17th Parliament · 1st Session
– It was so important, apparently, in the opinion of the Government, that the Senate should sit all night on this momentous subject, that it thought it well to send a motor car to Sydney to bring a senator to Canberra at the expense of the people of Australia. It seems rather like using a steam hammer to crack a nut. It is an extraordinary procedure to inconvenience all other hon orable senators in order to convenience one who is not even a member of the Government party.
– It was a friendly action.
– Yes, on the part of the Government for its own sake. There is no doubt that the Government can look after itself, and is determined to do so no matter who else fails. The debate has disclosed that honorable senators opposite are prepared to belittle Australia and all that it has done. Although Australia has been settled for ISO years and has had only one big depression, one would think, to listen to honorable senators opposite, that the whole of that long period had been one great depression. As a matter of .’fact the depression we experienced was not nearly so great as that felt in other countries, and we recovered from it more quickly than any other country in the world. From the moment that this party had time to come in and pick up the pieces, the conditions of the people of Australia improved, and the volume of unemployment diminished until, when the Labour party took power, there was none in Australia. Yet on every occasion and in every speech honorable senators opposite trot out the depression of 1930-31 - a time when their own party was in power. They ignore the fact that the other 148 yeaTs in Australia was progressively prosperous, and the happiness of the people was improving all the time. One bad example is sufficient for them to smash up the Constitution.’ The people should make no mistake about this bill. It is not an amendment of the Constitution, but a smashing of the Constitution into little bits. Honorable senators opposite say “we may be smashing it into bits, but in five years’ time you will be able, if you like, to pick up the pieces and stick them together with seccotine “. As Senator McBride suggests, Humpty Dumpty cannot be put together again. Its great point is that in five years’ time all the evil which this proposal has brought about, if it is not successful, can be undone. So far as I can ascertain this action is being taken because there was a depression eleven years after the last war. The Government might just as well blame the Napoleonic wars.
– Or the Scullin Government.
– It could just as legitimately be blamed although it is not. There are several reasons why the people of Australia will insist on rejecting the bill when it comes before them. The first is that the referendum is to be a war-time one. That is the least of the objections, but it is unwise, impolitic and unjust to bring a matter of this kind before the public when the nation is at war. Gloating over its success at the last elections, the Government thinks it will be able to “ put this over “ the people of Australia, because it believes that they have the same ideas now as they had then. I am inclined to think that it is in for a rude awakening. The second reason why this is a bad proposition is that it is temporary only. If it is a good thing, it is a good thing indefinitely, and there should be no tampering with the Constitution unless the alterations to be made are to be permanent. The results of putting a temporary measure into force will be manifested in many ways. The Government is determined to set up factories to compete with civil undertakings. Does it intend to stop suddenly and withdraw at the end of five years ? Can it do 30 ? Does it think it can say to the people at the end of five years, “ Australia is in a terrible hole, we cannot get rid of the factories that we have set up without a big los3 to the taxpayers, and we now ask you to establish them permanently?” Is that an honest way to go about an action of that kind? Every argument that has been used in favour of these powers is in favour of making them a permanent part of the Constitution. The third great reason against the bill is that the powers are already possessed by the Commonwealth Parliament for the duration of the war and the period directly after the war. The fourth is that all these abstruse questions, dealing with a variety of matters, are bulked into one provision and individual voters are asked to pass the lot because they approve only one or two of them. It reminds me of hiding poison in the jam. The Government is concealing the effects of some of the paragraphs by mixing them in with one or two innocuous or tasty ones, which it thinks will appeal to the palate of the people. It says to the Australian public : “ You cannot have the things you want unless you take, also those which you do not want “. .The fifth reason against the passing of the bill is its totally ambiguous .wording. It is designed to mean everything or nothing. When a constitution is drawn up or amended’, the language should be plain to every one. The ambiguity of these paragraphs is so great that I can only imagine that the measure will be a lawyer’s paradise for the five years for which it is to remain in force. Nobody will be able to understand what its provisions mean, and precedent after precedent will have to be created before the people really understand what they do mean.
Labour fights as a group and not as individuals. No individual is allowed to emerge from the group system of the party. That is the source of its strength. When there does arise in the movement an individual who wants to impose or does impose his will on the group, then the Labour party fails. That has been its history not only in Australia but also in Great Britain. It must be remembered that the success of the Labour party is built on emotion and not on intellect. When one man of a little higher calibre than the rest arises out of the ruck, and also has the power and the will to put his own beliefs into operation, the Labour party fails. Now such a .man has arrived in the person of the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), and the group system of the Labour party has been destroyed. He is imposing his will upon the Labour party, and I warn honorable senators opposite of the history of the Labour party. Once it gives up fighting as a group it begins to fail. I give its members the friendly warning that the writing is on’ the wall. The dictator of the party has appeared on the horizon, and is placing his wishes higher than those of the party itself. He is putting its members into a hole, because he now wants to impose his will on the people of Australia. The Labour party is about to have a failure, because instead of keeping to its group system it is being forced into an individual system, which will always bring disaster to it.
Various threats have been uttered by honorable senators opposite during the debate. The Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron) made a remarkable statement, that this clash has to be settled either inside or outside Parliament.
– It always has to be settled outside if the Labour party forms the Government.
– But the inference from the Minister’s words is obvious - that if this is not settled in a friendly way by Parliament it will be settled by force outside. Therefore the honorable senator, a responsible Minister speaking for the Government, threatened this chamber with civil war and bloodshed unless the Senate passed the bill. A statement that has been made, not merely by one honorable senator opposite but by several, including the Minister for Aircraft Production, is that members of the Opposition wish to see in this country a big army of unemployed on the dole. Surely a more ridiculous statement has never been made in this chamber. Apparently, honorable senators opposite do not credit members of the Opposition with possessing ordinary human kindness.
– It is necessary to have a reserve army of unemployed to keep wages down.
– There is another honorable senator who apparently is of the same opinion. °
– Well, is that not part of the economic policy of the party to which the honorable senator belongs?
– There is another one of the same opinion. Apparently, honorable senators opposite do not appreciate the fact that the business of any community is carried on by the production and sale of goods, so that if there are no orders for goods, there are no sales, and therefore no production. What the business people of this country want to see more than anything else, is an era of prosperity, with every member of the community working for good wages. Only an utter fool could wish for any other state of affairs, and the business people of this country are not fools. Apart altogether from the humanitarian aspect of the matter, from a purely business point of view, it is most desirable that there should be as few unemployed as possible, and the suggestion that we on this side of the chamber desire to see a large number of people on the dole is laughable; but I have no doubt that that argument will be heard from the soapboxes and platforms of Labour party speakers in the course of the referendum, and will be greeted with cheers.
Senator Aylett’s speech this afternoon was, in effect, “Hush, hush, hush, here comes the bogy man “. The honorable senator emphasized the need to prevent the recurrence of a depression in this country - an admirable sentiment and a laudable objective. We should all do everything in our power to prevent another depression, but to suggest that a depression may be prevented by the passage of this measure and the carrying of the referendum, is the most ridiculous statement imaginable. To hear some honorable senators opposite talk one would think that the prime cause of the depression in this country was the fact that its central government did not have complete power. I point out that in New Zealand the depression was quite as severe as it was in this country and that in Great Britain and the United States of America, it was probably more severe; yet the central administration pf those countries had complete power, and strangely enough Australia managed to emerge from the depression quicker than any other country.
Senator Large endeavoured to prove by some strange process of reasoning that the losses incurred by the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers were really profits. I find it hard to restrict myself to parliamentary language, when replying to such foolish statements. As a business man I know the difference between profits and losses and I am quite unable to understand the honorable senator’s argument. Perhaps he should take a course in accountancy.
Senator Nash said that he had no wish to fool the people and I do not think for a moment that the honorable senator would endeavour to do that because ho is too good-hearted.
One of my strongest objections to this measure is that it groups a number of totally unrelated matters. That is merely an attempt to fool the people. It is unfair that the people of this country should be asked to swallow all these- things in one gulp. I repeat that this bill represents an attempt not to amend the Constitution, but to smash it. The wording of the measure has been designed to mean anything and everything. ‘For instance, is there anything in the economy of the nation which is not in some way related to “ employment and unemployment “ ?
– If we succeeded in solving the problems what does it matter ?
– It matters because an endeavour is being made to fool the people into believing that this measure is not really so wide as it would appear to be.
– We are prepared to trust the people.
– That is a good one.- Apparently the Government, in effect, is asking the householder to trust the burglar who already has robbed his house and is ready to leave with his bag. I am afraid that the people of Australia are not quite so gullible as that. If this bill be passed, and the referendum carried the people of this country will wake up one day to find that the State Parliaments have not a single power left. Whether that would be a good thing or a bad thing is immaterial; my contention is that the people should not be swindled by being persuaded that a measure such as this is innocuous whereas, it really means that the Constitution is being smashed to pieces. The Attorney-General decided a little later to add to the fourteen powers which we have been discussing, so he proceeded to apply some of the “ jam “. The bill provides that the people can have freedom of speech, and that neither the Commonwealth nor a State may make any law for abridging freedom of speech or expression. I am not a lawyer, but to the ordinary layman that means that neither the Commonwealth nor a State is to be allowed to pass any law curtailing freedom of speech or expression. If that means anything at- all, it implies that after this bill is passed anybody can walk up to a policeman in the street and apply to him the epithet alleged to have been used by the Minister for War
Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) without being haled before a court. The Attorney-General has brought to light some obscure American cases which seem to prove that this provision does not mean what it says, and that the Commonwealth and the States can pass laws curtailing freedom of speech and expression. How are the people of Australia to understand that? Do honorable senators opposite say that the meaning is that neither the Commonwealth nor the States may make any law curtailing freedom of speech or expression? Does this mean what it says or what the AttorneyGeneral says it implies?
– It does mean what it says.
– We have the authority of the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) for saying that it means that neither the Commonwealth nor a State may make any law for ‘ abridging freedom of speech or expression. I am content to leave the matter at that, but I return to the question which I asked a short while ago. If a man in the street uses abusive language, if newspapers publish something which is indecent, or if expressions are’ used which are offensive or disloyal, have the Commonwealth and the States no right to pass laws against such conduct? The Minister has just told us that the provision means what it says. In any case, what is the object of putting it into a bill of this kind ?
– To make sure that people have freedom of speech.
– Must they have it without curtailment of any kind?
– The bill does not say so.
– lt says that neither the Commonwealth nor a State may make “ any law for abridging freedom of speech or expression “. That means that everybody is to be free.
– Why waste time, since the honorable senator intends to oppose the second reading of the bill?
– I am not wasting time. The honorable senator gave illuminating information as to the direction in which his mind was working. Although the people of Australia have enjoyed religious freedom for a century and a half, the present Government now proposes to ask the people to make religion free! Historians of the future will say: “ Australia was a backward country. Australians had no freedom’ of speech and no freedom of religion until a Labour government came along and persuaded the people to give themselves the freedom that they had enjoyed for the previous 150 years.” What a great gift ! The whole burden of the cry of the Government is : “ We must control this and that ; otherwise, Australia will be in for a bad time.” I have heard of the “ Braddon blot “ and the “ barbarisms of borderism “, but they were not nearly so bad as the blot of bigotry.
According to the present Government, control is to prove a panacea for all the ills of the human race. People must be regimented in regard to their individual habits and their goings and comings. We are to perpetuate the inconveniences experienced under war conditons. Old ladies of 70 years of age must still walk to the butchers’ shops, because meat is not delivered to the homes of the people. During the regime of the Labour party, the people of Australia have had to put up with a degree of inconvenience and injustice never suffered previously. Their liberty has been curtailed in many ways. They have been ordered to work here or to work there. Despite the fact that the Labour party has always proclaimed itself to be opposed to conscription of any kind, it has introduced industrial conscription in the worst possible form. The freedom of the individual has gone forever. A man may no longer get his own job and live his own life. He may not make his own savings and provide for his old age. Under the regime of the Labour party, those conditions have come about during the last two years with increasing violence, yet the Government asks the Parliament to accept this bill so that it may continue this control after the war. I do not consider that Australia has reached the end of its possibilities. After a century and a half of successful national life, the progress of this country will not stop suddenly, unless we break up our own Constitution. The possibilities for future development are immense, but instead of putting chains on the people,’ we should remove their shackles. Two of the chains which are adversely affecting the national welfare are the bureaucrat and the taxgatherer, and when those are removed Australia will show its strength. It cannot do that while it is bound and hobbled by the policy of the Labour party which is opposed to individualism, destroys the incentive to work and places every obstacle in the way of a person living his own natural, honest life. The Labour party has itself to blame if the powers sought in the bill are refused by the people. Any one of the reasons that I have advanced is sufficient to damn the present Government for the way in which it has presented this bill, but I object most of all to the fact that it is only a temporary measure. The smashing of the Constitution and an attempt to restore it after five years would be the most foolish proposal ever submitted to the people. I hope that the Government will realize that it has made a bad mistake in bringing these proposals before the people of Australia at this time. I believe that the people of this country are sane and wise, and that when they realize the full significance of the questions to be submitted to them, those who live in the less populous States will see that their interests and their liberties are in jeopardy, whilst those in the more populous States will say that it is not fair that Sydney and Melbourne should impose their will on the whole of the people of Australia, when their interests are so diverse. I am astounded that the representatives of some of the States, particularly those far from Canberra, should profess to believe in a centralized government for the whole of Australia, and agree that the local people are to have no voice in the management of their own affairs.
– No one has said that.
– That is because the Government has not been frank. But when the people realize the significance of the things that have happened, and understand how the Labour party has departed from its usual practice of group politics at the behest of one man who has risen up to boss them, their good sense will convince them that the Government is on the wrong road.
– In that event, the proposals will not be carried, and the honorable senator will be happy.
– I have a happy nature, but I do not think that that would make me happy. Australians do not like to be bamboozled, and when they wake up to the fact that an attempt is being made to bamboozle them their anger will be greater than was their regard for the Labour party last August.
– I have listened attentively to the speeches delivered during this debate but I must confess that I have heard little argument that is relevant to the bill. All the recriminations that have taken place, all the ‘ arguments about socialism and the sins of the Labour party, all the assertions about bureaucracy have nothing whatever to do with the adjustment of powers between the Commonwealth and the States. The cry that socialism will bring many evils in its train is not new. I heard Sir George Reid speak of those dangers 40 years ago. We were told then that socialism stood for the breaking of the marriage tie, and to-day the same old arguments are being trotted out. In my opinion, increased powers are necessary for the Commonwealth if it is to deal effectively with the problems which will confront this country in the post-war period. I have been amazed to hear some of the arguments of honorable senators opposite. Senator A. J. McLachlan described the bill as so much humbug because, he said, the Commonwealth already has all the powers that it requires. The honorable senator became quite eloquent regarding the proposed alteration of the Constitution, but what did he do in 19,36 ? In that year, he introduced into the Senate a measure to make provision for a referendum to give to the Commonwealth Parliament certain powers. Those powers are now included in this bill. No argument has been advanced by honorable senators opposite to show whether that it would be unwise to confer ‘these additional powers on the Commonwealth. I could have wished that this question had been discussed in that spirit which the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) suggested, but the honorable senator himself had no sooner expressed that wish than he indulged in a severe criticism of the Labour party, of socialism, and of other “ isms “ which have nothing to do with the question before us. Seeing that the Opposition has not advanced any arguments against the Government’s proposals, I shall pass over the views expressed by Opposition senators. Reading from the “yellow book “ to which reference has previously been made, I shall quote the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Mr. Menzies), a gentleman for whom I have great respect, and whose views on this subject are worthy of our consideration. The right honorable member said - lt is not to be assumed that a Commonwealth Parliament will be less conscious of the needs of the community than a State Parliament, and it is, I think, fair to assume that a Commonwealth Parliament armed for the first time with a general power over industrial matters, would proceed to exercise it along sensible lines and in the light of prior experience. Let me picture briefly what could be done by such a Commonwealth Parliament. It would completely remodel our industrial machinery, it could eliminate the notion that the way to wage fixation and hours fixation is through the processes of dislocation and dispute; it could provide for local tribunals to deal with local matters; it could make the round-table conference, in industries of individual factories or in departments of individual factories, a real and effective thing; it could, by the machinery it set up encourage the idea that wages and condition!! are matters which ought to be sensibly discussed, and, if possible, agreed upon at periodical meetings between employers and employees: it could, by the total abolition of the existing overlapping, put every employer in a position to know exactly what his industrial obligations were, since those obligations would proceed from one ultimate source; it could, in short, bring about what can never be produced under our present divided system - the two great essentials of industrial regulations, simplicity and flexibility.
Reference has been made to the Government’s approach to these problems. Honorable senators know that the Government made every endeavour to bring about an agreement between the parties interested. The suggestion that the Commonwealth proposes to do something of which the States have disapproved is not in accordance with fact, because the State Premiers and Leaders of the Opposition agreed to the decisions made at the Canberra Convention. The record of the proceedings at the Convention shows that the following resolutions were agreed to unanimously : -
That this Convention is of opinion that -
Adequate powers to make laws in relation to post-war reconstruction should be conferred on the Parliament of the Commonwealth.
It is undesirable that permanent alterations of the Constitution should be effected at this critical stage in Australia’s history.
For this reason, legislative power with respect to suitable additional matters in relation to post-war reconstruction should be referred to the Parliament of the Commonwealth by the Parliaments of the States under section 51 (xxxvii.) of the Constitution;
Such reference should be for a period of not less than five years and not more than seven years from the cessation of hostilities and should not be revoked during that period;
At the end of such period, or at an earlier date, a referendum should be held to secure the approval of the electors to the alterations of the Constitution on a permanent basis.
Unfortunately, some of the States did not carry out their undertaking, and therefore the Commonwealth Government has no alternative but to submit these proposals to the people. There is something to be said against holding a referendum in war-time, but if we are to deal effectively with the problems which will confront this country after the war, particularly in relation to employment and unemployment, we must take action now because it will be necessary to have some central authority with power to deal with them immediately the war ends. The rehabilitation of members of the fighting services is not the only matter that will nave to be dealt with after the war. Large numbers of people will be thrown out of employment, and surely it is the responsibility of the Government to deal with such a situation. How can the Government deal with it unless the power to do so exists. The consensus of opinion among those who have thought over this matter is that greater power should be vestedin the Commonwealth Parliament. The Opposition is attempting to draw a red herring across the trail. Its members claim that they cannot trust the Labour party; they say that it would deprive them of their freedom. I remind them that the Labour party has consistentlyfought to preserve the freedom of the people. We do not want to see a repetition of what occurred after the last war. I realize only too well the need for organized marketing of primary products, and I know that primary producers as a whole would welcome such control. The Leader of the Opposition also realizes that fact, because when he was Minister for Commerce, he must have been made aware of the impossibility of arriving at a common policy for the marketing of primary products. The primary producers are now looking forward to the day when marketing will be so organized by the National Parliament that their industries will be stabilized and their conditions of life improved. No longer should matters of this kind which are of primary concern to the nation as a whole be dealt with separately by the States. As a primary producing country Australia needs to speak with one voice to the other countries of the world. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) is preparing to visit Great Britain and other countries to discuss not only war problems, but also the future economic relations of Australia with overseas countries. It is significant that such discussions are never undertaken by the Premiers of the States. If this Parliament is to accept the responsibility of organizing the marketing of our primary products it must be granted full power to enable it to do that job properly. Therefore, I ask honorable senators to disabuse their minds entirely of the idea that the Government, if granted these powers, will use them to infringe the liberty of the subject. I am sick and tired of hearing such arguments from honorable senators opposite. In the past the worker enjoyed very little liberty in choosing his means of livelihood. For too long the employers and the bosses enjoyed all the liberty in that respect, whilst many workers were denied not only employment but also the means by which they could live. To-day, when the workers as a whole have saved this country from invasion, and have readily sacrificed liberties in order to achieve that end, it is ridiculous for honorable senators opposite to contend that if the Government is granted these powers it will, in some mysterious manner, deprive the people of their liberty as individuals. Honorable senators opposite do not do justice to themselves when they make such statements. I assure them that I would not be associated for one moment with any party which, under normal conditions, attempted to infringe the liberty of individuals. The Labour party stands for freedom of the individual. Although we know that many of our citizens have been deprived of much of their individual liberty under war conditions, the fact remains that instead of complaining on that score, we should go down on our knees and thank God that our country is still free. We remain free to-day because the men and women of this country were prepared to make sacrifices in the defence of Australia. Nearly 1,000,000 of our people have left their loved ones and accepted danger and irksome conditions in order to resist the enemy. Surely, we can” depend upon such people in peace to take a reasonable view of matters of this kind. Honorable senators opposite agreed to similar proposals which were contained in the Constitution Alteration (Marketing) Bill which was passed in this Parliament in 1936. On that occasion they advocated the need for organized marketing. To-day, they are presented with an opportunity to help the Government to obtain that power. However, it would appear that they do not propose to seize that opportunity simply because the Labour party is now in control in this Parliament. I regret that this debate has not been conducted along different lines. Honorable senators as a whole should approach these problems along lines similar to those followed at the Canberra Convention. I admit that recriminations have come not only from honorable senators opposite; but in this respect the Leader of the Opposition set a very bad example to his colleagues.
– The honorable senator has not answered any of the statements made by the Leader of the Opposition.
– The Leader of the Opposition did not advance one argu ment which calls for an answer. He simply said that this Government stood for socialism and would use these powers, if they were granted to the Commonwealth, to implement that policy. Socialism, or any other “ ism” has nothing to do with the Government’s proposals. In any case much legislation of a socialist character has already been placed on the statute-book by this Government, with the help, in some cases, of honorable senators opposite. If Australia is to survive, we must be enabled to deal, in a statesmanlike manner, with the problems which will confront us in developing this country. Senator A. J. McLachlan spoke about the giants who framed the Constitution. I knew many of those men including Sir William Lyne, Sir Edmund Barton, Sir Samuel Griffith and Mr. Charles Cameron Kingston. The honorable senator was a junior partner to the late Mr. Charles Cameron Kingston. I believe that were that great man alive to-day to hear some of the statements made by the honorable senator hewould be very disappointed. Those great men fought strenuously for federation, and they were opposed by pygmies just as this Government to-day is opposed by pygmies. I recall that the late Mr. Kingston was described as a mountain, and his pygmy critics as a lot of low-lying flats. I refrain from applying that description to honorable senators opposite. It is useless for them to say that no necessity exists for altering the Constitution which was framed over 40 years ago. It is obvious that those men did not visualize the conditions which exist to-day. Were they capable of doing so they would have been the first to say that Australia should shed its swaddling clothes, and equip itself with powers to enable it to surmount the difficulties confronting us at present. This measure is a step in the right direction. I ask honorable senators opposite to follow the example set at theCanberraConvention in their approach to these problems. That convention was representative of the States as well as the Commonwealth, and it agreed unanimously to the Government’s proposals which are now embodied in this measure. We have heard much in this debate about State rights. I agree that the Senate has a special responsibility to safeguard those rights; but at the Canberra Convention the States agreed to the draft bill which is substantially reproduced in this measure. Queensland and New South “Wales enacted that bill in its entirety, whilst Victoria passed it with the proviso that it should not take effect until each of the other States had passed an identical measure. Tasmania was the only State which rejected the measure, and that decision was due to an adverse vote in the upper chamber in that State in opposition to the decision of the lower house. We know that the method by which the upper houses in the States are elected is not truly democratic. But the both branches of this legislature are elected by all the people. We shall not be able to deal effectively with post-war problems unless adequate powers to do so are vested in the Commonwealth Parliament. Are we to handle the affairs of this nation as seven different entities, or are we to speak to the world with one voice - the voice of the National Parliament? We must approach post-war problems as Australians. We can afford to trust the people to ensure that these powers will not be abused by any government. However, honorable senators opposite oppose these proposals simply because the Labour party happens to be in office at the moment. I ask them, even at this late hour, to take a broad view of these proposals. I am sure that should they oppose this measure in division they will regret such action. They have not advanced one valid, objection to any specific power sought under this measure, but have simply relied on the argument that a Labour Government will use these powers to infringe the liberty of the subject. The Labour party has been in control of this Parliament for only a very short period “within the last 40 years. Honorable senators opposite might take their cue from that fact; and unless they doubt their ability to exercise these powers they will be anxious that the Commonwealth be granted these powers.
Motion (by Senator Herbert Hays) put -
That the debate be now adjourned.
The Senate divided. (The President’ - Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown.)
