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Thursday, 15 July 1915

Senator GARDINER - The Tariff is in force. We are collecting revenue under it, and protecting industries by it.

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Sir ALBERTGOULD. - The Tariff is in force, but Parliament has not, so far, approved of it. If Parliament considered the Tariff, many alterations might be made in" it.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT . - I ask the honorable senator to confine his remarks to the Bill. We are not now considering the Tariff. .Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD.- I alluded to it only to show that by setting it aside the Government recognised that this is not the proper time to consider matters which give rise to political dissension. I offer no opinion on the question whether the Tariff is a good one or not, but I say that when the Government have considered it wise to withdraw such a matter from discussion because they recognise that it would give rise to political dissension, we are justified in asking them in the same way to set aside all matters that would bring about similar dissension. It was at first thought that the war would go on very comfortably without our participation to any great extent, but as time has passed we have realized more and more the strenuous nature of the struggle in which we are engaged. It is about time that the Government recognised it to the fullest extent, and set aside these Bills that Parliament might give its whole consideration to the best means of prosecuting the war.

Senator O'Keefe - The honorable senator would like to have these Bills deferred indefinitely because he does not approve of them.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - I have said that I am opposed to these Bills, but after our difficulties im connexion with the war are at an end, I shall have no objection, if Parliament sees fit, to submitting these proposals -to the -public, and letting the electors determine whether the Constitution should be amended in the way proposed. I agree with Senator Keating that many honorable senators do not appear to realize the difference between our Constitution and the Constitutions of Canada and South Africa.

Senator O'Keefe - It is because we realize that difference that we wish to broaden our Constitution.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - Honorable senators opposite do not .propose to broaden our Constitution. They propose to limit the powers of the States. Under our articles of agreement, .as set out in the 'Constitution, we determined that the States should remain sovereign States. The Provinces of Canada are not sovereign Provinces. Their Parliaments are treated by the Dominion Parliament in much 'the same way as municipal councils are treated by -State Parliaments in this country. Certain limited powers .-are given ,to them, but they -are exercised subject to the approval of the Dominion Parliament, which is an a position to say that, it does not approve of legislation, passed by the Parliament of a Province. Though honorable members opposite say that the powers of the States and of the Commonwealth here will be concurrent, they know that if their views are given effect the powers of the Federal Parliament will overshadow those of the States. A State Parliament may pass legislation which it believes- to be in the interests of the State, but the Federal Parliament will have the right to determine, whether the State Parliament knew best how to deal with its own affairs. This- means taking a long step towards bringing about Confederation or Unification, instead of the Federal system, which we now have, and which was intended by the framers of our Constitution to remain for all time. The Government propose to utilize our powers for the amendment of the Constitution to alter the- Federation to a Confederation, or to- bring about a system of Unification. I say that in doing so they are effecting a fraud upon the people. If there had been any idea that our powers of amending the- Constitution Would be exercised in- that way we should not have had the Constitution we have at present, because the power to amend it would1 be very different from what it is. It is not fitting, or becoming- to attempt, to side-track those who supported the Federal Constitution in the way now proposed.

Senator O'Keefe - Are the powers of the Federal Parliament in the matter of trade and commerce as great- as. the honorable senator thought they were before the last decision of the High Court?

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - I will say to the honorable senator that where powers have been given to- this Parliament, and there is not sufficient authority to carry them out, we may very reasonably ask that that authority should be completed so that the power may be exercised fully. But when. you. attempt to.- take in additional powers you destroy the autonomy of the States to a very great extent, and certainly this is not the proper time to go on with these proposals. Even if it were, men. whose opinion differs from that of honorable senators- opposite should, have the right to oppose- the amendments, and point, out to the people of the- country as strongly as- they can, how detrimental the amendments, would be to the best interests of the community. I want to say also that the speech delivered by Senator Ferricks. the other day was bristling with contentious charges, which, naturally will be resented, and which will be. a. "bone of contention during the campaign. The honorable senator probably felt very strongly - I have no doubt that he did - with regard to the subject, but if he. did feel strongly, surely he will realize at once that this must be a very contentious matter, if it entitled, him to speak in that particular way of certain sections of the community.

Senator Ferricks - The people in the country feel very strongly on the matter, too. Those who are trying- to rear families on 8s., 9s., and 10s. a day feel the present difficulties .keenly.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - I' have no doubt that they are feeling quite as keenly concerning the attitude sometimes adopted by the party- to which: the honorable senator belongs.

