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Thursday, 4 April 1946

Mr BOWDEN (Gippsland) .- Thomas Jefferson said that " eternal vigilance ' is the price of liberty ", and, from certain things I have heard in this chamber, I am sure that we must not relax our vigilance if we are to retain our liberty. That is why Government supporters have not been able to discover just where we stand. It is because of the necessity to retain those liberties that we want to know exactly what these proposals mean before we commit ourselves to any view. Every speech made on the1 Government side is reminiscent of the speeches made on the ' referendum proposals of 1944. We have had the same story . from the same people on the same subject. Honorable member opposite ignore the verdict given on that referendum by the people. I remember very well that we urged the Government not to lump all its proposals in one referendum' question requiring a single " Yes " or " No ", but to separate them so that the people should have the opportunity of voting according to their inclinations on each proposal. The Government treated us with lofty disdain. " We have the numbers, so what do we caro for you ! " was its attitude. We advised it that it would lose the referendum as the result. It submitted certain sugar-coated proposals in the hope that they would appeal to the cupidity of the electors so much that they would automatically vote for the others that contained the dynamite.

Mr Mountjoy - The Opposition supported the proposals at one time, but not at the vital time.

Mr BOWDEN - It was because of our vigilance that we discovered the dynamite, and we were obliged to tell the people exactly what they might let themselves in for. On this occasion, the Government has heeded our advice and separated the proposals so that the people shall be able to vote " Yes " or " No ", according to their inclinations, on the three of them. That is an advance. But in other respects old' tactics are again being employed. Honorable members on the Government side seem to think it is strength to attack everything said by honorable members on this side and to impute false motives to us. Indeeed, the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) went so far as to characterize the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) as humbug. I do not think this House has heard a more masterly analysis of the' case than that made in the right honorable gentleman's speech. This " humbug " that the honorable member for Watson alleged is what the people want to know. They are not con- .cerned with the simple phrases that are placed in bills of this kind. They want to know what lies behind them, and, because of his forensic ability, the right honorable gentleman is able to interpret these phrases. He sought to show what, does lie behind them. Yet what he said was described as " humbug " by an honorablemember, who, by reason of his legal training, should know better than to talk about a colleague an that manner, especially when he knows that what the right honorable gentleman said was true. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) who, fortunately,, is in the chair, and cannot interject, said that these bills were couched in perfectly simple language that was easily understood. After all that the Leader of the Opposition had to say the honorable member thinks that the bills are perfectly simple! It is the fear of what lies behind these seemingly simple phrases that loses every proposal submitted to referendum. When the people are in doubt, they vote for safety and they consider that safety lies in a " No "' vote. That is notorious, not just a statement by me, because we know what has happened in other referendums.

It is equally notorious that what was hidden in the proposals referred to the people in 1944 lost that referendum. Before we left this House to campaign we were treated, not exactly with contempt, but good-humouredly, as naughty boys who were trying to upset the Government's proposals, but what was the atmosphere when those proposals had been overwhelmingly defeated, not by nonLabour States, but. by Labour States? The referendum was defeated in Queensland, New South Wales and Tasmania, States which have been under Labour governments for many years. The nonLabour State of South Australia voted in favour of .the proposals and the then non-Labour State of Victoria almost did. The " No " advocates did not have much up their sleeve, but the proposals were defeated.

Mr Mountjoy - The Labour State of Western Australia voted affirmatively.

Mr BOWDEN - Yes, the only one of the Labour States that did. Yet Labour supporters have the effrontery to accuse us of having caused the Government to lose the referendum. It was not cur fault that the referendum was lost. It was lost because of the foolish manner in which it was submitted. That is acknowledged now by the AttorneyGeneral in presenting these proposals in an altogether different manner. Honorable gentlemen opposite are curious about our attitude. From the very outset we have heard from the Government ranks, " Where do you stand ? Are you going to vote for or against it?" They demand to know our attitude. They already know their attitude, because they have had the privilege of discussing these matters in the caucus, where they determined their course of action; but, until these bills were presented by the Attorney-General, we did not know their context or what they purported to do. It would have been interesting to listen to the caucus discussions to learn what degree of unanimity prevailed among Government supporters at the beginning. They are unanimous now because it is obligatory on them to be so. They want to see us make up our minds, no doubt because they regard as a curiosity any one with a mind to make up, since their minds are made up for them, a fact that there is no escaping.