Majority . . . . 2
– Never in the history of the Commonwealth has a matter of such serious importance to the people been discussed under conditions such as these. The present atmosphere is in very striking contrast to that which prevailed at the time of the framing of the Constitution. The whole of the problems were faced with becoming seriousness, and months were spent over them in order to produce as perfect an instrument of Government as possible. This debate began only yesterday afternoon at 3 o’clock, and by a process of physical exhaustion the Government is forcing us to consider and make decisions, not on a measure which can be amended at any time and affects only a section, but on one the purpose of which is to amend the Constitution under which all the people of Australia have to live. The people would be shocked if they knew the conditions under which we are compelled by a majority of honorable senators to deal with such important questions. We know the difficulties experienced in bringing about federation, and in framing the Constitution under which we have worked for nearly 44 years. It took years before tho people of the different colonies could be made to realize its importance, and the jealousies between different colonics constituted a grave danger to our progress. When the federation was formed, it was a partnership. The colonies, which had unlimited powers, agreed to transfer to the Commonwealth only those powers which were regarded as essential to the proper development of Australia as a nation. Not one Government supporter can point to an instance during the years in which the Constitution has operated, of Australia being retarded owing to the Commonwealth having insufficient power, yet honorable senators opposite would lead us to believe that nothing but stagnation has prevailed, and that our development has been hampered by the Constitution. In point of fact, the contrary has been the case. I look back over this period of 44 years as one of unprecedented progress, which compared favorably with that of any other country. So far from retarding progress, the Constitution stands as a monument to those who were responsible for framing it. It has given to the people a freedom not exceeded in any other country, yet honorable senators opposite would persuade the people that they are miserable and downtrodden, and their opportunities retarded by the Constitution. In their opinion, everything would blossom like the rose if only we were not in Parliament, and these amendments of the Constitution were approved. It is all moonshine to say that Australia cannot develop owing to a lack of power. I challenge honorable senators opposite to mention a solitary case in which the Constitution has hindered our progress. Wc are living under a federation which is a partnership, and the powers of the partnership are not new. They were once in the hands of the then colonies, but were handed to the Commonwealth, and others were retained by the States. Any additional powers asked for can be taken only from the States. These proposals certainly do not create any new powers.
– They are new to the Commonwealth.
– Who constitutes the Commonwealth? Are we not the same people? Does the honorable senator suggest that the States have been incompetent, and have not discharged the functions which rightly belong to them? Is it suggested that the States have been a “ clog “ in the wheels of progress? Nothing could be further from the truth. By and large, the relationship between the States and the Commonwealth has been characterized by goodwill and good feeling. I challenge honorable senators opposite to say anything to the . contrary. It is suggested that there is some doubt as to the adequacy of the powers with which the Commonwealth is clothed^ at present, and that this legislation will remove those doubts; but that argument is completely unsound. The transfer of certain powers from the States to the Commonwealth will not eliminate argument as to whether legislation enacted by the Commonwealth infringes the rights of the States. The only way to place the matter beyond all possible doubt - if that is the Government’s desire in introducing this bill to amend the Constitution - would be, first, to abolish the States - a course of action which has been advocated by honorable senators opposite in past years, but which I do not think they favour so enthusiastically to-day - and secondly to adopt a policy of unification such as that in which honorable senators opposite profess to believe. The Constitution sets out quite clearly the subjects in respect of which the Commonwealth may pass legislation. The Commonwealth can do very little other than act in accordance with the power conferred upon it by section 51 of the Constitution. The States have always been willing and anxious to co-operate with the Commonwealth, not merely in regard to matters which have been in the interests of the States themselves, but also in regard to matters which have been of benefit to the Commonwealth as a whole. In my opinion, these referendum proposals have been brought forward in the worst possible circumstances and are most ill-timed. No valid argument has been advanced by honorable senators opposite as to why the proposed amendments of the Constitution should be amended.
I have no wish to deal in detail with the origin of these proposals, because the story has been told fully by previous speakers. The original proposals were submitted to Parliament in the form of a model bill, and then to a Constitutional Convention held in Canberra. They met with a hostile reception at the Convention, and were abandoned. New proposals were then drawn up, which the Convention was asked to consider in a few hours. They were then submitted to the State Parliaments. Some States agreed to the transfer of powers, others passed them with amendments, and Tasmania rejected the bill. Now, these proposals have been submitted to Parliament in this measure, and we are called upon to decide whether a referendum should o.r should not be held. In my opinion the outstanding feature of this measure is its vagueness and the complete absence of clarity and definition. Let us examine for a moment some of the powers which it is proposed should be conferred upon the Commonwealth Parliament. First, paragraph (i) deals with the rehabilitation and advancement of members of the fighting forces. Does any honorable senator suggest that the defence powers which have enabled the Commonwealth Government to change the entire economic structure of this country to meet the exigencies of war are not sufficient to ensure a restoration of peace-time conditions? Unquestionably, the Commonwealth Parliament will have sufficient power to do so. Prior to federation the various colonies had full and complete control of their own affairs, and exercised certain powers which subsequently were transferred to the Commonwealth; yet we are asked to believe now that it is doubtful whether the Commonwealth has sufficient authority to deal adequately with postwar problems, including the * rehabilitation and advancement of members of our fighting forces !
I come now to the proposed power in respect of employment and unemployment. I say without hesitation that this matter is entirely within the province of the States, although I do not suggest that the Commonwealth should not cooperate with the States. It has always done so. During the last depression the Commonwealth played a great part in the relief of unemployment. However, that is principally a matter for the
States. The Commonwealth, of course, has certain avenues of employment and administers certain territories within the limits of which it can expend money on developmental work.
– It can also expend money in State territories.
– That is so; under section 96 of the Constitution that can be done. What better example of co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States could there be than the River Murray Waters Scheme. There was no need for the Commonwealth to secure additional power to carry out that .undertaking. Then there is the Federal Aid Roads Agreement, which also is an excellent example of co-operation between the Commonwealth and States. In fact, ever since federation there has been the closest co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States in regard to many matters. The Commonwealth has power to make grants of money to the States upon its own terms and conditions. Then there is the question of taxation. What greater power could the Commonwealth have than control of the public purse? To-day, the Commonwealth has supreme control over the entire taxation system of this country, and having that control, it is able to exercise a strong influence upon the States. Therefore, why this reaching out for new powers? These proposals are contrary to the spirit of goodwill and partnership which led to federation. Provision is made in the Constitution for States to cede powers to the Commonwealth to deal with certain matters, and for the closest co-operation between the Commonwealth and States. Unemployment during the last depression has been the stock-in-trade of honorable senators opposite at general elections and on other occasions. They always hark back to that allegedly man-made depression, which, according to their statements, was caused largely by the extravagance of the Bruce-Page Government; yet never once have I heard any one give a specific instance of that administration having expended money unwisely or to the disadvantage of this country. In fact, the contrary is the case. I venture to say that there was never a time in the history of Australia when greater de- velopment was achieved or more important undertakings were embarked upon than during the regime of that Government.
– That Government left an empty Treasury, and an adverse trade balance. The honorable senator has made a deliberate mis-statement.
– What caused the great depression in the United States of America and throughout the world? Although the United States of America is the greatest manufacturing country, holds most of the gold of the world, has a large consuming population and has overseas markets for its manufactured goods, the effects of the depression were felt more acutely in that country than in Australia. Honorable senators opposite suggest that some sinister influence has operated against the interests of this country, despite the fact that the depression was world-wide. Their remarks are a vilification of previous Governments, and a reflection on our own country. We are told that the national development of Australia has been checked because of the need of this Parliament for increased powers, but I do not believe that. Indeed, the very opposite has been the case. The development of Australia since federation has been remarkable. It is wrong to ask the people, in time of war, to give serious thought to an amendment of the Constitution. All powers needed by the Government are already available under the Defence Act and the National Security Act. The latter act and the regulations promulgated under it will operate for six months after the termination of the war, and, if necessary, their operation could be extended for a much longer period.
No previous attempt has been made to secure an amendment of the Constitution under conditions such as those obtaining to-day. Have the people expressed a wish that a referendum should be taken to determine whether increased powers should be granted to the Commonwealth ? No such suggestion has come from the Parliaments of the States. Some of the powers included in the bill have been inserted as a stalking horse to make the people believe that the measure is necessary in the interests of members of the fighting services. There is not the remotest possibility of securing an affirmative vote at the proposed referendum. Even in times of peace, when nothing has occurred to disturb the minds of the people, they have shown a decided objection to proposals for alterations of the Constitution. An invitation from the Prime Minister (Mr, Curtin) to attend an informal conference of representatives of all political parties to discuss the present proposals before the Government committed itself to them would have been a gesture of goodwill and friendliness. But the Government has acted unwisely in deciding that the people should be asked to grant the proposed additional powers, since about 850,000 of our .people are either in the fighting forces or in other war-time activities which have removed them from their homes, and thousands more are prisoners of war. The meaning of the proposals in the bill is not clear and definite and it may be accepted as a foregone conclusion that as the people are not in a suitable frame of mind to give consideration to the necessity for alterations to the Constitution, they will emphatically reject the proposals to be submitted at the referendum. A referendum campaign would cost at least £250,000, and the use of much man-power would be entailed. The men who are fighting to save this country will not be pleased to know when they return that we had taken advantage of their absence to make fundamental alterations of the Constitution concerning which they knew little or nothing. On - their return to this country they would be forced to live under changed conditions, although they would have had no voice with regard to the introduction of these changes. We shall render a disservice to the people, and divide them at a time when they should be united, if we pass this bill. Suppose for a moment that an affirmative vote were cast at the referendum, and at the expiration of five years from the end of the war the people decided that the increased powers granted should be withdrawn, because their way of life ‘had been seriously disturbed. They would wish to have the former conditions restored, but that would be impracticable. There is little virtue in the Government’s proposals. Senator Large welcomed them, because a step was being taken in the direction of the socialization of industry, but Senator Courtice declared that that was not intended. When there is doubt amongst honorable senators who support the Government as to the object of the bill, it is not surprising that members of the Opposition are suspicious of it. The Government should withdraw its proposals. There is no urgent need to alter the Constitution. Can it be shown that the development of Australia has been hampered because of lack of power on the part of this Parliament? The Constitution has operated successfully for 44 years. If increased powers were found to be desirable, the proper method of obtaining them would be to summon a properly constituted convention at which all political parties and representatives of other sections were represented, so that full consideration could be given to the various proposals. The principal requirement would be the goodwill of the States. We should keep in mind that Australia is a federation, a partnership between the Commonwealth and the States, designed to serve the people. Let us who operate in the Commonwealth sphere be content to govern within the ambit of the things that rightly belong to us, and not by a process of infiltration, peaceful penetration, or absorption, attempt to deprive the States of their rights. I shall vote against the bill.
Senator J. B.v HAYES (Tasmania) [2.16 a.m.]. - This is probably the most important measure that has come before the Senate, and for that reason I voice my protest against the circumstances in which it is being discussed. It is not fair to ask honorable senators to deal with important legislation such as this between 2 and 3 o’clock in the morning. There is no justification for such haste; the bill could just as well be dealt with to-morrow, or even next week, as in the early hours of this morning. The proposals before us strike at the very foundation of the Commonwealth, and it is not fair, either to the representatives of the people or to the people themselves, that the bill should be rushed through in this way. Apparently, the Government has decided to put the measure through at this sitting, and we cannot do more than express our disapproval.
This is a bill to give to the Commonwealth power to legislate in respect of seventeen different subjects, fourteen of which we have heard about for some time, and three others which, for some reason, have been added recently. The subjects are all-embracing in their import, and are of great significance. The powers sought to be conferred on the Commonwealth by this bill are not new; most of them are powers which the States now hold, whilst some of them, I believe, arc now held by the Commonwealth. We have to decide which authority - the Commonwealth Parliament or the State Parliaments - should be entrusted with these powers. I believe that many of them can be administered better by the States than by the Commonwealth. In some matters the Commonwealth should be all-powerful, but other matters are best left in the hands of the State Governments, because of their local knowledge. It is, therefore, a matter of getting together, and finding out which authority can best deal with certain matters. If control over the matters referred to in this bill be taken from the States, they will be almost bereft of authority. I should very much prefer to see some of the powers set out in the bill administered from Hobart than from Canberra, because I know that the local administration would be better and more economical. The first thing that strikes me about these proposals is their magnitude and far-reaching character. Should the bill pass both Houses of the Parliament there will be a referendum of the people, but whether the people will agree to the proposals remains to be seen. The present time is most inopportune for submitting constitutional alterations to the people. If members of Parliament do not understand what is proposed, how can the people be expected ito understand them ? They will not be in a position to exercise sound judgment in regard to the proposals and, accordingly, the appeal to them will develop into a bitter party political fight, with all its attendant evils. It is not right that the people should be divided when all their energies should be directed towards winning the war. There is a better way of doing what is required than that contemplated by the Government. If representatives of the Commonwealth Parliament would again meet the representatives of the States it might be possible to remove some of the difficulties which have arisen. The Commonwealth could, at least, ascertain what powers the States would be willing to refer to the Commonwealth, and it may be found that several necessary powers could be obtained without an appeal to the people and the bitterness associated with it. Under the National Security Act the Government already has all the powers required, and they will remain in operation until six months after the end of the war. A further six months will probably elapse before peace is declared. It will be seen that there is plenty of time to find out what the States are prepared to do in the interests of Australia. Any compromise could be brought before the Parliament later. Before anything is done which might upset the people, why not ascertain how far the States are prepared to go in transferring powers to the Commonwealth? Then there could be another convention before any further proposals for an alteration of the Constitution were submitted to the electors. That would be a better way than the Government proposes.
– Let us pass the bill first. Then if the States want to transfer certain powers, they can do so.
– The States are jealous of their rights, and are entitled to safeguard them. It is not a matter of the giving or taking of rights, but rather of what is best in the interests of Australia.
The first power which the Government seeks for the Commonwealth Government relates to the repatriation of service men and women. The Commonwealth Government already has all the powers required in that connexion. I am of that opinion because of my experience in connexion with repatriation matters after the last war. The repatriation of the fighting men was not then held up because of any lack of power. The Commonwealth Government took over certain functions which it thought it could administer best, and it left with the States certain powers which it believed the States could exercise to the best advantage. For instance, the States dealt with the settlement of soldiers on the land. The Opposition has been twitted that many of the soldier settlement schemes which were inaugurated after the last war were not a success. It is true that they were not the success that was hoped for, but had the Commonwealth Government controlled them, would the position have been any better? The reason for their lack of success was that we were trying to settle people on the land in a time of boom. Everything was expensive. I was a member of the Tasmanian Government at the time, and I did everything possible to acquire suitable land without paying too much for it. A Soldier .Settlement Board consisting of farmers and good practical men as land valuers was appointed. During this debate it has been said that local valuers should have been called in to value land before purchase. In Tasmania, local valuers were appointed. Before an orchard was purchased the Soldier Settlement Board examined it, and if it was orchard land, it was inspected by an expert orchardist. It also had to be endorsed by an experienced local committee before any negotiations went farther. However, with all our precautions, boom prices were sometimes paid. At that time almost everybody was urging the settlement of soldiers on the land. Prices for primary products were booming. Holdings were bought and sub-divided, and in some instances the price was settled by arbitration; but it was found that fencing and building materials and other requisites were costly. Labour also was costly and inefficient, and so, in many instances, the land was burdened with too big a debt. It has been said that the. Commonwealth Government had no power to deal with those matters, but had it dealt with them the position would have been worse. The States can do certain things far better than the Commonwealth. It is a mistake to think that the Commonwealth Parliament has a monopoly of the political intellects in this country. The State Parliaments have the advantage of being familiar with local conditions, and, for that reason, they are capable of’ administering certain powers, including some of the powers sought under this measure, more effectively than the Commonwealth. ! Power is being sought in respect of “ employment and unemployment “. That term is almost unlimited. I know that after the war the Commonwealth Govern.ment will be obliged to expend large sums of money in transferring exservice personnel to civilian occupations, and will have to care for ex-service personnel “in the transition period. I believe; however, that it should approach the problem of providing employment by encouraging private enterprise. We must remember that between 80 per cent, and 90 per cent, of employment in Australia has always been, and always will be, provided by private enterprise. Therefore, the Government will be well advised to refrain from interfering with private enterprise. It should take the first opportunity to remove the pinpricking regulations and restrictions now operating to the detriment of private enterprise. The Government should let businessmen conduct the ordinary commercial activities of the country, ensure that there will be less government interference with commerce and have a great deal more’ method in connexion with government generally. By that, rather than by any other means it will provide against unemployment. In any case, as the Commonwealth has control of the purse-strings, it can indirectly control employment. Consequently, it does not require additional powers in that respect. The Commonwealth practically possesses the only means of raising sufficient money to finance undertakings to provide largescale employment. It should content itself with raising the money and financing the States in undertakings of that kind, because the States are more capable of doing that work economically and effectively than the Commonwealth. It is a mistake to think that the Commonwealth Government must do everything itself. I suggest that in such matters it should confer with the States, with a view to proceeding on the basis which I have suggested, because that procedure will prove of greatest benefit to the nation as a whole. The powers set out in the measure appear to be harmless; but that is not the case. The Commonwealth is seeking power to control combines, trusts and monopolies. The Government should have power to deal with any combine, trust or monopoly deemed to be operating to the detriment of the nation, or working in restraint of trade. But the terms in which this power is sought in the measure are too wide. If it be granted in such terms, the Government would be able to determine what constituted a combine, trust or monopoly. It could, for instance, declare that a partnership constituted a combine, trust or monopoly. That power is too wide. We should at least qualify this power by restricting the control of the Commonwealth to trusts, combines and monopolies which are deemed to be working in restraint of trade.
The Government is also seeking power to legislate in respect of production and distribution. Had “ exchange “ been added to this heading, we should recognize an old friend. This is straight-out socialism. The Government is seeking power to control primary products in certain circumstances. From that expression, one would conclude that under this power the Government will be enabled not only to deal with primary production, but also to engage in the manufacture and distribution of commodities in competition with private enterprise. All I can say is that my experience of government undertakings does not encourage me to support the establishment of enterprises of that kind. Governments in each of the States have in the past dabbled in enterprises, and in so doing have incurred huge losses. Further, such undertakings were not nearly so efficient as private enterprise.
– Is the honorable senator in favour of the establishment of the aluminium industry in Tasmania?
– That industry can be established by private enterprise with the assistance of the Government. I am in favour of its establishment.
– If it were left to the Government alone to establish the industry, would the honorable senator still be in favour of it?
– I believe that the industry could be established and conducted more efficiently and successfully by private enterprise with governmental assistance. A glance at the history of the great industrial enterprises in this country will prove what I have said, although important enterprises, particularly those controlled by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, have been much maligned by honorable senators opposite. The activities of that organization, however, are a credit to any country. It treats its employees well, and to-day is producing steel at world competitive prices. That undertaking would not have been so successful under government control, and it would not have been nearly so valuable as it has been to the nation in time of Avar. I also mention the Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australasia, which is able to show a profit while turning out an article at world competitive prices. One need only compare the record of private enterprise with government-controlled undertakings, particularly in Queensland, to realize that private enterprise is obviously more efficient and successful than government control.
These powers are sought for a period of five years after the cessation of hostilities. Senator Nash said that period could be regarded as a period of trial, and should the exercise of these powers by the Commonwealth during that period prove to be satisfactory they could be vested permanently in the Commonwealth. I submit that proposals of this kind are too momentous to be made the subject of any experiment. It is preferable to devote even a year to a consideration of them in conferences with the States with a view to eliminating all risk in the matter. If the powers sought under this measure he granted to theCommonwealth, and this Government by virtue of such powers undertakes socialist schemes, the people will regret having made a change. For these reasons I oppose the hill. I repeat that it will be disastrous to hold a referendum during the war. I shall oppose these proposals at every opportunity presented to me.
Motion (by Senator McBride) put -
That the debate be now adjourned.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon Gordon Brown.)
Majority . . 1
– The Government has again brutally used its majority against the Opposition. An important measure of this character should be considered impartially and in an atmosphere of calm; but I think that even you, Mr. President, will admit that we cannot give-such consideration to it under the conditions under which we are now asked to deal with it. These proposals were conceivedin an atmosphere of suspicion which had been created by previous actions of this Government. Shortly after it assumed office it lost no time in flaunting to the world its independenceand power. Honorable senators will’ recall that one of the first actions taken by the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) was to pass, in a time of war, the Statute of Westminster Bill, which action, I suggest, was just as inopportune as the introduction of this measure: Whilst I shall endeavour to discuss the bill in an impartial and calm manner, I suggest that, if the Government were really earnest in its desire for these powers for the purposes for which it says that they are required, it would have been better had the AttorneyGeneral, instead of bringing before this Parliament the bill first introduced, called a conference before any idea of the powers which he required had been made known to the country. Instead of that, in his exuberance, probably gaining confidence with the successes which he had had, he presented to Parliament a- bill which is not in any way parallel with the measure which the Senate is now considering. Indeed, there can be only one opinion of what was really wanted by the Attorney-General, and, therefore, I assume, by the Government, because presumably he was acting in concert with the Government. It was something deliberately designed, not to amend, but to smash the Constitution of the Commonwealth. Further colour is [given to that view by statements made from time to time even by members of the Government, who gave expression to the old canard that they were in favour of democracy and the complete authority of Parliament.
– Hear, hear ! That above all others.
– I am glad of that confirmation, because I do not want to misinterpret what was the distinct opinion of that side, of the chamber. I am now confirmed - and I have heard no dissentient voice on that side - in my belief that the original bill introduced by the Attorney-General on the 1st October, 1942, was one, not to amend the Constitution, but to do away entirely with all its limitations. That, I suggest, is in complete conformity with the canards and catch-cries which are continually expressed, not only in this chamber, but also on soap-boxes on the Yarra Bank from time to time, with the idea of suggesting to the people that it is they, and not their elected representatives, who are going to govern.
It is well for us, when considering democracy and parliamentary government, to realize that Great Britain is the home of the parliamentary system, which evolved over a long period of years, with great struggles between the people and the king in the first instance, and later on between sections of the British people. During the whole of that time, while there was no written constitution to restrict the powers of the British Parliament, the people set up and maintained a bicameral system which I am perfectly certain will not be approved by any member on the benches opposite. I am sure that they would say that it was completely out of date, and, indeed, they might say that it was an insult to democracy. As is well known that the British Parliament consists of the House of Commons elected on an adult franchise, and the House of Lords which is a nominee chamber. If I am any judge, that chamber is anathema to every member on the opposite side of the Senate. In spite of the alleged defects in the British system, it is the only one which has stood the test of time.
– Without changes?
– It has changed from time to time, but basically it remains a bicameral system, with one house elected by adult suffrage and the other nominated. Although Labour governments have been in control of the British Parliament, and they and other governments have criticized the House of Lords, from time immemorial, no sincere attempt has been made to abolish that chamber.
– They did put a limitation upon it.
– A very definite limitation was placed upon it, but it has the desirable effect of postponing legislation which in its opinion should be considered by the electors. While, very much like this chamber, it has no right to interfere with money bills, it can reject any other bill submitted to it. The House of Commons then has the opportunity of re-introducing the bill on two subsequent occasions after two years have elapsed, and if the House of Lords rejects it a third time the House of Commons can pass it, and it becomes law without reference to the House of Lords. The main point, however, is that the power of the upper chamber is one of delay, so that the people of Great Britain may consider the proposition made by the House of Commons, and then make their feelings known. I know of no instance in which the House of Commons has passed a bill for the third time which has been rejected by the House of Lords, although it may have happened. There is in this country a theory, subscribed to, I believe, by every honorable senator opposite, that the power of Parliament should be supreme, and even immediately supreme. I have heard the Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane) say that he would abolish courts, including the Arbitration Court, and I believe that on one occasion he said that he would abolish the High Court of Australia. He has stated that he is opposed to any restriction on the power of Parliament. It is as well, when we are considering the bill now before us, to realize the background and outlook of the Government which has brought it forward, because I am not one of those who believe that the Parliament should be supreme in all matters. I am very jealous of the Constitution, and the limitation which it places upon Governments and Parliaments. When those people who were dissatisfied with the political, economic and social treatment they received in Great Britain migrated to another country, and eventually obtained their independence, they did not give to their Parliament an open cheque. They created a very rigid written Constitution and, so far as I am aware, it has never at any time been suggested to the American people that they should destroy it. They guard it most jealously. Consequently I think that we must take these matters into consideration when debating the bill now before us. No resemblance is visible in this bill to the original bill, which most ambiguously set out the desire of the Attorney-General and the Government - a bill which at one fell swoop was going to destroy the very foundations of our Constitution.
– Nonsense !
– I am sorry to hear a Minister of the Crown make such an inane interjection, because even the originator of the first bill admitted under examination what I have said. One has only to read it to see that I am right. It has a most attractive and seductive title. The Government is very adept at concealing its real intention and purpose. It was to contain a proposed new Part VI., headed “ War Aims and Post-war Reconstruction “. That would catch the unthink ing people of this country, but fortunately I do not think that there are many of them. The time which will elapse between the introduction of that bill in October, 1942, and the date on which the present proposals are submitted to the people will, I hope, be long: enough to enable them to understand thepurpose and intent behind the apparently innocent wording. Under the headingwhich I have just quoted that bill provides -
The Parliament shall have full power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth, its territories and all places under its jurisdiction or control, for the purpose of carrying into effect the war aims …
It has frequently been stated in this chamber that all the powers necessary to carry out the war aims and efforts of the Government are already in its possession.
– That is not admitted.
– I am not surprised that the Leader of the Senate, who wants to wipe out the High Court, has no regard for the decisions of that body, but most other people are prepared to accept them. I for one have confidence in that institution. The clause which I was reading goes on - and objects of Australia as one of the United Nations, including the attainment of economic security and social justice in the post-war world and for the purpose of post-war reconstruction generally.
I have no claim, to legal knowledge, but I suggest that it is a prostitution of the Attorney-General’s training to use language of that character to clothe a proposition to be inserted in the Constitution. A school child could have drafted the clause in better terms than that. It is nothing but a flagrant piece of propaganda. In fact, so little did its framer think of it, that it has now been dropped. However, Herbert Vere Evatt is a man who veers from one side to the other with every change of wind. Before the Convention assembled, he sensed the public reaction to his proposal, and the Convention never saw- the bill. The clause goes on-
Without limiting the generality of the foregoing sub-section, it is hereby declared that the power of Parliament shall extend to all measures which in the declared opinion of Parliament will tend to achieve economic security . . .
