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Wednesday, 1 June 1904

Mr CARPENTER (Fremantle) - It is not often that we have the pleasure of listening to the honorable member for Corangamite, but when he does speak he always convinces us that however mistaken he may be, he has pronounced opinions. I listened this afternoon to his somewhat mixed metaphor, and>, when he spoke of pouring oil on the troubled waters and widening the breach, found it difficult to realize the connexion between the two. But however mixed his metaphor may be, I am afraid that his geographical knowledge is even more astray. He spoke of a connexion between Lygonstreet and Sussex-street; and although we all know the instituti.n to which the honorable member referred when he spoke of the first-named thoroughfare, it seemed to me that when he referred to Sussex-street he was thinking of the bubonic plague.

Mr Wilson - That is where the plague Originated.

Mr CARPENTER - Perhaps the honorable member, as a member of the medical profession, had that fact in his mind ; but I would advise him not to associate the Sydney Trades Hall with the bubonic plague.

Mr Watson - Nor with Sussex-street.

Mr CARPENTER - There is no connexion whatever between the two.

Mr Watson - The Trades Hall is not in Sussex-street.

Mr CARPENTER - I briefly addressed myself last night to the amendment moved by the honorable and learned member for Corio, and, although that proposition has been defeated, I wish to make him an offer. If the honorable and learned member thinks that there is any class of public servants that will not be covered by the amendment now before us,. I shall be prepared to support any further proposition that he may make to remove any doubt as to' the intention of the Government proposal to provide for every one who can , be dealt with in this measure. As I remarked last night, there has been a good deal of by-play on the part of honorable members opposite, with reference to the assertion that there has been a change of front on the part of the Government. I deny that there has been any change. ' The amendment before us covers everything which the Labour Party ever asked for or desired ; but if any honorable member wishes to amplify it, so that all doubts shall be removed, I shall- support a proposal in that direction, if reasonable grounds for it can be given. My desire is that no one who can be properly and lawfully included within the provisions of this Bill shall be shut out. We" have been told that, in seeking to provide for public servants in this measure, we are attempting to deprive the States of the management of their own affairs. That is only a repetition of the old Tory cry that has been raised in every State Parliament in which an Arbitration Bill has been under consideration. As soon as a Government has proposed that industrial disputes should be referred to Courts of Conciliation and Arbitration, the Opposition cry has always been - and more particularly in regard to Arbitration Courts - that an attempt is being made to take the management of business affairs out of the hands of those directly concerned. Doleful pictures have been drawn in the States Parliaments of what would be the result of State interference with large industries within their borders, and we have to-day a repetition of that cry in this Parliament. It is one which may be raised against an Arbitration Bill of any kind ; but I contend that not one of the State Conciliation and Arbitration Acts has taken the management of business undertakings out of the hands of those directly concerned, and that it is not sought by this measure to deprive the States of the management of their railways or any industry in which they may be engaged. So much has been said with reference to Federal and States powers, and the possibility of a conflict between the two as the result of the passing of this Bill, that it is unnecessary for me to refer at length to that aspect of the question. I have only to say that whilst I am with those who advocate the exercise of caution, more particularly in the early years of the Federation, by this Parliament, I at the same time advocate courage in facing any question in reference to which we think there might be a conflict between Federal and States powers, or that the Federal power might have to wrongly give way to that of the States. There is a number of gentlemen prominent in State politics who make no secret of their antagonism to this Parliament, and who would go to almost any length in their desire to decry our powers and make this Parliament unpopular. The Parliament is being held up to the people as one that is going to almost ruin Australia by extravagant proposals to establish' institutions that will have the . effect of increasing the cost of government. In all the States men are to be found who do not hesitate to misrepresent the Federal power, and they are 'the men with whom we have to deal when considering any question of antagonism between Federal and States powers. As the Attorney-General said yesterday, we are here not to conserve States rights, but to advocate Federal rights. While it is also our duty to guard against any invasion of States rights, we must not hesitate - and I for one shall not do so - to exercise every power that is granted to us by the Constitution. If we should overstep the limits set upon our legislative power by the Constitution, the States need have no fear, because there is in existence a judicial tribunal whose special duty it is to interpret Federal legislation, and to declare invalid any provision that may be unconstitutional.

Mr Crouch - Why did not the honorable member vote differently yesterday ?

Mr CARPENTER - I then voted according to my conviction, and I hope that the honorable and learned member 'did the same. The less we say about the action of some honorable members yesterday the better. Fortunately for them, it came to naught.

Mr Lonsdale - The honorable member ought to explain his complete turn-over.

Mr CARPENTER - We expected that the honorable member for New England would turn over, after the declaration which he made upon a certain momentous occasion a few weeks back.

Mr Lonsdale - The honorable member is quite right there.

