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Wednesday, 14 July 1915

Senator McKISSOCK - The Opposition have evidently gone on strike. They are not in the chamber.

Senator Millen - I could have called for a quorum just now if I had wanted to.

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The Leader of the Opposition knows that these referenda proposals are not new questions. They have not been sprung upon the people suddenly. We have heard of them before.

Senator Maughan - And we got our instructions last September to go ahead with them.

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I will deal with that point a little later. I observe that the remark has fallen from certain members of the Opposition that these referenda questions have been put to the people already on two occasions. The Opposition have fought them with all their skill and all their ability and all their wealth every time they have been placed before the people, and I have no doubt, judging by the indications we have already had, that on the next occasion they will be fought even more strenuously and with a greater amount of vindictiveness. Notwithstanding the existence of the war there will be a more lavish, expenditure of money in fighting them than ever there was before. In 1911, when these proposals were put to the people, they were rejected by a considerable majority. In 1913, when they were again submitted, they were once more rejected, but by a very much diminished majority. In 1911 19 per cent of the aggregate votes was cast against the Constitution Alteration (Monopolies) Bill, which was the most important of all the proposals. But in 1913, with a very much larger vote, the majority against that Bill had decreased to 1.2 per cent, of the votes cast, showing very clearly that the people had begun to realize the necessity for some amendment of the Constitution in order to secure relief from the burdens under which they were labouring. I have no doubt that at the forthcoming referenda the majority against these proposals will not only disappear, but that there will be a large majority in favour of them. Why do I say that? I say it for the reason that "business" in the meantime has been going on as usual, and the cost of living . has been increasing. Everything that the people can purchase, and that can possibly be cornered by interested persons, is being cornered, with the result that prices are rising in consequence. For that reason I have no doubt that when the questions are submitted to the people again this question of the cost of living will become very prominent right throughout the country, and the people will seek relief by giving to the Commonwealth power to apply a remedy. On the last occasion there were over 170,000 informal votes, equal to seven times the number of electors necessary . to carry the Bill relating to monopolies.

Senator Lt Colonel O'Loghlin - And more than the number of men that are at the front.

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Yes, infinitely more, but we are confident that, on the next occasion, the questions will be placed before the people in such a way that there will be less risk of informal votes, because the electors will thoroughly understand them. We have heard from certain honorable senators who have spoken, that the States should each be sovereign within its own boundaries. If they are sovereign in their own spheres of legislative activity, why, in the name of common sense, should the Commonwealth not be sovereign within its sphere? The State Parliaments can pass such laws as they deem desirable. But what is the position of the Commonwealth? We can pass whatever legislation we please here, but that legislation has to run the gauntlet of the High Court, and is subject to review on any appeal.

Senator Bakhap - That Court exists as the interpreter of the Constitution, and if we transgress our powers, it brings Us up with a round turn.

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Of course it does. On every occasion when we attempt to relieve the people from the operations of these legalized robbers, the persons interested bring into operation the machinery of the High Court, with the result that we are told that, under our Constitution, we have no power to pass such laws.

Senator Bakhap - Does not the honorable senator see that so long as we have a federalized system we must have a High Court to act as interpreter of the Constitution ?

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I quite agree that, under the present Constitution, this is absolutely necessary. But I want the honorable senator to tell me why the Federal Parliament should be under any disability compared with the various States.

Senator Bakhap - Because it legislates sometimes on matters that do not come within its ambit, according to the compact.

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - If it legislates in any direction approved by the honorable senator, then it is all light

Senator Bakhap - It should only legislate in a Federal direction.

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - We are not going to take our stand on what the honorable senator thinks.

Senator Bakhap - I do not expect you to. You have no true respect for trie principles of Federalism.

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The honorable member is making quite a mistake in that matter. I have every respect for the Federal Constitution, but I am aware that it is defective, and I am also aware than the legal members of the honorable senator's own party have time and again pointed out its shortcomings. I have so much respect for the Constitution that I am most anxious to remove the anomalies that exist, and make it workable as it was supposed to be by the framers, many of whom subsequently came into this Chamber and attempted to pass legislation under a Constitution which was their own handiwork, only to find that the High Court blocked them. We are bound to admit, therefore, that the work which they thought was perfect is imperfect and inadequate. We had a right to impose a Federal land tax, and recently we passed an amendment to impose a tax upon leaseholds, with the result that interested parties came along, and put the machinery of the High Court into motion. That Court decided that the Federal Parliament had the power to impose taxation upon leaseholds, but we now find that the appellants are taking the question to the Privy Council. If the Privy Council upholds the decision of the High Court in Australia, well and good ; but if the Privy Council decides that the Commonwealth does not possess this power, there, will be another proof that the Constitution is unworkable.

Senator Guy - Do not let us anticipate that.

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I am not anticipating it. I am only pointing out that if the Privy Council decides against the Commonwealth the Federal Government, notwithstanding their requirements in the matter of revenue, will have this source of income cut off, because of an imperfection in our Constitution.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - There are other methods by which the Government can get hold of that income if they want it.

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - That is quite possible. But in all good faith, and believing that the Constitution allowed it, this Parliament agreed to certain legislation. An attempt is now being made to upset it, and defeat the will of the people in regard to the taxation of leaseholds. Senator Bakhap . recently went into hysterics in this chamber because South Australia refused to supply Tasmania with some wheat.

