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Tuesday, 9 April 1946


Mr SHEEHY (Boothby) .- I support the three bills now before the House, not because they are sponsored by a Labour Government, but because I have always supported proposals for the granting of increased power to the Commonwealth Parliament. Stress has been laid on the fact that previous attempts to alter the Constitution have been rejected by the electors. That is true; but Australia, is a democratic country which believes in progress by evolutionary means. The Australian Constitution, unlike that of some other countries, will not be subjected to violent changes, but alterations will come gradually. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) said that we on this side were delegates sent here by the trade . unions of Australia and that as the Government had a majority - I think he said a brutal majority - it could pass what legislation it liked. The honorable member appears to have forgotten that the people of Australia elected the present Government with its majority. After many years of anti-Labour rule they saw the need for a change of government.

During this debate there had been much talk by honorable members opposite of the desirability of holding a convention to consider constitutional changes. I remind them that before the referendum of 1944, there was a convention, at which the leaders of all political parties in Australia discussed for a week proposals for alterations of the , Constitution. An agreement was arrived at, but later some f those who had accepted the agreement voted against it. Members of the Opposition advocate the holding of a convention to decide what powers should be vested in the Commonwealth, only because they wish to hide behind the people. They have not the courage to go to the people and say that they are of the opinion that this or that power should be transferred to the Commonwealth. It is also said by opponents of the Government that the decision to hold a referendum on the day of the election is a piece of political trickery. That is an admission that the Opposition expects to be defeated at the next election, and that the Labour Government will again be returned to office. By opposing the granting of additional powers to the Commonwealth opponents of the Government will indicate clearly to the electors that they do not expect to gain the treasury bench. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) said that some members now on the Opposition benches supported the last referendum. That is true, but who were those members? They were the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) and the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), who were expelled from the party of which the right honorable member is the leader.

When the Tuberculosis Bill was before this House, .1 mentioned that Dr. Darcy Cowan, of Adelaide, who has a worldwide reputation .in his profession, said that the greatest tragedy in this country was. that the National Parliament did not have control of the health of the people. I agree with him that the Commonwealth should have more control over health than merely the control of quarantine. Honorable members opposite profess to believe in the maternity allowance, child endowment, and assistance to students, but they also advocate a reduction of taxes by 40 per cent. They are inconsistent, for how can these benefits be continued unless money be provided to meet the cost? They claim that there is no challenge to social security, but I ask who challenged the Pharmaceutical Bill and the right of the people to social services? Did not -the challenge come from the Liberal and Australian Country parties, which sit in Opposition in this chamber ?

Should those parties be returned to power at the next election the social service legislation now on the statute-book would be in danger, because it is well to remember that the Leader of the Opposition has said that an anti-Labour government would remove it.

It may be well to remind honorable members of some previous utterances by the Leader of the Opposition on constitutional matters. Speaking in this chamber on the 2nd November, 193S, the right honorable gentleman said -

The second anomaly to which 1 direct attention has relation to power concerning health. There lias been an enormous growth in the last 40 years in our sense of public responsibility, not only for public health, but also for private health. This great problem is now seen by us as presenting essentially national characteristics. The result is that people who do not read the Constitution and are not acquainted with its terms instinctively turn to the- Commonwealth Government whenever any great problem relating to .public health requires, attention. Yet the fact is, as I now. remind, not honorable members who know it, but the public, that the only power possessed by this Parliament to deal with health is the quarantine power.

That is in the same strain as what Dr. Darcy Cowan said when he referred to the lack of control by this Parliament over matters affecting the health of the people.

The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) and the honorable member for Northern- Territory (Mr. Blain) indulged in some criticism of the present Government. I think that the latter described government supporters as being " cuckoo " or " commos ", or both, whilst the former said that they were controlled by .the Communist party. ' In order to show that the parties in Opposition, not the Labour party, are under Communist influences, I draw attention to a statement made by Mr. R. Dixon, editor of the Communist Review and now assistant secretary of the Communist party, on the 3rd September, 1939, a memorable day. Mr. Dixon said that he was invited by the then Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) to discuss the merits of communism over the Australian Broadcasting- Commission network. It is difficult to imagine a responsible Minister inviting an outstanding Communist to expound the virtues of communism over the national network.

Was such an offer ever extended to any member of the Labour party to advocate the merits of the case for Labour? The fact is that the parties opposite were then interested, as to-day they -are interested, in giving publicity to communism with a view to disrupt labour organizations so that they would be an easy prey to their opponents. The action of the right honorable member for Worth Sydney at that time time convinces me that the opponents of Labour are definitely linked with the Communist party. Referring to the third bill, which deals with the terms and conditions of employment in industry, the Leader of the Opposition said that the proposed paragraph (xxxiv.a.) will immediately precede the existing paragraph (xxxv.). He went on to say that he expected that paragraph (xxxv.) would be repealed. That is the paragraph which deals with conciliation and arbitration. The right honorable gentleman, and those who follow him, were greatly disappointed to find that paragraph retained.

The greater use of. machinery in industry -has done much to increase production. Industry, therefore, can afford a 40-hour week. If Australia is to step out as a nation, something will have to be done to give to the people an instalment of the " new order " for which Austrailans have fought and suffered.







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