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Thursday, 4 April 1946


Mr JAMES (Hunter) .- I have listened to this debate with a great deal of interest. The three bills before the House deal specifically with social services, the orderly marketing of primary production and the terms and conditionsof employment in industry. The criticism levelled at the measures by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) was remarkable for its sophistry, whereas the speech of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), to which the House listened with interest, was constructive. I pay tribute to the honorable member for Fremantle. Whenever he participates in a debate he lifts it to a higher level. He has an analytical mind1 and makes his points crystal clear. Rather than attempt' to traduce him, as. the Deputy Leader of the Opposition! has done, I compliment him. Despitethe criticism of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition I believe that the honorable member for Fremantle will go much further in the public life of this country than his critic has done. He does not descend to the murky depths of the sewer like the honorable member for Wentworth, whose statements about the honorable member for Fremantle caused me to get hot under the collar. When theDeputy Leader of the Opposition is indulging his liking for throwing " dirt "' a man has to roll up his trousers to prevent the cuffs from becoming soiled.

The remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition concerning trade unionism were very wide of the truth. The honorable gentleman spoke about the " Communist controlled coal-miners " and about dictatorship. He said- that the miners were dictating to the Government. I utterly deny that statement. I have had a good deal to do, over a considerable period, with negotiations, between the Government and the coatminers. I know that on occasions, w hen, the Government has felt that it was necessary to make a stand against the coalminers, it has not hesitated to do so. When it has considered that matters should be referred to arbitration it has insisted that they be so referred.

The Deputy Leader of the' Opposition attempted to take the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) to task for his statement that controls over primary products which were good for wartime should also be good for peacetime. , I agree with the honorable member for Adelaide in that regard. If we are to redeem the promises that have been made to our service men and to ensure to them a - life under conditions which will be reasonable and good, we must make sure that .primary products can continue to be marketed under conditions which will do justice to both producers and consumers.

The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) devoted a good deal of his time to a criticism of the Government for having submitted the Constitution alteration proposals of 1944 in one question. He contended that there should have been fourteen separate questions and added that because people were hostile to some of the questions they had to vote against all of them. On this occasion the Government is proposing to submit the questions separately. But even that does not meet with the approval of the Leader of the Opposition. I must say that I have found it impossible 'to ascertain where the right honorable gentleman really stands in relation to these proposals. When he had concluded his speech I felt like asking him for a definite statement as to whether he favoured or opposed the three bills, or any of them. The only point that he made clear wai. that he wanted some kind of an Australia-wide elective convention to consider the Constitution. It should be remembered, however, that an Australiawide convention was held in 1942.


Mr Holt - It was not an elected -convention.


Mr JAMES - It was composed of elected representatives in the -different State parliaments and the Commonwealth Parliament. 'It cannot be con tended that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has not the right to attend a peace conference overseas because he has not been specifically elected by the people to do so. When that convention made an almost unanimous decision the State parliaments, except those of Queensland and New South Wales, refused to ratify it. The Dunstans, the Playfords, the Menzies and the Faddens, who had supported the . proposals in the convention, later advised the people to vote against them. We have not to- look far ' for the reason. Prior to attending the convention, they had not received instructions as to how they should act, but after they had returned to their States their masters - the Bailleau group and the like - instructed them not to advocate further the granting of additional powers to the Commonwealth. The Leader of the Opposition and the deputy leader have argued that these proposals ought not to be submitted to the people simultaneously with the holding of a general election. The Leader of the Opposition went so far as to say that such a course would be misinterpreted, and that people not disposed to vote against the Government would fear that a negative vote on the referendum would be so regarded. The parties that sit opposite submitted similar questions to the people as far back as 1926. I took part in the referendum campaign, not' as a member of Parliament but as a supporter, of my predecessor, Mr. Charlton, who had agreed to support the proposals then submitted by the Bruce-Page Government. On that occasion, this Parliament, for the first time in its history, practically unanimously advocated an alteration of the Constitution. On the 4th September, 1926, the first question submitted to the people was this -

Do you approve of the proposed law for the alteration of the Constitution entitled " Constitution Alteration (Industry and Commerce) "1 " Commerce " in that question is identical with " orderly marketing " in the second question that the Government purposes to submit to the people at the forthcoming referendum, . and " industry " . is identical with " industrial matters", with which the third question deals. The second question submitted was -

Do you approve of the proposed law for the alteration of the Constitution entitled " Constitution Alteration (Essential Services) "1