I do not know how such a tendency is to be determined, or who is to determine it. The clause continues -
That is a good one. Presumably, Parliament was to decide what was “useful occupation “. Judging from some of the remarks I have heard from honorable senators opposite, my friend, Senator Spicer, would be out of employment very soon. The clause states that the Commonwealth Parliament shall have power to make laws in respect to certain things, and then it goes on with the biggest lot of “ flapdoodle “ that I have ever seen in a bill presented to Parliament. Proposed new section 60a (2) (a) reads -
The reinstatement and advancement of those who have been members of the fighting services of the Commonwealth during the war and of the. dependants of such members who have died or been disabled as a consequence of the war.
As has been stated, the Commonwealth already has that power, and has exercised it without question for 25 years for that very purpose. The framers of the bill then proceeded to something very much dearer to their hearts. The next power was to be in respect to -
Employment, including the transfer of workers from war-time industries.
That was based upon a recently passed resolution of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, but it was dropped for the time being because it would not appeal to the soldiers. The next paragraph provided for -
The development of the country, and the expansion of production and markets.
Those arc beautiful ideals which we have been striving to put into practice for the last 150 years, but they were evidently regarded as of so little importance that they were not included in the present bill. However, the next paragraph is included in a slightly different form. It reads -
The production and manufacture of goods and the supply of goods and services, and the establishment and development of industries.
I am sure, Mr. President, that you will support that proposal, because it is one of the main planks of the platform to which you subscribe. Further proposed powers were to be given to legislate in respect of prices and of goods and services, including their regulation and control, and also in respect of profiteering. The next paragraph is a good one -
The encouragement of population.
I only regret that it is not included in the bill now before the Senate, because we would all be able to support it.
– Is the honorable senator in order in debating a bill which is not before the Senate?
– Surely I must be in order, because it would be impossible to understand the bill before the Senate unless we have a look at its father. Paragraph h of the original bill was also a very good one, but unfortunately it has been removed. It read -
Carrying into effect the guarantee of the four freedoms, that is to say -
freedom of speech and expression;
freedom from want; and
freedom from fear.
The last two freedoms have been dropped from the present bill, and the other two retained only to gain the support of the Labour press. The curious thing is that the present bill, contains one provision, now recommended to us with great fervour by Government supporters, which was not contained in the original measure. I refer to the paragraph proposing to give power to the Commonwealth to control trusts and monopolies. I agree that it is completely inconsequential, and of no value. The people of Australia have said on four occasions that they do not want that provision in the Constitution, and I have no doubt that they will say it a fifth time also.
The bill before the Senate contains certain of the clauses to be found in the original measure. Apparently, the Leader of the Government, after consultation with his supporters, has decided that their silence would be in the best interests of the Government proposals, because none of them has spoken for some time. The last speaker on the Government side said that no arguments had been advanced from this side of the chamber, and, therefore, he did not intend to make any reply.
The greatest authority on the Australian Constitution, the High Court, has declared, in effect, that the first clause of this bill is unnecessary. I believe that the Government agrees with that declaration, but it regards the clause as a sugar-coating on an otherwise unpalatable pill. It knows that the public are anxious to do the right thing by returned soldiers, and so it makes this appeal to public sentiment. The second of the proposed powers, that relating to employment and unemployment, is the widest in the bill. It is so wide that I could not hope to suggest any limitations to it, but if this power were given to the Commonwealth Parliament and it were exercised in the manner in which I believe it would be exercised by this Government, I am fortified in that belief because this is one of the principal planks of the Labour party’s platform. Following the reinstatement of returned soldiers, this is undoubtedly to take the place of the transfer of people and workers in war-time industries that appeared in the first bill. We have heard a lot over the years of what was done after the last war, but some of the most outrageous and inaccurate statements I have ever heard were made in this debate by honorable senators opposite. The Postmaster-‘General (Senator Ashley) said that all we gave to the returned soldiers was a swag to carry.
– And preference to go hungry at times.
– The small fry are biting, but I prefer to angle for the Postmaster-General.
– He is a responsible Minister.
– The honorable senator is very generous to him. I concede that he is a Minister of the Crown. He was followed by the Minister for Aircraft production (Senator Cameron) who, in and out of season, has complained at the raw deal that wo gave to our soldiers after the last war. His words have found echo amongst his more docile comrades on the Government benches; but his attacks have been vicious on previous administrations for what they did or omitted to do after the last war. But, strange to relate, the same honorable senator, having to pilot through this House a bill to amend the Australian
Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, committed himself most irrevocably to this statement reported in Hansard, volume 174, page 2129-
I say without fear of contradiction that no member of the British Commonwealth of Nations has shown its gratitude to its defenders in a more generous or practical form than has this country.
There is no qualification of that statement.
– He was speaking on behalf of the Government.
– It is something that he as a Minister of the Crown would say in this House and deny on the soapbox on the Yarra bank. Then, in order to show the practical way in which we expended money for the repatriation of returned soldiers in the last war, he said -
In proof of this claim let me mention that, up to the 31st December, 1942, more than £270,000,000 was expended in repatriation and general rehabilitation in connexion with the last war.
– Yet the Government, claims that the Commonwealth Parliament has no power.
– Or did nothing, which is worse. That is the answer to my honorable friends opposite, who all the time howl that this and that was not done by previous administrations. We have had given to us as a reason for the introduction of this measure, apart altogether from the repatriation and rehabilitation of returned soldiers, the power of the Government to introduce into this country the millennium, called the new order, under which everybody shall have full employment and everybody shall be happy. All that depends on the passage of this measure. In the last 150 years we have not been the most downtrodden and oppressed people under the sun. As has been very well said by Senator Herbert Hays, the development which has taken place in Australia is at least comparable with that in any other part of the world.
– Hear, hear!
– I am glad to have the affirmation of the Minister for the Interior, because I believe that he realizes that that is a fact. Suddenly, after all that development, according to the Government, unless this bill be passed, and unless it be affirmed by the people at the referendum, we shall run right into disaster rife with unemployment and starvation for the people. That is a tall story to tell Australians. They will not accept it for two minutes. The real purpose of proponents of this measure is not to allow this country to continue to make progress in the fashion of the last 150 years, but to bring into being what they describe as the new order. My honorable friends opposite lose no opportunity to tell us that our soldiers are fighting for the new order. I deny it. Primarily they are fighting to preserve the independence of this country and to defeat the Japanese and the Germans. Secondly, they are fighting because they have a real sense of patriotism, not only to Australia, but also to the British Commonwealth of Nations. Thirdly, they are fighting in the hope that they shall be able to return to that which the Labour party designates as the bad old order, in which they will be able to shed the restrictions and regimentations under which they have lived for the last four or five years. I realize that the old order was not perfect. They do, too. They hope that they shall be able to do something to improve it. Basically, however, they have a profound respect for the conditions that’ prevailed in Australia before the outbreak of the war. It will have little appeal to them if they are to be told that we shall have wonderful conditions, with employment for all, but no individual freedom. It is fortunate for the people that the Government’s flair for publicity of the wrong sort has allowed its advisers to go out into the highways and byways to indicate what is behind its mind. At the Summer School of the Australian Institute of Political Science, held at Canberra a few weeks ago, certain people expressed certain ideas.
– “Bob” Menzies was one.
– I agree with some of the opinions expressed, but 1 entirely disagree with others. I repeat that Australians are fortunate that the Government’s advisers have expressed their ideas about what shall ‘be the future of this country under this Government if the powers which it is now seeking are granted.
– The honorable senator is drawing a long bow.
– I do not know whether I am drawing a long bow. The progenitor of this bill, the AttorneyGeneral, also had something to say at the Summer School of the Australian Institute of Political Science. There is no need for me to take heed of what was said by the Government’s minions when I have at my disposal what the right honorable gentleman said. A delegate who was, no doubt, completely “ fed up “ with the new order and regimentation that was to be imposed, said that after all the right of man to choose his own employment was one of the things which distinguished man from beast - a very appropriate comment ! The Attorney-General, feeling that he had to take exception to that statement, declared that the taking away of the right of the individual to choose his own vocation and employer was only one of the freedoms that the Australian people must forgo in the interests of the State. Nothing that I could say would ever damn this bill so effectively as the words of its progenitor. The great ideal of the Australians is to preserve their liberty. We can ensure people freedom from want and fear by putting them in gaol, where they will be well looked after and fed, but few people want that kind of freedom.
– There are some who ought to be in gaol.
– The honorable senator is a living and, unfortunately, free example. The sacred right of the individual to decide his own way of life has been handed down to us by our British forebears, and it is dear to all of us. The problem of repatriation and rehabilitation has been grossly exaggerated by the Government time and time again. We have heard figures amounting to half the working population of this country given as representing the number to be repatriated and rehabilitated or provided with work. I think that that is a gross exaggeration. We do not know precisely what conditions will prevail after the cessation of hostilities, but a generous estimate would, be to say that employment will have to be provided for 250,000 persons, either by government agencies or with government assistance. Having regard to the instincts and desires of the people 1 should say that the best way to provide employment would be to ensure freedom from restrictions, reduction of taxes, and encouragement of private enterprise by the Commonwealth Government. After as many as possible of the unemployed have been absorbed as .a result df private enterprise and individual initiative, work could be provided for the remainder under the powers which the Government already possesses. On many occasions it has made finance available to the States under conditions laid down by itself, although the work has been carried out by the State authorities. We arc told that that could not possibly provide a solution of the problem, but the only inference to be drawn from that is that the State Parliaments are hostile to the people. It should be realized that the Governments of the States are much nearer to the people than, is the Commonwealth Government.
The bill contains a flambuoyant proposal about national works which could include housing. In South Australia, schemes have been adopted for the provision of homes at a reasonable cost, and at reasonable rentals, but if the forecast we have heard of the Commonwealth scheme can be regarded as reliable, the houses provided under that scheme will not be of low cost, and will not be available at reasonable rentals. Despite the experiences of the past, the present Government has the audacity to ask the people for increased powers for the reasons which I have stated’. I shall oppose the granting of these powers at every stage, because I consider the present time to be inopportune for such an appeal to the people. I have no doubt that the inherent good sense of the people will prevent the Government from obtaining the increased powers which it seeks.
– I am sorry to have to speak at this hour, because I do not believe in legislation by exhaustion. This is one of the most important bills that have come before the Senate, but no opportunity has been afforded of fair consideration of the measure.
– Honorable senators opposite have had unlimited opportunities to speak on the bill.
- Senator Nash made an attack against the Legislative Councils of the Parliaments of the States, but he should remember that 200,000 people in Tasmania have exactly the same voting power in the Senate as 2,000,000 people in New South Wales. This chamber is supposed to look after the interests of the States, but I am afraid that it is not paying sufficient attention to those interests. Senator McBride has quoted from the first bill drawn up by the Government for the alteration of the Constitution, but as it was not acceptable another bill with a more elaborate title has been drafted. It is- now described as the Constitution Alteration (Post-war Reconstruction and Democratic Rights) Bill, but no blood test is required to determine whether it had the same parents as that to which Senator McBride referred. I am sure that the people will look upon the measure with suspicion. The first of the fourteen powers referred to in the bill relates to the rehabilitation and advancement of returned’ soldiers. That provision, like the booklet which has been- issued by the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) on the subject of post-war reconstruction has been included entirely for propaganda purposes.
– Members of Parliament are the only people who have received that booklet.
– No doubt it will soon be in the hands of many people. It is unfortunate that the fighting forces have been referred to in the bill for propaganda purposes. I have read the speeches on this measure by the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt), the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), and I have listened to the able addresses delivered by Senator Spicer and Senator A. J. McLachlan, all of whom are trained legal men. I look upon the members of the Senate as a jury. We can only come to the conclusion that the powers asked for by the Government already exist. Senator McBride referred to a judgment of the High Court, in which it was said that, if the Government could transfer men from peace-time to war-time activities, they could also take them back from war-time activities and restore them to civil employment. I think that the Attorney-General was a member of the High Court bench at that time.
Surely the English language is not so bankrupt of words that we cannot have a bill that everybody oan understand.
– Even the AttorneyGeneral cannot understand this measure.
– Exactly contradictory views have been expressed as to the meaning of its provisions, and I have no doubt that the public, being confused about the purpose of the measure, will reject the proposals embodied in it. The people of the States rely on the Senate; to safeguard their interests, and we; should endeavour to see that proposals submitted to the people are capable of being readily understood. I defy anybody to say what the proposals in this bill mean. The opinion of a King’s Counsel in Now South Wales is that the powers already enjoyed by the Commonwealth are greater than those which the people will be asked to confer upon this Parliament. During the last 25 years, the Commonwealth has been exercising the powers referred to in the bill, oven in time of peace. Which authority built the arterial roads that have been laid down throughout Australia? It was the Commonwealth Government. Those roads have proved of the utmost value in the development of this country.
– Many of them were built to provide sustenance work.
– The necessary funds were provided by the Commonwealth, but the work was carried out by State and municipal authorities. Honorable senators who have made a lifelong study” of the meaning of bills do not understand the meaning of the powers set out in this measure. What is implied by the bald statement “ employment and unemployment”? Senator Large declared frankly that the object of the Government was to nationalize industry. Other supporters of the Government have been silent on that matter. Senator ,T. B. Hayes, a former
Minister for Works in Tasmania, has pointed out that soldier land settlement could be carried out more satisfactorily by the State Parliaments than by a central government operating from Canberra. At the general elections in 1919 I visited the western district of Victoria and advised returned soldiers not to settle on rich land. An attempt was made to induce them to take up land priced at £60 an acre,, of which about 30 acres was to be allotted to each soldier. In the Corangamite division, there are 700 or 800 soldier settlers who have made a success of their holdings. I have been informed that about 90 per cent, of the men residing on the Mount Bute estate have met their obligations to the Closer Settlement Board and have paid for their stock. I should be sorry if the Commonwealth Government set out to resume properties compulsorily. I could imagine nothing more ridiculous than an attempt from Canberra to settle returned soldiers on the land in, say, Western Australia. The States have highly efficient Departments of Agriculture which employ numerous expert advisers and which conduct valuable experimental farms. They have at their disposal all the means required for assisting primary producers. Imagine the confusion that would arise if land settlement throughout Australia were directed from Canberra ! Rural conditions in Queensland are vastly different from what they are in Victoria. Whilst the Department of Agriculture in Queensland has extensive knowledge of the sugar industry, the Department of Agriculture in Victoria has concentrated its attention on the dairying, fruit-growing and wheat-growing industries. The Commonwealth Government proposes to set up departments that will duplicate the State Departments of Agriculture, and its first step has been to appoint a. Director-General of Agriculture. I do not know Mr. Bulcock, but I understand that he is a capable man. His knowledge of primary production is practically limited to conditions in Queensland; he knows little about conditions in Victoria. The States already employ experts who are able to give the most efficient advice about primary production. What the Commonwealth should have done was to co-operate “with the States for the purpose of ensuring that the most effective use was made of the services of those experts. If the Commonwealth Government had been sincere, it would again have, requested the States to transfer to it the powers agreed upon at the Convention held in October, 1942. It could still obtain those powers without difficulty.
– The State Premiers do not control the Legislative Councils.
– There would be no difficulty in arranging with the upper houses to agree to the transfer to the Commonwealth of certain powers. The Legislative Council of Victoria- accepted the bill.
– But Victoria is only one of six States.
– New South Wales and Queensland also accepted it. The Commonwealth, without the slightest difficulty, could pursuade the three remaining States to transfer to it the necessary powers. Honorable senators opposite appear to think that this bill will create new powers. That view is erroneous. The Commonwealth seeks to filch from the States certain of their powers. The first power which the Commonwealth filched from them was the power with respect to taxation. Having done so, the Commonwealth must now accept responsibility for providing the finance required for developmental works that the States will undertake on its behalf. I object to the granting of these powers to the Commonwealth for five years. During that period the Commonwealth will create special departments employing substantial staffs; but upon the expiration of the five years, the people may reject a proposal to vest those powers in the Commonwealth for a further period and the staffs will have to be disbanded. The principle is wrong. The Commonwealth requires these powers either permanently or not at all.
– The Premiers asked that the powers be transferred to the Commonwealth for not longer than five years.
– The Commonwealth Government asked for the powers for that period.
– Never mind what the State Premiers asked! The Commonwealth Government should be able to look after itself. But it is not doing so. The proposed freedoms are a farce. Who has sought to interfere with freedom of religion? It appears that the Commonwealth Government is seeking power to control religion.
– That is not so.
– Freedom of speech will also be guaranteed; but that will be freedom of speech within the law. Even if freedom of speech is guaranteed, no person will be permitted to libel or slander another person with impunity. These “ freedoms “ arc simply political window-dressing. I am confident that when this referendum is held the people will deny to the Commonwealth the powers that the Government is seeking.
– I regard this bill as one of the most important measures that the Senate has ever considered. Upon the decisions made to-day and upon possible subsequent decisions by the electors may depend the success or failure of our people. That is why I deplore the fact that the Government is forcing us, as their representatives, to consider this bill at this early hour of the morning. The object of the measure is to ensure the postwar rehabilitation of our troops who are now absent from Australia fighting to preserve this country. At this hour honorable senators are asked to consider this bill. Certain honorable senators opposite have been sleeping for some time, but I am. glad to notice that they ‘a re awakening. We appreciate the action of the Government in not following the policy that it adopted with recent bills of “gagging” the debate for the purpose of preventing free discussion. We thank the Government for the small mercy of allowing us, even at this hour, to exercise our right of free speech. But it is deplorable that certain leading debaters of this chamber have been “ gagged “. They have not been permitted to speak. For example, the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) is one of the best orators in this chamber and is one of its most experienced members. The heap of notes in front of him indicates that he made great preparation for this debate. Yet on the hill in which the Government will guarantee freedom of speech, the Minister has been “ gagged “.
– The Minister was a representative of the Commonwealth at the Constitution Convention.
– For a number of years, he has been a member of the Senate and he attended the Convention which discussed for several days the transference of these powers from the States to the Commonwealth. Yet he has not been permitted to speak on this bill. The first woman member of the Senate, Senator Tangney, has on her desk notes of a speech that we are anxious to hear, because I believe that she can make a valuable contribution to this debate. Like the Minister for the Interior she has also been “ gagged “. Apparently all honorable senators opposite have been told that they must not speak. The “ steamroller “ has been put over them. Is this the kind of free speech which the Government proposes to guarantee to the people?
The importance of this bill cannot be overestimated. The Australian Constitution, which regulates the lives of the people, was not born in the space of a few hours, a few days, or a few months. The Australian nation, as such, was conceived some 40 or 50 years before the inception of the federation. In 1891 the first informal committee discussed the founding of the Australian nation. Sir Henry Parkes, the father of federation, planted the seeds which subsequently produced the Commonwealth Constitution. In 1897 a convention of elected representatives of the Australian people was held. For months the proposed Constitution was discussed. Another convention was held in 1898, but it was not until 1901 that the federation was actually founded. Those who drafted the Constitution were men representative of all parties and creeds - the greatest intellectually that Australia could produce - and they discussed the kind of Constitution that Australia as a nation should have. They had as precedents the Constitutions of Great Britain, the “United States of America, and several other countries. They had to consider whether they would adopt the unitary or the federal form of government, or whether a loose confederacy would be preferable. After long deliberation, they discarded the unitary system because “they realized that a country the size of Australia could not be adequately governed from one central point. The views of the founders of federation may be summed up in the following words: -
It seems to us that the concentration of all legislative and executive functions in one authority would be likely to produce paralysis at the centre and anaemia at the circumference.
Those words apply equally to a federal form of government if the powers of one parliament are made so wide as to concentrate all authority in the centre. Decentralization of authority is essential for sound government. Even under our present federal system, great delays and inconvenience are experienced as the result of over-centralization, despite the fact that the Commonwealth possesses only limited powers. The idea of the founders of federation was the adoption of the federal system, under which the legislative power would be divided between the central and State governments. They decided that things national in character should be undertaken by the National Parliament, whilst other things local in character should be undertaken by the State Parliaments. When they had decided that general principle, they considered which subjects could be regarded as national and which as of State concern. It was decided that national matters should be expressed and given to the Commonwealth Parliament, and that all remaining matters should be left in the hands of the States. The Commonwealth Constitution, as finally adopted in 1901, has operated successfully up to the present time, and those who suggest that under that Constitution Australia has made a failure of things, do not understand conditions in their own country. Just prior to the war, the League of Nations made an investigation of the standard of living of various countries, including the United States of America, Russia, and Great Britain. The finding was that New Zealand had the highest standard of living in the world, and that Australia had the second highest. That high standard in this country was ‘built up under the very Constitution which we are considering to-day. Therefore, when we are asked to consider alterations of the Constitution, we should ask ourselves whether these alterations are really necessary, and in what way our Constitution has failed. I invite honorable senators opposite to draw attention to one single piece of legislation passed by this Parliament which has been held by the High Court to be unconstitutional. In what way have the activities of the Commonwealth Parliament been hindered or restricted by lack of power? I submit that there has been no restriction whatever. Therefore, we must look for some other reason for the Government’s desire to alter the Constitution.
I propose now to deal with the various provisions of this ‘measure, and to discuss them in the light of the powers that the Commonwealth now possesses and the things which it can or cannot do under these powers. First, I shall deal with paragraph (i) of clause 2, which relates to the reinstatement and advancement of members of our fighting forces. We all agree that the duty of this Parliament is to provide for the reinstatement and advancement of members of the fighting forces ; but let us consider what power this Parliament already has to perform that duty. The High .Court has held that the power of the Commonwealth to marshal the man-power of this country is sufficient to provide adequately for the demobilization, reinstatement, and advancement of members of the fighting forces. That is something which is beyond doubt. The Baldwin, case, which has been decided by the High Court, has made that abundantly clear. The ‘Commonwealth Government already has in its defence powers, quite apart from whatever other powers it may possess, the fullest possible authority to reinstate and advance members of the fighting forces. In addition, of course, the Commonwealth has insurance powers, under which it may provide insurance against unemployment or sickness. That power is not limited in point of time, and it is sufficient to make provision for sick, wounded and unemployed soldiers. Under its old-age and invalid pensions legisla tion, the Government has power to provide for the aged and the sick. It has power also to set aside land for soldier settlement schemes. It can acquire properties on fair and just terms and can make them available either at, or below, cost, or at any price which the Government deems proper. Under its appropriation powers the Commonwealth can make money available for vocational training, the purchase of land, homes or anything else. In short, the Commonwealth Parliament already has the fullest power to reinstate and advance members of the fighting’ forces. Let us examine for a moment what has been achieved, unchallenged, by previous governments exercising those powers. As the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron) said, our repatriation legislation is the finest in the world. Under that legislation the Government can undertake the vocational training of returned soldiers, and the care of soldiers’ dependants. Provision is made also for the granting of .preference in employment to returned soldiers. Last year, as honorable senators will recall, a returned soldiers’ preference measure was introduced in the House of Representatives, but was not proceeded with. It has never been suggested that our repatriation legislation is unconstitutional. In addition, special legislation has been passed providing for soldier settlement schemes, and land has been purchased for that purpose. Employment has been provided in both government and private industries. Also the Government has dealt with housing, and has established industries and commercial undertakings of various kinds. None of these actions has been challenged or questioned. Let us now consider what the Government cannot do under its present powers, but will be able to do if the referendum be carried. At present the Government has not power after the war to conscript soldiers industrially, and that is the sole reason for the introduction of this measure. Under the cloak of powers for the reinstatement and advancement of members of the fighting forces, the Government is endeavouring to obtain power to impose industrial conscription upon the fighting men of this country; but these men who have been regimented - necessarily of course - during the past three or four years, are looking forward to liberty in the not-distant future. They do not want to be regimented and conscripted industrially; but that is the only additional power that this measure seeks to confer upon the Commonwealth in respect of returned soldiers. The argument which I am advancing is not merely a whim of fancy. Let us examine the following statement made by the Attorney-General himself at the Summer School of the Australian Institute of Political Science held in Canberra early this year -
I do not think that to-day, with the enormous development of industry and industrial organization, corporate control and finance, there is any longer a real right of every person to choose his vocation in life.
That statement was made by the Attorney-General less than two months ago - virtually on the eve of the introduction to this Parliament of this innocentlooking bill. I say definitely that the Government should not have power to conscript ex-servicemen for industrial purposes. “We are fighting foa- freedom and it will be a poor recompense for our soldiers, who have been offering their lives in order that we may enjoy that freedom, to find that, while they have been fighting, the Government has taken upon itself power to conscript them industrially. I shall quote also a statement by the Deputy Director of Post-war Reconstruction, Dr. Lloyd Ross, who is a member of that body of young economists which has been set up by the Government to decide the future lives of our soldiers. Dr. Lloyd Ross said -
Bureaucrats and planning will be essential for full-time employment in post-war years.
The following is another interesting declaration made by the AttorneyGeneral : -
The right of the individual to choose his own vocation and employment is only one of the freedoms which the Australian people must forgo in the interests of the State.
These statements make quite clear the object of the Government in seeking the passage of this innocent-looking measure. The Government is asking the people for power to reinstate members of the fighting forces in civilian employment, but what it really wants is power to conscript the soldier industrially. Let us compare the statements that I have quoted, with the utterance of another Labour man, Mr. William Green, president of the American Federation of Labour. Mr. Green said -
If this country ever gets a system of government regimentation, labour will suffer most.
