of which the Prime Minister quarrelled with the Speaker, the resignation of either or both of those gentlemen has been received?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.In the first place I am not aware of any quarrel, and, in the second, I have certainly not heard of any resignation.
– I ask the Leader of the Senate as representing the Prime Minister, (1) whether the attention of the Prime Minister has been drawn to aparagraph published in the English News Magazine Cavalcade, of the 10th July, 1937, which commenced with the words, “ Socialist-governed Australia looks to her defences “, and to a map of the world published in the same issue, on which, across the continent of Australia, are written the words, “ Socialist-governed
Australia ordered several 300 miles per hour warplanes, 100 miles per hour faster than any they have now”; (2) whether this description of the present Government i3 based on any utterance by tha Prime Minister during his recent visit to England, or whether it is merely a case of “ coming events cast their shadows before “?
– Honorable senators are well aware that in some foreign countries the term “socialist “ is applied generally to those of progressive and advanced views, and no doubt the journal in question, having seen the very advanced and progressive policy of the present Government, has thought this a fitting description.
– According to newspaper reports, Japan will not purchase its agreed ‘quota of wool from Australia. Has the Leader of the Senate any information in regard to these disturbing rumours?
– The Government has no information other than what has appeared in the public press.
– On the 1st September, I asked the Minister for External Affairs if he could give to the Senate any information as to what had been done or was being done by the League of Nations in regard to the SinoJapanese trouble. The right honorable gentleman said then that he would make inquiries as to whether any official information was available in his department. In view of the fact that he has just made a statement in which even the name of the League of nations did not occur, are we to assume that the League of Nations is not doing anything in regard to this matter?
– No approach has been made to the League of Nations by either of the parties to the present trouble in the East, but according to a cablegram in the press this morning, it is reported that China intends to appeal to the League.
WIRELESS Plant at LAVERTON
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The Minister for Defence has supplied the following answers: -
Debate resumed from the 9 th September, (vide page 817) on motion by Senator Sir George PEARCE :=-
That the papers be printed.
– During the present debate, as well as the two debates that preceded it, many references were made by honorable senators on both sides to a certain little publication, described as a blue book. This book is somewhat mysterious, and singularly unfortunate. I cannot regard myself as the proud possessor of a copy of it, but I was lucky enough to be able to borrow one for a few minutes. I have not been able to go carefully through it, but in the distance that T have gone into it I have come across some very interesting and illuminating information. First, on page 2 of the book, I came across a paragraph set out in rather bold type as follows : -
That no State executive may direct members of the Federal Labour party in regard to matters affecting the Federal platform and/or proposed legislation which the Federal Labour party has to deal with in the legislature. 1 marvelled at the necessity for such a paragraph in a booklet like this, but on further examination, the reason for its inclusion was revealed. That decision which was made by the Federal Executive of the Labour party on the 27th April last and following days, contains no new principle. Those of us who know something of the workings of the Labour party know that this declaration has become necessary by what has been referred to as the cowardly and traitorous attacks by certain members of the Labour party on the Labour Government in 1931. Honorable senators will recall that certain members of the Labour party who represented New South Wales constituencies, acting on instructions from the New South Wales section of the party, brought about the defeat of the Scullin Government. They will also remember that, prior to that incident, the Labour Prime Minister was not permitted to participate in a campaign in Sydney. Honorable senators who live in New South Wales are aware also that the members of the Labour party in that State are more obedient to the instructions of the New South Wales Executive of the party than 10 those of the Federal Labour party. The paragraph referred to has been included in the booklet in an attempt to mislead the people into the belief that the Federal Labour party rules the party throughout Australia. It may control the party in the other States, but it certainly does not do so in New South Wales. The New South Wales section is always prepared to snap its fingers at the Federal Labour party.
Turning now to page 3 of the booklet T read -
Many were the election promises made three years “ago by Mr. Lyons and Dr. Page - promises of effort and action that would have meant much to the people of Australia. But how few of those promises have been kept! A little stocktaking is illuminating.
Three years ago Dr. Page was not a member of the Government; he was in opposition to it. [Quorum formed.’]