In 1937, a question similar to the present orderly marketing proposal was submitted to the people, and was supported by the Leader of the Opposition. The right honorable gentleman said in this debate that social services are desired by all of us, but that they should take the form of a national insurance scheme. All that -1* can say in reply is that his party, led by the late Mr. Lyons, attempted to pass through this Parliament national insurance legislation which was defeated, not by the Labour party alone, but with the assistance of some supporters of the Government, including the late Sir Henry Gullett. A scheme of national insurance would be the means of reducing directly the purchasing power of the workers by the amount that they were obliged to contribute. The right honorable gentleman also said that organized marketing is a matter for the States, because they control production. Let us consider that submission in the light of section 92 of the Constitution, which was invoked in what is known as the James case. James, a producer in South Australia, challenged the right of the Commonwealth to direct him as to where he -should market his dried fruits. The case finally went to the Privy Council, before which tribunal the Leader of the Opposition appeared on behalf of the Commonwealth, although I believe* that previously he had supported the submission that had been put by James to the Supreme Court of Victoria. That is an illustration of the ability of members of the legal fraternity to espouse the cause of either side or both sides. Marketing is involved in industrial matters, because so many workers are engaged in the transport of primary products from one State to another. Section 92 of the Constitution stipulates that interstate trade shall bo free and untrammelled. On that ground James won his case, and the Commonwealth had to pay very dearly for the action it had taken against him. This man rendered a service to Australia, perhaps unconsciously. He demonstrated the futility of the Commonwealth attempting orderly marketing schemes under its limited powers, and the folly of industrial powers being vested only in the State. Because of the provisions of section 92 of the Constitution, there can be no interference with the transport of goods from one State to another. In 1931, the Premier of New South Wales tried to keep the basic wage in that State at £4 2s. 6d. a week when, in the other States, it had fallen to £3 5s. a week. The result was that manufacturers in the other States flooded New South Wales wilh goods, which were bought by the people of New South Wales, little realizing that by doing so they were helping to keep in employment people in the cheap wage States, while throwing out of work those in their own State. That experience proves conclusively that we cannot progress unless the Commonwealth is given power to control, industrial conditions. Great monopolies with factories in several States cannot be controlled unless the Commonwealth has this power. If industrial conditions are worse in one State than in another, firms will close down their factories in the better State and move over into the State where coolie conditions prevail. That is why honorable members opposite have received their orders from the big manufacturers to oppose the Government's third referendum proposal.. The big commercial interests realize that they are better off under the present system of divided control of industrial conditions.

The Leader of the Opposition said that the Government's proposals would cut across the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. Those who are familiar with- the court, as I am, and as is also the right honorable member for Cowper ('Sir Earle Page), realize that it is, in many respects, powerless now. Eoi- instance, it could not deal with the great lock-out on the coal-fields in 1929-30 when, for sixteen months, the miners were locked out until they were forced to accept a reduction of wages by 12i per cent. The Commonwealth Arbitration Court could not intervene because the dispute did not extend beyond the borders of New South Wales. The Commonwealth court can be invoked only when a dispute assumes an interstate character. It will be impossible for the Government to redeem its promises to the servicemen unless the Commonwealth Parliament is clothed with the powers which are now sought. Party political considerations are the only reason why honorable members opposite oppose the granting of the powers. Out of pure cussedness they oppose the proposals, even though, in times gone by, they advanced identical proposals themselves. In an address which was broadcast on the 2nd October, 1942, the Leader of the Opposition, when speaking on the Constitution, said -

Short of unification there is much room for constitutional change by increasing the powers of the Central Government. My own mind has steadily developed in favour of increasing Commonwealth powers. I do believe that full nationhood requires great power at the centre for great responsibility cannot be discharged without it.

Thus, at that time, he advocated the granting of increased powers to the central government; now he has become a staunch advocate of State rights. What is the reason for the change? The honorable member for Wentworth said that when a union secretary waggled his chin members of the Parliamentary Labour party jumped to obey. It seems to me that when some of the old men of the Baillieu group, drowsing in their beards - and some of them are bluebeards - waggle their chins, honorable members opposite cannot jump quickly enough to obey. In 193S, the Leader of the Opposition said -

There is an instinct in the average man to feel that his primary loyalty is to his State. This produces all too frequently the question - Why should we hand over our powers to the Commonwealth? - as if the Commonwealth were a foreign power and not just as much hu instrument of the electors as the State itself.

However, the Government is not now seeking any new powers, in the sense that such powers have not previously been exercised. All of these powers have been consistently exercised by the States, and the people . are merely asked to decide whether they shall be left exclusively to the States, or whether they shall be shared with the Commonwealth. At the Constitution Convention held at Canberra in .1.942, the United Australia party, the Australian Country party and the Labour party, together with the State Premiers and Leaders of the Opposition, unanimously agreed upon the list of powers which were to be sought for the Commonwealth by way of referendum, and it was a much more imposing list than that which is submitted now. At that time, Mr. Fadden, speaking, on behalf of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Opposition, said - 1 think the bill we have just passed can be accepted as a monument of co-operation and as evidence of unselfishness and compromises on the part of every one here.

To-day, his co-operation has turned into antagonism, and his unselfishness into selfishness. The right honorable gentleman continued -

I hope that the willingness that has been shown on all sides to arrive at an agreement will culminate in the bill going through every House of Parliament in Australia and becoming law.

X hope our efforts here will not have been in vain and that a legislative document will be brought into being conferring adequate and indispensable powers upon the Commonwealth to bring about sensible and proper reconstruction in the interests of our nation.

Now, he is doing everything possible to prevent it. He has not yet spoken, but I expect that the whip will be cracked, and he will fall in behind the Leader of the Opposition.

Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.


Mr JAMES - When the Premier of South Australia, Mr. Playford, presented the "Powers Bill" in the' South Australian Parliament, he said -

A suggestion has been -made that the bill should be defeated out of hand. I hope honorable members will not adopt that course. I trust the House will pass the second reading. I think we shall discover when in Committee that the bill will be not only acceptable to Parliament but will also be of benefit to the people.

In spite of that statement, Mr. Playford strenuously opposed the referendum proposals when they came before the people. The Premier of Victoria at that time, Mr. Dunstan, also agreed to delegate the powers to the Commonwealth. When the necessary legislation was introduced in the Legislative Assembly, he said -

If we are to be able to deal with post-war reconstruction and if we are to avoid the blunders of the past we must transfer power to the Commonwealth .... I now earnestly commend the bill to the House in the knowledge that the work to he done during the post-war period will he immense and important and that it can be done only by national planning controlled by a single directing authority. That was a statesmanlike utterance, but when the time came for action, the Baillieu group, his party bosses, gave their orders, and he opposed the referendum. He" said that it was "all moonshine " to suggest that there was urgent need for additional powers at that time. What a somersault ! What makes men commit such treachery? Is it cussedness or political spleen? At times I have, at great political risk to. myself, given credit to my political enemies for wise actions, and I cannot understand why men should act against their better judgment merely because of some party political affiliation. The question arises to-day as to why the leaders of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party who, in November 1942, favoured the granting of these powers to the Commonwealth Parliament, should now be resolutely opposed to them. The answer is simple. Discarding the many extraneous excuses, the chief reason is that the financial interests which control industry and commerce realize that, as long as the powers remain under the control of the States, they will be able to veto any proposals inimical to their selfish interests, because they can command a majority in the Legislative Councils of the States, except in Queensland, where the upper house has been abolished. What is the nature of these Legislative Councils. ? The upper house in New South Wales is the only senior .chamber iri the. State Legislatures elected on anything remotely resembling a popular franchise. In that State, members of the Legislative Council are elected by vote of the people's representatives in the Legislative Assembly. In other States, eligibility for election to the upper houses is based on a property qualification, and legislative councillors are not responsible to the people as are the members of the Commonwealth Parliament. This Parliament is elected by popular franchise. I say definitely that the Legislative Councils of the States do not want to relinquish any powers to a Parliament in which both houses are elected on a democratic franchise.

The subject of unemployment must be given due consideration in .considering the Government's proposals. At all times when 'great reforms have been proposed by Labour governments, a great deal of criticism has emanated from Labour's political opponents. I have in mirid thetime when the Fisher Labour Government, introduced the original Commonwealth Bank Bill in 1911. There was much severe criticism of that measure fromthe Opposition. It claimed that the poor man would suffer, because the Commonwealth Bank would levy toll upon his meagre savings. A member of the present Opposition who was then a . Labour party man, the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), has changed a great deal since then. But when speaking on the Commonwealth Bank Bill, he said -

Is it the little man who provides the powder and shot for these attacks- on Labour legislation? No, it is the man with plenty of money against whom the legislation is directed. I say emphatically that the honorable member has endeavoured to divert the attention of the people from the true object, purpose and function of the bank and he has done so in order to make people believe that those who will suffer most from the operations of the institution are not the other banks, but the poor unfortunate people.