AH I have said is preliminary to the few remarks that I intend to make on the bills themselves. I have already told honorable gentlemen that I cannot spend much time on the bills because what I should have to say would be, with but a few differences, merely a repetition of what I had to say in 1944. I believe that the Attorney-General has 'not gone quite far enough on this occasion and that had he divided the proposals relating to social services into two parts he would have had a much better chance of having the lot carried. The proposals cover social services already in operation and others in prospect. Doubt has been cast on the validity of certain social services by a decision of the High Court. That, in turn, creates doubt in the minds of the people. If the Government sought to validate the social services that it is now operating, it would receive the support, of almost 100 per cent, of the electors. If it submitted proposals covering the proposed social services separately it might also have the chance of having them carried. At any rate, it would not run the risk of having the lot thrown out. I believe that therein lies the weakness- of the first measure. The Government is asking for trouble. The people showed at the last referendum that such things as social benefits and control over airlines would not induce them to vote for all the proposed transfers of power. The majority voted " No " and took the chance of losing those social benefits, but, as a matter of fact, they have not lost any of them. Now they are to be told the same old story, " You won't get anything unless you give us the lot ".

Dr Evatt - Will the honorable member indicate the division that he thinks ought to be made?

Mr BOWDEN - I think that hospital benefits and medical and dental services should be submitted in a separate referendum. Let the people vote on the social services that they "are now enjoying as one question and on the others separately. Do not oblige them to turn down maternity allowances and all the other existing social services if they feel that they must turn down the new proposals because they do not believe in them. Apart from that, there is nothing wrong with the first measure.-

I come now to the measure dealing with. the orderly marketing of primary products. If the war-time description of orderly marketing is continued indefinitely, the farmers will be " orderly marketed " off their farms, for the simple reason that their properties are in such a state because of depreciation that they will have nothing to produce with. I was rather astonished to hear the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) echo the Minister for . Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) by saying that the farmers are better off under the Labour Government than they were under non-Labour governments. That is absurd, and I am surprised that a Minister of the Crown of the standing of the Attorney-General should make such a claim. There is no doubt that the increased income of the farmers has resulted from the inflationary expenditure necessitated by the war and their inability to maintain their properties in the condition that they would like. Undoubtedly the farming community has more money in its pocket to-day, but the claim that that is because of the administration of the Labour Government would not appeal even to a child. Statements of that kind are another reason why the Government's referendum proposals are not accepted.

Mr Scully - How is it that every body of. primary producers in Australia is asking for orderly marketing?

Mr BOWDEN -So are we asking for it. Stabilization of prices and orderly marketing are in our policy. I ask the honorable gentleman not to try to confuse the issues, or I shall tell him more of what we believe in. ' I repeat that the assertion that all this money is floating about only because of the Labour Administration would not deceive even children.

Dr Evatt - No one says that.

Mr BOWDEN - Honorable members opposite say that times out of number. The money is the result of war expenditure and nothing else. It would be as reasonable for me to say that the iniquitous black market that is rending this country is the result of Labour administration. I would not accuse the Labour

Government of that. Each has occurred in spite of the Government. Nothing the Government could have done could have prevented these developments. War expenditure does not demand 'balancesheets. People accumulate money that is not of the value it had when the war started. What is a million here or there? In fact, I heard the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) say with scorn, " It is not £30,000,000 that we have lost through the Dutch ships being held up; it is only £5,000,000 ". If he had said fivepencewe could understand it, but £5,000,000! A million is regarded as a mere bagatelle.