The booklet also makes vague references to the subject of unemployment. In its attempt to mislead the people, the Labour party in this publication, quotes from the census of 1933. It gives the number of wage earners in receipt of £2 a week and less, and states that the prevailing wage at that time waa £3 a week. The author of the booklet should know that that was not the prevailing wage at the time. Surely the Labour party was able to give much more up-to-date information than that in presenting its case to the electors. Had the Labour party desired to present the facts to the people, it could have given figures to show how factory employment has improved since the present Government came into office. The latest statistics show that approximately 200,000 additional hands have been employed in factories during that period. In other words, 723 persons have obtained work every week since the Lyons Government assumed office. But, in order to hoodwink the people, the Labour party’s booklet contains figures relating to 1933, immediately following the devastating rule of a Labour Government in the Commonwealth and the Lang Government in New South Wales. A booklet issued to the electors on the eve of an election should contain more up-to-date information. Obviously, ‘ Mr. ‘Curtin and his advisers do not wish the electors to know the true position.
In order to show why the present Government should be defeated the booklet refers also to the sale of the Commonwealth Government line of steamers by the present Government. Here again, it is inaccurate, for at the time that those steamers were sold, the present Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) was not even a member of this Parliament; yet the author would have the electors believe that this Government was responsible for the sale.
The booklet also mentions the attempt made in 1928, and previously, to introduce a scheme of national insurance. I do not believe that the subject of national insurance was referred to in the Prime Minister’s policy speeches of 1931 and 1$»34, or that it was mentioned by the Leader of either section of the Labour party. In its attempt to establish a case against the present Government, the Labour party is blaming the present Government for happenings of ten years ago.
The booklet passes on to criticize the Government’s attitude towards invalid and old-age pensions. It states that the Labour party, if returned to power, will immediately take steps to restore pensions to the amount at which they stood previously. The present Government baa already restored the pension to £1 a week. So far as I have examined the booklet, I have been unable to find in it any evidence sufficient to condemn the present Administration.
Tinder the heading “ Labour and W ar “ the attitude of the Labour party to foreign nations is set .out. One paragraph reads -
As a first essential, Labour declares that Australia should aim at the establishment and maintenance of friendly relations with other countries, and should not be provocative in its international policies and contacts.
Every one will agree with those sentiments ; but let us look further into Labour’s policy. The paragraph which I have read obviously refers to the trade diversion policy inaugurated by the Government about eighteen months ago. I do not know anything which will encourage friendly relations with foreign countries more than will the development of trade with them. What is Labour’s record in this connexion? Although it bitterly criticizes the Government’s action in restricting imports from Japan, it condemns the Government for having reduced the duty on many articles entering Australia. The Labour party cannot have it both ways. I remember well when the duty on matches was under consideration in this chamber, and also when it was proposed to allow the entry of limited quantities of bananas from Fiji. The present Leader of the Opposition in this chamber (Senator Collings) - he did not then occupy that office - worked himself into a fury in his opposition to the Government’s action in allowing what he called “ black-grown bananas “ to enter Australia. He appeared to have lost sight of the fact that Fiji is a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations. In this connexion also, the Opposition. cannot have it both ways. In other directions also, the Opposition has venemously assailed the Government for having reduced exorbitant duties on goods entering Australia.
In an attempt to show that the defence policy of the Labour party is on ail fours with that of other dominions, the booklet states -
General J. Smuts, ‘Deputy Prime Minister of South Africa, has made the declaration : ‘ The dominion would not remain within the league pledging to fight old world wars.”
There is nothing new in that, for we all agree that that should be the policy of Australia. The quotation is used in order to impress upon the electors the similarity between the policy of the Labour party in this country and the policy of other dominions. However, I call attention to the following extract from the Canberra Times of the 10th September - “The immediate effect of the world crisis was to make South Africans realize that this country was still a place to be looted,” declared General Smuts, speaking at Durban. “Abyssinia has shown that South Africa was not so remote as people once thought. In all these circumstances, they could not turn backto the old provincial cries.”