Senator Ferricks - Submit these- questions, to them, then.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - We maintain that this is not the time when these questions should be submitted.

Senator O'Keefe - Why should these people go- on suffering if we can relieve them? We think we can, though you say we cannot.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - I realize, however, that if we can get the people of the country to give their attention to these matters, if we can persuade them that this is a suitable time for the consideration of these questions^ there will be a heavy vote.

Senator O'Keefe - How would you regard a proposal to make it illegal for anybody to deliver speeches to- the people ; to have no. newspaper articles on the subject, just let th& people vote ?

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - I think it would be found to be very difficult to adopt that course.

Senator O'Keefe - I would agree to it if your side would.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - I would ask the Minister if he would be prepared to do that. As a matter of fact, I believe the Ministry are at present engaged on the preparation of a pamphlet.

Senator O'Keefe - Of course, I would submit that to the people.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - This pamphlet will set out the reasons for and against the proposals. Does the honorable senator think that one gentleman representing the Government and another representing the Opposition, would have the ability to embody in a statement every possible argument for and against any particular measure?

Senator Findley - I am sure the Government have, but I have my doubts about the Opposition.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - I hardly think the honorable senator would find that all his arguments were contained in a pamphlet of that description.

Senator O'Keefe - I would be prepared to put that document into the hands of the electors, stop all newspaper comments, and ask the people to vote on the proposals.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - We know perfectly well that, so far as concerns this document which is being prepared, if the suggestion of the honorable senator were adopted, there would be no opportunity to reply to various statements that might be made by the Government or the Opposition concerning the measures. Some absurd argument might be placed before the people, either from one side or the other, and yet that would be put into the hands of the people who would have no opportunity of hearing what could be said in opposition to it.

Senator Ferricks - The people are to be the judges, and they should have an opportunity of hearing all the arguments,

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - That is undoubtedly the best way, and the arguments can best be placed before them by the representatives of the people, giving the public an opportunity of debating and discussing the matter generally.

Senator Russell - In the pamphlets you know, you have to stick to facts, and that is a difficulty with your side.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - So I understand; but I have discovered that, besides facts, a good deal of fiction is published, not only on one side, but on both sides, so the honorable senator need not take credit to himself that only facts will be put forward in that way.

Senator Russell - What has the marriage tie to do with the subject, for instance ?

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - I was not aware that that question had cropped up.

Senator Russell - I have heard references made to children in State homes, and all that sort of thing.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - I think the honorable senator must be dreaming.

Senator Russell - You must not forget the petition which your own leader presented to the Senate yesterday from the Women's National League.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD .- What about that petition?

Senator Russell - I have no complaint to make. Such statements are our best assets, and help us to win our elections.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - Then the honorable senator should not be so anxious about this petition. T have a Copy of it, and if the honorable senator can point to any portion of it that is objectionable, or which should not be placed before the people of Australia, let him do so. On this subject I do not wish to anticipate a debate on a motion which is on the notice-paper, but I want to say that the people of this country have a perfect right to petition this Parliament at any time, and in the strongest language possible, so long as that language is of a respectful character. And if ever there is an attempt to browbeat the people, or to prevent them from placing their views before Parliament, there will be a gross infringement of the liberties of the public.

Senator Findley - We all subscribe to that.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - Then I hope the honorable senator will subscribe to it later, when a certain motion is under discussion.

Senator Russell - Are you prepared to deny the statement that signatures for that petition were canvassed for from house to house ?

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - I neither know, nor care, under what circumstances this petition was produced. I did not see the petition until it was read in the Senate yesterday. I knew nothing about it until I came to town. But I do not believe that this is the petition which was being sent round for signatures some time ago, because, I understand the signatures were obtained in a very brief period of time.

Senator Lynch - At Is. per head.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - Then the honorable senator must know more about it than I do. That may be the way in which the honorable senator gets up petitions.

Senator Mullan - It is a good petition to create party strife, anyhow.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - I can hardly agree with that opinion, for T find the petition states -

That the knowledge that the people are to be called upon to vote for or against the Referendum Bills must inevitably divide them into hostile political camps. Instead, therefore, of unity among our people, we shall have discord and party strife; and instead of all ranks and classes of our people co-operating with all their might to finish the war, we shall find much of their energy dissipated in bitter party discussions and conflicts.

