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Friday, 5 April 1946

Mr FADDEN - On the Sth March, 1923. I also direct attention to a statement made by the late Chief' Justice McCawley, President of the Queensland Industrial Court, which is reported in Queensland Hansard of the 22nd October, 1924, at page 1820,' as follows: -

Arguments which may be suggested against direct intervention are ( I ) Parliament is not suitably constituted for the exercise of this specialized function; (2) a party political matter will be made of what hitherto has been regarded as in the nature of a judicial function; (3) wages may vai;y with the swing of the political pendulum. Political gains may be transitory, may be reversed by succeeding Parliaments, and may jeopardize the whole system of arbitration.

Mr. Theodore,speaking at a meeting of the Trades and Labour Council, on the 5th December, 1923, said -

For a reform to be enduring they wanted to be sure of its economic soundness before they brought it in. . . . It was more desirable to accomplish such reforms as a 44-hour week through the Arbitration Court. When the matter was submitted to the court, consideration was given to the economic question. . . He was speaking' with experience as the head of an administration administering nationalized industries as well as others. . . He did not want to deceive them by saying that the 44-hour week had not been legislated upon because the Government had not had time. The reason was that it was not good policy by legislation to hamper or interfere with the free exercise by the Arbitration Court of its duties. I say the legislature is not the instrument to effect that kind of reform. If it were, there would be no need for arbitration at all. ... It might be said " raise enough money to cover the expenditure ".

There is little need for me to quote other authorities on the subject although I could do so, and shall do so on another occasion. My point at the moment is that any interference with our system of conciliation and arbitration would be most unwise. To allow a government which is subject to dictation by Communistcontrolled trade unions to meddle in this matter would be extremely detrimental to the economic welfare of Australia. The purpose of the Government in introducing the industrial powers proposal is, without doubt, to enable it toimplement, to a greater degree than ever, its socialization policy, and to introduce into Australia not a 40-hour working week but a 30-hour working week.

I" Further extension of time granted.]

I wish now to direct attention to a statement made by a prominent economist who has been an adviser to the Government for a number of years, and whose advice the Government has frequently accepted. I refer to Professor D. B. Copland, who held the position of Economic Consultant to the Prime Minister. In a report on economic conditions in the United Kingdom, the United- States of America, and Canada, which was presented to Parliament on the 20th April, 1.945, subsequent, may I point out, to the taking of the last referendum in August 1944, Professor Copland said -

The federal system of Australia is well equipped to implement a progressive economic and social policy. The machinery of frequent conferences of Commonwealth and State Ministors is more fully developed in Australia than in other federal systems. It affords an opportunity of discussion at the highest level of the problems common to the Commonwealth and the States in their joint responsibility for economic- development and social progress. The Australian Loan Council is a body unique in modern federations and is capable of playing an important part in promoting and controlling a sound policy of public investment. The Australian Works Council is an agency through which developmental projects can. be continuously planned. In the Commonwealth Grants Commission the Australian federal system has an agency through which financial adjustments may be made between the States and the Commonwealth. In its brief history the Grants Commission has already broken new ground in determining the basis upon which the Federal Government should assist the State Governments. The Australian Agricultural Council has increased its prestige during the war and is capable of developing into an important agency for the discussion of long-term agricultural policy. The increasing: scope of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration has developed a moreuniform wage system than in other federations,, and the established practice of adjusting wagesto the cost of living relates more closely to movement of incomes and prices in Australiathan in most other countries. With thismachinery the Australian federal system iswell equipped to develop a progressive economic policy after the Avar.

In the light of all that I have said, it will surely not be suggested by any reasonable people that it would be wise for additional powers under the headings specified in these bills to be given to this Parliament. I consider that the introduction of the social services proposal is likely to jeopardize child endowment, maternity allowances and widows' pensions. Surely no honorable member will be ready to take that risk. The proposal has been put forward, of course, to enable the Government to put into operation its pharmaceutical and medical benefits scheme which, in my view, is undesirable. -World history indicates that quite clearly. The remarks of Professor Copland,, which I have, just read, make it clear also that there is no need for us to adopt the proposal of the Government for the orderly marketing of primary products. Professor Copland has declared that our federal system has been developed in a most effective way. The Australian Agricultural Council ensures the greatest possible degree of co-operation between the Commonwealth and State Governments in the marketing of primary products. On the financial side, the Commonwealth Grants Commission, which has broken now ground in its investigations, has proved itself a most competent, body. The industrial powers proposal ismost objectionable from many points of view.' The determination of wages and conditions by a parliamentary authority, would lead to chaos in industry. Wo should not be aiming at a 30-hour working week in this country, because, as honorable members know, it will be necessary for us to work to the utmost of our capacity to fulfill our obligationsexpeditiously and honestly, not only to> our own people and to the people of Great Britain, but also to the starving millions of other countries. The call to the people of this country is to " produce, produce, produce ". We need, also, to do everything within our power to ensure the maintenance of economic equilibrium within Australia, so that our great exporting industries may be able to operate on a competitive basis at home and in the -markets of the world. Economic equilibrium is essential both nationally and internationally. We should not take any action whatever that will impair our ability to take our full responsibility as an integral part of the British Empire.

These proposals come with peculiar inappropriateness from the Australian Labour party which opposed the referendums of 1937 in connexion with the marketing of primary products, section 92 and aviation. The Labour party's case in that connexion was prepared by the late Mr. Curtin, who made it clear in the official pamphlet that was issued on that occasion that his party regarded the proposed amendments as totally unnecessary. I quote the following passage from the matter which he prepared: -

Once again democracy is attacked. There is never a bold, frontal attack. That would alarm us and we should unhesitatingly resist. But little by little control over the things that matter is stolen from the people. By delegating to unrepresentative, irresponsible authorities the reality of power our " elected persons " evade responsibility. Here, under the cloak of technical and ambiguous language, upon the pretext of an emergency is another attempt to whittle away our self-government. Those who believe that responsibility should accompany power will vote " No ". Protect the freedom which the Constitution guarantees: Defend the " seamless garment " of Australian unity; resist every attack upon democracy.

Mr. Curtinwrote on behalf of the Australian Labour party, and he appealed to all the electors of Australia. That is what I am now doing. We are not facing an emergency at the moment and there is no reason for haste in dealing with this subject. Proposed alterations to the Constitution should be considered in "a proper manner. There should be a thorough overhaul of the Constitution and not a piecemeal approach to the subject. For that purpose an elected convention should be held. These measures are entirely unnecessary under existing circumstances.

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