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Thursday, 28 May 1942


Mr CALWELL (Melbourne) delegated powers. .That does not mean that the Constitution, as we know it, should he wiped out, except for the provision that the Commonwealth " shall make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth ". We desire to retain the Constitution; but at the same time, we desire to rearrange the powers of the States and the, Commonwealth in order that the States shall have the delegated powers, and the Commonwealth Parliament shall have the residual powers which at present remain with the States. On only two occasions have referenda been carried to amend the Constitution. The more important referendum was that which established the Loan Council, and gave to the Commonwealth Parliament that supremacy in finance which has enabled it ever since to impose its will upon the States in respect of the expenditure of public money. At the time of the passage of that referendum the States probably did not realize that it was the beginning of the end of their sovereign powers; but it has worked out in that way, and this legislation will undoubtedly lead further in that direction. The Labour party, in urging the investment of the Commonwealth with unlimited legislative powers, desires to create the situation which the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) spoke about to-day. when he dealt with the system which operates in the Union of South Africa. I think that the system operating in that country, or that which operates in the Dominion of Canada, is .preferable to the system operating in this country.

It is perhaps of interest to say here that the Labour ?party also desires ; to insert in the Constitution a recognition of the principle of adult franchise in order to prevent any future government from establishing a property franchise, or interfering in any way with the principle which now obtains, but did not obtain in respect of the first election of members to the first Commonwealth Parliament. The Labour party has good reason to fear what a reactionary government might do. Consequently, it desires to insert in the Constitution a provision that all adults shall be entitled to vote for election of members to this Parliament without any disqualification whatever, except in respect of certain criminal offences and such other oases as are now provided for. We also desire to embody in the Constitution the principle of the initiative referendum and recall, and also a provision which will ensure that no Australian citizen can be conscripted for military service. Of course, we shall need to carry referenda in order to obtain those desired objectives, but all that can be left to the. future.

Mr. Pares.; Does the Labour party still desire to prevent conscription for military service


