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Friday, 5 April 1946


Mr DALY (Martin) .- Last year, the Government budgeted for the expenditure of £64,000,000 on social services, and next year the amount will be about £64,00.0,000.. Having in mind the cost of providing social benefits for the people, it is absolutely necessary that the Government shall know that , its programme is based on a stable constitutional foundation. For that reason, the proposal to be submitted to the people at the referendum embraces almost every form of social service at present in operation and likely tobe implemented in the future. This is a very practical way of dealing with the problem, and one which could scarcely be sidestepped by any government, whatever its political affiliations might be. In objecting to this measure, honorable members opposite say that the proposal is not necessary because no State parliaments would refuse to refer to the Commonwealth the important powers that are sought. That contention is disproved by events of the past. For instance, only a few days ago, the Tasmanian Legislative Council rejected a very important measure designed to refer to the Commonwealth Parliament power in relation to prices control - a measure so important as to be absolutely necessary for the prevention of inflation. The Upper House of every State legislature, except that- of Queensland which has no legislative council, has opposed every proposal to refer power to' the Commonwealth. These councils are undemocratically elected on a very limited franchise, and therefore they are by no means fully responsible to the people for their actions. They will not give power of any sort to this Parliament 'because they are politically opposed to the Government in- office. This was proved in 1944j when the Legislative Councils of the States forced the Commonwealth Government to submit a referendum to the people on an issue which would have ' been settled satisfactorily if they had fulfilled their responsibilities and honoured promises which were made by the Premiers at a convention held in Canberra. Their past conduct belies any suggestion that they would be willing to cede the powers sought by the Government. It would be a waste of time for the Government to endeavour to bargain with these undemocratic bodies. This Government has a duty to provide social services equal to those in other advanced countries. Its policy in this connexion must go hand in hand with its policy of full employment. The bill now before the House sets out a complete and proper constitutional approach to the problem of providing adequate social services. It proposes to give to the National Parliament authority to lay down the basis on which social services shall be financed and administered, an authority which has been sadly lacking in the past. The proposal will receive the unanimous support of all people who think intelligently and- are anxious to improve social conditions. Any political party which urges the people to withhold the proposed power will commit political suicide, as was done by some politicians in New Zealand who opposed the enlightened social services programme of the Government of that Dominion. I endorse the proposal, and I am confident of the outcome of the appeal to the people.

The third important power asked for by the Government is the power to make laws with respect to terms and conditions of employment in industry, but not so as to enforce industrial conscription. This is vital to the future welfare of the working class. The limited authority of the Commonwealth Parliament in relation to industrial conditions is not generally understood. We are constantly asked why the Government does not do certain, things to improve industrial conditions, because people do not realize that this Parliament lacks constitutional authority. Under section 51 of the Constitution, this Parliament's powers with respect to industrial matters are limited to conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State.


Mr Guy - Does the honorable member not believe in arbitration?


Mr DALY - Yes; but I also believe that this Parliament, like the New Zealand Parliament, should have complete power over industrial conditions. The Parliaments of Great Britain, Canada, and South Africa, as well as of New