Opposition members are opposed to the granting of the powers sought by this Government, contending that they are too vague. That is what they said about the referendum proposals in 1944. It is interesting to note that, in November, 1938, the present Leader of the Opposition, announcing that the Commonwealth Parliament would be given an opportunity to discuss constitutional reforms, said it was astonishing that unemployment should be a State matter; the Government of which he was a member was convinced that the people must move towards greater national powers. It is astonishing to read the different views now being enunciated by the right honorable gentleman and his colleagues. When they were in office, they wanted great national powers and more centralization of control. Now they say they do not want them. T.he greatest post-war problem in Australia will be that of providing employment. The Leader of the Opposition, who was astonished that it should be a Stateresponsibility in- November, 1938, now wants it to remain a State matter. There- were many arguments between the Commonwealth and the States when' the State governments were asked to feed the unemployed during the depression. I endeavoured on many occasions to persuade the anti-Labour Commonwealth Government then in power to make grants to the States for the relief of unemployment. The most that any government did at that time was to give discarded military clothing to State instrumentalities and municipal councils for distribution to the needy. Unemployment can be dealt with adequately only by the Commonwealth Government. In 1933, the then Prime Minister contended that unemployment was a problem for industry to solve. He said that, if the unemployed could not be absorbed in industry, they could not be found employment. In 1934, in his policy speech, he said that in the national interest the Commonwealth should take a large share of the responsibility for overcoming unemployment. However, in 193S, he changed his tune again and said that the matter was " directly and immediately one for 'the State governments ". During the depression, anti-Labour governments promised the people whom I represent, who have been treated as political footballs more often than any other section of the community, to deal with the vexed question of rehabilitating the coal-mining industry by encouraging the production of oil from coal. That promise was never honoured. The late Mr. Dunningham, a member of the United Australia party Ministry in New South Wales in 1937, after a ministerial conference held in conjunction with a Loan Council meeting, blamed the Commonwealth Government for not doing anything to relieve the unemployment situation and condemned the Commonwealth for making available only £200,000 for the relief of unemployment. The Commonwealth passed the responsibility to the States, hut the States said they could do nothing because the Commonwealth would not help. What was the result? In Victoria, from the 1st July, 1929, to. April, 1941, £34,0.00,000 was expended for unemployment relief purposes. In Sydney, during the year ended the 30th June,. 1938, 4,900 eviction "warrants were issued against the. unemployed. In New South Wales, at the 27th January, 1940, the grand total of food recipients and relief workers and their dependants was approximately 150,000. Are we going to revert to those days of fear and suffering? Many men who fought in the war which has just ended believe that an economic depression will follow in its train. I recall that, when Mr.. Churchill visited the. battlefields of Normandy recently, he was asked by a soldier, " When we have done this job are we coming back to the dole ? " Mr. Churchill immediately . replied, " No, you are not ". Unless the powers sought by the Government are granted by the people at the referendum, I fail to see how the vexed problem of unemployment can be solved. The State Governments will not be able to handle it. In the Hunter electorate, approximately 300 men are out of employment to-day. These include a fair sprinkling of ex-servicemen. If the Opposition thinks that there will be peace and contentment when good Australians, whose fathers suffered unemployment, poverty, and humiliation during the economic depression, find that they too are unable to secure employment after fighting for their country, it will have a rude awakening. Something could happen in this country similar to what has happened in other countries. I do not wish to forecast anything like that, but, with reverence, I pray to God that we shall never have another depression. Let us band together, untrammelled by party differences, and try to do something that will avert a repetition of the tragic days of the early thirties. Does the Opposition seek excuses to oppose the referendum proposals? No honorable member opposite, from the Leader of the Opposition down, has yet said explicitly that he is opposed to them, but if the Opposition is against them, let it say so straight out now. Why wait until the Baillieu group has issued its instructions ?


Mr HARRISON - If the honorable member appeals nicely to us we may do so.


Mr JAMES ---I listened intently to the Leader of the Opposition, but I still do not know where he stands. Nor has the Deputy Leader exposed his attitude. Those who oppose the granting of these powers to the Commonwealth Parliament want to- return to> the old order of things - " Business as usual ! "," Get rich quick ! ", " To the devil with the poor!", and "To the devil with all the promises made by all political parties that they would ensure the rehabilitation of ex-members of the forces and guard them against unemployment ! " This Government is fighting to avoid unemployment among the people, but we also desire to ensure that, if men and women cannot be given work, they shall be provided with the necessaries of life. No one can deny them that right. Why should good Australians who have been unlucky in the search for work be forced to subsist, if they are single, on a dole of 6s. 8d., or, if they are married, 14s. 2d. a week, as was the case in New SouthWales in the last depression, with the further proviso that if the income of the family amount to £2 10s. a week the dole was withheld. All the social services, with the exception of invalid and old-age pensions, that have existed during the regime of this Government are in jeopardy of being invalidated by a High Court interpretation of the Constitution. Therefore, we should ensure by the means proposed in these bills that those who, as it were, placed their bodies between us and the enemy when our shores were threatened shall not return to civil life to exist on a miserable pittance, as was the fate of many men afterWorldWar I., because there were not enough jobs for all.[Extension of time granted.] It is in the hands of the people to ensure that the degrading conditions that existed during the depression' shall not reappear, but unless they give the Commonwealth Parliament the powers sought, the chaotic conditions that existed after WorldWar I. will again prevail. The Leader of the Opposition and his supporters have emphatically declared their opposition to this Parliament having complete power over all employment and trade. The Melbourne Herald, in a leading article, said -

Should the Opposition's objections crystallize as an unswerving hostility to the referendum the result would be most unhappy for Australia. If the referendum proposals are rejected the result might be disastrous with the collapse ofall comprehensive post-war planning in a muddle of divergent and conflicting State and Federal powers.


Mr Harrison -When did the Melbourne Herald say that?


Mr JAMES - During the last referendum campaign. The danger of monopolies to Australia's economy has been realized for many years, but the State governments have been unable to deal with them because they are interstate organizations. If one State increases the basic wage and shortens the working week they move their operations to a State where labour is cheaper and then, because of the restrictions imposed on the Commonwealth by section 92 of the. Constitution, they are able to flood their goods into the State with a higher standard of living. Every one knows that the primary producers enjoy guaranteed prices for their produce. Since planning began they have secured about £40,000,000 a year more than before the war,and, in addition, it is estimated that they have reduced their overdrafts by £60,000,000. They have never had a better time.