Mr CALWELL - Yes ; Labour wants to prevent any future parliament from conscripting any. person for military service outside Australia. I point out that when the term conscription was used it connoted conscription for overseas service. Any question 'of conscription of Australians for home defence was regarded at that time as compulsory service, and not in the same sense as conscription is interpreted in European countries. I emphasize that the Labour party is not a unificationist party which wants all power centred in Canberra, It wants, first, to re-order the powers between the Commonwealth and the States; and, secondly, to create more provinces or States in order that these bodies may, with their delegated powers, do much of the work which the States do to-day. Xt remains to be seen just how much power will be taken by the Commonwealth. Personally. T should .prefer the Commonwealth to take complete control of railways; be cause no one can deny that railways in a time of war are more essential to the defence of the nation than they are in the opening up of the country in time of peace. The argument that the railways played an important part in the development of the country and were therefore linked with land settlement, probably decided those responsible for federation to allow the control of them to remain with the States. However, provision is made in the Constitution enabling the Commonwealth to purchase railways and to lay down railways. It was a part of the price which the nation paid, and paid gladly, I hope, for the consent of Western Australia, to federate, that the Commonwealth should construct the transcontinental railway. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) reminds me that some doubt exists as to the validity of Commonwealth legislation with regard to air navigation. That arises largely because the possibility of air travel was not foreseen by the framers of the Constitution. I have no doubt that, had they done so, they would have made provision in that respect. It might be argued that some doubt exists also as to the validity of legislation passed by this Parliament with regard to broadcasting, or as to whether the Commonwealth has power to legislate in that domain. So far, that right has not been challenged, and. I hope that it will not be. In 1919, a federal conference of the Australian Labour party decided that Australia should be divided into about 30 provinces. A subsequent conference eliminated the exact number, but suggested that the general power should remain with the Commonwealth to create States or provinces and thereby alter existing State divisions. However, the original fixation of the provinces at 30 indicated that the Labour party believed at that time that if we are to carry out a policy of decentralization, and make this nation great, developing it uniformly, we must ' abandon the present State boundaries and destroy the influence of the two great economic units, Sydney and Melbourne, which now dominate Commonwealth policy. We are developing as a nation without uniformity, and in a way which makes the rest of Australia pay tribute to two big capital cities, or, at any rate, to the vested interests which dominate them. A larger National Parliament is a natural corollary to the passage of this legislation. If the Parliament passes this bill, and if the High Count eventually decides that it is valid - apparently distinguished lawyers differ on this point, and the issue is likely to remain in doubt until the moment when the judges give their decision - then we must have a. Parliament sufficiently large to be really representative. As honorable members have remarked on many occasions, it is farcical that we have a House of Representatives of 75 members and a Senate of 36 members governing the destinies of the Commonwealth, when at least one State has a Parliament with 90 members of the Legislative Assembly and 60 members of the Legislative Council. I hope that, if this legislation be passed, the Government will pluck up its courage and bring down a. bill for the purpose of at least doubling the size of this Parliament. There could bo no doubt about the validity of that particular measure. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) said yesterday that the Commonwealth Parliament should be trebled in size. Even that would not be too great an increase if the Commonwealth Parliament were to be the only sovereign authority in the nation. We must face the position as it exists. Wc have seven sovereignties in Australia. We also have a Governor-General and six Governors. Unfortunately, all are imported ; I had hoped that, after 42 years of federation during which we have maintained the motto, " Advance Australia ", we should have lost any inferiority complex in regard to the fitness of our own people to occupy the highest posts within the gift of the nation. It is wrong that all persons who occupy gubernatorial offices should come from the other side of the world. Under the scheme that the Labour party envisages, there would be a Governor-General, but not necessarily Governors. There might be some sort of lower authority, but it would not necessarily be vested in persons occupying positions analogous to those of the Governors of our present States. We have seven sovereign authorities within this nation, but because we in the Common- wealth Parliament differ from the views of the State Premiers, we are not necessarily at war with the States. There is no civil war over this issue; the States are not rebelling against the Commonwealth authorities, and the Premiers of South Australia, Queensland, Victoria, and New South Wales are not enemy subjects. We are one people, and any dissension that may occur should not be settled in an atmosphere of armed neutrality and animosity. The Commonwealth and 'State Governments should cooperate as much as possible in order to decide the issues of this case and in order to help the High Court of Australia to reach a decision. I see no virtue in the Government's refusal to tell this Parliament what opinions it has had from its legal advisers. It is Gilbertian that the Government should refuse to inform the Parliament not only of the nature of its advice but also of the names of its advisers. If it did name its advisers, I am certain that nobody would attempt to tamper with them, or offer them bribes. If the advice which they gave is sound, it ought to be given to this house, because honorable members should be is possession of all the information which the Government has at its disposal, so that they could inform their minds on the subject as fully as possible. The Premier of New South Wales is no less a good Australian than is the Prime Minister, and the Premier of Queensland, who, aided and abetted by the Premiers of Victoria and South Australia, is in an argumentative frame of mind on this matter, is as good an Australian as anybody else, even though he is an Australian by adoption instead of by birth.


Mr Archie Cameron - Does the honorable member consider that he needs any aiding or abetting? He is like a porcupine.


Mr CALWELL - Not only is the Premier of Queensland a good Australian, but also he is a good member of the Labour party and a very successful leader of it. No member of the party in this House has been or is ever likely to be so successful as he in leading the Labour movement. It takes most of us all our time to win our feats, but he has no difficulty in winning general election campaigns. . He has won four elections in succession, and no leader of any party in Australia in a State Parliament or the Commonwealth Parliament has ever equalled that record, or is' likely to equal it.


Mr Archie Cameron - The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) is the only Labourite who has been returned to Parliament at four successive elections in South Australia.


Mr CALWELL - -The honorable member is ill-informed on this issue,- and is continually missing the point of the debate.







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