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Wednesday, 14 July 1915


Senator FINDLEY (Victoria) .- A petition was presented to the Senate this afternoon by the Leader of the Opposition on behalf of certain electors of this State, praying that the Constitution Alteration Bills be not submitted to the people for discussion or decision during the currency oi the war. Without having had the time or the. opportunity to peruse carefully the signatures attached to the petition, I venture to assert that the majority of the petitioners have in peace as well as war been opposed to the submission of these proposals to the people, and that when the Bills were before the electors on former occasions 95 per cent, of those whose names are attached to the petition unhesitatingly cast their votes against them. Whether in peace or war, these people are opposed to the principles embodied in the Bills. The Leader of the Opposition in this Chamber, in his speech this afternoon, took as his text against the Government and the Labour party, as a strong party man - and he can never be anything else - in order that he might, in his own particular and peculiar way, strengthen his party and weaken ours, the three words, " Business as usual," from Senator Gardiner's speech. But he signally failed, because he resorted, I do not think intentionally, to a method that cannot at any time be commended. If one takes three words from any sentence - from one of Senator Millen's, for instance - he can build up a hypothetical case, and lash himself into a fury, making himself imagine, if he keeps at it long enough, that he has a good case against his opponents. The Leader of the Opposition said this was not a time for either pessimism or optimism. That sort of statement is neither fish, flesh, fowl, nor good red herring. A man must be either a- pessimist or an optimist in this crisis. We have no time at this critical period of our, and the Empire's, history for pessimists in Australia, or in this National Assembly. The VicePresident of the Executive Council said in effect: We are intrusted with grave and serious national responsibilities, and we shall preach optimism. This is the time to preach it. We shall tell the people of Australia that our national business is being carried on as usual. The shutters will not be put up at our huge Customs Department, from which, year by year, large revenues are derived. The Minister of Customs will be there morning, noon, and night, if necessary, to attend to his duties. The Postal Department will be intrusted to a responsible Minister, so that our postal, telephone, and telegraph services may be utilized as freely and extensively in war time as in peace. The business of the Defence Department, upon which, above all others, the eyes of Australia, and even of the Empire, are focussed, will be carried on as usual. It will be carried on as it always has been carried on when the Labour party have been in power - that is, in a business-like way. Never in the history of Australia have such business-like methods been employed in the administration of our affairs as have been employed since the Labour Government took office during the currency of the war. Would the party opposite stop all .our national undertakings during the war? Would they stop the construction of the trans-Australian railway, on which so many men are employed ? Would they stop the work at Flinders Naval Base ? Would they stop the works at the Federal Capital ? The Government say, "Notwithstanding the war which is engaging our most serious attention, the business in all our Departments is being carried on as usual." Because the Government have for a long time taken that optimistic view, the Leader of the Opposition to-day smites the Vice-President of the Executive Council hip and thigh for having the manliness and courage to proclaim to the people that the Labour party are not pessimists:that we shall see the war through no matter what the cost may be, and that during its currency all the Departments of the Commonwealth will be carried on as usual. The honorable senator's speech was made absolutely for party purposes. No one knows better than he that, in the various States, the big commercial institutions urged the people to take a hopeful and cheery view of the situation. As a result, numbers of business men displayed in their windows, to influence those citizens who might be disposed to take a pessimistic view, placards which read "Business carried on as usual." This was done in order that private employers might be stimulated to take a hopeful view of the situation, instead ofbeing disposed to "sack" their men and look gloomy. It was felt that it was far better to look on the sunny side of the question in the hope that, in the process of time - and we trust the time will be short - the struggle in which we are engaged would come to a successful termination for the Empire and its Allies. I listened the other evening to a speech by Senator Bakhap. He is always, more or less, entertaining. Like the boy in the lolly shop, who stays there for a very long time, the honorable senator, when he takes a subject in hand, hangs a long time on his theme, but since I have been in public life I never heard a more illogical speech, a more parochial speech, a more reactionary speech, or one less Australian than that delivered by the honorable senator. The State of Tasmania, which the honorable senator represents, has for long years been anything but progressive. It has been one of the most backward of the States, and I do not wonder at it, because, for many years, such men as Senator Bakhap had possession of the reins of Government there. Only recently was there a ray of sunshine in that State, and that came with the advent of the Labour Government. We have heard honorable members of his party say in this Parliament, and from numerous platforms, that our Federal Constitution is not what the people thought it was when they adopted it, and that it requires amendment Senator Bakhap says that there will be no amendment of it so far as he is concerned. He affirms that we have enough to deal with. He says that we have three huge Departments under our control, namely, Customs, Defence, and Post Office. These represent the beginning and the end of our Federal Constitution from his standpoint. Senator Bakhap says that, to a reasonable extent, he is a Protectionist. He urges that Protection is a good thing for the cities and large centres of population. But he affirms that it is a bad thing for places in which the population is not large, and where settlement is sparse. In other words, he is a town Protectionist and a country Free Trader, a Mr. Facing-both-ways so far asfiscalism is concerned. But surely the Parliament which is empowered to extend Protection to our manufacturers should also be empowered to extend it to our workmen and consumers. Senator Bakhap says that it ought not to have any such powers. Then he announced his opposition to these Bills on the ground that under them it is intended to fix the prices of farmers' commodities. Nobody knows better than he does that it is not intended to do anything of the kind. Where competition exists there is no intention to interfere with prices, and competition does exist in regard to all the primary products of Australia.