In consideringproblems of national power we should shut our minds and eyes completely to all party politics, but referendums are too frequently regarded as party matters. The Leader of the Opposition and his confreres are doing their very best to deal with these proposals on party lines. One of the points made by the Leader of the Opposition and emphasized by his deputy is the fact that the referendum is to be held on election day. I donot know what their fear is, because the only referendum that was ever held other thanon election day was that held in 1944, when the people were asked to cede fourteen additional powers to this Parliament. It was agreed at the Constitution Convention of 1942 that the referendum be not held on election day in order that the issues should not be confused. But the issues will not be confused on this occasion. As a matter of fact, some Opposition supporters were critical of the expenditure of £100,000 on a referendum on other than election day because they contended that if it were held on election day, a considerable saving could be effected. Now they are critical because the Government has chosen election day as referendum day. So where do they stand ?

Although I was only a " kiddie " at the time I remember very clearly the events that led to federation. As honorable members are well aware, the district in which I was horn and reared is true-blue Labour, and the children were brought up on Labour principles. So when the federation campaign was in progress, we young Labourites and federalists used to go round with bags of flour and a few eggs for possible use against the anti-federalists. One night at Old Lambton, my birthplace, I was told, to " lay off " because " a good fellow " was speaking. " He is not one of us, but he is putting up a good case ", I was warned. I sat and listened to what he had to say. The speaker was to become the first honorable member for Hunter and the first Prime Minister. He told his audience about what would follow federation. Every one thought that the creation of a federal parliament would cement Australia. He said, " If you people do agree to the formation of a federal parliament, it will mean abolition of not only State governors,- but ultimately State parliaments". Every one at the meeting cheered. All believed that federation would bring an end to the State parliaments. But we have yet to see that promise honoured. On the contrary I know that members of State parliaments and of all parties - yes, of all parties - as we know from experience, will take every opportunity to sabotage any attempt by the Commonwealth Parliament to obtain greater powers. "Why? Simply because they realize that the more powers are taken away from them the lower will be their standing in the eye3 of the public, and that eventually the public will rise in a body and say, " Away with these useless appendages ! Let them be abolished ! " Why not, then, be frank and go direct to the people with the question, " Are you in favour of the abolition of State parliaments? Answer *Yes' or 'No'". I believe that the answer would be a solid " Yes ", and that would be the redemption of the promise made by that great statesman, Barton, that federation would ultimately mean one parliament for Australia.

Sir EARLEPAGE (Cowper) [8.261.- As an ardent constitutional reformer I welcome any proposal to amend the Con stitution, because there is still a triumph of hope over experience that one may one day withness another affirmative vote of the people on a referendum proposal. The levity with which the Government approaches the amendment of the Australian Constitution would be incredible if it were not actually happening. This federal compact was drawn in a careful and deliberate way by the Federal Convention after several years of. solid research and debate in which the constitutions of every analogous country were brought under review. Attempts to secure amendment of the Constitution were also made with due deliberation and thought, with discussions outside this Parliament with State representatives, and attempts to get the mass of people on side. This was so undoubtedly with regard to those proposals brought down by Governments with which I was connected. Industrial amendments brought forward by Mr. Bruce and myself in 1926 were debated for several weeks and, ultimately, practically unanimous agreement was obtained in the House, all. but two members of the Labour party, Nationalist and Country parties voting for- the third reading. The Financial Agreement amendment to the ' Constitution brought down by the Bruce-Page Government in 1928 was the result of a series of conferences, over many years, with State governments, and practical experience in the voluntary Loan council of the manner in which the suggested constitutional amendments would work. In addition, the State parliaments, as well as the Commonwealth Parliament, all carried the Financial Agreement - thus further educating the public in what was being done. The constitutional amendments brought down by the Scullin Government also were discussed at length, and the relevant amendments moved were fully discussed and considered even though they were not accepted by the Government.. Honorable members who were present on that occasion will recall the exhaustive discussions which took place. They were conducted amicably and deliberately, and when the final division was taken the third reading was carried by 63 votes to 2. The Labour party as a whole and the Nationalist and Country parties voted for the bill. The only dissentients were one recalcitrant member from the Country party and one from the Nationalist party. The Government hoped that that proposal would be accepted by the people; but, unfortunately, extreme reactionaries on both sides combined to defeat the referendum.

The great argument in favour of an -elective convention to consider any comprehensive alteration of the Constitution in the light of modern progress is that the election of its members, discussions on the Convention, and the consequent inevitable debate of its findings by the Commonwealth Parliament would educate the people as to what was being attempted and the real purpose of the proposals. To some degree, public discussion which took place at a convention could have only an educative effect, because this Parliament would have the last word on the proposed amendments. However, a convention would clarify the whole position, and a non-partisan opinion would be. expressed regarding .not only specific alteration's but also a comprehensive alteration of the whole Constitution. Therefore, I regret that during the last four years, the Government has not adopted that procedure when considering constitutional reform. Instead, the Government has followed, a hasty and happygolucky method of attacking this problem, which, requires the utmost preparation and consideration. The proposals with which we are dealing at present are the fourth of a series which this Government has formulated in as many years. Each set of proposals has been different from the others. That the general principles which should guide us in altering the Constitution have not been fully considered is obvious from the fact that as soon as the first proposals in 1942, were criticized they were abandoned, and completely different proposals were substituted. Some of the original proposals, which I regarded as being fundamentally wise, were not finally submitted to the people. There are two ways of securing results in any attempt to alter the Constitution. The first is by means of co-operative approach through conferences with the States, and the reference of State powers to the Commonwealth as the Constitution provides. That is a good way, and must be utilized more than it has been to date. When I deal with the marketing proposals I shall suggest a method which may yield real results.

