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Wednesday, 23 November 1938


Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - I said now and again ; but even if it were per- " manent, I should say that the disagreement on this side is no less permanent than on the other side in regard to matters of urgent and national importance. On the most important subject of defence, we have heard from honorable members opposite views ranging from a condemnation of anything associated with armaments to the advocacy of compulsory military training and the establishment of a standing army. Honorable gentlemen on the other side of the chamber are in no condition to lecture the Government on unity, consistency, or lack of national policy. I have a very vivid memory of certain things which happened here towards the end of September. When honorable gentlemen like the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) talk about there being no need to prepare for the defence of this country-


Mr Brennan - I did not say that.


Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - If the honorable gentleman did not say that, there is an obligation on him to explain what he did say.


Mr Brennan - I said that we are at peace; that there is no war at present.


Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - During the latter days of September and the early days of October, there were faces as long, and as wide, -and as anxious, on the other side of the House, as on this side. Honorable gentlemen opposite know that. There is need for a calm and clear review of the military situation of this country and its defence possibilities. We have heard statements from Opposition members about the encouragement of Fascism, Nazi-ism and other " isms ", but as one who has more than a lingering regard for those principles which are known as democracy - those methods which ensure to common individuals in the community freedom of thought, speech, action and movement - I say that, if these collective freedoms, which are known as democracy, are to he maintained, there must be a little more action in regard to the defence of this country and to other matters which I shall name, and a lot less talk for purely party political purposes. I have seen references to the great vote that is to be given in support of the Opposition candidate in the Wakefield by-election. I have seen statements that if Mr. McHugh should romp home, the obvious result will be the dissolution of this House. But if honorable gentlemen opposite thought that there was a 100 to 1 chance of the Opposition winning the Wakefield seat, the party would not have let Sid McHugh stand as its candidate. The Opposition is in no condition to stand an appeal to the country on the question of defence, or, indeed, any other matter of urgent national importance.


Mr Pollard - -Ibthe PostmasterGeneral afraid that Mr. McHugh will win Wakefield?


Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - The honorable gentleman who interjected would be unable to sleep if he thought that Mr. McHugh would win.


Mr Pollard - I am prepared to help him in his campaign.


Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - If the honorable gentleman really does want Mr. McHugh to win Wakefield, he had better not go any further west than Ballarat. I shall not traverse the discussion which has taken place on the. subject of defence, for the same arguments have been advanced time after time. There are varying views on this subject. As one honorable member on this side of the chamber said, it is obvious that on one or two matters Ministers are not all cast in the same intellectual and political mould. I do not deny that. But whatever strictures which may be made on the Government, there is at least unity of purpose in regard to providing an effective defence system for this country. It is useless for honorable gentlemen opposite to attempt to deny that salient fact.


Mr Holloway - Does th© Minister want another khaki issue at the next election ?


Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - I do not. That is the last thing on which I wish to see an appeal made to the country. However, the Government has no need to appeal to the country on that issue; it can appeal on its record and its prospects, which is more than the Opposition dares to do.

The use and development of Australia's resources is another matter on which the Opposition is silent. If this country is to be occupied by the race of which we are members, if that race is to survive in the southern end of the Pacific Ocean, Australia must be populated and developed. In that connexion, we require certain things; we must have power, transport, communications, development of our landed resources, and development of our secondary industries. On all those five important points there has been what one might term a conspiracy of silence on the part of the Opposition.


Mr Pollard - That is not true.


Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - Nothing has been put forward to show that the Opposition has any ideas, objectives, plans, methods, or policy on any of these important matters. It is true that one important matter was mentioned by the Opposition. I refer to the speech of the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) on the subject of the constitutional relations of the 'Commonwealth and the States. I do not agree with every point made by the right honorable gentleman, but I do agree with him that there is need foi- an overhaul of the relations of the Commonwealth and the States. The sooner that review takes place the better it will be for the community as a whole. The situation to-day is that we arc labouring under a division of power. Both the Commonwealth and the States have certain legislative powers; somepowers are reserved exclusively to the States, and others exclusively to the Commonwealth. There is also what might be described as a legal " no man's land ", in which members of the profession to which the honorable member for Batman and some other honorable members belong, do battle from .time to time in order to decide the rights and wrongs of the different individuals and interests in the community.

During the last twelve months I have had some experience of meetings of various bodies which help to govern this country. I refer to one meeting of the Loan Council, two or three Premiers conferences, and several gatherings of the Australian Agricultural Council. I do not wish to detract one iota from the worth of any of those bodies or from the work that they are doing, but the one thing which has struck me about such gatherings is the number of occasions on which those present have come to the unanimous decision that it is necessary for the six States and the Commonwealth to pass uniform legislation on the same subject. Consequently, although I come from one of the smaller States, and, because of my political upbringing, am inclined to dislike the idea, I am forced to admit that if we have to have uniform legislation on any subject ' the only common-sense method is for that legislation to be passed by one Parliament, instead of seven. Whilst uniformity of legislation is desirable, we must not overlook the necessity for the local administration of the laws that are passed.