Senator Millen - Why did the New South Wales Government fix the price of wheat?


Senator Turley - What has that circumstance to do with this Bill?


Senator FINDLEY - I understand that we are at liberty to discuss the whole of these Constitution Alteration Bills upon this measure. It is not intended to fix the price of the primary products because competition prevails in respect of them. But where competition is eliminated, and prices are fixed by monopolistic institutions to the detriment of the people, these Bills will empower the Government to deal with such institutions. Why, asks Senator Millen, did the New South Wales Government fix the price of a certain commodity? Because these are war times, and because they felt it was their duty to safeguard the interests of the citizens of that State. Whilst I believed, when I voted for Federation, that we would have Inter-State Free Trade, and whilst I was of opinion that the action of the New South Wales Government was an unconstitutional one, I recognise that the High Court has declared otherwise. The New South Wales Government affirmed that it had the power to commandeer the wheat supplies of that State, and, having seized them, it fixed the price of that commodity at a higher figure than the farmer had been accustomed to re'ceive for his wheat.


Senator Ferricks - At the highest price for twenty-five years.


Senator FINDLEY - At the highest price for twenty-five years. Is there any honorable senator opposite who will have the temerity to- condemn the action of the New South Wales Government in commandeering the wheat supplies of that State for the protection of its citizens?


Senator Bakhap - Here is one. Was such action Federal? Where is the honorable0 senator's Federalism?


Senator FINDLEY - I am not dealing with Federalism, for the moment. If we pass these Bills, and they are ratified by the people, a repetition of such a condition of things will not be possible.


Senator Bakhap - It will be.


Senator Turley - Will the adoption of these Bills interfere with the decision of the High. Court ?


Senator FINDLEY - The High Court has declared the New South Wales Government had the power to seize the wheat supplies of that State. Now, Senators Turley and Bakhap inquire, " Will the passing of these Bills alter that condition of things?" I go so far' as to say that I dor not think any alteration of our Constitution will deprive the States of sovereign powers-; but I do say that the passing of these Bills will confer upon the Commonwealth Parliament a power concurrent with that possessed by New South Wales, and with concurrent power we will have supreme^ power.


Senator O'LOGHLIN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) -Colonel Sir AlbertGould-. - Suppose New South Wales commandeers the wheat first?.


Senator FINDLEY - The honorable senator might be able to go on building up hypothetical cases till the crack o.f doom ; but I intend to deal only with concrete cases. When we entered into Federation, everybody thought that the States were entering into a partnership one with the other. Does anybody mean to tell me that the peopl'e were then of opinion that Queensland, which produces nearly the whole of the sugar supply of Australia, could at any time say to the citizens of the other States, ' ' Although we entered into Federation with you, we are not going to give you any sugar"? Did anybody anticipate that New South Wales would be able to say to the people of the other States, " We are not going to give you any wheat. Although you may be starv ing, you may whistle for your sugar and your wheat " ? What sort of a partnership would that be?