The second method is the referendum. If we are to hold a referendum we should ensure that the proposals are specific and deal with principles which do not conflict with one another or confuse the public. That should be irrespective of any opinions that may be expressed outside this Parliament, because they are Commonwealth proposals and should be considered in the national interest'. The conclusion which one is forced to reach from this rapid change in the presentation of proposals is this: All the proposals of the Government have been brought forward not to alter general principles so much as to be catchcries for votes at elections. That is not the proper way in which we should approach the problem. I hope that the federation will always endure, and that many more federal units will be created than at present. I hope, also, that the federal compact will always be recognized by a system of checks and balances adjusted with meticulous care to . make certain that the policy adopted shall be in the interests 'of the whole of the Commonwealth, whilst the carrying out of the policy must at all times be in the hands of the authorities on the spot. In that way, we shall achieve the results most beneficial to the people. When I examined the- first proposals of the Government, four years ago, I described them as " unification naked and unashamed ". They were criticized so strongly that another bill was substituted. I described that as " unification with a fig leaf ", because unification was disguised, although the apparel was not nearly so extensive as the French bathing costume. Then the States made a new approach. They suggested a co-operative attack on the problem by the reference to the Commonwealth of certain State powers. I always regret that when the Government was able to secure from five States and the Legislative Assembly of the sixth State agreement on no fewer than ten of the fourteen points under consideration at the time, the offer .was not accepted. But the Commonwealth Government attempted to " put over " the public by referendum the paints on which the States had disagreed by linking them in a Chinese copy of the compromise reached with the States. When that bill was before this House, additional points, including the " Four Freedoms " were inserted and the people rejected them summarily. One of their reasons for so doing was the means which the Government adopted to pass the bill. The House sat all night; members were refused the right to be heard; and the Government by the arbitrary use of its majority, prevented the consideration of any amendments that might have improved the measure and enhanced its chances of success. The Government's tactics on that occasion seemed to me, as an old politician, absolutely stupid. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) atempted to submit an amendment, but the Government would not listen to him. The whole procedure was silly. 'Bearing in mind those events, we must examine the present proposals very carefully. When I studied them, I soon realized that they were hastily drafted, without proper consideration. " A horse and cart could be driven through the drafting." Because of this looseness, the proposed powers if granted, will be a source of endless litigation and little satisfaction to any interests. The Government should listen to the reasonable and constructive amendments which we shall submit in an effort to ensure the permanent satisfaction of the people and the progress of Australia.

The first' two proposals have been thrown in as election bait to make certain that the third proposal dealing with industry and employment shall be carried. This appeal for additional power to enable the Commonwealth to control industry is made at a most unfortunate time, because the Government has reached the lowest depth of- ineptitude and cowardice by .running away from its responsibilities. That is proved by its handling of the relief ships for the Netherlands East Indies, and the Bunnerong dispute. At present, ho one in his right senses would consider granting to the Commonwealth additional powers over employment. So far as I am aware, no one has ever suggested that the regulation pf waterside workers and seamen should be anything but a Commonwealth responsibility. They are essentially interstate activities. Though they are entirely under Commonwealth control, the Waterside Workers Federation is the most undisciplined of all unions. When the Bruce-Page Administration proposed to transfer arbitration matters to the States, the bill expressly excluded waterside workers and seamen. If the Commonwealth Government cannot discipline those unions, how can it discipline other powerful unions? Two of the three amendments are only bait to ensure that the people will swallow the poison of industrial control, just as in exterminating white ants, one mixes treacle with arsenic. Despite this fact, the introduction of any proposal to alter the Constitution provides honorable members with an opportunity to propose an alteration with which all parties can agree. The people will probably accept such a proposal if the nature of the discussion discloses that no nigger is hidden in the wood-pile. What worries me is the rather startling omission of price control from the Government's proposals. The Government has often declared that price control is the only way of guarding against inflation.

