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Wednesday, 15 April 1914


Senator OAKES (New South Wales) . - I move: -

That the following Address-in-Reply to His Excellency the Governor-General's Opening Speech be agreed to: -

To His Excellency the Governor-General.

May it Please Your Excellency:

We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.

I am sure that I am expressing the view of everybody in the Senate, as well as in the other House, and, perhaps, the view of the people ofAustralia, in saying that we all regret that the Governor-General has seen fit to resign his office for good and valid reasons, more particularly on account of his health. I think I can safely say - and it is a sentiment which I believe will be indorsed - that His Excellency has endeared himself to the people of the Commonwealth as no previous Governor-General has done. We, at any rate, are sorry to lose him, and hope that the remarks he has made about the Commonwealth will be carried to England, and that he will maintain the same kindly feeling and interest in Australia as long as he lives. This is the first opportunity I have had of expressing to honorable senators on the other side, as well as to the bereaved relatives, my sorrow that two members of the Labour party should have so unfortunately died during the course of last session. I did not have a personal acquaintance with those gentlemen, but I knew of them by repute, and it seemed to me a great pity indeed that promising as they were on their particular side of politics, they should be put off almost in the prime of life. I sincerely trust that death will not come again as "sharp and sudden " as it did in those cases. I also wish to say that Senator Clemons who, owing to the strain of parliamentary work, was stricken down last session, is now away recuperating. I am sure we all hope that he will soon be found again sitting on the Ministerial bench thoroughly restored in health. Coming to the Governor- General's Speech ; I venture to say that while it is not a lengthy Speech, still it is one of the most important documents that have ever been submitted to this Parliament, because it is fraught with most momentous issues.


Senator Findley - It is a pity that it did not refer to the postage stamp.


Senator OAKES - The postage stamp worries the honorable senator. All that I can hope is that our honorable friends on the other side, who are pleased to be somewhat hilarious over this matter today will, when the time comes to face the test questions, be in just as good a humour. From His Excellency's Speech we learn that the two test Bills that were submitted to the other House last session, and sent up to the Senate for its approval or refusal are now, after an interval of three months, to be sent back for an expression of our opinion one way or the other. The Speech also announces that an agreement was arrived at in conference between the State Premiers and the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, and that as an outcome of the agreement two Bills are to be submitted to this Parliament. The purpose of one Bill will be to abolish the dual control of Savings Banks, while the purpose of the other will be to provide for the control of the waters of the Murray River. There will be proposals submitted, too, for dealing with the question of a uniform gauge for the railways and also with the question of immigration, and certain proposals are foreshadowed in relation to combines and trusts. Regarding the Bill for abolishing preference to unionists, I wish to put before honorable senators a phasewhich, I think, is a perfectly reasonable one. By what right or condition does any Government, whether State or Commonwealth, arrogate to itself the power to say that ansection of the community shall be denied employment in the Public Service? If my honorable friends opposite spoke for a majority of the people in the community, and they had effective legislation behind them, there would be something in favour of their action.. But there was no parliamentary mandate given to any Ministry to impose such a, condition in regard to the administration of our Public Service. I quite recognise that our honorable friends on the other side are. distinctly favorable to closing, so to speak, the ranks of unionism so as to force every man who wants to earn his living into a union, and one of the steps in that direction would be to impose the condition that a man could only get employment in the Public Service provided that he first acquired membership of a union. That position can only arise when there is an unmistakable majority of the workers in this community in unions, and they instruct Parliament by their votes to take that course, but they have not given that instruction yet. I might point out to honorable senators, without labouring the question too much, that at a meeting of the Trades and Labour Council quite recently Mr. W. L. Duncan, who is a prominent Labour member in New South Wales, made an interesting admission.


Senator McDougall - He is not a Labour member now.


Senator OAKES - Well, he is a prominent Labour worker if the honorable senator prefers that description. At a meeting, when there was a motion proposed to appoint an organizer on behalf of the Trades and Labour Council, Mr. Duncan said -

Only 50 per cent. of the male workers of this State (New South Wales) were unionists, whilst only a little over9 per cent. of women workers were organized. The proportion of unionists to the total number of workers was only 44 per cent.

