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Wednesday, 3 April 1946

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Riordan (KENNEDY, QUEENSLAND) - Order ! I ask the honorable member for New England to address his remarks to the bill.

Mr ABBOTT - When I see a subject from a farm I always describe it. I come now to the Constitution Alteration (Social Services) Bill. This is a patchwork alteration.I agree with the statement of the Leader of the Opposition that maternity allowances, widows' pensions, child endowment and family allowances rightly come within the jurisdiction of the Parliament of the Commonwealth; Lest the validity of those social services be endangered, the people should be asked, at a separate referendum, to endorse them.

Mr George Lawson - That is being done.

Mr ABBOTT - No, they are not being submitted to the people as a separate matter. If the Attorney-General had not been a great lawyer he would have been a great doctor, because he always gives the pill a coating of sugar. How can we operate a scheme of sickness and hospitals benefits if we do not control the hospitals? It is one thing to say, "We shall give to the people hospital benefits ", but if the hospitals are controlled by the State Governments, how can we be certain that efficient hospitalization can be provided ? Hospitals may close, or not be developed, or lackfinance. There again, adequate consideration has not been given to this matter, as it would be given by a convention. Unemployment is a. social disease which no government in the world would have in its country, if it could possibly avoid it. The best cure for unemployment can come through governments, even the local authorities, which are closest to the seat of unemployment. Unemployment will not be com.batted satisfactorily if administration is centralized and isolated, in Canberra. If unemployment were r-ife in the country districts of New South Wales, and control of unemployment were concentrated in Canberra, what would happen? An unemployed person would aPply t° Canberra for relief, and after the lapse of some months, a notification would probably be posted to him that the " Minister would call for a report ". The letter would have to be sent to the undertaker, because the unemployed person would have died in the meantime. This story that unemployment cannot be handled satisfactorily in Australia unless all authority to control it is centralized in the Commonwealth Government, does not convince me. When the Lang Government was in office, the Lyons Government granted to New. South Wales a large sum of money for the relief of unemployment. Grants in aid can be made by the Commonwealth Parliament to the State Parliaments, which, in turn, can allocate the money to local governing bodies. We in Australia should take government to the people, rather than take government great distances from them. As the Leader of the Opposition pointed out, the wording associated with medical and dental services and benefits to students is nebulous. Again, a convention should examine these matters.

The Australian Country party has always stood for the organized marketing of primary products. This afternoon the Leader of the Opposition stated that there is great difficulty in defining " primary products ". The Attorney-General admitted it in his second -read ing speech. As a really true blue old lawyer and former justice of the High Court, he said, " I shall go to the court, and it will solve everything ". That may be his way of looking at the problem, but, unfortunately, we primary producers are a little suspicious of lawyers and dislike resorting to litigation. We want written into the Commonwealth Constitution plain words with plain meanings, which need not be taken to the- court for interpretation. This baby which is being carried by the Attorney-General already has within it the seed of its own destruction, because, as the right honorable gentleman admitted, there is no technical definition of " primary products ". What is more, he offered no definition, but stated that he would let the court decide. The primary producers, of Australia do not want the organization of their industries to be left to the tender mercies of the court. I ask, what is a primary product ? Under the sales tax legislation, the Commissioner of Taxation ruled that fish were primary products, but fried fish were manufactured goods.

Mr Pollard - Of course they are!

Mr ABBOTT - If these problems were studied by a convention, we would get a definition of " primary products ". As primary producers, we want a watertight provision so that we shall know where we stand. Unless the word " organized " be properly defined, it can have an ominous meaning for primary producers. What we desire to know is who will control the organized marketing of primary products. We have heard a lot in this House about producer-control on marketing boards, but only within the last month, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully), overrode, not only the recommendations, but also the regulations that had been laid down by the Australian Wheat Board, which is, to some degree, under producer control. Regulations had been issued on the recommendation of officers of the Department of Commerce ' and Agriculture, and the Wheat Allocation Committee. In this system of organized marketing, the Minister, without consulting them, ordered the State Superintendent in New South Wales to allocate 50,000 bushels of wheat to be gristed for feeding racing greyhounds. Interviewed by the Sydney Daily Telegraph, a Mr. Vic Peters, honorary secretary of the Racing Grey-, hound Owners, Trainers and Breeders Association announced that on the representations made by this body, the Minister had agreed to permit the allocation of that quantity of wheat. It was equivalent to 1,000 tons of flour, and 3,000 tons of bran and pollard. If that is the kind of organized marketing that the Government proposes to put into operation under these proposed powers, the primary producers of Australia will require solid safeguards before they will agree to ministerial dictation and control of producer bodies. As the result of the Minister's decision, the wheat-farmers of Australia were robbed of approximately £12,500, because the price of the wheat made available for racing greyhounds, which were given priority over the hungry people of Great Britain, India, and Europe-

Mr Lemmon - Sob stuff!