The policy of the Labour party is supposed to be one of strict neutrality. General Smuts, whom they cite as having ideas similar to their own, has declared that under the new order of things, in the event of war involving the Empire, South Africa could not remain neutral. I direct the attention of the Leader of the Opposition to that statement. Then the Labour party also quotes Mr. Bennett, the ex-Prime Minister of Canada, as having said -
Canada would not embroil herself in the disputes in which she was not directly interested.
What is the inference ? Is it not that the Commonwealth Government is anxious to embroil Australia in conflicts, in which it is not directly interested ? These brief statements of other dominion’s opinions are, I repeat, inserted in this booklet for a definite purpose. There is also this extract from a speech delivered by Mr. Pirow, K.C., Minister for Defence in South Africa -
If war broke out and the Government were to attempt rashly to commit South Africa to an oversea adventure, he was afraid there would be a large scale disturbance, and possibly, civil war.
Would there not be the same disturbance in Australia if the Commonwealth Government rashly attempted to commit this country to a war outside Australia? The next opinion is taken from a speech delivered by Mr. Fourie, Minister for Labour in South Africa -
As to war, we shall most certainly not take part in any war we have not ourselves decided to take part in. [Quorum formed/]
It as clear that the inference which the Labour party would like the people of this country to draw from this statement is that South Africa would not do anything for Empire defence except after the taking of a referendum. Shortly after the declaration of war by Great Britain against Germany in 1914, Mr. Andrew Fisher, who was then Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, pledged this country to the last man, and the last shilling in defence of Empire freedom. Surely no one would suggest that such an important decision was taken without full consideration of the consequences. We know, of course, what was in the minds of the compilers of Labour’s election booklet. Undoubtedly the intention was to hoodwink the electors during the coming elections.
Labour’s defence platform contains a number of interesting paragraphs; ono has been mentioned several times in this debate, but it. is of sufficient importance to be repeated -
The Australian Labour party expresses its greatest abhorrence of war and Fascism and urges that the Commonwealth Government should endeavour to establish and maintain friendly relations with other nations.
Last week, when dealing with this plank of Labour’s defence policy, the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) pertinently asked for the reason of the exclusion of communism from that paragraph. So far no satisfactory explanation has been forthcoming. This is strange in view of the outbursts which we have witnessed in this chamber on the part of members of the’ Labour opposition. There is a reason. In my opinion, all reference to communism was omitted at a price to be paid.
– The honorable senator is entirely wrong.
– I believe that I am absolutely correct in saying that in return for the omission of communism from that paragraph, the Communists will give their undivided support to Labour candidates in the forthcoming elections. Members of the Labour party occasionally repudiate the Communists, but what they say is merely so much hyprocrisy. In the Labor Baily of yesterday’s date, I read the following: -
Communist candidates in this State have been recommended for first preference votes by the United Australia party, while Communist preference votes have been consistently cast for the anti-Labour candidates.
After reading the statement I obtained the official figures relating to the general elections of 1934, when the Communists were fighting the Labour party candi-dates, and discovered a complete refutation of it. When Sharkey, the Communist candidate in New South Wales for the Senate, was excluded in the count, he was credited with 23,063 votes. His first preferences were distributed as follows : - 2,038 votes, or 8 per cent, were given to candidates supporting the Government; 1,811 votes, or 7 per cent, were given to the Douglas Credit candidates: and 19,214, or 83 per cent, were given to Labour candidates. In the face of these figures, how can the Labor Daily declare that experience has proved that invariably the Communists have supported non-Labour candidates ?
Since the Communists are not now fighting the Labour party we can make a. pretty safe guess how their votes will be cast in the coming election. I have in my hand a copy of Leaflet No. 1, issued by the Communist party of Australia. It is headed “ Why we want a Labour Government.” I quote from it the following:
The Lyons Government must go.
The Communist party sets itself to the task of bringing about the defeat of the Lyons Government using to the full its organization, press, and meetings for this purpose.
The defeat of Lyons means the return of a Labour Government.
The Communist party wants a Labour Government returned.
Obviously the Communist party desires the return of the Labour Government because it will then be within measurable distance of achieving its objective, whereas if the Lyons Government be returned, it will have no hope at all. The leaflet continues -
The Communist party, to show its sincerity -
Sincerity to whom, if not to the Labour party? - lias withdrawn all but one or two candidates, and will give full support to the endorsed Australian Labour party candidates.