– The honorable senator should not believe all these things.
– I am only going upon what the Attorney-General himself has said, and, after all, he £3 the one who has prepared and sponsored this measure. It is obvious that the right honorable gentleman is seeking to take away from the soldier, as he would take away from the civilian, the right to choose his own occupation. The case of a young man who was air-minded came to my notice recently. As soon as the war started he enlisted in the Air Force, but he was rejected because he ha.d a certain gland in his neck. At his own expense he went to the best specialist in Adelaide, and had the gland removed, hoping thereby to be accepted for the -Air Force. He enlisted again, but again was rejected - that time because he did not possess the gland. He then went to the School of Mines and studied aeronautics at his own expense. In the examination results, he topped the school, and later he was offered an appointment as Assistant Controller of Civil Airways. He applied for his release from the Taxation Department, where he was employed as a junior clerk, but his application was refused. I came to Canberra, and pointed out to the Assistant Commissioner of Taxation, Mr. McGovern, that this young man, whose life was wrapped up in aeronautics, had recently been on a holiday, and in five minutes had taught a girl to do his work as a junior clerk. Mr. McGovern was sympathetic, but the case had to go to the bureaucrats. The Deputy Commissioner of Taxation in Adelaide referred it to the Deputy Director of Man Power, Mr. Hunkin, who refused the young man permission to leave the Taxation Department. This young man has spent hundreds of pounds of his own money in fitting himself for the service that is open to him, yet because he is a junior clerk in the Taxation Department, he cannot secure his release. That is industrial conscription, under which a man must go where he is sent. I do not blame the Government for what happened in that case. I know that these things are necessary in time of war, and that individual interests cannot be considered. Men must go where the Government believes they are most necessary in the interests of the defence of the country. But that such a condition may continue in times .of peace is a depressing outlook. Yet that is the power which the Government is seeking from the people - power to take away from the individual the right to choose his own occupation and avocation. I have proved that conclusively by the quotation from the speech of the Attorney-General.
The second power asked for in this bill is power over employment and unemployment. Let us consider what powers in this connexion the Government already possesses. Without any alteration of the ‘Constitution, the Government has power to provide any employment that it chooses. Under the financial and appropriation power it can provide full employment, and under the power to make grants to the .States it can provide money for the States to employ any person. That has been done. The Commonwealth Government has the power to establish industries which can provide employment ; and it has done so. For instance, it established the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, which” did provide employment for a number of people. The Commonwealth also provided money for the States under the Main Roads Development Act, and that, in turn, provided work for many thousands of workers.
– A good job was done.
– Yes. Under its existing power the Government has been able to provide employment over a number of years. It will be seen, therefore, that there is no need for the Government to seek more power, if all it wants to do is to provide employment. But that is not all that it wants to do. The Government wants to take away another freedom; it wants to be able to say that no one shall be employed unless he is a unionist. It wants to take away the freedom of association, and to lay down the conditions and terms of employment for every man.
The Government is not out to provide employment. It already possesses that power. The new power that it seeks is power to conscript people in regard to employment, and to fix the terms and conditions of their employment, such as compulsory unionism. Reference has been made in this Parliament to a direction of the Prime Minister that only unionists and returned soldiers shall receive any higher rate of pay awarded by the Public Service Commissioner. That rule applies in Victoria to-day. In other words, the Government has shown that by back-door methods it proposes to bring in compulsory unionism.
– More tea money is paid to unionists than to non-unionists.
– That is so; the unionist gets 2s. 6d. whereas the nonunionist gets only 2s. tea money. Power to prescribe conditions of employment and’ to enforce compulsory unionism is what the Government is seeking.
Now let us look at the next point - power to control and organize the marketing of commodities. Before the war there was orderly marketing of sugar, dried fruits, and many other commodities. That power still exists. By virtue of its powers of appropriation and its financial powers, the Commonwealth Government can assist in providing for orderly marketing. But it cannot conscript or regiment industry. That is what is behind the Government’s proposal. It is not aiming to assist in marketing: what it wants is to be able to say that this or that industry shall or shall not do certain things. We are sometimes told that the obstacle to organized marketing is section 92 of the Constitution, and there is a lot to be said for that point of view. I do not propose to discuss section 92 this morning, but if that section, which provides that trade between the States shall be absolutely free, is a barrier to the present marketing powers, it is a barrier to the proposed new powers also. We must look for some other reason. The only reason why the Government seeks these additional powers is for the purpose of conscripting the industries of this country.
I come now to the clause dealing with companies. Under section 51 (xx.) of the Constitution, the Commonwealth has power over foreign corporations and trading or financial corporations formed within the limits of the Commonwealth. It is perfectly clear that there is no distinction between a company and a corporation.’ Doubt was expressed by the High Court some time ago whether the power over corporations covered the formation of a corporation. It has been suggested from time to time that the Government should ask for power not only. to deal with corporations or companies which have been formed, but also to control the formation of corporations or companies. But that is not the power which the Government is seeking here. In his recent booklet the Attorney-General says that the new power is needed only in relation to the formation of companies. But the power that appears here is not the power to form companies; it is a power to deal with companies after they have been formed. Any doubt that exists with regard to corporations applies equally to companies, and, therefore, again, we have to look for some other reason why this power is sought. The reason is that the Government wants to conscript, regulate and regiment the companies of thi3 country. The Government’s purpose is not to assist the fighting man, or the companies; it wants to regiment, control and regulate.
The next power that is asked for relates to trusts, combines and monopolies. I have yet to learn that a government which has power to tax incomes up to 100 per cent., and, in addition, to impose sales tax and import duties cannot control trusts, combines and monopolies. The Government can tax them in any way that it likes, and by means of that power to tax, it can control them. As has been pointed out, on four occasions the people have been asked to give this power to the Commonwealth, and nach time they have said no. Never yet has it been explained why this power is necessary, or in what way the present powers are deficient. What are these trusts, combines and monopolies which the Government wishes to control? Do they include the sugar monopoly, which has been fairly well controlled for some years? Honorable senators from Queensland invariably say that a fair thing is done by that company. If that is not the case, what exactly are these bogies? At whom is the Government aiming? Not one honorable senator opposite has told us of a single combine, or monopoly, that is “ getting away “ with anything in this country. Neither have they told us in what respect the power of the Commonwealth to deal with these concerns is deficient.
Another power asked for is with respect to “ profiteering and prices (but not including prices or rates charged by State or semi-governmental or local governing bodies for goods or services)”. Apparently, it is to be perfectly lawful, and, perhaps, even to be encouraged, that State and semigovernmental bodies should profiteer. Profiteering in the sense in which the term is generally understood must be stopped. We regard it as illegal and improper. But if it be wrong for the private individual, it is equally wrong for a semigovernmental body to profiteer. Why should such bodies be allowed to profiteer? Some reason must exist for this permission to State and semi-governmental bodies to profiteer whilst, at the same time, private enterprise is to ‘be prevented from profiteering. Is not the reason that the Government desires to implement its policy of socialization of industry, production, distribution, and exchange, and sees its way to do so by establishing semi-governmental bodies and allowing them to profit whilst, at the same ‘time, restricting the operations of private companies and individuals. In such circumstances, fair competition will be a thing of the past. Apparently, it is not to exist in the new order which is to be created, as the Attorney-General CDr. Evatt) has told us, by taking away the freedom of the individual to choose his own occupation. In order to bring that state of affairs about, the Government proposes to control profiteering and prices in respect of companies, but, at the same time, it will allow, and perhaps even encourage, semi-governmental bodies to operate in opposition to private enterprise. I have pointed out that the Commonwealth already possesses power to control profiteering, because it can control prices by virtue of its defence power; and so soon as the circumstances which gave rise to the National Security Act have disappeared, it will be time to abandon price-fixing regulations.
The next power sought under the measure is with respect to the production and distribution of goods except primary production. Should the Government wish to produce goods it can do so, just as it did when it established the Commonwealth Oil Refining Company. But, of course, what the Government is after is perfectly clear. It seeks power to implement the socialization of production, distribution and exchange, which has been a plank of the Labour party’s platform for many years. Under this power, the Government could destroy private industries. It could compete with private enterprise on such unfair terms that the latter could not survive. The electors should know exactly what they are being asked to vote upon. If the people are in favour of the socialization of production, distribution and exchange, and bureaucracy and regimentation in peace as well as in war, they are entitled to have that kind of system; but I point out that it is the very system which gave rise to the two dictators in Germany and Italy, who have caused the loss of millions of lives. Many Australian soldiers have already given their lives to prevent that very system from being introduced to this country. Have we not seen since the outbreak of the war posters issued by the previous Government and the present Government calling for volunteers to fight for freedom? The Government intends to destroy the very freedom for which our boys are fighting, under dreadful conditions in many cases, without even giving them a voice in the matter. I trust that even should this Government be granted these powers it will not exercise them in order to destroy this freedom. However, it is very ominous when we read statements such as those cited by Senator McBride, which enable us to realize what is in the minds of the members of the Government and its bureaucrats. Those men have not gone to fight for Australia, but sit back at home deciding how the soldiers shall live after the war. The post-war reconstruction committee has not a single returned soldier among its members. If any one has a right to be a member of such a committee it is a representative of the men who have fought for this country. However, the men who are deciding how we are to live after the war believe in the socialization of production, distribution and exchange. They believe in bureaucracy and regimentation, and that the people should be deprived of individual liberty.
The eighth power sought under this measure is in respect of overseas exchange and overseas investment. The Commonwealth has always possessed that power, and has already exercised it under section 51, (xii.), (xiv.), (xvi.) of the Constitution. I ask, therefore, why the Government should worry the people by asking them to grant to the Commonwealth Parliament powers which it already possesses.
Why should the Government ask for powers to control air transport when the States have already given that power ? On a previous occasion when the people were asked by referendum to grant that power to the Commonwealth they refused to do so, and, subsequently, the States realizing that air transport should be controlled on a national basis, voluntarily transferred that power to the Commonwealth.
Under this measure the Government is also seeking power to bring about uniformity of railway gauges. With the exception of Tasmania, all of the States have agreed to give this power to the Commonwealth. Tasmania is not concerned with this problem, because it is an island State. Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia have already intimated to the Commonwealth that they are prepared to give to the Commonwealth power to standardize railway gauges. They are agreeable either that the Commonwealth shall provide the money for this work and carry it out, or that the States shall carry it out at the Commonwealth’s expense. In a time of man-power shortage and financial stringency, this Government is “ prepared to expend £250,000, and employ hundreds of thousands of people, in conducting a referendum to ask for powers which the States have already agreed to give, and for other powers which the people will not be prepared to grant to the Commonwealth. Because the people will refuse to give to this Government power of regimentation and industrial conscription, the whole of these proposals will be defeated. The Government should have acted sensibly and said to the States, “ “We think that the standardization of railway gauges should he a national matter, and as you arc prepared to give us the power to do that work we shall accept that power, and be content to ask the people for other powers at a later date”. Instead of following that course, the Commonwealth says in effect to the States, “ Although you have offered to refer certain powers we are not going to take them. We shall put all these powers in one bill and shall say to the people, ‘ Give us the lot or nothing”’. The Government adopts that attitude although the people are undoubtedly prepared to give to the Commonwealth several of these powers, such as power over marketing, and power over air transport. There is not the slightest doubt that a number of the powers asked for could have been obtained by agreement with the States. I believe that .ill the States were agreeable to give to the Commonwealth permanent power over air transport. However, in order to implement its policy of regimentation the Government has decided to put all these powers in the one bill and say to the electors, “ You are in favour of giving to the Commonwealth power over air transport, therefore vote in favour of this bill “. The Government will not mention the fact that the granting of these powers will mean industrial conscription in peace-time.
Another power sought under the measure is that to undertake national works with the consent of the States in which such works are established. I believe that the National Government should have power to undertake national works; and there is not the slightest doubt that under the Constitution as it now stands the Commonwealth already possesses that power. But, to-day, the Government proposes to say to the people, “ Although . at present we can carry out any national works we like, and can appropriate money
Rmm tor Wilson for that purpose, we want to see that we shall not have power to erect national works in a State except with the consent of that State “. I have never heard anything so idiotic. Even the clever Attorney-General does not suggest, so far as I can read his remarks, that the Government has not now, or has not always had, power to undertake national works. We have a national work in the National Library in Canberra, and others all over the Commonwealth. Does the Government now admit that all these have been illegally erected ? That is simply moonshine and nonsense.
I come next to the question of national health in co-operation with the States. The States have full power over health, but the Commonwealth Government now wants permission from the people to ask the States to let it also deal with health. If South Australia, which is a sovereign State, likes to ask the Commonwealth to erect one ‘hospital or regulate the conditions of another, nothing can prevent it from doing so, and the Commonwealth is perfectly free to comply with the request. Why put all these things into the Constitution?
– Is not health a national question?
– Of course it is.
– The Commonwealth has power at present only over quarantine stations.
– The Commonwealth is not asking for any more power, except in conjunction with the States, and if the States consent no more power is necessary.
The proposal in regard to family allowances is extraordinary. I should think that a great many honorable senators have been accepting family allowances for some time, as have all married people in Australia who have children under age. The High Court has not decided that the act is invalid, nor has any responsible person suggested it. All of a sudden, however, an anxiety is developed to put through Parliament certain things which the people would not accept unless put forward under a smoke screen. It is obvious that not ‘ only has the
Government power over family allowances, but that it is already paying them, and has paid them for a considerable time.
The next paragraph relates to the people of the aboriginal race. The Com- monwealth already has power over these people in the Northern Territory, but he would be a bold Minister who contended that it has made a good job of that business. The administration of the affairs of those poor people is not a thing of which Australia has reason to be proud. Rather is it an unfortunate feature of our history. Certainly the administration by the Commonwealth Government has been no better than that of any other authority, and, so far as one can gather evidence, it has been considerably worse. At this stage, and in war-time, it is hard to understand why it was necessary to include that paragraph. [Extension of time granted.]
I have not yet dealt with the questions of freedom. To most people living under constitution certain things are so dear to and inherent in them that they wish them to be expressed in the form of freedoms. In the history of Great Britain we have the Habeas Corpus Act, the Bill of Rights and the Petition of Rights, guaranteeing to the people certain freedoms and liberties. The United States Constitution contains a number of sections protecting and guaranteeing the people’s freedom. When the Australian Constitution was framed, certain guarantees of freedom were likewise provided. I had a glance through it and selected ten freedoms which are guaranteed by it. The first, in section 116, is the freedom of religion. The next is the freedom of the judiciary provided for by the fact that the judges are appointed for life, and that their remuneration cannot be altered during their life.
– They are a very privileged class.
– It is most advisable that the judiciary should be protected by the Constitution from outside influence, particularly that of the present Government. The next freedom provided by the Constitution is freedom against summary trial, which is provided by section 80, enacting that on an indictment trial shall be by jury. Section 117 provides freedom against discrimination on account of residence. Section 92 provides for freedom of interstate trade; section 51 (xxxi.) provides for freedom against confiscation, by the stipulation that the Government may take over property on fair and just terms; section 99 provides for freedom against preference to one State against another; section 100 provides for freedom against deprivation of water in rivers ; section 83 provides for freedom against unjust expenditure without parliamentary approval; and section 51 provides freedom against legislation other than as authorized by that section itself. We see, therefore, that the Constitution provides quite a number of freedoms. As we have gone so far, and the Government has decided to introduce a few new ones, one of which is already expressed, and another so obvious that it appears unnecessary, I suggest that, if it wishes to allay the fears of the public, caused by statements made by some of its own Ministers and officials, regarding what is meant by the new order, it should include a guarantee against industrial conscription except in time of war. I offer that challenge to the Government. Either this bill is introduced for the purpose of bringing about industrial conscription, or the Government can, in the committee stage, and without any difficulty, introduce that guarantee. Whilst doing this, let us also introduce a guarantee to the people that the Government will not introduce socialization of wealth, and of the means of production, distribution and exchange. Of course, it may be the object of this clause to introduce those very things.
– The Government would not want the bill if it had those powers.
– Of course it would not, but it does not tell the people that it has introduced the bill for that purpose. That is why I say that the people ought to know what is behind the measure.
I challenge the Government either to introduce freedom against industrial conscription in time of peace, or else to accept the label placed on it by Dr. Lloyd Ross and the Attorney-General - that the purpose of the bill is to bring in bureaucracy, regimentation and industrial conscription.
– I ask leave of the Senate to read my speech in reply to the debate.
Leave not granted.
– in reply - I have listened attentively to the debate on the bill, both yesterday and to-day. I agree with the observations of many honorable senators opposite, that it is not only one of the most important measures brought before the Senate during the present session, but even the most important for many years. I wish to express my appreciation of the tolerant manner in which the bill has been debated, despite the long and trying sitting. Although the debate has been long and vigorous, no heat has been engendered, and I appreciate the moderate manner in which the bill has been discussed - a manner in keeping with the high traditions of this chamber.
In closing the debate, I remind honorable senators of the nature of the bill, and of the reasons for bringing it before the Parliament. It is a temporary measure, devised to meet the special needs of this country in the immediate post-war years. Its object is to prolong, for a period of five years after the close of hostilities, some of the essential legal powers which have enabled the Commonwealth to organize Australia’s war effort, so that the Commonwealth, in association with the States, can carry out a national plan of reconstruction which will be worthy of the cause for which Australia is fighting in this war. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) almost succeeded in ignoring altogether post-war reconstruction and its problems. He made a speech which could have been made by any Leader of the Opposition in ordinary times, but the bill, as I remind the Senate, is not intended for ordinary times. It represents an attempt to clothe the National Parliament with the powers needed for a period of special difficulty and dislocation. There is no need to speculate about the situation which will confront Aus tralia after the war. This generation of Australians has already grappled once with the transition from war to peace. Australia’s experience after the first world war shows clearly what we must expect.
– I rise to a point of order. The Minister asked for leave to read his speech. Leave was refused, but the honorable senator is now reading it.
– I did not know that the Minister is reading his speech. It is competent for him to make reference to his notes. If I find that he is reading his speech, I shall call him to order.
– But the problems of the post-war years this time will be much greater than they were in the years that followed 1918. The number of servicemen to be repatriated will be very much larger. Industry and commerce have been geared to meet the needs of war on a scale unknown in the previous war. The dislocation of markets overseas is far greater than it was then. Let me remind honorable senators of what Australia’s experience was after 1918. When demobilization began, Australia faced a shortage of civilian commodities, a rapidly rising cost of living, a wave of profiteering, industrial unrest, and grave uncertainty of adequate employment. There were many demands for the lifting of all restrictions. The Government received expert constitutional advice that, apart from the conduct of, and preparation for, warfare, the defence power could not safelybe employed in relation to employment and prices. What happened? The Commonwealth Prices Regulations were repealed in January, 1919, and the War Precautions Act, and most of the remaining regulations under it, in December, 1920.
– May I draw attention to the fact that the honorable senator is again reading his speech?
– It is necessary under the Standing Orders for an honorable senator to get permission to read his speech. Leave must be granted unanimously. Senator Ashley asked for permission and was refused. I have watched the honorable senator. He has certainly been referring to copious notes, and I remind him that he is not allowed to read his speech.
– For a time, there was increasing, though unstable, economic activity. Both wholesale and retail prices rose rapidly. Company profits increased, in some cases enormously. Commonwealth and State borrowing was 25 per cent, greater in 1919-20 than it had been in 1918-19. There was free spending from war gratuities and accumulated savings. Unemployment figures went down. There was a shortlived boom. Then came a severe slump. Honorable senators opposite have denied that there was any considerable amount of unemployment in Australia before the present war, but I remind them that just before the outbreak of war 250,000 persons were out of work. Perhaps they regard that as a small number of unemployed. For 25 years before the outbreak of this war, Nationalist or United Australia party governments had been in office, with one break of two years. I think it was Senator Sampson who said that, among other benefits conferred on returned soldiers of the last war, was preference in employment. I ask him why the preference was not extended to private employment? I wish to be generous, and so I admit that I do not think that the National Parliament had power to require employers to give preference to returned soldiers. It is now proposed to confer that power upon it. Such power should be vested in the Commonwealth. It is not sufficient to leave the matter to the States. Senator Foll said that, after the war, most of the soldiers would return to their old positions. I wonder to what positions the 250,000 who were unemployed will return. After the last war, many returned soldiers carried their swags. I lived in the country, and I know that there were thousands of returned soldiers on the road. They lived on a miserable dole, and had to travel 20 to 30 miles between police stations before receiving the next “ hand-out “. That is what the Opposition, when it was in power, did for the returned soldiers. Senator Foll quoted from a pamphlet issued by the Department of Labour and National Service. He read part of one paragraph, but he did not complete the reading of it. This is what he read -
Much harm has been done by uninformed comment on the question of absenteeism. The public has lacked accurate information on the matter, and the average man and . woman outside industry lias little understanding of the conditions under which war-workers live and carry on their jobs. It is the exceptional that makes news, and the individual’s general approach to the problem is largely coloured by what he has hastily concluded from the day’s happenings. Thus there is a disposition to contrast unfavorably the behaviour of workers with that of the men in uniform, or (to make the .point more sharply) the men “ in the front line “.
The comparison is misleading. It is misleading to compare the conditions in which front-line troops are fighting for three weeks, or even three months (after which they will have to be rested in special conditions) with those in which industrial workers are expected to work continuously year after year. When daily hours are discussed, the intensity of industrial work and its monotony are usually disregarded; yet these might easily make men at the work-benches turn enviously to the idea of an open-air life, with comradeship and a man’s job to be done, freedom from worry about food, shelter, clothes and medical attention, and the prestige of wearing a uniform.
Here is the part which he did not read -
Moreover, industrial workers and soldiers are not two separate classes. The men and women in overalls are the brothers, sisters, parents, and wives of the men in uniform. And where the services are able to set up permanent workshops, their aim is, rightly, to provide conditions not inferior to good industrial practice.
Men from all walks of life have offered for service in this war, which has brought sadness to thousands of homes, including those of some members of this Parliament. Many brothers of men serving in the forces are working in industry, sometimes in protected industries. It illbecomes Senator Foll to belittle the industrial workers, who are playing a magnificent part in the war effort.
– I did not belittle them. I paid a tribute to them, but I said that the comparison drawn in the pamphlet was ridiculous.
– Many of the workers in protected industries would rather be in the firing line. There was almost industrial trouble in one of the branches of my own department because men were not allowed to enlist. Not only the men in dungarees, but also the white-collar workers, who are in protected industries, would rather be at the f ront. Senator Foil’s statements were discreditable to him. Among Opposition members of the House of Representatives there appears to be a difference of opinion as to the giving of preference in employment to returned soldiers. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has stated that, in his opinion, authority to enforce a general and permanent preference to returned soldiers falls within the existing defence power. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Hughes), speaking out of his own experience as Prime Minister and Attorney-General during and after the last war, has expressed the very opposite view. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) has also disagreed with the Leader of the Opposition, and expressed the opinion that under the important word “ advancement “ there may be matters which would not fall within the authority of the defence power, strictly so-called. The very fact that such a conflict of views can exist shows that the matter is at least doubtful. /
In none of its many dealings with preference to soldiers in time of peace has the Commonwealth Parliament ever relied on the defence power. The present preference provisions of the Repatriation Act are limited to employment by the Commonwealth or by its instrumentalities. This provision brings up to date a series of provisions which date back to the amendment first made to the Public Service Act in 1915. It depends, not on the defence power at all, but on the Commonwealth’s power to regulate its own services. I mention also section 81a of the Arbitration Act, which dates back as far as December, 1918. This section operates to place servicemen on the same footing as those to whom any award gives preference. But that section is an exercise of the arbitration power, that is, the industrial disputes power, and does not rely on the defence power at all. Therefore - and this is important - although preference to returned soldiers has long been a plank in the platform of the Opposition parties, I have been entirely unable to find in the records of the Parliament a single suggestion that the existing preference provisions could constitutionally be extended to all employment, Or for an indefinite period. That removes doubts raised about the matter of preference by the Opposition.
– Does the Government intend to introduce preference to returned soldiers?
– The Government will decide what preference shall be given to returned soldiers, but whatever it does will be more liberal than what the Opposition parties did on behalf of soldiers in the last war during their long period of office.
Among the many comments about the freedom of speech provision of this bill was the one expressed with a frown by Senator Leckie, who declared that it would enable one to walk up to a policemen and insult him with impunity.
– No, I said that was what the Attorney-General had implied.
– On that reasoning any one would have the right to walk into a shop and rob it without fear of punishment. That shows how absurd is the honorable gentleman’s statement. Freedom of speech will give the right of abuse to no one. I cite in support of that statement the following authority : -
The liberty protected is not the right to perpetrate acts of licentiousness, or any act inconsistent with the peace or safety of the State. Freedom of speech and press does not include the abuse of the power of tongue or pen, any more than freedom of every action includes an injurious use of one’s occupation, business or property. State v. McKee (1900). 73 Conn. 18, 28.
It is evident that Senator Leckie intended to burlesque that provision and. that his statement has no foundation in fact. Reference was also made in the debate to the proposal that the Commonwealth Government shall have power over employment and unemployment. It is necessary that it have that power in order that it may prevent a recurrence of the conditions which operated not long after the last war when 250,000 Australians were workless. I am confident that no honorable senator would care to see that condition repeated, and, therefore, they ought to support whole-heartedly this provision which will enable the Government to take all action necessary to prevent another financial slump. I agree with honorable gentlemen opposite that we cannot do too much for the men of this country and other countries who have helped to defend Australia, and it is the intention of the Government that adequate provision shall be made for them. But it is essential that the powers provided for in this bill be given to the Government if it is to carry out that worthy task. I realize that I have been, perhaps, severe in detaining honorable senators until the early hours of the morning in order that we may pass this measure, but I thank them for the moderation with which they have conducted the debate.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown.)
