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Thursday, 24 June 1926

Senator SAMPSON (Tasmania) . - I had no intention of speaking on this bill, because, to me, it seemed obvious that the Government should be clothed with the necessary power to intervene in the event of a national crisis; but I cannot let pass some of the remarks made by Senator Needham. I have been in this chamber only a few months, but from time to time I have heard honorable senators opposite say that the Government desires this power in order that it might be authorized to shoot Australians and to bayonet them. That statement has been repeated to-day. Do honorable senators opposite really mean what they say, or are their remarks only 'so much humbug? God forbid that it ever should be deemed necessary to use the powers sought to he conferred on the Government by this bill in that way; but the day may come, and, like the good soldier who hopes for the best and prepares for the worst, we must be ready for it, should it come. In such an event, who would be required, as the instruments of the Commonwealth Government, to use these rifles and bayonets? Who would have to do this dirty job? They would be our brothers, our sons, our nephews, our fellow-citizens. I presume that I, who have the honour to command the 12th Battalion of Australian Infantry, am regarded as one who is thirsting for the blood of my fellow- citizens, and anxious to shoot down my " cobbers " who were with me in France a few years ago. The thing is utterly preposterous. It is beneath contempt. Do honorable senators think that when I left my wife and children to fight for my country I did so because I liked the job and wanted to go? We have no regular army in Australia, and I hope we never shall; but do honorable senators think that Australians, wearing the uniform of the Commonwealth - citizen soldiers - are anxious to shoot down their fellowmen? Do they think that any Government would be foolish enough to order them to do so? I would give these powers to any government, Labour, Nationalist, or other wise, because I believe that they should be possessed by a national government.

Senator Grant - The honorable senator would have deported Walsh had he been able to do so.

Senator SAMPSON - I do not know the gentleman ; but I can inform the honorable senator that, although I took part in the last election campaign, I have never advocated his deportation.

Senator Grant - But the Government which the honorable senator is supporting did.

Senator SAMPSON - At present, neither the Commonwealth Government nor any State Government has constitutional powers to take action to maintain essential services when the whole economic life of this country is held up. That aspect of the question appeals to me, because, on my return from abroad after five years' active service, I arrived in Melbourne with my wife and two children, who had been in England during the last three years of the war. It was our desire to spend that Christmas in Tasmania - I had not spent a Christmas there for five years. But what happened? When we arrived in Melbourne there was a strike, which prevented "our getting to Tasmania. Being the senior officer of the party of soldiers who, with their wives, desired to reach Tasmania, I did my utmost to get there. We called upon the late Senator E. D. Millen to see whether he could assist us to Teach our homes; but he said that he could do nothing for us. He, however, referred us to Admiral Clarkson. I interviewed the Admiral, and suggested that he should send us home on a destroyer or a cruiser. He ridiculed the idea of womenand children being conveyed to Tasmania on a destroyer. A destroyer, he said, could not carry many people across Bass Strait. I told him that I was one of 480 men who, on the 25th April, 1915, were conveyed by a destroyer to the shores of Gallipoli. The Admiral however, could not help us, nor could the Commonwealth Government. And, in the event of a similar hold-up in the future, the position will be the same as it was then, unless these additional powers are granted to the Commonwealth Government. The State of Tasmania could not help us, and, should we apply to the Victorian Government, it would reply that the matter was not its concern. Consequently, these powers must be vested in the Commonwealth Government.

Senator Pearce - During the last shipping strike the Labour Premier of Tasmania, Mr. Lyons, nearly burnt out the cable wires with requests to the Commonwealth Government for assistance.

Senator SAMPSON - To whom can we go in these troubles, if not to the Commonwealth Government ? I am not embarrassed because of the attitude which I adopted towards past referendums. I voted for them all, and I shall vote for this. I cannot understand why there should be any opposition to the proposals contained in this bill, or in the Constitution Alteration (Industry and Commerce) Bill. The national government should be clothed with these powers. There must be some central authority which can take hold of things when they go wrong. During my experience, I have met some very ugly situations, but to hear honorable senators speaking of Australians shooting and bayoneting their fellow-citizens makes me tired. Such a thing is dreadful to contemplate; but in Australia, with its citizen army, it is utterly absurd. The central government should have the right to step in when a few people are trying to hold up the whole nation, and to starve it into submission by withholding essential services. I desire to read an extract from the IndustrialAustralianand Mining Standard of the 13th May last, relating to the recent general strike in England: -

There is no genuine Labour leader living in any part of the world to-day who believes the general strike to be an instrument capable of furthering its professed aims. There is a powerful Labour party in the House of Commons, and not one member thereof has ventured to defend the principle of the general strike.....

