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Thursday, 15 July 1915

The PRESIDENT - Order ! The honorable senator i«- not discussing- the Bill, but the attitude of the metropolitan press towards the people of Victoria. That is not the subject-matter- of the debate. The question before the- Chair- is- the motion for the third reading of a certain Bill. Unless the honorable senator can connect his remarks with that question he is out of order.

Senator GRANT - It has been stated by honorable senators opposite- that the time is inopportune for placing' these measures before the people. The same cry was. raised by our political opponents when they were first submitted to the electors. In the opinion of the same gentlemen they were equally inopportune on the second occasion when the people were asked to vote upon them. At that time we had peace throughout the Commonwealth. Now we are engaged in war, and, accordingly, we, are told that the proposals are again inopportune. As a. matter of fact, they will always be inopportune to- honorable senators opposite. On their first reference to the people they were accorded substantial support. On the second occasion they received even' greater support, and I have no doubt that- at the next time of asking they will be carried by a large majority. The Sydney Worker, which, is,, perhaps,, one of. the best newspapers published in the Commonwealth, and one which ought to be quoted here occasionally, pointed out- the other day that during the past twelve months, the workers have had to pay for such, necessaries as bread, meat, and' butter an additional sum of £9.,000.000. That is a very substantial sum indeed. If the proposed amendments in our Constitution be carried, I believe> it will be impossible for those who; control the necessaries of life to extort such enormous prices; for these commodities. That circumstance in itself would, be* a powerful1 inducement to the electors to- vote for these-: proposals". It- has been- said that their submission to the . people will cost: the Commonwealth a. large- sum of money. May I point out th,at,. if they had. been submitted at the' recent elections - as they should have been - the cost to the Commonwealth would have been practically nothing. The cost now,, whatever it may be, will be entirely due to the- action of the then Government. Therefore, we should not have the slightest hesitation in taking the referenda at the earliest- possible moment. It has been, stated her© that our proposals- are too far-reaching. On the other hand, it' has been- asserted that in some respects they do not go far enough. I wish to emphasize this very important point, that we are not trying to withdraw from the Australian community any powers, but simply- seeking- to transfer certain powers from the State Parliaments' to the National Parliament. The latter is a body elected by the adult electors in the Commonwealth. No other Parliament in the Commonwealth is elected in that way; No fear need be entertained that the additional powers; when conceded, will be abused. That is a most unlikely thing' to- happen. The State Parliaments are not elected by the adult residents'. In some cases the Upper House is a nominee body, while1 in other cases it is elected on a property qualification, but in no State is the Upper House elected by the adult electors. It exists, as it was fondly hoped, the Senate would exist, for the conservation of the alleged rights of property. I suppose that many persons who advocated rederation were imbued with the idea that the Senate, instead of being, a stronghold of Labour, would be forever a stronghold of capitalism and monopoly. That wast no doubt their intention, and one of the reasons which, actuated them in so strongly urging, the union of the Colonies. They have met with, disappointment,, and we find that to-day the Senate is by a long way the. most democratic Chamber in the whole Commonwealth, Therefore the people need not entertain, the slightest-; f ear about clothing this Parliament with: the- fullest possible powers. It may be quite true that even after the grant of those powers we will still seek further {powers. In the meantime we ask for six amendments of the 'Constitution to be enacted. It has been said that the time of the Ministers and of members of Parliament generally will be fully occupied, and that, owing to the pressure of war matters, they will be unable to take a hand in placing the amendments before the electors. In my opinion, the workers of the country, who are suffering so keenly through the high prices they have to pay for various commodities, will not need very much urging to induce them to go and vote at the next referenda. So far as I have been able to judge, I believe that they are very anxious to get an opportunity. I trust that the Government will submitthe proposals to the country ; as soon as possible after they have received the sanction of Parliament.

Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERTGOULD (New South Wales) [5.9].- I- do not intend to speak at great length, nordo I propose to discuss these measures, as . Ihave had an opportunity to do so on two or three occasions. 'My opposition to the proposals has been declared not only here, but also before the people of the country. I recognise that these are measures which honorable senators on the other side have persistently and consistently expressed themselves in favour of. I realize that ultimately they will have to go before the people, in accordance With the , provision in the Constitution. The only question which engages my mind now is whether a . referendum ought to be taken now. The leader on this side pointed out yesterday, in very strong language,how inopportune the present time is. One has only to open the newspapers and read the expressions of opinion outside of Parliament to realize how strong is . the feeling against a referendum on these questions being undertaken . at the present time.