If during the elections in 1934, when the Communists were fighting the Labour party, 83 per cent, of Communists’ votes were given to Labour candidates, what may we expect when the Communist party is behind the Labour party as it is now? The election leaflet concludes with this declaration -
Victory for whom? For the Labour party, or for the Communists? Clearly, the belief is that the return of a Labour Government will mean victory for the Communists, because this leaflet is issued by the Communist party which realizes that its only hope of reaching its objective is by working for the return of a Labour Government.
– In not many countries has the Labour party quite the same ideas as the present Labour party of Australia. Even in this Parliament we have heard Labour members extolling communism and in the same breath referring to Great Britain as a foreign Imperialist power. The Communists know that the only hope of realizing their objective - the overthrow of Constitutional Government - is to work from within the Labour party. In view of what has been said about the attitude of the Labour party to the Communists, I am convinced that the only purpose of such lip condemnation is to hoodwink the electors because, as is well known, Communists are within the ranks of the Labour party. “When a Communist seeks admission to that party he does not say openly - “I am a Communist, may I please be admitted” No; he goes about the business in a different way. He knows that he has only to sign the Labour party’s platform to be received with open arms into the party. Once a member, he is free to work for the objective of communism. This, I suggest, explains Labour’s present attitude to the Communist party which, during the coming election, is definitely pledged to support Labour candidates. So much for Labour’s election booklet.
I am glad to know that the Government has increased the vote for the Council of - Scientific and Industrial Research because there is yet much scope for the activities of that splendid institution, and an amount far in excess of the sum provided could well be employed by it. I congratulate the Government upon having restored invalid and old-age pensions to £1 a week. “We cannot, however, overlook the fact that a very large sum must be provided this year for pensions.
– The Government restored pensions against its wishes and merely as an electioneering dodge.
– Whenever this Government does anything in which the Leader of the Opposition can see some virtue, he says that it has done so against its will; but when it does something of which he does not approve, he says that despite Labour opposition the Government has acted unwisely. Although invalid and old-age pensions have now been restored to the full amount, there are several anomalies and injustices in our present pensions legislation, which can be removed only by amending legislation. I sincerely trust that before long the Government will tackle the problem on broader lines than in the past. I believe, that something will be done, and I am fortified in that belief by the fact that the Government has thi3 year provided £75,000 to meet the preliminary expenditure in connexion with national insurance. It has already shown its sincerity, and I trust that when it is returned after the forthcoming elections, it will make a determined effort to remove some of the anomalies and injustices which now exist in our pensions legislation, even going so far as to provide a greater measure of social security by dealing effectively with the problem of unemployment.
– The honorable senator must have -been reading the Labour party’s blue book.
– Yes, but all I can find in that book is a reference to something which occurred in 1925 when the present Prime Minister was not a member of the Commonwealth Parliament. I congratulate the Government upon having been able to introduce so many satisfactory budgets which have conferred considerable benefit upon the people. The electors, recognizing that the Government has brought the country from chaos to prosperity, will say, “ Well done thou good and faithful servant, go back and continue your good work in the interests of the Australian people.”
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from12.4 to 8 p.m.
– by leave - I desire to inform honorable senators that the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) announced in the House of Representatives this afternoon, that he proposes to recommend to His Excellency the GovernorGeneral that a dissolution of the House of Representatives be granted with a view to the holding of the general elections on the 23rd October next. The Prime Minister saw His Excellency today, and informed him that the necessary financial provision had been made for carrying on the Public Services of the Commonwealth during the period that must elapse before Parliament can reassemble. It is proposed that the date of issue of the writs shall be Friday, the 24th September ; the closing date for the receipt of nominations, Saturday, the 2nd October; and that the writs shall be returnable on or before the 27th November. In accordance with the established practice, it is proposed that elections for the Senate also shall be held on the 23rd October.
Sitting suspended from8.3 p.m. until. 9.30 p.m.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) agreed to -
That the Senate at its rising adjourn till to-morrowat 10 a.m.
Senate adjourned at 0.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 14 September 1937, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1937/19370914_senate_14_154/>.