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Tuesday, 9 April 1946


Mr BLAIN (Northern Territory) . -When I asked leave, last Friday, to continue my remarks I had dealt only with the Constitution alteration measures which relate to the orderly. marketing of primary products and social services. I now intend to discuss the measure dealing with employment in industry. I" thrashed this subject out thoroughly in this House in 1936. when I vigorously opposed the attempt then being made by the Labour, party to foist nationwide uniformity on the community. I said then that I regarded that as a crazy idea, but I also stated that I was favorable to local or regional uniformity. The Labour party at that time, under the leadership of Mr. Curtin, was sponsoring a policy of nationwide uniformity which was to -be enforced by a central authority. My view was then and is now that, whereas such nationwide uniformity is impracticable, regional uniformity is highly desirable. I stated that I had been successful in an effort to secure a measure of such regional uniformity at Darwin. I pointed out that carpenters working on one side of a road in . "Works Department workshops were receiving 6s. 6d. a 'week less than carpenters working on the other side of the road in railway workshops an anomaly which naturally caused dissension. When I made representations on' the subject to the Government it was realized that the situation was ridiculous, and steps were taken to have the pay of the carpenters of the Works Department increased to the rate that was being paid to those of the Railways Department. That is the kind of thing I have in mind when I speak of regional uniformity. On the 16th September, 1936, I asked the then Prime Minister, Mr. Lyons, the following question : -

I ask the Prime Minister whether when the proposed Constitution alterations are submitted to the people for their approval, he will give the electors an opportunity to say whether they wish to abolish State parliaments, and . have instituted in their stead new administrative regions, based on voluntary effort, so that each such district will have given to it greater real control of its domestic policy? This would enable the Commonwealth to become a real federation, and enable this Parliament to concern itself with only national questions, and prevent its_ attention being diverted to domestic and local issues.

His reply was -

The . intention of the Government in regard to the referendum will be disclosed to the House at a very early date.

As I received no satisfaction to my first inquiry, I asked the then AttorneyGeneral, Mr. Menzies, a similar question on the 12th November, 1936 -

In view of the difficulty arising from c6ntinual State spending sprees with Commonwealth money, will the Attorney-General consider the desirability of redrawing the map of Australia on sectional lines as follows: -

The abolition of State boundaries and setting up in their stead regional areas - with a diversification of interests in keeping with a common geographic background; vested with regional authority to deal with (a) domestic policy: (b) regional industrial laws in keeping with natural endowments and local economic position ?

The reply of the right honorable gentleman was " No ". My question states my attitude clearly, but unfortunately those views on the subject of Constitution alteration, do not correspond with the views of the Government, nor were they in harmony with the view of the Govenment'of that time. Pressure groups seem to have secured control of the present Government. At any rate the Ministry does not appear to be favorable to regional uniformity. I consider that if regional authorities were established the people would develop a sense of responsibility in respect of their own looal districts. The amendment of the Constitution which we are now considering would if it were accej)ted, tend to deaden any sense of responsibility that the people might now have in respect of either local or national affairs. For that reason I deeply regret that the Government should still be attempting to apply a policy of national uniformity or centralization. I consider that it should attempt to redraw the map of Australia on a regional basis. I discussed this subject in this House on the 12th November, 1936, when . leave was being sought to introduce the Constitution Alteration (Aviation) Bill. The then Attorney-General, Mr. Menzies, had moved -

That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to alter the Constitution with, respect to air navigation and aircraft.

U pon that motion, the then honorable member for Fremantle, Mr. Curtin, had moved the following amendment: -

That, after the word "aircraft", the words " trade and commerce, industrial matters, broadcasting and television " be added.

Speaking to the motion and the amendment, I said -

I do not support the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), because I believe that it is a hopeless proposition. This continent is so vast that any centralization, of industrial powers in the Commonwealth Government, ns proposed in the amendment, would be unworkable. When we find to-day that it is impossible to control even a State satisfactorily from one centre, it should be patent to honorable members that the 'Commonwealth could not effectively utilize such powers throughout the Commonwealth as a whole. In the United States of America a situation similar to that existing to-day in Australia has developed. In an article in the Review of Reviews, Arthur Pound advocates that the internal map of the United States of America should be withdrawn, and offers many observations which apply to conditions in Australia, and of which we should take notice if we are to overcome our difficulties. He postulates . that the States in the United States of An'ierica are so weak that they cannot carry on as they exist to-day, and he urges that the country should be regionalized and sectionalized.. Many or his views are applicable to Australia's position in this respect. He says -

Where can a balance be struck between centralization and decentralization, between the unmanageable vastness of America and the feebleness of Statehood?