I return now to the last referendum which involved a marketing proposal. I recall distinctly challenging it under section 92. I had the privilege to read one statement of Mr. Justice Evatt, in which he upheld the argument which I was propounding, and another statement by the Attorney-General which " knocked me cold ". The present proposal will not alter section 92, but will cover " primary products". They must be defined. The proposed new power will be exercised only by the Commonwealth. Section 92 provides that trade and commerce between the States shall be absolutely free. That means that no State may discriminate against another State, and the Commonwealth may not discriminate between States or parts of States. If the present proposal is agreed to, what will it mean? Will it mean that if a State attempts to legislate to protect an industry within its boundaries, it must approach the Commonwealth for permission to do so? I cite a case by way of example. Some time after the last marketing referendum, Victoria passed a law controlling the manufacture of margarine in that State in theinterests of butter production. Victoria had no power to prevent New South Wales from flooding it with margarine. Therefore, all that Victoria succeeded in doing was to penalize the manufacturers of margarine in Victoria, whilst fattening the New South Wales manufacturers. Will that position still remain, or must Victoria approach the Commonwealth Government and say " Will you support us under section 92 in prohibiting the export of margarine from New South Wales?"

Dr Evatt - Under this proposal, only the Commonwealth will be exempt from section 92.

Mr Archie Cameron - Only in respect of primary products, and margarine is not a primary product.

Dr Evatt - That is a different point.

Mr BOWDEN - I want to knowwhere the States stand, and what powers will be exercised. I believe that the States will not be in a different position from now.

Mr Scully - This is not a general marketing power. It relates only to. the marketing of primary products.

Mr BOWDEN - What is the value of this proposal ?

Dr Evatt - The value is to enable the Commonwealth to organize the marketing of a primary product whether it is in one State or more States. That will be done through the Commonwealth Parliament, and, in that event, the Commonwealth will not be bound by section 92 in respect of those products. .

Mr BOWDEN -But the States will continue to be bound by section 92?

Dr Evatt - Yes.

Mr BOWDEN - If the States want the benefit of the revocation of section 92, they must submit a request to the Commonwealth ?

Dr Evatt - Yes, because section 92 is intended, amongst other things, to prevent one State from hitting at another.

Mr BOWDEN - Under this proposal, the Commonwealth will be able to hit all the States. I had hoped that the Commonwealth sought this power so that it could exercise it only in time of crisis. So long as the war-ravaged countries of the world require food, the Commonwealth should not need to " but in ". Does the Commonwealth's proposal for orderly marketing mean control of production on the farm - the power which the Commonwealth exercised during the war? I want to know that before I declare myself. Does it mean that a man may not purchase a farm in a certain area with the object of growing potatoes or maize, . because a Commonwealth authority may inform him. that there is enough potatoes or maize and that he must not produce any more of them? Prospective purchasers must have that information before they buy properties.

Is one of these a concomitant of the other? I should like the AttorneyGeneral to explain the point, because it means a great deal to the farmer when he has to make up his mind on these matters.

I am opposed to the third proposal of the Government. Is tha.t clear?

Mr Scully - The honorable member was not very hostile to the first two proposals.

Mr BOWDEN - I do not understand the third proposal, and I do not believe that any one else understands it. If this bill increased the powers of the Arbitration Court, I could understand it. I do not kno.w whetherthe honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Williams) inadvertently let the catout of the bag, but he said, "For many months, this Government has been pestered by certain unions to introduce legislation for a 40-hour week, but the Commonwealth Parliament has not the constitutional power to act. The unions threatened that if the 40-hour week were not introduced,they would call at strike." The Government was put in a tough spot, as any other government wouldbe but it succumbedto the threats. Does the Government seek this additional power for the specific purpose of determining the working week for industry, and fixing wages? I am one of those peculiar individuals - peculiar, to honor- able members opposite - who never believed that the minimum basic wage was enough. It has never been reasonable, and is certainlynotreasonable to-day. If means could bedevised to increase the basic wage without simultaneously increasing prices, therewould be some advantage in talking about, in- creasing wages by 30s.aweek. But it will not benefit the worker now to increase hiswagesiftheprices of essential goods showacorresponding rise. That iscom- mon sense,and every worker recognizes it. I amnotarguing the merits of the case, butamonly showing that the , Go- vernment appearstobe abandoning the Arbitration Court, which consists of experts in taking andsif ting evidence, and making decisions. The Government is taking, out of the hands of those experts the determination of wagesandworking conditions,and unless itproposestocreate another tribunalconsisting of expert economists, those conditions must be de termined by a political party. That proposition is top absurd for words.