Senator Bakhap - Hear, hear ! The honorable senator is right enough.


Senator FINDLEY - Then I am right in supporting these Bills, because they will put a stop to that sort of thing. Senator Bakhap. - They are no good as they stand.


Senator Gardiner - Then bring forward an amendment.


Senator FINDLEY - Senator Bakhap has- declared that whatever the Government undertakes proves a ghastly failure as compared with the efforts of private enterprise. He is a warm advocate of private enterprise. He said that, although the Defence Department is a huge one, when the facts are made known in regard to certain activities undertaken by it, the citizens of Australia will get an intellectual shower bath.


Senator Bakhap - Quite so.


Senator FINDLEY - That is a very nice-sounding phrase. ' But is it not indisputable that, since the establishment of these Government factories, better goods have been turned out than were supplied under the contract system?


Senator Bakhap - It is not.


Senator FINDLEY - Is it not a fact that the industrial conditions in all these factories are better than they are in any private enterprise establishment, and that the good's produced are of the highest quality ?


Senator Bakhap - The honorable senator has for his answer- that it is a mo&t difficult question to discuss at this juncture. It is difficult for me to reply to him.


Senator FINDLEY - If it had not been for the establishment of these factories, I venture to say that our difficulties, whatever they may be in respect of this war, would be multiplied tenfold. Then the honorable senator said that the railways of Victoria were being run at a loss. Is it not a fact that many of our Post and Telegraph services are being conducted at a loss ? If it is to be laid down that no railways should be built unless they are paying propositions, the honorable senator will, when he has an opportunity, vote for the elimination of moneys on the Estimates for providing telephonic and mail services in distant parts of the States - services which will never be payable-.


Senator Bakhap - That does not follow at all.


Senator FINDLEY - I heard him trot out the hackneyed argument about the Tobacco and Match Monopoly in France. One grows sick and tired of hearing of it. I was a member of a Committee which was appointed by the Senate some time ago to inquire into the operation of an alleged combine - the 'Tobacco Monopoly in Australia. There is no doubt that it is a monopoly. Whilst we were taking evidence, the same statement was made in regard to the Tobacco and Match Monopoly in France. But the people cannot be continually hoodwinked. The truth is that the citizens of France get exactly the kind of tobacco which is palatable to them. They get the article that they want.


Senator Bakhap - It is the only tobacco that they can get.


Senator FINDLEY - They get it in varying qualities. If a Frenchman was asked to give his opinion on tobacco manufactured in Australia, he would say that the tobacco manufactured in France under Government supervision was superior in quality to that which is manufactured ' here. The matter depends on the palate of the people.


Senator Bakhap - My argument was that a Government which would prohibit the introduction of substitutes for matches would discourage invention.


Senator FINDLEY - SenatorBakhap's idea is violent opposition to enterprise by the States, though better examples of municipal Socialism than those in his own State of Tasmania cannot be found anywhere. The people are anxiously awaiting the opportunity to alter the Federal Constitution. Different members of the party to which honorable senators opposite belong have admitted that it needs alteration. Years have passed since it was framed and adopted by the people, and in the whirligig of time, which changes every sphere of human activity, remarkable changes have taken place. At that time people were of the opinion that many of the powers then and now possessed by the States would be taken away from them, and that the Commonwealth Parliament would have supreme power in regard to a large number of matters' affecting the welfare of the citizens of Australia. But they have been sadly disappointed. The Vice-President of the Executive Council has in his possession a list of legal decisions which shows that the very persons who took a hand in the framing of our Constitution, being of the opinion that ultra vires, the High Court having no hesitation in giving judgment against the opinions of those who, after having played a part in drawing up the Constitution, were responsible for the introduction of these measures in the Federal Parliament.


Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - Much of that legislation was introduced on the principle of chancing it.


Senator FINDLEY - I think that the list which the Vice-President of the Executive Council has should go into Hansard, and, as he has been good enough to hand it to me, I propose to read it -

 


Senator Lt Colonel i Sir Albert Gould - Was that state of affairs remedied?