Here we have an admission from a prominent member of the Trades and Labour Council that less than half of the workers of New South Wales are in the unions; but it is only a little over twelve months ago that the State Parliament issued an edict that no man should get employment unless he happened to be in a union.


Senator McDougall - When did the State Parliament issuethat edict? Never !


Senator OAKES - The edict was issued by an instruction.


Senator McDougall - Never!


Senator OAKES - What is the reason of the row that our honorable friends on the other side are making in regard to the test Bill on the subject? We shall see, when it comes forward, whether they will stand in the way of giving fair play and justice to every man in the community, whether he is a unionist or not. That is the point at issue.


Senator Story - Where is the necessity for bringing in a Bill when preference to unionists in the Public Service has been abolished by regulation?


Senator OAKES - I believe I am correct in assuming that if the Labour party got control of the Treasury bench tomorrow they would issue an edict that no man should get employment in the Public Service unless he was a unionist. We are putting that beyond the pale of my honorable friends, or any Parliament.


Senator Story - Could not an Act be repealed just as well as a regulation?


Senator OAKES - Exactly. So long as this Parliament takes action, no man in the community can complain, because the Parliament speaks for the people. But the establishment of this principle by a Ministerial edict, that can be brought about so readily, is too serious an act to be passed over.


Senator McGregor - Is not the Senate a part of this Parliament?


Senator OAKES - Exactly. I do not see that the executive officers of this Parliament have any right to issue an edict of such a nature. But if the Parliament itself establishes this principle by a law, then the people have to look to it for a redress of the wrong. However, when the test Bill comes before the Chamber, there will be an opportunity of threshing out the principle in detail. Therefore, I do not intend to speak on the subject at greater length. I also recognise that there is. another Bill which is just as palatable to my honorable friends opposite, and that is the Bill to restore postal voting. It seems to me that, during the last few years, they have changed their views very considerably in regard to the value of the postal vote. The tendency of modern politics, more particularly in a democratic country like Australia, has been to widen the opportunity for voting, and to widen the franchise.


Senator Senior - Who widened it more than did the Labour party ?


Senator OAKES - I presume that you did, as you are such a smart sort of chap.


The PRESIDENT - Order ! Will the honorable senator address the Chair 1


Senator OAKES - I think it will be admitted that the general trend of democratic legislation has been to widen the franchise and offer the greatest facilities for voting. Amongst the conditions laid down in the platform of the Labour party, and one which they thought was going to benefit Democracy, was the condition of postal voting. I venture to say that my honorable friends, in the main, were in agreement with postal voting, and so, too, were many honorable members of their party in the other House.


Senator Guthrie - Subject to certain restrictions.


Senator OAKES - The honorable senator reminds me very much of the Labour platform. When our opponents put in something in the way of a principle, and the Liberal party give effect to it, at the next Conference they say, " a proper system" of this or that. Closer settlement was a case in point. The Labour party had a closer settlement condition in their platform ; but, when the late Liberal Government in New South Wales gave effect to the principle, the Labour party could not afford to cut it out of their programme, and so they turned round and put in the programme " a proper system of local government." My honorable friend who interjected just now is on the same ground. -He said, in effect, " We are in favour of postal voting on proper conditions."


Senator de Largie - You want things on an improper basis.


Senator OAKES - I want postal voting based on conditions which will safeguard the right of the people to exercise the franchise.' I do not intend to labour this point longer, because there will be another opportunity to express . our opinions. I desire to remind the Senate that the Postmaster-General 'of the late Labour Administration expressed his opinion on the subject in these terms -

If in this community a number of people are so unfortunate as not to be located in a great city or at a convenient point for recording a vote at the ballot-box, it is only reasonable that special facilities should be provided for thom. People in the back-blocks who do not enjoy the conveniences afforded to those living iii the centres of population deserve special consideration from Parliament.

