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Thursday, 8 July 1915


Senator SENIOR (South Australia) . - I listened with attention to the honorable senator who has just resumed his seat, and I must say that I never heard a gentleman so completely box the compass logically as the honorable senator has done. He has argued all round these questions, and, no doubt, has made out a good case to his own satisfaction. But while he has argued at one moment that the State may do a certain thing, he has tried fo prove in the next that the State cannot do that thing. He has said that the State Parliaments have control over trusts, and can control them, and in the next Breath he told us that the State cannot control a farm. The honorable senator's arguments have been mutually destructive, and if honorable senators go through his speech they will find that only Senator Bakhap is left. In the first place he objects to the referenda proposals being brought forward at this time, because this is a time of war. The honorable senator objected just as strenuously when they were previously brought forward because that was a time of peace. According to his reasoning they are all wrong, and are altogether wrong. He objects to the frequency with which these proposals have been brought forward. He says that a period of from eight to nine years should be allowed to elapse after they have been brought forward before they are submitted to the people again. Upon that argument the honorable senator ought not to put up for election at the next Federal elections, but should allow eight or nine years to elapse before he again asks the people to return him to the Senate.


Senator Bakhap - The people have said that they want an election every three years.


Senator SENIOR - But the people have a right to say that these proposals should be submitted to them when the representatives they have chosen think that it is right to submit them.


Senator Bakhap - The honorable senator wants to submit them three times in two years.


Senator SENIOR - I want to clear the ground of any objection based upon the frequency with which these proposals are being submitted to the people. They were defeated in 1911, and they were nearly successful immediately afterwards. The result of the voting on the second occasion justifies the submission of the proposals to the people again now. The voting on the last occasion showed that, in all probability, at one more asking the people will be prepared to carry them. Those who are opposed to these proposals might have raised the objection that, because so many Australians are at present away from Australia, it is not right to alter the Constitution in their absence. That might have been a logical argument for our honorable friends to use. But it was not used. If that objection be raised, I ask who are likely to be the losers. It is well known that the majority of those who are away. from Australia at the pre sent time voted in the affirmative for these proposals when they had the opportunity to do so. So that the party submitting the" proposals now is the only party likely to lose on that account. Senator Bakhap has said that the frequency with which these proposals are being submitted is a prostitution of the principle of the referendum. My contention is that if the people believe that the Constitution should lie revised, they are the persons to decide the matter.


Senator Bakhap - They have twice decided that they do not want it revised in this way.


Senator SENIOR - On the second occasion they were very much nearer to carrying the proposals than on the first. As a matter of fact, they we-re carried by a majority of the States, and those States in which they were carried have a right to claim that these proposals for the amendment of the Constitution should be put to the people again.


Senator Bakhap - In what States were the referenda proposals carried?


Senator SENIOR - If the honorable senator will look up the figures, he will find that my statement is correct. His objection to these proposals is that under them the Commonwealth Government will be able to fix prices. Is it the principle of fixing prices to which he is opposed, or is it to the persons who fix prices that he takes exception? Prices are fixed either by Parliament or by private individuals. The honorable senator prefers that private, individuals shall fix prices for the community rather than that the community shall fix prices for itself.


Senator Bakhap - A man fixes the price of what he produces.


Senator SENIOR - The honorable senator has been contending throughout the evening that a producer should fix the price of that which he produces, but as against that he says that the primary producer cannot fix the prices of his produce.


Senator de Largie - It is the old argument of supply and demand. Senator SENIOR.- Quite so.


Senator Shannon - And that is the only legitimate one. ' Senator SENIOR.- Then, has not a tailor the right to fix the price that the honorable senator should pay for his suit, as well as a farmer the right to fix the price of his wheat?


Senator Shannon - But the farmer does not. It is fixed by the law of supply and demand.


Senator SENIOR - Prices are fixed by the tailor in the one case and by the law of supply and demand in the other. Senator Bakhap has referred to the action of the- New South Wales Government with regard to the seizure of wheat. He brought in Tasmania, because that State complained of certain action in South Australia.


Senator Bakhap - In referring to Tasmania I had in mind the action of the South Australian Grain and Fodder Board in intervening in a wheat transaction as between parties in South Australia and Tasmania.


