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Thursday, 28 June 1906

Mr WILKS (Dalley) . - I have been listening for about six hours to the recapitulation, by various honorable members, of the grievances of their constituents. This being grievance day, there is an opportunity' for every representative to pour into your willing or unwilling ears, Mr. Speaker, the complaints of those whom he represents. You are precluded by the high office which you hold from doing the same thing; but I take it that you have some better mode of obtaining attention to the wants of your constituents, though, if you will .commission me to do so, I shall be very happy to represent their grievances in this Chamber. Although honorable members undertake this task in the most joyous manner, I should be the last to suggest that they avail themselves of the occasion to make electioneering speeches, and, while nominally addressing you, are actual Iv talking to their constituents.

Mr Thomas - Why should not a man talk to his constituents?

Mr WILKS - The members! of the Labour Party need not do so while their machine keeps in working order, and they are nominees of the machine. I wish to express my surprise, however, that they have not availed themselves of this opportunity to ventilate what I think they should consider a very serious grievance. Seven months ago we passed a Trades Marks Act, containing what were known as union label provisions, which the Labour representatives in this Chamber insisted were absolutely necessary in the interests of the workers.

Mr Carpenter - Shocking !

Mr WILKS - The honorable member was one of those who spoke most loudly in advocacy of the provisions to which I refer ; but, the legislation having been passed, he has no complaint to make on the ground that the regulations necessary for carrying its provisions into force have not yet been drafted. While the employers have their trade marks, the employes, for whom the Labour Party, the Attorney-General, and the Ministry as a whole fought so strenuously, have been left for seven months! in the position which they occupied before the Act was passed. A large amount of public time was occupied in the discussion of the measure, and a great political struggle took p'lace while special standing orders were being carried to enable it to be forced through this House, and yet, although it was represented by the Ministry and the Labour Party to be so urgent, the regulations necessary to carry it into effect have not yet been drafted. It is hinted in this morning's newspapers that a rough draft has been made, but the regulations have not been published.

Sir William Lyne - The Act does not come into operation! until the second day of next month, but the regulations are ready, and will be passed by the Executive tomorrow.

Mr WILKS - Then, notwithstanding all the talk that we heard about the absolute urgency for the trade union label provisions, the Ministry have permitted eight months to elapse before bringing the Act into force. When the measure was under discussion, some of the ablest minds in the Chamber-

Mr Ronald - Whose were they ?

Mr WILKS - Mine amongst the number - saw that it was a moot point whether its provisions were constitutional, and stated that objection ; and it is now an open secret that, as soon as the Act is put into operation.'its constitutionality will be tested before the High Court. No man knows better than the Attorney-General that there is every possibility that the High Court will pronounce the union-label provisions of the Trade Marks Act to be unconstitutional.

Sir William Lyne - What nonsense !

Mr WILKS - I challenge the AttorneyGeneral to deny what I have said. I believe that this fear on the part of the Government is the sole explanation of the delay in drafting the regulations. The action of the Government in regard to the unionlabel provisions' is in marked contrast to the expedition with which they brought into operation the regulations which enable employers to register the trade marks which they propose to attach to their goods. We were informed by the .press this morning that the union-label regulations had only been drafted.

Mr Isaacs - The honorable member is quite wrong.

Mr WILKS - I should like an explanation with regard to the matter. The Minister of Trade and Customs admits that the regulations cannot be brought into operation for another month.

Sir William Lyne - I said that they would be brought into operation upon the 2nd Qf next month, which is only a week hence.

