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Wednesday, 13 September 1911

Senator RAE (New South Wales) . - I cannot agree with much that has been said about the uselessness of the debate on the Address-in-Reply. Whilst perhaps we might have a very much better system than is possible under some of the old and obsolete forms that are observed, yet this debate has some uses ; and I intend to make brief use of the opportunity for the purpose partly of replying to the statements of members of the Opposition, and partly to put on record the opinions I hold on some of the subjects embodied in the Governor-General's Speech. It is rather unpleasant to have to talk to such a meagre audience as I see in front of me. I have been in various Parliaments to listen to debates on the Address-in-Reply. I have seen in some cases a numerous Opposition possessed of very little ability, and in other cases an Opposition small in numbers but able. In this case I am in the unhappy position of finding before me an Opposition which has neither numbers nor ability. It seems, therefore, rather a waste of time to talk to them. But it is a matter of duty to speak in some cases, and on this occasion I am not speaking for the sake of spreading myself, but to reply to some mis-statements which have emanated from honorable senators opposite. One thing it appears to me might have caused the Opposition more jubilance than they have displayed, and that is the result of the referenda.

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Colonel Cameron. - Modesty.

Senator RAE - No, they have not refrained through modesty, but I believe because they possess an attribute which is common to humanity, namely, shame--- shame at the methods by which the results were obtained. In this connexion I wish to refer particularly to some of the statements made by Senator Millen. In his opening speech in criticism of the GovernorGeneral's utterances, he stated that the daily newspapers of this country had not only treated the Labour party fairly, but conspicuously so ; and that, as a matter of fact, we owe .them a deep debt of gratitude for the attention they have devoted to the expression of Labour views by members df our parly. There has been for some little time past a movement on foot, which has now taken practical shape, to endeavour to provide a daily newspaper which shall voice the views of the Democracy of this country more effectively than they are voiced in any_existing journals. Whilst many such attempts have been made in past years, the present effort is, I believe - indeed, I have reason to know - one which is on a solid basis, and will result in something substantial at no distant date. Why is it that the workers of this country are spontaneously clubbing their money together - taking cash from their small and hard earnings - in order to establish . a Labour daily newspaper to voice their opinions ?

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - We already have one in South Australia.

Senator RAE - I am aware that there is already a daily Labour newspaper in Adelaide. There is another in Broken Hill, and a third in Hobart. But in the larger cities of Australia, which, necessarily on account of their size, exercise greater influence on the public affairs of the Commonwealth, we find that there are no such journals. There is none in Sydney, Melbourne, or Brisbane. That means that over 1,000,000 inhabitants of this Continent are without any method of obtaining fair and full expression of their views on political subjects. The Leader of the Opposition stated that money was being extorted from men by a levy in order to raise the necessary funds. The union to which I belong has. already contributed over £30,000, and there has not been one instance of illegitimate pressure or legal proceedings to procure that sum. When the members of one .organization alone are prepared to contribute that amount of money, it shows that they not only desire to have a daily Labour newspaper, but are prepared to make sacrifices for it. There appears, therefore, to be some real need for a Democratic organ of public opinion in each of our principal cities.

Senator Findley - That money has been found by men who are only partly employed, and not too well paid.

Senator RAE - It has been provided by men who have had to go to the Arbitration Court to initiate long and costly proceedings in order to obtain a fair wage. The unfairness of the daily newspaper press of Australia does not lie in the fact that they refuse to report the utterances of the prominent men of the Labour side of politics. The public demand is so great that they dare not refuse to report these views through the medium of their news columns. The unfairness lies, not merely in their leading articles, but in their comments which frequently accompany their statements of news, and which are so coloured with prejudice, and so full of misrepresentation, that the whole of public opinion is more or less tainted and attempted to be corrupted. Commencing close at home, with the press of this State of Victoria, let me take an instance. During the progress of the Referenda Bills through both Houses- of this Parliament, one powerful newspaper in the city, the Age, cordially supported the proposals of the present Government. The Age published leading articles, comments, and criticism ; and in every case made strenuous endeavours to destroy the arguments brought forward by Messrs. Deakin, Joseph Cook, and other representatives of the Fusion party. The bulk of the arguments naturally affected the debates in the other Chamber, though occasionally members of the Senate were criticised. The leading articles in the Age day after day exposed the sophistries and fallacies enunciated by those who opposed our referenda proposals. Let me give one or two instances. If the Age had kept to the same stand as the Argus did, and had opposed our proposals all along, I should have honoured it. But let me quote the actual words used by the Age. In one leading article that newspaper said -

The passing of the Bill means that the electors of all the States will be asked to approve of the Central Parliament being given' greatly extended powers - powers which will enable it to determine disputes in any one industry and in any railway system of Australia.