I shall deal first with the least contentious bill, namely, the Constitution Alteration (Organized Marketing of Primary Products) Bill. The history of the organization of primary producers and marketing of their products dates back many years in Australia. Steady progress has been made. First, we had voluntary co-operation, which proved so successful that statutory co-operation was introduced by the Parliaments of the Commonwealth and the States. Finally, in war-time, marked progress has been made in that co-operation as the result of regulations issued under the Government's defence power. The Commonwealth Constitution makes full co-operation with the State Governments imperative, because the States deal with production and the Commonwealth possesses exclusive power over marketing foi- export. In my view, a proper alteration of the Constitution .would be a provision for the organized marketing of. primary products under the authority of the Australian Agricultural Council, in the same way as finance is controlled by the Loan Council. The Agricultural Council is constituted, by representatives of Commonwealth and State Governments. Delegation of power to this body would make certain that the problems of primary production would be considered from every aspect, in a comprehensive way. The appropriate -constitutional amendment, therefore, would be similar to that which dealt with the Financial Agreement and the Loan Council. The amendment should provide for organized marketing of primary products, properly defined - and this is most important - to be dealt with under a section in which the Commonwealth may make agreements with the States with respect to the production and marketing of primary produce throughout the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth Parliament would then be able to make laws for validating any such agreement previously made, and make laws also for the carrying out by the parties thereto of any agreement subsequently made, or the varying or rescinding by the parties thereto of any agreement that might be made. The powers conferred by this amendment should not be construed as being limited in any way by the provisions of section 92. Such provision would make the Australian Agricultural Council the final arbiter in determining agricultural policy as a whole.' I have discussed this subject with eminent federalists in other parts of the world, and their views coincide with mine. I discussed it in particular- with Mr. Henry Wallace, who was for many years Secretary for Agriculture in the United » States of America, and his view was very similar to my own. This solution, however, which is the only way that I can see by which the problem can be effectively dealt with in a federation, must be rendered easier' by the definition of " primary products ". At what stage in the manufacture of a primary product would a definition cease to apply? Milk is made into butter, cheese, casein; and various forms of dried and condensed milk and milk products. They all must be included to enable the industry to be handled as a whole. Wheat is made into flour, breakfast foods, bread, &c. Where would a definition of " primary products " in respect of wheat end? .Sugar cane and sugar beet are made into raw, refined, loaf, and icing sugar and various forms of confectionery. Where would the definition in respect of sugar end ? If the definition is not made clear with regard to these products, producers are being sold a gold brick in this amendment.

The history of the previous attitude of the Labour party on this matter leaves it open to suspicion. In respect of the wheat industry for example, the Labour party fought continuously in this Parliament against the establishment of a home-consumption price, and especially against the flour tax. I fought against the Commonwealth-wide organization of all governments and associations. In 1937 it fought against the referendum for the elimination of section 92 in relation to primary producer ' organization. It sabotaged my wheat stabilization scheme for- several years, although it recently revived it. Who knows when the Labour party will be opposed to it again? Therefore, although the Australian Country party is anxious to support, and will support, an amendment which will secure the possibility of a compulsory wheat scheme and stabilization plans in the marketing of primary, products, as it has always done, it must receive a complete assurance when doing so that it is really getting what producers and the party desire.

I must confess that I am glad to see honorable gentlemen opposite returning to what I consider the right fold in regard to section 92 and primary production. In 1937 they thought I was a heretic. To-day they have, returned to the fold, and I am glad that their view has changed. It is another illustration of the undoubted fact that the minds of men change from time to time. What we want, however, is a constitutional provision that will be so clear in its terms that it cannot be misunderstood or misinterpreted by the courts. Only by securing . such a statement can the primary producers feel any sense of security. Such a sense of security is an urgent need. If by discussion - and I trust that this subject will be fully discussed - we can reach an agreement as to the terms in which the proposed amendment will be submitted to the people, we will have a very good prospect of securing 'their endorsement of it. Then the primary producers will have secured something tangible. I repeat that we need assurances that will be reliable. If we discuss the subject thoroughly I believe that we shall be able to return to the state of mind that existed in 1926, and that will be of value to all primary producers.

I now come to the subject of social services. I am not dealing with these measures in the order in which they were introduced. I prefer to take them in what I regard as being the proper order. In the list of seven powers which the Government desires to secure, four I believe could secure unanimous passage through Parliament and acceptance by the people of Australia. But they would need to be put up by themselves as a separate question and quite independent of other questions, though if the power relating to industry be placed before the people at the same time, their reaction against that may even doom the other proposals, too. The four to which I now refer relate to maternity allowances, widows' pensions, child endowment and family allowances. But I fear that if these subjects are linked with the other three items now specified in the bills the result may be disastrous. It might be like infecting a healthy man with a virus. I hope that the Government will see the wisdom of not taking any such risk. It would surely be better to make certain of some additional powers than to get none by asking for too much. I am confident that the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) will deal- with this point when he addresses the House. I anticipate that an amendment will be moved at the committee stage in regard to this particular matter. The three items in the proposed social services amendment which make a most insecure foundation for the carrying out of a comprehensive policy of public health are the provisions dealing with the unemployment, sickness and hospital benefits, medical and dental service, and benefits to students.