Mr WILKS - That is in another month. At any rate, the union-label provisions have been allowed to lie dormant for a period of eight months. -I think that this is a matter of distinct reproach to the Government, and also to the Labour Party, who have not brought sufficient pressure to bear upon them to put the law into full operation. I have another grievance with regard to the Judiciary Act. We were told in the Governor-General's speech that there was a probability that this House would be asked within a short period to authorize the appointment of another Justice to the High Court Bench. I should like to know what has arisen to render such an appointment necessary. Austrafia is already burdened, with too many high-salaried officials, and I do not think we should be called upon to appoint another without sufficient warrant. Most of the time of the High Court has been occupied in reversing the decisions arrived at by the Full Courts of the various States. This indicates either that the States Judges have not kept themselves sufficiently in .touch with the law - and have thereby been led into "wrong decisions, or that the , High Court is becoming fashionable because of its reversal of the decisions of the States Courts, and the consequent assumption that the Justices of the High Court far excel the Judges of the States in ability and legal knowledge. I am not prepared to accept the latter alternative, but I( think that litigants resort to the High Court because of the belief that it will almost certainly reverse the decisions given in the States Courts. One of the Justices of the High Court has refused to preside over the Federal Arbi tration Court. It is true that up to the present no case has been presented for decision under the Federal Arbitration Act, but it is understood that within a very short time some cases will have to be dealt with, and' that we shall be asked to sanction the appointment of another Justice to hear them. Whilst I do not oppose the appointment of officials when they are required, I shall certainly object to the appointment of another Justice until I am quite satisfied that the Bench needs to be strengthened. If an additional Justice is appointed to deal with cases arising under the Federal Arbitration Act, his position will, within a very short time, become practically a sinecure. In yesterday's cables intelligence was conveyed to us with regard to certain proceedings in the Privy Council which tends to justify the action taken by the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne and twenty-three others, including myself, who desired that power should be given to litigants to appeal to the Privy Council direct from the Supreme Courts of the States, in matters involving the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth. That proposal was resisted by the members of the present Ministry, and was defeated by only one vote. The Attorney-General, the Minister of Home Affairs, and the honorable and learned member for Bendigo pooh-poohed the idea, but the decision of the Privy Council shows that honorable members who supported it were justified in the view they took.

Mr Isaacs - Will the honorable membe kind enough to read anything that I said on the subject?

Mr Deakin - The honorable member is quite wrong with regard to the AttorneyGeneral:

Mr WILKS - In that case I shall only be too glad to apologise. I should like to know whether it is the intention of the Government to drop one or two items of business which they have included in their programme, in order to enable Parliament to deal with a Bill to amend the Judiciary Act in the direction pf giving litigants the wider powers of appeal that I have indicated. When this debate commenced I was poor in grievances, but, after having listened to honorable members, I have found many causes for complaint, based upon the neglect of Ministers, their weakness in. administration, and their misleading advice upon legal questions. I should like to know, for one thing, whether the Prime

Minister has been approached by the leader of the Labour Party upon the subject of the amendment of the Constitution. The members of the Labour Party, in session and out of session, and in this Chamber and outside of it, have declared that certain social problems cannot be solved until some of the monopolies that are being operated amongst us are nationalized. This reform cannot be brought about until the Constitution is amended, and in view of the fact that, according to the statement of the Prime Minister, the general elections will take place in November, I should like to know whether any steps are being taken in the direction indicated. 1 am astonished that the lynx-eyed advocates of the interests of the masses have not risen in their places and impressed upon the Government the necessity of amending the Constitution to enable the State to nationalize these monopolies, which are said to be working such injury to the community. If the Labour Party believe that monopolies should be nationalized, and that in that reform lies the great cure for most of our social and industrial evils, why do they not come forward and endeavour to induce the Prime Minister to set in motion the machinery necessary to effect their purpose. Honorable members ora this side of the House are often charged by members of the Labour Party with being indifferent to the interests of the masses, but w*e may with propriety hurl the charge back upon them, and ask why they have allowed the present occasion to pass without openly calling upon the Government to take the' action which thev regard as necessary. If action be not taken within a week or two nothing can be done this session, and no amendment of the Constitution can be effected for three years or more. It is just as well to hold the curtain aside, and show how far the Labour Party have failed to establish their claim as doughty champions of the masses.

Mr Webster - What does the honorable member wa.nt us to do?

Mr WILKS - The honorable member is loud-mouthed in advocacy of the nationalization of monopolies, and I urge that he should ask the Prime Minister to put the necessary machinery in motion so that the question of the amendment of the Constitution can be submitted at the next election.

Mr Webster - I shall have a conference with the Prime Minister.

Mr WILKS - That reply is consistent with the general conduct of the Labour Party. They do not bring their influence to bear in such a way that the public can see what they are doing. They exercise their control by means of a secret caucus, and by having conferences with the Prime Minister. This is the place for conferences. Why do not the sturdy representatives of the Labour Party boldly ask the Minister before the whole country what he intends to do with regard to this vital matter ?

Mr Webster - We are trying to save the time of the country.

Mr WILKS - When the honorable member was in opposition, he used to spend hour after hour in attempting to save the time of the country.' Then we had Webster unabridged, but to-day, as a supporter of the Ministry, the honorable member is very much abridged.

Mr Webster - I had an enemy to fight when - 1 was in opposition.

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