Mr. Fisher,in the Queensland Parliament, said ;

I regard this provision as a necessary corollary of the universal franchise. Because certain persons may have misused the privileges conferred by an Act of Parliament we ought not to deprive even one eligible voter of the opportunity to exercise the franchise.


Senator Turley - What is the date of that statement in the Queensland Parliament by Mr. Fisher ?


Senator OAKES - I shall give it to the honorable senator later; When Mr. King O' Malley was asked to speak about the abolition of the postal vote, he made this remark -

The abolition of the postal vote has been decided upon after much prayer and meditation. '


Senator Findley - Would you mind reading what Mr. Cook said about postal voting ?


Senator OAKES - I am quite satisfied that Mr. Cook can .explain any opinion he gave on postal voting. In any case, I am not responsible for his opinion on the subject. I am here tonight to speak in defence of the general principle, and as a believer in it. It is a sound, democratic system, and, in my judgment, it was wiped off the statutebook only because it did not pan out exactly as my honorable friends opposite expected it would do. There was no other reason in the world for abolishing the system. We have had a like experience in New South Wales with the second ballot. If it had proved in any way dangerous to the Holman Government, it would have been wiped off the statutebook " quick and lively," but, as it proved- useful to them, and was effective in keeping them in office, the Labour party intend to retain the machinery on the statute-book. On the other questions submitted in His Excellency's Speech-


Senator Turley - Before you get away from that subject, will you give us the date of that quotation from a speech by Mr. Fisher in the Queensland Parliament?


Senator OAKES - I will give the honorable senator that information before he goes away. He need not worry. The Speech of His Excellency the GovernorGeneral sets out that two measures are to be submitted to us for the purpose of testing the constitutional difficulty in which we find ourselves to-day. I desire to point out as dispassionately as possible that we are all interested in seeing the Federal parliamentary machine run upon safe and sound democratic lines. I need scarcely recall the fact that when the people of Australia decided to federate, they did not act hastily. After many years of discussion, and after the public had been educated through the press up to an understanding of all that Federation meant, a popular Convention was elected for the purpose of framing a Federal Constitution. The very best intellects that Australia could produce were represented on that Convention, and, as the result of its deliberations, our present Constitution was finally adopted. The delegates to that Convention had before them the Canadian, the Swiss, the German, and the American systems of Federation. They selected the best features of those systems, and adapted them to suit the democratic needs of Australia. I need hardly remind honorable senators that the most eminent constitutional authorities - men who spent their lives in studying constitutional history - have spoken of our Constitution as the best and most perfect instrument of government ever devised by the brain of man.


Senator Barker - Then the honorable senator does not agree with the leaders of his party, who advocate the abolition of the Senate?


Senator OAKES - I do not. I am not tied down to the views expressed by my leader, or to those expressed by any other man. If I joined the party opposite, I would not be allowed to hold the opinions which I hold to-day. I would have to obey the mandate of the Caucus. No matter what my individual views might be, when I entered the National Parliament of Australia I would have to pocket those opinions and vote in accordance with the decision which had been arrived at by a majority of that party. I have never done that in my life, and I never will do it. I differ from many things which are done by the Liberal party, but I have a right to express my opinion upon those things.


Senator Needham - Will the honorable senator vote against the measures which are outlined in the GovernorGeneral's Speech when they are brought forward here?


Senator OAKES - I will vote against anything in which I do not believe.


Senator Russell - I do not think that the honorable senator meant it, but he said that his opinions were pocket opinions; surely they are not.


Senator OAKES - I do not understand what the honorable senator means. I would like to quote the opinion of Bryce upon our Commonwealth Constitution. He says -

As an expression of true Federal powers, the Australian Constitution stands out on a higher plane for skilful draftsmanship and necessary powers than even the American.