Majority . . . . 2
– There being nineteen “ Ayes “ and seventeen “ Noes “, the question is so resolved in the affirmative by an absolute majority of the Senate.
Bill read a second time.
– On a point of order, Mr. President, I should like to have your ruling as to whether it is essential under the Constitution that the second reading of a bill to alter the Constitution shall be carried by an absolute majority of the Senate. In view of your comment in declaring the result of the division, and in view of the statement by the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) that an absolute majority is not constitutionally necessary except on the third reading, I think that in the interests of future procedure that point should he determined.
– It is the considered opinion of many learned gentlemen that the passing of a bill means the third reading of that bill, but others think that an absolute majority may be necessary on all stages of the bill. I say “ may he necessary “. Having studied the matter itself and precedents I am of the opinion that on the second reading an absolute majority is not vital. I am not a lawyer, but I express my opinion as a layman. In the past, when bills providing for alterations of the Constitution have been brought before the Senate, and votes have been taken on their various stages, on some occasions the second readings have been agreed to by less than absolute majorities of the Senate. The second reading of the Constitution Alteration (Legislative Powers) Bill 1910 was passed by 18 votes to 9 and the third reading by 22 votes to 13. The second reading of the Constitution Alteration (Trade and Commerce) Bill 1912 was passed by 17 votes to 6 and the third reading by 20 votes to 13. The second reading of the Constitution Alteration (Railway Disputes) Bill 1912 was passed without a division. The report from the committee was adopted by 17 votes to 6, and the third reading was passed by 20 votes to 13. The second reading of the Constitution Alteration (Industrial Matters) Bill 1912 was agreed to by 17 votes to 6 and the third reading by 20 votes to 12. The voting on these and other measures shows clearly that the second readings were agreed to by simple majorities, but it was mandatory that the third readings should be passed by absolute majorities of the Senate.
– May your opinion that an absolute majority of the Senate is necessary only for the passage of the third reading of bills providing for alterations to the Constitution be accepted as a ruling? I suggest that you place the matter beyond doubt by stating, as a guide to the future practice of the Senate, that that is your ruling.
– I have expressed my considered opinion, after having studied the past practice of the Senate, and the precedents that have been established, that it is not necessary for an absolute majority of the Senate to be recorded on the second reading; but if ever the practice were challenged in court, possibly the learned judges would not take cognizance of my present decision. I! cannot give a ruling that would he binding upon the High Court of Australia, but I now rule that, in my opinion, it is not essential for an absolute majority of the members of the Senate to vote for the second reading of a bill to amend the Constitution. After all, a bill is not passed until it has been read a third time. If it were argued that it is essential for an absolute majority to be recorded on the second reading, it might be contended also that there should be an absolute majority in respect of every amendment accepted. A bill is not passed until it has been read a third time, and the Constitution provides that there must be an absolute majority of the Senate on its passing. If an absolute majority be recorded in favour of the third reading, my considered opinion is that it will have been passed by an absolute majority as required by the Constitution.
– In announcing the result of the division, you stated that the second reading of the bill had been agreed to by an absolute majority of the Senate. That is quite acceptable to the Government. The fact that that will be recorded in the journals is sufficient for the Government.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Power to make laws, for a limited period, with respect to certain matters).
– Honorable senators will realize the farreaching importance of this clause, which is practically the whole of the bill. In view of the fact that we have been sitting continuously since 2 p.m. yesterday, it is not proper to proceed further with the consideration of the measure until honorable senators have had an opportunity to take a rest from their labours. Does the Minister propose that the bill shall he taken through the committee stage, without any such respite ? We know that he has the necessary numbers to bludgeon the measure through the committee, but I offer an emphatic protest against proceeding further at this stage.
– The Government proposes that the committee should continue the consideration of the bill.
– That is emphatic, and I am glad that the Minister is able to make up his mind on the matter, but this procedure is a travesty of parliamentary government.
– I rise to order. I submit that the remarks of Senator Leckie are not relevant to the question before the Chair.
– It is impossible for the Chair to anticipate what Senator Leckie is about to say.
– I am protesting against the consideration of this lengthy clause after a sixteen hours’ sitting of the Senate. I object to making discussion of the most important bill that has come before us during the present sittings a travesty of parliamentary government. I move -
That the Chairman do report progress and ask leave to sit again.
Motion put. The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator Courtice.)
Majority . . 3
Question so resolved in the negative.
– Ta it the pleasure of the committee to take the clause as a whole?
– I am glad that the Senate has seen fit, in the circumstances at 5.47 a.m., to take this clause as a whole, because it would be farcical to put the paragraphs seriatim. After we have been sitting for sixteen hours, it would be ridiculous for us even to start upon the task of considering whether any of. these paragraphs should be amended. When the Government presented its proposals to the Constitution Convention in 1942, it graciously permitted the delegates to discuss these paragraphs for four and a half hours; but we are asked, after a long sitting, to consider forthwith whether these most important alterations of the Constitution shall be passed in their present form or whether we shall amend the verbiage. That task cannot be done intelligently in this committee at this hour. I do not propose to ask the committee to indulge in this farce. Let the public know that this clause is being pushed through in such a way that it is impossible for honorable senators to propose amendments in ‘ any intelligent manner. It is ridiculous to say that we are in a fit condition to examine each paragraph when we have been sitting for sixteen hours.
– And another sixteen hours lies ahead. Let the honorable senator proceed. We are ready.
– I am glad to have this demonstration of the new order from the Minister for the Interior.
– The new Nazi party.
– We have heard a good deal of talk about the guarantee of freedom of speech, but this is a clear demonstration that there should be added to this clause one more important guarantee, namely, a guarantee to ensure that the elected representatives of the people in this Parliament shall be permitted to do their job properly.
– The honorable senator is getting paid for the job. Go ahead and do it.
– All I ask is to be allowed to take my rest so that I shall be in a position to do the job that I am being paid to do.
– We are not stopping the honorable senator.
– The dictator who sits opposite, a leading exponent of the Australian Nazi party, insists upon proceeding.
– Mr. Chairman, I object to the words “leading exponent of the Nazi party”. I am a member of the party to which the Minister belongs, and I ask that the words be withdrawn.
– The remark was not addressed to the honorable senator.
– It is a fine thing that in these circumstances, we should be told by this would-be dictator that we shall be made to proceed, if necessary, for another sixteen hours pretending^ to consider, as the elected representatives of the people, the form that this bill shall take. Before long, the Minister will be able to carry on in this manner without very much hindrance from this side of the chamber, except by way of verbal protest, and I have no doubt that verbal protests will be made. When the people learn of this conduct, they will not be encouraged to grant greater powers to those who want to carry on as dictators and not as responsible and sensible representatives of the citizens- of a democracy. Much as I should: like to deal with this clause intelligently, to consider every paragraph and to examine every word in order to see whether it is sufficiently precise, it would be ridiculous for me to embark upon that task now.
– These proceedings are a disgrace to the Senate.
– They are a disgrace to the National Parliament. In view of the manner in which the Minister has carried on, I shall make it perfectly dear, when I speak in public on the referendum-
– The people will not listen to the honorable senator.
– They will, and I shall make perfectly clear to every audience that I address, the manner in which this Government has carried on with this legislation. Further, I shall suggest to the public that this is the way in which the Government will carry on if it secures these additional powers.
– If the honorable senator tells the truth, it will be all right.
– I shall tell the truth. There will be no . need to tell anything but the truth. Any normal citizen will be startled to learn that fourteen important alterations of the Commonwealth Constitution and three so-called guarantees of freedom were passed through a committee of the Senate in about fifteen minutes. It is not likely to be a satisfactory foundation upon which to seek their approval of these important proposals.
– Senator Spicer has delivered an impassioned address upon the unrighteousness of the Government’s proceeding with this business at the present time. I remind him that when I obtained permission to suspend the Standing Orders, I gave an assurance that every honorable senator would have ample opportunity to debate the bill.
– Does the Minister describe this as “ ample opportunity “ ?
– The honorable senator spoke for one and a half hours on the motion for the second reading, and analysed the whole bill. Twenty-six honorable senators have spoken.
– Why not?
– I am stating the facts. The allegation that these proceedings are “ murder “ is not right. The second-reading debate could have proceeded, if necessary, until every honorable senator had spoken. The Government raised no objection to the length of the debate. Now honorable senators have an opportunity to discuss clause 2.
– What rot!
– The PostmasterGeneral (Senator Ashley) is ready to explain any questions relating to the paragraphs. I suggest that the discussion should proceed. The allegation that the consideration of this bill has been curtailed is not correct.
– Do not try to mislead us!
– The Government has honoured its undertaking.
– Why not suspend the sitting until 3 o’clock so that honorable senators may return refreshed to consider the clause?
– When the committee stage has been completed, the sitting will be suspended.
– I join with Senator Spicer in protesting against this unseemly haste. Never before in the history of the Commonwealth Parliament has a bill to alter the Commonwealth Constitution been rushed through in this fashion, and it is well that the public should know of the autocratic attitude of the Government.
– I rise to order, and point out that Senator McBride is not addressing his remarks to clause 2.
- Senator McBride is in order. The clause contains a provision relating to freedom of speech.
– It is just as well that the country should know about the dictatorial attitude that this Government has adopted. I am satisfied to allow the Government to continue in this manner, because it is helping to damn the bill in the eyes of the people.
– I, too, deplore this unseemly haste. After a sitting lasting sixteen hours, we are now asked to discuss fourteen substantive proposals for altering the Constitution and three or four “ trailers “, the meaning of which is so obscure that no Minister could explain them. Perhaps Ministers seek to take refuge from explanation. Honor-‘ able senators should be given an opportunity to discuss these paragraphs. The Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane) claimed that we had been treated most generously during the second-reading debate, but I remind him that under the Standing Orders we were not permitted to discuss every detail of the bill at that stage. Now that the bill is in committee, an opportunity should be afforded to honorable senators minutely to examine these paragraphs. But we are asked to swallow the whole clause as one pill. This action does not reflect any credit upon the Government. This measure is a most important one, and, significantly enough, it contains a provision relating to freedom of speech. That is a most extraordinary provision to insert in a bill aimed at conferring wider powers upon the Commonwealth, and what its effect will be should the increased power be granted, one cannot say, but we are asked to agree to that proposal along with a host of others in one fell swoop. It is not to the credit of the committee that this state of affairs should be permitted to exist, and I for one have no hesitation in voicing a strong protest. The impression which this action of the Government will create in the minds of the people is that nothing matters so long as the passage of the measure is effected. Apparently the Government has no regard for the rights of the various States which members of this chamber represent, and has not thought of the adverse reactions which may be created. If the committee stage of this measure be proceeded with now, honorable senators will not have an opportunity to discuss the proposals in detail. It is true that there has been a full discussion upon the motion for the second reading of the bill, but only at the committee stage can a measure be considered piece by piece,, and line by line. The responsibility for forcing the bill through in this manner rests solely with the Government, and I can assure honorable senators opposite that public reaction will be felt at the proper time.
– I add’ my protest against this- method of conducting the affairs of the country. However, I completely exempt the Leader qf the Senate (Senator Keane) and the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Ashley) from any charge of discourtesy,, because I know that they are simply obeying orders. An example of the manner in which members of this- chamber are dominated was given a few minutes ago when the Postmaster-General, who was preparing to reply to- the second reading, had a complete speech handed to him, presumably from the Attorney-General (Dr.. Evatt)!
– That is entirely wrong.
– Order ! The honorable senator is not in order in referring to the second reading of the bill at this stage.
– If I am incorrect in stating that the speech handed to the Postmaster-General was prepared by the Attorney-General I withdraw the statement. Nevertheless, it is true that the Attorney-General has completely dominated the procedure in regard to this measure. Had the Postmaster-General waited for me to finish what I intended to say about him, he would have found that I had intended to pay a tribute to him, because he cast the prepared speech aside, and replied to the questions that had been raised in the course of the debate. On several occasions recently, the Government has ridden roughshod over the Opposition in this chamber and I remind honorable senators opposite that even minorities have some rights in this Parliament. During the term of office of governments of which I was a member or supporter, whether the Opposition was large or small, it always received courtesy from the Government benches. The Government’s handling of this matter is hardly to its credit. Already honorable senators have -been sitting in this chamber for sixteen or seventeen hours; how can they be expected to deal seriously and effectively with the many important features of this measure to which reference should be made at the committee stage. It is unreasonable and improper to ask them to do so. Our greatest possession politically is our Commonwealth Constitution, yet, at this early hour of the morning, we are asked to consider fourteen vital amendments of it. It is beyond all sense of political decency and reason. When replying to the second-reading debate, the Postmaster-General paid a tribute to the high standard -which had been maintained throughout the discussion. I ask the Government now to be fair to the Opposition. We have kept the debate on a. high standard, and it is only reasonable to ask for an adjournment to enable honorable senators to reflect upon the many important phases of this bill, before being called upon to discuss them. Tactics such as these will not enhance the Senate - the senior House of this Parliament - in the eyes of the people of this country. This is not a trivial bill or an ordinary machinery measure; it is an important measure to amend the Constitution of Australia on fourteen vital points ; yet we are expected to swallow the whole thing in its entirety at this hour, without having a proper opportunity for debate. The debate upon the second reading of the measure was carried on largely by honorable senators on this side of the chamber. No doubt certain honorable senators opposite did not participate in the discussion because the Government, with its conscripted majority, prevented them from speaking.
– .Speak the truth.
– If that buffoon opposite would remain silent I could proceed. If the Postmaster-General really does appreciate the courtesy that has been extended to the Government by the Opposition in connexion with this measure, lot him return that courtesy by granting an adjournment of a few hours to enable honorable senators to have some rest before embarking upon consideration of this measure in committee.
– When speaking on the motion for the second reading of the bill, I drew attention to the contrast between the manner in which this measure was being dealt with, and the manner in which the framers of our Constitution went about their task. I said also that the Government’s actions on this occasion were an invitation to the people of this country to vote against the bill. When this measure was introduced, the Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane) gave an undertaking to the Opposition that the bill would not be rushed through the chamber without giving honorable senators an opportunity to discuss it fully. I ask the Leader of the Senate if he can cite any precedent for the Government’s treatment of the Senate in regard to this most important measure. Speeches that have been made by Government supporters have emphasized the great importance of this measure, and the vital part it should play in the post-war period. We have been sitting continuously now since 2 p.m. yesterday, and I protest against the unfairness of this procedure. Not only is it unfair to members of this chamber, but it is unfair to the people . of this country, who have a right to expect that their representatives in Parliament shall have an adequate opportunity to discuss a vital measure such as this. One is inclined to wonder whether the Government does not actually wish to have its referendum proposals rejected by the people. What opportunity have we had to consider the details of this measure? I say that this is a direct invitation to the people to defeat the referendum and I am confident that it will be defeated in every State of the Commonwealth.
– Honorable senators opposite will be happy then.
– I, personally, will find no cause for rejoicing in the fact that we have spent probably £250,000 on a useless campaign. The happenings in this chamber this morning will be featured in newspapers throughout the Commonwealth. It will bc made clear that this Government with its bare majority, to which rightly it has no claim, has forced this measure through the Senate. Had the honorable, senator from this side of the chamber who voted with the Government on the second reading of this measure acted in accordance with the principles upon which he was elected, the motion for the second reading would never have been carried. That, of course, is a matter for decision by the honorable senator himself. However, taking all these things into consideration, we find that this Government, which claims to be a democratic Administration representing the working class of this country, has resorted to deplorable tactics. If honorable senators opposite sincerely hope that the referendum will be carried, they are doing the greatest possible disservice to their cause; but, as I have already suggested, it seems likely that’ the Government does not really wish to see the referendum carried, and has merely introduced this measure to fulfil promises which its supporters made at the last general elections. I repeat that it is an invitation to the people of this country to vote against the referendum. I ask the Leader of the Senate, even at this late stage, to exhibit his usual sense of fair play and to grant an adjournment until this afternoon. Members of the Opposition in this chamber have to play just as important a part in the framing of legislation as do honorable senators opposite. “We represent the interests of the States of the Commonwealth and the States are vitally concerned with these proposals. The Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley) has admitted that the
Opposition has been fair in its handling of this measure so far, and I ask now that some courtesy be extended to us. Let us return to our hotels for a rest. Such a thing has never happened before. This protest will be recorded in Hansard, and the people will know that an unfair advantage has been taken of the Opposition.
– As the Minister (Senator Ashley) has not replied, I take it that he has not changed his mind.
– That being so, I take the opportunity to accept the offer of the Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane) to ask for an explanation. He said that the Minister in charge of the bill would give any explanations that were asked for. It may be that my question will be regarded as a frivolous one, but I am somewhat upset about this matter. I should like some information regarding paragraph (vii).
– I should like to know, Mr. Chairman, whether it will be competent for an honorable senator to refer to an earlier paragraph if we now deal with paragraph (vii).
– No objection will be taken to a reference later to an earlier paragraph.
– The honorable senator will have an opportunity later to refer to any other paragraph.
– Paragraph (vii) reads - the production and distribution of goods, but so that -
no law made under this paragraph with respect to primary production shall have effect in a State until approved by the Governor in Council of that State; and
The paragraph deals with the production and distribution of goods, and provides that no law in respect of such matters may be brought into operation in any State without the consent of . the Governor in Council of that State. Let us suppose that the consent of two States, but not of other States, is obtained and that a person proceeds to manufacture, or produce or distribute goods. Would that not be discrimination between States? As the Government is to set up factories to make civil goods, does that paragraph mean that the Government must set’ up a factory in every State? And as there must not be discrimination between parts of States, does it mean that potatoes could be produced in one part of a State, and production in another part of that State forbidden without contravening this provision? I hope that the Minister will be careful in his answer. It appears to me that the paragraph is rather clumsily drawn.
– A law would have to be passed in general terms.
– What does that mean ?
– It would have to apply to all States,’ it would not be confined, to one State. It could not discriminate between States. If one State refused to allow the law to operate, the law would still not discriminate.
– The Minister’s (Senator Ashley) answer is not complete. I wish to know whether under these powers the Commonwealth would be able to set up a factory in one State and not in other States, and whether it could sell the produce of that factory in certain States and not in other States ; or must the produce of that factory be available in all -States? Unless it goes into all States there may be discrimination between the States. If the Government sets up a factory in one State, and does not set up a factory in another State, does that amount to discrimination between States? I do not want to see legislation passed which may be upset by the High Court declaring it to be illegal.
– There would be protection under section 92 of the Constitution. The product of the factory could be sold in another State.
– Could the Government set up a factory in one State and not in another State?
– If it was desired to sell the product in another State, there would be nothing to prevent that from being done.
– Apparently the Minister has not read the paragraph. I draw attention to sub-paragraph a. I do not know what is meant by primary production. I have asked the Minister if a factory can be set up in one State and not in another State, and whether the product of a factory in one State must be distributed all over Australia. Perhaps the Minister will give a definition of primary production.
– There can be no objection to a factory being established in any State.
– There is no need to get approval except in respect of primary production.
– There is no law to prevent the sale of the product in any State.
– There must be no discrimination between States or parts of States.
– Paragraph (ii) relates to employment and unemployment. I should like an explanation of the terms “ employment “ and “ unemployment “. What would be the responsibility of the Commonwealth in respect of employment? Does this paragraph relate only to members of the fighting services, or does it apply to all persons? Further, does it mean that the Commonwealth will take control of employment and unemployment in the States and relieve the States of all responsibility in respect of these matters, or will the responsibility be shared by the Commonwealth and the States? I should like to know also whether the persons employed will be employed by the Commonwealth, or whether the Commonwealth will act in co-operation with the States, or whether the States will act on behalf of the Commonwealth. There may be a good deal of duplication.
– I could not hear all that Senator Hays said, but I understand that he wishes to know whether the Commonwealth Government will act in co-operation with the State Governments.
– I wish to know which government will be responsible for employing persons who may be out of work.
– It will be done in co-operation with the States.
– It does not say so.
– That would be so if the Commonwealth was financing the work.
– Does the paragraph mean that the power will rest exclusively with the Commonwealth, or will the power be shared jointly with the States?
– It refers to powers being shared jointly by the ‘Commonwealth and the States.
– The answer of the Minister (Senator Ashley) very inadequately states the position. Are we to understand that the Commonwealth will exercise these powers in conjunction with the States? Should this provision become law, the Commonwealth will be able to do exactly what it likes with respect to employment and unemployment; and should it see fit to do so, it may pass a bill which deals with every aspect of employment and unemployment. Such legislation will override existing State legislation with relation to those matters. I drew attention to that aspect this afternoon in one important particular, namely, the fact that there had come into operation in the State of Victoria this week an act providing that soldiers should he given preference in employment. From what I have heard from soldiers’ organizations and from Senator Brand, that is a very good and comprehensive act. But should this power pass into the hands of the Commonwealth, and should the Commonwealth decide to pass an act providing that preference of employment be given to unionists, it would not have to consult the State of Victoria before it did so. It would do it on its own account, and the Victorian act giving preference to soldiers would become a dead letter for the period of five years during which these powers operate, and preference to unionists would take the place of preference to soldiers.
– That is not so.
– The Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) is either incapable of understanding plain English, or he has not read the bill.
– Read page nine of the booklet issued by the AttorneyGeneral.
– That explanation does not assist me in this matter; but on page ten of the booklet appears a statement to which I wish to draw attention. In view of the statement made by the Attorney-General at the Summer School of the Australian Institute of Political Science, to which reference has been made, to the effect that people would have to forfeit their right to change their employment, it is rather interesting to find a special heading on that page of the booklet, “No Industrial Conscription in Peace-time “.
– That is not in the bill.
– No. That heading appears in the booklet issued by the Attorney-General with the intention of inducing people to support this measure. Therein he definitely states that there will be no industrial conscription. I should like the Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley) to tell me what is the basis for that statement. If this clause be carried, and the Commonwealth be given complete power with respect to employment and unemployment, is the Postmaster-General prepared to tell me that the Commonwealth will not have the power to introduce industrial conscription? If the Postmaster-General admits, as I think he must admit, that these powers would enable the Commonwealth to introduce industrial conscription, is he prepared to insert in this clause a guarantee in the termsof the Attorney-General’s own statement in the booklet to which I have referred, that there will be no industrial conscription? If he will not insert such a guarantee, will he tell me why.
– Senator Spicer has asked whether the Government, under these powers, would have power to introduce industrial conscription. It is purely a matter of the policy of the government of the day as to whether it will introduce industrial conscription.
– Will the Government have power to introduce industrial conscription under these powers?
– Yes, but this Government has stated that it will not introduce industrial conscription in peace-time.
– I again ask the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Ashley) the question which I raised a few moments ago in order to give him an opportunity to correct the reply which he then gave to me. In the booklet issued by the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) no mention whatever is made of the States. It says that employment and unemployment are “ exclusively “ the responsibility of the Commonwealth. If these powers be granted to the Commonwealth, the responsibility for employment and unemployment which is now that of the States must become the responsibility of the Commonwealth. Nothing contained in the bill indicates, as the PostmasterGeneral has said, that this will be a joint responsibility.
– I take it that the honorable senator refers to the following passage : -
It is the fact that “ employment “ is linked with “ unemployment “ which suggests primarily the provision of employment, for the prevention of unemployment. But it was not intended to limit the paragraph exclusively to the provision of employment. The word “ employment “ ordinarily denotes in itself the act of employing or the state of being employed. Hence, a power with respect to “employment” would include, though less obviously, power to determine the terms and conditions of employment. Engagement and dismissal, wages and hours, industrial relatione and industrial disputes, could thus fall within the scope of the power.
Exclusively means “ only “.
– I should like the Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley) to explain whether the Commonwealth is not seeking power under this legislation, if necessary, to the exclusion of all State tribunals, wages boards, &c. Is this power not wide enough to enable the Commonwealth Parliament, if power be granted to the Commonwealth Parliament, to destroy the whole arbitral and wages board systems of the States?
– The power is wide enough for that purpose, but no government would destroy the arbitral systems of the States.
– I suggest that the PostmasterGeneral’s answer is most improper.
– This Government, at any rate, would not do that.
– The PostmasterGeneral cannot speak even for this Government in this matter. In the booklet issued by the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) we read of the “new deal in industrial relations “. Explaining this paragraph the Attorney-General has the audacity to say -
The peace-time powers of the Commonwealth would make it impossible for Australia to tackle on any national basis the problem of even such a national industry as coal, which is the lifeblood of the industries of this country. Just the same must be said of the maritime and stevedoring industries. During the war, Australia has made important advances in organizing industrial peace.
What a travesty of the facts! We know that the coal-miners to-day are producing less coal per shift than ever before in the history of the industry, and that wharf -lumpers are handling less cargo per gang per shift than ever before in the history of that industry. This is the kind of industrial peace which we are told in the booklet issued by the AttorneyGeneral has been organized by this Government during the war. In view of what has been said, I think that it is the intention of the Government to do away with the whole of the States’ arbitral systems and to introduce various boards, commissions and authorities to the exclusion of every existing State or Commonwealth tribunal. In view of these facts, the Postmaster-General’s answer is most improper.