Senator Bakhap - It was a very serious matter.

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I agree, and am anxious to remedy these things by establishing the principle of Inter-State Free Trade. The honorable senator is not in favour of that principle.

Senator Bakhap - Is he not? We shall see presently.

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The honorable senator may say what he pleases, but he is distinctly opposed to the principle of Inter- State Free Trade. If he were to vote as he speaks he would vote in support of at least some of these proposals. The honorable senator speaks here in one direction and votes in another - a thing which no honorable, senator on this side does. The intention of the Constitution was that trad© should be perfectly free between the States. Now that it is found that that is- not the case we are anxious to that extent to remedy matters, but the honorable senator is not:

Senator Bakhap - These proposals will not remedy that serious breach in Federal principles.

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The honorable senator- like myself, is speaking as a layman.

Senator Bakhap - Fortified with the opinions of five or six of the best barristers in Australia.

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I will give the honorable senator other legal opinions which fortify my case. The most distinguished legal members of the Federal Parliament are of the opinion that an amendment of the Constitution is necessary in order to remedy the present state of affairs. Both Sir William Irvine and Mr. Glynn, two of the most distinguished barristers in the Parliament, admit that some alteration of the Constitution is necessary. Sir William Irvine goes much further than Mr. Glynn in some respects, but says he will not advocate these amendments of the Constitution so long as the Labour party are in power.

Senator Bakhap - I do not think I am wrong in saying that both those gentlemen say that these proposals will not touch byone jot the unfederal action of South Australia and New South Wales in regard to wheat.

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Neither Sir William Irvine nor Mr. Glynn says anything of the kind. Both admit the necessity, and Sir William Irvine said he was prepared some time ago to suggest certain alterations of the Constitution himself. Senator Bakhap, in spite of his disappointment, and in face of his angry denunciation of South Australia for preventing wheat from going to Tasmania, is still not prepared to effectively remove the obstacle.

Senator Bakhap - That is precisely what he is prepared to do.

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - If the honorable senator is prepared to do that he> is speaking on one side and voting on the other. The same' anomaly is clearly shown in industrial matters. In order to get a case before the Federal Arbitration Court we have to create a dispute - as happened with the Brisbane tramway strike and in many other instances - extending beyond the limits of one State.. That is surely a ridiculous position. There should be no need to extend a dispute in order to bring about its peaceful settlement in the Arbitration Court. TheCourt should have power to settle industrial disputes without waiting for the wheels of industry to be stopped. Those who are opposing our amendment of the constitutional provisions regarding industrial disputes are clearly in favour of continuing the pernicious system of the strike. That must be true of all who are not in favour of amending the Constitution so that the industrial laws of the Commonwealth may be operativein a reasonable and sensible way. The High Court limits the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth, but does not interfere with the State laws. Those who are opposing these amendments are therefore anxious that the High Court, and not the Commonwealth Parliament, should continue to govern Australia. We have in the Commonwealth practically one race, of one colour and one tongue; yet its affairs have to be governed by six separate State Parliaments. The framers of the Constitution, and the electors who agreed to it as originally submitted to them, have been disappointed. They were satisfied that it provided for just what it said, and that the difficult question of monopolies, trusts, and combines, and other troubles that were beginning to grow up in the States, would be dealt with by the Federal authority. The shortcomings of the Constitution are coming home to the people from day to day with greater force than they ever did before. Senator Ready told us this afternoon of some of the operations of trusts and combines that are well known to every honorable senator.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould -An oft-repeated tale, whether fiction or otherwise.

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The honorable senator knows there is no fiction about it.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - There is a good deal of fiction.

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - And a good deal more of truth. There is a great deal more truth in the assertion that these trusts, combines, and monopolies exist than in the statement that the carrying of the referenda proposals will rob the States of all their rights. _

Senator Guy - "We should not have so much opposition if there were no trusts and combines.

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - But for the fear that the trusts will be " hit up " by these amendments, we should not have the same opposition from honorable senators opposite as we have had on this occasion and on every other occasion when they have been put before Parliament. Many monopolies exist in the open light of day, and make no apology for their existence ; nor do they try to conceal their operations. There are other monopolies carried on practically without any visible organization. These are known as "honorable understandings," by which a number of men combine together by mutual agreement and corner the requirements of the people. They keep no books or minutes, and pay no secretary, simply giving the gentleman who acts in that capacity a.n honorarium. We found that that existed in South Australia in connexion with wheat. I happened to be a member of the Wheat Commission in that State. We found, by the examination of certain members of the Combine, and of the gentleman who acted as secretary of the " honorable understanding," exactly the work they were doing. Every morning the price of wheat was fixed over the telephone, and no records were kept ; but we knew perfectly well that an "honorable understanding " existed, and shortly after the Commission unearthed the fact the "honorable understanding " fell, more or less, to pieces. I am satisfied that to-day the same system is flourishing as strongly as ever it did. We have heard a good deal about the Beef Trust - a worse combine than even the Wheat Combine in South Australia was. No one doubts its existence; yet at the time the referenda proposals were last before the people the idea of the existence of a Beef Trust in Australia was scouted by all our opponents.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - Mr. Justice Street inquired into the whole matter, as a Royal Commission. Have .you read his report?

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Mr. Justice Street came to certain conclusions.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - With which you do not agree.

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