Although the general strike is regarded with contempt and execration by all democrats and genuine Labourites, it is the favourite weapon of the revolutionary nihilist. That gentleman knows as well as the next man that the general strike cannot possibly benefit the working class. But he is also aware that its employment produces conditions of disorder and chaos ideally favorable to the prosecution of carefully prepared minority schemes to wreck and overturn the institutions of democratic government. T,he revolutionist nourishes best in an atmosphere of tumult, engendered by strife and mental inflammation, fanned by physical starvation and destitution. " There can be no revolution anywhere without empty bellies," said Talleyrand. And that is why the revolutionist constantly labours not to improve the conditions of the working classes, but to reduce them by strikes to the lowest possible level, and to drive the idle masses by misery to desperation.

A very significant feature of the present trouble in Britain is the tossing of Communist hats into the air in Continental Europe. Soviet Moscow is in a ferment" of jubilation. The Third Internationale and all the allied socialistic societies of Germany and France have already eagerly proffered financial aid to their friends in .longland (who are also probably their kinsmen), the British strike promoters.

There is no doubt about it - the British general strike is not a conflict about miners' wages or any other wages. It is a long prepared and maturely considered plan to sovietize the United Kingdom. The whole British Empire a few days ago deeply sympathized with the coal miners of England, and wished them well in their struggle to secure a fair living wage. To-day, however, there is hardly a democrat to be found in any part of our far-flung Empire who regards them as other than the foolish catspaws of unscrupulous rogues, intent upon smashing the British Constitution. The cause which has engulphed the miners is doomed in advance, doomed utterly, because presently it will lack even their support - must lack it, indeed, simply because they are Englishmen. Indeed, they will themselves assuredly fight against it the instant they realize how abominably they have been tricked and deceived by the damnable leaders to whom they gave their confidence.

Senator Needhaminferred that the Baldwin Government in Great Britain had no right to prepare for the event, which for eighteen months it knew was coming.

Senator Needham - That Government was the cause of the negotiations ending abruptly.

Senator SAMPSON - Does the honorable senator maintain that the whole community should be liable to be held up by the withholding of essential services until it is starved into submission? That state of affairs amounts to war on organized society, and whatever government is in office must have the pluck to 'deal with the situation. Should the Commonwealth ever be faced with such a state of affairs, the government would have to act, and, therefore, the powers which this bill seeks to confer are necessary.

Senator Needham - The Baldwin Government was the cause of the breakdown of the negotiations which would have prevented the general strike in Great Britain.

Senator SAMPSON - If the honorable senator believes that Australian citizens are anxious to be armed with rifles, ball cartridges, and bayonets to destroy their fellow citizens, he must have a woefully distorted imagination. I do not think that he really believes it; he cannot. I cannot conceive it possible that any sane Australian can object to the national government having the powers asked for in this bill. ' Perhaps it is mental incapacity on the part of honorable senators, if they actually fear what some of them would have us believe that they fear." In matters of this kind there should be genuine co-operation between all parties to clothe the national government with all necessary powers. Probably the attitude of honorable senators opposite is due to the present-day deplorable tendency to follow blindly the pernicious path of prejudice and party passion. This blind following of party is a curse. . It is strange to see the forces arrayed on either side in connexion with these proposals to amend the Constitution. It passes my comprehension, but I always like a fight, and I shall enter the forthcoming contest with the keenest interest. I hope that the good sense of the people will induce them to approve of both questions. This proposed amendment of the Constitution, dealing with essential services, is absolutely necessary. I cannot understand how any sane, intelligent Australian can object to the Government of this country - I do not care whether it be a Labour or Nationalist Government - being endowed with the necessary power to deal with the people who are out to upset constituted authority.

Senator Guthrie - Surely no one is opposed to this proposal.

Senator SAMPSON - It would be ridiculous to oppose it. I hope that the bill will be carried, and that the extended powers asked for will be granted by the people.

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