It went on -

The clause now proposed, as has been said, is the same in effect as that which was carried into law in 1904 when it placed the railway servants within the scope of the Federal Arbitration Act. The law was declared ultra vires by the High Court, and it is this which is now sought to be amended, so that in giving to a Federal Court the right to deal with industrial disputes the power would be quite plenary in all branches of labour. Sir William Lyne asked, " Why should not railway men have the same rights and privileges all over Australia as other workmen have?" There may be 500,000 workers who will come under the cognisance of the Federal Courts. On what grounds should railway servants be excluded? To say that because the State pays the salaries it must have the right to prescribe the conditions of service is contrary ti the very principle that guides all industrial legislation. Mine-owners pay miners' wages, factory-owners pay the wages of factory hands, contractors pay the wages of artisans and builders, but none of these employers have the power of fixing the rates of pay and the conditions of labour. The Stale would merely stand in the same position as any other great employer. The Federal Courts would decide disputes, and prevent the recurrence of strikes by the strong hand.

That was published in the Age of 19th October.

Senator Findley - That was the Age of reason. Now quote the Age of unreason.

Senator RAE - The Age of 8th December wrote as follows : -

Surely the general industrial conditions may be safely entrusted to the local Parliaments elected on the widest possible franchise.

That is what the Age said in regard to the railway servants. This is what the same newspaper said in regard to the trade and commerce provisions on 19th October -

Trade, commerce, and industry are all proper subjects of the National Government. In the German Federation they are absolutely included in the national power. They must be so everywhere if the people are to be supreme. . . . Industrial benefits can be fairly disseminated only through the power of a national Parliament. Industrial regulation is not in itself a

State matter at all. It is national in its significance, and as such belongs to the National Parliament. Mr. Justice Higgins pointed to the need of this power when he showed that our industrial laws as they stand involve many issues in a " Serbonian bog of technicalities."

On 21st October the Age wrote as follows : -

No man ventured to say ten years ago that the Federal fundamental law had any pretensions to being more than a tentative measure. On the contrary, it was well provided with the means of effecting its own amendment, making the people the arbiters in every case of what that amendment should be. Mr. Sampson's short speech yesterday, running over these facts and examining the need that the nation, and not the States, should govern our industrial conditions, was a weighty contribution to the debate. 'He was felicitous in saying that they who oppose the granting of more power to the Commonwealth in dealing with trade and commerce and industry virtually affirm that the Federal Parliament cannot be trusted to exercise those functions, and that such powers are safer in the hands of the States. Mr. Deakin contends that no national Parliament can take proper cognisance of industrial conditions in a country as wide in area as Australia, where one part is in the tropics and another on the confines of the temperate and frigid zones- But, as Mr. Sampson pointed out, .the State of Western Australia embraces all those extremes, and no one has yet affirmed the inability of that State to regulate the wages of its workmen or the conditions of its trade. Moreover, concerning the allegations that these industrial powers are too large to give to the Commonwealth, it is enough to answer that every Federation in the world possesses them save America and Australia. And what is more, there is no other Federation in which the national powers are so limited as they are in this Commonwealth.

Those were the statements of the Melbourne Age of 2 1 st October last. They were the comments of that journal upon the speech made by Mr. Sampson.

Senator Findley - The Age patted him on the back for saying just the opposite.

Senator RAE - Exactly. I make these quotations for the purpose of showing that it is necessary to have a purer form of journalism in this State than that which exists to-day.

Senator Pearce - We could not have a more varied form of journalism.

Senator RAE - It is extremely varied; in fact, it is quite versatile.

Senator McGregor - It is impartial !

Senator RAE - Yes, like the teetotaller who drank whisky. On the 8th December of the same year the Age wrote -

The danger of the powers which the Labour Party is so anxious to acquire is the drastic character of the change proposed. It makes too great a leap. Political and economic progress is accomplished by slow and well-considered steps. We should not attempt a startling alteration of the Constitution without seriously de bating its effect, and it is questionable whether public opinion has been fully educated to the extent proposed in the more important of the series of questions to be submitted to the people. . . If the referendum for the regulation of labour conditions had applied to protected industries only, the country would .have consented willingly to the widening of the Constitution for the purpose. But it goes altogether beyond that clear and direct issue. Every industry in the Commonwealth, every form of employment, manual or professional, skilled or unskilled, the University professor or the corporation labourer, will come under the control of "the central industrial jurisdiction.

There is a lot more of that sort of fustian. The Age then goes on to say -

It included in the reference to the popular vote the determination of wages and hours of labour for all classes of State servants.