In my opinion, taxation make's a very poor foundation' upon which to provide benefactions of this description to the people. We must remember that at one stage even a Labour government found itself compelled to reduce the rate of old-age pension from £1 to 17s. 6d. a week in order to make ends meet. Unemployment and sickness benefits should be provided by means of a national insurance fund, which, however, should be rendered independent of any temporary budget difficulties that might arise. Such difficulties Gould occur under the regime of either Labour or non-Labour governments as I know very well from my experience in connexion with national insurance as a member of the Bruce-Page Government. Up to the present the results of negotiations carried out by the Commonwealth Government, as contrasted with the results shown by State negotiations, indicate that federal action is the worst way to get an agreement and satisfactory results with doctors and hospitals and in regard to health generally. In the partial attempt by this Government to give medical and dental services and hospital benefits, it has obviously started at the wrong end. The Attorney-General is not quite clear whether the proposed amendment would give the Commonwealth Government control over medical and dental registration, though eminent barristers express the opinion that it would do so. This problem cannot be dealt with by the indirect means suggested by the Commonwealth in this amendment. That is like starting to build a house from the roof down. If the Commonwealth Government wishes to apply a comprehensive policy in respect of the programme of public health, let it bring down an amendment which would give full power to make such laws as are thought proper with respect to the subject. The Chief Justice, Sir John Latham, well put this constitutional position in his decision in the Pharmaceutical Benefits case in December last. He said -

The act is far more than an appropriation act; it is just the kind of statute which might well be passed by a Parliament which had full power to make such laws as it thought proper with respect to public health, doctors, chemists, hospitals, drugs, medicines, and medical and surgical appliances.

The Commonwealth Parliament has no such power. The result of a contrary view would be that, by the simple device of providing for the expenditure of a sum of money with respect to a particular- subject-matter, the Common wealth could introduce a scheme which in practice would completely regulate and control that subject-matter. The Commonwealth Parliament would thus have almost unlimited legislative power. The careful delimitation of Commonwealth powers made by the Constitution prevents the adoption of such an opinion.

The. position of! the Government is not clear - on this matter, so 1 asked the Attorney-General during his speech whether this amendment would override State legislation. He said it would not, but most lawyers say it would. Even if we believed in the value of the amendment, how could we advocate something' in which there is such an element of legal doubt before we start? The right procedure surely is to separate maternity allowances, widows' pensions, child endowment, and family allowances into one amendment and put it to the people, leaving hospital benefits, medical and dental services and benefits to students to Commonwealth and State cooperative action, which should be easy to get. If the Government does not do this, it will .find that this amendment will be defeated.

The Government should deal with this subject of health in a direct and not an indirect manner. If it persists in its present indirect approach, the consequence, even if the people endorse the proposal, will be endless litigation and conflict, and tb-at m'ust inevitably result in poor service to the general community. There axe Some things that we cannot afford to trifle with, and one of them is human life. In some spheres of activity there are wide margins in which we may work, and the giving away of a little here and there does not matter much, but when it comes to human life, we have no margins. If a man, woman or child dies, there is nothing more to be done; there is no second chance. It is, therefore, essential that we should deal in the most efficient way possible with this subject, and I trust that the Parliament will realize the significance of a direct approach to it. If the Government will bring down something of that kind, we shall deal with it in the fullest and frankest way. The Government's way is the most stupid way in which the matter could be dealt with. I have just passed through flooded districts in which sickness has been increased by reason of immersion and the subsequent poor housing of the people. Those districts are hopelessly short of hospital beds. Yet the Government's contribution to the problem of ensuring that the people will be better cared for is, not to provide more beds, but to make a payment to the institution of 6s. a day in respect of any patient who goes into a general ward, provided no charge is made on the patient. The right course is to build hospitals, and provide hospital beds. Between the only two hospitals on the middle north COaSt of New South Wales that are worthwhile, according to modern standards, namely, those at Grafton and Maitland, the institutions at Coffs Harbour, Bellingen, Kempsey, and Taree are in an indescribably bad and overcrowded condition. Steps are being taken to improve the hospital at Port Macquarie; but there is no public hospital accommodation at all at the important centres of Macksville, "Wauchope, "Wingham, Bulahdelah,, and Stroud. Men and women, after bad accidents, have to be transported 60 or 70 miles for treatment, because surgical hospital appliances are not available at these points. Honorable members opposite laugh at my description of the conditions. It is time the conscience of this country was aroused. The matter should be dealt with in all seriousness, because it is one of the most important with which we could deal. An expenditure of at least £20,000,000 is needed to place the hospitals of this country in an efficient, modern state. At Taree, I learned that the hospital had been "built 60 years ago, before the days of asepsis and just about the time when antisepsis was started. In the infectious diseases ward there were cases of diphtheria, scarlet fever, typhoid, whooping cough, measles, meningitis, and erisypelas Under the one roof with ordinary medical cases, separated by only one wall. There are two windows and a door in that wall. Apparently, the idea is that the germs are too big to use that means of gaining access to other parts of the building. The average attendance at the hospital is 100 patients. If the payment by the Commonwealth of 6s. a day for each patient were capitalized at 5 to 5-£ per cent, it would provide a capital fund of £200,000. For £150,000, the modern hospital which Taree has been promised for ten or fifteen years could be built, and it would have a real value. The Government is paying 6s. a day for the treatment of people in beds that do not exist. What is the use -of that? I have read in this House a report by the Social Security Committee, which pointed out that there is a shortage of 10,000 hospital beds for tuberculosis cases. I have shown that because ex-servicemen have been forced to return to their homes from tubercular hospitals, the infection of their children has been about four times as great as it would have been had they been treated in hospital. It is well known that the shortage of beds for mental patients totals 6,000.


Mr Lazzarini - That is the heritage which the right honorable gentleman and his party left to us.







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