We adopted the American system because we thought it was most suitable to our conditions as a democratic country. We have since been told by Mr. Hughes and others that we ought not to have adopted that system - that we should have adopted the German system, which they urge is more adaptable to our needs. But I would point out that the American system meets with the approval of the very best authorities on democratic Constitutions. Professor Dicey, in the Law of the Constitution, says -

The Commonwealth is in the strictest sense a Federal Government. It owes its birth to the desire for National Unity which pervades the whole of Australia, combined with the determination on the part of the several States to retain as States of the Commonwealth as large a measure of independence as may be found compatible with the recognition of Australian nationality. The creation of a true Federal Government has been achieved mainly by following, without, however, copying in any servile spirit, the fundamental principles of American Federation. .

Lord Acton, the famous English jurist, says -

That in view of increasing Democracy a restricted Federal system is the only possible check on centralization.

The late Right Hon. W. E. GladstoneI suppose one of the best men who has ever taken part in English politics-


Senator Guthrie - This is ancient history.


Senator OAKES - It is none the less valuable, just as the works qf Shakspeare are valuable. The Right Honorable W. E. Gladstone described the American Constitution as - the most perfect instrument of civil government ever devised by the intellect of man. If time permitted I could quote numerous other authorities, even down to men like Mr. Holman, Mr. McGowen, Mr. Beeby, and Mr. Neilson, who occupy commanding positions in the Labour movement in New South Wales.


Senator McDougall - What! Mr. Beeby?


Senator OAKES - I consider that Mr. Beeby is a very able man, who is worthy of a seat in any Parliament. But, unfortunately, if a man who has agreed with honorable senators opposite up to a certain point ventures to disagree with them on a vital matter of principle, and leaves their party, they cannot pursue him far enough with words which they deem to be sufficiently harsh and bitter.


Senator Ready - The honorable senator wants to hear what the Tasmanian Liberals say of Mr. Whitsitt.


Senator OAKES - I would rather hear what they say of the honorable senator. Although we adopted a Constitution which we thought was the best instrument of government that could be devised, after a few years of trial we find that it has lamentably failed in certain directions.


Senator Guthrie - No.


Senator OAKES - The framers of our Constitution embodied in it certain provisions for the purpose of coping with deadlocks. It is strange that in no other Federal Constitution does any such provision appear. It is strange, too, that after an experience of a hundred years the American Federation - which embraces some forty odd States - has never been faced with a similar position to that in which we find ourselves to-day.


Senator Long - The Government here can carry on onlyby the casting vote of a shackled Speaker.


Senator OAKES - For all purposes of government a majority of one is just as effective as is a majority of fifty. No one will attempt to deny that the Cook Government are constitutionally in power by virtue of the fact that they have a majority of one in the other Chamber. But they have been unable to redeem their hustings' pledges by reason of an adverse majority in the Senate. In this Chamber we have twenty-nine Labour representatives as against seven Liberals. When our Constitution was framed,the idea underlying the creation of the Senate was that it should represent the States, and the States alone. But how has that Constitution worked out? On the opposite side of the Chamber is to be found a solid phalanx, which acts as a mere phonograph of the views expressed by the Opposition in another place. So long as that condition continues, we shall have nothing but a deadlock. I do not wonder at the press and the public demanding that such a position shall be altered as speedily as possible. They have a right to ask - if the difficulty cannot be settled by this Chamber recognising its proper functions as the guardian of State Rights - either that the Constitution shall be altered, or that the representation of the Senate shall be changed.


Senator Needham - If the twenty-nine in this Chamber, who are in a majority, were on the opposite side, would the honorable senator ask for a change?


Senator OAKES - My argument would be none the less effective then.


Senator Needham - Would the honorable senator advancethat argument?


Senator OAKES - I could not advance a better one. We have misunderstood the position that we occupy here. We should have viewed this matter only from the stand-point of State Rights.


Senator Barker - Will a double dissolution alter the position?


Senator OAKES - It may. The people created the deadlock, and it is the people who must remove it. The very fact' that my honorable friends occupy the Opposition benches is a sufficient proof that we are in the majority in the other Chamber.


Senator Rae - We allow honorable senators opposite to sit there, although they are in the minority.