Mr CARPENTER - We should, if possible, avoid disputes between the Federal and the States authorities; but the occurrence of such disputes was anticipated by the framers ofthe Constitution. There could not be a Federation without the danger of conflict arising between the Federal and the States powers. The chief source of such conflict will probably be found in the legislation passed by this Parliament ; but is it necessary to display ill-feeling merely because of a difference of opinion on " some important question of public policy ? Already two or three questions in which the Federal and States authorities have been in conflict have been brought before the High Court. Take the Sydney rating case as an illustration. Was there necessarily ill-feeling between the municipality of Sydney and the Federal Government in connexion with that case ? The question was one which had to be settled, and it was referred to the High Court in a friendly spirit, so that an authoritative opinion might be pronounced which would have effect for all time. So with the differ ence of opinion in regard to the taxation by the States of the salaries of Federal officials and others. Will any one contend that, because the Federal authority has disputed the right of the States to tax the salaries of Federal Ministers, members of Parliament, and public servants, there must necessarily be ill-feeling between them? Although efforts may occasionally be made by members of States Parliaments to misrepresent Federal action, while on the other hand attempts may be made by members of the" Federal Parliament to misrepresent States action, we need not, therefore, be prevented on this occasion from doing what we know to be right. Let us courageously exercise the powers intrusted to us, and if the States dispute the validity of our action, let them take the issue before the body which has been appointed to settle these constitutional questions.

Mr Lonsdale - Then why does the honorable member object to the inclusion of public servants in the Bill?

Mr CARPENTER - The public servants will be included in the Bill, if the Government have their way. The honorable arid learned member for Ballarat yesterday quoted a judgment in a recent case, in which the words " extrinsic control over State matters" were used. Is it true that we are seeking to exercise control over the administration of the States railways, for instance? If we set up an Arbitration Court to which disputes extending beyond any one State may be referred, are we thereby, in the ordinary sense of the word, exercising control over the administration of the railwavs by the States ? I do not think so. It is to strain the meaning of the words to affirm the contrary. We do not deprive the States of their control.

Mr Wilson - Does not the honorable member think that an interference in matters of finance means the exercise of control ?

Mr CARPENTER - We do not take charge of the finances of the States. An award of the Arbitration Court might have the effect of saving money to the States.

Mr Wilson - And it might have the effect of causing them to expend more money upon wages.

Mr CARPENTER - We have a right to establish this Court in the interests of the citizens who sent us here ; but we are not, in the ordinary sense of the word, interfering with the States control of their railways. We are merely doing in regard to States concerns what the Parliaments of some of the States have done in connexion with those concerns within their own borders. The Parliaments of some of the States have said to their own Governments, as -well as

I to private persons engaged in business, "We do not wish to interfere with you, but you must conduct your operations within certain lines and under certain conditions." That is what we are seeking to enact. We do not wish to deprive the States of control, but we think it necessary to provide certain limitations within which their employes are to be dealt with. It is a straining of the words to say that we are seeking to exercise anything like extrinsic control over the States.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The case of a single individual might be referred to the Court. Is not that control in detail ?

Mr CARPENTER - That statement does not affect my argument. The honorable and learned member for Ballarat yesterday frankly admitted, in reply to an interjection made by me, that, where the exercise of the Federal power was of doubtful validity, he would not hesitate to test the question.

Mr Wilson - This measure will only make more work for the lawyers.

Mr Spence - No. We are going .to prevent the lawyers from appearing before the Court.

Mr CARPENTER - I do not think that that is the reason why the honorable and learned member for Ballarat introduced the Bill. I believe that he honestly holds, as I do, that we should not hesitate about exercising the powers undoubtedly conferred upon us by the Constitution. His argument yesterday, however, so far as I followed it, seemed mainly bent towards satisfying himself that the legal objection which he had raised in the first instance was a solid one. If honorable members will recollect, when he moved the second reading of the Bill, he did not speak in so pronounced a fashion upon the legal objections to the proposals of the party to which I belong, but dwelt rather upon the inexpediency of adopting them. Yesterday, however, he devoted nearly all his remarks to justifying his legal objection. By so doing he seemed to me to expose the weakness of his position. If, as he has said, he is willing to test any cass in which there is a doubt as to the constitutionality of a provision, why should he be afraid' of the amendment now proposed? I should have been very glad to see some means devised by which all the strife and turmoil that has been caused by this Bill could have been avoided. I should have been glad to see the States servants included on the express understanding that there was a doubt as to the legality of including them, and should have preferred to see that doubt referred to the body whose dutv it is to adjudicate on such matters - the High Court. I think that the honorable and learned member for Ballarat would have been quite justified if, having a doubt - for he admits that he had nothing more than a doubt he had not a conviction at that time - he had agreed to the amendment, and had allowed the High Court to decide between the Commonwealth and the States if the States raised the question against us. Yesterday the honorable and learned member spoke of the inexpediency of inserting this provision just now, even if it were lawful. This, to me, is nothing more than the old Tory cry of the " inopportune time." How often we have heard it before ! Whenever any measure of progress has been proposed, it has been urged that the present is " not an opportune time." If the present time is not opportune, when shall we have an opportune time ? The honorable member who last spoke referred to the railway strike in Victoria, and reminded us of the bitterness engendered during that struggle. I trust that that strike will be lost sight of as far as possible during the discussion on this Bill. It would be a very bad thing, indeed, if the judgment of the Committee were warped by recollections of the strife of twelve months ago.

Mr Wilson - It is distinctly germane to the Bill.

Mr CARPENTER - There could not be . a more opportune time than when there is no talk of such a struggle to discuss this matter calmly. Those honorable members who hold with the honorable and learned member for Ballarat that there is fear of strife between the States, should remember that there will be no strife unless the States themselves raise it. If they do, there is a tribunal to which, without any ill-will, the question can be referred, and we can have an honorable settlement of such differences as may arise. I hope - in fact, I believe - that the Committee will' include the provision in the Bill, because it puts in the best form possible the whole question, leaving any doubt to be settled by the body whose work it is lo determine such issues.

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