Zealand, have such powers. It should be competent for this Parliament to lay down the basis on which the arbitration courts must work. Honorable members -opposite frequently praise the Government of New Zealand for its progressive legislation. There should be no obstacle to prevent this Parliament from enacting equally progressive measures. The New Zealand Government fixed the hours of employment, and its legislation is functioning perfectly. The people of New Zealand are very well governed, and all that we ask now is that the Commonwealth Government .shall have power to .govern likewise. Honorable members opposite claim that the Government cannot be trusted to exercise the powers wisely; they say that the people will be regimented and conscripted. That is an old bogy. The terms of the three bills are such as to prevent unwise use of the powers.. It is not generally realized that this Government already has wide powers, even in times of peace: For instance, it has power to prohibit imports of every kind, or to ban the manufacture of boots and other articles. The States have' even more far-reaching powers. Nevertheless no . government exercises them as drastically as honorable members opposite would have us believe the Commonwealth Government would use the 'powers now sought. The people have faith in their elected representatives. For honorable members opposite to say that the Government, which enjoys the overwhelming support of the people, cannot be trusted to exercise its powers in the best interests of the people is merely to reveal a poor national outlook. Irrespective of what party may be in office, the powers to be sought at the referendum are necessary if the people are to be given a fair deal in the industrial field. The workers have only their labour to sell, and it is vital to every man and woman in industry that conditions of employment shall be improved. Therefore, this Parliament should have power to legislate on a national scale in respect of hours of labour, wages, and conditions of employ-, ment. On the subject of a 40-hour working week, I say that the day is probably not far distant when we shall have to make the working week even less, in order to conform with world economic conditions. Furthermore, the present method of fixing the basic wage can be held up to ridicule. The basic wage includes an- allowance of about 12s. 6d. aweek for rent; everybody knows that to bo completely out of all proportion to the cost of rent under modern conditions. It is stupid to say that, if the Parliament be given these powers, it will go berserk and override the arbitration system. The powers will be the same .as those which every State Parliament now exercises in the industrial sphere. They are necessary for the removal of anomalies in the arbitration system. The pinpricks that are causing unrest in industry 'Could be eliminated if this Parliament were able in peace-time to exercise these powers. I cast aside the argument advanced by the Opposition that we should not have these powers because we shall use them in the manner of a dictator. That is only a " red herring " drawn across the trail in order to mislead the people. These powers are essential, because, although industries have advanced -with the times in regard to both buildings and machinery, the administration of industrial conditions has not progressed from what obtained in the dim days of 1901. It is time the people realized the constitutional position of this Parliament in regard to industrial matters. It ib time they realized our lack of the power to ensure that the workers shall receive a better return from the increased productivity of industry. It is time we had the legislative ability, unhampered by constitutional limitations, to give to the workers the benefits to which they are entitled as the result of modern industrial methods. The fruits of increased productivity should not only go to the employers, but should also be shared by the men who sell their labour. These powers are essential to improve the lot of the workers, who are entitled to shorter hours, and higher wages, and better industrial conditions generally. These powers are to enable, this Parliament to remove industrial anomalies.* They are necessary to enable it to stand in the industrial sphere on an equal footing with the State parliaments.

I emphatically support this proposal because it represents progress.- It ought to be supported by every one who realizes the need to give the people a fair deal. This Parliament can never

De truly national industrially unless it is given these powers, which are essential to. ensure the proper administration of Australia. The referendum proposals should be voted on by the people in an atmosphere divorced from party politics. The Honorable Alfred Deakin, when presenting the Constitution to the people, said: "This is the framework and ground plan of the nation ". Let us' build upon it by giving these increased powers to the Commonwealth, and as other powers become necessary to enable this Parliament to legislate in the best interests of this great . nation, let them be given too.

Mr.TURNBULL ("Wimmera) [11.33 J. - I have listened to this debate with great interest, hut it has left me perplexed. Any new member would be puzzled by the constant reiteration of " caucus ! " on the one hand, and " Baillieu group ! " on the other. The want of knowledge of honorable members who have spoken on these bills has increased my perplexity. Consider, for instance, the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Breen), who, said " ' Primary products ' cover a great field of primary produce ". How enlightening that statement is. It gives no indication of what the term " primary products " means. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) struck the right note when he said, " "We want a modern Cromwell ". Cromwell was known as " The Protector ", and 'if ever there was a time when the people of Australia needed a protector, that time is now. That is amply demonstrated by anotherstatement of the honorable member for Calare, who said, " The people are being asked whether the Parliament will enjoy the powers that it is asking for ". Analyse that! Is not the question really whether the people would enjoy the result of the exercise of these powers by this Parliament. This Government has a lust for power. So the honorable member for Hunter hit the nail right on the head when he said that we wanted another Cromwell. Of Cromwell it was said, " Vice and folly trembled at his eye and all good things lay safe ' beneath his mighty shadow ". The honorable member for Hunter struck another note when, referring to the proposed industrial power, he said that Mr. Churchill was asked by a British soldier in Normandy, " When we have done this job are we coining back to the dole ? " The honorable gentleman then went on to say, " It seems that that is happening in Australia. We want these powers so that they shall not come back to a life on the dole ". What is the answer to that ? Almost every day in this House we are told by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) that all but a very small percentage of ex-servicemen are being satisfactorily absorbed in industry. If they are. being absorbed in industry this power is not necessary to reestablish them, but they are not being absorbed in industry. Every sub-branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen's Imperial League of Australia is writing to honorable members in protest against what is happening to exservicemen. I have received countless letters. The Government cannot have it both ways. It cannot say, on the one hand, that these powers are necessary to re-establish men, and, on the other, that they are being re-established.


Mr Conelan - The honorable member will learn as he grows older.







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