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Wednesday, 29 April 1942


I move -

That the National Security (Mobilization of Services and Property) Regulations under the National Security Act, made by Statutory Rules 1942, No. 77, be disallowed.

Honorable members will recall that these regulations were discussed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) a few weeks ago upon a motion for the adjournment of the House, but the motion did not enable the chamber to express its opinion of the regulations. I am now asking the House to disallow them. These regulations, taken in conjunction with recent amendments, empower the Minister or a person authorized by a Minister to direct any resident of Australia -

(a)   to perforin such services as are specified in the direction;

(b)   to perform such duties in relation to his trade, business, calling or profession as are so specified;

(c)   to place his property, in accordance with the direction, at the disposal of the Commonwealth.

As a result of the recent amendment, the statutory rule also compels a person to do, or to refrain from doing, such acts or things as are specified in the direction. No principles are laid down in the regulations for the guidance of the Minister. The granting or the withholding of directions is a matter which the Minister may decide for himself. In this respect, the regulations differ from any other laws that have been made. I say " laws ", because in that term I include acts of Parliament and regulations which are made under the authority of an act of Parliament and have the force of law.

The essence of a law is that it should be a rule of conduct and should lay down principles for the guidance of the people who have to obey it. In addition, the matter should apply to people generally. That need not be every person in the community. The people concerned may belong to a particular class, but the laws should apply to those persons generally, everybody will have a fair opportunity of knowing the obligation that the law imposes upon him. These regulations are made by the Executive under parliamentary authority, and should comply with that principle, but Statutory Rule No. 77 does not observe it. All other regulations make some attempt to do 30 because they contain expressly, or by implication, principles upon which the Executive must govern its conduct. The regulations contained in Statutory Rule No. 77 are the only ones that do not even attempt to comply with the principle. Some regulations which formally comply with this principle are nevertheless arbitrary practice; but Statutory Ride No. 77 makes no pretence at being anything but arbitrary in form or substance.

Statutory Rule No. 77 empowers a Minister to give such directions as to a man's performance of service or acts, or abstention from acts, or use of his property as the Minister may think fit. It is true that this House received a promise that the Prime Minister himself will 'be the person who will grant authority to do these things and that if oral authority be given to any person, the right honorable gentleman will shortly afterwards confirm it in writing. But the fact remains that the Prime Minister may do these things at his own discretion; no principles have been laid down in the law for the purpose of guiding his conduct. I was deeply impressed by this passage which appeared in the daily press last Monday -

At the end of the meeting, Goering read a decree giving Hitler, regardless of any existing law, decree or personal right, power to compel any officer, soldier, official or civilian to do his duty by all means. The decree provides for the imprisonment of those who place private interests before single-minded duty. Members approved the decree by rising in their seats. " I demand obedience of the whole nation both at the front and in the rear ", Hitler said. " There is no well-earned right to leave or holidays. There are only duties and obligations. I myself have no time for a holiday; I have scarcely had a holiday since 1933."

When that news was published, every one seized upon it as evidence of the rapid deterioration of the morale of the German Reich, but the decree invested the leader of the German nation with the same power as Statutory Rule No. 77 has already granted to the head of the Commonwealth Government. If it be a mark of decadence in Germany for the Führer to be vested with absolute power to give such commands as he chooses, it is also a mark of decadence in the Commonwealth of Australia.

These regulations have acquired a fictitious popularity with the extreme Right and the extreme Left. Elements who form the extreme Right content themselves by saying that, after all, the regulations are being used, or threats have been made to use them, against no one but the workers. The extreme Left comfort themselves wath the thought that if they wait long enough, the regulations will be used against owners of property. Recently, in an article in the Melbourne ^Labour Call, the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron) explained that the regulations would enable the Government to take a person's property without paying for it. He pointed out that, at present, the property-owner was sufficiently strong to resist any attempt to confiscate his property, but that these regulations would empower the Government to seize property without granting compensation. When the Minister for Aircraft Production wrote that article, he could not have known that the Prime Minister had made a pronouncement on government, policy regarding it. The right honorable gentleman had assured the House that property could not and would not be seized without compensation. He expressed the view that even if the Government desired to confiscate property, it was bound by section 51 (xxxi) of the Commonwealth Constitution, which provides for the acquisition of property on just terms from any State or person for any purpose in respect of which the Parliament has power to make laws. I believe that the honorable member for Warringah (Mir. Spender), and I know that the Attorney-'General (Dr. Evatt), agreed that these regulations did not empower the Government to acquire property without compensation. At any rate, the Prime Minister made it perfectly clear that the Government would not attempt to do so. Therefore, those people who believe that the Government will, under these regulations, ,be able to seize property, are following an ignisfatuus which will lead them into a quagmire.