SenatorLt.-Colonel O'Loghlin. - Why did you not allow the proposals to be submitted at the last general election.?

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - . I hadno more to dowith that matter than had thehonorable senator, but the non-submission of theproposals shows that 'they wereregarded then as Slaving a party complexion, or, at any rate, as involving matters of very great contention amongst the people,as we all know they do. The proposals may be the best in the world,or they maybe the worst, but that is not 'the particular question which to my mind should engage out attention. I find no fault with honorable senators for having discussed the measures, but this does not appear to me to be a proper time for the 'purpose.; This debate is virtually a case of beating the air. All the arguments for and against the proposals will not change a single vote in the Senate. The proposals were fought years ago, and fought again more recently, and they willbe fought until the end of this year. As regards the merits or demeritsof the amendments, I do not believe that a single 'vote will be turned here.

Senator de Largie - You are a very stubborn lot on that side.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - The interjection marks an extraordinary feature of the debate. Honorable senators on the Ministerial side seem to imagine that because we on this side advocate the policy of no-party legislation, because we exhibit a determination to deal with the war and the war only, therefore, we should not oppose whatever the Government see fit to introduce. Does not the absurdity of sucha suggestion appeal to the mind of every man ? In the Home Parliament there is only the one cry, and it is that 'a crisis exists which willeither make or mar the nation. We are asked to debate certain amendments of 'the Constitution Which our opponents say will clothe this Parliament with greaterpowers inregard to trusts and combines and industrialmatters, while other honorable senators say that theydo not see eye toeye with the members of the Government, and, therefore, intend to oppose the proposals, as they have ; done on previous occasions. If by any process it could fee shown that the amendments did notsharply divide the people of the country, I could understand honorable senators on thissideexpressingtheir willingness to pass them. Supposethat there was unanimity in each Mouse : ofthe Parliament as tothe advantage sandthe /desirability of theamendments

Senator Gardiner - Therewas in the other House. (SenatorLt.Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD. -Thehonorable -senator knows perfectly well the position which was taken up there by tie Opposition; but, even if that House was absolutely unanimous on the subject of taking a referendum at the present time, and the proposal divided the parties in the Senate, it indicates clearly the contentious character of the amendments. The speech with which Senator Gardiner introduced the proposals to the Senate showed abundantly how marked was the division in the minds of the people as to whether they should be accepted or not. Can he say that all the people who opposed the previous Bills have changed their opinion? Can he say that the bulk of them have changed their opinion ? He, of course, imagines that he will get a majority, but we hope that he will not. Whether he will or not remains in the lap of the gods. The present time, I repeat, is inopportune for taking a referendum. The Government, to a certain extent, have recognised that fact by putting on one side all legislation except these proposals and measures relating to the defence of the* country and the Empire in a great emergency. The Minister knows that the newspapers are practically unanimous on the subject, and so, too, are the bulk of the people.

Senator GRANT - The Worker is in favour of these Bills.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - I do not pay very much heed to the opinion of The Worker after its publication of a certain picture and article.

Senator GRANT - What is the matter with the Age, anyhow?

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD .- The bulk of the prominent newspapers in this country are opposed to these measures being dealt with at the present moment, as I think we ought to be.

Senator Guy - They have always been opposed to the proposals.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - There are certain newspapers which are quite willing to give to the Labour party a fair opportunity of considering these questions at a reasonable time. But for the present position of affairs I would not say to the Government for a moment that this is not a proper time to consult the electors. The time would be quite proper if the existence of the nation was not imperilled. How do honorable senators opposite expect to take the opinion of the people fairly and honestly on these questions ? Before a referendum can be taken, probably 100,000 electors will be away from the country fighting for the maintenance of the Empire. Do my honorable friends mean to tell me that those soldiers will have no right to record a vote, or to give careful consideration to proposals of this character ?

Senator GRANT - They will get it.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - Will honorable senators tell me that the soldiers will have an opportunity ? Surely they know quite well that the legislative power of the Commonwealth Parliament is strictly confined to its own territory. They may send ballotboxes to Flanders or Gallipoli, and pass regulations with regard to voting at the front, but they will be absolutely powerless to carry out one iota of what is put down in black and white. To send ballotboxes out of the country for that purpose would be to make an absolute farce of the whole business. When the war is over, and peace is established, let my honorable friends by all means bring forward these proposals if they consider that they will be in the best interests of the country then, as I presume they do now. I am not going to charge any honorable senator with not believing in the proposals he advocates. But we all perceive that there has arisen outside of this Parliament, outside the people of this country, a party which assumes the power to dictate to its representatives in Parliament what their policy shall be. This matter was discussed and debated, not only at the last Labour Conference, but at the Conference held three years earlier.