Senator OAKES - It is perfectly honorable for the Liberal Prime Minister to say that the experience of last session has convinced him that he cannot carry through Parliament the Bills which he was elected to carry, and that, therefore, he proposes to send up to this Chamber two test measures for the purpose of bringing about the position which is contemplated in the Constitution, and which will permit of the electors settling the deadlock.


Senator Long - It will be settled if we get another Macartney as GovernorGeneral.


Senator OAKES - I have often heard these great Democrats opposite say " Trust the people." If they are sincere in that cry, let them assist us in getting a double dissolution.


Senator Guthrie - We are going to do so.


Senator OAKES - Then why are we wasting so much time? It is proper to ask the people of Australia to alter the present position at the ballot-box. When we see that no parliamentary work can be carried on by the Cook Government because of the hostile majority in the Senate, we have a perfect right to go to the electors and tell them that we want them to alter the position. If the electors say that they believe that Labour should govern, why should they not have the opportunity to send Labour back to power? We are asking that the people of Australia should be given the opportunity to say definitely and clearly, if they think in that way, that the Labour party should have a majority to enable them to govern in both Houses of the Federal Parliament. If, on the other hand, they say, as they have already said, that the Liberal party should govern, we have a right to look to them to send a number of Liberals to the Senate who will assist us in putting Liberal legislation upon the statute-book. Passing to another matter, I notice that there is foreshadowed in the GovernorGeneral's Speech certain legislation to deal with combines and trusts. Speaking as one who has had some experience of political affairs in New South Wales, I quite recognise that our friends opposite will rely during the next electoral campaign upon their old cry about combines, trusts, and monopolies. I quite understand that combines and trusts will be dressed up in a new garb by our friends opposite, and the people will be invited to look upon them as hideous monsters that are prepared to devour them. That is the story the electors were told at the last elections in New South Wales, but it did not help the party very much, because when people are properly educated as to the true position of combines, trusts, and monopolies they are able to see how far the cry against them is genuine, and how far it is a sham. I hold that there should be just as much interference with an individual carrying on a business injurious to the community as with a combine carrying on a similar business. It is just as necessary to pass legislation to prohibit an individual from bleeding the public as it is to pass legislation prohibiting a trust from doing so. We have laws on ihe statute-book to deal with individuals who do wrong, and we have a right to pass laws to enable us to deal with combinations or trusts that do wrong in the same way. Our friends opposite, in the course of their electoral campaign, always refer to the operations of trusts, combines, and monopolies. The three great bogies which they trotted out at the last Federal election were the Sugar Bogy, the Tobacco Trust, and the Coal Vend.


Senator Blakey - Do not forget the Beef Trust.


Senator OAKES - The Beef Trust has developed quite recently.


Senator Guthrie - And the honorable senator's side brought out the poor widow.


Senator OAKES - I have not done so yet, but I may bring her out next time. The accepted plan of our friends on the other side is to inform the electors that the increased cost of living is due- to combines, trusts, and monopolies.


Senator Rae - Not wholly, but very largely.


Senator OAKES - On this point I should like to read to my honorable friends what Mr. Hughes said in regard to who can sell the cheaper, the combine or a private individual. On the 21st November, 1912, he made this states ment -

Who to-day is able to sell the cheapest? The small man in a humble way or the great Combine or' Trust that controls" not only the inlets and outlets of industry, hut tins' products and the markets in which they are to be distributed, the sources from which are drawn the raw material, and the most uptodate machinery for dealing with all these that the civilized world can supply? Obviously not the isolated trader. The individual who has nothing but his brains and a few pounds of capital cannot hope to compete in such circumstances.


Senator Blakey - Does that not show that he was not one-eyed?


Senator OAKES - I quite grant that. That was the speech of Mr. Hughes when in a position to give an honest and free expression of his opinion; but when he was before his constituents in the electoral campaign he talked quit-e differently. He further stated in an article which he wrote-

It is sufficient here to point out that the Labour party views with equanimity the development of the Trust, regarding' it as a necessary stage in industrial and social evolution, and preparing the way for a more complete systematization of production and distribution by society for the benefit of the whole people.