I ask honorable senators whether that is not a perfectly legitimate thing to place before the Senate. If the petitioners consider that their facts are correct, there is no question of impropriety in regard to this particular statement.

Senator Russell - Nobody said there was.

Senator O'KEEFE - But one of your leaders went out to a political meeting, and said that the Prime Minister and honorable members of our party were like " tethered goats.". Surely that is party fighting ?

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - The honorable member surely cannot hold me responsible for any uncomplimentary remarks that may be made concerning his party. This petition states further -

That by the time the Referendum Bills could .be voted upon by the electors there will probably be at least 100,000 of the bravest and the best Australian citizens absent, either at the seat of war or on their way to it: and since the survivors of these 100,000 soldiers, besides a large number of medical men and women nurses, will have to live under whatever Constitution is determined by the referendum, it is only just that those who arc absent should have at least an equal voice with other citizens in deciding upon any changes in our Federal Constitution.

Can any honorable senator gainsay that fact? Can it be said that the Government will be able to give opportunities of voting to those men who are fighting at the front?

Senator Russell - You would not deny them that right, would you?

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - No: but I say that the honorable senator and his party will deny to those men th© right to give an expression of opinion, because, no matter what regulation the Government may adopt, they will not be able to get over the inherent difficulties of the situation, and carry out this proposal in a way that will be fair and reasonable to all the people of Australia.

Senator Grant - Would you extend the franchise to those men who are eighteen years of age and are fighting at the front?

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - We are not talking about the franchise just now. We know perfectly well that men of eighteen years of age are not the only people at the front. The great bulk of them are above the age of twenty years.

Senator Grant - There are a great many between eighteen and twenty-one years.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD .- Well, would the honorable senator deny to those who are at the front an opportunity to vote on these proposals ?

Senator Grant - Certainly not.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - Well, can the honorable senator say how he would carry out the scheme to give these people the opportunity of voting ?

Senator Grant - The Government will do that.

Senator Russell - If you wait till next week you will know all about it.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - Referring again to the petition, I find that another paragraph reads as follows: -

That this would involve the sending of voluminous pamphlets and ballot-papers to every Australian soldier and sailor fighting by land, sea, or air, at the trenches in Gallipoli, in France, or elsewhere, and also to all our wounded in hospitals in Turkey, in Egypt, in Malta, and throughout the British Isles.

Up to the present the Government have not indicated to us very clearly how they are going to give the people this opportunity to vote.

Senator Mullan - On a point of order, I would like to know whether or not the honorable senator is anticipating a discussion that will take place on a notice of motion given by Senator Lynch yesterday, by reading, discussing, and criticising the contents of the petition ?

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - On the point of order, so far as the notice of motion is concerned, my remarks in no wise interfere with the petition. The notice of motion, if I may be permitted to read it, is as follows : -

Senator LYNCH:To move ; That the petitioners presenting a petition to the Senate on the 1*th July .be informed that, at this crucial time, the Senate is of opinion that it is highly undesirable that any political party should hold special meetings for the purpose of forwarding party interests and propaganda : and. further, that it is unseemly and unpatriotic for canvassers of the Liberal party to be engaged at enrolling members and otherwise promoting political discord at this critical juncture.

It is perfectly competent for honorable senators to debate and deal with that motion without in any way interfering with the wording of the petition, which is now a document belonging to the Senate, and open for every honorable senator to discuss as he thinks fit.

Senator O'Keefe - I submit that any reference to the petition must, be in order, because the petition specifically refers to the subject now before the Chair, and that subject was before the Chair before the petition was received.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - It does not appear to me that the motion on the notice-paper has anything to do with 1?he discussion now taking place. The petition is certainly relevant to the discussion, and the honorable senator is quite in order in quoting from it.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - The next representation made in the petition is -

That to send political pamphlets and ballotpapers to the men in the trenches and the hospitals, and to ask them to give - perhaps during the progress of a battle, or when suffering from mortal wounds - deep and serious attention to all the complicated questions involved in the proposed changes in our Australian Constitution, would very materially interfere with and weaken military efficiency, would often be a refinement of cruelty to the wounded, and would tend to make Australia ridiculous in the eyes of the whole world.

Nearly every word of that statement is absolutely correct. Men in the trenches and hospitals do not want to be bothered by documents of this character ; they have other work to perform. It is a refinement of cruelty to worry men lying on beds of pain and sickness, having -done their duty by their country, with things of this kind. .

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