Mr Menzies - By ignis fatuus, the honorable member doubtless refers to the Minister for Aircraft Prod'uction?

Mr BLACKBURN - No, I do not think he is a fire. I contend that people who believe that Statutory Rule No. 77 will enable the 'Government to seize, say, the property of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited without paying for it are misled. The 'Government has no intention of pursuing such a policy. The statement has been made that the regulations have already been made to mobilize the full resources of the nation for the purposes of the war. The Government has promulgated many regulations' as for instance the Economic Organization regulations. We have man-power regulations and the Emergency Control regulations. The last, in time of danger in any part of Australia, give great powers to the military. The Government has the inherent, the prerogative right, if the country is sustaining actual invasion, to take property without paying compensation in order to resist invasion. We have built up these 'regulations until the Government has the fullest power it could possibly require to control at the present time the labour and property of every individual, except that if it takes property, it must pay compensation. It has more power over labour than over property. The point of difference between those regulations and Statutory Rule No. 77 is that when the Government made the regulations dealing with man-power and economic organization it laid down generally principles for the guidance of the Executive, upon which the Executive has to act; but this statutory rule does not attempt to lay down principles for the guidance of the Executive, which is left free so far as the rule is concerned to do as it likes.

There is no need for the rule unless the Government wants to be invested with arbitrary powers. I am not in favour of investing any one with arbitrary powers, not even my honorable friend, lie Minister for Labour and National Service, than whom I know no one in whom I have greater confidence. I am not even in favour of having arbitrary power myself, because I believe that for any one to have arbitrary power is inconsistent with freedom. The evil of despotism is that it rests upon the good will or the had will of one person, who can say : " This I will ; this I command : let my will stand as the reason ". The regulation gives the Government arbitrary and uncontrolled power, subject only to the Constitution. It has, in fact, been put to use. It was used against the coal-miners, with an assurance that it would not be used or threatened to he used against men who were on strike with the approval of their unions. It was said that it was used against the. coal-miners because they were disregarding their union and their officers. We have seen its use threatened, however, against the Amalgamated Engineering Union, the members of which struck work with the approval of their union. Threats of that kind have aroused the anger of the unions; and the Prime Minister, in an attempt to retrieve the position for himself, admitted that the regulation was playing its part in multiplying disputes. I quote from the Argus of Saturday, the 18th April -

Mine-owners had no right to exploit the nation's obligation to get coal by taking advantage of workers in forcing changes from existing practice, Mr. Curtin said to-day.

He had been informed by the president of the Southern District Australian Coal and Shale Employees Federation, whom he regarded as a reliable and patriotic unionist, that the cause of the Wongawilli mine being idle on Wednesday was a refusal to make certain payments, thereby trying to break down a condition operating at the colliery since 1939. The president had said the miners believed the management in that district was trying to take advantage of the war and the Government's regulations to deprive members of many hard-won conditions. The district president had also said that southern district reference boards had been held up because employers' representatives had failed to appear. One case had been held up for three mouths.

The Prime Minister is prepared to accept the statement of that president that the Government's regulations were a contributing cause of the disputes on the coalfields. Any one who understands the temper of the Australian workers well knows that if we threaten to use penal power against individual workers, their union, no matter what it may think of the act against which the penal power is to be used, will take sides with them. Any one can foresee that, and the Minister for Labour and Nacional Service knows it perfectly, as does every one with industrial experience. More than twenty years of my life I have spent as an adviser of trade unions, and I am familiar with their problems. I know what their reaction is to threats against individual members. I assert that this regulation has made the conditions in industry worse; it has tended to create disaster where there was no disaster before, and has tended to make unions take sides with their recalcitrant members. I have suggested a way of dealing with these problems, but that is not relevant to this motion. On this occasion I would remind the House of how the Government dealt with Statutory Rules Nos. 76 and 77. Statutory Rule No. 76 says that a person deriving profits from the carrying on of a business shall not part with such assets as will preclude his paying to the Commissioner of Taxation so much of those profits as are in excess of an amount equal to 4 per cent, of the capital employed in the business. The capitalists, who were opposed to that being, done, induced the Government to agree that Statutory Huie No. 76 should not be brought into operation until a date fixed by resolution of both Houses - and that means never.

It is obvious that one treatment is being meted out to the capitalist and another to the worker. In those circumstances, how can we expect any one to obey the Government ? A government that does- such things will not obtain obedience from any one for very long. I. am expressing my opposition to the rule, and I hope the House will disallow it. I shall not speak longer, because I spoke at length upon the subject on a motion for the adjournment of the House. I want the House, however, to realize that it is being asked to approve or disapprove of a regulation vesting in the Government arbitrary, dictatorial power to discriminate between people, in whose exercise the Government has no guidance except its own arbitrary will. That, I submit, is the objection of principle to the regulations.

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