Government already has given the lead toward the correct answer; realignment of the nation along sectional lines. The Federal Reserve Act divides the nation into twelve districts, each under its own board, which adapts policy to sectional needs, in 'acknowledgment of the cold truth that finance cannot be fairly administered from a central point. The army maintains nine corps areas.

Some of the strongest Labour unions operate on a district plan, notably the United Mine Workers. Likewise the alumni association of two great universities, Michigan and Stanford, are districted territorially.

Similarly, I contend we must realign our continent sectiohally. It would be futile for me to suggest that State governments be done away with, much as I believe it, because the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) would immediately reply that they have sovereign powers. In this matter I. think that the Opposition should come to the Government's rescue, and help it to pass this legislation immediately, without reservations. It should- do " first things first". It should help the primary producers as the Government seeks to do under the proposal which is to be submitted to the people in conjunction with this fresh proposal relating to the power to control aviation. It is useless for us in this country to concentrate powers which should be sectionalizcd. The concentration of powers in the States is too great already; it is foolish to accentuate it in a Commonwealth sphere. In this respect we might well copy developments in the United States of America, which is in similar trouble. Arthur Pound's article coutinues -

The primary federal responsibilities are national defence, a postal systemcoinage of money and control of- a monetary unit, preservation of free trading and travel rights throughout the union, and the adjudication of disputes between Sta tes' and the citizeus of different States.

Practically everything else - commerce, agriculture, labour, finance, employment, relief, redistribution of wealth,, all social legislation of every sort - might well be left to the several districts for solution.

Those remarks are applicable to this legislation. The interests of the people should be aroused regionally, and they should be compelled to play their part. That, as I view the ma tter, is th6 new order. It is nonsensical to have extreme centralization of power, the effect of which would be to place the Parliament at the mercy of the electors, making its members subject to blackmail, and inducing those who' are sufficiently craven . to " cadge " votes. I strongly stress my conviction that that is the direction in which the Parliament is drifting to-day. Arthur Pound went on to say -

Variety of social experience means progress. Uniformity over so vast a geographic expanse means stagnation.

I recall those wise words because I believe that they apply just as forcefully to-day as they did when they were uttered. I appeal to, honorable members not to imagine that these proposals will provide a panacea for all ills. They remind me more of a juggler's box of tricks, which are accompanied by the use of the magic word, " abracadabra ". I believe that I express what is in the minds of exservicemen, who have a complete mental picture of what is occurring. These proposals will not appeal to any of them. They are more strongly inclined to become, individualists to-day than they were five years ago. I do not believe that there will be any appeal to those who are outside the boundaries of Sydney, Melbourne, and other capital cities. The Government is not exhibiting an Australian outlook, and I fear that it will be sternly rebuked by the people at the referendum. If appears to think that the people are waiting to have a funny story told to them about a " gimme " club - in other words, the Commonwealth Government. I refuse to belong to a " gimme " club. I would rather go to my electors, as I can at any time, and say to them, "Do not look to the Government for everything. Do something for yourselves. Become interested in a regional set-up, and insist that States shall be eventually abolished, but definitely not before the Commonwealth Parliament has delegated almost plenary powers to regional authorities ". I am pleased to pay a compliment to" the Premier of New South Wales, whom I have not yet had the honour of meeting. He has been to America, a:nd has profited by the experience that he gained in that country. I often wonder what profit has been derived by the members of the Commonwealth Government who have been abroad. Mr. McKell visited the remarkable corporation sponsored, from Washington, but given the authority to work out its own destiny - the Tennessee Valley Authority. Already, he has subdivided New South Wales into sixteen regions. I doubt very much whether honorable members know where that regional organization is operating. The staff is located in the Premier's office in Macquarie-street. I advise all honorable members to inspect the maps which those men are preparing. All are technical men, mostly surveyors and other planners who have made a. complete study of the matter. The maps show the sixteen regions into which New South Wales was divided after. Mr. McKell had learned what a wonderful job regional committees were doing in the United States of America ; they are : - Bi ohmondTweed, Clarence, Oxley, Newcastle, Illawarra, Monaro-South, Coast, New England, Upper Hunter, Mitchell, Southern Tablelands, Namoi, Macquarie, Lachlan, Murrumbidgee, Upper Murray, and Central Murray.