– Is the Postmaster-General prepared to give an undertaking that this Government will not use its powers under thisbill, if they he granted to the Commonwealth, for the socialization of industry ?
– I am not in a position to give such an undertaking.
Question put -
That the clause stand as printed.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator Courtice.)
Majority . . . . 3
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Preamble and Title agreed to.
Question stated -
That the bill be reported without amendment.
SenatorFoll. - During the early part of the debate in committee I used towards Senator Lamp an unparliamentary expression in the heat of the moment. I desire to withdraw it, and to tender my apologies to the honorable senator.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Sitting suspended from 6.51 a.m. to3 p.m.
Senate called by the Clerk.
– I have to announce that all senators are present.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
– I add my protest against the proceedings in this chamber yesterday and this morning, particularly the indecent haste to have this bill passed. I draw the attention of the Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane) to the fact that the whole of next week could have been occupied, if necessary, in the consideration of this important proposed amendment of the Constitution. The Senate has always received fair treatment at the Minister’s hands in that regard, but, on this occasion, he deviated from his usual course of good-natured leadership. I am disappointed that he saw fit to keep us here for seventeen consecutive hours to discuss a matter of vital importance to the future welfare of the people of Australia. As a Western Australian, I take exception to that unnecessary haste, because the Senate is essentially a States’ House. We in that remote part of the Commonwealth look askance at any attempt by the so-called “ Canberra Code “ to force measures through this Parliament, because the effect is to exercise a disturbing influence on the people of Western Australia. I should not be called upon at 5 or 6 o’clock in the morning to discuss this bill on behalf of the people of the State from which I come. This is the first opportunity I have had to speak on the measure, andI contend that every opportunity should be extended to other members of the Senate to express their views. Protracted sittings of the Senate have been objected to by members of this chamber as being inconvenient, but yesterday’s proceedings were protracted to an inordinate degree, and were not conducive to a forceful debate on the matter before the Senate. In the event of a national emergency I should take no exception to the Government taking all possible steps to obtain a speedy decision with regard to a legislative proposal, but in this instance there is no need for an unseemly rush. The present Constitution has served the people well for 44 years and another two or three days’ consideration of this bill would not have affected the position in any way.
Without repeating all that has been said in opposition to the passage of the bill, I point out that most of the powers asked for are being exercised at present by the Commonwealth Government, and the Constitution, for which we all have a high regard, should not be tampered with in a temporary and limited manner. There is a proper method of altering it, and that should not be departed from. In the event of the people agreeing to the granting of the increased powers sought they should be embodied in the Constitution for an indefinite period. The suggestion that the rehabilitation of returned members of the fighting forces is a matter which should be dealt with for only a period of five years is utterly nonsensical, for Australia is still rehabilitating the soldiers who served in the last war. This country has dealt with those men in a fair and generous manner, owing in the main to the conduct of the soldiers themselves. They knew that Australia was grateful to them for their war service and by their conduct on their return to this country they have enjoyed the respect of the whole of the people.
Many of the other proposals in the bill, such as the power to pass a uniform companies law, and the power to standardize the railway gauges, are too ridiculous for words. Many honorable senators will recall the negotiations with regard to the building of a standard-gauge railway from Kyogle to South Brisbane. That matter was dealt with satisfactorily by the establishment of a railway council which was commissioned to do all of the work necessary on that line. The standardization of railway gauges from Bed Hill to Port Pirie, by the construction of a line of standard gauge, and the linking up of Port Augusta, by the Commonwealth and South Australian Governments, proved that railway gauges can be standardized without amendment of the ‘Constitution. Therefore, it is futile to contend that the power sought in respect of that matter is urgently necessary. The statement contained in the booklet issued by the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt), which has been referred to many times, begs the question with regard to the Government’s policy of preference to returned soldiers. We are told that only by the transfer to the Commonwealth of the powers sought in the bill can the Government implement properly its policy of preference to returned soldiers. That is not so. Preference to returned soldiers of this and the last war has been embodied in the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, which is the proper place for such a provision. It is, therefore, of no use to say that the Government requires the additional power stated in the bill to enable this Parliament to enact legislation giving preference in employment to returned soldiers. That law stands to-day and will remain until it is upset by a High Court decision. Any soldier who returns from the present war, or any returned soldier of the last war, who feels aggrieved can go to the court and substantiate his claim to preference. This provides one more instance of the dubious methods adopted by the Government of utilizing propaganda of that kind to induce the people to vote for the extension of powers asked for in the bill. Many of the other arguments advanced in favour of the measure are equally fallacious.
Reference is made in the bill to freedom of religion. This freedom was embodied in the Constitution in 1900, and it is still retained. Why the provision should be changed to the safeguard inserted into this bill I do not know. Section 116 of the Constitution clearly states -
The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion . . .
It is hard to understand how many of the electors will be expected to follow the arguments advanced by the Government and its supporters to substantiate their claim that these powers are essential. This is not the proper way to deal with amendments of the Constitution. These proposals could well be considered and decided upon by the people of this country when the war is over. Consideration of constitutional reform calls for normal conditions, and conditions to-day are far from normal. Apart from the large numbers of men and women who are members of our fighting forces, hundreds of thousands of relatives of these people are living in an atmosphere which hardly can be considered normal. I repeat that we should wait until the war is over before dealing with these grave and vital matters so that they may be given the fullest possible consideration. I favour the holding of an elected convention after the war to consider constitutional reform. Delegates to such a convention should include the Chief Justice, or his deputy, of the Supreme ‘Court of every State. This job must be done thoroughly, and must be divorced entirely from party politics. Far-reaching decisions of this character must be made in an atmosphere of equity and tolerance, and that atmosphere, I contend, cannot be created until the war is over. We all agree that there is need for amendment of the Constitution in certain directions. Many of us supported the last referendum in 1936. On that occasion I travelled the length, and breadth of Australia advocating an affirmative vote, although I knew quite well before I embarked on my journey that the carrying of the referendum was most unlikely. However, we stuck to the job, and made the best case possible in the circumstances. Unfortunately, little assistance was forthcoming from the Labour party in Western Australia at least, and the referendum was soundly defeated, although many voters admitted freely that the control of aviation was a matter which could well be left to Commonwealth authorities. There “ are other proposals embodied in this measure with which I am in sympathy, but I contend that the time is not opportune for a thorough consideration of them, whilst the people of this country are anxiously awaiting the outcome of the war and doing their best to achieve the glorious peace for which we all hope. This is hardly the appropriate atmosphere in which to decide important questions of constitutional reform. With so many men fighting on our various battle-fronts it would be quite impossible to obtain a representative opinion from the people of this country. In addition, there are many thousands of prisoners of war who are not likely to return to this country for some time yet, but who, after all, will again be resident in this land at some future date, and therefore should have some voice in shaping the destiny of this nation. I consider, therefore, that the Leader of the Senate was ill-advised to allow himself to be persuaded to rush this bill through the second-reading stage at a sitting which lasted for seventeen consecutive hours. Even now, none of us is fresh enough to deal with complicated problems such as are presented in this measure. I hope that the treatment of the Opposition by the Government in the early hours of this morning is not indicative of what is to be the attitude of honorable senators opposite in the future.
– A government of which the honorable senator was a member passed eighteen bills through this chamber in an hour on one occasion.
– I realize that at some time or other mostgovernments are guilty of acting in that way, but no government of which I was a member tried to rush through this chamber in a few hours a measure seeking vital amendments of our Constitution. No matter what government was in power, I should not be a party to such tactics. I resent not merely the treatment of individual senators at the hands of the Government on this occasion, but also the treatment of the States which we represent, and which after all are far more important. We are here primarily as State representatives, and I hope that as a matter of courtesy to the States, any future bills relating to amendments of our Constitution will be handled by the Senate in the ordinary way, without a suspension of the Standing and Sessional Orders to enable them to be rushed through without giving to honorable senators adequate opportunity to express their views. This is not an urgent measure. I believe that the Commonwealth has ample powers to carry on the administration of this country as it has been carried on since the last war. Days, weeks, or even months, cannot make very much difference.
In conclusion, I urge again that, in the event of the introduction of other measures relating to constitutional reform, the Senate be treated by the Government with a little more courtesy than has been shown on this occasion. I propose to vote against the third reading of the bill.
– I also enter my emphatic protest against the unseemly manner in which the Government has endeavoured to bludgeon the measure through the Senate. I am sure that those individuals who are intensely interested in constitutional reform - I associate myself with them - have some real regrets at the action that has been taken by the Government in regard to this measure. We believe firmly that such disregard for the normal procedure of this chamber and the rights of honorable senators will cause suspicion in the minds of the people, and not only will the referendum be defeated, but also the cause of constitutional reform will be set back by decades. I am intensely interested in constitutional reform. I, and other members of this chamber, together with a large number of people outside of Parliament, believe that there is a real need for some reform of the Commonwealth Constitution, and I make no apology- for saying that when the last referendum was submitted to the people in 1936 I was a strong advocate for an affirmative vote. However, this Government would be well advised to consider the history of referenda in this country. As honorable senators are aware, eighteen referenda have been held in Australia, and of that number only three have been carried by the people. Of these, two were purely formal machinery measures, and the third had the wholehearted support not only of members of all parties in this Parliament, but also of all parties in all State Parliaments. Therefore, it must be apparent to the Government that if an amendment of the Constitution is really desired, the subject must be approached with the greatest care, but in this instance the Government has shown that its judgment has been warped completely by its sudden accession to power, and I am sure that its conduct will not pass unnoticed by the people of Australia. There have been many instances in recent years where individuals, unaccustomed to responsibility, have allowed sudden accession to power in fortuitous circumstances to warp their judgment completely. I point out that two great European dictators rose to power fortuitously, having had no previous experience of national responsibility. They became so obsessed with their own importance that the result was the introduction of Nazi-ism and Fascism. This Government is showing real signs of leanings in that very direction. The people of Australia are becoming alarmed to see what is happening, and I am sure that they will not permit themselves to be “ bulldozed “ into accepting explanations such as the one offered for this measure in the little booklet marked “ Confidential “. To whom is this publication confidential? However, I shall not be side-tracked from the method which the Government has adopted to bludgeon this measure through the Senate. I draw attention to certain actions of the Government supporting my contention that already the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and certain members of his Cabinet are becoming obsessed with their own im- portance, and are grasping for more power. During tie term of office of the present Administration we have seen some very real evidence of the ‘dictatorial outlook of certain individuals now in authority. One of the most flagrant cases of this kind came to light when the Prime Minister himself signed his name to a letter to the Commonwealth Public Service Commissioner enforcing a differentiation in the rates of pay and allowances of public servants who were members of unions and those who were not. ‘In that action the Prime Minister exhibited definite partisanship and bias. He instructed the Public Service Commissioner that no increases of pay or allowances of public servants could be granted unless the recipients were members of unions. No regard whatever was to be paid to the service which the public officials had rendered, or to the justice of their claims for increased salaries or allowances. They were to be bludgeoned into joining a union with the threat of monetary lossif they adhered to their principles and refused to do so.
– Why should they not join the unions which secured the awards for them?
– I welcome that statement from the Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane) because it demonstrates the justification for what I have been saying about the Government. Here we are dealing with a measure which purports to guarantee freedom - in fact the original bill included the four freedoms - yet the Leader of the Senate asks why public servants should not be forced to join unions. Of course they can join unions ; if they are so stupid they may even join the Labour party; but surely they should have freedom to make a choice in that matter. We had further evidence of bludgeoning tactics when a strike occurred at a munitions annexe in Sydney some months ago because certain employees refused to join a union. The strike continued until the Government intimated to the owners of the annexe that unless those people were dismissed Government contracts would be placed elsewhere.
– Out with the troublemakers !
– Did not the contract provide for preference to unionists ?
– I thank the Postmaster-General for that interjection. As a former Minister for Supply and Development I have some knowledge of the conditions under which contracts are let. The conditions that were insisted upon were not that the employees should be members of a union, but that the employers should observe to the full the conditions- laid down by the Arbitration Court in its awards. The Arbitration Court has not yet provided for full preference to unionists. The interjection of the Postmaster-General is in line with what I am saying, namely, that the people now in power are so obsessed with their own importance and their temporary power* - it is only temporary - that they have set out to change the way of living of the people of this country. In order to achieve that end, they have the effrontery to bring this measure before the Parliament. In its present form it leaves a great deal to be desired, but it reflects the legal mind of the man who drafted it. His attention was concentrated, not on the precise legal terms which would show to the ordinary man in the street, or even to his confreres ofthe legal fraternity, what was meant, but on terms which would have a propaganda appeal to the people. That is a serious aspect of the present Administration. During the last two years we have had experience of the complete upsetting of the industrial system of this country; I know that that has been brought about under the guise of war needs. One of the most flagrant cases was when the Women’s Employment Board was set up. That body was to consist of representatives of the interested parties, but as evidence of the complete bias of mind on the part of the persons responsible for its establishment, when they put on that board a person allegedly to represent the employers, they appointed a person who was actually an employee of a government munitions factory. Consequently, the operations of that board have not been in the direction of conciliation, but rather in the direction of confusion and industrial strife. Recently Ministers, particularly the AttorneyGeneral, appear to have become aware of some disturbance of the public mind on account of these things, and consequently when the Attorney-General prepared a booklet, which allegedly is an explanatory pamphlet dealing with the proposed amendments of the Constitution, he set out, not to deal with the scope of the amendments, but to assure members of the Parliament, and through them the people, that whilst the powers sought to be vested in the Commonwealth are wide and might allow certain things to be done, neither he nor any of his colleagues had any intention to use those powers in that way. In his booklet the Attorney-General assures us that, although the powers sought in respect of employment and unemployment are wide enough to include peace-time industrial conscription, nothing is further from the mind of the Government. Unfortunately for him, his memory is short ; or, perhaps, he hopes that the memory of members of this Parliament is short. In refutation of his claims we have the words spoken by the right honorable gentleman at the Summer School of the Australian Institute of Political Science a few months ago in Canberra. I repeat those words for the benefit of honorable senators -
In the general weal, and for the common good, one of the freedoms which the people of this country would have to give up in the post-war period was the freedom of choice of their avocations.
– The AttorneyGeneral denies that he said that.
– I have no doubt about that;, the Attorney-General is capable of denying it. But that he made the statement is vouched for by a man who was present at the conference and published the right honorable gentleman’s remarks in a New South Wales newspaper. That statement reflects truly the attitude of not only the AttorneyGeneral, but also his colleagues, and the Government’s docile supporters in this Parliament. I have no doubt that the Government, under the guise of introducing an instalment of the “new order “ - full employment, comfort, and happiness for all - will rigidly regiment the people of this country should it be in office after the war. . It is useless for the Minister in charge of the bill to say, as he said this morning, that certain powers do not reside in a provision concerning which a question was asked. There was some excuse for him then, seeing that the sitting had extended over sixteen hours. But the Minister will not pacify members of this chamber, or the people outside the Parliament, with specious statements of that kind. Australians have inherited a love of individual freedom; it is something that they hold dear, and will not lightly relinquish. In a discussion in Great Britain on the rights of individuals, Viscount Simon said -
A free citizen, in the exercise of his free dom, is entitled to choose the employer whom he promises to serve, 60 that the rights of his service cannot be transferred from one employer to another without his consent. “We on this side are jealous of those rights and privileges.
– In war-time?
– Under war-time conditions many things have had to be done. I give credit to the Government for the courage that it has displayed when it has had to do unpopular- things. I believe the Government was convinced that this regimentation, this ordering of the lives of the people, was necessary for a full war effort, although I am not convinced that some of the things that were done were either necessary or useful. On that subject, it may’ be well to mention that there is no similar regimentation in the United States of America, yet that country’s war effort has been magnificent. Honorable senators will recall that when President Roosevelt wished to have certain legislation enacted, the Congress and the Senate of the United States of America refused to do so. However, I shall not attempt to take from the Government the credit for good motives and courageous action in regimenting the people of this country to meet war-time conditions. It is clear, however, that that power over the people has proved attractive to members of the Government, and that they wish to exercise it not only in war-time, but also in the period after the war. It is futile for the Government to hold out the bait of full employment, happiness, wealth and comfort, as the underlying reason for these proposals.
– That is the reason for the bill.
– Again, I am thankful for an interjection from the Government benches. Apart altogether from considerations as to the necessity to do certain things in wartime, I shall oppose every effort to carry this regimentation into the post-war period. The Government, has had a difficult task in trying to find cogent reasons to explain why it considers that the powers it seeks will be necessary in the post-war period. I know that the Government has allowed, or, it may be, has instructed, its minions to go throughout the country telling the people how necessary it is that war-time controls shall be continued after the war. We are fortunate that some of these economic experts and financial pundits were allowed to voice either their own opinions or the opinions of the Government at the Summer School of the Australian Institute of Political Science at Canberra, to which reference has been made, because their remarks have given to the people of this country something to think about. I have noticed that recently” some of these gentlemen have been saying that what they want must have the complete support of the people. We know what sometimes happens when people are given great powers. Honorable senators who have read Hitler’s Mein Kampf know of the specious pleas which he made to the people of Germany. But what hap- pened to the people of Germany when Hitler got into power? All his previous protestations were then forgotten, and the people were regimented into an entirely new way of life.
– Did not Hitler smash their trade union movement?
– I shall not discuss what Hitler did to the trade union movement in Germany ; but I repeat what I have said on other occasions, that I have no desire to see the trade union movement in this country smashed. I believe that the trade union movement has a real job to do in this country. I object to it only when it abandons its proper province and intrudes itself into the realm of government. We have had many illustrations which indicate that the trade union movement is obsessed- with the temporary power which it now enjoys. Whilst the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and other Ministers in both the House of Representatives and in this chamber assure the people that the Government’s one desire is to give preference to soldiers, the Australasian Council of Trade Unions- passes resolutions that preference must not be given to returned soldiers. I leave it to the people of Australia to say who shall decide that matter. For the last twelve months, the Government has had in its possession a draft bill, designed to- provide preference to returned’ soldiers, and approved by returned .soldier organizations throughout Australia. But that measure has not yet been placed before Parliament. The Government does not seem to regard it as urgent. In contrast to its attitude towards that measure, the Government is pressing this bill for the holding of a referendum at which the people will be asked to give to the Government certain powers to give preference not to returned soldiers, but to unionists. Honorable senators opposite now argue that in the post-war period there will be plenty for all, and preference for any section will not be necessary. In spite of those arguments we shall find that this Government, if it remains in office, will implement its policy of preference to unionists. However, this issue will ultimately be decided by the people. If I am any judge, the unsavoury methods by which this bill is being rushed through Parliament will prejudice the people against the Government in their consideration of these matters. Having complete confidence in the inherent common sense of the Australian people, I have no doubt that, even while they may believe that some of these powers should be granted to the Commonwealth Parliament, they will not incorporate them in the Constitution so long as this Government is in office.
.- The bill con-tains provisions guaranteeing freedom of speech and freedom of expression. The Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley), who is in charge of the measure, after having had breakfast and a sleep for half an hour, should now say to himself, “ I was not in too good form in the early hours of this morning, and did not explain the provisions of the bill even to my own satisfaction. In those circumstances it is only right that the measure be recommitted, in order to- enable me to- explain the bill in detail and answer the questions asked by the Opposition as to the meaning of certain provisions “. This measure contains a guarantee of the freedom of expression. I do- not wish to deny that right to honorable senators opposite,, even though it has not yet been incorporated in the Constitution.. However, the Government indicated its idea of freedom of expression by using the big stick, and condemning the Senate to an all-night sitting. It said in effect, “ We are going to pass the bill whether you like it or not “. The Government made full use of its majority on the motion for the second reading. I raise no question about that. One freedom that should be included in the bill should be freedom for members of the Labour party to vote according to their conscience.
– One member of the Opposition supported the Government.
– He voted according to his conscience. We have no objection to his voting with the Government if he believed that he should, do so.. What we object to is that the Government should have sufficient influence with an honorable senator who is supposed to be a member of the Opposition and relying on his vote to compel the Senate to sit all night. We have no objection to the vote cast by that particular gentleman, on the second reading, but we say that an honorable senator who is supposed to be a member of the Opposition should not compel the Senate to sit all night. I am not blaming the Government for the all-night sitting. It used its artificial majority in coming to that decision, and it believes, apparently, that it is entitled to use any weapon available to it in order to achieve its aims. That is a matter of party politics;- but I question whether the Government will consider itself to have been so clever when all the facts are made known. Honorable senators, some of whom are advanced in years, were placed under a considerable physical and mental strain by being obliged to sit continuously for seventeen hours to* consider this measure, which is of the greatest importance to the people, and contains provisions which appear to have been specially drafted to confuse not only members of Parliament, but also the people. I do not blame the Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane) for forcing an all-night sitting upon us. That is how the Government expresses itself when it has power to implement freedom in its own way. However, incidents in this chamber last night will indicate to the people how the Government will act when it possesses a real and not an accidental majority niched from the Opposition. One begins, to wonder why the Government spent the taxpayers’ money in providing a motor car for the conveyance from Sydney to Canberra of an honorable senator who evidently told it that he would support the measure. Having regard to the hour, I presume that the Government will provide a motor car to carry that gentleman back to Sydney, because, as you know, Mr. President, the person to whom I refer has never remained in this chamber after 3.45 p.m. on any Thursday on which the Senate has sat. As he is apparently content to remain here to-day until a vote is taken on the third reading of this measure, there would appear to be some sinister influence - and I use the word advisedly - at work in the matter. I do not suggest that the Leader of the Senate is doing anything wrong in the matter, but in order to set at ease the minds of honorable senators and the people, a statement should be made by the Government as to how it managed to seduce a member of the Opposition in this chamber to give his vote to it in a vita] division.
In the early hours of this morning honorable senators on this side asked a few questions as to the meaning of certain provisions in the measure. We thought that the PostmasterGeneral, in his usual bright way, would give us a simple explanation which we could pass on to the people. We asked about half a dozen questions in order to obtain a clear understanding of the provisions of the bill. Our ama28ment can be imagined when an explanation was not given. I .have a feeling that the Postmaster-General knew the answers, but was merely stalling. I do not think that he failed to give us the information because he did not understand the measure. My feeling was that he understood the measure, but the real meaning of its provisions was so explosive that he did not care to tell us. A Minister in charge of a bill’ should not act in that way. If he knew the answers he should have told us plainly. It must be remembered that at 7 o’clock this morning, after sitting continuously for seventeen hours, honorable senators on this side were not feeling as bright as they might. I had a feeling that the Postmaster-General was looking for simple words in which he could convey to tired senators the real meaning of the measure. I thought that the Postmaster-General was not only reasonable, but bubbling over with the milk of human kindness. Seeing how weary we were with the interminable discussion, I had a feeling that his sympathetic nature overcame him, and. that he absolutely refused to burden us with explanations which he probably thought would flabbergast us and which we could not possibly appreciate. I advise him that the correct procedure for a Minister in a case like this, when he has not explained his bill in committee is to recommit it, at the same time admitting frankly that earlier the committee was not in a condition to give the clauses proper consideration. He could tell us that we were to be given the fullest opportunity to discuss every clause at whatever length we wished, whilst he would make the frankest explanations possible, to enable us to understand completely the meaning of the measure. I still think that a Minister who knew that he had not explained a bill to his own satisfaction could do- only one. thing - give himself the satisfaction of explaining it not only to honorable senators but also to the people of Australia. The proposals will now go to the country without his explanations. It is true’ that a booklet containing notes on the fourteen powers and the three guarantees, and marked “ confidential “, has been issued to us. I feel confident that hundreds of thousands of copies will be posted to the electors of Australia. It is the custom to present both sides of important questions to the people. For that purpose, each party has in the past been allowed to prepare and circulate its case. I anticipate that the Government will cause to be prepared and issued to the electors a pamphlet of that kind, in which the Opposition will be allowed to put its point of view against that of the Government, and that an equal amount of space will be allotted to each side. Is that the intention of the Government? Are hundreds of thousands of copies of this confidential booklet to be distributed to the electors? ls it the Governnient’3 intention, whilst providing for an equal distribution of propaganda from each side, to send a copy of the booklet to every elector? It is evident that the Minister does not intend to recommit the bill and that he is satisfied that the explanations he gave last night were adequate. For my part, having made my protest last night and to-day against the manner in which the bill has been rushed through, and remembering the howl that honorable senators opposite always raised against the forcing of legislation through Parliament when they were on this side of the chamber, I shall content myself with saying that, owing to the manner of its presentation, apart from any virtues which it may possess, the bill does not deserve the slightest consideration from the people of Australia.
– The opposition to this bill from the moment of its introduction ha3 been based, not upon a national outlook, but upon a continuing political fight. Whether those gentlemen who will be retiring from the Senate very soon feel that this is a good battleground on which to put up their final struggle, I do not know, but the fact remains that there has been displayed towards this bill continuous hostility based upon purely party political prejudice. We have listened for the last 24 hours to speech after speech from honorable senators on the other side of the chamber, in which their “pin-pointing” methods of attack have proved to us that they are not looking at this proposition with any thought of whether the people of Australia will be benefited or not by the extension of Commonwealth powers, but rather asking themselves : “ Is there any political gain in this? Shall we oppose it outside as we have done inside? Can we make speeches which can be quoted in a campaign against the proposals ? “ Senator Spicer has even threatened to speak against the proposals from every public platform that he can reach.
– Does the honorable senator object to that?