Mr Pollard - Did not a political party decide that a bounty should be paid on dairy produce?

Mr BOWDEN - After the Government first took the money from the people.

Mr Pollard - All take and no give!

Mr BOWDEN - The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) helps every one to make a speech but never speaks himself.

Mr Chifley - The honorable member convinced himself before he commenced his speech.

Mr BOWDEN - I require more information before I make up my mind. I shouldlike the Attorney-General to inform me whether any decision of the Arbitration Court, under this power, can be annulled by the Commonwealth Parliament?

Dr Evatt - I put it another way, namely, the Parliament itself can fix standard hours in industry if it thinks fit.

Mr.BOWDEN.- What about the basic wage ?

Dr Evatt - It could fix any standard of hours it thinks fit - 40, 44 or 48 a week. It could also fix the basic wage if it thought fit, or lay down the principle on which the basic wage shall be determined.

Mr BOWDEN - Then what purpose can the Arbitration Court serve?

Dr.Evatt. - The arbitration system will remain.

Mr BOWDEN -Does this proposed power give to the Commonwealth Parliament the right to override a decision of the Arbitration Court? I should like an answer to that question. Until we know the answer, we cannot vote intelligently on the proposal.

Mr Breen - It does give that power.

Mr BOWDEN - Then the Arbitration Court will become afarce.

Dr Evatt -Why ?

Mr BOWDEN - It will become a farce if every decision which it makes can be, overridden by thisParliament.

Dr Evatt - A State parliament can override decisions, of the StateArbitration Court.

Mr BOWDEN - The States have established their tribunals for the purpose of fixing wages and working conditions.

Dr Evatt - So have we.

Mr BOWDEN -What will be the value of the Arbitration Court if this Parliament can override its decisions?

Dr Evatt - You just do not do it.

Mr BOWDEN - You do not do it but you can do it.

Mr Scully - The States can do it.

Mr BOWDEN - I have said briefly what I intended to say. I submitted certain proposals and have asked for information. Until I get satisfactory answers to my questions, I shall not make up my mind as to how I shall vote.

We believe in grower control of organized marketing; we believe in a Government representative being on the boards, but the producer who grows and owns the commodity and who incurs all the losses and expense in growing it, should have theright to say how it shall be disposed of.

Mr Scully - We also say that.

Mr BOWDEN - Very well then! We do not support the principle of complete governmental control, and would never agree to it. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) claimed that numbers of farmers approach him and demand to know whether the Commonwealth will maintain the present organized system of marketing. The farmers in Adelaide may be doing so, but every farmer whom I meet asks me how soon we can get rid of the present system.

Mr Scully - A few farmers in Gippsland also advocate its retention.

Mr BOWDEN - Other farmers in Gippsland ask how quickly we can get rid of the controls. We favour organized marketing with grower-control.

Mr Scully - That is the policy of the Labour party.

Mr BOWDEN - The Labour party has not given effect to that policy to date. What about the Meat Board? Has that got grower control? We want a control similar to that adopted in New Zealand.

Mr Scully - Of course the Meat Board will have grower control with a definite majority of growers.

Mr BOWDEN - It is not the same as the New Zealand scheme.

Mr Scully - There will be grower control. The majority of the members of the board will be growers. The party which the honorable member supports introduced that legislation.

Mr BOWDEN - It does not matter who introduced it.

Mr Scully - It was a bad bill.

Mr BOWDEN - This is a different proposition. It is all very well airily to wave a hand and say that everything is all right. It did not prove to be all right from the Minister's standpoint after the last referendum. I hope for more sanity in this referendum. I hope also that the issues that I have raised will be clarified in such a way that the public will know how to vote.

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