Senator Maughan - The Liberal party had a Conference in New South Wales the other day, and came to certain conclusions.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - Yes, they decided to lay aside all matters involving contentious legislation. The politicians who spoke at that Conference clearly pointed out the position which should be taken up, and the Conference refrained from discussing political questions which have to be brought before the electors. Those questions were freely discussed at the Labour Conference held in Adelaide recently. The Liberal Conference in New South Wales had some conception of the fitness of things. They knew that this is not the proper time to discuss questions of this kind, and they very nobly decided to defer the consideration of political proposals to a more opportune time. I remind honorable senators that we have to face enormous expenditure in connexion with the war. The Government are talking of borrowing more money to assist them in carrying on the war. They have already obtained large sums from Great Britain for the purpose. In the face of this they are proposing by these measures to divide the people of the country into hostile political camps. This is a most inopportune time to propose the expenditure of nearly £100,000 in order to submit these proposals to the people.

Senator Russell - With the knowledge the honorable senator has, is he prepared to re-assert that we have borrowed large sums from Great Britain to carry on the war ?

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - I am. We know that they have borrowed £18,000,000 for that purpose.

Senator Russell - The honorable senator knows where an equivalent amount went to, if he chose to say so.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - I do not. I know that the Government obtained a promise from the banking institutions of the country to lend them £10,000,000 upon the representation, in the first instance, that the money was required to enable the Government to do their part in conducting the defence of the country. I know that, in abrogation of their implied intention, it is possible that large sums of the money so obtained have been advanced to State Governments to enable them to carry on certain public works.

Senator Needham - Has the honorable senator any proof of that?

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD .- - Honorable senators have only to look at the financial records of the Government to find that, if they have not been advancing gold, they have been advancing notes, and the note issue has been strengthened by the money received from the banks. There has been a little bit of jugglery.

Senator Russell - How much have we received from the banks?

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD .- - I do not know, but I understand that the banks have given the Government a certain amount of money.

Senator Russell - We have had £4,000,000.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - That has enabled the Government to issue notes to the value of £16,000,000.

Senator Guy - Do the banks complain ?

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT > GOULD - The banks made an agreement, and they are carrying it out. So far as I know, they have made no complaint.

Senator Guy - It has been very good business for them.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - It has been very good business for the Commonwealth Government to obtain £10,000,000 without having to pay any interest for it, and to be able to lend it to others who have to pay interest upon it. I am speaking of the money which will be required to carry on the war. We have no assurance that the campaign will be successful, and I say that when we are pushed, as we are at the present time, honorable senators should realize that even £100,000 will be of great assistance to us in the supply of arms and ammunition for the defence of the Empire. That sum would enable us to supply about 16,000 rifles, and we know that they are very much needed at the present time.

Senator Needham - Is the honorable senator aware that the relatives of the men who have to use the rifles are being fleeced here by the combines?

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - I am talking about a different matter altogether. If the honorable senator wishes to know who are fleecing the people of Australia, I can tell him that some of the Labour Governments are doing so at the present moment.

Senator Needham - Will the honorable senator name them ?

Senator Russell - The honorable senator suggests that we should drop all party bickering, and he is himself the worst man in the Senate at party bickering.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - The honorable senator has introduced matters that provoke what he calls party bickering.

Senator Russell - Senator Gould has made petty insinuations.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - I have not insinuated anything. I have said straightforwardly what I mean. No member of the Senate can accuse me of saying 'one thing and meaning another. The Minister is trying to draw me aside from the question, but I tell honorable senators opposite that if- these proposals are submitted to the people I shall take my fair, share of the work of opposing them, and I shall give my reasons for objecting to them.

Senator Needham - Which Labour Government is fleecing the people ?

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - I have made a statement, and the honorable senator can test its accuracy for himself. I shall be prepared to take my part in opposing these proposals when they are submitted to the people; but I am contending now that it is unwise at this time to divide the people into hostile political camps. Whilst honorable senators opposite make insinuations against honorable senators on this side, they are well aware that if the one great question of the war is dealt with there will be only one party in this Parliament, or in any other Parliament in Australia, because our success in the war involves the maintenance of our integrity and liberty.

Senator O'Keefe - There is only one party so far as the war is concerned.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD .- - That is so, and I am contending that it is wrong to divide the people by submitting these proposals for the amendment of the Constitution at so inopportune a time.

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