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Thursday, 4 April 1946

Mr WHITE (Balaclava) .- Definitely, the Commonwealth Constitution requires alteration from time to time, and the necessary machinery is provided to enable alterations to be made. Honorable members should read the classic work on the Constitution by Sir John Quick, a former Attorney-General of the Commonwealth, and Sir Robert Garran, for many' years SolicitorGeneral. These eminent authorities make this observation -

A Constitution is a charter of government; it is a deed of trust, containing covenants between the sovereign community and its individual units.

The Constitution is not something which is lightly. to be set aside. Referring to the safeguard that the Constitution shall be altered only with the consent of a majority of the people in a majority of the States, the authors wrote -

These safeguards have been provided, not in order to prevent or indefinitely resist change in any direction, but in order to prevent change being made in haste or by stealth, to encourage public discussion and to delay change until there is strong evidence that it is desirable, irresistible and inevitable.

We should ask ourselves, as the representatives of the people in this Parliament, whether the Government's proposals for altering the Constitution are desirable, irresistible and inevitable. In 1944, this Government submitted to the people a referendum containing fourteen points. Three or four of them could have been and would have been approved by the people if they had been detached from the Government's socialistic policy, and I am surprised that they have - not been included in the present referendum proposals. The care of aborigines by the Commonwealth, in order to- ensure that they all receive a fair deal, was one of those points. The control of aviation was another. Obviously, the progress of aviation could not have been foreseen by those who drafted the Constitution years ago. In 1937, the Lyons Government endeavoured to obtain control of aviation, but the referendum, was defeated. Had the present Government submitted those subjects- seriatim instead of in globo, they would have been accepted by the people^ But the people, very wisely, recognized that those proposals were a part of the Government's socialistic programme, and decisively defeated them. The Government did not get a majority of the electors, or a majority of the States in favour of its proposals. Now, the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) has introduced not one bill containing fourteen points, but three bills containing several points. That is suggestive of the threecard trick about which some of us have heard on racecourses. These proposals are not honest, and are not put forward in a sincere endeavour to alter the Constitution so that it will function more smoothly. It is neither inevitable nor necessary that these powers be given to the Commonwealth. The Government is seeking to confuse the .issue before the election, at which it desires to offer to the people a 40-hour working week, or some other inducement for support - the carrot in front of the democracy.

The Constitution Alteration (Social Services) Bill relates to the provision of maternity allowances, widows' pensions, child endowment, unemployment, sickness and hospital benefits, medical and dental services, benefits for students, and family allowances.' Who would deny that the constitutional validity of child endowment should be placed beyond all doubt?. The United Australia party Government introduced child endowment in 1941, and believed that it would endure. We considered that if its validity were ever challenged, the States would grant to the Commonwealth power to enable it to continue the payments. The Government cannot deny that. The same remark applies to any of the other social services that have been mentioned. Regarding medical and dental services, it would be interesting if the Government held a plebiscite of doctors and dentists in order to determine whether they desired their professions to be nationalized.

Mr Haylen - An absurd proposition.

Mr WHITE - This bill will confer on the Government power to nationalize those professions, and this proposal should be separated from the outright social services. It is only in a place like Canberra, where we know the record of the Government, that we can see through these devices. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Bryson) stated proudly that the Government's record ' was second to none. I agree that, for incompetence and class consciousness, its record is second to none. The bills reek of it. The Government also seeks power over the organized marketing of primary products. In 1937 the Lyons Government sought to obtain authority which would allow the Commonwealth and the States to organize marketing schemes, but the people rejected the proposal. The present Government made another unsuccessful attempt in 1944. Now, it seeks full powers - more than the Lyons Government asked for - and in the meantime, we have learned the lengths to which the Government will go in an endeavour to bind the people with those controls. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) gave one instance and the honorable member for Maranoa another. In fact, every commodity is controlled by some authority.

Mr Calwell - That is not true.

Mr WHITE - Well, I shall amend my statement. I do not think that cucumbers are controlled, but almost everything else is controlled. We have officials with high-sounding titles such as "Deputy Controller of Potatoes in Victoria and the " like. Almost every sale- 'able article is controlled, by shoals of bureaucrats. Honorable members opposite do not deny it. They have signed a pledge that they will support a policy designed to control the means of production, distribution, and exchange. As a matter of fact, these three measures actually hide the real intention of the members of the Labour party, who are trying to- " put something over ". They desire to control everything. But the people are sick of con trols. Some of the war-time controls were, necessary and successful, but the Government is seeking the power to control everything.

The third bill is the principal one. The two measures to which 1 have already referred are the bait that covers the hook. The third bill seeks power over -

Terms and conditions of employment in industry, but not so, as to authorize any form of industrial conscription.

What honorable members opposite are aiming at is compulsory unionism. If they can secure the power they seek over employment in industry they will enforce unionism on the people. They talk piously about freedom, but they never advocate freedom to work or freedom of association. They are not agreeable to allow people freedom .to work when a strike occurs. Undoubtedly if these proposed amendments be agreed to, compulsory unionism will become the law in this country. The history of industrial arbitration in Australia is creditable. Power to make laws with respect to " conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State" is provided in the Constitution, and there was a time when Australia led the world in industrial arbitration. Some members of the Labour party who are not now with us in this Parliament used to boast that Australia was in the vanguard in this connexion; now, however, it is in the guard's van. The system of industrial ' arbitration in vogue in Australia was highly regarded, throughout the world at one period, but since this Government has been in office and has revealed that it lacks the intestinal fortitude to enforce the findings of the court, our status in regard to industrial arbitration has deteriorated. In fact, industrial arbitration in this country has become a broken reed. Mr. S. M. Bruce, a great Australian, who has been long enough ' away from the political arena in this country to be regarded as a nonparty man, has said that one of Australia's principal troubles in industry is that the decisions of the Arbitration Court are not being enforced.

Mr Calwell - He also said that he was in favour of the nationalization of transport.

Mr WHITE - He did not quite say that. He said that some essential services could be taken over ; and our Government railways are examples. The trouble with this Government is that it lacks the courage to prosecute industrial troublemakers, such as those on the waterfront and in the coal mines. These people are profiteers in disaster. They are industrial middlemen who hold the country to ransom, and the Government will not stand up against them. It will not enforce the decisions of the Arbitration Court. It says, in effect, " We will come across. Don't shoot. We will do what you want us to do." The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), and the honorable member for , Bourke (Mr! Bryson) in this House, and the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) in caucus no doubt, have made their attitude clear. They desire this Parliament to be clothed with the power to legislate for a 4.0-hour week, and probably, later, for a 30-hour week.

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