Senator Barker - We all say " Amen." to that.


Senator OAKES - Then my friends opposite indorse that statement. Here is a leader of the Labour party making two as strong statements as could possibly be made to the effect that a combine can sell cheaper than anybody else.


Senator Gardiner - It can do so, but does not.


Senator OAKES - Mr. Hughes says that it does.


Senator Rae - What the combine does is to sell cheaply to drive out the individual and then to sell for whatever it can get.


Senator OAKES - That is the generally accepted theory. Does the honorable senator say that the sugar company did that?


Senator Rae - Undoubtedly; it has been robbing us for years.


Senator OAKES - The last Government appointed a Royal Commission to inquire into the great sugar monopoly, and after taking evidence in every capital in Australia from every person who was likely to be able to give them any evidence, the Commission brought up to Parliament a report in which they strongly recommended that the industry should not be nationalized, and told the public in effect that they could not get a better product than they were getting from the sugar company. When the Coal Vend was being trotted out by our friends opposite, who were glad to refer to it as another instance of combinations and trusts, who were the men who squealed most?


Senator Guthrie - Who instituted the. Coal Vend?


Senator OAKES - Peter Bowling. Senator Guthrie knows something about it.


Senator Guthrie - The honorable senator's side opened it.


Senator OAKES - What we know is that the Coal Vend was created in 1906, when coal was selling in Newcastle as low as from 8s. to 9s. a ton. Who was it that was being sweated when coal was selling at that price? It was the coal miner. I say "Good luck" to him if he saw that by some arrangementhe might get a better wage through an increase in the price of coal. The result was that the Coal Vend was created on the basis that the price was to go up to 9s., 30s., and11s. per ton, and that for every increase of1s. over 9s. per ton the miner was to get 4d. of the shilling as an extra hewing rate.


Senator Barker - Why should he not?


Senator OAKES - I quite agree with the honorable senator. That was a good and sound proposition to enable the coal miner to secure a rise in wages. The price of coal was at the same time not an outrageous price for the public to pay. It went up to11s. per ton, and the coal miner got 8d. out of the extra 2s., and so was enabled to earn a decent wage. The Coal Vend went on selling coal at 11s. per ton, on board at Newcastle.


Senator Guthrie - The price was raised, and the wage stayed as it was.


Senator OAKES - It did not stay as it was, as my honorable friend knows perfectly well.


Senator Guthrie - The honorable senator is dealing with the Australian trade - what about the foreign trade?


Senator OAKES - I am dealing with the Coal Vend?


Senator Guthrie - But only with one part of their business.


Senator OAKES - The Coal Vend was selling coal at the time at11s. per ton. It was created for the purpose of giving the coal mine proprietors a reasonable price for their coal and to stop the cutthroat internal competition that was going on prior to its creation. I want to point out to my friends opposite that when the Fisher Government came into power they prepared to treat the Coal Vend as a capitalistic greedy concern, and proposed to take action in the interests of the community. Who squealed when this was done? Did honorable senators find Liberal members going around complaining about the Coal Vend being prosecuted ?


Senator Guthrie - A Liberal Government first took action against the vend.


Senator OAKES - If honorable senators will turn up the records of the daily press of Newcastle, they will find that the first to squeal was Alf. Edden. He complained that to break the Coal Combine would bring down the price of coal again to 8s. or 9s. per ton, and the miner would suffer as a result. So not very much was done, and the Coal Vend went on its way swimmingly.


Senator Guthrie - A Liberal Government took the first steps to prosecute the Coal Vend.


Senator Millen - The honorable senator is right, and " Billy " Hughes tried to take the credit for it.


Senator OAKES - I, as a member of the Wade Government, in New South Wales, know something of a combine that was formed there, and which I think Senator Guthrie was interested in. Was he not a party to an interesting document which emanated from Peter Bowling and "Billy" Hughes? Did the honorable senator not sign that document?


Senator Guthrie - No; the honorable senator is "up a tree."