Mr ABBOTT - Starving human beings have my sympathy, if they have not the sympathy of the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Lemmon). The wheat was made available for the racing greyhounds at 4s. lid. a bushel, but the export price at the port, of Sydney was 10s.. 4f'-d. a bushel. Thus, the wheatgrowers of Australia were robbed of thousand? of pounds. We want definiteness, not uncertainty, in this referendum. In his second-reading speech, the AttorneyGeneral stated that section 92 makes all marketing plans uncertain. Do his present proposals remove all doubts and uncertainty?

Mr George Lawson - Yes.

Mr ABBOTT - That noted lawyer, that legal expert, the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson), confounds the Attorney-General, because the right honorable gentleman said that for a decision on a borderline case the Government would turn to the High Court. The' right honorable, gentleman does not know the meaning of " primary products ".

The Constitution Alteration (Industrial Employment) Bill provides -

Section fifty-one of tlie Constitution is altered by inserting after paragraph (xxxiv.) the following paragraph: - " (xxxiva.) Terms and conditions of employment in industry, but not so as to authorize any form of industrial conscription:".

The people of Australia are very worried about, the words " industrial conscription ". They are opposed to the introduction of industrial conscription.

Mr Ward - The Labour Government will not impose industrial conscription..

Mr ABBOTT - The people know what the Minister would do if he had the power. He is a Fascist at heart and in looks. The Attorney-General said that this industrial power will not be exercised so as to authorize any form of industrial conscription. In Australia, those words originated in the National Security Act. 1339, which imposed exactly the same restrictions as this bill contemplates. The Attorney-General pointed out that the act was repealed under the stress of war, and full industrial conscription was introduced in this country. Under this bill, it is conceivable that a court might give an interpretation of these words which would jeopardize the liberty of the individual. My reason for making that statement is that the Attorney-General, speaking at the summer school of the Institute of Political Science in 1944, is reported to have said - lie taking away of the right of the individual to choose his own vocation and employer was only one of the freedoms which tlie Australian people must forgo in the interests of the State.

Did the right honorable gentleman make that statement or was he mis-reported? Hig silence gives consent to the accuracy of the report. I am entitled to assume, therefore, that the statement that I have read indicates the view held by the Attorney-General at that time. He knows full well where the safeguards of the people are to be found.

I shall also quote from the official record of the proceedings at the Summer School. The book, which is entitled, Post-war Reconstruction in Australia, was edited by Mr. D. A. S. Campbell.

Mr Conelan - Who wrote the report?

Mr ABBOTT - The reports of the addresses at these conferences are transscribed from shorthand notes and each speaker is furnished with a proof of his remarks.- He may correct the proof if he so desires. The report of the address of the Attorney-General must have been submitted to and corrected by him. We are entitled, therefore, to accept it as being a true record. The right honorable gentleman said -

Mr. Guinanespoke of the characteristics which distinguished man from .the beast, and appeared to pin his faith to the right of a man to choose his own vocation in life.

Do honorable gentlemen opposite codf:der that people should be able to choose their own vocation in life? The AttorneyGeneral went on as follows: -

There are a lot of other differencesbetween the man and the beast. One is intelligence and common sense. To-day, with the enormous development of industry and industrial organization, corporate control and finance, there is no longer a full right in every person to choose his own vocation in life.

When a reasonable person drafts a measure to carry out the intention in his mind, we must assume that he uses language to express what he means. As Sergeant Bury has said, the protection of the liberties of the people of Australia does not lie with lawyers, or in acts of Parliament, but in the representatives of the people in the Parliament.

In my opinion there is very strong reason to doubt whether the language in which these constitution alteration bills is drafted really means what it purports to mean. If the alterations be agreed to, as drafted, we may find that a clever barrister may one day submit to a court that industrial conscription means putting men in a concentration camp in chains or something of the kind, and not in merely drafting them into vocations irrespective of whether they wish to engage in that kind of work or not. I do not think that we should stultify ourselves in this way. For that reason I consider it to be the duty of every honorable member of the House to study these measures with the utmost care. If honorable gentlemen do not desire the Constitution to be regarded as a kind of " horse-and-buggy " affair, or a thing of shreds and patches, they should agree to the proposal that an elective convention should be constituted at the earliest possible moment to consider the whole subject of constitutional alteration in a proper manner.

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