Senator SENIOR - My honorable friend contends that Tasmania had a stronger claim on wheat produced in South Australia than South Australia itself, notwithstanding that the latter State has had to import wheat for its own use. It has been argued that the fixing of prices in New South Wales has been to the advantage of the primary producer. The primary producer throughout Australia as a whole last season was a buyer of wheat, and not a seller, and it was, therefore, to his advantage that he should be able to buy at a lower price. As to the question of fodder, to which reference has been made, Senator Shannon will support me in the statement that very many primary producers in South Australia have lost their stock because of their inability to pay the excessive prices charged for chaff. Senator Bakhap asked what would be the result if the price of lucerne were fixed. He said that in that case the farmer would turn his stock into his lucerne paddocks. As a matter of fact, lucerne growers in South Australia cannot execute all the orders coming from other States for lucerne, so that, instead of turning their stock into their lucerne paddocks, they have been supplying this fodder to people who needed it, not only in their own State, but in other parts of the Commonwealth. We have to ask ourselves whether the powers which we are seeking under these measures are national. To that question there can be only an affirmative reply. That being so, why should not the nation possess national powers ? If any reply can be made to that question, I should like to hear it. Sena tor Bakhap's contention is practically that the nation should be bandaged, leg-ironed, and handicapped.


Senator Bakhap - Why should New South Wales be confirmed in its antiFederal action?


Senator SENIOR - We pass that by. My honorable friend is carrying his argument from a general to a particular case. I am reasoning that the national power should rest with the nation, and not with part of the nation. The honorable senator has not set up any argument in answer to that contention. His reasoning has been that the States possess sovereign powers, and that the nation should be, not sovereign, but subject.


Senator de Largie - In other words, that the part is greater than the whole.


Senator SENIOR - That the part must be, and should be, greater than the whole. The honorable senator cannot get away from the fact that if the Federal authority is to be supreme, it should be supreme in all national questions.


Senator Bakhap - Then why does the honorable senator sustain the action of his own State in the case to which I have referred?


Senator SENIOR - The very fact that my honorable friend points to something that has taken place in my own State is proof to me that we have been leaving sovereign power to the States, instead of vesting it in the whole nation. He condemns the action of South Australia, yet is unwilling to remove the chains from the nation, so as to give it the. power which the States now possess.


Senator Keating - None of these Bills proposes to do that.


Senator SENIOR - Does my honorable friend say that they will not give to the nation power to deal with monopolies?


Senator Keating - Not a State-owned monopoly.


Senator SENIOR - We are dealing, not with State monopolies, but with monopolies- in any State.


Senator Keating - State monopolies are specially exempted.


Senator SENIOR - But monopolies in any State are covered by these proposals.


Senator Keating - Private monopolies are, but not a State monopoly. What Senator Bakhap was speaking of was the action of South Australia and New South "Wales.


Senator SENIOR - He objected to the action of the South Australian Government. Apart from that point, the whole basis of his argument WaS that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company - which, so far as the honorable senator is concerned, is like the honey-pot to the bee, since he was always hovering over it - because it was a private monopoly, should not be controlled. His argument is that neither private monopolies nor a State monopoly should be under the control of the National Government. In other words, the private monopolist and the State monopolist should be above the power of the whole nation. Is that not what he reasons?


Senator Keating - No.


Senator SENIOR - I think it is clearly the reasoning of Senator Bakhap.


Senator Keating - New South "Wales will be able, even if these Bills be passed, to repeat its action in regard to the wheat seizure.


Senator SENIOR - It is a well-known principle that, where a State and a Federal law conflict, then the Federal law shall prevail.


Senator Keating - Always provided that the Federal law is within the jurisdiction of the Federal Parliament.


Senator SENIOR - But will not these measures give to the Federal Parliament a jurisdiction greater than is possessed by any State?


Senator Keating - It will not give the Federal Parliament any jurisdiction over a State monopoly, or over such an action as was taken by New South Wales. A conflict between a Federal and a State law is determined in favour of the Federal law when that law is within the ambit of the Federal power.


Senator SENIOR - It is because we have felt that Ave are constantly in conflict with State power that Ave are seeking to enlarge the powers of the Commonwealth Parliament.


Senator Keating - The Common* wealth Parliament will be in constant conflict with the power of the States if these amendments of the Constitution be passed, because there is no line between the Commonwealth and State power with regard to any matter.


Senator SENIOR - I am pleased to have that admission from Senator Keating, because the argument which has al- ways been set up by our opponents is that we are seeking to destroy State rights. Now, the objection taken to these proposals is driving us, whether we will or not, in the direction of Unification. That is the position. I want it to be known clearly that the objection taken by our opponents to the powers we are seeking to obtain is driving us to take complete powers for the National Parliament.


Senator Shannon - Is that not the objective behind the whole business?


Senator SENIOR - The arguments with reference to these proposals show that a very grave mistake was made in the delegation of powers, and even now we are up against the position that the States will still possess powers, notwithstanding that we are seeking to take extra powers for the Commonwealth Parliament.


Senator Keating - I may say that in 1912 I stressed that fact. When these Bills were last before the Senate, I discussed that phase of the question, and from every platform, in my opposition to them, I stressed the fact that there would be a continuous conflict between the State and Federal authorities.







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