– No ; but it the honorable senator were honest in hi» opposition to the bill, I should say to him “ congratulations on a great stand “. On the contrary, every speech made- by Opposition senators in this chamber on the bill has been based on purely political abuse.
– I rise to order. Senator Armstrong questioned the honesty of my opposition to the bill. I strongly object to such a reflection upon my conduct in this chamber, and ask for the withdrawal of a most objectionable statement.
– Senator Spicer having objected to certain words used by Senator Armstrong, I ask that they be withdrawn.
– I withdraw them. It is strange how quick honorable senators of the Opposition are to jump to their feet when one takes them to task. For the last 241 hours they have thrust sharp barbs at Ministers and supporters of the Government, and we have endured these knowing that they were only words. I suppose that when a “ cap is knitted “, honorable senators of the Opposition rush to seize it because it fits them. That tone of abuse has unfortunately permeated the whole debate. I am glad of the opportunity to speak on the bill before the debate concludes. The Opposition has exhibited a narrowness of vision and an anti-Australian outlook which is disturbing to me. I sometimes think that they are not conscious of the impression which they leave on those who listen to them. I suppose that their narrowness of vision is something with which they were born, and that they will die with it. I place Senator Spicer and Senator McBride particularly in this category. Reading Lord Brougham’s essays on Statesmen in the Times of
George III., I found some very expressive sentiments applied to Mr. Percival, a one-time Prime Minister of Great Britain - an unfortunate man, the only Prime Minister of that great country who died by an assassin’s hand. Nothing that I have ever read has been more applicable to the two honorable senators I have just mentioned. These are Lord Brougham’s words -
Of views upon all things, the most narrow, upon . . . political questions the most bigoted and intolerant, his range of mental vision was confined in proportion to hi8 ignorance on all general subjects. Within that sphere he saw with extreme acuteness, as the mole is supposed to be more sharpsighted than the eagle for half a quarter of an inch before it; but as beyond the limits of his little horizon he saw no better than the mole, so, like her, he, firmly believed, and always acted ou the belief, that beyond what lie could descry, nothing whatever existed; and he mistrusted, dreaded and even hated all who had an ampler visual range than himself. [ believe that that passage definitely describes the general outlook of the members of the Opposition, with particular application to the two whom I have mentioned. My own approach to proposed extension of powers to the Commonwealth is simple. I believe that we must never again suffer the spectacle of hundreds of thousands of unemployed in our midst. Anything that can be done to eliminate that must be done. It is the bounden duty of men in this legislature to do all in their power to ensure that such conditions do not recur. It disturbs me when gentlemen like Senator James McLachlan state that we fool the people when we tall them that we can avoid further depressions. Staeb a hopeless outlook is indeed .upsetting. Those gentlemen are beaten before they begin. They feel that because there was a depression after the last war and a bigger one in 1930 there must be another after this war. If the men in control of the country are big and strong enough, there will not be another, because in the hands of the legislature lies the remedy for these troubles. If big men handle the reins, I am quite certain that they will steer satisfactorily through the troublous days that we know will face us. I am. sure that Senator James McLachlan spoke not only for himself but also for all of his colleagues, and, should his prophesy be true, it will be a sad day for those who are at present employed in Australia, and also for the returned servicemen and women who hope to be absorbed in full-time civic employment. I believe that the .people of this laid want one thing above all - full-time employment at reasonable wages. The needs of ordinary men and women are simple. There is confusion at present which an accretion of powers to the Commonwealth Government would help to dispel. In considering the fourteen additional powers stated in the bill, I ask whether their embodiment in the Constitution would help governments of the day. We do not know when the war will be over. It may last for another two or three years ; but whatever governments are in power in the Commonwealth and State spheres at the termination of hostilities, their first and greatest duty will be the rehabilitation of the service personnel into re-employment. I would judge those governments on their ability to carry out that great task.
To illustrate the multiplicity of control now exercised, I shall refer to certain conditions that prevail in the city of Sydney. Great attention is now being paid to the care of the pre-school child and of children of the kindergarten age. The work done in that regard has been observed carefully. In many instances it is up to the world’s standard, but in others the service is poor. The various authorities which exercise control contend that recreational and educational facilities should be provided for children of those ages. There is a Day Nursery and Nursery Schools Association which gives a twelve-hours-a-day service for five days a week throughout the year, and also trains nursery school teachers. This movement is rapidly growing both in Great Britain and the United States of America, and remarkably good work is being done. The Kindergarten Union of New South Wales cares for children from two to six years of age six hours a day during school’ terms and trains kindergarten and nursery school teachers. The State Department of Public Health, which is concerned with the service provided by Baby Health Centres for children from birth to school age, and frequently works in liaison with the day nurseries, nursery schools and kindergartens, where appropriately located, is giving attention, health supervision and advice. The local governing authorities in many cases now assist in promoting the establishment of these centres. In many places these services are anything but satisfactory and require improvement. The Commonwealth Department of Health has jurisdiction in and around Sydney, particularly with regard to the Lady Gowrie Centres and war-time grants-in-aid. “With strong Commonwealth assistance I think that the position could be improved. The State Department of Health has established kindergarten classes, and two nursery schools, and extensions of these classes are contemplated. Under the New South Wales ‘Child Welfare Act all licensed institutions and child welfare institutions are encouraged and the Child Welfare Department subsidizes the Kindergarten Union to the amount of £10,000 per annum. The Department of Labour and Industry and Social Services in New South Wales subsidizes day nurseries by the provision of similar financial assistance. The municipal Council of Sydney provides playgrounds for pre-school children, and such is its assistance in that direction that almost -Jd. in the £1 of municipal rates is devoted to this important work, but the position is not nearly so satisfactory as it should be. When the State department desires to extend the playground movement it has no difficulty, but the Sydney City Council is unable to obtain the necessary permission for man-power. This matter should be under Commonwealth jurisdiction, without which there will not be proper control of playgrounds throughout Australia.
– Does the honorable senator ask that playgrounds should be under Commonwealth control?
– That interjection provides a further illustration of the narrow view of some honorable members on the opposite side of the chamber.
After the war this country should offer similar attractions to newcomers as it offered to Senator Foll and Senator Large many years ago. Senator Foll told us that he left England because Australia held out great promise and now he represents in this Parliament a large section of the people in this country. During the last ten years there has not been so great an influx of population as formerly, and one of the reasons is that we do not offer sufficiently great attractions to people overseas to make their homes in Australia. When the present population of this country is absorbed in full-time employment at fair rates of wages and under good industrial standards we shall once more witness an influx of migrants. This bill should be considered from a broad point of view. We must realize that the present Constitution does not afford the Government sufficient powers to deal with the problems that will have to be faced after the war. They will be much greater than those which engaged attention after the last war, and this Parliament is the only legislature in Australia which will be in a position to solve those problems. Honorable senators opposite have been filling Hansard with their speeches during the last 24 hours, not because of real opposition to the bill, but because of their political bias. I have no doubt that the people generally will be prepared to grant to this Parliament the power necessary to carry out the important task of post-war reconstruction envisaged by the present Government.
.- A travesty of parliamentary procedure was witnessed in this chamber early this morning. During a period of about half an hour this Senate, after having sat for seventeen hours consecutively, passed through the committee stage a bill providing for fourteen important alterations to the Constitution and also three so-called guarantees. I am not overstating the position when I say that not one of the proposals was discussed in detail in this chamber. We were not in a condition to discuss them. We had dealt with the general principles underlying the measure, and had discussed certain of the items. If the proposals had been adequately discussed in committee each of the individual items was worthy of as lengthy a debate as occurred on the motion for the second reading of the bill. I say that partly because the terms in which many of the powers are expressed are so vague that even the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) is unable to give a definite opinion as to their meaning. In the booklet published on behalf of the Attorney-General he endeavoured to explain the meaning ‘ of the term “ primary production “ in connexion with the paragraph dealing with the production and distribution of goods. In that publication the following words are attributed to him: -
In view of the fact that the reservation contained in sub-paragraph a is limited to primary production, the meaning of this term is a matter of importance. It is also a matter of some difficulty and obscurity.
The Attorney-General has issued this booklet to explain what the bill means. Yet, a moment ago, the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) by interjection said that there was no difficulty about any of these matters.
– I did not say that the honorable senator would have no difficulty.
– The Minister claimed that I was making a false statement when I said that certain propositions contained in this bill were expressed vaguely and with uncertainty. As I have pointed out, the fact is that the AttorneyGeneral has found it necessary to declare that the phrase which he himself used is one of difficulty and obscurity. However, apparently he has no intention of removing that difficulty and obscurity, or a number of others contained in the bill. Since we discussed this measure in the early hours of this morning, I have been turning over in my mind some of the dangers which this community must contemplate if it is prepared to accept these proposals. There are many dangers ahead of the Australian people if they are prepared to vest, in this Government at any rate, the powers which are sought under this measure. I do not propose at this stage to make an exhaustive statement of these dangers; but I shall refer to one or two of them.. In the course of the discussion on this measure we have heard, a great deal about a guarantee of freedom. There is one freedom - the most important freedom of all - which I believe will be endangered by the adoption of these proposals. I refer to the freedom of the individual to lead his own life in his own way. I believe that to be the most important freedom which any citizen in a British community possesses.
– It is the freedom for which we are fighting.
– Yes, and the freedom for which our soldiers are dying. I believe that freedom will be endangered gravely if the people of this country are prepared ito hand over to this Government the powers enumerated in this measure. I know that it will be said in answer to that statement that I am taking a very short-sighted view if I look at these proposed powers merely from the point of view of what this Government is likely to do with them; but this Government happens to be in office to-day.
– And will continue in office for a long time.
– God forbid ! However, so far as we can judge it will be in office for perhaps two and a half years. The proposition which we are considering to-day is not to amend the Constitution permanently, but to amend it for five years only ; and we know that for at least a considerable portion of that period, these powers will be exercised by the Labour party and by nobody else.
– Apparently that is what is troubling the. honorable senator.
– I confess quite frankly that it does trouble me, and that when I contemplate both Houses of this Parliament being under the control of a party whose members have no freedom to exercise their personal judgment upon matters; when I realize that for the next two and a half years at least, this country will be ruled not by this Parliament but by the decisions of caucus ; and when I contemplate the means which this Government has employed in the course of the last two years to give effect to its programme, and the readiness with which it has interfered with the freedom of the individual, I am disturbed when it is suggested that the means by which the Government can interfere with that freedom, should be increased. There is grave danger that for the next two and a half years at least, many measures which will be formally passed by this Parliament, will not have received the approval of a majority of the Parliament, but only of a majority of caucus, which, of course, may well be a minority of the Parliament. Notwithstanding the fact that certain members of caucus may be conscientiously opposed to proposals which are adopted by the majority, and the fact that that minority, if it were free to act in concert with members of the Opposition, would constitute a majority of this Parliament, decisions of caucus will become law. When I contemplate these things I am more than ever convinced that the adoption of these proposals would endanger the maintenance of the individual freedom and liberty which we enjoy as British citizens. For instance, these proposals if carried would endanger the freedom of the primary producer, to determine how he should carry on his farm ; his freedom to determine whether he shall plant this crop or that crop, and what area he should sow.
– We want to protect him from exploitation.
– That is done now under war-time powers; but this Government is not prepared to leave the control of the primary producer to those circumstances in which it is desirable to exercise that control for the defence of the Commonwealth; it wants the right to interfere with the primary producer at all times, irrespective of whether control of that kind is desirable in the interests of this country, or for any other reason. Just as the freedom of the primary producer will be in jeopardy, so will the freedom of the worker be in jeopardy.
– That should not trouble the honorable senator very much.
– Curious as it may seem to the Minister for the Interior, it would disturb me very much if the freedom of the person referred to as the “ worker “ were endangered. I concede that restraints and restrictions for the purpose of the defence of the Commonwealth are necessary; probably we have gone much too far in that direction even for that purpose ; but it is not a state df affairs which I desire to see continued unnecessarily in the days of peace. These proposals, by conferring upon the Com monwealth full control over employment and unemployment, will give wide powers to interfere with individual freedom to this Parliament and to the Labour Government-
– To caucus !
– Yes, that is the true position in Parliament to-day. This referendum, if carried, would give to caucus power to perpetuate a system of industrial conscription in the days of peace - power to say whether individuals shall follow or shall not follow- specific occupations.
– Did not that power operate before the war?
– No. Before the war, one great freedom which the workers of this country enjoyed - and I suggest that they should have fought to the bitter end to preserve it- was freedom to choose their jobs. I think that the Minister for the Interior, or at least some of his colleagues, upheld that principle in this chamber. They objected to the passing of the National Security Bill unless it contained a specific guarantee against the imposition of industrial conscription. No doubt the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron) will remember that. It stands to the credit of. the Minister that he fought that battle in the early days when the National Security Bill wai first introduced, and later on when war developments made it necessary to override that safeguard. I think that he continued that fight.
– He gave lip service, anyway.
– Apparently; but now he is prepared to vest in this Parliament complete power over employment and unemployment, without any guarantee whatsoever.
– That is only the honorable senator’s interpretation.
– There is no doubt about it, and there is no escape from it. Do not let us delude ourselves. This measure proposes that the Commonwealth Parliament shall have power to pass laws with respect to employment and unemployment. There is no limiting factor to that power, and the intention obviously is that Parliament shall be able to stipulate that a worker shall accept employment in one place and not in another. In his booklet the AttorneyGeneral says, on page 10, that the Allied Works Council and the Civil Constructional Corps came into existence to meet a special emergency. In referring to the former, I suppose, he went on to say, “ When the war ends, that organization will go “. There is nothing in the bill to say that it will go. That is merely a statement, or prophecy, by the AttorneyGeneral. It is not the statement of a lawyer that, in his view, those organizations will be disbanded when the war ends. I am sure that the Minister for the Interior will be sorry to see them go, because the Minister loves ordering people about; he delights in being able to tell a man to go from Melbourne to North Queensland in order to put a roof on a house or to do a plumbing job. The Minister for the Interior is the perfect dictator, who thoroughly enjoys the performance of these functions. The Attorney-General then says, “There will be no industrial conscription “. That is another prophecy. It is not even a promise, because the right honorable gentleman cannot speak for the Government on this subject. He does not say that the bill contains a guarantee that there will be no industrial conscription.
– I invited the Government to include a provision to that effect in the bill, but without success.
– That is so. While E am on this subject, I direct attention to the Attorney-General’s readiness to indicate what the future policy of the Government is to be, when to do so suits his purpose. He says here, merely as a statement regarding future policy and not as a guarantee, that there will be no industrial conscription. But when he was dealing with what is perhaps a more important problem, namely, preference to returned soldiers, although he sought to indicate that an amendment of the Constitution was necessary to enable such preference to be given, he was careful not to make any promise that the Government would really give preference to returned soldiers. On the contrary, he was most careful to sit on the fence.
– An honest man. does not promise to continue to be honest.
– The AttorneyGeneral has made some promises in his booklet. For instance, he says, “ There will be no industrial conscription “.
– That is an honest man’s promise, which amounts to a guarantee.
– I do not dispute the right honorable gentleman’s honesty in this matter. I assume that he was honest when he prepared this booklet. When he came to deal with the problem of preference to returned soldiers, although he made it appear - wrongly, in my view - that an amendment of the Constitution is necessary for that purpose, he was most careful to make it plain that ‘ he was not making any promise in that connexion. That is clear from his statement on page 8 -
Whether or not a general preference should be given is obviously a matter of policy to be determined in the light of the circumstances.
What that statement means I do not know. The circumstances which ‘should be taken into account in determining whether or’ not preference should be given are well known, yet the statement of the Attorney-General is most guarded. He is not prepared to commit the Government on this subject,, although he is prepared to commit it in relation to industrial conscription. Another matter to which I wish to refer is the danger to those freedoms which we enjoy under what lawyers call “ The- rule of law “. The danger which this community- will face if these proposals be adopted will be the perpetuation of the bureaucratic control that we have to-day, namely, government, not by legislation, but by regulation. That, I believe, is a very real danger. I know, as I indicated yesterday, that the Attorney-General has endeavoured to meet that situation, because he has introduced into this bill sub-section 4 of proposed new section 60a which requires that before regulations made under this law shall have effect they must be submitted to each member of the Parliament. Why that should be limited to the powers contained in this bill, and should not be extended to regulations made in respect of other powers, I do not know. In any event, it is not a guarantee. ‘ On this subject I submitted yesterday what I believe was a reasoned argument. I indicated then that the so-called guarantee is not a guarantee at all. If, should these powers be granted, the present Government is still on the treasury bench and sees fit to pass a bill authorizing the making of regulations with respect to employment and unemployment, those matters will be handed over completely to a bureaucracy, and this Parliament will have very little voice.
– Hansard will still be published.
– Yes, and it will continue to record a pleasant pantomime, but the Parliament will not be able to exercise any real power. All the decisions which it will make will be decisions previously arrived at by a majority of the caucus. Yesterday, I put forward some considerations in relation to this so-called guarantee that I thought were deserving of some comment from the Minister. I pointed out then, and I repeat now, that the provision that every new regulation in relation to these proposed new powers must be placed in an envelope and posted to every member of the Parliament, and will not come into operation for a further fourteen days, is not a guarantee at all. It is not even a promise. It will be merely a useless farce which will cost money and will not do any good. The other element to which I referred yesterday, and as to which the Minister had nothing to say, was that under the bill, as at present drawn, any regulation can be declared by the Governor-General in Council to be urgently required, in which event it will be no longer subject even to the safeguards provided in this bill. I do not believe that the people generally will look forward with pleasure to a continuance in the times of peace of the bureaucratic regime which we- have had -during the war. I fear that the control which the Parliament has exercised in the past will rapidly pass into the hands of the bureaucracy unless we are prepared to put into the Constitution guarantees which will be much more effective than those which appear in sub-section 4 of proposed new section 60a. They do not meet the situation at all. There are lots of other matters in connexion with this bill which I could discuss, but the opportunities to do so have been scant indeed.
– The honorable senator has had a fair innings.
– Yes, within the limits that have been imposed on us. There is no urgency about this measure, and no reason why it should not be recommitted, so that we could go through it carefully in order to learn what each provision means, with a view to improving the language. That is due to the people of Australia. We might coin a phrase which would more accurately express what the Attorney-General has in mind, and what he has found such difficulty in defining. That might take considerable time, but it would be worth while. Perhaps I should say that such action would be of no great advantage to me, because, as a lawyer, I rather welcome the bill in its present form. Should the proposals be agreed to I visualize litigation extending over the whole five years that they are to remain in force in order to determine what some of them mean. I should not be astonished to find that the meaning of some of them will not have been finally determined by the end of the five-year period. From a personal point of view, I am all in favour of leaving the bill as it is, but from a public point of view, that is most undesirable. I, therefore, still urge the Minister to agree to Senator Leckie’s suggestion that the bill be recommitted. If that’ were done, we could examine it carefully next week, with a view to removing anomalies and improving its language. In doing that, we should be doing the job that we were sent here to do. Apparently, the Government is not prepared to adopt that course, and, accordingly, we are not to be permitted to do our job properly. In the circumstances in which this bill has been placed before us, we have done our best - it may have been a poor best - to draw attention to some of the dangers associated with it, as well as to the grave defects in its language which make it so difficult to determine the meaning of these important powers.
Senator TANGNEY (Western Aus debate no lengthy contribution by me is necessary, but I cannot, allow the third reading of the bill to pass without expressing my support of the measure. Honorable senators opposite have voiced a great deal of criticism of the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) in respect of his association with this measure, but they should realize in the words of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives, the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), that, “ This is not the Attorney-General’s bill “. It is based on a measure drafted by a committee of the Canberra Convention, and unanimously approved by the Convention. The Convention also has been criticized severely by honorable senators opposite. Some of them have said that the Government should avoid the holding of a referendum on this most important subject by calling another convention more representative of the people of Australia than was the Canberra Convention. One honorable senator suggested that certain categories should be represented at such a gathering in order to bring it into line with the spirit and atmosphere of the conventions held by the “giants” who framed the Constitution. From a perusal of the personnel of those conventions I find that of the 54 representatives who attended them, 50 were politicians and 4 were lawyers. No one will suggest that that was a very representative cross-section of the community. Yet the achievements of those gentlemen have been lauded in this chamber. The personnel of the Canberra Convention differed from that of the pre-federation conventions mainly in that all delegates were members of Parliaments. However, they were representative of all shades of political opinion in this country. They were more truly representative of the Australian people than the delegates who attended the pre-federation conventions. An honorable senator who read a list of the names of the men who comprised those conventions did not mention any representatives from Western Australia. At first I felt hurt, but when I looked up for myself the names of those gentlemen I was not a bit hurt, because, to-day, the grandsons of some of those gentlemen are holding very high office in the Legislative Council of Western Australia, which is one of the most conservative legislative bodies in the world. It is responsible for the fact that the bill agreed upon at the Canberra Convention has not been ratified by the Western Australian Parliament. Yesterday, Senator Lamp read a list of measures which have been defeated in the upper house in the Tasmanian Parliament. I have quite a formidable list of measures which have been rejected by the Legislative ‘Council in Western Australia after they had received the approbation of the Legislative Assembly. In Western Australia the franchise in respect of the upper house is much more limited than is the case in respect of the upper house in Tasmania. These facts show that we have not, in fact, democratic government in those State Parliaments which have an upper chamber, because such chambers can upset the decisions of the democratically elected lower houses; and in that respect the Legislative ‘Council in Western Australia is one of the most conservative legislative bodies in the British Empire.
In supporting this measure I find myself in very good company. I re-echo the words of the Leader of the Australian Country party in the House of Representatives (Mr. Fadden), who was a delegate at the Canberra Convention when the Leader of the Opposition. At the close of the Convention, he said -
I am pleased to be associated with such an historic gathering. I think the bill we have just passed can be accepted as a monument of co-operation . . . which goes to show that when Australians are required to get together to do a big thing for their country, they are prepared to exert every possible effort to achieve the result which is best calculated to serve the interests of the nation.
– It is not cooperation when the Commonwealth is prepared to act against the interests of the States. Three of the States have refused to pass the Convention’s draft bill.
– Three States have failed to pass the bill, but as I have already pointed out, that decision was made by upper chambers none of which is elected on a popular franchise. * However, the fact remains that the leaders of both the government and opposition parties in each State Parliament supported the decisions of the Canberra Convention.
– In South Australia, the Legislative Assembly refused to pass the bill.
– The upper house in the South Australian Parliament is one- of the most reactionary legislative bodies in the Commonwealth. Perhaps, were this measure postponed for some months that remark would not be justified. In order to show that the granting of these powers to the Commonwealth is necessary I shall quote from a leading article of a journal noted for its anti-Labour sentiments, the Industrial Australian and Mining Standard. On this matter, at least, that journal places the interests of the nation before party political interests. In its issue of the 1st March, 1944, it states -
It is essential that consideration of the question of the transfer of powers from the States to die Commonwealth be confined to the merits of the proposals from the point of view of what is best for the nation, taking the long view,’ and not from the standpoint of the political set-up of the moment. The party character of the Ministry in power should not be allowed to sway the referendum vote according to political passions or prejudices. Unfortunately, judging by discussions on the, matter in many quarters, there is grave danger of this happening, and this is definitely to the detriment of the national interest. The powers either are or are not necessary in order to enable the Commonwealth to formulate and carry out certain plans in the immediate post-war period, and to prepare now for putting those plans into effect. The Government has the power under the National Security Regulations while the war lasts, but what is the use of commencing on a programme of reconstruction as a central authority now, if, when the war ends or soon after, these plans would have to be relegated to six other governments to carry out, alter, or discard as a whim seized them. Experience has shown that these six governments never can agree on a common policy applicable all over Australia.
That, I think is the crux of the problem as this article proceeds to demonstrate -
The transfer of the powers to the Commonwealth will not create any new despotic authority, but merely pass them to the onegovernment which can exercise them uniformly and with an Australia-wide scope, instead of their being applied piecemeal and in restricted areas of our continent by six administrative bodies.
The Government has introduced the measure at this juncture because of the urgency of devising a uniform policy to enable the nation to deal with post-war problems. The responsibility for this measure does not rest upon the Government, but upon those State parliaments which have rejected the decisions of the Canberra Convention as expounded by their leaders at that gathering. To those who say that the present is not an opportune time to hold a referendum, I reply that never was the time more opportune, because in a period of national crisis like the present when the nation is facing great peril, the people as a whole are more alive to what is best for the maintenance of the nation and more politically conscious than they have been at any time during the last twenty years.
– Does not the honorable senator believe that the soldiers should have an opportunity to vote on this subject?
– Yes, and they will be given that opportunity.
– “What about the 35,000 of our soldiers who are prisoners of war?
– The Government desires to insure that the Commonwealth Parliament shall have full power to recompense those soldiers for the great suffering and sacrifices they are undergoing during their period of incarceration, by insuring that when the war is over and they return to civilian life they will not be forgotten as our prisoners of war in the last conflict were forgotten upon their return to this country.