Senator FINDLEY - The defects and shortcomings of our Constitution in respect to matters to which this table primarily refers will be remedied if the Constitution is altered in the direction we desire.


Senator Millen - Then the purpose of the amendment is to permit the Commonwealth to interfere with State instrumentalities?


Senator FINDLEY - I was hopeful of being allowed to read this table without any sandwiching but in reply to whether the Commonwealth should interfere with State instrumentalities, I say - yes; if the State instrumentality interferes with the Commonwealth the latter is perfectly entitled to interfere. Our mails, which mean so much to every citizen, particularly to the commercial community, are carried from State to State. Would Senator Millen say that if a railway strike in any particular State should render it impossible to carry these mails, the Commonwealth should not have the power to settle the dispute in order that the carriage of mails should not be jeopardized, or industry perhaps paralyzed ? At the time of the coal strike in Newcastle nearly every newspaper in Victoria said that it

 

was regrettable that the Commonwealth Parliament did not have the power to bring that strike to a close. Why? Because it threatened to paralyze the wheels of industry, not merely in New South Wales, but in every State of Australia, Newcastle being the base of the supply of coal. Senator Millen says that though a strike may hold up the railways of New South Wales, and perhaps inconvenience that State, the Commonwealth should not have the power, on behalf of the five other States, to intervene and interfere with that State's instrumentality. I do not agree with him. It is because I am in favour of the Commonwealth having supreme power over the States in regard to such matters that I want to see these Bills go through, and the people voting " Yes " upon them.


Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - The State of New South Wales is not affected by the Bill before us in that regard. It was only a question of whether the dispute extended beyond the boundaries of the State.


Senator FINDLEY - I have just spoken of a strike that did not extend beyond the boundaries of a State. There was also a railway strike in this State that did not go beyond the boundaries of a State which also affected the carrying of mails. Let me continue this table -

 

 

If my memory serves me rightly, the Act just mentioned was intended to do justice to seamen in all parts of Australia.' If a seaman in the course of following his usual employment was injured, the Act gave him the opportunity of securing compensation from his employers, but I believe that a case was tested, and it was held that, if a man working for an Inter-State shipping company, and employed on a ship trading from State to State, happened to be injured in any one State, although the ship at the time might be but a few yards from the boundary of another State, it was impossible for him under the Act to get the justice to which he was entitled. Is that a fair thing, when, as Senator McDougall interjects, the man might be crippled for life? If the accident had happened a few minutes later, and a few yards farther on, the Act would have been valid, and he would have been entitled to full compensation. Itis to remedy that, and many other things, that these measures are introduced. The return continues -

 

 

 

I have read the particulars of those cases in order that they may appear in Hansard, and give its readers an idea as to how limited the Constitution is in respect to the powers vested in this Parliament. When the framers of the Constitution played their part in drafting its provisions, they were of the opinion that the Commonwealth would have the powers which the High Court said we do not possess. Some members of the High Court were members of the Convention; some members of the High Court were members of this Parliament, and some members of the High Court were responsible for the introduction of some of those measures into Parliament. The time has arrived - it arrived long ago - for the Commonwealth Parliament to be clothed with such" powers as will adequately protect, not the citizens of any one State, but the citizens of all the States in the Commonwealth. If the people are given an opportunity, as they will be - because these Bills are certain to go through - they will be able to say "Yes" or " No." My opinion is that an immense majority will say " Yes," and it is because our opponents fear that result that they are resorting to every device known to them to oppose these measures. Petitions are part of the game. Petitions here, petitions there-, petitions everywhere ! -From whom, and for what purpose? To prevent the referenda proposals from go ing to the people, because, our opponents say, this is war time. But did they not do all in their power to block the proposals in peace time? Have they not opposed the measures whether the time has been peaceful or warlike? It is because we have always been in favour of the proposals, both in peace time and war time, and because we believe that they are absolutely necessary in the interests of this Parliament and the people of Australia, that we hope that they will be carried on this occasion by majorities in at least a majority of the States of the Commonwealth.







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