Mr Brennan - Does not the Minister think that with a unified sovereign Parliament and delegated powers, the smaller States would be better off?


Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - I shall give my opinion of sovereign parliaments. This Commonwealth Parliament is only a half-sovereign Parliament. There are six half-sovereign State parliaments in competition with it.


Mr Brennan - I agree with the Minister.


Mr Holloway - No two of the halfsovereign parliaments make a full sovereign.


Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - That is so. On account of the Privy Council decision in respect of section 92 of the Constitution, the whole of them together do not make a full sovereign. There is a. gap in the power between Commonwealth and State Parliaments which has not been bridged. Incidentally, I recognize the very great difficulties with which this Parliament and also the State parliaments would be confronted if we were to seek an effective amendment of the Constitution. Democracy is supposed to be a progressive type of government. People who are called democrats are supposed to be enlightened, but I have noticed in my reading of history that one of the outstanding characteristics of a democracy is its conservatism. I do not mean political conservatism in a party sense, but the natural disinclination of the average man to change the methods to which- he is accustomed by reason of his upbringing. I shall refer to some of the advantages which I believe could be secured if there were a greater measure of uniformity in respect of legislation in this country. There is need for more uniformity not only in regard to our methods of taxation, but also in respect of the incidence of taxation as between States. The burdens which the States have to carry, due to the degree to which they depend on primary or secondary industries, or on mining, &c, vary greatly as between one State and another, and make the uniform development of the Commonwealth almost impossible. There is a tendency for development to be concentrated more and more in those areas which already enjoy an undue share of wealth and population, and which did, in fact, enjoy that advantage at the time of federation. I refer to New South Wales and Victoria, where development of this kind has been assisted by certain acts of the Commonwealth Parliament. There is also need for clarification in regard to the provision of transport facilities, both by road and rail, and particularly for the removal of the anomaly of border rates on telegrams'. It still costs 4d. more to send a telegram over a State border, just as it did in prefederation days.

There has been a rather amusing sequel to the last referendum appeal to the people, when the Commonwealth sought control over aviation. The people declared .in the referendum that the Commonwealth Government was not fit to be trusted with such power, but, no sooner had that decision been made, than the six State governments decided that the people's opinion did not count for anything. They approached the Commonwealth Government, and said, "For heaven's sake take over from us this power which we do not want, and which the people say you should not have". State legislation was passed through all parliaments to transfer the power to the Commonwealth, and the people were not even consulted about it.

Then there is the question of distribution of power resources for industrial purposes. As one who comes from one of the smaller States, I say that if there is to be a better distribution of secondary industries, we must evolve a method by which there will be a uniform charge for power throughout all the' potential manufacturing areas in the Commonwealth. It is not right that power should be cheap in certain areas, and dear in others. I believe that there are great possibilities for the development of manufactures of defence value along the Gulf in South Australia, yet South Australia is the one State in the Commonwealth which has neither oil, water, nor coal with which to make power. The capacity to develop secondary industries in that State is limited by this natural disability, and it starts off under a big handicap in the competition for industries. These are some of the matters which should be attended to at a constitutional session next year. I hope that from it will emerge proposals that will make for cheaper government, and government that will be in closer touch with the people. In this way it should be possible to achieve certain necessary social reforms which are very much needed, but which cannot be effectively brought about while the present division of power between the Commonwealth and the States continues.

I have noticed that, as civilization develops, certain social tendencies invariably develop also. I am prompted to remark on this by the statement of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) in regard to the declining birth rate. One of the first things that impresses the student of history is that always, as the standard of living of a nation increases, so does the birth rate decline. It was so in the civilizations of Greece, Rome, and Egypt, and it is so in our civilization of the present day.

As social services are increased in a community, so also must we increase that proportion of the total production of the people which goes to the Government in the form of revenue. There is a tendency on the part of democracy, first to ask for social reforms, and then to do a lot of unjustifiable squealing when the bill for those reforms come in. If a clear conception of these points were presented to the people by members of Parliament, it would make for a better understanding. I do not suggest that they should be explained to the people in a party spirit. I dislike party* politics. I am one of those who are by nature ill-fitted to hold their own in party contests with honorable members on the other side. I am always more disposed to view such matters in the light of how they will affect the whole community, rather than of how they will affect the fate of this or that party.







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