Much has been said in this debate about the interests of returned soldiers. It has been stressed that the Government is trying to “ wangle “ the bill through by endeavouring to win sympathy, particularly for its proposal to reinstate and rehabilitate ex-service personnel. I remind honorable senators opposite that, this Government has done more for the soldiers than its predecessors. All of us know how low were the rates of pay of soldiers when this Government assumed office. “We know that in 1939 our soldiers were paid at the same rates as were paid to soldiers in the last war, despite the fact that the cost of living had more than trebled in the intervening period. One of the first steps which the Curtin Government took, despite a minority in both chambers in this Parliament, was to rectify that anomaly. I do not believe for one moment that our soldiers are adequately paid even to-day, but, at all events, they are now receiving considerably better treatment than was meted out to them by previous governments. On the 2nd April, 1943, a regulation was promulgated under the National Security Act in order to secure the reinstatement in employment of those who had enlisted in the auxiliary services’, such as the Australian Red Cross Association, the Australian Comforts Fund, the Salvation Army, the Young Women’s Christian Association and the Young Men’s Christian Association, because these personnel while not actually members of the services were attached to the Army to do special work. For that reason this Government decided that they should come within the ambit of a protective provision so that they will not suffer when they are demobilized.
It has been said that the bill has not been debated in detail. I note several -provisions which have hardly been touched upon, but honorable senators on both sides realize the urgency for the transfer of these powers to the Commonwealth. However, the States themselves have more or less decided to give these powers to the Commonwealth Parliament for a period of five years after the war. The temporary nature of these powers has been criticized at considerable length and it has been stressed that if these alterations are essential they should be granted permanently. The period of five years stipulated in the measure will be a testing time; and as a result of the Government’s action during that period I believe that the people will decide to grant these powers permanently to the Commonwealth Parliament. A period of five years can make a great deal ‘ of difference in the life of a nation. During the last five years, for instance, great changes have occurred, not only in this country, but also throughout the world ; and who will dare to say that the period of five years after this war will not be productive of even greater changes.
The first power sought under this measure is in respect of the reinstatement and advancement of returned soldiers. It is absolutely necessary that the Commonwealth be given that power, because, although we have heard so much of what was done for returned soldiers after the last war, every honorable senator can readily recall many instances of neglect of our soldiers at that time. I have received letters from the fathers of sons serving in this war protesting against the treatment which they themselves received after the last war.
– Does the honorable senator say that that was due to the lack of any power on the part of the Commonwealth ?
– It was because the Government of the day did not face up to its responsibilities to those who offered their lives in defence of this country; and when the matter was left to the States they did very little about it. Furthermore, the character of this war differs entirely from that of the last war. To-day, not only are hundreds of thousands of our people in the armed forces, but thousands have also been prevented from enlisting because of the essential nature of their occupations. The problem of the re-establishment in civilian life of the members of the services and those engaged in war industries will be immense. The little the States have been able to do in this matter proves that the problem is of national importance and must be dealt with by the National Parliament.
The proposed power in respect of employment and unemployment, which seems to have “ got under the skins “ of honorable senators opposite, is closely bound up with the power to reinstate and rehabilitate ex-service personnel. Honorable senators opposite declare that this will mean industrial conscription. I do not recall that their voices now raised in defence of the workers in the years to come were ever raised in defence of the workers in the years gone by. I do not propose to describe the conditions which existed in this country during the depression. I shall content myself by saying that I do not think that governments of which honorable senators opposite were supporters were wholly to blame for those conditions. I realize that they, in common with other members of the community, were’ appalled and staggered by the amount of human misery compressed into those few years, but that condition of unemployment and depression was the result of the system under which this nation as well as many others had been content to labour for many years. If the Commonwealth Parliament, with new powers to provide employment and guard against unemployment, is able to do something to ensure that the tragedies of the depression era are not repeated, this paragraph will not have been passed in vain but will earn the commendation of every thoughtful member of the community. A great deal has been said about freedom, and its loss by the workers’, but what about the freedom which they had in the depression period of 1930 to 1932 - freedom to starve, to wander from place to’ place in search of work, to attend soup kitchens, and visit old clothes depots in an endeavour to find garments for their wives and children? If we do not wish to see that state of affairs become a permanent part of our national life, as it was in those years, surely the least we can do is to give to the National Parliament, elected by the people, the power, right and responsibility to- see that the people do not again suffer, if their suffering can possibly be prevented. We have also heard a great deal about the State control of commercial enterprises. “We have seen many examples of it, and I have heard much adverse criticism of it in “Western Australia. 1 had the opportunity recently to visit the “Western Australian State sawmills, where reasonable amenities, including housing and medical schemes, had been provided which are not found in mills conducted purely for private profit. I do not say that the profits of State enterprises are as great as those of private concerns, but the purpose of State enterprises is not to make profits so much as to provide a public utility, with amenities, at the least possible expense to the community as a whole. That applies also to State shipping. The north-western area of “Western Australia, which is of vital importance to the Commonwealth, as has been proved in the last three years, still requires- development, but it would not have been developed even to its present degree had the State Government not established a line of ships’ and provided a regular freight and passenger service at reduced rates. Otherwise the people in that important part of the Commonwealth would still be almost completely isolated from the more populous centres of the Commonwealth. I could point also to the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers, which was sold by a previous Government for 10 per cent, of its value in terms of money but still less in terms of its utilitarian value. The /ervis Bay, proved its value in the Atlantic when escorting a valuable convoy, before it was sunk by the enemy. That line wa3 filched from Australia by the shipping combine, with the connivance of the ‘Commonwealth Government of the time. Another Commonwealth enterprise which was sacrificed was the woollen mills at Geelong, which were sold for one-third of their value. I saw them only last week on a visit to Geelong. During the war, the Commonwealth has built, at great expense, numbers of factories and annexes for the production of munitions. They belong now to the Australian people, and the Government will refuse to be a party to transactions such as occurred after the last war, when the property of the Australian people was handed over to private combines for a fraction of its value. On this occasion, those factories will be kept for the benefit of the Australian people, and the Government will have the opportunity to manufacture in them many utilities which are at present enjoyed by only a limited number, but will greatly brighten the lot of housewives generally, and particularly the women in the country. “We do not realize the vast debt that the people of the Commonwealth owe to the women of the outback, and we have little conception of the conditions in which they have to live. Much has been said by honorable senators opposite about reducing the freedom of the primary producers, but are not th wives of the primary producers entitled to some relief? Their lot can best be relieved by manufacturing on a large and cheap scale many of the utilities which are only available at present to the people of the cities. Senator Spicer stated that the bill aimed a blow at the freedom of the primary producer, but wo know how the primary producer suffered for years, before the present Government assumed office, through the absence of the orderly marketing of his products, and of guaranteed prices. When those now in opposition were in power, wool brought only slightly over ls. per lb. Under the agreement entered into by this Government the growers are now getting a guaranteed price of ls. 3£d. per lb., enabling them to carry on despite war-time difficulties. I have recently visited the apple-growing districts in Western Australia. If anything were needed to convince me of the necessity to continue the control of the industry by the Apple and Pear Board, the conditions there would do so. I do not- suggest that honorable senators should be guided by the views of the buyers of apples in the shops, but if the producers, who are the ones who really count, are asked, they will be found wholeheartedly in support of the continuation of the scheme. The apple industry is carried on in Western Australia on much smaller acreages than is the case with other primary products. Orchards of from 10 to 15 acres give fruit-growers a fair living, so long as they obtain guaranteed prices. There again I pay a tribute to the women in the applegrowing districts, who, while their men folk are away fighting for their country, endeavour to carry on the. orchards so that they will have something for their husbands on their return. There is also a great work to be done in such districts in placing men on orchard land after the war. The south-western area of Western Australia is very fertile, and if honorable senators could only visit it they would realize the many undeveloped potentialities of that region. The Commonwealth Government, in co-operation with the State Government could do a great deal to develop it, whilst providing a good living for men with ‘families.
The standardization of the railway gauges is a most urgent work requiring the full attention of the National Parliament. I was amazed that Senator Allan MacDonald, who represents Western Australia, did not support the bill wholeheartedly for that reason alone, because if there are any people whose interests this Parliament should study, it is those of our State. One honorable senator reminded us that we had within our borders a privately owned railway. I do not wish him harm, but I think that it might do ‘him good to have even one trip on it. Quite recently I had to travel twice on it in one week, and felt afterwards that I had earned a very long rest. Although it is at present deriving a large revenue from the Army and Air Force authorities owing to war conditions, it does not provide for its passengers a service at all in keeping with the cost involved.
– One railway which needs improvement is that from Perth to Kalgoorlie.
– I hope that the gauge of that line will soon be standardized, and that through the intervention of the Commonwealth Government it will be possible to travel by train from Sydney to Perth without changing carriages. Under present conditions it is necessary to spend a great deal of time in transferring luggage, with little chance of a rest on the long journey. Apart from the necessity of standardizing the railway gauges in time of peace, the war has proved the advantage of doing so as a part of the defence of the continent. The work should not be allowed to wait until all the other undertakings enumerated have been completed.
I do not remember very much discussion of paragraphs (xii), (xiii) and (xiv) during the debate. I hope that this means that we in this chamber are all agreed that the increased powers asked for in those directions are necessary. The Commonwealth should certainly be given much more extensive powers over national health than it now has. All that the Commonwealth controls in regard to health is quarantine. I know that the Commonwealth Government has secured a small quantity of radium, but cannot employ it effectively yet in the treatment of cancer, that is one of our most vital health needs. My work on the Social Security Committee has shown me the absolute necessity for the Commonwealth to assume full control over the health of the whole of the people of Australia. One of the greatest assets a nation can have is a happy and healthy people, but they cannot be happy unless they are healthy. It is absolutely essential that the problems of cancer and tuberculosis, and mental hygiene, should be handled in a uniform way so that hotter and more continuous service may be provided. Various governments have made family allowances, but their power to do so is uncertain. At present they are paid only by means of grants from the National “Welfare Fund. No one desires at this stage to deprive the Commonwealth of the power to pay such allowances, but we do not know how long the present happy state of affairs is likely to continue. The last paragraph relates to our dealings with the people of the aboriginal race. During the debate I have not heard any honorable senator raise that question, but the treatment which these poor people have received is a blot upon our national life. Very little has been done for them, and none of us can be proud of the record of the Commonwealth in that regard.
– The record of the States is much better than that of the Commonwealth.
– If the Commonwealth undertakes the responsibility, E sincerely hope that in this regard our record will be much improved. Some honorable senators opposite claim that these powers are unnecessary, but if we are to build up a strong national life we must see that the Commonwealth Parliament is given full authority to erect a sound structure, so that, in the words of that great Australian, Sir Isaac Isaacs, this bill may represent “ The timeless union of the Australian people in their national concerns “. “We are now approaching these problems as Australian citizens, and not as citizens of individual states. Although in Western Australia some years ago a favorable vote was cast for secession, that was only a gesture because of the raw deal which the State received at the hands of the Commonwealth Government of the time. The barriers between the States are being broken down by the war, making us realize that we are one nation. I therefore feel sure that the people of Western Australia will give to the Commonwealth Parliament the proposed new powers because this Parliament has helped to preserve the integrity of the nation in its time of peril, and ought, to be given a further opportunity to promote its progress as a united and powerful nation, in the era of prosperity which we hope will follow the war.
– I congratulate Senator Tangney on her fluent speech and apologize to her for having omitted to mention the names of certain distinguished men in Western Australia who were associated with the establishment of federation. One, of course, was the late Lord Forrest, and the other was Sir Walter James. It is remarkable how a man like Lord Forrest, who was then Sir John Forrest, although not trained in the law, made a valuable contribution to the drafting of the Constitution. He also provided for the construction of a railway from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta on what is now regarded as our standard gauge. I apologize for having failed to refer to him, and also to Sir Walter James, both of whom fought valiantly for the federal union. When Senator Tangney said that the responsibility for this bill rests upon the States, she appeared to have a little doubt in her mind as to the fate of the measure. I am satisfied that she will eventually learn that her doubt was well founded. She cannot “ pass the buck “ in that way. The responsibility for this bill must be that of the Attorney-General. It was he and his officers who drafted its clauses. The drafting committee of the Convention at Canberra did not meet for a lengthy period, and the Government must accept responsibility, not only for every clause of the bill, but for the wording of each provision. Although it has been said’ almost humourously that the present Constitution is a horse-and-buggy instrument, I found in my day that a horse and buggy was a remarkably useful vehicle, provided one could obtain a competent driver and the horse was handled properly. There is nothing wrong with the Constitution the fault lies in the way in which it is used. I believe that we are trying to get into a high-speed aeroplane, which, when it finishes at the High Court, may experience a decisive crash. I referred last night to a statement by the Minister in charge of the bill (Senator Ashley) that the power with regard to employment and unemployment would enable the Commonwealth Government to do away with wages boards and the State arbitration systems. Proposed new section 60a (vii) (b) provides - no law made under this paragraph shall discriminate between States or parts of States.
There is discrimination of that kind every day, although the present Constitution forbids it. It appears to me that it will be very difficult to administer the affairs of this country without certain elements of discrimination which are forbidden to-day by the Constitution, and which the Government proposes shall again be forbidden. Paragraph (xi) states - national works, but so that, before any such work is undertaken in a State, the consent of the Governor-in-Council of that State shall be obtained, and so that any such work so undertaken shall be carried out in co-operation with the State.
What are we doing at present? Where is the power of the Commonwealth to build federal aid roads? Take the great River Murray Waters Scheme and the barrage al: the mouth of the River Murray. All of those works were done with the cooperation of the States. Sub-section 2 of proposed new. section 60a provides - Neither the Commonwealth nor a State may make any law for abridging the freedom of speech or of expression.
This power is proposed to be taken for a period of only five years! I have never known any of these freedoms to be challenged. These provisions mean nothing and accomplish nothing. The wealth of this- country is produced by the economic life of the people and the efforts of individuals, whether they toil in’ the cities or on the land. I visualize that there will be more than sufficient employment for the people of this country immediately after the war. The war has caused a vast waste of humans and of wealth of every kind. Taxes are being levied on the people beyond endurance, and sooner or later the nation will have to suffer. This country may not experience another depression, but one may come, though perhaps not so severe as the last. A study of history shows that after every war comes a depression in every country engaged in war, and in some of those which were not active participants. We have read of the gloom following the Napoleonic wars, but Great Britain emerged from the depression that followed those conflicts. Housewives know that if there is extravagance and waste in the homes of the people a certain amount of “ pinching “ is afterwards necessary. Our freedom was wrung from the barons of England, and in the first place from a reluctant monarch. It was supplemented later by the action taken with regard to the Stuarts. We have inherited that freedom, and to provide for freedom in a statute is so much moonshine. Why should it be provided in this bill that our religious freedom is assured? The only freedom that seems to be challenged is the freedom of a man to work with his fellows. I understand that the distinguished constitutional authority in Sydney who recommended to the Attorney-General the inclusion of the proposed new sub-section with respect to regulations pointed out that this provision would secure nothing at all. It states -
A regulation of a legislative character under the authority of any law made by the Parliament in the exercise of any power conferred by sub-section (1 ) of this section, -
The provision, does not refer to any other laws at all. Bureaucratic control may run riot in this country unless the legislation under which the Government acts is passed pursuant to some power contained in the Constitution. The defence power is always available. It does not expand or contract. We -use it with greater activity during times of war than at other periods, but anything necessary can be done in the interests of defence in time of Avar. In the wider sense of the term, this Parliament has plenary power; it has unrivalled power. That is one ofl the first attributes of sovereignty.
– I shall refer to one or two statements in the booklet which has been published on behalf of the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt). Under the proposed power dealing with the reinstatement and advancement of members of the fighting forces, I was glad to notice that the Attorney-General agreed with the contention of the Opposition that already, and without alteration of the Constitution, the Commonwealth has power to reinstate soldiers in civil life. He states in that booklet -
There is good reason to think that in relation to the reinstatement strictly so-called - the actual first re-establishment of a serviceman in civil life - the Commonwealth’s existing authority is complete.
Therefore we have the admission by the Attorney-General that the Commonwealth has complete power already to reinstate soldiers in civil life. He also says -
There is therefore no reason to suppose that after the war the defence power will be wide enough to include all the phases of national life that would fall within any adequate plan of post-war reconstruction.
The reason why that power is not wide enough is that it does not give to the Commonwealth power to direct the individual into the job to which the bureaucrats seek to send him. Therefore the only reason why the power is sought is to introduce industrial conscription. I said last night that individuals who had been trained for certain professions, trades or callings should not be forced by bureaucrats to spend their lives in the drudgery of occupations for which they were not suited. The only repatriation power which the Government does not already possess, and which it now seeks under this measure, is the power to place the returned soldier in slavery; power to force the soldier to live, not his own life, but the life which bureaucrats and other officials believe he should live. We all know that the Government has power to enforce industrial conscription at present, and we recognize that that authority is necessary in view of the exigencies of the war; but it is not necessary in peacetime, and knowing that the motive of the Government in bringing down this measure is to introduce industrial conscription in peace-time, we have no alternative but to fight these proposals to the bitter end. On page 9 of the booklet to which I have referred appears the following statement: -
Hence, a power with respect to “ employment “ would include, though less obviously, power to determine the terms and conditions of employment. Engagement and dismissal, wages and hours, industrial relations and industrial disputes could thus fall within the scope of that power.
It is generally admitted that the Commonwealth possesses adequate power to provide employment, but what it does not possess at the moment is power to enforce compulsory unionism. It has not the authority to ensure that an individual shall not be given a job unless he is a unionist, and that is the power which the Government wishes to possess. At present, by back-door methods, the Government is able to give some degree of preference to unionists, but with the Constitution as it stands to-day, the Government cannot take steps to ensure that only unionists shall be given jobs. The power that the Government seeks is not in fact power to provide employment, because already it has adequate authority to do that; but, as the Attorney-General has admitted, what is required is power to determine terms and conditions of employment. The Government also wants power to take away from the States their control of arbitration; but there are many thousands of people who, realizing that State arbitration tribunals have safeguarded their interests in the past, will fight strenuously any move to centralize completely control of arbitration. On page 14 of the booklet the Attorney-General states -
The securing of satisfactory markets requires not only power to plan, direct and encourage production, . but power to regulate marketing as well.
Again we see what is in the bureaucratic and fascist mind of the Government. The Government wants power to dictate to the individual; power to treat the individual, not as a human being, but as a cog in a machine. In every paragraph of this booklet there is evidence of a- desire to restrict the freedom of the individual - the very freedom for which our men are fighting. On page 11 the Attorney-General gives an idea of the job that lies ahead. He says -
It has been estimated that about half our entire working population will be changing jobs.
The most important point about this referendum so far as it concerns that half of our working population which will be changing jobs, is the question : “ Will the individual be permitted to choose his own job, or will the Director of Postwar Reconstruction or the ‘ Controller of Billycans ‘, or some other such authority, be able to say what job he shall take?” It is perfectly clear that the Government seeks this power for one purpose only, and that is, to enable it to introduce a system of regimentation. Further down on page 11 of the booklet appears the following interesting and illuminating statement : -
The maritime and waterfront industries, as well as the coal industry, have likewise called for the adoption of new methods of planning and regulation.
Apparently the Attorney-General would hold up to us as examples of planning and regulation the waterfront industry and the coal-mining industry, which, it is claimed, have had to be regulated since the start of the war. But what has been the result of that regulation? We have had continued strikes in the coal-mining industry and on the waterfront. In fact, we have had more trouble in those two industries than in all the others Pul together. Therefore, I suggest that the examples which have been chosen by the Attorney-General are most unfortunate. If the object of granting increased powers to the Commonwealth is to enable the Government to act in respect of all industries as it has done in regard to the coal-mining industry and the waterfront industry, there will be hosts of people in the community who- will answer : “ No.” For instance, included in these people will be the soldiers who have had to load and unload ships whilst the wharf labourers have been on strike. The people of this country have been confronted with the deplorable spectacle of American servicemen doing jobs on the waterfront whilst the waterside workers have been on strike. Also, it is hardly likely that those members of the community who, because of strikes in the coal-mining industry or on the waterfront, have suffered inconvenience or loss of employment, will record an affirmative vote when the referendum proposals reach the people. On page 12, the Attorney-General states -
During the war, Australia has made important advances in organizing industrial peace.
Every day of the week, when we open our morning newspapers, the question uppermost in our minds is not are there any strikes, but how many strikes are in progress; what loss of production of coal has been sustained; what industries are being held up as a result of these strikes or what further promises or empty threats have been made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin). On page 8 is the following statement: -
But in all the primary industries effective marketing organization has in fact required co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States and has taken years of patient effort to accomplish.
In effect, the Attorney-General informs us that, after years of patient cooperation between the Commonwealth and the States, they have come together as one family on the question of marketing, with the result that there are in operation to-day certain arrangements which the Attorney-General informs us are working most satisfactorily. Why disturb these arrangements? Now that cooperation has been achieved, is it’ wise for the Commonwealth to say to the States, “ You have co-operated in a friendly way. and have given us every assistance, but now we do not wish to have anything more to do with you. We intend to wipe the States right out of the marketing schemes “ ? There is a lot to be said for decentralization and co-operation, and 1 believe that marketing schemes carried out by the Commonwealth and the States working in close co-operation, will achieve far better results than would be the case if the Commonwealth took independent action, contrary to the wishes of the States.
In conclusion I should like to state that although we on this side of the chamber have searched carefully for the Government’s reasons for seeking these additional powers, we have not been able to find any apart from the desire to bring about industrial conscription. Why did the Government not approach the Opposition and say “ We require these powers for the following reasons “, and then give a full statement of those reasons? The Government should have stated precisely why these additional powers were needed. Had that been done, this measure could have been discussed freely and clearly, and possibly an agreement could have been reached upon it.
– in reply - Honorable senators opposite have complained that they have not been given sufficient time in which to debate this bill. However, I point out respectfully that much extraneous matter was introduced by Opposition speakers. I refer particularly to the bogy of “ socialism “ which is’ raised whenever the Labour party endeavours to bring about social or industrial reform. We have been confronted with this bogy for more than 30 years. I well remember the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) being depicted on placards throughout this country as the “ socialist tiger “. It ill becomes honorable senators opposite in a debate upon a vital measure such as this, to indulge in useless recriminations and arguments. In that respect, however, I do not exempt entirely my colleagues on the Government benches from some share of blame, because they too indulged in these recriminations. Had the remarks of honorable senators been confined strictly to the bill, there would have been ample time for them to debate (the measure fully.
One matter to which reference was made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) and Senators James McLachlan, McBride and Wilson, was a statement alleged to have been made at the Summer School of the Australian Institute of Political Science by the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt). The suggestion was that in the opinion of the Attorney-General, industrial conscription would have to be continued after the war. The report quoted by those honorable senators was erroneous. It appeared in only one newspaper, and was immediately repudiated as false by the Attorney-
General. That Minister stated clearly in the House of Representatives exactly what he did say on that occasion. He had been asked about what a questioner described as “the inalienable right of a man to choose his own job “. He replied that under the modern industrial system the talk of a man having the right to choose his own job was almost< meaningless, as very few men actually had that right. He emphasized also ‘that for too long, because of economic pressure, only those members of the community who were extremely well endowed with worldly goods had been really free to choose their vocation. That is a statement with which I venture to say no honorable senator would or could disagree. However, I do not blame honorable senators opposite for referring to that matter because it did appear in one newspaper and no doubt they were misled.
The main complaint that has been made by the Opposition in the course of this debate has been in regard to alleged restraint and regimentation. I ask honorable senators to take their minds back to the happenings of two and a half years ago; was any complaint made then by the workers about regimentation, restraint, or industrial conscription? No. This country was facing the greatest crisis in its history, and the Australian workers agreed to subject themselves to whatever regimentation was necessary for the defence of this country. The Government has no intention of continuing that regimentation in time of peace.
– Of course it has.
– It has not. That is merely a suggestion of the Opposition, which is put forward for propaganda purposes. The Government has made it clear that it is better to stand by the agreed list of powers even though the drafting may not be all that some desire.
– The Government has not stood by them, but has added to them.
– Every other parliament in the British Commonwealth of Nations has more power than is asked for in this bill. The distrust of the Parliament and the people by Opposition senators is what one might expect from members of a municipality, rather than of the National Parliament. I have been accused of not explaining the various clauses; I admit that, as a layman, I have not the ability of Senators Spicer, A. J. McLachlan and Wilson to deal with the legal aspects of this bill, but I have tried to convey to honorable senators the information supplied to me by the officers of the department. I have done that honestly and to the best of my ability, as I have always endeavoured to do in this chamber. I have also been accused of trying to mislead the Senate. That is not so. I shall not at any time attempt to mislead any member of the Senate, regardless of the party to which he belongs. I hope that the bill will be agreed to.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a third time.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown)
Majority . . 2
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator Keane) proposed. -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– Senator Sampson asked the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Minister for Supply and Shipping the following question, upon notice: -
Is the Minister yet in a position to indicate when the Bass Strait ferry service between Melbourne and Tasmania will be resumed?
The Minister acting for the Minister for Supply and Shipping states that it is expected that the service will be resumed in April. For security reasons the exact date cannot be given, but if the honorable senator sees him personally he will give to him the information.
– Senator Brand asked the Minister representing the Minister in charge of War Service Homes the following questions, upon notice: -
The Minister in charge of War Service Homes has supplied the following answers : -
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented: -
Air Force Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1944, No. 46.
Audit Act - Finance - Treasurer’s Statement of Receipts and Expenditure for the year 1942-43, accompanied by the Report of. the Auditor-General.
National Security Act -
National Security (General) Regulations Orders -
Taking possession of land, &c. (29).
Use of land (3).
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1944, Nos. 47. 48, 49.
Senate adjourned at 6.10 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 23 March 1944, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1944/19440323_senate_17_178/>.