Senator OAKES - No, I am not; I know that no bigger combine was ever formed in Australia than was formed during the Newcastle strike. The community generally were crying out for coal as an absolute necessity to carry on the industries of the country, and the miners' representatives thought that they could spring a big coup by running two mines.' They decided to combine the Ebbw Main and the Young Wallsend. They were going to make a profit of £5,000 or £6,000 per week by the operation of _ these mines. I think that Senator Guthrie's name appeared on the document dealing with this matter.


Senator Guthrie - No, it did not.


Senator OAKES - The result was that, directly the coal was being worked and the coal trucks were drawn up to the side of the mine to receive it, we took it on behalf of the people of New South Wales, and of Australia generally. 'We took the coal as fast as it was produced from the mine. The price which our friends hoped to realize for the coal was £3 per ton. That is what they expected to get.


Senator Millen - It was the biggest conspiracy ever launched in Australia to fleece the public.


Senator OAKES - It was certainly the biggest combine ever created in Australia.


Senator Guthrie - And a member of the Wade Government was one of the conspirators.


Senator OAKES - He was a conspirator on the side of the public. We held that the public had a right to that coal, and, as we controlled the railways, as fast as the coal was put into the trucks we commandeered it in the interests of the public, and broke up that combine inside of twenty-four hours.


Senator Lynch - According to the honorable senator's reasoning, the Labour party are the friends of the combine. If that be so, why do not the combine support the Labour party ?


Senator Millen - I think they do.


Senator OAKES - Yes, they do. Why did not the honorable senator's party interfere with the Tobacco Trust?


Senator Lynch - How is it that not one of the directors of these combines are on the side of the Labour party ?


Senator OAKES - In the State of New South Wales, we have a provision which deals, in a perfectly, effective way, with combines and trusts operating within the State. That provision was copied by Mr. Holman in his recent legislation upon industrial matters. We do not find the State Government, putting it into operation any more than we found the Fisher Government attacking one combine, trust, or monopoly during their term of office. Although there was an inquiry by a previous Commission, who brought up a report, the Tobacco Trust was never touched. A member of another place gave notice of motion for an inquiry; that notice was on the business-paper for a fortnight, and then was taken off just as mysteriously. Why ? Can anybody tell me? I cannot, but some honorable senator may be able to enlighten me. The fact remains that the Tobacco Trust was never attacked, in spite of all the declarations and declamations of the party then in power about the evils of combines.


Senator Rae - The Government could not touch the trust until they had passed the referenda proposals.


Senator OAKES - These are very good clap-traps and gags, but the public are becoming enlightened. When a danger exists in connexion with a combine or trust, it is right to point it out, and it is proper to have machinery on the statute-book to deal with such a danger ; but it does not follow that every combine is injurious to the public any more than may be a private individual. There are plenty of individuals who have given good service to the community, but who are just as anxious to rob the public if they can do it. These are the days of great combines, trusts, and monopolies. Senator Guthrie is president of the Seamen's Union, I understand .


Senator Guthrie - Hear, hear !


Senator OAKES - And he does not care if the Steam-ship Combine gives the men another £1 a week?


Senator Guthrie - No.


Senator OAKES - As long as the combine get the money out of the public he does no.t care. The honorable senator is in the biggest combine in Australia if he is in the Shipping Ring.


Senator Guthrie - I admit it.


Senator OAKES - But all the honor.orable senator is concerned about is that the men shall get more wages?


Senator Guthrie - AH they are asking for is living conditions, and they have got them.


Senator OAKES - The honorable senator does not care who pays the piper, and if he could get another £1 per week for the seamen he would do so.


Senator Guthrie - Do you think I would be a fool, and refuse it ?


Senator OAKES -I only desire the honorable senator to admit that. The position is that we have on the one hand a combination of capitalists, and on the other hand combinations of workers; and if the latter can bring to bear on the employers pressure strong enough to make them give the workers what they want, and the employers in turn can pass the burden on to the great mass of the public, I do not call that Democracy.







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