The local people are intensely intrigued at having been asked to gather and collate all the available information in relation to their own districts, and to mould it into a local policy that can be placed- before' the central government. I fear, however, that Mr. McKell is- unwilling to pursue the matter to its logical conclusion. He could, and he should, advocate that eventually those regions should replace the State, after definite plenary powers had' been delegated to them by the Commonwealth Parliament. He has gone so far that he must now go farther. It is not enough to have a survey made of those regions, and to get the people interested. Already that has been done. They are flattered at having had their services enlisted by the Government, and must now be given the statutory authority to express themselves practically. I hope to meet Mr. McKell next week. I shall then urge him to go farther, and not to leave the matter in a. state from which it cannot be brought to fruition. If regionalism comes in, uniformity throughout Australia under a central government must go out. We must decide between the one and the other. We should strive for regionalism, and discard uniformity. The only uniformity with which I have any sympathy is that of a regional authority.

I have already stated my views in regard to the proposals relating to employment and social services. Instead of telling the people that they are to be given this and that, we should increase the basie wage. We have only to go to our electorates to learn that the prices charged for commodities are either those that rule on the black market or those which the average workman on the basic wage cannot pay. Why not have a basic wage that would be comparable with the cost of living? Then, the people would be able to walk down the street with their shoulders squared, proud of the fact that they were individualists, instead of expecting the Commonwealth Government to be a " gimme " club. At the inception of federation, Henry Parkes gave expression to the famous phrase, " A people for a continent, and a continent for a people". He did not mean that we were to he a race of cadgers. What he had in mind was that when the Creator made an Australian he threw away the mould, expecting all those who followed to be individualists and family men who would own their own homes.

I am considerably interested in the benefits which it is proposed to provide for university students. I believe that under the Australian system of education any one with the necessary will and brains will achieve his ambition, on however high a plane it might be. I am in favour of a free university, such as there is in Perth, and, I believe, in Queensland. But the trouble is that young men and women are induced to become educated up to the university standard only to find, to their sorrow, that they cannot progress any further because they lack the necessary ability. Still, I hold the view that every individual should be educated to the stage at which he will have an awareness of the things that are around him. He should have a knowledge of geology, so that when he walks over a piece of ground he will have some conception of what lies underneath. He should also make a study of physics and chemistry as well as of lierature, which will enable him to appreciate the beauty that is in nature. He should read John Ruskin in order to understand the meaning of Sesame and Lilies. Nevertheless, at the matriculation stage the culling process should begin. The student should then depend on himself (more or less. Unless we adopt that course, we shall not be fair to the students. How many persons undertake university courses, only to discover that they have not the necessary talent to continue them to the end? It is disappointing to find such persons expecting to obtain white collar jobs, when they ought to have commenced to learn a trade at the age of fifteen years and later have taken their places in the community, not as disgruntled citizens, as many of them are to-day, subject to all the " isms " from foreign countries, but rather as excellent tradesmen., I have a great admiration for the crafts. I consider that only those persons should untertake university courses who have the ability to pursue their studies to the end. Nevertheless, I am in favour of free education. Many of our citizens could never have reached the heights to which they have attained had they not won a. bursary or had free education right to the university. Many honorable members stress the very hard times which they had in their youth in attempting to obtain an advanced education. Were I to relate to the House the struggle that I had to matriculate and to pass the examinations for entrance to a highly technical profession, many honorable members would be sceptical. I have no desire to prevent the sons of workers from going to the university, as the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) inferred. I -did not wear a boot until I was ten years of age, nor had I a sight of the sea until I was fourteen years of age. I was the youngest of eight children, and was bred in the far west of Queensland. I had to leave school, chop down trees, and work in a gravel pit on railway construction, in order to earn enough money to go to the city to study and matriculate. I mention these facts in refutation of the suggestion that I do not desire the sons of workers to obtain an advanced education. I have been right through the mill. But if we are to allow students to continue their studies, and not cull before it is too late, we shall have a community of democratic idealists and misguided intellectuals' who will be a menace to the country. The true unionist, the craftman, is "the salt of the earth", but democratic idealists are poisoning the minds of the people to-day. When they find that they cannot go on with a university course they turn to a pseudo science, such as economics. They take up some " ology " which serves to conceal the fact that they are not fit to qualify for one of the learned professions. We have a whole flock of them in Australia, at the present time, and they have turned into soap-box orators in Hyde Park and on the Yarra Bank. The trouble with this country is that so many people seem to have gone " cuckoo " or " Commo " or something.


Mr White - They may have gone "troppo".


Mr BLAIN - Perhaps I had better noi dwell on that possibility, or I might be tempted to say unpleasant things about the Government, which actually introduced legislation to prevent any one going " troppo " in any area above the equator. I do not know what the Americans must have thought of us. I do not believe that the people will accept these proposals. The real feeling of the people in this matter will be reflected in - the votes of the soldiers when they are discharged. Those who. in the past have supported a Labour member may vote for him again for personal reasons, but I shall tell the men to vote, as soldiers, against the referendum proposals, and I am sure that they will do so.







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