There is no doubt that that was a deliberate misrepresentation, because it is clear on the face of it that the proposal applied only to railway servants. Whilst on the 8th December the journal in question declared that the general industrial conditions might be intrusted to the State Parliaments elected on the broadest franchise, on the 7 th November of the same year, in writing of the Legislative Council, it said -

But human greed has in all ages set itself to frustrate the bounties of Providence, and it may be safely said that in no State in the world inmodern times has there been a House of Legislature which has been more conspicuous than our Legislative Council in placing the private interests of capitalists first and the general interests of the people in a subordinate position. When the time comes for that House to be blotted out of the scheme of things, men will have a sigh of contentment, such as Sindbad must have emitted when he got rid of his burden- in shuffling off the Old Man of the Sea.

That is the way in which it described the Legislative Council on the 7th November, and yet on the 8th December it declared that the industrial conditions of the people might be safely intrusted to a Parliament which was elected on the widest possible franchise.

Senator Barker - Tell us the reason for its change of view.

Senator RAE - It is well to recollect that one of the chief arguments advanced by our opponents against the referenda proposals' was that the Attorney-General had lumped them together so as to compel the electors either to accept or reject the whole of them. This is what the Agethe great barracker for the defeat of the referenda proposals - said on 20th October,, in alluding to a speech by .Mr. Deakin -

There _ were two shadowy ideas running through it. One is that though some reform iri the Constitution is necessary, that which is proposed is too much. The other is that the first of the two referendum bills, that which proposes four amendments in the Constitution, should be divided into four separate referendums, so that the electors may accept one and reject another as they please, instead of being compelled to say " Yes " or " No " to the whole lot.

Senator St Ledger - Is the honorable senator quoting from the Age directly?

Senator RAE - I am quoting from an absolutely verbatim copy of the Age articles, the originals of which I read myself. That journal continues -

As to the first of these objections, that the proposed referendums are too large and sweeping, Mr. Deakin was asked, " Ought not the people to be the judges of that?" To that he replied, "Yes, but in this Bill you will put four amendments into one group and compel electors to take all or none." The answer to this is that there are two Referendum Bills. One deals with the enlargement of the Federal powers on industrial matters, the other gives power to the Commonwealth to nationalize monopolies. The four amendments relating to trade and commerce, corporations, industrial disputes, and trusts and combinations are simply various phases of one question. They hinge upon one another, and to a large extent are interdependent. To put them in the shape of four separate referendums would complicate and embarrass what is in itself a simple proposition. That proposition is that to the Federation belongs of right the power to legislate on all matters of wages, trusts, and industry.

Senator St Ledger - It is not the Age which the honorable senator has in his hand.

Senator RAE - No, but it is a verbatim copy of the articles which it published. I can personally vouch for the accuracy of this copy, because I read every one of the articles myself, and I have not twisted anything from its context to suit my arguments. That journal published powerful and convincing articles dealing with every phase of the Bill, and tore to shreds and tatters the arguments of its opponents. It continued to do this until after the close of the session, when it turned a complete volte face, and wrote articles in condemnation of it.

Senator Pearce - Senator Fraser told it that if it did not turn its coat there \rould be serious consequences. He said that it would lose its shipping and commercial advertisements.

Senator Chataway - Does the Minister charge Senator Fraser with having made that statement?

Senator Findley - It is perfectly true that he made it.

Senator Chataway - It is scarcely fair to make that charge against him during his absence.

Senator RAE - What does the defence of Senator Chataway amount to? Either that the Age is governed by absolute imbecility, or that, from mercenary and corrupt motives, it changed its policy.

Senator Chataway - I have nothing whatever to do with the Age. I defended Senator Fraser.

Senator RAE - Very well; I accept the honorable senator's apology.

Senator Chataway - I did not apologize.

Senator RAE - My object is not to quibble as to whether Senator Fraser made a certain charge, but to show that we have not a reliable press in this State. When Senator Millen declared the other day that the Labour party owed a debt of gratitude to the daily newspapers for their treatment pf it, he was talking political " tripe," and he knew it. Let me invite attention to the treatment meted out to us by still another journal. Only a little while ago it was reported that a dangerous riot had occurred at Lithgow, in New South Wales. Here is a specimen of the way in which that fine democratic journal, the Sydney Daily Telegraph, described it. Only a little more than a week ago it published in large letters the following headings -


Violence at Lithgow. Raid on Blast Furnace.

Police Injured. Refuge in Engine-room.

A " violent mob " was said to have been in " full possession " of the town, and of the whole of the ironworks (barring the blast furnace), from 10 p.m. the previous night till the time the Telegraph went to press.

Senator Chataway - Is the honorable senator quoting from the Daily Telegraph now ?

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