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Thursday, 24 June 1926


Senator PEARCE (Western Australia) (Vice-President of the Executive Council) . - We are sorry that Senator Gardiner is about to leave the Senate, and that one of his last speeches should be so typical of many that he hasmade previously. His speech brought to my mind the story of the negro pastor who was introducing to his flock a pastor from a neighbouring town. He referred to him in these terms : " He can see the unseen ; he knows the unknown; and he can unscrew the unscrewable." Whilst listening to Senator Gardiner I thought what a wonderful description that was of him. He displayed keen anxiety regarding his friends, Walsh and Johannsen, whom he accused the Government of trying to get rid of. Ever since' the elections those gentlemen have been busily endeavouring to get rid of each other. I made a few notes of the topics with which the honorable senator dealt. He appeared in many rôles. First of all, we saw him as the advocate of financial extravagance : he urged that the Government ought to incur additional expenditure in calling a special convention to decide what constitutional amendments should be made. Then he appeared in the role of the economist, asking, " Why should we waste money upon a referendum? Next, he made a special appeal to the bolshevik element in our midst by telling them that they were justified in asserting themselves, " by force if necessary." He followed that up by giving law-abiding citizens a pat on the back. The honorable senator also had a word to say for the temper ance party, and explained the way in which he would deal with the liquor interests if he had the power. Then, thinking he might have a few friends on the other side, he said something for the liquor interests. He made a few pious references to religion, and then, in order to. retain the goodwill of the elements which were not exactly religious, uttered a few agreeable sentiments on behalf of the non-religious section. He drew a verbal picture of industrial conditions in England, clothing it in language that would be likely to appeal to every hater of that country. Then, remembering that there might be a few loyal Englishmen in this country, he appealed to the Englishmen's love of law and order, extolling the virtues of liberty and posing as the apostle of liberty. As the votes of those who raided the shops in Melbourne might come in handy at the next election, he told them that they did perfectly right to damage a few of those shops, and that they had not done as much harm as this Government had done. So he will have friends amongst the law-abiding section of the community and amongst those who are willing to break any law. He paid such compliments to myself and other members of the Government that any one who listened to that portion of his speech would think this was a very fine Government.. But if he had listened to another portion of the speech he would have heard the insulting remarks offered by Senator Gardiner (to the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), and myself, and he would have come to the conclusion that the honorable senator looked upon us as a combination of fools and rogues. Speaking of the virtues of democracy, he said that it was essential that it should be defended. A little later, however, he referred to the people as a lot of fools, who were only fit to be well suppressed by a. strong autocracy. He even introduced the subject of the tariff, and spoke of the benefits of free trade. Then he apparently recollected that in New South "Wales, where he still hopes to have a political future, there are a large number of protectionists, and he added a few words about the importance of the industries of this country. He extolled the national sentiment even to the extent of declaring for unification, and said that he did not disguise the fact that his party stood for that principle. Then, suddenly remembering that there are many " state righters " in this country, he characterized the bill as an attempt to do away with State rights. He even assumed the role of a prophet.He told us what would be the result of the referendum, and said that the proposals would be defeated. He also took the role of the person who is wise after the event and says, " I told you what would happen." Prior to the last general election, however, I remember trembling in my seat in this chamber while the honorable senators thundered in my ear that that was the last time I should sit in this Parliament. But I am still here, and he is about to depart. Moreover, the honorable senator posed as the champion of law and order. He referred to those great spirits of the past who have impressed upon the British character a love of law and order. At the same time he said that he had a good deal of sympathy for the men who smashed the shops in the streets of Melbourne some time ago. Therefore, when the report of his speech is circulated in New South Wales, I venture to say that every section of the community that reads the portion referring particularly to it will say, "He is not a bad sort after all" If they ignore those parts of the speech with which they do not agree, the honorable senator will receive the support of the party that stands for law and order and the " Bolshie " votes as well. He will have the support of free traders and protectionists alike; of the religious and the non-religious; and of all the other elements of society. I have heard many electioneering speeches, but I have never listened to one delivered in the space of less than an hour in which so many arguments, calculated to appeal to all sections of the community, have been advanced. Now I return to the bill. The speeches by honorable senators opposite caused me considerable amusement. Some of them were members of a party that supported a government of which I was a member in 1910. According to the official records the Constitution Alteration (Legislative Powers) Bill was received from the House of Representatives on the 28th October, 1910, and " on the motion of the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce)," read a first time. Senators Gardiner, Needham, and Findley were among the most stalwart supporters of the Government responsible for that measure, in clause 2 of which it was provided -

Section fifty-one of the Constitution is altered by omitting from paragraph (i) the words " with other countries, and among the States."

At that time it was proposed to take full powers over trade and commerce, and to take full industrial powers. I invite honorable senators opposite to ask Mr. Brennan, or any other lawyer, whether, if this Parliament had full power over trade and commerce and over industrial matters, it could not do everything that it would be able to do if the powers sought under the present bill were granted. Do not trade and commerce extend to shipping, coal-mining, and every industry? Could not a State Government to-day do everything that the Commonwealth Government is now asking for power to do? If the people had granted the power sought in 1910, the Commonwealth would have had every power now enjoyed by State Governments in regard to trade and commerce and industry. It would have had power to protect the interests of the public in the event of the interruption, or probable interruption, of any essential service, not only in times of industrial trouble, but at all times. Honorable senators opposite are opposing the present bill, although it does not go so far as did the measure introduced in 1910. It merely provides for the following alteration of the Constitution: -

Section fifty-one of the Constitution is altered by inserting after paragraph v the following paragraph : - " (v ) a. Protecting theinterests of the public in case of actual orprobable interruption of any essential service : "

If the Government had the powers sought in 1910, it could not only protect the interests of the public, but also take over every essential service, and legislate as to the conditions under which such services should be provided.Why are honorable senators opposite, who were in favour of the proposals made in 1910, against the present proposal? It is because they are humbugging themselves, and are trying to humbug the people. The suggestion that the Government seeks this power in order to use military force in the event of industrial turmoil is so much camouflage to enable those honorable senators to excuse themselves in humbugging the people. Senator Gardiner stated to-night that he sometimes fooled others, but never fooled himself. All I wish to say is, that if he meant what he said he was energetically trying to fool himself.Whether he succeeded or not, he alone knows.







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